Friday, November 18, 2016

FT LatAm Viva For 18 November, 2016

10:44 AM (5 hours ago)
to me
Plan B
By Jude Webber 
November 18, 2016
Plan B. That was the recurring theme in Latin America this week as Mexico tries to prepare for whatever a Donald Trump presidency will bring; China tries to recalibrate Asia-Pacific trade; and Colombia and Farc rebels try another stab at peace.
Mexico, the country most impacted by the US election shock, went into full “Keep Calm and Carry On” mode. José Antonio Meade sought to reassure investors that the economy is Trump-proof. But both he and the Bank of Mexico had to admit there is still a lot of wait-and-see going on. That’s a polite way of saying “things could get plenty worse yet”.
The peso currency, pulped since the election, has steadied a bit in recent sessions, which gave Banxico pause to raise rates by “just” another 50 basis points, to 5.25 per cent. To put that in context, some analysts had been recommending a 100-200bp increase after the election. But the central bank has still jacked up the cost of borrowing by a whopping 200bp this year, including this latest move as the peso’s inexorable slide has deepened. 
And with so little yet known about who Mr Trump plans to appoint to key jobs or what his policies will end up being, Banxico took the prudent step of warning the markets more raises may be needed. Mark your calendars for December 15, the next monetary policy meeting, and a day after the US Fed’s decision that is expected to deliver a 25bp increase.
So could this be the calm before the storm? Mr Trump has toned down some of his rhetoric but still seems wedded to deporting as many as 3m criminal immigrants, building at least sections of his “beautiful” border wall (for which this Israeli company is already gearing up) and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexico is hoping that won’t end up killing Nafta and slapping 35 per cent tariffs on manufactured goods, another idea he has flirted with. There have been earnest messages from Claudia Ruiz Massieu, the foreign minister, telling compatriots north of the border that “we’re with you”. But no concrete Plan B yet.
Another country needing an urgent Plan B is Venezuela. Spare a thought for the shoppers elated at seeing powdered milk back on shelves, but unable to buy it because it costs a fifth of the minimum wage -  and more than half the price of a subsidised bag of 14kg of basic goods.
Pacific Rim leaders gather in Lima for a trade summit this weekend as China is working on a Plan B of its own now given the unlikely prospect of the Trump presidency approving the Trans-Pacific Partnership (from which Beijing had been excluded). China is  trying to seize the mantle of lead advocate of Asia-Pacific economic integration from the US, and Beijing is not sitting on its hands in Latin America either.
Colombia’s government and FARC rebels tried their own Plan B, signing a new and “better” peace deal after their last one was rejected in a referendum.
Brazil, meanwhile, scored another high-profile head on a spike for alleged corruption: the former governor of Rio de Janeiro state was arrested for allegedly extracting bribes for the $500m renovation of the Maracanã stadium for the 2014 Fifa World Cup, and other projects.
And for the FT’s special report on maternal and child health, I reported on El Salvador’s draconian abortion laws and Sam Pearson on zika births in Brazil.
Quote of the week
“Mexico is so cheap now. As soon as people realise [Trump] is not going to drop a nuclear bomb on Mexico, that’s a pretty good buy” – Jan Dehn, head of research at Ashmore Investment Management.
Chart of the week
Latin America most vulnerable to Trump policies (Premium)
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The week in review
El Salvador’s anti-abortion laws: ‘an aggressive, punitive attack on women’
Rights groups have denounced the draconian laws under which women can be put behind bars for aggravated murder
Brazil's Cade gives Qatar Airways the all-clear for Latam stake
Spirited away: on the mezcal trail in Mexico
Mezcal’s growing popularity in hip cocktail bars around the world is drawing visitors to its source — rustic distilleries in the hills of Oaxaca
Latin America most vulnerable to Trump policies
Trade and remittance flows vulnerable to protectionism and immigration reform
Mexico raises rates in response to Trump victory
Central bank says it will take further action if needed after half-point rise
Mexico selects winning tender for national wholesale mobile network
Former Rio governor arrested over alleged stadium bribes
Sérgio Cabral accused of taking payments for 2014 World Cup Maracanã renovation
Handouts offer little relief in Venezuela’s food crisis
Government tries to shore up dwindling support with programme of subsidised basic goods
Mexico tries to reassure investors after Trump win
Six things to watch for following the peso’s plunge and Thursday’s expected rate rise
Temer moves to restore confidence in Brazilian real
President lists economic achievements as currency plunges after Donald Trump victory
Colombia reaches revised peace deal with Farc rebels
Accord to end 50-year conflict comes after referendum rejection of earlier agreement
Cuba, unlikely home to Rolex’s longest-standing repairman
We go in search of him, and ask what time means to a country that can seem stranded in 1959