NAFTA took effect in 1994 during the Clinton administration although he had to rely on support from the Republicans in the House – 60% of congressional Democrats voted against NAFTA. NAFTA got rid of tariffs on more than half of its members’ industrial products and by 2009 the deal eliminated tariffs on all industrial and agricultural goods.
Positives of NAFTA
- American corporates believed the deal would cut labour costs and therefore increase efficiency and international competitiveness.
- American consumer would also benefit from lower prices.
- It would raise Mexico’s living standards especially in the north.
- Trade between the USA and Mexico has risen 1.3% in 1994 to 2.5% in 2015
- Mexico’s real income has risen – $10,000 in 1994 to $19000 in 2015
- Less Mexicans are migrating to the USA – 500,000 a year to virtually nothing.
Mexican incomes are no better, as a share of those in the US, than they were in 1994. Americans are slightly better off. NAFTA has caused significant job losses in the manufacturing industry.
However there are some unseen circumstances which have affected the deal.
1. The crisis of the Mexican Peso in 1994-95 – Zapatista rebels launched an uprising in Southern Mexico and the leading presidential candidate was assassinated. Worried about stability, foreign investment began to flee the country. It was eventually brought under control by a loan from the US government.
2. September 11th – this terrorist attack increased the cost of moving goods and people
3. The rapid growth on the Chinese economy which accounted for more than 13% of global exports and 25% of global manufacturing value-added. This puts a lot of pressure on global supply chains.
Have job losses been a result of NAFTA?
Brad DeLong (University of California) estimated that NAFTA could be blamed for only 0.1% of job losses in the US economy. This equates to fewer jobs than the US economy adds in a typical month. But to be realistic job losses would have increased without NAFTA for the following reasons:
1. the advances in technology would see labour being substituted
2. the strong US dollar would make US exports less competitive and thereby making overseas production attractive
3. Transport and communications improvements have made overseas production also attractive
Source: The Economist – 4th February 2017
Below is Paul Krugman on Bloomberg news. He talks of the poor performance of NAFTA for Mexico in that the country hasn’t developed as a whole. Some of the northern states have done well but southern Mexico is still very poor.
Donald Trump appointed Peter Navarro as the head of the newly created National Trade Council – it has been his anti-China stance outlined in his book ‘Death by China’ that has led to his surprise hiring by Trump. The book talks of the economic and military rise of China and the demise of the US manufacturing industry unable to compete with the Chinese sweatshops.
However a lot of the criticisms that Navarro has pointed at China have been quite valid.
1. Currency – the intervention on the foreign exchange market to keep their currency weak so improving the competitiveness of exports.
2. Intellectual property – forcing American firms to hand over intellectual property as a condition of access to the Chinese market.
3. Pollution – Chinese firms pollute the environment and have weak environmental controls on industry.
4. Working conditions – these are far worse than what is the law in most industrialized countries.
5. Export subsidies – government assistance help reduce the cost and ultimately the price of exports from China.
In 2006 he estimated that 41% of China’s competitive advantage over the USA in manufacturing came from unfair practices like those above and when China joined the WTO in 2001 the trade deficit with the USA ballooned at the same time millions of manufacturing jobs disappeared. The deficit though was funded by the Chinese and it was a consequence of the Chinese buying US Treasury bills – to put it simply the Chinese funded US consumers to buy Chinese products. Niall Ferguson refers to the relationship as Chimerica – the two are interdependent in that the USA borrows off the Chinese and then uses that money to buy Chinese products.
Navarro believes that with China adhering to global trade rules the deficit in manufacturing will decrease and manufacturing jobs will return to the US. However when jobs return they are not the same as they were in previous years as it is highly likely that productivity/technology has refined the production process. Research has also suggested that when the trade deficit with China increased (1998-2010) the loss of manufacturing jobs only rose slightly 2.5m to 2.7m. One wonders what Navarro will do in the coming months?
Sources: The Economist, The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson.
Below is a great cartoon clip from the FT with Gillian Tett talking about the 3 heads of Donald Trump. With some excellent cartoon graphics she goes through each of the following:
- The sensible serious Trump
- The love to shock Trump
- Sleezy, freewheeling, write my own rules, anti elitist Trump
One wonders which Trump will be more prevalent in his presidency? A lot of references to economics – animal spirits, NAFTA, tax cuts, corporate tax etc. As Gillian Tett points out ‘nobody really knows who he is’
A colleague alerted me to a Terrie Lloyd a New Zealand businessman in Japan who writes a weekly newsletter. With the election of Donald Trump his recent writing looked at bullies and ways in which you deal with them. Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, has been proactive in getting to know Trump and his team and how the two countries can work together.
Research on bullies
Lloyd suggests that there are generally three ways to deal with a bully.
Run – UK seem to be taking this option
Fight – Chinese will do this
Suffer and appease – Japan, having a bullying culture already, will go for appeasement
Abe will be meeting with Trump on 10th February for a second time in as many months and will want to convince him that Japan is one of the good guys and if he has to pick on someone in the area he should pick on China. For this to work Abe also needs to feed Trump’s ego publicly
Lloyd looks at the work of Dacher Keltner who has written about appeasement and related
human emotion and social practice. He looks at two general classes of appeasement.
1) reactive – the person provides appropriate responses after incidents and these responses are usually public displays of embarrassment and shame.
2) anticipatory appeasement where a person is proactive and engages in certain strategies to avoid conflict. Polite modesty and shyness are also considered anticipatory appeasement.
Japanese Model for dealing with bullies
With Japan taking the latter option, Keltner is suggesting that Abe must appease Trump with gifts of value and that they are seen publicly to assist Trumps power and reputation. Last month the Japanese gave access to US car manufacturers but will that be enough to keep Trump happy? At the meeting on 10th February Abe will propose a package that could generate 700,000 U.S. jobs and help create a $450-billion market. It includes the building of infrastructure projects such as high-speed trains in the northeastern United States, and the states of Texas and California, and renovating subway and train cars. It also includes cooperation in global infrastructure investment, joint development of robots and artificial intelligence, and cooperation in cybersecurity and space exploration, among others.
Toyota the car manufacturer has also been taking the appeasement option after the Trump administration criticised their building of a second car assembly plant in Mexico and also threatened to impose a 20% tariff on Japanese automobile and auto parts makers with plants in Mexico. Toyota quickly announced it would invest $10 billion in its U.S. operations over the next five years.
Abe has definitely been massaging the ego of Trump not only being the first international leader to visit Washington after his election but also telling Trump that he “hopes the United States will become a greater country through (your) leadership,” adding Japan wants to “fulfill our role as your ally.” It will be interesting to see what happens after their meeting on Friday 10th February.
Sources: Terrie Lloyd, The Japan Times
The Economist produced a graph showing world GDP data and made the following points:
- India and China account for 65% of world growth
- Emerging markets contributions in 2016 were down to its lowest figure since 2008 – falling commodity prices would have been a factor
- Norway contributed less to global GDP with lower oil prices being prevalent.
- USA with increased government spending and greater export volumes improved its position
- Brazil has been in negative territory since mid 2014 – interesting point with significant government spending on hosting the Football World Cup and the Olympics.
Maybe a good starter for your classes asking the question who contributes most to world GDP?
Here is a good overview of President Obama’s economic legacy from PBS’s Paul Solman. Did his efforts to turn the country around after the 2008 financial crisis constitute a robust recovery, or too little, too late? Economics correspondent Paul Solman assembled a panel of economic experts to discuss employment across racial groups, the types of jobs created and the obstacles the president faced in enacting his economic agenda. Some of the comments are as follows:
- He saved us from a great depression.
- Over 15 million jobs have been added; 22 million more people have health insurance coverage than they did before.
- If we characterise an economy as being in a catastrophe at unemployment rates greater than 8 percent, the black unemployment rate is still above 8 percent. So, frankly, black Americans are still in a great depression, or great recession at the very least.
- The failure by the Obama administration to focus on economic growth.
- A long-term infrastructure program would have made a great deal of sense, and frankly still does today. But that’s not what the Obama administration proposed. I think we need to have a more holistic structural agenda for lower-income Americans, rather than just treating it as a problem of recession and recovery.
- We needed bolder, stronger, more fundamental, not tinkering, ideas to really structurally change the U.S. economy.
You may remember a previous post I did on ‘WetheEconomy’ now there is ‘WetheVoters’ The site has 20 short films designed to inform, inspire and ultimately activate voters nationwide with fresh perspectives on the subjects of democracy, elections and U.S. governance.
Below is a parody of the television programme “Real Housewives” with a political and economics twist. It shows a good example example of the current political climate and some possible avenues for change. On the one side you have Jessica who is concerned with the government balancing its budget and Lara who believes that the government needs to spend more on infrastructure etc to stimulate the economy and creates jobs. She also uses the austerity measures in the EU as an example to support her opinion. Jessica does make the point as to who is going to pay for all this spending – our kids. Then there is Vanessa who is neutral although does get into trouble by informing Lara that Jessica thinks the government should increase defence spending. From this point it gets quite heated but they do make up. Enjoy!