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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: 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: 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: Simon Lester, Huan Zhu
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Donald Trump was a trade “hawk” long before he became president. In the late 1980s, he went on the Oprah Winfrey show and complained about Japan “beating the hell out of this country” on trade (Real Clear Politics 2019). As president, he has continued with the same rhetoric, using it against a wide range of U.S. trading partners, and he has followed it up with action (often in the form of tariffs). While many countries have found themselves threatened by Trump’s aggressive trade policy, his main focus has been China. As a result, the United States and China have been engaged in an escalating tariff, trade, and national security conflict since July 2018, when the first set of U.S. tariffs on China went into effect and China retaliated with tariffs of its own. In this article, we explore the U.S.-China economic conflict, from its origins to the trade war as it stands today. We then offer our thoughts on where this conflict is heading and when it might end.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Tariffs, Trade Wars, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Robert Sutter
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: The so-called “truce” in the trade war with the signing of the phase one U.S.-China trade agreement on January 15 comes amid indicators that the intense U.S. government consensus pushback against a wide range of perceived challenges posed by China may be subsiding.
  • Topic: Government, Bilateral Relations, Economy, Trade Wars
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, 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: 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: John Edwards
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The outlines of a trade deal between the United States and China are there. But without a return to the negotiating table, the dispute could rapidly escalate, magnifying the damage to world growth. With the Osaka G20 meeting looming, Chinese analysts and policymakers visited in Beijing are pessimistic about the prospects for a trade deal with the United States. If they are right, global financial markets are in for a much wilder shock than anything yet seen in this quarrel. Yet much of a deal has already been agreed, while the consequences of not reaching a deal have become increasingly dire.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Trade and Finance, Trade Wars, Trade
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Bruce A. Heyman
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Seeing the words “U.S.-Canada Trade War” in headlines is hard to imagine in any year, but to see them in 2018 was jarring. How is it possible that best friends and neighbors who have had the most successful trading relationship in the world now could have an association characterized by the word war? This is hard enough for the average American or Canadian to conceive of, but it was particularly hard for me to do so, as the U.S. Ambassador to Canada until January 20, 2017. When I left Ottawa, I was confident that the U.S.-Canada relationship was strong—indeed, perhaps never stronger. In March 2016, we had a state dinner in Washington for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the first in nearly 20 years. Then-President Barack Obama later repaid the favor and addressed the Canadian Parliament for the first time in more than 20 years. Our two-way trading relationship was valued at a huge $670 billion per year, and while no longer our largest, it was the most balanced, with the United States having a slight but rare trade surplus in goods and services. Through an integrated supply chain, our companies and citizens worked together. On average more than 400,000 people legally crossed our 5,525-mile non-militarized border daily for work and tourism. But the U.S.-Canada relationship was and is much larger than trade. Canadian and American troops have fought and died together from the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan, and our countries are founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)—a unique Canadian-American partnership—patrols the skies above our shared continent. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies constantly exchange information on threats from terrorism, nuclear proliferation, espionage and complex crimes. Our two countries work together to protect the environment and provide stewardship of the magnificent Great Lakes, where cities such as Toronto and my own Chicago are located. This dense web of mutually beneficial cooperation is based on a shared set of values. Both our countries settled the vast North American continent, providing undreamt-of opportunities to millions of immigrants. Both our countries have an abiding commitment to democracy and the rule of law, and when we fall short, we make the needed changes. Beyond our countries’ being next-door neighbors, the largest number of Americans living abroad live in Canada and the largest number of Canadians living abroad live in the U.S. We are best friends, but more important, we are family.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Culture, Trade Wars, Trade
  • Political Geography: United States, Canada, North America
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: President Donald Trump’s declared economic protectionism has taken the US’s international relations with several foes and allies into uncharted territory. His open-ended trade wars with several nations have triggered criticism among conservatives and liberals alike in the US. He has justified his actions by arguing for a downturn of America’s trade deficit, but the American people don’t seem to be on board with his logic. A recent Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey shows 63% of registered voters believe tariffs imposed on Chinese products ultimately hurt the US more than China, while 74% said American consumers are shouldering most of the burden of those tariffs. The political network funded in part by billionaire libertarian Charles Koch has contested Trump’s approach toward China and is trying to shape an alternative strategy for 2020, the year of the US presidential election. One Koch senior official has acknowledged, “It doesn’t penetrate with the people that are willing to go along with the argument that you have to punish China.” There is now a pursuit of a “two steps back strategy,” which will involve putting together a team of almost 100 business leaders to call on the Trump administration and lawmakers to end the trade war with China. This paper examines the ramifications of President Trump’s policy of economic sanctions and tariffs vis-à-vis several nations and international groupings. It also looks at China’s counter-strategy and considers whether Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia will be caught in the web of the current trade wars.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economy, Trade Wars, Trade, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America