G-20 Ministers: Trade, Political Tensions Put Growth at Risk

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“Heightened trade and geopolitical tensions” are putting global economic growth at risk, G-20 finance ministers said after two days of meetings in Buenos Aires on Sunday.

In their final communique, the Group of 20 ministers stressed the need to “step up dialogue and actions to mitigate risks and enhance confidence.”

The ministers, representing industrial and emerging-market nations, described the overall world economic growth as “robust,” but expressed concerns over what they call the increased risks of the “short and medium term.”

They did not mention the United States by name in their closing statement. But some decried President Donald Trump’s tough trade rhetoric and tariffs on Chinese and European imports.

European Union finance chief Pierre Moscovici urged the U.S. to act like allies, not foes. French finance minister Bruno Le Marie accused Trump of creating a “survival of the fittest” trade mentality and called on Washington to “de-escalate.”

Trump has imposed tariffs on imports of European steel (25 percent) and aluminum (10 percent) while also slapping billions of dollars in tariffs on Chinese goods and threatening more.

He has also accused China and the EU of keeping their interests rates and currencies low, damaging the U.S. dollar on the world market.

 

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Poll: British Reject May’s Brexit Plan, Some Turn to Johnson, Far Right

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Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to leave the European Union are overwhelmingly opposed by the British public and more than a third of voters would support a new right-wing political party committed to quitting the bloc, according to a new poll.

May’s political vulnerability was exposed by the survey which found voters would prefer Boris Johnson, who quit as her foreign minister two weeks ago, to negotiate with the EU and lead the Conservative Party into the next election.

Only 16 percent of voters say May is handling the Brexit negotiations well, compared with 34 percent who say that Johnson would do a better job, according to the poll conducted by YouGov for The Sunday Times newspaper.

With a little more than eight months to go before Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, May’s government, parliament, the public and businesses remain deeply divided over what form Brexit should take.

May’s plans to keep a close trading relationship with the EU on goods thrust her government into crisis this month and there is speculation she could face a leadership challenge after two of her most senior ministers, including Johnson, resigned in protest.

Only one in 10 voters would pick the government’s proposed Brexit plans if there were a second referendum, according to the poll. Almost half think it would be bad for Britain.

The new Brexit minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday the prime minister was still trying to persuade members of the cabinet that her strategy was the best way forward.

Raab also warned that Britain could refuse to pay a 39 billion pound ($51 billion) divorce bill to the EU if it does not get a trade deal – a threat used before by ministers.

No deal Brexit

Speaking to the BBC, Raab refused to deny reports the government is planning to stockpile food or use a section of motorway in England as a lorry park to deal with increased border checks if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.

Asked about a story in The Sun newspaper that the government was planning to stockpile processed food, Raab initially replied “no” and then added: “That kind of selective snippet that makes it into the media, to the extent that the public pay attention to it, I think is unhelpful.”

The possibility of leaving without a trade deal has increased with May facing rebellions from different factions in her party. She only narrowly won a series of votes on Brexit in parliament last week.

The Sunday Times poll found voters are increasingly polarized, with growing numbers of people alienated from the two main political parties.

Thirty-eight percent of people would vote for a new right-wing party that is committed to Brexit, while almost a quarter would support an explicitly far-right anti-immigrant, anti-Islam party, the poll found.

Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage and U.S. President Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon are in discussions about forming a new right-wing movement, according to The Sunday Times.

Half of voters would support remaining in the EU if there were a second referendum, the poll found, a level of support found in other surveys this year.

YouGov spoke to 1,668 adults in Britain on July 19 and 20, according to The Sunday Times, which did not provide other details about how the poll was conducted.

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Poll: British Reject May’s Brexit plan, Some turn to Boris, Far Right

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Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to leave the European Union are overwhelmingly opposed by the British public and more than a third of voters would support a new right-wing political party committed to quitting the bloc, according to a new poll.

May’s political vulnerability was exposed by the survey which found voters would prefer Boris Johnson, who quit as her foreign minister two weeks ago, to negotiate with the EU and lead the Conservative Party into the next election.

Only 16 percent of voters say May is handling the Brexit negotiations well, compared with 34 percent who say that Johnson would do a better job, according to the poll conducted by YouGov for The Sunday Times newspaper.

With a little more than eight months to go before Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, May’s government, parliament, the public and businesses remain deeply divided over what form Brexit should take.

May’s plans to keep a close trading relationship with the EU on goods thrust her government into crisis this month and there is speculation she could face a leadership challenge after two of her most senior ministers, including Johnson, resigned in protest.

Only one in 10 voters would pick the government’s proposed Brexit plans if there were a second referendum, according to the poll. Almost half think it would be bad for Britain.

The new Brexit minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday the prime minister was still trying to persuade members of the cabinet that her strategy was the best way forward.

Raab also warned that Britain could refuse to pay a 39 billion pound ($51 billion) divorce bill to the EU if it does not get a trade deal – a threat used before by ministers.

No deal Brexit

Speaking to the BBC, Raab refused to deny reports the government is planning to stockpile food or use a section of motorway in England as a lorry park to deal with increased border checks if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.

Asked about a story in The Sun newspaper that the government was planning to stockpile processed food, Raab initially replied “no” and then added: “That kind of selective snippet that makes it into the media, to the extent that the public pay attention to it, I think is unhelpful.”

The possibility of leaving without a trade deal has increased with May facing rebellions from different factions in her party. She only narrowly won a series of votes on Brexit in parliament last week.

The Sunday Times poll found voters are increasingly polarized, with growing numbers of people alienated from the two main political parties.

Thirty-eight percent of people would vote for a new right-wing party that is committed to Brexit, while almost a quarter would support an explicitly far-right anti-immigrant, anti-Islam party, the poll found.

Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage and U.S. President Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon are in discussions about forming a new right-wing movement, according to The Sunday Times.

Half of voters would support remaining in the EU if there were a second referendum, the poll found, a level of support found in other surveys this year.

YouGov spoke to 1,668 adults in Britain on July 19 and 20, according to The Sunday Times, which did not provide other details about how the poll was conducted.

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German Industry: US Tariffs Risk Hurting US

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German industry groups warned Sunday, ahead of a meeting between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and U.S. President Donald Trump, that tariffs the United States has recently imposed or threatened risk harming the U.S. itself.

The U.S. imposed tariffs on EU steel and aluminum June 1, and Trump is threatening to extend them to EU cars and car parts. Juncker will discuss trade with Trump at a meeting Wednesday.

Dieter Kempf, head of Germany’s BDI industry association, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper it was wise for the European Union and United States to continue their discussions.

German auto industry

“The tariffs under the guise of national security should be abolished,” Kempf said, adding that Juncker needed to make clear to Trump that the United States would harm itself with tariffs on cars and car parts.

He added that the German auto industry employed more than 118,000 people in the United States and 60 percent of what they produced was exported to other countries from the U.S. 

“Europe should not let itself be blackmailed and should put in a confident appearance in the United States,” he added.

Lowered expectations

EU officials have sought to lower expectations about what Juncker can achieve and downplayed suggestions that he will arrive in Washington with a novel plan to restore good relations.

Eric Schweitzer, president of the DIHK Chambers of Commerce, told Welt am Sonntag he welcomed Juncker’s attempt to persuade the U.S. government not to impose tariffs on cars.

“All arguments in favor of such tariffs are … ultimately far-fetched,” he said.

The German economy had for decades counted on there being open markets and a reliable global trading system, Schweitzer said, but he added of the current situation: “Every day German companies feel the transatlantic rift getting wider.”

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Fiat Chrysler Names Jeep Boss to Replace Stricken CEO

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Fiat Chrysler named on Saturday its Jeep division boss, Mike Manley, to take over immediately for Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne, who is seriously ill after suffering major complications following surgery.

The carmaker said British-born Manley, who also takes responsibility for the North America region, will push ahead with the midterm strategy outlined last month by Marchionne, who had been due to step down next April.

Marchionne, 66, was credited with rescuing Fiat and Chrysler from bankruptcy after taking the Italian carmaker’s wheel in 2004. On Saturday, he was also replaced as chairman and CEO of Ferrari and chairman of tractor maker CNH Industrial — both spun off from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in recent years.

“FCA communicates with profound sorrow that during the course of this week unexpected complications arose while Mr. Marchionne was recovering from surgery and that these have worsened significantly in recent hours,” the statement said.

FCA disclosed earlier this month that Marchionne, a renowned dealmaker and workaholic, was recovering from a shoulder operation. But his condition deteriorated sharply in recent days when he suffered massive complications that were not divulged.

Ferrari named FCA Chairman and Agnelli family scion John Elkann as new chairman, while board member Louis Camilleri becomes chief executive. CNH appointed Suzanna Heywood to replace Marchionne as chairman. All three companies remain controlled by the Agnellis.

Marchionne had previously said he planned to stay on as Ferrari chairman and CEO until 2021.

Deal focus

One of the auto industry’s longest-serving CEOs, Marchionne has advocated tie-ups to share the growing cost burden of developing cleaner, electrified and autonomous vehicles.

He resisted the comparatively easy option of selling off coveted brands such as Jeep, saying that would leave too big a problem with Fiat as “the stump that is left behind.”

But after being rejected by his preferred partner General Motors, he turned back to the task of cutting FCA’s debt — a goal he achieved last month — while maintaining that a merger for FCA was “ultimately inevitable.”

Investor hopes for a transformative deal had largely dwindled and are unlikely to hit the shares on Marchionne’s departure, according to Evercore analyst George Galliers.

“The valuation doesn’t suggest expectations of a buyout are high,” Galliers said.

Even without Marchionne, FCA will remain “culturally more open to dealmaking and savvy to potential capital market opportunities than much of the competition,” he added.

“A lot of that’s now ingrained, so I don’t think you lose everything he’s brought to the company overnight.”

Yet, Manley will have a tough act to follow.

Marchionne resurrected one of Italy’s biggest corporate names and revitalized Chrysler, succeeding where the U.S. company’s two previous owners — Mercedes parent Daimler and private equity group Carberus — both failed.

He has multiplied Fiat’s value 11 times since taking charge, helped by moves such as the spinoffs of CNH Industrial and Ferrari. The planned separation of parts maker Magneti Marelli, due this year, should further increase that value-generation.

He also flattened an inflexible hierarchy, replacing layers of middle management with a meritocratic leadership style. He slashed costs by reducing the number of vehicle architectures and creating joint ventures to pool development and plant costs.

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Iran Leader Backs Suggestion to Block Gulf Oil Exports if Own Sales Stopped

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday backed President Hassan Rouhani’s suggestion that Iran may block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are stopped and said negotiations with the United States would be an “obvious mistake.”

Rouhani’s apparent threat earlier this month to disrupt oil shipments from neighboring countries came in reaction to looming U.S. sanctions and efforts by Washington to force all countries to stop buying Iranian oil.

“(Khamenei) said remarks by the president … that ‘if Iran’s oil is not exported, no regional country’s oil will be exported,’ were important remarks that reflect the policy and the approach of (Iran’s) system,” Khamenei’s official website said.

Iranian officials have in the past threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route, in retaliation for any hostile U.S. action.

Khamenei used a speech to foreign ministry officials on Saturday to reject any renewed talks with the United States after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from a 2015 international deal over Iran’s nuclear program.

“The word and even the signature of the Americans cannot be relied upon, so negotiations with America are of no avail,” Khamenei said.

It would be an “obvious mistake” to negotiate with the United States as Washington was unreliable, Khamenei added, according to his website.

The endorsement by Khamenei, who has the last word on all major issues of state, is likely to discourage any open opposition to Rouhani’s apparent threat.

Khamenei also voiced support for continued talks with Iran’s European partners in the nuclear deal which are preparing a package of economic measures to offset the U.S. pullout from the

accord.

“Negotiations with the Europeans should not be stopped, but we should not be just waiting for the European package, but instead we should follow up on necessary activities inside the country [against U.S. sanctions],” Khamenei said.

France said earlier this month that it was unlikely European powers would be able to put together an economic package for Iran that would salvage its nuclear deal before November.

Iran’s oil exports could fall by as much as two-thirds by the end of the year because of new U.S. sanctions, putting oil markets under huge strain amid supply outages elsewhere in the world.

Washington initially planned to totally shut Iran out of global oil markets after Trump abandoned the deal that limited Iran’s nuclear ambitions, demanding all other countries to stop buying its crude by November.

But it has since somewhat eased its stance, saying that it may grant sanction waivers to some allies that are particularly reliant on Iranian supplies.

 

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Facebook Suspends Another Analytics Firm

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Facebook says it has suspended working with Boston-based analytics firm Crimson Hexagon until it can determine how the firm collects and shares Facebook and Instagram user data.

Facebook announced the suspension Friday.

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the suspension and said that one of Crimson Hexagon’s clients is a Russian nonprofit with ties to the Kremlin.

Facebook said that Crimson Hexagon is cooperating with the investigation and there is no evidence that Crimson Hexagon obtained Facebook or Instagram information inappropriately.

“We don’t allow developers to build surveillance tools using information from Facebook or Instagram,” Facebook said in a statement Friday. “We take these allegations seriously and have suspended these apps while we investigate.”

Chris Bingham, Crimson Hexagon’s, chief technology officer, said in a blog Friday his company “only collects publicly available social media data that anyone can access.”

He added, “Government entities that leverage the Crimson Hexagon platform do so for the same reasons as many of our other nongovernment customers: a broad-based and aggregate understanding of the public’s perception, preferences and sentiment about matters of concern to them.”

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica inappropriately obtained user data from millions of Facebook users.

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Fashion Industry Reinventing Itself by Embracing the Digital Age

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For years denim jeans have been finished in foreign factories where workers use manual and automated techniques such as scraping with sandpaper or other abrasives to make the jeans appear worn and more comfortable to wear. But things are changing in the fashion world. As VOA’s Mariama Diallo reports, fashion companies are going digital to speed up the design and manufacturing process.

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US Senators Drop Efforts to Cripple China’s ZTE

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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.

 

 

 

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