Friday 30 Oct 2020 | 06:15 | SYDNEY
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Global trade policy at a lull, but for how long?

Like a sailing ship caught in the doldrums, the international trade policy world seems stagnant and listless. Is there any fresh wind to be detected? Can we create some movement? In this coronavirus–dominated environment, nothing much is happening. The trend in global trade itself is not easy to

China sours on Australia’s wine

On Monday this week, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced it has commenced an investigation into whether Australia has been subsidising winemakers. This follows a parallel investigation launched two weeks ago to examine allegations that Australian winemakers have also been “dumping” their

A post-pandemic trade revival

Albert Einstein once said that “in the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity”. For an open trading nation like Australia, the pandemic is an unparalleled crisis. The nation is facing its worst downturn since the Great Depression, along with recessions in key trading partners, severe

The world can still prosper from free trade

Did anyone notice that the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), the revised NAFTA, entered into force on 1 July? If not, do not be too concerned, as the Covid-19 crisis has probably affected that as well. Still, this deal is (without getting too much into the weeds of whether it is

Costly cargo: The plight of seafarers in a pandemic

Amid the many consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of seafarers around the world are now locked onboard their ships with expired contracts and unable to get home. In a normal month, approximately 100,000 seafarers leave their ships and are replaced by others, but travel

Indonesia: Still caught between trade and protectionism

The entry into force of an ambitious Indonesia-Australia trade deal on Sunday is a boost to the bilateral relationship, coming after nearly a decade of difficult negotiations. No two neighbouring G20 economies trade as little as Australia and Indonesia, and the investment relationship is similarly

Economic diplomacy: Mood shift afoot

Retail therapyWhen even the normally unflappable Trade Minister Simon Birmingham bluntly tells business to reduce ties with the country that has underpinned the Australian economy for two decades, a mood shift is afoot. It took some prodding, but Birmingham finally broke cover at the end of his ABC&

New Zealand: Running the marathon

Earlier this week, New Zealand moved out of total lockdown into a phase of continuing control on social movement, but with an opening of widespread economic activity. Schools reopened partially. It is estimated that about half a million people returned to work after a stand down of five weeks.

US-China trade deal, phase one done: Now what?

It may go awry between now and the promised finalisation in January, but both the US and China now agree that phase one of the most difficult bilateral economic negotiation in recent decades is over. Unusually for this negotiation, the two sides also seem to agree on what they have agreed – at

Trade war: From a phase one deal to perpetual peace

After a roller-coaster ride spanning 18 months, the trade war between the United States and China is finally showing signs of abatement, with the two sides confirming that they are close to the conclusion of a phase-one deal. While the signing of the deal, which was originally scheduled to take

India’s RCEP exit a setback, but not a disaster

India’s decision to withdraw from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement has been framed as a catastrophe. Coming at a time of growing rivalries among the major global powers, most analysts have argued it augurs poorly for political cooperation and economic integration in

Are free trade deals expanding a digital divide?

E-bills, e-signature, the electronic transfer of funds – advancements in technology are bringing about remarkable changes in the business landscape, domestically and internationally. All this change is facilitating the faster movement of goods across borders and forcing governments to keep pace.

India’s RCEP reticence

Despite the modern proliferation of free trade agreements, there is an enormous gap between free trade as it is understood and advocated by those who benefit from it, and free trade as it is practiced today. The understanding of economic integration is diverse and complicated – at its heart sits a

A light amid the gloom of the US-China trade war

Despite an optimistic bounce in global financial markets Friday, the relentless trade war between the US and China resumed Sunday. Threatened 15% tariffs by the US on another $250 billion of China imports went into effect Sunday morning, as did new China tariffs on US crude oil, soybeans and

Trump and Xi need a trade deal and they need it soon

With resumed contact between US trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer and China’s negotiator Vice Premier Liu He, the 12th round of trade talks between the US and China may take place in Beijing before the end of July. But the clock is now ticking very loudly. Contrary to the messaging from Beijing

Is Australia wise to pick sides in US-China trade war?

The US-China trade war is viewed by many as a dark cloud over the global economy. So why is Australia’s ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey, seemingly urging Trump to go harder, and not settle for a “pyrrhic victory” that fails to resolve long-term differences between the US and China? In

Will geopolitics trump trade?

Geopolitics may be rapidly moving to the forefront in deciding how the US-China trade war will play out. If so, the odds of a rapprochement are dwindling fast. The trade conflict has always been about many things, clouding how different analysts understood it. Initially, it seemed best understood

NAFTA to USMCA – what’s in a name?

What’s in a name? According to US President Donald Trump, it is the difference between the “worst trade deal ever made” – as he called the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – and a “wonderful new trade deal” – his reference to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (

Tit-for-tat-for-tit-for-tat

The US is moving quickly to follow through on Trump’s threats to further escalate his trade war with China (now is as good a time as any to say that the trade war has officially started). Last week the US imposed tariffs on US$34 billion worth of Chinese imports, with another US$16 billion to be

Trade is not just about tariffs

Amid the clamour of the current shouting-match about tariffs, two sometimes-forgotten facts in international trade should be noted. First, tariffs are not the only distortion. Second, none of the countries involved in the current battles is without sin when it comes to trade restrictions.

US-China trade: joke’s over

Once entertaining, the Trump administration is becoming unfunny. In less than a week the trade dispute between China and the US has escalated to cover what will quite likely be the entirety of US goods exports to China, and the greater part, if not the whole, of Chinese goods exports to the US

Is Trump ready to bear the cost of a trade war?

Agree or disagree with his conclusions, we owe Hugh White thanks for forcing us to grapple with “the China challenge”. White’s writings have stripped away much of the easy, high-sounding rhetoric about dealing with Beijing and honed in on the central feature of US–China relations in the

Free trade is being deferred but not reversed

This is the first in a three-part series on the future of world trade from a global (part 1), Asia Pacific (part 2) and Australian (part 3) perspective. Is protectionism on the rise? As we moved into 2017 the conventional wisdom was 'yes'. The G20 warned about it in 2016. The annual January

TPP: With one down, can 11 stand?

Reports of the death of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) were exaggerated – or at least premature. Move over a TPP of 12 nations (TPP12) and make way for TPP11, the lower number reflecting the withdrawal of the US from the agreement. When President Trump withdrew the US from the TPP in

Lessons from India on migration’s role in trade policy

Prime Minister Turnbull yesterday carefully signalled a potential India-Australia Free Trade Agreement is not a priority for his government. This comes after the Abbott Government set a very public benchmark for concluding an India-Australia FTA by the end of 2015, an overly optimistic commitment

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