Archive for the 'Exports' Category

Feb 05 2010

US Exports: the key to job creation? Obama thinks so…

Obamas Efforts To Boost Exports Face Hurdles : NPR

President Obama thinks the key to recovering the millions of American jobs lost during the recession lies in boosting exports to the rest of the world:

The plan sounds great. As we learn in AP and IB Economics, free trade leads to benefits for nations that choose to participate in it. Of course, promoting free trade will harm some industries and workers whose jobs end up being “off-shored” or “out-sourced” to countries with cheaper or more qualified labor; but Obama’s hope is that promoting free trade will result in a net gain of 2 million American jobs.

The goal of doubling US exports in 5 years, however, may be overly ambitious. According to the CIA World Factbook, the US is currently the fourth largest exporter in the world, sending just around $1 trillion worth of goods and services abroad in 2009, behind the EU with $1.9 trillion, China with $1.2 trillion and Germany with $1.18 trillion of exports. Obama’s goal to double US exports would propel the US to the single largest exporting nation in the world, putting it right around where the 27 nations of the European Union are today.

To achieve his goal, Obama proposals include three strategies for boosting demand and supply of US exports.

  • On the supply side he suggests continuing recent guarantees for payment by foreign buyers. Essentially such a scheme reduces the risks that often accompany international commerce, reducing the “costs” of exporting firms, which in essence increases the supply of exports from the US.
  • On the demand side the US must pressure China to revalue its currency. A stronger RMB (and a weaker dollar) will increase China’s demand for US goods and services.
  • Also on the demand side, the US should push through free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Columbia, which have encountered obstacles among US lawmakers who fear that more free trade may actually mean a loss of US jobs.

Free trade agreements, export payment guarantees and a weaker US dollar in China will help Obama reach his goal. Chances are, however, that it will ultimately be unattainable. Doubling US exports would propel the US to the top of the list of exporting countries, surpassing even China, today’s current leader, by $700 billion more than the country exported last year. The impact on US GDP would undoubtedly be enormous, adding upwards of  $1 trillion to the US economy.

Creating jobs through trade is controversial, as many Americans still believe trade is partially to blame for the loss of American jobs in recent years.

“The average voter in the U.S. has been pretty on the fence about whether they want more trade coming into the United States,” Slaughter says. “The income pressures that a lot of households have faced in recent years have sort of shifted that balance where more voters now are a lot more wary of globalization than they used to be.”

While his goal is lofty, Obama is on the right track towards growing the US economy and promoting job creation. Trade benefits Americans not just because it will increase demand for our goods and services abroad, but because it will lead to lower prices for many of the things we enjoy consuming at home, ultimately increasing real incomes in America while also creating jobs.

The graph below presents a simple explanation of how the above strategies can result in more jobs in US export industries.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does China manipulate the value of its currency? Why is such manipulation harmful to US exporters?
  2. How does a government payment guarantee for exporters actually reduce the costs of doing business for US exporting firms?
  3. Do you believe that more free trade agreements with countries like South Korea and Panama will create jobs or destroy jobs in the United States? Explain.

3 responses so far

Mar 10 2009

Negative externalities of consumption: Britain’s “inebriated hooligans”

Some Britons Too Unruly for Resorts in Europe –

According to the article above, Great Britain exports more trouble to the rest of Europe than any other nation.

A recent report published by the British Foreign Office, “British Behavior Abroad,” noted that in a 12-month period in 2006 and 2007, 602 Britons were hospitalized and 28 raped in Greece, and that 1,591 died in Spain and 2,032 were arrested there.The report did not distinguish between medical cases and arrests associated with drunkenness and those that had nothing to do with it. But it did say that “many arrests are due to behavior caused by excessive drinking.”

The unruly behavior of Britons does not always end when the vacation is over, either:

Earlier this summer, flying home to Manchester from the Greek island of Kos, a pair of drunken women yelling “I need some fresh air” attacked the flight attendants with a vodka bottle and tried to wrestle the airplane’s emergency door open at 30,000 feet. The plane diverted hastily to Frankfurt, and the women were arrested.

How is this story related to economics, you may be wondering? Well, it’s really about a market failure. The over-consumption of alcohol by British tourists is creating spillover costs for the societies (and police forces) of the nations in which the tourists get themselves into trouble.

As governments often do when market failures exists, some British consulates have begun taking action to reduce the negative externatlities associated with their nationals’ drunkenness.

Worried about the increase in crimes and accidents afflicting drunken tourists, the British consulate in Athens has begun several campaigns, using posters, beach balls and coasters with snappy slogans, to encourage young visitors to drink responsibly.

“When things do go wrong, they go wrong in quite a big way,” said Alison Beckett, the director of consular services. “What we’re trying to do here is reduce some of these avoidable accidents where they have so much to drink that they fall off balconies and are either killed or need huge operations.”

Because British tourists only consider their own enjoyment (benefits) while on vacation, they consume alcohol at a level that fails to take into account the social costs of their behavior. In economic terms, the marginal private benefit of alcohol consumption exceeds the marginal social benefit, representing an overallocation of resources towards alcohol in tourist towns. Government action by British consulates is aimed at reducing demand (marginal private benefit) among tourists, shifting the MPB curve back towards the MSB curve, in the hope  that alcohol consumption will decline to the socially optimal level, where marginal social benefit equals marginal social cost.

There seems to be a fine line between too much drinking and not enough in the tourist spots of Europe. As far as the impact that British drunkenness has on business, some in the tourist trade believe the very prospect of wild parties and cheap booze is what keep the local economies afloat. Crack down too much on the wild Britons, and business could collapse as customers attracted to the anarchy stop arriving.

Discussion questions:

  1. Is overconsumption of alcohol a market failure? If so, what type could it be classified as?
  2. If the tourist nations were serious about cracking down on drunk tourists, what economic actions could they take in the resort communities where most of the trouble occurs?
  3. How are proprietors of bars and clubs in resort communities benefiting at the expense taxpayers from other parts of the tourist nations? Does the private cost of running a bar in a place like Malia, Greece reflect the social cost? Explain.

301 responses so far

Dec 12 2008

The Marshall-Lerner Condition, the J-curve, and the US trade deficit

For a video lesson on the Marshall Lerner Condition and the J-curve, click here: The Marshall-Lerner Condition (HL Only) | The Economics Classroom

Read the following article before reading the blog post below:
Managing Globalization » Business Blog » International Herald Tribune » Blog Archive » Here’s that silver lining, finally

In IB Economics we’ve been studying concepts relating to balance of trade and exchange rates. The Marshall-Lerner Condition and the J-curve are two concepts that explain the relationship between a the exchange rate for a nation’s currency and the country’s balance of trade. (click on the graph to see a larger version)

Common sense might indicate that if a country’s currency (let’s say the US dollar) depreciates relative to other currencies, then this should lead to an improvement in the country’s balance of trade (economists call this the current account). The reasoning goes as such: a weaker dollar means foreigners will have to give up less of their money in order to get one dollar’s worth of American output. At the same time, since the dollar is worth less in foreign currency, imports become more expensive, as Americans have to fork over more dollars for a certain amount of another country’s output; hence, imports should decrease.

Fewer imports and more exports means an improvement in the country’s balance of trade, right? Well, not necessarily. What matters is not whether a country is importing less and exporting more, rather, whether the increase in income from exports exceeds the decrease in expenditures on imports. Here is where the Marshall-Lerner Condition can be applied.

The M-L condition examines the price elasticities of demand for exports and imports of a particular country. Say the US experiences a depreciation of its currency (as it has over the last year or so). If foreigners’ demand for exports from America is relatively elastic, then a slightly weaker dollar should cause a dramatic increase in foreign demand for American output, causing export income in the US to rise dramatically. On the other hand, if American’s demand for imports is highly price elastic, then a slightly weaker dollar should likewise cause Americans’ demand for imports to decrease drastically, reducing greatly American’s expenditures on imports. If the combined elasticities of demand for exports and imports is elastic (i.e. the coefficient is greater than 1), then a depreciation of a nations currency will shift its current account towards surplus. This is the Marshall-Lerner Condition.

Marshall-Lerner Condition: If PEDx + PEDm > 1, then a depreciation or a devaluation of a nation’s currency will shift the the balance on its current account towards surplus.

So what if the Marshall Lerner Condition is not met? Demand for exports and imports may not always be so responsive to changes in exchange rates. Imagine a scenario where a weaker dollar does little to change foreign demand for America’s output. In this case income from exports may actually decline (in real terms, since the dollar is weaker) as the dollar depreciates. Likewise, if Americans’ demand for imports is highly inelastic, then more expensive imports will only minimally affect Americans’ demand for imported goods, in which case expenditures on imports may actually rise as they become more expensive. In this case, where the elasticities of demand for exports and imports are highly inelastic, a depreciation of the currency will actually worsen a trade deficit. Americans’ import expenditures will go up while export income from abroad will decline shifting the current account further into deficit.

In the article above, some data is presented that points to evidence that in the US today, the Marshall-Lerner Condition is in fact being met:

“Exports in the year through September are up by 12 percent from 2006, while the dollar’s trade-weighted exchange rate dropped by only 6 percent. That means foreigners may actually be spending more – even in their own currencies – on American products. It’s a support that the American economy, and in turn the global economy, can really use right now.

Of course, this process isn’t helping the trade deficit too much, No one, it seems, can change Americans’ taste for foreign products. But it does show, for all to see, that the risks of an open economy are at least somewhat balanced by the benefits.”

An increase in exports of 12% in response to a 6% weakening of the dollar indicates a price elasticity of demand coefficient for America’s exports of 2, meaning foreigners are highly responsive to cheaper US goods.

We can assume that Americans’ demand for imports is highly inelastic, as the article hints at when it says, “imports to the United States, including oil, are still rising in volume and value.” If a 6% weaker dollar leads to an increase in expenditures on imports, then demand must be less than one. In order for M-L Condition to be met, PEDx+PEDm must be greater than 1. Clearly, with a PEDx of 2, the condition is met, and a weaker dollar in leading to an improvement in America’s balance of trade with the rest of the world.

Discussion Questions:

    1. What is the J-curve effect? Based on the evidence from the article, where on the J-curve is the US right now?
    2. Is America experiencing an improvement in or a worsening of its current account deficit?
    3. What determinants of demand are fueling America’s ever-increasing expenditures on imports?
    4. What should happen to the elasticity of demand for imports if the dollar remains weak in the long-run? How will this affect America’s position on the J-curve?


119 responses so far

Sep 25 2008

What’s Korea’s “beef” with the US on free trade?

“This post was originally published in April, 2008. It has been re-published today for the benefit of my year 2 IB Econ students, who are currently studying barriers to free trade. Economy – Korea Beef Deal Won’t Yield Trade Vote

Free trade: everyone either loves it or loves to hate it.
South Korea and the US have been in negotiations for a landmark free trade agreement for years. Korea, however, has had a “beef” with US beef imports since 2003, when a case of Mad Cow Disease gave Korean officials the jitters and all imports were halted.

Even though Mad Cow has disappeared from American beef, the ban has remained, making it difficult for negotiators to come to any major agreements on the reduction of tariffs and other barriers to trade in other markets in which the US and Korea trade. Just last week, South Korea removed the beef ban, giving some analysts hope that a free trade deal may soon be agreed upon.

President Bush signed the agreement last year but has hesitated to pass it on to Congress; where certain Democratic politicians have refused to approve the agreement until S Korea removed the beef ban. Now that the ban has been lifted, however, it appears that the issues keeping an agreement from being reached may run deeper than the simple beef ban:

In addition, Ford Motor Co., unions and Democrats, including both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, all say the accord must be reworked to address what they call South Korea’s barriers to U.S. manufactured goods.

“I understand there are foreign policy considerations, but this is too important for us,” Stephen Biegun, vice president for government affairs at Ford said in an interview earlier this month. “We don’t see any sign that they are ready to change.”

Levin, who represents autoworkers in suburban Detroit, said the accord will need to be changed to address what he calls South Korea’s non-tariff barriers to U.S. manufactured goods, especially autos.

Clinton, in a response to questions from the Pennsylvania Fair Trade Coalition, said the agreement with South Korea “will cost America jobs.”

The S Korea / US Free Trade Agreement should bring a boost in trade between the two countries:

The U.S. is South Korea’s second-largest export market behind China, with shipments totaling $45.8 billion in 2007. Imports from the U.S. last year reached $37.2 billion. The trade agreement would eliminate or reduce tariffs on a wide range of goods including automobiles, vegetables and electronics.

Through free trade there are winners and losers. This is a theme we’ve explored in some depth already during our International Economics unit. The winners, in the case of the S Korea/US FTA will likely be manufacturers in S Korea and service industries in the US. Judging by Ford Motor Company’s response to the FTA, we can assume that American manufacturers will be losers from the accord.

Does this make it bad, however? According to macroeconomic theory, no. The removal of tariffs on imports from S Korea will force American manufacturers to become more competitive and achieve greater efficiency, both which will result in a more efficient allocation of resources in both S Korea and the US. If Ford, for example, sells fewer cars because of in influx of high quality, affordable Korean automobiles, then Ford may be forced to shut down some of its plants in the US. This will lead to the loss of American jobs, just as Hillary Clinton claims it will.

But in the long-run, America as a whole should be better off for it. Manufacturers in the US will focus more on capital intensive goods such as industrial equipment, the manufacture of which requires highly skilled labor, which America has in abundance. In addition to industrial equipment and other high skilled manufactured goods, the US service sector should benefit from freer trade with S Korea.

With beef being resolved, the U.S. banks, insurance companies and other services companies that stand to gain the most from this accord are gearing up their lobbying efforts.

Beef “has been our biggest obstacle in having a meaningful dialogue on the benefits of this agreement,” said Matt Niemeyer, vice president for the business insurer ACE Ltd. and a former U.S. trade official. “It’s now time to work with Congress to find a way to move this important agreement this year.”

As any student of economics knows by now, politics and economics don’t always mix well. The opposition to the S Korea/US FTA among Congressional Democrats is more political than it is economic. Jobs will be lost, that’s true, but overall trade between two technologically advanced, developed countries like the US and S Korea should do more for improvements in efficiency and in resource allocation than it will in harm for a handful of American workers who may find themselves out of work due to greater demand for imported automobiles.

*A tariff on Korean automobiles results in the following outcomes:

  • The quantity demanded of automobiles is less than it would be without a tariff (Q4 rather than Q3)
  • The quantity supplied by American auto manufacturers is greater than it would be without the tariff (Q2 rather than Q1)
  • The difference between Q2 and Q1 represents an overallocation of resources in America towards automobile manufacturing.
  • The domestic quantity demanded exceeds the domestic quantity supplied. The difference (Q4 – Q2) is made up for by imports from S Korea.
  • The government earns revenue equal to the area of the yellow rectangle (amount of tariff x number of cars imported)
  • Society experiences a loss of efficiency (deadweight loss) equal to the combined areas of the green triangles Y and X. This is consumer surplus lost, accounted for by the higher price paid by American consumers imposed by the tariff.

In the model above, the removal of a tariff on Korean automobiles will result in a decrease in output by American firms from Q2 to Q1, an increase in imports from Q4 – Q2 to Q3 – Q1, and an increase in consumer surplus, efficiency, and better overall allocation of resources in America.

Discussion questions:

  1. How does the graph illustrate the concept of “winners and losers from free trade”?
  2. Who gains and who loses from free trade with the US within Korea?
  3. Is it possible that a free trade agreement with Korea would actually create jobs in America? Explain…
  4. Why do politicians oppose free trade deals that would result in such improvements in efficiency, allocation of resources, and even in the employment opportunities for American workers?

144 responses so far

Sep 12 2008

“In-sourcing”: a new trend among US manufacturers?

U.S. companies are rethinking manufacturing in China – Sep. 11, 2008

As the US presidential campaign trudges ever forward, both Obama and McCain have had much to say about “job creation” in the USA. Elaborate plans aimed at retraining workers displaced by globalization, arming them with 21st century skills that will enable them to thrive in our advanced economy, and assure that the hardships imposed by free trade are minimal and all Americans have the skills they need to find employment. These are good goals for America, but even as they preach their job creation plans across the country, right under the candidates’ noses jobs are being created thanks to the invisible hand of the market economy.

Talk of a reverse migration of manufacturing from China to the U.S. has been buzzing across union halls and factory floors, corporate boardrooms and Wall Street.

The cost of shipping outsourced goods from China to U.S. customers has doubled in just two years thanks to high oil prices, and labor costs in China are rising sharply.

“There’s a shortage of technical and managerial talent,” reports Anand Sharma, CEO of TBM Consulting Group. “To attract managers Chinese companies are talking about salary increases of 15% to 30% year-over-year.”

The phenomenon of jobs being “in-sourced” to America after a decade or two of being done by Chinese workers may seem surprising. Certainly, wages are still lower in China than in the US labor market. This is true, however, the demand for highly skilled labor in China is driving wages up higher and higher, due to its relative scarcity in a country where reliable, well-educated factory managers are nearly fully employed by the thousands of foreign and Chinese firms operating plants there. Competition among producers means the only way to attract new managers is to continually offer higher wages. This leads to a form of “wage-spiral inflation” where rising costs lead to higher priced output.

Despite its much smaller work force, the percentage of American workers with the managerial and technical skills needed to run a plant is much higher than in China, and the weak manufacturing sector growth in the US has meant relative wages between the US and China are closer than ever before.

Take into consideration the rising cost of fuel and the fact that China’s economy is producing at or beyond full employment, and it becomes clear why manufacturing certain products in China has become less attractive to American firms. To be sure, not all manufacturing jobs are being “in-sourced” back to the US. As Chinese wages climb and skilled labor becomes more scarce, the giant’s Asian neighbors are beginning to enjoy the re-allocative effects of the “invisible hand”.

…plenty of manufacturers will continue looking for ever cheaper places to produce. In fact, as the cost of doing business in China rises, many companies – including Chinese firms – are shifting their production to less expensive markets, such as Vietnam.

Discussion questions:

  1. What is the “invisible hand” referred to in the post above?
  2. How do higher wages in China benefit Americans? How do they harm Americans?
  3. Some critics of free trade argue that multi-national corporations exploit workers in developing countries. Does the article above illustrate give an example of exploitation? Discuss…

10 responses so far

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