Trade War: Wall Street Titans Ditch US Farmers

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 8/19/2019 11:49:00 AM
Hey Trump, maybe you should berate Wall Street for not helping farmers in their time of (trade war) need
Here's another thing for Trump to tweet about: amid his trade war hysterics, he's somehow overlooked bellyaching about large Wall Street banking concerns getting rid of their agricultural loan portfolios as  quickly as possible. Just as the government is extending more financial supports to farmers--probably WTO illegal--so it probably will have to provide more loans as well as private lenders cower in fear:
[A]fter years of falling farm income and an intensifying U.S.-China trade war - JPMorgan and other Wall Street banks are heading for the exits, according to a Reuters analysis of the farm-loan holdings they reported to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The agricultural loan portfolios of the nation’s top 30 banks fell by $3.9 billion, to $18.3 billion, between their peak in December 2015 and March 2019, the analysis showed. That’s a 17.5% decline. 

Reuters identified the largest banks by their quarterly filings of loan performance metrics with the FDIC and grouped together banks owned by the same holding company. The banks were ranked by total assets in the first quarter of this year.

The retreat from agricultural lending by the nation’s biggest banks, which has not been previously reported, comes as shrinking cash flow is pushing some farmers to retire early and others to declare bankruptcy, according to farm economists, legal experts, and a review of hundreds of lawsuits filed in federal and state courts. 
Meanwhile, farm bankruptcy claims are going through the roof at the wrong time as commercial banks are increasingly unwilling to lend to this sector just as demand for loans to keep them afloat is increasing:
Chapter 12 federal court filings, a type of bankruptcy protection largely for small farmers, increased from 361 filings in 2014 to 498 in 2018, according to federal court records. “My phone is ringing constantly. It’s all farmers,” said Minneapolis-St. Paul area bankruptcy attorney Barbara May. “Their banks are calling in the loans and cutting them off.”

Surveys show demand for farm credit continues to grow, particularly among Midwest grain and soybean producers, said regulators at the Federal Reserve Banks of Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis and Kansas City. U.S. farmers rely on loans to buy or refinance land and to pay for operational expenses such as equipment, seeds and pesticides. Fewer loan options can threaten a farm’s survival, particularly in an era when farm incomes have been cut nearly in half since 2013.
The reason why commercial banks are ditching farmers en masse is easy to understand: they likely can't pay back their loans during these times of Trump-induced agricultural distress:

The noncurrent rates were far higher on the farm loans of some big Wall Street banks. Bank of America Corp’s noncurrent rate for farm loans at its FDIC-insured units has surged to 4.1% from 0.6% at the end of 2015. Meanwhile, the bank has cut the value of its farm-loan portfolio by about a quarter over the same period, from $3.32 billion to $2.47 billion, according to the most recent FDIC data.

Bank of America (BAC.N) declined to comment on the data or its lending decisions. For PNC Financial Services, the noncurrent rate was nearly 6% as of the end of March. It cut its farm-loan portfolio to $278.4 million, down from $317.3 million at the end of 2015. David Oppedahl, senior business economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said the banking community is increasingly aware of how many farmers are struggling. “They don’t want to be the ones caught holding bad loans,” he said.

As is usually the case, good job, Trumpie. It rightly serves those who voted mostly for Trump to experience the full brunt of trade wars which he promised. 

Trade Smackdown: Trump Vs. Santa

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 8/03/2019 07:46:00 PM
"You want toys this Christmas, junior? You'll get fewer of 'em if they're from China, kid!"
Until very recently, the Trump administration has taken care not to hit Chinese exports of consumer goods--especially electronics--with its assorted tariffs. Now, though, the gloves have fully come off as he announced that practically all remaining PRC imports would be hit by these import taxes. 10% tariffs, here we come. What's particularly interesting is the timing: Trump attributes it to China not buying more US agricultural products as had been agreed to as well as its inaction on controlling illicit fentanyl production destined for the US.

At any rate, hitting Chinese goods with tariffs--consumer goods most notably--is spectacularly bad timing from the perspective of Chinese manufacturers and American retailers gearing up for the Christmas season. The South China Morning Post sees it as nothing less than a "war on Christmas" declared by Trump:
Many of the goods on the fourth list of trade war tariffs are consumer products often given as Christmas gifts. Of the US$300 billion, mobile phones make up the largest portion at US$44.8 billion, followed by laptops at US$38.7 billion, toys at US$11.9 billion, and video game consoles at US$5.4 billion, according to US International Trade Commission figures.
“This time the list includes toys. So you might say the Trump Administration has now officially declared war on Christmas,” said Jock O’Connell, an international trade adviser to research firm Beacon Economics.
Can these parties beat the clock before the stipulated September? It will be a difficult act given logistic vagaries of seaborne freight. Plus, US retailers have already stocked up a lot with the trade war in mind, so additional storage capacity is harder to find:
With less than a month before the proposed deadline, the window to front-load – that is, dispatching shipments early to avoid the new tax – is narrow. It usually takes 17 days for sea shipments from China to reach the West Coast of the US and 27 days to New York on the East Coast.
“I shouldn’t think this move would result in a substantial surge in imports,” O’Connell added. “Even if your Chinese suppliers had goods on hand, you’d have only a couple of weeks at most to get them on a ship bound for a West Coast port.”

When the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) filed a notice of the previous increase in tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent in May, there was some relief for companies that could prove they had made their purchases before the tariff was announced.

Some hope that goods at sea before that cut off point could potentially be exempt from the new tariff, if a similar pattern is followed this time around, but this is unconfirmed. “There is definitely a short lead time,” said Jennifer Diaz, a lawyer at Diaz Trade Law in Miami. “We will see if customs uses September 1 as an export deadline like they have previously.”
Further complicating matters is the fact that US inventories and warehouses are already nearing capacity due to previous bouts of front-loading designed to beat earlier rounds of tariffs, particularly last year. US seaports are also in peak import season, with space already tight at many important hubs.
IF someone deserves a lump of coal in the world economy, it's Trump. For so long, the world operated on the understanding of export-led development by Asian nations to the United States, manily. If the old model no longer holds, what comes next? 

Raptors' Multicultural Canada, Antidote to Trump's US

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 6/16/2019 04:35:00 PM
The chances of a Sikh gent being the face of Trumpmerica: 0.00%. For multicultural Canada, it's already reality.
The white supremacist sympathies of Donald Trump have put paid to the idea that diversity is inevitable in the United States, as have any number of actions his administration or party are pushing: asking citizenship status in the census (which is a population and not a white person count); strategizing electoral victory through disenfranchisement of minorities, reducing all forms of legal and illegal immigration---you name it. For a country whose birthrate is below replacement, the inevitable consequence of continued Trumpism would be depopulation. "But hey! We may be depopulating, but we're a depopulating majority white country," rabid Trump fans would say.

As those who've watched the recent NBA Finals have seen, though, the Canadians have other ideas. Not only has the entire city of Toronto become a strong supporter of the multicultural Raptors, but the entire country. In other words, they are not quite Trump-like America (i.e., white people) firsters. The rainbow team is a microcosm of where Canada is headed, and the Canadians are not as disdainful of this general direction:
The team itself is celebrated for its own diversity, starting at the top with Masai Ujiri, the team’s widely respected president from Nigeria. There is player Pascal Siakam of Cameroon or Serge Ibaka, born in the Republic of Congo. And one might argue that as the lone NBA team from Canada, the vast majority of the players come from somewhere else – specifically south of the border – like Raptors star players Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles) and Kyle Lowry (Philadelphia).

Yet it’s the team’s fanbase, outside or inside the Scotiabank Arena, that illustrates the diversity of Toronto, where 51.5 percent of residents identified as a “visible minority” in the latest census – women like Claudette Gardiner, born in Jamaica, who is at the playoff game with her Canadian-born daughter Micaela Evans and who talks about the team’s plucky rise in Toronto.
The rise of basketball as a sport in a country dominated by ice hockey deserves mention as a reflection of demographic trends:
Marvin Ryder, who analyzes sports marketing as a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, expects the basketball buzz to grow, at least in urban centers. Canada’s newcomers gravitate to basketball and soccer, which are more accessible than ice hockey. This season the Raptors have given Canada a chance at a badly desired championship. As television crews pan the arena, he says, it shows the pulsing metropolis that is today Toronto and that many outsiders (specifically Americans, he says) haven’t understood. “It is a great way to showcase that Toronto is truly a city of the 21st century,” Professor Ryder says.
Importantly, maybe there is hope even for Trump's America. It was not always this way as even now famous Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia was no stranger to racism when he first arrived in Toronto:
It was not always that way, as Mr. Bhatia can attest. When he first arrived, as a trained mechanical engineer, he couldn't get a job in his field. Instead, he worked as a car salesman. He says at that time he was called far worse than a cab driver. “I never get upset; I do something positive to take away the negativity,” he says. For him that meant inviting underprivileged kids from all different religious and racial backgrounds to games, something he could afford as his own career grew from salesman to manager to successful car dealership owner today. “That is why today you will see here my community,” he says. “I use the game of basketball to bring the world together.”
Perhaps even Trump's America can change if Canadians have even if the latter are generally regarded worldwide as the more civilized North Americans.

UPDATE: See Kareem Abdul-Jabbar expounding on a similar theme in a new Guardian op-ed.

City of Londoners: PM Boris Johnson = Disaster

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 5/28/2019 12:59:00 PM
Some fat white guy with weird "blonde" hair: from the US to the UK, it brings disaster.
This is a no-brainer: when the likely next prime minister of the United kingdom has said "f--k business" when asked about Brexit's fallout on British commerce, businesspersons are going to be concerned. With the recent resignation of Theresa May from that post, and Boris Johnson (former London mayor) being the front-runner, denizens of the City of London are antsy. Will he be the kryptonite of the financial services industry that plays an outsized role in UK commerce?

Folks in the City are pessimistic on the arch-Brexiteer Johnson, to say the least:
More than 80% of respondents to an FN poll believe the former foreign secretary is the wrong person to replace May and will be bad news for the Square Mile Financiers in the City have expressed deep concern at the prospect of Boris Johnson replacing Theresa May at Number 10, fearing the former mayor of London’s appointment would be very detrimental to the Square Mile.

Executives have baulked at the possibility of Johnson becoming the next prime minister, expressing fears his appointment would increase the likelihood of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal and inflame the risks of a UK recession. According to a Financial News poll of 70 people working in the Square Mile, more than 80% said Johnson is the wrong person to replace May. A further 77% said his appointment would have a negative impact on the City.

“I can't think of a single good thing to say about Boris Johnson,” said one senior banker based in London. According to the latest betting odds, Johnson is the overwhelming favourite to become PM. William Hill, the bookmaker, is giving odds of 13/8 he will succeed, ahead of former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab at 4/1. May will quit as Conservative leader on June 7.
The forecasts are dire for a Johnson government despite it being seemingly hard to avoid installing the guy. You could say he's the sum of all Brexit fears:
Gina Miller, the fund manager and prominent anti-Brexit campaigner, told Financial News: “The qualities of honesty, integrity, strategic thinking, maturity, a work-ethic and acumen should all be the prerequisites of a leader. Boris possesses few of these.”

Executives are particularly troubled by the “f*ck business” comment Johnson was reported to have made in June last year when the then foreign secretary was asked about industry’s concerns over Brexit.

“Anyone who says ‘f*ck business’ is not good for the City,” said one director of a European bank. “A hard Brexit will be a disaster [for the Square Mile]. Just look at the sterling-dollar rate.” The chief executive of a London-based asset manager added: “Boris has done nothing to show he has any regard for the City.”

Big Biz: Helping Move Mfg Out of China

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 5/23/2019 04:03:00 PM
Trade war or not, manufacturing in the lowest-cost sectors will inevitably move out of China to places like Vietnam.
How do you make money in China nowadays...as an export-oriented concern? Yes, this is a trick question whose answer should be obvious from the post title. Firms that help manufacturing concerns move their production facilities to lower-cost locations in the aftermath of Trump's trade war is the obvious answer here. Notably, while rising costs in China have already become plenty evident--higher wages and more stringent labor and environmental regulations--the forthcoming declaration of total tariffication of all Chinese exports to the United States seems to be the last straw:
However, plenty of on the ground accounts suggest that factories are being downsized or closed completely, with firms moving to Vietnam, Taiwan, Cambodia, Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia. This is not solely due to the trade war, since the rising cost of labour and meeting environmental regulations in China have also led to companies seeking cheaper production hubs over recent years.

But the tariffs have accelerated the trend, and logistics companies with cross-border capability are milking the opportunities, moving the growing traffic of Chinese firms from China’s industrial heartlands and newly-built industrial parks in neighbouring countries.
“Since the second half of 2018, our company has helped 10 manufacturers – in sectors from jewellery, to electronics, to printing – relocate their entire plant. That is to say, these 10 enterprises have completely shifted and withdrawn from China,” said Eric Huang, who runs one of the leading logistics companies in Guangzhou, R&T Transportation.

“We have also helped at least 500 companies to transport their partial production lines, as well as raw materials and equipment, to their newly-built plants in Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand,” he said. As the trade war escalated in recent weeks, the pace of the exodus has sped up too. On May 10, Trump increased tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent.
And so ends China's turn as the factory to the world? At least it's status as the lowest-cost producer is certainly in question. Even if the trade war were to cease today, the transition to ever-lower cost locations will continue as China loses that status:
Even if the trade war were to end tomorrow, the logistics companies do not expect this trend to grind to a halt.

“We started logistics business between China and Southeast Asian countries in 2011, with about 30 million yuan (US$4.34 million) of annual turnover at the time. Our turnover was 150 million yuan in 2018. Though no one knows the final outcome of the trade war, the relocation trend is sure to increase. It is quite possible that the business will double to 300 million yuan this year,” Huang said.

How Gen. Franco Begat Spanish MotoGP Dominance

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 5/19/2019 06:07:00 PM
A long-dead dictator set into motion the dominance of sporting figures like Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo.
I've been paying more attention than usual to MotoGP, the top flight of motorcycle racing. Formerly, there were three classes--500cc, 250cc, and 125cc denoting different engine displacements. Eventually, these have been rebranded MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3, respectively. Regardless, even a casual viewer like myself will notice that a lot of the top riders and teams in these competitions are Spanish. How did this happen? As it turns out, there is a potentially interesting history behind it all.

One of the most fascinating interpretations comes care of Motor Sports Magazine. it writes that Spanish obsession with these two-wheeled vehicles can be traced to the military dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Shunned by the rest of the world, local bike industries emerged, with sporting events being organized around these manufacturing concerns:
To understand why Spaniards race motorcycles better than anyone, you need to go back decades, all the way to the 1960s, because this is a tale of politics, protectionism, industry, media money and balmy Mediterranean weather.

During the 1960s Spain was still under the heel of dictator General Franco. Since the end of the Second World War, the country had been a pariah to the rest of Europe, which had fought off fascism at a terrifying cost, while Franco blithely remained neutral.

Spain was therefore isolated, so Franco prescribed an economy of self-sufficiency and protectionism. The nascent Spanish motorcycle industry was one of many protected from outside competition, most importantly from Japan. Companies like Bultaco, Derbi, Montesa and Ossa were able to flourish – to an extent – by manufacturing cheap little two-strokes that helped mobilise the nation. Inevitably, locals started using these bikes in street races, organised in towns and cities across the country.
Even if the dictator is long dead, Spanish national competitions now serve as feeders for those aspiring to international competition in the various Moto racing series. Even other Europeans come to compete in Spain for this very reason:
This is where the Spanish have been particularly effective. They succeed at world level because they laid strong foundations at home by creating highly competitive national championships and then taking their best riders through international series and into Grands Prix.

[Major Spanish organizer] Dorna took a while to get a real grip on motorcycle racing. But it got there in the end. As a result Spain has become the global centre of bike racing. The country’s multiple championships – from tiny minimotos through to the larger categories – offers a ladder to the big time. So much so that ambitious riders from around the world quit their national championships and head to Spain.

To underline how things have changed since the 1970s, Kenny Roberts took his eldest son Kenny Jnr away from the US racing scene to contest Spain’s Ducados Open series. He went on to win the 500cc world title in 2000.
Perhaps it wasn't the intention, but Franco may have set Spanish motorcycle racing domination into motion all those years ago. 

Trump on LDCs: Give Shitholes Food Aid

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,,, at 5/13/2019 04:37:00 PM
Feed Shithole Countries Program [FSCP]--a forthcoming American "gift" to the world?
Sometime ago, precisely zero people were surprised when US President Donald Trump characterized what were understood to be poor, migrant-sending countries as "shitholes." Rising to political prominence on a false, racist claim--the Obama "birther" conspiracy--displaying such verbal animus was to be expected. More recently, though, Trump has been toying with the idea that all the agricultural products which would have been sold to China can instead be purchased by the US government and distributed to these "shithole" countries as food aid. This action is to be done to help farmers who voted by and large for this obese racist (who probably doesn't need more food anywaygoing by his portly physique).

Leaving aside the intent here--Trump does not have a charitable or well-meaning bone in his body (remember that his "foundation" was a scam that's since been shut down)--there are several salient points which suggest it will help neither American farmers nor citizens of poor countries if Trump's latest harebrained idea was to be implemented. Bloomberg explains.

First, this idea has already been tried before during the Carter administration, and it didn't quite work as planned:
In the 1980s, crops expanded just as the export ban caused Soviet Union countries to start buying grain elsewhere. At the time, growers could deliver supplies to the Commodity Credit Corporation below certain loan rates...

The purchases aren’t a “very effective” way to deal with overhang, “and that’s what the government eventually realized," said Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist at brokerage INTL FCStone Inc. “It does help support cash prices, but it limits rallies in the market because the market knows if it rallies too much, there are all those bushels still in the bin that will come out.”
Second, much of what China bought was not for human consumption but rather feed for livestock. What's more, LDCs are ill-positioned to receive a deluge of food anyway:
Aid programs are also too small. The U.S. government’s Food for Peace program usually buys and ships about $1.5 billion worth of goods a year to other countries. On top of that, the nations in need are usually seeking food-grade commodities, such as rice and wheat, said Joseph Glauber, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The vast majority of U.S. corn and soy production is for use in animal feed or biofuel.

Many poor countries may also not have the facilities needed to process soybeans, which can also yield cooking oil. Some countries may also be opposed to large amounts of aid because it could hurt their farmers.
Third, dumping government-subsidized foodstuffs in the developing world would constitute a flagrant violation of WTO rules specifically meant to protect poor countries' farmers from such dumping:
Trump’s move could also generate disputes in the World Trade Organization as the measures can be seen as market distorting. The aid could send prices lower, hurting countries like Brazil and Argentina, which are also major corn and soybean exporters. “You can’t just dump grain at concessional prices,” Glauber said. “That would constitute an export subsidy. That is something the WTO members agreed not to do.”
Memo to Trump: the developing world doesn't need your racism or your country's food aid. 

US-China Trade Negos: The 'Rashomon' Effect

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 5/09/2019 10:45:00 AM
This guy looks about as crazy as Trump, which is no mean feat. How Rashomon explains international economic diplomacy.
Blame in on Akira Kurosawa. The famed Japanese director's acclaimed film Rashomon featured the same event--a murder--as narrated by four different parties, to vastly different versions. Today, we have the same thing going on with trade negotiations that have been occurring between Chinese and American negotiators. The accounts are so vastly different that the rest of us aren't exactly sure whose version is accurate given that there is so little overlap. As the late film critic Roger Ebert keenly observed about Rashomon, there are four accounts offered, but no apparent solution. And so it is with the China-US trade negotiations. Let's begin with the more widely-publicized, American version of these events:
In a Reuters report published Wednesday and attributed principally to three U.S. government sources, the Chinese had been on the brink of an unconditional surrender before trying to wriggle out of it at the last minute. A nearly 150-page, seven-chapter draft had included binding legal language to change its legislation on intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers, competition policy, currency manipulation and access to financial services, Reuters reported, alongside an enforcement regime similar to those imposed on troublesome countries like North Korea and Iran. Beijing tried to reverse all that in a series of last-minute edits, according to the report.

That backs up an earlier report by Jenny Leonard, Saleha Mohsin and Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News citing people familiar with the matter saying that the Chinese went back on promises to include changes to its laws in the text of the deal.
In short, "the Chinese reneged" is the Yankee take on events. How about for the Chinese?
An article in the Wall Street Journal, sourced to “people familiar with the thinking of the Chinese side,”  had a vastly different read. President Donald Trump’s tweets about his friendship with President Xi Jinping; praise of China’s economic stimulus; criticism of the U.S. Federal Reserve; and positive statements about planned Chinese purchases of U.S. soybeans – all were taken as evidence that Washington’s resolve was weakening along with its economy, according to the report. Beijing never had any intention of specifying which laws it was prepared to change to get a deal over the finish line, and didn’t take seriously hints from the U.S. that time was running out, it said.

The Chinese, on the other hand, never explicitly said that they would revise their national laws to comply with the Americans' wishes in their version of events.
Having studied and taught some material on cross-cultural communication, could it all have been a case of mutual misunderstanding?
Still, the risks of such misinterpretation are a familiar hazard of diplomacy, especially in discussions between negotiators with different languages and cultural contexts, so it’s somewhat astonishing to see such a gap still yawning between the two sides after all the talking that’s been done over the past year.
Maybe there should be experts in cross-cultural communication participating in these sorts of high-stakes discussions? It's only the fate of the world economy that hangs in the balance, after all. 

Paris Plays for Brexit’s Refugees

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 5/02/2019 12:00:00 PM
Paris' main financial district is La Defense. Nowadays, they aren't defending themselves from English speakers, apparently.
 When it comes to bourgeois world leaders, they don't come much posher than French President Emmanuel Macron. A former investment banker, there were fears before he ran for the highest office in the land that he'd be an easy target for being out of touch with the common man. And so it has proven: for months and months, he's had to endure endless protests from the "yellow vest" movement.

Interestingly enough, though, Macron is still intent on luring more of those like him from London to Paris in the run-up to the UK's impending exit from the European Union. Those investment bankers need to go...somewhere else. But how about those who aren't masters of the (financial) universe, those unwashed masses filled with Gallic pride? Well, they could offer services for the plethora of ex-London investment bankers Macron envisions will decamp to Paris:
On floors 24 to 27 of the Europlaza tower in La Defense, on the outskirts of Paris, workers hammer away as they prepare the offices of the European Banking Authority, unperturbed by the twists and turns of the seemingly never-ending Brexit negotiations.

The regulator in charge of setting standards for European lenders and conducting bank stress tests will be fully operational from Paris with a 200-strong staff on June 3, ending its eight-year existence in London regardless of when exactly the U.K. leaves the European Union.

“We will continue operating as we did from London,” Executive Director Adam Farkas said in an interview. “Staff members enjoyed the offerings of London. I’m pretty sure they’ll find a way to enjoy Paris soon.”

Winning the bid to host the body was a coup for the French capital after it competed with Frankfurt, Dublin, Madrid and Amsterdam to be known as the EU’s financial epicenter. Now, the butchers, hairdressers and schools of Paris, like its government, are going all out to ensure Brexit-driven movers are made to feel at home, bringing imperceptible changes to life in a city that hasn’t always been seen as welcoming.
How serious are they? the culturally and linguistically more insular Parisian merchants are--good heavens--learning how to speak that accursed English:
Unlike the Germans and the Dutch, for example, the French have been reluctant speakers of English in spite of the country’s ranking among the world’s top tourist destinations. That’s changing.

Laurent Dumont and his wife Nathalie, who run their family butcher’s shop, Boucherie des ArĂȘnes, on rue Monge in the fancy 5th arrondissement of Paris, roll their tongues around unfamiliar-sounding English words these days to describe their offerings of Porc Noir de Bigorre or Boeuf de race Parthenaise.

“We have an increasing number of English-speaking clients,” said Nathalie. “They don’t even try to speak French; they launch straight away into English and we’ve had to adapt. There are two of us speaking English in the butcher shop, which is obviously a good thing.” She’s now working on boosting her employees’ English skills.

Florence Charlet, a 46-year-old hairdresser at Thomas C Coiffure in Paris’s fashionable 8th arrondissement, has a similar tale to tell. “We’re having to speak English more and more,” she said. “The last hairdresser I hired had to speak English—it’s a required skill.”
It reminds me of that time my mum visited a Lancel boutique with me in 1994. Back then, having English and Mandarin speakers was a novelty, but there were already a few of them even back then. Now, you see an encroachment into other aspects of French (or more accurately Parisian) commercial life not necessarily geared towards tourists but French-challenged residents.

Times have changed when the French finally relent on speaking English as a commercial necessity, but apparently you don't even need Macron to convince more than a few.

Make no mistake: the British are coming to Paris.

Why are US Firms Lame in 5G?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 4/22/2019 04:01:00 PM
By failing to conform to GSM--the global telecoms standard--the US fell well behind the leading edge..
Recent times have witnessed the United States trying to stop Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturers--most notably Huawei--from gaining market share abroad. The ostensible purpose is that the United States is concerned about Huawei and the rest accommodating Communist Party wishes to spy on other countries. If government buyers of this gear were to install Huawei gear, the explanation goes, it would make them vulnerable to Chinese spying that would hinder US intelligence cooperation.

But what American gear does the United States offer instead for those wanting to buy next-generation telecommunications equipment? Therein lies the rub: the United States does not have any vendor of gear that is as advanced as Huawei's. In 5G, the United States is arguably a laggard not because the government interfered too much but rather because it left the industry to its own devices, as the South China Morning Post explains:
How exactly did the US go from being the leader of modern telephony to also-ran within a matter of decades, allowing a Chinese company to become the 5G leader today?[...]

Experts and former US telecoms employees point to the confluence of several factors that ultimately led to the downfall of the industry, including its deregulation in 1996 and the lack of national mobile standards. Europe had already mandated the use of the GSM mobile network standard in 1987. US regulators, however, allowed carriers to go with whatever mobile standard they preferred. US carriers Verizon and Sprint chose to offer services using the CDMA mobile standard, developed by US firm Qualcomm – which operates on different frequencies to GSM, which AT&T and T-Mobile adopted.

Consumers who subscribed to a Verizon carrier, for example, would likely have to switch handsets if they wanted to change providers, as a device configured for CDMA might not run on a network supporting GSM. “In the US there were wireless networks like TDMA, CDMA and GSM, and any carrier could choose any of those if they thought that it would be best for their own growth plan … the US was like the Wild West,” said Thomas J. Lauria, a former AT&T employee, telecoms analyst as well as the author of the book The Fall of Telecom. “Europe managed itself more contiguously than the US, they did not have a lot of disparate networks and picked the [GSM] standard that everyone had to agree to.” 
The government not insisting on standards was made worse by industry deregulation encouraging the adoption of multiple standards without penalty. They did not think highly of the European GSM effort [which established standards for 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G and so on]:
The existence of multiple mobile standards in one market was further encouraged by the deregulation of the US industry under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, in which the US opened up the market, removing the monopoly that AT&T had on phone services and allowing smaller carriers to sprout. The entry of multiple service providers, all of whom were free to adopt different standards, was at the beginning viewed as beneficial for consumers and the industry as a whole. AT&T spun off its equipment division into what became known as Lucent Technologies, which thereafter listed on the New York Stock Exchange and raised US$3 billion in its initial public offering – then the largest ever in American history.

Lucent’s revenues grew rapidly by providing new entrants with networking equipment, and initially offered a variety of products compatible with different mobile standards, including CDMA, TDMA, GSM and AMPS. But multiple standards also meant that it was difficult to achieve economies of scale, so Lucent eventually bet on CDMA and UMTS – neither of which took off in Europe and most of Asia, costing it expansion opportunities in international markets.

“The US vendors were not convinced that GSM would become a global standard,” said Bengt Nordstrom, chief executive of Stockholm-based consultancy Northstream. “Instead, they supported all the technical standards in the US for their customers there. In many aspects, the era from the early 1990s to mid 2000s was lost time for the US mobile industry.” “From a US perspective and mentality, it is hard to understand why a technology not coming from the US should be better,” he added.
I have an issue with the pro-government intervention argument in that the US federal government could have insisted on a standard which ultimately lost out in the global market. Still, the episode does point out the downsides to allowing a fast-moving industry too much leeway in deregulating and tolerating the proliferation of incompatible standards. The end result is what we have today: Americans telling people not to buy Chinese 5G gear to which US-based companies offer no real alternatives.