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  • 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 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: 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: Emily Blanchard, Chad P. Bown, Davin Chor
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Republican candidates lost support in the 2018 congressional election in counties more exposed to trade retaliation but saw no commensurate electoral gains from US tariff protection. The electoral losses were driven by retaliatory tariffs on agricultural products and were only partially mitigated by the US agricultural subsidies announced in summer 2018. Republicans also fared worse in counties that had seen recent gains in health insurance coverage, affirming the importance of health care as an election issue. A counterfactual calculation suggests that the trade war and health care can account for five and eight of Republicans' lost House seats, respectively.
  • Topic: Politics, Elections, Trade Wars, Trade, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Maurice Obstfeld
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: This paper is a partial exploration of mechanisms through which global factors influence the tradeoffs that US monetary policy faces. It considers three main channels. The first is the determination of domestic inflation in a context where international prices and global competition play a role, alongside domestic slack and inflation expectations. The second channel is the determination of asset returns (including the natural real safe rate of interest) and financial conditions, given integration with global financial markets. The third channel, which is particular to the United States, is the potential spillback onto the US economy from the disproportionate impact of US monetary policy on the outside world. In themselves, global factors need not undermine a central bank’s ability to control the price level over the long term—after all, it is the monopoly issuer of the numeraire in which domestic prices are measured. Over shorter horizons, however, global factors do change the tradeoff between price-level control and other goals such as low unemployment and financial stability, thereby affecting the policy cost of attaining a given price path.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Chad P. Bown, Jennifer A. Hillman
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The United States, the European Union, and Japan have begun a trilateral process to confront the Chinese economic model, including its use of industrial subsidies and deployment of state-owned enterprises. This paper seeks to identify the main areas of tension and to assess the legal-economic challenges to constructing new rules to address the underlying conflict. It first provides a brief history of subsidy disciplines in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the World Trade Organization (WTO) predating any concerns introduced by China. It then describes contemporary economic problems with China’s approach to subsidies, their impact, and the apparent ineffectiveness of the WTO’s Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures to address them. Finally, it calls for increased efforts to measure and pinpoint the source of the problems—in a manner analogous to how the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development took on agricultural subsidies in the 1980s—before providing a legal-economic assessment of proposals for reforms to notifications, evidence, remedies, enforcement, and the definition of a subsidy.
  • Topic: Economics, World Trade Organization, Tariffs, Trade
  • Political Geography: Japan, Europe, Asia, North America, United States of America, European Union
  • Author: Patrick Honohan
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Should central banks take more account of ethical issues, notably the impact of monetary policy actions on the distribution of income and wealth and on efforts to combat climate change, in the design and implementation of the wider monetary policy toolkit they have been using in the past decade? Although the scope to influence a range of objectives is more limited than is often supposed, and while it is vital to not derail monetary policy from its core purposes, central bank mandates justify paying more attention to such broad issues, especially if policy choices have a significant potential impact. Carefully managed steps in this direction could actually strengthen central bank independence while making some contribution to improving the effectiveness of public policy on these issues.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Economics, Monetary Policy, Inequality, Central Bank
  • Political Geography: North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • 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: Economy, Trade, Donald Trump, Protectionism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ana 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: Bilateral Relations, Economy, Trade Wars, Trade Policy
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America, European Union