Biden Calls Settlement Between Korean Battery Makers A ‘Win’ For US

File photo:  U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks about Monday’s mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, in the State Dining Room at the White House on March 23, 2021 in Washington, DC.

 

US President Joe Biden on Sunday welcomed a last-minute agreement ending a trade dispute between two South Korean electric-vehicle battery makers that he said represented “a win for American workers and the American auto industry.” 

The deal between industrial giants SK Innovation and LG Energy Solution was also seen as a victory for Biden as he presses for a quick embrace of electric vehicles as a key element in combating climate change.

The deal will clear the way for two new factories in Georgia to supply batteries for Ford and Volkswagen.

Under the last-minute resolution of the trade-secrets dispute, SK Innovation will provide LG Energy Solution with a total of $1.8 billion and an undisclosed royalty, the companies said in a joint agreement.

READ ALSO: DR Congo Starts Countdown To End Of Ebola Outbreak

It said they had agreed to withdraw all pending trade disputes in both South Korea and the United States and to not assert new claims for 10 years.

“We have decided to settle and to compete in an amicable way, all for the future of the US and South Korean electric-vehicle battery industries,” said Jun Kim, who heads SK, and Jong Hyun Kim, his counterpart at LG Energy.

“A key part of my plan to Build Back Better is to have the electric vehicles and batteries of the future built here in America, all across America, by American workers,” Biden said in a statement.

“We need a strong, diversified and resilient US-based electric-vehicle battery supply chain, so we can supply the growing global demand for these vehicles and components — creating good-paying jobs” now and in the future, he said.

File photo: President Joe Biden speaks from the State Dining Room following the passage of the American Rescue Plan in the U.S. Samuel Corum/Getty Images/AFP

 

The Korean settlement was “a positive step in that direction.”

According to the Washington Post, SK Innovation can now complete work on US manufacturing facilities costing $2.6 billion which will employ 1,000 workers by the end of this year and 2,600 by 2024, when they expect to produce batteries for more than 300,000 electric vehicles annually.

AFP

Biden Calls US Gun Violence An ‘Epidemic’

US President Joe Biden, with Attorney General Merrick Garland, speaks about gun violence prevention in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on April 8, 2021. Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP

 

President Joe Biden on Thursday branded US gun violence an “epidemic” and an “international embarrassment” at a White House ceremony to unveil his first attempt at getting the problem under control.

“This is an epidemic, for God’s sake, and it has to stop,” he said, calling shootings “a public health crisis.”

“It’s an international embarrassment,” the Democrat, flanked by Attorney General Merrick Garland and Vice President Kamala Harris, told Congress members and gun control activists in the Rose Garden.

“Enough prayers,” Biden said. “Time for some action.”

With Congress unable to agree on broad new regulations, like stricter background checks for gun buyers, Biden announced six executive measures which he said would help tamp down the crisis.

READ ALSO: Merkel Approves ‘Short National Lockdown’ To Curb Virus

In addition to relatively modest moves on the politically hyper-sensitive issue, Biden used his Rose Garden speech to announce the nomination of David Chipman, a gun-control proponent and former law enforcement officer, as head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Reflecting the lack of unity in Washington around anything to do with firearms restrictions, the ATF  — a key agency in the fight against gun violence — has not had a Senate-confirmed director since 2015.

Biden’s six measures included a proposed rule to “stop proliferation of ghost guns,” as firearms built from home kits are known. The White House says these homemade weapons are especially of concern because they have no serial numbers and cannot be traced after being used in crimes.

Another proposed rule will be tightening regulations on arm braces designed to stabilize pistols, a device used by the man who killed 10 people in Colorado last month. Under the rule, pistols with braces would be classified as short-barreled rifles, putting them under stricter control.

Other measures include boosting support for agencies involved in tackling community violence and ordering the first comprehensive report on firearms trafficking in the United States since 2000.

Nearly 40,000 Americans die each year from shootings.

While mass shootings like recent killings in Colorado, Georgia and California attract most attention, more than half of the annual death toll is due to suicide.

– Biden: ban ‘assault weapons’ –
Biden said his proposals were just a start and urged Congress to take on far-reaching measures, like added background checks and ending the sale of powerful rifles often used in mass killings.

“I know that the conversation about guns in this country can be a difficult one. But even here, there is much more common ground than anyone would believe,” he said.

“The idea that we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as a nation.”

 

US President Joe Biden speaks about gun violence prevention in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on April 8, 2021. Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP

 

Despite Biden’s appeal, there is ferocious opposition to banning powerful weapons like the AR-15, a semi-automatic resembling the US military M16 rifle.

It has become notorious as both the tool of choice in many mass shootings and a hugely popular item for sports shooters and legal gun enthusiasts.

Biden successfully backed an assault weapons ban in 1994 when he was a senator. The law expired a decade later, however, and has never been renewed, with Republicans increasingly rigid in opposing what they depict as an attack on the more than two centuries-old constitutional right to bear arms.

In March, after the shooting spree in Colorado, Biden said he wanted Congress to pass “common sense steps” to restrict firearms. But asked whether he could get enough votes, he replied: “I don’t know. I haven’t done any counting yet.”

AFP

Biden Says He Expects To Contest In 2024 When He Will Be 82

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks about Monday’s mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, in the State Dining Room at the White House on March 23, 2021 in Washington, DC.

 

US President Joe Biden said Thursday his “expectation” is to run for reelection in 2024, an apparent effort to douse speculation that the oldest person to assume the office will step down after a single term.

The Democratic president also attacked Republican efforts to limit voting, describing the actions in dozens of states that would make it more difficult for millions of people to cast ballots as “sick” and “un-American.”

In his first extended grilling by reporters since taking office on January 20, the 78-year-old president faced questions on topics from immigration and North Korea to whether he would support an end to the filibuster blocking tactic in the US Senate.

When asked about his political future barely two months into his presidency, though, Biden chuckled and said: “My plan is to run for reelection. That’s my expectation.”

When pressed, he added that he is “a great respecter of fate” and did not make firm plans so far in advance, but that if he does run in 2024 he “would fully expect” that Vice President Kamala Harris would be on the ticket.

“She’s doing a great job, she’s a great partner,” he said.

Biden also shrugged off whether he believed 2024 would be a rematch with former president Donald Trump, saying he had “no idea” whether the brash and embattled businessman would run.

Biden won the November election with record turnout that helped him beat Trump by more than seven million votes.

READ ALSO: EU Regulator Calls In Experts Over AstraZeneca Jab

Republican lawmakers in several states have since begun drafting a series of changes to election law that would restrict voting, in moves that would likely hurt Democrats more than Republicans.

Democrats have branded the effort as the most direct assault on American democracy since the Jim Crow era, when state and local governments passed laws that legalized racial segregation.

File photo: President Joe Biden speaks from the State Dining Room following the passage of the American Rescue Plan in the U.S. Samuel Corum/Getty Images/AFP

 

During a question-and-answer session, Biden swatted aside concerns that such moves to curtail voting rights could cause his party to lose control of the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections.

“What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It’s sick,” Biden said.

“Deciding that you’re going to end voting at five o’clock, when working people are just getting off work? Deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances?” Biden said, citing examples of the proposed changes.

“The Republican voters I know find this despicable,” he said, adding he would “do everything in my power… to keep that from becoming the law.”

AFP

N. Korea Fired Two Missiles In First Test Under Biden  – US, South

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks about Monday’s mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, in the State Dining Room at the White House on March 23, 2021 in Washington, DC.

 

North Korea fired two short-range missiles just days after a visit to the region by the top US defense and diplomatic officials, but President Joe Biden said they were not a serious provocation.

It was nuclear-armed North Korea’s first launch since his inauguration — Pyongyang has been biding its time since the new administration took office, not even officially acknowledging its existence until last week.

Washington is reviewing its approach to Pyongyang after a tumultuous relationship between president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which went from trading insults and threats of war to a diplomatic bromance and several meetings, but made no substantive progress towards denuclearization.

North Korea on Sunday fired two short-range, non-ballistic missiles, US administration officials said Tuesday, but downplayed them as “common” military testing and said they did not violate UN Security Council resolutions.

South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said they appeared to be cruise missiles and were fired over the Yellow Sea, known as the West Sea in Korea — so towards China, rather than US ally Japan.

The launches followed joint exercises by the US and South Korean militaries earlier this month and came just days after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Tokyo and Seoul to discuss alliance and security issues in the region, with the North seen as a central threat.

But it was an unusually restrained response by Pyongyang, which has so far not announced them in state media.

Asked by reporters about the tests, Biden said: “According to the Defense department, it’s business as usual. There’s no new wrinkle in what they did.”

A senior US administration official told reporters the launches were “on the low end” of the spectrum of North Korean actions, and nothing like the nuclear weapon tests or intercontinental ballistic missile launches with which Pyongyang has previously provoked Washington.

“It is common practice for North Korea to test various systems,” an official added. “We do not respond to every kind of test.”

– Reigniting talks –
While Blinken and Austin were in Seoul on March 18, North Korean first vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui accused the United States of a “lunatic theory of ‘threat from North Korea’ and groundless rhetoric about ‘complete denuclearization.'”

President Joe Biden’s two-month-old administration hopes to reignite negotiations with the Kim regime on its nuclear arsenal after Trump’s headline-grabbing efforts stalled.

Initial outreach from Washington to Pyongyang has turned up empty, but US officials are hopeful they can reconnect, while working in coordination with allies Japan and South Korea.

Trump held two summits with Kim, in Singapore and Vietnam, and the United States pulled back on some joint training activities with South Korea’s military while North Korea froze ballistic missile tests.

But their February 2019 meeting in Hanoi broke up over sanctions relief and what the North would be willing to give up in return. Communications then dried up, despite a third encounter in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean peninsula.

Biden officials are now finalizing a strategy to restart talks that the White House will discuss with Japanese and South Korean security officials next week, an administration official said.

“We have taken efforts and we will continue to take efforts” to communicate, they added.

But they said that Pyongyang cannot expect concessions — such as cutting back on bilateral military exercises — from Biden.

“Some of the efforts that were taken previously to turn off necessary exercises were actually antithetical to our position.”

– Coronavirus blockade –
North Korea is more isolated than ever after imposing a strict border closure to protect itself from the coronavirus, blockading itself more effectively than any sanctions regime.

The move has hit its already moribund economy and analysts say its authorities are likely to be focused on those domestic issues.

Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, told AFP: “We shouldn’t identify every North Korean missile test as a provocation since the South also carries out such tests in regular military exercises.”

But he added: “Pyongyang could elevate the intensity of missile tests from short-range to medium-range in the months ahead if it thinks Washington is doubling down on punitive policy against it.”

AFP

President Biden Calls For Assault Weapon Ban After Colorado Shooting

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks about Monday’s mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, in the State Dining Room at the White House on March 23, 2021, in Washington, DC.

 

President Joe Biden called Tuesday for a US ban on assault weapons, after the country’s second mass shooting in a week left 10 people dead in Colorado and sparked urgent new calls for gun control.

Addressing a nation long traumatized by gun massacres in schools, nightclubs, movie theaters, and other public spaces, Biden said he did not “need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common-sense steps that will save lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act.”

“We can ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines in this country once again,” said Biden, recalling that Congress previously overcame its divisions to pass a 10-year ban on such weapons back in 1994.

“This is not and should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue. It will save lives. American lives. And we have to act.”

Tighter gun control is overwhelmingly popular with Americans — but Republicans have long stood against what some view as any infringement on their right to bear arms.

Biden spoke in Washington hours after a 21-year-old man was charged with shooting 10 people in a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.

That massacre came less than a week after another gunman shot dead eight people at multiple spas in the Georgia state capital Atlanta.

Together the killings ignited new calls for politicians to act — but on Tuesday the familiar bipartisan divide was emerging once more.

‘Cowardly politicians’

This month the House of Representatives passed two measures aimed at enhancing background checks and closing a loophole related to a deadly 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.

The bills address a popular premise among American voters: that background checks be required for all US firearm sales, including those at gun shows.

But they are unlikely to pass through the Senate, which would require at least nine Republicans to vote for them.

Nevertheless majority Senate leader Chuck Schumer said he had committed to bringing background checks to the floor. “This Senate is going to debate and address the epidemic of gun violence in this country,” he said Tuesday.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the White House was “considering a range of levers, including working through legislation, including executive actions.”

Former president Barack Obama said in a statement that “we should be able to buy groceries without fear … But in America, we can’t.”

It is “long past time” to act, he added, urging lawmakers to “overcome opposition by cowardly politicians” and powerful gun lobbyists.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held the first of a series of hearings to examine proposals to reduce gun violence.

Murder counts

The Colorado suspect, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, was in hospital after being shot in an exchange of fire with officers during the Monday afternoon attack on King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of state capital Denver.

“He is charged with 10 counts of murder in the first degree and will be shortly transported to Boulder county jail,” Police Chief Maris Herold told a press conference.

Herold did not offer any details on a possible motive for Alissa, a Muslim whose family emigrated from Syria.

But family and friends described a “paranoid” and “anti-social” individual with a history of violence, who was frequently bullied at high school and may have suffered from mental illness and delusions.

The police chief also read out, one by one, the names of the 10 people killed in the attack: men and women aged from 20 to 65 including police officer Eric Talley, a 51-year-old father of seven, who was the first on the scene.

“Boulder county is a small community — we’re all looking over the list. Do we know anybody?” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis at the press conference.

“None of them expected that this would be their last day here on the planet.”

Mourners placed dozens of flower bouquets and balloons on Talley’s patrol car, displayed outside the Boulder Police Department in memorial Tuesday.

“Thank you #Boulder Your kindness means more than we can say right now,” tweeted the department.

‘Machine gun’

Colorado has previously suffered two of the most infamous mass shootings in US history — at Columbine High School in 1999, and at a movie theater in Aurora in 2012.

The city of Boulder imposed a ban on “assault-style weapons” and large-capacity gun magazines in the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting in 2018.

But a judge last week blocked that ban, the Denver Post reported, in a decision hailed by the National Rifle Association, a powerful pro-gun advocacy group.

The suspect, who surrendered a rifle and a semiautomatic handgun at the scene, had purchased a Ruger AR-556 pistol last Tuesday, according to a police affidavit.

He was seen by family members playing with a “machine gun” at their home “about two days ago,” it said.

The NRA tweeted a copy of the Second Amendment on the right to bear arms after the Colorado shooting.

Biden Says He Agrees That Putin Is A ‘Killer’ 

A photo collage of US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin

 

President Joe Biden said he agrees with the assessment that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is a “killer.”

In an interview with ABC News broadcast on Wednesday, Biden said Putin would “pay a price” for trying to undermine his candidacy in the US 2020 election as alleged in a new US intelligence report.

Asked if he thought Putin, who is accused of being ruthless with his opponents, is “a killer,” Biden said, “I do.”

The statement marked a stark contrast with predecessor Donald Trump’s steadfast refusal to say anything negative about the Russian president.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Why Have Some Countries Paused The AstraZeneca Jab?

Biden said he had spoken to Putin in January after taking office.

“We had a long talk, he and I, I know him relatively well,” Biden said.

“The conversation started off, I said, ‘I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred, then be prepared,” Biden said.

He did not specify if he meant Russia interfering in the US election or other behavior to which the US objects, such as the poisoning and jailing of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

Russia reacted furiously to Biden’s comments on Putin being a killer.

“Biden insulted the citizens of our country with his statement,” the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, wrote on his Telegram channel, adding that attacks on Putin are “attacks on our country.”

AFP

Biden Says It’s ‘Tough’ To Withdraw US Troops From Afghanistan

File photo: President Joe Biden speaks from the State Dining Room following the passage of the American Rescue Plan in the U.S. Senate at the White House on March 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Senate passed the bill 50-49 which will go back to the House for a final vote. Samuel Corum/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Samuel Corum / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

 

US President Joe Biden warned that a deadline to withdraw all American soldiers from Afghanistan by May 1 as part of a deal with the Taliban was possible but “tough.”

“Could happen, but it is tough,” Biden said when asked in a TV interview broadcast Wednesday.

“I’m in the process of making that decision now as to when they’ll leave,” he said while taking a direct swipe at his predecessor Donald Trump.

“The fact is that that was not a very solidly negotiated deal that the president, the former president worked out,” he said.

U.S. President Joe Biden addresses the nation about the new coronavirus relief package from the Rosevelt Room of The White House on February 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum-Pool/Getty Images/AFP
U.S. President Joe Biden addresses the nation about the new coronavirus relief package from the Rosevelt Room of The White House on February 27, 2021, in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

“The failure to have an orderly transition from the Trump presidency to my presidency, which usually takes place from election day to the time he’s sworn in, has cost me time and consequences.

“That’s one of the issues we’re talking about now, in terms of Afghanistan.”

The United States is supposed to complete a withdrawal of all its troops by May 1 in an agreement that also saw the Taliban insurgents agree to peace talks with the administration of President Abdul Ghani.

But those talks — held in Qatar since September — have made little progress.

Washington wants to jump-start the peace process and get the Taliban and Afghan government to agree to some form of power-sharing.

COVID-19: The Fight Is Far From Over – Biden

File photo: President Joe Biden speaks from the State Dining Room following the passage of the American Rescue Plan in the U.S. Samuel Corum/Getty Images/AFP

 

President Joe Biden on Thursday offered his Covid-weary nation a tantalizing glimpse of an almost normal July 4th, outlining in a speech how the United States can defeat the coronavirus if people stay united on prevention measures and get vaccinated.

“This fight is far from over,” Biden said in his first televised primetime address as president, marking 12 months since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic.

READ ALSO: Rwanda’s Kagame First East African Leader To Take COVID-19 Jab

Delivering an emotional tribute to the more than 530,000 Americans who have died from Covid-19 over the last 12 months, Biden said “While it was different for everyone, we all lost something: a collective suffering, a collective sacrifice.”

But he raised hope that the country hardest hit by the global pandemic could overcome the virus if Americans work together and follow health experts’ guidelines on wearing masks and getting vaccinated.

“Just as we are emerging from a dark winter into a hopeful spring and summer is not the time to not stick with the rules,” he said.

U.S. President Joe Biden addresses the nation about the new coronavirus relief package from the Rosevelt Room of The White House on February 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum-Pool/Getty Images/AFP
U.S. President Joe Biden addresses the nation about the new coronavirus relief package from the Rosevelt Room of The White House on February 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

If Americans stay the course, they may be able to mark their cherished July 4th national holiday in somewhat normal circumstances, he said.

“If we do this together, by July the 4th, there’s a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day,” he said.

“That will make this Independence Day something truly special where we not only mark our independence as a nation but we begin to mark our independence from this virus.”

The United States leads the world in Covid-19 deaths, but it is now surging ahead of European countries and Canada with vaccine production and distribution.

Biden said his initial goal of one million vaccinations administered every day was already being easily surpassed and he planned for the authorities to be “maintaining, beating our current pace of two million shots a day.”

To reinforce that huge effort, Biden said he was ordering every state in the country to remove priority group restrictions by May 1, thereby allowing any adult regardless of age or other conditions to be vaccinated.

The Democrat’s bid to get the country back on its feet received a huge boost this week when Congress passed his $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package dubbed the American Rescue Plan.

Biden says this will give poorer families a “fighting chance” and help fire up the engines of the world’s biggest economy, something the IMF said Thursday could also help ignite global recovery.

The president said in his speech that the plan “meets the moment” and “if it fails at any point, I will acknowledge that it failed — but it will not.”

“There is light and better days ahead,” he said.

AFP

In Message To China, Biden To Meet Australia, India, Japan PMs

File photo: President Joe Biden speaks from the State Dining Room following the passage of the American Rescue Plan in the U.S. Samuel Corum/Getty Images/AFP

 

US President Joe Biden will hold first-ever joint talks Friday with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan, boosting an emerging four-way alliance often cast as a bulwark against China.

It will be one of the first summits, albeit in virtual format, for Biden, who has vowed to revive US alliances in the wake of the disarray of Donald Trump’s administration.

“That President Biden has made this one of his earliest multilateral engagements speaks to the importance that we place on close cooperation with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Ghana Hit By Nationwide Power Outage

The meeting of the so-called “Quad” comes amid rising tensions with China, which is seen as flexing its muscle both in trade and security realms.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Biden was “taking this to another level.”

“It will be an historic moment in our region and it sends a strong message to the region about our support for a sovereign, independent Indo-Pacific,” Morrison told reporters.

China struck a cautionary note over the nascent alliance taking shape in its backyard.

The Quad “should conform to prevailing trends of peaceful development and win-win cooperation,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing.

Both Psaki and India, which earlier announced the participation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said the talks would take up climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic — two key priorities for Biden.

US President Joe Biden speaks about the Covid-19 response before signing executive orders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 21, 2021. MANDEL NGAN / AFP
US President Joe Biden speaks about the Covid-19 response before signing executive orders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 21, 2021. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

“The leaders will discuss regional and global issues of shared interest, and exchange views on practical areas of cooperation towards maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region,” the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The talks, also involving Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, will touch as well on promoting maritime security and “ensuring safe, equitable and affordable vaccines” to fight Covid-19 in Asia, the Indian statement said.

– China’s growing assertiveness –
Japan said Suga spoke separately Thursday to Modi and voiced alarm about China’s “unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Sea” as well as the status of rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters the Quad was well-equipped to deal with the world’s “urgent challenges” but, asked about China, said, the format is “not about any single competitor.”

The summit follows talks on February 18 among the foreign ministers of the Quad when they pressed jointly for a restoration of democracy in Myanmar after the military ousted democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1.

US officials cast the meeting as a key way of exerting pressure as India and Japan enjoy closer relationships with Myanmar’s military — which has historically counted on China as its main source of support.

The Quad foreign ministers, however, were careful not to make an explicit mention of China, which has voiced alarm at what it sees as an effort to gang up on its interests in Asia.

After Biden’s election, Chinese state media had printed articles calling on India to end the Quad, seeing New Delhi as the most likely opponent.

But views have hardened in India after a pitched battle in the Himalayas last year killed at least 20 Indian troops. China has named four dead in confirmation that took half a year.

Australia has also shown growing willingness to participate in the Quad as relations deteriorate with Beijing, last year joining naval exercises with the three other nations off India’s shores.

The Quad was launched in 2007 by Japan’s then prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was alarmed at China’s growing assertiveness around Asia.

Biden has pledged in general terms to continue his predecessor’s hawkish line on China, including by pressing on human rights and territorial disputes.

But the Biden administration has promised what it considers a more productive approach that includes boosting ties with allies and finding limited areas for cooperation with Beijing such as climate change.

AFP

Biden Hails Pope Francis ‘Historic’ Visit To Iraq

A picture combination of US President Joe Biden and Pope Francis

 

US President Joe Biden welcomed the “historic” visit by Pope Francis to Iraq on Monday, saying it sent an “important” message of brotherhood and peace.

“To see Pope Francis visit ancient religious sites, including the biblical birthplace of Abraham, spend time with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, and offer prayers in Mosul — a city that only a few years ago endured the depravity and intolerance of a group like ISIS — is a symbol of hope for the entire world.” Biden wrote.

The 84-year-old’s packed three-day visit passed off without a hitch despite concerns about security and the coronavirus pandemic. He covered more than 900 miles (1,400 kilometers) inside the conflict-ravaged country.

IMF Dismisses Inflation Concerns Of Biden Stimulus Plan

In this file photo an exterior view of the building of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the IMG logo, is seen on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
In this file photo an exterior view of the building of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the IMG logo, is seen on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

 

Fears that inflation could spiral out of control due to a massive US stimulus package are overblown, IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath said Friday.

Her argument contradicted critics of US President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion rescue package for the world’s largest economy, who say the amount is excessive, and even those Democratic economists who have also raised concerns about price spikes.

Gopinath estimated that with the full amount of stimulus, inflation “would reach around 2.25 percent in 2022, which is nothing to be concerned about,” she said in a blog post.

Some economists, including former Treasury secretary Larry Summers, have urged caution saying excess spending could spark an inflationary spiral that the Federal Reserve would find difficult to control.

Rising prices would erode purchasing power and higher interest rates to control inflation would send the cost of borrowing soaring in an economy already awash in debt amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Gopinath noted the “concerns about an overheated economy that could push inflation well above the comfort zone of central bankers.” But she said “the evidence from the last four decades makes it unlikely.”

In the decade following the global financial crisis, US annual inflation barely cracked the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target, and in December the rate was just 1.3 percent.

And Gopinath said the proposed government aid will push US GDP up five to six percent over three years, which would recoup the 3.5 percent contraction in 2020.

The IMF has consistently supported a large US stimulus plan to recover from the Covid-19-induced recession that has left millions jobless.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen late Thursday repeated the administration view that “the price of doing too little is much higher than the price of doing something big.”

Yellen noted that inflation has been very low for over a decade, and while it remains a risk “it’s a risk the Fed and others have tools to address.”

– Market turbulence –
Yellen, like US central bank chief Jerome Powell, who succeeded her in the post, stressed that true unemployment in the US is close to 10 percent — above the government’s official rate of 6.3 percent last month — and about nine million people remain unemployed, which she says justifies the size of the government aid.

But growing signs that the economy is coming back to life as businesses reopen amid an accelerating vaccination campaign have caused markets to begin to fret about impending price hikes.

The yield on 10-year Treasury notes, a benchmark for inflation expectations, has been rising sharply since October, and accelerated since the start of the year to around 1.3 percent, the highest since before the pandemic.

Those fears got a boost from a spike in the producer price index (PPI), which showed wholesale inflation surged 1.3 percent in January, the largest since the index was revamped in December 2009.

But Powell last week brushed off inflation concerns, saying after prices collapsed last year, some sharp increases are expected but would be unlikely to last.

In the current environment, “we want to see actual inflation,” before the Fed would take any steps to raise interest rates or roll back the massive bond-buying program, Powell said.

The IMF economist acknowledged “the danger of market turbulence” due to temporary price swings, or bad news about new virus variants.

But she said that in the wake of the crisis “considerable slack remains in the global economy” which would dampen price pressures, and worldwide supply chains have largely not suffered disruptions, removing another potential source of rising costs.

Struggle Between Democracy, Autocracy At ‘Inflection Point’ – Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the national economy and the need for his administration's proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation in the State Dining Room at the White House on February 05, 2021 in Washington, DC. Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images/AFP
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the national economy and the need for his administration’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation in the State Dining Room at the White House on February 05, 2021 in Washington, DC. Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

 

US President Joe Biden said Friday in a major foreign policy speech that the struggle worldwide between democracy and autocracy is at an “inflection point.”

“In too many places, including in Europe and the United States, democratic progress is under assault,” Biden was to tell the Munich Security Conference, according to excerpts of his speech released by the White House.

“Historians will examine and write about this moment. It’s an inflection point. And I believe with every ounce of my being that democracy must prevail.”

The speech to the annual conference — held by video link, due to the Covid-19 pandemic — lays out Biden’s vision for a return of the United States to its traditional role as a leading defender of democratic values.

Speaking shortly after a virtual summit with other leaders from the G7 group of powerful democracies, Biden was also to stress renewed US commitment to alliances, in contrast to the starkly competitive, confrontational approach of his predecessor Donald Trump.

“Our partnerships have endured and grown through the years because they are rooted in the richness of our shared democratic values. They’re not transactional. They’re not extractive,” Biden says in his speech, in a clear reference to Trump’s emphasis on treating of longtime allies in the G7 and elsewhere as economic rivals.

In the excerpts released ahead of the speech, there is no direct mention of Russia or China but references to the global tussle between democratic and autocratic systems leave little doubt that Biden has them in his sights.

“We are in the midst of a fundamental debate about the future direction of our world,” Biden says.

“Between those who argue that — given all of the challenges we face, from the fourth industrial revolution to a global pandemic — autocracy is the best way forward and those who understand that democracy is essential to meeting those challenges.”

“We must demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people. That is our galvanizing mission. Democracy doesn’t happen by accident,” Biden says.

“We have to defend it. Strengthen it. Renew it. We have to prove that our model isn’t a relic of our history.”