CFR Presents

Renewing America

Ideas and initiatives for rebuilding American economic strength.

The Keystone Pipeline May be Dead, But Here’s How it Could Blow up the TPP

by Edward Alden Thursday, January 7, 2016
A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota November 14, 2014. (Reuters Photographer/Reuters).

So much for the U.S.-Canada honeymoon. With the election in October of the new Liberal prime minister Justin Trudeau, both Washington and Ottawa had hoped to put behind them several years of poor relations that had been soured largely by a single issue – President Obama’s dithering and then final rejection in November of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring Canadian tar sands oil to refineries in the U.S. Midwest and the Gulf Coast. Obama was so delighted to see the backside of Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper – an ardent supporter of the pipeline – that he quickly invited Trudeau for a state dinner in Washington in March. Read more »

Buried in the Omnibus, a Step Back for Immigration Reform

by Edward Alden Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Mexican workers, on the U.S. H2B visa program for seasonal guest workers, process crabs at the A.E. Phillips & Son Inc. crab picking house on Hooper's Island in Fishing Creek, Maryland August 26, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters).

Anti-immigration activists who helped to derail comprehensive immigration reform last year are seething over several provisions of the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress last week. Tucked away in the mammoth legislation were some of the most significant changes in years to U.S. immigration laws. One of the biggest would greatly expand the H-2B program for temporary seasonal non-agriculture workers such as landscapers, restaurant staff, and seafood processors. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who led the fight in the Senate against comprehensive reform, lamented that the new provisions would “line the pockets of special interests and big business.” Read more »

The New Education Bill May Not Improve Student Outcomes

by Rebecca Strauss Friday, December 11, 2015
Jaden Perez, 8, participates in a chess-geography lesson at Discovery Elementary School in Sunrise, Florida August 29, 2014. (Stringer/Reuters).

Congress is on a roll. First a budget deal, then a multi-year highway bill, and now a K-12 education bill, whose most previous authorization had dated from 2002—the infamous No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The new version preserves the best parts of NCLB, sheds the most flawed parts, and also hands back more education power from the federal government to the states. It is unclear, however, whether this bill will actually do much to improve student outcomes. Read more »

Finally a Highway Bill, But Big Financing Problems Remain

by Rebecca Strauss Thursday, December 3, 2015

For the first time in a decade, Congress has cobbled together a highway bill that guarantees transportation infrastructure funding for several years. House and Senate negotiators announced a deal this week, and the final votes are expected shortly. Unfortunately, the bill does nothing to fix the terrible infrastructure financing system, nor does it increase current spending levels enough. Read more »

A Hard Look at a Soft Global Economy

by Michael Spence Monday, November 23, 2015
Cranes and workers are seen at a construction site at a main pier of the Hutong Yangtze River highway and railway bridge above the Yangtze River, in Nantong, Jiangsu province, China, April 25, 2015 (China Daily China Daily Information Corp - CDIC/Reuters).

MILAN – The global economy is settling into a slow-growth rut, steered there by policymakers’ inability or unwillingness to address major impediments at a global level. Indeed, even the current anemic pace of growth is probably unsustainable. The question is whether an honest assessment of the impediments to economic performance worldwide will spur policymakers into action. Read more »

Terrorism, Refugees and Foreign Students: Learning from History

by Edward Alden Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Migrants Hungary Migrants stand in front of a train at Bicske railway station, Hungary, September 4, 2015. (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters).

While the governors of more than two dozen U.S. states were announcing this week their intention not to resettle refugees from Syria, America’s universities were reporting the biggest leap in the past three decades in the number of foreign students studying in the United States. Nearly one million students from every corner of the world – including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen and, yes, Syria – are currently pursuing higher education in the United States. The year-over-year increase in the number of foreign students is the largest since 1978, according to the Institute for International Education’s annual Open Doors report. Read more »

Renewing America Progress Report on U.S. Innovation

by Edward Alden Thursday, October 29, 2015

Management theorist Peter Drucker famously declared that companies must “innovate or die.” Washington today is full of similar warnings, based on the premise that the United States is losing its innovation edge. The fear is that industrial and technological advancements in other countries—and in China in particular—threaten to leave us behind. Read more »

Job-Saving Technologies

by Michael Spence Thursday, October 15, 2015
LinkedIn logo Mountain View California Robert Galbraith Reuters The logo for LinkedIn Corporation is shown in Mountain View, California (Robert Galbraith/Reuters).

This post was co-written with James Manyika, director of the McKinsey Global Institute.

SAN FRANCISCO – This is an age of anxiety about the job-killing effects of automation, with dire headlines warning that the rise of robots will render entire occupational categories obsolete. But this fatalism assumes that we are powerless to harness what we create to improve our lives – and, indeed, our jobs. Read more »

The TPP Agreement: Big Things Are Still Possible

by Edward Alden Monday, October 5, 2015
Trans-Pacific Partnership TPP ministers press conference Lahaina Maui Hawaii July 31 2015 The twelve Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) ministers hold a press conference to discuss progress in the negotiations in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii July 31, 2015 (Marco Garcia/Reuters).

A dozen countries from the Asia-Pacific region showed today that it is still possible for nations to do big things. Following a week of difficult meetings in Atlanta, trade and economy ministers from the United States, Japan, Mexico, Vietnam and others have reached a final deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest and most consequential trade agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) more than two decades ago. While there is still a long road ahead to final ratification by the U.S. Congress and other national legislatures, the TPP deal has the potential to reshape an important part of the U.S. economy, strengthen American diplomacy, and launch a new generation of international economic cooperation. Read more »

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 »