Dec 11, 2018

Bill Gates hopes Trump's trade war won't wreck the global health agenda

Bill Gates. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, who’s in D.C. this week to meet with administration officials and members of Congress, told Axios he hopes the U.S.’ souring relationships with Europe and China — sparked by the Trump administration’s tariffs — won’t hurt long-term global health or climate change goals.

Between the lines: Gates always tries to keep his language diplomatic and above the political fights of the day — but he made it clear that trade wars aren’t helpful to his work.

  • "I do hope that U.S.-Europe relations, U.S.-China relations can be put back on a steady basis instead of having to mostly focus on short-term things, you know, relative to tariffs," Gates said.
  • He wants them to get back to focusing on "long-term problems which, in my view, includes these global health things and stopping pandemics" — as well as climate change.

For example, he said, he’d like to partner with China to work on eradicating malaria by 2040. His message to the Trump administration: Don’t make that job harder.

  • "We're going to the Chinese and saying, 'Hey, join in this effort.' And obviously, if U.S.-China relationships are not going well, that means our chance at succeeding in getting China to participate in these global efforts makes it less than we would have otherwise," he said.

The big picture: Gates also pushed back against the growing concerns about the power of the tech giants. He said he doesn’t see "bigness" as a problem — in government, business or tech.

  • "The digital era is reshaping a lot of things and, you know, most of the things are better product at better prices," he said.
  • "You say, are these large companies large because they're providing lower prices and more choice? Right now, in most cases, you'd have to say yes to that," Gates added.
  • It’s true that many large tech companies offer low prices — or even free services, notes Axios managing editor Kim Hart. But on the internet, "free" often means trading your personal data for those services. Determining the value of a consumers’ data is tricky in today’s antitrust framework, which has caused some to call for re-evaluating dominance in terms of data.

Our thought bubble, via Axios’ Ina Fried: It’s not exactly a shock that Gates is defending the idea that a tech company can be big without needing to be split up. That said, Gates could have used it as an opportunity to single out any of Microsoft’s rivals and instead praised the innovation coming from the industry giants.

  • Gates knows from whence he speaks. Microsoft came under significant antitrust fire from both the U.S. and Europe during his tenure.
  • That said, he has also seen a more broad view in his role as a philanthropist seeing how corporate actions affect the most vulnerable.

Gates says his meetings in D.C. are meant to update officials on the foreign aid partnership between the Gates Foundation and the U.S. government.

  • "I suppose in some political environment I'd be asking for huge increases in the foreign aid budget.  But you know, we're not expecting that, so that — you know, there's no big public ask," he added.

Go deeper: Bill Gates’ new crusade: Sounding the climate-change alarm

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World coronavirus updates: Cases surge past 720,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now more than 720,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 33,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 18 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 718,685 — Total deaths: 33,881 — Total recoveries: 149,076.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 139,675 — Total deaths: 2,436 — Total recoveries: 2,661.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump says his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Trump says peak coronavirus deaths in 2 weeks, extends shutdown

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Trump is extending his administration's "15 days to slow the spread" shutdown guidelines for an additional month in the face of mounting coronavirus infections and deaths and pressure from public health officials and governors.

Driving the news: With the original 15-day period that was announced March 16 about to end, officials around the country had been bracing for a premature call to return to normalcy from a president who's been venting lately that the prescription for containing the virus could be worse than the impacts of the virus itself.

Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - Health