Trade frictions are nothing new to the U.S.-China relationship. Over the years they’ve ebbed and flowed, but were managed with enough deft to avoid major meltdowns. That seems likely to change under President Donald Trump, an economic nationalist who sees trade as a zero-sum game and the United States emerging “the winner” of a trade war with China.
What countries are the most and least miserable? In what follows, I update my annual Misery Index calculations. A Misery Index was first constructed by economist Art Okun as a way to provide President Lyndon Johnson with a snapshot of the economy.
America's alliance structure in Europe and Asia dates back more than six decades. A few of the smaller, less viable organizations collapsed (CENTO, SEATO), but since the end of the Cold War, Washington has expanded rather than contracted its treaty obligations. That includes in the Philippines, which two years ago approved a new agreement providing the U.S. military with bases and joining in exercises.
Many factors are impacting economic growth. And volatility tops the list. According to a McKinsey Global Survey of executives, “Over the next five years nearly all respondents expect a disruption in the global economy due to volatility. And they are much likelier now — 43 percent, up from 29 percent in 2013 — to expect that potential disruptions to the economy will be very severe.”
What world-changing behemoth that begins with the letter “C” presents the greatest threat to U.S. commercial and strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region? Wrong. Even in the wake of this week’s potentially provocative tribunal ruling against Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, the greatest threat remains Congress, not China.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, involving the United States and 11 other Pacific-bordering countries, has a tremendous upside for the U.S. For example, it’s projected to boost U.S. inflation-adjusted annual income by $131 billion by 2030, which represents 0.5 percent of GDP. It’s also anticipated to generate an additional $357 billion in annual exports by the same year, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), a Washington, DC-based think tank.
Barack Obama assumed office promising to restore some of the U.S. foreign policy credibility notoriously squandered by his predecessor. But if Congress doesn’t ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement before Christmas, the president will leave office with American commercial and strategic positions weakened in the Asia-Pacific and U.S. credibility further diminished globally. The specter of that outcome should be keeping the president awake at night.
China is not known for its commitment to human rights. While the Chinese people remain much freer than during Mao Zedong’s rule, President Xi Jinping has been cracking down on dissent inside and outside of the Communist Party. For good reason people of good will in America wish to encourage Beijing to better respect its citizens’ civil and political liberties.
The big trade news recently was that government officials from the 12 nations negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership traveled to New Zealand for the official signing ceremony. While the negotiators are no doubt relieved, and are looking forward to some time off, we now get to perhaps the most difficult part of the process: Seeing whether Congress will approve what the Obama administration negotiated.
The sharp defeat of Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in the state of Bihar has put the prime minister’s reform plan and political legacy at risk. Despite his overwhelming victory in last year’s national election, his government has failed to overhaul the legal barriers and regulatory excesses which have left an economy full of entrepreneurial people mired in poverty.
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