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US raises tariffs on European-built aircraft in ongoing dispute over subsidies

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Eric Cabanis | AFP | Getty Images

The U.S. government on Friday said it would increase tariffs on aircraft imported from the European Union to 15% from 10%, ratcheting up pressure on Brussels in a nearly 16-year transatlantic dispute over aircraft subsidies.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office said it remained open to reaching a negotiated settlement with the EU on the issue, but could revise its actions if the EU imposed tariffs of its own in connection with a pair of disputes over the subsidies.

In a statement released late on Friday, USTR said it would make minor modifications to 25% tariffs imposed on cheese, wine and other non-aircraft products from the EU, including dropping prune juice from the list. It did not raise the tariff rates on those product, as it had suggested it might do in October.

The higher aircraft tariff will take effect March 18.

The U.S. action comes as U.S. President Donald Trump, emboldened by agreement on a Phase 1 trade deal with China, has trained his sights on restructuring the more than $1 trillion U.S.-EU trade relationship, raising the specter of another major trade war as the global economy slows.

EU officials have said they want to negotiate with Washington but will not be bullied into submission.

European planemaker Airbus said the U.S. move would hit U.S. airlines already facing a shortage of aircraft and complicate efforts to reach a negotiated settlement with the European Union in the longstanding dispute.

Airbus said it would continue discussions with U.S. customers to “mitigate effects of tariffs insofar as possible” and hoped USTR would change its position, particularly given the threat of EU tariffs on U.S. products in its own case before the World Trade Organization.

“USTR’s decision ignores the many submissions made by U.S. airlines, highlighting the fact that they — and the U.S. flying public — ultimately have to pay these tariffs,” the company said in a statement.

EU officials had no immediate comment on Friday’s news.

The USTR had announced in December that it could increase tariff rates up to 100% and subject additional EU products to tariffs, following a decision by the WTO that EU launch aid to Airbus continued to harm the U.S. aerospace industry.

The WTO in October had awarded Washington the right to impose tariffs on $7.5 billion of annual EU imports in its case against Airbus. Washington then slapped 10% tariffs on most European-made Airbus jets and 25% duties on products ranging from cheese to olives and single-malt whisky, from Oct. 18.

Boeing, in a statement, said it was working with U.S. federal and state officials to “promptly bring the United States into full compliance” with WTO rulings.

“The EU and Airbus could end these tariffs by finally complying with their legal obligations, ending these illegal subsidies, and addressing their ongoing harm. We hope they will,” the company said in a statement.

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) said it remains strongly opposed to tariffs on European-origin wine and spirits, and urged U.S. and EU trade officials to negotiate an end to a trade dispute that was lowering revenues.

A study commissioned by the group estimated that the 25% tariffs implemented in October could result in the loss of nearly 36,000 jobs in the beverage alcohol industry.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States said tit-for-tat tariffs on alcoholic beverages were hurting companies and consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.

It said new U.S. government data showed the U.S. spirit industry’s exports to the EU, its largest export market, fell 27% in 2019 from a year earlier, and global exports of American whiskey declined 16% in the same period.

“We urge both sides to resolve these disputes so that consumers can enjoy #ToastsNotTariffs,” the group said.

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Malaysia bars entry of MS Westerdam cruise passengers

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Malaysia has barred the entry of remaining passengers from a cruise ship docked in Cambodia — after an American passenger tested positive for the new coronavirus upon her arrival in Kuala Lumpur.

Confirming local media reports, Malaysia’s deputy minister for international trade and industry, Ong Kian Ming, told CNBC on Monday that his country will stop “other people who want to come to Malaysia from the cruise ship … for now.”

The 83-year-old American woman, who arrived in Malaysia from Cambodia last week, was the first person from the MS Westerdam cruise ship to test positive for the virus, now called COVID-19.

She and her husband were found to have flu-like symptoms while going through the thermal scanner at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport last week, local media reported. Her husband tested negative for the virus, the reports said.

The cruise — which carried 1,455 guests and 802 crew — departed Hong Kong on Feb. 1. The ship arrived in Cambodia last Thursday after being turned away by several countries including Japan, the Philippines, and Thailand, which were afraid passengers onboard might be infected.

Malaysia is also closing its ports to cruise ships originating from or had transited in China, according to local media reports. The country has confirmed 22 cases of COVID-19, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University.

Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia,” Ong said the spread of the coronavirus would drag down Malaysia’s growth.

“Definitely, we’re anticipating that there will be short-term disruptions in the supply chains that could affect some of the multinational companies working and operating in Malaysia,” he said.

He added that the country’s growth could be lower than the government’s target of 4.8% for 2020. But both the government and the central bank, Bank Negara, have the ability to support the Malaysian economy, said Ong.

Still, various banks and research houses have downgraded their growth forecasts for Malaysia after the economy expanded by 3.6% year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2019 — the slowest rate in a decade.

One of the most drastic downgrades came from Dutch bank ING, which cut its forecast for Malaysia’s 2020 growth from 4.5% to 3.5%.

“It’s not going to be too long before demand takes a hit from the rapid spread of Covid-19, the virus currently causing havoc worldwide,” Prakash Sakpal, Asia economist at ING, wrote in a note last week.

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General Motors (GM) retreats from Australia, New Zealand and Thailand

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Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors.

Bill Pugliano | Getty Images

General Motors is continuing a years-long global restructuring to concentrate on high-profit markets such as North America and China.

The Detroit automaker said Sunday that it will “wind down” its sales, design and engineering operations in Australia and New Zealand and discontinue its Holden brand in the region by 2021.

GM also announced plans to exit Thailand, including withdrawing Chevrolet by the end of this year and selling a plant to Chinese automaker Great Wall Motors.

GM said it expects to take $1.1 billion in charges mostly in the first quarter as a result of the actions, including $300 million in cash.

Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said the actions are part of the automaker’s global restructuring, which was initially announced in 2015, to concentrate on profitable markets and prioritize investment on driving “growth in the future of mobility,” especially in all-electric and autonomous vehicles.

“I’ve often said that we will do the right thing, even when it’s hard, and this is one of those times,” Barra said in a release.

The announcement comes more than two years after GM ended vehicle manufacturing in Australia, a place the automaker used as a proving ground for up-and-coming executives, including GM President Mark Reuss.

Reuss, in the release, said the company explored a range of options to continue Holden operations, but “none could overcome the challenges of the investments needed for the highly fragmented right-hand-drive market, the economics to support growing the brand, and delivering an appropriate return on investment.”

“At the highest levels of our company we have the deepest respect for Holden’s heritage and contribution to our company and to the countries of Australia and New Zealand,” Reuss said.

The market exits add to unprecedented actions by GM to retreat from underperforming markets in recent years, most notably selling its European operations to French automaker PSA Group in 2017. It also restructured its operations in South Korea and ended or limited operations in Russia, Australia, India and Thailand.

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Here’s what I learned from self-made millionaire Gary Vaynerchuk

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Gary Vaynerchuk wears many hats: serial entrepreneur, investor, and CEO.

While juggling all those roles, he’s also a social media wizzard regularly speaking in videos on Instagram and YouTube, encouraging people to start a side hustle, build their business and grow their social media presence.

The co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia often speaks directly to his audience on online platforms, and I was curious to see what it’s like to be “Gary Vee” as he’s known — and find out if he’s as energetic as he appears to be online.

I had the opportunity to shadow him and his team at National Achievers Congress, an event teaching people how to maximize their personal and professional life. The event, held in Dubai, was put on by Success Resources in which Gary spoke onstage to teach and inspire entrepreneurs.

Here are seven things I learned from my afternoon with him:

1. Gary doesn’t get jetlag, but he needs adequate sleep

Gary flew in from London on the day he arrived in Dubai to speak. The 6.5-hour flight was too short for him to get enough sleep. He said that he never typically suffers from jetlag, but that he does need an adequate amount of sleep.

Even though, he is often advocating people hustle hard and work late nights, he also advises people get between six to eight hours of sleep.

During a sit-down interview he had with Channel4 Dubai, he joked, “You want the cameras and the lights, you got to pay the price.”

Gary Vaynerchuk onstage at National Achievers Congress tour in Dubai

Uptin Saiidi | CNBC

2. Self-critique, but don’t judge yourself

Gary doesn’t necessarily subscribe to the famous quote from America’s founding father Benjamin Franklin: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Before speaking on stage, Gary said he didn’t know what he was going to talk about.

That’s probably fair considering he’s done more speaking engagements than he can count, and is regularly giving entrepreneurial advice in meetings and podcasts.

As he came off stage after about an hour of speaking, I asked him what goes through his mind once he gets off.

“I usually critique. Some days are sharper than others,” he said. “I try to think about what really just hit, I put it in my head one more time. I felt it up there, but I think one more time.”

And even though he critiques himself, he says he doesn’t judge himself. While answering a question from the audience about whether he ever felt stuck, he responded: “Nope. Because I don’t judge myself.”

3. Ask questions before giving answers

While many celebrities are adorned with praise by fans, Gary is often asked questions by his.

In most of his interactions, rather than immediately responding to a question, he asks them a question instead. That way, it not only ensures that he understood what they were asking, but also conveys that he was truly listening. He even often responds with a question to some reporters’ questions.

4. Remember the ‘four-second interaction’

Gary told me the importance of paying attention to those short moments of meeting people, referring to them as “4-second interactions.”

“I have great visualization. The fact that I can visualize us sitting in that booth in Asia,” he said referencing my CNBC interview I conducted with him a few years ago in Hong Kong. “That’s my strength, that’s my strength, but you can’t do that unless you actually pay attention.”

Gary Vaynerchuk meets with media backstage at National Achievers Congress tour in Dubai

Uptin Saiidi | CNBC

He owes this rule to his own humble beginnings of remembering what it was like to meet an idol.

“I’m so grateful and so in tune at the ‘four-second interaction’ I had with a Jets football player or at a baseball card show,” he said. “The fact, that I’m on the other side now — it’s intense.”

5. Be concise in your words

Gary is very deliberate in his choice of words and as a result, he often conveys what’s on his mind through an example or visual image. Here are some examples from him:

  1. The best thing you can do is listen. Communicate your truth and let whatever happens happen.
  2. You take compliments too high and pushback too deep. People who are winning don’t take either that seriously. He said that when people tell him, “You suck,” or “You are a god,” he doesn’t care much about either.
  3. Too many people put money on a pedestal. Do you know how many millionaires who are miserable?
  4. Success is the ability to do what he wants, when he wants.

6. Truly present in every interaction

I was surprised to see that even when an attendee without proper credentials approached him backstage, he didn’t get annoyed and answered her questions intently while speaking with her.

He said that at the core of what he does for a living is to pay attention to people, “I’m super focused on actually focusing on the people who are here.”

7. See change as a constant

Despite being the expert in the room, Gary is quick to admit how much of his advice changes.

For example, in his book, “Crushing It,” published two years ago, he didn’t mention the importance of China’s popular video sharing app TikTok and professional networking site LinkedIn.

Now, however, he finds them imperative and even highlights the fact that his advice changes as it’s important to remain fluid.

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