US Slaps Tariffs on Steel, Aluminum from EU, Canada, Mexico

The United States is escalating trans-Atlantic and North American trade tensions, imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico that will go into effect on Friday.

 

The move is prompting immediate retaliatory tariffs from the Europeans – expected to target such iconic American products as Harley Davidson motorcycles and Levi’s jeans, as well as Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey.

“We look forward to continued negotiations, both with Canada and Mexico on the one hand, and with the European Commission on the other hand, because there are other issues that we also need to get resolved,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters in a telephone briefing on Thursday.

“This is a bad day for world trade,” responded European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who announced there is “no choice” but to proceed with a World Trade Organization dispute settlement case and additional duties on numerous U.S. imports.

“We will defend the EU’s interests, in full compliance with international trade law,” Juncker added.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said the tariffs are needed for national security, claiming current trade deals harm U.S. companies and cost America jobs.

The U.S. also negotiated voluntary export limits from South Korea, Argentina, Australia and Brazil, said the commerce secretary.

The U.S. also negotiated quotas or volume limits on other countries such as South Korea, Argentina, Australia and Brazil instead of tariffs, Ross told reporters.

Ross, in Paris, interviewed after the announcement on CNBC, brushed off retaliatory moves by Europe on $3 billion worth of American goods, saying “it’s a tiny, tiny fraction of one percent” of trade.

Ross, a banker known for restructuring failed companies prior to joining Trump’s Cabinet, also predicted America’s trading partners “will get over this in due course.”

“The United States is taking on the whole world in trade and it’s not going to go well,” predicted Simon Lester, trade policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute.

‘Not very cataclysmic’

The U.S. trade action has spooked investors, sending key U.S. stock indexes down in Thursday morning trading.

The drop is “not very cataclysmic in any event,” responded Ross in the CNBC interview.

Reacting to that comment, Lester told VOA News that while “we’re not talking about the end of the world, that’s true, but it’s still bad for the economy.”

Expected higher prices for U.S. consumers on some products is only one side of the equation, according to Ross, who noted that steel and aluminum makers in the United States are adding employment and opening facilities as a result of the U.S. government action.

“You can create a few jobs, however, you’re going to lose more in the process” as consuming industries will be placed at a disadvantage of paying more for raw materials compared to their foreign competitors, according to Lester.

“We are deeply disappointed that the U.S. has decided to apply tariffs to steel and aluminum imports from the EU on national security grounds,” according to a statement from the British government. “The UK and other European Union countries are close allies of the U.S. and should be permanently and fully exempted from the American measures on steel and aluminum.”

The Confederation of British Industry, representing 190,000 businesses in the United Kingdom, immediately appealed to the EU to “avoid any disproportionate escalation” by taking retaliatory actions.

‘No winners’

“There are no winners in a trade war, which will damage prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic,” said CBI International Director Ben Digby in a statement. “These tariffs could lead to a protectionist domino effect, damaging firms, employees and consumers in the USA, UK and many other trading partners.”

 

Prior to Ross’ announcement, Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, declared “protectionism and isolation against free trade mustn’t regain the upper hand.”  

Maas spoke at a news conference on Thursday alongside his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, saying neither Berlin nor Beijing had an interest in “turning back the clocks when it comes to trade policy.”

 

Wang stressed the importance of the two countries’ common interests when it comes to finance and security policies and said China would continue to open its markets for its trade partners.

 

German’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, during a visit to Lisbon, Portugal, on Thursday said the 28-nation European Union has made plain to the United States that such tariffs are incompatible with World Trade Organization rules.

 

Trump, in March, announced the United States would impose such tariffs but he granted an exemptions that expire Friday to the EU and other U.S. allies.

France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, who met Ross earlier on Thursday, says the U.S. shouldn’t see global trade like the Wild West or the “gunfight at the OK Corral.”

 


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Oregon’s Marijuana Story a Cautionary Tale for California

When Oregon lawmakers created the state’s legal marijuana program, they had one goal in mind above all else: to persuade illicit pot growers to leave the black market.

That meant low barriers to entry that also targeted long-standing medical marijuana growers, whose product is not taxed. As a result, weed production boomed — with a bitter consequence.

Now, marijuana prices here are in free fall, and the craft cannabis farmers who put Oregon on the map decades before broad legalization say they are in peril of losing their now-legal businesses as the market adjusts.

Oregon regulators on Wednesday announced they will stop processing new applications for marijuana licenses in two weeks to address a severe backlog and ask state lawmakers to take up the issue next year.

​California takes heed

Experts say the dizzying evolution of Oregon’s marijuana industry may well be a cautionary tale for California, where a similar regulatory structure could mean an oversupply on a much larger scale.

“For the way the program is set up, the state just wants to get as many people in as possible, and they make no bones about it,” Hilary Bricken, a Los Angeles-based attorney specializing in marijuana business law, said of California. “Most of these companies will fail as a result of oversaturation.”

A staggering inventory

Oregon has nearly 1 million pounds (453,600 kilograms) of marijuana flower, commonly called bud, in its inventory, a staggering amount for a state with about 4 million people. Producers told The Associated Press wholesale prices fell more than 50 percent in the past year; a study by the state’s Office of Economic Analysis found the retail cost of a gram of marijuana fell from $14 in 2015 to $7 in 2017.

The oversupply can be traced largely to state lawmakers’ and regulators’ earliest decisions to shape the industry.

They were acutely aware of Oregon’s entrenched history of providing top-drawer pot to the black market nationwide, as well as a concentration of small farmers who had years of cultivation experience in the legal, but largely unregulated, medical pot program.

Getting those growers into the system was critical if a legitimate industry was to flourish, said Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Portland Democrat who co-chaired a committee created to implement the voter-approved legalization measure.

Lawmakers decided not to cap licenses; to allow businesses to apply for multiple licenses; and to implement relatively inexpensive licensing fees.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which issues licenses, announced Wednesday it will put aside applications for new licenses received after June 15 until a backlog of pending applications is cleared out. The decision comes after U.S. Attorney Billy Williams challenged state officials to address Oregon’s oversupply problem.

“In my view, and frankly in the view of those in the industry that I’ve heard from, it’s a failing of the state for not stepping back and taking a look at where this industry is at following legalization,” Williams told the AP in a phone interview.

But those in the industry supported the initial decisions that led to the oversupply, Burdick said.

“We really tried to focus on policies that would rein in the medical industry and snuff out the black market as much as possible,” Burdick said.

​Consolidation

Lawmakers also quickly backtracked on a rule requiring marijuana businesses have a majority ownership by someone with Oregon residency after entrepreneurs complained it was hard to secure startup money. That change opened the door to out-of-state companies with deep pockets that could begin consolidating the industry.

The state has granted 1,001 producer licenses and has another 950 in process as of last week. State officials worry if they cut off licensing entirely or turn away those already in the application process, they’ll get sued or encourage illegal trade.

Some of the same parameters are taking shape in California, equally known for black-market pot from its Emerald Triangle region.

The rules now in effect there place caps only on certain, medium-sized growing licenses. In some cases, companies have acquired dozens of growing licenses, which can be operated on the same or adjoining parcels. The growers association is suing to block those rules, fearing they will open the way for vast farms that will drive out smaller cultivators.

Beau Whitney, senior economist at national cannabis analytics firm New Frontier Data, said he’s seeing California prices fall.

In contrast, Washington knew oversupply could draw federal attention and was more conservative about licensing. As the market matured, its regulators eased growing limits, but the state never experienced an oversupply crisis.

Colorado has no caps on licenses, but strict rules designed to limit oversupply allow the state to curtail a growers’ farm size based on past crop yields, existing inventory, sales deals and other factors.

Chain stores

In Oregon, cannabis retail chains are emerging to take advantage of the shake-up.

A company called Nectar has 13 stores around the state, with three more on tap, and says on its website it is buying up for-sale dispensaries too. Canada-based Golden Leaf Holdings bought the successful Oregon startup Chalice and has six stores around Portland, with another slated to open.

William Simpson, Chalice’s founder and Golden Leaf Holdings CEO, is expanding into Northern California, Nevada and Canada. Simpson welcomes criticism that he’s dumbing down cannabis the same way Starbucks brought coffee to a mass market.

“If you take Chalice like Starbucks, it’s a known quantity, it’s a brand that people know and trust,” he said.

Amy Margolis, executive director of the Oregon Cannabis Association, says that capping licenses would only spur even more consolidation in the long-term. The state is currently working on a study that should provide data and more insight into what lies ahead.

“I don’t think that everything in this state is motivated by struggle and failure,” she said. “I’m very interested to see … how this market settles itself and (in) being able to do that from a little less of a reactionary place.”

​Craft growers

For now, Oregon’s smaller marijuana businesses are trying to stay afloat.

A newly formed group will launch an ad campaign this fall to tell Oregonians why they should pay more for mom-and-pop cannabis. Adam Smith, who founded the Oregon Craft Cannabis Alliance, believes 70 percent of Oregon’s small growers and retailers will go out of business if consumers don’t respond.

“We could turn around in three to four years and realize that 10 to 12 major companies own a majority of the Oregon industry and that none of it is really based here anymore,” he said. “The Oregon brand is really all about authenticity. It’s about people with their hands in the dirt, making something they love as well as they can. How do we save that?”


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Gravity Could Be Source of Sustainable Energy

In today’s energy-hungry world, scientists are constantly revisiting every renewable resource looking for ways to increase efficiency. One researcher in the Netherlands believes even gravity can be harnessed to produce free electricity on a scale sufficient to power small appliances. VOA’s George Putic has more.


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Trump Planning Tariffs on European Steel, Aluminum

President Donald Trump’s administration is planning to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports after failing to win concessions from the European Union, a move that could provoke retaliatory tariffs and inflame trans-Atlantic trade tensions.

The tariffs are likely to go into effect on the EU with an announcement by Friday’s deadline, according to two people familiar with the discussions. The administration’s plans could change if the two sides are able to reach a last-minute agreement, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Trump announced in March the United States would slap a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum, citing national security interests. But he granted an exemption to the EU and other U.S. allies; that reprieve expires Friday.

​Europe bracing

Europe has been bracing for the U.S. to place the restrictions even as top European officials have held last-ditch talks in Paris with American trade officials to try to avert the tariffs.

“Realistically, I do not think we can hope” to avoid either U.S. tariffs or quotas on steel and aluminum, said Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Union’s trade commissioner. Even if the U.S. were to agree to waive the tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, Malmstrom said, “I expect them nonetheless to want to impose some sort of cap on EU exports.”

European officials said they expected the U.S. to announce its final decision Thursday. The people familiar with the talks said Trump could make an announcement as early as Thursday.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross attended meetings at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris on Wednesday, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer joins discussions in Paris on Thursday.

The U.S. plan has raised the threat of retaliation from Europe and fears of a global trade war — a prospect that is weighing on investor confidence and could hinder the global economic upturn.

If the U.S. moves forward with its tariffs, the EU has threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. orange juice, peanut butter and other goods in return. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire pledged that the European response would be “united and firm.”

Limits on cars

Besides the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, the Trump administration is also investigating possible limits on foreign cars in the name of national security.

“Unilateral responses and threats over trade war will solve nothing of the serious imbalances in the world trade. Nothing,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in an impassioned speech at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris.

In a clear reference to Trump, Macron added: “These solutions might bring symbolic satisfaction in the short term. … One can think about making voters happy by saying, ‘I have a victory, I’ll change the rules, you’ll see.’”

But Macron said those “who waged bilateral trade wars … saw an increase in prices and an increase in unemployment.”

Tariffs on steel imports to the U.S. can help local producers of the metal by making foreign products more expensive. But they can also increase costs more broadly for U.S. manufacturers who cannot source all their steel locally and need to import the raw material. That hurts the companies and can lead to more expensive consumer prices, economists say.

Ross criticized the EU for its tough negotiating position.

“There can be negotiations with or without tariffs in place. There are plenty of tariffs the EU has on us. It’s not that we can’t talk just because there’s tariffs,” he said. He noted that “China has not used that as an excuse not to negotiate.”

But German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier insisted the Europeans were being “constructive” and were ready to negotiate special trade arrangements, notably for liquefied natural gas and industrial goods, including cars.

WTO reforms

Macron also proposed to start negotiations between the U.S., the EU, China and Japan to reshape the World Trade Organization to better regulate trade. Discussions could then be expanded to include other countries to agree on changes by the end of the year.

Ross expressed concern that the Geneva-based World Trade Organization and other organizations are too rigid and slow to adapt to changes in global business.

“We would operate within (multilateral) frameworks if we were convinced that people would move quickly,” he said.

Ross and Lighthizer seemed like the odd men out at this week’s gathering at the OECD, an international economic agency that includes the U.S. as a prominent member.

The agency issued a report Wednesday saying “the threat of trade restrictions has begun to adversely affect confidence” and tariffs “would negatively influence investment and jobs.”


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Union: Strike Could Cost Vegas Casinos $10M a Day

The two largest resort operators in Las Vegas would lose more than $10 million a day combined if housekeepers, cooks and others go on strike, a possibility starting Friday, the union representing thousands of casino workers said Wednesday.

The Culinary Union detailed how it thinks a one-month strike would impact MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment, which operate more than half the properties that would be affected if 50,000 workers walk off the job. Workers last week voted to authorize a strike as disputes over workplace training, wages and other issues have kept the union and casino operators from agreeing on new contracts.

The union conceded that it is difficult to estimate how the strike at more than 30 casino-hotels would affect Las Vegas overall because the last citywide strike took place in 1984, when the city had 90,000 fewer hotel rooms and only about 12.8 million annual visitors. Last year, more than 42.2 million people visited.

Contract expires midnight Thursday

But it says MGM and Caesars would see a 10 percent reduction in revenue because of the loss of group and independent travelers. A strike also could happen as fans head to Las Vegas for the Stanley Cup Final.

“Furthermore, one might assume a 10 percent worsening of operating margins due to the use of less experienced and less skilled replacements … to keep the doors open, rooms cleaned, food cooked, and cocktails served, not to mention other factors such as the disruptions to management staff’s regular work,” the union wrote.

Using the companies’ earnings reports for the first three months of the year, the union’s estimates show a one-month strike could reduce MGM’s earnings before interest, taxes and other items by more than $206 million and Caesars’ by over $113 million.

Contracts expire at midnight Thursday for bartenders, housekeepers, cocktail and food servers, porters, bellmen, cooks and other kitchen workers at properties on the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Las Vegas, including Caesars Palace, Bellagio, Stratosphere, Treasure Island, The D and El Cortez.

Dealers are not part of the Culinary Union. Casino-resorts that would not be affected by the strike include Wynn Las Vegas, Encore, The Venetian and Palazzo.

More talks scheduled

MGM, which employees 24,000 of the workers, said it met with union negotiators Monday and has more talks scheduled this week. The company says it remains confident that it “can resolve the outstanding contract issues and come to an agreement that works for all sides.”

Caesars said it “expects to agree to a new 5-year contract with the Culinary Union on or about June 1 when the current contract expires.” About 12,000 of its workers are part of the negotiations for new five-year contracts.

The union said it is asking for training on new skills and job opportunities as the companies adopt technology that can displace workers. It also wants an independent study to analyze the workload of housekeepers and contract language that would protect workers if properties are sold.

“What is going to happen to my position?” said Fernando Fernandez, a guest runner at Caesars Palace. “I think they are going to be disappearing it, because robots are going to be available to deliver everything.”

He said he wants training to fix or program the robots that he believes could eventually replace him.

The union says it has asked MGM for average annual wage increases of 4 percent for each of the five years. A document says the company has countered with an approximate 2.7 percent increase.

Caesars workers are asking for an increase of 4.2 percent effective Friday, and annual increases of about 4 percent thereafter. Another document shows the company has offered an approximate 2.8 percent increase for each of the five years.

The average hourly wage of union workers is $23, including benefits such as premium-free health care, a pension and a 401(k) retirement savings plan and $25,000 down-payment assistance for first-time homebuyers.


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US Judge Dismisses Kaspersky Suits to Overturn Government Ban

A U.S. federal judge on Wednesday dismissed two lawsuits by Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab that sought to overturn bans on the use of the security software maker’s products in U.S. government networks.

The company said it would seek to appeal the decision, which leaves in place prohibitions included in a funding bill passed by Congress and an order from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The bans were issued last year in response to allegations by U.S. officials that the company’s software could enable Russian espionage and threaten national security.

“These actions were the product of unconstitutional agency and legislative processes and unfairly targeted the company without any meaningful fact finding,” Kaspersky said in a statement.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington said Kaspersky had failed to show that Congress violated constitutional prohibitions on legislation that “determines guilt and inflicts punishment” without the protections of a judicial trial.

She also dismissed the effort to overturn the DHS ban for lack of standing. Kaspersky Lab and its founder, Eugene Kaspersky, have repeatedly denied wrongdoing and said the company would not help any government with cyber espionage.

The company filed the lawsuits as part of a campaign to refute allegations that it was vulnerable to Kremlin influence, which had prompted the U.S. government bans on its products.

That effort includes plans to open a data center in Switzerland, where the company will analyze suspicious files uncovered on the computers of its tens of millions of customers in the United States and Europe.


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Malaysia Moves to Rebalance Relationship With China

Malaysia and China are looking to re-balance ties as the new government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad seeks to renegotiate billions of dollars of Chinese backed infrastructure spending, with the goal of reducing the country’s national debt.

China is Malaysia’s leading foreign direct investor at over $3.38 billion, ahead of the U.S., Japan and Singapore, with major infrastructure deals negotiated during the previous government of Najib Razak.

The main contract is a $14 billion (55 billion ringgit) East Coast Rail Link, as well as manufacturing, real estate and sovereign wealth fund bonds.

Carl Thayer, a professor of politics at Australia’s University of New South Wales, says Malaysia is seeking to move beyond anti-Chinese rhetoric that had been an undercurrent of the May 9 national polls.

Thayer said during the campaign Chinese investment in Malaysia was an issue, amid concerns Malaysia was excessively indebted to China.

“But Prime Minister Mahathir since the election has basically declared that the existing agreements will stand — that’s with any country. But there will be a review of these agreements with China. And the key project there seems to be the east coast rail line which is seen as a ‘white elephant’, costing a lot of money and not really delivering,” he said.

The East Coast Rail line is a key portion of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI) infrastructure into South East Asia covering 688 kilometers connecting the South China Sea with the Thai Border.

The new government says the fresh negotiations are a bid to reduce the national debt burden, put at $251.32 billion (one trillion ringgit ) or 80 percent of national output (GDP).

Prime Minister Mahathir sees a need to reassess the projects and the Chinese investment strategy generally, especially depending on imported Chinese labor and technicians.

“We need to find out what benefit there is to us. To find out firstly the train is not going to be viable; secondly, its not benefiting Malaysia as much as we would like to see,” Mahthir told VOA.

“We don’t want to have a huge number of immigrants in Malaysia. Some of the Chinese companies have done that; that is not foreign direct investment,” he said.

WATCH: Mahathir Seeks to Implement Reforms

He said such projects as the rail link need to be scaled back in order to reduce the cost to renegotiate the loans and ensuring greater Malaysian participation.

“I think we will be able to convince [China] that some restructuring of the terms of the borrowing and the projects and all that will have to be done in order to reduce spending, in order to reduce the loans that we took from foreign countries,” Mahathir said.

In media reports Mahathir said he planned to scrap a 350 kilometer bullet train line from Singapore to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

The project, valued at around $20 billion, had attracted bidding interest from China, Japan and South Korea.

But Mahathir said this project “would be dropped” as it was unnecessary” and would “not earn a single cent.”

University of New South Wales’ Thayer expects China will be pragmatic in dealings with the new government.

“It’s got massive investments in Malaysia it would want to protect. China would roll with the punches and take the long view. Eventually that Malaysia — as I indicated — all the fundamentals are there to continue the relationship.”

“Trade is managed in Malaysia’s favor; substantial growing Chinese investment building infrastructure projects, some of which are needed, others maybe excessive, renewing, renegotiating the balance in that relationship, but not lurching to the U.S. camp,” Thayer said.

Both Mahathir and wealthy Malaysian businessman Robert Kouk, who sits on a powerful advisory panel to the Malaysian government, recently met China’s ambassador to Malaysia, Bai Tian. Mahathir later said Malaysia’s “strong ties with China will continue to flourish.”

James Chin, director of the South East Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania, says China’s Malaysian investments are also key to China’s regional strategic goals.

“Part of the reason China is such a big player in Malaysia is due to the geopolitical realities facing China. People do not realize that Malaysia is the only country in South East Asia that surrounds the South China Sea,” Chin said.

China has established disputed claims over much of the South China Sea.

But Bridget Walsh, based at the John Cabot University in Italy, said eventually Malaysia-China ties will return to a steady course.

“China is the regional global power in terms of economic issues, especially in South East Asia, and it is going to play a very big role and Malaysia is looking for new economic drivers,” Walsh said.

Walsh said outside infrastructure projects, China will look to other economic areas to continue a role in Malaysia’s economy. “And I think there are people in the system that understand that,” she said.

David Boyle contributed to this report.

 


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Ross: US-EU Trade Deal Could be Reached

 

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Wednesday a U.S.-European Union trade deal could still be reached even if the United States imposes tariffs on EU steel and aluminum imports.

EU and U.S. officials are holding last-minute negotiations two days before U.S. President Donald Trump decides to apply tariffs on Europe.

The threat of tariffs has increased prospects of retaliation and a global trade war that could hinder the global economy.

“There can be negotiations with or without tariffs in place,” Ross said at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris. “There are plenty of tariffs the EU has on us. It’s not that we can’t talk just because there’s tariffs.”

The Trump administration is also exploring possible limits on foreign auto imports, citing national security. 

The EU wants exemptions on steel and aluminum tariffs, which Trump hopes will benefit the U.S., or impose tariffs on U.S. peanut butter, orange juice and other products.

In a speech at the OECD, French President Emmanuel Macron said Europe should stand its ground in the face of unilateral actions and warned against trade wars.

“Unilateral responses and threats over trade wars will solve nothing of the serious imbalances in world trade. Nothing,” he proclaimed.

In an apparent reference to Trump’s proposed tariffs, Macron said, “These solutions might bring symbolic satisfaction in the short term. …. One can think about making voters happy by saying, ‘I have a victory. I’ll change the rules. You’ll see.’” 

Macron also called on the EU, the U.S., China and Japan to draft a World Trade Organization reform plan for the G-20 summit in Argentina later this year.

“The new rules must meet the current challenges of world trade: massive state subsidies creating distortions of global markets, intellectual property, social rights and climate protection,” he said. 

But Macron’s multilateral approach has produced limited results to date, as Trump has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran nuclear deal, and is threatening to disrupt trade relations between China, the EU and other economic powers.

 

 


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Beijing Warns US Against Imposing Tariffs on Chinese Goods

China vows it will fight back if the United States goes through with plans to impose huge tariffs on Chinese goods.

President Donald Trump’s administration said in a statement Tuesday it planned to impose 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods that contain “industrially-significant technology.” It said the proposed tariffs are in response to China’s practices with respect to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation.  

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying blasted the Trump administration’s apparent reversal Wednesday in Beijing. Hua warned the administration risked squandering its credibility in international relations with every “flip flop” and contradiction of its previous stance.

Hua stressed Beijing is not afraid of engaging in a trade war, and will take “forceful” measures if the tariffs are imposed.

The White House said it will announce the final list of covered imports by June 15, 2018, and the tariffs will be imposed shortly thereafter.

Trump announced in April he planned to impose tariffs on $150 billion worth of Chinese goods, and Beijing responded by declaring it will retaliate by imposing similar amount of tariffs of imported American goods.

After two rounds of trade talks aimed at avoiding a full-blown trade war, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the two sides had reached a deal for Chinato buy more American goods to “substantially reduce” the huge trade deficit with the United States.

The Trump administration said in its statement trade talks with China will continue and it will request China remove all of its many trade barriers, including non-monetary trade barriers, and that tariffs and taxes between the two countries be “reciprocal in nature and value.” 

China in violation

The Trump administration’s decision to take action is a result of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Trade Representative under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to determine whether Beijing’s trade practices may be “unreasonable or discriminatory” and that may be “harming American intellectual property rights, innovation or technology development.”After a seven-month investigation, the USTR found the policies were in violation.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is set to go to Beijing this week to negotiate on how China might buy more American goods to reduce the huge U.S. trade deficit with Beijing, which last year totaled $375 billion.


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Interview: De Beers Sees Sparkle in Synthetic Diamond Jewelry

Anglo American unit De Beers is launching a company to sell laboratory-produced diamonds for jewelry in a departure from its century-old business model of promoting natural stones.

Real diamonds created over thousands of years remain the priority, but De Beers is responding to customer demand for more affordable jewelry using stones made in days or weeks and sold for hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.

“They’re not to celebrate life’s greatest moments, but they’re for fun and fashion,” De Beers Chief Executive Officer Bruce Cleaver said of synthetic stones in a telephone interview.

“We have always said we are a natural diamonds business. We remain a natural diamonds business,” he said, adding that manmade diamonds used in fashion would not undermine the business for real diamonds as they served different markets.

As the world’s biggest seller of natural diamonds by value, De Beers is a leader in technology and security processes to guarantee the authenticity of natural stones.

To ensure there is no confusion between manmade gems that have little resale value and the real thing, the manufactured diamonds used in jewelry will include a tiny mark showing they are made by Element Six, a unit of De Beers that until now has focused on making stones for industrial uses.

The technology to insert the mark has been developed by Opsydia, an offshoot of Oxford University, and the diamonds will be sold by a new company called Lightbox Jewelry beginning in September in the United States, the world’s leading diamond jewelry market where demand hit an all-time high last year.

De Beers’ parent, Anglo American, was hit by the commodity price crash of 2015-16, but has recovered strongly and is leading the sector this year with a 13 percent rise in its share price.

The diamond business accounted for 16 percent of the Anglo American group’s full-year earnings.

Element Six does not publish separate earnings figures, but industry sources say it has returned to profit as recovering oil prices have increased demand for industrial stones for drill bits used in oil exploration.

If the move by De Beers into fashion jewelry gains traction, Element Six’s existing capacity will need to expand.

De Beers plans to invest $94 million over four years to build an Element Six factory near Portland, in the U.S. state of Oregon, which should produce more than half a million rough carats a year when fully operational in about 2020.

That remains modest in comparison to De Beers’ investment in maintaining production of natural diamonds of $3 billion over five-to-seven years.


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