The same can be said of trade as is said of the tango: it takes two.
In today's global economy, the numbers of companies and countries involved in international trade far exceed such a simple equation, however, and thus arises complications. Indeed, who would expect otherwise, when the value of world merchandise exports traversing the globe reaches heights of $12.15 trillion, as it did in 2009.
Helping to smooth the international movement of goods and services are organizations such as the Geneva-based World Trade Organization, an international membership organization whose purpose is to promote a strong, open international trading system. Nevertheless, trade disagreements among countries are inevitable, as countries and manufacturers try both to protect their own turf and expand into new markets. While multiple organizations work diligently to keep such disputes at a minimum, it's in U.S. manufacturers' best interests to stay attuned to trade actions that could hurt or help their business operations. An examination of significant trade actions reveals:
Movement in the Doha Round?
U.S. manufacturers should become aware of the Doha Development Agenda (or Round), if they are not already, suggests Stephen A. Jones, chair of the international trade practice group at law firm King & Spalding. The Doha Development Agenda is a round of WTO trade negotiations aimed at liberalizing trade in a range of areas and begun in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001. Currently well past the first deadline to conclude the Doha round, talks largely have been stalled since 2008 over disagreements in several areas of agricultural and non-agricultural market access, as well as differences among the major developed nations and advanced developing countries, such as Brazil, China and India.
Evidence suggests there may be movement in the Doha talks, helped in part by the recent appointment of Michael Punke as deputy U.S. trade representative. He also serves as U.S. ambassador and permanent representative to the WTO, a position that had been vacant since September 2009. "He is a strong voice for U.S. manufacturing in the WTO," Jones says. "He will take positions that protect the interests of U.S. manufacturers."
A strong voice for U.S. manufacturers will be important as -- and if -- Doha talks move forward because the current provisional texts from previous Doha meetings "would be very, very bad for U.S. manufacturers," the lawyer says.
Frank Vargo, vice president of international economic affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers, shares similar sentiments, both about Punke and the content of the provisional texts. What's lacking in the Doha talks as they currently stand is real market access to the advanced developing countries, he says. "We want a deal that gives us market access."