China Prepares Retaliation for $200 Billion in US Tariffs

China says it has no choice but to retaliate to U.S. President Donald Trump’s 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, risking a further escalation of trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies.

 

In a brief statement posted online Tuesday, China’s Commerce Ministry said, “To protect its legitimate rights and interests and order in international free trade, China is left with no choice but to retaliate simultaneously.”

 

The statement did not say how China might respond. China has previously said it would respond with a list of tariffs that includes products from liquified natural gas to aircraft.  On Monday, the Communist Party backed Global Times newspaper warned that if Trump went ahead with the tariffs, China would not just play defense.

 

At about the same time the Commerce Ministry statement was released, a research director for North America and the Pacific at the Commerce Ministry also delivered a commentary on China’s state-run CCTV news network.

 

The official said the latest round of tariffs have brought uncertainty to ongoing efforts for representatives from both countries to meet again and hold trade talks.

 

“Under the party’s strong central leadership, China has the resolve and confidence to press ahead and use deeper reforms and deeper opening up as well as the development of our domestic market to counter United States unilateralism,” Li Wei said.

 

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily briefing Tuesday in Beijing that talks are the only correct way to resolve the issue and accused the United States of being insincere.  Last week, the United States extended an invitation to China’s top negotiator, Liu He, to resume talks later this month in Washington.

 

“As for what measures China may take in response, that will be announced at an appropriate time,” Geng said.

 

The $200 billion in U.S. tariffs go into effect in less than a week, on September 24, leaving the two sides little time to sit down.

 

On Monday, President Trump warned, in a statement announcing his move, if China retaliates against U.S. farmers or other industries, Washington “will immediately pursue phase three, which is tariffs on approximately $267 billion in additional imports.”

The additional $267 billion in tariffs is expected to cover all Chinese imports to the United States.

American and European businesses operating in China say that if Washington presses ahead with more and more tariffs, it is likely to only add to the challenges businesses are already facing.

 

According to surveys conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in China and the European Chamber of Commerce, trade tensions are already hitting and hurting supply chains of foreign businesses.  Some companies have begun to move manufacturing away from China and the United States to avoid the impact of growing trade tensions, the European Chamber said.

 

European Chamber President Mats Harborn said engagement on the part of Washington and Beijing is the answer.

 

He said that what the United States is doing now is “economic madness” that risks creating a vicious cycle for business that could have an impact in China and elsewhere.  But the root of the trade dispute is that China’s reform is lagging behind its development, creating a “reform deficit.”

 

“Closing the reform gap will create better private companies in China, foreign companies,” Harborn said.  “And reducing the reform deficit should also help reduce tensions in the ongoing trade war.”

 

In its annual position paper on European business in China, the chamber lists 828 recommendations for Chinese authorities to address that deficit.

 

One of the key hurdles both private Chinese enterprises and foreign companies face is the dominant position state owned enterprises (SOEs) enjoy.  State owned enterprises account for around 30 percent of the economy and yet enjoy nearly 70 percent of all financing, the report said.

 

Unfair trade practices and the way SOEs contribute to an unbalanced playing field in China are key elements of the investigation the Trump administration carried out prior to launching its first round of tariffs.

 

But how far China is willing to go to change is uncertain.  Later this month, a meeting on SOEs will be held that many are expecting will be an indicator of the future course China’s Communist Party leaders plan to chart.

 

“We hear that there is a move to make the SOEs stronger, bigger and better,” Harborn said.  “Such ambitions are hindering the further opening and development of the vibrant private Chinese sector.”

 

If reform of SOEs is not on the agenda at the meeting, that would be seen as a clear provocation, given the current climate, he said. 

 

 

 

 


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

Africa’s Youth Population, Poverty Spurs Gates Foundation’s Giving

Africa has the globe’s fastest-growing youth population as well as 10 of the poorest countries, a volatile combination that warrants making it “the world’s most important priority for the foreseeable future.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation lays out that argument in its second annual report on progress toward sustainable development goals set by the United Nations for 2030. This Goalkeepers Data Report, released Tuesday, urges targeting Africa with the same kind of investment intensity that lifted once-poor China and India into the ranks of middle-income nations.

Sixty percent of Africans are younger than 24, numbers that Melinda Gates emphasized in a phone interview earlier this month with VOA’s English to Africa Service.

“If the world makes the right investments in health and nutrition and education,” she said, it could unleash the potential of “an amazing generation that has unbelievable ingenuity.”    

The report notes that while the youth population is booming in Africa, it’s shrinking elsewhere in the world. For example, the median age is 19 in Africa – and 35 in North America. Populations are expected to soar by 2050 in the 10 poorest countries: Benin, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Zambia.

Melinda Gates described the foundation as a “catalytic wedge,” whose investments can fuel beneficial projects and programs.

“We start getting things going” with many partners on the ground “working in culturally, contextually sensitive ways,” she said. “We take some risks, but ultimately it’s the governments who scale them up, and that work is done in deep partnership with many people around the globe.”

The Gates Foundation is the biggest of U.S. funders aiding Africa, such as the Ford, Rockefeller, Conrad N. Hilton, Carnegie and Open Society foundations,  Inside Philanthropy reported in 2016. Earlier this year, the news website observed that charitable giving by Africans is growing, too.    

To date, the Gates Foundation has invested more than $15 billion “in projects relevant to Africa,” the Gatekeepers report says, while promising to spend more. It has targeted three areas for investment: health, education and agriculture.

Health: The foundation subsidizes a range of health programs, from childhood vaccination and good nutrition, but it gives special attention to family planning and HIV interventions.

Among countries that have risen economically, “every one of them allowed voluntary access to contraceptives to women,” Gates told VOA. “We know if men and women can space the births of their children … there are more opportunities then for those children and their families. Girls can stay in school” and, when educated, are better able to provide for their families.

“Those people create amazing opportunities and new jobs in the economy,” Gates added.

The U.S. government is the biggest donor in global family planning and reproductive health, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a nonprofit focused on health issues. U.S. spending on that front was at $608 million in fiscal year 2018, though the Trump administration has proposed reductions for 2019. Funding levels can reflect domestic and international political debates, especially over abortion, KFF’s website notes. It adds that, since 1973, the government has banned “direct use of U.S. funding overseas for abortion as a method of family planning. …”

The report praised Rwanda for building “an effective health system” that has brought about “the steepest drop in child mortality ever recorded.” In 2005, the country recorded 103 deaths per 1,000 lives births; a decade later, the death rate dropped to 50.

As for HIV infections, the report acknowledged progress in Zimbabwe, where a fourth of all adults were infected in 1997, the peak year of the epidemic.

“Since 2010, new infections are down by 49 percent, and AIDS-related deaths are down by 45 percent,” it noted. But it warned that the youth boom could bring a reversal without continued support for treatment and prevention methods.

Education: While school enrollment and literacy rates have improved, as the United Nations reports, that’s not enough.

“We need to get the quality of education to come up, much like Vietnam has done,” Melinda Gates told VOA.

Students in that country, labeled as low income until 2010, ranked among the best in the world in science in the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s most recent assessment of 15-year-olds.

Agriculture: “… We need to make sure that we help countries move from subsistence farming to making real investments” supporting larger-scale operations so people can feed themselves, Gates said. 

Ghana provides a good example, she and the report noted.

With its current agricultural productivity and innovations such as new hybrid varieties of maize, the country’s “poverty rate is projected to fall from 20 percent in 2016 to 6 percent in 2030.”

But, the report observed, “There is ample room for Ghana’s agrifood system to keep developing.” For example, “cocoa, the country’s main export crop, is sold raw and processed outside the country. Meanwhile, almost half of all processed foods consumed in Ghana are imported.” Buying food processed in Ghana would keep more money in the country and generate jobs, it said.   

Since 2000, more than a billion people have risen from extreme poverty, a level that the World Bank sets at $1.90 a day. Melinda Gates attributed that rise to “investments the world made systematically in human capital: in health, in education, in agriculture. …

“A lot of the gains that we’ve seen can drop back, particularly with a growing population,” she said. “So our message to the world is keep your foot on the gas. Keep the accelerator going.”


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

ADB Ramps Up Pacific Presence as Aid Donors Jostle for Influence

The Asian Development Bank said on Tuesday it is expanding its presence in the Pacific islands, at a time of competition for influence there, opening seven new country offices and expecting its loans and grants in the region to top $4 billion by 2020.

The pledge from the Japan-led bank comes amidst a vigorous new campaign by the United States and its allies to check China’s rising sway in the region, where it has sought deeper diplomatic ties and emerged as the second-largest donor.

The battle for influence in the sparsely populated Pacific matters because each of the tiny island states has a vote at international forums like the United Nations, and they also control vast swathes of resource-rich ocean.

The ADB said it will open offices in the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu, as well as expand missions in Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

“The new country offices will allow ADB to have more regular contact and substantive communication with government and development partners,” the bank said in a statement.

Its overall assistance to the Pacific, which stands at $2.9 billion, is expected to surpass $4 billion by 2020, it added, with the money destined for economic and social development projects and disaster resilience.

China has likewise pledged to keep lending to a region where it says its aid is supporting sustainable development.

However, it has spent $1.3 billion on concessionary loans and gifts since 2011, stoking concern in the West that several tiny nations could end up overburdened and in debt to Beijing.

Australia in particular, which has long viewed the Pacific as its backyard, has been critical of some Chinese aid projects, and a former foreign minister has warned that the lending could undermine the long-term sovereignty of recipients.


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

Trump Adviser Eyes Entitlement Cuts to Plug US Budget Gaps

A top economic adviser to President Donald Trump said on Monday he expects U.S. budget deficits of about 4 to 5 percent of the country’s economic output for the next one to two years, adding that there would likely be an effort in 2019 to cut spending on entitlement programs.

“We have to be tougher on spending,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said in remarks to the Economic Club of New York, adding that government spending was the reason for the wider budget deficits, not the Republican-led tax cuts activated this year.

Kudlow did not specify where future cuts would be made.

“We’re going to run deficits of about 4 to 5 percent of GDP for the next year or two, OK. I’d rather they were lower but it’s not a catastrophe,” Kudlow said. “Going down the road, of course we’d like to slim that down as much as possible and we’ll work at it.”

He stated that the biggest factor for revenue was economic growth rate. A quicker pace of growth will bring in more revenue, Kudlow said, and Trump’s economic policies were aimed at boosting the U.S. growth rate.

Kudlow also said he did not expect Congress would be able to make the Trump administration’s recent individual tax cuts permanent before the Nov. 6 midterm congressional elections.

“I don’t think it will get through the whole Congress” before the election, he said, but added that making the personal tax cuts permanent “is a good message” and disagreed with forecasts that they would further increase budget deficits.


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

Report: Machines to Handle Over Half Workplace Tasks by 2025

More than half of all workplace tasks will be carried out by machines by 2025, organizers of the Davos economic forum said in a report released Monday that highlights the speed with which the labor market will change in coming years.

The World Economic Forum estimates that machines will be responsible for 52 percent of the division of labor as share of hours within seven years, up from just 29 percent today. By 2022, the report says, roughly 75 million jobs worldwide will be lost, but that could be more than offset by the creation of 133 million new jobs.

A major challenge, however, will be training and re-training employees for that new world of work.

“By 2025, the majority of workplace tasks in existence today will be performed by machines or algorithms. At the same time a greater number of new jobs will be created,” said Saadia Zahidi, a WEF board member. “Our research suggests that neither businesses nor governments have fully grasped the size of this key challenge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

The “Future of Jobs 2018” report, the second of its kind, is based on a survey of executives representing 15 million employees in 20 economies. Its authors say the outlook for job creation has become more positive since the last report in 2016 because businesses have a better sense of the opportunities made possible by technology.

The WEF said challenges for employers include enabling remote work, building safety nets to protect workers, and providing reskilling for employees. However, the report found that only one in three respondents planned to reskill at-risk workers.

Despite net positive job growth, the WEF anticipates a “significant shift in the quality, location, format and permanency of new roles. Businesses are to expand use of contractors for task-specialized work, engage workers in more flexible arrangements, utilize remote staffing, and change up locations to get access to the right talent.

The report said nearly half of all companies expect their full-time workforces to shrink by 2022, while nearly two in five expect to extend their workforce generally, and over one-quarter expect automation to create new roles in their enterprises.

Germany’s powerful DGB trade union association warned against too rapid change in the world of work.

“People, whether they’re workers or consumers, will only accept and tolerate the consequences if technology serves them — and not they it,” Reiner Hoffmann told daily Welt in reaction to the WEF report.


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

Saudi Sovereign Fund Invests $1 Billion in US Electric Car Firm

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund invested $1 billion Monday in an American electric car manufacturer just weeks after Tesla CEO Elon Musk earlier claimed the kingdom would help his own firm go private.

Tesla stock dropped Monday on reaction to the news, the same day that the Saudi fund announced it had taken its first loan, an $11 billion borrowing from global banks as it tries to expand its investments.

The Saudi Public Investment Fund said it would invest the $1 billion in Newark, California-based Lucid Motors.

The investment “will provide the necessary funding to commercially launch Lucid’s first electric vehicle, the Lucid Air, in 2020,” the sovereign wealth fund said in a statement. “The company plans to use the funding to complete engineering development and testing of the Lucid Air, construct its factory in Arizona, enter production for the Lucid Air to begin the global rollout of the company’s retail strategy starting in North America.”

Lucid issued a statement quoting Peter Rawlinson, its chief technology officer, welcoming the investment.

“At Lucid, we will demonstrate the full potential of the electric-connected vehicle in order to push the industry forward,” he said.

The decision comes after Musk on Aug. 7 tweeted that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private. Investors pushed Tesla’s shares up 11 percent in a day, boosting its valuation by $6 billion.

There are multiple reports that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the disclosure, including asking board members what they knew about Musk’s plans. Experts say regulators likely are investigating if Musk was truthful in the tweet about having the financing set for the deal. Musk later said the Saudi Public Investment Fund would be investing in the firm, something Saudi officials never comment on.

Meanwhile Monday, the sovereign wealth fund known by the acronym PIF said it had taken its first loan, an $11 billion borrowing. It did not say how it would use the money, only describing it as going toward “general corporate purposes.”

The Las Vegas-based Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute estimates the Saudi fund has holdings of $250 billion. Those include a $3.5 billion stake in the ride-sharing app Uber.

Saudi Arabia’s 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has talked about using the PIF to help diversify the economy of the kingdom, which relies almost entirely on money made from its oil sales.


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

Report: UN Poverty Targets Remain Off Course

Aid money urgently needs to be redirected to the poorest countries in order to reach the United Nations’ goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, according to a report.

The London-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI) says middle-income countries receive more aid than the 30 poorest nations. It also warns that at least 400 million people will still be living on less than $1.90 a day, despite government pledges to eliminate all extreme poverty.

In northern Ethiopia, teams of workers dig irrigation channels through orchards and grain fields. Such projects have turned arid plains into fertile farmland, which has quadrupled agricultural production.

The report from the ODI credits Ethiopia’s “Productive Safety Net Program,” launched in 2005, with lifting 1.4 million people out of extreme poverty. It also enabled Ethiopia to avoid another famine during severe droughts in 2010 and 2015.

In contrast, neighboring Uganda has seen extreme poverty levels rise recently, after a rapid reduction in previous years.

“One of the reasons is because climate change is starting to have an impact in that country,” said Marcus Manuel, author of the ODI report. “Now in Ethiopia, they’ve managed, with a lot of support partly from the U.S., to have programs that support farmers when a sudden climate or weather event happens. In Uganda, they didn’t. So when they had a drought, that led to a real increase in poverty. So it’s a matter of having the right systems in place.”

Ethiopia’s program, the largest of any low-income country, pays beneficiaries to work on public works projects such as irrigation, roads, schools and health clinics, which helps to create long-term poverty relief.

Such programs are vital in ending extreme poverty, according to the ODI report. The report says there is an annual funding shortfall of $125 billion in the three core sectors of education, health and what it terms social protection transfers, or welfare.

“You need to do economic growth to do part of things, and you also need investment in the social sectors,” Manuel said. “You need to have both sides of the coin to make this work. Donors are investing both in growth and in social sectors, but they’re not investing it in the right countries to nearly the extent that’s needed. And, in particular, in this report we’ve identified 29 countries which can’t afford the investment needed in the social sectors and donors are not giving enough money to that group of countries.”

The statistics show middle-income countries receive more aid than poorer countries, whose share of global aid has fallen over the past six years from 30 percent to 24 percent.

In addition to better aid allocation, the report says more donor nations need to reach the U.N. goal of allocating at least 0.7 percent of gross domestic product to aid budgets. Without urgent action, the authors warn the goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 will remain out of reach.


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

Trump Tells Aides to Proceed With More Tariffs on Chinese Goods

U.S. media reports said Friday that President Donald Trump has instructed aides to proceed with tariffs on $200 billion more in Chinese products.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg and Reuters said the president wanted to move forward with the additional duties even though Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is trying to restart trade talks with Beijing.

The reports sent stocks falling Friday and led to a drop in the Chinese yuan.

The White House did not immediately comment on the reports.

Bloomberg reported that Trump met Thursday with his top trade advisers to discuss the tariffs, including Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. The meeting was not on Trump’s public schedule.

Before Thursday’s meeting, Trump said on Twitter that he felt “no pressure” to make a deal with Beijing, saying “they are under pressure to make a deal with us.” He also raised questions about whether new talks between the United States and China would happen, saying the U.S. “will soon be taking in Billions in Tariffs & making products at home. If we meet, we meet?”

A public comment period for the proposed new tariffs ended last week. The U.S. trade representative’s office received nearly 6,000 comments on the proposal.

Even more tariffs

Last week, Trump threatened even more tariffs on Chinese items — duties on another $267 worth of goods, which when combined with the others would cover virtually all the products that China sends to the United States.

“That changes the equation,” he told reporters.

The Untied States has already imposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, leading China to retaliate on an equal amount of U.S. goods. 

The Trump administration has argued that tariffs on Chinese goods would force China to trade on more favorable terms with the United States.

It has demanded that China better protect American intellectual property, including ending cybertheft. The Trump administration has also called on China to allow U.S. companies greater access to Chinese markets and to cut its U.S. trade surplus.

China has threatened to retaliate against any potential new tariffs. However, China’s imports from the United States are worth $200 billion a year less than American imports from China, so it would run out of room to match U.S. sanctions.


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

Bloomberg: Trump Wants Tariffs on About $200 Billion in Chinese Goods

U.S. President Donald Trump has instructed aides to proceed with tariffs on about $200 billion more in Chinese products, despite Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s attempts to restart talks with China about resolving the trade war, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

Reuters could not immediately verify the report, which had an immediate effect on financial markets. It led U.S. stocks to trade lower, fueled drops in the Chinese yuan in offshore trading and gains in the dollar index, and sent the S&P 500 index negative.

The step comes exactly one week since Trump raised the possibility of duties on the $200 billion of imports and also threatened tariffs on $267 billion worth of goods. Trump has already levied duties on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods.

The United States only imported $505 billion in goods imported from China last year. But 2018 imports from China through July were up nearly 9 percent over the same period of 2017, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.


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

Turkey’s Central Bank Defies Erdogan, Hikes Rates

The Turkish central bank caught international markets by surprise Thursday as it aggressively hiked interest rates in an effort to strengthen consumer confidence, stem inflation and rein in the currency crisis. 

Interest rates were increased to 24 percent from 17.75 percent, which is more than double the median of investor predictions of a 3 percent hike. The Turkish lira surged above 5 percent in response, although the gains subsequently were pared back.

International investors broadly welcomed the move. “TCMB [Turkish Republic Central Bank] did show resolve in hiking the one-week repo rate substantially and going back to orthodoxy,” chief economist Inan Demir of Nomura International said.

The central bank had drawn sharp criticism for failing to substantially raise interest rates to rein in double-digit inflation and an ailing currency. The lira had fallen by more than 40 percent this year.

The rate hike is an apparent rebuke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been opposed to such a move.

Only hours before the central bank decision, Erdogan again voiced his opposition to increasing interest rates. The Turkish president reiterated his stance of challenging orthodox economic thinking, arguing that inflation is caused by high rates, although that runs contrary to conventional economic theory. Erdogan also issued a presidential decree banning all businesses and leasing and rental agreements from using foreign currency denominations.

The central bank indicated further rate hikes could be in the offing. “Tight stance monetary policy will be maintained decisively until inflation outlook displays a significant improvement,” the central bank statement reads.

The strong commitment to challenge inflation was welcomed by investors. “Most importantly, the CBT seemed to be vocal about price stability risks,” wrote chief economist Muhammet Mercan of Ing bank.

‘Crazy’ spending

Fueled by August’s sharp fall in the lira, which drove up import costs, inflation is on a rapid upward trajectory. Some predictions warn inflation could approach 30 percent in the coming months.

While international markets are broadly welcoming the central bank’s interest rate hike, economist Demir warns more action is needed.

“This rate hike does not undo the damage inflicted on corporate balance sheet, and market concerns about geopolitics will remain in place. So this is not the hike to end all problems,” said Demir.

The World Bank and IMF repeatedly have called on Ankara to rein in spending, which they say is fueling inflation. Perhaps in response, Erdogan has announced a freeze on new state construction projects.

In the past few years, he has embarked on an unprecedented construction boom, including building one of the world’s largest airports and a multibillion-dollar canal project in Istanbul, which the president himself described as “crazy.”

Trade tariffs

Investors also remain concerned about ongoing diplomatic tensions between Ankara and Washington. The two NATO allies remain at loggerheads over the detention on terrorism charges of American pastor Andrew Brunson.

Brunson’s detention saw U.S. President Donald Trump impose trade tariffs on Turkey, which triggered August’s collapse in the lira. Trump has warned of further sanctions.

“If we somehow sort out our problems with the United States and adopt an orthodox austerity program, we may find a way out of this mess,” said political analyst Atilla Yesilada of Global Source Partners.  “Turkey is a country that has a net foreign debt of over $400 billion, and where 40 percent of [Turkish] deposits are in foreign currency, so the game could be over in a day.”

Turkey has a long tradition of carrying out business in foreign currencies to mitigate the threat of inflation and a falling lira. The growing danger of the so-called “dollarization” of the economy and the public abandonment of the lira are significant risks to the currency.

Turkish companies are paying the cost for the depreciation of the lira. Analysts estimate about $100 billion in foreign currency loans have to be repaid by the private sector in the coming year. Companies and individuals borrowing in local currency, however, will be facing higher repayments. And most analysts predict the Turkish economy is heading into a recession.

Economist Demir says, though, that the situation could have been far worse.

“In the absence of an [interest rate] hike, the rollover pressures on banks would get even worse, damage on corporate balance sheets would intensify, and local deposit holders’ confidence would have weakened further. So this hike, although it doesn’t eliminate other risks, eliminates some of the worst outcomes for the Turkish economy,” he said.

Thursday’s rate hike appears to have bought time for the Turkish economy and the nation’s besieged currency. Analysts say investors are watching to see if Turkey’s decision-makers use that time wisely.


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