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Trade, Robots, and Industrial Development: Evidence and Policy Options

March 23, 2021




Presentation (PDF)

  • In recent decades, trade and international integration enabled a remarkable economic convergence. Several low-income countries leveraged strong export performance to rapidly industrialize and catch up with high-income countries. Despite this achievement, too many firms in developing countries remain poorly positioned to succeed in global markets. At the same time, a new threat is emerging. The automation of industrial production in developed countries—only accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic—could hinder the future growth of export manufacturing in low-income countries.

    In this talk, World Bank economist Paulo Bastos will draw on evidence from several recent studies to identify key drivers of firm-level upgrading and industrial development, including entrepreneurial ability, exports, foreign ownership, training, and learning by working. Bastos will then present insights from recent research on the implications of robotization for trade between developed and developing countries. Informed by this evidence, the talk will conclude with a critical discussion of policy options for promoting industrial development and trade-led growth.

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    Paulo Bastos (Speaker)

    Senior Economist

    Paulo Bastos is a Senior Economist with the Development Research Group of the World Bank in the Trade and International Integration Unit. His research interests include the drivers of firm performance in export markets, links between globalization and technological change, and the distributional impacts of trade and FDI. He has published in scholarly journals such as the American Economic Review, Journal of International Economics, Journal of Development Economics, Journal of Industrial Economics and International Journal of Industrial Organization. Prior to joining the World Bank, he held positions at the Research Department of the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Commission and the University of Nottingham. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Nottingham and a B.A. in Economics from the University of Porto.


    Martin Raiser

    Country Director for China and Mongolia, and Director for Korea

    Martin Raiser is the World Bank’s Country Director for China and Mongolia, and Director for Korea starting March 1, 2019. Mr. Raiser is leading a team that is managing an evolving partnership with China, a growing program of support to Mongolia, and a deepening knowledge partnership with Korea focused on innovation and technology. Mr. Raiser holds a doctorate degree in Economics (summa cum laude) from the University of Kiel, Germany, and degrees in Economics and Economic History from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences.


    Deon Filmer (Chair)

    Director of Research

    Deon Filmer is Director of the Research Group at the World Bank. He has previously served as Acting Research Manager in the Research Group, Co-Director of the World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realize Education’s Promise, and Lead Economist in the Human Development department of the Africa Region of the World Bank. He works on issues of human capital and skills, service delivery, and the impact of policies and programs to improve human development outcomes—with research spanning the areas of education, health, social protection, and poverty and inequality. He has published widely in refereed journals, including studies of the impact of demand-side programs on schooling and learning; the roles of poverty, gender, orphanhood, and disability in explaining education inequalities; and the determinants of effective service delivery.

  • The monthly Policy Research Talks showcase the latest findings of the World Bank’s research department, challenge and contribute to the institution’s intellectual climate, and re-examine conventional wisdom in current development theories and practice. These talks facilitate a dialogue between researchers and operational staff and inform World Bank operations both globally and within partner countries. Read More »