Friday, September 18, 2009
Trade Remedies in North America
Following up on my previous post on the U.S. safeguard action regarding Chinese tires, I would like to announce a forthcoming book, entitled Trade Remedies in North America, which will be published by Kluwer Law International and which I am co-authoring with Nick Covelli, David Gantz, and Ihn Ho Uhm. Nick is Counsel for the Government of Canada; David (as many of you know) is a chaired professor, Director of the International Trade Law Program and Associate Director of the National Law Center for Inter-American Free Trade at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law; and Ihn is a former senior economist at the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (the Canadian counterpart to the U.S. International Trade Commission). I myself am founding director of my school's International and Comparative Law Center, although I am currently visiting away for the academic year at West Virginia University College of Law. The book is slated for publication in early 2010.
The purpose of the book is to provide a comprehensive and comparative treatment of the trade remedy laws (antidumping, countervailing duty, and safeguards laws) of Canada, Mexico and the United States at the bilateral, NAFTA and WTO levels, and of the economic and political underpinnings of these laws. Also included will be case studies of recent trade remedy actions, namely, Softwood Lumber IV, U.S. safeguards on Cement from Mexico, and Canadian steel safeguards. We believe the book is well-positioned to fill a gap in the market, due to its comparative focus and scope of coverage. If anyone would like more information concerning the book, please let me know.
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Any discussion of remedies for America's huge trade imbalance would be incomplete without recognition of the role of disparities in population density in driving such imbalances.
Our enormous trade deficit is rightly of growing concern to Americans. Since leading the global drive toward trade liberalization by signing the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1947, America has been transformed from the wealthiest nation on earth - its preeminent industrial power - into a skid row bum, literally begging the rest of the world for cash to keep us afloat. It's a disgusting spectacle. Our cumulative trade deficit since 1976, financed by a sell-off of American assets, exceeds $9.2 trillion. What will happen when those assets are depleted? Today's recession is the answer.
Why? The American work force is the most productive on earth. Our product quality, though it may have fallen short at one time, is now on a par with the Japanese. Our workers have labored tirelessly to improve our competitiveness. Yet our deficit continues to grow. Our median wages and net worth have declined for decades. Our debt has soared.
Clearly, there is something amiss with "free trade." The concept of free trade is rooted in Ricardo's principle of comparative advantage. In 1817 Ricardo hypothesized that every nation benefits when it trades what it makes best for products made best by other nations. On the surface, it seems to make sense. But is it possible that this theory is flawed in some way? Is there something that Ricardo didn't consider?
At this point, I should introduce myself. I am author of a book titled "Five Short Blasts: A New Economic Theory Exposes The Fatal Flaw in Globalization and Its Consequences for America." My theory is that, as population density rises beyond some optimum level, per capita consumption begins to decline. This occurs because, as people are forced to crowd together and conserve space, it becomes ever more impractical to own many products. Falling per capita consumption, in the face of rising productivity (per capita output, which always rises), inevitably yields rising unemployment and poverty.
This theory has huge ramifications for U.S. policy toward population management (especially immigration policy) and trade. The implications for population policy may be obvious, but why trade? It's because these effects of an excessive population density - rising unemployment and poverty - are actually imported when we attempt to engage in free trade in manufactured goods with a nation that is much more densely populated. Our economies combine. The work of manufacturing is spread evenly across the combined labor force. But, while the more densely populated nation gets free access to a healthy market, all we get in return is access to a market emaciated by over-crowding and low per capita consumption. The result is an automatic, irreversible trade deficit and loss of jobs, tantamount to economic suicide.
One need look no further than the U.S.'s trade data for proof of this effect. Using 2006 data, an in-depth analysis reveals that, of our top twenty per capita trade deficits in manufactured goods (the trade deficit divided by the population of the country in question), eighteen are with nations much more densely populated than our own. Even more revealing, if the nations of the world are divided equally around the median population density, the U.S. had a trade surplus in manufactured goods of $17 billion with the half of nations below the median population density. With the half above the median, we had a $480 billion deficit!
Our trade deficit with China is getting all of the attention these days. But, when expressed in per capita terms, our deficit with China in manufactured goods is rather unremarkable - nineteenth on the list. Our per capita deficit with other nations such as Japan, Germany, Mexico, Korea and others (all much more densely populated than the U.S.) is worse. My point is not that our deficit with China isn't a problem, but rather that it's exactly what we should have expected when we suddenly applied a trade policy that was a proven failure around the world to a country with one fifth of the world's population.
Ricardo's principle of comparative advantage is overly simplistic and flawed because it does not take into consideration this population density effect and what happens when two nations grossly disparate in population density attempt to trade freely in manufactured goods. While free trade in natural resources and free trade in manufactured goods between nations of roughly equal population density is indeed beneficial, just as Ricardo predicts, it’s a sure-fire loser when attempting to trade freely in manufactured goods with a nation with an excessive population density.
If you‘re interested in learning more about this important new economic theory, then I invite you to visit either of my web sites at OpenWindowPublishingCo.com or PeteMurphy.wordpress.com where you can read the preface, join in the blog discussion and, of course, buy the book if you like. (It's also available at Amazon.com.)
Author, "Five Short Blasts"
Posted by: Pete Murphy | Sep 19, 2009 9:34:40 AM
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