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What we are reading

Week of November 30

Published 30 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.

Can trade policy promote environmental health?

The WTO ministerial meetings have been postponed. Work towards multilateral trade agreements continues, however, especially on agreements intended to promote environmental health. Dozens of WTO Members are working to address plastics pollution and encourage sustainable plastics trade. The European Union is considering a law to ban agriculture imports from regions vulnerable to deforestation, Mehreen Khan explained in the Financial Times (FT). In Foreign Affairs, Jessica F. Green argued that the WTO, IMF, and other multilateral fora are better placed than the UN to negotiate the global climate agenda.

Meanwhile, the contest to control cobalt reserves vital for clean energy technologies, in particular between the US and China, is detailed in the New York Times.

Foreign investment in a changing China

Foreign companies are struggling to navigate the waters of investing and operating in a China that is increasing its domestic regulations and adversarial stance. The latest annual report from the US-China Security and Economic Review Commission predicts that capital flows will be the next target of decoupling, Rana Foorhar reported in the FT. But according to another article in the FT, regulations promoting common prosperity are good news for foreign firms catering to China’s middle class.

Supply chain bottlenecks confound

Supply chain bottlenecks continue to dominate analysis and reporting, as policymakers and companies rethink how goods can and should flow across the world. A report by Daniel Rees and Phurichai Rungcharoenkitkul of the Bank of International Settlements offers insightful analysis of the macroeconomic implications. In a podcast for The Indicator by Planet Money, Darien Woods and Stacey Vanek-Smith present the story of Toyota’s lean supply chain evolution.

What is going on with Chinese ships going off the radar? According to CNN, China’s new Personal Information Protection Law may be the reason – and may further snarl supply chains.

Inflation, e-commerce moratorium, and plurilateral deals

Would cutting tariffs ease inflation? Aime Williams in the Financial Times poses the question, and reminds us to reread this thoughtful analysis from August by Matt Yglesias.

Would doing away with the WTO’s customs moratorium on electronic transmissions change global trade? Deborah Elms of the Asian Trade Centre explains the policy’s importance.

Lastly, new trade trackers from the WTO and the IMF provide a look at the state of plurilateral agreements at the WTO and the status of trade in COVID-19 vaccines.

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