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Announcing his proposed tariffs on steel and aluminium, Donald Trump was fixated on separating America’s “real friends” from its fake friends. “We are going to see who’s treating us fairly, who’s not treating us fairly,” he warned. Steel dumping was not simply hurting the economy, it was a threat to the nation, he insisted. The tariffs, therefore, were “vital to our national security, absolutely vital”.

His argument is nothing more than a cover for US protectionism, says Rana Foroohar in her latest column. But, while the world watches anxiously for its effects on the global trading system, a more worrying form of protectionism is threatening innovation in Silicon Valley. The trade war the US should fear is not in physical commodities but in technology, Rana says.

She predicts that an ongoing US investigation into China’s theft of intellectual property will result in stricter barriers on Chinese investment in American data and IT. That could hurt companies such as Tencent or result in new tariffs on a wider variety of Chinese products or even new visa rules for Chinese immigrants. But there are better ways to protect American competitiveness, she argues.

Italian risk: Wolfgang Münchau is relieved to note that the referendum on Italy’s eurozone membership proposed by the Five Star Movement is off the table. But, he says, there are three ways in which the next Italian government could still cause trouble: by derailing talks on eurozone reform, a fiscal overshoot at home, or by making ominous noises about creating a parallel currency.

Failing the front line: Margaret Heffernan argues that the UK university lecturers strike is a textbook case of bad leadership by university heads. In successful businesses, smart managers do not deliberately alienate their front-line workers, she says. Lecturers, tutors and researchers are the names and faces of these institutions, and the students know their worth. That is why they are siding with their teachers.

Dodging bullets: Donald Trump is correct to try diplomacy with Kim Jong Un, writes Nicholas Burns. The US and North Korea were on a collision course to a war, which might have also drawn in China. But the devil will be in the details. The former undersecretary of state argues that the US president must acknowledge the strength of Mr Kim’s position, North Korea’s considerable nuclear arsenal and Washington’s very thin bench of Korea and East Asia experts, before he chooses a diplomatic path.

Best of the rest

Money is power. And women need more of both — Susan Chira in the New York Times

Softly-softly isn’t working. Time to play hard with wealthy Russians living in Britain — Oliver Bullough in The Observer

Bitcoin is ridiculous. Blockchain is dangerous — Paul Ford in Bloomberg

With one attack a week in London, is Uber safe for women? — Amelia Tait in The New Statesman

In Winston Churchill, Hollywood rewards a mass murderer — Shashi Tharoor in the Washington Post

What you’ve been saying

Taiwan has also dropped a windfall into China’s lap — letter from Zhao Xiaoou

It has been nearly two years since the Democratic Progressive party started to control both the presidency of Taiwan and the legislative yuan. However, the popularity of President Tsai Ing-wen is at a record low after a series of blunders. The party now faces losing in its heartland of south Taiwan in the upcoming local elections. Pro-mainland parties are now galvanised. Taiwan has been a beacon of Chinese democracy, but now it also faces the question of whether economic growth/capitalism is compatible as the economy underperforms and youth underemployment becomes an increasingly marked problem. At the same time, certain manoeuvres by the DPP in the legislative and judicial arenas are also considered political attacks. That tinges the system with an old “winner takes all” mentality, which is hardly helpful in promoting the democratic system on the mainland. Ms Tsai’s tacit consent for the radicals in her party has exacerbated the political division on the island.

Comment from MyCutiePie on Who can sell Trump to business now that Gary Cohn has gone?

Trump is not running a country, he is running a re-election campaign. Tariffs are linked to the special election in Pennsylvania. They might disappear after the vote, or they may not as he moves on to the next electoral ploy. There is a logic in what he does to keep himself popular with his core supporters, unfortunately this supporters are illogical.

Saudi women drivers can rejoice but not until June — letter from George Horsington

In his optimistic and enlightening op-ed on the opportunities available for overseas investors in his growing and modernising nation, the Saudi ambassador to the UK, Mohammed bin Nawaf, states that “Saudi women are now allowed to drive.” His Excellency is perhaps a little quick off the mark, given that the law permitting them to drive is not expected to be passed until June, and that the authorities in the kingdom have stated that they will not be issuing women with driving licences until that month. When it happens, it will indeed be a cause for celebration for friends of the kingdom everywhere.

Today’s opinion

FT View: The UK must act robustly over poisoning of Russian ex-double agent
Business ties between the countries cannot be shielded from worsening politics

FT View: Passive investment and ownerless companies
The great benefits of tracker funds come, inevitably, with costs

Universities risk their reputations by failing to value teaching staff
In no successful business do smart leaders deliberately alienate frontline workers

Donald Trump’s diplomatic turn to N Korea deserves acclaim
In ditching decades of policy, the US president has chosen the wiser path

US protectionism could set off a digital trade war
Washington needs to take a closer look at its own tech ecosystem

Italy is storing up trouble for the eurozone
A Five Star government could derail talks on reform of the single currency bloc

FT Collections: European politics: can the centre hold?
Italian elections and the German coalition show centrist parties under pressure

The Big Read: Fukushima nuclear disaster: did the evacuation raise the death toll? More than 60,000 residents were displaced, with half yet to return. But some say moving out was more dangerous than the radiation itself

FT View

FT View: The UK must act robustly over poisoning of Russian ex-double agent
Business ties between the countries cannot be shielded from worsening politics

FT View: Passive investment and ownerless companies
The great benefits of tracker funds come, inevitably, with costs

The Big Read

The Big Read: Fukushima nuclear disaster: did the evacuation raise the death toll?
More than 60,000 residents were displaced, with half yet to return. But some say moving out was more dangerous than the radiation itself

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