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Free but Fair Trade – Is it Possible?

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Free but fair trade is an expression which we often hear today from President Trump; just as we hear that millionaires and billionaires must pay their fair share from Senator Sanders. When asked what percentage is fair; since these millionaire and billionaires are in the highest tax bracket and pay the most in taxes, we never seem to get an answer. All we hear is from the progressive left that they have too much and need to pay more.

Similarly, the expression free but fair trade sounds great, but the meaning of “fair” is utterly void of any substantive meaning. The idea of a 25% tariff may be fair, but it is by no means free. So the question is, how can we obtain free but fair trade?

The Reality

Before we can answer this question, we must first examine the deficiencies in our current trade policies. The first thing we must realize is that we do not currently have free trade. Think about it like this. If we did have free trade why would we need complex trade agreements? The fact is we have thousands of tariffs in the United States. Just like every other country, we seek to protect some industries over others.

Some are for supposed national security reasons, and others are simply to protect an industry in a member of Congress’ district.

The second and most significant reason we do not have free trade is that true free trade is optimal but not politically expedient. For instance, let us use China and the United States as examples and let us say we currently do not trade with each other.

Establishing trade with one another is beneficial for both countries regardless of tariffs. Since trade never existed, an unfavorable trade agreement is preferable over no trade at all. Reasons being both countries will benefit from trade. Industries may open, and some may close, but there will be a net positive for both countries. It is a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Now instead of unfavorable trade agreements, what if we had free trade. All products coming from China into the United States and vice versa are tax-free. In this situation, you will see the greatest mutually benefit as both countries will have positive net growth. If this situation exists for years, you will see a fluid economy as some industries will be created, grow, decline, or shut down.

The problem that arises is not the creating and growth of some industries but the decline or elimination portion.

If a software engineering firm which sells most of its software to China opens up in a congressional district, you will be sure to see that member of Congress at the ribbon cutting ceremony will a plethora of other politicians stating their policies fostered the creating of this software engineering firm.

On the other hand, you won’t see these same politicians at the factory down the street which is packing up and moving to China. The same policies that opened up the software engineering firm eliminated your manufacturing job. What is an elected official to do?

What they will try and do is give tax incentives and add tariffs to prevent the closure. If they succeed, they will once again take credit; even though the biggest net benefit to the economy as a whole is to allow the factory to shut down, though it isn’t politically expedient.

Back in China, they will also try and protect their software engineering firms by adding tariffs and regulations on the US-based company. The result of all this will be less than optimal, but a long-term net benefit is not politically expedient. So protectionism will inevitably begin.

Possible Solution?

Therefore, how do we create complete free and fair trade? The honest answer is you can’t; as we have demonstrated allowing complete laissez-faire trade policy will never occur because it isn’t politically expedient. Some may be for good reasons and some for bad reasons.

To achieve the most optimal outcome would be to eliminate tariffs. But how do you do that without cheating and allowing politically expedient policies?

Maybe this example trade policy below might help in this endeavor.

All products, goods, materials, and services, entering the United States and its territories shall be free of tariffs. Any fees, including but not limited to docking, storage, and inspection imposed at points of entry shall be uniform at each location regardless of country of origin. Likewise, all products, goods, materials, and services produced in the United States and its territories shall be free of tariffs. Any country that imposes a tax on any of said products shall immediately, have the highest equivalent tax impose on all their goods and services at the same rate plus 10%; until eliminated.

Likewise, any fees should not favor any other country over the United States and its territories. Fees must be uniform or to the benefit of the United States. If fees are to the disadvantage of the United States, those same rates shall be immediately imposed on said country plus 10% until eliminated.

How it works

I postulate this trade policy would allow greater free trade then we have ever seen.

For instance, if China has a combined 20% tariff on mid-sized trucks and 25% on sedans, then since 25% is the highest tax imposed on US products then 100% of all items coming into the United States from China will have a tariff of 27.5% immediately imposed on it. This scheme would also apply to any value added tax or border adjustment tax which would disadvantage the United States over other foreign or domestic products. Therefore, I believe the consequence would be so devastating to China they wouldn’t dare put a tax on American products, and likewise, the United States would not want to engage in a trade war just to protect one industry or factory.

Let us say that we just succeeded in creating Free Trade the vague notion of Fair Trade can never be quantified or defined.

For instance, if China is subsidizing its steel industry and shipping Chinese steel into the United States cheaper than the free market can produce it, is that still Fair Trade?

Is it Fair?

It’s still Free Trade because no taxes or tariffs are imposed but is it fair?

Some would argue that it is not fair for China to subsidize their steel industry because that puts the US steel industry at a disadvantage. The US could impose a tariff but as stated that would eliminate free trade. The only other option would be for the United States to subsidize the US steel industry or let it possibly collapse. Sidenote, we only receive 2% of our steel from China, and U.S. Steel production makes up 70% of the steel used in the United States.

Some might see this as unfair; others see this as a plus benefit to the United States.

American economist and Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences recipient Milton Friedman viewed this as reverse foreign aid. If China wants to tax their citizens to provide US citizens and companies with subsidized steel why not let them. In a Milton Friedman perspective, this might seem unfair to Chinese taxpayers and more than fair to US taxpayers.

Some may argue that US steel production is vital to US national security. Having enough steel is crucial to our national security, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t stockpile Chinese steel. Also, it neglects the fact that other countries like South Korea protect their steel industry by subsidizing steel in their country to prevent monopolization by Chinese firms. The US can also buy from South Korea or even Canada.

Countries may also put strict regulations on how steel is produced in their countries as well as impose those rules on foreign producers. These policies may not have a defined numerical value as a tariff but in a sense act as a protectionist trade barrier. Since there is no quantitative value to these types of regulations, having US laws automatically trigger countermeasures would be impossible.

So can we truly have Free but Fair Trade? As we have seen having Free Trade is possible, but Fair Trade is really in the eye of the beholder. Ultimately, the best interest of the United States and its continued success is by having a free trade policy, maybe something like I have spelled out in this article, as well as, limiting regulations and limiting government interference in the economy.

Nothing can be put in place to be completely fair and balanced, but the most reasonable thing to do for the overall benefit of America and Americans is to maximize laissez-faire economic policies void of politically expedient measures.


Konstantinos Roditis is a candidate for California State Controller. You can learn more about his campaign at cacontroller.com, and you can follow him on Twitter & Facebook.

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Economy

Fed survey cites rising concerns about trade tariffs

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Fed survey cites rising concerns about trade tariffs

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that the U.S. economy was growing in the fall, but there were concerns about higher tariffs from a widening trade war, rising interest rates and tight labor markets.

In its latest report on economic conditions around the country, the Fed said that most of its 12 regions saw moderate growth through late November. Dallas and Philadelphia said growth had slowed, while St. Louis and Kansas City depicted growth as slight.

The report, known as the beige book, found that optimism about the future had waned somewhat, with business contacts citing “increased uncertainty.”

The survey will used at the Fed’s next meeting on Dec. 18-19. The central bank is widely expected to boost its benchmark rate for a fourth time this year at that meeting.

The beige book report noted problems the higher tariffs from Trump’s get-tough approach to trade were causing: rising costs for manufacturers, weaker sales at companies and farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs imposed by China and other nations.

Even with the tariff concerns, the beige book said most districts continued to report moderate growth in manufacturing.

The impact of rising interest rates affected interest-rate sensitive sectors such as housing, with the beige book noting that new home construction and sales of existing homes were either holding steady or experiencing slight declines.

The Fed survey said that labor markets had tightened further across a broad range of occupations.

“Over half of the districts cited firms for which employment, production and sometimes capacity expansion had been constrained by an inability to attract and retain qualified workers,” the report said.

Unemployment fell in October to a 49-year low of 3.7 percent with economists forecasting further declines in the coming months. A key reason the Fed has been raising interest rates is to slow the economy to ensure that tight labor markets don’t unleash unwanted inflation pressures.

With labor markets already so tight, the Fed said that many districts were seeing examples of firms enhancing their nonwage benefits, including health benefits, profit-sharing, bonuses and paid vacation days.

Despite the wage pressures, the report said that prices continued to increase at a modest pace in most districts although reports of tariff-inducted cost increases have spread more broadly in such areas as manufacturing, retailing and restaurants.

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Economy

White House intensifies confusion and fear on US-China deal

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White House intensifies confusion and fear on US-China deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration raised doubts Tuesday about the substance of a U.S.-China trade cease-fire, contributing to a broad stock market plunge and intensifying fears of a global economic slowdown.

Investors had initially welcomed the truce that the administration said was reached over the weekend in Argentina between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping — and sent stocks up Monday. But on Tuesday, after a series of confusing and conflicting words from Trump and some senior officials, stocks tumbled, with the Dow Jones shedding about 800 points, or 3.1 percent.

White House aides have struggled to explain the details of what the two countries actually agreed on. And China has not confirmed that it made most of the concessions that the Trump administration has claimed.

“The sense is that there’s less and less agreement between the two sides about what actually took place,” said Willie Delwiche, an investment strategist at Baird. “There was a rally in the expectation that something had happened. The problem is that something turned out to be nothing.”

Other concerns contributed to the stock sell-off, including falling long-term bond yields. Those lower rates suggested that investors expect the U.S. economy to slow, along with global growth, and possibly fall into recession in the coming year or two.

John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, also unnerved investors by telling reporters Tuesday that he supports further Fed rate hikes. His remarks renewed fears that the Fed may miscalculate and raise rates so high or so fast as to depress growth.

The disarray surrounding the China deal coincides with a global economy that faces other challenges: Britain is struggling to negotiate its exit from the European Union. Italy’s government is seeking to spend and borrow more, which could elevate interest rates and stifle growth.

And in the United States, home sales have fallen sharply in the past year as mortgage rates have jumped.

Trump and White House aides have promoted the apparent U.S.-China agreement in Buenos Aires as a historic breakthrough that would ease trade tensions and potentially reduce tariffs. They announced that China had agreed to buy many more American products and to negotiate over the administration’s assertions that Beijing steals American technology. But by Tuesday morning, Trump was renewing his tariff threats in a series of tweets.

“President Xi and I want this deal to happen, and it probably will,” Trump tweeted. “But if not remember, I am a Tariff Man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so.”

Trump added that a 90-day timetable for negotiators to reach a deeper agreement had begun and that his aides would see “whether or not a REAL deal with China is actually possible.”

He revisited the issue later Tuesday with a tweet that said: “We are either going to have a REAL DEAL with China, or no deal at all – at which point we will be charging major Tariffs against Chinese product being shipped into the United States. Ultimately, I believe, we will be making a deal – either now or into the future. China does not want Tariffs!”

The president’s words had the effect of making the weekend agreement, already a vague and uncertain one, seem even less likely to produce a long-lasting trade accord.

“We expect the relationship between the world’s two largest economies to remain contentious,” Moody’s Investors Service said in a report. “Narrow agreements and modest concessions in their ongoing trade dispute will not bridge the wide gulf in their respective economic, political and strategic interests.”

Among the conflicting assertions that White House officials made was over whether China had actually agreed to drop its 40 percent tariffs on U.S. autos.

In addition, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday on the Fox Business Network that China agreed to buy $1.2 trillion of U.S. products. But Mnuchin added, “If that’s real” — thereby raising some doubt — it would close the U.S. trade deficit with China, and “We have to have a negotiated agreement and have this on paper.”

Many economists have expressed skepticism that very much could be achieved to bridge the vast disagreements between the two countries in just 90 days.

“The actual amount of concrete progress made at this meeting appears to have been quite limited,” Alec Phillips and other economists at Goldman Sachs wrote in a research note.

During the talks in Buenos Aires, Trump agreed to delay a scheduled escalation in U.S. tariffs on many Chinese goods, from 10 percent to 25 percent, that had been set to take effect Jan. 1. Instead, the two sides are to negotiate over U.S. complaints about China’s trade practices, notably that it has used predatory tactics to try to achieve supremacy in technology. These practices, according to the administration and outside analysts, include stealing intellectual property and forcing companies to turn over technology to gain access to China’s market.

In return for the postponement in the higher U.S. tariffs, the White House said China had agreed to step up its purchases of U.S. farm, energy and industrial goods. Most economists noted that the two countries remain far apart on the sharpest areas of disagreement, which include Beijing’s subsidies for strategic Chinese industries, in addition to forced technology transfers and intellectual property theft.

Chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow acknowledged those challenges in remarks Tuesday morning.

“China’s discussed these things with the U.S. many times down through the years and the results have not been very good,” he said. “So this time around, as I said, I’m hopeful, we’re covering more ground than ever … So we’ll see.”

Complicating the challenge, Trump’s complaints strike at the heart of the Communist Party’s state-led economic model and its plans to elevate China to political and cultural leadership by creating global champions in robotics and other fields.

“It’s impossible for China to cancel its industry policies or major industry and technology development plans,” said economist Cui Fan of the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

Trump had tweeted Sunday that China agreed to “reduce and remove” its 40 percent tariff on cars imported from the U.S. Mnuchin said Monday that there was a “specific agreement” on the auto tariffs.

Yet Kudlow said later that there was no “specific agreement” regarding auto trade, though he added, “We expect those tariffs to go to zero.”

___

Associated Press writer Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.

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Economy

Medicare-for-All would cost more than every penny we’ve spent on defense in the country’s history

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Medicare-for-All would cost more than every penny weve spent on defense in the countrys history

Math is hard for many Americans. It isn’t just the sad state of our public school system that keeps the people down. It’s politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who push lies and pipe dreams that keep many Americans thinking the government has unlimited money and there’s no real difference between millions, billions, and trillions.

There’s a big difference, of course, but leftists will never let the number of zeroes get in the way of promoting their ideological goals. As I posted earlier, even left-leaning news outlets like the Washington Post are calling out Ocasio-Cortez for her false statements about Medicare-for-All.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez earns 4 Pinocchios over bungled defense budget interpretation

http://noqreport.com/2018/12/04/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-earns-4-pinocchios-bungled-defense-budget-interpretation/Ocasio-Cortez must have realized when she Tweeted the article that there’s no way “66% of Medicare for All could have been funded already by the Pentagon.” She was certainly playing down to her base in hopes they’d ignore reality and embrace her false notions just because she said it. The Tweet was either a bald-faced lie or she’s an absolute moron. Or both.

Washington Post, which normally supports socialist initiatives recommended by their Democratic puppetmasters, had to call this particular claim out. They gave the claim “4 Pinocchios,” a designation they save for some of the most egregious lies in politics.

It isn’t just about being completely wrong on the Pentagon’s accounting errors. This goes deeper. While fact-checking her claims, PolitiFact decided to do some math of their own. They gathered defense spending data as far back as they could – 1940 – and tallied the totals. Those who understand the difference between millions, billions, and trillions probably won’t be surprised to learn the total spent in that time is under $18 trillion, well short of the $21 trillion Ocasio-Cortez claimed she could have used to pay 2/3 of Medicare-for-All.

The also stipulated that since defense spending was much lower in the past, it’s very likely the total spent since the nation’s inception still couldn’t hit Ocasio-Cortez’ number.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrong on scale of Pentagon accounting errors

https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2018/dec/03/alexandria-ocasio-cortez/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-wrong-scale-pentagon-acco/One tip-off is the amount of Ocasio-Cortez’s “accounting errors” is far bigger than the actual Pentagon spending from 1998 to 2015, which was $8.5 trillion. In fact, it’s also far bigger than the amount the government has spent on national security since 1940 and, in all likelihood, in the nation’s history.

Here’s a chart we assembled showing national-security spending by the federal government from 1940 to today. Ocasio-Cortez’s $21 trillion estimate exceeds the entirety of national-security spending since 1940, which checks in around $17.8 trillion. And while full data back to 1776 doesn’t exist, prorating backwards for another 164 years would almost certainly not add enough to make the total $21 trillion.

Medicare-for-All is projected to cost $32 trillion over its first 10 years alone.

Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and all their mathematically challenged supporters need to hear this information now. If you could somehow take back every dollar spent on defense from the time the nation was formed until today, it still wouldn’t be enough to pay for Medicare-for-All. This isn’t a right-wing conspiracy. This is left-leaning Politifact crunching the numbers.

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