Beat-Up Travelers: Estimating Trump's Hit to US Tourism

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 4/17/2017 04:00:00 PM
(White) natives-only policy: Trump repels legions of foreigners from US travel, AKA self-inflicted torture.
It won't be long now until we have a reasonably accurate read on how much travel to the US has been affected so far by the rampant xenophobia incited by Donald Trump. At month's end, GDP for first-quarter 2017 should indicate the hit to tourism-related trade: food services, accommodations, recreation/entertainment/shopping, and transportation.  What's there to like about traveling to the US unless you're a masochist? You've got Muslim Ban 1.0 and 2.0, extreme vetting, being forced to give up device passwords (or get waterboarded?), invasive pat-downs, Indian nationals being shot and killed, Vietnamese migrants being forcibly dragged off planes...the list goes on and on.

Foreigners being sensible people who don't appreciate being discriminated against, shot, dragged, detained, having their private parts fondled and so forth, it's no surprise that news reports about falling tourist arrivals in the US have been plentiful. Here are two more guesstimates on the negative impact as we await the month-end GDP figure. First, the Washington Post:
Demand for flights to the United States has fallen in nearly every country since January, ­according to Hopper, a travel-booking app that analyzes more than 10 billion daily airfare price quotes to derive its data. Searches for U.S. flights from China and Iraq have dropped 40 percent since Trump’s inauguration, while demand in Ireland and New Zealand is down about 35 percent.

The result could be an estimated 4.3 million fewer people coming to the United States this year, resulting in $7.4 billion in lost revenue, according to Tourism Economics, a Philadelphia-based analytics firm. Next year, the fallout is expected to be even larger, with 6.3 million fewer tourists and $10.8 billion in losses. Miami is expected to be hit hardest, followed by San Francisco and New York, the firm said.       
It may be 9/11 all over again for an industry just recently recovered from the United States' initial foray into enhanced foreign traveler harassment:
The result could be an estimated 4.3 million fewer people coming to the United States this year, resulting in $7.4 billion in lost revenue, according to Tourism Economics, a Philadelphia-based analytics firm. Next year, the fallout is expected to be even larger, with 6.3 million fewer tourists and $10.8 billion in losses. Miami is expected to be hit hardest, followed by San Francisco and New York, the firm said.       

The administration’s travel ban deals a blow to an industry that has only recently recovered from a $600 billion loss following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“In the aftermath of 9/11, at first people didn’t feel safe coming here, and then they didn’t feel welcome,” said Jonathan Grella, an executive vice president at the U.S. Travel Association. “Our industry still refers to that as ‘the lost decade.’ There is a very real risk that that could happen again.”
Good job, Trumpy, good job. Meanwhile, the World Travel and Tourism Council predicts declining tourism activity, partly due to the stronger dollar:
The WTTC’s annual report forecast that the travel and tourism sector, which contributed $1.5tn to the US economy, or 8.1 per cent of its GDP, will grow at 2.3 per cent in 2017 — a contraction of 0.5 percentage points compared with last year. Spending by foreign visitors in the US is predicted to fall 0.6 per cent, mainly due to the strength of the dollar that is making the country a less attractive spending destination. The WTTC said that travellers would seek alternative travel destinations, with “the most likely beneficiaries” being Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
Unless your idea of a good time is getting molested at a US airport, I think us foreigners have better things to do. Roll on the US Q1 GDP figures; with travel constituting 8.1% of the US economy, I don't think it's going to look very good for the first quarter. Or the rest of Trump's term for that matter unless he realizes that, hey, US travel is often discretionary for the rest of us and can be put off indefinitely.

UPDATE: Perhaps due to Trump's election, travel in the last quarter of 2016 already slumped. More of the same to come? I think so.

See? Even Trump Recognizes Ex-Im Bank's Worth

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 4/15/2017 04:46:00 PM
Back in business thanks to Trump...of all people.
When you think of a person of no conviction, the name "Donald Trump" comes to mind. Mind you, the lack of core beliefs is not always a drawback when you are (rather regrettably) [a] the most powerful person in the world and [b] have a fondness for conspiracy theories and extremist ideologies. So it was perhaps inevitable that the reality of actually governing would lead him to recognize that many of his views are, well, economically untenable. Think of it: in the past few days...
President Donald Trump’s declaration that he won’t label China a currency manipulator stands as the clearest example of the difficulty he’s having delivering on big campaign promises.

The currency decision is one among many instances of Trump reversing course since taking office a little less than three months ago. Within the space of a few hours on Wednesday, Trump changed previously critical stances on the U.S. Export-Import Bank, the value of NATO, interest rates, and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. 
For this post, the item of interest is the US Export-Import Bank. For a number of months, it's been unable to provide credit to foreign buyers of US-made goods since the Republican-dominated Congress has slowed down the process of fully appointing its membership. The absence of a full slate has meant it has limits on how much in loans it can disburse. But wonders of wonders, Trump of all people has now restored it to full functioning. To be sure, his picks will need congressional approval, but it's unlikely that he will be waylaid by fellow Republicans on this at least:
President Donald Trump nominated former Republican lawmaker Scott Garrett as president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States on Friday, completing an about-face over an institution he had denounced as "featherbedding" for big business.
A White House statement also named Spencer Bachus, another Republican former congressman, to be a member of the board of directors of the bank. Both were named for four-year terms.

Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday he would fill the two vacancies on the bank's five-member board that have prevented it from having a quorum and being able to act on loans over $10 million.
His picks must gain approval from the Senate, which blocked nominees by former President Barack Obama.
When it comes to sheer economic ignorance, you will probably find it very hard to beat Donald Trump. In this case, however, you will have to give that designation to Congressional "small government" nutters who think that Ex-Im Bank is a little more than a subsidy provider. Those guys have both blocked efforts to get Ex-Im Bank from being fully functional and have delayed Obama's efforts to get it going despite bipartisan consensus to do so:
The bank has become a popular target for conservatives, who worked in Congress to kill the institution, arguing that it perpetuates cronyism and does little to create American jobs.

Trump's backing of the bank represents a victory for manufacturers like Boeing and General Electric Co (GE.N), which have overseas customers that use the agency's government-backed loans to purchase their products.

Trump told the Journal the bank benefits small businesses and creates jobs, a reversal of his earlier criticism of the bank as being "featherbedding" for wealthy corporations.
The truth of the matter is that most other countries--especially major exporters of manufactures like China (China Exim Bank) and Japan (Nippon Export and Investment Insurance) have export credit providers. Virtually all OECD nations have such institutions. So what the right-wing nutters were effectively doing was uniquely handicapping US exports in the face of international competition. The whole point is that the financial systems of many prospective buyers--especially in developing countries--may be unable to provide [a] larger-sized loans at [b] reasonable enough rates for [c] a long enough time. Those risks--amount, repayment and duration--usually entail official international credit.

As such, credit provided by export-import entities can be "developmental" in enabling purchases of capital equipment useful to fostering economic growth--especially in poorer countries whose financial systems are less sophisticated by definition. 

If even Trump can recognize that, what does it says about those who don't?

UPDATE: It is fair to reiterate that among the nominees of Trump, the putative president Scott Garrett was an Ex-Im Bank doubter who used to vote down re-authorization while a congressperson. However, it's counterbalanced by the other person proposed as a director, Spencer Bachus, being a proponent of getting it going again.

They cancel each other out, IMHO, and the bank will be back in business. After all, why activate it if you're not going to grant any financing to help US firms?

UK Delusions of Becoming Singapore 2.0 Post-Brexit

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 4/11/2017 04:00:00 PM
By leaving the EU, the UK is making itself less--not more--like Singapore.
It strikes me as very odd that the architects of Brexit--which many voters supported to do away with economic integration in the first place--see an opportunity to remake the UK as Singapore. The story of its former colony becoming wealthier than it on a per capita basis is certainly something to admire. That said, Singapore is firmly entrenched in a regional integration of its own in the 1993 ASEAN Free Trade Area or AFTA. That ASEAN itself and AFTA were modeled to an extent on the EU, well...let's say people see what they want to see. It's called "confirmation bias."

Justin Fox shares his bemusement, Maybe part of the point of MNCs locating in the UK or Singapore for that matter was to be in an English-speaking gateway to a wider region--Europe or Southeast Asia? Through point is lost by the Brexiteers who've killed the regional golden goose:
The New Singapore idea seems to be mainly that leaving the EU will allow the U.K. to cut taxes and roll back regulations, positioning itself as a free-market oasis just off the coast of Europe.

Now, the U.K. already has a lower tax burden and a less-regulated labor market than most of the countries across the Channel, and London has been playing a role in Europe similar to that of Singapore in Asia for decades now. Global corporations, especially financial ones, have chosen Singapore and London as operations bases where the language is more familiar and the rules more amenable than in other countries in those regions. So far, most of the attention has been focused on the risk that Brexit, by restricting access to European markets, will harm London's status as a financial hub. But there's enough uncertainty about this that I guess it's impossible to dismiss the opposite argument entirely.
Kiwi economics commentator David Skilling who's written extensively about Singapore's virtues actually thinks smallish Scotland, if it gains independence, would be better placed to replicate Singapore than the biggish UK:
Cutting loose from the European Union could give the U.K. more room to maneuver. But the U.K. is a relatively large country that would be hard-pressed to maneuver like a Singapore -- and it may be shooting itself in the foot by walling itself off from its neighbors. There is a part of the U.K., though, that Skilling thinks shows promise. An independent Scotland, he wrote in his weekly note on Sunday, might just be small and cohesive and agile enough to make a go of it as a cold, windy Singapore on the moors.
In a separate article, Skilling underlines the point that ASEAN and AFTA are the bedrocks of Singapore's success:
But the foundation for Singapore's international economic and political engagement is Asean, and Asia more broadly. This regional engagement is a complement to, not a substitute for, Singapore's global network of trading and investing relationships.

Over 60 per cent of Singapore's exports and outward direct investment is focused on Asian markets. And Singapore's success in attracting inward investment - remarkably Singapore receives more foreign direct investment from the US than China does - is largely because Singapore serves as a hub for companies operating in the region. This regional bias in Singapore's economic engagement is likely to remain, supported by ongoing Asean economic integration.
So, a far more sensible argument is that, by leaving the EU, the UK has dismantled the scaffolding that would have enabled it to be the Singapore of Europe.

Some people need to be disabused of their Brexit senselessness. Economically speaking, it has definitely shot itself in the foot.

British Rat: EU Wants to Exclude UK From Trade Negos

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 4/08/2017 04:18:00 PM

So the UK is hellbent on implementing its death wish of going it alone in the international trade arena. So be it. Not only will the UK be frozen out of the world's largest tariff-free area real soon, but it will have to renegotiate all its trade deals with countries it formerly had preferential agreements with as part of the European Union.

To add insult to injury, the EU is now thinking of sidelining the UK from fora for discussing ongoing negotiations with other non-European countries. (Having left the European Union, it would be hard to characterize the British as "real" Europeans.) The point of this exercise in sidetracking Britain is to ensure that it does not gain an unfair advantage when it comes time to negotiate an (admittedly far off) EU-UK trade deal:
Brussels is eyeing the exclusion of Britain from updates on EU trade talks amid concerns that the UK could take advantage of sensitive information in its own post-Brexit trade negotiations.

After a briefing last month by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, the European Commission warned that there needed to be a “discussion about the treatment of sensitive information in the context of certain trade negotiations, to which the UK would continue to have access to while it remained a full member of the union”. 

The warning, in an official account of the meeting, came as the EU prepared to initiate trade talks with Australia, a country which with the UK hopes to strike its own post-Brexit free-trade deal. All EU member states, including the UK, participate in a trade policy committee that meets weekly in Brussels to discuss the EU’s trade dealings. Representatives of member states also meet regularly with EU trade negotiators to discuss strategies and aims. 
Unsurprisingly, the remainers smell a British rat:
Many EU leaders are worried that allowing the UK to continue to receive the routine updates until it leaves the bloc in 2019 will strengthen Britain’s bargaining position in post-Brexit trade talks and potentially enable it to outbid the EU in future negotiations.

“The question is to what extent Britain should be involved or informed or have access to ongoing negotiations when they are leaving because then they will proceed to conclude their own deals,” said a senior figure briefed on discussions within the European Commission. 
That said, it will not be straightforward to freeze out the UK at just this moment:
In theory, the UK remains a full-fledged member of the EU until its separation and is entitled to participate fully in trade-related matters. In practice, however, there may be an arrangement arrived at in which the UK does not participate in trade-related EU matters in exchange for it being to negotiate FTAs with other countries prior to the 2019 anticipated breakup date.
I'd kick the British bums out now in trade-related matters, but it seems the rules-based EU will have to compensate the UK if it really is serious about removing it from the loop as early as now.

As with the real thing, there is no such thing as "amicable divorce" in customs unions.

Alibaba Buying MoneyGram: US Protectionism Revisited

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 4/01/2017 05:33:00 PM
The use of "national security" grounds to discourage Chinese investment in the United States has been a recurrent issue for would-be PRC FDI in the US. Especially now in the age of Trump who encourages employment Stateside, it's ironic that American politicians would still dissuade foreigners from setting up shop in the so-called land of the free.

So it is particularly galling that Jack Ma of Alibaba fame is getting the full-on "national security" treatment. Not only did he meet Trump at Trump Tower before Trump assumed office, but he also vowed to help create American jobs. However, he is now being thwarted in his efforts to expand his money transfer service operations to North America through buying MoneyGram International.

As far as I am concerned, money transfer is an innocuous service in this day and age. There is no particular technology crucial to American security involved in sending money overseas. Nor is there a "terrorist" threat in China the Yanks are especially concerned with. Nevertheless, two American congresspersons have somehow found sinister motivations in the proposed purchase of MoneyGram:
On Friday, two members of the House of Representatives urged the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. to conduct a "full and thorough" investigation of Ant Financial’s proposed acquisition of MoneyGram International Inc., a money-transfer service.

"The proposal merits careful evaluation as it would provide Chinese access to the U.S. financial infrastructure, a move that would pose significant national security risks if completed," Congressman Kevin Yoder and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Formerly a financial-services affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and controlled by Ma, Ant made its bid in January for $880 million, or $13.25 a share. In March, Leawood, Kansas-based rival Euronet Worldwide Inc. came in at $15.20, saying its offer had a better chance at regulatory approval. Dallas-based MoneyGram entered a confidentiality agreement with Euronet in late March to further consider its unsolicited proposal.
I suppose that if American lawmakers see "national security" concerns in hog farms, then they can certainly see sinister machinations at hand when a Chinese firm proposes purchasing a money transfer franchise. The other would-be purchaser of MoneyGram, Euronet, has been making claims that know-your-customer (KYC) regulations would allow the Chinese access to sensitive information:
Euronet CEO Michael Brown wrote to Mnuchin this week arguing Ant’s offer raises national security concerns because money transmitters collect confidential data on users which the government requires them to retain for several years. Money transmitters also get confidential requests from the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network about transactions that may be connected to terrorism or money laundering.

Yoder and Johnson reiterated those concerns in their letter on Friday, pointing out that Ant Financial is partly owned by Chinese state institutions. This could give a foreign government access to critical infrastructure and could be used for "intelligence purposes, location tracking, and identifying vulnerabilities for coercion," they said.

The total Chinese state-owned or state-affiliated ownership of Ant Financial is just below 15 percent, according to a person familiar with the matter. Those investors are passive and the entities don’t participate in Ant’s management or board, the person said. They asked not to be identified talking about Ant’s ownership structure.
Those who make money transfers via MoneyGram are not likely to be movers and shakers of international capitalism but rather migrant workers. These are small amounts we're dealing with, and I hardly think Chinese authorities would be keen on their personal information.

In this respect at least Trump is right: If Jack Ma wants to invest and create jobs in the US honestly, what's the matter? While Ma is certainly friendly with the Communist Party, sharing information on those making small money transfers Stateside is hardly one of his priorities. He just wants to make money; fancy that. No more, no less.

Trump's 'Fortress America' Benefits From Famine Relief

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/29/2017 05:33:00 PM
Actually, there is a selfish case for Trump providing food aid to us coloreds and/or Muslims.
It is obvious that American President Donald Trump is not especially fond of foreigners, especially the colored and/or Muslim variety (If you're both, then so much worse for you. That you're unlikely to buy Ivanka-brand jewelry seals the deal.) Americans are famously incurious about the rest of the world, and Trump is probably the worst of the lot. An avowed hater of the United Nations--why should his "America First" United States contribute to an avowedly internationalist organization--he probably didn't hear the news that there is a famine ongoing that's the worst since WWII according to UNICEF:
Famine is looming in north-east Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and beyond, as nearly 1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death from severe acute malnutrition this year. Some 22 million children are hungry, sick, displaced and out of school due to war, conflict and drought. They now face the risk of death from starvation, but also from preventable diseases like cholera and measles, which cause severe diarrhoea and dehydration.

And the risk of famine is not limited to these four countries. As violence, hunger and thirst force people to move within and across borders, malnutrition rates will continue to soar in neighbouring countries as well.

This crisis is largely human-made. Scorched earth tactics by conflicting parties are destroying crops and critical infrastructure like health facilities. Heavy fighting is forcing farmers to abandon their fields, while blocking humanitarian access to people in desperate need of food aid and clean water. As families flee their homes, children have no access to health and nutrition services, clean water, or adequate sanitation and hygiene – putting them at greater risk of malnutrition. Diseases are spreading rapidly in crowded sites for displaced people. And drought is further exacerbating food crises in parts of Africa, particularly Somalia and the Horn of Africa.
Despite claiming to be a "Christian" [sic], you can rest assured that Trump couldn't care less if 22 million colored people (and probably Muslim besides!) died. Maybe there would be fewer "terrorists" to worry about in the future. Exhibit A is the plan to radically defund US food aid in Trump's proposed 2017 US budget. Indeed, his budget chief gladly points this out:
Trump's proposed budget would "absolutely" cut programs that help some of the most vulnerable people on Earth, Mick Mulvaney, the president's budget director, told reporters last week. The budget would "spend less money on people overseas and more money on people back home," he said.
However, there is a case to be made that not allowing these countries to collapse and provide a breeding ground for extremism actually makes sense. Edward Luce of the FT makes this argument:
Even by that yardstick, however, Mr Trump serves himself badly. Famine is a product of political failure. In both the Horn of Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa it is the result of civil wars in which the west has direct and indirect interests. Groups such as Isis, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda expand in such conditions. So, too, does the volume of refugees.
If the UN warning is anywhere close to correct, the flow of refugees to the west from Africa will dwarf the numbers that have been coming from Syria. The space for further radicalisation in Africa, the Middle East and Europe will only grow. This cannot be in America’s interests. By his own measures, Mr Trump should be doing his utmost to help things on the ground. Yet he will only act if he is forced to do so by others. 
It's not a particularly edifying spectacle, but Trump would likely have fewer colored people and/or Muslims [from Somalia...and Yemen too!] to worry about if his country continues to provide food aid and address catastrophes before they worsen and come to his shores in a couple of months or years' time. It's unlikely that he will have walled off the entire US coastline by then.

The irony is that foreign aid already is such a minuscule part of the US budget. Maybe the inordinately larger military buildup Trump is fantasizing about wouldn't be all that necessary if the United States actually had fewer enemies in this world?

David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said the roughly one-third cut in foreign aid endangered U.S. values and interests abroad.

"What’s more, the U.S. foreign assistance budget makes up a mere 1 percent of the federal budget - a tiny category of discretionary spending which saves lives and spreads goodwill around the world," he said.
Perhaps even a racist-protectionist-isolationist can understand that, but I am not holding my breath.

Self-Hatred: Would-Be Latino Builders of Trump's Wall

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/26/2017 08:03:00 PM
As Eddie Money once sang, "Gimme Some Water."
To me, it's the most distasteful thing imaginable: why would persons of Latin American heritage help build the infrastructural centerpiece of Donald Trump's bigotry? As it turns out, however, there is no shortage of such folks in the construction industry who are eager to commence work on the Great Wall of Trump. As you would imagine, their excuse is that it's just business--that's all. Nevermind the social consequences and all that jazz.

As the bidding process commences on bits and bobs of this project, the evidence is there for all to see:
Ten percent of the companies interested in bidding for the first stage of the construction of Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico are Hispanic-owned businesses, as construction firms wrestle with the morality of profiting from the controversial infrastructure project.

More than 600 businesses have formally registered interest since 24 February, when the Department of Homeland Security issued a presolicitation notice for contractors to perform the “design and build of several prototype wall structures” for the border.
Excuses from would-be contractors vary. A common refrain is that the wall is incidental to comprehensive immigration reform:
“The story isn’t, ‘Hey there’s a Latino guy building a wall to keep other Latino people out,” said Michael Evangelista-Ysasaga, CEO of the Penna Group in Fort Worth, Texas. “It’s that we need comprehensive immigration reform.”
That said, the Mexican government has now applied moral suasion against Mexican-owned contractors building the accursed wall:
Mexico's government on Tuesday warned Mexican companies that it would not be in their best "interests" to participate in the construction of U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall, though there will be no legal restrictions or sanctions to stop them if they tried.

While some Mexican companies stand to potentially benefit from the controversial infrastructure project, residents south of the border view the wall and Trump's repeated calls to have Mexico pay for it as offensive. That is putting public pressure on firms to abstain from participating.

"We're not going to have laws to restrict (companies), but I believe considering your reputation it would undoubtedly be in your interest to not participate in the construction of the wall," said Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo.

"There won't be a law with sanctions, but Mexicans and Mexican consumers will know how to value those companies that are loyal to our national identity and those that are not," Guajardo added.
His comments echo those of Mexico's foreign minister Luis Videgaray, who said on Friday that Mexican companies that see a business opportunity in the wall should "check their conscience" first.
To me, there are things simply beyond the pale that I wouldn't do for any amount of money. If I were a Mexican construction contractor, this would easily be one of them. It is the moral equivalent of normalizing extreme bigotry.

America the Protectionist: Mnuchin at "G-19" (Without US)

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 3/22/2017 05:36:00 PM
He adds nothing: physically present, mentally absent Treasury Secretary Mnuchin.
I almost forgot to post about this one: at the just-concluded meeting of G-20 finance ministers in Germany over the weekend, the new US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin left a lot open to interpretation. With the Trump administration itself unsure what its trade policies will be going forward, Mnuchin was unable to offer boilerplate reassurances that the United States would disavow all forms of protectionism that previous meetings did:
Finance chiefs of the world’s largest economies set aside a pledge to avoid protectionism and signed up to a fudged statement on trade instead, in response to the Trump administration’s call to rethink the global order for commerce.

Group of 20 nations said in a communique on Saturday that they are “working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies.” While the U.S. didn’t get all it wanted -- such as a explicit pledge to ensure trade is fair -- that’s a much pared-down formulation compared with the group’s statement last year, and omits a promise to “avoid all forms of protectionism.”

In two days of meetings in the German town of Baden-Baden, the argument by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in his first appearance at an international forum in the role, reflects claims by President Donald Trump that his nation has had a bad deal from the current global trade setup. That attitude pitched him against most other delegates, who favored a multilateral, rules-based system as embodied in the World Trade Organization.
I do not exaggerate that it's now the G-19 after the United States abdicated on its role in global governance. In effect, it was 19 against 1:
I “regret that our discussions today didn’t end in a satisfactory manner,” French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said in a statement. In a press conference later, he said that “there wasn’t a G-20 disagreement, there was disagreement within the G-20 between a country and all the others. This isn’t a caricature, this is the reality of things.”
The galling thing is that while Mnuchin had some idea what his boss wasn't into--disavowal of protectionism--there was no articulation of an alternative:
Mnuchin wasn’t able to deliver a clear view on how the “America First” thrust of the Trump administration will mesh with the rules embodied in the World Trade Organization system that currently stand -- or even if the U.S. will remain substantially engaged over the long term. As the administration is less than two months old, the former Goldman Sachs banker was given the benefit of the doubt when he didn’t offer much detail.
Having been instrumental in setting up the G-20 in the first place, the United States seems to be abdicating from it. Will it continue to have global policy relevance going forward? Actually, it's hardly the only international body the Yanks thought of that's having existential questions: NATO, the UN, the WTO and so forth may not continue to function as we've come to know them without American support.

Worse still, the guy behind all of this has an exceedingly poor understanding of how such bodies actually work. In his testy meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel:
Trump reprised his complaints that the U.S. had been treated “very, very unfairly” and poured loaded praise over German trade officials for besting their American counterparts. “The negotiators for Germany have done a far better job than the negotiators for the United States,” Trump told reporters in the East Room alongside Merkel Friday. “But hopefully we can even it out.”

Merkel, whose visit with her new U.S. counterpart was marked by cool distance in their public appearances, was left to explain that trade negotiations are the province of the European Union, not her government, and that there are no such German interlocutors. “We’ve transferred competencies over to the European Union,” Merkel said. “That means the European Commission negotiates these free trade agreements.”
These are dark times, indeed, when people choose their leaders from among the most ignorant bunch.

FIFA Non-Grata: Muslim Ban USA Can't Host World Cup

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 3/18/2017 03:52:00 PM
Iranians not welcome here (among others): On the USA's non-existent prospects for hosting the 2026 World Cup.
It's pretty evident that you should not host one of the world's most international sporting events if your country is run by a Muslim-banning race-baiter. Yet, that the organization running the World Cup is FIFA--hardly the model of "global governance"--may have placed the possibility in some question as the United States is considering a bid to host the 2026 event. Despite FIFA's odiousness, it is nonetheless remarkable that it won't go near an even more disreputable entity, the United States of America, run by one President Donald J. Trump.

To be sure, there are procedural issues: what if one of the Muslim-banned countries qualifies for the World Cup? One has done so a number times before--Iran--and the others cannot be completely ruled out especially now that the competition has increased its number of participants from 32 to 48.
Donald Trump’s travel ban could prevent the US from hosting the World Cup in 2026, Fifa has warned.

Gianni Infantino, the president of world football’s governing body, said on Thursday that Trump’s revised executive order, which temporarily bars entry to the US for citizens from six majority-Muslim countries, could invalidate any bid from the US. The president’s policy, Infaninto suggested, is incompatible with tournament regulations.

Infantino told reporters in London: “Teams who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup. That is obvious.”
The above-mentioned bid requirement will probably disqualify Trump's USA:
“We are now in the process of defining the bid requirements. In the world there are many countries who have bans, travel bans, visa requirements and so on and so forth. It’s obvious when it comes to Fifa competitions, any team, including the supporters and officials of that team, who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup. “The requirements will be clear. And then each country can make up their decision, whether they want to bid or not based on the requirements.”
Donald Trump will probably dismiss this all by saying that no Americans watch soccer anyway since he doesn't--a perfectly uninformed response from a remarkably ignorant America-firster.

TrumpCare: The Adios, Geezers "Health" Plan & IPE

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/14/2017 06:58:00 PM
I try not to focus excessively on US-only topics, but this I cannot resist since it has the potential to delay or waylay the rest of Trump's racist-isolationist-protectionist agenda. (Which is a good thing, obviously.) The gist of TrumpCare goes like this: Republicans have been planning to repeal and replace ObamaCare--the existing US health care law formally knows as the Affordable Care Act. However, incredible promises that this replacement would (a) cost less to patients, (b) cost less to the US government and (c) extend coverage to more people was always a stretch.

Just out is the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office [CBO] report scoring TrumpCare on (a)-(c). Accorcing to the CBO's estimates, (b) the cost of the health program to the US government will be reduced over a 10-year period. However, (a) the key senior constituency is set to pay significantly more than they pay now and (c) coverage would go down because TrumpCare makes healthcare unaffordable to many seniors by reducing their state-provided benefits. Moreover, many states will find little to gain by participating in TrumpCare given its unfavorable terms, making more seniors lose coverage.

As such, there is little care going on in TrumpCare or, more formally, the American Health Care Act. The way "savings" are achieved is by getting rid of older people from government health programs--those most in need of health care and those whose health spending is obviously the highest as a result. No mystery here:
But the way the bill achieves those lower average premiums has little to do with increased choice and competition. It depends, rather, on penalizing older patients and rewarding younger ones. According to the C.B.O. report, the bill would make health insurance so unaffordable for many older Americans that they would simply leave the market and join the ranks of the uninsured.

The remaining pool of people would be comparatively younger and healthier and, thus, less expensive to cover. Other changes would help make health insurance skimpier — cheaper, but with deductibles that are higher than those criticized by Republicans under Obamacare.
The American Association of Persons [AARP] summarizes the talking points of how the bill harms its members bigly:
AARP reiterates our opposition to this harmful bill. The nonpartisan CBO  revealed today that ‘the legislation would increase the number of uninsured broadly, [and] the increase would be disproportionately larger among older people with lower income; in particular, people between 50 and 64 years old…

The CBO analysis found that premiums would rise ‘20 percent to 25 percent higher for a 64-year-old.’ Putting the financial burden on older Americans is not the way to solve the problems in our health care system.’  Premiums for a 64 year old earning $26,500 would increase by $12,900 in 2026, from $1,700 to $14,600.
Another interesting facet is that the elderly turned out in yuuuge numbers for Trump. However, they will be among the worst affected--especially those living in rural areas where choices are few and costs are high as a result:
Among the counties where Trump won his biggest victories, nearly all would face deep cuts in tax credits under the Republican plan to replace Obamacare. And, in the parts of the country that would lose the most in tax credits, a majority of voters were Trump supporters.

The following chart shows the 25 counties where Trump captured the largest share of votes. In all but one, a typical middle-aged man buying health insurance on his own would lose money under the proposed GOP change, according to recent calculations from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It is not for me to discuss the motivations of American voters for Trump in the limited space available. Even more perplexing are Trump's best efforts to do the most harm to his most committed voters. (I think seniors will still be around come the 2018 elections despite Trump's best efforts. Sorry, Trump.) Suffice to say, little political goodwill appears likely to emerge from the upcoming effort to pass TrumpCare. Either seniors are hurt in a big way--those whose age group has not only the highest voter turnout but also the highest Trump share of the vote--or much useless activity will be expended in promoting an ultimately futile bill in a manner that offends the electorate.

What will likely happen is that Republicans will suffer large losses in the Senate and, to a lesser extent, the heavily gerrymandered House in the 2018 midterm elections. So, there is a two-year windows before the midterm elections for Trump to get the rest of his wish list done. However, a TrumpCare setback will likely delay or (hopefully) derail other parts of his agenda until such a time that Republicans will not control the White House, House, and Senate simultaneously. The more legislative losses, the fewer congressional backers Trump will have. As Trump has correctly observed, few people back "losers." In the international sphere, his wish list includes:
To paraphrase one of his predecessors, heckuva job, Trumpy. The less congressional allies Trump has for his quixotic agenda(s), and the fewer (predominantly elder) voters putting Trump sympathizers in office, the better off the rest of the world is.

I will elaborate more on the other international elements of Trump's racist-isolationist-protectionist policy package soon, but for now, rest assured that gridlock in Washington is better for the rest of the world. Or at least we should hope. I feel bad for American seniors, but again, they did vote for a known con artist.  Caveat emptor.

Pro-, Anti-Trade Voices Duke It Out at White House

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/10/2017 07:41:00 PM
Death by economic insanity: Maybe the lunatic fringe will be sidelined on trade, at least, at the White House.
It was always going to end up here, I think: American President Donald Trump has appointed a bunch of isolationist America-firsters who would like nothing better than to slow down the United States' engagement in international trade, or at least sign extremely lopsided deals with prospective trade partners. (Witness the call for "bilateral" deals that the US can easily extricate itself from if it views the other party as being "unfair.") On this side you have the wingnut Steve Bannon and the Jeff Sessions acolyte Stephen Miller, both of Muslim Ban fame. Throw in the ultra-protectionist, China fearmonger Peter Navarro as well who acts as trade adviser to Trump. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has also written a protectionist screed together with Navarro.

On the other hand, Trump has appointed more conventional sorts--"neoliberal" if you will--like Goldman Sachs alumni Gary Cohn who heads the National Economic Council and of course Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary.

Things are coming to a head as those egregious "trade violators" the Germans are coming to town next week in the form of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany runs the third-largest trade surplus with the United States at $64.87 billion in 2016. What to do? Obviously, the wingnut anti-trade faction wants to put Merkel on notice for Germany's evil ways, whereas the Cohn and Mnuchin don't want any part of this tomfoolery:
According to more than half a dozen people inside the White House or dealing with it, the bitter fight has set a hardline group including senior adviser Steve Bannon and Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro against a faction led by Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs executive who leads Mr Trump’s National Economic Council.

At the centre of the debate is Mr Navarro, a firebrand economist who has angered Berlin and other European allies by accusing Germany of exploiting a “grossly undervalued” euro and calling for bilateral discussions with Angela Merkel’s government over ways to reduce the US trade deficit with Europe’s most powerful economy.
The Goldman Sachs duo is trying to portray Navarro as he really is: an isolationist extremist:
According to people familiar with White House discussions, Mr Cohn and others have seized on Mr Navarro’s public comments — and widespread criticism by economists of his stand on trade deficits and other matters — to try and sideline him. That has led to discussions over moving Mr Navarro and the new National Trade Council he leads out of the White House and to the Commerce Department, headed by another Wall Street veteran, Wilbur Ross. Mr Cohn has also been featuring more prominently in discussions over the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, one of Mr Trump’s top trade priorities. 
For now at least, Cohn seems to be winning the battle with Navarro in building a White House presence:
People familiar with the White House battle over trade said that Mr Navarro, who did not respond to a request for comment, was cutting an increasingly isolated figure in the administration. He has been operating with a very small staff out of an office in the Old Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House, while Mr Cohn has been adding staff to his NEC base inside the president’s residence itself.
Fun times. I guess we'll see how Angela Merkel is treated as to how this internal conflict is playing out early on in the Trump administration. Its consequences will obviously have significant implications for US trade policy and the world economy more broadly speaking.

PRC Hits S Korea Economically Over ABM System

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 3/03/2017 02:19:00 PM
China's communists are getting back at South Korea economically over the deployment of a THAAD system.
We are constantly reminded of the Chinese government having no reservations about using its considerable economic heft to punish other countries that defy its will. That's a perk of having the world's second largest economy. Now, this particular story isn't new, but the latest twists are regarding South Korea intending to deploy an American anti-ballistic missile system to protect against North Korea possibly launching an attack against it.

Let's go back to the beginning: South Korea's government has been seeking land to base the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system near the border with North Korea. In this instance, the Korean conglomerate Lotte had such available land. Lotte's diverse holdings include a confectioner, groceries, and even theme parks. As it so happened, Lotte was also planning to build a theme park in mainland China. Let's just say that plan has been trashed by PRC authorities upset about the proliferation of ABM systems in Asia which will be based on Lotte-owned land:
Lotte Group has been forced to suspend the construction of its theme park in northeastern China, the latest in a series of retaliatory steps against Korea's decision to deploy a U.S. anti-missile defense system. Korea's fifth-largest conglomerate has been the main target of the reprisal for its decision to provide a golf course as the site for a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery.

The Chinese government ordered Lotte last December to stop building the Lotte World Theme Park near its department store and cinema in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, according to Lotte officials Wednesday. They said the authorities took issue with the construction site's preparedness for fire emergencies.
Yeah, whatever; fire hazard my foot. Lotte recently finalizing a land swap deal only kicked the PRC into overdrive as the PRC is now hitting South Korea on nearly all fronts where there's economic interaction. Today, the PRC's actions arguably sent the Korean stock index KOSPI down over a percent:
China has the economic power to move markets, and it isn’t afraid to use it. South Korean stock trading offered a case in point Friday, with a selloff in hotels, cosmetic makers and other tourism-related companies that made the country’s benchmark the worst performer among Asian equity markets. The slide followed a Yonhap news agency report on China ordering travel agents to halt sales of holiday packages to South Korea.
Travel to Korea seems an obvious target, but how about makeup?
Amorepacific Corp., South Korea’s biggest cosmetics company. Chinese authorities have ordered the destruction of about 700 kilograms of Amorepacific’s imported product, saying they included bacteria. The company slid 13 percent Friday...

Kim Yeong Ju, an official at South Korea’s Korea Tourism Organization, said its Chinese counterpart issued the ban, which also covers flights to South Korea and hotel bookings. Almost 50 percent of the foreign visitors to Korea in 2016 were from China, according to the KTO.
I agree though is that the "soft power" of Korea is too strong a lure for these PRC covert sanctions to have much traction:
The move may be more about conveying China’s displeasure than inflicting lasting wounds to the relationship, said JJ Kang, head of equity at Franklin Templeton Investment Trust Management Co. in Seoul.

“China never does things that are against their economic interests,” Kang said. “Shoppers will do anything they can if they want Korean products. Tourism will be difficult but it is hard for China to drag this problem on long term.”
Make no mistake: the Koreans offer really good stuff in terms of makeup, tourism, etc. that Chinese tourists crave and certainly cannot obtain locally.

UPDATE: Also follow the online war between citizens going on due to this deployment. 

How Much US Tourism Will Trump the Xenophobe Kill?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 3/01/2017 05:38:00 PM
Pre-Trump America used to welcome other people (like us coloreds); not anymore I guess.
My oh my, the price of Trumpism: Having indicated to the rest of the world that the United States of America is now only interested in the welfare of its citizens--the non-colored Trump-voting variety, at least--intentions to visit the Land of Bigotry have been dropping. The interesting part is that even countries not affected by Trump's Muslim ban have been greatly turned off. Various gauges of interest in visiting the USA such as Internet travel searches have shown considerable drops:
The travel research site ForwardKeys found a 6.5 percent drop in international flight searches to the United States after Trump signed the order, compared with the same eight-day stretch in 2016. “The data forces a compelling conclusion that Donald Trump’s travel ban immediately caused a significant drop in bookings . . . and an immediate impact on future travel,” said Olivier Jager, CEO of ForwardKeys. The British company monitors travel patterns by analyzing 16 million flight reservation transactions a day.
The percentages may not sound large, but specialists caution that a drop in the 77.5 million international tourists who come to the United States, spending $133 billion here, could have far-reaching consequences for the economy. According to US Travel, tourism directly supported more than 8.1 million US jobs in 2015.

“I’ll tell you quite honestly, when I saw these reports my reaction was, ‘Oh, my God,’ ” said Douglas Quinby of PhocusWright, a travel-market research company. “To see a decline in search and booking volume in the 6- to 8-percent range is a profound shift.”
The question is, how much will declines in online searches result in declines in actual travel to the US?
Interest in travel to the US has “fallen off a cliff” since Donald Trump’s election, according to travel companies who have reported a significant drop in flight searches and bookings since his inauguration and controversial travel ban.

Data released this week by travel search engine Kayak reported a 58% decline in searches for flights to Tampa and Orlando from the UK, and a 52% decline in searches for Miami. Searches for San Diego were also down 43%, Las Vegas by 36% and Los Angeles 32%.

Though flight prices are holding firm (they usually take weeks rather than days to adjust to consumer trends), Kayak has identified a knock-on effect on average hotel prices. It found prices in Las Vegas are down by 39% and New York City by 32%.

It is the latest in a string of reports from the travel industry that suggests a “Trump slump”, with the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) estimating that since being elected President Trump has cost the US travel industry $185m in lost revenue.
Despite US stock markets reaching record highs on a daily basis now, many of the mainstays driving the US economy appear to be negatively affected by Trumpism: housing, retail, tourism, etc. To me at least, it's a stretch to believe that a con man is the economic savior of America.The signs are not looking good in any number of industries.

Missing Immigrants: How Trump Can Sink US Housing

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 2/26/2017 03:59:00 PM
The American Dream: Immigrants not welcome by order of Donald Trump.
A climate of fear has descended among recent immigrants to the United States. Amid fears that they may be soon be deported or otherwise discriminated against for some trumped-up reason--like being Muslim--many are becoming increasingly reluctant to become first-time homeowners. Insofar as a fairly significant share of these homeowners are immigrants, the US housing market may soon be experiencing the consequences of Trump's xenophobia and general misanthropy:
President Donald Trump’s immigration policies threaten to crack a foundation of the American economy: the residential real estate market. Legal and otherwise, immigrants, long a pillar of growth in homebuying, are no longer feeling the warm welcome and optimism necessary for their biggest purchase...

On Tuesday, the Trump administration detailed plans for a sweeping crackdown on undocumented immigrants, saying the authorities would deport many more people without court hearings. Under Obama, the government focused on those convicted of violent crimes; Trump would lower the bar to include fraud and, in some cases, a belief the residents threatened public safety.

Even workers with green cards and work visas under the H1-B program for skilled foreign workers are worried about possible restrictions under Trump. The housing markets most at risk include Miami, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, which have the biggest concentrations of foreign-born buyers...

“If Trump gets the immigration plan he wants, the housing market will get hit harder than any other,” said Alex Nowrasteh, a policy analyst for the libertarian Cato Institute. If “millions of people get deported and more people don’t come in to take their place, then you’ll have downward pressure on home prices, especially in urban areas.”
Their numbers are substantial. What's more, they were expected to pick up a lot of the slack after the baby boom generation:
A third of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. live in a home that they or a family member or friend own, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank...

If financing dries up and borrowers lose faith, it will mark a major reversal in the market. New arrivals are expected to account for more than a third of growth of homeowners this decade, according to University of Southern California demographer Dowell Myers.
While the U.S. homeownership rate in 2015 was the same as it was in 1994 -- 66 percent -- it has risen 2.4 percentage points for the foreign-born population, to more than half, according to real estate website Trulia.
The hit to US housing will not be confined to what are commonly understood to be "gateway" locations. As immigrants have spread throughout the continental United States, their [loss of] numbers guarantee a significant hit to housing demand if they call a buyer's strike on Trump:
“There are consequences for the economy and the whole of society, and the public doesn’t understand the value immigrants bring to the housing market,” warns Dowell Myers, director of the Population Dynamics Research Group at the University of California. “They represent a large share of the demand supporting house values. If you were to subtract any part of that demand, it would jeopardize house values across the board.”

In a comprehensive 2013 study, Immigrant Contributions to Housing Demand in the United States, Myers estimated that in this decade, immigrants nationwide will account for 32.2% of the growth in all households, 35.7% of growth in homeowners and 26.4% of growth in renter households. The study found that the volume of growth in foreign-born homeowners has increased each decade, rising from 0.8 million added immigrant homeowners in the United States during the period from 1980–1990 to 2.8 million in the current decade.

While immigrants were once concentrated in a few gateway states, such as California, New York and Florida, the pattern of immigration after the 2007 economic crash is less concentrated, making the economic effect of mass deportation less easy to predict.
The full report on migrants' contributions to housing demand is here. Think of it: over a third of prospective home buyers may be gone just like that. It 's fully plausible that the next economic downturn Stateside will begin in the housing sector. There are several notable past precedents for this, and Trump's unvarnished bigotry is just the thing to set another downward spiral into motion as substantial new immigrant demand dissipates c/o Trump.

Proton's End? (Malaysia's Failed Auto Nat'l Champion)

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 2/22/2017 05:51:00 PM
It's time to let Proton go, Mahathir Mohamad.
Proton is the archetypal "infant industry" that never grew up. The pet project of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Proton was intended to be a national champion automaker able to duke it out with foreign competition. The problem is, even behind various protections and subsidies, Proton has never really made the cut. Bouncing around from state to private ownership, one thing has been consistent: it has lots of money over the decades.

It now appears that the end of the road nears for Proton as France's Peugeot Citroen and China's Geely are investigating buying the remaining assets of Proton. The most valuable part of it is the sports car legend Lotus:
France’s PSA Group and China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. have submitted bids to buy a stake in money-losing Malaysian automaker Proton Holdings Bhd., according to people with knowledge of the matter. Negotiations are still preliminary, with bids being evaluated and clarified, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified as the talks are private.

The exact size of the stake to be sold in Proton, which also owns British sports car maker Lotus Cars Ltd., will be determined after discussions, the person said. A PSA spokesman said the company is “still in the negotiation process and wish to go further with Proton.” A representative for Geely declined to comment. A Proton spokesman didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Proton, which is controlled by Malaysian tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary’s DRB-Hicom Bhd., is struggling from accumulated debts as sales slump. DRB-Hicom said in a Feb. 15 statement that it will conclude and announce its decision on the foreign strategic partner within the first half of this year.
Unsurprisingly, Dr. Mahathir's prescription is not to sell Proton but to impose more protections, as a blogger points out:
Lim said Mahathir had attacked Proton’s plan to bring in a joint-venture partner as this would cause [Malaysian] vendors and suppliers of components to close shop, resulting in “lots of workers losing their jobs”. Lim said, “It appears that the suppliers and vendors to Proton continue to be Mahathir’s main concern. In a previous post in October, Mahathir had complained that his businessmen friends were not given supplier contracts by Proton.

“Does Mahathir continue to insist that the welfare of his supplier friends who have gotten rich over the decades from Proton are more important than the survival of Proton?” He added, “Mahathir insists that Malaysia re-impose heavy protection to Proton. It appears that more than three decades of forcing Malaysia to purchase over-priced and low specifications cars while driving up the loan burden of millions of Malaysians is not enough.”
All I can say is that if Proton hasn't managed to make it to break even after all this time, then there is little point in keeping it afloat through more artificial life support.

Let Proton go gently into the night.  

Calexit Lite: Silicon Valley Starts Packing for Vancouver

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 2/21/2017 02:04:00 PM
Where to head after Trump's Hicksville, USA invades Silicon Valley.
Nearly everyone knows that California has leaned more Democratic in recent times, causing widespread bafflement there about Donald Trump's presidential election victory insofar as his opponent, Hillary Clinton, won the state by more than 4.2 million votes. Unsurprisingly, there is a renewed call for California to secede from the union. Not only is it fundamentally misaligned with Trump's misanthropic, misogynistic, and xenophobic vision, but it also is a net contributor to the finances of the United States of America. Hence the proposed referendum for California exit:
The arguments for Calexit are pretty simple: The state is drifting ever-further away from the rest of the country in cultural attitudes and public policies, especially with respect to immigration and the environment. California’s size and wealth (its GDP is similar to that of France) make it the one state that might make a go of it alone. It is also a “donor state” when it comes to the relationship of federal taxes collected from Californians to the federal spending conducted there; one recent analysis showed California ranking 46th among the states in relative dependence on Washington.

But it’s clear the main reason for sudden interest in Calexit is Donald J. Trump, and the possibility a federal Republican regime under his direction would preempt California preferences on a wide range of issues. Even though Governor Jerry Brown and other statewide Democratic elected officials have kept their distance from Calexit, the saber-rattling they have conducted about the state’s willingness to fight Trump and the GOP in court has undoubtedly fed the Calexit sentiment. The latest Trump provocation, threatening sanctuary cities with the cancellation of all federal funds, is being perceived by both his friends and enemies as mainly aimed at the Golden State.
To be blunt, it is unlikely that such a referendum will be held, let alone it succeeding on technical grounds. Hence, technology companies that are commercially and culturally influential have been fleet-footed in looking for alternatives in the expectation that federal policies inimical to their interests are likely to be implemented in the near future such as restricting visas for foreign workers strong in science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM]. What's a tech hub that's relatively close to Silicon Valley in a country more civilized than Trump's America?

Head for Vancouver, Canada my tech friend:
Drawing on links with nearby Seattle, and San Francisco further south, a tech boom in Canada’s third-largest city has pulled in tens of thousands of skilled workers and start-up entrepreneurs in recent years, sparking a fierce fight for the limited supply of office space. Now the commercial centre of Canada’s most westerly province of British Columbia is braced for a fresh influx of talent — this one driven by the shifting immigration policies of the Trump administration in Washington. A month after Donald Trump entered the White House, the US tech sector is still trying to figure out how to adapt to the sweeping immigration reform promised by the new president.
The movement has begun as Silicon Valley hedge their bets against Trump's Fortress America:
Gregor Robertson, Vancouver mayor, says that inquiries from US tech companies have risen sharply in recent months, putting further pressures on office spaces in areas such as Gastown. “We’re bracing for that to now grow even faster, to see more people come north,” says Mr Robertson, who expects tech sector job growth in the city to accelerate from 6 per cent to 10 per cent in the next few years.
 The industry currently employs 75,000 people in Vancouver. “It’s really a reaction to the level of uncertainty,” says Mike Tippett, a Vancouver-based entrepreneur. He believes a Canadian presence can be part of a “continuity strategy” for ambitious young US software groups. “They want a back-up plan that can be kicked into gear very quickly,” he adds.  
Think of Vancouver real-estate as a hedge against Trumpian political risk and you wouldn't go far wrong as far as most of Silicon Valley is concerned. (Except for Trump apologist Peter Thiel perhaps.)

Berlin Wall Redux: Asylum Seekers at US-Canada Border

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 2/19/2017 04:40:00 PM
Fleeing Trump's USA: Royal Canadian Mounted Police help Sudanese refugees reach a civilized nation.
During the Cold War, the fulcrum upon which the world seemed to hinge was the Berlin Wall. It symbolized the division between socialist repression and democratic freedom insofar as those attempting to cross from East to West Germany literally risked their lives to escape tyranny. Nowadays, it seems a leading exponent of state-sponsored tyranny is the United States, now led by a racist-protectionist-isolationist who would like nothing more than detain, harass or deport people unlucky enough to have been born elsewhere.

The recent meeting between American President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has come to symbolize the growing gulf between the two nations. Trump wants to build Fortress America; Trudeau says refugees are welcome to his country. It seems these policy disparities are already playing out on the US-Canada border. As Trump's flunkies are ramping up their xenophobic dragnet, a new flashpoint has emerged:
Eight asylum-seekers, including four children, barely made it across the Canadian border on Friday as a U.S. border patrol officer tried to stop them and a Reuters photographer captured the scene. As a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer seized their passports and questioned a man in the front passenger seat of a taxi that had pulled up to the border in Champlain, New York, four adults and four young children fled the cab and ran to Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the other side.

One by one they scrambled across the snowy gully separating the two countries. RCMP officers watching from the other side helped them up, lifting the younger children and asking a woman, who leaned on her fellow passenger as she walked, if she needed medical care. The children looked back from where they had come as the U.S. officer held the first man, saying his papers needed to be verified.
Trump's border goons were not done yet, however:
The man turned to a pile of belongings and heaved pieces of luggage two at a time into the gully -- enormous wheeled suitcases, plastic shopping bags, a black backpack. "Nobody cares about us," he told journalists. He said they were all from Sudan and had been living and working in Delaware for two years.

The RCMP declined on Friday to confirm the nationalities of the people. A Reuters photo showed that at least one of their passports was Sudanese. The man then appeared to grab their passports from the U.S. officer before making a run for the border. The officer yelled and gave chase but stopped at the border marker. Canadian police took hold of the man's arm as he crossed.
From a nation whose leader once asked Mr. Gorbachev to "tear down the wall," the United States has gone into the business of putting them up. Back then the United States used to be a place folks aspired to move to. Trump's USA, however, is a xenophobic hellhole you're better off fleeing if you have any sense.

Fortunately, there are humane folks are north of the US-Canada border. In Trump's America, it'll no doubt become a harder place to reach as Trump's border goons crack down harder. To no one's particular surprise, Fortress USA is a lot like East Germany, cutting it off from its neighbors:
Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. From the Baltic, south, those barriers cut across Germany in a gash of barbed wire, concrete, dog runs, and guard towers. Farther south, there may be no visible, no obvious wall. But there remain armed guards and checkpoints all the same--still a restriction on the right to travel, still an instrument to impose upon ordinary men and women the will of a totalitarian state.
Trump may instead aim to divide the entire continent of North America, but the means and the logic are exactly the same. Get the hell out while you still can.

2/22 UPDATE: Canada's open borders policy continues (until Trump walls off Canada in the future, that is):
Canada will continue to accept asylum seekers crossing illegally from the United States but will ensure security measures are taken to keep Canadians safe, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.

The number of would-be refugees crossing into Canada at isolated and unguarded border crossings has increased in recent weeks amid fears that U.S. President Donald Trump will crack down on illegal immigrants, and photos of smiling Canadian police greeting the migrants have gone viral.

Without U(S): Canada, EU & Mantle of Global Leadership

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 2/16/2017 03:27:00 PM
Fancy that; some people still believe in liberal ideals like concluding free trade agreements.
First off, against all odds, the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement [CETA] is as good as done after European parliamentary approval. In the face of Brexit and Donald "Build the Wall" Trump--killer of the Trans-Pacific Partnership--we have an honest-to-goodness free trade agreement being concluded. Remember those? If I recall correctly, they involve removing remaining barriers to international trade between two or more countries...by reducing tariffs, for instance.

Just one trade deal and the Canadians and Europeans (or what I assume Trump would call the "failing EU") are now giddy thinking of usurping a role the US previously held. After visiting Trump in Washington--which he looked forward to as much as having a root canal operation probably--Canadian PM Trudeau headed to the European parliament in Strasbourg to celebrate CETA's signing:
With the passage of their trade deal, Canada and the European Union offer a counter to Trump, who has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and wants to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement.

For Canada the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is important to reduce its reliance on the neighbouring United States as an export market. For the EU, it is a first trade pact with a G7 country and a success to hail after months of protests at a time when the bloc's credibility has taken a beating from Britain's vote last June to leave.
This version of events is no doubt highly optimistic given the questionable future of the EU post-Brexit amid the encouragement Trump gave to any number of his European clones--racist / protectionist / isolationist elements--in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, etc. Still, if not the Europeans, who else is there left to take up the mantle of global leadership after Trump's USA has effectively abandoned the cause of the liberal project?
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that the whole world benefited from a strong European Union and that the bloc and his country needed to lead the international economy in challenging times. Trudeau told the European Parliament that the Union was an unprecedented model for peaceful cooperation in a speech that marked his distance from both the United States under new President Donald Trump, who has questioned the value and future of the bloc, and from Britain, which has voted to leave it.

An effective European voice on the global stage was not just preferable, but essential, Trudeau said.
"You are a vital player in addressing the challenges that we collectively face as an international community," he told EU lawmakers a day after they backed an EU-Canada free trade deal. "Indeed the whole world benefits from a strong EU."
Trudeau, who will also visit Germany, said that Canada and the European Union shared a belief in democracy, transparency and the rule of law, in human rights, inclusion and diversity.
Yes, there's China pretending to be the heir to the throne through Xi Jinping's free trade rhetoric, but of course there's the unavoidable fact of its unyielding political repression at home. As such, it would be a rather strange guarantor for the continuation of the (US-initiated) postwar order.

Absent any other plausible alternatives, the EU and Canada may be the best left.