From Rome to Geneva: On the Significance of Trade

romeWhat gave Rome it’s preeminent power in the ancient world? No doubt its legionnaires were feared from Iberia to Galcantray. To fund military might the descendants of Romulus engaged in prolific international trade. Today, as globalization and international trade spark heated debates in capitals around the world, it is important to remember the long history of trade. From the Chinese to the Phoenicians, the Spaniards and the Dutch, the mighty British empire and the American industrial powerhouse, trade has been at the center of every great power in history. Great powers can either take that which they need by force, or buy it away. To most, trade is clearly preferable.

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New world, New policy: Overcoming the Burden of Foreignness

burden of foreignnessWhy should we worry about misaligned participations in trade? According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, less than 1 percent of U.S. firms export. Tens of thousands of small-business manufacturers and service sector firms could export their goods and services, but do not. These companies often fear the challenges of going overseas. But all firms entering new markets face shortcomings and disadvantages when compared to local competitors. Due to a lack of local knowledge, unfamiliarity with market conditions, insufficient insights into consumer behavior, and newness to political decision making, all new entrants encounter a “burden of foreignness.” Policymakers need to help prospective exporters overcome this burden and successfully access new opportunities overseas.

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New World, New Policy: Buy American, Hire American

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President Trump has issued a new executive order focusing on so-called “Buy American, Hire American” policies. Making the announcement at the Snap-On Tools plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the President’s order directs various federal agencies to produce reports and recommendations on government procurement policies, with the goal of increasing domestic employment and production.

The Executive Order (found here) covers two broad areas of government policy: numerous “Buy American” laws and regulations, which set requirements that materials purchased by the government – say, steel for building a bridge – give preference to US domestic producers; and “Hire American,” which aim to address reported abuses of H1B visas that undermine high-skilled domestic labor.

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New World, New Policy: Dumping penalties – Give to Caesar what you owe to Caesar

money from all over the worldPresident Trump has issued a new executive order focusing on international cheaters, who do not pay their debts due to dumping penalties. The order targets the problem of unpaid special customs duties known as “Countervailing Duties” (CVD), levied on products from companies found guilty by an “anti-dumping” investigation.

First to the jargon: “Dumping” refers to a type of predatory trade practice. In its simplest form, it amounts to a company selling a product in a foreign market for less than it costs to make it. In theory, the goal of “dumping” is to drive down the price, and in doing so, muscle out smaller, weaker competition in order to later establish a monopoly status on that market. Under the rules of the World Trade Organization, dumping is a prohibited practice, and countries are permitted to levy special taxes on goods found to be unfairly dumped in their market in order to rebalance the price level. These tariffs are called “Countervailing Duties”, abbreviated as CVD.

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New World, New Policy: A Review of the Trade Deficit

President Trump announced a new executive order aimed at pushing forward his trade agenda. Targeting the US trade deficit, the order directs the Commerce Department and the US Trade Representative to lead an interagency investigation and produce a “comprehensive report” on the causes of the US trade deficit. They are to do so by looking at specific industries and trade policies by foreign countries that contribute to the continuing gap between US exports and imports.

According to the US Census data on trade, the US ran about a $500 billion net trade deficit in Goods and Services with the rest of the world in 2016. The US runs a larger deficit when looking only at Goods (such as manufactures, agriculture, etc.), at $750 billion, while the county runs a surplus of about $250 billion in Services (such as business services, finance, information technology, etc.). Broken down by country, the largest Goods deficits are with China (over $54 billion in the first two months of 2017) and Mexico, as well as Saudi Arabia (petroleum imports) and the European Union. In Services, it is noteworthy that the US runs sizable surpluses with all of these same countries. (Data from US Census) Continue reading