EconoGraphics

Over the last decade, China’s large holdings of US debt have helped the Bank of China keep the value of the renminbi artificially low. This strengthened China’s competitive position in the global markets, allowing for cheaper Chinese exports and contributed significantly to China’s large trade surplus, which now accounts for about half of the total US trade deficit.

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On October 14th, the regional parliament of Wallonia, a French-speaking region of 3.6 million people in Belgium, voted to block the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a proposed trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and Canada, which has been negotiated for over 7 years. To implement the agreement, it must be ratified by 28 national parliaments and 10 other regional assemblies and upper houses in the EU; Belgium cannot sign the agreement without Walloon support. At the end of last week, the EU issued an ultimatum urging Wallonia to end its objection to the agreement before Monday. Wallonia, which calls for stronger safeguards on labor, environmental, and consumer standards, rejected the ultimatum, threatening to cancel an EU-Canada summit planned for Thursday (October 27) to sign the accord.

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The European Union’s (EU) Stability and Growth Pact requires Eurozone countries to annually lay out their fiscal plans for the following three years. The European Commission (EC) then compares the member states’ reports with its own projections and those produced by independent bodies, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to evaluate whether the member states are on track to reach their Medium-Term Budgetary Objectives (MTOs). It is important to note that Eurozone countries’ macroeconomic forecasts usually diverge, sometimes significantly, from the reports produced by the EC and the IMF. 

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On the occasion of Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent visit to the United States (U.S.), President Obama announced that executive sanctions on Myanmar would soon be lifted. This will grant Myanmar greater access to the U.S. market and encourage U.S. companies to invest in the country. Trade between the two countries remains at relatively low levels (i.e. $225 million in 2015), with U.S. investment to Myanmar accounting for only 0.2% of the country’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Lifting the sanctions would remove a number of trade and investment barriers, which in turn would strengthen Myanmar’s competitiveness and foster growth across its economy. It would also allow the country to diversify its range of trading partners (e.g. only 2% of its exports end up in non-Asian economies).

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As the most export-driven major economy in the European Union (EU), Germany stands to benefit greatly from a robust Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement.

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Since the British referendum, Europe’s banking sector has come under renewed scrutiny from financial markets as well as European Union officials and finance ministers. A primary focus is on Italy - which has accumulated $400 billion in gross bad loans - and the EU-Italy talks about how to recapitalize the weak Italian banks. Another focus is Germany following the IMF determination that Deutsche Bank AG posed the greatest risk to the financial system. European banks face uncertainty from the British referendum and have struggled in the face of slow European economic growth, which has averaged only 1 percent annually over the past five years.

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The United Kingdom’s (UK) vote last week to leave the European Union (EU) has raised questions about the future of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). TTIP is a trade agreement currently being negotiated by the United States (US) and the EU that will eliminate tariffs, reduce red tape, and set a new standard for international trade agreements. Following the Brexit vote, US Trade Representative Michael Froman and European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström released statements reaffirming their commitment to TTIP. They met in Washington, DC earlier this week and Malmström spoke at the Atlantic Council yesterday. (Link to event video, transcript of remarks)
London is the undisputed financial capital of Europe, and is rivaled only by New York City for the top spot worldwide (Global Financial Centers Index). When competing on a level playing field, London outperforms other major European financial centers because of the superior human capital, infrastructure, and regulatory environment of the city. London dominates 78 percent of European FOREX trading and generates a trade surplus worth tens of billions of pounds (UK Office of National Statistics).

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The decades following World War II experienced an explosion of global trade. The annual growth rate of global exports averaged 8 percent in the 1950s, 9 percent in the 1960s, and 20 percent in the 1970s (World Trade Organization). During this boom of global trade, the volume of UK exports grew in absolute terms. However, up until the mid-1970s, the UK trade growth lagged behind the global average. After that period, UK trade growth met and often exceeded the global average. This shift, not coincidently, occurred when the United Kingdom (UK) joined the world’s largest customs union, the European Union (EU).

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As the European Union (EU) prepares to unanimously extend its economic sanctions on Russia when they expire on July, it is a good opportunity to take a closer look. After Russia´s illegal annexation of Crimea and interference in Eastern Ukraine, the U.S. and the EU enacted economic sanctions in a coordinated manner, which were followed by other Allies and partners like Canada and Australia.

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