They included a number relevant to foreign policy and economy: Jeff Goldstein as undersecretary for domestic finance; Eric Hirschhorn as undersecretary of commerce for export administration; Michael Punke as deputy trade representative; Frank Sanchez as under secretary for international trade; Alan Bersin as commisssioner of U.S. customs and border protection.
But they did not include perhaps Obama's highest-profile remaining unconfirmed nominee: Lael Brainard, the former Brookings and academic economist due to take Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's former job as treasury undersecretary for international affairs. Brainard has been serving as an adviser to Geithner while awaiting confirmation -- as was Goldstein, just granted a recess appointment. Does the non-appointment mean that Obama expects her confirmation to come through? Does it mean Treasury plans to move her into a non-appointed position? Does it mean she might withdraw from consideration? It's a big question mark.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
It's official, The Guardian reports:
Senior sources in Brussels said that Berlin had bowed to the bailout agreement despite huge resistance in Germany and that the finance ministers of the "eurozone" – the 16 member states including Greece who use the euro – are to finalise the rescue package on Monday. The single currency's rulebook will also be rewritten to enforce greater fiscal discipline among members.
The member states have agreed on "co-ordinated bilateral contributions" in the form of loans or loan guarantees to Greece if Athens finds itself unable to refinance its soaring debt and requests help from the EU, a senior European commission official said.
Other sources said the aid could rise to €25bn (£22.6bn), although it is estimated in European capitals that Greece could need up to €55bn by the end of the year.
The deal is expected to be released on Monday.
At his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama swore to double U.S. exports in five years. At the time, some pundits (including one here) scoffed at the idea. Doubling exports, of course, means convincing the world to buy twice as much of the stuff the U.S. produces. That will be no easy feat, particularly given that just about every high-income economy is looking for an export-led recovery.
But it is a feat that has been accomplished before. I used Commerce Department trade data to make the above graph. It turns out, the last time the United States had a year that doubled its trade level from five years before was 1981; the average five-year increase is around 140 percent.
Still, Obama's plan to double the number by 2015 does not seem so far-fetched. For one, trade has fallen due to the recession, meaning the United States needs to double a lower-than average number.
Obama started to detail how he plans to double exports at the annual conference of the Export-Import Bank today. First: panels. He is creating an "export promotion cabinet" including representatives from state, treasury, agriculture, commerce, and other agencies, and creating an "export council" with adivsers from the private sector. Second: trade regulation reform, to make it easier for businesses to put products and offer services on the global market. Third: better governmental promotion of small- and medium-sized businesses.
A few weeks ago, I blogged about what the United States thinks of other countries -- its rather cruel view of Afghanistan being one of the less fortunate things about that Pew Poll.
Today, Andrew Kohut, the head of the fantastically useful Pew Research Center, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight -- and let them know just what everyone else thinks of us. He included this chart in his testimony:
Some things to note:
The chart also allows us to determine the United States' most fickle friend -- that is, the country whose opinion of the United States has varied most over the course of the past decade. The honor goes to Indonesia. The country most steady in its views of the United States? Palestine, which has never cared for Washington much, apparently. Chart after the jump.
The Greek prime ministry announced a third austerity program yesterday, prompting protests from public sector workers. But some German MPs apparently felt it was not enough and recommended rather impolitic further measures: the fire sale of uninhabited Greek islands and cultural assets like, well, the Acropolis. This did not please the Greeks, who called for a boycott of German goods.
The sale of cultural assets surely goes a touch far. For one, Greece has a massive tourism industry. I doubt all those Americans would bother visiting the site where the Parthenon once sat. More importantly, and obviously, Greek cultural artifacts might be valuable to someone, but are invaluable to Greeks.
The sale of uninhabited or unused land actually strikes me as a decent idea -- the question is how it would be enacted. The idea of Greece marketing and selling an island to a billionaire might be crass, but seems workable. The idea of Greece selling sovereign land to Turkey? Less so.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Yesterday, the Greek government announced a spate of emergency austerity measures, designed to help the country close its yawning budget gap. Half are new taxes, and half are spending cuts, including:
Other measures include: an additional 1 percent tax on income over 100,000 euros, reducing government overtime hours by 30 percent, cutting public-sector benefits 10 percent, and taxing the commercial activities of churches. And it's still not quite enough -- Greece needs an additional bailout to help it pay off debt due this spring.
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Image
The Washington Post reports that the United States backs a ban on trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna and listing the fish as an endangered species.
Strickland said the U.S. decided it needed to push for the extraordinary new protection because "the regulatory mechanisms that have been relied upon have failed to do the job."
"We are literally at a moment where if we don't get this right, we could see this very, very special species really at risk for survival," said Strickland, who will lead the U.S. delegation to CITES between March 13 and 25.
For more on the politicking on the tuna trade before the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in Doha next week, see our story, "Peak Tuna."
YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images
An extraordinary paper on poverty reduction across Africa by Columbia's Xavier Sala-i-Martin and Maxim Pinkovskiy shows:
My first thought was that the study might be so broad as to be misleading. Countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo have suffered from violent conflict and declines in GDP in the past decade; countries like South Africa haven't. It's a billion-person continent. It's hard, and in some ways useless, to generalize.
Thus, perhaps the most remarkable finding is that "poverty reduction... cannot be explained by a large country or even by a single set of countries." The authors note: "[P]overty fell for both landlocked as well as coastal countries; for mineral-rich as well as mineral-poor countries; for countries with favorable or with unfavorable agriculture; for countries regardless of colonial origin; and for countries with below- or above-median slave exports per capita during the African slave trade."
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