Caroline Freund, 07 June 2017

In assessing the underlying causes of the US’ significant trade deficits, the Trump administration’s focus appears to be on alleged unfair trade practices of foreign countries. This column argues that international trade policy has a negligible effect on trade balances. The aggregate US trade deficit results from macroeconomic pressures, while bilateral deficits are due to structural factors, supply chains, and how trade is measured. 

Alberto Alesina, Gualtiero Azzalini, Carlo Favero, Francesco Giavazzi, Armando Miano, 16 December 2016

When a government wants to cut a deficit, it must decide both how and when to do it. Research has treated the two questions as if they are independent, which risks attributing good policy to good timing, or vice versa. This column argues that when the effects are considered simultaneously, the composition of fiscal adjustments is much more important than the state of the cycle. Fiscal adjustments based upon spending cuts have losses that are on average close to zero, while those based upon tax increases are associated with large and prolonged recessions, regardless of whether or not the adjustment starts in a recession. 

Roel Beetsma, Xavier Debrun, 16 May 2016

The success of independent central banks is often used to argue in favour of independent fiscal councils with the aim of promoting sound fiscal policies. But unlike central banks, fiscal councils have no policy levers to pull – they can bark but never bite. This column explores the theoretical foundations and practical implications of fiscal councils. The evidence suggests that independent councils can mitigate the deficit bias. They do this by subjecting the ‘fiscal alchemy’ to systematic, rigorous, and highly publicised scrutiny.

André Sapir, 28 June 2007

France should beware of comparisons with Germany’s 'social VAT': France’s VAT rate is already 5% above Germany’s, the share of public spending in GDP is already nine percentage points above Germany’s, and Germany, unlike France, is fully committed to structural balance by 2010.

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