Trade partners see red over Europe’s green agenda

“The EU’s carbon border levy is the latest, and most symbolic, measure to upset the EU’s trade partners. The idea is that producers importing carbon-intensive products into the bloc will have to buy permits to account for the difference between their domestic carbon price and the price paid by EU producers.

The goal of the levy, called the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), was to level the playing field for EU producers and avoid companies moving their production over lower climate standards — so-called carbon leakage. For Brussels, the sense of climate urgency is too high to wait for others to follow suit, or to reach a deal at the multilateral or global level.”

“Brazil, South Africa, India and China have jointly expressed their “grave concern regarding the proposal for introducing trade barriers, such as unilateral carbon border adjustment, that are discriminatory.” The measure is likely to be challenged at the World Trade Organization.”

“The carbon border levy is far from the only measure to make exporting to the world’s biggest trading bloc harder.
Brussels’ Farm to Fork strategy seeks to prioritize sustainability in agriculture by slashing pesticide risk and use in half by 2030. A plan announced last September to ban imports of products containing residues of harmful neonicotinoid insecticides from 2026 has drawn “unprecedented” criticism from other countries, according to a senior European Commission official.

As the Green Deal tightens rules on pesticide use in the EU, new trade barriers are going up, said Koen Dekeyser of the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM). “Certain farmers can make those investments. Other, more small-scale farmers are likely to seek other markets, for example in Asia,” said Dekeyser.

The EU’s effort to stop deforestation is likely to have similar results.

Under new rules, it will be illegal to sell or export certain commodities if they’ve been produced on deforested land.”

What to know about the $60 price cap, the plan to limit Russia’s oil revenues

“These are some of the biggest sanctions to date, as Europe — once the destination for about half of Russia’s oil exports — further weans itself off Russian energy. And Europe, along with the United States and other major economies, like the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, and Australia, have agreed to a maximum of $60 per barrel on Russian seaborne oil, which means anyone who still wants to buy Russian oil has to pay that price or less, if it wants to ship cargo through operators or insurers based in the EU or other countries who signed on to this price cap.”

“There are a lot of unknowns, but this is a dramatic and unprecedented move by the US and its partners — especially given how dependent Europe was on Russian energy. “If anyone told you a year ago that the EU is going to effectively eliminate its dependence on fossil fuel imports from Russia, over a period of a year, you would have thought they’re a complete lunatic,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
It’s true that Europe continued to buy a lot of Russian oil and gas in the first half of the year, even after Russia invaded Ukraine. It’s also true that Moscow itself cut off supplies of natural gas, giving Europe little choice but to find alternatives. But even so, it’s a real and rapid scrambling of a relationship, and the EU has largely (if not perfectly) been decreasing its Russian fossil fuel imports with the expectation of the ban and other measures. Starting in February, the EU will also ban oil product imports from Russia.”

“There are already caveats. Though Russia isn’t exactly going to be transparent about this, the $60 price cap appears to be about what Russia is already selling its oil for, which means Russia’s oil revenues are unlikely to nosedive immediately. Some countries, like Poland, pushed for a much lower cap, and Ukraine has also said this doesn’t go far enough. There are also some questions around enforcement, as shippers have to attest they are abiding by the price cap, and negotiators ended up weakening some of the penalties for violators.

But the US and its allies were trying to strike a balance through a mechanism that hasn’t been attempted before. They wanted to avoid completely disrupting global oil markets while applying more pressure to Russia’s oil profits. The cap is not firmly set, and is subject to a review every two months. That means it — and its enforcement mechanisms — are likely to be tinkered with depending on how this all plays out.

“This is about balance. It was never about not having any Russian oil on the market. It was about balancing supply and demand but also balancing the need to limit Mr. Putin’s ability to profit. And again, we think that $60 per barrel will do that,” National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby said on a press call Monday.

“It doesn’t mean that that cap can’t be adjusted going forward as we see the way it’s being implemented, and as we see how the Russians might react to it,” Kirby added.”

“Here’s how it’s supposed to work in practice: Any actor in a jurisdiction of the price-cap coalition that transports, insures, or finances the shipment of Russian oil by sea, can only do so if the price per barrel is $60 or less.

The reason the coalition thinks it could work is because a lot of maritime operators, insurers, and reinsurers are based in Europe and the United Kingdom — or as Myllyvirta put it: “The two big things are Greek ships and UK insurers.” That market domination would make it costly and cumbersome to insure your ship against an oil spill, say, or find an available tanker that doesn’t fall under a jurisdiction that’s adopted the price cap.”

“Russia has said it will not sell oil subject to the price cap, even if it has to scale back production. But this is easier said than done because Russia still needs oil buyers, like China and India, who now have a lot of leverage. “Am I going to buy [oil] at anything above 60 bucks, knowing that’s the only option Russia has? Are you going to do Putin a solid and say, ‘No, I’ll pay you $65, I’ll pay you $70.’ I’m not sure why they would, especially because they have all the cards,” Smith said.”

“Russia is under unprecedented financial and energy sanctions, especially for an economy of its size. Russia has weathered a lot of that pressure so far, and its energy and resource exports are a huge reason why. Still, sanctions are undoubtedly having an effect. Russia’s economy has shrunk. Import bans on advanced technology are forcing Russian manufacturers to scale back features — no airbags in cars, for example — because they can’t get parts. That is also affecting Russia’s ability to make advanced weapons. And even if Russia was buoyed by its oil and gas sales, those are declining, and Russia has been heavily taxing some of its oil and gas industries to try to raise more revenues. That can’t work forever, either.”

“there are still more sanctions to impose on Russia — we’re not at the level of an Iran or a North Korea yet — but that would come with repercussions for the United States, Europe, and the rest of the world, all of which is struggling with inflation and rising food and fuel prices.”

Biden gives Chevron permit to restart Venezuelan oil sales

“a senior administration official said the easing of sanctions was not driven by the oil market pressures and was instead a response the Venezuelan regime’s decision this week to participate in the negotiations with opposition groups. Those talks, which were originally launched in Mexico City in September 2021, are expected to focus on humanitarian programs and setting future elections.”

Biden ‘confident’ U.S. can address EU concerns about IRA subsidies

“Much of the European ire is directed at an IRA requirement that electric vehicles must have their final assembly in North America to qualify for a $7,500 tax credit. That has eliminated many European models that previously qualified, and even more could be excluded when additional domestic content provisions take effect, beginning in January.
The Treasury Department is currently developing guidance for how it will implement that tax provision, and Biden referred specifically to language that provides better treatment for countries that have a free trade agreement with the United States as one area where the law could be implemented in a flexible manner.

“That was added by a member of the United States Congress who acknowledges that he just meant allies. He didn’t mean literally free trade agreement. So there’s a lot we can work out,” Biden said.

That would solve some of the EU’s problems, since it doesn’t have a free trade pact with the United States. However, there is still the bigger problem that many of the cars that European companies sell in the United States are assembled in Europe, disqualifying them for credit because of the North American assembly requirement.

Biden did not say how that could be addressed, but U.S. lawmakers in recent days have said the administration is considering giving automakers more time to comply with the IRA provisions. That’s an issue that the France and other EU member states will continue to discuss with the United States through a recently established bilateral task force.”

Free Trade Would Boost the Economy, But It’s Not on the Ballot

“”Contrary to conventional wisdom, imports are not a drag on the U.S. economy or the price we pay to sell goods and services abroad. In fact, rising imports coincide with stronger economic growth,” Scott Lincicome and Alfredo Carrillo Obregon write in The (Updated) Case for Free Trade, a Cato Institute study published in May. “The payoff to the United States from expanded trade between 1950 and 2016 was $2.1 trillion, increasing GDP per capita by around $7,000 and GDP per household by around $18,000.”
“Higher imports are also correlated with higher private‐sector employment in the United States, as numerous industries and workers depend on trade,” they add.”

“Could high tariffs and “buy American” policies compel firms to find domestic suppliers? Well, maybe. But foreign sources were chosen for a reason; replacing them with domestic suppliers will require compromises. “Subsidising electric cars assembled in North America will make them more expensive and lower-quality,” The Economist cautioned of protectionist policies. And since politicized policy tends to breed yet more politicization, tariffs and subsidies will inevitably be further burdened with conditions. “The red tape will raise costs to consumers and taxpayers still further.””

Buy American Falls Short on U.S. EV Production and Risks a European Trade War

“The Buy American program created by the Inflation Reduction Act gives Americans tax credits for purchasing electric vehicles (EVs) manufactured in the United States, Canada, or Mexico. However, these tax credits will not only be paid for by taxpayer dollars, they also stand to ignite a trade war with the European Union.
The majority of EVs are manufactured in China, followed by Germany and the United States. Regarding the minerals used in lithium batteries, the U.S. is at a disadvantage. In 2020, the U.S. ranked 15th in supplying battery materials, with the top three countries being China, Australia, and Brazil. The International Energy Agency notes that “the top three producing nations control well over three-quarters of global output.” Biden’s corporate welfare policy requires batteries to derive 40 percent of their mineral components from a mine in the U.S. or a country with which the U.S. has a free trade agreement. However, only five countries among the top 25 producers of minerals used in EV batteries have a free trade agreement with the U.S.

The U.S. could conceivably increase its mineral output with regulatory reform, says Scott Lincicome, director of general economics and trade policy at the Cato Institute. “The big problem is on the regulatory side, particularly on the permitting side of state-level equivalents….this makes mining and processing rare-earth materials here very difficult.”

The Buy American program also risks trade conflicts. E.U. French President Emmanuel Macron went so far as to say, “We need a Buy European Act like the Americans. We need to reserve [our subsidies] for our European manufacturers.” With the U.S. and Europe trending towards protectionism, Lincicome says restrictions will inherently “reduce adoption and consumption of whatever is targeted.”

Another fear that comes with protectionism is the retaliatory environment it creates. “Protectionism gets nasty, it gets political, and it spirals, and it’s very difficult to stop the cycle,” says Lincicome. Should a trade war begin over EVs, it could expand to other products, driving up prices.”

Despite sanctions, Russian fuel is still selling — here’s who’s buying

“Petroleum shipments are still relatively stable for Russia, as nations like China and India have picked up some slack from EU countries weaning themselves off oil, and Russia still has LNG, coal, and nuclear energy to help the economy float, too.

In order to make petroleum products more appealing to customers like India and Indonesia, Russia has offered fairly steep discounts — an average of $30 per barrel — against Brent crude oil, which has also been a benefit for Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Cuba, all emerging economies struggling with inflation, as Business Insider reported. Although according to S&P the discounts on Russian crude oil are decreasing, some analysts believe they’ll persist, making Russian crude oil imports highly palatable for poorer countries.”

“Countries like China, India, and Turkey are proving eager partners for the Russian fuel industry, with Turkey doubling Russian oil imports this year and vying to become a hub for Russian LNG transfers into Europe after damage to the Nord Stream pipelines.”

“Even with the Nord Stream 1 pipeline out of commission — and setting aside the transfers to China, now Russia’s biggest natural gas buyer — European countries are importing record amounts of Russian LNG at market prices, according to Bloomberg. France has purchased about 6 percent more Russian LNG between January and September of this year than it did all of last year; Spain has already broken its record for Russian LNG imports this year, and Belgium is on track to do the same.

The stakes for natural gas imports are somewhat different than they are for Russian petroleum, in a number of different ways; for one, the EU hasn’t imposed sanctions against it as it has against petroleum products, though the bloc does intend to eliminate its reliance on Russian fossil fuels by 2027. Second, Russia has already used Europe‘s reliance on its natural gas as a weapon; Russia cut access to many European countries which refused to pay for LNG in rubles, and cut total output to Europe by 60 percent in June and by 80 percent in July, Reuters reported last month.”

“Russia continues to invest heavily in its nuclear technology, and nuclear facilities in many nations are dependent on Russian technology and cooperation to function, even if they’re not directly importing Russian nuclear fuel, according to a report by Robert Ichord for the Atlantic Council.”

“Russia has several illicit strategies to evade western sanctions on its energy products and financial system. Because these transactions are, by their nature, often difficult to track, it’s hard to know how effective and how widespread they are — not to mention how much the Russian economy is benefiting from them.”

Marco Rubio Wants To Make Your Groceries More Expensive

“Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) led a bipartisan group of lawmakers—all of them from Florida—in submitting a petition to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai seeking “an investigation” into what the lawmakers call “the flood of imported seasonal and perishable agricultural products from Mexico.” They ask Tai to invoke Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to impose “trade remedies” that will protect American growers from the scourge of…low-priced produce.

While they don’t come out and say it directly, it’s obvious from the letter that Rubio and his colleagues are seeking tariffs on Mexican produce. Section 301 is the same mechanism the Trump administration used to impose wide-ranging tariffs on goods imported from China. It’s a law that grants the executive branch broad, unilateral power over trade.

Rubio and the other lawmakers say the Mexican government is subsidizing its domestic agricultural infrastructure as part of a scheme to undercut the prices charged by U.S. growers. “Mexico poses a direct threat to Florida’s seasonal and perishable agricultural industry,” they conclude.”

“Anyone who has taken a basic economics class should be able to explain what’s happening there. A high level of supply tends to push prices downward. Whether grown in Mexico or Florida, it makes sense that cucumber prices would be at their lowest when there are a lot of cucumbers in the market.
But that’s not how Rubio and his colleagues see it. Instead, the petition describes this minor pricing difference as “a clear attempt to displace Florida cucumbers from the U.S. market.”

Take a moment to enjoy the fact that some of the most powerful men and women in the U.S. government are freaking out over the idea that American consumers might get to save a few cents on their next cucumber purchase. Then amuse yourself with the optics of American agricultural special interests—which are, of course, pulling Rubio’s strings here—complaining about subsidies, as if “direct government aid” doesn’t account for nearly 40 percent of American farmers’ annual income.

“These Florida politicians are following a time-honored tradition of trying to help their local constituents at the expense of Americans in other states, who benefit from low-priced fruits and vegetables regardless of where they are grown,” says Bryan Riley, director of the free trade initiative at the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. “