Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Swaps* (*But Were Afraid To Ask)
Hello, dummies It's your old pal, Fuzzy. As I'm sure you've all noticed, a lot of the stuff that gets posted here is - to put it delicately - fucking ridiculous. More backwards-ass shit gets posted to wallstreetbets than you'd see on a Westboro Baptist community message board. I mean, I had a look at the daily thread yesterday and..... yeesh. I know, I know. We all make like the divine Laura Dern circa 1992 on the daily and stick our hands deep into this steaming heap of shit to find the nuggets of valuable and/or hilarious information within (thanks for reading, BTW). I agree. I love it just the way it is too. That's what makes WSB great. What I'm getting at is that a lot of the stuff that gets posted here - notwithstanding it being funny or interesting - is just... wrong. Like, fucking your cousin wrong. And to be clear, I mean the fucking your *first* cousin kinda wrong, before my Southerners in the back get all het up (simmer down, Billy Ray - I know Mabel's twice removed on your grand-sister's side). Truly, I try to let it slide. Idomybit to try and put you on the right path. Most of the time, I sleep easy no matter how badly I've seen someone explain what a bank liquidity crisis is. But out of all of those tens of thousands of misguided, autistic attempts at understanding the world of high finance, one thing gets so consistently - so *emphatically* - fucked up and misunderstood by you retards that last night I felt obligated at the end of a long work day to pull together this edition of Finance with Fuzzy just for you. It's so serious I'm not even going to make a u/pokimane gag. Have you guessed what it is yet? Here's a clue. It's in the title of the post. That's right, friends. Today in the neighborhood we're going to talk all about hedging in financial markets - spots, swaps, collars, forwards, CDS, synthetic CDOs, all that fun shit. Don't worry; I'm going to explain what all the scary words mean and how they impact your OTM RH positions along the way. We're going to break it down like this. (1) "What's a hedge, Fuzzy?" (2) Common Hedging Strategies and (3) All About ISDAs and Credit Default Swaps. Before we begin. For the nerds and JV traders in the back (and anyone else who needs to hear this up front) - I am simplifying these descriptions for the purposes of this post. I am also obviously not going to try and cover every exotic form of hedge under the sun or give a detailed summation of what caused the financial crisis. If you are interested in something specific ask a question, but don't try and impress me with your Investopedia skills or technical points I didn't cover; I will just be forced to flex my years of IRL experience on you in the comments and you'll look like a big dummy. TL;DR? Fuck you. There is no TL;DR. You've come this far already. What's a few more paragraphs? Put down the Cheetos and try to concentrate for the next 5-7 minutes. You'll learn something, and I promise I'll be gentle. Ready? Let's get started. 1.The Tao of Risk: Hedging as a Way of Life The simplest way to characterize what a hedge 'is' is to imagine every action having a binary outcome. One is bad, one is good. Red lines, green lines; uppie, downie. With me so far? Good. A 'hedge' is simply the employment of a strategy to mitigate the effect of your action having the wrong binary outcome. You wanted X, but you got Z! Frowny face. A hedge strategy introduces a third outcome. If you hedged against the possibility of Z happening, then you can wind up with Y instead. Not as good as X, but not as bad as Z. The technical definition I like to give my idiot juniors is as follows: Utilization of a defensive strategy to mitigate risk, at a fraction of the cost to capital of the risk itself. Congratulations. You just finished Hedging 101. "But Fuzzy, that's easy! I just sold a naked call against my 95% OTM put! I'm adequately hedged!". Spoiler alert: you're not (although good work on executing a collar, which I describe below). What I'm talking about here is what would be referred to as a 'perfect hedge'; a binary outcome where downside is totally mitigated by a risk management strategy. That's not how it works IRL. Pay attention; this is the tricky part. You can't take a single position and conclude that you're adequately hedged because risks are fluid, not static. So you need to constantly adjust your position in order to maximize the value of the hedge and insure your position. You also need to consider exposure to more than one category of risk. There are micro (specific exposure) risks, and macro (trend exposure) risks, and both need to factor into the hedge calculus. That's why, in the real world, the value of hedging depends entirely on the design of the hedging strategy itself. Here, when we say "value" of the hedge, we're not talking about cash money - we're talking about the intrinsic value of the hedge relative to the the risk profile of your underlying exposure. To achieve this, people hedge dynamically. In wallstreetbets terms, this means that as the value of your position changes, you need to change your hedges too. The idea is to efficiently and continuously distribute and rebalance risk across different states and periods, taking value from states in which the marginal cost of the hedge is low and putting it back into states where marginal cost of the hedge is high, until the shadow value of your underlying exposure is equalized across your positions. The punchline, I guess, is that one static position is a hedge in the same way that the finger paintings you make for your wife's boyfriend are art - it's technically correct, but you're only playing yourself by believing it. Anyway. Obviously doing this as a small potatoes trader is hard but it's worth taking into account. Enough basic shit. So how does this work in markets? 2. A Hedging Taxonomy The best place to start here is a practical question. What does a business need to hedge against? Think about the specific risk that an individual business faces. These are legion, so I'm just going to list a few of the key ones that apply to most corporates. (1) You have commodity risk for the shit you buy or the shit you use. (2) You have currency risk for the money you borrow. (3) You have rate risk on the debt you carry. (4) You have offtake risk for the shit you sell. Complicated, right? To help address the many and varied ways that shit can go wrong in a sophisticated market, smart operators like yours truly have devised a whole bundle of different instruments which can help you manage the risk. I might write about some of the more complicated ones in a later post if people are interested (CDO/CLOs, strip/stack hedges and bond swaps with option toggles come to mind) but let's stick to the basics for now. (i) Swaps A swap is one of the most common forms of hedge instrument, and they're used by pretty much everyone that can afford them. The language is complicated but the concept isn't, so pay attention and you'll be fine. This is the most important part of this section so it'll be the longest one. Swaps are derivative contracts with two counterparties (before you ask, you can't trade 'em on an exchange - they're OTC instruments only). They're used to exchange one cash flow for another cash flow of equal expected value; doing this allows you to take speculative positions on certain financial prices or to alter the cash flows of existing assets or liabilities within a business. "Wait, Fuzz; slow down! What do you mean sets of cash flows?". Fear not, little autist. Ol' Fuzz has you covered. The cash flows I'm talking about are referred to in swap-land as 'legs'. One leg is fixed - a set payment that's the same every time it gets paid - and the other is variable - it fluctuates (typically indexed off the price of the underlying risk that you are speculating on / protecting against). You set it up at the start so that they're notionally equal and the two legs net off; so at open, the swap is a zero NPV instrument. Here's where the fun starts. If the price that you based the variable leg of the swap on changes, the value of the swap will shift; the party on the wrong side of the move ponies up via the variable payment. It's a zero sum game. I'll give you an example using the most vanilla swap around; an interest rate trade. Here's how it works. You borrow money from a bank, and they charge you a rate of interest. You lock the rate up front, because you're smart like that. But then - quelle surprise! - the rate gets better after you borrow. Now you're bagholding to the tune of, I don't know, 5 bps. Doesn't sound like much but on a billion dollar loan that's a lot of money (a classic example of the kind of 'small, deep hole' that's terrible for profits). Now, if you had a swap contract on the rate before you entered the trade, you're set; if the rate goes down, you get a payment under the swap. If it goes up, whatever payment you're making to the bank is netted off by the fact that you're borrowing at a sub-market rate. Win-win! Or, at least, Lose Less / Lose Less. That's the name of the game in hedging. There are many different kinds of swaps, some of which are pretty exotic; but they're all different variations on the same theme. If your business has exposure to something which fluctuates in price, you trade swaps to hedge against the fluctuation. The valuation of swaps is also super interesting but I guarantee you that 99% of you won't understand it so I'm not going to try and explain it here although I encourage you to google it if you're interested. Because they're OTC, none of them are filed publicly. Someeeeeetimes you see an ISDA (dsicussed below) but the confirms themselves (the individual swaps) are not filed. You can usually read about the hedging strategy in a 10-K, though. For what it's worth, most modern credit agreements ban speculative hedging. Top tip: This is occasionally something worth checking in credit agreements when you invest in businesses that are debt issuers - being able to do this increases the risk profile significantly and is particularly important in times of economic volatility (ctrl+f "non-speculative" in the credit agreement to be sure). (ii) Forwards A forward is a contract made today for the future delivery of an asset at a pre-agreed price. That's it. "But Fuzzy! That sounds just like a futures contract!". I know. Confusing, right? Just like a futures trade, forwards are generally used in commodity or forex land to protect against price fluctuations. The differences between forwards and futures are small but significant. I'm not going to go into super boring detail because I don't think many of you are commodities traders but it is still an important thing to understand even if you're just an RH jockey, so stick with me. Just like swaps, forwards are OTC contracts - they're not publicly traded. This is distinct from futures, which are traded on exchanges (see The Ballad Of Big Dick Vick for some more color on this). In a forward, no money changes hands until the maturity date of the contract when delivery and receipt are carried out; price and quantity are locked in from day 1. As you now know having read about BDV, futures are marked to market daily, and normally people close them out with synthetic settlement using an inverse position. They're also liquid, and that makes them easier to unwind or close out in case shit goes sideways. People use forwards when they absolutely have to get rid of the thing they made (or take delivery of the thing they need). If you're a miner, or a farmer, you use this shit to make sure that at the end of the production cycle, you can get rid of the shit you made (and you won't get fucked by someone taking cash settlement over delivery). If you're a buyer, you use them to guarantee that you'll get whatever the shit is that you'll need at a price agreed in advance. Because they're OTC, you can also exactly tailor them to the requirements of your particular circumstances. These contracts are incredibly byzantine (and there are even crazier synthetic forwards you can see in money markets for the true degenerate fund managers). In my experience, only Texan oilfield magnates, commodities traders, and the weirdo forex crowd fuck with them. I (i) do not own a 10 gallon hat or a novelty size belt buckle (ii) do not wake up in the middle of the night freaking out about the price of pork fat and (iii) love greenbacks too much to care about other countries' monopoly money, so I don't fuck with them. (iii) Collars No, not the kind your wife is encouraging you to wear try out to 'spice things up' in the bedroom during quarantine. Collars are actually the hedging strategy most applicable to WSB. Collars deal with options! Hooray! To execute a basic collar (also called a wrapper by tea-drinking Brits and people from the Antipodes), you buy an out of the money put while simultaneously writing a covered call on the same equity. The put protects your position against price drops and writing the call produces income that offsets the put premium. Doing this limits your tendies (you can only profit up to the strike price of the call) but also writes down your risk. If you screen large volume trades with a VOL/OI of more than 3 or 4x (and they're not bullshit biotech stocks), you can sometimes see these being constructed in real time as hedge funds protect themselves on their shorts. (3) All About ISDAs, CDS and Synthetic CDOs You may have heard about the mythical ISDA. Much like an indenture (discussed in my post on $F), it's a magic legal machine that lets you build swaps via trade confirms with a willing counterparty. They are very complicated legal documents and you need to be a true expert to fuck with them. Fortunately, I am, so I do. They're made of two parts; a Master (which is a form agreement that's always the same) and a Schedule (which amends the Master to include your specific terms). They are also the engine behind just about every major credit crunch of the last 10+ years. First - a brief explainer. An ISDA is a not in and of itself a hedge - it's an umbrella contract that governs the terms of your swaps, which you use to construct your hedge position. You can trade commodities, forex, rates, whatever, all under the same ISDA. Let me explain. Remember when we talked about swaps? Right. So. You can trade swaps on just about anything. In the late 90s and early 2000s, people had the smart idea of using other people's debt and or credit ratings as the variable leg of swap documentation. These are called credit default swaps. I was actually starting out at a bank during this time and, I gotta tell you, the only thing I can compare people's enthusiasm for this shit to was that moment in your early teens when you discover jerking off. Except, unlike your bathroom bound shame sessions to Mom's Sears catalogue, every single person you know felt that way too; and they're all doing it at once. It was a fiscal circlejerk of epic proportions, and the financial crisis was the inevitable bukkake finish. WSB autism is absolutely no comparison for the enthusiasm people had during this time for lighting each other's money on fire. Here's how it works. You pick a company. Any company. Maybe even your own! And then you write a swap. In the swap, you define "Credit Event" with respect to that company's debt as the variable leg . And you write in... whatever you want. A ratings downgrade, default under the docs, failure to meet a leverage ratio or FCCR for a certain testing period... whatever. Now, this started out as a hedge position, just like we discussed above. The purest of intentions, of course. But then people realized - if bad shit happens, you make money. And banks... don't like calling in loans or forcing bankruptcies. Can you smell what the moral hazard is cooking? Enter synthetic CDOs. CDOs are basically pools of asset backed securities that invest in debt (loans or bonds). They've been around for a minute but they got famous in the 2000s because a shitload of them containing subprime mortgage debt went belly up in 2008. This got a lot of publicity because a lot of sad looking rednecks got foreclosed on and were interviewed on CNBC. "OH!", the people cried. "Look at those big bad bankers buying up subprime loans! They caused this!". Wrong answer, America. The debt wasn't the problem. What a lot of people don't realize is that the real meat of the problem was not in regular way CDOs investing in bundles of shit mortgage debts in synthetic CDOs investing in CDS predicated on that debt. They're synthetic because they don't have a stake in the actual underlying debt; just the instruments riding on the coattails. The reason these are so popular (and remain so) is that smart structured attorneys and bankers like your faithful correspondent realized that an even more profitable and efficient way of building high yield products with limited downside was investing in instruments that profit from failure of debt and in instruments that rely on that debt and then hedging that exposure with other CDS instruments in paired trades, and on and on up the chain. The problem with doing this was that everyone wound up exposed to everybody else's books as a result, and when one went tits up, everybody did. Hence, recession, Basel III, etc. Thanks, Obama. Heavy investment in CDS can also have a warping effect on the price of debt (something else that happened during the pre-financial crisis years and is starting to happen again now). This happens in three different ways. (1) Investors who previously were long on the debt hedge their position by selling CDS protection on the underlying, putting downward pressure on the debt price. (2) Investors who previously shorted the debt switch to buying CDS protection because the relatively illiquid debt (partic. when its a bond) trades at a discount below par compared to the CDS. The resulting reduction in short selling puts upward pressure on the bond price. (3) The delta in price and actual value of the debt tempts some investors to become NBTs (neg basis traders) who long the debt and purchase CDS protection. If traders can't take leverage, nothing happens to the price of the debt. If basis traders can take leverage (which is nearly always the case because they're holding a hedged position), they can push up or depress the debt price, goosing swap premiums etc. Anyway. Enough technical details. I could keep going. This is a fascinating topic that is very poorly understood and explained, mainly because the people that caused it all still work on the street and use the same tactics today (it's also terribly taught at business schools because none of the teachers were actually around to see how this played out live). But it relates to the topic of today's lesson, so I thought I'd include it here. Work depending, I'll be back next week with a covenant breakdown. Most upvoted ticker gets the post. *EDIT 1\* In a total blowout, $PLAY won. So it's D&B time next week. Post will drop Monday at market open.
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Trump Didn’t Kill the Global Trade System. He Split It in Two.
This article is taken from the Wall Street Journal written about nine months ago and sits behind a a paywall, so I decided to copy and paste it here. This article explains Trump's policies toward global trade and what has actually happened so far. I think the article does a decent job of explaining the Trade War. While alot has happenedsince the article was written, I still think its relevant. However, what is lacking in the article, like many articles on the trade war, is it doesn't really explain the history of US trade policy, the laws that the US administration is using to place tariffs on China and the official justification for the US President in enacting tariffs against China. In my analysis I will cover those points.
When Trump entered the White House people feared he would dismantle the global system the US and its allies had built over the last 75 years, but he hasn't. He has realign into two systems. One between the US and its allies which looks similar to the one built since the 1980s with a few of quota and tariffs. As the article points out
Today, Korus and Nafta have been replaced by updated agreements(one not yet ratified) that look much like the originals. South Korea accepted quotas on steel. Mexico and Canada agreed to higher wages, North American content requirements and quotas for autos. Furthermore, the article points out Douglas Irwin, an economist and trade historian at Dartmouth College, calls these results the “status quo with Trumpian tweaks: a little more managed trade sprinkled about for favored industries. It’s not good, but it’s not the destruction of the system.” Mr. Trump’s actions so far affect only 12% of U.S. imports, according to Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. In 1984, 21% of imports were covered by similar restraints, many imposed by Mr. Reagan, such as on cars, steel, motorcycles and clothing. Protectionist instincts go so far in the US, there are strong lobby groups for both protectionist and freetrade in the US.
The second reflects a emerging rivalry between the US and China. Undo some of the integration that followed China accession to the WTO. Two questions 1) How far is the US willing to decouple with China 2) Can it persuade allies to join.
The second is going to be difficult because China's economic ties are greater than they were between the Soviets, and China isn't waging an ideological struggle. Trump lacks Reagan commitment to alliance and free trade. The status quo with China is crumbling Dan Sullivan, a Republican senator from Alaska, personifies these broader forces reshaping the U.S. approach to the world. When Mr. Xi visited the U.S. in 2015, Mr. Sullivan urged his colleagues to pay more attention to China’s rise. On the Senate floor, he quoted the political scientist Graham Allison: “War between the U.S. and China is more likely than recognized at the moment.” Last spring, Mr. Sullivan went to China and met officials including Vice President Wang Qishan. They seemed to think tensions with the U.S. will fade after Mr. Trump leaves the scene, Mr. Sullivan recalled. “I just said, ‘You are completely misreading this.’” The mistrust, he told them, is bipartisan, and will outlast Mr. Trump. both Bush II and Obama tried to change dialogue and engagement, but by the end of his term, Obama was questioning the approach. Trump has declared engagement. “We don’t like it when our allies steal our ideas either, but it’s a much less dangerous situation,” said Derek Scissors, a China expert at the American Enterprise Institute whose views align with the administration’s more hawkish officials. “We’re not worried about the war-fighting capability of Japan and Korea because they’re our friends.”
The article also points out unlike George Kennan in 1946 who made a case for containing the Soviet Union, the US hasn't explicitly made a case for containing the Soviets, Trump's administration hasn't, because as the the article explains its divided Michael Pillsbury a Hudson Institute scholar close to the Trump team, see 3 scenarios
New Cold War with drastically reduced economic ties
China resolve their tensions, integrate and run the world together
Transactional US-China relationship of the sort during the 1980s
Pillsbury thinks the third is most likely to happen, even though the administration hasn't said that it has adopted that policy. The US is stepping efforts to draw in other trading partners. The US, EU and Japan have launched a WTO effort to crack down on domestic subsidies and technology transfers requirement. US and Domestic concerns with prompted some countries to restrict Huawei. The US is also seeking to walloff China from other trade deals. However, there are risk with this strategy
Other countries like Japan and South Korea to dependent on China. Too integrated.
Raise objections to Belt and Road. But no alternative
My main criticism of this article is it tries like the vast majority of articles to fit US trade actions in the larger context of US geopolitical strategy. Even the author isn't certain "The first goes to the heart of Mr. Trump’s goal. If his aim is to hold back China’s advance, economists predict he will fail.". If you try to treat the trade "war" and US geopolitical strategy toward China as one, you will find yourself quickly frustrated and confused. If you treat them separately with their different set of stakeholders and histories, were they intersect with regards to China, but diverge. During the Cold War, trade policy toward the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc was subordinated to geopolitical concerns. For Trump, the trade issues are more important than geopolitical strategy. His protectionist trade rhetoric has been fairly consistent since 1980s. In his administration, the top cabinet members holding economic portfolios, those of Commerce, Treasury and US Trade Representative are the same people he picked when he first took office. The Director of the Economic Council has changed hands once, its role isn't as important as the National Security Advisor. While State, Defense, CIA, Homeland Security, UN Ambassador, National Security Advisor have changed hands at least once. Only the Director of National Intelligence hasn't changed. International Trade makes up 1/4 of the US economy, and like national security its primarily the responsibility of the Federal government. States in the US don't implement their own tariffs. If you add the impact of Treasury policy and how it relates to capital flows in and out of the US, the amounts easily exceed the size of the US economy. Furthermore, because of US Dollar role as the reserve currency and US control of over global system the impact of Treasury are global. Trade policy and investment flows runs through two federal departments Commerce and Treasury and for trade also USTR. Defense spending makes up 3.3% of GDP, and if you add in related homeland security its at most 4%. Why would anyone assume that these two realms be integrated let alone trade policy subordinate to whims of a national security bureaucracy in most instances? With North Korea or Iran, trade and investment subordinate themselves to national security, because to Treasury and Commerce bureaucrats and their affiliated interest groups, Iran and the DPRK are well, economic midgets, but China is a different matter. The analysis will be divided into four sections. The first will be to provide a brief overview of US trade policy since 1914. The second section will discuss why the US is going after China on trade issues, and why the US has resorted using a bilateral approach as opposed to going through the WTO. The third section we will talk about how relations with China is hashed out in the US. The reason why I submitted this article, because there aren't many post trying to explain US-China Trade War from a trade perspective. Here is a post titled "What is the Reasons for America's Trade War with China, and not one person mentioned Article 301 or China's WTO Commitments. You get numerous post saying that Huawei is at heart of the trade war. Its fine, but if you don't know what was inside the USTR Investigative report that lead to the tariffs. its like skipping dinner and only having dessert When the US President, Donald J Trump, says he wants to negotiate a better trade deal with other countries, and has been going on about for the last 35 years, longer than many of you have been alive, why do people think that the key issues with China aren't primarily about trade at the moment.
OVERVIEW OF THE UNITED STATES TRADE ORIENTATION
Before 1940s, the US could be categorized as a free market protectionist economy. For many this may seem like oxymoron, how can an economy be free market and protectionist? In 1913, government spending made up about 7.5% of US GDP, in the UK it was 13%, and for Germany 18% (Public Spending in the 20th Century A Global Perspective: Ludger Schuknecht and Vito Tanzi - 2000). UK had virtual zero tariffs, while for manufactured goods in France it was 20%, 13% Germany, 9% Belgium and 4% Netherlands. For raw materials and agricultural products, it was almost zero. In contrast, for the likes of United States, Russia and Japan it was 44%, 84% and 30% respectively. Even though in 1900 United States was an economic powerhouse along with Germany, manufactured exports only made up 30% of exports, and the US government saw tariffs as exclusively a domestic policy matter and didn't see tariffs as something to be negotiated with other nations. The US didn't have the large constituency to push the government for lower tariffs abroad for their exports like in Britain in the 1830-40s (Reluctant Partners: A History of Multilateral Trade Cooperation, 1850-2000). The Underwood Tariffs Act of 1913 which legislated the income tax, dropped the tariffs to 1850 levels levels.Until 16th amendment was ratified in 1913 making income tax legal, all US federal revenue came from excise and tariffs. In contrast before 1914, about 50% of UK revenue came from income taxes. The reason for US reluctance to introduced income tax was ideological and the United State's relative weak government compared to those in Europe. After the First World War, the US introduced the Emergency Tariff Act of 1921, than the Fordney–McCumber Tariff of 1922 followed by a Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930. Contrary to popular opinion, the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 had a small negative impact on the economy, since imports and exports played a small part of the US economy, and the tariffs were lower than the average that existed from 1850-1914. Immediately after the Second World War, when the US economy was the only industrialized economy left standing, the economic focus was on rehabilitation and monetary stability. There was no grandiose and ideological design. Bretton Woods system linked the US dollar to gold to create monetary stability, and to avoid competitive devaluation and tariffs that plagued the world economy after Britain took itself off the gold in 1931. The US$ was the natural choice, because in 1944 2/3 of the world's gold was in the US. One reason why the Marshall Plan was created was to alleviate the chronic deficits Europeans countries had with the US between 1945-50. It was to rebuild their economies so they could start exports good to the US. Even before it was full implemented in 1959, it was already facing problems, the trade surpluses that the US was running in the 1940s, turned to deficits as European and Japanese economies recovered. By 1959, Federal Reserves foreign liabilities had already exceeded its gold reserves. There were fears of a run on the US gold supply and arbitrage. A secondary policy of the Bretton woods system was curbs on capital outflows to reduce speculation on currency pegs, and this had a negative impact on foreign investment until it was abandoned in 1971. It wasn't until the 1980s, where foreign investment recovered to levels prior to 1914. Factoring out the big spike in global oil prices as a result of the OPEC cartel, it most likely wasn't until the mid-1990s that exports as a % of GDP had reached 1914 levels. Until the 1980s, the US record regarding free trade and markets was mediocre. The impetus to remove trade barriers in Europe after the Second World War was driven by the Europeans themselves. The EEC already had a custom union in 1968, Canada and the US have yet to even discuss implementing one. Even with Canada it took the US over 50 years to get a Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA was inspired by the success of the EEC. NAFTA was very much an elite driven project. If the Americans put the NAFTA to a referendum like the British did with the EEC in the seventies, it most likely wouldn't pass. People often look at segregation in the US South as a political issue, but it was economic issue as well. How could the US preach free trade, when it didn't have free trade in its own country. Segregation was a internal non-tariff barrier. In the first election after the end of the Cold War in 1992, Ross Perot' based most of independent run for the Presidency on opposition to NAFTA. He won 19% of the vote. Like Ross Perot before him, Donald Trump is not the exception in how America has handled tariffs since the founding of the Republic, but more the norm. The embrace of free trade by the business and political elite can be attributed to two events. After the end of Bretton Woods in 1971, a strong vested interest in the US in the form of multinationals and Wall Street emerged advocating for removal of tariffs and more importantly the removal of restrictions on free flow of capital, whether direct foreign investment in portfolio investment. However, the political class embrace of free trade and capital only really took off after the collapse of the Soviet Union propelled by Cold War triumphalism. As mentioned by the article, the US is reverting back to a pre-WTO relations with China. As Robert Lighthizer said in speech in 2000
I guess my prescription, really, is to move back to more of a negotiating kind of a settlement. Return to WTO and what it really was meant to be. Something where you have somebody make a decision but have it not be binding.
The US is using financial and legal instruments developed during the Cold War like its extradition treaties (with Canada and Europe), and Section 301. Here is a very good recent article about enforcement commitment that China will make.‘Painful’ enforcement ahead for China if trade war deal is reached with US insisting on unilateral terms NOTE: It is very difficult to talk about US-China trade war without a basic knowledge of global economic history since 1914. What a lot of people do is politicize or subordinate the economic history to the political. Some commentators think US power was just handed to them after the Second World War, when the US was the only industrialized economy left standing. The dominant position of the US was temporary and in reality its like having 10 tonnes of Gold sitting in your house, it doesn't automatically translate to influence. The US from 1945-1989 was slowly and gradually build her influence in the non-Communist world. For example, US influence in Canada in the 1960s wasn't as strong as it is now. Only 50% of Canadian exports went to the US in 1960s vs 80% at the present moment.
BASIS OF THE US TRADE DISCUSSION WITH CHINA
According to preliminary agreement between China and the US based on unnamed sources in the Wall Street Journal article US, China close in on Trade Deal. In this article it divides the deal in two sections. The first aspects have largely to do with deficits and is political.
As part of a deal, China is pledging to help level the playing field, including speeding up the timetable for removing foreign-ownership limitations on car ventures and reducing tariffs on imported vehicles to below the current auto tariff of 15%. Beijing would also step up purchases of U.S. goods—a tactic designed to appeal to President Trump, who campaigned on closing the bilateral trade deficit with China. One of the sweeteners would be an $18 billion natural-gas purchase from Cheniere Energy Inc., people familiar with the transaction said.
The second part will involve the following.
Commitment Regarding Industrial Policy
Provisions to protect IP
Mechanism which complaints by US companies can be addressed
Bilateral meetings adjudicate disputes. If talks don't produce agreement than US can raise tariffs unilaterally
China uses joint venture requirements, foreign investment restrictions, and administrative review and licensing processes to require or pressure technology transfer from U.S. companies.
China deprives U.S. companies of the ability to set market-based terms in licensing and other technology-related negotiations.
China directs and unfairly facilitates the systematic investment in, and acquisition of, U.S. companies and assets to generate large-scale technology transfer.
China conducts and supports cyber intrusions into U.S. commercial computer networks to gain unauthorized access to commercially valuable business information.
In the bigger context of trade relations between US and China, China is not honoring its WTO commitments, and the USTR issued its yearly report to Congress in early February about the status of China compliance with its WTO commitments. The points that served as a basis for applying Section 301, also deviate from her commitments as Clinton's Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky paving the way for a trade war. Barshefsky argues that China's back sliding was happening as early as 2006-07, and believes the trade war could have been avoided has those commitments been enforced by previous administrations. I will provide a brief overview of WTO membership and China's process of getting into the WTO. WTO members can be divided into two groups, first are countries that joined in 1995-97, and were members of GATT, than there are the second group that joined after 1997. China joined in 2001. There is an argument that when China joined in 2001, she faced more stringent conditions than other developing countries that joined before, because the vast majority of developing countries were members of GATT, and were admitted to the WTO based on that previous membership in GATT. Here is Brookings Institute article published in 2001 titled "Issues in China’s WTO Accession"
This question is all the more puzzling because the scope and depth of demands placed on entrants into the formal international trading system have increased substantially since the formal conclusion of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations in 1994, which expanded the agenda considerably by covering many services, agriculture, intellectual property, and certain aspects of foreign direct investment. Since 1994, the international community has added agreements covering information technology, basic telecommunications services, and financial services. WTO membership now entails liberalization of a much broader range of domestic economic activity, including areas that traditionally have been regarded by most countries as among the most sensitive, than was required of countries entering the WTO’s predecessor organization the GATT. The terms of China’s protocol of accession to the World Trade Organization reflect the developments just described and more. China’s market access commitments are much more far-reaching than those that governed the accession of countries only a decade ago. And, as a condition for membership, China was required to make protocol commitments that substantially exceed those made by any other member of the World Trade Organization, including those that have joined since 1995. The broader and deeper commitments China has made inevitably will entail substantial short-term economic costs.
What are the WTO commitments Barshefsky goes on about? When countries join the WTO, particularly those countries that weren't members of GATT and joined after 1997, they have to work toward fulfilling certain commitments. There are 4 key documents when countries make an accession to WTO membership, the working party report, the accession protocol paper, the goods schedule and service schedule. In the working party report as part of the conclusion which specifies the commitment of each member country what they will do in areas that aren't compliant with WTO regulations on the date they joined. The problem there is no good enforcement mechanism for other members to force China to comply with these commitments. And WTO punishments are weak. Here is the commitment paragraph for China "The Working Party took note of the explanations and statements of China concerning its foreign trade regime, as reflected in this Report. The Working Party took note of the commitments given by China in relation to certain specific matters which are reproduced in paragraphs 18-19, 22-23, 35-36, 40, 42, 46-47, 49, 60, 62, 64, 68, 70, 73, 75, 78-79, 83-84, 86, 91-93, 96, 100-103, 107, 111, 115-117, 119-120, 122-123, 126-132, 136, 138, 140, 143, 145, 146, 148, 152, 154, 157, 162, 165, 167-168, 170-174, 177-178, 180, 182, 184-185, 187, 190-197, 199-200, 203-207, 210, 212-213, 215, 217, 222-223, 225, 227-228, 231-235, 238, 240-242, 252, 256, 259, 263, 265, 270, 275, 284, 286, 288, 291, 292, 296, 299, 302, 304-305, 307-310, 312-318, 320, 322, 331-334, 336, 339 and 341 of this Report and noted that these commitments are incorporated in paragraph 1.2 of the Draft Protocol. " This is a tool by the WTO that list all the WTO commitment of each country in the working paper. In the goods and service schedule they have commitments for particular sectors. Here is the a press release by the WTO in September 2001, after successfully concluding talks for accession, and brief summary of key areas in which China hasn't fulfilled her commitments. Most of the commitments made by China were made to address its legacy as a non-market economy and involvement of state owned enterprises. In my opinion, I think the US government and investors grew increasingly frustrated with China, after 2007 not just because of China's back sliding, but relative to other countries who joined after 1997 like Vietnam, another non-market Leninist dictatorship. When comparing China's commitments to the WTO its best to compare her progress with those that joined after 1997, which were mostly ex-Soviet Republics. NOTE: The Chinese media have for two decades compared any time the US has talked about China's currency manipulation or any other issue as a pretext for imposing tariffs on China to the Plaza Accords. I am very sure people will raise it here. My criticism of this view is fourfold. First, the US targeted not just Japan, but France, Britain and the UK as well. Secondly, the causes of the Japan lost decade were due largely to internal factors. Thirdly, Japan, UK, Britain and France in the 1980s, the Yuan isn't undervalued today. Lastly, in the USTR investigation, its China's practices that are the concern, not so much the trade deficit.
REASONS FOR TRUMPS UNILATERAL APPROACH
I feel that people shouldn't dismiss Trump's unilateral approach toward China for several reasons.
The multilateral approach won't work in many issues such as the trade deficit, commercial espionage and intellectual property, because US and her allies have different interest with regard to these issues. Germany and Japan and trade surpluses with China, while the US runs a deficit. In order to reach a consensus means the West has to compromise among themselves, and the end result if the type of toothless resolutions you commonly find in ASEAN regarding the SCS. Does America want to "compromise" its interest to appease a politician like Justin Trudeau? Not to mention opposition from domestic interest. TPP was opposed by both Clinton and Trump during the election.
You can't launch a geopolitical front against China using a newly formed trade block like the TPP. Some of the existing TPP members are in economic groups with China, like Malaysia and Australia.
China has joined a multitude of international bodies, and at least in trade, these bodies haven't changed its behavior.
Trump was elected to deal with China which he and his supporters believe was responsible for the loss of millions manufacturing jobs when China joined the WTO in 2001. It is estimate the US lost 6 Million jobs, about 1/4 of US manufacturing Jobs. This has been subsequently advanced by some economists. The ball got rolling when Bill Clinton decided to grant China Most Favored Nation status in 1999, just a decade after Tiananmen.
China hasn't dealt with issues like IP protection, market access, subsidies to state own companies and state funded industrial spying.
According to the survey, 39 percent of the country views China’s growing power as a “critical threat” to Americans. That ranked it only eighth among 12 potential threats listed and placed China well behind the perceived threats from international terrorism (66 percent), North Korea’s nuclear program (59 percent) and Iran’s nuclear program (52 percent). It’s also considerably lower than when the same question was asked during the 1990s, when more than half of those polled listed China as a critical threat. That broadly tracks with a recent poll from the Pew Research Center that found concern about U.S.-China economic issues had decreased since 2012.
In looking at how US conducts relations foreign policy with China, we should look at it from the three areas of most concern - economic, national security and ideology. Each sphere has their interest groups, and sometimes groups can occupy two spheres at once. Security experts are concerned with some aspects of China's economic actions like IP theft and industrial policy (China 2025), because they are related to security. In these sphere there are your hawks and dove. And each sphere is dominated by certain interest groups. That is why US policy toward China can often appear contradictory. You have Trump want to reduce the trade deficit, but security experts advocating for restrictions on dual use technology who are buttressed by people who want export restrictions on China, as a way of getting market access. Right now the economic concerns are most dominant, and the hawks seem to dominate. The economic hawks traditionally have been domestic manufacturing companies and economic nationalist. In reality the hawks aren't dominant, but the groups like US Companies with large investment in China and Wall Street are no longer defending China, and some have turned hawkish against China. These US companies are the main conduit in which China's lobby Congress, since China only spends 50% of what Taiwan spends lobbying Congress. THE ANGLO SAXON WORLD AND CHINA I don't think many Chinese even those that speak English, have a good understanding Anglo-Saxon society mindset. Anglo Saxons countries, whether US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland are commerce driven society governed by sanctity of contracts. The English great philosophical contributions to Western philosophy have primarily to do with economics and politics like Adam Smith, John Locke, David Hume and Thomas Hobbes. This contrast with the French and Germans. Politics in the UK and to a lesser extent the US, is centered around economics, while in Mainland Europe its religion. When the Americans revolted against the British Empire in 1776, the initial source of the grievances were taxes. Outside of East Asia, the rest of the World's relationship with China was largely commercial, and for United States, being an Anglosaxon country, even more so. In Southeast Asia, Chinese aren't known for high culture, but for trade and commerce. Outside Vietnam, most of Chinese loans words in Southeast Asian languages involve either food or money. The influence is akin to Yiddish in English. Some people point to the Mao and Nixon meeting as great strategic breakthrough and symbol of what great power politics should look like. The reality is that the Mao-Nixon meeting was an anomaly in the long history of relations with China and the West. Much of China-Western relations over the last 500 years was conducted by multitudes of nameless Chinese and Western traders. The period from 1949-1979 was the only period were strategic concerns triumphed trade, because China had little to offer except instability and revolution. Even in this period, China's attempt to spread revolution in Southeast Asia was a threat to Western investments and corporate interest in the region. During the nadir of both the Qing Dynasty and Republican period, China was still engaged in its traditional commercial role. Throughout much of history of their relations with China, the goals of Britain and the United States were primarily economic, IMAGINE JUST 10% OF CHINA BOUGHT MY PRODUCT From the beginning, the allure of China to Western businesses and traders has been its sheer size I. One of the points that the USTR mentions is lack of market access for US companies operating in China, while Chinese companies face much less restrictions operating in the US.
China uses joint venture requirements, foreign investment restrictions, and administrative review and licensing processes to require or pressure technology transfer from U.S. companies.
China deprives U.S. companies of the ability to set market-based terms in licensing and other technology-related negotiations.
Trade with China has hurt some American workers. And they have expressed their grievances at the ballot box. So while many attribute this shift to the Trump Administration, I do not. What we are now seeing will likely endure for some time within the American policy establishment. China is viewed—by a growing consensus—not just as a strategic challenge to the United States but as a country whose rise has come at America’s expense. In this environment, it would be helpful if the US-China relationship had more advocates. That it does not reflects another failure: In large part because China has been slow to open its economy since it joined the WTO, the American business community has turned from advocate to skeptic and even opponent of past US policies toward China. American business doesn’t want a tariff war but it does want a more aggressive approach from our government. How can it be that those who know China best, work there, do business there, make money there, and have advocated for productive relations in the past, are among those now arguing for more confrontation? The answer lies in the story of stalled competition policy, and the slow pace of opening, over nearly two decades. This has discouraged and fragmented the American business community. And it has reinforced the negative attitudinal shift among our political and expert classes. In short, even though many American businesses continue to prosper in China, a growing number of firms have given up hope that the playing field will ever be level. Some have accepted the Faustian bargain of maximizing today’s earnings per share while operating under restrictions that jeopardize their future competitiveness. But that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it. Nor does it mean they aren’t acutely aware of the risks — or thinking harder than ever before about how to diversify their risks away from, and beyond, China.
What is interesting about Paulson's speech is he spend only one sentence about displaced US workers, and a whole paragraph about US business operating in China. While Kissinger writes books about China, how much does he contribute to both Democrats and the Republicans during the election cycle? China is increasingly makING it more difficult for US companies operating and those exporting products to China.
Best Ways To Protect Your Bitcoins and other Cryptocurrencies
Money has changed forms over the years, from gold coins, to paper bills, to proof of credit. While these forms of money are physically very different, they are all still backed by governments and as such constitute the fiat currencies of the official monetary system. In 2009, bitcoin introduced the world to a completely different kind of currency—one not backed by any government or bank but created through computer code. This cryptocurrency or virtual currency has gained in value and users. According to coinmarketcap.com, as of December 7, 2017, there were approximately 16.7 million bitcoins in circulation with a market capitalization of $260 billion U.S. dollars. Over 300,000 transactions a day occur in bitcoin. But as the value of bitcoin increases, so does the threat of theft or hacks. Since bitcoin does not exist in any physical form and is not stored or regulated by any government body, how does one keep bitcoins safe and secure? Just the way we keep cash or cards in a physical wallet, bitcoins are also stored in a wallet—a digital wallet. The digital wallet can be hardware-based or web-based (in the form of online wallets). The wallet can also reside on a mobile device, on a computer desktop, or kept safe by printing the private keys and addresses on paper, known as paper wallet. But how safe are any of these digital wallets? The answer to this depends on how the user manages the wallet. Every wallet contains a set of private keys without which the bitcoin owner cannot access the currency. The biggest danger in bitcoin security is the individual user perhaps losing the private key or having the private key stolen. Without the private key, the user will never see her bitcoins again. Besides losing the private key, a user can also lose her bitcoin by computer malfunctions (crashing a hard drive), by hacking, or by physically losing a computer where the digital wallet resides. (Related reading Ways To Earn Bitcoins)
1. Offline Mode
The offline mode of securing bitcoins is called cold storage. Cold storage wallets are not connected to the Internet and are thus less susceptible to hacking. Since accessing a cold storage wallet can be inconvenient, it’s best to split the bitcoins you own. Keep a small amount of bitcoins in an online digital wallet for daily trading needs and keep the rest in cold storage. Cold storage takes the private keys in an offline mode, thus decreasing the chances of theft. The practice of using cold storage is not only popular with individuals but even with cryptocurrency exchanges that deal with huge sums and are often under constant threat by hackers. The popular cold storage methods are paper wallet, sound wallets, storage devices (like a USB drive), and hardware wallets. (Related reading What Is Cold Storage For Bitcoin)
Backup your entire bitcoin wallet early and often. In case of a computer failure, a history of regular backups may be the only way to recover the currency in the digital wallet. Make sure to backup all the wallet.dat files and then store the backup at multiple secure locations (like on a USB, on the hard drive, and on CDs). Not only this, set a strong password on the backup.
Keep your software up to date. A wallet running on non-updated bitcoin software can be a soft target for hackers. The latest version of wallet software will have a better security system in place thereby increasing the safety of your bitcoins. If your software is updated with the latest security fixes and protocol, you may evade a big crisis because of the enhanced security of the wallet. Consistently update your mobile device or computer operating systems and software to make your bitcoins safer.
Encryption adds a layer of security to a particular folder, file, or message as it can only be unlocked by someone who knows the right key to it. Thus encryption simply means using a password for being able to access the Bitcoin wallet. In cases where a desktop, mobile, or hardware wallet is used, encryption is even more important to protect from online rogues. Not only should the password be strong with the use of capital letters, numbers, and special characters, but it should either be memorized or kept at a very safe spot since the password recovery mechanism is very weak in the case of Bitcoin.
The concept of a multi-signature has gained some popularity; it involves an approval from a number of people (say 3 to 5) for a transaction to take place. Thus this limits the threat of theft as a single controller or server cannot carry out the transactions (i.e., sending bitcoins to an address or withdrawing bitcoins). The people who can transact are decided in the beginning and when one of them wants to spend or send bitcoins, they require others in the group to approve the transaction.
The Bottom Line
Since its introduction nearly eight years ago, there have been many incidents of hacking, theft, and fraud involving bitcoin. For bitcoin to grow in legitimacy, safe and reliable storage is very important. Taking a few simple security and backup precautions can greatly increase bitcoin security. (Related reading The Risks Of Buying Bitcoin)
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