The flags of United States and China outside a commercial building in Beijing, China, on July 09, 2007.
Teh Eng Koon | AFP | Getty Images
The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed four pieces of legislation taking a hard line on China, three related to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and one commending Canada’s government in a dispute over the extradition of an executive from Huawei Technologies.
All four measures passed by unanimous voice vote, as members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans — said they wanted to take an aggressive stance on China and show support for Hong Kong following four months of unrest in the city.
The measures come as the White House engages in delicate talks with Beijing to resolve a crippling trade war, with U.S. Treasury yields edging lower on Tuesday as investors pared back expectations that an agreement was at hand.
One of the measures, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, would require the U.S. secretary of state to certify every year that Hong Kong was retaining its autonomy in order to keep receiving the special treatment that has allowed it to be a major financial center.
A second, the Protect Hong Kong Act, would bar commercial exports of military and crowd control items that Hong Kong policy could use against demonstrators.
The Senate has not yet scheduled votes on the legislation, which would send the measures to the White House for Trump to sign into law — or veto. However, a Foreign Relations Committee aide said votes on Hong Kong-related measures were expected in the chamber in the coming weeks.
The third measure passed by the House is a non-binding resolution recognizing Hong Kong’s relationship to the United States, condemning Beijing’s “interference” in its affairs, and supporting the right of the city’s residents to protest.
The Hong Kong government expressed regret over the passage of the legislation and reiterated that foreign legislatures should not interfere in the city’s internal affairs.
The fourth was another non-binding House resolution commending Canada for its actions related to a U.S. request to extradite Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Canada in December.
Meng is charged in the United States with bank fraud and is accused of misleading HSBC Holdings about Huawei’s business in Iran, which is under U.S. sanctions. Meng has said she is innocent and is fighting extradition.
The United States has accused Huawei of stealing American intellectual property and violating Iran sanctions. Many Republican and Democratic members of Congress say they view the company as a security threat.
Hong Kong has been rocked by massive marches and at times violent protests involving teargas, petrol bombs and live rounds, over concerns Beijing is tightening its grip on the city and eroding democratic rights.
Beijing rejects the charge and accuses Western countries, like the United States and Britain, of stirring up trouble.
The unrest poses the biggest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012. He has warned that any attempt to divide China would be crushed.
Hillary Clinton criticises UK’s decision to withhold Russia report
Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debate at the CNN Brooklyn Navy Yard Democratic Debate, New York, April 14, 2016.
David Hume Kennerly | Archive Photos | Getty Images
The U.K. government’s decision to delay the publication of a report on alleged Russian interference in British politics has been slammed as “inexplicable and shameful” by former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Speaking to the BBC Monday, Clinton said she was “dumbfounded that this government won’t release the report about Russian influence because every person who votes in this country (the U.K.) deserves to see that report before your election happens.”
“I find it inexplicable that your government will not release a government report about Russian influence. Inexplicable and shameful,” she said.
Clinton’s comments refer to a decision by the U.K. government to delay the publication of a report investigating Russian influence in British politics until after a general election on December 12.
The BBC said the report “includes allegations of espionage, subversion and interference in elections.” “It contains evidence from U.K. intelligence services such as GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 concerning covert Russian attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 EU referendum and 2017 general election,” the BBC said.
Russia is believed to have interfered in the 2016 U.S. election that saw Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton to the presidency. Allegations of Russian interference prompted a near two-year long investigation led by Robert Mueller. The inquiry said that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in “sweeping and systematic fashion” and had been designed to favor Trump and harm Clinton’s campaign.
Mueller said the inquiry did not establish that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference campaign.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Monday, Clinton said “there is no doubt – we know it in our country, we have seen it in Europe, we have seen it here – that Russia in particular is determined to try to shape the politics of western democracies.
“Not to our benefit, but to theirs,” she said, “there’s no doubt of the role that Russia played in our 2016 election and is continuing to play.” The U.K. government has attracted widespread criticism after it announced last Monday that it would not allow a report examining Russian infiltration into U.K. politics to be published prior to the dissolution of Parliament ahead of the election.
The report was compiled by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) and includes analysis from British intelligence agencies. It requires clearance from the government to be released.
A government minister said on Tuesday that the report had not yet been published because of necessary procedure. Speaking to broadcaster ITV, the Deputy Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said “it is absolutely normal that reports like this go through a period of vetting which does take several weeks.” He also said all donations to the Conservative party were transparent and fully in accordance with the rules, Reuters reported. For its part, Russia has previously denied meddling in foreign elections.
With political parties in full campaign mode ahead of the general election next month, the government was accused of a cover-up by the opposition Labour Party. The Sunday Times newspaper also reported that nine Russian donors to the ruling Conservative Party have been named in the secret intelligence report. It also said that intelligence agencies are “furious” over the government’s block on the publication of the report.
But a government minister of state defended the delay of the report, telling parliament last week that it was “not unusual” for delays to happen when reviewing and responding to ISC reports. He also stated that the Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been busy in recent weeks obtaining a Brexit deal.
Uber’s Travis Kalanick sells half a billion dollars in stock
Former Uber Technologies CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick walks on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the company’s IPO May 10, 2019.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters
Uber co-founder and director Travis Kalanick sold more than half a billion dollars worth of stock last week after the company’s lockup period expired.
Uber’s 180-day restriction on inside and early investor sales came to an end Wednesday, sending the stock down that day in anticipation of a wave of sales. Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber who was ousted from the top seat after being accused of fostering an unhealthy workplace environment, sold more than 20 million shares held in a trust over three days last week, according to a financial filing submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.
Uber’s stock has plummeted to about $27 per share as of Friday’s closing price from its opening price of $42 at its May debut. The company’s market value is now about $45 billion, down from nearly $70 billion at the end of its first trading day.
Kalanick still directly owns more than 75 million shares in Uber, according to the filing. Despite his tenuous relationship to the company following accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination at Uber under his leadership, Kalanick still sits on the board and was present at the New York Stock Exchange during the company’s IPO in May, though not on the dais with company executives.
While it’s unclear why Kalanick chose to sell his shares, he could use the money to help fund his new venture, CloudKitchens. According to its website, the start-up plans to rent space to restaurateurs for delivery-based businesses. The project has again cast controversy on Kalanick after The Wall Street Journal reported he raised $400 million from a Saudi fund that is also a major investor in Uber, the fund’s first known deal in Silicon Valley since Jamal Khashoggi’s death. The Central Intelligence Agency concluded last year that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist.
Saudi Arabia’s ‘control’ and ‘influence’ on oil giant
The public listing of Saudi Arabia‘s state-owned oil company has been highly anticipated by the market, but analysts say investors should consider the influence the kingdom has over the company.
“The biggest issue with Aramco is that everything about this company is controlled by the Saudi royal family — shareholder opinions, your board votes, none of that makes any difference,” said Pavel Molchanov, director and energy analyst at Raymond James.
Aramco said in an email that it will respond to CNBC’s queries about governance concerns at the “earliest opportunity.”
Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, announced Saturday that up to 0.5% of its shares will be allocated for individual investors in its initial public offering. The IPO is set for December on Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul exchange.
The 658-page preliminary prospectus divulged operational information about Saudi Aramco, but didn’t list a possible price range for the shares or give a definite idea how many shares will be offered.
Analysts’ valuations of the company range widely, between $1.2 trillion to $2.3 trillion. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman put a $2 trillion valuation on the oil firm when he first touted the idea of a listing in 2016.
Even within the lower range of that valuation, Aramco could become the largest stock listing in history, surpassing Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s $25 billion flotation in 2014, which still stands as the biggest IPO ever.
But according to Molchanov, the IPO “may be too small to really be interesting” for many asset managers.
“The government will do whatever it wants, whether it’s raising production, curtailing production, investing in one geography versus another,” he told CNBC on Monday. “They simply will not care what their private shareholders will wish to see.”
Investors will have to consider the “political influence” of the kingdom, said Daniel Gerard, senior global multi-asset strategist at State Street.
“There’s a lot to think about when buying Aramco,” he told CNBC last week, adding that an important issue is “how much political influence would there be over the investment decisions.”
“Saudi Arabia is still probably the largest party who is able to influence the oil markets as a single entity,” said Gerard.
“Even if the U.S. with shale oil is a larger producer, it’s not one entity that makes one decision,” he added.
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