The failure of NAFTA was a major campaign feature of Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump heading into the 2016 elections. Trump pushed the narrative that NAFTA was a bad trade deal for the United States, and one which only benefited Canada and Mexico. He abruptly went to work with government officials to renegotiate the terms of trade with both Canada and Mexico, allowing the US an opportunity to rebalance its unequitable terms of trade.
By September 2018, representatives from Canada, Mexico, and the United States hammered out a deal which effectively renegotiated the terms of NAFTA to be more favorable to the US, with agreements being reached with all parties. The North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations were part and parcel of Trump’s campaign promises.
A big part of the reason why Trump pushed for a deal before the midterms in November was to give his base red meat to feast on and to re-energize Republicans ahead of crucial races. Before the new trade agreement can be ratified as law, congressional approval is needed. The terms of the trading agreement will be signed by the end of November 2018, by Mexican, Canadian, and US trade representatives.
The Mexican delegation would like to have the deal done and dusted before the incumbent president is replaced by his successor on December 1, 2018. Important terms of trade have been incorporated in the newly formed legislation, notably information regarding automobile tariffs, limitations on online shopping activity that is tax-free, conflict resolution between Mexico, the US, and Canada, and dairy imports.
Heading into October, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau intimated that the deal was good for Canada. Back in the US however it remains unknown whether Congress will fall into line and support the re-negotiated deal. Lawmakers routinely spar with the president on all aspects of foreign policy, trade, immigration, law and order, et cetera, and the current trade agreements with Mexico and the US are likely to evoke serious opposition from Democrats.
It is expected that Congress will vote on the trade deal in 2019, but nothing will happen until the substance of the trade deal has closely been scrutinized. Democrats will be carefully eyeing the new trade deals vis-a-vis environmental protection and preservation initiatives, labor legislation, and equitable terms of trade. Back in the US, there is tremendous anxiety about the impact that the new trade deal will have on the automobile industry, and whether the renegotiated deal will make things easier or more difficult for US companies.
Congressional Approval Needed to Ratify Trade Deal into Law
The US dairy market expects to benefit from a higher level than the current 3.25% market share which was negotiated through the Obama administration under the TPP. Now, the Canadian dairy market will be allowing greater US exports in, benefiting US farmers, and potentially putting Canadian dairy farmers on the defensive. The Canadians gained from the deal, by way of dispute settlement language, which allows international panel of judges to evaluate the impact of duties on the terms of trade.
Trump has been eager to limit the harm done to US automobile manufacturers and farmers through high tariffs and customs imposed on US exports to Canada and Mexico. The Canadians now have an accommodation in the terms of trade whereby Canada may agree to put limits on its automobile exports at levels higher than the current quota south of the border.
These negotiations were being conducted throughout 2017 and 2018, with Mexicans, Canadians, and Americans quibbling over details. Ultimately, all three countries worked feverishly to conclude trade deals with the United States. It is unlikely that the current trade deal with Canada will pass if the house cedes over to the other side. Dems are vociferously against most every policy proposal made by Trump, and it remains to be seen whether any negotiated deal will pass into law in 2019.
Small and Medium Businesses Already Taking Note
Despite the need for Congressional approval, SMEs across the US and Canada are already positioning themselves for the effects of this type of trade deal. Clearly the dairy industry and automobile industry are going to be affected the most, but multiple other peripheral industries will feel the consequences. NAFTA gives way to the USMCA – an acronym for United States Mexico Canada Agreement.
It’s not only Congress that needs to approve the deal – it’s the Mexican and Canadian legislatures too. North America – the US and Canada will benefit immensely from the deal if it goes into effect, given that truck parts and vehicles will qualify for 0% tariffs if three quarters of the components are made in Canada, the US, or Mexico. This is a 12.5% higher threshold than the current 62.5%.
The minimum wage required for vehicle and truck manufacturers is $16 per hour, which is approximately triple the wage earned by Mexican automobile workers. By 2020, 30% of all work on vehicles must be conducted by workers earning that wage. By 2023, 40% of all work on vehicles must be completed by workers earning that wage.
Of course, not everybody is happy about these wage requirements, particularly the parts and service industries which may be forced out of business if they’re required to make such high wage payments for these types of services. This may result in the US and Canada having to import their vehicles from elsewhere at a lower cost to keep things affordable.
How Will Monetary Inflows Be Impacted in Canada?
The fundamentals of economics state that when the cost of goods and services increases, demand for those goods and services tends to decrease, ceteris paribus. In this newly negotiated agreement – USMCA– it is likely that the impact of the trade deal will be felt by all parties. The Canadian market will have to yield to a greater number of US products and services, notably dairy and automobile exports, which will cut into the existing market share held by Canadian companies.
In terms of monetary inflows, it may well occur that lower demand for CAD may result. This will place a burden on the Canadian economy, notably the manufacturing sector and its attendant small and medium enterprises. By mandating Canada to allow a greater percentage of US products and services into their country, Canadian enterprises invariably are required to yield their own production capacity.
This may result in layoffs, lower wages, and smaller market share. Canada’s money inflow will ultimately be affected by any new trade deal, given that it substantially alters the status quo of receipts and payments. There may be a rush for USD in the run up to any potential congressional vote, with Canadian SMEs fearing that a weakening of the CAD may lead to even higher prices for goods and services in Canada.
E-commerce: Helping Djiboutian Women Entrepreneurs Reach the World
Look around any café, bus, doctor’s waiting room or university campus and you will see heads down, fingers tapping as people immerse themselves into their screens. Increasingly, people are using their devices for shopping, with retail sales via e-commerce set to triple between 2004-2021.
Although significant gender gaps exist with internet use, and although online sales are currently dominated by US-based tech giants, this growing e-commerce trend presents an interesting opportunity for small businesses, and more specifically women’s businesses in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
This is a region where women’s economic empowerment is a significant challenge. With a female labor force participation rate of 19 percent, women’s participation in firm ownership at only 23 percent, and a rate of only 5 percent women top managers of firms across MENA’s non-high-income countries, there is significant scope for improving women’s participation in business and employment.
Access to finance also remains a problem, where 53 percent of women-led small and medium enterprises (SMEs) do not have access to credit and 70 percent of surveyed MENA female entrepreneurs agree that lending conditions in their economy are too restrictive and do not allow them to secure the financing needed for growth.
Several obstacles stand in the way of women’s entrepreneurship and access to markets, such as social norms, family care duties, and transportation issues. Not being able to physically access markets to sell their goods or to participate in international trade fairs to market their products is also a challenge.
This is where e-commerce can play a role, allowing women to circumvent these obstacles and sell their products online. For this, they need to rely on e-commerce platforms connecting them to clients around the world, on performant and affordable logistics, and on reliable payment systems. Building the e-commerce ecosystem will be key to allowing women entrepreneurs to access markets and grow their business, thereby employing more women, as data shows that firms run by women tend to employ more women.
The situation for women in Djibouti is no different. Gender inequality in the labor market remains substantial, with less than a third of women between the ages of 15 to 64 active in the labor market. Unemployment among both genders is high, with a rate of 34 percent for men but it is considerably higher for women at close to 50 percent.
Djiboutian women are also at a disadvantage in terms of education and skills to access economic opportunities. Women in Djibouti typically run small and informal firms in lower value-added sectors, which are less attractive to creditors, thus impeding their access to finance. Women entrepreneurs face difficulties accessing finance and launching formal enterprises.
There are, however, opportunities to increase women’s economic empowerment. Over 57 percent of inactive women in Djibouti say that they do not work because of family and household responsibilities. However, they also indicated they are generally not discouraged or prevented from accessing training or work opportunities by male family members, and there are no legal barriers against women’s entrepreneurship.
Years of research have shown, that when women do well, everyone benefits. Research has found women tend to spend more of the income they earn on child welfare, school fees, health care, and food for their families. Empowering women is an important path to ending poverty.
It’s vital to enable women to participate constructively in economic activities in Djibouti. More entrepreneurship will allow Djibouti to benefit from the talents, energy, and ideas that women bring to the labor market.
To help address this issue, on November 13, 2018, the World Bank launched a $3.82 million regional project called “E-commerce for Women-led SMEs.” The project targets small and medium enterprises run or managed by women that produce goods marketable via e-commerce.
This project is at the crossroads of women’s entrepreneurship and the digital economy, which are two levers for the economic transformation of the region, and that it was very opportune to be able to launch it at the digital economy days of Djibouti.
The launch event took place with the participation of the Minister of Women and Family, the Minister of Economy, the Minister of Communication, the Head of the Women Business Association, and several Djiboutian women entrepreneurs.
The project will contribute to development of women’s entrepreneurship, digital commerce, and the economy in Djibouti and across the region. It will facilitate access for women-led SMEs to domestic and export markets through better access to e-commerce platforms. This will be done by training e-commerce consultants who, in turn, will train and help women-led SME’s access e-commerce platforms.
The project will also aim to ease access to finance for these SMEs by connecting them to financial institutions lending to women, particularly the IFC’s Banking on Women network. It will also work to create an ecosystem conducive to e-commerce by diagnosing regulatory, logistical, and e-payment constraints and supporting governments to lift them.
This launch comes following a successful pilot program in Tunisia, Morocco, and Jordan where women entrepreneurs were enabled to export handicrafts, organic cosmetics, and garments to several overseas destinations including Australia, Europe, and the United States.
The development of women’s entrepreneurship and the digital economy—including better access to domestic markets and exports—are essential levers for the development and economic diversification of the MENA region that the Women Entrepreneurs and Finance Initiative (We-Fi) e-commerce project strives to support. The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) is a collaborative partnership launched in October 2017 that seeks to unlock billions of dollars in financing to tackle the full range of barriers facing women entrepreneurs.
Getting around sanctions with crypto-rial
In April 2018, the Central Bank of Iran banned domestic banks and people from dealing in foreign cryptocurrency because of money laundering and financing risks.
However, the CBI decided to take a more moderate stance toward the digital money and blockchain technology following the imposition of a new round of U.S. sanctions, hoping that the digital technology would facilitate Iran’s international money transfers and let the country evade the sanctions.
Meanwhile, as an oil producer with an oil-reliant economy dominated by petrodollars, Iran settled on the plan to utilize cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology to make up for any drop in oil revenues due to the economic sanctions designed to cut its oil sales.
Moving on the same track as China, Russia and Venezuela, Iran also hopes that blockchainization of state-backed fiats would lead to the demise of the dollar and put an end to the tyrant U.S. policies.
Under the toughest U.S. sanctions ever and blacklisting of Iran from the Belgium-based international financial messaging system (SWIFT), the country’s plan to create an indigenous cryptocurrency is improving incrementally and thanks to highly dynamic nature of the cryptocurrency, it can act as a good means for Iran to skirt certain sanctions through untraceable banking operations.
The CBI has been working with domestic knowledge-based companies to develop a digital currency, called crypto-rial, supported by HyperLedger Fabric technology.
As reported, the Informatics Services Corporation, affiliated to the CBI but run by the private sector, has accomplished development of rial-based national cryptocurrency and when the CBI approves the uses of national cryptocurrency, it will be issued to financial institutions such as banks to test payments and internal and interbank settlements.
Transactions at the state-backed virtual currency are carried out on an online ledger called a blockchain, just the same as Bitcoin, but since the infrastructure is privately-owned it will not be possible for people to mine it.
In fact, Iran is mainly aimed at testing the potentials of blockchain and crypto technology in running its financial system, making banks able to use the tokens as a payment instrument in transactions and banking settlement at the first phase of the blockchain banking infrastructure. The country seems inclined to enjoy the new virtual currency businesses which includes little notice or footprint and has also prepared the required infrastructure for trading cryptocurrency in its stock exchange.
However, in spite of the CBI’s prohibition from trading cryptocurrencies, Iranians had commenced using cryptocurrency and Bitcoin mining for transactions with the rest of the world before its use was banned by the CBI in the country.
Individuals and businesses in Iran have had access to virtual currency platforms through “Iran-located, internet-based virtual currency exchanges; U.S. or other third country-based virtual currency exchanges; and peer-to-peer (P2P) exchangers,” according to reports.
But the U.S. embargo on a number of cryptocurrency exchange platforms, including Binance and Bittrex, restricted Iran from receiving services, however, no assets belonging to Iranians were blocked. U.S. sanctions have also ensnared Iranian bitcoin traders.
Furthermore, in December, the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as Fincen, issued a warning in an advisory to assist U.S. banks and other financial actors such as cryptocurrency exchanges in identifying “potentially illicit transactions related to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Bitcoin.com reported.
Fincen claimed that since 2013 Iran’s use of virtual currency includes at least $3.8 million worth of bitcoin-denominated transactions per year. The organization noted that “while the use of virtual currency in Iran is comparatively small, virtual currency is an emerging payment system that may provide potential avenues for individuals and entities to evade sanctions.”
Fincen believes that P2P cryptocurrency exchangers are a significant means through which Iran can dodge economic sanctions.
Following the Fincen’s announcement, the United States lawmakers introduced a bill (HR 7321) to impose more sanctions on Iranian financial institutions and the development and use of the national digital currency, Cointelegeraph reported.
The act prohibits transactions, financing or other dealings related to an Iranian digital currency, and introduces sanctions on foreign individuals engaged in the sale, supply, holding or transfer of the digital currency.
In the wake of the U.S. restrictions, thus, cryptocurrency trades are limited into Iran’s domestic market and not possible at the international level and Bitcoin is sold at a significant premium relative to the global average price in Iran.
Unfortunately, the basic and premier regulations of using cryptocurrencies have not been ratified in Iran and Iranians are obliged to refer to stock exchange shops abroad to do their crypto-transactions, most of which are American obedient to U.S. regulations and of course, sanctions.
To make using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology legal and official in the country, the Iranian government is drafting a policy framework by the help of the CBI and the Stock Exchange Organization which clarifies all its regulations and policies over cryptocurrency and mining.
Being legislated, it is believed that SWIFT can be replaced by the digital money, i.e. the rial-pegged national currency, and transactions would be done faster and at lower prices.
Due to a lack of required regulations, cargos of equipment for mining cryptocurrency are seized by the customs administration. They are said to be released as soon as the government legalizes cryptocurrency use in the country.
First published in our partner Tehran Times
How to build your entrepreneurial mindset today
An entrepreneurial mindset is a way of life. Even if you aren’t starting your own business, an entrepreneurial mindset teaches you that no problem is insurmountable: you can overcome challenges through perseverance and resilience.
Here are five things you can remember to build an entrepreneurial mindset today. If you’re aged between 18-30, why not start by applying to be a Young Champion of the Earth in 2019? Stay tuned—the competition is opening soon!
Transform problems into opportunities
There are so many clues in everyday life. Is there anything that you experience daily that frustrates you? Perhaps it is the prominence of unsustainable materials in your local shop and restaurants, such as plastic straws or unnecessary food packaging? Often, alternatives to problems do exist, but no one has thought of connecting them in specific circumstances. A good example is supplying restaurants and bars with paper straws. Entrepreneurial mindsets apply a lens which identifies problems not as negative issues but as opportunities to be solved, towards creating value in our economy.
Dare to dream and believe in yourself
If you can dream it and believe it, you are halfway there. How big you can dream is a component of your potential for success. Everyone has ideas—but daring to dream big, and then believing in yourself to apply an entrepreneurial mindset and bring them to reality, takes effort. This year, why not push yourself to think creatively? You could come up with a problem once a week, and each week, come up with one matching solution, for example. The key is to think outside the box, to think of a problem as a potential solution.
Know yourself and discover what you are passionate about
Solving problems, especially those associated with the environment, can be daunting. You will constantly be faced with challenges in your journey to change the world. Some environmental challenges feel so large—like those brought about by climate change. But helping to break down large issues into smaller ones which everyone can take steps to solve, is part of the entrepreneurial journey. Remember that you are capable. Find problems that you are passionate about solving and connect with others passionate about solving them too. This will help you through the tough times to stay motivated.
Go for it and don’t take no for an answer
We all have the foundations of an entrepreneurial mindset. We can all identify problems and think up ideas about how to solve them. Being an entrepreneur pushes you to go out there and take actions to achieve them. Often, this process forces you to think through a specific problem in more detail. It helps you to truly understand pathways towards a solution which others might not have thought about. An idea does not have application in the real world if it is not hammered out in real situations. Part of being an entrepreneur requires following this process, identifying real experiences which can be made better or more efficient, and talking with other people who experience similar challenges to find solutions. Using the resources you have at your disposal will force you to be creative. Keep improving your solution. As you go on, you will eventually gain traction and interest. From there, the possibilities are endless.
Learn, embrace uncertainty and accept failure
Eric Ries from the lean startup says that entrepreneurship is “management under conditions of extreme uncertainty”. Forging your own path to solve a problem that no one has solved before is scary—things change constantly. There will be many obstacles and there will be failure. But an entrepreneurial mindset teaches you that failures are opportunities to learn in disguise. An entrepreneurial mindset embraces uncertainty and learning, to leverage the opportunities that emerge from the space between them.
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