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Indian Exporters Eye Gains Amid Intensifying US China Trade Dispute

As work on establishing a massive garment-manufacturing unit by one of India’s leading apparel exporters enters the final stages, the company is optimistic about keeping the machines humming. Slated to begin production in August, Orient Craft’s new unit in Jharkhand, one of India’s least developed states, will employ about eight thousand workers.

Inquiries from buyers in the United States, its biggest market, have increased in recent months as a trade dispute with China intensifies, according to A.K. Jain, who heads the Commercial department at Orient Craft.  That is why he is  upbeat about generating new business. “This is an unbelievable blessing in disguise,” he says. “It will give us an edge.”

Exporters in India are reaping the benefits of the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies as business with both countries jumps, according to Ajai Sahai, who heads the Federation of Indian Export Organizations.

“While overall exports have gone up by nine percent, exports to the U.S. have gone up by 13 percent and to China by 32 percent,” he says. And as the confrontation escalated last week after the two countries failed to reach a deal, his optimism increased. “Since the tariff hike is now substantial from 10 to 25 percent we feel we will have more advantage in market access.”

India is among a handful of countries set to benefit from the U.S.-China trade dispute, a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development stated in February. “The saying ‘it’s good to fish in troubled waters’ could apply to some bystander nations,” the report said, pointing out that most of the Chinese exports subject to U.S. tariffs will be captured by firms in third countries.

While China has opened its doors wider to a range of agricultural products from India such as rice and sugar, exports to the United States have increased in areas such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, jewelry, auto components and apparel.

“In various products we were losing out to China with a very narrow margin. With the hike, we are able to offset that,” says Sahai. “That is why the tariff war has presented us an opportunity to enter markets in the U.S. in some areas we were hardly penetrating.”

But even as Indian exports benefit, trade experts warn that clouds are also gathering over New Delhi’s trade relationship with Washington. In recent months, U.S. President Donald Trump has slammed Indian duties on some U.S. goods, saying that India is not providing “equitable and reasonable access” to its markets.

Economists also warn that an eventual slowdown in global trade due to the U.S.-China trade spat will hit all countries including India, which is already staring at an economic slowdown

Growth in the world’s fastest growing major economy flagged to 6.6 percent in the last quarter of 2018 – it’s lowest in more than a year. It is not expected to fare much better this year.

The slump is blamed on slackening domestic consumption, which powers the Indian economy. Unlike East Asian countries, which have raced ahead on the back of exports, growth momentum in India is largely based on an affluent middle class snapping up goods such as cars, refrigerators, air conditioners and other consumer goods.

But there are concerns as automobile sales, the barometer of consumption, plunged to the lowest in nearly eight years in recent months. 

At the Hyundai car showroom in the upscale business hub of Gurgaon, near Delhi, a range of swanky models beckon customers, but there are few to be seen. This is in marked contrast to the last three years when buoyant automobile sales helped India overtake Germany to become the world’s fourth largest automobile market. That prompted car makers such as Hyundai, Honda and Toyota to expand their presence in the country.

“In recent years, March and April used to be good months. But now 20 to 30 percent drop is there in these months also,” says Gagan Arora, business head at the Hyundai showroom. “There is a slowdown in the whole industry. New buyers are not being added so frequently.”

Economists say while rising exports to the United States and China present a silver lining, the first challenge facing India’s new government due to take office after vote counting in elections is completed this week, will be how to restore overall momentum to the economy and see why consumers are not so willing to open their wallets.

AP Explains: US Sanctions on Huawei Bite, But Who Gets Hurt?

Trump administration sanctions against Huawei have begun to bite even though their dimensions remain unclear. U.S. companies that supply the Chinese tech powerhouse with computer chips saw their stock prices slump Monday, and Huawei faces decimated smartphone sales with the anticipated loss of Google’s popular software and services. 

The U.S. move escalates trade-war tensions with Beijing, but also risks making China more self-sufficient over time.

Here’s a look at what’s behind the dispute and what it means.

What’s this about?

Last week, the U.S. Commerce Department said it would place Huawei on the so-called Entity List, effectively barring U.S. firms from selling it technology without government approval. 

Google said it would continue to support existing Huawei smartphones but future devices will not have its flagship apps and services, including maps, Gmail and search. Only basic services would be available, making Huawei phones less desirable. Separately, Huawei is the world’s leading provider of networking equipment, but it relies on U.S. components including computer chips. About a third of Huawei’s suppliers are American. 

Why punish Huawei?

The U.S. defense and intelligence communities have long accused Huawei of being an untrustworthy agent of Beijing’s repressive rulers — though without providing evidence. The U.S. government’s sanctions are widely seen as a means of pressuring reluctant allies in Europe to exclude Huawei equipment from their next-generation wireless networks. Washington says it’s a question of national security and punishment of Huawei for skirting sanctions against Iran, but the backdrop is a struggle for economic and technological dominance. 

The politics of President Donald Trump’s escalating tit-for-tat trade war have co-opted a longstanding policy goal of stemming state-backed Chinese cyber theft of trade and military secrets. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said last week that the sanctions on Huawei have nothing to do with the trade war and could be revoked if Huawei’s behavior were to change.

​The sanctions’ bite

Analysts predict consumers will abandon Huawei for other smartphone makers if Huawei can only use a stripped-down version of Android. Huawei, now the No. 2 smartphone supplier, could fall behind Apple to third place. Google could seek exemptions, but would not comment on whether it planned to do so.

Who uses Huawei anyway?

While most consumers in the U.S. don’t even know how to pronounce Huawei (it’s “HWA-way”), its brand is well known in most of the rest of the world, where people have been buying its smartphones in droves.

Huawei stealthily became an industry star by plowing into new markets, developing a lineup of phones that offer affordable options for low-income households and luxury models that are siphoning upper-crust sales from Apple and Samsung in China and Europe. About 13 percent of its phones are now sold in Europe, estimates Gartner analyst Annette Zimmermann.

That formula helped Huawei establish itself as the world’s second-largest seller of smartphones during the first three months of this year, according to the research firm IDC. Huawei shipped 59 million smartphones in the January-March period, nearly 23 million more than Apple.

Ripple effects

The U.S. ban could have unwelcome ripple effects in the U.S., given how much technology Huawei buys from U.S. companies, especially from makers of the microprocessors that go into smartphones, computers, internet networking gear and other gadgetry.

The list of chip companies expected to be hit hardest includes Micron Technologies, Qualcomm, Qorvo and Skyworks Solutions, which all have listed Huawei as a major customer in their annual reports. Others likely to suffer are Xilinx, Broadcom and Texas Instruments, according to industry analysts.

Being cut off from Huawei will also compound the pain the chip sector is already experiencing from the Trump administration’s rising China tariffs.

The Commerce Department on Monday announced an expected grace period of 90 days or more, easing the immediate hit on U.S. suppliers. It can extend that stay, and also has the option of issuing exemptions for especially hard-hit companies.

Much could depend on whether countries including France, Germany, the U.K. and the Netherlands continue to refuse to completely exclude Huawei equipment from their wireless networks.

The grace period allows U.S. providers to alert Huawei to security vulnerabilities and engage the Chinese company in research on standards for next-generation 5G wireless networks.

It also gives operators of U.S. rural broadband networks that use Huawei routers time to switch them out.

​Could this backfire?

Huawei is already the biggest global supplier of networking equipment, and is now likely to move toward making all components domestically. China already has a policy seeking technological independence by 2025.

U.S. tech companies, facing a drop in sales, could respond with layoffs. More than 52,000 technology jobs in the U.S. are directly tied to China exports, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association, a trade group also known as CompTIA.

What about harm to Google?

Google may lose some licensing fees and opportunities to show ads on Huawei phones, but it still will probably be a financial hiccup for Google and its corporate parent, Alphabet Inc., which is expected to generate $160 billion in revenue this year. 

The Apple effect

In theory, Huawei’s losses could translate into gains for both Samsung and Apple at a time both of those companies are trying to reverse a sharp decline in smartphone sales.

But Apple also stands to be hurt if China decides to target it in retaliation. Apple is particularly vulnerable because most iPhones are assembled in China. The Chinese government, for example could block crucial shipments to the factories assembling iPhones or take other measures that disrupt the supply chain.

Any retaliatory move from China could come on top of a looming increase on tariffs by the U.S. that would hit the iPhone, forcing Apple to raise prices or reduce profits.

What’s more, the escalating trade war may trigger a backlash among Chinese consumers against U.S. products, including the iPhone. 

“Beijing could stoke nationalist sentiment over the treatment of Huawei, which could result in protests against major U.S.technology brands,” CompTIA warned. 

Trade War Adds to Woes of European Companies in China

The U.S.-China trade war has not spared European companies in China. More than one-third of them are feeling a direct impact on their businesses and fear the situation will worsen in the coming weeks.

“They [European companies] are feeling more anxious than they felt last year, rising tensions such as the trade tensions that we are facing currently that don’t seem to be on the point of being sorted out quickly,” European Chamber Vice President Charlotte Roule told VOA.

The trade conflict has come on top of several other problems faced by European companies in China.

“Macroeconomic challenges such as the Chinese economic slowdown and global economic slowdown are worrying them,” Roule said.

In a survey conducted last January and released Monday, the European Chamber of Commerce in China reported the trade war has impacted 25% of its members engaged in U.S.-bound exports from their operations in China.  

Since January, the United States has since expanded its tariff measures against China-made goods, while Beijing has announced its own set of retaliatory measures. These moves would affect a larger number of European companies, including those that import products from the U.S.

Significantly, the survey showed that only five percent of the chamber’s member companies see the trade tussle as an opportunity for themselves.

Intertwined relations

The trade war involves two countries at the political level, but has impacted other businesses with overlapping interests and intertwined connections across regions and industry segments.

Nick Marro, an analyst at the Economic Intelligence Unit, cited the example of China-based joint ventures between European and China companies engaged in producing electronic components. They will be hit by Washington’s decision to raise taxes on goods made in China. Similarly, U.S.-based European companies exporting to China would be affected.

“Trade wars are very complicated. You can’t isolate these effects to one or two countries,” Marro said.

The extent of the trade war’s impact varies from one industry sector to another, said Jacob Gunter, the chamber’s policy and communications coordinator.  But Gunter said there is considerable fear that the impact might prove to be widespread and severe.

“European companies share many of the U.S.’ concerns, but strongly oppose the blunt use of tariffs,” according to the chamber.

The trade war was ranked fourth among the concerns of European companies when the survey was taken last January. But the companies were more concerned about the economic slowdown in China and the world, besides the rising labor cost in China.

“European firms confront the same challenges facing their U.S. rivals, such as local protectionism or burdensome administrative processes. And developments in the trade war to date have yielded little immediate progress on these issues,” said Marro.

Even without the trade war, European companies face considerable difficulties due largely to regulatory controls and inadequate implementation of market access rules made by the central government in Beijing.

Chamber members presented a bleak outlook of the business situation in China in the coming years.  About 47% of those surveyed said they expect regulatory obstacles to actually increase in the next five years.

The survey reported that business optimism on growth over the next two years dropped from 62% in 2018 to 45% in 2019.

Joining hands

Analysts said China will increasingly try to woo the European Union and its markets in order to protect itself from aggressive U.S. trade actions.  But the bloc is undecided on what stance to take, because any move in favor of China would not be lauded in Washington.

“The EU is kind of in a difficult position. People are pushing the EU to choose the U.S. or China. I think the EU is choosing the EU,” Gunter said. “The EU is taking necessary measures to protect its own interest and expand business relations with China,” he said.

“There is an opportunity for China and the EU to work together. As far as the trade conflict is concerned, it should try to mediate the conflict, instead of taking sides,” he said.

European companies said there is no sign of the Chinese government trying to make life easier for them, even after battling the United States in the trade conflict for 10 months.

Last January, most European companies told surveyors they have not changed their strategy owing to the trade war. But analysts said many of them will have to rethink the way they do business.

“European companies will seek to minimize their exposure to political risk by adopting their global supply chains, said Max Zenglein, head of economic research at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) in Berlin.

“Export-oriented businesses, in particular at the lower end of the value chain, are likely to shift to other Southeast Asian nations. This is, however, a process that takes time,” he said.

Ford to Cut 7,000 Jobs, 10% of Global Staff

Ford plans to cut 7,000 jobs, or 10 percent of its global workforce, as part of a reorganization as it revamps its vehicle offerings, the company said Monday.

The reorganization will involve some layoffs and reassignments and should be complete by the end of August, a Ford spokeswoman said. Ford has been phasing out most sedan models in the United States as more consumers have opted for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles.

The move, which began last year, will lead to 800 layoffs in North America in total, including about 500 this week, said Ford spokeswoman Marisa Bradley.

The company has yet to determine the specifics in other regions, she said.

“As we have said, Ford is undergoing an organizational redesign process helping us create a more dynamic, agile and empowered workforce, while becoming more fit as a business,” Bradley said.

“We understand this is a challenging time for our team, but these steps are necessary to position Ford for success today and yet preparing to thrive in the future.”

Ford had signaled it expected significant job cuts in April 2018 when it announced a plan to phase out several small models in North America. At the same time, the company is ramping up investment in electric cars and autonomous driving technology.

General Motors has also undertaken job cuts over the last year for similar reasons.

Shares of Ford dipped 0.4 percent to $10.25 in early trading.

 

Vietnam, EU Eye Trade Alternative to US

Vietnam and Europe could be swapping more pomelo fruit and Portuguese cheese soon if a new trade deal comes into effect, linking two regions that have been looking for an alternative to the trade tensions brought on by the United States.

The European Parliament is scheduled to discuss the trade deal on May 28, after years of negotiations between Vietnam and the European Union. The deal is significant not only because it facilitates exports, like tropical fruit, but also as it lays out commitments on human rights, labor unions, and protection of the environment. Critics, though, say the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement would not really enforce human rights standards and would continue the offshoring of jobs that has left workers vulnerable.

For the EU, the deal is one more way to access Asia’s fast-growing economies, set a model for trading with developing countries, and hold Vietnam’s one-party state accountable on its promise to level the business playing field. 

For Vietnam, it is a chance to call itself a country open for business, with many trade deals, as well as raise quality standards to those expected by European customers. 

“It includes a lot of commitments to improve the business environment in Vietnam,” Le Thanh Liem, standing vice chair of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee, said at a European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam event.

Vietnamese officials often say that it helps to have an external factor to get difficult internal reforms over the finish line. For example it might be hard to convince conservatives to allow workers to form their own labor unions. But if there is an outside incentive, such as greater trade with the EU, that could bring conservatives on board. 

Labor unions were one concern for Europeans. Another is the loss of blue-collar jobs to Asia, including to Vietnam. European workers worry that as they take gig jobs, like food delivery, in place of their old stable jobs, there is less of a safety net through long-term employers or through tax-funded government programs. And there is one more concern raised through the trade deal:“We have some concerns about human rights in Vietnam, but that has been discussed,” Eurocham chair Nicolas Audier said at the chamber event. 

​Amnesty International reported this month that the number of Vietnam’s political prisoners jumped to 128 from 97 last year, despite the fact that Hanoi says it does not jail people for political reasons.

Some question if the EU is applying consistent standards as it moves toward the trade deal with Vietnam, even while punishing nearby Myanmar and Cambodia for human rights abuses. Brussels is pulling back its Everything But Arms scheme of preferential trade access for the two other countries, based in part on Cambodia’s crackdown on opposition politicians in the 2018 election and on Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s mass killing of the mostly Muslim Rohingya.

But both Vietnam and the EU want more trade options because a major trading partner, the United States, is turning away from the world economy. Washington pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in 2017, removing a key reason that Hanoi signed the deal, which was to get Vietnamese textile and garment companies more access to U.S. customers. Europe was also hit when Washington slapped tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum in 2018, and now it is threatening more import duties on European cars. 

So the EU and Vietnam are still working on their trade deal, and it is reflected in Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s schedule. He paid a visit to EU member states Romania and the Czech Republic in April, then hosted a state visit from Romania in May. Lobbying for the deal continued as he welcomed the Swedish crown princess this month, and he will return the courtesy, with the next trip on his calendar planned for Stockholm. 

Huawei Founder Sees Little Effect From US Sanctions

Huawei Technologies’ founder and chief executive said Saturday that the growth of the Chinese tech giant “may slow, but only slightly,” because of recent U.S. restrictions.  

 

In remarks to the Japanese press and reported by Nikkei Asian Review, Ren Zhengfei reiterated that the Chinese telecom equipment maker had not violated any law. 

“It is expected that Huawei’s growth may slow, but only slightly,” Ren said in his first official comments after the U.S. restrictions, adding that the company’s annual revenue growth might undershoot 20%.  

 

On Thursday, Washington put Huawei, one of China’s biggest and most successful companies, on a trade blacklist that could make it extremely difficult for Huawei to do business with U.S. companies. China slammed the decision, saying it would take steps to protect its companies. 

Trade, security issues

 

The developments surrounding Huawei come at a time of trade tensions between Washington and Beijing and amid concerns from the United States that Huawei’s smartphones and network equipment could be used by China to spy on Americans, allegations the company has repeatedly denied. 

 

A similar U.S. ban on China’s ZTE Corp. had almost crippled business for the smaller Huawei rival early last year before the curb was lifted. 

 

The U.S. Commerce Department said Friday that it might soon scale back restrictions on Huawei. 

 

Ren said the company was prepared for such a step and that Huawei would be “fine” even if U.S. smartphone chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. and other American suppliers would not sell chips to the company. 

 

Huawei’s chip arm HiSilicon said Friday that it had long been prepared for the possibility of being denied U.S. chips and technology, and that it was able to ensure a steady supply of most products. 

 

The Huawei founder said that the company would not be taking instructions from the U.S. government. 

 

“We will not change our management at the request of the U.S. or accept monitoring, as ZTE has done,” he said.

In January, U.S. prosecutors unsealed an indictment accusing the Chinese company of engaging in bank fraud to obtain embargoed U.S. goods and services in Iran and to move money out of the country via the international banking system. 

 

Ren’s daughter, Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada in December in connection with the indictment. Meng, who was released on bail, remains in Vancouver and is fighting extradition. She has maintained her innocence.  

 

Ren has previously said his daughter’s arrest was politically motivated.

China’s Top Diplomat Calls for US Restraint on Trade, Iran 

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday that recent U.S. words and actions had harmed the interests of China and its enterprises, and that Washington should show restraint, China’s Foreign Ministry said. 

 

Speaking to Pompeo by telephone, Wang said the United States should not go “too far” in the current trade dispute between the two sides, adding that China was still willing to resolve differences through negotiations but that the nations should be on an equal footing. 

 

On Iran, Wang said China hoped all parties would exercise restraint and act with caution to avoid escalating tensions. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that Pompeo spoke with Wang and discussed bilateral issues and U.S. concerns about Iran, but she gave no other details. 

 

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased in recent days, raising concerns about a potential U.S.-Iran conflict. Earlier this week the United States pulled some diplomatic staff from its Baghdad embassy following attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. 

Harder line

 

China struck a more aggressive tone in its trade war with the United States on Friday, suggesting a resumption of talks between the world’s two largest economies would be meaningless unless Washington changed course. 

 

The tough talk capped a week that saw Beijing unveil fresh retaliatory tariffs, U.S. officials accuse China of backtracking on promises made during months of talks, and the Trump administration level a potentially crippling blow against one of China’s biggest and most successful companies. The United States announced on Thursday it was putting Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., the world’s largest telecom equipment maker, on a blacklist that could make it extremely hard to do business with U.S. companies.  

 

The U.S. Commerce Department then said on Friday that it might soon scale back restrictions on Huawei. It said it was considering issuing a temporary general license to “prevent the interruption of existing network operations and equipment.” 

 

Potential beneficiaries of this license could, for example, include telecom providers in thinly populated parts of U.S. states such as Wyoming and Oregon that purchased network equipment from Huawei in recent years. 

 

On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, asked about state media reports suggesting there would be no more trade negotiations, said China always encouraged resolving disputes with the United States through dialogue and consultations.

US Warns Airliners Flying in Persian Gulf Amid Iran Tensions

U.S. diplomats warned Saturday that commercial airliners flying over the wider Persian Gulf faced a risk of being “misidentified” amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

The warning relayed by U.S. diplomatic posts from the Federal Aviation Administration underlined the risks the current tensions pose to a region crucial to global air travel. It also came as Lloyd’s of London warned of increasing risks to maritime shipping in the region.

 

Concerns about a possible conflict have flared since the White House ordered warships and bombers to the region to counter an alleged, unexplained threat from Iran that has seen America order nonessential diplomatic staff out of Iraq. President Donald Trump since has sought to soften his tone.

 

Meanwhile, authorities allege that a sabotage operation targeted four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, and Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for a drone attack on a crucial Saudi oil pipeline. Saudi Arabia directly blamed Iran for the drone assault, and a local newspaper linked to the al-Saud royal family called on Thursday for America to launch “surgical strikes” on Tehran.

 

This all takes root in Trump’s decision last year to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers and impose wide-reaching sanctions. Iran just announced it would begin backing away from terms of the deal, setting a 60-day deadline for Europe to come up with new terms or it would begin enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels. Tehran long has insisted it does not seek nuclear weapons, though the West fears its program could allow it to build atomic bombs.

 

The order relayed Saturday by U.S. diplomats in Kuwait and the UAE came from an FAA Notice to Airmen published late Thursday in the U.S. It said that all commercial aircraft flying over the waters of Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman needed to be aware of “heightened military activities and increased political tension.”

 

This presents “an increasing inadvertent risk to U.S. civil aviation operations due to the potential for miscalculation or misidentification,” the warning said. It also said aircraft could experience interference with its navigation instruments and communications jamming “with little to no warning.”

 

The Persian Gulf has become a major gateway for East-West travel in the aviation industry. Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates, home to Emirates, is the world’s busiest for international travel, while long-haul carriers Etihad and Qatar Airways also operate here.

 

In a statement, Emirates said it was aware of the notice and in touch with authorities worldwide, but “at this time there are no changes to our flight operations.”

 

Qatar Airways similarly said it was aware of the notice and its operations were unaffected.

 

Etihad, as well as Oman Air, did not respond to a request for comment Saturday about the warning.

 

The warning appeared rooted in what happened 30 years ago after Operation Praying Mantis, a daylong naval battle in the Persian Gulf between American forces and Iran during the country’s long 1980s war with Iraq. On July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes chased Iranian speedboats that allegedly opened fire on a helicopter into Iranian territorial waters, then mistook an Iran Air heading to Dubai for an Iranian F-14. The Vincennes fired two missiles at the airplane, killing all aboard the flight.

 

Meanwhile, Lloyd’s Market Association Joint War Committee added the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the United Arab Emirates on Friday to its list of areas posing higher risk to insurers. It also expanded its list to include the Saudi coast as a risk area.

 

The USS Abraham Lincoln and its carrier strike group have yet to reach the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil traded at sea passes. A Revolutionary Guard deputy has warned that any armed conflict would affect the global energy market. Iran long has threatened to be able to shut off the strait.

 

Benchmark Brent crude now stands around $72 a barrel.