CFR Presents

Renewing America

Ideas and initiatives for rebuilding American economic strength.

Automation, Productivity, and Growth

by Michael Spence Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Automated robots engine assembly line Ford Lima Engine Plant Ohio Automated robots work on a 3500 Duramax engine as it moves along the assembly line at the Ford Lima Engine Plant in Lima, Ohio (Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters).

It seems obvious that if a business invests in automation, its workforce – though possibly reduced – will be more productive. So why do the statistics tell a different story?

In advanced economies, where plenty of sectors have both the money and the will to invest in automation, growth in productivity (measured by value added per employee or hours worked) has been low for at least 15 years. And, in the years since the 2008 global financial crisis, these countries’ overall economic growth has been meager, too – just 4% or less on average. Read more »

Katrina at 10: Reflections on a Human-Made Disaster

by Guest Blogger for Edward Alden Monday, August 24, 2015
Great Wall Louisiana New Orleans Hurricane Katrina levee The so called "Great Wall of Louisiana", a 1.8-mile long concrete wall located east of downtown New Orleans, United States, is seen from the air August 19, 2015. This barrier was designed to reduce the risk of storm surge in many parts of the city that were flooded during Hurricane Katrina due to levee or floodwall failures (Carlos Barria/Reuters).

The following is a guest post by Stephen E. Flynn, Professor of Political Science, Director of the Center for Resilience Studies, and Co-Director of the George J. Kostas Research Institute at Northeastern University. He can be reached at s.flynn@neu.edu Read more »

Letting China’s Bubble Burst

by Michael Spence Thursday, July 30, 2015
investor board stock Beijing China An investor watches an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage office in Beijing, China, July 7, 2015 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters).

The problems with China’s economic-growth pattern have become well known in recent years, with the Chinese stock-market’s recent free-fall bringing them into sharper focus. But discussions of the Chinese economy’s imbalances and vulnerabilities tend to neglect some of the more positive elements of its structural evolution, particularly the government’s track record of prompt corrective intervention, and the substantial state balance sheet that can be deployed, if necessary. Read more »

Trade in Services: WikiLeaks and the Need for Public Debate

by Edward Alden Thursday, July 2, 2015

WikiLeaks has done it yet again, releasing in an extraordinarily timely fashion many of the latest negotiating texts from the Trade in International Services Agreement (TISA), just in advance of a meeting of negotiators next week. Their sources, it has to be said, are impressive. I worked many years ago as a reporter for the newsletter Inside U.S. Trade, where one of our goals, in the pre-digital age, was to encourage leaks of trade negotiating positions. But, with the exception of the Clinton administration’s proposal for the NAFTA labor and environmental side agreements in 1993, we rarely got our hands on the texts themselves. Read more »

The TPA Deal: A Big Step in the Right Direction

by Edward Alden Thursday, June 25, 2015
Barack Obama bipartisan Congressional leaders White House U.S. President Barack Obama hosts a bipartisan meeting of Congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, January 13, 2015 (Larry Downing/Reuters).

America’s politics have been broken for so long that it is rather shocking when things go right. But President Obama’s careful work across the aisles with the Republican congressional leadership to pass a new Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill this week shows that good governance is still possible. Read more »

China’s International Growth Agenda

by Michael Spence Monday, June 22, 2015
Xi Jinping Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank launch ceremony China's President Xi Jinping (R) meets with the guests at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank launch ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing October 24, 2014 (Takaki Yajima/Reuters).

For most of the past 35 years, China’s policymakers have set their focus on the domestic economy, with reforms designed to allow the market to provide efficiency and accurate price signals. Though they had to be increasingly aware of their country’s growing impact on the global economy, they had no strategy to ensure that China’s neighbors gained from its economic transformation. Read more »

How Warren Would Expand Trade With Asia

by Renewing America Staff Wednesday, June 10, 2015
container ship Bridge of the Americas Panama Canal A container ship sails underneath the Bridge of the Americas in the Panama Canal in Panama City August 14, 2014 (Rafael Ibarra/Reuters).

Over the past half century changes in trade infrastructure, such as the growth of container shipping and increases in the size of ports and canals, have had a huge effect on expanding international trade. In a new column for Bloomberg View, CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Peter Orszag discusses the impact of better infrastructure on increasing trade, and asks why some opponents of trade deals nonetheless support local projects that would increase imports to their states.

A Big Moment for Trade Politics in the United States and the EU

by Edward Alden Tuesday, June 9, 2015

This is a big moment for trade politics in the world’s largest democracies. The events of the next few days could well determine whether the United States and the European Union find a new way to lead the international trade agenda, or instead turn inward in the face of growing distrust from their own populations. The European Parliament is set to vote June 10 on a set of negotiating objectives for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). And in the United States, the House of Representatives is moving towards a final vote on President Obama’s request for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which he needs to conclude both the TTIP and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deals. In this piece out today in Politico Europe, I argue that critics of the trade deals — rather than walking away from the table — should fight to make them better. Read more »

WikiLeaks and Trade: A Healthy Dose of Sunshine

by Edward Alden Wednesday, June 3, 2015
FedEx Mojave Airport California A FedEx MD-11 takes off from the Mojave Airport in California (Reuters).

I love WikiLeaks. While I recognize that secrecy has its place, I strongly believe that the affairs of the people should, to the greatest extent possible, be conducted with the full knowledge of the people. Secrecy breeds distrust, and feeds claims that governments are only serving narrow corporate interests. Thus I was delighted to see in my inbox this morning that WikiLeaks has yet again purloined and published a series of trade negotiating texts, this time for the pending Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). Read more »

U.S. Aviation Infrastructure

by Steven J. Markovich Tuesday, June 2, 2015
United Boeing 747-400 San Francisco International Airport A United Airlines Boeing 747-400 takes off at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California, February 7, 2015 (Louis Nastro/Reuters).

The United States has the most heavily-trafficked aviation system in the world, but its airports and airlines lag other developed countries in performance. While the United States is a leader in aircraft manufacturing, investment in airport infrastructure has stalled over the past decade. However, new technologies could have major implications on the industry as a whole, such as the use of satellite-based air traffic control systems, and the emergence of unmanned drones. A new backgrounder, U.S. Aviation Infrastructure, explores the strengths, shortcomings, and opportunities for air transportation in the United States.