Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Trade patterns

A couple of recent stories suggest that international trade and economic patterns are changing in a way I think is essentially healthy. First is a story out of Prague about how the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and other Eastern European countries are becoming places where Western European companies outsource jobs like data processing, bookkeeping, even research and development.

It shows that despite all that is wrong with Western European governments, some companies are healthy enough to want or need to outsource (perhaps in part because of strict labor rules at home) and Eastern European countries have enough skilled people to be an attractive place to which to farm out work -- "a highly educated, multilingual pool of talent in an increasingly affluent consumer market." U.S. companies like IBM, Dell and Morgan Stanley have also outsourced work to Eastern Europe. Growing affluence and attractiveness to international companies in Eastern Europe strikes me as good news.

Second is news that the U.S. "trade deficit" -- it's not really a deficit, but a difference, and is hardly anything resembling an important economic indicator, although the mainstream media still haven't figured this out -- declined slightly in April , in part because the dollar is weak relative to other currencies creating a surge in exports, and in part because economies in other parts of the world are healthy enough -- especially consumer economies in Europe and Asia -- to create demand for imports from the United States.

Maybe globalization is a good thing.

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