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    IMF Upgrades Global Economic Outlook as Inflation Eases

    The International Monetary Fund said the world economy was poised for a rebound as inflation eases.WASHINGTON — The International Monetary Fund said on Monday that it expected the global economy to slow this year as central banks continued to raise interest rates to tame inflation, but it also suggested that output would be more resilient than previously anticipated and that a global recession would probably be avoided.The I.M.F. upgraded its economic growth projections for 2023 and 2024 in its closely watched World Economic Outlook report, pointing to resilient consumers and the reopening of China’s economy as among the reasons for a more optimistic outlook.The fund warned, however, that the fight against inflation was not over and urged central banks to avoid the temptation to change course.“The fight against inflation is starting to pay off, but central banks must continue their efforts,” Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, the I.M.F.’s chief economist, said in an essay that accompanied the report.Global output is projected to slow to 2.9 percent in 2023, from 3.4 percent last year, before rebounding to 3.1 percent in 2024. Inflation is expected to decline to 6.6 percent this year from 8.8 percent in 2022 and then to fall to 4.3 percent next year.After a succession of downgrades in recent years as the pandemic worsened and Russia’s war in Ukraine intensified, the I.M.F.’s latest forecasts were rosier than those the fund released in October.Since then, China abruptly reversed its “zero Covid” policy of lockdowns to contain the pandemic and embarked on a rapid reopening. The I.M.F. also said that the energy crisis in Europe had been less severe than initially feared and that the weakening of the U.S. dollar was providing relief to emerging markets.The I.M.F. predicted previously that a third of the world economy could be in recession this year. However, Mr. Gourinchas said in a news briefing ahead of the release of the report that far fewer countries were now facing recessions in 2023 and that the I.M.F. was not forecasting a global recession.Lukoil oil field in the Baltic Sea. A coordinated plan by the United States and Europe to cap the price of Russian oil exports at $60 a barrel is not expected to substantially curtail its energy revenues.Vitaly Nevar/Reuters“We are seeing a much lower risk of recession, either globally, or even if we think about the number of countries that might be in recession,” Mr. Gourinchas said.Despite the more hopeful outlook, global growth remains weak by historical standards and the war in Ukraine continues to weigh on activity and sow uncertainty. The report also cautions that the global economy still faces considerable risks, warning that “severe health outcomes in China could hold back the recovery, Russia’s war in Ukraine could escalate and tighter global financing costs could worsen debt distress.”Growth in rich countries is expected to be particularly sluggish this year, with nine out of 10 advanced economies likely to have slower growth than they had in 2022.The I.M.F. projects growth in the United States to slow to 1.4 percent this year from 2 percent in 2022. It expects the jobless rate to rise from 3.5 percent to 5.2 percent next year, but that it is still possible that a recession can be avoided in the world’s largest economy.“There is a narrow path that allows the U.S. economy to escape a recession altogether, or if it has a recession, the recession would be relatively shallow,” Mr. Gourinchas said.The slowdown in Europe will be more pronounced, the I.M.F. said, as the boost from the reopening of its economies fades this year and consumer confidence frays in the face of double-digit inflation. In the euro area, growth is projected to slow to 0.7 percent from 3.5 percent.China is projected to pick up the slack with output accelerating to 5.2 percent in 2023 from 3 percent in 2022.Combined, China and India are expected to account for about half of global growth this year. I.M.F. officials said at a press briefing on Monday night that China’s economic trajectory would be a major driver for the world economy, noting that after a period of flux, China appears to have stabilized and is able to fully produce.However, Mr. Gourinchas noted that there were still signs of weakness in China’s property market and that its growth could moderate in 2024. The report described the sector as a “major source of vulnerability” that could lead to widespread defaults by developers and instability in the Chinese financial sector.A surprising contributor to global growth is Russia, suggesting that efforts by Western nations to cripple its economy appear to be faltering. The I.M.F. predicts Russian output to expand 0.3 percent this year and 2.1 percent next year, defying earlier forecasts of a steep contraction in 2023 amid a raft of Western sanctions.A coordinated plan by the United States and Europe to cap the price of Russian oil exports at $60 a barrel is not expected to substantially curtail the country’s energy revenues.“At the current oil price cap level of the Group of 7, Russian crude oil export volumes are not expected to be significantly affected, with Russian trade continuing to be redirected from sanctioning to non-sanctioning countries,” the I.M.F. said in the report.Among the I.M.F.’s most pressing concerns is the growing trend toward “fragmentation.” The war in Ukraine and the global response have divided nations into blocs and reinforced pockets of geopolitical tension, threatening to hamper economic progress.“Fragmentation could intensify — with more restrictions on cross-border movements of capital, workers and international payments — and could hamper multilateral cooperation on providing global public goods,” the I.M.F. said. “The costs of such fragmentation are especially high in the short term, as replacing disrupted cross-border flows takes time.” More

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    Wall St. Is Counting on a Debt Limit Trick That Could Entail Trouble

    If the debt limit is breached, investors expect Treasury to put bond payments first. It’d be politically and practically fraught.Washington’s debt limit drama has Wall Street betting that the United States will employ a fallback option to ensure it can make good on payments to its lenders even if Congress doesn’t raise the nation’s borrowing limit before America runs out of cash.But that untested idea has significant flaws and has been ruled out by the Biden administration, which could make it less of a bulwark against disaster than many investors and politicians are counting on.Many on Wall Street believe that the Treasury Department, in order to avoid defaulting on U.S. debt, would “prioritize” payments on its bonds if it could no longer borrow funds to cover all its expenses. They expect that America’s lenders — the bondholders who own U.S. Treasury debt — would be first in line to receive interest and other payments, even if it meant delaying other obligations like government salaries or retirement benefits.Those assumptions are rooted in history. Records from 2011 and 2013 — the last time the U.S. tipped dangerously close to a debt limit crisis — suggested that officials at the Treasury had laid at least some groundwork to pay investors first, and that policymakers at the Federal Reserve assumed that such an approach was likely. Some Republicans in the House and Senate have painted prioritization as a fallback option that could make failure to raise the borrowing cap less of a disaster, arguing that as long as bondholders get paid, the U.S. will not experience a true default.But the Biden administration is not doing prioritization planning this time around because officials don’t think it would prevent an economic crisis and are unsure whether such a plan is even feasible. The White House has not asked Treasury to prepare for a scenario in which it pays back investors first, according to multiple officials. Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury secretary, has said such an approach would not avoid a debt “default” in the eyes of markets.“Treasury systems have all been built to pay all of our bills when they’re due and on time, and not to prioritize one form of spending over another,” Ms. Yellen told reporters this month.Perhaps more worrisome is that, even if the White House ultimately succumbed to pressure to prioritize payments, experts from both political parties who have studied the temporary fix say it might not be enough to avert a financial catastrophe.Senator Ted Cruz, center, and other Republicans during a news conference on debt ceiling on Capitol Hill last week.Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times“Prioritization is really default by another name,” said Brian Riedl, formerly chief economist to former Republican Senator Rob Portman and now an economist at the Manhattan Institute. “It’s not defaulting on the government’s debt, but it’s defaulting on its obligations.”Congress must periodically raise the nation’s debt ceiling to authorize the Treasury to borrow to cover America’s commitments. Raising the limit does not entail any new spending — it is more like paying a credit-card bill for spending the nation has already incurred — and it is often completed without incident. But Republicans have occasionally attempted to attach future spending cuts or other legislative goals to debt limit increases, plunging the United States into partisan brinkmanship.Understand the U.S. Debt CeilingCard 1 of 5What is the debt ceiling? More

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    Climate Change May Bring New Era of Trade Wars, as E.U. and U.S. Spar

    Countries are pursuing new solutions to try to mitigate climate change. More trade fights are likely to come hand in hand.WASHINGTON — Efforts to mitigate climate change are prompting countries across the world to embrace dramatically different policies toward industry and trade, bringing governments into conflict.These new clashes over climate policy are straining international alliances and the global trading system, hinting at a future in which policies aimed at staving off environmental catastrophe could also result in more frequent cross-border trade wars.In recent months, the United States and Europe have proposed or introduced subsidies, tariffs and other policies aimed at speeding the green energy transition. Proponents of the measures say governments must move aggressively to expand sources of cleaner energy and penalize the biggest emitters of planet-warming gases if they hope to avert a global climate disaster.But critics say these policies often put foreign countries and companies at a disadvantage, as governments subsidize their own industries or charge new tariffs on foreign products. The policies depart from a decades-long status quo in trade, in which the United States and Europe often joined forces through the World Trade Organization to try to knock down trade barriers and encourage countries to treat one another’s products more equally to boost global commerce.Now, new policies are pitting close allies against one another and widening fractures in an already fragile system of global trade governance, as countries try to contend with the existential challenge of climate change.“The climate crisis requires economic transformation at a scale and speed humanity has never attempted in our 5,000 years of written history,” said Todd N. Tucker, the director of industrial policy and trade at the Roosevelt Institute, who is an advocate for some of the measures. “Unsurprisingly, a task of this magnitude will require a new policy tool kit.”The current system of global trade funnels tens of millions of shipping containers stuffed with couches, clothing and car parts from foreign factories to the United States each year, often at astonishingly low prices. But the prices that consumers pay for these goods do not take into account the environmental harm generated by the far-off factories that make them, or by the container ships and cargo planes that carry them across the ocean.A factory in Chengde, China. U.S. officials believe they must lessen a dangerous dependence on goods from China.Fred Dufour/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesAmerican and European officials argue that more needs to be done to discourage trade in products made with more pollution or carbon emissions. And U.S. officials believe they must lessen a dangerous dependence on China in particular for the materials needed to power the green energy transition, like solar panels and electric vehicle batteries.The Biden administration is putting in place generous subsidies to encourage the production of clean energy technology in the United States, such as tax credits for consumers who buy American-made clean cars and companies building new plants for solar and wind power equipment. Both the United States and Europe are introducing taxes and tariffs aimed at encouraging less environmentally harmful ways of producing goods.Biden administration officials have expressed hopes that the climate transition could be a new opportunity for cooperation with allies. But so far, their initiatives seem to have mainly stirred controversy when the United States is already under attack for its response to recent trade rulings.The administration has publicly flouted several decisions of World Trade Organization panels that ruled against the United States in trade disputes involving national security issues. In two separate announcements in December, the Office of the United States Trade Representative said it would not change its policies to abide by W.T.O. decisions.But the biggest source of contention has been new tax credits for clean energy equipment and vehicles made in North America that were part of a sweeping climate and health policy bill that President Biden signed into law last year. European officials have called the measure a “job killer” and expressed fears they will lose out to the United States on new investments in batteries, green hydrogen, steel and other industries. In response, European Union officials began outlining their own plan this month to subsidize green energy industries — a move that critics fear will plunge the world into a costly and inefficient “subsidy war.”The United States and European Union have been searching for changes that could be made to mollify both sides before the U.S. tax-credit rules are settled in March. But the Biden administration appears to have only limited ability to change some of the law’s provisions. Members of Congress say they intentionally worded the law to benefit American manufacturing.Biden administration is putting in place subsidies to encourage the production of clean energy technology in the United States, such as tax credits for consumers who buy American-made clean cars.Brittany Greeson for The New York TimesEuropean officials have suggested that they could bring a trade case at the World Trade Organization that might be a prelude to imposing tariffs on American products in retaliation.Valdis Dombrovskis, the European commissioner for trade, said that the European Union was committed to finding solutions but that negotiations needed to make progress or the European Union would face “even stronger calls” to respond.“We need to follow the same rules of the game,” he said.Anne Krueger, a former official at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, said the potential pain of American subsidies on Japan, South Korea and allies in Europe was “enormous.”“When you discriminate in favor of American companies and against the rest of the world, you’re hurting yourself and hurting others at the same time,” said Ms. Krueger, now a senior fellow at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.But in a letter last week, a collection of prominent labor unions and environmental groups urged Mr. Biden to move forward with the plans without delays, saying outdated trade rules should not be used to undermine support for a new clean energy economy.“It’s time to end this circular firing squad where countries threaten and, if successful, weaken or repeal one another’s climate measures through trade and investment agreements,” said Melinda St. Louis, the director of the Global Trade Watch for Public Citizen, one of the groups behind the letter.Valdis Dombrovskis, the European commissioner for trade, has pressed the United States to negotiate more on its climate-related subsidies for American manufacturing.Stephanie Lecocq/EPA, via ShutterstockOther recent climate policies have also spurred controversy. In mid-December, the European Union took a major step toward a new climate-focused trade policy as it reached a preliminary agreement to impose a new carbon tariff on certain imports. The so-called carbon border adjustment mechanism would apply to products from all countries that failed to take strict actions to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.The move is aimed at ensuring that European companies that must follow strict environmental regulations are not put at a disadvantage to competitors in countries where laxer environmental rules allow companies to produce and sell goods more cheaply. While European officials argue that their policy complies with global trade rules in a way that U.S. clean energy subsidies do not, it has still rankled countries like China and Turkey.The Biden administration has also been trying to create an international group that would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from countries with laxer environmental policies. In December, it sent the European Union a brief initial proposal for such a trade arrangement.The idea still has a long way to go to be realized. But even as it would break new ground in addressing climate change, the approach may also end up aggravating allies like Canada, Mexico, Brazil and South Korea, which together provided more than half of America’s foreign steel last year.Under the initial proposal, these countries would theoretically have to produce steel as cleanly as the United States and Europe, or face tariffs on their products.A steel plant in Belgium. Under the initial proposal, countries would theoretically have to produce steel as cleanly as the United States and Europe, or face tariffs.Kevin Faingnaert for The New York TimesProponents of new climate-focused trade measures say discriminating against foreign products, and goods made with greater carbon emissions, is exactly what governments need to build up clean energy industries and address climate change.“You really do need to rethink some of the fundamentals of the system,” said Ilana Solomon, an independent trade consultant who previously worked with the Sierra Club.Ms. Solomon and others have proposed a “climate peace clause,” under which governments would commit to refrain from using the World Trade Organization and other trade agreements to challenge one another’s climate policies for 10 years.“The complete legitimacy of the global trading system has never been more in question,” she said.In the United States, support appears to be growing among both Republicans and Democrats for more nationalist policies that would encourage domestic production and discourage imports of dirtier goods — but that would also most likely violate World Trade Organization rules.Most Republicans do not support the idea of a national price on carbon. But they have shown more willingness to raise tariffs on foreign products that are made in environmentally damaging ways, which they see as a way to protect American jobs from foreign competition.Robert E. Lighthizer, a chief trade negotiator for the Trump administration, said there was “great overlap” between Republicans and Democrats on the idea of using trade tools to discourage imports of polluting products from abroad.“I’m coming at it to get more American employed and with higher wages,” he said. “You shouldn’t be able to get an economic advantage over some guy working in Detroit, trying to support his family, from pollution, by manufacturing overseas.” More

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    Supply Problems Hurt Auto Sales in 2022. Now Demand Is Weakening.

    A global semiconductor shortage is easing, which could allow carmakers to lift production this year. But higher interest rates could keep sales low.Last year, sales of new cars and trucks fell to their lowest level in a decade because automakers could not make enough vehicles for consumers to buy. This year, sales are likely to remain soft, but for an entirely different reason — weakening demand.The Federal Reserve’s interest rate increases, which are intended to slow inflation, have made it harder and more expensive for consumers to finance automobile purchases, after prices had already risen to record highs.Analysts expect that higher rates and a slowing economy will force some U.S. shoppers to delay car purchases or steer away from showrooms altogether in 2023 even if automakers crank out more vehicles than they did last year because they can get more parts.“For over a decade, low interest rates have helped people buy the big cars that Americans like,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds, a market research firm. “Low rates from the Fed are what made those attractive offers for zero-percent financing and 72-month loans possible, but with the higher rates, it’s a pretty unfriendly market for people buying a car.”Edmunds estimates that automakers will sell 14.8 million cars and trucks in the United States this year, which would be well below the sales that automakers became accustomed to in the previous decade.Inflation F.A.Q.Card 1 of 5What is inflation? More

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    Southwest CEO Bob Jordan Faces a Giant Crisis, 10 Months Into the Job

    Bob Jordan, the airline’s top executive, heralded the company’s performance just weeks before the storm highlighted gaping weaknesses in its operations.After Southwest Airlines made it through Thanksgiving with few flight cancellations, Bob Jordan, the company’s chief executive, was in a celebratory mood. At a meeting with Wall Street analysts and investors this month at the New York Stock Exchange, he said the company’s performance had been “just incredible.”But a few weeks later, over the Christmas holiday, Southwest’s operations went into paralysis, forcing the company to resort to mass cancellations. The debacle has raised questions about Mr. Jordan’s performance and has prompted employees and analysts to ask why the company has been slow to fix well-known weaknesses in its operations.Other airlines fared far better during the extreme cold weather over Christmas weekend than Southwest, which after days of disruption canceled more than 2,500 flights on Wednesday, vastly more than any other U.S. airline, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking service. The airline has already canceled more than 2,300, or 58 percent, of its flights planned for Thursday.Travelers, lawmakers and even employees are increasingly demanding answers from Southwest and Mr. Jordan. While the company has repeatedly apologized for its performance, it has provided few details about how things went so wrong and what it is doing to right its operations. The company said on Wednesday that Mr. Jordan and other executives were not available for interviews.Mr. Jordan implied on Tuesday that the airline was caught out by a low-probability event after many delays and cancellations.Christopher Goodney/BloombergIn a video posted on Southwest’s website late Tuesday, Mr. Jordan, who became chief executive in February after three decades at Southwest, implied that the airline was caught out by a rare event. “The tools we use to recover from disruption serve us well 99 percent of the time,” he said, “but clearly we need to double down on our already existing plans to upgrade systems for these extreme circumstances.”Southwest has known for years that computer systems that manage customer reservations and assign pilots and flight attendants to each flight needed improvements. Union leaders and even the company’s executives have acknowledged that the systems struggle to handle large numbers of changes when the company’s operations are disrupted.Disruptions can have a cascading effect on Southwest’s flights because it operates a point-to-point system, in which planes travel from one destination to another; other large airlines use the hub-and-spoke system, with flights typically returning frequently to a hub airport.Southwest is now trying to piece together its operations after many of its crews and planes were not where they were scheduled to be because of earlier flight cancellations, the company said in an emailed statement to The New York Times. Because the company’s operations have been so thoroughly upended, the effort is expected to take days. To get crews and planes in the right places, Southwest had to reduce its schedule. This should allow the airline to bring crews to the airports where they are needed.In his video on Tuesday, Mr. Jordan appeared to acknowledge that Southwest’s model was susceptible to breaking down under stress. “Our network is highly complex, and the operation of the airline counts on all the pieces, especially aircraft and crews remaining in motion to where they’re planned to go,” he said.Many travelers have expressed frustration with Southwest, saying it has become impossible to get information from the company.Emil Lippe for The New York TimesThe company has spent years trying to overhaul its technology systems, but this latest crisis is expected to ratchet up the pressure on Southwest and Mr. Jordan to make progress faster.Union leaders said they had run out of patience with how the company had been updating the technology systems.Labor Organizing and Union DrivesU.K.’s ‘Winter of Discontent’: As Britain grapples with inflation and a recession, labor unrest has proliferated, with nurses, railway workers and others leading job actions across the country.Starbucks: The union organizing Starbucks workers declared a strike at dozens of stores, the latest escalation in its campaign to secure a labor contract.Education: The University of California and academic workers announced a tentative labor agreement, signaling a potential end to a high-profile strike that has disrupted the system for more than a month.Electric Vehicles: In a milestone for the sector, employees at an E.V. battery plant in Ohio voted to join the United Automobile Workers union, citing pay and safety issues as key reasons.“We’re at the point where we’ve given him enough grace,” Michael Santoro, vice president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said in an interview, referring to Mr. Jordan.Transport Workers Union Local 556, which represents Southwest’s flight attendants, issued a statement agreeing with the pilots. “It is not weather; it is not staffing; it is not a concerted labor effort; it is the complete failure of Southwest Airlines’ executive leadership. It is their decision to continue to expand and grow without the technology needed to handle it,” the union’s president, Lyn Montgomery, said.These statements stand out because Southwest has generally had very good relations with most of its labor unions. After the meltdown, labor leaders have grown increasingly critical of the company this week. The pilots group, for example, expressed frustration that the company had not yet shared its plan for getting its operation back to normal, something it typically does after disruptions. “We have heard zero,” Mr. Santoro said.Southwest Airlines staff members helped customers at Dallas Love Field Airport on Tuesday.Emil Lippe for The New York TimesIn the last few days, union officials, pilots and flight attendants have complained to journalists and on social media that crew members have often had to wait hours to be assigned to their next flight or be directed to hotels where they could spend the night.Customers have also expressed intense frustration with the airline, saying it had become impossible to get any information from the company. Some people have said they waited hours at baggage and ticket counters and gates to speak to Southwest agents. Others have tried and failed to get through to the company by phone or online.Howard Tutt came to Chicago’s Midway airport on Wednesday to try to retrieve a bag his son had checked for a flight to California that was ultimately canceled. He said he had waited hours with other customers to speak to someone to no avail. Nearby, dozens of bags were waiting to be reunited with travelers outside Southwest’s baggage office and near its carousels.“He had to leave in the middle of Christmas dinner because they told him the only flight he could get on was at 9 p.m. on the 25th,” Mr. Tutt, 61, said, referring to his son. “Then he got to the airport, checked his bags and was delayed for six hours before they canceled the flight.”Mr. Tutt, a resident of Orland Park, Ill., said the family had tried a variety of approaches to locate the bag, which contains Christmas gifts for his son’s girlfriend and her family. “We’ve emailed, tried via chat message, and called but cannot reach anyone.”Analysts said that, as cancellations piled up, Southwest found itself in a dire position in which it needed to almost start from scratch to rebuild. “You’ve lost control of what you expected the operation to be,” said Samuel Engel, a senior vice president and airline industry analyst at ICF, a consulting firm.The question that will loom over the company for a long time is why Southwest’s system broke down while those of other large airlines held up relatively well. Analysts say Southwest’s point-to-point network, which is quite different from the hub-and-spoke system used by its peers, made it harder to restart operations.But they also say Southwest’s technology, despite yearslong efforts to modernize it, was lacking. And Mr. Jordan is likely to be asked why he didn’t do more to make the systems strong enough to deal with weather and technology disruptions, which have dogged Southwest in recent years, including two mass flight cancellations and delays last year.Though Mr. Jordan has been chief executive for a short time, he has long been a member of Southwest’s senior leadership team, which would have given him plenty of opportunity to understand the company’s strengths and weaknesses. He started at the company as a computer programmer, helped develop its frequent flier program and aided in incorporating the planes and crews of AirTran Airways after Southwest acquired that company.Robert W. Mann Jr., a former airline executive who now runs the consulting firm R.W. Mann & Company, said Mr. Jordan was “in the hot seat right now.”But analysts were skeptical that Southwest could change quickly. They say the company’s management suffers from “Southwest exceptionalism,” or a stubborn belief that its unique approach to running an airline is best. Even though Southwest has it origins as an upstart taking on sleepy incumbents, analysts say its decision making can move at glacial speeds. “The airline has always been very cautious about change,” Mr. Engel said.Southwest’s approach works well much of the time, and it has contributed to the company’s strong financial performance over the last five decades, analysts say. It allowed, for instance, for planes to be used more quickly for their next flight. Longtime shareholders have done well. Southwest’s stock is up 217 percent over the last decade, outpacing the wider stock market and its best-performing rivals. But this month, Southwest’s stock, down by nearly a fifth, has performed worse than the market and its peers.There is no evidence that Mr. Jordan is vulnerable. But poor crisis management has severely weakened other airline executives.In February 2007 JetBlue experienced a meltdown when the airline did not act as quickly as its peers to cancel flights, hoping an ice storm on the East Coast would not have affected air travel as much as it did. At one point, nine JetBlue planes filled with passengers sat on the tarmac at Kennedy International Airport for six hours.David G. Neeleman, JetBlue’s founder and chief executive at the time, who was also a former Southwest executive, said he was “humiliated and mortified.” Months later, he agreed to step down as chief executive.Mr. Neeleman did not respond to requests for comment.Robert Chiarito More

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    US Cracks Down on Chinese Companies for Security Concerns

    The Biden administration placed severe restrictions on trade with dozens of Chinese entities, its latest step in a campaign to curtail access to technology with military applications.WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday stepped up its efforts to impede China’s development of advanced semiconductors, restricting another 36 companies and organizations from getting access to American technology.The action, announced by the Commerce Department, is the latest step in the administration’s campaign to clamp down on China’s access to technologies that could be used for military purposes and underscored how limiting the flow of technology to global rivals has become a prominent element of United States foreign policy.Administration officials say that China has increasingly blurred the lines between its military and civilian industries, prompting the United States to place restrictions on doing business with Chinese companies that may feed into Beijing’s military ambitions at a time of heightened geopolitical tensions, especially over Taiwan.In October, the administration announced sweeping limits on semiconductor exports to China, both from companies within the United States and in other countries that use American technology to make those products. It has also placed strict limits on technology exports to Russia in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.“Today we are building on the actions we took in October to protect U.S. national security by severely restricting the PRC’s ability to leverage artificial intelligence, advanced computing, and other powerful, commercially available technologies for military modernization and human rights abuses,” Alan Estevez, the under secretary of commerce for industry and security, said in a statement, referring to the People’s Republic of China.Among the most notable companies added to the list is Yangtze Memory Technologies Corporation, a company that was said to be in talks with Apple to potentially supply components for the iPhone 14.Congress has been preparing legislation that would prevent the U.S. government from purchasing or using semiconductors made by Y.M.T.C. and two other Chinese chip makers, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation and ChangXin Memory Technologies, because of their reported links to Chinese state security and intelligence organizations.The Biden PresidencyHere’s where the president stands after the midterm elections.A New Primary Calendar: President Biden’s push to reorder the early presidential nominating states is likely to reward candidates who connect with the party’s most loyal voters.A Defining Issue: The shape of Russia’s war in Ukraine, and its effects on global markets, in the months and years to come could determine Mr. Biden’s political fate.Beating the Odds: Mr. Biden had the best midterms of any president in 20 years, but he still faces the sobering reality of a Republican-controlled House for the next two years.2024 Questions: Mr. Biden feels buoyant after the better-than-expected midterms, but as he turns 80, he confronts a decision on whether to run again that has some Democrats uncomfortable.The U.S. government added the companies to a so-called entity list that will severely restrict their access to certain products, software and technologies. The targeted companies are producers and sellers of technologies that could pose a significant security risk to the United States, like advanced chips that are used to power artificial intelligence and hypersonic weapons, and components for Iranian drones and ballistic missiles, the Commerce Department said.In an emailed statement, Liu Pengyu, the spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, said that the United States “has been stretching the concept of national security, abusing export control measures, engaging in discriminatory and unfair treatment against enterprises of other countries, and politicizing and weaponizing economic and sci-tech issues. This is blatant economic coercion and bullying in the field of technology.”“China will resolutely safeguard the lawful rights and interests of Chinese companies and institutions,” he added.On Monday, China filed a formal challenge to the Biden administration’s chip controls at the World Trade Organization, criticizing the restrictions as a form of “trade protectionism.”The administration said that some companies, including Y.M.T.C. and its Japanese subsidiary, were added to the list because they posed a significant risk of transferring sensitive items to other companies sanctioned by the U.S. government, including Huawei Technologies and Hikvision.The Commerce Department said that another entity, Tianjin Tiandi Weiye Technologies, was added for its role in aiding China’s campaign of repression and surveillance of Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region of China, as well as providing U.S. products to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. U.S.-based firms will now be forbidden from shipping products to these companies without first obtaining a special license.Twenty-three of the entities — in particular, those supplying advanced chips used for artificial intelligence with close ties to the Chinese military and defense industry, and two Chinese companies that were found to be supporting the Russian military — were hit with even tougher restrictions.The companies will be subject to what is known as the foreign direct product rule, which will cut them off from buying products made anywhere in the world with the use of American technology or software, which would encompass most global technology companies.The administration also said it would lift restrictions on some companies that had successfully undergone U.S. government checks that ensured their products weren’t being used for purposes that the government deemed harmful to national security.As part of the restrictions unveiled in October, the Biden administration placed dozens of Chinese firms on a watch list that required them to work with the U.S. government to verify that their products were not being used for activities that would pose a security risk to the United States.A total of 25 entities completed those checks, in cooperation with the Chinese government, and thus have been removed from the list. Nine Russian parties that were unable to clear those checks were added to the entity list, the department said.A spokesperson for the Commerce Department said that the actions demonstrated that the United States would defend its national security but also stood ready to work in cooperation with companies and host governments to ensure compliance with U.S. export controls.In a separate announcement Thursday morning, a government board that oversees the audits of companies listed on stock exchanges to protect the interests of investors said that it had gained complete access for the first time in its history to inspect accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong.The agency, called the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, said this was just an initial step in ensuring that Chinese companies are safe for U.S. investors. But the development marked a step toward a potential resolution of a yearslong standoff between the United States and China over financial checks into public companies. It also appeared to decrease the likelihood that major Chinese companies will be automatically delisted from U.S. exchanges in the years to come.Congress passed a law in 2020 that would have required Chinese companies to delist from U.S. stock exchanges if U.S. regulators were not able to inspect their audit reports for three consecutive years.Erica Y. Williams, the chair of the board, said the announcement should not be misconstrued as a “clean bill of health” for firms in China. Her staff had identified numerous potential deficiencies with the firms they inspected, she said, though that was not an unexpected outcome in a jurisdiction being examined for the first time.“I want to be clear: this is the beginning of our work to inspect and investigate firms in China, not the end,” Ms. Williams said. More

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    Federal Reserve Expected to Slow Rate Increases and Offer Hints at Future

    Central bankers are still fighting inflation, but are poised to slow to a rate increase of half a percentage point at their final meeting of 2022.Federal Reserve officials appear poised to finish the most inflationary year since the 1980s on an optimistic note: They are expected to slow their campaign to cool the economy at their meeting on Wednesday, just as incoming data offer reasons to hope that price increases will fade next year.Central bankers are expected to lift interest rates by half a percentage point to a range of 4.25 to 4.5 percent. That would be a slowdown from their past four meetings, where they raised rates in three-quarter-point increments.Officials will also release a fresh set of economic projections, their first since September, which will offer a glimpse at how high they expect rates to rise in 2023 and how long they plan to hold them there.Fed policymakers have lifted borrowing costs at the fastest pace in decades this year to slow demand in the economy, hoping to tamp down inflationary pressures and prevent rapid increases from becoming a permanent feature of the American economy. While inflation is now showing signs of slowing, it remains much faster than usual, and central bankers have made clear that they have more work to do in ensuring that it returns to normal.But policy changes take time to fully play out, and the Fed wants to avoid accidentally squeezing demand so much that the economy contracts more than is necessary to wrangle inflation. That is why officials are moving away from super-rapid price increases and into a new phase where they focus on how high interest rates will rise and, perhaps even more critically, how long they will stay elevated.Inflation F.A.Q.Card 1 of 5What is inflation? More

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    Global Car Supply Chains Entangled With Abuses in Xinjiang, Report Says

    A new report on the auto industry cites extensive links to Xinjiang, where the U.S. government now presumes goods are made with forced labor.The global auto industry remains heavily exposed to the Xinjiang region of China for raw materials, components and other supplies, a new report has found, despite a recent U.S. law intended to restrict purchases from the area, where the Chinese government has committed human rights abuses against mostly Muslim minorities.The report, from a team of researchers led by Laura T. Murphy, a professor of human rights and contemporary slavery at Britain’s Sheffield Hallam University, details the links between Chinese companies with deep ties to Xinjiang and the automakers that use their supplies, such as metals, batteries, wiring and wheels.The report identifies major Chinese companies that the researchers determined have participated in coercive labor programs in Xinjiang, or have recently sourced their materials and products from the region, where China has engaged in mass internment of Uyghurs and other minorities. Those Chinese firms are major participants in the global supply chain for auto parts, the report says, raising the likelihood that automakers like Volkswagen, Honda, Ford Motor, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz Group, Toyota and Tesla have sold cars containing raw materials or components that have at some point touched Xinjiang.“There was no part of the car we researched that was untainted by Uyghur forced labor,” Dr. Murphy said. “It’s an industrywide problem.”Such links could pose serious problems for the international auto brands. The Biden administration, like the Trump administration before it, has taken an increasingly aggressive posture toward Chinese trade violations and imports of goods made with forced labor, which the United Nations estimates affects 28 million people worldwide.Under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, products made wholly or partly in Xinjiang are now assumed to have been produced with forced labor, making them vulnerable to seizure by the federal government if they are brought into the United States. Customs officials say that since the law went into effect in June, they have stopped roughly 2,200 shipments — valued at more than $728 million — that were suspected of having Xinjiang content. More than 300 of those products were ultimately released into the United States.Federal officials did not disclose what kinds of products have been seized. But the new rules have been particularly disruptive for companies making clothing and solar panels, which source raw materials like cotton and polysilicon from Xinjiang.The New York Times has not independently verified the entire contents of the new report, which names roughly 200 companies, both Chinese and international, with potential direct or indirect links to Xinjiang. Many of the Chinese industrial giants named in the report have multiple production sites, meaning they could be supplying international automakers with metal, electronics or wheels made from their factories outside Xinjiang.The global supply chain for auto parts is vast and complex. According to estimates by McKinsey and Company, the average automotive manufacturer may have links to as many as 18,000 suppliers in its full supply chain, from raw materials to components.Many of those suppliers run through China, which has become increasingly vital to the global auto industry and the United States, the destination for about a quarter of the auto parts that China exports annually. Xinjiang is home to a variety of industries, but its ample coal reserves and lax environmental regulations have made it a prominent location for energy-intensive materials processing, like smelting metal, the report says.Chinese supply chains are complicated and opaque, which can make it difficult to trace certain individual products from Xinjiang to the United States. Over the past three years, Xinjiang and other parts of China have been intermittently locked down to keep the coronavirus at bay. Even before the pandemic, the Chinese government tightly controlled access to Xinjiang, especially for human rights groups and media outlets.Determining the extent of coercion that any individual Uyghur worker may face in Xinjiang’s mines or factories is also difficult given the region’s restrictions. But the overarching environment of repression in Xinjiang has prompted the U.S. government to presume that any products that have touched the region in their production are made with forced labor unless companies can prove otherwise.Workers in the region “don’t have a chance to say no,” said Yalkun Uluyol, a Xinjiang native and one of the report’s authors. Goods coming from Xinjiang “are a product of the exploitation of the land, of the resources and of the people,” he said.The report’s researchers identified numerous documents — including Chinese-language corporate filings, government announcements and ocean import records — indicating that international brands, at the very least, have multiple potential exposures to programs in Xinjiang that the U.S. government now defines as forced labor.Dr. Murphy said her team had identified nearly 100 Chinese companies mining, processing or manufacturing materials for the automotive industry operating in the Uyghur region, at least 38 of which had publicized their engagement in repressive state-sponsored labor programs through their social media accounts, corporate reports or other channels.International automakers contacted by The Times did not contradict the report but said they were committed to policing their supply chains against human rights abuses and forced labor.G.M., Volkswagen and Mercedes said their supplier codes of conduct prohibited forced labor. Honda said its suppliers were required to follow global sustainability guidelines. Ford said it maintained processes to ensure that its global operations, including in China, complied with all relevant laws and regulations.Toyota, in a statement, said, “We expect our business partners and suppliers to follow our lead to respect and not infringe upon human rights.”Tesla did not respond to repeated requests for comment.The Chinese government has insisted that there are no human rights violations in Xinjiang, and has called accusations of forced labor in Xinjiang “the lie of the century.”“‘Forced labor’ in Xinjiang is a lie deliberately made up and spread by the U.S. to shut China out of the global supply and industrial chains,” Liu Pengyu, the spokesman at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said in a statement.Some of the Chinese companies named in the report are enormous industry suppliers that have proudly advertised their role in carrying out the Chinese government’s policies toward Uyghurs in social media postings, or in glossy annual reports.They include China Baowu Steel Group, the world’s largest steel maker, which has a subsidiary in Xinjiang that accounts for at least 9 percent of its total steel production, according to the report. Baowu and its subsidiaries make springs for car suspension systems, axles and body panels, as well as various kinds of steel that feed the supply chains of most international carmakers.In its 2020 corporate social responsibility report, which pledges adherence to China’s leader and the Communist Party, Baowu Group said that its subsidiary had “fully implemented the party’s ethnic policy” and that 364 laborers from poor families from villages in southern Xinjiang had “been arranged with employment.” Human rights advocates say the terms are euphemisms for organized mass transfers of Uyghur laborers into factories.According to the report, Baowu Group subsidiaries have participated in other transfers of workers from poor regions of Xinjiang, and in so-called poverty alleviation programs, which the United States now recognizes as a guise for forced labor. Under the new law, companies that participate in such programs can be added to a blacklist that blocks the products they make anywhere — even outside Xinjiang — from coming to the United States.The new report also builds on a June investigation published by The Times into Xinjiang’s role in producing electric vehicle battery minerals like lithium and nickel, as well as previous research by a firm called Horizon Advisory into the aluminum industry in Xinjiang. The report identifies recent transfers of Uyghur laborers at some of the world’s biggest aluminum companies, and traces these products to major auto industry suppliers, some of whom made shipments to the United States, Canada or Europe as recently as November, shipping records show.It also documents ties to Xinjiang and transfers of Uyghur workers for dozens of other significant auto industry suppliers, such as Double Coin, a tire maker that sells widely in the United States, including online at Walmart and Amazon.And it documents a recent investment by CATL — a Chinese firm that produces roughly a third of the world’s electric vehicle batteries and supplies Tesla, Ford, G.M., Volkswagen and other brands — in a major new lithium processing company in Xinjiang.Zhang Yizhi, a spokesman for CATL, said the company was a minority shareholder in the Xinjiang company and was not involved in its operations or management. CATL is committed to building a responsible supply chain and strictly opposes and prohibits any form of forced labor in its suppliers, he said.Baowu Group, Double Coin and its parent, Shanghai Huayi Group, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Amazon declined to comment about its sale of Double Coin tires, while Walmart did not respond.The research suggests that the United States still has far to go in stopping the flow of goods linked to Xinjiang. Customs officials say they are working to enforce a ban on such products, but they are still hiring aggressively and working to build out the department’s capacity to identify and stop these goods.“We’re still in an upward trajectory,” said AnnMarie R. Highsmith, the executive assistant commissioner of the Office of Trade at Customs and Border Protection, in an interview in October.“Unfortunately,” she added, “the situation globally is such that we are going to have full employment for a while.” More