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NO. 7 -- February 21, 1997

 

Feature Article

THE 105TH CONGRESS: OLD ISSUES, CONTINUED DIVISIONS by Christopher B. Johnstone

The November 1996 U.S. elections delivered a series of conflicting messages to the nation's elected officials. A Democrat won reelection to the White House for the first time since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Republicans picked up seats in the Senate and are poised to retain control for some time. Democrats added nine seats in the House, in the process defeating several members of the fiery 1994 GOP freshman class. Voters' uncertain mandate for either party left the White House and congressional leaders singing the praises of bipartisanship. With the domestic agenda full of divisive issues, however, the honeymoon may be short-lived.

The absence of a clear-cut election mandate extends as well to the international economic policy agenda. While many of the issues in question appear to cut across party lines, the divisions that characterized debate during the 104th Congress remain in place. Renewal of the president's fast-track authority, trade with China, foreign aid and a number of other issues will receive congressional attention in 1997. For a variety of reasons all face an uncertain future.

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Weekly Review

Global Telecommunications On-Line Despite Static by Jon Choy

A modern telecommunications infrastructure is the nervous system of an advanced industrial economy. Current-generation communications facilities not only are vital to business operations but increasingly are a factor in improving the average citizen's quality of life. In the United States and, to a lesser extent, European countries the keys to building and improving this vital infrastructure have been deregulation and free-market mechanisms. An 11th-hour agreement by 68 members of a World Trade Organization negotiating group promises to subject nearly all of the world's telecommunications markets to these twin forces beginning as early as next year.

 

Japan's Current Account Shrank Again In 1996 by Douglas Ostrom

The impact of the weak yen is evident throughout Japan's 1996 current account statistics. The depreciation of the Japanese currency was one factor behind the 30.9 percent contraction in the current account surplus last year (see Table 1). Whether the yen's continued slide in the early weeks of 1997 will have the same impact on future imbalances remains problematic, however.

 

North Korean Defection Renews Tensions In Northeast Asia by Christopher B. Johnstone

Events on the Korean peninsula have a habit of unraveling at precisely the moment conditions appear most hopeful. Less than two months ago North Korea issued a long-awaited &endash;&endash; if grudging &endash;&endash; apology for the submarine incursion of South Korea that ultimately resulted in the deaths of dozens of South and North Korean soldiers (see JEI Report No. 36B, September 27, 1996). Although Pyongyang's concession amounted to something less than the breakthrough portrayed in much of the media, many observers nevertheless were guardedly optimistic that the long road to peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula once again had been opened to traffic.

 

Model Workplace Plan Unveiled For Mitsubishi Motors Manufacturing by Barbara Wanner

Anxious to polish the badly tarnished image of a company that in April 1996 was charged by federal authorities with tolerating "egregious and pervasive" sexual harassment, the management of Mitsubishi Motors Manufacturing of America, Inc., the U.S. production subsidiary of Mitsubishi Motors Corp., embraced February 12 a comprehensive plan aimed at achieving a model workplace within the next two years. The 34-point guide -- divided into seven sections dealing with topics ranging from "creating accountability" to "quality of life" and "leadership and commitment" and including specific timetables, responsibilities, rationales and implementation instructions -- was unveiled by former Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin.

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