Trade amidst the elections

. . . is the topic of my latest Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld. Excerpts:

"With local news being dominated by the presidential elections that are yet to happen in six month’s time, on who will run as running mate of who, the constant public reports of somebody’s honeymoon that is supposed to be in no way related to politics, and whether or not some kid who shouldn’t be president will decide to run for president, trade around the world goes on.

x x x

On top of all this, the WTO is expected to have a Ministerial in Geneva in the last week of November. WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy reportedly called the meeting for members to engage in stocktaking regarding the status of the Doha Round. Interestingly, while Mr. Lamy has repeatedly said that a successful conclusion of Doha would inject greater trade worldwide, the IMF nevertheless estimated that global trade will go down 11.9% for 2009 before going up by 2.5% in 2010. In any event, with Britain’s Gordon Brown facing a general election soon, the EU in the midst of a leadership search for its president and foreign policy chief, and the US having midterm elections next year, the probability of Doha coming to a close this year or next seems to be slimming as the months go on. Simply put, the WTO missed a great opportunity to close the deal within the short window of euphoria after Barack Obama’s election to the US presidency.

As for the Philippines, exports went down 18.3% year on year, with electronics remaining, as expected, in the doldrums, falling 13.2% compared to last year. Copper, garments, and furniture also fell. Nevertheless, surprisingly but gratifyingly, the World Bank stated that remittances from OFWs in proportion to GDP remained at its level for the past six years and continues to serve as fuel for the country’s continued consumer spending. However, this must be put into the context of still-to-be expected growth of our trading partners, along with the quite sluggish jobs growth of the US. The US, in fact, reported a further loss of 203,000 private sector jobs for October 2009 alone and this despite the massive amount of stimulus applied by the Obama administration.

All of which tells us this: that while we bafflingly insist that our politics remain local, economics simply is international whether we like it or not."