FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - May 28, 2019 - 12:00am

This should grab Donald Trump’s attention. A UN report just issued says the country to benefit most from the US-China trade war is Mexico. The region to benefit most is the European Union.

Both the US and China will suffer tremendously from the trade war. Everyone, except Trump, understands that.

In the immediate term, American consumers and farmers will absorb the costs of Trump’s increased tariffs on goods emanating from China. American soybean exports to the world’s largest market for the commodity is basically distressed. This forced Trump to allocate subsidies for American farmers in his political base.

US tech manufacturers, Apple most importantly, will likely be squeezed out of the world’s largest market for consumer electronics. The Chinese market constitutes 30 percent of Apple’s total market.

Chinese consumers will very likely avoid American products out of nationalism. The American Chamber of Commerce in China reports that three-quarters of their businesses are already hurting.

China, for its part, will go through a challenging period. The US is China’s largest market. But everyone expects China’s enterprises to rebalance quickly and initiate new trade relations with other countries.

Later this year, for instance, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is expected to take form. The RCEP includes the ASEAN, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. It replaces the trans-Pacific framework initiated during the Obama years but was junked at the onset of Trump’s presidency.

The most challenged enterprise will be technology giant Huawei. The Trump administration has specifically targeted Huawei on intellectual property and national security issues. Sanctions imposed on Huawei forced Google to refrain from providing support to the Chinese firm’s Android software – although Trump recently decided to postpone further action against Huawei for 90 days.

The extension is significant. Trump is scheduled to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping next month during the G20 meeting. He will obviously try to pressure Xi to yield to US trade demands.

It is unlikely China will yield to Trump’s hardball tactics. President Xi recently rallied his people to a “new Long March,” recalling imagery from Mao Zedong’s protracted struggle to gain power. Clearly, the Chinese leader is engaging in a long game involving rebalancing economic relationships with the rest of the world and strengthening its own domestic capacity.

While the Trump administration bullies and alienates allies on a daily basis, China has been busy reaching out to win new friends and influence nations. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the largest infrastructure program humanity has ever undertaken.

Last April, 37 world leaders joined 5,000 delegates from all over the world for the Second BRI Forum in Beijing. Earlier this month, 2,000 delegates participated in the Conference on the Dialogue of Asian Nations also in Beijing. In his speech before the delegates, Xi called on the Asian countries to “enhance cultural self-confidence and strive to write a new chapter for Asian civilization.” This Asian century, he said, will be an era of universal tranquility so mankind can achieve the Asian aspirations of stability and peace, common prosperity, openness and integration.

This is certainly a long view.

On the other hand, Trump fails to realize a few basic things about the adversarial relationship with China he is trying to precipitate. China is the world’s largest consumer market. GM sells more cars in China than in the US. Apple, Starbucks and other US firms sell almost $400 billion worth of goods to this market. Huawei, which Trump might want to kill, buys $105 billion worth of US components and software.

Then there are the truly large items. China produces 90 percent of rare earth metals indispensable to modern electronic products. The country also holds $1.17 trillion in American public debt.

Two hundred years ago, when Napoleon marched on Russia, he realized something that Trump might soon realize about China: the adversary he chose was simply too big to conquer.


Finally, the unwarranted agitation about the reliability of our automated electoral system is finally dying down. The public simply refused to buy into the faulty narrative losers were trying to peddle.

In the days after the May 13 elections, leftist groups and other political losers tried to arouse public suspicion about the reliability of the automated system. In Philippine elections, it said, there are no losers – only people who were cheated.

Both the manual audit and the review of the certificates of canvass undertaken by the PPCRV demonstrate a very high reliability of the quick count. There could be no more resounding confirmation the automated system works and there is no need to return to the old and tedious manual system were we counted ballots by hand and sometimes by candlelight.

There was, of course, that controversial seven-hour delay in the transmission of data from the Comelec main server to the so-called transparency server. Rabble-rousers used this event to undermine the credibility of the automated system.

An examination of the problem shows this was a mere software glitch. The official server continued to receive precinct-level returns on schedule even if the numbers could not be projected onscreen.

The more widespread problem had to do with the data devices used to store voting records in the ballot-reading machines. In the past, these devices were purchased as part of the package with the main supplier of the automated elections system. In the last elections, they were awarded to the lowest bidder in accordance with the procurement law. A significant number of them failed and had to be replaced.

The automated system itself again passed the test.

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