TOKYO, May 18 -- U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday delayed tariffs on cars and auto parts imports for up to six months and directed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to negotiate deals with Japan and the European Union to address what his administration perceives as a national security threat.
If agreements are not reached within 180 days, Trump "will determine whether and what further action needs to be taken," the White House said. The administration appears poised to use the threat of auto tariffs to pressure Japan and European countries into making concessions -- possibly by seeking export restraints or quotas, which, however, would be in violation of World Trade Organization rules -- in respective trade negotiations. Trump made the announcement ahead of a planned meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on May 27 in Tokyo at which bilateral trade is likely to be a major focus. In a proclamation setting a six-month window for talks, Trump said he directed Lighthizer to negotiate deals "to address the threatened impairment of the national security with respect to imported automobiles and certain automobile parts from the European Union, Japan and any other country the Trade Representative deems appropriate."
Lighthizer will "update me on the progress of such negotiations within 180 days," the president said.
It is not clear, however, what the "further action" mentioned by the White House would entail.
Trump and Abe have come to an understanding that the United States will refrain from imposing tariffs on automobile imports from Japan while negotiations are under way.
The two governments launched negotiations for a bilateral trade agreement last month.
Earlier Friday, Japanese economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi said in Tokyo that Lighthizer had confirmed the United States will not push Japan to restrain its automobile exports as part of a bilateral trade deal. Citing a draft executive order, Bloomberg news agency reported Wednesday that Trump will give Japan and the European Union 180 days to "limit or restrict" exports of automobiles and auto parts to the United States in return for delaying auto tariffs. Trump has threatened to impose additional tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported cars and parts. If he follows through, the new duties would significantly impact major car exporters such as Japan and Germany.
The president regards automobiles as a symbol of the trade imbalance with Japan because automobiles and auto parts accounted for about 75 percent of the U.S. trade deficit as of 2017. On Friday, Trump said a Commerce Department investigation has concluded that "automobiles and certain automobile parts are being imported into the United States in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security of the United States." The department also found these imports are "weakening our internal economy," and decried "protected foreign markets, like those in the European Union and Japan."
The department said "automotive research and development is "critical to national security," and that "the U.S. defense industrial base depends on the American-owned automotive sector for the development of technologies that are essential to maintaining our military superiority." American automakers and dealers, as well as U.S. business organizations, disputed Trump's claim that car and auto parts imports pose a threat to U.S. national security. "Cars are not a national security threat," said the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade association representing 12 U.S. and foreign automakers including General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. "We are deeply concerned that the administration continues to consider imposing auto tariffs," the group said in a statement. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Trump's claim "is a misuse of the administration's trade authorities," and that "the continued threat of tariffs on cars and auto parts only creates more uncertainty weakening our economy." The American International Automobile Dealers Association said that if Trump slaps 25 percent tariffs on imported cars and auto parts, he will be responsible for "a drastic tax increase on American consumers." Such action could result in a loss of 2 million vehicle sales and jeopardize up to 700,000 American jobs, it said.
WASHINGTON, May 16 -- The US Commerce Department has announced it is blacklisting Chinese telecom giant Huawei and 70 affiliates over alleged threat to national security.
The department said it has a reason to conclude that Huawei is "engaged in activities that are contrary to US national security or foreign policy interest." It accused Huawei of providing banned financial services to Iran bypassing US sanctions and also attempts to obstruct justice during the investigation into these violations. This move will "prevent American technology from being used by foreign owned entities in ways that potentially undermine US national security or foreign policy interests," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said. On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring emergency to protect US information and telecommunications technology from external threats. The order will empower the US commerce secretary after consultations with heads of other federal agencies to block transactions deemed as a threat to national security.
In August 2018, Trump signed an order banning US government agencies from using the equipment manufactured by Huawei and another Chinese company ZTE. Huawei has said the US "unreasonable restrictions" will infringe upon its rights. "Restricting Huawei from doing business in the US will not make the US more secure or stronger; instead, this will only serve to limit the US to inferior yet more expensive alternatives," the telecom giant said in a statement, according to AFP.
MOSCOW, May 15 -- Talks between US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Russian President Vladimir Putin demonstrate the serious approach of both Washington and Moscow to maintaining bilateral dialogue, chairman of the Valdai Discussion Club Andrey Bystritsky said Wednesday.
"These meetings and Pompeo's visit to Sochi itself represent an important signal. From the political point of view, the significance of this meeting is that it actually took place. Even if they reached some practical agreements, they will try to not disclose them publicly because those agreements will gradually show in what the parties in this discussion will do in the future," Bustritsky said. "In this case, Russia and the US demonstrated that are having a serious meeting, that the US secretary of state is ready to go to Sochi and spend a lot of time there in talks. Both sides demonstrate readiness to negotiate," he added. The talks also confirmed US President Donald Trump's intention to fulfill the promises he made during the election campaign, the expert noted. "In some sense, Trump is fulfilling his plans which he talked about before becoming president - he thinks that it is better to negotiate and reach agreements with Russians, as opposed to not talking and not reaching any agreements," the expert said.
Bystritsky said that one of the most important signals after Putin-Pompeo talks was the fact that the sides did not discuss the situation in Ukraine. "I would interpret this statement in the following manner: the basis formula is not being reconsidered. The Minsk Agreements remain in force. What is there to discuss? The agreements need to be implemented. Whether Ukraine is ready to fulfill them is another story," he explained. Among the topics on the international agenda discussed at the meeting, the most important issue is the situation around the Iranian nuclear deal, Bystritsky said. "Other issues, such as Venezuela and Syria, are important as well but also routine. It is clear that those are old conflicts, and it will be hard to overcome them completely. It is not clear how to resolve these problems," he concluded.
WASHINGTON, May 14 -- Washington has not yet approached Moscow with an initiative to organize a bilateral meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka in late June, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
"So far, there have been no initiatives from Washington," Peskov said commenting on Trump’s statement about his plans to meet with Putinin Japan. According to Reuters, Trump reportedly said he plans to hold meetings with Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan’s Osaka scheduled for June 28-29. Earlier, Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov also said Moscow had received no requests from Washington for organizing a meeting between the two presidents.
The only full-format talks between Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Donald Trump of the United States were held in July 2018 in Helsinki. The two leaders have had a number of meetings on the sidelines of high-profile international events but have failed to agree on a date for new talks. They were supposed to meet in late November or early December 2018, at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires but the meeting was cancelled by Trump at a moment’s notice over the incident with Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait. Nevertheless, the two leaders briefly exchanged opinions on the sidelines of the event. On May 3, Putin and Trump had a 90-minute telephone conversation.
WASHINGTON, May 10 -- President of the United States Donald Trump has ordered to extend for one more year a set of unilateral sanctions against Syria, the White House said in a statement.
"The regime’s brutal war on the Syrian people, who have been calling for freedom and a representative government, not only endangers the Syrian people themselves, but also generates instability throughout the region," the statement quoted President Trump as saying. "The Syrian regime’s actions and policies, including pursuing and using chemical weapons, supporting terrorist organizations, and obstructing the Lebanese government’s ability to function effectively continue to foster the rise of extremism and sectarianism and pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States," Trump stated in his message to the Congress.
"For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue in effect the national emergency declared with respect to this threat and to maintain in force the sanctions to address this national emergency," the US president said. The United States had been gradually introducing various restrictive measures in regard to Damascus between 2004 and 2012. The restrictions at the issue stipulate in particular the freeze of assets of individuals and companies under the US jurisdiction, ban exports of certain categories of American goods and services. "… the United States condemns the [Syrian President Bashar] Assad regime’s use of brutal violence and human rights abuses and calls on the Assad regime to stop its violent war, uphold existing ceasefires, enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and negotiate a political transition in Syria that will forge a credible path to a future of greater freedom, democracy, opportunity, and justice," Trump stated. "The United States will consider changes in the composition, policies, and actions of the Government of Syria in determining whether to continue or terminate this national emergency in the future," the US president added.
BRUSSELS, May 9. -- The European troika of UN mediators (the UK, Germany and France) has rejected Iran’s ultimatum under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), according to a joint statement released on Thursday.
The Europeans also denounced new US sanctions against Iran. The UK, Germany and France pledged to continue work on creating the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) with Iran to bypass US trade sanctions. "We reject any ultimatums and we will assess Iran’s compliance on the basis of Iran’s performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPoA and the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons)," the statement reads. "In this respect, we recall the key role of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) monitoring and verification of the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments." "We note with great concern the statement made by Iran concerning its commitments under the JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). We remain fully committed to the preservation and full implementation of the JCPoA, a key achievement of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, which is in the security interest of all. We strongly urge Iran to continue to implement its commitments under the JCPoA in full as it has done until now and to refrain from any escalatory steps," the document says. "We recall our own firm commitments under the agreement including as regards sanctions-lifting for the benefit of the Iranian people. In this regard, we regret the re-imposition of sanctions by the United States following their withdrawal from the JCPoA," according to the document.
On May 8, 2018, US President Donald Trump announced that Washington would unilaterally quit the landmark accord inked in 2015 aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program. Anti-Iranian sanctions, including a ban on purchasing oil, were reinstated in November. On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Tehran would suspend compliance with its obligations under two JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) clauses for 60 days. Iran will resume work to enrich uranium and upgrade the Arak reactor, if the parties to the deal fail to honor their commitments. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the deal on Iran’s nuclear program, was signed between Iran and six international mediators (the United Kingdom, Germany, China, Russia, the United States, and France) on July 14, 2015.
VANCOUVER, May 9 -- Lawyers for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou blasted Canadian authorities and US President Donald Trump on Wednesday, saying they would seek to have her US extradition case thrown out because her arrest was “unlawful” and Trump’s “corrosive” remarks about her case had prejudiced any trial.
Her team also said at an administrative hearing in British Columbia’s Supreme Court that they would fight extradition on the grounds that the US fraud charges against her failed to satisfy the requirement of criminality in Canada. Lawyer Scott Fenton said Meng’s detention at Vancouver’s airport on December 1 lasted three hours and deprived her of her Canadian Charter rights, when she was questioned about the US charges and her electronic devices seized before she was formally arrested.
“Ms Meng will apply to this court … for an order staying proceedings as an abuse of process,” he said. Her “unlawful search, detention, interrogation and delayed arrest” represented a “pattern of serious charter violations” by Canadian and US authorities, he said.
“Her rights were placed in total suspension,” he said. Fenton also condemned Trump for his “political abuse” of the process, saying his comments on the case were “intimidating and corrosive of the rule of law”. “They should disentitle the requesting state [the US]” from seeking Meng’s extradition, he said, adding that no jury, properly instructed, could find Meng guilty of fraud.But lead crown counsel John Gibb-Carsley fired back, saying that the crown was reviewing an audio recording of her arrest and that the timing of the extradition hearing “should not be held hostage” by Meng’s team of four lawyers.
TEHRAN, May 8. -- Tehran decided to partially suspend the execution of some of its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iran nuclear program, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday.
Rouhani said Iran stops the implementation of its commitments under two items of the JCPOA. They concern the suspension of sales of enriched uranium and heavy water that Iran has to other countries for 60 days, under Sections 26 and 36 of the deal, according to Press TV. Iran expects the other members of the deal to take measures for preserving it and fulfilling their obligations within 60 days. Rouhani said that the JCPOA does not stop its operation and Iran does not withdraw from the deal. On May 8, 2018, US President Donald Trump declared Washington’s withdrawal from the JCPOA - a deal that was inked in 2015 and restricted Tehran’s nuclear developments in exchange for the abolishment of the sanctions introduced by the UN Security Council and the unilateral restrictive measures launched by the US and the EU. In November last year the US’ sanctions against Iran’s oil sector were restored. On April 22, Trump decided not to prolong the exceptions to the oil sanctions against Iran, which renewed operation in November 2018. Then Washington introduced a ban for importing Iranian oil but allowed major importers to continue purchases during six months.
WASHINGTON, May 8 -- U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said Monday that the deployment of U.S. military assets was to counter a "credible threat" from Iran.
The deployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region of responsibility represented "a prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces," Shanahan tweeted Monday. "We call on the Iranian regime to cease all provocation," the acting Pentagon chief noted, adding "we will hold the Iranian regime accountable for any attack on U.S. forces or our interests."
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said late Sunday that his country is deploying a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East, aiming "to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force." The New York Times on Monday cited senior U.S. officials that new threats by Iran against U.S. troops in Iraq were behind the sudden deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and Air Force bombers to the Persian Gulf. Following the exit from the Iran nuclear deal in May last year, the U.S. government has kept piling up pressure on Iran through a series of sanctions.
On April 22, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the 180-day U.S. waivers for major importers of Iran's oil formally expired on May 2, which aggravates the impacts of tough pressures on Iran. Iranian semi-official Fars news agency reported on Monday that Tehran would soon announce a set of retaliatory measures in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and re-imposition of sanctions against Iran.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington has flared up in recent months, following U.S. decisions to designate Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) a "foreign terrorist organization" and to reimpose sanctions on Iran. In response to the U.S. moves, the Iranian parliament also passed a bill blacklisting the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forces in West Asia as a "terrorist group," pledging to fight back any provocation by Washington.
KÖLN, May 7 -- European businesses in China are facing increased uncertainty as a result of US President Donald Trump’s threat to raise tariffs on Chinese imports.
Business leaders and politicians called for a return to multilateralism to end trade tensions but some are worried that they will be excluded from any “horse-trading” that could end the dispute between the world’s two largest economies. “A further escalation of the trade dispute between the USA and China would increase uncertainty for German companies in China and are a risk for world trade as a whole,” said Simone Pohl, executive director of the German Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. European companies share many of Trump’s concerns about China, such as intellectual property protection and state industrial policy, but have often taken issue with the confrontational US approach and its impact on world markets.
“We need fewer tariffs and trade barriers worldwide and more common rules for fair global trade. Companies need a functioning world trade system and have to regain certainty and trust,” Pohl said. Trump sent a shock through global markets on Monday after tweeting that he intended to raise tariffs on US$200 billion of goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent on Friday. German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Reuters on Monday that he hoped both sides would refrain from unilateral action. “We all hope that the trade conflict between the US and China can be resolved because it doesn’t have any positive consequences for anyone,” Altmaier said. “We need a rules-based trade order, we need open markets, we need fairness and a level playing field i.e. equal rights for companies from all countries involved.”