Mr. Lisandro Abrego, Mr. Mario de Zamaroczy, Tunc Gursoy, Garth P. Nicholls, Hector Perez-Saiz, and Jose-Nicolas Rosas
Political momentum towards Africa-wide free trade has been intensifying. In March 2018, over 40 countries signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. Once fully implemented, the AfCFTA is expected to cover all 55 African countries, with a combined GDP of about US$2.2 trillion. This SDN takes stock of recent trade developments in Sub-Saharan Africa and assesses the potential benefits and costs of the AfCFTA, as well as challenges to its successful implementation. In addition to increased trade flows both in existing and new products, the AfCFTA has the potential to generate substantial economic benefits for African countries. These benefits include higher income arising from increased efficiency and productivity from improved resource allocation, higher cross-border investment flows, and technology transfers. Besides lowering import tariffs, to ensure these benefits, African countries will need reduce other trade barriers by making more efficient their customs procedures, reducing their wide infrastructure gaps, and improving their business climates. At the same time, policy measures should be taken to mitigate the differential impact of trade liberalization on certain groups as resources are reallocated in the economy and activities migrate to locations with comparatively lower costs.
Mr. Lisandro Abrego, Maria Alejandra Amado, Tunc Gursoy, Garth P. Nicholls, and Hector Perez-Saiz
In March 2018, representatives of member countries of the African Union signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. This agreement provides a framework for trade liberalization in goods and services and is expected to eventually cover all African countries. Using a multi-country, multi-sector general equilibrium model based on Costinot and Rodriguez-Clare (2014), we estimate the welfare effects of the AfCFTA for 45 countries in Africa. Three different model specifications—comprising both perfect competition and monopolistic competition—are used. Simulations include full elimination of import tariffs and partial but substantial reduction in non-tariff barriers (NTBs). Results reveal significant potential welfare gains from trade liberalization in Africa. As intra-regional import tariffs in the continent are already low, the bulk of these gains come from lowering NTBs. Overall gains for the continent are broadly similar under the three model specifications used, with considerable variation of potential welfare gains across countries in all model structures.
A view receiving increased support is that the height of trade costs in prime export sectors
has a strong effect on current account balances: countries specializing in sectors that face
relatively high trade costs, such as services, tend to run current account deficits, and
similarly, countries specializing in low trade cost sectors, such as manufacturing, tend to
run current account surpluses. To test this view, we first infer comparative advantages and
trade costs, by sector, within a large sample of countries for the period 1970–2014. Then
we construct effective trade costs—trade costs weighted by sectoral comparative
advantage—to gauge the height of a country’s overall trade costs. Results reveal that,
although higher effective exporting costs are associated with lower current account
balances, their impact is quantitatively limited; furthermore, the effective costs of
importing often have no statistically significant effect.
Mr. Sanjeev Gupta, Sugata Marjit, and Sandip Sarkar
Distribution neutral fiscal policy refers to a structure of taxes and transfers that keep the income
distribution unchanged even after positive or negative shocks to an economy. This is referred
to as a Strong Pareto Superior (SPS) allocation which improves the standard Pareto criterion
by keeping the degree of inequality, but not the absolute level of income intact. We apply this
methodology to India to compute SPS tax rates and determine their proximity to actual tax
rates. Limited available data on income and expenditure shows that the official policies so far
are close to desired benchmark level. Our methodological contribution will be enriched further
with more detailed income tax and transfer data.
This paper focuses on the corporate income tax (CIT) regime that features a high statutory rate but low revenue productivity, as well as a bias toward debt financing, ineffective size-dependent regimes, and inefficient tax incentives. Profit-insensitive taxes are comparatively high. Anti-tax-avoidance rules are strong, but risks to outbound profit shifting remain. Tax uncertainty is another concern. At the individual level, the system of taxing wealth and capital income is complex, with distortions from differential taxation across savings instruments. To address some of these issues and make the tax system more supportive of growth and job creation, the government plans to reduce the CIT rate, further cut the labor tax wedge, unify taxes on capital income, and narrow the wealth tax. Staff’s analysis suggests that complementing these reforms with measures to remove inefficient tax incentives, further reduce the debt bias, address disincentives to company growth, and streamline the taxation of long-term savings could enhance their impact on competitiveness, revenues, and growth.
In February 2016, twelve Pacific Rim countries signed the agreement on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), one of the largest and most comprehensive trade deals in history. While there are several estimates of the likely effects of the TPP, there is no systematic study on the effects on all Latin American countries. We present the results from applying a multi-sector model with perfect competition presented by Costinot and Rodriguez-Clare (2014). The exercise, based on input-output data for 189 countries and 26 sectors, shows that (i) Asian TPP members are estimated to benefit most from the agreement, (ii) negative spillovers to non-TPP LAC countries appear to be of a different order of magnitude than the gains of members, and (iii) some non-TPP LAC countries may experience relatively large benefits from joining the TPP. As a cautionary note, however, we point out that even a cursory cross-study comparison shows that there is considerable uncertainty regarding the potential effects of the TPP for both members and non-members.
A key priority for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is to create a dynamic non-oil tradable sector to support sustainable growth. Since export diversification takes a long time, it has to start now. We argue that the failure to diversify away from oil stems mainly from market failures rather than government failures. To tackle market failures, the government needs to change the incentive structure for workers and firms. Experiences of oil exporters that managed to diversify suggest that a focus on competing in international markets and an emphasis on technological upgrade and climbing the “quality ladder” are crucial.
Climate Change: Stimulating a Green Recovery” looks at the global problem of climate change. With the world apparently on an economic recovery path, policymakers are looking at ways to limit the impact of climate change through broad international action. One of the challenges is to balance actions to mitigate climate change with measures to stimulate growth and prosperity. This issue of F&D also examines a variety of issues raised by the crisis—including the future of macroeconomics, explored by William White, former chief economist at the Bank for International Settlements, and the longer-term impact of the crisis on the United States, the world’s largest economy. Our “People in Economics” profile spotlights Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Laureate who “can’t get any respect at home.” We also look at the need for rebalancing growth in Asia, which is leading the world out of recession, and we interview five influential Asians on the region’s fragile rebound. We turn our “Straight Talk” column over to Barbara Stocking of Oxfam, who makes a forceful case for stepping up help to the most vulnerable around the world. “Data Spotlight” looks at trends in inflation, which has fallen into negative territory in some countries during the crisis, and in “Point-Counterpoint,” two experts discuss the pros and cons of remittances—funds repatriated by migrant workers to family and friends back home. “Back to Basics” gives a primer on international trade.