Backlash grows over US import tariffs; Murdoch's $15bn Sky deal blocked

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Curated top stories

  • U.S. solar panel tariffs prompt backlash – China and South Korea issued sharp rebukes on January 23 in response to U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s move to raise tariffs on American imports of solar panels and washing machines (CNN). China’s Commerce Ministry said the decision “aggravates the global trade environment,” while South Korea’s trade minister said the country will file a complaint with the World Trade Organization. The tariffs, announced January 22, are the Trump administration’s first significant trade action, and seem to fit within the “America First” platform on which the president campaigned for office. However, solar industry groups in the United States, as well as South Korean companies LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics, criticized Trump’s decision, saying it would lead to higher costs, stalled investments, and the loss of tens of thousands of U.S.-based jobs (FT). China dominates the world’s solar-electric power industry, according to Scientific American.
  • Trump and Erdogan scheduled to speak after Turkish offensive – The two world leaders will discuss the future of Turkey in Northern Syria, after the Turkish military launched an air and ground campaign that they claim has killed at least 260 militants belonging to Kurdish groups and the Islamic State. Turkey has entered Syrian borders in order to beat back U.S.-backed Kurdish forces which they consider to be terrorists.
    • The Syrian refugee crisis also appears to be a reason behind the offensive. Reuters reported a Turkish official saying that the campaign would end once Syrian refugees living in Turkey could safely return home. (Read more about Erdogan’s war against Syrian Kurds here).
  • First member of Trump’s cabinet is interviewed in FBI probe – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interviewed by FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller over allegations of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, and possible collusion between the Trump administration and the Kremlin. As the ultimate legal authority in the country, Sessions recused himself from the investigation after it was learned that he met with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the election, and then failed to disclose the meeting when testifying in the Senate.
  • U.S. Congress ends government shutdown The U.S. government will reopen on Tuesday, ending a three-day standoff that put much of the federal government out of service. Congress approved the latest short-term funding bill as Democrats accepted an offer of a future discussion on young illegal immigrants known as Dreamers. While federal workers will soon be back in the office, the budget and immigration issues will have to be revisited in February. “I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses,” President Trump said in a statement, adding that a long-term deal on immigration would be reached “only if it’s good for the country.” (Read the WikiTribune story US senate votes to reopen government for two weeks.)
  • UK regulator blocks Murdoch’s $15 billion takeover of Sky – Britain’s competition regulator told 86-year-old billionaire Rupert Murdoch that his $15 billion (£11.7 billion) takeover of pan-European broadcaster, Sky, would not be in the public interest. The Competition and Markets Authority said it would block the deal unless Murdoch can be prohibited from influencing the network’s news output, because the deal would give the Murdoch family “too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda.” The tycoon’s 21st Century Fox agreed to buy the 61 percent of Sky it did not already own, restarting a debate about Murdoch’s influence in Britain. This may all be academic – a $66 billion Disney deal to buy 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets could well make the government rethink its position (Financial Times).
  • New trans-Pacific trade pact signed in March – Eleven countries hoping to create a new Asia-Pacific trade pact will hold a signing ceremony in Chile in March. The new pact will come after the United States dropped out of an earlier version of the trade agreement, originally called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, last year. The new deal is known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP-11. It includes: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

What we’re reading

  • Nicknamed “Game of Thobes” for the flowing white robes worn by Arab men, the ongoing crisis between the Gulf states, in which Qatar is increasingly isolated, is nowhere near ending. Game of Thobes is “a twisting tale of cyber espionage, propaganda salvos, palace intrigue and high-stakes desert.” Qatar is a tiny country with strong influence and even stronger ambitions, led by an emir who refuses to submit to his former allies. This New York Times piece examines how this gas-rich state got here as it’s thrust into the fight of its life. – Linh Nguyen

What the WikiTribune community is up to

  • The government of Kazakhstan is debating limits on religious activities and organizations in a bid to combat a rise in extremism. In 2017, the country announced work on a bill to introduce amendments to a number of laws following concerns over an attack by a gunman who killed three policemen and a member of the public. Community member Boiko Hristov wrote this story.
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