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China Retaliates With Tariffs on $60 Billion of U.S. Goods

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  • China announced that they will impose tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods just days after the U.S. announced it will impose tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.
  • After months of trade negotiations between the U.S. and China, the U.S. escalated tensions once more, claiming that China was backing out of key parts of the trade deal.
  • Many experts believe the increased U.S. tariffs will hurt U.S. consumers and the economy, despite President Trump’s claims that they will only hurt China.

China Bites Back

China announced Monday that they will raise tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods, a move that came as a response to the Trump administration’s decision Friday to impose tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

The Trump administration’s efforts targets existing tariffs by raising taxes on those $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent. Though it has not been formally announced, President Donald Trump also plans on placing new tariffs on essentially all goods imported from China, according to a statement from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

“The President also ordered us to begin the process of raising tariffs on essentially all remaining imports from China,” Lighthizer’s statement said, “Which are valued at approximately $300 billion.”

China responded to this by announcing that starting June 1, they will raise their tariffs as high as 25 percent on U.S. goods that used to be taxed at 10 percent. The tariffs will apply to nearly 5,000 U.S. goods, and the steepest tariffs will apply to animal products, seasonings, live plants, a range of fruits and vegetables, and more.

While the new tariffs appear to be somewhat of a numbers game on the surface, it begs the question: What does this mean for the bigger picture?

There are two main implications here. First, what these new tariffs mean for the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China; And second, what impact the Chinee tariffs will have on the U.S. economy and U.S. consumers.

Trade War Implications

Trump has long accused the Chinese government of hurting off U.S. consumers and businesses by stealing intellectual property from the U.S, unfairly subsidizing domestic companies, and flooding international markets with cheap goods causing U.S. companies to go out of business.

Since January 2018, the two countries have seen an ongoing cycle of the U.S. imposing tariffs on Chinese goods, and China responding by doing the same. All of this has amounted to what is essentially a tit-for-tat trade war.

However, in December, the escalation seemed to slow when the two countries agreed to negotiate a trade deal. For months, it seemed like China and the U.S. could reach an agreement. Then, despite numerous claims from Trump and his administration that the talks were going well, Trump decided to raise the tariffs last week amid highly anticipated negotiations.

Trump has argued that U.S. and Chinese negotiators failed to reach a deal during trade talks last week because China had backed out of major parts of the deal. China denied these accusations, saying they just wanted to renegotiate parts of the deal that they believe infringe on Chinese sovereignty.

Despite the recent escalation, the deal is still not off the table. Neither the U.S. tariffs nor China’s go into effect immediately. As noted above, China’s tariffs go into place on June 1, and the Trump administration structured its tariff increase so that they will not go into effect for a few more weeks, giving both sides time to negotiate.

The question that remains then is whether or not they can reach an agreement. Numerous Chinese officials have said they wish to resume trade negotiations, a point that was reiterated in the Chinese Finance Ministry’s official statement announcing their retaliatory tariffs.

“The Chinese side hopes that the US will return to the correct track of bilateral economic and trade consultations and work together with China to move toward each other and strive to reach a mutually beneficial and win-win agreement on the basis of mutual respect,” the statement said.

Trump for his part expressed his desire to negotiate a deal, but also appeared to threaten China in a series of tweets Monday, writing “China will be hurt very badly if you don’t make a deal”

Impact on the U.S. Economy

Trump also tweeted Monday morning saying that there is “no reason for the U.S. Consumer to pay the Tariffs.”

“There will be nobody left in China to do business with. Very bad for China, very good for USA! […] China should not retaliate-will only get worse!” He continued in the same thread.

That brings us to the second implication these tariffs have, which is the impact on the U.S. economy. As he said in those tweets, Trump has repeatedly argued that the tariffs will hurt China and not U.S. consumers.

In the same thread of tweets, Trump said consumers could mitigate the financial hit caused by the tariffs by buying American-made products or products manufactured in countries that are not subject to the tariffs, like Vietnam.

However, both trade experts and business groups have said Trump often is wrong in his characterization of how tariffs work. Tariffs are taxes paid by U.S. companies to buy foreign products, which means those taxes are not paid by China, but companies like manufacturing firms and other producers that need Chinese products.

When taxes are imposed, it makes Chinese products more expensive. However, it does not lower demand for those products from U.S. companies that need those Chinese goods to operate, and now have to pay more.

This specifically includes U.S. agriculture companies, which have already been hit by the new penalties, prompting a $12 billion bailout from Trump last year. Trump has said he will seek an additional $15 billion in from U.S. taxpayers to give to farmers.

All of this to say that the tariffs imposed by the U.S, can end up hurting U.S. companies and economic growth in the U.S. as well as China. This was a point that was made by Trump’s National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, who contradicted Trump last night in an interview with Chris Wallace, the host of Fox News Sunday.

“It’s not China that pays tariffs,” Wallace said. “It’s the American importers, the American companies that pay what, in effect, is a tax increase and oftentimes passes it on to U.S. consumers.”

“Fair enough,” Kudlow responded. “In fact, both sides will pay. Both sides will pay in these things.”

U.S. investors are also worried about the impact of the tariffs.

“The costs of U.S. tariffs have fallen entirely on U.S. businesses and households, with no clear reduction in the prices charged by Chinese exporters,” Goldman Sachs analysts wrote a note to investors on Monday. “The effects of the tariffs have spilled over noticeably to the prices charged by U.S. producers competing with tariff-affected goods.”

Investors clearly responded Monday when U.S. stocks fell by triple digits. The S&P 500 and the Dow saw their worst day since Jan. 3, while the Nasdaq had its biggest drop this year. Stocks closed with major market averages falling by over two percent.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal) (Fox Business)

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Coronavirus-Stricken Cruise Ships Will Dock in Florida

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  • The Zaandam, a cruise liner holding passengers sick with the coronavirus, has been stranded at sea for weeks waiting to dock. 
  • Of the 2,000 on the ship, over 200 have reported flu-like symptoms and nine have tested positive for COVID-19. At least four died onboard.
  • Officials say the Zaandam and the Rotterdam, its sister ship that was sent for support, will finally be able to disembark in Fort Lauderdale, Florida after initial resistance from local authorities.
  • Disembarkation is expected to be completed by Friday evening.

Cruise Turned Nightmare

Two cruise ships that have been stricken by the coronavirus and stuck at sea for weeks will finally disembark at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The decision was reached by multiple local and federal officials including Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, Homeland Security, the Broward County Commission, and the cruise line, Holland America. Healthy passengers will be allowed to go home while the sick will remain on board. 

“It was the right thing to do,” Broward County Commissioner Beam Furr told the Guardian. “We’ve been letting people in and out of this port for 100 years in good times and bad times. I’m proud we could do this.”

The deal comes after a suspenseful back-and-forth that has involved multiple parties and left over 2,000 passengers and crew members waiting onboard for weeks. More than 200 of these people have reported experiencing flu-like symptoms, and nine tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Holland America officials. Many guests are from countries other than the U.S. 

The Zaandam cruise liner embarked for a trip along the coast of South America on March 7. The journey was supposed to end in Chile on March 21, but the coronavirus quickly escalated and things went awry. 

After the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic, Holland America suspended its operations. The Zaandam continued to travel north after Chile closed its borders, but more countries denied the ship entry.

Then passengers on the boat started getting sick, exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Last week, Holland America deployed a second ship, the Rotterdam, to meet the Zaandam off of Panama. The Rotterdam was sent with medical supplies, more staff, and coronavirus tests. 

Asymptomatic guests were transferred to the Rotterdam as well. 

On Friday, Holland American announced that four elderly people on board had died. Carnival Corporation, Holland America’s parent company who owns the ship, said two of the dead had tested positive for COVID-19. 

The nightmare has carried on for nearly four weeks now, but an end is finally in sight in Fort Lauderdale. 

Back and Forth

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was initially resistant to the idea of allowing those on the ship to embark in his state. Cruise ships have shown to be a cesspool for the coronavirus and there are complications in the repatriation of people who are stranded at sea. 

DeSantis has expressed worries about further spread of the outbreak as well as excess strain on medical facilities in the state. 

“We view this as a big, big problem and we do not want to see people dumped in southern Florida right now,” DeSantis told Fox News.

But those aboard the ships have grown desperate. Family members of those onboard have pleaded for them to disembark. Holland America President Orlando Ashford wrote an open letter urging countries to show support in this “humanitarian crisis.”  

President Trump himself offered a compassionate stance on Wednesday night as the situation dragged on.

“They’re dying, so we have to do something, and the governor knows that, too,” Trump said of those stuck on the sister ships. “We have to help the people. They are in big trouble.”

In updates on their website, Holland America outlined a plan for the passengers on the pair of ships. They said that U.S. Customs and Border Protection will clear passengers for entry into the country.

The nearly 1,200 guests fit for travel under CDC guidelines will be unloaded onto sanitized coaches. Person-to-person contact will be limited and masks will be worn, and these people will be taken straight from the ship to flights home, the majority on charter flights. Florida residents will return home immediately via private cars.

Holland America said the guests who still have symptoms and are unfit to travel will continue to isolate onboard until they recover.  There are currently less than twenty people in need of immediate critical care, and they will be taken to local hospitals for treatment. 

It wasn’t until these detailed disembarkation plans started to form that Florida officials softened their resistance against allowing the ship to dock on the state’s ground.

Mayor Trantalis, who was originally against the idea of allowing the ships into Florida, expressed more openness to it after hearing Holland America’s proposals. 

“Their tone has completely changed to address the concerns we had,” Trantalis told the Guardian on Wednesday. “I was concerned that they were just going to let these people off to mingle with the people of my city. That would have been a nightmare.”

“But based on the conversation I had with the [Holland America] president, we are much further along in resolving this situation,” Trantalis said. 

On Wednesday, DeSantis said the 52 Floridians onboard the ships would “clearly” be accepted and said he hoped a solution for the others was near. 

DeSantis showed more of a change of heart on Thursday when he told Fox News that transferring critically ill patients to hospitals was “the humanitarian thing to do.”

“There is no easy solution to this,” the Governor said. 

Yet it appears some kind of solution has finally arrived, and many aboard will return home very shortly. 

“I look forward to a safe operation that protects the well-being of all involved,” Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine tweeted on Thursday.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (NPR) (CNN)

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Japanese PM Offers to Send Two Masks Per Family, But Won’t Declare Coronavirus Emergency

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  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is refusing calls from citizens and other lawmakers to declare a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • But on Wednesday, he did announce that the government will send two reusable masks to every household.
  • Abe’s announcement was met with heavy criticism, with many people on social media pointing out that most families have more than two members.
  • Many even originally took it as an April Fool’s joke.
  • The criticism comes as medical experts warn that Japan’s healthcare system cannot handle a massive outbreak.

Abe Offers Masks But Refuses to Declare Emergency

In a move that has drawn an overwhelming amount of criticism, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that the government would send each family in Japan two reusable masks, but he ignored repeated calls for him to declare a state of emergency in response to the spreading coronavirus.

While Japan has largely avoided the coronavirus pandemic (minus the disastrous Diamond Princess incident), that luck may soon run out. According to John Hopkins University on Thursday, Japan has only reported 2,384 cases and only 57 deaths; however, on Thursday, Tokyo alone reported 97 new cases, which is it’s highest single-day jump so far.

Currently, museums and schools in Tokyo are closed, but shops are still open. Restaurants are still allowing people to dine in. It’s also cherry blossom season, an event that typically attracts thousands of visitors each year. Despite concerns that people would ignore social distancing guidelines, this year is no different, and crowds have flocked to see the blooms. 

Cue urges from both citizens and lawmakers for Abe to declare an emergency across the country. Though not legally binding, it would allow governors in different prefects to send out stronger messages when it comes to telling people to stay at home.

Still, Abe has refused, saying that such a move isn’t imminent. Instead, he opted to send citizens gauze masks that he says  “will be helpful in responding to the rapidly increasing demand” for masks as major cities start to see runs on protective gear. 

#ScrewYourMasks

To put it lightly, Abe’s plan was not met with much praise as people worried how to strap two masks onto grandma, grandpa, and the kids all at the same time.

That conundrum was later part of a viral meme where a family of eight is forced to share two masks, with each family member lined up behind the next (just like any self-respecting family, the pet rightly took priority).

Alongside criticisms like that, both  #Abe’sMask and #ScrewYourMasks” began trending on Twitter in Japan.

“At last, PM Abe decided to provide something to Japanese people,” one user sarcastically said. “What he provides us is……2 medical masks made of gauze per one family! Thank you Abe-san we can live as long as [we have] a gauze mask! You are really stupid!!!”

“I wish this had been just an April fool[‘s] joke,” another user said. 

However, reportedly, many people considered the idea of the government sending only two masks to each family so outrageous that they actually did think it was an April Fool’s joke at first. 

Others criticized the move for how long it will take people to even receive their masks. Reportedly, the government won’t begin mailing those masks until the week after next. By then, many fear the situation in the country could be much more drastic. 

This is not Abe’s first instance with coronavirus-related criticism. Critics have accused Abe of consistently downplaying the threat of the coronavirus in order to not push back the now-postponed Tokyo Olympics. Abe has denied such accusations.

Medical Experts Warn that Japan’s Healthcare System Could Fail

The announcement comes a week after Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told resident to work from home if possible and after she urged people to avoid bars, restaurants, and public gatherings until April 12.

It also comes as medical officials are warning that a surge in coronavirus cases could be disastrous for  Japan’s healthcare system. Reportedly, hospitals in several major cities, including Tokyo and Osaka, are already being stretched thin. According to a government panel, “drastic countermeasures need to be taken as quickly as possible.”

“Fundamental responses should be made as early as today or tomorrow,” Shigeru Omi, head of the Japan Community Healthcare Organization, said at a news conference Wednesday night. 

U.S. Governments Weigh Telling People to Wear Masks

In the United States where the situation has skyrocketed, there is also concern around masks and who should wear them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently only recommends masks be worn by those who are sick. Notably, if you are not sick, the CDC says there is no need to  wear a mask unless you’re caring for someone who is sick. That recommendation is also part of an attempt to ensure masks are saved for healthcare providers and caregivers.

This past week, however, CDC Director Robert Redfield said the agency is looking at potentially changing those guidelines, saying the data around it is, “being aggressively reviewed as we speak.”

This week, Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force has also indicated that it’s discussing potentially updating that recommendation. 

“The idea of getting a much more broad community-wide use of masks outside of the health care setting is under very active discussion at the task force,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said. “The thing that has inhibited that a bit is to make sure we don’t take away the supply of masks from the health care workers who need them.”

“But when we get in a situation where we have enough masks,” he continued. “I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks. We’re not there yet, but I think we’re close to coming to some determination.” 

Both a city and a county in California have also started to recommend the use of non-medical face coverings even among healthy people while out in public. On Tuesday, officials in Riverside County announced that recommendation and by Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti followed suit.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Fox News) (Japan Times)

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Malaysia Tells Women Not to Nag Spouses During COVID-19 Lockdown

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  • The Malaysian government released a series of infographics advising women on how to maintain a happy home during the country’s coronavirus lockdown.
  • The posts told women to take on the playful tone of a cartoon character, wear makeup and dress up at home, and avoid nagging their partners, among other advice.
  • Many were outraged by the infographics, slamming them as “sexist.” Others called it a poor response to concerns of spiking domestic violence cases as more people are forced indoors with their abusers. 
  • The government issued an apology following the backlash.

Controversial Advice

Malaysia’s government has apologized after receiving backlash for advising women to dress nicely and avoid nagging their spouses in order to maintain a happy home as the coronavirus prompted a nation-wide lockdown. 

The advice came from online posters that were released across social media by the country’s Ministry for Women, Family, and Community Development and accompanied by the hashtag #WomenPreventCOVID19.

“If you see your partner doing something wrong, avoid nagging – use ‘humorous’ words like saying: ‘This is how you hang clothes my dear,’” the ministry wrote in a now-removed infographic. 

This piece of advice was paired with another seemingly-bizarre nugget: use a high-pitched, squeaky voice instead, specifically imitating the popular Japanese cartoon character Doraemon, and follow your statement with a giggle.

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Doraemon.

The Ministry also encouraged women to avoid the use of sarcasm, and to continue to wear makeup and dress up even if working from home.

Backlash

After the posters’ release earlier this week, the Ministry and its advice faced a slew of backlash, ranging from mockery to anger. 

“[It] is extremely condescending both to women and men,” Nisha Sabanayagam, a manager at the Malaysian advocacy group All Women’s Action Society, told Reuters.  

“These posters promote the concept of gender inequality and perpetuate the concept of patriarchy,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation over the phone.

Sabanayagam’s frustration was matched by many online. 

“This is violently sexist,” one person tweeted. “Makes me angry even thinking about this.”

Some mocked the more ridiculous elements of the advice, like the hashtag’s message that somehow women can prevent the virus itself. 

“How will dressing up and putting on makeup at home [prevent] Covid-19? Pray, tell?” one person wrote online. 

Another piece of advice that was largely ridiculed was the suggestion to imitate the cartoon character Doraemon. 

“I think my husband should speak to me in a Doraemon like voice. That will amuse me to bits and put me in a good mood,” a Twitter user said.

Others were outraged that these were the solutions to a happy home in the Ministry’s eyes, especially as more serious problems stem from stay-at-home orders, like a rise in domestic violence.

“How did we go from preventing baby dumping, fighting domestic violence to some sad variant of the Obedient Wives Club?” one person asked online.

Ministry Apologizes

After being scraped over the coals, the Ministry addressed the controversial advice and issued an apology Tuesday night. 

It said its intentions were aimed at “maintaining positive relationships among family members during the period they are working from home.”  

“We apologize if some of the tips we shared were inappropriate and touched on the sensitivities of some parties,” the Ministry said in a statement, adding that they will take caution in the future. 

See what others are saying: (NPR) (Reuters) (Guardian)

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