Instant Karma Newsletter 8.10.20
  • This week’s high-level U.S.-China trade talks, ready to gauge progress of the $200 billion trade deal, come during a period of increasing tension between the economic superpowers and threats of bans against TikTok and WeChat. 

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The upcoming “temperature check” meeting between senior U.S. and Chinese trade representatives this week — a progress report on how both sides were faring under Phase 1 of January’s trade deal — was already expected to be heated.

After all, China is far behind on its pledge to increase its U.S. imports by $200 billion in certain sectors by 2022. According to the Peterson Institute for International Economics, through June, China had imported about $40.2 billion in U.S. goods covered in the agreement but needed to import about $86.3 billion. The U.S.-China trade deficit actually widened 5% in June to $28.4 billion.

President Trump, in classic flamethrower mode, then tossed numerous logs on the fire last week, issuing two executive orders barring transactions between the U.S. and the popular Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat by next month, citing security concerns. TikTok’s owner ByteDance is currently in talks with Microsoft about a sale.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin called it a “hegemonic practice” and said Trump was “using state power to oppress non-American businesses.”

Some say the escalating tensions between the two countries — including the recent closing of the Chinese consulate in Houston and the closing of the American consulate in Chengdu — have the superpowers edging closer to a “New Cold War.”

So, yeah, it looks like there will be plenty to discuss on the videoconference between U.S. and Chinese representatives on Saturday. Even if they don’t approach any of the potential Phase 2 trade deal topics like China’s subsidies for solar manufacturers competing with American firms.

Here’s what else we’re watching this week:

BIDEN VP PICK: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s much-anticipated running-mate pick could come as soon as Monday, with California’s Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Karen Bass seen as leading contenders, along with former national security adviser Susan Rice and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

NOTRE DAME RETURNS (Monday): In-person classes at the university begin this week in South Bend at a time when hospitalizations in Indiana are climbing. Though many universities have opted for virtual classes or a hybrid of in-person classes and distance learning, Notre Dame hopes that by ending the semester before Thanksgiving and limiting visitors and travel it can curb the spread of COVID-19.

CONSUMER PRICE INDEX (Wednesday): This week brings news of how much of an economic setback the coronavirus spikes in July affected the broader economy. The Consumer Price Index, which climbed in June after three months of declines, will show whether increased COVID-related restrictions slowed increasing gas and food prices.

In case you missed it

The 10th anniversary of the Giving Pledge finds billionaires earning money faster than they can give it away. Offshore wind energy capacity is still growing at record rates. Impact investing pioneer Sir Ronald Cohen talks about his new book and how to reshape capitalism. Scientists turn cooking oil and old batteries into biofuel.

Levity break

Drive & Listen pairs dashboard cam video from cars driving through traffic in the world’s cities and pairs it with a radio feed so you can feel like you’re driving through pre-pandemic traffic in Delhi or Chicago. Ah, nostalgia!