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To Tackle China, the U.S. Should Invest More in Africa

The Biden administration has requested that Congress approve an $80 million package to finance the newly launched Prosper Africa Build Together initiative. The project will focus on fostering trade and investment between the world’s poorest continent and the United States. Given Africa’s ambitious free trade aspirations and China’s ever-growing obsession with the continent, such a move couldn’t come at a better time.

The past few years can hardly be seen as the golden age of free trade in the West. Trade wars combined with persistent attempts to make trade woke—through the integration of environmental or gender causes—have undermined economic exchange globally. However, while European Union governments and the U.S. have imposed sanctions, blocked exports as part of COVID measures, and failed to negotiate new agreements, Africa has been silently making strides toward its own free trading future—with China’s help.

Founded in 2018, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is the largest free trade area in the world in terms of participating countries. By removing 90% of tariffs on goods traded among 54 African countries-signees within five to 10 years, the AfCFTA looks likely to become the biggest free trade entity since the 1995 launch of the World Trade Organization. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the agreement will boost intra-African trade by 52% within five years.

As of 2019, intra-African exports accounted for 16.6% of total exports. For comparison, in Europe, the share was 68.1%. If fully implemented, the AfCFTA has the potential to put the continent, long crippled by poverty and corruption, on the path of lasting prosperity.

For international trade, the AfCFTA will mean clearer customs checks and unified market access rules, which could hugely benefit the United States. Africa could become the largest market for the automotive industry. In 2018, Volkswagen and Peugeot Société Anonyme opened their first car plants in Rwanda and Namibia, respectively. Car imports from Africa could become a great alternative to the European imports.

Although ambitious, the AfCFTA is also riddled with implementation problems. Decades of socialist African governments whose main objective was their own enrichment have resulted in substantial infrastructure problems, among other things, in many countries. The construction and modernization of infrastructure combined with establishing efficient customs check procedures is key to making the AfCFTA succeed.

This is where China has stepped in to fill the gap. Last November, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (pictured) said that his government “will provide cash assistance and capacity-building training to its [AfCFTA] secretariat.”

Such support for the AfCFTA is not surprising. Over the years, China has made itself indispensable for Africa’s leaders. Between 2003 and 2019, Chinese foreign direct investment in Africa has increased from $75 million USD in 2003 to $2.7 billion USD in 2019. There is no sign of this trend losing momentum.

Although it can be seen as beneficial to Africa’s development, active Chinese participation in Africa’s development is increasingly worrisome. There is no such thing as free Chinese money. By investing in Africa, China is making the continent indebted, and it won’t hesitate to ask for something in return. Knowing China’s appetites—taking the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka is one example—it is not hard to predict what will happen. Aside from active political involvement, China will also ask for preferential access to the AfCFTA once it is fully functioning.

Africa presents many opportunities for the United States. Almost all African products can freely enter the U.S. through the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a trade preference program launched in 2000. The U.S. has also formally committed to supporting the AfCFTA, but its impact is negligible compared to that of China.

More active engagement from the U.S. in AfCFTA is crucial financially and ideologically. The foundations laid by the AfCFTA today will determine the continent’s fate. U.S. assistance in the form of investments and general support will be key in shaping a better and freer tomorrow for Africans, revitalizing trade globally, and counteracting China’s influence.

Originally published here

Leaked: Bloomberg-funded ‘Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids’ Global Strategy to Ban Vaping Products By Bribing Public Bodies

To people in the United States, billionaire Michael Bloomberg is most well-known as a swashbuckling former New York City mayor who blew a lot of money on an ill-fated presidential primary run.

But around the world, his network of charities and selected groups he provides with millions of dollars in grants are, for all intents and purposes, a sort of private government who influence government leaders, fund the entire salaries of public health officials, and write legislation that is then introduced into legislative bodies, including the recent example of vaping bans in Mexico and the Phillippines.

Some of these organizations are those directly chaired and controlled by Bloomberg, including Bloomberg Philanthropies, but most are various campaign groups that rely heavily on funding and guidance from the New York City billionaire, including those focused on the environment, education, public health, and general tobacco control.

According to the latest article from Michelle Minton at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who was able to get her hands on internal documents from the Bloomberg-funded Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids organization, the pernicious impact of the campaigns to target developing countries goes much beyond standard tobacco-control measures such as taxes, age-gating, and advertising restrictions.

Influence and Cash-Strapped Governments

Instead, there are direct payments offered to government bodies and public health officials that implement the CTFK wish-list of legislation. Because developing nations spend less on public health measures and programs than developed nations, foreign NGOs that seek specific policy measures in exchange for millions of dollars in public funding are granted immense influence.

As such, rather than actual domestic democratic demand for measures against tobacco and vaping products, including all-out bans on vaping flavors and technology, these nations pass laws in direct exchange for grants, often much larger than their own domestic department budgets. In other contexts, this would rightly be defined as bribery.

Considering Michael Bloomberg’s charities have spent nearly $700 million globally to hurry these measures into law, the long arm of the global anti-tobacco advocacy movement has already chalked up several success stories.

In government, CTFK and its partners engage in lobbying, like most other advocacy organizations, but CTFK’s strategy for influencing tobacco policy really hinges on establishing itself as an indispensable resource for regulators and lawmakers. For example, the CTFK plan lists myriad examples of support it has provided to government entities, such as assisting in lawsuits against the tobacco industry in Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Uganda, Nigeria, and Kenya. In Panama, it notes “collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Panama who is interested in financing a regional effort” for tobacco litigation.

Michelle Minton, Exposed: Bloomberg’s Anti-Tobacco Meddling in Developing Countries

The documents outline the efforts of campaigners from CTFK to pass various tobacco control and anti-vaping measures in countries such as Brazil, China, and Nigeria, including “financial support” to ministries and government offices.

More than just government officials and health bodies, exorbitant funding is also made available to universities and media institutions, documents show, to amplify the core messages and aims of CTFK.

The Smokescreen

Rather than advocating for general tobacco control measures, a good portion of CTFK’s campaigns has focused on banning or severely restrict harm reducing technologies such as vaping, especially in developing countries such as India, the Phillippines, China, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, and more.

Diverting from their mission of truly “tobacco-free kids,” Bloomberg’s connected organizations have instead used their influence to zero in on innovative and novel technological vaping products that deliver aerosolized nicotine and have nothing to do with tobacco.

Instead, organizations like Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have used powerful rhetoric on the need to eliminate smoking as a literal smokescreen for eliminating or severely restricting all non-combustible nicotine alternatives, including vaping devices, heat-not-burn devices, nicotine pouches, and more.

Considering the demonstrated health potentials that come with endorsing nicotine-delivery alternatives as a means to quit smoking, as is recommended by relative health ministries in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to undermine these efforts in developing countries with relatively high smoking rates should be a scandal of epic proportions.

But, alas, those headlines are far from prominent. Instead, we have multiple policy victories that restrict consumer choice and access to alternatives without much regard for actual public health.

Achieving True Public Health

What makes these revelations most startling is that there is no room for nuance on whether innovative new vaping devices and other alternatives, which do not contain tobacco, should be considered tobacco products. Organizations such as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an organ of the World Health Organization, say they are no different.

But they’re wrong. The growing compendium of academic studies and government reports demonstrating that vaping is 95% less harmful than combustible tobacco speaks to that.

The fact that millions of people have been able to quit smoking by using nicotine vaping devices should be a testament enough to how the market can deliver solutions for public health, not to use a cudgel to hamstring and deny developing nations the real opportunity they have to improve and save the lives of millions of their citizens.

But as noted by Minton at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “the strategy of CTFK and the wider Bloomberg-funded anti-tobacco effort appears aimed at winning policy battles and passing laws with little consideration of whether they result in actual reductions in smoking or improvements in health.”

If this is the face of the modern tobacco control movement, then we know that public health is not actually their goal.

Transatlantic dialogue and not tariff war is the future of EU-US relationship

The World Trade Organization today has published a ruling giving the US the green light to impose punitive tariffs on the EU over the tariff on the EU subsidies for Airbus.

Luca Bertoletti, Senior European Affairs Manager at the Consumer Choice Center says: “We hope policy makers will consider rejecting the use of tariffs to escalate the dispute between Airbus and Boeing. These tariffs will not only hurt the aerospace industry but also many other sectors and especially consumers. As there is a new European Parliament and very soon a new European Commission this is the right time for both EU and USA to bury the axe of war and restart the transatlantic dialogue” continued Bertoletti.

“The EU-US relationship is the strongest of the world and it should be based on common market challenges such as how to deal with growing authoritarianism in China, not on a commercial war among free nations which will just hurt consumers” concluded Bertoletti.

Read more here


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

The Huawei Case: Backdoors, Telnet und ein Rauswurf

Anfang der Woche nährte eine Meldung der Nachrichtenagentur Bloomberg erneut Zweifel hinsichtlich der “Zuverlässigkeit” des chinesischen Netzwerkausrüsters Huawei. So hatte der Mobilfunkbetreiber Vodafone gegenüber der Nachrichtenagentur Bloomberg bestätigt, dass man in Italien bei Huawei-Technologie verdächtige Schwachstellen – sogenannte Backdoors – gefunden habe, die Unbefugten einen Zugang zum Festnetz des Carriers in Italien hätten ermöglichen können.

Diagnosefunktion nach der Entwicklung der Systeme nicht entfernt?

Diese “Schwachstellen” seien laut Vodafone bereits 2011 entdeckt worden. Nun rudert der Telekom-Konzern zurück und bemüht sich um eine technische Klarstellung. So handele es sich bei der Hintertür, auf die sich Bloomberg beziehe, um das Telnet-Protokoll, das von vielen Anbietern in der Industrie zur Durchführung von Diagnosefunktionen verwendet werde. Dieses wäre aber nicht über das Internet zugänglich gewesen, so Vodafone.

Einschätzungen der in USA beheimateten Lobbyorganisation Consumer Choice Center zufolge belegt der jüngste Vorfall Risiken für mögliche Verletzungen des Verbraucherschutzes und mache zugleich deutlich, dass die derzeitigen gesetzlichen Vorschriften zum Schutz der Privatsphäre der Verbraucher im Zeitalter der 5G-Technologien unzureichend sind.

Luca Bertoletti, European Affairs Manager des Consumer Choice Center, sagte dazu: “Wir glauben nicht, dass das Verbot von Huawei-Technologie und der Beginn eines Handelskrieges mit China der richtige Weg ist. Vielmehr fordern wir, dass alle Gesetzgeber und Strafverfolgungsbehörden Maßnahmen ergreifen und Normen schaffen, die sich an der Sicherheitszertifizierung von Software und Geräten orientieren sollten (wie im “Cybersecurity Act” der EU vorgeschlagen). Wir sind der Meinung, dass eine starke Verschlüsselung und sichere Authentifizierungsmethoden ein wesentlicher Bestandteil der Bemühungen zum Schutz der Privatsphäre der Verbraucher sein sollten.”

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Huawei Vodafone backdoor renews demand for better privacy rules

CONTACT:
Luca Bertoletti
European Affairs Manager
Consumer Choice Center
luca@consumerchoicecenter.org
39 3451694519

Huawei Vodafone backdoor renews demand for better privacy rules

ROME – Today it was revealed that hidden backdoors were discovered in Huawei Equipment by the mobile provider Vodafone back in 2011. 

Vodafone identified hidden backdoors in the software that could have given Huawei unauthorized access to the carrier’s fixed-line network in Italy, reports Bloomberg.

The Consumer Choice Center says this intrusion highlights the risks for consumer privacy violations and demonstrates how current legal rules are insufficient in protecting consumers’ privacy in the age of 5G technologies. 

Luca Bertoletti, European Affairs Manager at the Consumer Choice Center, reacted to the news.

“This incident should signal to Italian law enforcement agencies the importance of Italian privacy rights and the seriousness of privacy intrusions from third parties. We invite legislators from all of Europe to press telco operators to take new steps to protect consumer privacy and take fast actions to prevent future breaches of internet networks.”

“We don’t believe that banning Huawei, and starting a trade war with China, is the right way to go. Rather, we demand that all legislative bodies and law enforcement actors take action and create standards that should be guided by security certification of software and devices (like proposed in the EU’s “Cybersecurity Act”). We believe that strong encryption and secure methods of authentication should be a significant part of the effort to safeguard consumer privacy,” concluded Bertoletti.

This particular topic ties into the CCC’s Consumer Privacy note, which was released this month.

***CCC European Affairs Manager Luca Bertoletti is available to speak with accredited media on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send media inquiries HERE.***

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Sorry Mr. Trump, we’re not “Chinese propaganda” on trade

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to denounce several articles in the Des Moines Register as Chinese “propaganda ads” because of the facts presented on trade and tariffs. Included was an article written by the Consumer Choice Center that revealed the impact of tariffs on communities in North and South Carolina, which could affect up to 150,000 […]

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