Today (15 January) marks “Blue Monday” – the day of the year widely regarded as the most depressing. As the will to stick with your New Year’s resolution fades and payday still feels beyond reach, it's not uncommon to be feeling a bit fed-up.
However, to help counter this and provide you with some good news on the unhappiest day the year, the IOE&IT Daily Update brings you some of the cheerier stories from the world of international trade.
After an eight-year hiatus on new members joining, the WTO could be set to welcome the African nation of Comoros imminently, according to an announcement from the trade body.
Negotiations for the country, which is categorised as a Least Developed Country (LDC) by the UN, have been held over the first weeks of January, with Comoros' accessions package to be submitted at the WTO’s next ministerial conference (MC13) at the end of February.
WTO director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala expressed the importance of LDCs joining the WTO, saying she “hope[s] that, in the future, we can do better and move faster”, noting the 22 countries still hoping to accede to the WTO.
Kamaldini Souef, minister for post, telecommunications and digital economy, and head of Comoros’ delegation to the WTO, described the accession as a “lever for development with the objective of making Comoros an emerging country by 2030”.
Comoros is an island nation situated in the Indian Ocean. The past five decades have seen it work towards achieving political stability after it gained independence from France in 1974.
It primarily exports agricultural products, such as vanilla, cloves and perfume essence, which are subject to price fluctuations. It derives much of its income from tourism and remittances from citizens living overseas.
Dogs off the menu
A strong week for South Korean dogs, who can breathe a collective sigh of relief at the end of the dog meat trade.
The BBC reports that legislation prohibiting the slaughter and sale of dogs for food has been passed, as younger generations have turned their backs on "boshintang", the nation’s signature dog meat stew.
Lee Chae-yeon, a 22-year-old student, attributed the trend towards the growing population of pets in South Korea, telling the BBC: “Dogs are like family now and it's not nice to eat our family.”
The ban will come into effect in 2027, with the three-year window designed to support those working in South Korea’s 1,600 dog meat restaurants and 1,150 dog farms find alternative means of employment or production.
Rail freight rise
Amid global shipping strife, rail freight has seen an uptick in popularity.
One of the leading logistics company globally – Maersk – announced it will switch to rail in order to circumvent delays caused by the Panama Canal crisis.
This reflects broader post-pandemic trends, with the Xi'an-Duisburg rail route, which delivers Chinese-manufactured products to Europe, seeing an increase in traffic, rising from a single journey a day to two trains travelling in both directions.
This is mirrored by UK government targets to increase the rate of rail freight by 75% by 2025, announced at the end of last year.
The rationale is largely environmental, emphasising the move away from using lorries to transport goods. A single train can reportedly replace 129 heavy goods vehicles (HGV), while each tonne of freight moved by rail produces only a quarter of the carbon emissions produced by road.
Following a year of fretting about geopolitical fragmentation and a corresponding increase in protectionism, there has been some good news on developing friendly partnerships.
Last week (12 January), the meeting of Vietnam and Indonesia’s leaders – presidents Vo Van Thuong and Joko Widodo – received widespread media attention.
Reuters reports that the two nations have forged closer bonds with talks on enhancing security in the South China Sea and greater cooperation between their fishing industries, alongside discussions on boosting trade, including the prospect of Vietnamese electric vehicle producer Vinfast building a US$400m factory in Indonesia.
Bilateral trade stood at US$14.1bn in 2023 – an increase of 23% from 2022 – with hopes that this could reach US$15bn this year, per Reuters.