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The following content is sponsored by the Hinrich Foundation.
Free Trade Infographic
History has shown that trade can be a powerful engine for economic growth. Despite this, the number of protectionist policies enacted around the world has increased.
This is due to a rising tendency to view trade as a competition, rather than a cooperative endeavor. For evidence, consider the ongoing China-U.S. trade war, which has impacted everything from electronics to soybeans.
The economic costs of this dispute are well-documented. In 2019, Moody’s Analytics found that the trade war had cost America 300,000 jobs. In 2020, the Federal Reserve concluded that U.S. firms had lost $1.7 trillion in market capitalization due to the introduction of new tariffs.
In this infographic from the Hinrich Foundation—the first of a three-part series on global trade—we explain the theory behind free trade and explore a powerful dataset that disproves the rationale for protectionist policies.
The main reason countries trade is to specialize their production. This is when a country’s population is able to focus on what it does best. For example, consider Germany’s expertise in automobiles, or America’s leadership in tech.
These countries use their comparative advantages to generate a greater surplus than if they produced all of their needs on their own. Through exchange, they can trade their surplus output (exports) for the output of others (imports).
Imports are what facilitate the benefits of trade. These are goods that people consume without having to produce, and they can help reduce costs, catalyze greater competition, and even spark innovation.
Between 2001 and 2008, trade grew immensely. In dollar terms, it rose from $15.6 trillion to $40.7 trillion, representing a 160% increase. More importantly, as a share of global GDP, it rose from 47% to a peak of 64%.
Since then, the number of protectionist trade policies has increased by 663%. This includes tariffs, which are taxes on foreign goods, and import quotas, which are limits on the amount of goods imported.
These measures appear to be having a material effect on trade. As a share of GDP, it has never returned to its 2008 high, and in 2020, it dipped an alarming five percentage points.
A growing number of governments view trade as a competition between “us” and “them”. This could be because the costs of trade are visible, while the benefits are largely unseen.
Consider a company that struggles to compete with foreign low-cost producers. It winds down its operations, resulting in job losses and an abandoned factory. These are the visible costs of trade, and when they’re covered in the media, trade is painted in a bad light.
So what exactly are the benefits? For starters, consumers benefit from the availability of cheaper goods. Not only can they buy the same things for less, they also have more money leftover for other goods and services. This extra spending will then contribute to growth in other areas of the economy.
“The benefits of trade are the resources that become available for investment in promising new firms and industries. Putting resources to better use is how we increase living standards and wealth.”
– Daniel Ikenson, Economist
To see if these benefits outweigh the costs, we analyzed U.S. economic performance from 1975 to 2019. In the vast majority of these years, GDP moved in the same direction as imports. This means that in years when imports grew, so too did GDP.
However, this doesn’t mean that an increase in imports will directly grow GDP. Rather, GDP grows when the extra spending that was freed up is allocated efficiently. The same positive relationship is seen between imports and employment—disputing the belief that imports cause a net loss in jobs. This is because imports increase when an economy expands, and an expanding economy creates more jobs.
When it comes to free trade, domestic politics and geopolitical struggles appear to be taking the front seat. Consider the shortages of medical equipment seen in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic—this was partly due to harmful tariffs which disrupted the free flow of goods.
This is problematic because the most powerful benefits of trade are realized through imports. These cheaper goods give consumers greater spending power, which benefits other areas of the economy.
In the next part of the Global Trade Series sponsored by the Hinrich Foundation, we’ll explore digital trade and how it will impact the world economy.
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Legal cannabis in Colorado has flourished for nearly a decade now. This graphic looks at the broad set of benefits realized since legalization.
In 2014, Colorado made history by being the first state to have the sale of legal recreational cannabis take place. Once considered unchartered territory, the state has since established itself as a mature and prospering legal market.
And as various governments explore the possibilities around cannabis legalization, policymakers likely consider Colorado’s journey as one to potentially emulate in order to reach some of the same longer-term outcomes that have materialized.
The following sponsored graphic from Tenacious Labs provides a spotlight analysis of the Colorado cannabis market, and looks at defining trends and key developments that have occurred during the last eight years.
From a fiscal perspective, cannabis legalization has been a hit for the state of Colorado. Since it started in 2014, Colorado has generated over $2 billion in tax and fee revenue from the legal cannabis space.
Here’s a look at the growing tax revenues, which started from a modest $46 million and have surged nearly 10x.
Moreover, cannabis sales are still increasing. The year 2021 was a record year which generated $2.2 billion in revenue.
Given the rise in debts most governments have incurred in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, new sources of revenue and taxation, and rising ones at that, are attractive and may act as a key driver for legalization initiatives in other regions.
There are multiple converging factors that suggest cannabis legalization may result in a long list of benefits. Like sales and taxes, the employment sector has seen robust growth and shows more and more signs of picking up speed.
In Colorado, the industry boasts over 40,000 jobs that contribute to the local economy, including ones like “budtender”, which were almost nonexistent a number of years ago.
Likewise, the number of cannabis jobs across the country has grown from 122,000 in 2017 to 428,000 in 2022. In fact, in the U.S. there are now more jobs in cannabis than there are bank tellers, insurance agents, and hairstylists.
But the growth isn’t expected to stop quite yet. By 2025, some estimates say there will be 1.5 million jobs in cannabis, as legalization momentum continues to surge. In other words, the cannabis industry can represent 1% of the roughly 150 million people employed in America.
Fueling the growing figures around the cannabis industry is the high level of innovation in this space. Given the versatility of the cannabis plant, the modern industry now offers greater diversity and variety in products. And this can come in the form of consumption methods ranging from inhalation like vaping and smoking, to edible beverages and baked goods.
Here’s how market share for these products fared in 2020:
However, innovation in products is not stopping.
In 2020, an additional 7,000 new products hit dispensary shelves compared to the year prior. With new products emerging every day, it’s highly possible the future of cannabis can expand its total addressable market by attracting new consumers who may not resonate with the offerings of today.
Where do the millions in annual cannabis tax revenue go? Since legalization, Colorado has produced a track record of positive and impactful initiatives they’ve funded through cannabis dollars.
In addition, the state breaks down these revenues and shows how funds are allocated.
By far the largest portion of these funds go to the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund. Which supports an assortment of construction projects and law enforcement programs throughout the state.
Next, is the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund, which receives almost a quarter of the total tax dollars. This fund helps provide much needed capital to schools when upgrading their facilities.
Altogether, taxation from cannabis is making positive impacts across numerous avenues. For instance, in recent years, $3 million went towards opioid intervention, $16 million for affordable housing, and $20 million for early literacy programs. As cannabis sales grow, funds from taxes should follow suit, which only fuel greater and more frequent community programs and state initiatives.
In just under a decade, Colorado has demonstrated the ability to implement cannabis regulations that benefit stakeholders and society more broadly.
As tax revenues, employment, innovation in products, and communities all continue to flourish, many states and countries alike might seek to emulate these results and will look at the Colorado story for guidance.
In the next part of The Legal Landscape Series, we’ll dive into a legal vs illegal overview of cannabis markets.
Plant-based products are expected to take a bite out of the world’s protein market. How do they go from bean to burger?
As plant-based products become more and more popular, their demand continues to skyrocket.
As a result, alternatives like meatless meat are expected to take a bite out of the conventional protein market in the coming years. In fact, the global plant-based market value is expected to grow 5.5x to reach a projected $162 billion by 2030.
So how do these plant-based alternatives end up on people’s plates? This infographic from the Very Good Food Company (VGFC) traces the supply chain to discover how a plant-based product, such as a vegetable burger, goes from farm to fork.
Many meatless patties are made of ingredients ranging from: nuts, mushrooms, tofu, tempeh, grains, vegetables, beans, or legumes.
According to a survey of over 27,000 global consumers, 88% prioritize buying from companies with ethical sourcing strategies. Moreover, these trends are much more pronounced in younger consumers (aged 18-24), compared to older generations (aged 65+).
After inspection at the manufacturing plant, the ingredients are washed and thoroughly cleaned. This ensures that no dirt or bacteria is left on the raw, often organic products.
From there, the grains are cooked until softened, and strained. Meanwhile, the vegetables are chopped into uniform pieces, either by machine or by hand.
Once that’s done, pre-measured amounts of the grains and vegetables are mixed thoroughly in an industrial mixing bowl to achieve the right ratio.
The mixture is loaded into an automatic patty-making machine—which presses the vegetable burgers into round discs.
The newly formed plant-based patties are loaded onto baking trays, and cooked in an industrial-size oven. From here, they enter a freezing chamber (below 32°F/0°C).
This causes the patties to freeze within 30 minutes, causing ice crystals to form in them. When the meatless patties are cooked, the ice crystals melt, keeping them juicy.
The patties are vacuum packaged and sealed in plastic by serving size, and accompanied with pre-printed cardboard sleeves.
Vacuum sealing helps keep the patties fresher by increasing their shelf life and improving food safety. For many customers, whether or not a plant-based product has sustainable packaging will have a significant impact on their purchases:
As more and more veggie burgers get shipped to stores around the world, companies are looking for more sustainable ways to package patties and to reduce the need for single-use plastics.
Not only are plant-based burgers cruelty-free, they also have a better environmental footprint compared to animal meat:
The Very Good Food Company is a global brand which prides itself on finding innovative ways to make the healthiest food possible. Because VGFC’s founders come from a restaurant background, the company naturally prioritizes organic, high-quality ingredients, with minimal processing throughout the supply chain.
Click here to learn more how this helps the Very Good Food Company boost the wholesome nature of its plant-based products, without compromising on taste.
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Ranked: Visualizing the Largest Trading Partners of the U.S.
Mapped: A Decade of Population Growth and Decline in U.S. Counties
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