Trump Poised to Push Nafta Changes

While an abrupt withdrawal from Nafta trade deal is unlikely, the president-elect and his advisers are gunning for big changes.

Rather than kill Nafta, Donald Trump and his advisers appear set to push for substantial changes to the treaty governing U.S. trade with Mexico and Canada, an effort that could prove difficult to negotiate and perilous to the regional economy.

The president-elect vilified the North American Free Trade Agreement during the campaign and threatened to pull the U.S. out of the trade deal—but only if Mexico doesn’t agree to substantial modifications.

The U.S. trade deficit with Mexico rose 9.5% in 2015 to $60.7 billion, while the deficit with Canada fell 57% to $15.5 billion.

Mr. Trump hasn’t released a blueprint for his new vision of Nafta, but his comments and those of his advisers suggest they want big changes. Among the likeliest would be special tariffs or other barriers to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico and new taxes that would hit U.S. firms that moved production there, according to Trump advisers. His team says it may also seek to remove a Nafta provision that allows Mexican and Canadian companies to challenge U.S. regulations outside the court system.

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Amazon Shoots for Top Spot in India

Amazon founder is telling executives to ‘do what it takes to succeed’ in India

NEW DELHI– Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, perturbed by his company’s failure to capture much of the massive Chinese market, had a pointed message for executives in India during a visit in 2014: Don’t let that happen here.

Do what it takes to succeed and don’t worry about the cost, Mr. Bezos said, according to a person who was present.

Amazon, which dominates online selling in the U.S. but so far has gained little traction in developing countries, has since invested billions of dollars to build a logistics network spanning India to reel in shoppers.

The result: the company rapidly became India’s No. 2 e-commerce player and moved within striking distance of local rival Flipkart Internet Pvt., according to some estimates. Indeed, Mr. Bezos last month declared Amazon was on top in a market it largely had ignored until recent years, though he didn’t say by which measure.

“We are winning in India,” Mr. Bezos said at a conference in San Francisco, arguing that Amazon has pulled past Flipkart to become “the leader in India now.”

Amazon’s attempts to push into developing markets—marked by difficult logistics and significant cultural differences in shoppers’ expectations—reflect the e-commerce giant’s search for new routes to growth as it saturates the U.S. market. Countries such as China and India promise rapidly growing populations with steep rates of online shopping adoption as technology becomes more accessible.

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Trump Victory Shakes Businesses

President-elect’s stance on trade, infrastructure and taxes reshapes firms’ prospects.

By Ted Mann, Bradley Olson and Andrew Tangel

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Executives world-wide encountered a political and economic landscape radically changed by Donald Trump’s surprise election, which reverberated through the energy, health-care and manufacturing sectors.

U.S. businesses braced for revamped trade pacts and a potential crackdown on overseas operations, coupled with the promise of lower taxes, lighter regulation and higher infrastructure spending at home. Executives in Asia and Europe said they were hopeful their close ties with the U.S. economy would endure the political upheaval and heated campaign rhetoric.

For the energy industry, Mr. Trump’s victory fanned expectations that he would clear the path for new pipelines, end U.S. participation in global climate change pacts and undo environmental regulations to boost American coal mining.

Scott Sheffield, CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources Co., said Mr. Trump would perk up the country’s stagnant drilling boom by making it easier to build pipelines that unlock areas rich in oil and gas. “His message about creating jobs is why he broke the blue wall” and attracted votes from Democrats in some states, Mr. Sheffield said.

Continental Resources Inc. chief Harold Hamm, Mr. Trump’s chief adviser on energy issues, said subsidies for renewable energy like solar and wind, and credits for electric cars, should be eliminated. “None of it should be subsidized, none of it,” Mr. Hamm said Wednesday. “If it makes it in the market, fine.”

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Americans Embrace a Made-in-China Buick SUV

GM’s Buick Envision is meeting its low-volume goal, and U.S. dealers want more of the $40,000 car.

Greg Shafer ended a lifelong streak of buying U.S.-made cars when in August the 53-year-old drove out of a Columbus, Ohio, dealership behind the wheel of a Buick Envision.

His $40,000 sport-utility vehicle is one of the first cars to be sold in America that was built in China. Mr. Shafer decided its provenance wasn’t an issue because “once you drive it and experience all the features, it feels far from a made-in-China car.”

As the U.S. auto industry’s rising reliance on Mexican car factories becomes a hot topic in the 2016 presidential election, customers like Mr. Shafer are delivering a boost to General Motors Co.’s made-in-China strategy.

The No.1 U.S. auto maker in terms of sales started selling the Chinese-built Buick Envision in North American dealerships in late spring, importing relatively small numbers of the vehicles to give a boost to the Buick brand. A few months into the experiment, dealers are clamoring for more because they say most of their customers don’t care where the vehicle is made.

“There has been very little pushback,” said Chris Haydocy, co-owner of the Haydocy Buick GMC in Columbus, where Mr. Shafer bought his SUV. “Most people realize the world is flat now.

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Buick Envision SUVs are lined up at Yantai Port in China last December before being loaded on a freighter for the journey to the U.S. PHOTO: VCG VIA GETTY IMAGES

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Globalization on the Skids

Global finance ministers and central bankers are descending on Washington this week with a central concern in mind: fear that the modern age of globalization is hitting a wall.

Last year’s $646 billion in foreign direct investment in rich economies represents a 40% drop from the peak before the financial crisis. International lending, as measured by cross-border banking claims at the Bank for International Settlements, is down nearly $2.6 trillion, or 9%, over the past two years.

International trade this year will grow at the slowest pace since 2007, according to the World Trade Organization, which has slashed its forecast for growth in global trade volumes to 1.7% in 2016 from a previous estimate in April of 2.8%. Imports among the world’s 20 largest economies have fallen as a share of their gross domestic product for four consecutive years, and growth in demand for shipping containers fell to 4% this year after four decades of double-digit expansion.

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Containers at the Yangshan Deep Water Port in Shanghai, China, last month. PHOTO:ALY SONG/REUTERS

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Aircraft Subsidy War Escalates

EU Failed to Cut Off Illegal Subsidies to Airbus, WTO Rules

The U.S. claims ‘sweeping victory’ in protracted trade dispute, but the battle appears far from over

The ruling moves the U.S. one step closer to being able to impose more than $5 billion in annual tariffs against goods and services from the European Union as soon as next year, according to U.S.

The WTO said in a 574-page report that the EU and some of its member states “failed to comply” with an earlier ruling to remove the subsidies or void their effect to Airbus. EU compliance efforts fell short, the WTO said.

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An Airbus A350XWB, the company’s newest long-range jetliner, is shown in a 2014 demonstration flight. The WTO found Thursday that the plane’s development was bolstered by illegal subsidies from the EU. PHOTO: REUTERS

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Merger to Create Global Fertilizer Giant

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TORONTO—Canadian fertilizer giants Agrium Inc. and Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. confirmed plans to merge on Monday, in a deal that would create a crop-nutrient giant valued at about $27 billion.

Joining forces with Agrium offers Saskatchewan-based Potash, the world’s largest fertilizer producer by capacity, protection against volatile fertilizer prices, through Agrium’s steadier retail network. That system also would lower Potash’s distribution costs, while expanding fertilizer sales.

Agrium’s retail arm, North America’s biggest for fertilizer, seeds and equipment, generates the bulk of the Calgary-based company’s sales. For Agrium, the deal would bolster its volume of potash and other fertilizer ingredients.

                                                 To read the complete article, please visit wsj.com

An Oil Kingdom Plans to Wean Itself From Oil

An Oil Kingdom Plans to Wean Itself From Oil

RIYADH—Saudi Arabia unveiled plans to free the kingdom from its dependence on oil revenues, in part by selling a stake in its state-owned oil company and creating the world’s largest sovereign-wealth fund.

The move represents an ambitious attempt to lay out a new economic trajectory for the country in an era of cheap oil. It is the brainchild of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 30-year-old son of King Salman, who was entrusted by his father to oversee what are likely to be jarring changes in the kingdom.

“By 2020, we’ll be able to live without oil,” Prince Mohammed told Saudi-owned news channel Al Arabiya in an interview aired Monday. A detailed package of reforms included in the plan is expected to be released in six weeks.

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IKEA’s India Bet Runs Into Thicket of Rules

Law requiring foreign retailers to acquire products locally slows expansion; red tape, few labor laws

Updated Feb. 23, 2016 5:34 p.m. ET

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BHADOHI, India—Swedish retailer IKEA wants to sell its flat-pack dining tables, cotton dish towels and Scandinavian-sounding sofas to India’s blossoming middle class. Under Indian law, roughly one-third of those items must be made locally, and that is proving a formidable obstacle.

IKEA has scoured the country for new products that meet its standards and come up nearly empty-handed. Laminated table tops from Indian suppliers…

To read the complete article, please visit wsj.com

South Carolina GOP Voters Feel the Benefits of Free Trade—but Also the Scars

State excels in global competition but remembers pain from closed mills, revealing a Republican voter divide.

A worker at BMW’s Greer, S.C., plant, part of the state’s embrace of global trade.A worker at BMW’s Greer, S.C., plant, part of the state’s embrace of global trade.  Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News

The emotional scars run deep, and they help explain why the Republican Party this election year is caught between an outward-looking business wing that is open to immigration, free trade and Export-Import Bank financing—and an inward-looking blue-collar base that has lost faith in the traditional GOP business agenda.

Trey Walker, a former deputy chief of staff to Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, says it is easy for a politician to say, “We need to close the borders…China is killing us and we’ll bring them in the boardroom on ‘The Apprentice’ and tell them a thing or two.” But, he says, “that’s not the way it works. In South Carolina, we’re exporting tons of stuff.”

Mr. Trump, who has a strong lead in polls of South Carolina voters, makes the opposite case out on the hustings. Mr. Trump told a crowd in suburban Charleston on Monday that foreign

The emotional scars run deep, and they help explain why the Republican Party this election year is caught between an outward-looking business wing that is open to immigration, free trade and Export-Import Bank financing—and an inward-looking blue-collar base that has lost faith in the traditional GOP business agenda.

Trey Walker, a former deputy chief of staff to Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, says it is easy for a politician to say, “We need to close the borders…China is killing us and we’ll bring them in the boardroom on ‘The Apprentice’ and tell them a thing or two.” But, he says, “that’s not the way it works. In South Carolina, we’re exporting tons of stuff.”

Mr. Trump, who has a strong lead in polls of South Carolina voters, makes the opposite case out on the hustings. Mr. Trump told a crowd in suburban Charleston on Monday that foreign competitors are playing the U.S. for a fool. “China is ripping us off like nobody has ever seen,” he said. “Vietnam’s a new one, Mexico’s a disaster. Mexico’s the new China. They are taking so many businesses.”

The primary on Saturday is a Republican-only affair. Democrats will hold a South Carolina primary a week later.

Exports have been a steadily growing contributor to South Carolina’s economy. From 2002 to 2014, exports as a percentage of the state’s output doubled to 15.6%, according to Moody’s MCO -1.33 % Analytics.

About 150,000 jobs depend on that export business, the Commerce Department calculates. The state has factories from some of the world’s best-known manufacturers, including U.S. aircraft-maker Boeing Co. BA -0.42 % and French tire-maker Compagnie Generale Des Etablissements Michelin SA.

BMW alone generates about 21,000 jobs at its plant and those of suppliers, a study by the University of South Carolina has said. About 70% of cars that BMW’s South Carolina factory produces are sold abroad.

China, the state’s leading export destination, is BMW’s top foreign customer. Plant workers marvel at what they call “Chinese cars,” loaded with nearly every conceivable extra. “They’re like Sheikh of Qatar cars,” says Sherry McCraw, vice president of finance at the auto plant.

South Carolina focuses on attracting big manufacturers like BMW because their plants are so capital-intensive that once they are built, the owners aren’t likely to flee to another location just to save a little on labor, says the state’s commerce secretary, Bobby Hitt.

The jobs added by these exporters, however, haven’t kept up with South Carolina’s past losses from the collapse of its textile and apparel industries. The mill losses worsened amid competition spurred by U.S. trade deals with Caribbean nations in 1983, Mexico in 1994 and Central America in 2006, along with China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001.

From 2001 to 2014, state jobs in textile and apparel making fell by more than 50,000 while manufacturing jobs in industries the state woos—cars, aerospace and tires—rose by just 5,500, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show.

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Sophisticated new factories require relatively few additional workers to increase output. BMW says between 2010 and 2014 it more than doubled production of its South Carolina plant, to 350,000 vehicles in a year, while adding just 1,000 workers. Michelin says it needs half as many workers as in the 1980s to produce 50% more tires.

To get one of the newer jobs, workers often need at least an associate degree. Nearly half of South Carolina adults don’t have college diplomas.

“Even though the state is benefiting more than most states from the wave of international investment and exports, there are an awful lot of people who are merely spectators,” says Mark Vitner, a Wells Fargo WFC -2.22 % & Co. economist. “They see the new investment, but it hasn’t helped them.”

South Carolina’s unemployment rate of 5.5% in December, the latest available figure, remained above the national rate at the time of 5%. (It is now 4.9%.) Census data show South Carolina’s median household income trails the national median by 16%.

In rural Chester County, in the northern part of the state, the new, more diversified economy has yet to take hold, while once-dominant agriculture and textile industries have withered. Roughly a quarter of South Carolinians live in counties like it.

In the mid-2000s, the county lost roughly 4,000 of its 14,000 overall jobs because of textile and other plant closings, according to the local economic-development office. In 2009, with the global recession also hitting hard, Chester County’s unemployment rate reached 20%.

Local officials sought to lure foreign employers but at first usually struck out.

Karlisa Parker, the county’s head of economic development, says she initially emphasized the rural quality of life, with inexpensive homes and friendly people eager to work. It took her a while to realize the county’s biggest asset was its proximity to certain more-desirable locations, such as Charlotte, N.C., 40 miles away on an interstate.

When the U.S. subsidiary of Singapore’s Giti Tire Pte. Ltd. was deciding where to build a plant, Chester County showed off a site that had stood vacant since 1986. This time, officials whisked the visitors to Charlotte for the evening, where they stayed overnight near Bank of America Stadium, BAC -3.03 % home of the Carolina Panthers. The next day, the executives toured Ballantyne, a pricey Charlotte suburb that borders South Carolina and is close to an international school.

Giti says it chose Chester County last year to build a factory that will eventually employ 1,700. Julianto Djajadi, an executive vice president of Giti’s U.S. unit, praises the county’s highways, rail lines and proximity to the port of Charleston. He says Giti executives are house-hunting in Charlotte.

Justin Reynolds, a state transportation-department worker, says the foreign-owned tire plant will “be a benefit to the ones that’ll get in there and work. But at the end of the day, is it benefiting us or the country it comes from?”

Foreign companies have been a steadying influence on the state’s economy. The number of workers employed at foreign-owned plants has remained at around 130,000 since 2000 despite a one-third drop in overall manufacturing employment in the state.

Andrea Howell, a supervisor at BMW’s plant in Greer, S.C., says working for a foreign company that exports much of its output has been a boon for her, yet she remains wary of global competition because of the way it hammered textile mills in the area in the past. ENLARGE
Andrea Howell, a supervisor at BMW’s plant in Greer, S.C., says working for a foreign company that exports much of its output has been a boon for her, yet she remains wary of global competition because of the way it hammered textile mills in the area in the past. Photo: Bob Davis

The foreign companies and U.S. exporters have expanded mainly in the low country around Charleston and hilly upstate region bisected by Interstate 85. Greenville, close to BMW’s base in the state’s northwestern corner, was once the home of a textile fair. Now the city boasts a minor-league baseball team that is called “The Drive” for the local auto industry. It has a renovated downtown and a plethora of international festivals.

South Carolina’s welcome to foreign investment traces to the late Roger Milliken, longtime CEO of textile giant Milliken & Co. Although known for bankrolling protectionist forces during trade fights in Washington, he also championed upstate South Carolina’s transformation.

He pressed for an expansion of Greenville’s airport, which made it easier for Milliken to export, say company executives, and pressured German textile-machinery suppliers to build a plant in the region to better service Milliken’s mills. He joined in wooing Michelin to build a plant in South Carolina in 1975.

Some textile bosses opposed Michelin’s move out of fear the French company would bid up the price of local labor. Eventually they concluded a boost in the tax base would outweigh the risk, says Augustine Tantillo, head of the National Council of Textile Organizations. Michelin was followed by BMW in 1994 and four other foreign tire companies.

The economy of the low country near the seacoast was similar in going international. Boeing opened a plant to build the 787 Dreamliner in 2011. Daimler AG DDAIY -2.74 % ’s Mercedes-Benz and Chinese-owned Volvo Car Corp. announced plans last year for car factories nearby.

Gov. Haley says such investment has helped remake South Carolina’s economy and image. “Some of the presidential candidates are tone deaf to the fact that we’ve had this major renaissance of ‘Made in America,’ ” she says.

Even among auto workers who drive expensive X-Series BMW sport-utility vehicles with cut-rate leases, suspicion lingers about the value of globalization, however. Workers are proud of BMW’s success internationally. At the same time, many remember when global competition vanquished the mills where their parents and grandparents worked. In presidential politics, such memories draw some workers to candidates they consider strong leaders who are skeptical of the internationalism of the traditional GOP pro-business agenda.

Cars newly produced in Greer, S.C., at a BMW plant. ENLARGE
Cars newly produced in Greer, S.C., at a BMW plant. Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News

Billy McCarty, taking a break from fixing BMWs pulled off the assembly line, says he understands his employer prospers through exports. But when he thinks of global competition, he mainly thinks of his hometown of Ware Shoals, where the cloth mills closed because they couldn’t compete.

He says his mother lost her mill job and had to change course in her 50s, becoming a paramedic. Others in the town, where he still lives, became landscapers or retired because they couldn’t find work.

“All competition is good,” Mr. McCarty says, “but it’s a touchy situation when you look at foreign companies coming and taking business.” In the primary, he is considering Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Mr. Trump.

Populism has long been part of South Carolina’s political culture, featuring figures such as “Pitchfork” Benjamin Tillman, who was elected governor in 1890 after telling struggling upstate farmers that low-country landowners didn’t have their interests at heart. Gov. Haley won the 2010 Republican nomination on the strength of the Tea Party movement. She said recently she has tried to keep an outsider’s mentality while working inside the political system.

Republican political leaders say they are grappling with such populist concerns. Wes Climer, GOP chairman of York County, which is growing because of its proximity to Charlotte, says the South Carolina primary usually favors someone who has put together a coalition of social conservatives and “Chamber of Commerce Republicans.” Early last year, he figured that a relative centrist would be the favorite.

But Mr. Climer describes the dominant political current as “a palpable sense of anxiety and frustration.” Having seen the enthusiasm Mr. Trump’s rallies draw, he says he finds it hard to imagine anyone else carrying the state.

Corrections & Amplifications:
Michelin opened a plant in Nova Scotia in 1971 and bought a manufacturing facility in 1907 in New Jersey, which it shut in 1930. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Michelin’s South Carolina manufacturing plant, opened in 1975, was its first in North America. (Feb. 19, 2016)