‘Dirty Brexit’, trade deadlocks and Facebook’s ‘monster’ questions

Planet Business: The rise of Stacey Cunningham, the fall of Aussie house prices

 

Image of the week: Trade tensions

They could have been talking about anything, of course, but there’s something about Heather Humphreys’ face in this picture of her talking to EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström (left) that seems to sum up the trade deadlock between the EU and Donald Trump’s protectionist White House. The Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation was in Brussels for a meeting with her counterparts, after which Malmström told reporters that EU proposals to open its markets wider to US products appeared not to have persuaded Washington to lift the threat of measures to curb EU steel and aluminium imports. “I think they don’t think it is enough,” Malmström told reporters, adding that she was “not sure, frankly” that even if European producers escaped tariffs, they wouldn’t run into “other sorts of limiting measures”. Trump’s desired trade war, it seems, could have multiple fronts.

In numbers: Unwanted Down Under

7.5%

Expected decline in Sydney house prices between the mid-2017 market peak and the end of 2018, according to economists at CBA, Australia’s largest lender.

15.5%

Rise in Sydney house prices in 2016, as the city’s long property boom extended in bubbly fashion, leaving many waiting longer than expected for the inevitable reversal.

30

Number of years since the outlook for the Australian housing market has been as bad, says Morgan Stanley. The words “soft landing” now appear regularly in Australian media.

The lexicon: Dirty Brexit

After something of a lull, we have a new type of Brexit to add the long list of available Brexits. A “Dirty Brexit” is the opposite of a “Green Brexit” and refers to environmentalists’ fears that, once the UK leaves the EU, it will replace its environmental standards with something less stringent. The UN has now intervened, warning that the UK’s “reputation could suffer” (nothing new there) if its climate protections are weakened. “Nobody voted for a dirty Brexit that leaves our beaches, water and air quality worse off,” said Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven. Other Brexits available include Hard Brexit, Soft Brexit, Open Brexit, Red-White-and-Blue Brexit, Cliff-Edge Brexit, Brexit Lite, Brexit Plus, Poached Brexit, Fried Brexit, Full English Brexit, Fantasy Brexit, Misery Brexit and (my personal favourite) Kamikaze Brexit.

Getting to know: Stacey Cunningham

In the summer of 1994, Stacey Cunningham worked as an intern at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) while she was studying industrial engineering. At the time, the women’s bathroom was a converted phone booth, while the men had a “palatial” room with couches and a full-time attendant. Despite this practical drawback, she “fell in love” with the trading floor and started working there two years later, becoming one of only a couple of dozen women among more than a thousand men. Cunningham (43) is now the new president of the NYSE, becoming the first woman to lead it in its 226-year history. Things have moved on since 2005, when frustrated by the lack of technological process, she left the NYSE for a while, taking “culinary leave” that included a stint in another well-known high-pressure environment: a professional kitchen.

The list: Facebook’s monster questions

“I asked you six yes and no questions and I got not a single answer,” Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt lamented at the end of the European Parliament’s question-and-answer session with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, which was more question than answer. Here are some of Verhofstadt’s unanswered queries.

1. Truth and lies: A version of the old liars’ paradox came up when Verhofstadt noted that Facebook had promised to implement new data protection rules: “But in fact, are you telling the truth to us?”

2. Money money money: Optimistically, perhaps, Verhofstadt was curious about how Facebook might compensate customers who suffer data violations. “And what will be the amount that you will give them?”

3. Opening up: “Would you co-operate with European antitrust authorities… to open your books so that we can see it, yes or no, is it a monopoly?”

4. Carving up: “If you have to split off Facebook Messenger, to give you an example, and WhatsApp, to keep Instagram, would that be a good deal for you, that you could accept?”

5. Legacy issue: Would he like to be remembered as one of the “great internet giants” along with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who have enriched the world and our societies or as “the genius who created a digital monster that is destroying our democracies and our societies”?

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