Us-china strains set to dom­i­nate G-20 sum­mit, Trump-xi talks eyed

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Asean Focus -

WHETHER the United States and China can pave the way for eas­ing their trade ten­sions is likely to be a ma­jor fo­cus of the Group of 20 sum­mit sched­uled to start from Fri­day in Buenos Aires.

Al­though the G-20 lead­ers are set to dis­cuss how to pre­vent a U.s.-china trade war from hurt­ing the global econ­omy, they may face dif­fi­cul­ties in adopt­ing a joint dec­la­ra­tion, given that Wash­ing­ton and Bei­jing re­main­ing at odds over trade pol­icy, sources close to the mat­ter said.

On the side­lines of the G-20 sum­mit, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping are slated to hold their first face-to-face talks since Novem­ber 2017, but spec­u­la­tion is rife that the two lead­ers will not eas­ily make con­ces­sions over trade is­sues.

If the lat­est G-20 gath­er­ing fails to of­fer an op­por­tu­nity for the United States and China to im­prove their re­la­tions, the world econ­omy would grow lack­lus­ter against the back­drop of a slow­down in con­sump­tion and in­vest­ment, an­a­lysts say.

At their sum­mit last year, the G-20 coun­tries agreed in a joint dec­la­ra­tion that they will “con­tinue to fight pro­tec­tion­ism in­clud­ing all un­fair trade prac­tices and rec­og­nize the role of le­git­i­mate trade de­fense in­stru­ments.”

But lead­ers of Asia-pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion mem­bers ear­lier this month fell short of agree­ing on a joint dec­la­ra­tion for the first time since the fo­rum started in 1993, be­cause of a deep­en­ing di­vide be­tween the world’s two largest economies.

Five days after the sum­mit of the 21-na­tion APEC ended, a chair’s state­ment was re­leased but made no men­tion of fight­ing pro­tec­tion­ism, ap­par­ently re­flect­ing U.S. busi­ness in­ter­ests. Both the United States and China are mem­bers of APEC as well as the G-20.

Since the be­gin­ning of this year, Wash­ing­ton and Bei­jing have been en­gaged in tit-for-tat rounds of puni­tive tar­iffs on hun­dreds of bil­lions dol­lars of each other’s im­ports and the two sides have shown lit­tle signs of reach­ing a com­pro­mise.

The United States is now tax­ing tar­iffs on $250 bil­lion in Chi­nese im­ports -- or about half of the goods it im­ports from the coun­try each year -in re­sponse to Bei­jing’s al­leged theft of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty and tech­nol­ogy.

China, which has taken re­tal­ia­tory ac­tions, has so far levied tar­iffs on more than 80 per­cent of all goods from the United States.

Bei­jing “is will­ing to re­solve the trade is­sues though ne­go­ti­a­tions on the ba­sis of se­ri­ous­ness, equal­ity and good faith,” Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokesper­son Geng Shuang said at a press con­fer­ence on Tues­day.

Nev­er­the­less, Trump said in a re­cent in­ter­view with the Wall Street Jour­nal that Wash­ing­ton is “highly un­likely” to hold off on its plan to in­crease tar­iff lev­els on $200 bil­lion of Chi­nese goods on Jan. 1 from the cur­rent 10 per­cent to 25 per­cent.

The U.S. pres­i­dent even threat­ened to im­pose tar­iffs on all Chi­nese im­ports. “If we don’t make a deal, then I’m go­ing to put the $267 bil­lion ad­di­tional on,” at a tar­iff rate of ei­ther 10 per­cent or 25 per­cent, Trump was quoted by the pa­per as say­ing.

A diplo­mat from an Asian coun­try in Bei­jing said, “What Trump wants to do is not only to re­duce mas­sive U.S. trade deficits with China but to sell U.S. prod­ucts in the big Chi­nese mar­kets with­out fears about in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty and tech­nol­ogy theft.”

Un­less Xi prom­ises Trump that China will pro­vide “high-qual­ity” mar­ket ac­cess for the United States, the on­go­ing trade dis­pute will not be re­solved, the diplo­mat said.

In ad­di­tion to trade, the world’s two ma­jor pow­ers have been di­vided over se­cu­rity is­sues such as Tai­wan, North Ko­rea and the South China Sea.

At the 18-mem­ber East Asia Sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore on Nov. 15, U.S. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Chi­nese Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang quar­reled about mar­itime se­cu­rity in the re­source-rich wa­ters -- home to some of the world’s busiest sea lanes.

China has rapidly built ar­ti­fi­cial is­lands with mil­i­tary in­fras­truc­ture in the South China Sea, while U.S. war­ships have car­ried out “free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion” op­er­a­tions there in an ap­par­ent at­tempt to chal­lenge Chi­nese claims and ac­tions in the wa­ters.

Un­der such cir­cum­stances, the G-20 lead­ers may fail to is­sue a joint com­mu­nique for the first time since the sum­mit’s in­cep­tion in 2008 and skep­ti­cism would also grow about the in­ter­na­tional frame­work’s abil­ity to find com­mon ground, pun­dits say.

With no end in sight to U.s.-china strains, con­cerns have been in­creas­ing over the out­look for the global econ­omy. “A trade war would rat­tle fi­nan­cial mar­ket and cut growth ex­pec­ta­tions. If con­sumer spend­ing and in­vest­ment shrink, the world econ­omy would fall into a vi­cious cy­cle,” Hiroshi Nakaso, a for­mer Bank of Japan deputy gov­er­nor, told Ky­odo News.– Ky­odo THE Se­nate on Wed­nes­day de­liv­ered a his­toric re­buke of Saudi Ara­bia and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s han­dling of the fall­out over jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi’s killing last month, as a de­ci­sive ma­jor­ity voted to ad­vance a mea­sure to end U.S. mil­i­tary sup­port for the Saudi-led war in Ye­men.

The 63-to-37 vote is only an ini­tial pro­ce­dural step, but it none­the­less rep­re­sents an un­prece­dented chal­lenge to the se­cu­rity re­la­tion­ship be­tween the US and Saudi Ara­bia. The vote was prompted by law­mak­ers’ grow­ing frus­tra­tion with Trump for de­fend­ing Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man’s de­nials of cul­pa­bil­ity in Khashoggi’s death, de­spite the CIA’S find­ing that he had al­most cer­tainly or­dered the killing.

Their frus­tra­tion peaked shortly be­fore Wed­nes­day’s vote, when se­na­tors met be­hind closed doors to dis­cuss Saudi Ara­bia, Khashoggi and Ye­men with Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo and De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis - but not CIA Di­rec­tor Gina Haspel, who did not at­tend the brief­ing.

Her ab­sence so in­censed law­mak­ers that one of the pres­i­dent’s clos­est con­gres­sional al­lies threat­ened not only to vote for the Ye­men res­o­lu­tion, but also to with­hold his sup­port from “any key vote” - in­clud­ing a gov­ern­ment fund­ing bill - un­til Haspel was sent to Capi­tol Hill for a brief­ing.

“I am not go­ing to blow past this,” Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., said. “Any­thing that you need me for to get out of town - I ain’t do­ing it un­til we hear from the CIA.”

In a state­ment, CIA spokesman Tim­o­thy Bar­rett said “the no­tion that any­one told Di­rec­tor Haspel not to at­tend to­day’s brief­ing is false.” He added that Haspel, who trav­eled to Turkey to lis­ten to a record­ing of Khashoggi’s killing and re­view ev­i­dence in the case, had fully briefed con­gres­sional lead­ers and mem­bers of the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.

But only one of the 14 Re­pub­li­cans who voted to move ahead with the Ye­men res­o­lu­tion has been briefed. Trump, Pom­peo and na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton all have point­edly said they have not lis­tened to the tape, and see no rea­son to do so.

The pres­sure is now squarely on Trump not just to dis­patch Haspel to the Hill, but also to take con­certed steps to hold Mo­hammed ac­count­able be­fore the Se­nate makes its next move, which is likely to come next week.

“There’s ways that the ad­min­is­tra­tion, even rhetor­i­cally, can help change the dy­namic,” Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bob Corker, R-tenn., said shortly be­fore Wed­nes­day’s vote. He added that while “Saudi Ara­bia is an ally, of sorts, and a semi-im­por­tant coun­try, we’ve watched in­no­cent peo­ple be killed. . . . We also have a crown prince who is out of con­trol.” The White House did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

The White House and Se­nate have been tip­toe­ing to­ward a stand­off over Saudi Ara­bia for more than a year, as an in­creas­ing num­ber of se­na­tors have backed ef­forts to halt cer­tain arms sales or end other mil­i­tary sup­port for the Saudi-led coali­tion bat­tling Ira­nian-backed rebels in Ye­men. But the will­ing­ness to for­mally ad­mon­ish Saudi Ara­bia grew after Khashoggi was killed in­side the Saudi Con­sulate in Is­tan­bul and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion took what many have seen as only mod­est steps to pur­sue ac­count­abil­ity.

– The Wash­ing­ton Post

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