International Trade Woes

Published in Books&Authors (Daily Dawn) on October 5, 2008

Original Link

Reviewed by Ayesha Hoda
‘It must be ensured that the WTO system subserves development and does not subvert it. Only then would this organisation have credibility in the eyes of the developing world,’ commented Shri M. Maran, a former commerce and industry minister of India.

This statement reflects the gains developing countries like India expect from the World Trade Organisation (WTO). India is a founding member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and its successor, the WTO, which came into existence in 1995 after the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations.

India’s participation at WTO is geared towards more stability and predictability in international trade, which will ultimately lead to more trade and prosperity for the country and for other member nations of the WTO.

It is interesting to note that The WTO Deadlocked has been published at a time crucial for the world trade deal. The Doha Development Round of the WTO has yet again ended in deadlock as a result of the conflict between India and the United States. The collapse in negotiations came as a shock for many as representatives of WTO’s member states were satisfied with the progress of the mini-ministerial this year and expected an agreement after seven years of deadlock.

Observers will thus be curious to know more about India’s stance at the WTO throughout the trade organisation’s history and how the country will negotiate in the future. Will it continue to romance both the bilateral and the multilateral approaches? Will it continue to play the developing country leadership role in coming years?

This volume, co-authored by Debahis Chakraborty and Amir Ullah Khan, tries to find answers to these and other such questions regarding India and its role at the WTO. Chakraborty is an assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade in New Delhi and Khan is the director of the India Development Foundation in Gurgaon.

While reading the history of the subcontinent, one is bound to notice that India has always been a pioneer of trade across borders, as is also pointed out by the writers: ‘The rich heritage of Indian trade with the Roman civilisation, East and West Asian, and Red Sea countries, and its presence on the silk and spice route map…’

However, after 1947, India became an epicenter of trade barriers in order to protect its infant industries. There was complete absence of export promotion in its development strategy before the early 1990s. The country began trade liberalisation in 1991, four years before the WTO was formed. At that point, growing economies had started to realise that the restrictions placed on trade had become dysfunctional. The preface of the book tries to explain India’s complex position and approach: ‘As a founder member of the multilateral trading system, it has been a steadfast supporter of multilateralism even when it was at its protectionist best.’

India’s participation at the WTO underwent massive change when it realised that the presence of tariff peaks and tariff escalation hampered its export interests to a major extent and that silence at WTO meetings was not going to help.

It is interesting to note that The WTO Deadlocked has been published at a time crucial for the world trade deal. The Doha Development Round of the WTO has yet again ended in a deadlock as a result of the conflict between India and the United States. The collapse in negotiations came as a shock for many as representatives of WTO’s member states were satisfied with the progress of the mini-ministerial this year and expected an agreement after seven years of deadlock.

With changes in its trade composition and the increasing need to be a significant part of the global economy, India has emerged as a major player in the negotiating dynamics of the WTO (specifically since the Seattle Ministerial).

The book provides a detailed overview of India’s negotiating strategies such as those concerning agriculture and non-agricultural market access. An analysis of the potential as well as the violation of various agreements, on the basis of WTO case laws, has also been presented.

The volume is both a factual account of what happened at the WTO negotiations and a study of India’s position as a result of changes in its economy, export basket etc. Provisions that should be considered for future reforms/talks have also been included.

The world is changing rapidly and so is the structure of international trade. The trading world is buzzing with a large number of relatively new terms such as preferential trade agreements, trade-related intellectual property rights, globalisation and contingency measures. Some of these and other issues are also included in this discussion as they form an integral part of world trade today. Readers get to know about India’s outlook when it comes to regionalism, intellectual property, anti-dumping, trade in services and so on, and are asked to consider what is next in line.

This book is not for beginners, that is, it supposes some level of understanding regarding the international trade scenario. It will assist those who are part of trade or industry and those interested in politics, economics or sociology. The language is simple though trade-related jargon has been used. Information has been gathered from a large number of sources, which may be referred to through the detailed bibliographical references and notes provided.

With its focus on India, the book promotes an understanding of what WTO has been able to achieve so far, what it stands for, and the positive and negative impact on developing countries of a global trade agreement.

The WTO Deadlocked
By Debashis Chakraborty & Amir Ullah Khan
Sage Publications, New Delhi
ISBN 0-7619-3606-0
327pp Indian Rs650

A New World

Published in Books & Authors (Daily Dawn) on August 3, 2008

Original Link

Billions of Entrepreneurs
By Tarun Khanna
Penguin Books, India
ISBN 0-67-008148-5
353pp. Indian Rs595

Reviewed by Ayesha Hoda

‘Far better to be wise and informed about changes the world over than to be the ‘fool…who tries to hustle the East’.

Is the theory of the American Empire still relevant? Or are we heading elsewhere for economic and cultural gains? Is it time to discover the new destinations the world has chosen?

Overlooking China and India is impossible, rather a flawed stance if taken by any country, as the spotlight for billions is shifting from New York, London and western capitalism. China and India are now in focus as two of the world’s fastest growing economies, with populations having reached a cumulative figure of 2.4 billion.

How these countries have metamorphosed into emerging markets and how they will reshape the global economy (and in turn politics and society) in the near future, are subjects of great interest today. Therefore, generally speaking, it is about time that the West (America in particular) seeks a broader view of the East and discovers that the two great civilisations of India and China mean more than lo mein and chicken curry, Jhumpa Lahri and Yu Hua, Bollywood and Bruce Lee, Taj Mahal and Great Wall, as Tarun Khanna points out in his vividly written book.

Khanna has a PhD in business economics from Harvard University and is presently Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School. He also works with multinationals, indigenous companies and investors in emerging markets worldwide. His book reflects the wide range of experiences he has had and he provides readers with numerous examples of cultural stereotypes (‘the vigorous and smiling Chinese or the lassitude and repression of the Indians’), as well as perspectives of people from China and India or those who have been associated with the same.

His aim is to do away with the vague and skewed images that people relate to these two Asian giants and emphasise the need to study about China and India and establish fruitful, mutually beneficial links with both.

With a refreshing sense of neutrality and a smooth flow that defines his style of writing, Khanna also draws links between China and India. By citing examples from ancient and modern history, he illustrates how elements of each country’s distinct culture are entwined in the roots of the other (such as in the chapter titled ‘Monks and Merchants: The Indianisation of China’). He makes apt comparisons between their strengths and weaknesses (such as in ‘Why China Can Build Cities Overnight and India Cannot’, ‘Bias & Noise’ etc.) and accurately states that ‘the countries are inverted mirror images of each other.’

With Sino-Indian hostilities finally diminishing after four long decades, it is imperative that not only the world should understand the Indian and Chinese markets but that these two countries should also be keenly familiar with each other’s work practices and laws, socio-political culture, corporate ideology and organisational philosophies.

China can learn how to better manage its equity markets from India, whereas India can learn to appreciate and profit from its diaspora in different countries — the way China has been doing with the non-resident Chinese. Through the analyses presented here, it is clear that economic interchange will lead both nations to new avenues and brighter horizons: ‘Distance no longer hampers scholarly, intellectual, and commercial cooperation.

The first direct flight from Beijing to Delhi began in March 2002, and direct flights are being planned from secondary cities in China to secondary cities in India. The future looks brighter already.’

This book can serve as an introduction for those who are still unaware of the immense potential of making money in China and India. It gives a fair idea of how many adaptations foreign companies, entrepreneurs or exporters may have to make with respect to indigenous ways of doing business, government regulations, political climate and so on, as happened in the case of the giant company Microsoft, which was asked to ‘study Chinese culture to appreciate how to deal with the Chinese.’

It is also necessary to realise that if any company wants to build a long-term position in either country, then it has to pay specific attention to local welfare and broadening the scope of corporate responsibility to meet local needs.

Khanna comes across as a natural storyteller, and his personal experiences and observations make the book even more engrossing by bringing it closer to reality.

He has meticulously sourced the book and there are chapters on topics as seemingly distinct (yet linked) as Buddhism, outsourcing, General Electric’s corporate bridges, freedom of media, diaspora management, medical tourism and so on, sprinkled generously with several seminal ideas (China’s hard power versus India’s soft power, etc.), which can be subjects of further discussion.

Diversity resonates throughout the book, as a symbol of the diversity that is a distinguishing feature of both India and China. An atypical treatment of the subject-matter makes Billions of Entrepreneurs not only thought-provoking and informative but also a pleasure to read.

Arguments Against G8

Published in Books & Authors (Daily Dawn) on April 9, 2006 – Original Link
Edited by Gill Hubbard and David Miller
Pluto Press. Available with Liberty Books,
Park Towers, Clifton, Karachi.
Tel: 021-5832525 (Ext: 111).
ISBN 0-7453-2420-7
248pp. Rs925

“GLOBALISATION is not just inevitable — though it is that — it is a good thing,” said Tony Blair.

Is this true or just propaganda on part of the people who rule the world today and promote the idea of globalisation as “unstoppable?”

G8’s origin lies with the resulting economic problems of the oil crisis of 1973, when the idea of an economic forum was initiated by the United States of America. Today, G8, or the Great Eight, consists of first world countries — UK, USA, the Russian Federation, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. Originally, it included only six countries.

The issues today, pertaining to G8, are that it has become a sort of government for the rest of the nations and that its globalisation tactics are detrimental to the interests of other countries, especially the developing or third world countries.

This book, with its 22 contributors, is rather judgmental about the negativity of G8’s plans. It is, however, supported by some very valid arguments. The book is also very informative and we are presented with a clear analysis of what has gone wrong. Intellectuals and renowned personalities such as Noam Chomsky, Susan George, Gill Hubbard, Mark Curtis and David Miller are amongst the contributers.

Noam Chomsky is known for his writings against America’s imperialist designs. Mark Curtis has written other books and is director of the World Development Movement. The other writers are also involved in similar areas of interest. Their essays are a great source of knowledge for those concerned about the present world situation.

These writers opine that the world leaders put more effort in creating lies rather than facing the challenges or problems, which they choose to isolate from the policies of G8. On one hand, they are in favour of free trade, the status of the world as one global entity, etc., but on the other, issues of poverty, AIDS and high infant mortality rates are ignored. Horrifying statistics have been included: a sixth of humanity lives in slums, a child dies every 15 seconds from lack of safe water, etc.

Capitalism, a profit-motivated and an open economic system, has its negative impacts. Capitalism is termed as “war” since competition is one of its major features and the third world is not in a position to compete with the first world. The socialist system, which has its share of drawbacks, does not let the rich grow richer by engaging in a game of power and politics.

Democracy, corporate power, food security and climate change are the topics under discussion and have been given equal importance. Some very relevant examples have been quoted such as that of the tsunami when more than 200,000 people lost their lives:

“Ordinary people around the world watched in horror and donated millions to help the victims. This was not charity but an act of genuine solidarity. Meanwhile the leaders of the eight richest countries in the world stood impotent.”

A good thing about this book is that the writers have not hesitated from placing blame where it is due. People are aware of the G8 but this book seems to come as reinforcement with some very solid arguments and accusations. It not only puts forward what is happening but also sheds light on what is to be done for the benefit of humanity.— Ayesha Hoda

Understanding Emerging Markets: Building Business BRIC by Brick

Published in Books & Authors (Daily Dawn) on October 28, 2007 – Original Link
Understanding Emerging Markets: Building Business BRIC by Brick
By Stefano Pelle
Sage Publications, New Delhi, India
ISBN 0-7619-3557-6
246pp. Indian Rs295

Brazil Russia India China (BRIC), as per Goldman Sachs, are moving in the direction of capitalism and globalisation, as Emerging Countries (ECs), that is, countries with rapidly developing markets and high growth rates. Fifty years into the new millennium and they are projected to be the four most dominant countries of the world, with a not-so-communist China in first place. According to author Stefano Pelle:

‘A cheap labour force for the manufacturers, a ‘hungry consumer’ for the marketers and a long-term young population are peculiarities of the ECs.’

Pelle is vice president and COO, Business Unit Russia and South Asia of Perfetti Van Melle (an Italian multinational which is claimed to be the third largest confectionery in the world). His eight years’ work experience in India as well as his teaching experiences in institutes, in India and Italy, is reflected through his style of writing and grasp of the subject.

This book will serve as reference material for business students and to some extent, as a guide for entrepreneurs unaware of the potential of and the barriers to setting up business in either of the aforementioned countries.

Pelle has included examples and material from a wide range of sources. He has briefly touched upon the geo-political scenario in BRIC, ethical considerations, corporate social responsibility, the work climate, bureaucracy and the kind of approach to business and marketing strategies required for success. Cultural intelligence and sensitivity are said to play a key role in forming a solid base for any multinational, along with the use of local talent:

‘A person who has spent most of his career in the ‘protected environment’ of the corporate office of a well-structured organisation in a developed country, might not be the ideal person to be sent to set up a green field project in West Africa.’

Information is based on recent economic models. Even though Pakistan has been rarely mentioned, except when discussing Indian politics, one can clearly identify several characteristics of Emerging Markets (EMs) present here, such as the transition segment (emerging middle classes), low pay scales for labour, similar cultural values and so on. Moreover, after its report on BRIC countries, Goldman Sachs also presented its list of ‘Next Eleven’ (fast growing) countries, considering quality of education, investment policies, and macroeconomic stability and so on for the criterion. This list also included Pakistan and therefore, this analysis of operating a business in BRIC countries may serve as an example to investors and help them conjecture what is presently lacking, whether a move in favour of democracy and anti-war and anti-terror campaigns will be of any help and so on.

The author projects a win-win situation for ECs and the presently dominant economies (in the west), though the emphasis is on how western investors can best benefit from the situation, capture markets in ECs and thus, retain their global presence. However, with 40 per cent of the world’s population living in BRIC, if these predictions of sustainable development and economic prosperity do come true, they are no doubt, going to have a global impact.

Relevant and thought-provoking as the book is, the inclusion of Pelle’s personal work experiences would have added to it considerably, as it would then have more original and different examples for one to refer to and thus, wider readership. — Ayesha Hoda