The Global Economic Crisis and Potential Implications for Foreign Policy and National Security

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Remarkably, no evidence on the resort to discrimination and liberalization by states since the start of the GFC was presented. He does not distinguish between the years before and after the Global Financial Crisis, devoting to the latter a single paragraph that includes a sweeping generalization about protectionism that is not supported by any evidence. The statistics presented in these four analyses include those from the Global Trade Alert, the principal data source used in this paper.

The Financial and Economic Crisis and Developing Countries

Since the s, scholars publishing in leading international business journals felt less need to refer to key terms associated with commercial policy. Source Business Source Ultimate database accessed 29 June Evidently, many authors, referees, and journal editors did not see the need to refer to policies affecting cross-border commerce in articles published since the onset of the GFC or did not have the information to do so. While the notion that every piece of international business scholarship need refer to such policies is absurd, should evidence of substantial shifts in public policy towards international business emerge then it would further support for the contention of Buckley et al.

Data collection is costly and new datasets are often treated with suspicion, 11 adding further to the risk of publications being rejected. Under current circumstances, the path of least resistance is to employ only downloadable, already-accepted datasets. Does relaxing data constraints really matter? Only if data on new policies and the commerce covered led to no new research questions, no theoretical innovation, no new empirical findings, and no new implications for managerial and policy decision-making would extant international business thinking remain unchanged.


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Put this way, it seems implausible to contend that international business thinking is unlikely to change over time if a substantial trove of new data on policies facing MNEs becomes available. Project selection bias is also at work in the academic literature on trade policy. A second adverse consequence of limited data on policy intervention is that established ideas tend to survive longer than may be merited, call it inadequate scrutiny bias.

The presumption that the world is still globalized and fundamentally unaltered by the global financial crisis is held by certain leading international scholars is a potential case in point. With data on more forms of trade distortion — going beyond the data on import tariffs and duties on dumped, subsidized, and surging imports that goes back decades — such perspectives can be revisited.

Should new pervasive trade distortions come to light, or existing undiscovered ones be better documented, even if they are not found in every country, then the long-standing presumptions that some scholars bring to their analysis of the relationship between international business and governments may need to be revised.

Third, as is well known, the lack of data on relevant independent variables creates omitted variable bias in regression studies. This is particularly important when analyzing the impact of commercial policy as governments can substitute between transparent and murkier forms of protectionism. If, as Baldwin contended a long time ago, falling tariff barriers are offset in full or in part by rising non-tariff barriers, then this negative correlation would bias the estimated impact of the former.

The possibility that key international business research findings which rest on regression findings employing only tariffs and contingent protection measures are vitiated cannot be ruled out. For example, our understanding of the impact of import tariff changes on foreign direct investment versus export supply decisions could be at risk. On a more positive note, the Global Financial Crisis and its aftermath is an excellent laboratory to test the robustness of key research findings in extreme circumstances. Abrupt shifts in government preferences may result in big shifts in public policy such as attitudes towards more interventionist industrial policy opening the door for fresh testing theories of the impact of business—government relations on policy choice.

Recall, in this respect, that the very notion of Embedded Liberalism as advocated by Ruggie postulates that this could and should happen Ruggie, The range of theories that may be tested and the magnitude of change of key forcing variables could differ during systemic economic crises than in typical recessions. Can we be sure that existing international business thinking will survive scrutiny during epochs of systemic stress? Although this paper focuses on documenting and interpreting unilateral government policy change since the onset of the GFC, it is worth noting that a growing body of published statistics points to significant changes in the pattern of cross-border commerce during the crisis era which remain largely unexplored by researchers.

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Data from the World Trade Monitor has revealed that world trade volumes have grown in fits and starts since recovering in The profitability of exporting goods may have fallen too, as both World Trade Organization WTO and Eurostat data show average export manufacturing prices stagnating or falling since The foreign share of value added in exports, a commonly used measure of the commercial relevance of international value chains, has stagnated since UNCTAD, In the face of a protectionist global environment, companies must navigate the world on their own. We must level the playing field, without government engagement.

This requires dramatic transformation. Going forward: We will localize. In the future, sustainable growth will require a local capability inside a global footprint. However, is there systematic evidence to support the contention that the commercial playing field faced by international business has changed profoundly? By exploiting the largest available dataset on government policy choice affecting the various forms of cross-border commerce witnessed in the 21st century, the purpose of this paper is to document and interpret the extent to which the commercial playing field has been tilted by governments in favor or against foreign commercial interests since the onset of the Global Financial Crisis.

Evidence is also presented on the most prevalent forms of discrimination against foreign commercial interests and the scale of international trade in goods implicated. Proper documentation of the protectionism facing international business requires a clear, operational, and relevant definition of the types of policy intervention involved. Given the dramatic fall in world trade seen in the s, it is not surprising that the notion of protectionism is frequently associated with import restrictions or more generally with trade restrictions Irwin, Formal definitions of protectionism of which there are surprisingly few emphasize three components: they refer to trade in goods , in particular to the imports of goods, and they tend to refer to a particular form of policy intervention, namely, taxing imports.

Whether these three elements adequately characterize the manner in which governments tilt the commercial playing in favor of local firms can be challenged on several grounds. Start by asking the following questions. If not protectionism, then what term should policies that favor local service providers be referred to?

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If not protectionism, then what term should policies that limit where firms store data about local residents be referred to? Likewise, what term should be used for policies that limit or ban foreign investments? There three questions highlight that in the 21st century the range of discriminatory policies affecting managers in MNEs goes well beyond trade in goods. Confining a definition of protectionism to trade in goods makes little sense.

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Furthermore, focusing attention solely on the importation of goods ignores the many ways in which governments seek to influence exports. Are Chinese restrictions on the export of rare earth minerals out of scope because exports rather than imports were implicated? For decades, agricultural exporting nations have complained about the export subsidies awarded by governments of less competitive rivals.

Since such export subsidies seek to increase trade by the implementing nation, when referring to the range of policies affecting trade in goods, it is better to refer to trade distortions rather than trade barriers or restrictions. The mistake is to associate protectionism with one type of international commerce trade in goods , with one direction of such commerce imports , and with one form of policy instrument tariffs. A preferable alternative approach is to ask what all unilateral actions by governments that favor local interests have in common.

I contend that the implementation of each of these policies has the effect of discriminating against a class 21 of foreign commercial entities in favor of at least one rival with commercial operations in the implementing jurisdiction. Now we return to the matter of labeling.

Should all discriminatory policies in the sense described above be labeled protectionist? Not unreasonably, some may be drawn to the notion of referring to policies worsening the relative treatment of firms as discriminatory. In which case, protectionist policies as traditionally defined are a subset of the overall set of discriminatory policies. An alternative, however, is to recognize that the world economy has changed since the s and that the definition of protectionism needs to be recast so as to take account of the many forms of 21st-century international commerce and the reality that governments can alter the ways they favor local firms.

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In which case, an up-to-date definition of protectionism would refer to all government acts that actually discriminate in favor of local commercial interests over one or more foreign rivals whatever the form of international commerce or the form of policy instrument used. The principal advantage of a relative treatment-based definition of protectionism is that it is not confined to specific policy instrument, forms of cross-border commerce, or direction of commerce Evenett, This relative treatment standard is closely related to the notion of discrimination used in international trade law and at the World Trade Organization WTO , 25 and has been endorsed in an independent review of different approaches to monitoring protectionism National Board of Trade, Two further observations on the relative treatment test are in order and their implications for data collection discussed.

First, from time to time, governments implement policies that harm foreign commercial interests but do so in the pursuit of public policy goals relating to health and safety. The data presented in subsequent sections, extracted from a monitoring initiative based upon the relative treatment standard, does not include TBT or SPS measures unless there is clear evidence that the policy intervention in question was in fact implemented to tilt the commercial playing field in favor of domestic commercial interests.

The second possible drawback of the relative treatment standard is in relation to the implementation of regional trade agreements RTA and bilateral investment treaties BIT. The implementation of both types of agreement can discriminate against the commercial interests of third parties.

While there are certainly some academic critics of regional trading agreements that charge them with being discriminatory Bhagwati, contains a trenchant critique , recall that the focus here is on unilateral government acts. The relative treatment standard is not the approach taken by the WTO to monitor protectionism since called upon to do so by the Group of Twenty G20 government leaders in In the November WTO report on trade measures taken by the G20 nations, trade remedies anti-dumping, countervailing duty, and safeguard investigations were, for the first time, not counted towards the totals for trade restrictive measures.

Had the WTO done so, it would have reported a total of trade restrictive measures implemented by the G20 nations from to WTO, If this accurately captured all crisis-era protectionism, then it would be difficult to argue that the treatment of international business changed markedly since the onset of the Global Financial Crisis.


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  6. The low monthly average of trade-restrictive measures implemented by G20 members during the review period may reflect a number of issues. Given the focus in this paper on the conditions facing international business, another official monitoring initiative should be mentioned; namely, that of the joint OECD-UNCTAD monitoring of trade and investment measures. In addition, three G20 members altered their policies towards foreign investments as they relate to national security considerations and one more measure taken by a G20 government, deemed by the OECD and UNCTAD to be worth reporting, was included in their report.

    The impression given is that there was little recent change in the FDI-related regulations facing international business. This average is no more than a third of the 75—80 state acts per year that liberalize or promote FDI over the same period. In sum, the Great Depression has cast a long shadow over how protectionism is characterized, a term whose use rarely makes reference to any definition.

    Pankaj Vashisht and Sriparna Pathak. ARI 129/2009 - 10/9/2009

    In this section, the case was made to define protectionism in a way that can be applied uniformly across different types of international commerce and across different government policy instruments. An approach based on identifying changes in the relative treatment of domestic versus foreign firms was advocated.