US Consumer Spending Grew Just 0.2 Percent in May

U.S consumers increased their spending just 0.2 percent in May, a disappointing result after two months of much stronger gains. The weaker reading could raise questions about the extent of economic growth overall in the current April-June quarter.

The Commerce Department says the tiny rise in spending last month followed much stronger increases of 0.6 percent in March and 0.5 percent in April. It was the poorest showing since spending had fallen 0.1 percent in February.

Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, and economists are counting on solid gains to propel economic growth after a slow start to the year.

In a more hopeful sign, incomes grew a solid 0.4 percent in May, supported by strong growth in wages and salaries.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

Trade Dispute Hits China’s Yuan, Investors

After a sharp sell-off, China’s yuan and stock markets attempted a modest recovery Friday, yet investors were grappling with some of their worst losses in years as a bitter Sino-U.S. trade row threatened to ruffle the world’s second-biggest economy.

The yuan was set for its biggest monthly fall on record. Chinese stocks, on a downward spiral since late January, were also poised for their largest monthly slide since January 2016.

The downturn highlighted the anxiety among investors as Washington and Beijing showed no signs of backing down from their tariff dispute.

The worry is that an extended selloff in stocks and the yuan could spark a bout of capital outflows, putting further strain on the economy and complicating policy making as authorities put up defenses against the trade battle with the United States.

Down 3 percent in month

The yuan has shed more than 3 percent of its value against the dollar in June, its biggest fall since the market exchange rate was unified in 1994. On Friday, it fell to its lowest since mid-November 2017, but pulled up to 6.6139 per dollar by 0600 GMT for a modest bounce of about 0.16 percent on the day.

Offshore, where the yuan trades more freely, the unit was up by about a quarter of a percent, at 6.6224 per dollar.

In equities, the benchmark CSI300 Index rebounded more than 2 percent, while the Shanghai Composite Index gained around 2 percent, though they were both down around 9 percent for the month. In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng Index was also up more than 1 percent.

Trump and trade

U.S. President Donald Trump has shaken the world trade order by seeking to renegotiate the terms of some of the United States’ trading relationships, in particular with China.

The U.S. is targeting $34 billion of Chinese goods for tariffs to take effect July 6, and has threatened tens of billions of dollars more for similar duties.

Chinese 10-year treasury futures for September delivery, the most traded contract, leapt 0.34 percent. A fixed income portfolio manager said the sharp rise was a result of central bank promises of “ample” liquidity.

“The central bank is expected to step up efforts to calm investors and slow the pace of the yuan depreciation that has sparked risk aversion across regional markets, including a possible reintroduction of the counter-cyclical factor,” Gao Qi, FX strategist at Scotiabank in Singapore, wrote in a note Friday.

He expected “strong resistance” at 6.70 yuan per dollar.

Hard-hit areas

Sectors and stocks that were exposed to the depreciating yuan have been hit hard this month.

Real estate was down 5.7 percent and poised for its fifth straight month of losses. The transport sector index, whose components include many leading airlines, tumbled 9.4 percent this month and was set for its steepest monthly drop since January 2016.

A trader at a regional bank in Shanghai who declined to be named said there had been some “filtering” of the midpoint fixing, which is set by the central bank each morning, in an apparent bid to keep the yuan from falling too sharply.

“It is too early to say whether the counter-cyclical factor has been revived. If market sentiment could recover by itself, there is no need to use the factor. Market still needs some time to digest,” the trader said.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

Minnesota Approves Enbridge Energy Line 3 Pipeline Project

Minnesota regulators on Thursday approved Enbridge Energy’s proposal to replace its aging Line 3 oil pipeline across the northern part of the state.

All five members of the Public Utilities Commission backed the project, though some cited heavy trepidation, and a narrow majority later approved the company’s preferred route despite opposition from American Indian tribes and climate change activists.

In discussion before the vote, several commissioners cited the deteriorating condition of the existing line , which was built in the 1960s, as a major factor in their decision.

“It’s irrefutable that that pipeline is an accident waiting to happen,” Commissioner Dan Lipschultz said ahead of the vote. “It feels like a gun to our head … All I can say is the gun is real and it’s loaded.”

Some pipeline opponents reacted angrily when it became clear commissioners would approve the project. Tania Aubid, a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, stood and shouted, “You have just declared war on the Ojibwe!” Brent Murcia, of the group Youth Climate Intervenors, added: “We will not let this stand.”

Opponents argue that the pipeline risks spills in pristine areas in northern Minnesota, including where American Indians harvest wild rice. Ojibwe Indians, or Anishinaabe, consider wild rice sacred and central to their culture.

Winona LaDuke, founder of Honor the Earth, said opponents would use every regulatory means possible to stop the project — and threatened mass protests if necessary.

“They have gotten their Standing Rock,” she said, referring to protests that drew thousands of people to neighboring North Dakota to rally against the Dakota Access pipeline. 

Others welcomed Thursday’s vote, including Bob Schoneberger, founder of Minnesotans for Line 3. He said Minnesota needs the line now “and will need it even more into the future.”

After commissioners agreed the pipeline upgrade was needed, the commission voted 3-2 in favor of Enbridge’s preferred route, which departs from the existing pipeline to largely avoid two American Indian reservations currently crossed.

The approved route does clip a portion of the Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa’s land, and commissioners said they would adjust the route if the Fond du Lac don’t agree. Tribal leaders had reluctantly backed a route that went much farther south as the least objectionable option.

After the commission’s work is formalized in the next few weeks, opponents may file motions asking it to reconsider. After that, they can appeal the decision to the state Court of Appeals. 

Several commissioners said the overall issue posed a difficult decision. Chairwoman Nancy Lange choked up and took off her glasses to wipe her eyes as she described her reasoning for approving the project. Another commissioner, Katie Sieben, said it was “so tough because there is no good outcome.”

The pipeline currently runs from Alberta, Canada, across North Dakota and Minnesota to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. Enbridge has said it needs to replace the pipeline because it’s increasingly subject to corrosion and cracking, and that it would continue to run Line 3 if regulators rejected its proposal.

Much of the debate has focused on whether Minnesota and Midwest refineries need the extra oil. Enbridge currently runs Line 3 at about half its original capacity of 760,000 barrels per day for safety reasons, and currently uses it only to carry light crude. 

The project’s opponents, including the Minnesota Department of Commerce, have argued that the refineries don’t need it because demand for oil and petroleum products will fall in the coming years as people switch to electric cars and renewable energy sources. Opposition groups also argue that much of the additional oil would eventually flow to overseas buyers.

Enbridge and its customers strongly dispute the lack of need in the region. They said Line 3’s reduced capacity is already forcing the company to severely ration space on its pipeline network, and that failure to restore its capacity would force oil shippers to rely more on trains and trucks, which are more expensive and less safe. Business and labor groups support the proposal for the jobs and economic stimulus. 

The Public Utilities Commission’s decision likely won’t be the final word in a long, contentious process that has included numerous public hearings and the filings of thousands of pages of documents since 2015. Lange said earlier this year that the dispute was likely to end up in court, regardless of what the commission decides.

Opponents have threatened a repeat of the protests on the Standing Rock Reservation against the Dakota Access pipeline, in which Enbridge owns a stake. Those protests in 2016 and 2017 resulted in sometimes violent skirmishes with law enforcement and more than 700 arrests. 

Similar concerns over the role of tar sands oil in climate change, indigenous rights and the risk of spills has fueled opposition to other pipelines out of Alberta’s oil sands region. Opponents of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline to Nebraska are still fighting that project in court. The Canadian government agreed last month to buy Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline across Canadian soil to the Pacific Coast for $4.5 billion Canadian (US$3.4 billion) to ensure completion of the company’s plan to triple the line’s capacity. 

Enbridge has already replaced the short segment of Line 3 in Wisconsin and put it into service. Construction is underway on the short segment that crosses northeastern North Dakota and on the longer section from Alberta to the U.S. border, and Enbridge plans to continue that work. Enbridge has estimated the overall cost of the project at $7.5 billion, including $2.6 billion for the U.S. segment.

 

 


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

US Delegation Attends Kenya’s Inaugural Economic Summit 

A U.S. delegation traveled to Kenya on Thursday to attend the inaugural economic summit of the American Chamber of Commerce, Kenya.

About 500 delegates, including Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Gilbert Kaplan, U.S. undersecretary of commerce for international trade, other high-ranking government officials from both nations and representatives from nearly 30 major U.S. corporations, gathered at the summit, which was aimed at creating partnerships between the two nations’ public and private sectors in order to foster economic growth. 

The Kenyan agenda was centered on advancing Kenyatta’s “Big Four” priorities — universal health care, manufacturing, food security and affordable housing — that he set out after his re-election to a second term last year.

American companies in attendance were looking for opportunities to expand and to increase trade and investment in Africa.

Kaplan told VOA that increasing business and economic development in Africa would benefit many Americans, which aligns with the promises of President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” agenda. 

“If we can export more and do more transactions here, do more investment here, that’s going to be incredibly helpful for the United States, for the people back home, because we’ll be making profitable ventures, and that will naturally help,” he said.

But the U.S. delegation also had a strong message for Kenya: Real, meaningful economic growth can’t happen unless Kenya commits to fighting corruption.

‘It’s got to stop’

“Corruption is undermining Kenya’s future,” said Robert Godec, U.S. ambassador to Kenya. “It’s clearly a major problem for the country. We welcome President Kenyatta’s commitment and the push recently to address this problem. Corruption is theft from the people, and it’s got to stop.”

In his speech to the delegation, Kenyatta pledged to “fight this animal called corruption and ensure that it is a beast that shall never infect or inflict future generations” of Kenyans. 

Kaplan told VOA that the U.S. government was providing support and training to the Kenyan government to help tackle corruption.

“We’ve dealt with that — the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, rule of law and international standards,” he said. “I think we can convince Kenya that following those rules is ultimately to their benefit because it brings more businessmen and women into the system and being able to be successful.” 

Part of the objective of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is to make it illegal for companies and their supervisors to influence foreign officials with personal payments or rewards.

C.D. Glin, president and chief executive of the U.S. African Development Foundation, told VOA that the U.S. government’s and private sector’s support of businesses in Africa that had ramped up under the previous administration was being continued by Trump.

For instance, the President’s Advisory Council for Doing Business in Africa, begun under the Barack Obama administration and still in force, “really is looking at Africa from a business standpoint and from an opportunity standpoint so that Africans can benefit from U.S. support, but also can support the U.S.,” Glin said.

Major boost

Nicholas Nesbitt, chairman of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, said the increased U.S. private sector investment had been hugely beneficial for the Kenyan economy.

“We see a lot more tourism coming to Kenya, a lot more trade and a lot more business,” he said. “We’re very excited to see the numbers of American companies — small, midsize and even large corporations — looking at Kenya as a destination. It’s also a gateway to east Africa, where there are 200 million potential consumers. So, the investments, the energy, the excitement is absolutely tremendous today at this summit between American and Kenyan business.”

Six commercial deals between Kenyan and American companies were signed at the summit. Maxwell Okello, chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce, Kenya, called that a sign that significant economic change would be driven by private sector innovation.

“I think at the end of the day, with what we’re hearing today here, it’s really down to what the private sector wants to do from a commercial engagement,” he said. “And I believe conversations such as this is really where you spark that interest, where you create those linkages and the sort of engagement that you need. And the opportunities are there for anyone. They’re obvious.

“So, I think that various policies aside, from a commercial business engagement perspective, the sky is wide open.” 


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

Praise for Foxconn, Warning to Harley by Trump in Wisconsin    

Hailing “great economic success” during the first 18 months of his administration, U.S. President Donald Trump is calling for more companies to be like Taiwan’s electronics component manufacturer Foxconn and invest in the United States. 

At a groundbreaking event for the foreign company’s latest and largest investment in the upper Midwestern state of Wisconsin, Trump described the planned $10 billion manufacturing facility “as the eighth wonder of the world.” 

That may be a generous exaggeration, but the plant is one of the largest foreign direct investment projects ever in the United States. 

“We are demanding from foreign countries, friend and foe, fair and reciprocal trade,” Trump said, as he defended his confrontational trade policies and hailed further direct investment in the United States by manufacturers from other countries. 

Trump hailed Foxconn’s decision to increase its investment in Wisconsin, while criticizing a plan by an iconic American company in the same state to move some production overseas in response to retaliatory tariffs planned by European companies in response to the president’s punitive import taxes. 

“Harley-Davidson, please build those beautiful motorcycles in the USA,” Trump said. “Don’t get cute with us.” 

The president added: “Your customers won’t be happy if you don’t.”

Trump defended tariffs he has imposed on foreign steel and aluminum, proclaiming that “business is through the roof” in the United States as a result. 

The primary focus of Trump’s remarks on Thursday was Foxconn’s decision to build flat-screen, liquid crystal display panels in Racine County, Wisconsin. 

The maker of components for and assembler of Apple iPhones was offered what is described as the largest financial incentive ever for a foreign company by a U.S. state. 

Wisconsin is giving Foxconn $3 billion in tax credits and other incentives. In exchange, the state expects to see the facility create thousands of jobs. 

Trump spoke in front of a giant video display that said “USA Open for Business” after touring an existing Foxconn facility at the Wisconsin Valley Science and Technology Park. 

Foxconn’s founder and chairman Terry Gou told the audience that during each of his several previous meetings with the president, Trump always emphasized “jobs, jobs, jobs.” 

Added Gou, “He truly cares about improving the lives of the American people.” 

The new plant, which will take two years to build and employ 10,000 construction workers, will include a 1.8 million square meter campus situated on 1,200 hectares. Foxconn has promised that the LCD facility will eventually employ up to 13,000 people. 

Not everyone in the state is overjoyed about what is being billed as a transformational project for Wisconsin’s economy, better known for dairy products than high technology. 

The state’s legislative bureau predicts it will be a quarter of a century before Wisconsin receives enough tax revenue to match its initial investment. And others are raising concern about its environmental impact. 

“Building the Foxconn factory complex on prime farmland in rural Wisconsin constitutes a textbook example of unsustainable development,” said David Petering, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Petering told VOA News the facility will be a “major source of a variety of harmful air pollutants that will put nearby residents at risk and contribute to climate change. In addition, it will need to break the Great Lakes Compact law to get millions of gallons of water from Lake Michigan.” 


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

Threats from US Put New Pressure on Iranian Oil Importers

Importers of Iranian oil are facing pressure from the United States to find another energy source or be hit with sanctions.

The Trump administration is threatening other countries, including close allies such as South Korea, with the sanctions if they don’t cut off Iranian imports by early November, essentially erecting a global blockade around the world’s sixth-biggest petroleum producer.

South Korea accounted for 14 percent of Iran’s oil exports last year, according to the U.S. Energy Department. China is the largest importer of Iranian oil with 24 percent, followed by India with 18 percent. Turkey stood at 9 percent, and Italy at 7 percent.

A State Department official told reporters this week that the “vast majority” of countries will comply with the U.S. request. A group from the State Department and the National Security Council is delivering the president’s message in Europe. The official added that the group had not yet visited China or India.

President Donald Trump announced in May that he would pull the United States out of a 2015 agreement over Iran’s nuclear program, and would re-impose sanctions on Tehran. Previously, the administration said only that other countries should make a “significant reduction” in imports of Iranian crude to avoid U.S. sanctions.

European allies will reluctantly go along to avoid sanctions on their companies that do business in the U.S., said Jim Krane, an energy and geopolitics expert at Rice University. However, China, India and Turkey might be less likely to fully cut off Iranian imports, he said.

Antoine Halff, a researcher at Columbia University and former chief oil analyst for the International Energy Agency, said it’s not unusual for the U.S. government to seek cooperation from other importers of Iranian oil — President Barack Obama’s administration did it during a previous round of sanctions.

“The difference is that there was broad international support for the sanctions then,” while the move to restore sanctions now over Iran’s nuclear program “is a unilateral decision from the United States alone,” Halff said.

The Trump administration is counting on Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members to supply enough oil to offset the lost Iranian exports and prevent oil prices from rising sharply.

The State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. will be talking in a week or so “with our Middle Eastern partners to ensure that the global supply of oil is not adversely affected by these sanctions.”

Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed over the weekend to boost oil production by about 600,000 barrels a day. Iran exported about 1.9 million barrels a day during the first quarter of this year, according to OPEC figures. It is the world’s seventh largest oil exporter.

“It would not be a heavy lift for OPEC to replace Iran’s contribution to world oil markets — Saudi Arabia could probably do it on its own,” Krane said. “Saudi spare capacity protects the U.S. motorist from U.S. foreign policy.”


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

Virtual Reality in Filmmaking Immerses Viewers in Global Issues

Melting glaciers and rising seas in Greenland; raging fires in Northern California; a relentless drought in Somalia and the disappearing Amazon forests. Famine, Feast, Fire and Ice are the four installments in a virtual reality (VR) documentary on climate change by filmmakers Eric Strauss and Danfung Dennis.  

The series, showcased at AFI Docs, the American Film Institute’s Documentary festival in Washington, D.C., offers a 360-degree view of destructive phenomena brought by climate change on our planet. It immerses viewers into the extremes of Earth’s changing climate.  

Eric Strauss told VOA he hopes that when someone watches the series as it drives home this idea that there is no hiding from global warming. “This is coming for all of us, regardless of where we live or what our income is; it’s going to affect everyone.”

Ken Jacobson, AFI’s Virtual Reality Programmer, says viewers – who watch the film wearing virtual reality headsets – react in many different ways to this all immersive experience.

“Some people have a very visceral reaction where they jump, where they kind of yelp because they are very surprised by what they see, while other people, I think, are very reflective and can even be sad, depending on the content,” he said.

One of these viewers is James Willard, a film and TV production student at George Mason University.  He describes his experience of watching the installment Feast, about the deforestation of the Amazon rainforests to make space for industrial-sized cattle ranches to satisfy the global appetite for beef.

“You are completely immersed in this whole situation,” he says, “You are facing these animals eye-to-eye and watching as they are marching towards their death.”

The film needs no dialogue.  A few sentences set up the topic. “It is actually stripping away a lot of the information, putting you in environments that you then experience for yourself,” says Eric Strauss, “You are much more of a protagonist in some way in this type of stories than you would be in a traditional form of cinema.”

Another viewer, Patricia, has just watched Famine, the episode that looks at the extreme drought in Somalia. “It makes it even more powerful because you feel like you are there. I think, it’s a great medium to spread the word on critical subjects,” she says.  

That’s what Strauss wants to hear. “That is the goal; to effect change, to effect positive change.”

VR films are becoming more accessible as the technology evolves, and are often viewed on smart phone applications.  But VR Programmer Ken Jacobson says watching them through a virtual reality headset is the best way to experience them.

But can VR films ever replace traditional 2D or even 3D films?

“I think it is going to add another aspect on how we are going to watch movies,” says student James Willard.  “Virtual reality can be very dangerous because you are completely immersing yourself within the story to the point where you don’t see anything else.  At least in the movie theater you are fully aware that this is a screen in front of you, but if you look to your sides you don’t have another screen there completely immersing you within that story.  And with virtual reality that’s exactly what it does.  For some people, it will be okay to take off the goggles and go on with their lives, but for others it may be too much.  I don’t think it will completely take over.”

Eric Strauss agrees that VR will not overtake traditional cinema, but he says virtual reality can allow viewers to relate deeply with socially conscious stories.

“The technology creates a situation where you truly feel transported to that location because you are not just witnessing something or watching it on a screen.  You are occupying the space.  And that creates an emotional connection where you can’t really turn away.  I mean, there is no getting away from what you’ve allowed yourself to be teleported to and hopefully that will create a visceral, emotional response in viewers and what they are seeing will prompt them to want to get involved.”

 


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

Trump to Tout Economic Policies at Foxconn Ground-Breaking

President Donald Trump was highlighting his economic policies Thursday by taking part in the ceremonial ground-breaking for a $10 billion Foxconn factory complex that may bring thousands of jobs to a state he barely carried in the 2016 presidential election.

But Trump’s celebration comes amid less-rosy economic news, with Harley-Davidson’s announcement it’s moving some motorcycle production overseas to avoid European Union tariffs that are a product of Trump’s escalating trade dispute with long-standing U.S. allies.

The president was irked by the Milwaukee-based company’s announcement this week and tweeted about it for three straight days, writing that any shift in production “will be the beginning of the end” for the iconic American manufacturer and even threatening retaliatory taxes.

Trump’s presence in Wisconsin was the subject of protests both in Milwaukee, where he spent a rare weeknight away from the White House, and in Mount Pleasant, where final preparations were under way for the ground-breaking.

Chants of “Hey, hey, Ho, ho. Donald Trump has got to go” were heard near the Pfister Hotel, where Trump overnighted and attended a pair of closed-door campaign events before heading to the groundbreaking and tour of an existing Foxconn facility. Gov. Scott Walker and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., were among those joining the president at the fundraisers. 

About 50 people walked from a downtown park to as close as they could get to the roped-off hotel, hoping Trump hears their calls to reunite migrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border after the president decide to prosecute everyone trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

As the president hobnobbed with supporters, his wife, Melania, was making her second trip in a week to the southern border to visit detention centers housing migrant children. She toured a Texas center last Thursday.

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights organization, said the family separation issue is not unique to border communities. She said it’s also happening in the U.S. interior where deportations have increased.

“The scale of human rights violations that are being inflicted on children and families by the current administration should shake us to our core,” she said.

Protesters were also gathering near the Foxconn Technology Group campus in Mount Pleasant, about 30 miles south of Milwaukee.

Nearly 40 groups representing students, environmentalists, civil rights advocates, teachers, union workers and others have organized an event featuring dozens of speakers, a marching band, singers and musicians who plan to play ominous “Star Wars” music.

Foxconn is the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer and assembles Apple iPhones and other products for tech companies. Based in Taiwan, it chose Wisconsin after being prodded by Trump and others, including Ryan, whose district will include the plant.

The project could employ up to 13,000 people, though opponents say it is costing Wisconsin taxpayers too much.

The ceremonial groundbreaking was supposed to be evidence that the manufacturing revival fueled by Trump’s “America First” policy is well underway. But Harley-Davidson’s announcement, spurred by the trans-Atlantic tariff fight, appears to have turned that on its head.

Walker is counting on a strong economy as part of his case for re-election in November. Wisconsin’s unemployment is at record-low levels and Walker argues that the Foxconn project, the largest economic development deal in state history, shows the state is on the right track.

When the deal, reached with assistance from the White House, was signed last year, Walker said critics could “suck lemons” and “all of us in the state should be smiling, Republican and Democrat, doesn’t matter.”

A year later, opinion polls show Wisconsin voters are split on the project and the state of the economy.

Trump carried Wisconsin by less than 1 point — just under 23,000 votes. He’s underwater in popularity, with only 44 percent of respondents in last week’s Marquette University Law School poll approving of the job he’s doing, while 50 percent disapproved.

Republicans were mostly unified in support of Foxconn, saying it is a once-a-generation opportunity to transform the state’s economy. But most Democrats — including all eight of those running against Walker — are against it, arguing the potential $4.5 billion in taxpayer subsidies was too rich. If paid out — they’re tied to jobs and investment benchmarks — the incentives would be the most paid to a foreign company in U.S. history.

Should Foxconn employ 13,000 workers as envisioned, it would be the largest private-sector employer in Wisconsin.

“Foxconn’s state-of-the-art products will be made in the U.S.A. — proudly in the state of Wisconsin!” Walker tweeted Tuesday, as he tried to shift the focus away from Harley-Davidson.

 


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

China Says Its Trade Practices Benefit World

China defended its trade practices Thursday as being beneficial to the world as it tries to ease pressure from the United States and Europe to abandon what they consider to be Beijing’s protectionist policies.

China’s rapid economic growth “has brought great opportunities to trading partners all over the world,” Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen said at a Beijing news conference.

Wang unveiled a report highlighting reforms China has taken since joining the World Trade Organization in 2001.He said Beijing has “carried out every promise” since joining the WTO.

Wang’s defense of China’s business practices come amid threats of a trade war with the United States and arguments by Europe and Washington that China limits access to emerging industries and steals or forces other countries to hand over technology.

Trump’s threat of tariff increases on Chinese goods worth up to $450 billion reflects fears that China’s actions are a threat to America’s technological leadership.Germany and other countries have complained that Beijing prohibits purchases of Chinese assets while Chinese companies engage in a worldwide spending spree.

The dispute with Trump has allowed China, which has the world’s second largest economy, to position itself as a defender of free trade.When asked about possible U.S. plans to limit Chinese investment in its technology sectors, Wang said, “We hope countries concerned can do the right thing and adopt policies that support free trade and investment.”

The U.S. and other trading partners maintain China’s emergence in the smartphone, solar and other technology sectors means it should no longer be afforded protections it was granted as a developing country when it joined the WTO.

China has offered to cut its multi-billion trade surplus with the United States, but has refused to abolish a strategy that its Communist leaders believe is a path to increased global influence and prosperity.

China and the European Union announced this week they will form a group to update WTO rules to keep pace with global economic developments.


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...

Move Over UPS: Amazon Delivery Vans to Hit the Streets

Your Amazon packages, which usually show up in a UPS truck, an unmarked vehicle or in the hands of a mail carrier, may soon be delivered from an Amazon van.

The online retailer has been looking for a while to find a way to have more control over how its packages are delivered. With its new program rolling out Thursday, contractors around the country can launch businesses that deliver Amazon packages. The move gives Amazon more ways to ship its packages to shoppers without having to rely on UPS, FedEx and other package delivery services.

With these vans on the road, Amazon said more shoppers would be able to track their packages on a map, contact the driver or change where a package is left — all of which it can’t do if the package is in the back of a UPS or FedEx truck.

Amazon has beefed up its delivery network in other ways: It has a fleet of cargo planes it calls “Prime Air,” announced last year that it was building an air cargo hub in Kentucky and pays people as much as $25 an hour to deliver packages with their cars through Amazon Flex.

Recently, the company has come under fire from President Donald Trump who tweeted that Amazon should pay the U.S. Postal Service more for shipping its packages. Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, said the new program is not a response to Trump, but a way to make sure that the company can deliver its growing number of orders. “This is really about meeting growth for our future,” Clark said.

Through the program , Amazon said it can cost as little as $10,000 for someone to start the delivery business. Contractors that participate in the program will be able to lease blue vans with the Amazon logo stamped on it, buy Amazon uniforms for drivers and get support from Amazon to grow their business.

Contractors don’t have to lease the vans, but if they do, those vehicles can only be used to deliver Amazon packages, the company said. The contractor will be responsible for hiring delivery people, and Amazon would be the customer, paying the business to pick up packages from its 75 U.S. delivery centers and dropping them off at shoppers’ doorsteps. An Amazon representative declined to give details on how much it will pay for the deliveries.

Olaoluwa Abimbola, who was part of Amazon’s test of the program, said that the amount of packages Amazon needs delivered keeps his business busy. He’s hired 40 workers in five months.

“We don’t have to go make sales speeches,” Abimbola said. “There’s constant work, every day. All we have to do is show up.”


Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

more ...