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Europeans are coming to grips with what Trump’s ‘America First’ slogan really means

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With steel and aluminum tariff excemptions set to expire, Europeans continue to wonder why Trump is applying tariffs on them over claims of national security, as Europe presents no security threat to America.

They also wonder why these tariffs are being applied to them, and not just China, who is allegedly engaging in unfair business practices, a subject on which both the EU and the US agree.

Yet, through his tariffs and sanctions, Trump continues to isolate America as nations that have become subject to American sanctions and tariffs respond by retaliated with their own countermeasures or side stepping America’s sanctions while continuing to engage in the trade activities that Trump is attempting to discourage or prevent through his hostile economic measures.

Deutsche Welle reports:

Ahead of another tariff exemption deadline, Washington’s European allies have been telling President Donald Trump that his trade threats are misguided and the real focus should be on China. Will he get the message?

Earlier this week it was French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire’s turn. “We should share many objectives such as tackling together the issues of steel overcapacity and how to overhaul the [World Trade Organization] so that it ensures a genuine global level-playing field,” he told the UK’s Financial Times newspaper. “But we can’t do that together with threats of unjustified tariffs weighing over our head.”

Two weeks ago, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom was stumped when asked by Germany’s Spiegel magazine to explain why the United States treated its partners like adversaries in some areas and yet still wanted to join forces with them in others, for instance to take on China. “Frankly, I have no explanation for it,” she said. “It is indeed a bit inconsistent.”

And two months ago, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Spiegel that the European Union was prepared to join the US in its efforts to address overproduction of steel and intellectual property theft, key issues that Washington and Brussels both have with China.

China to blame

Europeans, often not on the same page about a number of issues, have been remarkably united in their message to US President Donald Trump: They will not engage in what should be a combined trans-Atlantic effort to address Beijing’s troubling trade practices while they themselves are threatened by US tariffs. They have also made clear that they are ready to retaliate with their own tariffs should they be forced to do so by Washington.

The EU’s position that Beijing, not Brussels, is to blame for the large steel overcapacities on the world market is shared by most economists. According to the World Steel Association, China last year accounted for almost half of the world’s steel production; the EU produced 10 percent, the US close to 5 percent.

The question of whether Europe’s argument has swayed an administration led by a president with strong protectionist impulses comes to a head on Friday, when a temporary exemption that has so far shielded the EU from US tariffs on steel and aluminum is set to expire.

With negotiations ongoing between the EU and a White House prone to last-minute decisions that can then be overturned just as quickly by a presidential tweet, the outcome seemed impossible to predict. But on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that last-ditch negotiations had not been successful and that tariffs were likely to be imposed.

‘Very worried’

“Nobody knows,” said Jennifer Hillman, a former US trade negotiator and World Trade Organization judge, when asked to preview Trump’s likely decision.

“I don’t have an answer to anything about what the Trump administration’s motives are,” said Simon Lester, a trade policy analyst with the Cato Institute, a free-market think tank.

But since the Trump administration only appeared to double down on its trade confrontation with Europe by recently suggesting additional tariffs on car imports, the odds don’t look good that the EU’s message has resonated with the White House.

“I personally am very worried,” said Hillman. “I think it’s really bad. I think the Trump administration is more willing than I ever believed to engage in this kind of initiation of a trade war with the European Union.”

EU as outlier

If the EU got what it wanted ― a permanent exemption from the tariffs ― it would make it a global outlier. Most other countries have already been hit by the US tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports.

Even South Korea, a key US ally, particularly with the ongoing nuclear negotiations with North Korea, was forced to pay a hefty price to get a tariff exemption. As part of its deal with the US, it agreed to quotas that amount to a 70 percent reduction of its trade over the past three years in steel, subdivided into dozens of different supplements and coupled with quarterly limits. The resulting quotas are so stiff that the former US trade negotiator Hillman called them “fairly draconian.”

Other countries still exempt from tariffs are Canada and Mexico, which are engaged in difficult talks with the US about a revamped NAFTA agreement, as well as Australia, Argentina and Brazil. The latter three are also currently in negotiations with Washington.

Taking on everybody

A permanent EU exemption from the tariffs could not only be viewed as a sign that the White House backed down on trade, one of Trump’s signature issues. It could also lead others to demand the same deal.

“They dug themselves a deep hole and we will have to see if they can climb out of it,” said Cato’s Lester. “There are ways to get out of it, if they wanted to.”

One face-saving way to end the trans-Atlantic trade standoff would be for the US and the EU to issue a joint statement saying that they will not impose tariffs on each other and instead focus their combined attention on addressing what both view as a key concern: Beijing’s unfair trade practices.

“We are spending all our time fighting each other rather than going after China, which is where the emphasis ought to be,” said Hillman. “And the only way you are going to move China is by working together and Europe cannot work together with the United States if the US keeps threatening to put tariffs on Europe. That to me is the ultimate message that Europe constantly has to convey.”

But the question is whether the White House is even listening.

“It is not clear that the Trump administration is going to accept that,” said Lester. “They seem to want to take on everybody.”

Europe is concerned that Trump will continue his policy of economic pressure on them and the rest of the world in an effort to put America’s economy and production first, but Europe can’t afford to follow in South korea’s footsteps can cull their production without facing severe economic consequences for it.

Therefore, Trump’s tariffs act purely as a means to weaken Europe against America, giving the US the upper hand. But that policy is not a very nice thing to do to your ally and trade partner.

Europeans are coming to grips with what Trump’s ‘America First’ slogan really means.

 

 

 

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European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.

RT

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The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“When a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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Is Silicon Valley Morphing Into The Morality Police?

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

The Duran

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Authored by Adrian Cohen via Creators.com:


Silicon Valley used to be technology companies. But it has become the “morality police,” controlling free speech on its platforms.

What could go wrong?

In a speech Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“Hate tries to make its headquarters in the digital world. At Apple, we believe that technology needs to have a clear point of view on this challenge. There is no time to get tied up in knots. That’s why we only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms.”

Here’s the goliath problem:

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

Will Christians who don’t support abortion rights or having their tax dollars go toward Planned Parenthood be considered purveyors of hate for denying women the right to choose? Will millions of Americans who support legal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigration, be labeled xenophobes or racists and be banned from the digital world?

Yes and yes. How do we know? It’s already happening, as scores of conservatives nationwide are being shadow banned and/or censored on social media, YouTube, Google and beyond.

Their crime?

Running afoul of leftist Silicon Valley executives who demand conformity of thought and simply won’t tolerate any viewpoint that strays from their rigid political orthodoxy.

For context, consider that in oppressive Islamist regimes throughout the Middle East, the “morality police” take it upon themselves to judge women’s appearance, and if a woman doesn’t conform with their mandatory and highly restrictive dress code — e.g., wearing an identity-cloaking burqa — she could be publicly shamed, arrested or even stoned in the town square.

In modern-day America, powerful technology companies are actively taking the role of the de facto morality police — not when it comes to dress but when it comes to speech — affecting millions. Yes, to date, those affected are not getting stoned, but they are being blocked in the digital town square, where billions around the globe do their business, cultivate their livelihoods, connect with others and get news.

That is a powerful cudgel to levy against individuals and groups of people. Wouldn’t you say?

Right now, unelected tech billionaires living in a bubble in Palo Alto — when they’re not flying private to cushy climate summits in Davos — are deciding who gets to enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and who does not based on whether they agree with people’s political views and opinions or not.

You see how dangerous this can get — real fast — as partisan liberal elites running Twitter, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Apple and the like are now dictating to Americans what they can and cannot say online.

In communist regimes, these types of folks are known as central planners.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to safeguard our freedoms, especially regarding speech — a foundational pillar of a democracy. It’s disappointing that hasn’t happened, as the censorship of conservative thought online has gotten so extreme and out of control many are simply logging off for good.

A failure to address this mammoth issue could cost Trump in 2020. If his supporters are blocked online — where most voters get their news — he’ll be a one-term president.

It’s time for Congress to act before the morality police use political correctness as a Trojan horse to decide our next election.

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