alexanderpriviteraThe recent publication of a United States (U.S.) Treasury report characterizing Germany as a risk to the world economy because of the huge surplus in its trade balance, highlights how for many U.S. economists the German economic model remains deeply flawed. Indeed, this is not the first time that the U.S. government has pointed a finger at Germany’s massive current account surpluses and branded them a source of dangerous global imbalances.

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garretmartinWhile it is too early to say that the creation of the European External Action Service two and a half years ago has created a truly coordinated European foreign policy, it is very much correct to say that the Lady Catherine Ashton, who has headed that organization since its founding, has become a significant player in international diplomacy.   Her several successes have been recently capped by her role in Iran nuclear deal, where she played a hands-on and critical part in bringing the historic agreement to fruition. She has been widely praised for being the key interlocutor with Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif in the talks, which involved long hours of discussion between just the two of them. And when the agreement was announced and signed, it was Ashton and Zarif who met at the Geneva’s Palais des Nations to formally sign the pact.

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bod.grayChancellor Angela Merkel’s re-election in September is good news for Germany and for Europe, but the election results are a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, Merkel garnered a greater percentage of the vote than any candidate since Helmut Kohl’s post-reunification victory in 1990, and she did so as a two-term incumbent weathering a global recession. This was a resounding victory for Merkel personally and a vindication of the economic initiatives that she championed in her first two terms as Chancellor. Few remember that just a decade ago, Germany was the “sick man of Europe,” suffering slower economic growth than its neighbors to the south. Then, at the end of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s term, Germany underwent a series of Reagan-Thatcher-style regulatory reforms (primarily of its labor-market rules) to stabilize unit-labor costs. The results were striking: Within two or three years, Germany had left its sickbed and was on its way to becoming the colossus of Europe. Merkel seized on this momentum when she came to office in 2005 and made Germany the undisputed, if reluctant, leader of Europe.

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spellmanU.S. and European Union officials finished their second round of talks earlier last month in Brussels, largely it seems to demonstrate that a “constructive” process is underway to establish the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). At this early stage, there are few signs of progress in addressing any of the most difficult and complex issues that will determine if the world’s two largest markets form a free trade union.

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chrisboam2013On a foggy night in October 2003, my wife and I found ourselves late for an expected arrival in Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland.  Shortly after dark, we entered a part of the Dingle Peninsula route known as the Conor Pass, not being at all adequately briefed as to what this road entailed.  At one point, my wife – who had taken over the driving – asked me what I was looking at.  The real answer was indeed “nothing,” for despite the pitch-blackness, it had been clear to me for at least a mile that we were driving along the edge of a shear cliff face.  I did my best at being nonchalant.  “Just keep focused on the road ahead, and we can talk about it in Tralee.”  We did arrive safely, but still, I made sure that we ordered pints before looking at guidebook pictures of the Pass.

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