Trade Truce and Boeing

Grind for January 5th
“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

White Flag

The Headline

US and China reach long-awaited truce in trade war

The Grind

The Trump Administration is ringing in the new year with a highly-anticipated trade deal with China, announced President Trump on Tuesday.

“I will be signing our very large and comprehensive Phase One Trade Deal with China on January 15th,” tweeted Trump. “The ceremony will take place at the White House. High level representatives of China will be present. At a later date I will be going to Beijing where talks will begin on Phase Two!”

The deal was slated to be signed in Chile at the 2019 APEC summit in November, but the event was cancelled due to local protests.

The Details

On December 13th, US and Chinese negotiators announced they had reached a preliminary deal in which Beijing would significantly increase its purchases of American farm goods, ease some restrictions affecting the financial sector, and refrain from devaluing its currency to help its exporters.

In exchange, the United States agreed to cancel tariffs on $156 billion in Chinese imports that would have taken effect in mid-December and lessen the rate of existing tariffs affecting $120 billion in Chinese goods.

The 86-page deal fails to address key issuing including China’s theft of US technology and Beijing’s subsidies to state-owned enterprises, but contains a mechanism that allows both sides to re-impose tariffs if a deal is not reached after three rounds of talks.

“The trick is for the agreement to be crafted in a manner that’s ambiguous enough so as not to raise World Trade Organization (WTO) challenges, but is clear enough to satisfy the US that the Chinese government will use the tools available to it to direct farm purchases to the US,” explains WTO expert Mark Wu.

Red Flag

The Headline

Boeing moves closer to autonomous flight

The Grind

Boeing is planning to implement more automation even though a fault in an automated program was determined to have cause two fatal crashes this year.

“We are going to have to ultimately almost – almost – make these plans fly on their own,” said then-Boeing Chairman Dave Calhoun in November.

Earlier this month, Calhoun left his position as chairman to become CEO.

The Details

Boeing and rival aerospace company Airbus say they are designing automated flight-control systems that will appeal to young pilots with a better understanding of technology, including programs to maintain stable flight while pilots respond to emergencies.

“We’re also going to take a look at the pilot-machine interface on our airplanes in designing that for the next generation, as technology is rapidly evolving,” said former Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg. “We are investing heavily in that area, future flight deck design.”

Boeing is currently working on a fully autonomous electric cargo plane that would make deliveries without any humans on board. A few weeks ago, Airbus introduced touchscreens that enable pilots to operate A350 planes using finger swipes.

Engineers predict both companies will soon introduce AI to help pilots make tough decisions during emergencies.

In the meantime, critics worry that reliance on automation will weaken pilots’ flying skills and make them less decisive in emergencies.

“Engineers get very enamored with their automation,” says Mico Endsley, a former scientist for the Air Force. “When we assume it’s perfect, then we don’t design” the necessary defenses for human pilots.

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