President Trump’s Turbulent Trade Tomfoolery

By Indri Schaelicke | United States

Over the past week, much confusion has surrounded the future of the US-China trade war that Trump has moved to start. Just a few days ago, all signs were pointing toward a de-escalation of trade tensions as both China and the US seemed ready to come to the table to make a deal.

But only 2 days later, it appears that the US will be starting this trade war after all. On Tuesday, the Trump Administration announced it would enact 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion in imports by June 15. The White House will also announce investment restrictions on Chinese purchases of U.S. technology two weeks later. The administration’s inability to present a clear, coherent plan threatens the stability of the market as people speculate about the future of  America’s trade policy. Over the past 5 days, the stock price of America’s largest steel producer, Nucor, has fluctuated between $62.50 and $64.50 as instability rocks the steel market. People are unsure about the fate of steel prices and are hesitant to invest in the steel industry.

Beyond instability however, there are several other issues that protectionism fails to consider. Tariffs are put into place in an effort to protect domestic companies and workers from competition from abroad. By placing import tariffs on Chinese products, the Trump administration is hoping that they can promote increased purchases on American produced products. The administration is specifically targeting protecting the steel industry, but the tariffs imposed will affect a multitude of others.

Take a look around you and notice how many things you use everyday are made of steel. The device you are using right now to read this article contains steel components. The car you drive, the tools you use, the appliances in our homes, all have important steel parts. Tariffs on steel will drive up the price of American steel and make it more difficult for companies who create products with steel components to price their own products at an affordable price. When a cost of an input in production rises, so does the final product itself. Steel tariffs will impact many industries and jack up prices across the economy.

Throughout his campaign, Trump was committed to protecting American jobs and making it a global economic force. His solution of imposing protectionist policies is not one that will lead to the greatest economic growth. Rather than isolating the US and hurting our economy, he should be looking to expand it and make it competitive in the global markets.

President Trump has already enacted large scale regulatory reform, a move that will surely help the economy boom. The corporate tax cuts introduced and signed in December 2017 have also reduced the tax strain on corporations and given them greater ability to invest and build their business. Enacting protectionist policies will only reverse the good being done for the economy.

Instead of driving up the prices of US products, which will decrease our net exports as other nations cannot afford our goods and services, Trump should aim to do just the opposite- steps should be taken to lower production costs and therefore lower the costs of final goods and services. Tariffs and other protectionist policies hike up the prices of our goods and services and make them unable to compete in the global economy.

Reducing barriers to trade is one simple way to decrease the cost of production of goods and services in the US. If the White House embraces free trade, it will see America prosper and little loss of jobs.

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Analysis: Uber, Google? A Self-Driving Super Team Might Be In The Works

Eli Ridder | @EliRidder

Uber, the company behind the popular ride-hailing and food-delivery service, is working towards partnering with Google’s sister company, Waymo, to bring its self-driving technology to its main app, suggesting a thaw between two bitter sides.

Uber’s Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi said as much while on stage at the the popular Code Conference on Wednesday, explaining that Uber’s relations with Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo was improving following a $245 million legal dispute.

“We’re having discussions with Waymo. If something happens, great. If not, we can live with that, too,” Khosrowshahi told gathered media and technology professionals, amateurs and reporters in a small city near Los Angeles, California.

Uber agreed to pay Waymo $245 million in shares to settle a legal dispute over trade secrets that was filed in January 2017 and was described as a “public relations nightmare” by The Verge, and found its origin in the mishandling of Google’s privacy.

In a lawsuit filed last year, Waymo said that one of its former engineers who became chief of Uber’s self-driving car project took with him thousands of confidential documents during the time Travis Kalanick was the chief executive of Uber.

Mr. Khosrowshahi said he believes the technology behind autonomous driving will be shared, and that any company such as Waymo that wants to lead the sector will need to partner with Uber because of Uber’s network of smartphone users.

However, Waymo has plans to launch an app-based service in 2018 that offers rides to passengers in a fully self-driving vehicle, and also holds a partnership with Uber rival Lyft Inc., which has seen recent foreign growth, such as in Canada.

Waymo has not given comment over Khosrowshahi’s announcement yet.

Uber has had its own recent struggles with self-driving technology, with the United States-based company shutting down its testing in Arizona earlier this month after a crash that resulted in the death of a 49-year-old mother of two.

Khosrowshahi said his company is aiming to return to the road “over the summer, saying that the incident will eventually make Uber a “better company”.

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Second Day of Pre-Summit Nuclear Talks for U.S., North Korea

Eli Ridder | @EliRidder

A second day of meetings between top diplomatic officials of the United States and North Korea are underway in New York, in an attempt to discuss nuclear disagreements and prepare for a planned historic summit between leaders.

This series of talks come after several months of unprecedented international engagement by the isolated North, which started with Winter Olympic participation in South Korea and included a letter offering talks to U.S. President Donald Trump.

After a year of major advancements in the North Korean nuclear weapons program that led to high tensions between Pyongyang, Washington and much of the world that led to a surge in aggressive sanctions, its leader has sued for some peace.

The U.S. has formally been demanding that the North, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, drop its nuclear and long-range missile programs amid reports that it could hit mainland North America.

The DPRK has long insisted it needed nuclear weapons for security on the world stage, but journalists were invited to watch the North appear to destroy their nuclear test site on May 24.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice-Chairman of the ruling DPRK council Kim Yong Chol launched day two of talks in New York following a 90-minute private dinner on Wednesday night that officials have been tight-lipped about.

Meetings this week follow the newly appointed secretary of state’s previous visits to the DPRK in April and earlier this month to launch negotiations ahead of what would be a historic summit planned for June 12.

Differences between Washington and Pyongyang led Mr. Trump to cancel the summit in a letter to counterpart Kim Jung Un before diplomatic efforts were renewed in the past week.

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The Flag Takes a Knee all the Time, and Nobody Minds

By Craig Axford | United States

Santa Fe High School in Texas, Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, a country music concert in Las Vegas, the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando… The list goes on and on.

After each of these mass shootings, the flag gets lowered. It figuratively takes a knee as we collectively mourn a death toll that cumulatively rivals that experienced in some war zones around the world. I go downtown and see a flag flying at half mast and think nothing of it. It seems down as often as it’s up these days. No one seems to mind.

But there is at least one group for whom it never gets lowered. We kill, wound, and incarcerate our black youth at a rate that would make any ethnic cleanser proud. The flag keeps flying high. If athletes take a knee in protest we’ll lower our standards of free speech before we think of dropping the flag to half mast to mourn that particular senseless loss of life and potential.

The flag and the national anthem receive an unhealthy amount of attention in the United States. It’s unnatural for a republic built upon the enlightenment values of freedom of speech, freedom of association, and representative government to put so much emphasis on a piece of cloth that merely represents these values. We behave as though the red, white, and blue is where the value resides.

Consider the awkward wording of the Pledge of Allegiance:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Why would I pledge allegiance to a flag? I might as well pledge allegiance to a sheet or my favorite childhood blanket. But in this pledge “the Republic for which it [the flag] stands” is added almost as an afterthought. It’s the Republic’s flag, not the Republic, that gets top billing. The Constitution isn’t mentioned at all. I guess it is considered part of the “Republic for which [the flag] stands” and so it’s covered.

There is that bit at the end about “liberty and justice for all”, but it’s precisely our imperfect application of that ideal many NFL players are protesting. The Republic, or a significant portion of it, would sooner impose fines on NFL teams that allow their players to engage in liberties like freedom of expression than diss the flag.

There are still those that think we need a flag burning/desecration amendment because we’re in danger of forgetting that what makes this country great is a piece of fabric going up and half down the pole every month as if heads of state were dropping like aging Soviet premiers in the early 1980s. However, everyone should feel free to start their campfires with spare copies of the Constitution. Not even the president of the “Republic for which it stands” has bothered to take the time to read that document.

I’m tired of all the thoughts and prayers and all the visual displays of patriotism Americans are so fond of offering up at every sporting event and tragedy. It’s all bullshit. Symbolism and piousness are worse than hollow gestures if they only serve as a means of evading the actual hard work of democracy.

If our precious flag doesn’t serve as a reminder of the importance of freedom of expression, then we should just take it down and leave the flagpole bare. If our thoughts and prayers aren’t going to be followed up with action, then we should abandon the god under which our republic stands in favor of a deity less tolerant of our hypocritical displays of piety. Until then, I won’t be standing for the pledge or national anthem again.

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South Korea Proposes Lifting ICO Ban

By Ryan Lau | @agorists

In 2017, South Korea placed a ban on Initial Coin Offerings. This means of raising money, better known as an ICO, is similar to an Initial Public Offering, or IPO. Essentially, an ICO is when new projects sell crypto tokens in exchange for bitcoin or ether.

Though many companies use ICO without issue, the potential for scams led to both China and South Korea making the process illicit. However, the latter is looking to go back on this policy.

A Business Korea report Tuesday detailed that the nation’s National Assembly officially stated that the startup method should be legal. Despite this, they did admit a desire for some regulations on the process to protect investors. Without regulation, they claim investors are at risk of giving money to false ICOs that claim to represent major companies.

The shift shows South Korea’s reaction to an ineffective law, as the NA admits many did not adhere to it. Instead, they went to Switzerland or Singapore, paying extra money to go where ICO is legal. By making ICO legal, the NA may bring some of this business back to the country.

The proposal, as of right now, has the backing of the 300 member NA. However, the full legislative process has yet to occur, so it is not yet an official act of the nation.

Once made a law, the proposal will spur on talk between South Korea’s government and the private sector. These talks will help the nation to agree on the level of regulation that should exist for ICOs.

Essentially, the law would return ICO to its prior legal state. Following this, the talks would then seek to impose some form of regulations once more. This will likely include a legal basis for crypto trading, as opposed to the agora that now exists in the crypto market.

For now, the market and the people of South Korea can only wait to see if the NA will push forth new legislation on ICO projects.

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