Day: May 15, 2024

Biden defends China tariffs amid criticism from business groups

The administration is increasing tariffs on $18 billion in Chinese imports across a handful of sectors deemed strategic to national security, with a focus on clean energy goods.

Tariff increases will apply to important steel and aluminum, legacy semiconductors, electric vehicle battery components, critical minerals, solar cells, cranes and medical products from China. The new rates will range from 100% on electric vehicles to 50% for solar components to 25% for all other sectors, and will be imposed over the next two years.

Several goods and technologies imported from China will have their tariffs more than quadrupled. For example, electrical vehicle tariffs will rise from 25% to 100%, and levies on Lithium-ion batteries will increase from 7.5% to 25% by 2026.

The election-year maneuver comes as Mr. Biden looks to project himself as tougher on China than Mr. Trump. During his administration, Mr. Trump imposed more than $300 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods.

Mr. Biden, during the 2020 election, criticized the tariffs, saying they pass pain along to the consumer. However, since taking office Mr. Biden has left Mr. Trump’s tariffs on China in place.

Several business groups criticized Mr. Biden‘s action, saying tariffs often backfire and raise consumer prices and inflation. After Mr. Trump slapped tariffs on China, Beijing hit back with tariffs on $101.4 billion in U.S. exports in retaliation. That affected 294,000 American export-related jobs, according to a Brookings Institute Study.

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DeSantis’ ban on lab-grown meat is peak culture war

Florida’s governor has shown with his new ban on lab-grown meat that he only trusts consumers and freedom of choice so long as it doesn’t disrupt the status quo

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will not live in the pod, and he will not eat the bugs. In fact, he will make sure no one in Florida ever does — even if they want to.

Last week, the governor signed SB 1084, making Florida the first U.S. state to ban “lab-grown meat” for consumers. Despite a fresh federal seal of approval for the chicken variety of cultivated meat, DeSantis has taken it upon himself to remove the consumer’s choice for these meat alternatives in the name of combating the “globalists” of the World Economic Forum.

It’s talk radio and Reddit politics turned into real-world law.

The bill does several things, such as offering excused absences from school for kids participating in agricultural track programs like 4-H and Future Farmers of America, and prohibits “the manufacture for sale, holding or offering for sale, or distribution of cultivated meat in this state.”

Violations are punishable by up to 60 days in jail, and restaurants that sell or serve these products risk losing their licenses to operate.

What exactly did Florida ban?

It’s important to understand that there are two emerging alternatives to good old-fashioned meat.

Plant-based meat, popularized by Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, are grown from plant-cells and processed proteins to replicate the aroma and juices found in natural meat. The “blood” is a soy leghemoglobin compound, and for a vegetarian who misses eating meat, this makes plant-based meat extra appealing.

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Consumer choice: FAA legislation deadline nears on adding flights to Reagan National Airport

Congress faces a Friday deadline to pass Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) legislation that would direct aviation policy for the next five years.

Among the issues under negotiation by lawmakers and airline industry stakeholders is whether or not to add flights to Reagan National Airport (DCA). A current compromise would allow for just five additional flights into and out of Reagan each day.

Most consumers are unaware that the lack of choice for domestic flights across the country is a matter of federal regulation, not a calculation made by airlines. In 1966, what’s known as the “perimeter rule” was enacted to limit Reagan flights to a 650-mile radius. The rule was enacted to encourage consumers to make use of the newly established Dulles International Airport (IAD) and relieve the D.C. area of noise pollution and traffic associated with Reagan. The perimeter was expanded in 1981 to 1,000 miles, and again in 1986 to the present 1,250-mile perimeter, which goes hand-in-hand with the “slot rule” which limited DCA to 60 flights beyond the perimeter departing each hour.

“Consumers everywhere should be asking themselves why Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. are being forced to operate like it’s 1986. The needs of travelers have changed dramatically, as has the technical capacity of D.C. area airports that serve them. We’d like to see the perimeter rule dissolved altogether, but if five extra flights for DCA is what allows Congress to keep the skies open for business, then that will have to do for now. Zero expansion is unacceptable,” Stephen Kent, media director of the Consumer Choice Center, a consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., said.

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How Europe’s Green Deal Came and Went

The European Union is known for its unhurried approach to policymaking. The wheel of Brussels turns slowly with institutions haggling over every comma in a tedious process known as the ‘trilogue’. This made it all the more surprising that in a vote last week, the European Parliament voted in favor of a deregulation reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the EU’s farm subsidy scheme. The European Commission put it together in only eight weeks.

The European Parliament is up for reelection in a month and a half, and traditionally, parliamentarians from all 27 member states rarely pass any significant legislation this close to the end of their term. Members are usually busily campaigning to hold on to their seats, but this time around the vote is a noticeable part of their campaign messages.

The CAP gets renewed every four years, and on top of a financial support system for farmers and their businesses, it integrates steering policy, or “conditionality”. This conditionality dictates environmental rules that farmers must respect to access direct payments, and includes requiring farmers to minimize tillage to prevent soil erosion, This necessitates farmers set aside at least four percent of their farmland for biodiversity or mandating the growing of “cover crops”.

EU agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski told Polish media that Brussels is removing links between the Green Deal, the EU’s plan to become carbon-neutral by 2050, and the CAP. EU parliamentarians in Strasbourg approved the changes to the CAP with an overwhelming majority last week, in what is arguably a significant move towards deregulation – or “simplification”, as the European Commission diplomatically dubbed it.

This is indicative of a pre-election trend in Europe. While in 2019, a selfie with Greta Thunberg would have been desired campaign material, an increasing number of lawmakers in Brussels are shying away from ambitious environmental rules as the pushback by farmers and citizens has become overwhelming.

The trend has penetrated the Commission as well. President Ursula von der Leyen, who in 2020 championed the virtues of the European Green Deal and its promise to overhaul the agricultural system and give a boost to biodiversity, now meets with large manufacturers to shape the future of European industrial policy. The word “sustainability” has taken a back seat, in favor of “competitiveness” and “industrial autonomy”.

Finnish agriculture minister Sari Essayah bemoans a “tsunami of new regulations” on the agriculture and forest sector in the past four years, aligning himself with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who believes that the EU’s Nature Restoration Law is “badly drafted”. Austrian Agriculture Minister Norbert Totschnig even calls for an immediate suspension, stating that goals to combat deforestation globally would add “unnecessary bureaucratic rules” on European producers. Ministers and the European Parliament both had previously shot down legislation that would have cut down on the use of synthetic pesticides in agriculture after it had become clear that the targets were not evidence-based but politically motivated.

Four years into the grand experiment of the European Green Deal, named after ambitions for a Green New Deal in the United States led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the EU is not implementing rules that were designed to reach its ambitious climate goals. Some are even being repealed altogether.

Brussels is breaking taboos even in the field of biotechnology. The European Commission and Parliament are fast-tracking plans to make gene-edited plants legal in the bloc, following years of applying the ‘precautionary principle’ to a technology already in use in the U.S. They’re banking on the fact that new crop varieties will reduce farming’s carbon footprint. The focus is increasingly not on the sustainable outlook of biotech but rather on how it will improve farmer yields and income.

In the halls of Brussels, the political ambitions of the 2019 environmentalist movement have proven a stoppable force when confronted with the immovable object of consumer purchasing power and producer discontent. As some U.S. states plan to create stricter use in the agricultural sector, such as with New York and Vermont attempting to ban insecticides in the image of Europe’s existing legislation – lessons have yet to be learned.

Originally published here

European Threat To End-To-End Encryption Would Invade Phones

European lawmakers have been implementing a way to circumvent end-to-end encryption to address child sexual abuse material (“CSAM”) – what some activists term the “Chat Control” law. End-to-end communication guarantees that if you communicate with someone, only a receiving device will be available, and the sending device can decrypt or see the message in question. This is close to Bitcoin’s principles for spending money and financial flows – allowing you to choose who you reveal your spending to or who not to – with privacy-preserving and self-custody technologies also under attack. Freedom technology like Bitcoin and Nostr (which has recently built a proposal for end-to-end encrypted messages) and open-source tools like Signal focus on giving people digital privacy and autonomy – principles under attack from a recent proposal to scan users’ devices for content before it is encrypted.

Experts in cryptography and other scientists/researchers have released an open letter to discuss this proposal’s technical and policy issues. The urgency of the moment is because the legislation has a realistic chance of passing this time and, to the surprise of all, is being proposed right before the European elections. After several other attempts had been thwarted – as Bart Preneel, one of the originators of the letter explains, the Belgian presidency has advanced a new version of the Chat Control law, tweaked in two places to get more political support – the first tweak is that different services will be categorized into different levels of risk, with only “High Risk” services being scanned. However, the definition of a “High-risk” service is any that offers end-to-end encryption and real-time communications – apps like Signal and WhatsApp, used widely by so many, would fall under that definition. Services that allow for anonymous IDs (the default on the Internet) would also fall under this category.

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