“Agent Orange: Trump, Soft Power, and Exports”

That’s the title of a new paper by Andy Rose:

A country’s exports rise when its leadership is approved by other countries. I show this using a standard gravity model of bilateral exports, a panel of data from 2006 through 2017, and an annual Gallup survey which asks people in up to 157 countries whether they approve of the job performance of the leadership of China, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Holding other things constant, a country’s exports are higher if its leadership is approved by the importer; ‘soft power’ promotes exports. The soft power effect is statistically and economically significant; a one percent increase in leadership approval raises exports by around two-thirds of a percent. This effect is reasonably robust, and different measures of soft power deliver similar results. I conservatively estimate that the >20 percentage point decline in foreign approval of American leadership between 2016 (the final year of Obama’s presidency) and 2017 (Trump’s first year) lowered American exports by at least $3 billion.

Ungated version here.

4 thoughts on ““Agent Orange: Trump, Soft Power, and Exports”

  1. Moses Herzog

    I suppose the large numbers of Vietnamese who got cancer and other permanent ills from America’s use of Agent Orange during the war might take offense to someone’s “trivializing” or “politicization” of the name of the scourge that ruined so many lives for nearly next to no reason, other than the fact Robert McNamara (the young version of McNamara anyway, seemed to bust a nut if he could send troops off to war.. However, if Vietnamese were fully conscious of what a horrible and horrid primate species a donald trump is, they might find it only a smidgeon off accurate.

  2. Erik Poole

    Leadership popularity as an indicator or proxy of ‘soft power’? The way Nye defines ‘soft power’ suggests that trade always stems from ‘soft power’.

    Seriously, how much contemporary international commerce is actually coerced?

    I do like the overall thesis of the paper and do believe that trading nation reputation capital matters. Moreover, in an age of nuclear weapons and information technology, the expected return on coercion appears relatively poor compared to bygone periods when boot-heel capitalism flourished.

    Here is an interesting quote from Joseph Nye, taken from the Soft Power wiki page: “In 2012, Joseph Nye of Harvard University explained that with soft power, “the best propaganda is not propaganda”, further explaining that during the Information Age, “credibility is the scarcest resource.”[1]” Emphasis added.

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