US President Trump upped the ante in his trade dispute with China earlier this week by mandating his US Trade Representative to release a list of up to $200bn in Chinese goods on which a new 10% tariff would apply by the end of the summer. Whether this can bring change in Chinese trade practices, or at least force Beijing back to the negotiating table, remains questionable. But what is certain is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for Trump’s trade officials to hit China with new tariffs without also directly impacting consumers.
Back in 2016, with the Digital Single Market agenda still in its infancy, the European Commission launched its ambitious reform of telecoms regulation. The so-called European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) was presented with great fanfare and with the explicit goal of plugging Europe’s €155 billion investment gap in digital infrastructure. The ultimate aim of the proposal was to provide high speed connectivity at lower prices to European consumers, a prerequisite to ensure the political acceptability of any reform in Brussels.
The twenty-three men of the England World Cup squad in Russia have done more to restore respect for Britain abroad than any number of ministerial visits, soft power exchanges and cultural tours. The irony of this turnaround taking place in Russia, at a low-point in Anglo-Russia relations, something which the death of a British citizen yesterday linked to the nerve agent attack in Salisbury is only likely to exacerbate, has not been lost on anyone in Moscow, Samara or Kaliningrad (I write having watched England’s last three matches in these cities.)
Over the next few months, the UK is likely to start setting out its detailed plans for the establishment of a UK trade remedies system after it has left the EU. Freed (at least in theory – watch the customs partnership debate) from the obligations of the EU system of which it has long been a critic, the UK will have an opportunity to adopt its own rulebook for the investigation of claims of dumping and subsidy in UK trading partners, and for designing measures to penalise unfairly traded goods.
The Bank of England’s governor, Mark Carney, said in a speech in March that it is better to refer to cryptocurrencies as “crypto-assets” - that is, to see them as securities, “expressly because they are not true currencies”. The US SEC, on the other hand, took a more nuanced approach two weeks ago when it clarified that cryptocurrencies themselves are not securities, but that the capital-raising activities using cryptocurrency technology can be.
The ubiquity of social media platforms is raising increasing concern within the UK government, resulting in urgent calls for more scrutiny on technology companies - this time on child protection. In the past weeks, the chief executive of the National Health Service (NHS), Simon Stevens, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and culture secretary, Matt Hancock, have all spoken out about the need to protect children against the alleged harmful mental health effects of social media platforms.
In October 2016, UK Chancellor Phillip Hammond was reportedly considering slashing the UK’s Corporation Tax rate to 10%, as part of creating a low-tax post-Brexit UK economy. Tonight, he will warn us that “everyone will need to pay more” to fund Britain’s future. In particular, figures from across the political spectrum are eyeing corporation tax increases as a way to fund signature political commitments. British business risks going from economic arrow tip to political piggy bank in twenty short months.
The bid by private equity firm Melrose for UK-based advanced manufacturer GKN attracted substantial interest from politicians from both of Britain’s largest political parties. Conservative MPs were concerned that Britain’s clout in the international defence market would be harmed by the piecemeal sale of important parts of GKN’s business. Labour MPs sought to avoid any significant job losses in their political strongholds in the UK Midlands and elsewhere.
European influence in the world is under threat. The privileged role enjoyed by European states in multilateral institutions has been challenged by the big emerging countries for some time now. More recently, both Russia and China have attempted, with some success, to play European states off against each other. And now the long-standing alliance with the US is in jeopardy, following the G7 shambles in Charlevoix, which saw Europe and the US move closer to an outright trade war.
Facebook’s recent decision to run newspaper adverts promoting the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which enters into force today, have raised some eyebrows. It is, of course, interesting to see one of the world’s largest technology companies resorting to old fashioned long-copy. The more pertinent question is how well it is likely to work and what it suggests about the next tactical moves for big tech in general.