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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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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen exposes Washington’s latest twist in anti-Russia strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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