Brookings experts’ trade reading list

Shipping containers at Pier J at the Port of Long Beach wait for processing in Long Beach, California, U.S., April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Riha Jr. - RC115A3409A0
Editor's note:

Since this post was published, Brookings launched the “Dollar & Sense” podcast, featuring Senior Fellow David Dollar and guests explaining how our global trading system is built and its effect on our everyday lives.

In March of this year, President Donald Trump took the decision to impose a 25 percent tariff on imported steel (with some countries exempted) and then hit China with an additional $60 billion in tariffs. China has since responded with its own tariffs on key U.S. goods such as soybeans. With both the U.S. and China imposing tariffs and counter tariffs, fears of a trade war are on the horizon. A number of Brookings experts have weighed in on the complex subject with suggested reading material that will better help readers understand the issues at stake when it comes to trade.

David M. Rubenstein Fellow Dany Bahar recommends this Paul Krugman post, noting that it “explains with accessible trade theory why President Trump was very wrong when he said that ‘Trade wars are good, and easy to win.’ It gets a bit ‘wonkish’ as Krugman himself notes, but it is definitely worth the read.”

Book cover: Straight Talk on TradeBahar also commends Harvard economist Dany Rodrik’s Straight Talk on Trade since, as he puts it:

[this] very thought-provoking book explains some pros and cons of globalization and free trade. It is special as it recognizes the need to deal with some of the negative repercussions of trade and globalization even if they are compensated by the fact that, on the aggregate, the gains from trade are positive. Rodrik suggests that in order for the world to continue to enjoy benefits from globalization, we must find a new global order that allow states to deal with the “losers” that often arise from freer trade.

“In both rhetoric and action,” Brookings Fellow Joseph Parilla says, “the Trump administration has significantly reshaped U.S. trade policy. To put this latest evolution in historical context, there is no better book than Douglas Irwin’s Clashing Over Commerce: A History of US Trade Policy.” Parilla, lead scholar on the Metropolitan Policy Program’s Global Cities Initiative, adds that “Irwin documents how trade has always been a source of intense political conflict between business and labor interests.”

Book cover: Clashing Over CommerceParilla also recommends Richard Baldwin’s The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization as “one of the best current explanations of modern globalization … useful for understanding why simply increasing tariffs on trade partners like China is unlikely to be a fruitful strategy in a global economy where integrated flows of goods, services, and knowledge is critical for modern production.”

Senior Fellow Eswar Prasad urges readers to check out his Washington Post piece, “Five myths about tariffs“ in which he addresses the possible ramifications of a trade war:

A trade war wounds all combatants: It rattles business and consumer confidence, restrains exports, and hurts growth. Many U.S. businesses rely on low trade barriers to create international supply chains that reduce costs and increase efficiency.

“Ultimately, no one wins a trade war,” Prasad says in this Unpacked video.

The Brookings Institution Press has also published numerous titles on global trade.

9780815729198Dilemmas of a Trading Nation: Japan and the United States in the Evolving Asia-Pacific Order

Senior Fellow Mireya Solís describes how both Japan and the United States face challenges in charting their paths ahead as trading nations, tasks will require the skillful navigation of vexing tradeoffs that emerge from pursuing desirable, but to some extent contradictory goals: economic competitiveness, social legitimacy, and political viability. At stake is the ability of these leading economies to upgrade international economic rules and create incentives for emerging economies to converge toward these higher standards.

Dilemmas of a Trading Nation was awarded the 2018 Masayoshi Ohira Memorial Prize.

Open for Business: Building the New Cuban Economy

In Open for Business: Building The New Cuban Economy, Richard E. Feinberg examines the Cuban economy as it makes its early steps into developing a more dynamic market economy. He examines key issues like the role foreign investors will play, how Cubans will forge a path to entrepreneurship, and the road maps suggested by other emerging economies.

Singapore: Smart City, Smart State

Nearly everyone knows that Singapore has one of the most efficient governments and competitive advanced economies in the world. But can this unique city-state of some 5.5 million residents also serve as a model for other advanced economies as well as for the emerging world? Respected East Asia expert Kent Calder provides clear answers to this intriguing question in his new, groundbreaking book that looks at how Singapore’s government has harnessed information technology, data, and a focus on innovative, adaptive governance to become a model smart city, smart state.

Latin America and the Asian GiantsLatin America and the Asian Giants: Evolving Ties with China and India

In this volume, Riordan Roett of SAIS at Johns Hopkins University and Guadalupe Paz at SAIS offer a review of key cross-regional trends and critical policy issues involving the changing relationship between these two Asian giants and Latin America. Selected country case studies—Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico—provide a more in-depth analysis of the implications of China’s and India’s evolving interaction with the region.

Made in Africa: Learning to Compete in Industry

Over the past forty years, industry and business interests have moved increasingly from the developed to the developing world, yet Africa’s share of global manufacturing has fallen from about 3 percent in 1970 to less than 2 percent in 2014. Industry is important to low-income countries. It is good for economic growth, job creation, and poverty reduction. Made in Africa: Learning to Compete in Industry outlines a new strategy to help Africa gets its fair share of the global market.

To learn more about global trade, visit the Global Economy and Development program, and our global trade topic page.