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Confounding and confusing events 1/16/23

Mr. Netanyahu has entered into a power sharing arrangement with the ultra-orthodox parties in Israel which has many similarities to the deal that Mr. McCarthy has struck with the ultra-conservative Republicans in his caucus. This will likely have long-term serious consequences on the governing and diplomatic front for Mr. Netanyahu and for Mr. McCarthy in their attempts to govern. Making deals with people who are irrational never works.

The three amigos got together last week to discuss the issues under the USMCA with the principal concerns to be discussed being US protectionism, transients in continental trade and irregular migration. Other hot topics include Canada’s and Mexico’s issues with automotive trade, and the electric vehicle industry which seems to have become less contentious, and, of course, the Mexico/US border which is highly contentious.

In one of the more interesting stories I have seen in quite some time, apparently an amateur archeologist has made a bombshell discovery in that he has taken markings from prehistoric caves in Europe which he proved to be of significance after being long ignored and apparently deciphered a clue which allowed our ancestors to track animal migrations in accordance with the lunar calendar, translation they knew where to find the herds to hunt.

Discovery of classified materials in Mr. Biden’s possession was initially described by the administration as an oversight or error, then finding additional documents at another location raises at least the question of their negligence. I agree there are distinctions of degree between the actions of Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, but in both cases, its problematic.

The first act of the new Republican majority was to create a Select Committee on the “weaponization of the federal government”. We can anticipate investigations of the Homeland Security Secretary, Hunter Biden and likely, President Biden. The Republicans will almost assuredly vote to impeach The President, which they will be successful of in The House assuming they can hold together their twenty potential defectors, to get to 218 votes. This is certainly not unanticipated as this was promised for months by the Republicans, my feeling was that the impeachments of President Trump were largely a waste of time and energy and distracted Congress from the work it needs to do, and The Republicans actions will go nowhere in the Senate. Inflation is still high, we have a war in the Ukraine, and we need to manage the Chinese threat on both the military and economic fronts. This list is where the focus should be.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the leading operators of office space are now looking at other alternatives such as housing, lab and life science space, which is a dramatic shift from where they were three or four years ago. These conversions, obviously, will tighten up the office space market and potentially loosen the market at some juncture for residential properties.

The World Bank has sharply lowered its growth forecast for the global economy in 2023, as inflation worldwide is persisting and there is a substantial risk of a recession, again on a worldwide basis even if those conditions are not as strong in the US. We will be impacted by what is going on elsewhere. China is the classic example with its economy continuing to shrink, largely the result of Covid, which is impacting supply chain activity and ultimately will have a significant negative impact on the US and the world economy.

The meeting between Canada, Mexico and the US was somewhat upstaged by a trade panel ruling that sided with Mexico and Canada over how we calculate regional content required for tariff free imports of vehicles under the USMCA. This is an important development as it appears to liberalize the rules in fear of Canada and Mexico.

China’s consumer prices rose 1.8% in December from a year earlier, and economists expect it to continue to accelerate in the months ahead following the sudden reduction in Covid controls.

Soaring egg prices are having an impact on inflation as they have increased by well over 100% year over year in November of 2022, while grocery prices in general went up about 12% in November.

Vaccinations for incoming Kindergarten students fell to 93% in 21-22, down from the prior year by several percentage points. The anti-vaccine crowd continues to hold sway.

Sweden discovered a large deposit of rare earth metals, 100 million tons of oxides, in fact Europe’s largest. China currently produces 98% of rare earth materials used in Europe. This discovery has enormous economic and strategic significance.

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.

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