Trump’s New Trade Offensives

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Good morning. David Meyer here in Berlin, filling in for Alan.

Facing intense political pressure back home, President Trump is going on the trade offensive again, on multiple fronts.

One story involves the threat of 100% tariffs on various French imports, from champagne to porcelain. This is to do with the French revenue tax on digital giants, most of which are of course American.

French President Emmanuel Macron thought he had an agreement with the U.S. about this, that would see the French tax vanish (with already-paid taxes reimbursed) once international agreement is reached on the digital services taxation issue. But no.

If the U.S. follows through on the threat early next year, the response will come from the wider European Union, as trade is (unlike tax) an EU-level rather than national issue—there’s also the fact that Spain, Italy and others are mulling similar digital taxes.

Add that to the threatened U.S. tariffs on European cars, and the likelihood of the U.S. imposing wide-ranging tariffs on European goods over the Airbus subsidies dispute, and there does seem to be an almighty confrontation brewing.

Meanwhile, Trump is also preparing to hit Brazil and Argentina with steel and aluminum tariffs, on the basis that their weakening currencies make their agricultural exports overly competitive with American food.

Neither Brazil nor Argentina is particularly happy about their depreciating currencies—their governments are scrambling to shore them up. But it appears the U.S., perhaps also irked by the two countries’ farm exports filling the space left by the drop in U.S. exports to China, sees the situation as a threat.

Politically speaking, this is particularly problematic for the far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has made much of his affinity with Trump. But it could be a vote-winner for the American president, whose base largely resides in rural states.

It’s all a lot of action, considering that the administration does not yet have much to show for its existing trade offensives. More news below.

David Meyer


Power Lines

A California investigation has concluded that PG&E Corp failed to properly inspect and maintain its power lines, one of which ended up starting the state's deadliest wildfire a year ago. From the report: "The identified shortcomings in PG&E’s inspection and maintenance of the incident tower were not isolated, but rather indicative of an overall pattern of inadequate inspection and maintenance of PG&E’s transmission facilities." Wall Street Journal

UniCredit Cuts

UniCredit will shed 8,000 jobs in a drive to increase shareholder value. Italy's biggest bank wants net profits to rise from $5.2 billion this year to $5.5 billion in 2023, while also returning $8 billion to investors via share buybacks. As part of the push, UniCredit will shutter around 500 branches. Bloomberg

Crypto Senator

Kelly Loeffler, the CEO of the Intercontinental Exchange-owned Bitcoin-storage-and-futures outfit Bakkt, is reportedly to be tapped as interim senator for Georgia. Governor Brian Kemp apparently wants Loeffler, a big GOP donor, to occupy the seat of Senator Johnny Isakson, who is leaving due to ill health. However, President Trump wants Rep. Doug Collins, a big backer of his during the House impeachment inquiry, to take the role. WSJ

Huawei Shift

Huawei is planning to move a major research center from the U.S. to Canada, founder Ren Zhengfei has revealed. Ren also said Huawei intended to build more European manufacturing capacity for its 5G equipment, in order to put minds at rest about the security of its products (which the U.S. is lobbying everyone to avoid). CNBC


Dexcom Outage

Dexcom, a maker of Internet-connected glucose monitoring systems, suffered a service blackout on Friday evening—sending many parents of diabetic children into a panic. Dexcom is under fire particularly over its failure to communicate with customers about the issue, until hours after it struck. Fortune

Foxconn Chat

Foxconn founder Terry Gou, who stepped down as the Taiwanese Apple supplier's chief this year, is visiting the U.S. and said he will be chatting with administration officials about investment and the U.S.-China trade war. He will also be attending the White House Christmas party. Foxconn pleased Trump with plans to create 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin, but has since adjusted those plans, partly because it can't find enough workers. Reuters

Hong Kong

Law Ka-chung, the former chief economist at China's state-owned Bank of Communications, says he was forced out of BoCom's Hong Kong branch because he is a Hong Konger. Law said the pro-democracy protests in the city have prompted deep divisions between the band's mainland and local staff, and "they don't think it's appropriate for a Hong Kong guy to speak on behalf of a Chinese bank." Financial Times

Opioid Crisis

The New York Times has a devastating piece on the opioid crisis, viewed through the lens of an Ohio class-of-2000 yearbook. Former student Jonathan Whitt: "Kids were selling Oxys at school for $3 a pill. By the time I was 19, I was looking in every medicine cabinet and bathroom. All of my close friends, we all turned into drug addicts." NYT

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer. 


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