U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced that the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) will take effect on May 15 (TheHill). The deal is now able to go into force because the Obama administration determined that Colombia has sufficiently addressed concerns about that nation’s treatment of its workers; U.S. union leaders such as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka disagree with the government’s determination. CTPA was originally negotiated and signed under the Bush administration but not ratified in the United States until last October.
International trade and investment. Read more from leading analysts on the debate over next steps in U.S. trade policy.
Education and Human Capital
Two Years in, SIG Program Shows Some Progress
After two years, the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program shows signs of progress (EducationWeek). SIG targeted the worst-performing schools and included $3 billion of stimulus funds. The Department of Education analyzed the performance of 700 schools in the program and found that 25 percent had double-digit gains in math, while 20 percent notched similar gains in reading. A recent report from the Government Accountability Office found some trouble spots, including over a dozen schools losing SIG funding due to poor results.
The new report of the CFR Independent Task Force on U.S. Education Reform and National Security highlights the importance of the Common Core State Standards and asserts that fixing the nation’s underperforming K-12 schools is critical to economic competitiveness and national security.
Education and human capital. Read more from experts discussing ways to improve U.S. education and immigration policies.
Corporate Regulation and Taxation
Justice Dept Strengthening a Monopoly?
In the New York Times, David Carr argues that the Justice Department’s e-book case should target Amazon, not Apple and publishers. He argues that Amazon’s below cost pricing strategy is monopolistic; the Justice Department’s suit will ultimately hurt consumers by reducing the ability of small and large players to compete with Amazon, he says. Amazon’s pricing tactics on print books recently led Educational Development Corporation, the small children’s book publisher, to pull its titles (NYT).
Corporate regulation and taxation. Read more from top economists and business experts on solutions for addressing corporate tax reform.
Patents Rising in Value
Judging from the valuations in recent intellectual property deals such as Microsoft’s $1.1 billion purchase of 800 AOL patents, prices are surging (Techcrunch). Patents can serve as a licensing revenue streams, and secure a strategic position by fending off new entrants and avoiding infringement claims. Google’s $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility—and its large patent portfolio—inoculated Android against infringement claims from Apple, analysts say. Startups that eschew patent applications and their typical costs of $15,000 to $75,000 may be foregoing a potentially valuable property.
GE Tries to Innovate Silicon Valley Style
Industrial stalwart General Electric (GE) is building a new Bay Area research facility to lure Silicon Valley talent from startups (Bloomberg). GE faces heavy competition for top talent, but if successful, the $1 billion center will eventually host 400 employees focused on creating applications to collect and use data from GE’s products. Firms using everything from locomotives and wind farms to CT scanners would be able to apply data-driven insights to cut costs and increase profits.
Innovation. Read more on how the U.S. capacity to innovate could play a chief role in economic growth.
Steven J. Markovich holds an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.