The WTO and its predecessor the GATT have been remarkably successful in negotiating down tariffs over the past six decades. But trade is still a long way from free and since the global crisis, it is becoming even less so. This column reviews the facts, economics, and motives behind these new non-tariff barriers and discusses the challenges they pose for the WTO.
Financial markets once again pushed Eurozone leaders to act. European Central Bank President Draghi recently promised to “do whatever it takes”. This column argues that Draghi made an implicit commitment to act as lender of last resort to Eurozone governments. This means optimism may be justified – if only because it suggests that the Eurozone has a great central banker who is both a serious economist and an astute politician.
The escalation of the crisis in the Eurozone calls for new measures to reduce yields on Spanish bonds. This column succinctly lays out the options and finds them wanting. It argues that sovereign bond purchases might not be sufficient to reassure investors. A credible solution will also require a coordinated strategy to address Spain’s competitiveness problem.
Should we give up on the Doha Round and leave the WTO standing still? This column argues that such stalemate is dangerous – the WTO needs to be kept busy.
The sharp decline in trade values during the recent global recession has captured the attention of both policymakers and academics. This column presents recent research sowing that, within differentiated sectors, the great collapse was one of trade quantities and not one of trade prices.
Those responsible for supervising the global financial system generally agree that international liquidity regulation must not only be harmonised, but also improved substantially. This column argues that any move towards dissolving this international consensus endangers financial stability in the EU.
India’s cities are growing at a growing rate – despite the slowdown in the pace of industrialisation. But beneath the overall trend, many companies are moving out of the city. This column looks at data on manufacturing firms and finds that while those in the formal sector are leaving the city, those in the informal sector are moving in.
Money matters, but is that all? This column presents evidence that social incentives can boost productivity in sectors that rely on pro-social behaviour such as health, education, and social care. It argues that this may help explain the growing popularity of Corporate Social Responsibility programmes within firms.
Global economic cooperation can help mitigate many economic problems. But it is often difficult to justify, and even more difficult to achieve. This column argues that simple appeals to greater global governance are not likely to have much effect. It suggests that the future of the international economy does depend on the success of international cooperation; but this success in turn requires that governments have realistic expectations about how much can be accomplished at the global level.
EZ leaders have failed to tame the crisis. This column presents the English language version of the new plan by the German Council of Experts to resolve the crisis via “redemption bonds” and accompanying institutional reforms.
The EZ crisis is once again on the march; Spain and Italy are under pressure. This column argues that policymakers are likely to fall back once again on a failed approach to avoid admitting past errors. Ultimately, however, EZ leaders will come around to the only way forward – the ECB underwriting both banks and sovereigns while additional controls on bad banking and bad fiscal governance are put in place.
Asia’s recent doubling of its financial safety net looks impressive. But this column argues it is more icing than cake. It is, in fact, unusable – there is no fund but a series of promises; the institutional mechanisms to replace IMF-type surveillance and conditionality have not been established; and there are no rapid-response procedures to handle a fast-developing financial crisis.
Economic output in the US seems to have recovered since the Great Recession – but jobs have not. This ‘jobless recovery’ has led economists to argue that unemployment has reached a point where it can fall no further without further inflation. This column disagrees, suggesting the nature of the crisis affects the nature of the recovery.
The US and the Eurozone are slowly recovering after the bursting of their huge housing bubbles. Yet the hardest-hit states in the US have adjusted more rapidly than the most troubled European economies. This column examines differences between the US and Eurozone monetary unions that can help explain why.
Uncovered sovereign credit default swaps will be permanently prohibited in the EU by November 2012. While empirical evidence on their destabilising role is mounting, this column argues that the EU regulation will have only a limited effect, as a number of inconsistencies create regulatory arbitrage and opportunities to circumvent the ban.
Is the crisis ‘decoupling’ the Greeks from Greece? Using EU survey data, this column shows that before the global crisis, Greeks’s assements of their own economic stance was in line with that of their country as a whole. But during the recent crisis years most Greeks thought they were doing better than average. This column explains this puzzle using insights from psychology.
The internationalisation of supply chains has been revolutionising international trade and trade policy for years. This column argues that expansion of international supply chains helps explain the so-called ‘distance paradox’, i.e. the fact that geography is still a powerful shaper of trade patterns despite declines in transport costs. It also argues that trade policy has played a prominent role in driving the expansion of global supply chains.
Affirmative action policies in India, which give preferential treatment to historically disadvantaged minority groups, are extremely controversial. Do they correct one injustice by creating another? This column looks at the effects of ‘political reservation’ – quotas for representatives from certain ethnic backgrounds. It finds that the effects depend on the group being given preferential treatment.
The Libor scandal rolls on – feeding a common perception of widespread bank misbehaviour. This column argues that understanding the crisis strengthens the sense of a conspiracy, but weakens the sense of criminality. The Libor system could not function in periods of extreme stress where the interbank market disappeared and reporting higher borrowing costs led to even higher borrowing costs. As Mervyn King said, Libor was the rate at which the banks didn’t lend to each other. One possible reform would replace Libor with some commonality of lending rates between major central banks and prime banks.
Solving the EZ crisis will almost certainly involve some financial transfers in exchange for some loss of sovereignty. This column suggests a guiding principle for which policies should be under EZ control. Transfers of authority to supranational bodies must make a no-further-bailout clause credible.
Simon Evenett of the University of St Gallen talks to Viv Davies about the recent increase of protectionist measures in the world trading system. They also discuss the implications of the rise in regional trade agreements, the potential effects of Russia joining the WTO and the impact of slow growth in Europe on the region’s trade with the rest of the world. Evenett maintains that defenders of the world trading system should do more to prevent the current subordination of trade policy. The interview was recorded by telephone on 17 July 2012.
Despite the EZ doom and gloom discussion, the US and EZ are at roughly the same point in their recovery from the global crisis. This column argues that the ‘austerity kills’ narrative of Krugman and Layard misses the basic point. Public debt ratios without retrenchment would become unsustainable. The fact that austerity is costly does not mean it should not be undertaken.
Some view uncompetitiveness in the Eurozone’s periphery as the fundamental cause of the region’s crisis. This column presents evidence that rising unit labour costs in the periphery were not a cause but rather a symptom of the local demand shocks triggered by large capital inflows in the 2000s.
Since 2008 China’s trade surplus has fallen sharply. This column argues that China has since become a major source of international demand, thanks to its strong economic growth. China’s import demand has been aimed at resource-rich countries and at its Asian neighbours, but also at European exporters, especially in high-end consumer goods.
With trade barriers rising, the time is right to refresh the evidence that openness to trade comes with substantial benefits. This column focuses on the complementarity between R&D and foreign sourcing. Looking at Norwegian firms from 1997 to 2005, it argues that one fifth of productivity growth came from sourcing more foreign products, while the remaining four fifths came from technical change.
Trade in services is a substantial yet poorly understood area of international trade. This column aims to fill part of the gap. It presents a new database on services trade across over 100 countries in nearly 20 sectors.
Fundamental changes to global value chains are afoot. This column argues that over the next decade the underlying cost structures driving their location could change dramatically. It presents a recent report on the political economy of value chains and the implications for developing countries and trade policy.
Offshoring continues to be a controversial issue in many developed countries. This column provides evidence from Japan and argues that policymakers should not worry too much about the loss of jobs; while unskilled jobs are offshored, they are replaced with skilled jobs, leading to a more productive use of the domestic labour force.
Antidumping tends to get no respect from economists. Many view the most popular import restriction among industrialised and middle-income economies today as politically-biased protectionism hiding behind the rhetoric of fair trade. This column challenges long-held perceptions by reinterpreting antidumping import restrictions as the grease that keeps the wheels of the liberal world trading system turning.
Paul De Grauwe of the LSE talks to Viv Davies about his recent Vox column on the potentially destabilising effects of the decisions taken at the last crisis summit of Eurozone leaders. He explains how the new recapitalisation role established for the ESM is doomed to fail and how the ECB is operating on the wrong business model. They discuss how full banking union will not be possible without a degree of political union, and how trust could create self-fulfilling positive outcomes for the Eurozone. The interview was recorded in London on 10 July 2012.
Financial aspects of the global crisis and the rolling bank scandals have led many to think again about their reliance on foreign banks. This column presents evidence that foreign banks do act differently. Among other things, they charge lower interest rates, but provide loans for shorter maturities, and are more likely to demand collateral.
Despite best intentions, government policies can sometimes provide politicians and others with an incentive to break the law. This column analyses the link between state support for renewable energy and corruption. It provides some evidence of this connection for the case of the tradable green certificate system, a policy introduced in Italy in 1999 to promote wind power.
A major cause of the Eurozone crisis is the difference in income and productivity between the core and the periphery. This column presents evidence suggesting that structural reforms can be instrumental in fostering the development of lagging regions within a country. It argues that this in turn can accelerate the rate of convergence across countries within a currency union.
As protectionist pressures mount worldwide, it is important to continue to shore up the case for open trade policy. This column presents new evidence from Europe on an old gain from trade – the weeding out effect – namely the way increased cross-border competition selects and favours the most productive firms. It argues that this mechanism brings about large gains.
Plans for an EZ banking union have been subjected to ‘dueling open letters’ by German-speaking economists. This column, by two Swiss-based economists, views the letters as closer than one thinks. The difference rests, not on economics, but on a judgement – will the the EU Summit’s promises be fulfilled, or is this one more instance of ever-larger dollops of euros and ever-emptier buzzwords?
The EU Summit decision on banking union is being questioned by some economists in Germany. This column argues that a banking union is a critical step in ending the EZ crisis and building a more stable EZ financial architecture. It is a translation by Michael Burda of the German-language manifesto drafted by the First Signatories listed below and signed by over 100 economists.
Do advanced economies have an edge in resolving financial crises? This column shows that the record thus far supports the opposite view, with the average crisis lasting about twice as long as in developing and emerging market economies. It argues that macroeconomic stabilisation policies in advanced countries often delay the necessary financial restructuring.
The presence of natural resources poses a number of potential economic challenges, especially for developing countries. This column argues resource-rich countries need to look beyond the so-called resource curse and put into action innovative policies and institutions to confront their many challenges and reap the benefits of widely shared natural-resource wealth.
The reputation of the British press has been dragged through the gutter over the past year with the Leveson inquiry into its practices. This column asks what can be done to ensure newspapers bolster democracy rather than undermine it. It draws parallels with the French press in the interwar years and argues that better corporate governance rather than just more regulation is the answer.
The EZ crisis – born as a debt crisis (Greece) – has grown up into a banking crisis (Ireland, Cyprus, Spain, …). This column argues that Spain is symptomatic of larger banking problems, so the EU Summit decisions on banking union are welcome and critical to any long-term solution. Yet someone must pay for Spanish bank losses. Spanish politics is shielding Spanish creditors, European politics is shielding EZ taxpayers, so the Spanish government will pay – and in doing so may go the way of Ireland. This crisis is far from over.
Richard Layard of the LSE talks to Viv Davies about his and Paul Krugman’s recently published ‘Manifesto for Economic Sense’, which aims to generate a movement of economists who are prepared to speak out against policies they know to be wrong - the excessive austerity of current fiscal policies. They discuss the role of the ECB as lender of last resort and whether the current bank-led capitalist culture can ever be changed. The interview was recorded in London on 5 July 2012.
The forefathers of Europe’s single currency argued that rather than devalue their currencies to restore competitiveness, countries could devalue ‘internally’. Against the current of bad press, this column presents a novel way of recording competitiveness and argues that Ireland, Spain, Latvia, and Lithuania have all managed these adjustments – but not without paying a huge toll in jobs lost.
For many, Europe’s latest summit on 29 June effectively promised a banking union. This column praises the move but argues that this remains just a bare bones promise and the details are yet to be fleshed out. In the short term it calls for a temporary task force, akin to that used by the US for its auto industry in 2009, to help Europe’s failing banks.
Institutions are a key determinant of economic development and indeed many developing institutions are deeply dysfunctional. This column presents a new model suggesting that those in power may prefer to keep bad institutions despite their anti-development effects since they alllow the elite to grab a bigger slice of a smaller pie.
With little end in sight for the Doha Round of trade talks, this column argues that China and India are only going to pursue more free trade agreements. It asks what can be done to make sure these agreements lead to deeper integration between these countries and the rest of the world.
According to the received wisdom, innovation is the heart-and-soul of modern growth but incentives to innovate are prone to the free-rider problem. This column partly supports that view. Looking at over 1,000 US companies it shows that internal citations of a firm's patents have a positive effect on market value while external citations have a negative effect.
Just as with Italy’s football team, Mario Monti has been hailed for beating the Germans – in his case at the recent EU summit. But this column argues that, just as with the football, Italy’s victory over Germany may soon lead to disaster.
The world of credit creation has shifted over recent years. This column argues this shift is more profound than is commonly understood. It describes the private credit creation process, explains how the ‘money multiplier’ depends upon inter-bank trust, and discusses the implications for monetary policy.
Among the questions still remaining since last week’s summit of European leaders is whether the new measures will stabilise government bond markets. This column’s answer is ‘no’.
What causes financial crises in emerging markets? This column looks at the effect of risky investments in South Korea on the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s.