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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: 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
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Conference Board
  • Abstract: Major shifts are expected in how New Yorkers work in the postpandemic economy—remotely or in the office. But the COVID-19 pandemic has also dramatically accelerated a shift in the sectoral landscape of New York City and the industries in which New Yorkers will work. Restoring the city’s economic dynamism and creating a postpandemic, locally prosperous, and globally competitive economy will hinge on leveraging the city’s growth sectors and ensuring that New Yorkers have the skills they need to rebuild a thriving, future-focused NYC economy. The city lost almost 900,000 jobs during the initial months of the pandemic and had recovered just over half of those jobs by June 2021. Many of these job losses are in sectors that had seen relative weakness prior to the pandemic, including the city’s historically important finance & insurance and real estate sectors. The recovery in NYC has so far been an unbalanced one, lagging behind other major US city centers. Much of NYC’s ongoing economic recovery has been concentrated in health care, life sciences, and the growing tech industry, sectors that were strengthening prior to the pandemic. Indeed, tech jobs were already driving much of the employment growth in NYC before the pandemic. And while office and residential buildings emptied out during the crisis, Big Tech companies—including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google—have increasingly moved in, expanding their office and warehouse spaces and accelerating hiring.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Finance, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: New York, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Felix Bierbrauer, Gabriel Felbermayr, Axel Ockenfels, Klaus M. Schmidt, Jens Sudekum
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW)
  • Abstract: The EU steps up its efforts to curb its territorial CO2-emissions. It is planning to introduce a carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) to level the playing field and to raise own resources. The authors point out that unilateral European climate policy action, whether shored up with a CBAM or not, can only play a limited role in reducing global CO2-emissions. A EU-CBAM cannot stop indirect leakage, it has ambiguous effects on other countries’ mitigation efforts, and it poses the risk of conflicts with trade partners. They propose that the EU, together with the US and other like-minded countries, should push hard to establish a climate club with a common minimum price of CO2 and a common CBAM applied to third countries. Such a framework would incentivize other countries to join while limiting leakage and reducing the risk of trade policy disputes.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, International Trade and Finance, Regional Cooperation, European Union, Carbon Emissions
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Lauri Tahtinen
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: “What worries me most, however, is the fact that the rules-based international order is being challenged. Quite surprisingly, not by the usual suspects, but by its main architect and guarantor: the US.” Tus spoke Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council in advance of the G7 Summit of 2018.1 In doing so, he was echoing the sentiments of many others. Sabre-rattling at friends and foes alike defned the Trump administration’s approach to trade policy, not unlike in many other policy felds. It also demonstrated Donald Trump’s preference for bilateral agreements, the most prominent of which was the so-called Phase One deal with China. Trade policy was a defnite pri- ority for the Trump administration, but it took some self-contradictory forms. Often Trump wanted to wreak havoc for its own sake, which both held back part of his “negative agenda”, such as confronting Chi- na, and the “positive” one of bilateral mini deals, as in the late 2020 trade-smoothing with Brazil. By contrast, trade has not been a priority for either the Biden administration or the 117th Congress thus far.2 Tere is little sign that President Biden would ei- ther immediately roll back Trump-era tarifs and re- classifcations – much less sanctions – or initiate his own positive trade agenda. Tis lack of initiative stands in contrast to rapid executive action on climate, Cov- id-19, US manufacturing and other policy priorities. Congress, too, has been conspicuously silent on trade. With organized labour a resurgent force within Dem- ocratic Party politics, any talk of new trade deals over assistance for the deindustrialized homeland will face some headwind. Te silence around trade suggests that while Biden will attempt to smooth over the worst rows over com- merce, the easiest course for his administration is, by and large, to underwrite a policy shift on trade. Te rest of the world must come to terms with this change, but also formulate cogent responses to it. Te stakes are high because a functioning and fex- ible trading system is essential for tackling the great- est challenges of our time, including the fght against climate change and the production of vaccines against COVID-19. Instead of turning against internation- al cooperation, these and many other priorities need to be integrated into the global trading system. First and foremost, the world needs a proudly pragmatic approach, in place of a “summit for democracy” or any such high-minded initiative which runs the risk of preventing partnerships and ringing hollow. An al- liance of democracies may be the outcome of cooper- ation but should not be positioned as its prerequisite. At the end of World War I, the United States fa- thered the Covenant of the League of Nations but rejected it at birth; Washington withheld its rec- ognition of the child, never joining the League. The United States received a second chance at the end of the World War, founding the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions, and a third one at the end of the Cold War when the World Trade Organization came to supersede the General Agreement on Tarifs and Trade (GATT). Now, America is edging closer to rejection, again. Te main argument of this Briefng Paper is that not only has US governmental policy on trade shifted, but also that the environment in which it is developed has altered radically – not least due to US policy itself. Tis means that, one, rules-based trading will need new champions and, two, others must coax the United States to come along when they can fnd shared rea- sons for doing so. The paper looks at both the worlds that the US chose to mould and the ones that it rejected: the US- MCA and the TPP. It also asks how Europeans might orient themselves in the direction of the United States, examines what trade without deals may mean and, f- nally, situates current policy in the longer trajectory of the US role on trade.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Trade Wars, Trans-Pacific Partnership, USMCA
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Olli Ruohomäki
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Africa is an enormous continent composed of several regions and 54 states, populated with more than 1.3 bil- lion people. Tere are more than 1,500 languages and diverse cultures. Both low-income and high-income countries and disparate levels of development are found on the continent. There is both concern and hope in the air regard- ing the trajectory that Africa’s development will take. Dwelling solely on negative news about confict, polit- ical turmoil, hunger and refugees is not constructive. Neither is seeing Africa through ‘rose-tinted glasses’ as a continent full of promise for trade and investment prospects. Rather, a balanced and realistic vision that looks over the horizon into the future is required. Talking about the diverse and vast continent as a whole is fraught with potential accusations of sweeping generalizations and even arrogance. Nonetheless, this is exactly what the business of forecasting is all about. To put it another way, predicting the future is essentially about painting the canvas with broad strokes and seeing the big picture. It is then up to area studies, sociology, anthropology, political science and similar disciplines to dwell on the more nuanced and detailed case studies. Hence, despite the complexity that forecasting the future of Africa entails, it is possible to outline the main contours of the trajectory of change that in- forms the course of developments on the continent.1 It is with this in mind that this Briefng Paper exam- ines seven megatrends that are shaping the future of Africa
  • Topic: Climate Change, Democratization, Environment, International Trade and Finance, Regional Cooperation, Urbanization, Conflict, Regionalism, Population Growth
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • 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: 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