altThe Virtual Institute organized a workshop on the empirics of trade for 22 Bangladeshi academics June 3-6. Funded by the government of Finland, the workshop was held on the campus of core university member, Jagannath University (JNU), and included academics from all four Vi think tank members in the country*, and from Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST).

Led by UNCTAD expert, Marco Fugazza, of the Division on International Trade in Goods and Services, and Commodities, the workshop provided participants with new skills and knowledge on the empirics of trade, with a focus on the gravity approach to the analysis of the determinants of bilateral trade. Participants also looked at the empirics of trade policy, in particular the possible interaction between regional and multilateral trade agreements.

"Through the workshop, I have learned the theoretical basis for using the gravity model for explaining trade flows between nations," said one of the participants. "€œ(I also learned) how the gravity model can be used to establish a correlation between trade creation and diversion in a free trade agreement."

Fugazza also introduced participants to the functionality of statistical software, Stata, and highlighted datasets relevant for the empirical assessment of issues related to trade and its determinants.

Each topic was first presented from a theoretical point of view before moving to hands-on computer practice.

"Now I have an idea about (using) Stata and panel data," a participant said. "I learned to estimate a regression using panel data, (and) found the practice session most interesting for solving my problems," added another.

Evaluation questionnaires indicate that the workshop fully met or exceeded participant'€™s expectations, and that their participation has added to their knowledge of the gravity model and Stata.

All participants came away with plans to integrate their new knowledge into their teaching, research and/or work with policymakers.

"I would like to design a master course based on the workshop materials," said a participant from JNU. "(I plan to use the knowledge from the workshop) to teach an international economics course to MSc students at my university," added a SUST academic.

"€œI will use the gravity model and Stata to analyze the impact of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA)," said one researcher. Others intended to conduct policy-relevant research on the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation'€™s Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA), trade in services, trade facilitation and "€œthe effects of the new European Union's Generalised Scheme of Preferences on low-income countries, including Bangladesh."

*Centre for Policy Dialogue, Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, Human Development Research Centre, and Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute