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Trump’s latest trade war: French Champagne vs. Google taxes

First France went after Google and Amazon with a fresh set of taxes. On Monday, December 2, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to retaliate against two beloved French exports: Champagne and cheese.

This latest global trade dispute pits Trump against a long-standing ally, months after France approved a “digital services tax” aimed at making major U.S.-based tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon fork over more revenue.

The issue had been on the backburner since August, after Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to a 90-day truce while they tried to reach a long-term agreement on how tech companies should be taxed. That deadline passed last week without a deal.

On Monday, December 2, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative released results of an investigation that determined that France’s tax unfairly discriminates against big U.S. tech companies.

U.S officials also indicated they could investigate other European countries contemplating digital tax plans, putting them in cross-hairs of future tariff action if they follow through. They also said they were prepared to counter Europe’s broader regulatory clampdown on American tech firms.


Brexit: One-year EU trade deal is fantasy

Prime Minister Boris Johnson would do better to come clean with the electorate on the complexity of the task ahead of negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU, writes Michael Leigh. Sir Michael Leigh, a former EU chief enlargement negotiator, runs the European public policy programme at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies, Bologna, Italy.

Boris Johnson’s pitch to the electorate for a clean break with the EU, without further postponement, is based on the claim that he can negotiate a beneficial free trade agreement (FTA) with Brussels within 11 months of Brexit.

On this basis, Mr. Johnson denies that Britain will need an extension to the standstill transitional period due to expire on 31 December 2020. These claims are seriously misleading.

The shortest free trade agreement negotiations the EU has ever held were with South Korea and took two and a half years, with another eighteen months for approval and ratification.

Most free trade agreements take six to eight years to negotiate. The FTA negotiations with Canada, often cited as a model for the UK, began in 2009 and were concluded in 2017. It will take another seven years for all aspects of the agreement to take effect.



Middle East

Kerry Logistics launches operations in Bahrain

The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), the investment promotion agency for Bahrain, has announced that Kerry Logistics Network, one of Asia’s largest third-party logistics provider, has launched operations in the kingdom.

The Hong Kong-headquartered company, which manages 60 million sq. ft of logistics facilities over 53 countries and territories, investment in Bahrain is part of their regional footprint expansion plans to enhance access to key markets such as the Saudi market – the Gulf’s largest market, said a statement.

As well as access to Saudi Arabia and the opportunity to scale across the wider $1.5 trillion GCC markets, Kerry Logistics cited the EDB as part of their decision-making process in launching operations in Bahrain.

Raymond Cheng, director – Middle East and Africa (MEA) at Kerry Logistics, said: “Bahrain’s access to the region is unrivalled, as is the support we received from the EDB. There is enormous potential to grow and scale our services across Saudi Arabia, the GCC and beyond.”

“The kingdom has acted as a commercial bridge between the East and the West for thousands of years. In today’s increasingly digital and hyper-connected world, it is the ideal regional logistics hub,” he added.




Von der Leyen in Addis Ababa: Seven ingredients for a successful first date

As the new European Commission President prepares to make her first trip to Ethiopia, Chloe Teevan and Amanda Bisong suggest how Ursula von der Leyen can flesh out her commitment to seeking a new partnership with Africa. Chloe Teevan and Amanda Bisong are policy officers at the European Centre for Development Policy Management, an independent think tank working on Africa-Europe relations and international cooperation.

Ursula von der Leyen’s first trip outside of Europe as president of the European Commission will be to Addis Ababa, where she will meet with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Chairman of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat.

The symbolism of this is powerful and gives some substance to her commitment that Europe is seeking a new partnership with Africa.

However, von der Leyen will need to demonstrate to African partners that a different quality of partnership is on offer.

At a time when it is searching for allies in defending the multilateral system, Europe also needs a real partnership with Africa. The AU and African countries are important partners on peace and security and in combating climate change, while swiftly growing African economies offer future opportunities.

Von der Leyen’s early trip to Addis Ababa, and the positive rhetoric around Africa in her political guidelines and mission letters, bode well for starting off on a more proactive footing.