- How we made a ‘Qantas of the Internet’ (No, worse! It doesn’t fly). A brief, accurate retelling of the NBN disaster:: t.co/UOEB38iNaZ
- “What comes next is the 19th century”. In trade, too? Given their scale, would #TPP + #TPIP reset the bar of MFN? :: t.co/HF6YIHWwaZ
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Trade and public policy
For more than 30 years I negotiated, analyzed and advised on international trade agreements, mostly for governments (I was an Australian government official for about half of that time). Occasionally I consulted to private interests including industry and traders’ associations, chambers of commerce and sometimes firms caught-up in a ‘trade remedy’ action.
☞ You’ll find ten years of posts commenting on events and opportuntities in the international trade system here on my site.
For reasons I’ve examined here, the momentum of trade agreements has slowed. Australia’s trade negotiations program has slipped into neutral since the Doha round collapsed at the end of 2008 and our bilateral trade negotiations with North and East Asia ran into the sand. The current TPP negotiations are absorbing a lot of official energies, but it is still unclear whether they will offer anything of commercial significance. The hub-and-spokes configuration apparently imposed on them since 2011 (all negotiating texts are still secret!) may turn out to be more harmful than beneficial for future market integration.
Nothing is forever. I suspect the divergent policies of the “West” and the Rest that have stymied market opening agreements in the past decade or more will re-converge at some point in the future. I hope it’s not over a ‘crisis’ (such as a resurgence of serious trade protection).
But that time still looks too far off to be holding my breath. I’m now more actively engaged in related pursuits including teaching in the Masters of International Trade & Development at the University of Adelaide (below) and, from May 2013, working with the International Chamber of Commerce on their centenary history (1914–2014).
Human (medical) research ethics
For more than a decade, I’ve been fortunate to have been appointed to the Ethics committee of a major public hospital in Melbourne, with a large research and teaching portfolio. The hospital has a leading reputation in trauma research and an associated institution is a well-recognised centre for “first-in-man” trials of drugs and devices. It’s exciting to observe the front-lines of medical research and care, although rapidly improving technologies sometimes make knotty problems out of once-straightforward ethical choices.
There’s another interest for me, too. The foundations of what we now call empiricism began with medical research. The most active members of the Royal Society (and of the Académie des Sciences, for that matter) in the late 17th Century — where the ‘scientific method’ first secured a rhetorical beach-head — were physicians, many of them students of the great empirical anatomist William Harvey. Still today, evidence-based public policy finds its conceptual roots in the medical sciences.
I’m teaching graduate students at Adelaide University the political economy of trade and a research-methods course that grows out of my interest in the use of statistics (and visual presentation of data) to represent the complex interactions of world markets and production. I’m a long-time devotee — amateur, in every sense — of the statistical language “R” and have begun to use it in the course materials.