Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines Quick Hits

Here are a few headlines for your romantic night with that special someone.  Maybe you could even read a few of them to him/her to get in the mood:
  • For those of us out there who waited until the last minute and bought our wives some surprisingly-cheap-yet-high-quality Valentines Day roses from your neighborhood Whole Foods (a "fair trade" advocate, by the way), I hope you checked where the flowers were from.  I did: Colombia.  Heritage's Bryan Riley explains that "Americans saved more than $16 million on roses last year thanks to U.S. trade policy toward Colombia.... As Valentine’s Day approaches, with Mother’s Day not far behind, it is a good time to consider the benefits of the proposed U.S.–Colombia Free Trade Agreement not just for U.S. flower buyers but for the Colombian workforce and U.S. exporters as well."
  • Don Boudreaux and David Henderson refute Ian Fletcher's ridiculous claim that, while American manufacturing is at an all-time high and remains the world's largest by value, the problem is that the sector just ain't growing fast enough.  Next up, Fletcher will argue that whether protectionism is idiotically self-destructive depends on what your definition of "is" is.  Seriously.
  • Keith Hennessey provides a detailed analysis of the President's allegedly pro-trade statements before the US Chamber of Commerce and arrives at a depressing conclusion that some of us have known for a while now: "This sounds like a free trade agenda, or at least a pro-trade agenda, which would be good from a President whose party often leans heavily toward protectionism. The problem is that the U.S. already has trade agreements with Panama and Colombia. The President is in reality saying that he is undoing those deals. He also appears to be saying that 'unprecedented support from … labor [and] Democrats …' is a precondition to further progress on free trade."  Thus, we're doomed.
  • Here's a telling update on that sketchy Chevron-Ecuador dispute that I mentioned a few weeks ago (and further proof that third-party dispute settlement of investment disputes is not as horrible and pernicious as some trade skeptics breathlessly allege).  The Hague is still reviewing the case, but the domestic court has ordered Chevron to pay billions.  And guess who really wins big from the domestic ruling: "The court also ruled that Chevron should pay the Amazon Defense Front, a coalition formed by the plaintiffs, an additional 10% in damages, or about $860 million. The judgment says the amount of the damages could be doubled if Chevron doesn't apologize publicly to plaintiffs by advertising in the next 15 days in newspapers in the U.S. and Ecuador.  Pablo Fajardo, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said his team was still reviewing the 200-page document and couldn't give a full opinion until Tuesday. He said that although he didn't rule out the possibility of appealing to ask for a higher amount, the fact that the judge issued a ruling favorable to the plaintiffs was a 'very positive step.'  Last summer the plaintiffs asked the court for $113 billion in damages."  Ahh, social justice.
  • The Economist has a fascinating cover story on a new technology called "3D printing" and how it could totally revolutionize manufacturing.  After reading it, ask yourself this: "Is it really smart for the White House to pin the hopes of America's economic recovery on a dramatic increase in manufacturing employment?"
  • I kinda pity Randy Erwin, the founder of the "Buy American Challenge."  I mean, the guy seems well-intentioned and, unlike most anti-traders, he's advocating a purely voluntary import embargo (rather than one produced by political lobbying and enforced by government coercion).  Nevertheless, he's still really, really misguided, as Don Boudreaux and Mark Perry demonstrate.
  • The NYT reports that "Over the last decade, the [USDA's Market Access Program] has provided nearly $2 billion in taxpayer money to agriculture trade associations and farmer cooperatives. The promotions are as varied as a manual for pet owners in Japan and a class at a Mexican culinary school to teach aspiring chefs how to cook rice for Mexican consumers. Money also went to large farmer-owned cooperatives like Sunkist, Welch’s and Blue Diamond, which grows and sells almonds. Combined, the three companies had over $2 billion in sales in 2009."  Awesome.
  • China's now the world's #2 economy (by country).  Razeen Sally explains in the WSJ that, if China ever wants to become a world leader, it needs to ditch the childish protectionism.
  • Harvard professor Martin Feldstein provides a laundry list of reasons why the President needs to dramatically lower the corporate tax rate if he's serious about re-invigorating the American economy.  And he drops this little nugget: "Eliminating every loophole in the taxation of domestic corporate profits identified by the administration's own Office of Management and Budget would raise less than $60 billion of extra revenue in 2011, enough to lower the combined federal-state corporate rate to 35%. The U.S rate would still be higher than in every other country but Japan, and a full 10 percentage points higher than the average in other industrial OECD countries."  
Happy V-Day, everyone.

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