Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Taking challenges: Absorbing economic benefits derived from trade and raising living standards.

Opinion article by: Catalina Tamayo Posada*(catalinatamayop1@gmail.com)
Economics student at EAFIT University, Medellin-Colombia.

The world, as it is today, is constantly changing in a scarcely imaginable way. New countries are economically emerging and they are changing all the structure of power in the world. An increase in the economical field should suppose an increase in the living standards of the societies. But, as some would argue, it has not been possible because of trade. But, is it?

Trade is a powerful weapon which can be extremely useful for a nation or it can actually destroy it. On the one hand, trade is a main factor in the search of new technologies; this is because companies do not want to be left behind and as a consequence they can increase their productivity. It can also be seen as an opportunity to specialize on what the country is good at, making it competitive in international markets. Adam Smith, the father of the economy, to this concern stated that “If a foreign country can supply us with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better buy it of them with some part of the produce of our own industry employed in a way in which we have some advantage”(1776).

But, on the other hand, trade is growing and so is inequality. Most of the people are likely to blame trade for this problem, although trade is not the most important fact. “In general, technological change is found to be an important driver of inequality. It is also the case of other aspects of globalization like migration, FDI and other international capital flows contribute to increased inequality” (WTO, 2013:13).

Furthermore, trade must be followed by exceptionally well-design and coherent policies that lead towards sustainable development. Not to mention the need of a proper administration, free of corruption and focused on growing the living standards; the obligation to reinforce the institutions so that they can optimize all kinds of resources, economic and human resources, in order to make a more efficient and adequate distribution of the incomes resulting in the decrease of unemployment rates and therefore reducing the inequality. From a wider perspective, all of these effects, for the country, could be translated in economic growth, competitiveness, increases in FDI and sustainable development.

However, “Poor countries will usually need to create a range of other conditions before they can benefit from trade. Even the best conceivable trade policies aimed at reaping the benefits from trade are likely to be ineffective if unaccompanied by productive capacity and adequate infrastructure”. (The future of Trade, 2013:12). This means that it takes a huge effort to try to move forward and it also shows us that trade and investment go together and rely on each other.

Briefly, several challenges must be taken in order to truly get the benefits from trade and therefore eradicate poverty and raise living standards of the societies. This has been proved by the emerging economies.


Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Retrieved October 5, 2013 from the World Wide Web: http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smWN13.html

World Trade Organization (WTO). (2013). The Future of Trade: The Challenges of Convergence. Report of the Panel on Defining the Future of Trade.

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