Category Archives: Global Trade

Trade is Getting Complicated. Trade Agreements More So. Are Your Contracts Up to Snuff?

It’s difficult enough to create contracts that specify what both parties want, but with the shifting global landscape, crumbling trade agreements, new ones rising to take their place, and new regulations cropping up all the time that companies need to adhere to just to do business in their home country, it’s almost impossible.

How do you define contracts that keep up? And, more importantly, how do you figure out which of your contracts are not up to par, and where they are falling short?

In the first case, you constantly monitor government sites, associations, and news sites for mention of new regulations and requirements to adhere to them. Then you process the news, make sense of the new requirements, and find some experts to help you understand the best way to contractually deal with the new rules.

In the second case, you need to be able to quickly analyze a contract and determine if there are clauses to address the regulations. But if it’s a 50 page contract, that’s not a quick effort. And if you have 1,000 of them? 10,000 of them? How can you even attempt to do that?

Manually, you can’t. You need tech that can identify which contracts are likely lacking one or more clauses to address one or more regulations and bring them to your attention, in order of priority. Advanced, semantic, technology that can understand documents, deficiencies, and suggest potential fixes.

And a few companies understand that, and that’s why you see the likes of companies like LawGeex and LegalSifter rising up to challenge Seal with a new take on contract analytics and the need for. Because, one way or another, once you reach a certain point on your sourcing journey, you’re going to need this technology.

Will Trump’s America First Policies Put America Last?

Trump wants to bring production back to America, and that’s a noble effort and, for many companies, a smarter thing to do than they realize as escalating logistics costs and global uncertainty make near-shoring and, even better, home-shoring much less risky (and, in the long run, often more cost effective) than off-shoring, especially when there’s no good reason to off-shore.

But Trump’s recent almost across-the-board tariffs are going to cost some American manufacturers anywhere between millions of dollars to hundreds of millions of dollars as, simply put, due to a lack of availability of certain resources, Americans have to import. The net effect of so many lower-cost global options over the years is that American companies went off-shore for just about everything they figured they could get cheaper, and as a result not only has there been little to no growth in raw-material extraction and production at home, but some industries have actually lost capacity. And that capacity can’t be turned on and ramped up over night.

As a result, Americans need to import aluminum, steel, and other metals, at least for the short term. And while most of that importation should come from near-source locations (like Canada and Mexico, especially if the US wants to maintain NAFTA, which, for the most part, is better for it than Canada and Mexico [combined]) to decrease risk and increase border security (after all, it has two borders — Canada and Mexico; working with Canada and Mexico on security issues makes the entire North American continent safer), Americans have such high demand in some categories even Canada and Mexico can’t meet it all.

For now, American manufacturers have no choice to but import their raw materials from other (non-exempted) countries. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality. And if any of these companies have access to good global strategic sourcing optimization and supply chain planning tools, they’re going to start modelling and realize that it’s cheaper in the mid-term, and maybe even the short term, to manufacturer whatever is intended for the global market outside the US. Rev that factory back up in Mexico and serve the world from there. Only manufacture at home what is needed at home.

And what happens if companies shift their operations to other jurisdictions? America loses jobs, tax revenue, and it’s share of the global GDP. That’s, hopefully, not what Trump, or anyone inside North America, wants.

And while there should be tariffs on goods imported from jurisdictions a country can’t compete with and, in particular, a country that allows its corporations to pay it’s employees $2 a day for a job an American would have to be paid at least $58 a day for (as there’s no way America could compete with imports otherwise), those tariffs should be designed not to hurt the manufacturers who depend on raw materials they can’t get at home, or at least be used to fund local raw material extractors / producers to give those companies at home a local option. For instance, all tariffs collected should go into a fund to help local raw material extractors and producers expand or increase production, and until that happens, companies that need to rely on imports in the interim should at least get tax credits until such a time as they have a local option. Or they are just going to find ways to take as much of their business as they can elsewhere.

And that won’t make America great again, or even competitive. While I actually agree with the premise that, especially when it comes to manufacturing and agriculture and staple industries, America needs to be great again, unfortunately, just slapping import tariffs without a broader plan to achieve that goal is not only not going to help, but it’s going to hurt.

Fujitsu is Launching a Blockchain Money Transfer Service

Which is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough.

As per a recent article, Fujitsu Eyes Cryptocurrency Trading with Cross-Blockchain Payments Tech. The goal of the platform is to allow two different cryptocurrency networks to interoperate.

Interoperable networks are the future of supply chain, as per a recent article on we need blockchain, but not for the reasons you think, as, implemented properly, it could allow supply chain partners on different platforms to securely, but openly, trade information that multiple partners need access to in an unalterable way.

But that, of course, is easier said than done. Company X might post that it has a 10 Million Renminbi receivable in China that it wants to trade for a 1.5 Million USD receivable in the USA, but even if that is the exact exchange rate, are the two debts equal? Only if both parties can, and will, pay the same amount at the same time. If one debt is due now and one is due in 30 days, there is a cost of capital if one organization has to borrow in the interim to meet cashflow requirements. Also, if both debts are due in 30 days, something could happen within 30 days that would result in one organization being unable to pay its debt for 60 days, and this again could result in a cashflow issue for one party that traded a debt.

As a result, unless both parties pay into a network and the funds can be immediately transferred, then you need a network where parties are trading at negotiated discount rates (subject to credit ratings or other agreed upon factors), and that could get tricky.

We could be left with a situation where each IOU is auctioned off to the highest bidder in one of the counter-party currencies of choice (1.4M USD, 1.0M British Pounds, etc) or the situation where each block is put up with a (set of) offer requirement(s) and the first offer takes it. In the first situation, which requires a fixed time auction over block chain, you have a lot of overhead (and blockchain’s primary application — bitcoin — already takes too much energy), and the second case this could leave trade possibilities on the table.

Unless a truly global currency facilitation fund where a number of entities establish a global bank, each funding in their own currency, and agree to pay out debts in the local currency in an established timeline for each IOU placed on the network, the dream could stay that, a dream. But with a global organization, the global organization would do its own risk checks, insure the risk is acceptable, and then take a cut just like supplier networks and payment networks take a cut. It would be like a bank or an invoice factoring network, but could offer lower costs as it wouldn’t need to exchange currency all the time, could weather currency storms, minimize global transfer (and global transfer costs), and generally improve global trade efficiencies. Just like the Knight’s Templar did when they effectively established one of the first global banks.

What we’re asking is not an easy network to design, but one we need to be thinking about.

Supply Chains Are Complex … and the Earth is Round.

Hey, some of you might not know the earth is round! It’s only been 70 years since the first pictures of earth were taken from an altitude greater than 100 miles in space (and, up until that time, the non-believers could demand visual proof)! (To be precise, the first pictures of Earth as seen from an altitude above 100 miles was on March 7, 1947. Source: NASA)

But to not know that supply chains are complex, when “global” trade is almost as old as civilization (as purchasing is, of course, the world’s second oldest profession until such time as someone can definitely prove astronomy came first), that’s, well, really unthinkable. But yet, APICS and Michigan State University just gave us yet another report that announced yet again that supply chain leaders are citing “complexity” as the top supply chain challenge. Moreover, they decided to dive into the sources of complexity and found, surprise, surprise that they are:

  • customer accommodation
  • operations globalization
  • supplier (local sourcing) complexity
  • supply chain trends

But there’s nothing new here either. Let’s take ‘em one by one.

The number of variations of a product desired is equal to the number of customers you ask. Period. Has always been. Has always will be — so the more customers you try to accommodate, the more complex your product variations, and supporting supply chain, becomes. And we’ve known this since long before Marshall M. Kirkman wrote the first Purchasing Manual.

Of course the supply chain becomes more complex as you go more global. Every locale has the potential to add languages, currencies, culture, local regulatory requirements, logistics challenges, border challenges, and so on and so on.

And then there are all the local issues faces by the suppliers — additional regulatory requirements, sustainability and CSR efforts to stay off of boycott lists, local workforce challenges, local disruption and disaster risks, and so on.

And of course trends affect complexity. They are usually the source … but they are not new issue. As we laid bare in our “future trend expose”, of the 33 trends commonly cited as future trends, only 3 were really relatively new, and only 1 was really a future trend.

Complexity has always been here, and the more global we get, the more complex we get. Nothing has changed, and if it’s not completely obvious at this point, you’re in the wrong profession.

That’s why SI has been preaching optimization and analytics since day one, since those are the only advanced sourcing solutions that can really handle the complexity of modern supply chains.

Procurement Does Need to Worry About Mexico …

In a recent post over on Spend Matters, we were given 3 Reasons Why Procurement Needs to Worry About Mexico. Namely, the facts that:

  • Trump could rewrite, or rescind, trade agreements
  • Financial Barriers could come in many forms and firewall trade
  • Internal unrest (due to rising gas prices, etc.) could disrupt supply

All of these could cause chaos for Mexican dependent supply chains. But this could open up opportunities. Let’s take them one by one

No trade agreement? No problem. Tax hikes can go both ways. The US will impose import quotas and high duties. But so will Mexico, because there will be no reason not too. Sure, the US might buy more from Mexico than Mexico buys from the US, and it might hurt Mexico, but if trade agreements are torn down, it’s not just Mexico that will suffer in this way, and retaliate. As a result, there will be opportunities to sell into other countries. It just takes contingency planning. Start now!

Financial barriers can come from any direction at any time. This is just a reality of global supply chains. Leading supply chains are always monitoring global trade regulations, current and forthcoming duties, new rulings, exchange rates, and other financial barriers — and incentives — and have backup plans to take advantage of changes, and avoid penalties, when necessary. Every barrier that is raised is typically followed by a barrier that is taken down somewhere else by another party looking to take advantage of the shake-up. Those who monitor their global operations will find another door opening for every door that closes.

Mexico, like many countries, has a history of unrest — and a history of dealing with it. This is likely an issue that is being blown out of proportion. It’s true that the unrest, and disruptions, could get worse before they get better, but they are not likely to bring the country to its knees or cause any significant or long-term damage to your supply chain. Basically, it’s just a matter of monitoring for potentially disruptive events, which is something a leading Procurement organization should be doing anyway, and taking preventative action upon the identification of a potentially disruptive event.

In other words, given that an organization, in response to these potential threats, should be:

  • exploring global options,
  • monitoring global tariffs, taxes, exchange rates, and coming changes, and
  • monitoring current events that could potentially impact the organization’s supply chain

the organization can use this to their advantage and identify new global markets before their competitors, take advantages of differences in tariffs and exchange rates to lower costs, and shift supply to backup locations when a primary location is affected, or about to be affected, by an external event. So, Procurement can worry about Mexico, or use it as the reason to finally implement supply chain monitoring, and benefit from that decision.