FILE PHOTO: U.S. and European Union flags are pictured during the visit of Vice President Mike Pence to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
March 19, 2019
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said on Tuesday that Washington’s “selfish” approach to trade was not sustainable, but it was too early to say that EU-U.S. trade talks were doomed to fail.
The Trump administration has imposed stiff tariffs on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum and set off a trade war with China in a bid to redress what it sees as unfavorable terms that contribute to a U.S. trade deficit of over half a trillion dollars a year.
The Commission, which negotiates trade agreements on behalf of the 28-nation European Union, has been in talks with U.S. authorities since last July, seeking to clinch a deal on industrial goods trade.
EU governments are now discussing the details of a negotiating mandate for the Commission, while Washington has until mid-May to decide whether to make good on President Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on imports of European cars.
“It is too early to say that our trade discussions are doomed to fail,” Katainen told a regular news briefing.
“There are discussions going on on several levels and … we can end up having some sort of an agreement with the U.S. on trade, but let’s not go deeper than this,” he said, adding that the scope of negotiations had to be clear and that a deal would require a lot of good will and political capital on both sides.
Asked about a reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Katainen said it was problematic and that attempts to get it done were like pushing a rope.
“Japan, China and the EU are willing to reform the WTO, the U.S. has not been that interested, but they are willing to cooperate,” he said.
“Even though the U.S. authorities may think that selfishness is better than cooperation, it is not a sustainable way of thinking. We need better, rules-based trade in the future where the international community sets the rules,” he said.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Congress last week that the WTO was using an “out of date” playbook despite dramatic changes including the rise of China and the evolution of the internet.
He said Washington was nonetheless working “diligently” to negotiate new WTO rules to address these problems.
(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
FILE PHOTO: A worker is seen building an aircraft engine at Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. on September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Alwyn Scott
March 19, 2019
WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – New orders for U.S.-made goods rose less than expected in January, held back by decreases in orders for computers and electronic products, in another indication of slowing manufacturing activity.
Factory goods orders edged up 0.1 percent, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday, as demand for primary metals and fabricated metal products fell. That followed an unrevised 0.1 percent gain in December.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast factory orders rising 0.3 percent in January. Factory orders increased 3.8 percent compared to January 2018.
The release of the report was delayed by a 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government that ended on Jan. 25.
Reports last Friday showed manufacturing output fell for a second straight month in February and factory activity in New York state hit nearly a two-year low this month.
Manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the economy, is losing momentum as the stimulus from last year’s $1.5 trillion tax cut package fades. Activity is also being crimped by a trade war between the United States and China as well as by last year’s surge in the dollar and softening global economic growth, which are hurting exports.
In January, orders for machinery rose 1.5 percent after falling 0.4 percent in December. Orders for mining, oil field and gas field machinery fell 2.7 percent after tumbling 8.2 percent in December.
Orders for electrical equipment, appliances and components rebounded 1.4 percent after dropping 0.3 percent in December. Computers and electronic products orders fell 0.9 percent after decreasing 0.4 percent in December.
Orders for primary metals declined 2.0 percent and fabricated metal products orders fell 0.6 percent. Transportation equipment orders increased 1.2 percent in January, slowing from the prior month’s 3.2 percent rise.
Orders for civilian aircraft and parts increased 15.6 percent in January. Motor vehicles and parts orders gained 0.4 percent.
The Commerce Department also said January orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, which are seen as a measure of business spending plans on equipment, rose 0.8 percent as reported last week. Orders for these so-called core capital goods dropped 0.8 percent in December.
Shipments of core capital goods, which are used to calculate business equipment spending in the gross domestic product report, also increased 0.8 percent in January as previously reported. Core capital goods shipments edged up 0.1 percent in December.
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
Molly Prince | Politics Reporter
Sen. Ted Cruz criticized a United Nations report that concluded Israel committed war crimes against Palestinians during a 2018 protest despite Hamas’s use of human shields.
“This U.N. report is on its face absurd and dishonest and we know because they have been doing it for a long time,” the Texas Republican said on a telephone call Monday hosted by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America. “Hamas and Hezbollah use human shields as a deliberate tactic. They use innocent Palestinian civilians, to put them in harm’s way, because they intend to exploit those human shields for when they are injured or killed when Israel defends itself.”
The United Nations Human Rights Council determined in the report, released Monday, that Israel used “excessive force” during the nine-month period in question. Over that time, Israeli security forces shot and wounded 6,016 protesters in Gaza and “there was no justification” for Israel’s use of force. The report did acknowledge Hamas encouraged Palestinian protesters to cause use incendiary kites, which caused “fear among civilians and significant damage to property in southern Israel.”
“The United Nations long has been a reservoir of deep anti-Israel animus,” Cruz continued. “This report today is yet another example of that.” (RELATED: Ted Cruz Explains Why Interventionist And Isolationists Are Both Wrong)
The Human Rights Council adopted a resolution in May 2018 after President Donald Trump relocated the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that inspired thousands of Palestinians to riot and ultimately storm the Gaza-Israel border.
Hamas preemptively offered compensation to the families of Palestinians who were injured or killed during the demonstration — a spokesperson for the terrorist organization revealed the payment rates would be as high as $3,000, reported The Jerusalem Post. Humans were also reportedly used as shields, a concept that Cruz acknowledged.
“It is a repeated and deliberate strategy of Hamas to use human shields,” the Texas senator said. “The U.N. report ignores that reality.”
United States officials have maintained that Israeli Defense Forces acted appropriately.
“America stands with Israel for many reasons, but none more important than standing with Israel furthers our own national security interests,” Cruz added.
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FILE PHOTO: The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Staff
March 19, 2019
LONDON (Reuters) – Fund managers have named bearish bets in European equities as the “most crowded” trade for the first time, replacing emerging markets, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s March survey released on Tuesday.
Investors have shunned European stocks for some time, betting the market would be weaker compared with the United States and other regions as euro-zone economic growth slows and Britain’s chaotic exit from the European Union raises worries about disruption to its economy.
A slowdown in China, the world’s No. 2 economy, topped the list of biggest tail risks, ousting the trade war, which had been at the forefront of investor concerns for the previous nine months, the survey showed.
BAML’s March survey – conducted between March 8-14, with 239 panelists managing $664 billion in total – also showed investor risk appetite continued to fall, with global equity allocations remaining at September 2016 lows.
(Reporting by Josephine Mason, Editing by Helen Reid)
Palestinian diorama artist Majdi Abu Taqeya works on miniature figures he carves from remnants of Israeli ammunition collected from the scenes of border protests along the Israel-Gaza border, in the central Gaza Strip March 11, 2019. Picture taken March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
March 19, 2019
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) – One year on from the start of Gaza’s border protests, the weekly clashes with Israeli soldiers have become part of the texture of life in the Palestinian enclave, providing inspiration and even raw materials for local artists.
Diorama artist Majdi Abu Taqeya spends hours creating three-dimensional miniature replicas of the protest scenes, with figures carved from remnants of Israeli ammunition collected from the landscape along the frontier.
Wool and cotton are turned into the white and black smoke that swirls over the five protest camps that have been set up along the fortified frontier since the protests began on March 30, 2018.
Elsewhere on Abu Taqeya’s wooden boards, Palestinian protesters, ambulances, Israeli troops and tanks and even the wire fence itself are all created in miniature. He uses empty shells of bullets, tear gas canisters and sometimes shrapnel of Israeli missiles.
A bullet triggered the idea, the artist said. At the first day of the protests, Abu Taqeya’s youngest brother was shot in his leg and doctors took out the bullet, which he then brought home.
“I turned it into a small statue of a soldier and I gave it to him,” he told Reuters.
“It was then when I got the idea to start recycling the remnants of the occupation,” said Abu Taqeya, a 38-year-old retired naval policeman.
Gaza health authorities said some 200 people have been killed by Israeli fire since Palestinians launched the protests a year ago. They are demanding the right to return to land from which their ancestors fled or were expelled during fighting that accompanied Israel’s founding in 1948.
An Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper along the frontier.
Israel says it uses lethal force to defend the frontier from militants trying to destroy its border fence and infiltrate under cover of the protests. On Monday, U.N. war crimes investigators urged Israel to rein in its troops at the border. [nL8N21549L]
In Nusseirat refugee camp, where Abu Taqeya lives, some neighbors who had been wounded gifted the artist bullets extracted from their bodies.
“This bullet was taken from a girl’s body, I turned it into a bullet with a butterfly on the top,” said Abu Taqeya.
On Thursday, organizers of the protests called for mass rallies on March 30 to mark the anniversary, raising concerns of possible heavy casualty toll. Abu Taqeya urged demonstrators to steer clear of the fence.
“We must not give the occupation any pretext to open fire. These protests must be peaceful,” he said, using a Palestinian term for Israel.
Israel pulled its soldiers and settlers out of Gaza in 2005. Citing security concerns, it still maintains tight control of the Hamas Islamist-run territory’s borders.
(Writing by Nidal Almughrabi, editing by Stephen Farrell and Alexandra Hudson)
FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator carries a national flag during protest over President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to postpone elections and extend his fourth term in office, in Algiers, Algeria March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina/File Photo
March 19, 2019
By Lamine Chikhi
ALGIERS (Reuters) – A new group headed by political leaders, opposition figures and activists called on Algeria’s powerful generals to stay out of politics as it pressed President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and the government to quit.
In the first direct message to the army from leaders emerging from mass protests against Bouteflika, the National Coordination for Change said the military should “play its constitutional role without interfering in the people choice”.
Generals have traditionally wielded power from behind the scenes in Algeria but have stepped in during pivotal moments.
In 1992, the army canceled elections an Islamist party was set to win, triggering a long civil war that killed an estimated 200,000 people. Soldiers have stayed in their barracks throughout the recent unrest.
In a statement titled “Platform of Change” and issued late on Monday, the organization demanded the Bouteflika should step down before the end of his term on April 28 and the government resign immediately.
Algerian authorities have always been adept at manipulating a weak and disorganised opposition.
But more than three weeks of demonstrations – which peaked on Friday with hundreds of thousands of people on the streets of Algiers – have emboldened well-known figures to lead the drive for reforms in the North African country.
Prominent members of the new group include lawyer and activist Mustapha Bouchachi, opposition leader Karim Tabou and former treasury minister Ali Benouari, as well as Mourad Dhina and Kamel Guemazi, who belong to an outlawed Islamist party.
Zoubida Assoul, leader of a small political party, is the only woman in the group so far.
Bouteflika, rarely seen in public since a stroke in 2013, has failed to ease anger on the streets by reversing a decision to seek a fifth term, postponing an election and planning a conference that will chart a new political future.
But he stopped short of stepping down, and effectively prolonged his fourth term.
“Bouteflika just trampled on the constitution after he decided to extend his fourth term,” said the National Coordination for Change.
(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prince Harry (R) arrives with girlfriend actress Meghan Markle at the wheelchair tennis event during the Invictus Games in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/File Photo
March 19, 2019
By Lisa Richwine and Rollo Ross
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Fascination, pride and the best soap opera in the world have many Americans eagerly awaiting the impending birth of Prince Harry and Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle’s first child.
After some 29 million Americans watched the televised May 2018 wedding of Harry to Californian actress Markle, the prospect of the first British royal baby born to an American mother is proving even more compelling.
“It’s going to be massive,” said J.D. Heyman, deputy editor of People magazine. “When Meghan presents the baby, when Meghan and Harry step out onto a balcony … I think what you will see is an enormous outpouring of affection for both of them.”
“The excitement around this equals the births of certainly Prince William’s babies and, frankly, Harry and William’s birth(s)” more than 30 years ago, Heyman added.
Despite America’s War of Independence fought against Britain some 240 years ago, Americans have long been obsessed with British royals, who regularly feature on the front pages of celebrity magazines.
British producer Nick Bullen, a co-founder of subscription streaming service True Royalty TV, which launched last summer, said a colorful and dramatic history with larger-than-life figures such as King Henry VIII drives the modern fascination with the royal family.
“The British royal family is the best soap opera in town,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”
True Royalty TV is based in London but draws its largest number of subscribers from the United States.
While celebrity media outlets are chronicling Markle’s pregnancy with daily pictures and speculation over the baby’s sex and due date, True Royalty TV plans documentaries and talk-show discussions on topics including: how will the royal couple raise their first child?
“Imagine raising an American royal in Britain,” Bullen said. “It’s hard enough I think for a lot of Americans to come to London and get to grips with boarding schools and prep schools and little caps and little shorts and how we raise children in the UK.
“Will Dorian, Meghan’s mum, be involved in the baby’s raising?” Bullen said. “Will it have holidays in California? Will it be doing baby yoga? People want to know all that level of detail.”
Not everyone is getting caught up in royal baby fever.
“I actually don’t have too much of an opinion about it,” shrugged Evan Jorgensen, as he strolled along the Venice Beach boardwalk in California on Monday.
But most people Reuters spoke to said they were excited and pleased. Americans feel tremendous affection toward Markle, said Heyman.
“There’s a personal pride that many people feel, that an average American girl of a multiracial background has risen to this position,” he said.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Rollo Ross; Writing by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Nick Carey)
FILE PHOTO: Intel logo is seen behind LED lights in this illustration taken January 5, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
March 19, 2019
By Tova Cohen and Steven Scheer
TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israel’s exports of computer chips to China soared last year as Chinese companies bought more semiconductors made at Intel’s Kiryat Gat plant.
An official at the Israel Export Institute told Reuters that new data showed semiconductor exports to China jumped 80 percent last year to $2.6 billion. An industry source told Reuters that Intel Israel accounted for at least 80 percent of those sales.
The data will be welcome news for the Israeli government as it pushes for deeper ties with China and because semiconductors accounted for $3.9 billion of overall goods exports in 2018, according to the institute, a government agency.
The two countries have started negotiating a trade deal and technology is expected to be a major part of the discussions. Overall exports of Israeli goods to China, excluding diamonds, rose 50 percent to $4.7 billion, statistics.
Intel announced a $5 billion investment to expand capacity in its Kiryat Gat plant in southern Israel in 2017, which makes some of the smallest and fastest chips in the world.
That year it also bought Israeli auto-focused chip and technology firm Mobileye for $15 billion. It said this year it would invest $11 billion in a new Israeli plant.
A spokesman for Intel said the firm exported $3.9 billion worth of goods from Israel last year, up from $3.6 billion in 2017. He declined to give further details of Intel’s operations in Israel.
Chinese officials have said they are looking to develop a domestic chip market because Chinese companies import $270 billion of semiconductors each year. Israel has a reputation for exporting high-end chips.
Israel’s export institute also said sales to China of inspection equipment for semiconductor manufacturing jumped 64 percent to $450 million last year.
That equipment is used to control and inspect manufacturing processes in semiconductor plants and is useful for China as its domestic chip manufacturing increases.
Companies in Israel making such equipment include Orbotech, which was just acquired by fellow semiconductor equipment maker KLA-Tencor of California for about $3.4 billion.
That deal was announced a year ago but was held up by Chinese regulators, who only gave their approval in February.
PIVOT TO ASIA
China is now Israel’s second largest export market for goods after the United States, having overtaken Britain last year.
Sales of semiconductors to the United States slipped 20 percent to $860 million, contributing to a 3 percent drop in goods exports. But at $10.9 billion, overall goods exports still dwarf those to China.
Israel has been pivoting its economy toward Asia in the past few years both because of perceived political hostility in some European countries and the fact that Asian markets are growing rapidly.
In recent years, Chinese-based airlines have started direct flights to Tel Aviv, the two countries signed a visa agreement and are working on the trade deal. Israel is also in talks for free trade agreements with Vietnam and South Korea.
Some analysts in China expect the ties to get stronger due to the tit-for-tat trade war between the United States, a major chip producer, and China.
“Because of the trade war, China and Israel’s cooperation is closer than it has been before,” said Gu Wenjun, chief analyst at ICWise, a semiconductor consultancy in Shanghai.
“Israel has the technology and China has the market – the space for cooperation is big.”
Eyal Waldman, founder and CEO of Israeli chipmaker Mellanox, said his company was benefiting from China’s policies.
“In China they prefer to use Chinese silicon and then after that non-U.S. silicon and only if they don’t have that then U.S. silicon, so we are benefiting from that,” he told Reuters.
“We are seeing better growth in China.”
Mellanox agreed this week to sell itself to California-based chipmaker Nvidia Corp for almost $7 billion. Intel lost the bidding war to Nvidia. Russell Ellwanger, the CEO of another major chip manufacturer TowerJazz, said his company’s growth in China “is very, very strong”.
(Additional reporting by Josh Horwitz in Shanghai and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; editing by Anna Willard)
The Trump administration is requesting $86 billion in spending for intelligence agencies, including $23 billion for highly classified military intelligence activities (MIP) in fiscal year 2020, The New York Times reports.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said the administration wants $62.8 billion for its intelligence agencies while the Pentagon asked for $22.95 billion for its secretive "black budget."
Overall, the budget includes a 6 percent spending increase and covers the costs of cyberweapons, spy satellites, and the national intelligence program that supports the armed services and tactical units.
Both budgets also propose spending more money on capabilities to compete with Russia and China, according to officials who spoke with the Times.
The MIP supports "defense intelligence activities intended to support tactical military operations and priorities," according to a 2016 Congressional Research Service, while funding for the National Intelligence Program goes to nondefense organizations.
The Pentagon in a statement said the request includes base budget funding as well as the war fund known overseas as the overseas contingency operations account.
"The department determined that releasing this top-line figure does not jeopardize any classified activities within the MIP," the statement noted. "No other MIP budget figures or program details will be released, as they remain classified for national security reasons."
Source: NewsMax America