Business Briefs – March 19, 2017

Germany’s Merkel and Japan’s Abe Urge Free Trade With Jabs at U.S.

HANOVER, Germany (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke up for free trade at a major technology fair on Sunday with jabs clearly pointed at an increasingly protectionist United States.

Both called for a free trade deal to be reached quickly between Japan and the European Union, in comments made after G20 finance ministers and central bankers dropped a long-standing mention of open trade in their final communique after a two-day meeting in Germany.

Neither leader named the U.S. government as they opened the CeBIT technology fair in Hanover, but both used the opportunity to distance themselves from protectionist tendencies coming from the Trump administration.

“In times when we have to argue with many about free trade, open borders and democratic values, it’s a good sign that Japan and Germany no longer argue about this but rather are seeking to shape the future in a way that benefits people,” Merkel said.

As G20 president, Germany feels especially committed to these principles, she added.

After meeting President Donald Trump in Washington on Friday for the first time, Merkel said she hoped the United States and the European Union could resume discussions on a trade agreement. Trump said he did not believe in isolationism but that trade policy should be fairer.

Auto Industry Backs Commitment To Fuel Economy Amid Doubts

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) – Just because President Trump may weaken U.S. fuel economy requirements, don’t expect gas guzzlers like the giant 13 mpg Hummer H1 to make a comeback. Executives from automakers and suppliers gathered at a conference said looser fuel economy standards might allow for sales of more trucks in areas where they’re popular. But otherwise, the pursuit of fuel-efficiency technologies would proceed unabated.

Wal-Mart Buys Online Clothing Seller ModCloth

NEW YORK (AP) – Wal-Mart is buying trendy online clothing selling ModCloth. The company has been making a big push to pick up smaller online brands as it tries to make headway against Amazon. But winning over ModCloth’s customers, who are fans of its vintage-inspired patterned dresses and inclusive sizing, may be a challenge.

“Soda Tax” Stakes Escalate in Pivotal Philadelphia Fight

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Philadelphia has become a pivotal battleground in the beverage industry’s push to stop “soda taxes” from gaining momentum. Since a new tax on sweetened drinks went into effect Jan. 1, a coalition of businesses looking to overturn it say sales are down so much they need to cut jobs. Tax supporters question the announcements of layoffs so soon after the tax went into effect, and note beverage distributors and supermarkets aren’t required to pass on the entire cost of the tax to shoppers.

Dallas Offers Cautionary Tale As It Moves to Fix 911 Woes

DALLAS (AP) – Dallas has been experiencing disruptions in its 911 service that began in October and at one point last week resulted in 360 calls being placed on hold. More dispatchers have been assigned to field 911 calls and technological glitches have been fixed, which should smooth operations, a city spokeswoman said Friday. But the problems plaguing Dallas can be found with other 911 systems that rely on increasingly obsolete networks that are incompatible with new technologies and protocols.