Will Boeing's 737 Ground US-China Trade Talks?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/20/2019 05:19:00 PM
The only thing being "maxed" around here are US-China trade tensions.
It's a major embarrassment for the mainstay product of the United States' largest exporter of manufactures to be grounded worldwide. Remember, though, that Chinese aviation authorities were among the first to do so. Boeing's workhorse model, the 737, has had teething problems with the rollout of its latest edition, the Max 8 and 9. Worse still, the two recent crashes of the plane appear to have been caused by similar factors, shifting the likelihood of blame away from pilot error to the software of the plane.

Now, we learn that not only is the Boeing 737 Max a global aviation concern, but also one that could ground US-China trade talks. You see, one of the quicker ways to "bridge" the enormous US-China trade imbalance is for the PRC to buy big-ticket items, and few come more expensive than state-of-the-art jetliners. Unfortunately, though, the Chinese understandably balking at purchasing more 737s--these are meant more for the domestic market--may cause wider damage to trade negotiations:
China’s move to ground Boeing Co’s 737 MAX jetliners following the deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash has cast a shadow over the American planemaker’s immediate hopes for a major jet order linked to a U.S.-China trade deal, industry sources said...

Evidence of a major potential order for more than 100 jets worth well over $10 billion at list prices had risen in recent weeks as Washington and Beijing reported some progress in trade talks to resolve a months-long trade war.

Those expectations were fanned by signs of pent-up demand stemming not only from a drop in China’s public purchases as the two sides descended into a tariff war, but also because China placed no private orders for Boeing aircraft in 2018, according to trade and industry sources familiar with the matter. Now, those sources say it is uncertain how quickly China will be willing to give the 737 MAX the expected new endorsement after ordering its own airlines to stop flying the jet
Also keep in mind that the Chinese are busy rolling out their own Boeing 737 / Airbus A320 competitor, the COMAC C919. To burnish its reputation for safety, especially among PRC nationals, it may be worth denigrating the Boeing 737 as unsafe such as by canceling orders originally meant to appease the trade-crazed Donald Trump:
China may now see an opening to establish itself as more of a leader in the aerospace industry, having already embarrassed the Federal Aviation Administration by leading a global charge to ground the Max that left the U.S. regulator isolated in its defense of the plane’s airworthiness and nearly the last of its brethren to temporarily ban the jet from commercial flight. China may be wont to relinquish its newfound role as a champion of safety, particularly as Comac prepares to drive a wedge in the Boeing-Airbus duopoly with the roll-out of its C919 in 2021. China says the plane — which can fit up to 168 passengers, similar to the Max 8 plane implicated in the crashes — has more than 800 orders worldwide.
In any event, this latest brouhaha over the 737 Max surely does not look like it's helping to bring current trade talks to a successful conclusion. After all, what else big-ticket goods are still made in the USA that the Chinese would buy lots and lots of?

Did PRC Cave In to Trump on Knowledge Transfer?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 3/15/2019 12:20:00 PM
All hail great American leader Trump! Sort of.

One of the main grievances the United States has had about Chinese trade practices concerns requiring knowledge transfer to domestic firms. To Westerners, such provisions are increasingly questionable intrusions on their intellectual property rights at a time when PRC firms are not so far behind their developed-world counterparts or even surpass their knowledge in certain respects like in 5G.

It is certainly up for debate whether China or the United States is being hurt the most amid Trump's ongoing tariff-slapping frenzy, but that the Chinese are eager to have these tariffs removed is beyond any doubt. We recently received evidence of this assertion with their "legislature" quickly passing a law watering down these technology transfer requirements:
The National People's Congress voted 2,929 in favour of the law -- with eight against and eight abstentions -- barely three months after a first draft was debated, an unusually quick turnaround for the legislature, which meets once a year. The move comes as US and Chinese negotiators hold complex talks aimed at resolving a months-long trade war that has pounded businesses with tariffs on $360 billion in two-way commerce.
Although the specifics are not yet definitive, the rough outlines appear to be like so:
China will also amend its intellectual property law and "introduce a punitive damages mechanism to ensure that all infringements will be seriously dealt with", Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told reporters at the end of the parliament's two-week session. The changes will "ensure violators have no place to hide", he said. 

Under the bill, foreign investors will enjoy the same privileges as Chinese companies in most sectors, except those placed on "negative lists", officials say.
That said, foreign investors are still, rightly, more concerned with how these IP law changes are implemented than what is written on paper:
Tim Stratford, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said "the last minute efforts are appreciated". But, he added, the changes "only address a small slice of the overall set of concerns our members have about the uneven playing field foreign companies encounter in China".

The chamber was concerned about vague language in provisions that allowed local governments to expropriate investments that "harm public interest" and the inability to appeal against the outcome of national security reviews.

Jacob Parker, Beijing-based vice president at the US-China Business Council, welcomed the "positive language" in the bill but added that "real investment on the ground will depend on how narrowly tailored those negative lists are going forward".

Businesses are still concerned that industry-specific laws and local administrative approvals may impede full market access despite provisions in the negative list.
As always, implementation is going to be more important to foreign investors as to whether their longstanding IP concerns are met or otherwise. And, I suspect this story will continue long after Trump has departed the scene. 

Did US Win Big Over PRC Ag @ WTO?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 3/12/2019 02:31:00 PM
There was actually a  (pre-Trump) time when the "WTO court" actually functioned. But no longer.
In case you missed it, the WTO recently ruled against Chinese agricultural subsidies that the United States complained about. Note this case, DS511, predates the Trump administration and was originally during that of his predecessor, Barack Obama. Given that China is a huge market for foodstuffs--they need to feed 1.4 billion folks--it's a pretty big deal for those who hope to export agricultural products to China. Unbeknownst to most of the rest of us, China is by now actually the biggest agricultural subsidizer of them all--no mean feat considering that list includes wealthy areas like the United States and the European Union:

Kristen Hopewell of Edinburgh University explains:
China is now the world’s largest subsidizer of agriculture — Beijing provided an estimated $212 billion in farm subsidies in 2016, significantly more than the European Union ($100 billion), United States ($33 billion) or any other country.

Subsidies now make up a significant portion of earnings for Chinese farmers, accounting for 38 percent of their revenue for wheat, 29 percent for corn and 32 percent for rice. By comparison, U.S. subsidies constitute 8 percent of U.S. farm earnings for wheat, 4 percent for corn and 2 percent for rice.

Beijing’s support to China’s agriculture sector includes government purchases at above-market prices, as well as market price support programs, where farmers receive a direct payment from the government if market prices fall below a minimum set price.
China's pattern of accumulating massive stockpiles of agricultural products and then dumping these at presumably below-market prices would represent a massive distortion to global agricultural markets:
And there’s another issue: China’s policy of supporting producers by purchasing agricultural commodities at above-market prices has led to the accumulation of massive government stockpiles. By 2016, China had amassed 60 percent of the world’s cotton supplies, over 50 percent of its corn, 40 percent of wheat and 21 percent of soybeans.

To dispose of these large stocks, the government periodically auctions them off at below-acquisition cost. Analysts believe China’s policies exert “a colossal influence” on world prices, given the size of its state reserves. A mass sell-off from China’s sugar reserves in 2016, for example, helped to push the global price of sugar down by almost a quarter.
But, as with most things happening under the Trump administration, there's a catch which alludes to the post title: Is the US "winning big" against China with this ruling going forward? Ironically, the Trump administration's ongoing efforts to kill the WTO by starving its judicial system of appeals court judges may soon backfire: All China needs to seemingly do is appeal the case and it will come to a standstill since there will be insufficient numbers of appeals court judges to make an appeals ruling on this case...or any WTO appeals case for that matter:
But the Appellate Body, well, is short of bodies. The Trump administration has been blocking all appointments to the Appellate Body as the terms of its current judges expire. The Appellate Body has been reduced to three judges — the minimum needed to adjudicate a dispute — with the remaining four of its seven seats vacant.

Two of those judges will reach the end of their terms in December [2020], leaving the Appellate Body without enough judges to review cases.

And once an appeal is lodged, a dispute settlement panel decision remains blocked until the decision of the Appellate Body. This means that without a functioning Appellate Body, China may be able to simply block the WTO ruling on its agricultural subsidies, placing the case in legal limbo.
Talk about shooting yourself in the foot: the United States--or at least the Barack Obama-era remnants of it--secure a famous victory at the WTO. However, the Trump administration, in its haste to render the WTO ineffective since it hates all kinds of multilateral institutions, has made enforcement of this ruling unlikely to happen.

Once more, good job, Trumpy (with a hat tip to trade-o-phobe USTR Robert Lighthizer). 

Techlash: Huawei Strikes Back at Canada, US

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 3/04/2019 02:37:00 PM

I suppose the headlines Huawei garners is related to what's at stake with 5G coming into wider commercial use. Will China be able to capitalize on its little-doubted technical advantage in 5G, or will the US be able to negate this advantage by getting its allies to boycott PC 5G gear over "security" concerns? Previously we talked about its attempts to use soft power--gaining influence not through the use of coercion but rather through attraction. Apparently, though, there are limits to the Huawei folks' patience with trying to win friends and influence people. Not having been very successful swaying North American (US and Canadian) public opinion, Huawei is now resorting to old-fashioned litigation.

In Canada, detained CFO Meng Wanzhou's lawyers intend to sue the government with her extradition to the United States imminent:
Ms Meng's claim - filed in British Columbia's Supreme Court on Friday - seeks damages against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the federal government for allegedly breaching her civil rights under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. She says CBSA officers held, searched and questioned her at the airport under false pretences before she was arrested by the RCMP.

Her detention was "unlawful" and "arbitrary", the suit says, and officers "intentionally failed to advise her of the true reasons for her detention, her right to counsel, and her right to silence".
And speaking of the Yanks, Huawei is also preparing a case in US of A aimed at restrictions on federal purchases of its gear over alleged spying concerns:
The Chinese electronics giant Huawei is preparing to sue the United States government for banning federal agencies from using the company’s products, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The lawsuit is due to be filed in the Eastern District of Texas, where Huawei has its American headquarters, according to the people, who requested anonymity to discuss confidential plans. The company plans to announce the suit later this week.

The move could be aimed at forcing the United States government to more publicly make its case against the Chinese equipment maker. It is part of a broad push by Huawei to defend itself against a campaign led by the United States to undermine the company, which Washington sees as a security threat. Executives have spoken out strongly against America’s actions, and new marketing campaigns have been aimed at mending the company’s image among consumers.
I don't think that Huawei actually expects the federal ban on purchases of Huawei telecoms gear to be overturned. Rather, it's an effort intended to force the US government to identify rationales for banning Huawei from federal procurement. Once identified, these rationales could serve the basis for further PRC legal action against the United States. You do have to wonder though how much mileage legal action will get them, or whether public opinion only turns more against them in North America. (PRC) heavy-handed actions do not necessarily right (North American) heavy-handed actions. 

Huawei’s Soft Power Charm Offensive

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 2/25/2019 03:51:00 PM
With the United States portraying Chinese telecommunications gear manufacturer Huawei as the devil incarnate seeking to infiltrate the rest of the world, a Huawei pushback was perhaps inevitable. But the question is, how exactly do you counter the American accusations of large-scale PRC espionage being facilitated by this seller of telecoms equipment? It appears that tactics differ based on the audience in question.

Canada, where the Huawei CFO has been detained by officials for violating US-led sanctions on Iran, is receiving ads that refrain from suggesting anything unusual is going on with Canada-PRC relations (like, say, putting Canadian citizens on death row in retribution). Soft power it is, then:
As a nasty diplomatic feud deepens between the two countries over the tech company, involving arrests and execution orders, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that Huawei’s bright red fan-shaped logo is plastered prominently on the set of “Hockey Night in Canada.” TV hosts regularly remind the 1.8 million weekly viewers that program segments are “presented by Huawei smartphones.”

The cheery corporate message contrasts with the standoff over the arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. warrant. In what looks like retaliation, China detained two Canadians and plans to execute a third — heavy-handed tactics that, because they leave some Canadians with the impression the privately owned company is an arm of the Chinese government, give its sponsorship a surreal quality.
What's at stake here commercially speaking is substantial, and is no less than the future of technology. Huawei is advanced in the manufacture of 5G gear that will undergird the next generation of telecoms equipment. However, the United States is trying to convince everyone else that it's a "Trojan horse" for china's Communist Party to infiltrate global networks for sinister purposes.

Hence, the public relations contest is ramping up:
The TV deal is one of many examples of how Huawei, the world’s biggest telecom gear producer and one of the top smartphone makers, has embarked on a global push to win consumers and burnish its brand. It sponsors Australian rugby, funds research at universities around the world, and brings foreign students to China for technical training. It has promoted classical music concerts in Europe and donated pianos to New Zealand schools.

Its efforts are now threatened by the dispute with Canada and U.S. accusations that it could help China’s authoritarian government spy on people around the world. “Huawei’s marketing plan up until Dec. 1 (when Meng was arrested) was working very well,” said Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China. Now, “public opinion is changing toward China and Huawei.”

At stake for Huawei are lucrative contracts to provide new superfast mobile networks called 5G. The U.S. says Meng helped break sanctions and accuses Huawei of stealing trade secrets. It also says the company could let the Chinese government tap its networks, which in the case of 5G would cover massive amounts of consumer data worldwide. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed that point to European allies on a tour this week.
5G is a challenge to American technological dominance; that much is apparent from the alarm raised by US government officialdom. What I would like to know, though, is the alternative proposed by the Yanks. How can the rest of the world meet their technology upgrading needs with non-Huawei (or ZTE for that matter) gear? Are there other European, American or non-Chinese Asian suppliers they recommend instead? It seems to me that this round of technological upgrading from the American standpoint is not so much about the benefits on offer but about bashing manufactures from a particular nation. That is, the framing is almost entirely negative about the downsides of buying Chinese without identifying upsides of not doing so.

It's in this respect where Huawei can accentuate the positives for 5G adoption and contrast such a message with the relentlessly dour American vision of technological apocalypse. After all, soft power is about persuading through attraction instead of (obtuse) threats the Yanks are brandishing nowadays.

Fat-Shaming & Debt-Shaming Undisciplined Yanks

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 2/20/2019 02:52:00 PM
Oink, oink: Can the archetypal American Porker-in-Chief be fat-shamed...and debt-shamed, too?
It was perhaps inevitable that the lard-assed American President Donald Trump would be medically classified as obese sooner or later. And so it was that we recently received news that he is clinically obese. In this case at least, Trump exudes the true American spirit in being really, really fat: nearly 40% of his countrymen have the same kind of bulbous, fat-laden Jabba-esque physique. In a previous post, I have made the obvious connection between American health indiscipline and fiscal indiscipline. That is, American super-indebtedness and super-obesity originate from the same place, which is a lack of self-regulation.

What is the rest of the world to do with exploding American deficits as health spending on these  fatsos shoots into orbit? The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the United States was $147 billion in 2008 US dollars; the medical cost for people who have obesity was $1,429 higher than those of normal weight [article here]. Ultimately, the rest of the world is paying the price for American obesity when it props up American indebtedness through the purchase of US Treasuries.

An interesting suggestion in the Atlantic argues that Americans have not been fat-shamed enough, resulting in a smug self-satisfaction about wallowing in pools of cellulite. Take, for instance, the social stigmatization of smoking that seems to have done wonders for forcing many folks to quite:
People don't hate being fat enough, basically, according to Hastings Center bioethicist Daniel Callahan. In an editorial published in the Hastings Center Report, he argues that nothing -- not diets, drugs, sugeries, nor appeals to our health -- is working, and goes on to make the case for fat-shaming people until they start eating more salad.

"An edgier strategy is needed," is his (earnest and entirely devoid of irony) way of putting it. The edgy strategy he came up with entails "social pressure combined with vigorous government action." Callahan likens it to the campaign to end smoking: The combination, in his experience, of being criticized, sent outside, and taxed for his "nasty habit" was the motivation he needed to quit. "The force of being shamed and beat upon socially," he writes, "was as persuasive for me to stop smoking as the threats to my health."
Trump is famously shameless; he's a lardbucket who's insulted any number of other people as fat despite his massive girth. However, it does make for an interesting idea: if Trump is so fat because he hasn't been fat-shamed enough, can the rest of the world debt-shame the United States? While the best solution from my perspective is to simply stop appeasing these debt-addled porkers altogether to instill discipline, maybe they haven't been shamed enough about their profligate ways that's causing this debt hemorrhage.

With a 40% obesity rate or so and $22 trillion in debt and counting, the rest of the world could surely do better in instilling discipline into these undisciplined Yanks. It is no mere coincidence that both American medical and fiscal are deteriorating rapidly with their poster boy, Donald Trump.

Development Debacle: Malpass for World Bank President

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 2/11/2019 09:38:00 AM
Alumni of long-gone Bear Stearns and global financial crisis denier circa 2007: Meet David Malpass.
The abrupt resignation of Jim Yong Kim as World Bank president has opened up a lot of old wounds, especially now in the Trump era. If you will recall, there was a big brouhaha over the United States still getting to nominate its president. In an arrangement that's a throwback to when Western countries dominated the global political economy, the US still gets the right to select the World Bank's leader, while the Europeans still do so for the IMF's leader. The Obama administration's choice of the departed Kim was meant to be a partial appeasement to developing countries wanting more say in a body whose activities do affect them. Sure, he was an American, but he was a Korean-American immigrant.

Let's just say that Trump is the least international and the most US-centric American leader in a long time. So, he's unsurprisingly scotched any attempts to appoint a non-white or non-American to lead the World Bank despite his suspicion of all multilateral institutions:
Kim’s abrupt resignation leaves Donald Trump with the opportunity to appoint a successor. He could turn to Bulgarian national Kristalina Georgieva, the bank’s chief executive, who will take over as interim president when Kim leaves. The much-respected official was a European commissioner and EU finance chief before moving to Washington.

Before Kim took over, the bank laid down criteria for appointing future presidents, which were designed to exclude officials with little experience of running large organisations or who lacked relevant experience, especially in the developing world. However, Trump is expected to use his effective power of veto to make sure a close adviser or a sympathetic political figure takes over.
So Trump is going ahead and contravening new World Bank presidential selection criteria by nominating someone, er, unfamiliar with running large international organizations and development work in David Malpass. This fellow is a proud America-firster like Trump:
Donald Trump confirmed his choice on Wednesday that the World Bank should be led by the US treasury official David Malpass, a Trump loyalist and critic of such multilateral institutions who has vowed to pursue “pro-growth” reforms at the global lender.

Trump’s nomination of Malpass, the treasury department’s top diplomat, is subject to a vote by the World Bank’s executive board and could draw challengers from some of the bank’s 188 other shareholding countries...

Malpass, treasury undersecretary for international affairs, has criticized the World Bank and other multilateral institutions for growing larger, and becoming more “intrusive” and “entrenched”, and targeted the bank for its continued lending to China, a country he sees as too wealthy for such aid.
Recall the last time an American president chose a controversial conservative figure to head the World Bank: George W. Bush selected the short-tenured Paul Wolfowitz, an architect of the ill-fated 2003 invasion of Iraq. Instead of blowing up other countries for no good reason, Malpass to his credit only failed to see how the Bush administration was blowing up the world economy. Malpass is a another conservative with extreme views, having been a chief economist at the ill-fated Bear Stearns who declared in so many words that there was no financial crisis brewing Stateside right before ti hit:
"Housing and debt markets are not that big a part of the US economy, or of job creation," Mr Malpass wrote before the impending economic crisis. "It's more likely the economy is sturdy and will grow solidly in coming months, and perhaps years."

The New York Times also criticised Mr Malpass for that and other Wall Street Journal articles, saying partisan bias towards Republican policy by economists had "unquestionably contributed to their forecast errors".
While it's true that other nominees may be put forward by other countries--especially developing ones--there is some doubt as to whether they would have meaningful chances at obtaining the World Bank's top job absent the support of the United States given its historical dominance of the institution. I also don't see much of a rallying cry to appoint a leader from the developing world this time. Perhaps we've become disenchanted with the whole process after what happened with Kim's victory under a far more progressive American president in Barack Obama.

Trump's worldview is prehistoric and his candidate is positively Neanderthal, but if everyone's fed up with the World Bank presidential selection process, it's going to be the same old story all over again.

Brexit or Not, London Loses Financial Centre Role

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 2/10/2019 04:24:00 PM
This place used to compete with New York as the world's financial capital. No more.
I used to snicker whenever CNBC used to announce that it was broadcasting from New York, the "financial capital of the world."  In many respects, London held that honor well into the 21st century despite the United Kingdom long, long ago ceding global influence to the United States. Last year, the Global Centre Financial Index (GCFI) ranked New York ever-so-slightly ahead of London, with the rest of the pack catching up on these two.

If the end of Rule Britannia did not end London's role as the world's capital for finance, the 2016 referendum aftermath's result to leave the European Union has put paid to that status for good. You see, most of haute finance's titans circa 2019 are not sticking around to see the end of the sorry Brexit melodrama. They've had it and are packing their bags for continental Europe which is, er, actually still part of the European Union:
The world’s biggest investment banks will not reverse plans to shift billions of dollars and thousands of jobs out of the UK even if Britain ends up staying in the European Union, senior bank executives and people with knowledge of the plans revealed to Financial News.

In a big blow to the City, at least eight of the largest investment banks in London, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, have said they will shift a significant proportion of their operations to Europe irrespective of the outcome of Brexit.

The move would harm the City of London’s status as a global financial centre. Banks are already preparing to move hundreds of billions of dollars from London to the continent after Brexit. Deutsche Bank is reportedly set to shift €400bn from its balance sheet to Frankfurt, while JPMorgan will move €200bn to the German city.
The marginalization of London will continue whatever the endgame for Brexit since, having already decided, banks will not be coming back whatever happens. What's more, hiring will more often occur where they will be in the future, i.e., continental Europe:
Longer term, bank executives say Brexit will change the way they recruit staff. “London would have been the natural choice to hire new bankers. Now, after the investment we’ve made in Europe, if someone leaves in the UK or we want to recruit someone, we’re just as likely to base them in Frankfurt or Paris,” said one European chief executive of a US investment bank.

Banks are unlikely to move people back in the event Brexit is overturned, said Jenni Hibbert, global practice managing partner at Heidrick & Struggles Financial Services, the recruiter. “If they do, it won’t happen overnight”, given the cost and effort involved.

The damage inflicted in the Square Mile will be permanent, said another head of investment banking. “London as a financial centre will remain, but will be severely diminished.”
Times are changing. Just as Little Englanders carried the day during the Brexit referendum, so it's fitting that the UK is left with a Lilliputian financial services sector to match its citizens' backward- and inward-looking proclivities. Frankfurt, Paris, parts unknown are calling...

The EU Vehicle to Evade US Sanctions on Iran

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/31/2019 07:29:00 AM

Recently, the Trump administration's intelligence officials testified to Congress. In so doing, they contradicted the American president's beliefs and positions again and again. Being ever so shameless, Trump in so many words said these appointees of his were wrong and he was right on Syria, ISIS, North Korea, Iran, etc. For this post, US sanctions on Iran are of particular interest since--as far as the American spooks can tell--Iran has not violated the terms of JCPOA. That is, the agreement the US pulled out of in order to reimpose sanctions on Iran has been faithfully followed even after America, not Iran, reneged on the deal not to enrich uranium:
Europe has remained united in its support for the Iran nuclear deal. Germany, France and Britain maintain that Iran has complied with the deal’s conditions and that the agreement is the best way to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. In the Worldwide Threat Assessment report that was presented by Coats and other intelligence officials, U.S. officials appear to agree with prior analyses by their European counterparts, writing that Iran is not attempting to build a nuclear weapon. That assessment raises questions over the basis for Trump’s claim in May that Iran was seeking nuclear weapons.
We've been waiting for the Europeans to do something about this matter. Since they view continuing Iranian compliance as something worth living up to in keeping JCPOA alive, they have been trying to figure out how to keep trading with Iran by shielding European firms from American sanctions. Henee the special purpose vehicle (SPV) they soon intend to put into operation. The SPV would buttress the EU's efforts to get European firms not to comply with US sanctions without consulting Brussels first:
Germany’s foreign minister says the European Union is on the verge of setting up an alternative channel to send money to Iran that would side-step U.S. sanctions against the Islamic republic. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Monday that Germany has been working notably with Britain and France but also other EU partners in recent months to set up the “special purpose vehicle.”

He says their aim is to ensure that “business not sanctioned by the U.S. can be upheld, and there is a suitable instrument for international payments.” The EU has struggled to keep alive the Iran nuclear since President Donald Trump pulled out of it last year. The bloc has already introduced measures to stop European companies from complying with the U.S. sanctions without authorization from Brussels.
The danger, as you may have surmised, is not really from Iran but from the Trump administration. It promises to hit European firms using the forthcoming SPV with fines and sanctions. Actually, part of the reason why the SPV's workings haven't been disclosed is to avoid Americans figuring out Europe's strategy to avoid sanctions on its firms ahead of time:
Senior EU officials have been saying for weeks that the financing mechanism would be up and running soon, but they have hesitated to provide details amid European concern that Trump would target the country where it is based and any others taking part.

The White House has been warning the Europeans that they could face stiff fines and penalties should they try to circumvent the sanctions.
So the situation is one where US intelligence officials effectively concede that their European counterparts are right and Trump is wrong on Iran's intentions and actions. Still, the Trump administration is threatening Europeans with penalties for dealing with a country living up to its obligations (Iran). It's a topsy-tury world we live in, indeed.

Rest of World Loves Good, Cheap Huawei Gear

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/29/2019 06:38:00 PM
At Huawei HQ, do they hatch nefarious data-stealing plans or try to increase customer value? Maybe a bit of both, even?
Here is a counterpoint to all the Huawei fear-mongering you read about nowadays. Encouraged by the United States to limit government purchases of Huawei networking gear, many of its allies have sharply curtailed their purchases due to security concerns. That is, Huawei is portrayed as a corporate spy working on behalf of the Community Party of China. Just today, the United States has criminally charged Huawei with stealing trade secrets from US telecoms giant T-Mobile. Fair or unfair, Huawei has acquired this reputation for becoming a conduit for PRC state interests.

However, you must also step back and consider: Why exactly is it that there are so many purchasers of Huawei gear? Aren't they delusional in even entertaining procurement of such equipment that compromises the security of their data networks? As Bloomberg points out, Huawei offers fine-quality equipment at prices many cash-strapped government buyers find attractive--something you cannot say about its Western competitors:
In the sparsely settled wildlands of eastern Oregon, Huawei Technologies Co. is hardly the big bad wolf of China that U.S. officials have depicted. It’s a lifeline to the 21st Century. China’s largest tech company makes high-quality networking gear that it sells to rural telecommunications operators for 20 percent to 30 percent less than its competitors do, says Joseph Franell, chief executive officer and general manager of Eastern Oregon Telecom in Hermiston, a watermelon-growing hub of 18,000 people. Huawei’s equipment has helped some two dozen U.S. telecom companies provide landlines, mobile services and high-speed data to many of the poorest and most remote areas in the country.
Further, even if Western governments are busy ridding themselves of existing Huawei gear that can allegedly be used for Chinese sleuthing, buyers in other countries have not been deterred from buying gear that is not only of good quality but also inexpensive:
Through it all, Huawei has prospered. The company garners about half its annual revenue of $92 billion outside China, led by Europe, the Middle East and Africa, where cutting-edge technology at affordable prices has endeared the Chinese company to budget-strapped purchasers.
Even in Huawei is not found complicit in spying for the Chinese government at the current time, critics say that its products should not be installed in security-sensitive applications since the company is legally obliged to act in the interests of the PRC. Given Huawei's advantage in 5G equipment that will be used in more applications for daily life, the potential opportunities for PRC-led surveillance via Huawei gear are supposedly plentiful:
The crux of the [Trump] administration’s argument is that Huawei couldn’t say no to demands from China’s government, even if it wanted to. China’s National Intelligence Law of 2017 requires all Chinese companies and citizens to "assist in and cooperate in national intelligence work" if requested. Whether Huawei or any of its employees have done so in the past is now incidental, China hawks argue, given Huawei’s lead in developing 5G technologies for the future.
I am inclined to think that despite bans the United States and its allies have instituted in installing Huawei networking gear in potentially security-sensitive applications, these are counterbalanced by the rest of the world who do not really have sensitive information the Chinese would find value in acquiring surreptitiously.That is, data security takes a back seat as a concern.

5G or not, there are enduring advantages to being both a low-cost and high-quality producer.