The best way I can describe my feelings about trade these days is as an unstable anxiety disorder. Following on November 8 2016, the date of the US election, my anxiety level rose markedly as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was buried. Shortly thereafter it touched a maximum when a dangerous idea called the Border Adjustment Tax was gaining traction, and the North-American Free Trade Agreement seemed headed the way of TPP. Then I became a little less prone to panic attacks, as various checks and balances on Presidential action seemed to kick in. Executive Orders now command the preparation of studies of why trade agreements are not working instead of commanding immediate departure from them. That gives me hope.
The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Robert Lighthizer as United States Trade Representative last week, rounding out President Donald Trump’s cabinet and giving momentum to his trade agenda. At his swearing-in ceremony on May 15, Ambassador Lighthizer predicted that President Trump would permanently reverse “the dangerous trajectory of American trade,” and in turn make “U.S. farmers, ranchers and workers richer and the country safer.” This policy shift will begin in earnest in the coming weeks, when Lighthizer meets with congressional trade leaders to discuss the administration’s plan to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
1. Background & Context
Perhaps the most noteworthy highlight of the 2017 African Union Summit in Addis Ababa Ethiopia was the decision by the majority of AU member states to welcome back into the organization the Kingdom of Morocco after a thirty-three year absence.
Last week the World Bank released a Staff Note (2017) analyzing the pension reform proposal sent last December by Brazil’s Federal Government to Congress. It concludes that (p.16, our emphasis):
“… the proposed pension reform in Brazil is necessary, urgent if Brazil is to meet its spending rule, and socially balanced in that the proposal mostly eliminates subsidies received under the current rules by formal sector workers and civil servants who belong to the top 60 percent of households by income distribution.”
Turkey has been approaching a crossroads for some time now. Soon enough it will have to choose a direction.
On April 16, 2017 Turks will vote in a referendum on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s proposed constitutional amendment that would shift the country’s power center from a parliamentary system to a presidential one.
Colombia is a country of incredible contrast: known to be one of the places on earth where people feel happiest, it is also one of the most unequal and for many decades, a country immersed in a protracted conflict. Despite the latter - and here is the starkest contrast - Colombia has recently succeeded in reducing poverty and building the foundations for sustainable growth and prosperity.
The Santos administration has delivered on two of its main promises: sign a peace agreement with the FARC guerrilla and get approved a significant structural tax reform. We approach here why both are expected to become strong pillars to help keep the growth-cum-poverty-reduction momentum of the last decades.
During his run for President of the United States, Mr. Trump called the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), “the worst trade deal ever approved by this country”. His target is Mexico, which runs a $ 50 billion surplus of trade in goods and services with the United States. Trade with Canada, the third NAFTA party, is essentially balanced. However, NAFTA’s provisions cannot be changed without affecting Canada and without Canada’s consent, and the Foreign Ministers of Canada and Mexico have declared that they want the new NAFTA to be negotiated trilaterally, not bilaterally as Mr. Trump prefers
In previous pieces, we have analyzed the run up to the still-ongoing Brazilian recession as a combination of factors. Given an “anemia” of productivity increases, an appetite for public spending without prioritization led to a condition of fiscal “obesity”. The external factors that provided for a boom in the new millennium, notwithstanding underlying vulnerabilities, have dissipated. The economic policy adopted as a response to the growth decline aggravated those vulnerabilities. On top of those, a disruption of existing large domestic corporate structures followed broad corruption investigations (Canuto, 2016a) (Canuto, 2016b) (Canuto, 2016c).