Big Talk Or Big Tariffs?: US-China trade talks ended unsuccessfully Friday, and negotiators said they expected retaliation after President Trump ordered tariffs on $200 billion Chinese imports raised from 10 to 25 percent. Saturday the president tweeted: “the only problem [with China’s approach to trade talks] is that they know I am going to win (best economy & employment numbers in US history, & much more), and the deal will become far worse for them if it has to be negotiated in my second term. Would be wise for them to act now, but love collecting BIG TARIFFS!” Observers have suggested that Trump doesn’t seem to understand the economic impact of tariffs, that they are actually taxes businesses absorb by passing them along to consumers in the form of higher prices on goods. Beijing retaliated for previous tariff hikes by raising duties on $110 billion of US imports, slowing customs clearance and stepping up regulatory scrutiny, which hurts American businesses and farmers who export goods to China. (Guardian, NYT)
South Africa’s Election Results: As predicted, South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa and his governing party, the African National Congress, held on to power in last week’s dual parliamentary and legislative elections. The ANC garnered roughly 58 percent of the vote, while opposition parties — the Democratic Alliance and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters — picked up 21 percent and 11 percent, respectively. The ANC’s overall share of the vote decreased from previous elections amid widespread corruption scandals within the party, and a sluggish economy. The country’s unemployment rate hovers around 27 percent, and several million eligible South Africans simply did not register to vote. (NPR)
Four Score And Seven Threats Ago: President Trump has upped the military ante in the Persian Gulf by sending in the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the US Central Command region, an area that includes the Middle East. National security adviser John Bolton said the move was in response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.” He didn’t provide details, but said the US wants to send a “clear and unmistakable” message to Iran that “unrelenting force” would meet any attack on US interests or those of its allies. The Trump administration has been intensifying a pressure campaign against Iran, but many critics are cautioning against assuming a pugilistic posture and rushing to ratchet up tensions in the area. They note that Trump has surrounded himself with hardliners in his administration who have openly called for bombing Iran and carrying out regime change, and warn of the possibility of a military confrontation being engineered through provocative action. (Reuters, Independent UK)
Joe Camel The Influencer: Cigarette maker Philip Morris International, Inc has suspended a global social media ad campaign using young online personalities to market its new “heated tobacco” device, after Reuters sent photographs and marketing posts containing the hashtag “#IQOSambassador” to the company for comment. The hashtag tied the international tobacco giant to a network of social media influencers it was relying on to brand the IQOS as a safer alternative to cigarettes, and a sexy fashion accessory. Included was a paid post plugging the tobacco product by online influencer Alina Tapilina in Moscow – who listed her age as 21 on Instagram – alongside some seductive photos showing her drinking wine, swimming and posing with little clothing in luxurious settings.
The company’s internal “marketing standards” prohibit it from promoting tobacco products with youth-oriented celebrities or “models who are or appear to be under the age of 25,” but a review of the firm’s marketing of IQOS in Japan, Italy, Switzerland, Russia and Romania showed that Tapilina’s online persona was typical of what the company called its social media “ambassadors”: rail-thin young women who revel in the high life. Last month the US Food and Drug Administration agreed to allow sales of the IQOS device in America, after a two-year review process in which Philip Morris repeatedly assured the regulator that it would warn young people away from the product. (Reuters)