Saturday, 13 May 2017

Weekend Update 13/05/2017 The Trade Wars Have Begun.

“I think we agree, the past is over.”

President George W. Bush.

With the Trumpian White House charging around like a bull in a china shop, we open with the advice to make some tea, sit down, relax and enjoy some pleasant Albinoni, before reading on. The past seems to be over.

Pax Americana 1945 – 2008 is over. An all against all, no holds barred, anything goes, global free fight is opening up. The Great Nixonian Error of Fiat money, communist money, of August 15, 1971, has now entered its final self destructive phase. As Germany and Japan found out last century, only a fool makes war on the world. After treading on egg shells since Presidents G. W. Bush and Obama, Washington seems to have blundered across red lines all over the planet.

Forget the G-7 finance ministers meeting underway in Bari Italy, or the Great Leaders meeting threatening travel havoc in “Sodom-on-the-Sea," Sicily May 26-27, the long threatened trade wars seem to have already started without them.

The new generation of leaders like Macron, now taking power across planet earth, have never known real money. For them money is what the government prints and issues. Money has no intrinsic value, no store of value. It’s a mere token, a means of exchange. Our central banksters believe in fantasies like negative interest rates, electronically printing “money” to fund government vanity projects and bribes to voters and special interests. We have reached the final excess phase of non-metallic money. Sea shells, pelts, Hudson Bay blankets, casino token chips, all will fail as money in our war of all against all.

U.S. Inks Trade Deal With China Promoting Natural Gas, Beef

by Toluse Olorunnipa and Dan Murtaugh
12 May 2017, 04:00 GMT+1 12 May 2017, 09:26 GMT+1
The U.S. and China reached agreement to promote shipments of American natural gas and beef that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said was part of a broader effort to begin reshaping the trade relationship between the world’s two largest economies.

The agreement covers 10 areas where negotiators from the two sides have reached consensus, including agricultural trade and market access for financial services. By mid-July, U.S. beef producers will have broader access to Chinese markets, while America will move forward on allowing the import of cooked poultry from China, according to a joint statement announcing the deal.

The statement didn’t appear to change access for Chinese companies to U.S. natural gas exports, but welcomed China to receive shipments and engage in long-term supply contracts with American suppliers. Ross said officials from Dow Chemical Co. gave assurances that increasing exports of natural gas wouldn’t harm the U.S. industry or consumers if sales remained less than 30 percent of total output.

“This will let China diversify, somewhat, their sources of supply and will provide a huge export market for
American LNG producers,” Ross told reporters at a White House briefing on Thursday, using an acronym for liquefied natural gas.

The agreements, which grew out of a 100-day action plan announced during an April meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, appeared to build on or repeat some commitments that China has already made. Still, they represented the first negotiated pact on trade for Trump, who campaigned on promises to get tough on China on trade before softening his tone as he’s sought cooperation on North Korea.

----China imports of U.S. liquefied natural gas picked up last year after Cheniere Energy Inc. launched the first in a wave of new plants designed to liquefy and export abundant U.S. shale gas. American supplies accounted for almost 7 percent of China’s total imports in March, customs data shows. Chinese companies already have long-term contracts with non-U.S. suppliers for more LNG than domestic demand requires through at least 2023, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Fri May 12, 2017 | 4:09am EDT

Mexico warns U.S. of alternatives on trade, points to China

Mexico sent a stark message to U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday, saying an upcoming visit by Mexican officials to China showed Latin America's second largest economy had other places to export to if he tore up the NAFTA trade deal.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) underpins Mexico's economy, prompting the government to try and diversify away from the United States, which takes 80 percent of its exports.
Trump indicated in an interview with The Economist published on Thursday that he wanted to get the U.S.-Mexico trade deficit down to about zero. He wants to renegotiate NAFTA to get a better deal for U.S. companies and workers, and has threatened to end the agreement if he does not get his way.

"We will use (the China visit) geopolitically as strategic leverage" said Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, answering questions on trade at the Mexico Business Forum. "It sends the signal that we have many alternatives."

Guajardo noted Mexico sends China a fraction of its total exports, and that the two major manufacturing nations tend to compete rather than complement one another on trade.

He also offered a rebuke to China on its trade policy.

"We all know that China is not a free trader, that's the reality," he said. But he added that Mexico has had success persuading China to ease trade barriers on some goods and expects it to continue to open up as its economy matures.

The trip to China would be in September, Guajardo said, but he did not provide details.

A Mexican diplomat in Beijing told Reuters he was referring to the China International Fair for Investment & Trade summit in Xiamen. "High-level contact is very frequent," said the diplomat, who was not authorized to comment.

Guajardo said he was also working on a "radical broadening" of preferred tariffs with Brazil and Argentina to lower the cost of importing grains from the South American nations while giving Mexico better access to their manufacturing markets.

"If NAFTA disappears, I can export cars (to the United States) paying 2.5 percent tariffs. If they want to export yellow corn to me, I can raise tariffs to inaccessible levels," Guajardo said. "But to make that strategy credible, I have to broaden our agreements with Brazil and Argentina."
Fri May 12, 2017 | 4:08am EDT

Mexican beef exporters look to Muslim markets as U.S. alternatives

Mexico's growing beef industry is targeting Muslim consumers in the Middle East for its prime cuts as it seeks to reduce dependence on buyers in the United States.

The potential for a U.S.-Mexico trade war under President Donald Trump has accelerated efforts by Mexican beef producers to explore alternative foreign markets to the United States, which buys 94 percent of their exports worth nearly $1.6 billion last year.

Trump has vowed to redraw terms of trade with Mexico and Canada to the benefit of the United States. Mexican beef companies fear they may be dragged into a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement between the three countries.

That has firms looking to the Middle East, where most meat is imported from non-Muslim countries using animals slaughtered by the halal method prescribed by Islamic law.

Mexico, the world's sixth biggest beef producer, plans to quadruple exports of halal beef to 44 million pounds (20,000 tonnes) by the end of 2018 from 11 million pounds (5,000 tonnes) this year, according to data from the Mexican cattle growers association AMEG.

The country should have 15 plants certified to produce halal meat by the end of next year, up from a current six, according to AMEG data.

Jesus Vizcarra, chief executive and owner of SuKarne, Mexico's biggest beef exporter, said his company sees big potential for sales to Muslim-majority countries.

"We have to seek out more markets," he said in an interview, pointing to near-term targets in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Lebanon.

"There's an opportunity in these Middle Eastern countries," said Vizcarra, who is known in Mexico as the King of Beef and has boasted of being born in a slaughterhouse.

Fri May 12, 2017 | 4:08am EDT

Mexico says called Trump's bluff when he eyed NAFTA exit

Mexico said on Thursday it had called U.S. President Donald Trump's bluff over his suggestion he only decided to stay in the North American Free Trade Agreement as a favor to the leaders of Mexico and Canada after they asked him to renegotiate the deal.

However, Mexico's government said it had sent a very different message to the United States during a crisis over NAFTA's future late last month, when Trump considered starting the six-month process for withdrawing from the accord.

"The message was: if you guys think we're going to start negotiations with the trigger pulled on a U.S. exit in six months, forget about it!" Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told an audience at the Mexico Business Forum.

"If you do that, just get out already - because there's no way we're negotiating under those conditions," he said.

Guajardo said talk of the United States preparing to leave NAFTA was likely part of a strategy to press Congress to approve Trump's pick for U.S. trade representative.

While Mexico and Canada helped change Trump's mind, so did members of his cabinet, U.S. lawmakers and U.S. producers that would be hurt by a U.S. exit from NAFTA - showing the limits to Trump's unilateral moves, the minister argued.

Guajardo said the plan to trigger a U.S. withdrawal of NAFTA was done "in desperation, which occurs very frequently these days in those parts" - an apparent jab at the way Trump has rolled out some of his key policy proposals.

Mexico's ties with the United States have been strained by Trump's repeated pledge to dump NAFTA if he cannot secure better terms for U.S. workers and industry in a renegotiation.

Sat May 13, 2017 | 12:50am EDT

China's Xi offers indebted Greece strong support

Chinese President Xi Jinping offered the prime minister of deeply indebted Greece strong support on Saturday, saying the two countries should expand cooperation in infrastructure, energy and telecommunications.

Xi told Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that Greece was an important part in China's new Silk Road strategy.
"At present, China and Greece's traditional friendship and cooperation continues to glow with new dynamism," China's Foreign Ministry cited Xi as saying.

Cooperation in infrastructure, energy and telecommunications should be "deep and solid", Xi added, without giving details.

Tsipras is in Beijing to attend a summit to promote Xi's vision of expanding links between Asia, Africa and 
Europe underpinned by billions of dollars in infrastructure investment called the Belt and Road initiative.

Greek infrastructure development group Copelouzos has signed a deal with China's Shenhua Group [SHGRP.UL] to cooperate in green energy projects and the upgrade of power plants in Greece and other countries, the Greek company said on Friday.

The deal will involve total investment of 3 billion euros ($3.28 billion), Copelouzos said in a statement, without providing further details.

China has been investing heavily in Greece in recent years.

In other news, the old certainties are collapsing, who can rely on anything, in our new uncertain century. Gone is “women and children first,” welcome to America First and “every man for himself.” Did America's NSA just hack Europe and Britain's NHS?

Fri May 12, 2017 | 10:01pm EDT

With a threat of 'tapes,' Trump tells ousted FBI chief not to talk to media

Donald Trump warned ousted FBI Director James Comey on Friday not to talk to the media, a highly unusual move that prompted fresh charges the president is trying to silence the man who led an investigation into possible collusion between Trump's election campaign and Russia.

On Twitter, Trump appeared to suggest that if Comey gave his version of contacts between them, the administration might produce tapes of conversations, although it was not clear if such tapes exist. The veiled threat added to the storm over Trump's abrupt firing of Comey on Tuesday.

Critics have assailed Trump for dismissing the FBI chief just as the agency is investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, and possible Moscow ties to the Trump presidential campaign.

The New York Times reported the president asked Comey in January to pledge loyalty to him and that Comey refused to do so. Such a request would undermine the standing of the FBI chief as an independent law enforcer and further fueled charges that Trump has overstepped the norms of his office.

"James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" Trump said in a string of Twitter posts on Friday.

Fri May 12, 2017 | 9:19pm EDT

Hackers exploit stolen U.S. spy agency tool to launch global cyberattack

A global cyberattack leveraging hacking tools widely believed by researchers to have been developed by the U.S. National Security Agency hit international shipper FedEx, disrupted Britain's health system and infected computers in nearly 100 countries on Friday.

Cyber extortionists tricked victims into opening malicious malware attachments to spam emails that appeared to contain invoices, job offers, security warnings and other legitimate files.

The ransomware encrypted data on the computers, demanding payments of $300 to $600 to restore access. Security researchers said they observed some victims paying via the digital currency bitcoin, though they did not know what percent had given in to the extortionists.

Researchers with security software maker Avast said they had observed 57,000 infections in 99 countries with Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan the top targets.

The most disruptive attacks were reported in Britain, where hospitals and clinics were forced to turn away patients after losing access to computers.

International shipper FedEx Corp said some of its Windows computers were also infected. "We are implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible," it said in a statement.

Still, only a small number of U.S.-headquartered organizations were hit because the hackers appear to have begun the campaign by targeting organizations in Europe, said Vikram Thakur, research manager with security software maker Symantec.

By the time they turned their attention to the United States, spam filters had identified the new threat and flagged the ransomware-laden emails as malicious, Thakur said.

We close with different war news. Indonesia’s Moslems are declaring war on Indonesia’s Christians, who mostly happen to be Chinese. Fiat money anyone?

Fri May 12, 2017 | 12:32pm EDT

Exclusive - Indonesian Islamist leader says ethnic Chinese wealth is next target

The leader of a powerful Indonesian Islamist organisation that led the push to jail Jakarta's Christian governor has laid out plans for a new, racially charged campaign targeting economic inequality and foreign investment.
In a rare interview, Bachtiar Nasir said the wealth of Indonesia's ethnic Chinese minority was a problem and advocated an affirmative action programme for native Indonesians, comments that could stoke tensions already running high in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation.

"It seems they do not become more generous, more fair," the cleric said, referring to Chinese Indonesians, in the interview in an Islamic centre in South Jakarta. "That's the biggest problem.”

Ethnic Chinese make up less than 5 percent of Indonesia's population, but they control many of its large conglomerates and much of its wealth.

Nasir also said also that foreign investment, especially investment from China, has not helped Indonesians in general.

Indonesia, Southeast Asia's biggest economy, is a major destination for foreign investment in the mining and retail sectors. Jakarta is also trying to lure investors for a $450 billion infrastructure drive to revive economic growth.

"Our next job is economic sovereignty, economic inequality," said Nasir, an influential figure who chairs the National Movement to Safeguard the Fatwas of the Indonesian Ulemas Council (GNPF-MUI). "The state should ensure that it does not sell Indonesia to foreigners, especially China."

His group organised protests by hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Jakarta late last year over a comment about the Koran made by the capital's governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic-Chinese Christian.

Purnama was found guilty this week of blasphemy and sentenced to two years in prison, raising concerns that belligerent hardline Islamists are a growing threat to racial and religious harmony in this secular state.

We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

"All safe deposit boxes in banks or financial institutions have been sealed... and may only be opened in the presence of an agent of the I.R.S."

 President F.D. Roosevelt, 1933

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