The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of the current patterns of production and consumption, exemplified by GVCs and the global trade and investment order in which they operate. These fragilities have resulted in the aforementioned social, economic and financial crises but what they represent most of all, is a crisis of responsibility in which powerful actors, state and private, that have been the main beneficiaries of GVCs, have failed to discharge their ethical and normative obligations to those most vulnerable within their production and supply chains. To this end, a new approach is sorely needed to address the vulnerabilities of a global economy built on fragile GVC governance that serves as new nodes of global inequality and precarity.
This post engages with the Global Value Chain Development (GVCD) reports co-published by the World Trade Organization and the World Bank. It focuses on one central claim these reports have made about the development-related benefits of firms’ participation in GVCs, and on the policy recommendations that follow. The claim is that by inserting themselves into global value chains (GVCs) and technologically upgrading, firms can move up the value-added ladder and capture a greater share of the economic rewards, thereby also benefiting workers and their states in terms of employment, income and taxation.
This online symposium is the outcome of a workshop on ‘GVCs, Trade and Development’ hosted by the Kent Law School and IEL collective in July 2020 and supported by the British Academy (Grant no. MD19\190020). The workshop engaged with the policy research literature produced by the World Trade Organisation and World Bank since 2013, in particular their Global Value Chain Development (GVCD) reports of 2017 and 2019.
The Agreement Establishing the AfCFTA is far more than just a trade agreement. It embodies long-held aspirations for an integrated Africa which, in the words of Ghana’s first Prime Minister and President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, would be better equipped to “tackle hopefully every emergency, every enemy and every complexity.” As one of the flagship projects of the AU’s Agenda 2063, the free trade initiative is envisioned as a pathway to an African renaissance in both economic and cultural terms. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the AfCFTA could integrate 55 African Union (AU) member states in a market of about 1.2 billion people with an estimated gross domestic product of US $ 2.5 trillion. Moreover, the area is expected to reflect the continent’s “common identity by celebrating our history and our vibrant culture.”
The reading of the travaux préparatoires of Article XXI GATT indicates that the GATT Contracting Parties did not envisage that a global pandemic such as a virus could amount to a national security exception under the said Article. However, the drafters of GATT 1947 cannot be put to blame since no global health crisis has ever necessitated the applicability of the Article. The 2020 Corona virus (Covid 19) is an example of a global health crisis. In response to the crisis and in a bid to protect their nationals, states are restricting the exportation of medical related equipment. This amounts to quantitative restrictions which is a violation of the World Trade Organisation rules of trade. This paper analyses such measures in lieu of WTO member’s obligations.
Although developing countries are very eager to attract FDI through BITs, for most parts, they deliberately water down the environmental concerns. However, recently we have witnessed the incorporation of environmental standards and provisions in BITs. This ambitious effort however is usually frustrated by decisions of international arbitration tribunals.
This essay highlights the traditional, hybrid and private regulation-inspired approaches through which the private sector arguably facilitates the achievement of the SDGs. Private regulation is not a silver bullet in the global quest for sustainable development, considering the inherent legal, administrative, institutional and political concerns. However, seeing the private sector as a partner in rule making and enforcement opens a realm of possibility in terms of possible collaborative models among stakeholders towards achieving the SDGs.
In short, the SDGs and its interesting set of targets are a fertile ground not only to reimagine past UN led decade themed goals and their implications for (sustainable) development, but, to also situate them in contemporary discourse of the activities of nations, transnational corporations and other non-state actors. As part of the 2019 Purdy Crawford Workshop, the contributions to the symposium on “Sustainable Development Goals, Trade, Investment, and Inequality” critically examine these goals from the vantage point of each contributor’s scholarly expertise.
The blog posts presented in this symposium indicate that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the renewable energy (RE) sector is desirable to support decarbonisation and clean energy transformation in developing countries such as Nigeria. Despite the enormous potential for RE based on the natural conditions in Nigeria, there is high level of energy poverty and low level of investments in RE sector by both government and private investors.
There is a need for the international community to be circumspect in eliciting commitments for greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of climate change adaptation and mitigation targets from African countries, without a holistic assessment of how the process of achieving these commitments will affect the development trajectory of the continent. In addition to galvanising greater international support for FDI in renewables for country’s such as Nigeria with significant potential for renewable energy generation for domestic consumption, it is imperative that the proposed energy mix is affordable and suited to the local development needs.