In Elenite, Bulgaria at the Materials, Methods, and Technologies International Conference, presenting my research paper, “Assessing China’s Bilateral and Regional Free Trade Agreements in Steel Exports: A more useful strategy for the industrialized world in fighting FTA’s than filing WTO anti-dumping grievances”
Fact about the paper: The past few years have seen sharp increases in Chinese steel exports, leading to heightened protectionist practices within the US and the EU. This study analyzed the merits of these anxieties by analyzing the direction of Chinese steel to determine if Chinese steel is flowing to their FTA partners moreso or to developed countries without FTA’s in place. The study finds that that regional Chinese trade partners have imported more steel exports than their bilateral partners and as such, there could be an economic rationale for China’s non-FTA partners to negotiate new, mutually beneficial FTA’s.
Country Manufacturing Value-Added (% of GDP) xx% (World Bank)
Country’s most Important Industries: IT, telecommunications, textiles, transportation
Economic Freedom ranking: #60
WWII fact: Bulgaria were on the side of the Axis powers for 3 1/2 years until they were overtaken by the Red Army, in which time they switched allegiances to the Allies.
The country was communist and under the rule of the USSR from the end of World War II until the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989.
Bulgaria borders the Black Sea on its east and is otherwise bordered by other countries in Europe, which are generally less economically viable than other European countries. The beach area was first created in 1958 by the communists and was not open to the public. Bulgaria derives much of its economy on trade associated with the Black Sea and is a member of the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation.
Because of the Russian-sponsored project transporting natural gas to Bulgaria via the Black Sea (the South Stream gas transit pipeline), many sunken, medieval pirate ships have been discovered.
Prague, Czech Republic (Study Abroad planning)
Country Manufacturing Value-Added (% of GDP): 27% (World Bank)
Country’s most Important Industries: energy, automobiles & automobile components, electrical engineering, machining
Economic Freedom ranking: #21
WWII fact: Prague was the only Central European capital to avoid the bombs of the last century’s wars and is one of Europe’s best-preserved historical cities.
The Czech Republic is the longtime industrial center of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, and more than 40% of its workers are employed in industry, which is well above the EU average and the highest of any country in Europe (EuroStat, 2016). The reliance and emphasis on production can be partly credited to its historic and current proximity to markets. The country has one of the highest economic concentrations of GDP originating from automobile design, manufacture, and supply-chain around the world (Czech Invest, 2016). A total of 54.2% of all exports are products within the automotive industry (CZ, 2016). In fact, the country supplies parts to every automobile manufacturer in Europe (Czech Ministry of Trade, 2016). There are numerous automobile R&D and production centers in the country, including Volkswagen (the owner of the Škoda automobile factory), Toyota, and Hyundai. The automobile industry is credited with giving the country a high per-capita income as compared to its European peers.
Since the Velvet Revolution, the Czech Republic has dived into capitalism and globalization. Today, the country boasts one of the fastest-growing economies in the EU. After joining the EU in 2004, its global competitiveness has made it the heart of many European global networks. The economy grew from less than $50 billion GDP in 1989 to over $200 billion today.
This influx in economic development is led by the automobile industry. A tour of the Skoda factory will allow further understanding of the modern production process, particularly the design and production of their new 7-speed automatic transmissions. Skoda has produced automobiles since 1895, and since 2000 has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen. It currently produces more than 1 million cars annually. During the German occupation, the factory was utilized for production of German military vehicles. Like many Czech industries, Skoda went through massive management changes after the Velvet Revolution and the influx of privatization brought by the fall of communism. During this phase, Volkswagen beat out French automaker Renault to win equity rights in Skoda. The company also produces in India and was voted the most dependable car brand in the UK in 2015.
A Toyota production facility employing 3,000 workers is located right outside of Prague, and production exceeds 300,000 automobiles annually. This factory touts its environmentally-friendly vehicles and has been certified as ISO 14001:2004. The company specializes in small vehicles and claims “modern safety and ecological technologies” as core production features.
Czech Food: Cooks weren’t used to using fresh ingredients in the communist days so fresh food is not common and the culture does not have a history of restaurants and eating out. Soup (polevka), beef sirloin with gravy/boiled sausage/ketchup/mustard inside a roll (the Czech rohlík), and goulash/meat stew with white rice are all common.
Prague was the last democracy to govern in Eastern Europe, but in 1948, the country became communist and found itself under the rule of the USSR for more than 40 years. In 1968, reformists galvanized efforts to allow freedom of the press and other reforms until the USSR organized 200,000 troops to storm the country crush the rebellion. The Velvet Revolution was a non-violent shift to capitalism and democracy, starting as a student protest in November 1989 on International Students’ Day, leading to a non-violent era of political upheaval which ultimately led to the first elections since 1946 in June 1990, thus overturning the one-party communist system. Students have taken an active role in shaping Prague. The following picture shows one of many types of classrooms at Anglo American University in Prague.
St. Wenceslas Square has been the epicenter of all the major political protests, speeches, and demonstrations over the years, from the Proclamation of Independence in 1918 to events in the German occupation, to communism, and now capitalism. St. Wenceslas Square includes the historic center of Prague, a World Heritage Site and the famous Charles Bridge, first constructed in 1357 during the reign of King Charles IV, who also founded the first University in the city. It was first established in 1348 as a horse market.
Politických vězňů (Political Prisoners’ Street) commemorates those brave citizens who were imprisoned for their political beliefs, in most cases those beliefs under communist rule.
The building pictured below on Political Prisoners’ Street served as the Prague Gestapo (German) headquarters and many local Czech citizens were held here and interrogated. Anyone speaking out or leading a campaign could be labeled as an enemy of the state.
Also in Prague is a venue containing the Munich Agreement document, a contract stipulating that Britain and France would cede the Sudetenland of the Czech Republic. This agreement occurred with unacknowledged Czech protests and is seen as a low point in the history for the country.
Operation Anthropoid was a Czech code name for a plot to assassinate key leaders of the Nazi occupiers in Prague in May 1942, in conjunction with British special operations and the Czech government in exile. The Czechs successfully killed a major Nazi leader, which drew forceful German retaliation, including the killing of 5,000 Czech political leaders. 750 German troops pursued the leaders of Operation Anthropoid to St. Cyril Church where they had been secretly taking refuge. After two hours of gunfire, the plotters committed suicide. The photo below shows how flowers and wreaths are laid at the battle scene in commemoration of these brave Czechs today.
The country’s first democratic/capitalist leader, Vaclav Havel, is credited with redirecting its economy after playing a key role in the Velvet Revolution.
The Bohemian Crystal Glass Factory is known across the continent for quality glassware production, including world-renowned vases, champagne bottles, fruit bowls, and premium spirits containers. Glass factories first began production in the 13th century in this region of Bohemia. Bohemian glass surpassed Venetian glass as the standard in the region several centuries later. Decorative glass eventually became a popular standard of the region’s glass production, and today the Czech Republic is known for its superior glass production.
There were more than 100 glassmakers in the region in the 1700s. In 1989, some of the glassworks organizations were bought by family members of the original owners, including the Bohemian Crystal Glass Factory. Today they have 120 employees. The glass is made of 40% recycled glass and 60% chemicals.
The Communism and Nuclear Bunker Tour of Prague and the Museum of Communism are both relevant examples of how the limitations and suppression of the old communist regime set back the production capabilities of the country for much of the twenty-first century. While the country was the center of production for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the advent of communism thwarted much of the usual production capabilities. This tour highlights relevant communist and capitalist moments between the 1940s and the Velvet Revolution, including information related to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s coordinated assassinations of capitalist leaders in Prague during the 1950s. The bunker could hold 150 people for 2 weeks. The VIP Hotel above the bunker was for VIP’s and important people in the Communist Party. An escape tunnel went to Wenceslas Square 15 meters away.
The picture below shows the interrogation room in the bunker. Drugs would be often used on prisoners in efforts to make them give up more information.
The picture below shows a map with the various nuclear bombs in Czechoslovakia pointed West, along with the points of the various Communist armies.