TIME Iran

These 5 Facts Explain the State of Iran

Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and others wait for a meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel on March 27, 2015 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Brendan Smialowski—Reuters Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and others wait for a meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel on March 27, 2015 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Sanctions, demographics, oil and cyberwarfare

As leaders in the United States and Iran maintain laser focus on the ongoing nuclear negotiations, it’s valuable to take a broader look at Iran’s politics, its economy, and its relations with the United States. Here are five stats that explain everything from Iran’s goals in cyberspace to its views of Western powers.

1. Sanctions and their discontents

Sanctions have taken a heavy toll on the Iranian economy. According to the Congressional Research Service, Iran’s economy is 15 to 20% smaller than it would have been without the sanctions that have been enacted since 2010. They leave Iran unable to access nearly four-fifths of the $100 billion in reserves the country holds in international accounts. Iran’s oil output has fallen off a cliff. Four years ago, Iran sold some 2.5 million barrels of oil and condensates a day. Over the last year, the country has averaged just over a million barrels a day. Even as the exports have fallen and the price has plummeted, oil still accounts for 42% of government revenues. Iran’s latest budget will slash spending by 11% after accounting for inflation.

(Bloomberg, The Economist)

2. Cyber-spending spree

But despite the belt-tightening, Tehran has been willing to splurge in one area. Funding for cyber security in the 2015/16 budget is 1200% higher than the $3.4 million allotted in 2013/14. Up until 2010, Iran’s chief focus in cyberspace was managing internal dissidents. But after news of the Stuxnet virus—a U.S.-led cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program—went public in 2010, Iran’s leaders shifted gears. According to one estimate, Iran spent over $1 billion on its cyber capabilities in 2012 alone. That year, it conducted the Shamoon attack, wiping data from about 30,000 machines belonging to Saudi oil company Aramco. In 2013, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard publicly declared that Iran was “the fourth biggest cyber power among the world’s cyber armies.”

(Global Voices, Wired, Strategic Studies Institute, Wall Street Journal)

3. New generation and old leadership

The median age in Iran is 28, and youth unemployment in the country hovers around 25%. Nearly seven out of ten Iranians are under 35 years old, too young to remember the Iranian revolution of 1979. But the country is controlled by older men, many of whom had an instrumental role in the revolution. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is 75 years old; there have been concerns about his health and Iran’s eventual succession plan. Iran’s Assembly of Experts is an opaque institution with huge symbolic importance: it is tasked with selecting and overseeing Iran’s Supreme Leader. The Assembly’s Chairman passed away in October at the age of 83. His replacement? Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, who is…83 years old.

(New York Times, CIA World Factbook, BBC)

4. The feeling is mutual

Over 70% of Iranians view the United States unfavorably—and 58% have “very unfavorable” views. On the flip side, more than three-quarters of surveyed Americans have unfavorable views of Iran. But that’s a more modest stance than some other European powers: 80% of French and 85% of Germans have unfavorable views of Iran. According to recent polls, Iran is no longer considered “the United States’ greatest enemy today.” In 2012, 32% of those polled chose Iran, good for first place. In 2015, just 9% selected Iran, placing it fourth behind China, North Korea and Russia, respectively.

(Center for International & Security Studies, Pew Research Center, Vox)

5. Support for a deal?

Negative views of Iran haven’t undermined Americans’ desire to try and cut a deal: 68% of Americans favor diplomacy with Iran. It’s a bipartisan majority: 77% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans are in favor of talks. Iranians have mixed expectations: only 48% think that President Rouhani will be successful in reaching an agreement. But if we do see a final deal, a lot more than Iranian oil could open up. Western businesses would love to break into a country that is more populous than Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Israel, Bahrain, Lebanon and Jordan combined.

(Center for International & Security Studies, CNN survey, CIA World Factbook)

TIME

China Challenges America’s Financial Leadership

Washington wants its allies to stay away from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

On March 20, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters that under the right circumstances, his government might become a member of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). In Washington, which has urged allies to steer clear of the AIIB, jaws dropped. Tokyo, Washington’s closest Asian ally, is disregarding U.S. concerns and considering membership in an investment bank led by Japan’s primary rival.

There’s a bigger story here. Now that most U.S. troops are home from Iraq and Afghanistan, President Barack Obama knows there’s little domestic support for military operations that might demand another costly long-term commitment. That’s why he’s relied on sanctions, surveillance, drones, international institutions and willing, capable, like-minded allies to fight his foreign policy battles.

Yet it’s increasingly clear that none of those assets can solve some of Washington’s most pressing security problems. Sanctions can combine with lower oil prices to drive Russia into a deep recession, but they won’t force President Vladimir Putin to relax his grip on Ukraine’s throat. They can draw Iran to the bargaining table, but they can’t force Tehran to give up its nuclear program.

Surveillance has likewise proved a double-edged sword. American allies want access to the information Washington collects, but revelations that the National Security Agency has listened in on Germany’s Chancellor and other U.S. partners hardened attitudes in those countries toward Washington. And drones can take down groups of bad guys, but they won’t eliminate an enormous threat like ISIS–and they often kill innocents.

Now there’s the AIIB. For decades, Washington has used its dominant influence in the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Asian Development Bank to strengthen relations with European and Asian partners and guide developing countries toward Western values by conditioning aid on U.S.-backed reforms. Those countries had no choice: there was no credible alternative to the U.S.-led system.

That’s changing. Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the $50 billion AIIB in October; Beijing will probably hold a stake of up to 50% in the new institution. By providing project loans to developing countries in Asia, the bank will extend China’s reach and diminish U.S. negotiating leverage. That’s why the Obama Administration is so worried.

On March 13, Britain applied to become a member of China’s new bank, and in a rare fit of public anger toward its closest ally, the White House accused London of “constant accommodation” of China. Then France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland announced plans to follow Britain’s lead. The Saudis have signed on. Australia and South Korea, key U.S. allies that initially balked at joining the AIIB, are now reconsidering. The IMF and the World Bank have both recently said they would cooperate with the AIIB. It’s been a long time since Washington has looked so isolated.

Some will blame the Obama Administration, but Britain’s decision to sign up for China’s bank reflects its need to attract new volumes of Chinese investment. Australia already counts China as its top trade partner. South Korea now enjoys higher trade volume with China than with the U.S. and Japan combined. The Saudis understand that America will become less dependent on its oil over time. Even Japan must protect its relations with both America and China.

U.S. allies are not shunning Washington. They’re hedging their bets to adapt to a world where economic power is more widely distributed. Shared values still matter, and all these countries will continue to count on strong relations with the world’s only superpower. But Obama and his successors will face a difficult question: In a world that needs America less, how can Washington protect and maintain its dominant influence?

Foreign-affairs columnist Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy

Read next: 8 Surprising Economic Trends That Will Shape the Next Century

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TIME Globalization

These Are the 7 Challenges of Globalization

What happens as the world becomes even more interconnected…and even more leaderless?

Some argue that globalization is grinding to a screeching halt. In a world of increased conflict and turmoil, where major powers jockey for influence, financial sanctions have become a go-to weapon and even the Internet threatens to splinter, then surely the cross-border flow of money, ideas, information, goods and services will begin to slow—or even reverse.

Others argue that globalization is really just Americanization by other means. After all, the United States still dominates the international financial system. Information hurtling through cyberspace promotes the democratization of information, because it creates demand for still more information and forces autocrats to care more about public opinion. As developing countries develop, aren’t they becoming more like America?

Not anymore. If globalization has promoted the American dream over the past quarter century, it’s only because the United States has been a dominant power. There is nothing inherently American or Western about globalization itself. And times are changing.

Globalization isn’t going away—in fact, it will continue apace. But the U.S.-led world order is deteriorating. An inconsistent, war-weary United States is no longer willing and able to provide global leadership—and no other country is stepping up to take its place: the rest of the West is distracted with problems at home, and allies are looking to hedge their bets.

Meanwhile, developing countries have become powerful enough to start dismantling the U.S.-led international system; China, Russia, Turkey, and a host of other emerging markets have more ability to ‘veto’ global initiatives that they disagree with. But they are not yet synchronized or influential enough—and their values and interests are too divergent—to offer adequate alternatives of their own. The result is a regionalized world where Americanization and globalization are no longer one and the same.

This unprecedented combination will generate a lot of new risks and opportunities. I recently helped the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Geoeconomics with a report that outlines the seven major challenges to globalization in an interconnected, de-Americanized world.

My piece in the report focuses on one particular challenge: weaker underdogs. With a widening leadership vacuum at the very top, we are seeing regional heavyweights with more room to operate. Think: Russia’s intrusions in its backyard, Germany’s firm control over Eurozone policy, or China’s rapid rise in the Asia-Pacific. These major countries are consolidating power, often at the expense of the smaller countries around them. This ‘hollowing of the peripherals’ will accelerate in a world that is becoming rudderless at the global level.

This is just one of the seven trends we’ve highlighted. Read the full “Seven Challenges to Globalization” report here: http://www.weforum.org/reports/geo-economics-seven-challenges-globalization

 

TIME Israel

What Netanyahu’s Victory in Israel Means for the World

A lasting settlement for a chronic conflict has rarely seemed so far away

Benjamin Netanyahu has survived a serious political challenge, despite a chorus of complaints about his leadership style as well as gripes over living costs, housing prices, and wages. That would be a bigger surprise in countries where peacetime elections tend to focus on economics. But in Israel, “peacetime” is a relative concept, and this is a country with so many active political parties that winning 30 of 120 seats in parliament allows you to form a government.

How did he do it? First, he recognized that his party needed to win back the votes of hardliners on the peace process who threatened to stray toward the far-right parties. Thus his message became simple: No deals with Iran, no state for Palestinians, and don’t let Arab voters decide the election. It worked. He’ll now form what is likely to be an unwieldy, unstable coalition of the center-right, and then he’ll have to govern.

Netanyahu is likely to pursue a series of controversial policies, such as adoption of the Jewish nationhood bill that would define Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people,” though 20% of Israeli citizens are Arabs. It might also establish Jewish law as an inspiration for future legislation, and delist Arabic as an official language. Expect the construction of more Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In response, Palestinians will push harder to win recognition of statehood at the United Nations, with sympathy from some European governments. Violence in East Jerusalem and the West Bank will probably intensify.

MORE 5 Facts That Explain U.S.-Israeli Relations

Expect even tougher relations with the Obama Administration and more criticism from European capitals, but Netanyahu can manage these problems because Israel’s position in the Middle East has actually strengthened in the past couple of years. The Israeli and Egyptian governments have common enemies in Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Israel and Turkey share enmity toward Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. The Saudis, Emiratis and others are far more concerned with future threats from Iran than with current help for Palestinians. All these factors ease pressure on Netanyahu to change direction on current policy.

Unfortunately, this leaves the Palestinians with nothing but frustration. A lasting settlement for this chronic conflict has rarely seemed so far away.

Foreign-affairs columnist Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy.

Read next: American Donors Give to the Israeli Right

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TIME Economy

5 Stats That Explain the Super Wealthy

The Davos World Economic Forum 2015
Jason Alden—Bloomberg/Getty Images Aliko Dangote, billionaire and chief executive officer of Dangote Group, pauses during a session on day two of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2015.

From Nigerian billionaires to Russian oligarchs, numbers that explain how wealth works in politics

The world will always be divided into “the haves and the have nots,” but lately seems the ‘haves’ are capturing more and more of the world’s wealth. Yet, even the super wealthy are feeling the impact of political turmoil. Here are five stats that explore the plight—and flight—of the world’s richest.

1. Nigeria’s super rich

For a country that relies on oil for almost 70% of state revenue, crashing prices spell trouble. The stock index dropped 40% in 2014, while the currency has lost a fifth of its value over the last six months. But the person who has been hit hardest is the person who can most afford it. Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, earned Forbes’ “Biggest Loser” title—his wealth has fallen the most of anyone on earth in dollar terms. Yet he still has a $14.7 billion fortune and his companies account for a quarter of the market capitalization of the Lagos stock market. Even as youth unemployment and corruption remain staggeringly pervasive, economic growth has enriched the country’s elites. Nigeria’s population of high net worth individuals grew 44% between 2007 and 2013.

(Forbes, Forbes, Financial Times, New World Wealth)

2. Oil prices and sanctions hit Russia

Russia has also been battered by tanking oil prices, and sanctions have had an outsized impact on Russia’s wealthiest and those closest to Vladimir Putin (who are often one and the same). The country lost the most billionaires in 2014, down to 88 from 111. Between February and December of 2014, the combined wealth of the country’s 20 richest people shrank by 30%. In other words, .0000001% of Russia’s population lost $73 billion—a sum on par with the annual GDP of neighboring Belarus. It’s no wonder India overtook Russia for third place on the billionaires list last year.

(Forbes, Forbes, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, World Bank)

3. The millionaire exodus

Millionaires have been voting with their feet. Between 2003 and 2013, 76,200 Chinese millionaires emigrated, representing 15% of China’s total and the largest exodus of millionaires of any country. Over the same span, 27% of Indian millionaires, some 43,400 people, left as well. In third place, France saw 13% of its millionaire population leave, perhaps due to what they viewed as excessive taxation on the wealthiest. Russia came fifth in sheer number of departing millionaires; they accounted for 17% of Russia’s millionaire population. Where are they all heading? Mainly the UK, the U.S., Australia and Singapore. The number of UK fast-track or Tier 1 visas (which require a $3 million investment in British assets) provided to Russians increased nearly 70% last year.

(CNBC, Business Insider, Bloomberg)

4. Billionaire cities

A few years ago, New York surpassed Moscow as the top city by billionaire population. Hong Kong, London, and Beijing round out the rest of the top five. Yet, unlike Moscow, where 80% of Russia’s billionaires reside, New York has less than a sixth of America’s. The United States spreads the wealth: 11 U.S. cities have 11 or more billionaires. California itself has 131—if it were a country, it would have more billionaires than any country except the U.S. and China.

(Forbes, Knight Frank, Forbes)

5. Big money in Chinese politics

While many of China’s wealthiest may have left the country, there are plenty who still fill the highest ranks of government. More than one in seven of the 1,271 richest Chinese are serving in Parliament or its advisory body. These 203 delegates are collectively worth over $460 billion. For some perspective, the richest representative in the U.S. government would be the 166th richest member of China’s government. Even as Chinese leader Xi Jinping clamps down on corruption and pressures elites to rein in their extravagance, China’s wealthy are still spending. Chinese now represent nearly a third of the world’s luxury sales, although roughly two-thirds of these sales take place outside the country.

(CNBC, New York Times, NBC News)

TIME World

Obama’s Credit Crunch

Bremmer is a foreign affairs columnist and editor-at-large at TIME.

Congress weakens the U.S. by playing politics abroad

The Obama administration and negotiators from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China are pushing for an agreement with Iran that would freeze the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. On March 9, 47 Republican Senators sent an open letter to Iran’s leaders to warn them that the U.S. Congress had the power to rip up any deal signed with the Obama Administration. It was a clear bid to undermine the President’s credibility before any agreement could be signed.

Some of these lawmakers probably believed that urgent steps were needed to prevent a bad deal that would threaten U.S. national security. Others may simply have wanted to score political points off a President they and their constituents dislike. It’s doubtful that this letter will kill a deal that remains improbable for a host of other reasons. Obama can likely bypass the Senate by submitting any pact as an executive agreement, not a formal treaty. But there’s more to it. This move undermines the credibility of future Presidents, Democrats and Republicans, by raising fears abroad that America’s political polarization means no one is empowered to negotiate in good faith on behalf of the U.S. government.

The White House complained about the Republican letter, but the risk cuts both ways. The President has used Congress in the past in ways that have directly undercut U.S. credibility. In August 2012, Obama warned Syria’s Bashar Assad that the use of chemical weapons against his country’s rebels would cross a red line that would “change my calculus” on the use of American force in Syria. Several months later, Assad used these weapons. His bluff called–the President had shown little appetite for intervening in Syria–Obama argued that a military response was warranted but that Congress should vote to approve any air strikes.

This was disingenuous–Obama has ordered military action without congressional approval multiple times. When it appeared that Congress might not provide the authorization Obama sought, the President asked for a delay, then signed on to a Russian plan in which Assad agreed to dismantle his arsenal if Washington held its fire. Assad crossed the President’s red line, and Obama turned to Congress for political cover that lawmakers refused to provide. U.S. credibility sustained lasting damage.

A successful superpower foreign policy depends on more than just superior force and the willingness to use it. It demands deep reserves of credibility, the primary currency of power politics. If Washington asks a foreign government to compromise or to accept new costs and risks, leaders of that government must have confidence that the President can and will keep his promises. If the President’s representatives negotiate a deal, everyone at the table must know that Washington will keep up its end.

The Constitution is clear: the President sets foreign policy. Congress provides “advice and consent” for the ratification of treaties. Lawmakers should not undermine the President’s proper authority, but neither should the President cede that authority for temporary political advantage. The President and Congress score points off each other every day, but if their gamesmanship undermines Washington’s credibility, the national interest will suffer.

This trend is all the more dangerous at a time when other governments know well that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have sapped support for any long-term commitment of U.S. troops. That sharply reduces American negotiating leverage before the talking even begins.

With fewer means at Washington’s disposal to get the outcomes it wants, credibility is a resource that no U.S. elected official can afford to squander.

Foreign-affairs columnist Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Israel

5 Facts That Explain U.S.-Israel Relations

Israeli PM Netanyahu Addresses Joint Meeting Of Congress
Win McNamee—Getty Images Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of the United States Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on March 3, 2015 in Washington, DC.

The numbers behind Netanyahu's speech

Bibi Netanyahu delivered his controversial speech to Congress during crunch time for Israeli elections—and amidst turbulence in U.S.-Israel relations. Here are 5 stats that reveal the politics behind the speech and the state of play between Israel and the U.S.

1. Who tuned in?

Even though more than 50 congressional Democrats boycotted Netanyahu’s speech, it seems that just about everyone else was knocking down the doors. John Boehner’s office received requests for 10 times the number of available seats in the gallery. In Israel, the speech hit Israeli networks during primetime… but on a five-minute delay. That was because an election watchdog ruled that any content viewed as electioneering on behalf of the Prime Minister needed to be edited out.

(Huffington Post, New York Times, New York Times, The Telegraph)

2. The Iran threat

With all the applause in Congress for Netanyahu’s hardline stance against Iran, the American public’s actual stance might seem surprising. According to a recent poll, only 9% of Americans view Iran as “the United States’ greatest enemy today.” Three years ago, roughly a third of Americans did. (And you can’t just chalk up the difference to a more bellicose Russia: Iran fell from first place to fourth place). Over 60% of Americans support an agreement with Iran “that would include a limited enrichment capacity”—something Netanyahu pushed back against in his speech. There is a stark difference between Israeli and American opinion on Iran. In a 2013 survey, 75% of Israelis had “a very unfavorable view of Iran,” compared to just 42% of Americans. 85% of Israelis and 54% of Americans said “Iran’s nuclear program is a major threat.”

(Vox, Program for Public Consultation, New York Times, Huffington Post, Pew Research, The Atlantic)

3. A tale of two approval ratings

In Israel, public support for Prime Minister Netanyahu has decreased; his Likud party is in a tight race against the opposition party. But even if his support is waning at home, Netanyahu’s approval in the United States has grown. Almost twice as many Americans view Netanyahu favorably as unfavorably (45% v. 25%), a gain of 10 points since 2012.

(Haaretz, Gallup, i24 news)

4. Arab-Israeli Politics

Although Arabs make up about a fifth of Israel’s population, many Arabs do not vote. (In 2013, only 56% voted compared to a Jewish turnout of 70%). But Arabs are gaining ground in Israeli electoral politics. Recently three small Arab parties united to create the “Joint List.” The new party includes Muslim, Christian, Druze and Jewish Communist candidates. Recent polls indicate the new party could win 14 Knesset seats in the upcoming election. 78% of the Arab public was “very satisfied or moderately satisfied” with the creation of the new Arab bloc, while 19% of the Jewish public shared those feelings.

(The Economist, Daily Mail, Haaretz)

5. Emigration

In February, Netanyahu dubbed himself a “representative to the entire Jewish people”—and encouraged Jews to leave Europe for Israel. Immigration to Israel is on the rise. In 2014, Jews came to Israel in higher numbers than we’ve seen in a decade. But totaling just 26,500, last year’s Jewish immigration to Israel only accounted for 0.3% of the total diaspora. About half of all Jews live outside Israel. In a recent poll, 45% of Israeli Jewish respondents said Jews in America are safer than those in Israel—compared to just 28% who said the opposite.

(Haaretz, The Economist, The Telegraph, Israel Democracy Institute)

TIME russia

5 Disputed Numbers That Explain Geopolitics

Ukraine
Vadim Ghirda—AP Russia-backed separatist fighters stand next to self propelled 152 mm artillery pieces, part of a unit moved away from the front lines, in Yelenovka, near Donetsk, Ukraine, Feb. 26, 2015.

From Argentina’s economic woes to Iran’s nuclear timeline, statistics that are up for debate can tell us a lot about geopolitics. 

Every world leader uses data for political purposes. But some take it a step further. Here are five disputed stats where the controversy itself sheds light on a deeper political question.

1. How many Russians are in Ukraine?

Estimates of Russian troops in Ukraine differ dramatically depending on which side of the border you’re standing on. (That is, if you can find the border—Russian-backed separatists continue to take territory in southeast Ukraine). Ukrainian President Poroshenko proclaimed last month that there are more than 9,000 Russian troops and 500 tanks and armored vehicles in his country. But Russia claims it isn’t that many—zero, to be exact. According to a spokesman for Putin, “there are no Russian tanks or army in Ukraine.” Other players split the difference: in August, a separatist leader claimed that 3,000 to 4,000 Russian citizen “volunteers” provided assistance to the rebels.

(Reuters, CNN, LA Times)

2. How quickly could Iran build a nuclear weapon?

When Western leaders emphasize the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, there’s a recurring, essential question: How long would it take for Iran to produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a bomb? Iran consistently downplays the threat: an Iranian source cited the ‘breakout time’ at a minimum of 18 months. But Washington believes it’s drastically shorter: about 2-3 months. There’s also fierce debate about how long that breakout time should be. In ongoing nuclear negotiations, the Obama administration wants to ensure it would take at least a year. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to eliminate Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons altogether.

(Reuters, Institute for Science and International Security, New York Times)

3. Can China boast that its economy is #1?

Last year, the International Monetary Fund projected that China’s economy was about to overtake the United States’ when measured on a purchasing power basis (a less common way of measuring GDP that takes exchange rates into account). China became the world’s largest trading nation back in 2012. But even China is pushing back against any perception that it’s on top: the state-run news agency Xinhua ran a piece in January titled “China denies being world’s No. 1 economy.” Beijing is careful to stress that it’s still very much a developing country, not yet wealthy enough to take on a lot of global responsibilities. They have a point. Despite relentless growth—last year’s economic output topped $10 trillion, more than five times higher than a decade before—China’s output per person is still nowhere near that of the U.S.

(New York Times, Bloomberg, Xinhua, Economist)

4. Just how valuable for Americans would the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) be?

One of President Obama’s biggest foreign policy priorities before he leaves office is to ink the TPP, a trade agreement that includes a dozen countries that collectively account for 40% of world trade and roughly a third of global GDP. The administration is quick to point out the estimated economic benefits. According to John Kerry, “TPP could provide $77 billion a year in real income and support 650,000 new jobs in the U.S. alone.” But not everyone buys that jobs claim. The White House’s statistics come from a 2012 book by the Peterson Institute that didn’t provide a precise jobs estimate. The book’s author said he avoided doing so because, “like most trade economists, we don’t believe that trade agreements change the labor force in the long run.”

(Congressional Research Service, Washington Post)

5. How is Argentina’s economy doing?

Argentina’s economic troubles are common knowledge. So is the government’s tendency to cast the numbers in a rosier light. The government claimed 30% growth in GDP from 2007 to 2012 (5.3% annual average rate), but a study last year claimed that GDP only grew half that much and the size of the economy was at least 12% smaller than official government estimates. Then there’s the issue of inflation. The government estimates 21% inflation for this year—but some private economists expect a rate of nearly 40%. Furthermore, the government’s official exchange rate doesn’t reflect reality: one U.S. dollar is officially worth about 8.7 pesos, yet the informal rate is as high as 13.

(World Economics Journal, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, BNamericas, Bloomberg)

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