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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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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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