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China’s changing trade dynamics

September 15, 2017 Leave a comment

On 7th April 2008 New Zealand became the first OECD country to sign a free trade deal with China, an economy which in the 1970’s was one of the poorest countries in the global economy. Today China is the world’s second largest economy and the fastest growing at a rate around 7% per year. However China’s trade composition has changed significantly over the years as its economy has developed. Two main trends stand out.

The decline in importance of primary goods (mainly food) as a proportion of China’s total commodity trade.  China’s exports have changed from being dominated by labour-intensive manufactured products in the mid 1990’s to more sophisticated manufactures today. 1994 – 40.6% of exports were miscellaneous manufactured articles. 2014 45.8% of exports were machinery and transport equipment.

A changing comparative advantage

A country’s comparative advantage refers its production of a good or service at a lower opportunity cost than another. Instead of every country trying to produce a wide of goods , countries can grow faster by specializing in the goods they can produce most cheaply and trading for others. Many Asian countries – Japan, Korea, Taiwan – have gone through 4 stages (as shown below) of development through a specialization index. It shows the first stage is the Developing Country stage, where Primary commodities are more competitive than both Other manufactures and Machinery. The second and third stages are the young and mature NIEs (newly industrialised economies) respectively, where for both stages Other manufactures is the most competitive sector, but the ranking of Other manufactures vis-à-vis Machinery is opposite. At the fourth stage – the pinnacle of trade structures – Machinery is most competitive.

Stages of Development.png

*NIE = Newly Industrialised Economy

A country’s trade structure can be classified into any of these 4 stages according to the relative magnitudes of the country’s specialisation indices across 3 sectors:

Three Sectors - China Trade.png

The figure below illustrates the evolution of China’s trade structure during 1984-2014. It can be seen that China became a young NIE in 1990 – when the specialisation index of Other manufactures surpassed that of Primary commodities – and then a mature NIE in 1999 – when Machinery passed Primary commodities. This pattern is consistent with the changing composition of China’s exports, from labour-intensive products to a more sophisticated mix led by various types of machinery and equipment.

China change in specialisation.pngImplications for the global economy
China’s rapid rise poses both challenges and opportunities for other countries as they are exposed to increased competition at home and abroad. For many firms in rich countries, intensifying competition from China’s exports has reduced demand for the goods they produce, with a corresponding decline in workers employed. Such changes in the global economic environment affect the allocation of factors of production and cause sectoral productivity fluctuations, as well as driving changes in comparative advantages among nations. Trade between developing (e.g. China) and developed economies (e.g. US) has been on the rise. Developed countries with high wages and expensive welfare programmes are having trouble coping with the effects of developing countries becoming major global players. It is estimated that 2.0-2.4 million people in the US lost their jobs as a result of increasing Chinese import competition during 1999-2011.

Source: China’s changing comparative advantage: Trends and implications by Murat Ungor. EcoNZ@Otago – August 2016

 

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Categories: Development Economics, Trade Tags:

China stops subsidising farmers

August 2, 2017 Leave a comment

In 2000 the Chinese government introduced price supports for farmers with the floors raised annually to stimulate production even when global prices fell. There were three reasons for price supports:

  1. ensure production of key commodities
  2. provide a degree of food security
  3. improve the well-being of farmers

China starts to abolish minimum prices

The last three years has seen the Chinese authorities start to abolish minimum prices for the following commodities – cotton, soybeans, corn and sugar. Without the minimum price the supply on the domestic market has dropped – grain production fell for the first time in 13 years. Remember with the minimum price being above the equilibrium it encourages producers to supply more but the demand will drop at the higher price.

When the minimum price was in operation the Chinese authorities had been stockpiling significant amounts of food and have been able to compensate for the reduction in supply from the farming community. However once these stockpiles have been diminished the only other alternative will be to import food which will be a positive for farmers from Brazil, US and Thailand. This might be sooner than later as the Chinese government is facing capacity challenges as warehouses and silos are overflowing but still China is not able to meet its domestic needs. According to the US Department of Agriculture, China is sitting on 54% of the world’s cotton stocks, 45% of the world’s corn and 22% of the world’s sugar reserves, but many analysts think that a lot of this stock is starting to perish.

Self-sufficiency in feeding the Chinese population still remains a priority for Beijing but after 2014 authorities have stated that they need to make rational use of the global agricultural market and import various food products. However China still spends a lot on supporting its agricultural sector:

2016 – $246.9 billion = 2.2% of GDP. Four times the average of OECD countries.

Although money is still spent on price supports a growing share is going into ways to improve productivity with R&D etc. China is in a position that they could revert back to the price supports if they feel the pain of reform is too great, but analysts think that they will be more accepting of global supply.

Source: China Cut Agricultural Subsidies and American Farmers Have a Lot to Gain


EU example

This policy of subsidising farmers is not unlike that of the European Union – see previous blog post ‘CAP reforms unlikely to benefit New Zealand farmers.’ – with the introduction of the Common Agricultural Policy (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 fluctuations that often occur in the price of agricultural 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:

CAP Int Price1. 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.


 

 

 

China’s investment in Africa and the Flying Geese Paradigm

July 28, 2017 Leave a comment

I have blogged before on Chinese Investment in Africa and recently came across a very interesting article in the Harvard Business Review ‘The World’s Next Great Manufacturing Center’ by Irene Yuan Sun. It outlines the effects of Chinese investment in Africa and how it could lead to an industrial revolution in the continent.

Investment in manufacturing by privately owned Chinese companies has increased from only 2 in 2000 to well over 150 in 2015 and 2016 and are transforming Africa’s economy by providing millions of jobs and encouraging a new generation of local entrepreneurs as well as attracting support from inspiring African institutions. Investment by the Chinese in Africa has usually been associated with natural resources or services but with manufacturing now being more prevalent industrialization is a growing possibility.

Chinese investment is about supply and demand

China sojourn into Africa is become more prevalent and has a lot to do with supply and demand. A generation under the one-child policy has had an impact on the supply of labour causing shortages to arise and ultimately wages – 12% annually since 2001 and productivity adjusted manufacturing wages nearly tripled from 2004 to 2014.

On the demand side Africa has started to integrate regional markets – in 2105 half the countries in Africa joined the Tripartite Free Trade Area, which will combine 600 million people in a single trading bloc, forming the 13th-largest economy in the world. The six nations of East Africa have created a single customs union – same as FTA but all member nations agree a set of standard tariff levels between themselves and outside nations. This is known as the Common External Tariff (CET). Nigeria boosts an enormous domestic market with high margins for companies as there is little competition. Also Lesotho enjoys tariff-free access to the US market and can take advantage of being close to the South African infrastructure.

Chinese companies in Africa employ locals

According to Justin Yifu Lin, a former chief economist at the World Bank. China is about to graduate from low-skilled manufacturing jobs which will free up nearly 100 million labour-intensive manufacturing jobs, enough to more than quadruple manufacturing employment in low-income countries. To put that into perspective, when manufacturing employment reached its peak in the United States, in 1978, only 20 million people had jobs in American factories. Now five times that number of jobs are about to migrate out of China.

By 2050 Africa’s population will reach 2 billion creating the largest pool of labour in the world. Today though some of the highest unemployment rates are in African countries – Nigeria 12.% with approximately 19% of the labour force being underemployed. However youth unemployment is just over 42%.
Although the media in Africa tend to portray an image that Chinese companies don’t employ local labour, recent analysis shows Chinese factories in Africa employ locals in large numbers – no research sample had a figure of local workers in a Chinese company lower than 78% and in some larger companies the figure exceeds 99%. In Nigeria 85% of workers hired by Chinese manufacturers are locals and 90% of workers in Chinese manufacturing and construction companies in Kenya are local.

The Flying Geese Paradigm

Flying Geese Paradigm.pngIn developing economics the flying geese paradigm was the view of Japanese economists upon the technological development in Southeast Asia viewing Japan as a leading power. It states that manufacturing companies act like migrating geese, flying from country to country as costs and demand change. Factories from a leading country are forced by labour-price pressures to invest in a follower country, helping it accumulate ownership and move up the technology curve. This movement shifts the bulk of economic activity in the follower country from low-productivity agriculture and informal services to high-productivity manufacturing. The follower country eventually becomes a leading country, spawning companies in search of new production locations. The paradigm offers a convincing model of how Asian economies developed—in a chain from Japan to the Asian Tigers to China – see image above.

It describes not only the movement of companies from country to country, but also a process of industrial upgrading from product to product within each country – see image below. First a few companies show up to try their hands at making a certain product. As they learn, their profits attract other manufacturers of the same product. But as the field gets crowded, intensifying competition and thinning profits, some companies look for something else to make—this time something slightly more complicated and thus harder to copy. As the cycle repeats, companies that started by copying and learning are inventing and teaching a mere generation or two later. An analysis of 148 countries shows that as GDP rises, manufacturers within a country predictably move toward ever more complicated products. In another decade or two, factories in Africa will be churning out computers instead of ceramics and clothing.

Flying Geese Paradigm 2.png

Investment in manufacturing key to Africa’s development

For any economy to develop being more productive in the long run is the only way to create a higher standard of living. Manufacturing tends to become more productive over time as there is overseas competition from imports as well as having to compete in the export market. Furthermore manufacturing investment has a big multiplier effect – research shows that for every manufacturing job created, 1.6 service jobs follow.

Conclusion

Industrialization will allow Africa to follow in the footsteps of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China: to build factories that employ its booming population and to refashion its institutions to meet the demands of modern capitalism. Most important, it will provide a real chance to raise living standards across broad sectors of the populace. If Africa could lift just half as many people out of poverty as China has in a mere three decades, it will eliminate extreme poverty within its borders. For nearly 400 million people, that would mean the difference between going hungry and being full, between scrounging for work and holding a steady job, between asking their children to do menial labor and sending them to school. The Chinese showing up in Africa today don’t doubt that this will happen. As one of them, who is working to build a special economic zone in Nigeria, said to me: “This is exactly like my hometown 30 years ago. If we could do it, then so can this place.”

Sources:

Harvard Business Review ‘The World’s Next Great Manufacturing Center’ by Irene Yuan Sun. May-June 2017

ANZ Bank – ‘ASEAN – The Next Horizon’ – June 25th 2015

China – a blessing or curse for Developing Countries of Africa?

May 20, 2017 Leave a comment

I recently read in the New York Times Magazine a very interesting article on China and how it has built up enormous holdings in poor, resource-rich African countries. Although it may seem as a blessing to the local economy it does have its drawbacks. You can read the full article here but I have edited it for students doing Development Economics topic at A Level.
—————————————————————
Everywhere you look on the globe China’s presence can be felt, driven by its insatiable demand for resources and new markets as well a longing for strategic allies. In 2000 China had 5 countries as their largest trading partner but that has increased today to more than 100 countries including New Zealand, Australia and the USA.  Although there has been a slow down in China, President Xi Jinping has indicated that over the next decade approximately $1.6 trillion will be put into infrastructure and development throughout Asia, Africa and the Middle East. This is serious money that makes a bold statement as to their intentions globally.

China hasn’t held back in trying to secure sufficient resources to keep their economy going. Besides oil and gas China’s state-owned companies have bought mines around the world eg:

  • Peru – copper
  • Zambia – copper
  • Papua New Guinea – nickel
  • Australia – iron ore
  • South Africa – iron ore
  • Namibia – uranium

However as the Chinese economy slowed recently the demand for imports of commodities dropped thus impacting on some of these commodity exporting countries – in particular mines in Western Australia, Zambia and South Africa have been forced to close.

When China met Africa
You maybe aware of a previous blog post in which I talked about the DVD documentary  ‘When China met Africa’ which focused on Chinese investment in Zambia – a very good look at the micro environment that businesses operate in.  Investment in Africa by the Chinese started in 1976 with a 1,156 mile railroad through the bush from Tanzania to Zambia but it wasn’t until the 2000’s that Chinese authorities realised that there was a need for resources to fuel its own internal growth. With this in mind Chinese companies were given free reign to go and seek these resources.

With the end of the Cold War and the Middle East becoming a major conflict area, the US involvement in Africa started to dwindle. Furthermore with the Trump administration raising doubts about free trade agreements and global warming there is an opportunity for China to push its own initiatives and push for global leadership. A Trans Pacific Partnership without the US is very appealing to the Chinese authorities as it allows to become a dominant player in negotiations with other members.

husab mine.jpegChina tends to provide no-strings financing that, unlike Western aid, is not conditional on human rights, clean governance or fiscal restraint. The Namibian finance minister welcomed China as an alternative but although the Chinese want you to be masters of your own destiny and dictate what you want, there are conditions which doesn’t necessarily make their presence truly beneficial. Namibia has seen significant Chinese investment especially in the Husab Uranium Mine ($4.6bn) the second largest uranium mine in the world. It is estimated that it will increase Namibia’s GDP by 5% when the mine reaches full production although almost all of the uranium will go to China for nuclear energy and thereby reducing its dependence on coal. Approximately 88% of China’s energy comes from fossils fuels, 11% from hydropower, solar and wind and only 1% from nuclear power. In order to reach clean energy goals and lose the mantle of chief polluter in the world, China has put a lot of emphasis on nuclear power and they have 37 nuclear reactors with another 20 under construction. The aim is to have 110 reactors by 2030 and become an exporter of nuclear-reactor technology.

The Chinese company China General Nuclear (CGN) has a 90% stake in the mine with the Namibian government 10%. Although Namibians are benefitting from all the infrastructure investment by the Chinese they have saddled the country with debt and have done little to reduce the 30% unemployment rate – Namibia has one of the most unequal societies in the world. In China independent unions are essentially illegal but Namibians have the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (MANWU) which accused Chinese state-owned companies of paying Namibian workers only one third of the minimum wage and also using Chinese workers for unskilled jobs that by law should be going to Namibians. As the unions’s secretary said “the Chinese will promise you heaven but the implementation can be hell”. Also scandals involving Chinese nationals  include tax evasion, poaching endangered wildlife, money laundering have done little to enhance the mood of locals.

Over the last decade China has got a reputation for pillaging and pilfering the natural world with its growing demand natural resources as well as the illegal wildlife trade. Chinese businesses have had public backlash over their proposals that could do damage to the environment. One company wanted to clear a 30,000 acre forest so that it could plant tobacco – the soil in the forest is totally unsuitable for this purpose. Another wanted to set up donkey abattoirs to meet China’s demand for donkey meat and skin whilst a Nambian-based Chinese company requested to capture killer whales, penguins, dolphins and shark in Namibian waters to sell to aquatic theme parks in China. Under pressure from activists the Chinese firm withdrew their request.

Is China the World’s New Colonial Power?

Categories: Development Economics Tags: ,

The market for sand

April 16, 2017 Leave a comment

Sand Demand.pngSand has become an integral part of the global economy and also the most extracted material. It is used in the construction industry where it is part of the process in making concrete and asphalt. Fine sand tends to be used to produce glass and electronics.

Demand
Since the GFC in 2008 Asian countries have been the big users of sand with China consuming up to 40% of world supply (Asia 70%) building 32.3m houses and 4.5m kilometers of road between 2011 and 2015. See graph from The Economist.

Although hard to believe, sand is becoming scarce as desert sand is too fine for most commercial purposes. Furthermore the cost of transporting sand can be very expensive in relation to the price and reserves need to be located near construction sites to make it more economical. By contrast Singapore and Qatar are big importers of sand to assist in their construction programme (especially the latter with the Football World Cup in 2022). Sand is also demanded to create more living area in a country. As is well documented, China has built fake island on coral reefs in the South China Sea. Japan has also claimed a lot of land by dumping vast amounts of sand.

Limited supply
Sand is being extracted at an increasing rate and this is having an impact on the environment  with water levels in lakes being lowered and beaches in resort areas of the Caribbean and northern Africa. Indonesia and Malaysia have now banned sand exports to Singapore as a result of thinning coastlines. But with limited supply comes a higher price and with a higher price the black market starts to become prevalent. In India the illicit market for sand is valued around $2.3bn a year. Also the rising price of sand will lead developing-country builders to source alternatives to sand

Sand – elastic in demand as there are substitutes:
*Sand could be classifies as elastic as there are substitutes:
*Mud can be used for reclamation
*Straw and wood to build houses
*Crushed rock to make concrete.

Global Outlook
With the continued growth of construction and manufacturing output global demand for sand is forecast to increase 5.5 percent to 291 million metric tons in 2018, with a value of $12.5 billion. Whether the supply can cope with this increase demand is another question. Higher prices will make illicit mining more attractive.

Sources: The Economist 1-4-17. Freedonia – World Industrial Silica Sand

Categories: Supply & Demand Tags: , ,

China and the exodus of cash

March 5, 2017 Leave a comment

Another very good video from PunkFT. As the Chinese economy starts to slowdown by its standards (even at 6% growth) the Chinese are sending their money overseas in search of safer investments. In doing this they are often violating currency controls which are there to keep money inside China. The housing market in many countries have been driven up by the flood of cash from China – Vancover, Sydney, Hong Kong, New York and Auckland. Chinese spent almost $30 billion on U.S. homes in 2015.

How will authorities stop the outflow? One way is to increase domestic interest rates to encourage people to deposit their money in local banks. However this impacts those Chinese companies that borrow money and could prompt some debt-laden companies into deleveraging. Worth a look and great animations.

USA and China Trade – will the USA create more jobs?

February 13, 2017 Leave a comment

USA China Trade Deficit.pngDonald Trump appointed Peter Navarro as the head of the newly created National Trade Council – it has been his anti-China stance outlined in his book ‘Death by China’ that has led to his surprise hiring by Trump. The book talks of the economic and military rise of China and the demise of the US manufacturing industry unable to compete with the Chinese sweatshops.

However a lot of the criticisms that Navarro has pointed at China have been quite valid.

1. Currency – the intervention on the foreign exchange market to keep their currency weak so improving the competitiveness of exports.
2. Intellectual property – forcing American firms to hand over intellectual property as a condition of access to the Chinese market.
3. Pollution – Chinese firms pollute the environment and have weak environmental controls on industry.
4. Working conditions – these are far worse than what is the law in most industrialized countries.
5. Export subsidies – government assistance help reduce the cost and ultimately the price of exports from China.

In 2006 he estimated that 41% of China’s competitive advantage over the USA in manufacturing came from unfair practices like those above and when China joined the WTO in 2001 the trade deficit with the USA ballooned at the same time millions of manufacturing jobs disappeared. The deficit though was funded by the Chinese and it was a consequence of the Chinese buying US Treasury bills – to put it simply the Chinese funded US consumers to buy Chinese products. Niall Ferguson refers to the relationship as Chimerica – the two are interdependent in that the USA borrows off the Chinese and then uses that money to buy Chinese products.

Navarro believes that with China adhering to global trade rules the deficit in manufacturing will decrease and manufacturing jobs will return to the US. However when jobs return they are not the same as they were in previous years as it is highly likely that productivity/technology has refined the production process. Research has also suggested that when the trade deficit with China increased (1998-2010) the loss of manufacturing jobs only rose slightly 2.5m to 2.7m. One wonders what Navarro will do in the coming months?

Sources: The Economist, The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson.

Categories: Trade Tags: ,
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