Another near Miss on Trade Wars By: Gabriel PotterMBA, AIFA® 2018.09.13

“Here is one phrase the airlines apparently just made up:  “near miss”. 

When two planes almost collide, they call it a “near miss”. 

It’s a near hit!

A *collision* is a near miss.”

-George Carlin

 

I’m getting exhausted reviewing about the constant negotiations, posturing, re-negotiations, escalations, threats, and counter-threats on trade policy between the US and its trading partners.  On one hand, we should remind ourselves that the debate is still mostly about optics – the actual combined dollar values haven’t been very substantial.  It’s true that the some trade has been impacted; several news outlets have reported on blocked cargo shipments – metals and agricultural products - stuck in naval barges or on receiving docks waiting for new tariff calculations to settle (or the economics of previously established deals to be renegotiated).  On the other hand, for all the bluster with China, their trade surplus with us is hitting record highs while US is facing record deficits.  Forbes reports that the threat of impending trade wars has forced China to accelerate current inventory swaps to avoid running afoul of future trade restrictions.  The latest threat of Chinese “mega-tariffs”, projected in the $200 to $500 billion range - once you account for both sets of proposals from the White House - could impact global economic growth and overall health, but so far it’s all a vague threat without any timetable.  Thus far, our economy has managed to thrive despite all the threats, driven by additional deficit spending through tax cuts and increased consumer & business confidence.  The divide between the rhetoric and reality has never been so high; it’s impossible to accurately gauge how seriously to take any threat when trade policy is so amorphous.  Moreover, if Bob Woodward’s book is to be believed, national advisors have hid papers from the President’s desk which, if signed, could have cut trade agreements with our allies.  Whether that anecdote is true, we have no way of knowing.  Optimistically, we would like to believe decisions on global trade are being considered in a sober, thoughtful way. 

 

 

 

 

Gabriel Potter

Gabriel is a Senior Investment Research Associate at Westminster Consulting, where he is responsible for designing strategic asset allocations and conducts proprietary market research.

An avid writer, Gabriel manages the firm’s blog and has been published in the Journal of Compensation and Benefits,...

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