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Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

How China Compares Internationally in New GDP Figures

| May 31, 2020

The World Bank on May 19, as it does every six years, released the results of the most recent International Comparison Program (ICP), which measures price levels and GDPs across 176 countries.  The new results are striking.  It is surprising that they have received almost no attention so far, perhaps overshadowed by all things coronavirus.

For the first time, the ICP shows China’s total real income as slightly larger than the US.  It reports that China’s GDP was $19,617 billion in 2017, in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms, while the United States’ GDP stood at $19,519 billion.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

History Warns Us to Avoid a W-shaped Recession

| May 03, 2020

“Those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it.”  And the rest of us are condemned to repeat George Santayana.

Will the Coronavirus Recession of 2020 be V-shaped?  Or U-shaped?  If we fail to heed the lessons of history it is likely to be W-shaped, with incipient recovery followed by successive relapses into sickness and recession.

As has been widely noted, we would have been better prepared to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic in the first place if everyone had paid more attention to the past history of epidemics. Be that as it may, the world is now deep into the pandemic and its economic consequences, the most severe such events since the interwar period, 1918-1939.  As decision-makers in every country contemplate their next steps, they would do well to ponder the precedents of that interwar period.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Let’s Go Back to Good Old Tariff-Cutting

| Dec. 02, 2019

The “bicycle theory” used to be a metaphor for international trade policy.  Just as standing still on a bicycle is not an option — one has to keep moving forward or else the bike will fall over – so it was said that international trade negotiators must continue to engage in successive rounds of liberalization, or else the open global trading system would be pulled down by protectionist interests.  I don’t know if the theory was ever right.  (And, to be honest, I don’t entirely understand why forward movement keeps a bicycle from falling over.)  But if we had stood still on trade policy over the last three years we would be a lot better off than where we are now.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

RMB Reaches 7.0; US Names China a Manipulator

| Aug. 12, 2019

The US-China trade war heated up in the first week of August.  On August 1, Donald Trump abruptly announced plans to impose a 10 % tariff on the remaining $300 billion of imports from China that he had not already hit with earlier tariffs.   The Chinese authorities then allowed their currency, the renminbi (RMB), to fall in value below the highly visible line of 7.0 RMB/$.  The US Administration promptly reacted on August 5 by naming China a “currency manipulator” — the first time any country had been given that designation in 25 years.   Pundits declared a currency war, while investors responded by immediately sending stock markets down.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Xi & Trump Miss a Chance to Expand Markets

| Mar. 24, 2019

Donald Trump has postponed until April the supposed deadline for a conclusion to China-US trade negotiations.  A good outcome for both sides would have China agree to better protect private property rights and to reduce the role of the state in its economy; the US agree to strengthen national saving and public investment; and both sides agree to reverse their recent tariff increases and the resulting shrinkage of international markets.  Unfortunately this deal is not likely to happen.

What does the US want?

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Trump Renews Charges of Chinese Currency Manipulation

| Sep. 24, 2018

The US Treasury is due in October to submit its biannual report to Congress on what countries, if any, are manipulating their currencies to gain unfair trade advantage.   President Trump has recently resumed the accusation against China  that he made during the election campaign.   “I think China’s manipulating their currency, absolutely. And I think the euro is being manipulated also,” he told Reuters.  He is apparently pressuring the Treasury directly in its deliberations.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Seven Reasons China Won’t Yield in Trump’s Trade War

| Apr. 23, 2018

President Trump enacted steel and aluminum tariffs in March, citing national security.  China is the intended target, as most other major suppliers were eventually exempted. On April 2, China retaliated by imposing tariffs on 128 American products (representing about $3 billion of trade), ranging from 15% on fruits to 25% on pork.  Trump April 3 announced 25% tariffs on another 1300 Chinese products [representing some $50 billion of trade], citing forced transfer of US technology and IPR. China on April 4 responded with plans for retaliatory 25% tariffs on 106 US exports -- including soybeans, autos, and airplanes -- to go into effect when the US tariffs do.  On April 5, the White House announced it was considering $100 billion of additional tariffs on China.

If these tariffs go ahead, yes, it is a trade war. How will it end?

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Outlook for 2017

| Jan. 03, 2017
Five journalist’s questions about the economic outlook in the New Year and my answers: In the first year of Trump’s presidency, what do you predict for the US economy in 2017?The US economy is currently at or near full employment, for the first time in 9 years.  So there is limited capacity for an acceleration of growth in the medium term.  Mr. Trump is fairly likely to follow through with his proposals for massive tax cuts and spending increases (which the economy needed 5 years ago, but were blocked by Republicans).

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

The Fed and Inequality

| Oct. 28, 2016
Populist politicians, among others, have claimed in recent years that monetary policy is too easy and that it is hurting ordinary workers.   But raising interest rates is not the way to address income inequality.It is a strange claim for anyone to make, but especially for populists.  Low interest rates are good for debtors, of course, and bad for creditors. Throughout most of US history, populists have supported easy monetary policy and low interest rates, to help the little guy, against bankers, who had hard hearts and believed in hard money.