Dec 9, 2019

DealBook: Trump Administration Hinders Authority of W.T.O.

12-16 minutes - NYT

Credit...Patrick Semansky/Associated Press
Beijing has ordered all state government offices and public institutions to remove foreign computer equipment and software within three years and switch to domestic vendors. 
The U.S. has spent two years chipping away at the World Trade Organization. This week, the Trump administration is expected to go a step further and effectively cripple the organization’s system for enforcing its rules, reports the NYT’s Ana Swanson.
• Over the past two years, Washington has blocked the W.T.O. from appointing members to a panel that hears appeals in trade disputes.
• Only three members are left on the seven-member body, the minimum needed to hear a case, and two members’ terms expire tomorrow.
Now, with the administration blocking any new replacements, there would be no official resolution for many international trade disputes.
The potential loss of the dispute body comes as Mr. Trump’s trade war on multiple fronts has thrown global commerce into disarray; another tariff increase on Chinese goods set for Dec. 15 could send markets reeling.
“The loss of the world’s primary trade referee could turn the typically deliberate process of resolving international disputes into a free-for-all, paving the way for an outbreak of tit-for-tat tariff wars,” Ms. Swanson writes.
It could also lead to the end of the W.T.O., because the system for settling disputes has long been its most effective part.
More trade news: House Democrats and the White House trade negotiator are approaching a deal for a trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. But U.S. businesses could be in danger of losing key benefits in the deal. And an unexpected drop in China’s exports shows why Beijing wants a trade deal.
A case that could determine the future of the wireless industry heads to court today in Manhattan, where a judge will weigh an argument to block the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, Bloomberg reports.
Saying the merger would raise prices for consumers, a coalition of 13 states and the District of Columbia is suing to block it. Federal regulators approved the deal earlier this year.
T-Mobile argues that combining with Sprint would reduce costs, in that way lowering prices for consumers.
It’s unusual for states to try to block a merger of this size and without the support of the federal government, the WSJ reports.
A victory for the wireless carriers could provide other companies with arguments for the benefits of consolidation.
But a win for the coalition could give states newfound antitrust power at a time when they are also investigating tech giants.
Antitrust investigations are coming at tech from all sides: the Justice Department, U.S. trade regulators and state attorneys general. But there’s a potentially bigger threat to the industry’s practices and profits.
Representative David Cicilline, the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees antitrust law, has an ambitious goal, reports Steve Lohr of the NYT. He’s trying to build evidence, and a bipartisan consensus, for changing the laws.
Antitrust had been dormant in Congress for years. But under Mr. Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, the panel has opened an investigation, held hearings and collected thousands of documents into possible anticompetitive practices by Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.
Antitrust experts say this is the most serious congressional inquiry into potential anticompetitive corporate behavior in decades.
The stagnant incomes of middle-class workers and the growing wealth gap in the U.S. are at least partly related to an increasing concentration of economic power, and in particular, the market clout of the tech giants, Mr. Cicilline has come to believe.
His panel plans to complete its investigation and publish its findings and recommendations early next year. The prospect for legislative action hinges on several unknowns. The most significant include what the subcommittee finds, the 2020 election results and the strength of public support for curbing the tech giants.
More: Big Tech’s microtargeting of consumers is its most powerful tool — even more than the buckets of cash they throw at politicians.
It is no secret that the corporate world has a diversity problem, but when it comes to African-Americans, the situation looks especially grim. A new report shows that methods aimed at increasing racial diversity are either accomplishing too little or are not working at all, writes the NYT’s Lauretta Charlton.
Corporate America needs an intervention if it wants to create a more inclusive workplace, according to the report, “Being Black in Corporate America,” which comes from the Center for Talent Innovation, a nonprofit group focused on workplace diversity. Some highlights of the report:
• Doubts about the effectiveness of corporate diversity and inclusion programs are driving more black professionals to leave and pursue their own businesses instead.
• Black millennials are more likely than older generations to feel they have a responsibility to represent their race.
• Black professionals do not want to be lumped under the “people of color” label because it assumes that all black people experience the workplace the same way.
• Measures that have achieved some success in addressing gender discrimination in the workplace may not yield the same results when it comes to racial discrimination.
For diversity and inclusion programs to be more successful, companies should conduct audits of how black employees are faring and feeling, the report concludes, and then take steps to address “mismatches in perception of racial equality.”
These jobs account for only 3 percent of all U.S. positions, but make up 6 percent of the country’s economic output. And if you don’t live in the right places, you’re unlikely to get hired for one of them.
Researchers call them “innovation” jobs, and they are found in about a dozen industries, including software, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors and data processing. The issue: They’re clustered in just a handful of urban areas along the East and West Coasts, according to a report released today, the NYT’s Eduardo Porter writes.
Boston, Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco and Silicon Valley captured nine out of 10 jobs created in these industries from 2005 to 2017, according to the report, which was produced by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a research group that receives funding from tech and telecom companies.
About 45 percent of the work force in these industries has degrees in science, tech, engineering or math, and employers invest at least $20,000 per worker in research and development.
Those five metropolitan regions had accumulated almost a quarter of such jobs by 2017, up from less than 18 percent a dozen years earlier. On the other end, about half of the country’s 382 metro areas — including big cities like Chicago and Philadelphia — lost such jobs.
The concentration of American prosperity, along with its deepening of inequality, does not appear to be slowing down. The search for ideas that could improve the economic conditions of deprived areas, long derided by economists as a fool’s errand, is now at the top of policymakers’ lists.
PG&E reached a multibillion-dollar settlement on Friday with victims of wildfires that killed dozens of people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes and businesses in California, report the NYT’s Ivan Penn, Lauren Hepler and Peter Eavis.
The $13.5 billion agreement will help victims rebuild their homes and lives. Some of the money will go toward paying the claims of some government agencies and lawyers’ fees.
The accord is a big step forward for PG&E: It will significantly increase the likelihood that the utility will emerge from bankruptcy before a crucial deadline in June.
But PG&E’s collapse has exposed the failure of a state regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission, to hold the utility accountable on safety, reports the WSJ.
• “The agency tasked with regulating utility safety is struggling to refocus on the issue while also grappling with its failure to prevent the state’s second electricity crisis in two decades,” the WSJ writes.
Detractors blame the regulator’s missteps on political mandates from Sacramento, insufficient financial and personnel resources, and an internal culture that left safety oversight to the utilities.
Sanna Marin, formerly Finland’s minister of transport and communications, will be the country’s youngest-ever prime minister.
• Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket chain, is considering the sale of its operations in Thailand and Malaysia as it refocuses on its domestic business. (Bloomberg)
• Amazon is facing an antitrust decision in the U.K. on its plan to take a stake in the food-delivery service Deliveroo. (Bloomberg)
• The buyout firm Leonard Green brought in $2.75 billion for its debut middle-market focused fund and $12 billion is for its newest flagship buyout fund. (WSJ)
• Proteus Digital Health was once worth $1.5 billion. Now it is racing to keep the lights on as investors flee. (CNBC)
• Plans by the Hudson’s Bay chairman, Richard Baker, to take the Canadian retailer private were dealt a setback as a prominent shareholder advisory firm came out against the deal. (Bloomberg)
• GateHouse, which recently completed its acquisition of Gannett, has pledged significant cost cuts, but said it was aiming to shield reporting jobs as much as possible. (WP)
Politics & Policy
• Senator Elizabeth Warren disclosed a list of compensation she received during her 30 years of moonlighting as a legal consultant — about $1.9 million in all. (NYT)
• Congress is close to a deal that would help patients by eliminating surprise medical bills and resolving billing disputes between doctors and insurance companies. (NYT)
• Democrats leveraged Trump’s fixation on Space Force to pursue a parental-leave victory for federal workers. (WaPo)
Trump impeachment inquiry
• Rudy Giuliani has escorted President Trump to the brink of impeachment and is himself now under criminal investigation. (NYT)
• Mr. Trump is refusing to engage in the impeachment process, and Democrats have concluded that they will press ahead anyway, rendering a historic undertaking little more than a foregone conclusion. (NYT)
• The president’s private business interests are back in two appeals courts this week in emoluments cases. (WaPo)
• Members of the Washington establishment are pleading for help in covering the legal bills of government witnesses, like Foreign Service officers, involved in the impeachment inquiry. (WaPo)
• Internet influencers are taking on conventional advertising in China, hawking their wares on live streams, an e-commerce trend that mirrors a similar phenomenon in the U.S. (WSJ)
• Why Apple scrapped the release of its Oscar contender, “The Banker.” (NYT)
• Despite a ban on the import of foreign e-waste, the industry is thriving in Southeast Asia, frightening residents worried for their health. (NYT)
• An Apple engineer charged with stealing trade secrets for a Chinese start-up had a classified file from the Patriot missile program that belonged to his former employer, Raytheon, prosecutors said. (Bloomberg)
• Amazon plans to expand its work force in New York, leading to gloating from many progressive politicians who opposed earlier sweeteners offered to lure the company to the city. (NYT)
Best of the Rest
• Donald Marron, the financier who had a 70-year Wall Street career and led Paine Webber until the retail brokerage firm was sold to UBS in 2000, has died at age 85. (Bloomberg)
• Some of the E.U.’s largest businesses are backing a plan to make the bloc climate-neutral. And many nations known as exotic holiday destinations are increasingly blaming climate change for more violent storms, and they want richer nations to pay for the damage. (Bloomberg)
• The American trucking giant Celadon is expected to file for bankruptcy this week, a move that could leave drivers jobless. (Business Insider)
• As Disney tries to expand the Star Wars franchise, it is learning how to bring aboard a new generation of moviegoers while avoiding turning off the die-hard fans. (WSJ)
• Companies that make or use plastic are betting on a technology known as chemical recycling in the push to cut waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (WSJ)
• Individual investors are fleeing stock funds at the fastest pace in decades. (WSJ)
• Some investors are hoarding cash to ensure they have enough available to lend if rates surge again at the end of the year. (WSJ)
• Goldman Sachs will offer digital wealth management services to people with as little as $5,000. (FT)

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