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Trump could compromise over concrete wall on Mexico border, says top aide

Donald Trump may be ready to compromise to win funding for a wall on the Mexico border, with his chief of staff suggesting it does not have to be concrete.

Mick Mulvaney has indicated the US president may accept a “steel fence” in order to break the continuing stalemate in Washington DC.

Museums are among the attractions closed because of the shutdown

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Museums are among the attractions closed because of the shutdown

Mr Trump is trying to convince the Democrats to approve around $5bn (£3.95bn) to build the wall, which he says is vital to stop illegal immigrants and criminals entering the US.

The stalemate between the two sides has led to a shutdown of some government departments, with around 800,000 employees off work without pay, and Mr Trump threatening to keep it going for “months or even years”.

He has also said he is considering declaring a national emergency so he could bypass US Congress and get the funding.

But hinting at a possible compromise, Mr Mulvaney told US TV show Meet the Press: “If he has to give up a concrete wall, replace it with a steel fence in order to do that so that Democrats can say, ‘See? He’s not building a wall anymore,’ that should help us move in the right direction.”

The president has previously suggested his definition of “wall” is flexible, but Democrats view the whole idea as immoral and ineffective, and prefer other forms of border security.

Mr Trump campaigned for on a promise to make Mexico pay for the barrier but, predictably, America’s southern neighbour refused.

Talks to end the government shutdown – led by Vice President Mike Pence – again ended without a breakthrough on Saturday.

The president meanwhile continued to press his case on Twitter, posting an image of a barrier alongside the caption “The wall is coming” – a reference to the tagline from hit TV show Game of Thrones.

He added: “V.P. Mike Pence and team just left the White House. Briefed me on their meeting with the Schumer/Pelosi representatives. Not much headway made today. Second meeting set for tomorrow. After so many decades, must finally and permanently fix the problems on the Southern Border!”

pelosi

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Nancy Pelosi says Democrats ‘respect our workers’ and are trying hard to end the shutdown

Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, has said Democrats will start approving individual bills to reopen government departments, starting with the Treasury, so Americans could get their tax refunds.

“While President Trump threatens to keep the government shut down for ‘years’, Democrats are taking immediate further action to re-open government, so that we can meet the needs of the American people, protect our borders and respect our workers,” Ms Pelosi said.



Members of Congress take the oath






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A diverse range of representatives are welcomed into US Congress.

Democrats now hold the balance of power in the house after it reconvened this week with a record number of women taking up seats following the midterm elections.

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Business

EU mulls $20bn tariffs on US goods over Boeing subsidy row

The European Commission has published a list of $20bn (£15bn) worth of US imports it could hit with tariffs, in an aircraft subsidy dispute that has dragged on for nearly 15 years.

The European Union’s competition watchdog released the 11-page list of US imports it could target on Wednesday, which include agricultural produce from dried fruit to ketchup, fish, tobacco, handbags and suitcases

The commission also singled out hardware such as tractors, shovels, helicopters, planes as well as video game consoles.

The published list will now be open to consultation until 31 May and could then be revised.

The move by Brussels was in response to proposals last week by the Trump administration which targeted a seven-page list of EU products for tariffs, ranging from large aircraft to dairy products and wine.

The US said the proposed tariffs would counteract harm done by EU subsidies for Airbus worth an estimated $11bn.

America and European Union have been battling at the World Trade Organisation over the subsidies given to US plane maker Boeing and its European rival Airbus, since October 2004.

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 09: A model poses for the Kate Spade presentation (bag detail) during New York Fashion Week: The Shows on February 9, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week: The Shows)

The EU has published a list of American imports including handbags that could face tariffs
Following partial victories on both sides, the countries are seeking WTO arbitration to determine the level of countermeasures each can impose on the other.

“The EU remains open for discussions with the US, provided these are without preconditions and aim at a fair outcome,” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement.

In both cases, WTO arbitrators have yet to set an amount, but the US case against Airbus is further along and could see a possible ruling in June or July.

The EU case against Boeing could come early in 2020.

Both sides have said they would prefer a settlement that did not lead to the imposition of tariffs and earlier this week the EU said it was ready to start formal trade talks with the US.

The Commission plans to begin with two sets of negotiations – one to cut tariffs on industrial goods, and the other to make it easier for companies to show that their products meet EU or US standards.

But more room for tensions arose after the EU insisted that agriculture not be included in negotiations, something the US wants to be part of any talks.

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Hopes fade for Jet Airways return as shares plunge

Hopes for Jet Airways are fading as its shares plunge and rivals rush to fill the supply gap.

The airline, once India’s largest private carrier, cancelled all flights indefinitely on Wednesday after lenders led by the State Bank of India refused to extend funding.

On Thursday, the carrier’s shares fell 26.9%, leaving it valued at around $260m (£199m) – far from its 2005 peak of $1.6bn (£1.2bn).

Jet Airways and its lenders had been trying for weeks trying to find a solution to the airline’s £900m debt problem.

But on Wednesday Jet announced that, with no emergency funds forthcoming from the lenders or any other source, it could no longer pay for the fuel and services required to continue operations.

Lenders said they were “reasonably hopeful” that a bidding process for up to 75% of the company would result in a solution.

In a statement on Thursday, they said: “The lenders after due deliberations decided that the best way forward for the survival of Jet Airways is to get the binding bids from potential investors who have expressed EOI (expressions of interest) and have been issued bid documents on 16 April.”

Pilots fly a Jet Airways aircraft

Pilots are among those who have not been paid for months
It was reported by Mumbai-based CNBC-TV18 that those investors are private equity firms TPG Capital and Indigo Partners, Indian wealth fund National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), and UAE-based Etihad Airways, which already owns a 24% stake.

“Lenders are reasonably hopeful that the bid process is likely to be successful in determining fair value of the enterprise in a transparent manner,” the statement concluded.

This bidding process is due to conclude on 10 May.

But commentators such as Shukor Yusof, the head of aviation consultancy Endau Analytics, were doubtful that this would be soon enough.

He said the company’s value was “dwindling with each passing day”.

Loizos Heracleous, an aviation expert at Warwick Business School, said: “Finding new investors was always going to be a tall order for Jet Airways.

“Increases in industry profitability after 2011 were aided by lower fuel prices. With fuel prices on an upward trend since 2016, the performance of some airlines has taken a hit.”

Jet Airways employees hold placards as they gather for a silent march at Terminal 3 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, in New Delhi on April 13, 2019

There are concerns for Jet Airways’ 20,000 employees
Meanwhile, rivals are preparing to step in.

SpiceJet has promised an extra 27 planes will be added to its fleet over the next fortnight and India’s biggest airline IndiGo is also rapidly expanding.

Edelweiss Securities analyst Vijayant Gupta added: “Rivals are looting available slots because of Jet’s shutdown.”

SpiceJet shares were at their highest since February last year, up as much as 15%, while shares in IndiGo’s parent company InterGlobe Aviation were up 3%.

Meanwhile, there are concerns for the future of Jet’s 20,000 staff, some of whom have not been paid for up to three months.

In a note to employees reported in the Times of India, Jet Airways chief executive Vinay Dube said: “We don’t have an answer today to the very important question of what happens to employees during the sale process.”

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Iran speaks on Trump’s ban of IRGC

Iranian president, Hassan Rowhani on Thursday hit back at U.S. President, Donald Trump in response to decision to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a terrorist group.

He added that Iran was capable of withstanding “conspiracies between the U.S. and Israel”, and declared that the Islamic republic “will not be intimidated.”

“The air force, ground forces and the navy have never been as powerful as today,” dpa quoted Rowhani as saying at an annual military parade in Tehran,” he said.

Trump announced the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organisation on April 8 in a White House statement that called the corps the Iranian government’s “primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.’’

A week later, the Iranian parliament branded the U.S. a state sponsor of terrorism and designated Centcom, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, as a terrorist organisation.

Rowhani argued that the IRGC has been at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, including against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

The IRGC has fought alongside the forces of Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, in Syria since the start of that country’s conflict in 2011.

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