World Economy Forecast to Slow in 2019 Amid Trade Tensions

The International Monetary Fund has cut its forecast for world economic growth this year, citing heightened trade tensions and rising U.S. interest rates.

The IMF said Monday that it expects global growth this year of 3.5 percent, down from 3.7 percent in 2018 and from the 3.7 percent it had forecast for 2019 back in October.

 

“After two years of solid expansion, the world economy is growing more slowly than expected and risks are rising,” said IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde as she presented the new forecasts at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

 

The fund left its prediction for U.S. growth this year unchanged at 2.5 percent — though a continuation of the partial 31-day shutdown of the federal government poses a risk. The IMF trimmed the outlook for the 19 countries that use the euro currency to 1.6 percent from 1.8 percent.

 

Growth in emerging-market countries is forecast to slow to 4.5 percent from 4.6 percent in 2018. The IMF expects the Chinese economy — the world’s second biggest — to grow 6.2 percent this year, down from 6.6 percent in 2018 and slowest since 1990.

 

The World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have also downgraded their world growth forecasts.

 

Britain’s messy divorce from the European Union and Italy’s ongoing financial struggles pose threats to growth in Europe.

 

And rising trade tensions pose a major risk to the wider world economy. Under President Donald Trump the United States has imposed import taxes on steel, aluminum and hundreds of Chinese products, drawing retaliation from China and other U.S. trading partners.

 

“Higher trade uncertainty will further dampen investment and disrupt global supply chains,” said IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath.

 

Rising interest rates in the U.S. and elsewhere are also pinching emerging-market governments and companies that borrowed heavily when rates were ultra-low in the aftermath of the 2007-2009 Great Recession.

 

As the debts roll over, those borrowers have to refinance at higher rates. A rising dollar is also making things harder for emerging-market borrowers who took out loans denominated in the U.S. currency.

 

 

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Russian Media Watchdog Moves Against Facebook, Twitter

Russia’s communication watchdog, Roskomnadzor, opened “administrative proceedings” Monday against Facebook and Twitter for non-compliance with country’s data laws, Interfax news agency reported.

Roskomnadzor head Alexander Zharov is quoted as saying that U.S. social media giants have a month to comply or face legal proceedings.

According to Roskomnadzor, Facebook and Twitter have not explained how and when they would comply with legislation that requires all servers used to store Russians’ personal data to be located in Russia.

Russia has introduced stricter internet laws in the past five years, among other things requiring search engines to share encryption keys with Russian security services.

In April last year, thousands rallied in Moscow in support of internet freedom after Russian authorities attempted to block access to the popular messaging app Telegram.

Telegram had refused to give state intelligence services access to private conversations which are usually encrypted.

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Moscow ‘Trump Tower’ Talks Lasted Through 2016, Lawyer Says

U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani says Trump’s discussions with Russian officials over construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow went on throughout the time he was campaigning for the White House in 2016, months longer than previously acknowledged.

“It’s our understanding that they went on throughout 2016,” Giuliani told NBC’s Meet the Press. Giuliani said there “weren’t a lot of them, but there were conversations.  Can’t be sure of the exact date.”

“Probably could be up to as far as October, November — our answers cover until the election,” Giuliani said, referring to written questions Trump has answered from special counsel Robert Mueller, who for 20 months has been investigating Trump campaign ties to Russia and whether Trump, as president, obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.

“So anytime during that period they could’ve talked about it,” Giuliani said. “But the president’s recollection of it is that the thing had petered out (subsided) quite a bit,” and the construction project never materialized.  During the early stages of the 2016 race for the Republican presidential nomination, Trump often said he had no business ties to Russia.

Giuliani, a former New York mayor, said that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, “would have a much better recollection of [the Moscow negotiations] than the president. It was much more important to him. That was his sole mission. The president was running for president of the United States.  So you have to expect there’s not going to be a great deal of concentration on a project that never went anywhere.”

‘Big news’

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the lead Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee that has been investigating Trump campaign ties to Russia, said on the NBC show the length of Trump’s efforts to build a Moscow skyscraper, extending into the November 2016 national election, was “news to me, and that is big news.  Why, two years after the fact, are we just learning this fact now when there’s been this much inquiry?”

Warner added, “I would think most voters — Democrat, Republican, independent, you name it — that knowing the Republican nominee was actively trying to do business in Moscow, that the Republican nominee at least at one point had offered, if he built this building, Vladimir Putin, a free-penthouse apartment, and if those negotiations were ongoing up until the election, I think that’s a relevant fact for voters to know.  And I think it’s remarkable we are two years after the fact and just discovering it today.”

Cohen has pleaded guilty to, among other offenses, lying to Congress about the extent of Trump’s involvement with the Moscow project, telling a congressional panel that Trump’s efforts ended in January 2016, just as the Republican presidential nominating contests were starting three years ago.  He has said he lied to comport with Trump’s own public comments to voters, but more recently has said he recalls the Moscow discussions extending to June 2016, a shorter time frame than Giuliani acknowledged Sunday.

The online news site BuzzFeed said last week that Trump had directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the Trump Moscow timeline, but Mueller’s office late Friday said the report was “not accurate.”  BuzzFeed said it continues to stand by the story.

In a separate interview on CNN, Giuliani said he had “no knowledge” of whether Trump talked to Cohen before his congressional testimony.

Mueller is believed to be writing a report on his findings from his lengthy investigation.  He and other federal prosecutors have secured convictions or guilty pleas from several key figures in Trump’s orbit, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, campaign aide Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former foreign affairs adviser George Papadopoulos and Cohen.

 

 

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Democrats Reject Trump’s Offer to End US Government Shutdown

With a partial U.S. government shutdown in its fifth week, Democrats are rejecting President Donald Trump’s offer of limited and temporary protections for some immigrants to America in return for billions of dollars to extend barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports the political stand-off endures and hundreds of thousands of government workers are likely to miss a second paycheck this week.

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Trump Assails Pelosi’s Rejection of ‘Compromise’ to End Government Shutdown

U.S. President Donald Trump assailed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday for rejecting what he is calling a compromise to end the record 30-day partial government shutdown, with $5.7 billion for his barrier along the U.S.-Mexican border and three years of protection against deportation for hundreds of thousands of immigrants.

“Nancy Pelosi and some of the Democrats turned down my offer yesterday before I even got up to speak. They don’t see crime & drugs, they only see 2020 – which they are not going to win. Best economy!” Trump said on Twitter, referring to next year’s presidential election. “They should do the right thing for the Country & allow people to go back to work.”

Trump, now halfway through his four-year White House term, offered his plan to end the longest government closure in American history in a speech Saturday. But Pelosi, leader of the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, called it a “non-starter” before Trump spoke.

Pelosi responded to Trump on Twitter, saying, “800,000 Americans are going without pay,” the furloughed government workers and civil servants forced to work without being paid.  “Re-open the government, let workers get their paychecks and then we can discuss how we can come together to protect the border.”

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he plans to bring Trump’s proposal to a vote in his chamber in the coming days, although he will need some Democratic support to win approval.

Watch related video by VOA’s Michael Bowman:

Trump defended his call to offer deportation protection to 740,000 immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children and thousands more from Latin America and African nations who have been living in the United States temporarily, but are facing orders to return home.

Conservative critics of Trump’s plan said the protections against deportation amounted to amnesty for lawbreakers.  But Trump tweeted, “No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer … Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else.  Likewise there will be no big push to remove the 11,000,000 plus people who are here illegally-but be careful Nancy!”

Vice President Mike Pence, in a Fox News Sunday interview, said, “This is not amnesty.  There’s no pathway to citizenship.  What the American people heard yesterday was statesmanship.”

Pence said Trump “set the table for a deal.  The president is offering a solution, the Democrats just sound bites” in television interviews.

Democrats have demanded Trump reopen the government and then negotiate border security provisions, while rejecting a wall as ineffective and immoral.  They are offering $1.3 billion in new border security funding, but none specifically for a wall.  House Democrats plan to offer more border security legislative proposals this week.

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, but major legislation in the chamber almost always requires a 60-vote majority.  It is unclear if Trump will be able to convince at least seven Democrats to vote for his proposal.

“As the president says, ‘We’ll see,'” Pence told Fox News. “Now people will start voting and we’ll see where they stand.”

Even if the Senate approves Trump’s plan, it would face defeat in the House, where Pelosi-led opposition runs strong.  A Senate victory for Trump, however, could force new negotiations over his border wall plan and over reopening the government, where the furloughed federal workers are set to miss their second paycheck next Friday.

Trump tweeted, “Nancy Pelosi has behaved so irrationally & has gone so far to the left that she has now officially become a Radical Democrat.  She is so petrified of the ‘lefties’ in her party that she has lost control … And by the way, clean up the streets in San Francisco, they are disgusting!”  The California city is Pelosi’s home town.

As tensions over the border wall and the government shutdown continued unabated last week, Pelosi demanded Trump postpone his scheduled Jan. 29 State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress until after the government is reopened, submit it in writing to Congress or make the speech at the White House.  Trump, in turn, postponed her fact-finding trip with other congressional leaders to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Trump had not directly responded to her call to delay the State of the Union speech till after the shutdown ends.

But on Sunday, he said, “Nancy, I am still thinking about the State of the Union speech, there are so many options – including doing it as per your written offer (made during the Shutdown, security is no problem), and my written acceptance.  While a contract is a contract, I’ll get back to you soon!”

 

 

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Women’s March in Washington Brings Heat on a Wintry Day

The third annual Women’s March on Washington attracted a smaller turnout than the original event in 2017, held one day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. But Saturday’s event was no less rollicking as women and men marched through the nation’s capital amid considerable controversy leading up to the rally. VOA’s Anna Kook has the details.

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