From National Public Radio (NPR) in the US. Part of their website has a section called “Planet Money – The Economy Explained”. In the clip below they talk about the whole process of making a T shirt.
The Planet Money men’s T-shirt was made in Bangladesh, by workers who make about $3 a day, with overtime. The Planet Money women’s T-shirt was made in Colombia, by workers who make roughly $13 a day, without overtime. The wages in both places are remarkably low by U.S. standards. But the gap between them is huge. Workers in Colombia make more than four times what their counterparts make in Bangladesh. In our reporting, we saw that the workers in Colombia have a much higher standard of living than the workers in Bangladesh.
You can view the Interactive documentary by clicking the link below:
Deep Sea and Foreign Going is an account of a 5 week trip from Felixstowe in the UK to Singpaore. Rose George explains how on a train journey that most items of clothing, electronics, food etc are brought to the UK by ship. The reason being that shipping has become so cheap that it makes sense to import items. She uses the example of cod – it is less costly for Scottish cod to be sent to China to be filleted and then exported back to UK restaurants than it is to pay the (small) salaries of Scottish filleters. Some interesting facts from the review of the book in the Guardian Weekly:
* Containers are the largest man-made moving objects on the planet;
* Triple-E class boats are around 400 metres in length and can carry 18,000 boxes;
* In 2011, 360 commercial ports in America took in international goods worth $1.73tn – 80 times the total value of all US trade in 1960;
* Even in the UK, whose sense of itself as a seafaring nation has long waned, the shipping industry employs nearly 635,000 people;
* Port authorities inspect less than 10% of boxes, making them of great interest to counterfeiters and drug barons.
What is the Trade Weighted Index (TWI)
• An index that measures the value of $NZ in relationship to a group (or “basket”) of other currencies. The currencies included are from NZ’s major export markets i.e. Australia, USA, Japan, Euro area, UK. – $A, $US, ¥, €, £.
• Each of the currencies included in the TWI is “weighted” according to how important exports to that country are ( = % of total exports)
• From the TWI we can see if the $NZ has appreciated or depreciated against our major trading partners currencies overall.
In October Spanish authorities reported a 0.1% decrease in the general level of prices which has suggested a repeat of a Japanese style stagnation. With the ECB cutting rates to 0.25% earlier this month to avoid such an issue it could be too little too late. Also with rates as low as they are they are starting to run out of ammunition to stimulate the economy. With little support in the eurozone area for quantitative easing or fiscal stimulus one wonders how they avoid the slide in prices.
The US Fed has used three rounds of quantitative easing to avoid a deflationary environment and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke alluded to this in 2002 when he said:
“Deflation is in almost all cases a side effect of a collapse of aggregate demand – a drop in spending so severe that producers must cut prices on an ongoing basis in order to find buyers. Likewise, the economic effects of a deflationary episode, for the most part, are similar to those of any other sharp decline in aggregate spending – namely, recession, rising unemployment, and financial stress,”
Speaking before the Global Financial Crisis Bernanke debated the idea of QE as a potential solution after the lowering of interest rates. But the biggest worry for low inflation countires in the eurozone is deflationary expectations as cosumers delay purchases which ultimate reduces demand.
Many thanks to A2 student Emersen Tamura-Paki for this paper on Currency Wars by Fred Bergsten which was delivered in May this year. Although it is a long document it is very readable and contains some interesting points.
* Virtually every major country is looking to keep its currency weak in order to strengthen its eocnomy and save/create jobs.
* Over 20 countries have been intervening in foreign exchange markets to suppress their currency value which has led to the build-up of reserves totaling over US$10 trillion.
* It has been led by China but includes a numer of Asian as well as several oil exporters and European countries. They account for two-thirds of global current account surpluses.
Global surpluses of currency manipulators have increased by $700-900 billion per year – see Figure 1.
* The largest loser is the USA – current account deficits have been $200bn – $500bn per year as a result. Estimate that 1 – 5 million jobs have been lost under the present conditions and likely to continue.
* Japan this year talked down its exchange rate by about 30% against the US$.
* France has called for a weaker euro – which seems the only feasible excape from many more years of stagnation. This favours, in particular, the German economy with its export growth.
However some countries have been justified in their intervention. Some countries currencies have become overvalued and produced external deficits due to widespread manipulation. Brazil and New Zealand are countries which have been justified in their intervention. Our neighbours Australia have also expressed concerns as the appreciation of the AUS$ has been the result of the significant demand for minerals from China. This does leave other exporters struggling to maintain competitiveness especially if their goods/services are elastic in nature.
The systemic problem arrises when there is continued intervention and undervaluation of currencies. Fred Bergsten illustrates the application of these principles in grid where the orange coloured cell constitutes the objectionable behaviour.
According to Bergsten the practice is widespread and the flaw in the entire international financial architecture is its the failure to effectively sanction surplus countries, especially to counter and deter competitive currency policies.
Here are some charts and commentary from the BNZ which are particularly useful for New Zealand Trade and the potential growth of the agricultural sector.
NZ’s most significant exports to China are dairy products (39% of total), forestry (24%), tourism (12%), and meat (10%). With the possible exception of forestry, all of these sectors stand to benefit from ongoing urbanisation in China, the continued rise of the middle class, and rising household income and consumption levels. Not only is Chinese demand expected to strengthen further, but domestic production in many cases will fall well short of consumption. Exports from NZ will have a big opportunity in helping make up the shortfall.
Chinese protein demand soaring
There is a strong and well proven link between rising incomes and changes in diet (see chart below). The gradual westernisation of the Chinese diet has seen per- capita consumption of protein soar over the past decade or so. In contrast, per capita consumption of traditional foods such as rice is in decline.
Urbanisation has further stepped up Chinese demand for protein. Compared with the less diversified diets of rural communities, city dwellers have a varied diet richer in animal proteins and fats, and characterised by higher consumption of meat, poultry, milk and other dairy products.
Data from the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics shows per capita consumption of dairy products (excluding butter) has climbed from 7kg/person in 1992 to 20kg/person in 2012. Meat consumption has risen from 13kg/person to 23kg/person over the same period.
Per capita protein consumption for urban households is roughly three times that of rural households.
BBC business correspondent Alastair Fee boards a Chinese container ship off the coast of England and reports on the enormous size of it – holds 13,500 containers. And they are getter bigger. More than 40% of the UK’s sea trade comes into the Southampton Dock and to meet increasing demand from container ships a new 500 metre birth is being dredged. However trade goes the other way as in 2012 the demand for cars from the growing Chinese middle class saw over 20,000 BMW Minis make their way to Chinese ports.
Bayleys Real Estate Country magazine included an article on the outlook for New Zealand’s agricultural sector which was written by NZX Agrifax.
With regard to the Dairy Industry the effect of the drought in the latter part of 2012/13 season slowed production. This was also the case with other countries as the domestic market seems to have absorbed their output. So this lack of supply combined with a steady growth on demand has resulted in high dairy prices for a sustained period of time. With prices remaining high there is now the chance that milk production will increase especially in the US where their elasticity of supply of milk is fairly elastic. New Zealand is forecast to have a good milk production season as pastures have recovered from the drought. See graph below for forecasted milk prices.
The recovery in lamb prices has mainly been down to the increasing demand from the Chinese market. During the first 10 months of the season, over 80,000 tonnes of lamb was exported there which accounts for 29% of NZ’s total lamb exports. That’s up from 44,000 tonnes over the same period last year. There has been in particular an increase in demand for higher value items such as legs and shoulders. This led to an increase in price as supplies to traditional markets was now reduced.
The standoff between the President and the US Congress continues after the Government was forced to shut down non-essential services and stand down more than 800,000 employees.
US politicians appear no closer to resolving the deadlock. But while markets remain frustrated with the current situation, a resolution is hopefully not too far away. For Australia, the impact on the local economy is unlikely to be significant if the issue is resolved before too long. With over 80% of Australia’s exports destined for Asia, any hit to Australia’s trade accounts will likely be undetectable. Source: BNZ Australian Markets Weekly
In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal there was an article on New Zealand Wine and Protectionism. With wine consumption increasing significantly in countries like China and Russia there is the fear amongst New Zealand growers about knockoff wines posing as premium labels exported from regions like Marlborough and Central Otago. NZ winemakers are lobbying for the same legal protection that French producers won for Champagne 20 years ago which prevents winemakers in other countries using the names of local brands. The WTO recognise geographical indicators and this comes under its protection.
The value of New Zealand’s wine exports has risen 33% to 1.2 billion New Zealand dollars (US$983.4 million) since 2008, with shipments to China alone jumping tenfold to 2.2 million liters. That is offsetting flatter growth in traditional markets such as Australia, the U.S. and the U.K., which remain the biggest buyers of New Zealand wine.
“The New Zealand wine industry has raised concern with me about the possible growth of counterfeits in our export markets,” Craig Foss Commerce Minister.
No business, however great or strong or wealthy it may be at present, can exist on unethical means, or in total disregards to its social concern, for very long. Resorting to unethical behaviour or disregarding social welfare is like calling for its own doom. Thus business needs, in its own interest, to remain ethical and socially responsible. As V.B. Dys in “The Social Relevance of Business ” had stated
“As a Statement of purpose, maximising of profit is not only unsatisfying, it is not even accurate. A more realistic statement has to be more complicated. The corporation is a creation of society whose purpose is the production and distribution of needed if the whole is to be accurate: you cannot drop one element without doing violence to facts.”
Business needs to remain ethical for its own good. Unethical actions and decisions may yield results only in the very short run. For the long existence and sustained profitability of the firm, business is required to conduct itself ethically and to run activities on ethical lines. Doing so would lay a strong foundation for the business for continued and sustained existence. All over the world, again and again, it has been demonstrated that it is only ethical organisations that have continued to survive and grow, whereas unethical ones have shown results only as flash in the pan, quickly growing and even more quickly dying and forgotten.
Business needs to function as responsible corporate citizens of the country. It is that organ of the society that creates wealth for the country. Hence, business can play a very significant role in the modernisation and development of the country, if it chooses to do so. But this will first require it to come out from its narrow mentality and even narrower goals and motives. However behavioural economists have found that many businesspeople don’t behave in this type of profit-maximising manner in times of crisis – e.g a water shortage means businesses could charge more. If they do, consumers remember and retaliate down the road.
As consumers start to develop a preference for ethical brands, e.g.. Fair Trade Coffee, create a market for such coffee. Firms are therefore pressured to shift toward supplying what consumers want. This is even the case if the firm’s management don’t care how or where the coffee is sourced. Changing consumer preferences force firms to change their ways. Even at higher prices consumers are often willing to pay a premium for ‘ethical’ products or the products of socially responsible firms. Being more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean the company will go out of business if consumers have a preference for ethical products. Higher-priced ethical firms remain highly successful under these circumstances. Instead of being protected by tariffs or subsidies, they’re protected by the preference of consumers. Below is graph that I got from Stephen Hickson who presented at the NZCETA conference this year. Notice the changes in the Fair Trade price of coffee especially from 2011. Commodity prices can fluctuate wildly, and isolated, poor growers are often unable to take advantage of the sophisticated financial instruments employed by buyers to lower risk and volatility. The Fair Trade floor price gives farmers market information, financial stability, and access to credit. But as Stephen Hickson pointed out:
But that of course is not what people think… most people think when they buy FT coffee it is about the extra they pay going to the farmer (in fact not paying any extra would seem odd to some).
A move by the European Union to slash subsidies to farmers isn’t as big a deal as it sounds. The EU has announced cut to the subsidies it pays industrial scale farmers of up to 30% – this is part of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which costs the EU tax payers 50bn a year and is 40% of the whole EU budget. This will be of little benefit to NZ farmers as they will still be denied access through tariffs and quotas on sheep, butter, cheese etc.
Objectives of CAP
At the outset of the EU, one of the main objectives was the system of intervention in agricultural markets and protection of the farming sector has been known as the common agricultural policy – CAP. The CAP was established under Article Thirty Nine of the Treaty of Rome, and its objectives – the justification for the CAP – are as follows:
1. Raise and maintain farm incomes, through the establishment of high prices for food. Such prices are often in excess of the free market equilibrium. This necessarily means support buying of surpluses and raising tariffs on cheaper imported food to give domestic preference.
2. To reduce the wide flutuations that often occur in the price of agriculutural products due to uncertain supplies.
3. To increase the mobility of resources in farming and to increase the efficiency of all units. To reduce the number of farms and farmers especially in monoculturalistic agriculture.
4. To stimulate increased production to achieve European self sufficiency to satisfy the consumption of food from our own resources.
5. To protect consumers from violent price changes and to guarantee a wide choice in the shop, without shortages.
CAP Intervention Price
An intervention price is the price at which the CAP would be ready to come into the market and to buy the surpluses, thus preventing the price from falling below the intervention price. This is illustrated below in Figure 1. Here the European supply of lamb drives the price down to the equilibrium 0Pfm – the free market price, where supply and demand curves intersect and quantity demanded and quantity supplied equal 0Qm. However, the intervention price (0Pint) is located above the equilibrium and it has the following effects:
1. It encourages an increase in European production. Consequently, output is raised to 0Qs1.
2. At intervention price, there is a production surplus equal to the horizontal distance AB which is the excess of supply above demand at the intervention price.
3. In buying the surplus, the intervention agency incurs costs equal to the area ABCD. It will then incur the cost of storing the surplus or of destroying it.
4. There is a contraction in domestic consumption to 0Qd1
Consumers pay a higher price to the extent that the intervention price exceeds the notional free market price.
The increase in farmers’ incomes following intervention is shown also: as has been noted, one of the objectives of price support policy is to raise farmers’ incomes. The shaded area EBCFG indicates the increase in the incomes of the suppliers of lamb.
Throughout most of its four decades of existence, the CAP has had a very poor public relations image. It is extremely unpopular among consumers, and on a number of occasions it has all but bankrupted the EU.
One cannot underestimate the importance of copper to the Chilean economy. Copper provides 20% of Chile’s GDP and makes up 60% of its exports. Chile’s economy is growing at approximately 6% per year while inflation is at 1% and unemployment 6.4%. Although Chile does have a productive agricultural sector and tourism, the price of copper does have a significant impact on the economy.
Chile has done very well out of the shift of China’s rural population to the more urban areas – new homes with copper wire and pipes are needed. Furthermore Emerging markets everywhere are using vast amounts of copper to put in bridges, cars, fridges and more or less anything that uses electricity. However China’s recent slowdown has caused copper prices to slide by 15% since the beginning of the year.
The Economist reported that in 2000-05 the government’s income from mining averaged $2.1 billion a year. As Chinese growth accelerated, that rose to $11.5 billion a year between 2005 and 2011. But the boom owed almost everything to the copper price. Chile’s output of the red metal has hardly grown in a decade.
The biggest threat to Chile’s copper boom comes from China. If the country that buys 40% of the world’s copper slows further, the price of the metal will fall again and Chile will have rely on something else. Is this another resource curse waiting to happen? Below is a short report from AlJazeerah which also looks at the positives from lower copper prices – lower currency value, the peso, and ultimately more competitive exports.
The Economist and the Financial Times have recently looked at the impact of the container and container ships. With the first journey of a container ship in 1956 the cost for tonne of cargo was $0.16 per tonne to load—compared with $5.83 per tonne for loose cargo on a standard ship. Furthermore, according to The Economist, countries with container ports rose from about 1% to nearly 90% which coincided with the rapid increase in global trade – see graph. Although it could be said that other events were happening at the same time – the movement towards free trade and reduced tariffs, the single market in Europe in 1992 and the eventually formation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Video below is from the FT.
The BNZ publish a report entitled “NZ at a Glance” which summarises the current state of the NZ economy. Here are some of the main points:
GDP – Construction is the main driver of growth over the next couple of years – mainly residential. Net exports is likely to take a hit as import penetration starts to build with as the economy recovers. GDP is forecast to increase to 3.6% in 2014 from 2.9% in 2013.
Unemployment – the current rate is 6.2% and the labour market is tightening with the increase in economic activity. Forecast to fall to 5.2% by March 2015. Tighter labour market will mean higher wage growth but also because of higher inflationary expectations as the economy recovers.
Inflation - quite subdued and the annual rate has been 1% or less over the last four quarters. A strong NZD, weakening commodity prices and low inflation globally are conspiring to offset domestic-demand driven price increases. Low inflation also becomes self-fulfilling to the extent that it moderates inflation expectations and price-setting behaviour elsewhere.
Current Account - The current account deficit appears to be stabilising in a 4.0% to 5.0% of GDP range. This is thanks largely to a resurgence in the commodity prices of the goods that New Zealand exports. This is a welcome development to the extent that it may appease nervous rating agencies for a year or so.
The New Zealand economic expansion is gaining in momentum. The rebuild of Christchurch is now building up a head of steam and this is supporting increasingly widespread confidence. Very low interest rates and a booming housing market are playing their part too. Eventually this will necessitate a response from the central bank but while annual inflation remains below 1.0% (and set to stay there for a while) it suggests that any such response might be some time in coming. Meanwhile, the NZD remains supported by money printing elsewhere and the relative strength of the economy here.
In the year ended March 2013, New Zealand’s merchandise exports totalled $46,182 million. The breakdown is as follows:
Australia $9,738 million
China $7,414 million
USA $4,338 million
Japan $3,143 million
Exports to the top ten destination countries accounted for approximately two-thirds of New Zealand’s merchandise exports by value. See chart below for percentages. With regard to the composition of exports the breakdown is as follows:
Milk power, butter and cheese products are $11,434 million
Meat and edible offal $5,287 million
Logs, wood, and wood articles $3,274 million
Crude oil $1,767 million
The top ten export commodities accounted for 64 percent of export value in the March 2013 year. With regard what destination it was sent from we can see the following:
34% of are sent from the Port of Tauranga
11% exported from the Ports of Auckland and Lyttleton Port
10% exported from Auckland International Airport
Time magazine ran an interesting article on the tomato market in the Holland and Greece. The Greeks produces twice as many tomatoes than the Dutch but very little of it is sold in export markets. This is a concern in that it is a missed opportunity for the Greeks to earn income. What is more ironic is the fact that in the summer imports of tomatoes come in from Holland because the Greek farmers are still struggling to grow a crop during the hottest time of the year – Holland employs high-tech green houses and is able to produce significantly more during the summer months than Greece.
However, Greece has the potential to produce tomatoes for domestic consumption as well as for export but only has two harvests a year and is at the mercy of the elements – poor weather = poor harvest. The Dutch in contrast have temperature controlled greenhouses helping to create ideal growing conditions and they can produce 70kg of tomatoes in a square metre of his greenhouse whilst the Mediterranean grower gets approximately 7kg. They can also produce all year round.
Single Currency and Productivity
With the introduction of the euro in 2002 Greece could no longer devalue its currency to control the price of its products. With a weaker currency their exports were much more competitive but this had the effect of making the Dutch work even harder to achieve more efficiency and greater economies of scale. Therefore the only way that the Greeks can now compete is by cutting costs and embracing technology.
But it is not just the tomato market that has been hard hit. Greece’s agricultural sector’s productivity levels are 44% below the European average and labour costs have increased by approximately 90% and this is in contrast to Germany where unions agreed to a 3% rise. What is more concerning is that the acreage given over to growing tomatoes in Greece is 10 times that in Holland but they hardly export any of them. The Dutch have seen their exports increase by 30% since 2005. Some economists have laid the blame on the oligopoly market structure that controls the distribution. These middlemen pay farmers low prices and take a big mark-up on tomatoes even as they have failed to put in place a more efficient distribution system, including for exports.
The Greeks could become a thriving exporter of tomatoes once again but will need to embrace the Dutch technology and make use of its natural conditions – sunshine.
Recent figures have shown that the trade from developing country to developing country (South-South) has now exceeded developing country to developed country (South-North) – see chart from The Economist. The World Bank reported that in 2002 developing countries bought only 40% of total developing country exports with the remainder going to developed nations. According to the World Bank this figure is over 50% today but is not surprising when you consider the following:
- Developing countries have been growing at fast rates
- Between 1991 – 2011 developing countries share of world trade doubled from 16%-32%
- Developing countries have also been major borrowers
- Developing countries have had major foreign investment especially BRIC countries
- As developed nations struggle in the aftermath of the GFC developing countries have taken over more of their export markets.
But there is still a lot of interdependence – developed countries are of great importance to developing nations. The Euro crisis has had an effect on trade to and from developing countries and although trade between developed countries has increased it has been that with developing countries that has grown considerably greater.
Gross ‘World’ Product – total GNP of each country
Gross ‘World’ National Income – this is GDP plus net remittances from abraod. That is money which is earned abroad and sent back to family members minus remittances sent out of the country. In some developing countries this can amount to some 10% of GDP.
The actual figures:
Gross ‘World’ Product – US$63,242bn – 2010
Gross ‘World’ National Income – US$76,296 – 2010
PPP = Purchasing Power Parity which focuses on establishing a value of the goods and services that can be purchased using one unit of each currency.
Sone interesting things to note from the table:
- 48% of world output occured in just 5 nations
- Of those 5 nations they have 44.7% of the world’s population
- In 2010 China, India, Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia all increased their percentage contribution to global production.
- Italy and the UK experienced the greatest fall in (0.2%) in their contribution to global output.
- Although China is approaching the USA with regard to global output but is lagging when you consider GDP/Person
Regional Break-up of global GDP from the above table
Asia and Oceania – 30.9%
North and Central America – 23%
Europe – 21.4%
South America – 3.6%
Africa – 0%
Source: Updated Economics 2013 Edition
* Dairy produces 25% of export revenue in NZ
* It makes up 33% of the world dairy industry
* Fonterra makes up 90% of the dairy industry in NZ
* Fonterra’s annual revenue = NZ$20 billion
* Fonterra opeates in 100 countries and has 10,500 farmer owners.
* 20% of New Zealand Dairy products go to China
Recently Fonterra had made it clear that it is prepared to let non-farmer investors buy in for the first time – they intend to raise NZ$500m with the issue. Why are they looking to non-farmer investor? Although they have made shrewd investments in Asia and Latin America, in more developed markets health worries and higher prices have cut demand. Countries like China are a threat to the Fonterra’s standing on world markets. Furthermore with milk prices down 20% from last year farmers are concerned that non-farming ownership will cut their return further and that there will be a move away from a farmer-owned co-operative.