What Would Jesus Do About Brexit?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/14/2019 02:30:00 PM
The IPE Zone is a fan of arch-Remainer and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
While studying and working in the UK all those pre-Brexit years ago, I was amused by their government placing 26 Church of England clergy in the House of Lords. (Formally, they are the Lords Spiritual instead of the more political Lords Temporal who are everyone else.) In this supposedly secular day and age, the British are unique that way, as well as in cautioning against having a Catholic prime minister to guard against the depredations of popery and other Vatican-sourced foreign intervention. Little did I know that this nominally "ceremonial" political power granted to religious authorities may actually have some bearing...as it does now, even if it's limited.

You see, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (the British pope, if you will), is an outspoken champion of EU membership for the UK. It makes this Catholic regard the Anglican Church more positively. Further, he is on firm economic and therefore ethical ground in reiterating that the least well-off are expected to be those worst affected by Brexit:
The archbishop of Canterbury has said a no-deal Brexit would hit the poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK. Justin Welby also said he was praying for Theresa May and other politicians at the start of what is expected to be one of the most tumultuous weeks in recent parliamentary history. Last week, Welby said in the House of Lords that a no-deal Brexit would be “not only a political and practical failure, but a moral one,” and a second referendum may be needed to avoid it.
The impact on the most vulnerable is of greatest concern for the Anglicans, as it should be for a religious order:
He repeated his concerns in an interview with Christian website Premier, saying: “The burden of proof is on those that are arguing for no deal, to show that it will not harm the poorest and most vulnerable … How we care about them and how our politics affects them is a deeply moral issue.” He added: “Politicians have one of the hardest jobs in the world. It is deeply difficult, and we need to pray for them. It is unbelievably difficult.
It's too bad that, well, hardly anyone attends religious services in the UK anymore, least of all the Anglican Church's. So much for the moral suasion bit if you were hoping for that. Still, membership in the House of Lords may add further impetus to the current uprising in the House of Commons to avoid a hard Brexit. After all, the upper house did help ensure that Parliament has a say in the final form of whatever exit the UK makes from the European Union.

Remainers, aren't you actually glad that the UK is alone in the world aside from Iran in reserving places in the legislature for unelected clergy? It's too bad for the secularists, but I think any intervention--even of the divine sort--is welcome at this point to scuttle this Brexit folly at least for a generation if willed by forces on heaven and earth.

PRC's Belt-Road Initiative: Masterplan or Boondoggle?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/13/2019 07:36:00 PM
Bungling belies accusations of Chinese plans for regional / world transport domination.

There is some dispute as to whether China's plans to connect the Asia-Pacific region and beyond with PRC-contributed infrastructure is a grand hegemonic plan or just a poorly-thought -and -executed one. American Vice-President Mike Pence sees sinister intent in describing it as a debt trap intended to tie poor countries to China in servitude via "dangerous debt diplomacy China has been engaging in in the region." That version of events goes something like this:
The common perception is that President Xi Jinping’s flagship foreign policy initiative is an ambitious program deploying trillions of dollars on necessary infrastructure in emerging Asian and African countries where Western investors lack the animal spirits to tread.

A variant of this view suggests a greater level of Machiavellian foresight. By getting emerging-economy governments caught in debt traps when unviable projects like Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port go belly-up, China is methodically assembling a network of client governments in hock to Beijing and advancing its military ambitions.
But then again, it would be unwise to listen solely to the country most at risk of losing influence in Asia through Chinese infrastructure initiatives. Instead of the grand conspiracy, how about countries being loaned to becoming unable to pay China back for its help in building infrastructure simply because the initiative is half-baked instead of some malicious intent on the part of the Chinese?
Here’s a better argument for what Belt and Road is really about. Despite Xi’s close association with it, the initiative isn’t ultimately a connected master plan for Chinese global ascendancy. Instead, it’s better looked at as a somewhat chaotic branding and franchising exercise, a way for the country’s numerous provincial officials and state-owned companies to slap a presidential seal of approval on whatever project they’re seeking to pursue.

“Far from strictly following Beijing’s grand designs, much of the Belt and Road Initiative’s activity to date looks more scattered and opportunistic,” Jonathan Hillman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, wrote in an analysis last year.
To support this line of argument, consider Chinese involvement with the now-infamous Malaysian 1MDB. It seems the Chinese don't want to be associated with that fiasco, especially now that its main benefactor--former PM Najib Razak--has been disgraced:
Chinese officials offered to help bail out state-owned 1Malaysia Development Bhd., kill off investigations into alleged corruption at the fund, and spy on journalists looking into it in exchange for stakes in Belt-and-Road railway and pipeline projects in Malaysia, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. If proven, that would offer the clearest link yet between the 1MDB scandal and Belt and Road, which is still seen by many as a more effective rival to multilateral investors such as the currently leaderless World Bank and Asian Development Bank. China has denied that money in the program was used to help bail out 1MDB.
So it cannot be a grand plan if it's all rather improvised--and not in a good way: 
The [Wall Street] Journal’s reporting suggests a scheme cooked up on the fly, with its key planks initially proposed by Malaysian rather than Chinese officials. By building the railway at a vastly inflated cost, Chinese state companies would be able to get their hands on spare cash and in return assume some of 1MDB’s debts.

If Malaysia’s Belt and Road projects were all part of a grand strategy hatched by China, the execution was incompetent. According to the Journal, former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak did hold talks with Beijing about granting berthing rights to Chinese naval vessels – but the discussion never bore fruit. Then Najib was voted out of office last year, with his successor Mahathir Mohamad seeking to cancel or renegotiate projects he’s labelled a “new version of colonialism.”
OK, so maybe the Belt-Road Initiative is not entirely a fiasco at this point, but it certainly seems to be needing some direction since those China intended to court are increasingly becoming disillusioned:
Meanwhile, far from binding governments closer to Beijing, its investments in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives have fueled backlashes that brought China-skeptical governments to power.

UK Parliament Revolts Against Hard Brexit

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 1/09/2019 08:07:00 PM
A true British patriot recognizes the UK's geographic location on a certain continent.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May is a difficult one to pin down. While she was home minister for David Cameron (remember him?) during the run-up to the ill-fated 2016 Brexit vote, she decided to support Cameron's position to remain in the EU. After replacing him, though, she became famous for the pithy statement that "Brexit means Brexit." To be fair, she is stuck between an EU unwilling to make many compromises lest others see that they can leave the EU and still benefit from many of the privileges of membership and hardline Brexit elements in her party.

Still, it seems a revolt is brewing among nearly everyone else not as prone to suicidal behavior. Like a moth to the flame. The past two days have witnesses a cross-party revolt against crashing out of the EU with no preferential agreements. Yesterday, opposition stalwart Yvette Cooper's motion to deny May's government of taxation powers in the event a Brexit deal is not agreed to. Instead, parliament must be consulted:
Theresa May's no-deal Brexit preparations suffered a blow after MPs defeated the Government in the Commons. Labour former minister Yvette Cooper tabled an amendment to the Budget-enacting Finance (No. 3) Bill which attracted support from Tory rebels. Her proposal aims to restrict the Government's freedom to use the Bill to make tax changes linked to a no-deal Brexit without the "explicit consent" of Parliament. It was supported by 303 votes to 296, a majority of seven.

In a statement outside the Commons, [Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn] said the vote in support of the amendment was "an important step to prevent a no-deal Brexit". He said: "It shows that there is no majority in Parliament, the Cabinet or the country for crashing out of the EU without an agreement. That is why we are taking every opportunity possible in Parliament to prevent no deal.
I am no fan of the old-school Labour (read: pre-Third Way, unabashed socialist) leader Jeremy Corbyn, but it appears he is, for now, an ally in the effort to stop a hard Brexit--as is anyone else willing to vote it down at this point.

Today we had a second round of good news (if you're anti-Brexit, that is). The half-baked deal May came away with from meeting with her EU counterparts is likely going to voted down next week. In that event, the cross-party rebellion is now forcing the government to come up with a "Plan B" within 3 days instead of 21 days:
Rebel Conservative MPs have joined forces with Labour to inflict a fresh blow on Theresa May's government in a Commons Brexit vote. It means the government will have to come up with revised plans within three days if Mrs May's EU withdrawal deal is rejected by MPs next week.

It could also open the door to alternatives, such as a referendum. No 10 said Mrs May's deal was in the national interest but if MPs disagreed, the government would "respond quickly".
To be fair once more, I think that a three-day timetable to come up with a "Plan B" is unrealistic. That said, having exhausted nearly all other options, pro-Europeans among us may finally get what we've wanted all this time--a second referendum. The harrowing experience of the post-Brexit vote era should have taught sensible Britons that only worse in store if it finally pushes through. Polling data indicates "Remain" would win this time 46%-39%, and a positive outcome should put a stop to this nonsense for awhile.

Props to Speaker John Bercow for allowing this vote to happen at the potential cost of his speakership. Once more, remaining is really on the table. 

Thanks to Immigration, Bet on Canada's Future

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/03/2019 02:59:00 PM
Skilled migrants are driving Canada's G7-leading population growth.
Back to our coverage of international higher education in the new year: I've featured how the United States is becoming a non-destination for international students, mainly for the reason that the Trump administration is limiting their prospects for future post-educational work in the United States due to ultra-nationalist / racist immigration policies. Hard as it is for some Yanquis to understand, though, the world of higher education is much broader than the United States. There is a bona fide winner in this story of American educational and demographic decline as result of a failure to attract international talent given falling birth rates at home--Canada.

It is not hard to make the argument that many of those who would have otherwise studied in the US have gone to Canada instead due to Trump's blatantly racist immigration policies:
[Ayesha] Chokhani had her pick of elite schools. She turned down Cornell and Duke in the U.S. Her reasons were clear: The anti-immigrant rhetoric from the Trump administration made her nervous. And Canada had an additional draw: She can stay up to three years after she graduates and doesn’t need a job offer to apply for a work permit. “I wanted to be sure that wherever I go to study, I have the opportunity to stay and work for a bit,” she says.
The numbers don't lie. Canada is not only attracting international students but is also hoping that more than a few remain to deal with its shortfalls in domestic birth rates and the usual need to remain competitive in the modern world economy:
In August, there were about 570,000 international students in Canada, a 60 percent jump from three years ago. That surge is helping power the biggest increase in international immigration in more than a century. The country took in 425,000 people in the 12 months through September, boosting population growth to a three-decade high of 1.4 percent, the fastest pace in the Group of Seven club of industrialized nations.

Canada’s immigration system has long targeted the highly skilled. More than 65 percent of foreign-born adults had a post-secondary degree in 2017, the highest share tracked by members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. “We are the biggest talent poachers in the OECD,” says Stéfane Marion, chief economist of the National Bank of Canada. As a result, he says, the country is better equipped to deal with globalization and technological change—“it’s a massive, massive advantage.”
To be sure, there are xenophobic political parties in the Canadian polity. However, the significant difference is that while they constitute a fringe minority in Canada, they are the ruling Republican Party in the United States thanks to Trump. 

Make no mistake: American decline and Trumpian xenophobia go hand in hand. Instead of evaluating people based on what they can get done, you do so based on irrelevant criteria like the color of their skin. Ultimately, it's America's loss for pandering to such racism. 

How CPTPP May Finish Brainless US Farmers

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 1/01/2019 05:47:00 PM
Those Yankee steaks ain't gonna be very saleable in CPTPP countries real soon
 The geniuses who voted for Trump knew full well that he campaigned on isolating the United States politically and economically from the rest of the world. Although what he says and does seldom coincide, there was always a risk that his rhetoric would turn into action. 2018 was the year when Trump's inward-looking economic policies finally came to fruition as (marginally) more sensible sorts were sidelined or left his administration. With hardliners now feeding his worst instincts, Trump erected Fortress America on trade. The rest--including a stock market collapse at year-end--is history.

American farmers have borne the brunt of Trump's trade war. The Chinese know full well that rural communities voted for Trump in droves, and their pain could translate into political pressure for Trump to roll back the trade war. As of now, though, the meager compensation Trump offered to tide them through the trade war is not enough and that war's fate are uncertain. Just as Trump-borne uncertainty has tanked stock markets, it's doing the same to the US agricultural sector.

But wait, there's more for 2019! Leaving the Trans-Pacific Partnership turns out to have been another Trump blunder. you see, the other TPP participants (TPP-11) have decided to push through with it--including several major agricultural exporters like Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The upshot is that these agricultural exporters will soon gain preferential access to Asian countries the United States has long exported to like Japan and those it seeks to export more to like Malaysia and Vietnam. So, American farmers will lose even more soon. But first, let's get up to speed on what CPTPP is:
American farmers, already hit by low commodity prices and China’s punitive trade tariffs, are poised to endure further pain in 2019 now that a major Pacific trade deal has come into effect. The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, was ratified by seven of its member countries on Sunday. Now that the massive free trade pact is a reality for Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam, the remaining four members — Brunei, Chile, Malaysia and Peru — are soon expected to follow suit.
A lot of the hurt is going to come from what economists call "trade diversion." Even if the US is the more efficient producer of an agricultural good, other producers within CPTPP may be selected by virtue of having lower tariffs applied against them despite being less-efficient producers. Anyway...
The goods of non-CPTPP members such as the United States are now expected to be pricier and less competitive in the 11 CPTPP countries. The world’s largest economy was initially one of the countries negotiating the wide-ranging deal under former U.S. President Barack Obama but the U.S. withdraw under President Donald Trump’s administration in early 2017. American meat and agricultural products are particularly expected to suffer in CPTPP nations that don’t have free trade arrangements with Washington.
 Take beef and wheat (please):
Japan is a prime example. The Asian giant is the top market for U.S. beef, but Australia’s products could now take over America’s spot since foreign beef tariffs in Japan will be cut by 27.5 percent for Australian producers under the CPTPP, The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has warned. “The US beef industry is at risk of losing significant market share in Japan unless immediate action is taken to level the playing field,” Kevin Kester, the association’s president, said in a statement earlier this month.

It’s a similar story for American wheat. Thanks to CPTPP, Canadian and Australian wheat exports to Japan now immediately benefit from a 7 percent drop in the Japanese government’s mark-up price, which will become a 12 percent reduction in April, U.S. Wheat Associates President Vince Peterson said in a recent statement. By April, American wheat will face a $14 per metric ton resale price disadvantage to Australia and Canada, he warned, adding that his industry faces “imminent collapse” in Japan.
In the end, American farmers will get what they deserve. If you want to make yourself poor and miserable, voting Trump delivers exactly that after a short wait.

Trump’s Inner Conflict: Tariff Man v Dow Man

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 12/25/2018 04:58:00 PM
Donny Demented must decide between Tariff Man and Dow Man since he likely can't be both.
Unlike any other (normal) American President, Trump continually boasted about rising stock markets earlier in his term. But, as with all things in a gravity-prone world, what goes up must come down. This danger all his predecessors innately understood, but Trump is...different. Interestingly, this tendency to brag about stock market performance--call him Dow Man after the world's most famous stock index (the Dow Jones Industrial Average--is at odds with his other persona. Yep, we're talking about his self-declared "Tariff Man," happy to slap taxes on all and sundry imported goods due to alleged unfair practices of America's trade partners.

Infamously, he tweeted that he was "Tariff Man" on December 4, tanking hopes that the US would cool its trade war, especially against China. The Dow Jones fell 800 points on his tweet. As the saying goes, it's all been downhill for American stocks since then. You see, the Dow Jones Industrial Average's 30 corporations are among US firms deriving the largest share of their revenues from overseas. So, obviously, the more Trump threatens to undermine global supply chains stretching the world over by slapping tariffs on these companies' imports, the worse their earnings are expected to be--and this is reflected in their stock prices being lowered in the here and now.

So which will win out, Dow Man or Tariff Man? Although Trump says tariffs have helped the stock market rise earlier in his term, few market commentators would agree.Which Trump persona will win out if he can't have both?
“Trump loves two things very much: tariffs and a rising stock market. It’s becoming increasingly clear he can’t have both … ‘I think Trump the Dow Jones Man is ultimately going to eat Trump the Tariff Man,’ said one former senior administration official intimately familiar with the president’s stock market obsession, citing Trump’s touting of a recent agreement to hold off on increased tariffs after a dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping. ‘What he agreed to after that dinner had basically been on the table for two years. He knew he had to give Wall Street something.’
Something has to give, and some have placed their bets on rampant protectionism. That is, Dow Man trumps Tariff Man. Still, you have to see both sides in this trade skirmish. how much can Trump take before suing for peace? Certainly, the leader in a (for now) democracy has to be more responsive than the PRC leadership which does not have to be. The Yanks have (for now) real elections:
“The question is, what is Trump’s pain threshold? And what is China’s pain threshold? It’s almost like two cars zooming toward each other. Which one is going to turn first?” asked Stephen Moore, visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an outside Trump adviser. “If the stock market fell another 1,000 points it would give him pause. He does love a bull market and hate a bear market. But he also feels this is the fight of our lifetime.”
The stock market cratering is undermining one of Trump's claims to progress, which is a rising market:
Trump and other senior administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, have long considered the stock market a scorecard on White House performance. Trump has touted a rising market over 30 times on Twitter since taking office. And senior aides say he watches market moves throughout the day on cable news and regularly asks how his potential decisions will impact Wall Street.

“You walk in the Oval and he wants a stock market quote, I give him that,” Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, said in a recent interview. When the market is falling, Trump wants to know precisely why, Kudlow said.
I too think Dow Man will win in the end, but it may still be some time until we see his emergence. First, the anti-globalist forces in his coalition must be placated, then we move into more of what passes for normalcy in Trump's administration. 

...There are Still Foreign Students in the US?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 12/22/2018 06:50:00 PM

There's an interesting article over at Politico about how Trump's nativist / white supremacist / neo-apartheidist rhetoric and policies have impacted not only illegal but, perhaps more importantly, legal migration. While all of it is certainly worth reading, let's focus on something I've been quite curious about: international students going to the United States to learn. After all, why would you want to go and give money to a country whose leader disparages you for your race, color, creed or "foreignness"? Trump whipping up anti-immigrant fervor against Muslims, Latinos and anyone who isn't a white Trump voter isn't going to enhance your safety against rising hate crimes, either.

So today's "no sh-t, Sherlock" moment is finding that international student visas being issued by the United States are cratering for apparent reasons:
Student visas under Trump have fallen, too. The State Department issued roughly 363,000 F-1 student visas in fiscal year 2018, according to a POLITICO analysis of State Department data. That represents a 23 percent decline from fiscal year 2016. The number of foreign students enrolled for the first time in U.S. colleges and universities declined in 2017 for the second year in a row, according to a report released in November. The report, based on an annual survey by the nonprofit Institute of International Education, calculated that new enrollment dropped nearly 7 percent compared with the previous year.

Leaders of universities and colleges blame Trump’s immigration tactics for the slowdown as the administration has moved to toughen standards for foreign students. “Many of our most successful companies are based on the talents of those international students,” said Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California system and a former Homeland Security secretary to President Barack Obama. “It just seems not wise, to put it mildly, to discourage that kind of international talent from coming to the United States.”
To help make matters worse, the Trump administration has just introduced policies designed to make life even harder for international students:
A new USCIS policy announced in October threatens to saddle international students with an immigration penalty if they remain in the country beyond the term of their visa, a hard-line move to compel students without authorization to depart the country quickly.
So why exactly would any sane prospective student want to go to America? The dollar is very strong, making it an expensive destination. So you're paying top dollar to be scapegoated and racially abused by Trump and people who think like him.

For many who considered studying Stateside, those Trump-alikes are far too many, and personal safety is certainly not guaranteed at this time when they're whipping up fervor against foreigners. This outcome is, regrettably, far too sensible. As the title suggests, the interesting observation may be that there are still any international students at all.

Huawei to Hell: Globally Restricting PRC Tech

♠ Posted by Emmanuel at 12/19/2018 05:16:00 PM
 Wrongly or rightly, Huawei is now perceived as an extension of the People's Republic of China. More specifically, the Communist leadership is thought of as directing its commercial activities in pursuit of national objectives. To be sure, this prospect was always the likely one given that its founder is a former People's Liberation Army officer who has not exactly distanced himself from his former employer. In the wake of his daughter, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, being detained in Canada on charges that Huawei violated American sanctions on Iran, many other countries have raised security concerns over using Huawei equipment in sensitive applications.

The Japanese have effectively banned state purchases of Huawei gear without mentioning it directly:
Japan decided on a policy Monday that will effectively exclude Chinese telecommunication equipment giants Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. from public procurement starting in April next year, the government said.

The decision comes amid concerns about security breaches that have already prompted the United States, Japan’s key ally, and some other counties to ban the two companies from supplying infrastructure products.

“It is extremely crucial not to procure equipment that embeds malicious functions including information theft and destruction,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference after cybersecurity officials from relevant government ministries and agencies agreed on the plan.
Nor are the French and Germans taking any chances in also overlooking Huawei equipment:
Huawei faces fresh challenges in Europe after France's Orange said it would not hire the Chinese firm to build its next-generation network and Germany's Deutsche Telekom announced it would review its vendor strategy.

The shift by the national market leaders, both partly state owned, follows Huawei's exclusion on national security grounds by some U.S. allies, led by Australia, from building their fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks.

U.S. officials have briefed allies that Huawei is ultimately at the beck and call of the Chinese state, while warning that its network equipment may contain "back doors" that could open them up to cyber espionage. Huawei says those concerns are unfounded. Tensions have been heightened by the arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer in Canada for possible extradition to the United States.
So the most developed markets of American security allies seem unattainable. Granted, that leaves plenty of other (non-aligned) countries free to buy Huawei gear. However, the examples of these major developed nations may mean others also doubting Huawei's intentions despite (presumably) having fewer trade secrets than these advanced countries.

Who will vouch for the safety of deploying Huawei gear other than these folks? It's probably up to Huawei itself to go beyond claiming its innocence by actually disclosing what's in its gear or at least explaining how it cannot be a backdoor for PRC infiltration. Otherwise, Australia, France, Germany and Japan will not be the last thinking it's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to Huawei gear.

Fears of US Treating Hong Kong as ‘China’

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,,, at 12/16/2018 04:50:00 PM
What makes Hong Kong still a global business hub may be under threat from Donald Trump.
With many Chinese cities having become nearly as developmentally advanced as Hong Kong, the question has always been what comparative advantage this "Special Administrative Region" still has. It used to be the gateway to the mainland, until mainland cities could pretty much do anything for foreigners what Hong Kong could. To cut a long story short, the "one country, two systems" idea has another differentiation that has continued Hong Kong's economic relevance.

You see, Hong Kong is regarded as a different entity from the PRC proper by the United States government. As such, it has some advantages the mainland does not such as trading privileges for "dual use" (civilian and military purposes) technologies. However, this unique status is being endangered by the Trump administration which is concerned that Hong Kong may be a backdoor for trading in these sensitive technologies on behalf of Communist China.

Is the United States soon going to lump Hong Kong with the rest of mainland China? Traders in Hong Kong fear this prospect:
Hong Kong business groups are starting to worry the Trump administration will open the door to ending the financial hub’s preferential trade status, rendering it “just another Chinese city” as its government gets closer to Beijing.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stoked fears last month with a recommendation that Congress reassess Hong Kong’s special trading status for some sensitive U.S. technology imports. It said Beijing’s statements and legislative actions “continue to run counter to China’s promise to uphold Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

If President Donald Trump acts on the recommendation, it would only impact dual-use technology with consumer and military applications -- like carbon fiber used to make both golf clubs and missile components -- that represent about 2 percent of U.S. exports to Hong Kong. But the blow to the city’s image may be irreparable.
Trump isn't exactly a stickler for democratic practices, but it's precisely Hong Kong's perceived kowtowing to the mainland that may land its status in trouble:
The U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong declined to comment when asked whether Trump was considering any action against the city. It pointed to a statement last month from Consul General Kurt Tong, who said “we are quite focused on the importance of the ‘one country, two systems’ framework” that allows Hong Kong to maintain a distinct economic, legal and political system.

In its annual May report on the city’s autonomy, the U.S. consulate said “certain actions” by China were inconsistent with its commitment to allow Hong Kong to exercise a high degree of self-governance. But it found that the city “generally” maintains a high degree of autonomy, “more than sufficient to justify continued special treatment.”
How independent is Hong Kong from mainland pressure? Given the cutthroat level of competition among Chinese cities, even the aforementioned 2% allowed trade in "dual use" technologies may be what sets it apart in this day and age and still means something. Trump, however, may have different ideas about Hong Kong's role in the world.

Small Island States & Climate Survival

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 12/14/2018 12:21:00 PM
Trying not to go underwater: Kiribati and company.
You sometimes have difficulty finding "good guys" at year-end UN climate negotiations. On one hand you have rich countries unwilling to cut emissions despite already being wealthy like the United States. They are largely indifferent to worsening the plight of poor countries which must bear the brunt of climate change, like those in sub-Saharan Africa. On the other hand, you also have developing countries that do not want to sacrifice anything to economic growth despite having among the world's most polluted cities on the face of the Earth. I'm talking about you, China and India.

But there are "good guys" here: Out of the sheer necessity of survival, small island nations at risk of being submerged by higher sea levels worldwide are leading the charge at climate negotiations to save them from literally disappearing off the map. Let's say their work is cut out against the likes of the United States--promoting coal at a climate conference, what a joke--and China and India who are quite callous to the plight of fellow developing countries. So much for third world solidarity...
The ongoing negotiations on how to implement the Paris Agreement aren’t going well. The world’s largest economies and top greenhouse emitters remain mired in decades-old arguments about who is responsible for addressing climate change and its impacts.

Now, a group of small island nations have stepped in to save themselves. Countries like Kiribati, Vanuatu and the Marshall Islands aren’t your typical geopolitical movers and shakers, but here at the United Nations climate change conference in Katowice, Poland these highly vulnerable countries have managed to reshape discussions with a simple but poignant reminder: if the world fails to halt global warming they may disappear for good.

“We are not prepared to die, and the Maldives have no intention of dying,” Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives told reporters in Poland. “We are going to do everything in our power to keep our heads above the water.”
They try, but the message sometimes falls on deaf ears:
To do that, these countries have launched a last-minute blitz to rouse higher-emitting and slower-moving countries to action. They are pushing their counterparts to demand a more aggressive agreement in a series of closed-door bilateral discussions. And they’ve launched a messaging campaign to signal that they will not let other countries off the hook if they hold back.
I am obviously sympathetic to small island states, but I do have to scratch my head about what kind of political leverage they can apply to get what they want achieved during these international talks. Literally, they are the smallest of fishes in a very big pond.