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Bogged down in a sprawling trade dispute with U.S. rival China, President Donald Trump took steps Friday to ease tensions with America’s allies: lifting import taxes on Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminum and delaying auto tariffs that would have hurt Japan and Europe.
By removing the metals tariffs on Canada and Mexico, Trump cleared a key roadblock to a North American trade pact his team negotiated last year. As part of Friday’s arrangement, the Canadians and Mexicans agreed to scrap retaliatory tariffs they had imposed on U.S. goods, according to four sources in the U.S. and Canada who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of an announcement.
In a joint statement, the U.S. and Canada said they would work to prevent cheap imports of steel and aluminum from entering North America. China has long been accused of flooding world markets with subsidized metal, driving down world prices and hurting U.S. producers.
Some in Washington were urging Trump to take advantage of the truce with U.S. allies to get even tougher with China.
“China is our adversary,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. “Canada and Mexico are our friends. The president is right to increase pressure on China for their espionage, their theft of intellectual property and their hostility toward the rule of law. The president is also right to be deescalating tension with our North American allies.”
Earlier Friday, the White House said Trump was delaying for six months any decision to slap tariffs on foreign cars, a move that would have hit Japan and Europe especially hard.
Trump still is hoping to use the threat of auto tariffs to pressure Japan and the European Union into making concessions in trade talks. “If agreements are not reached within 180 days, the president will determine whether and what further action needs to be taken,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
In imposing the metals tariffs and threatening the ones on autos, the president was relying on a rarely used weapon in the U.S. trade war arsenal — Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 — which lets the president impose tariffs on imports if the Commerce Department deems them a threat to national security.
But the steel and aluminum tariffs were also designed to coerce Canada and Mexico into agreeing to a rewrite of North American free trade pact. In fact, the Canadians and Mexicans did go along last year with a revamped regional trade deal that was to Trump’s liking. But the administration had refused to lift the taxes on their metals to the United States until Friday.
The new trade deal — the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — needs approval of the legislatures in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Several key U.S. lawmakers were threatening to reject the pact unless the tariffs were removed. And Canada had suggested it wouldn’t ratify any deal while the tariffs were still in place.
Trump had faced a Saturday deadline to decide what to do about the auto tariffs.
Taxing auto tariffs would mark a major escalation in Trump’s aggressive trade policies and likely would meet resistance in Congress. The United States last year imported $192 billion worth of passenger vehicles and $159 billion in auto parts.
“I have serious questions about the legitimacy of using national security as a basis to impose tariffs on cars and car parts,” Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement Friday. He’s working on legislation to scale back the president’s authority to impose national security tariffs under Section 232.
In a statement, the White House said that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has determined that imported vehicles and parts are a threat to national security. Trump deferred action on tariffs for 180 days to give negotiators time to work out deals but threatened them if talks break down.
In justifying tariffs for national security reasons, Commerce found that the U.S. industrial base depends on technology developed by American-owned auto companies to maintain U.S. military superiority. Because of rising imports of autos and parts over the past 30 years, the market share of U.S.-owned automakers has fallen. That has caused a lag in research and development spending that is “weakening innovation and, accordingly, threatening to impair our national security,” the statement said.
The market share of vehicles produced and sold in the U.S. by American-owned automakers, the statement said, has declined from 67% in 1985 to 22% in 2017.
But the statistics don’t match market share figures from the industry. A message was left Friday seeking an explanation of how Commerce calculated the 22%.
In 2017, General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler and Tesla combined had a 44.5% share of U.S. auto sales, according to Autodata Corp. Those figures include vehicles produced in other countries.
It’s possible that the Commerce Department didn’t include Fiat Chrysler, which is now legally headquartered in the Netherlands but has a huge research and development operation near Detroit. It had 12% of U.S. auto sales in 2017.
The Commerce figures also do not account for research by foreign automakers. Toyota, Hyundai-Kia, Subaru, Honda and others have significant research centers in the U.S. (VOA)
In a global-first move, ride-hailing major Uber and Meta-owned messaging platform WhatsApp on Thursday announced that people in India can now book an Uber ride via the company's official WhatsApp chatbot. The service is being rolled out on a pilot basis in Lucknow first, and will soon be expanded to other cities in the country.
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"We want to make it as easy as possible for all Indians to take an Uber trip. We are thrilled at this global-first integration for Uber, and look forward to rolling it out across India," said Nandini Maheshwari, Senior Director, Business Development, Uber APAC.
Built on WhatsApp Business Platform, the partnership will expand access to Uber's mobility services in one of the company's largest international markets.
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Currently, the option to book a ride via WhatsApp will only be available in English but it will be expanded to other Indian languages soon. "The Uber experience on WhatsApp is simple, familiar, and relatable for users and has the potential to accelerate adoption of Uber with a new category of riders in India," said Abhijit Bose, Head of WhatsApp India.
With this integration, riders will no longer need to download or use the Uber app. WhatsApp users can book an Uber ride through three simple ways: messaging to Uber's business account number; scanning a QR code; or clicking a link directly to open an Uber WhatsApp chat.
Built on WhatsApp Business Platform, the partnership will expand access to Uber's mobility services in one of the company's largest international markets.Unsplash
They will be asked to provide pickup and drop off locations. Users will receive upfront fare information and the driver's expected time of arrival. "Riders get the same safety features and insurance protections as those who book trips via the Uber app directly," the company said.
They will be informed of the name of the driver and license plate of the driver on booking; be able to track the location of the driver en route to the pickup point and be able to speak to the driver anonymously using a masked number.
If the user selects the "emergency" option while on the trip, they will receive an inbound call from Uber's customer support team. Uber riders will also have access to its safety line number to call, if needed, until 30 mins after the trip ends. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : WhatsApp, Uber, India, Lucknow, languages, rider, driver, cab, booking.)
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Australia's national science agency has opened a purpose-built facility to test technology before it is sent to the Moon.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) on Thursday opened the In-situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) Facility in Brisbane. The facility provides a Moon-like environment to test rovers and related equipment before it is sent into space, Xinhua news agency reported.
"Our ability to simulate the lunar terrain at this scale is an exciting advancement for the development of space technology in Australia," CSIRO Space Programme Director Kimberley Clayfield said in a media release.
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"This facility is the latest example of our commitment to stimulating innovation, supporting industry and solving the greatest challenges through space science, technology and exploration.
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"We're looking forward to working with researchers and businesses from across the space sector to test their technology and systems for future space missions."
The ISRU Facility, which is located at CSIRO's Queensland Center for Advanced Technologies, contains a sealed dust area to simulate various types of Moon dust, smaller pits for small-scale tests and a mission control room to monitor rovers and payloads.
"The challenge is the Moon dust is powdery, sharp and electrostatically charged so it sticks to everything and has the potential to damage the technology sent to investigate it," he said.Unsplash
The Australian Space Agency (ASA) in October signed a landmark deal with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the US to send an Australian-built rover to the Moon for the first time as early as 2026.
ISRU Project Leader Jonathon Ralston said the new facility would be key to solving major challenges for the rover.
"The challenge is the Moon dust is powdery, sharp and electrostatically charged so it sticks to everything and has the potential to damage the technology sent to investigate it," he said.
"Our facility offers technology developers the opportunity to test their equipment closer to home, in a safe environment to find solutions to this dusty problem."
(Keywords : Australia, Brisbane, resource, scientific, research, simulate, lunar, innovation, project, moon, challenge, facility, opportunity, environment.)
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