Trump clarifies Syria strategy, IMF warns on protectionism and the world’s largest death row

US president tells Fox News that America is ‘not going into Syria’

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Donald Trump has attempted to clarify his Syria policy in the wake of US missile attacks on a regime airfield. The US president told Fox News that America was “not going into Syria”, while defence secretary James Mattis reinforced the message, insisting US policy on the war-torn country had not changed in the wake of the strike. But the administration maintained its pressure on Russia, with officials accusing Moscow of trying to shield Bashar al-Assad’s government from blame for a deadly gas attack that killed 87 people in rebel-held Idlib province. 

The comments came as US secretary of state Rex Tillerson arrived in Moscow amid mounting tensions between the Kremlin and White House over the conflict in Syria. Mr Tillerson warned Moscow that its ally’s reign was “coming to an end”. His Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, is expected to repeat Moscow’s claims that the US has provided arms and training to Syrian rebels affiliated with radical “terrorists” fighting the Assad regime. (FT, Reuters, NYT, Politico)

In the news

IMF warns on protectionism The global economy is gaining momentum, with both rich and emerging economies enjoying better growth prospects than last year, said Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF. But in a speech ahead of the release of the fund’s global growth forecasts, she warned against political uncertainty and the “sword of protectionism”. (FT) 

Bomb attack on Borussia Dortmund bus Centre back Marc Bartra suffered injuries when Borussia Dortmund’s bus was hit by three explosions as it travelled to a football match in its hometown on Tuesday evening, in what police said was a targeted attack. A policeman was also treated for injuries. A “letter” claiming responsibility for the attacks was found near the site of the explosions and local media reported that police were looking into the possibility that Islamist militants may have been involved. (FT, Reuters)

United in outrage Vietnam has joined a chorus of Asian outrage against United Airlines after it was revealed that David Dao, the 69-year-old passenger dragged off an overbooked flight, was Vietnamese-born. A belated unconditional apology from airline chief Oscar Munoz for Dr Dao’s treatment has done little to stem calls for a boycott. The debacle shows that “sorry is never enough” and adds to fears that the US skies have become an unfriendly place for foreigners. (Reuters, FT) 

Can Toshiba stay in business? Shares in Toshiba see-sawed on the markets on Wednesday, the day after it issued a warning about its ability to continue as a going concern. The Japanese conglomerate failed to convince its auditor to sign off on third-quarter earnings, risking its status as a listed company. The failure also points to strains in Japan’s consensus culture. (FT, NAR)

Yahoo accused on aid for Chinese dissidents Ten years ago the tech company agreed to pay $17.3m to set up a human rights fund as part of a settlement with the families of political dissidents who accused Yahoo of handing over their personal information to Beijing. Now a lawsuit accuses the company of mismanaging the money — alleging just $700,000 was spent to provide direct aid to imprisoned dissidents. (BuzzFeed)

It's a big day for

Nato Secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg is due to visit Washington for his first meeting with Donald Trump in the White House. During his election campaign and on the eve of taking office in January, Mr Trump called the organisation “obsolete”, although he has since said he strongly supports the alliance. 

Keep up with the important business, economic and political stories in the coming days with the FT’s Week Ahead.

Food for thought

China’s toughest battle Martin Wolf on the country’s need to rebalance its economy and escape its debt trap before opening up capital flows. (FT)

Meat means murder Nilanjana Roy on the rise of the intolerant vegetarian in India, where meat eating or purveying can increasingly lead to death, and how it acts as a shield for discrimination and worse. “This is nothing but force majeure, and it leaves behind an unpleasant taste: what will those who want to change the way we eat target next about the way we live?” (FT) 

The world’s largest death row More than 360 people were sentenced to death in Pakistan last year and are currently living on the world's largest recorded death row, home to more than 6,000 prisoners. They live in specially-designated areas with as many as eight prisoners forced to share eight-by-10ft cells. Underlying the spike in numbers is an overloaded and inefficient justice system. (Jazeera)

East Germany runs out of people The population of the former East Germany is shrinking. Government statistics predict it will reduce from 12.5m in 2016 to 8.7m by 2060. The falling numbers are an “echo of an echo” from the fall of the Berlin Wall. (Economist)

Property jitters in the US Over the nine years since the financial crisis commercial real estate prices dropped as much as 40 per cent, even more than residential housing. But now bankers and regulators are growing nervous about the sector as more than 1m new apartments have sprung up across the US in a post-crisis construction surge. (FT)

Video of the day

Duterte battles ouster Allegations brought by former police officer Arturo Lascanas have triggered a campaign to impeach the Philippines’ hardline leader Rodrigo Duterte. The FT’s Michael Peel reports from Manila. (FT)

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