Trump pulls U.S. out of Pacific trade deal, loosening Asia ties

admin   •   January 24, 2017   •   8970

U.S. President Donald Trump, watched by (L-R) Vice President Mike Pence, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, head of the White House Trade Council Peter Navarro and senior advisor Jared Kushner, signs an executive order that places a hiring freeze on non-military federal workers in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington January 23, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Donald Trump formally withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal on Monday, distancing America from its Asian allies, as China’s influence in the region rises.

Fulfilling a campaign pledge to end American involvement in the 2015 pact, Trump signed an executive order in the Oval Office pulling the United States out of the 12-nation TPP.

Trump, who wants to boost U.S. manufacturing, said he would seek one-on-one trade deals with countries that would allow the United States to quickly terminate them in 30 days “if somebody misbehaves.”

“We’re going to stop the ridiculous trade deals that have taken everybody out of our country and taken companies out of our country,” the Republican president said as he met with union leaders in the White House’s Roosevelt Room.

The TPP accord, backed heavily by U.S. business, was negotiated by former Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration but never approved by Congress.

Obama had framed TPP, which excluded China, as an effort to write Asia’s trade rules before Beijing could, establishing U.S. economic leadership in the region as part of his “pivot to Asia.”

China has proposed a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific and has also championed the Southeast Asian-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Trump has sparked worries in Japan and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific with his opposition to the TPP and his campaign demands for U.S. allies to pay more for their security.

His trade stance mirrors a growing feeling among Americans that international trade deals have hurt the U.S. job market. Republicans have long held the view that free trade is a must, but that mood has been changing.

“It’s going to be very difficult to fight that fight,” said Lanhee Chen, a Hoover Institution fellow who was domestic policy adviser to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. “Trump is reflecting a trend that has been apparent for many years.”

Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest think tank in Washington, said Trump must now find an alternative way to reassure allies in Asia.

“This could include multiple bilateral trade agreements. Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam should be approached first as they are key to any new Asia strategy that President Trump will enact,” he said.

Trump is also working to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement to provide more favorable terms to the United States, telling reporters he would meet leaders of NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada to get the process started.

BUSINESS LEADERS

The new president met with a dozen American manufacturers at the White House on Monday, pledging to slash regulations and cut corporate taxes – but warning them he would take action on trade deals he felt were unfair.

Trump, who took office on Friday, has promised to bring factories back to the United States – an issue he said helped him win the Nov. 8 election. He has not hesitated to call out by name companies he thinks should bring outsourced production back home.

He said those businesses that choose to move plants outside the country would pay a price. “We are going to be imposing a very major border tax on the product when it comes in,” Trump said.

He asked the group of chief executives from companies including Ford Motor Co, Dell Technologies Inc, Tesla Motors Inc and others to make recommendations in 30 days to stimulate manufacturing, Dow Chemical Co Chief Executive Officer Andrew Liveris told reporters.

Liveris said the CEOs discussed the border tax “quite a bit” with Trump, explaining “the sorts of industry that might be helped or hurt by that.”

“Look: I would take the president at his word here. He’s not going to do anything to harm competitiveness,” Liveris said. “He’s going to actually make us all more competitive.”

At part of the meeting observed by reporters, Trump provided no details on how the border tax would work.

The U.S. dollar fell to a seven-week low against a basket of other major world currencies on Monday, and global stock markets were shaky amid investor concerns about Trump’s protectionist rhetoric.

“A company that wants to fire all of its people in the United States, and build some factory someplace else, and then thinks that that product is going to just flow across the border into the United States – that’s not going to happen,” he said.

CUT TAXES AND REGULATIONS

The president told the CEOs he would like to cut corporate taxes to the 15 percent to 20 percent range, down from current statutory levels of 35 percent – a pledge that will require cooperation from the Republican-led U.S. Congress.

But he said business leaders have told him that reducing regulations is even more important.

“We think we can cut regulations by 75 percent. Maybe more,” Trump told business leaders.

“When you want to expand your plant, or when Mark wants to come in and build a big massive plant, or when Dell wants to come in and do something monstrous and special – you’re going to have your approvals really fast,” Trump said, referring to Mark Fields, CEO of Ford.

Fields said he was encouraged by the tone of the meeting.

“I know I come out with a lot of confidence that the president is very, very serious on making sure that the United States economy is going to be strong and have policies – tax, regulatory or trade – to drive that,” he said.

Trump told the executives that companies were welcome to negotiate with governors to move production between states.

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom, Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey, Ayesha Rascoe and David Shepardson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)

AFP seeks to further strengthen assets following Chinese warships’ ‘incursion’ in PH waters

Robie de Guzman   •   August 20, 2019

Philippine Navy warship, BRP Conrado Yap (PS 39), donated by South Korean government, docks at Port of Manila, Philippines, 20 August 2019​. According to reports, the BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39), the former South Korean ‘Pohang’-class corvette ‘Chungju’, is the most heavily-armed and powerful​ surface combatant of the Philippine Navy (PN) to date. The vessel was named after Captain Conrado Yap, a decorated Filipino soldier who was part of t​he Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea during the 1950s.

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is seeking to further strengthen its naval and aerial assets following the series of uncoordinated passages of Chinese warships in the country’s waters.

AFP Western Mindanao Command spokesperson Maj. Arvin John Encinas said they have already filed a proposal to intensify naval operations in their area after several Chinese ships were spotted passing through Philippine waters without notifying local authorities.  

“Nagsubmit ng proposal na palakasin pa ang naval units dito sa area ng WESMINCOM upang sa ganun nga upang ma-address ang issues particularly dito sa maritime domain natin as far as security is concerned,” he said.

(A proposal has been submitted seeking to strengthen naval units in the WESMINCOM area in order to address the issues, particularly in our maritime domain as far as security is concerned.)

The AFP earlier reported that at least five Chinese naval ships sailed through Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi without prior coordination.

Based on their monitoring, five Chinese ships with bow numbers 998, 964, 195, 853 and 536 had been seen navigating the area between July and August.

The AFP said that aside from the said period, they have also spotted Chinese ships passing through the channel without permission since February.

The military said the vessels ignored radio communications from Philippine patrols.

The Sibutu Strait separates Sulu archipelago from Borneo.

Although considered an international sea lane where foreign vessels have the right of innocent passage, customary maritime law requires warships to coordinate with the coastal state beforehand.

The military said these ships could not claim innocent passage as they took a curved course and not a straight line.

“These previous months mayroon na tayong namomonitor na warships ng China kung kaya’t tuloy-tuloy po ang ginawang monitoring at patrolling ng ating Navy vessels at the same time, ‘yung ating Coast Guard diyan sa Sibutu Passage diyan natin nakikita lagi itong mga warship ng China,” Encinas said.

(These previous months, we have monitored Chinese warships in the area prompting continued monitoring and patrolling operations by our Navy vessels, at the same time, our Coast Guard in the Sibutu Passage where Chinese warships were spotted.)

Encinas added they have also informed the military national leaders on the monitored incursions to engage with their counterparts on the issue.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier ordered the filing of a diplomatic protest regarding the Chinese warships clear act of trespassing. (with contributions from UNTV correspondent Dante Amento)

Hong Kong doesn’t need “suggestions” after Trump Tiananmen comments – China

Robie de Guzman   •   August 19, 2019

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang (Image grabbed from Reuters footage)

China’s foreign ministry said on Monday (August 19) that Hong Kong doesn’t need “suggestions” after U.S. President Donald Trump told media that a “Tiananmen”-style crackdown on Hong Kong’s recent anti-government protests would harm trade talks between the two countries.

“President Trump has previously said that Hong Kong is part of China and they must solve their problem by themselves. They don’t need any suggestions. We hope the U.S. side can live up their word,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told media in Beijing.

In recent weeks U.S. President Donald Trump has made a series of comments on Hong Kong via twitter, one of which urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet with protesters to diffuse weeks of tensions.

Hundreds of China’s People’s Armed Police (PAP) continue to be stationed at a sports stadium in Shenzhen that borders Hong Kong.

The U.S. State Department has said it was “deeply concerned” about the movements, which have prompted worries that the troops could be used to break up protests. (Reuters)

(Wang Shubing, Irene Wang, Joseph Campbell)

Senators hit Chinese envoy: Filipinos in China are not spies

Robie de Guzman   •   August 19, 2019

Senate Committee on Foreign Relations organizational meeting and briefing by the Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday, August 19, 2019.

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators on Monday slammed Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua over his remark that Filipino workers in China might be suspected of being spies.

At a Committee on Foreign Relations Organizational meeting, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel assured the Chinese envoy that Filipinos in China are not spies but are there to earn a living.

“Let me assure China, there are no Filipino spies in China. Kaya wag silang mag-alala. Ang mga Pilipino po na nasa China ay para po sa pagta-trabaho,” he said when asked for his comment on the issue.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier expressed concern over the location of the Philippine Online Gaming Operations (POGO) hubs near military camps, saying these Chinese-dominated casinos could be used for espionage purposes.

In response to Lorenzana’s remark, Zhao reportedly told Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo that they may also be inclined to look at Filipino workers in China as spies.

For Senator Risa Hontiveros, the Chinese Ambassador’s statement could be considered a threat.

“Ito ay maituturing na banta sa buhay at kabuhayan ng ating mga kababayang OFW sa Tsina. It is a veiled threat in response to our simple and reasonable desire to strictly regulate Chinese POGO operations in the country and ensure the country’s national security,” Hontiveros said.

“Our OFWs are not spies. They have no history of espionage. Filipinos abroad are valued both for their skill and unique blend of hard work and care. They pose no threat. In fact, in China, our workers are employed in areas that are nowhere near military and security facilities. To insinuate that they could be committing espionage is not only insulting but plainly false,” she added.

Senate Minority Franklin Drilon earlier called Zhao’s remark as “absurd and beyond the realm of possibility.”

He added that Lorenzana is a competent official and his job is to advise authorities on a matter of security.

“He has nothing but good intentions. We should defer to him,” he said.

Drilon further stated the possibility that POGO workers could be used for information gathering is not a remote possibility.

“It’s convenient when there is a need for it. Why should we leave that chance unchecked?” he said, adding that he supports Lorenzana’s proposal to move POGO hubs farther away from military camps.

Hontiveros also said the Lorenzana did not accuse Chinese workers employed in POGO hubs as spies, but merely pointed out the proximity of the firms to military camps which can be exploited by unscrupulous people to undermine the country’s security.

The senator also recalled Lorenzana’s point that Chinese firms are mandated by the Chinese government to assist in intelligence collection for their government.

“Foreign workers, including Chinese workers, who fully comply with our laws and respect the rights of Filipino workers are welcome in our country. We demand the same from our OFWs working in and hosted by foreign countries. However, our country also reserves the right to ensure the safety of its citizens and protection of its state secrets,” Hontiveros said.

To address this issue, Hontiveros said there should be a thorough review of all Chinese POGOs near military installations and camps, adding that the defense department “must make a comprehensive appraisal and provide necessary proposals.”

She also suggested for stricter regulation of the POGO industry to ensure that revenues are monitored, taxes are paid and domestic facilities are not used to commit crimes.

Hontiveros added that there should be pressure on the Chinese government to commit more to work closely with the Philippine authorities in regulating the entry of illegal and undocumented Chinese workers into the country.

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