Finance and Economics
Trade Deals: Trying For Anything
The biggest trade deal in decades shows why getting an agreement is so hard.
IN THE wee hours of December 7th 2013, after weeks of haggling, exhausted trade representatives stood to applaud.
Agreement had been reached on the first trade deal in the history of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
No longer could it be accused of being a talking shop, crimped by consensus.
“For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered,” said Roberto Azevedo, the body's chief.
The deal is tantalisingly close to coming into force, needing just two more national ratifications.
Chad, Jordan, Kuwait and Rwanda are competing to take it over the line.
In theory, the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) is a beacon of hope on the trade landscape.
It was unanimously agreed to by rich and poor countries.
If fully implemented, it could have an even bigger impact than slashing all tariffs.
It is an example of a win-win deal, in which peer pressure pokes governments into making life easier and more prosperous.
The agreement shies away from slashing subsidies or toppling tariffs, and instead hacks at the thicket of regulatory trade barriers.
The red tape is stickiest in poorer countries; in sub-Saharan Africa exporters must endure nearly 200 hours of inspections, regulations and paperwork.
Richer countries face only 15.
The TFA is supposed to surmount these hurdles by, for example, setting standards, streamlining processes and squeezing fees.
This would cut trade costs by as much as 15% in poorer countries.
It also enforces greater transparency.
Export-led growth is tricky if people do not know how to export.
A study by Evdokia Mose and Silvia Sorescu of the OECD found that better information could cut trade costs by 1.7% in low-income countries.
来自经济合作与发展组织（OECD）的Evdokia Mose和Silvia Sorescu发现，在低收入国家，更为有效的信息途经会减少1.7%的贸易花销。