Stock markets plunge after Trump’s ‘Tariff Man’ tweet

Stocks took a nosedive on Wall Street as investors worried that a US-China trade truce reached over the weekend wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank almost 800 points Tuesday.

Boeing and Caterpillar, two major exporters which would have much to lose if trade tensions don’t ease, weighed the most on the Dow.

Bond prices soared sharply, sending yields lower, as traders shoved money into lower-risk investments.

The sharp drop in yields hurt banks because it makes it harder to earn money from lending. JPMorgan Chase sank 4.5 percent.

The S&P 500 lost 90 points, or 3.2 percent, to 2,700.

The Dow dropped 799 points, or 3.1 percent, to 25,027. The Nasdaq fell 283 points, or 3.8 percent, to 7,158.

The markets plunged after President Donald Trump unleashed a threatening tweet Tuesday morning.

“President Xi and I want this deal to happen, and it probably will. But if not remember, I am a Tariff Man,” Trump tweeted.

[New York Post]

Trump says he will withdraw from NAFTA, pressuring Congress to approve new trade deal

President Donald Trump said he intends to formally notify Canada and Mexico of his intention to withdraw from the nearly 25-year-old NAFTA agreement in six months. The move would put pressure on Congress to approve his new trade deal with the two U.S. neighbors.

“I’ll be terminating it within a relatively short period of time. We get rid of NAFTA. It’s been a disaster for the United States,” Trump said on board Air Force One after departing Buenos Aires, where he signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement with the leaders of those two countries.

“And so Congress will have a choice of the USMCA or pre-NAFTA, which worked very well,” Trump added.

Trump’s comments confirmed what many have long suspected — that he would use the act of withdrawing from NAFTA as a cudgel to force Congress into passing the new deal.

But it also could be seen as an admission that the new agreement is not popular enough to be approved on its own merits, so Trump has to use the threat of disrupting the entire North American economy to round up the votes in Congress to get the deal past the finish line.

While a number of business groups do support the new deal because it contains new provisions on digital trade and strengthens intellectual property rights protections, others are simply relieved that it would keep much of the original agreement in place.

House Democrats, who are likely to hold the key to whether the new agreement is approved, have complained that labor and environmental provisions are not strong enough and have signaled they would like those concerns addressed as part of the implementing legislation.

Trump’s untested move would send the administration and Congress into a legal wilderness. The NAFTA deal includes a provision that allows a withdrawal after providing a six-month notice, but opinions differ on whether the president can act on his own.

Lawmakers passed legislation to implement the original deal in 1993. It’s uncertain whether a withdrawal initiated by the president would repeal the law that put the deal into force.

The president needs to take a look at the Constitution — it gives Congress authority over trade,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in September. “The president cannot pull America out of NAFTA without Congress’s permission.”

A 2016 report from the Congressional Research Service seems to be back up that position.

“It could be argued that because international trade is an area of shared constitutional authority, Congress must have a role in any decision by the United States to terminate or withdraw from an FTA,” CRS said.

Others argue Congress ceded authority to the executive branch decades ago that would allow Trump to terminate trade deals. They say Section 125 of the Trade Act of 1974 provides the underlying legal basis for a president to terminate or withdraw from an agreement and revoke any tariff reductions.

[Politico]

Trump tweets that tariffs are making the US “richer than ever before.” They’re not.

Either President Donald Trump isn’t sure how tariffs work or he’s being deliberately misleading about them.

The president fired off an early-morning tweet on Thursday declaring that billions of dollars are “pouring into the coffers of the United States” because of the tariffs his administration has put on some $250 billion in Chinese imports.

“If companies don’t want to pay Tariffs, build in the U.S.A.,” Trump wrote. “Otherwise, lets just make our Country richer than ever before!”

But that’s not really how tariffs work: The US may be generating some revenue from tariffs, but billions of dollars aren’t pouring in. Moreover, a lot of the money that is made off of tariffs comes from US consumers — not Chinese companies.

“If you think about who’s actually paying the tax, it’s like a sales tax. It’s like saying, ‘I put a sales tax on producers, isn’t this great we’re getting all this money?’ And then consumers say, ‘Wait, that’s from my wallet,’” said Michael Klein, a professor of international economic affairs at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and founder of the nonpartisan economics publication Econofact. “It’s just another example of taking where there’s a tiny germ of truth and blowing it up to the point where it’s absurd, for his own political purposes.”

On Thursday, Trump will travel to Buenos Aires for the G20 summit, where, among other agenda items, he’s expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping for a working dinner to discuss the countries’ relations, including trade. The sit-down is seen as high-stakes, given that the US has placed nearly $250 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods and China has levied retaliatory tariffs of its own. The escalating trade war poses a threat to both nations’ economies.

Tariffs don’t really work this way

The Trump administration has shown itself to be pretty into the idea of tariffs. It’s put tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from multiple countries as well as on several billion dollars of Chinese goods. The way tariffs work is that the goods marked for tariffs face a border tax when they’re imported into the US.

As Vox’s Matt Yglesias recently explained, the US government with its initial rounds of China tariffs was careful to make sure the products it targeted had foreign-made alternatives:

When that happens, US purchasers switch to non-Chinese alternatives, and then consumers from outside the US tend to switch around and start buying the Chinese products. The overall impact is slightly less efficient global supply chains, some real pain to Chinese firms that need to find new customers, and a limited impact on American prices.

In other words, thus far, things have been relatively tame. A recent study from EconPol Europe found that Trump’s first round of tariffs have increased the prices US buyers pay for Chinese-made goods by 4.5 percent and decreased the prices received by Chinese sellers of US-bound goods by 20.5 percent.

That means that thus far, the tariffs have been mostly, but not entirely, paid for by China, but it’s not going great for anyone. And if Trump’s meeting with Xi doesn’t go well and the trade war escalates, the economic effects of tensions could worsen.

And it’s not going to be making the US significantly richer, because the more tariffs, the less incentive to import the goods affected, and therefore the less money being collected.

“If the point of tariffs is to reduce what you’re buying, that means you’re not going to make that much money,” Klein said.

And much of the money that does come in will be from Americans themselves. Tariffs are often passed on to consumers, therefore driving up prices and, ultimately, inflation.

Trump, who is personally very wealthy, has been rather cavalier about the potential for prices going up. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week in which he appeared to float the idea of putting tariffs on iPhones and laptops, he said, “I mean, I can make it 10 percent, and people could stand that very easily.”

“Made in the USA” isn’t as easy as Trump makes it out to be

President Trump often makes the case that many of the United States’ trade and economic problems could be solved if companies would just do all of their manufacturing here. He’s attacked General MotorsApple, and Harley-Davidson, among others, for having operations outside the US.

But “build in America” (which, by the way, many of Trump’s companies didn’t) isn’t as easy as it sounds. Supply chains are global, so even when Trump thinks he’s hitting back at China over, say, the iPhone, he’s missing the fact that the product is sourced from a lot of places, and its supply chain spans many countries.

In an Econofact analysis last year, Klein and Harvard political economist Marc Melitz estimated that each iPhone 7 imported to the US was recorded as a $225 import from China, but of that amount, only $5 represents work performed in China, largely assembly. The remaining $220 corresponds to other parts of Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

“It always sounds good when a president sounds tough on trade and issues protectionist policies,” Wayne Lam, a principal analyst at the information and analytics firm IHS Markit, told me when discussing the iPhone earlier this year. “We just don’t have the sheer workforce size nor skill set to be good at consumer electronics manufacturing.”

[Vox]

Trump floats new auto tariffs in response to GM layoffs

President Trump on Wednesday hinted he may support new tariffs on auto imports as his latest response to General Motors’ decision to shutter U.S. factories and lay off workers.

In a series of tweets, Trump argued that a longstanding 25 percent tariff on light trucks has boosted U.S. auto manufacturers and that the same approach could work for cars.

”If we did that with cars coming in, many more cars would be built here and G.M. would not be closing their plants in Ohio, Michigan & Maryland. Get smart Congress,” Trump wrote.

The president said major auto exporting countries “have taken advantage of the U.S. for decades” and warned “that the president has great power on this issue.”

”Because of the G.M. event, it is being studied now!” he wrote.

The comments follow a report in the German media that Trump is considering slapping a 25 percent tariff on car imports from all countries aside from Mexico and Canada. Trump previously decided to put off auto tariffs on Europe in exchange for the European Union agreeing to purchase more American soybeans.

General Motors’ announcement this week angered Trump, who views the U.S. economy as a reflection of his presidency. The plant closures and layoffs, combined with a sputtering stock market and rising interests rates, appear to have sparked fears of an economic downturn and prompted Trump to lash out.

Trump blamed Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for the stock-market slide and the GM layoffs, citing his decision to raise interest rates. The president said he also spoke to GM CEO Mary Barra to relay his unhappiness with the decision and threatened to end GM’s federal tax credit for electric vehicles.

GM has said slow demand for cars in the U.S. market, combined with tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum, have hurt sales and forced the company to shutter plants in Lordstown, Ohio; Detroit-Hamtramck, Mich.; and White Marsh, Md.

The U.S. imposed a 25 percent tariff on imported light trucks in 1964 after France and West Germany imposed tariffs on U.S. chicken, hence the name ”chicken tax.”

[The Hill]

Trump says May’s Brexit plan could hurt UK-US trade deal

Donald Trump has suggested Theresa May’s Brexit agreement could threaten a US-UK trade deal.

The US president did not specify which aspect of the deal concerned him but told reporters the withdrawal agreement “sounds like a great deal for the EU”.

No 10 insisted the deal is “very clear” the UK would have an independent trade policy so that it can sign trade deals with countries around the world”.

Mrs May fought off heavy criticism of her Brexit deal from MPs on Monday.

Insisting the agreement “delivered for the British people” by regaining control of laws, money and borders, she said it would be put to an MPs vote on 11 December.

Hours later, Mr Trump told reporters outside the White House: “We have to take a look seriously whether or not the UK is allowed to trade.

“Because right now if you look at the deal, they may not be able to trade with us. And that wouldn’t be a good thing. I don’t think they meant that.”

It would appear Mr Trump was suggesting the agreement could leave Britain unable to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the United States.

However, responding to Mr Trump’s comments, a Downing Street spokesman said the Brexit withdrawal agreement struck on Sunday would allow the UK to sign bilateral deals with countries including the US.

“We have already been laying the groundwork for an ambitious agreement with the US through our joint working groups, which have met five times so far,” the spokesman added.

The BBC’s North America Editor Jon Sopel said Mr Trump’s comments were provocative, given trade would “carry on in much the same way as before” for the time being.

“Donald Trump knew exactly what he was doing with these remarks,” he said.

“There is a very open line of communication between senior members of his administration and prominent Eurosceptics.”

During Mr Trump’s UK visit in July – days after the British prime minister unveiled the proposals that formed the basis of the Brexit agreement – the US president had suggested an “ambitious” US-UK trade deal would “absolutely be possible”.

Billions of pounds in trade already flows between the UK and US – Britain’s largest single export market.

EU trade rules currently prevent the UK forging what some might view as a more advantageous bilateral trade deal with Washington.

Under the deal agreed in Brussels, the UK would continue to trade with the US under EU rules until at least the end of the “transition period” in December 2020.

During this transition – designed to allow businesses and others to prepare for the moment new post-Brexit rules kick in – the UK will be able to negotiate and strike deals with the US.

However, they will be unable to come into force until 1 January 2021 and could be delayed further if the backstop is triggered.

Tory Brexiteers fear the “backstop” written into the withdrawal agreement – which aims to prevent the return of customs posts on the Irish border in the event no UK-EU post-Brexit trade deal being agreed – could result in Britain being tied to EU rules for the long term.

In the Commons on Monday, Mrs May acknowledged the backstop was an “insurance policy no-one wants to use” but insisted the UK would have the right to determine whether it came into force.

She faced sustained criticism of the deal from MPs on all sides of the Commons.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mrs May had brought home a “botched deal” that would “leave the UK worse off”.

The SNP’s Iain Blackford said the agreement was “full of ifs and buts” which would result in Scottish fishermen being “sold out” while the Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas both called for another referendum.

And the DUP’s Nigel Dodds said the backstop “was bad for the United Kingdom and bad for the economy” and absolute certainty was needed over its legal application.

Tory backbencher Mark Francois was among a host of MPs to urge PM to think again, claiming the agreement was “as dead as a dodo” and “would not get through” Parliament.

Trump On Trade Wars With China, U.S. Allies: ‘We’ve Been the Stupid Country for So Many Years’

During his broad-ranging interview with 60 Minutes, President Trump said America has been a “stupid country” in the past, while also defending his approach to international economics and foreign policy.

Lesley Stahl pressed Trump on his escalating trade wars with China and their retaliation across multiple markets. Trump disputed her “trade war” characterization and that eventually led to a chat on the Trump Administration’s tariffs against American allies.

“I mean, what’s an ally?” Trump said. “We have wonderful relationships with a lot of people. But nobody treats us much worse than the European Union.”

Stahl continued to ask about this “hostile” approach, and whether Trump would consider dissolving the western alliance under NATO.

“We’ve been the stupid country for so many years,” Trump said. “We shouldn’t be paying almost the entire cost of NATO to protect Europe, and then on top of that, they take advantage of us on trade.”

[Mediaite]

Trump ‘went off’ on French president during face-to-face meeting

US President Donald Trump was “ranting and venting on trade” to French President Emmanuel Macron during their bilateral meeting Monday evening, according to a senior diplomatic source.

Trump lambasted the European Union for its trade policies, saying it was worse than China — a complaint that the US president made to his French counterpart in an April meeting at the White House.

The source described Trump as “going off” on EU trade during his meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Trump said that the EU had to open up on agriculture — a continued point of contention in trade negotiations between the two entities. Macron was respectful to Trump and pushed back some on the topic but moved the conversation forward, the source said.

There was “some rapport” between the two, “but it’s not what it (once) was,” the source said.

Trump and Macron also talked about Iran and North Korea, during which Trump expressed his views in what the source described as “very predictable terms.”

The next day, Macron delivered a pointed rebuke to Trump in his speech at the UN General Assembly, both directly and implicitly criticizing the administration for its policies on Iran, climate change, the UN, migration and Mideast peace.

Macron began by telling the assembly that the world order based on sovereignty and equality among nations that came into being in the 1600s was facing a “far-reaching crisis,” and said the answer lay in cooperation and collaboration among nations.

“Nationalism always leads to defeat,” said Macron, who couched his remarks in the historical context of Europe’s world wars. “If courage is lacking in the defense of fundamental principles, international order becomes fragile and this can lead as we have already seen twice, to global war. We saw that with our very own eyes.”

On trade, Macron declared, “bilateral agreements, new protectionisms, will not work.”

The French President has made no secret of his disagreements with the US President. In April, during Macron’s first state visit as president to the US, he contradicted Trump on several fronts in a speech before Congress.

“There is no planet B,” Macron told lawmakers, referring to Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.

Macron’s visit to the White House in April also included efforts to persuade Trump to save the Iran deal, which the US President ultimately announced his intention to withdraw from in May.

Before the cracks started to appear in their relationship, Macron had been dubbed by some observers as the “Trump whisperer,” after the two appeared to form a close bond during Trump’s visit to Paris last year.

[CNN]

Trump: Now Ford can build Focus in U.S.; Ford: That makes no sense

Auto analysts groaned on Sunday in response to tweets sent by President Trump that touted his tariffs on Chinese imports and his claim that the trade war would inspire Ford Motor Co. to build its Ford Active crossover in the U.S. rather than overseas.

Wrong, Ford said.

The Dearborn-based company issued a statement in response to the president’s tweet:

“It would not be profitable to build the Focus Active in the U.S. given an expected annual sales volume of fewer than 50,000 units and its competitive segment. Ford is proud to employ more U.S. hourly workers and build more vehicles in the U.S. than any other automaker.”

Jon Gabrielsen, a market economist who advises automakers and auto suppliers, said, “This is further evidence that neither the president nor his trade representatives have any clue of the complexities of global supply chains.”

A trade war actually hurts one of America’s most iconic companies, Gabrielsen said. “This forces Ford to forfeit the sales they would have had if they could continue to import that low-volume niche vehicle.”

Ford on Aug. 31 canceled plans to import the Focus Active crossover from China to the United States because of costs from the escalating trade war.

“Given the negative financial impact of the new tariffs, we’ve decided to not import this vehicle from China,” Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford North America, told reporters.

The Focus Active was meant to take the place of the Ford Focus in the U.S. because Ford is phasing out the entry-level car as it shifts its production to pickups and SUVs. Focus Active was scheduled to go on sale in the late summer of 2019.

“Basically, this boils down to how we deploy our resources. Any program that we’re working on requires resources — engineering resources, capital resources,” Galhotra said. “Our resources could be better deployed at this stage.”

Tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump on Chinese products and the threat of more had a direct impact on the Aug. 31 decision, according to Ford officials. The United States already has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from China and, as of July, put a 25 percent tax on autos imported from China.

“Ford was pretty clear in its statement: Focus production will not shift in part or in whole back to the U.S.,” said Stephanie Brinley, a senior analyst at London-based IHS Markit.

Trump didn’t tweet about the Ford announcement at the time. On Sunday, he quoted the CNBC TV network and tweeted, “‘Ford has abruptly killed a plan to sell a Chinese-made small vehicle in the U.S. because of the prospect of higher U.S. Tariffs.'” CNBC. This is just the beginning. This car can now be BUILT IN THE U.S.A. and Ford will pay no tariffs.”

“Ford is one of the companies that has the highest U.S. content and the most U.S. autoworkers of any company,” said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of the Industry, Labor & Economics Group at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

“You know, their statement was very clear. It’s too costly to build that car here and they weren’t planning to. They don’t make business decisions based on tweets. They make decisions based on whether there’s a demand here for the vehicle and if it can be done profitably. Demand for small cars is waning, so they thought they would build some for the rest of the world and bring a few for folks here who want one,” Dziczek said.

Building the car may still be the plan, but not in the U.S., she emphasized, along with other analysts. At issue is finding low-wage production sites to maintain profit margins, and that doesn’t include the U.S. or Canada.

“This trade thing turns into Whac-A-Mole,” Dziczek said. “You can shut off China and things will come from India, Thailand, Taiwan, Poland, Slovenia. There are loads of low-cost countries for parts and vehicles.”

After touting his tariff plan, the president also cited tariff data that alarmed analysts.

“If the U.S. sells a car into China, there is a tax of 25%. If China sells a car into the U.S., there is a tax of 2%. Does anybody think that is FAIR? The days of the U.S. being ripped-off by other nations is OVER!”

Wrong again, Dziczek said. “China lowered the tariff rate from 25 percent to 15 percent for most-favored nation status — which is offered to World Trade Organization members — but raised it to 40 percent for the U.S. in retaliation to the tariffs we put on Chinese goods.”

She continued, “And the tariffs we charge for goods coming into the U.S. is 2.5 percent, not 2 percent. And then we put an additional 25 percent on cars coming from China into the U.S. So now they’re paying 27.5 percent. This is why Ford had to re-evaluate.”

American automakers ship about 250,000 vehicles a year from the U.S. to China, while China ships about 50,000 vehicles to the U.S. annually, Dziczek noted.

For example, every Buick Envision sold in the U.S. is made in China. General Motors has petitioned that the car be excluded from tariffs on Chinese-built products.

Ford spokesman Mark Truby emphasized Sunday that the company plans to build many new vehicles in America. “For example, we are starting production soon of the Ford Ranger in the factory just outside of Detroit where the Focus was previously built. We’re not defensive about building in America. Nobody does more than us. We also have to make a business case that works.”

[Detroit Free Press]

Trump threatens to pull out of WTO ‘if they don’t shape up’

President Trump on Thursday threatened to pull the U.S. out of the World Trade Organization (WTO) “if they don’t shape up,” a stance he has reportedly discussed in private but has denied publicly.

“If they don’t shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO,” the president told Bloomberg News in an interview.

Trump has long criticized the international body, saying in late June that the U.S. has been “treated very badly” by the group, describing it as an “unfair situation.”

At the time, the president insisted he was not considering pulling out of the WTO despite his frustrations, though Axios reported he had discussed with advisers his intentions to exit.

Leaving the WTO would upend the decades-old international trade system, which the U.S. helped establish, and roil markets around the globe.

The U.S. on Monday told the WTO that it plans to block the reappointment of one of the its four remaining judges, a move that would significantly hinder the organization’s ability to function.

If the U.S. successfully blocks the appointment of Judge Shree Baboo Chekitan Servansing, the WTO would only have three judges, the bare minimum to continue operations.

Two of the WTO judges’ terms expire in December of next year.

Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently agreed to work towards a trade agreement that would involve reforming the WTO.

Multiple nations have filed complaints about Trump’s escalating tariffs with the WTO, including China. Trump is reportedly planning to impose $200 billion tariffs on Chinese imports as soon as next week, on top of the billions of dollars of tariffs he has already implemented.

[The Hill]

Donald Trump: ‘Our country was built on Tariffs’

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning took to Twitter, as he often does, to lambaste some of his favourite targets: the U.S. Justice Department, the “rigged Russian witch hunt” (a.k.a. the Robert Mueller investigation), and of course, undocumented immigrants.

He also brought up one of his past greatest hits, tariffs, writing that the United States was “built on Tariffs, and Tariffs are now leading us to great new Trade Deals” (capitalization his, not ours).

Of course, tariffs have been a mainstay in Canadian headlines for the past several months, with Trump levying duties on U.S. imports of Canadian steel and aluminum. The U.S. president has recently threatened more tariffs on Canada’s auto industry.

He’s also slapped massive duties on goods from China, Mexico and, most recently, Turkey. Those nations, along with Canada, have come back with retaliatory tariffs of their own.

Many users on Twitter are pointing out the holes in Trump’s latest tweet. Like the fact that no new trade deals have actually been signed:

Or that many of the people Trump claims his tariffs will help aren’t really happy with them at all:

The Wall Street Journal points out that Trump’s action against Turkey actually goes against longstanding U.S. policy of minimizing foreign crises:

[Yahoo]

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