U.S., China agree on trade war ceasefire after Trump, Xi summit

UNTV News   •   December 3, 2018   •   2840

U.S. President Donald Trump, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a working dinner after the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina December 1, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – China and the United States agreed to a ceasefire in their bitter trade war on Saturday after high-stakes talks in Argentina between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, including no escalated tariffs on Jan. 1.

Trump will leave tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports at 10 percent at the beginning of the new year, agreeing to not raise them to 25 percent “at this time”, the White House said in a statement.

“China will agree to purchase a not yet agreed upon, but very substantial, amount of agricultural, energy, industrial, and other product from the United States to reduce the trade imbalance between our two countries,” it said.

“China has agreed to start purchasing agricultural product from our farmers immediately.”

The two leaders also agreed to immediately start talks on structural changes with respect to forced technology transfers, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, services and agriculture, the White House said.

Both countries agreed they will try to have this “transaction” completed within the next 90 days, but if this does not happen then the 10 percent tariffs will be raised to 25 percent, it added.

The Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said the negotiations were conducted in a “friendly and candid atmosphere”.

“The two presidents agreed that the two sides can and must get bilateral relations right,” Wang told reporters, adding they agreed to further exchanges at appropriate times.

“Discussion on economic and trade issues was very positive and constructive. The two heads of state reached consensus to halt the mutual increase of new tariffs,” Wang said.

“China is willing to increase imports in accordance with the needs of its domestic market and the people’s needs, including marketable products from the United States, to gradually ease the imbalance in two-way trade.”

“The two sides agreed to mutually open their markets, and as China advances a new round of reforms, the United States’ legitimate concerns can be progressively resolved.”

The two sides would “step up negotiations” toward full elimination of all additional tariffs, Wang said.

The announcements came after Trump and Xi sat down with their aides for a working dinner at the end of a two-day gathering of world leaders in Buenos Aires, their dispute having unnerved global financial markets and weighed on the world economy.

After the 2-1/2 hour meeting, White House chief economist Larry Kudlow told reporters the talks went “very well,” but offered no specifics as he boarded Air Force One headed home to Washington with Trump.

China’s goal was to persuade Trump to abandon plans to raise tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 percent in January, from 10 percent at present. Trump had threatened to do that, and possibly add tariffs on $267 billion of imports, if there was no progress in the talks.

With the United States and China clashing over commerce, financial markets will take their lead from the results of the talks, widely seen as the most important meeting of U.S. and Chinese leaders in years.

The encounter came shortly after the Group of 20 industrialized nations backed an overhaul of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which regulates international trade disputes, marking a victory for Trump, a sharp critic of the organization.

Trump told Xi at the start of their meeting he hoped they would achieve “something great” on trade for both countries. He struck a positive note as he sat across from Xi, despite the U.S. president’s earlier threats to impose new tariffs on Chinese imports as early as the next year.

He suggested that the “incredible relationship” he and Xi had established would be “the very primary reason” they could make progress on trade.

Xi told Trump that only through cooperation could the United States and China serve the interest of peace and prosperity. Washington and Beijing have also increasingly been at odds over security in the Asia-Pacific region.

At the same time, Trump again raised with Xi his concern about the synthetic opioid fentanyl being sent from China to the United States, urging the Chinese leader to place it in a “restricted category” of drugs that would criminalize it.

The White House said Xi, “in a wonderful humanitarian gesture”, had agreed to designate fentanyl a controlled substance.

Xi also said that he was open to approving the previously unapproved Qualcomm-NXP deal should it again be presented to him, the White House added.

“This was an amazing and productive meeting with unlimited possibilities for both the United States and China. It is my great honor to be working with President Xi,” Trump said in the statement.

WTO REFORMS
Earlier on Saturday, the leaders of the world’s top economies called for WTO reform in their final summit statement.

Officials expressed relief that agreement on the communique was reached after negotiators worked through the night to overcome differences over language on climate change.

The final text recognized trade as an important engine of global growth but made only a passing reference to “the current trade issues” after the U.S. delegation won a battle to keep any mention of protectionism out of the statement.

Trump has long railed against China’s trade surplus with the United States, and Washington accuses Beijing of not playing fairly on trade. China calls the United States protectionist and has resisted what it views as attempts to intimidate it.

The two countries are also at odds over China’s extensive claims in the South China Sea and U.S. warship movements through the highly sensitive Taiwan Strait.

In addition to tariffs on Chinese goods, Trump has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports into the United States this year. Numerous countries have filed litigation at the WTO to contest the levies.

The United States is unhappy with what it says is the WTO’s failure to hold China to account for not opening up its economy as envisioned when China joined the body in 2001. The European Union is also pushing for sweeping changes to how the WTO operates.

G20 delegates said negotiations on the summit statement proceeded more smoothly than at a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders two weeks ago, where disagreement on protectionism and unfair trading practices prevented a consensus.

European officials said a reference to refugees and migration – a sensitive issue for Trump’s administration – was excised to ensure consensus.

On climate change, the United States once again marked its differences with the rest of the G20 by reiterating in the statement its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and its commitment to using all kinds of energy sources.

The other members of the group reaffirmed their commitment to implement the Paris deal and tackle climate change.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde said high levels of debt accumulated by emerging market nations was a pressing concern.

U.S. officials said a call by G20 leaders for the IMF and World Bank to improve monitoring debt levels was aimed at ensuring that developing economies did not become to heavily indebted to China in return for infrastructure projects.

U.S. officials have warned about China’s increasing influence across swaths of the developing world, including Latin America. G20 summit host Argentina is expected to sign a series of deals with China on Sunday during a one-day state visit by Xi.

Apart from trade and climate change, Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian vessels drew condemnation from other G20 members, while the presence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the summit raised an awkward dilemma for leaders.

Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler arrived amid controversy over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, though Saudi officials have said the prince had no prior knowledge of the murder.

The leader of the OPEC heavyweight had a series of bilateral meetings at the summit, including a closely watched encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Michael Martina, Matt Spetalnick, Maximilian Heath, Scott Squires, Cassandra Garrison, Daniel Flynn and Kylie Maclellan in Buenos Aires; Dave Shepardson and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington, Ben Blanchard in Beijing and John Ruwitch in Shanghai; writing by Matt Spetalnick and Daniel Flynn; editing by Ross Colvin, Alistair Bell, Jonathan Oatis and Will Dunham

Trump asks Supreme Court to block subpoena for his tax returns

Robie de Guzman   •   November 15, 2019

US President Donald J. Trump waves as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House upon his return from a campaign rally in Bossier City, Louisiana; in Washington, DC, USA, 15 November 2019. EPA-EFE/YURI GRIPAS / ABACA / POOL world rights

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s personal attorneys on Thursday asked the US Supreme Court to quash an attempt by prosecutors in New York to obtain his tax records for the last eight years.

The filing comes after a US district court and a federal appellate panel ruled that Trump’s accountants, Mazars USA, had to comply with a grand jury subpoena for the documents.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., whose office has been trying to enforce the subpoena, said he would delay action to allow the president’s lawyers to ask the Supreme Court to consider the case in the current term, according to The New York Times.

“For the first time in our nation’s history, a state or local prosecutor has launched a criminal investigation of the President of the United States and subjected him to coercive criminal process,” Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said. “Politically motivated subpoenas like this one are a perfect illustration of why a sitting president should be categorically immune from state criminal process.”

The dispute goes back to August, when Vance’s office demanded that Mazars hand over the tax records as part of an investigation into whether the Trump campaign’s 2016 hush-money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal violated the laws of New York State.

Both women said they had affairs with Trump, who denies the claims.

On Wednesday, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals let stand an earlier ruling that Mazars must also provide eight years of Trump’s tax returns to the Oversight and Reform Committee of the US House of Representatives.

The committee is seeking the tax records for “legitimate legislative pursuits, not an impermissible law-enforcement purpose,” the appellate judges concluded.

Trump’s legal team plans to ask the Supreme Court to take up that case as well.

While the US Department of Justice has long held that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, Trump attorney William S. Consovoy has maintained that his client enjoys “temporary presidential immunity,” not only from prosecution, but also from investigation. – EFE-EPA

llb/dr

Trump’s greatest interest in Ukraine was to investigate Biden, says diplomat

Robie de Guzman   •   November 14, 2019

US President Donald Trump

WASHINGTON – The major interest US President Donald Trump had in Ukraine was ensuring that Kyiv conduct investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, a top US diplomat said in sworn testimony on Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing.

Trump has been accused of trying to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating Biden but has denied any wrongdoing.

William Taylor, the highest-ranking US diplomat in Ukraine, said that Biden, one of the front-running candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, was Trump’s main concern.

Taylor made the statements during his testimony before House lawmakers on Wednesday in a hearing which could lead to an impeachment trial of Trump in the Senate if a majority of congressmen believe he abused the power of the presidency by asking Ukraine to investigate a political rival.

Taylor has said that he told top US officials that Trump’s decision to condition-release of some $400 million in military aid to Ukraine on a commitment by Kyiv to investigate the Bidens was “crazy.”

The diplomat also revealed the existence of a telephone call that occurred in July between Trump and the US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, another of the protagonists in the controversy – a call that was conducted by Sondland at a restaurant in the presence of one of Taylor’s team members, David Holmes.

In the call, Holmes – who could hear the president’s voice on Sondland’s cellphone, and thus his side of the conversation – said that Trump asked the EU envoy about “the investigations.”

After the call, Taylor’s assistant asked Sondland about the president’s opinion on Ukraine and testified that Holmes told him that “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which (Trump’s personal attorney Rudy) Giuliani was pressing for.”

Ukraine has strengthened its relationship with the US since 2014 when Moscow annexed the Crimea – an integral part of Ukraine – and over the past five years, the US Congress has authorized $1.6 billion in military assistance to Kyiv.

Taylor said Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was the driving force behind a “highly irregular” back-channel of communication with Ukraine that was undermining the official objectives of US diplomacy in the East European country.

Those official objectives include energy reforms and an ongoing fight against corruption, which has been endemic in that country.

The phone call between Trump and Sondland allegedly occurred on July 26, a day after the now-controversial telephone conversation in which the US president asked his Ukrainian counterpart to do him a favor and investigate the Bidens.

Taylor said the US president discussed two things in that July 25 call – the delivery to Ukraine of $400 million in military aid and the scheduling of a White House meeting between Trump and Zelensky, on the condition that Kyiv publicly commits to investigating the Bidens and the Democrats.

The other witness testifying simultaneously with Taylor on Wednesday was Deputy Assistant Secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau at the US Department of State George Kent, who appeared wearing a colorful bowtie, causing something of a stir on the social networks.

Kent, a career diplomat who was the No. 2 US official at Washington’s embassy in Ukraine from 1025-2018, was very critical of Trump’s attitude, saying that he did not think the US should ask other countries to launch investigations of a political nature against the rivals of sitting US leaders because such acts undermine the rule of law.

Trump, meanwhile, said he was “too busy” to watch the public hearing live.

“I’m too busy to watch it. It’s a witch hunt, it’s a hoax, I’m too busy to watch it. So, I’m sure I’ll get a report. There’s nothing,” the president said.

However, the president has shown signs that he is very concerned about the hearings, having retweeted 22 Twitter messages related to the hearings since they began in the House and even before they began on Wednesday morning had fired off seven tweets on the issue.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Joe Biden’s campaign said that the former vice president also was not following the hearings live, but noting that the House was doing its job and Biden was doing his: namely working to defeat Trump in the 2020 election.

In response to the many mentions of his name in the Wednesday impeachment hearing testimony, Giuliani told CNN that he had “done nothing wrong” in terms of his work on Ukraine, saying that anything he had done was on a personal level and had nothing to do with Trump, whom he has tried to shield from the scandal.

The public House impeachment hearings are being broadcast live and without commercial interruption by the main television networks.

These are the first impeachment hearings of a US president in two decades since President Bill Clinton had to answer questions about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, proceedings in which he was ultimately acquitted. – EFE-EPA

PH military vows to continue anti-terror efforts after death of ISIS leader Baghdadi

Robie de Guzman   •   October 28, 2019

An undated file image taken from a video released by the militant group calling itself Islamic State (IS), purportedly showing the caliph of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, giving a speech in an unknown location (reissued 27 October 2019). According to media reports on 26 October 2019 citing US officials, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a US Special Forces raid in Idlib province, Syria. EPA-EFE/ISLAMIC STATE VIDEO

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday said government troops would remain alert and will continue its efforts to counter terrorists who threaten the country following the reported death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In a statement, AFP spokesman Marine Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo said, the death of Baghdadi dealt a severe blow on terrorist organizations across the globe.

“We expect that his death will impact negatively on the leadership of terrorists in various parts of the world,” Arevalo said.

“The AFP will continue with our vigorous efforts to prevent or counter terrorist extremists who continue to threaten our country,” he added. “Our troops in the frontlines remain on high alert to thwart possible attempts to ride on this development.”

The military issued the statement after United States President Donald Trump announced that Baghdadi killed himself by detonating a suicide vest during a raid launched by US troops on Saturday. Baghdadi led the jihadist group in controlling and declaring a caliphate in large areas of Syria and Iraq at one point.

Arevalo also vowed to continue blocking the Daesh-inspired groups from recruiting new members and exploiting the situation in the countryside, calling their attempt towards resurgence as “futile.”

“We will build from our triumph in Marawi in frustrating ISIS move to establish a caliphate in our country,” he said.

The military also urged the public anew to stay alert and be actively involved in reporting to authorities any suspicious persons or activities in their localities.

“Vigilance will surely help security forces in our campaign to deny the ISIS foothold in our country,” Arevalo said.

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