Beijing ups trade tensions with new measures on US chemical

Styrene is the building block of many plastics, used to make foam packaging and many disposable plastics. (AFP)
Updated 13 February 2018
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Beijing ups trade tensions with new measures on US chemical

BEIJING: Trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies continued to simmer as Beijing took aim at imports of a key chemical from the US, the latest move in a growing standoff between the pair.
China’s Ministry of Commerce announced Tuesday it had found dumping of styrene imports from the US, Taiwan and South Korea in an initial ruling of an ongoing trade investigation into the chemical.
Dumping, or selling goods at unfairly low prices abroad, can undercut domestic markets at the expense of local industries.
“Mainland China’s styrene industry has suffered substantial harm,” China’s commerce ministry said in a statement, adding that dumping was the cause of this harm.
The initial ruling called for importers to place anti-dumping deposits of five to 10.7 percent with China’s customs administration.
Those deposits will be applied to tariffs if the commerce ministry decides to levy duties in a final ruling.
Styrene is the building block of many plastics, used to make foam packaging and many disposable plastics.
Last year, China imported 3.2 billion kilograms of the chemical from the US worth more than $4 billion.
The measures come a month after the Trump administration launched new tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels and washing machines.
Those tariffs followed a raft of new trade cases against China during Trump’s first year in office, which have rattled Beijing.
Last week, China expressed concern over the ramping up of trade investigations by the US.
Analysts say Beijing is signaling it will take action in a tit-for-tat trade war.
Last week it launched an anti-dumping investigation into sorghum imports from the US, worth almost $1 billion last year.
That was a sliver of the $14 billion in US soybean imports, which a Chinese commerce ministry spokesman also hinted could be in Beijing’s crosshairs.
Soybeans are America’s largest export to China.
The Trump administration has put leveling the trade playing field near the top of its agenda for Sino-US relations.
But in Trump’s first year as president the trade deficit swelled to a record high of $375.2 billion by the US’s counting.


‘There is no free lunch’, Macron tells tech giant CEOs

Updated 24 May 2018
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‘There is no free lunch’, Macron tells tech giant CEOs

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron told executives from the world’s biggest technology firms on Wednesday that he wanted innovation to be a driving force for the French economy, but also that they needed to contribute more to society.
The French leader paints himself as a champion of France’s plugged-in youth and wants to transform France into a “startup nation” that draws higher investments into technology and artificial intelligence. He is also spearheading efforts in Europe to have digital companies pay more tax at source.
Macron’s guest-list included Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, IBM’s Virginia Rometty, Intel Corp’s Brian Krzanich, Microsoft Corp’s Satya Nadella and a raft of other big hitters in the corporate world.
“There is no free lunch,” he quipped in English to the executives lined up on the steps of the Elysee Palace for a photo call at a lunch meeting. “So I want from you some commitments.”
As Macron spoke, IBM announced it would hire about 1,400 people in France over the next two years in the fields of blockchain and cloud computing.
Ride-hailing app Uber also said it planned to offer all its European drivers an upgraded version of the health insurance it already provides in France in a drive to attract independent workers and fend off criticism over their treatment.
Macron will hold one-on-one talks with Mark Zuckerberg on tax and data privacy on the sidelines of the Tech For Good summit — a day after the Facebook chief executive faced questions from European Union lawmakers.
Those talks will be frank, an Elysee official said ahead of the meeting. While Macron will be pitching France Inc, he will also push his case for a European Union tax on digital turnover and a tougher fight against both data piracy and fake news.
Zuckerberg on Tuesday sailed through a grilling from EU lawmakers about the social network’s data policies, apologizing to leaders of the European Parliament for a massive data leak but dodging numerous questions.
Macron told the executives that business needed to do more in tackling issues such as inequality and climate change.
“It is not possible just to have free riding on one side, when you make a good business,” the French president said.