“Trade War with Canada: The Apex of Stupidity” by Jerry Haar

The Hill
June 8, 2018

 

Trade War with Canada: The Apex of Stupidity

Jerry Haar

Lamenting the unequal and contentious relationship between his country and the United States, the 19th-century Mexican president Porfirio Díaz remarked: “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.” Take out “Mexico” and insert “Canada,” and no doubt that you will be reading the mind of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today.

It is sad, infuriating and ironic that our closest friend and ally is the target of The Troublesome Trio of Trade Protectionism—Trump, Ross, and Navarro—in their quest to erase the U.S. trade deficit. The administration’s justification for their actions, citing Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, is “national security,” with allowable tariff increases aimed primarily at steel and aluminum imports from Canada. (Of course, Canada is as much a threat to our national security as Monaco, Zimbabwe, or Albania.)

If there is one nation that is the least deserving of the Trump administration’s protectionist wrath it is Canada.

The size, scope, and depth of the U.S.-Canada commercial relationship alone make a trade war with our northern neighbor the apex of stupidity. To begin with U.S. merchandise and services trade with Canada, our second largest trade partner after China, exceeded $675 billion in 2017 yielding a surplus—not a deficit—of over $8.5 billion. The U.S. exports more to Canada than to China, Japan, and the U.K. combined. Trade in services alone yielded a surplus of $26 billion, with the entire trade relationship producing over 2 million jobs for Americans (9 million if direct and indirect trade and investment jobs are counted). Moreover, jobs tied to trade with Canada are in sectors such as motor vehicles, machinery, electrical equipment, and plastics—all well-paying employment. And let’s not forget that Canada is the second largest investor in the U.S. after the U.K., with equity investments of over $453 billion.

The president whines about bad trade deals and unfair competition from other nations but seems oblivious to the fact that the U.S. is not a paragon of virtue in that regard. The U.S. maintains high tariffs on politically sensitive products such as peanuts, light trucks, wool sweaters, tuna and dairy products and subjects imports to tariffs that are higher than those of a number of other nations such as Japan, Canada, and Australia. At the same time the federal government provides scores of subsidies to the private sector on goods and services, especially on farm products such as sugar; employs non-tariff barriers; limits foreign bidding on government contracts; and restricts investment from abroad in certain sectors such as transportation, communications, defense, natural resources, and energy.

Our relationship with our northern neighbor transcends commerce. To decouple trade from our other relationships with Canada is naïve and foolhardy. Canada has been the most loyal of all U.S. allies. Defense and security relations between the two countries are longstanding, well-entrenched and highly successful Canada’s role in NATO, NORAD, the Global Coalition for Counter ISIL, and shedding blood and treasure in the war in Afghanistan, not to mention collaboration in the war on terrorism and transnational crime through sharing intelligence, along with border and law enforcement cooperation, make our neighbor to the north an indispensable partner. Could anyone blame Canada if it decides to pull back from such cooperative arrangements?

Almost 400,000 people and $2 billion worth of goods and services cross our border with Canada every day. As Steve Blank and I wrote in Making NAFTA Work twenty years ago, the North American business environment is one of continuous, dynamic integration of production, services, supply chains, talent and consumer markets. Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. all produce components, sub-assembly, and final assembly crossing borders multiple times to serve customers in all three markets. Over 67% of the components of a Ford Taurus assembled in Mexico are produced by American workers with the final product shipped to the U.S. and booked as a Mexican export to the U.S.

To attempt to cure a trade deficit by imposing tariffs did not work in 1933 with the Smith-Hawley Act (in fact, it prolonged the Depression) and will not work now. There are many reasons for trade deficits, not just unfair practices. Most common are an imbalance in a nation’s savings and investment rates, a bigger government budget deficit (due to more federal spending or a huge tax cut), and a growing economy that allows people to spend more on imported goods along with greater access to credit and lower credit rates which fuel consumption.

Prime Minister Trudeau has stated that in its trade war with the U.S. Canada will make its arguments based on “logic” and “common sense.” Those are two imports the Trump administration could desperately use.

Jerry Haar is a business professor at Florida International University and a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

Perspectives by Michael R. Czinkota on “Trump trade playbook: Growing uncertainty shifts US economic ties”

Trump administration’s trade strategy is shaking up the global economy. Quitting agreements, talks of new deals and tariffs threats. There is much to keep up with Washington’s changing economic policies.

CGTN’s Daniel Ryntjes reports.

The most recent fast-forming development is that Donald Trump has ordered a national security investigation into automotive imports. That may lead to new tariffs on vehicles from Europe, Japan, and South Korea. The Commerce Department, led by Secretary Wilbur Ross will look into cars, trucks and auto parts. He is using the national security provision in U.S. trade law known as Section 232 also being used in the steel and aluminum cases, which makes it harder to challenge at the World Trade Organization.

Dr. Derek Scissors, an economist, and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute said the administration is not geared up for central planning.

“I think parts of the administration are thinking strategically and other parts are thinking strategically in a different way and it adds up to no strategy,” Scissors said.

It’s a house divided. Peter Navarro is seen as the biggest trade hawk. He’s the Director of the White House National Trade Council and is in favor of direct and sustained confrontation.

Those with a more traditional approach to global trade include U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow.

Dr. Scissors adds that “the United States doesn’t seem to be sure what we are trying to accomplish. So the tactics of putting China or other countries off balance and that’s worked fine. But if you don’t know what you are trying to win, then you can’t win.”

For a broader perspective, the official responsible for threatening tariffs for the purpose of renegotiating trade under former U.S. President Ronald Reagan was Michael Czinkota, now an associate professor of international business and marketing at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. He thinks tariffs are good “as a tool for attention, for really thinking through, as long as you never use them.”

He thinks the current tariff threats are just that. “I would be amazed if there would be a broad blanket implementation of tariffs.”

The U.S. has continued to send out mixed signals, but the less hawkish in the administration have aligned with China’s statements about backing away from a ‘trade war’ following meetings in Washington with President Xi’s Special Envoy Vice-Premier Liu He. China said it has agreed to further open up its markets to U.S. agricultural products while negotiations continue.

Interview with China Global Television Network on Possible Outcomes for US-China Trade Deal

Here is my televised discussion with China Global Television Network’s Elaine Reyes on the possible outcomes for the US-China trade deal, following the agreement on Saturday. Enjoy!

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.

Free Trade Zones and Counterfeit Goods

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the Organization for Economic Co-opertaion and Development (OECD)’s recent report claims that free trade zones may be facilitating illegal activities, such as trade in counterfeit and pirated products, by providing good infrastructure with little oversight over its use.

Free Trade Zones (FTZs) encompass a broad range of activities, from tourism to retail sales. They typically represent duty-free customs areas, or offer benefits based on location, in a geographically limited space. Today, there are over 3,500 zones in 130 economies, collectively employing 66 million workers worldwide.

A number of benefits drive countries to embrace FTZs. In general, these areas increase a nation’s foreign exchange reserves and improve the balance of payments. On a local level, new supply chains increase business for domestic producers that sell inputs by zone-based firms. Finally, these areas provide jobs that bolster employment and, at least in developing countries, can lead to higher wages over time.

Apart from FTZ’s benefits to their host country at both a local and national level, there may also be economic exposure to criminal activities as a result of insufficient regulation. Research shows that the number of FTZs in an economy appears correlated with the value of exports of counterfeit and pirated products.

With less oversight, rogue actors are attracted to FTZs to engage in illegal and criminal trade. The OECD’s findings indicate that one additional FTZ within an economy increases counterfeiting by 5.9 percent on average. It also appears that FTZs tend to be overly permissive by letting companies get away with poor safety and health conditions. This limited oversight is particularly troubling when one considers the potential for exploitation in areas such as human trafficking.

The OECD and EUIPO both stress the need for future action to curb the misuse of FTZs. They recommend developing clear guidelines for countries to increase transparency and promote clean and fair trade in FTZs, based on the involvement of industry members and key stakeholder of the trade supply chain.

The organizations identify three areas for future analysis. The first is the measurement the role of FTZs in the trade of illicit and counterfeit goods. The next step requires a fuller quantitative analysis of counterfeit goods. Finally, further research needs to explore why counterfeit profiles differ from similar economies.

FTZs provide a number of advantages to economies, but without further regulation and research, they may induce heightened criminal activity. Both public and private actors must devise and apply strong deterrents to the establishment of criminal networks.

Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent. His key book (with Ilkka Ronkainen) is “International Marketing” (10th ed., CENGAGE).

Lisa Burgoa of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service contributed to this comment.