Economic Research Forum (ERF)

Jaime de Melo

Author

Jaime de Melo
Professor Emeritus, University of Geneva

Jaime de Melo, professor emeritus from the University of Geneva is scientific director at the FERDI and Academic Advisor at the Geneva Business School. He is also a CEPR fellow, a non-resident fellow at Brookings Institution, and a member of EU-GDN. From 1972 to 1976, he worked at USAID, then taught at Georgetown University from 1976-80. From 1980 to 1993, he was in the research Department at the World Bank before joining the faculty at the University of Geneva from 1992 to 2012. Jaime has advised governments on trade policies and during WTO litigations and has consulted for the AfDB, the European Commission, the IMF, USAID, the World Bank, and participated in several projects with the LSE. A founding member of the World Trade Institute, he has held several editorial positions and was editor-in-chief of the World Bank Economic Review, 2005-2010. Jaime holds degrees in Political Science at the Maxwell School (Bachelors from Syracuse University 1968), in international relations (M.A from Johns Hopkins SAIS, 1970), and a Phd in economics from John Hopkins University (1975).

Content by this Author

Boosting trade through flexible rules of origin in preferential agreements

Rules of origin are critical components of preferential trade agreements designed to stop products coming in under insufficient transformation or through the partner that applies the lowest tariff. But in practice, these rules are often needlessly complex, undoing the benefits of market access associated with trade agreements. This column reports research showing that the adoption of more flexible product-specific rules of origin within preferential agreements would give a significant boost to global trade.

Challenges of digitalisation in MENA and sub-Saharan Africa

For Africa and the Middle East, new digital technologies present an opportunity to raise productivity by speeding up structural transformation – but how equipped are countries in the region for taking advantage of this moment? This column presents evidence on readiness for e-commerce, integration into global supply chains, data infrastructure and the performance of the services sector.

Harmonising rules of origin for the African continental free trade area

For the African continental free trade area to become fully operational, it is essential for the 54 signatory countries to reach agreement on harmonisation of rules of origins – the ‘Made in Africa’ criteria to ensure that only bona fide African products will benefit from tariff concessions. This column reports on progress and the remaining challenges.

Africa’s continental free trade area: a stepping-stone to integration?

In a week that marks the anniversary of the treaty for an African continental free trade area, signed in Kigali on 18 March 2018, this column asks whether it is a turning point on the road towards economic integration. There are signs of progress: the inclusion of negotiations on trade in services; progress-tracking on removing barriers to trade in goods; easing the movement of persons; and improving hard and soft infrastructure to lower trade costs. But starting off with a small membership that does not include all the big players and the possibility of backsliding under the guise of indiscriminate promotion of regional value chains pose serious threats.

The African continental free trade area: an integration trilemma

Plans to establish an African continental free trade area are hampered by three incompatible objectives: solidarity across the continent’s diverse countries; large membership to break the curse of small markets; and deep integration to reap all the benefits of close economic cooperation. This column explains Africa’s ‘integration trilemma’ – and suggests that it may in part explain why no North African country has as yet ratified the AfcFTA Treaty.

Sahel faces poverty and conflict traps: a call for international action

Conditions in the so-called G-5 countries of the Sahel – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – are grim. This Brookings column from late 2016 summarises a plea for international action. More funding for day-to-day security and for economic development is urgently needed. And the socio-cultural complexity of the region calls for a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together researchers, diplomats, ethnologists, humanitarians, and defence and development experts.

Improving market access for Jordanian exports to Europe

As part of its efforts to alleviate the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan, the European Union has granted a relaxation on origin requirements for selected products from certain parts of the country. This column reports analysis of whether the EU’s decision can help to provide job opportunities for refugees.

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Egypt’s care economy needs to address deteriorating working conditions

A robust and high-quality care economy is critical for supporting women’s employment – as both an employer of women and a mechanism for redistributing unpaid care work to the market. Yet in Egypt, despite national goals of expanding care services, employment in the sector has been shrinking, while becoming increasingly privatised. As this column reports, care jobs have also experienced worsening conditions of work, including reduced formality and the emergence of a pay penalty for care workers.

Unemployment among young women in GCC countries

The average rate of unemployment among young women in the high-income countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is far higher than the equivalent for young men. This column reports new evidence on the extent to which flexible labour markets, in the context of a generous social contract, can reduce female youth unemployment rates in the region.

Boosting trade through flexible rules of origin in preferential agreements

Rules of origin are critical components of preferential trade agreements designed to stop products coming in under insufficient transformation or through the partner that applies the lowest tariff. But in practice, these rules are often needlessly complex, undoing the benefits of market access associated with trade agreements. This column reports research showing that the adoption of more flexible product-specific rules of origin within preferential agreements would give a significant boost to global trade.

Challenges of GCC investment in the energy transition

The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have identified the energy transition as a crucial area of growth and are investing heavily in a diverse array of projects. However, as this column explains, the region faces a number of challenges in making a success of these investments, most notably its current dependence on fossil fuels, a lack of infrastructure and technical expertise, the high upfront costs, and geopolitical tensions.

The decline of social insurance in Egypt: directions for reform

The longstanding challenge for the Egyptian economy of providing its workers with decent, formal, socially insured jobs has become even more difficult. As this column explains, informality has been rising rather than falling, with a substantial reduction in social insurance coverage for the employed since the late 1990s. Reforms are needed to reverse this decline.

Social insurance in Egypt: between costly formality and legal informality

The rates of participation of Egyptian workers in contributory social insurance has continued to decline, even during times when the country has had positive annual growth rates. This column discusses key institutional elements in the design of the current social insurance scheme that have contributed to the growing gap in coverage, particularly the scheme’s cost and eligibility requirements.

Jordan: navigating through multiple crises

Jordan’s real GDP per capita is today no higher than it was 40 years ago. While external factors have undoubtedly had an adverse effect on the country’s economic outcomes, weak macroeconomic management and low public spending on investment and the social sectors have also played a substantial role. This column explores what can be done to reduce high public debt, accelerate private sector development and enhance social outcomes.

Making trade agreements more environmentally friendly in the MENA region

Trade policy can play a significant role in efforts to decarbonise the global economy. But as this column explains, there need to be more environmental provisions in trade agreements in which developing countries participate – and stronger legal enforcement of those provisions at the international level. The MENA region would benefit substantially from such changes.

Egypt and Iraq: amenities, environmental quality and taste for revolution

The Middle East and North Africa is a region marked by significant political turbulence. This column explores a novel dimension of these upheavals: the relationship between people’s satisfaction with, on one hand, the amenities to which they have access and the environmental quality they experience, and, on the other hand, their inclination towards revolutionary actions. The data come from the World Value Survey collected in 2018 in Egypt and Iraq.

Iran’s globalisation and Saudi Arabia’s defence budget

How might Saudi Arabia react to Iran's renewed participation in global trade and investment? This column explores whether the expanding economic globalisation of Iran, following the lifting of nuclear sanctions, could yield a peace dividend for Saudi Arabia, consequently dampening the Middle East arms competition. These issues have attracted increased attention in recent times, notably after a pivotal agreement between the two countries in March 2023, marking the resumption of their political ties after a seven-year conflict.