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Last week, the US published its draft framework for upcoming trade talks with China — a detailed list of demands of its rival. These include that China reduce its trade imbalance with the US by $200bn over the next two years; that it agree to abide by US export control laws; and that it cut its tariffs in certain sectors so that they are equivalent to those imposed by the US. It also forbids China from taking retaliatory action against the US, including over any new restrictions the US might choose to impose.

The document amounts to a declaration of trade war, writes Martin Wolf in his column. It is unthinkable that China — or any other sovereign nation — could accept such humiliating terms. So what are we to make of them, he asks. Either we must suppose the US administration is so foolish that it does not understand the demands are unacceptable, or so arrogant that it does not care.

The call for the $200bn reduction is ludicrous, notes Martin. It would require the Chinese state to take control over the economy — exactly what the US demands it not do in other circumstances. Equally crazy is the idea that China would be deprived of its right to retaliate. But, particular outrages aside, the spirit of the whole framework violates the principles of non-discrimination, multilateralism and market-conformity that underpin the global trading system the US itself created. Other nations should stand against the US and its self-regarding bully of a leader.

Bad behaviour
Wall Street should beware of indulging in schadenfreude after Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney-general, announced his intention to resign over allegations he physically and verbally abused women, warns Brooke Masters. It may be that the crusading Democrat has been exposed as a hypocrite, but his departure leaves the state without a determined cop on the financial block, at a time when investors are particularly vulnerable.

Silver linings
The real divide in the UK’s Brexit debate is no longer between Leavers and Remainers, argues Norman Blackwell, chairman of Lloyds Banking Group, but between the doomsayers and the optimists. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest the latter group is right, from global companies’ confidence in the UK’s language and legal system, to its stable democracy and absence of corruption. But business and government will need to work together, Lord Blackwell insists. Negativity will hold the UK back.

Gloom in Iran
In two decades of reporting on Iran for the Financial Times, Najmeh Bozorgmehr cannot recall a time when Iranians were more pessimistic about the future of their country. “It is not only me [who is] completely hopeless. All my customers are down and depressed,” Sheida, a young woman who works in a beauty salon, told Najmeh. But despite a series of protests against the government last year, national pride remains strong and the war in Syria makes ordinary Iranians wary of too much upheaval.

Best of the rest

Gnawing away at US health care — Paul Krugman in the New Yorker

After Windrush, stop talking about ‘illegals’. Start talking about people — Lola Okolosie in the Guardian

Brexit: It has to happen — David Runciman in the London Review of Books

The man behind Burning Man — Emily Witt in the New Yorker

I’m not black, I’m Kanye — Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic

What you’ve been saying

Being gay has to be more than a corporate privilege — letter from Mark Peaker

Corporate LGBT programmes recognise those from predominantly affluent backgrounds seeking to carve out international careers, my heart doesn’t bleed too much for them; to be denied Dubai but accept Madrid isn’t a catastrophe. The work for tolerance needs to extend far beyond the marble corridors of multi-nationals; being gay is more than a middle class privilege!

Comment from Luc H on The case for a five-hour working day

How does this work in other industries? Hotels? Airlines? Do you think baggage handler will do the same in 5 hours as in 8? It works in finance because you will continue to extract value from others. What about farmers? Are you going to tell them that the cows are going to be milked in half the time?

More to Macmillan than pragmatic Conservatism — letter from Simon Crosby

Whilst I agree that Supermac is undervalued as a national and international statesman, I would suggest there is more to him than a courageously pragmatic conservative. After the second world war, he wanted to rename and reshape the Conservative party as the New Democratic party and was committed by principle to expansionism rather than austerity as a result of carrying an indelible impression of poverty in Stockton with him all his political life. Not just the practice but the principles differ from his party today.

Today’s opinion

Wall St must suppress its delight at Eric Schneiderman’s fall
The New York attorney-general played a key role in checking bad behaviour in finance

We may be missing the productivity revival in the global economy
Stronger demand and more investment bode well for a new phase of growth

Donald Trump declares trade war on China
No sovereign power could accept the humiliating demands being made by the US

FT Alphaville: ‘Sex redistribution’ and the means of reproduction

Free Lunch: Deindustrialisation may be complete; economic change is not
Great transformation keeps posing new challenges

FT Alphaville: Further reading

The real divide over the UK’s post-EU future is hope and despair
Negativity will depress confidence but there is a strong case for optimism

Gradual reform fails to stem the pessimism of the Iranian public
As Trump prepares to collapse the nuclear accord, Iranian appetite for change grows

The Big Read

The Big Read: India’s healthcare: does Modi have the right cure? With the health system floundering, the government plans a national insurance scheme

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