Trump Admits Making up Trade Claim in Trudeau Talk

President Donald Trump freestyled with the facts when talking trade with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Republican described the discussion during a fundraising speech in St. Louis on Wednesday.


According to audio obtained by The Washington Post, Trump insisted that the United States runs a trade deficit with Canada.


Trump said Trudeau told him there was no trade deficit. Trump said he replied, “‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know. … I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.'”


Trump claimed the figures don’t include timber and energy.


However, the Office of the United States Trade Representative says the United States has a trade surplus with Canada.



Steel and Aluminum Tariffs Spur a Hot Debate

President Donald Trump’s recently proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum have spurred a hot debate in the U.S. that doesn’t adhere to traditional party lines. Is the administration’s move a boon to American workers or the beginning of a trade war? VOA’s Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren examines the pros, cons, impact and history of tariffs on goods imported to the United States. VOA’s Joan DeLuca reports:



US Pursues WTO Action on Indian Export Subsidies 

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Wednesday that the United States would challenge Indian government export subsidies because they hurt American workers and manufacturers.

Lighthizer said he had requested “dispute settlement consultations” with the Indian government at the World Trade Organization because the subsidies allow India to sell goods at lower prices.

He said his office “will continue to hold our trading partners accountable by vigorously enforcing U.S. rights under our trade agreements and by promoting fair and reciprocal trade through all available tools, including the WTO.”

The announcement is the latest step in President Donald Trump’s trade offensive.The White House has announced tariffs on imported steel and aluminum as well as on imports of solar panels and washing machines.

Lighthizer’s office said India offers benefits valued at $7 billion annually to domestic exporters, such as duty, tax and fee exemptions. Producers of steel, information technology and textiles are among the recipients.

Consultations are the first step in WTO’s dispute settlement process, but Trump has said he does not favor resorting to dispute resolutions at the WTO, where he contends the United States is at a disadvantage.

The administration has instead concentrated efforts on tariffs and remedies as allowed under domestic U.S. law.



Lawsuits Accuse Automakers of Faulty Air Bags, Recall Delays

General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen and Mercedes all knew of problems with dangerous exploding Takata air bag inflators years before issuing recalls, according to three class actions filed Wednesday with the federal court in Miami.

The lawsuits cite company documents obtained through previous legal actions against other automakers over faulty Takata inflators. The plaintiffs allege that automakers were informed of inflator defects during tests but delayed taking action. Allegations against GM are among the most serious. Takata documents showed that GM employees expressed concerns about inflators rupturing as early as 2003.

Messages were left Wednesday seeking comment from GM, VW and Mercedes. Fiat Chrysler declined comment, saying it had not been served with the lawsuit.

Takata uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to create small explosions to inflate air bags. But the chemical can deteriorate when exposed to high temperatures and airborne moisture. That causes it to explode with too much force, blowing apart a metal canister and hurling shrapnel. At least 22 people have died worldwide and more than 180 have been hurt.

The problem touched off the largest series of automotive recalls in U.S. history, with 19 automakers having to recall up to 69 million inflators in 42 million vehicles. The problem brought a criminal conviction and fine against Takata and forced the Japanese company into bankruptcy protection.

The lawsuits, which consolidate individual claims that were filed previously, allege that owners paid higher prices for their vehicles than they would have if the defect had been disclosed.

They allege that manufacturers picked Takata to supply inflators because the cost was less than other air bag makers who used different, less volatile chemicals as propellants. According to the lawsuits, manufacturers had employees who questioned the quality and performance of Takata’s inflators well before any vehicles were recalled.

“These auto manufacturers were well aware of the public safety risks posed by Takata’s airbags long ago, and still waited years to disclose them to the public and take action,” Peter Prieto, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. The lawsuits “are an important step forward in holding them accountable.”

Early concerns

In an April 2003 communication with Takata, GM was concerned about “ballistic variability,” which is a tendency for the air bags to either underinflate or explode when deployed, the lawsuit against GM said. A GM engineer raised concerns about inadequate testing, moisture control and the inability of Takata to meet GM specifications after a 2003 visit to Takata’s factory in Moses Lake, Washington, according to the lawsuit.

In 2004, Takata employees met with GM officials about a tendency for the inflators to shoot flames when they ruptured, and in March of 2006, Takata reported that inflators tested for GM vehicles continued to show “aggressive behavior,” including the escape of “molten propellant” when they ruptured. A Takata employee admitted “we cannot get good results” with the inflator design, the lawsuit stated.

Yet GM didn’t issue any recalls until June of 2014 when it recalled 29,000 Chevrolet Cruze compact cars from the 2013 and 2014 model years, according to the lawsuit. That recall came after Takata reported three exploding inflators in 2010. “Defendants did nothing to meaningfully investigate the problem, notify the appropriate regulators or notify the class [car owners],” the lawsuit stated.

GM also received reports of real-world problems in 2011 and 2014, including one case in which a Cruze driver was blinded in one eye by an exploding inflator, according to the lawsuit. GM and Takata blamed the trouble on a manufacturing problem instead of the deteriorating ammonium nitrate. “Rather than publicize the truth, both Takata and New GM blamed the ruptures on a manufacturing problem,” the lawsuit alleged.

Old GM, the company that existed before seeking bankruptcy protection in 2009, knew of the problems, and New GM, the company that emerged from bankruptcy, kept employees who knew and had the same knowledge, according to the lawsuit.

More recalls

Volkswagen, the lawsuit alleged, had repeated quality issues with Takata dating to 2003, even rejecting products after an audit. Yet no recalls were issued until 2016, the plaintiffs claimed. Daimler AG, maker of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, had concerns about the integrity of Takata inflators in 2003, according to company emails. In 2004, Mercedes engineers agreed to “forego key performance variables” and allow use of Takata inflators, the lawsuit stated. The company didn’t do any recalls until 2016.

Fiat Chrysler didn’t issue its first recall until 2014, even though its engineers expressed concerns about Takata inflators during the early 2000s, the lawsuit stated.

Last year Toyota, BMW, Mazda, Subaru, Nissan and Honda settled similar economic loss class actions for millions of dollars.



Trump Picks Conservative Economist as New White House Adviser

U.S. President Donald Trump is naming Larry Kudlow, a longtime conservative economic analyst and television business show commentator, as his new top White House economic adviser.

The 70-year-old Kudlow told news media he accepted Trump’s offer Wednesday to become director of the White House’s National Economic Council. Reports say a formal announcement could come Thursday.

He will replace former Wall Street financier Gary Cohn, who resigned last week after breaking with President Trump on trade policy. Cohn had lost an internal debate, among Trump advisers, aimed at convincing the president not to impose steep new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.


Kudlow, who was an informal economic adviser to Trump during the first year of his presidency, also opposed Trump’s imposition of the 25 percent levy on steel and 10 percent tax on aluminum. Kudlow, however, was also an adviser to Trump during his successful 2016 White House run and worked with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in designing the tax cut plan Trump pushed through Congress in December.

Kudlow worked decades ago in the White House of President Ronald Reagan, but has spent much of the time since then as a television show host, much like Trump, who served as executive producer of The Apprentice reality television show before turning to politics.

One of Kudlow’s first White House efforts is likely to involve the ongoing renegotiation of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. pact with Canada and Mexico.

Kudlow has said that it would be a “calamitously bad decision” to end the accord, but Trump has said NAFTA has left the United States at a disadvantage in trade deals with the two countries. The president has said he wants better terms for American farmers in their exports to Canada and wants Mexico to step up its border security at the U.S. line to keep undocumented immigrants from crossing into the United States.




Behind the Broadcom Deal Block: Rising Telecom Tensions

Behind the U.S. move to block Singapore-based Broadcom’s hostile bid for U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm lies a new global struggle for influence over next-generation communications technology — and fears that whoever takes the lead could exploit that advantage for economic gain, theft and espionage.

In the Broadcom-Qualcomm deal, the focus is on so-called “5G” wireless technology, which promises data speeds that rival those of landline broadband now. Its proponents insist that 5G, the next step up from the “4G” networks that now serve most smartphones, will become a critical part of the infrastructure powering everything from self-driving cars to the connected home.

5G remains in the early stages of development. Companies including Qualcomm, based in San Diego, and China’s Huawei have been investing heavily to stake their claim in the underlying technology. Such beachheads can be enormously valuable; control over basic technologies and their patents can yield huge fortunes in computer chips, software and related equipment.

“These transitions come along almost every decade or so,” said Jon Erensen, research director for semiconductors at research firm Gartner. “The government is being very careful to ensure the U.S. keeps its leadership role developing these standards.”

President Donald Trump said late Monday that a takeover of Qualcomm would imperil national security, effectively ending Broadcom’s $117 billion buyout bid. Broadcom said that it is studying the order and that it doesn’t believe it poses any national security threat to the U.S.

Higher stakes

It’s the second recent U.S. warning shot across the bow of foreign telecom makers. At a Senate Intelligence Committee meeting in February, FBI Director Christopher Wray said any company “beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values” should not be able to “gain positions of power” inside U.S. telecommunications networks.

“That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure, it provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information and it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage,” he said.

Lawmakers in the U.S. House introduced a bill on Jan. 9 that would prohibit government purchases of telecoms equipment from Huawei Technologies and smaller rival ZTE, citing their ties to the Chinese military and backing from the ruling Communist Party. A few years earlier, a congressional panel recommended phone carriers avoid doing business with Huawei or ZTE.

The stakes are even higher in the 5G race. “Qualcomm/Broadcom is like the Fort Sumter of this technology battle,” said GBH Insights analyst Dan Ives, referring to the battle that kicked off the Civil War.

Although its name isn’t widely known outside the technology industry, San Diego-based Qualcomm is one of the world’s leading makers of the processors that power many smartphones and other mobile devices. Qualcomm also owns patents on key pieces of mobile technology that Apple and other manufacturers use in their products.

Compared to earlier generations of wireless technology, “we’re seeing China emerge and start to play a bigger role in the standards developing process,” Erensen said. Given a wave of consolidation in the telecom-equipment industry, fewer companies are involved “and the stakes are bigger,” he said.

National security

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which reviews the national security implications of foreign investments in U.S. companies, cited concerns about Broadcom’s penchant for cutting costs such as research spending. That could lead to Qualcomm losing its leadership in telecom standards, the committee wrote in a letter earlier in March.

Should that happen, Chinese companies such as Huawei, which the CFIUS has previously expressed concerns about, could take a larger, or even a dominant, role in setting 5G technology and standards and practices. That’s where national security concerns come in.

“Over time, that would mean U.S. government and U.S. technology companies could lose a trusted U.S. supplier that does not present the same national security counterintelligence risk that a Chinese supplier does,” said Brian Fleming, an attorney at Miller & Chevalier and former counsel at the Justice Department’s national security division.

Blocking the deal doesn’t eliminate Chinese influence on 5G development, of course. But it might slow it down, Fleming said: “They honestly believe they are helping to protect national security by doing this.”



Starbucks Signs Licensing Agreement With Brazil Investment Firm

Sao Paulo investment firm SouthRock Capital has signed an agreement with Starbucks that gives it the right to develop and operate branches of the Seattle-based chain in Brazil, the companies said late on Monday.

With the agreement, whose value was not disclosed, all of Starbucks’ retail operations in Latin America are now wholly licensed rather than directly managed, the companies said.

SouthRock founder Ken Pope said in a statement the fund would eye expansion opportunities in new and existing markets.

Starbucks now has 113 stores across the populous states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

“With Starbucks, we see continued opportunities for growth in existing markets … as well as new markets like Brasilia and the South,” he said.

SouthRock, founded in 2015, also owns Brazil Airport Restaurants, which operates in the country’s biggest airports.

Shares in Starbucks opened up 0.5 percent but closed down 0.58 percent. The S&P 500 Index fell 0.64 percent.