Remembering Kofi Annan: A smooth negotiator

Kofi Annan has died at the age of 80. For 10 years, he was at the forefront of world politics. He continued to work as an ambassador for peace even after leaving his post as secretary-general of the United Nations.

Kofi Annan addresses a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva

Kofi Annan — a small man with a grey goatee, smiling from behind his desk in New York — once recalled that his first day as United Nation’s secretary-general was like his first day at school.

He was born into a prominent family in 1938 in Kumasi, the second biggest city in Ghana. His father was governor of Ashanti province under British colonial rule. Annan attended top schools in Ghana, Switzerland and later in the US.

Picture-perfect UN career

Annan joined the UN at the age of 24, first working as an administrator at the World Health Organization and then becoming head of personnel for the UN mission in Cairo, deputy director of the UNHCR in Geneva and eventually deputy UN secretary-general. In 1993, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali nominated him under-secretary-general for peacekeeping, putting him in charge of 75,000 peacekeepers around the world.

As the head of UN peacekeeping troops, Annan experienced the first real dent in his career in 1994 when radical Hutu militias killed over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in what later became known as the Rwandan genocide. Annan was accused of failing to provide adequate support in the east African country despite the prior warnings of a violent escalation by Romeo Dallaire, the head of the UN peacekeepers in Rwanda. His reluctance was partly due to the fact that the US and Europe seemed to have little interest in getting more involved in Rwanda.

Annan expressed regret on behalf of the UN 10 years later: “The international community failed Rwanda, and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret and abiding sorrow.”

Untiring peace negotiator

The Rwandan genocide didn’t put an end to Kofi Annan’s upward movement in the UN. He was elected secretary-general in December 1997, after some pressure from the US, and thus became the first person from sub-Saharan Africa to occupy the post.

Read more: Choosing the next UN chief is ‘intensely political’

In his opening speech, he made it clear that he not only wanted to carry out administrative tasks at the head of the UN but also wanted to shape global politics. His agenda included the fight against global poverty, global warming, and AIDS, and the resolution of political crises. Later, he described the signing of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 as a highlight of his period in office. He also acted as a negotiator in the Cyprus conflict and with Iran over its nuclear program. Annan was also an outspoken critic of the attacks by the Sudanese Janjaweed militia in the Darfur region.

In 2001, the Norwegian Nobel Committee recognized Annan’s contributions, awarding both him and the UN with the Nobel Peace Prize. The chairman of the Oslo-based panel, Gunnar Berge, told DW in an interview that Kofi Annan was “an excellent representative of the United Nations and probably the most effective secretary-general in its history.”

Once again, the modesty for which Annan was so respected shone through in his acceptance speech: “This award belongs not just to me. I do not stand here alone. On behalf of my colleagues in every part of the United Nations, in every corner of the globe, who have devoted their lives — and in many instances risked or given their lives in the cause of peace — I thank the Members of the Nobel Prize Committee for this high honor.”

Failed reformer

Despite this public appreciation, Kofi Annan began to lose support from the members of the United Nations. Over his tenure as secretary-general, he tried in vain to reform the body, telling the General Assembly, “We must also adapt international institutions, through which states govern together, to the realities of the new era. We must form coalitions for change, often with partners well beyond the precincts of officialdom.” In the end, a plan to give other countries, especially those in Africa, Asia and South America, seats on the Security Council failed largely because of resistance from the US and the body’s other permanent members.

A man holds a banner against Annan (Reuters/W. Lone)Annan has been a controversial leader. His leadership of a 2017 commission examining Rohingya violence raised criticism.

Annan also came under pressure for his stance against the US invasion of Iraq under President George W. Bush in 2003, which he said violated the UN’s Charter. He tried to prevent military intervention with a round of negotiations.

In 2004, the UN secretary-general faced calls to resign over an embezzlement scandal concerning the UN’s Oil-for-Food program. There were revelations that Kofi Annan’s son Kojo had accepted payments from a Swiss company that the UN had commissioned to monitor goods supplies as part of the program. An investigative committee absolved Kofi Annan in 2005, stating that he was neither in control of his family nor of the UN.

Special representative in Syrian war

Annan stepped down as UN secretary-general in 2006 at the end of his second period in office. He did not retire entirely from the public eye, however, and went on to publish his memoirs and work for various NGOs, including his own Kofi Annan Foundation for the promotion of global governance.

Annan speaks against the backdrop the WEF logo (REUTERS)Annan visited the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2011

He also acted as a negotiator between the government and the opposition in Kenya after post-election violence broke out at the end of 2007. In February 2012, he was named special representative in the Syrian civil war. He stepped down six months later after several failed attempts to negotiate a ceasefire.

Later, as violence against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine state grew in 2017, Annan headed an expert commission that looked into how the conflict could be resolved.

Kofi Annan is survived by his second wife, Nane Lagergren, with whom he lived in Geneva, and a son and daughter from his first marriage.

Watch video02:49

DW correspondent Dagmar Wittek on the death of Kofi Annan


UN human rights chief says Security Council members risk UN’s survival

The outgoing UN human rights chief has said the five permanent members wield too much power as they can veto resolutions even in cases of alleged injustices. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has been outspoken during his term.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein (L) speaks during a press conference.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the outgoing UN human rights chief, warned on Monday that the world body could “collapse” if the imbalance caused by the excessive powers wielded by the Security Council’s five permanent members is not changed.

“There’s a feeling within the UN that there is a sort of pentarchy – the P5 (permanent members) running too much of the business at the expense of the organization itself,” Zeid said in reference to the US, Russia, China, France and the UK.

Zeid was alluding to the countries’ ability to veto resolutions in cases like alleged injustices in Syria’s war or by Israeli forces against Palestinians.

“When they cooperate things can move, when they don’t, everything becomes stuck and the organization in general becomes so marginal to the resolution of these sorts of horrific conflicts that we’ve seen,” he said. “And I think that has to change. In the end the organization can collapse at great cost to the international community.”

Outspoken critic

Zeid has been an outspoken critic of leaders across the world, including US President Donald Trump.

Washington, on the other hand, has been critical of Zeid for unfairly targeting the Israeli government.

“There is a sense that the permanent five have created a logjam by dint of their proclivity to use the veto, and the paralysis — less so the UK and France — but of course, the US, Russia and China quite frequently,” Zeid said on Monday in a discussion with journalists in his office.

Zeid told reporters earlier this month that he did not seek a new four-year term as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights because he did not believe the US, China, and Russia would support him.

Zeid, whose term ends on August 31, will be succeeded by former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

ap/jm (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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Kofi Annan, Former United Nations Secretary-General, Dies at 80

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning diplomat reshaped the organization as a champion of human rights

Mr. Annan before a meeting at his office at the United Nations offices in Geneva.

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the first black African to lead the U.N., died Saturday at age 80.

Alongside Liberian politician Ellen Johnson, left, and Algeria’s Lakhdar Brahimi, Mr. Annan attends the Elders walk in Johannesburg to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s 100th Anniversary on July 18.

Mr. Annan, who was a Nobel Peace Prize-winning diplomat, speaks at the White House after meeting President Bill Clinton in January 1997.

Mr. Annan with Former French President Jacques Chirac in Paris in 2008.

Mr. Annan consoles family members of victims of a massacre by pro-Indonesia militia in Liquica, East Timor, in 2000.

Mr. Annan with rock star and "Make Poverty History" organizer Bob Geldof, center, and U2 lead singer Bono for a session of the G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005.

Mr. Annan as U.N.-Arab League mediator listening to a reporter's question during a news conference in Geneva in August 2012.

Mr. Annan, inspects an army base south of Stockholm with Swedish Defense Minister Bjoern von Sydow in 1997.

In 1997, Opera great Luciano Pavarotti pays a courtesy visit to Mr. Annan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Mr. Annan and other members of the Elders group at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow in 2015.
Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the first black African to lead the U.N., died Saturday at age 80.
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Kofi Annan, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning diplomat who rose through the ranks of the United Nations to become its first black African secretary-general and reshape the organization as a proponent of human rights, died Saturday at the age of 80.

Mr. Annan’s family confirmed his death from a short, unspecified illness, in a statement from his foundation.

Known for his cool manner, noble posture and charismatic personality, Mr. Annan served as the U.N.’s leader for two five-year terms, from January 1997 to December 2006. He campaigned to protect people everywhere from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, though his tenure was also clouded by allegations of corruption and bribery within the organization.

Kofi Annan


It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness…

From 1993 to 1997, Mr. Annan served as the head of the U.N.’s peacekeeping operations, a period that saw the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, during which about 800,000 people were killed, and the massacre of around 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serbs in Srebrenica in 1995. Mr. Annan later said he should, and could, have done more to raise the alarm and galvanize support from member nations. That regret led him to focus acutely on the plight of marginalized people around the world.

He had a keen influence on many of the crises of recent decades, from the HIV/AIDS pandemic to the Iraq War and had a strong hand in making the world’s tragedies the responsibility of the organization.

Mr. Annan overhauled and revitalized the U.N., creating an organization much more deeply involved in peacekeeping efforts and alleviating poverty around the globe. An ardent human rights advocate, he championed development in the developing world and especially his home continent of Africa. Mr. Annan established the U.N.’s Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council.

“Kofi Annan was a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world,” the Kofi Annan Foundation said in a statement.

“It is with profound sadness that I learned of his passing,” said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement. “In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organization into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.”

Kofi Atta Annan was born along with his twin sister Efua Atta, in Kumasi, a city in southern Ghana, on April 8, 1938.

He earned a degree in economics from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., in 1961, joining the U.N. the following year as an administrative and budget officer at World Health Organization in Geneva. A decade later, he graduated with a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.

In 1965, Mr. Annan married Titi Alakija, with whom he had two children. They divorced in 1983, and a year later he remarried, to Swedish lawyer Nane Marie Lagergren, who had a daughter from a previous marriage.

He served as the Economic Commissioner for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, and various roles in New York before being appointed as the U.N.’s seventh secretary-general in 1997.

In 1998, Mr. Annan negotiated directly with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad over U.N. weapons inspections. Though the diplomatic mission was successful, he faced backlash for shaking hands and smoking cigars with Mr. Hussein.

Mr. Annan again became embroiled in scandal in 2004, when his son, Kojo Annan, was implicated in a scandal surrounding a U.N. humanitarian program in Iraq, known as “oil for food.” The program, which allowed Iraq to sell oil on the world market in exchange for food, medicine, and other humanitarian items, was exploited by Mr. Hussein, due to lax oversight at the U.N. headquarters.

A commission eventually exonerated Mr. Annan, but found that he hadn’t done enough to investigate once he was made aware of the situation.

Mr. Annan and the U.N. were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for revitalizing the organization and prioritizing human rights.

He is survived by a wife and three children.

Write to Alexandra Wexler at


No Ronaldo? No Messi? No problem: Nine names to know for the rest of the World Cup.

June 30 at 8:58 PM

Kylian Mbappe of France celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal against Argentina on Saturday. He had two in the win. (Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The two international stars everyone loves, or hates, have been booted from the World Cup. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal side and Lionel Messi’s Argentina squad lost in the round of 16 on Saturday after barely clawing their way into the knockout round to begin with.

It took Messi’s first and only goal of the tournament to get Argentina through Group D and Ronaldo’s hat trick against Spain to earn a draw, a point that was crucial to helping Portugal move on from Group B.

But even though both teams have been undone, fear not. There are plenty of international stars left in the field. Here are nine you should know so you can stay on top of things no matter what match you’re watching.

Kylian Mbappe, forward, France

Mbappe, 19, has been a star prospect for a long time, but he announced himself Saturday against Argentina with a glittering two-goal performance. His speed is genuinely uncommon, and his ball control while moving at such a pace makes him nearly impossible to defend. And when he has the time and space to put some extra oomph into a shot, it’s probably going to find the back of the net.

FOX Sports



The teenager gets it done (again) to extend the lead for Les Bleus, 4-2.

Harry Kane, striker, England

Every World Cup cycle, England always seems to have “the guy.” It was David Beckham, then Wayne Rooney. Now it’s Kane, a pure scorer who also wears the captain’s armband. He scored both of England’s goals in a 2-1 win against Tunisia, then followed it up with a hat trick against Panama.

Romelu Lukaku, striker, Belgium

If you’re not a soccer fan, imagine Lukaku as a LeBron James-type figure. He’s bigger, faster and stronger than almost everyone else on the pitch. He can score from pretty much anywhere. Pairing him with Eden Hazard, Belgium might have the most lethal set of attackers in the tournament.


You know what they say about lightning ⚡️⚡️
Lukaku is FEELING IT and puts in firm control of the match.

Edinson Cavani, striker, Uruguay

Cavani is another one of those players who announced himself with a huge Saturday. He scored both of La Celeste’s goals against Portugal to knock Ronaldo out of the field. Uruguay loves to put the ball on Cavani’s foot, not only because he’s a dangerous scorer, but because he is an elite passer who has strong chemistry with fellow striker Luis Suarez. In short, when he has the ball, anything can happen.

But Cavani’s status for Uruguay’s quarterfinal match against France is uncertain. He came off with an injury soon after scoring this goal against Portugal.

FOX Soccer



Cavani one-times a curler into the back of the net to re-take the lead for Uruguay.

Luka Modric, midfielder, Croatia

Modric’s world-class play on the ball is what made Croatia so dominant in group play and helped his club team, Real Madrid, to consecutive UEFA Champions League titles. Here’s another basketball comparison if you don’t know much about Modric: Chris Paul. Croatia uses him as a point man to help get things organized and then funnel the ball forward. Without Modric at his best, Croatia struggles to control the tempo. But at his utmost, teammate Ivan Rakitic said it’s like Modric is from a “different planet.”

Chucky Lozano, forward, Mexico

El Tri has found its next young star in Lozano, 22, a do-it-all forward who fits right in as part of the lineup’s mix of youth and veterans. He’s just as strong of a passer as he is a scorer. With his Dutch club last season, he completed 2.7 crosses per 90 minutes, second best in the league. He also had 17 goals in club play and 56 percent of his shots were on goal, second best among the league’s top 10 scorers.

Christian Eriksen, midfielder, Denmark

Eriksen is a goal-scoring machine just waiting for the right moment. In the group stage, he scored one goal and had one assist. But in World Cup qualifiers, he had 11 goals in 12 games with three assists. If he gets hot, look out. Denmark will need every bit of his scoring touch to fend off Croatia on Sunday.

FOX Soccer


The pass: 👌
The goal: 😍
The knee slide: …

Denis Cheryshev, forward, Russia

Cheryshev is key to any Russian plan to get past Spain on Sunday. Spain’s tactics are possession-oriented. It loves to dominate control of the ball and patiently wait for seams to open. But that’s harder to do when playing from behind, and Cheryshev represents Russia’s best chance of getting on the board early. He’s a physical attacker and a dynamic finisher around the net. For proof, look no further than his three goals in three games in the group stage.

Granit Xhaka, midfielder, Switzerland

The big name for Switzerland is Xherdan Shaqiri, but don’t forget about Xhaka, the feisty midfielder whose scoring elevates the Swiss from a European also-ran to a world heavyweight. Switzerland will use Xhaka to funnel the ball forward to attackers, but then it expects him to get in on the play and look for his own shots. This laser beam from just outside the 18-yard box against Serbia was key to helping Switzerland advance to the round of 16.

FOX Soccer



Read more on the World Cup:

Exit Lionel Messi, enter Kylian Mbappe as France powers ahead in World Cup

World Cup knockout bracket, results and schedule

Sweden is the World Cup underdog to hitch your bandwagon to

Ranking the eliminated World Cup teams by sympathy factor

A huge stretch of the Arctic Ocean is rapidly turning into the Atlantic. That’s not a good sign

The northern Barents Sea shifts over to an Atlantic climate and becomes sea-ice free. (Sigrid Lind)

Scientists studying one of the fastest-warming regions of the global ocean say changes in this region are so sudden and vast that in effect, it will soon be another limb of the Atlantic Ocean, rather than a characteristically icy Arctic sea.

The northern Barents Sea, to the north of Scandinavia and east of the remote archipelago of Svalbard, has warmed extremely rapidly — by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit just since the year 2000 — standing out even in the fastest-warming part of the globe, the Arctic.

“We call it the Arctic warming hot spot,” said Sigrid Lind, a researcher at the Institute of Marine Research in Tromso, Norway.

Now Lind and her colleagues have shown, based on temperature and salinity measurements taken on summer research cruises, that this warming is being accompanied by a stark change of character, as the Atlantic is in effect taking over the region and converting it into a very different entity.

Their results were published this week in Nature Climate Change by Lind and two colleagues at Norway’s Institute of Marine Research and University of Bergen. They underscore that the divide between the Atlantic and the Arctic isn’t just a geographical one — it’s physical in nature.

While the Southern Barents is milder, the northern Barents has — until recently — had all the characteristics of an Arctic sea. It featured floating sea ice that, when it melted, helped to provide an icy, freshwater cap atop the ocean. This kept internal heat from escaping to the atmosphere, and also kept the ocean “stratified” — cold, fresher waters in the upper part of the ocean and warmer, Atlantic-originating waters down below.

This situation, which occurs in much of the Arctic, was reinforced by the fact that freshwater is less dense than salt water, preserving stratification.

But that’s changing. Less sea ice is floating down through the northern Barents Sea from higher Arctic latitudes, the research shows.

Indeed, the lack of sea ice in the northern Barents Sea has been a regular feature of charts lately; at this very moment, an enormous stretch of ocean in this area that has traditionally been ice covered is currently open.

Sea-ice concentrations, as of June 24, 2018, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

As the ice recedes, the ocean surface in turn receives less fresh water from its melting.

As that happens, the deeper Atlantic waters mix higher and higher toward the surface, not only warming the seas but also making them more salty. The result, the study says, has been a “dramatic shift in the water column structure in recent years.” Arctic surface waters, with a temperature below freezing, are “now almost entirely gone.”

“This region is shifting to the Atlantic climate, and it’s going fast,” Lind said.

The precipitating event for these changes, the new study finds, is that floating ice is no longer being supplied as regularly to the Barents Sea region from higher Arctic climes.

Arctic sea ice breaks up and becomes more mobile in the warmer months of the year, but less has been flowing into the Barents Sea and melting, and that in turn has begun to break the hold of stratification on the ocean, as the Barents no longer contains enough freshwater to sustain it.

“Unless the freshwater input should recover, the entire region could soon have a warm and well-mixed water column structure and be part of the Atlantic domain, a historically rare moment where we would witness a large body of water being completely transformed from Arctic to Atlantic type,” the study concludes.

The change could lead to an expansion of the very productive Barents Sea cod fishery northward — but at the same time, that would come at the expense of an Arctic marine ecosystem that would probably have to retreat toward the pole.

It could also have major weather consequences, some scientists believe. Indeed, those may already be occurring.

Jennifer Francis, an Arctic expert at Rutgers University, said ice loss over the Barents Sea and the nearby Kara Sea can disrupt the atmospheric jet stream, in turn leading to extreme weather over Eurasia, especially in winter.

Here’s how it works, according to Francis: The warmer atmosphere above the ice free ocean can strengthen a region of atmospheric high pressure that tends to form around the Ural Mountains, to the south of these bodies of water. That then leads to an elongation of the polar jet stream, which dips farther southward as it gets past the high pressure region and forms a low pressure area.

The result of this elongated jet, Francis wrote, is “persistent cold spells over East Asia and a disrupted stratospheric polar vortex, which effectively prolongs the original influence of the ice loss into late winter. We saw this happen in spades this past winter.”

There could be more of this in the future, because researchers say changes in the northern Barents Sea may have already gone too far to reverse.

“What we show is the sea ice will probably move out of the Barents Sea completely and not come back,” Lind said.

President Trump Struck the First Blow on Trade. The World Is Starting to Hit Back



The world is starting to hit back on Trump tariffs
The world is starting to hit back on Trump tariffs
Yahoo News Video

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(WASHINGTON) — The United States attacked first, imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum from around the globe and threatening to hit tens of billions of dollars in Chinese products.

Now, the world is punching back.

The European Union is set Friday to slap tariffs on $3.4 billion in American products, from whiskey and motorcycles to peanuts and cranberries. India and Turkey have already targeted U.S. products, ranging from rice to autos to sunscreen.

And the highest-stakes fight still looms: In two weeks, the United States is to start taxing $34 billion in Chinese goods. Beijing has vowed to immediately retaliate with its own tariffs on U.S. soybeans and other farm products in a direct shot at President Donald Trump’s supporters in America’s heartland.

The tit-for-tat conflict between the United States and China — the world’s two largest economies — is poised to escalate from there. The rhetoric is already intensifying.

“We oppose the act of extreme pressure and blackmail by swinging the big stick of trade protectionism,” a spokesman for China’s Commerce Ministry said Thursday. “The U.S. is abusing the tariff methods and starting trade wars all around the world.”

Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU’s trade commissioner, acknowledged that the EU had targeted some iconic American imports for tariffs, like Harley-Davidson motorcycles and bourbon, to “make noise” and put pressure on U.S. leaders.

John Murphy, a senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, estimates that $75 billion in U.S. products will be subject to new foreign tariffs by the end of the first week of July.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Mary Lovely, a Syracuse University economist who studies international trade — at least not since countries tried to wall themselves off from foreign competition during the Great Depression.

Those personally in the line of fire are among the most concerned.

“It will be a disaster,” said Nagesh Balusu, manager of the Salt Whisky Bar and Dining Room in London who expects the European Union’s tariffs to add more than $7 to the price of a bottle of Jack Daniels, which is imported from Tennessee. “It’s going to hit customers, that’s for sure. How they’ll take it, we’ll have to wait and see.”

As painful as the brewing trade war could prove, many have seen it coming.

Trump ran for the presidency on a vow to topple seven decades of American policy that had favored ever-freer trade among nations. He charged that a succession of poorly negotiated accords — including the North American Free Trade Agreement and the pact that admitted China into the World Trade Organization — put American manufacturers at an unfair disadvantage and destroyed millions of U.S. factory jobs.

He pledged to impose tariffs on imports from countries that Trump said had exploited the United States. Late last month, Trump proceeded to infuriate U.S. allies — from the EU to Canada and Mexico by imposing tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. The president justified the move by saying imported metals threatened America’s national security — a dubious justification that countries have used rarely because it can be so easily abused.

And he is threatening to impose another national security-based tariff on imports of cars, trucks and auto parts.

Trump has also started a trade fight with China over Beijing’s sharp-elbowed efforts to overtake U.S. technological dominance. China’s tactics range from forcing American companies to hand over technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market to outright cyber-theft.

The White House last week announced plans to slap 25 percent tariffs on 1,100 Chinese goods, worth $50 billion in imports. Trump would start July 6 by taxing $34 billion worth of products and later add tariffs on an additional $16 billion in goods.

The Chinese have said they will respond in kind. Trump said he would then retaliate against any counterpunch from Beijing by targeting an additional $200 billion in Chinese products, and then yet another $200 billion if China refused to back down. All told, the $450 billion in potential tariffs would cover nearly 90 percent of goods China sends to the United States.

The tariffs and threats have begun to take a toll. Steel and aluminum prices, for example, have shot up and supplies have become scarce.

“Steel pricing is usually relatively stable,” said Al Rheinnecker, CEO of American Piping Products in Chesterfield, Missouri, which distributes steel pipe to numerous industries. But “since April, you can quote something on Monday, and if the customer doesn’t buy it right away, you may have to raise the price on Thursday.”

So far, Rheinnecker has managed to pass along the higher costs to his customers. He’s not sure how long that will last.

The Commerce Department is allowing companies to request exemptions from the steel and aluminum tariffs — if they can show that the metals they need aren’t available from Americans producers. The department expected 4,500 requests. But it’s been overwhelmed by more than 20,000. This week, it said it has processed just 98 requests so far, approving 42 and denying 56.

The rising tensions and the chaos surrounding the steel and aluminum tariffs are starting to generate pushback on Capitol Hill. Senators this week grilled Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

“As you consider these tariffs, know that you are taxing American families, you are putting American jobs at risk, and you are destroying markets — both foreign and domestic — for American businesses of all types, sorts and sizes,” said Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Economists and trade analysts worry that there may be no way out of an all-out trade war between the United States and its most vital trading partners.

“The president has been so belligerent that it becomes almost impossible for democratically elected leaders — or even a non-democratic leader like (Chinese president) Xi Jinping — to appear to kowtow and give in,” said Philip Levy, senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a former White House trade adviser. “The president has made it very hard for other countries to give him what he wants.”


Opinion: Time to scrap the G7

The messy quarrel over the G7 communique serves nobody. So why not scrap these summits altogether? After all, the four-decade-old event is an anachronistic format anyway, says Felix Steiner.

2018 G7 summit in Canada (Reuters/L. Millis)

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron should take matters into their own hands and scrap G7 summits. And who could object to that? These annual gatherings, bringing together leaders of the world’s biggest economies, are a Franco-German invention. Germany’s former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing established the summit in the 1970s – so why would their elected successors not be entitled to disband the club?

Posing for the press

Doing away with the huge summit would not be a great loss for humanity. After all, what was originally conceived in 1975 as a gathering for casual and confidential talks on economic matters has transformed into an annual mega event. Today, summits are held in out of the way locations for fear of protesters, while the 1,000 journalists in attendance interpret leaders’ every gesture and facial expression live on the air.

Well aware of this media coverage, leaders pose for the press, doing what they can to impress voters at home. This year’s summit made it abundantly clear just how differently national audiences view what goes on at the summit.

Vaguely worded outcomes

Then there is the tradition of protracted negations over the exact phrasing of the final communique, leading to excessively vague wording–of a document that has no relevance for world affairs, whether or not all the leaders sign it. With the little allotted time, is it even possible to meaningfully debate and agree on how to tackle plastic waste contaminating the oceans, or how to promote women entrepreneurs in the developing world? Two important issues, without doubt. But is the G7 summit the right venue to address them? Maybe the United Nations would be more appropriate?

In 2007, leaders gathered at Heiligendamm to discuss climate change, even though for years the UN has held an annual climate change conference. With all the talk about the climate, everyone was taken by surprise when just eight weeks later the global financial crisis struck – economists would call that ignoring the bottom line.

Despite the label, the summit today does not actually bring together the world’s greatest economies. Instead of Italy and Canada, India and China should be attending the summits. That is why, following the onset of the financial crisis, the G20 was established to allow for economic consultations that include the world’s rapidly growing newly industrialized nations. That would have been the right moment for the G7 to disband. But rather than facing reality, members just kept believing in their own importance. And so, the group was simply redefined as a community bound by shared values. Which is just as ludicrous as calling NATO a community bound by shared values, given that the alliance never objected to Greek and Turkish dictators.

Multilateralism not in the cards anytime soon

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Merkel: Trump’s G7 tweets ‘sobering and depressing’

NATO, just like the G7, is nothing more than a community bound by some – but not all – values. And the US, which is the most powerful member in both clubs, has now opted to alter its trade interests – with backing from American voters. Surveys show US President Donald Trump’s supporters appreciate his uncompromising stance. Meaning that a return to multilateralism is not in the cards any time soon, no matter how hopeful Europeans may be.

With agreements on economic matters now out of the question, the G7 has lost its main reason for existing. All other topics were little more than embellishments, after all. This does not mean trans-Atlantic ties have been severed. A multitude of other summits still exists. But Chancellor Merkel is certainly right that now more than ever, the EU must speak with one voice. It is an appeal Merkel herself will need to heed, as she knows just how much tensions her government’s course is creating within the bloc.


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