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Economic Development

Silk Road

The Importance of IPR in the New Silk Road Initiative

Ever since former Secretary Clinton announced the New Silk Road Initiative in September 2011, the regional economic integration of the South-Central Asian region has been a priority of the U.S. State Department. Key to its implementation, however, is the participation of the private sector in spurring growth and creating jobs. As Secretary Clinton stated at the time, “We also know that governments alone cannot possibly solve Afghanistan’s economic problems, so we have to work to create an environment that attracts private sector investment.”

Facilitating such an environment is no easy task. Primarily, it requires the removal of impediments to the flow of goods and services. Recent progress on this initiative is encouraging; the region is becoming more integrated through trade liberalization. The reduction of non-tariff trade barriers, improved regulatory regimes, transparent and efficient border clearance procedures, and coordinated policies all accelerate the flow of goods, services, and people throughout the region. More importantly, the efforts of the South-Central Asian region to join the WTO–Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are the most recent ascensions–will also open markets and increase economic opportunity for the people of the region. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan are

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Agriculture Innovation: When a Fish is More Than Just a Fish

The Food and Drug Administration seems to be moving closer to approving genetically modified salmon for sale in the United States.  While 80 to 90 percent of corn and cotton in the United States are genetically modified (GM) this would be the first time a GM animal is sold for human consumption.  The fish developed by AquaBounty Technologies has an added growth gene that enables it to grow twice as fast and fifty percent larger.  Opponents, ranging from fishermen and their regional elected officials to environmentalists and religious groups, have begun calling AquaBounty’s salmon “Frankenfish” and claiming that a GM fish would endanger consumers, infect local stocks, destroy the environmental ecosystem, and generally constitute playing God.  Two pieces of legislation have been introduced in Congress that would either ban the fish outright or require a “transgenic” label.

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Return of the digital divide

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s deja vu all over again.”  A new report is out about the Internet which raises the concern over a digital divide.  As the Washington Post story (“Survey of online access finds digital divide”) sums it up: “A first-of-its-kind federal survey of online access found that Americans in lower-income and rural areas often have slower Internet connections than users in wealthier communities.”

This new survey of internet usage, Digital Nation: Expanding Internet Usage, was released yesterday by the Commerce Department’s National Telecomminications and information Administration.  The press release highlights the following points:

  • Broadband Internet access at home continues to grow: 68 percent of households have broadband access, as compared to 63.5 percent last year. (In the survey, broadband was defined as Internet access service that uses DSL, cable modem, fiber optics, mobile broadband, and other high-speed Internet access services.)
  • Notable disparities between demographic groups continue: people with low incomes, disabilities, seniors, minorities, the less-educated, non-family households, and the non-employed tend to lag behind other groups in home broadband use.
  • While the digital divide between urban and rural areas has lessened since 2007, it
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“The First Step in Winning the Future is Encouraging American Innovation”

President Obama’s second State of the Union address presented a comprehensive economic philosophy for the progressive movement in this century. The mantra of the conservative movement since Reagan popularized the now-defunct concept of trickle-down economics has been clearly stated and often repeated: tax cuts, less government. Ask anyone what forms the basis of the conservative economic philosophy and those four words will be among the first you will hear.

But what is the correspondingly simple mantra for the progressive economic philosophy? That is a harder question to answer, even for progressives.But after last night’s address we now have a strong candidate: innovation and competitiveness.

The president mentioned innovation and competitiveness numerous times throughout his address Tuesday, and outlined with surprising clarity a strategy to invest in all of its building blocks: science, education, workforce training, infrastructure, manufacturing, small businesses, access to domestic and export markets, and incentives to spur private capital investment.

This is encouraging news for us at Science Progress, since we have been working to advance the notion of the innovation-driven economy for years. Our unpublished prospectus—the document that, like a constitution, launched our little program—begins with

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China’s Reverse Robin Hood: Stealing Intellectual Property from the Poor

Many of the facts relating to the globalization of intellectual property (IP) theft over the last decade are not debatable.  For example, IP theft has decreased the market share of U.S. firms and destroyed or prevented the creation of millions of U.S. jobs.  While currently 18 million Americas are employed in IP-intensive industries, the U.S. economy loses over $20 billion annually to IP theft and in 2007 IP theft reduced global trade by 5 to 7 percent.

However once one gets beyond a simple fact-based analysis the debate over IP theft becomes more contentious.  Specifically when it comes to policy prescriptions such as the true societal cost of IP theft, enforcement strategies and stakeholders rights, there is significant disagreement.  One of the most contentious elements of IP theft is how to deal with developing countries.  As technology spreads to emerging markets, specifically in Eastern Europe and Asia, faster than legal frameworks to prosecute IP violations, theft has steadily risen.  For example, although emerging markets only account for 20 percent of the software market, they make up 45 percent of software piracy.  China is a particular conspicuous violator.  According to the

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Japan: Canary in the Coal Mine or Economic Experiment Gone Wrong?

In recent months, Japan has been getting increased attention; not for its economic success, but its supposed failure. Jeff Kingston’s “Contemporary Japan: History Politics, and Social Change since the 1980s” tells a story of Japan in stagnation since the bursting in the early 1990s of its economic bubble (like us, based on excessive real estate values). “The Economist” describes Japan as being in a state of “gentle decline.” The “New York Times” has been running a series on “Japan’s slow disheartening decline.

This is a critically important topic, not only for its implications for the United States and other developed economies, but also for the future of the global trading system and for nations like China that are taking a page out of the Japanese development play book.

First, the stories on Japan. It’s long been popular among the Washington economic punditry to sneer at the Japanese economy. Japan, Inc. (the idea that business and government should work collaborative to grow the economy) has long been a threat to the so-called “Washington consensus” that holds that markets, not governments, should be the sole determinate of an economy’s

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Where Did All the Wealth Go? To Our Kids

Like millions of Americans, I dread getting my quarterly 401k statement. Every time I open one I think, “I guess I won’t be retiring at 65.” And so it didn’t really come as a surprise when the Federal Reserve reported that household net worth plunged $11.2 trillion in 2008, a stunning 18 percent loss in one year. No wonder The New York Times says that “the most recent loss of wealth is staggering.”

So did this wealth actually disappear? Of course not. My house is still here. The companies in which my mutual funds own stock are still there. All that changed was this: The prices at which American asset owners can sell their assets fell by $11.2 trillion. But the prices that buyers have to pay for those assets also fell by $11.2 trillion. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Consider housing. When hurricane Katrina demolished more than 275,000 homes, America was $80 billion poorer. In contrast, after the recent financial hurricane demolished the value of homes, there were 750,000 more homes in America. Current owners will get $2.1 trillion less when they sell and will have to

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