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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Open society and closed minds, Trump bragging as UN Laughs at him

 'Leadership has always been about generosity to those who are less well endowed and fortunate than you are. Often, it is not generosity of kind, because that would be buying of votes, but generosity of spirit.' - Tan Sri Andrew Sheng


WHY is it that in the last days of September, 10 years after the failure of Lehman Brothers, the world feels as if it is a dangerous place?


Bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers - Wikipedia

The filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by financial services firm Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008, remains the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, with Lehman holding over US$600,000,000,000 in assets. Wikipedia

President Trump’s remarkable speech to the United Nations this week was supposed to re-state the New Order that America has envisioned for the world. And all he got was a laugh.

https://youtu.be/Dqao0PqMgnE

But it was an important speech, because it spelt out more clearly what everyone knew since January 2017 – his Administration is dismantling what America has stood for since the Second World War.

Out goes the vision of a liberal rule-based stable world under US leadership. What replaces it is a “no holds barred” reality show of bilateral “Art of the Deal” negotiations supposedly to solve what is paining America. Never mind the collateral damage on everyone else, even if they are ultimately American consumers. What everyone heard is that the White House does not care too much about allies or enemies, only what is good for America First, trumped by the speaker’s ego.

Speeches to the United Nations has never been about foreign policy. Speaking in front of 193 member countries, the national leader is actually addressing his home audience, a photo-opportunity to show that as a member of the United Nations, your voice is heard by the whole wide world. Accordingly, other than the famous 1960 case of Soviet Leader Khruschev making his point by banging his shoe at the podium, most national leader speeches to the United Nations are boring homilies. They tend to praise themselves, pay due respect to the UN, and expound what Miss Congeniality says in all beauty contests, “world peace!”

What we got instead from President Trump was raw and edged, “America’s policy of principled realism means we will not be held hostage to old dogmas, discredited ideologies, and so-called experts who have been proven wrong over the years, time and time again.” That statement made a powerful indictment of “experts”, because his supporters feel that it is the elite experts that have run the country for 70 years who have let them down.

If America is doing so well economically, militarily and technologically, why should her middle class feel so insecure? And it is lashing out at everyone else.

The answer lies in not what the speech said, but what it omitted. Everywhere in the world, not least in America, the greatest existential concerns are inequality and climate change. Almost nothing was said about both issues, which are stressing societies and pushing immigration from poorer neighbours across borders to richer nations with cooler climates.

Instead, what was decided was non-participation in the Global Compact on Migration, withdrawal from the Human Rights Council and non-recognition of the International Criminal Court. There was also a barrage against Opec, which contains some of the US’s strongest allies. If other bodies like the World Trade Organisation or even the United Nations do not do America’s bidding, then the cutting of funds or withdrawal is a matter of time. Does that imply that the US will now veto every World Bank or IMF loan to members that she does not like?

In short, it is all about anti-globalisation. In the same breath that “We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism,” Trump appeals to the passion and pride of nationalism. “The passion that burns in the hearts of patriots and the souls of nations has inspired reform and revolution, sacrifice and selflessness, scientific breakthroughs, and magnificent works of art.”

Never mind if a lot of that sacrifice and selflessness was by immigrants and new arrivals.

Outsiders who used to admire America as an open society founded by immigrants with new ideas on how to build a more just society and free economy find instead one that has an increasingly closed mind to global issues. It does seem strange that American innovation, entrepreneurship and dynamism which drew continuously on new talent initially from Europe and then the rest of the world is now walling up its borders, physically, legally and mentally.

There are 40 million immigrants in the US today, representing 13% of the US population. Immigrants founded nearly one-fifth of the Fortune 500 companies, such as Google, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Colgate Palmolive, Pfizer, and eBay. Today, much of Silicon Valley talent feel like working in the United Nations, diverse, noisy and creative.

The irony of America drawing on global talent and resources is that she has no need to pay for it from exports, but can easily print more dollars. In other words, the Grand Bargain of global trade was the ability of the US to pay for real goods and services with something that can be printed at near zero marginal cost. Even the Europeans are now creating a separate payment system outside the US dollar dominated SWIFT system to avoid being punished for “trading with the enemy”.

When contracts of trust are being renegotiated, no one can feel at ease. One can never solve global problems unilaterally or even bilaterally, let alone calls for more national patriotism. And as the English writer Samuel Johnson scribbled in 1775, a year before US independence from Britain, “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

Leadership has always been about generosity to those who are less well endowed and fortunate than you are. Often, it is not generosity of kind, because that would be buying of votes, but generosity of spirit.

This side of the Pacific, there is awareness that the tensions will not go away with Trump or a change in the November elections. What has happened is that the US establishment has put political interests ahead of economic interests, which means that any settlement will have to go beyond economic considerations.

If trade and political tensions are in for the long haul, can the current US market enthusiasm have sufficient strategic patience?

Now we understand why no one is laughing.

Credit; Think Asian Andrew Sheng

Tan Sri Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

Related posts:


 

After laughs at Trump, globalism or patriotism? 

https://youtu.be/rewri7OdEZA https://youtu.be/QqZv3SLx1oI US-ROK trade: 'horrible' to 'wins'? US President Don..

 

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Friday, September 28, 2018

After laughs at Trump, globalism or patriotism?

https://youtu.be/rewri7OdEZA https://youtu.be/QqZv3SLx1oI

US-ROK trade: 'horrible' to 'wins'?

US President Donald Trump delivered his speech loud and clear at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday covering a spectrum of issues, ranging from global security, trade, and above all - his idea of "sovereignty." His bragging also attracted some chuckles among the world leaders. What key messages did Trump fixate on? And how is the international community reacting to Trump's speech and his "America First" policies?

The US has revamped a trade deal with the Republic of Korea (ROK). The new version of the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement specifically aims to boost US auto sale, but its effectiveness remains in doubt. Will this deal set a new precedent for more so-called "US wins" in its multi-front trade war?


NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Explains Why The UN Laughed At Trump

  https://youtu.be/aYsZv9JXmio 
https://youtu.be/samRCVQTa-M 

https://youtu.be/9lXNF-_cmnM

https://youtu.be/ZjjNKDlwpDc

What's next in the escalating China-US trade war?
 
https://youtu.be/V73Cgcy3dTA

China vs USA: Trade war


https://youtu.be/aHSSDQYaIjQ

Trump’s tariff policy has failed: analysts


After China slammed US President Donald Trump's accusation that China is meddling in the US midterm elections, analysts noted that Trump's behavior shows he has been shamed as his policy toward China didn't bring what he wants but has hurt his supporters.

If Trump discovers he is losing support due to China's trade retaliation, which has hurt the interests of his supporters, then he should blame himself and people who convinced him to impose additional tariffs against China, because it was his administration that started the frictions and led to China's retaliation, Chinese experts said on Thursday.

"We do not and will not interfere in any country's domestic affairs. We refuse to accept any unwarranted accusations against China," Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at the UN Security Council at once after Trump made his accusation.

Trump accused China during his remarks at the UN Security Council on Wednesday, saying, "Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 elections in November against my administration," CNN reported.

Trump offered scant details or evidence, which came during a session meant to focus on nonproliferation issues. He suggested the meddling attempts came as retribution for the budding trade war he has waged with Beijing, CNN's report said.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs also responded to Trump's remarks on Thursday. "China has always stood by the principle of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs, and this is a Chinese diplomatic tradition, and the international community knows this," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a routine press conference.

"The international community is also clear on which country is most interested in interfering with others' internal affairs," Geng noted. He urged the US to stop making groundless accusations and slandering China, and refrain from making wrong statements and actions that damage bilateral ties and the fundamental interests of the two peoples.

'Not what he wants'

"They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade," Trump said at the UN Security Council. "We are winning on trade. We are winning at every level. We don't want them to meddle or interfere in our upcoming elections."

However, Chinese analysts disagree with Trump's rhetoric.

"This shows that Trump has been ashamed into anger due to his unsuccessful policy on China," said Ni Feng, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of American Studies.

"After a series of tariffs and provocations on the Taiwan question, and sanctions on the Chinese military department and personnel, China has continued to retaliate without any compromise and even refuses to negotiate with the US under the current circumstances. So this situation is not what he wants, which is why he is so angry and tries to make new accusations," Ni noted.

The US midterm elections are approaching, and the Republicans are facing a serious challenge and might lose the House after the elections. So Trump is trying to "pass the buck," said Diao Daming, an American studies expert and associate professor at Renmin University of China.

"Blaming China is a good option for him, and some radical Trump supporters will believe him regardless of the truth," Diao noted.

Due to the interdependency between China and the US, China's retaliation will definitely hurt US people's interests, including those of Trump supporters. But don't forget it was Trump who irrationally began the trade frictions with China, and China is forced to retaliate, Diao said.

"If the US people want to blame someone, they should blame their president. If Trump wants to blame someone for losing support or even the elections, he should blame himself and his advisers who urged him to start the trade row, rather than pass the buck to China," he noted.

A Chinese State-run English language newspaper inserted a four-page supplement in the Sunday edition of the Des Moines Register, an Iowa-based newspaper, to highlight the negative effects of the trade frictions Trump launched.

"China is actually placing propaganda ads in the Des Moines Register and other papers, and making them appear like news," Trump tweeted on Thursday.

"According to US laws, foreign media can cooperate with US media," and many other foreign media companies do the same thing. So, accusing this normal act as evidence of meddling in the elections is far-fetched and groundless, Geng said.

However, the US government, the Congress and the media have done a lot to interfere in China's internal affairs on Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet, Diao noted. "This is real interference in others' internal affairs." - Global Times By Yang Sheng


Related:

Trump's 'blame China' midterm strategy won't secure GOP victory

It would be best if Trump could assert a level of caution when speaking at UN headquarters. Fabricated stories and slogans designed to trick American voters will not have the same effect with UN members.


US trade war has no international support

As long as China keeps upholding its opening-up, foreign enterprises, including many US ones, will continue participating in the development of the China market. China should continue cooperating with the Western world and the US on climate change, anti-terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, global poverty and stabilizing the financial situation. As long as China keeps its development momentum, the US is doomed to lose the trade war.


Sovereignty, equality should go hand in hand, if Trump really means it

There are positive aspects as Trump emphasized the idea of national sovereignty in his UN speech. Meanwhile, it is common sense that sovereignty will only play a positive role if it is pre-conditioned on equality, the basic principle everyone abides by.



China won't yield to US trade stick

We also hope that the Chinese public gets to know the causes and effects of the event and the steadiness of the Chinese government's policies. No matter how long China-US trade conflicts last, China is doing what it should. China is honest and principled and a major trade power with intensive strengths. No one can take us down.


US hysterical in blocking sci-tech exchanges

The US is anxious about its temporary gains and losses. One minute it wants Sino-US exchanges, but the next it worries China is taking advantage. Its relevant policies are bound to change all the time. Its latest decision is like the trade war. Washington's purpose is to drag Beijing down, but it will mostly hurt itself.


China must open up despite external risks

The road to solidarity will reflect the times and China still needs to accumulate experiences. But as long as all of China's policies aim at serving the people, the country's solidarity won't go wrong.
Source: Global Times | 2018/9/19 23:33:40

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Najib's wife Rosmah says she is okay after 13 hours long grilled by anti corruption agency over 1MDB

https://youtu.be/aGMpsnADOpU 



When asked for comment, she said: “I’m okay. Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God).”

Wife of ex-PM questioned by MACC for 13 hours over 1MDB

While MACC investigators question Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor at length, believed to be over the 1MDB saga, a Dubai-based firm wants RM20.69 mil in bling back. The royal jeweller claims that he could bring his exquisite masterpieces to the ex-premier’s wife without having to go through Customs – thanks to officers from the PM’s Department. PUTRAJAYA: It proved to be a long, gruelling day for Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor as anti-graft officers interrogated her for 13 hours.

She entered the Malaysian AntiCorruption Commission (MACC) headquarters here at 9.50am yesterday.

Speculation was rife that the wife of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak would be held overnight and charged today.

But at 10.40pm last night, Rosmah emerged from the MACC headquarters. Although she looked exhausted, the 66-year-old afforded a meek smile to waiting journalists outside the building.

When asked for comment, she said: “I’m okay. Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God).”

Her lawyers Datuk K. Kumaraendran and Datuk Geethan Ram Vincent said Rosmah would not be returning for further questioning.

“Datin Seri Rosmah has finished giving her statement. I will not comment further,” said Kumaraendran.

On June 5, Rosmah was questioned for about five hours by MACC investigators over a probe into SRC International Sdn Bhd, a former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) subsidiary.

The latest interrogation is believed to evolve around the 1MDB scandal.

Rosmah looked calm when she alighted from a Proton Perdana and walked past a horde of journalists who converged outside the MACC building earlier in the morning.

Her attire and accessories were the centre of attention, as she had colour coordinated her green baju kurung and tudung with a Loewe designer handbag and wedge shoes.

The last time out, she wore a blue baju kurung and red tudung, with her bright red Versace handbag drawing the most stares.

Throughout the day, her lawyers were seen coming in and out of the MACC building at least three times.

As is the practice, lawyers are usually not allowed in the interrogation room. Both spoke of their long wait as journalists tried to find out from them how long the questioning would take.

This was the second time Rosmah had been questioned by the MACC.

Last Thursday, Najib was slapped with 25 fresh corruption and money-laundering charges. He was granted bail of RM3.5mil with two sureties in his latest court case.

Investigators have not ruled out that Najib as well as other individuals could be faced with even more charges related to the 1MDB case. - The Star

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Still waiting on election promises

Will the Government deliver or are rosy pledges meant to be broken anyway?


PEOPLE are still harping on election manifesto promises which the new coalition has yet to fulfil.

In the wake of the 14th general election, the 100-day manifesto of Pakatan Harapan is being scrutinised.

Does anyone remember the promises made before GE13 or GE12 or any other election before that?

Remember the Penang Bridge toll promises?

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak came to town and promised free passage across the bridge for motorcycles.

Hours later, the then Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng cleverly upped the ante and promised that the bridge would be completely toll- free.

In Malaysian lingo, we call this ‘wayang’ or political theatrics.

I found it all very entertaining. I looked forward to each retort from the opposite side.

We should not be like children and cry: “But mummy, you promised!”

Now, Pakatan Harapan did fulfil some of their promises.

The Government abolished the goods and services tax and an earnest hunt has begun for those responsible for the 1MDB controversy.

As for the other promises, maybe not yet? Or at a later date?

You cannot fault Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for being honest. He told the world Pakatan could not fulfil all the promises in its manifesto because it did not expect to win!

So the politicians were just putting on a show and we, the audience, bought front-row tickets to the ‘wayang’.

Dr Mahathir would know. Can anyone remember any of the manifesto promises that were never fulfilled during his previous 22-year tenure or during the last 10 years under Najib?

I don’t and I have been around for more than three decades, starting my working life the year Mahathir came to power in 1981.

If elections were won just on fulfilling manifestos, Barisan would not have been able to rule for 60 years because there has been volumes of unfulfilled promises.

Elections are usually won on negative rather than positive elements.

We have a saying in the newsroom: people wanna read about sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.

At The Star Online, stories along those lines get astronomical level hits.

In politics, seats tend to be won by candidates who can portray how bad the other guy is!

People want to be shocked by scandals, not lulled by promises.

So we do not have to lament the unfulfilled promises.

It is a universal issue which is not confined to Third World countries as even presidential elections in developed countries are won the same way.

One which comes to recent memory is the United States’ presidential elections in 2016.

Everyone thought Hilary Clinton would triumph but Donald Trump ran a smear campaign on her.

People heard all about her leaked emails and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s case on her.

Both candidates spent millions of dollars taking out advertisements in newspapers and on television.

The focus was more on showing how bad the other candidate would be for the country rather than what they would do if elected.

So for all those who are still hung up on Pakatan promises, forget it.

You can shout until the cows come home and nothing is going to happen.

But they still have four years to make good on their promises, before power comes back to us.

They could be saving the best promises for last. Maybe?

Credit: Pinang points R. Sekaran

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 in the money game!


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Goldman Sachs banker's obscene commissions netted 11% from 1MDB believed to be most compelling evidence of rogue behaviour



Jho Low Has Offered A Deal To The DOJ


Settling the civil action would free up prosecutors to pursue the Goldman bond issued on behalf of 1MDB, which netted the bank suspiciously obsence commissions of up to 11% -  Sarawak Report


Sarawak Report has learnt that Jho Low’s new legal team, headed by the well-connected former federal prosecutor and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, has already obtained a high-level meeting with officials of the DOJ and that at that meeting they offered to come to a settlement on behalf of the fugitive Malaysian advisor to 1MDB.

This would represent an effective acknowledgement by Low, who is currently believed to be holed up in China, that he is unlikely to be able to persuade the US courts to return some $1.2 billion in assets seized from him alone, which investigators have traced to money stolen from Malaysia’s development fund.

However, by cutting a deal the billionaire, who is facing criminal charges in Malaysia, Singapore, Switzerland and elsewhere, including the United States, will be hoping to retain some of the value of the assets. Malaysia Kept On Sidelines?

Malaysian entities have expressed concern that the United States authorities may be tempted to negotiate with Jho Low’s new, high-powered legal team, in order to close a case that could otherwise carry on for years. Notably, the US recently refused to grant a Malaysian official request for a guarantee it would return all the money back from the assets seized.

“It doesn’t mean that the United States will not return the money to Malaysia, but it does mean the US is insisting on keeping control over the process and that might include settling the case for less than the entire amount”

one person who is well versed in the matter explained to Sarawak Report. It is further understood that the approach from Jho Low’s team has not yet been formally discussed with the Malaysian authorities, who may very well react with dismay at the prospect of any settlement of this nature.

Particularly galling to Malaysians is the likelihood that Low’s new and well-connected legal advisors are being generously paid by money that was itself stolen from 1MDB. US investigators have been reported as concluding that the origin of the cash received by Christie and one of President Donald Trump’s go-to law firms, Kasowitz Benson Torres, is indeed 1MDB.

Likewise, the money sent to pay the libel lawyers Schillings in the UK, which has been doing its best to disrupt the publising othe the book The Sarawak Report as well as the Wall Street Journal’s own book in Britain, is also thought to trace back to 1MDB. Going For Goldman Sachs

The apparent willingness of US prosecutors to discuss such matters with Low’s new team and the news that they may indeed be tempted to reach a deal, may indicate that the DOJ sleuths are already focusing on other aspects of the case, informed observers have told Sarawak Report: namely the pursuit of the banking giant Goldman Sachs. Settling the civil action would free up prosecutors to pursue the Goldman bond issues on behalf of 1MDB, which netted the bank suspiciously obscene commissions of up to 11%.

The bank has earned the anger and ill-feeling of countless Americans as a result of its pivotal role in causing the crash of 2008 and yet none of its bankers have been brought to book so far. The apparent negligence and huge sums earned through 1MDB have provided US investigators their most compelling evidence yet against what many believe to be rogue behaviour by the major bank.

It was Sarawak Report that first exposed the huge commissions being earned by Goldman Sachs from 1MDB in 2013, by publishing the terms of two so-called power purchase bonds, which together with a later third offering netted commissions totalling just under $600 million for the bank. The market price for such services was a fraction of that amount.

The former South East Asia boss, Tim Leissner has already been picked up in the United States and is understood to be cooperating with the DOJ enquiries. A new case against the global bank is where 1MDB now seems headed as it gains even more international significance.


Related:

Report: Jho Low Seeking Deal with DoJ — The True Net

 

Jho Low planning to negotiate deal with DOJ - Nation | The Star Online


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Monday, September 24, 2018

Tariff war threatens world trading system

https://youtu.be/BCu1Mt9GWT8 https://youtu.be/BheswegaOKk

TODAY marks another milestone in the escalating global trade war that threatens to shake the foundations of the world trading system and cause economic uncertainty at a time of financial fragility. It’s an altogether bad development that adds more gloom to global economic prospects.

Last week, the United States announced it would slap an additional 10% tariff on US$200bil worth of imports from China. Hours later, China said it would put 5% to 10% extra tariffs on US$60bil of imports from the US.

Both sets of tariff increases come into effect today. But that’s not all.

The US also said it would raise the extra tariffs on the US$200bil of imports from 10% now to 25% at the end of the year. And if China retaliates (which it now has), the US might slap higher tariffs on yet another US$267bil of Chinese imports.

This comes on top of tariffs on an initial US$50bil worth of imports that the US had placed on Chinese imports a few months ago, and equivalent tariffs on US$50bil on US imports that China imposed as retaliation.

And even before that, the US had put extra tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from all countries, except a few that were exempted for the time being.

The US is also threatening to put tariffs on imported auto vehicles and parts, including those from Europe. That is on hold because of a bilateral deal reached, but could be re-ignited if President Donald Trump is not satisfied with Euro­pean behaviour.

The US itself is experiencing negative effects of this trade war. The prices of the initial US$50bil of imported Chinese products have started to go up in the US, raising costs for both consumers and producers.

The Chinese are similarly affected. Exports of both countries are also bound to decline, and this will eventually affect their overall economic growth.

There will be collateral effects on other countries. In Asia, those that are integrated in the global supply chain will find less demand for their exports of components to China. The effect on Malaysia is projected by analysts to be around 0.4 to 0.7 percentage point of GNP in 2019.

This could be offset by positive effects. Some companies producing in China are considering relocating to other countries, including Malaysia, to escape the US’ punitive tariffs. And some Malaysian products may become cheaper than Chinese products, which will now attract extra duties.

But it is likely that the bad effects will outweigh any such good effects, at least in the short run.

It is clear that the US is to blame for the trade war. Its unilateral actions are against the spirit and rules of the trading system, and have in fact undermined its legitimacy and viability.

The steel and aluminium tariffs were imposed under the US security clause of its domestic trade law, while the other tariff increases are under Section 301 of the trade law. The US actions are against various World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

Challenges to the US unilateral measures have been taken by China and other countries at the WTO. If the US is found in violation, which is quite likely, it has to stop its actions or face retaliation: the countries that win the cases heard by the WTO panels of experts are allowed to impose equivalent tariffs on US products.

However, the US has engineered a crisis in the WTO’s dispute settlement system so that soon the outcome of successful cases against it cannot be implemented.

This is because the US is now paralysing the WTO’s Appellate Body by refusing to allow new members of the body to be appointed to replace those retiring. Soon there will be only three members left, out of a full body of seven. Two more will be retiring in January 2019. A minimum of three members is needed to sit on a case.

Thus, if a lower-level panel rules against the US’ unilateral actions, and the US lodges an appeal that cannot be heard because there are not enough appellate body members, the panel decision cannot be enforced.

This would make the WTO quite a toothless organisation. There would be no legal remedy to enforce penalties for breaking the WTO laws. Countries that impose unilateral tariff increases can get away with it. In turn, other countries would also do the same.

The rules-based trade system is already starting to break down. We are now seeing blatant protectionism by the US and retaliation by affected countries. Within months, the trade war could spread, with the law of the jungle becoming more prominent.

Tears will not be shed in the developing countries if some rules cannot be upheld anymore, such as the WTO’s TRIPS agreement on intellectual property. The free trade economist Jagdish Bhagwati has said the TRIPS treaty does not belong in the WTO.

But what all members like about the WTO is its role in ensuring the predictability that their exports can sell in the markets of its members, with tariffs at rates agreed to at the WTO.

If that predictability is lost, then there can be a lot of uncertainty, as one country after another can unilaterally impose extra tariffs on other countries, which may then trigger retaliation.

This breakdown of the trading system may be the more serious effect of what started as a US-initiated trade war.

Trump may not care what happens to the system, as he has said many times that the WTO is a terrible organisation that the US should leave. And his recent actions, in fact, seem calculated to undermine, if not destroy it.

It is a new world we are looking at, in a scenario that would not have appeared possible a year or even months ago.

Policy makers, companies, analysts and the public should ponder about this, even as they follow the details of the tit-for-tat trade war that the US is waging against China and other countries.

Martin Khor is adviser of the Third World Network. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

Credit: Global Trend by Martin Khor



Related:



China won't yield to US trade stick

We also hope that the Chinese public gets to know the causes and effects of the event and the steadiness of the Chinese government's policies. No matter how long China-US trade conflicts last, China is doing what it should. China is honest and principled and a major trade power with intensive strengths. No one can take us down.


US hysterical in blocking sci-tech exchanges

The US is anxious about its temporary gains and losses. One minute it wants Sino-US exchanges, but the next it worries China is taking advantage. Its relevant policies are bound to change all the time. Its latest decision is like the trade war. Washington's purpose is to drag Beijing down, but it will mostly hurt itself.

 

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US-China trade war escalates, tariff list aims to hinder China’s high-tech development: expert

 

Trump's overture to emerging Asia drowned out by trade war with China

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China hits back after US imposes tariffs worth $34bn

 

 China staunch defender of free trade under WTO, meet the 'selfish giant' of global trade

 

Governance woes behind US trade war

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Friday, September 21, 2018

A question of faith, the corridors of power in Malaysia

Family dynasty: Malaysians are familiar with related politicians, but we should create a racket if Anwar is PM and Nurul Izzah becomes a Minister while Dr Wan Azizah still remains Deputy Prime Minister

The deal was sealed, yet, for inexplicable reasons, PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's route to the top is being challenged ...


THE Port Dickson by-election has unexpectedly become a controversy for some PKR leaders and the party’s supporters.

Suddenly, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has found himself being openly challenged by some of the top brass for his purported failure to consult them on the selection of the coastal town for a by-election, and why his wife or daughter weren’t asked to vacate their seats, instead.

For sure, this is unfamiliar ground to any leader – to be openly challenged. Call it democracy, but it looks more like an open rebel.

Anwar is now being accused of nepotism and those who have defiantly questioned this move include prominent lawyer S. Ambiga, who is closely linked to Pakatan Harapan.

Even the issue of race has cropped up in social media, with some, hiding behind anonymity, demanding why an Indian MP had to be sacrificed for the PKR president.

Others have suggested that Anwar is an impatient man, and that he should wait until the next general election in five years’ time for his turn. Perhaps he could be named senator, first, and save the big bucks needed for a by-election.

However, some of these politicians have suddenly developed amnesia, it seems, now that they hold positions in government.

They seem to have forgotten the pledge made to Malaysians was for Anwar to be pardoned and released from his incarceration.

In fact, that’s the basis of the PKR struggle – to free Anwar, who had to live with the unofficial title of de facto PKR leader. He was the party boss, even while languishing behind bars for 11 years.

Love him or loath him, only Anwar can glue the PH government in Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s absence.

Not any PH leader, including Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Mohamed Sabu, Lim Guan Eng, or, for the time being, Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, could manage it.

It’s not about competence or ability, but about holding a government together. All his harshest critics, including those who questioned his trustworthiness, would admit it, even if reluctantly.

Anwar is also the only one who can man the fort against opponents like Umno, PAS and the right wingers who wield race and religion like weapons.

He was the man who issued press statements from jail, as we wondered how he did it.

And, of course, we remember all those street protests under different names and colours, all essentially for a singular purpose – to free him. So, it must be surprising to Anwar, who would probably feel slighted, to learn about the rebellious remarks made by some self-important key personalities for his need to first earn their approval and then consult them to contest in a by-election.

Suggestions of deceit abound, and no wonder, what with decisions shrouded in secrecy and lacking transparency.

And there we were thinking it was clear that Anwar would contest a by-election, get into Parliament and wait for his turn to be Prime Minister. Even premier Dr Mahathir has proclaimed unequivocally that he would hand the torch to Anwar and honour the agreement by the four partners of the Pakatan Harapan alliance to step down after two years.

So, the question is, how can Anwar be the successor if he is not an MP?

It’s pointless being the PM-in-waiting if one isn’t elected. We could not give two hoots about the charade and antics of politicians, who have the audacity to tell us they dislike politicking. We want certainty, stability and succession planning.

Dr Mahathir is already 93 years old, and it is just biologically and physically impossible to expect him to be PM until the next general election. We can’t allow the rigours of the job to take their toll on him.

A video of him walking wobbly recently circulated, so surely, we want him to remain healthy. However, he is still a mere mortal.

Anwar being named successor and elected into Parliament will provide better comfort because otherwise, an ugly scramble for power is bound to ensue, which we have no wish to see.

We don’t really care if Anwar chooses Port Dickson, Puncak Borneo or Timbuktu, because we are all suffering from the fatigue of election fever, which never seems to cease in Malaysia as they come in all forms and temperatures.

A by-election costs money. Also, it is in poor taste to ask a serving MP to step down to make way for Anwar. Most of us might hate the idea, but progression needs to take place.

Let’s be openly ignorant about this, because up until last week, most of us had never heard of Datuk Danyal Balagopal Abdullah, with due respect. Of course, we didn’t even know he was a retired first admiral. But those who attended his ceramah during GE14 said he never failed to remind them he served in the navy for 38 years.

Danyal has been recognised as the “voice” of the navy, and for them, his loss means no one will champion their cause.

Once Anwar is elected MP and eventually becomes Prime Minister, the full breadth of his ability will be on display, courtesy of his authority and power as a leader. Every constituent would want the serving PM as their MP, so the same can be said for PD. Surely, they can see the preferential treatment accorded to Langkawi and Pekan.

Then there is the issue of family dynasty, but let’s not get into this because the Lim brood has two MPs and a senator, the Karpal clan has two MPs and one state assemblymen, and of course, there’s the PM and his Mentri Besar son.

Malaysians are familiar with this situation, and how most of these individuals got elected is proof that it has never been an issue.

But we should create a racket if Anwar is PM and Nurul Izzah becomes a Minister while Dr Wan Azizah still remains Deputy Prime Minister.

You can count on your bottom ringgit, though, that’s neither going to happen, nor be allowed to happen.

Credit: On The Beat , Wong Chun Wai - The Star's managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

Well, at least that is the plan, unless Mahathir moves first and scuttles this plan. Now, what was that again about Malaysia being a boring country to live in? Let me tell you, even the UK and the US, which are also in political turmoil, are not as interesting as Malaysia. And I think I will support Mahathir just to see Anwar fail and to make sure the rollercoaster ride ends here, once and for all.

 I would rather support Mahathir than Anwar -  

THE CORRIDORS OF POWER by Raja Petra Kamarudin 


If it comes down to whether to support Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad or Anwar Ibrahim, in 1998 I supported Anwar (although I did not like both). Today, I would support Dr Mahathir rather than Anwar (even though I still do not like both).

The issue here is between the lesser of the two evils, as the Pakatan Harapan people, in particular the DAP Chinese, have been telling us since 2015. So, it is not whether you support the angel or the devil but more like which of the two devils you prefer.

I suppose, to be able to stay as Prime Minister for 22 years, survive so many ‘assassination’ attempts over those 22 years, and to be able to come back 15 years later for a second round, you really need to be a devil.

Now, the reason why I prefer Mahathir over Anwar is because Anwar has been taking us for a rollercoaster ride for the last 40 years or so and that ride is still not over. Now we are going for yet another rollercoaster ride with the ‘PD Move’ after the most disastrous ‘Kajang Move’ that took us nowhere.



The plan was for Anwar and not Mahathir to become the Seventh Prime Minister

With Anwar you do not know whether you are coming or going. One day we are asked to go east and another day we are told to go west. And while Anwar confuses us with the change of direction from east to west, we find out that he is going north while leaving us all behind.

Say what you like about Mahathir, but when you serve him he looks after you well. He never abandons ship and allows you to drown. If you are loyal to Mahathir he is loyal to you in return.

Anwar, however, is another kettle of fish. He uses you to serve his agenda and when you are no longer useful to him he discards you. Your loyalty is not repaid. In fact, your loyalty is betrayed.

And this is what makes Mahathir a better ‘boss’ compared to Anwar.

Back in 2006 when I used to go to Mahathir’s house to meet him, he would wait for me at the door and walk me to my car when we leave. That ‘small gesture’ meant a lot considering he was the ex-Prime Minister.

At least Mahathir does not treat you like a donkey the way Anwar does

Do not expect that from Anwar. He would sit on his throne and expect you to pay him homage.

In 2008, the day I was released from ISA detention, Mahathir phoned me to ask how I was. That phone call made my day and convinced me that Mahathir cares about the people who work for him or with him.

On the other hand, I had to make an appointment to meet Anwar and only managed to see him two weeks later. And when I met him he never inquired about my health. He just spoke about how he is going to come back as Prime Minister — as if I cared whether he becomes Prime Minister or not.

As I said, for more than 40 years Anwar has been taking us on a rollercoaster ride and with him we really do not know whether we are coming or going. In the 1970s, I supported Anwar Ibrahim because he supported PAS — and I also supported PAS after I moved to Terengganu in 1974.


Anwar defected to Umno in 1982 because that was the only way be could become Prime Minister

In 1982, Anwar abandoned us and defected to Umno in what I considered a betrayal. But when Anwar needed to challenge the Umno Youth leader, Suhaimi Kamaruddin, and he did not have the ‘machinery’, he came back to us for help.

Anwar promised if he wins the Umno Youth leadership he will make Umno more Islamic. Ustaz Fadzil Muhammad Noor, the late PAS President, told us to give Anwar a chance so we supported Anwar in his challenge for the Umno Youth leadership.

In 1987, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (Ku Li) challenged Mahathir for the Umno presidency (while Tun Musa Hitam challenged Tun Ghafar Baba for number two). Anwar instructed us to support Mahathir and Ghafar (even though at that time most of us preferred Ku Li).

Then we realised why Anwar instructed us to support Mahathir and Ghafar. If Ku Li and Musa wins, Anwar is finished. If Mahathir and Ghafar wins instead, Anwar can oust Ghafar and take over as number two and then oust Mahathir and take over as number one.


Anwar wanted Ghafar to win because it would be easier to oust Ghafar and take over as the new Deputy Prime Minister

That was already Anwar’s plan in 1987. In 1993, Anwar challenged Ghafar for the Umno Deputy Presidency but I refused to support him and left his team. This is because Anwar was being funded by Vincent Tan and hundreds of millions was being spent to oust Ghafar — RM200 million in Sabah alone.

Because Ghafar could not match Anwar’s financial onslaught, he backed out and allowed Anwar to win uncontested. Four years later, in 1997, Anwar made his move to oust Mahathir but Mahathir was ready for him. This time Anwar was outfoxed by the old fox.

Fast-forward to 2018. Anwar is yet again preparing to challenge Mahathir for the post of Prime Minister. We would think he would have learned his lesson from the 1997 fiasco. Anwar wants to be back in Parliament by October in time for the November session.


Anwar expects Azmin to lose the deputy presidency contest, after which he will leave PKR with his supporters

Anwar’s plan is simple. He wants to do a deal with Umno and PAS and create a new or third coalition (let’s call it Barisan Rakyat). Anwar wants to make sure that Rafizi Ramli wins the PKR deputy presidency and he expects Azmin Ali to leave PKR with his supporters and join PPBM.

Anwar has been talking to Taib Mahmud and Shafie Apdal to get Sarawak and Sabah to join his new coalition. With half of Umno, more than half of PKR, PAS, Sabah and Sarawak, Anwar can get enough majority to form a government.

And, by Christmas, ‘Malaysia Lagi Baru’ will have ‘Barisan Rakyat’ running the country with Anwar as Prime Minister and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as Deputy Prime Minister — and with another two Deputy Prime Ministers, most likely from PAS and Sabah-Sarawak.

Well, at least that is the plan, unless Mahathir moves first and scuttles this plan. Now, what was that again about Malaysia being a boring country to live in? Let me tell you, even the UK and the US, which are also in political turmoil, are not as interesting as Malaysia. And I think I will support Mahathir just to see Anwar fail and to make sure the rollercoaster ride ends here, once and for all.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Wising up to a Billion Dollar Whale of a tale


Wising up to a whale of a tale

 

Once upon a time, Malaysians were enchanted with Jho Lows champagne lifestyle and proud that he had friends in high places. We now know better.


IF a poll was conducted to ask Malaysians to name their 10 most hated people, Low Taek Jho – also known as Jho Low – would surely be in the top five, if not three.

There has been a quick succession of books on the 1Malaysia Dev­elopment Bhd (1MDB) saga and in the one by two Wall Street Journal reporters, Billion Dollar Whale, Low is the central villainous character.

Yet for a brief shining moment, this man was the pride of his home state and the nation.

Then Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng was reported as saying that he was proud to note the accomplishments of overseas Pen­angites, including this particularly “well-connected” fellow.

That was back in July 2010 when a mysterious Malaysian man of means started hitting the headlines for partying with the likes of Paris Hilton, and counted actors Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio and singer Usher as his good friends.

When Hilton – the glamour party girl before the Kardashians overtook her – was detained by drug enforcement officers in Paris in 2010, she was reportedly travelling with “personalities close to power in Malay­sia”, Low being identified as one of them.

In just three months, his champagne-infused big spending ways – US$50,000 (RM206,800) or US$60,000 (RM248,190) a pop – set New York’s nightlife scene on fire and caught the attention of the US media. And that was how Low became famous.

Oh wait! He’s Malaysian, not some little emperor from Shanghai or Shen­zhen, so we puffed up with pride at the success of one of our own.

Somehow, the ability to party with the rich and famous became a yardstick for success. The assumption was that Low must have done something great to be so filthy rich and make such “friends”.

Low, then 28, became a subject of intense curiosity that Malaysian and foreign media wanted to know.

Then The Star landed an exclusive interview with him. The two hours with him provided enough fodder for stories spread over two days on July 29 and 30, 2010.

The interview covered topics like his Arab childhood friends and investors whom he said were the real big spenders, how he made his first million when he was just 20 and his expertise in setting up sovereign wealth funds.

Yes, we were pretty pleased with ourselves for beating the competition in getting Low to speak.

The interview was picked up by other newspapers and portals locally, regionally and internationally.

The Star took efforts to provide Low’s personal details like his age, birthplace, education and languages spoken.

What I also found amusing was that we also gave his height (1.7m) and his weight (88kg), which is not common for such interviews. That was probably our nice way of indicating how chubby he was.

The stories were positive pieces, painting Low as a successful role model. Of course, at that time, no one suspected that he was the mastermind behind the world’s biggest kleptocracy.

We were simply dazzled by his partying playboy high life and accepted in good faith all his claims on why he was successful: he went to the right schools, from Chung Ling to Wharton School of Business, made well-connected, influential friends (especially Arab royals) and got a great financial start.

As The Star reported: “At the age of 20, (he) started an investment company called The Wynton Group with US$25mil (RM103.4mil) from family and South-East Asian and Middle Eastern friends. The investment company in which he owns a stake is now worth in excess of US$1bil (RM4.1bil).”

Penang businessman Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping, a close family friend, described Low as a very bright person who respected his elders.

He was also “an active person, has a corporate brain and his public relations skills are equally good. He’s also quite a fast eater.

“I watched him grow up since he was a kid and I knew he was brilliant, but I never thought he would be so successful,” said Tan.

A reader who was so impressed by the Star exclusive blogged about his son having studied in Harrow in Bangkok and opined: “He (the son) is certainly no Jho Low, but I hope he can learn the positives from Jho’s life and work hard and be successful.”

Well, we now know better how Low operated and whose money he was spending on his celebrity friends and more.

From the man with the Midas touch, he has become the embarrassment no famous person wants to touch. I doubt Hilton or Usher takes his calls anymore. He is a fugitive on the lam, hunted by governments around the globe.

Much as he is furiously claiming innocence, he is indeed our billion-dollar whale. The whale is a metaphor in business, meaning to land large accounts that can transform a small company into a major player.

A whale can also mean a businessman who is close to a country’s regime, is protected by the state and receives government contracts and large bank loans without any collateral, as explained in the book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty.

The maddening fact is this portly plunderer is hard to find. He apparently has multiple passports, including one from St Kitts and Nevis.

It’s very possible he is no longer 88kg. He could be thinner or fatter – depending on whether stress makes him eat even more and faster – or had plastic surgery, grown or lost his hair, but he should still be 1.7m tall, unless he wears hidden heels in his shoes.

Our government has said it is not sure where he’s hiding, but with Malaysians in just about every corner of the world, can we not somehow tap into this vast network? Even a whale must surface for air somehow, somewhere.

What really got my goat was what he glibly said in the Star interview: “Ultimately, I am Malaysian. I am one who does not forget my country and I think there is a lot we can do for Malaysia. But when you build the trust of investors, you need to deliver what you promised.

“For me, we all work very hard. Of course, we have a disadvantage where at our age, people may perceive it differently. At the end of the day, I handle investors’ money prudently. I generate returns for them.”

And this: “I am not an excessive person. Excessiveness with alcohol is just not me.”

No, not in alcohol but his name is now synonymous with excessiveness in luxury acquisitions.

Oh, where’s Capt Ahab when we need him?

Aunty wants to remind all of us that truly, all that glitters is not gold. Feedback to aunty@thestar.com.my
Credit:  June H. L Wong, So aunty, so what?


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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Revolutionising accounting for a new era

The field of accounting is in need of a new breed of professionals who can contribute more than a quantifiable value to companies.

Increasingly, accountants in business are given the opportunity to be less involved in automated operations and focus more on bigpicture strategies, which gives a clear indication of the type of skills required in the near future. Bryan Chung, FCPA



WHEN talking about the Industrial Revolution, images that often come to mind include the extensive use of steam power, the birth of heavy machinery and ironworks, and bleak factories in England.

However, two more industrial revolutions have since passed and the 21st century is paving its way for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0), which is seeing the rise of autonomous decision making of cyber-physical systems and machine learning through cloud technology.

In simple words, IR 4.0 is the usage of artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet to transform age-old processes and operating procedures across all industries.

With such change taking place, what does this mean for the accounting industry and where do accountants find their relevance in an era that looks to automate everything?

Calculating assets

In an interview with international education provider Kaplan, Malaysian Institute of Accountants’ (MIA) chief executive officer Dr Nurmazilah Datuk Mahzan said, “Among the current trends that are creating waves in the accountancy profession are big data and analytics.

“Companies of all sizes create massive structured, unstructured and semi-structured data every day. Organisations harnessing big data would be able to find new insights and discover unique patterns of their customer behaviour or even create new businesses that were previously not possible.”

Echoing her sentiments is Bryan Chung, Fellow of CPA Australia (FCPA), divisional councillor at CPA Australia (Malaysia), who believes that even though AI is good at matching patterns and automating processes – making technology useful to many functions in companies in the process – accountants still play a vital role.

He says, “While there is a lot of hype surrounding blockchain and AI in accountancy with more firms taking steps to increase or experiment with their use, it is unlikely that accountants (or auditors) will be out of a job anytime soon.

“It is likely that most of the administration process will be the first to be introduced to AI. Increasingly, accountants in business are given the opportunity to be less involved in automated operations and focus more on big-picture strategies, which gives a clear indication of the type of skills required in the near future.”

The challenge, however, is turning the current workforce in the accounting field into professionals who truly understand the implications of IR 4.0, not just in terms of their personal skills but also movements within the industry.

Discovering market potential

Gone are the days when sales numbers, website traffic and KPIs were sufficient information to measure monthly net profits.

In the same Kaplan interview, the organisation’s global professional accountancy head Tanya Worsley said, “Businesses today depend on their accountants beyond purely checking financial figures and balancing books.

“Financial professionals are expected to be able to provide their clients with actionable insights that can add value to the organisation’s overarching strategic goals.”

The changing role of accountants in the digital economy is what prompted MIA to launch the Digital Technology Blueprint in July this year, a document that outlines the five driving principles to help guide Malaysian accountants to respond appropriately to digital technology.

These principles are related to digital technology trends, the identification of capabilities, harnessing of digital technology, funding and governance.

Accountants who fail to stay updated with the latest trends and knowledge will cause their employers to lose out in the long run, while competing firms take advantage of the evolving cloud system.

For these reasons, upskilling and obtaining professional qualifications from MIA or accountancy bodies such as CPA Australia, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales or Chartered Institute of Management Accountants should be considered a necessity instead of mere steps for higher management.

As most professional accountancy bodies require members to undergo regular training to maintain their memberships, these certified professionals are expected to be fully prepared for IR 4.0 and, by and large, artificial intelligence experts.

Chung adds, “IT knowledge is no longer an option. Lest we aim erroneously, it is not how extensive the IT knowledge is (as this is available in abundance and can be acquired easily), but the ability to understand the evolution of the profession and apply the knowledge appropriately.”

Explaining that accountants must use technology in their favour to elevate companies to new heights, he gives the example of successful tech businesses that used e-platforms to achieve massive scalability and visibility within a short time, despite having owners or founders who were not IT graduates.

“In the same way, accountants should be more strategic, make sense of the vast data available and deliver services based on the twin pillars of speed and quality,” he continues.

Eliminating liabilities

When combining this piece of information with the future route of total automation for jobs that are repetitive, rule-based and involve limited or well-defined physicality, the traditional job scope of accountants is coming to an end.

Employers are bemoaning the skill gaps currently present in the knowledge of digital technologies, forcing companies to spend resources retraining and reskilling their employees.

At the other end of the spectrum, constant news reports highlight the more pressing issue of employers having difficulty finding good graduates who can hit the ground running upon entering the workforce.

These situations highlight the dire need for a new breed of accountants who can provide more all-inclusive corporate reporting, which tells less about the numbers and more about the narrative of a company.

The Malaysian education system, for one, must move towards becoming an ecosystem for continuous upgrading of skills, working together with employers, be they officials from the Government, small business entrepreneurs or industry experts from professional organisations.

Colleges and universities need to continue reviewing their course offerings so that graduates have an accurate understanding of the evolving industry while being trained to adapt to new technologies and autonomous changes at the workplace.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. Chung points out, “There are now many initiatives being undertaken by various professional organisations and associations to provide education to accountants to increase awareness of the changes taking place.

“There are efforts now by professional bodies, corporates and academia to come together to address the disconnect between what’s being studied at universities and what’s relevant in the business world.”

Given how the financial technology space has demonstrated the willingness of companies to use innovative methods, Chung is optimistic about the future as the accounting profession can not only make positive inroads but ride on the back of this momentum to accelerate the learning and adoption of technologies as the nation moves into a new era of automation.

Credit: Bryan Chung, FCPA

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