Frame this Kodak moment; I agree with President Trump as he calls NAFTA the worst trade agreement in American history. We have been on this trajectory since 1961, and NAFTA was the foot on the gas of a car crashing through plate glass…
Trump now wants to fulfill one of his core campaign promises; to make better a deal for American workers. The Trump administration will begin to renegotiate NAFTA on Wednesday with counterparts from Mexico and Canada. The first round of talks are to kick off in Washington, D.C. hopefully, this goes better than his efforts to repeal and replace, well, you know…
Ignoring the past as prologue…
While every president likes to pretend that the jobs issue is the fault of the last administration, Trump blames NAFTA for millions of lost jobs and thousands of shuttered factories in America. Nonpartisan congressional research concluded in 2015that NAFTA didn’t cause a jobs exodus, although many other studies have concluded the exact opposite.
About 14 million American jobs depend on trade with Canada and Mexico, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a business advocacy group. But roughly 800,000 jobs were lost to Mexico between 1997 and 2013, to the Economic Policy Institute, a research group. Moreover, this study leaves out jobs lost to Chinese and Indonesian workers.
Trump even credited his tough talk on NAFTA with getting him to the White House. Trump supporters have reported that they voted for him in part to see him renegotiate better deals. Although, he never really said how on the campaign trail so it’s not clear exactly what Trump plans to do to get that “better deal.”
When U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer outlined the administration’s NAFTA objectives in July, he included a top goal which was to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico, which last year hit $63 billion.
A spanking like last summer?
Last summer, when Candidate Trump went to Mexico, he looked like a chastised toddler standing next to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto when his “build the wall” rhetoric was at full tilt, only to be re-energized two hours later by his base at an Arizona rally. Could this be a repeat?
Trump’s ultimate aim is to increase the number of American factory jobs. One possible way to do that is to force companies to produce more parts in the United States. There is a key part of NAFTA known as “rules of origin.” It means a certain percentage of parts in a product, such as a car, must originate from North America.
For example, 62% of the parts in a car sold in Mexico, Canada or the United States must come from there. The Trump administration has hinted it could raise that percentage and that it plans to more strictly enforce the standards for rules of origin. However, trade experts caution that forcing more parts to be made in America could mean car prices go up.
— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) August 14, 2017
Trump’s team also runs the risk of contradicting the very trade deal Trump has bashed. Experts say his administration’s list of NAFTA objectives is nearly identical to key parts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. Trump withdrew from that deal before it became law, but not before making his opposition to it a center piece of his campaign, sounding more like Bernie Sanders…But U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says TPP’s sections on labor and environmental standards are a “starting point” for NAFTA negotiations with Mexico and Canada.
Trump promised Americans he would bring together the best negotiators to get a new deal. He appointed Ross, Lighthizer, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro to lead on trade policy. Meanwhile, Lighthizer tapped John Melle, a career USTR official who was not nominated by Trump, to lead the talks. Melle was on the original USTR staff in 1993 that helped get the deal across the finish line in Congress. NAFTA became law in 1994.
So much for the swamp and that sort of thing…Sleep tight.
Trump Says Economy ‘Roaring Back’ in June As 4.8 Million Jobs Added
The economy added back 4.8 million jobs last month, according to the government’s June jobs report released yesterday. That handily beat the 3.7 million jobs forecasted by economists and dropped the unemployment rate down to 11.1%.
After the report was released, President Trump said the economy was “extremely strong” and “roaring back” after the country has regained more than 7.5 million jobs in the last two months. Trump added that the economy will keep growing unless voters elected Democrat Joe Biden in November. He said Biden would raise taxes and hurt the economy and the stock market would “drop down to nothing.”
Of the jobs added back in June, bars and restaurants hired – or rehired – 1.48 million workers. This comes as many reopened for outdoor dining in the early phases of the reopening. They brought back a similar number of workers in May. It happened after shedding more than 6 million jobs due to the pandemic.
The retail sector regained 740,000 jobs, healthcare added back 358,000 workers, and manufacturing saw 356,000 jobs added.
The energy sector continues to be battered by low oil prices amidst the economic slowdown. Additionally, that industry shed an additional 10,000 jobs last month.
The return of lower-paying jobs like those found in the restaurant and hospitality industry dragged down the average hourly wages for the second straight month.
Many are cautioning against reading too much into reports like average hourly wages while the economy is in such turmoil.
Stephen Stanley, chief economist of Amherst Pierpont Securities, says, “The wage figures will be pretty much useless for a long while until the labor market gets back to some semblance of normality.”
Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist of the job site Glassdoor, also gave an explanation. He added, “Today’s positive jobs report does provide a powerful signal of how swiftly U.S. job growth can bounce back and how rapidly businesses can reopen once the nation finally brings the coronavirus under control — a reason for optimism in coming months.”
Unfortunately for many of the workers recently rehired to work in bars and restaurants, the recent spike in new coronavirus cases could lead to those jobs quickly being lost for a second time. Bars in many states are being shut down again in an effort to curb the growing number of cases.
The unemployment rate fell for the second straight month. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is trying to fix a reporting error that, if corrected, would increase the unemployment rate by 1%.
The problem is how households respond to the monthly survey that is used to calculate the unemployment rate. The jobless rate would have been 1 point higher if not for continued problems in how respondents answer the question about their employment status.
What many consider the “real” unemployment rate, which is the U6 rate, includes workers who can only find part-time jobs. It also includes those who’ve become too discouraged to look for jobs because so few are available. Using that measurement, the unemployment rate stands at 18% in June, down from 21.2% in May.
Trump Favors Larger Stimulus Checks, Says ‘Tremendous’ Market Crash if Biden Wins
In a wide-ranging interview with Fox Business News, President Trump mentioned his support for another round of stimulus checks and says should Joe Biden win the election in November, we should expect the stock market to crash “a tremendous amount.”
On Stimulus Checks
Speaking with Blake Burman, the president says he is in favor of another round of stimulus checks, but wants to make sure that there is a financial incentive for Americans to return to work.
“I support it, but it has to be done properly. I support actually larger numbers than the Democrats, but it’s got to be done properly. We had something where it gave you a disincentive to work last time. And it was still money going to people, and helping people, so I was all for that. But we want to create a very great incentive to work.”
Trump also mentioned he wants the checks to arrive quickly and spent quickly, without the Democrats adding complications.
“I want the money getting to people to be larger so they can spend it, I want the money to get there quickly and in a non-complicated fashion. And they wanted to make it too complicated, also it was an incentive not to go to work,” said Trump.
Returning to work is what hard-working Americans are looking forward to, says Trump, and he wants there to be a financial incentive to do so.
“You’d make more money if you don’t go to work. That’s not what the country is all about. And people didn’t want that. They wanted to go to work but it didn’t make sense because they make more money if they didn’t… we want people to get out and we want to create a tremendous incentive for people to want to go back to work.”
On Biden and Taxes
When asked about Joe Biden’s recently announced plans to raise corporate taxes if he becomes President, Trump said “You’re going to crash the market. 401(k)s will be down the tubes, the wealth of the country will be down.”
He added “That will kill the market. It will kill everything we are doing, it will kill jobs, and it will be very bad. Frankly, the stock market is doing well, but it’s an overhang. If he got elected, and they say this, that’s an overhang over the market, because the market would crash. Would absolutely crash.”
When asked what he means by crash, Trump responded, “Markets would go down by tremendous amounts. He’d raise taxes, he’d raise regulations. Look, one of the biggest things I’ve done is I’ve cut regulations more than any President in history. We still have regulations, but they’re much less. His people, the people around him (Biden) are radical left. They’re going to raise taxes, they’re going to raise regulations, and they’re going to put everyone out of business. It would be a disaster.”
Fed to Keep Rates At Zero, Worried About Market Crash Later This Year
The Federal Reserve will keep rates at near zero percent for the foreseeable future. Also, a few members feel worried about a second wave of the coronavirus crashing the markets later this year. These are according to the minutes of the June 9-10 meeting.
Federal Open Market Committee members voted to keep the benchmark short-term borrowing rate in a range of 0%-0.25%. They also said that, until the economy “had weathered recent events,” they would keep it there. Without providing specifics, the notes also mention that “a number” of members believe there is a high probability of additional “waves of outbreaks” of the coronavirus.
This worry over additional outbreak waves and the economic damage it could bring led the FOMC committee to downgrade their economic outlook from the April meeting. The said meeting had predicted a more benign baseline forecast.
The members also indicated that they will begin providing the markets with stronger guidance about future interest rate moves. However, Fed watchers don’t expect the committee to begin providing this guidance any earlier than the September meeting.
“In particular, most participants commented that the Committee should communicate a more explicit form of forward guidance for the path of the federal funds rate and provide more clarity regarding purchases of Treasury securities and agency [mortgage-backed securities] as more information about the trajectory of the economy becomes available,” the minutes said.
Milestones and Metrics
The committee also discussed what milestones they will use to determine an appropriate time to start raising interest rates. When they did, the metrics proposed has split the committee.
In 2012 for example, the Fed said it would keep rates at zero until the unemployment rate fell below 6.5%. Alternatively, they also said it would keep zero rates until the inflation goes above 2.5%.
In June’s meeting, a “number” of members said any interest rate increases should be tied to the Fed’s 2% inflation target. Meanwhile, a “couple” favored using the unemployment rate. A “few” members suggested the committee set a specific date.
The FOMC also released its expectations for GDP over the next few years. The median GDP projection for 2020 was a contraction of 6.5%. A 5% increase in 2021 and a 3.5% in 2022 will follow this. However, they acknowledged “that there remained an extraordinary amount of uncertainty and considerable risks to the economic outlook.”
Trump on Powell
Meanwhile, there’s a bit of good news for Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell. It appears he has slowly won over his most vocal critic, President Trump.
During an interview on Fox Business News, Trump said Powell has “stepped up to the plate” and he’s happy with Powell and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for the work they’ve done to help the economy recover.
“I would say that I was not happy with him at the beginning, and I’m getting more and more happy with him, I think he’s stepped up to the plate. He’s done a good job, he’s had to liquify a little bit, let us liquify, put out the money that you needed, and I would say over the last period of 6 months he’s really stepped up to the plate.
“I can tell you I’m very happy with his performance, and Steve Mnuchin, I think they’ve both done a very good job, they’re working together very closely.”
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