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Doubts about Fair Trade

Sunday, August 31, 2014

According to The Economist there is a long history of efforts to distinguish products that have been made more ethically than others. In the late 18th century, anti-slavery campaigners urged British consumers to boycott sugar from the West Indies in favour of supplies from India. Today’s fair-trade movement took off in the 1960s, mostly in religious organisations that wanted to help the poor, whom they saw as losers in the global trading system. Fair Trade is a really important issue for discussion.

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Paths to development - Adding value to natural resources

Monday, July 28, 2014

This is an absolutely outstanding article to use when introducing development economics to a level students. The work of Hausmann and Hidalgo on complexity and economic development is becoming more widely recognised and used in schools. Hausmann's article here in Project Syndicate emphasises the importance of building capabilities within an economy to promote the growth of higher value added industries. Here is the link to the article: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/ricar...

Shifting Terms of Trade for Latin America

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

According to The Economist, the great commodity boom caused by the industrialisation of China and India provided an unprecedented boost to the terms of trade (defined as the ratio of the price of its exports to that of its imports). Yet now the commodities boom may be running out of steam, these countries face a challenge.

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Export Complexity - Hidalgo and Hausmann

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Data on export patterns for goods from countries around the world provide a fascinating window on the degrees of complexity that nations have achieved. There is growing interest in the significance of knowledge capital or know-how in lifting productivity, competitiveness and improving trade performance for economies at different stages of development. Below is my selection of countries.

There then follows links to videos from Cesar Hidalgo and Riccardo Hausman on their theory of productive knowledge - and in particular how it is acquired at the level of the individual, the level of organizations, and cities, regions, countries and societies.

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Impact of a rising £

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Last autumn all the talk was of the impact of a plunging sterling exchange rate and the UK’s struggle to find new export markets. According to most observers it was time to ‘rebalance’ the economy towards a more export-lead model of growth. George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, talked of “a Britain carried aloft by the march of the makers”. 

The plan was for a revival in manufacturing and exports, driven, at least in part, by a weaker pound. Sterling had fallen by 30% during the financial crisis, but since early 2013 the pound has climbed back, appreciating by 10% in trade-weighted terms.

What impact might this have?

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Unit 4 Macro: Growth, Trade and Development in Sub Saharan Africa

Sunday, June 01, 2014

This blog entry will feature frequently updated revision resources on economic growth trade and development aspects for a range of sub Saharan African countries

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Footballs in Pakistan: An Innovation Story

Friday, May 30, 2014

I am really grateful to Bob Denham from Econ Films who has shared with us this newly launched video from the International Growth Centre. It focuses on the competitive challenges facing Pakistan's football manufacturing sector as it loses market share to countries such as China and Indonesia. Footballs in Pakistan are still made mainly by hand, stitching together hexagons and pentagons - a process that leads to a lot of waste  and higher unit costs and which then affects the profitability of businesses in what is already a low-margin sector.

Could a team of economists find better ways of cutting the patterns for footballs and then align the incentives of workers and owners? This is a fascinating short video which captures many aspects of the Unit 4 development economics course. Enjoy!

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Unit 4 Macro: Guinea and Rio Tinto Agree Investment Deal that might Double GDP

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Guinea has agreed a huge new capital investment framework with a number of transnational partners including Rio Tinto and Chinalco to develop one of the world's biggest iron ore assets. This is a project that may double the country's GDP not least because as well as mining the iron ore, there is a proposal to seek funding to construct a 650km railway and a deep-water port to transport the rocks and minerals. 

It is one of those examples that comes along every once in a while that prompts both students and teachers to re-visit the economics of large scale foreign direct investment projects. Is this nation building of the old style? Or is the proposed investment framework one that could be genuinely transformative for one of the world's poorest countries?

Key points:

  1. Forecast of 45,000 new jobs created across the entire project
  2. State of Guinea will retain 15% of any proceeds from the mine
  3. In exchange, the joint venture with Rio Tinto / Chinalco will enjoy eight years' tax free operations in the country
  4. Production at the Simandou mine is expected to start within five years
  5. It will be Africa's biggest mine
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Unit 4 Macro: Economic Benefits of EU Membership

Thursday, May 22, 2014

European countries are on average 12% richer a decade after they join the EU than they would otherwise be -- and the UK is 24% better off since joining the EU in 1973 than it would otherwise be. Those are among the findings of research by Nauro Campos, Fabrizio Coricelli and Luigi Moretti as written about on VoxEU.org. 

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Unit 4 Macro: The New Pacific Alliance

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Here are some resources on the newly created Pacific Alliance which - in the short run - has achieved significant tariff  reductions but which in the long run seeks to create a new economic community / single market in the region.

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A Different View of World Trade: Why National Accounts Can Be Exciting

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Imagine that, for some reason, you were forced to choose between having to read a long, turgid novel like Westward Ho or Middlemarch, or a book on the methodology of the national economic accounts. Most people, however reluctantly, would plump for the former. But the latter can at times be very exciting. A recent paper uses national accounts concepts to revolutionise the conventional view of world trade.

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F585: Africa Progress Report 2014

There seems to be a huge amount of relevant material in here for students preparing for their A2 F585 paper - extract 5 of the pre-release case study focuses on economic growth and development in Sub Saharan Africa. Click this link: http://africaprogresspanel.org/publications/policy...

Unit 4 Macro: Has India missed the manufacturing boat?

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

This is a timely and important short video report on the future for Indian manufacturing industry.

Onerous regulations, bureaucracy and poor infrastructure have made it difficult for large manufacturers to prosper in low cost mass manufacturing in India. And just as the South Asian nation starts to benefit from the so-called demographic dividend, manufacturers are shifting towards less labour intensive manufacturing techniques. The Financial Times visits JCB and Bharat Forge in the manufacturing hub of Pune to find out more

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International export competitiveness - surprising shifts in the global pattern

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Boston Consulting Group have produced a fascinating new report which investigates the competitiveness of the world's top 25 goods exporting nations. Their press release highlights significant changes in the world order over the last decade. The newly-minted BCG Global Manufacturing Cost-Competitiveness Index incorporates four factors: energy costs, productivity, wages and exchange rates. That analysis shows that Brazil is now one of the highest-cost countries, and the UK is the cheapest location in western Europe. Mexico now has lower manufacturing costs than China, while costs in much of eastern Europe are basically at parity with the U.S.

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Unit 4 Macro: TPP - A High Stakes Trade Deal

Sunday, April 27, 2014

This is a screamer of an article on TPP from Linda Yueh. all students taking Econ4 must be aware of what the TPP is and what it might mean for the world economy if the TPP is finalised and completed. There are numerous barriers in the way. Can the USA and Japan resolve and reduce decades-long and deeply embedded protectionist measures covering farm products and car making? TPP has the potential to boost trade and growth in both countries - but politics and vested interests often get in the way. Watch Linda's video here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-27122428

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Unit 4 Macro: Tourism and Economic Development

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

For many developing countries tourism is already a major part of their economy and a significant source of extra factor incomes and employment. But there is a fierce debate about the economic and social consequences of tourism - what roles can tourism play in economic development? Can travel to developing countries do more harm than good? This revision blog provides some arguments and resources on this topic.

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Unit 4 Macro: Mauritania in search of growth and stability

Monday, April 14, 2014

If you are searching for a vivid example of a country experiencing primary product dependency have a look at this short video report from the Financial Times. The lower middle income west African country is trying to modernise their economy but remains deeply at risk from outside external shocks including over-dependency on a single mineral and terrorist threats. Inequality may be the biggest risk to it's future.

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Unit 4 Macro: Food imports set to rise in China

Saturday, April 12, 2014

This is a revealing perspective on the challenges facing China in producing enough food to feed the hundreds of millions of Chinese squeezed into their ever growing cities. 

China's policy makers are trying to increase the size of farms to exploit economies of scale and get their farmers to focus on cash crops. But the reality is that China will have to import a huge amount of food in the years to come - this creates big opportunities for farmers in China's trading partners.

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Unit 2 Macro: Supply Side Policies and Competitiveness

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

A revision presentation used at the workshop in Dubai on aspects of supply-side competitiveness in the UK economy

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Unit 4 Macro: African Exports to China - Benefits and Costs

Preferential market access to China is providing an important growth-enhancing outlet for African exporters that find it difficult to break into industrialised countries’ markets. But there remain dangers that current export structures and national capacity constraints may further entrap Africa given its comparative advantage in primary resources and China’s comparative advantage in manufacturing products.

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Unit 4 Macro: Focus on Rwanda

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Rwandan economy comes under special focus in 2014 because it is twenty years since the genocide. This blog provides some summary growth and development data and links on Rwanda, a country that is attracting increasing interest from students and teachers as part of their development economics course.

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F585 Pre-Release Resources (and F583, F582 & F581 too)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I thought it worthwhile sharing my resources which I have been collecting for students (and teachers alike). I have been promoting them on Twitter (@Economics_KSF) through scoop.it but for those of you not on there, the link for the scoop.it boards are here:

http://www.scoop.it/u/economics-kcsf

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Some Topical Issues in Trade and Development

Monday, March 03, 2014

I was delighted to give a talk to A2 economists at Wilson's School in Surrey today covering some aspects of trade and development economics. In particular we looked at the work of Hidalgo and Hausmann and their newly published Index of Economic Complexity. The slides from my talk are streamed below.

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Eurozone problems - excellent video resource

Friday, February 14, 2014

Gains from international trade, the history of European economic integration, fiscal and monetary policy, the launch of the €uro and the 2008 financial crisis are all clearly animated and explained in this superb video. In just over 12 minutes it explains the problems of the €urozone and the threats and challenges it still faces. Definitely one to watch for the closing stages of an A2 macro course.

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Valentine’s challenge to Comparative Advantage

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sometimes it’s worth challenging a concept that is fundamental to Economics, such as specialisation or the theory of comparative advantage (video here). This crucial theory views international trade as profitable even for a country that can produce every commodity more cheaply than any other country (an absolute advantage). According to Robert Skidelsky, the textbook example is that of a town’s best lawyer who is also its best typist. Provided that she is better at law than at typing, she should specialize in law and leave her secretary to do the typing. That way, both of their earnings will be higher. The same logic applies to countries. Each country should specialize in producing those things that it produces most efficiently, rather than producing a bit of everything, because that way its income will be higher.

Why does Skidelsky go on to challenge that view?

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Imports are good too!

Monday, January 27, 2014

We are often (quite rightly), talking about Britain’s disappointing export performance. There are lots of good reasons to promote exports – an injection into the circular flow of income and the X in C+I+G+(X-M)

But don’t fall for the trap of thinking that exports=good and imports=bad. In the final analysis, one of the main reasons for exports is to pay for imports. Imports play a crucial role in making our economy more efficient.

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Exchange rates and the ‘Big Mac’ Index

Thursday, January 23, 2014

This is a great learning aid, especially if you've not come across it before.  If you're trying to understand exchange rates, you often end up wondering which countries have overvalued exchange rates (that should, ideally, depreciate in value) or those that are undervalued (where appreciation would probably help).

The idea is so simple - find a product that's available in most countries, produced to a standardised design, and that serves as a reasonable 'basket of goods' capturing a range of price data for the economy you're looking at.  By this measure, the countries with expensive Big Macs have overvalued exchange rates and cheap Big Macs means an undervalued exchange rate.

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Government help for exports - could do better?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

This report which the Public Accounts Committee published on Friday, entitled Supporting UK exporters overseas, gives a useful piece of background reading, as it marries up AS and A2 level theory, and micro and macro topics. It looks at the combined efforts of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and UK Trade and Industry to help UK firms, particularly small and medium sized businesses, boost their exports and so contribute to UK GDP recovery. The summary of the report on the PAC website could be used by students to consider a couple of questions:

How many examples of government failure can you identify?

Given that the UK does not currently use monetary policy to influence the exchange rate, what mix of government policies might be used in order to meet the target of doubling exports by 2020?

The Specialisation ‘Myth’

Friday, January 03, 2014

On Project Syndicate, economist Ricardo Hausmann argues that urging cities, regions, and countries to specialise can be wrong and even dangerous.

An interesting point, as almost everyone studying economics assumes that the basic idea is so intuitive and obvious that it is hard to deny it. See what you think.

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Britain’s New Industrial Policy: Can We Learn from the Mistakes of the Past?

Friday, December 13, 2013

The phrase ‘industrial policy’ seems to take us decades back in time. In 1964, a powerful catchphrase of the new Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, was the need for Britain to embrace the ‘white heat of the technological revolution’. Sadly, by the 1970s this vision had deteriorated into a list of institutions, stuffed with dull businessmen and trade unionists, meeting to decide how to prop up yet another failed sector of the UK economy.

But the concept is now back in vogue. Perhaps surprisingly, given the historical experience, the coalition chose to preserve Labour’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) quango. The TSB has a budget of £400 million to “accelerate UK economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation”. A key way in which it plans to do this is through the purchasing decisions of the public sector.

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Unit 4 Macro: CBI calls for Britain to stay inside the EU

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Confederation of British Industry has today launched a report called Our Global Future: The Business Vision for a Reformed EU - The report calls for further EU reform not least the completion of the single market in particular in services and the new internet economy. They argue for more free trade deals with other countries and regions.

The report produces estimates – based on past academic studies – that EU membership adds £62bn-£78bn a year to UK gross domestic product, equal to the combined economies of northeast England and Northern Ireland. That works out at £3,000 per household and £1,225 per individual. The fact sheets from the report can be found here

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Intra-national trade

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The concept of gains from trade is of fundamental importance to economists. But don't be fooled into thinking that gains from trade are limited to international trade. The same theory that explains trade is just as relevant when talking about trade between individuals, cities and regions.

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Hinkley China Power.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A huge reminder about the shifts in economic power arrived with the news about the development of Hinkley C nuclear power station.

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Unit 4 Macro: Minerals and Development - Overcoming Resource Curses

Sunday, October 13, 2013

On the World Bank twitter account, President Jim Kim is quoted as saying that "Properly managed, new minerals wealth could transform Africa’s development." Back in June 2013, a new report from the African Progress Panel looked at this important issue and set out an agenda for maximising Africa’s natural resource wealth and using it to improve well-being.

My own students have been researching the economics of natural resources and whether they can be a blessing and/or a curse to countries seeking sustained growth and development. I just wanted to share one or two of these essays with you because I was delighted with the depth of the independent research on show and the quality of evaluation in their arguments.

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Peru’s Free Trade Agreement with China

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Workers in Peru say they are suffering because of competition from cheaper imports. Chinese imports are stifling what was one of the largest clothing manufacturers in South America and a free trade agreement could make matters worse. A short video clip on this issue/

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Natural Resource Curse - Updated Presentation

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Here is an updated revision presentation on aspects of the natural resource trap or natural resource curse issue facing low (and also high) income countries

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Shanghai’s New Free Trade Zone

Monday, September 30, 2013

Here are some video resources on Shanghai's new tree trade zone. The Financial Times reports that "The Chinese government has declared that it wants to use the zone – a small 28 sq km sliver of Shanghai – as a test bed for policies from interest rate liberalisation to capital account opening - There are no residents in the zone – only offices, factories and hotels" There is much debate about whether the creation of a new free trade zone will bring about greater digital freedom in China - allowing for example, freer access to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter

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Globalisation – how globalised is the world?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Today in class we were discussing the forces of globalisation, and some of the discussion took us down the following route:

Globalisation is defined in many different ways – there is no textbook definition - but economic globalisation is usually characterised by some of the following features:

    - An increasing interdependence between economies and an erosion of national boundaries

    - Increased cross-border activity from MNCs

    - Increased cross-border flow of trade in goods and services, movement of people, flows of financial assets, hot money, and FDI flows

    - The growth of labour migration and outsourcing and global supply chains

The OECD’s definition is: “The geographic dispersion of industrial and service activities, for example research and development, sourcing of inputs, production and distribution, and the cross-border networking of companies, for example through joint ventures and the sharing of assets”

One index that attempts to quantify and measure globalisation is called the KOF index.

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Revision Presentation - Protectionism

Monday, September 16, 2013

This revision presentation explains and illustrates the concept of protectionism. The presentation explains the factors that motivate protectionism and the methods employed, including tariffs, import duties, dumping, currency manipulation and the favouring of domestic firms and industries.

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Unit 4 Macro: Ambitions for ASEAN in next phase of Globalisation

Thursday, September 12, 2013

ASEAN is a trade bloc of 10 nations with an aggregate economic size of $2.3 trillion. Their aim is to establish a fully-fledged economic community (AEC) by the end of 2015. The trading bloc’s diversity – ranging from advanced economies like Singapore to developing countries like Myanmar is an interesting feature – who will be the winners and losers from deeper economic integration in the region?

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Unit 4 Macro: Gains from International Trade

Friday, September 06, 2013

Here is an updated revision presentation on international trade that can be downloaded from our tutor2u slide share stream

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Marginal Revolution - New Online Course on Trade Theory

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Our friends over at Marginal Revolution are starting a new short course in international trade.

  • Why do countries trade? And how do they decide what to trade?
  • What are the effects of trade on wages, prices, welfare, and economic development?
  • What is protectionism, and how should we analyze tariffs and quotas in in a supply-and-demand framework?

Click here to find out more

Unit 4 Macro: Patterns of Trade Activity for Students

As an introduction to trade theory I am looking at data on the pattern of exports for different countries drawing on 2010 data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity at MIT. The task for students is to match the country with their pattern of exports (% by value) for the year 2010. There are ten countries - who can get all ten right? Download the resource below - in pdf format and also the charts in a powerpoint format

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Will the Indian Rupee continue to fall in value?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The main financial headlines in Mumbai recently have centred on the continued fall in the value of the Indian Rupee- now down by over 20% against the dollar in the last month. But what causes a currency to fall in value so sharply and so quickly?

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Container Economics - Maersk’s Big Bet

Monday, August 19, 2013

This is a simply fabulous video to show to economics students of whatever vintage - there is so much relevant stuff in here it would struggle to fit into one of the containers that fill the world's largest ever freight ships. Challenge your students to find as much economics in this as possible and then make some connections between the topics!

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Competitive Advantage - Kenyan Distance Runners

Saturday, July 13, 2013

They dominate the major championships in long distance events and the standard of their running is so high that several runners have opted to compete for other countries in order to gain selection for World and Olympic events. What makes Kenyan distance runners so good? From where have they established their enduring competitive advantage? Are there parallels and lessons for countries wishing to compete in the global economy? This news feature from the Guardian offers some interesting clues!

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Unit 4 Macro: Kal Draws Dumping

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Another great short animated video from the Economist - highly relevant to students looking at the economics of protectionism / import controls. KAL, The Economist's resident cartoonist and animator, explains what dumping means and why companines do it.

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Unit 2 Macro: London Gateway Super Port Prepares to Open

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The scale of the new London Gateway Super deepwater Port is truly stunning and its importance to the economy as a trading nation is hard to underestimate - Britain will have a new world class hub port in a key location impacting on many trades and services in and around the South East and beyond. It has taken 10 years to establish and build this huge new infrastructure project, building eventually started in 2008.

Behind the port sits Europe's largest logistics park connected to the South east by road and rail.

This Financial Times news video looks at the background to the project - it is a good example to consider of the macroeconomic consequences of the investment. What price a new Thames Estuary airport (supported by Boris Johnson) to amplify the transformative impact in the years ahead?

Update: BBC news (November 2013) - click here

London Gateway is new competition for Felixstowe port

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The importance of container shipping

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I have to come clean as a self-confessed container nerd (geek alert: follow the world’s containers using this amazing tool).  Not only are the ships hugely impressive from an engineering perspective, but they are a gift for an Economics or Business enthusiast.  You might want to be thinking about economies of scale, or the negative externalities associated with transport – or perhaps discuss supply side issues and infrastructure.  Container ships cover the lot.

A while ago I argued that container shipping is the greatest of all 20th century innovations, and this week The Economist has reported that the container has been a greater driver of globalisation than all trade agreements in the past 50 years taken together.

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Revision Quiz: A2 Economics: Trade (1)

Thursday, April 04, 2013

This 10-question revision quiz focuses on the theory of international trade.

Launch Revision Quiz: A2 Economics: Trade (1)


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