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Hours after news leaked that the US was going to sign an executive order withdrawing the US from the North American Free Trade Agreement, the White House reversed course. Donald Trump instead agreed to renegotiate the trade pact. The move came after hastily arranged calls between the US president and the leaders of Mexico and Canada. The peso and the Canadian dollar both rallied on the news.

Mr Trump attempted to defuse criticism that he has failed to achieve any major legislative breakthroughs in his first 100 days with a new tax plan billed by his economic team as one of the biggest tax cuts in US history. The plan would bring significant benefits to the wealthiest Americans but was short on detail, consisting of only a one-page outline of fewer than 200 words. More revealing is the FT’s look at Donald Trump’s first three months in power, which have been dominated by leaks, power struggles and policy reversals, and a White House “brimming with tales about which players are in or out of favour and who currently has the ear of the princelings: Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, and her husband Jared Kushner”. (FT, NYT, WaPo)

In the news

Israel strikes Syria An arms depot near Damascus airport has been destroyed in a series of air strikes blamed on Israel. The depot was operated by Hizbollah, the Lebanese militant group that supports Syria’s Assad regime. Israel’s intelligence minister confirmed that “the incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel’s policy”. (Jazeera)

Samsung rejects activist investor calls for reform Hopes of corporate governance change have been scuppered at South Korea’s biggest conglomerate, whose de facto leader is standing trial for corruption charges. The decision on Thursday came after the technology group reported its best quarterly operating profit in more than three years, driven by strong component sales. (FT)

China emissions reversal An uptick in China’s economy threatens to reverse improvements in greenhouse gas emissions, which have been flat for three years. China’s economy grew at an annual rate of 6.9 per cent in the first quarter, the fastest for 18 months. Smog in northern China and in southern manufacturing areas rose too. (FT)

United woos the customer The US airline has released a report into the infamous removal of a passenger with an analysis of how the situation went wrong and what the company is going to change. The airline will now offer up to $10,000 to passengers who voluntarily give up their seats on overbooked flights, among other policy changes designed to improve customer service. (FT)

Aluminium in Trump’s sights The US has launched a national security investigation into imports of aluminium, warning that its capacity to domestically produce the metal needed for fighter jets and armour plating has collapsed in recent years. Donald Trump is to sign an executive order to accelerate the investigation as the administration tries to live up to his campaign promises to get tough on trade. (FT) 

It’s a big day for

US tech groups Four industry leaders worth a combined $1,700bn will unveil quarterly earnings on Thursday, including Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Intel. Amid heavy investment in new markets, the focus will be on underlying earnings power of some of the tech world’s strongest core franchises. (FT)

ECB The European Central Bank’s 25 monetary policymakers will gather in Frankfurt to review the progress of their quantitative easing programme. Here are three things to watch. (FT)

Food for thought

Japan’s priestless temples In Japan there are more Buddhist temples than convenience stores, but many are struggling to find the parishioners they need to stay afloat. As congregations shrink, thousands of temples are having to do without a resident priest. (NAR)

Patriotism over nationalism George Orwell wrote that patriotism is open and optimistic​, ​whereas nationalism is a darker force, rooted in superiority and paranoia. ​ This can be seen in Europe where nationalists have destabilised the postwar liberal order, writes the FT’s Philip Stephens. France’s Emmanuel Macron is bucking the trend, however, and is the first politician to make the case for patriotism​. (FT)

Mining profits up Resource companies are again making money, and promising to “learn the lessons” of a boom that left them drowning in debt. The hard question now is what do mining companies do with the money? (FT)

Mathematics against gerrymandering Gerrymandering — redrawing the legislative map to favour a particular party — has always been tricky to prove. But a California researcher has figured out a new way to tackle the practice with primary school maths. (Wired)

A mystery with a friendly name Is it a wayward piece of the aurora borealis? A rarely seen strip of a proton aurora? Or is it a comet’s tail? Scientists are flummoxed by a strip of light in the night sky and are calling it “Steve” until they work it out. (NYT)

Video of the day

Fighting domestic abuse in Papua A third of women in Papua New Guinea suffer violence at home. The FT’s Jamie Smyth talks to campaigners trying to change attitudes towards abuse at the Lihir Gold mine. (FT)


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