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Ellis – 2018: The Year of Convergence of Trade and National Security

Candidate Donald Trump promised to Make America Great Again with tax, trade, and regulatory policies..

Candidate Donald Trump promised to Make America Great Again with tax, trade, and regulatory policies that put the interests of the forgotten men and women of America First.

In the closing days of 2017, President Trump not only signed sweeping tax cuts for businesses and individuals, he issued a National Security Strategy declaring economic strength is essential to national security, and fair and balanced trade is essential to preserving American economic strength.

Several important trade issues will command the attention of the president and Congress in 2018.

While China is the Great Offender when it comes to predatory trade practices, it is not alone — South Korea is right up there. The U.S. International Trade Commission found South Korea’s crony conglomerates Samsung and LG have been illegally dumping washing machines on the American market below the cost of production, hurting our own appliance industry. The ITC recommends President Trump hit the offending importers with a hefty tariff.

This can be a Ronald Reagan moment for President Trump: When the Gipper limited imports of Japanese cars in the 1980s, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan responded by opening factories in the U.S. Strong action by President Trump will assure Samsung and LG follow through on their plans to manufacture washing machines in Tennessee and South Carolina.

Our trade preference program for India is also up for renewal in 2018. Literally, thousands of India’s products enter the U.S. tariff-free under the Generalized System of Preferences, GSP, a 43-year-old trade program designed to lift underdeveloped countries out of poverty. In return, member countries are supposed to open their markets to American goods and respect U.S. intellectual property and rule of law.

India doesn’t qualify on any count. It is no longer the famine-ridden basket case it was when it joined the program — half the country’s 1.2 billion people are now middle class, and it has thriving IT and service outsourcing industries. To boot, it routinely rips off U.S. intellectual property and blocks U.S. imports through a combination of high tariffs, taxes, and corrupt bureaucracy.

When Congress renews the GSP in 2018, it should knock India off this international welfare program. There’s been chatter about Congress taking up welfare reform next year — this is the place to start.

The biggest trade issue in 2018 promises to be the Trump administration’s renegotiation of NAFTA. Talks are at a critical stage and an agreement could come up for a vote just as Congressional primaries are in full swing. This promises to make trade a central issue in the midterm elections just as it was in the 2016 cycle.

The administration’s proposals for NAFTA 2.0 provide a sturdy platform for populist-nationalist candidates: end the outsourcing of American jobs, buy American with taxpayer dollars, and protect American sovereignty.

This last point concerns NAFTA’s dispute resolution mechanism. Fixing it is key to bringing jobs back to America.

The dispute resolution mechanism is called ISDS, for Investor State Dispute Settlement. ISDS enables foreign corporations to challenge actions of the United States government before international arbitration tribunals composed of three private-sector lawyers.

These faux courts operate outside the judicial system established by the U.S. Constitution. They can even award foreign corporations unlimited sums of money, paid by U.S. tax dollars. They are not bound by constitutional due process guarantees or judicial precedent, and their decisions are final, no appeal.

ISDS not only threatens American sovereignty by exposing our laws to challenges before foreign courts, it also encourages businesses to move to cheap labor havens outside the U.S.

Investors are typically (and understandably) fearful of confiscatory-minded foreign governments and corrupt courts and therefore favor placing their assets in countries that respect property rights and the rule of law — such as the United States.

But the ISDS standalone court system guarantees businesses won’t deal with corrupt foreign officials when they invest overseas. This essentially erases America’s comparative advantage — honest courts, rule of law — and green lights businesses to move abroad. Previous administrations endorsed this perverse arrangement that has American taxpayers footing the bill to make the world safe for outsourcing our jobs.

President Trump’s chief trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer asks, “Why is it a good policy of the United States government to encourage investment [abroad]?… To me that’s absurd.” He’s right.

President Trump wants to make ISDS optional — with the U.S. opting out.

This is a clear example of how trade reform will work hand in glove with the president’s tax cuts and National Security Strategy to bring jobs and industries back to America.

One the one hand, companies will not be given U.S. taxpayer-subsidized risk insurance to invest overseas. On the other, companies will see lower tax taxes and faster write-offs when they invest here.

The National Security Strategy sends a clear signal the Trump administration will no longer coddle the communist regime in Beijing.

It rightly identifies Chinese economic aggression as a national security threat, declaring, “the United States will no longer turn a blind eye to violations, cheating, or economic aggression.”

For decades, Washington was at best indifferent and at worst complicit as China coerced American businesses to surrender trade secrets as a pre-condition of gaining access to the China market.

The naïve “We are the World” feel-good globalism endemic to the swamplands of the Potomac gave corporate executives a rationale for their short-sighted, short-term-profit-driven decisions to kowtow to Beijing’s Red mandarins.

Elite opinion has long held that Western investment would make China more democratic as it became more prosperous. As the NSS explains:

The United States helped expand the liberal economic trading system to countries that did not share our values, in the hopes that these states would liberalize their economic and political practices and provide commensurate benefits to the United States. Experience shows that these countries distorted and undermined key economic institutions without undertaking significant reform of their economies or politics.

Instead of reforming its economy and politics, Communist China modernized its military and built a digital totalitarian surveillance system that tracks its citizens’ every move to enforce loyalty to the one-party state. At the same time, government-owned enterprises used subsidies, cyber-espionage, and stealth to grab global market share and target American industry for extinction.

Western executives felt they had no choice but to yield to Beijing’s extortionate demands.

With his National Security Strategy, President Trump is telling them: “I have your back,” while his tax and regulatory reforms say, “America is open for business again.”

For 70 years, our economic, as well as foreign policy, was driven by the State Department. The striped pants set at Foggy Bottom subordinated the interests of working Americans to globalist geopolitical stratagems, giving away American industries, technology, and jobs to other nations to buy votes in the U.N.

President Trump has fundamentally realigned American policy: America will regain control of its technological and productive capacity again. America will control its destiny and security again.

2018 is the year President Trump’s tax and trade policies will work synergistically to make the United States the best place on earth to live, work, invest, and do business.

And Make America Great Again.

Curtis Ellis is the founder and chairman emeritus of the American Jobs Alliance, an economic nationalist trade non-profit. He and his organization were instrumental in building public awareness about the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” that lead to that trade deal’s defeat. He served as senior policy adviser on the Donald J. Trump for President campaign and Presidential Transition Team. You can find his work at

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Nuclear annihilation just one miscalculation away, UN chief warns

The world is one misstep from devastating nuclear war and in peril not seen since the Cold War, the UN Secretary General has warned.

“We have been extraordinarily lucky so far,” Antonio Guterres said.

Amid rising global tensions, “humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation”, he added.

His remarks came at the opening of a conference for countries signed up to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The 1968 deal was introduced after the Cuban missile crisis, an event often portrayed as the closest the world ever came to nuclear war. The treaty was designed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons to more countries, and to pursue the ultimate goal of complete nuclear disarmament.

Almost every nation on Earth is signed up to the NPT, including the five biggest nuclear powers. But among the handful of states never to sign are four known or suspected to have nuclear weapons: India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan.

Secretary General Guterres said the “luck” the world had enjoyed so far in avoiding a nuclear catastrophe may not last – and urged the world to renew a push towards eliminating all such weapons.

“Luck is not a strategy. Nor is it a shield from geopolitical tensions boiling over into nuclear conflict,” he said.

And he warned that those international tensions were “reaching new highs” – pointing specifically to the invasion of Ukraine, tensions on the Korean peninsula and in the Middle East as examples.

Russia was widely accused of escalating tensions when days after his invasion of Ukraine in February, President Vladimir Putin put Russia’s substantial nuclear forces on high alert.

He also threatened anyone standing in Russia’s way with consequences “you have never seen in your history”. Russia’s nuclear strategy includes the use of nuclear weapons if the state’s existence is under threat.

On Monday, Mr Putin wrote to the same non-proliferation conference Mr Guterres opened, declaring that “there can be no winners in a nuclear war and it should never be unleashed”.

But Russia still found itself criticised at the NPT conference.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned what he called Russia’s sabre-rattling – and pointed out that Ukraine had handed over its Soviet-era nuclear weapons in 1994, after receiving assurances of its future security from Russia and others.

“What message does this send to any country around the world that may think that it needs to have nuclear weapons – to protect, to defend, to deter aggression against its sovereignty and independence?” he asked. “The worst possible message”.

Today, some 13,000 nuclear weapons are thought to remain in service in the arsenals of the nine nuclear-armed states – far lower than the estimated 60,000 stockpiled during the peak of the mid-1980s.


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Australia election: Why is Australia’s parliament so white?

Australia is one of the most multicultural nations in the world, but it’s a different story in the country’s politics, where 96% of federal lawmakers are white.

With this year’s election, political parties did have a window to slightly improve this. But they chose not to in most cases, critics say.

Tu Le grew up the child of Vietnamese refugees in Fowler, a south-west Sydney electorate far from the city’s beaches, and one of the poorest urban areas in the country.

The 30-year-old works as a community lawyer for refugees and migrants newly arrived to the area.

Last year, she was pre-selected by the Labor Party to run in the nation’s most multicultural seat. But then party bosses side-lined her for a white woman.

It would take Kristina Kenneally four hours on public transport – ferry, train, bus, and another bus – to get to Fowler from her home in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, where she lived on an island.

Furious locals questioned what ties she had to the area, but as one of Labor’s most prominent politicians, she was granted the traditionally Labor-voting seat.

Ms Le only learned she’d been replaced on the night newspapers went to print with the story.

“I was conveniently left off the invitation to the party meeting the next day,” she told the BBC.

Despite backlash – including a Facebook group where locals campaigned to stop Ms Kenneally’s appointment – Labor pushed through the deal.

“If this scenario had played out in Britain or the United States, it would not be acceptable,” says Dr Tim Soutphomassane, director of the Sydney Policy Lab and Australia’s former Race Discrimination Commissioner.

“But in Australia, there is a sense that you can still maintain the status quo with very limited social and political consequences.”

An insiders’ game

At least one in five Australians have a non-European background and speak a language at home other than English, according to the last census in 2016.

Some 49% of the population was born or has a parent who was born overseas. In the past 20 years, migrants from Australia’s Asian neighbours have eclipsed those from the UK.

But the parliament looks almost as white as it did in the days of the “White Australia” policy – when from 1901 to the 1970s, the nation banned non-white immigrants.

“We simply do not see our multicultural character represented in anything remotely close to proportionate form in our political institutions,” says Dr Soutphomassane.

Compared to other Western multicultural democracies, Australia also lags far behind.

The numbers below include Indigenous Australians, who did not gain suffrage until the 1960s, and only saw their first lower house MP elected in 2010. Non-white candidates often acknowledge that any progress was first made by Aboriginal Australians.

Two decades ago, Australia and the UK had comparably low representation. But UK political parties – responding to campaigns from diverse members – pledged to act on the problem.

“The British Conservative Party is currently light years ahead of either of the major Australian political parties when it comes to race and representation,” says Dr Soutphomassane.

So why hasn’t Australia changed?

Observers say Australia’s political system is more closed-door than other democracies. Nearly all candidates chosen by the major parties tend to be members who’ve risen through the ranks. Often they’ve worked as staffers to existing MPs.

Ms Le said she’d have no way into the political class if she hadn’t been sponsored by Fowler’s retiring MP – a white, older male.

Labor has taken small structural steps recently – passing commitments in a state caucus last year, and selecting two Chinese-Australian candidates for winnable seats in Sydney.

But it was “one step forward and two steps back”, says party member and activist Osmond Chiu, when just weeks after the backlash to Ms Le’s case, Labor “parachuted in” another white candidate to a multicultural heartland.

Andrew Charlton, a former adviser to ex-PM Kevin Rudd, lived in a harbour mansion in Sydney’s east where he ran a consultancy.

His selection scuppered the anticipated races of at least three diverse candidates from the area which has large Indian and Chinese diasporas.

Party seniors argued that Ms Kenneally and Mr Charlton – as popular and respected party figures – would be able to promote their electorates’ concerns better than newcomers.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese also hailed Ms Kenneally as a “great Australian success story” as a migrant from the US herself.

But Mr Chiu says: “A lot of the frustration that people expressed wasn’t about these specific individuals.

“It was about the fact that these were two of the most multicultural seats in Australia and these opportunities – which come by so rarely – to select culturally diverse candidates were squandered.”

He adds this has long-term effects because the average MP stays in office for about 10 years.

The frustration on this issue has centred on Labor – because the centre-left party calls itself the “party of multiculturalism”.

But the Liberal-National government doesn’t even have diversity as a platform issue.

One of its MPs up for re-election recently appeared to confuse her Labor rival for Tu Le, sparking accusations that she’d mixed up the two Asian-Australian women – something she later denied. But as one opponent said: “How is this still happening in 2022?”

Some experts like Dr Soutphommasane have concluded that Australia’s complacency on areas like representation stems from how the nation embraced multiculturalism as official policy after its White Australia days.

The government of the 1970s, somewhat embarrassed by the past policy, passed racial discrimination laws and “a seat at the table” was granted to migrants and Indigenous Australians.

But critics say this has led to an Australia where multiculturalism is celebrated but racial inequality is not interrogated.

“Multiculturalism is almost apolitical in how it’s viewed in Australia,” Dr Soutphommasane says, in contrast to the “fight” for rights that other Western countries have seen from minority groups.

What is the impact?

A lack of representation in parliament can also lead to failures in policy.

During Sydney’s Covid outbreak in August 2021, Fowler and Parramatta electorates – where most of the city’s multicultural communities reside – were subject to harsher lockdowns as a result of a higher number of cases.

How will things change?

Liberal MP Dave Sharma, the only lawmaker of Indian heritage, has said all parties – including his own – should better recruit people with different backgrounds. He called it a “pretty laissez-faire attitude” currently.

Mr Albanese has urged Ms Le to “hang in there”, insisting she has a future.

But more people like Ms Le are choosing to speak out.

“I think I surprised a lot of people by not staying quiet,” she told the BBC.

“People acted like it was the end of my political career that I didn’t toe the party line. But… none of that means anything to me if it means I’m sacrificing my own values.”

She and other second-generation Australians – raised in a country which prides itself on “a fair go” – are agitating for the rights and access their migrant parents may not have felt entitled to.

“Many of those from diverse backgrounds were saying they felt like they didn’t have a voice – and that my case was a clear demonstration of their suppression, and their wider participation in our political system.”

She and others have noted the “growing distrust” in the major parties. Polls are predicting record voter support for independent candidates.

“This issue…. matters for everyone in Australian society that cares about democracy,” says Mr Soutphommasane.

“If democratic institutions are not representative, their legitimacy will suffer.

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US military leader warns Chinese security deal with Solomon Islands sounds ‘too good to be true’

A senior US military general has warned during a visit to Australia that China’s offer to deepen security ties with Solomon Islands will come with strings attached, suggesting the Pacific island country may come to regret the planned deal.

“My parents told me if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” the commandant of the United States Marine Corps, general David Berger, said on Wednesday.

Berger was cautious when asked about longstanding US concerns relating to a Chinese company’s lease over the port of Darwin, stressing it was a sovereign decision for Australia as part of its yet-to-be-completed national security review.

Ahead of a trip to Darwin, the site of increasing rotations of US Marines, Berger said: “If it’s not of concern to Australia, then it’s not of concern to me.”

Berger’s visit comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity by the US and Australia attempting to head off a proposed security agreement between China and Solomon Islands, which could allow regular visits by the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

A leaked draft from last month raised the possibility China could “make ship visits to, carry out logistical replenishment in, and have stopover and transition in Solomon Islands”, while Chinese forces could also be used “to protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in Solomon Islands”.

The prime minister of Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, has sought to allay concerns, saying his country has no intention of allowing a Chinese naval base. But Sogavare has also said it is “very insulting to be branded as unfit to manage our sovereign affairs”.

Speaking in Canberra on Wednesday, Berger said the US needed to show humility in its outreach to Pacific nations, but also needed to be open about the potential long-term consequences.

Berger reflected on the fight for control of Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands during the second world war, when the US and allies sought to prevent Japanese forces from gaining a foothold in the strategically important location.

“A lot of things change in warfare. Not geography. Where … Solomon Islands are matters. It did then and it does now,” Berger said at the Australian Strategic Policy


He said the proposed agreement was “just another example” of China seeking to broaden and expand its influence. He raised concerns about “the way that [it] happens and the consequences for the nations” involved.

Sogavare has argued Solomon Islands pursues a “friends to all and enemies to none” foreign policy, but Berger implied countries making agreements with Beijing might regret it down the track.

“We should illuminate, we should draw out into the open what this means long term,” Berger said.

“This is, in other words, an extension of ‘hey we’re here with a cheque, we’re here with money, we’d like to improve your port or your airfield or your bus station’. And that just sounds so great, until a year later or six months later.”

The US plans to reopen its embassy in Solomon Islands, a move the nominee for US ambassador to Australia, Caroline Kennedy, has said “can’t come soon enough”.

Berger acknowledged there were limits to US insights in Pacific island countries, so the US needed to rely on allies such as Australia.

“We’re not going to have always the best view, the clearest picture,” he said.

“We have to understand the neighbourhood and we’re never going to understand it as well as Australia.”

Earlier, the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, denied that the US had conveyed any concerns that Australia had dropped the ball in the region.

Morrison said the Australian government was continuing to raise concerns with Solomon Islands without acting in a “heavy-handed” way.

Australia’s minister for the Pacific, Zed Seselja, met with Sogavare in Honiara on Wednesday and “asked Solomon Islands respectfully to consider not signing the agreement” with China.

Seselja suggested Solomon Islands “consult the Pacific family in the spirit of regional openness and transparency”. Australia would work with Solomon Islands “swiftly, transparently and with full respect for its sovereignty”.

“We welcome recent statements from prime minister Sogavare that Australia remains Solomon Islands’ security partner of choice, and his commitment that Solomon Islands will never be used for military bases or other military institutions of foreign powers,” Seselja said.

Sogavare has previously said Solomon Islands welcomed “any country that is willing to support us in our security space”.

But Matthew Wale, the leader of the opposition, has argued the deal “would make the Solomons a geopolitical playing field” and “further threaten the nation’s fragile unity”.


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