The panelists focused on the increasing role China and India play in the global economy and noted that, especially in regard to China, there are ample opportunities for even greater constructive involvement. Specifically, the panelists discussed the impact of inward and outward foreign direct investment, Asia's potential role with respect to the Eurozone crisis, the severity of China's alleged currency manipulation, and rebalancing the global economy.
Some notable takeaways from the briefing:
• The panelists agreed that foreign direct investment in India and China, both inward and outward, has a net positive effect on the US economy. Mr. Nollen noted that China is now the second largest recipient of FDI inflows in the world and that India has experienced a significant increase in FDI inflows in the last five years. Nollen's position is that American firms will take advantage of investment opportunities in China and India, thereby enjoying the benefits of rapidly growing markets and access to cheaper goods that can be imported to the U.S. Although this foreign investment might reduce the number of jobs in investor countries, Nollen argued that counterbalancing FDI from Chinese and Indian firms into the U.S. creates domestic jobs and mitigates the job losses stemming from FDI outflows.
Mr. Busch warned, however, that given the pressure China is facing on alleged currency manipulation, it is enacting protectionist measures to close certain sectors of its economy to foreign investment. He added that these protectionist moves could compound prevailing American sentiment that trade with China is neither beneficial for the U.S. nor fair.
• In regard to China's potential role in the ongoing Eurozone crisis, Nollen highlighted China's vulnerability to the effects of the crisis, especially because the value of its exports to the EU was greater than of those to the U.S. However, Ms. Aggarwal stated that China has already announced that it does not plan to assist the Eurozone, at least not until an economically viable long-term plan for Europe is on the table.
• In addition, there was discussion of the value of the Renminbi and by how much it is artificially devalued. Nollen suggested that while the Yuan is undervalued, it is not by much; Busch, on the other hand, thought that China was devaluing its currency by approximately 20%. He ruled out a number of ways to correct for this: the U.S. cannot countervail Chinese exports because, he said, it would violate WTO regulations; the U.S. can label China a currency manipulator, but this legislative trigger could start an economically damaging trade war with China; and diplomatic pressure could be effective, but legally problematic because of the lack of a binding international currency regulatory regime.
Instead, Busch suggested that the U.S. devise antidumping measures to counteract predatory Chinese exports to the U.S. The effect of dumping practices can be measured by comparing the price of exports against a control proxy economy's export prices.
• The panelists discussed the structural trade imbalance between the U.S., with its consumption-driven economy, and China, with its high-saving export-driven model. Mr. Belt noted that the engine of global growth has been the U.S. consumer, whose collective spending amounts to 70% of national GDP, but that spending is likely to deliver no household deleveraging. Aggarwal posed the question of whether the global trade imbalance was a core U.S. problem and then compared the conundrum facing consumers to that facing banks: global banks are told they need to lend more, but also to increase their balance sheets -- these being conflicting demands. In the same way, consumers are being asked to save more to reduce U.S. dependence on consumption in the long-term, but also to spend more in the short-term to jump-start the stalled economy. Nollen agreed with this observation and reiterated the paradox that the U.S. needs both more consumption and less consumption at the same time. He definitively noted that China needs to consume more and save less in order to stimulate local demand and promote economic balance in the global system. Busch explained that China cannot do this without creating a social safety net to reduce its citizens perceived need to save.
• Busch also argued that the suggested economic dominance of the BRIC countries is frequently over-hyped; they are not going to continue growing at the rate they have in past decades as they become increasingly developed. He went on to say that these countries struggle with significant corruption and a lack of transparency, making it more difficult to trade with them. Indeed, one indication of China's struggle with corruption and accountability is the large number of wealthy citizens seeking to emigrate from China to the West.