Daily: 04/03/2018

Washington Braces for Possible Trump-Induced Trade War

Washington is bracing for the start of a possible trade war between the United States and its closest allies and biggest commercial partners and a radical departure from America’s trading posture of the last seven decades. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the Trump administration is not backing down from last week’s announcement of looming tariffs on foreign-made steel and aluminum, with further details expected in coming days

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Прокуратура АРК: причетним до організації виборів в анексованому Криму загрожує в’язниця

Прокуратура Автономної Республіки Крим попереджає громадян України, що в разі їхньої участі в організації проведення російських виборів в анексованому Криму, їм загрожує відповідальність за статтею «державна зрада» Кримінального кодексу України.

Про це в коментарі проекту Радіо Свобода «Крим.Реалії ТБ» розповів заступник прокурора АРК Олександр Удовиченко.

«Якщо це громадянин України, то в разі доведення його провини, йому може загрожувати покарання за державну зраду, яке передбачає навіть до 15 років позбавлення волі й відповідальність за незаконне проведення виборів, які Кримінальний кодекс кваліфікує теж як злочин», – повідомив Удовиченко.

У прокуратурі зазначили, що громадянам Росії, які братимуть участь в організації і проведенні виборів на півострові, загрожує переслідування за статтями Кримінального кодексу України про захоплення державної влади й посягання на територіальну цілісність України.

Раніше прокуратура АРК закликала кримчан не брати участь в організації виборів президента Росії в анексованому Криму.

Прокуратура АРК може притягнути до відповідальності 10 тисяч членів виборчих комісій, які організовують російські вибори на анексованому півострові.

Вибори президента Росії призначені на 18 березня 2018 року – річницю російської анексії Криму.

Президент України Петро Порошенко закликав світову громадськість не визнавати результати майбутніх виборів президента Росії в анексованому Криму.

1 березня Верховна Рада України закликала Раду безпеки і Генасамблею ООН, ОБСЄ, Європейський союз, НАТО, міжнародні організації, іноземні парламенти й уряди не визнавати легітимність російських виборів у Криму.

Міжнародні організації визнали окупацію і анексію Криму незаконними і засудили дії Росії. Країни Заходу запровадили низку економічних санкцій. Росія заперечує окупацію півострова й називає це «відновленням історичної справедливості». Верховна Рада України офіційно оголосила датою початку тимчасової окупації Криму й Севастополя Росією 20 лютого 2014 року.

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Будинок Крисіна пікетували з вимогою прийти в суд

Активісти пікетували будинок Юрія Крисіна, фігуранта справи про вбивство журналіста В’ячеслава Веремія, у Гатному під Києвом, повідомляє волонтер Роман Сініцин.

За його словами, з будинку до пікетувальників ніхто не вийшов.

За даними «Громадського», в акції взяли участь близько 50 людей, серед них представники «Автомайдану» і праворадикальної організації «С14».

Учасники акції залили паркан будинку томатним соком і вигукували «Крисіна на нари». Паркан біля будинку обклеїли наліпками «Розшук. Юрій Крисін «Шрек».

Минулого місяця активісти заявили, що знайшли Крисіна у дитячому відділенні лікарні в Києві й облили його зеленкою.

Шевченківський районний суд Києва 22 грудня 2017 року визнав Крисіна винним у хуліганстві – йому призначили покарання у вигляді чотирьох років позбавлення волі з випробувальним терміном два роки. Рішення було оскаржене. Але на засідання Апеляційного суду Києва 1 березня Крисін не з’явився, тому суд ухвалив рішення про примусове його приведення.

Наступне засідання, на яке Нацполіція та прокуратура мають примусово доставити Крисіна, призначили на 19 березня 14:00.

Журналіста газети «Вєсті» В’ячеслава Веремія вбили в Києві вночі 19 лютого 2014 року. Як повідомив сайт видання, Веремій разом із колегою на автомобілі повертався після роботи на Майдані, де виконував редакційне завдання. На розі вулиць Володимирської і Великої Житомирської в Києві на таксі, в якому вони їхали, напали невідомі особи з бейсбольними битками і зброєю, в касках, камуфляжі і чорних масках. Журналіст помер у лікарні швидкої допомоги від вогнепального поранення в живіт.

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Politics a Subtext at Oscars

The Academy Awards, or Oscars, will be presented in Hollywood on Sunday, celebrating the movies and showcasing Hollywood glamour. Mike O’Sullivan reports, the ceremony will probably have some political moments in a year when many in Hollywood have their minds on politics.

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China Doesn’t Want Trade War, but Says It Will Respond if Necessary

China has added its voice to a growing chorus of concern about the rising threat of a trade war and tariffs that U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to impose on steel and aluminum imports later this week.

 

A top Chinese diplomat says that while Beijing does not want a trade war with Washington, it will defend its interests if necessary.

 

Speaking at a press conference ahead of China’s annual legislative meetings, Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui also gave assurances that the rise of world’s second largest economy and a rise in military spending was no cause for alarm.

 

“China does not want a trade war with the Untied States, but we will absolutely not sit idly by and watch as China’s interests are damaged,” Zhang said.

 

Tit for tat

Last week, the U.S. president announced plans to slap tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports.

 

China is a key country Washington is aiming to target with the tariffs, but the decision also has sparked a global backlash with leaders of other affected nations such as Canada and Europe, which are warning they, too, are prepared to take countermeasures.

 

Analysts have said that if President Trump follows through on his pledges to get tough with China on trade, Beijing could respond by targeting the airline and agricultural sectors, even focusing on communities in the United States where support for the president was strong during the 2016 election.

 

Zhang, who also is serving as the rotating spokesperson of the National People’s Congress (NPC) said the best way to improve trade is to open up markets further and expanding the “pie of cooperation.”

 

“If policies are made on the basis of mistaken judgments or assumptions, it will damage bilateral relations and bring about consequences that neither country wants to see,” Zhang said.

 

Rising concerns about a trade war are likely to be a hot topic during the annual political meetings. China’s Premier Li Keqiang will deliver a government work report on Monday to the NPC during its opening session. That speech may highlight Beijing’s concerns as it forecasts the government outlook for the economy in 2018.

 

Moderate increase

The report also will provide details about another closely watched item, China’s military spending.

 

Zhang said China will see a moderate increase in its military budget this year, but argued that was to make up for a shortfall from previous years, upgrade equipment, and improve training and living conditions at the grassroots level for troops, among other reasons.

Zhang did not say how much of a percentage increase China might see this year in its defense spending, but he stressed that the country’s military does not threaten anyone.

 

Analysts tell VOA that spending could grow by about 10 percent, but they note that the real figure is perhaps much larger.

 

“China’s defense budget takes up a smaller share of its gross domestic product [GDP] and national fiscal expenditure than other major world countries. Its military spending per capita is also lower than other major countries,” he said.

 

Last year, China disclosed that it spent nearly $165 billion on its military about one-fourth of what the United States plans to spend on defense this year.

 

China model

Despite assurances, China’s broader strategic intentions are still something that Washington and other countries in the region watch closely.

 

Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China has begun assuming a bigger role on the global stage and has launched several initiatives of its own, including a massive trillion-dollar trade and infrastructure project called the “Belt and Road” initiative.

During this year’s annual meetings, China’s communist party aims to solidify its self-proclaimed position as the only political organization qualified to rule the country, with the passage of 21 constitutional amendments.

 

One key amendment in the package is a proposal to scrap restrictions regarding the number of terms the president can serve in office. The proposal paves the way for Xi to become China’s president indefinitely, although state media denies Xi will be granted tenure for life.

When asked, Zhang did not respond to the question of whether the changes would give Xi lifelong tenure. He only said that the amendments would help unify the country’s leadership under Xi as China’s “core leader.”

 

The proposal, along with China’s growing ambitions to showcase what it calls the China model or “China Solution” has led to concerns that Beijing’s communist leaders will seek to spread their model of rule.

 

Zhang said that each country has its own development path and model, and Beijing will not import models from other countries, nor will it export its own.

 

“We will not ask other countries to copy China’s practices, but of course if some countries are interested in learning China’s experiences and practices, we are ready and willing to share our experiences with them,” Zhang said.

 

Zhang added that China will not impose anything on others and has no intention of overthrowing the existing international order or trying to start again.

 

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EU Aims to Tax Internet Giants at ‘Two to Six Percent’: France

The EU will soon unveil a plan for taxing major internet companies like Amazon and Facebook by imposing a levy of two to six percent on revenues in every country where they operate, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said Sunday.

“The range will be from two to six percent; but closer to two than to six,” Le Maire told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

The European Commission has said it will present by end March an overhaul of its tax rules, which currently allow US digital economy giants to report their income from across the bloc in any member state.

That leads them to pick low-tax nations like Ireland, the Netherlands or Luxembourg, depriving other nations of their share of the revenue even though they may account for more of a company’s earnings.

“The heads of these companies know themselves that this system can’t continue,” Le Maire said.

Critics say the tax-avoidance strategies used by the tech titans known as GAFA — Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple — deprive EU governments of billions of euros while giving them an unfair advantage over smaller rivals. 

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says such strategies cost governments around the world as much as $240 billion (195 billion euros) a year in lost revenue, according to a 2015 estimate.

Asked if the proposed rate might be criticised as too low, Le Maire said: “I would rather have a law that can be implemented quickly instead of drawn-out negotiations.”

American tech giants appear to believe the European tax revamp is in the cards, with several already announcing pledges to pay more in each country where they operate as governments step up their fiscal demands.

Amazon said last month that it had settled a major tax claim in France and that it would start declaring all its earnings in the country.

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Trump Puts Aside Feud With Media For Annual Dinner

President Donald Trump engaged in a good-natured duel of one-liners with political rivals and the press at the annual Gridiron Dinner this weekend, largely putting aside his ongoing criticism of the media for a night.

Trump dished out sharp one-liners throughout his comments Saturday night, occasionally lapsing into recurring themes about the 2016 election and media bias.

“Nobody does self-deprecating humor better than I do. It’s not even close,” said Trump, who skipped last year’s dinner. He also said: “I was very excited to receive this invitation and ruin your evening in person. That’s why I accepted.”

The annual dinner of the Gridiron Club and Foundation, now in its 133rd year, traced its history to 1885, the year President Grover Cleveland refused to attend. Every president since has come to at least one Gridiron.

“Rest assured, Mr. President, this crowd is way bigger than Cleveland’s,” Club President David Lightman, congressional editor for McClatchy News, told the white-tie audience at the Renaissance Washington Hotel. The organization said the event attracted about 660 journalists, media executives, lawmakers, administration officials and military officers.

Members of the Washington press corps sharpened their wits for musical and rhetorical takedowns of the president, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama. Trump’s speech lasted more than a half hour and included plenty of one-liners.

A sampling:

— On his son-in-law: “We were late tonight because Jared could not get through security.”

— On Vice President Mike Pence: “He is one of the best straight men you’re ever going to meet … he is straight. Man.” Trump also said, “I really am proud to call him the apprentice ”

— On Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “I offered him a ride over and he recused himself. What are you going to do?”

— On The New York Times: “I’m a New York icon. You’re a New York icon. And the only difference is I still own my buildings.”

— On former chief strategist Steven Bannon: “That guy leaked more than the Titanic.”

— On the first lady: Trump said he doesn’t understand why everyone says #Freemelania. He said she’s actually having a great time.

Toward the end of his comments, Trump couldn’t resist some of his favorite themes, revisiting his election night victory and chiding reporters to be fair.

He closed by saying: “I just want to say this, this is one of the best times I’ve had with the media — this might be the most fun I’ve had since watching your faces on election night.”

He recalled the close race in Michigan, saying the media wouldn’t call it for him, even though he had a good margin of victory. And he accused some reporters of not being impartial in their coverage.

For much of the night he was a good sport — laughing and applauding at times during the evening’s entertainment. Hours earlier, Trump had fired off a sharp tweet at the national press:

“Mainstream Media in U.S. is being mocked all over the world. They’ve gone CRAZY!” He linked to a story by a conservative pundit saying Trump and his family are victims of “unparalleled” press attacks.

The major political parties found themselves skewered in parody songs in musical skits. By Gridiron tradition, comments came from one Republican, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and one Democrat, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Cotton made light of what he called the source of his personality: the common touch of Harvard, the sensitivity of the Army, and the personal touch of Dick Cheney. On the Russia investigation, he said, “Everyone knows the Trump campaign couldn’t collude with the RNC in Pennsylvania.” The only senator in his 30s says he’s looking for a role model and “the search continues.”

With an eye on the president, Landrieu said: “We’re both overweight and balding. I just have an easier time admitting it.” Noting that Trump had a lonely job, the mayor remarked, “I understand lonely because I’m a Democrat from the South.” The New Orleans official also observed, “No matter how many times we say it, we don’t drain the swamps either.”

The Gridiron Dinner’s reputation as a night of bipartisan mirth was evidenced by those who accepted invitations, including last year’s headliner, Vice President Pence. Also accepting invitations were at least eight members of Trump’s Cabinet, six senators, four House members, and presidential relatives-turned-advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the foundation said in a statement.

By tradition, the evening’s musical entertainment revolved around musical skits and takeoffs of well-known songs performed by journalists pretending to be newsmakers.

A cast member playing House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi turned to “I’m Against It,” a song from the Marx Brothers film “Duck Soup,” to explain her attitude toward Trump: “I don’t know what Trump has to say/It makes no difference anyway/Whatever it is, we’re against it/Even if our own side once professed it/We’re against it.”

A cast member playing Hillary Clinton offered her version of the song “You’re So Vain,” the title referring to her, but the lyrics aimed at the president: “You walked into my West Wing/My White House or so I thought/Your tie strategically dropped below your belt/Your hair it was apricot.”

A charitable organization, the Gridiron Club and Foundation contributes to college scholarships and journalistic organizations. Active membership is limited to 65 Washington-based journalists.

Trump wrapped up the evening on an upbeat note.

“I want to thank the press for all you do to support and sustain our democracy,” he said in closing.

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Trump Threatens to Tax European-built Cars as Trade War Rhetoric Builds

President Donald Trump threatened on Saturday to impose a tax on European cars if the European Union chooses to retaliate against his plans to place tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

In a tweet Saturday morning, Trump said the U.S. had an “$800 Billion Dollar Yearly” trade imbalance because of “very stupid” trade deals and policies. He warned that if the EU increased “tariffs and barriers” against American-made products, “we will simply add a Tax on their Cars.”

Presently, the U.S. imposes a 2.5 percent tariff on European-built cars and Europe imposes a 10 percent tariff on U.S.-built cars.

Earlier this week, Trump announced that he plans sometime in the coming week to impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports. He said the tariffs would be in effect for a long period of time.

Trump’s tweet Saturday appeared to be in response to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s warning that the EU could respond by taxing quintessentially American-made products, such as bourbon whiskey, blue jeans and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Juncker told German media Friday that he does not like the words “trade war.” “But I can’t see how this isn’t part of warlike behavior,” he said.

Trump had tweeted earlier in the day: “Trade wars are good, and easy to win.”

Trump’s announcement, made during a meeting with steel and aluminum industry executives at the White House, led a sharp drop in the U.S. markets and sparked concerns of a trade war Friday.

China, Canada respond

Later Friday, China warned about the “huge impact” on global trading if Trump proceeds with his tariff plans.

Wang Hejun, head of China’s commerce ministry’s trade remedy and investigation bureau, said in a statement the tariffs would “seriously damage multilateral trade mechanisms represented by the World Trade Organization and will surely have huge impact on normal international trade order.” 

The Chinese official added, “If the final measures of the United States hurt Chinese interests, China will work with other affected countries in taking measures to safeguard its own rights and interests.”

China ranks 11th among the countries that export steel to the U.S. 

Canada is the United States’ biggest foreign source of both materials.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that Trump’s tariff plans were “absolutely unacceptable.” He said he is prepared to “defend Canadian industry” and warned the tariffs would also hurt U.S. consumers and businesses by driving up prices.

The director of the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevedo, responded coolly, saying, “A trade war is in no one’s interests.” 

Trump spent Friday defending his threat to impose the tariffs, saying potential trade conflicts can be beneficial to the United States.

“When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win,” Trump wrote in a post on the social media site Twitter. “Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore – we win big. It’s easy!” 

A Japanese government official told VOA that Tokyo “has explained several times to the U.S. government our concerns,” but declined to comment further on any ongoing discussions with Washington.

“While we are aware of the president’s statement, we understand that the official decision has not been made yet,” the Japanese official said. “If the U.S. is going to implement any measures, we expect the measures be WTO-rules consistent.” 

China on Friday expressed “grave concern” about the matter. 

Trump said Thursday the tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports will be in effect for a long period of time. He said the measure will be signed “sometime next week.” 

In 2017, Canada, Brazil, South Korea and Mexico accounted for nearly half of all U.S. steel imports. That year, Chinese steel accounted for less than 2 percent of overall U.S. imports.

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Italians Vote Sunday for New Parliament, With Populism Taking Front Seat

Italy’s former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, made a surprise appearance at a chapel in Naples Saturday, one day before Italians vote in a general election to select a new parliament.

Politicians were forbidden to campaign Saturday, but Berlusconi’s visit to the Sansevero chapel drew crowds of journalists and fans. The 81-year-old Berlusconi told reporters that he and his 30-year-old girlfriend were visiting the chapel as tourists. He said the chapel was part of the country’s heritage, to which “no other country in the world can remotely compete against.”

Berlusconi, who served four terms as prime minister, cannot run in Sunday’s election because of a tax fraud conviction in 2013; but he is the driving force behind the center-right Forza Italia party and has thrown his support behind former European Parliament President Antonio Tajani to serve as prime minister if the party wins enough seats.

But forecasters say the election results will probably not end with a clear party as winner, forcing the parties to form a ruling coalition — something that could mean weeks of uncertainty as the parties compete and compromise in a bid to form a workable team.

Populism is a strong force in this election, as it was in recent elections in Britain, France, and Germany.

Three populist-driven major parties are fielding candidates and promising to crack down on immigration. Forza Italia could find coalition partners in the far-right Brothers of Italy or the anti-migrant Lega, or League, party.

Also populist is the Five-star Movement, but the party takes an anti-establishment stance and has vowed not to form coalitions.

On the left, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party, the leader of the ruling coalition, could see a drop in support due to Italy’s sluggish economy, with high unemployment and stagnant economic growth. Italy is also struggling to accommodate a large influx of immigrants, and Renzi is personally unpopular.

The Democratic Party is in a coalition with the Democratic Progressive Party and the Italian Left.

Of those, the Democratic Party is by far the strongest player — but this year’s wave of Italian populism could deliver victory for the right wing on Sunday.

With that outcome, Italians may find themselves with a governing coalition focused on cracking down on immigration, reforming the nation’s tax system, and trying to bridge complicated divides — with no guarantee of positive results.

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Polish Group Sues Argentine Paper Under New Holocaust Law

A Polish campaign group is suing an Argentine newspaper it says breached a new law that makes it a criminal offence to suggest Poland was complicit in the Holocaust.

In what appeared to be the first legal action under the so-called Holocaust law, just hours after it took effect, the Polish League Against Defamation said it filed a complaint against Argentina’s Pagina 12 daily. The paper said it had not received formal notice of the lawsuit.

A minister from Poland’s conservative government applauded the move to invoke the law which Warsaw says will protect it from slander, but which the United States and Israel said would suppress authentic historic research and free speech.

The League, a non-governmental group that campaigns to protect Poland’s historical reputation abroad, said that in December 2017 Pagina 12 used a photograph of Polish so-called ‘doomed soldiers’ who fought against communists after the war to illustrate an article on the Jedwabne pogrom of 1941 in which Nazi occupiers and local inhabitants colluded in the massacre of at least 340 Jews.

“The combination of these two threads: information about the crime on Jews in Jedwabne during the German occupation and the presentation of fallen soldiers of the independence underground is manipulation, an act to the detriment of the Polish nation,” the organization said in a statement.

The ruling Law and Justice party has praised the “doomed soldiers.” While many are seen as national heroes in the struggle against Soviet domination, some led killings of Jews, Belarusians and other minorities.

In an article posted on its website on Saturday evening, Pagina 12 said, “this newspaper did not receive any legal communication and only learned of the information through international news agency reports.”

“If successful, this attempt at international censorship could threaten freedom of expression worldwide,” the article read.

Deputy Justice Minister Michal Wojcik said he hoped the case would go to court.

“The organization has a right to submit such a notice. If the court decides the complaint is admissible – and it should do so — then there will be a court case,” he told private radio station Zet.

Jews from across Europe were sent to be killed at death camps built and operated by Germans in occupied Poland — home to Europe’s biggest Jewish community at the time — including Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.

Some 3 million Jews who lived in pre-war Poland were murdered by the Nazis, accounting for about half of all Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Thousands of Poles risked their lives to protect Jewish neighbors during the war. But research published since the fall of communism in 1989 showed that thousands also killed Jews or denounced those who hid them to the Nazi occupiers, challenging the national narrative that Poland was solely a victim.

According to figures from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Nazis, who invaded Poland in 1939, also killed at least 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians.

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