ADB Ramps Up Pacific Presence as Aid Donors Jostle for Influence

The Asian Development Bank said on Tuesday it is expanding its presence in the Pacific islands, at a time of competition for influence there, opening seven new country offices and expecting its loans and grants in the region to top $4 billion by 2020.

The pledge from the Japan-led bank comes amidst a vigorous new campaign by the United States and its allies to check China’s rising sway in the region, where it has sought deeper diplomatic ties and emerged as the second-largest donor.

The battle for influence in the sparsely populated Pacific matters because each of the tiny island states has a vote at international forums like the United Nations, and they also control vast swathes of resource-rich ocean.

The ADB said it will open offices in the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu, as well as expand missions in Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

“The new country offices will allow ADB to have more regular contact and substantive communication with government and development partners,” the bank said in a statement.

Its overall assistance to the Pacific, which stands at $2.9 billion, is expected to surpass $4 billion by 2020, it added, with the money destined for economic and social development projects and disaster resilience.

China has likewise pledged to keep lending to a region where it says its aid is supporting sustainable development.

However, it has spent $1.3 billion on concessionary loans and gifts since 2011, stoking concern in the West that several tiny nations could end up overburdened and in debt to Beijing.

Australia in particular, which has long viewed the Pacific as its backyard, has been critical of some Chinese aid projects, and a former foreign minister has warned that the lending could undermine the long-term sovereignty of recipients.

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GOP, Dems Unite Behind Senate Bill Fighting Addictive Drugs

Republicans and Democrats joined forces to speed legislation combating the misuse of opioids and other addictive drugs toward Senate passage Monday, a rare campaign-season show of unity against a growing and deadly health care crisis. 

The measure takes wide aim at the problem, including increasing scrutiny of arriving international mail that may include illegal drugs and making it easier for the National Institutes of Health to approve research on finding nonaddictive painkillers and for pharmaceutical companies to conduct that research. The Food and Drug Administration would be allowed to require drug makers to package smaller quantities of drugs like opioids and there would be new federal grants for treatment centers, training emergency workers and research on prevention methods.

Lawmakers’ focus on combating opioids comes amid alarming increases in drug overdose deaths, with the government estimating more than 72,000 of them last year. That figure has grown annually and is double the 36,000 who died in 2008.

Besides the sheer numbers, Congress has been drawn to the problem because of its broad impact on Republican, Democratic and swing states alike.

California, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania each had more than 4,000 people die from drug overdoses in 2016, while seven other states each lost more than 2,000 people from drugs, according to the most recent figures available. The states with the highest death rates per resident include West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Hampshire, along with the District of Columbia.

West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin and Florida’s Sen. Bill Nelson, both Democrats, are among those facing competitive re-election races in November’s midterm elections. Republicans are trying to deflect a Democratic effort to capture Senate control. 

Money for much of the federal spending the legislation envisions would have to be provided in separate spending bills.

The House approved its own drug misuse legislation this summer. Congressional leaders hope the two chambers will produce compromise legislation and send it to President Donald Trump for his signature by year’s end.

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GOP, Dems Unite Behind Senate Bill Fighting Addictive Drugs

Republicans and Democrats joined forces to speed legislation combating the misuse of opioids and other addictive drugs toward Senate passage Monday, a rare campaign-season show of unity against a growing and deadly health care crisis. 

The measure takes wide aim at the problem, including increasing scrutiny of arriving international mail that may include illegal drugs and making it easier for the National Institutes of Health to approve research on finding nonaddictive painkillers and for pharmaceutical companies to conduct that research. The Food and Drug Administration would be allowed to require drug makers to package smaller quantities of drugs like opioids and there would be new federal grants for treatment centers, training emergency workers and research on prevention methods.

Lawmakers’ focus on combating opioids comes amid alarming increases in drug overdose deaths, with the government estimating more than 72,000 of them last year. That figure has grown annually and is double the 36,000 who died in 2008.

Besides the sheer numbers, Congress has been drawn to the problem because of its broad impact on Republican, Democratic and swing states alike.

California, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania each had more than 4,000 people die from drug overdoses in 2016, while seven other states each lost more than 2,000 people from drugs, according to the most recent figures available. The states with the highest death rates per resident include West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Hampshire, along with the District of Columbia.

West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin and Florida’s Sen. Bill Nelson, both Democrats, are among those facing competitive re-election races in November’s midterm elections. Republicans are trying to deflect a Democratic effort to capture Senate control. 

Money for much of the federal spending the legislation envisions would have to be provided in separate spending bills.

The House approved its own drug misuse legislation this summer. Congressional leaders hope the two chambers will produce compromise legislation and send it to President Donald Trump for his signature by year’s end.

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In Florence’s Wake, Uncertainty Haunts Migrant Workers

Francisco Javier Jaramillo and Victor Chavez should be picking sweet potatoes at a North Carolina farm and sending much-needed money to their families in Mexico.

Instead, Hurricane Florence has forced the migrant workers to evacuate their farm and seek refuge at a school-turned-shelter near the tiny hamlet of Spivey’s Corner, where they sleep in school hallways, wait and worry.

“If the sweet potato fields are flooded, we cannot work. If we cannot work, we will be sent home. We will have nothing,” said Chavez, 39.

When Florence tore through the Carolinas last week, bringing wave after wave of wind and rain, the storm not only disrupted a harvest but also jeopardized its harvesters.

Known for its fields upon fields of sweet potatoes, tobacco and peanuts, North Carolina’s agricultural engine is powered by more than 83,000 migrant workers.

Many come from Mexico and other Latin American countries to toil on restrictive contracts working fields that double as floodplains when the weather sours.

The contracts guarantee a certain number of working hours but that can be nullified if a farmer declares an act of god if, for example, fields are so flooded or hurricane-battered their crop cannot be salvaged. That would mean these workers get sent home without the hours, or money, promised.

A spokeswoman for North Carolina’s agriculture department said there are no estimates yet of the extent of crop damage.

At peak harvest in 2016 there were more than 83,000 migrant workers on North Carolina farms, according to the Employment Security Commission.

Workers on an H2A visa for temporary agricultural workers are among the most vulnerable people hit by a hurricane, according to advocates, lawyers and outreach workers who talked with Reuters. They have the least means to cushion the blow and the most to lose.

“H2A workers are very isolated, very vulnerable,” said Lariza Garzon, with the Episcopal Farmworkers Ministry. “They may not know their rights.”

Lee Wicker, deputy director of the 700-farmer North Carolina Growers Association, said maybe decades ago that might have been true but now resources are in place to ensure workers have the supports they need.

About 20,000 of the workers come to North Carolina every year on H2A visas, which tether them to an employer on whom they rely for housing, transportation and, in many cases, information about the outside world, said Caitlin Ryland, a supervising attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina’s farmworker unit.

They are frequently housed in areas close to farmland that can be prone to flooding, Ryland said.

Wicker said that sometimes happens, but said storms like Florence have outsize effects.

For workers like Jaramillo and Chavez, in a precarious labor position and with limited access to outside information, leaving camps for a few days to wait out a storm can be daunting.

Misinformation is rampant: many believe fleeing a storm can get them deported and barred from returning.

If their employer reports them as having abandoned their job, under the terms of the H2A visa it can start the clock ticking on having to leave the United States, Ryland said.

Fleeing for their lives in the face of a storm does not count as abandoning a job, she said, but many workers may not know that.

A spokeswoman for North Carolina’s Department of Labor wrote in an email that “the Agricultural Safety and Health Bureau has not received any complaints from migrant workers concerning unsafe housing conditions due to the storm.”

Five migrant workers Reuters spoke with at a supermarket outside Clinton, in Sampson County about 35 miles (56 km) east of Fayetteville, had elected to stay in their work camps despite the threats presented by the weather.

Explaining why he stayed, Miguel Hernandez motioned to the cement blocks used to build his barracks in an area under a flash-flood warning – surely they could withstand a storm, he said.

But Luis Alberto, a 25-year-old migrant worker from the Mexican state of Nayarit, was scared for his life when he and four friends decided to go to a shelter several miles away.

Luis Alberto, who asked not to use his last name, regularly sends money home to support his family. What worries him now is what happens next — if the crop is destroyed, if they cannot get the contracted hours of work they need.

“We want to know what is going to happen to us,” he said. “Can we keep working? Will we be sent back to Mexico?”

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In Florence’s Wake, Uncertainty Haunts Migrant Workers

Francisco Javier Jaramillo and Victor Chavez should be picking sweet potatoes at a North Carolina farm and sending much-needed money to their families in Mexico.

Instead, Hurricane Florence has forced the migrant workers to evacuate their farm and seek refuge at a school-turned-shelter near the tiny hamlet of Spivey’s Corner, where they sleep in school hallways, wait and worry.

“If the sweet potato fields are flooded, we cannot work. If we cannot work, we will be sent home. We will have nothing,” said Chavez, 39.

When Florence tore through the Carolinas last week, bringing wave after wave of wind and rain, the storm not only disrupted a harvest but also jeopardized its harvesters.

Known for its fields upon fields of sweet potatoes, tobacco and peanuts, North Carolina’s agricultural engine is powered by more than 83,000 migrant workers.

Many come from Mexico and other Latin American countries to toil on restrictive contracts working fields that double as floodplains when the weather sours.

The contracts guarantee a certain number of working hours but that can be nullified if a farmer declares an act of god if, for example, fields are so flooded or hurricane-battered their crop cannot be salvaged. That would mean these workers get sent home without the hours, or money, promised.

A spokeswoman for North Carolina’s agriculture department said there are no estimates yet of the extent of crop damage.

At peak harvest in 2016 there were more than 83,000 migrant workers on North Carolina farms, according to the Employment Security Commission.

Workers on an H2A visa for temporary agricultural workers are among the most vulnerable people hit by a hurricane, according to advocates, lawyers and outreach workers who talked with Reuters. They have the least means to cushion the blow and the most to lose.

“H2A workers are very isolated, very vulnerable,” said Lariza Garzon, with the Episcopal Farmworkers Ministry. “They may not know their rights.”

Lee Wicker, deputy director of the 700-farmer North Carolina Growers Association, said maybe decades ago that might have been true but now resources are in place to ensure workers have the supports they need.

About 20,000 of the workers come to North Carolina every year on H2A visas, which tether them to an employer on whom they rely for housing, transportation and, in many cases, information about the outside world, said Caitlin Ryland, a supervising attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina’s farmworker unit.

They are frequently housed in areas close to farmland that can be prone to flooding, Ryland said.

Wicker said that sometimes happens, but said storms like Florence have outsize effects.

For workers like Jaramillo and Chavez, in a precarious labor position and with limited access to outside information, leaving camps for a few days to wait out a storm can be daunting.

Misinformation is rampant: many believe fleeing a storm can get them deported and barred from returning.

If their employer reports them as having abandoned their job, under the terms of the H2A visa it can start the clock ticking on having to leave the United States, Ryland said.

Fleeing for their lives in the face of a storm does not count as abandoning a job, she said, but many workers may not know that.

A spokeswoman for North Carolina’s Department of Labor wrote in an email that “the Agricultural Safety and Health Bureau has not received any complaints from migrant workers concerning unsafe housing conditions due to the storm.”

Five migrant workers Reuters spoke with at a supermarket outside Clinton, in Sampson County about 35 miles (56 km) east of Fayetteville, had elected to stay in their work camps despite the threats presented by the weather.

Explaining why he stayed, Miguel Hernandez motioned to the cement blocks used to build his barracks in an area under a flash-flood warning – surely they could withstand a storm, he said.

But Luis Alberto, a 25-year-old migrant worker from the Mexican state of Nayarit, was scared for his life when he and four friends decided to go to a shelter several miles away.

Luis Alberto, who asked not to use his last name, regularly sends money home to support his family. What worries him now is what happens next — if the crop is destroyed, if they cannot get the contracted hours of work they need.

“We want to know what is going to happen to us,” he said. “Can we keep working? Will we be sent back to Mexico?”

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SpaceX’s First Private Passenger is Japanese Fashion Magnate Maezawa

SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space transportation company, on Monday named its first private passenger as Japanese businessman Yusaku Maezawa, the founder and chief executive of online fashion retailer Zozo.

A former drummer in a punk band, billionaire Maezawa will take a trip around the moon planned for 2023 aboard its forthcoming Big Falcon Rocket spaceship, taking the race to commercialize space travel to new heights.

The first person to travel to the moon since the United States’ Apollo missions ended in 1972, Maezawa’s identity was revealed at an event on Monday evening at the company’s headquarters and rocket factory in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne.

Maezawa, who is most famous outside Japan for his record-breaking $110 million purchase of an untitled 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, said he would invite six to eight artists to join him on the lunar orbit mission.

The billionaire chief executive of electric car maker Tesla, Musk revealed more details of the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR, the super heavy-lift launch vehicle that he promises will shuttle passengers to the moon and eventually fly humans and cargo to Mars. The BFR could be conducting its first orbital flights in about two to three years, he said.

Musk had previously said he wanted the rocket to be ready for an unpiloted trip to Mars in 2022, with a crewed flight in 2024, though his ambitious production targets have been known to slip.

“Its not 100 percent certain we can bring this to flight,” Musk said of the lunar mission.

The amount Maezawa is paying for the trip was not disclosed, however, Musk said the businessman outlaid a significant deposit and will have a material impact on the cost of developing the BFR.

The 42-year-old Maezawa is one of Japan’s most colorful executives and is a regular fixture in the country’s gossipy weeklies with his collection of foreign and Japanese art, fast cars and celebrity girlfriend.

Maezawa made his fortune by founding the wildly popular shopping site Zozotown. His company Zozo, officially called Start Today Co Ltd, also offers a made-to-measure service using a polka dot bodysuit, the Zozosuit.

With SpaceX, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic battling it out to launch private-sector spacecraft, Maezawa will join a growing list of celebrities and the ultra-rich who have secured seats on flights offered on the under-development vessels.

Those who have signed up to fly on Virgin Galactic sub-orbital missions include actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop star Justin Bieber. A 90-minute flight costs $250,000.

Short sightseeing trips to space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket are likely to cost around $200,000 to $300,000, at least to start, Reuters reported in July.

SpaceX has already upended the space industry with its relatively low-cost reusable Falcon 9 rockets. The company has completed more than 50 successful Falcon launches and snagged billions of dollars’ worth of contracts, including deals with NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense.

SpaceX in February transfixed a global audience with the successful test launch of its Falcon Heavy, the most powerful operational rocket in the world.

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SpaceX’s First Private Passenger is Japanese Fashion Magnate Maezawa

SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space transportation company, on Monday named its first private passenger as Japanese businessman Yusaku Maezawa, the founder and chief executive of online fashion retailer Zozo.

A former drummer in a punk band, billionaire Maezawa will take a trip around the moon planned for 2023 aboard its forthcoming Big Falcon Rocket spaceship, taking the race to commercialize space travel to new heights.

The first person to travel to the moon since the United States’ Apollo missions ended in 1972, Maezawa’s identity was revealed at an event on Monday evening at the company’s headquarters and rocket factory in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne.

Maezawa, who is most famous outside Japan for his record-breaking $110 million purchase of an untitled 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, said he would invite six to eight artists to join him on the lunar orbit mission.

The billionaire chief executive of electric car maker Tesla, Musk revealed more details of the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR, the super heavy-lift launch vehicle that he promises will shuttle passengers to the moon and eventually fly humans and cargo to Mars. The BFR could be conducting its first orbital flights in about two to three years, he said.

Musk had previously said he wanted the rocket to be ready for an unpiloted trip to Mars in 2022, with a crewed flight in 2024, though his ambitious production targets have been known to slip.

“Its not 100 percent certain we can bring this to flight,” Musk said of the lunar mission.

The amount Maezawa is paying for the trip was not disclosed, however, Musk said the businessman outlaid a significant deposit and will have a material impact on the cost of developing the BFR.

The 42-year-old Maezawa is one of Japan’s most colorful executives and is a regular fixture in the country’s gossipy weeklies with his collection of foreign and Japanese art, fast cars and celebrity girlfriend.

Maezawa made his fortune by founding the wildly popular shopping site Zozotown. His company Zozo, officially called Start Today Co Ltd, also offers a made-to-measure service using a polka dot bodysuit, the Zozosuit.

With SpaceX, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic battling it out to launch private-sector spacecraft, Maezawa will join a growing list of celebrities and the ultra-rich who have secured seats on flights offered on the under-development vessels.

Those who have signed up to fly on Virgin Galactic sub-orbital missions include actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop star Justin Bieber. A 90-minute flight costs $250,000.

Short sightseeing trips to space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket are likely to cost around $200,000 to $300,000, at least to start, Reuters reported in July.

SpaceX has already upended the space industry with its relatively low-cost reusable Falcon 9 rockets. The company has completed more than 50 successful Falcon launches and snagged billions of dollars’ worth of contracts, including deals with NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense.

SpaceX in February transfixed a global audience with the successful test launch of its Falcon Heavy, the most powerful operational rocket in the world.

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As Midterms Near, Trump Gambles on his Hardline Trade Policy

Farmers worry about falling crop prices and lost sales overseas. Manufacturers fear rising costs and new foreign taxes on their exports. American allies overseas are furious.

 

By any conventional gauge, President Donald Trump’s uncompromising stance toward tariffs and the pain they’ve begun to cause U.S. individuals and companies so close to midterm elections would seem politically reckless. Yet Trump appears to be betting that his combative actions will soon benefit the country and prove a political winner.

 

Ditching decades of U.S. trade policy that he says swindled America and robbed its workers, Trump insists he can save U.S. jobs and factories by abandoning or rewriting trade deals, slapping taxes on imports and waging a brutal tariff war with China, America’s biggest trading partner.

 

“Prior presidents in both political parties have never really moved to try to help and protect the American economy and its workforce, its farmers, its manufacturing workers, in a way of creating a level playing field,” Larry Kudlow, the top White House economic adviser, told reporters last week. “They give it lip service, and then they back off. This president has no intention of backing off. None. Zero.”

 

Trump’s apparent belief is that he and congressional Republicans can rely on the unswerving support of core GOP voters — even in rural areas that have been economically hurt by his trade disputes — and maybe succeed in delivering better trade deals before Election Day. Still, as an insurance policy against failure, the administration is providing $12 billion in farm aid to soothe trade-war wounds in rural America.

 

All told, it’s a high-risk political gamble.

 

“It’s still unclear ultimately how the issue plays in November,” said Nathan Gonzales, publisher of Inside Elections, a nonpartisan newsletter.

 

The U.S. and China have imposed import taxes on $50 billion worth of each other’s products in a rumble over American allegations that Beijing uses predatory tactics to acquire foreign trade secrets and to try to overtake America’s global supremacy in high technology. Over the weekend, news reports indicated that the administration is set to announce tariffs on $200 billion more in Chinese imports — a step that that would significantly escalate the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Beijing has said it would swiftly retaliate against additional U.S. tariffs.

Caught in the crossfire are U.S. soybean farmers, a prime target of Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs, whose exports to China account for about 60 percent of their overseas sales. These tariffs make U.S. soybeans prohibitively expensive in China. That means lost sales for American farmers.

 

Separately Trump has enraged U.S. allies like Canada and the European Union by declaring their steel and aluminum a threat to America’s national security as justification for slapping taxes on them.

 

On yet another trade front, the president would raise the stakes considerably if he carries out a threat to tax $340 billion in imported cars, trucks and auto parts — action that would raise prices for vehicles Americans buy.

 

What’s more, Trump has threatened to kick Canada out of a North American trade bloc if it doesn’t cave in to pressure to open its dairy market, among other things.

 

Trump is running into resistance in pockets across the country. American farmers who rely on exports are facing retaliation from U.S. trading partners, which depresses export sales and prices of agricultural commodities. Manufacturers that buy steel and aluminum are being hurt by higher prices and supply shortages resulting from the tariffs on imported metals.

 

Corporations fear that Trump’s drive to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement will disrupt the supply chains that they’ve spent the past 24 years building across the United States, Canada and Mexico. If the trade war with China further escalates, consumers would face higher prices at the mall and online. The affected imports would range from handbags, luggage and textiles to a range of consumer electronics, including the Apple Watch and adapters, cables and chargers.

 

On the basis of public opinion surveys, at least, the president’s approach poses political risks. A poll released Aug. 24 by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 61 percent of Americans disapproved of the president’s handling of trade negotiations.

 

“The Trump administration has handed Democrats in the midterms at least a talking point, not just with farmers but with consumers,” said Mickey Kantor, the top American trade negotiator under President Bill Clinton.

 

Missouri’s embattled Democratic senator, Claire McCaskill, is trying to link her Republican challenger, Trump ally Josh Hawley, to a nail manufacturing plant that says it might have to close because the Trump steel tariffs have driven up its costs.

Likewise in North Dakota, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is running ads tying her Republican challenger, Rep. Kevin Cramer, to Trump’s “reckless trade war.”

 

Besides unveiling $12 billion in aid to farmers hurt by the conflicts, Trump is seeking to reach trade deals to show that his brass-knuckles approach will succeed in the end. He has said he expects to sign a deal with South Korea later this month during the United Nations General Assembly. Earlier this month, he announced an agreement with Mexico to replace NAFTA — a move intended to pressure Canada to embrace a new North American accord on terms favorable to the United States.

 

Plans are underway for a delegation from China to resume trade discussions with the Trump team as early as this week. In addition, Trump says his team has started trade discussions with Japan and has received interest from India.

 

For the president, the bet is that America’s trading partners will capitulate promptly to his demands, rather than delay negotiations in the hope that Democrats will take control of the House and possibly the Senate and leave the president in a weaker bargaining position.

 

“There is some pressure to get results,” said Philip Levy, senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a White House economist under President George W. Bush. “They need to do something where they can say, `Hey, this different approach actually works.'”

 

Trump is also relying on the loyalty of his supporters in rural America. He has called farmers “patriots” who are willing to absorb economic pain in the short run to buy time for him to negotiate trade deals more advantageous to the United States.

 

Approval for Trump’s performance is still running at 53 percent in rural areas, compared with 39 percent overall, according to an NPR/Marist poll released last week. Even if they’re worried about the trade disputes, many rural Americans support Trump’s stands on social issues such as immigration — a sign that the president may have enough political leeway to drive forward with his hard line on trade.

 

“Trump,” said chief global strategist Greg Valliere of Horizon Investments, “has a lot of Teflon in the farm belt.”

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As Midterms Near, Trump Gambles on his Hardline Trade Policy

Farmers worry about falling crop prices and lost sales overseas. Manufacturers fear rising costs and new foreign taxes on their exports. American allies overseas are furious.

 

By any conventional gauge, President Donald Trump’s uncompromising stance toward tariffs and the pain they’ve begun to cause U.S. individuals and companies so close to midterm elections would seem politically reckless. Yet Trump appears to be betting that his combative actions will soon benefit the country and prove a political winner.

 

Ditching decades of U.S. trade policy that he says swindled America and robbed its workers, Trump insists he can save U.S. jobs and factories by abandoning or rewriting trade deals, slapping taxes on imports and waging a brutal tariff war with China, America’s biggest trading partner.

 

“Prior presidents in both political parties have never really moved to try to help and protect the American economy and its workforce, its farmers, its manufacturing workers, in a way of creating a level playing field,” Larry Kudlow, the top White House economic adviser, told reporters last week. “They give it lip service, and then they back off. This president has no intention of backing off. None. Zero.”

 

Trump’s apparent belief is that he and congressional Republicans can rely on the unswerving support of core GOP voters — even in rural areas that have been economically hurt by his trade disputes — and maybe succeed in delivering better trade deals before Election Day. Still, as an insurance policy against failure, the administration is providing $12 billion in farm aid to soothe trade-war wounds in rural America.

 

All told, it’s a high-risk political gamble.

 

“It’s still unclear ultimately how the issue plays in November,” said Nathan Gonzales, publisher of Inside Elections, a nonpartisan newsletter.

 

The U.S. and China have imposed import taxes on $50 billion worth of each other’s products in a rumble over American allegations that Beijing uses predatory tactics to acquire foreign trade secrets and to try to overtake America’s global supremacy in high technology. Over the weekend, news reports indicated that the administration is set to announce tariffs on $200 billion more in Chinese imports — a step that that would significantly escalate the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Beijing has said it would swiftly retaliate against additional U.S. tariffs.

Caught in the crossfire are U.S. soybean farmers, a prime target of Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs, whose exports to China account for about 60 percent of their overseas sales. These tariffs make U.S. soybeans prohibitively expensive in China. That means lost sales for American farmers.

 

Separately Trump has enraged U.S. allies like Canada and the European Union by declaring their steel and aluminum a threat to America’s national security as justification for slapping taxes on them.

 

On yet another trade front, the president would raise the stakes considerably if he carries out a threat to tax $340 billion in imported cars, trucks and auto parts — action that would raise prices for vehicles Americans buy.

 

What’s more, Trump has threatened to kick Canada out of a North American trade bloc if it doesn’t cave in to pressure to open its dairy market, among other things.

 

Trump is running into resistance in pockets across the country. American farmers who rely on exports are facing retaliation from U.S. trading partners, which depresses export sales and prices of agricultural commodities. Manufacturers that buy steel and aluminum are being hurt by higher prices and supply shortages resulting from the tariffs on imported metals.

 

Corporations fear that Trump’s drive to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement will disrupt the supply chains that they’ve spent the past 24 years building across the United States, Canada and Mexico. If the trade war with China further escalates, consumers would face higher prices at the mall and online. The affected imports would range from handbags, luggage and textiles to a range of consumer electronics, including the Apple Watch and adapters, cables and chargers.

 

On the basis of public opinion surveys, at least, the president’s approach poses political risks. A poll released Aug. 24 by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 61 percent of Americans disapproved of the president’s handling of trade negotiations.

 

“The Trump administration has handed Democrats in the midterms at least a talking point, not just with farmers but with consumers,” said Mickey Kantor, the top American trade negotiator under President Bill Clinton.

 

Missouri’s embattled Democratic senator, Claire McCaskill, is trying to link her Republican challenger, Trump ally Josh Hawley, to a nail manufacturing plant that says it might have to close because the Trump steel tariffs have driven up its costs.

Likewise in North Dakota, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is running ads tying her Republican challenger, Rep. Kevin Cramer, to Trump’s “reckless trade war.”

 

Besides unveiling $12 billion in aid to farmers hurt by the conflicts, Trump is seeking to reach trade deals to show that his brass-knuckles approach will succeed in the end. He has said he expects to sign a deal with South Korea later this month during the United Nations General Assembly. Earlier this month, he announced an agreement with Mexico to replace NAFTA — a move intended to pressure Canada to embrace a new North American accord on terms favorable to the United States.

 

Plans are underway for a delegation from China to resume trade discussions with the Trump team as early as this week. In addition, Trump says his team has started trade discussions with Japan and has received interest from India.

 

For the president, the bet is that America’s trading partners will capitulate promptly to his demands, rather than delay negotiations in the hope that Democrats will take control of the House and possibly the Senate and leave the president in a weaker bargaining position.

 

“There is some pressure to get results,” said Philip Levy, senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a White House economist under President George W. Bush. “They need to do something where they can say, `Hey, this different approach actually works.'”

 

Trump is also relying on the loyalty of his supporters in rural America. He has called farmers “patriots” who are willing to absorb economic pain in the short run to buy time for him to negotiate trade deals more advantageous to the United States.

 

Approval for Trump’s performance is still running at 53 percent in rural areas, compared with 39 percent overall, according to an NPR/Marist poll released last week. Even if they’re worried about the trade disputes, many rural Americans support Trump’s stands on social issues such as immigration — a sign that the president may have enough political leeway to drive forward with his hard line on trade.

 

“Trump,” said chief global strategist Greg Valliere of Horizon Investments, “has a lot of Teflon in the farm belt.”

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Bloomberg Mulling a Run for President as a Democrat

Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is actively thinking of running for president in 2020 as a Democrat.

 

“It’s impossible to conceive that I could run as a Republican – things like choice, so many of the issues, I’m just way away from where the Republican Party is today,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a New York Times report Monday.

 

“That’s not to say I’m with the Democratic Party on everything, but I don’t see how you could possibly run as a Republican,” Bloomberg said. “So if you ran, yeah, you’d have to run as a Democrat.”

 

Bloomberg served three terms as New York City mayor and has variously been a Democrat, Republican and independent. He twice flirted with running for president as an independent candidate, but ruled it out.

 

The 76-year-old founder and CEO of Bloomberg L.P., a global media company, has already lined up behind Democrats in the midterm elections and is using his money to attack Republicans on gun control, abortion and environmental issues.

 

Bloomberg did not say when he would make a decision on whether to run for president.

 

“I’m working on this Nov. 6 election, and after that I’ll take a look at it,” Bloomberg said.

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