iDnipro

India, EU Give WTO Lists of US Goods for Potential Tariff Retaliation

India and the European Union have given the World Trade Organization lists of the U.S. products that could incur high tariffs in retaliation for U.S. President Donald Trump’s global tariffs on steel and aluminum, WTO filings showed Friday.

The EU said Trump’s steel tariffs could cost $1.5 billion and aluminum tariffs a further $100 million, and listed rice, cranberries, bourbon, corn, peanut butter, and steel products among the U.S. goods that it might target for retaliation.

India said it was facing additional U.S. tariffs of $31 million on aluminum and $134 million on steel, and listed U.S. exports of soya oil, palmolein and cashew nuts among its potential targets for retaliatory tariffs.

One trade official described the lists of retaliatory tariffs as “loading a gun,” making it plain to U.S. exporters that pain might be on the way.

India said its tariffs would come into effect by June 21, unless and until the United States removed its tariffs.

The EU said some retaliation could be applied from June 20.

Trump’s tariffs, 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, came into force in March to strong opposition as many see the measures as unjustified and populist.

There were also objections that the tariffs would have little impact on China, widely seen to be the cause of oversupply in the market.

Trump justified the tariffs by claiming they were for U.S. national security, in a bid to protect them from any legal challenge at the WTO, causing further controversy.

Rather than challenging the U.S. tariffs directly, the EU and India, like China, South Korea and Russia, told the United States that they regarded Trump’s tariffs as “safeguards” under the WTO rules, which means U.S. trading partners are entitled to compensation for loss of trade.

The United States disagrees.

Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!
iDnipro

Canada’s Trudeau Talks Tech at MIT Gathering

Canadian computer scientists helped pioneer the field of artificial intelligence before it was a buzzword, and now Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is hoping to capitalize on their intellectual lead.

Trudeau has become a kind of marketer-in-chief for Canada’s tech economy ambitions, accurately explaining the basics of machine learning as he promotes a national plan he says will “secure Canada’s foothold in AI research and training.”

“Tech giants have taken notice, and are setting up offices in Canada, hiring Canadian experts, and investing time and money into applications that could be as transformative as the internet itself,” Trudeau wrote in a guest editorial published this week in the Boston Globe.

Trudeau has been taking that message on the road and is likely to emphasize it again Friday when he addresses a gathering of tech entrepreneurs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His visit to the MIT campus headlines an annual meeting of the school’s Solve initiative, which connects innovators with corporate, government and academic resources to help them tackle world problems.

Trudeau isn’t the only head of state talking up AI — France’s Emmanuel Macron and China’s Xi Jinping are among the others — but his deep-in-the-weeds approach has caught U.S. tech companies’ attention in contrast to President Donald Trump, whose administration “got off to a little bit of a slow start” in expressing interest, said Erik Brynjolfsson, an MIT professor who directs the school’s Initiative on the Digital Economy.

“AI is the most important technology for the next decade or two,” said Brynjolfsson, who attended the Trump White House’s first AI summit last week. “It’s going to completely transform the economy and our society in lots of ways. It’s a huge mistake for countries’ leaders not to take it seriously.”

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Uber and Samsung have all opened AI research hubs centered in Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton, drawn in large part by decades of academic research into “deep learning” algorithms that helped pave the way for today’s digital voice assistants, self-driving technology and photo-tagging services that can recognize a friend’s face.

Canada’s reputation as a welcoming place for immigrants is also helping, as is Trudeau’s enthusiasm about the AI economy, Brynjolfsson said.

“When a national leader says AI is a priority, I think you get more creative, smart young people who will be taking it seriously,” he said.

AI is an “easy and recognizable shorthand” for the digital economy Trudeau hopes to foster, said Luke Stark, a Dartmouth College sociologist from Canada who studies the history and philosophy of technology.

A former schoolteacher, Trudeau is “smart enough to know when to learn something so he can talk about it intelligently in a way that helps educate people,” Stark said.

Stark said that also allows Trudeau to “push into the background some of the less high-tech, less fashionable elements of the Canadian economy,” such as the extraction of oil and gas.

The visit comes amid talks between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico over whether to renew the North American Free Trade Agreement. Negotiators have now gone past an informal Thursday deadline set by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, increasing the likelihood that talks could drag into 2019.

Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!
iDnipro

China Ends US Sorghum Anti-Dumping Probe, OKs Toshiba Deal

China has dropped an anti-dumping investigation and given long awaited approval for the sale of Toshiba’s memory chip business, in gestures that could suggest a thaw between Beijing and the U.S. as trade talks resumed in Washington.

The Commerce Ministry said Friday ended the probe into imported U.S. sorghum because it’s not in the public interest. A day earlier, Beijing cleared the way for a group led by U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital to buy Toshiba Corp.’s computer memory chip business.

The moves signaled Beijing’s willingness to make a deal with Washington amid talks between senior U.S. and Chinese officials aimed at averting a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies, analysts say.

“I think China is willing to make concessions,” said Wang Tao, chief China economist at UBS. “The Chinese stance has been very clear, that China wants to mute any trade dispute. But of course it doesn’t mean China would heed to all the demands the U.S. would place.”

A White House official said China had offered to work to cut the trade deficit with the U.S. by $200 billion, while stressing that the details remained unclear. But China’s Foreign Ministry denied it.

“It’s untrue,” said spokesman Lu Kang. “The relevant discussion is still underway, and it is constructive.”

The Commerce Ministry said it was ending the anti-dumping probe and a parallel anti-subsidy investigation because they would have raised costs for consumers.

The U.S. is China’s biggest supplier of sorghum, accounting for more than 90 percent of total imports. China’s investigation, launched in February, had come as a warning shot to American farmers, many of whom support the Trump administration yet depend heavily on trade. They feared they would lose their largest export market for the crop, which is used primarily for animal feed and liquor.

The Commerce Ministry said that, “Anti-dumping and countervailing measures against imported sorghum originating in the United States would affect the cost of living of a majority of consumers and would not be in the public interest,” according to a notice posted on its website.

It said it had received many reports that the investigation would result in higher costs for the livestock industry, adding that many domestic pig farmers were facing hardship because of declining pork prices.

China’s U.S. sorghum imports surged from 317,000 metric tons in 2013 to 4.76 million tons last year while prices fell by about a third in the same period.

The ministry said any deposits for the preliminary anti-dumping tariffs of 178.6 percent, which took effect on April 18, would be returned in full.

The announcement came after President Donald Trump met at the White House with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, the leader of China’s delegation for talks with a U.S. team headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Trump had told reporters earlier that he had doubts about the potential for an agreement. He also raised fresh uncertainty about resolving a case involving Chinese tech company ZTE, which was hit with a crippling seven-year ban on buying from U.S. suppliers, forcing it to halt major operations. Trump said the company “did very bad things” to the U.S. economy and would be a “small component of the overall deal.”

Song Lifang, an economics professor and trade expert at Renmin University, said haggling is currently underway.

“It’s time for both to present their demands, but it’s also a time to exhibit their bargaining chips,” said Song, adding that approval for the Toshiba deal, worth $18 billion, was “an apparent sign of thaw” amid a U.S. investigation into Chinese trade practices requiring U.S. companies to turn over their technology in exchange for access to China’s market.

The Trump administration has proposed tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese products to punish Beijing while China has responded by targeting $50 billion in U.S. imports. Neither country has yet imposed tariffs.

Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!
iDnipro

EU Mulls Direct Iran Central Bank Transfers to Beat US Sanctions

The European Commission is proposing that EU governments make direct money transfers to Iran’s central bank to avoid U.S. penalties, an EU official said, in what would be the most forthright challenge to Washington’s newly reimposed sanctions.

The step, which would seek to bypass the U.S. financial system, would allow European companies to repay Iran for oil exports and repatriate Iranian funds in Europe, a senior EU official said, although the details were still to be worked out.

The European Union, once Iran’s biggest oil importer, is determined to save the nuclear accord, that U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned on May 8, by keeping money flowing to Tehran as long as the Islamic Republic complies with the 2015 deal to prevent it from developing an atomic weapon.

“Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has proposed this to member states. We now need to work out how we can facilitate oil payments and repatriate Iranian funds in the European Union to Iran’s central bank,” said the EU official, who is directly involved in the discussions.

The U.S. Treasury announced on Tuesday more sanctions on officials of the Iranian central bank, including Governor Valiollah Seif,. But the EU official said the bloc believes that does not sanction the central bank itself.

European Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete will discuss the idea with Iranian officials in Tehran during his trip this weekend, the EU official said. Then it will be up to EU governments to take a final decision.

EU leaders in Sofia this week committed to uphold Europe’s side of the 2015 nuclear deal, which offers sanctions relief in return for Tehran shutting down its capacity, under strict surveillance by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, to stockpile enriched uranium for a possible atomic bomb.

Sanctions-blocking law

Other measures included renewing a sanctions-blocking measure to protect European businesses in Iran.

The Commission said in a statement it had “launched the formal process to activate the Blocking Statute by updating the list of U.S. sanctions on Iran falling within its scope,” referring to an EU regulation from 1996.

The EU’s blocking statute bans any EU company from complying with U.S. sanctions and does not recognize any court rulings that enforce American penalties. It was developed when the United States tried to penalize foreign companies trading with Cuba in the 1990s, but has never been formally implemented.

EU officials say they are revamping the blocking statute to protect EU companies against U.S. Iran-related sanctions, after the expiry of 90- and 180-day wind-down periods that allow companies to quit the country and avoid fines.

A second EU official said the EU sanctions-blocking regulation would come into force on August 5, a day before U.S.

sanctions take effect, unless the European Parliament and EU governments formally rejected it.

“This has a strong signaling value, it can be very useful to companies but it is ultimately a business decision for each company to make [on whether to continue to invest in Iran],” the official said.

Once Iran’s top trading partner, the EU has sought to pour billions of euros into the Islamic Republic since the bloc, along with the United Nations and United States, lifted blanket economic sanctions in 2016 that had hurt the Iranian economy.

Iran’s exports of mainly fuel and other energy products to the EU in 2016 jumped 344 percent to 5.5 billion euros ($6.58 billion) compared with the previous year.

EU investment in Iran, mainly from Germany, France and Italy, has jumped to more than 20 billion euros since 2016, in projects ranging from aerospace to energy.

Other measures proposed by the Commission, the EU executive, include urging EU governments to start the legal process of allowing the European Investment Bank to lend to EU projects in Iran.

Under that plan, the bank could guarantee such projects through the EU’s common budget, picking up part of the bill should they fail or collapse. The measure aims to encourage companies to invest.

Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!
iDnipro

Inventors Honored in Hall of Fame Special Ceremony

Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Apple founder Steve Jobs are some of America’s best known inventors. But there are other, less recognizable individuals whose innovative products have greatly impacted our world. More than a dozen of them were recently honored for their unique contributions in a special ceremony at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum in Alexandria, Virginia. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more.

Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!
iDnipro

In the Name of Safety: NYC Tradition – Blessing of the Bikes

For almost 20 years, cyclists have gathered in New York’s Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine for what might seem like an unusual ceremony the blessing of the bikes. Held the day before the city’s Five Boro Bike Tour, the ceremony is meant to bring luck and safety to those who travel around the Big Apple on a bike. Evgeny Maslov has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.

Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!
iDnipro

US Warns China Against Imposing ‘Political Correctness’ on US Firms

U.S. officials and politicians say they are increasingly frustrated and looking for ways to fight back against what they see as China’s use of its market power to impose “politically correct” behavior on American companies. Airlines, retailers and hoteliers all have been pressured to alter products and promotions that offended Beijing.

“These actions are outrageous and disturbing,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs Alex Wong told American lawmakers Tuesday.

“China is very much well aware that it’s wading through treacherous waters here. And they understand that if they continue along this path, continue to employ these tactics, that will negatively affect the U.S.-China relationship and that there will be consequences,” said Wong during a hearing at Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia, The Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.

“The consequences are under review,” Wong added.

His remarks come after American clothing retailer Gap apologized and recalled the sale in the Chinese market of its T-shirts showing a map that’s seen by Beijing as politically incorrect. The T-shirts were also destroyed. 

A Chinese student earlier this week posted pictures of the T-shirt, which did not include Taiwan, parts of Tibet and islands in the South China Sea that Beijing claims are Chinese territories. Gap quickly apologized, citing “unintentional error.” Photos circulated on Chinese social media network Weibo were said to be have been taken at an outlet store in Canada. 

A Chinese government spokesperson took note of Gap’s apology and the American company’s pledge to respect “China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and is conducting an internal inspection.”

“We have taken note of this statement. We will continue to listen to its [Gap’s] words, and watch the actions,” said Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Lu Kang on Tuesday.

But U.S. officials and lawmakers are hitting back.

“American companies are being bullied,” said Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio during Tuesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing.

Rubio said U.S. airlines “are being threatened by China, that if their website doesn’t say Taiwan [is part of] China, they’re going to lose their routes and have fines and penalties.”

On April 25, the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration sent a letter to 36 foreign air carriers, including a number of American carriers, demanding the carriers remove references on their websites or in other material that suggests Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are independent territories from China.

And in January, Beijing requested U.S. hotel giant Marriott International change the way it referred to Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau to be in line with Beijing’s views.

The request came after a Marriott employee “liked” a tweet by Friends of Tibet that praised Marriott for “listing #Tibet as a country along with #HongKong and #Taiwan” in an online customer questionnaire.

The employee was fired and Marriott apologized to Beijing.

Observers said market access to the growing population of affluent Chinese consumers leads to American companies’ compliance.

“It’s totally based on market strategy or, more precisely, fear of being shut out of the China market,” Brooking Institution’s Senior Fellow Richard Bush told VOA on Thursday. 

U.S. officials said they have raised this issue privately with their Chinese counterparts, while also condemning Beijing’s actions in public. U.S. officials have also talked with companies who have been involved in the incidents.

China claims democratically ruled Taiwan is part of its territory, and it has never renounced the use of military force to bring the island under Beijing’s control. The U.S. broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979 and has “acknowledged” Beijing’s position, while insisting on a “peaceful resolution of cross-Strait differences.”

Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!
iDnipro

Trump Meets Chinese Vice Premier Amid Tough Trade Talks 

President Donald Trump stepped into a round of tough trade talks with China on Thursday after the White House confirmed a meeting between the U.S. president and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.

The two world powers are taking part in a second series of trade negotiations that started Thursday. The initial talks were held in Beijing two weeks ago.

Speaking to reporters before his meeting with Liu, Trump repeated his strong dislike for previous deals between Washington and Beijing.

“The United States has been ripped off for many, many years by its bad trade deals. I don’t blame China; I blame the leadership of this country from the past,” Trump told reporters before a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

“China has taken out hundreds of billions of dollars a year from the United States, and I explained to President Xi [Jinping] we can’t do that anymore,” Trump added.

The talks are aimed at “rebalancing the United States-China bilateral economic relationship,” according to the White House. They are also aimed at avoiding a full-blown trade war after the two countries exchanged tariff threats in March.

Despite the tough talks, Trump tweeted over the weekend that he was working with Xi to give Chinese phone company ZTE a way to get back into business.

The U.S. slapped sanctions against the Chinese telecommunications company last month for breaking U.S. trade control laws by selling components to Iran and North Korea. The move prompted ZTE to shut down its U.S. operations.

U.S. law enforcement and intelligence communities have long had national security and espionage concerns about ZTE.

“ZTE was a company I spoke to with President Xi. He asked me if I could take a look at that, because it was very harmful to them in terms of their jobs and probably other things, and I certainly said I would — he asked me to do it, and I would do that. I like him, he likes me, we have a great relationship,” Trump said in explaining his tweet to reporters. 

Trump noted it was his administration that had first put strong clamps on ZTE.

“Anything we do with ZTE is just a small component of the overall deal. I can only tell you this: We are going to come out fine with China,” Trump said. “When you’re losing $500 billion a year on trade, you can’t lose the trade war, you’ve already lost it.”

Liu, who is Xi’s top economic adviser, is taking part in two days of talks with a U.S. trade delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, told reporters Wednesday that the administration was conducting “very serious” talks with China, and that Trump was “very hands-on” and “involved in every decision.”

“We have requested that China change their trading practices, which are unfair and in many ways illegal,” Kudlow said.

“This is with respect to the issue of theft of technology, forced transfers of technology, high tariffs and non-tariff barriers” that are preventing the United States from making a competitive effort to export goods and services to China, he said.

The economic adviser said the administration had given China a “lengthy, detailed list” of what the U.S. wanted, including narrowing the U.S.-China trade deficit, lowering non-tariff barriers and permitting American ownership of its own companies in China. 

“Right now, the limit is 49 percent and that’s one of the causes of the theft and transfer of viable technology,” Kudlow said. “When we do these joint ventures, we should have to own 51 percent on to 100 percent. That’s a key part of these talks.”

Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!