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Employees work on the assembly line of the Tiguan model, at the Volkswagen car plant in Puebla, central Mexico in 2018.

PEDRO PARDO | AFP | Getty Images

China and the United States are disrupting trade in much of world with their trade war — but Mexico may be a winner.

Despite fresh hopes among investors for a peaceful conclusion, the trade conflict that began between the world’s two biggest economies more than a year ago shows no substantive signs of ending.

But amid all the chaos, Mexico is coming out on top, said John Murphy, senior vice president for international policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Mexico, he said, has been able to build on its emergence as a manufacturing hub “with free-trade agreements that offer guaranteed access to more than 50 foreign countries.”

“Mexico has a number of key advantages in comparison to other cheaper labor options, predominantly in the Southeast Asian region, as a manufacturing and export platform,” Murphy outlined via email for CNBC.

  1. Mexico’s close proximity to the U.S. market and tariff-free access it enjoys with the United States
  2. A relatively minor cultural gap between the U.S. and Mexico that has improved drastically over the years
  3. Substantial degree of integration between the two countries:
    – 36 million Americans of Mexican descent 
    – hundreds of billions in annual bilateral trade
    – more than $100 billion in U.S. direct investment in Mexico
  4. Infrastructure connections domestically and cross-border that continue to improve

Much of the discussion about countries benefiting from the trade war has focused on smaller nations in Asia such as Vietnam, or other economies whose companies have shifted operations home from China.

This month, investment bank Nomura published a report that picked Mexico as a trade-war winner from outside Asia.

Nomura’s Sonal Varma and Michael Loo clarified that companies in most cases are not “completely shutting down their factories in China,” but “gradually moving a certain proportion of the production out of China.”

But at any rate, Nomura pointed out that Mexico has seen six new factories open between April 2018 and August 2019 in a range of sectors: electrical equipment, electronics, and automobiles and components.

US-Canada-Mexico trade deal

Mexico has always been a top destination for U.S. companies in search of cheaper labor. Mexico, the United States and Canada last year signed a new trade deal — the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA — which is designed to replace NAFTA.

Trade in goods and services between the U.S. and Mexico totaled an estimated $671.0 billion in 2018, making it America’s third largest goods trading partner, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

The U.S. goods trade deficit with Mexico was $81.5 billion in 2018, a 14.9% increase ($10.6 billion) over 2017, according to official data.

Among the 2018 top export list from Mexico to the U.S. machinery made up $46 billion, electrical machinery $43 billion, mineral fuels $34 billion, vehicles $22 billion, and plastics $18 billion, according to official data.

“Transition from NAFTA to USMCA will be smooth,” said Murphy of the U.S. Chamber, who predicted that “the future is bright for North American trade, regardless of what happens next in the U.S.-China trade talks.”

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NYSE owner ICE launches deliverable bitcoin futures contracts

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Intercontinental Exchange, the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, launched its bitcoin futures contracts late Sunday, in a move aimed at enticing investors who have hesitated about trading the cryptocurrency.

The first trade in the new contracts was executed on ICE’s futures exchange at 8:02 p.m. ET at a price of $10,115, Bakkt, the firm behind the contracts, said in a Twitter post. Bakkt is an ICE-backed venture which aims to make trading and paying with cryptocurrencies viable for retail and institutional investors alike.

The futures are physically deliverable, meaning they pay out in bitcoin upon settlement. That’s different to ICE competitor CME Group, which introduced its own futures contracts for the digital currency in 2017 which paid out in cash. Physical settlement is used for other markets like bonds, oil, cattle and metals.

Cryptocurrency fans will hope ICE’s bitcoin futures, which are federally regulated, can provide some much-needed legitimacy to an asset class that has been mired in controversy following illicit activity in the still nascent industry.

Bitcoin is also known for its wild volatility — for example, a late 2017 bubble which saw prices rise close to $20,000 burst the following year. Since then, the cryptocurrency has been on the rise this year, with experts attributing the price jump to big firms like ICE and Facebook, with its planned libra cryptocurrency, getting involved in the space.

Futures contracts, legal agreements to buy or sell a commodity at a certain price and time, are a way for investors to bet on whether the underlying asset’s value will rise or fall. In the ICE’s case, investors can trade in daily or monthly futures, according to its website.

Bakkt, which partnered with ICE to launch the derivatives, also counts Microsoft venture arm M12 and Boston Consulting Group as investors. The company teamed up with coffee chain Starbucks last year to allow people and institutions to buy, sell, store and send cryptocurrencies.

Attempts at launching bitcoin futures have been faced with problems in the past. Cboe Global Markets, which launched its own contracts in late 2017, said earlier this year that it would stop adding new ones. Meanwhile, U.S. firm LedgerX was forced to backtrack from a launch of physically settled bitcoin futures after a key markets regulator said it had “not yet been approved.”

ICE’s move was met with a mostly tepid reaction in spot markets, with bitcoin’s price rising just 0.5% higher to about $9,950.

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‘Disaster’ for Hong Kong if it loses status as financial center: China Citic Capital

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If Hong Kong loses its status as one of Asia’s top financial centers, it would be disastrous for the Asian financial hub, said the founder and chief executive officer of Citic Capital.

There is “no lack of competition for financial centers,” said Zhang Yichen, who is also chairman at the investment firm — a Hong Kong-based alternative investment arm of the Chinese financial conglomerate Citic Group.

Investors can turn to other cities like Singapore, Tokyo and Shanghai to access global capital markets, he told CNBC’s Amanda Drury at the Singapore Summit on Saturday.

“I think if Hong Kong doesn’t shape up, you shouldn’t have a sense of entitlement (that) it has to be the financial center,” he said. If the territory should lose that status, it “spells disaster because that’s the only industry these days that’s competitive.”

Protests in Hong Kong erupted more than three months ago over a now-withdrawn extradition bill, which would have paved the way for suspects in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial. While the pro-democracy protests started out as relatively peaceful in June, they have since turned increasingly violent.

Hong Kong protestors on Sunday trampled on a Chinese flag, vandalized a subway station and set fire across a wide street, the Associated Press reported.

I don’t believe Shanghai and other Chinese cities can actually replace Hong Kong … If (Hong Kong) squanders that on its own, it’ll be a shame.

Zhang Yichen

Citic Capital

Formerly a British colony, Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997. It is one of China’s special administrative regions and is governed under the “one country, two systems” principle, which gives its citizens certain economic and legal freedoms not given in mainland China.

Zhang said the city has its advantages over other Chinese cities like Shanghai because of the “one country, two systems” policy.

Hong Kong’s legal system is similar to what is followed in a lot of countries around the world, which gives investors a certain level of comfort, he said. In addition to that, its proximity to the Chinese mainland is another plus point for investors, he added.

“From that perspective, I don’t believe Shanghai and other Chinese cities can actually replace Hong Kong,” he said. “If (Hong Kong) squanders that on its own, it’ll be a shame.”

However, the violence and chaos have crippled the city and disrupted daily life, and in turn, hurt businesses and dented investor sentiment.

Zhang said the protests have not affected Citic Capital’s business since it invests mostly either in China or around the world. “Hong Kong is just a base for us where a lot of our senior colleagues live and work,” he added.

Citic Capital says on its website it manages more than $26 billion of capital. Last month, the firm said it raised $2.8 billion in its fourth China buyout fund and would look at China-focused investment opportunities in sectors such as consumer, health care and technology.

Reuters and CNBC’s Grace Shao contributed to this report.

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‘Game of Thrones’ ends run with best drama award, 59 total Emmy Awards

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D. B. Weiss (C, speaking), David Benioff (3rd L) and cast and crew of ‘Game of Thrones’ accept the Outstanding Drama Series award onstage during the 71st Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 22, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

Kevin Winter | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Despite mixed fan and critic reactions to the final season of “Game of Thrones,” the eight-season epic took home the top prize in the drama category at the Emmy Awards on Sunday.

Closing out the 71st annual television awards ceremony, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss thanked creator George R. R. Martin for entrusting his book series to the young producers more than a decade ago and praised the cast and crew for their work on the program.

Since 2011, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” has garnered 160 Emmy nominations and taken home 59 prizes for everything from acting and editing to special effects and sound mixing.

On Sunday, the program earned two Emmys, one for outstanding supporting actor, which went to Peter Dinklage for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister, and one for outstanding drama.

Earlier in the month, “Game of Thrones” won 10 additional awards during the Creative Arts Emmy ceremony.

“Game of Thrones” final award tally falls short of the 67 Emmys that “Saturday Night Live” has accrued over its 44 seasons. “SNL” earned two statues on Sunday, one for outstanding variety sketch series and one for outstanding directing.

The final season was widely criticized by fans who felt the pacing and its treatment of previous character developments were not up to par. Still, the show continued to have record-breaking viewership.

Each episode, save for one, topped viewer counts from the season seven finale, which was the series high prior to season eight’s release.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.

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