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Doing Business 2015: Going Beyond Efficiency

October 30, 2014 Comments off

Doing Business 2015: Going Beyond Efficiency
Source: World Bank

Doing Business 2015: Going Beyond Efficiency, a World Bank Group flagship publication, is the 12th in a series of annual reports measuring the regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it. Doing Business presents quantitative indicators on business regulations and the protection of property rights that can be compared across 189 economies—from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe—and over time.

Doing Business measures regulations affecting 11 areas of the life of a business. Ten of these areas are included in this year’s ranking on the ease of doing business: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency. Doing Business also measures labor market regulation, which is not included in this year’s ranking.

Data in Doing Business 2015 are current as of June 1, 2014. The indicators are used to analyze economic outcomes and identify what reforms of business regulation have worked, where and why. This year’s report introduces a notable expansion of several indicator sets and a change in the calculation of rankings.

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Alternative Futures for Syria: Regional Implications and Challenges for the United States

October 29, 2014 Comments off

Alternative Futures for Syria: Regional Implications and Challenges for the United States
Source: RAND Corporation

The civil war in Syria poses a thorny problem for U.S. policymakers. The conflict has morphed from a popular uprising against an autocratic regime into a multi-sided battle involving government forces, pro-government militias, Hezbollah, Iraqi Shi’ite militias, secular/moderate rebels, Kurdish separatists, traditional Islamist rebels, nationalist Salafi-jihadist rebels, and the transnational Salafi-jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) movement. Most neighboring states and several Persian Gulf states have sent arms and money to one or more of the factions in this war. Iran and Russia have consistently supported the Assad regime, including providing advanced weaponry, since the onset of the conflict. The outcome of the conflict will affect Middle East stability and regional political dynamics for years — perhaps decades — and could exacerbate a wider Shi’a-versus-Sunni sectarian conflict in the region.

Momentum has shifted several times during the course of the conflict. Defections from the Syrian army, rapidly growing rebel ranks, and the regime’s loss of key ground convinced many observers early on that the Assad’s demise was only a matter of time. The Assad regime has exploited rebel weaknesses and its own superior weaponry and external support to shift the momentum once again in its favor. The lineup of antagonists is complex and confused. While still seeing the Assad regime as an adversary based on its patron-client relationship with Iran and its implacable hostility toward Israel, U.S. decisionmakers are also dealing with the threats caused by the dramatic recent gains made in Iraq by ISIS and the influence it wields within the Syrian rebel movement. To examine these challenges, this perspective draws on a December 2013 RAND workshop to assess four possible future scenarios for the conflict in Syria: prolonged conflict, regime victory, regime collapse, and negotiated settlement. The authors update and reassess these scenarios based on developments in Syria and Iraq through August 2014 and explore the implications that each has for Syria, the region, and the United States.

CRS — The U.S. Wine Industry and Selected Trade Issues with the European Union (July 24, 2014)

October 28, 2014 Comments off

The U.S. Wine Industry and Selected Trade Issues with the European Union (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Global wine production totaled roughly 27 billion liters in 2012. The European Union (EU) dominates world production, accounting for nearly 60% of all wine produced each year. France, Italy, and Spain are among the principal EU wine-producing countries. The United States is the world’s second-largest wine-producing region, accounting for 10% of global production. The value of world trade in wine totaled more than $21 billion in 2013. The EU accounted for nearly 60% of the world’s export market for wine, valued at $12 billion in 2013. Other exporting nations include Australia, Chile, the United States, New Zealand, Argentina, and South Africa.

The United States is a major exporter of wine with about 7% of global exports in 2013. The U.S. wine industry has identified a range of international barriers to trade that may be limiting U.S. wine exports abroad. These include import tariffs; foreign wine producer subsidies and support; preferential market access, such as free trade agreements between the EU and other countries; incompatible foreign wine composition standards; and a range of miscellaneous non-tariff barriers, such as state or provincial government monopolies, import licensing and customs clearance requirements, and wine labeling regulations. An annual report compiled by the U.S. wine industry also highlights a range of concerns in several countries, including concerns regarding trade with several EU countries and other countries worldwide.

CRS — The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy (September 25, 2014)

October 28, 2014 Comments off

The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The UAE has been a significant U.S. partner in Gulf security for more than two decades, and the alliance is extending to the U.S.-led effort against the Islamic State organization. A 1994 U.S.- UAE defense cooperation agreement (DCA) provides for U.S. military use of several UAE facilities, and about 5,000 U.S. military personnel are in the UAE at those facilities. The UAE was the first Gulf state to order the most sophisticated missile defense system sold by the United States, demonstrating support for U.S. efforts to assemble a regional missile defense network against Iran. The UAE has helped pressure Iran by implementing financial and economic sanctions against it, while avoiding antagonizing that large neighbor by maintaining trade and commercial ties with it. The UAE has sought to use a relaxation of tensions produced by ongoing nuclear negotiations between Iran and the international community to try to resolve a territorial dispute with Iran. Yet, suggesting continued wariness of Iranian ambitions in the Gulf, the UAE has sought U.S. assurances that the United States will maintain its commitment to Gulf security.

EU Council Library Think Tank Review — October 2014

October 27, 2014 Comments off

EU Council Library Think Tank Review — October 2014
Source: EU Council Library

In the ‘Special focus’ section, how appointments to top-ranking offices in the EU institutions continue to trigger reflections on the policy priorities for the next term and on the broad orientation of the European project; we collected several variations on the theme ‘federation’ and ‘States’, and attempts by think tanks to gauge the relative weight of institutions, or of political forces within them, in the post-2014 election scenario.

And as the October European Council approached, issues of economic and financial governance featured high on the agenda of EU think tanks, with publications on flexibility in fiscal rules, banking resolution, or the threat of deflation.

In the section on EU policies, readers will find material on energy, migration, industrial policy, food safety, gender equality, unemployment insurance and more. An equally rich variety of third countries is covered in the section on external relations.

The Cost of Non-Europe in the Single Market: Free Movement of Goods

October 24, 2014 Comments off

The Cost of Non-Europe in the Single Market: Free Movement of Goods
Source: RAND Corporation

Cost of Non-Europe Reports identify the possibilities for economic or other gains and/or the realisation of a ‘public good’ through common action at EU level in specific policy areas and sectors. This Cost of Non-Europe Report seeks to analyse the costs for citizens, businesses and relevant stake-holders of remaining gaps and barriers in the European Single Market, building on and updating the 1988 Cecchini Report, which quantified its potential benefits. This particular study uses an econometric model to estimate the potential benefits of removing existing barriers to foreign direct investment and non-tariff trade barriers within the European Union. The removal of existing trade barriers could boost total intra-EU merchandise exports up to 7 per cent in the long-term. These effects will vary by Member State, and by sector of the internal market.

Cross-Border Data Flows, the Internet and What it Means for U.S. and EU Trade and Investment

October 23, 2014 Comments off

Cross-Border Data Flows, the Internet and What it Means for U.S. and EU Trade and Investment
Source: Brookings Institution

The most globally significant bilateral trade and investment relationship is between the U.S. and the European Union. An increasing amount of this economic relationship is underpinned by cross-border flows of data.

Whether the U.S. and the EU are able to take full advantage of the opportunities for international trade and investment presented by their increasingly online and digital populations will affect transatlantic economic relations. As the world’s two largest economies, the U.S. and EU decisions on support for cross-border data flows will also have global implications.

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