President Donald Trump
FILE PHOTO: Portugal’s Finance Minister and Eurogroup President Mario Centeno attends a eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo
April 12, 2019
By Jan Strupczewski
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Europe must raise the international profile of its euro currency to protect itself from the domination of a “weaponised” U.S. dollar and help stabilize the international monetary system, the chairman of euro zone finance ministers Mario Centeno said.
“Washington’s inclination to use the dollar as a tool to complement the effect of economic sanctions and serve a narrow domestic agenda is a source of concern,” Centeno told the Reinventing Bretton Woods Committee in Washington on Friday.
“The foundations of the international monetary system are wobbling, as currencies are used to advance national interests that are narrowly defined. For some observers, the system in which the dollar holds a dominant and unrivalled position is on the cusp of reformation,” he said in a speech.
The European Union started thinking about increasing the role of the euro last year after U.S. President Donald Trump decided to abandon the 2015 deal under which international sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for Tehran accepting curbs on its nuclear program.
The U.S. move, though unilateral, means European companies also cannot trade with Iran, fearing they would be cut off from U.S. markets and the international payments system in retaliation.
Centeno said the world could be heading toward a multi-currency system in which the dollar would vie for dominance with others, notably the euro and the Chinese renminbi.
He said such a multi-polar currency system could improve the functioning of the international monetary system and would be less prone to the economic fluctuations of the dominant dollar by offering options to diversify currency reserves.
The euro is used in around 36 percent of international payments, just behind the dollar with almost 40 percent, but when it comes to foreign exchange trading 44 percent is in dollars but only 16 percent in euros, Centeno said.
The favorite for currency reserves is the dollar with a 62 percent share of global reserves, while the euro has a 20 percent share.
“In Europe there is a growing concern that we are exposed to the risk that the power of the dominant dollar can be used against our best interests. The obvious consequence of ‘America First’ is that others will come second, at best,” Centeno said.
“The feeling is that we can only rely on ourselves and our currency. And this is behind repeated calls to strengthen the international role of the euro,” he said.
Centeno noted however, that to achieve a stronger role, the euro zone needed to tackle many tough issues about the design of the single currency.
He said the 19 countries sharing the euro had to first complete their banking union, by agreeing on a European deposit insurance system and setting up a capital markets union.
Other needs include a budget for the euro zone, under discussion now, and creating a euro zone safe asset – a debt instrument backed by all euro zone countries – with a sufficiently deep and liquid market, an idea that now faces very strong opposition from several key euro zone countries.
(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the UK government should not extradite Julian Assange to the US, where he faces a computer hacking charge.
The Wikileaks co-founder was arrested for a separate charge at Ecuador’s London embassy on Thursday, where he had been granted asylum since 2012.
Mr Corbyn said Assange should not be extradited “for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan”.
Meanwhile, Ecuador’s leader expressed anger at how Assange had behaved.
Australian-born Assange, 47, sought refuge in the Knightsbridge embassy seven years ago, to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that has since been dropped. But Ecuador abruptly withdrew its asylum and invited the police to arrest Assange on Thursday.
After his dramatic arrest, he was taken to Westminster Magistrates’ Court and found guilty of a British charge of breaching bail. He spent Thursday night in custody and is facing up to 12 months in prison for that conviction.
The Met said it cost an estimated £13.2m to police Ecuador’s London embassy between June 2012 and October 2015, when the force withdrew the physical presence of officers.
The Swedish authorities are now considering whether to reopen an investigation into the allegations of sexual assault, which Assange denies.
The US government has also charged him with allegations of conspiracy to break into a computer, relating to a massive leak of classified US government documents. The UK will decide whether to extradite Assange, and if he was convicted, he could face up to five years in jail.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “this is all about Wikileaks and all of that embarrassing information about the activities of the American military and security services that was made public”.
But she said Assange should also face the criminal justice system if the Swedish government charged him.
Swedish prosecutors dropped a rape investigation into Assange into 2017 because they were unable to formally notify him of the allegations – a necessary step in proceeding with the case – while he remained in the Ecuadorian embassy.
Assange battle ‘now political’
In a tweet, Mr Corbyn shared a video said to be of Pentagon footage – which had been released by Wikileaks – of a 2007 air strike which implicated US military in the killing of civilians and two journalists.
The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Landale said backing Assange is not without political risk and will not find universal favour among Labour MPs – but Mr Corbyn’s intervention “means the battle over Assange’s future will now be as much political as it is legal”.
The editor of Wikileaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson, has expressed fears that the US could file more serious charges against Assange, and that if he was convicted he could be behind bars for “decades”.
Mr Hrafnsson added that Assange had been thrown “overboard” by Ecuador – and the country was “horrible” to treat him like that.
‘He was a problem’
Meanwhile in Ecuador, President Lenin Moreno criticised Assange, claiming that after spending seven years in the country’s embassy he had dismissed Ecuador by describing it as an insignificant country.
“We had treated him as a guest,” he said. “But not anymore.”
Ecuador’s ambassador to the UK, Jaime Marchan, also previously said Assange had been “continually a problem” while he was living in the embassy.
Meanwhile, a man who is alleged to have links with Assange has been arrested while trying to leave Ecuador, the country’s officials said.
The man – who has been identified by supporters as a Swedish software developer called Ola Bini – had been trying to board a flight to Japan.
Assange is due to face a hearing over his possible extradition to the US on 2 May.
During a briefing at the White House following Assange’s arrest, US President Donald Trump was asked by reporters if he stood by remarks that he made during his election campaign when he said he loved Wikileaks.
“I know nothing about Wikileaks,” said Mr Trump. “It’s not my thing.”
He added: “I’ve been seeing what happened with Assange and that will be a determination, I would imagine, mostly by the attorney general, who’s doing an excellent job.”
Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said they would be fighting the extradition request. She said it set a “dangerous precedent” where any journalist could face US charges for “publishing truthful information about the United States”.
She said she had visited Assange in the police cells where he thanked supporters and said: “I told you so.”
Assange had predicted that he would face extradition to the US if he left the embassy.
Meanwhile, Australia said it had received a request for consular assistance after Assange was taken from the embassy.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Assange will not get “special treatment” and will have to “make his way through whatever comes his way in terms of the justice system”.
The arrest was welcomed by the government on Thursday. Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons: “This goes to show that in the UK, no-one is above the law.”
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the arrest was the result of “years of careful diplomacy” and that it was “not acceptable” for someone to “escape facing justice”.
Assange set up Wikileaks in 2006 with the aim of obtaining and publishing confidential documents and images.
The organisation hit the headlines four years later when it released footage of US soldiers killing civilians from a helicopter in Iraq.
Former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was arrested in 2010 for disclosing more than 700,000 confidential documents, videos and diplomatic cables to the anti-secrecy website. She said she only did so to spark debates about foreign policy, but US officials said the leak put lives at risk.
She was found guilty by a court martial in 2013 of charges including espionage. However, her jail sentence was later commuted.
Manning was recently jailed for refusing to testify before an investigation into Wikileaks’ role in revealing the secret files.
U.S. and European Union flags are pictured during the visit of Vice President Mike Pence to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
April 12, 2019
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission has drawn up a list of U.S. imports worth around 20 billion euros ($22.6 billion) that it could hit with tariffs over a transatlantic aircraft subsidy dispute, EU diplomats said.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to impose tariffs on $11 billion worth of European Union products over what Washington sees as unfair subsidies given to European planemaker Airbus.
The EU measures would relate to the EU’s World Trade Organization complaint over subsidies to Boeing.
WTO arbitrators have yet to set final amounts of potential countermeasures in each case.
The Commission said earlier this week that it had begun preparatory work on countermeasures in the Boeing case.
It added then that it was open for discussions with the U.S., provided these were without preconditions and aimed at achieving a fair outcome.
EU diplomats said the Commission was expected to publish a list of products on April 17 and begin a process of public consultation, after which the list could then be adjusted.
The final amount decided by the WTO arbitrator could also be lower. The EU had also initially requested that the WTO authorize countermeasures of $12 billion. The arbitrator’s decision may not come before March 2020.
The U.S. and Europe have been locked in dispute over mutual claims of illegal aid to their respective plane giants. The case has been grinding through the WTO for almost 15 years, yielding partial victories for both sides.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Robin Emmott and Mike Harrison)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is declining to say whether he thinks his chamber would confirm Herman Cain to join the Federal Reserve board, casting doubt on the former Republican presidential candidate’s prospects should President Donald Trump advance him for the post.
Asked Thursday if a Cain nomination would face problems , McConnell, R-Ky., noted that successful nominees must pass background checks and have a likelihood of confirmation.
“And, as you know, some of my members have expressed concern about that nomination,” McConnell told reporters. “But as far as I know, it hasn’t been made yet.”
Trump’s interest in potentially nominating Cain along with another political ally, conservative commentator Stephen Moore , has sparked questions among lawmakers from both parties in Congress about the president’s influence on the central bank.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated the importance of the Fed’s independence during a talk Thursday evening with House Democrats meeting in Virginia for their annual issues retreat, according to a source in the room unauthorized to discuss the private session.
Powell told lawmakers that he saw his role as totally apolitical. He also said the Fed does not consider political pressure in its decision making, the source said. Another source in the room confirmed the remarks.
The chairman fielded questions from lawmakers during a question-and-answer session in Lansdowne, but declined to comment on the president’s potential picks.
Powell was Trump’s choice to lead the Fed, but the president has been critical of him for raising interest rates.
Earlier Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said elevating Cain and Moore to the Fed would risk politicizing the nation’s central bank and endangering the economy.
“These two appointments to the Fed are the worst, ill-suited appointment that the president could come up with,” she told reporters.
Three GOP senators — Utah’s Mitt Romney, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer — told The Associated Press they’d likely vote against Cain. With Republicans controlling the Senate 53-47, it would take opposition from just four GOP senators to sink the nomination, assuming all Democrats are also “no” votes.
As he did earlier this week, McConnell also sidestepped a question about whether he would back Cain or Moore, a Fed critic and former Trump campaign aide, for the board. Trump has said he will nominate both men.
“We’ll see who’s actually nominated,” said McConnell.
Cain has run into concerns by lawmakers from both parties that, as a Trump loyalist and deeply conservative political figure, he would threaten the Fed’s traditional political independence. Trump himself has taken a nontraditional approach to the Fed, repeatedly accusing it of mismanaging the economy by not pushing hard enough for low interest rates.
The White House offered no fresh comment Thursday about Trump’s intentions, referring reporters to his earlier comments about Cain.
Trump initially called Cain “a very terrific man” who would “do very well there.” But he said earlier this week that he didn’t know how Cain was faring in the vetting process and that Cain “will make that determination” whether to continue.
Cain, former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, ran for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. He dropped out of the race after allegations of sexual harassment and infidelity, which he denied. Last year, in September, he helped found a pro-Trump super political action committee, America Fighting Back PAC, whose website says, “We must protect Donald Trump and his agenda from impeachment.”
Cain formerly served on the board of the Fed’s Kansas City regional bank. He has also called for a return to the gold standard to control inflation, which most economists consider unworkable.
Moore is a conservative commentator and another Trump political ally.
Source: NewsMax Politics
The White House floated an idea with immigration officials in recent months that would have involved arresting illegal immigrants at the southern border and then busing them to sanctuary cities to send a political message to Democrats.
The Washington Post reported Thursday the proposal began in a White House email last November. The idea was raised again in February as another migrant caravan was heading to the United States.
San Francisco, a high-profile sanctuary city and which is represented by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was among the areas targeted in the proposal.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement ultimately shot down the idea.
The White House said the proposal was designed to both send a political message to opponents of how President Donald Trump is handling immigration and also to free up space in jails near the border.
In a statement to the Post, the White House said, “This was just a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion.”
Pelosi’s office was furious.
“The extent of this administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated,” spokesperson Ashley Etienne told the Post. “Using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable.”
Sanctuary cities are jurisdictions that do not enforce federal immigration laws and do not help ICE officials or agents. The Trump administration has threatened to withhold federal funding to cities and states that do not comply with ICE directives.
It was reported this week, meanwhile, White House officials are pushing a plan to have Border Patrol agents question asylum seekers to see if the migrants are truly in need of a safe haven.
Source: NewsMax Politics
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein called the pushback to Attorney General William Barr’s actions surrounding the Russia report “bizarre,” saying in a new interview that Barr is doing all he can to follow the law and make as much of the report public as possible.
“He’s being as forthcoming as he can, and so this notion that he’s trying to mislead people, I think is just completely bizarre,” Rosenstein told The Wall Street Journal.
“It would be one thing if you put out a letter and said, ‘I’m not going to give you the report.’ What he said is, ‘Look, it’s going to take a while to process the report. In the meantime, people really want to know what’s in it. I’m going to give you the top-line conclusions.’ That’s all he was trying to do.”
Rosenstein was referring to Barr’s four-page summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller concluded that neither President Donald Trump nor his campaign conspired with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton. He could not say whether or not Trump obstructed justice, however, but Barr wrote in his summary he and Rosenstein decided there was not sufficient evidence to pursue an obstruction charge.
Democrats are demanding to see Mueller’s full report, but Barr said it must be redacted to conceal classified and privileged information.
Rosenstein told the Journal the American public should have “tremendous confidence” in Barr’s efforts on the report.
Source: NewsMax America