‘Protectionist’ Trump tariffs ‘offend’ Germany

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said Friday that “dialogue is always the prime option of the European Union,” amid growing trade tensions with the US. (AFP)
Updated 09 March 2018
0

‘Protectionist’ Trump tariffs ‘offend’ Germany

FRANKFURT: US President Donald Trump is “offending” allies and risking a global trade war with his controversial tariffs on steel and aluminum, Germany’s economy minister said Friday.
“This is protectionism which offends close partners like the EU and Germany and which limits free trade,” Brigitte Zypries said in a statement.
“We will stand firmly by the side of our companies and their workers and will now work closely with the European Commission to answer coolly and clearly” Trump’s imposition of 10 percent tariffs on aluminum imports and 25 percent on steel, she added.
Thursday’s announcement from the White House that it would slap levies on imports of the key metals was met with anger from major trading partners like China, Japan and the EU.
While the immediate financial impact of the border duties is small, observers fear they could spark an eye-for-an-eye spiral of countermeasures, as other capitals feel forced to act to protect their own industries.
Brussels has warned it could tax imports of politically sensitive American products such as orange juice or motorcycles in response to Trump’s tariffs.
But Trump said he would simply up levies on car imports from the EU in retaliation — a potentially painful blow for “car nation” and export champion Germany.
In calmer language than seen last weekend, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said Friday that “dialogue is always the prime option of the European Union,” adding that Brussels was “counting on being excluded” from the tariffs after Trump said close allies might be exempt.
But as he announced the tariffs Thursday, Trump declared that “many of the countries that treat us the worst on trade and the military are our allies.”
He singled out Germany for criticism, which books massive trade surpluses and has long failed to meet NATO defense spending targets.
“That’s not fair,” Trump said.
Germany’s exports to the US — its largest trading partner — outweighed imports by €50.5 billion ($62.2 billion) across 2017 and €3.5 billion in January this year, figures released by federal statistics authority Destatis showed Friday.
Strained relations between Washington and its traditional EU allies have grown so bad that European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi issued a call for calm in a Thursday press conference.
“There is a certain worry or concern about the state of international relations, because if you put tariffs against what are your allies, one wonders who the enemies are,” Draghi said.
“Disputes should be discussed and resolved in a multilateral framework,” rather than tit-for-tat exchanges, he added.
News of the US tariffs came as other indicators for the German economy pointed to continuing strong growth into 2018 if it is spared major upsets.
“At least in the near term, prospects for German industry have never looked rosier,” economist Carsten Brzeski of ING Diba bank said after official data showed industrial production held steady in January.
Nevertheless, “the biggest risk for German exports seems to come from the US ... the risk for Germany is for real,” he added.
Some comfort from Berlin comes from the fact that destinations for its exports are “very diversified” around Europe and further afield, Brzeski said.
German business groups offered a mixed response to Trump’s tariff assault, with the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry calling for a proportionate response from the EU.
By contrast, Holger Bingmann of exporters’ association BGA warned that “the EU may now take steps we wouldn’t want ... we call urgently for level-headedness.”


Energy giants spent $1bn on climate lobbying, PR since Paris: watchdog

Updated 23 March 2019
0

Energy giants spent $1bn on climate lobbying, PR since Paris: watchdog

  • Firms under pressure to explain how greener laws will hit business models

PARIS: The five largest publicly listed oil and gas majors have spent $1 billion since the 2015 Paris climate deal on public relations or lobbying that is “overwhelmingly in conflict” with the landmark accord’s goals, a watchdog said Friday.
Despite outwardly committing to support the Paris agreement and its aim to limit global temperature rises, ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP and Total spend a total of $200 million a year on efforts “to operate and expand fossil fuel operations,” according to InfluenceMap, a pro-transparency monitor.
Two of the companies — Shell and Chevron — said they rejected the watchdog’s findings.
“The fossil fuel sector has ramped up a quite strategic program of influencing the climate agenda,” InfluenceMap Executive Director Dylan Tanner told AFP.
“It’s a continuum of activity from their lobby trade groups attacking the details of regulations, controlling them all the way up, to controlling the way the media thinks about the oil majors and climate.”
The report comes as oil and gas giants are under increasing pressure from shareholders to come clean over how greener lawmaking will impact their business models.
As planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions hit their highest levels in human history in 2018, the five companies wracked up total profits of $55 billion.
At the same time, the International Panel on Climate Change — composed of the world’s leading climate scientists — issued a call for a radical drawdown in fossil fuel use in order to hit the 1.5C (2.7 Fahrenheit) cap laid out in the Paris accord.
InfluenceMap looked at accounts, lobbying registers and communications releases since 2015, and alleged a large gap between the climate commitments companies make and the action they take.

 

It said all five engaged in lobbying and “narrative capture” through direct contact with lawmakers and officials, spending millions on climate branding, and by employing trade associations to represent the sector’s interests in policy discussions.
“The research reveals a trend of carefully devised campaigns of positive messaging combined with negative policy lobbying on climate change,” it said.
It added that of the more than $110 billion the five had earmarked for capital investment in 2019, just $3.6bn was given over to low-carbon schemes.
The report came one day after the European Parliament was urged to strip ExxonMobil lobbyists of their access, after the US giant failed to attend a hearing where expert witnesses said the oil giant has knowingly misled the public over climate change.
“How can we accept that companies spending hundreds of millions on lobbying against the EU’s goal of reaching the Paris agreement are still granted privileged access to decision makers?” said Pascoe Sabido, Corporate Europe Observatory’s climate policy researcher, who was not involved in the InfluenceMap report.
The report said Exxon alone spent $56 million a year on “climate branding” and $41 million annually on lobbying efforts.
In 2017 the company’s shareholders voted to push it to disclose what tougher emissions policies in the wake of Paris would mean for its portfolio.
With the exception of France’s Total, each oil major had largely focused climate lobbying expenditure in the US, the report said.
Chevron alone has spent more than $28 million in US political donations since 1990, according to the report.
AFP contacted all five oil and gas companies mentioned in the report for comment.
“We disagree with the assertion that Chevron has engaged in ‘climate-related branding and lobbying’ that is ‘overwhelmingly in conflict’ with the Paris Agreement,” said a Chevron spokesman.
“We are taking action to address potential climate change risks to our business and investing in technology and low carbon business opportunities that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
A spokeswoman for Shell — which the report said spends $49 million annually on climate lobbying — said it “firmly rejected” the findings.
“We are very clear about our support for the Paris Agreement, and the steps that we are taking to help meet society’s needs for more and cleaner energy,” they told AFP.
BP, ExxonMobil and Total did not provide comment to AFP.

FACTOID

$ 28m

Chevron alone has spent more than $28 million in US political donations since 1990, according to the report.