Economic Development and Trade

CSG Midwest
Following more than a year of negotiations, and many days when it seemed as though talks would fail, Canada, Mexico and the United States reached agreement on a trilateral trade pact on Sept. 30. The deal has a new name — the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA — and some new provisions, but also is notable for what it keeps in place.
“About 70 percent is the same [as the North American Free Trade Agreement],” notes Chad Hart, an associate professor of economics at Iowa State University. “What this means is that the rules we have been playing under for the last 20-plus years have been reaffirmed, and this adds market certainty.”

In today’s data-driven environment, nearly every program and initiative is analyzed to determine its effectiveness and overall return on investment. In September, the State International Development Organizations, or SIDO, an affiliate of The Council of State Governments, issued a report on performance metrics for international trade programs.

“This best practice report will help federal and state policymakers better understand the role of state international trade programs and how to measure them,” David Mathe, export director for the state of Delaware and SIDO president, wrote in the report’s foreword.

This month marked the one-year anniversary of the announcement by Amazon that the company would seek a location for a second headquarters somewhere in North America, bringing with it $5 billion in investment and 50,000 jobs. The announcement sparked an intense competition among communities hoping to land HQ2 and resulted in 238 proposals that earlier this year were narrowed down to 20 finalists. With Amazon now expected to announce a winner before the end of the year, it’s time to check in on where things stand with the search, who’s most likely to come out on top and whether we know any more about the criteria the company will use to make their final decision.  

On Sept. 19, the U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA, awarded $18 million in funds to 47 states through the State Trade Expansion Program, or STEP, to help support and increase exporting from small businesses. The STEP grant program has been a vital resource to help states increase the number of companies that export, and thus grow their economies.

Exports from the United States account for nearly 13 percent of the gross domestic product and support millions of direct and in-direct jobs. Moreover, firms that export are more diversified and pay 15-20 percent higher wages on average than their nonexporting competitors.

CSG Midwest
When countries enter a trade war, its effects depend in part on how close the nations are, in terms of geography and their existing economic relationship, Dan Ciuriak, a former Canadian government economist who now runs a consulting firm, told a committee of state and provincial legislators in July.
Few, if any, two nations in the world are more closely knit than Canada and the United States — a fact that would seem to point to major economic consequences if the two countries’ use of tariffs and retaliatory tariffs continues to escalate.
CSG Midwest
Recent headlines have pointed to some of the strains (a mix of new tensions and a flare-up of longstanding conflicts) in the U.S.-Canada relationship. There have been proposed U.S. tariffs on steel, harsh words exchanged on Canadian dairy policy, and threats by President Donald Trump to end the North American Free Trade Agreement.
But dig a little deeper, and a much different story emerges — one of economic interdependence and cooperation in key areas such as energy and the environment.
“The relationship at the provincial-state level is probably as strong, if not stronger, than it has been since the mid-1980s,” says Carlo Dade, director of the Canada West Foundation’s Trade and Investment Centre, pointing, in particular, to the deeper relations built between state governors and provincial premiers.
Canada and the United States share much more than the largest binational border in the world; their peaceful relationship has contributed to economic growth in both countries as well as to the development of an intricate, integrated trading partnership.
“We are moving away from just being trading partners; now we are business associates that build things together and sell the finished products both domestically and around the world,” notes Christopher Sands, director of the Canadian Studies Program at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
This thriving cross-border supply chain is one of several critical pieces of the U.S.-Canada relationship, and much of it is centered in the Midwest.
CSG Midwest
In some rural parts of Ohio, access to broadband seems a long way off, with entire areas lacking access to high-speed internet service. For other businesses and residents, the infrastructure is frustratingly close, but out of reach.
“We have a marbling effect throughout the rest of the state — even in suburban and urban areas — where we have a street over here or a cluster of homes over there that cannot get broadband infrastructure built out to them,” Ohio Rep. Rick Carfagna explains.
Two separate bills are being considered this year to address those two distinct problems associated with Ohio’s digital divide.
Under HB 378, the state would use some money from its existing Third Frontier Initiative ($50 million for each of the next two years from the proceeds of bond issues) to help fund broadband infrastructure projects in underserved areas of the state.
CSG South

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 2.3 percent nationally between 2016 and 2017. Economic growth was widespread, with 20 of 22 industry groups contributing to the increase. Despite this growth, the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting sector decreased 9.4 percent nationally – the culmination of five consecutive quarterly declines.

CSG Midwest
When President Trump announced that he intended to levy a 25 percent tariff on imported steel, and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum, U.S. trade partners were surprised — and angry.  
His actions came after a U.S. Commerce Department report found that the unfair “dumping” of steel and aluminum (exporting these products to the United States at below domestic market value) by other countries was leading to plant closings and job losses. This has been deemed by the Trump administration a threat not only to domestic manufacturing, but also to national security.
At first stating that there would be no exceptions to the tariffs, Trump stepped back from that position by the time of his formal declaration. He exempted Canada (the largest exporter of steel and aluminum to the United States) and Mexico from the tariffs, at least temporarily.
For the many integrated industries in the Midwest that rely on cross-border trade, such as the auto sector, this exemption was particularly important. 

Following a nationwide search for a place in which to locate its second headquarters, Amazon is expected to announce a winner perhaps soon from among a group of 20 finalists announced in January. As I noted in a post last Fall, the heated competition for HQ2 has not only demonstrated the growing importance of ecommerce and logistics to the nation’s economy but also allowed communities to tout existing infrastructure assets or proposed infrastructure improvements as part of their bids to attract the project. As the finalists have tried to shore up their bids in recent weeks and those that failed to make the list have begun to examine what went wrong, transportation and infrastructure issues have come into play in a variety of ways.

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