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