Trade: Contentious NAFTA talks hit impasse
A fourth round of NAFTA talks concluded this week with negotiators at loggerheads, said Don Lee in the Los Angeles Times. Trade officials from Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. indicated they had made little progress updating the 23-year-old pact, and representatives from Mexico and Canada were “openly critical” of what they called overly protectionist U.S. demands to rewrite provisions on trade in automobiles, dairy, and produce. Citing “significant conceptual gaps” in how to proceed, negotiators agreed to a monthlong “timeout” before a fifth round of talks begins Nov. 17. They also indicated that negotiations, which were meant to conclude by December, could now extend “well into next year.”
“The extension signals the potential demise of the trade pact,” said Ana Swanson in The New York Times. Negotiators will find it even more difficult to come to an agreement on major outstanding issues in 2018, when talks will “collide with political events in all three countries that will only harden each nation’s stance.” The Mexican presidential campaign begins early next year, along with the campaigns for the U.S. midterm elections and Canadian provincial elections. The possibility remained this week that the U.S. could simply walk away from the pact. “If we end up not having an agreement, my guess is all three countries will do just fine,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Aerospace: Airbus joins forces with Bombardier
Airbus this week announced plans to partner with Canadian plane maker Bombardier, “in what could be the biggest shake-up of the commercial jetliner business in 30 years,” said Jacquie McNish in The Wall Street Journal. The European aerospace giant will take a majority stake in Bombardier’s CSeries jet business. The deal includes a provision to assemble the plane in Alabama to avoid the 220 percent tariff the U.S. slapped on the CSeries in September, following a complaint from Airbus’ U.S. rival Boeing. Delta already has 75 of the planes on order.
Fashion: Coach to transform into Tapestry
Coach Inc. is changing its name to “better to express its new shape as a multibrand entity,” said Vanessa Friedman in The New York Times. The accessible-luxury label, famous for its leather goods, is rebranding as Tapestry, following purchases of the Stuart Weitzman shoe label for $574 million in 2015 and of fashion house Kate Spade for $2.4 billion in May. The name Tapestry is a “wonderful metaphor for what we believe in, which is individual threads of different colors all working together to create a picture,” said CEO Victor Luis. To customers’ relief, only the corporate name will change; Coach bags will retain that label.
Mobile: Venmo to allow online purchases
“Venmo isn’t just for splitting brunch with your friends anymore,” said Seth Fiegerman in CNN.com. The peer-to-peer payment app this week began allowing users to make online purchases with more than 2 million retailers, including Lululemon, Foot Locker, and Forever 21. “As with other transactions on Venmo, users can choose to split the purchase with friends and share playful status updates about what they bought.” The move suggests Venmo parent company PayPal intends to position the app as a full-fledged payments platform that can “generate revenue from merchants who are eager to tap” the Millennial market.
Companies: Japan’s Kobe Steel under fire
Kobe Steel, the Japanese metals company in the midst of a global quality scandal, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, said Stephen Stapczynski in Bloomberg.com. The steelmaker last week admitted it had falsified data about the strength and durability of copper and aluminum that was sold to more than 500 companies, including Ford, Toyota, Nissan, GM, and Boeing. Some automakers are now examining whether their vehicles contain faulty materials, and the European Aviation Safety Agency advised plane manufacturers to suspend their use of Kobe Steel products. ■