After U.S. exit, Asian nations try to save TPP trade deal

admin   •   January 24, 2017   •   5407

FILE PHOTO – U.S. President Barack Obama holds meeting with Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) leaders at the APEC Summit in Lima, Peru November 19, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File photo

Australia and New Zealand said on Tuesday they hope to salvage the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by encouraging China and other Asian countries to join the trade pact after U.S. President Donald Trump kept a promise to abandon the accord.

The TPP, which the United States had signed but not ratified, was a pillar of former U.S. President Barack Obama’s policy to pivot to Asia.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has touted it as an engine of economic reform, as well as a counter-weight to a rising China, which is not a TPP member.

Fulfilling a campaign pledge, Trump signed an executive order in the Oval Office on Monday pulling the United States out of the 2015 TPP agreement and distancing the United States from its Asian allies.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he had held discussions with Abe, New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong overnight about the possibility of proceeding without the United States.

“Losing the United States from the TPP is a big loss, there is no question about that,” Turnbull told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday. “But we are not about to walk away … certainly there is potential for China to join the TPP.”

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying did not say directly whether China would be interested in joining the TPP but that at a time of economic uncertainly the Asia-Pacific should make its own contributions to growth with openness.

“We think that in the present situation, no matter what happens, all should keep going down the path of open, inclusive, continuous development, seeking cooperation and win-win,” Hua told a daily news briefing.

Obama had framed the TPP without China in 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 counter pact, the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) and has championed the Southeast Asian-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Hua said efforts on FTAAP should be stepped up, adding China hoped talks on RCEP could be concluded at an early date.

MEETINGS PLANNED

New Zealand’s English said the United States was ceding influence to China and the region’s focus could switch to alternative trade deals.

“We’ve got this RCEP agreement with Southeast Asia, which up until now has been on a bit of a slow burn, but we might find the political will for that to pick up if TPP isn’t going to proceed,” English said.

Malaysia’s trade minister said negotiators from the remaining TPP countries would be in “constant communication” to decide the best way forward.

“Notwithstanding the current position of the new U.S. administration on (TPP), we will continue to engage with our American colleagues to strengthen our bilateral trade and economic relations, given the U.S.’s importance as our third-largest trading partner and a major source of investment,” Mustapa Mohamed said in a statement.

The TTP, which has been five years in the making, requires ratification by at least six countries accounting for 85 percent of the combined gross domestic product of the member nations.

Australia held open the possibility of China, the world’s top exporter, joining a revised deal.

“The original architecture was to enable other countries to join,” Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday.

“Certainly I know that Indonesia has expressed interest and there would be scope for China if we are able to reformulate it.”

Japan has led the push for the partnership, which includes Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam.

“There is no change to our view that free trade is the source of economic growth,” Japanese Economy Minister Nobuteru Ishihara told reporters.

When asked whether Japan would be open to negotiating a bilateral trade pact with the United States, Ishihara said it was uncertain whether U.S. trade officials would start such negotiations.

Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda said separately that Japan was not considering moves with other TPP members based on a lack of U.S. involvement.

“As Prime Minister Abe has made clear, TPP without the United States is meaningless and the balance of interests would crumble,” he told a news conference, adding Japan would keep explaining the benefits of the pact for America.

Abe had made TPP a core of his economic growth policies and along with the Obama administration, viewed it as strategically vital in the face of a rising China

Trump took office on Friday and pledged to end what he called an “American carnage” of rusted factories and crime. He vowed to bring jobs back by renegotiating what he called bad multilateral trade deals in favor of bilateral ones.

New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay said he had talked with a number of TPP-member ministers at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week and he expected they would meet in coming months.

“The agreement still has value as a FTA (Free Trade Agreement) with the other countries involved,” McClay said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Swati Pandey in SYDNEY, Ami Miyazaki and Linda Sieg in TOKYO, Liz Lee in KUALA LUMPUR and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Robert Birsel)

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)

Trump’s visit to mass shooting sites ‘not welcome’

Robie de Guzman   •   August 7, 2019

Flowers, messages and candles reflect the grief
of the communities where two mass shootings took place last weekend.

The communities of El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, where 31 people were killed and scores more were wounded in two mass shootings last weekend, are not open to the United States President Donald Trump’s scheduled visits to their cities.

As the communities grieve, some politicians in both cities say the president isn’t welcome.

There is a mountain of flowers, messages, and candles, which is a symbol of the heartbreak and devastation calls for the mass shooting in El Paso on Saturday.

The city’s hospitals continue to treat those wounded in the attack.

Some of the survivors are still coming to terms with the horror.

“We were going to the store to get groceries for my kids. It just went chaotic as soon as we got there. My mum was in the produce department and I was in the drink department. And then I heard a gunshot,” said Christopher Grant, a survivor in El Paso attack.

The El Paso community continues to mourn the horrid events over the weekend. This is now one of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. And tensions continue to run high ahead of Trump’s visit here.

“Don’t let him come here. That’s what I have been hearing all day,” said Veronica Escobar, a congresswoman in Texas.

Escobar is among those who say Trump isn’t welcome, saying the president has repeatedly targeted the Mexican community.

“The words that he has used to describe Hispanics and immigrants have fueled a lot of that hatred and that bigotry and have inspired some violence,” she said.

Trump is also scheduled to visit Dayton, Ohio, the scene of the other mass shooting last weekend.

The mayor of the city has criticized the president for not being stronger on gun control.

Mexican authorities are threatening legal action, claiming the U.S. failed to protect their citizens that died in the El Paso attack.

Two cities devastated by mass shootings united in grief. (REUTERS)

Kin of Filipino WWII vets now banned from staying in US while waiting for green cards

Robie de Guzman   •   August 5, 2019

FILE PHOTO: Filipino World War II veterans

The United States government will no longer allow families of Filipino World War II veterans to stay in the country while waiting for the approval of their family-based green cards.

In a news release posted on its website, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced its intention to terminate the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program in accordance with President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13767: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.

The USCIS said the order aims to better ensure that parole is used only on a case-by-case basis, consistent with the law.

“The decision to end these parole programs ends the expedited processing that was made available to these populations in a categorical fashion. It follows an extensive review to better ensure that parole authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act is exercised on a case-by-case basis when there is a significant public benefit or urgent humanitarian reason,” the agency said.

Parole is a process that allows foreign nationals to temporarily enter or remain in the United States, including those who are otherwise inadmissible.

Categorical parole refers to programs designed to consider parole for entire groups of individuals based on pre-set criteria.

Under these programs, the USCIS said individuals with approved family-based immigrant petitions have been authorized to enter and work in the United States while waiting for their green card to become available.

“Under these categorical parole programs, individuals have been able to skip the line and bypass the proper channels established by Congress,” USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli said.

“With the termination of these programs, these individuals will no longer be permitted to wait in the United States for their family-based green card to become available, consistent with the rules that apply to the rest of the world,” he added.

“USCIS is committed to exercising this limited authority in a manner that preserves the integrity of our immigration system and does not encourage aliens to unlawfully enter the United States,” Cuccinelli further stated.

Aside from the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole program, the USCIS will also be terminating Haitian Family Reunification Parole program.

While the process for the termination of these programs begins, the USCIS assured it will continue to review all remaining categorical parole programs.

“USCIS will not terminate any program until we complete required administrative changes to Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, and the form is approved for public use,” the agency said.

“The Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) process will provide notice to the affected individuals, explain the reasons USCIS is taking action, and provide public comment periods on the termination of these programs,” it added.

The USCIS said current parolees will maintain their current period of parole until its expiration, unless it is otherwise terminated. Pending cases will also be processed to completion.

“In addition, parolees who have not adjusted status or been admitted may request parole under the non-categorical process by filing Form I-131, in accordance with the form instructions. Additional information on applying for non-categorical parole is available on the Humanitarian or Significant Public Benefit Parole for Individuals Outside the United States page,” the agency said.

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