The daily business briefing: December 12, 2018

Harold Maass
Theresa May outside 10 Downing Street
The daily business briefing newsletter
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Report: Marriott chain cyberattack done by Chinese hackers

The cyberattack that exposed the personal information of 500 million guests of Marriott's Starwood hotel chain was done by the same Chinese hackers who targeted health insurers and security-clearance files of millions more Americans, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing two people briefed on the investigation. The hackers were suspected of working for China's Ministry of State Security in an intelligence-gathering effort. The tracing of the Marriott breach came as the Trump administration is preparing to indict Chinese hackers working for the country's intelligence services and military, four government officials told the Times. The administration also reportedly plans to declassify intelligence reports on a Chinese effort to compile a database of executives and government officials with security clearances that dates to at least 2014. [The New York Times]


May faces no-confidence vote over Brexit chaos

British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a no-confidence vote on Wednesday over the growing chaos surrounding her proposed deal for the U.K.'s departure from the European Union. If 158 of her party's 315 lawmakers don't support May, she will be removed from power. If she wins, her position will be safe for a year, getting her past the looming EU exit date in March. May canceled a vote in Parliament that was expected to result in the rejection of her deal with the EU on Brexit terms, and she is lobbying European leaders for concessions sought by lawmakers. She postponed a trip to Ireland so she could try to convince colleagues she is the best person to steer the country out of the EU. [NBC News]


China to slash tariffs on U.S. cars; Trump touts progress on trade

China has agreed to slash tariffs on U.S. autos to 15 percent from the current 40 percent, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. The agreement came during a phone call between Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer that has been characterized as the start of new trade talks aiming to ease tensions between the world's two biggest economies. It was not immediately clear when China would put the change into effect. Beijing raised its tariffs on auto imports from the U.S. as part of the back-and-forth tariff battle between the two countries earlier this year. U.S. stock futures jumped early Wednesday after President Trump said the U.S. and China were having "very productive" talks on ending the trade war. [The Wall Street Journal, CNBC]


Google chief grilled by congressional panel on privacy, misinformation

Google CEO Sundar Pichai was grilled Tuesday by members of the House Judiciary Committee who expressed concern over the company's handling of user privacy and politically sensitive content. Republicans questioned Pichai about what they see as unfair treatment against conservatives, as well as Google's market power and plan to relaunch its search service in China. Democrats, led by their ranking committee member Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), said Congress should be more focused on how Google has handled the spread of misinformation online, and Russia's efforts to influence U.S. elections. [The Associated Press, The New York Times]


Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announces $1.5 billion infrastructure spending plan

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced Tuesday that her department had approved $1.5 billion to spend on 91 road, rail, and port infrastructure projects. Chao said the grants stemmed from a bipartisan effort. Infrastructure spending, often used to boost the economy, has long been considered an area where Republicans and Democrats, who take control of the House in January, can work together. President Trump promised in his campaign to increase spending on infrastructure, but has not made much progress on his proposal for $1.5 trillion in public and private funding over a decade. [The Associated Press]