US-China Trade: The Next Episode

Today US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and trade representative Robert Lighthizer were in Shanghai to meet with China's top trade negotiators. This week's meetings, which began on Tuesday, mark the first time the two sides in the world's most important trade dispute have met in person since the last round of talks broke down in May.

What's at stake: The US and China are trying to reach an agreement that would reduce or eliminate tit-for-tat tariffs they have imposed on roughly $360 billion of each other's goods, from Shenzhen electronics to California wine. The costs of those tariffs are being borne by businesses and consumers (i.e. you). Bigger picture, the US is using this fight to try to get China to agree to new ground rules for economic competition in the 21st century – particularly in the tech sector, an industry that both China and the US see as vital to their future economic and national security.

What's changed since May: China's economic growth has slowed to its weakest rate in almost 30 years, but that's only partly due to US tariffs. Donald Trump is three months closer to the November 2020 election, and he's itching to make a deal that will ease financial strain on US farmers, an important political constituency. Most importantly, the US has banned most US tech companies from selling equipment or software to Huawei, China's most important global technology company. The ban threatens Huawei's global business model, and China's willingness to meet US trade demands may now hinge on the Trump administration restoring Huawei's access to critical hardware and software.

What happens now: This week's meetings are just an opening bid to restart talks that flew off the rails after Chinese negotiators backtracked on several concessions in May. With the two sides still far apart on important issues, like opening China's cloud computing market to US technology giants and protecting intellectual property, and China hawks in Congress eager to tie President Trump's hands when it comes to a reprieve for Huawei, it's going to be a long slog to get to an agreement that President Trump and Xi Jinping can shake on. As Trump himself noted on Tuesday, at some point, China may decide it's better just to wait and see if there's a new occupant in the Oval Office after the 2020 US election who's more willing to strike a deal. lWe'll be watching the official statements out of Shanghai, and President Trump's Twitter feed, for signs of how talks are progressing.

In Italy, stacks of plastic boxes in supermarkets and stores are not garbage - they are collected and reused, thanks to a consortium that specializes in recycling them for food storage. How do these "circular" plastic boxes help reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions?

Learn more in this episode of Eni's Energy SUPERFACTS series.

British economist Jim O'Neill says the global economy can bounce back right to where it was before, in a V-shaped recovery. But his argument is based on a lot of "ifs," plus comparisons to the 2008 recession and conditions in China and South Korea that may not truly apply. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Robert Kahn take issue with O'Neill's op-ed, on this edition of The Red Pen.

Today, we're taking our Red Pen to an article titled "A V-Shaped Recovery Could Still Happen." I'm not buying it. It's published recently by Project Syndicate, authored by British economist named Jim O'Neill. Jim O'Neill is very well known. He was chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. He's the guy that coined the acronym BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China. So, no slouch. But as you know, we don't agree with everything out there. And this is the case. Brought to you by the letter V. We're taking sharp issue with the idea that recovery from all the economic devastation created by the coronavirus pandemic is going to happen quickly. That after the sharp drop that the world has experienced, everything bounces back to where it was before. That's the V. Economists around the world are debating how quickly recovery will happen to be sure. But we're not buying the V. Here's why. W-H-Y.

More Show less

Over the past few years, we've seen three major emerging powers take bold action to right what they say are historical wrongs.

First came Crimea. When the Kremlin decided in 2014 that Western powers were working against Russian interests in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to seize the Crimean Peninsula, which was then part of Ukraine. Moscow claimed that Crimea and its ethnic Russian majority had been part of the Russian Empire for centuries until a shameful deal in 1954 made Crimea part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Americans and Europeans imposed sanctions on Russia. But Ukraine is not part of NATO or the EU, and no further action was taken.

More Show less

Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, provides his perspective on technology news:

Will the new audit of Facebook civil rights practices change the way the company operates?

Yes. It came under a lot of pressure from civil rights activists who organized an advertising boycott. And then an internal audit on Facebook's effect on civil rights came out. It was quite critical. Those two things, one after the other, will surely lead to changes at the company.

More Show less

The United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, but their COVID-19 death toll trajectories have recently become very different. Since the beginning of July, the average number of both new fatalities and new deaths per 1 million people is rapidly increasing in the US while it remains mostly flat in the EU. We compare this to the average number of new cases each seven days in both regions, where the US trend continues upward but is not surging like the death toll. EU countries' robust public health systems and citizens' willingness to wear masks and maintain social distance could explain the disparity.