Trump Administration Considering Tax Break on Capital Gains

The Trump administration is studying the idea of implementing a big tax break for wealthy Americans by reducing the taxes levied on capital gains, but no decision has been made yet on whether to proceed.

Administration officials said Tuesday Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin prefers deferring to Congress. But he does have his department studying the economic impact of such a change and the legality of proceeding without congressional approval.

The change would involve taxing capital gains — profits on investments such as stocks or real estate — after taking into account inflation, which would lower the tax bite. Capital gains taxes are currently determined by subtracting the original price of an asset from the price at which it was sold and taxing the difference without adjusting for inflation.

For example, a stock purchased in 1990 for $100,000 and sold today for $300,000 would produce a $200,000 capital gain. That amount, taxed at the top capital gains rate of 23.8 percent, would result in a tax bill of $47,600. However, if the $200,000 gain was trimmed to just $103,000 by adjusting for inflation over the past 28 years, the tax bill would be $24,514.

“There has been a great deal of interest in this provision for a long time,” said a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal policy deliberations. “Treasury is currently evaluating the economic impact and whether it can be achieved without legislation.”

Indexing capital gains for inflation would reduce federal revenue by about $102 billion over a decade, according to the Penn-Wharton Budget Model. The Congressional Research Service has estimated that about 90 percent of the benefits would go to the top 1 percent of households.

The New York Times and the Washington Post reported Tuesday that the proposal was under active consideration by the administration. It has long been supported by Larry Kudlow, head of the president’s National Economic Council. Mnuchin, however, has signaled caution in approaching the idea.

Republicans, led by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady is leading an effort to extend and expand the $1.5 trillion tax cut President Donald Trump pushed through Congress last December.

“If it can’t get done through a legislative process, we will look at what tools at Treasury we have to do it on our own and we’ll consider that,” Mnuchin said in an interview with the Times in which he emphasized that he has not yet concluded that Treasury has the authority to act alone.

“We are studying that internally, and we are also studying the economic costs and the impact on growth,” Mnuchin told the Times.

Democrats, however, vowed to oppose the change to how capital gains are taxed.

“Once again, Republicans have exposed the true priorities of their tax scam: billions in tax breaks for the wealthiest at the expense of everyone else,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “American families are drowning under the weight of stagnant wages, higher health costs and soaring prescription drug costs, but the GOP continues to pick their pockets to give more handouts to the wealthiest 1 percent.”

In an interview in June with The Wall Street Journal, Mnuchin declined to speculate on whether Treasury has the legal authority to make the capital gains change on its own.

Democrats in the Senate have urged Mnuchin not to take the step, saying Treasury does not have the authority. They pointed to legal opinions written by the Justice and Treasury departments in 1992 finding that Congress intended the word “cost” to mean the price paid in nominal dollars — without adjusting for inflation.

Treasury acting on its own “would almost exclusively benefit the wealthiest Americans, add $100 billion to the ballooning deficit, further complicate the tax code and ignore the need for congressional” approval, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, and other Democratic panel members said in a letter to Mnuchin in May.

“The $100 billion price tag is a conservative estimate because it does not consider the abundant tax-sheltering opportunities that would arise,” the Democrats wrote. “Further, the proposal would fail American workers, investment and the larger U.S. economy.”

Robotic Hand Can Juggle Cube — With Lots of Training

How long does it take a robotic hand to learn to juggle a cube?

About 100 years, give or take.

That’s how much virtual computing time it took researchers at OpenAI, the nonprofit artificial intelligence lab funded by Elon Musk and others, to train its disembodied hand. The team paid Google $3,500 to run its software on thousands of computers simultaneously, crunching the actual time to 48 hours. After training the robot in a virtual environment, the team put it to a test in the real world.

The hand, called Dactyl, learned to move itself, the team of two dozen researchers disclosed this week. Its job is simply to adjust the cube so that one of its letters — “O,” “P,” “E,” “N,” “A” or “I” — faces upward to match a random selection.

Ken Goldberg, a University of California, Berkeley robotics professor who isn’t affiliated with the project, said OpenAI’s achievement is a big deal because it demonstrates how robots trained in a virtual environment can operate in the real world. His lab is trying something similar with a robot called Dex-Net, though its hand is simpler and the objects it manipulates are more complex.

“The key is the idea that you can make so much progress in simulation,” he said. “This is a plausible path forward, when doing physical experiments is very hard.”

Dactyl’s real-world fingers are tracked by infrared dots and cameras. In training, every simulated movement that brought the cube closer to the goal gave Dactyl a small reward. Dropping the cube caused it to feel a penalty 20 times as big.

The process is called reinforcement learning. The robot software repeats the attempts millions of times in a simulated environment, trying over and over to get the highest reward. OpenAI used roughly the same algorithm it used to beat human players in a video game, Dota 2.

In real life, a team of researchers worked about a year to get the mechanical hand to this point.


For one, the hand in a simulated environment doesn’t understand friction. So even though its real fingers are rubbery, Dactyl lacks human understanding about the best grips.

Researchers injected their simulated environment with changes to gravity, hand angle and other variables so the software learns to operate in a way that is adaptable. That helped narrow the gap between real-world results and simulated ones, which were much better.

The variations helped the hand succeed putting the right letter face up more than a dozen times in a row before dropping the cube. In simulation, the hand typically succeeded 50 times in a row before the test was stopped.

OpenAI’s goal is to develop artificial general intelligence, or machines that think and learn like humans, in a way that is safe for people and widely distributed.

Musk has warned that if AI systems are developed only by for-profit companies or powerful governments, they could one day exceed human smarts and be more dangerous than nuclear war with North Korea.

Facebook Removes Accounts ‘Involved in Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior’

Efforts to influence U.S. voters ahead of the 2018 midterm elections in November appear to be well underway, though private companies and government officials are hesitant to say who, exactly, is behind the recently discovered campaigns.

Facebook announced Tuesday it had shut down 32 Facebook and Instagram accounts because they were “involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

Specifically, the social media company said it took down eight Facebook pages, 17 Facebook profiles, and seven Instagram accounts, the oldest of which were created in March 2017.

Facebook said the entities behind the accounts ran some 150 ads for about $11,000 on Facebook and Instagram, paid for with U.S. and Canadian currency.

“We’re still in the very early stages of our investigation and don’t have all the facts — including who may be behind this,” Facebook said in a blog post. “It’s clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past.”

Effort to spark confrontations

At least 290,000 accounts followed the fake pages, most of which appeared to target left-wing American communities in an effort to spark confrontations with the far right, according to an analysis done by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.


“They appear to have constituted an attempt by an external actor — possibly, though not certainly, in the Russian-speaking world,” the Digital Forensic Research Lab said in its own post.

It said similarities to activity by Russia’s IRA included “language patterns that indicate non-native English and consistent mistranslation, as well as an overwhelming focus on polarizing issues at the top of any given news cycle with content that remained emotive rather than fact-based.”

Facebook’s announcement came the same day top U.S. officials warned the country is now in “a crisis mode.”

“Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at a National Cybersecurity Summit, citing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.

“It is unacceptable, and it will not be tolerated,” Nielsen said. “The United States possesses a wide range of response options — some of them seen, others unseen — and we will no longer hesitate to use them to hold foreign adversaries accountable.”

Homeland Security officials said they had been in touch with Facebook about the fake accounts and applauded the move to take them down. The White House also praised Facebook’s actions.

“We applaud efforts by our private sector partners to combat an array of threats that occur in cyberspace, including malign influence,” NSC spokesman Garrett Marquis told VOA.

Nielsen, who did not comment on the Facebook announcement directly, also said officials were “dramatically ramping up” efforts to protect U.S. election systems with the help of a new Election Task Force.

She also announced the launch of a National Risk Management Center to make it easier for the government to work with private sector companies to counter threats in cyberspace.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has at times cast doubt on findings by the U.S. intelligence community regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election, chaired a meeting of his National Security Council on election security on Friday, with the White House promising continued support to safeguard the country’s election systems.

Vice President Mike Pence, speaking Tuesday at a Homeland Security-sponsored summit, echoed that, saying, “Any attempt to interfere in our elections is an affront to our democracy, and it will not be allowed.”

Pence assured the audience that the White House did not doubt Russia’s attempts to influence U.S. elections, saying, “Gone are the days when America allows our adversaries to cyberattack us with impunity.”

“We’ve already done more than any administration in American history to preserve the integrity of the ballot box,” he added. “The American people demand and deserve the strongest possible defense, and we will give it to them.”

Hackers targeted congressional campaigns

Less than two weeks ago, Microsoft said hackers had targeted the campaigns of at least three congressional candidates in the upcoming election.

Tom Burt, Microsoft’s vice president for customer security and trust, refused to attribute the attacks, but said the hackers used tactics similar to those used by Russian operatives to target the Republican and Democratic parties during their presidential nominating conventions in 2016.

Late last week, The Daily Beast reported one of the targets of the attack was Missouri Democratic senator Claire McCaskill, who has been highly critical of Russia and is facing a tough re-election campaign.

Until recently, both U.S. government and private sector officials had said they had not been seeing the same pace of attacks or influence campaigns that they saw in the run-up to the 2016 election.

“I think we’re not seeing that same conduct,” Monika Bickert, head of Facebook’s product policy and counterterrorism, said during an appearance earlier this month at the Aspen Security Forum. “But we are watching for that activity.”

Still, many officials and analysts said it was likely just a matter of time before Russia would seek to strike again.

“I think we have been clear across the entire administration that even though we aren’t seeing this level of activity directed at elections, we continue to see Russian information operations directed at undermining our democracy,” Homeland Security undersecretary Chris Krebs said.

Facebook said it was sharing what it knows because of a connection between the “bad actors” behind the Facebook and Instagram pages and some protests that are planned next week in Washington, D.C.

Facebook also canceled an event posted by one of the accounts — a page called “Resisters” — calling for a counterprotest to a “Unite the Right” event scheduled for August in Washington, D.C.

U.S. lawmakers’ reactions

Key U.S. lawmakers applauded Facebook’s actions Tuesday, though they warned more still needs to be done.

“The goal of these operations is to sow discord, distrust and division in an attempt to undermine public faith in our institutions and our political system,” Sen. Richard Burr, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “The Russians want a weak America.”

“Today’s announcement from Facebook demonstrates what we’ve long feared — that malicious foreign actors bearing the hallmarks of previously identified Russian influence campaigns continue to abuse and weaponize social media platforms to influence the U.S. electorate,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

“It is clear that much more work needs to be done before the midterm elections to harden our defenses, because foreign bad actors are using the exact same playbook they used in 2016,” Schiff added.

НБУ пояснив, чому падає гривня

Національний банк України пояснив 31 липня причини курсових коливань, які спостерігаються на валютному ринку другий тиждень поспіль.

Серед причин, які спричинили падіння гривні щодо долара США, регулятор назвав «активне проведення компаніями операцій з перерахування дивідендів за кордон (з початку липня з цією метою було куплено майже 300 мільйонів доларів США) та вихід нерезидентами з облігацій внутрішньої державної позики (з початку липня обсяг ОВДП в портфелях нерезидентів скоротився майже на 1,3 мільярда гривень)».

«На курсову динаміку минулого тижня також впливали значні обсяги повернення ПДВ наприкінці місяця, що значно зменшує обсяг вільного продажу валюти, а також збільшення попиту на готівкову валюту, зокрема зі сторони тіньового аграрного сектору у зв’язку з початком сезону», – ідеться в повідомленні.

Нацбанк вказує, що з початку минулого тижня продав 148 мільйонів доларів.

«Зокрема, сьогодні НБУ оголосив аукціон з продажу 50 мільйонів доларів США… За результатами аукціону НБУ продав 28,1 мільйонів доларів США за ціною відсікання 26,86 гривні за долар», – інформує НБУ.

24 липня вперше за чотири місяці Національний банк України встановив офіційний курс на рівні понад 26 з половиною гривень за долар – 26,58.

Відтоді курс продовжив зростання, 31 липня станом на 13:00 на міжбанківському валютному ринку зареєстровано 340 угод на суму понад 190 мільйонів доларів за середньозваженим курсом 26 гривень 86 копійок за долар, повідомляє профільний сайт «Мінфін».


With Drones and Satellites, India Gets to Know its Slums

Satellites and drones are driving efforts by Indian states to map informal settlements in order to speed up the process of delivering services and land titles, officials said.

The eastern state of Odisha aims to give titles to 200,000 households in urban slums and those on the outskirts of cities by the end of the year.

Officials used drones to map the settlements.

“What may have takes us years to do, we have done in a few months,” G. Mathi Vathanan, the state housing department commissioner, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation last week.

Land records across the country date back to the British colonial era, and most holdings have uncertain ownership, leading to fraud and lengthy disputes that often end in court.

Officials in Mumbai, where about 60 percent of the population lives in informal settlements, are also mapping slums with drones. Maharashtra state, where the city is located, is launching a similar exercise for rural land holdings.

In the southern city of Bengaluru, a seven-year study that recently concluded used satellite imaging and machine learning.

The study recorded about 2,000 informal settlements, compared with fewer than 600 in government records.

“Understanding human settlement patterns in rapidly urbanizing cities is important because of the stress on civic resources and public utilities,” said Nikhil Kaza, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina.

“Geospatial analysis can help identify stress zones, and allow civic authorities to focus their efforts in localized areas,” said Kaza, who analyzed the Bengaluru data.

About a third of the world’s urban population lives in informal settlements, according to United Nations data.

These settlements may account for 30 percent to 60 percent of housing in cities, yet they are generally undercounted, resulting in a lack of essential services, which can exacerbate poverty.

Identifying and monitoring settlements with traditional approaches such as door-to-door surveys is costly and time consuming. As technology gets cheaper, officials from Nairobi to Mumbai are using satellite images and drones instead.

About 65 million people live in India’s slums, according to census data, which activists say is a low estimate.

Lack of data can result in tenure insecurity, as only residents of “notified” slums – or those that are formally recognized – can receive property titles.

Lack of data also leads to poor policy because slums are “not homogenous,” said Anirudh Krishna, a professor at Duke University who led the Bengaluru study.

Some slums “are more likely to need water and sanitation facilities, while better off slums may require skills and entrepreneurship interventions,” he said.

“Lack of information on the nature and diversity of informal settlements is an important limitation in developing appropriate policies aimed at improving the lives of the urban poor.”

50 Years on, McDonald’s and Fast-Food Evolve Around Big Mac

McDonald’s is fighting to hold onto customers as the Big Mac turns 50, but it isn’t changing the makings of its most famous burger.

The company is celebrating the 1968 national launch of the double-decker sandwich whose ingredients of “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and a sesame seed bun” were seared into American memories by a TV jingle. But the milestone comes as the company reduces its number of U.S. stores. McDonald’s said Thursday that customers are visiting less often. Other trendy burger options are reaching into the heartland.

The “Golden Arches” still have a massive global reach, and the McDonald’s brand of cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets and french fries remains recognizable around the world. But on its critical home turf, the company is toiling to stay relevant. Kale now appears in salads, fresh has replaced frozen beef patties in Quarter Pounders, and some stores now offer ordering kiosks, food delivery and barista-style cafes.

The milestone for the Big Mac shows how much McDonald’s and the rest of fast-food have evolved around it.

“Clearly, we’ve gotten a little more sophisticated in our menu development,” McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said in a phone interview.

As with many of its popular and long-lasting menu items, the idea for the Big Mac came from a franchisee.

In 1967, Michael James “Jim” Delligatti lobbied the company to let him test the burger at his Pittsburgh restaurants. Later, he acknowledged the Big Mac’s similarity to a popular sandwich sold by the Big Boy chain.

“This wasn’t like discovering the light bulb. The bulb was already there. All I did was screw it in the socket,” Delligatti said, according to “Behind the Arches.”

McDonald’s agreed to let Delligatti sell the sandwich at a single location, on the condition that he use the company’s standard bun. It didn’t work. Delligatti tried a bigger sesame seed bun, and the burger soon lifted sales by more than 12 percent.

After similar results at more stores, the Big Mac was added to the national menu in 1968. Other ideas from franchisees that hit the big time include the Filet-O-Fish, Egg McMuffin, Apple Pie (once deep-fried but now baked), and the Shamrock Shake.

“The company has benefited from the ingenuity of its small business men,” wrote Ray Kroc, who transformed the McDonald’s into a global franchise, in his book, “Grinding It Out.”

Franchisees still play an important role, driving the recent switch to fresh from frozen for the beef in Quarter Pounders, Easterbrook says. They also participate in menu development, which in the U.S. has included a series of cooking tweaks intended to improve taste.

Messing with a signature menu item can be taboo, but keeping the Big Mac unchanged comes with its own risks. Newer chains such as Shake Shack and Five Guys offer burgers that can make the Big Mac seem outdated. Even White Castle is modernizing, recently adding plant-based “Impossible Burger” sliders at some locations.

A McDonald’s franchisee fretted in 2016 that only one out of five millennials has tried the Big Mac. The Big Mac had “gotten less relevant,” the franchisee wrote in a memo, according to the Wall Street Journal.

McDonald’s then ran promotions designed to introduce the Big Mac to more people. Those kind of periodic campaigns should help keep the Big Mac relevant for years to come, says Mike Delligatti, the son of the Big Mac inventor, who died in 2016.

“What iconic sandwich do you know that can beat the Big Mac as far as longevity?” said Delligatti, himself a McDonald’s franchisee.

Accusations Fly as US Firms Seek to Avoid Trump’s Steel Tariff

U.S. companies seeking to be exempted from President Donald Trump’s tariff on imported steel are accusing American steel manufacturers of spreading inaccurate and misleading information, and they fear it may torpedo their requests.

Robert Miller, president and CEO of NLMK USA, said objections raised by U.S. Steel and Nucor to his bid for a waiver are “literal untruths.” He said his company, which imports huge slabs of steel from Russia, has already paid $80 million in duties and will be forced out of business if it isn’t excused from the 25 percent tariff. U.S. Steel and Nucor are two of the country’s largest steel producers.

“They ought to be ashamed of themselves,” said Miller, who employs more than 1,100 people at mills in Pennsylvania and Indiana.

Miller’s resentment, echoed by several other executives, is evidence of the backlash over how the Commerce Department is evaluating their requests to avoid the duty on steel imports. They fear the agency will be swayed by opposition from U.S. Steel, Nucor and other domestic steel suppliers that say they’ve been unfairly hurt by a glut of imports and back Trump’s tariff.

U.S. Steel said its objections are based on detailed information about the dimensions and chemistry of the steel included in the requests. “We read what is publicly posted and respond,” said spokeswoman Meghan Cox. Nucor did not reply to requests for comment.

The 20,000-plus waiver applications that the Commerce Department has received illustrate the chaos and uncertainty ignited by Trump’s trade war against America’s allies and adversaries. It’s a battle that critics of his trade policy, including a number of Republican lawmakers, have warned is misguided and will end up harming U.S. businesses.

Trump and European leaders agreed this past Wednesday not to escalate their dispute over trade, but the tariff on steel and a separate duty on aluminum imports remains in place as the U.S. and Europe aim for a broader trade agreement. The metal taxes would continue to hit U.S. trading partners such as Canada, Mexico and Japan even if the U.S. and the EU forge a deal.

Miller bristled over insistence by Nucor and U.S. Steel that steel slab is readily available in the United States. “That’s just not true,” he said.

His company isn’t the only one looking overseas for a product described as being consistently in short supply. California Steel Industries, a mill east of Los Angeles in Fontana, described the slab shortage as “acute” on the West Coast and declared that its waiver request is critical to its survival.

Aiming to rebuild the U.S. steel industry, Trump relied on a rarely used 1962 law that empowers him to impose tariffs on particular imports if the Commerce Department determines those goods threaten national security. He added a twist: Companies could be excused from the tariff if they could show, for example, that U.S. manufacturers don’t make the metal they need in sufficient quantities.

But there are hurdles to clear on the path to securing an exemption. A single company may have to file dozens of separate requests to account for even slight variations in the metal it’s buying. That means a mountain of paperwork to be filled out precisely. If not, the request is at risk of being rejected as incomplete. All this can be time-consuming and expensive, especially for smaller businesses.

The requests are open to objections. The Commerce Department posts the exemption requests online to allow third parties to offer comments — even from competitors who have an interest in seeing a rival’s request denied. But objections are frequently being submitted just as the comment period closes, undercutting the requester’s ability to fire back.

Willie Chiang, executive vice president of Plains All American Pipeline, told the House Ways and Means subcommittee on trade last week that his company had no opportunity to respond to objections that contained “incorrect information” before the Commerce Department denied its exclusion request. Chiang didn’t say who submitted the inaccurate information.

“The intent here is to restrict imports on a broad scale,” said Richard Chriss, executive director of the American Institute for International Steel, a free trade group opposed to tariffs. “It wouldn’t make sense from the administration’s perspective to design a process that readily granted exclusions.”

The Commerce Department declined to comment for this story.

Department officials have so far made public only a small number of their rulings.

An analysis of the numbers by the office of Rep. Jackie Walorski, an Indiana Republican and one of the most vocal opponents of the steel tariff on Capitol Hill, shows that 760 requests have been approved while 552 have been denied. The department hasn’t yet approved a waiver request that triggered objections, according to Walorski’s review.

The congresswoman’s office also examined the more than 5,600 publicly available comments and found they were submitted on average about four days before the end of the 30-day comment period. More than 50 percent of the comments weren’t delivered until 48 hours or less before the comment window closed. It took department an average of nine days to post comments online after receiving them, according to the analysis. The most prolific commenters were Nucor and U.S. Steel with 1,064 and 1,009, respectively.

A waiver request Seneca Foods Corporation submitted for tinplated steel it had already agreed to purchase from China was among the denials. U.S. Steel had objected, calling the tinplate a “standard product” that’s readily available in the United States. In fact, U.S. Steel said it currently supplies the material to Seneca Foods, the nation’s largest vegetable canner.

The New York-based Seneca Foods declined to comment. But in its waiver application, the company said domestically made tinplate “is of inferior quality to imported material.” Seneca Foods also said it’s unclear, at best, if U.S. suppliers have the ability or willingness to expand their production in the long term to meet the company’s annual demand for the material.

Philadelphia-based Crown Cork & Seal, a manufacturer of metal packaging for food and beverages, submitted a sharply worded attachment to its waiver application that anticipated pushback from domestic manufacturers. American steel mills, the document said, cannot meet aggregate demand for tinplate and have no plans to increase their capacity.

“We anticipate the U.S. mills will attempt to rebut this statement when they object to this exclusion request, but we encourage the Department of Commerce to see through their manipulative attempt to exploit the rules of the exclusion request process,” the application said.

Daniel Shackell, Crown Cork & Seal’s vice president for steel sourcing, said he’s not optimistic about the company’s chances of getting all 70 of its waiver requests approved. Eight have been granted so far primarily because the metal specified in those requests is not made in the United States. Twelve others have been denied, leaving 50 still to be decided.

“It’s hard not to interpret that the Commerce Department wants domestic suppliers to have an edge,” Shackell said.

Jay Zidell, president of Tube Forgings of America, a small company in Portland, Oregon, said he’s filed 54 exclusion requests and U.S. Steel has objected to 38 of them. U.S. Steel declared it is “willing and ready to satisfy” Tube Forgings’ demands for carbon steel tubing. But Zidell said the comments ignored past problems with metal quality and workmanship that led his company to sever a prior relationship with U.S. Steel.

Still, he’s worried the Commerce Department won’t approve all of the requests. Tube Forgings already has spent $600,000 on tariffs, he said, and may be on the hook for much more than that.

“The entire system is just screwed up,” Zidell said.

Trump Suspends Duty-free Status for Rwanda’s Apparel Exports to US

U.S. President Donald Trump has suspended Rwanda’s ability to ship apparel products duty-free to the United States due to a trade dispute over Rwanda’s increased tariffs on American used clothing and footwear, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said on Monday.

The ban, ordered by Trump in a proclamation that followed a 60-day notification period, will maintain Rwanda’s other duty-free benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

“We regret this outcome and hope it is temporary,” Deputy USTR C.J. Mahoney said in a statement. He adding that the move would affect about $1.5 million in annual Rwandan exports, or only about three percent of the country’s total exports to the United States.

Мінекономрозвитку: група експертів СОТ «частково підтримала» позицію України в справі проти Росії

Група експертів Світової організації торгівлі «частково підтримала» позицію України в справі проти Росії щодо обмеження імпорту залізничного обладнання, повідомила прес-служба Міністерства економічного розвитку.

У відомстві зазначили, що група експертів підтвердила порушення Росією окремих положень Генеральної угоди з тарифів і торгівлі 1994 року та Угоди про технічні бар’єри у торгівлі.

«Це перший запит, який Україна направила у Світову організацію торгівлі для протистояння торговельній агресії Росії, зокрема її непрозорим, невиправданим та таким, що носять дискримінаційний характер, діям стосовно товарів українського походження», – заступник міністра Наталія Микольська.

За її словами, Росія необґрунтовано призупинила дію виданих українським виробникам сертифікатів відповідності, обмежила у видачі нових сертифікатів та не визнає сертифікати, видані у сертифікаційних органах Митного союзу.

Згідно з повідомленням, у межах справи Україна доводила, що призупинення дії сертифікатів відповідності (14 приписів) та неприйняття до розгляду заявки на проведення сертифікації (3 рішення) призвело до дискримінації, невиправданих перешкод у торгівлі та недотримання встановленої процедури оцінки відповідності товару.

Група експертів погодилася з Україною, що видавши 14 приписів про призупинення сертифікатів відповідності, Росія застосувала процедуру оцінки відповідності таким чином, що умови доступу до ринку для українських, російських та європейських виробників залізничної продукції, були не однаковими, дискримінаційними для України.

Крім того, група експертів підтвердила, що Росія порушила свої зобов’язання (відповідно до статті III:4 ГАТТ 1994 (Національний режим) стосовно невизнання сертифікатів, виданих українським виробникам в інших країнах Митного союзу, що це, у свою чергу, створює переваги для національних виробників.

Також група експертів СОТ визнала, що Росія порушила зобов’язання за статтею I:1 ГАТТ 1994 (Загальний режим найбільшого сприяння). Україною було доведено, що Росією неправомірно не визнаються сертифікати, видані в інших країнах Митного союзу, якщо такі товари не виробляються в Митному союзі.

Водночас у Мінекономрозвитку розвитку розповіли, що група експертів не підтвердила існування систематичного обмеження імпорту з боку Росії, посилаючись на те, що протягом певного періоду часу (квітень 2014 – грудень 2016) ситуація в Україні в частині безпеки була непорівняною із ситуацією в інших країнах.

«Тобто Росією не проводився інспекційний контроль через наявність на території України «антиросійських настроїв та загрози безпеці російським громадянам», які є наслідком військових дій, які Росія сама і розв’язала», – пояснили у відомстві.

Міністерство заявляє, що здійснює детальний аналіз звіту, «на міжвідомчому рівні» опрацьовується можливість його оскарження.

Справа відкрита у 2015 році за скаргою України.

Pompeo to Announce US Economic Initiatives in ‘Indo-Pacific’

Building on President Donald Trump’s “Indo-Pacific” strategy,   U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will announce a series of investment initiatives in Asia on Monday focusing on digital economy, energy and infrastructure.

The announcement, to be made at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum in Washington, comes at a time when trade frictions with China have given U.S. trade diplomacy a sharper edge.

“The Indo-Pacific is an absolute priority of U.S. policymakers in the executive branch and in Congress,” Brian Hook, Pompeo’s senior policy advisor, told journalists in a conference call.

Countries in the region have been worried by Trump’s “America first” policy, withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, and pursuit of a trade conflict with China that threatens to disrupt regional supply chains.

The United States’ first outlined its strategy to develop the Indo-Pacific economy at an Asia-Pacific summit last year.

“Indo-Pacific” has become known in diplomatic circles as shorthand for a broader and democratic-led region in place of “Asia-Pacific,” which from some perspectives had authoritarian China too firmly at its center.

The Chamber of Commerce said on its website that the Indo-Pacific could account for half the world’s economy within decades, but needed investment of nearly $26 trillion in order to fulfill its potential.

The new U.S. initiatives and funding would be focused on digital economy, energy and infrastructure, Hook said, without giving any figures on investment amounts.

Aside from Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will also attend the forum, along with officials from Japan, Australia, Singapore, India and Indonesia.

China’s way, US way

Hook said the United States approach to development of the region was not aiming to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which comprises of mostly state-led infrastructure projects linking Asia, parts of Africa and Europe.

“It is a made in China, made for China initiative,” he said.

“Our way of doing things is to keep the government’s role very modest and it’s focused on helping businesses do what they do best.”

Critics of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to recreate the ancient Silk Road, say it is more about spreading Chinese influence and hooking countries on massive debts.

Beijing says it is simply a development project that any country is welcome to join.

Hook said Washington “welcomed” Chinese contributions to regional development, but it wanted China to adhere to international standards on transparency, the rule of law and sustainable financing.

“We know that America’s model of economic engagement is the healthiest for nations in the region. It’s high-quality, it’s transparent and it is financially sustainable,” Hook said.

NASA Marks 60 Years Since Legal Inception

America’s dream of space exploration took its first official step 60 years ago Sunday when President Dwight Eisenhower signed a law authorizing the formation of NASA – the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Although humanity had been staring at the stars and wondering since they were living in caves, it took the Cold War to fire man into space.

The world was stunned when the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957, launched Sputnik — the first man-made object to orbit the Earth.

The United States was humiliated at being caught short — not just technologically, but militarily.

Eisenhower ordered government scientists to not only match the Soviets in space, but beat them.

NASA and its various projects — Mercury, Gemini and Apollo — became part of the language.

Just 11 years after Eisenhower authorized NASA, American astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Six year later, an Apollo spacecraft linked with a Soviet Soyuz in orbit, turning rivalry into friendship and cooperation.

NASA followed that triumph with the space shuttle, Mars landers and contributions to the International Space Station. A manned mission to Mars is part of NASA’s future plans.

Last month, President Donald Trump called for the formation of a “space force” to be the sixth U.S. military branch.

NASA officially celebrates its 60th anniversary on October 1 – the day the agency formally opened for business.


White House Economic Adviser Sees Sustainable US Growth

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Sunday he believes the 4.1 percent growth the U.S. recorded in the last three months is sustainable in the coming months despite skepticism expressed by independent economists.

“There’s just a lot of good things going on,” Kudlow told CNN.  He said President Donald Trump “deserves a victory lap,” with “low tax rates, rolling back regulations, opening up energy, for example. Trade reform I think is already paying off. The fundamentals of the economy look really good.”

He said “business investment spending is really booming. That’s a productivity creator. That’s a job creator. That’s a wage creator for ordinary mainstream folks, terribly important.”

Kudlow said the five calendar quarters occurring fully during Trump’s 18-month presidency have now been recorded with average economic growth of 2.9 percent for the world’s largest economy.

“I don’t see why we can’t run this for several quarters,” Kudlow said.

As the 4.1 percent growth rate for the April-to-June period was announced Friday, Trump boasted that the U.S. was on track to hit its highest annual growth rate in its gross domestic product in 13 years and predicted that as the country reaches new trade deals with other countries, the U.S. would exceed its second quarter advance.

“These numbers are very, very sustainable,” he said. “This isn’t a one-time shot.”

On Sunday, Trump said on Twitter, “The biggest and best results coming out of the good GDP report was that the quarterly Trade Deficit has been reduced by $52 Billion and, of course, the historically low unemployment numbers, especially for African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Women.”

Skeptics less upbeat

Some independent economists, however, voiced skepticism that the $18.6 trillion annual U.S. economy would continue to advance at the same pace as the last three months.

Some forecasters said the gains in recent months were mostly, although not totally, the result of temporary factors, such as the initial boost from tax cuts Trump supported that took effect earlier this year. Most analysts say that for all of 2018 the U.S. could reach 3 percent growth, which would be the best since a 3.5 percent gain in 2005, but not again hit the annual 4.1 percent growth rate recorded last quarter.

“We believe quarter two will represent a growth peak as the boost from tax cuts fades, global growth moderates, inflation rises, the Fed tightens monetary policy and trade protectionism looms over the economy,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said, “The second quarter was a strong quarter, but it was juiced up by the tax cuts and higher government spending.”

In the U.S., consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, with Ian Shepherdson, the chief economist of Pantheon Macroeconomics, saying that such spending accounted for the robust second quarter.

“Consumers were really on a tear,” he said. “So to grow at 4 [percent] probably tells you people were spending the tax cuts that they enjoyed back in January, but that’s extremely unlikely to happen again.”


G-20 Ag Ministers Slam Protectionism, Pledge WTO Reforms

Agriculture ministers from the G-20 countries criticized protectionism in a joint statement Saturday and vowed to reform World Trade Organization (WTO)

rules, but did not detail what steps they would take to improve the food trade system.

In the statement, they said they were “concerned about the increasing use of protectionist nontariff trade measures, inconsistently with WTO rules.”

The ministers from countries including the United States and China, in Buenos Aires for the G-20 meeting of agriculture ministers, said in the statement they had affirmed their commitment not to adopt “unnecessary obstacles” to trade, and affirmed their rights and obligations under WTO agreements.

The meeting came amid rising trade tensions that have rocked agricultural markets. China and other top U.S. trade partners have placed retaliatory tariffs on American farmers after the Trump administration put duties on Chinese goods as well as steel and aluminum from the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

U.S. growers are expected to take an estimated $11 billion hit due to China’s retaliatory tariffs. Last week, the Trump administration said it would pay up to $12 billion to help farmers weather the trade war.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the meeting that Trump’s plan would include between $7 billion and $8 billion in direct cash relief that U.S. farmers could see as early as late September.

Despite the payments, the measures are “not going to make farmers whole,” Perdue said.

Citing the Trump administration’s relief measures, German Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner said farmers “don’t need aid, [they] need trade.”

“We had a very frank discussion about the fact that we don’t want unilateral protectionist measures,” Kloeckner said in a news conference after the meeting.

The ministers, whose countries represent 60 percent of the world’s agricultural land and 80 percent of food and agricultural commodities trade, did not specify which measures they were referring to in the statement. Asked for details, Kloeckner said the ministers did not want to “criticize a single


“We all know what happens if a single person or country doesn’t adhere to WTO rules, trying to get a benefit for themselves through protectionism,” she said. “This will usually lead to retaliatory tariffs.”

In the statement, the ministers said they agreed to continue reforming the WTO’s agricultural trade rules.

“Independent of all the news there was surrounding [the meeting], we managed to reach a unanimous consensus,” Argentine Agriculture Minister Luis Miguel Etchevehere said.

U.S. President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker struck a surprise deal on Wednesday that ended the risk of further escalating trade tensions between the two powers.

After the meeting, Trump said the European Union would buy “a lot” of U.S. soybeans.

Earlier, Kloeckner told Reuters that the trade relationship between the United States and the European Union was improving, but that there was no guarantee the bloc would import the quantity of soybeans that Washington expects.

UK Lawmakers Urge Tougher Facebook Rules

The U.K. government should increase oversight of social media like Facebook and election campaigns to protect democracy in the digital age, a parliamentary committee has recommended in a scathing report on fake news, data misuse and interference by Russia.

The interim report by the House of Commons’ media committee, to be released Sunday, said democracy is facing a crisis because the combination of data analysis and social media allows campaigns to target voters with messages of hate without their consent.

Tech giants like Facebook, which operate in a largely unregulated environment, are complicit because they haven’t done enough to protect personal information and remove harmful content, the committee said.

“The light of transparency must be allowed to shine on their operations and they must be made responsible, and liable, for the way in which harmful and misleading content is shared on their sites,” committee Chairman Damian Collins said in a statement.

The copy of the study was leaked Friday by Dominic Cummings, director of the official campaign group backing Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Social media companies are under scrutiny worldwide following allegations that political consultant Cambridge Analytica used data from tens of millions of Facebook accounts to profile voters and help U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign. The committee is also investigating the impact of fake news distributed via social media sites.

Collins ripped Facebook for allowing Russian agencies to use its platform to spread disinformation and influence elections.

“I believe what we have discovered so far is the tip of the iceberg,” he said, adding that more work needed to be done to expose how fake accounts target people during elections. “The ever-increasing sophistication of these campaigns, which will soon be helped by developments in augmented reality technology, make this an urgent necessity.”

The committee recommended that the British government increase the power of the Information Commissioner’s Office to regulate social media sites, update electoral laws to reflect modern campaign techniques and increase the transparency of political advertising on social media.

Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to address the issue in a so-called White Paper to be released in the fall. She signaled her unease last year, accusing Russia of meddling in elections and planting fake news to sow discord in the West.

The committee began its work in January 2017, interviewing 61 witnesses during 20 hearings that took on an investigatory tone not normally found in such forums in the House of Commons.

The report criticized Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg for failing to appear before the panel and said his stand-ins were “unwilling or unable to give full answers to the committee’s questions.”

One of the committee’s recommendations is that the era of light-touch regulation for social media must end.

Social media companies can no longer avoid oversight by describing themselves as platforms, because they use technology to filter and shape the information users see. Nor are they publishers, since that model traditionally commissions and pays for content.

“We recommend that a new category of tech company is formulated, which tightens tech companies’ liabilities, and which is not necessarily either a ‘platform’ or a ‘publisher,” the report said. “We anticipate that the government will put forward these proposals in its White Paper later this year.”

The committee also said that the Information Commissioner’s Office needed more money so it could hire technical experts to be the “sheriff in the Wild West of the internet.” The funds would come from a levy on the tech companies, much in the same way as the banks pay for the upkeep of the Financial Conduct Authority.

“Our democracy is at risk, and now is the time to act, to protect our shared values and the integrity of our democratic institutions,” the committee said.

AP Fact Check: Trump Falsely Claims Historic Turnaround

President Donald Trump falsely claimed he’s pulled off “an economic turnaround of historic proportions.”

Speaking at the White House Friday after the government reported that the economy grew at an annual rate of 4.1 percent in the second quarter, Trump declared that the gains were sustainable and would only accelerate. Few economists outside the administration agree with this claim.

His remarks followed events Thursday in Iowa and Illinois, where Trump falsely repeated a claim that the U.S. economy is the best “we’ve ever had” and incorrectly asserted that Canada’s trade market is “totally closed.”


WATCH: Trump Says Economy Numbers Sustainable, But Experts Doubtful

A look at the claims:

Historic turnaround

TRUMP: “We’ve accomplished an economic turnaround of historic proportions.” — remarks Friday at the White House.

THE FACTS: Trump didn’t inherit a fixer-upper economy.

The U.S. economy just entered its 10th year of growth, a recovery that began under President Barack Obama, who inherited the Great Recession. The data show that the falling unemployment rate and gains in home values reflect the duration of the recovery, rather than any major changes made since 2017 by the Trump administration.

While Trump praised the 4.1 percent annual growth rate in the second quarter, it exceeded that level four times during the Obama presidency. But quarterly figures are volatile and strength in one quarter can be reversed in the next. While Obama never achieved the 3 percent annual growth that Trump hopes to see, he came close. The economy grew 2.9 percent in 2015.

The economy faces two significant structural drags that could keep growth closer to 2 percent than 3 percent: an aging population, which means fewer people are working and more are retired, and weak productivity growth, which means that those who are working aren’t increasing their output as quickly as in the past.

Both of those factors are largely beyond Trump’s control.

Trade deficit

TRUMP: “One of the biggest wins in the report, and it is, indeed a big one, is that the trade deficit — very dear to my heart because we’ve been ripped off by the world — has dropped.”

THE FACTS: Trump is correct that a lower trade deficit helped growth in the April-June quarter, but it’s not necessarily for a positive reason.

The president has been floating plans to slap import taxes on hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign goods, which has led to the risk of retaliatory tariffs by foreign companies on U.S. goods.

This threat of an escalating trade war has led many companies to increase their levels of trade before any tariffs hit, causing the temporary boost in exports being celebrated by Trump.

Richard Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial, said the result is that the gains from trade in the second quarter will not be repeated.

​Best economy ever

TRUMP: “We’re having the best economy we’ve ever had in the history of our country.” — remarks in Granite City, Illinois.

THE FACTS: Even allowing for Trump’s tendency to exaggerate, this overstates things.

The unemployment rate is near a 40-year low and growth is solid, but by many measures the current economy trails other periods in U.S. history. Average hourly pay, before adjusting for inflation, is rising around a 2.5 percent annual rate, below the 4 percent level reached in the late 1990s when the unemployment rate was as low as it is now.

Pay was growing even faster in the late 1960s, when the jobless rate remained below 4 percent for nearly four years. And economic growth topped 4 percent for three full years from 1998 through 2000, an annual rate it hasn’t touched since.

Canada market closed

TRUMP: “The Canadians, you have a totally closed market … they have a 375 percent tax on dairy products, other than that it’s wonderful to deal. And we have a very big deficit with Canada, a trade deficit.” — remarks in Peosta, Iowa.

THE FACTS: No, it’s not totally closed. Because of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canada’s market is almost totally open to the United States. Each country has a few products that are still largely protected, such as dairy in Canada and sugar in the United States.

Trump also repeated his claim that the U.S. has a trade deficit with Canada, but that is true only in goods. When services are included, such as insurance, tourism, and engineering, the U.S. had a $2.8 billion surplus with Canada last year.

New Speed Record at SpaceX Pod Competition

A sleek futuristic train that travels through a special tunnel and covers the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 30 minutes. This was the dream of Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX in 2013. And every year he’s getting closer to making that dream a reality. Late July was marked by the third annual Hyperloop pod competition in Los Angeles; a competition that has once again set a new speed record. Genia Dulot has the story.

Twitter Reports Drop in Active Users; Share Price Sinks

Twitter’s share price fell more than 20 percent Friday after the social media giant reported a drop in active users. 

Twitter said it had 335 million monthly users in the second quarter of the year, which was down a million from the amount of monthly users in the first quarter of the year, and below the 339 million users Wall Street was expecting.

Twitter said that the number of monthly users could continue to fall next quarter as the company continues to ban accounts that violate its terms of service and as it makes other accounts less visible.

The company says it is putting the long-term stability of its platform above user growth. However, the move has made it more difficult for investors to value the company, as they rely on data pertaining to the platform’s potential user reach.

Shares in Twitter tumbled 20.5 percent to close at $34.12 Friday. The fall in the share price came despite Twitter’s report of higher than expected revenue. During the last quarter, Twitter posted a profit of $100 million, marking the company’s third consecutive profitable quarter.

The drop in Twitter’s share price came a day after Facebook lost 19 percent of its value. Facebook said Thursday that slower user growth in big markets and increased spending to improve privacy would hit margins for years, leading to the company’s worst trading day since it went public in 2012.

Both Twitter and Facebook have been under pressure from regulators in several countries to protect user data as well as stamp out hate speech and misinformation.

Facebook Sued after Stock Plunge

Facebook Inc and its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, were sued Friday in what could be the first of many lawsuits over a disappointing earnings announcement by the social media company that wiped out about $120 billion of shareholder wealth.

The complaint filed by shareholder James Kacouris in Manhattan federal court accused Facebook, Zuckerberg and Chief Financial Officer David Wehner of making misleading statements about or failing to disclose slowing revenue growth, falling operating margins, and declines in active users.

Kacouris said the marketplace was “shocked” when “the truth” began to emerge Wednesday from the Menlo Park, California-based company. He said the 19 percent plunge in Facebook shares the next day stemmed from federal securities law violations by the defendants.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status and unspecified damages. A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment.

Shareholders often sue companies in the United States after unexpected stock price declines, especially if the loss of wealth is large.

Facebook has faced dozens of lawsuits over its handling of user data in a scandal also concerning the U.K. firm Cambridge Analytica. Many have been consolidated in the federal court in San Francisco.

Thursday’s plunge also hit Zuckerberg’s bottom line.

Zuckerberg had been tied with Warren Buffett as the world’s fourth-richest person, but the Berkshire Hathaway Inc chairman’s current $83 billion fortune tops Zuckerberg’s $66 billion, Forbes magazine said.

Buffett now ranks third among the world’s billionaires, while Zuckerberg is sixth.

Facebook shares fell another 0.8 percent on Friday, closing at $174.89 on the Nasdaq.

«Антонов» вийде на ринок Заходу у співпраці з «Боїнгом» – ЗМІ

Український виробник літаків «Антонов», відомий створенням найбільшого у світі літака, планує відновити серійне виробництво до кінця наступного року завдяки угоді з «Боїнгом», яка покладе край залежності «Антонова» від Росії. Про це пише агентство Reuters.

Видання зазначає, що відносини між Україною та Росією зруйнувалися після анексії Криму в 2014 році, а «Антонов», який імпортував більше 60 відсотків комплектуючих з Росії, через два роки зупинив серійне виробництво.

Зараз планується побудувати вісім літаків за рік завдяки угоді з «Евіал сервіс корпорейшн», «дочкою» «Боїнга». Перші два-три літаки будуть готові до кінця 2019 року, повідомив агентству Reuters керівник державного підприємства «Антонов» Олександр Донець. Він не повідомив деталей про майбутніх клієнтів.

Основними ринками продажу «Антонова» були Росія, колишні радянські республіки та Африка.

За словами Олександра Донця, компанії до листопада спільно створять складське приміщення в Україні.

«Угода з «Евіал» дала нам дві переваги. Ми створюємо спільний склад, розташований на території України у місті Гостомель, – сказав Донець. – Цей склад буде мати справу з продуктами, матеріалами, металами, неметалами – з усіма компонентами, які ми не можемо отримати від нашого колишнього партнера – Російської Федерації».

«Евіал» буде підтримувати нову виробничу програму «Антонова» для будівництва літаків Ан-148 і матиме ексклюзивні права на обслуговування літаків, сказав Донець. Передбачається, що «Евіал» постачатиму комплектуючі зі США, Канади, Ізраїлю та Європи. «Антонов» також хоче, щоб компанія «Евіал» закупила обладнання для українського підприємства, щоб виробляти більше деталей на внутрішньому ринку, сказав він.

На цю ж тему: Недобудована українська «Мрія» уже 29 років «чекає» на заводі Антонова – фото

Антонов був заснований в 1946 році і виготовив близько 30 різних типів літаків, включаючи два найбільших вантажних літака – Ан-124 «Руслан» і Ан-225 «Мрія». «Мрія», побудована в 1988 році, для радянської програми космічного човника, залишається найбільшим і найважчим в світі літаком, який здатний перевозити вантаж до 250 тонн.

Суперник «Боїнга» на авіаційному ринку – компанія «Аеробус» нещодавно також зробила прорив в Україну, оголосивши у липні про угоду про продаж 55 вертольотів Міністерству внутрішніх справ, пошуково-рятувальним службам, для надання термінової медичної допомоги та інших цивільних завдань.

Перший лот малої приватизації виставили на продаж – Трубаров

Першим об’єктом малої приватизації, доступним для аукціону, став державний пакет акцій акціонерного товариства «Укрпапірпром», повідомляє виконувач обов’язків голови Фонду державного мана Віталій Трубаров у Facebook.

За його даними, стартова ціна об’єкта – 12,3 мільйона гривень. Напередодні Фонд закінчив формувати перелік об’єктів в базі «Prozorro.Продажі». Всього там 749 потенційних лотів. 

Віталій Трубаров обіцяє, що в найближчі дні буде оголошено про продаж десятків як великих, так і дрібних об’єктів.

​Підприємство «Укрпапірпром» розташоване у Києві, його офіційний вид діяльності – оптова торгівля та надання в оренду власного чи орендованого нерухомого майна.

База малої приватизації почала заповнюватись 24 липня.

У травні уряд ухвалив перелік із 23-х об’єктів великої приватизації на 2018-й рік. До об’єктів великої приватизації належать об’єкти державної або комунальної власності (єдині майнові комплекси державних підприємств та пакети акцій (часток) суб’єктів господарювання, у статутному капіталі яких більше 50 % акцій (часток) належать державі), вартість активів яких згідно з даними фінансової звітності за останній звітний рік перевищує 250 мільйонів гривень.

Зокрема, в ухваленому переліку є кілька обленерго та ТЕЦ, «Азовмаш» та «Одеський припортовий».

Верховна Рада 18 січня схвалила законопроект про приватизацію державного майна. Як вказувалося в пояснювальній записці, враховуючи те, що понад 90% державних активів введено в експлуатацію 50–150 років тому, затримка з приватизацією цих об’єктів призводить до їх подальшого руйнування, зниження інвестиційної привабливості.

Раніше у Фонді державного майна повідомляли, що держава планує отримати від приватизації майже 22,5 мільярдів гривень.

Новими заступниками міністра фінансів стали Джигир та Верланов

За поданням виконувачки обов’язків міністра фінансів Оксани Маркарової уряд затвердив двох її нових заступників – Юрія Джигиря та Сергія Верланова.

Про це повідомляє прес-служба Мінфіну.

Фахівець з державних фінансів Юрій Джигир займатиметься реформами фінансування охорони здоров’я, освіти, соціальних послуг та соціального захисту. Окрім України, він з 2001 року працював в галузі реформи державних фінансів та фінансування програм соціального сектору зокрема в Киргизстані, Таджикистані, Казахстані, Косово.

В Україні Джигир був позаштатним радником ще попередника Маркарової Олександра Данилюка з 2015 року.

Юрист та член Громадської ради доброчесності при Вищій кваліфікаційній комісії суддів Сергій Верланов буде займатися податковою та митною політикою, реформою Державної фіскальної служби та митниці, а також фінансовими розслідуваннями.

Крім того, Мінфін звільнив Юрія Буцу з посади заступника міністра з питань євроінтеграції. Відтепер він обіймає посаду Урядового уповноваженого з питань управління державним боргом і буде займатися комерційними зовнішніми запозиченнями та макрофінансовою допомогою ЄС.

Раніше Міністерство фінансів задовольнило заяву про відставку заступника міністра Сергія Марченка.

Court: Starbucks, Others Must Pay Workers for Off-Clock Work

Starbucks and other employers in California must pay workers for minutes they routinely spend off the clock on tasks such as locking up or setting the store alarm, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The unanimous ruling was a big victory for hourly workers in California and could prompt additional lawsuits against employers in the state.

The ruling came in a lawsuit by a Starbucks employee, Douglas Troester, who argued that he was entitled to be paid for the time he spent closing the store after he had clocked out.

Troester said he activated the store alarm, locked the front door and walked co-workers to their cars — tasks that he said required him to work for four to 10 additional minutes a day.

Starbucks said it was disappointed with the ruling. In a brief filed with the California Supreme Court, attorneys for Starbucks said Troester’s argument could lead to “innumerable lawsuits over a few seconds of time.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a court filing also warned of the possibility of “significant liability” to businesses in the state.

A U.S. District Court rejected Troester’s lawsuit on the grounds that the time he spent on those tasks was minimal. But the California Supreme Court said a few extra minutes of work each day could “add up.”

Troester was seeking payment for 12 hours and 50 minutes of work over a 17-month period. At $8 an hour, that amounts to $102.67, the California Supreme Court said.

“That is enough to pay a utility bill, buy a week of groceries, or cover a month of bus fares,” Associate Justice Goodwin Liu wrote. “What Starbucks calls ‘de minimis’ is not de minimis at all to many ordinary people who work for hourly wages.”

Trivial and not trivial

The ruling also applies to tasks done before the workday begins, said Bryan Lazarski, an attorney in Los Angeles who handles wage claims against employers.

Lazarski said he expects the ruling to open the door to additional lawsuits by workers in similar situations as Troester. But he also expects lawsuits that “test the boundary of what this case says” to determine how much time spent doing work off the clock is enough to get paid.

The court in Thursday’s ruling said it was not closing the door on all claims by employers that the amount of additional work was too negligible.

“The court is saying, ‘We haven’t really drawn a line with regard to what is trivial and what is not trivial, but in this case, the time that the employee was not compensated was significant,'” said Veena Dubal, a labor law expert at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

Associate Justice Leondra Kruger wrote separately to say that there may be some periods of time that are “so brief, irregular of occurrence, or difficult to accurately measure or estimate,” that requiring an employer to account for them would not be reasonable.

She cited as examples a glitch that delays logging in to a computer to start a shift or having to read and acknowledge an email or text message about a schedule change while off the clock.

Tracking time

The federal court that threw out Troester’s lawsuit also said it would be hard for an employer to track the additional time that he worked. But Liu said employers could use technology for that or restructure employees’ work so they don’t have any tasks after they clock out.

Employers can also estimate the additional time, he said.

Troester appealed the U.S. District Court’s decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court asked the California Supreme Court to determine whether a federal rule permitting employers under some circumstances to require employees to work as much as 10 minutes a day without compensation applied under state law.

The lawsuit now returns to the 9th Circuit. 

Facebook Shares Sink; Further Growth Drops Expected

Social media giant Facebook, which has weathered storms about privacy and data protection, is now looking at cooler growth following a years-long breakneck pace.

Shares in Facebook plummeted 19 percent to close at $176.26 Thursday, wiping out $100 billion. It was believed to be the worst ever single-day evaporation of market value for any company.

The plunge came one day after the firm missed revenue forecasts for the second quarter and warned that growth would be far weaker than previously estimated.

Chief Financial Officer David Wehner warned Wednesday in an earnings call with analysts that revenue growth had already “decelerated” in the second quarter and would drop “by high single-digit percentages” in coming quarters.

At one point during the call, Facebook shares were trading down as much as 24 percent, an unprecedented drop for a large firm.

On the call, Jefferies & Co. analyst Brent Thill said that “many investors are having a hard time reconciling that deceleration. … It just seems like the magnitude is beyond anything we’ve seen.”

Facebook said the slowdown would come in part from a new approach to privacy and security, but also appeared to acknowledge the limits of growth in advertising, which accounts for virtually all its revenue.

Brian Sheehan, a Syracuse University professor of communication and advertising, said the weak forecast “made investors nervous about more basic long-term issues” with the huge social network, notably its diminished appeal to younger users.

“With or without privacy issues, investors are scared that Facebook’s interactions, particularly with those under 25, are falling,” Sheehan said.

For the second quarter, profit was up 31 percent at $5.1 billion; revenues rose 42 percent to $13.2 billion, only slightly below most forecasts.

User base still growing

Facebook reported its user base was still growing but not as fast as some expected. Monthly active users rose 11 percent to 2.23 billion — below most estimates of 2.25 billion.

Richard Windsor, a technology analyst who writes the Radio Free Mobile blog, said the new outlook should not be surprising.

“This is a direct result of scale as it becomes increasingly difficult to grow at such high rates when a company hits this size,” Windsor wrote.

Windsor added that Facebook is forced to hire more people to handle tasks such as filtering inappropriate content after discovering the limits of artificial intelligence.

“Weaknesses in AI are forcing [Facebook] to keep hiring humans to do the jobs that the machines are incapable of,” he said.

Brian Wieser at Pivotal Research Group said the company appears to have hit a “wall” on growth in advertising.

In a research note, he said Facebook’s outlook “suggests that while the company is still growing at a fast clip, the days of 30 percent-plus growth are numbered.”

Until Wednesday, Facebook shares had been at record highs as investors seemed to shrug off fears about data protection and probes into the hijacking of private information by the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook has invested heavily in “safety, security and privacy” after being rocked by concerns of manipulation of the platform to spread misinformation, warning of an “impact” on profitability.

Some analysts however said it was too soon to write off Facebook or its growth prospects, and that the company may have simply been warning of the worst-case scenario.

“The company has a track record of resetting revenue growth and expense expectations only to turn around and exceed those expectations the following quarter,” said Gene Munster of Loup Ventures. “We suspect Facebook is sticking with its historical playbook and will, in fact, beat these lower numbers.”

A positive view

Richard Greenfield of BTIG Research said he remained upbeat on Facebook despite the abrupt forecast shift.

“Facebook is actively choosing to make less money, deprioritizing near-term monetization to drive engagement to even higher levels,” Greenfield said in a note to clients.

Greenfield said he could “sense the fear/panic in investors’ voices” after the Facebook analyst call, but that he had maintained his outlook.

“Mobile is eating the world and Facebook is a core holding to benefit from that shift,” he said.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney said the drop creates a rare buying opportunity for Facebook shares.

“Facebook stills owns two of the largest media assets in the world [Facebook and Instagram] and the two largest messaging assets in the world [Messenger and WhatsApp],” Mahaney said in a note to clients, adding that he sees “no material change in marketer views of the attractiveness” of Facebook platforms. 

Trump Says He Has Opened Europe Markets for US Farmers 

U.S. President Donald Trump, a day after reaching a truce in the escalating trade dispute with Europe, characterized his talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as a big economic victory and a historic agreement. But he provided few details.  

“We just opened up Europe for you farmers,” Trump said at a roundtable event in Iowa. “You have just gotten yourself one big market.”

Iowa is among the Midwestern farming states hit by retaliatory tariffs on soybeans and other products, imposed by China in response to tariffs imposed on Chinese goods by the U.S. president. 

Later in the afternoon, Trump addressed steelmakers in Granite City, Illinois, saying, “We’re not going to give China or any other country a veto on United States national security.” 

Europe has “agreed to purchase, almost immediately, large amounts of American soybeans because China tried to hurt the American farmer,” Trump said.

The president said his administration had taken the “toughest-ever actions in response to China’s very abusive trade practices,” accusing Beijing of massive theft of American intellectual property.

Trump also said that as a result of his tariffs imposed on trading partners, “idle factories throughout our nation are roaring back to life.”

Amid the vague commitments for European purchases of soybeans, and constructing terminals to store additional liquified natural gas from the United States, Trump and Juncker on Wednesday committed to holding off on additional tariffs while trans-Atlantic negotiations are held.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin describes it as “an agreement in principle,” while Trump told the Iowa audience he and Juncker “agreed to a letter of intent.”

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday threw cold water on any sweeping agreement, arguing “the context doesn’t allow it.”

Macron explained he is against agricultural discussions in the trade talks, also adding that the Trump administration must make clear gestures over the “illegal” steel and aluminum tariffs still in place.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, speaking to reporters during the Air Force One flight to Iowa, credited Trump’s tariffs on the metals for the previous day’s breakthrough at the White House.

“To get there, we had to take a route of trying to make it more painful for the other parties to continue bad practices than to drop them,” Ross said. “This is a real vindication of the president’s trade policy.”

While no auto tariffs will be imposed on the EU while talks continue, Ross said, “We’ve been directed by the president to continue the investigation, get our material together but not actually implement anything, pending the outcome of the negotiation.”

He said they would submit their report on auto tariffs sometime in August. Imposing them “may not be necessary,” he added.

In the meantime, “steel and aluminum tariffs stay in place,” Ross said.

The comments by Trump and Ross indicate the administration could be willing to negotiate a pact akin to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), on which negotiations have stopped.

A day before the Oval Office meeting between Trump and Juncker, the U.S. Agriculture Department announced it was making $12 billion available to American farmers harmed by tariffs.

Pressed whether the money was a bailout, Mnuchin on Thursday responded, “We’re not bailing out any farmers, that’s a ridiculous comment. It’s not a bailout.” He added that when “other countries unfairly and illegally target our farmers, we will stand up and fight for them.”

Appearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce on Thursday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told lawmakers, “It is certainly not our plan to have small business or agriculture or anyone else in America feel the brunt of a change in trade policy which is designed to make the U.S. stronger and richer, help our exports, and help all American businesses and farmers and ranchers.”

The tariffs imposed by the Trump administration came under criticism during the hearing, including from members of Trump’s party.

Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander said the “tariff taxes that the administration had placed began to look like, ‘I’ve got a problem, so I’ll shoot myself in one foot; I’ve got [another] problem, so I’ll shoot myself in the other foot.'”

Another Republican senator, Jerry Moran of Kansas, said, “Trade and exports are how we earn a living in Kansas, and farmers, ranchers, and our nation’s manufacturers cannot afford a prolonged trade war.”

Following a closed-door meeting of congressional Republicans, Representative Roger Williams, who owns a car dealership in Texas, said dealers are canceling orders with auto manufacturers because they are fearful of tariffs, as well as rising interest rates.

Twenty-two Republican members of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade have sent a letter to Trump urging him to meet directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping to forge a trade agreement.

“Our shared objective is long-term and enduring reform in Chinese subsidies, tariffs, and other trade barriers,” the lawmakers say in their letter. “While tariffs cause short-term economic pain to China, they also boomerang on American companies, farmers, workers, and consumers — and we hear every day from Americans who are caught in a destructive cycle of escalation. A lasting solution can be established only through fundamental change to the Chinese system. Timely and astute negotiations under your leadership are essential to accomplishing this goal.”

Mike Bowman contributed to this report.

WTO Chief: Global Economy Will Falter if Trade War Continues

The Director General of the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevedo warns the global economy will run out of steam and millions of jobs will be lost if political leaders do not reach a negotiated settlement to end the trade war.

WTO reports there has been a significant rise in protectionist measures since mid-October, with countries imposing an average of 11 restrictive trade measures every month.  

WTO chief, Roberto Azevedo says the major negative impacts resulting from trade restrictions should set off a few alarm bells.

“It threatens the recovery of the global economy.  It threatens growth.  It threatens jobs,” said Azevedo. “Our concern about anything is that this dynamic of an eye-for-an-eye or tit-for-tat or whatever you call it, it may be perceived as the new normal if countries begin to take this as a normal way of behaving.”

He says this would be very harmful for the global economy down the road.  Azevedo says the trade war is not a technical issue.  It is a political situation, which he says will have to be resolved by political means.

“So, leaders have to talk to themselves.  At some point in time, they have to begin to listen to each other,” said Azevedo. “It is not only also about responding.  It is not only about making threats to each other.  At some point in time, the question is going to be—okay, so we have all these problems, how do we fix them?”

That process appears to have begun.  During a meeting Wednesday at the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump and European Commission Chief Jean-Claude Juncker pulled back from the brink of an all-out trade war.  They agreed to work together to lower tariffs.

Google Launches Free Wi-Fi Hotspot Network in Nigeria

Google launched a network of free Wi-Fi hotspots in Nigeria on Thursday, part of its effort to increase its presence in Africa’s most populous nation.

The U.S. technology firm, owned by Alphabet Inc, has partnered with Nigerian fiber cable network provider 21st Century to provide its public Wi-Fi service, Google Station, in six places in the commercial capital Lagos, including the city’s airport.

Internet penetration is relatively low in Nigeria. Some 25.7 percent of the population made use of the internet in 2016, according to World Bank data.

The poor internet infrastructure is a major challenge for businesses operating in the country, which is Africa’s largest oil producer. Broadband services are either unreliable or unaffordable to many of Nigeria’s 190 million inhabitants.

“We are rolling out the service in Lagos today but the plan is to quickly expand to other locations,” Anjali Joshi, Google’s vice president for product management, told Reuters in Lagos.

The company said it aimed to collaborate with internet service providers to reach millions of Nigerians in 200 public spaces across five cities by the end of 2019.

It said it would generate cash from the service in Nigeria by placing Google adverts in the login portal. Google did not disclose the amount invested in the new Nigeria service.

The technology firm said it planned to share revenues with its partners to help them maintain and deploy the Wi-Fi service but did not disclose the expected advertising revenue split.

Nigeria is the fifth country to launch Google Station.

Similar services have been launched in India, Indonesia, Mexico and Thailand.

The service is aimed at countries with rapidly expanding populations. The United Nations estimates Nigeria will be the world’s third most populous nation, after China and India, by 2050.

“A lot of people who found data to be too expensive for them to use, are using it,” said Joshi. “In India, we have tens of millions of users, and close to a million in Mexico.”

Africa’s rapid population growth, falling data costs and heavy adoption of mobile phones has made it an attractive investment prospect for technology companies. But many do not disclose how profitable the continent’s markets are, or if they make the companies money at all.

Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo welcomed efforts to improve internet connectivity in a speech at a Google conference in Lagos on Thursday.

“Access to information means that the gap in equality and exclusion are bridged,” said Osinbajo who earlier this month met Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters.

Last year, Google announced plans to train 10 million Africans in online skills within five years.

Facebook Shares Dive on Weak Outlook, Weighing on Nasdaq

Facebook shares dived nearly 20 percent early Thursday after it signaled it expects weaker growth, pushing the Nasdaq decisively lower.

About 25 minutes into trading, the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index was at 7,840.20, down 1.2 percent, falling from Wednesday’s record close.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.6 percent to 25,572.77, while the broad-based S&P 500 dipped 0.3 percent to 2,838.03.

The Facebook results shifted the market’s attention from Wednesday’s pledge by President Donald Trump and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on trade that had boosted markets.

Investors fled Facebook after the social network reportedly sharply higher profit and revenue, but signaled it expects slower user growth, partly due to the effect of data privacy scandals.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg also cautioned that profitability would be hit by additional spending to secure the network.

Other technology companies retreated, including Google parent Alphabet, Netflix and Amazon, which is scheduled to report results after the market closes Thursday.

Facebook was not the only company to fall after results. Ford sank 4.1 percent and Mattel shed 4.4 percent, while American Airlines climbed 3.7 percent.

In other developments, computer chip company Qualcomm advanced 4.5 percent as it dropped a $43 billion bid to acquire Dutch rival NXP on Thursday after failing to win approval from antitrust authorities in China.

US shares of NXP fell 5.6 percent.

Україна може відмовитися від імпорту газу – Гройсман

Прем’єр-міністр Володимир Гройсман на засіданні уряду 26 липня заявив, що Україна може відмовитися від імпорту газу. Про це він сказав, оголошуючи про готовність влади виставити на електронні аукціони 44 земельні ділянки із запасами 150 мільярдів кубометрів газу. 


«Наше завдання чітке – відкрити всі геодані про надра, надати можливість на основі прозорих аукціонів приходити українському та світовому бізнесу і добувати український газ, щоб ми взагалі відмовилися від імпорту», – сказав голова уряду.

Поставки імпортованого газу в Україну у 2017 році здійснювались виключно з європейського газового ринку. У порівнянні з 2016 роком імпорт газу збільшився більш як на чверть – до 14,1 мільярда кубометрів з 11,1 мільярда кубометрів, вказала у щорічному звіті Національна акціонерна компанія «Нафтогаз України».

Напряму з Росії Україна не імпортує газ уже майже тисячу днів – від листопада 2015 року.

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