Tuesday, February 5, 2013

South south trade and national interests

The Economist recently carried a piece on the increasing importance of South-South trade in recent years. The balance, according to the piece, has shifted from a developed-developing country coupling to a decoupling.

(Courtesy: The Economist)

The share of trade between developing countries is increasing signifying a regional shift of trade. It also signifies the growing influence of emerging economies in the global economy. I was trying to contextualize this aspect of an increase in south south trade to south south co-operation in multilateral trade. 

Several commentators have argued that developing countries, especially in the context of BRICS, should have a common strategy to deal with multilateral issues involving trade. However, this misses the point that trade interests are largely guided by national interests. And the dispute settlement cases at the WTO show that developing countries do not hesitate to file complaints against fellow developing countries (a recent case of Brazil against South Africa on poultry or this case of Brazil accusing Argentina of protectionism) when they perceive trade rules have been violated. Increasing south south trade is as much a sign of the growing importance of the emerging economies but also a sign that national interests will inevitably conflict at times. Thus, while a broader south south agenda for pursuing a more fairer globalized governance structure may be desirable, one must not lose sight of legitimate national trade interests to be protected.

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