Offsets: One answer to International Trade Imbalances

Offsets: One answer to International Trade Imbalances

Michael R. Czinkota

When foreign governments shop for defense supplies, they are not solely motivated by price and quality. In light of the trade balance effects of major acquisitions such as aircraft or defense products, international customers often require U.S. vendors to purchase goods from them in order to “offset” the trade balance effects large purchases have on their trade flows. In light of enormous U.S. trade deficits, it is time for the United States to reciprocate with offset demands of our trading partners. Frequently we find ourselves in conditions where foreign sales to us are major and our sales to importers and their nations are minor. This leads to trade relations which are out of kilter.  U.S. firms have accommodated foreign offset demands for decades. Now is the time when some give-back by our trading partners is the right medicine to improve world trade imbalances.

Offsets are industrial compensation arrangements demanded (so far only) by foreign governments as a condition for making major purchases, such as military hardware. Sometimes, these arrangements are directly related to the goods being traded. For instance, the Spanish air force’s planes – American-made McDonnell Douglass F/A-18 Hornets – use rudders, fuselage components, and speed brakes made by Spanish companies. U.S. sellers of the planes have provided the relevant technology information so that Spanish firms are now successful new producers in the industry. Under offset conditions, U.S. companies also often help export a client country’s goods go international, or even support the performance of tourism services. For example, the ‘Cleopatra Scheme’ allowed foreign suppliers to Egypt to meet their agreed upon offset obligations through package tours for international tourists.

In 2015, U.S. firms entered into 38 new offset agreements where they agreed to cause purchases  with 15 countries valued at $3.1 billion. In 2017, the total U.S. trade deficit was $566 billion after it imported $2.895 trillion of goods and services while exporting $2.329 trillion. No country has a bigger trade surplus with the United States than China. In 2017, the U.S. deficit with China climbed to its highest level on record, amounting to a gap of $375 billion.

Eliminating imbalances is a core component of the Trump administration’s international economic policy. One policy approach has been the threat of tariffs against China,.  One effective supplemental strategy could be the instigation of offset agreements with major trade surplus nations.

For instance, many American imports that contribute to the trade deficit are capital goods, such as computers and telecom equipment. An offset agreement between China and the United States could require China to use American-made components, perhaps even from Chinese owned plants.  An example could be the export of Smithfield ham from the U.S. to be served in company cafeterias in China. Then there are excellent opportunities for Chinese tourists, particularly if equipped with high-spend budgets.

The American trade deficit is not easily resolved. Government would be well served to explore non-traditional options in order to develop more than one fulcrum for leverage. New use of  offset agreements – which have provided our trading partners with past success at our expense – could help revitalize American industries and  bring a new sense of balance to trade relationships. Our government should encourage offset commitments by foreign firms and countries who sell a lot to us. America deserves to reap the benefits!

Michael Czinkota (czinkotm@georgetown.edu) teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent, U.K. His key book (with Ilkka Ronkainen) is “International Marketing” (10th ed., CENGAGE). Lisa Burgoa contributed to this commentary.

Prof. Czinkota’s Interview on CCTV about Trade

Prof. Czinkota gave a 20 minutes interview with Chinese Channel CCTV about the Trade Impact of the meeting of the National People’s Congress and the Re-Election of President Xi Jinping

http://tv.cctv.com/2018/03/16/VIDE9OIE7Oe9LUPIsAY5OkyV180316.shtml

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Pecan farmers pushing for fewer trade barriers

From wymt.com.

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) — The pecan farming business is booming. The industry is rapidly adding jobs in Georgia and billions of dollars to the economy in the South, but now this sector faces a stumbling block.

Pecan farmers are looking to send more of their product overseas. The Indian market looks promising, but U.S. farmers face high export costs. Now a bipartisan group of lawmakers is fighting to lower those rates.

Georgia pecan farmer Jeb Barrow has seen the pecan farming business change. He’s been a grower since 1974, and just in the past several years, he’s seen it go from a domestic market to an international one.

Now about a third of U.S. crops are shipped to China.

“That’s kind of a good news-bad news situation,” said Barrow.

“Anybody that reads the paper or looks at the news understands that some geopolitical event could occur tomorrow that could have that effect, so that’s kind of a sword Damocles if you will hanging over the industry’s head,” explained Barrow.

Ultimately, Barrow says it wouldn’t be wise for farmers to just rely on Chinese buyers. So, their interest turns to India, which has an exploding population and a diet rich in nuts.

“We have high hopes that the Indian market can – if we can get the tariff issue addressed – the Indian market can be developed and in time others as well, so everybody’s optimistic,” said Barrow.

The sticking point? U.S. tree nut farmers sending pistachios or almonds face, on average, a 10 percent tariff to ship products to India. That tariff, essentially a tax, is 36 percent for pecans.

“I think this is a huge opportunity for Georgia and the southeast. A lot of people down there have committed to pecans as a product for the future, and I think they’re right,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).

Georgia Senator David Perdue and eight of his colleagues recently signed a letter to the U.S. trade representative, urging officials to negotiate lower tariffs.

“We know to grow our economy, we need open and free markets around the world. That’s what this is all about,” said Perdue.

Trade expert and Georgetown Professor Michael Czinkota says talks with India could mean a little give and take, but ultimately, both countries would benefit from streamlining trade barriers.

“From an altruistic perspective, we want their own people to do well. Because if they do well, then they buy more of our products and our relationships are likely to be better, so this whole idea of reducing the tariff on nuts is a good thing,” said Czinkota.

There are 15 pecan-producing states in the U.S., so if officials can help farmers crack into the Indian market, the impact could be tremendous.

Trump administration goes after China over intellectual property, advanced technology

Michael R. Czinkota

U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) (L), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (3rd R), U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (2nd R) and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (R), finishes signing a memorandum directing the U.S. Trade Representative to complete a review of trade issues with China at the White House in Washington, U.S. August 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

President Trump signed a Presidential memorandum asking the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to investigate China’s laws, policies, practices, and actions and their effect on the U.S. economy. It will likely trigger an investigation into China’s alleged theft of U.S. intellectual property.

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Global Business: Exchange and Value

Here you are, visiting the ever beautiful London, when you come across a shop with the most beautiful pair of shoes in the window. You notice they’re designer, vintage even, and in the perfect condition, and look, the price says £150. That’s reasonable you say, until you get to the counter to pay for the shoes, only for your mom to point out that £150, is actually $200 in U.S. dollars. This is called an “exchange rate”.

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