There’s something rotten in the state of global trade, says UNCTAD
There’s something rotten in the state of global trade, says UNCTAD: The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has issued a grim warning on what the state of global trade, corporate power and debt mean for emerging market economies.
The current system of multilateral and hyperglobalized trade is making the world less equal and fueling an economic malaise, whose symptoms include trade wars. “While the economy has picked up since early 2017, growth remains spasmodic, and many countries are operating below potential,” UNCTAD says in its Trade and Development Report 2018. “This year is unlikely to see a change of gear,” the report says. “The immediate pressures are building around escalating tariffs and volatile financial flows but behind these threats to global stability is a wider failure – since 2008 – to address the inequities and imbalances of our hyperglobalized world,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.
The report names two main culprits: Growing global debt, particularly among emerging economies, and concentration of corporate power. “Private debt has exploded, especially in emerging markets and developing countries, whose share of global debt stock increased from 7% in 2007 to 26% in 2017,” it said. Over the same period, the ratio of debts racked up by non-financial businesses in emerging markets increased from 56% in 2008 to 105%. On corporate domination, the report had this to say: “Recent evidence from non-oil exports shows that, within the restricted circle of exporting firms, the top 1% accounted for 57% of country exports on average in 2014. The distribution of exports is thus highly skewed in favor of the largest firms.”
Oh, and and UNCAD also writes that infrastructure investments typically fail to result in sustained economic growth. It blames the influence of finance and the increased reliance on the private sector for funding.