Commerce

FILE PHOTO: Single family homes being built by KB Homes are shown under construction in San Diego
FILE PHOTO: Single family homes being built by KB Homes are shown under construction in San Diego, California, U.S., April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

June 18, 2019

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. homebuilding fell in May, but groundbreaking activity in the prior two months was stronger than previously thought, pointing to some tentative signs of improvement in the struggling housing market.

Land and labor shortages are, however, making it difficult for builders, especially in the single-family housing segment, to fully take advantage of a sharp decline in mortgage rates. That has left the housing market continuing to grapple with tight inventory and sluggish sales growth.

The report from the Commerce Department on Tuesday came as Federal Reserve officials started a two-day policy meeting.

Low inflation, a slowing economy and an escalation in the trade war between Washington and Beijing have led financial markets to fully price in an interest rate cut this year, pulling down mortgage rates. The U.S. central bank is, however, not expected to cut rates on Wednesday.

“Housing continues to wander along, not doing much better but not weakening a whole lot,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania.

Housing starts dropped 0.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.269 million units last month amid a drop in the construction of single-family housing units, the government said. Data for April was revised up to show homebuilding rising to a pace of 1.281 million units, instead of increasing to a rate of 1.235 million units as previously reported. Housing starts in March were also stronger than initially estimated.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts edging up to a pace of 1.239 million units in May.

Single-family homebuilding, which accounts for the largest share of the housing market, dropped 6.4% to a rate of 820,000 units in May. Single-family housing starts fell in the Northeast, the Midwest and West, but rose in the South, where the bulk of homebuilding occurs.

Some on the weakness in groundbreaking activity likely reflects heavy rain and flooding in some parts of the country.

The housing market hit a soft patch last year and has been a drag on economic growth for five straight quarters.

The PHLX housing index was trading higher, in line with a broadly firmer U.S. stock market. The dollar rose slightly against a basket of currencies, while U.S. Treasury yields fell.

GRADUAL IMPROVEMENT

Despite the recent signs of improvement in housing starts, there are concerns that renewed trade tensions between the United States and China could hurt future home building.

A survey on Monday showed confidence among homebuilders ebbed in June, with builders continuing “to report rising development and construction costs, with some additional concerns over trade issues.”

Builders said that despite lower mortgage rates, “home prices remain somewhat high relative to incomes, which is particularly challenging for entry-level buyers.”

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate has decreased to 3.82% from a peak of about 4.94% in November, according to data from mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac. According to the latest data, house prices rose 3.7% in March from a year ago, outpacing wages, which increased 3.1% in May.

Building permits rose 0.3% to a rate of 1.294 million units in May. It was the second straight monthly increase in permits. Building permits have been weak this year, with much of the decline concentrated in the single-family housing segment.

Permits to build single-family homes increased 3.7% to a rate of 815,000 units in May, after five straight monthly declines. Permits were boosted by a 7.7% jump in the South, the largest gain since December 2016. But single-family housing permits fell in the Northeast, West and Midwest.

“The gain in permits along with more favorable buying conditions points to gradually improving activity over the summer,” said Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina. “That said, lower mortgages rates will not likely be rocket fuel for residential construction, and a surge in activity is unlikely.”

Starts for the volatile multi-family housing segment surged 10.9% to a rate of 449,000 units last month. Permits for the construction of multi-family homes dropped 5.0% to a pace of 479,000 units.

Housing completions fell 9.5% to 1.213 million last month. Realtors estimate that housing starts and completion rates need to be in a range of 1.5 million to 1.6 million units per month to plug the inventory gap. The stock of housing under construction was little changed at 1.131 million units.

“If you were waiting for more construction to deal with the nation’s growing housing shortage, you are going to have a longer wait,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Source: OANN

President Donald Trump criticized European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s comments Tuesday that further monetary policy changes may be needed by the ECB, saying that would spark unfair European competition against the United States.

“Mario Draghi just announced more stimulus could come, which immediately dropped the Euro against the Dollar, making it unfairly easier for them to compete against the USA. They have been getting away with this for years, along with China and others,” Trump said on Twitter.

Draghi said the ECB might may need to cut interest rates or purchase assets if inflation in the euro zone continued to lag its target range.

“In the absence of improvement, such that the sustained return of inflation to our aim is threatened, additional stimulus will be required,” Draghi told the ECB’s annual conference in Sintra, Portugal.

The comments sent the euro down by a quarter of a percent against the U.S. dollar while stocks erased early losses and bond yields fell further.

Trump has repeatedly criticized currency manipulation by other countries with which the United States has large trade deficits, saying weaker currencies abroad give trading partners an unfair advantage and hurts American workers.

If a country’s currency is artificially low, its exports are more competitive. Higher U.S. interest rates would generally increase the value of the dollar, making U.S. exports more expensive.

Earlier in June, Trump criticized China, with which he is engaged in a trade spat, for devaluing its currency and said it created an uneven playing field for commerce.

He made similar criticisms of Russia and China in April, remarks that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said were “a warning shot at China and Russia about devaluation.”

Trump has been critical of the U.S. Federal Reserve for its recent interest rate increases and has pressed the independent central bank to cut rates at a policy meeting this week. But the Fed is expected to leave borrowing costs unchanged on Wednesday.

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: A
FILE PHOTO: A “Made in USA” label is pictured on the back of a tie Medford, Massachusetts January 29, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

June 17, 2019

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A wide range of U.S. companies told a hearing in Washington on Monday that they have few alternatives other than China for producing clothing, electronics and other consumer goods as the Trump administration prepares new tariffs on remaining U.S.-China trade.

The comments came on the first of seven days of testimony on President Donald Trump’s plan to hit another $300 billion worth of Chinese imports with duties of 25%.

Sourcing from other countries will raise costs, in many cases more than the 25% tariffs, some witnesses told a panel of officials from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, the Commerce Department, State Department and other federal agencies.

Trump and top members of his cabinet have said that the tariffs, if imposed, would accelerate a move of manufacturing out of China.

But dozens of witnesses in oral and written testimony said that moving operations to Vietnam and other countries would not be feasible for years due to a lack of skills and infrastructure in those locations. China dominates global production in industries from shoes to electronics to port gantry cranes.

“That 25% is just going to whack us on the head,” said Rick Helfenbein, president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association. “If we could move more product out of China we would, but we haven’t been able to.”

Mark Flannery, president of Regalo International LLC, a Minnesota-based maker of baby gates, child booster seats and portable play yards, said that pricing quotes for shifting production to Vietnam – using largely Chinese-made steel – were 50% higher than current China costs, while quotes from Mexico were above that.

“Currently there’s no country manufacturing metal baby gates outside of China,” Flannery said.

Child safety products such as car seats were spared from Trump’s previous tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, imposed in September 2018. But in the drive to pressure China in trade negotiations, USTR put them back on the list, along with other products spared previously, from flat-panel televisions to Bluetooth headphones.

The proposed list, which will be ready for a decision by Trump as early as July 2, includes nearly all consumer products, and could hit Christmas sales hard, particularly cell phones, computers, toys and electronic gadgets.

Marc Schneider, chief executive of fashion footwear and apparel marketer Kenneth Cole Productions, said 25 percent tariffs would wipe out the company’s profits and cost jobs.

“We’re going to lower the quality of footwear, raise prices and accomplish nothing by moving it around to other countries,” Schneider said.

Jean Kolloff, owner of cashmere importer Quinn Apparel, said her reason for opposing the tariffs was more geographical – the Alashan goat that produces light-colored cashmere wool is only found in China’s Inner Mongolia region.

DETERIORATING RELATIONS

The tariff hearings are underway amid a severe deterioration of U.S.-China relations since Trump accused Beijing in early May of reneging on commitments that had brought the world’s top two economies close to a deal to end their nearly year-long trade war.

Since then, Trump raised tariffs to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese goods. The $300 billion list of products being reviewed in the hearing would bring punitive tariffs to nearly all remaining Chinese exports to the United States.

There are no meetings scheduled to resume negotiations over U.S. demands that China enforce intellectual property protections and curb forced technology transfers and industrial subsidies.

Trump has said he wants to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the June 28-29 G20 leaders summit in Japan, but neither government has confirmed a meeting.

Companies including retailer Best Buy, vacuum cleaner maker iRobot and TV streaming device maker Roku Inc all argued against the tariffs on consumer tech goods, saying they would reduce demand for electronics and ultimately threaten U.S. technology leadership.

U.S. FACTORIES, CHINESE PARTS

Not all of the witnesses on the first day of the hearing were opposed to the tariffs. Mike Branson, president of Rheem Manufacturing Co’s air conditioning division, asked Trump administration officials to close a loophole that was allowing Chinese firms to skirt air conditioner tariffs by shipping condenser and air handler units separately.

This allowed the units to be imported duty free as parts, rather than as completed systems that were subject to tariffs. Domestic manufacturers had ample capacity to make these products, Branson said.

Other companies with U.S. manufacturing operations voiced opposition to the tariffs because they depend on Chinese components, such as light-emitting diode parts for lighting manufacturer Ledvance LLC and stitched leather parts for athletic shoe maker New Balance LLC.

New Balance vice president Monica Gorman said the tariffs “will risk our company’s overall financial health, which will in turn limit our ability to maintain and re-invest in our American factories.”

(Reporting by David Lawder, Additional reporting by Chris Prentice and Jason Lange in Washington and Uday Sampath in Bengaluru, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Canada's PM Trudeau speaks in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa
FILE PHOTO: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

June 17, 2019

By Richard Cowan and Alexandra Alper

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week is set to meet with Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the U.S. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, in a bid to fast-track passage of a delayed trade deal, two congressional aides said on Monday.

Trudeau is to travel to Washington on Thursday to meet with President Donald Trump to discuss ratification of the new North American trade accord, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Mexico’s Senate is scheduled to take up the legislation in a full vote on Tuesday.

The Trump administration has been pushing Congress to speed up a vote on the agreement. But the Democratic-led House of Representatives has sought more time to review the deal, with Pelosi pressing for improved enforcement mechanisms for labor and environmental standards.

Republicans, who control the U.S. Senate, have been seeking a vote on the USMCA before the August recess to avoid budget debates and 2020 presidential campaign activity, which is expected to intensify in the autumn.

Pelosi controls the overall House legislative agenda, including trade measures, and many political experts see USMCA as unlikely to come to a vote in that chamber during the summer.

Nevertheless, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a powerful business lobby seeking quick passage of the accord, sees progress for the deal as feasible in the short term, despite concerns voiced by Democrats.

“We think the objective of securing a vote on USMCA in the House before the August recess is a reasonable goal,” the chamber’s senior vice president for international policy, John Murphy, told reporters in a phone call on Monday. “The gaps are bridgeable.”

He pointed to Pelosi’s move to appoint a number of House Democrats to a working group with officials at the United States Trade Representative’s office to address their concerns as cause for cheer.

Trudeau’s meetings with congressional leaders were first reported by Politico. Trudeau’s meeting with Pelosi is scheduled for 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Thursday, a Pelosi aide said.

Canada’s government confirmed Trudeau will meet with U.S. House and Senate leaders on Thursday but provided no details.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Alexandra Alper; Additional reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Writing by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The Canary Wharf financial district is seen from Greenwich Park in London
FILE PHOTO: The Canary Wharf financial district is seen from Greenwich Park in London, Britain, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

June 16, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – British companies look set to cut their investment by the most in 10 years in 2019 as the Brexit crisis drags on, weighing on future economic growth prospects, a survey showed on Monday.

Business investment – key for productivity and pay growth – was forecast to fall by 1.3% this year before growing by only 0.4% in 2020, the British Chambers of Commerce said.

The BCC nudged up its overall economic growth forecast for 2019 to 1.3%, reflecting a surge in stockpiling by companies before the original Brexit deadline in March.

But the employers group cut its forecast for growth in 2020 to 1.0% – down sharply from a previous estimate of 1.3% – before only a marginal pick-up to 1.2% in 2021.

BCC Director General Adam Marshall said companies were unable to press on with long-term plans because of the continued uncertainty about Brexit, which now has a deadline of Oct. 31.

“Businesses are putting resources into contingency plans, such as stockpiling, rather than investing in ventures that would positively contribute to long-term economic growth,” Marshall said.

“This is simply not sustainable. Business communities expect the next prime minister to quickly find a sensible and pragmatic way forward to avoid a messy and disorderly Brexit.”

Prime Minister Theresa May has stepped down as leader of the ruling Conservative Party and a contest to replace her is expected to conclude in July. With Britain’s relationship with the EU still unclear, some financial firms have set up operations in other EU countries and carmakers have reduced their expansion plans in Britain.

Business investment fell throughout 2018, the longest such run since the global financial crisis, before a pickup in early 2019, official figures have shown.

Finance minister Philip Hammond says he expects a recovery in business investment once a Brexit deal is done.

(Reporting by William Schomberg; editing by Stephen Addison)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A Huawei company logo is seen at a shopping mall in Shanghai
FILE PHOTO: A Huawei company logo is seen at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China June 3, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

June 16, 2019

By Stephen Nellis and Alexandra Alper

SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Huawei’s American chip suppliers, including Qualcomm and Intel, are quietly pressing the U.S. government to ease its ban on sales to the Chinese tech giant, even as Huawei itself avoids typical government lobbying, people familiar with the situation said.

Executives from top U.S. chipmakers Intel and Xilinx Inc attended a meeting in late May with the Commerce Department to discuss a response to Huawei’s placement on the black list, one person said.

The ban bars U.S. suppliers from selling to Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment company, without special approval, because of what the government said were national security issues.

Qualcomm has also pressed the Commerce Department over the issue, four people said.

Chip makers argue that Huawei units selling products such as smartphones and computer servers use commonly available parts and are unlikely to present the same security concerns as the Chinese technology firm’s 5G networking gear, according to three people.

“This isn’t about helping Huawei. It’s about preventing harm to American companies,” one of the people said.

Out of $70 billion that Huawei spent buying components in 2018, some $11 billion went to U.S. firms including Qualcomm, Intel and Micron Technology Inc.

Qualcomm, for example, wants to be able to continue shipping chips to Huawei for common devices like phones and smart watches, a person familiar with the company’s situation said.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), a trade group, acknowledged it arranged consultations with the U.S. government on behalf of the companies to help them comply and brief officials on the impact of the ban on the companies.

“For technologies that do not relate to national security, it seems they shouldn’t fall within the scope of the order. And we have conveyed this perspective to government,” said Jimmy Goodrich, vice president of global policy at SIA.

The ban came soon after the breakdown of talks to end the months-long trade spat between China and the United States, spurred by U.S. allegations of Chinese corporate espionage, intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer.

Google, which sells hardware, software and technical services to Huawei, has also advocated so it can keep selling to the company, Huawei Chairman Liang Hua told reporters in China earlier this month.

The online search company, a unit of Alphabet Inc, said in a statement that it works with Commerce to ensure it is in compliance with the new rules.

A Commerce Department representative said the agency “routinely responds to inquiries from companies regarding the scope of regulatory requirements,” adding that the conversations do not “influence law enforcement actions.”

Intel, Xilinx and Qualcomm declined to comment. Huawei did not respond to a request for comment.

In an interview in Mexico, Andrew Williamson, vice president of Huawei’s public affairs, said the company had not asked anyone specifically to lobby on its behalf.

“They’re doing it by their own desire because, for many of them, Huawei is one of their major customers,” he said, adding that chipmakers knew that cutting Huawei off could have “catastrophic” consequences for them.

China watchers say U.S. suppliers are essentially trying to thread the needle – not wanting to be seen as aiding an alleged spy, thief and sanctions violator, but fearful of losing a good client and encouraging it to develop supplies elsewhere.

NO ONE LISTENING

Huawei itself, which is also a top smartphone maker, has done very little traditional lobbying in Washington on the matter, but has considered sending a letter to the Commerce Department, two people familiar with Huawei’s thinking said.

“We simply have no channel of communication,” Liang told reporters earlier this month.

A month after being blacklisted, Huawei has not spoken to the United States government about the matter, two people said.

Huawei had been cutting back its lobbying efforts even before the ban. Last year, it laid off five employees at its Washington office, including its vice president of external affairs, and slashed lobbying expenditures, Reuters reported.

Still, Huawei has put up a vigorous legal fight and unleashed a public relations campaign to defend itself against the U.S. government’s allegations. It ran a full-page ad in major U.S. newspapers in February following a string of interviews with Huawei Chief Executive Ren Zhengfei aimed at softening its dark image in the West.

Huawei’s response underscores its recognition of its waning influence with the Trump administration, which has launched a global campaign against the company, analysts said.

“Huawei is at a loss over what they should do next,” said Jim Lewis, a cyber expert with Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It is in a really bad position in the U.S. Nobody is looking out to do Huawei a favor.”

Even so, the ban has had real repercussions.

Broadcom, which has not been lobbying the Commerce Department, sent a shockwave through the global chipmaking industry when it forecast that the U.S.-China trade tensions and the Huawei ban would knock $2 billion off its sales this year.

The Commerce Department did make a concession just days after the ban was put in place, announcing on May 20 that it would offer a temporary general license allowing Huawei to purchase U.S. goods so it can help existing customers maintain the reliability of networks and equipment.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper in Washington and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington and Karen Freifeld in New York; Editing by Chris Sanders and Leslie Adler)

Source: OANN

Members of Civil Human Rights Front hold a news conference in response to the announcement by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam regarding the proposed extradition bill, outside the Legislative Council building in Hong Kong
Members of Civil Human Rights Front hold a news conference in response to the announcement by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam regarding the proposed extradition bill, outside the Legislative Council building in Hong Kong, China, June 15, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

June 16, 2019

By Anne Marie Roantree

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Tens of thousands are expected to take to the streets on Sunday to demand Hong Kong’s leader steps down, a day after she suspended an extradition bill and expressed “deep sorrow and regret” that recent events had stirred “controversies.”

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Saturday indefinitely delayed the bill that could send people to mainland China to face trial, in a dramatic reversal after mass and sometimes violent protests to demand the law be scrapped.

The about-face was one of the most significant political turnarounds by the Hong Kong government since Britain returned the territory to China in 1997, and it threw into question Lam’s ability to continue to lead the city.

Organizers of the protest said they hope more than a million people will turn up for the rally, similar to numbers they estimated for a demonstration against the proposed extradition bill last Sunday. Police put that count at 240,000.

Violent clashes on Wednesday when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters grabbed global headlines and forced some banks to shut branches near the protest site in the heart of the financial hub.

The city’s independent legal system was guaranteed under laws governing Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule 22 years ago, and is seen by the financial hub’s business and diplomatic communities as its strong remaining asset amid encroachments from Beijing.

Hong Kong has been governed under a “one country, two systems” formula since its return to Beijing, allowing freedoms not enjoyed on mainland China but not a fully democratic vote.

Some opponents of the extradition bill said a suspension was not enough.

“If she refuses to scrap this controversial bill altogether, it would mean we wouldn’t retreat. She stays on, we stay on,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo.

Asked repeatedly on Saturday if she would step down, Lam avoided answering directly and appealed to the public to “give us another chance.” Lam said she had been a civil servant for decades and still had work she wanted to do.

She added that she felt “deep sorrow and regret that the deficiencies in our work and various other factors have stirred up substantial controversies and disputes in society”.

The proposed bill had generated unusually broad opposition, from normally pro-establishment business people and lawyers to students, business chambers, pro-democracy figures and religious groups.

“AmCham is relieved by the government decision to suspend the extradition bill and that it listened to the Hong Kong people and international business community,” said Tara Joseph, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.

“This sends an important signal to the international community that Hong Kong is serious about protecting its special status under “One Country, Two Systems.”

(Reporting By Anne Marie Roantree and Clare Jim; Editing by Diane Craft)

Source: OANN

President Donald Trump has blamed Iran for attacks on oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, but he also held out hope that implicit U.S. threats to use force will yield talks with the Islamic Republic as the Pentagon considers beefing up defenses in the Persian Gulf area.

A day after explosions blew holes in two oil tankers just outside Iran’s territorial waters, rattling international oil markets, the administration seemed caught between pressure to punish Iran and reassure Washington’s Gulf Arab allies without drawing the U.S. closer to war.

“Iran did it,” Trump said Friday on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.” He didn’t offer evidence, but the U.S. military released video it said showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded mine from one of the oil tankers targeted near the Strait of Hormuz, suggesting Tehran wanted to cover its tracks.

By pointing the finger at Iran, Trump was keeping a public spotlight on an adversary he accuses of terrorism but also has invited to negotiate. The approach is similar to his diplomacy with North Korea, which has quieted talk of war but not yet achieved his goal of nuclear disarmament. Iran has shown little sign of backing down, creating uncertainty about how far the Trump administration can go with its campaign of increasing pressure through sanctions.

Iran denied any involvement in the attacks and accused Washington of waging an “Iranophobic campaign” of economic warfare.

A U.S. Navy team on Friday was aboard one of the tankers, the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, collecting forensic evidence, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive operation.

Apparently alluding to the U.S. video, Trump said Iran’s culpability had been “exposed.” He did not say what he intended to do about it but suggested “very tough” U.S. sanctions, including efforts to strangle Iranian oil revenues, would have the desired effect.

“They’ve been told in very strong terms we want to get them back to the table,” Trump said. Just a day earlier, the president took the opposite view, tweeting that it was “too soon to even think about making a deal” with Iran’s leaders. “They are not ready, and neither are we!”

Trump last year withdrew the United States from an international agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program that was signed in 2015 under his predecessor, President Barack Obama. He has since then re-instated economic sanctions aimed at compelling the Iranians to return to the negotiating table. Just last month the U.S. ended waivers that allowed some countries to continue buying Iranian oil, a move that is starving Iran of oil income and that coincided with what U.S. officials called a surge in intelligence pointing to Iranian preparations for attacks against U.S. forces and interests in the Gulf region.

In response to those intelligence warnings, the U.S. on May 5 announced it was accelerating the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier battle group to the Gulf region. It also sent four nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to Qatar and has beefed up its defenses in the region by deploying more Patriot air defense systems.

Officials said that Pentagon deliberations about possibly sending more military resources to the region, including more Patriot missile batteries, could be accelerated by Thursday’s dramatic attack on the oil tankers.

At the Pentagon, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Iran is not just a U.S. problem. He said the U.S. goal is to “build international consensus to this international problem,” and to ensure that U.S. military commanders in the region get the resources and support they need.

In remarks to reporters later, Shanahan noted the commercial and strategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz, through which passes about 20 percent of the world’s oil.

“So, we obviously need to make contingency plans should the situation deteriorate,” he said.

Other administration officials said the U.S. is re-evaluating its presence in the region and will discuss the matter with allies before making decisions. The officials, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said Thursday the U.S. is looking at all options to ensure that maritime traffic in the region is safe and that international commerce, particularly through the Strait of Hormuz, is not disrupted. One option, they said, is for U.S. and allied ships to accompany vessels through the strait, noting that this tactic has been used in the past. They said there is no timeline for any decisions.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., said that providing naval escorts through the Strait of Hormuz is an option, but, “I don’t think it’s a sustainable option because of the amount of traffic.” She said tanker warfare in the Persian Gulf has historically been a problem, and she wouldn’t be opposed to the U.S. having a more visible presence in the region.

Slotkin, a former senior policy adviser at the Pentagon, said she is concerned that the Trump administration does not have a clear strategy on Iran. She said it’s difficult to deter Iran without provoking additional violence, adding, “I don’t believe this administration is capable of walking such a deft, fine line.”

In ticking off a list of Iranian acts of “unprovoked aggression,” including Thursday’s oil tanker attacks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added a surprise accusation. He asserted on Thursday that a late May car bombing of a U.S. convoy in Kabul, Afghanistan, was among a series of threats or attacks by Iran and its proxies against American and allies interests. At the time, the Taliban claimed credit for the attack, with no public word of Iranian involvement.

Pompeo’s inclusion of the Afghanistan attack in his list of six Iranian incidents has raised eyebrows in Congress, where he and other U.S. officials have suggested that the administration would be legally justified in taking military action against Iran under the 2001 Authorization of Military Force, or AUMF. In that law, Congress gave then-President George W. Bush authority to retaliate against al-Qaida and the Taliban for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It has subsequently been used to allow military force against extremists elsewhere, from the Philippines to Syria.

As the world awaited Washington’s next move, analysts said it was difficult to sort out the conflicting claims.

“There are few actors in the world that have less credibility than Donald Trump and the Iranian regime, so even U.S. allies at the moment are confused about what happened,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He said the “tremendous mistrust” of both Trump and Iran has made “the biggest priority for most countries to simply avoid conflict or further escalation.”

At the same time, Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is in a difficult position, Sadjadpour said. “If he didn’t respond to Trump’s provocations, he would risk looking like a paper tiger and projecting weakness. But if he responds overly aggressive to Trump he potentially destabilizes his own rule and his own regime. That’s why we’ve seen Iran calibrate its escalation.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: The inside of the Gadsden Mall is pictured in Gadsden, Alabama
FILE PHOTO: The inside of the Gadsden Mall is pictured in Gadsden, Alabama, U.S., December 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

June 14, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. retail sales increased in May and sales for the prior month were revised higher, suggesting a pick-up in consumer spending that could ease fears the economy was slowing down sharply in the second quarter.

The Commerce Department said on Friday retail sales rose 0.5% last month as households bought more motor vehicles and a variety of other goods. Data for April was revised up to show retail sales gaining 0.3%, instead of dropping 0.2% as previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales climbing 0.6% in May. Compared to May last year, retail sales increased 3.2%.

Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales advanced 0.5% last month after an upwardly revised 0.4% rise in April. These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product.

They were previously reported to have been unchanged in April. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity.

The solid gains in core retail sales in April and May suggested consumer spending was gaining speed in the second quarter after braking sharply in the January-March quarter.

That could see economists raising their second-quarter GDP growth estimates, which are currently below a 2.0% annualized rate. The economy grew at a 3.1% pace in the January-March quarter after getting a temporary boost from exports and an accumulation of inventory.

Exports dropped in April and inventory investment is slowing. In addition, manufacturing production and home sales fell in April. The outlook for consumer spending is mixed. While consumer confidence remains strong, wage growth retreated in May and hiring moderated sharply.

Overall, the economy is losing steam as the stimulus from last year’s $1.5 trillion tax cut and increased government spending dissipates. The trade war between the United States and China, which escalated recently, is also hurting the economy.

Last month, sales at auto dealerships accelerated 0.7% after dropping 0.5% in April. Receipts at service stations rose 0.3%.

Building materials and garden equipment sales edged up 0.1%, while online and mail-order purchases jumped 1.4%.

Sales at clothing stores were unchanged and receipts at furniture outlets nudged up 0.1%. Sales at bars and restaurants increased 0.7% last month, while those at hobby, musical instrument and book stores rose 1.1%.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Source: OANN

A sample of industrial hemp seeds is shown at a research station site in Haysville, Kansas
A sample of industrial hemp seeds is shown at a research station site in Haysville, Kansas, U.S., May 2, 2019. REUTERS/Julie Ingwersen

June 14, 2019

By Julie Ingwersen and David Randall

HAYSVILLE, Kansas (Reuters) – A growing number of U.S. farmers battered by low grain prices and the threat of a prolonged trade war with China are seeking salvation in a plant that until recently was illegal: hemp.

A cousin of cannabis plants that produce marijuana, hemp is used in products ranging from food to building materials and cannabidiol, or CBD oil, which is being touted as a treatment for everything from sleeplessness to acne to heart disease.

Interest in hemp picked up with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in December, which removed hemp from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of controlled substances and put it under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Unlike marijuana, industrial hemp doesn’t contain enough of the psychoactive chemical THC to give users a high.

The new rules call for the USDA to award hemp planting licenses to farmers but the agency has not yet regulated the process, meaning individual states are still issuing the licenses.

Industrial hemp plantings this year could double from the 78,176 acres seeded in 2018, said Eric Steenstra, president of advocacy group Vote Hemp. In 2017, 25,713 acres were planted on pilot programs authorized under the 2014 farm bill.

The U.S. hemp market is growing along with supply. U.S. sales of hemp reached $1.1 billion in 2018 and are projected to reach $1.9 billion by 2022, according to Vote Hemp and the Hemp Business Journal, a trade publication.

The profit potential is high: A good yield of food-grade hemp, for instance, can net farmers about $750 per acre, said Ken Anderson, founder of Prescott, Wisconsin-based hemp processor Legacy Hemp. Hemp seeds can be baked in to bread or sprinkled onto cereal or salads.

“That’s a profit that blows corn and wheat and everything else out of the water,” he said.

By comparison, soybeans bring in $150 or less per acre, and sales of the U.S. crop to China have fallen sharply since the onset of the trade war last year.

Before they can cash in on hemp, however, U.S. farmers must learn the science of producing an unfamiliar crop and wrestle with shifting regulations and other uncertainties.

“Nobody has any experience whatsoever,” said Rick Gash, 46, a businessman in Augusta, Kansas, who plans to grow his first-ever hemp crop on a horse pasture on his old family property.

NEW FRONTIER FOR REGULATION

CBD oil, which is concentrated in the hemp plant’s flowers, made up an estimated 23 percent of hemp sales in 2017, according to the Hemp Business Journal.

While the USDA oversees hemp planting, regulation of hemp products mostly falls to The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Though the agency has not approved food and supplements containing CBD, such products are widely available and the agency has done little to curtail their sales.

Furthermore, the FDA mainly has jurisdiction over commerce between states, meaning products developed and sold locally in states that have more tolerant laws for hemp products is legal.

“To date, the FDA has only gone after people making aggressive claims – cancer treatment claims, AIDS treatment claims and the like,” said attorney Jonathan Havens, former FDA regulatory counsel and current co-chair of cannabis law practice at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr.

Other CBD products with no health claims or ‘soft’ claims have drawn no federal enforcement, he said, “causing many people to confuse availability with legality.”

The FDA said in a statement to Reuters it had developed a strategy to evaluate existing CBD products and create lawful pathways for bringing them to market. The agency knows some companies are marketing products containing hemp-derived compounds in ways that violate the law but has prioritized those making unwarranted health claims for enforcement action, the FDA said.

“Our biggest concern is the marketing of products that put the health and safety of consumers at greatest risk, such as those claiming to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure serious diseases, such as cancer,” the agency said in the statement.

CBD ICE CREAM?

Despite the uncertainty, analysts at U.S. financial services firm Cowen & Co estimate that products with CBD as an ingredient will generate $16 billion in retail sales for humans and animals in the U.S. by 2025.

Companies are also making big bets: Kroger Co, the nation’s largest grocery chain, said on Tuesday it plans to sell CBD creams, balms and oils in nearly 1,000 stores across 17 states.

Unilever Plc’s Ben & Jerry’s ice cream chain said in a May 30 statement it planned to debut CBD-infused ice cream flavors as soon as consuming the oil is “legalized at the federal level.”

In Kentucky, which launched a pilot program for hemp in 2014, farmers who used to grow tobacco are finding hemp grown for CBD oil to be a profitable alternative with a better reputation.

“When I was growing tobacco, everyone said I was growing something that’s bad for your health,” said Brian Furnish, an eighth-generation tobacco farmer. “It’s fun to grow something that is making people feel better.”

Farther west, in the U.S. midsection where farmers are more familiar with commodity crops like corn and wheat and have been more scarred by the trade war, some see hemp as a rotational crop grown on a larger scale for seed and fiber, rather than for its labor-intensive CBD oil.

EXPENSIVE SEED, HARVESTING BY HAND

The Kansas Department of Agriculture began issuing licenses to growers this spring, allowing the crop to be cultivated in the state this year for the first time in decades.

    Jason Griffin, a specialist at Kansas State University, remains skeptical of the crop’s potential and cringes when he hears descriptions like ‘gold rush’ to describe it.

Beyond navigating changing regulations, expensive seed is one of many challenges that pioneering hemp farmers will face.

Special equipment for harvesting hemp may also be required, although some growers have been able to re-purpose the combines they already own. The hemp plant’s flowers are typically harvested by hand, while hemp for fiber is grown in fields and must be cut mechanically and dried in the field before storage.

Farmers are particularly dependent on the end buyers of hemp, as there are few third-party brokers to sell it as there are for other cash crops.

“You can’t just go to the local grain elevator and ask what’s your cash price for hemp grain right now,” said Legacy Hemp’s Anderson.

He often cautions farmers not to plant seeds until they have a contract with a buyer because prices vary widely. Legacy Hemp signs contracts with farmers before the planting season.

Other farmers are concerned over the long-term prospects. Montana wheat farmer Nathan Keane is growing female hemp plants exclusively for CBD oil, starting in a greenhouse and transplanting each plant later by hand.

“Honestly, I think the CBD thing is going to be a bubble,” he said. “I will ride the wave … but I’m really hoping the sustainability of hemp is going to be in the grain and the fiber.”

(Reporting by Julie Ingwersen and David Randall; Additional reporting by Richa Naidu; Editing by Caroline Stauffer and Brian Thevenot)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Man holds the flags while people take part in the 35th India Day Parade in New York
FILE PHOTO: A man holds the flags of India and the U.S. while people take part in the 35th India Day Parade in New York August 16, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

June 14, 2019

By Neha Dasgupta

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India is preparing to impose higher tariffs on some U.S. goods including almonds, walnuts and apples next week after a delay of about a year, two sources said, following Washington’s withdrawal of key trade privileges for New Delhi.

From June 5, President Donald Trump scrapped trade privileges under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) for India, the biggest beneficiary of a scheme that allowed duty-free exports of up to $5.6 billion from the country.

India is now looking at adopting the higher tariffs, the sources with direct knowledge of the matter said, although the U.S. has warned that any retaliatory tariffs by India would not be “appropriate” under WTO rules.

“What India is doing is legal and the tariffs on U.S. goods will only lead to an impact of around $220 million,” one of the sources said, declining to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry did not respond to an email from Reuters to seek comments.

India initially issued an order in June last year to raise import taxes as high as 120% on a slew of U.S. items, incensed by Washington’s refusal to exempt New Delhi from higher steel and aluminum tariffs. (https://reut.rs/2RfD9Rg)

But New Delhi repeatedly delayed raising tariffs as the two nations engaged in trade talks. Trade between them stood at about $142.1 billion in 2018.

India is by far the largest buyer of U.S. almonds, paying $543 million for more than half of U.S. almond exports in 2018, U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows. It is the second largest buyer of U.S. apples, taking $156 million worth in 2018.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is expected to visit India this month, said this week the United States was open to dialogue to resolve trade differences with India, through greater access for American companies to its markets.

Dates for Pompeo’s visit have not been officially announced but media said it could be ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first meeting with Trump in more than two years, on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Japan, on June 28 and 29.

Trump has repeatedly called out India for its high tariffs, even though the two countries have developed close political and security ties.

New Delhi’s new rules in areas such as e-commerce and data localization have angered the United States and hit companies such as Amazon.com, Walmart Inc, Mastercard and Visa, among others.

Previously, India has called the withdrawal of GSP benefits “unfortunate”, and vowed to “always uphold its national interest in these matters”.

(Reporting by Neha Dasgupta; Editing by Nidhi Verma)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump hosts working lunch with governors at the White House in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump hosts a working lunch with governors on workforce freedom and mobility in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 13, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

June 14, 2019

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – One of the largest U.S. producers of aerosol cans, Colorado-based Ball Metalpack, has laid off 91 of its 500 U.S. workers since President Donald Trump imposed a 25% tariff on imported steel that abruptly hiked the firm’s raw materials costs.

At a chief competitor, DS Containers, the story is different. The subsidiary of Japan’s Daiwa Can Co has added more than 80 workers over 18 months at its two Illinois plants, bringing employment to 232.

Rivals of the Japanese-owned firm say the reason for its success is simple – it’s not paying the tariff, allowing the firm to snatch business from competitors who have been forced to raise prices to cover their higher materials costs. The U.S. Commerce Department granted DS Containers an exemption from the import tax because it uses a raw material, plastic-laminated steel, that isn’t produced by U.S. steelmakers.

Firms that use standard tin-plated steel, including Ball Metalpack and Mauser Packaging Solutions, have seen their exemption applications denied or delayed by Commerce after U.S. steelmakers objected to them, arguing the material is available domestically. Executives from the can makers counter that domestic steelmakers can’t produce nearly enough tinplate to meet their needs – forcing them to keep importing and paying tariffs.

“Anytime they want to take a customer from us, they can do it,” said Leslie Bradshaw, an executive vice president at Mauser Packaging, a maker of aerosol and other cans based just 19 miles away from DS Containers in Illinois. “Their business is growing, and everyone else’s is not. We’re paying 25 percent tariffs, and they’re not.”

The dynamics of the aerosol can industry illustrate the uneven impact of Trump’s tariffs on U.S. manufacturers and the unintended consequences of policies that protect one sector or company from foreign competition at the expense of others who are hit with hefty import taxes.

It also underscores domestic steel producers’ strong influence over the Trump administration’s tariff policies. According to a Reuters review of Commerce Department exclusion requests for tinplate steel, the key factor in an approval or denial is whether they draw objections from U.S. Steel Corp or Arcelor Mittal USA, two major domestic producers of tinplate.

DS Containers Chief Executive Bill Smith dismissed any advantage the tariff exclusion has given his company, arguing that his materials are still more expensive that standard tinplate, even considering the tariff.

His company has grown, he said, because of the innovative design of its two-piece, round-shouldered can, which can be manufactured more efficiently. He also credited a recent move into aluminum aerosol cans.

“We win on the manufacturing floor, not at the table negotiating steel prices,” Smith said.

STEEL MAKERS VS. STEEL CONSUMERS

U.S. tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum – a cornerstone of Trump’s “America First” trade policy – have increased steel prices and spurred investment in metals manufacturing. In March, U.S. Steel Chief Executive David Burritt told lawmakers not to “blink” in the face of criticism as the industry begins to recover from a long decline.

The tariffs, imposed in March 2018, initially caused Midwest hot-rolled coil steel futures prices to shoot up to $942 per ton by the end of May 2018. But this week they had fallen back to about $578 a ton, about where they were in October 2017 – but with increased market share and capacity utilization for domestic steelmakers.

The rising fortunes of the steel industry have produced a modest uptick in employment, reported at 143,700 in March, up about 4,000 from a year ago, according to U.S. Labor Department data.

Steelmakers’ employment is dwarfed by that of industries that consume steel and aluminum, which employ about 6.5 million people, according to the Precision Metalforming Association and the National Tooling and Machining Association, two trade groups representing metal processors.

The Can Manufacturers Institute, a trade group, estimates its industry employment at 22,000 for cans of all types.

When Ball Metalpack’s Chief Executive Jim Peterson laid off workers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin, he said: “We let them all know that apparently their jobs are not as important to our government as U.S. Steel union jobs in Indiana.”

‘READY TO SERVE’

In seeking a tariff exemption, Ball Metalpack argued that domestic steelmakers can produce only about half the tinplate needed for aerosol, food and paint cans in the United States.

U.S. Steel contended in its objections that U.S. tinplate mills were operating at only 43 percent of capacity because cheap imports had eroded domestic producers’ market share.

“The United States has ample capacity to supply domestic tin mill customers with their needs, and U.S. Steel is ready to serve,” U.S. Steel spokeswoman Meghan Cox said in a statement.

Cox said the company is pursuing a capital investment program in tinplate operations called “Can Do,” aimed at improving product quality and delivery.

Whatever steelmakers can do in the future, says Peterson, they can’t do it now – leaving his business with no choice but to import about half its tinplate from Europe and pay tariffs.

“It will take U.S. Steel years to get where they need to be, but we don’t have years,” Peterson said. “The business we’re losing is happening overnight.”

STEEL INDUSTRY INFLUENCE

Commerce has received tens of thousands of such exemption requests from U.S. manufacturers, and the agency has struggled to keep pace with the volume. It has often rejected requests if there are any objections from domestic metal producers.

“The bias in the Commerce Department’s administration of this has been totally towards the domestic industry” of metal manufacturers, said Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a Washington-based multi-industry group that promotes free trade.

In a statement to Reuters, the Commerce Department said exemptions are generally approved in the absence of objections from domestic providers – as in the case of DS Containers. Tinplate products that do draw objections would only get tariffs waived if the department determines the product is not “reasonably available” in a “satisfactory quality” from domestic steelmakers.

“The lack of objections would indicate the product is not available from U.S. sources. The DS Container requests received no objections and thus were granted,” the department said.

Commerce overruled can-makers’ arguments that they could not purchase enough tinplate domestically. In one denial of a Ball Metalpack exclusion request, the agency found that the material is “produced in the United States in a sufficient and reasonably available amount and of a satisfactory quality.”

Some of the tinplate exclusion requests, including many from Mauser Packaging Solutions, are still pending as the Commerce Department reviews rebuttals and counter-rebuttals.

Bradshaw, the Mauser executive, said the company may not wait around hoping for more favorable tariff treatment.

It’s exploring moving the manufacturing of can tops and bottoms to South America to tap into cheaper foreign steel supplies and import the components to the United States duty-free.

“If we do that,” he said, “those jobs are never coming back.”

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Simon Webb and Brian Thevenot)

Source: OANN

Steel pipes waiting to be loaded and transferred to the port are seen at a steel mill in Cangzhou
FILE PHOTO: Steel pipes waiting to be loaded and transferred to the port are seen at a steel mill in Cangzhou, Hebei province, China March 19, 2018. Picture taken March 19, 2018. REUTERS/Muyu Xu

June 14, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Friday that it was raising anti-dumping duties on certain alloy-steel seamless tubes and pipes used at utilities and imported from the United States and the European Union.

The anti-dumping tax rate applicable to the steel tubes and pipes is between 57.9% and 147.8% on companies in the United States and the EU, effective June 14, the Commerce Ministry said on Friday.

Tariffs on U.S. steel extrusion firm Wyman-Gordon Forgings are at 101%, while those on all other U.S. companies are 147.8%, the ministry said.

The anti-dumping tariff on Vallourec units Vallourec Deutschland GmbH and Vallourec Tubes France are 57.9%, with all other EU companies face tariffs of 60.8%.

China, the world’s largest steel producer and consumer, had imposed 13-14.1% tariffs on companies in the United States and the EU in 2014 which expired on May 10, 2019.

The decision to extend the anti-dumping tariff follows a request from the Chinese domestic steel tubes and pipes sector, the ministry said.

(Reporting by Shivani Singh and Hallie Gu; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Source: OANN

General view of the U.S. Capitol in Washington
General view of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

June 13, 2019

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A power that the U.S. Congress has not wielded since the 1930s may remain unused for a while longer as Democrats turn to the courts — not long-dormant rules — to press home investigations of President Donald Trump and his administration.

Democratic leaders are reluctant to use the “inherent contempt” power, under which Congress can jail or fine people who defy its subpoenas, to end stonewalling by Trump’s inner circle, said Representative Steve Cohen, a Democrat, and member of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

Inherent contempt is “a tool that’s got advantages and disadvantages,” the committee’s chairman, Jerrold Nadler, said recently. While it is still an option, he added, “It’s not the most useful thing at the moment.”

Last invoked more than 80 years ago, inherent contempt empowers lawmakers to order the Senate or House sergeant-at-arms, both congressional employees, to apprehend people and detain or fine them.

In recent years, Congress has preferred largely to rely on federal courts to put some bite into so-called congressional contempt citations against people who ignore subpoenas in its investigations.

Court action is the path House Democrats have chosen so far in response to Trump’s refusal to hand over documents and make witnesses available for probes of his turbulent presidency, his family and his taxes and business holdings.

The Trump administration has ignored a series of subpoenas by congressional Democrats in the last two months, including an order seeking an unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Asked about dusting off Congress’s power to jail subpoena resisters, Representative Karen Bass, another committee member and Democrat, said, “I can’t imagine that happening.”

But she and other Democrats might be willing to use the power to target the bank accounts of those defying Congress. “If the individuals were facing fines everyday, that might compel them” to cooperate, Bass said.

“Inherent contempt is always an option” if other methods of enforcing Congress’s investigative clout fail, Representative Ted Lieu, a Judiciary Committee Democrat, told reporters on Tuesday in discussing former White House Counsel Don McGahn’s continued refusal to testify to the panel.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries said the threat of inherent contempt may have helped convince Trump’s Department of Justice on Monday to agree to give the Judiciary Committee more evidence from the Mueller investigation, a rare retreat by Trump from his stonewalling strategy.

“We began to see yesterday, in the face of the possibility of either a criminal contempt citation or proceeding with inherent contempt that they began to see things differently all of a sudden,” Jeffries told reporters.

House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving did not respond to a request for comment. His current duties include overseeing U.S. Capitol security. He is seen briefly by millions of people on television when he announces the president’s arrival in the House chamber for the annual State of the Union address.

Given House Democrats’ winning record so far in the courts, lawmakers said inherent contempt might not be needed.

Two separate judges in May and June ruled against Trump lawsuits meant to block Democrats’ subpoenas for his financial records from long-time accounting firm Mazars LLP, as well as Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial, banks Trump did business with.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican, criticized the Democrats for dangling the inherent contempt threat over the White House.

“They’re just trying to satisfy their political base’s desire to see President Trump’s presidency destroyed. I think it’s a dangerous thing they are doing,” said Graham. He said Trump had “cooperated very extensively with Mueller.”

Congress last used its inherent contempt power against William P. MacCracken Jr., a former assistant commerce secretary, for destroying and removing papers from files related to a 1930s Air Mail scandal that had been subpoenaed.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; additional reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Alistair Bell)

Source: OANN

Workers load goods for export onto a crane at a port in Lianyungang
Workers load goods for export onto a crane at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China June 7, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

June 13, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday Beijing will not yield to any “maximum pressure” from Washington, and any attempt by the United States to force China into accepting a trade deal will fail.

China will not make concessions on matters of principle, ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters at a regular briefing.

Trade talks between the world’s two largest economies fell apart in May. U.S. officials said China had watered down commitments it made on issues such as stopping intellectual property theft.

Asked about U.S. President Donald Trump’s accusation that China reneged on its promises, Gao said: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

(Reporting by Yawen Chen and Ryan Woo; editing by Darren Schuettler)

Source: OANN

An informational pamphlet is displayed at an event for community activists and local government leaders to mark the one-year-out launch of the 2020 Census efforts in Boston
FILE PHOTO – An informational pamphlet is displayed at an event for community activists and local government leaders to mark the one-year-out launch of the 2020 Census efforts in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

June 13, 2019

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Groups challenging the Trump administration’s contentious decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to consider delaying a ruling on the issue in light of new evidence.

In a court filing, immigrant advocacy groups represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that a judge in New York should review the evidence before the Supreme Court decides the legal question.

Challengers say newly uncovered documents show the administration concealed its true motives and that the move to add the question is aimed at boosting Republicans’ electoral power.

The challengers told Manhattan-based U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman on May 30 that during the course of their lawsuit the administration hid the fact that Thomas Hofeller, a longtime Republican specialist on drawing electoral districts, played a “significant role” in planning the citizenship question.

Furman on June 5 ordered further briefing on the issue over the summer, meaning that any ruling from him would come after the Supreme Court decides the matter, which is due by the end of June unless it agrees to a delay.

The challengers say that proceedings in the lower court could be concluded in time for the high court to issue a final ruling before October, which the government has said is the latest deadline for census forms to be printed.

ACLU lawyers wrote in the new filing that the justices “need not decide this case on a record that omits or conceals critical facts about the true process and reasons for adding a citizenship question.”

Hofeller, who died in 2018, concluded in a 2015 study that asking a citizenship question “would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” in redistricting, the plaintiffs said.

Hofeller ghost-wrote a draft letter from the Department of Justice to the Department of Commerce asking for a citizenship question on the grounds it would help enforce voting rights, according to the plaintiffs.

The Justice Department has called the allegations an “eleventh-hour campaign to improperly derail the Supreme Court’s resolution of the government’s appeal.”

In the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, a committee voted to hold two Trump administration officials in contempt for defying subpoenas seeking information about the decision to add the citizenship question.

Trump also asserted a legal defense called “executive privilege” in refusing to hand over additional documents.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; editing by Grant McCool and Sonya Hepinstall)

Source: OANN

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., continued to break ranks with his party on Wednesday by voting in favor of a resolution to hold two Trump administration officials in contempt.

After the House Oversight Committee voted 24-15 to hold in contempt Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross over their refusal to turn over documents related to the 2020 U.S. census, The Hill reported that Amash was the lone Republican on the committee to vote yes on the measure.

The contempt measure now moves on to the full House for a chamber vote.

Amash is an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump. Last month, he sided with Democrats by saying Trump engaged in “impeachable conduct” during the nearly two-year Russia investigation, echoing what some Democrats have said in regards to possible obstruction of justice charges against Trump. He also blasted Barr over his handling of the Mueller report.

Amash was first elected to the House in 2008. His potential primary challenger for the 2020 election, State Rep. James Lower, leads by 16 points in a recent poll.

Source: NewsMax Politics

U.S. Attorney General William Barr participates in a news conference after a meeting with Attorney Generals of Northern Triangle of Central America in San Salvador
FILE PHOTO – U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks at a news conference after a meeting with Attorney Generals of Northern Triangle of Central America in San Salvador, El Salvador May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

June 12, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House Oversight Committee voted on Wednesday to approve contempt of Congress citations against Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for defying congressional subpoenas related to the U.S. Census.

By a 24-15 vote, the panel recommended that the full House of Representatives find Barr and Ross in contempt for refusing to cooperate with an investigation of the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: New York State Attorney General Letitia James speaks at a news conference in New York
FILE PHOTO: New York State Attorney General Letitia James speaks at a news conference to announce the filing of a federal lawsuit in partnership with at least 10 U.S. state attorneys general to stop a proposed $26 billion merger of mobile carriers Sprint and T-Mobile in New York, U.S., June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar/

June 12, 2019

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The senior Democrat on the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday criticized the FCC’s review of the proposed $26.5 billion tie-up of Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US Inc, saying Republican commissioners moved toward approving the merger without adequate economic and legal analysis.

“This is highly unusual. I have no economic analysis, legal analysis or paper before me and yet my colleagues have announced that they are going to support this transaction via press release,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, told the Senate Commerce Committee during a hearing. “This is just the worst of what people expect from Washington. It looks like some backroom dealing.”

On May 20, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, recommended to his colleagues that they approve the deal. Commissioner Brendan Carr said he would vote to approve while the third Republican Mike O’Rielly said he was inclined to approve it.

Brian Hart, a spokesman for Pai, said “the chairman’s views and comments are based on the extensive public record that the commission has compiled over the last year.”

On Tuesday, 10 state attorneys general led by New York and California filed suit in New York against the firms and their parent companies Softbank Group Corp and Deutsche Telekom AG, seeking to block the merger which they say would hike consumer prices.

The Justice Department has not yet offered a view on whether the merger should proceed.

T-Mobile chief executive John Legere defended the deal after the attorney generals sued, saying on Twitter the “broad and deep nationwide 5G network we will build, is our best bet for America to truly compete on a global scale.”

Pai sent letters to some Democratic senators on Tuesday defending the review. Pai told Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, the agency followed a standard review process and was “more transparent” than usual by disclosing details of company commitments weeks before a formal order is circulated.

Some Democrats questioned the review and asked why Pai was not giving the public a chance to formally comment on the merger commitments.

Pai said he had no contact with anyone from the White House about the merger.

The FCC’s review process won backing from Republican senator Roy Blunt, who said the agency did not need to wait for the Justice Department.

“Not everybody agrees with the attorneys generals on this who frankly probably haven’t spent a whole lot of time thinking about this particular marketplace,” Blunt said.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)

Source: OANN

House Oversight and Reform Committee votes on whether to find Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for withholding Census documents
House Oversight and Reform Committee chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) arrives at the committee contempt votes on whether to find Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for withholding Census documents on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas – RC15674C3000

June 12, 2019

By Jan Wolfe and Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump asserted executive privilege on Wednesday to keep under wraps documents related to adding a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census, defying a U.S. House committee in another move to stonewall Democrats’ multiple investigations of the president.

The move came minutes before the House Oversight Committee convened to vote on holding two of his Cabinet members in contempt of Congress over the census question.

Democrats on the committee were angered after receiving a letter from the Justice Department saying Trump had asserted executive privilege over the documents.

“This does not appear to be a good faith effort at negotiation,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said in an opening statement at the panel’s meeting.

“Instead it appears to be another example of the administration’s blanket defiance of Congress’ constitutionally mandated authority … This begs the question: what is being hidden?” Cummings said.

He said the committee would vote later in the afternoon on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a committee subpoena seeking the documents related to an administration decision to add a citizenship question to the census.

The census question already has triggered lawsuits with several states and cities saying that asking census respondents if they are U.S. citizens will frighten immigrants and Latinos into abstaining from the count. Critics have said Republicans want to engineer a deliberate population undercount in Democratic-leaning areas where many immigrants live in order to gain seats in the House.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball, Jan Wolfe and David Morgan; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Bill Trott)

Source: OANN

House Oversight and Reform Committee votes on whether to find Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for withholding Census documents
House Oversight and Reform Committee chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) arrives at the committee contempt votes on whether to find Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for withholding Census documents on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas – RC15674C3000

June 12, 2019

By Jan Wolfe and Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump asserted executive privilege on Wednesday to keep under wraps documents related to adding a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census, defying a U.S. House committee in another move to stonewall Democrats’ multiple investigations of the president.

The move came minutes before the House Oversight Committee convened to vote on holding two of his Cabinet members in contempt of Congress over the census question.

Democrats on the committee were angered after receiving a letter from the Justice Department saying Trump had asserted executive privilege over the documents.

“This does not appear to be a good faith effort at negotiation,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said in an opening statement at the panel’s meeting.

“Instead it appears to be another example of the administration’s blanket defiance of Congress’ constitutionally mandated authority … This begs the question: what is being hidden?” Cummings said.

He said the committee would vote later in the afternoon on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a committee subpoena seeking the documents related to an administration decision to add a citizenship question to the census.

The census question already has triggered lawsuits with several states and cities saying that asking census respondents if they are U.S. citizens will frighten immigrants and Latinos into abstaining from the count. Critics have said Republicans want to engineer a deliberate population undercount in Democratic-leaning areas where many immigrants live in order to gain seats in the House.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball, Jan Wolfe and David Morgan; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Bill Trott)

Source: OANN

President Donald Trump is asserting executive privilege over documents related to the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The Justice Department notified the chairman of the House oversight committee of the decision in a letter Wednesday.

The committee is set to vote on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for failing to turn over the subpoenaed documents.

Barr says the president has made a “protective assertion” of executive privilege so the administration can fully review all of the documents.

Democrats fear the question will reduce census participation in immigrant-heavy communities, harming representation and access to federal dollars.

Republicans have criticized the hearings as a waste of time and have called for Democrats to move on.

Source: NewsMax Politics

House Oversight and Reform Committee votes on whether to find Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for withholding Census documents
House Oversight and Reform Committee chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) arrives at the committee contempt votes on whether to find Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for withholding Census documents on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas – RC15674C3000

June 12, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump has asserted executive privilege in refusing to turn over to a U.S. House committee certain documents related to adding a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census, the Justice Department said in a letter to the committee on Wednesday.

The House of Representatives Oversight Committee convened a meeting minutes after the letter was released, with Democrats in control of the committee planning to vote to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress over the matter.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball, Jan Wolfe and David Morgan; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Chizu Nomiyama)

Source: OANN

Participants including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at a press preview event in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross attends a press preview event of the upcoming Paris Air Show at the National Press Club in Washington, U.S. June 6, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

June 12, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a television interview on Wednesday the Federal Reserve should reconsider its last rate increase, which he said was premature.

“I think the Fed taking a more cautious attitude on rates and reconsidering, in effect, the last rate increase that they put in, I think that’s good. I think they should reconsider. I think it’s quite likely that that last increase was, at best, premature,” Ross told Bloomberg TV.

After two days of policy-setting meetings this week, Fed officials will soon issue updated rate projections. The Fed has come under pressure in recent months amid President Donald Trump’s trade wars and other signs of economic weakness.

Additionally, Trump has repeatedly attacked the central bank, whose political independence is seen as key to the country’s economic stability.

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Susan Heavey and Bernadette Baum)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: White House Counsel McGahn listens to U.S. President Trump hold a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington
FILE PHOTO: White House Counsel Don McGahn sits behind U.S. President Donald Trump as the president holds a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S. June 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

June 11, 2019

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to give lawmakers clear authority to sue Trump administration figures who defy congressional subpoenas, beginning with former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who is expected to face swift action.

In an escalation of wide-ranging probes of President Donald Trump and his inner circle, lawmakers voted 229-191 along party lines to approve the measure. It authorizes House committees to file lawsuits in federal court seeking orders from judges to compel officials to cooperate with official congressional demands for testimony or evidence.

The measure authorizes the House Judiciary Committee to seek a court order enforcing subpoenas relating to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. The committee is seeking an unredacted version of the report, as well as underlying evidence from the investigation, and related documents and testimony.

Democrats acknowledged the unprecedented nature of the resolution.

“This has not been done before. But neither have we ever seen blanket stonewalling by the administration of all information requests by the House,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said. “We must go to court to enforce the subpoenas.”

Nadler said he would go to court “as quickly as possible” against McGahn to compel him to testify about the Republican president’s efforts to impede Mueller’s investigation.

McGahn, a star witness in the Mueller report, last month defied a subpoena for his testimony and documents after the White House directed him not to cooperate with the Judiciary panel.

Nadler said other witnesses, such as former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks and former McGahn aide Annie Donaldson, would also face court action if they defy committee subpoenas demanding their testimony later this month.

The measure also reinforces a process for other panels to take similar action. Half a dozen House panels are looking into Trump’s presidency and personal holdings.

The House Ways and Means Committee is seeking his tax returns. Other panels are probing his financial records and documents on policies ranging from immigrant family separation to the transfer of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

“In all of our investigations, the White House has not produced one single shred of paper in response to our requests,” House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings said. “This begs the question: what are they covering up?”

Tuesday’s measure also authorizes the House Judiciary Committee to petition a federal judge for permission to access grand jury evidence from the Mueller probe, a step that Nadler said the committee will now take promptly.

REPUBLICANS DECRY VOTE

House Republicans dismissed the vote as a “media-grabbing” stunt by Democrats to bolster their partisan interests in the 2020 presidential election in which Trump is seeking a second four-year term in office.

“It is difficult not to view the purpose of this resolution and this debate as anything but political,” Republican Representative Debbie Lesko said.

The vote took place a day after Trump, following repeated requests by Democrats, allowed the Justice Department to give members of Nadler’s committee access to redacted sections of the Mueller report dealing with possible obstruction of justice by Trump as well as underlying documents.

Lawmakers on Nadler’s committee said they hoped to see material as early as Tuesday afternoon.

Under the agreement, House Democrats will hold off on an earlier plan for a criminal contempt vote against Attorney General William Barr, who has resisted a subpoena for the Mueller report and other material. A redacted version was released by Barr in April.

Trump’s defiance of House Democrats has helped ratchet up pressure on Democratic leaders to formally begin the impeachment process set out in the U.S. Constitution to remove a president from office – an inquiry that some rank-and-file Democrats see as giving legal heft to House investigations of Trump.

It was not clear what effect the agreement with the Justice Department would have on that dynamic.

“All options are on the table. That’s all I’m going to say publicly,” Nadler told reporters when asked about the possibility of an impeachment inquiry.

The House Oversight Committee plans to hold contempt votes against Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Wednesday after they defied subpoenas related to the U.S. census.

(Reporting by David Morgan; additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Amanda Becker; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Will Dunham and Rosalba O’Brien)

Source: OANN

The United States and China will eventually negotiate a trade deal, but it won’t be finalized at the upcoming G-20 summit, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Tuesday.

“Eventually, this will end in negotiation,” Ross told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “Even shooting wars end in negotiations.”

Meanwhile, he said, President Donald Trump is “exactly right” with his assessment on China, as the United States will either collect “more and more tariffs on more and more products” or an arrangement will be reached to deal with the current situation and “more importantly” issues such as intellectual property rights and forced technology transfers.

Ross, though, warned that extensive trade deals are not made at summits like the G-20 and that any talks between Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping would lay the groundwork for an agreement, rather than the two men reaching a pact at the event itself.

Meanwhile, Ross urged investors to use caution while the talks are continuing.

“When we were having this with Mexico, people were getting hysterical,” said Ross. “Now we have a resolution that appears likely to help solve the border crisis, and also did not involve big tariffs.”

Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, a guest host on the morning show, commented that the United States has been at a nonstop war for some time, but Ross said he doesn’t anticipate there will be a constant trade war, as there are several trade agreements on the table, including the USMCA deal with Mexico and Canada.

“Look at the results,” he said. “Don’t get too obsessed with the in-between details. Those are just a road stop along the highway to success.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

The U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee plans to vote on Wednesday on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for stonewalling a probe into an alleged scheme to politicize the 2020 U.S. Census.

“Both Secretary Ross and Attorney General Barr are refusing to comply with duly authorized subpoenas from Congress,” the committee’s chairman, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, said on Monday in a statement announcing the vote.

“Because they are in contempt of Congress, on Wednesday, the Committee will vote to move forward to enforce our bipartisan subpoenas,” he said.

In a statement, Ross called the planned vote an “empty stunt” and said he had cooperated with the committee, providing 14,000 pages of documents and testifying for nearly seven hours.

If the committee finds them in contempt, a vote could then take place in the full, Democratic-led House. If the full House votes in favor of contempt, it could take Ross and Barr to court to seek compliance.

The committee is investigating a plan by President Donald Trump’s administration to add a question on citizenship to next year’s U.S. Census questionnaire.

Critics believe including the question will scare immigrants and Latinos into abstaining from the survey, which is taken every 10 years. That could disproportionately undercount Democratic-leaning states, they argue.

Ross has said the citizenship question would help enforce the Voting Rights Act, which requires a tally of citizens of voting age to protect minorities against discrimination.

The panel’s Democrats said they scheduled the contempt vote after both Ross and Barr did not produce documents about the issue in response to a bipartisan subpoena the panel issued more than two months ago.

The committee said Ross testified that he added the citizenship question “solely” at the request of the Justice Department.

The panel said documents showed, however, that Ross “began a secret campaign” to add the question to the census questionnaire shortly after taking office and months before being asked to do so by the Justice Department.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the committee’s move to schedule a contempt vote.

Source: NewsMax Politics

U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks at the FBI National Academy Graduation Ceremony in Quantico
FILE PHOTO – U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks at the FBI National Academy Graduation Ceremony in Quantico, Virginia, U.S., June 7, 2019 REUTERS/Tom Brenner

June 10, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House Oversight Committee plans to vote on Wednesday on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for stonewalling a probe into an alleged scheme to politicize the 2020 U.S. Census.

“Both Secretary Ross and Attorney General Barr are refusing to comply with duly authorized subpoenas from Congress,” the committee’s chairman, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, said on Monday in a statement announcing the vote.

“Because they are in contempt of Congress, on Wednesday, the Committee will vote to move forward to enforce our bipartisan subpoenas,” Cummings said.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Source: OANN

Jon Huntsman, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, reportedly will return from Moscow by the end of the year, sources told The Atlantic, as he weighs a campaign to be governor of Utah again.

“It’s not idle chatter,” Huntsman’s former governor campaign manager Chuck Warren told The Atlantic. “He’s seriously considering it.”

Amb. Huntsman has served in Moscow since 2017 and was previously governor of Utah from 2004-’09. Sources say he had always planned just a two-year term as President Donald Trump’s ambassador in Moscow, but Huntsman declined to comment on this report.

“[Huntsman’s] making the rounds and talking to people about his prospects, doing his due diligence,” Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce Chairman Derek Miller told The Atlantic.

After U.S. ambassadors have been expelled from Russia and President Trump had a controversial summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Helsinski in 2018, calls for Amb. Huntsman’s resignation came, but he has stayed on.

An ambassador resignation would not be a first for Huntsman, who resigned as former President Barack Obama’s ambassador to China to launch a 2012 presidential campaign, per the report.

“Huntsman is going to have higher name ID, a stronger record to run on, and, of course, the money to back him up,” Miller told The Atlantic. “He wouldn’t have to raise a dime. That’s hard to beat.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

President Donald Trump says if Chinese President Xi Jinping  doesn’t meet with him at the upcoming Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, this month, additional tariffs will go into effect.

But Trump says he expects Xi to attend.

Trump made the threat during an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday morning. Trump appeared to have called in response to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which had criticized Trump for using the threat of tariffs to force Mexico to do more to halt the flow of migrants across the U.S. southern border.

Trump is going after the chamber, saying it has its priorities wrong.

Trump says: “They have to start representing the United States, not just the companies that are members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

President Donald Trump insisted Monday his call for tariffs against Mexico was a “very powerful tool” in addition to other tools used to push the country into taking action on immigration and his comments were not “a threat.”

“I thought we would be receiving billions of dollars, frankly, and you know what happens with tariffs,” Trump told CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” after calling in to respond to comments by U.S. Chamber Commerce Executive Vice President and head of international affairs Myron Brilliant against the use of tariffs. “Companies will move out of Mexico and they’ll move out of China, and they’ll come into the United States or go to other countries also, but in the case of Mexico, I’d say we’d get virtually 100% of the companies.”

The United States has been losing a “tremendous amount” of money every year with Mexico and has for years, Trump said.

Trump also took issue with The New York Timesfor a report Mexico had already agreed to actions about the border for several months before he said he would enact taxes on imports if something was not done.

“It’s nonsense,” Trump said. “We talked about it for months and months and months, and they wouldn’t get there, and we just said, ‘hey, look, if you don’t get there, we’re just going to have to charge you hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes.'”

He also rejected the argument tariffs would result in a tax on Americans.

“It depends on what country you’re talking about,” Trump said. “If you’re talking about China, it’s different than Mexico, because China will subsidize their product because they want to keep people working.”

But with Mexico, “all the companies would immediately move into the United States. You’d have car plants going up all over our country, and there would be no tariff from my standpoint,” Trump said.

Source: NewsMax Politics

China will make a deal with the United States “because they’re going to have to” because they don’t want to have to face the costs tariffs will bring, President Donald Trump said Monday.

“Right now, China is getting absolutely decimated by companies that are leaving China, going to other countries, including our own, because they don’t want to pay the tariffs,” Trump told CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” after he called the network to respond to comments made in an interview by U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and head of international affairs Myron Brilliant.

The chamber official earlier on the program slammed the president’s use of tariffs, saying Trump’s “weaponization of tariffs” and the threats on the nation’s economy and farmers will hurt the country and create “uncertainty with our trading partners.”

“Well, I guess he’s not so brilliant,” Trump told CNBC. “Look, without tariffs, we would be captive to every country, and we have been for many years. That’s why we have an $800 billion trading deficit for years. We lose a fortune with virtually every country. They take advantage of us in every way possible.”

He accused the U.S. Chamber of being “right there with them” and said he’ll “maybe have to rethink” his own membership.

“The chamber is probably more for the companies and the people that are members than they are for our country, because without tariffs, we would be absolutely, outside of something that I won’t even mention, we would be absolutely in a competitive disadvantage, the likes of which you’ve never seen now.”

Tariffs, he added, “are a beautiful thing when you’re the piggy bank, when you have all the money. Everyone’s trying to get our money.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: A woman looks at her phone as she walks past a Huawei shop in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: A woman looks at her phone as she walks past a Huawei shop in Beijing, China May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

June 9, 2019

By Paresh Dave and Chris Prentice

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif./NEW YORK (Reuters) – Some of the world’s biggest tech companies have told their employees to stop talking about technology and technical standards with counterparts at Huawei Technologies Co Ltd in response to the recent U.S. blacklisting of the Chinese tech firm, according to people familiar with the matter.

Chipmakers Intel Corp and Qualcomm Inc, mobile research firm InterDigital Wireless Inc and South Korean carrier LG Uplus have restricted employees from informal conversations with Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, the sources said.

Such discussions are a routine part of international meetings where engineers gather to set technical standards for communications technologies, including the next generation of mobile networks known as 5G.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has not banned contact between companies and Huawei. On May 16, the agency put Huawei on a blacklist, barring it from doing business with U.S. companies without government approval, then a few days later it authorized U.S. companies to interact with Huawei in standards bodies through August “as necessary for the development of 5G standards.” The Commerce Department reiterated that position on Friday in response to a question from Reuters.

Nevertheless, at least a handful of major U.S. and overseas tech companies are telling their employees to limit some forms of direct interaction, the people said, as they seek to avoid any potential issues with the U.S. government.

Intel and Qualcomm said they have provided compliance instructions to employees, but declined to comment on them further.

A spokesman for InterDigital said it has provided guidance to engineers to ensure the company is in compliance with U.S. regulations.

An official with LG Uplus said the company is “voluntarily refraining from interacting with Huawei workers, other than meeting for network equipment installation or maintenance issues.”

Huawei did not provide comment.

5G SLOWDOWN

The new restrictions could slow the rollout of 5G, which is expected to power everything from high-speed video transmissions to self-driving cars, according to several industry experts.

At a 5G standards meeting last week in Newport Beach, California, participants privately expressed alarm to Reuters that the long-standing cooperation among engineers that is needed for phones and networks to connect globally could fall victim to what one participant described as a “tech war” between the U.S. and China.

A representative of a European company that has instituted rules against interaction with Huawei described people involved in 5G development as “shaken.” “This could push everyone to their own corners, and we need cooperation to get to 5G. It should be a global market,” the person said.

To be sure, several workers at smaller telecoms firms said they had not been told to avoid discussions with Huawei at standards meetings, and many vendors continue to support existing deals with Huawei. It is unclear how much further communications with Huawei have been curtailed in the tech industry, if at all.

“There’s been a lot of misunderstanding from what I’m seeing and hearing from clients and colleagues, as far as what the (Commerce Department) restrictions actually entail,” said Doug Jacobson, a Washington-based export controls lawyer.

He said that companies prohibiting their employees contacting Huawei was “excessive, because the restrictions don’t preclude communication, only the transfer of technology.”

Huawei, whose equipment the U.S. has alleged could be used by China to spy, has emerged as a central figure in the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Huawei has repeatedly denied it is controlled by the Chinese government, military or intelligence services.

China, U.S, and European companies have split before on standards for Wi-Fi, cell networks and other technologies, and the tit-for-tat over tariffs between Beijing and Washington has increased fears of another bifurcation.

Huawei is a top player at various global organizations that set technical specifications. As one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of devices like smartphones, and the vital parts of networks such as routers and switches, Huawei will need to be at the standards-setting table to ensure a seamless customer experience when 5G networks become prevalent, engineers and experts said.

NO MORE INFORMAL CHATS

Engineers and system architects representing their employers at meetings of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a global consortium of industry associations that aims to set 5G specifications by March 2020, often take formal, general discussions into smaller, less documented sessions as they try to find agreement with rivals.

But at 3GPP’s meeting last week in California, one of the group’s three chairmen, Balazs Bertenyi of Nokia, told attendees that more of those so-called “offline” conversations than usual would be documented by the standards body with notes and other publicly available records.

It was the “practical implication” of the new U.S. Commerce Department rules given industry-wide caution despite the exemption for 5G talks, he said.

Companies want to limit informal exchanges, in which their engineers feel more comfortable discussing proprietary technology with rivals to persuade them why their research or innovations are more sound, the sources said.

A separate standards body, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), put restrictions on Huawei engineers’ ability to participate in peer reviews for its publications, drawing criticism from some in China’s industry and elsewhere.

The organization, which declined to comment beyond generic statements on its website, then backtracked days later after saying it had received the all-clear from the U.S. Commerce Department with respect to the peer review issue. It did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

“Huawei isn’t just some company. They, by many accounts, are the leader in 5G technology. Excluding them is very hard to work around, so it does stand to disrupt the entire project,” said Jorge Contreras, a law professor at the University of Utah and an IEEE member.

“If the idea is to create a non-Chinese 5G, I’m not sure that’s possible. Even if it is, would it be as good?”

(Reporting by Paresh Dave in Newport Beach, California and Chris Prentice in New York; Additional reporting by Ju-min Park in Seoul; Editing by Chris Sanders and Bill Rigby)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A migrant, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, holds flags of Honduras and the United States in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana
FILE PHOTO: A migrant, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, holds flags of Honduras and the United States in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

June 9, 2019

By Tim Reid

SAN LUIS, Ariz. (Reuters) – A lifelong Republican, Russ Jones supports President Donald Trump and agrees he needs to take action to deal with an immigration crisis on the border with Mexico.

Jones also has a customs brokerage business to run, however, and says Trump’s lingering threat to impose tariffs on imports from Mexico unless its government stems the flow of Central American migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border is terrible policy.

Trump, infuriated by a surge of illegal immigrants in recent months, had threatened to impose a 5% tariff on Mexican imports starting on Monday, and steadily increase it to 25% in coming months, unless Mexico acted to stop what he describes as an invasion.

On Friday Trump backed down from imposing the tariff, saying Mexico had agreed to help stem the illegal border traffic, but made clear he will go back to the plan if Mexico does not fully cooperate.

As a customshouse broker, Jones, 71, handles the paperwork and logistics for thousands of clients, including Toyota and Sony, who ship merchandise to and from Mexico every day. He runs 10 outlets along the border in California, Arizona and Texas, and has offices in Mexico.

He said the threat of tariffs will hang over businesses that rely on trade with Mexico and likely has cost his customers millions of dollars to finance and prepare for cross-border shipments at a higher tariff rate.

“I don’t know of any of my clients that see the imposition of duties and tariffs on a non-trade issue as a good thing. They are very unhappy about it and it doesn’t matter if they are Democrats or Republicans,” Jones told Reuters at his warehouse in San Luis, just a few hundred yards from the border.

“The use of tariffs just does not make sense.”

Jones’ warehouse was unusually full in the past week as clients stockpiled goods, holding off on sending raw materials to Mexico in case the assembled products would be hit by tariffs on their return to the United States.

There were boxes filled with brake springs for trucks, packaging for Medjool dates, and components for medical devices, all attracting extra storage fees.

Jones’ customers have to pay a bond to cover any fines and fees associated with imported goods and he said they were hit with hefty extra payments last week as the price of those bonds went up in anticipation of tariffs.

U.S. businesses that trade with China already have seen the cost of U.S. customs bonds shoot up in recent months and those working with Mexico fear the same could happen to them.

Jones says unless Trump irrevocably removes the threat of tariffs, he is telling clients to pay the higher price for their customs bonds, in case tariffs are imposed in the future. 

“Are we going to be continually dealing with this threat?” he said. “As long as tariffs are a possibility, it’s a shadow over the trading relationship. It’s a sword of Damocles hanging over cross-border trade.”

   

A THREAT TO JOBS

Jones is not alone among Republican businessmen along the border in believing that Trump’s aggressive use of tariffs over the immigration issue threatens U.S. businesses and jobs.

Jaime Chamberlain runs a food distribution company in Nogales, Arizona, and imports food for U.S. companies including Costco, Walmart and Kroger. He also supports Trump but is upset that he has used tariffs “to negotiate an immigration issue with our No. 1 trading partner.”

Chamberlain said so many customs agents on the border have been diverted from inspecting his clients’ food trucks to dealing with Trump’s efforts to stem illegal immigrants that he has perishable goods waiting for hours at the border.

He also complained that Trump’s erratic policy on border trade is a threat to crucial investment by companies in the United States and Mexico.

“There are billions of dollars of investment and projects on the sidelines on hold, on both sides of the border, because the administration has not given us in the business community the confidence to say we are in a good place,” Chamberlain said.

John Courtis, executive director of the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce, which borders Mexico, was more supportive of Trump, saying that “something had to be done” to stop illegal immigration.

“If I had to pay 5% to protect our sovereignty, I would gladly pay it,” Courtis said, although he added that he was in a minority among business owners in the county who backed Trump’s tariff strategy.

Glenn Hamer, the chief executive of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, said businesses do not generally like Trump using tariffs as a “tool” but that the deal agreed on Friday with Mexico could bring positive results, including ratification by the U.S. Congress of a renegotiated trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.

While Trump has not withdrawn his threat, Hamer said there is “a general feeling of near euphoria in Arizona that the tariffs are not going to go forward.”

(Reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Kieran Murray and Bill Trott)

Source: OANN

Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso poses next to IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda for a family photo during the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting, in Fukuoka
Japan’s Finance Minister Taro Aso poses next to IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda for a family photo during the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting, in Fukuoka, Japan, June 8, 2019. Franck Robichon/Pool via REUTERS

June 9, 2019

By Stanley White and Jan Strupczewski

FUKUOKA, Japan (Reuters) – Group of 20 finance ministers agreed on Sunday to compile common rules to close loopholes used by global tech giants such as Facebook to reduce their corporate taxes, a final version of the bloc’s communique obtained by Reuters showed.

Facebook, Google, Amazon, and other large technology firms face criticism for cutting their tax bills by booking profits in low-tax countries regardless of the location of the end customer. Such practices are seen by many as unfair.

The new rules would mean higher tax burdens for large multinational firms but would also make it harder for countries like Ireland to attract foreign direct investment with the promise of ultra-low corporate tax rates.

“We welcome the recent progress on addressing the tax challenges arising from digitization and endorse the ambitious program that consists of a two-pillar approach,” the final version of the communique showed on Sunday. “We will redouble our efforts for a consensus-based solution with a final report by 2020.”

Britain and France have been among the most vocal proponents of proposals to tax big tech companies that focus on making it more difficult to shift profits to low-tax jurisdictions, and to introduce a minimum corporate tax.

This has put the two countries at loggerheads with the United States, which has expressed concern that U.S. Internet companies are being unfairly targeted in a broad push to update the global corporate tax code.

Big Internet companies say they follow tax rules but they pay little tax in Europe, typically by channelling sales via countries such as Ireland and Luxembourg, which have light-touch tax regimes.

The G20’s debate on changes to the tax code focus on two pillars that could be a double whammy for some companies.

The first pillar is dividing up the rights to tax a company where its goods or services are sold even if it does not have a physical presence in that country.

If companies are still able to find a way to book profits in low tax or offshore havens, countries could then apply a global minimum tax rate to be agreed under the second pillar.

Earlier this year, countries and territories agreed a roadmap aimed at overhauling international tax rules that have been overtaken by the development of digital commerce.

(Reporting by Stanley White and Jan Strupczewski, Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A PG&E truck carrying an American Flag drives past PG&E repair trucks in Paradise
FILE PHOTO: A PG&E truck carrying an American Flag drives past PG&E repair trucks in Paradise, California, U.S. November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage/File Photo

June 8, 2019

(Reuters) – A judge in San Francisco has ruled that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has no jurisdiction over a dispute involving PG&E Corp’s $42 billion worth of contracts with energy companies.

In a ruling over jurisdiction between PG&E and counterparties to the agreements, Judge Dennis Montali of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in San Francisco said on Friday that the interpretation of bankruptcy law and decree by the FERC was unauthorized and “continues to have the effect of undermining the function of the bankruptcy court in its role of ensuring that the goals and purposes of bankruptcy law and policy are properly served and properly executed.”

Montali ruled that the FERC has no “concurrent jurisdiction” over determining whether Pacific Gas and Electric Company and PG&E Corporation can reject power contracts, and added that they did not need approval from the FERC to reject their purchase power contracts.

NextEra Energy Inc, a party to eight power purchase agreements through subsidiaries, had argued the contracts are also subject to FERC’s jurisdiction.

According to NextEra, legal disputes over the agreements belong in district court because nonbankruptcy federal laws regulating interstate commerce must be considered.

San Francisco-based PG&E sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January in the face of liabilities it estimated at more than $30 billion in the aftermath of November’s Camp Fire, California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire in modern times.

PG&E and NextEra did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the ruling.

(Reporting by Jim Christie in San Francisco and Philip George in Bengaluru; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Source: OANN

A man rides a scooter past apartment highrises that are under construction near the new stadium in Zhengzhou
A man rides a scooter past apartment highrises that are under construction near the new stadium in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China, January 19, 2019. Picture taken January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

June 8, 2019

(Reuters) – CROUCHING DRAGON

There’s plenty of life left in the Chinese dragon, but after roaring for three decades it’s certainly lost some of its puff. Markets are primed for exports from the world’s second largest economy to show weakness and for investment and lending data to show Beijing’s stimulus efforts in the face of a trade war with Washington are bearing some fruit.

Indeed, investors are looking past these figures for May. PBOC boss Yi Gang has already signalled his readiness for more stimulus and focus is firmly on whether Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump can negotiate some kind of detente when they meet at the end-June G20 summit.

The conflict has in fact moved on from mere trade: Blacklists on companies, rare earths supply threats and China advising citizens to avoid U.S. travel, Washington’s criticism of Chinese human rights practices – little seems off limits.

The International Monetary Fund already expects Chinese growth to slow to 6.2% this year and to 6% in 2020. That would be the weakest since 1990, but analysts believe real growth has already dipped below those levels. Weak data in coming days would merely confirm the grim outlook for the world economy.

China trade, GDP, lending: https://tmsnrt.rs/2WVitTM

WATERING SHOOTS OF INFLATION

The Fed’s latest catchphrase — “average inflation targeting” — will get some play when the U.S. Labor Department releases May producer and consumer price indexes.

On Tuesday PPI, a measure of pipeline inflation heavily influenced by raw material costs, is seen rising 2.0% year-on-year. The core measure, which strips out food and energy prices, is forecast at 2.3%.

But the Fed and investors will pay more attention to Wednesday’s CPI print, measuring the pocketbook impact. Headline and core are seen rising 1.9% and 2.1% respectively.

The concern is that CPI will mirror the Fed’s favorite inflation measure, the core Personal Consumption Expenditures index. That rose 1.6% in the year to April and has consistently run below the official 2% target.

So, frustrated policymakers are floating once unspeakable notions. If they try to get inflation to average 2% over time, instead of ranging symmetrically on either side of it, interest rates could be cut sooner rather than later. A little extra inflation while the economy is strong looks better than deflation, a consumption-stifling alternative that would limit policy options if the economy turns south. That’s a full agenda for the June FOMC meeting the following week.

       

U.S. price, wage growth: https://tmsnrt.rs/2R05ECB

OIL: SLIPPING AND SLIDING

Oil prices, hyper-sensitive to any signs of weakness in the global economy, have finally started reacting to the trade war newsflow and the ominous signals bond markets are sending on the possibility of recession. Until end-May, oil prices were holding above $70 a barrel but recent dismal PMI readings may have tipped the balance, pushing Brent crude futures 12% lower in just three days.

With pricing sliding suddenly to five-month lows, analysts have been left wondering if demand for the black gold is weaker than earlier thought. Such heavy selling is pretty rare, particularly outside recessions.

A global recession this year is unlikely. But with trade waning – 2019 could turn out to be the worst year for global commerce flows in a decade – there are no compelling signs of economic improvement either.

Oil demand slows by several hundred thousand barrels per day during recessions, according to Morgan Stanley, which cut its Brent forecast for the second half of this year to $65-70 per barrel from $75-80.

Meanwhile, OPEC – the group which controls most of the world’s oil output – is starkly divided. Members’ latest spat is over the date of their next meeting.

Crude Trade and PMI chart June 7: https://tmsnrt.rs/2QTgCK3

TURKISH CONUNDRUM

Turkey’s central bank will publish its interest rate decision on Wednesday. A few months ago, this meeting was meant to be the one at which policymakers were definitely going to start cutting rates, having successfully sailed through the rough waters of market turmoil sparked by political tensions.

Fast forward, and few of these issues have been put to bed. An election re-run in the country’s biggest city, Istanbul, is scheduled for June 23. The rocky U.S.-Turkey relationship has soured again over defence issues and trade tensions and economic woes are clouding the global backdrop.

But Turkey’s economy is undergoing a sharp adjustment following the lira’s 30% tumble in 2018 and near 10% drop so far this year. Inflation, now at nearly 19%, has eased quicker than expected. No doubt the 24% interest benchmark rate will have to come down. But moving too early is seen by many as another policy mistake that Turkey’s battered currency can ill afford.

Turkey interest rate and inflation: https://tmsnrt.rs/2QWXbjl

MONETARY MEDDLING

From the United States to India, central banks have come under heavy political pressure. U.S. President Donald Trump has frequently lambasted policy decisions of Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell, while Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan calls regularly for lower borrowing costs. Public rows have broken out in India over the central bank’s independence.

Now the South African Reserve Bank is feeling the heat. Some members of the governing African National Congress party are pushing for its mandate to widen beyond its current remit of inflation-targeting to promote jobs and economic growth.

That is another worry for foreign investors on top of the past week’s shock GDP reading, showing a deeper-than-expected contraction in the first three months of 2019.

Many see the risk of painful parallels with Turkey, where the central bank, stymied by political interference, has resorted to unconventional policy tools to fight stubbornly high inflation. Unimpressed, many overseas investors have responded by pulling out.

That should serve as a reminder to South Africa’s government: Tinkering with central banks in emerging markets rarely ends well.

South Africa unemployment level: https://tmsnrt.rs/2QTfKVA

(Reporting by Vidya Ranganathan in Singapore, Alden Bentley in New York, Helen Reid, Tom Arnold and Karin Strohecker in London, compiled by Sujata Rao in London)

Source: OANN

US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin delivers a speech during the G20 Ministerial Symposium on International Taxation in the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Fukuoka
US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin delivers a speech during the G20 Ministerial Symposium on International Taxation in the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Fukuoka on June 8, 2019.Toshifumi Kitamura/Pool via REUTERS

June 8, 2019

FUKUOKA, Japan (Reuters) – Group of 20 finance ministers agreed to push ahead on compiling common rules that will close loopholes that global technology giants like Facebook use to reduce their corporate tax burden.

Facebook, Google, Amazon, and other large tech companies have come under criticism for cutting their tax bills by booking profits in low-tax countries regardless of the location of the end customer, practices seen by many as unfair.

The new rules mean higher tax burdens for large multi-national firms, but will also make it more difficult for countries like Ireland to attract foreign direct investment with the promise of ultra-low corporate tax rates.

“It sounds like we have a strong consensus,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday at a two-day meeting of G20 finance ministers in the southern Japan city of Fukuoka.

“So now we need to just take the consensus across here and deal with technicalities of how we turn this into an agreement.”

Mnuchin spoke at a panel on global taxation at G20 after the French and British finance ministers expressed sympathy with Mnuchin’s concerns that new tax rules do not discriminate against particular firms.

Big internet companies say they follow tax rules but have paid little tax in Europe, typically by channeling sales via countries such as Ireland and Luxembourg, which have light-touch tax regimes.

The G20’s debate on changes to the tax code focus on two pillars that could be a double whammy for some companies.

The first pillar is dividing up the rights to tax a company where its goods or services are sold even if it does not have a physical presence in that country.

If companies are still able to find a way to book profits in low tax or offshore havens, countries could then apply a global minimum tax rate to be agreed under the second pillar.

“We cannot explain to a population that they should pay their taxes when certain companies do not because they shift their profits to low-tax jurisdictions,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said at the panel.

Britain and France have been the most vocal about the need for a so-called “digital tax,” arguing that corporate tax codes are no longer fair in the age of the large-scale provision of services and the sale of consumer data over the Internet.

The U.S. government has expressed concern in the past that the European push for a “digital tax” unfairly targets U.S. tech giants.

However, Mnuchin said on Saturday G20 countries should issue “marching orders” to their respective finance ministries to negotiate the technical aspects of an agreement after listening to presentations by Le Maire and British finance minister Philip Hammond.

Officials from major countries are expected to meet again twice this year to hammer out the finer details with the aim of finalizing an agreement next year.

Earlier this year, countries and territories agreed a roadmap aimed at overhauling international tax rules, which have been overtaken by development of digital commerce.

(Reporting by Stanley White and Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: T-shirts are displayed at a community activists and local government leaders event to mark the one-year-out launch of the 2020 Census efforts in Boston
FILE PHOTO: T-shirts are displayed at a community activists and local government leaders event to mark the one-year-out launch of the 2020 Census efforts in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

June 7, 2019

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House Oversight Committee plans to vote next week on holding Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for stonewalling a probe into an alleged scheme to politicize the 2020 U.S. Census.

On Friday, the committee’s majority Democrats released a memo alleging that the White House “interfered directly and aggressively” with an attempt by the panel to interview Kris Kobach, a former Kansas Secretary of State, about a plan by President Donald Trump’s administration to add a question on citizenship to next year’s U.S. Census questionnaire.

The House of Representatives committee’s Democrats said they scheduled next week’s contempt vote after both Ross and Barr did not produce documents about the issue in response to a bipartisan subpoena the panel issued more than two months ago.

White House and Commerce Department spokespeople had no immediate comment. Kobach did not immediately respond to a query sent to his political website.

A committee announcement said the contempt vote would initiate civil litigation to force compliance with its subpoena.

In a memo providing details of a June 3 interview with Kobach, committee Democrats said that he limited his cooperation under White House orders, but did provide fresh information.

The committee said it interviewed Kobach in part to try to determine how the Trump administration devised its plan to question census respondents about their citizenship. The committee said Ross testified that he added the question “solely” at the request of the Justice Department.

However, the committee said documents showed that Ross “began a secret campaign” to add the citizenship question to the census questionnaire shortly after taking office and months before being asked to do so by the Justice Department.

The committee said documents and testimony also showed that discussions between Kobach and Ross were “orchestrated” by former presidential adviser Steve Bannon.

The committee said Kobach confirmed to its staffers that days after Trump’s inauguration, he met with top White House officials, including Bannon and Trump himself, to discuss adding the citizenship question to the census.

The committee said Kobach acknowledged raising the issue during the 2016 presidential campaign, during which he was an “informal” adviser to Trump.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and James Dalgleish)

Source: OANN

Swiss Economic Minister Parmelin and Swiss Justice Minister Keller-Sutter sit beside as Swiss Foreign Minister Cassis addresses a news conference in Bern
Swiss Economic Minister Guy Parmelin and Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter sit beside as Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis addresses a news conference in Bern, Switzerland June 7, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

June 7, 2019

By John Revill

ZURICH (Reuters) – The Swiss government is demanding clarification from the European Union on several issues before it signs off on a draft treaty, it said on Friday, risking a backlash from Brussels over yet another delay to an accord the EU has sought for a decade.

Switzerland needs to formally endorse the treaty by June 17 if it wants to maintain access to the EU market for Swiss stock exchanges, an EU diplomat said after Bern said it could not sign the deal in its current form.

Provisions relating to wage and worker protection, state subsidies and citizens’ rights still need to be clarified, the Swiss cabinet said, following the end of consultations with business groups, unions and local authorities.

Brussels is expected to be receptive to clarifying points in the treaty, but does not want to renegotiate the deal.

Failure to endorse the treaty and begin the ratification process could well plunge Swiss ties with its biggest trading partner into a new ice age, potentially disrupting commerce and cross-border stock trading.

An early casualty could be the so-called “equivalence” treatment of Swiss exchanges that expires at the end of June, but due to procedural reasons needs the EU Commission to make a formal proposal for an extension by June 18, the diplomat said.

Swiss Interior Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said the EU should extend stock market equivalence because Switzerland had done everything possible to secure an agreement despite running into opposition from across the political spectrum.

A spokesman for Swiss stock market operator Six said the bourse was prepared for all likely scenarios.

SEEKING “QUICK SOLUTION”

Concerns in Switzerland have been raised about EU demands to dilute the country’s rules protecting Europe’s highest wages from cross-border competition, giving EU citizens in Switzerland the same rights they get at home, and limiting state aid.

“When a solution in these three areas is found, then the cabinet will sign the treaty and present it to parliament,” Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis told a news conference in Bern.

“We have not set a time limit to clarify the disputed points we want a good solution which is in the interests of Switzerland. It’s clear that both sides have an interest in a quick solution.”

The Swiss cabinet said it had written to the European Commission to indicate its readiness to talk about a solution.

The European Union said it would study the letter carefully.

“This appears to be an overall positive development. The European Commission will study the letter carefully and we will reply in due course,” a spokeswoman for the EU executive said.

(Reporting by John Revill, additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio and Phil Blenkinsop in Brussels, editing by John Miller and Gareth Jones)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building in Zurich
FILE PHOTO: An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building in Zurich, Switzerland December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

June 7, 2019

(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google has warned if the U.S. administration moves ahead with sweeping ban on Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, it risks compromising national security, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

Google’s move comes as the world’s two top economies ratchet up tariffs in a battle over what U.S. officials call China’s unfair trade practices.

While the sanctions are expected to hurt Huawei in the short term, industry experts say it could force the company – and other Chinese firms – to become self-reliant by developing more home-grown technologies, hurting the dominance of American companies such as Google in the longer term.

Google in particular is concerned it would not be allowed to update its Android operating system on Huawei smartphones, which it argues would prompt the Chinese company to develop its own version of the software, FT reported, citing people briefed on Google’s lobbying efforts.

The search giant argued a Huawei-modified version of Android would be more susceptible to being hacked, the newspaper said.

The U.S. administration in May added Huawei to a trade blacklist. The move put Huawei and 68 affiliates in more than two dozen countries on the Commerce Department’s so-called Entity List.

Google and the U.S. Department of Commerce were not immediately available for comment on the report.

(Reporting by Rishika Chatterjee in Bengaluru; editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

Source: OANN

Traffic backs up on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traffic backs up on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in New York, U.S., August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

June 7, 2019

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of major automakers on Thursday backed a compromise on vehicle emissions aimed at heading off a confrontation between California and the Trump administration over requirements through 2026, warning that the lack of a deal could lead to “an extended period of litigation and instability.”

In a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom signed by 17 major automakers including General Motors Co, Toyota Motor Corp and Volkswagen AG, the companies urged a compromise “midway” between the Obama era standards that require annual decreases of about 5% in emissions and the Trump administration’s proposal that would freeze vehicle emissions requirements at 2020 levels through 2026.

The automakers are making a last-ditch appeal to try to revive talks in order to avoid years of uncertainty over what rules they will face.

In a separate letter to President Donald Trump on Thursday, they urged “both the federal government and California to resume discussions and to remain open to regulatory adjustments.”

The letters were also signed by Daimler AG, Hyundai Motor Co and Honda Motor Co Ltd. The companies said a final deal should “also include flexibilities that promote advanced technology for the sake of long-term environmental gains and U.S. global competitiveness.” The letters were not signed by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

In February, the Trump administration ended talks with California over federal plans to roll back fuel economy rules, setting the stage for what could be a lengthy legal fight over the state’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said on Thursday that California had “failed to put forward a productive alternative, and we are moving forward to finalize a rule with the goal of promoting safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles.”

California did not immediately comment on Thursday.

The automakers told Trump a deal “would provide regulatory certainty and enhance our ability to invest and innovate by avoiding an extended period of litigation and instability, which could prove as untenable as the current program.”

Automakers previously said they opposed a freeze but wanted the rules revised to account for changes in oil prices and consumer demand.

LAWSUIT THREATENED

California’s rules have been adopted by more than a dozen states. Eighteen states, including California, have vowed to sue the administration if it finalizes the freeze. In August 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in a joint proposal called for stripping California of the right to impose stricter emissions rules or to require a rising number of zero-emissions vehicles.

California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols in draft remarks last month released by the agency warned that the increasing need to fight climate change “might lead to an outright ban on internal combustion engines.” She later told California news website Calmatters.org that no ban was imminent. “The message here was intended to be heard by the auto industry,” she told the site.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is planing to call Trump administration officials to testify at a hearing on the vehicle emissions proposal the week of June 17, two people briefed on the matter said.

In April, Reuters reported that the EPA was expected to require a small increase in the yearly fuel efficiency gains but said the precise figure had not been finalized. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in April told Reuters that “our final regulation is not going to be the same as our proposal.”

California has been allowed to set state standards that are stricter than federal rules under an exemption granted by the EPA.

EPA and NHTSA have not yet submitted their proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review, a necessary step before the final regulation can be published.

The Trump plan would increase U.S. oil consumption by about 500,000 barrels per day by the 2030s but reduce automakers’ regulatory costs by more than $300 billion, the agencies said.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Matthew Lewis)

Source: OANN

Shipping containers are picture in St John's
FILE PHOTO: Shipping containers are picture in St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

June 6, 2019

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Rising exports and falling imports helped shrink Canada’s trade deficit in goods in April to C$966 million ($721 million), Statistics Canada said on Thursday, in the latest sign the economy is recovering from a slowdown.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a shortfall of C$2.80 billion. Statscan revised March’s deficit sharply down to C$2.34 billion from an initial C$3.21 billion.

The Bank of Canada held interest rates steady as expected on May 31, saying there was evidence that economic weakness was temporary but signaling it would remain on the sidelines as it monitored developments.

“The good news for the Canadian economy keeps rolling in,” said Royce Mendes of CIBC Economics, predicting second-quarter growth would be greater than expected.

Canada created a record number of jobs in April while March growth rebounded.

The Canadian dollar edged higher, touching C$1.3392 against the U.S. dollar, or 74.67 U.S. cents.

April’s trade deficit was the smallest in six months. Exports rose by 1.3% as shipments of metal and non-metallic mineral products jumped by 15% on higher sales of gold to Britain and Hong Kong.

“We think it’s an encouraging start to the second quarter. Exports seem to be getting past what was a rough point earlier in the year,” Stephen Tapp, deputy chief economist at Export Development Canada, said in a phone interview.

Canada, a major crude exporter, has been hit hard in recent years by lower oil prices and higher U.S. energy output. It has posted just two trade surpluses since October 2014.

Exports of canola fell by C$47 million, or 14.7%, as shipments to China stopped amid a diplomatic dispute, and Tapp said he expected shipments would continue to be depressed. Exports of wheat, though, jumped C$136 million, or 21.7%.

Total imports fell by 1.4% as deliveries of U.S. airliners plunged by 82.7% in April after a 50.7% drop in March.

Canada sent 74.5% of all its goods exports to the United States in April. Exports to the United States rose by 0.9% while imports grew by 1.9% and as a result, Canada’s bilateral trade surplus fell to C$4.20 billion from C$4.49 billion in March.

Separately, the U.S. Commerce Department said the U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in April as imports of goods dropped to a 15-month low.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bernadette Baum)

Source: OANN

President Donald Trump threatened to hit China with tariffs on “at least” another $300 billion worth of Chinese goods but said he thought both China and Mexico wanted to make deals in their trade disputes with the United States.

Tensions between the world’s two largest economies have risen sharply since talks aimed at ending a festering trade war broke down in early May.

While Trump said on Thursday that talks with China are ongoing, no face-to-face meetings have been held since May 10, the day he sharply increased tariffs on a $200 billion list of Chinese goods to 25%, prompting Beijing to retaliate.

“Our talks with China, a lot of interesting things are happening. We’ll see what happens… I could go up another at least $300 billion and I’ll do that at the right time,” Trump told reporters on Thursday, without specifying which goods could be impacted.

“But I think China wants to make a deal and I think Mexico wants to make a deal badly,” said Trump before boarding Air Force One at the Irish airport of Shannon on his way to France for a D-Day commemoration.

China’s Commerce Ministry also said on Thursday that Beijing would have to adopt necessary countermeasures if Washington unilaterally escalates trade tensions, and that U.S. pressure have caused serious setbacks to the trade talks.

The International Monetary Fund warned on Wednesday that escalating tariff threats were sapping business and market confidence, and could slow global growth that is currently expected to improve next year.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is scheduled to meet with People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang this weekend at a gathering of G20 finance leaders in Japan, the first face-to-face discussion between key negotiators in nearly a month.

Mexican and U.S. officials are also set to resume their talks in Washington on Thursday aimed at averting an imposition of tariffs on Mexican goods.

After saying that “not enough” progress on ways to curb migration was made when the two sides met on Wednesday, Trump told reporters on Thursday that Mexico had made progress in the talks but needed to do more.

He reiterated that 5% tariffs on all Mexico’s exports to the United States due to start on Monday will go ahead if progress is not made. The tariffs can rise to as much as 25% later in the year.

Source: NewsMax Politics

A ship is unloaded using Super Post Panamax cranes in Miami
FILE PHOTO: A ship is unloaded using Super Post Panamax cranes in Miami, Florida, U.S., May 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

June 6, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in April as imports of goods dropped to a 15-month low, offsetting an aircraft-led decline in exports.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday the trade deficit fell 2.1% to $50.8 billion. Data for March was revised up to show the trade gap increasing to $51.9 billion instead of the previously reported $50.0 billion. The government revised trade data from 2014. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the trade gap widening to $50.7 billion in April.

The goods trade deficit with China, a focus of President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda, increased 29.7% to $26.9 billion.

Trump in early May escalated the trade fight with China, slapping additional tariffs of up to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese goods, which prompted retaliation by Beijing.

While Washington has secured a trade pact with Mexico and Canada, there are fears that could be scuttled by Trump’s announcement last week that he would impose a tariff on all goods from Mexico in a bid to stem the tide of illegal immigration across the U.S.-Mexican border. The tariff would start at 5% on June 10.

In April, goods imports fell 2.5% to $208.7 billion, the lowest level since January 2018. Imports fell broadly in April. Imports of consumer goods dropped $1.1 billion. There were also decreases in imports of motor vehicles and capital goods. Weak imports could be flagging weak domestic demand.

Goods exports dropped 3.1% to $136.9 billion. The percentage decline was the largest since January 2015. Civilian aircraft exports plunged $2.3 billion. Boeing <BA.N> in March suspended deliveries of its 737 MAX jet after the aircraft was grounded indefinitely following two deadly crashes in five months. Production of the troubled plane has been cut.

There were also decreases in exports of consumer goods and motor vehicles. Exports of soybeans fell in April and further declines are likely following the recent heightening of tensions between Washington and Beijing.

China, the world’s biggest buyer of soybeans, has previously targeted the crop in the trade war, only relenting when trade negotiations appeared to be progressing.

When adjusted for inflation, the goods trade deficit fell to $81.9 billion in April from $83.00 billion in the prior month. The drop in the so-called real goods trade deficit suggested that trade could add to economic growth.

Overall, the economy is slowing in the second quarter.

Manufacturing production and home sales fell in April, while consumer spending increased moderately. The Atlanta Federal Reserve is forecasting GDP rising at a 1.3% annualized rate in the April-June quarter. The government reported last month that the economy grew at a 3.1% pace in the first quarter, boosted by strong exports, an inventory accumulation and defense spending.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani Editing by Paul Simao)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The logos of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google
FILE PHOTO: The logos of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google in a combination photo from Reuters files. REUTERS

June 5, 2019

By Jan Wolfe

(Reuters) – The arcane topic of antitrust law is getting more attention with the U.S. government gearing up to investigate whether Alphabet Inc’s Google, Facebook Inc, Apple Inc, and Amazon.com Inc compete fairly.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice, which both have jurisdiction to enforce antitrust laws, have divided oversight over the four companies, with Amazon and Facebook under the watch of the FTC, and Apple and Google under the Justice Department, sources told Reuters.

The potential investigations have been welcomed by some consumer advocates, who say big technology companies stifle competition and hold too much sway over speech and commerce.

But some legal experts said the investigations may not lead to major reforms, noting that U.S. law makes it difficult to prove an antitrust violation.

The following answers some questions about the basics of U.S. antitrust law and what regulators will focus on:

What are antitrust laws for?

Antitrust laws seek to promote fair competition.

A law from 1914, the Clayton Act, lets the government block mergers that would harm consumers.

The Sherman Act, passed in 1890, prohibits price-fixing conspiracies and other agreements that restrain competition.

The Sherman Act also lays out rules regarding monopoly power. It is these laws that the Justice Department and the FTC would likely focus on if they initiate investigations of the technology companies, legal experts said.

Why would Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple face scrutiny?

The Justice Department’s focus is expected to be on allegations that Google favors its own products in search results and abuses its clout in the online advertising market, although it is expected to look at all of the company’s businesses, sources told Reuters.

It is not known what aspects of Amazon, Facebook, and Apple could be investigated.

Google has said that changes to its search algorithms are made with consumers in mind, and that it is transparent in how it promotes its own services.

Facebook has been called a social media monopoly by co-founder Chris Hughes, who said in a New York Times op-ed that it should be forced to sell off subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram.

Facebook spokesman Nick Clegg, in his own op-ed, said, “In this competitive environment, it is hard to sustain the claim that Facebook is a monopoly.”

Clegg wrote that Facebook is responsible for the sort of rapid, consumer-friendly innovation antitrust law is meant to encourage.

In the United States, half of all online shopping transactions happen on Amazon, giving the ecommerce company sway over merchants that use its platforms.

But in a 2018 letter to shareholders, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said “Amazon remains a small player in global retail” because most commerce still happens offline.

Finally, some software developers argue Apple has a monopoly on its app marketplace, and uses this power to demand hefty commissions and engage in other anticompetitive practices.

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook told CBS News in an interview that aired on Tuesday that Apple does not have a dominant position in any market.

What would the U.S. government need to prove to bring a case against the tech companies?

It is difficult to show a violation of U.S. antitrust law, legal experts said.

It is not enough for regulators to establish that a company has monopoly power. They must also show anticompetitive conduct – an abuse of that dominant position aimed at bypassing fair competition.

“You can get a monopoly just by being a good competitor and that’s fine,” said Chris Sagers, a professor of antitrust law at Cleveland State University.

The Department of Justice and the FTC also need to show that consumers are being harmed, something that in recent decades has typically been measured by whether prices are going up and innovation is slowing.

Using these metrics, it could be difficult to prove that technology companies, which do not charge money for many of their services, are hurting consumers, some legal experts said.

But Charlotte Slaiman, an antitrust lawyer with consumer rights group Public Knowledge, said there is a growing consensus among economists and the public that it is misleading to call services such as Google and Facebook free.

“What is really going on is that consumers are bartering with their data in exchange for a service,” Slaiman said.

In 2013, the FTC closed an investigation into Google’s search practices. The agency said that, while Google’s changes to how it displayed search results likely harmed some rivals, there was “ample evidence” that Google was trying to improve user experience.

What can the U.S. government do if investigators find an antitrust violation?

The FTC and Justice Department can both file civil lawsuits in federal court and ask judges to order changes to a company’s business model.

The Justice Department can also bring criminal antitrust cases, but those prosecutions usually relate to cartels and price-fixing, making charges against big technology firms unlikely.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe and Diane Bartz; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The logos of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google
FILE PHOTO: The logos of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google in a combination photo from Reuters files. REUTERS

June 5, 2019

By Jan Wolfe

(Reuters) – The arcane topic of antitrust law is getting more attention with the U.S. government gearing up to investigate whether Alphabet Inc’s Google, Facebook Inc, Apple Inc, and Amazon.com Inc compete fairly.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice, which both have jurisdiction to enforce antitrust laws, have divided oversight over the four companies, with Amazon and Facebook under the watch of the FTC, and Apple and Google under the Justice Department, sources told Reuters.

The potential investigations have been welcomed by some consumer advocates, who say big technology companies stifle competition and hold too much sway over speech and commerce.

But some legal experts said the investigations may not lead to major reforms, noting that U.S. law makes it difficult to prove an antitrust violation.

The following answers some questions about the basics of U.S. antitrust law and what regulators will focus on:

What are antitrust laws for?

Antitrust laws seek to promote fair competition.

A law from 1914, the Clayton Act, lets the government block mergers that would harm consumers.

The Sherman Act, passed in 1890, prohibits price-fixing conspiracies and other agreements that restrain competition.

The Sherman Act also lays out rules regarding monopoly power. It is these laws that the Justice Department and the FTC would likely focus on if they initiate investigations of the technology companies, legal experts said.

Why would Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple face scrutiny?

The Justice Department’s focus is expected to be on allegations that Google favors its own products in search results and abuses its clout in the online advertising market, although it is expected to look at all of the company’s businesses, sources told Reuters.

It is not known what aspects of Amazon, Facebook, and Apple could be investigated.

Google has said that changes to its search algorithms are made with consumers in mind, and that it is transparent in how it promotes its own services.

Facebook has been called a social media monopoly by co-founder Chris Hughes, who said in a New York Times op-ed that it should be forced to sell off subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram.

Facebook spokesman Nick Clegg, in his own op-ed, said, “In this competitive environment, it is hard to sustain the claim that Facebook is a monopoly.”

Clegg wrote that Facebook is responsible for the sort of rapid, consumer-friendly innovation antitrust law is meant to encourage.

In the United States, half of all online shopping transactions happen on Amazon, giving the ecommerce company sway over merchants that use its platforms.

But in a 2018 letter to shareholders, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said “Amazon remains a small player in global retail” because most commerce still happens offline.

Finally, some software developers argue Apple has a monopoly on its app marketplace, and uses this power to demand hefty commissions and engage in other anticompetitive practices.

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook told CBS News in an interview that aired on Tuesday that Apple does not have a dominant position in any market.

What would the U.S. government need to prove to bring a case against the tech companies?

It is difficult to show a violation of U.S. antitrust law, legal experts said.

It is not enough for regulators to establish that a company has monopoly power. They must also show anticompetitive conduct – an abuse of that dominant position aimed at bypassing fair competition.

“You can get a monopoly just by being a good competitor and that’s fine,” said Chris Sagers, a professor of antitrust law at Cleveland State University.

The Department of Justice and the FTC also need to show that consumers are being harmed, something that in recent decades has typically been measured by whether prices are going up and innovation is slowing.

Using these metrics, it could be difficult to prove that technology companies, which do not charge money for many of their services, are hurting consumers, some legal experts said.

But Charlotte Slaiman, an antitrust lawyer with consumer rights group Public Knowledge, said there is a growing consensus among economists and the public that it is misleading to call services such as Google and Facebook free.

“What is really going on is that consumers are bartering with their data in exchange for a service,” Slaiman said.

In 2013, the FTC closed an investigation into Google’s search practices. The agency said that, while Google’s changes to how it displayed search results likely harmed some rivals, there was “ample evidence” that Google was trying to improve user experience.

What can the U.S. government do if investigators find an antitrust violation?

The FTC and Justice Department can both file civil lawsuits in federal court and ask judges to order changes to a company’s business model.

The Justice Department can also bring criminal antitrust cases, but those prosecutions usually relate to cartels and price-fixing, making charges against big technology firms unlikely.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe and Diane Bartz; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross speaks during the Milken Institute's 22nd annual Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross speaks during the Milken Institute’s 22nd annual Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., April 30, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

June 5, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The House Oversight Committee said on Wednesday it will move forward with a vote to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress if they do not comply with a subpoena for documents related to the Trump administration’s handling of the U.S. Census.

The Oversight Committee issued subpoenas two months ago for unredacted documents related to the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, the panel said.

“We have been extremely patient in waiting for these documents, which were subpoenaed more than two months ago on a bipartisan basis,” Representative Elijah Cummings, chairman of the committee, said in a statement.

“If they are not produced by tomorrow, we will be forced to move forward with holding Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross in contempt of Congress,” Cummings said.

After arguments in April, the conservative-majority Supreme Court appeared likely to accept the administration’s argument that the question would provide better data to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects eligible voters from discrimination.

Critics say the question will lead to an undercount by some 4.2 million people, costing communities federal aid and political representation.

Separately, after months, the Commerce Department agreed to permit three current and former department officials who were involved with the addition of the Census question to schedule interviews with the committee, the panel said.

Barr also faces a contempt vote next week by the full House of Representatives on whether he failed to comply with a subpoena seeking the unredacted report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Bill Trott)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: T-shirts are displayed at a community activists and local government leaders event to mark the one-year-out launch of the 2020 Census efforts in Boston
FILE PHOTO: T-shirts are displayed at a community activists and local government leaders event to mark the one-year-out launch of the 2020 Census efforts in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder – RC14BD0F7960/File Photo – RC1A6989E7B0

June 5, 2019

By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Trump administration is expected to appear in court on Wednesday to defend itself against claims that its proposed addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census was secretly orchestrated by a political operative seeking to boost Republicans’ voting power.

The hearing in Manhattan federal court is the latest development over the contentious plan to add a citizenship question to the census.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in January said the government could not add the question after immigration groups, including the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee and Make The Road New York, sued to block it. Two other judges have ruled against the government in similar cases, and the Supreme Court is set to issue a decision by the end of this month on whether the question can be added in time for next year’s census.

Last week, Furman ordered a hearing after plaintiffs in the Manhattan case claimed in a court filing that Thomas Hofeller, a Republican who specialized in drawing electoral districts, played a “significant role” in planning the citizenship question. They said the administration hid this fact during the course of their lawsuit and asked Furman to sanction the government.

In a court filing on Monday, the administration denied that Hofeller, who died last August, was behind the question, calling the plaintiffs’ claim a “conspiracy theory” and an “eleventh-hour campaign to improperly derail the Supreme Court’s resolution of the government’s appeal.”

According to the plaintiffs, Hofeller concluded in a 2015 study that asking census respondents whether they were U.S. citizens “would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” in redistricting.

They said that Hofeller went on to ghostwrite a draft letter from the Department of Justice to the Department of Commerce, asking for the addition of a citizenship question.

Opponents have said such a question would cause a sizeable undercount by deterring immigrant households and Latinos from filling out the forms, out of fear the information would be shared with law enforcement.

Democrats, immigrant advocates and demographers say such an undercount could deprive some communities of funds and political representation because the Census determines how the federal government distributes aid, as well as seats in Congress.

If Furman rules that the government concealed evidence, it is unclear what sanctions he would impose.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; editing by Noeleen Walder and Leslie Adler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Flags of U.S. and China are displayed at AICC's booth during China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Flags of U.S. and China are displayed at American International Chamber of Commerce (AICC)’s booth during China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing, China, May 28, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

June 5, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s determination to resist U.S. bullying in two years of negotiations to end the Korean War is a reason not to bow to Washington in bitter trade talks, a top Chinese newspaper suggested on Wednesday.

State media has increasingly alluded to or directly referenced the 1950-53 Korean War – when China and North Korea battled United Nations forces led by the United States – to rally public opinion behind the government during China’s ongoing trade conflict with the United States.

Tensions rose sharply in May after U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration accused China of having reneged on its previous promises to make structural changes to its economic practices.

Washington later slapped additional tariffs of up to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to retaliate.

In a front page commentary, the Study Times, published by the Central Party School which trains rising officials, said China’s spirit and determination during talks to end the Korean War, which took two years, were relevant today.

While the piece made no direct mention of the current trade war, the message in it left little doubt as to the intention of the article, China having repeatedly blasted the United States for trying to bully it into submission over trade.

“The Chinese People’s Volunteers, in the face of the world’s top military and economic power and diplomatic blackmail, made full use of the Communist Party’s spirit of not being afraid of pressure, daring to fight and being good at fighting,” it said.

“To this day, it remains worthy of appreciation and promotion,” the commentary said.

China and North Korea went into the talks with the United States over the Korean War with sincerity and suggestions both sides could basically accept, the paper said, echoing wording China has used to describe its approach to the trade discussions.

But China and North Korea would not make concessions in the face of U.S. “hegemony” and would not accept terms signed under duress, the commentary added, in another reference to expressions used today by China on the trade war.

Finally in 1953 the armistice was signed, largely based upon China and North Korea’s original proposals put forward in 1951, the paper said.

China has said its door is open to more trade talks with the United States on trade, but there have been no high-level, face-to-face meetings since last month.

Trump has said he is expecting to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit at the end of this month in Japan, though China has declined to confirm this.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Gao Liangping; editing by Darren Schuettler)

Source: OANN


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