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Global Economy

The ebbs and flows of global economic conditions, trade and capital flows, thus have substantial implications for the Australian economy, and Australia’s major regional trading partners. Understanding the broad trends, and identifying emerging challenges and opportunities within the global economy, is central to the work of the International Economy Program at the Lowy Institute.

The highly integrated nature of the modern global economy became especially evident during the 2008 global financial crisis. What began as a localised problem within the residential asset-backed securities market in the United States, eventually brought down major financial firms across the Western world, and ultimately pushed the United States and Europe into a deep and prolonged recession. Although global economic growth has recovered somewhat since 2008, it is still much lower than pre-2008 trends, and the hangover from the crisis has manifested itself in the form of high unemployment levels throughout much of the developed and developing world, as well as an increasing level of inequality both within and between countries.

Understanding the economic rise of Asia, and particularly of the growing middle class within Asia, is also crucial to the broader work of the Lowy Institute. Political economy analysis on major players in the region, chiefly China, India and Indonesia, features heavily in the work of the East Asia Program and the International Security Program.  

India's budget: Will subsidies fall as predicted?

The new Indian Government brought down its first full-year budget last weekend. It has been keenly anticipated. Business Standard claimed: 'The market is expecting the Union Budget to be path-breaking, similar to the one in 1991, which led to the liberalisation of the Indian economy.'  As it

Bibi goes to Washington

For most of my professional life I have been addicted to Middle Eastern politics. In recent years, however, I have started to kick the habit, so I had not planned to get up at 3am Sydney time to watch Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deliver his much anticipated and controversial address

Julie Bishop goes to Tehran

To everyone's surprise, it was announced on Monday that Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop intends to travel to Tehran in April 2015. The visit isn't about the nuclear negotiations with Iran. After all, while Australia would rather not see Iran go nuclear, it isn't exactly a foreign policy

The 'beggar-thy-neighbour' currency wars

Leon Berkelmans is in good company in defending the policy actions which have come to be described as 'currency wars'.  Ben Bernanke gave the same defence of the US Fed's actions while he was Chairman: while low interest rates and 'quantitative easing' (QE) may give the domestic economy an extra

A currency war would be no bad thing

The European Central Bank has finally begun to engage in quantitative easing. The euro depreciated on the news, which is good for the Europeans but bad for the rest of the world, right? It's another currency war – a zero sum game leading to, at best, nothing but debased currencies . At least that'

How Greece and Europe can both win

The press is making much of the academic qualifications of Greece's new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis. His specialisation is economic game theory, which in this case might be described as 'the art of bargaining'. Good bargaining skills are, indeed, important. But there are also some basic

Timor-Leste: New prime minister, new approach

It has finally happened. After months of 'will he, won't he' melodrama, Xanana Gusmão, Timor-Leste's resistance leader and long-serving prime minister, has stepped down. His successor, Dr Rui Maria de Araújo, will be sworn in as prime minister in a ceremony in Dili later today. The new PM will

How much is too much? The debt mystery

The 2008 financial crisis left no doubt that ill-considered debt can cause major damage not just to an individual country, but to the global economy. You might think that by now, six years later, balance sheet repair would have taken debt below pre-crisis levels. However, debt burdens are

Australia is not meeting its IEA oil reserve targets

The plunge in the global oil price is a hot topic. Between June 2014 and January 2015, the price of crude has dropped by 57%. Most of the attention has been on the boon for consumers, with a litre of petrol in some parts of Australia now counted in cents, not dollars. But while Australia is

Memo to IMF reformers: Don't let Congress get you down

By Lowy Institute Non-Resident Fellow Mike Callaghan and G20 Research Fellow Tristram Sainsbury When it comes to IMF quota reform, the words of Yogi Berra come to mind: 'It's like deja vu all over again'.  IMF First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton and Managing Director Christine Lagarde,

India nuclear deal needs serious parliamentary scrutiny

The Australian parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) will soon review the proposed treaty between Australia and India on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, signed by Prime Ministers Abbott and Modi in New Delhi on 5 September 2014. A 1984 cartoon on Australia's

Is globalisation slowing?

In the decades leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, international trade typically grew much faster than GDP. This reflected increasing global economic integration: tariff barriers were coming down, trade groups (eg. the eurozone, NAFTA, ASEAN) facilitated trade through regulatory simplification

China's investment rebalance

I am embarrassed to say that I made a mistake in the analysis below (I should have realised the results were too clear to be true!). In fact, the relative price of investment goods follows the pattern in the graph below. This mistake was discovered by Guonan Ma and staff at the RBA, who tried to

The IMF's pessimism is misplaced

When the IMF produced its last World Economic Outlook in October, one of the risks it forecast was a possible oil price increase. A US$25 per barrel increase, the IMF said, would take at least 0.5% off global economic growth. Now, even with the change in oil price twice as large and in the opposite

Is China slowing down? Not much

The Wall Street Journal: China's economic growth slowed to 7.4% in 2014, downshifting to a level not seen in a quarter century and firmly marking the end of a high-growth heyday that buoyed global demand for everything from iron ore to designer handbags. The slipping momentum in China, which

A Chinese canal in Nicaragua?

There is pride in Hong Kong that a local private company is pushing ahead with perhaps the world's largest-ever civil works project, the 280km long, 500m wide Nicaragua Canal. Construction began in December 2014. The South China Morning Post dismisses outside suspicions while modestly describing

No, the IMF did not cause the Ebola crisis

Headlines blaming the IMF for the Ebola crisis are something you may expect in the tabloid press. However, a robust debate on the role of the IMF in the spread of Ebola was started by an article in The Lancet, a leading health journal. Four British professors claimed that the fiscal austerity

Is China fragile?

The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, is a parable for unanticipated risk: the possibility of 'unknown unknown' events that no-one sees coming. In a new essay, The Calm Before the Storm, Taleb further posits that perceptions of risk are distorted by 'fragile stability.' Some countries (eg.

Cambodia's controversial dam seems set to go ahead

What is happening with Cambodia's Lower Se San 2 dam? Elliot Brennan's citation of a Bangkok Post report of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's speech at the opening of the Stung Russey Chrum Krom hydroelectric dam in Koh Kong province in Tuesday's Southeast Asia links is interesting for a number

Oil drops 50%, world shrugs

What does the fall in the price of oil do for global economic growth? If the price of oil had swiftly risen by 50%, economic commentators would be calling this an economic disaster. In fact the price has fallen by 50% since June last year, yet this ray of good news hasn't pierced through the

India's new Asia-Pacific strategy: 'Act East'

It has been a busy year for India in the Asia Pacific. From multilateral summits to bilateral diplomacy, the Modi Government has deliberately moved to step up engagement with its East and Southeast Asian partners. At this year's India-ASEAN Summit, Prime Minister Modi announced his intention to

Lima climate conference: Slow movement on Planet UNFCCC

As haggard negotiators left the UN climate change conference in Lima in the early hours of Sunday morning, many observers noted the contrast between the political acrimony that characterised the final days of these tortured discussions and the sense of optimism that many felt going into the talks

Why Peter Thiel is wrong about monopolies

A few weeks ago Sam Roggeveen quoted PayPal founder Peter Thiel, who argued that competition is over-rated and monopoly would enhance innovation. We shouldn't be surprised that business people are in favour of monopoly. In 1776 Adam Smith observed: People of the same trade seldom meet together,

G20 Brisbane Summit: Australia's adolescence on show

Australia had a prime chance to demonstrate its adult status in chairing the G20 Summit this year. What did it do with the opportunity? It showcased some of the characteristic behaviours of an adolescent country, my term for Australia in a new Lowy Institute Paper. Tantalisingly, it also showed

Sanctions and the coming Russian recession

The IMF, OECD and the Russians themselves have substantially downgraded their Russian economic growth forecasts for 2015. The fall in the oil price is partly responsible. However, heightened 'geopolitical risk' was also mentioned as a drag on activity, along with the effect of sanctions. But just

China's G20 year will raise human rights concerns

The G20 party may have ended in Brisbane, but the show rolls on. The leaders' forum will head to Turkey in 2015 and, in his final act as G20 chair for 2014, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed 2016 will see leaders heading to China. I've just co-written a paper on what the first ever

Financial stability: Did the G20 go far enough?

Financial stability was not the most headline-grabbing topic discussed at the Brisbane G20 meeting, but judging from the official communique word-count (a full 175-word paragraph in the three-page document, plus four substantial items in the annexes), a fair bit must have happened. Governor of

Beyond the Boom: A response to John Edwards

Senior economic policy makers, economic analysts, academics and commentators have been concerned about the daunting challenge of structural and budget adjustment facing Australia due to the decline in mineral prices from the levels reached in the boom period of 2003-04 to 2011-12. In Beyond the

Why economics doesn't explain China's FTA decision

Malcolm Cook and I have been debating why China has been willing to bless Tony Abbott with an FTA when Mr Abbott has so strongly opposed Beijing's political and strategic interests and aspirations in Asia. Why has President Xi met Mr Abbott's stick with such a juicy carrot, especially when

Fiji grabs the limelight as leaders of China and India visit

Jenny Hayward-Jones is Director of the Lowy Institute's Melanesia Program and Philippa Brant is a Research Associate at the Lowy Institute. Pacific Island leaders have had the rare opportunity to meet the international leader of the moment, Narendra Modi, and the president of the world's

China-Australia FTA: Let's calm down

Free trade agreements (FTAs) are back. After a lot of bureaucratic blood sweat and tears, Australia and China have signed a Declaration of Intent, and now both sides will prepare legal texts of the Agreement. This appears part of a broader pattern for China, which reportedly is becoming more

A G20 watcher in Brisbane

I am from Brisbane, and somewhat ironically, my original ticket out of this city was the G20 analysis I conducted while studying and working at the University of Queensland. In a serendipitous turn of events, Australia and my hometown city were announced as 2014 G20 hosts during that research, which

Weekend catch-up: A G20 special

With the Brisbane G20 Summit on this weekend, The Interpreter's usual weekend catch-up makes way for a 'best of' our G20 material from the past year. The Lowy Institute's G20 Studies Centre has been publishing on all aspects of the Summit, including what the presidency has meant for Australia, as

Beyond the Boom: A response to Jonathan Pincus

In a paper published recently on the Minerals Council of Australia website, Adelaide-based economist Jonathan Pincus takes issue with some of the calculations I make in my Lowy Institute Paper Beyond the Boom. He makes a number of criticisms, but the big one is of my estimate of the income gain from

Is the Global Infrastructure Hub more than a G20 legacy monument?

By Hugh Jorgensen, Research Associate and Tristram Sainsbury, Research Fellow, both at the Lowy Institute's G20 Studies Centre. Infrastructure has been a priority of the Australian G20 presidency, but we haven't seen much in terms of bricks and mortar proposals. Until now. Writing in The

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