CFR Presents

Renewing America

Ideas and initiatives for rebuilding American economic strength.

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 »

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 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 »