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  • Author: Robert Z. Lawrence
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: President Trump has asserted that trade balances are a key measure of a nation’s commercial success and that large US trade deficits prove that past trade approaches have been flawed. But trade deficits are not in fact a good measure of how well a country is doing with respect to its trade policies. Many of the assumptions on which the administration’s beliefs rest are not supported by the evidence. This Policy Brief argues that trade deficits are not necessarily bad, do not necessarily cost jobs or reduce growth, and are not a measure of whether foreign trade policies or agreements with other countries are fair or unfair. Efforts to use trade policy and agreements to reduce either bilateral or overall trade deficits are also unlikely to produce the effects the administration claims they will and instead lead to friction with US trading partners, harming the people the policies claim to help
  • Topic: International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Tetyana Payosova, Gary Clyde Hufbauer , Jeffrey Schott
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Since its inception in 1995, the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) dispute settlement mechanism has resolved an impressive number of trade disputes and has earned a reputation as the “crown jewel” of the global trading system. Today, however, the mechanism is in crisis. WTO members have failed to negotiate updates to the rulebook, including rules on dispute settlement itself. As a result, the WTO Appellate Body increasingly is asked to render decisions on ambiguous or incomplete WTO rules. Its interpretations of such provisions have provoked charges by the United States and others that binding Appellate Body rulings, which establish precedents for future cases, effectively circumvent the prerogative of member countries to revise the WTO rulebook and thus undercut the national sovereignty of WTO members. For the past few years, US officials have blocked appointments of Appellate Body members to force WTO members to negotiate new rules that address US concerns and limit the scope for judicial overreach. If this problem is not resolved, the Appellate Body soon will not have enough members to review cases and the vaunted WTO dispute settlement system will grind to a halt.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: William R Cline
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The centerpiece of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 is the reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. The Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated the net revenue loss from the tax overhaul at $1 trillion over the next decade. The underlying premise of the legislation is that lower corporate taxes will spur growth, with trickle-down wage benefits that spread the resulting economic gains.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Martin Chorzempa
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Formidable barriers stand between the modern financial system and the hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens still using costly informal credit. For many, the financial data that could be used to give them a credit score that would lead to a fair priced loan exist but are not being used. This analysis finds that the most difficult barriers cutting these data off from their potential use for greater financial inclusion are the legal and political restrictions on data sharing and use, economic and competitive concerns from data holders, and the technical difficulty of integrating disparate systems. Policies that encourage coordination between public authorities and private actors in finance and technology can go a long way towards making these data available and driving access to credit in China. This shift would not only help borrowers: It would also encourage the needed economic rebalancing towards consumption, increase competition in the financial sector, raise efficiency through better credit allocation, and contribute to sustainable economic growth and social welfare.
  • Topic: International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Shanna Dietz Surendra
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: In my previous assignment in London, the U.S. Ambassador was so committed to public engagement that he reached as many as 30,000 students in 260 schools over the course of his three-and-a-half-year tenure. Through his outreach, he made a number of observations about British public opinion toward the United States, and he noted that there was one controversial question that emerged again and again when he met with the general public: Why is the American public so fixated on guns? It was evident that the British public struggled to understand this phenomenon and saw it as a major cultural and political difference between our two countries. Students in particular wanted an explanation for gun violence in the United States, and the topic stood as a hurdle in moving on to other positive areas of discussion. The Ambassador understood that if our embassy didn’t address the topic head on, the U.S. government’s overall credibility would be significantly hindered. And so, although he admitted he did not have “answers,” he tried his best to provide a historical, socio-cultural explanation for this vast dissimilarity between our two countries. Audience members may not have been convinced that his explanation was accurate. They may not have believed his statistics, and they might have thought he was trying to justify the unjustifiable. However, addressing the topic head-on allowed the discussion to move forward. His willingness to directly answer tough questions especially disarmed students of their “gotcha” questions, thereby creating space and time for other foreign policy-related questions. Most important, his honesty enhanced our embassy’s overall credibility and made the relationship—whether between audience and speaker or between our two countries’ publics—more open and more authentic. Addressing difficult topics directly and honestly is not always easy in public diplomacy. Foreign Service Officers are often nervous about deviating from official talking points and saying the “wrong thing” that could garner negative attention for their U.S. Embassy, the U.S. government, or—perhaps most terrifying—for the officers themselves. But in my modest nine years as a U.S. diplomat, I have seen colleagues deftly maneuver contentious topics, and their honesty and courage lays the foundation upon which U.S. foreign relations are built and sustained. Below, I summarize a handful of approaches I have observed as useful in addressing the most controversial topics.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Culture, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Katja Cruetz
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) principle both seek to respond to mass atrocities. They are products of the heyday of the international liberal order, which allowed the formation of projects based upon interference in the internal affairs of states in order to protect populations from atrocity crimes. The changing international system with the redistribution of power between states has affected these projects by bringing uncontroversial activities to the fore in order to secure state acceptance. Consensus on the RtoP extends to the primacy of the state in protection of its populations, while actions of the international community going beyond assistance and capacity-building are contested, particularly highly coercive ones such as military intervention. Alongside its judicial task of trying perpetrators of international crimes, the ICC has focused on positive complementarity whereby national capabilities are enhanced. It has also engaged in symbolic activities, such as highlighting certain international crimes.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jakkie Cilliers
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Development and Peace
  • Abstract: The United Nations Security Council lies at the heart of the global security architecture. It was established in 1945 to maintain international peace and security, but reform has been stuck for decades. Beyond a nuclear conflagration and the enduring challenge of interstate conflict, future global security challenges include the impact of climate change, the threat of pandemics, dirty bombs, nuclear terrorism and cybercrime. These risks are exacerbated by the rise of new nationalism in the West with countries such as the USA turning away from multilateralism, eschewing collaboration and accelerating change away from a global system hitherto dominated by the West. At a time of great power transitions, mul- tipolarity without sufficient multilateralism is a dan- gerous trend. Without comprehensive change that includes the end of permanent seats and the veto, the Council is fading into irrelevance. Such reform is possible, but requires a very different approach compared to efforts to find a compromise between different negotiating blocks in New York. Instead, detailed proposals should be agreed upon amongst like-minded states outside of the intergovernmental negotiating process and tabled in the General Assembly as a non-negotiable amendment to the Charter of the United Nations (UN). Even then only the threat from key countries to withdraw coopera- tion from the UN is likely to change things.
  • Topic: Security, International Cooperation, United Nations, Multilateralism, UN Security Council
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: B.S. Chimni
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Development and Peace
  • Abstract: More than two-thirds (68 %) of the 24 million refugees worldwide come from just five countries: Syria (6.3 mil- lion), Afghanistan (2.6 million), South Sudan (2.4 million), Myanmar (1.2 million) and Somalia (almost 1 million) (UNHCR 2018b, p. 3). At least in three of these, there has been overt Western intervention and in four cases there is a failed developmental state. In keeping out asylum seek- ers and refugees from their territories, Western nations also forget the migration of millions of people in the 19th century from Europe to the rest of the world. Furthermore, the limits of contemporary movement of forced migrants to the West cannot be discussed without talking about slave trade, the movement of indentured labour, and the occupation of territories declared terra nullius. Contem- porary economic and political policies of Western nations and the institutions they control also need to be factored in. These historical episodes lend perspective to current numbers with refugees constituting less than 0.3 % of the world’s population (Amnesty International 2016, p. 6). Moreover, according to United Nations High Commis- sioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 85 % of the world’s refu- gees under its mandate are hosted in the Global South (UNHCR 2018b, p. 2). Against this backdrop, the author seeks to contest the justifications offered by Western com- mentators for the non-entrée or restrictive asylum regime established in the Global North. Instead, he proposes a multipronged strategy consisting of short, medium, and long-term measures to address the global refugee crisis.
  • Topic: United Nations, Refugee Crisis, Asylum, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Joseph Antos, Robert Moffit
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Medicare’s financial outlook has deteriorated in the past year, according to the latest annual report by the program’s trustees. The Medicare Hospital Insurance trust fund is projected to be depleted in 2026, three years earlier than estimated in last year’s report. That understates the policy challenge. Every year, the program relies more on general revenues to cover its costs. In total, Medicare will receive $324 billion in general revenues this year. That will more than double by 2026. Prompt action is needed to put Medicare on a sound financial footing.
  • Topic: International Organization
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Gary J. Schmitt
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established to meet the security threat posed by the Soviet Union. Often overlooked, though, are the ways in which it has provided the material and behavioral grounds for the larger liberal order in Europe to emerge.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus