BEIJING, September 5 -- China’s commerce ministry said that a phone call on Thursday with US top trade negotiators went very well, adding that Beijing opposes any escalation in the trade war.
Both sides will strive to achieve real progress during a high-level meeting scheduled for early October, ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters in a weekly briefing. China and the United States agreed to hold high-level trade talks in Washington, the ministry said earlier on Thursday, following a phone call between China’s Vice-Premier Liu He and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, People's Bank of China Governor Yi Gang and deputy head of the economic planning commission Ning Jizhe were also on the call. The call came amid fears that an escalating trade war could trigger a global economic recession. "Both sides agreed that they should work together and take practical actions to create good conditions for consultations,” the ministry said. Trade teams from the two countries will hold talks in mid-September before the high-level talks next month, the ministry said. Both sides agreed to take actions to create favourable conditions, it said. A spokesman for the US Trade Representative’s office confirmed that Mr Lighthizer and Mr Mnuchin spoke with Mr Liu and said they agreed to hold ministerial-level trade talks in Washington “in the coming weeks”.
Washington began imposing 15 per cent tariffs on an array of Chinese imports on Sunday, while China began placing new duties on US crude oil. That prompted China to lodge a complaint against the United States at the World Trade Organisation. The United States plans to increase the tariff rate to 30 per cent from the 25 per cent duty already in place on US$250 billion (S$346 billion) worth of Chinese imports from Oct 1. US President Donald Trump warned on Tuesday that he would be tougher on Beijing in a second term if trade talks dragged on, compounding market fears that ongoing trade disputes between the United States and China could trigger a US recession. Chinese leaders will have a packed schedule next month, gearing up for National Day celebrations scheduled for Oct 1. They will also hold a key meeting in October to discuss improving governance and “perfecting” the country’s socialist system, state media has said, more than a year after the last was held. “Neither China nor the US want to be blamed by the rest of world for escalating the trade war and damaging the world economy,” said Mr Zhou Xiaoming, a former Chinese commerce ministry official and diplomat. “But the talks don’t mean the two sides will inch closer or that their stances soften,” he added.
Some within the Trump administration are sceptical that China is willing to make the sort of broad commitment to reforms sought by the US that caused a breakdown in talks in May, according to people familiar with the officials’ thinking. Others have become increasingly focused on trying to calm financial markets and forestall any further economic fallout in the US where Mr rump’s tariffs and the uncertainty surrounding the trade war are being blamed for a slowdown in manufacturing. It is unclear if the two sides will go back to a May draft agreement as the United States has been seeking. "No one is holding their breath” with regard to the talks, said Mr Chua Hak Bin, an economist at Maybank Kim Eng Research in Singapore. “Investors are slowly coming to terms that a trade deal is increasingly remote, with both sides talking tough and preparing for a long battle.”
HONG KONG, September 4 -- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Wednesday formally withdrew a contentious extradition Bill following months of protests.
"The government will formally withdraw the Bill in order to fully allay public concerns," she said in a pre-recorded address in Cantonese and English that was carried by all major broadcasters in Hong Kong. Mrs Lam said a motion to withdraw with be tabled when the Legislative Council reconvenes. Although Mrs Lam had previously suspended the Bill – saying it was “dead” – her move did little to appease demonstrators, who continued protesting and expanded their demands to include calls for greater democratic freedom. Without the Bill’s formal withdrawal, it could be reintroduced in a matter of days. This essentially responds to one of five demands protesters have asked for. The others are: the retraction of the word “riot” to describe rallies; the release of all arrested demonstrators; an independent inquiry into the police; and the right for Hong Kong people to democratically choose their own leaders. While she ruled out setting up an independent commission to look into the events that have led to recent mass protests, she said that the Independent Police Complaints Commission will be reinforced by former director of education Helen Yu and senior lawyer Paul Lam. The government will also meet with various stakeholders and members of the public in a bid to address the various social issues she said.
"After more than two months of social unrest, it's obvious to many that the discontentment extends far beyond the (extradition) Bill," Mrs Lam added. The announcement follows a meeting with pro-establishment political figures, the South China Morning Post newspaper and other media reported, citing people they did not identify. The gathering included local legislators and the city's representatives to national legislative bodies. The meeting follows a weekend of demonstrations that saw some of the fiercest clashes between protesters and riot police. Activists have lobbed petrol bombs and set bonfires in the streets, while police officers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray, making more than 1,100 arrests since early June. Hong Kong stocks jumped, led by property developers, after news reports said Mrs Lam will formally withdraw the extradition Bill that has sparked months of protests. The benchmark Hang Seng Index surged as much as 3.9 per cent before paring gains to 3.4 per cent at 3.06pm local time. The turmoil that followed Mrs Lam's attempt to introduce the ill-fated Bill - including mass marches that drew more than 1 million people and protests that shut the city's busy airport - have turned into the biggest crisis for Beijing's rule over the former British colony since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
SEOUL, September 1 -- A senior North Korean diplomat said Saturday the expectation that dialogue with the United States will resume is "gradually disappearing" after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the country's behavior as "rogue."
"Pompeo has gone so far in his language and it made the opening of the expected DPRK-U.S. working-level negotiations more difficult," First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency, using the acronym for North Korea's official name. "We are being pushed to re-examine all the measures we have taken so far," Choe said. Pompeo said in a speech to a veterans organization Tuesday that Pyongyang's "rogue behavior could not be ignored." North Korea, meanwhile, has notified the United Nations that the nation's ambassador-level official will deliver a speech at the upcoming U.N. General Assembly, a source close to the matter said, indicating Pyongyang may cancel Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho's participation. Ri's potential absence from the U.N. gathering, scheduled to be held in New York in late September, would deprive Pompeo of a chance to make contact with his North Korean counterpart. At their June 30 meeting at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjeom, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed that Washington and Pyongyang would resume stalled denuclearization talks within weeks, but they have yet to take place. Instead, North Korea has repeatedly launched new weapons in recent months. Last Saturday, it fired two projectiles believed to be short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, in Pyongyang's seventh round of such launches since July 25.
BANGKOK, August 26 -- The government has banned hoarding of glutinous rice and will sell discounted packs as prices soar amid shortages.
Government spokesperson Narumon Pinyosinwat said on Monday that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had ordered the Commerce Ministry to prevent hoarding and to launch discounted packs in the wake of the all-time high price of glutinous rice. Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit ordered the Internal Trade Department to impose the ban immediately since the grain is on the ministry's price control list, Mrs Narumon said. "There will be discussions with millers, traders and cooperatives so they can quickly produce packed glutinous rice at a special price to relieve people's trouble," she said. Mrs Narumon attributed the expensive glutinous rice to drought that caused its low yield. The situation should improve when the new yield comes out in October, she said. Glutinous rice now sells for 50,000 baht a tonne while Hom Mali fragrant rice costs 35,000 baht. Local retail prices were nearly 50 baht per kilogram and a smallest bag of steamed glutinous rice is now 10 baht, double recent prices.
BIARRITZ, August 26 -- G-7 leaders discussed the return to the G-8 format with Russia's participation at a summitin the French city of Biarritz, Kyodo news agency reported, citing sources from Japanese government circles.
No details were provided about the content of the interview, and an agency source said the information "will never be disclosed". Earlier, US President Donald Trump agreed to a proposal by his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, to invite Russia to the G7 summit in 2020 in the US. Vladimir Putin, for his part, said that Russia considered all contacts with the G7 countries useful and did not rule out the resumption of the G8 form. German Chancellor Angela Merkel linked the issue of the resumption of the G-8 with progress in resolving the conflict in Ukraine. The G-7 is an association of economically developed countries that includes the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Canada, the United States, France and Japan. In the form of the seven, the club has existed from 1976 to 1997. After Russia's accession, it became known as the G8
HONG KONG, August 26 -- Hong Kong stocks dived more than 3 per cent in the first few minutes of business on Monday.
Caused by United States President Donald Trump ramped up his trade row with China and the city was hit by fresh violent protests over the weekend. The Hang Seng Index plummeted 3.27 per cent, or 857.33 points, to 25,322 at the open. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index sank 1.6 per cent, or 46.41 points, to 2,851.02, and the Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China's second exchange, shed 1.96 per cent, or 30.87 points, to 1,547.83.
SHANGHAI, August 26 -- China's currency on Monday (Aug 26) slid to its lowest point in more than 11 years as concerns over the US trade war and the potential for global recession weighed on markets.
The onshore yuan fell to 7.1487 to the US dollar, its weakest point since early 2008, in Asian trading. Global economic tensions have intensified in recent days with the US and China raising tariffs on each other's imports, and President Donald Trump calling on US businesses to pull out of China. The yuan is not freely convertible and the Chinese government limits its movement against the dollar to a two percent range on either side of a figure that the central bank sets each day to reflect market trends and control volatility. The People's Bank of China has set that rate steadily weaker in recent weeks and set it on Monday at 7.057 to the dollar. Allowing the yuan to depreciate makes Chinese exports cheaper and offsets some of the burden of punitive US tariffs. The yuan breached the key 7.0 threshold against the dollar earlier in August, days after the US announced plans to impose fresh tariffs on Chinese imports from September 1.
HONG KONG, August 26 -- China sent the strongest warning yet of using troops on Hong Kong's streets, where Beijing says protests have turned into a "Colour Revolution", with water cannons and tear gas fired in skirmishes between police and demonstrators in the 12th straight weekend of unrest.
"It's not only the China central government's authority but also its responsibility to intervene when riots take place in Hong Kong," the state-run Xinhua News Agency said on Sunday (Aug 25) in a commentary, recalling comments by former top leader Deng Xiaoping that Beijing has to act under such circumstances. United States President Donald Trump said on Aug 13 that reports from US intelligence agencies show the Chinese government is moving troops to its border with Hong Kong. A day earlier, Global Times, a Chinese tabloid run by the People's Daily, reported that the Chinese People's Armed Police were assembling in Shenzhen ahead of "apparent large-scale exercises", where "numerous" armoured personnel carriers, trucks and other vehicles of the paramilitary force were seen heading towards Hong Kong's neighbouring city. In Sunday's commentary, Xinhua said Hong Kong's protests have turned into a Colour Revolution aimed at overturning the Special Administrative Region's constitutional institutions, a signal it was ready to take further action. Previously, Chinese officials described the protests as having some characteristics of a "Colour Revolution". Protesters' violent acts have pushed Hong Kong to an extremely dangerous edge, the city's government said in a statement after a day full of violent clashes between demonstrators and the police, where an officer fired warning shots in the air.
HONG KONG, August 25 -- Protesters left the northern district of Tsuen Wan, where police had earlier deployed two water cannon, at first during dispersal operations, regrouping in the working class district of Sham Shui Po on Sunday night.
Amid heavy rain, scores of protesters with umbrellas shouting "hak seh wui", or "triads", at riot police gathered to disperse the crowd. Earlier, police deployed two vehicles equipped with water cannons on the streets of Tsuen Wan, a town in the New Territories area close to the Chinese border. The vehicles slowly cruised down streets and directed their water cannons at makeshift barricades as police cleared roads after protesters retreated southward, and most had dispersed by about 7.30pm (local time). This came as multiple rounds of tear gas were fired to clear protesters, following an approved protest march earlier in the day. But as protesters dispersed, a splinter group targeted several shops in Yi Pei Square in Tsuen Wan, the site of clashes between pro-democracy protesters and government supporters, trashing several shops including a restaurant and a mahjong parlour. Shortly after 8pm, at least three officers drew their service revolvers on a group of protesters who had attacked them, resulting in a standoff at a nearby building with reporters unhappy that a gun had been pointed at them. Riot police were brought to reinforce the officers. A uniformed officer had fired a warning shot during the encounter, a senior police officer told journalists at the scene but did not go into further details citing the need for further investigation.
Earlier in the day, groups of demonstrators occupied the streets in Tsuen Wan with barricades made of dismantled roadside fences, bamboo poles, water-filled barriers, traffic cones and dustbins near Tsuen Wan Park, the official end point of the march that started at Kwai Chung Sports Ground. One water-cannon vehicle was used to clear the barricades on Tai Ho Road, which was not occupied by protesters, according to local TV footage. In a statement, police said the situation in Tsuen Wan had escalated, with protesters hurling bricks and aiming strong laser beams at officers. The police appealed to people in the area to leave immediately.
BEIJING, August 25 -- United States trade groups have joined in a chorus of opposition to the latest escalation of tariffs Washington threatened for all the Chinese imports.
It's been heard that "enough is enough" as intensified tensions roil stock markets, ruin businesses and rid farmers of their most important export markets. Last Friday, US President Donald Trump announced that he would hike duties on US$250 billion (S$346 billion) worth of Chinese goods from the current 25 per cent to 30 per cent starting from Oct 1, and the remaining imports of US$300 billion from the planned 10 per cent to 15 per cent from Sept 1. The move followed Beijing's plan last Thursday to raise tariffs on US$75 billion worth of US goods in retaliation to the US side's planned taxing on an additional US$300 billion worth of Chinese imports, which was announced earlier this month. China's Ministry of Commerce said on Saturday that the country is "firmly opposed" to Washington's "unilateral and bullying acts of trade protectionism and extreme pressure", and urged it to immediately stop its "erroneous practices". The ruling Communist Party's People's Daily said on Sunday that China will fight back against the latest US step to increase tariffs on Chinese goods. “China is confident that it will follow its own path and do its own things well, and will never waver in its stand on countering any provocations by the US side,” the newspaper said in a commentary.
US politicians, seeking to hamper China’s economic development, still want to use the tactics of exerting maximum pressure on China that has achieved few results, the paper said. But the US will not win the trade war because of the plight faced by its farmers and businesses. In the US, Mr Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive officer of the Consumer Technology Association, said that "enough is enough", as shown by the 623-point drop in the Dow last Friday. "Global markets are reeling on fears of a global recession. And today's (last Friday) announcement only inflicts more pain on American businesses, workers and families," said Mr Shapiro. "These escalating tariffs are the worst economic mistake since the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 - a decision that catapulted our country into the Great Depression," Mr Shapiro said. "Instead of making America great again, the president is using tariffs to make a great economic mistake - again." He continued: "How much longer will our families, companies and economy be forced to bear the financial burden of this misguided trade policy?" Mr Rick Helfenbein, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, also lamented that what the US businesses now get is "a 1930s trade strategy" that will be a disaster for consumers, businesses, and the economy.