Council on Foreign Relations Evaluates U.S. Economic Competitiveness - Global Trade Magazine
  February 11th, 2016 | Written by

Council on Foreign Relations Evaluates U.S. Economic Competitiveness

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  • Obama: “Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.”
  • Obama’s critics say the U.S. is slipping and that the country is losing out to rivals like China.
  • CFR: The U.S. has lost ground in some areas, yet the U.S. economy also has enormous strengths.
  • CFR: The U.S. should be spending more on transportation but “it barely spends enough to maintain the existing network.”

In his recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said, “Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.”

Some of Obama’s critics have countered that the United States’ standing in the world is slipping and that the country is losing out to rivals like China. So how does the United States actually measure up?

A new Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) ebook, How America Stacks Up: Economic Competitiveness and U.S. Policy, examines how the United States has responded to global economic competition and benchmarks the United States against other advanced economies.

Authors Edward Alden, CFR’s Bernard L. Schwartz senior fellow, and Rebecca Strauss, Renewing America publications associate director, find that while the United States has lost ground in some areas, such as high school and college completion and financing transportation infrastructure, the country is well ahead of other advanced economies in other areas such as technology innovation.

“Yet the U.S. economy also has enormous strengths, from its world-class universities to its deep venture capital markets, and it has given birth to many of the world’s most dynamic and successful companies,” the report says. “Government policies that help build on those strengths while addressing some of the growing weaknesses are needed to ensure that the United States becomes a more competitive economy and continues to create the prosperity at home that allows for a robust national defense and an outward-looking, engaged foreign policy.”

In the area of transportation, trade, and infrastructure, the report noted that “the current U.S. road and transportation system is only of average quality compared to those in other advanced economies.”

The U.S. should be spending more to improve and expand its transportation infrastructure, according to the report, but “it barely spends enough to maintain the existing network, even as the population continues to grow.”

The U.S. depends more on the global economy than it did 20 years ago, the report noted, “yet on most measures of trade and investment performance—including the growth of exports and its ability to attract foreign investment—the United States remains in the middle of the pack among advanced

economies.”

The good news, according to the report is that the U.S. trade agenda, including the recent Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement “is the most far-reaching in two decades and could reinforce U.S. competitive advantages.”