Category Archives: Trade

Despite Threat of Trade War US Economy Strong

Courtesy of wikideas.

The major indicators did not falter the day after President Trump announced he was raising the threatened tariffs on China from 10% to 25% on $200 billion worth of products. The NASDAQ composite, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were all higher by a bit following the announcement.

The consensus among analysts is that US business will survive the latest signs of a coming trade war as well as they have previous similar threats from the president and from reactions from abroad.

In an interview Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab& Co. Inc said,

“The economy generally is so strong that, despite the challenges of the potential trade war, the strength of the economy is more than offsetting that. Corporations have posted record profits this quarter that we haven’t seen in over a decade.”

There have been warnings, however, from companies such as Coca Cola, General Motors, Caterpillar, Ford and Harley Davidson that the tariffs of 25% already imposed on steel and 10% on aluminum; and previous tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods, will have negative consequences on 2018 earnings, and further into the future. Retaliatory tariffs have already been imposed by China and US allies like the European Union, Mexico and Canada. There are also many smaller businesses that have suffered from the tariff policy.

Not everyone is suffering. Many companies have seen higher profits during Q2. Apple’s sales in China flew to 19 percent from March to June. Caesars Entertainment Corp showed an 89.3% increase in profits to $282 million. And even though Caterpillar predicted higher prices, the company’s net income rose 112% during Q2 to $1.7 billion.

These data points are not indicative of anything, since the tariffs will not be imposed until September at the earliest, and their effect will not be manifest until months later. US Business is still fearful of what tariffs will do to their bottom lines:

“We said before that this round of tariffs amounted to doubling down on the recklessness of imposing trade policy that will hurt U.S. families and workers more than they will hurt China. Increasing the size of the tariffs is merely increasing the harm that will be done,” National Retail Federation CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. “Quite simply, there has been no better example of cutting off one’s nose in order to spite the face.”

New Iran Sanctions Disrupt US and Overseas Business

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

The effect of the US pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement will not only reverberate in Iran. US companies will also feel the bite of newly imposed economic sanctions on the regime of Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader.

The US withdrawal from the agreement will force the US government to revoke existing licenses allowing for US companies to do business with Iran. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday that licenses held by Boeing Company and Airbus Group, Boeing’s European competitor, will be nullified by the US withdrawal from the agreement.

“The existing licenses will be revoked,” Mnuchin said to reporters.

The company responded by saying it will consult with the government on what their next move should be.

“As we have throughout this process, we’ll continue to follow the U.S. government’s lead,” Boeing commented.

Airbus is also dependent on licensing from the US to sell its airplanes to Iran due to the US-made parts Airbus uses in its aircraft.

There will be waivers and exemptions made under certain conditions for certain products and countries, but those conditions were not discussed by Mnuchin.

Mnuchin added that the new sanctions will also seriously limit the sale of oil by Iran, which sells about 5 percent of the world’s oil, making it the fifth largest oil producer in the world. He said that there will be a 6-month grace period to allow countries to finish up existing contracts and implement “significant reductions” in the amount of crude oil they purchase from Iran.

The secretary said he does not believe the price of oil will rise by much since he expects other countries will respond to the new sanctions with increased oil production.
Mnuchin said that the goal of the new sanctions is to force Iran to come to the table to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump Getting Ready to Pull US Out of NAFTA

Reports have emerged that the Trump administration is taking concrete steps to pull the United States out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, also known as NAFTA.

According to Politico, two White House officials stated that a draft order to withdraw from NAFTA has already been submitted for the last stages of review, and could be released by the end of this week, or early next week.

The order was written by Trump’s head of the National Trade Council, Peter Navarro, in corroboration with the White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. It is still unclear what the order states, but the effect on trade can be predicted by an examination of the top 20 exports arriving from Mexico to the US.

In January Capital Economics’ chief emerging markets economist Neil Shearing published a chart in a memo to clients graphing the top 20 exports from Mexico according to their 2015 US dollar value.

About 25 percent of Mexico’s total exports to the US, by far the largest slice, came from the auto sector, valued at about $80 billion. The next three items are electrical components, food, and computers, together valued at about $55 billion.

“The upshot, then, is that targeted measures imposed on the vehicle, electronics, and food and beverage sectors would hit Mexico’s economy especially hard,” wrote Shearing. “Similarly, in the event of a blanket tariff across all sectors, producers in these areas would be among the hardest hit.”

In wake of the reports that Trump is on the verge of pulling out of NAFTA the peso is crashing, down over 2.2 percent at 19.2704 as of 12:53pm Wednesday afternoon.

G20 Avoiding Commitment to Strong Free Trade Endorsements

Steven Mnuchin’s Official Portrait as the 77th U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.

US finance officials attending the G20 summit in Baden-Baden, Germany, refrained from signing a document committing the US to free trade as a policy. The refusal is a 180-degree departure from a decade-old policy of supporting free trade. The non-move stymied the chance of any deal from being forged. US intervention also led to any cooperative actions from taking place to stem the tide of climate change.

The talks between the world’s 20 most important world powers, known as the G20, ended with no joint position statement that would have definitively renewed the country’s long-standing promise to develop and nurture free trade among the nations.

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin led the US delegation and its push-back against free trade. As a result, the G20 finance ministers’ statement reneged on past commitments made by the body, including an unequivocal rejection of protectionism and a strident backing of free trade.

The statement the ministers did issue was a mildly worded, non-committal statement that said that the G20 countries “are working to strengthen the contribution of trade to their economies.”
Also conspicuously missing were the usual commitments to multilateral trade systems, like the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The summit and the G20 are both an informal forum and a non-binding body of nations. Statements do not obligate any of the countries to any particular policy or practice. However, the discussions between the G20 nations and the statements they publish do have and impact on economic and financial policy in the year to come.

Intellectual Property Theft Costing US $600 Billion Each Year

NKIE & McDnoald’s [sic] sandals in China. Photo by Stephen Woolverton.
According to private watchdog group, the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, annual losses of intellectual property range from around $225 billion to as much as $600 billion. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Theft of Trade Secrets: between $180 billion and $540 billion.
  • Counterfeit Goods: between $29 billion and $41 billion.
  • Pirated Software: $18 billion.

China, including Hong Kong, is the biggest culprit, says the commission, accounting for about 87 percent of the counterfeit goods which are confiscated at the border. The report issued by the commission states that Chinese authorities actually encourage the theft of intellectual property.

The commission is headed by former governor of Utah and Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who was also a US ambassador to China; and a former director of US national intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair.

“The vast, illicit transfer of American innovation is one of the most significant economic issues impacting U.S. competitiveness that the nation has not fully addressed,” Huntsman said. “It looks to be, must be, a top priority of the new administration.”