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EU and Asia react as Trump threatens more tariffs

Partnership with the US is becoming ever more risky

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Following the tariffs on aluminum and steel, which the EU has an exemption on until the end of the month, Donald Trump is threatening new tariffs. This time, it’s about autos, and the tariff is reported to amount to around 25%, on the pretext that importing cars and trucks from other countries somehow threatens US national security.

The EU is already calling the US out on this excuse, saying that the claim is ‘far-fetched’, and nearly amounts to a ‘provocation’, while China and Japan are viewing the move with suspicion and condemnation, observing that the tariffs violate multilateral trade regulations.

Deutsche Welle reports:

The EU, China and Japan have decried the Trump administration’s idea to also heap US tariffs on imported vehicles – on top of steel and aluminum. Washington’s “national security” argument is “far-fetched,” says Brussels.

European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen warned Washington Thursday that it would violate World Trade Organization (WTO) rules if tariff jumps on imported cars resulted from a probe by the US Commerce Department.

The Wall Street Journal said vehicle import tariffs as high as 25 percent were being sought by US President Donald Trump who, in a tweet, told US workers that they had waited long enough “after many decades of losing your jobs to other countries.”

Car-related trade between the EU and US accounts for about 10 percent of overall trade between the erstwhile trans-Atlantic partners. Currently, US cars sold in the EU face a 10 percent duty while EU cars sold in the US face 2.5 percent.

Purchasers of pick-up vehicles and trucks face higher surcharges.

US industry ‘eroded’

US Trade Secretary Wilbur Ross, in a letter to US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, asserted there was “evidence suggesting that, for decades, imports from abroad have eroded our domestic auto industry.”

Passenger vehicle imports had risen from 32 percent to 48 percent during the past two decades, while employment at US car producers had dropped 22 percent from 1990 to 2017, said Ross’s department.

‘Far-fetched’ claims, says Brussels, German automakers

Such claims vouched as a threat to national security were “very difficult to understand,” said Katainen, a former Finnish prime minister.

Citing national security was “far-fetched,” said German DIHK chamber of commerce president, Eric Schweitzer and a European Commission spokesman in Brussels, Margaritis Schinas.

“We should almost regard this as provocation,” Schweitzer said, estimating it would cost an extra €6 billion ($7 billion) and impose “another nasty blow to our economic relations.”

German auto shares dipped by as much as 3.5 percent on Thursday, given the potential US tariff impact on German carmakers.

In 2017, they exported nearly half a million vehicles to the US while assembling over 800,000 vehicles at American plants, where they employ some 36,500 people.

Relations already strained

Already, the EU is approaching a 1 June deadline on whether it will be exempted from US duties on steel and aluminum based similarly on protectionist rhetoric.

Like the EU’s Katainen, Japan’s economy, industry and trade minister, Hiroshige Seko, said Tokyo would continue to remind US officials that any trade measures must conform to the WTO rules.

Japan accounts for up to 40 percent of vehicles imported into the United States.

“We are extremely concerned,” Seko said, adding: “it would be an extremely far-reaching trade sanction that would put the global market in turmoil.”

Last week, Japan, the only major US ally not exempted from US tariffs on steel and aluminum, warned at the WTO of possible retaliation.

China will defend rights

In Beijing, Chinese Commerce Minister spokesman Gao Feng warned the US that abusive imposition of national security provisions would “undermine the multilateral trade system and disrupt the order of international trade.”

China would “firmly defend our legitimate rights and interests,” Gao told reporters.

Warning also from global carmakers

The Washington-based Global Automakers, a group of international automakers, warned that the Trump administration’s intended move would merely hurt American consumers.

“The US auto industry is thriving and growing. Thirteen, soon to be 14 companies, produced nearly 12 million cars and trucks in America last year,” said Global’s chief executive John Bozzella.

“To our knowledge, no one is asking for this protection. This path leads inevitably to fewer choices and highly prices for cars and trucks in America,” Bozella said.

Import duties on cars would be a “nightmare” for the German auto industry, said Thomas Altmann at Frankfurt asset manager QC Partners.

Little-used US law

Thursday’s announcement of a probe into imported cars and automotive parts by Ross put a damper on hopes raised Tuesday by China that it would cut vehicle import tariffs by as much as 25 percent, down to 15 percent.

The investigation launched by Ross’s department stems from a little-used US law that authorizes the president to restrict imports and impose unlimited tariffs on national security grounds.

Some analysts see the Trump administration’s proposal for much higher tariffs on vehicles as a bid to gain leverage in stalled talks with Canada and Mexico over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Under the Trump administration, it appears that America’s national security is ever more fragile, and multilateral agreements are never in America’s best interests, being nearly in every case ‘bad’, ‘horrible’ ‘terrible’, etc, deals. And that’s why Trump believes that he can discard them and violate them at will, because they’re not ‘good’ deals if he doesn’t like them.

This action, however, if taken, does absolutely nothing to bolster America’s national security, but does everything to damage trade relationships with America’s trade partners, further depreciate confidence in multilateral trade frameworks in general, as well as to further increase the price of goods that the American consumer must then absorb. If anything, this maneuver would only serve to further deteriorate whatever influence that America does actually still possess.

While Trump is out destroying international ties and relationships, however, the Russians and the Chinese are out building them up. China is out cutting any and every deal that could possibly boost its One Belt One Road initiative that is moving along so very quickly.

Meanwhile, the Russians are hosting a massive economic forum, the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, hosting over 15,000 participants from over 100 countries, cutting billion dollar deals and mending international relations, while getting new market access footholds.

China and Russia, America’s proclaimed enemies, are out making themselves indispensable economic partners for current and future economic growth, and they’re doing it by finding ways to cooperate, capitalizing on mutual interest points to get the job done.

Trump is doing a fantastic, amazing, very, very, wonderful, and beautiful, job of ‘Making America Irrelevant Again’ very, very, bigly, by putting his strategic partners in a position to where partnership with America becomes ever more unreliable and ever more risky, whereas the east is increasingly making attractive offers of cooperation, while demonstrating and reiterating their commitments to international agreements.

 

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Theresa May goes to Brussels and comes back with a big fat donut (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 39.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Theresa May’s trip to Brussels to try and win some concessions from EU oligarchs, only to get completely rebuked and ridiculed, leaving EU headquarters with nothing but a four page document essentially telling the UK to get its act together or face a hard Brexit.

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Via Zerohedge


Any confidence boost that might have followed Theresa May’s triumph this week over her party’s implacable Brexiteers has probably already faded. Because if there was anything to be learned from the stunning rebuke delivered to the prime minister by EU leaders on Thursday, it’s that the prime minister is looking more stuck than ever.

This was evidenced by the frosty confrontation between the imperturbable May and her chief Continental antagonist, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, which was caught on film on Friday shortly before the close of a two-day European Council summit that descended into bitter recriminations. After offering token praise of May’s leadership, Brussels’ supreme bureaucrat criticized her negotiating strategy as “disorganized”, provoking a heated response from May.

Earlier, May desperately pleaded with her European colleagues – who had adamantly insisted that the text of the withdrawal agreement would not be altered – to grant her “legally binding assurances” May believes would make the Brexit plan palatable enough to win a slim victory in the Commons.

If there were any lingering doubts about the EU’s position, they were swiftly dispelled by a striking gesture of contempt for May: Demonstrating the Continent’s indifference to her plight, the final text of the summit’s conclusions was altered to remove a suggestion that the EU consider what further assurances can be offered to May, while leaving in a resolution to continue contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit.

Even the Irish, who in the recent past have been sympathetic to their neighbors’ plight (in part due to fears about a resurgence of insurrectionary violence should a hard border re-emerge between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland), implied that there patience had reached its breaking point.

Here’s the FT:

But Leo Varadkar, the Irish premier, warned that the EU could not tolerate a treaty approval process where a country “comes back every couple of weeks following discussions with their parliament looking for something extra…you can’t operate international relations on this basis.”

Senior EU officials are resisting further negotiations — and suggestions of a special Brexit summit next month — because they see Britain’s requests as in effect a bid to rewrite the exit treaty.

Mr Varadkar noted that many prime ministers had been called to Brussels “at short notice” for a special Brexit summit “on a Sunday in November,” adding: “I don’t think they would be willing to come to Brussels again unless we really have to.”

In response, May threatened to hold a vote on the Brexit plan before Christmas, which would almost certainly result in its defeat, scrapping the fruits of more than a year of contentious negotiations.

Given that Mrs May aborted a Commons vote on her deal this week because she feared defeat by a “significant margin,” her comments amounted to a threat that she would let MPs kill the withdrawal agreement before Christmas.

Mrs May made the threat to German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Emmanuel Macron and EU presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk as the two day Brussels summit descended into acrimony, according to diplomats.

“At the point where there is no prospect of getting anything more from the EU, that’s when you would have to put the vote,” said one close aide to Mrs May.

If this week has taught May anything, it’s that her plan to pressure the EU into more concessions (her preferred option to help her pass the Brexit plan) was an unmitigated failure. And given that running out the clock and hoping that MPs come around at the last minute (when the options truly have been reduced to ‘deal’ or ‘no deal’) leaves too much room for market-rattling uncertainty, May is left with a few options, two of which were previously ‘off the table’ (though she has distanced herself from those positions in recent weeks).

They are: Calling a second referendum, delaying a Brexit vote, pivoting to a softer ‘Plan B’ Brexit, or accepting a ‘no deal’ Brexit. As the BBC reminds us, May is obliged by law to put her deal to a vote by Jan. 21, or go to Parliament with a Plan B.

If May does decide to run down the clock, she will have two last-minute options:

On the one hand she could somehow cancel, delay, soften or hold another referendum on Brexit and risk alienating the 17.4 million people who voted Leave.

But on the other hand, she could go for a so-called Hard Brexit (where few of the existing ties between the UK and the EU are retained) and risk causing untold damage to the UK’s economy and standing in the world for years to come.

Alternatively, May could accept the fact that convincing the Brexiteers is a lost cause, and try to rally support among Labour MPs for a ‘softer’ Brexit plan, one that would more countenance closer ties with the EU during the transition, and ultimately set the stage for a closer relationship that could see the UK remain part of the customs union and single market. Conservatives are also increasingly pushing for a ‘Plan B’ deal that would effectively set the terms for a Norway- or Canada-style trade deal (and this strategy isn’t without risk, as any deal accepted by Parliament would still require approval from the EU).

But as JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank anticipated last week, a second referendum (which supporters have nicknamed a “People’s Vote”) is becoming increasingly popular, even among MPs who supported the ‘Leave’ campaign, according to Bloomberg.

It’s not the only previously unthinkable idea that May has talked about this week. Fighting off a challenge to her leadership from pro-Brexit Conservative members of Parliament, the premier warned that deposing her would mean delaying Britain’s departure from the European Union. That’s not something she admitted was possible last month.

The argument for a second referendum advanced by one minister was simple: If nothing can get through Parliament — and it looks like nothing can — the question needs to go back to voters.

While campaigners for a second vote have mostly been those who want to reverse the result of the last one and keep Britain inside the EU, that’s not the reason a lot of new supporters are coming round to the idea.

One Cabinet minister said this week he wanted a second referendum on the table to make clear to Brexit supporters in the Conservative Party that the alternative to May’s deal is no Brexit at all.

Even former UKIP leader Nigel Farage is urging his supporters to be ready for a second referendum:

Speaking at rally in London, Press Association quoted Farage as saying: “My message folks tonight is as much as I don’t want a second referendum it would be wrong of us on a Leave Means Leave platform not to get ready, not to be prepared for a worst-case scenario.”

Putting pressure on Brexiteers is also the reason there’s more talk of delaying the U.K.’s departure. At the moment, many Brexit-backers are talking openly about running down the clock to March so they can get the hard Brexit they want. Extending the process — which is easier than many appreciate — takes that strategy off the table.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has continued to call for May to put her deal to a vote principally because its defeat is a necessary precursor for another referendum (or a no-confidence vote pushed by an alliance between Labour, and some combination of rebel Tories, the SNP and the DUP).

“The last 24 hours have shown that Theresa May’s Brexit deal is dead in the water,” said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “She’s failed to deliver any meaningful changes. Rather than ploughing ahead and recklessly running down the clock, she needs to put her deal to a vote next week so Parliament can take back control.”

The upshot is that the Brexit trainwreck, which has been stuck at an impasse for months, could finally see some meaningful movement in the coming weeks. Which means its a good time to bring back this handy chart illustrating the many different outcomes that could arise:

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Ukraine’s President Says “High” Threat Of Russian Invasion, Urges NATO Entry In Next 5 Years

Poroshenko is trying desperately to hold on to power, even if it means provoking Russia.

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Via Zerohedge


Perhaps still seeking to justify imposing martial law over broad swathes of his country, and attempting to keep international pressure and media focus on a narrative of “Russian aggression,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denounced what he called the high “threat of Russian invasion” during a press conference on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.

Though what some analysts expected would be a rapid flair up of tit-for-tat incidents following the late November Kerch Strait seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and their crew by the Russian Navy has gone somewhat quiet, with no further major incident to follow, Poroshenko has continued to signal to the West that Russia could invade at any moment.

“The lion’s share of Russian troops remain” along the Russian border with Ukraine, Poroshenko told journalists at a press conference in the capital, Kiev. “Unfortunately, less than 10 percent were withdrawn,” he said, and added: “As of now, the threat of Russian troops invading remains. We have to be ready for this, we won’t allow a repeat of 2014.”

Poroshenko, who declared martial law on Nov. 26, citing at the time possible imminent “full-scale war with Russia” and Russian tank and troop build-up, on Sunday noted that he will end martial law on Dec. 26 and the temporarily suspended presidential campaign will kick off should there be no Russian invasion. He also previously banned all Russian males ages 16-60 from entering Ukraine as part of implementation of 30 days of martial law over ten provinces, though it’s unclear if this policy will be rescinded.

During his remarks, the Ukrainian president said his country should push to join NATO and the EU within the next five years, per Bloomberg:

While declining to announce whether he will seek a second term in the office, Poroshenko said that Ukraine should achieve peace, overcome the consequences of its economic crisis and to meet criteria to join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during next five years.

But concerning both his retaining power and his ongoing “threat exaggeration” — there’s even widespread domestic acknowledgement that the two are clearly linked.

According to The Globe and Mail:

While Mr. Poroshenko’s domestic rivals accuse him of exaggerating the threat in order to boost his own flagging political fortunes — polls suggest Mr. Poroshenko is on track to lose his job in a March election — military experts say there are reasons to take the Ukrainian president’s warning seriously.

As we observed previously, while European officials have urged both sides to exercise restraint, the incident shows just how easily Russia and the West could be drawn into a military conflict over Ukraine.

Certainly Poroshenko’s words appear designed to telegraph just such an outcome, which would keep him in power as a war-time president, hasten more and massive western military support and aid, and quicken his country’s entry into NATO — the latter which is already treating Ukraine as a de facto strategic outpost.

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The Stampede of the Gadarene Swine: US Leaders Allowing Ukraine to Pull Them into Global War

There is no way in any sane assessment that the Ukrainian forces – and certainly not the neo-Nazi militias recruited in the west of the country to terrorize the east – can be regarded as “brothers” of the US armed forces.

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Authored by Martin Sieff via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


George Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel was right – Again: The only thing the human race learns from history is that it learns nothing from history.

In 1914,the British Empire, largest in human history and one of the longest-lasting, charged into World War I to defend “gallant little Belgium” whose King Leopold over the previous 30 years had carried out one of the longest, largest genocides of all time, killing 10 million people in the Congo.

Germany, wealthiest, most prosperous nation in Europe, blundered into the same needless war when feckless Kaiser Wilhelm II causally gave sweeping approval to Austria-Hungary to annihilate the tiny nation of Serbia. Millions of brave and idealistic Russians eagerly volunteered to fight in the war to protect “gallant little Serbia.” Most of them died too. There is no record that any of the Serbian leaders after the war visited any of their mass graves.

Now it is the United States’ turn.

Since the end of the Cold War US policymakers, presidents and their congresses have carried out virtually every stupidity and folly imaginable for any major power. The only one they have so far avoided has been the danger of stumbling into a full scale world war.

However, now, with the escalating and increasingly hysterical US support for the shady and risk-taking junta in Kiev, President Donald Trump risks committing that most dire and unforgivable of all horrors.

Trump today is no more than putty in the hands of his national security adviser John Bolton, one of the masterminds of the catastrophe that was the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Bolton is just like his hero Winston Churchill a century ago during World War I. He always gets his way, always gets the wars and battles he wants and bungles them embarrassingly every time. And like the young Churchill, Bolton never learns, never mellows and he never changes. It is always everybody else’s fault.

Churchill finally did grow and learn. His famous activities of the 1930s were not meant to start a new world war with Germany under the far worse leadership of Adolf Hitler: He wanted to avert such a war.

The invaluable diaries of Ivan Maisky, the Soviet Union’s ambassador to Britain through the 1930s make clear that even then Churchill was eager – alone in the British ruling classes – to establish a serious close defensive alliance with Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union. He recognized that would be the only way to box in Hitler and prevent a global catastrophe.

But Bolton has not learned from his hero – Quite the reverse. He is now impelling Trump on a reckless course of empowering the dangerous adventurers who with US support have seized Ukraine and have spent the past nearly five years wrecking it.

Even worse, the same kind of absurd sentimentalizing of an obscure, tiny or unstable ally that doomed Britain, Russia and Germany to unimaginable suffering and loss in 1914 now permeates US decision-makers, strategists and their pontificating pundits about Ukraine. On March 1, 2016, US General Philip Breedlove, then NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) memorably referred to “our Ukrainian brothers and sisters” in a Pentagon press briefing

There is no way in any sane assessment that the ramshackle Ukrainian forces – and certainly not the neo-Nazi militias recruited in the west of the country to terrorize the east – can be regarded as “brothers” of the US armed forces. The US and Soviet troops who met on the River Elbe on April 25, 1945 after advancing a combined more than 2,000 miles to liberate Europe from the darkest tyranny in its history could truly be called “brothers.”

However, the US military today and the Ukrainian forces they are being drawn in to protect certainly are not “brothers and sisters.” No poll has been taken since then across the United States, as far as I am aware as to whether the American people would be willing to risk full-scale nuclear war to defend a government in Ukraine that is demonstrably unpopular among its own people.

Trump was elected president in November 2016 precisely because he was the only candidate in that shock election who unambiguously called for the United States to end its 70-year fixation with getting pulled into one endless war and confrontation after another around the world. It would be the darkest of ironies if instead he took America into its last and most catastrophic conflict – a nuclear confrontation from which there could be no recovery, no escape and no survival.

Britain, Russia and Germany in 1914 were all destroyed by the deliberate plotting and manipulations of vastly smaller or weaker allies run by psychopathic gamblers. The rulers of Kiev today, in their entirely reckless disregard for the dangers of global thermonuclear war clearly fit into that category.

Policymakers in Moscow recognize this dire reality. Their counterparts in Washington remain amazingly totally blind to it. Their only idea of strategy is the suicidal stampede of the Gadarene Swine in the Gospels off the end of a cliff. And they are taking the entire human race with them.

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