Pfizer vaccine’s safety milestone is just the beginning #SootinClaimon.Com

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Pfizer vaccine’s safety milestone is just the beginning (nationthailand.com)

Pfizer vaccine’s safety milestone is just the beginning

ColumnsNov 22. 2020

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg Opinion · Therese Raphael · OPINION 

Regulatory authorities are gearing up for a deluge in people reporting side effects when the new covid-19 vaccines go into use.

Even as vaccines like the one from Pfizer and BioNTech reach safety milestones and look set for regulatory approval, managing the reporting and follow-up of what are known as adverse drug reactions will be critical to keeping to the high levels of public participation needed for a vaccination program to be successful.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to send daily texts to those who are vaccinated for the first week and then weekly texts for six weeks, while the Food and Drug Administration will also be monitoring side effects in real time. 

It’s not clear if the U.K.’s monitoring system will have similar capabilities by the time the vaccine is rolled out. The country’s Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency issued an urgent tender notice (recorded last month in a European Union public procurement journal) for an artificial-intelligence software tool to help deal with the expected high volume of reported effects. (The roughly $2 million contract went to outsourcing firm Genpact.)

The agency didn’t mince words in explaining the reasons for the urgency: Its legacy system would be overwhelmed by the volume of reports and could not be retrofitted to cope with the new vaccine. The absence of a new tool would “hinder its ability to rapidly identify any potential safety issues within the covid-19 vaccine.” That in turn would represent a “direct threat to patient life and public health.”

Even if the language may have been partly crafted to exempt it from normal E.U. tender requirements, it underscores what’s at stake for governments around the world as these brand new vaccines are rolled out with unprecedented speed to a far wider public than ever before. As with any new drug, the range of these adverse drug reactions – unintended, harmful events linked to the medication – will only be known when a very large number of people have been vaccinated.

A reported adverse effect doesn’t mean a vaccine isn’t safe, and in some cases it may not be related to the inoculation at all. But ADRs help doctors, pharmaceutical companies and regulators monitor the impact of licensed drugs. They can identify misuse of a drug, compromised batches or simply side effects that need to be disclosed even if it doesn’t change the safety profile. 

Effective monitoring is especially important given these vaccines will be released with less safety follow-up than is typical for widely used shots. Having a robust system to log, analyze and allow for prompt feedback from reported side effects is essential to ensuring public safety. Combined with clear communication, it will also be central to building confidence in the new vaccines.

In general, most side effects appear soon after an injection and remain only for a short period. A small percentage of people will experience them from any well-established vaccine, or even your typical pain relief medication. Most people are willing to accept that small level of risk for massive benefit – to their children and public health generally – from vaccination programs. 

The U.K.’s Yellow Card system might receive one report per 1,000 immunizations. But if you dramatically increase the number of people being vaccinated, the amount of reported effects can be expected to increase proportionately. With covid vaccines likely to go to the oldest and most vulnerable first, there may be even more ADRs reported than usual. Even if they aren’t related to the vaccine, they can spook the public.

The side-effect reports have the potential to be a gold mine for anti-vaxxers. Vaccine skepticism is higher in the U.S., but the U.K. bears the scars of the now thoroughly debunked linking of the MMR vaccine to autism. In a survey last week by the London Assembly Health Committee, only three in five respondents said they are likely to or will definitely get vaccinated; almost half of those who said they wouldn’t or might not do so cited lack of trust in government guidance or drug companies.

Such concerns aren’t entirely irrational. If vaccines have traditionally taken up to a decade to win approval, people wonder how can we trust the safety of one produced in a small fraction of the time.

One answer is that in the battle against covid, no effort, brainpower or resource was spared. That intense, global competition has borne impressive fruit. The technology has also advanced so rapidly that past timetables aren’t a very good guide. The so-called messenger RNA technology used by the two leading inoculation candidates from Moderna Inc. and the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership is already revolutionizing vaccine development, as my colleague Max Nisen explains.

With all of this in mind, it’s vital governments educate the public about what they might expect. The side-effect profiles so far seem nothing to be concerned about. Still, they may be a bit harsher than a typical flu shot, which is the only reference point most of us have. If people know what to expect, they’ll be less likely to worry or flood hotlines. 

These may well be modern day miracles, but as the saying goes, vaccines don’t save lives, vaccinations do. With vaccines expected to cover as much as a third of the population by the first part of next year, effective monitoring and total transparency will be essential if we are to defeat not just this pandemic, but the next one too.

– – – 

Raphael is a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. She was editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe.

Obama, Biden and India #SootinClaimon.Com

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Obama, Biden and India (nationthailand.com)

Obama, Biden and India

ColumnsNov 22. 2020

By The Statesman

Every reader ought to notice that Barack Obama has gone out of his way in his biography to say how much of his childhood years he spent listening to the episodes in the Ramayana and Mahabharata. This of course, implies his appetite for spiritualism as well as his interest.

There are deeper messages in former American President Barack Obama’s autobiography than would come across in a casual reading. The name of his book, A Promised Land, although smacking of Abrahamic origins, actually implies that for the lesser well-off folk, the United States is yet to fulfil its promise. There is no doubt that Indian culture has charmed Obama for the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to have found noticeable space in his life story, which is significant.

That he was influenced by India was evidenced in his first visit to New Delhi, when he addressed the political elite in the Central Hall of Parliament. His speech was predominantly all about ancient India; the path-breaking achievements, various inventions and some of the human traditions set then. Initially, I wondered why Obama was telling India to Indians, but as his speech progressed, it occurred to me that Obama was telling the Indian political elite how well he knows their country, arguably, a shade better than most from India’s political class.

Presumably, as a sensitive and thinking mind, he was missing spirituality whether in his brush with Islam through his father or his practice of Christianity. Evidently, Obama had understood Gandhi and grasped his most original innovation, namely the satyagraha. President Obama’s rueful concern for India’s future, especially because of our communal divide, in my opinion should be a cause of worry to us Indians, due to its intractability for centuries.

Gandhi tried his hand at solving this problem but failed, and gave us Partition as his dying present. His favourite bhajan “Ishwar Allah Tero Naam” left Muslims cold, for in their eyes, no one can be higher than or even equal to Allah, the Merciful. Jawaharlal Nehru also opened his laboratory at Aligarh University in 1948, by telling its students: “Both our communities share a common history, similar traditions and face an identical future”.

He was speaking straight from the shoulder but met only a cool reaction from the audience. Thereafter, Nehru served the community what they wanted, namely identity. He became the most trusted leader in India as far as the Muslims were concerned. This Nehruvian laboratory functioned with vigour until 2014 until the advent of Narendra Modi, who has inaugurated a new experimental station and whose motto is integration. In other words, you and I must come together on the same terms. In the recently concluded US Presidential elections ~ even as the jury is still out ~ Barack Obama did campaign, more as a senior than anyone else for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

This gives me the feeling that the super rudder of the Biden administration could be subtly handled by him. Obama proved by the visit of the US Marines to Abbottabad that Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda were a menace to the rest of the world. He would now fully realize that President Xi Jinping is an even bigger menace. Xi’s misadventures could well result in a military clash. In such an eventually, India would be better placed to take the field with America providing as much wherewithal as necessary, thus saving itself the pain of body bags.

In any case, Obama’s experience and insights would guide a Biden administration and tell it that Asia rather than Europe is the central theatre of world politics. One mustn’t forget that it was under Obama that the US policy of a ‘pivot’ to Asia, i.e., refocusing on the Asia-Pacific theatre, began. India has plenty of trained soldiers, sailors and airmen, but in an extended war, could well need advanced weapons and equipment. The US and India are therefore ideal partners.

Neither Joe Biden nor Kamala Harris may be familiar with the complications of Afghanistan or the sea change in Pakistan that has taken place over the last decade – from an American ally to a running dog of China. To the extent that for the sake of foreign money, Islamabad has had to give up some of its rights over its own territory to its Chinese masters. This is a situation more pathetic than a defeat. A quick refresher of subcontinental history of the last century should provide a clear clue as to why Kashmir belongs to India and not to Pakistan.

A majority or otherwise of a province supporting Islamabad in this cause, in the context of India despite Partition having as many Muslim citizens as Pakistan, would be a wild goose chase. Every reader ought to notice that Barack Obama has gone out of his way in his biography to say how much of his childhood years he spent listening to the episodes in the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

This of course, implies his appetite for spiritualism as well as his interest in India. This is further evidenced by what he says about Gandhi, his interest in Eastern religions, etc., not to forget the compliments he gives to Dr. Manmohan Singh. The Pakistan story has nothing comparable to offer. All this of course, would soon be noted by the Biden-Harris team. They may or may not remember that President Obama had visited India twice and had been the honoured guest to be present throughout the Republic Day parade at Rajpath. In comparison, Obama hardly looked at Pakistan.

There is of course, that crowd of eternal hopers, particularly so in the charmed circle of Lutyens who might be salivating at the prospects of a Biden presidency in the fond hope that it would be softer on Pakistan, and harsher on their nemesis Narendra Modi. But for these dreamers, what Barack Obama has stated in his autobiography would be a sobering realization.

Describing the events that firmed up his resolve to take out the world’s number one jihadi terrorist Osama bin Laden, Obama has revealed that he mulled over three options: taking the Pakistani establishment into confidence, which was a nonstarter, given the Pakistani army’s and ISI’s close ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists, a fact Obama himself states, air strikes to obliterate the Laden hideout, or a commando raid on his compound without letting the Pakistanis know and thus openly violating Pakistan’s sovereignty.

In a way, Obama has already tied a chain around Biden’s legs by revealing that his then Vice-President was against an operation to eliminate Laden, in sum, saying that Biden has been somewhat sympathetic to various jihadi outfits like those which operate in Kashmir and Pakistan. Joe Biden therefore will have very limited choices; in effect, liberal hopes for a major American policy turnaround have been washed away even before a Biden administration moves into office ~ assuming that happens.

One can speculate as to the political significance of Obama’s disclosure of his fondness for India, Ramayana, Mahabharata and other things Hindu. India is now a pivotal power, not to neglect mention of being a major one as well. The USA cannot see a future without India and for that to materialize, Indian civilizational polarization and support to Biden is a must. In fact, this is so irrespective of who eventually sits in the White House. Let us not be surprised if the coming American dream will have to traverse via India. Needless to add, all this is the result of the efforts of one man over the last six years.

(The writer is an author, thinker and former Member of Parliament)

Phuket can reap huge rewards from world’s biggest free-trade agreement #SootinClaimon.Com

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Phuket can reap huge rewards from world’s biggest free-trade agreement (nationthailand.com)

Phuket can reap huge rewards from world’s biggest free-trade agreement

ColumnsNov 20. 2020Royal Phuket Marina, Royal Phuket Marina ChairmanRoyal Phuket Marina, Royal Phuket Marina Chairman 

By Gulu Lalvani
Special to The Nation

On November 15, the heads of 15 Asia-Pacific nations – including China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia – signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Representing a total population of 2.2 billion, the world’s biggest free trade agreement marked the emergence of the Asian era.

Bigger than either the European Union or the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the deal embraces practically one third of the global population and accounts for almost 30 per cent of worldwide GDP. With India scheduled to join within the first year, the total population covered by the agreement will climb to 3.5 billion and its proportion of global GDP will rise to 40 per cent.

Half the population of the world will trade under this new umbrella, in the region that enjoys the fastest GDP growth in the world. The potential is staggering: estimates are that the deal could add almost US$190 billion to global national income by 2030.

And the tropical paradise island, Phuket, sits like a tiny geographic bull’s eye dead-centre of the most exciting Asian advance in recent memory.

Phuket stands to reap massive gains if it recognises, and then seizes, the opportunity presented by this historic pact.

Long positioned as a potential regional IT hub, the realisation of that ambition has remained frustratingly elusive – but the time is now ripe, as an RCEP member, for Phuket and Thailand to get over the finish line.

Phuket has an abundance of international-standard accommodation, good internet connectivity, some of the cleanest air on the planet and a world-class beach lifestyle to die for. And now it has the opportunity to gain colossal increases in tourism as well as to reposition itself as a magnet for individuals and businesses eager to capitalise on its strategic location slap-bang in the centre of the world’s largest trading block.

Imagine the potential of being positioned no more than six or seven hours flying time from 50 per cent of the world’s population in the world’s fastest-growing economies. Imagine how easy it would be to attract the cream of the world’s workforce to your business. Imagine Phuket as a commercial powerhouse in Asia.

As one of Thailand’s busiest airports in terms of both freight and passengers, Phuket Airport has a capacity of 20 million passengers per year, handling more than 18 million on 115,000 flights during 2019.

Phuket’s infrastructure is there. The island’s appeal is undisputed; witness the number of ultra-high net worth families who have already been attracted to relocate here – from much further away than the countries in this new economic block. The future is bright. The potential is real. All we need is the vision to drive results.

Gulu Lalvani is founder and chairman of Royal Phuket Marina.

Shocked but not surprised: A mantra for the Trump era #SootinClaimon.Com

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Shocked but not surprised: A mantra for the Trump era

ColumnsNov 15. 2020President Trump President Trump 

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg Opinion · Stephen L. Carter · OPINION, OP-ED 

“When news broke last month that top aides to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had accused him of bribery and abuse of office,” wrote the Texas Tribune the other day, “many in the Texas political scene were shocked but not surprised.”

The opposition of shock and surprise is suddenly everywhere. Maggie Haberman of the New York Times says she was “shocked, but not surprised” by President Donald Trump’s defiant remarks on election night. “I am not shocked but I am surprised,” said one scholar in response to the overwhelming vote in Mississippi to approve a new state flag that lacks any Confederate symbology.

The turn of phrase isn’t new – a form is attested at least as early as 1800 – but if you sense that it’s being applied more frequently, you’re right. According to Google’s Ngram Viewer, which measures combinations of words as a percentage of all available written texts, usage has exploded over the past 20 years. Whatever explains the detonation, those who take grammar seriously have a responsibility to ensure that the expression is employed properly.

Let’s first consider whether “shocked but not surprised” might be a redundancy. The concern arises because of definitions of “shocked” like this one, from the Macmillan Dictionary: “very surprised and upset by something bad that happens unexpectedly.” Or this one of the verb “shock” from Google: “cause (someone) to feel surprised and upset.” Thus one might suppose that “shocked but not surprised” means “very surprised but not surprised.”

But top-line definitions can mislead.

Here’s an example that draws a nice distinction. The headline on a 1978 story in the Hartford Courant about the firing of New York Yankee manager Billy Martin described the team as “Shocked But Not Surprised.” But upon reading the players’ actual comments, we discover this, from star outfielder Reggie Jackson: “Nothing surprises me. I think it’s unfortunate.”

Jackson’s use of the term “nothing” before “surprises” inverts the usual definition, conveying a sense not of astonishment but of world-weariness. This is surely what most people mean when they set up the opposition “but not surprised” after expressing their shock at Trump’s words or actions: They’ve heard the same thing over and over, and they’re tired of the drudgery. To be sure, this understanding knows no partisan boundaries. It’s surely what Republican Bob Gibbs of Ohio meant when he said in 2016 that “the nation was shocked, but not surprised” by allegations that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative groups.

The phrase also has a slightly different meaning, exemplified by a 1903 headline in the Louisville Courier-Journal: “Shocking But Not Surprising Would Be Democratic Iowa.” The story goes on to say that Republicans would “have no right to be surprised” should they lose the state in the following year’s election. Here the connotation is that the event might take people by surprise, but shouldn’t; more careful observers would have expected it.

This, I suspect, is what Britain’s Independent had in mind when it recently described as “shocking but not surprising” the news that covid-19 infections are highest in the northern part of the country. As the story makes clear, although people were surprised by the news, the reporter doesn’t think anyone who has been following the outbreak should be.

The Oxford English Dictionary demands a sharper differentiation still. None of the OED’s three definitions of the adjective “shocked” connote intense surprise. Two involve being shaken physically. The third is “scandalized, horrified” – such as (in true British fashion) forcing the prince to shake hands.

The old-time radicals, many of whom had a reverence for language, got this one right: “Many were shocked but not surprised that such a thing could happen in the land of ‘democracy,'” wrote the official newspaper of the Black Panther Party after the 1971 killings of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark by the Chicago police. The article went on to explain the distinction: “Though Fred’s and Mark’s murders shocked and hurt us, we were not surprised, for we have come to expect no better treatment from those who would keep us slaves.”

Here we have a dichotomy the OED would approve. The Panthers were using the term first as an adjective meaning “scandalized, horrified” – and then as a verb meaning “to affect with a painful feeling of intense aversion or disapproval.” To be shocked in this sense is sometimes described as being struck as if by a blow. (“A shock to the system.”)

My wife reminds me that the word “shock” can convey an even stronger meaning: an event that comes as no surprise but nevertheless shocks the conscience. The concept of shocking the conscience comes from the law of equity, where the court will not grant extraordinary relief (that is, relief other than damages) in a lawsuit where the plaintiff, even if entitled to victory as a matter of law, has engaged in outrageous conduct. (The U.S. Supreme Court has adopted this phraseology as a justification for holding various acts unconstitutional, but the traditional meaning better fits the common usage.)

An act that shocks the conscience is not an act I lack the right to do – it isn’t wrongful – but an act I ought not to do. Thus in 1825, a judge of what was then known as the New York Supreme Court of Judicature struck down a wily scheme to protect assets from creditors because “it offends the moral sense; it shocks the conscience, and produces an exclamation.”

“Produces an exclamation”: There’s the proper punctuation of the fury that, for many, the Trump era, even as it wanes, continues to evoke.

– – – 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners. Carter is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist and a professor of law at Yale University.

Paving the way for the once-excluded #SootinClaimon.Com

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Paving the way for the once-excluded

ColumnsNov 15. 2020

By Inquirer

When the first photos of US President-elect Joe Biden standing with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were released, it would not have been wrong to describe the image as representing what “America looks like.” Biden stood as an image of the America the whole world has recognized for centuries: white, male, accomplished, and armed with seniority not just of age but also of experience.

Harris, on the other hand, stood for everyone else: A woman, the child of immigrants who were themselves Jamaican and Indian, but their daughter standing in for other ethnicities like Native American, Latina, Asian, and other women who have felt excluded from the arenas of power and representation simply because they were born as the “wrong” gender, lineage, and/or skin color. And might not they include, too, members of the LGBTQ+ rainbow tribe?

In her address to the nation when the results of the election were first made known, Harris explicitly singled out her sisters who hoisted her—and other sisters like her—on their shoulders through centuries of struggle. They were, she said, “women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all. Including the Black women who are often, too often overlooked but so often proved they are the backbone of our democracy.”

These women, she pointed out, “worked to secure and protect the right to vote for over a century. One hundred years ago with the 19th Amendment. Fifty-five years ago with the Voting Rights Act, and now in 2020 with a new generation of women in our country who cast their ballots and continued the fight for their fundamental right to vote and be heard.”

And indeed, they made themselves heard.

An NBC News exit poll of early and Election Day voters showed how Americans of color and of various ethnicities banded together to deliver for the Biden-Harris ticket. Fully 87 percent of Black Americans and 61 percent of Asian Americans voted Democrat in this month’s polls, as opposed to 41 percent of white voters. And observers say a huge chunk of those Democrat “blue” votes were cast by women.

A CNN commentary notes that “the California senator’s history-making win also represents the millions of women in the demographics—often overlooked, historically underrepresented and systematically ignored—who are now the recipients of that new power for the first time in (the United States’) 200-plus-year history.”

Her bid for the second-highest office of the land is, says the same commentary, “a pure distillation of the complex joy of representation.” During the frenzied campaign, Harris “made space for women of color to tell their lived experiences during campaign events on the trail.” Thus, “certain voters felt, in today’s parlance, seen.”

But there are sobering realities, too, behind and beyond Harris’ historic electoral victory. “That Harris is the first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president-elect is both an affirmation of her excellence… and a reflection of the racism and sexism that punish women of color who run for executive office,” notes the CNN commentary. “And while it’s true that Harris (has) achieved yet more firsts, it’s maybe more accurate to describe these firsts as onlys—she became the only female, only Black and only South Asian vice president-elect. That framing shines a less flattering light on America. But it’s more honest. It also hints at possibility—the possibility that Harris… opened up the door for women and girls who look like her to follow, to claim power for their own.”

The opening of that long-closed door, a key moment in the continuing fight toward engendered, inclusive, and diverse politics, is one that migrant parents took to heart after Harris’ victory.

“As a mother and as an immigrant, when you come here, your perspective is, I’m going to work so hard because what you’re told is America is the land of the free, that everything is possible,” Flavia Magala, a 57-year-old voter from Oklahoma, told Time magazine. “Whatever I haven’t been able to do in life, I wanted to put it all in my kids. For me, to see Kamala in this big position, it’s like all immigrant mothers, all Black mothers, all Asian mothers can breathe, and know that the excellence that they dream for their daughters is possible. The ceiling is broken because somebody has broken it.”

In the same Time article, a mother in Virginia recalled that when she told her 7- and 8-year-old daughters about the possibility of a first woman of color to be the vice president of the United States, her younger daughter immediately asked: “Does that mean I can be president?”

Yes, she can. The invisible but all-too-real glass ceiling has been broken, and girls, in America and elsewhere, may now dream bigger and feel more confident that when they walk on the shards of prejudice and sexism, they will be following in the footsteps of sisters who fought to make way for them.

Biden faces a global economy that’s tired of U.S. antics #SootinClaimon.Com

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Biden faces a global economy that’s tired of U.S. antics

ColumnsNov 13. 2020President-elect Joe  BidenPresident-elect Joe Biden 

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg Opinion · Ferdinando Giugliano · BUSINESS, US-GLOBAL-MARKETS 
The election of Joe Biden as U.S. president has prompted sighs of relief across the world – not least because his White House is expected to be a boon for the international economy.

Donald Trump’s erratic behavior on trade and currencies has weighed on foreign companies and governments while doing little to fulfill his domestic objectives. Even though it’s hard to say precisely how damaging the U.S. president’s economic agenda has been, especially with the recent Covid crisis, it’s caused enough uncertainty to undermine key global relationships and institutions. A challenge for Biden will be strengthening a multilateral framework that’s badly in need of repair. 

Trump started trade wars with China and the European Union, renegotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement and weakened the World Trade Organization. He tried to talk down the dollar repeatedly, despite a longstanding agreement among the world’s policymakers to avoid starting “currency wars.” His administration shunned the International Monetary Fund, stopping its efforts to provide greater help to emerging markets during the pandemic.

Far from putting the U.S. in a stronger position, “Trumponomics” largely failed to meet expectations. The country never grew by the 4% a year that Trump promised during the 2016 presidential campaign (it averaged 2.5% during the first three years of the administration). There was no return of sustained inflation that the financial markets had initially bet on. Protectionism failed to close the U.S. trade deficit: In August, the difference between what the U.S. buys from abroad and what it sells rose to $67 billion, a 14-year high, before narrowing slightly in September.

There was also little evidence of large-scale reshoring of companies and jobs from overseas. A recent survey from the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai showed that of more than 200 respondents that own or outsource manufacturing operations in China, only 3.7% were moving some production back into the U.S.

The president’s agenda negatively affected the private sector, too. Chief executives had to anxiously monitor Trump’s Twitter feed, fearing he’d sink their shares with a few derogatory tweets. Scott Baker, Nicholas Bloom and Steven Davis, three economists, showed that between 2018 and 2019, U.S. trade policy uncertainty reached its highest point since the mid-1990s. The three authors found that more than a third of the large daily moves in the U.S. stock market during these years were due to trade policy announcements – up from just 0.6% in all the years between 1900 and 2017. 

Globally, the pandemic makes it harder to measure the impact of Trump’s economic policy. However, last year, the IMF predicted the U.S.-China trade war alone would cost the world economy about 0.8% of output by 2020 – roughly $1 trillion.

The exact contours of Biden’s economic plans remain unclear. The ability to pass meaningful fiscal stimulus and alleviate pressure on the Fed will be crucial to a post-pandemic recovery. But the incoming U.S. administration should also seek to reinstate international coordination on economic policymaking. Trade and currency wars increase uncertainty and depress investment. Reversing this is crucial, given the pandemic’s effects on employment and output.

A first step is bringing trade conflicts to a peaceful resolution. As my colleague Noah Smith argues, this is straightforward when it comes to economies such as the EU that have similar wage levels, labor standards and environmental protection laws as the U.S.

The new Biden administration will also have to restore the full functionality of the WTO, after Trump emasculated its dispute settlement system. And the president-elect should restrain from talking down the dollar in an attempt to gain competitiveness for American goods. As the experience of the Trump administration has shown, this does little to help the trade balance but undermines the U.S. Federal Reserve’s independence. 

The U.S. may want to lead the way in other areas too, starting with the global tax system. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is spearheading efforts to reduce tax avoidance, particularly from multinational corporations. But these have been undermined by American opposition. As Maurice Obstfeld, the IMF’s former chief economist, has argued, the U.S. should promote the completion and adoption of the OECD process, which would help restore faith in globalization. 

Finally, the U.S. will need to engage more constructively with the IMF. Many low- and middle-income countries are looking to the fund for support as the global slowdown hits their finances. The White House will need to consider increasing the size of the IMF’s firepower to boost lending and work with it to streamline debt restructuring procedures for countries that risk becoming insolvent.

For the past 75 years, the U.S. has been the guardian of the international economic and financial architecture. The world is ready for the country to resume that role.

– – – 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners. Ferdinando Giugliano is also an economics columnist for La Repubblica and was a member of the editorial board of the Financial Times.

Is Thailand prepared for the carbon war? #SootinClaimon.Com

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Is Thailand prepared for the carbon war?

ColumnsNov 13. 2020

By The Nation Editorial

The result of the US presidential election was clear, and means that Joe Biden will be sworn in on January 20, 2021.

Most observers agree that a Biden presidency will ease tensions in the US-China trade war triggered by his predecessor Donald Trump, helping stabilise the global economy once again.

However, there are concerns that Biden appears to be working with European partners to counter China with what could turn into a technology war, spearheaded by America’s return to the Paris Climate Agreement. Biden has prioritised signing back up to the agreement, which Trump withdrew from in 2017.

During his campaign, Biden declared that the United States would hold a meeting of more than 190 world leaders at next year’s Paris climate change conference (COP21) to set more ambitious goals in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

Among the outcomes of this meeting will be a US policy to label imports with information on their carbon footprint. The labels will give consumers details of imported products’ carbon content or greenhouse gases emissions throughout their service life. More significantly, carbon tariffs will be imposed on imports – pushing up the price of products with a larger carbon footprint.

Is Thailand ready to tackle this new climate policy?

On the bright side, we may benefit from the United States’ return to COP21. The US will become an important ally in reducing global warming after Thailand signed an agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (GGE) by 20-25 per cent by the year 2030.

In 2017, Thailand recorded a GGE reduction of approximately 14 per cent, mainly from power plants and transportation.

Thailand’s renewable energy development plan targets 30-per-cent usage of clean energy by 2037, a goal that may lead to easier trade negotiations with the US.

Thai exporters are already preparing for carbon-footprint policies, and many are now working with international certification bodies to measure their emissions and certify their labelling for consumers.

Thailand is currently considered the most carbon-sensitive economy in Asean, with products registered with the Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organisation (TGO).

About 4,472 Thailand-made products have already been labelled by the TGO, most of them in the food and beverage sector, followed by construction, petroleum and jewellery.

However, there are tens of thousands of products that are not yet ready. If carbon taxes are imposed by the US and other countries, they will certainly affect both the price and the competitiveness of Thai exports.

Therefore, businesses who export their products to the United States must adapt quickly and prepare for the new US policy to reduce global warming. Although their manufacturing costs will increase, the benefits will soon become obvious. In the end, the whole world will have to play by the same rules. Thai businesses that can adapt quickly to the new carbon tariffs will get a head start on the competition.

Trump wasn’t wrong about China. But here’s how Biden can do a better job. #SootinClaimon.Com

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Trump wasn’t wrong about China. But here’s how Biden can do a better job.

ColumnsNov 12. 2020

By Special To The Washington Post · Stewart Baker · OPINION, OP-ED 

I have been in government for three changes of administration from one party to the next, and there is one mistake the new team always makes. Winning a presidential election feels like proof that you’re smarter than the other side and in better touch with the desires of the American people. That makes it easy to reject everything the previous administration did and simply restore the old order.

But invariably much history has unfolded in the previous years, and that can’t be ignored. Assuming the electoral vote holds, President-elect Joe Biden’s team will find that one of the most significant changes during President Donald Trump’s time in office has involved America’s economic relationship with China.

Officials in the new administration may not like the way Trump confronted China over trade. But the trade war is entrenched on both sides now; it isn’t something they can wish away. And the Chinese supply-chain interruptions we’ve seen during the pandemic will pose a risk in any future conflict. 

How to deal with the risks to homeland and national security posed by trade with China (and Russia) is the focus of a report by the Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council that is scheduled to be released Thursday. I took part in the study, which reinforces and adds to recent bipartisan supply-chain recommendations of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. 

The danger from U.S. dependence on trade with China has been growing across more than three decades. Administrations before Trump’s clung to an increasingly forlorn hope that opening U.S. markets to Chinese goods would mean cheaper materials for U.S. industries and a growing Chinese commitment to democracy and open markets.

By 2016, though, China’s aims were clear: Create a domestic alternative to practically every technology it bought from the United States, then allow these Chinese tech companies to squeeze out their Western competitors. Safe from competition at home, the flourishing Chinese companies could target foreign markets, too. Meanwhile, the doctrine of “civil-military fusion” would ensure that the People’s Liberation Army benefited from its domestic commercial technology development.

Nothing did more to shape American perceptions of China’s economic plans than the start of the coronavirus crisis, when an op-ed on China’s official news site gloated openly about the leverage that China could exercise over the United States as American deaths began to mount. “If China prohibits the export of masks to the United States,” it said, “the United States will fall into a mask shortage.” And if China banned exports of pharmaceuticals, “the United States would sink into the hell of a novel coronavirus epidemic.” 

That was the moment when many Americans realized that relying on Chinese imports was not the same as relying on imports from, say, Mexico or Italy. In a crisis, when the imports mattered most, they might be held hostage to China’s national-security priorities.

One theme stands out in the reports by DHS’s Security Advisory Council and the Cyberspace Solarium Commission: The United States, facing a major competitor that embraces state-directed industrial policies, must undertake defensive industrial planning of its own. Yes, America is temperamentally and ideologically opposed to such policies, but the nation has taken such steps before, during the Korean War, amid Cold War tensions in the 1980s – and just this year, in allocating scarce medical resources during the covid-19 pandemic.

It is time to rebuild those capabilities purposefully, under a coordinated plan that identifies and ensures the security of industries that the U.S. economy and its military rely on in a crisis.

Central to planning for future crises is the DHS, which might as well be called the Department of Horrible Surprises, given that it is already responsible for responding to everything from hurricanes and terrorist atrocities to cyberattacks on civilian infrastructure. The department’s cybersecurity agency already includes a risk management arm that knows which parts of the nation’s infrastructure must function in a crisis. The Federal Emergency Management Agency already plans for recovery from disasters.

DHS agencies charged with planning for disaster need to ask whether the nation’s response could be derailed by an adversary country that controls the supply of critical components. And given its authority to engage directly with U.S. private companies in a way the rest of the intelligence community cannot, DHS should become the center of a broader joint supply-chain intelligence effort that works more closely with the private sector, where most of the country’s purchasing power and most of its risk can be found.

Biden is already signaling that he wants to use Cold War authorities to overcome the supply-chain challenges posed by the pandemic. That’s a good first step. But in the next crisis, the shortages could be in electric transformers or rare earths or basic computer components – and we’d better be ready.

– – –

Baker is a former assistant secretary for policy in the Department of Homeland Security.

The election through Warren Buffett’s eyes #SootinClaimon.Com

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The election through Warren Buffett’s eyes

ColumnsNov 07. 2020Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway, is seen on a laptop computer speaking during the virtual Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting on May 2, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer.Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway, is seen on a laptop computer speaking during the virtual Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting on May 2, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer. 

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg Opinion · Tara Lachapelle · OPINION, BUSINESS, US-GLOBAL-MARKETS 
Warren Buffett has always taken the stance that regardless of who is president or which party holds power, each generation of Americans will be better off than the one that came before it – even if dark moments test our ability to believe it so. 

But that’s not to say the outcome of this election doesn’t matter. It’s pivotal for wealthy people like the 90-year-old Buffett, the future profits of Berkshire Hathaway and the lives of the 392,000 workers his conglomerate employs. Taxes, health care, energy policy and Covid-19 are just some of the big issues on the table and Berkshire – with interests in a range of industries – is a good proxy to gauge the impact any changes may have on businesses as a whole. Berkshire also shows how none of those other issues can be tackled without first reducing the threat of the coronavirus – because when it spreads, everything stops.

On Saturday, Berkshire is set to report third-quarter results. The easing of lockdowns during the period likely made for an improvement from the June quarter, when operating profit slid 10% and Berkshire took a $10 billion impairment charge on Precision Castparts, an aerospace-parts manufacturing subsidiary. Still, the latest results will show at a high level that covid remains the No. 1 challenge across Berkshire’s smorgasbord of businesses – whether it be the BNSF railroad that transports goods and materials, the various Berkshire-owned retailers suffering from a traffic slowdown, or the restaurant-equipment maker Marmon feeling the knock-on effects of an industry under stress. If there’s a silver lining to a year spent at home, though, it’s that auto-insurance claims at Berkshire’s Geico division are down because of fewer accidents. 

Joe Biden promises more aggressive measures to stem the spread of covid, including a national mask mandate, which is a trade-off businesses would take if it meant staying open. But he also promises higher taxes: for corporations like Berkshire, but also for top earners like Buffett. For his part, Buffett doesn’t begrudge paying more. The billionaire has lamented for years that his office staff have paid a higher tax rate than he has. At a Berkshire shareholder meeting eight years ago, Buffett highlighted some eye-opening findings: He said that in 1992, the top 400 incomes in the U.S. averaged out to $45 million, and of those only 16 were taxed at or below the roughly 15% standard rate. Fast forward less than two decades and the average top 400 incomes had swelled to an astounding $270 million; of those, 131 were paying less than 15%. He went on:

“When we’re asking for shared sacrifice from the American public, when we’re telling people that were formerly given promises on Social Security and Medicare and various things, and we’re telling them we’re sorry but we kind of overpromised and have to cut back a little, I would at least make sure that people with these huge incomes get taxed at a rate that is commensurate with what they used to be taxed at not that long ago. The tax law has gotten moved over the years in a way to favor people who make huge amounts of money.”

Buffett’s concern about the lopsidedness of the nation’s tax system led former President Barack Obama to introduce the “Buffett Rule,” which proposed a minimum 30% tax for anyone earning at least $1 million a year. Republicans blocked the effort, and Trump later went on to instead implement a tax cut that was skewed toward the rich. For his part, Biden says he will raise taxes on households making $400,000 a year or more, which isn’t quite what Buffett had in mind. Buffett is also a proponent of expanding the earned income tax credit rather than raising the minimum wage, as Biden has campaigned on. Buffett says a higher minimum wage can backfire and reduce jobs, but “Expand the EITC” doesn’t have the same ring to it. 

Buffett may not have been all that consumed with the machinations of the presidential race, but the pandemic clearly shook him, and government’s mishandling of the virus has cost him. When Buffett said at the virtual shareholder meeting in May that he believes “nothing can stop America,” it was the first time he wasn’t convincing – partly because his words were mismatched by a somber tone, and partly because a virus had very literally stopped America. The economy is better now than it was then, but Berkshire’s earnings will likely show that there’s a long road back to normal.

The Rollercoaster of all Elections #SootinClaimon.Com

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The Rollercoaster of all Elections

ColumnsNov 06. 2020

American voters have made their choice.   But the margins are so narrow that we will only know who wins after all the mail-in ballots are counted.  Trump has already tweeted “stop the count” and legal challenges will be mounted.   In this highly controversial election, the first day of counting showed that the polls predicting a landslide win for Biden were wrong.  Most Republicans voted in person, whereas Democrats depended on the mail-in votes that would be counted late.   Stalwart Republican Senator Lindsay Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell comfortably held their seats and continued to control the Senate.   The Republican right is far more entrenched than expected.

This historical record voter turnover only revealed that the United States remains deeply polarized along race, religion and ideological grounds.  Billions around the world were riveted on the screens, drawing important lessons about how electoral democracy works in theory and practice.   If Biden loses by legal challenge or recounts, the Democrats would have twice won significant majorities in terms of votes, as in 2016, but still lost the presidency because of the complex electoral college system.  Furthermore, the convoluted laws governing counting are different for each state, which means that narrow margins of victory will be subject to very contentious legal challenges over fraud and rigging.  In theory, the trinity of executive, judiciary and legislature provide the checks and balance for electoral fairness.  But if the Supreme Court, Senate and state governments are controlled by the Republicans, a Democrat President will have trouble getting executive decisions through, even with an electoral majority, as Obama and Clinton found in their presidencies. 

Most non-Americans are puzzled why after the mishandling of the pandemic that allowed more than 240,000 deaths, Trump still won over another 8% of the voters on top of his solid 40% support base.  The pollsters were wrong in not tracking how Trump showed courage by rallying his supporters to go house-to-house campaigning to gather new voters, despite the infection risks.  Trump was clearly able to mobilize his supporters’ anger to vote in person.  The Democrats never saw this tidal wave of Republicans who showed up making the record turnout a close call rather than a Blue Wave for the Democrats.

Trump instinctively understood that electoral politics have always been about gut and emotions, so his actions appealed to those who liked his blood and guts push for change from Democratic liberal policies that wanted a return to Obama style normalcy.    The benchmark model for democratic elections has now descended into banana republic-style accusations of vote fraud and election-rigging. 

Given this narrow margin, the transition to the January 2021 swearing in of the new President will be fraught with legal challenges and uncertainties.  Trump will remain in charge of the Executive for another two months and a half amidst an acceleration of coronavirus infections and rising death rates.  With the pandemic again reaching a record 100,000 cases and over 1,000 deaths per day, the damage to the economy has already been done.  

This being the likely scenario, the winning candidate will have to spend all his energies controlling the coronavirus in 2021.  Winter will not be good because the pandemic is still raging almost everywhere except in East Asia.  

We have realistically a situation where the election has only confirmed that the United States is a seriously polarized unipolar power trying to manage its leadership of a multipolarized multi-power world.  The traditional view of the US President’s power is that he has more power to conduct foreign policy than domestic policy, because of the internal checks and balances.  But weakened domestic consensus damages his foreign policy options. 

First, the pandemic shock has narrowed the economic gap between the United States and China.  With GDP declining by 4.3% this year to $20.3 trillion, China’s estimated GDP growth at 1.9% in 2020 would put her GDP at market exchange rates at $15.2 trillion, bringing the gap down to $5.1 trillion.  Different growth speeds, plus an appreciating RMB buoyed by continued trade surpluses, would narrow the gap faster than the expected 2030 parity date.

Second, as everywhere else is still struggling to control the coronavirus, the remaining growth region is East Asia, which is closely networked to the Chinese global supply chain. 

Third, US tech war against China has only served to apply more pressure for China to accelerate her R&D in technology, especially to narrow the gap in the semi-conductor chip area. 

Fourth, none of the legacy problems of US intervention in the Middle East have gone away.  Rather, the global slowdown, depressed oil prices and fractious politics can only make border conflicts and the Arab/Iranian tensions worse.  Trump wants to pull out of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, but cannot do so without serious damage to US prestige and influence in the region.  As geopolitical analyst George Friedman correctly surmises, foreign policy for the self-appointed global policeman is often determined by other countries rather than the intentions of the President.  Accidents and unanticipated events, such as the recent Azerbajian-Armenian conflict, can easily escalate with Russia, Turkey and other regional powers involved.

All in all, the global rollercoaster ride, with Donald Trump at the helm since 2016, will not end with the November 2020 elections.  If anything, amidst the pandemic, its twists and turns will not stop.  With weakened mandates, Trump would be willing to take even bigger gambits when the chips are down, whereas Biden may struggle to deal with the mess he has inherited.  All the elections have shown is that the struggle between polarized and fractured factions within nations and between nations is only just beginning. 

Many of us had hoped for a return to quieter times.  But the beginning of the 2020s has shown that we are spiralling in unpredictable directions.   Buckle down for tougher times.