Media Watch 10/2/15

By Rowan Williams

US President Barack Obama has given his support to German diplomatic efforts to contain the crisis in Ukraine. German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with President Obama in Washington on Monday for talks on the conflict. At a press conference, President Obama hinted that the alternatives to sanctions suggested by the US, such as arming Ukrainian forces, remained a largely symbolic threat, preferring to keep all options open in approaching the crisis. President Obama acknowledged that economic sanctions were the most effective punitive measure that could be taken against Russia, though Chancellor Merkel conceded that the war would continue should Russia be determined to accept economic sanctions and continue in its campaign. In such an event, Merkel said, another strategy would have to be developed by the US and Europe. In Ukraine, meanwhile, pro-Russian separatists say they have surrounded the town of Debaltseve. Ukrainian government forces claim they are continuing to fight along a supply road in the area.

The head of one of Britain’s biggest business groups has called for a referendum on British EU membership as soon as possible. The calls from John Longworth, Director General of the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), come on the same day that Prime Minister David Cameron is due to attend the BCC. The Prime Minister is expected to use his speech at the BCC to tell business owners to raise staff pay. Mr Longworth, however, is to state in his speech that more action should be taken to retake decision-making powers from Brussels, with a referendum on EU membership to take place in 2016. David Cameron has previously promised a referendum in 2017 should the Conservatives win the general election. Both the Prime Minister and Mr Longworth have said that they would prefer for Britain to stay in a reformed EU, however.

US chipmaker Qualcomm is to pay US$975 million (£640 million) to Chinese authorities to end a 14-month anti-trust investigation into its practices. Qualcomm said on Monday that it would not contest the finding of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) that Qualcomm had broken anti-trust laws. The fine is the largest in China’s corporate history. The settlement will also require Qualcomm to lower its royalty rates on patents used in China, a deal which is expected to be beneficial to local smartphone manufacturers such as Xiaomi and Huawei. Shares in Qualcomm rose in the wake of the announcement, with Qualcomm stating that a key source of concerns for its investors had been removed. Qualcomm continues to face anti-trust probes in the US and Europe.

The Papers

Continuing coverage of the HSBC scandal makes a few front pages, as do some political stories. The Guardian leads with a photograph of Stephen Green, former head of HSBC, writing that Green was made a government minister “eight months after the authorities were told about wrongdoing on his watch”. The revelations that the bank has colluded in tax fraud has “triggered a furious response” worldwide, the paper writes. The Financial Times leads with the same story, writing that the revelations have sparked calls for a clampdown. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has said that laws may be changed so that senior bankers involved in the tax evasion can be prosecuted. The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, leads with news of calls from the Prime Minister to “Give staff a pay rise”. The Prime Minister will ask business owners at the British Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday to increase pay, pointing to cheaper business costs. The Times leads with the same story, writing that business leaders have been “urged to share the spoils of growth”. The call is a “riposte to critics” such as Ed Miliband, the paper writes, who have claimed that companies are failing to reward employees. The Independent leads with a report on juvenile prison, quoting a report by the Howard League for Penal Reform which found that “Imprisonment ‘turns young offenders into sex criminals'”. Britain is currently planning to build Britain’s largest juvenile prison.

British Media on China

On inflation: the fall of China’s inflation rate to 0.8 percent received coverage from The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian. The Guardian writes that the figure is the lowest in over five years, and fuels “fears the world’s second-largest economy is on the brink of a deflationary spiral”. The Daily Telegraph writes that the news piles pressure on Beijing “to inject more stimulus into the economy”.

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