US Lifts Export Ban On Suppliers To China’s ZTE

The ZTE Logo shows on a building in Beijing. AFP Photo

 

The United States on Friday formally lifted a crippling ban on exports to China’s ZTE, rescuing the smartphone maker from the brink of collapse after it was denied key components.

The US Commerce Department said it would still monitor the company to prevent future violations of US sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

“While we lifted the ban on ZTE, the Department will remain vigilant as we closely monitor ZTE’s actions to ensure compliance with all US laws and regulations,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.

But the move to reverse the harsh penalties on the company, made US President Donald Trump’s insistence, has left US lawmakers irate. Congress has taken steps to keep the ban in place and accused Trump of rewarding a company which had repeatedly flouted American law, lied to authorities and engaged in espionage.

The Commerce Department in April banned US companies from supplying ZTE with crucial components, forcing it to halt operations, after officials concluded the company repeatedly lied and failed to address violations of US sanctions.

But as a favour to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump ordered Commerce to ease the penalties on ZTE.

In an agreement struck last month, Washington agreed to lift the export ban if ZTE paid an additional $1 billion fine — beyond the $892 million penalty imposed in March of last year.

The company also was required to replace its board of directors, retain outside monitors and put $400 million in escrow to cover any future violations — a final step it took this week.

AFP

Over 540 Arrested In China For Online Football Gambling

China has cracked down on online football gambling during the World Cup, arresting more than 540 suspected of participating in schemes involving more than $1.5 billion, state media said.

The suspects were “associated with more than 20 gangs”, and their servers, computers, mobile phones and bank cards were confiscated, police in China’s southern province of Guangdong told the official Xinhua news agency.

Some 70 mobile apps and websites, as well as 250 online chat groups, have also been shuttered, Xinhua said Wednesday without providing further detail.

In May, police honed in on an online gambling platform which accepted bitcoin and had grown to 330,000 members in just eight months.

Authorities arrested six of its key organizers, froze assets of over 5 million yuan ($750,000), and confiscated virtual currency worth over $1.5 million, Xinhua said, without giving specific dates of the raid.

Although all gambling is technically illegal in China, it is permitted in the country’s hundreds of thousands of “lottery shops”.

These are run by China’s Sports Administration, with part of the proceeds ploughed back into sport ranging from financing stadiums to training the next generation of Chinese athletes.

However, the government remains vigilant and dozens of unauthorised “lottery ticket” apps, which enable punters to place a bet with a single click, were closed down in the first week of the World Cup.

AFP

Trump Threatens Fresh Tariffs Against China

China’s President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump. Photo: Nicolas ASFOURI / POOL / AFP

 

The United States and China have fired the next shots in their escalating trade war, with Washington threatening to impose fresh tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese goods and Beijing vowing to retaliate.

The latest moves in the ballooning trade conflict between the world’s top two economies came just days after tit-for-tat duties on $34 billion in goods came into effect.

Analysts have warned that spiralling trade tensions between the two powerhouses could have a damaging impact on the global economy and far-reaching consequences across the planet.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer late Tuesday accused China of retaliating to its tariffs “without any international legal basis or justification.”

President Donald Trump has therefore ordered the trade department to “begin the process of imposing tariffs of 10 percent on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports,” Lighthizer said in a statement.

Officials will hold hearings in late August on the list of targeted products and an administration official said it would take about two months to finalise, at which point Trump would decide whether to go ahead with the levies.

The eventual goal is to impose tariffs on 40 percent of Chinese imports, the same proportion of US goods hit by Beijing’s retaliation, an official told reporters.

If the measures are imposed, it would mean new taxes on thousands of products from fish to chemicals, metals and tires.

Reacting to the “totally unacceptable” Washington list, the commerce ministry in Beijing said it would be forced to take “countermeasures”.

“The behavior of the US is hurting China, hurting the world, and hurting itself,” the ministry said in a statement, saying it was “shocked” by the US actions.

“In order to safeguard the core interests of the country and the fundamental interests of the people, the Chinese government as always will have no choice but to take the necessary countermeasures,” it added.

Beijing said it would “immediately” tack on the case to its suit against Washington’s “unilateralist” behaviour at the World Trade Organization.

At a forum in Beijing, a senior official accused the US of “damaging the world economic order” and said tit-for-tat tariffs would “destroy” trade between the rival powers.

“The outburst of large-scale mutual levying of tariffs between China and the United States will inevitably destroy Sino-US trade,” said the assistant minister of commerce Li Chenggang.

The dispute comes on top of Washington’s confrontation with other allies and major trading partners including Canada, Mexico and the European Union, after it imposed steep tariffs on their steel and aluminum. Those nations have also retaliated.

The new trade frictions sent investors running for cover, with equity markets across Asia tumbling more than one percent.

 ‘Unfair practices’ 

The trade confrontation between Washington and Beijing has been escalating for months, despite Trump’s repeated statements that he has a good relationship with China’s President Xi Jinping.

China accused the US of starting “the largest trade war in economic history,” after the first round of tariffs took effect last week.

But Trump has said continuously that China has taken advantage of the US economy, and he has vowed to hit nearly all the country’s products with tariffs, as much as $450 billion.

The US trade deficit in goods with China ballooned to a record $375.2 billion last year, stoking his anger.

For now, the USTR continues to work on the process of finalising an additional $16 billion in goods to face 25-percent tariffs to bring the total up to $50 billion. Beijing has vowed to retaliate accordingly.

The new list of goods to face 10-percent punitive duties includes frozen meats, live and fresh fish and seafood, butter, onions, garlic and other vegetables, fruits, nuts, metals, and a massive list of chemicals, as well as tires, leather, fabrics, wood and paper.

The officials said they tried to target goods that would reduce the harm to US consumers.

They also said they remain open to working with China to try to resolve the dispute, but the response from Beijing so far has been unsatisfactory.

“For over a year, the Trump Administration has patiently urged China to stop its unfair practices, open its market, and engage in true market competition,” Lighthizer said.

“Unfortunately, China has not changed its behavior.”

But he added that “the United States is willing to engage in efforts that could lead to a resolution of our concerns.”

AFP

China Starts Chilli Pepper Festival With Chilli-Eating Competition 

This photo taken on July 8, 2018, shows a contestant taking part in a chilli pepper-eating competition in Ningxiang in China’s central Hunan province. The winner of the contest ate 50 chilli peppers in one minute. PHOTO: AFP

 

An annual chilli pepper festival kicked off on Monday in central China’s spice-loving Hunan province with a chilli-eating contest in which the winner set a blistering pace by downing a gut-busting 50 peppers in just over a minute.

Local boy Tang Shuaihui took home a 3-gramme 24-karat gold coin for winning the competition, which is put on by a local theme park in the county of Ningxiang and is now in its second year.

With doctors on hand just in case, ten contestants each held plates heaped with 50 Tabasco chilli peppers, racing to be the first to finish off the red-hot fruits.

Tang cleared his plate in just 68 seconds in a contest held in nearly sweltering temperatures and as competitors sat in a shallow pool filled with water and three tonnes of floating chillies.

“He finished them at an amazing speed, barely after the emcee had finished speaking,” said Sun Minying, an employee at the theme park, called the Tanhe Ancient City.

This photo taken on July 8, 2018 shows contestants taking part in a chilli pepper eating competition in Ningxiang in China’s central Hunan province. The winner of the contest ate 50 chilli peppers in one minute. PHOTO: AFP

The Tabasco pepper has a rank of 30,000-50,000 on the Scoville Heat Scale that measures the piquancy of chillies, which puts it somewhere between a jalapeno and a habanero.

The peppers bobbing in the pool, however, were of a far weaker variety, partly to avoid irritating the contestants’ skin.

Smiling contestants wearing shorts and T-shirts — some armed with small bottles of water — waded into a vast pool of bright red peppers before attempting to clear their plates of chillies.

One man floated on his back in the pool of chillies, chomping happily on the fiery fruits.

Hunan cuisine is marked by its spicy peppers and richly coloured dishes and is considered among China’s eight great food traditions along with Sichuan, Cantonese and other cuisines.

The festival lasts until the end of August, with a fresh chilli-eating contest held daily.

AFP

N. Korea’s Kim Asked China’s Xi To Help Lift Sanctions – Report

This picture taken on June 19, 2018 and released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) via KNS on June 20, 2018 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) shaking hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has appealed to China’s Xi Jinping to help end sanctions against Pyongyang following his landmark summit with US President Donald Trump, a Japanese newspaper reported Sunday, citing multiple unnamed sources in the two countries.

Kim made the request during his third meeting with Xi in Beijing last month, and the Chinese president promised to do his “utmost” to satisfy it, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said.

“We are feeling great pain due to economic sanctions. Now that we have concluded the US-North Korea summit in success, I want (China) to work toward early lifting of the sanctions,” Kim reportedly told Xi, according to the newspaper.

In recent months the Cold War-era allies have sought to repair ties strained by Pyongyang’s nuclear tests and Beijing’s support of subsequent UN sanctions.

Kim chose Beijing — his main economic patron and diplomatic protector — for his first official foreign trip in March and met Xi again in May in the northeastern port city of Dalian.

Kim asked Xi to help ease the sanctions that have crippled North Korea’s economy, and urged China to back Pyongyang in its denuclearisation talks with Washington, the report said.

Xi in turn told Kim he “actively supports North Korea’s reform and opening-up and will proactively cooperate with issues associated with the efforts”, according to the Yomiuri.

He also urged North Korea to “continue (its) consultations with China” as it negotiates with the United States, the report said.

China indicated last year that the UN Security Council could consider easing the punitive measures against Pyongyang.

Kim’s third official visit to China was seen as a move to reassure Beijing that Pyongyang would not neglect its interests after the historic summit with Trump in Singapore.

China and the US both hope to see the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons.

But Beijing is concerned Washington and Pyongyang might move closer at its expense, a possibility that China sees as threatening to its economic and security interests in the region.

U.S. To Slam Restrictions On Chinese Investments As Trade Dispute Escalates

United States President, Donald Trump                                                       Photo: Mandel NGAN / AFP

 

President Donald Trump this week is due to launch the next phase of his economic confrontation with Beijing, with new restrictions on Chinese investments to clamp down on access to sensitive American technologies.

That could open US firms like Apple and General Motors up to new forms of retaliation from China and experts worry it also marks another step in government intervention in the free market, a “radical departure” for the United States that could prove mutually destructive.

While Trump has threatened to strike back against China’s retaliation to the US tariffs due to take effect July 6 — potentially escalating the tariffs’ coverage to $450 billion in Chinese goods — the Treasury Department is also expected to unveil the new investment and export restrictions this week.

Citing national security concerns, which the White House says encompass economic as well as traditional defense matters, Trump in late May announced plans to impose steep tariffs on Chinese goods, and then by June 30 to unveil “specific investment restrictions and enhanced export controls” tied to “industrially significant technology” that will apply to Chinese companies and investors.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the measures likely would target investments in the United States by any firm that is 25 percent Chinese held, although that threshold could drop if the investment is considered sensitive.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin vehemently denied the reports by Bloomberg and The Journal as “false, fake news.”

“The leaker either doesn’t exist or know the subject very well. A statement will be out not specific to China but to all countries that are trying to steal our technology,” Mnuchin said on Twitter, noting he was responding for Trump.

However, that contradicts the White House’s own May 29 statement which specified that new measures would target China.

China 2025

Trump has blamed past US administrations for being soft on China and allowing the country to become dominant in manufacturing, including in products like steel and aluminum, which are subject to US tariffs, and for failing to protect sensitive technologies.

The administration could expand the existing authority of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, which is led by the Treasury and which already has blocked Chinese investments, in ports and semiconductors.

Even the hint of a possible CFIUS review can kill a potential investment.

According to the Rhodium Group, a research firm, Chinese investment in the United States fell 35 percent in 2017 from the record $45.6 billion in 2016, and slowed to a trickle, just $1.4 billion in the first quarter of this year.

New export controls would make it more difficult for US firms to sell technology to China if Washington deems it to be “industrially significant.”

US officials have highlighted Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” industrial development plan as a source of concern since they say it is a map for dominating key high tech industries from space to telecommunications to robotics to electric cars.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer recently called China’s treatment of US intellectual property “the most sinful” aspect of the US-China relationship.

The nearly $50 billion in Chinese goods threatened with 25 percent US tariffs were drawn largely from these high tech sectors.

Few ‘off ramps’

As tensions continue to escalate, trade experts warn there are fewer options to resolve the dispute.

“I think that there are very few remaining off ramps for rising tensions,” said China expert Martin Chorzempa of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“There are serious structural concerns about Chinese practices that cannot be resolved without trust between the negotiating partners” and that trust is eroding in the current confrontation, he told AFP.

He warned that Beijing had an “enormous array of tools to put pressure on American companies” like Apple and GM, companies that really depend on China. That could include holding goods in ports or hold up approvals.

The decision of the government to take a direct hand in corporate investment decisions is “a radical departure from the way we have engaged in economic governance,” Chorzempa said.

That means “massively expanding the role of government” in the economy using national security as the justification, he added.

AFP

North Korea’s Kim Hails ‘Unity’ With China In New Visit

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) shaking hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

Kim Jong Un declared North Korea’s unstinting “friendship, unity and cooperation” with Beijing during his third visit to China this year, in a show of loyalty to his main ally following a landmark summit with US President Donald Trump.

The two-day visit which ends Wednesday is designed to reassure Beijing that Pyongyang will not neglect its interests as Trump and the young autocrat move into uncharted diplomatic terrain.

The performance is part of a delicate balancing act for Kim, who analysts say is seeking to play US and Chinese interests off each other while maintaining good relations with Beijing, his economic patron and diplomatic protector.

China and the US both hope to see the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons, but Beijing is concerned Washington and Pyongyang might move closer at its expense, a possibility that China sees as threatening to its economic and security interests in the region.

While China was not present at the June 12 summit in Singapore, it lent Kim a plane to travel to the city-state, a clear sign that it remains an influential force in the diplomatic shuffle.

The Cold War-era allies, which fought side-by-side against US-led UN forces and South Korea in the 1950-1953 Korean War, have sought to repair ties strained by Pyongyang’s nuclear tests and Beijing’s support of subsequent UN sanctions.

Kim chose Beijing for his first official foreign trip in March and met Xi again in May in the northeastern port city of Dalian.

Kim’s agenda for Wednesday was not made public. An AFP journalist saw a motorcade leaving the Diaoyutai guest house for foreign dignitaries in Beijing, but it was unclear where it was headed.

During his meeting with Xi Tuesday, Kim thanked China for “positive and sincere support and good help for the successful” summit with Trump, according to North Korea’s official KCNA news agency.

The North Korean leader, who was greeted by a military honour guard and cheering children at the Great Hall of the People Tuesday, said he valued the “recently strengthened strategic cooperation” between the two countries.

“He expressed the determination and will to further develop the closer relations of friendship, unity and cooperation between the two parties and the two peoples of the DPRK and China,” KCNA said.

Kim also invoked the “prospect for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula” following his meeting with Trump.

For his part, Xi told Kim that China “speaks highly” of his summit with Trump and he urged Washington and Pyongyang to implement their agreement struck in Singapore.

The Chinese leader vowed that Beijing would continue to play a “constructive role” in the nuclear diplomacy.

 Trade card 

The official media of both countries did not say whether Kim and Xi discussed the prospect of easing UN sanctions that have crippled North Korea’s economy, though analysts said it could have been part of the agenda.

Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said Kim and Xi were likely seeking “common ground” following the Singapore summit.

For China, North Korea can serve as “an important card” as Beijing faces a potential trade war with the United States, Shin told AFP.

“For the North, it can also show to the world, especially the US, that Beijing has Pyongyang’s back if the North’s ties with the US sour in the future,” Shin said.

North Korean officials have also visited China recently to learn about its economic reforms — yet another sign of Pyongyang’s reliance on Beijing for its economic well-being.

Kim was believed to have visited an agriculture sciences centre on Wednesday, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

“We are happy to see that the DPRK made a major decision to shift the focus to economic construction, and the development of the DPRK’s socialist cause has entered a new stage in history,” Xi told Kim, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.

China has backed United Nations sanctions against its ally but indicated last year that the UN Security Council could consider easing the punitive measures.

AFP

China Has ‘Much More To Lose’ In Trade Dispute, Says White House

Saudis See Oil Price On Rise As Trump Blasts OPEC
US President Donald Trump. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP

 

China has more to lose than the United States in the two nations’ burgeoning trade dispute but Washington remains open to dialogue with its largest trading partner, a senior White House advisor said Tuesday.

Trade brinkmanship between Washington and Beijing continued late Monday when President Donald Trump threatened to put fresh duties on between $200 billion and $400 billion in Chinese imports.

The possible new duties, which could cover the lion’s share of all of China’s exports to the United States, were a response to retaliatory Chinese levies on up to $50 billion in US goods announced Friday.

With Wall Street sliding further into the red on Tuesday and nerves on edge among lawmakers in Trump’s Republican Party, senior White House economic aide Peter Navarro defended the new trade policy.

“It’s clear that China does have much more to lose,” he told reporters, noting that China exported more than $500 billion to the US last year, far more than the $130 billion it imported from the United States.

Navarro reiterated Washington’s accusations that China had used a string of unfair practices — cyber-theft, state-sponsored corporate acquisitions, forced technology transfers and export restrictions — to target global dominance in advanced new industrial sectors.

“It is important to note here that the actions President Trump has taken are purely defensive in nature,” Navarro said. “They are designed to defend the crown jewels of American technology from China’s aggressive behaviour.”

These included aerospace, advanced rail and shipping, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, biotechnology, new energy vehicles, precision farming and robotics, said Navarro.

“These are the future of the world and of America and China cannot have 70 per cent of production of these industries by 2025,” he added, referring to a Chinese industrial development plan denounced by Washington.

Navarro said US officials planned to cushion against the blows to American industries and workers in the United States and present in China but declined to elaborate on any plans to help the US farming sector.

“President Trump will have the backs of all Americans who may be targeted by Chinese actions and with respect to the farmers in Iowa or any other state,” Navarro said.

Efforts to convince Beijing to change its ways had so far failed despite several rounds of transpacific diplomacy, he added.

“Our phone lines are open. They have always been open,” said Navarro.

“The fundamental reality is talk is cheap. Delay is expensive.”

AFP

China Accuses Trump Of ‘Blackmail’ After New Tariffs Threat

China’s President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump. Photo: Nicolas ASFOURI / POOL / AFP

 

Beijing on Tuesday accused Donald Trump of “blackmail” and warned it would retaliate in kind after the US president threatened to impose fresh tariffs on Chinese goods, pushing the world’s two biggest economies closer to a trade war.

Trump said on Monday he had asked the US Trade Representative to target $200 billion worth of imports for a 10 percent levy, citing China’s “unacceptable” move to raise its own tariffs.

He added he would identify an extra $200 billion of goods — for a possible total of $450 billion, or most Chinese imports — “if China increases its tariffs yet again”.

“Further action must be taken to encourage China to change its unfair practices, open its market to United States goods and accept a more balanced trade relationship with the United States,” Trump said in a statement.

Last week, he announced 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports, prompting Beijing to retaliate with matching duties on US goods.

The US leader warned Friday of “additional tariffs” should Beijing hit back with tit-for-tat measures.

“The trade relationship between the United States and China must be much more equitable,” he said in explaining his latest decision.

“I have an excellent relationship with President Xi (Jinping), and we will continue working together on many issues. But the United States will no longer be taken advantage of on trade by China and other countries in the world.”

China’s commerce ministry immediately responded by saying the US “practice of extreme pressure and blackmail departed from the consensus reached by both sides during multiple negotiations and has also greatly disappointed international society”.

“If the US acts irrationally and issues a list, China will have no choice but to take comprehensive measures of a corresponding number and quality and take strong, powerful countermeasures.”

The news hit stock markets in Asia, where Shanghai shed three percent in the morning, Hong Kong lost more than two percent and Tokyo was one percent lower.

Trump is moving forward with the measures after months of sometimes fraught shuttle diplomacy in which Chinese offers to purchase more American goods failed to assuage his grievances over a widening trade imbalance and China’s aggressive industrial development policies.

China had offered to ramp up purchases of American goods by $70 billion to help cut its yawning trade surplus with the United States, whereas Trump had demanded a $200 billion deficit cut.

‘Unacceptable’ 

The China trade offensive is only one side of Trump’s multi-front battle with the United States’ economic partners as he presses ahead with his protectionist “America First” agenda.

Since June 1, steel and aluminium imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico have been hit with tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

“This latest action by China clearly indicates its determination to keep the United States at a permanent and unfair disadvantage, which is reflected in our massive $376 billion trade imbalance in goods,” Trump said of China’s retaliatory tariffs.

“This is unacceptable.”

Two decades ago, China’s economy was largely fuelled by exports, but it has made progress in rebalancing towards domestic investment and consumption since the global financial crisis erupted last decade — limiting the damage trade tariffs could inflict on Beijing.

Still, strong exports this year have lifted the economy, which is now showing signs of losing steam under the weight of Beijing’s war on debt, launched to clean up financial risks and rein in borrowing-fuelled growth.

Initially, 545 US products valued at $34 billion will be targeted by China, mimicking the Trump administration’s tariff rollout.

Beijing wants to “demonstrate that things will be done their way or not at all,” said Christopher Balding, an economics professor at Shenzhen’s HSBC Business School, who believes Chinese policymakers prefer demonstrations of “power and control” over “technical policy rightness.”

“It is a game of chicken,” Balding said.

So far Beijing has targeted major American exports to China such as soybeans, which brought in $14 billion in sales last year, and are grown in states that supported Trump during the 2016 presidential election, as well as other politically important products.

Officials also drew up a second list of $16 billion in chemical and energy products to hit with new tariffs, though China did not announce a date for imposing them.

More American targets are likely to follow as soon as the Trump administration follows through with publishing an expanded tariff list.

AFP

North Korea’s Kim Visits China After Trump Summit

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un speaks at a signing ceremony with US President Donald Trump (not pictured) during their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is making a two-day visit to Beijing, Chinese state media reported Tuesday, a week after his unprecedented summit with US President Donald Trump.

The outing comes as China has sought to strengthen its role as a mediator between the US and North Korea, where Beijing claims compelling security and economic interests.

Dozens of security vans, police cars and armoured vehicles lined streets around Beijing’s Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on Tuesday afternoon, where Kim had stayed in his previous visit.

The leader, who is believed to have landed in the Chinese capital Tuesday morning, was expected to head to the Great Hall of the People to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported that the North Korean autocrat would be in Beijing through Wednesday.

The trip is Kim’s third to China since March, when he made his inaugural foreign trip as leader.

In addition to discussing last week’s summit, Kim is expected to ask China to help him in efforts to seek relief from economic sanctions in return for his pledge to denuclearise, Japan’s Nikkei business daily said in a dispatch from Beijing.

Following the historic US-North Korea summit in Singapore a week ago, China suggested the UN Security Council could consider easing the economic punishment of its Cold War-era ally.

China may not have been at the table for the historic summit in Singapore but it retains strong influence behind the scenes.

‘Differences ahead’ 

In a joint statement following the Singapore summit, Kim pledged to “work toward the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.”

Trump hailed this as a concession but critics said the stock phrase long used by Pyongyang stopped short of longstanding US demands for North Korea to give up its atomic arsenal in a “verifiable” and “irreversible” way.

It is now urgent for Xi and Kim to discuss how North Korea will work towards meeting US demands, said Beijing-based international relations commentator Hua Po.

“There may be differences ahead between the DPRK and the US in regards to denuclearisation, because the US wants irreversible and verifiable denuclearisation. It may be difficult for Kim Jong Un to accept,” Hua told AFP.

“Therefore, both China and the DPRK want to strengthen communication and form an overall strategy to deal with the United States going forward,” Hua added.

 ‘Provocative’ joint exercises halted 

In return for the denuclearisation pledge, Trump made the shock announcement that he would stop joint military drills with South Korea, long seen as a provocation by Pyongyang and Beijing.

Analysts saw this as a clear sign of Beijing’s influence.

Beijing has repeatedly called for a “dual-track and suspension for suspension” approach where the North would stop its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for the US and South Korea halting military exercises.

But Washington had previously rebuffed the proposal.

On Tuesday, the US and South Korean militaries confirmed they have called off scheduled joint exercises following Trump’s order.

Trump had raised eyebrows by describing the exercises as “provocative” — a term used by the North.

AFP

Trump Ignites Trade War With China, Triggering Swift Retaliation

Trump Says High Oil Prices 'Will Not Be Accepted'
US President Donald Trump. Mandel NGAN / AF

 

United States President Donald Trump on Friday ignited his trade war with China, slapping tariffs on tens of billions in Chinese imports and sparking immediate retaliation from Beijing.

The moves brought the world’s two largest economies to the verge of an all-out confrontation long feared by markets and industry.

And the China trade offensive is only one side of Trump’s multi-front battle with all major US economic partners.

The announcement also caps months of sometimes fraught shuttle diplomacy in which Chinese offers to purchase more American goods failed to assuage Trump’s grievances over the soaring trade imbalance and China’s aggressive industrial development policies.

And as Trump warned of “additional tariffs” should Beijing hit back with tit-for-tat duties on American goods, China unveiled 25 percent duties on $50 billion in US imports.

“The United States can no longer tolerate losing our technology and intellectual property through unfair economic practices,” Trump said.

“These tariffs are essential to preventing further unfair transfers of American technology and intellectual property to China, which will protect American jobs.”

But at least initially, Trump’s new China tariffs will not cover the full $50 billion that Trump announced Friday.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the punitive duties will apply on 818 Chinese products valued at $34 billion starting July 6, with a second list of $14 billion to be considered under a new review process — bringing the total possible affected import volume to $50 billion.

But it is likely companies will seek more exemptions so the final total could fall short of that amount.

Beijing’s countermeasures closely mirrored Washington’s, with 545 American exports, also valued at $34 billion, facing punitive duties as of July 6, including agricultural products and vehicles, according to the official news agency Xinhua.

The State Council said another 114 items will be subject to tariffs at a later date, the news agency said.

US farmers are especially concerned about the impact of a trade war, since they are sure to feel the hit.

Traders and financial professionals work ahead of the closing bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), June 15, 2018. in New York City. With trade war fears looming again, the Dow fell more than 280 points in the morning but bounced back to finish the day down 85 points. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

Stinging reprisals as vote looms

China’s Ministry of Commerce said the decision to impose tariffs meant “all previously agreed trade negotiation results are no longer valid.”

“It is deeply regrettable that in disregard of the consensus between the two sides, the US has demonstrated flip-flops and ignited a trade war,” the ministry said.

It also called on other countries to “take collective action” against this “outdated and backward behaviour.”

But the White House maintains that any Chinese countermeasures would be unjust and could be met with further US sanctions.

“We have taken essentially a defensive action,” a senior US official told reporters, adding that “further threats that are going to hurt other industries …would be a mistake.”

The official, who asked not to be identified, declined to say whether Trump would make good on a March threat to hit another $100 billion in Chinese goods with tariffs in response to Beijing’s retaliation.

China in April already put punitive duties on 128 US goods, including pork, wine, and certain pipes in response to global US tariffs on steel and aluminum imposed by Trump the month before.

Trump outraged Canadian, Mexican and European leaders last month by imposing the steel and aluminum tariffs to protect American producers from allegedly unfair competition.

Brussels, Ottawa, Beijing and Mexico City already have shown they intend to inflict damage on export industries in politically-sensitive voting districts — something which could prove damaging to Republicans already facing a loss of power in November’s mid-term elections.

On Capitol Hill, influential Texas Republican lawmaker Kevin Brady, chairman of a House tax legislation committee, said he was “alarmed” by the tariffs which he said exposed US industries to “devastating retaliation.”

“I am concerned that these new tariffs will hurt American manufacturers, farmers, workers, and consumers,” he said.

And the powerful US Chamber of Commerce warned that hundreds of thousands of Americans could lose their jobs if the trade war escalated and included the auto import tariffs that Trump has threatened.

“If these actions continue, our businesses will lose customers, workers will lose jobs, and American consumers will lose family income through higher taxes and higher prices,” Chamber President Thomas Donahue said.

He also noted that the metals tariffs have pushed steel prices 40 percent higher since January.

Trump’s tariff announcement knocked Wall Street lower, closing down 0.4 percent. The selloff in New York followed an earlier plunge in Shanghai, where stocks fell to two-year lows.

AFP

China’s Former Insurance Regulator Boss Pleads Guilty To Accepting $3m Bribe

Chinese one yuan coins are placed on 100 yuan banknotes in this illustrative photograph taken in Beijing December 30, 2010. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic/Files

 

The former head of China’s insurance regulator pleaded guilty to accepting 19 million yuan ($3 million) in bribes at his trial in eastern Jiangsu province on Thursday, state media said.

Xiang Junbo, 61, admitted to taking bribes directly and through an associate and “showed repentance” at Changzhou Intermediate People’s Court, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. The court has not yet issued its verdict.

The most senior financial regulator to be targeted in President Xi Jinping’s ongoing corruption crackdown, Xiang was accused of taking advantage of his official positions from 2005 to 2017.

He allegedly provided assistance in project contracting, approvals, loan issuance, and other tasks in exchange for compensation.

Xiang was appointed to the top job at the regulatory commission in 2011, following stints as deputy governor of the central bank and head of the state-owned Agricultural Bank of China.

He was put under investigation in April last year by the Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog for suspected “serious disciplinary violations”, a phrase that usually refers to graft.

He was removed from his position immediately after the probe began.

Xiang’s time as head of the insurance regulator marked a period of rapid growth for the industry as he pushed for the liberalisation of investment rules, which allowed Chinese insurers to invest more of their assets at home and abroad.

But this led to regulatory headaches after several high-profile cases in which insurance companies used their financial holdings to fund risky acquisitions in real estate and unlisted equities.

The China Insurance Regulatory Commission and the China Banking Regulatory Commission were replaced by a banking and insurance regulatory commission after a major restructuring of government agencies in March.

Xiang’s guilty plea comes a month after the former high-flying head of troubled Anbang Insurance Group, Wu Xiaohui, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for defrauding the company of more than $10 billion.

Wu was toppled as Anbang’s head last year and China’s insurance regulator announced an unprecedented takeover of the conglomerate in February, as the government moves to prevent heavily indebted large private companies from collapsing and posing a risk to the financial system.

AFP