>>> To Be Analyzed
DR-CAFTA and Ex Post Labor Enforcement in Guatemala
As the USTR reported in April, Guatemala has agreed to comprehensive labor enforcement plans under the labor provisions contained in the Dominican Republic-Central America FTA (CAFTA-DR), to which Guatemala is a party.
In “Ex Ante Due Diligence: Formation of PTAs and Protection of Labor Rights”, I argued that states have the incentives to improve protection of labor rights prior to the entry into force of trade agreements. Despite the domestic socio-political changes that have resulted in the labor-trade linkages, states prefer to not be sidetracked by what they consider to be a secondary issue.
In the article, I in fact discussed the case of Guatemala, which had already arisen to the attention of U.S. policymakers, as the prominent exception to the argument. The question now is whether this ex post enforcement plan will have any consequences.
I have doubts on two fronts, based on my argument. First, Guatemala was not lacking in motivation or incentives before CAFTA entered into force. Some countries like Oman made a mad rush to get their labor laws in order—doing their ex ante due diligence—before concluding their FTA negotiations with the U.S. Second, Guatemala did not lack resources prior to the entry into force of the FTA. The Department of Labor spent a lot of resources with numetous prospective FTA partners to enhance the countries’ labor laws.
I would be happy to be wrong on this and see that a PTA can improve labor protection in the course of its functioning. I’m guessing, however, that if it did not work the first time around, there are likely deeper obstacles to doing so.
Did the EU rig the WTO DG race?
This is getting to be about two weeks old, but I have not seen this get much traction from outlets other than from Rob Howse on the International Economic Law and Policy Blog. Howse’s initial post is here. Kenya has formally complained to the WTO over how its candidate for the institution’s director general position was eliminated in the preliminary stage. Kenya claims that while the procedures allow for each member to indicate four preferred candidates, the EU submitted five.
“By allowing a member, whether a bloc or an individual State to deviate from expressing four preferences, you contravened the guidelines and procedures that you outlined to members,” Kenya says in the protest letter dated April 17, 2013.
Subsequently, Howse tracked down a WTO document, which revealed that the procedures clearly restricted each member’s votes to four positive preferences. Howse also points to the explicit ban on negative prereferences in the document, which further increases the importance of complying with the limitation on four positive preferences, a violation of which can lead in effect to a negative preference. In his third post on the topic, Howse speculates on EU’s motivation behind this action. He refers to a suggestion by a hihg-level EU policy adviser on this. The source
has suggested to me that what is likely going on is that the EU is punishing Africa for being recalcitrant in relation to the Economic Partnership Agreements that Europe has been trying to conclude on the continent. The individual in question said that one cannot underestimate the fury in Brussels as a result of African states not wanting to go along with these initiatives. Another angle the expert mentioned was that the EPAs were a pet project of Pascal Lamy when he was DG Trade, and that he had a lot of credibility invested in them.
In his latest and last attempt at making sense of this, Howse indirectly points his finger at the the current EU Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht:
Earlier,as a Belgian politician, De Gucht was forced to resign from a party leadership role because of anti-migrant views (concerning voting rights, according to Wikipedia).
This brings us to Africa. In a 2012 interview with “This is Africa,” de Gucht suggested that Africans were “pupils”-that “one way or another …will have to come to us” for “knowledge.”
In other posts on the topic1 , Howse refers to the fact that the EU has so far not denied violating the DG selection procedure, despite some publicity on this issue. So, the remaining questions are the following: 1) Did EU’s submission of five as opposed to four preferences in fact contribute to the elimination of the Kenyan candidate? (Howse appears to suggest that at least some of the member states of the EU also submitted five preferences, which makes it more likely to be consequential.) 2) If so, why did the EU do this?
I am guessing that this issue will get more attention when the WTO membership ultimately selects the new director general, as Kenya has threatened to veto the final outcome.
In the end, however, I’m not sure how much the WTO director general position matters. I posted a quote from Alan Beattie before—heads of the IMF and the World Bank can potentially have more important roles. Hoekman and Mavroidis—in introducing an ebook in which seven of the then nine candidates for the position share their thoughts on international trade and the WTO—argue that the “choice of the new DG matters.” I am hard-pressed to find in their write-up, however, any persuasive argument. Under the section on “Role of the Director-General” they argue the following:
The Director-General of the WTO does not have a magic wand that can be used to remove the fundamental constraints and factors that have impeded the successful conclusion of an ambitious Doha Round outcome. But he or she does have a critical role to play in helping the membership to identify and pursue options that will promote growth in ways that do not undermine the multilateral trading system.
Further down the section, they claim the following:
The Director-General, as the head of the WTO Secretariat, plays an important role in managing these services that are provided to the membership. He or she has an important role in explaining the many contributions that the WTO makes to sustaining peaceful international relations.
Together, this makes the position simply sound like a bureaucratic manager and a figurehead PR person. The controversy surrounding the procedural violation rather than the substantive effects of who wins might have a larger impact on how the international institution moves forward.
New World Order, Illuminati and the World Bank — Joy of Tech
Right up there with the black helicopters….
Stata-MMD Geeks Rejoice
I’m guessing that the overlap between Stata users and MMD (MultiMarkdown) users is a small one so far. But for what it’s worth I will put this out there.
First, writing in plain text is helpful for three reasons:
It lets writers set aside the issue of formatting. This is something that LaTeX users have already been doing for years/decades. No styles, tabs, fonts, sizes to fiddle. Just text and markups.
Plain text format is future proof. Try opening a document you created in the 1990s. I just tried opening a file from when I was in high school. MS Word just informed it won’t. Plain text will always be accessible.
Plain text has flexible outputs. It can be piped to MS Word, RTF, LaTeX, PDF (through LaTeX), HTML and ePub should you wish. This is helpful for academics that wish to write in LaTeX but frequently need to convert to MS Word for publishing purposes.
In fact, I wrote this post in MultiMarkdown, including the numbered list, all the hyperlinks, styles and even the footnote.
MultiMarkdown is a set of very simple syntax/markups that lets writers write in plaintext files. It is a superset of Markdown, which John Gruber created. The basic Markdown is primarily for writing for the web, but MultiMarkdown created by Fletcher Penney is geared specifically for writing for publication. The latter allows footnotes, citations and tables.
An eBook—Markdown: A MacSparky Field Guide—by David Sparks and Eddie Smith is an excellent introduction to the syntax that will get anyone started right away.
There are also plenty of software solutions to writing in MultiMarkdown. Of course, any simple text editors will do, but a front-end can help with good syntax coloring and exporting to other formats. My current favorite is Texts, which is only in version 0.13.1 but is awesome.1
This brings me to the title of the post. Writing papers in MultiMarkdown is great, but as most academics know creating tables of statistical results always takes some effort. MultiMarkdown table syntax is very simple—requiring only the pipe character (“|”), hyphens and colons, in addition to whatever data to occupy the cells.
Users of Stata can/should use the
estout command or the simpler
esttab wrapper for the command to generate table outputs. While
estout/esttab commands are flexible enough to allow various output formats, including RTF and TeX, the current shipping version does not have MMD as an option.
A little googling helped. Ben Jann has an updated version of
estout (version 3.13 dated 06august2009) which includes MMD as an output style option. The ado file is located here. After backing up the original
estout.ado file as
estout.ado.bak in my Stata ado directory, I created a new
estout.ado file with the new updated version. Now, you can use the
style(mmd) as an option, and
estout will create perfectly formatted table outputs in MultiMarkdown format.
esttab’s usage with this updated version of
estout, however, seems to contain some bugs. Mainly, specifying the
style(mmd) option with
esttab leads to absence of cell delimiters (“|”) and to presence of horizontal lines. These are easy problems to fix. In the
esttab options, include
delimiter(" | ") nolines. Including
postfoot("[table title][table label]") will complete the proper MMD syntax for tables.
I believe the underlying engine for Texts is Pandoc, which is another superset of MultiMarkdown with very similar syntax. ↩
“The Transatlantic Trade Talks and Economic Policy Research: Time to Re-tool”
Evenett and Stern take stock of what analysts know about 1) the likelihood of a meaningful trade/investment agreement between the U.S. and the E.U. and 2) the potential benefits of the agreement.
At the end of the analysis is their call to arms:
>The gap between trade negotiators and professors continues to widen. More and more regional trade agreements include provisions for which there has been little rigorous analysis of the choices available and their consequences. Yet behind-the-border measures have been on trade negotiating tables since at least the 1970s. A critical negotiator might well ask how many more decades will it take before researchers invest in the tools and data necessary to effectively guide negotiations in the policy areas that companies say really count? Some trade analysts, such as Deardorff and Stern (1998), have analysed some of the pertinent issues, but so much more needs to be done. It is not just the credibility of trade negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic that is on the line – analysts must re-tool if they are to demonstrate they are as relevant to 21st-century trade policy deliberations as they were in the past.
For what it’s worth, political science/IPE research on trade agreements no longer focus on trade diversion, which is the central concept around which Evenett and Stern evaluate the state-of-the-art on trade policy analysis. So, we’re in less need of re-tooling than perhaps economists are.
Regardless of the disciplinary backgrounds, making sense of how preferential trade agreements have changed over time is a tall order—something I’d like to be able to accomplish with a set of papers sooner than later.
“Poker Chips in the Classroom” — Will Moore
Will Moore posted an entry a few days ago on his blog title “Poker Chips in the Classroom,” which caught my eyes. The entry described his approach behind teaching, the mechanics of a randomized incentive system to promote reading and discussion, and two anecdotes about the positive effect that the method has had on students.
Students’ lack of reading is certainly frustrating. My main, latest innovation has been to make it collaborative, by using an experimental online platform that facilitates collaborative annotation of PDF files called NB.1 Next time I teach an upper-division course, I will try Will’s poker chips approach in conjunction.
The part that caught my attention the most—other than the very dramatic anecdotes involving two students—was the following:
I thought a bit about learning, and decided that, in my opinion, the most effective learning occurs one-on-one with a text, followed by one-on-one discussion; followed by small group discussion; followed by large group discussion; followed by lecture. But discussion is only more effective than lecture when the students have done the reading: the fewer student who have read the material, the less likely it is that lecture is not superior to discussion. I further believe that lecture has a moral hazard: fewer students will read when the instructor lectures. My problem, then, was to change the proportion of students who arrived to class having completed the assigned reading.
I think this is right and it is a good way to think about the linkage between reading assignments, in-class (or online) discussions and lectures.
I hope to write up for publication the rationale, the implementation and the effectiveness of using this for pedagogical purposes at the end of the semester. ↩