Trump Touts Progress on Slashing Federal Regulations

U.S. President Donald Trump has touted progress on slashing federal regulations, which he says cost America trillions with no benefit. Speaking Thursday from the White House, the president said his administration had exceeded its goal of removing two federal regulations for every new one, by removing 22 for every new one. Opponents have criticized some of the deregulation, especially dismantling of the net neutrality rules that guarantee equal access to the internet. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports.


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Detroit Builds a Symbol of Resurgence on Iconic Spot

An 800-foot-tall (244-meter) centerpiece is coming to Detroit’s resurgent downtown as the city continues to build momentum about three years after exiting the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

The 58-story building dominating the local skyline will rise on the site of the iconic J.L. Hudson department store, whose 1983 closing epitomized Detroit’s economic downfall.

“When we lost Hudson’s, it symbolized how far Detroit had fallen,” Bedrock Detroit real estate founder Dan Gilbert said Thursday during a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new building. “When it was imploded in 1998 it was a very sad day for a lot of people.”

One of four projects

But the bad times for downtown appear to be largely over. Bedrock Detroit’s $900 million, two-building project will include a 58-story residential tower and 12-floor building for retail and conference space. Up to 450 residential units can be built in the tower.

It is one of four projects representing a $2.1 billion investment in downtown by the Detroit-based commercial real estate firm. Altogether, the projects are expected to create up to 24,000 jobs in a city that desperately needs them and generate $673 million in new tax revenue.

Mayor Mike Duggan’s office has spearheaded redevelopment programs targeting a number of city neighborhoods, but Detroit’s growth is most evident in greater downtown, where office space now is limited and available apartments are tough to come by.

A ribbon-cutting was held in August for an $860 million sports complex just north of downtown. The 20,000-seat Little Caesars Arena is the new home of the Detroit Red Wings and Pistons. It will anchor a 50-block neighborhood of offices, apartments, restaurants and shops.

A 6.6-mile-long light rail system launched earlier this year along Woodward Avenue, downtown’s main business thoroughfare.

Microsoft move

Software maker Microsoft announced in February that it plans to move its Michigan Microsoft Technology Center next year from the suburbs to downtown. In 2016, Ally Financial opened new offices downtown that the financial services company said eventually would be occupied by more than 1,500 employees and contractors.

“Bedrock building on the Hudson’s site will be an important addition to the community and the vitality and prosperity of downtown,” said John Mogk, a Wayne State University law professor whose work has included policy on economic development issues.

“It will act as an important centerpiece for continuing the overall downtown development … but much more has to be done for the entire city to feel a resurgence.”

Many residents poor

However, much work remains for a city where many residents are still poor.

Detroit’s unemployment rate was about 8 percent in April, yet far below the more than 18 percent unemployment rate during the city’s 2013 bankruptcy filing.

The city’s 2016 poverty rate was just more than 35 percent, the highest among the nation’s 20 largest cities and more than double the national poverty of 14 percent. A family of four is considered living in poverty if its annual earnings are less than $24,563.

Downtown construction projects such as the work at the Hudson’s site can help change that, some say.

“What a shame that anybody should be unemployed in Detroit when we have a need for skilled trades,” Gilbert said. “We like to say Detroit is located at the intersection of muscle and brains. We need brains to sort this all out … somebody still has to build stuff. We still need muscle.”

While Bedrock’s new building would be Detroit’s tallest, rising above the 727-foot (222-meter) Renaissance Center along the city’s riverfront, it still would be far shorter than some other U.S. towers.

One World Trade Center in New York measures 1,776 feet (541 meters). Chicago’s Willis Tower hits 1,451 feet (442 meters), while the Empire State Building in New York climbs to 1,250 feet (381 meters).

​Iconic Hudson’s

Although the 25-story Hudson’s building was once the nation’s tallest department store, it measured only about 400 feet (122 meters). It was far more famous for what was inside.

When Detroit was humming along and leading the nation in car production, the store was where auto executives and assembly line workers shopped. From household goods to clothing and furs and many things in between, it was a primary downtown destination.

There were 50 display windows, 12,000 employees and 100,000 customers per day. But as shopping tastes shifted to expansive suburban malls and Detroit’s population tumbled by more than 600,000 people between the 1950s and 1980, Hudson’s lost its luster.

“Building something of significant magnitude on the old site will provide a good deal of good feelings by older generations,” Mogk said.


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Trump Touts Progress on Rolling Back Federal Regulations

With the ceremonial flourish of oversized golden scissors slicing a giant piece of red tape, U.S. President Donald Trump symbolically cut through decades of regulations on Thursday. 

“So, this is what we have now,” the former reality television program host said, gesturing toward a 190-centimeter-high pile of what was said to be 185,000 sheets of paper. “This is where we were in 1960,” he added, referencing a smaller stack representing an estimated 20,000 pages of federal regulations.

“When we’re finished, which won’t be in too long a period of time, we will be less than where we were in 1960, and we will have a great regulatory climate,” the president added at the event in the White House Roosevelt Room.

Trump decried that an “ever-growing maze of regulations, rules and restrictions has cost our country trillions and trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, countless American factories, and devastated many industries.”

The event took place just after the Federal Communications Commission, in a 3-2 vote, repealed a rule of the previous Obama administration calling for  “net neutrality,” the principle that all internet providers treat all web traffic equally. 

WATCH: Trump Touts Progress on Slashing Federal Regulations

Lawsuits filed

The deregulatory zeal has generated a backlash. 

The state of California has filed seven lawsuits challenging part of the administration’s deregulatory efforts dealing with the environment, education and public health. 

The administration’s “rule rollbacks risk the health and well-being of Americans and are, in many cases, illegal,” according to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. 

In his remarks Thursday, Trump touted his executive order, signed days after he took office in January, mandating that two federal regulations must be eliminated for every new regulation put on the books. 

His administration, Trump said, has exceeded that mandate by “a lot.” 

The president, who as a real estate developer long railed against government regulation, claimed that for every new rule adopted, his administration has killed 22 — far in excess of the 2-for-1 pledge. 

For the first time in “decades, the government achieved regulatory savings,” Trump said, boasting that “we blew our target out of the water.” 

The administration, over its first 11 months, according to the president, has “canceled or delayed more than 1,500 planned regulatory actions — more than any previous president by far.” 

He called for his Cabinet secretaries, agency heads and federal workers to “cut even more regulations in 2018.”

“And that should just about do it,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll have any left to cut.”

$570M in savings seen

The cost savings, according to administration officials, will total $570 million per year. But they say there are benefits that go beyond money. 

“When the government is interfering less in people’s lives, they have greater opportunity to pursue their goals,” Neomi Rao, the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters following the president’s ribbon-cutting event. 

Asked whether she could verify that this is, as Trump has declared, the largest deregulatory effort in American history, Rao hedged to echo such a sweeping statement, saying, “I don’t think there’s been anything like this since [Ronald] Reagan, at least.” Reagan was president from 1981 to 1989.

The president’s former strategist, Stephen Bannon, has said a primary goal of the Trump administration, through deregulation, is achieving “deconstruction of the administrative state.” 


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Fish Farming Project Helps CAR Refugees Feed Themselves

The United Nations says humanitarian needs in refugee camps in Cameroon are increasing, exceeding the means available to take care of the growing number of refugees. But some of the refugees have empowered themselves by making use of resources around them to earn a living for their families. At Gado refugee camp in eastern Cameroon,  200 refugee women have developed a fish pond by a river and are supplying fish not only to people in need in the camp but to surrounding villages.

More than a hundred women sing here on the side of a river at Gado near the United Nations refugee camp. It is a day of harvest and many refugees have come to buy. Among the fish farmers is 31-year-old Christine Mboula, a Central African Refugee who has been living in the camp for two years. Her laughs are indicative of how happy she is to raise money from the sale of the fish and then carry some of her catch home for her family.

Mboula says she has come to the river to collect and sell fish so as to help her family. She says the activity has kept them going.

Christine says she had been jobless and poor and could not take care of her three children. She lost her husband in the fighting in C.A.R. and relied on food aid from the United Nations, which she says was never enough.

Boniface Nyado, head of the World Food Program office in the eastern Cameroon town of Bertoua says the inland fish aquaculture program was started in the area in June 2017 by the World Food Program to attend to the needs of C.A.R. refugees and their host communities.

He says they initiated the project when they noticed that the locality had high fishing potential and at the same time there was insufficient food and a deficit in protein needed by the host communities and refugees. He says they brought groups of 200 refugees and host community members who work in the fishing area for six months, harvest and sell the fish and then create their own fish ponds to help them raise revenue and protein.

The refugees and host community members receive business training, emphasizing savings and loan best practices, technical support that includes how to produce low-cost fish food pellets, and other innovative ideas from the World Food Program.

The host communities are involved in efforts to stop any potential conflict that may arise from using water and other resources.

The W.F.P. says the savings and loan program in Gado is part of a new response to the massive displacement of people from C.A.R. to Cameroon and the effects it has on host communities.

Barely 1,000 C.A.R. refugees were here at Gado at the beginning of 2017. Today, close to 25,000 people are seeking refuge and trying to survive as tensions in the central African state continue.

Allegra Baiocchi, resident coordinator of the UN system in Cameroon says the aquaculture program was initiated to support the refugees and empower them rather than have them be dependent on resources that are overstretched and slow to come.

“Our response is underfunded. We need to remember the refugees population and the impact this has on the host communities and we need to do more,” she said. “Overall, the humanitarian response in Cameroon is 40 percent funded. When it comes to refugees, that figure comes down to 20 percent. There is not more we can do with 20 percent of the funding. After three years, what the people are asking us is to give them more long term support. To start putting them on the path of recovery and of development.”

The United Nations raised only $148 million of the 390 million dollars it needed up to the end of last September. The UN says by January, the needs of the refugees will increase to 498 million dollars.

C.A.R. plunged into turmoil in 2013 when the government of the majority Christian nation was overthrown by Muslim rebels, setting off a wave of sectarian fighting.

Christians, fearing reprisal attacks from the Muslim ex-rebels who controlled Central African Republic, fled for safety.

At least two-point-two million are finding it difficult to feed themselves and in May of this year, the U.N. refugee agency said that there were more than 500,000 internally displaced persons in the country.


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Greek Unions Strike as Bailouts to End With Austerity Blitz

Greece’s workers walked off the job for a 24-hour general strike Thursday, as the country prepares to stop relying on European rescue loans but continues to pile more austerity measures on hard-hit taxpayers.

 

The strike halted ferry services to the islands, closed state schools, and left public hospitals accepting only emergency cases.

 

Airlines rescheduled and cancelled flights as some airport staff joined the labor action with a four-hour work stoppage, and public transport was operating only for certain hours during the day.

 

Thousands of people gathered in Athens for anti-government protests, while demonstrations were planned in more than 50 cities and towns across the country.

 

“The government is doing a dirty job at the expense of the Greek people,” said Greek Communist Party leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas, speaking at the main morning rally in central Athens, which was attended by more than 16,000 people, according to police estimates.

 

Greece has depended on international bailouts since 2010 but must return to bond markets next year when its third consecutive rescue program runs out in August.

 

The government’s borrowing rates have tumbled, and the country is on course to achieve modest economic growth in 2017. But poverty rates continue to worsen after years of cuts.

 

Household incomes have fallen by about a third since the crisis started in 2009, according to World Bank data, and inequality has risen due to high long-term unemployment.

 

Roughly half the country’s taxpayers are behind on payments, with several hundred thousand facing the threat of asset seizures.

 

Thursday’s protest was triggered by a government plan to toughen strike rules in draft legislation submitted to parliament and swiftly withdrawn.

 

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ left-led coalition government has also promised to help banks clear a mountain of bad loans, speeding up auctions of homes in mortgage default.

 


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Decade Since Recession: Thriving Cities Leave Others Behind

As the nation’s economy was still reeling from the body blow of the Great Recession, Seattle’s was about to take off.

In 2010, Amazon opened a headquarters in the little-known South Lake Union district — and then expanded eight-fold over the next seven years to fill 36 buildings. Everywhere you look, there are signs of a thriving city: Building cranes looming over streets, hotels crammed with business travelers, tony restaurants filled with diners.

 

Seattle is among a fistful of cities that have flourished in the 10 years since the Great Recession officially began in December 2007, even while most other large cities — and sizable swaths of rural America — have managed only modest recoveries. Some cities are still struggling to shed the scars of recession.

 

In Las Vegas, half-finished housing developments, relics of the housing boom, pockmark the surrounding desert. Families there earn nearly 20 percent less, adjusted for inflation, than in 2007.

 

In the decade since the recession began, the nation as a whole has staged a heartening comeback: The unemployment rate is at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent, down from 10 percent in 2009. Employers have added jobs for 86 straight months, a record streak. And last year, income for a typical U.S. household, adjusted for inflation, finally regained its 1999 peak.

 

Yet the rebound has been uneven. It’s failed to narrow the country’s deep regional economic disparities and in fact has worsened them, according to data analyzed exclusively for The Associated Press. A few cities have grown much richer, thanks to their grip on an outsize share of lucrative tech jobs and soaring home prices. Others have thrived because of surging oil and gas production.

 

But many Southern and Midwestern cities — from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Janesville, Wisconsin — have yet to recover from the loss of manufacturing jobs that have been automated out of existence or lost to competition from China, before and during the recession. Like others, they have fewer jobs and lower household incomes than before the downturn.

 

Those disparities complicate the rosy picture painted by most nationwide economic data. With the nation enduring a widening wealth gap, an overall robust U.S. economy doesn’t necessarily translate into widely shared prosperity.

 

“There’s definitely a pattern of the coasts pulling away from the middle of the country on income,” said Alan Berube, an expert on metro U.S. economies at the Brookings Institution. “There are a large number of places around the country that haven’t gotten back to where they were 15 years ago, never mind ten years ago.”

 

That said, for all the economic might the top-flight cities have gained in the past decade, many city officials and business leaders have become concerned that their success is running up against limits. Surging home prices and rents have made housing unaffordable for many. With cities like Seattle and San Francisco choked with traffic, engulfed by homeless people and requiring ever-larger incomes to live comfortably, quality of life may be at risk.

 

In the Western United States, inflation reached nearly 3 percent in October compared with a year earlier, according to government data. By contrast, inflation rose just 1.5 percent in the Midwest and New England.

 

“It’s the first time I have noticed a persistent spread between inflation in one area and the rest of the country,” says Steve Cochrane, an economist at Moody’s Analytics who has studied regional economics for 25 years.

 

Mindful of the financial burden on employees, some tech companies have decided to set up shop or expand where expenses are more manageable. Snapchat and Hulu have put down roots on the slightly more affordable west side of Los Angeles, joining outposts of Google and Facebook in an area now known as “Silicon Beach.”

 

Last year, nearly as many people moved out of Silicon Valley — defined as Santa Clara and San Mateo counties — as moved in, according to a report by Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a civic group. It was the first time since 2010 that the number of arrivals and departures have been roughly equal.

 

The trend isn’t entirely surprising given that commuting times in San Francisco have lengthened by 40 minutes a week in the past decade, the report said. The price of a typical San Francisco home has reached an eye-watering $1.2 million, according to Trulia, an online real estate data provider.

 

Housing costs, inflated by local regulations restricting home-building, can act as a barrier to opportunity. They make it harder for people in poorer areas to move for better opportunities. With fewer people able to move to places with more jobs and higher pay, the national economy tends to suffer, economists say.

 

Among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, San Francisco experienced the biggest gain in median household income in the decade after the recession began. Adjusted for inflation, it jumped 13.2 percent, according to data compiled by Moody’s Analytics. San Jose, which is part of Silicon Valley, enjoyed the second-largest increase, at 12.7 percent, followed by Austin, Texas, with 8.8 percent.

 

By comparison, median household income in the 100 largest metro areas actually fell 2.7 percent, on average. And the income gap between the 10 richest and 10 poorest metro areas has widened in the past decade, Moody’s data shows.

 

Eight of the 10 cities with the largest income gains are “tech hubs,” with heavy concentrations of software architects, data analysts and cloud-computing engineers. They include Denver, Portland, Oregon; Provo, Utah; and Raleigh, North Carolina.

 

Pittsburgh has experienced the ninth-largest income gain, thanks to increased tech and health care jobs. Oklahoma City, where inflation-adjusted incomes are up 5.5 percent, has benefited from the oil and gas boom.

 

Most Americans haven’t received raises anywhere near that large. Data compiled by Brookings shows that 65 percent of Americans who live in urban areas _ defined as cities with populations above 65,000 _ live in places where the typical household income is still below its 1999 level.

 

Max Versace, CEO of artificial intelligence startup Neurala, who arrived in Boston in 2001 from Italy, has watched the city transform itself into a boomtown, filled with innovative companies working on robotics, AI and self-driving cars. Boston enjoyed the 11th-best income gain in the past decade, Moody’s data shows.

 

“I have never experienced a slowdown in Boston,” said Versace, whose company is based in Boston’s Seaport neighborhood, a formerly rundown industrial area now crowded with startups and high-end restaurants. “Boston is one of those bubbles  — good bubbles — that have been saved by the two locomotives of computer sciences and biotechnology.”

Versace launched Neurala in 2013, and it now has 36 employees, including eight with PhDs. While most workers across the country have endured scant pay gains, Versace estimates that salaries for AI researchers with Ph.D.’s have doubled since 2008.

 

Neurala is working to incorporate AI in drones, including one aimed at energy firms that will use its technology to spot cracks in pipelines or wind turbines without needing humans to monitor video feeds.

 

One other change Versace is happy to observe: “I no longer have to spit out espressos or pasta,” because the quality of each has improved so much since he arrived.

 

The divergence between the richest and poorest U.S. cities predates the Great Recession. But it is historically unusual. For a period of 100 years ending in the 1980s, income gaps between richer and poorer cities narrowed steadily.

 

Economists cite three reasons why such convergence ended. The nature of high-tech work, for one thing, makes it productive for higher-skilled workers to cluster in the same cities.

 

Elisa Giannone, an economist at the University of Chicago, notes that in past decades, highly paid professionals _ doctors, say _ might have congregated in cities with fewer physicians to capitalize on the lack of competition and earn more. Likewise, many companies that employed high-skilled workers would move to lower-cost cities to take advantage of cheaper labor.

 

But her research has found that both trends have been upended by the rise of highly skilled information technology work. People with such skills prefer to work in cities with their peers. And the companies that employ them seem to care just as much about the right skills as they do about lower costs. What’s more, higher educated employees typically become more efficient when they cluster together and exchange ideas.

 

“It’s more beneficial and more productive to go where there are more people like me,” Giannone says, referring to how such workers think. “I don’t want to be left out.”

 

Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed, the job listings website, calculates that one quarter of tech job openings in the first half of this year were located in just eight tech hubs: Baltimore, Washington, Boston, San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin and Raleigh, North Carolina.

 

A second factor is swelling home prices and rents, particularly where regulations make it harder to build more. People in poorer areas often used move to wealthier cities to find better opportunities. Now, that option is increasingly available only to those with advanced skills or education.

 

Two public policy experts, Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag, concluded in a paper last year that both janitors and lawyers used to fare better financially in New York City than in poorer cities, even accounting for the higher cost of living.

Now, because of rocketing home prices in richer areas, that’s no longer true. Lawyers can still come out ahead. But janitors and other lower-skilled workers don’t.

 

“Skilled workers move to high cost, high productivity areas, and unskilled workers move out,” Ganong and Shoag wrote.

 

In the 10 cities with the fastest income growth, housing prices have soared by an average of 31.1 percent in the past decade, Trulia found. That compares with a national average increase of just 5.1 percent.

 

One result has been huge wealth gains for a fortunate few. A resident of San Francisco who bought a typical home, paying nearly $816,000 in the spring of 2007 — just as the housing market nationwide was collapsing — has gained $365,000 in the past decade.

 

In Cincinnati, a homeowner who bought at the same time would have paid just $143,000 but would have gained only $6,500.

 

“Geography plays a critical role in wealth building,” said Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Trulia.

 

A final factor behind the diversion is that the industries and occupations in slower-growing regions were leveled by the recession. Manufacturing and mining are disproportionately located in red states. So are retail jobs. All those sectors have endured weak growth since the recession.

 

Robin Brooks, an economist at the Institute of International Finance, a trade group, says those job losses have opened a gap between so-called “red” states, which voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and “blue” states.

 

About 61 percent of blue state residents have jobs, compared with roughly 59 percent in red states, Brooks found. That cuts against recent historical patterns: From the 1990s through the mild recession of 2001, there was no gap at all.

 

Despite the persistence of regional inequality, some positive trends have emerged: More tech jobs are moving out of the tech hubs and spreading around the country. Software programming jobs have migrated to Dallas, Detroit, and Charlotte, among other cities, according to Brookings data. Software increasingly plays a vital role in banking and finance, auto manufacturing, and retail.

 

But many of those tech jobs are lower- or mid-level positions, such as technical support and help desk jobs, rather than higher-paying, cutting-edge positions. Kolko notes that the most highly-skilled tech jobs — in such areas as machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence; computer vision; and database engineering — are even more concentrated in tech hubs than are tech jobs overall.

 

“There’s a spreading out of the tech economy, but it remains a different tech economy in the middle of the country than what you find in the Bay Area, Boston, New York and Austin,” Berube said.

 

Software may be more widely used, but when it comes to actually inventing new software, “that is still a phenomenon you find in only four of five places in the United States.”


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US Central Bank Raises Interest Rate Slightly

The U.S. central bank raised its key interest rate slightly Wednesday, but left the level low enough to continue stimulating economic growth.

The Federal Reserve pushed up rates a quarter of a percent to a range between 1.25 and 1.5 percent. The increase leaves the benchmark rate below historic averages.      

The Fed slashed rates nearly to zero during the recession in a bid to boost the economy and fight unemployment by making it cheaper to borrow the money needed to build factories, buy equipment and hire people.

Janet Yellen, at her last press conference as chair of the Federal Reserve, said economic growth is “solid” as business investment and overseas demand grow. She said the impact of tax changes working their way through Congress is “uncertain” but would probably give a “modest lift” to the economy over the next few years. Fed officials are expected to continue raising interest rates gradually.

The recession ended and expansion resumed in 2009. Unemployment was cut from 10 percent to the current 4.1 percent and the Fed eventually decided the recovering economy needed less assistance and started raising rates. Leaving interest rates too low for too long could overstimulate the economy and spark a sharp increase in prices.  

The newest U.S. inflation data came out Wednesday, showing that prices rose 2.2 percent during the past 12 months. Outside the volatile areas of food and energy, the overall economy expanded at a 1.7 percent annual rate. That so-called “core” rate remains below the 2 percent rate that Fed experts think is best for economic growth.

Some analysts predict the Fed will raise rates a couple more times next year as experts balance the need to boost growth against worries that inflation could jump out of control.

 


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Sweet Victory: French Candymakers Win China Legal War

Revenge is sweet for the makers of France’s traditional “calisson” candies, who have won a months-long legal battle with a businessman who trademarked the product’s name in China.

The lozenge-shaped sweets, made of a mixture of candied fruit and ground almonds topped with icing, are widely enjoyed in France’s southern Aix-en-Provence region.

Their makers were none too pleased when Chinese entrepreneur Ye Chunlin spotted a sweet opportunity in 2015 to register the “Calisson d’Aix” name for use at home, as well as its Mandarin equivalent, “kalisong”.

The trademark was set to be valid until 2026, sparking angst among Provence’s sweetmakers who worried Ye’s move could have barred them from entering the huge Chinese market.

But China’s copyright office rejected Ye’s claim to the brand name in a decision seen by AFP on Wednesday, which said his request to use the label “could confuse consumers on the origin of the products”.

Laure Pierrisnard, head of the union of calisson makers in Aix, hailed the news as “a real victory”.

The union has fought the case for months in the name of 12 sweetmakers, accusing Ye of “opportunism.”

It is not uncommon for Western brands to try to crack the Chinese market only to find that their name or trademark has been registered by a local company.

An enterprising Chinese businessman in 2007 registered the brand name “IPHONE” for use in leather products, to the great displeasure of Apple, which lost a court case against him.

The courts similarly backed a Chinese company that wanted to use the name of sneaker brand New Balance.

Ye, who is from the eastern province of Zhejiang, did not respond to the French sweetmakers’ objections to Chinese authorities.

But he insisted in late 2016 that he acted in good faith, telling AFP he was “a salesman who does business within the rules.”

As far as French producers are aware, calissons have never rolled off a factory line in China.

Some makers, dreaming of the international success enjoyed by their rival the macaron, are seeking to expand abroad, including to the enticing Chinese market.

The Roy Rene chain – owned by Olivier Baussan, the entrepreneur behind Province’s best known brand internationally, L’Occitane cosmetics — has stores in Miami and Canada, and is eyeing Dubai.

The company says it has been contacted by several investors over the course of the Chinese court case seeking to bring the sweets to China.

The affair has also re-energized makers of the dainty candies in their bid for special European status as a product that comes specifically from Provence.

Beijing has already recognized the status of 10 such European foods, including France’s Comte and Roquefort cheeses and Italy’s Parma ham, as well as 45 different wines from Bordeaux.

Aix-en-Provence produces about 800 tons of calissons every year.

 


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Tanzania Orders Tighter Controls on Currency, Bank Crackdown as Growth Slows

Tanzanian president John Magufuli ordered the central bank on Wednesday to tighten controls on the movement of hard currency and take swift action against failing banks in a bid to tackle financial crimes and protect the local shilling currency.

The move comes as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) called on Tanzania to speed up reforms and spend more to prevent a slowdown in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Magufuli pledged to reform an economy hobbled by red tape and corruption and begin a program to develop public infrastructure after he was elected in 2015.

“We now have some 58 banks in Tanzania, the [central] Bank of Tanzania should closely monitor these banks and take swift action against failing institutions. It’s better to have a few viable banks than many failing banks,” he said in a statement issued by his office.

“I also want restrictions on the use of U.S. dollars. As I speak, $1 million cash was confiscated at the … [main] airport in Dar es Salaam and there is no explanation on the movement of this money into the country. We have to be careful.”

Magufuli said his government was taking several monetary policy measures to improve lending to the private sector, and this had already started to ease pressure on shilling liquidity.

The IMF said late on Tuesday that Tanzania’s banking sector remained well-capitalized, but some small and mid-sized banks face a sizable reduction in capitalization ratios.

It said that progress has been slow, while a lack of public spending — coupled with private sector concerns over policy uncertainty — was curtailing growth in East Africa’s third-biggest economy.

“Improvements in the business environment — policy predictability based on a strong dialog with the private sector, regulatory reforms, timely payment of value-added tax [VAT] and other tax refunds, and eliminating domestic arrears — must be pursued with urgency,” the IMF said late on Tuesday.

Tanzania’s economy grew at an annual rate of 6.8 percent in the first half of this year from 7.7 percent in the same period in 2016.

The economy has been growing at around 7 percent annually for the past decade, but the World Bank said in November growth will likely slow to 6.6 percent in 2017.

The IMF said a sharp fall in lending to the private sector, prompted by high non-performing loans, pointed to a continued slowdown in growth.

In June, the IMF said Tanzania may have to delay implementing some of its infrastructure projects because its revenue expectations for 2017-2018 may not be achieved.

In a bid to profit from its long coastline, Tanzania wants to spend $14.2 billion over the next five years to build a 2,560 km (1,590 mile) railway network, part of plans that also include upgrading ports and roads to serve growing economies in the region.

The IMF said subdued government revenue collection and delays in securing financing for projects have held back development spending and hurt economic growth.


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US, EU, Japan Slam Market Distortion in Swipe at China

The United States, European Union and Japan vowed Tuesday to work together to fight market-distorting trade practices and policies that have fueled excess production capacity, naming several key features of China’s economic system.

In a joint statement that did not single out China or any other country, the three economic powers said they would work within the World Trade Organization and other multilateral groups to eliminate unfair competitive conditions caused by subsidies, state-owned enterprises, “forced” technology transfer and local content requirements.

The move was a rare show of solidarity with the United States at a World Trade Organization meeting dominated by differences over U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” trade agenda and U.S. efforts to stall the appointment of WTO judges.

It reflected growing frustration among industrial countries over China’s trade practices, along with concerns that other developing countries will follow Beijing’s lead.

The statement said protectionist practices “are serious concerns for the proper functioning of international trade, the creation of innovative technologies and the sustainable growth of the global economy.”

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said China’s industry subsidies, including for aluminum and steel, were flooding global markets and hurting European workers in a “very, very dramatic” way.

“There’s no secret that we think that China is a big sinner here, but there are other countries that are as well,” Malmstrom told reporters on the sidelines of a business forum.

In the opening session of the WTO ministerial conference in Buenos Aires on Monday, the United States and Japan criticized a lack of transparency in some WTO members’ trade practices, a thinly veiled swipe at Beijing.

China, meanwhile, appealed for members to “join hands” and uphold WTO rules to protect globalization in the face of rising protectionism.

The joint statement came after Japan approached the European Union and the United States about overcapacity, according to an EU source, with both Tokyo and Brussels concerned about the possibility the Trump administration could act unilaterally.

“There is a thought that if we bring them into the fold, and can work jointly with them, then it reduces the risk of them going alone,” the source said.

​’Playing by the rules’

Washington, Brussels and Tokyo have previously raised complaints about China’s excess production capacity in a number of industrial sectors that has pushed down world prices and caused layoffs elsewhere.

The United States recently sided with the EU in arguing that such distortions mean the WTO should not grant China market economy status, a move that would severely weaken their trade defenses.

“We have been … reaching out to China to tell them they really must start playing by the rules,” Malmstrom told reporters.

The EU’s and Japan’s willingness to cooperate with the Trump administration comes despite disagreements over the role of the WTO and the future of multilateral trade deals. 

Trump has expressed his preference for bilateral negotiations, and his trade rhetoric has cast a cloud over the WTO meeting.

Efforts on Tuesday to make progress on a ministerial statement from all 164 WTO members were unsuccessful, since one country could not agree on the language, WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell told reporters, declining to name that country.

U.S. officials last month blocked WTO efforts to draft a statement of unity over the “centrality” of the global trading system and the need to aid development.

A spokeswoman for the office of the U.S. trade representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Trump administration is considering several unilateral tariff actions on steel, aluminum and China’s intellectual property practices that are likely to draw disputes from WTO members.


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