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  • 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: Frank Lavin, Oscar Guinea
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE)
  • Abstract: We are at the moment, the first in seventy-five years, where there is no international consensus in support of trade. Indeed, trade is unloved, unsupported, and even unwanted. There is no shortage of topics in the rhetoric of trade complaints: from the rapid rise of China to Coronavirus as a metaphor for the evils of greater connectivity. Regardless of the validity of these complaints, none of them negate the central truth of trade: countries that engage in trade move ahead, and those that do not, stagnate. Our political leaders disagree. Anti-trade positions are held by leaders across the political spectrum, from Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders. And yet, the public is increasingly warm to the idea of trade. When Gallup asks Americans, “Do you see foreign trade more as an opportunity for economic growth through increased U.S. exports or a threat to the economy from foreign imports?” a record high of 79% see trade as an opportunity, with 18% viewing it as a threat. How did the world arrive at this moment where the benefits of trade are clearly evidenced while trade has become politically toxic? We identify four main factors: (i) U.S. absenteeism from the leadership role; (ii) detachment between trade and security architecture; (iii) no alternative leadership in Europe or elsewhere; and (iv) the cumbersome WTO process. Against this background we put forward five initiatives that will be big enough to count but unobjectionable enough to be adopted. The Big Three. The U.S., EU, and Japan, should establish a consultative body on trade to forge a new approach that allows trade to move ahead in the absence of universal consensus. No harm, no foul. Each of the Big Three should commit to zero tariffs on any item not produced in each particular market. A de minimis strategy. Tariffs should be eliminated on all products where the current tariff is less than 2%. At that level tariffs are simply a nuisance fee. Mind the social costs. Expand the Nairobi Protocols to include health products and green tech. Scrapping import tariffs on medical and green goods would not only encourage additional trade but will also provide health and environmental benefits. Harmonize down. The Big Three should commit that on every tariff line each of the three will be no worse than the next worse. In other words, each of the Big Three will agree to reduce its tariff on every product where it has the highest tariff of the three. These actions will spur the WTO, not undermine it. The measures we propose can be set up on a plurilateral basis that would allow other trading powers to participate. By breaking away from the tyranny of universal consensus, these actions will encourage the trading community – including the WTO – to get back in forward motion. In some respect, convergence between the Big Three is already happening. The EU and Japan signed an FTA that lowers import tariffs between these two economies, while the U.S. and Japan agreed to negotiate a comprehensive FTA. And if China is willing to step up? China should be welcomed into this group if it supports the four initiatives, changing the Big Three to the Big Four.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Global Markets, Trade, WTO
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Europe, Global Focus