PARIS, August 24 -- Donald Trump landed in France with First Lady Melania for the G7 summit Saturday, after taking a swipe at fellow leaders, calling them "friends of mine, for the most part" but not in "100 percent of the cases".
The president threw shade at some of America's closest partners on Friday evening, mere hours before he'd see them in Biarritz at the Group of Seven summit. He threatened to tax French 'like they've never seen before' and characterized world leaders attending the event as 'friends for the most part' in front of Marine One. 'We're going to France. We'll have a good few days. I think it will be very productive, seeing a lot of leaders who are friends of mine, for the most part,' he said of his trip, smirking as he added, "Wouldn't say in 100 percent of the cases, but for the most part." He did not say which leaders were getting under his skin, but Trump offered several hints in the comments he delivered outside the White House before he left for Europe with first lady Melania. She arrived into Biarritz wearing a yellow dress with pink stiletto heels and sunglasses. The first lady had departed Washington wearing a Chanel jacket, white pants and a black top. Trump harped on France's digital tax, which he said U.S. tech companies don't deserve. He noted that he's 'not the biggest fan of the tech companies,' which he again accused them of interfering in his election.
Yet, he said, their regulation should be up to the United States, and not foreign countries like France. "I don't like what France did. They put a digital tax on our tech companies," he said. "Those are great American companies, and frankly, I don't want France going out and taxing our companies, very unfair." He cautioned French President Emmanuel Macron against moving ahead with the action that could spark a protracted trade war with the United States. It is understood the two world leaders will have an unscheduled lunch together Saturday. "If they do that, we'll be taxing their wine, or doing something else. We'll be taxing their wine, like they've never seen before," Trump promised. Whether he meant for the earlier jab about his 'friends' in the global community to land on Macron or another leader he'll be seeing like German Chancellor Angela Merkel was unclear.
TAIPEI, August 24 -- A US Navy ship passed through the Taiwan Strait on Friday, only three days after the US government approved an US$8 billion arms sale to the island’s military.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said in a statement that the transport landing ship sailed through the Taiwan Strait in a south-to-north direction, adding that the military has been keeping close watch on the situation so the Taiwanese public should rest assured. The passage of a US Navy vessel through the strait was the seventh of this year, and the first since the US government officially notified Congress on Tuesday of the proposed sale of the F16 fighter jets to Taiwan. That move added to already tense relations between Beijing and Washington and Beijing threatened to take “all necessary measures” to safeguard its interests, including sanctioning the US companies involved in the arms sale. Taiwan’s air force hopes to receive the 66 advanced variants of the F-16 Fighting Falcon multi role fighter by 2026. It is expected to use them to replace its ageing fleet of F-5E fighters at a base in Taitung county, eastern Taiwan. The F-16 is one of the mainstay fighters of the air force, the others being the Indigenous Defence Fighter, or IDF, and the Mirage 2000. Taiwan already has a fleet of F-16s, which are undergoing upgrades. The air force took possession of its first four upgraded F-16s in April. The Taichung-based Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation hopes to complete the retrofit programme by 2023.
Since 2008, US administrations have notified Congress of more than US$24 billion in foreign military sales to Taiwan, including the sale of M1A2 tanks and Stinger missiles valued at US$2.2 billion in the past two months. To date, the Trump administration alone has notified Congress of US$4.4 billion in arms sales to Taiwan. Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately since the end of the civil war in 1949. Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, insists the self-rule island must eventually be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.
BEIJING, August 24 -- China said Friday that it will impose further tariffs on U.S. imports worth around $75 billion, in retaliation for planned tariff hikes on Chinese products by Washington.
The Commerce Ministry said it will impose additional tariffs of 5 percent or 10 percent on a total of 5,078 products of U.S. goods, some of which would take effect on Sept. 1 and the rest on Dec. 15. China will also resume imposing additional tariffs of 25 percent and 5 percent on U.S.-made vehicles and auto parts starting from Dec. 15, the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council announced. The announcement comes as U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged that Washington will impose 10 percent tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, effective on those two dates, in a move that would see nearly all imports from Asia's biggest economy taxed. The U.S. decision "has greatly hurt interests" of China, the United States and other countries and "has seriously threatened the multilateral trade system and the free trade system," Beijing said, adding, "China is forced to take reciprocal measures." "We hope China and the United States will resolve differences in a manner acceptable to both sides on the premise of mutual respect, equality, good faith, and consistency of words and deeds," the Customs Tariff Commission said in a statement.
The Trump administration has so far imposed 25 percent levies on a total of $250 billion of Chinese imports in an effort to reduce the chronic U.S. trade deficit with China, as well as to address alleged intellectual property and technology theft by Chinese companies. On Aug. 13, it delayed imposing a 10 percent tariff on laptop computers, cellphones, video game consoles and other "certain articles" imported from China to Dec. 15 from Sept. 1 as planned. The announcement drew some relief from retailers and other businesses concerned that the new levies, which in combination with current ones would have meant tariffs on nearly all Chinese imports, could have dampened consumption especially around the holiday shopping season.
WASHINGTON, August 23 -- President of Eurasia Group Ian Bremmer said that this is not the first time US President Donald Trump has brought up the idea of reinstating the G8 format with Russia's participation.
There is no possibility of the G8 with Russia's participation being reinstated, president and founder of Eurasia Group Ian Bremmer said on Thursday. He was commenting on recent statements by US President Donald Trump on the need to reinstate the G8 format with Russia's participation. "It's not the first time that [US President Donald] Trump has brought this up actually. He mentioned it during the Canada-hosted G7 as well," Bremmer said. "But the reason for Russia's removal wasn't [former US President Barack] Obama being 'outsmarted' by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, but the response to the annexation of Crimea, which the G7 countries considered, and still consider, illegal. There is no possibility of the G8 being reinstated," he added. "As you may have heard, French President Emmanuel Macron has decided not to even attempt a communique at the end of the summit that will be held on August 24-26 in France's Biarritz - the first time that's happened since the meetings started in 1975. It's a G-zero world," Bremmer noted.
The Group of Seven (G7) is an association of industrialized countries that brings together the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Canada, the United States, France and Japan. In 1997, it was renamed the Group of Eight (G8) after Russia joined the association. In 2014, Western countries decided to return to the G7 format after the developments in Ukraine and deterioration of relations with Russia.
NEW YORK, August 23 -- The Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Demecrate) today excludes nuclear energy from the proposed mix.
If it were ever actually attempted nationally, it would increase greenhouse gas emissions — just as a similar effort did in Vermont. The written statement distributed by the office of Ocasio-Cortez says "the plan is to transition off of nuclear." Vermont is home to Ocasio-Cortez allies, and Green New Deal advocates, Senator Bernie Sanders and climate activist Bill McKibben. Both insist the world can be powered on renewables alone. But consider what’s actually happened in their own state. In 2005, Vermont legislators promised to reduce emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2012, and 50% below 1990 levels by 2028, through the use of renewables and energy efficiency only. What’s happened since? Vermont’s emissions rose 16.3%. That’s more than twice as much as national emissions rose during the same period.
When you account for the U.S.’s far faster growth in population, Vermont’s per capita emissions rose 5% while U.S. per capita emissions declined by 17%. Did Vermont fail to do energy efficiency, which the Green New Deal and green groups like Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) claim is the most important way to reduce emissions? Nope. In 2018, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Vermont among the top five states for aggressive action on energy efficiency — for the fifth year in a row.
BEIJING, August 22 -- China is hopeful that US President Donald Trump can “honour” his earlier hands-off stance on Hong Kong, although the Commerce Ministry spokesman neglected to mention the latest statement from the American leader linking the trade talks between Washington and Beijing with the anti-government protests in the city.
China is hopeful that US President Donald Trump can “honour” his earlier hands-off stance on Hong Kong, although the Commerce Ministry spokesman neglected to mention the latest statement from the American leader linking the trade talks between Washington and Beijing with the anti-government protests in the city. Trump had been distancing himself from the tensions until earlier this week saying that trade talks with China would be hampered if Beijing used violent means to crack down on the ongoing protests in Hong Kong similar to those employed against pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.Trump said that if a similar crackdown happened in Hong Kong, “there’d be tremendous political sentiment not to do something”, referring to trade negotiations between China and the United States. “It does put pressure on the trade deal. If they do something negative, it puts pressure,” he added. “We noticed that President Trump had said that Hong Kong is part of China and [China and Hong Kong] can sort it out on their own. We hope the US side can honor these words,” said Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng on Thursday.
Protests have taken place in Hong Kong since June 9, sparked by demands for the city’s government to withdraw an unpopular extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of suspects to mainland China. Protests have continued in the city for over 11 weeks despite Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam stating that the bill “is dead”. The stance from China’s Commerce Ministry is in line with China’s Foreign Ministry and state media as Beijing is opposed to linking the situation in Hong Kong with the talks over the ongoing trade war. Earlier on Wednesday, Trump added that “I don’t view it as leverage. I hope Hong Kong works out in a very humane way. I don’t view it as leverage or non-leverage. I hope it works out in a humane way. And I think that President Xi Jinping has the ability to make sure that happens”. Gao said China’s negotiating team has maintained contact with their American counterparts, with Vice-Premier Liu He believed to have taken part in a scheduled phone call with US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week.
LOS ANGELES, August 22 -- Action movie hero Dwayne Johnson, star of the "Jumanji" and "Fast and Furious" franchises, topped the annual list of the world's highest-paid actors, Forbes magazine reported.
Johnson, the former wrestler once known as The Rock, pulled in US$89.4 million (S$123 million) from June 2018 to June 2019, the magazine said. That includes his salary and a share of profits from films, US$700,000 per episode of HBO series Ballers, and seven figures in royalties from his line of clothing, shoes and headphones with Under Armour. Last year, Johnson was second behind George Clooney, who reaped a windfall from the sale of his tequila company. Next on this year's list were two stars of Avengers: Endgame, the highest-grossing movie of all time. Chris Hemsworth, who played Thor, took in US$76.4 million, while Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr earned US$66 million, Forbes said. Other "Endgame" stars - Bradley Cooper, Chris Evans and Paul Rudd - also landed in the top 10. Most of Cooper's earnings, however, came from A Star Is Born, the musical drama he directed, produced, co-wrote and starred in with Lady Gaga. Cooper collected US$40 million of his US$57 million total from that film, Forbes said. The fourth-biggest earner was Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, with US$65 million, and Hong Kong-born actor and martial artist Jackie Chan with US$58 million. The figures are pre-tax and do not include deductions for fees given to agents, managers and lawyers, Forbes said.
WASHINGTON, August 21 -- The US president told reporters that buying Greenland, which is part of the Kingdom of Denmark but has extensive home rule, would be “a large real estate deal” that could ease a financial burden on Denmark, but Denmark’s prime minister did not want to talk about a possible US purchase of the island of Greenland.
President Donald Trump said he would be putting off a planned meeting with Denmark’s prime minister because she did not want to talk about a possible US purchase of the island of Greenland. “Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time,” Trump said in a Twitter post on Tuesday night. “The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct. I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!” the president wrote. Trump had been scheduled to make a state visit to Denmark on Sept. 2 on the invitation of Queen Margrethe II.
Hours before the trip was called off, Carla Sands, the U.S. ambassador to Denmark, tweeted that the Scandinavian country was “ready for the POTUS @realDonaldTrump visit! Partner, ally, friend.” Earlier this week, the president told reporters that buying Greenland, which is part of the Kingdom of Denmark but has extensive home rule, would be “a large real estate deal” that could ease a financial burden on Denmark.
Frederiksen had ruled out any sale. Danish officials have been adamant about no-sale since reports emerged last week that Trump had directed advisers and lawyers to review a possible deal. “Greenland isn’t for sale, Greenland isn’t Danish, Greenland is Greenlandic,” she said Sunday during a visit to Greenland, according to local newspaper Sermitsiaq. “I keep trying to hope that this isn’t something that was seriously meant.” Larry Kudlow, head of the National Economic Council, earlier Sunday said Greenland is a “strategic place” rich in valuable minerals and that discussions are continuing. “The president, who knows a thing or two about buying real estate, wants to take a look at a potential Greenland purchase,” Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday.” However serious White House discussions of a sale might have been, the topic prompted jokes on both sides of the Atlantic since Trump’s interest was first reported. He got into the act on Monday night with a tweet showing an image of a golden Trump tower on an austere Greenland landscape. “I promise not to do this to Greenland,” Trump wrote.
VIENNA, August 20 -- OPEC+ countries participating in the Vienna Agreement on the reduction of oil production fulfilled the terms of the agreement by 159% in July 2019, a source said after the meeting of the OPEC+ technical committee.
"OPEC+ deal compliance percentage reaches 159% in July 2019," the source said. At the same time, OPEC countries complied with the agreement by 156%, and non-OPEC countries performed the agreement by 166%, the source added. Thus, in July the OPEC+ participants reduced production against October 2018 taken as the base level by 1.9 mln barrels per day, instead of early planned 1.2 mln barrels daily. In total, OPEC+ countries agreed to reduce oil production by 1.2 mln barrels per day by March 2020, including 812,000 barrels for OPEC countries and 383,000 barrels - non-OPEC countries. The main reduction quotas fall on the largest parties to the agreement - Russia and Saudi Arabia (228,000 barrels per day and 322,000 barrels per day, respectively).
SAN FRANCISCO, August 20 -- Twitter and Facebook said on Monday (Aug 19) they had dismantled a state-backed information operation originating in mainland China that sought to undermine protests in Hong Kong.
Twitter said it suspended 936 accounts and the operations appeared to be a coordinated state-backed effort originating in China. It said these accounts were just the most active portions of this campaign and that a "larger, spammy network" of approximately 200,000 accounts had been proactively suspended before they were substantially active. Facebook said it had removed accounts and pages from a small network after a tip from Twitter. It said that its investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government. Social media companies are under pressure to stem illicit political influence campaigns online ahead of the US election in November 2020. A 22-month US investigation concluded Russia interfered in a "sweeping and systematic fashion" in the 2016 US election to help Donald Trump win the presidency. The Chinese embassy in Washington and the US State Department were not immediately available to comment. The Hong Kong protests, which have presented one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012, began in June as opposition to a now-suspended bill that would allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts. They have since swelled into wider calls for democracy. Twitter in a blog post said the accounts undermined the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement in Hong Kong.
Examples of posts provided by Twitter included a tweet from a user with photos of protesters storming Hong Kong's Legislative Council building, which asked: "Are these people who smashed the Legco crazy or taking benefits from the bad guys? It's a complete violent behavior, we don't want you radical people in Hong Kong. Just get out of here!" In examples provided by Facebook, one post called the protesters "Hong Kong cockroaches" and claimed that they"refused to show their faces". In a separate statement, Twitter said it was updating its advertising policy and would not accept advertising from state-controlled news media entities going forward. Twitter told Reuters the advertising change was not related to the suspended accounts. In the past week, China’s official Xinhua news agency and state broadcaster China Global Television Network (CGTN) paid to promote videos that portrayed the protests as violent and said Hong Kong citizens wanted the demonstrations to end, according to Twitter’s Ads Transparency Centre. Twitter said it did not have data on how much revenue it generates from state-controlled media advertising. Many countries including the United States do not have clear standards on state media’s purchase of online advertising. Total digital ad spending in Hong Kong will grow 11 per cent to reach US$786.1 million in 2019, according to projections by US digital market data analyst eMarketer.
Alphabet's YouTube video service told Reuters in June that state-owned media companies maintained the same privileges as any other user, including the ability to run ads in accordance with its rules. YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday on whether it had detected inauthentic content related to protests in Hong Kong. In a tweet on Sunday, China’s influential state-run tabloid, The Global Times, hailed the response of Chinese “netizens” to the protests, saying: “Chinese netizens’ power! Amid escalating protests in Hong Kong, Chinese netizens on Saturday swept Facebook and Instagram to denounce secessionist posts and show support for Hong Kong police.” About 98 per cent of social network users in Hong Kong, or 4.7 million people, will log into Facebook at least once a month in 2019, according to eMarketer projections, while 9.4 per cent of social network users will use Twitter.