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China to send negotiator to US for trade talks this month

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Beijing | China will send a top negotiator to the United States in late August to resume trade talks, the commerce ministry said today, the first public meeting on the subject in weeks as the trade conflict intensifies.

Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen, the deputy representative on international trade negotiations, will meet with a senior US treasury official, David Malpass, at the invitation of the United States, the ministry said in a statement.

“The Chinese side reiterates that it opposes unilateralism and trade protectionism practices and does not accept any unilateral trade restriction measures,” the ministry said.

“China welcomes dialogue and communication on the basis of reciprocity, equality and integrity.” US Commerce Minister Wilbur Ross held talks with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Beijing in June.

But the discussions failed to reduce tensions as the United States slapped tariffs on 34 billion worth of Chinese goods in early July, triggering an immediate dollar-for-dollar retaliation from Beijing. The two countries plan to launch a new round of tit-for-tat tariffs on 16 billion worth of goods from each country on August 23.

Washington has also lined up an additional 200 billion in Chinese imports and US President Donald Trump said he could raise tariffs on those products to 25 percent instead of the previously touted 10 percent.

“It is hard to tell how the talks will go but it’s a positive signal that the two countries are looking for some compromise plan,” said Makoto Sengoku, market analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute. “If they were determined to fight it out, they wouldn’t meet,” he told AFP.

Chinese officials say the tariffs have yet to make an impact on the country’s economy, with its exports even beating forecasts in July. But analysts warned that China could feel the full effect of tariffs in August.

Trump has boasted that trade wars are “easy to win” and warned he would hit virtually all Chinese imports if Beijing does not back down and take steps to reduce its 335 billion surplus with the US.

China does not import enough from the United States to match Washington dollar-for-dollar, but it has warned that it could fire back with other measures.

The yuan has declined in recent weeks, helping Chinese exporters as it makes their products cheaper, but it could fuel tensions with Trump, who has accused Beijing of manipulating its currency.

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India welcomes outcome of Maldivian President election

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Maldives

New Delhi | India on Monday congratulated opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on his victory in the presidential polls in the Maldives and said the election reflected the country’s commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law.

India also hoped that the Maldivian Election Commission will officially confirm the result at the earliest. “We welcome the successful completion of the third presidential election process in the Maldives which, according to preliminary information, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has won,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.  “We heartily congratulate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on his victory and hope that the Election Commission will officially confirm the result at the earliest,” it said.

According to reports, Solih won the presidential election, defeating President Abdulla Yameen who is known to be close to China. “This election marks not only the triumph of democratic forces in the Maldives but also reflects the firm commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law,” the MEA said.

India’s ties with the Maldives came under strain after President Yameen declared Emergency in the country on February 5, following an order by the country’s Supreme Court to release a group of Opposition leaders, who had been convicted in widely criticised trials.

India had criticised the Yameen government for the imposition of the Emergency and urged it to restore the credibility of the electoral and political process by releasing political prisoners. The Emergency was lifted 45 days later.

In July, India expressed concern over the announcement of the presidential election without allowing democratic institutions, including Parliament and the judiciary, to work in a free and transparent manner.

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White House says four witnesses denies any knowledge of sexual assault by Kavanaugh

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Washington | The White House has doubted the sexual assault allegation by a California professor against Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at a house party attended by four others, arguing that they have denied any knowledge of the incident or having attended the party.

Ford had alleged that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a house party some 36 years ago in suburban Washington, a charge denied by Justice Kavanaugh.

“One week ago, Dr Christine Blasey Ford claimed she was assaulted at a house party attended by four others. Since then, all four of these individuals have provided statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee denying any knowledge of the incident or even having attended such a party,” White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a late-night statement on Saturday.

The statement came after Ford accepted a request from the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify on her allegations against Justice Kavanaugh. The confirmation of Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court judge now hinges on this hearing.

The Senate Judiciary Committee and lawyers of Ford have agreed to a hearing on Thursday, according to media reports.

On September 16, the Washington Post reported on Dr Ford’s allegation of sexual assault taking place at a party attended by Judge Kavanaugh and three other individuals.

The next day, Judge Kavanaugh issued a statement, saying: “This is a completely false allegation.” He urged the Committee to allow him to testify publicly, and in an interview with Committee Counsel, repeated his categorical denial.

A day later, one of the witness, Mark Judge issued a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying: “I have no memory of the alleged incident. I do not recall the party described.”, the statement said.

On September 19, another witness, Patrick “PJ” Smyth issued a statement to the Committee, stating “I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has levelled against Brett Kavanaugh.”

According to the White House, on Saturday, Leland Keyser, another witness, issued a statement to the Committee through her counsel, stating “Ms Keyser does not know Mr Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr Ford.”

“Brett Kavanaugh has been clear from the beginning — he categorically and unequivocally denies this allegation and is eager to testify publicly to defend his integrity and clear his good name,” Kupec said.

“On Monday, Brett Kavanaugh met with Committee counsels to answer questions subject to criminal penalties and offered to testify publicly Tuesday morning. Since then, we have heard about different dates, conditions, and ever changing schedules, but today we appear no closer to a fair hearing.

“But one thing has remained consistent: Brett Kavanaugh remains ready, willing and eager to testify as soon as possible,” the White House spokesperson said.

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Pakistan PM Imran Khan hits out at India, calls its response “arrogant” for cancelling talks

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Imran Khan

Islamabad | India’s decision to cancel the foreign minister-level meeting in New York was “arrogant”, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said Saturday, asserting that he was “disappointed” by the New Delhi’s “negative” response.

India on Friday cited the “brutal” killing of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the release of the postal stamps “glorifying” Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani for calling off the meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York this month.

Announcing the cancellation of the meeting, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in New Delhi that the incidents “exposed” the “true face” of Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan to the world as well as Islamabad’s evil agenda behind the proposal for talks.

“The latest brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities and the recent release of a series of 20 postage stamps by Pakistan glorifying a terrorist and terrorism confirm that Pakistan will not mend its ways,” Kumar said. “Disappointed at the arrogant and negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue,” Prime Minister Khan said in a tweet.

“However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture,” he said in a sharp reaction to India’s cancellation of the meeting. Kumar said talks with Pakistan after the “two deeply disturbing” developments would be “meaningless”. “In view of the changed situation, there will be no meeting between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan in New York,” he said.

Reacting to India’s remarks, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said Friday that the “so-called ‘disturbing developments'” alluded to in the Indian statement predated the Indian agreement to hold the bilateral meeting in New York. He said the alleged killing of a BSF soldier took place two days prior to the Indian announcement of its agreement to hold the bilateral meeting.

When the allegations of Pakistan’s involvement first appeared, Pakistani rangers clearly conveyed to BSF through official channels that the country had nothing to do with it, he said. “Pakistan…categorically reject these allegations…Our authorities would be prepared to conduct a joint investigation to establish the truth,” Faisal said.

On the issue of the postage stamps, he said they were issued before the July 25 elections and before Prime Minister Khan assumed office on August 18.

“We choose not to further comment beyond saying that these comments are against all norms of civilised discourse and diplomatic communication,” Faisal said.

“We believe by its ill-considered cancellation of the meeting, India has once again wasted a serious opportunity to change the dynamics of the bilateral relationship and put the region on the path of peace and development,” he added.

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