September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Strengthening the Global Economy After September 11: The Bush Administration's Agenda John B. Taylor under Secretary for International Affairs; November 29, 2001

November 29, 2001

Strengthening the Global Economy After September 11: The Bush Administration's Agenda John B. Taylor under Secretary for International Affairs,

U.S. Treasury

Kennedy School of Government Harvard University

We all remember where we were when we first heard the terrible news that a jet had crashed into the World Trade Center.

I was in a room in the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, reviewing recent Japanese economic policy initiatives with two financial attaches. I was part of a delegation of U.S. economic officials led by Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O'Neill. The delegation had just spent several fruitful days in Beijing discussing international economic issues with Chinese leaders, including President Jiang Zemin. Before that we met in Suzhou with the economic leaders of all the Pacific Basin countries. And on September 12 we planned to discuss several key economic issues with Japan.

The trip was just one part of our international economic policy agenda. In fact, I had flown to China from London where another aspect of our agenda-U.S. policy toward financial crises in emerging market economies-was the subject of intense interest among the world's central bankers and financial market regulators.

The meetings in Japan on September 12 never took place. Instead we spent most of September 12 on the steel floor of a C-17 military transport jet flying back to Washington. But it was already clear on that long flight back to America that what appeared to us to have been a big international economic policy agenda was about to become bigger, much bigger.

It is this international economic agenda -- and how we have added to it since September 11th -- that I want to discuss with you tonight. I'll first touch on the conceptual goals and foreign policy context of that agenda. I'll then discuss specific policy action plans.

Overall Economic Policy Goals

From the outset of the Bush Administration, two goals have guided the international economic policy agenda: (1) increasing economic growth, as measured by improvements in productivity and higher income per capita, and (2) improving economic stability, as measured by a reduction in the severity, length, and frequency of economic downturns and crises.

The goals apply both to the United States and to the rest of the world. These two policy goals have not changed since September 11, though clearly the economic impact of the attacks has made achieving the goals more challenging. President Bush's idea is that each country, by following basic policy principles and considering its own circumstances, should be encouraged to contribute in its own way to economic growth and stability. This idea underlies his support for policy reform efforts in many countries, whether those of Prime Minister Koizumi in Japan or President Putin in Russia, or his own economic policies in the United States. And President Bush remains committed to his view that free trade is a key driver of economic growth. The U.S. contribution to the successful start of a new [the World Trade Organization] trade round in Doha underlies his unequivocal support for free trade as a key part of his international economic agenda.

Economics in the Foreign Policy Context

However, the goals of international economic policy have been expanded since September 11. To fully understand this expansion, it is helpful to place economic policy in the context of overall foreign policy in the United States. Long before September 11, President Bush stressed that his foreign policy is based on three essential and interlocking building blocks-military, political, and economic-with the economics by no means in third place. His first National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD-1) named the Secretary of the Treasury as a formal member of the National Security Council Principals Committee, sitting alongside the Secretaries of Defense and State.

This formal inclusion of economics into foreign policy has certainly resulted in an elevation of economic issues. But it has also led to a government inter-agency mechanism-from principals, to deputies, to technical staff-that allows for novel synergies between economic issues and military/political issues.

These synergies have been evident in many areas, from the New Strategic Framework with Russia (which I will return to in a few minutes) to an increased emphasis on business-like input-output performance measures for policy, including checklists, action plans, and quantitative measures of performance, even in areas where quantitative information is difficult to find or measure.

Given the close relationship between the military, political, and economic issues in this Administration, it perhaps should come as no surprise that the international economic policy agenda has gotten bigger since the war on terrorism began. Soon after President Bush declared war on terrorism-in that remarkable September 20 Joint Session of Congress with [the United Kingdom Prime Minister] Tony Blair in the gallery-he determined that the "first shot" would be to block the financial accounts of terrorists in the United States. That shot took place with his Executive Order of September 24.

Similarly, the President's pronouncement that countries that facilitate terrorism are our enemies resulted in another addition to the economic agenda-to call on all other countries to rid the financial system of terrorist networks by joining in the fight against the financing of terrorism. And for similar reasons, it should not be surprising that the diplomatic effort to fund the economic reconstruction of Afghanistan and to aid front line states in the war against terrorism also became part of our international economic agenda.

The Policy Action Plans

So let's see how these ideas are playing out in practice. What are the policy action plans?

(1) The First International Economic Priority: Getting Economic Policies Right at Home

I've always taught that getting one's own economic policy right is at least 90 percent of getting international economic policy right. This is especially true for the U.S. economy, which is such a large part of the world economy. So let's start at home.

The U.S. economy started slowing significantly in the middle of last year. From 1996 through the middle of 2000, real GDP [Gross Domestic Product] had been growing by 4 percent or more each year. But in the third quarter of 2000, growth slowed to 1.3 percent and averaged only 1.2 percent from then until the second quarter of this year.

Monetary and fiscal policy in the United States responded quickly to stabilize the economy in the face of these signs of a slowdown. The Federal Reserve began an aggressive effort to lower interest rates, cutting the Federal funds rate by 300 basis points from January to August. Fiscal policy also contributed, both from the automatic stabilizers and the adoption of a large tax cut. The September consensus of private forecasters was that the economy would gradually rebound to stronger growth in 2002.

But the short-run outlook for the economy changed significantly on September 11. The attacks deepened and extended the economic slump both because of the reduction in retail spending during the days and weeks immediately after the attack, and because of the negative impact of consumer confidence. With the decline in employment extending into September and October, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) declared that the U.S. economy entered a recession in March of this year, 5 months before the September 11 attacks.

Again, the monetary policy reaction was swift. Through large open market purchases and a liberal loan policy at the discount window, the Fed provided an enormous amount of liquidity in the days immediately after the attack. While much of that liquidity has now been removed from the system, the Fed followed up by cutting the federal funds rate by an additional 150 basis points; the Federal funds target rate is now at 2 percent -- the lowest level in 40 years. The President and Congress also moved quickly to provide immediate funding, including $40 billion for rebuilding and recovery, and financial support for the airlines, airline insurance, and airport security. The President has also called on Congress to pass additional tax cuts.

The overall impact of these actions and the automatic stabilizers combined has been huge: the surplus was $236 billion in 2000 and private sector forecasters expect it to be around zero -- or even lower -- in 2002. That is a stimulus of over 2 percent of GDP.

Despite the short-run downturn in the U.S. economy, the prospects for long-run economic growth remain strong. The September 11 attacks are likely to change the composition of output, with, for example, more security goods and fewer travel services being produced. But inflation is at historically low rates, and with continued spending discipline, there will be a return to budget surpluses. Productivity growth should continue at higher rates than observed from 1973 to 1995. These views combine to suggest that real growth will return to a potential path of about 3 to 3.5 percent.

(2) Cooperating and Coordinating Policy with Other Governments

The United States was, of course, not the only economy in the world to slow down. Some countries, especially those exporting high-tech goods to the United States, directly felt the impact of the decline in U.S. demand. Other economies -- including Japan -- were having their own economic slumps. And September 11 caused those weaknesses to intensify, especially in countries dependent on tourist trade and shipping.

On October 6, the United States hosted a special meeting of the G-7 finance ministers to address the economic issues arising from the September 11 attacks. There was agreement at this meeting about the best way to address the global economic slowdown in light of the impact of September 11. It was for each country to respond with economic policies appropriate to its own situation. In the United States that meant the tax cuts and emergency spending plans. I n Europe that meant speeding up tax cuts already in place.

In Japan the challenge was to implement its monetary policy goal of ending deflation, to remove non-performing loans from banks' balance sheets, and to start a program to gradually reduce the budget deficit. At the same time, there was agreement that the automatic stabilizers should not be thwarted with tax increases, but should be allowed to do their work in mitigating the decline in demand.

Importantly the G-7 went beyond stabilization issues and considered policies to increase long-term economic growth. They agreed on the importance of identifying policies in areas such as trade liberalization, education, and tax policy to improve long-run growth potential -- both of their own economies and the global economy as a whole. We are now coordinating the preparation of a paper that will quantify the gains to long-term growth of better economic policies.

Beyond these concrete outcomes, I believe that the October 6 meeting sent a strong signal of confidence at a time of widespread uncertainty in the global economy. The economic leaders of the industrialized world spoke with one voice. They had a joint press conference for the first time in history: [U.S. Treasury] Secretary [Paul] O'Neill in the middle flanked by the other six finance ministers. Their answers-describing the policy in each G-7 country-showed a great deal of cooperation in my view.

The meeting also showed that cooperation under extraordinary circumstances could have positive spillovers into other foreign policy areas. A concrete action plan to coordinate the policies to combat the financing of terrorism was issued. And Russia participated in the discussion on combating terrorist financing -- the first time that Russia joined a G-7 discussion on a topic other than the Russian economy. This action plan of the G-7 has now been expanded to include the G-20, a group that also includes countries such as India, China, Brazil, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia.

(3) Economic Growth in the Poorest Countries: Reform of the Development Banks

Nowhere is raising economic growth more important than in the very poor countries of the world. As with so many things, September 11 has reminded us of another reason to accelerate economic development. Underdeveloped, politically unstable countries are prone to become hotbeds for terrorism. For these reasons, reform of the World Bank and the other multilateral development banks, which have a key role to play in promoting the economic development of poor countries, is one of the highest priorities of the Bush Administration's international economic policy agenda.

Our reform effort has a simple theme: raising productivity growth in poor countries. This productivity theme is important for the simple reason that differences in productivity are why there are differences in standards of living. I remember demonstrating this point to students with a map, color-coded according to different productivity levels in different countries. The different colors showed exactly which countries were rich and which were poor.

Simply put, higher productivity means higher incomes, higher standards of living, and lower poverty.

Productivity also provides a way for the World Bank to set priorities. More resources from the international community will not reduce poverty in the developing world unless they increase productivity. As Secretary O'Neill has said: every project, every program, every loan, every grant should be judged by how much it will increase productivity. Research and experience tell us that improved education and health, competitive and open markets, and the rule of law are central to boosting productivity.

Following this theme, we have called upon the development banks to increase the amount of assistance they provide in the form of grants, rather than loans. President Bush has proposed that half of assistance to the poorest countries be extended as grants. The goal of this proposal is to break the cycle whereby the poorest countries pile on more and more debt. In recent years, much of this debt has been forgiven because these countries will never be able to repay these obligations. Development programs would be better served by transparent grant funding. And grants can be closely tied to performance.

The Administration has also called on the development banks to increase their emphasis on quantitative analysis and measurable results to ensure that development assistance being provided is actually making a difference to the lives of the world's poor. We have emphasized the importance of better coordination among the development banks and bilateral donors. We have called on the World Bank to devote more of its resources to the poorest countries. And we have pushed the World Bank to increase its focus on promoting growth of the private sector -- an area in which the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has been particularly successful.

The Bush Administration put forth these development reforms as part of its agenda before September 11th. The events of that day and the war on terrorism have only increased our commitment to this mission. As President Bush said before the United Nations General Assembly earlier this month, "Following September 11th, these pledges are even more important. In our struggle against hateful groups that exploit poverty and despair, we must offer an alternative of opportunity and hope."

(4) Economic Stability in Emerging Markets and the International Monetary Fund

Achieving the goal of improved economic stability around the world requires a much greater degree of stability in emerging markets than has existed in recent years. Too often emerging market economies have been hard hit by crises, and recently investment flows into these markets have declined sharply. It is important to reverse this trend by reducing the likelihood of crises, and thereby reducing risk premia. We would like more investment at more affordable interest rates to flow from the developed world to the developing world.

For this reason, a high priority of the Bush Administration's international economic policy agenda is to create conditions for a greater degree of stability in emerging markets. Of course, the best way to provide a greater degree of stability is to prevent crises from occurring. Thus we are putting a great deal of emphasis on crisis prevention as the first line of defense, and we are asking the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to do the same.

In order for the IMF to increase its emphasis on crisis prevention it must focus more on its core mission of promoting international financial stability through better monetary policy, fiscal policy, exchange rate policy, and financial market policy. In the last decade, the IMF became too involved in matters outside of these core areas -- the breakup of clove cigarette monopolies in Indonesia being perhaps the most famous example. The IMF has made improvements since then. We are working with the IMF to further narrow the range of conditionality in programs. We have also encouraged greater use of prior actions in programs as a way of ensuring that needed reforms are actually implemented.

I hope the emerging market asset class grows much more in the future as the rates of economic growth in these countries rise. But we have to recognize that official sector resources cannot possibly grow at such a high rate that we can continue with very large official finance packages to deal with emerging market debt crises as in recent years. There will inevitably be limitations on the use of official sector resources. Moreover, in order to reduce bailouts of private investors it is necessary to limit the use of official resources, especially in cases where debt sustainability is in question. We must therefore gradually move in the direction of less reliance on large official finance packages.

There has been an important change in emerging markets in recent years, and we have taken account of this change as part or our approach to emerging markets. The change is that investors are increasingly differentiating between countries and markets based on fundamental economic assessments. This differentiation is reducing contagion from one country to another, as exemplified most recently by the performance of Brazil's markets over the past few weeks in spite of the deterioration in Argentina's financial situation. We have commented on this reduction in "automatic" contagion and emphasized that contagion is not inevitable. Emerging markets differ in their trade linkages, economic fundamentals, and overall financial stability. An excessive emphasis on the risk of contagion by the official sector leads to the expectation on the part of investors that the official sector will bail them out. That encourages excessive risk-taking and gives rise to the very conditions that make financial crises more likely.

I believe strongly that what we in the public sector need to do is to be as clear as possible about what our intentions are, so that the private sector can make calculated assessments of the risks. Part of promoting stable expectations means avoiding official coercion of the private sector during financial crises. Moreover, the official sector should not encourage countries to default on their debts, though we recognize that restructurings can and will happen in certain cases.

It is therefore important to develop some kind of international insolvency mechanisms to ensure that if and when restructuring occurs, it does so in an orderly manner that treats creditors fairly, reducing the scope for arbitrary, unpredictable official action. And we should be clear that countries themselves -- not the U.S., not the G-7, not the IMF -- have ownership over their own policies.

It is our intent that by taking these steps gradually over time, in consultation with our G-7 allies and the IMF, we will be helping cultivate an international financial system in which the emerging market asset class grows again.

(5) International Trade

No agenda for international economic policy would be complete without a prominent role for trade liberalization. President Bush is fully committed to free trade as a stimulus for global economic growth. As he said last month, "Trade is the engine of economic advancement. On every continent, in every culture, trade generates opportunity and enhances entrepreneur growth. And trade applies the power of markets to the needs of the poor."

Trade liberalization promises large long-term benefits to the United States and other countries. Cutting global trade barriers to goods and services by one --third would provide a boost of $177 billion per year to the U.S. economy alone -- equivalent to a tax cut of $2,500 per year for the typical American family. Current negotiations to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), would provide additional benefits of some $53 billion, or about $800 per year for the average American family. Gains to other countries are similar, or even larger if their current trade barriers are higher than in the United States.

The Administration achieved a key objective in its international economic agenda when a new round of multilateral trade negotiations was launched in Doha. The next item on our action plan is Congressional action on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which will give the President the authority to negotiate new trade agreements.

The global economy has benefited tremendously from trade liberalization in the past and it stands to benefit even more in the future.

(6) Combating the Financing of Terrorism

As I mentioned earlier, President Bush says that the first shot in the war on terrorism was fired on September 24th when he listed 27 terrorist organizations and individuals and instructed U.S. financial institutions to block their accounts. More shots in this war were fired on October 12, November 2 and November 7, when 123 additional entities were listed and their assets ordered frozen.

But action by the United States alone is not enough. It is necessary that blocking orders be put in place around the world. This requires building a global coalition against the financing of terrorism. Terrorist assets -- like the terrorists themselves -- must have no safe harbor. Thus combating the financing of terrorists has become a new item on our international agenda.

To help build this coalition we have been working the phones and keeping track of what countries are doing. We have talked with finance officials in nearly 100 countries, and have advanced this agenda in multilateral forums. In order to measure progress in this war on terrorist financing, we have created a war room at Treasury.

We are keeping track, account by account, dollar by dollar, of all countries' progress in this fight. So far 196 countries and jurisdictions have committed to join the effort to combat the financing of terrorism, 139 countries now have blocking orders on terrorist assets in force, and over $60 million in assets has been frozen globally since September 11.

But there is much more to be done. For one, many countries need help in tracking down terrorist assets. The United States is providing technical assistance in this area, focusing on priority countries that have asked for such aid and where we believe the opportunity to impact terrorist financing are opportunities to put a halt to terrorist financing are greatest. We are encouraged that the U.S. Congress recently provided $3 million in extra funds for technical assistance, and we are also pleased that so many foreign countries have requested such assistance.

Ultimately it is implementation and enforcement that are critical to the success of these efforts. Combating the financing of terrorism is an essential part of the overall war on terrorism. We will win if we stay the course.

(7) Bilateral Economic Relations: The Case of Russia

Our international economic agenda involves bilateral economic relationships with many countries, as the trips to China and Japan in September indicate. The new U.S. bilateral relationship with Russia -- the New Strategic Framework -- is a very important and successful one. It provides an excellent example of how the economic components of our foreign policy interact with and reinforce the military and political. Success in one area helps strengthen the relationship in others. This is particularly evident in the post-September 11th world -- when Russia has taken a crucial role in the broad international coalition against terrorism.

Our economic engagement with Russia is focused on discrete, practical steps that will achieve measurable real results. It is more microeconomic than macroeconomic. The big-money IMF packages and high-profile, formal, bureaucratic commissions are a thing of the past. We are focusing our joint efforts on ways to increase private investment, for example, through small business loans of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Business plays a central role in our engagement as President Bush and President Putin have repeatedly emphasized.

There have been a number of high-level U.S. trips to Russia. On one of those trips Secretary O'Neill and Secretary of Commerce [Secretary Donald] Evans agreed with President Putin to create a checklist of actions that can be concluded in a short time. They include areas such as progress towards Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the creation of a new public/private dialogue on reform of the Russian banking sector, targeting assistance to regions committed to reform and helping Russia fight financial crime. I am happy to say that the checklist has been turned into an action plan, which the staffs of both of our governments are working on now.

(8) Economic Reconstruction: Afghanistan

Finally, let me turn to the future of Afghanistan. President Bush is eager that we develop a strategy for rebuilding Afghanistan once our military efforts there have succeeded. Our ultimate goal is a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan that no longer harbors terrorists and is a member in good standing of the international community. Success in the economic policy component of our engagement is vital to realizing this goal -- another example of the inextricable link between the economic, political, and military elements of our foreign policy.

We have been working hard on this issue for the past several weeks, and while our work is preliminary, we have sketched the outlines of a long-term plan for Afghanistan's economy recovery. We will be proceeding in three overlapping phases: first, providing humanitarian assistance, under the auspices of the United Nations; second, assisting with economic recovery, in which we will aim to restore essential health and education services, undertake emergency infrastructure repairs, and improve food security; and third, laying the foundation for sustained economic development, including developing strong government institutions, investing in health and education programs, and developing a robust and productive private sector, open to global trade and investment where all Afghans -- men and women -- have new economic opportunities.

Last week, we brought together representatives of over 20 countries to initiate a process for the international community to work together to assist with Afghanistan's reconstruction. We need to ensure that this support is long in its duration, substantial in its size, and effective in its ability to raise economic growth and living standards of the Afghan people. The international community's engagement in Afghanistan offers us the opportunity to apply the lessons we have learned from past successes and failures of development assistance efforts. And we intend to rise to this challenge.


As President Bush has emphasized the war on terrorism is a long war.

The resources to fight this war will require a strong global economy for many years into the future. I have tried tonight to give an overview of international economic policy of the Bush Administration and how it strengthens the global economy.

Of course, I could not mention everything. New tax treaties, steel capacity negotiations, global climate change are some of the agenda items I did not discuss. But the eight items that I did discuss capture the wide scope of the agenda and how it will achieve the goals of economic growth and economic stability as well as serve important foreign policy objectives, including those that have arisen since September 11.

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