Category Archives: Trade

How the Global Trade Contraction Begins, by MN Gordon

Like almost all financial measures, global trade doesn’t proceed ever upward, a straight line on a graph from lower left to upper right. From MN Gordon at economicprism.com:

The world grows increasingly at odds with itself, with each passing day.  Divided special elections.  Speech censorship by Silicon Valley social media companies.  Increased shrieking from Anderson Cooper.  You name it, a great pileup’s upon us.

From our perch overlooking San Pedro Bay, the main port of entry for Chinese made goods into the USA, facets of the mounting economic catastrophe come into focus.  These elements, even for the most untrained of eyes, are impossible to miss.

To meet the relentless expansion of international trade, berths have been widened, and channels have been deepened to accommodate the definitive absurdity of perpetual credit creation: The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin.  This mega container ship, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is over 20 stories tall, the width of a 12 lane freeway, and longer than four football fields.  It has enough cargo space to hold 90 million pairs of ‘Made In China’ shoes.

The secondary distortions of this mammoth – next generation – cargo ship will provide historical evidence to future generations of a political economy that went seriously awry.  For example, at the Port of Long Beach the Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement is currently being constructed at a cost of $1.5 billion.  With two towers stretching 515 feet into the sky, this will be the second tallest cable-stayed bridge in the United States.

The purpose of the bridge replacement is to provide greater clearance into the Port’s Inner Harbor for mega container ships.  As the new bridge deck goes up, it dwarfs the prior edifice like some futuristic motorway traversing up to the heavens.  We’re certainly eager to drive it when it’s complete in late-2019.

Episodes of Global Trade Contraction

The general philosophy of the bridge’s proponents appears to be that global trade expands in perpetuity.  Hence, more and more space will be needed for more and more next generation container ships.  There’s even 50-years of data to support this belief.  But that doesn’t mean what is will always be.

To continue reading: How the Global Trade Contraction Begins

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Why Trump Cancelled the Iran Deal, by Eric Zuesse

Trump is aligning with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Israel to maintain US economic and financial preeminence, which means opposing Iran at every juncture. From Eric Zuesse at strategic-culture.org:

The following is entirely from open online sources that I have been finding to be trustworthy on these matters in the past. These sources will be linked-to here; none of this information is secret, even though some details in my resulting analysis of it will be entirely new.

It explains how and why the bottom-line difference between Donald Trump and Barack Obama, regarding US national security policies, turns out to be their different respective estimations of the biggest danger threatening the maintenance of the US dollar as the world’s leading or reserve currency. This has been the overriding foreign-policy concern for both Presidents.

Obama placed as being the top threat to the dollar, a breakaway of the EU (America’s largest market both for exports and for imports) from alliance with the United States. He was internationally a Europhile. Trump, however, places as being the top threat to the dollar, a breakaway of Saudi Arabia and of the other Gulf Arab oil monarchies from the U.S. Trump is internationally a Sunni-phile: specifically a protector of fundamentalist Sunni monarchs — but especially of the Sauds themselves — and they hate Shia and especially the main Shia nation, Iran.

Here’s how that change, to Saudi Arabia as being America’s main ally, has happened — actually it’s a culmination of decades. Trump is merely the latest part of that process of change. Here is from the US State Department’s official historian, regarding this history:

By the 1960s, a surplus of US dollars caused by foreign aid, military spending, and foreign investment threatened this system [the FDR-established 1944 Bretton Woods gold-based US dollar as the world’s reserve currency], as the United States did not have enough gold to cover the volume of dollars in worldwide circulation at the rate of $35 per ounce; as a result, the dollar was overvalued. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson adopted a series of measures to support the dollar and sustain Bretton Woods: foreign investment disincentives; restrictions on foreign lending; efforts to stem the official outflow of dollars; international monetary reform; and cooperation with other countries. Nothing worked. Meanwhile, traders in foreign exchange markets, believing that the dollar’s overvaluation would one day compel the US government to devalue it, proved increasingly inclined to sell dollars. This resulted in periodic runs on the dollar.

To continue reading: Why Trump Cancelled the Iran Deal

 

Iran Sanctions Fallout: China Takes Over French Share In Giant Iran Gas Project, by Tyler Durden

It’s a close call as to whether Trump’s sanctions will force Iran to the negotiating table, or if Iran will give Trump the middle finger and ride it out with help from its friends. Stay tuned. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

When it comes to the Middle East, China has not been shy about its recent ambitions to expand its geopolitical influence in the Gulf region: Just last week we reported that the Chinese Ambassador to Syria, Qi Qianjin, shocked Middle East pundits and observers by indicating the Chinese military may fill the void left in the wake of the collapse of ISIS – and most regional armies – and directly assist the Syrian Army in an upcoming major offensive on jihadist-held Idlib province.

The “[Chinese] military is willing to participate in some way alongside the Syrian army that is fighting the terrorists in Idlib and in any other part of Syria,” the ambassador said in an interview with the pro-government daily newspaper Al-Watan, subsequently translated by The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

And having staked a military claim in Syria, China was next set to expand its national interest in that other key regional nation which has been the source of so much consternation to its neighbors and world powers in recent months and which has emerged as a key source of crude oil exports to Beijing: Iran.

It did so today when China’s state-owned energy giant, CNPC – the world’s third largest oil and gas company by revenue behind Saudi Aramco and the National Iranian Oil Company – finally took over the share in Iran’s multi-billion dollar South Pars gas project held by France’s Total, Iran’s official news agency Shana reported on Saturday.

To many the move had been expected, with only the details set to be ironed out. Recall that back in May we wrote that CNPC – the world’s third largest oil and gas company by revenue behind Saudi Aramco and the National Iranian Oil Company – was set to take over a leading role held by Total in a huge gas project in Iran should the French energy giant decide to quit amid US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

That finally happened when the Chinese energy giant took advantage of Trump’s sanctions to step in the void left by the French major. As a reminder, Total signed a contract in 2017 to develop Phase II of South Pars field with an initial investment of $1 billion, marking the first major Western energy investment in the country after sanctions were lifted in 2016. South Pars has the world’s biggest natural gas reserves ever found in one place.

To continue reading: Iran Sanctions Fallout: China Takes Over French Share In Giant Iran Gas Project

Trump’s Turkey Tariffs Are Retaliation For A Major Military Escalation, by Duane Norman

Trump’s tariffs on Turkey may be about a lot more than the American pastor being held by Turkey. From Duane Norman at fmshooter.com:

The Trump administration recently levied additional tariffs against Turkey, with Trump himself tweeting about how “Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!”:

The Wall Street Journal was just one among many mainstream media voices that suggested the tariffs are retaliation for Turkey’s refusal to release US Pastor Andrew Brunson…

During high-level talks in Washington, U.S. and Turkish officials were unable to produce a breakthrough in an impasse that has pushed Turkey’s economy into turmoil, the officials said. Turkey’s currency has plunged amid the crisis amid fears that the U.S. could take tougher steps before the standoff is resolved.

The Trump administration is now positioned to impose new penalties on Turkey for refusing to free Andrew Brunson, an evangelical North Carolina pastor who was detained in Turkey as part of a sweeping crackdown after a failed July 2016 coup.

…but a much more plausible reason for the tariffs is due to Turkish threats to raid Incirlik Air Base, the major US air base in Turkey:

The 60-page criminal complaint also calls for Turkish officials to shut down U.S. military flights from Incirlik, a portion of which the U.S. Air Force has sole control over, and execute a search warrant at the facility to look for additional evidence. So far, the Turkish government does not appear to have acted on any of the charges.

The complaint specifically calls for the arrest of 11 individuals, but it’s not clear if any of them are still assigned to Incirlik. The first two are U.S. Air Force Colonels John Walker and Michael Manion, who were, respectively, the commander and vice commander of the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik in 2016.

Incirlik is of pivotal importance to US military interests, and not just for its role in basing/launching aircraft involved in Syria and all across the middle east – the base also houses “as many as” 50 B-61 nuclear bombs:

According to open-source estimates, the United States may store as many as 50 B61 gravity bombs at Incirlik. Those make up one-third of the approximately 150 nuclear weapons thought to be housed in five nations in Europe as part of NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements.

A USAF F-16 testing the latest B61-12 variable-yield thermonuclear bomb

To continue reading: Trump’s Turkey Tariffs Are Retaliation For A Major Military Escalation

Why the Boomers Are Going Broke, by Bill Bonner

It’s hard to accumulate wealth when the value of the supposed store of value is whatever central bankers and politicians say it is. From Bill Bonner at bonnerandpartners.com:

POITOU, FRANCE – We were taken aback on Friday by the ferocity of our dear readers’ comments. [Read more in today’s Mailbag.]

What were they so sore about? we wondered.

Son of Satan

Of course, we are frequently wrong about a great number of things. When connecting the dots, we are bound to draw a few stray lines. And we will no doubt be proven wrong in many of our opinions and predictions.

Will The Donald’s trade war pay off for Americans? We don’t think so.

Will the tax cut really boost the U.S. economy and reduce the deficit? There is no sign of it.

Will Mr. Trump really make America great again? The odds, based on what we’ve seen so far, seem very, very slim.

But what do we know? And we’d be happy to be proven wrong.

What was surprising – to us – was that readers did not write to correct us or help us get the lines in the right place.

Instead, they seemed to suggest that we were a son of Satan, sent to destroy all that the good patriots of the United States of America hold most dear.

In other words, the discussion seems to have hit a religious nerve… like setting fire to a cathedral; the faithful fear their most sacred relics will be incinerated.

We have no remedy for this condition, so we will cheerfully ignore it. Besides, cross readers may be right. And those who have a better idea of how the dots connect are invited to send their thoughts by clicking right here.

Goldilocks Report

So, what do we see today?

What we see is an economy staggering under the weight of phony wars and phony finances.

It took more than 200 years for the country to reach its first $1 trillion in debt; now, it adds that much every 12 months. In addition, the Fed increased the base money supply by roughly 400% over the past decade.

What do you get for that kind of money? The feds got the weakest recovery in history… with no real gains in per-hour wages… and GDP growth rates only half those of the 1950s and ‘60s.

In 1821, John Quincy Adams described American foreign policy: “She goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy…”

Here we are, nearly 200 years later, and U.S. troops are looking for monsters in every godforsaken sh*thole in the world. And where none can be found… they create one.

To continue reading: Why the Boomers Are Going Broke

China Is Now Left With Just Three Options, And They Are All Equally Bad, by Tyler Durden

China has only a few things it can do about the trade war with the US, and none of them are without offsetting costs. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Last Friday’s forceful intervention by the PBOC, in which the central bank hiked the reserve requirement for FX forwards trading from 0% to 20%, was a warning shot at the gathering yuan shorts who managed to briefly send the Chinese currency below 6.90 against the dollar last week, after losing 4% of its value in the past month, and bringing the cumulative decline against the dollar to 10% since April, a far steeper drop than seen during the 2015 devaluation.

The yuan slide had come amid growing speculation that Chinese authorities are more willing to let their currency weaken along with market forces and an escalating trade war, at least for as long as they felt any capital account leakages are contained and manageable.

And yet, despite China’s long overdue intervention – after all, once capital flight begins as new holes in the capital account are uncovered, it would be too late to prevent a repeat of the 2015 scenario – the debate about Chinese currency depreciation and what happens next with Chinese policy gathered pace, with ING last week proposing that this latest attempt to “nuke the shorts” is doomed to failure, just like previous unilateral FX interventions.

Over the weekend, JPMorgan echoed ING’s skepticism, writing that despite Friday’s PBoC announcement and despite the cumulative depreciation over the past two months, “the pressure on the Chinese renminbi to decline further against the dollar is unlikely to go away if trade tensions with the US escalate further from here.”

Meanwhile, in a move that puzzled many China watchers, at the same time that the PBoC announced an increase in the reserve requirement ratio for fx forwards trading, China announced that it would implement tariffs on $60bn of imports in response to a threat by the US earlier this week to raise the tariff rate from 10% to 25% on $200bn of Chinese exports to the US, prompting some to speculate that the FX intervention was merely implemented to prevent a collapse in the yuan beyond 7.00 vs the dollar as the market freaked out about the latest Chinese retaliation.

To continue reading: China Is Now Left With Just Three Options, And They Are All Equally Bad

Trump’s Fake Fix for a Bad Policy, by Walter E. Block

In classic government fashion, Trump’s “fixing” one mistake with a bigger mistake. From Walter E. Block at lewrockwell.com:

As an economist who shares President Trump’s belief that we should be cutting taxes and shrinking government, one might expect me to be enthralled by his policies. But that is not the sentiment I and many other libertarians feel when it comes to his decision to impose tariffs on steel, aluminum and a host of other products made overseas, particularly in China.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said they had reached an agreement to step back from a trade war and discuss ways to lower tariffs and other trade barriers. But the outcome of those talks are far from certain, and trade tensions between the United States and China remain very high.

What is driving the president’s apparent eagerness to impose tariffs is a simple and wrongheaded idea that plays to a large part of his base: That a trade war will spur job growth in America. He is trying to use tariffs to give a leg up to American industries against countries that manufacture the same products that we do — whether steel, aluminum or cars — but more efficiently. And who could be against that if it creates more jobs?

But in reality simply creating jobs alone does not make for a strong economy. What we really want is to increase production. And to achieve that, we need to allocate labor as efficiently as possible. One way to do that is to make sure that if there are other countries that can create certain goods more efficiently than we can, it is to our advantage to trade with them for these items, rather than manufacture them ourselves. The result is cheaper goods.

But tariffs do nothing to improve this efficient allocation of labor. They also do not increase or decrease employment. They just shift jobs around, and almost always in a manner that hurts the economy.

To continue reading: Trump’s Fake Fix for a Bad Policy