international trade

Blood, sweat and containerisation

The last episode of blood, sweat and luxuries aired on BBC3 last night. In this series, a bunch of UK consumers have been made to work on products that end up on British shelves. They stay with other workers for the duration. I've only caught two of them, but it was powerful stuff, if occasionally cringeworthy watching some of the Brits deal with it. A 'part time male model' in particular seemed to wear his outrage in front of the camera as an accessory, and mostly flounced off the jobs after an hour or so.

Last night's saw them working in a relatively small Phillipino components factory in Manila - called EMS - making small changes to a hard-drive wire for mp3 players in a cleanroom, looking out through a tiny slit in their blemish-free gowns. The factory is in Laguna, the 'Silicon Valley of the Philippines.' (Google found that in a copy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer from 2000. How did it do that??)

To begin with, they clown about; when the supervisor points out the workers are trained not to look up from their work regardless of what they hear, a couple of them take to banging on the windows - and indeed, no worker moves from their task. "Every unit takes 3 seconds, a single glance takes 3 seconds," points out the supervisor, "so you will fail to meet your output."

How does dumping cheap food exist?

Was reading this from Crooked Timber yesterday: Maria asks, how does OPEC exist in a world where of legal and institutional free trade? She says "I'm not looking for the realpolitik answer. That's pretty obvious. But what is the legal and institutional answer to this question?"

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