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China suspends tariff hikes on $126B of US cars, auto parts

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BEIJING — China announced a 90-day suspension on Friday of tariff hikes on $126 billion of U.S. cars, trucks and auto parts following its cease-fire in a trade battle with Washington that threatens global economic growth.

The suspension is China’s first step in response to President Donald Trump’s Dec. 1 agreement to suspend U.S. tariff hikes for a similar 90-day period while the two sides negotiate over American complaints about Beijing’s technology policy and trade surplus.

China has indicated it plans to move ahead with the talks despite strains over the arrest of a Chinese technology executive in Canada to face possible U.S. charges related to a violation of trade sanctions on Iran.

Beijing will suspend a 25 per cent import charge on $66 billion of cars and trucks and a 5 per cent charge on $60 billion of auto parts, effective Jan. 1, the Finance Ministry announced.

The announcement helped give substance to Trump’s agreement with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, after prolonged uncertainty caused jittery global financial markets to swing wildly.

The Chinese penalties were imposed in response to Trump’s decision to slap 25 per cent tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods and a 10 per cent charge on another $200 billion. The second tariff was due to rise Jan. 1 until Trump agreed to the postponement.

The United States and other trading partners complain that Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology in violation of its market-opening obligations. American officials also worry Chinese industry plans that call for state-led creation of global champions in robotics and other fields threaten U.S. industrial leadership.

A spokesman for China’s Commerce Ministry, Gao Feng, said Thursday the two sides were in “close contact” but gave no timetable for possible face-to-face negotiations.

Economists say 90 days probably is too little time to resolve conflicts that have bedeviled U.S.-Chinese relations for years. They say Beijing’s goal probably will be to show it is making progress so Trump extends his deadline.

Beijing officials expressed confidence China could withstand U.S. pressure but the fight battered consumer confidence and threatened export industries that support millions of jobs.

Friday’s announcement “shows the Chinese government is willing to solve trade disputes through consultation based on equality,” said Song Lifang, an economist at Renmin University in Beijing.

The tariff cut lowers the charge for U.S.-made cars and trucks to 15 per cent, the same level as imports from other countries.

“If the United States cuts or remove tariffs on Chinese goods, China will surely follow up with further relevant measures,” Song said.

___

AP researcher Yu Bing in Beijing contributed to this report.

Joe McDonald, The Associated Press

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Automotive

A heartwarming Christmas story from Kipp Scott GMC Cadillac Buick

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When Covid regulations took away this local automotive dealership’s ability to host their annual kids Christmas party, they decided to bring Christmas to the kids. Enjoy!

Read more on Todayville.

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Alberta

Insurance rate increases absolutely unacceptable: NDP Critic for Service Alberta

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This post was submitted by Jon Carson, NDP MLA for Edmonton-West Henday, Opposition Critic for Service Alberta

Thirty per cent.

That’s how much auto insurance rates skyrocketed by for some Albertans at the end of this year, after Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP removed the five per cent cap on rate increases that our NDP government brought in, taking a “no limit” approach to how much insurance companies could actually raise rates.

The jump was immediate.

Albertans saw a wave of premium increases bordering on price gouging. Over 90% of car insurance companies filed for rate increases as soon as the cap was lifted, and rushed to bill drivers as soon as they could. Of the companies that received approved rate changes, the increases ranged from 4.9 per cent to an eye-popping 29.8 per cent.

It was a nice gift from Jason Kenney, who already slammed families for hundreds of dollars of new costs in his fall budget, including hikes to income tax, property tax, as well as more in school fees, prescription drugs and college tuition.

As usual, Finance Minister Travis Toews trotted out the UCP’s one-trick pony and blamed the NDP, claiming that insurance companies were set to pack their bags and flee the province if he didn’t let them jack up premiums beyond five per cent.

The lobbying effort came out in full force. The brokers, the insurance companies, and the Insurance Bureau of Canada are working overtime to sell quite the sob story: a massive spike in claims costs, not enough options for drivers, etc, etc. It’s tough times for the poor, little ol’ car insurance company.

What a load. These are some of the biggest and most profitable companies in Canada, and they simply want back the power they had to jack up premiums hand over fist.

The truth is that claims costs over the past few years are level, a fact that’s supported by the Insurance Bureau of Canada‘s own data. In fact, an actuarial analysis by Fair Alberta Injury Regulators, an organization made up of concerned Albertans, doctors and legal experts, found that injury payouts have stabilized in the last few years, and even started to dip in 2019. Their actuary specifically found evidence that claims are “not skyrocketing.”

This is further supported by the Alberta Superintendent of Insurance, responsible for all regulatory oversight of insurers operating in Alberta with a specific duty to ensure that insurance companies treat Albertans fairly. In his annual report for 2018, he found on average that the claims ratio for car insurance was 80 per cent across all companies in Alberta. Not the 120 per cent figure the insurance companies trot out on TV.

And while the UCP Government continues to claim they have documents to prove the cap made the car insurance industry unsustainable, they haven’t provided a single piece of paper showing any of these companies would bail if they could–GASP–only raise premiums five per cent every year.

So why remove the cap? Well, in politics, it’s who you know. And Jason Kenney knows an awful lot of people in the insurance industry. Namely, his former chief of staff and campaign director Nick Koolsbergen, who was hired to lobby the Premier on behalf of the car insurance industry just last year. He has Kenney’s cell phone number.

Sounds like a good guy to have on your side… if you’re a car insurance company.

The fact is, these companies turn a profit of tens of millions of dollars each year. They’re used to having carte blanche in Alberta, and they want it back.

Under the thinly-veiled guise of “red tape reduction”, the UCP has struck a panel looking at more regulatory changes that the insurance lobby itself has said “could also change the rate regulation framework that governs how insurers set premiums.”

If costs are going to go up even more, who will Jason Kenney look out for? His friends and interests in big insurance? Or everyday Albertans driving to work?

Knowing Jason Kenney, Albertans should brace for impact.

Jon Carson is the MLA for Edmonton-West Henday and the Alberta NDP Opposition Critic for Service Alberta.

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