Tuesday, January 17, 2017

China will champion free trade if Trump builds barriers; World economy to grow faster in 2017; EU may call robots 'electronic persons'

1 China will champion free trade if Trump builds barriers (Larry Elliott & Graeme Wearden in The Guardian) China’s premier, Xi Jinping, has delivered a strong defence of globalisation, serving notice to Donald Trump that Beijing will seek to usurp America’s traditional role as the champion of free trade and open markets.

Xi used an hour-long address to the World Economic Forum (WEF) to take a number of sideswipes at the US president-elect, attacking Trump’s protectionist views without mentioning him by name.

In the first speech by a Chinese president at the annual Davos meeting of global political and business leaders, Xi said China would keep its borders open, stressed that there would be no winners from a trade war, and urged that all countries continued to support the 2015 Paris climate change accord.

With Trump preparing for Friday’s inauguration in Washington, Xi used the opportunity to make clear that China was keen to take a bigger role on the global stage if the US lapsed into isolationism. “Pursuing protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room,” he said. “Wind and rain may be kept outside, but so is light and air.”

Trump campaigned on a strongly protectionist platform, pledging to protect US firms from unfair overseas competition and threatening tariffs on goods from China and Mexico. Xi said originally globalisation had been seen as Ali Baba’s treasure trove but for many had become a “Pandora’s box”.

He added, however, that the economic liberalisation of the past quarter or a century was not the root cause of the world’s many problems and that the financial crash of 2008 was the result of excessive pursuit of profit. Xi likened the global economy to a big ocean from which it was impossible to escape. “Any attempt to cut off the flow of capital, goods, and people between economies, and channel the waters into the ocean back into isolated lakes and creeks is simply not possible.

2 World economy will grow faster in 2017 (Issac John in Khaleej Times) Global economic activity is projected to pick up pace in 2017 and 2018 after a lackluster performance in 2016, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said. Global growth for 2016 is now estimated at 3.1 per cent, in line with the October 2016 forecast by the Washington-based fund.

As per its latest global economic outlook, economic activity in both advanced economies and emerging economies is forecast to accelerate in 2017-18, with global growth projected to be 3.4 per cent and 3.6 per cent respectively, again unchanged from the October forecasts.

In the Middle East, growth in Saudi Arabia is expected to be at 0.4 per cent in 2017, weaker than previously forecast, as oil production is cut back in line with the recent Opec agreement, while civil strife continues to take a heavy toll on a number of other countries.

In India, the growth forecast for the current (2016-17) and next fiscal year were trimmed by one percentage point and 0.4 percentage point respectively, primarily due to the temporary negative consumption shock induced by cash shortages and payment disruptions associated with the recent currency note withdrawal and exchange initiative.

Near-term growth prospects were revised up for China, due to an expected policy stimulus, but were revised down for a number of other large economies - most notably India, Brazil and Mexico. The IMF said that among emerging economies, China remains a major driver of world economic developments.

At the global level, other vulnerabilities include higher popular antipathy towards trade, immigration and multilateral engagement in the US and Europe; widespread high levels of public and private debt; ongoing climate change - which especially affects low-income countries; and, in a number of advanced countries, continuing slow growth and deflationary pressures.

3 EU may call robots ‘electronic persons’ (Emily Price in San Francisco Chronicle) The European Parliament committee released an interesting report pertaining to robots this week: it wants to call them “electronic persons.”

They’re not quite considering your average robot a human, but they want to give them a distinction that makes them sound more human-like: “The most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons with specific rights and obligations, including that of making good any damage they may cause,” reads the report.

The idea is that, as artificially intelligent robots become more and more commonplace, that robots will legally need to be made in such a way that they will not harm humans, or allow humans to be harmed through their actions. If they do, then the robots (and more likely their creators) will need to be held responsible for their actions.

The report also suggests that all robots should be made with a “kill switch” that would allow them to be powered off should they go rogue and become too powerful with their AI.

The report also suggests that robots should be broken down into subcategories in such a way that identifies them as devices that are self-learning, or as a robot that adapt its behaviors and actions to its environment. Those categories would then help individuals understand what risk and opportunities are available with such robots.

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