Time is slipping away to avoid a full-blown trade war.
U.S. President Donald Trump heads to Quebec this week for a Group of Seven summit, where he’ll meet the leaders of five allies — Canada, France, the U.K., Italy and Germany — that lost an exemption on steel and aluminum levies. Japan never got one to begin with.
Canada, Mexico and the European Union have threatened retaliatory tariffs on at least $16 billion worth of American goods, from cheese to refrigerators to Harley Davidson Inc. motorcycles. Trump’s proposed 25 percent levy on auto imports could escalate things further.
Then there’s China. Weekend talks in Beijing with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross did nothing to stave off Trump’s threat of tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods. China warned all bets were off if the duties take effect.
Trump’s actions are pushing the EU closer to China and could undermine the entire global trading system. The EU is also wary of China not matching words with action on trade itself, and European leaders still hope Trump will change his mind before the duties take effect in the coming weeks.
That looks unlikely. In a weekend Tweetstorm, Trump declared: “The U.S. has been ripped off by other countries for years on Trade, time to get smart!”
Presidential power | An argument by Trump’s lawyers that he enjoys almost unfettered legal powers may spark a Supreme Court battle over how much a president is above the law. A confidential memo leaked to the New York Times over the weekend and written in January to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who’s investigating alleged meddling by Russia in the U.S. election, says the president’s “inherent constitutional powers” mean he can’t, under law, be found to obstruct justice and has unlimited authority to pardon.
Chill over Hong Kong vigil | For almost three decades, tens of thousands of Hong Kong democracy advocates have marked the June 4 anniversary of the Beijing Tiananmen Square crackdown by calling for an “end to one-party dictatorship” in China. This year, they face new risk in doing so after some pro-Beijing officials suggested that those who utter the phrase should be barred from running for office.
Pyrrhic victory | Nationalist former Prime Minister Janez Jansa won elections in Slovenia yesterday, yet rivals united against his anti-refugee rhetoric vowed to block him from power. His rejection by other political parties may preserve the middle-of-the-road politics the Adriatic nation has pursued since it joined the euro in 2007. It also signals populists can be contained in a neighborhood where euroskeptics have won elections on anti-immigrant platform.
What to watch
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits three European capitals for talks expected to focus on the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and the Islamic Republic’s presence in Syria.
- Three days after being sworn in, Italy’s populist government is preparing for a final hurdle before it sets about trying to overhaul EU rules and the established order: a confidence vote in both houses of parliament.
Unlocking North Korea’s economy | The planned summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un on June 12 is sharpening focus on the dividends should North Korea — one of the world’s poorest nations — become plugged into one of the globe’s most dynamic economic regions. Jiyeun Lee examines scenarios, with three maps.
And finally ... If you’re venue-hunting for a historic meeting between a real estate tycoon-turned-president and the leader of a rogue state, Singapore’s Sentosa Island has a few compelling attributes: sea views, a posh golf course and a history of harboring pirates. While Trump and Kim haven’t yet announced exactly where they’ll meet, speculation has centered on the island’s Norman Foster-designed Capella hotel, where advance teams from both sides have hunkered down in recent days.
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