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  • Author: Chad P. Bown
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The Trump administration changed US trade policy toward China in ways that will take years for researchers to sort out. This paper makes four specific contributions to that research agenda. First, it carefully marks the timing, definitions, and scale of the products subject to the tariff changes affecting US-China trade from January 20, 2017 through January 20, 2021. One result is that each country increased its average duty on imports from the other to rates of roughly 20 percent, with the new tariffs and counter-tariffs covering more than 50 percent of bilateral trade. Second, the paper highlights two additional channels through which bilateral tariffs changed during this period: product exclusions from tariffs and trade remedy policies of antidumping and countervailing duties. These two channels have received less research attention. Third, it explores why China fell more than 40 percent short of meeting the goods purchase commitments set out for 2020, the first year of the phase one agreement. Finally, the paper considers additional trade policy actions—involving forced labor, export controls for reasons of national security or human rights, and reclassification of trade with Hong Kong—likely to affect US-China trade beyond the Trump administration.
  • Topic: Education, Trade Wars, Trade Policy, Protectionism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Marcus Noland, Eva (Yiwen) Zhang
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: By Election Day 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had killed 234,244 Americans and caused the sharpest macroeconomic downturn in US history. Hypothetical calculations using county-level electoral data show that in a “no pandemic” scenario or a scenario in which the severity of the pandemic was mitigated by 30 percent, Donald Trump would have lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote. In the 20 percent mitigation scenario, the electoral vote would have been tied, giving Trump a presumptive victory in the House of Representatives. For the second time in a row (and the third time since 2000), the candidate who lost the popular vote would have been elected president of the United States.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Elections, Donald Trump, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jason Furman, Melissa Kearney, Wilson Powell III
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: This working paper examines how much of the overall decline in employment between the beginning of 2020 and 2021 can be explained by excess job loss among parents of young children, and mothers specifically. Using data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the authors confirm that, in general, mothers with young children have experienced a larger decline in employment, as compared (unconditionally) with other adults, including fathers. This excess job loss is driven by mothers without a four-year college degree. The main point of the paper is to build off this observation and examine how much of the aggregate employment deficit in early 2021 can be explained by parent-specific issues, such as childcare struggles. To examine this question, the authors construct counterfactual employment rates and labor force participation rates that assign to mothers of young children the percent change in employment and labor force participation rates experienced by comparable women without young children. The paper considers multiple definition, sample, and counterfactual specification alternatives. The analysis yields robust evidence that differential job loss among mothers of young children accounts for a negligible share of the ongoing aggregate employment deficit. The result is even stronger (and flips signs) if all parents are considered, since fathers with young children experienced less job loss than other men. The practical implication of these findings is that nearly all of the aggregate ongoing employment deficit is explained by factors that affect workers more broadly, as opposed to challenges specific to working parents.
  • Topic: Labor Issues, Children, Pandemic, COVID-19, Childcare
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Anna Stansbury
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: To what extent do US firms have an incentive to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)? Stansbury examines this question through a simple comparison of the expected costs of noncompliance (in terms of legal sanctions) to the profits firms can earn through noncompliance. In the case of the FLSA minimum wage and overtime provisions, typical willful violators are required to pay back wages owed and in some cases additional penalties, if detected by the Department of Labor (DOL). Based on available data on the penalties levied, a typical firm would need to expect a chance of at least 78-88 percent that its violation would be detected in order to have an incentive to comply with the FLSA. In practice, the probability of detection many firms can expect to face is likely much lower than this. In the case of the NLRA, a firm that fires a worker illegally is required to reinstate the worker with back pay if the violation is detected. Based on empirical estimates of the effect of unionization on firm profits, a typical firm may have an incentive to fire a worker illegally for union activities if this illegal firing would reduce the likelihood of unionization at the firm by as little as 0.15-2 percent. These analyses illustrate that neither the FLSA nor the NLRA penalty and enforcement regimes create sufficient incentive to comply for many firms. In this context, the substantial evidence of minimum wage and overtime violations, and of illegal employer behavior toward unions, is not surprising.
  • Topic: Labor Issues, Regulation, Economy
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jeffrey J. Schott
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: China’s policies in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and the South China Sea and its ongoing support for Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela pose major challenges for the United States, where bipartisan pressure is growing to ramp up punitive sanctions against leading Chinese firms and financial institutions. Financial sanctions freeze the US assets or bar US entry of the targeted individuals and firms and prohibit US financial firms from doing business with them. Schott explains why US officials should carefully weigh the risks to international financial markets and US economic interests before imposing punitive sanctions on major financial institutions engaged with China. The collateral costs of such sanctions would be sizable, damaging US producers, financial institutions, and US alliances. By restricting access of major banks to international payments in US dollars and barring use of messaging systems like SWIFT, tougher US financial sanctions would effectively “weaponize” the dollar; friends and foes alike would be pushed to seek alternatives to dollar transactions that, over time, would weaken the international role of the dollar. Instead of doubling down on current unilateral financial sanctions, US policy should deploy sanctions in collaboration with allies and calibrate trade and financial controls to match the expected policy achievements.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Sanctions, Finance, Economy
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Gary Clyde Hufbauer
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Open Sub-navigation BackOpen Sub-navigation Publications Back Policy Briefs Working Papers Books PIIE Briefings Open Sub-navigation Commentary Back Op-Eds Testimonies Speeches and Papers Topics & Regions PIIE Charts What Is Globalization? Educational Resources Open Sub-navigation Back Senior Research Staff Research Analysts Trade Talks Open Sub-navigation Back RealTime Economic Issues Watch Trade & Investment Policy Watch China Economic Watch North Korea: Witness to Transformation 中文 Open Sub-navigation Back All Events Financial Statements Global Connections Global Economic Prospects Stavros Niarchos Foundation Lectures Trade Winds Open Sub-navigation Back News Releases Multimedia Media Center Open Sub-navigation Back Board of Directors Staff Employment Contact Annual Report Transparency Policy POLICY BRIEF VIEW SHARING OPTIONS Will industrial and agricultural subsidies ever be reformed? Gary Clyde Hufbauer (PIIE) Policy Brief21-5 March 2021 Photo Credit: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse One economic argument for government subsidies is that they are necessary to compensate firms and industries for benefits they provide to society at large but cannot capture in the prices they charge for goods or services. For example, subsidies to renewable energy are defended because renewable energy limits carbon emissions. When a major economy subsidizes extensively, however, its trading partners are drawn into the game, with losses all around. As the prisoner’s dilemma suggests, a better outcome would entail mutual restraint. But the goal of mutual restraint is no less difficult in international trade than it is in international arms control. Both the European Union and the US federal system try, in different ways, to regulate industrial subsidies. Hufbauer examines efforts to contain unjustifiable subsidies and proposes modest improvements, bearing in mind that as countries struggle to overcome the global economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is little appetite for restoring a free market economy—one in which firms compete with minimum government assistance or regulation. Selective upgrading of the rulebook may nevertheless be possible.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Government, Reform, European Union, Regulation, Manufacturing, Industry, COVID-19, Subsidies
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Robert Z. Lawrence
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Afrequently voiced complaint from the Trump administration was that US firms have faced a competitive disadvantage in exports because the US market is open and US tariffs are low but US trading partners protect their markets with high tariffs. The administration used this concern to justify raising US tariffs whenever it could. Lawrence argues that these claims should be more nuanced and account for the extensive unilateral liberalization by many countries over the past 30 years and that the grievances that motivated the Trump trade policies are increasingly misplaced. Many developing countries have reduced their tariffs unilaterally to rates that are far lower than they applied three decades ago and far less than the bound rates reflected in their World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations. Globally, on average, tariffs were not raised during the global financial crisis of 2008 and continued to decline through at least 2018. Even when shocks from imports resulted in serious injury to domestic industries, several developing countries temporarily provided safeguard protection but at levels that were lower than their WTO bound rates. This evidence of import liberalization also suggests that rising protectionism was not responsible for the slow growth in world trade that has been evident since 2011. It remains uncertain whether countries will now respond to disruptions to global supply chains since 2018 caused by Trump’s trade policies and the COVID-19 pandemic by reversing their tariff liberalization stance, but the sustained enthusiasm for new megaregional trade agreements suggests many countries will not.
  • Topic: Emerging Markets, World Trade Organization, Trade Wars, Protectionism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Simeon Djankov, Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg, Lisa Hyland, Eva (Yiwen) Zhang
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Despite many significant gains by women in the paid workforce in recent decades, the percentage of women participating in the labor force has remained lower than the percentage of male participants. Now, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the global economic downturn it precipitated, the gap in labor force participation between men and women in some economies has actually widened, with potentially damaging repercussions for women’s career prospects and pay. The pandemic has disproportionately affected sectors employing more women, such as retail stores, restaurants, and the hotel and hospitality business. An increase in family caregiving responsibilities because of school and childcare closures has also fallen on working mothers' shoulders. Both factors have pulled women out of the labor force. The authors track trends in male and female labor force participation in 43 countries and find substantial differences across countries in the way women’s participation has been affected relative to that of men. In some countries, such as Colombia, Chile, and Cyprus, the gender gap in labor force participation widened the most during the pandemic. The gender gap also widened in the United States, driving 2.5 million women from their jobs in what Vice President Kamala Harris called a “national emergency” for women. In other economies, such as Luxembourg and Lithuania, the gender gap in labor force participation, unexpectedly, shrank during the early period of the pandemic. On average, female employees have fared better in countries where women are less concentrated in the services sector, less likely to be employed as temporary workers, and where laws supported greater equality at the onset of the crisis. Greater government expenditure on childcare in the pre-COVID-19 era, however, does not appear to have insulated female workers from the damaging repercussions of the pandemic.
  • Topic: Economics, Gender Issues, Labor Issues, Women, Services, COVID-19, Empowerment
  • Political Geography: Colombia, Chile, Cyprus, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Simeon Djankov, Eva (Yiwen) Zhang
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: New business applications have surged in the United States since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The growth is driven largely by startups in online retail, transportation, and personal services. Many of these new entrepreneurs are self-employed and were likely laid off and forced into entrepreneurship by necessity. No official data are available yet on the number of businesses destroyed in 2020, because business data for firms that close without entering bankruptcy are lagging. But the authors calculate that firm births may have surpassed firm deaths during the pandemic. While this boom in business entry is a tribute to the adaptability and potential innovative spirit in US capitalism, one should not be overly optimistic about jobs created in this wave of startups. As many of these new startups are by people forced to strike out on their own, the number of jobs created per new firm is even smaller than it was during previous US recessions. And like online businesses started around the last recession (e.g., Uber, Airbnb, and Venmo), some of these new firms may turn out to be major contenders in their sectors, displacing workers employed by their traditional rivals.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Labor Issues, Financial Crisis, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Joseph E. Gagnon, Steve Kamin, John Kearns
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: COVID-19 vaccination programs are generally understood to be a prerequisite for a return to normalcy in our social and economic lives. Emergency measures to research, test, produce, and distribute vaccines have been expensive, but increases in GDP resulting from the vaccines are expected to exceed those costs by wide margins. Few studies have quantified the economic costs and benefits of different rates of COVID-19 vaccination, however. This Policy Brief focuses on developing such a quantitative assessment for the United States; the approach may be applied to other countries as well. Two illustrative scenarios support the conclusion that most plausible options to accelerate vaccinations would have economic benefits that far exceed their costs, in addition to their more important accomplishment of saving lives. This Policy Brief shows that if, for example, the United States had adopted a more aggressive policy in 2020 of unconditional contracts with vaccine producers, the up-front cost would have been higher but thousands of lives would have been saved and economic growth would have been stronger. Instead, the federal government conditioned its contracts on the vaccines’ being proven safe and effective. The projections presented in this analysis show that even if unconditional contracts led to support for vaccines that failed the phase III trial and ultimately were not used, the cost would have been worth it.
  • Topic: Economics, Health, Crisis Management, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Egor Gornostay, Madi Sarsenbayev
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: An intense debate has erupted over whether the unprecedented size of the US fiscal stimulus will cause the US economy to overheat and generate high inflation. To date, the debate has focused primarily on the United States, even though many other developed economies responded to the COVID-19 crisis with unprecedented economic stimulus packages. By some measures, Japan stands out: The total amount of its three consecutive stimulus packages is estimated to exceed 50 percent of its GDP, about twice as high as the US fiscal packages (about 26 percent of US GDP). However, overheating concerns are not being actively raised for Japan. This Policy Brief finds that although Japan’s headline number looks astonishingly high, the actual size of its discretionary fiscal measures is about 16 percent of GDP, substantially smaller than the total size of the US packages. US fiscal stimulus is the largest among Group of Seven (G7) countries relative to GDP, justifying the attention economists have given it. The United Kingdom is estimated to spend more than Japan as a proportion of GDP, but even the UK stimulus program markedly lags behind that of the United States. If additional stimulus measures making their way through the legislative process in Canada are counted, Japan’s fiscal stimulus looks even smaller and would amount to being only average in size among G7 countries. Given this and the lackluster performance of its economy in the first quarter of 2021, it is unlikely that Japan will find itself in overheating territory any time soon.
  • Topic: Inflation, G7, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Cullen S. Hendrix
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The Trump administration’s Africa strategy is rooted in three misconceptions about China’s African footprint—and a fourth about US-Africa economic relations—that are either factually incorrect or overstated in terms of the broader strategic challenges they pose to US interests: (1) Chinese engagement in Africa crowds out opportunities for trade and investment with and from the United States; (2) Chinese engagement in Africa is resource-seeking—to the detriment of US interests; (3) Chinese engagement in Africa is designed to foster debt-based coercive diplomacy; and (4) US-Africa economic linkages are all one-way and concessionary (i.e., aid-based). Hendrix finds little evidence to suggest Chinese trade and investment ties crowd out US trade and investment opportunities. China’s resource-seeking bent is evident in investment patterns, but it is more a function of Africa’s having comparatively large, undercapitalized resource endowments than China’s attempt to corner commodity markets. Chinese infrastructural development—particularly large projects associated with the Belt and Road Initiative—may result in increased African indebtedness to the Chinese, but there is little reason to think debt per se will vastly expand Chinese military capacity in the region. And finally, US-Africa economic relations are much less one-sided and concessionary (i.e., aid-based) than conventional wisdom suggests.
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Infrastructure, Economy, Trade, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Africa, China, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Julia Coronado, Simon Potter
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The US monetary system faces significant challenges from advances in technology and changes in the macroeconomy that, left unaddressed, will threaten the stability of the US economy and financial system. At the same time, low interest rates mean that central banks will not have the policy ammunition they had in the past during the next recession. The Federal Reserve needs new tools to meet its mandates of price stability and maximum employment. It also needs to preserve the safety and soundness of the financial system in a rapidly digitizing world. The authors propose a Fed-backed digital currency to solve both problems. Their proposal creates a regulated system of digital currency accounts for consumers managed by digital payment providers and fully backed by reserves at the Fed. The system would be limited in size, to preserve the functions and stability of the existing banking system. Fed backing would mean low capital requirements, which would in turn facilitate competition. Low fees and no minimum balance requirements in the new system would also help financial institutions reach the roughly 25 percent of the US population that is currently either unbanked or underbanked. Digital accounts for consumers could also provide a powerful new stabilization tool for both monetary and fiscal policies. For fiscal policy, it could facilitate new automatic stabilizers while also allowing the Fed to provide quantitative easing directly to consumers. This tool could be used in a timely manner with broad reach to all Americans.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Monetary Policy, Banks, Macroeconomics
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Julia Coronado, Simon Potter
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In the second part of their Policy Brief, Coronado and Potter discuss how the system of digital payment providers (DPPs) proposed in their first Policy Brief on this topic adds a new weapon to the monetary toolkit that could be implemented in a timely, effective, and inclusive manner. They describe how a digital currency backed by the Federal Reserve could augment automatic fiscal stabilizers and—more importantly—harness the power of “helicopter” money or quantitative easing directly to consumers in a disciplined manner. To implement QE directly to consumers, Coronado and Potter propose the creation of recession insurance bonds (RIBs)—zero-coupon bonds authorized by Congress and calibrated as a percentage of GDP sufficient to provide meaningful support in a downturn. Congress would create these contingent securities; Treasury would credit households’ digital accounts with them. The Fed could purchase them from households in a downturn after its policy rate hits zero. The Fed’s balance sheet would grow by the value of RIBs purchased; the initial matching liability would be deposits into the DPP system. The mechanism is easy for consumers to understand and could boost inflation expectations more than a debt-financed fiscal stimulus could.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Monetary Policy, Insurance
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Chad P. Bown
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: While the public was transfixed by the Trump administration’s policies alleging that imports were a threat to America’s national security during 2017–20, there was a concomitant and more quiet US policy shift on the export side. Addressing the national security threat presented by exports posed different economic and institutional challenges from those associated with import policy, including the acknowledgment that export controls for legitimate national security reasons can be the first-best policy to confront the problem at its source. Yet, export controls could also be misused as a beggar-thy-neighbor policy to redistribute economic well-being across countries, even from one ally to another. This paper describes how US export control policy evolved over 2017–20, as well as the international institutions—first the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM), then the Wassenaar Arrangement—historically tasked with multilateralizing US export restrictions used to protect national security. With the potential for US export control policy to brush up more frequently against WTO rules designed to limit the use of export restrictions, the paper also highlights new challenges for the WTO’s system of resolving trade disputes. Overall, a US failure to strike the right balance for its export control policy would result in it being ineffective at addressing national security risks, costly for the economy, and problematic for trade and diplomatic relations.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, National Security, Exports, Trade
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Olivier Blanchard, Thomas Philippon, Jean Pisani-Ferry
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The measures that most governments took in response to the sudden collapse in economic activity during the COVID-19 lockdowns nearly exclusively focused on protecting vulnerable workers and firms. These measures included unemployment benefits, grants, transfers, loans at low rates, and tax deferrals. As lockdowns are lifted, governments must shift policies toward supporting the recovery and design measures that will limit the pain of adjustment while preserving productive jobs and firms. This Policy Brief explores how such measures can be designed, with particular emphasis on Europe and the United States. The authors propose a combination of unemployment benefits to help workers, wage subsidies and partially guaranteed loans to help firms, and debt restructuring procedures for small and medium-sized companies handicapped by excessive legacy debt from the crisis.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Government, Labor Issues, Unemployment, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ana González, Euijin Jung
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: By refusing to fill vacancies in the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Appellate Body—the top body that hears appeals and rules on trade disputes—the Trump administration has paralyzed the key component of the dispute settlement system. No nation or group of nations has more at stake in salvaging this system than the world’s big emerging-market economies: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, and Thailand, among others. These countries have actively and successfully used the dispute settlement system to defend their commercial interests abroad and resolve inevitable trade conflicts. The authors suggest that even though the developing countries did not create the Appellate Body crisis, they may hold a key to unlock it. The Trump administration has also focused its ire on a longstanding WTO practice of giving these economies latitude to seek “special and differential treatment” in trade negotiations because of their developing-country status. The largest developing economies, which have a significant stake in preserving a two-step, rules-based mechanism for resolving trade disputes, could play a role in driving a potential bargain to save the appeals mechanism. They could unite to give up that special status in return for a US commitment to end its boycott of the nomination of Appellate Body members.
  • Topic: Development, Government, World Trade Organization, Developing World, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: China, Indonesia, India, South Korea, Brazil, North America, Mexico, Thailand, United States of America
  • Author: Olivier Jeanne
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In theory, tariffs are partially offset by a currency appreciation in the tariff-imposing country or by a depreciation in the country on which the tariff is imposed. Based on a calibrated model, this paper finds that US tariffs imposed in 2018 should not have had a large impact on the dollar but may have significantly depreciated the renminbi. This prediction is consistent with a high-frequency event analysis looking at the impact of tariff-related news on the dollar and the renminbi. Tariff-related news explains about one-third of the renminbi depreciation observed in 2018.
  • Topic: Economics, Tariffs, Exchange Rate Policy, Currency
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Olivier Blanchard, Lawrence H. Summers
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: With interest rates persistently low or even negative in advanced countries, policymakers have barely any room to ease monetary policy when the next recession hits. Fiscal policy will have to play a major and likely dominant role in stimulating the economy, requiring policymakers to fundamentally reconsider fiscal policy. Blanchard and Summers argue for the introduction of what they call “semiautomatic” stabilizers. Unlike purely automatic stabilizers (mechanisms built into government budgets that automatically—without discretionary government action or explicit triggers—increase spending or decrease taxes when the economy slows or enters a recession), semiautomatic stabilizers are targeted tax or spending measures that are triggered if, say, the output growth rate declines or the unemployment rate increases beyond a specified threshold. The authors argue that the trigger should be changes in unemployment rather than changes in output, and the design of semiautomatic stabilizers, whether they focus on mechanisms that rely primarily on income or on intertemporal substitution effects (changing the timing of consumption), depends crucially on the design of discretionary policy.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Monetary Policy, Finance
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: David Reifschneider, David Wilcox
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: If the Federal Reserve does not decisively change the way it conducts monetary policy, it will probably not be capable of fighting recessions in the future as effectively as it fought them in the past. This reality helped motivate the Fed to undertake the policy framework review in which it is currently engaged. Researchers have suggested many steps the Fed could take to improve its recession-fighting ability; however, no consensus has emerged as to which of these steps would be both practical and maximally effective. This paper aims to fill that gap. It recommends that the Fed commit as soon as possible to a new approach for fighting recessions, involving two key elements. First, the Fed should commit that whenever it runs out of room to cut the federal funds rate further, it will leave the rate at its minimum level until the labor market recovers and inflation returns to 2 percent. Second, the Fed should commit that under the same circumstances, it will begin to purchase longer-term assets in volume and will continue such purchases until the labor market recovers. If the forces driving the next recession are not unusually severe, this framework might allow the Fed to be as effective at fighting that recession as it was in the past. If the next recession is more severe, however, the Fed will probably run out of ammunition even if it takes the two steps recommended here. Therefore, both monetary and fiscal policymakers should consider yet other steps they could take to enhance their ability to fight future recessions.
  • Topic: Economics, Monetary Policy, Federal Reserve
  • Political Geography: North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Chad P. Bown, Soumaya Keynes
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: On December 10, 2019, the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 25-year-old system of resolving disputes broke down. This paper explains why. It describes the dysfunctional system that preceded the WTO, when the United States dealt with politically troublesome imports by using voluntary export restraints and increasingly resorted to the “aggressively unilateral” Section 301 policy to resolve trade concerns. The WTO was a compromise between the rest of the world and the United States, whereby the latter accepted some constraints with the expectation that the new system of binding dispute settlement would serve its interests. But although the creation of the WTO resolved some concerns about American unilateralism in the short term, its system of handling disputes turned out to be politically unsustainable.
  • Topic: Economics, World Trade Organization, Trade, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Peter A. Petri, Michael G. Plummer
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: he deepening US-China trade war and nationalist reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic are reshaping global economic relationships. Alongside these developments, two new megaregional trade agreements, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), will refocus East Asia’s economic ties in the region itself. The new accords are moving forward without the United States and India, once seen as critical partners in the CPTPP and RCEP, respectively. Using a computable general equilibrium model, we show that the agreements will raise global national incomes in 2030 by an annual $147 billion and $186 billion, respectively. They will yield especially large benefits for China, Japan, and South Korea and losses for the United States and India. These effects are simulated both in a business-as-before-Trump environment and in the context of a sustained US-China trade war. The effects were simulated before the COVID-19 shock but seem increasingly likely in the wake of the pandemic. Compared with business as before, the trade war generates large global losses rising to $301 billion annually by 2030. The new agreements offset the effects of the trade war globally, but not for the United States and China. The trade war makes RCEP especially valuable because it strengthens East Asian interdependence, raising trade among members by $428 billion and reducing trade among nonmembers by $48 billion. These shifts bring regional ties closer to institutional arrangements proposed in the 1990s and incentivize greater cooperation among China, Japan, and South Korea.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Trade Wars, Trans-Pacific Partnership, Free Trade, COVID-19, Protectionism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Maurice Obstfeld
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Fifty years ago, Harry G. Johnson published "The Case for Flexible Exchange Rates, 1969," its title echoing Milton Friedman’s classic essay of 1953. Though somewhat overlooked today, Johnson’s reprise was an important element in the late 1960s debate over the future of the international monetary system. In this Working Paper, Obstfeld lays out the historical context in which Johnson’s “Case” was written and read and then examines Johnson’s main points and sees how they stand up to nearly five decades of experience with floating exchange rates since the end of the Bretton Woods system. He also reviews the most recent academic critiques of exchange rate flexibility and asks how fatal they are to Johnson’s basic argument. He concludes that the essential case for exchange rate flexibility still stands strong.
  • Topic: History, Monetary Policy, Economy, Central Bank, Currency
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Sherman Robinson, Marcus Noland, Egor Gornostay, Soyoung Han
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: On July 6, 2020, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced modifications to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program eliminating temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking all classes online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning in the fall 2020 semester. Foreign students violating the rule would be subject to deportation. Under public pressure, the Trump administration rescinded the order on July 14. Had the policy been implemented, more than 1 million foreign students studying in the United States could have been deported. The authors use an economywide simulation model to estimate the economic impact on the United States if the policy had been implemented. They find that the policy would have cost the US economy up to 752,000 jobs and $68 billion in lost GDP in the short run. Their estimates are larger than those reported in other studies because they consider both direct and indirect effects of the policy. In the long run, the move would have reduced the research productivity of American universities and adversely affected research, innovation, and entrepreneurship across the economy, in both the private and public sectors.
  • Topic: Education, Migration, Labor Issues, Donald Trump, COVID-19, Protectionism
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Chad P. Bown
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The US-China trade war forced a reluctant semiconductor industry into someone else’s fight, a very different position from its leading role in the 1980s trade conflict with Japan. This paper describes how the political economy of the global semiconductor industry has evolved since the 1980s. That includes both a shift in the business model behind how semiconductors go from conception to a finished product as well as the geographic reorientation toward Asia of demand and manufactured supply. It uses that lens to explain how, during the modern conflict with China, US policymakers turned to a legally complex set of export restrictions targeting the semiconductor supply chain in the attempt to safeguard critical infrastructure in the telecommunications sector. The potentially far-reaching tactics included weaponization of exports by relatively small but highly specialized American software service and equipment providers in order to constrain Huawei, a Fortune Global 500 company. It describes potential costs of such policies, some of their unintended consequences, and whether policymakers might push them further in the attempt to constrain other Chinese firms.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Trade Wars, Industry, Protectionism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Olivier Blanchard, Thomas Philippon, Jean Pisani-Ferry
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The measures that most governments took in response to the sudden collapse in economic activity during the COVID-19 lockdowns nearly exclusively focused on protecting vulnerable workers and firms. These measures included unemployment benefits, grants, transfers, loans at low rates, and tax deferrals. As lockdowns are lifted, governments must shift policies toward supporting the recovery and design measures that will limit the pain of adjustment while preserving productive jobs and firms. This Policy Brief explores how such measures can be designed, with particular emphasis on Europe and the United States. The authors propose a combination of unemployment benefits to help workers, wage subsidies and partially guaranteed loans to help firms, and debt restructuring procedures for small and medium-sized companies handicapped by excessive legacy debt from the crisis.
  • Topic: Government, Labor Issues, European Union, Unemployment, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, France, Germany, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jérémie Cohen-Setton, Jean Pisani-Ferry
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The US package of measures to help households hit by the economic shock from the COVID-19 crisis, including the Paycheck Protection Program, is almost twice as large in proportion of GDP as the French package, but it has proven less effective in curbing unemployment because of poor design and implementation. In contrast, the increase in the unemployment rate in France has been five times less than the increase in the United States. Cohen-Setton and Pisani-Ferry dive beneath the unreliable headline numbers to assess the effectiveness of government support provided to households in March–May 2020 in the two countries. They conclude that the French approach (mirrored in some other European countries) delivered a bigger bang for the buck. But the fact that the US approach has fallen short should not diminish the significance of the policy shift signaled by the enactment of measures to maintain household income.
  • Topic: Education, Financial Crisis, European Union, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, France, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jason Furman
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Unemployment insurance in the United States has played a critical role in both protecting workers who lost their jobs and supporting the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The abrupt expiration of any form of expanded unemployment insurance at the end of July 2020 would create problems both for the workers directly affected and for the economy as a whole, reducing GDP by about 2.5 percent in the second half of 2020—more than a typical year’s worth of economic growth. Furman emphasizes that expanded unemployment insurance should continue, with adjustments made as the unemployment rate changes. He also points out that the unemployment insurance system had major shortcomings even before the COVID-19 crisis and should be permanently reformed.
  • Topic: Labor Issues, Unemployment, Coronavirus, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Joseph E. Gagnon
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: President Donald Trump launched a trade war to eliminate the longstanding US trade deficit. But the trade deficit has only grown on his watch because tariffs were the wrong policy choice. Trade deficits are not always a bad thing, but a wealthy country like the United States should not run a perpetual deficit. Decades of US trade deficits have piled up debt that makes future generations of Americans less well off, as they must pay interest and dividends to foreigners. Cheap imports and the decline in exports have also contributed to the loss of a significant number of US manufacturing jobs. The main cause of the deficit is a secular overvaluation of the dollar, driven by excessive financial flows into dollar assets from foreign official and private investors. Although Trump’s policies have failed, achieving balanced trade is not a hopeless quest. President-elect Joseph Biden should direct his Treasury secretary to pursue a more sensible dollar policy that can tame the deficit without violating any international norms or rules.
  • Topic: Economic Growth, Currency, Trade Deficit
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Patrick Honohan
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Good international economic policy requires good comparative data on national economic performance. In May 2020, the World Bank published the latest comprehensive update of purchasing power parities (PPPs), as part of the International Comparison Program. Produced for 176 countries, these PPPs are used to convert data (especially GDP and other quantities based on national income accounts) from national currencies to a common basis in a way that is meaningful for economic analysis. PPP-adjusted data are essential because the distortions caused by sharp exchange rate movements are significant, especially for times of macroeconomic turbulence. The newly released PPP data contain fewer surprises than those published in previous updates and are an invaluable tool, but Honohan explains why PPPs should be used with caution and an understanding of their limitations. Apart from removing distortions caused by market exchange rate movements, PPPs remove the impact of other factors affecting relative prices, especially productivity differences, which Honohan argues should not be removed if one wishes to compare the overall economic size or strength of a country or region. Adjusting for productivity, he finds that the United States retains its position as the world’s largest economy for the time being, and the European Union (even without the United Kingdom) is just ahead of China.
  • Topic: World Bank, Economic Growth, Currency, Data, Productivity
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Nicholas R. Lardy, Tianlei Huang
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Despite predictions by some observers that the United States and China are headed for a “decoupling,” China’s integration into global financial markets is accelerating. Regulatory reform has opened China’s financial market to many US and other foreign financial institutions. Foreign ownership of onshore Chinese stocks and bonds is growing rapidly and is likely to continue to expand in 2021. And inbound foreign direct investment (FDI) is on track to hit a new record in 2020. This integration is very asymmetric, however. China retains relatively tight control over both outbound direct investment and outflows of portfolio capital. US efforts to roll back the trend of deepening financial integration by threatening to delist Chinese companies traded on US markets and prohibiting any US investment in 35 Chinese companies that the Department of Defense alleges to be linked to the Chinese military appear to be largely symbolic.
  • Topic: Financial Markets, Investment, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, United States of America