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  • 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: David Henig
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE)
  • Abstract: In the last 25 years global value chains have come to dominate global trade in a way surprisingly little discussed or understood. To meet the policy challenges of today and the future we need to understand the key characteristics of this new global trade and how they came about. The OECD estimate around 70% of total trade takes place in global value chains. Using their definition as where “the different stages of the production process are located across different countries”, and considering both goods and services inputs, this may be an understatement. The example most commonly used is the automotive sector, with 30,000 parts and associated services like satellite navigation going into one car. However there are many others. Modern primary commodity production is optimised by technology developed in other countries, diverse services and goods are frequently combined to create new product offerings, and most international business to consumer transactions are facilitated by leading global platforms. Positively this new globalization has provided consumers with an unprecedented choice of products at affordable prices. More challengingly it has seen governments struggle with the question of how they can best influence modern trade, amid signs of a backlash and simple demands for ‘more domestic manufacturing’. The popular global narrative that feeds such demands is one that has a traditional view of trade as a set of simple primary or manufactured goods transactions. Policymakers must move on from this narrative, making their choices, and explaining them clearly, on the basis of global value chains.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Trade, Global Value Chains
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • 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: 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: Minsoo Han, Hyuk-Hwang Kim, Hyelin Choi, Danbee Park, Jisu Kim
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP)
  • Abstract: The shutdown of the GM Koreas Gunsan plant in May 2018 heightened social interest in the withdrawal of mutlinational corporations (MNCs). Against this backdrop, the forthcoming research The economic effects of multinational corporation withdrawal and policy responses studies the previous cases of MNC withdrawal, estimates the effects on labor market., and provides policy directions to address to the withdrawal. This note summarizes some of its important results.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Economy, Multinational Corporations, Economic Policy
  • Political Geography: Asia, Korea
  • Author: Surendar Singh
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP)
  • Abstract: India and South Korea enjoy strong economic and trade relations, shaped by a significant convergence of interest, mutual good will and high-level diplomatic exchange. Bilateral trade between the two countries has also increased after signing the Comprehensive Economic Partnership (CEPA). However, the overall trade balance is in favor of South Korea due to superior comparative advantage of Korea in manufacturing as compared to India. South Korean exports are high technology-intensive while India’s exports are low-value raw material and intermediate products. Both countries are members to a mega regional trade pact – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Though India has decided to not join the RCEP at this stage it will continue the discussion to explore possible ways to join it. Assuming that India will join the RCEP sooner or later, it is important to analyze the potential impact of the RCEP to India-South Korea bilateral trade ties. This short policy paper compares the proposed provisions of the RCEP and CEPA. It shows that the RCEP is much more comprehensive an agreement compared to the CEPA, both in terms of coverage and scope. It also provides some insights on the likely implications of the RCEP, especially from the perspective of trade with China factored against the bilateral trade ties between India and South Korea.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Bilateral Relations, Partnerships, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India, Asia, South Korea
  • Author: Moonhee Cho, Young Gui Kim, Kyong Hyun Koo, Hyeri Park, Hyeyoon Keum
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP)
  • Abstract: We analyzes the effects that the components of FTA have on international trade. According to the empirical results, the more free trade agreements contain WTO+ and WTO-X provisions and the more legally enforceable these provisions are, the more bilateral trade increases. We also find that the effects of FTA's provisions on trade depend on the economic level of FTA partner countries.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Bilateral Relations, Free Trade, WTO
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Wendy Cutler
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Asia Society Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Much attention has been focused on China’s unfair intellectual property practices and the imbalance in the U.S.-China trade relationship, but equally troubling are large-scale Chinese industrial subsidies, the behavior of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), and in general, the oversized and opaque role of the Chinese state in the economy. While the U.S-China phase one trade deal tackled some important sources of bilateral tension and aimed to boost Chinese purchases of U.S. goods and services, it was silent on industrial subsidies and related matters, leaving them for the next phase of negotiations, the fate of which is now in question. U.S. concerns on these matters are shared by other trading partners including the European Union (EU) and Japan. Yet despite widespread disapproval of such practices, building new global rules to combat subsidies has proven challenging. This is due to several factors, ranging from gridlock at the WTO, differences of views among like-minded countries on the required level of ambition, and uncertainty as to how best to approach the enormous complexities in China’s subsidies and related policies. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has sought to unpack this complexity, conducting recent studies of Chinese subsidies in two key sectors: aluminum and semiconductors. Both studies illustrate how Chinese subsidies are not simple cash handouts from the state to protected firms so that they can sell at favorable and distorting prices. The OECD finds subsidies can take various forms, including downstream or upstream help that trickles up or down to the firm that’s intended to benefit. They can take the form of favorable equity or debt purchases or bonds provided at below-market rates. And with interconnected global value chains, subsidies can effectively be granted covertly, intended to benefit one firm that might be several links away along the chain. In China, the problem is compounded by an opaque “party-state” structure that obscures not only the recipients of subsidies, but also the source. According to Mark Wu, a Harvard Law School professor who previously served as the Director for Intellectual Property in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, subsidies not only flow directly from government bodies in Beijing, but also indirectly through informal responses to directives — sometimes even left unsaid, but understood — from the Chinese Communist Party. Against this backdrop, the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) convened two roundtables in the fall of 2019 and the spring of 2020 to discuss how best to build a new rules-based infrastructure that might combat such subsidies and prevent trade-distorting results such as unfair competition, market access barriers, and, above all, overcapacity in global markets. Experts from the private sector, think tanks, governments, and academia weighed in with possible solutions, which included: Negotiating new rules in the WTO; Using the WTO dispute settlement system, despite its often-discussed flaws; Forming ad hoc rules-based approaches, where possible, like the U.S-EU-Japan trilateral initiative; Plurilateral negotiations conducted on a sector-by-sector basis; Forming coalitions of like-minded trading partners to establish an alternative model, much in the way that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was framed. During the roundtables, most experts agreed that there is no silver bullet that solves the subsidy and related issues on its own. And most agree that, left unaddressed, the problem is likely to deepen. The COVID-19 pandemic might even exacerbate it by leading to more state involvement in economies around the world and making it hard to discipline Beijing’s practices. Recognizing all of these real challenges that the international trade community faces, the roundtables reached the following key conclusions: Transparency on the scope, level, and nature of industrial subsidies is vital; Efforts to publicize the ongoing work in these areas, particularly that being done by the OECD, should accelerate; Turning research into tangible new policies is a key step; and Persuading China to agree to updated rules will be necessary, given that China is a singular contributor to overcapacity.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Treaties and Agreements, Trade, Industry, WTO
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, 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: Sonali Chowdhry, Gabriel Felbermayr
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW)
  • Abstract: The US–China Economic and Trade Agreement (ETA) entered into force on 14th February 2020, marking a new phase in their protracted trade and geopolitical rivalry. The ETA includes specific targets for increased Chinese imports of US goods and services, amounting to 200 bn USD over 2020 and 2021. The authors show that these purchase commitments can generate substantial trade diversion effects and market share shifts for China’s top trading partners. In manufacturing, Germany is likely to experience the greatest trade diversion effects in a number of industries such as vehicles (-1.28 bn USD), aircraft (-1.59 bn USD) and industrial machinery (-0.72 bn USD). Moreover, developing countries will be hit if China re-directs its imports towards US suppliers. E.g. Brazil could experience a reduction of 4.95 bn USD in soybeans exports to China in 2021 as a result of the ETA.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Exports, Trade, Trade Policy, Imports
  • Political Geography: United States, China