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  • 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: 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: Chad P. Bown
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In 2018, the United States suddenly increased tariffs on nearly 50 percent of its imports from China. China immediately retaliated with tariffs on more than 70 percent of imports from the United States. This paper assesses what happened in 2018 and attempts to explain why. It first constructs a new measure of special tariff protection to put the sheer scope and coverage of the 2018 actions into historical context. It then uses the lens provided by the 2018 special tariffs to explain the key sources of economic and policy friction between the two countries. This includes whether China’s state-owned enterprises and industrial subsidies, as well as China’s development strategy and system of forcibly acquiring foreign technology, were imposing increasingly large costs on trading partners. Finally, it also examines whether the US strategy to provoke a crisis—which may result in a severely weakened World Trade Organization—was deliberate and out of frustration with the institution itself.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, World Trade Organization, Bilateral Relations, Trade Wars, Donald Trump, Imports
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Felipe González, Nicolas Véron
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: China's rapid rise and unique economic system and the increasingly aggressive and disruptive US trade policy are posing an unprecedented threat to the global rules-based trading and economic system. The European Union has critical interests at stake in the current escalation, even as it has so far been comparatively spared from US trade policy belligerence and China's reactions. In this context, the European Union should adopt an independent and proactive stance, building on recent efforts and going beyond them. The European Union, even more than the United States or China, has a strategic interest in the preservation of the global rules-based order embodied by the World Trade Organization (WTO). It must play a leading role in steering WTO reform and modernization, working closely with broadly aligned third countries such as Japan and other players. It should expand its outreach beyond its immediate negotiating counterparts in both the United States and China, and leading European officials at both the EU and member state levels should work at better understanding China. While strengthening its domestic policy instruments to address new challenges, such as the screening of foreign direct investment for security purposes, the European Union must also resist its own temptations of protectionism and economic nationalism. In support of these objectives, the European Union should prepare itself for difficult decisions, which may involve revising some of its current red lines in international trade negotiations. Conversely, the European Union should stand firm on principles such as refusing one-sided agreements and rejecting abusive recourse to national security arguments in trade policies. The European Parliament, in working with the European Council and the European Commission, will have a critical role to play in steering the European Union through these challenging times.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics, Trade Wars, Trade Policy
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, North America, United States of America, European Union
  • Author: Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In 2016, the United States elected an avowedly protectionist president. This paper uses US county-level electoral data to examine this outcome. The hypothesis that support for protectionism was purely a response to globalization is rejected. Exposure to trade competition encouraged a shift to the Republican candidate, but this effect is mediated by race, diversity, education, and age. If the turn toward protectionism is due to economic dislocation, then public policy interventions could mitigate the impact and support the reestablishment of a political consensus for open trade. If, however, the drivers are identity or cultural values, then the scope for constructive policy intervention is unclear.
  • Topic: Economics, Politics, Donald Trump, Protectionism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ryan Rutkowski
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Faced with slowing economic growth, Chinese policymakers now recognize that the service sector of the economy—transportation, communications, finance, and health care—could spur economic activity and employment. The catch is that China must reform these and other areas to accomplish this goal. Chinese leaders have outlined an ambitious agenda for reform, but myriad vested interests could slow or block their plans. This Policy Brief evaluates the steps taken so far and the difficulties that lie ahead in implementing them. If policymakers fail to reform and open up the service sector, they run the risk of seriously impairing China's growth prospects.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Labor Issues, Financial Crisis, Reform
  • Political Geography: China
  • Author: Jeffrey Schott, Eujiin Jung, Cathleen Cimino-Isaacs
  • Publication Date: 12-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Of all the free trade agreements (FTAs) concluded by Korea with its major trading partners since the turn of the century, the Korea-China FTA may be the largest in trade terms. It is, however, far from the best in terms of the depth of liberalization and the scope of obligations on trade and investment policies. Korea and China agreed to liberalize a large share of bilateral trade within 20 years, but both sides incorporated extensive exceptions to basic tariff reforms and deferred important market access negotiations on services and investment for several years. Political interests trumped economic objectives, and the negotiated outcome cut too many corners to achieve such a comprehensive result. The limited outcome in the Korea-China talks has two clear implications for economic integration among the northeast Asian countries. First, prospects for the ongoing China-Japan-Korea talks will be limited and unlikely to exceed the Korea-China outcome. Second, Korea and Japan need to strengthen their bilateral leg of the northeast Asian trilateral and the best way is by negotiating a deal in the context of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Politics, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, Korea
  • Author: William R. Cline
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The latest semiannual fundamental equilibrium exchange rate (FEER) estimates find that the US dollar is now overvalued by about 10 percent, comparable to levels in 2008 through early 2010 and again in 2011. Unlike then, the current strong dollar does not reflect a weak renminbi kept undervalued by major exchange rate intervention by China. Instead, China's current account surplus has fallen sharply relative to GDP, and its recent intervention has been to prevent excessive depreciation rather than to prevent appreciation. Additionally, declines in the real effective exchange rates (REERs) for major emerging-market economies and resource-based advanced economies, driven by falling commodity prices in recent months, have strengthened the dollar. Recent increases in the REERs for the euro area and Japan have removed their modest undervaluation identified in the last FEERs estimates in May, and the Chinese renminbi remains consistent with its FEER. The dollar's rise by nearly 15 percent in real effective terms over the past two years could impose a drag of nearly one-half percent annually on US demand growth over the next five years. As the Federal Reserve moves to normalize US monetary policy, it may need to consider a gentler rise in interest rates than it might otherwise have pursued, both to temper possible further strengthening of the dollar in response to higher interest rates and to help offset the demand compression from falling net export
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy, GDP
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: Nicholas Borst, Nicolas R. Lardy
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: China's banking system is now the largest in the world, and its capital markets are rapidly approaching the size of those in the advanced economies. Borst and Lardy trace the evolution of China's financial system away from a traditional bank-dominated and state-directed financial system toward a more complex, market-based system. They analyze and outline the optimal sequence of financial reforms needed to manage the new risks accompanying this evolution.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Financial Crisis, Reform
  • Political Geography: China