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  • Author: Justyna Szczudlik
  • Publication Date: 02-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Asia could be described as the world’s great construction site, and is already the focus of a scramble for infrastructure projects. Among countries competing for investments are not only China with its Silk Road initiative, but also Korea, Japan, India and ASEAN, which have prepared their own infrastructural strategies. The plethora of initiatives may have a positive impact on Asia, offering diverse solutions to the infrastructural bottleneck and reforms of existing institutions and modes of assistance. But there is also the risk that fierce competition may result in unprofitable projects, while economic slowdown could cause a decline in funding. For Europe these initiatives create opportunities to take part in new projects, but the EU should be aware that the projects will be implemented mainly in Asia and by Asian countries.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Infrastructure, Reform
  • Political Geography: Asia
  • 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: Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Unconventional monetary policy (UMP) has had predictable effects. How exit plays out is scenario-dependent. Quantitative easing has had the predictable effect of encouraging currency depreciation and some partner countries may have attempted to offset these exchange rate effects. Korea presents a particularly interesting case: it is relatively small and relatively open and integrated, in both trade and financial terms, with the United States and Japan, two practitioners of UMP. Authorities have acted to limit the won's appreciation primarily against the currency of China, not the US or Japan. Nevertheless, Korea's policy is a source of tension with the US. Under legislation currently being considered, the currency manipulation issue could potentially interfere with Korean efforts to attract direct investment from the US and create an obstacle to Korea joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy, Monetary Policy, Foreign Direct Investment
  • Political Geography: Asia
  • Author: Jon Dorsch
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: At the end of 2015 the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will announce the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). In theory, this agreement should produce an association-wide economic integration. However, following the announcement, and for the foreseeable future, ASEAN member states will continue in significantly less than full regional economic integration. Why? Some observers believe that the AEC plans involve an "overly ambitious timeline and too many ill-thought-out initiatives." Others point to ASEAN's traditional aversion to legally binding agreements. While progress has been made in reducing or eliminating intra-ASEAN trade tariffs, substantial non-tariff barriers to trade persist. However, for most member states, the ASEAN market is relatively small while external markets, especially China, are growing rapidly. Given this outward-orientation for ASEAN trade, is the lack of an unhindered regional market really a problem?
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In recent years, despite a history of enmity and armed conflict that never really ended after the Korean War more than 60 years ago, South Korea has been a major investor in North Korea, and South Korean firms have employed more than 50,000 North Korean workers. South Korea's stated goal has been to encourage sufficient economic progress by North Korea, emboldening it toward establishing a meaningful basis for reconciliation and, ultimately, national unification. The expectation, or at least the hope, has been to use economic engagement to lessen the North's direct state control over the economy and to encourage the development of a middle class that might demand greater internal opening. The goal, as enunciated by former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, has also been to foster a rise of interest groups with an enhanced stake in peaceable external relations.
  • Topic: Economics, Human Rights, International Trade and Finance, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Joseph E. Gagnon
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: For the major advanced economies and the world as a whole, insufficient aggregate demand—that is, too little spending—impeded recovery from the Great Recession of 2008-09. By manipulating their currencies to boost their net exports, many countries made a bad situation worse for their trading partners, which saw demand shifted away. The world needs policies that increase total demand rather than policies that fight over the allocation of the existing amount of demand.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, International Monetary Fund
  • Political Geography: Europe, Asia, Switzerland, Singapore
  • Author: Marcus Noland, Cullen S. Hendrix
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Myanmar is in the midst of a long and difficult multifaceted transition, involving political liberalization, economic reform, and the resolution of multiple long-standing civil conflicts. The country has a history of ethno-religious conflict and separatism. Civil-military relations are muddy, and business-military-state relations are similarly opaque. An ongoing natural resource boom, and the blessings and curses that come with it, further complicates these developments. Given the country's evident institutional weaknesses, external policy anchors could play a critical role in this transition. Hendrix and Noland address the possible role for such international precommitment mechanisms—in particular, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)—in Myanmar's growing extractive sector.
  • Topic: Economics, Ethnic Conflict, Governance, Reform
  • Political Geography: Asia, Myanmar
  • Author: Anna Gelpern
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The escalating crisis in Ukraine has prompted the United States and Europe to impose the toughest economic sanctions against Russia since the end of the Cold War. Continued instability and military conflict in eastern Ukraine are straining Ukrainian finances. Despite a generous international support package, the government faces shrinking revenues, rising costs, and a spike in foreign debt payments over the next two years.
  • Topic: Cold War, Debt, Economics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Asia
  • Author: Jeffrey J. Schott, Cathleen Cimino
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a megaregional agreement to lower barriers to trade and investment and promote economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region, has been a dynamic process with a number of countries joining the talks in midstream. Since negotiations began in March 2010, participation in the TPP talks has expanded several times to include Malaysia (October 2010), Vietnam (December 2010), Canada and Mexico (October 2012), and Japan (July 2013). In November 2013, Korea announced its interest in participating in the TPP and began consulting with the countries involved. The TPP now has 12 participants. Korea is still considering whether to become lucky 13.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Malaysia, Canada, Asia, Vietnam, Korea, Mexico
  • Author: Bart Gaens
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: China is challenging the regional balance of power in East Asia through a military buildup and an increasingly assertive foreign policy. The US is forced to find the right balance between cooperating with China while benefiting from its economic rise, and countering China's regional reach by carrying out its self-declared "pivot" to Asia in spite of domestic and budgetary constraints. With just over one year in office, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has received wide domestic support for his ambitious plans to revive Japan's economy through his threefold policy of Abenomics. At the same time, however, he has implemented a number of significant policies in the defence and security sphere. In response to China's military rise, the Abe administration increased and recalibrated the defence budget. Furthermore, in order to reinforce the alliance with the US, the government approved the creation of a US-style National Security Council, passed a Secrecy Bill, and aims to reverse Japan's self-imposed ban on exercising the right to collective self-defence. Under the banner of "proactive pacifism", the Abe cabinet is seizing the momentum caused by the changing regional power dynamics in order to edge closer towards "breaking away from the postwar regime". A proposed revision of Japan's constitution, unchanged since 1947, symbolizes the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) objective to bring about a more autonomous role for Japan both in the security alliance with the US and as an international actor.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Asia