Rising Tide: Is Growth in Emerging Economies Good for the United States?

Peterson Institute
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In 1963, John F. Kennedy said that "a rising tide lifts all the boats. And a partnership, by definition, serves both parties, without domination or unfair advantage." US international economic policy since World War II has been based on the premise that foreign economic growth is in America's economic, as well as political and security, self-interest. The bursting of the speculative dot.com bubble, slowing US growth, and the global financial crisis and its aftermath, however, have led to radical changes in Americans' perceptions of the benefits of global trade. Many Americans believe that trade with emerging-market economies is the most important reason for US job loss, especially in manufacturing, and is detrimental to American welfare and an important source of wage inequality. Several prominent economists have reinforced these public concerns.

In this study, Lawrence Edwards and Robert Z. Lawrence confront these fears through an extensive survey of the empirical literature and in depth analyses of the evidence. Their conclusions contradict several popular theories about the negative impact of US trade with developing countries. They find considerable evidence that while adjusting to foreign economic growth does present America with challenges, growth in emerging-market economies is in America's economic interest. It is hard, of course, for Americans to become used to a world in which the preponderance of economic activity is located in Asia. But one of America's great strengths is its adaptability. And if it does adapt, the American economy can be buoyed by that rising tide.
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About the author

Robert Z. Lawrence was a senior fellow and also the Albert L. Williams Professor of Trade and Investment at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He served as a member of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers from 1999 to 2000. He held the New Century Chair as a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution between 1997 and 1998.

Lawrence Edwards is a professor at the School of Economics, University of Cape Town, and research associate at the South African Labor and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) and Policy Research on International Services and Manufacturing (PRISM). His research interests focus on the effects of international trade on labor, determinants of trade flows, and trade policy.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Peterson Institute
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Published on
Dec 31, 2013
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Pages
277
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ISBN
9780881325003
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economic Conditions
Business & Economics / Economics / General
Business & Economics / Economics / Macroeconomics
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This content is DRM protected.
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The world economy has undergone miraculous changes in the last decade, particularly in developing and former communist countries. Privatization and trade liberalization have replaced the protectionist and statist policies that were deeply entrenched in these areas just ten years ago. Today, these dynamic emerging markets offer attractive opportunities. According to Robert Lawrence, liberal international trade and investment should provide significant opportunities for gains in developing and developed nations alike.

But will the developed countries be allowed to keep their markets open and absorb exports from developing countries? Many in the U.S. and Europe blame international trade for unemployment and wage inequality. But what is the real relationship? Lawrence contends that while trade has played some role in reducing the wages of poorly educated workers in the U.S. and in raising the unemployment of unskilled workers in Europe, its impact has been small compared with other causes of these changes.

Lawrence examines the role of trade in developed and developing countries and its impact on labor markets and wage inequality, and discusses what he considers the more important effects of technological and organizational change. He begins by focusing on U.S. wage behavior, then moves to wage behavior in the OECD countries.

Lawrence concludes that the impact of globalization on OECD labor markets has been far less damaging than many have argued and, indeed, that international trade enhances national welfare. He presents considerable evidence that the sources of poor labor market performance are essentially domestic—they reflect ongoing technological and organizational shocks that would be present even if the economy was closed. This evidence suggests that international differences in wage rates and labor standards are not major factors in OECD labor market behavior. He explains that the major challenges to policy are educating the public on the nature of these changes, emphasizing the need for worker training and education to take advantage of new technologies and new organizational structures, and developing measures to reduce earnings inequality while preserving and increasing wage flexibility.

Robert Z. Lawrence is professor of international trade and investment at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. His previous books include A Vision for the World Economy: Openness, Diversity, and Cohesion (Brookings, 1996), the capstone volume to the Integrating National Economies series.

Copublished with the OECD Development Centre

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