Sept. 28, 2018

Global Business Forum, Banff (September 27-28, 2018)

Ambassador David McNaughton, Canadian Ambassador to the United States:

  • The purpose of NAFTA was to make our 3 countries more competitive globally.
  • Trade has increased 9 fold over 25 years.
  • Today the current US regime is squarely focused on themselves.
  • Many chapters have been “closed”: however, as of Thursday night “we are half empty “vs. half full at the beginning of the week.
  • Chapter 19, the dispute mechanism is a deal breaker.
  • There is a polarization developing in the US between the right vs the left, rural vs urban, etc., which is dividing and creating a challenging environment in the US.
  • Agriculture is special on both sides of the border.
  • Oil and gas from Alberta makes the US even more competitive.
  • NAFTA is crowding out other important policies such as cyber security, technology development and military defense.

North American interest rates

US

  • US Federal Reserve increased interest rate from 2 to 2.25%, encouraged by a strengthening labour market and the fact that “economic activity has been rising at a strong rate”.
  • FOMC expects “further gradual increases in the target range for the federal funds rate”.
  • Fed has released 2021 projections for growth in the 1.6-2.0% range and unemployment in the 3.5-4.0% range.
  • Chair Jay Powell stated US is moving from expansion to neutral interest rate environment.
  • Chair Powell acknowledged the importance of emerging markets and the impact Fed policy may have on them, and highlighted Importance of maintaining the stability of the financial system.

Canada

  • BOC Governor Stephen Poloz said that BOC will continue to raise interest rates gradually, stating “raising interest rates too quickly could choke off this economic growth unnecessarily”.
  • In a speech on Thursday, Poloz stated that if NAFTA was successfully renewed, investment spending should pick up, giving us a longer period of non-inflationary growth.

Alberta wages

  • Average weekly earnings for Albertans $1,148 in July 2018, up nearly 2% from July 2017.
  • Albertans take home pay 15% higher than national average of $997.
  • Stats Canada states rise in wages due to increased earnings in Alberta’s retail trade sector, up nearly 9% y/y.

Tidbits

  • Amazon to open retail stores that will only sell products rated 4 stars or better out of 5.
  • Canada’s GDP up 0.2% in July vs. EST 0.1%, June was flat.
  • CBS plans production hub in Canada to support its growing output of television shows.