Emily Blanchard, Chad Bown, Davin Chor, 26 November 2019

Just over a year ago, congressional Democrats took majority control of the US House of Representatives. This column examines the relationship between local exposure to President Trump’s trade war and US voting patterns, and suggests that the producer-side consequences of the trade war may have been responsible for five of the 40 seats lost by Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections. The combination of the trade war and attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act may have cost the Republicans as many as 15 House seats.

Mario Larch, José-Antonio Monteiro, Roberta Piermartini, Yoto Yotov, 20 November 2019

Though economic theory clearly makes the case for WTO trade rules, the empirical evidence of their effect is mixed. This column argues that previous studies may have underestimated the positive role of GATT/WTO membership by not taking into account the non-discriminatory nature of their agreements. Besides market access, the agreements provide greater transparency and predictability that benefit WTO members and non-members alike. Taking these effects into account suggests that, on average, GATT/WTO membership has increased trade between Members by 171% and trade between member and non-member countries by about 88%. 

Michael Waugh, 19 November 2019

Consumers expect to bear the costs of trade wars through higher prices and reductions in variety. This column examines a different hardship of the US-China trade war: the retaliatory tariffs that affect income and production opportunities for directly impacted farmers and workers. Unlike price effects, which are spread across the population, this ‘labour income channel’ is concentrated and differs across US counties. Those who lost their position of comparative advantage for the Chinese market due to tariffs bear this burden of the trade war alone. 

Yuqing Xing, 11 November 2019

In order to pursue ‘fair trade’, the Trump administration has imposed a punitive 25% tariff on $250 billion’s worth of Chinese goods. However, conventional trade statistics greatly exaggerate the US trade deficit with China. This column uses the iPhone as an example to demonstrate how the trade deficit is inflated and why value-added should be used to assess the bilateral trade balance. If multinational enterprises, including Apple, shift part of their value chains out of China, China may no longer play a central role in global value chains targeting the US market. Depreciation of the yuan will be insufficient to counter the effect. 

Dong Cheng, Mario Crucini, Hyunseung Oh, Hakan Yilmazkuday, 08 November 2019

As the current narrative goes, the loss of US manufacturing jobs is due to competition from China and one way to get the jobs back is by running tariffs up the proverbial flagpole.  This column argues that in the case of the automobile industry, history shows exactly the opposite occurred. In the early 20th century, the US achieved exceptionalism in innovation, production and trade in automobiles without domestic tariff protection, while foreign nations languished behind high tariff walls designed to protect their fledgling domestic automobile industries. 

Willem Thorbecke, 06 November 2019

As the trade surpluses of East Asian countries have continued to exist in regional value chains despite the US-China trade war, one possible tool such economies could employ are currency appreciations. This column shows how exchange rates in upstream countries affect China’s exports. No single economy wants to appreciate its currency against the US dollar for fear of losing competitiveness, but a concerted effort to prioritise regional currencies could benefit the set of countries as a whole.

Michael Bordo, Mickey Levy, 18 October 2019

The history of tariffs and immigration and capital barriers provides clear lessons of the potentially sizeable economic costs of anti-globalisation policies. This column describes how the US-China tariff war and policy-related uncertainties are harming economic performance, and are also distorting the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy and undermining its credibility and independence. Tariffs and discretionary monetary policy are a toxic mix, and the authors encourage a de-escalation of burdensome barriers to trade and urge the Fed to adopt a systematic, rules-based approach to monetary policy.

Stefania Garetto, Lindsay Oldenski, Natalia Ramondo, 08 October 2019

Multinational enterprises play an important role in coordinating production around the globe. This column presents a dynamic quantitative model of multinational enterprise expansion that can be used to analyse the effects of policies that affect the cost of the operations of such firms. It uses this model to estaimte the impact of potential implementations of Brexit.

Jayant Menon, 27 September 2019

The impact of a simple 25% trade tariff can go far beyond the costs of directly impacted goods. This column shows that seemingly small tariffs can substantially disrupt global value chains, both through the difference between nominal and effective tariff rates and the relative costs of relocation and transhipment, and also because of how the trade dispute is being perceived. If it is seen as a symptom of an enduring geopolitical struggle for global economic dominance, then it could recur. 

Scott Baker, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, 17 September 2019

Tariff threats, hikes, and retaliations have become a major source of economic uncertainty and stock market volatility. This column draws on three initiatives to demonstrate that recent rise in trade policy uncertainty, driven by the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, tariff hikes on US steel and aluminium imports, ongoing Brexit uncertainty, and escalating US-China trade tensions, is extraordinary by several metrics. 

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.

Xuepeng Liu, Huimin Shi, 11 July 2019

The US-China trade war has continued for almost a year, but its effectiveness in preventing some Chinese origin products reaching the US may not be as great as it seems. This column shows how trade re-routing has been used in the past to circumvent antidumping duties in the context of trade tariffs. Firms may be able to avoid tariffs by sending their products to a third country, where the goods are reissued certificates of origin and then sent to the final destination country without being subject to the same tariffs.

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.

Simon Evenett, Johannes Fritz, 01 July 2019

What is the practical and intellectual significance of the Sino-US tariff hikes of 2018? This column, taken from a recent Vox eBook, argues that the uncertainty engendered by the trade tensions is likely to have had a larger economic impact than the direct restrictive effect on international trade. The intellectual significance, meanwhile, lies in prompting the questions of what actions constitute a trade war and of whether trade policy analysts, in focusing on instances of brazen protectionism, have failed to spot more far-reaching commercial policy developments.

Michael Bordo, 07 June 2019

Growing international imbalances are widely understood to have led Nixon to end gold convertibility in 1971. This column argues that a key fundamental underlying these imbalances was the rising inflation in the US, in turn created by US macroeconomic policies. President Nixon blamed the rest of the world instead of correcting US monetary and fiscal policies. It also identifies similarities between the imbalances of the 1960s and 1970s and those of today, especially regarding fiscal policies and the use of tariff protection as a strategic tool.

Peter Egger, Katharina Erhardt, 03 May 2019

When economists model changes in tariffs, their models make assumptions about the impact of those changes. The column argues that those assumptions are often contradicted in the real world and proposes an approach that relaxes these restrictions. Estimates using this approach show that customary models may severely underestimate the impact of recent tariff increases.

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.

Wilko Bolt, Kostas Mavromatis, Sweder Van Wijnbergen, 25 April 2019

Increasing protectionism will slow down world trade and may dampen global economic growth. This column examines the global macroeconomic consequences of a major trade conflict between the US and China, and shows that the two countries would be the biggest losers from a 10% ‘tit-for-tat’ trade war between them. As long as it does not get involved in the conflict, the euro area may temporally gain from trade diversion, as competitiveness improves and imports from regions whose exports are blocked elsewhere become cheaper.

Thiemo Fetzer, Carlo Schwarz, 23 April 2019

Tariff retaliation is widely believed to be politically motivated. This column presents evidence that retaliation against the Trump administration's tariff hikes seems to be systematically targeted against the Republican voter base. China appears to have been able to achieve a high degree of political targeting but likely harmed its own economy by targeting agricultural goods for which the US is a major supplier. The EU, on the other hand, appears to be more successful in navigating the trade-off. It also finds some evidence suggesting that Republican candidates fared worse in the mid-term elections in the US counties most exposed to retaliation.

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