Posts Tagged ‘VATs’

“Eliminate the Trade Deficit” Resonates in Halls of Congress

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

 “You were ahead of the curve on trade.” This was the common refrain heard last week by members of the Coalition for a Prosperous America who attended our annual fly-in to Washington, D. C. We had eight teams of members visiting Congressional Representatives and Senators on March 14th and 15th. As Chair of our developing California chapter, it was my fifth year attending the CPA fly-in, and our simple message of eliminating the trade deficit resonated well in the halls of Congress.

No one could deny that we have a huge deficit as shown on the chart below:


The annual trade deficit has reduced our U. S. GDP by some 3% to 5.5% each year, and those reductions compound over time.

There is no historical record of any other country in history running 41 years of consecutive trade deficits. Why is this important? Because every billion dollars of net imports costs 4,500 American jobs according to conservative estimates. So last year’s $502 billion deficit equates to 2.25 million jobs lost.

As a result, our Labor Force Participation is in serious decline. The U. S. is the only G7 nation with a DECLINE in LFPR since 1998 for workers ages 15-64. It peaked at 77.4% in 1998 and dropped down five points to 72.6% in 2015, meaning that over 7 million people dropped out of labor force since 1998.

The remedy recommended by the Coalition for a Prosperous America is simple: Congress should establish a national goal to eliminate the trade deficit.

Balanced trade over time is the goal of free trade and of fair trade. Balanced trade will re-industrialize our country, enable massive job creation, grow our wealth and effectively neutralize foreign mercantilism. Trade policy must address true drivers of deficit, these countries and their practices. Many of these countries have export-oriented growth strategies in which they rely upon the US market to consume their exports rather than increasing their internal consumption. China, Germany, Japan and other countries pursue net exports through strategic mercantilism, not free trade. Currency manipulation, value added taxes, state influenced enterprises, and other
tactics are used.

The following top 10 countries account for 90% of America’s 2016 goods trade deficit:

Rank Country 1992 Deficit 2016 Deficit Change 1992-2016
1 China -$18B -$355B -$337B
2 Mexico -$6B -$115B -$121B
3 Japan -$50B -$75B -$25B
4 Germany -$8B -$70B -$62B
5 Canada -$15B -$58B -$53B
6 Ireland +5B -$36B -$37B
7 Vietnam $0B -$34B -$34B
8 South Korea -$2B -$30B -$30B
9 Italy -$4B -$30B -$26B
10 India -$2B -$30B -$28B

Note: These figures are based on U.S. Commerce Dept. data subtracting Imports for Consumption from Domestic Exports which are intended to strip out goods that enter and leave the U.S. simply for re-export, without having any significant value added to them inside the U.S.

Currency manipulation and misalignment are key tactics that the above countries use to gain an advantage in trade. Currency manipulation is trade cheating, because it is both an illegal tariff and a subsidy.

Foreign governments intervene in foreign exchange markets by buying dollars. More than 20 countries have intervened in foreign exchange markets to undervalue their currencies in the past ten years. These countries account for one-third of the world economy and two-thirds of the world’s current account surpluses. Gagnon has calculated that “A country’s current account balance increases between 60 and 100 cents for each dollar spent on intervention.”

“The largest loser is the United States, whose trade and current account deficits have been $200 billion to $500 billion per year larger as a result. The United States has thus suffered 1 million to 5 million job losses.” (Bergsten, 2012) The U. S. economy cannot produce jobs and wealth without addressing this problem. The Coalition for a Prosperous America proposes the following solutions:

• U.S. trade enforcement law should treat currency undervaluation as a countervailable subsidy
• Tariffs should be applied against currency manipulators to neutralize their unearned advantage
• Government policy should pursue a dollar priced at equilibrium rather than accept a persistently overvalued dollar
• Trade agreements should include effective controls on currency manipulation and misalignment

Border Adjustable Consumption Taxes (aka VATs) are a tariff by another name. They are allowed under WTO rules and range from 12% to 24% with the average being 17% globally. This means that virtually all foreign countries tax our exports at this average 17% VAT. They subsidize domestic shipments abroad with rebating the VAT to their manufacturers. The U.S. does not have a VAT to offset this advantage.

Consumption taxes are a tax on consumption as opposed to income, wealth, property, or wages. A Goods and Service Tax (GST) and a Value Added Tax (VAT) are consumption taxes. They are usually a tax only on the “value added” to a product, material, or service. Over 150 countries have such taxes, but the U. S. does not.

The U. S. negotiated tariff reductions or elimination in good faith with our trading partners under NAFTA and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA, but Mexico instituted a 15% VAT, and Central America established a 12% VAT.

After 40 years of tariff reduction under various trade agreements, other countries replaced tariffs with VATs, but the U. S. did not. Thus, American exporters face nearly the same border taxes as they did in the early 1970s.

To solve this problem, the Coalition for a Prosperous America proposes that Congress implement a border adjustable consumption tax (VAT) and use the proceeds to credit against the payroll taxes paid by all workers and businesses. The benefits would be:

• Reduce the cost of labor in the U.S.
• Give every worker a raise
• Lower the price of U.S. exports
• Levy a tax on imports

In President Obama’s 2016 budget, Payroll Taxes were projected to be 31% of the revenue or $1.11 trillion. If a 12.9% VAT were set, it would produce approximately $1.45 trillion in tax revenue, completely offsetting the revenue from Payroll Taxes. All Payroll Taxes could be eliminated with a credit. With a 15% VAT, other tax reform or domestic production cost reduction could be funded. European Union countries use their VATs to provide another revenue stream to allow them to reduce their corporate taxes to be more globally competitive.

The benefit of giving a Payroll Tax credit out of VAT funds is that it would offset the regressiveness of a VAT by elimination of the regressive Payroll Tax. There would be no impact on prices of domestic goods and services, but prices of imported goods and services would increase. This would incentivize consumers to buy Made in USA products instead of imports. In addition, it would reduce the cost of production for U. S. producers enabling them to be more competitive in the global marketplace.

Our Coalition members also encouraged Congress to reinstate the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) that was struck down by an unelected foreign tribunal of the World Trade Organization. Congress caved in to the WTO ruling and passed repeal legislation that exceeded the WTO ruling eliminating COOL for beef and pork, as well as for ground beef and ground pork.

Canada and Mexico want to export their cattle, hogs, beef, and pork to the U. S. without informational labeling that reveals where the cattle and hogs were born, raised, and slaughtered. Right now, meat packers are able to import cattle and hogs and slaughter them to get the USDA stamp. Consumers want to know where cattle and hogs were born and raised, not just slaughtered for reasons of food safety.

Congressional Representatives and Senators need to have the courage to reinstate COOL and vigorously defend our national sovereignty and consumer choice against international interference. COOL legislation enables consumers to Buy American in the grocery store. It prevents consumer deception and empowers consumers to buy food produced under the safety regime of their choosing. It would help to jumpstart America’s ailing rural economy through supporting domestic producers and preventing industry consolidation.

The final message that is critical is that the U. S. must modernize its foreign investment rules to protect American companies that are critical to our national security and economic security. Investors from countries like China, Japan, and South Korea are making strategic acquisitions of U. S. companies and land that threaten our security and future prosperity. These same countries either severely restrict or do not allow 100% acquisition of companies in their country. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) can block incoming investment based upon national security concerns, but not for economic strategy reasons as other countries do.

Congress must update the laws governing foreign investment to include economic security and allow longer review periods, beyond 30 days, for CFIUS to review proposed investments. This would allow more time to gauge systemic threats to U. S. interests in addition to individual cases. The legislation should include a “net benefit” test to encompass American economic interests where proposed acquisitions of companies that are important to future U. S. technology and employment are concerned (both civilian and defense related).

The question now is – Will Congress have the courage to take the bold action needed to eliminate the trade deficit, address currency manipulation, reinstate COOL and control foreign investments? Time will tell.


How Could the Trans Pacific Partnership Affect you or your Business

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

On February 4, 2016, President Obama signed the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement on behalf of the United States. The TPP agreement has been in negotiation behind closed doors since 2010 between the United States and 11 other countries around the Pacific Rim: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The TPP is a “docking agreement” so other countries could be added without the approval of Congress. India, China, and Korea have expressed interest in joining the TPP.

Our elected representatives in Congress had no involvement in writing the TPP – it was written by the staff of the U. S. Trade Representative office, with over 600 corporate advisors (think corporate lawyers) helping them write it. It contains more than 5,500 pages, and no member of Congress could view it as it was being negotiated until late 2014. Even then, they could not take any staff with them and were not allowed to take pen, pencil, paper, or a camera when they went to view it at the U. S. T. R.’s office.

The full text of the TPP was finally released to the public to review in November 2015, and it now awaits Congressional approval. According to the rules established by the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that passed Congress narrowly in June 2015, Congress will only be allowed 45 days for committee analysis after the bill is introduced, only 15 days after that is completed to bring it up for a floor vote, and only 20 hours of debate in the House and Senate. The TPA does not allow any amendments, filibuster, or cloture. Notice that the TPP is called an “Agreement,” as was NAFTA, CAFTA, KORUS, and every other trade deal in the past 22 years. The purpose for this is to get around the requirement of the two-thirds vote of the Senate to approve a Treaty that is required under Article 1, Section 8 of the Treaty clause in the U. S. Constitution. The TPP requires only a simple majority vote (50% + one.)

Supporters of the TPP say that it represents 40% of the world’s economic activity (GDP), but they fail to mention that the U. S. and its current trading partners represent 80% of that 40%. The other five countries represent the other 20%, with Japan alone being 17.7% of that total.

The current goal of trade agreements as given by Congress to the U.S.T.R is to “remove trade barriers,” such as tariffs, quotas, etc. and increase U. S. exports. The U. S. cut tariffs and opened our markets by means of these trade agreements. However, our trading partners didn’t really open their markets to us. They played another game ? mercantilism, featuring rampant global currency devaluation, consumption taxes called Value Added Taxes (VATs) that are tariffs by another name, massive subsidies to their industries, and industrial policies that favor their domestic supply chains.

In brief, the effect to the United States of this unbalanced trade has been:

  • Loss of >600,000 mfg. jobs from NAFTA
  • Loss of 3.2 million mfg. jobs between 2000 – 2010 from China’s entry into WTO
  • Loss of >60,000 mfg. jobs since Korea-US Agreement went into effect in 2012
  • Loss of an estimated 3.4 million U. S. service & call center jobs since 2000
  • Loss of an estimated 700,000 public sector jobs (2008-2013)
  • Racked up cumulative trade deficit of $12 trillion in goods (average $500 billion each year) since 1994

As a result, we now have the worst trade deficit in U. S. history, and we are off to even a higher deficit this year based on the trade figures released for January ($45.9 billion) and February ($47.1 billion). As a recent example of the effect of trade agreements on our total trade deficit, our trade deficit with Korea has nearly doubled in less than four years, increasing from $14.7 billion in 2012 to $28.4 billion in 2015. Proponents of KORUS promised that it would create 70,000 jobs and $10 billion in exports.

As mentioned in a previous article, proponents of the TPP aren’t even giving such rosy predictions. The Peterson Institute’s analysis of the TPP states: “…GDP is projected to fall slightly (-0.54 percent), employment to decline by 448,000 jobs…”

What are some of the ways the TPP could affect you or your business?

Buy American Act would essentially be made Null and Void: The worst effect would be to those businesses who sell to the government, whether it be local, state, or federal because under the TPP procurement chapter, the U.S. would have to agree to waive Buy America procurement policies for all companies operating in TPP countries. This means that all companies operating in any country signing the agreement would be provided access equal to domestic firms to bid on government procurement contracts at the local, state, and federal level. There are many companies that survived the recession and continue in business today because of the Buy American provisions for government procurement, especially defense and military. The TPP could be a deathblow for companies that rely on defense and military contracts. However, it would also affect procurement for infrastructure projects, such as bridges and freeways, as well as construction of local, state, or federal facilities.

Of course, this means that U. S. companies could bid on government procurement projects in TPP countries, but the trading benefit is miniscule. The U. S. government procurement market is 7X the size of current TPP partner countries (+550 billion vs. $55 -70 billion.) It is also highly unlikely that U. S. companies would be the low bidder against domestic companies in these TPP countries because of the vast difference in wages in countries such as Vietnam, where the average wage is 55 cents/hour. Past trade agreements has resulted in an average annual wage loss of 5.5% for full-time workers without college degrees, and U. S. wages have been stagnant for decades, growing by only about 2% per year since 2008. The result has been increased wage inequality from low to high wage earners.

Product Labeling could be Made Illegal: If you like to know if your food is safe, then you won’t like the fact thatCountry of Origin,” “Non-GMO,” or “Organic” labeling could be viewed as a “barrier to trade” and thus be deemed illegal. According to Food & Water Watch, around 90% of the shrimp and catfish that Americans eat are imported. They warn, “The TPP will increase imports of potentially unsafe and minimally inspected fish and seafood products, exposing consumers to more and more dangerous seafood.” Many TPP countries are farm-raising seafood in polluted water using chemicals and antibiotics prohibited in the U. S. Farmed seafood from Malaysia, Vietnam, and China is being raised in water quality equivalent to U. S. sewers. Today, the FDA only inspects 2% of seafood, fruits and vegetables, and the USDA only inspects 4-5% of meat & poultry. Increased imports of food from TPP trading partners could swamp FDA and USDA inspections, so that even less is inspected.

TPP would Increase Immigration: If you are concerned about jobs for yourself or family members, then you won’t like the fact that the TPP increases “the number of L1 visas and the number of tourist visas, which can be used for business purposes.” Any service provider (phone service, security, engineers, lawyers, architects or any company providing a service) can enter into a TPP partner country and provide that service. Companies don’t have to hire Americans or pay American wages – they can bring in own workers and pay less than the American minimum wage.

TPP would Increase Job Losses in Key Industries: If you work in the automotive or textile industries, you may lose your job. The Center for Automotive Research projects a loss of 91,500 U. S. auto jobs to Japan with the reduction of 225,000 automobiles produced in the U. S. Also, the National Council of Textile Industries projects a loss of 522,000 jobs in the U. S. textile and related sectors to Vietnam.

TPP would Reduce Reshoring: Because TPP will reduce tariffs in trading partner countries, such as Vietnam, it will make the Total Cost of Ownership analysis to return manufacturing to America more difficult to justify. The high U. S. dollar has already diminished reshoring in the past year, so Harry Moser, Founder and President of the Reshoring Initiative, recently told me that “The combination of the high USD and TPP will reduce the rate of reshoring by an estimated 20 – 50%.”

Remember that the TPP is missing any provisions to address the mercantilist policies practiced by our trading partners: currency manipulation, Value Added Taxes that are both a hidden tariff and a hidden export subsidy, government subsidies/state owned enterprises, and “product dumping.”

 America is at a crossroads. We can either continue down the path of increasing trade deficits and increasing national debt by allowing anything mined, manufactured, grown, or serviced to be outsourced to countries with predatory trade policies. Or, we can forge a new path by developing and implementing a national strategy to win the international competition for good jobs, sustained economic growth and strong domestic supply chains. If you support the latter path, then add your voice to mine and millions of others in urging Congress not to approve the TPP in either the regular session before the Presidential election or the “lame duck” session after the election.

How to Fix America’s Economy

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013


Last week, I participated in the “Fly-in” for the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) in Washington, D. C.  I was part of several teams that held 105 meetings with legislative assistants for Congressional Representatives and Senators.

We presented informational flyers on the following topics that would help fix America’s economy:

Trade Deficits – In 2012, the U. S. trade deficit was $735 billion, and our trade deficit with China hit an all time high of over $300 billion. This means that we currently consume more than we produce, and we need to reverse this dynamic and produce more of what we consume.  The goal for successful trade is balanced trade, not more trade.  We aren’t going to solve this problem with just doubling exports while we continue to increase our imports at a faster rate.  Trade deficits are our biggest jobs, growth and fiscal problem.  Congress should establish a national goal for balancing trade by the year 2020. Persistent trade deficits are not “free trade, but are “dumb trade.”

Foreign Currency Cheating – currency manipulation is trade cheating because it is both an illegal tariff and a subsidy.  China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore have manipulated their currency values.  However, China’s currency is estimated to be at least 35% undervalued so our exports to China cost 35% more than they should to the Chinese.  In the past two Congresses, one bill addressing the problem passed the House, and one bill passed the Senate, but we need a similar bill to pass both Houses and be signed into law.  Senator Levin is introducing a new bill this week.

The ENFORCE Act – we need to stop the evasion of countervailing and antidumping duty orders by such means as “transshipment” where goods covered by an Order are shipped to a third country before import to the U.S., with falsified U.S. customs documentation claiming the product to be origin of that third country. Other goods covered by an Order are shipped directly with fraudulent paperwork claiming that they were produced in a country that is not covered by the Order or have incorrect import classification codes or inaccurate descriptions that falsely identify the imports as goods that are not subject to an Order.

The ENFORCE Act would establish a formal process and reasonable deadlines for action when the Customs and Border Protection is presented with an allegation of evasion, require CBP to report on its enforcement activities, and order the retroactive collection of duties on entries that illegally evaded duties.

Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) – On March 8, 2013, te USDA announced it is proposing a new COOL rule that will comply with the WTO request to provide more information to consumers and/or reduce the burden on imported product.  The    proposed rule would require labels for muscle cuts of meat to identify the country where each of the three production steps – birthing, raising, and slaughtering – occurred.

Foreign Border Taxes (aka Value Added Tax – VAT) Over 150 countries have at VAT, but the U. S. is one of the few countries that doesn’t.  VATs are “border adjustable” and range from 13% to 24% (average is 17%).  This means that our exports are taxed with a VAT when our goods cross that country’s border. Thus, when we negotiate a trade agreement that lowers or eliminates tariffs, a VAT can be added by our trading partners that is a “tariff by another name.”  Trade agreements do not address VATs when tariffs are lowered, and the WTO allows VATs.  Other countries use the VATs to reduce their corporate taxes to help their manufacturers be more competitive in the global marketplace. VATs are rebated to manufacturers in foreign countries for products that are exported, and the result is a $500 billion hole in U. S. Trade.  We need reject trade agreements that do not neutralize the VAT tariff and subsidy and consider implementing a U. S. consumption tax system to erase this foreign advantage and reduce domestic taxes on income and jobs.

Trans-Pacific Partnership – We need “Smart Trade” not “Dumb Trade” so a summary of CPA’s “Principles for a 21st Century Trade Agreement” was presented that would fix past mistakes in trade agreements. CPA recommends that new trade agreements must include the following principles to benefit America:

  • Balanced Trade
  • National Trade, Economic and Security Strategy
  • Reciprocity
  • Address State Owned Commercial Enterprises
  • Currency Manipulation
  • Rules of Origin
  • Enforcement
  • Border Adjustable Taxes
  • Perishable and Cyclical Products
  • Food and Product Safety and Quality
  • Domestic Procurement
  • Temporary vs. Permanent via renewal or sunset clauses

In the past, Congress has used Trade Promotion Authority to give the executive Branch directives on which countries to negotiate with and what terms to seek in the negotiations. “Fast Track” provisions that prevent Congress from amending any agreement and requiring an accelerated timeline for the vote have also been included. However, the Executive Branch ignored most of the provisions of the 2002 TPA and Congress had no role in the negotiations. Thus, CPA recommends that “Fast Track” provisions not be included because Congress should retain its trade power.

I also took the opportunity to provide copies of my blog article on the dangers to our national sovereignty that the current draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement includes. I enjoyed meeting other businessmen and women from other parts of the country that have similar concerns about the direction of our country and are working to fix our country’s economy.

It was a pleasure to take advantage of my rights as a citizen to express my opinions and those of an organization of which I am a member to our elected representatives in government. If more American businessmen and women would take the time to do the same, we would be more successful in our efforts to fix our trade and national deficit problems and create jobs for more Americans.