World Trade War: Good for the Enviroment?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 10/08/2018 06:27:00 PM
Is Trump's trade war going to save the Earth? It depends...
It's generally recognized that carbon emissions dropped off during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09, making tanking the world economy "good for the environment." With some predicting even direr outcomes than the aftermath of the "beggar-thy-neighbor" 1930s as the United States has commenced slapping tariffs on its trade partners, who are retaliating in return, there is no telling how much worse things can get if this back-and-forth process continues unabated. Who knows? The end result could be a reduction in global economic activity even greater in percentage terms than what transpired during the global financial crisis.

In the meantime, though, the Sierra Club is warning that Trump's actions against the PRC are causing dislocations in environmentally beneficial forms of trade on the negative side of the ledger:

Plastic and cardboard recycling: For some time, China has been tightening up it standards on what raw material it will accept from the United States for recycling. The trade war has exacerbated this situation, with China planning to levy a 25 percent charge on corrugated cardboard, paper, scrap plastic, and other materials...

E-bikes: On August 23, the United States started charging 25 percent tariffs on electric bicycles and cycling computers from China. These include e-models from popular brands like Trek, Giant, and Pedego. The move could significantly slow the otherwise rapidly growing e-bike market that has been growing by double-digit numbers in recent years...

Teslas in China: The only U.S.-made electric vehicle sold in China is the Tesla, and it just got a lot more expensive for consumers there to buy. The price of a Model S in China just went up by 20 percent...

Water pollution: An unexpected environmental effect of a drop in soybean production [because of lost sales to China], according to a study by the Northeast Midwest Institute, could be increased nitrate pollution of drinking water sources. Nitrates enter the soil primarily as a result of fertilizers used on corn, but many farmers cycle it by also planting soybeans, which absorb the nitrates. No soybeans to absorb the nitrates, though, means more nitrate runoff into rivers and streams...

Expensive solar panels: In January, even before the trade war really got going, the Trump administration imposed a 30 percent tariff on Chinese solar panels. That was followed in June by an additional 25 percent levy. The effect has not been enormous, given that many U.S. solar installers saw the writing on the wall and stockpiled cheap units in advance of the trade spat...
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It's not a fun thought, but is a worldwide economic slowdown even worse than the global financial crisis what we should hope in an age of Trump when the United States doesn't even acknowledge the existence of man-made climate change?

Sinopec's Shame is Caving In to Trump on Iran

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 10/03/2018 08:36:00 PM
Hey Sinopec, maybe your new slogan should be "Trump Threatens, Cower in Fear."
I almost forgot about this one: Sometime ago, I lauded China for stating that it would not stop buying crude oil from Iran despite the Trump administration's re-imposition of sanctions. These come despite Iran living up to its commitments under the Obama-era agreement JCPOA (which Trump unilaterally pulled the United States out of). Apparently, I had spoken too soon. Fast-forward a couple of months and, lo and behold, China's state-owned energy giant Sinopec has cut back on its Iran purchases by half ahead of a forthcoming tightening of American sanctions:
China’s Sinopec Corp is halving loadings of crude oil from Iran this month, as the state refiner comes under intense pressure from Washington to comply with a U.S. ban on Iranian oil from November, said people with knowledge of the matter.

The sources did not specify volumes, but based on the prevailing supply contract between the top Chinese refiner and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), its loadings would be reduced to about 130,000 barrels per day (bpd).
Where did I go wrong in thinking that Beijing would live up to its word by not constraining its state-owned firm from purchasing from Iran? As it turns out, while Sinopec certainly does not conduct much energy-related trade with the United States, its shares are traded as an American depositary receipt (ADR) Stateside. That is, if it does not want to curtail this US-based capital-raising source, then it has to comply with American laws:
This would be 20 percent of China’s average daily imports from Iran in 2017, dealing a blow to Tehran, which has counted its top oil client to maintain imports while European and other Asian buyers wind down purchases to avoid U.S. sanctions.

 The cut marks Sinopec’s deepest reduction in years as the Hong Kong and New York-listed state oil company faces direct pressure from a U.S administration determined to choke off the flow of petrodollars to the Islamic Republic.sin
It makes me wonder: If China's bluster about standing up to American bullying rings hollows on importing Iranian oil, will it also be the case with Trump imposing tariffs on more and more Chinese exports? Sinopec was rather lame; will Chinese leadership also be chicken out when threatened with ever-growing lists of goods hit with import taxes?

Trump's Plan to Supersize US Trade Deficit, Pt. II

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 9/27/2018 05:51:00 PM
Up, up and away: the incredible exploding US trade deficit.
Contrary to his rhetoric, I noted some posts ago that Trump is actually doing all he can to widen the US trade deficit. The last GDP report for the second quarter for 2018 was artificially boosted by Americans trying to beat the imposition of tariffs on goods imported by China. However, we have passed that point. Now that tariffs are already beginning to be imposed, American importers no longer have the impetus to "beat" some tariff imposition deadline. Voila, today's trade deficit that was far larger than anticipated $-75.8B instead of $-70.8B--though humbly not be me.

So, what will drive the United States' trade balance in the age of trade war are likely two: First, American exports are being hit abroad by other countries' retaliatory tariffs on American goods. This is particularly the case with soybeans and other agricultural exports now being taxed more by the Chinese. Second, American imports continue to climb, demonstrating the ineffectiveness of tariffs in "reducing" trade deficits when domestic saving shortfalls are not addressed. If not China, then there are several other countries willing and able to supply America's fix of imported goods since the United States still needs to plug its current account deficit somehow.
The merchandise-trade deficit unexpectedly grew in August to $75.8 billion, the widest in six months, as exports of food, industrial supplies and autos declined, Commerce Department data showed Thursday. 

While analysts said the trade deficit partly reflected an expected drop in soybean exports following a second-quarter surge ahead of Chinese-imposed tariffs [...], the numbers illustrate how the trade war is spurring volatility in the data. In addition, the widening deficit runs contrary to Trump’s aim of a narrower gap and underscores the challenges of achieving that goal amid strong domestic demand -- which tends to boost imports -- and retaliatory tariffs from abroad.

“The data are grim,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics Ltd., said in a note, referring to the August goods trade gap. “The administration’s narrative, that the second-quarter drop in the deficit was a result of their trade policies, has now fallen apart, as it was always likely to do.”
The bottom line is this: the Q2 GDP growth figure was artifactual, boosted as it was by American buyers stocking up on China-made goods ahead of tariffs being applied. Now that that tomfoolery is done with, we are beginning to see what the trade war-era pattern will be like. The trade deficit will likely increase, not decrease, since the United States domestic saving shortfall still keeps growing (via Trump's tax cuts). That the US dollar is gaining strength only makes the trade deficit worse as it makes imports more attractive to Americans and exports less attractive to the United States' trading partners. 

Trade War Winner: PRC Leather Goods Counterfeiters

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 9/20/2018 03:51:00 PM
Trump [hearts] fakeries: of trade war and the rising attractiveness of counterfeits.
The folks over at the South China Morning Post have a long list of established and recognized Asian companies either benefiting or losing out from the escalating US-China trade war. However, it's not just these big names who we should consider when it comes to regional winners and losers from Trump's trade machinations. The Washington Post notes that, actually, PRC counterfeiters may stand to benefit from the ongoing tiff.

How might this be so? Those trading in legitimate leather goods will invariably register with US customs authorities and be hit by Trump's forthcoming 10% tariffs. On the other hand, the fakers will continue to try to sneak in their goods Stateside, further widening their price advantage over legitimate items:
Knockoffs of famous brands - Coach, Kate Spade and others - are mostly made in China and arrive at US shores through clandestine channels built to dodge authorities. The authentic purses and their components, also made in China, are shipped through official routes and would face Trump's proposed new duties of 10 per cent effective next Monday.

This all stacks up in favour of the counterfeit labels at every step of their illicit journey: from factory floors in China to street vendors in cities worldwide.
It's not that purveyors of genuine articles don't understand what's likely to happen; it's that Trump is too obstinate to care. End result? A possible windfall for counterfeiters;
The next wave of tariffs target another US$200 billion in Chinese imports, including handbags, leather and silk. This prospect alarms both American fashion designers and global authorities, because US firms already lose billions each year to counterfeiters. Officials also link knockoff sales to organised crime groups that exploit child labour.

"A tariff on a genuine bag is a subsidy for a fake," said Susan Scafidi, a New York fashion lawyer focused on intellectual property.

The global counterfeit trade for all items, from purses to electronics to software, is worth US$461 billion, according to the latest estimate by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. That is more than the global drug trade. And more than 85 per cent of the handbag replicas originate in mainland China and Hong Kong. A fifth of counterfeit busts worldwide involve American brands.
The end result is that trading in shady enterprises is made more attractive relative to earning an honest living. But then again, isn't that Trump's life story in a nutshell?

Yakety-Yak: Mnunchin the Useless Trade Negotiatior

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 9/14/2018 04:41:00 PM
He only acts like the money man when he's actually very impotent in talking with the Chinese about trade wars.
Imagine having a boss who contradicts nearly everything you do that's of importance. Apparently, that's what's happening with White House senior officials in the Trump administration. Just when they think they've got a handle on things, their boss then contradicts them, setting back whatever they've been working on by days, weeks or months.

In this vein, have some sympathy for one Steven Mnuchin. Supposedly the Treasury secretary, whatever that person does (if anything) in the age of Trump, he's been thwarted at nearly turn in trying to fend off Trump's protectionist instincts. After (rather gullible) markets rallied on the back of news that the US would negotiate with China prior to another $200B of PRC imports being taxed, Trump "corrected" Mnuchin once more:
The day after financial markets around the world cheered the apparent good news that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was inviting his Chinese counterparts to sit down for further high-level negotiations, President Donald Trump undermined that very idea. “We are under no pressure to make a deal with China, they are under pressure to make a deal with us,” Trump said on Twitter on Thursday. “Our markets are surging, theirs are collapsing. We will soon be taking in Billions in Tariffs & making products at home. If we meet, we meet?”
The upshot of all this is that whomever these administration lackeys Trump sends out, their counterparts have little faith in since Trump would just contradict his own people anyway. Ditto for Mnuchin in the upcoming negotiations which are unlikely to yield any tangible positive results:
The move marked just the latest instance of Trump undercutting one of his senior China deal-makers in public and illustrates why Beijing has become increasingly frustrated with its interactions with the U.S. administration. It also comes as Trump has repeatedly signaled his desire to continue raising pressure on Beijing and is considering the details of new tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports or even more.
So even if Mnuchin or even Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross are regarded as (somewhat) more pleasant people to talk to than Trump, it doesn't matter anyway because whatever the Chinese think they've agreed to will not be honored by Trump. That is, they are lame emissaries who do not have Trump's ear:
After last year’s Mar-a-Lago summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was given the task of negotiating a 100-day deal with China intended to be the first building block in a bigger deal.

Ross and his team, however, were quickly criticized for being too obsequious to the Chinese, especially after he hailed a reheated series of commitments by Beijing as a "Herculean" victory for the president. Since then, the commitments Ross has brought home to Trump have repeatedly been rejected by the president.

Likewise, just days after hosting Liu He, Xi’s top economic emissary, in the Oval Office in May, Trump made a very public U-turn by declaring that he would be proceeding with tariffs despite Mnuchin’s declaration that the trade war was “on hold.” The result has left Mnuchin discredited with Beijing as an interlocutor, according to people who have met with senior Chinese officials in recent weeks.
If Trump sends these same neutered folks out to meet the Chinese to discuss tamping down the trade war over and over, it really makes sense to believe nothing will happen. It's the equivalent of negotiating in bad faith since you know the outcome already--Trump will say "no deal." The trade war's proportions will just continue to grow and grow.

Get Out! Malaysia's Mahathir Spurns PRC Infrastructure

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 9/03/2018 04:58:00 PM
Behold, Mahathir's "hit list" of PRC-supported Malaysian infrastructure projects.
 A standard narrative you'll hear in developing countries is that China butters up their leaders by offering infrastructure development projects. These projects are usually funded by the Chinese extending loans without much regard for Westerner's usual concerns about good governance, human rights, or the rest of that white man's phooey.

Well, perhaps that's the story in most instances. Consider the nonagenarian Mahathir Mohamed regaining power in Malaysia. Politically speaking, he has every incentive in the world to disown the China-sourced mega-projects that disgraced former PM Najib Razak signed up for. The explanation for doing so on his part would be simple: Razak was corrupt. These projects with the Chinese were arranged via opaque means. Therefore, reducing corruption means discontinuing PRC projects in Malaysia.

Indeed, that appears to be Mahathir's line of argument nowadays as Chinese infrastructure deals come under fire from him:
But where Malaysia once led the pack in courting Chinese investment, it is now on the front edge of a new phenomenon: a pushback against Beijing as nations fear becoming overly indebted for projects that are neither viable nor necessary — except in their strategic value to China or use in propping up friendly strongmen.

At the end of a five-day visit in Beijing, Malaysia’s new leader, Mahathir Mohamad, said on Tuesday that he was halting two major Chinese-linked projects, worth more than $22 billion, amid accusations that his predecessor’s government knowingly signed bad deals with China to bail out a graft-plagued state investment fund and bankroll his continuing grip on power.

His message throughout his meetings with officials, and in public comments, has been unambiguous. “We do not want a situation where there is a new version of colonialism happening because poor countries are unable to compete with rich countries,” Mr. Mahathir said on Monday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing after meeting with Premier Li Keqiang.
What you have to remember is that, during the Eighties and Nineties, Mahathir was actually one of the Asian leaders at the forefront of welcoming China to participate in regional affairs. To counterbalance Western influence, "non-alignment" meant grooming alternative champions...like China. Fast-forward to the present time and you now have concerns that their engagement with the rest of the world--no longer just Asia--is too lopsided in their favor. That is, China has become too influential for its own good in using it to corrupt others:
Chinese infrastructure projects could be axed amid concerns over economic viability, suffocating debt (US$250 billion), transparency of the contracts and domestic political pressure. As a result, Malaysia, a top trading and investment partner of China, has surprisingly emerged as a new vortex of scepticism and resistance against Beijing’s growing influence in Southeast Asia.

Initially, many thought that Mahathir’s tough statements on Chinese investments were either election sloganeering to besmirch his China-friendly predecessor or part of a deliberate strategy to renegotiate large-scale infrastructure projects with Beijing for more favourable terms.

What’s becoming increasingly clear, however, is that Malaysia’s new government is revisiting the whole development blueprint of its predecessor and is intent on reconfiguring overall relations with China.
Mahathir appears to have left behind his PRC-accommodating days long behind after seeing the true costs of letting the PRC run rampant. They hardly show signs of being better than the Westerners that preceded them for all their talk about mutual development. Leave lackey-ism for gullible clowns like the Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte; Mahathir's done with that sycophancy act--or at least that's what he wishes to convey.

Having set the trend of sucking up to China, will Mahathir's budding apostasy signal a newer trend of quitting it?

Trump's Plan to Balloon the US Trade Deficit

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 8/29/2018 05:03:00 PM
Inside Trump's plan to blow up [and not send down] the US trade deficit to kingdom come.
Trump claims that his various trade wars--against Europe, Asia, North America, and pretty much everybody else--are intended to bring down the US trade deficit. While it's true that the US trade deficit is large, many have argued that it's not really the result of unfair trading practices of the United States' trade partners but rather the Americans' woeful lack of savings. At any rate, despite all Trump's huffing and puffing, the United States' trade deficit for July exploded upwards:
The Commerce Department said on Tuesday the goods trade gap surged 6.3 percent to $72.2 billion last month. Exports of goods dropped 1.7 percent to $140.0 billion, weighed down by a 6.7 percent plunge in shipments of food, feeds and beverages...

Last month, there were also decreases in exports of capital and consumer goods, though motor vehicle exports rose. Imports of goods increased 0.9 percent to $212.2 billion in July, boosted by imports of food, industrial supplies and capital goods. 
Why is it that the US trade deficit looks like ballooning instead of narrowing despite all the American demagoguery aimed at virtually all of its trading partners? Phil Levy at Forbes offers a succinct explanation as to why the Trump administration's actions are precisely the opposite of what you'd do to decrease the American trade deficit:
If there were a three-part plan to increase the trade deficit, the first part would attempt to boost investment in the United States while trimming national saving...The trick to expanding the trade deficit would be to make sure that federal budget deficits increase. Unless there is an offsetting move in other domestic saving, this should cut national saving. The combination of investment incentives and government dissaving would be a strong start toward growing the trade deficit.
You'd also verbally undermine others' economies, thus reducing their demand for imports from countries like the US:
The second part of the plan would be to undercut growth in major trading partner economies...the trick would be to instill doubt and foster economic turmoil in partners such as the European Union and China. If the United States could effectively destabilize those economies, U.S. exports should fall. If you pair that with rapid U.S. growth, it should also grow the U.S. trade deficit.
And, for the coup de grace, you'd engineer a currency crisis in other countries that drives up the value of the dollar relative to other currencies:
The third and final element would be to try and stoke a currency crisis of some sort. Perhaps find an emerging market that is teetering and see if you can push it over the edge. Not only will this directly affect trade with the target country – as its currency falls, its goods look cheaper for the United States to import and U.S. goods look more expensive for export.
By blasting China's economy as "weak" and stoking a holy war with predominantly Islamic Turkey over a detained American pastor that's driving the Turkish lira down, Trump and his minions are certainly doing all of these things. Don't be surprised, then, if the US trade deficit continues marching upwards since Trump certainly appears to be doing all these things designed to do so.

How Stormy Daniels Explains US Farmers' Fate

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 8/19/2018 06:55:00 PM
So much soy with nowhere to go; Stormy Daniels may explain their fate.
The Atlantic brought to my attention this very cogent explanation of what's happening to American farmers amid Trump's trade war, by way of alleged Trump paramour Stormy Daniels. It's a story of regret for an increasing number of them, although you get anecdotal reports that Trump is still popular among several misguided sorts. No matter; here's Iowan farmer Christopher Gibbs on his "buyer's remorse" in voting for Trump:
Let me be clear. I want to be supportive of the president and his policies. As a farmer, we voted for the president because he purported to represent a “can do, just get it done” attitude. That attitude is the core of farm folks. But the president’s trade war, now being supported by hush money to keep agriculture sedated, is a bridge too far for me. This week the president announced he is offering $12 billion of borrowed taxpayer monies to continue to “have farmer’s backs.” These dollars are nothing more than verification that the president’s protectionist’s trade policies are folly.

Let me tell you a riddle. “I slept with a billionaire because he said he loved me. I expected to make love, but in the morning I realized I was getting screwed. When I went to tell the world, I was offered cash to keep my mouth shut.” Who am I? No, I’m not a model or someone named Stormy. I’m the American farmer [my emphasis].
Gibbs then continues by contrasting the many years it took to establish overseas markets for corn and soybeans with the damage caused by Trump at the stoke of a pen when he decided to levy tariffs on Chinese goods, which the PRC then retaliated against by hitting America where it hurts most--in agriculture:
In the mid-1980s we were awash with over production in the corn and soybean sectors. Agriculture got busy, boarded planes, trains and automobiles and started building markets around the world, one handshake and one relationship at a time. We used our own funds through our check off dollars and trade associations to build markets in Mexico, Canada, Latin America and the Pacific Rim. And we didn’t stop there. In partnership with the U.S. taxpayers, we built an ethanol industry to ensure another renewable energy source for U.S. consumers.

The world markets, which the president is now tearing down in the name of fairness, were built and paid for by farmers to ensure agriculture had outlets for our production so we didn’t have to come to the American taxpayer for support.
What can I say? While a lot of what Trump campaigned on is a lot of hot air, you cannot exactly vote for someone on the premise that he will not do what he said he would do. China-bashing just happens to be at the top of the list. At the end of the day, you must bear the consequences of your actions however foolhardy, and voting for Trump is as close to  a crime against humanity as you can get at the ballot box.

Trump: Chinese Students in US are [PRC] Spies

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 8/14/2018 05:34:00 PM
Trump to Chinese students in America: You ain't nuthin' but PRC spies.
Donald Trump loves a conspiracy theory: Ted Cruz's dad was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese to make US manufacturing non-competitive. Ever so fond of bashing China in any way, shape or form, a recent gathering of executives from America's largest multinational corporations (and some Trump toadies besides) represented a reversion to Trump's mean. Instead of discussing ways to stop Trump's trade war--fat chance of that--they were instead subjected to another of his lunatic rantings:
The president entertained a group of 15 CEOs and senior White House staff at a dinner in the middle of his annual working vacation. The dinner was billed as “an opportunity for the president to hear how the economy is doing ... and what their priorities and thoughts are for the year ahead...”

At one point during the dinner, Trump noted of an unnamed country that the attendee said was clearly China, “almost every student that comes over to this country is a spy.”
Unsurprisingly, the United Chinese Americans (UCA) are up in arms over Trump's racist characterizations. Not that Trump is the only white guy in government insulting Chinese students...
The United Chinese Americans (UCA), a leading federation of Chinese American organizations across the country, is greatly disturbed by multiple news reports that, at a private dinner with corporate executives in New Jersey on August 7, President Donald Trump spoke in alarming terms about Chinese students studying in America as mostly spies for China... 

Recent reported remarks by President Trump, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Senator Marco Rubio, who has characterized persons of Chinese origin in the United States as a national security threat, are unjustified and deeply offensive. The United Chinese Americans calls on the White House to clarify the President's reported disparagement of Chinese students.

We also call on the Chinese American community and other Americans of conscience to contact the White House, their Members of Congress and their local news media outlets to protest these negative portrayals of Chinese students. And we call on all Americans to continue the fine American tradition of welcoming all international students and scholars to our shores.
Fat chance of that as well for as long as Trump perceives there is political capital to be made from characterizing Chinese students Stateside as spies. There may, however, be economic fallout from this latest bout of Trump's white supremacy. Insofar as Chinese students represent the largest group of international students, payback would be substantial if these students decided to go elsewhere:
There are more than 350,000 Chinese students studying at U.S. universities -- the largest group of international students by far -- and Chinese students earned about 10 percent of all doctorates awarded by American universities in 2016.

"Generations of foreign policy leaders agree that international students and scholars are one of America’s greatest foreign policy assets," Jill Welch, NAFSA's [National Association of Foreign Student Advisers] deputy executive director for public policy, said in a statement about what the president reportedly said. "Blanket generalizations about students from any country will undoubtedly make international students think twice before choosing the United States as their destination. If students, particularly from strategic regions around the world, no longer come here, America will lose the ability to build relationships with future leaders abroad and strengthen our own national security."

"Chinese students contribute $12 billion to the U.S. economy, alongside countless other benefits, so even a modest reduction in Chinese enrollment would be devastating, and virtually every community in America would feel the impact if Chinese students decided not to study in the United States," Welch added. "To make America more secure and welcoming to international students and scholars the president must avoid unwelcoming rhetoric and policies. We are already in a global competition for talent, and students around the world pay close attention to the policies and rhetoric emanating from the White House. In order to avoid a further chilling effect in the United States, it is incumbent upon policy leaders to act boldly and decisively to let students know that they are welcome here and that we value their contributions."
For someone presumably wanting to increase American exports, the idiot Trump probably doesn't realize that higher education is its sixth-largest service export, worth over $43 billion. Already, Trump is phasing in limits on those studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines over fears that the United States is giving away its competitive edge in these key areas of the future to Communist interlopers. I am 100% certain that discouraging its young people from studying in America is one of the actions that the Chinese government is considering should the US-China trade war get worse. At this rate, don't count such a possibility out by any means.

Trump Antagonizing Turkey is a Really Bad Idea

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 8/10/2018 05:51:00 PM
Perhaps someone should tell Trump of US bases in Turkey prosecuting the War on Terror.
Here we go again: some months ago, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt embargoed Qatar over its alleged support for terrorism. Qatar, after all, has comparatively cordial relations with the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah. There's also the matter of state-funded broadcaster Al Jazeera continuously blasting Qatar's neighbors over authoritarian rule when Qatar just happens to be an, er, absolute monarchy. What right did the network have to criticize the likes of Saudi and the Emirates?

Enter Trump. Ever so vainglorious, he suggested that the embargo against Qatar was a good idea, and that he encouraged leaders of some of these countries to isolate Qatar besides. Whether the ignoramus was aware that thousands of American troops "fighting terrorism" were stationed in Qatar or not, Trump had to backtrack on his Qatar-bashing a few days later:
But Qatar is also home to the Al Udeid Air Base, which hosts more than 10,000 American servicemen. The air base is the main regional center for air missions against ISIS.

Trump mentioned the base in a May 21 speech in Saudi Arabia, calling Qatar a "crucial strategic partner," but MSNBC reported Thursday that a source close to the President suggested that Trump was perhaps unaware that there were American troops stationed in the oil-rich nation.

"I think it is fair to say that if there is a crisis this would be the first time he was briefed on exactly where our bases are in the region," Nicole Wallace said.
At present, global financial markets for stocks, bonds and currencies are being roiled by Trump fighting Turkey over the release of some evangelical minister jailed over what appears to be a trumped-up charge. Adding fuel to the fire, he's just announced forthcoming additional tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum. What started the entire imbroglio were negotiations that broke off over the release of one Andrew Brunson, the pastor detained in Turkey. Likely to please his base of evangelical voters who overlook his enormous and ever-growing portfolio of seven deadly sins, Trump probably calculates that destroying the world's 19th most populous country is a small price to pay for a few more votes come election time Stateside. "Stick it to the "Mooslems"!" is probably the Trumpian rallying cry of them moment.

But, there's also the small, neglected detail that Turkey is a key part of the Western security equation in that part of the world:
It is unlikely that the United States and Turkey will resolve their differences anytime soon. But given Turkey’s geostrategic location—in the backyard of Russia, and bordering Iraq, Iran, and Syria—the United States has an interest in maintaining the relationship. Turkey, meanwhile, does not need to add to its economic woes. The hope, at this point, is that as both Erdogan and Trump play to their bases, they’ll refrain from actions that would be hard to walk back from without embarrassment to either leader’s large ego. Despite the shifts of recent decades, the United States and Turkey still need each other. And the temporary political benefits domestically probably don’t outweigh that.
While it is indeed true that Turkey under Erdogan is moving away from democracy and towards authoritarianism, so is the United States under Trump. Still, it's inadvisable that the American blowhard offend the Turkish blowhard enough as to blow up the postwar security arrangement underpinning NATO. That is, NATO has sought Turkey as a moderating force with regard to Muslims participating in regional security arrangements to counterbalance accusations of religious prejudice. Not that Erdogan is reserved in fanning such insinuations:
President Erdogan described the sanctions on his ministerial colleagues as a “Zionist Evangelist plot” and vowed to retaliate in kind by imposing sanctions on the American counterparts of the Turkish ministers.

Pro-government Turkish newspapers are baying for United States troops to be kicked out of Incirlik, a Turkish air base used in the fight against Islamic State militants and other critical missions, but the Turkish government has not moved in that direction yet.
Insofar as Trump's USA is really punishing Turkey without much enthusiasm from other NATO allies, this brouhaha may be another case of him blowing up long-established relations for the sake of (perceived domestic) electoral gains. But, who would NATO turn to if Turkey boots the US bases out of the country? Where would the Yanks go then? The answers aren't clear, and you do hope Trump is apprised of this potential complication should he continue to punish Turkey over perceived personal slights.

PRC Tells Yanquis to Shove It On Iran Oil Imports

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 8/05/2018 04:11:00 PM
Truly *independent* countries--from American influence, at least--are free to buy Iranian oil.
It's odd that Trump campaigned on American isolationism--withdrawing from misadventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, et cetera--and then to see his actions on Iran. Being the archetypal Stuck in the 80s sort of guy, Trump seems to have an odd fixation on bashing Iran. Famously leaving the agreement struck on Iranian compliance on limiting enriched nuclear materials in exchange for lifting sanctions, the United States wants to get its way when none of the other signatories to the JCPOA agreement have left it.

The oddity here is that the United States wants everyone else to follow through with re-implementing sanctions on Iran. If this isn't a prime example of playing "globocop" and busybodying in world politics, then I don't know what is. Given the commercial ties of countries like Western European ones with the United States, it's certainly difficult for them to ignore American pressure to stop buying Iranian fuel. For instance, the Germans may chafe at the neophyte US ambassador telling them to stop buying Iranian fuel, but they ultimately will have to comply lest they face American economic sanctions.

Thankfully, though, there is someone bucking the trend. What's more, it's a JCPOA signatory, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and now the largest buyer of Iranian oil. Yes, I am talking about China:
The U.S. has been unable to persuade China to cut Iranian oil imports, according to two officials familiar with the negotiations, dealing a blow to President Donald Trump’s efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic after his withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord...

Teams of U.S. officials have been visiting capitals around the world to try to choke off sales of Iranian oil by early November, when U.S. sanctions are due to snap back into effect. While the Trump administration has said it wants to cut Iranian oil exports to zero by Nov. 4, most analysts viewed that target as unlikely.

Francis Fannon, the assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Energy Resources, was recently in China to discuss sanctions, according to a State Department spokesperson. Unfazed, the administration has warned that even allies would face sanctions if they didn’t show “significant” progress in reducing Iranian oil purchases by Nov. 4, ruling out broad exemptions or waivers.
Instead of putting the brakes on its Iranian oil purchases, China has hit the gas instead. Sanctions, if applied, would not be against PRC entities with significant American trade. So, Yanquis pressuring the Chinese has been less effective:
China -- the world’s top crude buyer and Iran’s No. 1 customer -- has said previously that it opposed unilateral sanctions and lifted monthly oil imports from the country by 26 percent in July. It accounted for 35 percent the Iranian exports last month, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.
You can hardly expect the Chinese to become even more compliant / subservient to the United States on this matter given their ongoing trade war fisticuffs. I am not particularly fond of the Iranian leadership's blowhard stances just as I am not of Trump's. However, I do think it unfair to punish Iran's government for living up to JCPOA's commitments. Obviously, the wealthiest country in the world bullying a developing country trying to play by the rules doesn't strike me as an exemplary event, even if Iran's leadership certainly has many foibles.

But then again, what can we say about American "leadership" that relishes separating refugee seekers' children from their parents and then throwing them into cages like cattle?

US 'Woos' Asia With Puny $113M Belt-Road Alternative

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 8/02/2018 04:25:00 PM
Yanks budget for, er, one pork dumpling at the global economic feast that is the Asian Century.
Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to visit Asia this week to shore up American support there. His previous trips involved going to North Korea to see Kim Jong-un, but now he's supposedly in our part of the world for maintaining diplomatic ties a la winning friends and influencing people. The trouble is, his boss didn't seem to budget all that much in brib...I mean, monetary inducements to stick with Washington and stick it to Beijing:
The US government is expanding its infrastructure drive in the Asia-Pacific region using new investment programmes amid rising anxiety in Washington about China’s aggressive overseas development policies. Announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday, the initiative follows concerns about the Trump administration’s commitment to engaging with countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

Pompeo will visit Southeast Asia from Wednesday to Sunday, when he is expected to announce funding plans for the region. Pompeo’s “Indo-Pacific Economic Vision” will increase the financial support that the US government provides to countries in the region through a proposed merged agency, the US International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC). Along with US$113 million in direct government investment, the plan would double the global spending cap for the development finance corporation to US$60 billion, which could be used to provide private companies with loans for projects overseas.

The move comes in response to China’s ambitious “Belt and Road Initiative” – a group of multibillion-dollar transport and power projects that Beijing has used to assert its influence in Asia and beyond – and is likely to fuel suspicions from Beijing.
You know, for a country projected to run trillion dollar plus ($1,000,000,000,000+) budget deficits into perpetuity, setting aside $112,000,000 is even smaller than a rounding error. Going by my calculations, it's even less than an hour's worth of American trillion dollar annual deficits. Yet, that's all the mighty United States of America has announced for helping gain the affections of the world's most populous continent. This puny effort is of course a charm counteroffensive to China's One Belt, One Road project. How much have the Chinese budgeted in direct outlays for that?
China is pledging more than $100 billion to finance projects under its "One Belt, One Road" strategy, an ambitious initiative to strengthen the world's second-largest economy's investment, influence and trade links to the rest of the globe.

"China will endeavor to build a win-win business partnership with other countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative," President Xi Jinping said in his opening speech at a two-day forum on the plan. "These efforts are designed to promote growth both in our respective regions and globally."
That's official PRC government spending, not loan guarantees for national firms or other cheat counts. While China's motives in promoting the Belt and Road initiative are certainly questionable, you do have to wonder how muck influence 1/884th China's commitment will have in encouraging Asian nations to take America's side over China's. You also have to question whether the United States, whose own infrastructure merits a near-failing mark from civil engineers, has much to offer in this respect relative to China with its gleaming airports, expansive and smooth highways, etc.

I've heard about hegemony on the cheap, but what Trump and Pompeo have to offer is beyond laughable--especially after you factor in the tens of billions of damage the US is doing to regional economies via trade war.

Trade War Winners: Logistics Firms Helping Flee PRC

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 7/31/2018 03:46:00 PM
Deserting PRC factories in the trade war era? Asian logistics companies are here to help...for a nominal fee.
With assorted China-made, US-bound manufactures being hit with 25% tariffs, some firms have responded by moving their factories out of the PRC to elsewhere in Asia. From an efficiency standpoint, I am ambivalent about this phenomenon. On one hand, there may be some wastage in leaving already-established production facilities--especially if the end result is resettling elsewhere where it's not necessarily more efficient simply to avoid the aforementioned tariffs. (Yes, that's trade diversion.) On the other hand, the move may hasten the inevitable. That is, mainland China is no longer the lowest-cost production location for labor-intensive goods, so Trump's tariffs could simply be the last straw in forcing a (sensible) decision to move.

Regardless, there is a clear beneficiary of all this movement of production facilities out of China: Asian logistics firms. Hong Kong's South China Morning Post cites Kerry Logistics, owned by Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok:
Kerry Logistics Network, a Hong Kong-listed firm owned by Robert Kuok, Malaysia’s wealthiest man, has become a beneficiary of the ongoing trade war between the world’s two largest economies, as customers shift part of their production lines from mainland China to such destinations as northern Malaysia’s Penang to skirt US tariffs.

“Our clients have been shifting part of their production lines as early as March from China to other Asian countries where they already have manufacturing plants,” said the logistics company’s managing director, William Ma Wing-kai.

The Sino-US trade war has been forcing Kerry’s clients to shift their production towards the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), or to ship finished goods to the Americas to avoid the increased tariffs. Either way would increase shipping volumes, Ma said. “This is a reallocation of global production bases,” Ma said during an interview with the South China Morning Post.
The net beneficiary of all this movement, geography-wise, could be lower-cost, investor-friendly Southeast Asian destinations:
The ongoing shift of production bases will lead to trade growth in Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos starting in the second half of this year, Ma said, a trend that will last for many years to come. “Our business in China may be affected a bit, but business in Asia is rising,” he said.


Asininity is Believing the *EU* Will Buy More US LNG

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 7/29/2018 05:00:00 PM
Actually, European countries are not among the most profitable destinations for American LNG.
Ho-hum, here we go again. After the supposedly triumphal meeting between Trump and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, The Orange One loudly exclaimed that Europeans would buy lots more natural gas in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Recall that LNG is the product of, well, liquefying natural gas for the purposes of transporting it over long distances--usually overseas--when pipelines are physically or economically unfeasible to build.

That said, there are additional costs incurred by both sellers and buyers in handling gas-to-liquid and liquid-to-gas conversions, respectively. Therein lies the rub this time: given current efficiencies, it doesn't make much economic sense for Europeans to buy American LNG. Let's begin with the (sadly) expected Trumpian hyperbole:
President Donald Trump’s plan for “vast amounts” of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be sold to the European Union after trade talks with its top representative faces a reality test...“European Union representatives told me that they would start buying soybeans from our great farmers immediately. Also, they will be buying vast amounts of LNG!,” Trump wrote in a Tweet.
But alas, such is not the case. Given the greater distances involved, European destinations are not quite economically viable for trade in LNG. Locations near Western Europe cost lower given advantages of geographic proximity and a cheaper way of transporting natural gas--through pipelines that do not require conversion of gas into liquid form and back again; e.g., Trump's favorite Russian pipelines:
It appeared that a major LNG deal between the trading partners had been struck. 

In reality, three-quarters of Europe’s existing import facilities lie empty while demand for U.S. LNG on the continent remains limited. The most lucrative markets for U.S. LNG are in South and Central America, India and the Far East, with Europe near the bottom of the pile given its relatively low prices and ample supplies of gas via pipelines from Russia and Norway.
We come around to the same issue concerning the similar Trump-Juncker "agreement" with soybeans discussed in an earlier post. The last time I checked, the European Union was composed of 28 (soon 27) sovereign nations that don't take orders on where to buy energy from, least of all the European Commission. Short of EC subsidies, market access to American LNG is already as good as it gets since tariffs on LNG are essentially zero:
“Will U.S. LNG reach Europe? Yes, but only if there is an arbitrage opportunity that makes sense,” he said. Politicians have little sway over this. The EU applies zero tariffs on U.S. LNG imports, so cutting them is not an option to boost trade in any future U.S.-EU talks.
The EU-28 are not command economies like China where you can rely on an apparatchik to make state-owned firms buy US LNG if agreed to. So, even European gas projects in America may find it more economically feasible to sell to nearby markets given the aforementioned costs that increase with distance:
A number of European companies have already announced plans to buy LNG from a new wave of planned U.S. projects. Portugal’s Galp, Italy’s Edison, Britain’s BP and Royal Dutch Shell are all lining up to lift LNG from Venture Global’s planned Calcasieu Pass project in Louisiana. But supply from these and other projects will not be ready for years and even then there is no guarantee it will come to Europe in meaningful quantities if more lucrative markets, such as China, emerge.
There. Another day, another Trumpian verbal vomit cleaned up. 

Idiocy is Believing the *EU* Will Buy More US Soy

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 7/26/2018 06:50:00 PM
Don't count on so-called Trump "friend" Jean-Claude Juncker to somehow get the EU to buy boatloads of American soy.
The stock market is not very smart: Late yesterday when it was announced that the US and EU had arrived at a temporary "ceasefire" on slapping additional tariffs on each other as they negotiate some nebulous trade deal--I hesitate from calling it an agreement--US stock markets rallied. However, there is significantly less than meets the eye here. Consider that most sensitive and vulnerable of products, the humble soybean.

Actually, there are no tariffs being applied to the foodstuff already, hence there is no way of securing additional EU market access or purchases short of subsidizing them. Moreover, the EU isn't China where one guy from the Communist Party can order his minions to buy as much soy as necessary to appease Trump if the Reds felt like doing so. Last I checked, it was made up of 28 (soon-to-be 27) independent countries. Anyway....
But a mere handshake agreement to send more soybeans across the Atlantic won't make up for a reduction in exports across the Pacific.

For starters, that's because the European Commission doesn't actually have authority over how many soybeans Europe imports. It doesn't procure soybeans for European markets and it doesn't tell European businesses where to buy their soybeans.

Of course, there are other ways that governments can encourage businesses within their borders to purchase materials from certain sources. Lowering trade barriers is one way to do it. If the Trump-Juncker agreement would lower European tariffs on American-grown soybeans, for example, that might do the trick of getting Europe to buy more American beans.

Except, well, the European Commission currently doesn't charge any tariffs on American soybeans. Which means European businesses already have access to all the American soybeans they would want. It's hard to see how—short of subsidizing demand across the pond—Juncker will follow through with his promise to have Europe buy more soybeans.
That brings me to another point unmentioned in the Reason blog post excerpted above: Most of the soybeans planted in the United States are genetically modified (GM). Think something on the order of 93%. While the US has been wanting to crack open the EU market for GM soy for the longest time, the EU has always been reluctant about doing so. Not only do they plant far less of the stuff--negligible quantities, really--European consumers generally disdain GM unlike the vast majority of indifferent American consumers. This case has been a long-running saga at the WTO. And because European consumers dislike GM foodstuffs, it's unsurprising EU regulations are quite stringent on their importation (e.g., labeling that these are indeed GM):
But soybeans intended for Chinese markets can’t necessarily be redirected to the European Union, which has stringent regulations on genetically modified foods.

According to a senior E.U. official, there have been no discussions about lifting those standards to purchase U.S. soybeans. The same official said that agricultural products were outside the talks between Juncker and Trump, directly contradicting comments from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who said Tuesday that “all agricultural products are something that will be discussed.”
It is thus highly unlikely that all these GM soybeans meant for the Chinese market will now find a place in GM-hating Europe. It may be good for show when Trump glad-handed European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, but it's really hard to see how the EU becomes a replacement for lost sales to China when (a) it already can buy as much American soy as it needs tariff-free and (b) GM foods like soy are shunned by consumers in Europe.

A Canadian Patriot's Guide to Boycotting America

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 7/24/2018 04:55:00 PM
I suppose those WWII-era posters still resonate during a trade war 73 years later.
You must be a real @#%hole to annoy the normally placid and reserved Canadians. However, Trump has apparently accomplished this feat by slapping tariffs on softwood lumber used for building homes as well as steel and aluminum. The equally mild-mannered Justin Trudeau has even been reserved "a special place in hell" by Trump's ultra-protectionist trade advisor, Peter "Death by China" Navarro. What's next, Death by Canada (when it doesn't even have a trade deficit with the "US)?

At any rate, bemusement over US hostility over some imagined slight has turned to real anger among Canadians, who are not usually prone to jingoism like their cousins to the South. Voila! We now have a patriot's guide to Making Canada Great Again by boycotting all things US-made in favor of locally-made goods.

Below are some of my favorites. Whiskey, anyone?
The Trudeau government has also chosen to tariff American-made whisky. This includes bourbon from Kentucky, the home state of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But fear not, for Canada has a rich history as a whisky maker since the rum-running days of the Prohibition era. Put down the Jim Beam and try J.P. Wiser’s Deluxe, a rye distilled in Windsor, Ont. The brand is owned by Corby Spirit and Wine, a Canadian firm listed on the TSX. And don’t forget Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye. The distiller might be owned by a British multinational, but the whisky’s made in Gimli, Man., and was named 2015’s best whisky in the world.
Maybe you need your daily dose of orange juice? Fear not as tariffs have made American multinationals source more of the stuff locally:
The tariffs also affect Florida, known for being an orange juice producer and a volatile swing state. But with Minute Maid manufactured in Peterborough, Ont., you can get your OJ domestically and stick it to the sunshine state. Expect to see more products coming from the Peterborough beverage plant—its owner, the definitively American Coca-Cola Company, just announced an $85-million investment in the facility.
Dumping US purchases of toilet paper? There's a lot of that stuff made in Canada, anyway:
It’s another tariff targeted at Pennsylvania. Kimberly-Clark operates a paper mill in Chester, Pa., producing Scott toilet paper. Charmin toilet paper also comes from the Keystone state, as Procter & Gamble has a plant in the town of Mehoopany. Thankfully, these aren’t your only options. Cascades, a Quebec-based tissue paper manufacturer, has several plants in La Belle Province as well as in the Greater Toronto Area. In addition, Kruger Products has plants in Quebec, B.C. and Ontario that manufacture Purex, Scotties and Cashmere.
What Trump forgets is that there are plenty of locally-sourced goods in the countries he slaps tariffs on to retaliate with by buying domestically.   

Tariff-Loving Whirlpool Suffers From...Tariffs

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 7/24/2018 04:36:00 PM
Whirlpool's tariff-loving geniuses are now having a hard time dealing with, er, tariffs draining away their profits.
Just today, the uber-protectionist Trump tweeted about his enduring love for taxes on imported goods. Which, of course, is a rather contradictory thing to do for someone purportedly wishing to minimize government intrusion on people's lives. That's not to say he had his supporters. Take the case of Whirlpool. Apparently unable to compete with foreign appliances, it successfully petitioned the government to hit imported washing with tariffs.

I suppose this story would be happier for Whirlpool had the Trump administration stopped there. However, it also hit imported steel with stiff 25% tariffs (and another 10% on aluminum). Apparently, Whirlpool didn't prepare for those tariffs on raw materials since it's now taking a large financial hit largely due to its increased manufacturing costs:
"Tariffs are the greatest!" President Donald Trump said on Twitter Tuesday morning. Whirlpool used to agree. In January, when Trump announced tariffs on imported washing machines, CEO Marc Bitzer told analysts, "This is, without any doubt, a positive catalyst for Whirlpool."

But the Trump administration didn't stop there. It imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, sending raw material prices skyrocketing. Steel prices in the United States are 60% higher than the rest of the world, Bitzer told analysts on Tuesday. That has raised costs for Whirlpool by $350 million and squeezed its profit margins. Now Whirlpool is backtracking on its protectionist cheerleading. he company on Monday slashed its profit outlook for 2018 in part due to a "very challenging cost environment."

Whirlpool's (WHR) stock tanked 12% on Tuesday after it missed Wall Street's expectations. "The global steel costs have risen substantially, and in particular, in the US, they have reached unexplainable levels," Bitzer told analysts. "Uncertainty" around additional tariffs and global trade had disrupted Whirlpool's supply chain, he said.
Good job, Whirlpool. This episode perfectly illustrates the dangers with initiating trade war: where do they stop? One you go down that slippery slope, there's no telling how they will affect other business operations since you cannot expect Trump and his minions to do your bidding perfectly. It does serve them right, but American consumers would probably wish they'd never started down this road in the first place--especially those in the market for new washer/dryers.

All hail Trump and his "greatest" tariffs!

Trump’s New Anti-Immigrant Assault: Denaturalization

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 7/18/2018 05:19:00 PM
If Trump had his way...[insert Pink Floyd lyrics of choice here].
I am simply astounded that a person purportedly engaged in the hospitality industry is the most incredibly inhospitable and, well, misanthropic person imaginable. How would foreign would-be patrons of Trump's businesses respond to blatantly discriminatory rhetoric and policies against any and all unfortunate enough to be of the *wrong* color or creed? Are there enough white Christians to staff and patronize Trump-owned and -licensed properties? The hypocrite's enterprises apparently don't believe so as they keep trying to hire foreigners, arguing there aren't enough natives to get the job done [1, 2].

Well, no matter: If it doesn't affect him or his enterprises, anything goes. UT Austin Prof. Ruth Allen Wassem warns that Muslim bans and family separations apparently aren't enough punishment for being foreigners and/or coloreds. Now, Trump will attempt to denaturalize recent US citizens. By finding technical violations before they were naturalized, they will be stripped of their American citizenship:
A few weeks ago, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director L. Francis Cissna told The Associated Press that his agency is hiring dozens of attorneys to form a task force to review the records of people who have become U.S. citizens since 1990, in order to identify people who deliberately lied on their citizenship applications. “We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalizing people who should not have been naturalized in the first place,” Cissna told the AP.
The really galling things is that the bar is quite high to accumulate evidence sufficient for denaturalization. So, instead of using resources for more pressing matters, they're being used for an outright racist agenda despite the likelihood of limited "returns":
USCIS is going beyond the OIG’s recommended investigation of individuals identified in its report. It is unclear if the task force will again review all 17 million naturalization petitions approved from 1990 to 2016 (beyond those the OIG identified in its review), but he predicted that several thousand cases likely will be referred for denaturalization. Rather than requesting money for this task force, USCIS will reallocate funds from immigration application fee account, which is likely to slow the processing time for legitimate immigration and naturalization petitions.
The impression made is this: just as immigrants are less human in this administration's eyes, so are recently naturalized Americans (or so-called Americans from their perspective):
By going above and beyond the OIG report, the Trump administration is sending a clear signal to all naturalized citizens: They are under review and vulnerable. I have encountered citizens who fear that their use of a fake ID years ago may prompt denaturalization proceedings. This initiative fits into the Trump administration paradigm that views immigrants as criminals. Most disturbing, this initiative has a chilling effect on civic engagement.

France & Belgium: Football's Cases for Migration?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 7/15/2018 06:37:00 PM
Why can't the non-footballing talents of Belgium and France be spotted and nurtured too? That is the question.
Apologies for the light posting over the past few days. Like most of you probably, I've been following the World Cup rather too closely to have time to post. However, with the tournament over as I write--France has won and Belgium finished third--there is actually an IPE angle here. (Even fourth-place UK deserves mention here.)  Bloomberg op-ed writer Leonid Bershidsky penned an interesting commentary from a few days back asking whether immigration's case is bolstered by multicultural French and Belgian teams. Indeed, these teams are more diverse than the general populations of these nations:
France’s starting lineup in Tuesday’s semifinal against Belgium contained five players born overseas or to immigrant parents: Cameroonian-born Samuel Umtiti; N’Golo Kante, whose parents came from Mali; son of Guinean parents Paul Pogba; Kylian Mbappe, whose father is Cameroonian and mother Algerian; and Blaise Matuidi, son of an Angolan father and a Congolese mother. That’s 45 percent of the starting 11. Non-European Union immigrants and their children make up only 13.5 percent of France’s population, according to Eurostat.

Belgium’s starting 11 also had five players of immigrant background: Nacer Chadli, who started out playing for the Moroccan national team before he switched to Belgium; Marouane Fellaini, whose parents are also Moroccan; Vincent Kompany and Romelu Lukaku, whose fathers are Congolese; and Mousa Dembele, whose father is from Mali. Belgium’s population of first- and second-generation non-EU immigrants is 12 percent.
There is a meritocratic nature to footballing that you don't necessarily find in other walks of life in these nations:
In soccer, the son of a banker and a lawyer (that’s the background of French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris) is on an equal footing with someone like Lukaku, whose family couldn’t pay its electricity bills for weeks at a time and whose mother had to water down his milk to make it last longer. Or like Sterling, whose mother cleaned hotel rooms to put herself through school.
Therein lies the rub: Unlike their footballing counterparts, migrants haven't done as spectacularly well as these footballing stars without as established infrastructure for spotting and developing talent:
The odds are stacked against kids with the same background as the world-class soccer players in a number of important ways. Statistics show a higher percentage of second-generation immigrants than native-born people go to college in France and the U.K. (though not in Belgium) — but, according to a 2017 report from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, an overwhelming majority of young people with low educational attainment in all three countries are second-generation, non-EU immigrants.
Then again, why is it not the case that similar mechanisms for spotting and developing talent are not available in other endeavors?
There’s a lesson in this for the rest of society. Soccer’s support networks for talented kids can and should be replicated in other areas of endeavor. Some of the boys and girls growing up in no-hope areas today could be the Mbappes and Lukakus of tech, finance or the arts. The national teams, multicolored as they are, exist to remind governments, businesses and educational institutions that they just need to look harder.

So football does provide an example in how migrants can achieve outstanding success. However, the real challenge from a societal perspective is to make similar means for advancement available for other migrants and their offspring who are not as blessed with sporting skills. That would seal the case for migration.
Let's be timely here: Although the Ugly American Donald Trump did his best to insult the Europeans for welcoming migrants, I would venture these nations would much rather have their first- or second-generation footballing talents for company instead of the US-based racist-in-chief. Why not make migrants' contributions as evident in other areas to shut up people like him for good? If it can be done in football...

Does Trade War Slow PRC Global Ambitions?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 7/05/2018 08:39:00 PM
How much should Indonesia and others the Chinese are providing infrastructure to fear its ambitions in this trade war era?
Here's a thoughtful rejoinder to a previous post in which it was opined that the Chinese are lending to various infrastructure projects worldwide--with less regard to their borrowers' financial conditions or the viability of these projects--for as long as the PRC can ultimately benefit. So what if the borrowers can't repay? They might be able to obtain prime infrastructure on favorable terms in strategic locations when the fools default.

Or, is that cynical viewpoint not really how the Chinese go about things? Certainly they'd want to rebut such characterizations. Apropos for the times we find ourselves in, the eve of global trade war--US tariffs kick in on $34B worth of Chinese goods on Friday, July 6--may mean the Chinese need to scale back grand ambitions. Delusions of grandeur forestalled and all that...
The value of the deals that Chinese companies are striking under the country’s big global plan — called the Belt and Road Initiative — is smaller than a year ago, according to new data. Chinese officials themselves are sounding a cautious note, voicing worries that Chinese institutions need to be careful how much they lend under the program — and make sure their international borrowers can pay it back.

“Current international conditions are very uncertain, with lots of economic risks and large fluctuations for interest rates in newly emerged markets,” said Hu Xiaolian, the chairwoman of the Export-Import Bank of China, a state-controlled lender that plays a big role in financing the projects, at a forum this month in Shanghai. “Our enterprises and Belt and Road Initiative countries will face financing difficulties.”

China has begun a broad, interagency review of how many deals have already been done, on what financial terms and with which countries, say people close to Chinese economic policymaking, who asked to speak on the condition of anonymity because the effort has not been made public.
The gist of the argument here contains the following: (a) foreign expansionism may be curbed by difficulties at home brought on by Trump's global trade war; and (b) foreign partners do not have infinite patience with being exploited for China's gain:
Under the initiative, Chinese government-controlled lenders offer big chunks of money — usually through loans or financial guarantees — to other countries to build big infrastructure projects like highways, rail lines and power plants. That money often comes with the requirement that Chinese companies be heavily involved in the planning and construction, throwing them a lot of business.

But even with its financial firepower, China has its limits. Its economy is showing signs of slowing, and it is in the middle of a trade war with the United States. Beijing is struggling to tame domestic debt problems — problems an international lending spree certainly hasn’t helped. Too much overseas activity risks creating wasteful white elephants that can drag down Chinese companies and local partners alike.
Which version of events is correct, of the PRC as the new imperialists or that of co-suffering developing countries on the eve of trade war? As with most things, reality probably lies somewhere in between. However, I veer more toward the version described above in that the PRC needs to maintain the trust of other countries as it seeks to build up its international relations, and failed projects cannot always be redeemed by the Chinese if their foreign partners fold.