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Trump hints at ‘big’ trade offer if Britain breaks free from EU

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Donald Trump waded into the UK’s fraught politics on the first day of a state visit, urging his hosts to proceed with Brexit and dangling the promise of a U.S. trade deal he said would swiftly follow.

With the country preparing for the appointment of a new prime minister, Trump called on the British to throw off the “shackles” of European Union membership in a tweet before a banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth II.

The White House issued a statement saying that the president supports a Brexit “being accomplished in a way that will not affect global economic and financial stability while also securing independence to the United Kingdom.”

Trump will meet Tuesday with Premier Theresa May, likely for the last time. May, who became the Conservative government’s leader in the wake of the 2016 Brexit referendum, is resigning after failing to persuade Parliament to approve the divorce deal she negotiated with the EU, leaving the issue in the hands of her successor.

The American president has suggested that person should be Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary who quit May’s cabinet in protest over her Brexit proposal.

In the lead-up to his trip to London, Trump said the U.K. should walk away from tortured talks with the EU if Brussels refuses to negotiate better terms, and said Nigel Farage – who’s campaigning for a no-deal Brexit – should be put in charge of the process.

A hard split with the EU would give maximum scope for a new trade accord with the US If the UK remained bound to the bloc’s regulations, it would narrow the options for a future agreement.

It’s a sensitive issue in the UK Rivals jockeying to replace May are putting forward their own Brexit plans, with the favorite, Johnson, pledging to take Britain out of the EU – with no deal, if necessary – at the end of October.

‘Powerful Deal’

Trump criticized May’s compromise agreement with the EU last November, saying Britain “may not be able to trade with us” as a result. His comments dashed hopes stoked by his comments made before an earlier meeting with May, when he said “a very big deal, a very powerful deal” would be completed between the two countries “very very quickly.”

Opponents of Brexit say a trade deal with the US risks imperiling the National Health Service, by increasing the involvement of private US companies in the public sector. May’s office was forced to reiterate Monday that the state-funded health-care system would not be up for discussion in trade talks.

The statement potentially put her government at odds with Trump after his ambassador in London, Woody Johnson, told the BBC that the “entire” UK economy would be on the table.

Trump and May will meet American and British business leaders on Tuesday at the start of the second day of his visit, which could throw up more controversy than Monday’s schedule of royal visits and pageantry.

‘Greater Still’

May, who will co-host the talks at St. James’s Palace, will call for governments on both sides of the Atlantic to embrace the opportunity of Brexit to seal a bilateral free-trade deal, and work together to keep global markets “free, fair and open.”

Before the talks, the prime minister’s office called for greater cooperation in a statement that appeared to acknowledge the potential differences of opinion.

The partnership between the US and UK “can be greater still” if they continue “to work together to underpin, shape and influence the global economy and its rules and institutions,” May will say, according to extracts of her remarks released by her office.

Trump has clashed with global economic institutions including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and his use of tariffs in trade conflicts with China, Europe and Mexico has alarmed markets, adding to uncertainty around Brexit for companies investing in the UK.

The talks will include executives from BAE Systems Plc, GlaxoSmithKline Plc, National Grid Plc, Barclays Bank Plc, Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Lockheed Martin Corp, Goldman Sachs International, Bechtel Corp and Splunk Inc.

Johnson, Farage

Small and elite by design, the event is timed to put Trump in control of the message at the start of the day, before talks with May’s team at 10 Downing Street.

He is expected to pressure the UK over Huawei Technologies Co., which the US wants to see shut out of 5G broadband networks across Europe.

A joint news conference with the prime minister will then give Trump – if he chooses – a further chance to intervene in British politics.

The president is all but certain to be asked about his views on Boris Johnson and Farage, whose fledgling Brexit Party inflicted a heavy defeat on May’s Tories in European elections last month.

While Trump had held out the possibility that he could meet with the two men, no plans had been announced by Monday evening. If the meetings are to take place, the most likely timing is Tuesday afternoon.

Trump’s first day in London was largely free from controversy – once he’d actually landed. Minutes before Air Force One touched down at Stansted Airport, he renewed his long-running spat with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, calling him a “stone cold loser.”

It was an apparent response to a newspaper column by Khan – the first Muslim mayor of a major Western capital – in which he called Trump “one of the most egregious examples” of the global rise of the far right.

Trump and the Queen

At the Buckingham Palace banquet, the president and the British monarch exchanged toasts.

The queen hailed the “assembly of international institutions” created after World War II “to ensure that the horrors of conflict would never be repeated.”

“While the world has changed, we are forever mindful of the original purpose of these structures: nations working together to safeguard a hard-won peace,” she said.

Trump has frequently questioned the continued utility of such institutions, including the United Nations and NATO.

He toasted “the common values that will unite us long into the future: freedom, sovereignty, self-determination, the rule of law, and reverence for the rights given to us by almighty God.”

Thousands of anti-Trump protesters are expected to take to the streets on Tuesday, with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn planning to address the crowds about the time of the Trump-May news conference.

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Bill Gates no longer world’s second richest person. Guess who is?

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Bill Gates has never ranked lower than No. 2 in the seven-year history of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. That run ended Tuesday when the Microsoft Corp. co-founder dropped to No. 3 behind France’s Bernard Arnault.

LVMH, Arnault’s luxury-goods maker, advanced to a record Tuesday and pushed his net worth to $107.6 billion and ahead of Gates by more than $200 million. The shares extended their gains Wednesday, rising 0.7% at 1:54 pm in Paris. Arnault has added about $39 billion to his fortune in 2019 alone, the biggest individual gain by far among the 500 people in Bloomberg’s ranking.

Arnault, 70, joined Gates and Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, in the most exclusive wealth club last month, when his fortune surpassed $100 billion for the first time. The trio’s collective wealth exceeds the individual market values of almost every company in the S&P 500 Index, including Walmart Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Walt Disney Co.

This year has been particularly good to French tycoons, with Arnault, Kering SA’s Francois Pinault and cosmetics heir Francoise Bettencourt Meyers tacking on a combined $57 billion.

Arnault and his family are among luxury titans who pledged more than $650 million in April for the reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral after fire ravaged the landmark church. He controls about half of Paris-based LVMH through a family holding company and also owns a 97% stake in Christian Dior, the fashion house founded three years before his birth in 1949.

Arnault entered the luxury-goods market in 1984 by acquiring a textile group that owned Christian Dior. Four years later, he sold the company’s other businesses and used the proceeds to buy a controlling stake in LVMH. His art collection of modern and contemporary paintings includes pieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, Maurizio Cattelan, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso.

Were it not for Gates’s philanthropic giving, he’d still be the world’s richest person. Gates has donated more than $35 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bezos’s net worth is up slightly this year to $125 billion, even after reaching a divorce settlement with MacKenzie Bezos that made her the world’s fourth-richest woman.

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Libra crypto won’t launch until regulatory concerns are addressed, says Facebook

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Facebook Inc said on Monday it would not proceed with the launch of its Libra cryptocurrency until regulatory concerns are addressed, as the US Treasury secretary took the unusual step of saying he had serious concerns it could be used for illicit activity.

David Marcus, who oversees Facebook’s blockchain efforts, planned to tell Congress that Libra is not being built to compete with traditional currencies or interfere with monetary policy.

“The Libra Association, which will manage the (Libra) Reserve, has no intention of competing with any sovereign currencies or entering the monetary policy arena,” Marcus was due to say on Tuesday, according to prepared testimony released by the Senate Banking Committee. “Monetary policy is properly the province of central banks.”

“Facebook will not offer the Libra digital currency until we have fully addressed regulatory concerns and received appropriate approvals,” he said.

Speaking with reporters, Mnuchin said he was not comfortable with Libra currently, particularly in guarding against money laundering and other illicit use. “They’re going to have to convince us of very high standards before they have access to the US financial system,” he said.

Mnuchin is the latest senior US regulator to air concerns with the product, days after Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell expressed similar worries about the digital currency could be misused.

“These cryptocurrencies have been dominated by illicit activity and speculation,” said Mnuchin.

In his prepared testimony, Marcus said the Libra Association, the companies behind the Facebook-led cryptocurrency, planned to register as a money services business with the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and fully expected to comply with anti-money laundering and Bank Secrecy Act rules.

Since announcing the Libra project last month, Facebook has faced a torrent of criticism and skepticism from policymakers across the world who cite concerns over data security, money laundering and consumer protections.

Marcus was scheduled to testify on Tuesday and Wednesday before congressional committees overseeing financial issues and several members have suggested the product be barred.

Addressing some of those concerns, Marcus said in his prepared testimony that partners providing financial services with Libra will be required to comply with anti-money laundering rules. The Libra Association will not hold personal data of users beyond basic transaction information, and personal information provided to Calibra, the digital wallet Facebook is developing to hold Libra, will not be shared with the social media company and cannot be used for targeting ads.

Marcus added that he expected the Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information commissioner to be Libra’s privacy regulator because the Libra Association is headquartered in Geneva. The association is also in preliminary talks with the Swiss Financial Markets Supervisory Authority on “an appropriate regulatory framework.”

While promising Libra will adhere to relevant laws and regulations, Marcus aimed to sell lawmakers on the product’s merits as well, arguing the United States should not stifle such innovation.

“I am proud that Facebook has initiated this effort here in the United States,” his testimony said. “I believe that if America does not lead innovation in the digital currency and payments area, others will. If we fail to act, we could soon see a digital currency controlled by others whose values are dramatically different.”

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RBI to come out with mobile app for currency notes identification

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The Reserve Bank of India will come out with a mobile application to help visually challenged people in identifying currency notes as cash still remains a dominant mode of transaction.

At present, banknotes in the denominations of Rs 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 2,000 are in circulation, besides Re 1 notes issued by the Centre.

The RBI said that identification of banknote denomination is key to successful completion of cash-based transactions by visually impaired persons.

Intaglio printing based identification marks for helping the visually challenged in identification of banknotes denomination are present in the notes of Rs 100 and above.

After demonetisation of old Rs 500/1,000 notes in November 2016, new banknotes in design and sizes have been put in circulation.

“The Reserve Bank of India has been sensitive to the challenges faced by the visually challenged in conducting their day to day business with Indian banknotes,” said the central bank while scouting for a vendor to develop the mobile application.

The proposed mobile app would be able to identify the denomination of notes of Mahatma Gandhi Series and Mahatma Gandhi (New) series by capturing the image of the notes placed in front of mobile camera, the RBI said while inviting bids from tech firms to develop the app.

The RBI had come out with a similar ‘request for proposal’ from vendors but later cancelled it.

The app will also generate “audio notification” intimating the currency note denomination to the user if image is captured correctly, else intimating the user to try again in case of image is not readable.

There are about 80 lakh blind or visually impaired people in the country, who are likely to benefit from the initiative of the central bank.

In June, 2018 the central bank had declared that it would explore the feasibility of developing a suitable device or mechanism for aiding the visually impaired in the identification of Indian banknotes.

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