By William R. Rhodes, William R Rhodes Global Advisors

Political and economic conditions are evolving in ways that could promote the onset of a new era of global protectionism. A revival of beggar-thy-neighbor policies cannot be discounted. The main cause is the continuing sluggishness of global economic growth, plus scant prospects for significant improvement.

The leading industrial economies today, five years after the financial crisis, continue to underperform. This year, GDP growth is likely to be around 1.3% in the Euro-zone, 1% in Japan, and 2.6% in the United States. Continue reading »

China’s weak March trade numbers today rattled markets and raised new questions about both the extent of the economy’s slowdown and just how reliable any trade data ex Beijing is in itself these days, given the huge distortions seen last year due to over-invoicing.

But then all of that is testament to the fact that China’s monthly trade data are, for good reason, the most closely watched of their kind in the world today. Why? Standard Chartered offers a good reason in a new report, also out today: China is the first “megatrader” the world has seen since the fall of the British empire. Continue reading »

The Pacific Alliance is all the rage in Latin America. As today’s FT special report shows, the members of this newly-formed free trade pact include some of the region’s best-managed and most reform-minded economies: Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. These countries do not represent some kind of Platonic ideal. They suffer problems aplenty. But their governments do pride themselves on hard-nosed business dealing rather than gassy ideology. That being the case, is there a way for portfolio investors to actually trade the idea? Continue reading »

While the focus in Ukraine has turned to government formation, Russia’s response, and chase-the-president, it’s worth keeping an eye on some of the economic charts.

Here’s a run down. Continue reading »

Ouch. This isn’t any old deficit – Brazil has just registered its worst month ever, in terms of trade. Imports outweighed exports by $4.06bn in January, despite a weaker real that should, in theory, be giving a boost to exports.

But how bad is it really? Beyondbrics had a quick dig into the numbers. Continue reading »

By Raffaello Pantucci of the Royal United Services Institute

A gentle rapprochement is under way between China and the United Kingdom. After almost two years in a diplomatic freeze, David Cameron visited Beijing last month and made an effective play for more trade. For the UK, this is a moment to recalibrate its relationship and play a role in coaxing China towards becoming a responsible international stakeholder. One route to that end is through understanding and working with China’s ‘march westward’ strategy, which has at its heart the re-activation of the ancient Silk Road linking China to Europe. Continue reading »

The 9th in our series of guest posts on the outlook for 2014 is by Bhanu Baweja of UBS

Most people accept by now that growing aggregate debt in the global economy has cast a long, dark shadow on the strength and sustainability of global output. Arguably emerging markets, having de-rated in pretty much every asset class against the developed assets, are already priced for this weak ‘beta’ from global growth. However, have most investors considered the possibility that there may be negative ‘alpha’ for EM in the current mild recovery?

We find that in the developed world even where growth is improving, imports aren’t coming through at quite the pace they did in previous cycles. Having risen in a big way over the last 20 years, import propensities in EM’s big markets – the US, Europe and China – seem to have flattened out, or are falling. The ratio of growth in global trade to growth in global output used to run at 2 to 2.5 in the two decades before the financial crisis. It is now just under 1. Continue reading »

“For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered”. So said WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo on the historic signing of the Bali package.

But symbolism aside, what will Bali actually deliver? In terms of EM trade, the answer may well be: not a lot. Continue reading »

Dilma Rousseff

Dilma Rousseff

It has become one of Brazil’s longest-running soap operas, or ‘telenovelas’: where is the country going to buy its new fighter jets?

Brazil has been talking about refurbishing its air force for more than a decade now, flaunting around a contract for 36 fighter jets that is seen as one of the most coveted deals in the global defence industry. While the contract itself is estimated to be worth at least $4bn, maintenance and follow-on deals would be worth even more. Continue reading »

Crime, corruption and tax evasion drained nearly $950bn out of developing countries in 2011 according to figures published on Wednesday by US-based money laundering watchdog Global Financial Integrity (GFI). That’s about ten times the $93.8bn in official overseas aid invested in those countries in the same year.

That sounds like a lot but the true costs may have been much higher. Continue reading »

By Chris Webster of eBay

Parul Arora always knew her mother had immaculate taste in jewellery – taste so good it appealed to both her younger friends and an older generation at the same time. Together with her mother, she decided to go into business and started selling locally-sourced, handmade jewellery on eBay from their home in New Delhi.

In doing so, Parul tapped into what is evolving to be one of the most virile online marketplaces in the world. The Indian retail environment is going from strength to strength, and not just for local businesses – this is a two-way virtual high street. Continue reading »

Even when the World Trade Organisation’s relevance is being questioned as it is today, it is not much fun to be a small emerging economy left on the outside of such a broad-based and commercially significant multinational body.

So while India’s demands to protect its food subsidies at the WTO meeting in Bali threaten to derail the first global trade deal in a generation, India’s neighbour, the landlocked Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, is once again wondering whether it ought to join. Continue reading »

A bold young president with a technocratic team promises a new world of prosperity for Mexico, and many believe him. But then comes a crushing devaluation that brings much of his country to its knees. Such were the inauspicious events that surrounded Nafta’s beginnings 20 years ago. Today, Nafta continues to shape the Mexican economy. Indeed, in some ways, it is the country’s most enduring institutional arrangement. For one, it has turned the country into a manufacturing powerhouse that exports more manufactured goods than the rest of Latin America combined. Nafta’s 20th anniversary, and its next 20 years, are explored in an FT special report from the Mexican, US and Canadian perspectives. Continue reading »

The formal World Trade Organisation gathering in Bali in early December already has some strongly positive news – a global trade deal is on the cards – a rare and big achievement.

But some issues are still a bit thorny – take cotton. In the past, African governments lambasted the US and EU for their cotton subsidies. Now it’s India and China that they should worry about. Continue reading »

There's another side

Beyondbrics readers will be well aware of the threat that a tighter US monetary policy poses to emerging markets. Mere hints of higher rates and a tapering of bond-buying caused EM currencies to drop earlier in the year.

But there is another side to the coin, not often noted. Rates will only rise when the US economy recovers (that is, when unemployment dips below 7 per cent under the Fed’s current plans).

A sturdier US economy will help some EMs that export great volumes to the US, as well as hurt them – from higher rates. Continue reading »