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What we are reading

Week of November 1

Published 01 November 2021

What We are Reading is a curated list of articles and reports on the latest developments in sustainable trade and investment, technology, and geopolitics.

Will this week’s developments lead to turning points in trade?

Pharmaceutical giant Merck agreed to a royalty-free licensing deal with the Medicines Patent Pool, bringing hope that its Covid treatment can be made widely available in the developing world.

News from the White House about an EU-US agreement to remove tariffs on steel and aluminum prompted a flurry of analysis, including from Bloomberg. An earlier statement by the US, Austria, France, Italy, Spain, and the UK, to drop the threat of tariffs over digital services taxes also led to much explanation, including by the Financial Times.

In Asia, China’s new five-year plan to expand digital trade is the focus of an article by the South China Morning Post, while Nikkei Asia reported that China is allowing foreign firms more opportunities to participate in government procurement. Do these developments signal China’s preparation to commit to CPTPP disciplines?

Finally, did a visit by Flexport’s CEO to LA ports prompt regulatory changes to alleviate supply chain bottlenecks? According to a Financial Times interview, the hype may not match reality.

Speaking of supply chains, is trade in high-quality quartz the next front in the US-China trade war? Another potential tension point: a dearth of magnesium necessary for aluminum production that will aggravate ongoing shortages in auto production. In Nikkei Asia, Frederic Neumann explains why Asia’s export boom is set to fizzle.

Lastly, Stephen Rose at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) argues that trade is not as responsible for losses in manufacturing jobs as conventional thinking assumes.

China’s state capitalism presents a quandary

China’s state capitalism continues to confound policymakers. A host of analysts convened by the Center for Strategic and International Studies carried out a deep dive into the issue and found no easy responses. Alan Beattie of the Financial Times reported that, at last week’s China Trade Policy Review at the WTO, frustration was evident.

To learn more about some of the reasons for this frustration, read the Wire China’s reporting on Chinese companies’ extensive use of offshore investment vehicles and the implications for foreign investors.

Developments in FDI and data governance

Some non-China news: Australia’s newly-adopted rules for scrutinizing foreign investments are being put to the test as a Canadian company bids to acquire AusNet, reports Nikkei Asia

Meanwhile, an important new resource from George Washington University compiles the laws, rules, and regulations of major economies for digital trade and data governance.

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