IMF Says Trade Tensions, Debt Load Threaten World Economy

The International Monetary Fund’s policymaking committee said Saturday that a strong world economy was threatened by increasing tension over trade and countries’ heavy debt burden. Longer-term prospects are clouded, it said, by sluggish growth in productivity and aging populations in wealthy nations.

In a statement at the end of three days of meetings, the lending agency urged countries to take advantage of the broadest-based economic expansion in a decade to cut government debt and to enact reforms that will make their economies more efficient.

The IMF expects the world economy to grow 3.9 percent this year and next, which would be the strongest since 2011. But an intensifying dispute between the U.S. and China over Beijing’s aggressive attempt to challenge U.S. technological dominance has raised the prospect of a trade war that could drag down worldwide growth.

“Trade tensions are not to the benefit of anyone,” said Lesetja Kganyago, who leads the policymaking committee and is governor of the South African Reserve Bank.

The U.S. has resisted pressure to back off President Donald Trump’s protectionist “America First” trade policies.

Treasury Steven Mnuchin urged the IMF to do more to address what the Trump administration says are unfair trade practices and called on the World Bank to steer cheap loans away from China and toward poorer countries.

Unfair trade policies “impede stronger U.S. and global growth, acting as a persistent drag on the global economy,” Mnuchin said.

He appealed for the IMF to go beyond its traditional role as an emergency lender for countries in financial distress and said it should more closely monitor the practices of countries that persistently run large trade surpluses.

“The IMF must step up to the plate on this issue, providing a more robust voice,” Mnuchin said. “We urge the IMF to speak out more forcefully on the issue of external imbalances.”

The World Bank, he said, must not back away from shifting its lending from fast-growing developing countries such as China to poorer nations. In a speech prepared for the bank’s policy committee, Mnuchin urged the bank to aim its resources at “poorer borrowers and away from countries better able to finance their own development objectives.”

Many have used the finance meetings to protest Trump’s protectionist trade policies, which mark a reversal of seven decades of U.S. support for ever-freer global commerce.

“We strongly reject moves toward protectionism and away from the rules-based international trade order,” said Már Guðmundsson, governor of the Central Bank of Iceland. “Unilateral trade restrictions will only inflict harm on the global economy.”

While finance officials struggled to find common ground with Washington on trade, they agreed on the importance of coordinating other policies in an effort to sustain the strongest global economic expansion since the 2008 financial crisis.

“We have to keep this group working together,” said Nicolas Dujovne, Argentina’s treasury minister.

In addition to wrangling over trade, finance officials from the Group of 20 powerful economies focused on geopolitical risks and rising interest rates, two threats to growth. Dujovne, whose country is chairing the G-20 this year, met with reporters Friday to summarize talks held as a prelude to the IMF-World Bank meetings.

The U.S. has rattled financial markets with a series of provocative moves in recent weeks.

Last month, it imposed taxes on imported steel and aluminum, and later proposed tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese products as a punishment for Beijing’s aggressive efforts to obtain U.S. technology. China countered by targeting $50 billion in U.S. exports. Trump then ordered his trade representative to go after up to $100 billion more in Chinese products.

Finance leaders repeatedly sounded warnings about a potential trade war.

“The larger threat is posed by increasing trade tensions and the possibility that we enter a sequence of unilateral, tit-for-tat measures, all of which generate uncertainties for global trade and GDP growth,” Roberto Azevêdo, director-general of the World Trade Organization, told the IMF’s policy committee.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the steel and aluminum tariffs could lead to retaliation by other countries and “a significant risk that the situation could escalate.” He said “tensions between the U.S. and China have taken a worrying turn.”

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US Treasury Secretary Weighs China Trip for Trade Talk

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Saturday that he was contemplating a visit to China for discussions on issues that have global leaders concerned about a potentially damaging trade war.

“I am not going to make any comment on timing, nor do I have anything confirmed, but a trip is under consideration,” Mnuchin said at a Washington news conference during the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings.

Mnuchin said he discussed the possible trip and potential trade opportunities with the new head of China’s central bank.

Tensions have escalated between the U.S. and China over Beijing’s attempts to challenge America’s technological prowess, raising the prospects of a trade war that could hinder global economic growth. 

Mnuchin said he had spoken with a number of his counterparts who have been forced to deal with U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” trade policies, including U.S. tariffs on foreign aluminum and steel and on up to $150 billion in Chinese goods. Some of the leaders, he said, were focused on exemptions from the tariffs.

He said he emphasized that the U.S. was not trying to construct protectionist trade barriers with the tariffs. Instead, he said, “we are looking for reciprocal treatment.”

Mnuchin also said he wanted the IMF to do more to address what the Trump administration believes are unfair trade practices. He also called on the World Bank to redirect low-interest loans from China to more impoverished countries. 

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China: No Military Aim of Corridor Project With Pakistan

China has strongly refuted suggestions its multibillion-dollar economic corridor now under construction with Pakistan has “hidden” military designs as well.  

Beijing has pledged to invest about $63 billion in Pakistan by 2030 to develop ports, highways, motorways, railways, airports, power plants and other infrastructure in the neighboring country, traditionally a strong ally.

 

The Chinese have also expanded and operationalized the Pakistani deep water port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, which is at the heart of the massive bilateral cooperation, known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC. The strategically located port is currently being operated by a Chinese state-run company .

China has positioned CPEC as the flagship project of its $1-trillion global Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, championed by President Xi Jinping.

“I want to make it very clear, BRI initiative and with CPEC under it, it’s purely a commercial development project. We don’t have any kind of military or strategic design for that,” said Yao Jing, Chinese ambassador to Islamabad. He made the remarks in an exclusive interview with VOA.

Within five years of finalizing and launching CPEC, Jing said that 22 “early harvest” projects out of the 43 total projects under CPEC have been completed or are under construction, with a total investment of around $19 billion, the largest influx of foreign investment in Pakistan’s 70-year-old history. The projects have already brought 60,000 local jobs and effectively addressed the country’s once crippling energy crisis.

 

Power plants built under the joint venture, officials say, will have added more than 10,000 megawatts of electricity to the national grid by June, leading to a surplus of power.

While speaking to VOA, the Chinese diplomat urged the United States and India to “come to the CPEC project” and “witness the progress on the ground” for themselves, saying it will enable them overcome misunderstandings vis-a-vis CPEC.

“There are some kind of doubts that may be there are some things hidden in it. I think that when you have an objective lens to look at this project and to come to the ground to find this progress on the ground then you may have a better understanding of what we are doing here,” said Jing.

The Chinese envoy was responding to concerns expressed in Washington and New Delhi that Beijing could try to turn Gwadar into a military port in the future to try to dominate the Indian Ocean.

Jing explained that a state-to-state defense-related cooperation has for decades existed between the two allied nations and China through “normal channels” is determined to contribute to “military and strategic ability’ of Pakistan.

“We don’t want to make the CPEC as such a kind of platform,” the ambassador emphasized.

However, he added, it is “natural and understandable” that the project’s massive size and design has raised doubts and suspicions” about its aims.   

The skepticism about Chinese intentions stems from, among other things, a massive airport being built in Gwadar, with a landing strip of 12-kilometers. China has given nearly $300 million to Pakistan for the construction of the airport.

“Basically, it is for China and Pakistan to make this project a successful economic project, then we can make it clear our intention here,” Jing said.

India is also opposed to CPEC because a portion of the project is located on territory that is claimed by both New Delhi and Islamabad. But Pakistan and China both dismiss the objections as politically-motivated.

CPEC aims to link the landlocked western Chinese region of Xinjiang to Gwadar, allowing ships carrying China’s oil imports and other goods from the Persian Gulf to use a much shorter and secure route and avoid the existing troubled route through the Strait of Malacca.

There are currently up to 10,000 Chinese nationals working on CPEC-related projects in Pakistan. Ambassador Jing said that 21 new mega-projects, including the establishment of Special Economic Zones across the country, are ready to be launched in the next stage with particular emphasis on encouraging private engagement.

In the next five to seven years, officials estimate, CPEC will have created employment for half-a-million Pakistanis. The country’s troubled economy, lately impacted by insecurity and energy crisis, has grown 5.4 percent in the previous financial year, the fastest rate in a decade, and officials forecast the expected growth in the year ending June 2018 will be six percent.

Pakistan’s deepening cooperation with China comes as the country’s diplomatic relations with the U.S. continue to deteriorate. Washington complains that Islamabad is not doing enough to eliminate terrorist groups using the country’s soil for attacks against neighboring countries, including Afghanistan.

While U.S. economic assistance has significantly reduced in recent years, the Trump administration also suspended military assistance to Pakistan in January and linked its restoration to decisive actions against terrorist groups.

 

Pakistan strongly rejects the allegations and says it is being scapegoated for the U.S.-led coalition’s failures in ending the war in Afghanistan. .

China is also worried about the spread of regional terrorism in the wake of a low-level Muslim separatist insurgency in its troubled Xinjiang border region. But Beijing has steadfastly supported Islamabad’s counterterrorism efforts and dismisses U.S. criticism of them.

China’s arms exports to Pakistan have in recent years exponentially increased while exports of military hardware from the country’s traditionally largest supplier, the U.S., have reportedly declined to just $21-million in 2017 from $1-billion.

“China will never leave Pakistan. I shall say we have confidence in the future of Pakistan,” said Chinese Ambassador Jing, when asked whether terrorism-related concerns might also push Beijing away from Islamabad.

China’s investment under CPEC has also encouraged hundreds of private Chinese companies and thousands of Chinese nationals to arrive in Pakistan to look for business opportunities and buy property. The influx of the foreigners has raised alarms among local businesses and sparked worries that the Chinese labor force will take away local jobs.

Jing stressed that China and Pakistan are working together to promote mutual people-to-people connectivity through enhanced education and cultural linkages to improve mutual understanding.

Ambassador Jing says there are eight Chinese universities working to promote Pakistan’s official Urdu language while 12 Pakistan-study centers are working to promote mutual understanding between the two countries. There are 22,000 Pakistanis seeking education in China.

Pakistani officials say currently, about 25,000 students are learning Chinese language in 19 universities and four Confucius Institutes affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education.

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Reports: $1B Fine for Wells Fargo for Illegal Sales

U.S. news reports say Wells Fargo will be fined as much as $1 billion for illegally selling customers car insurance policies they did not want or need, and for charging unnecessary fees in connection with mortgages.

This would be the largest fine ever imposed by federal bank regulators and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The fine is part of a settlement regulators negotiated with the bank.

Wells Fargo and federal officials have not commented on the reports.

The San Francisco-based lender admitted selling the unwanted insurance policies to hundreds of thousands of car loan customers. In many cases, the borrowers could not afford both the insurance and car payments and their cars were repossessed.

Many U.S. banks have enjoyed looser federal regulations under President Donald Trump’s pro-business administration.

But Trump denied reports that Wells Fargo would not be punished, tweeting in December that fines and penalties against the bank would, if anything, be substantially increased.

“I will cut regs but make penalties severe when caught cheating,” he wrote.

Wells Fargo previously paid a $185 million fine for opening bank and credit card accounts in its customers’ names without telling them.

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SunPower Buys US Rival SolarWorld to Head Off Trump Tariffs

SunPower Corp. on Wednesday said it would buy U.S. solar panel maker SolarWorld Americas, expanding its domestic manufacturing as it seeks to stem the impact of Trump administration tariffs on panel imports.

The White House cheered the deal, saying it was proof that Trump’s trade policies were stimulating U.S. investment.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The news sent SunPower’s shares up 12 percent on the Nasdaq to their highest level since before President Donald Trump imposed 30 percent tariffs on imported solar panels in January.

“The time is right for SunPower to invest in U.S. manufacturing,” chief executive Tom Werner said in a statement.

SunPower is based in San Jose, California, but most of its manufacturing is in the Philippines and Mexico. The company had lobbied heavily against the solar trade case brought last year by U.S. manufacturers, including SolarWorld, which said they could not compete with a flood of cheap imports.

‘This is great news’

The deal is a win for the Trump administration’s efforts to revive U.S. solar manufacturing through the tariffs. SunPower will manufacture its cheaper “P-series” panels, which more directly compete with Chinese products, at the SolarWorld factory in Hillsboro, Oregon, it said. It will also make SolarWorld’s legacy products.

“This is great news for the hundreds of Americans working at SolarWorld’s factory in Oregon and is further proof that the president’s trade policies are bringing investment back to the United States,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said in an emailed statement.

The announcement comes as SunPower is seeking an exemption from tariffs on its higher-priced, more efficient panels manufactured overseas. It has argued to the U.S. trade representative, which will make a decision on exemptions in the coming weeks, that those products should be excluded because there is no U.S. competitor that makes a similar product.

In a note to clients, Baird analyst Ben Kallo said the SolarWorld deal would enable the company to compete against Chinese imports should SunPower’s products not receive an exemption. But he added that skeptics “may question the company’s ability to generate profits with U.S. manufacturing.”

Capital injection

The deal will inject much-needed capital into SolarWorld’s long-suffering manufacturing plant and give it the support of a major market player. SunPower is one of the largest solar companies in the world and is majority owned by France’s deep-pocketed oil giant Total SA.

The U.S. arm of Germany’s SolarWorld AG opened the Hillsboro factory in 2008 as it sought to capitalize on surging solar demand in the United States. But its start coincided with a dramatic increase in the production of cheaper solar products in Asia, and SolarWorld struggled to compete.

Twice, in 2012 and 2014, trade cases brought by SolarWorld prompted the U.S. Commerce Department to slap import duties on solar products from China and Taiwan. Yet prices on solar panels continued their free fall, and in 2017, the company joined rival Suniva in asking for new tariffs.

SolarWorld called the outcome “ideal” for its hundreds of employees in Hillsboro.

Suniva’s future in doubt

During the trade case and after the tariffs were announced, the solar  industry’s trade group, the Solar Energy Industries Association, argued that the tariffs would not be enough to keep SolarWorld and Suniva afloat.

Indeed, Suniva’s future remains uncertain after a U.S. bankruptcy court judge this week granted a request by its biggest creditor that will allow it to sell a portion of the company’s solar manufacturing equipment through a public

auction.

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US Manufacturers Seek Relief From Steel, Aluminum Tariffs

President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported aluminum and steel are disrupting business for hundreds of American companies that buy those metals, and many are pressing for relief.

Nearly 2,200 companies are asking the Commerce Department to exempt them from the 25 percent steel tariff, and more than 200 other companies are asking to be spared the 10 percent aluminum tariff.

Other companies are weighing their options. Jody Fledderman, chief executive of Batesville Tool & Die in Indiana, said American steelmakers have already raised their prices since Trump’s tariffs were announced last month. Fledderman said he might have to shift production to a plant in Mexico, where he can buy cheaper steel.

A group of small- and medium-size manufacturers are gathering in Washington to announce a coalition to fight the steel tariff.

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Merkel Wants European Monetary Fund With National Oversight: Sources

German Chancellor Angela Merkel backs the idea of a European Monetary Fund, provided national governments have sufficient oversight, sources close to her said before a visit by the French president.

President Emmanuel Macron, who will meet Merkel in Berlin on Thursday, is pushing hard for bold euro zone reforms to defend the 19-member currency bloc against any repeat of the financial crisis that took hold in 2009 and threatened to tear it apart.

His vision includes turning Europe’s existing ESM bailout fund into a European Monetary Fund (EMF). At one point, Macron also suggested the zone should have its own budget worth hundreds of billions of euros, an idea that does not sit well with Germany.

Merkel told lawmakers from her conservative bloc on Tuesday that she favored the EMF concept as long as member states retain scrutiny over the body, participants at the meeting said.

“It’s not that one side is putting the brakes on and the other pushing ahead,” one of the participants at Tuesday’s meeting said. “We want to find a good reform path together.”

German conservatives worry that an EMF could fall under the purview of the European Commission and could use German taxpayers’ money to fund profligate states. They also fear the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, would lose its ability to veto euro zone aid packages.

Merkel told the meeting that an EMF should be incorporated into European law via a change in the EU treaty, though she did not make this a stipulation for creating it, participants said.

European treaty change is a tricky feat that could take time to achieve, but by not categorically insisting on it Merkel leaves wiggle room for her talks with Macron.

The chancellor’s remarks to her parliamentary bloc tread a careful line between Macron’s drive for bold euro zone reform and her conservatives’ push to retain scrutiny of any EMF.

A succession of bailouts for Greece aroused stiff opposition in Germany. The Bundestag approved them all, but the rise of the anti-euro Alternative for Germany (AfD) – now the main opposition party – has since heightened the conservatives’ wariness of going too far with euro zone reforms.

“Angela Merkel must not become Macron’s assistant,” the AfD’s leader in parliament, Alexander Gauland, said in a statement, urging her to distance the government from the French leader’s plans.

Reform road map

One participant at Tuesday’s meeting of lawmakers with Merkel said she wanted an EMF to act with conditionality – the same approach taken by the International Monetary Fund, which attaches strict reform conditions to aid.

In line with leading members of her conservatives in parliament, she also rejected plans floated by the European Commission to make use of a specific EU legal provision to develop the existing euro zone bailout fund into an EMF.

Merkel’s coalition partners, the left-leaning Social Democrats (SPD), sympathize with Macron and want him to be rewarded for his efforts to reform the French economy, well aware that a large chunk of French voters remains susceptible to far-right and far-left populists skeptical about the EU.

France and Germany, which account for around 50 percent of euro zone output, are essential to the reform drive. But while they often put on a strong show of political unity and shared intent, the devil is often in the detail.

On Tuesday, Merkel said creating a euro zone banking union was a priority for her, but she also broadened out the reform question to include a European asylum system, as well as foreign, defense and research policy.

Framing reform as such a broad issue risks diluting Macron’s drive to beef up the euro zone with extra funding fire power.

In Brussels, senior EU officials are playing down expectations for rapid and substantial progress. They hope the next couple of months can lay the groundwork for what will be agreed over the coming years.

“We hope to get an early harvest in June and a road map for the rest,” said one senior official, describing the Commission’s hopes for a Franco-German deal to conclude some euro zone reforms at a summit on June 28-29 and agree a schedule for further moves.

 

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Supreme Court Hearing Case About Online Sales Tax Collection

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments about whether a rule it announced decades ago in a case involving a catalog retailer should still apply in the age of the internet.

The case on Tuesday focuses on businesses’ collection of sales tax on online purchases. Right now, under the decades-old Supreme Court rule, if a business is shipping a product to a state where it doesn’t have an office, warehouse or other physical presence, it doesn’t have to collect the state’s sales tax. Customers are generally supposed to pay the tax to the state themselves, but the vast majority don’t.

States say that as a result of the rule and the growth of internet shopping, they’re losing billions of dollars in tax revenue every year. More than 40 states are asking the Supreme Court to abandon the rule.

Large retailers such as Apple, Macy’s, Target and Walmart, which have brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, generally collect sales tax from their customers who buy online. But other online sellers that only have a physical presence in a few states can sidestep charging customers sales tax when they’re shipping to addresses outside those states.

Sellers who defend the current rule say collecting sales tax nationwide is complex and costly, especially for small sellers. That complexity was a concern for the Supreme Court when it announced the physical presence rule in a case involving a catalog retailer in 1967, a rule it reaffirmed in 1992. But states say software has now made collecting sales tax easy.

The case the court is hearing has to do with a law passed by South Dakota in 2016, a law designed to challenge the Supreme Court’s physical presence rule. The law requires out-of-state sellers who do more than $100,000 of business in the state or more than 200 transactions annually with state residents to collect and turn over sales tax to the state.

The state wanted out-of-state retailers to begin collecting the tax and sued Overstock.com, home goods company Wayfair and electronics retailer Newegg. The state has conceded in court, however, that it can only win by persuading the Supreme Court to do away with its current physical presence rule.

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As Drought Keeps Men on the Road, Mauritania’s Pastoralist Women Take Charge

Every year when the pastoralist men in Fatima Demba’s Mauritanian village return from their months-long journey to find pastures and water, the women erupt in wild celebrations.

“We draw henna tattoos on our bodies, we braid our hair, we wear our nicest clothes,” she said, re-adjusting her bright yellow and blue robe.

Yet although she longs for her husband to come home, Demba sees one benefit in his absence.

“I am in charge of everything,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, sitting in the shade of a mud-brick hut in Mafoundou village. “Our money, our field of millet — even the village’s borehole is my responsibility.”

Prolonged dry spells in this southern region of Mauritania have depleted grazing land, forcing pastoralists to travel ever longer distances to search for food and water for their herds.

That gives women in these predominantly male-dominated societies newfound power to manage harvests, the family’s remaining animals and household finances, experts say.

“Women pastoralists are the first up in the morning and the last to go to bed at night,” said Aminetou Mint Maouloud, who started the country’s first association of women herders in 2014.

“Whether it’s making butter from cow milk, fetching wood or tending to ill animals, it all comes down to women,” she added.

Worsening Drought

Livestock herding is a traditional way of making a living in West Africa’s Sahel, a semi-arid belt below the Sahara, but herders have become increasingly vulnerable to food insecurity as climate change disrupts rain patterns in the region.

That is particularly true in the impoverished desert nation of Mauritania, according to El Hacen Ould Taleb, head of the Groupement National des Associations Pastorales (GNAP), a charity working with pastoralists.

“Transhumance — the seasonal migration of pastoralists and their herds to neighboring Senegal or Mali — normally starts in October but the rains were so bad last year that people started leaving in August,” he said.

His organization is helping pastoralists find smarter migration routes — with water sources and markets along the way, for example — as part of the British government-funded Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) program.

Demba, whose husband has been gone for seven months, says she does not know when he will return.

“He has no choice, he must save our animals,” she said, pausing to take a sip of a glass of green mint tea.

In the meantime, “the family depends on me,” she added.

Under-recognized

Although women play a crucial role in pastoralism, it is rarely acknowledged, according to Mint Maouloud.

“A man will listen to everything his wife whispers on the pillow, but in the morning she won’t get any credit for it,” she said.

To change that, her association has elected a council of eight women from villages around the country. Together they lobby the country’s government on pastoralism issues.

“We tell them where an animal clinic might be needed, or which markets are best for specific kinds of animals,” she explained.

Their suggestions could find an unusually understanding ear.

Since Mauritania’s livestock ministry was created in 2014, both of its leaders have been women.

Vatma Vall Mint Soueina, the current minister, says women seeking political roles is “extremely encouraging” — and that she has seen women grow in economic clout.

“We are seeing women becoming more independent, by virtue of being so active economically,” she said from her office in Nouakchott, the capital.

Financial Independence

In Hadad village, amid stretches of sand and dirt dotted with the odd wilting tree, a dozen women huddle under a large tent covered with striped rugs.

Mariem Mint Lessiyad, a tiny woman with piercing brown eyes, chats energetically to the group, interrupted only by a bleating baby goat.

She leads a cooperative of 100 pastoralist women from nearby villages who buy chickens and sheep to raise and slaughter, selling affordable portions to local families.

“There is less meat going around, so we need to be clever with how we consume it,” she said.

The women buy a sheep for 12,000 Mauritanian ouguiya ($34), for instance, and make a profit of about 2,000 ouguiya ($6) per animal, she said.

They plan to reinvest the surplus in setting up a leather goods business.

“We can’t rely on our husbands to support us financially. They are too poor, especially now that they have to spend more money on keeping our animals healthy,” Mint Lessiyad said.

Mint Maouloud and her association are trying to persuade financial institutions to make it easier for women to get loans, so groups like Mint Lessiyad’s can get ahead.

Access to finance can be problematic, she said, with some banks outright refusing to lend money to women.

“It’s important to make women herders more independent financially, so they don’t rely on their husbands’ generosity or understanding,” she added.

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Toyota to Launch ‘Talking’ Vehicles in US in 2021

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to start selling U.S. vehicles that can talk to each other using short-range wireless technology in 2021, the Japanese automaker said on Monday, potentially preventing thousands of accidents annually.

The U.S. Transportation Department must decide whether to adopt a pending proposal that would require all future vehicles to have the advanced technology.

Toyota hopes to adopt the dedicated short-range communications systems in the United States across most of its lineup by the mid-2020s. Toyota said it hopes that by announcing its plans, other automakers will follow suit.

The Obama administration in December 2016 proposed requiring the technology and giving automakers at least four years to comply. The proposal requires automakers to ensure all vehicles “speak the same language through a standard technology.”

Automakers were granted a block of spectrum in 1999 in the 5.9 GHz band for “vehicle-to-vehicle” and “vehicle to infrastructure” communications and have studied the technology for more than a decade, but it has gone largely unused. Some in Congress and at the Federal Communications Commission think it should be opened to other uses.

In 2017, General Motors Co began offering vehicle-to-vehicle technologies on its Cadillac CTS model, but it is currently the only commercially available vehicle with the system.

Talking vehicles, which have been tested in pilot projects and by U.S. carmakers for more than a decade, use dedicated short-range communications to transmit data up to 300 meters, including location, direction and speed, to nearby vehicles.

The data is broadcast up to 10 times per second to nearby vehicles, which can identify risks and provide warnings to avoid imminent crashes, especially at intersections.

Toyota has deployed the technology in Japan to more than 100,000 vehicles since 2015.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said last year the regulation could eventually cost between $135 and $300 per new vehicle, or up to $5 billion annually but could prevent up to 600,000 crashes and reduce costs by $71 billion annually when fully deployed. 

NHTSA said last year it has “not made any final decision” on requiring the technology, but no decision is expected before December.

Last year, major automakers, state regulators and others urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to finalize standards for the technology and protect the spectrum that has been reserved, saying there is a need to expand deployment and uses of the traffic safety technology.

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Urban Millennials Go to Farmer School

Doug Fabbioli is concerned about the future of the rural economy, as urban sprawl expands from metropolitan areas into farm fields and pastureland. The Virginia winery owner decided to be part of the solution and founded The New AG School, the school’s mission is raising the next generation of farmers. 

Farming, the hardship and joy

Being a farmer is hard work, but Fabbioli says if young people knew the joys and fulfillment of farming, they’d love it. But to succeed – they will need specialized skills.

That’s what Fabbioli is hoping to teach at his new school. The goal is to fill the immediate need for farm workers, but also to prepare future leaders, those who can to be mentors and teach new people how to do this down the road. 

The New AG School attracts a wide range of students.

“We have some younger folks that are either right out of high school or even in high school,” Fabbioli says. “We have some folks who are out of college that are saying, ‘Gee, didn’t really study what I wanted and I can’t find that job I was looking for, let’s see what this farming is, and maybe I want to go further on that. ’ We also get folks that are a change life point that maybe in their 40s, or 50’s and say, ‘I have land, I want to be a farmer now, I’m ready to do something else. ”

Farm Experiences

The tuition-free program takes a step-by-step, hands on teaching approach.

Olga Goadalupe Alfoseca says joining the program helps her find the right career path. “I learned a lot of stuff like (planting) hops and raspberries. My dream is maybe I can plant my own plants and start my own business.”

Liam Marshall-Brown who quit college finds farm work interesting and engaging. “It’s fun,” he says. “I mostly did restaurants before. I was a host or inside the kitchen. You feel trapped after a while, doing the same thing over and over and over again. It’s just nice to be outside. Pretty much you’re doing something new every day, not exactly the same. I like being outside more.”

But, not all the work is outdoors. Students go through a curriculum of five different modules, covering everything from cleaning and sanitation, horticulture, hospitality, to leadership and entrepreneurship.

And the training is not complete until they learn about the machines they use every day; how they work and how to fix them. 

And as you might expect from a vineyard owner, wine making is also part of the curriculum.

Winemaker Meaghan Tardif is a mentor at the school… she teaches students winemaking – and leadership skills.

“My favorite part about being a mentor is I always give the student a chance to teach someone else.” Tardif explains. “Leadership is everywhere. It’s not just in the work. It’s not just your employees, but it helps you throughout your life.”

Cultivating dreams, saving land

The experience has inspired Marshall-Brown to find a future in agriculture.

“I would like to be that, but I still have a lot to learn to be able to do that. Hopefully I’ll get there and I’ll run my own farm one day and have people work under me.”

That pleases Fabbioli, who says it’s good for the community to have more farmers.

“This is a wealthy community,” he notes. “We are actually one of the richest counties in the nations. The goal for folks in Loudoun, on a state level or on a community level is to save the land, is to save the green space in western Loudoun County. We can do that by farming, but we need more farmers very much. So giving people the opportunity to learn, put more people to work. It may also keep the cars off the highways because they’re living locally and they’re working locally.”

That’s what the New AG School hopes to do — grow the next generation of dedicated, skillful farmers.

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