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NATO Publics Blame Russia for Ukrainian Crisis, but Reluctant to Provide Military Aid

June 15, 2015 Comments off

NATO Publics Blame Russia for Ukrainian Crisis, but Reluctant to Provide Military Aid
Source: Pew Research Center

Publics of key member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) blame Russia for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Many also see Russia as a military threat to other neighboring states. But few support sending arms to Ukraine. Moreover, at least half of Germans, French and Italians say their country should not use military force to defend a NATO ally if attacked by Russia.

A median of 39% among NATO publics say Russia is the main culprit in the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. The pro-Russian separatists in Luhans’k and Donets’k (18%) are a distant second. Half say Russia is a major military threat to other neighboring nations. In response to the crisis, 70% among allied countries say Western countries should send economic aid to Ukraine. A majority (57%) also supports Ukraine becoming a member of NATO.

The Costs of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

June 12, 2015 Comments off

The Costs of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Source: RAND Corporation

For much of the past century, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has been a defining feature of the Middle East. Despite billions of dollars expended to support, oppose, or seek to resolve it, the conflict has endured for decades, with periodic violent eruptions, of which the Israel-Gaza confrontation in the summer of 2014 is only the most recent.

This study estimates the net costs and benefits over the next ten years of five alternative trajectories — a two-state solution, coordinated unilateral withdrawal, uncoordinated unilateral withdrawal, nonviolent resistance, and violent uprising — compared with the costs and benefits of a continuing impasse that evolves in accordance with present trends. The analysis focuses on economic costs related to the conflict, including the economic costs of security. In addition, intangible costs are briefly examined, and the costs of each scenario to the international community have been calculated.

The study’s focus emerged from an extensive scoping exercise designed to identify how RAND’s objective, fact-based approach might promote fruitful policy discussion. The overarching goal is to give all parties comprehensive, reliable information about available choices and their expected costs and consequences.

Seven key findings were identified: A two-state solution provides by far the best economic outcomes for both Israelis and Palestinians. Israelis would gain over three times more than the Palestinians in absolute terms — $123 billion versus $50 billion over ten years. But the Palestinians would gain more proportionately, with average per capita income increasing by approximately 36 percent over what it would have been in 2024, versus 5 percent for the average Israeli. A return to violence would have profoundly negative economic consequences for both Palestinians and Israelis; per capita gross domestic product would fall by 46 percent in the West Bank and Gaza and by 10 percent in Israel by 2024. In most scenarios, the value of economic opportunities gained or lost by both parties is much larger than expected changes in direct costs.

Alternative Policies to Agricultural Export Taxes That Are Less Market Distorting

June 11, 2015 Comments off

Alternative Policies to Agricultural Export Taxes That Are Less Market Distorting
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

Many economists believe that export restrictions increase world prices for food commodities, thereby exacerbating food insecurity and poverty among the world’s poorest people. The authors examine alternative policies to a conventional export tax that are less market distorting and less welfare diminishing.

Diplomacy for the 21st Century: Embedding a Culture of Science and Technology Throughout the Department of State

June 11, 2015 Comments off

Diplomacy for the 21st Century: Embedding a Culture of Science and Technology Throughout the Department of State
Source: National Research Council

Diplomacy for the 21st Century recommends steps that the Department of State should embrace to take full advantage of the leading science and technology (S&T) capabilities of the United States. These capabilities provide the department with many opportunities to promote a variety of the interests of the United States and its allies in a rapidly changing world wherein S&T are important drivers of economic development at home and abroad and help ensure international security. This report assesses and makes recommendations concerning the changing environment for the conduct of diplomacy in the years ahead, with a focus on the role of S&T in the development and implementation of U.S. policies and programs. According to this report, prompt steps by the department’s leadership are essential to ensure adequate comprehension of the importance of S&T-related developments throughout the world and to incorporate this understanding within the nation’s foreign policy for the 21st century. This report also urges the adoption by the department of a broader whole-of-society approach in carrying out its responsibilities at home and abroad – extending beyond traditional interagency coordination and the narrow band of current external partners to include foundations, universities, research centers, and other groups who are extending their international reach.

Electronic Cigarettes: Imports, Tariffs, and Data Collection

June 10, 2015 Comments off

Electronic Cigarettes: Imports, Tariffs, and Data Collection
Source: Government Accountability Office

Why GAO Did This Study
E-cigarettes are becoming more popular and widely used. At present, the federal government does not systematically collect data on e-cigarette sales, numbers of manufacturers and importers, or types of products sold. Although information about the e-cigarette market is incomplete, most e-cigarettes sold in the United States are thought to be imported. CBP enforces U.S. customs laws and collects tariffs for goods imported into the United States.

In conducting its work, GAO analyzed CBP’s classification rulings related to e-cigarette imports and tariff revenue data for fiscal year 2014. GAO assessed the reliability of the data by performing data checks for inconsistency errors and by interviewing cognizant officials. GAO determined that CBP’s tariff revenue data were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of this report. In addition, GAO interviewed officials from CBP, USITC, and Census as well as industry experts, such as financial analysts and researchers.tional Trade Commission (USITC), U.S. Census Bureau (Census), and CBP. According to USITC officials, no entity had requested statistical reporting numbers for e-cigarettes, parts, or liquid as of April 1, 2015.

What GAO Found
Import volume and tariff revenue for electronic cigarettes, known as e-cigarettes, are unknown, because the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS)—which is used to classify U.S. imports and exports for tariff and other purposes—does not contain statistical reporting numbers specific to e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes, e-cigarette parts, and e-cigarette liquid are imported under HTS statistical reporting numbers for residual or basket categories that cover a range of goods, such as special effects strobe lights, seaweed extracts, and hand sanitizer. As a result, although U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) collects data on import volume and tariff revenue for the basket categories that include e-cigarettes, parts, and liquid, CBP officials said they are unable to identify the volume of and tariff revenue from e-cigarette imports within these categories.

The interagency Committee for Statistical Annotation of Tariff Schedules, if requested, can create statistical reporting numbers to classify specific goods to improve an industry’s or the federal government’s ability to track import and export volume and tariff revenue for imported goods, but there are currently no statistical reporting numbers specific to e-cigarette imports. The committee consists of the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), U.S. Census Bureau (Census), and CBP. According to USITC officials, no entity had requested statistical reporting numbers for e-cigarettes, parts, or liquid as of April 1, 2015.

Beyond Asylum: Rethinking Protection Policies to Meet Sharply Escalating Needs (Transatlantic Council Statement)

June 5, 2015 Comments off

Beyond Asylum: Rethinking Protection Policies to Meet Sharply Escalating Needs (Transatlantic Council Statement)
Source: Migration Policy Institute

There is a growing recognition among policymakers and humanitarian actors alike that the global refugee system is failing both those it was designed to protect and the communities providing protection. With global forced displacement at levels unseen since World War II—and more than half of refugees under the mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in protracted displacement situations of five years or more—it has become clear that current protection mechanisms are not offering effective and efficient access to refuge for those in need.

In December 2014, MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration convened its thirteenth plenary meeting in Brussels to examine these growing strains on the global protection system. The Council’s deliberations highlighted the need for both national governments and international actors to respond proactively to instability and the inevitable displacement as it occurs, and to look beyond the traditional instrument of territorial asylum.

At the meeting, participants identified three primary policy goals for moving beyond the traditional care-and-maintenance model of protection: invest in sustainable livelihoods and better living conditions for both refugees and host communities in the crisis region; widen legal channels for protection and consider alternative ways for refugees to submit claims or move onward; and build fair and efficient asylum adjudication, reception, and return policies. The pursuit of these goals can facilitate the development of an innovative, comprehensive protection system to better meet the needs of today’s refugees and host communities.

CRS — Department of State and Foreign Operations Appropriations: A Fact Sheet on Legislation, FY1995-FY2015 (March 24, 2015)

June 2, 2015 Comments off

Department of State and Foreign Operations Appropriations: A Fact Sheet on Legislation, FY1995-FY2015 (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Congress currently appropriates foreign affairs funding through annual Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations.1 Prior to FY2008, however, Congress provided funds for the Department of State and international broadcasting within the Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies appropriations (CJS) and separately provided foreign aid funds within Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs appropriations. The transition between the different alignments occurred in the 109th Congress with a change in appropriations subcommittee jurisdiction. For that Congress, the House of Representatives appropriated State Department funds separately from foreign aid, as in earlier Congresses, but the Senate appropriated State and foreign aid funds within one bill—the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations. By the 110th Congress, funding for both the Department of State and foreign aid were aligned into the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations in both the House and Senate.

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