Ministers leading NAFTA negotiations to meet on Davos sidelines as talks resume in Montreal

The three ministers leading negotiations to revamp NAFTA will get two chances for face-to-face talks this month, including one near the slopes of Davos.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland are due to attend the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, which begins on Jan. 23, the same day the sixth round of North American Free Trade Agreement talks get underway across the Atlantic in Montreal.

Freeland expects to raise the subject of NAFTA informally on the sidelines of Davos, spokesman Alex Lawrence said in a statement. The three ministers are also tentatively scheduled to hold a trilateral meeting in Montreal on Jan. 28, he said. The ministers didn’t attend the last two negotiating sessions in Mexico and Washington, after attending previous rounds.

The fate of NAFTA remains unclear — U.S. President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan each said last week they’d rather renegotiate than walk away from the pact altogether, though Trump reiterated his threat to pull out. Canadian officials said they believe the odds are rising that Trump will give notice of a NAFTA withdrawal. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week the U.S. delegation will discuss its “America First” agenda at Davos.

The NAFTA talks are due to run until January 28, two days longer than the Davos summit. Only two NAFTA chapters are completed out of a new deal that’s expected to include almost 30; Freeland has said several others are close to completion.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland with Mexico’s Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, left, and Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer, United States Trade Representative, during the final day of the third round of NAFTA negotiations at Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017.

There’s no rush to reach a deal, Trump said last week in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, adding it might be difficult for Mexico to agree terms before its July 1 election. Canada, in turn, called that a “constructive position.”

“Provided there is goodwill from all parties, we could make some real meaningful progress in Montreal, and that is what I’m working towards and hoping for,” Freeland said in a television interview aired Sunday on Global News. Freeland said a withdrawal notice by Trump would only be “a step before withdrawal,” and there is uncertainty about what would shake out if the U.S. does give notice.

“This would be the first time the U.S. has actually withdrawn from a free trade agreement, so there is a lot of uncertainty about what would actually happen,” Freeland said.

NAFTA talks began in August 2017 and have been scheduled through March, with the seventh round expected in late February in Mexico City. Trump had initially wanted a deal by December, though trade negotiations of this scale typically take years.

Bloomberg.com

The portion of VC-backed startups founded by women stays stubbornly stagnant

 It was a tumultuous year for the technology industry, with sexual harassment, pay gaps and under-representation of women often dominating the headlines. And while sexism was not born in Silicon Valley, sexual harassment is proving to be toxic for business. As part of our larger Q4 and 2017 coverage, let’s see how the venture industry invested in women last year. Read More

Top U.S. general says ‘not giving up’ on Pakistan ties

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The top U.S. military officer, Marine General Joseph Dunford, said on Monday he was committed to the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, which has been strained in recent weeks as Washington piles pressure on Islamabad to crack down on militants.

Canadians Trust Their Media More Than People In Most Countries: Pew Center Study

Canadians are generally happy with their news media, and that could be thanks to their trust in the federal government and faith in the country’s economic performance.

A Pew Research Center study into global attitudes on media showed out of 38 countries worldwide, Canadians placed in the top 10 in all measures of media satisfaction.

A large majority of Canadians believe that news media is doing well or somewhat well at reporting the news accurately (78 per cent), political issues fairly (73 per cent), news about government leaders and officials (79 per cent), and the most important news events (82 per cent).

Scored higher than American media

Pew senior researcher Laura Silver, who co-authored the study, said in countries with high levels of media satisfaction, there’s a high correlation in “trust in the national government to do what’s right, and a sense that the economy is performing well.”

In that vein, Silver told HuffPost Canada that Canadians generally score their news organizations higher than Americans.

“In Canada, 67 per cent of people trust the national government to do what’s right, in comparison, only 51 per cent of Americans say the same thing,” she said.

She noted that there is some partisan division in both countries.

“People who support the governing party tend to think that the media is doing a better job than those who don’t support the governing party.”

People who support Canada's governing party are more likely to have a higher level of media satisfaction.

The study’s results align with similar reports on media satisfaction in Canada. A 2016 Reuters/YouGov poll showed 55 per cent of Canadians agreed with the statement “you can trust news most of the time,” compared to 33 per cent of Americans who said the same.

That said, trust in government may be on the decline. A February 2017 Edelman poll showed only 43 per cent of Canadians trust their government, down from 53 per cent the year earlier.

The Pew Research Center study was based on telephone and face-to-face interviews conducted under the direction of D3 Systems Inc., ORB International, Princeton Survey Research Associates International, Kantar Public UK and Voices! Research & Consultancy in 38 countries. The results are based on national samples.

Also On HuffPost:

City-owned Internet services offer cheaper and more transparent pricing

Municipal broadband networks generally offer cheaper entry-level prices than private Internet providers, and the city-run networks also make it easier for customers to find out the real price of service, a new study from Harvard University researchers found.

Researchers collected advertised prices for entry-level broadband plans—those meeting the federal standard of at least 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload speeds—offered by 40 community-owned ISPs and compared them to advertised prices from private competitors.

The report by researchers at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard doesn’t provide a complete picture of municipal vs. private pricing. But that’s largely because data about private ISPs’ prices is often more difficult to get than information about municipal network pricing, the report says.

Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Researchers find that one person likely drove Bitcoin from $150 to $1,000

 Researchers Neil Gandal, JT Hamrick, Tyler Moore, and Tali Oberman have written a fascinating paper on Bitcoin price manipulation. Entitled “Price Manipulation in the Bitcoin Ecosystem” and appearing in the recent issue of the Journal of Monetary Economics the paper describes to what degree the Bitcoin ecosystem is controlled by bad actors. To many it’s been obvious that… Read More

Nintendo doesn’t seem to be “looking into” VR very much anymore

Readers with decent memories may remember early 2016, when Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima said the company was looking into the virtual reality space at an investor’s briefing. Coming months before we had concrete details on the company’s upcoming Switch, the statement set off industry alarm bells about Nintendo’s potential future plans. A vague Nintendo patent for a head-mounted tablet holster that surfaced in late 2016 got the chatter going even further.

Fast forward to today, and it’s increasingly clear that Nintendo has finished “looking” and has decided VR shouldn’t be part of its plans for the time being. The latest evidence comes from a recent interview with Nintendo France General Manager Philippe Lavoué in French publication Les Numeriques. “If you look at VR headsets, I doubt they can appeal to the mainstream,” Lavoué said in a translation of that interview. “Consumers are not patient with entertainment if you’re not able to deliver an all-inclusive package.”

Lavoué goes on to downplay any need for Nintendo to invest in hardware capable of full 4K images, saying that the TV display technology has “not been adopted by the majority” and would therefore be a premature investment for the company. “And what novelty would we bring compared to our competitors?” he said. “If we do the exact same thing as everyone else, we’re bound to die because we are smaller than them. With the Switch, we offer different uses, adapted to players’ pace of life. Its advantage is being able to fit into your daily life.”

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments