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  • Author: Julia Coronado, Simon Potter
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The US monetary system faces significant challenges from advances in technology and changes in the macroeconomy that, left unaddressed, will threaten the stability of the US economy and financial system. At the same time, low interest rates mean that central banks will not have the policy ammunition they had in the past during the next recession. The Federal Reserve needs new tools to meet its mandates of price stability and maximum employment. It also needs to preserve the safety and soundness of the financial system in a rapidly digitizing world. The authors propose a Fed-backed digital currency to solve both problems. Their proposal creates a regulated system of digital currency accounts for consumers managed by digital payment providers and fully backed by reserves at the Fed. The system would be limited in size, to preserve the functions and stability of the existing banking system. Fed backing would mean low capital requirements, which would in turn facilitate competition. Low fees and no minimum balance requirements in the new system would also help financial institutions reach the roughly 25 percent of the US population that is currently either unbanked or underbanked. Digital accounts for consumers could also provide a powerful new stabilization tool for both monetary and fiscal policies. For fiscal policy, it could facilitate new automatic stabilizers while also allowing the Fed to provide quantitative easing directly to consumers. This tool could be used in a timely manner with broad reach to all Americans.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Monetary Policy, Banks, Macroeconomics
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Julia Coronado, Simon Potter
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In the second part of their Policy Brief, Coronado and Potter discuss how the system of digital payment providers (DPPs) proposed in their first Policy Brief on this topic adds a new weapon to the monetary toolkit that could be implemented in a timely, effective, and inclusive manner. They describe how a digital currency backed by the Federal Reserve could augment automatic fiscal stabilizers and—more importantly—harness the power of “helicopter” money or quantitative easing directly to consumers in a disciplined manner. To implement QE directly to consumers, Coronado and Potter propose the creation of recession insurance bonds (RIBs)—zero-coupon bonds authorized by Congress and calibrated as a percentage of GDP sufficient to provide meaningful support in a downturn. Congress would create these contingent securities; Treasury would credit households’ digital accounts with them. The Fed could purchase them from households in a downturn after its policy rate hits zero. The Fed’s balance sheet would grow by the value of RIBs purchased; the initial matching liability would be deposits into the DPP system. The mechanism is easy for consumers to understand and could boost inflation expectations more than a debt-financed fiscal stimulus could.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Monetary Policy, Insurance
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Olivier Blanchard, Thomas Philippon, Jean Pisani-Ferry
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The measures that most governments took in response to the sudden collapse in economic activity during the COVID-19 lockdowns nearly exclusively focused on protecting vulnerable workers and firms. These measures included unemployment benefits, grants, transfers, loans at low rates, and tax deferrals. As lockdowns are lifted, governments must shift policies toward supporting the recovery and design measures that will limit the pain of adjustment while preserving productive jobs and firms. This Policy Brief explores how such measures can be designed, with particular emphasis on Europe and the United States. The authors propose a combination of unemployment benefits to help workers, wage subsidies and partially guaranteed loans to help firms, and debt restructuring procedures for small and medium-sized companies handicapped by excessive legacy debt from the crisis.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Government, Labor Issues, Unemployment, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Judit Fabian
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: International trade is often framed in starkly divergent terms: either countries choose multilateral trade agreements (MTAs) and advance the cause of global economic liberalization, or they choose preferred trade agreements (PTAs) and put the entire system at risk. Canada has a long track record of pursuing PTAs and with the Trump administration’s opposition to multilateralism, and longstanding opposition in elements of the Republican and Democratic parties, this trend will likely continue. The question is whether progress will come at the expense of the global trade system. Some economists believe PTAs to be trade-diverting, reducing trade with more efficient producers outside the agreement. Others insist that PTAs can create trade by shifting production to lower-cost producers in one of the participating countries. One prominent contrary argument holds that PTAs lead to discontinuities in tariff regimes between countries and regions, increasing transaction costs, disrupting supply chains, creating opportunities for corruption and harming global welfare, especially in developing nations. While debate continues about the effects of PTAs, a closer examination suggests that worries are overblown about their negative impacts on global trade flows. Evidence indicates that they support rather than harm the international trading system. Countries shut out of PTAs are more motivated to seek out agreements in new markets, increasing liberalization overall. They may also seek a reduction in most-favoured nation (MFN) tariffs, which would deprive PTAs of their major tariff benefits. Studies have found complementarity between preferential and MFN tariffs, revealing that PTAs promote external trade liberalization. Even if a PTA reduces a given country’s incentive to push for multilateral liberalization, it raises the odds of that country liberalizing its trade to avoid getting left behind. PTAs are a response to the difficulties of securing sweeping multilateral agreements. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements authorize them under GATT Article XXIV, GATS Article V, and the enabling clause, and the WTO facilitates a degree of governance over PTAs through its dispute settlement process. Over the past 25 years, countries have adopted these deals at a rapid pace. Between 1994 and 2005, the number of PTAs increased from 50 to 200. By April 2018, 336 were in effect. At the same time, global trade has increased significantly. Between 1994 and 2010, the volume of world merchandise exports more than doubled. The proliferation of PTAs has resulted in a rise in international trade governance, because the countries involved shape their relationships in line with the WTO agreements. This juridification makes PTAs subordinate to the international system rather than giving them room to dissolve it. Canada should therefore have no fear of pursuing PTAs within the larger framework of the effort to achieve multilateral trade liberalization.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Governance, Trade, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Canada, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Rawi Abdelal, Aurélie Bros
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Sanctions have become the dominant tool of statecraft of the United States and other Western states, especially the European Union, since the end of the Cold War. But the systematic use of this instrument may produce unintended and somewhat paradoxical geopolitical consequences. The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation in the field of energy are particularly illustrative of this phenomenon.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Sanctions, Geopolitics, Secondary Sanctions, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Gary Clyde Hufbauer , Zhiyaou (Lucy) Lu
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In early 2019, several important members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) submitted noteworthy proposals in a realm of international commerce that has evolved faster than rules to govern it: e-commerce or digital trade. While countries agree on less controversial subjects like banning unsolicited commercial electronic messages, the three leading WTO members—China, the European Union, and the United States—have big differences in their approaches to more challenging issues: data flows, data localization, privacy invasions by data collectors, transfer of source code, imposition of customs duties and internet taxes, and internet censorship. Their differing viewpoints lead Hufbauer and Lu to conclude that the prospect of reaching a high-level WTO e-commerce agreement is not promising. To reach an agreement, either most of the contentious issues must be dropped or the number of participating countries must be sharply reduced. A WTO accord, even of low ambition, would have value if only to establish basic digital norms on matters such as banning unsolicited commercial messages and protecting online consumers from fraudulent practices. A more ambitious accord covering the controversial issues should be negotiated in bilateral and/or plurilateral/regional pacts rather than in the WTO.
  • Topic: Economics, World Trade Organization, Finance, Privacy, Data
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, North America, United States of America, European Union
  • Author: David Reifschneider, David Wilcox
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The Federal Reserve faces two important monetary policy challenges: First, since the Great Recession it has struggled to move inflation convincingly up to the 2 percent target level. Second, during the next recession it will struggle to deliver enough support to the economy unless the recession is unusually mild. As a result, the search is on for alternative policy frameworks that might allow the Fed to achieve its monetary policy objectives more effectively. Among the alternatives is average inflation targeting (AIT). The basic idea is simple: Instead of aiming to return inflation over the medium term to the target rate of 2 percent, the Fed would aim to return the average of inflation over some period to the target rate. The crucial innovation of AIT is that when inflation has been running below the target rate, it would have the Fed aim for above-target inflation in the future, in order to bring average inflation up toward the target. Simulations of the Fed’s workhorse econometric model of the US economy (the FRB/US model) suggest that AIT would be a weak addition to the Fed’s policy toolkit for dealing with recessions and persistently low inflation. In addition, simple versions of AIT would sometimes compel the Fed to run an undesirably restrictive monetary policy. AIT is thus not a very appealing alternative to the current framework.
  • Topic: Economics, Global Recession, Monetary Policy, Federal Reserve
  • Political Geography: North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Sherman Robinson, Karen Thierfelder
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The terms of the US-China trade war change often, but the tariff escalations have inflicted documented economic damage on both countries. Expanding the conflict will only increase the damage and reverberate across the world economy. This Policy Brief uses a computable general equilibrium model of the global economy to analyze three scenarios that could unfold in coming months. The first scenario is the current situation (as of June 2019). Two additional scenarios assume implementation of proposed US tariffs and Chinese responses. The models project the situation after the two countries and the rest of the world adjust across a time horizon of three to five years. For the United States, higher tariffs raise prices and reduce demand for consumers and producers. For China, the tariffs raise the prices of consumer goods but have less direct impact on producers, because the Chinese have exempted some intermediate inputs. US exports and imports decline under all three scenarios. But China can successfully divert its exports away from the United States and escape maximum economic damage.
  • Topic: Economics, Global Markets, Finance, Trade Wars, Trade
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jacob Funk Kirkegaard
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: For years China has been one of the world’s most rapidly growing sources of outward foreign direct investment. Since peaking in 2016, however, Chinese outward investments, primarily to the United States but also the European Union, have declined dramatically, especially in response to changes in China’s domestic rules on capital outflows and in the face of rising nationalism in the United States. Concerns about growing Chinese influence in other economies, the ascendant role of an authoritarian government in Beijing, and the possible security implications of Chinese dominance in the high-technology sector have put Chinese outward investments under intense international scrutiny. This Policy Brief analyzes the most recent trends in Chinese investments in the United States and the European Union and reviews recent political and regulatory changes both have adopted toward Chinese inward investments. It also explores the emerging transatlantic difference in the regulatory response to the Chinese information technology firm Huawei. Concerned about national security and as part of the ongoing broader trade friction with China, the United States has cracked down far harder on the company than the European Union.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, National Security, Foreign Direct Investment, Investment
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Lee G. Branstetter, Britta Glennon, J. Bradford Jensen
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: For decades, US multinational corporations (MNCs) conducted nearly all their research and development (R&D) within the United States. Their focus on R&D at home helped establish the United States as the unrivaled leader of innovation and technology advances in the world economy. Since the late 1990s, however, the amount of R&D conducted overseas by US MNCs has grown nearly fourfold and its geographic distribution has expanded from a few advanced industrial countries to many parts of the developing world, creating an innovation system that spans the globe. Like many aspects of globalization, including the offshoring of manufacturing over recent decades, the globalization of R&D raises concerns about US competitiveness and loss of technological leadership. At the same time, the spreading geographic location of innovation presents opportunities for US-based companies if the right policies are adopted to seize them. The research presented in this Policy Brief demonstrates that US innovators continue to remain involved in important ways in US MNCs' global R&D activities, and fears of a hollowing out of US capacity to innovate—based probably on previous fears about the hollowing out of US-based manufacturing—may be overstated. Indeed, the large and growing pool of highly educated scientists and engineers in the developing world could increase the rate of global productivity growth, to the advantage of US-based companies and the world in general. The authors conclude that a productive way to capitalize on the globalization of MNC R&D is not to oppose it but to combine emerging-market talent with MNC experience so that innovation can flourish to improve global living standards and fuel economic progress.
  • Topic: Economics, Globalization, Multinational Corporations, Risk, Innovation
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America