The Importance of International Trade Act III: Nobody Wins a Trade War

As most of you know, I have worked in international trade for 21 plus years. Last year, I wrote posts in March and September on the importance of international trade because of anti-trade rhetoric I was hearing.

 

Despite “alternative facts,” real facts prove what international trade does. It increases jobs, increases income and reduces prices.

 

I attended the Transpacific Maritime Conference (TPM) in Long Beach. Leading industry economist Dr. Nariman Behravesh talked about the U.S. and global economies. One thing that stood out was the potential for the U.S. unemployment rate to reach 3 percent, which would be quite amazing. His caveat: If we don’t enter into a trade war.

 

Enter Trump’s tariffs on aluminum and steel. A few questions to ask yourself. What percentage of aluminum and steel imports come from China? The answer? Not a lot. There are other countries that one could argue dump more of these products than China, so how does this really impact China? The answer. Not much.

 

Since the tariff announcement, I have attended a few other trade-related conferences. I would like to share some highlights from those conferences. To sum it up: Nobody has ever won a trade war.

 

Enter China’s response. Those tariffs will impact farmers, some in Washington state. This is one of the reasons I never understood farmers voting for Trump (and part of the reason I could never fully get behind Bernie Sanders). They heard his anti-trade rhetoric, yet they voted for him. Trump promises to “make it up for farmers.” But his policy has the potential to cause China to look for other sources for their agricultural needs.

 

Trump has promised more tariffs and China will respond in kind. These tactics are not the right approach. They will escalate, and the big losers will be everyday people in both countries. Hopefully in the end sanity will prevail, and we will make progress on NAFTA and TPP.

 

Now is there a China problem in terms of intellectual property rights? Of course, but that problem needs to be solved with a world-wide effort. In fact, the administration could have addressed it in a more productive manner if the U.S. had stayed in TPP. But alas, the administration decided to pull us out, which only helped to decrease U.S. influence. I wonder if the administration thought the world would stop if the U.S. pulled out. As predicted by myself and others, the world went on without us (as they should), and America is left at a disadvantage.

 

It takes years to build relationships. Tariffs will make American goods more expensive, and you can believe that delegations from other countries are already marketing for their products to fill the gap. We are not the only country in the Northern Hemisphere that grows apples, soybeans, wheat, etc., so there is a fallacy in the belief that China needs our products. China and other countries can look for other sources, and once that business is lost, it’s hard to get it back.

 

China (and Asia in general) is where the middle class is growing. It would be a shame to have trade policies in place that would price American goods out of those markets. The U.S. and China have the largest economies of the world. In the end, the health of both countries would be better with cooperation. Trade relations are complex. Agreements (or disagreements) between two countries have a ripple impact on the rest of the world.

 

It is important that people who understand the importance of international trade tell the story. People need to know what erecting trade barriers does and what eliminating trade barriers does. The majority (85 percent) of manufacturing job losses have been lost to automation not globalization. Putting up trade barriers is not going to bring the jobs back. Decisions need to be made by people who understand the bigger picture and can look at trade from a holistic viewpoint.

 

As a person living in Washington state, I understand all too well what can be lost and what can be gained in terms of international trade. For example, Mexico is the largest market for Washington apples. NAFTA opened those doors. Whether TPP or NAFTA or trade wars, it is important to not put agriculture at risk because it is always the first area targeted. Trade wars are nothing to celebrate or boast about. Nobody wins.

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PCC Scroll: Editor’s Corner

Around 14 years ago, a friend gave me an African violet for my birthday. I kept her at work, and we named her Violet. Fast forward some years, and Violet was dying. She had stopped producing flowers, and her leaves were turning brown. I was ready to let her give up the ghost because I thought it was the end. Truthfully, she had lasted longer than I thought she would because I do not have a green thumb. Another friend looked at her, and he offered to take her home with him. Months later, he brought Violet back to me, and she was alive and thriving. As a matter of fact, at the time I am writing this article, she is in bloom.

 

I was amazed, and I asked him what he did. If you are a gardener, you can probably guess what he did. He replanted her with new soil. He chose soil that contained extra nutrients. He pruned away the dead leaves. He placed her in direct sunlight, and he watered her as needed (I had been over-watering her). He brought her back from the brink of death by creating an environment for her to thrive in, and he gave me clear instructions on how to care for her in the future. As a person without a green thumb, it never occurred to me to change her environment (the soil). I had been doing everything else (but watering too much).

 

The story of Violet reminds me of the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree that is found in Luke 13:6-9. Like me, the owner of the vineyard was ready to cut the fig tree because it had not produced fruit for three years. But the vinedresser (gardener), who was skilled at caring for plants, offered to give the tree extra care. The gardener was going to do all he could do to make the barren fig tree thrive and bear fruit.

 

In the parable, the owner represents God and the gardener represents Jesus. The number three is significant. In the Old Testament (Leviticus), there is a scripture that forbade eating fruit from a tree during its first three years. In the fourth year, the fruit would have been given as an offering to God. It was not until the fifth year that the fruit could be eaten.

 

This brings me to a conundrum in life. How do you know if something is dead versus something that just needs a little bit of extra care to bear fruit or something that needs to be offered up to God for another season?

 

In this season of my journey, my goal is to position areas of my life (from relationships to job to goals) in such a manner that they are in the best environment to thrive. This may mean giving extra care. To follow the violet analogy, it would be watering and fertilizing. In life, it would be giving my time and energy. If after extra care and attention, there is still no fruit, then it would be a clear sign that something is dead, and it is time to remove the dead thing from my life.

 

My focus will be to cultivate all that is alive and thriving. Life is precious, and it is time to focus on cultivating relationships and endeavors that will bear fruit. If things are dead, they need to be removed. I invite you to join me in removing the dead things.

 

PCC Scroll: Word of the Quarter

Here is the Word of the Quarter.

In this issue of the Scroll, we are continuing with the overarching theme of “Preparing for the Harvest: Positioning Ourselves to Grow.” The overarching theme began in the fall issue with the theme of “Preparing the Soil” and continued in the winter issue with a theme of “Positioning to Thrive.” In this issue, we continue the overarching focus with a theme of “Removing the Dead Things.”

 

As we enter into spring, we are reminded of the beauty of nature. Trees are budding and producing beautiful flowers. Flowers are in bloom. Animals are coming out of their winter resting places. We are awakened by the sound of birds chirping in the morning. New life is blossoming and growing before our eyes, and it is beautiful.

 

In order for new life (leaves) to spring forth from trees, the tree sheds itself of dead leaves in the fall. It is ironic that the beautiful and colorful leaves of the fall were a symbol that the leaves were dying. In the forest, the dead leaves fell to the forest floor around the tree. They decomposed and added nutrients to the soil. The tree did not try to hold on to the beautiful fall leaves that needed to be shed. The tree knew that after a period of rest, new life would come. The shedding of the dead leaves positioned the tree to thrive in the spring.

 

There are times when a tree is pruned. This pruning often cuts the branches so far back, and we may think that the tree was pruned too deep. But, as the tree grows back, it grows back healthier than it was before. Sometimes letting go is more than the shedding of leaves. Sometimes letting go is a deep pruning that strips to the core.

 

Through nature, we see a natural evolution. There is a time of birth, growth, shedding and rest. Our lives follow the same pattern as nature, and it is crucial that we embrace the process.

 

We are not sure what those dead things in your life are. They could be dead relationships, old hurts, past regrets, unhealthy habits/routines, insecurity or draining emotions. Getting rid of dead things gives you freedom and removes a burden you are carrying. Think of yourself as a prisoner and letting go as chains falling off.

 

The dead things in our lives can become comfortable or just accepted as part of who we are, but we invite you to let go so you can live life more abundantly. You can’t move forward if you are still holding on to dead things.

 

In the future, let the fall be a reminder to look at your life and remove things that are dead. As mentioned in the “Editor’s Corner,” there is a process to knowing what is dead and what needs care and attention.

 

But if you know something is dead, let it go. It opens you up for the new things God wants to do in you. He wants to cut away all in your life that is keeping you from fulfilling your call.

 

In closing, let us remember Philippians 3:13. It reads, “…forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”

 

PCC Scroll Men of the Bible: Achan

I wrote about Achan for Men of the Bible.

Name: Achan

Meaning: Trouble or Troubled

His Character: Achan was a man who was driven to obtain more and more.

His Sorrow: Achan’s greed caused God’s wrath to be kindled against the children of Israel.

His Triumph: Although he knew there were consequences to his actions, Achan was able to confess the sin he committed against God.

Key Scriptures: Joshua 6:17-8:2

God gave Joshua very specific instructions as to how Jericho was to be conquered. God was also very specific on what was to be done with the “spoils” of the city. God’s orders were to stay away from the devoted things so that they would not bring about destruction. Silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron were to go into the treasury.

 

Achan, who was listed as Achar in 1 Chronicles 2:7, was a rich man of the tribe of Judah who was among the children of Israel during the seize of Jericho. He had more than enough. Despite the riches he already had, he sought to increase his wealth by taking material possessions, which were spoils from Jericho, that were set to be devoted to God.

 

After the battle of Jericho, Joshua sent men to Ai. This should have been an easy victory for Israel, but the Israelites were defeated at Ai. This defeat caused fear in the hearts of the people because the Israelites feared this defeat would bring their enemies against them. Joshua and the elders sought God.

 

God was swift with His answer. God would not be with the Israelites until they destroyed who among them had stolen and lied. In the scripture, it is clear than the sin of one person was viewed as a trespass from all of the children of Israel. Achan’s disobedience brought the wrath of God to all of Israel.

 

When Achan was discovered, he confessed his sin against God. He admitted that he coveted what he saw. He had taken a Babylonian robe, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold that weighed fifty shekels from Jericho. He had taken them and had hid them in the ground beneath his tent. Achan, the items he had stolen, his family and possessions (from his cattle, donkeys, sheep and tent) were taken to the Valley of Achor. Achan was stoned to death, but it did not end there. His family and livestock were also stoned, and their remains were burned. Achan was buried in the valley and a large pile of rocks were heaped above his remains.

 

After his death, the Israelites were victorious in their second battle at Ai.

 

Achan’s life is a cautionary tale of what happens when we are consumed with greed. He had more than enough, but he wanted more even when knowing what he wanted was taboo. Although in Achan’s case what was desired was silver and goal, the moral of the story can relate to anything that we desire and crave that is not for us. God will not withhold any good things from us. If there is a possession you desire that has been withheld from you, there is a reason.

 

The sin in Achan’s life did not just impact him. It impacted everyone in the camp. Because of the sin of one, the lives of those in the entire camp was impacted. What I do in my life impacts the body just as what you do in your life impacts the body. But we are all able to be restored back into fellowship because of God’s mercy and grace.

 

 

PCC Scroll Women of the Bible: Lot’s Wife

I wrote about Lot’s Wife for this issue of the PCC Scroll.

Name: Known as Lot’s wife

Her Character: Lot’s wife is believed to have been a woman who enjoyed the luxuries and pleasures having a rich husband afforded her.

Her Sorrow: Lot’s wife did not want to leave her home. When she looked back, she was turned into a pillar of salt.

Her Triumph: She was among the few God attempted to save in Sodom.

Key Scriptures: Genesis 19:26; Luke 17:32

Sharing the story of Lot’s wife seemed fitting with this issue’s theme of “Letting Go of Dead Things.” The instinct and impulse to hold on to things is human, but we see from her story the negative impact holding on to things that are dead, especially things that God has marked as dead.

 

The story picks up after Lot separated from his extended family and settled his immediate family in Sodom, where Lot became a city official. The family was wealthy, so Lot’s wife had a luxurious and happy life. According to scripture, Lot was visited by two angels who warned him to flee the city or be destroyed. When Lot and part of his family (wife and two unmarried daughters) reluctantly (the angels had to lead them out) left the town, they were told to not look back. Lot’s wife, however, looked back and became a pillar or salt. She was not ready to let go of her old life.

 

The story of Lot’s wife is often told as a cautionary tale on the dangers of looking back (and not letting go). In Luke 17:32, Lot’s wife is mentioned by Christ. Christ told His disciples to, “Remember Lot’s wife.” Prior to these words, He had been speaking of Sodom and how they (the inhabitants) ate, drank, bought, sold and planted, but fire and brimstone rained upon the city destroying all.

 

We do not know much about Lot’s wife. We do not know her name. We do not know where she came from. We do not know her family, her age or much about her character. We can get a glimpse of her nature through her story in the Bible. Her story is one of the most well-known and taught stories. Quite simply, she is known as the woman who looked back (or the woman who could not let go).

 

Do we know why Lot’s wife held on to her old life? Did she look back remembering the luxuries and gaiety of her life there? Did she look back thinking about her two married daughters (who stayed with their husbands) still in the city? Did she look back because it was home? We simply don’t know. From her action, we know that she was holding on to her past.

 

I can easily understand Lot’s wife’s impulse to look back and hold on. Even though she was living in a city of sin, it was what she knew. It is natural to want to cling to the familiar rather than face an unknown future. It’s easy to look back on the past and dead relationships, habits, etc. and remember luxury, glamour and good times, but I often forget the painful aspects of it. Luckily for me, when I do look back or try to hold on, I am not turned into a pillar of salt.

 

Truly, whatever is before us is greater than anything we left behind when we started this journey. We cannot have new life if we hold on to dead things. As we enter the spring months, I challenge you to let go of anything God is pressing you to let go of. Do not be a woman who holds on to dead things. Be a woman who looks toward where God is taking her.

 

 

 

PCC Scroll: Your Money Matters

Here is what I wrote for the latest PCC Scroll‘s Your Money Matters section.

The theme of this issue’s newsletter is “Removing the Dead Things.” In this section, we are going to talk about “Getting Rid of the Fluff.”

 

When I “googled” top things people waste their money on, an article from Dave Ramsey appeared in my search results. I am a big fan of Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps to Financial Peace, and we have covered his advice in previous articles.

 

Here are his top 10 items and a brief explanation as to why:

 

Student loans. Ramsey recommends attending a school you can afford, applying for scholarships and working throughout the year to reduce or eliminate the amount of your student loans.

 

Smartphone apps. Ramsey shares a statistic from Apple that Americans spent a staggering $20 billion on apps in 2015, which was more than double than the amount spent in 2013.

 

Gym memberships. According to Ramsey, the average gym membership costs $58 a month, which is worth the investment if you go to the gym. However, if you are paying for a membership that you don’t use, that money can be spent elsewhere. Cancel the membership and opt for things you can do at home or jog/walk outside.

 

Daily coffee trips. Ramsey recommends brewing your coffee at home.

 

Car payments. Ramsey shares a statistic from Experian that reports the average car payment is $483 per month. He recommends selling the car and buying something used with cash. Then save the $483 per month to upgrade to a better vehicle. I would add buyer beware. If you purchase a used car, be sure to have a trusted mechanic perform a checkup on the car prior to purchase to avoid any nasty surprises.

 

Car wash upgrades. Ramsey recommends skipping items like foam wax, clear-coat sealant, protective coating, wheel rocker, rust inhibitor and undercarriage flush. Over time, the extras add up to big bucks.

 

Lottery tickets. According to Ramsey, 259 million play the Mega Millions, making the odds of winning very small. According to Ramsey, if you invest $100 a month in a good retirement plan for 40 years, you have a good chance of retiring as a millionaire. Of course that means starting early, so past that piece of advice on to your children.

 

Timeshares. Ramsey shares a statistic from MarketWatch that says the average cost of a time share is $16,000. The price coupled with maintenance fees and difficulty in selling a timeshare, makes it a stressful investment.

 

Shipping charges. If you can get an item shipped for free by waiting longer, do so. Paying a premium to have it in a day or two can add up quickly.

 

Here are items from other lists:

 

  • Eating out
  • Wasting food
  • Cable
  • Credit card interest
  • Bottled water
  • Vices like alcohol and cigarettes
  • Paying too much for your cell phone
  • Buying brand names products (especially over-the-counter medication and prescriptions)
  • Bank fees
  • Not taking advantage of discounts you qualify for (student, senior, employer, etc.)
  • Pre-sliced meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables
  • Not filling out and mailing in rebate offers

 

It is important to pay attention to the little items that can quickly add up. Of course, it is individual. If your monthly budget allows you discretionary spending, reward yourself. However, if you are struggling paycheck to paycheck, be aware of small items that add up quickly.

 

 

PCC Scroll: Editor’s Corner

Here is my Editor’s Corner from the latest issue of the PCC Scroll.

In the last issue of the Scroll, I wrote that I consider the last few and the next few years of my life to be a time of preparation. I am on a journey of laying down the groundwork for the direction I am heading. I can envision my desired future, and I am trying to lay a solid foundation to build upon. As we move toward our futures and lay our foundations, it is important to place ourselves in the correct positions to thrive.

There is a fine difference between surviving and thriving. In the church world, we have lingo about “being the head and not the tail” and “God preparing a table for us.” Both of which come from scripture. Both involve us doing our part and being in the right position. Because God has promised us life…more abundantly.

When I think about surviving, I think about waking up every Monday morning wishing for 5:00 p.m. Friday to come quickly. When I think about thriving, I think about having a strong passion for what I do as a career. Surviving seems to be just about making it. Thriving seems to be about growing and developing.

Part of my “getting into position to thrive” is talking to a Dream Coach. The process began with a 10-week series. Now my coach and I do monthly check-ins. When I say the term “Dream Coach,” many people assume it is someone who analyzes the dreams I have at night. In actuality, Angela helps me to discover and define what my passions are. What is it that I would do if money, time, fear, insecurity, etc. were not the driving forces behind my decisions? I have a strong idea of where I want to be, and our conversations help steer my actions. Each month, I walk away with “To Do’s” that help me position myself to grow and work toward those passions.

A lot of the time, I feel like the gardener many of the articles discussed in the last issue. I am impatiently waiting to see the shoots of my labor spring forth. It is like the proverbial watched pot that does not boil. But just because I don’t see anything at the surface, does not mean nothing is happening below the surface.

Working with Angela gives me the accountability I need. I set clear goals each month, and I have someone who is a cheerleader and encourager as I achieve minor and major milestones. I am learning to have patience, faith and trust that God is mindful of my hopes and dreams (and even my ambitions) and that they align with His plan for my life.

The other thing I am doing is education. I have my formal degree and certificates, and I also have my work experience. In addition, I am finding classes that align with growing my skill set in the areas that interest me. For example, in the winter quarter, I am taking some classes on social media. I am also looking for some classes on photography.

As you continue to position yourself to thrive, I would encourage you to find a friend, mentor or coach (formally or informally) that will hold you accountable to moving toward your goals. Life is busy and full of distractions, but we must be in position when it is time to reap our harvest. God wants you to flourish and thrive.