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European Union targets peanut butter, orange juice and whiskey in transatlantic trade war with Trump

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The EU said Wednesday it would hit flagship US products including peanut butter, orange juice and bourbon whiskey with counter measures if US President Donald Trump goes ahead with threatened steel and aluminium tariffs.

The blow by Brussels came hours after Trump’s trade offensive brought the resignation of his top economic advisor Gary Cohn, an influential ex-Goldman Sachs banker who fiercely opposed the measures.

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EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said a full-on transatlantic trade war was “not in anybody’s interests” — a stark contrast from Trump, who last week declared trade wars were “good and easy to win”.

“A trade war has no winners,” Sweden’s Malmstroem told reporters after the European Commission, which handles trade matters for the bloc, discussed the tariffs.

“We should be very careful with that word… there are only losers in that, and that’s why we will respond in a proportionate and balanced way.”

The European Union is holding fire on its reprisals as Trump has yet to sign into effect his plan to set tariffs for what he calls unfair competition for US industry, but Malmstroem said a list of products had been drawn up including steel, industrial and agricultural items.

“Certain types of bourbon are on the list as are other items such as peanut butter, cranberries, orange juice,” Malmstroem said.

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European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday threatened to hit big-name US brands such as Harley Davidson motorbikes and Levi’s jeans with import duties, prompting Trump to fire back a threat to tax cars from the EU.

Despite Juncker’s headline-grabbing threat to iconic US brands, the EU’s hitlist does not mention specific businesses.

– ‘Thousands of jobs’ –

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Malmstroem said the EU was still trying to persuade Washington not to go ahead with the tariffs, which she said would threaten “thousands of European jobs”.

The EU is also looking at “safeguard” measures to protect its industry — restricting the bloc’s imports of steel and aluminium to stop foreign supplies flooding the European market, which is allowed under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

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Trump, elected on a promise to roll back the effects of globalisation on the US economy with an “America First” platform, said Thursday he planned to impose 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminium.

Juncker, who on Wednesday met Lakshmi Mittal, the boss of the world’s top steelmaker ArcelorMittal, said last week the EU would “react firmly” to protect European industry.

Europe exports around five billion euros’ ($4 billion) worth of steel and a billion euros’ worth of aluminium to the US each year, and the commission estimates Trump’s tariffs could cost some 2.8 billion euros.

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As well as making it harder for European metal to find buyers in the US, tariffs could also mean other foreign producers redirect their output to the EU, pushing the market there down.

Brussels wants to maximise the political impact of its reprisals on the US while minimising the impact of a trade war on European consumers.

European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen told AFP on Friday the bloc could form a “coalition of like-minded countries” to file a complaint at the WTO, though this procedure usually takes around two years.


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White House grants press access to Christian site whose founder called impeachment a ‘Jew coup’

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The White House granted press credentials to a Christian news site whose founder claimed that President Donald Trump's impeachment was a "Jew coup" organized by a "Jewish cabal" in anti-Semitic remarks.

Five employees of the Florida-based conservative Christian news outlet TruNews received press credentials from the White House to cover Trump's trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week, founder Rick Wiles told The New York Times from a ski lodge reserved for press members by the Trump administration. The outlet was not granted special access to Trump, though TruNews' Edward Szall asked Ivanka Trump a question during a news conference, according to the report.

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Fox News host Laura Ingraham floated a novel legal theory on Monday in an attempt to remove Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) from Congress: that members of Congress can be impeached.

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Ingraham was simply wrong on the facts, the constitution does not allow the impeachment of members of Congress.

The constitutional mechanism to remove a member of Congress before the end of their two-year term is for two-thirds of the body to vote to expel the member.

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50 million trapped after China sealed off cities as virus death toll surges

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The United States and other nations raced to get their citizens out of the locked-down Chinese city at ground-zero of a virus epidemic on Tuesday, as the death toll surged to 106 and the number of confirmed infections doubled to over 4,500.

The deadly virus, which experts believe emanated from a wild animal market in the city of Wuhan last month, has triggered a desperate Chinese containment effort after spreading nationwide and to more than a dozen other countries.

The government has sealed off Wuhan and other cities in central Hubei province, effectively trapping more than 50 million people, including thousands of foreigners, in a bid to contain the virus as the high-travel Lunar New Year holiday unfolds.

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