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An underappreciated benefit of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is the protection it offers U.S. exporters from extreme tariff uncertainty in Mexico. U.S. exporters have not only gained greater tariff preferences under NAFTA than Mexican exporters gained in the United States, they have also been exempt from potential tariff hikes facing other exporters. Mexico’s bound tariff rates—the maximum tariff rate a World Trade Organization (WTO) member can impose—are very high and far exceed U.S. bound rates. Without NAFTA, there is a risk that tariffs on U.S. exports to Mexico could reach their bound rates, which average 35 percent. In contrast, U.S. bound rates average only 4 percent. At the very least, U.S. exporters would be subject to a higher level of policy uncertainty without the trade agreement.
China has been an exporting juggernaut for decades. In the United States, this has meant a dramatic increase in China’s share of imports and a ballooning bilateral trade deficit. Gaining sales in the United States at the expense of other countries, Chinese goods rose from only 2 percent of U.S. non-oil imports in 1990 to 8 percent in 2000 and 17 percent in 2010. But these steady gains in U.S. import share have stopped in recent years, with China even losing ground to other countries in some categories of goods. One explanation for this shift is that Chinese firms now have to directly compete against manufacturers in high-skill developed countries while also fending off competition from lower-wage countries, such as Vietnam. This inability to make additional gains at the expense of other countries means that exports don’t contribute as much to China’s overall growth as they used to.
Why have interest rates stayed low for so long after the financial crisis—and will they remain low for the foreseeable future? One way to answer these questions is to use the accounting identity that global saving must equal physical investment spending and argue that low rates have been necessary to prop up investment spending enough to match saving. From this perspective, the extent of any recovery in interest rates depends on whether weak investment spending is driven primarily by secular demographic trends that are a long-term drag on aggregate demand or by the residual effects of the financial crisis.
There has been much debate about the proposed border tax adjustment, in which U.S. firms would pay a 20 percent tax on all imported inputs and be exempt from paying taxes on export revenue. The view among many economists, including proponents of the plan, is that the U.S. dollar would appreciate by the full amount of the tax and thus completely offset any relative price effects. In this post, we consider the implications of an alternative scenario where the U.S. dollar only appreciates part of the way. This could happen, for example, as a result of the uncertainty surrounding the policy response from other countries. As the proposed tax is effectively equivalent to an import tax combined with an export subsidy, it is possible that there could be retaliation from other countries in the form of taxes on U.S. exports or litigation with the World Trade Organization. If the U.S. dollar does not appreciate by the full amount of the tax, we argue that the effect of the tax will be to lower both U.S. imports and exports in the short to medium run.
Bianca De Paoli, Luca Dedola, Linda Goldberg, Arnaud Mehl, John Rogers, and Livio Stracca
The New York Fed recently hosted the third biannual Global Research Forum on International Macroeconomics and Finance, an event organized in conjunction with the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Federal Reserve Board. Bringing together a diverse group of academics, policymakers, and market participants, the two-day conference (November 17-18) was aimed at promoting discussion of frontier research on empirical and theoretical issues in international finance, banking, and open-economy macroeconomics. Understanding the drivers and implications of international capital flows was a major area of focus, along with the policy challenges posed by global financial integration.
Bianca De Paoli, Thomas Klitgaard, and Harry Wheeler
Japan offers a preview of future U.S. demographic trends, having already seen a large increase in the population over 65. So, how has the Japanese economy dealt with this change? A look at the data shows that women of all ages have been pulled into the labor force and that more people are working longer. This transformation of the work force has not been enough to prevent a very tight labor market in a slowly growing economy, and it may help explain why inflation remains minimal. Namely, wages are not responding as much as they might to the tight labor market because women and older workers tend to have lower bargaining power than prime-age males.
Mary Amiti, Tyler Bodine-Smith, Colin Hottman, and Logan Lewis
The growth in U.S. imports of goods has been stubbornly low since the second quarter of 2015, with an average annual growth rate of 0.7 percent. Growth has been even weaker for non-oil imports, which have increased at an average annual rate of only 0.1 percent. This is in sharp contrast to the pattern in the five quarters preceding the second quarter of 2015, when real non-oil imports were growing at an annualized rate of 8 percent per quarter. The timing of the weakness in import growth is particularly puzzling in light of the strong U.S. dollar, which appreciated 12 percent in 2015, lowering the price of imported goods relative to domestically produced goods. The trajectory for imports can affect the variety of goods consumed in the United States and could, if it is evolving independently, have implications for overall economic growth. To understand the consequences of lower import growth, it is important to understand what is behind this recent trend. In this blog post, we explore what has been driving the recent slump in U.S. imports of non-oil goods.
Moreno Bertoldi, Paolo Pesenti, Hélène Rey, and Valérie Rouxel-Laxton
On April 18, 2016, the New York Fed hosted a conference on current and future policy directions for the linked economies of Europe and the United States. "The Transatlantic Economy: Convergence or Divergence?"—organized jointly with the Centre for Economic Policy Research and the European Commission—brought together U.S. and Europe-based policymakers, regulators, and academics to discuss a series of important issues: Are the economies of the euro area and the United States on a convergent or divergent path? Are financial regulatory reforms making the banking and financial structures more similar? Will this imply a convergence in macroprudential policies? Which instruments do the United States and the euro area have at their disposal to raise investment, spur productivity, and avoid secular stagnation? In this post, we summarize the principal themes and findings of the conference discussion.
Sushant Acharya, Ozge Akinci, Julien Bengui, and Bianca De Paoli
Prompted by the U.S. financial crisis and subsequent global recession, policymakers in advanced economies slashed interest rates dramatically, hitting the zero lower bound (ZLB), and then implemented unconventional policies such as large-scale asset purchases. In emerging economies, however, the policy response was more subdued since they were less affected by the financial crisis. As a result, capital flows from advanced to emerging economies increased markedly in response to widening interest rate differentials. Some emerging economies reacted by adopting measures to slow down capital inflows, acting under the presumption that these flows were harmful. This type of policy response has reignited the debate over how to moderate international spillovers.
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.
The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Asani Sarkar, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.
The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.
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