Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday Quick Hits

A few interesting items worth a brief mention tonight:
  • The amazing potential of logistics improvements in developing countries.  Back in January, I opined on what free traders (and companies seeking or reliant upon expanded trade) could do instead of just sitting around lobbying a disinterested Obama administration for action on FTAs, the Doha Round, etc.  My main suggestion was for private in investment in, and development of, developing countries logistics.  My reasoning: "the potential returns on private logistics investment - significant improvements in economic development and trade - could be worth the costs to US and other companies with a big stake in increased economic engagement with the developing world, i.e., trade in their goods and services."  Well, today's Financial Times has a neat story on Colombia that provides a fantastic real world example of what I was thinking.  My favorite stat: "Until five years ago, only 15 per cent of Colombia's roads were paved, most of them single lane. In a country where some 70 per cent of cargo is hauled by truck, that made high transport costs a regular burden.  'It costs me as much to ship goods from China to Colombia's main Pacific port, as it does from the Pacific coast up to Bogot√°,' says one businessman."  The solution to this problem has been a massive influx of public and private investment in Colombian infrastructure and logistics that will create massive gains in trade and economic growth.  Very cool. 
  • Pols v. Robots.  Mark Perry has a fantastic blog entry today on manufacturing jobs, productivity and trade.  The whole thing is worth reading, but I especially enjoyed his "honest re-write" of recent statements by everyone's favorite protectionist, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-Campaigning), on trade with China and manufacturing job losses.  Perry's rewrite exchanges protectionist myth with economic reality, and the result is the good Senator "getting tough" with technology (as the true driver of job losses) in order to bolster American industrial employment.  As of the time of printing, the robots were unavailable for comment. 
  • Can this White House get any worse on trade?  Umm, maybe.  Apparently, Larry Summers is leaving his post as director of the National Economic Council.  Now, it's not like Summers, a strong historical advocate for free trade, was really dictating White House US trade policy over the last 14 months, but still, it's never good to lose a loud voice for economic sanity in a place already dominated by politicos Rahm, Axe and Val.   Blech.
That's all for now.

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