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Turkey Joins Nations Placing New Tariffs on US Products

Turkey announced Thursday that it would impose tariffs on $1.8 billion worth of U.S. goods in retaliation for U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The World Trade Organization said the new Turkish tariffs would amount to $266.5 million on products including cars, coal, paper, rice and tobacco.

Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said in a statement that Turkey would not allow itself “to be wrongly blamed for America’s economic challenges.”

He continued, “We are part of the solution, not the problem.”

On Wednesday, the EU announced that it had compiled a list of U.S. products on which it would begin charging import duties of 25 percent, a move that could escalate into a full-blown trade war, especially if U.S. President Donald Trump follows through with his threat to impose tariffs on European cars.

“We did not want to be in this position. However, the unilateral and unjustified decision of the U.S. to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on the EU means that we are left with no other choice,” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement.

The commission, which manages the daily business of the EU, adopted a law that places duties on $3.2 billion worth of U.S. goods, including aluminum and steel products, agricultural products, bourbon and motorcycles.

Malmstrom said that the EU response was consistent with World Trade Organization rules and that the tariffs would be lifted if the U.S. rescinded its metal tariffs, which amount to $7.41 billion.

Trump slapped tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum on the EU, Canada and Mexico, which went into effect at the beginning of June.

Canada said it would impose retaliatory tariffs on $12.5 billion worth of U.S. products on July 1.

Mexico imposed tariffs two weeks ago on a range of U.S. products, including steel, pork and bourbon.

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Turkey Joins Nations Placing New Tariffs on US Products

Turkey announced Thursday that it would impose tariffs on $1.8 billion worth of U.S. goods in retaliation for U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The World Trade Organization said the new Turkish tariffs would amount to $266.5 million on products including cars, coal, paper, rice and tobacco.

Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said in a statement that Turkey would not allow itself “to be wrongly blamed for America’s economic challenges.”

He continued, “We are part of the solution, not the problem.”

On Wednesday, the EU announced that it had compiled a list of U.S. products on which it would begin charging import duties of 25 percent, a move that could escalate into a full-blown trade war, especially if U.S. President Donald Trump follows through with his threat to impose tariffs on European cars.

“We did not want to be in this position. However, the unilateral and unjustified decision of the U.S. to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on the EU means that we are left with no other choice,” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement.

The commission, which manages the daily business of the EU, adopted a law that places duties on $3.2 billion worth of U.S. goods, including aluminum and steel products, agricultural products, bourbon and motorcycles.

Malmstrom said that the EU response was consistent with World Trade Organization rules and that the tariffs would be lifted if the U.S. rescinded its metal tariffs, which amount to $7.41 billion.

Trump slapped tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum on the EU, Canada and Mexico, which went into effect at the beginning of June.

Canada said it would impose retaliatory tariffs on $12.5 billion worth of U.S. products on July 1.

Mexico imposed tariffs two weeks ago on a range of U.S. products, including steel, pork and bourbon.

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UN: 40M in US Live in Poverty

A report by the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights finds 40 million people in the United States live in poverty, 18.5 million live in extreme poverty and more than 5 million live in conditions of absolute poverty. 

Special Rapporteur Philip Alston called the United States the most unequal society in the developed world. He said U.S. policies benefit the rich and exacerbate the plight of the poor.

He said the policies of President Donald Trump’s administration stigmatize the poor by insisting those receiving government benefits are capable of working and that benefits, such as food stamps, should be cut back significantly. He said the government’s suggestions that people on welfare are lazy and do not want to work misrepresent the facts.

“The statistics that are available show that the great majority of people who, for example, are on Medicaid are either working in full-time work — around half of them — or they are in school or they are giving full-time care to others,” Alston said.

He said 7 percent of people were not working.

Worst of the West

In his report, which will be delivered Friday to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Alston noted the United States had the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries, with the top 1 percent of the population owning more than 38 percent of total wealth. He said the Trump administration’s $1.5 trillion in tax cuts would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy and would worsen the situation of the poor.

The U.N. investigator told VOA that at the completion of each of his country fact-finding missions, he issues what he calls an end-of mission statement. That, he said, gives some governments the opportunity to immediately respond.

“The U.S. chose not to do that, and since then there has not been any official response to either that end-of-mission statement or to the final report, which has now been out for a couple of weeks,” he said.

As is common practice, after Alston formally presents his report to the Human Rights Council, the concerned country has a right of reply. Though the United States has withdrawn as a member of the council, it still has the right to respond to the report as an observer country.

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UN: 40M in US Live in Poverty

A report by the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights finds 40 million people in the United States live in poverty, 18.5 million live in extreme poverty and more than 5 million live in conditions of absolute poverty. 

Special Rapporteur Philip Alston called the United States the most unequal society in the developed world. He said U.S. policies benefit the rich and exacerbate the plight of the poor.

He said the policies of President Donald Trump’s administration stigmatize the poor by insisting those receiving government benefits are capable of working and that benefits, such as food stamps, should be cut back significantly. He said the government’s suggestions that people on welfare are lazy and do not want to work misrepresent the facts.

“The statistics that are available show that the great majority of people who, for example, are on Medicaid are either working in full-time work — around half of them — or they are in school or they are giving full-time care to others,” Alston said.

He said 7 percent of people were not working.

Worst of the West

In his report, which will be delivered Friday to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Alston noted the United States had the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries, with the top 1 percent of the population owning more than 38 percent of total wealth. He said the Trump administration’s $1.5 trillion in tax cuts would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy and would worsen the situation of the poor.

The U.N. investigator told VOA that at the completion of each of his country fact-finding missions, he issues what he calls an end-of mission statement. That, he said, gives some governments the opportunity to immediately respond.

“The U.S. chose not to do that, and since then there has not been any official response to either that end-of-mission statement or to the final report, which has now been out for a couple of weeks,” he said.

As is common practice, after Alston formally presents his report to the Human Rights Council, the concerned country has a right of reply. Though the United States has withdrawn as a member of the council, it still has the right to respond to the report as an observer country.

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India, Top Buyer of US Almonds, Hits Back With Higher Duties

India, the world’s biggest buyer of U.S. almonds, raised import duties on the commodity by 20 percent, a government order said, joining the European Union and China in retaliating against President Donald Trump’s tariff hikes on steel and aluminum.

New Delhi, incensed by Washington’s refusal to exempt it from the new tariffs, also imposed a 120 percent duty on the import of walnuts in the strongest action yet against the United States.

The move to increase tariffs from Aug. 4 will also cover a slew of other farm, steel and iron products.

It came a day after the European Union said it would begin charging 25 percent import duties on a range of U.S. products on Friday, in response to the new U.S. tariffs.

India is by far the largest buyer of U.S. almonds, purchasing over half of all U.S. almond shipments in 2017. A kilogram of shelled almonds will attract duty of as much as 120 rupees ($1.76) instead of the current 100 rupees, the Commerce Ministry said.

Last month, New Delhi sought an exemption from the new U.S. tariffs, saying its steel and aluminum exports were small in relation to other suppliers. But its request was ignored, prompting India to launch a complaint against the United States at the World Trade Organization.

“India’s tariff retaliation is within the discipline of trade tariffs of the World Trade Organization,” said steel secretary Aruna Sharma.

Trade differences between India and the United States have been rising since U.S. President Donald Trump took office. Bilateral trade rose to $115 billion in 2016, but the Trump administration wants to reduce its $31 billion deficit with India, and is pressing New Delhi to ease trade barriers.

Earlier this year, Trump called out India for its duties on Harley-Davidson motorbikes, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to cut the import duty to 50 percent from 75 percent for the high-end bikes.

But that has not satisfied Trump, who pointed to zero duties for Indian bikes sold in the United States and said he would push for a “reciprocal tax” against countries, including U.S. allies, that levy tariffs on American products.

In the tariff rates issued late on Wednesday, the commerce ministry named some varieties of almonds, apples, chickpeas, lentils, walnuts and artemia that would carry higher import taxes. Most of these are purchased from the United States.

Walnuts have gone from 100 percent duty to 120 percent, the government note said.

India also raised duties on some grades of iron and steel products. In May it had given a list of products to the WTO that it said could incur higher tariffs.

An official from the steel ministry said at the time that the new tariffs were intended to show displeasure at the U.S. action.

“It is an appropriate signal. I am hopeful that all of this (trade war) will die down. In my view this is not in the interest of the global economy,” said Rajiv Kumar, vice chairman of the Indian government’s policy thinktank Niti Aayog.

Rising trade tensions between the United States and some major economies have threatened to derail global growth.

Officials from India and the United States are expected to hold talks on June 26-27 to discuss trade issues, local daily Times of India reported on Thursday citing Press Trust of India.

The U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday announced a preliminary finding that imports of large-diameter welded pipe from China, India, South Korea and Turkey were subsidized by those countries, and said it was imposing preliminary duties that could top 500 percent.

In a separate trade dispute, Trump threatened on Monday to hit $200 billion of Chinese imports with 10 percent tariffs if Beijing retaliates against his previous announcement to target $50 billion in imports. The United States has accused China of stealing U.S. intellectual property, a charge Beijing denies. ($1 = 68.1700 Indian rupees)

 

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India, Top Buyer of US Almonds, Hits Back With Higher Duties

India, the world’s biggest buyer of U.S. almonds, raised import duties on the commodity by 20 percent, a government order said, joining the European Union and China in retaliating against President Donald Trump’s tariff hikes on steel and aluminum.

New Delhi, incensed by Washington’s refusal to exempt it from the new tariffs, also imposed a 120 percent duty on the import of walnuts in the strongest action yet against the United States.

The move to increase tariffs from Aug. 4 will also cover a slew of other farm, steel and iron products.

It came a day after the European Union said it would begin charging 25 percent import duties on a range of U.S. products on Friday, in response to the new U.S. tariffs.

India is by far the largest buyer of U.S. almonds, purchasing over half of all U.S. almond shipments in 2017. A kilogram of shelled almonds will attract duty of as much as 120 rupees ($1.76) instead of the current 100 rupees, the Commerce Ministry said.

Last month, New Delhi sought an exemption from the new U.S. tariffs, saying its steel and aluminum exports were small in relation to other suppliers. But its request was ignored, prompting India to launch a complaint against the United States at the World Trade Organization.

“India’s tariff retaliation is within the discipline of trade tariffs of the World Trade Organization,” said steel secretary Aruna Sharma.

Trade differences between India and the United States have been rising since U.S. President Donald Trump took office. Bilateral trade rose to $115 billion in 2016, but the Trump administration wants to reduce its $31 billion deficit with India, and is pressing New Delhi to ease trade barriers.

Earlier this year, Trump called out India for its duties on Harley-Davidson motorbikes, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to cut the import duty to 50 percent from 75 percent for the high-end bikes.

But that has not satisfied Trump, who pointed to zero duties for Indian bikes sold in the United States and said he would push for a “reciprocal tax” against countries, including U.S. allies, that levy tariffs on American products.

In the tariff rates issued late on Wednesday, the commerce ministry named some varieties of almonds, apples, chickpeas, lentils, walnuts and artemia that would carry higher import taxes. Most of these are purchased from the United States.

Walnuts have gone from 100 percent duty to 120 percent, the government note said.

India also raised duties on some grades of iron and steel products. In May it had given a list of products to the WTO that it said could incur higher tariffs.

An official from the steel ministry said at the time that the new tariffs were intended to show displeasure at the U.S. action.

“It is an appropriate signal. I am hopeful that all of this (trade war) will die down. In my view this is not in the interest of the global economy,” said Rajiv Kumar, vice chairman of the Indian government’s policy thinktank Niti Aayog.

Rising trade tensions between the United States and some major economies have threatened to derail global growth.

Officials from India and the United States are expected to hold talks on June 26-27 to discuss trade issues, local daily Times of India reported on Thursday citing Press Trust of India.

The U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday announced a preliminary finding that imports of large-diameter welded pipe from China, India, South Korea and Turkey were subsidized by those countries, and said it was imposing preliminary duties that could top 500 percent.

In a separate trade dispute, Trump threatened on Monday to hit $200 billion of Chinese imports with 10 percent tariffs if Beijing retaliates against his previous announcement to target $50 billion in imports. The United States has accused China of stealing U.S. intellectual property, a charge Beijing denies. ($1 = 68.1700 Indian rupees)

 

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Lawmakers Grill Commerce Secretary Over Escalating Trade Battles

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross faced tough questions during a Senate hearing Wednesday on the Trump administration’s tariff proposals and actions. Senators on both sides of the aisle criticized the administration’s rollout of proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. VOA’s Elizabeth Cherneff has more on the fallout from Washington.

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China: ‘Capricious’ Trade Tactics Will Hurt US Workers

China’s commerce ministry on Thursday accused the United States of being “capricious” over bilateral trade issues and warned that the interests of U.S. workers and farmers ultimately will be hurt by Washington’s penchant for brandishing “big sticks.”

Previous trade negotiations with the United States had been constructive, but because the U.S. government is being unpredictable and challenging, Beijing has had to respond in a strong manner, commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said in a regular briefing in Beijing.

President Donald Trump threatened Monday to hit $200 billion of Chinese imports with 10 percent tariffs if Beijing retaliates against his previous announcement to target $50 billion in imports. The United States has alleged that China is stealing U.S. intellectual property, a charge denied by Beijing.

Washington’s accusations of forced tech transfers are a distortion of reality, and China is fully prepared to respond with “quantitative” and “qualitative” tools if the U.S. releases a new list of tariffs, Gao said.

Markets worried

“It is deeply regrettable that the U.S. has been capricious, escalated the tensions, and provoked a trade war,” he said. “The U.S. is accustomed to holding ‘big sticks’ for negotiations, but this approach does not apply to China.”

Financial markets are worried about an open trade conflict between the world’s two biggest economies after three rounds of high-level talks since early May failed to reach a compromise on U.S. complaints over Chinese practices and a $375 billion trade deficit with China.

A Sino-U.S. trade war could disrupt global supply chains for the tech and auto industries, sectors heavily reliant on outsourced components, and derail world growth.

“It will not be easy for the U.S. to identify $200 billion worth of Chinese imports that it can levy tariffs on without hurting U.S. companies and/or consumers, given the strong involvement of U.S. companies in a large share of China’s exports to the U.S.,” British forecaster Oxford Economics said in a recent note.

​‘Cannot be soft’

China said it will impose additional tariffs on 659 U.S. goods, with duties on 545 of them to kick in July 6, after Trump said Washington will impose tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese products.

The U.S. goods affected July 6 include soybeans, fruit, meat products such as pork, autos, as well as marine products.

Beijing has yet to announce an activation date for its tariffs on the remaining 114 U.S. products, which include crude oil, coal and a range of refined fuel products.

“We cannot be soft with Trump. He is using his ‘irrationality’ as a tactic and he is trying to confuse us,” said Chen Fengying, an economics expert at state-backed China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. “But if we could accomplish some of the things that he wants us to do, such as IP, market reforms, he’d be helping us. Of course there are risks, those would depend on how we handle those reforms.”

Dow-listed firms

China could hit back at U.S. firms listed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average if Trump keeps exacerbating tensions with China over trade, state-controlled Chinese tabloid The Global Times said Thursday.

The Dow, which counts Boeing, Apple and Nike among its constituents, ended down 0.17 percent Wednesday. The 30-stock share index has declined 0.25 percent year-to-date.

“U.S. unilateral protection measures will ultimately harm the interests of U.S. companies, workers, and farmers,” Gao told reporters.

He said the two sides are to negotiate on issues around the manufacturing and service industries “in the near future.”

War of words

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who views China as a hostile economic and military power, said Tuesday that Beijing had more to lose from a trade war.

“Jobs for the Chinese are just as precious as those for the Americans,” Zha Daojiong, professor of international political economy at the School of International Studies at Peking University, told Reuters in an email. “It will be wise for the two sides to come back to the negotiation table, abide by a temporary agreement and turn down the rhetoric.”

China imported $129.89 billion of U.S. goods last year, while the United States purchased $505.47 billion of Chinese products, according to U.S. data.

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New Credit Rating Speaks of Vietnam’s Complicated Makeover

A decent rating from Fitch this month has Vietnam riding high on the small victory, despite some of the less favorable economic trends connected to this first-of-its-kind rating.

The state monopoly Vietnam Electricity, or EVN, clinched a “BB” score June 6 from Fitch Ratings, which until then had never officially assessed the credit of a non-financial company owned by the Hanoi government. That prompted a cross-section of officials in the southeast Asian country to gush about the promise in store for one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

“This positive rating enables EVN to issue international bonds, diversify our financing sources, and reassure domestic and foreign institutional investors,” said Dinh Quang Tri, the acting CEO of EVN. “We are now on a stronger footing to deliver more reliable electricity to Vietnam.”

The ebullience, however, is tempered by two questions: Will this be enough for investors to trust EVN? And how much should government become involved in business?

Renewable energy

EVN underscores the mixed sentiments that analysts express about Vietnam, a communist country transitioning to capitalism. The fact that the government runs EVN contributed to Fitch’s confidence in its report card.

“We believe the company can secure adequate funding in light of its position as an entity closely linked to the sovereign,” it said in a media release.

Yet businesses want even more promises from the government. Vietnam has spent years courting investment in renewable power, for example, but with limited success. That is in part because businesses that generate wind, solar, and other alternative energy sources can sell it only to EVN, and they are afraid of losing money if the company does not buy their electricity.

For renewables, “there is no provision for any form of government guarantee, assurance, or support to enhance the creditworthiness of EVN as the sole off-taker/purchaser,” corporate law firm Baker McKenzie said in a September report.

State vs. free market

Some would like to see more government involvement in general, especially to bail out companies in trouble. Others would like to see less involvement, as evidenced in the push for Vietnam to privatize further by selling stakes in its many state-owned enterprises. The country has not settled on a balance between the free market and the government.

Hanoi used to give iron-clad pledges that it would pay up in case of default at one of its state firms or public works projects. The government is doing that less often now because it is moving away from a centrally-planned economy, as well as reducing its sovereign debt.

Public anxiety mounted in recent years as Vietnam approached its debt ceiling of 65 percent of gross domestic product, though the country has made progress in reining in the debt.

That means EVN must tread lightly. Now that the power company has a Fitch Rating, it is eyeing international bonds to borrow money from investors around the world.

Going through this financing process is “helping EVN benefit from the discipline that comes with access to capital markets,” said Jordan Schwartz, who is the director of the World Bank group overseeing infrastructure, guarantees, and public-private partnerships.

The World Bank gave EVN funds and technical assistance to prepare for the Fitch assessment. Its credit rating shows how tightly EVN’s fate correlates with that of the government. Electricity prices, for example, will have to increase for the utility to make profits and improve its rating. Big increases, however, require approval from Hanoi, which also wants to keep power affordable for citizens.

The correlation is even blunter in Fitch’s analysis. The overall credit rating for Vietnam’s government itself also is BB. If that improves, so could the score for EVN, Fitch said, “provided EVN’s linkages with the state do not deteriorate significantly.”

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Recycling Rubbish into Revenue, Plan Brings Hope to Women in Jordan

Sameera Al Salam folds a discarded piece of newspaper into a long strip then loops it round her finger to form a tight circle, the first stage of making the upcycled handbags, trays and bowls the Syrian refugee hopes will help her earn a living.

Al Salam, 55, was a hairdresser with a passion for “art and making things” before she fled her war-torn homeland for Irbid in northern Jordan with her family in 2012.

Now she has two teenagers and a husband left paralyzed by a stroke to support in a country where she has no automatic legal right to work, and they are three months behind on their rent.

“We were living a really happy life. I had a garden where I grew everything,” Al Salam told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We had to leave because of the airstrikes. We were always trying to put things in front of the door to protect the children. Whenever I remember, it breaks my heart.”

Like most of the more than 655,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan — and many Jordanians — poverty, debt and unemployment dominate the family’s existence.

Al Salam hopes her involvement in a new rubbish collection and recycling plan that aims to alleviate the poverty of both refugees and locals and bring the two communities closer will help turn things around.

The project, managed by charity Action Against Hunger, employs 1,200 people to collect and sort waste from the streets and provides temporary work permits to refugees who take part.

Nearly half the participants are female in a country where women can face cultural and family obstacles to employment, including a culture of shame around going out to work.

One in three Syrian refugee households in Jordan is headed by women and more and more are now seeking jobs in an already crowded market.

More than 80 percent of the Syrian refugees in Jordan live below the poverty line, according to Care International.

Awsaf Qaddah, a 39-year-old Syrian widow, said working as a rubbish collector initially felt like “a kind of shame,” but she now feels only pride.

“The job took me out of this atmosphere I was living in at home. Women can and should go out and work, especially with the circumstances we’re facing,” she said. “I have no husband or father or brother to help — I’m proud to do it.”

Fellow worker Berwen Misterihi, who is Jordanian, was forced to earn after her husband left her and their four children.

“Women and men would make comments about me picking up waste,” she said.

“I said to one man, ‘I’d rather work than come to you for the money’ and he apologized.”

‘Like Siblings’

The project workers were given 50-day contracts paying 12 Jordanian Dinar ($16.90) a day, plus training and social security provisions. Some of the waste was sold to scrap dealers for extra cash.

Al Salam was among a group of women who started an upcycling project, turning the waste paper and plastic they collected into objects to sell.

Action Against Hunger, which has managed the waste project since 2017 with German government funding, is now setting up a second phase focusing on equipping cooperatives and workers to continue waste processing and upcycling unaided.

“First there was a focus on breaking the culture of shame for women. Then we wanted ideas of how they could benefit from waste,” said Sajeda Saqallah, programme manager with Action Against Hunger. “Upcycling is a new concept here, so we took them to Amman to learn about it.”

Al Salam said her husband did not object to her taking part in the project. She now hopes she will get training on marketing and trademarking and win one of a number of new contracts Action Against Hunger is providing to carry on upcycling for wages.

The women in her upcycling group meet regularly and share ideas and news in a WhatsApp group.

At a workshop filled with their creations – from handbags to light shades to side tables, all made from recycled newspaper and cardboard – Sahira Zoubi, a Syrian refugee and mother of five excitedly points to the gold handbag she made.

Zoubi, who has not seen her husband since the Syrian army captured him in 2012, has made close friends through the project from both Syria and Jordan who she says are “like siblings.”

“Doing this project is so joyful because you come here and forget about your problems,” she said.

Al Salam breaks down as she tells how the project has allowed her to overcome her fears of being a refugee in a strange country.

“I never really mixed with people before this. I was afraid to go outside, I wasn’t involved in the community,” she said. “I was from a different country. I didn’t know what people were going to do to me or what they would say. Now I like to mingle.”

($1 = 0.7100 Jordanian dinars)

Travel for this story was covered by Action Against Hunger.