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From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Shannon MandersThe US and Mexico last week bilaterally agreed the basis of a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), putting pressure on the third Nafta member, Canada, to follow suit. Talks between Washington and Ottawa failed to reach agreement by Friday’s US-imposed deadline, but will continue this week. Paul Maidment, director of analysis and managing editor of Oxford Analytica, a global advisory and analysis firm, answers nine critical questions about the process thus far, and what we can expect going forward. GTR: In the bilateral agreement with the US, what has Mexico given up? Maidment: Mexico has conceded significant ground over the auto sector, notably over the rules of origin. The current Nafta agreement calls for vehicles to contain 62.5% North America-made content. While the US wanted to raise this to 85%, Mexico has agreed to 75%. Around 30% of cars exported by Mexico do not meet the new figure, but producers will have a transition period of up to five years to reach it. Vehicles that fail to reach the limit will still be exportable to the US, but subject to a 2.5% tariff. What will have a more significant impact on the Mexican auto industry is the new requirement that 40%-45% of automobiles be manufactured in countries where workers earn at least US$16 per hour – a stipulation that will only affect Mexican factories. The average hourly wage in Mexico’s auto industry is estimated to be US$7-US$8 (compared with US$29 in the US). The extent to which that requirement will affect Mexican producers has yet to become apparent, but it is likely to hinder the manufacturing of auto parts. Another important concession by Mexico – and one that is particularly likely to frustrate Canadian negotiators – was the cancellation of Nafta’s independent dispute resolution mechanism. Trade disputes between member countries are now to be resolved in US courts. This will be a huge sticking point for Canada, and may force Ottawa into an unwanted choice between making diary concessions and saving the dispute resolution mechanism. Mexico also failed to get the increase in Nafta visas for Mexican nationals it sought. GTR: What has the US conceded? Maidment: Washington rowed back from its initial demand for a ‘sunset clause’ that would see the agreement expire automatically after five years unless all parties confirmed its continuation. Both Mexico and Canada oppose such a provision due to the uncertainty it would create among investors. Instead, the accord will be valid for 16 years, with reviews taking place every six years from 2024. US negotiators also dropped their demand that Mexico could only export specific agricultural products at certain times of the year. Agrarian trade will remain free of any tariffs or subsidies. US aims to curtail exports of textiles were conceded, but in the pharmaceuticals sector, 10-year patent protections were introduced for drug manufacturers. The absence of them from the original Nafta agreement was a particular pain point for US pharmaceutical companies, and now likely to become one, not so much for Mexico, but for Canadian pharma. GTR: What are Mexico’s priorities in the final renegotiation of Nafta? Maidment: First, to protect Nafta in the face of President Donald Trump’s belligerent rhetoric by ensuring new arrangements that would provide certainty, and to end the threat that Trump might either impose stiff tariffs on Mexican exports (notably automobiles and agricultural products) or withdraw the US from Nafta by executive order. Second, to have the renegotiation – with or without Canada – concluded before the president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) takes office on December 1. GTR: What are the advantages for AMLO if Nafta is renegotiated before he takes office? Maidment: The proposed six-year term agreed with Mexico dovetails with both the duration of the fixed one-term Mexican presidency and with what would be the end of a second Trump term. This will let AMLO simultaneously endorse the deal and distance himself from it. It would also take one highly contentious issue in US-Mexican relations off the table, and in that sense provide some economic certainty, if not necessarily stability, for Mexico. AMLO has made several early appointments to his team designed to demonstrate its economic competence to ease concerns about his populist left-wing economic policies more generally, which suggests he wants to send signals of economic stability to international investors. One such nomination was that of Jesus Seade, a respected economist and trade official, as his top Nafta negotiator and who participated in the latest negotiations. GTR: Who will ultimately decide if Nafta is revived or laid to rest? Maidment: Trump can end Nafta by pulling the US out by executive order, but he has to get the approval of the US congress for amendments to it. If ultimately there is a three-way accord on a reformed Nafta, rather than new bilateral deals, the legislatures of all three signatory countries would have to approve that. The US house of representatives, as a general matter, has to ratify all trade agreements that it has delegated the US president to negotiate. In this particular case, congress gave Trump the authority to pursue a renegotiated trade agreement with two other countries, not one. Legally, therefore, congress cannot at this point consider voting on a bilateral US-Mexico deal that excludes Canada. GTR: What is the risk of Trump pulling out of Nafta? Maidment: That would be the nuclear option, but the risk that Nafta collapses remains a severe risk. If Trump issued an executive order ending US participation, it would likely be challenged in the US courts, and damage to the economies of all three countries would probably be felt before legal cases were resolved. Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto will hail the avoidance of such a scenario as a political victory, citing economic certainty as the primary justification for his government’s actions, which at least in some respects will look like a significant climbdown for Mexico. GTR: Where does Canada now stand? Maidment: The Trump administration’s tactic was to peel off Mexico with a separate agreement and then use that to press Canada to fall in line. Washington has much more economic leverage over Mexico City than it does over Ottawa. Friday’s deadline for Canada to join was self-imposed by the Trump administration. It was not met, but negotiations continue. Trump needs the deal settled quickly for domestic political reasons, notably the midterm US congressional elections in November, which will be a test of ‘Trumpism’, even though the president will not be on any ballot. Trump wants to be able to campaign for his fellow Republicans as having kept another of his pre-election promises. It should also be remembered that if the Democrats retake control of the house in the midterms, that could alter the political arithmetic in the US congress on Nafta. GTR: How much domestic US political support is there for Canada and Mexico’s positions? Maidment: The US-Canada trade relationship is stronger and more deeply intertwined with the overall US-Canada relationship than the US-Mexican one is. This is true not only at the federal level but also at the state, city and corporate levels in the US. It is thus one that has a lot more political protection from US legislators, governors and business groups than Mexico can rely on. Mexico’s position is further complicated by the immigration issue, which is at least as important for Trump’s political base if not more than ‘unfair trade’. GTR: Will a renegotiated Nafta cut the US trade deficit? Maidment: Not materially and not immediately, given the extended transition period for the auto sector changes. However, at this point, these renegotiations are about securing political wins for Trump ahead of the midterms. The post Nafta’s renegotiation in nine questions appeared first on Global Trade Review (GTR).
From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Finbarr BerminghamAfter the US and Mexican presidents celebrated a breakthrough in the arduous renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), analysts claim that the pressure is now on Canada to save its place in the deal. Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump announced that a deal had been struck with its neighbour to the south. The deal resolves long-standing sticking points in the automotive sector, where the US has negotiated a requirement that 75% of a vehicle be made in North America (a hike from the previous 62.5%). Of that 75%, between 40% and 45% must be made by workers earning at least US$16 an hour – placing the benefit firmly in US hands, where workers earn a higher wage. Furthermore, the US has agreed to a more relaxed 16-year lifespan, with a review every six years. Previously it had insisted on a five-year renewal clause, a scenario both Canada and Mexico have been keen to avoid, due to the uncertainty that would bring. Trump has suggested that the “US-Mexico trade agreement” replace Nafta, while his Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto has said he hopes that Canada could be included. Either way, the onus has shifted to Canada, with foreign minister Chrystia Freeland cutting her tour of Europe short for trade talks in Washington DC. “This agreement puts Canada under pressure and brings a breakdown of Nafta a step closer. Pena Nieto will gain nothing politically from the deal which, if ratified, may prevent meddling by Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, but will also absolve him of all responsibility for any of its negative impacts for his entire six-year term, which starts in December,” says William Arthur, North America analyst at Oxford Analytica. Trump has said that talks with Canada are “going well” and expressed confidence that a Nafta deal could be concluded this week. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, however, was less effusive about the progress, saying that his negotiating team would hold out for an agreement that suits Canada. “We’re seeing if we can get to the right place by Friday. We’re going to be thoughtful, constructive, creative around the table but we are going to ensure that whatever deal gets agreed to is the right deal for Canada and the right deal for Canadians,” he told reporters. Other analysts have downplayed the significance of the US-Mexico deal, saying that while the reaction of the financial markets has been positive, thus far, it does not alleviate wider concerns about the protectionist bent of the US government. They point to the ongoing trade war with China: on August 23, the US began implementing an additional 25% tariff on a second list of Chinese products. “At the same time as US negotiators were formalising the pact with Mexico, trade talks with China came to nothing and no dates were announced for further talks. Public hearings on proposed US tariffs on US$200bn of Chinese imports also ended yesterday. And our working assumption is still that the US will ultimately go ahead and impose these tariffs,” says Oliver Jones, markets economist at Capital Economics. He added, however, that the fact that the US administration is willing to negotiate and accept a compromise on trade will be welcomed in China. It is also likely that should this deal see the light of day, it will force auto manufacturers to rejig their supply chains if they wish to operate tariff-free in the region. The Mexican government estimates that 30% of the cars it makes and sells to the US would not contain sufficient North American content to meet the requirements. “They [manufacturers] will have to take on new costs — which cars made outside the region will not — whose only benefit is continued access to the zero tariff. And these are not the kinds of costs leading to tangible consumer gains — ie, don’t expect increased fuel efficiency, safer vehicles, or additional creature comforts,” writes Chad Bown, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute of International Economics. Bown predicts that some manufacturers in the US may benefit from less direct competition from makers in Europe and Asia. However, the downside may be passed onto the US consumer. “But these ‘gains’ are more than likely offset by their economic downside. Rising costs imply higher prices for American consumers. Equally important is North America’s deteriorating competitiveness as a global export platform for carmakers. As consumer growth in North America slows, these companies are evaluating where they can produce competitively in order to access emerging markets in Asia, South America, and elsewhere. Clunky new rules and higher costs make America, Mexico and Canada a considerably less attractive hub,” Bown says. The post US-Mexico trade deal “puts pressure on Canada” to save Nafta appeared first on Global Trade Review (GTR).
From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Eleanor WraggIn 2016, US President Donald Trump told Americans: “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to declare our economic independence once again.” But less than two years later, the United States International Trade Commission’s (USITC) Year in Trade 2017 report shows little evidence of the ‘America first’ policy’s impact on trade, and American trade finance bankers remain sanguine about their prospects – at least for now. Despite Trump’s mercantilist aim to boost exports across the board while cutting imports, the US saw an increase in the value of both exports and imports of goods in 2017, according to the figures released by the USITC this month. Exports were up US$95.7bn, or 6.6%, and imports up US$155.1bn, or 7.1%. The growth in export value was mostly driven by the crude price increase and the removal of the US government ban on most exports of crude to countries other than Canada in December 2015, which pushed energy-related product exports 45.5% higher to US$143.2bn. According to the USITC, the value of merchandise exports to all major trading partners increased, with the exception of Taiwan, which saw a decrease of 1.1%. India saw the biggest rise, of 18.7%. “It’s really value change that we saw in the US, not increased volume. The cost of oil affected both sides of the ledger,” says Michael Quinn, managing director of global trade and loan products at JP Morgan. “A rising tide raises all boats.” In a year which saw the fastest economic growth in three years and four Federal Reserve rate hikes in 12 months, “the macroeconomic aspect is supporting positive performance more than any specific policy”, says Michael McDonough, JP Morgan’s head of corporate trade and supply chain. Trump has made cutting the US trade deficit one of the cornerstones of his trade spats with major partners, but this new data shows that only the agricultural sector experienced a trade surplus in 2017, with US$5.7bn more in exports than imports. This actually narrowed from 2016, where agricultural exports were worth US$129.7bn versus imports of US$113.1bn. The energy-related products sector’s deficit fell to US$4.5bn, but the trade deficit in other sectors of the US economy widened. There are structural reasons for this. As a recent Oxford Analytica Daily Brief pointed out: “A permanently higher dollar due to the desire of investors to buy US assets will keep the US goods balance in deficit despite trade policy.” “The impact of individual policy changes hasn’t penetrated yet,” explains Quinn. He believes that 2017 was in general a “better year” in US trade finance than prior years, largely due to global economic strength. However, with the US pushing forward with plans to impose further tariffs on China, the implications for lenders could be serious. USITC figures show the value of imports from China were the biggest gainer in 2017, up 9.3%. “If tariffs kick in with any permanence then I think sourcing patterns would change. US steel or aluminium, because of reciprocal tariffs, would become more expensive and a European Union importer could then turn to China or India for the same product,” says Quinn, although he believes it is still “too early to tell for the future if tariffs are going to be sustained”. So far, then, America’s trade finance banks are yet to see any material implications of the ‘America first’ policy. “Ultimately, our business will change if and when our clients change their sourcing and their selling patterns. If we were to see a wholesale shift away from manufacturers importing input to then manufacture and export, that would impact our business. But as of yet, we have not. We haven’t seen any substantive, longer-term shifts in clients’ behaviour that we weren’t seeing already,” says McDonough. For now, despite sabre-rattling from the US president, it remains business as usual for trade finance in the country. “Looking at the future, I think the changes we see are more dependent on longer-term trends such as the continued shift to open account, which drives an increase in supply chain finance or other related open-account financing activities. We are also seeing an increased shift towards digitalisation or electronic trade,” says McDonough. “Those are both long-term trends, and frankly I don’t think that change in trade policy has much impact on them.” The post Trump’s ‘America first’ policy yet to impact US trade flows appeared first on Global Trade Review (GTR).
From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Finbarr BerminghamPeruvian miner Minsur has secured US$900mn in project financing for its Mina Justa copper mine. The lenders come from across the world, with over a dozen commercial and development banks joining a group of export credit agencies (ECAs) from countries with strong mining industries. The lenders are: BBVA Continental, BBVA, Banco de Crédito del Perú, Crédit Agricole, Export Development Canada (EDC), Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC, the Australian ECA), ING, KfW Ipex-Bank, Natixis, SG Americas Securities, Société Générale and the Export Import Bank of Korea (Kexim). Law firm Sullivan and Cromwell represented the borrower, Marcobre SAC, a subsidiary of Minsur, one of the world’s largest tin miners. Mina Justa is set to produce 100,000 tonnes of copper a year when it comes online in 2020. Total project cost is expected to run to US$1.77bn, with Minsur providing the rest of the capital. The mine will be located in the district of Marcona, which is in the Nazca province, in the Ica region of Peru. The deal represents the first greenfield mine project financing to sign in Latin America this year, according to Sullivan and Cromwell. It comes just months after Minsur sold a 40% stake in the project to Alxar Internacional, a subsidiary of Chilean company Empresas Copec, for US$200mn. Kexim, the Korean ECA, is to finance US$200mn of the debt from its own book, with Korean-Japanese consortium LS-Nikko Copper purchasing 30% of the copper output for the next 10 years. Kexim has been growing its presence in Latin America in recent years in a bid to solidify South Korea’s supply of raw minerals. In 2015, it signed onlending deals worth US$3.2bn with five banks in Brazil, Chile and Peru. This followed a state visit by former Korean president Park Geun-hye in the same year, which saw a range of investment deals signed. The most high-profile deal was a US$13bn agreement between the Peruvian energy ministry and Kexim to collaborate on a petrochemical complex. The post Lenders flock to huge Peruvian project financing appeared first on Global Trade Review (GTR).
From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Finbarr BerminghamEngie North America has secured US$320mn for a wind project in Texas. The lender is Bank of America Merrill Lynch, with US$147mn of the funds coming in the form of construction finance, and US$155mn in project finance. Rabobank provided a letter of credit, while BofAML provided a power hedge. The funds will help build the 200MW Live Oak wind farm, part of a renewables portfolio recently purchased by Engie. The farm will come online at the end of the year. The project will use 76 Siemens-Gamesa 2,625MW turbines with 120-metre rotors, and the balance of the facility will be constructed by Blattner Energy. Engie acquired the Live Oak project from Infinity Renewables, which began developing the site in 2009. Senior vice-president and head of US wind development at Engie, Matt Riley, described it at the time as “the strongest wind portfolio in the US”, saying that “Live Oak is just the first of many successes we expect over the coming years”. Upon the announcement of the financing package, Riley said: “We’re pleased to enhance the Live Oak project’s value with a competitive financing package and long-term offtake agreement. We look forward to replicating both elements in our future projects as we grow our large-scale renewable portfolio here in the US.” The post Bank of America bankrolls Texan wind farm appeared first on Global Trade Review (GTR).
From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Shannon MandersArgentinian SMEs will benefit from a US$55mn loan that the International Finance Corporation (IFC) is providing to private bank Bind Banco Industrial. More than 70% of Argentina’s SMEs have difficulties accessing financing. Through this funding the Bind Banco Industrial will be able to offer SMEs longer-term financing than currently available in the local market. “With IFC’s partnership, we will strengthen our support to SME clients, which represent our main market segment,” says Javier Popowsky, the bank’s CFO. Bind Banco Industrial has a strong focus on SMEs, mainly in the agribusiness, services and manufacturing industries, as well as wholesale trade. It became an IFC client in May 2018 when it joined IFC’s global trade finance programme, which facilitates trade flows through guarantees and includes a network of more than 70 banks in Latin America. “Bind Banco Industrial has a solid track record supporting smaller businesses in Argentina, and with this new funding we want to help the bank extend the tenor of its lending to SMEs,” says David Tinel, IFC regional manager for the Southern Cone. “Longer-term credit is crucial to plan, seek growth and hire new employees.” Over the past 18 months, the IFC has committed approximately US$1.7bn to support sustainable private sector projects in Argentina. The post Argentina’s SMEs to get better loan terms with new deal appeared first on Global Trade Review (GTR).
From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Finbarr BerminghamWells Fargo has completed financing packages for two solar power generation facilities in the US. The first is a US$85mn project financing deal for a large solar project near Fresno in California. The borrower is Sempra Renewables and the funds will help build a 200MW facility in the north of the state, comprising four solar farms, with four separate offtake agreements. The Sempra Great Valley solar project, as the facility is known, will begin operating commercially in May 2019 and will produce enough electricity to power 90,000 homes. The four offtake agreements in place are with Marin Clean Energy (100MW), Sacramento Municipal Utility District (60MW), Pacific Gas & Electric (20MW) and Southern California Edison (20MW). In Florida, meanwhile, the bank has committed US$35mn to the FL Solar 5 project in Orange County. The borrower in this case is Origis Energy, a Miami-based solar energy company. The project will complete by December 2018 and will transmit electricity to Reedy Creek Improvement District of Orange, the offtaker. Both projects are in line with Wells Fargo’s commitment to invest US$200bn in sustainability by 2030, announced in April this year. The plan states that 50% will go into renewable energy, clean technologies, sustainable transport and green bonds. This follows on from a previous goal, set in 2012, of investing US$30bn in clean technologies by 2020. A host of commercial banks have made similar commitments in the wake of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which was signed in 2015 and which aims to keep the global temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius. Speaking upon signing the Florida deal, Wells Fargo’s head of independent power and infrastructure, Alok Garg, says Origis Energy is at “the forefront of creating a greener energy future. He adds: “Wells Fargo is proud to be a part of impactful projects like FL Solar 5 that help our communities accelerate the transition to a lower carbon economy.” The post Wells Fargo funds two US solar projects appeared first on Global Trade Review (GTR).
From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Sanne WassFirms doing business in Iran “risk severe consequences” as Donald Trump’s first batch of secondary sanctions against the Middle Eastern country come into effect today. August 6 is the first of two deadlines that the US president gave companies to “wind down” activities in Iran when in May he announced he was pulling the US out of the Iranian nuclear deal – officially known as the Joint Co-operative Plan of Action (JCPOA). Calling the JCPOA “a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made”, Trump said the US would be instituting “the highest level” of economic sanctions against Iran. The JCPOA was agreed between Iran and China, France, Russia, the UK, US and EU in 2015. While the US maintained its tough stance on US persons dealing with Iran, the JCPOA meant it agreed to lift its so-called secondary sanctions – those that apply to non-US persons and entities engaged in Iranian transactions. Those are the sanctions now being reimposed. However, with the EU expected to enforce a so-called ‘blocking regulation’ – a statute that makes it illegal for any EU company or person to comply with those US sanctions – EU firms will be caught “between a rock and a hard place” when it comes to doing business in Iran and complying with the US requirements. So says Leigh Hansson, partner at law firm Reed Smith, where she heads up the international trade and national security team. In an interview with GTR, she explains what changes will come into effect and how they will impact business. GTR: August 6 will see the first batch of US secondary sanctions reimposed on Iran. Which sanctions are being reenforced and which type of businesses should be especially aware of these changes? Hansson: On August 6, the US government will re-impose secondary sanctions on the following: