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Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 9/21/20

It was reported this week that US Industrial Production slowed to a modest increase of .4 %.  This follows months with gains of 3.5% and 6.1%.  This appears to be evidence that the initial surge of people going back to work has tempered somewhat and thus the decline in production.  If this continues, it does not bode well for the overall economy nor for a recovery on the employment front.

The US announce that it was going to withdraw the tariffs on aluminum the day before Canada was set to impose $3.5 billion of tariffs on US goods.  The explanation provided by the Trump Administration was something less than believable, although they attempted to continue their tough stance by saying that they would potentially reinstitute the tariffs if in fact the level of imports did not normalize over the next several months. Due to the fact that the aluminum supply chain is so integrated, it is going to be a very difficult analysis, to determine whether or not it has normalized in particular because the market directs the flow of aluminum and not a dumping plan as alleged by the Trump Administration has posited as its reason for action.

Climate change has entered the Presidential campaign with the erupting wildfires in the west.  We are seeing a debate, although it is taking the same tone, as it has for many years, with the President and other Republicans essentially saying that it doesn’t exist, and Democrats saying that we now have clear evidence that it exists.  In the news, as well, is a story that a large chunk of Greenland icecap has broken off which many scientists treat as an indication of a more rapid advance of global warming.  On a local note, having lived in Plattsburgh for more than 40 years, it has become clear that our summers have gotten warmer and dryer with the lake being at very low levels.  One interesting item that has been noted in the news several times is that air quality in much of the world improved due to COVID as people were not driving their cars, maybe there is a message there. 

Peter Navarro, an advisor to President Trump, several weeks ago made disparaging remarks about the presence and actions of Canadian troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It has been reported that the Canadian ambassador to the United States has reached out to top administration officials to make sure that the record is corrected.  There have been 158 Canadians killed in action and more than 40,000 served during 12 years that the Canadians were engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq.  It is unfortunate that Mr. Navarro, who I would note never served, (like his boss President Trump), is making disparaging remarks about people who put their lives on the line.  His cowardly remarks were irresponsible and demonstrates the shallowness of the Trump administration. 

CBS News recently reported on how the USMCA’s dairy provisions are viewed in the State of Wisconsin.  Suffice it to say that US producers received a bit more access to Canada’s tightly controlled dairy market, but, in fact, most dairy farmers in Wisconsin view this as immaterial and not the big win that President Trump is holding it out as.  This is another one of those situations where, Mr. Trump is out of Mr. Trump’s lack of understanding of trade leaves him in a position where he is making statements that sound good, but have little or no substance to them.  Unfortunately, there is a large percentage of Americans who continue to accept these statements, and fail to dig in to determine whether or not they are accurate.  So in essence, the Trumpeting big win in the USMCA for dairy is immaterial to the dairy industry. 

Mr. Trump’s campaign blundered by placing a digital ad that asked that viewers “support the troops” except the soldiers’ planes and weapons were all Russian.  Mr. Trump must have been a proud Russian peacock.

On the Canadian, front the border remains closed and is likely to remain so.  On a side note, Canada requires anyone entering or returning must quarantine for 14 days, thus opening the border only does not resolve all the issues to getting back to business. 

On the coal front, the Wall Street Journal recently wrote that POTUS has failed not only to bring it back, but it is declining more rapidly than under President Obama.  Let’s see who POTUS blames this result on, new unemployment claims remain high indicating the real economy is not keeping pace with Wall Street, the Wall Street Journal reports that the longstanding partnership between China and Germany is weaking, if not collapsing.  China no longer acts like a partner but more as a rival.  This could have a negative impact on Germany and Europe’s post-COVID recovery, we end with a much-reported story of Justice – Ginsburg’s death.  More to come. 

Bill Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st, a partner in Stafford, Owens, Piller, Murnane, Kelleher and Trombley in Plattsburgh, NY and a Strategic Advisor at Dentons to Washington, DC.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.