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China hopes for trade war solution at G20 Xi-Trump talks

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Beijing | China said on Friday it hopes US President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping can find a solution to the trade war when they meet at the G20 summit next week.

The talks in Argentina come as the two countries have failed to reach any agreement to resolve a dispute that escalated after Trump slapped huge tariffs on Chinese goods, prompting tit-for-tat responses. “We hope that both sides can work together on the basis of mutual respect, balance, honesty, and mutual benefit and finally find a solution to solve the problem,” Wang Shouwen, Chinese vice minister of commerce, said at a press briefing in Beijing.

Wang said global trade faces a “complex situation”, with “unilateralism and protectionism on the rise” creating uncertainty for economic development. China hopes the G20 will uphold its backing of multilateralism at the summit, which will take place from November 30 to December 1 in Buenos Aires.

Beijing also backs reform of the World Trade Organisation to enhance its authority and effectiveness, he said. Trump said Thursday he was “very prepared” for the meeting with Xi.

Washington has threatened to toughen measures even further if the issue is not resolved before January. “China wants to make a deal. If we can make a deal, we will,” Trump said.

The United States has imposed punitive tariffs on Chinese goods worth USD 250 billion per year.  In retaliation, China imposed tariffs on USD 110 billion of US goods.

Earlier this month, Xi and Trump discussed the US-China trade conflict, as well as North Korea’s nuclear programme, during a phone conversation that Trump called “very good”. Xi said he was “very happy” to talk to Trump again.

But tensions came to the fore again at an APEC summit last weekend, when Xi and US Vice President Mike Pence delivered competing speeches criticising each other’s trade and investment practices.

Xi lashed out at “America First” trade protectionism, while Pence warned smaller countries not to be seduced by China’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure programme.

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Christchurch shooting: New Zealand bans assault weapons, sparks similar calls in US

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Wellington| New Zealand imposed an immediate ban on assault weapons on Thursday, taking swift action in response to the Christchurch massacre and triggering renewed calls from leading American politicians for curbs in the United States.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said assault rifles and military-style semi-automatic weapons would be banned with immediate effect, making good on a pledge to ensure that nothing like last week’s slaughter of 50 people ever occurs in the Pacific nation again.

The killings by an Australian white supremacist have caused national soul-searching over New Zealand’s lax gun laws.

 

But the tough crackdown promises to have political repercussions beyond the country’s shores, including in the United States where gun control is one of the most divisive political issues.

 

“In short, every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country,” Ardern said.

 

She added that high-capacity magazines and devices similar to bump stocks – which allow users to fire weapons faster – will also be banned.

 

Proponents of gun control in the United States and around the world praised the move and denounced the US pro-gun lobby on social media, while American gun supporters defended their constitutional right to bear arms.

 

“This is what real action to stop gun violence looks like,” Democratic US Senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders tweeted.

 

“We must follow New Zealand’s lead, take on the NRA (National Rifle Association) and ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons in the United States.”

 

High-profile Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez contrasted the swift ban with US failure to enact even modest controls following recurring deadly shootings such as the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, in which 20 children and six school staff died.

 

“Sandy Hook happened 6 years ago and we can’t even get the Senate to hold a vote on universal background checks,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

 

“Christchurch happened, and within days New Zealand acted to get weapons of war out of the consumer market. This is what leadership looks like.” No reaction was immediately seen on the Twitter feed of US President Donald Trump.

 

Alleged shooter Brenton Tarrant livestreamed the carnage in real-time, and the horrific scenes have heightened global concern over access to guns and the use of social media by extremists.

 

New Zealand’s steps include interim measures to prevent any rush to purchase guns before legislation is enacted and effectively outlaw all such weapons already in private possession.

 

“The effect of this will mean that no one will be able to buy these weapons without a permit to procure from the police. I can assure people that there is no point in applying for such a permit,” Ardern said.

 

For the guns already out there, Ardern announced a buyback scheme that will cost between between USD 69 million and USD 139 million), depending on the number of weapons received and valuations.

 

“The vast majority of New Zealanders will support this change. I feel incredibly confident of that,” she said.

 

Simon Bridges, leader of the opposition National Party, embraced the ban, pledging to “work constructively” with the government.

 

“The terrorist attack in Christchurch last week has changed us as a nation,” Bridges said in a statement.

 

“We agree that the public doesn’t need access to military-style semi-automatic weapons.”

 

Initial public reaction was positive in the still-shocked country, where hundreds of people turned out for a second day for sombre funerals for the Christchurch dead.

 

“It’s a good thing. Why would we need to have guns like this in our houses?” Kawthar Abulaban, 54, who survived the shooting at Al Noor mosque, one of two targeted by Tarrant, told AFP.

 

“The semi-automatics, why would you keep that inside your house? It’s not right.

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US to Pakistan: Further terror attack on India will be extremely problematic

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Washington: The United States has asked Pakistan to take sustained, verifiable and irreversible action against the perpetrators of terrorism, while warning the country that another terror attack on India will prove to be “extremely problematic”.

We need to see Pakistan taking concrete and sustained action to reign in the terrorist groups, mainly the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba in order to ensure that we don’t have re-escalation (of tension) in the region,” a senior administration official told reporters at the White House on Wednesday.

“And, if there’s any additional terrorist attack without Pakistan having made a sustained, sincere effort against these groups, it would be extremely problematic for Pakistan and it would cause re-escalation of tensions, which is dangerous for both countries,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

Asked about the steps being taken by Pakistan in the aftermath of the Balakot air strike by Indian fighter jets, the official said the US and the international community needed to see “irreversible and sustained” action against the terror groups.

“It’s early to make a full assessment,” the official said.

In the recent days, the official said Pakistan has taken some “initial” actions. They have frozen the assets of some terrorist groups and made some arrests. They have taken administrative control of some of the JeM facilities, the official added.

“But we clearly need to see more. We need to see irreversible action because in the past, what we’ve seen is they made some arrests and then a few months later, they released these individuals. The terrorist leaders are sometimes still allowed to travel around the country, hold rallies,” the official said.

Reiterating that the United States is looking for “irreversible action”, the official said America is working with its international partners to increase pressure on Pakistan. “Because it has been too long that these groups have been able to operate.”

Observing that Pakistan has economic concerns as well, the official said the Financial Action Tasks Force (FATF) is one area which demonstrates the need for them to take these actions against terror groups. “Otherwise, they’re at risk within the system and the FATF to be grey-listed,” the official said.

Pakistan needs to decide if it wants to be viewed as a responsible international player and have access to all the financial mechanisms that are available or is it going to continue to fail to take the steps necessary against these terrorist groups and see itself further isolated. “The choice is Pakistan’s,” the senior administration official asserted.

While the situation between the two south Asian neighbours have de-escalated, the two armies are still on high alert and that concerns the US, the official said.

“So, we realize that if there, God forbid, would be another terrorist attack that you could quickly see the escalation in the situation once again. So that’s why, we’re making clear that any additional military action by either side runs an unacceptably high risk, for both countries and for the region,” the official said.

The Trump administration, the official said, has taken sort of a “zero tolerance policy” on the issue of safe havens to terrorists.

“The terrorist attack on February 14th on India was a demonstration that Pakistan’s continuing provision of sanctuary for any terrorist group is not acceptable,” the official said.

During the height of the crisis — February 26-28 — the United States was in continuous contact with Indian and Pakistani officials, both on the ground in New Delhi and Islamabad.

“They were working the phones continuously and were deeply engaged in seeking to deescalate what was a very dangerous moment in India-Pakistan relations,” the official said.

The United States has also reached out to influential countries to have them help deescalate the situation, the senior administration official said.

Some of these countries are China, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan and Australia.

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India signals to boycott China’s Belt and Road Forum for 2nd time

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Xi Jinping; China

Beijing: India on Wednesday signalled that it will boycott China’s second Belt and Road Forum for a second time, saying no country can participate in an initiative that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity.

India boycotted the first Belt and Road Forum (BRF) in 2017 after protesting to Beijing over the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is being laid through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) overriding New Delhi’s sovereignty concerns.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi recently said that next month China plans to hold a much bigger, second BRF which will also be attended by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Speculation is rife whether India would attend the second BRF as China has deepened its commitment to expand the $60 billion CPEC, which aims to connect China’s Xinjiang province with Pakistan’s Gwadar port with a host of road, rail, gas and oil pipelines.

China has also undertaken a host of energy projects under the aegis of the CPEC.

India’s ambassador to China Vikram Misri told the state-run Global Times that “above all, connectivity initiatives must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty, equality and territorial integrity of nations”.

“No country can participate in an initiative that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he replied to a question about India’s concerns over the BRI and whether India would take part in the second BRF meet.

The Indian envoy’s interview was carried by the daily on Wednesday.

“To be honest, we have made no secret of our views and our position on the BRI is clear and consistent and one that we have conveyed to the authorities concerned.

“India shares the global aspiration to strengthen connectivity and it is an integral part of our economic and diplomatic initiatives. We ourselves are working with many countries and international institutions in our region and beyond on a range of connectivity initiatives,” Misri said.

“However, it is also our belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognised international norms, good governance and rule of law. They must emphasise social stability and environmental protection and preservation, promote skill and technology transfers and follow principles of openness, transparency and financial sustainability,” the Indian envoy said.

India along with the US and several other countries have been highlighting the concerns over the BRI projects, leaving a number of smaller countries in debt traps.

The concerns grew louder after China took over Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port on a 99-year lease as debt swap.

Several countries including Malaysia and even Pakistan have wished to reduce the Chinese projects over debt concerns.

Asked whether India-China ties are back on track, Misri said: “the bilateral relationship between India and China is of great significance not just to the two countries, but also to the larger region and the international community”.

He said that the Wuhan summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in April, 2018 was a “milestone in bilateral relations during which the two leaders exchanged views on overarching issues of bilateral and global importance, and elaborated their respective visions and priorities for national development in context of the current international situation”.

Last year, the two leaders also met on the sidelines of multilateral summits.

“These meetings have reinforced strategic communication between the two countries at the highest levels and helped in elaborating a road map for continuing contacts. China is India’s biggest neighbour and we assign a very high priority to this relationship,” the Indian envoy said.

“Unlike some 50 years ago, when our relationship had a much narrower basis and there was not much communication, today we have what one would call a full-spectrum relationship.

“This has been possible because our respective leaders have realised that mutually-beneficial cooperation responds to the most urgent developmental needs of our people and these needs to be prioritised over other issues,” Misri said.

Asked about the impact of India’s elections on India-China ties, Misri said: “my own feeling is that on foreign policy issues there is a broad political consensus in India on where our national interests lie. I do not think therefore that the outcome of the elections will impact the broad contours of India’s foreign policy in general or the very important relationship with China in particular”.

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