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Germany’s Christian Democrats elected Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Friday to replace Angela Merkel as party leader, a decision that moves her into pole position to succeed Europe’s most influential leader as chancellor.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, is Merkel’s protege and was the continuity candidate favored by the party elite. She won the leadership with 517 votes out of 999 votes cast by delegates. Her rival, Friedrich Merz, won 482 votes in a run-off.

A former state premier in Saarland, where she led a three-way coalition, Kramp-Karrenbauer has a reputation for uniting support across the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and a talent for striking alliances with other parties.

Sometimes dubbed “mini Merkel”, Kramp-Karrenbauer is admired by the CDU upper echelons for her appeal across the party.

“I have read a lot about what I am and who I am: ‘mini’, a copy, simply ‘more of the same’. Dear delegates, I stand before you as I am and as life made me and I am proud of that,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said in a passionate speech to the congress.

Playing up her experience in regional government, she added to cheers and loud applause: “I learned what it is to lead – and above all learnt that leadership is more about being strong on the inside than being loud on the outside.”

Merkel said in October she would step down as party chief but remain chancellor, an effort to manage her exit after a series of setbacks since her divisive decision in 2015 to keep German borders open to refugees fleeing war in the Middle East.

There was jubilation as the result of the run-off was announced. A tearful Kramp-Karrenbauer thanked her rivals and invited them to share the stage with her in a show of party unity, which delegates applauded.

Earlier, an emotional Merkel bowed out as party leader, telling the congress: “It has been a great pleasure for me, it has been an honour.”

Kramp-Karrenbauer has differentiated herself from Merkel on social and foreign policy by voting in favour of quotas for women on corporate boards and taking a tougher line on Russia.

She told Reuters last week that Europe and the United States should consider blockading Russian ships over the Ukraine crisis.

But on what lies ahead for the CDU, Kramp-Karrenbauer said when campaigning: “I have no particular recipe.”

During the campaign, she took a more cautious stance on the future of Europe than Merz, who said Germany should “contribute more” to the European Union as it benefits from a euro common currency that is “too weak for our economy”.

Last month, Kramp-Karrenbauer told a business conference: “With every wish to take Europe forward with a German-French nucleus, the proposals must always fit with German interests.”

Party insiders say she gets on well with Merkel. “The chemistry is good,” said one senior CDU official.

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China readying plan to widen foreign access to its economy: WSJ



A dinner between Xi and Trump at a Group of 20 summit earlier this month has offered a degree of optimism surrounding the trade talks after both countries agreed to suspend any new tariffs until 2019. Trump on Tuesday took to Twitter to highlight “very productive” conversations with Beijing, telling his followers to “watch for some important announcements!”

Still, there has been little room for optimism that the two economic powerhouses will reach a deal given the long list of U.S. grievances against China’s economic polices, including state support for certain industries and theft of intellectual property.

The White House has slapped multiple rounds of tariffs on goods imported from China throughout 2018 as a part of the president’s move to protect American business interests. Trump, along with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, hopes that the sanctions will force overseas counterparts to entertain more favorable trade deals.

The president has had mixed success with the tactic, producing both a revised version of the North American Free Trade Agreement as well as headaches for longtime economic allies like Canada and the European Union. Trump has specifically targeted Beijing with tariffs for alleged intellectual property theft as well as contributing to the massive trade imbalance between the two nations.

Click here to view the original Wall Street Journal report.

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Shale growth may force OPEC into another production cut in April, Citi says



Oil prices have plunged nearly 30 percent since reaching year highs of more than $86 per barrel in early October over concerns of global oversupply and weakening demand. The U.S.-China trade war, political turmoil across European markets and fears of impending slowdown in global economic growth have also seriously clouded the demand outlook.

And the EIA has upgraded its supply growth outlook for American crude. U.S. domestic oil production is now expected to increase by 1.18 million bpd next year, up slightly from November’s estimate of 1.16 million bpd, with output averaging 12.06 million bpd, according to PVM Oil Associates.

“This impending flood of fresh U.S. crude supply will cement its newfound position as the world’s top oil producer,” the oil consultancy said Wednesday.

The Saudis have worked to enlist the support of Russia in their market-shaping endeavors. But while Moscow prefers a lower oil price to Riyadh, the two will have to join forces to deal with the eagle, Morse said.

“The American eagle is just soaring,” he said, “and nobody would’ve predicted that.”

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Macron government to face no-confidence vote following French protests



Yellow vest (gilets jaunes) protestors take notes as thet watch French President Emmanuel Macron's speech on TV on December 10, 2018 at a restaurant with French deputy Richard Damos, in Fay-au-Loges, near Orleans, Center France. 

Guillaume Souvant | AFP | Getty Images

Yellow vest (gilets jaunes) protestors take notes as thet watch French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech on TV on December 10, 2018 at a restaurant with French deputy Richard Damos, in Fay-au-Loges, near Orleans, Center France. 

Left-of-center lawmakers in France have tabled a motion of no confidence in the French government following repeated protests and scenes of violence.

The “gilets jaunes” (“yellow vests”) crisis started as a demonstration against a carbon tax policy and planned fuel tax increases, but have morphed into wider discontent at the leadership of President Emmanuel Macron.

Now representatives from the French Communist Party, the Socialist Party and the far-left populist movement France Unbowed (La France Insoumise) have come together to table the motion against Macron’s government.

The government of Georges Pompidou in 1962 was successfully toppled by such a motion but few believe this one will pass as Macron’s centrist La République En Marche! party enjoys a strong majority in the 577-seat house.

“The French political system makes it extremely difficult to remove a President from office,” said the Deputy Director of Research at Teneo Intelligence in a note Wednesday.

“The only political tool available to the opposition to expel Macron is the constitution’s impeachment procedure, which no one is currently considering,” he added.

The motion is expected to be debated at 10:30 a.m. eastern time on Thursday, according to media reports.

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