Make Kitco Your Homepage

Latest market-sensitive news and views - Sept. 19

Kitco News

In House CR Battle It's Republicans Vs. Republicans

OECD forecasts | UAW strike update | Bayer lobbyist | Oil nears $100 | Gas price high

Today's Digital Newspaper


  • Saudi Arabia's Energy minister defended OPEC+ cuts to oil market supply

  • Ag markets today

  • OECD: Global economic slowdown amid interest rate increases, China's weak rebound

  • Eurozone's annual inflation rate in August 2023 revised lower to 5.2%

  • Americans continue to cut back on spending, especially upcoming holiday season

  • UAW threatens more auto strikes amid negotiations with Big Three automakers

  • Gas prices reach yearly peak at $3.88 per gallon

  • North American truckload spot rates are facing additional pressure and volatility


  • In the House it's Republican vs Republican in the battle over a CR


  • Erdogan to discuss Sweden's NATO bid and Ukraine grain deal with NATO chief

  • Wheat prices decline as first ship departs Black Sea port amid escalating tensions


  • DHS proposes reforms to modernize H-2 visa program, enhance worker protections

  • Biden Cabinet members urge 16 states to equitably fund Black land-grant universities


  • On tap: Nomination of Melissa Holyoak to the Federal Trade Commission

  • Don Nikodim, executive director of Mo. Pork Assn., retiring end of January 2024


  • WSJ: China's ex-Foreign Minister Qin Gang reportedly had affair

  • Chinese developers reach debt restructuring deals

  • China shifts from being net importer to becoming world's largest exporter of cars


  • U.S. again denies request to resume WTO appeals process


  • U.S. corn growers challenge EPA science board's findings on ethanol's climate benefits


  • Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) won't run for re-election due to illness

  • Trump to skip Republican debate, focuses on Detroit visit with striking auto workers

  • Upcoming Republican debate stage expected to be smaller than the previous one


  • Senate Dems' strategy re: three-bill fiscal year 2024 appropriations package


  • Sen. McConnell: Biden's handling of southern border a "humanitarian disaster"

  • Trudeau accuses Indian gov't of involvement in Canadian Sikh leader's killing

  • Today's calendar of events


Equities today: Asian and European stocks were mixed overnight. U.S. futures are modestly higher after a favorable dip in EU inflation statistics and upward revisions to global growth while oil continues to climb towards $100. In Asia, Japan -0.8%. Hong Kong +0.3%. China flat. India closed. In Europe, at midday, London +0.1%. Paris +0.3%. Frankfurt -0.1%. Japanese markets were closed on Monday for a national holiday.

U.S. equities yesterday: U.S. equities scored minor gains as traders were focused on the FOMC meeting that gets underway today in Washington (announcement/presser/Fed forecasts on Wednesday). The Dow ended up 6.06 points, 0.02%, at 34,624.30 The Nasdaq rose 1.90 points, 0.01%, at 13,710.24. The S&P 500 moved up 3.21 points, 0.07%, at 4,453.53.

Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman on Monday defended OPEC+ cuts to oil market supply, saying international energy markets need light-handed regulation to limit volatility, while also warning of uncertainty about Chinese demand, European growth and central bank action to tackle inflation. Brent and WTI have climbed for three consecutive weeks to touch their highest since November and are on track for their biggest quarterly increases since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in the first quarter of 2022.

Monday price action: WTI traded up $.71 to close at $91.48. Brent traded up $.50 to close at $94.43.

Quotes of note:

  • Oil rose toward $95 a barrel, extending a surge driven by resilient demand and supply curbs that looks set to ?fan global inflation?. Citi is bearish and expects prices will ease on rising supplies from countries including the U.S.

  • Europe is better prepared if Donald Trump returns to the White House compared with the "total shock" in 2016, Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said. However, others say any return of Trump and his associates could be accelerated action as they would be more experienced than Trump's first term.

  • "Australia is the closest gas supplier we can get. By far, Australia, U.S. and Qatar are the three pillars in LNG supply chain. If any of them is having problems, we would indeed be nervous."— Jane Liao of state-run energy firm CPC Taiwan, on the issues affecting LNG in Australia (Reuters).

  • BoA on FOMC announcement: "We expect the Fed to stay on hold at the September FOMC meeting, consistent with recent Fed communications and current market pricing. Recent data should leave the Fed encouraged by ongoing disinflation but concerned about re-acceleration in inflation because of the strength in activity. ... The biggest focus of the September meeting should be the updated Summary of Economic Projections (SEP). We expect the 2023 median policy rate forecast to show one more 25bp hike, for a terminal rate of 5.5-5.75%. Perhaps the most important forecast is the 2024 median, which we think will shift up by 25bp to 4.875%, reflecting just 75bp of cuts next year."

  • Goldman Sachs economists on FOMC announcement: "The story of the year so far is that solid growth has not derailed either the rebalancing of the labor market or progress in lowering inflation, as one might have feared. In fact, measures of labor market tightness have now returned to roughly their pre-pandemic levels, on average. This means that the desired rebalancing of supply and demand is now largely complete and that further sustained below-potential growth is likely no longer necessary. At their September meeting, Fed officials are likely to make fairly straightforward revisions to their economic projections that reflect these recent developments. For 2023, we expect a substantial upward revision to GDP growth (+1.1pp to +2.1%) and moderate downward revisions to the unemployment rate (-0.2pp to 3.9%) and core inflation (-0.4pp to 3.5%)."

  • Currencies: "This will be the last day of relative calm in markets, ahead of two days packed with big central bank action. Investors are holding on to the dollar into the Fed, which signals expectations for a hawkish hold, while the euro is finding some modest support from speculation of ECB addressing excess liquidity. Canadian CPI may put a BoC hike back on the table." — ING Economics

— OECD: Global economic slowdown amid interest rate increases and China's weak rebound. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) forecasts a global economic slowdown as rising interest rates dampen economic activity, and China's post-pandemic recovery falls short of expectations. According to the latest OECD forecasts, global economic growth is expected to ease to 2.7% in 2024, following an already lackluster expansion of 3% this year. This projection, except for the pandemic-hit year of 2020, would represent the weakest annual growth since the global financial crisis.

The OECD cautioned that the risks to its prediction lean toward the downside. The impact of previous interest rate hikes may be more significant than anticipated, and inflation could persist, necessitating further monetary tightening. The organization has highlighted China's economic struggles as a "key risk" to global output. The OECD stated, "After a stronger-than-expected start to 2023, helped by lower energy prices and the reopening of China, global growth is expected to moderate." Tighter monetary policies are starting to show their effects, with declining business and consumer confidence, and China's rebound losing momentum.

The OECD warned against relaxing central bank policies, citing persistent core-price gains in many countries. It indicated that there is little room for interest rate cuts until well into 2024, emphasizing the need for continued restraint in monetary policy until underlying inflation pressures have significantly subsided.

Looking at regional and country-specific forecasts, the OECD lowered its growth projections for the euro area, expecting a contraction of 0.2% in Germany for 2023, making it the only G20 nation, aside from Argentina, to experience a downturn. While the U.S. is expected to experience stronger growth than previously forecasted in 2023, it is projected to slow to 1.3% in 2024 from 2.2% in 2023.

Notably, China received significant growth downgrades, with its output expected to rise by less than 5% next year due to subdued domestic demand and structural issues in its property markets. The OECD also expressed concerns about the limited potential for effective policy support in China compared to previous periods.

The OECD recommended that governments refrain from additional spending to stimulate growth. Instead, it advised scaling back support measures to create room for future investment challenges and to prevent exacerbating the inflation concerns that central banks are working to contain.

— The Eurozone's annual inflation rate in August 2023 has been revised lower to 5.2%, down from the initial estimate of 5.3%. While this marks the lowest reading since January 2022, it remains well above the European Central Bank's (ECB) target of 2%. In August, the main contributors to inflation were the cost of services (5.5%), followed by food, alcohol, and tobacco (9.7%), and non-energy industrial goods (4.7%). Energy prices continued to decline, albeit at a slower pace (-3.3%).

Compared to the previous month, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 0.5%, slightly below the initial estimate of 0.6%. Notably, the ECB has recently increased its inflation forecasts for 2023 (to 5.6%) and 2024 (to 3.2%), primarily due to a more significant upward trajectory in energy prices. For 2025, the central bank anticipates average inflation of 2.1%.

— Americans continue to cut back on spending, especially during upcoming holiday season. A recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of CNBC reveals that Americans are set to maintain their spending cutbacks, even during the upcoming holiday season. The survey found that a significant majority of adults (92%) have already reduced their spending in the past six months. Looking ahead, 76% of respondents plan to continue cutting expenses for non-essential items, while 62% anticipate reducing spending on essential items, at least occasionally, over the next six months.

The key areas where consumers are making spending cuts have remained consistent, with clothing and apparel (63%), restaurants and bars (62%), and entertainment outside the home (56%) being the top three categories where reductions are most common. This data suggests a cautious approach to personal finances among Americans, potentially driven by economic uncertainties and the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Market perspectives:

— Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index was weaker, with the euro, British pound and yen all firmer against the greenback. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note was slightly higher, trading around 4.33%, with a mixed tone in global government bond yields. Crude oil futures eased from earlier highs, with U.S. crude around $92.60 per barrel and Brent around $95.05 per barrel. Gold and silver futures were higher, with gold around $1,957 per troy ounce and silver around $23.66 per troy ounce.

— UAW threatens more auto strikes amid ongoing negotiations with Big Three automakers. Negotiations between the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the Big Three automakers — General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis — have intensified, with the UAW President, Shawn Fain, issuing a warning that additional strikes could occur as soon as Friday. Ford is currently grappling with a strike involving over 3,000 of its U.S. employees, leading to the shutdown of a major assembly plant in Michigan. While the UAW has initiated strikes at all three unionized U.S. automakers, it has opted to strike only one assembly plant at each company. This has resulted in 12,700 members walking out, while the majority of the 145,000 members at these companies have remained on the job. Fain has indicated that if substantial progress is not made in negotiations by noon on Friday, September 22, more local unions may be called upon to join the strike.

Bottom line: Stellantis described resumed negotiations as "constructive," but union leader Shawn Fain told NPR they have a "long way to go." The UAW has sought raises of 40%, cost-of-living increases, job protections, a 32-hour workweek, and benefits for retirees. Fain has pointed to 40% pay raises for auto maker CEOs over the past four years as the reason why workers deserve comparable increases. Benchmark analyst Michael Ward said the impact of the strikes on the industry has been "minimal thus far," but noted that parts shortages could close additional plants. He estimated the three current strikes will cost the companies a combined $15 million a day in earnings before interest and taxes.

Of note: Hanging over the talks is Tesla's huge lead in the race to develop electric vehicles, with nonunion Tesla also holding a big advantage on hourly labor costs.

Meanwhile, Ford and the Canadian union Unifor agreed to extend the deadline as the union considered a "substantive offer" from Ford on a new contract — the current contract expired Monday night. Ford has two engine plants in Canada that make motors for the F-series and Super Duty pickups that are assembled in the U.S. and any strike at those engine plants could negatively impact production of Ford's most profitable vehicles in the United States.

— Gas prices reach yearly peak at $3.88 per gallon amid global supply cuts and market volatility. Gasoline prices hit $3.88 per gallon, according to AAA. Typically, gas prices tend to decrease after the conclusion of the summer driving season on Labor Day, but this year has seen an unusual trend due to aggressive supply cuts from Saudi Arabia and Russia, which have driven up oil prices. The rally in the oil market has also been fueled by significant flooding in Libya and a reduction in fears of a U.S. recession. While the current national average gas price is notably lower than the record high of $5.02 per gallon recorded in June 2022, prices have risen by 20 cents compared to the same period last year.

Eleven U.S. states are now experiencing average gas prices of $4 or higher per gallon, with California topping the list at $5.69 per gallon, marking a 49-cent increase over the past month. These price spikes reflect a combination of global factors affecting oil production and supply, which have led to increased costs at the pump for American consumers.

Of note: Chevron Chief Executive Officer Mike Wirth said Monday that prices will probably reach $100 a barrel in an interview with Bloomberg television. Premiums for physical barrels are surging, putting the price milestone in sight.

The raw numbers don't take inflation into account. The global oil benchmark first surpassed $100 in February 2008, when China's economic boom sent commodities on a historic run. Adjust for the rise in broad consumer prices over the past 15 years, and Brent stands at $65 a barrel, not $95. This millennium, the average price in 2008 terms has been just under $62 a barrel.

— North American truckload spot rates are facing additional pressure and volatility from the strike actions taken last week from the UAW. This will create supply-chain disruptions and increase slack capacity, and may reverse the tightening over the past two weeks, Bloomberg Intelligence says.


In the House it's Republican vs Republican in the battle over a continuing resolution (CR). Republicans will discuss their plan at the GOP conference meeting today. Updates:

  • House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) would not say if he had enough Republican support to pass his proposal, but told reporters lawmakers may be in Washington through the weekend working on a deal. "We're going to bring new ideas up," he said, "and we're going to work until we get this done. We're not leaving this weekend."

  • "[Monday night's] proposal in the House can be boiled down to two words: slapdash, reckless," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor Monday. "Again: this Freedom Caucus wish list is not a serious proposal for avoiding a government shutdown, and if passed, it would never have enough votes to make it through the Senate."

  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), ranking on the House Rules Committee, said: "And, of course, we have a continuing resolution that was negotiated between the far right and the extreme far right of the Republican Party. No input from House Democrats, no input from Senate Democrats. Hell, no input from Senate Republicans. Certainly nothing from the administration… I can't stress this enough. This is all a waste of time."

  • Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), who played a part in negotiating the deal, said the continuing resolution would allow conservatives to continue to push for deeper cuts in the appropriations process. "We would also have an ability to actually cut federal spending, and to still continue our work to get meaningful cuts for the appropriations bills to actually have a government that does its job, but no more," Donalds said before a meeting in McCarthy's office Monday. "My job is just to present an opportunity or a plan and see if it can work. And you know, for my colleagues who disagree, I would ask them, what's your plan? What's your strategy?"

  • If House Republicans can't agree on a spending patch, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said, "then it looks like we're heading to a shutdown… We've got to give Speaker McCarthy the room he needs to try to figure that out," Cornyn added, as House conservatives lined up to blast the Californian's latest proposal. "He pulled a rabbit out of the hat on the debt ceiling. So, I wouldn't underestimate him."

  • Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) said on local television that she was on an hour-and-a-half call with the House Freedom Caucus and the group believes Washington was heading for "at least" a "10-day government shutdown."

  • "The thing that would force the motion to vacate is if Kevin has to rely on Democrat votes to pass a CR," Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said. "I don't think it has legs until Kevin relies on Democrats." Buck acknowledged he didn't see how a CR can pass "without Democrat votes."

Bottom line: The Rules Committee passed the rule Monday night for the GOP-drafted CR, which was designed to keep federal agencies open until Nov. 1 while cutting spending and implementing harsh border security measures. The House will vote on this rule today — there is doubt that any rule can pass. McCarthy has said he will bring a vote Thursday, despite opposition. Many believe there will be at least a brief shutdown starting Oct. 1, though it's not clear what the exit strategy would be or what would possibly convince McCarthy's detractors to shelve their objections and allow government funding to resume. "The other alternative that I see right now, is that you let the government shut down, you let the Senate do a bill, the House gets jammed, you haven't gotten any wins on savings, and you haven't gotten wins on border," Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), a close McCarthy ally, said Monday.

Republicans can only afford to lose four votes if all their members are present (there are some medical- and family-related absences in the House). GOP objections quickly surpassed that total. Conservative Reps. Dan Bishop (N.C.), Eli Crane (Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Bob Good (Va.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Anna Paulina Luna (Fla.), Andy Ogles (Tenn.), Matt Rosendale (Mont.), and Victoria Spartz (Ind.) all posted on X they oppose the measure.

House Rules Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said yesterday he's not sure if it'll help to tweak the bill, saying the major question yesterday was if leaders would press ahead with a vote even if they don't have a majority behind it. "Sometimes you put things on the floor and let them fail, so the people who made it fail put their fingerprints on it," Cole, who's also vice chair of the Appropriations Committee, told reporters yesterday.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) is going to review his proposed FY 2024 budget resolution. That measure will be voted on in the Budget Committee on Wednesday. A budget resolution doesn't fund the government. It's meant to come earlier in the year to set the framework for later appropriations bills, though it's been ignored in recent years.

Of note: America's gross national debt exceeded $33 trillion for the first time on Monday, providing a stark reminder of the country's shaky fiscal trajectory at a moment when Washington faces the prospect of a gov't shutdown this month amid another fight over federal spending, the New York Times reports. The Treasury Department noted the milestone in its daily report detailing the nation's balance sheet.


— Erdogan to discuss Sweden's NATO bid and Ukraine grain deal with NATO chief. Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to address Sweden's bid for NATO membership and Turkey's efforts to revive a U.N.-backed agreement allowing Ukraine to export grains via the Black Sea.

Erdogan has linked Sweden's NATO bid to concerns about anti-Turkey protests involving Kurdish groups in Sweden, delaying the ratification process. He also expressed disappointment over the US linking Sweden's NATO entry to F-16 sales and emphasized the importance of preventing hostility towards Islam.

Erdogan aims to discuss reviving the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine during his meetings in New York.

— Wheat prices decline as first ship departs Ukraine's Black Sea port amid escalating tensions. The departure of the first grain ship from Ukraine's Chornomorsk port, despite Russia's effective blockade of Black Sea facilities since the breakdown of a safe-passage agreement in July, has led to a further drop in wheat prices, Bloomberg reports (link). One of the vessels has left Chornomorsk carrying 3,000 tons of wheat, en route to the Bosphorus, as reported by Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov on social media. Another ship, loaded with wheat bound for Egypt, remains at the port.

The impact of Kyiv's efforts to establish a corridor for grain exports remains uncertain, with close attention on Russia's response, which has previously indicated it would view ships heading to Ukraine's ports as potential carriers of weapons. In August, the Russian navy fired upon a vessel, compelling it to halt for inspection.

Ukraine, a significant grain exporter, has faced challenges in shipping its agricultural products from Black Sea ports due to the blockade since Moscow's exit from a UN and Turkey-brokered agreement. This has forced Kyiv to rely on complex and costly river, rail, and road routes for its crop exports, which have also come under threat from Russian drones.

While the potential reopening of sea ports could revive trade routes, concerns loom over the increasing risks in the Black Sea, deterring shipowners, crews, and insurers. Following the collapse of the grain deal, five vessels departed from Odesa, but they were ships that had been stranded in Ukraine since the start of the conflict, rather than dedicated grain trade vessels.

Market impact: Wheat futures have declined by approximately 26% this year due to bumper harvests in various Northern Hemisphere regions, including Russia. Analysts attribute the ongoing price pressure to Russia's strong exports and the possibility of exports resuming through ports involved in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.


— DHS proposes reforms to modernize H-2 visa program, enhance worker protections. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has unveiled a new rule proposal aimed at modernizing the H-2 visa program, which includes major changes to improve worker protections and streamline processes. Some of the key provisions within the proposal encompass the introduction of whistleblower protections and the strengthening of penalties for employers charging prohibited fees to visa workers.

Of particular concern is the vulnerability of H-2A visa holders, who have faced documented risks of exploitation, trafficking, and abuse within the program. This proposal seeks to address these issues, potentially benefiting over 370,000 current H-2A employees and future applicants.

The rule aims to reduce "structural disincentives" that hinder workers from reporting abuse. Additionally, it eliminates the requirement that H-2A workers can only switch to employers in good standing with the E-Verify system, simplifying administrative procedures. The original limitation was designed to promote the use of E-Verify and reduce unauthorized work in the agricultural sector.

The proposed rule clarifies that H-2 visa workers can take steps toward becoming lawful permanent residents while maintaining their visa status. Currently, there is no pathway to citizenship through the program, and this change is intended to ensure that employees are not deterred from pursuing this option due to concerns about altering their lawful nonimmigrant status.

— Biden Cabinet members urge 16 states to equitably fund historically Black land-grant universities. Two members of the Biden administration's cabinet, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, called upon 16 states to provide more equitable funding for historically Black land-grant universities established under the Second Morrill Act of 1890. In letters addressed to each state's governor, Cardona and Vilsack highlighted the persistent underinvestment in these institutions, which they argued has placed students, faculty, and surrounding communities at a disadvantage.

Cardona and Vilsack pointed out that the 1890 law obliges states to provide equitable funding for both sets of colleges. However, the letters revealed that, except for Delaware and Ohio, states have generally favored the 1862 schools. Discrepancies in funding over the past 30 years have ranged from $172 million in Kentucky to over $2 billion in North Carolina and Tennessee, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

In their letters, Cardona and Vilsack expressed the desire to collaboratively address this long-standing issue, emphasizing the potential for avoiding costly litigation. They suggested measures such as increased state support for the historically Black land-grant universities to rectify the funding disparities.


— Nomination of Melissa Holyoak to the Federal Trade Commission is among those considered during a Senate Commerce hearing Wednesday.

— Don Nikodim, executive director of the Missouri Pork Association, announced he will be retiring at the end of January 2024. A search is underway for a new CEO and applications are being accepted for the position through Oct. 10 at the Missouri Pork Association's office in Columbia.

Comments: I have known Don for years and have spoken at the Missouri Pork Association's annual meeting more than a few times. He initially got me to the annual event and over the years made sure he introduced me to many of the state's ag industry officials and the state's congressional leaders. Another class act retiring.


WSJ: China's ex-Foreign Minister Qin Gang reportedly had an affair. The ousted Chinese foreign minister's extramarital affair led to the birth of a child in the U.S., the WSJ reported. Qin's affair lasted throughout his tenure as Beijing's top envoy to Washington. The WSJ said senior Chinese officials were told last month the reason for his dismissal was "lifestyle issues." Qin served as the Chinese ambassador to the US from July 2021 until January this year.

— Chinese developers reach debt restructuring deals. Chinese developers Sunac China Holdings Ltd. and Country Garden brought some relief to China's property sector after forging debt deals with creditors. Creditors of Sunac approved its $9 billion offshore debt restructuring plan. Country Garden won approval from creditors to extend repayment on another onshore bond, the last of eight bonds it has been seeking extensions for. Even amid the debt restructuring and measures by Beijing to prop up the property sector, house prices have continued to decline, leaving a cloud of uncertainty.

— China has shifted from being a net importer to becoming the world's largest exporter of cars. Chinese electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers, particularly BYD, are positioned to potentially double their global market share by 2030, according to Paul Gong, the head of China auto research at UBS Investment Bank. UBS's estimates for BYD Seal, the latest-generation model from China's leading automaker, suggest a 16% gross margin and a 5% EBIT margin.

One of BYD's key advantages lies in its utilization of China as a global production hub, coupled with high vertical integration. This combination provides BYD with a sustainable 25% cost advantage over its competitors, as noted by the analyst. Additionally, UBS anticipates that certain prominent Chinese EV companies will expand their production activities on a global scale, with a particular focus on Europe. This strategy aligns with the fact that both Europe and China share similar preferences for the most popular vehicle segments, such as small and compact crossovers and sports utility vehicles (SUVs).


— U.S. again denies request to resume the World Trade Organization (WTO) appeals process, marking the 68th rejection of such a request. This process pertains to the appointment of new judges to the WTO's appeals panel, which has remained stagnant since 2019 during the Trump administration, with the U.S. consistently opposing the appointment of new members.

Tai to speak. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced that USTR Katherine Tai will address the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Friday, outlining plans for reforming the WTO. Tai is expected to emphasize the need for reform within the WTO to transform it into a more effective, responsive, and inclusive platform for addressing global challenges. Additionally, she will highlight areas of reform that are of paramount importance to the U.S. and discuss the country's engagement with other WTO members to advance these priorities.

USTR Tai will engage in a fireside chat with WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. It remains to be seen how detailed Tai's remarks will be concerning WTO reforms, but it is crucial to note that any reforms would require the approval of WTO members, which is currently uncertain.

Of note: This marks the beginning of the U.S. efforts to advocate for reforms within the WTO.


— U.S. corn growers challenge EPA science board's conclusions on ethanol's climate benefits. The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) expressed criticism of a draft report from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Science Advisory Board (SAB), which questions whether increasing ethanol usage can significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions versus gasoline or diesel. The draft report, slated for discussion at the SAB's upcoming meeting, calls on the EPA to carefully examine the scientific evidence surrounding claims that corn ethanol offers lower lifecycle GHG emissions than petroleum-based fuels.

The draft report states that determining whether corn starch ethanol use reduces GHG emissions relative to gasoline and diesel is crucial in assessing the Renewable Fuel Standard's (RFS) impact on climate. It suggests there is a reasonable chance that substituting corn ethanol for gasoline or diesel may result in minimal or no climate benefits, prompting the SAB to recommend further research into the role of the RFS in reducing GHG emissions.

The report highlights the need for additional scientific research, particularly on issues related to land use, such as the impact of increased ethanol demand due to the RFS on cropland expansion versus corn production. It also emphasizes the necessity of studying the water and climate consequences of nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizers used in corn cultivation.

The draft report suggests that offering incentives for corn ethanol based on the cultivation and processing methods of the corn feedstock could reduce uncertainty regarding ethanol's lifecycle GHG emissions. It encourages the EPA to explore the feasibility of providing incentives to ethanol producers using carbon capture technology and adopting climate-smart agricultural practices for corn feedstock.

In response, the NCGA criticized the report's conclusions, citing research supporting their assertion that corn ethanol has significantly lower lifecycle GHG emissions compared to petroleum-based fuels. The NCGA cited studies, including research from the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and academic research, which showed substantial GHG emission reductions from corn ethanol.

NCGA CEO, Neil Caskey, expressed concern over the SAB report in a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, highlighting the multitude of studies confirming the environmental benefits of corn ethanol. Caskey also challenged the report's claims regarding land use, emphasizing the consistent productivity improvements in corn farming, which have led to higher yields using less land. Caskey argued that any measures hampering ethanol usage could complicate President Biden's climate goals, which are likely to require biofuels like corn ethanol for success. He urged EPA to consider the extensive research and scientific evidence supporting ethanol's environmental benefits before taking further actions related to this biofuel. Caskey is set to deliver verbal remarks to the SAB during its upcoming meeting.


— Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) won't run for re-election due to illness, setting up a competitive contest in a key suburban region outside Washington as Democrats seek to regain the House majority. Citing a new diagnosis of atypical Parkinson's disease, the Virginia Democrat said she has progressive supranuclear palsy.

— Trump to skip Republican debate, focuses on Detroit visit with striking auto workers. Donald Trump's campaign officially announced that he will not participate in the upcoming Republican presidential debate on Sept. 27, opting instead to visit the Detroit area to engage with striking auto workers. Trump had previously hinted at his intention to skip the debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California, citing his substantial lead in several Republican polls. The Trump campaign released a schedule confirming his visit to Michigan, scheduled for a week from Wednesday. While specific details are still being finalized, it is anticipated that Trump will deliver a speech addressing members of various unions, notably auto workers. Michigan is poised to be a pivotal battleground state in the upcoming general election, making Trump's visit to engage with these workers a strategically significant move.

— Upcoming Republican debate stage is expected to be smaller than the previous one, with two GOP candidates, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, yet to meet the polling requirements needed for qualification. According to an NBC News analysis of the Republican National Committee's debate criteria, this could result in just six Republicans participating in the second debate, excluding Donald Trump, who plans to skip the event in favor of addressing UAW workers in Detroit (see related item).

The six candidates who have met the criteria (in alphabetical order) are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Qualifying for the debate stage is crucial as it can significantly impact a candidate's visibility and support.

Mayor Francis Suarez dropped out of the GOP presidential race after failing to qualify for the first debate. Similarly, former Congressman Will Hurd and conservative radio host Larry Elder, who didn't make it to the stage, have received limited attention.

The performance at the debate also matters, as it can influence a candidate's poll numbers. Notably, Nikki Haley's national poll numbers rose after her strong performance, while Tim Scott's declined after a quieter debut.

There is still a possibility that Burgum, Hutchinson, or other candidates could meet the polling requirements before the Monday night deadline. It's important to note that the Republican National Committee has the final say on who qualifies for the debate stage.


— Senate Democrats moved to overcome a procedural blockade of a three-bill fiscal 2024 appropriations package Monday as a small group of conservatives who want to consider bills one at a time continued to hold up the process. Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.), moved to suspend a Senate rule and filed cloture on that motion to limit debate, paving the way for a potential cloture vote on Wednesday. The $279 billion package combines the Senate Agriculture (S 2131), Military Construction-VA (S 2127) and Transportation-HUD (S 2437) measures. The vote for cloture will require 60 affirmative votes, while the vote on the motion to suspend Rule XVI will require a two-thirds majority.

Rule XVI requires amendments to appropriations bills to be germane. Adding the Agriculture and Transportation-HUD bills to the House-passed Military Construction-VA measure would not be considered germane under the rule, thereby requiring the rule to be suspended. The last time the Senate voted on a motion to suspend Rule XVI was 20 years ago, on a fiscal 2004 foreign aid appropriations bill.


— Biden administration's handling of the southern border "has descended into a humanitarian disaster," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). He criticized a provision of the administration's proposed supplemental funding that would allow U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to use appropriated funds to provide housing to refugees and asylum-seekers.

— Trudeau accuses Indian government of involvement in Canadian Sikh leader's killing, diplomatic tensions rise. Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has made a startling claim, alleging "credible allegations" that Indian government agents played a role in the fatal shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian Sikh leader, in British Columbia in June. Trudeau reportedly discussed this issue with India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, during the recent G20 summit. In response, India has dismissed these accusations as "absurd," leading to a diplomatic rift between the two nations, resulting in the expulsion of diplomats from both sides. Notably, Hardeep Singh Nijjar had been an advocate for the establishment of a Sikh separatist state in northern India and had been labeled a "terrorist" by the Indian government. These allegations and the subsequent diplomatic actions have heightened tensions between Canada and India.

— Calendar of events today include:

Tuesday, Sept. 19

  • New farm bill. Bipartisan Policy Center discussion on "The 2023 Farm Bill: Realizing the Conservation, Innovation and Jobs Trifecta." Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) discusses outlook for passage of a farm bill in 2023 as part of a "fireside chat" with Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), a former committee chairman.

  • USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and House Ag Chair G.T. Thompson (R-Pa.) speak at the Axios conference on sustainability and food insecurity.

  • U.K. development policy. Center for Global Development virtual discussion on "The Future of U.K. Policy on Development."

  • Clinton Foundation. Clinton Foundation 2023 meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative with participation from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

  • SEC and cryptocurrency. Securities and Exchange Commission 2023 Securities Enforcement Forum Central conference with a focus on cryptocurrencies and financial disclosure.

  • Nuclear energy. Final day of the Atlantic Council Nuclear Energy Policy Summit 2023 with the theme "Accelerating Net Zero Nuclear."

  • Veterans and rural health. Veterans Affairs Department meeting of the Veterans Rural Health Advisory Committee.

  • Global challenges. Atlantic Council virtual discussion on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly on "evolving challenges and how to keep them at the top of the global agenda."

  • Green corruption. Wilson Center's Environmental Change and Security Program discussion on "Combating Green Corruption: Fighting Financial Crime as a Driver of Environmental Degradation."

  • Impact of Ukraine war on Belarus. German Marshall Fund of the United States virtual discussion on "The Impact of the War in Ukraine on the Political Situation in Belarus: Three Short-Term Scenarios."

  • The next pandemic. Center for Global Development virtual discussion on "Preparing for the Next Pandemic: Should Genomic Surveillance be a Priority for Low- and Middle-Income Countries?"

  • SEC and small businesses. Securities and Exchange Commission meeting of the Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee on matters relating to rules and regulations affecting small and emerging businesses and their investors under the federal securities laws.

  • War in Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific. Center for Strategic and International Studies discussion on "lessons from the war in Ukraine, the role of ground forces in the Indo-Pacific, Army modernization priorities, and more."

  • U.S./India cooperation. Hudson Institute discussion on "Furthering U.S./India Security Cooperation."

  • SEC oversight. House Financial Services Capital Markets Subcommittee hearing on "Oversight of the SEC's Division of Investment Management."

  • CHIPS Act review. House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on "Chips on the Table: A one year review of the Chips and Science Act." Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo testifies.

  • FEMA readiness. House Transportation and Infrastructure Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee hearing on "FEMA: The Current State of Disaster Readiness, Response, and Recovery."

  • Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Evading Accountability: Corporate Manipulation of Chapter 11 Bankruptcy."

  • Future of the Russian military. Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments virtual discussion on "The Future of the Russian Military."

  • Current threats. Brookings Institution discussion on homeland security and "the current threat environment."

  • Government cybersecurity. House Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Subcommittee hearing on "Evaluating CISA's (Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency) Federal Civilian Executive Branch Cybersecurity Programs."

  • Onshore oil and gas leasing. House Natural Resources Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee hearing on "Examining the Biden Administration's Mismanagement of the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Program."

  • Infrastructure issues. Homeland Security Department meeting of the President's National Infrastructure Advisory Council.

  • Businesses and crime. U.S. Chamber of Commerce virtual discussion on "Keeping America's Business Safe: Effective Prosecution to Combat Crime."

  • HVDC electric transmission. American Council on Renewable Energy virtual discussion on "The Planning, Operational and Marketing Benefits of High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) Transmission for System Operators."

  • Mergers and antitrust issues. American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research discussion on "Revising the Horizontal Merger Guidelines: The Path Forward," focusing on antitrust issues.

  • Regulatory overreach. House Financial Services Financial Institutions and Monetary Policy Subcommittee hearing on "A Holistic Review of Regulators: Regulatory Overreach and Economic Consequences."

  • Constitutional amendments. House Judiciary Constitution and Limited Government Subcommittee (Chair Mike Johnson, R-La.) of House Judiciary Committee hearing on "Examining Proposed Constitutional Amendments."

  • Bidenomics. House Oversight and Accountability Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee hearing on "Bidenomics: A Perfect Storm of Spending, Debt, and Inflation."

  • House Energy and Commerce ‘member day.' House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on "Member Day."

  • FY 2024 budget: FCC. Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on "Review of the FY 2024 Budget for the Federal Communications Commission."

  • January 6 insurrection. House Administration Oversight Subcommittee hearing on "Oversight of United States Capitol Security: Assessing Security Failures on January 6, 2021."

  • Uyghurs. Atlantic Council virtual discussion on "From Holding the Line to Requiring a Robust International Response to the Atrocities Against the Uyghurs," from the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

  • Security in the Black Sea region. Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion on "The Future of Security in the Black Sea Region."
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. The author has made every effort to ensure accuracy of information provided; however, neither Kitco Metals Inc. nor the author can guarantee such accuracy. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in commodities, securities or other financial instruments. Kitco Metals Inc. and the author of this article do not accept culpability for losses and/ or damages arising from the use of this publication.