The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is dead. Mexico and Canada have folded. A new agreement, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), will replace it. While the new agreement maintains the integrity of the North American market, it dramatically changes the rules and tilts the playing field in favor of the United States. In particular, changes in provisions regarding the percentage of North American content required in vehicles imported under the agreement, a mandate for huge increases in minimum wages in Mexico and support for labor unions in Mexico mean that an already resurging American manufacturing base is set to expand even more rapidly.
All eyes now shift to the ongoing trade war between the United States and China, the world's two largest economies. Here the news is even better. We have already won.
Growth in China's manufacturing sector stalled this September, with export orders falling faster than they have in two years. The Caixin/ Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for September fell more than expected to 50.0 from 50.6 in August. The index measures the rate of expansion or contraction in an economy, and the neutral 50-mark divides expansion from contraction. What was once the world's fastest growing economy, destined to overtake the United States at any moment, is now poised, not simply to cool off, but to begin to shrink in size. New export orders from Chinese firms, the all-important indicator of what the future portends, are now shrinking across the board.
"Expansion across the manufacturing sector weakened in September, as exports increasingly dragged down performance and continued softening demand began to have an impact on companies' production," said Zhengsheng Zhong, director of macroeconomic analysis at CEBM Group, a company specializing in analysis of the Chinese economy. "Downward pressure on China's economy was significant," said Zhong.
China's currency is in free fall. China's foreign exchange reserves fell more than expected in September 2018 to a 14-month low as the yuan weakened against the dollar.
China's stock market is crashing. It has lost $2 trillion in value already this year. China, which overtook Japan as the second largest stock market in the world only a few years ago, has now officially fallen behind Japan. The losses show no signs of abating.
Chinese investments in the US plummeted 92 per cent in the first nine months of 2018 from their peak two years ago. In New York, where Chinese money was once driving real estate prices through the roof, the Chinese are now selling and going home. In the second quarter of 2018 Chinese investors sold $1.29 billion worth of US commercial real estate. During the same time period, Chinese investors bought only $126.2 million of property, according to data firm Real Capital Analytics. This marked the first time that these investors were net sellers since 2008.
Meanwhile, back home, China is on pace for a record year in corporate-bond defaults. Chinese companies have reneged on about $2.5 billion of public bond payments so far this year. As the economy downshifts and the threat of US tariffs hangs over everything, Chinese companies increasingly simply cannot pay their debt.