Cordelia Jenkins: When was the last time a US president sought to destroy a national corporate champion? Over the past week Donald Trump has fulminated against Amazon in a series of tweets accusing the company of paying “little or no taxes”, using the US postal service as its “delivery boy” and putting thousands of retailers out of business. Amazon’s share price dropped fast, leaving founder Jeff Bezos $16bn poorer.
But there is more at stake here than the personal fortune of the world’s richest man, argues Edward Luce in his latest column. The president’s war against Mr Bezos looks like part of a wider and more sinister strategy to discredit his enemies in the US media. Mr Bezos bought the Washington Post in 2013 and the newspaper has been one of the Trump administration’s fiercest critics.
By attacking the Post and its peers, Mr Trump is doing what populists always do, says Ed. Whether in Victor Orban’s Hungary or Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, they target and intimidate independent media organisations that stand against them. We should not assume that America is any different.
Who’s the boss?
The global financial crisis blew up a number of accepted notions in the business world, writes Michael Skapinker — not least the idea that companies should serve shareholder interests first. But the lessons of the crash seem lost in Melrose Industries’ hostile takeover of GKN, which was decided by a swing vote of shareholders who were short-term speculators out to make a quick return. That was a mistake, says Mike. A company’s first duty should be to its customers, as Melrose may soon discover.
Dealing with the deficit:
The US seems ready to stoke a trade war over a current account deficit it describes as “unfair”. But in reality, argues Megan Greene, fairness doesn’t come into it. Rather than complaining about other countries causing the deficit, the US government should look at it as an accounting problem. Reducing it will require tough choices over how the country should address its internal imbalances.
Free trade for the future:
While the US and China are busy slapping tariffs on each other’s steel, pork and wine, the future of global trade looks rather brighter in Africa, notes David Pilling. Forty four African nations signed up to a continent-wide agreement last month that will cut tariffs to zero on 90 per cent of imports. Intra-Africa trade may have got off to a slow start, but it could unlock the continent's potential.