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U.S. going after China's aluminum dumping

China's Xi Jinping Photo: Pool photo / AP

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has announced that the Commerce Department today "self-initiated" antidumping and countervailing duty investigations of aluminum imports from China, which Ross claims have been dumped and subsidized to the detriment of U.S. manufacturers, CNBC reported.

Why it matters: China and some US free traders will scream "trade war," but self-initiated AD/CVD cases, while rare, are still permitted (and governed) by World Trade Organization rules, and Ross promised them back in his confirmation hearings. So this move is far less controversial than the investigations into steel and aluminum imports earlier this year which were initiated on national security grounds. The Trump administration will nevertheless hold these investigations up as a fulfillment of Trump's "America First" promises to crack down on unfair trade, and China's complaints will probably help their public case.

Why "self-initiated" matters: Most of the time, these cases are adjudicated by the U.S. government following a U.S. industry petition claiming injury from a foreign nation's subsidies or a private company's dumping. By self-initiating, the U.S. will play both plaintiff and judge. This will understandably set off diplomatic and geopolitical alarms, but the cases will still follow standard procedures under U.S. law and WTO rules.

What's next: This kicks off a year-long process of fact-finding on Chinese dumping/subsidization and "material injury" to U.S. manufacturers. If the U.S. finds that Chinese companies have been selling dumped (sold at prices below fair value) or subsidized imports that have hurt the U.S. aluminum industry, the U.S. will impose duties on those imports.

Go deeper: Back in July, Mike Allen reported that Trump was reigning in his tariff temptation.

Zachary Basu 7 hours ago
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John Bolton super PAC hired Cambridge Analytica in 2014

John Bolton
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

A super PAC led by incoming White House national security adviser John Bolton hired Cambridge Analytica in 2014 for “behavioral microtargeting with psychographic messaging,” reports the New York Times. Bolton's PAC was reportedly aware at the time that the models it received were derived from harvested Facebook data, according to former Cambridge employee and whistleblower Christopher Wylie.

Why it matters: Per the Times, "Mr. Bolton’s experience with the company appears to have provided a model for how it sold itself to future political campaigns, including Mr. Trump’s." Trump, Bolton and Cambridge Analytica also share a common patron in the billionaire Mercer family, which has yet to comment on the data scandal.

Zachary Basu 9 hours ago
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At least three killed in hostage crisis in southwest France

French gendarmes block an access to Trebes, where a man took hostages at a supermarket on March 23, 2018. Photo by ERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images.

A gunman killed at least three people in a supermarket in Trebes, France on Friday, before being fatally shot by police, reports BBC News.

What they're saying: The suspect, who reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, took several hostages and was involved in a police standoff for about three hours. Witnesses say he was heavily armed and was demanding the release of Salah Abdeslam, the only living suspect in the 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.