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Trade Talks Resume at Pivotal Moment in U.S.-China Relations



WASHINGTON—Senior U.S. and Chinese officials will square off for trade talks Thursday at a pivotal moment in the countries’ relationship, with higher tariffs looming if negotiators fail to break a five-month stalemate.

The backdrop for the talks has become more complicated. What started as a U.S. assault on Chinese trading practices has become muddied by other issues, from China’s repression of its Muslim minorities to the possible impeachment of President Trump.

“I don’t have high expectations for these talks,” said

Sen. Marco Rubio,

a Florida Republican who has urged a tough approach to Beijing. “What we’re going through here is not just a trade dispute but a much-needed rebalancing in our relationship.”

U.S. business leaders are worried about the long-term implications of an unending trade war. Large companies fear losing access to China, the world’s largest consumer market, while small businesses in particular are chafing under 25% U.S. tariffs on many Chinese imports.

“These tariffs have been a major, major challenge for us,” said

Deepa Gandhi,

chief operating officer of the New York-based handbag company Dagne Dover. “It would be great if we could focus on growing and building our business instead of mitigating tariffs.”

Wall Street is on edge, with markets moving on news that could affect trade talks, such as the U.S. blacklisting this week of Chinese companies and entities linked to the Muslim crackdown.

There are troubling economic signs. An index of U.S. manufacturing showed the lowest reading in more than 10 years for September.

Few believe the U.S. and China will agree to a comprehensive trade accord this week. “It’s unrealistic to think we’re going to solve all the issues in one go—we have too many issues,” said

Craig Allen,

president of the U.S.-China Business Council.

Yet Mr. Allen is hopeful for a “cessation of hostilities,” including halting new U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods—which are paid by U.S. importers and consumers—and the start of serious negotiations toward an accord.

Most Democrats back a tough approach to China, but many have criticized Mr. Trump’s tactics and reliance on tariffs.

Sen. Maria Cantwell

(D., Wash.) said it is “clear from the latest report on U.S. manufacturing that the tariff-first approach on trade is hurting the United States.”

China has been stepping up purchases of American soybeans, buying 1.5 million metric tons in the last week of September alone. Business groups hope farm purchases will give the Trump administration at least one reason to delay new tariffs.

The high-level talks are scheduled for Thursday and Friday, with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and other senior Beijing officials squaring off against U.S. trade representative

Robert Lighthizer

and Treasury Secretary

Steven Mnuchin.

Lower-level officials have been meeting this week to lay the groundwork, and the Chinese delegation is working to secure a meeting between Mr. Liu and President Trump, according to one person briefed on the situation. Opponents of tariffs hope the officials can find ways that Mr. Trump and Chinese President

Xi Jinping

can ratchet back tensions at an expected meeting next month at a summit of world leaders in Chile.

Last weekend, U.S.-China relations were further strained by a tweet from the general manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team supporting the Hong Kong democracy movement, leading to the cancellation of NBA events in China this week.

China is looking to narrow the scope of its negotiations with the U.S. to trade matters only and put thornier issues—such as U.S. national security concerns over Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co.—on a separate track in a bid to break the deadlock.

Chen Wenling,

chief economist at Beijing-based think tank China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said that because the Chinese market needs agricultural products Beijing is willing to buy from the U.S., although she doesn’t think purchases will return to pre-trade-war levels unless the U.S. removes all its tariffs.

She described Beijing’s hope for a “phased deal” under which the two sides agree on some things in the short term.

“To achieve a phased deal, the U.S. needs at least to take away some tariffs,” she said.

For its part, China is buying farm products, opening up its financial sector and cracking down on fentanyl trafficking in the hopes these actions will appease Washington, she said.

But Mr. Trump has insisted the deal must include long-term measures aimed at leveling the playing field between U.S. and Chinese companies, including limiting the forced transfer of technology and curbing subsidies by the Chinese government and advantages enjoyed by government-controlled businesses.

The trade war with China is putting a strain on the U.S. agriculture industry. WSJ’s Jason Bellini sat down with a group of farmers from the corn, beef, soybean, and dairy industries to hear how tariffs are affecting their businesses.

The president’s hardball tactics, including escalating tariffs and the blacklisting of Chinese companies, have led to pressure from Republican political donors and lawmakers close to businesses and farmers who have suffered retaliation from China.

Business groups want Mr. Trump abandon plans to raise tariffs to 30%, which is set to happen Oct. 15. They also want him to drop plans to impose new tariffs of 15% on $156 billion in smartphones, apparel and other consumer goods starting Dec. 15.

Some of Mr. Trump’s supporters are pushing for a resolution. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) has pointedly noted how the trade war has been “very tough” on American farmers—a key Republican constituency—and GOP megadonor

Sheldon Adelson

called Mr. Trump in August to warn about the China conflict’s impact on the economy and his election prospects.

Economists worry that the tariffs and uncertainty about the trade war could trigger or exacerbate an economic contraction in the U.S. as global growth slows.

“The public wants a deal,”

Sen. Chuck Grassley

(R., Iowa), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Wednesday. “Taking some of this uncertainty out is necessary to move us along on the agreement and to keep the economy strong, which is the bulwark of his re-election.”

Some business groups are pushing for a partial agreement to halt tariffs, but Mr. Grassley said U.S. negotiators appear to be aiming for a grand bargain that requires structural changes to China’s economy, although such a pact may fail to rein in Beijing’s subsidies for Chinese companies.

“I hope we don’t settle for some bad deal, some short-term thing in which we agree to some smaller items in exchange for going back to where it was,” Mr. Rubio said in an interview.

Asked Monday if the administration was heading toward a partial deal with China, Mr. Trump said, “I think it’s not what we prefer at all.”

Previous attempts to clinch a limited deal failed after criticism from Democratic politicians as well as hawkish GOP voices in Mr. Trump’s camp.

The potential impeachment of Mr. Trump has also clouded prospects for a pact, with observers saying the possible removal of Mr. Trump from office might give China an incentive to bide its time.

Mr. Trump dragged China into the impeachment debate last week by asking Beijing to investigate Democratic presidential candidate

Joe Biden

and his son—an awkward request that could call into question the merits of any trade deal reached with China.

“Very few expected a comprehensive deal, but with the additional scrutiny, it would frame any sort of deal involving concessions as politically motivated,” said

Jason Miller,

a former Trump communications aide who now advises companies.

China has presented the trade war as a long-term confrontation that must be endured, at least for now.

“The America side seems very interested in a deal, and yet is demanding a good, strong deal,” said the U.S.-China Business Council’s Mr. Allen. “The Chinese side seems to be strengthening their position, and they are prepared for a long-term economic disagreement with the United States.”

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Fiksu DSP now offers even more efficient ad campaign optimization and complete transparency through their self-serve platform




Fiksu, a demand-side platform for digital advertising, has announced the launch of its self-serve DSP. The platform has been built to empower marketers with scalable advertising tools and ensure full control over their ad campaigns. With the help of Fiksu self-serve DSP, advertisers can access inventory from premium supply-side platforms in various environments. 

Now marketers can deliver their ads not only on mobile, but also in the most promising digital environment: Connected TV. This provides brands with excellent opportunities. Firstly, direct-to-consumer (DTC) shoppers spend more time streaming than on social media. Secondly, 90% of viewers confirm that CTV advertising is more relevant than traditional TV ads. And lastly, in most cases, connected TV ads will be seen by several people in a household, which significantly increases the reach. 

Aside from quality inventory, users of Fiksu self-serve DSP enjoy exceptionally detailed reporting and efficient campaign optimization tools. The key metrics that advertisers can view include total viewability time, video completion rate (VCR), and view-through rate (VTR). And those who want to dig deeper into data can study customized reports on impressions and total spend. 

Fiksu DSP reconfirms its commitment to fraud prevention and brand safety. The platform has teamed-up with Pixalate to ward off fraudulent ad impressions. This market-leading solution analyzes the myriad of devices to identify suspicious activity before any of the ad budget is spent. Thus, marketers are guaranteed that their money will not be wasted by ill-intentioned vendors.

“Our experience in business along with knowledge gained from current industry researches and user feedback allows us to identify market demand and implement practical tools that meet it. We foresee more and more advertisers seeking ultimate control over their campaigns, so we launched the Fiksu self-serve DSP to provide them with a high level of autonomy and transparency.” — Anna Kuzmenko, COO at Fiksu.


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Kobe Bryant’s Death Cuts Short a Budding Business Career




U.S. stock futures are down sharply this morning on fears about the coronavirus outbreak. More below. (Want this in your inbox each morning? Sign up here.)

The death of Kobe Bryant, the retired L.A. Lakers star, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash yesterday has stirred up grief across the sports world. It also had corporate leaders lamenting the loss of an up-and-coming business mogul.

Mr. Bryant was one of the greatest N.B.A. players, with five championship rings and 18 All-Star selections in 20 seasons.

But he was building a business empire, too:

• He started the investment firm Bryant Stibel in 2013 with the founder Jeff Stibel. Bryant Stibel has invested in companies like Dell, Alibaba and Epic Games, the maker of Fortnight.

U.S. stock futures are down sharply this morning, as the death toll of the coronavirus outbreak continues to rise and pressure grows on China’s political leaders and its economy.

An investor group led by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is said to be in talks to buy the British soccer club Newcastle United for about $445 million, according to the WSJ and the FT. It could mean another team with well-heeled owners willing to spend millions to chase success.

The current state of play:

• Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is working with the financier Amanda Staveley and the billionaires David and Simon Reuben.

• The Saudis would own 80 percent of Newcastle in any such deal. Ms. Staveley and the Reubens would split the remainder.

Why Newcastle? It’s one of the better-known English Premier League soccer teams, with stellar attendance at matches. And its current owner, Mike Ashley, has been criticized for not spending enough on players.

The Saudis have been investing in businesses outside the Middle East to diversify their country’s economy away from oil. The sovereign fund, known as P.I.F., has taken stakes in companies like Uber and Tesla.

The question is how much the Saudis are prepared to spend on Newcastle. Abu Dhabi propelled Manchester City to the heights of the Premier League by spending heavily on the team, while Qatar has done something similar with Paris Saint-Germain.

Britain is reportedly expected to give Huawei a limited role in its 5G network this week, George Parker and Nic Fildes of the FT report. That could set up a fight with the Trump administration, which views the Chinese tech giant as a security threat.

Business leaders embraced his work. Andy Grove, a former C.E.O. of Intel, said soon after “The Innovator’s Dilemma” published that it was the most important book he had read in a decade.

Adam Grant, a Wharton professor and fellow sage for the business world, offered this assessment: “His most disruptive innovation was reminding us not to overinvest in careers and underinvest in people.”

More: How direct-to-consumer companies like Dollar Shave Club shook up the world of retail.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stirred up controversy last week when he said that the climate change activist Greta Thunberg should take a college economics class. But Ms. Thunberg found a supporter in Mr. Mnuchin’s wife, Louise Linton.

“I stand with Greta on this issue. (I don’t have a degree in economics either),” Ms. Linton, a Hollywood actor and producer who is a public supporter of animal rescue organizations, wrote in an Instagram post on Saturday.

Ms. Linton later deleted the post, and then posted to her Instagram Story defending herself, writes William Cummings of USA Today. “I am not my husband,” she wrote to one critic. “I happen to love Greta. Whatever he says has nothing to do with my views or opinions.”


• Reporters at The Chicago Tribune really want someone to buy out their newspaper’s current owner. (NYT)


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A $100 Million Bet That Vacationland Can Be a Tech Hub, Too




PORTLAND, Maine — There is nothing obviously wrong with Maine’s biggest city. Its shops buzz in the summer with well-heeled tourists. Zillow rates the real estate market “very hot.” David Geffen’s yacht docks at port from time to time. The food scene is great. In November, the unemployment rate was barely 2.2 percent.

Something is troubling Portland, however. Productivity growth is low. Business formation is anemic. And there is a sense that in an era of technology-driven economic winners, Portland’s 66,000 residents are being left behind.

“It looks like we’re doing fine,” said Jon Jennings, Portland’s city manager. “But just underneath the real estate development, there is that insecurity as to what will actually drive the economy in the future.” Lobstering and tourism will not suffice.

Hoping to draw itself into the high-tech orbit, Portland is about to become a test case. On Monday, officials including Gov. Janet Mills and Mayor Kate Snyder will gather on Portland’s waterfront for the unveiling of a research institute meant to propel the local economy.

If the effort succeeds, it could provide a template for the many American cities struggling to share in the nation’s prosperity.

Its patron is David Roux, who grew up in nearby Lewiston and graduated from Harvard before building a fortune as a Silicon Valley investor. Mr. Roux, a co-founder of the private-equity firm Silver Lake Partners 20 years ago, is giving $100 million to Northeastern University to establish a graduate school and research center in Portland.

The center, to be known as the Roux Institute, will award certificates, master’s degrees and Ph.D.s in artificial intelligence and machine learning — geared in particular toward the life sciences.

“What is it that could be most catalytic to transform and support an economy that doesn’t fully participate in the modern, tech-led innovation economy?” Mr. Roux asked. His answer is “to bring cutting-edge technology capabilities here to Maine and northern New England.”

The goal is to tap into the forces that have funneled knowledge-based affluence into a small number of megacities. Ten cities that are home to less than a quarter of the population generate nearly half of the nation’s patents and a third of its economic output, according to recent research.


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