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Robert B. Koopman

World Trade Organization

Robert B. Koopman serves as the Chief Economist and Director of the Economic Research and Statistics Division at the World Trade Organization. In this post, Bob provides the Secretariat and Member Countries with analysis and information that promotes a deeper understanding of trade and trade policy's role in economic growth and development. Prior to this he oversaw the United States International Trade Commission’s trade policy research and negotiation assistance to the President, the U.S. Trade Representative, and Congress. Bob previously taught international trade, applied international trade, advanced international trade, and trade and economic development in the Economics Department at Georgetown University, in Washington DC. His research interests include measuring the economic effects of trade and trade policy changes, measuring global value chains, and the application and validation of large scale economic simulation models.
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publication
Sustainable Global Supply Chains Report 2022

Global supply chains affect the economy, the environment and social welfare in many ways. Worldwide, economies are experiencing global supply shortages today, affecting key industries such as automotive and consumer electronics as well as vaccine and medical supplies industries. These preoccupy policymakers, who are debating independent national production capacities and restrictions on international trade, but also large companies, which consider reshoring production and abandoning just-in-time procurement. At the same time, the greening of the global economy requires a restructuring of global production to massively decrease its environmental footprint. This creates new supply chain challenges – how to move towards circular economies and how to reorient energy-intensive industries towards renewables and green hydrogen, for example. And let‘s not forget: Consumers are increasingly demanding higher social and environmental standards. Transparency requirements and binding due diligence obligations will in particular affect countries that export raw materials and labour-intensive goods produced under problematic environmental and social conditions. All of this calls for policies that shape global supply chains in accordance with globally agreed social and environmental objectives. Policies along these lines will have to balance the legitimate interests of different countries and they may easily fail to achieve their objectives unless they are firmly grounded in a thorough understanding of the respective structures in supply chains, including the power relations between the actors. Further, the economic, social and environmental effects of alternative policy options need to be well understood. Science can make an important contribution here, especially if it maintains a constant dialogue with politics and society. This is why the international “Research Network Sustainable Global Supply Chains” was initiated by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It currently comprises about 100 internationally leading scientists from all over the world and is jointly coordinated by our four institutes. Its tasks are: To conduct and stimulate research that contributes to making supply chains more sustainable; and to collect and synthesize the best international research on this topic and make it accessible to policy makers and other societal actors. In addition to its own research, the network organises academic conferences and discussions with policymakers, organises a blog and produces podcasts. With this report – the first in a new annual series – we present new research highlights, provide a forum to debate controversial supply chain topics and identify policy-relevant research gaps for the network‘s future work. The report is, at the same time, an invitation to participate in the discussions on how investment, production and trade will be reorganized in a global economy that has to respond to geopolitical challenges.

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blog
GVCs and COVID-19: Lessons thus far from trade during a global pandemic
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publication
Structural change in the Chinese economy and changing trade relations with the world

This paper examines the impact of structural change in China, in particular a reduction in the savings rate, an increase in the share of skilled workers, and an increase in productivity in technologically advanced manufacturing sectors targeted by Made in China 2025. Baseline projections until 2040 are generated with the WTO Global Trade Model, a dynamic computable general equilibrium model. With the modelled structural changes, the Chinese economy is projected to reorient its focus increasingly onto the domestic economy, raising the share of private household and government consumption in GDP, turning China's trade surplus into a trade deficit, reducing China's share in global exports, raising the share of services in both production and exports, shifting the destination markets of Chinese exports from developed to developing countries, and changing its pattern of comparative advantage away from sectors like light and heavy manufacturing to electronic and machinery equipment. The large bilateral trade surplus vis-a-vis the United States is projected to fall to almost zero.

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publication
The Value of the WTO

Recent developments in global trade include actions by major global traders that lie outside the norms of behaviour of the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the last 20 years. Member frustrations with the slow pace of negotiations and concerns about strategies and behaviours of other members approaches to trade and economic development have created unprecedented stresses on a system of rules and commitments that have long encouraged global trade growth and increased economic integration. In this paper we explore the value of the multilateral trading system, particularly the WTO, and emphasize that the value goes well beyond crucial achievements such as tariff reductions and the prevention of a global trade war, but is also found in increased certainty and transparency. The WTO reduces uncertainty about trade policy thus promoting trade and investment. Membership of the WTO locks in beneficial reform and has a public good nature also fostering trade with non-members. We discuss the importance of the WTO as a multilateral forum to negotiate rules on segments of trade expected to grow in the future such as services and digital trade. We describe how the history of negotiations in the WTO provides useful insights for negotiations on such future topics.

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publication
Domestic value chains as stepping stones to global value chain integration
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