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Category: Asia (page 1 of 145)

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Hundreds of Thousands in Hong Kong Protest Extradition Bill

Demonstrations continued throughout the night in Hong Kong where hundreds of thousands protested Sunday against a controversial extradition bill that would allow suspected criminals to be sent to mainland China for trial. The changes would permit extradition requests from authorities in mainland China, Taiwan and Macau for suspects accused of criminal wrongdoing, such as rape and murder. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke has more.


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US Treasury Chief: Trump ‘Perfectly Happy’ to Tax More Chinese Imports

U.S. Treasury chief Steven Mnuchin said Sunday President Donald Trump would be “perfectly happy” to tax more imports from China if he cannot reach a trade deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Both presidents are scheduled to meet later this month at the Group of 20 meeting in Japan.

“We made enormous progress, I think we had a deal that was almost 90% done,” Mnuchin told CNBC. “China wanted to go backwards on certain things” — a charge Beijing denies.

“We’ve stopped negotiating,” Mnuchin said, with the next steps depending on Trump’s meeting with Xi in Osaka at the G-20 summit of leaders of major economies June 28-29.

“The president will make a decision (on tariffs) after the meeting,” Mnuchin said. “I believe if China is willing to move forward on the terms that we were discussing, we’ll have an agreement. If they’re not, we will proceed with tariffs.”

Trump has already imposed tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, but now is thinking about taxing an additional $325 billion worth of Chinese products. That would include nearly everything China exports to the U.S. The world’s two biggest economies have sparred for months over a trade deal, but have not been able to reach an agreement.

Trump’s threatened tariff hike came as G-20 finance ministers meeting in Fukuoka, Japan, said trade and geopolitical conflicts are risking global economic growth, but at the U.S. insistence, dropped a call to “recognize the pressing need to resolve trade tensions.”

“Global growth appears to be stabilizing and is generally projected to pick up moderately later this year and into 2020,” the finance chiefs, including Mnuchin, said in an end-of-meeting communique. “However, growth remains low and risks remain tilted to the downside. Most importantly, trade and geopolitical tensions have intensified. We will continue to address these risks and stand ready to take further action.”

The International Monetary Fund warned last week that a continuing U.S.-China standoff on tariffs could cut a half-percentage point from the global economy in 2020.

Meanwhile, China vowed Sunday to build what it calls a strong firewall against attempts to restrict its ability to technologically innovate.

“China … will never allow certain countries to use China’s technology to contain China’s development and suppress Chinese enterprise,” the main state-run newspaper declared.

China plans to announce details of its plans in the near future.

The Chinese statement did not mention any country by name, but the United States has restricted U.S. firms from selling technology to China’s Huawei, suspecting the company of building spyware into its telecommunications products.

The U.S. has also warned its allies against the alleged risk in buying Huawei technology.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Protesters Fill Hong Kong Streets Over Proposed Extradition Law

Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers from all ages and walks of life marched on Sunday against a legislative bill that would allow people to be extradited to mainland China to face charges, in the largest demonstration city has seen in years.

Protesters carried banners condemning the proposed law, which would modify Hong Kong’s Fugitive Offenders Ordinance.  

Others carried signs calling for the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who has championed the bill despite the fact it has been criticized by a wide range of groups from the Hong Kong Law Society to the American Chamber of Commerce.   Critics say China’s legal system would not guarantee the same rights to defendants as they would have in semi-autonomous Hong Kong.

From mid-afternoon until well past nightfall, hundreds of thousands poured in from a major Hong Kong roadway to gather outside Legislative Council, the city’s semi-democratic legislature that is currently debating the bill.

Civil Human Rights Front, the protest organizer, estimated the crowd to be more than one million while Hong Kong police said peak participation saw 240,000 people on the streets.

Unlike Hong Kong’s attendees of regular protests on July 1 and October 1, the anniversary of reunification with China and China’s national day, many protesters on Sunday said they rarely attend demonstrations.

“We don’t like the law that the Chinese government can prosecute [us],” said Edwin Lo. “We don’t like the Chinese government should overrule Hong Kong. We want to protect the freedoms in Hong Kong,”

Lo said he had last attended a protest in 2003, when half a million Hong Kongers rallied against national security legislation — a common refrain from many of Sunday’s protesters.

Many also said they felt that the ordinance was a sign that Beijing was infringing on 50 years of autonomy promised to Hong Kong, a former British colony.

Kay Lam, who attended the protest with several friends, said the feeling amongst many protesters was the same — they might not change anything but they still needed to demonstrate.

“No matter what, no matter they listen to us or not we have to step out, because it is to show not only the Hong Kong government but the people around the world that we have a voice and we disagree with what they are doing,” Lam said.  “Whether they will listen to us is up to them. As a local resident here in Hong Kong we have the responsibility to at least step out here and show up.”

An amendment to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance was introduced in April and is set to be voted on June 12 by Legislative Council, whose majority is held by pro-establishment legislators.

If passed, it would allow the city to extradite suspected criminals to other jurisdictions where it lacks a permanent extradition agreement, including China and Taiwan, on a case by case basis. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has previously said that such changes would close legal “loopholes.”

The bill follows a high profile murder case last year where a Hong Kong man murdered his pregnant girlfriend on holiday in Taiwan.  The government has said speed in the case is necessary as the murder suspect, who is serving a prison sentence on related money laundering charges, could be released as early as October.

The changes, however, and the speed at which they have been introduced have raised international concern about the future of Hong Kong’s legal system and its global reputation.


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Trade Experts Unruffled About Rare Earth Minerals Supply

Rising trade tensions between the U.S. and China have sparked worries about the 17 exotic-sounding rare earth minerals needed for high-tech products like robotics, drones and electric cars. 

 

China recently raised tariffs to 25% on rare earth exports to the U.S. and has threatened to halt exports altogether after the Trump administration raised tariffs on Chinese products and blacklisted telecommunications giant Huawei.  

  

With names like europium, scandium and ytterbium, the bulk of rare earth minerals are extracted from mines in China, where lower wages and lax environmental standards make production cheaper and easier.  

  

But trade experts say no one should panic over China’s threats to stop exporting the elements to the U.S. 

 

There is a U.S. rare minerals mine in California. And Australia, Myanmar, Russia and India are also top producers of the somewhat obscure minerals. Vietnam and Brazil both have huge rare earth reserves.  

  

“The sky is not falling,” said Mary B. Teagarden, a China specialist, professor and associate dean at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Phoenix. “There are alternatives.” 

 

Simon Lester, associate director of the center for trade policy studies at the Cato Institute think tank in Washington, agreed. “Over the short term, it could be a big disruption, but companies that want to stay in business will find a way,” he said.    

Although the U.S. is among the world’s top 10 countries for rare earths production, it’s also a major importer of the minerals, looking to China for 80% of what it buys from other countries, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. China last year produced 120,000 metric tons of rare earths, while the United States produced 15,000 metric tons.  

Mountain Pass Mine

 

The United States also depends on China to separate the minerals pulled from Mountain Pass Mine, the sole rare earths mine in the U.S., which was bought two years ago by the Chicago-based JHL Capital Group LLC .  

  

“We need to develop a U.S.-based supply chain so there is no possibility we can be threatened,” said Ryan S. Corbett, managing director of JHL Capital. 

 

The mine’s top products are neodymium and praseodymium, two elements that are used together to make the lightweight magnets that help power electric cars and wind turbines and are found in electronics such as laptop hard drives. 

 

Mountain Pass, located in San Bernardino County, Calif., was once the top supplier of the world’s rare earth minerals, but China began taking over the market in the 1990s and the U.S. mine stopped production in 2002.  

  

Mountain Pass later restarted production, only to close again amid a 2015 bankruptcy. Corbett said extraction resumed last year after JHL Capital purchased the site with QVT Financial LP of New York, which holds 30%, and Shenghe Resources Holding Co. Ltd. of China, a nonvoting shareholder with 9.9%.  

  

Since then, Mountain Pass has focused on achieving greater autonomy with a $1.7 billion separation system set to go online late next year that would allow it to skip sending rare earths ore to China for that step. 

 

China could hurt itself in the long run by cutting off the U.S., specialists said.  

  

David Merriman, a rare earths analyst for Roskill commodity research in London, said that during a similar trade flap with China in 2011, Japan began looking to other countries, including Australia, for the minerals needed to manufacture electronics.   

Australian rare earths production giant Lynas Corp. Ltd. this month announced a proposed deal with Blue Line Corp. of Texas for a separation facility at an industrial site in Hondo, Texas.  

Other deposits

  

There may be other options, too. Deposits of rare earths have been detected in other U.S. states, including Wyoming and Alaska, as well in several remote areas of Canada. The Interior Department is calling for more prospecting and mining of “critical minerals,” including on public lands currently considered off-limits, and even in oceans. 

 

“We have to be more forward-thinking,” said Alexander Gysi, an assistant professor in geology and geological engineering at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. “It would be better for the U.S. to have a greater range of sources for rare earths.”


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Cargo of N. Korean Coal Adrift Near Vietnam

Ham Ji-ha contributed to this report.

WASHINGTON — A vessel loaded with $3 million worth of North Korean coal is now floating off Vietnam’s coast, searching for a place to dock.

The Dong Thanh, a Vietnamese-owned vessel sailing under a Panamanian flag, entered Vietnamese territorial waters Thursday carrying the North Korean coal. It has wandered the international waters off Malaysia and Indonesia for two months after each denied the ship entry into their territorial waters.

The coal aboard the Dong Thanh began its odyssey in the cargo hold of the Wise Honest, a North Korean cargo vessel now in U.S. custody in American Samoa. The Justice Department authorized seizure of the Wise Honest in early May, alleging it was transporting North Korean coal and violating U.S. and United Nations (U.N.) sanctions.

Prior to the U.S. action, Indonesia detained the Wise Honest for over a year starting April 2018. Indonesian authorities held the ship for having improper shipping documents and violating the country’s maritime law.

But the coal was released by the Indonesian Balikpapan District Court, the district where the vessel was ordered to remain anchored, when an Indonesian broker with ties to North Korea requested that the coal be sold.

The court released the coal based on a Certification of Origin that stated the coal originated in Russia.

Because the Wise Honest took on the coal on board while docked at Nampo, North Korean port of Nampo in March 2018, and Pyongyang has a history of creating false documents, the certificate is widely believed to be fake, according to the U.N. Panel of Experts.

When the Justice Department seized the Wise Honest, officials described the action as a part of a broad plan to use U.S. law to enforce international sanctions in an effort to apply “maximum pressure” to squeeze off North Korea’s source of income that finances its nuclear and missile programs.

“North Korea and the companies that help it evade U.S. and U.N. sanctions should know that we will use all tools at our disposal – including a civil forfeiture action such as this one or criminal charges – to enforce sanctions,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers in a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York on May 9.

He continued, “We are deeply committed to the role of the Justice Department plays in applying maximum pressure to the North Korean regime to cease its belligerence.”

Although the Justice Department was applying the maximum pressure policy initiated by President Donald Trump at the start of his presidency in 2017, the seizure is seen as a move by the Justice Department and unconnected to post-summit approaches to North Korea by the Trump administration.

“This should not been seen as a reflection of the administration’s political mood,” said Joshua Stanton, a Washington-based attorney who helped draft the North Korean Sanctions Enforcement Act in 2016, one of the laws the U.S. invoked to seize the Wise Honest.

Trump’s attitude toward North Korea has softened since his first face-to-face meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their first summit last year in Singapore despite the two countries’ differences over denuclearization.

Even after having major disagreements with Kim over the timing of denuclearization and lifting the sanctions, in the failed Hanoi summit in February, Trump has continued to speak favorably of Kim while moderating maximum pressure on Pyongyang.

On March 22, Trump tweeted an order reversing Treasury sanctions on North Korea issued that day, throwing Washington into confusion because there were no sanctions issued on the same day as his tweet. The Treasury had announced financial sanctions on North Korea the day before.

In an attempt to explain Trump, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, “President Trump likes Chairman Kim, and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary.”

Stanton said, “Trump isn’t saying maximum pressure anymore.” He added, “Trump isn’t doing maximum pressure.”

Despite Trump’s easing of maximum pressure amidst stalled diplomacy with Kim, the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) invoked the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the North Korean Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 (NKSPEA) to seize the Wise Honest.

“The most independent district in the entire country by a mile is the Southern District of New York,” said Stanton. “They are notoriously independent of the prerogatives of the politicians in Washington.”

NKSPEA, enacted under President Barack Obama in 2016 and amended under Trump in 2017, authorizes the U.S. to forfeit North Korea’s property involved in illicit activities such as maritime coal smuggling. IEEPA bans sanctioned persons from accessing the U.S. financial system.

“This is based on legal authorities that [were signed into law] before Trump was president,” said Stanton. “And SDNY, if they’re doing it, it’s because they see a violation of the law that they can prosecute and win for an amount that is worth their prosecutorial resources.”

The Wise Honest was owned by Korea’s Songi Trading Company which was designated by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in June 2017. [[ https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0099.aspx ]] The Korean People’s Army runs the company according to OFAC. The Wise Honest was also used to import heavy machinery into North Korea according to the court complaint.

Kwon Chol Nam, one of the company’s representatives, paid for services expenditures and equipment purchases for the Wise Honest in U.S. dollars. Those funds were routed through correspondent banks in the U.S. including ones doing business within the jurisdiction of the SDNY. The U.S. forbids its financial institutions from processing transactions for the benefit of North Korea.

The use of the U.S. financial system gave the U.S. jurisdictional authority to seize the Wise Honest, which was property involved in maritime coal smuggling and thus in violation of U.N. sanctions.

Stanton said “I think [the Justice Department is] actually being more aggressive than the president.”

Ken Gause, director of Adversary Analytics Program at the CNA, said, “We have tried the naming and shaming…other countries involved in the ship-to-ship transfers.”

 

He continued, “And that doesn’t seem to have had much effect. And so now this would be kind of like the next step up – to actually impound and take possession of North Korean property that is involved in illicit activities.”

 


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G-20 Finance Leaders’ Goal: Adapt to Turmoil in Trade, Tech

Financial leaders of the Group of 20 gathered Saturday to brainstorm ways to adapt global finance to an age of trade turmoil and digital disruptions.

The central bank governors and other financial regulators meeting in this southern Japanese port city also flagged risks from upsets to the global economy as Beijing and Washington clash over trade and technology.

Asked if other financial leaders attending the meetings in Fukuoka were raising concerns over the impact on global markets and trade from President Donald Trump’s crusade against huge, chronic U.S. trade deficits, especially with China, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said no.

Trump and members of his administration contend that the ripple effects of the billions of dollars in tariffs imposed by Washington on Chinese exports over the past year are creating new business opportunities for other businesses in the U.S. and other countries.

But Mnuchin acknowledged that growth has been slowing in Europe, China and other regions.

“I’m hearing concerns if we continue on this path there could be issues. There will be winners and losers,” he said.

The G-20 officials were expected to express their support for adjusting monetary policy, for example by making borrowing cheaper through interest rate cuts, in a communique to be issued as meetings wrap up on Sunday.

Their official agenda on Saturday was focused on longer-term, more technical issues such as improving standards for corporate governance, policing cyber-currencies and reforming tax systems to ensure they are fair for both traditional and new, online-based industries.

Ensuring that governments capture a fair share of profits from the massive growth of businesses like Google and Amazon has grown in importance over the many years the G-20 finance chiefs have been debating the reforms aimed at preventing tax evasion and modernizing policies to match a financial landscape transformed by technology.

One aim is to prevent a “race to the bottom” by countries trying to lure companies by offering unsustainably and unfairly low tax rates as an incentive.

Mnuchin said he disagreed with details of some of the proposals but not with the need for action.

“Everyone, we are now facing a turning point,” Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso told the group. “This could be the biggest reform of the long established international framework in over 100 years.”

Some European members of the G-20, especially, want to see minimum corporate tax rates for big multinationals. France and Britain have already enacted stop-gap tax systems for digital businesses, but they are not adequate, said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.

“For the time being there is no fair taxation of this new economic model,” Le Maire said, adding that the hope is to have an agreement by the year’s end.

The issue is not confined to the wealthiest nations. Indonesia, a developing country of 260 million with more than 100 million internet users, is also struggling to keep up.

“The growth has been exponential but we cannot capture this growth in our GDP as well as in our tax revenue,” said Indonesian Finance Minister Mulyani Indrawati.

Mobile banking, big data, artificial intelligence and cloud computing are among many technologies that are expanding access to financial services for many people who in the past might not have even used banks.

But such innovations raise questions about protecting privacy and cybersecurity, Aso said.

“We need to stay vigilant against risks or challenges,” Aso said.

Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, is hosting the G-20 for the first time since it was founded in 1999. The venue for the annual financial meeting, Fukuoka, is a thriving regional hub and base for start-ups.

The G-20 groups include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.


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G20 Finance Ministers to Push Ahead on ‘Digital Tax’

Group of 20 finance ministers agreed to push ahead on compiling common rules that will close loopholes that global technology giants like Facebook use to reduce their corporate tax burden.

Facebook, Google, Amazon and other large tech companies have come under criticism for cutting their tax bills by booking profits in low-tax countries regardless of the location of the end customer, practices seen by many as unfair.

The new rules mean higher tax burdens for large multinational firms, but will also make it more difficult for countries like Ireland to attract foreign direct investment with the promise of ultra-low corporate tax rates.

Strong case by Britain, France

“It sounds like we have a strong consensus,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Saturday at a two-day meeting of G20 finance ministers in the southern Japan city of Fukuoka. “So now we need to just take the consensus across here and deal with technicalities of how we turn this into an agreement.”

Mnuchin spoke at a panel on global taxation at G20 after the French and British finance ministers expressed sympathy with Mnuchin’s concerns that new tax rules do not discriminate against particular firms.

Big internet companies say they follow tax rules but have paid little tax in Europe, typically by channeling sales via countries such as Ireland and Luxembourg, which have light-touch tax regimes.

Two pillars

The G20’s debate on changes to the tax code focus on two pillars that could be a double whammy for some companies.

The first pillar is dividing up the rights to tax a company where its goods or services are sold even if it does not have a physical presence in that country.

If companies are still able to find a way to book profits in low tax or offshore havens, countries could then apply a global minimum tax rate to be agreed under the second pillar.

“We cannot explain to a population that they should pay their taxes when certain companies do not because they shift their profits to low-tax jurisdictions,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said at the panel.

Britain and France have been the most vocal about the need for a so-called “digital tax,” arguing that corporate tax codes are no longer fair in the age of the large-scale provision of services and the sale of consumer data over the internet.

The U.S. government has expressed concern in the past that the European push for a “digital tax” unfairly targets U.S. tech giants.

However, Mnuchin said Saturday that G20 countries should issue “marching orders” to their respective finance ministries to negotiate the technical aspects of an agreement after listening to presentations by Le Maire and British finance minister Philip Hammond.

Officials from major countries are expected to meet again twice this year to work out the finer details with the aim of finalizing an agreement next year.

Earlier this year, countries and territories agreed a roadmap aimed at overhauling international tax rules, which have been overtaken by development of digital commerce.


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Five Countries to Join UN Security Council Ranks in January 

Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia and Vietnam were elected Friday to two-year terms on the U.N. Security Council.

The five will join the 15-nation body responsible for maintaining international peace and security on Jan. 1, 2020.

There is usually little suspense in the General Assembly for the vote, as regional groups typically pre-select a candidate from within their bloc to run uncontested. This year, Tunisia, Niger and Vietnam ran unopposed.

So did Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, until just hours before Friday morning’s vote, when El Salvador announced it would challenge the tiny island nation for the one open seat in the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Diplomats expressed surprise ahead of the vote as to why El Salvador would come in at the last minute, when the regional bloc had agreed in December to put up Saint Vincent as their candidate.

“You don’t do it like that,” one western diplomat said disapprovingly.

Most other countries appeared to agree, with El Salvador winning only six of the 193 votes cast.

Eastern Europe did run a contested race this year, endorsing two candidates, Estonia and Romania.

Estonia, which joined the U.N. in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, has never served on the Security Council. It beat four-time council veteran Romania after two rounds of ballots, exceeding the necessary two-thirds majority needed.

Member states cast secret ballots and candidates must win a two-thirds majority of votes to succeed, even if they are running uncontested. Candidate countries cap off their often years-long campaigns with parties in the lead-up to the vote.

Reaction

“I want to reiterate that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines views this as an historic occasion,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told reporters after the election. “We are the smallest country ever to be elected as a non-permanent member of the Security Council.”

The island nation has a population of just 110,000.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has aligned with the Maduro regime in Venezuela.

“Non-interference, non-intervention, peaceful settlement of serious difficulties pertaining to governance,” the prime minister said when asked what his government’s policy is toward Venezuela.  

Vietnam had nearly unanimous support in the General Assembly, winning 192 of 193 votes.

“As Vietnam went through decades of war, we hope that we can bring to the council the experience of Vietnam, the country that has been able to rebuild after the war and deal with many other issues,” said the president’s special envoy Le Hoai Trung.

Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui said his nation would try to be a “bridge builder” on the council and contribute to trying to solve some of the most important peace and security issues.

Council dynamics

“With the election of Saint Vincent and Vietnam, the Security Council could tilt a little towards China and Russia next year,” said Richard Gowan, U.N. Director, International Crisis Group. “Saint Vincent has stuck with Maduro in Venezuela, and Vietnam hews to a pretty robust anti-Western line in U.N. debates.” 

Tunisia and Niger will represent Africa on the council. Gowan told VOA they could figure prominently if Libya and the Sahel continue atop the agenda.

“It will be hard to ignore their views on issues like the spillover of violence from Libya and the worsening security situation in Burkina Faso,” he said.

The five new council members will replace Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Peru and Poland, whose terms end Dec. 31, 2019.

They will join the other non-permanent members — Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia, and South Africa — as well as the permanent five members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.


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Trade War Clouds Outlook as Finance Chiefs Meet in Japan

Finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Japan this weekend will try to make headway on long-standing issues such as how much global giants like Facebook and Amazon should pay in taxes. 

 

They’re likely to end up focusing a large share of their attention on how to keep global growth on track when the world’s two biggest economies are entrenched in an escalating trade war. 

 

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has headed trade talks with Beijing along with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, was due to meet with Yi Gang, governor of China’s central bank, on the sidelines of the G-20’s annual financial gathering in Fukuoka in southern Japan. 

 

But it was unclear if their meeting, a possible prelude to talks at the G-20 summit later this month between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, might lead to a restart of those talks after weeks of stalemate. 

China’s ability to endure

 

As the Trump administration prepares to expand retaliatory tariff hikes of up to 25% to another $300 billion of Chinese products, Beijing has sought to highlight China’s capacity to endure and overcome hardship.  

 

Yi told Bloomberg Television in an interview broadcast Friday that he expected the meeting with Mnuchin to be “difficult.” But he said China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, had plenty of room to maneuver to help keep the economy growing despite the pounding the country’s export manufacturers are taking as the toll from higher tariffs mounts. 

 

Speaking Thursday in France, Trump said he plans to make a decision about ramping up tariffs on China after speaking with Xi at the summit in Osaka at the month’s end.

“I will make that decision, I would say, over the next two weeks — probably right after the G-20,” he said.

The Trump administration began slapping tariffs on imports of Chinese goods nearly a year ago, accusing China of resorting to predatory tactics to give Chinese companies an edge in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and electric vehicles. These tactics, the U.S. contends, include hacking into U.S. companies’ computers to steal trade secrets, forcing foreign companies to hand over sensitive technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market and unfairly subsidizing Chinese tech firms.

Trade deficit

Trump has also complained repeatedly about America’s huge trade deficit with China — a record $379 billion last year — which he blames on weak and naive negotiating by previous U.S. administrations.

The United States now is imposing 25% taxes on $250 billion in Chinese goods. Beijing has counterpunched by targeting $110 billion worth of American products, focusing on farm goods such as soybeans in a deliberate effort to inflict pain on Trump supporters in the U.S. heartland.

Unease over trade tensions and their potential impact on other economies has deepened since Trump announced he would impose a 5% tax on Mexican products starting Monday — a tax that would reach 25% by Oct. 1 if the Mexican government fails to stop the flow of Central American migrants into the United States.

While the tariffs have taken a minor toll on the U.S. economy, the uncertainty and slowing demand are rippling across the globe. Earlier this week, the World Bank downgraded its forecast for the global economy in light of trade conflicts, financial strains and unexpectedly sharp slowdowns in wealthier countries.

Slashing rates

The weakness has prompted central banks, most recently in Australia and India, to slash interest rates to fend off recession. 

 

Japan, hosting the G-20 for the first time since it was founded in 1999, has plumbed the limits of that strategy. The Bank of Japan’s policy interest rate has been at minus 0.1% for years, to keep credit cheap and support a modest pace of expansion.

As the trade conflicts percolate, the officials gathering in Fukuoka, a bustling port city on the southern main island of Kyushu, will carry on chipping away at financial reforms and other perennial issues. 

 

Some European members of the G-20, especially, want to see minimum corporate tax rates for big multinationals. 

 

Japan’s Kyodo News service reported Friday, citing a draft communique, that the finance leaders are also discussing the issue of how developing countries are handling debts incurred through major construction projects, efforts to combat money laundering, and efforts to prevent terrorist groups from using cybercurrencies as a source of funding.


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Huawei CFO Will Challenge Extradition, Company Says

Lawyers for Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou will try to challenge her extradition to the United States in January 2020, the company said in a statement Thursday after her legal team appeared in a Canadian court to set future court dates. 

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported that Meng’s extradition hearing would begin in January 2020 and that the case was expected to conclude by October of that year. 

Meng, 47, the daughter of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested at Vancouver’s airport in December on a U.S. warrant and is fighting extradition on charges that she misled global banks about Huawei’s relationship with a company operating in Iran. 

Meng, free on bail in Vancouver, did not appear in court. 

In a statement, Huawei said there was no evidence Meng had misled any banks and that her alleged actions were not a crime in Canada. It also said U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments showed the case against Meng was “guided by political and financial considerations, not the rule of law.” 

Her attorneys are seeking a stay of extradition proceedings on several grounds, including allegations that Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers delayed Meng’s arrest to extract evidence under the guise of a routine immigration check before she was arrested by the Royal Canadian

Mounted Police (RCMP). 

They made similar allegations in a civil lawsuit in March. 

In a written defense filed Monday, government attorneys argued that Meng’s suit should be dismissed. 

The government argued that CBSA officers acted “lawfully and in good faith” when they interviewed Meng and examined her luggage “to determine if she was admissible to Canada and if there were any customs issues with her goods.” 

Meng’s suit claimed CBSA officers opened and viewed the contents of her electronic devices, in violation of her right to privacy. The government said CBSA officers asked Meng for phone passwords and then wrote them down on a piece of paper, which the RCMP took when it arrested Meng. It said the RCMP has not examined the contents of Meng’s devices. 

Diplomatic relations between Canada and China turned icy after Meng’s arrest. China arrested two Canadian citizens, charging them with espionage. It also blocked imports of Canadian canola seed.


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Trump Optimistic on Kim Deal; North Korea Warns Its ‘Patience Wearing Thin’

U.S. President Donald Trump says diplomatic efforts with North Korea are going well, even as Pyongyang is warning its patience is wearing thin. In a statement coinciding with the one-year anniversary of Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, a North Korean foreign ministry official Wednesday warned “the U.S. would be well-advised to change its current method of calculation.”  VOA Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine has more from the State Department.


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Australian Police Raid Offices, Home of Journalists

Australian media and rights groups are crying foul after federal police raided the offices of a national broadcaster over allegations it had published classified material. 

The raid Wednesday at the head office of the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in Sydney came a day after police raided the home of a senior editor at The Sunday Telegraph newspaper. 

Police say the two raids are unrelated, but News Corp. Australia, the parent company of The Sunday Telegraph, said the raid “demonstrates a dangerous act of intimidation towards those committed to telling uncomfortable truths.”

“It is highly unusual for the national broadcaster to be raided in this way,” ABC Managing Director David Anderson said in a statement.

ABC said the raid on its office was in connection with stories it published in 2017 about alleged misconduct by Australian troops in Afghanistan. News Corp. said the raid on the home of its political editor, Annika Smethurst, was prompted by a 2018 report about plans for surveillance of Australians’ emails, text messages and bank records.

The police released a statement saying the raids “relate to separate allegations of publishing classified material, contrary to provisions of the Crimes Act of 1914, which is an extremely serious matter that has the potential to undermine Australia’s national security.”

The raids come just days after the conservative government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison was reelected. But Morrison on Wednesday tried to distance himself from the raids.

“Australia believes strongly in the freedom of the press, and we have clear rules and protections for the freedom of the press,” he said. “There are also clear rules protecting Australia’s national security, and everybody should operate in accordance with all of those laws passed by our parliament.”

Anderson didn’t see things the same way.

“This is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and defense matters,” he said. 


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