Nothing is stronger, observed Victor Hugo, than an idea whose time has come. This may help explain why UNCTAD’s latest flagship study, “Trade and Development Report 2018: Power, Platforms and the Free Trade Delusion” has received lots of media attention.
Grounded in pro-development analysis—intellectually and empirically—UNCTAD’s annual Trade and Development Reports (TDRs) have long been ahead of the curve in raising red flags for policymakers, as well as in proposing alternative ways forward for catch-up growth and inclusive development. This year’s report, launched on September 26, has proven especially prescient, given rising economic turmoil and the looming threat of another global downturn.
Topics covered include:
¤ Recent alarming trends in the world economy
¤ Emerging policy challenges in the face of a strengthening dollar, rising interest rates, and higher energy costs
¤ Trade wars
¤ Digital economies and its challenges for developing countries
The report also offers a persuasive re-examination of the rise of the South, mainly BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), challenging the conventional narrative that their shared success stems from embracing free trade and other neoliberal policies.
To the careful eye, and the curious mind willing to read beyond headlines, the rise of the South remains uneven, and its success stories cannot be attributed to the adoption of neoliberal economic policies. This is particularly true of China`s remarkable and ongoing development story. Moreover, China’s industrialization path, in particular, has been anything but market-led.
Why then, as the report’s lead author Richard Kozul-Wright asks, do wealthy countries discourage developing nations from adopting the kind of structural transformation that China deployed to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty? Kozul-Wright offers his perspective.