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  • Author: Theodore H. Moran, Lindsay Oldenski
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Japan is reemerging as the most important source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States. In 2013 Japanese firms were the largest source of new inflows of FDI into the United States for the first time since 1992, injecting almost $45 billion of fresh investment into the US economy in that year alone. Moran and Oldenski show how Japanese investment in the United States differs from that of other countries along several dimensions. These differences not only make FDI by Japanese firms especially valuable but point to some important policy goals for attracting it. Although the automotive sector is the single largest industry for Japanese investment in the United States, the focus should not be on competing to attract the auto industry in particular nor should any active industrial policy of "picking winners" be pursued. Japanese investment is unique because of its research and development intensity, manifested across a number of industries in which Japanese multinationals invest other than automobiles. US policy should focus on reinforcing and expanding the factors that attract high-performing firms and high-value production stages to the United States, regardless of industry.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Foreign Direct Investment, United States
  • Political Geography: Japan
  • Author: Li-gang Liu
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: China's property market has slowed significantly since the first half of 2014, with sharp declines in sales and a buildup in the inventory of new homes. This sharper than expected downturn—which has affected not only second- and third tier smaller cities but also first-tier megacities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou—contrasts with last year's buoyant sales and double-digit price surge. Compounded by fears of a default in the shadow banking system and the perception of a highly leveraged Chinese economy, the sudden declines in the property sector are being watched closely. Many commentators believe this could be a turning point for the sector, triggering a hard landing of the Chinese economy and even a financial crisis. Over the last decade, China's property sector has become an important pillar for the country's growth as well as the key source for elevated commodity prices. A property market slump would hurt other sectors, as well as drag down resource-rich economies that rely heavily on China to buy their exports.
  • Topic: Economics, Financial Crisis, Urbanization
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, United Nations
  • Author: William R. Cline
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: This semiannual review finds that most of the major international currencies, including the US dollar, euro, Japanese yen, UK pound sterling, and Chinese renminbi, remain close to their fundamental equilibrium exchange rates (FEERs). The new estimates find this result despite numerous significant exchange rate movements associated with increased volatility in international financial markets at the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2014, and despite a major reduction in the price of oil. The principal cases of exchange rate misalignment continue to be the undervalued currencies of Singapore, Taiwan, and to a lesser extent Sweden and Switzerland, and the overvalued currencies of Turkey, New Zealand, South Africa, and to a lesser extent Australia and Brazil. Even so, the medium-term current account deficit for the United States is already at the outer limit in the FEERs methodology (3 percent of GDP), and if the combination of intensified quantitative easing in Japan and the euro area with the end to quantitative easing in the United States were to cause sizable further appreciation of the dollar, an excessive US imbalance could begin to emerge.
  • Topic: Economics, Foreign Exchange, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Japan, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil, New Zealand
  • Author: Joseph E. Gagnon
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: There is a long-standing debate among economists and policymakers on the benefits of flexible versus fixed exchange rates (Klein and Shambaugh 2010). In principle, flexible exchange rates allow a country's central bank to focus on stabilizing economic growth and inflation, which are the ultimate goals of monetary policy. However, some argue that in practice central banks often do not use their powers wisely and it may be better to restrict their freedom by requiring them to peg their currency to that of an important trading partner. Others note that flexible exchange rates are far more volatile than fundamental factors can explain (Flood and Rose 1995), raising the possibility that they may introduce wasteful cross-sectoral fluctuations in economic activity. One common viewpoint is that flexible exchange rates may be fine for large countries but that the smallest countries are better off with fixed exchange rates (Åslund 2010).
  • Topic: Economics, Foreign Exchange, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, United Kingdom
  • Author: Gary Clyde Hufbauer
  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The United States suffers from a severe self-inflicted wound. Together, federal and state governments impose almost the highest corporate tax rate found among advanced countries, 39 percent. Only Japan is fractionally higher. The high US rate has adverse consequences—lost investment, lost jobs, and less innovation—and goes a long way to explain slipping US competitiveness in the world economy.
  • Topic: Economics, Industrial Policy, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan
  • Author: Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Julia Muir
  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Legislation to reform Japan Post is again gathering steam in Tokyo. The real question is whether the latest act in this long- running drama will represent true reform or in fact will camouflage an entrenchment of Japan Post's formidable monopoly powers. Antireform proposals being lined up for consideration in the Diet would indefinitely extend effective government control of Japan Post's financial arms (thereby reversing the Koizumi era reforms). On the other hand, reform forces in the Japanese government want new legislation to guarantee a level playing field in banking and insurance between Japan Post and private firms, whether domestic or foreign.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, International Trade and Finance, Natural Disasters
  • Political Geography: Japan, Israel
  • Author: Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Julia Muir
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Our last policy brief on this long-running saga recounted political machinations, late in 2011, to reverse the Koizumi era reforms of Japan Post, a giant among state-owned enterprises (SOEs). As a brief background: Japan Post is a conglomerate of five companies: the parent, Japan Post Holdings; two subsidiaries concerned with operating post offices and delivering mail, namely Japan Post Network and Japan Post Services; and two giant financial arms, Japan Post Bank and Japan Post Insurance.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Treaties and Agreements, Law
  • Political Geography: Japan, Israel
  • Author: John Williamson
  • Publication Date: 01-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The world has witnessed two distinct attempts to build a multilateral mechanism to discipline surplus countries that declined to adjust their surpluses, and several proposals are currently on the table to do the same. On the two previous occasions the major surplus country of the day defeated attempts to create such a mechanism, and today China (not to mention Japan or Germany) exhibits no enthusiasm for the idea. Despite the importance of the issue, there has been remarkably little discussion of these proposals.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, International Monetary Fund, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Germany
  • Author: Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Julia Muir
  • Publication Date: 06-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: On May 31, 2010 a majority of the Lower House of the National Diet of Japan approved legislation that would reverse a decade's worth of effort to fully privatize key subsidiaries of Japan Post Holdings Co. Ltd. Besides postal services, the state-run postal system offers banking and insurance services, through Japan Post Bank (JPB) and Japan Post Insurance (JPI), respectively. These are the financial engines of Japan Post and were the units slated for privatization. Both subsidiaries have long received favorable government treatment, tilting the playing field against private banks and insurance firms, whether foreign or domestic. The government of Japan is in clear violation of its commitments under the World Trade Organization (WTO), and if the Upper House approves the legislation, Japan will reverse the efforts made by the United States and the European Union, as well as domestic private banks and insurance firms, to establish a level playing field. What's more, Japan risks having a formal WTO dispute brought against it.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, Europe
  • Author: C. Randall Henning
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In September 1997, at the outset of the last global financial crisis, the Japanese Ministry of Finance proposed the creation of an Asian Monetary Fund. Although this particular proposal was scuttled, the idea of a common regional fund on which East Asian governments might draw in times of financial turmoil survives. The region's disaffection from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), stemming from the 1997–98 crisis, sustains this idea and a desire on the part of individual countries to self-insure with large holdings of foreign exchange reserves. East Asian governments and central banks have created a set of bilateral swap arrangements (BSAs) dubbed the Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI) and are negotiating among themselves to build these BSAs into a more comprehensive facility. Some Asian officials hope that such a facility could underpin exchange rate cooperation and monetary integration in the region, although such proposals remain for the moment long-term visions.
  • Topic: Economics, International Cooperation, International Trade and Finance, Regional Cooperation, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Japan, Israel, Asia