What’s Different About Trump’s Tariffs?

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Cross-posted at Inter Press Service

At Davos in January, US President Donald Trump warned that the US “will no longer turn a blind eye to unfair economic practices” of others, interpreted by many as declaring world trade war. Before the US mid-term elections in November, Washington is expected to focus on others’ alleged “massive intellectual property theft, industrial subsidies and pervasive state-led economic planning” pointing to China without always naming names. With the Republican Party already united behind his tax bill, Trump senses an opportunity to finally unite the party behind him and to continue his campaign for re-election in 2020.

Since January, Trump has taken steps threatened in his mid-2016 election economic policy document, drafted by US’s National Trade Council head Peter Navarro and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. In particular, he has imposed tariffs and other restrictions on imports to revive US manufacturing. Import tariffs of 25% and 10% on steel and aluminium respectively have been imposed by invoking Section 232 of the US 1962 Trade Expansion Act, allowing unilateral measures to protect domestic industries for “national defence” and “national security”.
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The Left and the Return of Protectionism

Originally posted at Naked Keynesianism.

So if you believe a simplified version of conservative views on the economy, Trumponomics is pretty contradictory (and yes they are contradictory, even if one may doubts about why). Tax cuts should lead to growth, via supply side economics, and the recently proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum do exactly the opposite. Protectionism (not a very good name, I prefer managed trade, as I discussed here before) has made a come back, but while many heterodox economists have suggested that ‘free trade’ is not always beneficial to all, and those concerned with the fate of manufacturing and the working class in the United States have decried Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) over the years, it seems that the association of these ideas with Trumponomics has made them less keen on the recent tariff proposal.

A typical example is the recent op-ed by Jared Bernstein and Dean Baker in WAPO, and I cite them exactly for my respect for their economic views in general, and their commitment to progressive causes. In their view: “The bigger dangers to our economy are twofold. One, that our trading partners will retaliate by taxing our exports to them, thus hurting a broad swath of our exporting industries, and two, by leading an emboldened, reckless Trump administration to enact more bad trade policy.” Essentially, they agree that tariffs would have a negative effect on employment, but perhaps not as big as some Cassandras have suggested, and that this ‘bad protectionist’ policies would continue. A similar argument can be found in Brad DeLong’s op-ed, another progressive economist, in which he argues that the tariff is a tax hike for consumers. Brad, I should note, has recently published a very good book in which he praises the Hamiltonian system, that is,  the use of managed trade to promote industrial development (I discussed it here).*

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Exposing the Risks of Global Finance: Yilmaz Akyuz on ‘Playing with Fire’ (2/2)

Part 2 of “Exposing the Risks of Global Finance: Playing with Fire”, a documentary program on the meeting “Another Crisis in the Making”. A South Centre debate on the state of the global economy and finance, the meeting was held on the occasion of the launch of the book Financial Integration and Changing Vulnerabilities of the Global South authored by South Centre Chief Economist, Yilmaz Akyüz. In this final segment, TRNN feature clips of Dr. Akyüz, as an author’s commentary. The South Centre Chief Economist explains the deepened financial integration of the Global South as a mechanism of Northern countries to continue compressing wage income. But the growing and massive accumulation of debt worldwide is making the global economy more vulnerable than ever before. Link to the Real News Network page here for this video by TRNN’s Lynn Fries. Video appears after the introduction from South Centre below.

The meeting “Another Crisis in the Making” was moderated by Mrs. Yuefen Li, Special Advisor on Economics and Development Finance of the South Centre, with presentations by Dr. Richard Kozul-Wright, Director of the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies (GDS), UNCTAD, Dr. Y.V. Reddy, South Centre Board Member and Former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, and Dr. Peter Dittus, Former Secretary General of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). Dr. Yılmaz Akyüz, the author, responded to various comments and observations made by the panellists.

“Playing with Fire is a comprehensive account of financial integration of emerging and developing countries supported by a wealth of data and information. It also includes discussion of new vulnerabilities to external financial shocks. The book aids understanding of destabilizing interactions between key international markets for emerging and developing countries through a new concept of commodity-finance nexus. It takes a critical look at foreign direct investment.” (Oxford University Press)

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Exposing the Risks of Global Finance: Peter Dittus on ‘Playing with Fire’ (1/2)

Part 1 of Lynn Fries’s interview with Peter Dittus, former BIS chief, author of ‘Revolution Required’ who praises the insights of Akyuz’s book ‘Playing with Fire’, notably in uncovering the current state of financial fragility triggered by the G7, worsened by the absence of international mechanisms to recover from systemic debt fall-outs. Link to the Real News Network page for this video here. Video appears after the introduction from South Centre below.

A South Centre debate on the state of the global economy and finance on the occasion of the book launch of Playing with Fire, Deepened Financial Integration and Changing Vulnerabilities of the Global South authored by Dr. Yılmaz Akyüz, Chief Economist of the South Centre, took place on 10 November 2017 at the Palais des Nations, UN Office in Geneva, Switzerland. Below is a coverage of the event by Lynn Fries of The Real News.

The meeting “Another Crisis on the Making” was moderated by Mrs. Yuefen Li, Special Advisor on Economics and Development Finance of the South Centre, with presentations by Dr. Richard Kozul-Wright, Director of the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies (GDS), UNCTAD, Dr. Y.V. Reddy, South Centre Board Member and Former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, and Dr. Peter Dittus, Former Secretary General of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). Dr. Yılmaz Akyüz, the author, responded to various comments and observations made by the panellists.

“Playing with Fire is a comprehensive account of financial integration of emerging and developing countries supported by a wealth of data and information. It also includes discussion of new vulnerabilities to external financial shocks. The book aids understanding of destabilizing interactions between key international markets for emerging and developing countries through a new concept of commodity-finance nexus. It takes a critical look at foreign direct investment.” (Oxford University Press)

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India’s Public Stockholding: “Much more than a welfare program”

This is the second of a two-part series. Find Part 1 here. This post originally appeared at Food Tank

India’s National Food Security Act (NFSA) seemed to be an effective way to get a basic food ration to the majority of Indians who struggle to feed their families, at least in the state of Madhya Pradesh. There, Dr. Manohar Agnani, State Commissioner for Food and Civil Supplies, was expanding the reach and scope of the program while wringing fraud and inefficiencies from the system. But what about the payment of subsidized prices to farmers to acquire that food, the part of the NFSA that had run afoul of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules?

“The NFSA starts with farmers and procurement,” Agnani stressed to me. “It is much more than a welfare program.” He attributed their success in the state to “good supply chain management,” a phrase he seemed pleased to borrow from the private sector. This includes collection from farmers, local warehousing, and distribution to the network of ration shops.

“It’s very decentralized, with 3,000 collection centers in the state mostly managed by cooperative societies,” Agnani went on. “The government is buying about 40 percent of the state’s wheat, and even sending it to other states.”

But aren’t the larger farmers and the middlemen the ones who benefit from the minimum support price? I asked.

“We are buying from the smaller farmers,” Agnani said. He explained that in Madhya Pradesh farmers who are registered to sell to the Public Distribution System (PDS) cannot be large-scale farmers, traders, or from another state. Those rules are strictly enforced.

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Keep Your Eyes on the Price: WTO Remains Blind to Agricultural Dumping

Timothy A. Wise and Sophia Murphy

This originally appeared at Food Tank

Farm leaders from around the world converged in Buenos Aires this week. They traveled to pressure the trade ministers attending the biennial World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference to stop unfair trade practices that are hurting farmers. Once again, they went home empty-handed.

Some farmers lobbied delegates inside the heavily fortified Hilton Hotel, where the WTO trade ministers huddled for four days. More took to the streets, where their “Agriculture Out of the WTO!” banners waved in a week of peaceful protests.

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Financing for Development: Time for the UN to Take Centre Stage Again

Jesse Griffiths, Guest Blogger

Jesse Griffiths is Director of the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad).

Little progress has been made since the last conference of the United Nations Financing for Development (FfD) process, held in Addis Ababa in July 2015, which agreed the Addis Ababa Agenda for Action (AAAA) – the framework for how the world would finance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since Addis, however, there has been little headway and last year’s UN FfD Forum was disappointing, with few concrete outcomes achieved. As the FfD Forum outcome document highlighted, that current policies are not delivering the economic step-change needed to achieve the SDGs.

Given the slow rate of reform since Addis, it is clear that global leaders need to work towards a major new set of concrete actions on financing for development. The European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad) recently launched a short paper setting out three key tests that this year’s UN FfD Forum should pass if it is to be regarded a success:

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Worst Case Economics

Frank Ackerman is principal economist at Synapse Energy Economics in Cambridge, Mass., and the author of Worst Case Economics: Extreme Events in Climate and Finance (Anthem Press, 2017). He spoke to Triple Crisis co-editor Alejandro Reuss in late December 2017 about the main themes in the book. To learn more, you can also visit the book page on Dr. Ackerman’s website here.

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Selling Out Argentina’s Future—Again

Alan Cibils and Mariano Arana[1]

In Argentina’s 2015 presidential run-off election, the neoliberal right-wing coalition “Cambiemos” (literally, “lets change”), headed by Mauricio Macri, defeated the populist Kirchnerista candidate by just two percentage points. Macri’s triumph heralded a return to the neoliberal policies of the 1990s and ended twelve years of heterodox economic policies that prioritized income redistribution and the internal market. The ruling coalition also performed well in the October 2017 mid-term elections and has since begun implementing a draconian set of fiscal, labor, and social security reforms.

One of the hallmarks of the Cambiemos government so far has been a fast and furious return to international credit markets and a very substantial increase in new public debt. Indeed, since Macri came to power in 2015, Argentina has issued debt worth more than $100 billion. This marks a clear contrast to the Kirchner administrations, during which the emphasis was debt reduction.

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Have Financial Stability Proposals Been Implemented Properly?

Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer

Many countries have developed policies to address financial stability since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and the Great Recession (GR). How far these policies have been fully implemented and how far those policies can contribute to avoiding the next financial crisis, or mitigating its effects, are interesting questions.

The focus of policies to ensure financial stability should be on proper regulation of the financial sector. Proposals that aim to ensure financial stability have been put forward and we briefly comment on them. The main proposals are the US Dodd-Frank Act, the UK Vickers Report, the European Liikanen Report, the IMF Report, and the Basle III Report.

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