Trump attempts to tame Silicon Valley with questionable results

President Donald Trump has signed an Executive Order intended to limit the protections afforded to social media platforms, though feedback has been varied.

The right-leaning elements of society has celebrated the EO, believing the White House is finally holding the politically biased Silicon Valley accountable, while those on the left side of the spectrum point to an opportunistic attack on opponents. This is a move which has been in the works since Twitter decided to flag two of the President’s tweets as a risk of fake news.

“Twitter now selectively decides to place a warning label on certain tweets in a manner that clearly reflects political bias,” Trump said in the White House statement.

“As has been reported, Twitter seems never to have placed such a label on another politician’s tweet. As recently as last week, Representative Adam Schiff was continuing to mislead his followers by peddling the long-disproved Russian Collusion Hoax, and Twitter did not flag those tweets. Unsurprisingly, its officer in charge of so-called ‘Site Integrity’ has flaunted his political bias in his own tweets.”

Of course what is worth noting is that Trump is no champion of free speech or a protector of the US Constitution, he is a hawk swooping in on enemies; would the President have signed the same order if presumptive Democratic nominee for President Joe Biden or the politically independent Senator for Vermont Bernie Sanders were under the same scrutiny?

The EO attempts to do several things, including:

  • Depict the social media companies as enemies of the US
  • Remove immunity for the social media companies for content which is published on their platforms
  • Designate the social media platforms as ‘publishers’
  • Delegate responsibility of rulemaking to the FCC
  • Restrict how political campaign funds can be spend on social media advertising

Focusing on a section of the Communications Decency Act known as Section 230, passed in 1996, which states:

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

The intent of this legislation was to protect freedom of speech by ensuring the platform hosting user-created content could not be targeted by those being criticised. Without this protection, the platforms which give the general public a voice could have been the focal point of hundreds of lawsuits and may not have survived their embryonic development stages.

While the original intentions of this law may well have been good, it has been criticised by both sides of the political aisle.

Aside from President Trump’s, as well as numerous other Republicans, complaints over left-wing Californians controlling the technology industry, the Democrat Party has also found issue with Silicon Valley. Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff questioned the role of Section 230 last year as Deepfake videos emerged online, with the social media giants doing little in response.

Interestingly enough, while the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is clearly opposed to the EO, it also feels it is largely redundant and ineffectual.

“President Trump’s Executive Order targeting social media companies is an assault on free expression online and a transparent attempt to retaliate against Twitter for its decision to curate (well, really just to fact-check) his posts and deter everyone else from taking similar steps,” the EFF said in a blog post.

“The good news is that, assuming the final order looks like the draft we reviewed on Wednesday, it won’t survive judicial scrutiny.”

According to the EFF, the clauses mentioned in the EO are not directly linked, in that, should one be affected by the EO it would not mean the protections afforded to the platforms would be diluted. The EFF believes the White House has misunderstood how the courts have already interpreted the law, therefore the path which is being taken forward cannot be legislated for.

Another very interest element to consider is the social media platforms do not have First Amendment obligations as they are private spaces.

This week saw the District Court of Washington DC rule against an appeal from right-leaning Freedom Watch and right-wing YouTube celebrity Laura Loomer. The two parties were attempting to sue Twitter, Facebook and Google for violating antitrust laws and the First Amendment.

The case was filed against the trio of internet giants on the grounds of political bias. Freedom Watch claimed the trio were inhibiting the organisations growth potential, while Loomer was fighting against a 30-day ban for suggesting a Democrat politician was ‘anti-Jewish’.

In the ruling, the three-judge panel said that as private organisations, the social media platforms were not necessarily obliged to First Amendment in terms of facilitating free speech. Private organisations are perfectly entitled to their own opinions, or to curate content in a manner of their choosing.

This might be contrary to the promise of the social media companies to the masses, but it does mean they are shielded from at least some of the President’s attacks.

While some might debate whether this is a document which has the power the President intended, it is a clear statement of intent. The social media companies have firmly entrenched themselves on the Trump enemy list.


Telecoms.com Daily Poll:

Is the industry doing enough to combat the 5G conspiracy theories?

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A look back at the biggest stories this week

Whether it’s important, depressing or just entertaining, the telecoms industry is always one which attracts attention.

Here are the stories we think are worth a second look at this week:


Facebook reignites the fires of its Workplace unit

Facebook has announced its challenge to the video-conferencing segment and a reignition of its venture into the world of collaboration and productivity.

Full story here


Trump needs fodder for the campaign trail, maybe Huawei fits the bill

A thriving economy and low levels of unemployment might have been the focal point of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, pre-pandemic, but fighting the ‘red under the bed’ might have to do now.

Full story here


Will remote working trends endure beyond lockdown?

It is most likely anyone reading this article is doing so from the comfort of their own home, but the question is whether this has become the new norm is a digitally defined economy?

Full story here


ZTE and China Unicom get started on 6G

Chinese kit vendor ZTE has decided now is a good time to announce it has signed a strategic cooperation agreement on 6G with operator China Unicom.

Full story here


ITU says lower prices don’t lead to higher internet penetration

The UN telecoms agency observes that, while global connectivity prices are going down, the relationship with penetration is not as inversely proportion as you might think.

Full story here


Jio carves out space for yet another US investor

It seems the US moneymen have a taste for Indian connectivity as General Atlantic becomes the fourth third-party firm to invest in the money-making machine which is Jio Platforms.

Full story here


Telecoms.com Daily Poll:

Can the sharing economy (ride-sharing, short-stay accommodation etc.) survive COVID-19?

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Trump needs fodder for the campaign trail, maybe Huawei fits the bill

A thriving economy and low levels of unemployment might have been the focal point of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, pre-pandemic, but fighting the ‘red under the bed’ might have to do now.

In 2016, Donald Trump won the Presidential election for numerous reasons, but one very important element was his ability to mobilise the vote of elements of society who wouldn’t have had any interest in politics otherwise. One reason was because of who Trump was and is, a celebrity more than a statesman, but perhaps a more critical element was the message.

Trump ignored political correctness, seemingly appealing to racism and xenophobia as the Make America Great Again slogan was born. He proposed the deportation of all illegal immigrants, the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border and a temporary ban on foreign Muslims entering the US. The forgotten men and women of the US were the focal point of this campaign.

This campaign, focusing on a single message of foreign people are bad for patriotic US citizens, worked. If Trump is to repeat the success of his 2016 Presidential Election in November, there will have to be another message at the core of the campaign to rouse the masses and build a slogan on.

There has been a suspicion that the success of the economy and low levels of unemployment would have been this focal point. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy was on the rise. From Trump’s entry to the Oval office on 6 January 2017, to the final days before lockdown in February, the Dow Jones grew from 19,963 to 29,398, a 47% surge. Unemployment was down to 3.5%, slowly eroding through the three-year period.

The message could have been ‘look what four years of Trump has gotten you, wouldn’t you like four more?’. But then coronavirus hit, and the economy went down the toilet.

The Dow Jones will recover, as will unemployment, but the Trump campaign would be playing with fire by making this the central point of the campaign. Many believe Trump was too slow to act against the coronavirus after spending months claiming it was little more than the common flu. At its worst point, the Dow Jones fell to 18,591 while unemployment is currently as high as 14%, and likely to go higher.

Using the economy as a reason for re-elections is offering ammunition to the Democrat candidate, the opening round of a slug match where Trump can be undermined and embarrassed.

Without this weapon in his arsenal, Trump will have to find a new focal point to build a campaign around; China and Huawei could fit the bill.

Trump needs to redirect attention away from his failings as a leader during the pre-coronavirus weeks. People generally need an enemy when times are hard, and the invisible enemy of today will not do; you can’t get people angry about a virus, not in the way that the Trump campaign will want. If Trump can further vilify the Chinese, he can position himself as the hero, the man to champion US values, whatever they might be.

Huawei has been made the proxy of the Chinese Government in the eyes of the US. If the US is scared about the ‘red under the bed’, the idea of communism creeping into democratic societies secretly, the successful telecoms vendor can be made public enemy number one.

This is clearly not a new campaign of hate from the President, but it is one which had quietened off over the last few months. It is an on-going conflict point between the US and Chinese Governments, and fuel was thrown onto the embers last week.

In a new assault from the US Department of Commerce, further efforts were made to inhibit the ability of Huawei to source semiconductor components for smartphones and base stations. The US is perhaps hoping the globalised nature of the technology industry, which has allowed Huawei to thrive, can be weaponised against it as few (if any) companies could operate without a single trace of the US in its supply chain.

“We have survived and forged ahead despite all the odds,” Huawei Rotating Chairman Guo Ping said at a virtual conference this week. “The US insists on persistently attacking Huawei, but what will that achieve for the world?”

Conflict with the Chinese might not sound good for economic reasons, but for political ones, it is fantastic. Trump needs an enemy so he can be the champion of for the forgotten men and women of the US.

While it is clear there are a lot of US politicians buying into the anti-China campaign of hate, we asked Telecoms.com readers how they feel about the on-going aggression towards Huawei:

Telecoms.com Poll: Do you feel the US Government is justified in its action against Huawei?
Yes, it is effectively a pawn for the Chinese Government 43%
Yes, but Government links are not there 1%
Maybe, but show us the evidence of foul play first 12%
No, Trump shouldn’t punish a company just because it is Chinese 22%
No, international competition should be left to sort itself out 22%

Huawei might have enjoyed a brief breather over the last few months, but the signs are there to suggest there might be greater conflict on the horizon. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark Esper both drew battle lines.

“Let’s talk for a second about the other realm, cybersecurity,” Pompeo said during his speech. “Huawei and other state-back tech companies are trojan horses for Chinese intelligence.”

“Under President Xi’s rule, the Chinese Communist Party is heading even faster and further in the wrong direction,” said Esper. “More internal repression, more predatory economic practices, more heavy handedness, and most concerning for me, a more aggressive military posture.”

Further sanctions and more aggressive policies against Huawei specifically, as well as other Chinese companies in the international markets, could be on the horizon. Huawei executives have certainly expressed concern, but there are numerous other companies who should also be sitting uncomfortably.

The US Senate recently passed the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act (S.945) which could result in numerous companies who do not pass strict criteria being delisted from US stock exchanges. China is of course a target with this legislation.

“The SEC works hard to protect American investors from being swindled by American companies,” said Senator John Kennedy, one of the politicians to introduce the original bill.

“It’s asinine that we’re giving Chinese companies the opportunity to exploit hardworking Americans – people who put their retirement and college savings in our exchanges – because we don’t insist on examining their books. There are plenty of markets all over the world open to cheaters, but America can’t afford to be one of them.”

This legislation would not impact Huawei, it is a private company after all, but it is further evidence of increasing aggression towards China, and suggestions there could be rising tensions.

And while Huawei might be attracting the most attention from US Senators right now, there are certainly more which could fall into the crosshairs. Tencent owns TikTok which has already come under criticism, Alibaba is hoping to expand its cloud computing venture into international markets, while the likes of OPPO and Xiaomi are proving to be quite successful in gaining interest as challenger smartphone brands. These are all companies which would perhaps fall foul of US opinion.

The first Trump campaign rallies will give more of an indication of what will be the focus of his scorn and hatred over the coming months, and where the pent-up frustrations of US citizens could be directed. We suspect Huawei could be in for a rough few months as Trump further vilifies the Chinese Government and looks for an opponent to bureaucratically challenge during the campaign.

Taking down Huawei could be the feather the Trump campaign is looking for in its quest for re-election to the White House.


Telecoms.com Daily Poll:

Can the sharing economy (ride-sharing, short-stay accommodation etc.) survive COVID-19?

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Boris Johnson sparks Huawei fire at NATO summit

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has dealt a blow to Huawei hopes as US lobbying seems to gain some traction in the UK political arena.

The White House has been actively lobbying foreign governments for months, and while there seemed to be minimal success, the comments from Johnson will cause celebration and misery in different corners of the industry. Speaking at a press conference following meetings with several NATO leaders, including President Donald Trump, Johnson offered at least some comments.

“I don’t want this country to be hostile to investment from overseas,” said Johnson. “On the other hand, we cannot prejudice our vital national security interests nor can we prejudice our ability to cooperate with other Five Eyes security partners. That will be the key criterion that informs our decision about Huawei.”

While this is one of the strongest indications about Huawei action to date, it is suitably nuanced that it could in effect mean nothing. That said, Johnson has attempted to court favour from the US President in pursuit of an attractive trade deal and aligning the UK with the US on the question of Huawei would be one way to do this.

This should of course be taken with a pinch of salt, as we all know political statements can mean very little when it comes to action. Johnson is also not the only Conservative politician to make statements which paint controversy on Huawei.

“I would not want any company, whichever country it is from, that as a high-degree of control from a foreign government, to have access to our very sensitive telecommunications network,” Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said on the Andrew Marr show during the summer.

In total, 29 nations have been attending the NATO meeting in Watford, with Huawei being a topic of conversation in several press conferences. As you would imagine, Trump took the opportunity when addressing the press, even claiming that his conversation with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte suggested Italy is on the verge of a ban, however Conte denied Huawei was discussed during his own session.

While the industry is still in a state of purgatory regarding the Huawei decision, questions will not be answered immediately, and this saga will most likely carry-on into the New Year. Johnson said during the press conference that no decisions would be made until after the General Election, taking place December 12, and with Christmas on the horizon, few meaningful decisions will be made.

“We’re confident the UK government will continue to take an objective, evidence-based approach to cyber security,” a Huawei spokesperson said. “Our customers trust us because we supply the kind of secure, resilient systems called for by the NATO Declaration and will continue working with them to build innovative new networks.”

For industry, this is another blow. Uncertainty is the enemy of investment and these comments simply create more ambiguity for the future of a key vendor in the 5G ecosystem. While it had looked like Huawei would be limited to the ‘dumb’ segments of the network, radio and transmission, further alignment with the US would suggest a complete ban is being considered.

A complete ban would be a bit of a disaster for most of the UK telcos. Huawei has relationships with all of the telcos and a ban on purchasing equipment would add delay to efforts to scale 5G infrastructure. Not only would certain components have to be retrofitted in the network, those who have been through the product testing stages with Huawei would have to head back to the initial stages with alternative vendors. A ban would add time and cost to deployment plans.

These comments should not be taken as gospel, though this press conference is a timely reminder of how close Johnson is to Trump. The US Government has been aggressively pursing action against Huawei, and should Johnson find himself with a majority Government next week, the Chinese vendor and some UK telcos might find themselves in a precarious position thanks to the special relationship.

Trump’s blocking techniques finally start to trouble Huawei

President Donald Trump has seemingly been on a mission to cripple the prospects of Huawei and it seems one of the haymakers have finally landed.

If the quest to undermine the carrier business group through influencing allied nations towards bans is failing, the entry onto the Entity List to supper plans in the consumer unit seems to now be causing the desired level of discomfort. Speaking to the Financial Times this weekend, a Huawei executive confirmed the absence of Google’s Android and the various services is proving troublesome.

“After the entity list, we were able to figure out some of the alternative solutions,” said Joy Tan, VP of public affairs at Huawei’s US business. “The most challenging part is Google-managed services. We can continue to use the Android platform, since it is open-source, but we cannot use the services that help apps run on it.”

This was always going to be a challenge to circumnavigate, though it certainly took some time to bed in. Whether it is because Android is arguably the best operating system on the market, Google services are widely utilised or there is a strong feeling of trust towards Google, replicating or replacing these elements on the smartphones was a big ask.

Officials in the White House might have been frustrated, as despite efforts to tarnish the reputation of the Chinese firm, sales continued to grow. For the first nine months of the year, Huawei sales grew 24% year-on-year, an increase from the last earnings statement, which suggested growth was 23% year-on-year for the first two quarters. However, this revelation will spur on some confidence in the Trump vendetta.

Google has proven to be the stumbling point for Huawei. Much to the horror of US suppliers, the firm has largely managed to replace US components in its supply chain, it has even started producing 5G base stations completely void of US parts, though the smartphone business has bore the brunt of the damage.

In launching its own operating system, which is based on the Android open-source code, the building blocks of an OS are there, but many would have suspected it was little more than a pale imitation. Firstly, Huawei would have to bridge the trust question which lurks at the back of the mind of many Western customers, and secondly, it would have to prove it could match the standards of Android. Let’s not forget, Android currently accounts for roughly 76% market share in the OS segment.

This is the toughest part of the equation. Huawei has pushed huge amounts of cash towards creating a developer ecosystem, but the number of applications simply are not going to be able to meet what Android offers. Secondly, time is not a friend here. Tan highlighted the Google Maps product is difficult to replicate, but unfortunately there is no quick-fix here.

The Google Maps product is market leading because of years of investment, billions of man-hours of tweaking and a colossal amount of data which has been fed into the machine to improve accuracy and performance. There is no substitute for time here and it is one of the reasons few can dream of competing with Google in this segment.

Unfortunately for Huawei, this is a monumental blow to the attractiveness and performance of its smartphone devices. Android and the Google services are trusted by billions around the world and, in some cases, are the best on the market. We’ve already seen what happens when some smartphone OEMs attempt to produce their own OS; it very rarely works out for the better.

This is not the end for Huawei as a business, or as a smartphone manufacturer. It still has a domestic market which boasts roughly a sixth of the world’s population and China’s influence on the global stage should hold strong in some markets. But in the Western markets, the very ones which have underpinned success for the smartphone business, which has in turn fuelled growth across Huawei during the last few years, it does not look good.

CTA suggests Trump’s tariffs doing more harm than good

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has labelled the logic behind President Donald’s Trump’s trade strategy with China as a “one-step-forward, two-steps-back” approach.

The current resident of the White House certainly does polarise opinion, though the CTA is claiming the strategies in play during trade talks with China are having a negative impact on the consumer. With an election looming large on the horizon, if the idea of Trump hitting the US wallet consumer gains traction, it could prove to be a very damaging piece of rhetoric.

“The tariff delay on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods is welcome news for American businesses and consumers – but a one-step-forward, two-steps-back approach means US businesses will continue to struggle under the burden of tariffs and uncertainty in supply chains,” said Gary Shapiro, CEO of the CTA.

“American businesses thrive when they can dedicate their time and resources to innovating and competing globally, not checking Twitter for trade policy updates and combing through HTS codes to find which products are facing higher taxes. We’re encouraged by the progress from today’s round of trade talks and hope that President Trump will stop using tariffs as a weapon during this Phase 1 agreement.”

According to estimates from the CTA, US consumer tech companies paid an additional $1.8 billion on tariffs in August alone, with $124 million on products critical to 5G deployment. Considering these figures are only focusing on a single month, and 5G network deployment is not scaled to mass market just yet, the bill is likely to be eye-wateringly higher in the future.

Although Trump’s approach to Chinese trade negotiations has been criticised by industry, the consumer has not necessarily been involved in the argument. And why should it? Trade talks are something which happen in the background without the ‘man on the street’ being too bothered in the past, though there is a different element to consider here; if wallets start to get impacted, the very citizens Trump is supposed to be protecting from the evil communists might start to get a bit irked.

Citizens are consumers after all, and in a consumer-driven society, cheaper is usually better. There will of course be homage paid towards quality, though this can only be drawn out so far. Consumers have gotten used to paying less and getting products right now. Being asked to pay more for the dubious claim of national security might not sit well with some.

According to the same data presented by the CTA, the tariffs have the consumer technology an additional $14 billion since they were first introduced in July 2018. $1.3 billion can be attributed to 5G-related products. These costs derived from a more expensive supply chain will be eventually passed onto the consumer.

What is worth noting is that there is probably worse to come if the President decides this approach to negotiations is proving successful. And we suspect from the tone of statements and tweets, the inner-circle of US politics are very much committed.

This is perhaps one of the worst elements of the current saga for US business, the idea of uncertainty. If these companies knew exactly what was going to happen, changes could be made to the supply chain. It might cost a little more, and while this is not ideal, operational efficiencies could be driven elsewhere. Knowing that there is something terrible on the horizon is much better than it popping-out from behind a tree.

The risk of the unknown, and a political leader who seemingly reads the Beano for strategic inspiration is likely to make many businesses very nervous.

US yet to grant any licenses to sell to Huawei – report

Despite a second suspension of the Huawei export ban, none of the 130 special license applications from US companies have been approved.

This news comes courtesy of Reuters, which has chatted to a few people who reckon they know what they’re talking about. They say the U.S. Commerce Department has received over 130 applications from companies for licenses to sell US goods to Huawei but three months after the export ban was suspended specifically to help them out, none of those licenses have been granted.

There’s not a lot of point in continually making concessions to soften the blow for US companies, only to fail to follow through on them. One on-the-record bloke in the Reuters piece places the blame at President Trump’s feet and the lack of guidance offered to agencies. They, in turn, are afraid of granting licenses in case they provoke the capricious commander-in-chief into some act of arbitrary retribution.

It’s almost as if the Trump administration doesn’t actually care about the impact its trade war with China may be having on US businesses and just makes shallow concessions every now and then to keep its critics off guard. Without an efficient process for granting licenses the continued suspension of the export ban is totally meaningless, which is probably what prompted the leaks in this story. Trump needs to make a call on this one way or the other because the current regulatory limbo is the worst of both worlds for US companies.

Tim Cook smooth talks Trump away from tariffs over dinner

Over dinner this weekend, Apple CEO Tim Cook has seemingly added to the softening position President Trump is taking on trade tariffs imposed on goods and services from China.

The last week has seen several new rumours emerge from the mill, suggesting the White House is backing away from its aggressive stance against China. It of course remains to be seen whether Congress will allow Trump to de-escalate the situation, though it does appear Trump wants to switch-up the rhetoric.

“I had a very good meeting with Tim Cook, I have a lot of respect for Tim Cook, and Tim was talking to me about tariffs,” Trump said to US reporters over the weekend.

“And one of the things is that he made a good case, is that Samsung is the number one competitor and Samsung is not paying tariffs because they are based in South Korea, and it’s tough for Apple to pay tariffs if they are competing with a very good company that is not.”

Finding consistency in the Trump rhetoric is similar to discussion the pros and cons of VAR with the Mad Hatter. Aside from these comments, some US companies will supposedly have until Christmas to work with Chinese suppliers, Huawei Technologies will allegedly be given another three months to buy from US suppliers and Trump has promised violence against protesters in Hong Kong will negatively affect trade talks.

Looking at the extension, sources are now suggesting Huawei will be granted another temporary general licence. The additional three-month window will offer another reprieve to US suppliers, though it is highly-likely Congress will start to throw a bit of a temper tantrum. Political opponents of Trump have already shown distaste for the mood swings of the President, and we suspect road-blocks will be introduced.

The only consistency from the trade conflict between the worlds’ two largest economies is inconsistency.

We are yet to read Trump’s “The Art of the Deal” but perhaps there is a chapter on shifting goal posts. The strategy from the White House seems to be escalate and de-escalate tensions regularly, perhaps to confuse political opponents in Beijing so a cohesive counter-strategy cannot be formed.

Here, Cook’s comments are exactly what you would expect from a CEO who has little concern with geo-politics. Cook and the Apple management team will not want to take sides, simply sell iPhones to iLifers, irrelevant to where they live, at a price which generates the most profit. The tariffs threaten this mission.

Apple might be able to recover its second-place in the smartphone market share rankings before too long, such is the damage which is being dealt to the Huawei consumer business, but how will Samsung benefit?

If Huawei’s international customers stop buying Huawei devices, sales will be redirected elsewhere. However, if Apple is not able to keep the price of its devices down, it will struggle to compete. Apple will firstly have to convince Android users to switch to iOS, but also not to be tempted by Samsung, or more price-sensitive brands such as OPPO, LG, OnePlus or Xiaomi.

What is not entirely clear is how broad the tariffs conversation actually was. We suspect Cook simply argued Apple should be exempt from the tariffs, why should he want to help anyone else, though there will be plenty of companies keeping an eye on the developing situation. Trump could find himself in a very difficult situation if preference is shown to a few hand selected companies.

If there is a game plan scribbled on the back of a Burger King menu somewhere in the Oval Office, it will either be the musings of a mad-man or the work of a strategic genius. The number of moving parts and dummy passes is enough to make anyone’s head spin.

Trump backs off tech tariffs as threat to consumer wallet gets real

There is seemingly only one thing which is more important to President Donald Trump than winning the trade-war, and that’s getting re-elected to the White House for a second term.

The latest message from the White House is a simple one; technology companies will largely avoid the threatened tariffs because it might punish the consumer financially. The fourth quarter is fast approaching, a period which is usually very profitable for the consumer technology giants due to Christmas purchases, the political fallout could be quite damaging.

Announced by the Office of the US Trade Representative, certain products will be exempt from trade tariffs to be introduced on September 1. These products include smartphones, laptops, gaming consoles, some toys, computer monitors, and various items of footwear and clothing. The tariffs will instead be introduced on December 15, once the store shelves have been stocked and many consumers would have completed their Christmas shopping.

“We’re doing this for Christmas season,” Trump said to US reporters. “Just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on US customers which so far they have virtually none. The only impact is that we’ve collected over $60 billion from China.

“Just in chance it would have an impact on people, we’re delaying the tariffs, so they won’t be relevant to the Christmas season.”

This might be a short-term win for the consumer, but let’s not forget, the tariffs will be introduced eventually. Consumer goods will increase in price, as there are few firms who are patriotic. Manufacturing facilities would not be on the other side of the world if they were, they would create jobs and facilities in the US. There is a financial benefit to manufacturing products elsewhere or purchasing components from China.

Trump has stated there have been no impact to the consumer to date, but there will be. Anyone who believes the consumer will be protected from the additional cost acquired through these tariffs is either naïve or stupid.

There have of course been numerous technology companies lobbying for exemption from the tariffs however this reprieve is much more expansive. Share prices have increased by 4.5% for Apple following the quip from Trump, however toy manufacturer Mattel saw a 4.6% gain, while shoe designer Steve Madden saw a 3.4% boost.

For the moment, this is a good thing for the consumer, however it will likely only be temporary. Trump has escalated and de-escalated the trade-war with China where it suits his ambitions, and this smells like another tactical withdrawal. The aggression has been anything but consistent, with some ego stroking thrown in and the promise of a progressive phone call never too far away. This is usually followed up by a significant announcement or claim from one of the hawkish politicians.

The see-sawing might well be a ploy by the White House to destabilise trade-talks, perhaps an attempt to manoeuvre into a more advantageous position. This might well be the case here, though there is perhaps an eye being cast to the next Presidential Election.

There is now 446 days left until the next Presidential Election and the campaigning will start to ramp up in the new year. As the Democrats already have plenty of ammunition to hurl towards the Oval Office, the last thing Trump needs is fresh wounds from an overly expensive Christmas shopping list to be lurking in the already financially straining January.

This looks to a momentary reprieve in the trade-conflict which has dominated headlines in the technology world for 2019. As it stands, the tariffs will be introduced, but at least US consumers can get their hands on the latest Apple flagship device first.

Trump threatens Google over claimed political bias

US President Donald Trump has directed his ire towards Silicon Valley once more, this time warning Google about meddling in the 2020 Presidential election.

As ever Trump used Twitter to fire his latest broadside at the tech sector, once more focusing on his pet topic of political bias (largely against him) facilitated by the big internet platforms. In a series of tweets Trump made reference to a whistle-blower at Google, who alleged anti-conservative bias within the company.

If Trump had more proof of these allegations than one or two whistle-blowers he would presumably be doing more than sending menacing tweets, but this seems to indicate that he’s actively looking for it. Much of the media, even the usually neutral and objective Reuters, has chosen to characterise Trumps allegation as being ‘without evidence’, but surely the public testimony of a Google employee, while not necessarily outright proof, is certainly evidence.

While we’re on Trump’s Twitter account, he also recently accused China of currency manipulation, following the fall of the value of the Yuan to historical lows. One of the core gripes with China as a global trading partner is that it devalues the Yuan in order to help its exporters and Trump’s tweets coincide with the US Department of the Treasury officially designating China as a currency manipulator.

General commentary of this move characterises it as a new front in the trade war between the US and China and is likely to lead to some kind of tit-for-tat retaliation. All this currency aggro is considered to be the main cause of a sharp global stock market decline in the past week, as investors are understandably skittish as they wait for further developments.