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Trump aide Lighthizer to address metals tariffs in Canada trade talks

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Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

As the clock ticks to advance the Trump administration’s North American Free Trade Agreement replacement deal, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, are expected to discuss a process to remove steel and aluminum tariffs that have been in place for close to a year.

Lighthizer is expected to “float a proposal” to remove the tariffs and “chart a path forward” for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, according to a senior administration official. A GOP senator in touch with the White House confirmed the U.S. was looking at removing the tariffs to build support needed to pass the deal.

Three aides say the White House hopes to send paperwork soon to Congress that would line up a vote before a monthlong recess begins in late July. But several lawmakers – including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa – have told the White House it would go nowhere if the U.S. does not limit tariffs.

In a hearing on the budget for the Treasury Department, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., asked Secretary Steven Mnuchin about when the U.S. would remove the tariffs on Canada and Mexico.

“The president has instructed us to try to figure out a solution,” Mnuchin told the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I think we are close to an understanding with Mexico and Canada. I’ve spoken to the finance ministers. Amb. Lighthizer is leading the effort on this, but I can assure you it’s a priority of ours.”

Later, Mnuchin told reporters that the administration is “trying to resolve the tariff issues as part of an agreement with USMCA,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean lifting the tariffs outright.

It’s unclear what the resulting remedy will be – and whether Canada and Mexico would find it politically palatable. A Canadian official would only say that tariffs are expected to be a topic of discussion during Freeland’s Washington meetings. Mexico’s economy minister told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on Tuesday that “we are, I think, close to negotiating the lifting of the tariffs.”

Administration officials have previously suggested that a quota system would replace the tariffs, to the consternation of U.S. companies, who say they would prefer to pay more in tariffs to get a product than to limit the supply altogether. Industry executives have suggested their preferable outcome would be stricter enforcement on so-called transshipments of steel and aluminum – whereby Canada and Mexico become stopovers for oversupply of metals from places like China.

In the six months since the three countries signed the USMCA, the steel and aluminum tariffs have posed the primary obstacle to the deal, which lawmakers must ratify in all three countries. Canada and Mexico have said they will not take up the deal unless the U.S. removes the tariffs – a view echoed by Republican senators without whose votes the deal would die. Grassley has repeatedly demanded the tariffs be rolled back and brought groups of Senate Republican colleagues to the White House to appeal to the president directly.

“The whole message from everybody in the Senate delegation that went there was: We gotta get rid of the tariffs, or nothing’s gonna happen,” Grassley told reporters in late March after several Senate Republicans met with the president on the issue.

Democrats, who control the House, have raised concerns about enforcement, labor and environmental issues. Mexico passed a labor law in late April to mitigate some of the concerns.

— CNBC’s Stephanie Dhue contributed to this report.

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Nearly 200 CEOs say shareholder value is no longer a main objective

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Jamie Dimon, CEO, JP Morgan Chase, speaking at the Business Roundtable CEO Innovation Summit, December 6, 2018.

Janhvi Bhojwani | CNBC

Shareholder value is no longer the main focus of some of America’s top business leaders.

The Business Roundtable, a group of chief executive officers from major U.S. corporations, issued a statement Monday with a new definition of the “purpose of a corporation.”

The reimagined idea of a corporation drops the age-old notion that corporations function first and foremost to serve their shareholders and maximize profits. Rather, investing in employees, delivering value to customers, dealing ethically with suppliers and supporting outside communities are now at the forefront of American business goals, according to the statement.

“While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders,” said the statement signed by 181 CEOs. “We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities and our country.”

The conscience of Wall Street has been at the forefront of American business and politics recently as issues about economic equality and fair business practices dominate the 2020 election stage and the overall news cycle.

The Business Roundtable,  founded in 1972, has put out many statements on the principles of corporate governance since the late 1970s. It said this new definition “supersedes” past statements and outlines a “modern standard for corporate responsibility.”

“The American dream is alive, but fraying,” Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase and chairman of Business Roundtable, said in a press release.

Along with Dimon, the statement received signatures from chiefs including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan, Dennis A. Muilenburg of Boeing and GM’s Mary Barra.

“Major employers are investing in their workers and communities because they know it is the only way to be successful over the long term. These modernized principles reflect the business community’s unwavering commitment to continue to push for an economy that serves all Americans,” said Dimon.

Another one of the signatures is from BlackRock chief Larry Fink, who has previously called on CEOs to reevaluate the purpose of a corporation, specifically the “inextricable link” between purpose and profit.

“Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them,” Fink wrote in his 2019 annual letter to shareholders. “As divisions continue to deepen, companies must demonstrate their commitment to the countries, regions, and communities where they operate, particularly on issues central to the world’s future prosperity.”

Fink said that fundamental economic changes and the failure of the U.S. government to provide lasting solutions has forced society to look to companies for guidance on social and economic issues, such as environmental safety and gender and racial equality.

Here is the full Business Roundtable statement.

Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation

Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity. We believe the free-market system is the best means of generating good jobs, a strong and sustainable economy, innovation, a healthy environment and economic opportunity for all.

Businesses play a vital role in the economy by creating jobs, fostering innovation and providing essential goods and services. Businesses make and sell consumer products; manufacture equipment and vehicles; support the national defense; grow and produce food; provide health care; generate and deliver energy; and offer financial, communications and other services that underpin economic growth.

While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders. We commit to:

  • Delivering value to our customers. We will further the tradition of American companies leading the way in meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
  • Investing in our employees. This starts with compensating them fairly and providing important benefits. It also includes supporting them through training and education that help develop new skills for a rapidly changing world. We foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.
  • Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers. We are dedicated to serving as good partners to the other companies, large and small, that help us meet our missions.
  • Supporting the communities in which we work. We respect the people in our communities and protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses.
  • Generating long-term value for shareholders, who provide the capital that allows companies to invest, grow and innovate. We are committed to transparency and effective engagement with shareholders.

Each of our stakeholders is essential. We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities and our country.

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US grants Huawei another 90 days to buy from American suppliers: Ross

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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (R) and other Trump Administration officials sit down with Chinese vice ministers and senior officials for trade negotiations in the Diplomatic Room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 30, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday the U.S. government will extend a reprieve given to Huawei Technologies that permits the Chinese firm to buy supplies from U.S. companies so that it can service existing customers, even as nearly 50 of its units were being added to a U.S. economic blacklist.

The “temporary general license,” due to expire on Monday, will be extended for Huawei for 90 days, he told Fox Business Network Monday, confirming an expected decision first reported Friday by Reuters. He also said he was adding 46 Huawei affiliates to the Entity List, raising the total number to more than 100 Huawei entities that are covered by the restrictions.

Ross said the extension was to aid U.S. customers, many of which operate networks in rural America.

“We’re giving them a little more time to wean themselves off,” Ross said.

Shortly after blacklisting the company in May, the Commerce Department initially allowed Huawei to purchase some American-made goods in a move aimed at minimizing disruption for its customers.

Huawei did not immediately comment Monday.

The extension, through Nov. 19, renews an agreement continuing the Chinese company’s ability to maintain existing telecommunications networks and provide software updates to Huawei handsets.

Asked what will happen in November to U.S. companies, Ross said: “Everybody has had plenty of notice of it, there have been plenty of discussions with the president.”

When the Commerce Department blocked Huawei from buying U.S. goods earlier this year, it was seen as a major escalation in the Sino-U.S.trade war.

The U.S. government blacklisted Huawei, alleging the Chinese company is involved in activities contrary to national security or foreign policy interests.

As an example, the blacklisting order cited a pending federal criminal case concerning allegations Huawei violated U.S. sanctions against Iran. Huawei has pleaded not guilty in the case.

The order noted that the indictment also accused Huawei of deceptive and obstructive acts.

At the same time the United States says Huawei’s smartphones and network equipment could be used by China to spy on Americans, allegations the company has repeatedly denied.

Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, is still prohibited from buying American parts and components to manufacture new products without additional special licenses.

Many Huawei suppliers have requested the special licenses to sell to the firm. Ross told reporters late last month he had received more than 50 applications, and that he expected to receive more. He said on Monday that there were no “specific licenses being granted for anything.”

Out of $70 billion that Huawei spent buying components in 2018, some $11 billion went to U.S. companies including Qualcomm, Intel, and Micron Technology. Intel declined to comment on Monday.

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The world’s largest all-electric ferry completes maiden voyage

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An all-electric ferry capable of carrying roughly 30 vehicles and 200 passengers has completed its maiden voyage.

Toward the end of last week, the e-ferry Ellen crossed waters between the ports of Soby and Fynshav, which are located on the islands of Aero and Als in the south of Denmark.

The ship is powered by a battery system with a capacity of 4.3 megawatt hours, which was supplied by Switzerland-headquartered energy storage firm Leclanche.

In a statement last week, Leclanche said the e-ferry Ellen, which it described as the world’s biggest all-electric ferry, was expected to be fully operational in the next few weeks. Leclanche CEO Anil Srivastava described the ship as “the precursor to a new era in the commercial marine sector.”

He added that over the course of one year the ferry would stop the release of 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 2.5 tons of particulates and 1.4 tons of sulfur dioxide.

The development of electric ferries like the Ellen comes at a time when the International Maritime Organization is preparing to introduce new regulations relating to sulfur oxide emissions, as efforts are made to tackle pollution in the sector. In January 2020, the IMO will ban shipping vessels using fuel with a sulfur content higher than 0.5%, compared to levels of 3.5% at present.

“This project demonstrates that today we can replace fossil fuel thermal drives with clean energy, and thus contribute to the fight against global warming and pollution for the well-being of our communities,” Leclanche’s Srivastava said.

According to those behind the e-ferry project, which has received funding from the European Union, the Ellen is able to sail as much as 22 nautical miles (approximately 25.3 miles) between charges.

It is the latest example of innovative technologies powering larger-scale forms of transport. In September 2018, European railway manufacturer Alstom launched what it described as the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell train.

The French business said that the Coradia iLint used fuel cells that turn hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. In terms of speed, the train can travel up to 140 kilometers per hour.

CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this report 

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