Policy-making relies on narratives, and narratives often come from data. Or claim that they do. One story often told by economists—by everyone from Dani Rodrik to Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee to James Kynge to Laurence Summers—is that China’s manufacturing sector has been shedding workers since the mid-1990s. This story leads us to believe that something like this is happening:
This argument ends up as a morality tale with serious policy implications: if even China, manufacturing powerhouse with wages developed countries cannot hope to compete with, is losing manufacturing jobs, then surely manufacturing jobs are obsolete and the U.S. is foolish to try to maintain them—let alone get them back.
Unfortunately, this story is based on a gross misreading of inaccurate evidence. There are three major problems. First, even based on a simplistic look at the data, it’s flat out wrong. Take a look at this chart that shows the actual manufacturing employment in China. (You may note that this chart only goes back to 1998, and that the peak of employment underlying most claims was in 1996—more on that in a bit.)
Strangely enough this graph looks nothing … Read the rest
On Tuesday, December 10, Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced The Digital Trade Act of 2013, legislation that would protect the Internet from restrictive measures that obstruct the free flow of data in the global economy. The Act establishes negotiating principles designed to guide U.S. negotiators in addressing key digital trade issues in future bilateral and multilateral agreements and in multi-stakeholder settings. Key principles include: preventing or eliminating restrictions on cross-border data flows, prohibiting localization requirements for data and computing infrastructure, ensuring that provisions affecting platform Internet sites are consistent with U.S. law, and recommitting to a multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance.
Affirming these principles protecting digital trade is vitally important because information and communications technologies have become the modern global economy’s principal driver of growth. For example, a March 2013 study by Finland’s Ministry of Employment and Economy estimates that, by 2025, half of all value in the global economy will be created digitally. Similarly, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the Internet alone accounted for 21 percent of aggregate GDP growth between 2007 and 2011 across 13 of the world’s largest economies. Digitally enabled … Read the rest
As final negotiations begin for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, it is essential that U.S. representatives understand the impact this agreement will have on our future. The TPP presents an opportunity to set the standard for future trade agreements, but implementing the wrong policies could do more harm than good.
Any TPP agreement must enable U.S. innovation and not finalizing an agreement is better than signing one that compromises America’s ability to create technologies and make advancements that benefit society. A key factor in protecting innovation through the TPP will be the assurance of strong intellectual property (IP) rights protections that promote investments in R&D and technology development and insure the free flow of information across borders.
As ITIF has noted, IP is a central component of the innovation ecosystem, which is a key factor in a healthy economy, in both developed and developing nations. For example, strengthening IP rights has been connected with increased inflows of foreign direct investment, rates of domestic innovation, and trade in high technology products.
Last week, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) stated that he is close to reaching an agreement on renewing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI). This progress comes at a crucial time given that the Obama Administration is in the middle of negotiations for two different trade agreements — the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) and the Transpacific Partnership (TPP).
TPA allows the President to “fast-track” trade agreements for approval or disapproval by Congress by removing the option for filibuster. Essentially, the TPA forces the House and Senate to accept or reject a trade agreement, without amendment, within 90 days of its submission to Congress by the President. The process enables the United States to negotiate more beneficial trade policies with other countries, because of the reduction in approval time compared to other legislation and because it incentivizes countries to trade concessions with the United States, because they know that Congress cannot rewrite the deal.
With the final ministerial meetings of the TPP set to begin the first week of December, and the third round of T-TIP negotiations two weeks … Read the rest
No one disputes the benefits of innovative technology. It has resulted in IT, medical, and energy advancements that have revolutionized the way we live our lives. What often goes unappreciated, however, is the time and resources invested that ultimately yields this progress. As I discussed on Friday as part of a panel at the Global Intellectual Property Center’s IP Summit, failing to acknowledge and respect intellectual property puts future innovation in jeopardy, and it is critically important that we educate developing countries on the benefits of protecting IP before it has lasting effects on not just the global innovation economy, but their own individual innovation economies
At a time when developing countries are not only trying to recover from the Great Recession, but also working toward building more prosperous economies, access to innovation is increasingly important. Unfortunately, all too often developing countries believe that to achieve their economic and social goals, they must focus on getting access to technologies (including pharmaceutical products, sometimes through issuing compulsory licenses) in the near-term, instead of setting up an environment of strong IP protection where innovation can flourish over the long-term. These actions are … Read the rest
A new paper from the FUCAPE Business School in Brazil, authored by Brazilian economist Bruno Funchal and Jadir Soares Junior, find that reductions of barriers to trade in the computer technology sector affected the Brazilian labor market. Specifically, they use the end of the “Informatics Law” in 1992 as the non-tariff barrier to trade of analysis. For eight years the “Informatics Law” imposed a limit on access by foreign companies to the manufacture of small computers and provided various support mechanisms for strictly nationally controlled companies.
Using data from the Annual Social Information Report and the Brazilian Occupational Classification, the authors compare the change in the demand for either “routine” or “non-routine” tasks before and after the repeal of the “Informatics Law” to the percentage of workers using computers in 2002 using a panel regression with fixed effects. The idea is that the liberalization of the technology market in Brazil led to a rise in the demand for workers doing non-routine tasks (considered complementary to computers) and a fall in the demand for workers doing routine tasks (considered a substitute to computers).
The authors find that industries and occupations intensive … Read the rest
Obtaining a drug patent isn’t easy: it requires, on average, 14.6 years and $1.2 billion in pre-approval research and development and clinical testing. In addition, it also requires the developer to meet a set of three internationally accepted conditions. According to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, in order to obtain a patent, a drug must:
- Be new,
- Involve an inventive step, and
- Be capable of industrial application.
TRIPS also clarifies that “involving an inventive step” and “being capable of industrial application” are synonymous with “non-obvious” and “useful”, respectively. For being a WTO legal document, it’s actually surprisingly clear: be new, be non-obvious and be useful.
Typically, the patent is issued prior to a drug’s clinical testing, primarily because if a commercially viable drug is developed from the clinical testing, it is vulnerable to theft and copying. In other words, patents are filed upon discovery of a chemical formula, as part of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s “first to file” rule. Without the patent, innovative pharmaceutical companies would not have an incentive to research and develop this formula into … Read the rest
With the government shutdown now in its second week, its effect is now being felt across much of the broader U.S. economy, especially in trade. The Department of Commerce (DOC) says nearly 10 million American jobs are supported by exports. Last year, U.S. exports rose 4.4 percent to $2.196 trillion and imports grew 2.7 percent to $2.736 trillion.
Unfortunately, the shutdown is destroying much of this daily commerce. Several government agencies—including DOC, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Agriculture (DOA)—are involved in trade shipments. While Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is still staffed throughout the shutdown, most of these agencies have the authority to “release and hold” imports and exports before CBP even enters the process, meaning that many imports and exports are stranded and unable to enter/exit the United States.
For example, the EPA halted all pesticide imports to the United States, because, with more than 90 percent of its staff furloughed, it cannot approve them. Steel imports are stranded at customs-clearance warehouses awaiting paperwork. And many U.S. technology companies are slowing down or stopping overseas orders because they cannot obtain DOC authorization to export. The … Read the rest
Blaming free trade for U.S. economic woes does not account for the difficulty of operating in a global marketplace increasingly dominated by mercantilism.
Today, House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D-MI) gave an impressive speech highlighting the past, present and future challenges in the international trade arena at the Peterson Institute. Focusing specifically on issues relating to the American automotive industry in the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), he also touched on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) as well as the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). However, his best points were those that emphasized the need for “free and fair trade,” not just “fair trade.”
In sharp contrast to much of the neoclassical literature on free trade, Representative Levin noted that markets are not, in fact, always self-correcting and that distortions from foreign mercantilist trade policies need to be addressed in free trade agreements going forward. As innovation economists, ITIF also holds this belief; global free trade is beneficial, but only when countries eschew mercantilist policies (e.g., tariffs, unfair taxes, currency manipulation, discriminatory standards, IP theft, etc.) that manipulate the system. Not only do mercantilist policies restrain productivity and innovation, but they also potentially lead to lower levels of global growth as private companies make investments in countries and in types … Read the rest