Washington Extra – Trade Protection

August 26, 2010

china_tradeWe travel the Karakoram Highway from China to Pakistan on today’s edition of Washington Extra.  Driving the agenda for Reuters today is news that the United States could be heading for another trade row with China, after it announced plans to toughen rules against what it sees as unfair trade practices. A number of the proposals are likely to irk Beijing and could provoke retaliation.

It is all part of the Democrats’ “Make it in America” agenda to save manufacturing jobs at home. Critics will no doubt see it as more evidence that President Barack Obama is a closet protectionist. Others argue that this is a shrewd move from the administration to head off still more damaging moves from Congress.

Over at the IMF, Pakistan’s finance minister is in town seeking more help to salvage his country’s economy in the face of the devastating floods. The mood so far seems hopeful. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said Pakistan wanted to keep pursuing an $11 billion IMF loan program and demonstrate its resolve to take tough economic decisions, dismissing reports that it might abandon the program. The IMF, for its part, is already urging donors to give grants, not loans, for rebuilding projects, to avoid adding to Pakistan’s heavy debt burden.

While we are on the subject of the IMF, an interesting little row is developing which could throw the global lender into disarray. The United States is urging Europe to give some of the seats it occupies on the IMF’s 24-member board to emerging market countries to reflect their growing global economic weight. You won’t be surprised to learn that Europe has balked at the idea of yielding some of its nine chairs — because it is divided over how to do it. The sides face an Oct. 31 deadline when the mandate of the existing board expires. “The IMF will be in crisis unless a solution is found in time,” a senior board official said.

Here are our top stories from today…

U.S. lays out plan to strengthen anti-dumping regime

The United States announced plans to toughen rules against what it sees as unfair foreign trade practices, proposing a number of changes likely to irk China, its biggest import supplier. At least some of the proposals could lead to higher anti-dumping or countervailing duties on goods from the Asian manufacturing giant, the most frequent target of U.S. complaints about unfair trade in recent years.
For the full story by Doug Palmer, click here.

Power struggle threatens to paralyze IMF

A power struggle threatens to throw the International Monetary Fund into disarray unless a compromise is reached soon between the United States and Europe over how to give more say to emerging powers.

For more of this analysis by Lesley Wroughton, read here.

Jobless claims fall, but still elevated

New jobless claims fell more than expected last week but were too high to signal a shift in a weak labor market that is constraining economic growth. The data from the Labor Department, coming on the heels of reports this week showing a slump in housing and soft demand for long-lasting manufactured goods, was a relief amid escalating fears the economy is slipping back into recession.

For more of this story by Lucia Mutikani, read here.

Factbox: Murkowski may become seventh ousted US incumbent

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski is in jeopardy of becoming the seventh member of Congress voted out of office this year amid the anti-incumbent fervor fanned largely by the weak economy and conservative Tea Party movement. Murkowski is fighting for survival in a Republican primary in her home state of Alaska likely to be decided once absentee ballots are counted in coming days.

For a list of six lawmakers who have already lost their bids for re-election, read here.

Banks lobby Fed on debit card fee limits

The Federal Reserve has begun taking the first steps to crack down on debit-card transaction fees, with the battle between merchants and banks moving from the legislative to the regulatory arena. The banks lobbied in vain against an amendment included in the financial reform act passed in July that limits some of their transaction fees.

For more of this story by Dave Clarke, read here.

Tax plan may have unintended effect, companies say

Corporations that could be hit with higher taxes under a proposal to raise taxes on private equity and real estate fund managers are pressing lawmakers to fix what is likely an unintended consequence of the plan.

For more of this story by Kim Dixon, read here.

FDA ties chicken feed to salmonella in egg recall

Bacteria found in chicken feed used at two Iowa farms has been linked to a salmonella outbreak that prompted the recall of more than a half billion contaminated eggs, U.S. regulators said.

For more of this story by Alina Selyukh, read here.

And for what we are blogging…

Tit for tat

Deficit commission co-chair Alan Simpson has apologized for remarks to a women’s group that compared Social Security to a “milk cow with 310 million tits.” But that is not good enough for the National Organization for Women (NOW), which has launched a “Tits for an Ass” campaign to toss the former Republican senator off the panel that was created by President Barack Obama to recommend ways to cut the $1.4 trillion deficit.

For Donna Smith’s full blog, click here.

Lighting a fire off the campaign trail

Politicians rarely take a break from the campaign trail, but when they do they tend to choose mainstream R&R, unwinding on the golf course or tucked away on a private estate. Not so John Mertens, a third-party candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Chris Dodd of Connecticut.

For Scott Malone’s full blog, click here.

From elsewhere…

News that Tiger Woods and his ex-wife are recovering from their messy divorce in their own ways. Elin Nordegren finally broke her silence on the whole scandal, telling People magazine that she had been through “hell”. Woods, as is his wont, did his talking on the golf course, shooting his best round of the year today, and said it was “nice to have control.”

For Nordegren’s interview, click here. And for Tiger’s story, click here.

For more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Barry Huang (Chinese national flag flies in front of the  Beijing headquarters of China COSCO Holdings, flagship of the country’s premier shipping firm)

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