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Did U.S. President Donald Trump just blink in his trade war with China?
His move to delay new tariffs on a wide range of consumer products such as smart-phones, laptops and toys until December suggests an awareness of the impact the penalties are having on American consumers, companies and markets, and potentially on his campaign for re-election next year.
Tellingly, he said the decision was made “so it won’t be relevant to the Christmas shopping season” — a swing from his previous position that China alone bears the cost of the tariffs.
Still, that doesn’t mean there’s a sudden improvement in the atmosphere surrounding the trade talks. While the announcement came after senior officials spoke by phone — “very productive,” Trump said — few expect any breakthrough soon.
Indeed, Beijing may sense its best option is to wait Trump out as the election approaches and his farming base feels the pain of losses in agricultural sales to China.
Yet it too faces an economy that posted its weakest industrial output growth since 2002 and a widening political crisis in its vital commercial hub, Hong Kong.
For both Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping a precious commodity is slipping away: time.
Turbulent times | Beijing’s warnings increased after two days of disruptive protests at Hong Kong's airport, including a chaotic night Tuesday that saw two people beaten amid claims they were undercover police. Chinese officials said the demonstrators’ behavior was “no different to terrorists” and airport authorities restricted terminal access even as small groups of protesters remain.
Click here for a look at the dilemma facing Xi on the Hong Kong crisis.
Warship snub | China has refused port visits to Hong Kong by two U.S. warships amid the trade war and U.S. politicians’ criticism of the tactics Hong Kong police have used against protesters. The last such denial was in September after Washington sanctioned the Chinese military over Russian arms purchases.
Day jobs | Some Democratic presidential candidates are using Congress to compliment their campaigns. Five have hit career highs in bill-drafting productivity this year, and it’s only August. That may help aspirants demonstrate they’re not afraid of getting into the nitty-gritty of policy.
Trump has been boasting about creating manufacturing jobs in Rust Belt states such as Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, but an emerging recession in the sector could imperil his message.
Changing tune | Chancellor Angela Merkel has shifted from completely ruling out fiscal stimulus in Germany to saying “so far” it isn’t necessary. Data confirming a contraction in Europe’s largest economy in the second quarter add pressure for her to open the government’s purse strings, even as Germany remains bound by stringent limitations on raising debt.
Bad blood | Relations between the two largest economies in South America could sour if Alberto Fernandez mirrors his strong showing in Argentina's primaries to win the presidency in October. Fernandez has called right-wing Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro “racist, violent and misogynistic,” while Bolsonaro has warned of a Venezuelan-style exodus from Argentina if a left-wing government returns to power.
What to Watch
The Trump administration is readying a plan to end direct federal regulation of methane leaks from oil and gas facilities, even as some energy companies insist they don’t want the relief. Italian lawmakers summoned Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to appear before the Senate on Aug. 20 as Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini pushes for a quick confidence vote that would lead to a snap election.
And finally...Chile has 80% of South America’s glaciers, but they're melting fast because of climate change, drought and human activity, including mining. As Laura Millan Lombrana reports, it’s a crisis-in-the-making that poses a dilemma for the government of Latin American’s richest nation: How to protect the precious fresh-water reserves locked up in the ice, while accommodating a copper-mining industry worth $19 billion a year.
--With assistance from Kathleen Hunter, Alan Crawford, Karen Leigh, Raymond Colitt and Bruce Douglas.
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