China’s Uber has plans to take on the rest of the world

You’ve probably already heard of China’s Didi Chuxing. It’s the ride-hailing firm best known for driving Uber off China’s streets.

It is now also the world’s largest ride-hailing app, and with its worth currently at $56bn (£39.4bn), it is also the world’s most valuable start-up.

But how much do you know about its enigmatic, low-key founder, Cheng Wei?

Well for a start, he’s only 35 years old.

“I was born in 1983,” he tells me as we walk around the massive Didi complex on a chilly Beijing morning.

It is his first TV interview with foreign media.

“My entire management team has a lot of people in their 30s,” he says. “We are idealistic and can be rash sometimes, but we also bring a lot of surprises.”

No-one could accuse Cheng Wei of being rash. Every step of the Didi journey has been well planned.

His first step was to rule the market in China.

His next step, he tells me, is to take over the world: “The Chinese market is of course very important, but today Didi’s vision is already going global.”

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    But Cheng Wei is quick to point out that Didi’s way of entering new markets is not what most in the West may be used to.

    “Didi’s global strategy may be a little different from others,” he says, smiling. “Our strategy isn’t always to do everything ourselves.”

    “But in markets where there aren’t any successful local companies, then Didi will enter that market to share our experience. That’s what we’re doing right now.”

    Global market moves

    Precisely and methodically, Didi is making its move into global markets.

    It has already entered Japan and Taiwan. And earlier this year, it acquired 99, Brazil’s leading ride-hailing app.

    Just this week, the company told the BBC it was also launching in Mexico. The move will set it up to compete against its old American nemesis – Uber – right in that firm’s own backyard.

    But expanding internationally for Didi may not be all that easy, simply because of the suspicions Chinese companies sometimes face when they try to go overseas.

    Take Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, for instance.

    Earlier this year, Huawei said it was not able to strike a deal to sell its new smartphone via a US carrier, over security concerns.

    The scuppered deal was just the latest example of a Chinese firm struggling to do business in the US.

    Huawei hit back and said that the reason the US wanted to keep it out of the country was because it is too competitive.

    But many US politicians and businesses believe that Chinese companies have been given an unfair advantage by their government.

    Some also say that Chinese companies that deal in data, as Didi does, hand that data back to the Chinese government – a perception Cheng Wei is quick to correct.

    “When American companies first entered China, there were also these concerns,” he says.

    “Whether you’re Chinese or American, data is the lifeline of any business. If you can’t guarantee data security, that’s going to be totally destructive for the business.”

    Not old China

    Cheng Wei is very much the face of new China.

    He’s quietly confident, with the conviction to carry out what he wants to achieve. And he’s got the cash to splash on ambitious plans for the future.

    “This is not old China. This is a new generation, ” says Chris DeAngelis, who routinely advises Western companies coming into China.

    “The US needs to wake up because right now, we’re going to get our asses kicked basically,” adds Chris, speaking of the prowess that Chinese tech firms such as Didi have over American ones.

    But Cheng Wei isn’t losing any sleep over the US-China rivalry.

    “For the past two decades, it was China who learned more from the US,” he says. “But in the next 10 years, we’ll ride on each other’s successes. There’s no point thinking who will surpass who.”

    Watch out world, Didi is coming.

    And you can watch the rest of Cheng Wei’s interview on BBC World’s Asia Tech Titans series this weekend at these times.

Jaguar Land Rover to shed 1,000 contract staff

Jaguar Land Rover says it will not be renewing the contracts of 1,000 temporary workers at two factories.

The UK’s biggest carmaker, owned by India’s Tata Motors, blamed “continuing headwinds” affecting the car industry.

It said it was continuing to recruit large numbers of engineers and apprentices and it remained committed to its UK plants.

Earlier this year, it said it would cut production amid uncertainty over Brexit and changes to taxes on diesel cars.

Those cuts were made at its Halewood plant in Merseyside. These jobs will go at the Solihull.

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    JLR was expected to announce the cuts on Monday, with Brexit and confusion over diesel cars again being cited as the chief reasons for the changes.

    JLR employs 40,000 people in the UK, 10,000 at Solihull.

    Professor of industry, David Bailey, from Aston University, said: “With the big turn against diesel engines, Jaguar Land Rover is particularly exposed as more than 90% of its UK sales are diesels.

    “JLR has just revealed its full-electric i-Pace model and have indicated offering all-electric or hybrid variants of all their models by around 2021, but they have been far too slow compared with Tesla and BMW.”

    He said the problems caused by Brexit were also unlikely to be solved in a timely manner: “It’s hard to say how long this production uncertainty will continue around Brexit negotiations, because it’s still unclear what the trading relationship will be between the UK and EU with regards to tariffs.”

    Analysis: Simon Jack, business editor

    JLR was very exposed to the demise of diesel. Recent figures from the trade body showed sales of diesels fell a whopping 37% in March compared with the previous year.

    Unhappily for JLR, 90% of its vehicles are powered by diesel engines and there are critical industry voices that say they have been slower than their rivals to embrace hybrids and electric.

    JLR Plants in China and Slovakia are increasing production, but company insiders were keen to stress that it would continue to invest in its UK plants and recently launched a drive to recruit another 5,000 engineers.

    Jaguar sales are down 26% so far this year, compared with last year, while demand for Land Rovers in the UK is down 20%.

    Last year, global sales hit a record, but the company acknowledged that the UK market was “tough”.

    Diesel registrations overall in the UK industry have plunged, down a third compared with January to March 2017

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Jaguar Land Rover’s diesel dependency

JLR was very exposed to the demise of diesel. Recent figures from the trade body showed sales of diesels fell a whopping 37% in March compared with the previous year.

Unhappily for JLR, 90% of its vehicles are powered by diesel engines and there are critical industry voices that say they have been slower than their rivals to embrace hybrids and electric.

JLR Plants in China and Slovakia are increasing production, but company insiders were keen to stress that it would continue to invest in its UK plants and recently launched a drive to recruit another 5,000 engineers.

All cylinders

The use of agency staff is fairly common in the automotive sector to cover periods of peak production and, until the diesel crisis hit, JLR had been firing on all cylinders with strong global demand for its vehicles.

The company said Brexit uncertainty had dented consumer confidence, but insiders conceded that the confusion over diesel was the most acute problem facing the company.

The automotive industry continues to insist that new, cleaner diesel cars are part of the pollution solution and critical to keeping CO2 emissions reduction targets within reach.

Lobbying groups are desperate for government ministers to deliver that message. However, central government has largely devolved responsibility on diesel policy to local authorities, saying they know best how to regulate their own pollution hotspots.

Confused

In London, for example, the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has proposed that diesel cars over four years old by April 2019 will then incur a charge of £12.50 a day for driving into the centre of the city – 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Motorists who have been regularly hit with new regulations and tax changes are understandably nervous that the goalposts may be moved again in the future – on a city by city basis.

It’s little wonder they are confused and putting off purchases.

While this confusion reigns, diesel sales plummet, production falls with them and -inevitably – jobs are lost.

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London Stock Exchange names David Schwimmer as new boss

The London Stock Exchange has appointed a new chief executive to replace Xavier Rolet, who quit last November amid a bruising boardroom row.

David Schwimmer, who has spent 20 years at investment bank Goldman Sachs, will take up the post on 1 August.

The stock exchange described him as “a leader with great experience”.

Mr Rolet was asked to leave a year earlier than planned, with one of the firm’s biggest shareholders claiming he was forced out.

Under Mr Rolet’s leadership, the company’s value went from £800m to nearly £14bn, but press reports suggested some staff disliked his management style.

Following the row, the stock exchange announced that its chairman, Donald Brydon, who had faced a shareholder vote on the decision to remove Mr Rolet from the board, would step down in 2019.

Sir Chris Hohn, the hedge fund tycoon whose fund owns more than 5% of the LSE, had pushed for Mr Rolet to remain as the stock exchange’s boss and for Mr Brydon to leave instead.

‘Robust intellect’

Mr Brydon said he was “delighted” to announce Mr Schwimmer’s appointment after “a comprehensive global search”.

He added: “David is a leader with great experience in the financial market infrastructure sector, which he has been closely involved in throughout his investment banking career, as well as capital markets experience in both developed and emerging markets.

“He is well known for his robust intellect and partnership approach with clients and colleagues alike.”

Mr Schwimmer, aged 49, is currently Goldman Sachs’ global head of market structure and global head of metals and mining.

“It seems an odd choice to go for an investment banker with little experience in equities, though at least he and [Mr] Rolet have both worked for Goldman Sachs,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

“I’m sure he will be a good appointment, given his experience at Goldman Sachs, but why he won’t be joining until 1 August also seems rather odd.”

Analysis, Simon Jack, business editor

The appointment of ex-Goldman Sachs banker David Schwimmer brings down the final curtain on a leadership drama fit for the stage.

It started when predecessor Xavier Rolet – who increased the value of the business from £800m to £14bn – was ousted, to the disgust of some shareholders. In an extraordinary move, veteran activist investor Chris Cohn called for Mr Rolet to be reinstated and the chairman, Donald Brydon, sacked.

The mutiny failed and directors will hope that Mr Schwimmer can get on with the job of steering the LSE through some challenging waters ahead. The group also owns a clearing house – essentially a middle man where thousands of buy and sell orders in are matched to reduce the risk to customers of one side not being able to pay.

This is under attack from some in France and Germany who think the trillions of euro denominated trades cleared in London should be done in the EU. Mr Schwimmer will have a key role in the negotiations over London’s role in a post-Brexit world.

Trump threatens further $100bn in tariffs against China

US President Donald Trump has instructed officials to consider a further $100bn (£71.3bn) of tariffs against China, in an escalation of a tense trade stand-off.

These would be in addition to the $50bn worth of US tariffs already proposed on hundreds of Chinese imports.

China’s Ministry of Commerce responded, saying China would “not hesitate to pay any price” to defend its interests.

Tit-for-tat trade moves have unsettled global markets in recent weeks.

The latest US proposal came after China threatened tariffs on 106 key US products.

In response to Mr Trump’s latest announcement, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said: “China and the US as two world powers should treat each other on a basis of equality and with respect.

“By waving a big stick of trade sanctions against China, the US has picked a wrong target.”

Ministry of Commerce Spokesman Gao Feng said: “We do not want to fight, but we are not afraid to fight a trade war.”

He said that if the US side ignores opposition from China and the international community and insists on “unilateralist and protectionist acts,” then China will “not hesitate to pay any price, and will definitely strike back resolutely… [to] defend the interests of the country and its people.”

Analysts have warned of the risk of a full-blown trade war for the global economy and the markets, and believe ongoing behind-the-scenes negotiations between the two giants are crucial.

Market reaction in Asia on Friday suggested investors were relatively untroubled by the latest twist in the trade row. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose more than 1% while Japan’s Nikkei index edged lower.

How has this unfolded?

Earlier this year, the US announced it would impose import taxes of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium. The tariffs were to be wide-ranging and would include China.

China responded last month with retaliatory tariffs worth $3bn of its own against the US on a range of goods, including pork and wine. Beijing said the move was intended to safeguard its interests and balance losses caused by the new tariffs.

Then the US announced it was imposing some $50bn worth of tariffs on Chinese-made goods, blaming what it described as unfair Chinese intellectual property practices, such as those that pressured US companies to share technology with Chinese firms.

Mr Trump argues that because Beijing forces any US firms setting up shop in China to tie up with a Chinese company, US ideas are left open to theft and abuse.

Mr Trump reiterated in his statement on Thursday that China’s “illicit trade practices” had been ignored by Washington for years and had destroyed “thousands of American factories and millions of American jobs”.

The draft details of the $50bn to $60bn worth of tariffs were released last week when Washington set out about 1,300 Chinese products it intended to hit with tariffs set at 25%.

China responded this week by proposing retaliatory tariffs, also worth some $50bn, on 106 key US products, including soybeans, aircraft parts and orange juice. This set of tariffs was narrowly aimed at politically important sectors in the US, such as agriculture.

In Mr Trump’s Thursday statement he branded that retaliation by Beijing as “unfair”.

“Rather than remedy its misconduct, China has chosen to harm our farmers and manufacturers,” he said.

“In light of China’s unfair retaliation, I have instructed the USTR (United States Trade Representative) to consider whether $100bn of additional tariffs would be appropriate… and, if so, to identify the products upon which to impose such tariffs.”

He said he had also instructed agricultural officials to implement a plan to protect US farmers and agricultural interests.

What could the impact be?

On the political front, Mr Trump’s latest announcement has elicited a less-than-friendly reception from some fellow Republicans.

They have warned that the tariffs will hurt Americans and cost jobs. They have also said relationships the US has with its other big trading partners could be hurt.

US retail giants including Walmart and Target have also asked Mr Trump to consider carefully the impact the tariffs would have on consumer prices and American families.

On Thursday, Ben Sasse, a Republican Senator from the farming area of Nebraska, said Mr Trump’s latest plan was “nuts” and that he hoped the president was “just blowing off steam”.

“Let’s absolutely take on Chinese bad behaviour, but with a plan that punishes them instead of us,” he said.

“This is the dumbest possible way to do this.”

Mr Sasse’s comments echo sentiment pouring out of various Republican-voting farming belts in the US. America’s soybean farmers are expected to be particularly hurt by Mr Trump’s tariff tactics.

To get a sense of how things might play out for those farmers, the trade tit-for-tat could hit soybean producers in the US – and possibly around the world.

China, which is a big producer of soybeans itself, buys about 60% of all soybeans exported by the US.

It uses the product to feed farmed animals, including pigs and chickens, as well as fish. Those animals are in turn used to help feed China’s enormous population.

China’s demand for soybeans and soybean products has buoyed the price of US soybeans for some time.

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    But Beijing’s tariffs against US soybeans will mostly likely see sales to China fall off, which will in turn hurt American farmers.

    Meanwhile, China will need to set about sourcing the extra soybeans it needs from other countries.

    India is one of the world’s biggest soybean producers, and analysts there have already pointed to a potential trade war between the US and China as an opportunity for its economy.

    Other big soybean producers are Argentina and Brazil, and some studies suggest that is where China will turn to should the current set of proposed tariffs come into force.

    But it could end up paying more than it currently does, ultimately forcing up the price of those animals which eat soybean products. So that would mean pork, for example, China’s most popular meat, could get more expensive. And food price inflation is something that will worry Beijing.

    Beijing Deals

    What China sells to the US

    $462.6bn

    The value of of goods bought by the US from China in 2016.

    • 18.2% of all China's exports go to the United States

    • $129bn worth of China-made electrical machinery bought by US

    • 59.2% growth in Chinese services imported by US between 2006 & 2016

    • $347bn US goods trade deficit with China

      CIA Factbook; USTR. All data for 2016. Getty Images

      How long could this last?

      China has initiated a complaint with the World Trade Organization over the US tariffs, in what analysts say is a sign that this will be a protracted process.

      The WTO circulated the request for consultation to members on Thursday, launching a discussion period before the complaint heads to formal dispute settlement process.

      Meanwhile, under US law, the proposed set of tariffs against about 1,300 Chinese products must now go under review, including a public notice and comment process, and a hearing.

      The hearing is scheduled at the moment for 15 May, with post-hearing filings due a week later.

      So, it could be some months before the USTR will announce its final findings or any decision on whether or not it will move ahead with the proposed tariffs.

Wells Fargo boss should be fired, says senator

Washington senators have criticised Wells Fargo, saying the US bank had not done enough to reform the corporate culture that led to the creation of millions of fake accounts.

Senator Elizabeth Warren called for the chief executive, Tim Sloan, to be fired and board members replaced.

Another senator asked if regulators should revoke the bank’s charter.

Mr Sloan, who was appointed following the scandal over sales practices, said the firm had taken steps to improve.

“We’ve made fundamental changes to the way we do business,” he said at a congressional hearing in Washington on Tuesday.

The hearing occurred about a year after Wells Fargo leaders appeared in Washington to speak about the fake accounts, which were used to boost sales figures.

Regulators fined the the bank more than $180m over the those practices last year. Wells Fargo also agreed to pay more than $140m to settle a class-action lawsuit.

But this summer, Wells Fargo said as many as 3.5 million accounts may have been created for customers without their permission over about eight years – more than it had previously acknowledged.

It has also said it had uncovered problems with the bank’s online payment system and admitted to wrongly charging customers for car insurance.

On Tuesday, Mr Sloan, a long time executive at the bank, maintained the most serious problems were limited to the firm’s retail banking unit.

Senators criticised the company for the additional problems and continuing to force customers to pursue claims outside of court, among other practices.

“Wells Fargo is not going to change with you in charge,” Ms Warren said.

Ms Warren had called for the resignation of the firm’s previous chief executive as well.

‘More than 600 apps had access to my iPhone data’

While Facebook desperately tightens controls over how third parties access its users’ data – trying to mend its damaged reputation – attention is focusing on the wider issue of data harvesting and the threat it poses to our personal privacy.

Data harvesting is a multibillion dollar industry and the sobering truth is that you may never know just how much data companies hold about you, or how to delete it.

That’s the startling conclusion drawn by some privacy campaigners and technology companies.

“Thousands of companies are in the business of harvesting your data and tracking your online behaviour,” says Frederike Kaltheuner, data programme lead for lobby group Privacy International.

“It’s a global business. And not just online, but offline, too, via loyalty cards and wi-fi tracking of your mobile. It’s almost impossible to know what’s happening to your data.”

The really big data brokers – firms such as Acxiom, Experian, Quantium, Corelogic, eBureau, ID Analytics – can hold as many as 3,000 data points on every consumer, says the US Federal Trade Commission.

Ms Kaltheuner says more than 600 apps have had access to her iPhone data over the last six years. So she’s taken on the onerous task of finding out exactly what these apps know about her.

“It could take a year,” she says, because it involves poring over every privacy policy then contacting the app provider to ask them. And not taking “no” for an answer.

Not only is it difficult to know what data is out there, it is also difficult to know how accurate it is.

“They got my income totally wrong, they got my marital status wrong,” says Pamela Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, another privacy rights lobby group.

She was examining her record with one of the merchants that scoop up and sell data on individuals around the globe.

She found herself listed as a computer enthusiast – “which is a bit annoying, I’m not running around buying computers every day” – and as a runner, though she’s a cyclist.

Susan Bidel, senior analyst at Forrester Research in New York, who covers data brokers, says a common belief in the industry is that only “50% of this data is accurate”.

So why does any of this matter?

Because this “ridiculous marketing data”, as Ms Dixon calls it, is now determining life chances.

Consumer data – our likes, dislikes, buying behaviour, income level, leisure pursuits, personalities and so on – certainly helps brands target their advertising dollars more effectively.

But its main use “is to reduce risk of one kind or another, not to target ads,” believes John Deighton, a professor at Harvard Business School who writes on the industry.

We’re all given credit scores these days.

If the information flatters you, your credit cards and mortgages will be much cheaper, and you will pass employment background checks more easily, says Prof Deighton.

But these scores may not only be inaccurate, they may be discriminatory, hiding information about race, marital status, and religion, says Ms Dixon.

“An individual may never realize that he or she did not receive an interview, job, discount, premium, coupon, or opportunity due to a low score,” the World Privacy Forum concludes in a report.

Collecting consumer data has been going on for as long as companies have been trying to sell us stuff.

As far back as 1841, Dun & Bradstreet collected credit information and gossip on possible credit-seekers. In the 1970s, list brokers offered magnetic tapes containing data on a bewildering array of groups: holders of fishing licences, magazine subscribers, or people likely to inherit wealth.

But nowadays, the sheer scale of online data has swamped the traditional offline census and voter registration data.

Much of this data is aggregated and anonymised, but much of it isn’t. And many of us have little or no idea how much data we’re sharing, often because we agree to online terms and conditions without reading them. Perhaps understandably.

Two researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in the US worked out that if you were to read every privacy policy you came across online, it would take you 76 days, reading eight hours a day.

And anyway, having to do this “shouldn’t be a citizen’s job”, argues Frederike Kaltheuner, “Companies should have to protect our data as a default.”

Rashmi Knowles from security firm RSA points out that it’s not just data harvesters and advertisers who are in the market for our data.

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    “Often hackers can answer your security question answers – things like date of birth, mother’s maiden name, and so on – because you have shared this information in the public domain,” she says.

    “You would be amazed how easy it is to piece together a fairly accurate profile from just a few snippets of information, and this information can be used for identity theft.”

    So how can we take control of our data?  

    There are ways we can restrict the amount of data we share with third parties – changing browser settings to block cookies, for example, using ad-blocking software, browsing “incognito” or using virtual private networks.

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      And search engines like DuckDuckGo limit the amount of information they reveal to online tracking systems.

      But StJohn Deakins, founder and chief executive of marketing firm CitizenMe, believes consumers should be given the ability to control and monetise their data.

      On his app, consumers take personality tests and quizzes voluntarily, then share that data anonymously with brands looking to buy more accurate marketing data to inform their advertising campaigns.

      “Your data is much more compelling and valuable if it comes from you willingly in real time. You can outcompete the data brokers,” he says.

      “Some of our 80,000 users around the world are making £8 a month or donating any money earned to charities,” says Mr Deakins.

      Brands – from German car makers to big retailers – are looking to source data “in an ethical way”, he says.

      “We need to make the marketplace for data much more transparent.”

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Who is losing out from Trump’s tariffs?

The US-China trade dispute is starting to have consequences.

US tariffs on foreign steel and aluminium went into effect last month. China’s retaliatory duties on more than 100 US imports, including pork, fruit and wine, kicked in soon after.

Further tariffs on $50bn worth of the each country’s products are in the offing, as the Trump administration presses China on state subsidies and practices it says encourage intellectual property theft. The White House has threatened even more.

Economists expect the duelling taxes to have a relatively limited impact on the overall US economy. But they say the measures will touch most parts of the country and lead to higher prices for everything from televisions to vitamins.

For certain industries like agriculture, aerospace and manufacturing, the effects could be severe.

So how are US companies handling a looming trade war?

Roadtec: ‘Unanswered questions’

For some firms, the measures are welcome. Companies such as US Steel have announced plans to expand their operations, bringing on hundreds of workers.

Their customers – many of them manufacturers located in the Midwest – are worried, however.

They say US tariffs have already increased demand for domestic steel – which accounts for the majority of the metal’s sales in America – driving up prices for firms reliant on steel-based parts.

The proposed tariffs, which include taxes on hundreds of Chinese-made parts and equipment, promise more pain.

At Roadtec, a growing 600-person Tennessee company that makes asphalt paving machines, suppliers are already asking 40% more, says the firm’s marketing director, Eric Baker.

He says the firm is still trying to figure out how to best address the higher costs.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty right now,” he says. “I think the biggest question is how long this is.”

Seneca Foods Corp: ‘Absorb the cost’

Hundreds of firms have asked the Commerce Department for exemptions from the US steel and aluminium tariffs, including Wisconsin-based Seneca Foods Corp.

The firm, which makes its own cans to support a large fruit and vegetable processing business, started importing coils of tin-plated steel just a few years ago, after domestic supply became uncertain.

Leon Lindsay, Seneca’s vice president for sourcing, says he is not sure where he will buy coils now, given the uncertainty about how the US tariffs will affect other markets such as Europe.

In the meantime, a Chinese shipment from an order of 11,000 metric tons, placed last summer, is due in port in the next few weeks and faces the new 25% mark-up.

Mr Lindsay said he is not optimistic a Commerce Department reprieve will come in time, nor can the firm, which is in the competitive food industry, pass on the higher cost of steel to its customers.

“The stuff we’re asking for exclusion [for] is on the water. It can’t go back, so we’re the ones that will probably have to absorb the cost, which is significant,” he said.

Hsu Ginseng Farm: ‘This comes up with every customer’

Farmers are also bracing for a hit.

Will Hsu, whose father started a ginseng farm in Wisconsin more than 40 years ago, was in China last week, meeting with clients and sales staff.

“This comes up with every customer that we meet with. This comes up with our staff,” he said. “They’re worried about how they’re going to pass on that price increase.”

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    Wisconsin, the source of more than 90% of the United States’ cultivated ginseng, can’t afford to lose access to the Chinese market – which has been a key buyer of American ginseng since the 1700s and is the destination for more than three quarters of the state’s crop.

    Industry members said American ginseng has a reputation for quality, commanding a premium price that provides some room to negotiate.

    Mr Hsu says his farm, which employs about 400 people in the US and China, also has enough US clients to handle a temporary tariff. But levied long term, the tax could force him to scale back.

    Hutchinson Farms: ‘Cutting off our nose’

    Farmers are also worried about foreign competition.

    About a third of America’s soybean crop heads to China each year – some $14bn in exports – but Argentina and Brazil are also big exporters.

    Drought has hurt Argentina’s crop, but farmers in Brazil expect the US-China dispute to increase demand for their product, says Victor Carvalho of Informa, a business intelligence firm. They are also watching to see if US prices will fall enough to make it worth importing US soy to crush and resell, he says.

    Will Hutchinson, a fourth generation farmer from Tennessee, has been monitoring developments on the news and is hoping the situation will de-escalate.

    “Trade is vitally important to both countries,” he says of China and the US. “We don’t need to be cutting off our nose to spite our face.”

    Greenland America: ‘There will be an overhang in the market’

    About half of US scrap aluminium exports went to China last year, but US firms are already starting to turn to other markets.

    The shift is a response in part to tougher environmental rules China had already imposed on waste imports. China’s new tax on aluminium scrap compounded the problem.

    Randy Goodman is executive vice president at Georgia-based Greenland America, a brokerage that buys and sells scrap metals in countries around the world.

    So far, he says less than 10% of his firm’s business to China has been affected, but he’s worried about the future.

    “The issue is that these other countries or even the domestic consumers … can’t pick up all the slack so there will be excess material,” he says. “There will be an overhang in the market that will eventually affect the pricing.”

    ‘It’ll be very good’

    President Trump has said he is confident that confronting China will lead to a stronger US economy, and tried to reassure those who are worried.

    “It’ll be very good when we get it all finished,” he said this week.

    The people whose livelihoods are caught up in the dispute are hoping the president is right.

British Airways owner considers Norwegian bid

The owner of British Airways may bid for Norwegian Air Shuttle, the fast-expanding budget airline.

Buying the airline would allow International Airlines Group to increase its market share amid rising competition from low-cost carriers.

Norwegian said it had not been aware that IAG had acquired a 4.6% stake until media reports on Thursday.

Shares in Norwegian closed 47% higher after news of the bid interest emerged, while IAG fell 1.2%.

Norwegian said it has not held talks with IAG but said the interest “confirms the sustainability and potential of our business model and global growth”.

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    IAG said it had bought a minority stake in the airline with a view to opening talks about a deal.

    “The minority investment is intended to establish a position from which to initiate discussions with Norwegian, including the possibility of a full offer for Norwegian,” IAG said.

    However, it said no discussions have taken place and it had not decided whether to make an offer.


    Analysis: Simon Jack, BBC business editor

    Norwegian has been ruffling feathers in the aviation market, bringing a budget airline model to the long-haul sector. The industry is divided as to whether it works when you cross the Atlantic.

    Norwegian has bet big that it does. Starting life as a short-haul carrier, it has nearly 200 long-range aircraft on order and the legacy carriers have had to respond.

    IAG is dabbling with its own offshoot, Level, and BA announced cheaper fares for long-haul passengers not checking in bags and not wanting to choose a seat. Air France’s Joon is also trying to cut long-haul costs.

    Norwegian is still losing money and its finances are stretched by the number of planes it is buying, but today’s announcement from BA suggests Norwegian has proved the concept is sound.

    Whether passengers are best served by a legacy carrier swallowing a competitive upstart is another debate.


    Norwegian Air has earned a name for its low-cost deals, such as £99 one-way flights from Edinburgh and Dublin to New York.

    However, it posted a net loss in 2017 and had to raise fresh funds earlier this year to cope with its rapid expansion and higher fuel costs.

    Nevertheless, its move into discount intercontinental flights has shaken up the market and forced bigger rivals such as IAG and Air France to take measures to win back customers.

    IAG has already put a toe in the budget long-haul market with Level from Barcelona, while adding European airport slots from failed UK airline Monarch.

    ‘Poaching’

    IAG chief executive Willie Walsh has long been interested in low-cost long-haul concept long before it set up Level, said Liberum analyst Gerald Khoo.

    “This may be an attempt to accelerate its development, while also adding to the scale and reach of [IAG-owned] Vueling in the intra-European market.”

    This week, BA began selling “Basic” tickets from London to destinations including Boston, Delhi, Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore.

    Fares start from £143, but passengers must pay £60 to check a bag and £20 for seat selection.

    Simon Calder, travel editor of the Independent, told the BBC: “The main purpose of this initial move is to get more competitive with Norwegian, which is building an extensive network from Gatwick and poaching passengers from British Airways. Most of the first 10 destinations are on the Norwegian network.”

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Transgender Kyrgyz seek unlikely refuge in Russia

Russia is a notoriously difficult place to be gay or transgender, but it’s become a surprising refuge for LGBT people in Kyrgyzstan, who say life is far harder at home, writes Katie Arnold in Bishkek.

Anna knew the internet was a dangerous place to meet clients.

Transphobic hate gangs often scoured the list of sex workers advertising online, looking for their next victim among the faceless pseudonyms.

“I was usually very good at distinguishing who was who, I honestly did not suspect this guy to be dangerous,” Anna said, her hand nervously tugging on the skin around her neck, her eyes focused on an object beyond the horizon.

Three weeks earlier, she says, she was kidnapped by two men posing as clients. They laced her beer with a sedative and then drove her deep into the Tian Shan mountain range that towers over Kyrgyzstan’s capital city, Bishkek.

She awoke to an immense and sudden pain as her attackers relentlessly kicked her in the head and chest. “You were born a man, you should be a man,” she remembers them shouting. Paralysed by the drug and unable to defend herself, Anna begged for them to end her life.

“I was happy to die at that moment,” she says. The two men placed a plastic bag around her bloodied head, burnt their cigarettes on her bruised body and left her for dead.

Anna managed to wrestle herself free of the plastic bag. She found her wig, which lay dishevelled on the cold mountain road, then found her way back to Bishkek, where she sought refuge in the city’s only LGBT shelter.

“I cannot stay in Kyrgyzstan any longer, it is not safe here,” she said. “I am going to live in Russia instead.”

‘Corrective rape is common’

Kyrgyzstan’s LGBT community has lived in the shadows since 2014, when the government drafted discriminatory legislation that would ban the popularisation of homosexual relations and promotion of a homosexual lifestyle.

The proposed law, still awaiting its final reading in parliament, unleashed a campaign of violence and intimidation which continues to this day.

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    A survey conducted by the LGBT organisation, Kyrgyz Indigo, in 2016, found that 84% of respondents had experienced physical violence during their lifetime while 35% were victims of sexual violence.

    “Corrective rape is common among the LGBT community but especially among the transgender community,” said Rudolph, a social worker at the LGBT shelter run by Kyrgyz Indigo.

    Like many of the people interviewed, he preferred not to give his second name for fear of attack.

    “All members of the community will become a victim at some point, we are looking after someone right now who was a recent victim of gang rape.”

    Flight to Russia

    Amid the hostility, most cisgender members of the community – people who identify themselves as having the gender they were assigned at birth – have chosen to conceal their sexuality in public.

    But anonymity has proved difficult for the transgender community, the majority of whom find themselves caught up in the sex industry due to discrimination in the workplace.

    It is against this backdrop of violent transphobia that many members of the community are voluntarily moving to Russia – a country renowned for its hostile attitude towards LGBT people.

    They join tens of thousands of Kyrgyz migrants who travel to Russia each year, searching for employment opportunities in a country where language does not serve as a barrier.

    “Lots of transgender women are migrating,” says Roma, a sex worker and outreach officer for local human rights organisation, Tais Plus.

    “I’ve met 10 who have moved to Moscow in the last few months. The ones I have spoken to since say life is not too bad there.”


    More on LGBT life in Russia

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    • Russia’s law on gay propaganda
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    • Homophobic attacks on the rise in Russia

      A newcomer to the transgender community, Roma’s youthful vigour has not yet been tarnished by a violent attack.

      However, like the sex workers he has met though Tais Plus, he too is moving to Russia.

      “I think life will be easier for us in Russia because even though there is legislation against sex workers, the police will not target us because we are transgender. Here the police are filming their encounters with us, threatening us with the footage, and then publicly outing us online,” he said.

      Selling sex in Russia is illegal, however, with a maximum fine of just 2,000 roubles ($35; £26) the law is rarely applied. According to the Sex Worker Rights Advocacy Network, there is a large and open sex industry in many parts of Russia due to widespread police corruption.

      Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993. However, prejudice against LGBT people has remained widespread.

      In 2013 a federal statute, widely knows as the Gay Propaganda Bill, criminalised the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” to children.

      Like in Kyrgyzstan, these anti-gay laws contributed to a surge in vigilantism across the country, with gay people often lured to meetings where they would be beaten and humiliated.

      “Transgender people face all kinds of violations in everyday life, more than homosexual or bisexual people,” warns Svetlana Zakharova from the Russian LGBT Network.

      “But the problem here is more with society as a whole rather than the police – they do not care if someone is transsexual unless they violate some societal norm by speaking out publicly.”

      ‘What’s the point in caring?’

      This news will come as some relief to Anna as she prepares for a new life in Russia.

      Earlier in the year she was drinking with some transgender friends in a bar often frequented by sex workers. The bar manager took offence to their appearance and started physically attacking the group.

      “We called the police saying that we were being beaten and needed their help, they showed up with a TV crew who broadcast our faces to the country.

      “We don’t have any rights here – no right to safety, privacy, sexuality and the police are the ones encouraging it, that’s just how it is in Kyrgyzstan,” she said.

      The ministry of internal affairs did not respond to these allegations of police abuse, put to them in a formal letter.

      This came as little surprise to Anna, who reported her attackers to the local police but received nothing but defamatory remarks about her appearance in return.

      “What’s the point in caring?” she asked about the police’s inaction. “It will not change the fact that I’ve been abused or stop others from being abused. All I want to do is leave this country and live somewhere I can have a free and easy life.”

      The question is whether Russia will offer Kyrgyzstan’s transgender women the solace they so desperately seek.

      Katie Arnold is a freelance writer