Daniel Gros, 09 September 2019

Traditional analysis of tariffs in a partial equilibrium setting can tell us much about the welfare consequences of the US-China trade war. The column argues that, as tariffs ratchet up, welfare costs for both sides increase disproportionately. The cost of trade diversion in the US to less-efficient suppliers likely overwhelms any terms-of-trade gain the US might enjoy. In all cases, exporters in the rest of the world benefit.

Matthias Flückiger, Erik Hornung, Mario Larch, Markus Ludwig, Allard Mees, 28 August 2019

Against the backdrop of megaprojects such as the TEN-T Core Network or the Belt and Road initiative, assessing the role of transport infrastructure in fostering economic integration has gained renewed interest. While there is clear evidence that reducing transport costs increases economic integration in the short run, this column emphasises that we should be aware of the profound and lasting effects that past infrastructure investments have on economic and cultural integration.

Giancarlo Corsetti, Meredith A. Crowley, Lu Han, 26 August 2019

An immediate impact of the Brexit referendum in 2016 was the large, rapid depreciation of the sterling against all other currencies.The weak pound did not boost UK export volumes, but less clear is whether UK firms lowered their export prices in line with the weaker pound. This column shows that the UK export price response to depreciation depends on the currency in which UK firms invoice their cross-border transactions. Firms invoicing in sterling gained competitiveness by passing the sterling’s weakness through to prices, unlike firms invoicing in vehicle or destination currencies,which adjusted their mark-ups.

Zhen Huo, Andrei Levchenko, Nitya Pandalai-Nayar, 17 August 2019

The international co-movements of business cycles is a key determinant of trade and monetary policy, but the ways in which it is affected by technology, TFP, and trade openness are not fully understood. This column shows how such co-movements are affected by trade linkages and technology. It finds that non-technology shocks contribute more to international co-movement than TFP shocks, and that transmission plays a notable but small part in co-movements.

Jacques Melitz, Farid Toubal, 01 August 2019

Artificial intelligence has made spectacular progress in recent years. One particular source of high expectations is automatic translation and whether it will finally bring about the long-predicted death of distance in trade. This column examines the impact of a common language on bilateral trade and finds that the net result of reducing linguistic frictions with a set of trading partners is not apparent.The potential impact of machine translation on foreign trade remains up in the air.

Francois de Soyres, Alen Mulabdic, Michele Ruta, 12 July 2019

Common transport infrastructure can improve welfare for participating countries, but they are costly undertakings with potentially asymmetric effects on trade and income of individual countries. This column uses new data on China’s Belt and Road transport projects to quantify the economic impact of the initiative. Welfare in participating countries could increase by 2.8% if all projects are implemented, but some countries have a negative welfare effect because of the high cost of the infrastructure. 

Alvaro Espitia, Aaditya Mattoo, Mondher Mimouni, Xavier Pichot, Nadia Rocha, 10 July 2019

Preferential trade agreements cover more than half of world trade. This column argues that while the 280 preferential trade agreements in existence have substantially widened the scope of free trade and reduced average applied tariffs, they have struggled against traditional bastions of protection in poorer countries and have not been able to eliminate the high levels of protection for a handful of sensitive products. While preference margins offered to partners in such agreements seem large, their significance shrinks when competition from both preferential and non-preferential sources is considered.

Hites Ahir, Nicholas Bloom, Davide Furceri, 04 July 2019

Recent developments have inspired efforts to measure trade uncertainty. This column presents a new index of world trade uncertainty for 143 countries, measured on a quarterly basis from 1996 onwards, using the Economist Intelligence Unit country reports. The index shows that uncertainty in trade is rising sharply. This has important implications for global economic prospects.

Marco Buti, István Székely, 28 June 2019

The EU11 economies are among the most open economies globally. The process of trade integration and the creation of GVCs have also drove a significant inflow of FDI into these countries. This column shows that while integration in the EU and FDI have enhanced their growth potential, these developments have also made them more vulnerable to external shocks. Domestic and EU-level reforms in the EU11 should focus on increasing economic and social resilience. 

Weicheng Lian, Natalija Novta, Evgenia Pugacheva, Yannick Timmer, Petia Topalova, 07 June 2019

The dramatic decline in the relative price of capital goods has been an important – but overlooked – driver of real investment. This column analyses cross-country price data to establish that deepening trade integration and productivity growth have both contributed to this decline. The erosion of support for international trade and sluggish productivity growth may limit further declines in relative prices of capital goods, which could negatively affect real investment rates. 

Sergi Basco, Martí Mestieri, 19 May 2019

Trade in intermediates (or ‘unbundling of production') and trade in capital have become increasingly important in last 25 years. This column shows that trade in intermediates generates a reallocation of capital across countries that exacerbates world inequality in both income and welfare. Unbundling of production hurts middle-income countries but helps those with high productivity. Trade in intermediates also increases within-country inequality, and this increase is U-shaped in the aggregate productivity level of the country. 

Hites Ahir, Nicholas Bloom, Davide Furceri, 11 May 2019

According to the latest IMF projections, the global economy is now projected to grow at 3.3% in 2019, down from 3.6% in 2018. This is partly due to rising uncertainty in many parts of the world. This column shows how these statements are in line with the latest reading of the World Uncertainty Index, which shows a sharp increase in the first quarter of 2019. The increase in uncertainty observed in the first quarter could be enough to knock up to 0.5% of global growth over the course of the year. 

Chad Bown, 10 May 2019

Who will be the biggest loser in this trade war? Chad Bown tells Tim Phillips why it could be the WTO's dispute resolution system, and why we should worry if this happens.

David M. Higgins, Brian Varian, 27 April 2019

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Britain tried to reorient its trade towards the Empire via an advertising campaign led by the Empire Marketing Board. As this column shows, in economic terms, the initiative was a complete failure, producing no increase in the Empire’s share of Britain’s imports. Imperial sentiment conflicted with economic reality: Britain was the biggest global importer of produce from the late 19th century to the interwar period, and the EMB’s activities were constrained by entrenched consumer preferences for non-Empire foodstuffs, such as Argentine beef and Danish butter.

Thilo Huning, Nikolaus Wolf, 12 April 2019

State borders can change due to both political and economic disputes. This column shows how the formation of the German state can be traced back to British political intervention at the end of the Napoleonic War. In preventing Russia from gaining territory westwards, Britain set in motion a series of events that gave Prussia strategic trade advantages. This led to the formation of Europe's first customs union (the Zollverein) and prepared the political unification of Germany.

David Autor, 05 April 2019

Do trade and technology harm jobs? David Autor of MIT argues that we shouldn't mix the two as their effects are very different. Autor was giving the Economic Journal keynote lecture at the RES conference 2014.

Harald Hau, Difei Ouyang, Weidi Yuan, 01 March 2019

Trade between the US and China is widely thought to have contributed significantly to the decline in US manufacturing employment between 1999 and 2007. Flipping the point of view, this column examines the impact on China of the growth in trade and finds that for every US manufacturing job lost, almost six new Chinese manufacturing jobs were created. International trade did not contribute to faster wage rises for Chinese industrial workers but instead channelled agricultural and non-participating workers into the industrial labour market. 

Raphael Auer, Barthélémy Bonadio, Andrei Levchenko, 07 February 2019

The tide has turned in international trade, with watershed political moments across the world showing the growing popularity of protectionist measures. This column analyses the relationship between the distributional effects of trade and voting patterns by modelling a scenario in which NAFTA is dismantled. It finds that the areas that voted most overwhelmingly for the Trump administration are the same as those that would experience the greatest wage decreases if NAFTA were to be revoked, due to the strong correlation in areas that face import competition from and export exposure to NAFTA partners.

Martina F. Ferracane, Janez Kren, Erik van der Marel, 25 October 2018

Countries are increasingly imposing new data policies which restrict both the domestic use of data and the flow of data across borders. This column uses an index of data policy restrictiveness for 64 major economies to demonstrate that restrictions that apply to the cross-border movement of data have an inhibiting effect on trade in services and, to a lesser extent, on the productivity of local companies and industries. Policies targeting the use of data, on the other hand, are found to have a comparably larger effect on productivity.

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