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  • Author: Edwin M. Truman
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: After the Obama administration's four failed attempts to win congressional approval of the 2010 quota and governance reform for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it is time to recognize that implementation of the agreement may be indefinitely delayed. The international community must therefore prepare for the likelihood of a new world order in which the IMF augments its funding and reforms its governing structure without US participation. This Policy Brief examines four options for the IMF: First, wait for the US Congress to pass the necessary legislation. Second, complete a new, augmented IMF quota and governance package and again wait for the United States to give its formal approval. Third, bypass the US Congress and risk losing the US veto over a few important decisions on the structure of the IMF. Fourth, let the Fund adopt a reform and financing package within a structure that potentially excludes US participation and eliminates the US veto in the new entity.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, International Monetary Fund, Governance, Reform
  • Author: Ryan Rutkowski
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Faced with slowing economic growth, Chinese policymakers now recognize that the service sector of the economy—transportation, communications, finance, and health care—could spur economic activity and employment. The catch is that China must reform these and other areas to accomplish this goal. Chinese leaders have outlined an ambitious agenda for reform, but myriad vested interests could slow or block their plans. This Policy Brief evaluates the steps taken so far and the difficulties that lie ahead in implementing them. If policymakers fail to reform and open up the service sector, they run the risk of seriously impairing China's growth prospects.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Labor Issues, Financial Crisis, Reform
  • Political Geography: China
  • Author: Theodore H. Moran, Lindsay Oldenski
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Japan is reemerging as the most important source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States. In 2013 Japanese firms were the largest source of new inflows of FDI into the United States for the first time since 1992, injecting almost $45 billion of fresh investment into the US economy in that year alone. Moran and Oldenski show how Japanese investment in the United States differs from that of other countries along several dimensions. These differences not only make FDI by Japanese firms especially valuable but point to some important policy goals for attracting it. Although the automotive sector is the single largest industry for Japanese investment in the United States, the focus should not be on competing to attract the auto industry in particular nor should any active industrial policy of "picking winners" be pursued. Japanese investment is unique because of its research and development intensity, manifested across a number of industries in which Japanese multinationals invest other than automobiles. US policy should focus on reinforcing and expanding the factors that attract high-performing firms and high-value production stages to the United States, regardless of industry.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Foreign Direct Investment, United States
  • Political Geography: Japan
  • Author: Avinash D. Persaud
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Solvency II, which the European Parliament adopted in March 2014, codifies and harmonizes insurance regulations in Europe to reduce the risk of an insurer defaulting on its obligations and producing dangerous systemic side effects. The new directive tries to achieve these aims primarily by setting capital requirements for the assets of insurers and pension funds based on the annual volatility of the price of these assets. Persaud argues that these capital requirements will impose an asset allocation on life insurers and pension funds that does not serve the interests of consumers, the financial system, or the economy. The main problem with Solvency II is that the riskiness of the assets of a life insurer or pension fund with liabilities that will not materialize before 10 or sometimes 20 years is not well measured by the amount by which prices may fall during the next year. Solvency II fails to take account of the fact that institutions with different liabilities have different capacities for absorbing different risks and that it is the exploitation of these differences that creates systemic resilience. To correct this problem, Persaud offers an alternative approach that is more attuned to the risk that a pension fund or life insurer would fail to meet its obligations when they come due and less focused on the short-term volatility of asset prices.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Budget
  • Author: Jose De Gregorio
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Latin America's recent economic performance has been disappointing. After a very strong recovery from the Great Recession, growth has slowed considerably, and prospects for 2015 are dim. Among the seven largest economies in the region, output is expected to contract in Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela, and Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru are projected to grow by only about 3 percent. The decline was not caused by external factors but was mostly cyclical in nature and a result of low productivity. Although monetary and fiscal policies may still have a role in supporting demand in some instances, the main problem in the region is not a lack of demand but low productivity growth. Efforts must be made to foster productivity. Institutional weakness must be addressed and inequality reduced if sustainable high growth is to resume.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Latin America
  • Author: William R. Cline
  • Publication Date: 06-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: For nearly three decades, the dominant view on the role of the financial sector in economic development has been that greater financial depth facilitates faster growth. However, the Great Recession has shaken confidence in that view because of the contributing role of high leverage and such financial innovations as collateralized subprime mortgage-backed assets and derivatives on them. Recent studies from the International Monetary Fund and Bank for International Settlements have argued that "too much finance" reduces growth. In an environment of new doubts about finance following the Great Recession, these studies finding that there can be too much of it seem to have struck a responsive chord. Cline warns that these findings should be viewed with considerable caution. He first shows that correlation without causation could similarly lead to the conclusion that too many doctors spoil growth, for example. He the demonstrates algebraically that if the variable of interest, be it financial depth, doctors, or any other good or service that rises along with per capita income, is incorporated in a quadratic form into a regression of growth on per capita income, there will be a necessary but spurious finding that above a certain point more of the good or service in question causes growth to decline. In some situations, finance can become excessive; the crises of Iceland and Ireland come to mind. But it is highly premature to adopt as a new stylized fact the recent studies' supposed thresholds beyond which more finance reduces growth.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, International Monetary Fund, Financial Crisis
  • Author: Caroline Freund, Sarah Oliver
  • Publication Date: 06-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Regulatory standards protect consumers from defective products, but they impede trade when they differ across countries. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) seeks to reduce distortions in the automobile and other industries. Freund and Oliver evaluate the equivalence of automobile regulations in the United States and the European Union in terms of catastrophe avoidance and estimate the trade gains from harmonization. The UN 1958 Agreement on automobiles, which harmonizes regulations among signatories, is used to quantify the trade effect of regulatory convergence. The removal of regulatory differences in autos is estimated to increase trade by 20 percent or more. The effect on trade from harmonizing standards is only slightly smaller than the effect of EU accession on auto trade. The large economic gains from regulatory harmonization imply that TTIP has the potential to improve productivity while lowering prices and enhancing variety for consumers.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Treaties and Agreements, European Union
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: William R. Cline
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Using his European Debt Simulation Model (EDSM), Cline examines whether and to what extent additional debt relief is needed in Greece under the new circumstances. Greece's debt burden is significantly lower than implied by the ratio of its gross debt to GDP, because of concessional interest rates on debt owed predominantly to the euro area official sector. The IMF's call for debt relief recognizes the lower interest burden but argues that the gross financing requirement is on track to exceed a sustainable range of 15 to 20 percent. But in the Fund's June Debt Sustainability Analysis that threshold would not be exceeded until after 2030. A sustainability diagnosis based on such a distant future date would seem at best illustrative rather than definitive. The euro area creditors might, nonetheless, be well advised to provide two types of interest relief: an earmarked portion of interest otherwise due to finance a public works employment program; and additional interest relief to compensate for budget shortfalls caused by growth below plan levels. The sovereign debt situation should be alleviated by carrying out the bank recapitalization directly from the European Stability Mechanism to the banks, rather than through the sovereign as the intermediary. The large increase in the ratio of gross debt to GDP imposed by bank recapitalization is mostly an optical illusion because there would be a corresponding rise in state assets, but this increase could, nonetheless, further erode perceptions of sustainability.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, International Monetary Fund, Financial Crisis, Budget
  • Political Geography: Greece
  • Author: Jeffrey J. Schott
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Korea's decision to delay joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks was a tactical mistake. It is now left with primarily two options to participate: (1) ask to join the TPP, if possible between signature and entry into force, or (2) accede to the TPP after the agreement is ratified and goes into effect—either alone or as part of a group of countries seeking TPP membership. For Korea the burden of adjustment in the TPP—in terms of liberalization commitments—will probably be higher than had it joined as an original signatory. As a major trading nation, it stands to reap large gains from increased trade and investment with TPP countries and should opt to join the TPP as soon as the window for entry reopens.
  • Topic: Economics, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: South Korea
  • Author: Lindsay Oldenski
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Reshoring—when firms shift manufacturing production back to the United States—has been getting a great deal of publicity lately. Oldenski examines the most recent data on the global operations of US firms and concludes that although some companies have reversed their previous offshoring decisions, there is no evidence of a widespread reshoring trend. But this should not be considered a defeat for US competitiveness. US multinationals continue to move operations offshore, but they also continue to grow stronger, producing more in their US operations and adding more to total US exports. The structure of US manufacturing has changed, but the ability to adapt to the changing nature of global business has been and will continue to be crucial to the continued growth of US manufacturing.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Monica de Bolle
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Public lending by the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) may have done more harm than good in Brazil, adversely affecting real interest rates and productivity growth. Specifically, BNDES's large amounts of subsidized lending are responsible for substantial credit market segmentation, choking off monetary policy transmission. As a result, to maintain price stability the Central Bank of Brazil is forced to raise interest rates more than it might do otherwise in the absence of BNDES lending. Restoring Brazil's capacity to grow in the medium term requires a thorough rethinking of the role of BNDES. In particular, the bank's lending rates should be aligned with market prices, term and risk premia, while taking into account that, with an adequate transparency framework, public development banks can increase private sector participation instead of crowding it out.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: Brazil, Latin America
  • Author: Theodore Moran
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: For more than a decade, China has complained about what it maintains has been a pattern of erratic and politicized treatment of Chinese investors when they attempt to acquire US companies. The Chinese want the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to be more open and transparent in its rulings and to not discriminate against Chinese firms. The United States is not likely to accede to these demands in any formal or legal manner. Moran proposes practical steps to address the concerns of Chinese investors without diluting CFIUS procedures. He provides a national security threat assessment filter, which allows Chinese investors—like investors of all nationalities—to determine when their proposed acquisitions might pose a genuine threat and when any such threat is simply not plausible. He also suggests that first-time Chinese investors seek expert counsel to overcome the secrecy surrounding CFIUS objections to figure out how to proceed with problematic acquisitions.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Foreign Direct Investment
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Simeon Djankov
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In the 15 years of President Vladimir Putin's rule, state control over economic activity in Russia has increased and is greater today than in the immediate postcommunist era. The concentration of political and economic power in Putin's hands has led to an increasingly assertive foreign policy, using energy as a diplomatic tool, while plentiful revenues from extractive industries have obfuscated the need for structural reforms at home. The West's 2014 sanctions on Russia have brought about economic stagnation, and with few visible means of growth, the economy is likely to continue to struggle. Watching Europe struggle with its own growth, in part because of deficiencies in its economic model, Russia will not be convinced to divert from state capitalism without evidence of a different, successful economic model. Changing course can only be pursued in the presence of political competition; the current political landscape does not allow for such competition to flourish
  • Topic: Economics, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Jeffrey Schott, Eujiin Jung, Cathleen Cimino-Isaacs
  • Publication Date: 12-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Of all the free trade agreements (FTAs) concluded by Korea with its major trading partners since the turn of the century, the Korea-China FTA may be the largest in trade terms. It is, however, far from the best in terms of the depth of liberalization and the scope of obligations on trade and investment policies. Korea and China agreed to liberalize a large share of bilateral trade within 20 years, but both sides incorporated extensive exceptions to basic tariff reforms and deferred important market access negotiations on services and investment for several years. Political interests trumped economic objectives, and the negotiated outcome cut too many corners to achieve such a comprehensive result. The limited outcome in the Korea-China talks has two clear implications for economic integration among the northeast Asian countries. First, prospects for the ongoing China-Japan-Korea talks will be limited and unlikely to exceed the Korea-China outcome. Second, Korea and Japan need to strengthen their bilateral leg of the northeast Asian trilateral and the best way is by negotiating a deal in the context of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Politics, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, Korea
  • Author: Jacob Funk Kirkegaard
  • Publication Date: 12-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: After surviving its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and the near collapse of its common currency, Europe is now engulfed by hundreds of thousands of desperate migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa. It needs new and permanent migration institutions and resources not only to accommodate the influx of refugees but also to set up a new border control system throughout the region. These demands pose a challenge for European policymaking as serious as the euro crisis of the last five years. Kirkegaard proposes a migration and mobility union, to be implemented gradually, with the goal of comprehensively reforming European migration policy.
  • Topic: Economics, Migration, Politics, Refugee Issues
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: William R. Cline
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The latest semiannual fundamental equilibrium exchange rate (FEER) estimates find that the US dollar is now overvalued by about 10 percent, comparable to levels in 2008 through early 2010 and again in 2011. Unlike then, the current strong dollar does not reflect a weak renminbi kept undervalued by major exchange rate intervention by China. Instead, China's current account surplus has fallen sharply relative to GDP, and its recent intervention has been to prevent excessive depreciation rather than to prevent appreciation. Additionally, declines in the real effective exchange rates (REERs) for major emerging-market economies and resource-based advanced economies, driven by falling commodity prices in recent months, have strengthened the dollar. Recent increases in the REERs for the euro area and Japan have removed their modest undervaluation identified in the last FEERs estimates in May, and the Chinese renminbi remains consistent with its FEER. The dollar's rise by nearly 15 percent in real effective terms over the past two years could impose a drag of nearly one-half percent annually on US demand growth over the next five years. As the Federal Reserve moves to normalize US monetary policy, it may need to consider a gentler rise in interest rates than it might otherwise have pursued, both to temper possible further strengthening of the dollar in response to higher interest rates and to help offset the demand compression from falling net export
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy, GDP
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: Angel Ubide
  • Publication Date: 12-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The rules and buffers created in the last few years to enable the euro area to withstand another sudden stop of credit and market-driven panic in one or more of its member states are welcome steps, but they are widely recognized as inadequate. Ubide proposes creating a system of stability bonds in the euro area, to be issued by a new European Debt Agency, to partially finance the debt of euro area countries—up to 25 percent of GDP. These stability bonds should be initially backed by tax revenues transferred from national treasuries, but ultimately by the creation of euro area–wide tax revenues, and used to fund the operations of national governments. They could also be used for euro area–wide fiscal stimulus, to complement the fiscal policies of member states. Such bonds would strengthen the euro area economic infrastructure, creating incentives for countries to reduce their deficits but not forcing them to do so when such actions would drive their economies further into a downturn. The bonds would permit the euro area to adopt a more flexible or expansionary fiscal policy during recessions.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy, GDP
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Jeffrey Schott, Euijin Jung, Cathleen Cimino-Isaacs
  • Publication Date: 12-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Of all the free trade agreements (FTAs) concluded by Korea with its major trading partners since the turn of the century, the Korea-China FTA may be the largest in trade terms. It is, however, far from the best in terms of the depth of liberalization and the scope of obligations on trade and investment policies. Korea and China agreed to liberalize a large share of bilateral trade within 20 years, but both sides incorporated extensive exceptions to basic tariff reforms and deferred important market access negotiations on services and investment for several years. Political interests trumped economic objectives, and the negotiated outcome cut too many corners to achieve such a comprehensive result. The limited outcome in the Korea-China talks has two clear implications for economic integration among the northeast Asian countries. First, prospects for the ongoing China-Japan-Korea talks will be limited and unlikely to exceed the Korea-China outcome. Second, Korea and Japan need to strengthen their bilateral leg of the northeast Asian trilateral and the best way is by negotiating a deal in the context of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Korea
  • Author: Caroline Freund
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: As the United States struggled with unemployment and other effects of the Great Recession in January 2010, President Barack Obama set the goal of doubling exports within five years and creating 2 million new export-related jobs. Four years later, however, exports are less than halfway toward that goal and the rate of export growth is slowing. More worrisome, the administration's strategy failed to boost average export growth from historical levels, despite the robust recovery in international trade after the collapse of 2009. The National Export Initiative (NEI) has come up short.
  • Topic: Economics, Industrial Policy, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Maritime Commerce
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Jeffrey J. Schott, Cathleen Cimino
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Proponents of liberalized trade and finance were relieved when the global economic crisis in 2008 produced a broad range of pledges from countries around the world to avoid new barriers to trade and investment (see Evenett 2013). These promises, designed to avert a replay of the Great Depression of the 1930s, were largely honored when it came to classic forms of protection (tariffs and quotas). But the spirit of that pledge was violated as countries shifted from traditional forms of protection to behind-the-border nontariff barriers (NTBs), including local content requirements (LCRs)—policies mandating that local suppliers of goods, services, and even entire projects be favored by governments and private firms, even when foreign firms offer lower costs, better quality, and faster delivery.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Financial Crisis, Reform
  • Author: Ángel Ubide
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Inflation in the euro area is too low, just 0.9 percent year-on-year in December 2013, and inflation expectations, measured from inflation derivative contracts, have shifted lower, indicating that markets expect some small probability of deflation in 2014 and average inflation over the next five years in the 1.25 to 1.5 percent range. The European Central Bank (ECB), however, seems to be content with this outlook. Its current projections show a very slow economic recovery and inflation at just 1.3 percent in two years' time. Yet the ECB describes the risks to inflation as balanced. This puzzling assessment might be due to the fact that the ECB's definition of price stability is less precise than that employed by other central banks, and some ECB members may interpret the definition as setting a ceiling, rather than a target, for inflation at close to but below 2 percent. But if one considers the ECB's self-assessment of success since its creation—achieving 2 percent inflation on average—its current inflation forecast of 1.3 percent would fall short of achieving its price stability mandate.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Joseph E. Gagnon, Brian Sack
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The dramatic increase in the Federal Reserve's balance sheet since 2009 has attracted the attention of economists, pundits, and ordinary citizens. The amount of assets held by the Fed recently crossed $4 trillion and will likely continue to rise to a peak of about $4.5 trillion. This run-up in asset holdings has resulted from the Fed's large-scale asset purchase programs, which were intended to support economic growth. However, a side-effect of these asset purchases is the creation of unprecedented amounts of liquidity in the financial system.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Tomas Hellebrandt
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The Great Recession, which cost tens of millions of jobs, a collapse of asset values around the world, and threatened the global financial system, has generated renewed concern over the long-standing issue of the fairness of the distribution of wealth and income in many societies. Economic inequality has increased in the United States and many other advanced economies over the past 20 to 30 years. This trend generated less worry in the boom years, when unemployment rates were low and cheap credit enabled consumers to borrow and maintain higher standards of living, masking the impact of growing income disparity on consumption patterns and perceptions of well-being.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Poverty, Social Stratification, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy, Ireland
  • Author: C. Fred Bergsten
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: A bipartisan majority in both Houses of Congress is insisting that the United States include a provision in future trade agreements that would bar currency manipulation. A letter from 60 senators to Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew and United States Trade Representative (USTR) Michael From an on September 23, 2013, called for "strong and enforceable foreign currency manipulation disciplines" in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) while 230 members of the House of Representatives told President Barack Obama on June 6, 2013, that "it is imperative that (the TPP) address currency manipulation.to create a level playing field for American businesses and prevent more US jobs from being shipped overseas." The trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation proposed by congressional trade leaders on January 9, 2014, establishes the avoidance of currency manipulation as a "principal US negotiating objective" in its future trade agreements.
  • Topic: Economics, Emerging Markets, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Jacob Funk Kirkegaard
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Mark Twain once wrote an essay about the difficulties of learning what he called "The Awful German Language." Similar barriers to comprehension seem to plague those trying to explain recent German economic performance. By most measures, Germany has the best functioning labor market among large economies in the West, with levels of employment reaching those in the United States at the end of the turbo-charged 1990s. A debate has stirred, however, about whether this success has come with a price—specifically, whether Germany's domestic structural reforms have lowered living standards for Germany's low income workers and worsened income inequality and whether Germany is fortuitously and perhaps selfishly riding a wave of strong foreign demand for German exports.
  • Topic: Economics, Industrial Policy, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Germany
  • Author: Edwin M. Truman
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The vital role played by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in stabilizing the world economy and financial system is in serious jeopardy. The failure in mid-January by the US Congress to approve IMF reform legislation that had been pending for more than three years did not simply bring to a screeching halt a decade of slow progress reforming the governance of the Fund to make it more representative, legitimate, and therefore effective. Congress's balking on this issue also did substantial, actual damage to the US reputation around the world, as the leaders of many countries called into question Washington's ability to deliver on promises made in international economic agreements.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, International Monetary Fund, Reform
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In recent years, despite a history of enmity and armed conflict that never really ended after the Korean War more than 60 years ago, South Korea has been a major investor in North Korea, and South Korean firms have employed more than 50,000 North Korean workers. South Korea's stated goal has been to encourage sufficient economic progress by North Korea, emboldening it toward establishing a meaningful basis for reconciliation and, ultimately, national unification. The expectation, or at least the hope, has been to use economic engagement to lessen the North's direct state control over the economy and to encourage the development of a middle class that might demand greater internal opening. The goal, as enunciated by former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, has also been to foster a rise of interest groups with an enhanced stake in peaceable external relations.
  • Topic: Economics, Human Rights, International Trade and Finance, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Joseph E. Gagnon
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: For the major advanced economies and the world as a whole, insufficient aggregate demand—that is, too little spending—impeded recovery from the Great Recession of 2008-09. By manipulating their currencies to boost their net exports, many countries made a bad situation worse for their trading partners, which saw demand shifted away. The world needs policies that increase total demand rather than policies that fight over the allocation of the existing amount of demand.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, International Monetary Fund
  • Political Geography: Europe, Asia, Switzerland, Singapore
  • Author: Marcus Noland, Cullen S. Hendrix
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Myanmar is in the midst of a long and difficult multifaceted transition, involving political liberalization, economic reform, and the resolution of multiple long-standing civil conflicts. The country has a history of ethno-religious conflict and separatism. Civil-military relations are muddy, and business-military-state relations are similarly opaque. An ongoing natural resource boom, and the blessings and curses that come with it, further complicates these developments. Given the country's evident institutional weaknesses, external policy anchors could play a critical role in this transition. Hendrix and Noland address the possible role for such international precommitment mechanisms—in particular, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)—in Myanmar's growing extractive sector.
  • Topic: Economics, Ethnic Conflict, Governance, Reform
  • Political Geography: Asia, Myanmar
  • Author: Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Cathleen Cimino
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Unconventional extraction methods, namely horizontal drilling and fracking, are transforming global energy production, consumption, and trade. Th e extraction of large amounts of oil and gas from shale formations has led to an unprecedented surge of domestic production in the United States. Th e US Department of Energy (DOE) is now processing more than 40 applications from domestic producers to export liquefi ed natural gas (LNG). While experts still disagree about the magnitude and duration of the energy boom, we are at the "dawn of a US oil and gas renaissance" (Houser and Mohan 2014).
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, North America
  • Author: Li-gang Liu
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: China's property market has slowed significantly since the first half of 2014, with sharp declines in sales and a buildup in the inventory of new homes. This sharper than expected downturn—which has affected not only second- and third tier smaller cities but also first-tier megacities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou—contrasts with last year's buoyant sales and double-digit price surge. Compounded by fears of a default in the shadow banking system and the perception of a highly leveraged Chinese economy, the sudden declines in the property sector are being watched closely. Many commentators believe this could be a turning point for the sector, triggering a hard landing of the Chinese economy and even a financial crisis. Over the last decade, China's property sector has become an important pillar for the country's growth as well as the key source for elevated commodity prices. A property market slump would hurt other sectors, as well as drag down resource-rich economies that rely heavily on China to buy their exports.
  • Topic: Economics, Financial Crisis, Urbanization
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, United Nations
  • Author: Anna Gelpern
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The escalating crisis in Ukraine has prompted the United States and Europe to impose the toughest economic sanctions against Russia since the end of the Cold War. Continued instability and military conflict in eastern Ukraine are straining Ukrainian finances. Despite a generous international support package, the government faces shrinking revenues, rising costs, and a spike in foreign debt payments over the next two years.
  • Topic: Cold War, Debt, Economics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Asia
  • Author: Jeffrey J. Schott, Cathleen Cimino
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a megaregional agreement to lower barriers to trade and investment and promote economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region, has been a dynamic process with a number of countries joining the talks in midstream. Since negotiations began in March 2010, participation in the TPP talks has expanded several times to include Malaysia (October 2010), Vietnam (December 2010), Canada and Mexico (October 2012), and Japan (July 2013). In November 2013, Korea announced its interest in participating in the TPP and began consulting with the countries involved. The TPP now has 12 participants. Korea is still considering whether to become lucky 13.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Malaysia, Canada, Asia, Vietnam, Korea, Mexico
  • Author: Avinash D. Persaud
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Bailouts and bail-ins of failing financial institutions have been hotly disputed in the global financial crisis of the last five years. At the height of the crisis, several failing banks were bailed out with taxpayer money so they could service their debts, but as public outrage mounts, policymakers are increasingly looking at bailing in these institutions before using taxpayer funds. Bail-ins, also called haircuts, require the troubled institution's creditors to write off some of the debt or agree to a restructuring of the debt, which reduces their holdings. The public has demanded the imposition of these costs on creditors and bond - holders, arguing that if bad lending as well as bad borrowing went unpunished it would be encouraged. Additionally, the yawning fiscal deficits that have followed bailouts have led to unpopular fiscal retrenchment.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Markets, Financial Crisis, Reform
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: William R. Cline
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: This semiannual review finds that most of the major international currencies, including the US dollar, euro, Japanese yen, UK pound sterling, and Chinese renminbi, remain close to their fundamental equilibrium exchange rates (FEERs). The new estimates find this result despite numerous significant exchange rate movements associated with increased volatility in international financial markets at the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2014, and despite a major reduction in the price of oil. The principal cases of exchange rate misalignment continue to be the undervalued currencies of Singapore, Taiwan, and to a lesser extent Sweden and Switzerland, and the overvalued currencies of Turkey, New Zealand, South Africa, and to a lesser extent Australia and Brazil. Even so, the medium-term current account deficit for the United States is already at the outer limit in the FEERs methodology (3 percent of GDP), and if the combination of intensified quantitative easing in Japan and the euro area with the end to quantitative easing in the United States were to cause sizable further appreciation of the dollar, an excessive US imbalance could begin to emerge.
  • Topic: Economics, Foreign Exchange, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Japan, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil, New Zealand
  • Author: Anders Åslund
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Ukraine has experienced a year of unprecedented political, economic, and military turmoil. The combination of Russian military aggression in the east and a legacy of destructive policies leading to pervasive corruption has plunged the country into an existential crisis. The West, meanwhile, has been largely paralyzed with uncertainty over how to assist Ukraine without reviving Cold War hostilities. Yet all is not lost for Ukraine. A tenuous ceasefire, along with the successful elections of President Petro Poroshenko in May and a new parliament in October offer an opportunity for economic reform. If the current ceasefire in the east holds, Ukraine has a great opportunity to break out of its vicious circle of economic underperformance. Yet, the window of opportunity is likely to be brief. The new government will have to act fast and hard on many fronts to succeed.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Economics, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine
  • Author: Giang Ho, Paolo Mauro
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: With economic growth in advanced economies still lackluster or elusive, much hope for world prosperity rests on projections of continued strength in developing and emerging economies. On average, the economic growth rate in these economies was roughly twice as high—on an unweighted per capita basis—as in the advanced economies during the past decade. According to the forecasts analyzed in this Policy Brief, this superior performance is projected to extend into the next two decades.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Author: Natalia Aivazova
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Five years since the global economic crisis began in 2008, many of the world's advanced economies are still struggling with sluggish growth and high levels of joblessness, especially among younger workers. In June 2013 the European Council expressed concern that “youth unemployment has reached unprecedented levels in several Member States” and called for “urgent action.” Much of the debate in Europe and the United States has focused on fiscal and monetary measures; while macroeconomic policy can address cyclical problems, a wide consensus recognizes the need to address structural challenges. One such challenge is a mismatch between the skills demanded by employers and those available among the population, especially younger workers. This mismatch can be addressed in part through the implementation of apprenticeship programs. The European Council recently concluded that “high quality apprenticeships and work-based learning will be promoted, notably through the European Alliance for Apprenticeships.” However, in the United States, where many are struggling to find jobs after graduating, apprenticeship programs hardly draw government and private-sector resources. Boosting apprenticeships could give both European and US workers the much-needed skills and competitive edge.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Labor Issues, Youth Culture
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe
  • Author: Edwin M. Truman, Allie E. Bagnall
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The term sovereign wealth fund (SWF) had not been coined a decade ago. By 2007, economists and the financial world were alternatively excited about or alarmed by the growing influence of these institutions, though in fact many of them had been around for decades. Politicians in countries in which the funds invested generally welcomed the additional financial resources from abroad while expressing concern about the motivations of investors and what they feared could be threats to political, economic, and financial security. The general public in the countries in which the funds were based realized at the same time that political leaders were investing large amounts of national wealth at home and abroad with limited disclosure, and they wanted to know more.
  • Topic: Economics, Globalization, International Trade and Finance, Foreign Direct Investment, Sovereign Wealth Funds
  • Author: Nicholas Borst
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The Chinese financial system has undergone almost continuous reform since the dismantling in the 1980s of the Soviet- style system where only one state-controlled bank existed. Government efforts to create a financial system that adheres to international best practices of commercial lending accelerated in the 1990s (box 1). Reforms progressed quickly during this period, but they were accompanied by excessive credit growth and a massive increase in nonperforming loans, threatening the solvency of some banks and the financial stability of the entire economy. The risk of these weaknesses was dramatized by the 1997 Asian financial crisis, in which several nearby countries were crippled by plunging currency values, rising interest rates and difficulties servicing their foreign-held debts.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: China
  • Author: Ángel Ubide
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The euro area has made significant strides in the last six months in designing a banking union. The goal has been to centralize supervisory decision making and improve the management of failing banks while protecting European taxpayers and imposing costs on creditors through so-called bail-ins to reduce moral hazard. Euro area leaders have reached some political agreements, and legislation is being prepared for eventual adoption by the European Parliament and then the various member states. This progress has been hailed as a step in the right direction, with particular praise for the euro area leaders' plan to endow the European Central Bank (ECB) with supervisory powers and create new rules for managing troubled banks.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Regional Cooperation, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Anders Åslund
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Since gaining independence in December 1991, Ukraine has vacillated between the European Union and Russia for economic and political cooperation. Until recently neither had offered Ukraine much, but in the last few months, things have heated up. Ukraine's intention to sign an Association Agreement for political association and economic integration with the European Union has raised a furor in the Kremlin, which is now trying to block Ukraine from aligning itself with the European Union. Moscow has imposed trade sanctions in clear violation of its obligations in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is pursuing an intense confrontation.
  • Topic: Economics, Treaties and Agreements, World Trade Organization, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Asia, Moscow
  • Author: William R. Cline, Joseph E. Gagnon
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Five years after the Federal Reserve and the Treasury allowed the investment bank Lehman Brothers to fail, their actions (or inaction) remain a focus of debate. Some argue that it was an inconsistent policy to have let Lehman fail while making emergency loans to save other large financial institutions in the same time frame. In this Policy Brief we present evidence that the Fed and Treasury had a sound reason to have bailed out other institutions while letting Lehman fail. Simply put, Lehman was insolvent—probably deeply so—whereas the other institutions arguably were solvent. In addition, the other institutions had abundant collateral to pledge, whereas what little collateral Lehman had to pledge was of questionable quality and scattered across many affiliated entities. Thus, federal officials, at least in hindsight, appear to have followed the dictum of Walter Bagehot (cited above), which has guided central banks for almost 150 years.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Edwin M. Truman
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: At the annual meeting of the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds (IFSWF) held in Oslo, Norway on October 2-3, 2013, the forum reviewed and subsequently released its second report on members' experiences in the application of the Santiago Principles for sovereign wealth funds (SWFs). The Santiago Principles were adopted by a group of countries with such funds in September 2008 in response to concerns about threats to political, economic, and financial security in countries receiving SWF investments. The objective was to promote the transparency and accountability of SWFs for the countries of origin as well as the countries in which the funds were investing.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Sovereign Wealth Funds
  • Political Geography: Norway, Latin America, Santiago
  • Author: David J. Stockton
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Janet Yellen, who will serve as the 15th chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System after her likely confirmation in December 2013, has the experience, intelligence, and judgment to be an excellent successor to Ben S. Bernanke. But she will need to employ all those strengths, and then some, to deal with the challenges facing the nation's central bank. Her success in confronting these challenges will profoundly affect the United States and world economies. Five key challenges await her.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: William R. Cline
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Since the previous estimates of fundamental equilibrium exchange rates (FEERs) in this series in May (Cline 2013), numerous exchange rates have moved substantially in response to the announcement in late May that the US Federal Reserve would likely begin to "taper" its quantitative easing program of large-scale asset purchases. The new estimates here again take as their point of departure the medium-term current account projections of the most recent World Economic Outlook (WEO) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF 2013b). However, because of a seeming inertia in the Fund's projections despite large exchange rate moves, this round of calculations pays special attention to compiling alternative estimates for economies with large changes in exchange rates.
  • Topic: Economics, Foreign Exchange, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Monetary Policy, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Joseph E. Gagnon
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: There is a long-standing debate among economists and policymakers on the benefits of flexible versus fixed exchange rates (Klein and Shambaugh 2010). In principle, flexible exchange rates allow a country's central bank to focus on stabilizing economic growth and inflation, which are the ultimate goals of monetary policy. However, some argue that in practice central banks often do not use their powers wisely and it may be better to restrict their freedom by requiring them to peg their currency to that of an important trading partner. Others note that flexible exchange rates are far more volatile than fundamental factors can explain (Flood and Rose 1995), raising the possibility that they may introduce wasteful cross-sectoral fluctuations in economic activity. One common viewpoint is that flexible exchange rates may be fine for large countries but that the smallest countries are better off with fixed exchange rates (Åslund 2010).
  • Topic: Economics, Foreign Exchange, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, United Kingdom
  • Author: Robert Z. Lawrence, Lawrence Edwards
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Manufacturing is a key sector of the US economy. Although value added in manufacturing represented just 11.9 percent of GDP in 2012, manufacturing activity is strongly associated with economic growth, because manufacturing serves as the fulcrum of supply chains that combine and process raw materials and services to produce goods.1 In addition, the sector is among the most dynamic—accounting for about 70 percent of US spending on business research and development—and it regularly outstrips the rest of the economy in productivity growth. Over the long run, the contributions of US manufacturing to total output growth have been steady. Measured in 2005 dollars, for example, the share of manufacturing in US output was about the same in 2005 as in 1947.
  • Topic: Economics, Emerging Markets, Industrial Policy, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Simon Johnson, Jeffrey J. Schott
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In July 2013, the United States and the European Union launched negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The talks aim to craft a comprehensive accord matching or exceeding the reforms achieved in their previous trade pacts. Since both sides have included financial services in prior free trade agreements (FTAs), they implicitly recognized that the TTIP accord would also cover this sector. But what will be included in the financial services chapter is still subject to debate.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe
  • Author: Simon Johnson, Peter Conti-Brown
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act increased the powers of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (hereafter the Board) along almost all dimensions pertaining to the supervision and operation of systemically important financial institutions. With Ben S. Bernanke's term as Fed chair ending in January 2014, much of the public's attention has focused appropriately on the identity, views, and experience of candidates for the successor, whose influence on bank regulation will be considerable. President Barack Obama's selection of current Board vice chair Janet L. Yellen as chair—a highly qualified choice—comes at the end of a long public debate on this nomination.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Financial Crisis, Governance, Reform