Trump Supposedly [Hearts] an FTA...With Europe

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 4/24/2017 12:11:00 PM
Most nations have an inferiority complex relative to Germany. Why should the US be any different?
Has the maximally unpredictable Donald Trump, who you'd think sees any sort of multilateral FTA as a giveaway to foreigners (who steal jobs through unfair trade practices), changed his mind? Remember, this guy actually kept one of few campaign vows in extricating the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership enlargement negotiations. However, a brace of news reports now suggest that he is willing to negotiate an FTA...with the European Union.

Yes, that very same EU he encourages its members to leave from the UK to France he now wants his country to sign a trade deal with if reports are to be believed. The way the current story goes, Trump originally wanted an FTA with Germany during Chancellor Merkel's recent trip to Washington, DC. However, she rebuffed him by saying that any US-Germany deal must involve the whole EU. (Being an A1-ignoramus, Trump likely does not recognize that trade deals negotiations involving EU members have been assigned to the European Commission.) To this Trump supposedly said he will consider it.

What's more, Trump is said to be putting the EU next in the queue ahead of the UK European Union leavers:
A source close to the White House was quoted as saying that there had been a "realisation" in the Trump administration that a trade deal with the EU - allowing the tariff-free exchange of goods and services - was more important to U.S. interests than a post-Brexit deal with Britain.


"Ten times Trump asked her (Merkel) if he could negotiate a trade deal with Germany," the newspaper quoted a senior German politician as saying.

"Every time she replied, 'You can't do a trade deal with Germany, only the EU'," the politician said. "On the eleventh refusal, Trump finally got the message, 'Oh, we'll do a deal with Europe then.'"
Trump, who has repeatedly criticised the EU, had welcomed Britain's 2016 vote to leave the bloc and said he would work hard to get a quick bilateral trade deal done.
But wait, it gets more interesting. Chancellor Merkel is tacitly going along with this version of events by encouraging it to play out:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel fueled expectations of a future EU-U.S trade deal on Sunday, saying she was "very encouraged" talks were being looked at after her recent trip to Washington.
Merkel, speaking at the opening of the 70th annual Hannover Messe trade fair, said Germany was opposed to protectionism and trade barriers, and would continue to work for trade agreements like the one signed between the European Union and Canada.

"I also feel very encouraged by my visit to the United States that negotiations between the EU and the United States on a free trade agreement ... are also being looked at," she said.
The inconsistency is puzzling but not unexpected since this is Trump after all: Being the unabashed white supremacist that he is, Trump likely thinks Germany and other Europeans come from "superior" racial stock worthy of signing an FTA with instead of Asians. So Germany runs a huge trade surplus with the US, but hey, they can better be trusted since they aren't coloreds! Plus, Germany today with its strong manufacturing base and export machine is exactly the sort of country he wishes the United States was. Voila! As Dick Cheney would say, trade deficits don't matter in this case since enhanced German market access to the US may result in an even larger bilateral German trade surplus given Deutschland's already-elevated competitiveness. 

Another thing an EU-US FTA would be is multilateral instead of bilateral. Trump prefers bilateral deals since they would be easier to strong-arm the other party given the sheer economic might of the US. Plus, it's easier to extricate the US from deals involving just one other party instead of many by putting in many conditions regarding currency manipulation, export surges to the US and so forth.

I suppose that if even Trump doesn't know what Trump will do next that it's quite pointless to speculate what may happen. Still, even by his standards, going all-out on an FTA with the EU would alienate the racist/protectionist/isolationist elements who elected him. (They have many Muslims in Europe besides, right?)

I leave you with this food for thought: whereas the US Trade Representative's website has already declared the Trans-Pacific Partnership dead at the hands of Trump, the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations are still described in detail there.

Beat-Up Travelers: Estimating Trump's Hit to US Tourism

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 4/17/2017 04:00:00 PM
(White) natives-only policy: Trump repels legions of foreigners from US travel, AKA self-inflicted torture.
It won't be long now until we have a reasonably accurate read on how much travel to the US has been affected so far by the rampant xenophobia incited by Donald Trump. At month's end, GDP for first-quarter 2017 should indicate the hit to tourism-related trade: food services, accommodations, recreation/entertainment/shopping, and transportation.  What's there to like about traveling to the US unless you're a masochist? You've got Muslim Ban 1.0 and 2.0, extreme vetting, being forced to give up device passwords (or get waterboarded?), invasive pat-downs, Indian nationals being shot and killed, Vietnamese migrants being forcibly dragged off planes...the list goes on and on.

Foreigners being sensible people who don't appreciate being discriminated against, shot, dragged, detained, having their private parts fondled and so forth, it's no surprise that news reports about falling tourist arrivals in the US have been plentiful. Here are two more guesstimates on the negative impact as we await the month-end GDP figure. First, the Washington Post:
Demand for flights to the United States has fallen in nearly every country since January, ­according to Hopper, a travel-booking app that analyzes more than 10 billion daily airfare price quotes to derive its data. Searches for U.S. flights from China and Iraq have dropped 40 percent since Trump’s inauguration, while demand in Ireland and New Zealand is down about 35 percent.

The result could be an estimated 4.3 million fewer people coming to the United States this year, resulting in $7.4 billion in lost revenue, according to Tourism Economics, a Philadelphia-based analytics firm. Next year, the fallout is expected to be even larger, with 6.3 million fewer tourists and $10.8 billion in losses. Miami is expected to be hit hardest, followed by San Francisco and New York, the firm said.       
It may be 9/11 all over again for an industry just recently recovered from the United States' initial foray into enhanced foreign traveler harassment:
The result could be an estimated 4.3 million fewer people coming to the United States this year, resulting in $7.4 billion in lost revenue, according to Tourism Economics, a Philadelphia-based analytics firm. Next year, the fallout is expected to be even larger, with 6.3 million fewer tourists and $10.8 billion in losses. Miami is expected to be hit hardest, followed by San Francisco and New York, the firm said.       

The administration’s travel ban deals a blow to an industry that has only recently recovered from a $600 billion loss following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“In the aftermath of 9/11, at first people didn’t feel safe coming here, and then they didn’t feel welcome,” said Jonathan Grella, an executive vice president at the U.S. Travel Association. “Our industry still refers to that as ‘the lost decade.’ There is a very real risk that that could happen again.”
Good job, Trumpy, good job. Meanwhile, the World Travel and Tourism Council predicts declining tourism activity, partly due to the stronger dollar:
The WTTC’s annual report forecast that the travel and tourism sector, which contributed $1.5tn to the US economy, or 8.1 per cent of its GDP, will grow at 2.3 per cent in 2017 — a contraction of 0.5 percentage points compared with last year. Spending by foreign visitors in the US is predicted to fall 0.6 per cent, mainly due to the strength of the dollar that is making the country a less attractive spending destination. The WTTC said that travellers would seek alternative travel destinations, with “the most likely beneficiaries” being Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
Unless your idea of a good time is getting molested at a US airport, I think us foreigners have better things to do. Roll on the US Q1 GDP figures; with travel constituting 8.1% of the US economy, I don't think it's going to look very good for the first quarter. Or the rest of Trump's term for that matter unless he realizes that, hey, US travel is often discretionary for the rest of us and can be put off indefinitely.

UPDATE: Perhaps due to Trump's election, travel in the last quarter of 2016 already slumped. More of the same to come? I think so.

See? Even Trump Recognizes Ex-Im Bank's Worth

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 4/15/2017 04:46:00 PM
Back in business thanks to Trump...of all people.
When you think of a person of no conviction, the name "Donald Trump" comes to mind. Mind you, the lack of core beliefs is not always a drawback when you are (rather regrettably) [a] the most powerful person in the world and [b] have a fondness for conspiracy theories and extremist ideologies. So it was perhaps inevitable that the reality of actually governing would lead him to recognize that many of his views are, well, economically untenable. Think of it: in the past few days...
President Donald Trump’s declaration that he won’t label China a currency manipulator stands as the clearest example of the difficulty he’s having delivering on big campaign promises.

The currency decision is one among many instances of Trump reversing course since taking office a little less than three months ago. Within the space of a few hours on Wednesday, Trump changed previously critical stances on the U.S. Export-Import Bank, the value of NATO, interest rates, and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. 
For this post, the item of interest is the US Export-Import Bank. For a number of months, it's been unable to provide credit to foreign buyers of US-made goods since the Republican-dominated Congress has slowed down the process of fully appointing its membership. The absence of a full slate has meant it has limits on how much in loans it can disburse. But wonders of wonders, Trump of all people has now restored it to full functioning. To be sure, his picks will need congressional approval, but it's unlikely that he will be waylaid by fellow Republicans on this at least:
President Donald Trump nominated former Republican lawmaker Scott Garrett as president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States on Friday, completing an about-face over an institution he had denounced as "featherbedding" for big business.
A White House statement also named Spencer Bachus, another Republican former congressman, to be a member of the board of directors of the bank. Both were named for four-year terms.

Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday he would fill the two vacancies on the bank's five-member board that have prevented it from having a quorum and being able to act on loans over $10 million.
His picks must gain approval from the Senate, which blocked nominees by former President Barack Obama.
When it comes to sheer economic ignorance, you will probably find it very hard to beat Donald Trump. In this case, however, you will have to give that designation to Congressional "small government" nutters who think that Ex-Im Bank is a little more than a subsidy provider. Those guys have both blocked efforts to get Ex-Im Bank from being fully functional and have delayed Obama's efforts to get it going despite bipartisan consensus to do so:
The bank has become a popular target for conservatives, who worked in Congress to kill the institution, arguing that it perpetuates cronyism and does little to create American jobs.

Trump's backing of the bank represents a victory for manufacturers like Boeing and General Electric Co (GE.N), which have overseas customers that use the agency's government-backed loans to purchase their products.

Trump told the Journal the bank benefits small businesses and creates jobs, a reversal of his earlier criticism of the bank as being "featherbedding" for wealthy corporations.
The truth of the matter is that most other countries--especially major exporters of manufactures like China (China Exim Bank) and Japan (Nippon Export and Investment Insurance) have export credit providers. Virtually all OECD nations have such institutions. So what the right-wing nutters were effectively doing was uniquely handicapping US exports in the face of international competition. The whole point is that the financial systems of many prospective buyers--especially in developing countries--may be unable to provide [a] larger-sized loans at [b] reasonable enough rates for [c] a long enough time. Those risks--amount, repayment and duration--usually entail official international credit.

As such, credit provided by export-import entities can be "developmental" in enabling purchases of capital equipment useful to fostering economic growth--especially in poorer countries whose financial systems are less sophisticated by definition. 

If even Trump can recognize that, what does it says about those who don't?

UPDATE: It is fair to reiterate that among the nominees of Trump, the putative president Scott Garrett was an Ex-Im Bank doubter who used to vote down re-authorization while a congressperson. However, it's counterbalanced by the other person proposed as a director, Spencer Bachus, being a proponent of getting it going again.

They cancel each other out, IMHO, and the bank will be back in business. After all, why activate it if you're not going to grant any financing to help US firms?

UK Delusions of Becoming Singapore 2.0 Post-Brexit

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 4/11/2017 04:00:00 PM
By leaving the EU, the UK is making itself less--not more--like Singapore.
It strikes me as very odd that the architects of Brexit--which many voters supported to do away with economic integration in the first place--see an opportunity to remake the UK as Singapore. The story of its former colony becoming wealthier than it on a per capita basis is certainly something to admire. That said, Singapore is firmly entrenched in a regional integration of its own in the 1993 ASEAN Free Trade Area or AFTA. That ASEAN itself and AFTA were modeled to an extent on the EU, well...let's say people see what they want to see. It's called "confirmation bias."

Justin Fox shares his bemusement, Maybe part of the point of MNCs locating in the UK or Singapore for that matter was to be in an English-speaking gateway to a wider region--Europe or Southeast Asia? Through point is lost by the Brexiteers who've killed the regional golden goose:
The New Singapore idea seems to be mainly that leaving the EU will allow the U.K. to cut taxes and roll back regulations, positioning itself as a free-market oasis just off the coast of Europe.

Now, the U.K. already has a lower tax burden and a less-regulated labor market than most of the countries across the Channel, and London has been playing a role in Europe similar to that of Singapore in Asia for decades now. Global corporations, especially financial ones, have chosen Singapore and London as operations bases where the language is more familiar and the rules more amenable than in other countries in those regions. So far, most of the attention has been focused on the risk that Brexit, by restricting access to European markets, will harm London's status as a financial hub. But there's enough uncertainty about this that I guess it's impossible to dismiss the opposite argument entirely.
Kiwi economics commentator David Skilling who's written extensively about Singapore's virtues actually thinks smallish Scotland, if it gains independence, would be better placed to replicate Singapore than the biggish UK:
Cutting loose from the European Union could give the U.K. more room to maneuver. But the U.K. is a relatively large country that would be hard-pressed to maneuver like a Singapore -- and it may be shooting itself in the foot by walling itself off from its neighbors. There is a part of the U.K., though, that Skilling thinks shows promise. An independent Scotland, he wrote in his weekly note on Sunday, might just be small and cohesive and agile enough to make a go of it as a cold, windy Singapore on the moors.
In a separate article, Skilling underlines the point that ASEAN and AFTA are the bedrocks of Singapore's success:
But the foundation for Singapore's international economic and political engagement is Asean, and Asia more broadly. This regional engagement is a complement to, not a substitute for, Singapore's global network of trading and investing relationships.

Over 60 per cent of Singapore's exports and outward direct investment is focused on Asian markets. And Singapore's success in attracting inward investment - remarkably Singapore receives more foreign direct investment from the US than China does - is largely because Singapore serves as a hub for companies operating in the region. This regional bias in Singapore's economic engagement is likely to remain, supported by ongoing Asean economic integration.
So, a far more sensible argument is that, by leaving the EU, the UK has dismantled the scaffolding that would have enabled it to be the Singapore of Europe.

Some people need to be disabused of their Brexit senselessness. Economically speaking, it has definitely shot itself in the foot.

British Rat: EU Wants to Exclude UK From Trade Negos

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 4/08/2017 04:18:00 PM

So the UK is hellbent on implementing its death wish of going it alone in the international trade arena. So be it. Not only will the UK be frozen out of the world's largest tariff-free area real soon, but it will have to renegotiate all its trade deals with countries it formerly had preferential agreements with as part of the European Union.

To add insult to injury, the EU is now thinking of sidelining the UK from fora for discussing ongoing negotiations with other non-European countries. (Having left the European Union, it would be hard to characterize the British as "real" Europeans.) The point of this exercise in sidetracking Britain is to ensure that it does not gain an unfair advantage when it comes time to negotiate an (admittedly far off) EU-UK trade deal:
Brussels is eyeing the exclusion of Britain from updates on EU trade talks amid concerns that the UK could take advantage of sensitive information in its own post-Brexit trade negotiations.

After a briefing last month by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, the European Commission warned that there needed to be a “discussion about the treatment of sensitive information in the context of certain trade negotiations, to which the UK would continue to have access to while it remained a full member of the union”. 

The warning, in an official account of the meeting, came as the EU prepared to initiate trade talks with Australia, a country which with the UK hopes to strike its own post-Brexit free-trade deal. All EU member states, including the UK, participate in a trade policy committee that meets weekly in Brussels to discuss the EU’s trade dealings. Representatives of member states also meet regularly with EU trade negotiators to discuss strategies and aims. 
Unsurprisingly, the remainers smell a British rat:
Many EU leaders are worried that allowing the UK to continue to receive the routine updates until it leaves the bloc in 2019 will strengthen Britain’s bargaining position in post-Brexit trade talks and potentially enable it to outbid the EU in future negotiations.

“The question is to what extent Britain should be involved or informed or have access to ongoing negotiations when they are leaving because then they will proceed to conclude their own deals,” said a senior figure briefed on discussions within the European Commission. 
That said, it will not be straightforward to freeze out the UK at just this moment:
In theory, the UK remains a full-fledged member of the EU until its separation and is entitled to participate fully in trade-related matters. In practice, however, there may be an arrangement arrived at in which the UK does not participate in trade-related EU matters in exchange for it being to negotiate FTAs with other countries prior to the 2019 anticipated breakup date.
I'd kick the British bums out now in trade-related matters, but it seems the rules-based EU will have to compensate the UK if it really is serious about removing it from the loop as early as now.

As with the real thing, there is no such thing as "amicable divorce" in customs unions.

Alibaba Buying MoneyGram: US Protectionism Revisited

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 4/01/2017 05:33:00 PM
The use of "national security" grounds to discourage Chinese investment in the United States has been a recurrent issue for would-be PRC FDI in the US. Especially now in the age of Trump who encourages employment Stateside, it's ironic that American politicians would still dissuade foreigners from setting up shop in the so-called land of the free.

So it is particularly galling that Jack Ma of Alibaba fame is getting the full-on "national security" treatment. Not only did he meet Trump at Trump Tower before Trump assumed office, but he also vowed to help create American jobs. However, he is now being thwarted in his efforts to expand his money transfer service operations to North America through buying MoneyGram International.

As far as I am concerned, money transfer is an innocuous service in this day and age. There is no particular technology crucial to American security involved in sending money overseas. Nor is there a "terrorist" threat in China the Yanks are especially concerned with. Nevertheless, two American congresspersons have somehow found sinister motivations in the proposed purchase of MoneyGram:
On Friday, two members of the House of Representatives urged the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. to conduct a "full and thorough" investigation of Ant Financial’s proposed acquisition of MoneyGram International Inc., a money-transfer service.

"The proposal merits careful evaluation as it would provide Chinese access to the U.S. financial infrastructure, a move that would pose significant national security risks if completed," Congressman Kevin Yoder and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Formerly a financial-services affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and controlled by Ma, Ant made its bid in January for $880 million, or $13.25 a share. In March, Leawood, Kansas-based rival Euronet Worldwide Inc. came in at $15.20, saying its offer had a better chance at regulatory approval. Dallas-based MoneyGram entered a confidentiality agreement with Euronet in late March to further consider its unsolicited proposal.
I suppose that if American lawmakers see "national security" concerns in hog farms, then they can certainly see sinister machinations at hand when a Chinese firm proposes purchasing a money transfer franchise. The other would-be purchaser of MoneyGram, Euronet, has been making claims that know-your-customer (KYC) regulations would allow the Chinese access to sensitive information:
Euronet CEO Michael Brown wrote to Mnuchin this week arguing Ant’s offer raises national security concerns because money transmitters collect confidential data on users which the government requires them to retain for several years. Money transmitters also get confidential requests from the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network about transactions that may be connected to terrorism or money laundering.

Yoder and Johnson reiterated those concerns in their letter on Friday, pointing out that Ant Financial is partly owned by Chinese state institutions. This could give a foreign government access to critical infrastructure and could be used for "intelligence purposes, location tracking, and identifying vulnerabilities for coercion," they said.

The total Chinese state-owned or state-affiliated ownership of Ant Financial is just below 15 percent, according to a person familiar with the matter. Those investors are passive and the entities don’t participate in Ant’s management or board, the person said. They asked not to be identified talking about Ant’s ownership structure.
Those who make money transfers via MoneyGram are not likely to be movers and shakers of international capitalism but rather migrant workers. These are small amounts we're dealing with, and I hardly think Chinese authorities would be keen on their personal information.

In this respect at least Trump is right: If Jack Ma wants to invest and create jobs in the US honestly, what's the matter? While Ma is certainly friendly with the Communist Party, sharing information on those making small money transfers Stateside is hardly one of his priorities. He just wants to make money; fancy that. No more, no less.

Trump's 'Fortress America' Benefits From Famine Relief

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/29/2017 05:33:00 PM
Actually, there is a selfish case for Trump providing food aid to us coloreds and/or Muslims.
It is obvious that American President Donald Trump is not especially fond of foreigners, especially the colored and/or Muslim variety (If you're both, then so much worse for you. That you're unlikely to buy Ivanka-brand jewelry seals the deal.) Americans are famously incurious about the rest of the world, and Trump is probably the worst of the lot. An avowed hater of the United Nations--why should his "America First" United States contribute to an avowedly internationalist organization--he probably didn't hear the news that there is a famine ongoing that's the worst since WWII according to UNICEF:
Famine is looming in north-east Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and beyond, as nearly 1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death from severe acute malnutrition this year. Some 22 million children are hungry, sick, displaced and out of school due to war, conflict and drought. They now face the risk of death from starvation, but also from preventable diseases like cholera and measles, which cause severe diarrhoea and dehydration.

And the risk of famine is not limited to these four countries. As violence, hunger and thirst force people to move within and across borders, malnutrition rates will continue to soar in neighbouring countries as well.

This crisis is largely human-made. Scorched earth tactics by conflicting parties are destroying crops and critical infrastructure like health facilities. Heavy fighting is forcing farmers to abandon their fields, while blocking humanitarian access to people in desperate need of food aid and clean water. As families flee their homes, children have no access to health and nutrition services, clean water, or adequate sanitation and hygiene – putting them at greater risk of malnutrition. Diseases are spreading rapidly in crowded sites for displaced people. And drought is further exacerbating food crises in parts of Africa, particularly Somalia and the Horn of Africa.
Despite claiming to be a "Christian" [sic], you can rest assured that Trump couldn't care less if 22 million colored people (and probably Muslim besides!) died. Maybe there would be fewer "terrorists" to worry about in the future. Exhibit A is the plan to radically defund US food aid in Trump's proposed 2017 US budget. Indeed, his budget chief gladly points this out:
Trump's proposed budget would "absolutely" cut programs that help some of the most vulnerable people on Earth, Mick Mulvaney, the president's budget director, told reporters last week. The budget would "spend less money on people overseas and more money on people back home," he said.
However, there is a case to be made that not allowing these countries to collapse and provide a breeding ground for extremism actually makes sense. Edward Luce of the FT makes this argument:
Even by that yardstick, however, Mr Trump serves himself badly. Famine is a product of political failure. In both the Horn of Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa it is the result of civil wars in which the west has direct and indirect interests. Groups such as Isis, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda expand in such conditions. So, too, does the volume of refugees.
If the UN warning is anywhere close to correct, the flow of refugees to the west from Africa will dwarf the numbers that have been coming from Syria. The space for further radicalisation in Africa, the Middle East and Europe will only grow. This cannot be in America’s interests. By his own measures, Mr Trump should be doing his utmost to help things on the ground. Yet he will only act if he is forced to do so by others. 
It's not a particularly edifying spectacle, but Trump would likely have fewer colored people and/or Muslims [from Somalia...and Yemen too!] to worry about if his country continues to provide food aid and address catastrophes before they worsen and come to his shores in a couple of months or years' time. It's unlikely that he will have walled off the entire US coastline by then.

The irony is that foreign aid already is such a minuscule part of the US budget. Maybe the inordinately larger military buildup Trump is fantasizing about wouldn't be all that necessary if the United States actually had fewer enemies in this world?

David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said the roughly one-third cut in foreign aid endangered U.S. values and interests abroad.

"What’s more, the U.S. foreign assistance budget makes up a mere 1 percent of the federal budget - a tiny category of discretionary spending which saves lives and spreads goodwill around the world," he said.
Perhaps even a racist-protectionist-isolationist can understand that, but I am not holding my breath.

Self-Hatred: Would-Be Latino Builders of Trump's Wall

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/26/2017 08:03:00 PM
As Eddie Money once sang, "Gimme Some Water."
To me, it's the most distasteful thing imaginable: why would persons of Latin American heritage help build the infrastructural centerpiece of Donald Trump's bigotry? As it turns out, however, there is no shortage of such folks in the construction industry who are eager to commence work on the Great Wall of Trump. As you would imagine, their excuse is that it's just business--that's all. Nevermind the social consequences and all that jazz.

As the bidding process commences on bits and bobs of this project, the evidence is there for all to see:
Ten percent of the companies interested in bidding for the first stage of the construction of Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico are Hispanic-owned businesses, as construction firms wrestle with the morality of profiting from the controversial infrastructure project.

More than 600 businesses have formally registered interest since 24 February, when the Department of Homeland Security issued a presolicitation notice for contractors to perform the “design and build of several prototype wall structures” for the border.
Excuses from would-be contractors vary. A common refrain is that the wall is incidental to comprehensive immigration reform:
“The story isn’t, ‘Hey there’s a Latino guy building a wall to keep other Latino people out,” said Michael Evangelista-Ysasaga, CEO of the Penna Group in Fort Worth, Texas. “It’s that we need comprehensive immigration reform.”
That said, the Mexican government has now applied moral suasion against Mexican-owned contractors building the accursed wall:
Mexico's government on Tuesday warned Mexican companies that it would not be in their best "interests" to participate in the construction of U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall, though there will be no legal restrictions or sanctions to stop them if they tried.

While some Mexican companies stand to potentially benefit from the controversial infrastructure project, residents south of the border view the wall and Trump's repeated calls to have Mexico pay for it as offensive. That is putting public pressure on firms to abstain from participating.

"We're not going to have laws to restrict (companies), but I believe considering your reputation it would undoubtedly be in your interest to not participate in the construction of the wall," said Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo.

"There won't be a law with sanctions, but Mexicans and Mexican consumers will know how to value those companies that are loyal to our national identity and those that are not," Guajardo added.
His comments echo those of Mexico's foreign minister Luis Videgaray, who said on Friday that Mexican companies that see a business opportunity in the wall should "check their conscience" first.
To me, there are things simply beyond the pale that I wouldn't do for any amount of money. If I were a Mexican construction contractor, this would easily be one of them. It is the moral equivalent of normalizing extreme bigotry.

America the Protectionist: Mnuchin at "G-19" (Without US)

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 3/22/2017 05:36:00 PM
He adds nothing: physically present, mentally absent Treasury Secretary Mnuchin.
I almost forgot to post about this one: at the just-concluded meeting of G-20 finance ministers in Germany over the weekend, the new US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin left a lot open to interpretation. With the Trump administration itself unsure what its trade policies will be going forward, Mnuchin was unable to offer boilerplate reassurances that the United States would disavow all forms of protectionism that previous meetings did:
Finance chiefs of the world’s largest economies set aside a pledge to avoid protectionism and signed up to a fudged statement on trade instead, in response to the Trump administration’s call to rethink the global order for commerce.

Group of 20 nations said in a communique on Saturday that they are “working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies.” While the U.S. didn’t get all it wanted -- such as a explicit pledge to ensure trade is fair -- that’s a much pared-down formulation compared with the group’s statement last year, and omits a promise to “avoid all forms of protectionism.”

In two days of meetings in the German town of Baden-Baden, the argument by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in his first appearance at an international forum in the role, reflects claims by President Donald Trump that his nation has had a bad deal from the current global trade setup. That attitude pitched him against most other delegates, who favored a multilateral, rules-based system as embodied in the World Trade Organization.
I do not exaggerate that it's now the G-19 after the United States abdicated on its role in global governance. In effect, it was 19 against 1:
I “regret that our discussions today didn’t end in a satisfactory manner,” French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said in a statement. In a press conference later, he said that “there wasn’t a G-20 disagreement, there was disagreement within the G-20 between a country and all the others. This isn’t a caricature, this is the reality of things.”
The galling thing is that while Mnuchin had some idea what his boss wasn't into--disavowal of protectionism--there was no articulation of an alternative:
Mnuchin wasn’t able to deliver a clear view on how the “America First” thrust of the Trump administration will mesh with the rules embodied in the World Trade Organization system that currently stand -- or even if the U.S. will remain substantially engaged over the long term. As the administration is less than two months old, the former Goldman Sachs banker was given the benefit of the doubt when he didn’t offer much detail.
Having been instrumental in setting up the G-20 in the first place, the United States seems to be abdicating from it. Will it continue to have global policy relevance going forward? Actually, it's hardly the only international body the Yanks thought of that's having existential questions: NATO, the UN, the WTO and so forth may not continue to function as we've come to know them without American support.

Worse still, the guy behind all of this has an exceedingly poor understanding of how such bodies actually work. In his testy meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel:
Trump reprised his complaints that the U.S. had been treated “very, very unfairly” and poured loaded praise over German trade officials for besting their American counterparts. “The negotiators for Germany have done a far better job than the negotiators for the United States,” Trump told reporters in the East Room alongside Merkel Friday. “But hopefully we can even it out.”

Merkel, whose visit with her new U.S. counterpart was marked by cool distance in their public appearances, was left to explain that trade negotiations are the province of the European Union, not her government, and that there are no such German interlocutors. “We’ve transferred competencies over to the European Union,” Merkel said. “That means the European Commission negotiates these free trade agreements.”
These are dark times, indeed, when people choose their leaders from among the most ignorant bunch.

FIFA Non-Grata: Muslim Ban USA Can't Host World Cup

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 3/18/2017 03:52:00 PM
Iranians not welcome here (among others): On the USA's non-existent prospects for hosting the 2026 World Cup.
It's pretty evident that you should not host one of the world's most international sporting events if your country is run by a Muslim-banning race-baiter. Yet, that the organization running the World Cup is FIFA--hardly the model of "global governance"--may have placed the possibility in some question as the United States is considering a bid to host the 2026 event. Despite FIFA's odiousness, it is nonetheless remarkable that it won't go near an even more disreputable entity, the United States of America, run by one President Donald J. Trump.

To be sure, there are procedural issues: what if one of the Muslim-banned countries qualifies for the World Cup? One has done so a number times before--Iran--and the others cannot be completely ruled out especially now that the competition has increased its number of participants from 32 to 48.
Donald Trump’s travel ban could prevent the US from hosting the World Cup in 2026, Fifa has warned.

Gianni Infantino, the president of world football’s governing body, said on Thursday that Trump’s revised executive order, which temporarily bars entry to the US for citizens from six majority-Muslim countries, could invalidate any bid from the US. The president’s policy, Infaninto suggested, is incompatible with tournament regulations.

Infantino told reporters in London: “Teams who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup. That is obvious.”
The above-mentioned bid requirement will probably disqualify Trump's USA:
“We are now in the process of defining the bid requirements. In the world there are many countries who have bans, travel bans, visa requirements and so on and so forth. It’s obvious when it comes to Fifa competitions, any team, including the supporters and officials of that team, who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup. “The requirements will be clear. And then each country can make up their decision, whether they want to bid or not based on the requirements.”
Donald Trump will probably dismiss this all by saying that no Americans watch soccer anyway since he doesn't--a perfectly uninformed response from a remarkably ignorant America-firster.