About American Phoenix Trade Advisory Services

President Trump’s embrace of a more traditionally Democratic approach to trade has upended policymaking in Washington.  With 20 years’ experience, including with the Executive Branch and on the Hill, American Phoenix Trade Advisory Services is uniquely qualified to navigate the new landscape.

 

We can help you with analysis and strategic advice, including in the following areas:

  • USMCA
  • US/EU Trade Talks
  • US/UK Trade Talks
  • Unfair barriers to trade
  • Customs
  • Training

Recent Blog Entries

Kamala Harris, the Environment, and Trade

As the Beltway sorts out the implications of Joe Biden’s VP pick, the trade world enjoys the benefit of having Kamala Harris’ views on the new NAFTA. While traditional critics of trade deals such as Senators Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, and Elizabeth Warren voted for the agreement on the strength of its new labor provisions,…

Read more

How to Make Trade Work for Workers
At Home and Abroad

As the Trump Administration has recognized, trade involves a larger question consuming most countries: what kind of policy can make “it possible for most citizens, including those without college educations, to access the middle class through stable, well-paying jobs”? Trickle-Down Trade The Administration, however, can’t achieve this goal, because its trade policy is but an…

Read more

Famines, Gluts, and Free Trade

At this point we’re all more aware of shortages relating to COVID-19 than we’d like to be. But still another shortage looms: food. Yet even as the specter of starvation emerges, farmers in the United States are plowing under their crops and dairy farmers are dumping their milk.  We are seeing deep failures in the ability of the…

Read more

The Usual Trade Playbook Isn’t Going to Work

The trade establishment is looking for comfort as supply chain shocks upend confidence in the rules of the global trading system. They’re turning to the same playbook they used in the 1990s, arguing that tariffs, regulations, and export bans are the problem.   The supply chain shocks aren’t due to tariffs or regulations or export…

Read more

What is the purpose of an FTA?

The question seems almost facile in a day and age when so many countries have so many trade agreements. But COVID-19 is leading to us to focus on aspects of globalization that have long been ignored. So let’s reevaluate the basics – like the purpose of these agreements. The Foreign Policy View The foreign policy…

Read more

Forced Labor, Tariffs, and Buybacks

We remember the Tariff Act of 1930 because it included the infamous Smoot-Hawley tariffs. But we should remember it for something much more important: it prohibited imports made with forced labor.  Back in the day, slave labor was seen principally as unfair competition, rather than as a matter of human rights. So the law included a “consumptive…

Read more

The Uncertainty of Certainty

Trade agreements are supposed to be permanent because certainty promotes stability. Or so the thinking has been for the past few decades. The reaction when a sunset clause was included in the new NAFTA was almost uniformly one of horror: the instability of such a thing! The effects on investment! Trade flows! Peace! Prosperity! It’s…

Read more

COVID-19, Supply Chains, and the Threat of State Capitalism

COVID-19 has revealed something many of us already knew: our supply chains reflect a precarious dependence on the People’s Republic of China.  We don’t have enough testing kits; we don’t have enough masks; we don’t have enough ventilators. And as Congress is well aware, we are dependent on the PRC for all sorts of essential…

Read more

Tariffs, Wine, and Shoe Salesmen

On December 12, the United States Trade Representative announced plans to hike the tariffs on imports of certain European products as a result of the seemingly endless Boeing/Airbus dispute. Capitol Hill was immediately inundated with the usual panoply of hyperbolic claims that tariffs spell doom for {fill in the blank} industry on the target list.…

Read more

Connecting the Dots: The Appellate Body, NAFTA, and Labor

The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing last Tuesday with two trade topics: the WTO Appellate Body and NAFTA 2.0.  The first half of the hearing was devoted to the Appellate Body, including both support for the U.S. government’s longstanding concerns over the flaws with the dispute settlement system, as well as a…

Read more

RIP AB

As of today, the WTO Appellate Body will be, at least temporarily, no more. The Trump Administration has strangled it by refusing to agree to appoint new members. This can be seen as an extension, albeit an extreme one, of positions taken in prior Administrations, including the Obama Administration.  This blog explains various ways the…

Read more

The WTO faces gridlock. What’s at stake?

The World Trade Organization’s dispute system was once lauded as an important advancement in trade law enforcement. Now it appears that the system’s legal backbone has been broken. If the dispute system cannot be salvaged from the current crisis, it’s worth asking: what do we lose? Answering that question means putting politics aside an taking…

Read more

Vox Populi, Vox Dei

If you are struggling to understand the rise of economic populism in the United States, and the resulting chasm between populists and elites, then Matt Stoller’s new book Goliath will enlighten you. Goliath is focused on antitrust, but it tells a much broader story of the way the intelligentsia has been led, through a combination…

Read more

NAFTA 2.0: On Labor and Sovereignty

The hang-up over the new NAFTA comes down to labor enforcement.  This should be of no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. The United States has, for years, expressed concern over the historical alliance between Mexican government officials and business – including U.S. business – to frustrate labor rights. To be clear, suppressing labor…

Read more

NAFTA 2.0: K Street Claptrap

The conventional wisdom on trade, which typically emanates from K Street, is generally long on being conventional, and short on being wise. Today’s version is the meme that Democratic demands on NAFTA 2.0 are just politickin’ to deny Trump a victory. How about a few facts, and then we can reevaluate that line of thinking.…

Read more

De Minimis: Express Shippers’ Response

The express shippers responded to the last blog, on the de minimis loophole.  Out of respect for the time and effort they put into responding, the comments are, with the shippers’ permission, set out below.  In addition, the National Council of Textile Organizations sent this letter to Customs in regards to de minimis. The shippers’…

Read more

The De Minimis Loophole

We’ve talked about one loophole in NAFTA called “de minimis.”  In addition to rules of origin that already allow a certain amount of content originating from outside the region, the original NAFTA contains a loophole that allows an extra 7% on top of it.  The Trump Administration, in a position completely at odds with its China…

Read more

Is Freedom a Deadweight Loss?

The recent furor over the NBA, South Park, and the long arm of the Chinese Communist Party is giving the average American a much better understanding of Chinese government authoritarianism in action. Until now, the discussion about the relationship between China and the United States had been dominated by pearl-clutching over how much more dog…

Read more

Restoring FDR’s Vision for Global Trade

The following is an executive summary of a paper submitted to the Institute for Corporate Governance and Finance Conference A New Deal for a New Century: Making Our Economy Work for All.  Papers for the conference, including the full version of the summary below, can be found here.   Too often, the debate over trade devolves into tribalist…

Read more

NAFTA 2.0: Digital Trade and Regulatory Certainty

Typically, trade agreement marketers rely on gains to GDP to explain why the agreements are worth doing. (Of course, in 2016 the U.S. International Trade Commission concluded that all these bilateral and regional trade agreements combined added a mere .2% per year to GDP.) Herein lies the conundrum: the existing NAFTA already provides duty-free treatment among…

Read more

Lessons from Huawei: It’s the Supply Chain, Stupid

On June 6, Inside Cybersecurity had a webinar of government and American industry voices to discuss Huawei, 5G, and cybersecurity.  The panelists’ main concern is the myriad ways hostile actors, including state actors, can exploit supply chains to engage in nefarious activities. Huawei, which has a prominent position in the race to 5G thanks to Chinese government…

Read more

Labor and Environment Arbitrage Quiz

Who said the following: many . . . have focused in particular on enforcement of labor and environmental provisions    . . . .   I am pleased that we obtained strong provisions in those areas, and I agree that they should be fully and effectively enforced so that our companies can compete based on…

Read more

NAFTA 2.0: Does the Competition Chapter Promote Competition?

In the last blog, we talked about the SOE chapter. It lays out some interesting rules on anticompetitive behavior; but those rules only apply to state-owned enterprises.  If the goal is to discipline state capitalism, that chapter won’t do it. But because it has such detailed rules on anticompetitive behavior, it is worth comparing to…

Read more

NAFTA 2.0: Is the SOE Chapter a Red Herring?

Much has been made of the TPP and NAFTA chapters on state-owned enterprises (SOEs).  They are supposed to be forward-looking provisions that will put a dent in state capitalism.  But the premise is wrong, and so the response is wrong. The premise of the argument is that state capitalism is executed through SOEs.  In some…

Read more

The Myth of the Global “Free” Market

According to Politico, a “coalition of free-market advocacy, business and nonprofit groups is urging the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee to press forward on new legislation curbing the president’s tariff authority.” Ah, the siren song of the free market.  But does anyone really think the global trading system is characterized by “free” markets?  A…

Read more

Questions about NAFTA 2.0’s Auto Rules – and China

Donald Trump campaigned in part on the flaws in the auto rules of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Much of his renegotiation of NAFTA has focused on tightening up those rules.  As this paper explains, he can rightly claim some credit for strengthening them. But there are nevertheless questions about whether those rules will work the way…

Read more

NAFTA 2.0: Access to Medicines

One of the goals of this blog has been to facilitate an understanding of the backlash against the global trading system.  That system is characterized by a broad set of rules that are complex — opaque, even — with which few are familiar, even many of those staunchly defending the status quo.  An improved understanding…

Read more

NAFTA 2.0: The Environment Chapter

Although the Trump Administration is no friend of environmental groups, the current U.S. Trade Representative has, as we have noted before, enforced environmental provisions under the U.S-Peru trade agreement.  In that context, it is not as surprising as it might otherwise be that the NAFTA 2.0 environmental chapter contains new, positive provisions. However, on the whole,…

Read more

NAFTA 2.0: The Labor Chapter

To those outside the trade world, it might seem like a foregone conclusion that the Trump Administration’s renegotiation of NAFTA would contain provisions hostile to, rather than supportive of, organized labor.  However, trade has been the anomaly in this Administration.  As we have pointed out before, the President has consistently borrowed Democratic talking points on…

Read more

NAFTA 2.0: On Sunsets

NAFTA 2.0 includes what many consider a novel provision:  a sunset clause.  That is, the agreement will terminate in 16 years unless all three parties agree to extend it. When the United States first proposed the concept of a sunset for the agreement, the reaction was to treat it akin to heresy.  A disagreement between…

Read more

Trade Promotion Authority: Is it Binding?

With the conclusion of the NAFTA renegotiation, the next step in the United States is Congressional consideration.  The assumption is that the agreement will be considered pursuant to Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), and there are some questions as to whether the Administration has complied with TPA.  For example, TPA requires consultations with members “upon request,”…

Read more

Eight Takeaways from “Pivotal Decade”

To situate the ongoing debate over trade, let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways from Judith Stein’s book Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies. Stein traces the evolution of American trade policy from Nixon to Clinton, and in particular she identifies choices that were made, across successive…

Read more

The Pain-Free Solution to the Trade Crisis

There isn’t one. Contrary to the prevailing narrative, the pain didn’t start when the United States imposed tariffs on our trading partners.  The pain started much earlier.  When, exactly, doesn’t necessarily matter, though we can focus on China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), its subsequent skirting of the rules, the WTO’s insistence on…

Read more

Atlas Shrugged

A previous blog explained that: the U.S. willingness to be the market of last resort has been a component critical to the functioning of the global trading system; the U.S. ability to serve as the market of last resort has been compromised by WTO overreach; and no other WTO Member seems to be willing to shoulder…

Read more

The Mad Dash to Deem Trade Agreements “Progressive”

2018 seems to be the year of the Progressive trade agreement.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been renamed the “Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership” (CPTPP).  Canada has floated proposals in the NAFTA renegotiation that it has advertised as progressive. Why? Populists in 2016 reminded us that trade agreements are inherently not progressive.  Economic theory…

Read more

Why is the Trump Administration So Mad at the WTO?

The Trump Administration has made no secret about its frustration with the World Trade Organization.  Campaign rhetoric is being channeled into policy.  The United States is single-handedly strangling the Appellate Body by blocking appointment of new members and complaining about those who are holding over past their terms.  The latest WTO ministerial resulted in no…

Read more

The China Meme

The go-to talking point when a trade agreement is in trouble in the United States is to invoke the specter of China.  When TPP began to falter, the rallying cry for passage was that if we failed to seal the deal, China would score a win, not just commercially, but geopolitically as well.  At the…

Read more

The NAFTA Renegotiation: Seven Ways to Modernize Trade Policy

The House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee invited submissions in connection with its hearing on modernizing NAFTA. This is the Executive Summary of American Phoenix’s comments.  The full comments can be found here.    In the past year, the backlash against globalization has expressed itself through Brexit, the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership,…

Read more

Getting Past the Polarized Debate over Trade

  The debate over trade policy seems to lead to only two possible views:  on one side, trade is responsible for the decline of the American middle class; on the other, trade is always beneficial, regardless of the rules.  Each side has a pejorative label for the other, so that we live in a world…

Read more