Tesla chief Musk says China trade rules uneven, asks Trump for help

Tesla has been pushing hard to build cars in China but has hit roadblocks in negotiations with local authorities, in part because Elon Musk is keen to keep full control of any local venture. (Reuters)
Updated 09 March 2018

Tesla chief Musk says China trade rules uneven, asks Trump for help

WASHINGTON/SHANGHAI: Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk took to Twitter on Thursday to call on US President Donald Trump to challenge China’s auto trade rules, which limit foreign ownership of Chinese ventures and impose steep tariffs on imported cars.
In a series of tweets aimed at the president, Musk said he was “against import duties in general, but the current rules make things very difficult. It’s like competing in an Olympic race wearing lead shoes.”
Tesla has been pushing hard to build cars in China, the world’s largest auto market, but has hit roadblocks in negotiations with local authorities, in part because Musk is keen to keep full control of any local venture.
“No US auto company is allowed to own even 50 percent of their own factory in China, but there are five 100 percent China-owned EV (electric vehicle) auto companies in the US,” Musk wrote in another tweet.
Tesla “raised this with the prior administration and nothing happened. Just want a fair outcome, ideally where tariffs/rules are equally moderate. Nothing more. Hope this does not seem unreasonable,” he said.
Trump quoted one of Musk’s tweets in his announcement on new tariffs and said American automakers have not been treated fairly by trade rules around the world. Trump announced steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports on Thursday.
Politicians “have known it for years and never did anything about it. It’s got to change,” Trump said, saying he plans to impose a “reciprocal tax” on other countries. “We’re changing things,” Trump added. “We just want fairness.”

Tesla has sought to build a factory in the Chinese financial capital of Shanghai, and last November Musk said he hoped the plant would be operating within three years. However, Tesla and Chinese authorities have yet to announce an agreement.
The Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce did not immediately respond to calls and faxed requests for comment. Tesla officials in China declined to comment.
China has said it will look to lower import taxes for cars and carry out a pilot scheme to loosen foreign ownership rules for new energy vehicles, a term China uses to refer to fully-electric and plug-in hybrid cars.
Late Thursday, Musk struck a more hopeful tone. “To be clear, I think a fair outcome for all is quite likely. China has already shown a willingness to open their markets and I believe they will do the right thing,” he said on Twitter.
China, which is making a major push towards electric cars, requires foreign automakers to build factories in 50-50 joint ventures with domestic Chinese automakers and not allowed them to establish wholly owned factories.
Trump said in an interview in January that “we have helped to build China because they have taken out so much money in terms of trade deficits with this country.”
He added that “when China or another country charges us 50 percent tariffs – more than that in some cases – and we charge them nothing, that’s not fair. That’s not fair.”
China levies a 25 percent duty on sales of imported vehicles. Those are problems for Tesla, which wants to expand its presence in China’s growing electric vehicle market without compromising its independence or intellectual property.
Musk noted that a US car “going to China pays 25 percent import duty, but a Chinese car coming to the US only pays 2.5 percent, a tenfold difference.”
He asked Trump: “Do you think the US & China should have equal & fair rules for cars? Meaning, same import duties, ownership constraints & other factors.”
Trump said the US plans to charge countries a “mirror tax” for what American products face.
Musk has met with Trump on several occasions since his election in November 2016. In June 2017, Musk withdrew from a pair of White House advisory councils after Trump said he would withdraw from the Paris climate accord.


India opens vast railway network to private players

Updated 02 July 2020

India opens vast railway network to private players

  • The 167-year-old train network carries 20 million passengers daily
  • India’s railway ministry said it would now permit businesses to run trains along 109 routes
MUMBAI: India has opened up its vast railway sector to private companies, allowing firms to operate trains on certain routes, in a bid to boost its stuttering, virus-hit economy.
The 167-year-old train network carries 20 million passengers daily but is plagued by deadly accidents, rickety infrastructure, lack of modern amenities and poor investment.
In an announcement late Wednesday, the railway ministry said it would now permit businesses to run trains along 109 routes, inviting bids from firms weeks after New Delhi opened up coal mining to the private sector.
“This is the first initiative of private investment for running passenger trains over Indian Railways network,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The objective of this initiative is to introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance, reduced transit time, boost job creation, provide enhanced safety, provide world class travel experience to passengers,” it added.
The project will require an investment of $39.8 million and private players will have to pay the government fixed haul charges and a percentage of profits determined during the bidding process.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to privatize a range of industries that have been under state control for decades, sparking criticism from the opposition Congress party.
“Now the government is in a desperate mood to sell a great chunk of one of our largest national asset #IndianRailways,” Congress politician Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury tweeted.
“Privatization cannot be construed as a panacea of railways malady,” he added.
The tottering network is notorious for accidents, with 15,000 passengers killed every year according to a 2012 government report that described the deaths as a “massacre.”
Asia’s third-largest economy has been clobbered by the pandemic and a months-long lockdown, growing at its slowest pace in at least two decades last quarter.
The shutdown, which put millions out of work overnight, is widely expected to plunge the country into recession.
Fears for the economy prompted the government to allow many businesses to resume operations starting last month despite an ongoing increase in infections, which have now crossed 600,000.
Even before Modi announced the lockdown in late March, the economy was struggling to gain traction with sluggish growth, record unemployment and a flurry of bad loans making banks reluctant to lend.