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From drug kingpins to terrorists and from human traffickers to money launderers, the United States has nearly 8,000 economic sanctions in place, and the list is growing. Particularly in the post-9/11 era, the U.S. government has leveraged the global preeminence of the U.S. dollar to turn off spigots of funding for sinister activities and unwanted behaviors by state actors.
Among additional sanctions against Iran, Russia and Venezuela, The Trump administration earlier this month tightened travel restrictions to Cuba stating, “Cuba continues to play a destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere…these actions will help to keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services.”
The muscle behind an array of U.S. financial sanctions derives from the reach and power of the U.S. dollar as the “lead currency” in the global economy. This status makes it possible to not only prevent U.S. individuals and companies from doing business directly with a sanctioned entity, it makes it risky to do business with third-country companies that do business with sanctioned entities. Acutely aware of their vulnerability, non-U.S. companies also frequently take steps to minimize their exposure to possible violations of U.S. sanctions lest they jeopardize their access to the U.S. financial system.
The U.S. Dollar Reigns
How strong is the dollar’s foothold in the global economy? The U.S. dollar was used in 88 percent of global foreign exchange transactions in 2016. For comparison, the euro was the medium of exchange in 31 percent of transactions in 2016, the Japanese yen in 22 percent, the British pound in 13 percent, and China’s renminbi in four percent (as two currencies may be involved in exchange, these numbers will add up to more than 100 percent).
Companies selling their goods and services outside the United States often accept dollars as payment because they can easily turn around and use dollars to pay for imported products and inputs. Or, they can hold onto their dollar revenues with confidence they are storing value.
Why is the Dollar Preferred?
The dollar is the world’s lead currency because it meets three key conditions.
First, the dollar is fully tradable and exchanged at relatively low costs. The U.S. government does not restrict the purchase or sale of the dollar.
Second, the dollar holds its value against other currencies. The United States is still considered a stable and open market economy, current tariff vagaries notwithstanding. At the end of last year, just under 62 percent of all central bank reserves were held in U.S. dollars.
Third, the United States is still the largest economy in the world, equivalent to 24 percent of global GDP. Below is a snapshot from the International Monetary Fund comparing the world’s largest economies. We have a large money supply, providing liquidity for the global economy.
Into the Arms of Another
Some have argued bad actors like North Korea will find always find ways to evade U.S. sanctions. Buyers of Iranian oil will seek alternative currencies for their transactions, both diluting the effect of sanctions and hastening reduced dependence on the dollar.
Several European countries developed a clearinghouse to enable companies to avoid the U.S. financial system in transactions involving Iran as part of their effort to salvage the nuclear pact the Trump administration pulled out of last year before restoring a slew of sanctions against Iran.
Despite initial discussions about a wider scope, Europe’s Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) will, at least for now, only facilitate trade in humanitarian goods such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices and agri-food products, all of which are already permissible under U.S. sanctions. Despite European government grumbling about being beholden to the U.S. dollar, there appeared to be little appetite on the part of European companies and commercial banks to risk U.S. penalties by using such a clearinghouse for other types of transactions.
Will the Euro or Renminbi Overtake the Dollar?
Not anytime soon.
The euro covers a large economic zone featuring sophisticated financial market institutions, but the politics surrounding continued support by members of the euro zone and unresolved debt discussions with southern states (we were talking about Grexit long before Brexit) are holding the euro back in overtaking the U.S. dollar.
Although the renminbi’s share in global transactions is still low, it should be noted that usage and overseas holdings of China’s currency by individuals, businesses and central banks has expanded in the last decade, enabling China to break through in 2016 to join the top five most-used currencies. The Chinese government is making a big push to internationalize its currency through global infrastructure investment funds associated with its Belt and Road initiative and through renminbi-denominated commodities futures contracts, among other initiatives.
China’s currency, however, is not freely convertible, its performance has been volatile, and the degree of state and private debt in China’s financial system remains murky.
The Dollar’s Achilles Heel
For the time being, most experts believe there’s no real threat to the U.S. dollar’s dominance. Europe would need to address skepticism regarding the monetary union’s future, China would need to implement significant reforms to its financial sector, and much-hyped cryptocurrencies still have long way to go to challenge the conventional system of global payments.
These are all big “ifs”. Instead, the dollar’s Achilles’ heel is of our own making. One of the biggest risks to the dollar’s long-term value is continued fiscal imbalances in the United States and the sustainability of our debt burden.
Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. She is a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an adjunct fellow with CSIS. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught International Trade for the last fourteen years as an Adjunct Associate Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.
When most people think about blockchain, they likely associate it with Bitcoin or other types of cryptocurrency.
But the blockchain technology introduced a decade ago to serve as a secure database for transactions in the cryptocurrency world has plenty of uses beyond that – and potential for even more. Around the world, blockchain can be or already has been used in such areas as energy, tourism and financial services.
Yet, plenty of people still have little knowledge of this technological breakthrough that could transform how they do business and live their lives. That raises a couple of questions: Is blockchain ready for the masses? And are the masses ready for blockchain?
“Despite renewed investor interest, blockchain technology still needs to evolve to overcome some challenges before adoption reaches people who are not early adopters or who are not very tech savvy,” says Kirill Bensonoff (www.kirillbensonoff.com), a serial entrepreneur and an expert in blockchain.
Those challenges include:
–Interaction with other systems. Blockchain’s growth depends on the technology’s ability to scale and interact with other systems and networks, Bensonoff says. “Right now, blockchain as a service is limited in performance because of slowed transaction processing times and the inability to have various blockchain platforms interact with each other,” he says. Just one way this challenge is being addressed is by developers creating consensus mechanisms, Bensonoff says. Consensus mechanisms refer to how participants in a blockchain network agree that the transactions recorded in the digital ledger are valid. “This mechanism creates a trust and validity in the transaction between participants who aren’t familiar with each other,” he says.
–Cost and usability. The cost of creating and implementing blockchain networks remains a significant barrier, Bensonoff says. One possible solution could be the introduction of cloud-based blockchain technology from tech giants such as IBM, Microsoft and others. “These companies have made cost reduction and scaling the crux of their business offerings,” he says. For blockchain to evolve, the average user experience also needs improvement, Bensonoff says. “The good news is that developers and blockchain companies are catching on, and working to create a more welcoming look and feel for consumers,” he says.
–Regulation. If there’s a grey area in the blockchain world, regulation is it, although some states, such as Wyoming, and countries such as Malta, Estonia and Switzerland, are attempting to change that. “In the meantime, this regulatory limbo is affecting adoption, with many waiting for some finality in legislation before they implement their own blockchain solution,” Bensonoff says. As some states pass blockchain bills, hopes are high that others will follow suit, he says.
–Privacy. Blockchain’s transparency is one of its strengths – and a weakness. Bensonoff points out that blockchain acts as a public ledger, which is necessary for the technology to provide trust and to verify transactions. But that can make use of blockchain troublesome for some industries, such as healthcare, which needs to protect the privacy of much of its data. Some solutions on the horizon, Bensonoff says, include making use of new developments like stealth addresses, ring-confidential transactions and state channels.
“Blockchain is definitely going to become more useful and more popular,” Kirill says. “But it must overcome these hurdles to get where it needs to be.”
About Kirill Bensonoff
Kirill Bensonoff (www.kirillbensonoff.com) has over 20 years experience in entrepreneurship, technology and innovation as an advisor and investor in over 20 companies. In the information technology and cloud services space, Kirill founded US Web Hosting while still in college, was co-founder of ComputerSupport.com in 2006, and launched Unigma in 2015. As an innovator in the distributed ledger technology (DLT) space, Kirill launched the crypto startup Caviar in 2017 and has worked to build the blockchain community in Boston by hosting the Boston Crypto Meetup. He also is the founder of the Boston Blockchain Angels, producer and host of The Exchange with KB podcast and leads the Blockchain + AI Rising Angel.co syndicate. Kirill earned a B.S. degree from Connecticut State University, is a graduate of the EO Entrepreneurial Masters at MIT, and holds a number of technical certifications. He has been published or quoted in such national business, blockchain and technology media as Inc., Hacker Noon, Huffington Post, Bitcoin Magazine and CoinTelegraph.
Companies live in a world now where a tweet about tariffs and trade wars can rattle markets, prompt uncertainty, and question whether supply chains and global operations are positioned to handle the speed, unpredictability, and interconnectedness of the global economy. The prevalence and threat of trade wars generate pervasive uncertainty across the globe- carrying wide-reaching implications for overall global growth. Increased cost of goods sold from upstream suppliers are squeezing margins and forcing global supply chains to adapt and react mid-stream. Despite a robust US economy, and general stability across global markets, the escalating trade war is increasing prices and making raw materials harder to obtain – threatening the positive trajectory of domestic and international economic activity.
How is this playing out in real time? Let’s look at an example: An automaker may have its engine manufactured in Germany, its transmission in Mexico and its GPS from South Korea with final assembly in the US. Tariffs could force automakers to move production, reducing economies of scale and increasing prices for the end consumer. Processing the resulting number of variables, scenarios, and decision matrices brought on by the trade war is a daunting challenge, to say the least.
Despite these marketplace, competitor and regulatory challenges, digital technologies, such as data analysis, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) provides companies with the resources and insights to manage risk and anticipate events. Today’s leading supply chains run on data, monitoring for risk and opportunity, and blend human and digital strategies to make decisions in real time. This is called the cognitive supply chain. It is interconnected, self-learning, predictive, adaptive and intelligent, and it can help leaders react faster to risks outside of their control. As such, here are three approaches that can help leaders manage, anticipate, and address supply chain disruptions.
Leveraging predictive analytics
Data has always been at the center of the supply chain and helps leaders make decisions. With internet of things and the growing number of connected devices, organizations can be more proactive in how they use data to enable insights.
The expanse of datasets, and increasing ease to obtain them, allows proactive organizations to leverage data to help drive their decision structure. The resulting variety of perspectives creates an opportunity to align against broader company goals. For example, how does the planned production schedule of a Swiss supplier affect my organization’s market position in Asia this holiday season? What are the potential risks, and how can they be mitigated? Data availability opens the door to these solutions. Enablers from digital technology provide:
-Digital linkage – integrated sales, production and delivery processes which have seamless flow of information.
-Control tower –visibility of all processes across the internal and external supply chain.
-Centralized collaborative e-hub – a connected ecosystem where all partners interact seamlessly with improved flow of information.
-Integrated lean logistics – applying lean principles to eliminate waste, errors and defects, minimizes lead-time and materials impacted by tariffs.
-Virtual logistics – enable on the fly deployment decisions with new logistics models.
Creating the digital twin
Today’s supply chains have growing complexities with an international network of suppliers and service markets. Efforts to integrate with external partners has led to complicated systems and processes, overwhelming supply chain leaders with data and metrics. Add in the variability of demand, and a supply chain is pushed back on its heels, reacting to demand variability. One uniquely positioned solution is called a “digital twin”.
A digital twin is a model of the supply chain. The foundation is a transparent supply chain strategy, comprised of rules on how to absorb and refine costs, or pass through to customers downstream. A digital twin uses the multi-tier supply chain data to rely upon predictive outcomes and sensory response. Uncertainties such as pending tariffs can be run through “what if” scenarios to understand the service, cost, and risk implications of changes, decisions and unexpected market conditions.
These examples are not intended to be definitive outcomes; alternatively, they allow internal and external supply chain groups the opportunity to setup a plan of action which mitigates service risk while optimizing the collective cost. Organizations must learn the discipline of using “what if” scenarios for their analysis and guide the implementation of both short term and long-term strategies and events.
For example, what is the correct level of holiday inventory investment that should be imported into the United States from China, given the potential tariff increase in the coming months? Which alternatives provide lower risk? Successful organizations will use their digital twin to move up the supplier tiers of a supply chain, and anticipate disruption, and arrange alternative routes and suppliers.
Consider managed services
Continuous investment in technology and talent with the skill and knowledge to use it can be expensive. The process engineering required to maximize ROI, along with the associating change management inevitably strains an organization’s resources. As a result, many organizations have found relief in managed services of their supply chains. It enables companies to focus on their core competencies of products and services, while contracting out the outcome: the best customer service at the optimal cost.
The consolidation of supply chain expertise into a vendor eases the necessary people, process, and technology investment. It allows organizations to shed the strain of daily variability, while maintaining the ability to make decisions and focus on the long term growth of the company. With the increasing pressure on tariffs, organizations will look to these partners to leverage their digital tools and technologies to limit the downstream effect across the supply chain.
Creating a cognitive supply chain is essential for answering the threat trade wars present. International supply chains will continue to become more expensive to maintain and manage. Businesses that are successful in meeting these complexities and adopting digital capabilities will be best equipped for the uncertainty that lies ahead.
Mike Landry is the supply chain service line leader at Genpact, a global professional services focused on delivering digital transformation.
We live in the information age — aptly named because we have unprecedented access to information through many platforms. Researchers estimate that between television, radio, the internet, email and social media, the average person receives the equivalent of 174 newspapers worth of data every day. That means consumers have a lot to sort through and choose from when shopping for virtually any type of product. And studies show they demand more transparency from companies to help them make an informed decision.
“This is especially critical in digital marketing,” says Jonathan Musgrave, owner and chief digital marketer for Steep Digital Marketing (www.steepdigital.com). “With information so abundant and readily available, companies are becoming increasingly transparent in an effort to engage the potential customer. They’re inviting potential customers into their world rather than talking at them.” Musgrave offers five ways that being transparent in digital marketing can win over customers:
Builds trust. “You deserve more than someone playing games with you and withholding information,” Musgrave says, whose digital marketing agency specializes in seminar advertising, lead generation and marketing automation for financial advisors. “The consumer expects and is entitled to know exactly what they’re signing up for. The financial advisors my firm works with, for example, tell us that they build such good rapport with their seminar attendees before the event occurs because of the way they’re featured on the event landing page. There’s a lot of ‘gotcha marketing’ going on in the world today, and no one likes to feel like they got fooled.”
Develops loyalty. Surveys show that the vast majority of consumers will be loyal to a brand that practices transparency. “Brands now have the enhanced opportunity to show their personalities and values due to the internet and social media,” Musgrave says. “So consumers expect to know more about companies than ever before. And if you give them transparency, they’re willing to pay extra for it.”
Shows authenticity. “To do digital marketing right,” Musgrave says, “companies need to take a deep dive into who they are, where they’ve been — warts and all — and show a vulnerability that potential customers can relate to. People can see themselves in what you truthfully present. The whole objective is to create a human interaction, and being authentic in this way is one of the most powerful things you can do.”
Pairs a great offer with great value. “Regardless of what you’re selling, there is some ulterior factor we’re using as an advertising carrot,” Musgrave says. “An example would be a time-share presentation; get a free cruise if you sit down and listen to them talk about some product they’re trying to sell you. But the carrot blinds you from the actual intent of the event. In order to be transparent and build good trust, the offer has to be paired with value.”
Increases efficiency. “Becoming more transparent through digital marketing can greatly improve a business’ efficiency by spending less time talking around product limitations and sidestepping customers’ concerns,” Musgrave says. “By not embellishing your results, you save time for more productive work.”
“Giving consumers access to all the information they need to know without masking your intentions is a proven way to build better relationships through digital marketing,” Musgrave says.
Jonathan Musgrave is the owner and chief digital marketer for Steep Digital Marketing (www.steepdigital.com), which he founded in 2017. Musgrave got his start in the direct mail business, using his communication skills to craft powerful marketing messages that reached more than 1,000,000 households each month. He’s started his own wholesaling company that brought digital marketing tools to the financial advisor space for the first time in 2013 that were responsible for doubling sales for three consecutive years.
world that is becoming more globalized by the second, the literal array of
products being shipped in 2019 is extremely diverse. One diverse segment is the
perishables industry, which distributes goods that naturally deteriorate due to
time or environmental conditions. This is an understandably complex segment, requiring
a logistical savviness and excellent partners to ensure products arrive in time
and, most important, fresh and intact.
and meat by-products, dairy, fish and seafood, chemicals, flowers and
pharmaceutical products make up the perishable goods segment. According to
Technavio, a leading market research firm, the sector is expected to grow at a
compound annual rate of nearly 8 percent (2017-2021). A revealing report
published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2000 astutely signaled this
growth, arguing that the advances in transportation technology would significantly
ease perishable freight trade via the reduction of shipping costs and streamlined
A Valuable Partner
perishable freight is a multiple, moving parts effort. As such, third party
logistics (3PL) providers play a vital role. Outsourcing to 3PLs allows
shippers to not only hang onto their capital for reinvestment in their own,
core operations, but they can additionally take advantage of 3PL technology
which is generally ahead of the curve.
good 3PL will provide access to economies of scale, enable superior elasticity
in areas such as route planning (to lessen unnecessary “hand-offs”), provide
access to cutting-edge temperature tracking technology and enable the use of
shared, cold storage warehouses with the shipper. The latter alone offers tremendous
Choosing the Right 3PL
Logistics holds annual awards, prominently recognizing the top 3PL and cold-storage
providers. Jumping into a 3PL partnership should not be taken lightly. While
the agencies in the Food Logistics awards list are clearly leaders in the
industry, fully vetting potential partners is highly suggested, with these five
areas are an excellent place to start.
Proven Success – To the detriment of the “start-up” 3PLs, entrusting your
perishable freight in the hands of relative novices is not the best idea. Go
with a winner that can provide excellent client feedback.
Robust Technology – This is an area where your 3PL should be much farther ahead
of the technological curve than the shipper. Good 3PLs are agile enough to have
resources on-hand to stay on top of the very technology that will cut costs and
increase efficiency times.
Scalability – Once a 3PL is in place, the shipper is entering a shared-space
environment. This is the natural advantage of outsourcing, so ensuring the 3PL can
scale in a parallel manner with the shipper will facilitate economies of scale.
Location Networks – A seasoned, successful 3PL will take a more nuanced,
strategic approach to network configuration, ensuring the shipper can count on
the right distribution center locations.
Commitment to Improvement – While last, this is a key point because every 3PL
will be faced with pressure to continuously evolve and improve. During initial
conversations, addressing what these challenges have been and how the 3PL
addressed them in the past will reveal much about the firm.
3PL Key Issues
As a 3PL charged with perishable freight, the issues are frankly numerous. On the trucking side, it is not machine nor technology-based–it’s humans. Driver shortages are a major concern, with Bloomberg reporting earlier this year that the shortfall has leaped to 296,311 as of the second quarter of 2018. The root of the issue goes back to 2004, when federal law mandated stricter oversight of hours worked per day. Cuts were made, which meant more drivers were needed due to the current crop having to work less. Couple this with the aging trucker population and shortages have been rampant ever since.
strong economy has been another issue that partly explains the trucker
shortage. Manufacturing and construction have had an easier time finding new
entrants into those sectors than has trucking. The former sectors are tapping
into the same general population as the latter, and weeks on the road, away
from families, is not as attractive as working at a given site and returning
home every evening.
combat this, 3PLs need to provide better services and remain highly efficient.
Transportation is still the weakest link in supervising what’s known as the
“cold chain.” Low-cost providers can enter easily, which results in a host of
marginal players making it hard for suppliers to weed out the true high
the sustainability side, shippers are increasingly seeking 3PLs with the
smallest carbon footprint possible. Packaging and warehousing are well-known
polluters, which has put pressure on 3PLs to generate as few pollutants
possible. Utilizing eco-friendly electric vehicles to adopting “green storage
and packaging” processes, logistics innovation and alternative fuel
implementation are major issues larger and savvier suppliers are seeking.
with any industry, challenges are ever-present, but the 3PL sector is
revolutionizing how we consume and enjoy perishable items on a global scale.
Thanks to these nimble entities, hundreds of millions of people have regular
access to affordable products in ideal states, something our grandparents and
many of our parents could not have said.
California is a big state, one of the biggest, actually, with its 163,696 square miles making it the third largest in the United States in terms of area and its 39.5 million residents making it the most populous in America.
When it comes to travel to or within the Golden State on business, there is no single destination that is a central location to the hubs of industry, unless that industry is agriculture, in which case just about anywhere in the Central Valley should work just fine. Direct flights there on major airlines could be an issue, however.
Otherwise, you would not fly into, say, Los Angeles International Airport—the world’s fifth busiest and second only to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta in the U.S.—if your business meetings were in Silicon Valley. Nor would you stay in, for instance, San Francisco—whose $878 billion GDP gave it America’s third largest urban economy in 2017—if your trade convention was in sunny San Diego.
For our business travel purposes, we are going to focus on San Diego, Los Angeles, San Jose (which is in the heart of Silicon Valley) and San Francisco.
The international airports in all four of those cities are served by Air Canada, Alaska, American, British Airways, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, United and Virgin. Allegiant, Condor, Japan Airlines, Spirit and Sun Country fly in and out of all except San Jose.
Chances are that American and United are airlines that use your nearest airport for flying across the continent. Both figured prominently in the 15th annual Tested Reader Survey in December’s Global Traveler. More than 22,000 frequent business and luxury travelers named the best in a variety of travel-related categories.
American was named the Best Airline in North America and, for the third consecutive year, the Best Airline for Domestic First Class. American Airlines AAdvantage was deemed the Best Frequent-Flyer Customer Service.
United Airlines MileagePlus was deemed the Best Overall Frequent-Flyer Program for the 15th straight year and Best Frequent-Flyer Bonus Program for the sixth consecutive year.
The airline also just announced that its new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners will fly United “Premium” transcontinental routes between Newark and California beginning Jan. 7. The newest and biggest version of Boeing’s 787 widebody, the jets will also start flying from Newark to San Francisco on Feb. 14.
Seating 318 passengers, the 787-10s include 44 lie-flat business-class seats and 21 of United’s new “Premium Plus” recliner seats that split the difference between business-class and typical coach seating. Also onboard are 54 extra-legroom Premium Economy seats and 199 in standard coach.
U.S. News & World Report identified the top business hotels of 2018 in large American cities by considering amenities, reputation among professional travel experts, guest reviews and hotel class ratings.
What follows is a rundown of each of our target California cities, with the nightly rates being what was quoted on Dec. 10, 2018 (meaning current prices may vary).
-The Peninsula Beverly Hills
Critic rating: Excellent
Nightly rate: $605
Amenities: Business center with a few computers, color printers, executive desks and a fax machine. Six meeting spaces accommodate events of up to 250 people.
-Montage Beverly Hills
Critic rating: Excellent
Nightly rate: $545
Amenities: 24-hour business center. On-site meeting planners. Variety of rooms, including ballrooms, are configurable to all types and sizes of events.
-The London West Hollywood
Critic rating: Great
Nightly rate: $339
Amenities: Meeting and event coordinators. Media equipment to facilitate audiovisual presentations. 24-hour business center. Access to printers, personal computers and an ATM.
-Hotel del Coronado (Coronado Island)
Critic rating: Excellent
Nightly rate: $268
Amenities: 47 indoor event venues ranging in size from 300 to 12,500 square feet. Event planners. Full-service FedEx Center with computer workstations with Internet access, fax and copy service, shipping and postal services and more.
-La Valencia Hotel and Spa (La Jolla)
Critic rating: Great
Nightly rate: $299
Amenities: Four meeting rooms, including a ballroom with a terrace, a boardroom and The Galeria, which can hold up to 40 participants. The Med and Patio Sol can also be booked for many types of meetings.
-Omni San Diego Hotel (Downtown)
Critic rating: Great
Nightly rate: $144
Amenities: Space for up to 1,200 people. 27,000 square feet of meeting space. Grand Ballroom measures 9,266 square feet.
Critic rating: Excellent
Nightly rate: $359
Amenities: 18 event rooms. Up to 500 attendees can enjoy the ballroom, which can also be divided into four smaller spaces. On-staff event planners.
-The St. Regis
Critic rating: Great
Nightly rate: $356
Amenities: 22,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space. Board meetings or business receptions for up to 600 attendees can be handled.
Critic rating: Great
Nightly rate: $195
Amenities: 72,000 square feet and dozens of meeting rooms. Event of any kind for up to 2,300 people can be handled. Sustainable meeting options.
No U.S. News & World Report data was available for the region, so we turned to Oyster.com (“The Hotel Tell-All”), which boasts of knowing “what business travelers look for in hotels.” Instead of relying on guests and professionals, Oyster reviews properties around the world in person.
-Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley at East Palo Alto
Nightly rate: $469
Amenities: 24-hour business center with secretarial services, translation and interpretation services and well-equipped meeting rooms.
-Rosewood San Hill (Menlo Park)
Critic rating: NA
Nightly rate: $485
Amenities: Rooms have large work desks with several power outlets and comfortable seating. Nearly 17,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space with high-tech amenities and private dining rooms.
-Aloft Silicon Valley (Newark)
Critic rating: NA
Nightly rate: $134
Amenities: Comfortable work desks. Quiet area, which is a 20-minute drive away from Palo Alto, the W hotel boasts “a mellow vibe perfect for unwinding after a day of work.”
The logistics industry is watching closely as United States and China negotiate to resolve their trade war amidst the threat of higher tariffs starting March 1. At stake is $635 billion in annual trade – China exports $505 billion and imports $130 billion with the US[i]. These negotiations have repercussions for the global economy well beyond the US and China. Many industries engage vast trade networks that span myriad countries leaving few markets or nations exempt from these talks. For the US alone, which imports $2.3 trillion and exports $1.5 trillion annually[ii], its entire trade regime is now in play.
Countries are not alone in broiling trade disputes. This month XPO issued a profit warning citing the expected loss of $600M[iii], or 3.5%, of revenue from an unnamed customer. Amazon, widely believed to be XPO’s unidentified customer, is expanding its own logistics capacity. The expansion of e-commerce has been a boon for the logistics industry and bane for traditional retailers. Now as Amazon develops its own distribution capability, logistics providers and retailers alike are threatened.
Global Logistics – an Industry in Transition
Ecommerce has been a key growth driver for the global logistics industry, which is expected to grow 7.5% annually from $8.1 trillion in 2015 to $15.5 trillion in 2023[iv]. The logistics of delivering directly to consumers is far more intensive than distributing in bulk to big box retailers. Long haul full truckload remains the largest market segment in logistics with a 70% share, yet less than truckload, parcel and intermodal – which together comprise 15% share of the logistics market – are fastest growing.
The politics of logistics extends beyond trade disputes. US freight employs over three million truck drivers. As the graph below indicates, trucking is the largest employer in 29 of 50 states across the US. The American Trucking Association estimates a need for an additional 900,000 truckers[v] over the next ten years to keep up with demand. The industry already faces a shortage of over 50,000 drivers[vi]amidst the need to replace an aging workforce: 57% of US truckers are over 45 years old and 37% are over 55[vii]. Given the backlash over Amazon’s recent pullback of a second headquarters in New York City for 25,000 jobs[viii], one might imagine the political stakes involved with four million truck drivers across the US in the coming decade.
Logistics – a Magnet for Venture Capital Investment
Venture capital has poured into the logistics sector in recent years. In 2018, global venture investment in logistics reached nearly $14 billion, more than the three previous years combined. Funding for supply chain, logistics and shipping businesses continues to grow in 2019. In February alone, investors have committed over $5 billion to the logistics sector. Major financings include a $1 billion investment in Flexport for intermodal logistics, $940 million in Nuro for its self-driving delivery vans, $700 million in Rivian for electric delivery vehicles, $400 million in DoorDash for local food delivery, and $300 million in Hong Kong-based Lalamove for last mile delivery.
Five catalysts are driving innovation and investment in the logistics sector:
Ecommerce: Online retail continues to cannibalize physical retail. Ecommerce in the US reached 9.8% of total US retail in 2018, nearly triple the share of retail ten years earlier[ix]. Ecommerce is growing even faster in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Traditional retailers are embracing omnichannel marketing as ecommerce extends to more retailing categories. The physical landscape will change dramatically in the decade as ecommerce players build more warehousing capacity replacing stores due to overcapacity in the traditional retail sector.
Crowdsourcing: Much as Uber, Lyft and Didi among others have disrupted the taxi industry through crowdsourced drivers, the gig economy is infiltrating the logistics sector enabling new services. Consumers are the biggest beneficiary through the rise of the concierge economy. Crowdsourcing has lowered delivery costs making home deliveries available for a broader range of items. Food delivery has received most funding with the rise of Uber Eats globally, Doordash and Postmates in the US, Just Eat and Deliveroo in Europe, Swiggy in India, and Meituan in China.
Intelligent Automation: The securities brokerage industry has gone digital in the past two decades. The logistics brokerage industry still runs on phone calls and fax machines with limited price transparency and inefficiencies borne by limited supply chain visibility. Digital brokerage is now coming to the logistics sector through the confluence of sensors, cloud and intelligent automation. ELD and camera technology now monitor drivers reducing wait times, reducing accident risk, and helping to adjudicate cases when accidents occur. Venture backed companies that have raised $100 million or more in the US alone include Convoy, Flexport, Nauto, Next Trucking and Transfix, amongst others.
Electric Vehicles: The prospect of replacing diesel trucks is as welcome as replacing gas vehicles in the consumer sector. Tesla is now tackling the challenges of transporting large trucking payloads. Others are as well including the recently funded Rivian Automotive and Thor Trucks.
Autonomous Technology: End-to-end autonomous trucking may still be decades away yet the use of autonomous technology in logistics is already live in the warehouse with pilots underway for first and last mile as well as interstate long-haul deliveries. Autonomous delivery startups announced over $1.5 billion in February alone, including Endeavor Robotics, Ike and Nuro in the US and AutoAI, Mogu Zhixing and TuSimple in China.
Logistics is a vast sector ripe for innovation across the supply chain. Entrepreneurs and investors have flocked to logistics seeking to disrupt an industry representing over 5% of the US economy. While investment in logistics has increased substantially, funding has focused on major sectors. We believe many opportunities remain for further innovation across the supply chain as new technologies such as robotics, autonomous vehicles and machine learning develop for the logistics sector.
If you’re currently navigating the impact of tariff changes as well as the potentially additional billions of dollars’ worth of tariffs on Chinese goods, we have the information you need to understand what’s changing—and just as important—what you can do about it.
What is a tariff?
In the United States, a tariff is a tax on imported goods. Tariffs are a major source of revenue and can promote/encourage domestic products.
How do tariffs work for section 301?
Tariffs can make trade with another country more costly. There are several types of tariffs, each with their own rules, but section 301 tariffs are based on a percentage of the item’s value. This is called an ad valorem tariff.
For example, plastic eyeglass cases in List 3 fall under the Harmonized Tariff Number 4202.32 1000, with the general rate of duty: 12.1 cent per kilo and 4.6% based on value. Now, with the Section 301 duties added in, there’s an additional 25% charge on top of the others. This simple product, which sells for less than $10 USD could be charged 29.6% plus 12.1 cents per kilo in tariffs.
What tariffs are changing?
Since we’ve previously covered the tariff changes from 2018, I won’t go into detail about them here. Instead, let’s focus on the most recent Section 301 trade actions that have taken place. There have been three major announcements regarding tariffs with China:
Section 301 List 3 tariffs
On May 9, 2019, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) formally announced Section 301 List 3 tariffs would increase to 25% from 10%, effective Friday, May 10, 2019. However, unique to how the Section 301 tariffs were previously implemented, this increase added some specific date criteria. The 10% tariff would still apply to goods exported prior to May 10, 2019, and entered into the United States before June 15, 2019. This was originally noted by the USTR as June 1, 2019, but updated on May 31 to extend an additional 15 days.
Proposed List 4 tariffs
In another major announcement, on May 13, 2019, the USTR published a notice requesting comments on a proposed List 4. The proposed fourth list of tariffs would impact about $300 billion USD in Chinese origin goods at a 25% tariff rate. This could go into effect as soon as late July or August 2019. If List 4 does go into effect, the Section 301 tariffs would cover over 96% of all U.S. imports from China. Public comments regarding List 4 are due into the USTR by June 17, 2019, when a public hearing will commence.
China’s tariffs on U.S. goods
These changes and proposals have not gone unnoticed by China. On May 13, 2019, the Chinese Government announced they will raise tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods. These increases in tariffs affect the three retaliatory tariff lists put into place by China in 2018, and raise the initial tariffs rates, depending upon the harmonized tariff code 10%, 20%, or 25%.
What do tariff changes mean for your supply chain?
At C.H. Robinson, we strive to be your Trusted Advisor® experts by providing you with information on matters affecting your supply chain. By leveraging data from 18 million shipments a year, we are able to deliver an information advantage to the over 200,000 companies that conduct business on our global platform, creating better outcomes for our customers, carriers, and employees.
That’s why we’ve recorded our top transportation, customs, and trade policy experts explaining the ongoing tariff changes. The discussion will help you understand:
-The current state of tariffs
-The impact on global and domestic transportation strategies
-What you can do right now
Watch the discussion and consider how you will manage potential disruptions to your supply chain as tariff developments continue to unfold.
Time was breakbulk, project cargo and multipurpose/heavylift were their own niche sector on the global shipping spectrum, but many of today’s carriers are taking it all, from MPV/HL to roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) to go along with their regular old vanilla container hauling (not to suggest said containers are filled with vanilla, although they could be).
The “Big Three” carriers—MSC, CMA-CGM and Maersk—continue competing with one another by each entering the comparatively lucrative breakbulk and project cargo market, which has also drawn such ro/ro specialists as Grimaldi, NYK and MOL.
For its “global out-of-gauge and breakbulk services,” MSC advertises “first class project cargo management, no matter whether you have a requirement for heavy lift cargo, or for oversized cargo which cannot fit inside a standard container.” MSC can point to more than 40 years of experience in shipping oversized freight and their “expert project cargo logistics team” that can help with the planning and execution of special loadings.
Not to be outdone, the CMA CGM website states, “Our dedicated experts will take pride in providing you with our Special Cargo services and will find with you reliable shipping solutions, whether you’re shipping sensitive materials or heavy and bulky equipment but also will take extra care of Aid and Humanitarian cargo that often exceeds the size of standard containers.”
Size matters, of course, as CMA CGM can rely on the expertise of its 755 agencies in more than 160 countries all around the world as well as an extensive network of ports, terminal operators and suppliers. “Our teams can deliver a seamless door-to-door service and integrated one-stop-shop solutions for your Special Cargo anywhere in the world,” the promo boasts.
COSCO Shipping also relies on a large fleet and experience in extra-heavy hauling. This was demonstrated in February, when the sound section of the Maersk Honam was successfully loaded aboard COSCO’s heavy-lift vessel Xin Guang Hua on open waters outside Dubai. The 228.5-meter long item arrived in March at Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea.
Maersk has been accepting breakbulk as well, with company officials pointing to the opportunity to be able to carry an entire project as opposed to select components that fit neatly in traditional containers. The carrier does assess breakbulk or project cargo on a case by case, depending on available space and vessels, the length and width of the cargo and the terminals to be called.
“We’ll use special gear, extra labor, and oversee operations,” Karen Hicks, Maersk’s global client manager, told JOC.com in March. “There are no cut and dried solutions.” Her company is searching for more solutions with the creation of special project cargo teams and online booking tools, however.
Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean (WW Ocean) is occupying the space in between containers and lift-on/lift-off (lo/lo) or geared MPV/HL, stowing cargo under the deck of ro-ro ships where less packaging and handling is required. WW Ocean officials say they see growth potential in being able to handle a single piece of breakbulk cargo, multiple pieces or pieces and materials for large, multimillion-dollar projects handled over several voyages.
Customers should be warned that pricing can be tricky. As opposed to a standard container rate, carriers have to factor in trade lanes, weight and volume, cargo type, and any special equipment needed, such as mobile loading platforms (mafis) or jack-up trailers. Surcharges for bunkers, port costs, and other assessorial charges must also be factored in. And then there are the costs for securing different types of cargo along the trade routes.
The variety of elements to consider has not swayed Höegh Autoliners away from offering transportation for all types of breakbulk cargo, as the carrier handles close to 6 million cubic meters of high and heavy and breakbulk cargoes annually worldwide. For breakbulk, project and other “out-of-gauge” cargo, Höegh relies on modern and specialized rolltrailers, which are specially designed for smooth and safe transportation of heavy and/or long breakbulk cargo.
G2 Ocean is only two years old, so most would consider the carrier new to the breakbulk game. But company officials want you to know that they actually have 50 years of experience in the sector thanks to G2 Ocean being a joint venture of two of the world’s leading breakbulk and bulk-shipping companies: Gearbulk and Grieg Star.
“We operate the largest fleet of open hatch vessels worldwide,” proclaims the G2 Ocean website. “In addition we operate a substantial fleet of conventional bulk carriers. With 130 vessels and 13 offices on six continents, we can serve all our customer’s needs. Our vessels are tailor-made for breakbulk cargoes like forestry products, steel and project cargoes. Advanced systems make shipping with us easy. The passion and expertise of our people put our customers at ease. This is the basis for reliable, efficient, flexible, high-quality and innovative services.”
However, you do not have to be a large, global conglomerate carrier concern to specialize in breakbulk and project cargo. On the other end of the roster is Florida Barge Corp. (FBC), whose 150- to 400-foot long tubs were engineered and constructed to transport heavy and concentrated cargo loads.
Routinely operating in the waters of the U.S. East Coast, the Gulf Coast, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America, FBC offers project cargo, heavy-lift, and module transportation services—at rates that are less or at least competitive with the big boys.
Founder Brendan Moran boasts more than 15 years of experience in the marine transportation and project cargo industry. “Whether your needs include loading and transport of bridge beams or dredge related equipment,” states Moran’s online bio, “FBC will provide all aspects of the movement from inception to completion.”