Visualizing The World’s Largest Importers In 2017

For most world leaders and corporate executives, the swing of the global pendulum to more protectionist policies has been an unpleasant surprise.

That’s because the consensus view from both economists and economic historians has been that measures like the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which triggered a trade war during the Great Depression, greatly exacerbated circumstances that were already quite dire.

It’s common for tariff increases to be countered by retaliatory measures, and this can often translate to lower levels of international trade and decreased economic growth across the board. During the period of 1929 to 1934, according to the U.S. State Department, world trade decreased by 66% – largely a result of subsequent trade wars after the passing of Smoot-Hawley.

For the above reasons, international barriers to trade have been falling for decades – until now, of course.

LARGEST IMPORTERS

Which countries can throw their weight around the most with tariffs and retaliatory measures?

It’s those that import the most goods – and today’s infographic from HowMuch.net shows the world’s largest importers in 2017, according to recently released data from the World Trade Organization.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

Here are the top 15 largest importers, globally:

The United States takes home the number one spot with $2,409 billion of imports in 2017, about 13.4% of the global total. It’s worth mentioning that this is $860 billion higher than the country’s exports in 2017, and that the difference between the two numbers is the hotly-debated trade deficit.

China and Germany come in the #2 and #3 spots respectively, with $1,842 billion (10.2% of global total) of imports for China and $1,167 billion (6.5% of total) for Europe’s largest economy.

After the big three, no other country has a number exceeding 5% of global imports, but Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Hong Kong (China), and the Netherlands all surpass the 3% mark.

It’s not wage rises that are a problem for the economy – it’s the lack of them | Thomas Frank

Business chiefs moan about vacant jobs going unfilled and how it threatens the economy – so why don’t they just pay more?

In recent weeks media outlets in the US have been fretting over what would ordinarily be considered good news – the roaring American economy, which has brought low unemployment and, in some places, a labour shortage. Owners and managers have complained about their problems in finding people to fill low-wage positions. “Nobody wants to do manual labour any more,” as one trade association grandee told the Baltimore Sun, and so the manual labour simply goes undone.

Company bosses talk about the things they have done to fix the situation: the ads they’ve published; the guest-worker visas for which they’ve applied; how they are going into schools to encourage kids to learn construction skills or to drive trucks. The Wall Street Journal reports on the amazing perks that plumbing companies are now offering new hires: quiet rooms, jetski trips, pottery classes, free breakfast, free beer.

Related: Pay rises faster for top 1% of earners in developed world – report

All the free beer in the world can’t drown out what’s coming

Related: Don’t wait for worried workers to call the shots on wages

Continue reading…

The Gender Earnings Gap And Retirement

Every woman, no matter her age, income or relationship status should assume a more active role in her financial well-being. Knowing what she has, what she will need and how to plan for the unexpected is a vital part of preparing for retirement.

Time For A Helsinki Communique

Authored by Thomas Graham Jr. via The National Interest,

The joint U.S.-China Shanghai Communique laid out stark differences, but also laid real groundwork for cooperation. Could Trump and Putin follow such an example?

American President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to issue a joint statement at their summit meeting in Helsinki on July 16. Since the end of the Cold War, summit statements have expressed an aspiration toward partnership, committing both sides to cooperation on various critical matters for mutual benefit. Even though many goals were left unfulfilled, the statements were honest reflections of intentions at the time of their issuance. But if Trump and Putin were to produce a statement in a similar vein, it would be rightly greeted with derision due to the current state of relations. What then could a joint-statement say that would have the ring of truth while offering hope for a less-dangerous relationship between both countries?

There is a model, drawn not from U.S.-Russian relations but from America’s history with China. That model is the Shanghai Communique of 1972, which set China and America on the path to normalization after years of estrangement. At the insistence of Chinese leader Mao, the document dispensed with worn-out platitudes about cooperation and laid out the disputes between the two countries. Doing so gave it an air of credibility, which lent greater weight to the few critical issues on which the two sides did, in fact, agree to cooperate. It was a masterpiece of diplomacy that has shaped U.S.-Chinese relations ever since.

What would a U.S.-Russian Helsinki Communique look like?

It would begin with the observation that the two countries are major powers that intend to play significant roles in global affairs for years to come. They see each other as competitors, divided by essential differences over the foundations of world order, the resolution of regional conflicts, and the values that inform domestic political systems. Each side, however, recognizes the dangers of turning a competitive relationship into a permanent confrontation, which would risk military strife with catastrophic consequences, given each side’s massive nuclear arsenal. The two sides are, therefore, determined to find ways to compete that reduce that risk.

The statement would then sharply and succinctly lay out the essence of the differences on many vital matters, such as Ukraine, Syria and Iran. Election interference should be on the list, although Trump would certainly object. The Russians would likely insist on including the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and U.S. sanctions. No topic should be off limits. The United States could, for example, note its rejection of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its opposition to Russia’s intervention in Eastern Ukraine. Also, Russia could repeat its non-negotiable position that Crimea joined Russia in a legitimate act of self-determination and its denial that Russian forces have ever operated in Eastern Ukraine. Similarly, Russia could state its objection to NATO expansion, and the United States would state its view that every country has the right to choose its alliances freely.

Given these disputes, the two sides would agree to seek their resolution through negotiations based on mutual respect. Without acknowledging past transgressions, they would commit themselves from this point onward to act with respect for the principles of nonaggression, mutual benefit, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states and noninterference in each other’s internal affairs.

The next section of the statement would focus on possible areas for cooperation. At the top of the list should be strategic stability, for which the United States and Russia have long borne a unique responsibility. The agreed immediate goals would be to ensure mutual compliance with the terms of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), which each side accuses the other of violating. Furthermore, both sides should begin negotiations for the prolongation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty agreement (New START), set to expire in 2021. Action on these two matters would launch a broader discussion of strategic stability in a world that is moving towards nuclear multipolarity with China’s rise and in which advanced conventional and cyber weapons have profound implications.

In addition, counterterrorism and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction could be identified as promising areas of cooperation, as long as care is taken not to exaggerate the possibilities. The United States and Russia do diverge in their approaches to them, as is evident from the controversy surrounding Syria and each country’s respective relations with Iran and North Korea.

Finally, the statement would end with a commitment to the steady normalization of relations, including the opening up of multiple channels of official communication and regular meetings between senior officials. This step is critical to avoid the misunderstandings that can lead to undesired conflict. Also, the two presidents could endorse expanded contact between American and Russian expert communities and welcome the contributions they could make to finding innovative ways of managing disputes and fostering cooperation. More generally, the presidents could also embrace efforts to build bridges between both societies through expanded people-to-people contacts.

*  *  *

The odds against such a Helsinki Communique are, of course, great. Time is short, and Trump is probably looking for a dramatic bargain while Putin is prepared to pocket any concessions. But if he thought about it for a moment, Trump would realize that no other post-Cold War president has produced anything like a Helsinki Communique, moreover one that would set the framework for the closer ties to Russia he professes to want. It would be a striking achievement for which he could rightly take credit.

“There Is No End In Sight” Army Major Warns Of “Perpetual War” On Terror

Cutting through the haze of humanitarian bullshit and liberation,  West Point graduate and author Major Danny Sjursen told ‘Watching The Hawks’ that the War on Terror is a “battle for basic hegemony in the Middle East”, warning that it may go on indefinitely.

In the brief but eye-opening interview, Sjursen calls the US’ now 17-year War on Terror “unprecedented in American history,” noting that soon kids who were born after 9/11 will be joining the military.

Sjursen called the War on Terror a misnomer. “How do you fight a war against a tactic. Terrorism is a tactic,” he asked.

“What it really has been, in my opinion, is a war for basic hegemony in the Middle East,” Sjursen said.

He believes that even though some of it may be backed by humanitarian impulses, “I don’t suspect that the government necessarily fights just for oil or whatever the different conspiracies [are].”

“The War on Terror, as far as I see it, is potentially perpetual. There is no end in sight,” he added.

Calling for a teaching of the mistakes from the “messy history” of the US misadventure in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sjursen warned that the US is “apt to repeat” these mistakes “whether it’s in Iran, whether it’s in West Africa.”

American soldiers are dying countries Americans can’t pronounce, they can’t find on the map, and part of the problem and part of the reason for that they aren’t really educated on this.”

Sjursen called for the War on Terror to be taught in schools and for honest and critical conversations to be had publicly in order to educate the average American on it.