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US Hits China With Higher Tariffs, Raising Stakes In Trade Talks

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The United States pulled the trigger Friday on a steep increase in tariffs on Chinese products and Beijing immediately vowed to hit back, turning up the heat before the second day of trade negotiations.

President Donald Trump got a briefing from his trade negotiators after the first day of talks with the Chinese side on Thursday, but made no move to hold off on the tariffs — dashing hopes there might be a last-minute reprieve as the negotiations continued.

Minutes after the US increased punitive duties on $200 billion in imports from 10 to 25 percent, the Chinese commerce ministry said it “deeply regrets” the move and repeated its pledge to take “necessary countermeasures”, without elaborating.

Locked in a trade dispute for more than a year, officials from the world’s two biggest economies returned to the bargaining table late Thursday, led by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Since last year, the two sides have exchanged tariffs on more than $360 billion in two-way trade, gutting US agricultural exports to China and weighing on both countries’ manufacturing sectors.

Trump began the standoff because of complaints about unfair Chinese trade practices.

The US team met with Trump late Thursday night to brief him and “agreed to continue discussions” on Friday, the White House said in a statement.

Lighthizer and Mnuchin met the Chinese delegation for about 90 minutes Thursday evening and they had a working dinner with Liu.

“We hope the US and the Chinese side can meet each other halfway and work hard together to resolve existing problems through cooperation and consultation,” the Chinese commerce ministry said in a statement.

Despite optimism from officials in recent weeks that the talks were moving towards a deal, tensions reignited this week after Trump angrily accused China of trying to backpedal on its commitments.

“They took many, many parts of that deal and they renegotiated. You can’t do that,” Trump said on Thursday.

But he held out hopes of salvaging a deal.

“It’s possible to do it,” Trump said. “I did get last night a very beautiful letter from President Xi (Jinping).”

At the same time, he said he would be happy to keep tariffs in place. And he has threatened to extend the tough duties to all Chinese goods.

Michael Taylor, a managing director for Moody’s Investors Service, said the tariff hike “further raises tensions” between the two countries.

“While we believe that a trade deal will eventually be reached between the US and China, the risk of a complete breakdown in trade talks has certainly increased,” Taylor said.

Tariffs increase

The renewed tensions roiled global stock markets this week and unnerved exporters, though Chinese stocks closed sharply higher on Friday.

Liu said on his arrival in Washington that the prospects for the talks were “promising,” but warned that raising tariffs would be “harmful to both sides,” and called instead for cooperation.

“I hope to engage in rational and candid exchanges with the US side,” he told Chinese state media.

“Of course, China believes raising tariffs in the current situation is not a solution to the problem, but harmful to China, to the United States and to the whole world.”

The higher duty rates will hit a vast array of Chinese-made electrical equipment, machinery, auto parts and furniture.

But due to a quirk in the implementation of the higher tariffs, products already on ships headed for US ports before midnight will only pay the 10 percent rate, US Customs and Border Protection explained.

That could effectively provide a grace period for the sides to avert serious escalation.

“While we are disappointed that the stakes have been raised, we nevertheless support the ongoing effort by both sides to reach agreement on a strong, enforceable deal that resolves the fundamental, structural issues our members have long faced in China,” said business lobby the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

The US is pressing China to change its policies on protections for intellectual property, massive subsidies for state-owned firms, and reduce the yawning trade deficit.

Derek Scissors, a China expert at the American Enterprise Institute, said the two sides had clashed over how much of the final trade agreement should be enshrined in a public document, something Beijing has long resisted.

“What the Chinese step-back primarily says is they don’t want to publicly acknowledge that their existing laws, especially on IP, are flawed,” he told AFP.

Washington is counting on the strong US economy to be able to withstand the impact of higher costs from the import duties and retaliation better than China, which has seen its growth slow.

While American companies complain of lost export markets, disrupted supply chains and higher costs, the US continues to see steady growth and falling unemployment.

A Chinese central bank advisor told state-run Financial News that Trump’s tariff hike and Chinese retaliation would lower economic growth by 0.3 percentage points.

It is “within a controllable range”, the advisor Ma Jun said.

AFP

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Trump To Address Nation After US Shootings Leave 29 Dead

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US President Donald Trump will address the nation on Monday after two shootings left 29 people dead and sparked accusations that his rhetoric was part of the problem.

The rampages turned innocent snippets of everyday life into nightmares of bloodshed: 20 people were shot dead while shopping at a crowded Walmart in El Paso, Texas on Saturday morning, and nine more outside a bar in a popular nightlife district in Dayton, Ohio just 13 hours later.

Trump will again find himself in the role of consoler-in-chief after a tragedy — which he has struggled with in the past — when he speaks at 10:00 am (1400 GMT).

Following the shootings, Trump said “hate has no place in our country,” but he also blamed mental illness for the violence.

“These are really people that are very, very seriously mentally ill,” he said, despite the fact that police have not confirmed this to be the case.

“We have to get it stopped. This has been going on for years… and years in our country,” he said.

In Texas, 26 people were wounded, and 27 in Ohio, where the shooter was killed in roughly 30 seconds by police who were patrolling nearby.

100-round drum magazine

Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl told a news conference that the quick police response was “crucial,” preventing the shooter from entering a bar where “there would have been… catastrophic injury and loss of life.”

Biehl said the shooter wore a mask and a bullet-proof vest and was armed with an assault rifle fitted with a 100-round drum magazine.

Police named the gunman as a 24-year-old white man called Connor Betts and said his sister was among those killed. She had gone with him to the scene of the shootings.

Six of the nine people shot dead were black, but Biehl said Betts’ motive was still unclear.

In Texas, police said the suspect surrendered on a sidewalk near the scene of the massacre. He was described in media reports as a 21-year-old white man named Patrick Crusius.

He was believed to have posted online a manifesto denouncing a “Hispanic invasion” of Texas. El Paso, on the border with Mexico, is majority Latino.

 ‘Amplifying and condoning’ hate

Seven of the 20 people killed in the El Paso shooting were Mexican, the country’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said Sunday.

Ebrard, who will travel to El Paso Monday, said Mexico was looking at legal action which could lead to extradition of the gunman.

“For Mexico, this individual is a terrorist,” he said.

The manifesto posted shortly before the shooting also praises the killing of 51 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March.

Police said the suspected shooter has been charged with murder offenses that can carry the death penalty, and a federal official said investigators are treating the El Paso shooting as a case of domestic terrorism.

At the Walmart in El Paso, terrified shoppers cowered in aisles or ran out of the store as gunfire echoed.

Most of the victims were inside the store but some were also in the parking lot outside, police said.

“Shooting kids and women and men, to him it mostly mattered that they were Hispanic,” said Manuel Sanchez, a resident of the city.

These were the 250th and 251st mass shootings this year in the US, according to the Gun Violence Archive, an NGO that defines a mass shooting as an incident in which at least four people are wounded or killed.

Despite a string of horrific mass shootings in the US, where gun culture is deep-rooted, efforts to strengthen firearms regulations remain divisive.

The latest two shootings ended a particularly tragic week for gun violence in America: three people died in a shooting at a food festival last Sunday in California, and two more Tuesday in a shooting in a Walmart in Mississippi.

On Twitter, Trump described the El Paso attack as “an act of cowardice.”

But critics said the president’s habit of speaking in derogatory terms about immigrants is pushing hatred of foreigners into the political mainstream and encouraging white supremacism.

“To pretend that his administration and the hateful rhetoric it spreads doesn’t play a role in the kind of violence that we saw yesterday in El Paso is ignorant at best and irresponsible at worst,” said the Southern Poverty Law Center, a major civil rights group.

It cited Trump actions like calling Mexican migrants rapists and drug dealers and doing nothing when a crowd at a Trump rally chanted “send her back” in reference to a Somali-born congresswoman.

The Republican mayor of El Paso, Dee Margo, seemed to discount any race element to the Texas shooting, telling Fox News the gunman was “deranged.”

But multiple Democratic presidential hopefuls said Trump bears some of the blame for the violence.

“Our president isn’t just failing to confront and disarm these domestic terrorists, he is amplifying and condoning their hate,” Mayor Pete Buttigieg tweeted.

“Mr. President: stop your racist, hateful and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Your language creates a climate which emboldens violent extremists,” Senator Bernie Sanders wrote on Twitter.

AFP

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President Putin signs law suspending INF Treaty

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Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a federal law to suspend the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty – an arms control treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (and its successor state, the Russian Federation).

A relevant document was posted on Wednesday on the official legal information website.

“To suspend the Treaty Between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles signed in the city of Washington on December 8, 1987,” the document says.

The INF Treaty, formally Treaty Between the U.S. and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles; was an arms control treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (and its successor state, the Russian Federation).

U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signed the treaty on Dec. 8, 1987.

The U.S. Senate approved the treaty on May 27, 1988, and Reagan and Gorbachev ratified it on 1 June 1988.

The INF Treaty banned all of the two nations’ land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and missile launchers with ranges of 500–1,000 kilometers (310–620 mi) (short medium-range) and 1,000–5,500 km (620–3,420 mi) (intermediate-range). The treaty did not apply to air- or sea-launched missiles.

By May 1991, the nations had eliminated 2,692 missiles, followed by 10 years of on-site verification inspections.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced on 20 October 2018 that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the treaty, accusing Russia of non-compliance.

The U.S. formally suspended the treaty on 1 February 2019, and Russia did so on the following day in response to the U.S. withdrawal.

Russia, which denies the allegation, later followed suit. Moscow accuses the United States of breaking the accord itself, a claim rejected by Washington.

The INF Treaty was the first of its kind to eliminate an entire class of missiles.

It banned the United States and Russia from developing, producing, and deploying ground-launched cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

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Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, others sign new OPEC Charter Saudi

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The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the non-member countries of the organisation (OPEC+) on Tuesday signed a draft Charter of Cooperation’ in a bid to further strengthen their partnership. 

The charter now replaces the `Declaration of Cooperation’, which was reached in Dec. 2016 between the two groups.

Speaking at the end of the 6th OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Meeting in Vienna, Mr Salvador Fernandez, President of the bloc’s Council  reaffirmed the continued commitment of the member countries to a stable market as stipulated in the cooperation.

“Participating producing countries are committed to promoting the interest of  producing nations.

“The efficient, economic  and secure supply to consumers and a fair return on invested capital as well as the return of confidence and investment to the oil industry,” Fernandez said. 

Fernandez, who is also the Venezuelan Petroleum Minister, said that the meeting focused on recent oil market developments and immediate prospects as well as collaborative efforts by members. 

Mr Alexandra Novak, Russia’s Energy Minister and Co-chair of the meeting, described the charter as not only “historic, but a basis for solidifying cooperation.

“It is not only a historic document which solidifies our cooperation, but also a solid foundation for future analysis of the market and basis for decision-making to stabilise the market.’’

Novak, who noted the successes achieved through the Declaration of Cooperation, said that the market was currently in a better shape than it used to be.

“To further stabilise the market, we have decided to significantly intensify monitoring in bid to forestall potential uncertainties that could destabilise the market,” he said.

The new agreement is seen as a move by the bloc to remain relevant in the oil market which has been transformed by booming U.S. shale oil output.

Nigeria and 13 other OPEC member nations as well as some non-member countries have already signed the charter. 

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