Saturday, July 28, 2018

Where is the art? Where is the deal?

The Devil is in the Details

Imagine you are the CEO of a publishing house, and through your actions you've burned your bridges with Barnes & Noble and independent book sellers, and so you want to negotiate a deal with Amazon to save your ass.  You're really pushing your e-book library, but your books are not formatted for Kindle (just go with it, computer nerds) and Amazon therefore is only interested in a few of your paper books.  A few, not many.  After talking to Jeff Bezos (again, go with it) on the phone, you announce to the shareholders that you've struck a great deal and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.

That's what Donald Trump just did with the European Union:

“We’re opening things up,” Trump said in Dubuque (video above). “But the biggest one of all happened yesterday ... the EU .... We just opened up Europe for you farmers. You’re not going to be too angry with Trump, I can tell you. You were essentially restricted. You had barriers that really made it impossible for farm products to go in ... you have just gotten yourself one big market that really essentially never existed.”

The European Union’s take was very different.

“On agriculture, I think we’ve been very clear on that — that agriculture is out of the scope of these discussions,” European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told reporters in Brussels on Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported. Other than what is “explicitly mentioned” in the agreement, “we are not negotiating about agricultural products,” she said.

“When you read the joint statement ... you will see no mention of agriculture as such; you will see a mention of farmers and a mention of soybeans, which are part of the discussions, and we will follow up [on] that,” Andreeva added.

Andreeva is Amazon, here, Trump is the clueless CEO (how did he ever get to be in charge?).  Worse, you tell the shareholders (on Twitter!) that everything is on the table, because you are "negotiating about books, period."  Er, um....

The U.S. “heavily insisted to insert the whole field of agricultural products” in the negotiations, Juncker later told reporters, according to the Journal. “We refused that because I don’t have a mandate and that’s a very sensitive issue in Europe.”

 But U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told a Senate committee Thursday that “we are negotiating about agriculture, period."

Amazon doesn't want your e-books, but that's what you really need to sell.  Where do you think this ends?  How much smoke can you blow up the shareholder's collective asses before they realize it's just smoke?

Worse, imagine you've lost the trust of the bookstores in America, and B&N, and you need new outlets for your wares.  This isn't Amazon's website, you don't just scroll the list of merchants looking for someone else to buy from (or sell to, in this case).  You need contracts, agreements, points of contact, negotiations.  These things take time, but you need cash flow.  Publishing is not a business of deep pockets where you can go for years without selling anything.  Books published now are remaindered in months if they aren't on the bestseller lists, and they can't get there if they aren't being sold.  To whom do you sell, and how long does it take to make those arrangements and ship the product, and is it any good by then?

It's gonna look like this:

Mexico, the top importer of U.S. wheat, is increasingly turning to cheaper supplies from Russia, which surpassed the United States as the top global wheat supplier in 2016.

Now the U.S. market share decline is accelerating as Mexico casts about for more alternative suppliers in Latin America and elsewhere to hedge against the risk that U.S. grains will get more expensive if the Mexican government imposes tariffs, according to interviews with three large Mexican millers, international grains traders, the top Mexican government agricultural trade official and government and industry data analyzed by Reuters,

“It’s important to send signals to Mr. Trump,” said Jose Luis Fuente, head of Canimolt, a Mexican trade group which represents 80 percent of Mexican millers. Mexico will keep buying American wheat because of its proximity, he said, but “we can’t continue to have this absolute dependence.”

The shifting supply deals are alarming for the U.S. industry, which has supplied the vast majority of Mexico’s wheat since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect.

U.S. wheat exports to Mexico dropped 38 percent in value, to $285 million, in the first five months of 2018. U.S. wheat exports to all countries, valued at $2.2 billion, dropped 21 percent.

“The Mexico market ought to be just an extension of our domestic market,” said Justin Gilpin, CEO of the Wheat Commission in Kansas, the nation’s biggest wheat-producing state.

Instead, Mexican buyers plan to import as much as 100,000 tonnes from Argentina – worth about $20 million based on current prices – when it harvests wheat later this year, Fuente told Reuters. Mexico imported a test cargo of 33,000 tonnes in late 2017 after the its government financed a trade mission of grain buyers to find alternatives to U.S. wheat in Latin America.

If Mexico starts importing from Argentina (which may help Argentina, actually), when and why do they shift back to us?  Because we're cheaper?  Yeah, that's gonna help American agriculture.  Eventually they might, but "eventually" don't feed the bulldog today.  This is the  kind of "deal" Donald Trump has struck by erecting trade barriers and imposing tariffs.  Farmers are feeling it first, but they understand the business of agricultural sales.  Trump doesn't.  Trump, it seems, doesn't understand anything.  He's not just a bull in a china shop, he's a stupid bull in a china shop who thinks he's doing a good thing.

This will not end well.  In the meantime, can we get the media to start understanding (as NPR finally did, today, on a report I was just listening to) that if Trump says he has a "deal," he has bupkis?  After Singapore and Helsinki and now the meeting with Andreeva (and the announcement made about it), isn't it time to be severely skeptical of what the President says?  I mean, the number of lies he makes in a day are already to stuff of legend; shouldn't that tell us something?

He is a profoundly ignorant man.  This is not a good thing.


  1. I would like to think this will put the end to the absurd idea that what we need is a businessman for president, something which I've heard people say my entire life and it was as stupid an idea in the beginning as it's turned out in real life. Remember when they touted Bush W II as a businessman?

    If the Democrats don't win back the Congress this fall there's going to be at least a depression, I can't see Democrats stepping in to save it again unless they are in control of both houses. It's not as if it worked out all that well when they did.

    Trump will be the man who finally broke through the rotted out Constitution of the United States, floorboards, joists, even the nails, rotted.

  2. Korea cannot nuke us soon enough.