WBEZ | trade http://www.wbez.org/tags/trade Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Pakistani diplomat tells tale of 'mango diplomacy' http://www.wbez.org/story/pakistani-diplomat-tells-tale-mango-diplomacy-97252 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-29/500px-Chaunsa.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Two years ago U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Pakistan and declared that country’s mangoes delicious. It was a taste test that&nbsp;kickstarted an earnest effort to open U.S. markets to Pakistani mangoes.</p><p>But this trade deal became something about more than just fruit; for a brief moment last summer, the entire future of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Pakistan seemed to be placed on the shoulders of a local Pakistani bureaucrat who had to launch the trade by throwing a big mango party in Chicago.</p><p>Odette Yousef brings us this story that spans a delectable fruit, international relations, a clicking beetle and a wayward delivery truck missing outside of Chicago.&nbsp;</p><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 13 Mar 2012 18:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/pakistani-diplomat-tells-tale-mango-diplomacy-97252 Both sweet and symbolic, Pakistani mangoes to arrive in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/story/both-sweet-and-symbolic-pakistani-mangoes-arrive-chicago-89850 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-29/500px-Chaunsa.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Pakistanis who’ve longed for easy access to their country’s most prized fruit will likely be able to find their favored mangoes on supermarket shelves in Chicago soon. This week the first shipment of Pakistani mangoes, all of the sweet chaunsa variety, arrived in Chicago. It will be feted Saturday at a mango celebration at Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel, by no less than the Pakistan Ambassador to the US and other invited guests.</p><p>“The most important thing for people to realize (is) that this is an unprecedented situation,” said Asad Hayauddin, Consul for Trade and Commerce at the Consulate General of Pakistan in Chicago. Hayauddin began working closely with US and Pakistani officials three years ago to figure out how to satisfy regulations set by the US Department of Agriculture that had long kept the fruits from reaching the US market. The USDA forbade the import of mangoes for fear that the fruit would carry pests that might harm US crops.<br> <br> “This is the first time in the history of US-Pakistan commercial or trade relations that perishable commodities are coming in,” said Hayauddin.<br> <br> Hayauddin spoke by phone from Sioux City, Iowa, where he was with the initial shipment of more than 2,800 lbs of mangoes at an irradiation facility. All mango shipments to the US will arrive in Chicago, and be treated in Iowa before being sold. Of the first shipment that arrived this week, none will be sold commercially, said Hayauddin. Rather, those will be consumed at the mango celebration. But Hayauddin expects the fruit to be on the shelves of South Asian grocers in the US soon.<br> <br> Hayauddin says the mango holds a particular importance in Pakistan. It is the country’s second major fruit crop and, culturally speaking, it figures prominently in the country’s cuisine and history. Entry to the US market therefore carries symbolic importance. Hayauddin added that without political support at the highest level of US and Pakistani government, the barriers to entry would not have been sorted out.<br> <br> “It was a massive team effort from the top political (level) down, to the diplomatic representatives, to the technical people on the ground,” said Hayauddin.</p></p> Fri, 29 Jul 2011 22:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/both-sweet-and-symbolic-pakistani-mangoes-arrive-chicago-89850 Not a cruise ship http://www.wbez.org/content/not-cruise-ship <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/frontandcenter/photo/2011-07-11/88967/5.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The gravel in your driveway, the steel in your car, and the coal that produced electricity for your home may well have spent time on a Great Lakes freighter on its way to you. Each year, over 100 million tons of iron ore, coal, limestone and other products travel through the Great Lakes navigation system on ore ships.</p><p> <style type="text/css"> div .inline { width: 290px; float: left; margin-right: 19px; margin-left: 3px; clear: left; } div .inlineContent { border-top: 1px dotted #aa211d; border-top-width: 1px; border-top-style: dotted; border-top-color: #aa211d; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-top: 2px; } ul { margin-left: 15px; } li { font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-repeat-x: no-repeat; background-repeat-y: no-repeat; background-position: 0 5px; background-position-x: 0px; background-position-y: 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }</style> </p><div class="inline"><div class="inlineContent"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-28/FNC-inset-promo.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 50px;" title=""></a><ul><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/about-front-and-center-%E2%80%93-depth-reporting-great-lakes-87655">About Front and Center</a></strong></li><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-05/big-ship-diary-88726">Big ship diary: nine days on a freighter </a></strong></li></ul></div></div><p>Multimedia producer Allison Swaim takes us on board one of these ships: the MV Calumet.&nbsp; At 630 feet, it's longer than two football fields and holds close to 20,000 tons of cargo. You'd need almost 1,000 semi-trucks to carry the same load. Seventeen crew members live and work on the ship for a month at a time. It's a working boat, and the work never stops.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/26256476?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ff0000" width="601" frameborder="0" height="338"></iframe></p><p>This piece was produced for Front and Center, our series covering the Great Lakes region.Hear more from the Calumet at <a href="frontandcenter/2011-07-05/big-ship-diary-88726">Big Ship Diary</a> or get a glimpse behind the scenes at <a href="http://transom.org/?p=19129">Transom.</a></p></p> Mon, 11 Jul 2011 15:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/content/not-cruise-ship The battle over ballast waters http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-11/battle-over-ballast-waters-88934 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-June/2011-06-22/St. Lawrence Flickr Neil Smith.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Let’s say you’re the captain of a ship tied up at one of dozens of ports along the St. Lawrence Seaway or the Great Lakes.&nbsp; You’re taking on a cargo of iron ore or corn or salt.&nbsp; As you fill your hold, you keep your ship level by pumping water out of your ballast tanks.&nbsp;The trouble is that all of that ballast water could have been collected just about anywhere on the planet.&nbsp;</p><p>James Tierney is assistant commissioner for water quality for New York state’s Conservation Department and an expert on ballast water pollution, he says, &nbsp;“Ballast water may be sucked out of a port in the Black Sea, or Singapore, or Amsterdam.&nbsp; And then it’s brought over and it’s released.&nbsp; So ballast water has been a very effective mechanism to bring in all sorts of invasive species.”</p><p>Tierney says tiny creatures literally hide in the scum and saltwater stored inside these ships. Once they're dumped here in the Seaway they are free to spread.&nbsp; And that’s exactly what they’ve done, turning up in waterways from Quebec in the east to Minnesota in the west.&nbsp;</p><p>Jennifer Caddick heads a green group called Save the River.&nbsp; On a brilliant summer day she takes me to a narrow stretch of the St. Lawrence Seaway near Clayton New York, not far from Lake Ontario. “Things like the zebra mussel, round goby, spiny waterfleas, quagga mussels, all of those things have come in through ship ballast tanks,” she says.</p><p>It looks like a healthy stretch of river.&nbsp; But Caddick says just two of those alien invaders – the zebra mussel and the quagga mussel – have spread so rapidly and grown so densely that they are altering the entire food chain of the Great Lakes.&nbsp; They're changing the chemistry in the water, and triggering nasty algae blooms. “We’re seeing massive outbreaks of this cladophora algae, which along with it harbors bacteria.&nbsp; And when cladophora algae dies and washes up on shore, it smells like sewage,” she says.</p><p>In the Great Lakes, invasive species have climbed to the top of the list of environmental threats, right up there with climate change. Jeff Alexander – an environmental activist and writer based in Ann Arbor Michigan – believes the opening of the Seaway triggered a kind of slow-moving ecological disaster, far more devastating than the Gulf oil spill. “ You know an oil spill can be cleaned up to some extent, while invasive species, the problem just continues to grow and spread,” he says.</p><p>Alexander published a book last year called "Pandora’s Locks."&nbsp; He argues that invasive organisms sneaking in through the Seaway could leave the Great Lakes unrecognizable, shredding the natural network of plants and animals that evolved over thousands of years. “The truth is that nobody knows how this story is going to play out.&nbsp; The scientists can’t do research fast enough to keep up with the changes.&nbsp; And no one can tell you what the lakes will look like in 5, 10 or 25 years,” says Alexander.</p><p>That danger has sparked an ugly international feud over just what kind of ballast water regulations are needed to keep new invaders out.&nbsp;Last year, New York state approved strict new regulations that could eventually force each cargo ship entering the Seaway to have its own miniature waste water treatment plant right on board.&nbsp;</p><p>James Tierney with New York’s Conservation Department says that’s the only way to be sure nothing nasty gets through, “You have to put equipment on your ship that kills animals, bacteria, viruses, crustaceans that might be carried in ballast water.”</p><p>&nbsp;New York’s regulation sets a standard for clean ballast water a hundred times more restrictive than current international rules – a fact that thrills environmentalists. The state planned to put the rules into effect next year, but under intense pressure Tierney delayed the deadline for compliance to August of 2013.</p><p>Canadian officials want the stricter standards scrapped entirely, arguing that the cost of buying and installing new equipment is too high.&nbsp; Last year, Canada’s government asked the US State Department to intervene, arguing that New York’s standards&nbsp;could “have the effect of shutting down access to the St. Lawrence Seaway."</p><p>Speaking in Montreal last month, Canadian environment minister Peter Kent warned that states and provinces shouldn't get too far in front of international standards.&nbsp; “We just have to make sure that as time goes on we have to stay closely aligned so that we’re in step and complimentary,” he said.</p><p>Canadians are angry, in part, because much of the Seaway lies in their territory and links their ports.&nbsp;&nbsp;But even ships moving between Canadian harbors that pass through New York waters would have to meet the new standards. Bob Dalley runs the Canadian port in Prescott, Ontario.&nbsp;&nbsp;He says none of the ships that dock here could comply, “That would be a huge issue for all vessels coming in and using the St. Lawrence.&nbsp;&nbsp;But yeah, that would definitely have a impact.”</p><p>Some US officials agree that New York state has gone too far.&nbsp;&nbsp;Collister Johnson heads the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, the agency that operates the US portion of the shipping route and says, “There is no other jurisdiction in the world.&nbsp; I’m talking not about states and provinces, but countries…that is proposing a set of ballast water regulations like the state of New York.”</p><p>Johnson says the current rules, introduced three years ago, are adequate.&nbsp;&nbsp;Those require ships to dump any water picked up in foreign ports while on the high seas.&nbsp;&nbsp;Vessels take on cleaner saltwater before entering North American harbors.&nbsp; If the Seaway is held to a higher standard, Johnson says, the cost of new equipment and technology will force shipping companies to take their cargoes to other ports on the East Coast, “ It is a great concern to the Seaway because it would shut down the Seaway.&nbsp; And it’s a great concern to Canada because it is impacting their sovereignty.”</p><p>The US Environmental Protection Agency and the Coast Guard plan to propose their own updated ballast water rules this November.&nbsp;&nbsp;Lisa Jackson, who heads the EPA, says some kind of new accord is needed to end the confusion, “Right now we sort of have the worst of all worlds.&nbsp;&nbsp;We have individual states doing standards.&nbsp; We have shippers who I guess in some reality could have to meet the most stringent.&nbsp; But that situation is evolving.”</p><p>All sides say New York state will face enormous pressure to change its regulations to match the Federal standards -- even if they're less stringent. As negotiations and backroom talks continue, scientists say new invasive plants and animals are still arriving in the Great Lakes every year, many of them shipped in through the Seaway.</p></p> Mon, 11 Jul 2011 14:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-11/battle-over-ballast-waters-88934 Venture: Are tourists key to shrinking the trade deficit? http://www.wbez.org/story/venture-are-tourists-key-shrinking-trade-deficit-87434 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-04/IMAG0806.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Investors this week will be paying close attention to the stock market after last week's drop, but trade will also be a big focus.<br> &nbsp;<br> Thursday we find out just how much more stuff countries like China have been selling to us than we’ve been selling to them. The U.S. trade deficit last year was almost half a trillion dollars. But we do export more than we import in some areas – like dairy products, eggs, nuts, and rides on the Navy Pier ferris wheel.<br> &nbsp;<br> You may not have thought of that last one as an export. But, surprisingly, it is.<br> &nbsp;<br> If you think about what we export from Illinois, you probably think of corn, soybeans, farm equipment, but how about what people from around the world buy when they visit downtown Chicago?</p><p>It turns out everything an international tourist spends money on while they're in downtown Chicago, or elsewhere in the U.S., is counted as an export. That means a chocolate ice cream cone or cup of coffee or even intangibles like going up to the top of the Willis Tower are all considered U.S. exports.<br> &nbsp;<br> Mark Doms, chief economist at the U.S. Department of Commerce, helped explain it.<br> &nbsp;<br> ASHLEY GROSS: So if somebody comes here from Germany or Indonesia and buys a Frappuccino, that’s considered an export, so why?<br> MARK DOMS: Sure, so international trade simply means when someone from one country buys something from another country. So if someone from Japan buys a bottle of California wine in Japan, then that’s considered a U.S. export because there’s a non-U.S. person trading their money for a U.S. good. So then what if that Japanese person buys that bottle of wine not in Japan but, say, at a hotel in Chicago when they’re on vacation. So that’s still a foreign person purchasing a U.S. product.<br> GROSS: So how do you calculate that? Because you can’t go to a bicycle rental shop on the shores of Lake Michigan and say, What percentage of your sales did you sell to people from Canada or Germany?<br> DOMS: So we have to estimate this, and we estimate it using two pieces of information. First, from the Department of Homeland Security, we have a pretty good idea of how many people are coming to the United States, so we know the numbers. The second thing we do is there are surveys that ask people when they come and visit how much they spend. So if we know how many people are coming and know on average how much they spend, we can get a pretty good estimate of the total spending they do. So what we don’t have a very good idea of is where they’re spending that money – on hotels, bicycle rental shop or restaurants or tour buses or whatnot.<br> GROSS: Okay, so then the flip side of this is also true, so if an American goes overseas to Paris and buys a baguette, than that is considered an export to France and an import to the U.S.?<br> DOMS: Exactly. Because when you’re buying an import, say you’re in Chicago and buy a French-made product, I know the baguette would probably be stale by now, but say you buy some French chocolate, in some sense you are giving your money to buy a French product. Now if you were in Paris buying the exact same box of chocolate, that would be very similar, it’s an American citizen who’s purchasing a French product. That transaction just happens to take place on French soil versus American soil.<br> &nbsp;<br> Okay, but why is any of that important?<br> &nbsp;<br> HOLLY AGRA: Well, it’s definitely important when you think about jobs.<br> &nbsp;<br> Holly Agra is president of the tour boat company Chicago’s First Lady Cruises. And she’s on an advisory board to the U.S. Commerce Department about tourism.<br> &nbsp;<br> She says the U.S. could reduce its enormous trade deficit – and create more jobs - if we could attract more international tourists. But she says the U.S. has been losing market share in the global competition for tourists.<br> &nbsp;<br> Europeans are doing a better job by making it easier to get visas. By contrast, Agra says, Chinese people who want to come to the U.S. face a lot of obstacles.<br> &nbsp;<br> AGRA: You can wait as long as 45 days for your visa interview and you may have to travel as far as 1000 miles to get to the consulate center, there are only 5 consulate centers in all of China to process the visas.<br> &nbsp;<br> But she says building more consulates will take money and that’s tough when the U.S. government is so strapped.<br> &nbsp;<br> As for Chicago, we ranked 10th last year in the number of overseas visitors - behind places like Orlando and Honolulu. And we lost market share to places like L.A. and Las Vegas.</p><p>Agra says Illinois needs to do a better job of advertising itself overseas, so we can boost our exports of things like Frappuccinos and bicycle rentals.<br> &nbsp;<br> And now for our Windy Indicator, where we take the pulse of the economy from an unlikely place.<br> &nbsp;<br> DEANNE LOZANO: There are two forms, this is singing.<br> &nbsp;<br> Today, how are psychics doing?<br> &nbsp;<br> Deanne Lozano is showing me her healing bowls that she uses to break up bad energy. She says the economy’s bad energy is starting to break up – at least from her vantage point.<br> &nbsp;<br> LOZANO: This past year it’s been going up steadily, which is wonderful. Old clients are coming back and new clients are coming, so it’s great.<br> GROSS: Now I have to ask you, do you have a sense of when the Dow is going to hit 13,000?<br> LOZANO: No, I haven’t even thought about that.<br> GROSS: Could you read the Tarot cards for the U.S. economy?<br> LOZANO: Sure, what the heck. Let’s see what it comes up with.<br> &nbsp;<br> She has me pretend that I am the U.S. economy. I shuffle the deck three times.<br> &nbsp;<br> LOZANO: Okay, now I’m going to ask you to cut with your non-dominant hand into four piles.<br> &nbsp;<br> Then she has me pick six cards while thinking about the U.S. economy.<br> &nbsp;<br> GROSS: So what are the ones we’re getting here?<br> LOZANO: We have the ten of rods reversed, the six of pentacles, the three of pentacles, the world card, the five of swords and the page of pentacles. All the pentacles are good. The pentacles are about money. This is gain, this is abundance, and this is called works, and the page represents messengers about money. It still shows it’s depressed some, okay –<br> GROSS: Because it’s upside down?<br> LOZANO: Because it’s upside down. But we have the world card, and even though the world card is upside down, the world card is a very strong card so it’s very very positive. It’s saying the comeback is coming, but it’s a slow thing.<br> &nbsp;<br> But beware - she says the five of swords symbolizes bickering. So we’re probably not done with arguments over the debt ceiling.<br> &nbsp;<br> Next week our Windy Indicator slides into home base.</p></p> Mon, 06 Jun 2011 05:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/venture-are-tourists-key-shrinking-trade-deficit-87434 Skype: Microsoft's $8.5 Billion Mobile Bet http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-05-10/skype-microsofts-85-billion-mobile-bet-86345 <p><p>Microsoft built its empire on the PC. Its two cash cows, Windows and Office, are hard-core, old-school PC businesses.</p><p>But the PC business has grown stagnant. Microsoft's revenues from Windows have actually been <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/investor/EarningsAndFinancials/Earnings/PressReleaseAndWebcast/FY11/Q3/default.aspx" target="_blank">falling</a> lately.</p><p>The growth now is in smartphones and tablets — where Microsoft is getting clobbered by Apple (obviously) and Google (whose <a href="http://www.android.com/about/" target="_blank">Android</a> mobile operating system is wildly popular).</p><p>This, as much as anything, explains why Microsoft is paying <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/press/2011/may11/05-10CorpNewsPR.mspx" target="_blank">$8.5 billion</a> for <a href="http://www.skype.com/intl/en-us/home" target="_blank">Skype</a>, a company that lost money last year, and that most people use for free.</p><p></p><p>Skype is available on all of the big mobile operating systems. But a particularly tight, elegant integration with Microsoft's struggling Windows Phone operating system could be a big boost.</p><p>As Om Malik, who <a href="http://gigaom.com/2011/05/08/more-skype-rumors-big-news-soon-microsoft-in-the-mix/" target="_blank">broke the story</a> yesterday, <a href="http://gigaom.com/2011/05/09/why-microsoft-is-buying-skype-for-8-billion/" target="_blank">writes</a> in a post this morning:</p><p><blockquote></p><p>* It would give [Microsoft] a must-have application/service that can help with the adoption of the future versions of Windows Mobile operating system.</p><p>* However, <strong>the biggest reason for Microsoft to buy Skype</strong> is Windows Phone 7 (Mobile OS) ... The software giant needs a competitive offering to Google Voice and Apple's emerging communication platform, Facetime.</p><p></blockquote></p><p>A few other points from around the Web:</p><p>* Skype is also a natural complement to Microsoft's Xbox Kinect, the popular motion-capture game system. "With its camera, microphone and internet connection, Kinect is already set up for living-room videoconferencing," <a href="http://blogs.ft.com/fttechhub/2011/05/skype-may-be-the-glue-in-microsofts-multimedia-strategy/" target="_blank">FT's Tech Hub notes</a></p><p>* The WSJ says Skype is Microsoft's <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703730804576314854222820260.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories" target="_blank">biggest acquisition ever</a>. Did the company pay too much? "Hell yes," according to <a href="http://eu.techcrunch.com/2011/05/10/did-microsoft-overpay-for-skype-hell-yes-%E2%80%94-by-4-5-billion/" target="_blank">TechCrunch,</a> which reports that the second highest offer for Skype came from Google — and was only $4 billion. </p> Tue, 10 May 2011 10:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-05-10/skype-microsofts-85-billion-mobile-bet-86345 Groupon's secret: Everybody has a price http://www.wbez.org/story/business/2011-04-08/groupons-secret-everybody-has-price-84990 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-April/2011-04-10/groupon_wide.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>How much would you pay for a burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion rings, cheddar and bacon?</p><p>At Corner Burger in Brooklyn, Hilda Hampar charges $9.25. At that price, tables in her restaurant often sit empty.</p><p>So she made a deal with Groupon. It sent out an offer to its thousands of subscribers: $18 dollars' worth of Corner Burger food for nine bucks.</p><p>"The next day [after] the coupon came out, this place was full," she says. "People were waiting outside."</p><p>Good news, except for one daunting piece of math.</p><p></p><p>Groupon charges a 50 percent commission. That leaves only $4.50 for Hampar to pay for the food and the overhead. For Corner Burger to make money, it had to squeeze something more out of the coupon customer.</p><p>"If they come and spend exactly $18, then I don't make any money," she says. "But If they come in [as a] table of four and spend $50, $60, $70, I do make a profit."<strong></strong></p><p>And, even better, the Groupon might persuade some cheapskates to give Corner Burger a chance.</p><p>Economists call this price discrimination: The ability to sell the same product at different prices, depending on how much customers are willing to pay.</p><p>This was always the principle of haggling — which Monty Python got exactly right in <em>Life of Brian.</em> You remember the <a href="http://www.montypython.net/scripts/LOB-hagglescene.php" target="_blank">scene</a>:</p><p><blockquote></p><p>HARRY THE HAGGLER: Ten?! Are you trying to insult me?! Me, with a poor dying grandmother?! Ten?!</p><p>BRIAN: All right. I'll give you eleven.</p><p>HARRY THE HAGGLER: Now you're gettin' it. Eleven?! Did I hear you right?! Eleven?! This cost me twelve. You want to ruin me?!</p><p></blockquote></p><p>Haggling had perfect price discrimination. You could size up the rich folk and jack up the price. Or lower the price for the poor bloke walking away. Each time, you maximized your profit.</p><p>In the 1800s, though, with giant department stores opening, it became more efficient to post a single price. The volume of customers and sales was high, and the people making the sales weren't store owners but low-paid employees.</p><p>But merchants still wanted that haggle; they still wanted wanted to sell to the cheapskates.</p><p>So they invented coupons.</p><p>"If somebody is willing to scan the newspapers, clip the coupons, go to the store, and redeeem the coupon you can be fairly certain that that individual is a price-sensitive individual," says University of California, Irvine economist <a href="http://merage.uci.edu/Faculty/FacultyDirectory/FacultyProfiles.aspx?FacultyID=37" target="_blank">Richard McKenzie</a>.</p><p>Paper coupons had a good run. But somewhere in the past couple of decades, they ran out of steam. Once they started to show up everywhere — even on the store shelves — they stopped driving business like they used to. They just offered the same deal to everyone.</p><p>This is where Groupon comes in. Groupon is different in several ways. Here are a few:</p><p><ol></p><p><li>Huge discounts to get your attention. </li></p><p><li>A time limit to snatch it up so you'll jump in. </li></p><p><li>A high-tech shine: You can present your Groupon on a cellphone.</li></p><p><li>Customers pay upfront.</li></p><p></ol></p><p>Groupon (and its revenues) grew so quickly that Google reportedly offered $6 billion to buy it. And Groupon <a href="http://kara.allthingsd.com/20101203/breaking-groupongoogle-talks-end/" target="_blank">turned Google down</a>.</p><p>Now the coupon rush is on. This week in New York City, hundreds of <a href="http://www.dailydealsummit.com/" target="_blank">daily-deal companies came together</a> to look for investors and make deals. The place was full of people who said things like this:</p><p><blockquote></p><p>Using coupons is hip. The one thing Groupon has done for the whole space is make the coupon business sexy. Think about going on a date with your girlfriend: When was the last time you brought a coupon with you? And it's not an embarrassment anymore.</p><p></blockquote></p><p>The new coupon craze does have a downside. It took 100 years for paper coupons to overwhelm consumers. In just two years, there are now more than 400 daily-deal sites. Businesses report getting calls every day from another Groupon clone wanting to do a deal.</p><p>Hilda Hampar, the burger lady, just got a call from Google. It's getting into the business and wants her to offer another burger deal. She took it. Even if it brings her only 10 people, that's 10 new potential customers.</p><p>And if the lines are out the door?</p><p>"Let them wait," she says.<strong></strong> Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. </p> Fri, 08 Apr 2011 15:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/business/2011-04-08/groupons-secret-everybody-has-price-84990 Why Japan Will Bounce Back http://www.wbez.org/story/asia/2011-03-24/why-japan-will-bounce-back-84237 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/japanroad.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It's not that there aren't economic disruptions from the earthquake in Japan.</p><p>Two of Japan's major industries — electronics and auto manufacturing — both had some factories in the region where the earthquake hit.</p><p>Shinichi Sato works for Hino Motors, which makes trucks and buses in Japan. Hino also puts together axles for some Toyota vehicles. Their operations were shut down all last week, and the beginning of this week.</p><p>"This is not only Hino," Sato says. "All the automobile companies" are in the same situation.</p><p>There have been <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/03/24/134828205/a-country-divided-japans-electric-bottleneck" target="_blank">power outages</a>. And now worries they might run out of parts, some of which were made in the area. A single truck can require thousands of different parts, so a shutdown at one plant can have wide ripple effects.</p><p>So, how will Japan do?</p><p></p><p>The country, painfully, has been through something like this before. In 1995, an earthquake hit Kobe. In addition to the human toll, Kobe was a major industrial area.</p><p>"It was a great international port, they had 35 containerized berths," says Arthur Alexander, an economist at Georgetown University. "They were all knocked out of commission. There were the toppled freeway overspans that just came down. The railroads were twisted messes."</p><p>But, for all that, a lot of traffic found other routes.</p><p>"It turns out, further inland there were other transportation networks that survived," Alexander says. "So lot of the traffic was simply shifted over to those other arteries."</p><p>If you look at a graph of Japan's GDP for those years — the country's economic output — you can't even tell the Kobe earthquake happened. The economy just kind of rewired itself.</p><p>"One of the great things about modern economies is they have tremendous redundancy, resilience, robustness in the face of damage," Alexander says. "You couldn't plan it better, but it happened kind of automatically."</p><p>The Japanese economy has been stagnant for about two decades, and the Japanese government has substantial debt — partly from years of government spending to try to stimulate the economy. Rebuilding will mean budget cuts, or higher taxes, or more debt.</p><p>But, for all its problems, the Japanese economy is gigantic — about $5 trillion a year. So most economists don't see rebuilding from the quake as a major additional burden. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1301036868?&gn=Why+Japan+Will+Bounce+Back&ev=event2&ch=93559255&h1=Japan+In+Crisis,Trade,Planet+Money,Asia,Economy,Business,World,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=134830408&c7=1125&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1125&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110325&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c31=134454848,127424471,94427042,93559255,134454848&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Thu, 24 Mar 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/asia/2011-03-24/why-japan-will-bounce-back-84237 Q&A: The Economic Impact Of The Crisis In Japan http://www.wbez.org/story/asia/2011-03-17/qa-economic-impact-crisis-japan-83881 <p><p><strong>Is the crisis in Japan an economic disaster?</strong></p><p>Since World War II, Japan has developed a very advanced and resilient economy. That means that when this crisis is over, it's unlikely that there will be serious long-term economic impacts. The region affected accounts for only 4 percent of the country's gross domestic product, and it's only part of the region that's affected. The main question mark at this point is the situation with the nuclear reactors.</p><p><strong>Will the rebuilding effort be a sort of economic stimulus?</strong></p><p>It is true that when you rebuild, you often see a bump in GDP. You are hiring people to rebuild those roads, rebuild those houses. But the money has to come from somewhere. That means Japan's going to have to raise taxes, or cut spending elsewhere, or borrow more money.</p><p></p><p><strong>What will this mean for Japan's debt?</strong></p><p>Japan is one of the most indebted countries in the world. But people are still willing to lend money to Japan. The government can borrow money at a very low rate right now. It does seem that when the time comes to rebuild, the country will be able to borrow money if they need to.</p><p><strong>What will the effect of this be on the U.S. economy?</strong></p><p>Companies after previous natural disasters have really become obsessed with diversifying their supply chain — making sure they have multiple places to buy the things they need. There's a lot of redundancy in the system. You might expect some short-term disruptions, but these things tend to fix themselves relatively quickly.</p><p><strong>The most recent major disaster in Japan was the Kobe earthquake of 1995. What were the economic consequences of that?</strong></p><p>I have a chart of Japan's GDP, and if you look it's very hard to find the impact of the Kobe earthquake there. GDP increased after the Kobe earthquake.</p><p>But GDP doesn't measure lost buildings, it doesn't measure lost houses, it doesn't measure lost lives. There are an awful lot of things that just do not show up in the economic data. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1300396944?&gn=Q%26A%3A+The+Economic+Impact+Of+The+Crisis+In+Japan&ev=event2&ch=93559255&h1=Japan+In+Crisis,Trade,Government,Planet+Money,Asia,Economy,World&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=134631472&c7=1017&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1017&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110317&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=2&v21=D%3Dc2&c31=134454848,127424471,127414454,93559255,134454848&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Thu, 17 Mar 2011 15:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/asia/2011-03-17/qa-economic-impact-crisis-japan-83881 Why Are Food Prices Going Crazy? http://www.wbez.org/story/business/2011-02-16/why-are-food-prices-going-crazy-82433 <p><p>Global wheat prices more than doubled in the second half of last year, according to a new report from the <a href="http://www.worldbank.org/foodcrisis/food_price_watch_report_feb2011.html" target="_blank">World Bank</a>. The price of corn, sugar and cooking oil also soared.</p><p>Why are global food prices <a href="http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation/FoodPricesIndex/en/" target="_blank">skyrocketing</a>? Who is going to go hungry as a result? And what does it mean for the U.S.?</p><p>I recently put these questions to Abdolreza Abbassian, a food economist at the UN's <a href="http://www.fao.org/" target="_blank">Food and Agriculture Organization</a>. Here's what he told me.</p><p></p><p><strong></strong></p><p><strong>Skyrocketing Prices</strong></p><p>Abbassian attributed the price rise to several factors — some familiar to me (and probably to you), some less familiar.</p><p><strong>1. The rise of biofuels</strong>, like ethanol made from corn. This market, driven largely by government subsidies, has created demand that is what economists call "price inelastic" — demand stays strong even as prices rise.</p><p><strong>2. More demand from the developing world</strong>, particularly for meat. Livestock eat grain, so increasing demand for meat means increasing demand for grain. This source of demand has also been price inelastic, Abbassian said.</p><p><strong>3. Disappearing stockpiles.</strong></p><p>Because of WTO rules, the U.S. and Europe have been moving away from subsidies that led to vast reserves of wheat and corn.</p><p>Subsidies still exist in the U.S. and Europe, but they've taken a different form. Governments used to buy and stockpile surplus food from farmers. Now it's more common for governments to give farmers subsidy payments without actually buying any of the food they produce, Abbassian told me.</p><p>This sounds super wonky, but it has a huge impact on the price of food.</p><p>Big stockpiles mean that the supply of food remains relatively constant, even when there are disasters like the vast fires that destroyed last summer's Russian wheat crop.</p><p>But in the absence of stockpiles, unexpected shocks like those fires in Russia last summer have a huge impact on supply. That, in turn, contributes to huge price spikes.</p><p>"What you get is a world market that is increasingly tight, without much of a buffer," Abbassian told me. "Without a buffer, you have volatility. It's as simple as that."</p><p><strong>4. Speculation</strong></p><p>The volatility created by declining stocks is in turn compounded by speculation — traders betting on the rise or fall of prices.</p><p>Abbassian argued that bringing more transparency to commodities futures markets might mitigate this issue.</p><p>"If we know who is buying it and what are they buying it for, that may get those who are just there to gamble to be more cautious about their positions," he said.</p><p><strong>Who is going to go hungry?</strong></p><p>At any given moment, there are about a billion people in the world who don't have enough food to eat. When food prices go up, more people do go hungry — but the increase isn't as dramatic as you might think.</p><p>That's partly because many of the world's poorest people simply have no money and no access to food. Many live in countries where wars and other crises make it hard to get food to people. They would be hungry even if the price of food had not spiked.</p><p>What's more, in many poor countries, the local harvest is a more important factor than the price of global commodities. And many countries in Africa have had strong harvests of staples such as white corn and cassava.</p><p>One often overlooked region likely to be hit hard by the price increases is Central Asia, Abbassian said. This recent <a href="http://www.fao.org/giews/english/gfpm/GFPM_01_2011.pdf" target="_blank">FAO report</a> has lots of region-by-region detail.</p><p><strong>What does all this mean for the U.S.?</strong></p><p>Despite the fact that the price of staples like wheat, corn and sugar have risen by more than 50 percent in recent months, the price of food in the U.S. has barely budged — food prices here <a href="http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm" target="_blank">rose only 1.5 percent </a>over the past year.</p><p>That's because the price of food in the U.S. is driven largely by labor costs and other factors, rather than by the price of the ingredients.</p><p>"If you eat a loaf of bread in the West, 2 percent of the price may be the wheat-flour price," Abbassian said. "In the developing world, it's 70 percent."</p><p>What's more, Americans only spend <a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/September08/Findings/PercentofIncome.htm" target="_self">about 10 percent</a> of their income on food — a far lower percentage than what people in the developing world typically spend. So even when food prices do rise in the U.S., it takes a smaller bite out of the average household's budget. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1297888943?&gn=Why+Are+Food+Prices+Going+Crazy%3F&ev=event2&ch=93559255&h1=Trade,Developing+Economies,Planet+Money,Your+Money,Economy,Business,World,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=133744524&c7=1017&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1017&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110216&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=127424471,127413590,93559255&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Wed, 16 Feb 2011 13:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/business/2011-02-16/why-are-food-prices-going-crazy-82433