Trump blasts proposed U.S. restrictions on sale of jet parts to China

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump objected on Tuesday to U.S. proposals that would prevent companies from supplying jet engines and other components to China’s aviation industry and suggested he had instructed his administration not to implement them.

In a series of tweets and in comments to reporters on Tuesday, Trump said national security concerns, which had been cited as reasoning for the plans, should not be used as an excuse to make it difficult for foreign countries to buy U.S. products.

The president’s comments came after weekend reports by Reuters and other news media that the government was considering whether to stop General Electric Co (GE.N) from further supplying engines for a new Chinese passenger jet.

The president’s intervention illustrated that, at least in this case, he would prioritize economic benefits over potential competitive pitfalls and national security concerns.

His views on the issue contrasted with the sharp restrictions his administration has placed on U.S. companies trading with Huawei Technologies, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, also for national security reasons.

“We’re not going to be sacrificing our companies … by using a fake term of national security. It’s got to be real national security. And I think people were getting carried away with it,” Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews before departing for a trip to California.

“I want our companies to be allowed to do business. I mean, things are put on my desk that have nothing to do with national security, including with chipmakers and various others. So we’re going to give it up, and what will happen? They’ll make those chips in a different country or they’ll make them in China or someplace else,” he said.

The United States has supported American companies’ business with China’s aviation sector for years.

“I want China to buy our jet engines, the best in the World,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I want to make it EASY to do business with the United States, not difficult. Everyone in my Administration is being so instructed, with no excuses…”

Trade lawyer Doug Jacobson said limitations on jet engines and chip makers would hurt U.S. companies.

“This is ultimately akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face because ultimately you’re hurting U.S. manufacturing companies but you’re not having a material impact on your target,” he said.

The United States and China, the world’s two largest economies, have a complicated and competitive relationship. Trump signed a first-phase trade deal with China earlier this year after a long trade war in which the countries levied significant tariffs on each others’ products, many of which remain in place.

Washington is also eyeing limits on other components for Chinese commercial aircraft such as flight control systems made by Honeywell International Inc (HON.N).

Central to the possible crackdown is whether shipments of U.S. parts to China’s aircraft industry could fuel the rise of a serious competitor to U.S.-based Boeing Co (BA.N) or boost China’s military capabilities.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) said it welcomed Trump’s comments.

“We applaud President Trump’s tweets supporting U.S. companies being able to sell products to China and opposing proposed regulations that would unduly curtail that ability,” John Neuffer, the group’s president, said in a statement. “As we have discussed with the administration, sales of non-sensitive, commercial products to China drive semiconductor research and innovation, which is critical to America’s economic strength and national security.”

Huawei is at the heart of a battle for global technological dominance between the United States and China. Washington placed Huawei on a blacklist in May last year, citing national security concerns. The United States has also been trying to persuade allies to exclude its gear from next generation 5G networks on grounds its equipment could be used by China for spying. Huawei has repeatedly denied the claim.

“So, national security is very important. I’ve been very tough on Huawei, but that doesn’t mean we have to be tough on everybody that does something,” Trump said.

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Wet’suwet’en protests: CN Rail to lay off around 450 workers amid rail blockades

CN Rail is laying off about 450 workers in its operations in Eastern Canada after cancelling more than 400 trains in the past week over a rail blockade protesting an LNG pipeline in British Columbia.

The layoffs will affect operational staff, including employees working at Autoport in Eastern Passage, Moncton, Charny and Montreal.

The Montreal-based railway says the situation is “regrettable” because the impact on the economy and its employees from the protests is unrelated to CN’s activities and beyond its control.

CN said the shutdown is “progressive and methodical” to ensure it can be restarted when the blockades end completely.

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‘Many reasons to be excited’: Nova Scotia lead first deaf curler to compete in Scotties

Emma Logan, 22, is living her “absolute dream” playing in her very first Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

The Nova Scotia lead is curling with her aunt, five-time Canadian champion Mary-Anne Arsenault.

“There are so many reasons to be excited to be here,” Logan said. “On top of all of that, I’m quite proud to be representing my deaf and hard-of-hearing community.”

Logan lost her hearing from meningitis when she was 13 months old. She’s now the first deaf curler to ever compete at the Scotties.

But her journey to the national championship was far from easy. And at times, Logan didn’t think her dream was possible.

“There were certain parts this season where I questioned whether or not I was going to make it here because it got quite tough,” Logan said.

The team started the season like any other.

“We had no idea how much she was missing, she didn’t know how much she was missing,” Arsenault said. “How would you know if you don’t know?”

Logan said they quickly realized there was a gap in communication.

“That undoubtedly came from myself and missing line calls and communication with the other sweepers,” Logan said.

Communication is a key part of any sport, especially curling. Split-second reactions can be the difference between a shot made or missed.

That’s why the foursome decided to get creative, using a Bluetooth microphone that’s connected to Logan’s cochlear implants.

“We wear the mic sweeping alongside Emma,” said Christina Black, Team Nova Scotia’s third. “I can communicate with her as it goes down the ice.”

“It’s unbelievable it’s made such a difference on our team,” Black said.

It’s an obstacle most teams don’t have to overcome, but now the Nova Scotia rink is ready for anything the Scotties throws its way.

“We know how to communicate, we know we have what it takes to get here, so now it’s about peaking at the right time and keeping the momentum going,” Logan said.

Maybe it was fate

But even with all the trial and error, Logan’s dream might not have happened had Arsenault’s rink made it to the 2019 Scotties.

Arsenault, a big believer in “all things happen for a reason,” said she quickly learned it meant she was “supposed to go to the Scotties with Emma.”

“Had we won last year, I would have retired at the end of Sydney never having played with Emma. So here we are,” Arsenault said.

Whether fate played a part or not, this will be Arsenault’s first and last time curling with her niece on Team Nova Scotia. Arsenault and her husband are moving to B.C. after this season.

But Arsenault said it doesn’t mean she’s quitting curling. She’s just taking on a “fun, new adventure.”


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Brazil's Bolsonaro offers credit for indigenous farmers as he pushes to open their lands

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday said he was pushing a bill through Congress to allow commercial mining and agriculture on protected indigenous lands, as he met with tribal leaders to announce a credit line to support indigenous farmers who have developed soy plantations on their reservations.

The far-right leader, who has faced criticism for his government’s failure to protect the Amazon rainforest, said the credit line would allow indigenous tribes to buy seed, fertilizer and machinery, even though large-scale agriculture has hitherto been illegal on their lands.

“Indigenous people cannot be stuck inside their lands like prehistoric human beings,” Bolsonaro said as he met with some 20 indigenous leaders at the gates of the presidential palace.

Speaking with Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina beside him, Bolsonaro said the credit line would help lift Brazil’s indigenous people out of poverty and assimilate them into Brazilian society.

The main organizations representing Brazil’s 900,000 indigenous people say a majority are opposed to mining and commercial agriculture on their ancestral lands, however.

Bolsonaro’s comments at the presidential palace came as Raoni Metuktire, a Kayapo chief known internationally for his environmental campaigning since the 1980s, joined other indigenous representatives in an appearance at Brazil’s Congress on Tuesday to ask Speaker Rodrigo Maia to block the government’s commercial mining and farming bill.

“Bolsonaro is clearly trying to create division between us, but the majority of us are represented here and is against the bill,” said Sonia Guajajara, head of APIB, an umbrella organization of the indigenous tribes of Brazil.

“We do not want the destruction of the rainforest with mining and hydroelectric dams. I am against what Bolsonaro is doing,” Raoni told a news conference.

Speaker Maia said after their meeting that he had put the president’s proposal on the back-burner because it needs far more debate in Brazilian society than the government had allowed.

Related Coverage

  • No rush on bill to allow mining on Brazilian indigenous lands, speaker says

Bolsonaro said his bill will allow indigenous people to mine and plant crops on their lands, and rent them to white farmers if they want to, which is currently illegal under Brazilian law.

Environmental laws also ban commercial agriculture and the use of transgenic crops on reservation lands, though three tribes were given a temporary three-year permit to develop large-scale farming that expired in 2018.

One of the tribes, the Parecis are farming 8,000 hectares of soy this season, and Bolsonaro plans to visit them during the harvest, a source at the indigenous affairs agency Funai said.

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'Massive passive' funds squeeze stock pickers

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A $4.5 billion buyout of Legg Mason Inc (LM.N) by rival Franklin Resources Inc (BEN.N) announced on Tuesday is the latest example of how a decade-long shift into low-cost, index-tracking products is pushing stock-picking funds to join forces to remain competitive.

Mergers and acquisitions within the U.S. asset management industry have increased since 2014, according to data from Refinitiv. Nearly 200 deals took place last year, the most since at least 2000.

Past deals between stock pickers include Federated Investors’ 2018 purchase of a majority stake in Hermes Fund Managers, leading to the combined firm Federated Hermes Inc (FHI.N), and Henderson Global Investors’ 2017 acquisition of Janus Capital to form Janus Henderson Group PLC (JHG.N).

(Graphic: U.S. fund managers up for sale png link: here).

The comparatively low costs of exchange-traded funds have forced actively managed funds to slash their fees, pushing active firms to merge in order to preserve their profits, said Larry Tabb, founder of capital markets research firm Tabb Group.

“It forces what used to be storied asset management firms to start acquiring or be acquired,” he said. “The larger funds need to become even bigger.”

(Graphic: Active managers eclipsed by passive giants png link: here).

The largest passive managers now eclipse active funds in assets under management, which has helped to spur consolidation.

In 2019, passive U.S. equity funds overtook active funds in net assets under management, according to Morningstar Direct. As of Dec. 31, passive U.S. equity funds managed $4.78 trillion in net assets while active funds managed $4.58 trillion.

(Graphic: The rise of passive funds png link: here)

BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) alone has more than $7 trillion in total assets under management, while Vanguard Group has more than $5 trillion. A combined Franklin Resources and Legg Mason would manage about $1.5 trillion in assets.

At the same time, since the bull market for U.S. equities started in 2009, passive large-cap funds have largely outperformed their active counterparts, according to Morningstar Direct.

(Graphic: Active management, smaller returns png link: here)

Last year’s performance followed that trend. Passive U.S. large-cap blend equity funds – in which neither growth nor value stocks dominate – posted a 30.1% return in 2019, whereas active U.S. large-cap blend equity funds returned 27.8%. The benchmark S&P 500 .SPX index rose 28.9% last year.

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Brazil's Bolsonaro offers credit for indigenous farmers as he pushes to open their lands

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday said he was pushing a bill through Congress to allow commercial mining and agriculture on protected indigenous lands, as he met with tribal leaders to announce a credit line to support indigenous farmers who have developed soy plantations on their reservations.

The far-right leader, who has faced criticism for his government’s failure to protect the Amazon rainforest, said the credit line would allow indigenous tribes to buy seed, fertilizer and machinery, even though large-scale agriculture has hitherto been illegal on their lands.

“Indigenous people cannot be stuck inside their lands like prehistoric human beings,” Bolsonaro said as he met with some 20 indigenous leaders at the gates of the presidential palace.

Speaking with Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina beside him, Bolsonaro said the credit line would help lift Brazil’s indigenous people out of poverty and assimilate them into Brazilian society.

The main organizations representing Brazil’s 900,000 indigenous people say a majority are opposed to mining and commercial agriculture on their ancestral lands, however.

Bolsonaro’s comments at the presidential palace came as Raoni Metuktire, a Kayapo chief known internationally for his environmental campaigning since the 1980s, joined other indigenous representatives in an appearance at Brazil’s Congress on Tuesday to ask Speaker Rodrigo Maia to block the government’s commercial mining and farming bill.

“Bolsonaro is clearly trying to create division between us, but the majority of us are represented here and is against the bill,” said Sonia Guajajara, head of APIB, an umbrella organization of the indigenous tribes of Brazil.

“We do not want the destruction of the rainforest with mining and hydroelectric dams. I am against what Bolsonaro is doing,” Raoni told a news conference.

Bolsonaro said his bill will allow indigenous people to mine and plant crops on their lands, and rent them to white farmers if they want to, which is currently illegal under Brazilian law.

Environmental laws also ban commercial agriculture and the use of transgenic crops on reservation lands, though three tribes were given a temporary three-year permit to develop large-scale farming that expired in 2018.

One of the tribes, the Parecis are farming 8,000 hectares of soy this season, and Bolsonaro plans to visit them during the harvest, a source at the indigenous affairs agency Funai said.

“We’re here to show that there are indigenous people in Brazil who want to farm while keeping their indigenous culture,” said Parecis farming manager Arnaldo Zunizakae.

He said his people want to produce wealth to improve their standard of living, through “organized and responsible” agriculture that preserves nature.

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UK seeks to attract high-skilled workers with points-based immigration system

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will prioritize access for high-skilled workers from around the world in its post-Brexit, points-based immigration system, the government said on Tuesday, setting out its plans to put an end to a reliance on “cheap labor from Europe”.

Concern over the impact of high levels of immigration from the European Union was one of the key drivers behind Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the bloc and the government has said it plans to bring overall migration numbers down.

The new system will assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions and only give visas to those who have enough points. It will come into force from Jan. 1, 2021 and will treat EU and non-EU citizens the same.

“For the first time in decades, the UK will have full control over who comes to this country and how our immigration system operates,” the government said in a policy document setting out its plans.

EU citizens will not need a visa to enter Britain as a visitor for up to six months.

The Home Office said it would follow a recommendation made last month by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), an independent body which advises the government, to lower the minimum general salary threshold for skilled migrants to 25,600 pounds ($33,330) a year, from 30,000 pounds.

Skilled workers will need to meet criteria including specific skills and the ability to speak English, the government said, and those applying will need to have a job offer.

There will be no specific entry route for low-skilled workers, something the government hopes will help reduce the number of migrants.

Related Coverage

  • Factbox: Britain's new immigration system – How many points do you need?

“We need to shift the focus of our economy away from reliance on cheap labor from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust,” the policy document said.

The MAC estimated the impact of the government’s planned salary and skills thresholds would mean around 70% of European Economic Area citizens who have arrived in Britain since 2004 would not have been eligible for a visa.

Students will be covered by the points-based system, the government said, while there will be separate initiatives for scientists, graduates, National Health Service workers and those in the agricultural sector.

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B.C. budget 2020 includes tax increases on top income earners, pop drinkers

The B.C. government is increasing taxes on the rich and pop drinkers to help fund the continuation of its affordability agenda.

Finance Minister Carole James announced in the 2020 budget the marginal tax rate for those making more than $220,000 a year will be 20.5 per cent. The increased rate will bring in an estimated additional $216 million next year.

The government will also start charging the provincial sales tax on carbonated drinks that contain sugar, natural sweeteners or artificial sweeteners, making them seven per cent more expensive. The change comes into effect July 1, 2020.

“This is a health initiative to see how we grow healthy young people,” James said.

“I think it’s interesting that if you look at the largest consumption of pop it’s 14- to 18-year-olds. We want to do our part to set the stage for a healthy life ahead.”

The province is projecting a budget surplus of $227 million in 2020-21, $179 million in 2021-22 and $374 million in 2022-23.

Kris Sims of The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says by removing PST exemption on soft drinks, British Columbians will actually not be able to see the impact of the change on the shelves.

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Bunge bids for two Brazil soy plants, building lead over Cargill

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Bunge Ltd has offered to buy two soy processing plants in Brazil from local crusher Imcopa, the U.S. grains trader said on Tuesday, reinforcing its position as the country’s biggest oilseeds processor.

Two sources familiar with the transaction told Reuters that Bunge agreed to pay about 50 million reais ($12 million) for the plants while assuming debt of around 1 billion reais related to the assets, located in the state of Paraná.

In a statement, Bunge confirmed making a bid for the assets, adding that it was awaiting a court decision to continue with the process. It declined to give more details.

Bunge was the only company to submit a bid in the auction, according to one of the sources.

Imcopa, now restructuring debt in bankruptcy court, said in a statement that it had received one offer for the plants on Monday, although it did not name the bidder.

Bunge is already Brazil’s top oilseeds processor, and the move will help it expand a lead over rival Cargill Inc, which has two-thirds as many crushing and refining facilities, according to data from national oilseeds group Abiove.

According to Abiove data from 2018, Cargill owned eight active oilseed crushing units in Brazil and Bunge owned 12.

“Bunge not only intends to acquire the two industrial plants … (it also) intends to hire a significant number of the current employees,” according a filing Bunge made to the bankruptcy court dated Nov. 26.

On Imcopa’s website, the company touts capacity to crush 1.5 million tonnes of soybeans per year, producing up to 240,000 tonnes of soy protein concentrate.

The minimum asking price of each of the plants was 25 million reais in an auction scheduled for Feb. 17, according to bankruptcy court documents. The debt attached to the plants was 1.043 billion reais in December 2018, public records show.

Last year, Imcopa ended a leasing contract with Brazilian brewer Grupo Petrópolis for use of the two crushing plants, alleging a breach of contract, and put the assets up for sale.

The leasing agreement was set to expire in 2024. Petrópolis declined to comment on Bunge’s bid to assume control of the two Imcopa plants.

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Edmonton City Auditor asked to review anonymous letter listing worries about snow-clearing

The city auditor has been asked to review a letter from parks and roadway services employees outlining concerns with how their department is run.

The anonymous 11-page letter, obtained by Global News and sent to city councillors, details their worries about mismanagement and the quality of leadership since the Transportation and Streets department merged with Parks and Recreation in 2017.

It further summarizes anxiety over street-clearing policies that could put the public in danger and over the use of equipment they claim is ineffective and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

The concerns in the letter have not been independently verified by Global News and it is not clear how many employees authored its contents.

No one from the city was made available for an interview.

In a statement, the deputy city manager for city operations, Gord Cebryk, said employee concerns are taken seriously.

“We have shared the letter with the Office of the City Auditor as well as the Employee Services department for review and investigation per the City’s established employee complaint process,” Cebryk said.

A verbal update on the city’s snow and ice policy, operational practices and a response to some of the concerns expressed in the letter will be presented to council on Wednesday.

Councillors receive letter

“There’s always two sides to a story,” said Coun. Scott McKeen.

“I think that you can have disgruntled employees so it’s really hard to pick out how credible it is. We have to follow up… What I guess I would like to see is the auditor dig into it.”

McKeen said the letter raises a lot of questions.

“I think the streets this winter … the emails I’ve received have been pretty angry about the state of the streets this year.”

Coun. Mike Nickel said this is not the first time he has heard issues coming out of this department.

“I think we still have a challenge with regards to where employees can come forward and they don’t feel they’re going to be threatened if they want to do things better,” Nickel said.

Nickel said the authors’ anonymity is an issue.

“We can’t operate on rumour and innuendo. That’s the other side of the question. It’s a bit of a conundrum when you’re sitting in council and you don’t have a signature on the bottom of the letter so this is a challenge for management really to address these things.”

However, he supports the city auditor investigating the concerns.

“It’s in their realm.… I think they’ll make a determination on it.”

Have a tip about this story? Contact Vinesh Pratap at [email protected] or Julia Wong at [email protected]


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