US Senators Drop Efforts to Cripple China’s ZTE

U.S. Republican lawmakers have dropped their efforts to reimpose a crippling ban on exports to the Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE. 

The move Friday gives a victory to U.S. President Donald Trump who has championed for ZTE to stay in business. 

Republican senators Friday dropped legislation that would block ZTE from buying component parts from the United States. Senators had included the legislation in a defense spending bill passed last month, but a House version of the defense bill did not include the same provision.

Lawmakers say senators decided to leave the provision out of the final compromise bill, which is expected to come to a vote in the House and Senate in the coming days.

Lawmakers from both parties have been critical of President Trump over his decision to lift a ban on U.S. companies selling to ZTE.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer blasted Friday’s developments.

“By stripping the Senate’s tough ZTE sanctions provision from the defense bill, President Trump and the congressional Republicans who acted at his behest  have once again made President Xi and the Chinese Government the big winners,” he said in a statement.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio called dropping the provision “bad news” in a tweet Friday.ZTE is accused of selling sensitive technologies to Iran and North Korea, despite a U.S. trade embargo.

In April, the U.S. Commerce Department barred ZTE from importing American components for its telecommunications products for the next seven years, practically putting the company out of business. 

However, Trump later announced a deal with ZTE in which the Chinese company would pay a $1 billion fine for its trade violations, as well as replace its entire management and board by the middle of July.

The Commerce Department announced last week that it has formally lifted the ban on ZTE after the Chinese company complied with all terms of the settlement. 

Most of the world first heard of the dispute over ZTE in May after one of Trump’s tweets.

 

 

 


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

more ...

Trump Amps Up Criticism of Fed Rate Hikes

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday dug in on his criticism of the Federal Reserve’s policy on raising interest rates, saying it takes away from the United States’ “big competitive edge,” and lamented the strength of the U.S. dollar.

Trump, in posts on Twitter, also accused the European Union and China of manipulating their currencies.

“China, the European Union and others have been manipulating their currencies and interest rates lower, while the U.S. is raising rates while the dollars gets stronger and stronger with each passing day – taking away our big competitive edge,” Trump wrote. “As usual, not a level playing field.”

After his posts, the U.S. dollar extended losses against the European Union’s euro, the Chinese yuan and Japanese yen.

Representatives for the Fed could not immediately be reached for comment.

Trump had already criticized the Fed’s interest rate policy in an interview on CNBC on Thursday, saying he was concerned higher rates could impact the U.S. economy.

Most economists believe the current economic climate, with the nation’s unemployment at historic lows and inflation at the Fed’s 2 percent target, justify recent interest rate rises and a strong U.S. dollar.

The issue also ties into the Trump administration’s current trade battles with China, Europe and others, as a strong currency tends to make a country’s exports more expensive, hurting exporters.


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

more ...

Trump Ready to Hit All Chinese Imports With Tariffs

President Donald Trump has indicated that he’s willing to hit every product imported from China with tariffs, sending U.S. markets sliding before the opening bell Friday.

 

In a taped interview with the business channel CNBC, Trump said “I’m willing to go to 500,” referring roughly to the $505.5 billion in goods imported last year from China.

 

The administration to date has slapped tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods in a trade dispute over what it calls the nation’s predatory practices.

 

Dow futures which had already been pointing modestly lower slid sharply after the comments were aired by CNBC early Friday, indicating triple-digit losses when the market opens.

 

The yuan dipped to a 12-month low of 6.8 to the dollar, off by 7.6 percent since mid-February.

 

There is already pushback in the U.S. from businesses that will take a hit in an escalating trade war.

 

Trump has ordered Commerce to investigate whether auto imports pose a threat to U.S. national security that would justify tariffs or other trade restrictions. Earlier this year, he used national security as a justification for taxing imported steel and aluminum.

 

Auto tariffs would escalate global trade tension dramatically: The U.S. last year imported $192 billion in vehicles and $143 billion in auto parts — figures that dwarf last year’s $29 billion in steel and $23 billion in aluminum imports.

 

In the same interview, taped Thursday at the White House, Trump broke with a long-standing tradition at the White House and voiced displeasure about recent actions at the U.S. Federal Reserve. Both political and economic officials believe that the central bank needs to operate free of political pressure from the White House or elsewhere to properly manage interest rate policy.

 

Last month, the Fed raised its benchmark rate for a second time this year and projected two more increases in 2018. Its rate hikes are meant to prevent the economy from overheating and igniting high inflation. But rate increases also make borrowing costlier for households and companies and can weaken the pace of growth. In particular, the Fed’s most recent rate hikes could dilute some of the benefit of the tax cuts Trump signed into law last year.


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

more ...

WhatsApp Makes Changes in India After Deadly Attacks

WhatsApp has announced changes for its 200 million users in India following the spread of viral messages via the app that resulted in deadly mob attacks.

India’s government has threatened to take WhatsApp to court, saying “…the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability.”  The information technology ministry said, “If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action.”  

The Facebook-owned messaging app said it will limit Indian users’ ability to forward messages, allowing only five contacts at a time to receive them.

The firm said it will also remove the quick forward button placed next to media messages.

Both moves are designed to make stop the mass forwards that have resulted in the mob attacks.

India is WhatsApp’s largest market.


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

more ...

Report: North Korea Economy Shrank Sharply in 2017

North Korea’s economy contracted at the sharpest rate in two decades in 2017, South Korea’s central bank estimated Friday, in a sign international sanctions imposed to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs have hit growth hard.

Gross domestic product (GDP) in North Korea last year contracted 3.5 percent from the previous year, marking the biggest contraction since a 6.5 percent drop in 1997 when the isolated nation was hit by a devastating famine, the Bank of Korea said.

Industrial production, which accounts for about a third of the nation’s total output, dropped by 8.5 percent and also marked the steepest decline since 1997 as factory production collapsed on restrictions of flows of oil and other energy resources into the country. Output from agriculture, construction industries also fell by 1.3 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively.

“The sanctions were stronger in 2017 than they were in 2016,” Shin Seung-cheol, head of the BOK’s National Accounts Coordination Team said.

“External trade volume fell significantly with the exports ban on coal, steel, fisheries and textile products. It’s difficult to put exact numbers on those but it (export bans) crashed industrial production,” Shin said.

The steep economic downturn comes as analysts highlight the need for the isolated country to shift toward economic development.

Switch to economic construction

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in April vowed to switch the country’s strategic focus from the development of its nuclear arsenal to emulating China’s “socialist economic construction.”

“As long as exports of minerals are part of the sanctions, by far the most profitable item of its exports, Pyongyang will have no choice but to continue with its current negotiations with the U.S. (to remove the sanctions),” said Kim Byeong-yeon, an economics professor at the Seoul National University with expertise in the North Korean economy.

North Korea’s coal-intensive industries and manufacturing sectors have suffered as the U.N. Security Council ratcheted up the sanctions in response to years of nuclear tests by Pyongyang.

China, its biggest trading partner, enforced sanctions strictly in the second half of 2017, hurting North Korea’s manufacturing sector.

Beijing’s suspended coal purchases last year cut North Korea’s main export revenue source while its suspended fuel sales to the reclusive state sparked a surge in gasoline and diesel prices, data reviewed by Reuters showed earlier.

2018 to be ‘a lot worse’

“This year will be a lot worse. Shrinking trade first hits the Kim regime and top officials, and then later affects unofficial markets,” said Kim at Seoul National University, adding that a reduction in tradable goods would eventually decrease household income and private consumption.

North Korea’s black market, or Jangmadang, has grown to account for about 60 percent of the economy, and is where individuals and wholesalers buy and sell Chinese-made consumer goods or agricultural products, according to the Institute for Korean Integration of Society.

China’s total trade with North Korea dropped 59.2 percent in the first half of 2018 from a year earlier, China’s customs data showed last week.

The BOK uses figures compiled by the government and spy agencies to make its economic estimates. The bank’s survey includes monitoring of the size of rice paddy crops in border areas, traffic surveillance, and interviews with defectors.

North Korea does not publish economic data.

North Korea’s Gross National Income per capita stands at 1.46 million won ($1,283.52), making it about 4.4 percent the size of South Korea’s, the BOK said.

Overall exports from North Korea dropped 37.2 percent in 2017, marking the biggest fall since a 38.5 percent decline in 1998, the BOK said Friday, citing data from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.


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

more ...

China Boosts Liquidity as Trade War Threatens Economy

Chinese policymakers are pumping more liquidity into the financial system and channeling credit to small- and medium-sized firms, and Beijing looks set to further loosen monetary conditions to mitigate threats to growth from a heated Sino-U.S. trade war.

The world’s second-biggest economy has started to lose momentum this year as a government campaign to reduce a dangerous build-up of debt has lifted borrowing costs, hitting factory output, business investment and the property sector.

As an intensifying trade conflict raises risks to exporters and overall growth, many economists expect the central bank to further reduce reserve requirements in the coming months, on top of the three reductions made so far this year.

Benchmark rate unchanged

However, few see a cut in the benchmark policy rate this year, as authorities walk a fine line between keeping liquidity conditions supportive and preventing any destabilizing capital outflows that could put the skids on a fragile yuan currency.

On Wednesday, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) plans to introduce incentives that will boost the liquidity of commercial banks.

These are aimed at encouraging banks to expand lending and increase their investment in bonds issued by corporations and other entities, such as local government financing vehicles (LGFVs).

The PBOC has also been ensuring ample liquidity by allowing commercial banks to tap its Medium-Term Loan Facility (MLF), especially lenders that have invested in bonds rated AA+ and below, the source said.

The improved cash conditions have been reflected in reduced short-term borrowing costs for banks, with the country’s key seven-day money rate at 2.6409 percent Thursday, 37 basis points lower than recent highs at the end of June.

Economy expansion slows

The combination of lower interbank rates and the push to boost bank support should help to ease financing pressures for weaker firms, analysts said.

“This should spell good news for lower-grade bond markets which have been suffering from a flight to quality-grade bonds, and some firms have subsequently found access to liquidity difficult,” analysts at Everbright Sun Hung Kai said in a note.

China’s economy expanded a slower-than-expected 6.7 percent in the second quarter, and June factory output growth weakened to a two-year low as the trade dispute with the United States intensified.

To be sure, markets don’t expect aggressive policy loosening, given Beijing’s broad deleveraging pledge and fears that doing so could hit the yuan and trigger a spike in capital outflows.

Trade war worries have already weighed on the yuan, which hit a one-year low on Thursday.

Focus on small, medium businesses

A key focus is on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which account for 80 percent of all jobs in China, and have suffered from rising borrowing costs and a shrinking credit pool amid Beijing’s three-year-long crackdown on off-balance sheet financing and a corporate debt build-up.

A trader at a state-run copper smelter in southern China told Reuters his firm has resorted to selling inventory to raise cash in light of the tougher financing conditions.

“Banks give, but the cost has gone up,” said the trader, who declined to be identified as he was not authorized to comment on his firm’s finances.

While the PBOC did not respond to faxed questions about its plans, a Shanghai-based trader at an Asian bank said the bond market had seen a notable pick-up in the volume of trade of LGFV debt.


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

more ...

Cyberattacks on 2018 US Political Campaigns Already Underway

Hackers targeted the campaigns of at least three candidates running for Congress in the upcoming 2018 U.S. elections, but the attacks were detected and thwarted, a Microsoft executive said Thursday.

The attempted attacks tried to use a fake Microsoft domain as a landing page for phishing attacks, said Tom Burt, Microsoft vice president for customer security and trust. He refused to name which candidates were targeted, citing privacy concerns.

“They were all people who, because of their positions, might have been interesting targets from an espionage standpoint, as well as an election disruption standpoint,” Burt told an audience at the annual Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado.

He also did not identify the source of the phishing attacks, though the tactic was similar to those used by Russian operatives to target the Republican and Democratic parties during their presidential nominating conventions in 2016.

Burt said Microsoft coordinated with the U.S. government and was able to take down the fake domains. He also said none of the campaign staffers targeted by the phishing attacks were infected.

​More attacks are coming

Thursday’s revelation came in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s news conference Monday in Helsinki, Finland, after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump sided with Putin, supporting the Russian leader’s assertions that his country did not meddle with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Trump’s comments, which directly contradicted the findings of the U.S. intelligence community, have drawn harsh criticism from politicians, and former diplomatic and intelligence officials.

Current intelligence and security officials have warned repeatedly that not only was Russia responsible for meddling in the 2016 election, but that more attacks — both in the form of hacks and in the form of more subtle information operations — are coming.

Russia taking lead

“What we assessed and reassessed and have carefully gone over still stands,” U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said of Russia’s efforts.

“It’s undeniable that the Russians are taking the lead on this,” Coats added, speaking during an appearance at the same security forum. “They are the ones who are trying to undermine our basic values, divide us with our allies.”

But U.S. and private sector officials say that, at least to this point, Russian efforts to influence the 2018 elections appear to be somewhat subdued.

“We’re not seeing the targeting of the actual state and local election systems that we saw in 2016 right now,” said Jeanette Manfra, the Department of Homeland Security’s assistant secretary for cybersecurity.

New tools working

For now, some leading private sector technology and social media companies agree.

Facebook, which Russia used to run ads and false news stories as part of its 2016 influence campaign, thinks some of that could be related to more awareness and crackdowns on the fake accounts Russian-linked operatives had been using.

“The new tools that would identify and remove fake accounts like the IRA [Russia’s Internet Research Agency] was running, combined with the new requirements for transparency in advertising, are such that I think we’re not seeing that same conduct,” Monika Bickert, head of Facebook’s product policy and counterterrorism, said.

“But we are watching for that activity,” Bickert said.

Microsoft’s Burt is also cautious, despite his experts “not seeing the same level of activity by the Russian activity groups” as they did two years ago.

“It doesn’t mean we’re not going to see it,” he said. “There’s a lot of time left.”

“I think we should all be prepared, given that capability and will, that they’ll do it again,” U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen warned Thursday. “We would be foolish to think they’re not.”


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

more ...

Trump Administration Wants to Scrap Some Species Protection

The Trump administration wants to scrap automatic federal protection for threatened plants and animals, a move that would anger environmentalists but please industry.

A proposal unveiled Thursday would no longer grant threatened species the same instant protection given to endangered species. It would also limit what can be declared a critical habitat for such plants and animals.

Officials with the Interior Department and Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday that they wanted to streamline regulations. They said current rules under the Endangered Species Act were inconsistent and confusing.

Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said the new rules would still be very protective of endangered animals.

“At the same time, we hope that they ameliorate some of the unnecessary burden, conflict and uncertainty that is within our current regulatory structure,” he told reporters.

But conservationists called the changes a “wrecking ball” and a gift to big businesses.

“They could decide that building in a species habitat or logging in trees where birds nest doesn’t constitute harm,” the Center for Biological Diversity’s Noah Greenwald said.

Industries such as logging, mining and oil drilling have long complained that the Endangered Special Act has stopped them from gaining access to new sources of energy and has stifled economic development.


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

more ...

US Seen Receiving Frosty Reception at G-20 Meeting

The financial leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies meet in Buenos Aires this weekend for the first time since long-simmering trade tensions burst into the open when China and the United States put tariffs on $34 billion of each other’s goods.

The United States will seek to persuade Japan and the European Union to join it in taking a more aggressive stance against Chinese trade practices at the G-20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank presidents, according to a senior U.S. Treasury Department official who spoke on condition on anonymity.

But those efforts will be complicated by frustration over U.S. steel and aluminum import tariffs on the EU and Canada. Both responded with retaliatory tariffs in an escalating trade conflict that has shaken markets and threatens global growth.

“U.S. trading partners are unlikely to be in a conciliatory mood,” said Eswar Prasad, international trade professor at Cornell University and former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China Division. “[U.S.] hostile actions against long-standing trading partners and allies have weakened its economic and geopolitical influence.”

At the close of the last G-20 meeting in Argentina in March, the financial leaders representing 75 percent of world trade and 85 percent of gross domestic product released a joint statement that rejected protectionism and urged “further dialogue,” to little concrete effect.

Since then, the United States and China have slapped tariffs on $34 billion of each other’s imports and U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened further tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods unless Beijing agrees to change its intellectual property practices and high-technology industrial subsidy plans.

Trump has said the U.S. tariffs aim to close the $335 billion annual U.S. trade deficit with China.

U.S. Treasury Minister Steven Mnuchin has no plans for a bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Buenos Aires, a U.S official said this week.

Growth concerns

Rising trade tensions have led to concerns within the Japanese government over currency volatility, said a senior Japanese G-20 official who declined to be named. Such volatility could prompt an appreciation in the safe-haven yen and threaten Japanese exports.

Trump’s metals tariffs prompted trade partners to retaliate with their own tariffs on U.S. goods ranging from whiskey to motorcycles. The United States has said it will challenge those tariffs at the World Trade Organization.

The EU finance ministers signed a joint text last week that will form their mandate for this weekend’s meeting, criticizing “unilateral” U.S. trade actions, Reuters reported. The ministers will stress that trade restrictions “hurt everyone,” a German official said.

In a briefing note prepared for the G-20 participants, the International Monetary Fund said if all of Trump’s threatened tariffs — and equal retaliation — went into effect, the global economy could lose up to 0.5 percent of GDP, or $430 billion, by 2020.

Global growth also may have peaked at 3.9 percent for 2018 and 2019, and downside risks have risen due to the tariff spat, the IMF said.

“While all countries will ultimately be worse off in a trade conflict, the U.S. economy is especially vulnerable,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde wrote in a blog post. “Policymakers can use this G-20 meeting to move past

self-defeating tit-for-tat tariffs.”

Trade is not on host country Argentina’s published agenda for the July 21-22 ministerial, which focuses on the “future of work” and infrastructure finance. But it will likely be discussed during a slot devoted to risks facing the global

economy, much as in March, according to an Argentine official involved in G-20 preparations, who asked not be named.


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

more ...