China lifts almost 5-year ban on import of US poultry

Robie de Guzman   •   November 15, 2019   •   237

Chickens are seen in a barn at Todd Chapman’s poultry farm in Clermont, Georgia, USA. EPA/ERIK S. LESSER

BEIJING – China has lifted import restrictions on poultry products from the United States after nearly five years, according to the General Administration of Customs and the Ministry of Agriculture.

In January 2015, China banned the import of chicken and poultry products from the US to protect itself from bird flu that had been recorded in some areas of America in 2013 and 2014.

According to a joint statement by the two Chinese bodies, the US took active and preventive measures following the bird flu outbreak, and that no fresh cases had been reported since March 2017.

A team of Chinese experts visited the US in July 2017 on Washington’s invitation to conduct on-the-spot assessments of measures against bird flu, the statement said.

In May 2018, the two countries held consultations on the subject, and after a full assessment, China considered the bird flu epidemic in the US to be effectively under control, and poultry regulation systems were compliant with Chinese legal requirements.

The statement said that following the lifting of US import restrictions, Chinese poultry imports would expand to effectively respond to market demands.

According to US trade authorities, the end of the import ban would result in the export of poultry products worth more than $1 billion to China annually.

Moreover, China has been facing a meat shortage following an outbreak of African swine fever, which has led to the culling of millions of pigs in the country, affecting the supply of pork, a preferred food item among the Chinese. – EFE-EPA

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Morales, Del Rosario insist ICC did not reject communication vs China’s Xi Jinping

Robie de Guzman   •   December 6, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario insisted that the International Criminal Court (ICC) did not reject the communication they filed against Chinese President Xi Jinping for Beijing’s actions in the West Philippine Sea.

This is after the ICC said in its report that it had no jurisdiction over the case.

In a report released Thursday, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the tribunal does not have jurisdiction over Morales and Del Rosario’s complaint against China’s alleged crimes against humanity in the West Philippine Sea.

The Court also found it does not have jurisdiction over the complaint as the accused are from China, which is not a state party to the Rome Statute – the treaty which formed the tribunal.

“The crimes referred to in the communication were allegedly committed by Chinese nationals in the territory of the Philippines. China is not a State Party to the Rome Statute. Accordingly, the Court lacks personal jurisdiction,” the report read.

On March 15, 2019, Morales and Del Rosario filed a communication before the ICC against Xi and other Chinese officials over China’s alleged “atrocious actions” in the West Philippine Sea.

They accused the Chinese executives of committing of crimes against humanity for purportedly damaging the resources at the disputed territory through Beijing’s ongoing reclamation activities in the area.

The ICC noted that while the alleged crimes of Xi and other Chinese officials occurred in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), it cannot be considered a territory of the state.

“Criminal conduct which takes place in the EEZ and continental shelf is thus in principle outside of the territory of a Coastal State… This circumstance is not altered by the fact that certain rights of the Coastal State are recognised in these areas,” it said.

Del Rosario and Carpio-Morales, however, said in a joint statement that the ICC’s report only strengthened their resolve, adding that the Prosecutor welcomes new facts and evidence to proceed with the case.

“Let them gloat in the meantime. This is just the beginning. Abangan,” Carpio-Morales said.

The ICC report stated that its findings may be reconsidered in light of new facts and evidence, which Del Rosario and Carpio-Morales vowed to provide. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

China threatens US after Trump passes bills backing Hong Kong protesters

Robie de Guzman   •   November 28, 2019

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang speaks to reporters during a daily Foreign Ministry press conference in Beijing, China, 28 November 2019. China responds with anger and warns of countermeasures after US President Donald Trump’s signing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on 28 November 2019. EPA-EFE/HOW HWEE YOUNG

Beijing – The Chinese government Thursday threatened the United States with “countermeasures” and “consequences” after the US president signed two bills into law backing Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters.

Donald Trump in a statement said he had signed the bills — the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act 2019 and one against crowd control munition exports to the territory — out of “respect” to Chinese President Xi Jinping and the people of Hong Kong.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement Thursday responded by reminding “the US that Hong Kong is part of China and Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs where no foreign government or force shall interfere. This Act will only further expose the malicious and hegemonic nature of US intentions to the Chinese people, including our Hong Kong compatriots.”

“We urge the US to not continue going down the wrong path, or China will take countermeasures, and the US must bear all consequences,” it added.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng also summoned US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad “to lodge stern representations and strong protest” to the passing of the Act, state news agency Xinhua reported Thursday.

The two countries are still immersed in negotiations to end their trade war, which could be affected by the bills, however the statement does not specify the countermeasures it intends to apply.

The Hong Kong government also expressed its “strong opposition” to the new laws, saying in a statement that they “contravene in Hong Kong’s internal affairs” and would harm relations with the US.

“The two acts are unreasonable. Although human rights and democracy are mentioned in the title of the Act, some of the provisions in the Act are actually about export control and enforcement of the sanctions imposed by the United Nations in Hong Kong, which are totally unrelated to human rights and democracy in Hong Kong,” a government spokesman said.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act 2019, passed last week by the US Senate, requires the US State Department to conduct a review at least annually as to whether Hong Kong retains enough autonomy from mainland China to qualify for special trade considerations, and threatens sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations.

Following the approval by the Senate last week, the Chinese government threatened that “China will take strong opposing measures and the US has to bear all the consequences” if it was passed into law. Beijing also reportedly summoned a senior US diplomat over the move.

The second bill signed into law Wednesday prohibits US exports of specified police equipment such as teargas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun guns to Hong Kong.

“They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all,” Trump said.

At the weekend, the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong swept the local elections, winning 388 of the total 452 district council seats up for grabs. The side aligned with Beijing suffered a crushing defeat with only 59 councilors, compared to the almost 300 it had, while independents won five seats in the elections which saw a record 71.2% turnout.

Hong Kong was passed to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, although it still retains a degree of independence from Beijing under the “one country, two systems” formula. According to the handover deal between London and Beijing, this political system — which includes certain legal freedoms not recognized in mainland China — must be preserved until 2047. EFE-EPA

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China wants trade deal with US, but will retaliate if needed, says Xi

Robie de Guzman   •   November 22, 2019

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) speaks during a meeting with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva (not pictured) as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (C) looks on, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 22 November 2019. EPA-EFE/JASON LEE

Beijing – China’s president said Friday his country wanted to work out an agreement with the United States to resolve the ongoing trade dispute but warned that he was also willing to take counter-measures if required.

This is the first public statement by Xi Jinping on the possibility of reaching a pact with Washington to end – at least temporarily – the tariff war that the world’s two biggest economies have been involved in since March 2018.

“When necessary, we will fight back. But we have been working actively to try not to have a trade war. We did not initiate this trade war and this is not something we want,” Xi said at an economic forum in Beijing.

“As we always said we don’t want to start the trade war but we are not afraid,” he emphasized.

The Chinese leader said a possible agreement between the two countries should be based on “mutual respect and equality.”

The disputes with the US “may affect the future prospects of the world economy so this is a very important topic to watch”, said Xi. “We always hold positive attitude towards that.”

The remarks came a day after the Ministry of Commerce denied that the partial trade agreement between the two countries, known as phase one, was in jeopardy.

“At the moment, there are no more details to offer on the agreement, but the external rumors are not accurate,” Gao Feng, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, told reporters on Thursday.

The statement seemed to be a response to US President Donald Trump’s recent claim that Beijing was not taking the lead in the talks.

Trump also said that if a trade agreement is not achieved tariffs will rise even more.

Representatives from China and the US spoke on the telephone on Saturday to advance the agreement although no details of the call have been divulged so far.

In early November, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said it had reached an agreement with Washington to phase out the levies both parties have imposed during the trade dispute.

However, days later, Trump dampened hopes that the tariffs on Chinese products would be phased out and lowered expectations a deal could be met.

The two-year trade war has seen a tit-for-tat hike on tariffs in both countries.

Most recently on Sep. 1 by increasing a 10 percent tax on Chinese imports to 15 percent.

The hike would be worth around $112 billion.

It remains to be seen if on Dec. 15 the same increase will be applied to the remaining imports taxed currently at 10 percent.

If Washington does follow through, the tariff increase would be valued at some $300 billion.

Trade tensions between the two largest world economies go beyond bilateral relations and have profound global consequences.

In its latest global growth forecasts, released in July, the International Monetary Fund lowered its projections of global growth to 3.2 percent this year, one-tenth less than in April weighed down by doubts about a possible resolution of this dispute. EFE-EPA

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