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  • Author: Marek Dabrowski, Marta Dominguez-Jimenez
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: In the 2010s, the economic situation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) deteriorated as a result of lower oil and other commodity prices, a new round of domestic political instability, continuous intra-regional conflicts, stalled economic and governance reforms and, finally, the COVID-19 pandemic. The growth of real GDP, which slowed after the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, further decelerated in the second half of the 2010s and became negative in 2020 as result of the COVID-19 shock. Fiscal balances have deteriorated, even in the oil-exporting countries, and public debt has grown rapidly. MENA countries continue to face numerous long-term socio-economic and institutional challenges including high unemployment (especially youth unemployment), low female labour-market participation rates, the poor quality of education, costly and ineffective public sectors, high military and security spending, high energy subsidies and trade protectionism. Only comprehensive long-term reform programmes can address these challenges. The European Union is MENA’s second largest trading partner after the region itself, and is one of two main sources of foreign direct investment and a major aid donor. However, given the critical importance of the MENA region to its own security and stability, the EU’s engagement in conflict resolution and in supporting economic and political transformation of the region is insufficient and should be intensified. The EU should also update and upgrade its existing association agreements with the countries of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean, including their free trade provisions.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Governance, European Union, Trade, COVID-19, Economic Crisis
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Fredrik Erixon
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE)
  • Abstract: This Policy Brief takes stock of the EU Trade Policy Review – the Commission’s proposed strategy for trade. Despite appearances, the Review doesn’t come close to its billing as a strategy for the new geopolitics of trade. In fact, the Review is weak on key geopolitical developments and rather gives the impression that the EU doesn’t have an ambition to shape outcomes. Obviously, the Review is anchored in Europe’s general economic climate: defensiveness on globalization, competition and digitalization. It follows that Europe is getting increasingly detached from world developments. There are several good parts in the Review. The Commission wants to revive and reform the World Trade Organisation, and it’s clear about what factors that have made the Geneva-based trade body dysfunctional. The Review also acknowledges that the EU will seek a closer alliance with the United States and use that for constructive purposes. Finally, it is welcome that the Commission proposes some new instruments for dealing with market distortions caused by foreign subsidies and protectionism in government procurement. All these initiatives can achieve good outcomes. However, they all require that Europe makes changes in its own policies and positions. The bad parts in the Review are Europe’s weak agenda for getting better market access in the growth regions in the world and its continued passivity on matters related to China. Europe’s main trade-policy challenge in the next decade is to ensure that businesses and consumers in Europe get better integrated with a world-market dynamism that predominantly will come from the Asian region. Absent a realistic and medium-term strategy for dealing with challenges connected to the rise of China, Europe will have difficulties getting the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment approved. Europe needs an actionable agenda for addressing bilateral frictions with China and problems that occur outside bilateral trade. Finally, the ugly part of the trade strategy are all the commercial policies in the EU – with strong effects on trade – that aren’t recognized or only casually mentioned in the Review. The latter category includes the ambition to introduce an autonomous carbon border tax on imports. Such a policy comes at a high political and economic cost, and the measure’s effect on reducing global carbon emissions is at best very negligible.
  • Topic: Globalization, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Treaties and Agreements, European Union, Geopolitics, Digital Economy, Trade
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Brendan Brown
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Hudson Institute
  • Abstract: This policy study is based on the newly released book, Europe’s Century of Crises under Dollar Hegemony: A Dialogue on the Global Tyranny of Unsound Money, by Brendan Brown and Philippe Simonnot, published by Palgrave Macmillan. One hundred years ago, the United States emerged from the First World War and its immediate aftermath, including the Spanish flu pandemic, as the global monetary hegemon, exercising immense power over the Old Continent. This new power quickly became the source of huge instability in Europe, culminating in the collapse of the Weimar Republic. After World War II, the Bretton Woods system set new contours for US monetary hegemony, ultimately resulting in the great economic crisis of 1973–75. This woeful history continues to the present day: Dollar hegemony has not been a force for good. It could have been different. The United States and Europe would both have gained from a US hegemony based on sound money principle. Instead, the guiding characteristic of US monetary power has been inflation, especially around election time. According to the doctrine made notorious by Treasury Secretary John Connally, who served under President Nixon, “the dollar is our currency but your problem.” The US monetary regime’s further lurch toward fundamental unsoundness during the COVID-19 pandemic is not getting the new century of US monetary hegemony off to a new start. The “known unknown” is whether forces will emerge in Europe that will again challenge US inflationary dominance, as occurred under Germany’s leadership in the 1970s. Could high inflation in the post-pandemic US economy cause US monetary hegemony over Europe to crumble?
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, History, Monetary Policy, Hegemony, Transatlantic Relations, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Danièle Hervieu-Léger
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Robert Schuman Foundation (RSF)
  • Abstract: The European Union is one of the main promoters of free trade agreements (FTAs). This position is not new: since the mid-2000s, and even more so in the decade now ending, the Commission, supported by the Council and the European Parliament, has constantly sought to negotiate and conclude new trade agreements. This strategy has paid off. In 2018, almost a third of trade between Europe and the rest of the world was covered by the preferential provisions of an FTA, a figure that is expected to increase significantly in 2020, following the entry into force of the agreement with Vietnam, and to rise in the coming years to more than 40% if the agreements currently being negotiated with Mercosur, the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and possibly the United Kingdom come into force.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, European Union, Free Trade, Trade
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Fredrik Erixon
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE)
  • Abstract: Protectionism and mercantilism are yet again at the centre of global economic policy. “America First” is the guiding ethos in a good part of US international economic policy. Beijing is taking a larger stake in China’s economy and hand out privileges to domestic firms. Europe is increasingly occupied by achieving “strategic autonomy” and to create European champions at the expense of competition. Old and disreputed economic doctrines are getting a new lease on life. Behind this new orientation in international economic policy stands the old idea that a strong economy is an economy not dependent on others. Human prosperity – our story of rags to riches – tells a very different story. Prosperity is generated when people collaborate and improve our collective intelligence. Open economies are much better at creating wealth because they operate by the principle that people should work for others, not themselves. They specialize – and in the process, they get far more dependent on others. Dependency is a factor of success; economic sovereignty is a sure way of depriving people of opportunity and prosperity.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Global Markets, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Europe
  • Author: Matthias Bauer
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE)
  • Abstract: The EU’s Mobility Package 1 legislative proposal was once intended to improve the working conditions of truck and small-van drivers in the EU. Initially, the European Commission also aimed at securing a smooth and non-discriminatory functioning of the Single Market. Some provisions of the current package may indeed have a positive impact on drivers’ working conditions, e.g. limits on working time and obligatory rest periods. However, over the past three years, the legislative procedure towards the current draft of the Mobility Package 1 was hijacked by the protectionist agenda of Western Europe’s haulage and logistics businesses. Spearheaded by the French government, some national governments and Members of the European Parliament called for tighter freight cabotage and return-to-home provisions to shield Western European transport markets against competition from other EU Member States. The proposed restrictions to cross-border trade in the European Single Market are up for a vote in the European Parliament in mid-2020. Learnings from the Covid-19 situation in the Single Market: In its response to Covid-19 border measures, the European Commission called on EU governments “to act immediately to temporarily suspend all types of road access restrictions in place in their territory (weekend bans, night bans, sectoral bans, etc.) for road freight transport and for the necessary free movement of transport workers.” These actions are step in the right direction and should continue even once the Covid-19 crisis is over, yet they are the exception not the rule in the EU. The rise of protectionist measures to Member States’ national transport markets vividly demonstrates the need to abolish freight cabotage restrictions in defence of the Single Market. For the sake of a greener, more inclusive and better functioning of the European Single Market, lawmakers need to abandon all existing restrictions on freight cabotage services in the EU27 and vote against new restrictions such as cooling-off periods and return-to-home policies. Maintaining legal restrictions on the freedom to provide transport services in the EU’s Single Market would increase tensions between economically less-developed countries in Central and Eastern Europe and more developed Western European countries – economically, mentally and politically. Discrimination on the basis of EU passport: Cabotage restrictions infringe upon the fundamental values stipulated in the Lisbon Treaty. Furthermore, data on transport flows and employment demonstrate that cabotage regulations disproportionately discriminate against Eastern European companies and citizens. Available data shows that Polish (4,574 enterprises), Romanian (1,864), Lithuanian (519), Hungarian (398), Slovakian (347), and Dutch (309) haulage companies are disproportionately affected by current EU-imposed cabotage restrictions. By contrast, only a very small number of French freight transport companies (an estimated number of 70 enterprises) directly depend on intra-EU cabotage services. In France, only about 800 workers employed in road freight transport services are directly affected by the restrictions. The numbers are substantially higher for other, particularly Central and Eastern European, countries: 20,100 persons in Poland, 9,800 in Romania, 6,300 in Lithuania, 3,400 in the Netherlands, 2,300 in Portugal, 2,200 in Hungary, and 2,100 in Germany. Exclusion from economic opportunity: Freight cabotage restrictions increase the administrative burden for internationally operating haulage companies across the EU. Industry assessments indicate that additional limitations on international freight transport services within Europe’s Single Market would raise the prices of transporting goods in Western Europe. Negative impacts are estimated for employment, wage growth and the process of economic convergence in Central and Eastern Europe. In addition to the EU’s existing freight cabotage restrictions, new limits on cross-border freight transport in the EU – such as EU law-imposed return-to-home trips and EU-mandated cooling-off periods – would deprive many Eastern European households of economic opportunities and impede the process of economic convergence and converging standards of living in the EU. Environmental harm: The return-to-home policies proposed in the latest Mobility Package 1 would require companies to send drivers back to operational centres or the driver’s place of residence. Return-to-home provisions would substantially increase the number of empty trailers on European roads. Accordingly, and adding to the adverse environmental impacts caused by existing freight cabotage restrictions, new EU-imposed return-to-home obligations would deteriorate Member States’ carbon emission footprints. The highest increases would take place in the EU’s major transit countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. While this is recognised by the European Commission, the majority of the European Parliament’s Transport Committee is still pushing for such policies to be implemented as the EU law. How to save the EU’s fundamental values and the freedoms of the Single Market – lessons from aviation: In 1993, the EU completed the EU’s internal aviation market for passenger cabotage. Guided by the European Commission, EU lawmakers should follow the same rationale for freight cabotage services to render the Single Market more single and less discriminatory. In the process towards a real, more inclusive Single Market, EU lawmakers must abstain from catering Western European companies’ vested commercial interests, which stifle economic opportunity across the EU and stand in opposition to the EU’s fundamental principles for international trade and a competitive and social market economy.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Law, European Union, Global Markets, Legislation, Shipping, Protectionism
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • 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: Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, Badri Narayanan Gopalakrishnan
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE)
  • Abstract: This paper is co-authored with Badri Narayanan, PhD, Associate Professor at University of Washington, Consultant at McKinsey Global Institute, UN ESCWA, FAO, Commonwealth Secretariat and GTAP Research Centre. Since 1998, the WTO Members have applied a moratorium against tariffs on international electronic transmissions (commonly referred to as the WTO ‘E-Commerce’ Moratorium). However, some WTO Members have recently debated whether the moratorium remains in their economic interest, given the potential revenues that might be generated by imposing tariffs on electronic transmissions. The study examines the impact on India, Indonesia, South Africa and China (and the general case for developing countries) and concludes that imposing such tariffs would be fiscally counter-productive. Putting aside any legal questions, a country that opted out of the moratorium may apply tariffs affecting a wide range of cross-border business activities. Our research shows that if countries ceased to uphold the moratorium and levied import duties on digital goods and services, they would suffer negative economic consequences in the form of higher prices and reduced consumption, which would in turn slow GDP growth and shrink tax revenues. Yet our research indicates that the payoff in tariff revenues would ultimately be minimal relative to the scale of economic damage that would result from import duties on electronic transmissions.
  • Topic: Globalization, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Digital Economy, Tariffs, Trade, WTO
  • Political Geography: Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Uuriintuya Batsaikhan, Robert Kalcik, Dirk Schoenmaker
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: London is an international financial centre, serving European and global clients. A hard Brexit would lead to a partial migration of financial firms from London to the EU27 (EU minus UK) to ensure they can continue to serve their EU27 clients. Four major cities will host most of the new EU27 wholesale markets: Frankfurt, Paris, Dublin and Amsterdam. These cities have far fewer people employed in finance than London. Moreover, they host the European headquarters of fewer large companies. The partial migra- tion of financial firms will thus have a major impact on these cities and their infrastructures. Banks are the key players in wholesale markets. United States and Swiss investment banks, together with one large German and three large French banks, will make up the core of the new EU27 wholesale markets. Some Dutch, Italian and Spanish banks are in the second tier. The forex, securities and derivatives trading markets are now in London. We map the current, limited market share of the four major cities that might host the EU27 client business. The expected migration of financial trading will lead to a large increase in trading capacity (eg bank trading floors). Clearing is the backbone of modern financial markets. A comparative overview of clearing facilities in the EU27 shows that Germany and France have some clearing capacity, but this will need to be expanded. The ownership of clearing is often intertwined with stock exchanges. Were the planned LSE-Deutsche Börse merger to go ahead, LSE would sell the Paris subsidiary of its clearinghouse. In terms of legal systems, there is an expectation that trading activities will be able to continue under English contract law, also in the EU27. A particular challenge is to develop FinTech (financial technology) in the EU27, as this innovative part of the market is currently based in London. We estimate that some 30,000 jobs might move from London to the EU27. This will put pressure on the facilities (infrastructure, offices, residential housing) in the recipient cities. The more the European Union market for financial services is integrated, the less need there will be for financial firms to move to one location, reducing the pressure for all facilities to be in one city (see Sapir et al, 2017, which is a companion piece to this paper).
  • Topic: International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Brexit
  • Political Geography: Britain, Europe
  • Author: Maria Demertzis, André Sapir, Guntram Wolff
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: The United States is the European Union’s most important trade and bilateral investment partner, which has, until now, supported a multilateral trade system and European integration and has provided a security guarantee to the countries of the EU. But like other advanced economies, the US’s relative weight in the global economy has declined. The new US administration seems intent on replacing multilateralism with bilateral deals. In trade, it aims to secure new trade deals in order to reduce bilateral trade deficits and to protect, in particular, the US manufacturing sector. In climate policy, the US commitment to the Paris Agreement is being questioned. In defence, the security umbrella appears less certain than previously. The overall promise behind this change of direction is to put ‘America first’ and deliver better results for US citizens.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Bilateral Relations, Multilateral Relatons, Political stability
  • Political Geography: Europe, United States of America