Today's Top Supply Chain and Logistics News From WSJ
By Paul Page
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A new trade battleground is forming and it's in the laundry room. Whirlpool Corp. is asking the U.S. International Trade Commission to support tough new actions to stave off what the washing machine maker says is unfair competition from South Korea. Moves to back Whirlpool would push the increasingly aggressive U.S. trade stance into new and strongly protectionist territory, the WSJ's Andrew Tangel writes, by reviving a long-dormant measure that requires only that a U.S. industry has suffered "serious injury" from foreign competition. Whirlpool says it's getting dinged by South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc., which have made inroads in the U.S. in recent years with their sleek appliance designs. Whirlpool has won some regulatory skirmishes with the South Korean producers, but its push for stronger actions are putting the manufacturer at the center of a larger tug-of-war in Washington between free-trade skeptics and those who argue the competition from abroad builds a market that's more efficient and affordable for consumers.
While the appliance makers battle over potential tariffs, the U.S. and South Korea are moving toward changing their trade agreement. The countries' top trade officials agreed in a meeting in Washington to amend the U.S.-Korea pact known as Korus, the WSJ's William Mauldin and Kwanwoo Jun report, although there was no suggestion of what parts of the deal they want to address. Business groups that back the free trade agreement are likely to be reassured by the relative calm of this week's meeting, which came after sharp criticism of the deal a few weeks ago from President Donald Trump. The Trump administration recently considered taking steps to exit from the trade pact, but those deliberations coincided with North Korean missile tests. And unlike the barbs that have marked the talks around the North American Free Trade Agreement, the countries in this case are aiming to change the deal rather than start from scratch with a complete renegotiation.
Sears is barely hanging on in Canada, caught between lenders who want to liquidate the retailer and managers who want to keep a slimmed-down version of the business open. Sears Canada Inc.'s top executive is making a last-ditch effort to patch together financing to buy the business, the WSJ's Andrew Scurria and Jacquie McNish report, while creditors want to sell off the assets and quickly get what they can. They're rushing to get Sears' fate settled before the Christmas selling season, when the inventory will lose its value as the holidays near. The battle marks a grim finale for the Canadian edition of the iconic retailer, and the latest result of the dramatic change in the retail landscape triggered by online sales. A decision on Sears Canada Executive Chairman Brandon Stranzl's buyout bid could come this week. Among the pieces potentially up for grabs: the company's S.L.H. Transport Inc. logistics business.
ECONOMY & TRADE
The U.S. is becoming an export powerhouse in an unlikely arena.U.S. crude oil exports surged to 1.984 million barrels a day last week, the WSJ's Alison Sider reports, busting by nearly 500,000 barrels a day a record that had been set only the week before. The crude export rate is approaching a level that is almost as much as Kuwait sends abroad and the latest sign that the U.S. is remaking the global oil distribution map as it resets its own domestic energy production. The U.S. is still an oil importer. But net imports of crude fell to a record low last week, and analysts at Citigroup said almost all of the imported crude last week was from Canada, writing that the data was "a harbinger of a more sustainable trend to come." The U.S. is gaining sales because the crude is cheaper than oil from other markets, and the revenue may help draw investment for even more exporting capacity.
Apparently not satisfied with cornering the market in various retail sectors Amazon.com Inc. is also looking to lock up the top business talent. The Seattle-based retail giant is now the No. 1 recruiter at some of the top business schools in the country, the WSJ's Kelsey Gee writes, and the biggest internship destination at prestigious schools including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Amazon's aggressive approach is drawing a big following, upending campus recruiting and blocking other companies that rely on B-school hires. It's a familiar pattern in other areas such as logistics, where Amazon has scaled up quickly by luring large numbers of executives that have helped build a sprawling fulfillment network. At business schools, Amazon is outpacing traditional big recruiters like Bain & Co. or McKinsey & Co. -- consultants that typically hire hundreds of graduates a year to help companies figure out how to respond to tough market competition.