Posts Tagged ‘Emmanuel Macron’

Vigilance needed on fallout from US-China trade pact, says France

May 22, 2018

Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne fears accord might spur ‘competitive distortions’ for Europe

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Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, the French trade minister: ‘The good news is that the two parties are refraining from engaging in a trade war’ © AFP

Anne-Sylvaine Chassany in Paris

France has warned that a trade deal between the US and China must not harm the EU, as the bloc seeks exemption from Washington’s planned tariffs on aluminium and steel next month.

Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, the French trade minister, said Paris welcomed signs of easing tension between Washington and Beijing, after Donald Trump’s administration announced a suspension of tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminium on Saturday.

But in an interview he warned that joint statements on reducing China’s trade deficit with the US remained “vague” and suggested a “face-saving” exercise that ought to make European leaders “vigilant”.

“The good news is that the two parties are refraining from engaging in a trade war,” Mr Lemoyne told the Financial Times. “Now we will have to see the effects and we will be attentive that this does not translate into competitive distortions against products from other countries.”

Beijing’s pledge to increase imports of US agricultural goods were “not massive concessions”, as demographics were likely to achieve that goal, Mr Lemoyne said.

The comments underline how Mr Trump’s administration has unsettled its western allies by threatening them with duties in an attempt to narrow the US trade deficit. EU leaders have maintained a defiant attitude towards the US, saying Washington must permanently and unconditionally lift the threat of steel tariffs — which are due to take effect on June 1 — before the EU will start any wider talks on bilateral trade.

Only after securing a permanent carve-out from US tariffs would the EU address Mr Trump’s trade concerns and offer to work on an overhaul of the World Trade Organization, Mr Lemoyne said.

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said in March that the EU would not be bullied into trade discussions “with a gun pointed at our head”. But EU unity has been tested, with France advocating a tougher stance towards the US than Germany, which has been keen to avoid a trade spat that would harm its vehicle exports.

Mr Lemoyne said the EU needed to assert its “sovereignty” as the world’s largest trade bloc by “working hard to achieve a harmonised approach” and overcoming “nuances stemming from different economic structures”.

EU foreign affairs and trade ministers meet in Brussels on Tuesday and Mr Lemoyne warned that the EU had to decide whether it wanted to “remained somebody’s doormat or be respected”.

Allies do not mean vassals

Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne on the EU’s historical friendship with the US

Mr Lemoyne suggested it was especially important for the EU to make its case a year before European parliamentary elections and amid mounting Euroscepticism.

The bloc would invoke its status of historical “ally” to the US, the minister said. But he cautioned: “Allies do not mean vassals.”

The EU has had reason to feel bruised by Washington in the past year. The US move on steel and aluminium follows Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal and reimpose economic sanctions on companies doing business with Tehran. The US president also pulled out of the UN’s 2015 Paris accord on climate change last year.

Mr Lemoyne said that on trade the EU was aiming to replicate Mr Macron’s strategy over Iran, in which the French president offered to work with Mr Trump on a more comprehensive agreement with Iran to salvage the initial nuclear deal.

The WTO no longer functioned well, Mr Lemoyne said, citing its paralysis because decisions had to be unanimous. He said the EU would also be ready to discuss “voluntary co-operation” with the US within the WTO framework.

“We have a positive agenda for the US to tackle imbalances whose roots are not in Europe,” he said. “We think that more multilateralism is the answer, but a more efficient kind of multilateralism.”

https://www.ft.com/content/0035e04e-5d0e-11e8-9334-2218e7146b04

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Iran FM in Moscow as Russia moves to save nuclear deal

May 14, 2018

Iran’s foreign minister said on a visit to Moscow on Monday he was seeking “assurances” from the backers of the country’s nuclear deal after the US pulled out.

Russia is trying to keep the landmark 2015 accord alive in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s decision, pushing it into rare cooperation with Europe.

© AFP/File / by Theo MERZ | Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif met last month in Moscow. The two men met again Monday to discuss how to salvage the Iran nuclear accord after Washington pulled out

“The final aim of these negotiations is to seek assurances that the interests of the Iranian nation will be defended,” Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

AFP

Lavrov, meanwhile, said Russia and Europe had a duty to “jointly defend their legal interests” in terms of the deal.

Zarif’s diplomatic tour took him to Beijing at the weekend and will see him visit Brussels later in the week, as the international backers of the agreement scramble to save it.

After meeting his Chinese counterpart on Sunday, Zarif said he was hopeful of forging a “clear future design” for the accord.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already spoken with Germany’s Angela Merkel and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the efforts, after voicing his “deep concern” over Trump’s decision.

– Renewed coordination? –

Trump’s move to ditch the nuclear deal has infuriated Washington’s allies in Europe as well as China and Russia.

“(European) cooperation with Russia, which until recently seemed impossible because of the Skripal (spy poisoning) case, with the expulsion of diplomats and the reduction of contact, is now receiving a fresh boost,” consultant Andrei Baklitski of the PIR Center NGO said.

“The Europeans, after the withdrawal of the US from the deal, have found themselves forced to save the Joint Cooperative Plan of Action themselves,” he told AFP.

Moscow would have to play a key role in ensuring Tehran does not resume its nuclear programme, he added.

On Sunday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington still wants to work with Europe to counter Iran’s “malign behaviour”.

But while Pompeo talked up the prospect of renewed coordination with America’s allies, another top aide reminded Europe its companies could face sanctions if they continue to do business with the Middle Eastern power.

– Russia key regional player –

Russian efforts to save the accord will boost its role as a power-player in the Middle East, after its intervention on the side of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.

This, along with its diplomatic moves to orchestrate an end to the conflict, has put Moscow at loggerheads with the US and Europe, which have intervened against the regime.

Germany’s Merkel is set to visit Russia and meet Putin for a working visit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday, while French President Emmanuel Macron will be in Saint Petersburg later in the month for an economic forum.

Putin will also meet Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Sochi, presidential aide Yury Ushakov said.

Iran has said it is preparing to resume “industrial-scale” uranium enrichment “without any restrictions” unless Europe can provide solid guarantees that it can maintain trade ties despite renewed US sanctions.

After long negotiations, Iran had agreed in July 2015 to freeze its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of punishing international sanctions.

The deal was negotiated between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany.

Russia and Iran once had difficult relations but have seen ties improve since the end of the Cold War.

The countries sought to strengthen their business ties long before the 2015 agreement, despite international sanctions in place.

Analysts have suggested Russia could benefit economically from the US pull-out, as it is less exposed to the consequences of renewed sanctions than Europe.

by Theo MERZ

Netanyahu: Iran Crossed Red Line, Israel Acted in Self Defense

May 11, 2018

Israel and Iran on brink of war after unprecedented Syria bombardment in response to alleged Golan Heights attack

Image result for netanyahu photos, may 2018,

Biggest Israeli intervention in neighbouring Syria since beginning of civil war sparked by what IDF says was first ever direct Iranian rocket attack on its troops

By Bethan McKernan Beirut

The Independent Online
Israel and Iran on brink of war after unprecedented Syria bombardment

Israel has launched its most intensive attack on Iranian positions in neighbouring Syria since the civil war began in 2011, bringing two of the region’s major powers closer to the brink of direct confrontation than ever before.

The early morning bombardment killed 23 people, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. It was issued in response to what the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said was the first ever Iranian rocket attack on its troops, in the Golan Heights.

:: Latest updates amid calls for de-escalation as Israel and Iran lurch towards armed conflict 

The confrontation marks the most significant military skirmish between the two enemies to date amid a backdrop of escalating regional tensions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed Iran “crossed a red line” and the Israeli response using airstrikes was “appropriate”.

The actions were a “clear message” to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he said, adding: “We are in the midst of a protracted battle and our policy is clear: We will not allow Iran to entrench itself militarily in Syria.”

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani meanwhile urged European nations to “clearly state their actions and stances to compensate for the withdrawal of the United States in the short time that is left”.

“Iran has always sought to reduce tensions in the region, trying to strengthen security and stability,” he told German chancellor Angela Merkel in a phone call, one of number he made to a series of world leaders throughout the day.

Theresa May and French president Emmanuel Macron have both called for “calm on all sides”.

The White House condemned what it said was Iran’s “provocative rocket attacks from Syria against Israeli citizens”, emphasising “Israel’s right to act in self-defence.”

Russia also called the strikes a “alarming development” and urged for a de-escalation.

During the overnight incident civilians in both the Golan Heights, the Damascus countryside and Syria’s south were kept awake by the sound of low-flying military jets and explosions.

Israel has been on heightened alert in recent days in anticipation of an Iranian attack: Tehran has vowed retaliation for two other recent Israeli strikes in Syria which targeted and killed at least 13 Iranian nationals.

The IDF said 20 Fajr or Grad missiles were fired by the Iranian Quds Force at its positions in the Golan Heights border area, several of which were intercepted by Israel’s missile defence systems. No Israelis were injured.

 Image result for Grad missiles, photos

Iranian officials offered no immediate comment on Israel’s claim about the missile fire. Later on Thursday Lebanon’s al Manar TV quoted the vice-president of Iran’s National Security Committee as saying, “Iran has no relation to the missiles that hit the enemy entity yesterday.”

The blistering Israeli response targeted what officials said was almost all of Iran’s military infrastructure inside Syria, including dozens of weapons storage sites and intelligence centres used by elite Iranian forces, as well as Syrian air defence systems. The Syrian systems did not damage any Israeli planes.

“They need to remember the saying that if it rains on us, it’ll storm on them,” Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman told media on Thursday. “I hope we finished this chapter and everyone got the message.”

According to the Russian military, Israel fired more than 70 missiles during the attack.

Sana, Syria’s state news agency, quoted a Syrian military official as saying Israeli missiles hit air defence positions, radar stations and a weapons warehouse, but claimed most incoming rockets were intercepted. It said the hostilities were triggered by Israeli fire over the border – something which has not happened since 1974. SOHR also said it believed the incident began with a volley of fire on the Qunietra region town of Baath.

According to Syrian army command three people died and two were injured in the attack. It was not immediately clear whether the casualties were Iranian or Syrian. SOHR said at least five Syrian soldiers were killed.

Israel has largely managed to stay out of the complex seven-year-old conflict next-door, although the Golan Heights is restive and authorities have retaliated to occasional stray rockets with reprisals.

Around 100 Israeli airstrikes in Syrian territory in the last few years have aimed to prevent weapons smuggling to the Iran-allied Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which also fights alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops. Hezbollah, like Iran, is committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.

As Assad has slowly regained control of the country, tensions between Iran and Israel have ratcheted up, with Israeli officials warning they will not accept a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria.

Donald Trump‘s announcement earlier this week that his country would unilaterally withdraw from the landmark 2015 nuclear dealagreed between Iran and world powers has also set the Middle East on edge.

While Iran has said Israeli aggression against its troops in Syria will not go unheeded, Tehran’s technical ability to hit back is limited.

Iranian officials are also wary of being drawn into a wider military escalation while they are trying to garner international support to save the nuclear agreement, which gave Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Thursday’s flare-up came just hours after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned from a visit to Moscow, where he and Russian president Vladimir Putin discussed Syria’s war.

Russia militarily intervened in the conflict in 2015, turning the tide of the war in Assad’s favour.

Mr Netanyahu’s office said after the meeting that Russia was “unlikely” to limit Israel’s armed actions in Syria.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-iran-war-latest-syria-golan-heights-rocket-air-strikes-a8344291.html

Iran will figure out how to proceed without the United States — Stay in the nuclear deal — For now

May 9, 2018

Iran will now negotiate with countries remaining in the deal to see if it’s still good for Tehran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran will remain in the Iran nuclear deal, at least for the coming weeks.
 Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has a message for President Donald Trump: Tehran will remain in the Iran nuclear deal — for now.

But he added a dire warning: If Iran and other countries in the agreement can’t agree on a way forward, Iran might start enriching uranium at uncapped levels.

Rouhani asked his top diplomat to work with countries that signed on to the Iran deal — including France, Germany, Russia, and China — to figure out how to proceed without the United States. But he put a time limit on those talks, which means Iran may put itself on the path toward a nuclear weapon in mere weeks.

“I have directed the Atomic Energy Agency to prepare for the next steps, if necessary, to begin our own industrial enrichment without restriction,” Rouhani said in a statement on Tuesday, just minutes after Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal. “We will wait several weeks before acting on this decision. We will be consulting with friends, our allies and members who have signed on to the agreement. Everything depends on our national interests. If our nation’s interests are attained in the end, we will continue the process.”

That’s bad news for Trump, who promised he would never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. The Iran deal capped Tehran’s uranium enrichment at around 4 percent. Now, it seems, Iran will go much higher, but it’s unclear if it will enrich uranium at the 90 percentlevel required for a nuclear weapon.

Still, it seems like Trump’s gambit to deter Iran from getting a nuke may be failing just minutes after he decided to scrap the Iran deal.

How other world leaders reacted to Trump’s decision

Trump has received mixed reactions to his Iran deal announcement.

Let’s start with the negative. Former President Barack Obama, who spearheaded the Iran deal, called Trump’s decision “misguided” in a Tuesday Facebook post, adding that “Walking away from the JCPOA [the formal acronym for the Iran deal] turns our back on America’s closest allies.”

It makes sense that Obama would slam Trump’s withdrawal. After all, the Iran deal was one of Obama’s signature foreign policy accomplishments.

But America’s allies are also upset with Trump, according to French President Emmanuel Macron.

Emmanuel Macron

@EmmanuelMacron

France, Germany, and the UK regret the U.S. decision to leave the JCPOA. The nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake.

Trump does have leaders in his corner, though. No one seemed happier than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called Trump’s decision “bold” in a Tuesday tweet and “brave and correct” in a speech he gave after the US president’s announcement.

Just a week earlier, Netanyahu had lobbied Trump to leave the deal with a presentation that concluded Iran lied about its desire to build a nuke. Iran officially denies that claim.

Benjamin Netanyahu

@netanyahu

Thank you President Trump for your bold decision and your commitment to prevent Iran from ever getting nuclear weapons. @realDonaldTrump

The question now is if Iran will actually follow through on its enrichment threat in the long term. If it does, Trump may hear much more from world leaders about how to handle Iran.

https://www.vox.com/2018/5/8/17332830/iran-deal-rouhani-announcement-trump-netanyahu

Trump slams Kerry over ‘shadow diplomacy’ to save Iran deal

May 8, 2018

President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Monday to condemn former Secretary of State John Kerry for engaging in “shadow diplomacy” to try to preserve the Iran nuclear deal by holding meetings and speaking with major players, who, like Kerry, do not want Trump to withdraw the US from the agreement.

Image result for Kerry and Zarif, photos

Then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Speaks With Hossein Fereydoun, the brother of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif before Press conference in Vienna, July 14, 2015
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Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the United Nations in New York two weeks ago, their second meeting in about two months, to discuss ways of keeping the deal limiting Iran’s nuclear weapons program intact, according to two sources familiar with the interactions.
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The former secretary of state also met last month with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, separately sat down with French President Emmanuel Macron and spoke on the phone with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, the sources told CNN.
The Boston Globe was first to report Kerry’s meetings with Zarif, Steinmeier and Mogherini.
Trump slammed Kerry’s reported engagement on Monday.
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“The United States does not need John Kerry’s possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very badly negotiated Iran Deal. He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!” Trump tweeted.
But a Kerry spokesman pushed back against Trump’s remarks in a statement on Monday.
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“I think every American would want every voice possible urging Iran to remain in compliance with the nuclear agreement that prevented a war. Secretary Kerry stays in touch with his former counterparts around the world just like every previous Secretary of State,” said the spokesman in a written statement. “Like America’s closest allies, he believes it is important that the nuclear agreement, which took the world years to negotiate, remain effective as countries focus on stability in the region.”
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Kerry’s interactions with Iranian officials won’t affect the Iran nuclear deal, the White House said on Monday.
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“I don’t think it impacts it at all. The President spoke out about that pretty clearly, and I don’t think that we would take advice from somebody who created what the President sees to be one of the worst deals ever made,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said. “I’m not sure why we would start listening to him now.”
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Kerry has also quietly lobbied members of Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, placing dozens of phone calls in recent weeks.
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Professor Saikrishna Prakash, who teaches constitutional and foreign relations law at the University of Virginia School of Law, said the 200 year-old Logan act is not something that is prosecuted.
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“Both sides just trot this out whenever the other side has some sort of communication with a foreign government,” he noted. “It’s more a political charge than it is anything serious.”
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Prakash says there are two reasons the Justice Department would be weary of going after Kerry. First, it risks drawing additional attention to alleged violations by members of the Trump administration during the transition, and second, if the charges don’t stick they could have “egg on their faces.”
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Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif and Russian FM Lavrov
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“It’s definitely a political football,” Prakash said.
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During his Friday speech to the National Rifle Association, Trump attacked Kerry for his initial role in negotiating the Iran deal, which Trump called “horrible.”
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“And we have the former administration as represented by John Kerry, not the best negotiator we’ve ever seen,” Trump said. “He never walked away from the table, except to be in that bicycle race where he fell and broke his leg.”
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The Trump administration faces a May 12 deadline to decide whether to continue waiving sanctions on Iran that were lifted under the 2015 Iran deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
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Trump tweeted Monday that he “will be announcing my decision on the Iran Deal tomorrow from the White House at 2:00 pm.”
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https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/07/politics/john-kerry-iran-deal-shadow-diplomacy/index.html

French budget chief Gerald Darmanin accused of rape: Fellow ministers lend support to under-fire colleague

May 7, 2018

Members of the French government have rallied around Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin, a rising star in President Emmanuel Macron’s team who has been accused of rape in a case dating back nearly a decade.

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On Saturday, the Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed that it had reopened an investigation into allegations Darmanin, 35, pressured a woman into sex in return for promising to help clear her name in a legal dispute. The case comes in the midst of a global outpouring of accounts of sexual harassment and rape unleashed by the Harvey Weinstein affair.

Sophie Spatz, a 46-year-old former call girl, made a first complaint against Darmanin in mid-2017 but the investigation was closed soon after when she failed to attend questioning by the police. In mid-January she renewed her complaint, triggering a new preliminary probe.

Darmanin’s lawyers have accused her of a “crude attempt to harm” the minister’s reputation and said he was suiting her for slander.

On Sunday, Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet rejected suggestions that he should resign, noting that he had not been charged with any crime. Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert also took up Darmanin’s defence, saying the principle of innocent until proven guilty should apply to his cabinet colleague, “like any other citizen”.

French Minister for Public Action and Accounts Gerald Darmanin leaves the Elysee Palace after the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France, September 14, 2017.  REUTERS/Charles Platiau - RC186972C0B0

File image of French Minister for Public Action and Accounts Gerald Darmanin. Reuters

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Saturday that Darmanin still had his “full confidence”.

Darmanin, a former right-wing MP who jumped ship to Macron’s centrist Republic on the Move party in 2017, is one of the best performers in the president’s largely inexperienced team.

Spatz approached him in 2009 to seek his help in trying to have a suspended sentence lifted for blackmail involving a former boyfriend. Le Monde quoted her as telling police that when she approached Darmanin for help he placed a hand on hers and told her: “You too must help me” and that she felt pressured into sex.

In an interview with France Info radio on 15 January, Darmanin denied the allegations, saying he was “a nobody” at the time of the alleged rape and that it was “all false”. He admitted however to having a reputation for being an insistent flirt and to “sending a few persistent SMSes”.

Socialist senator and former minister for families Laurence Rossignol was one of the few opposition politicians to comment on the affair. “We must keep two things in mind: the respect for presumption of innocence on the one hand and respect for the word of the complainant on the other,” she said.

Four feminists on Sunday launched a petition calling on the prime minister to sack Darmanin.

Updated Date: Jan 29, 2018 13:37 PM

Pacific and China on agenda as Macron arrives in Australia

May 1, 2018

Emmanuel Macron arrived in Australia Tuesday on a rare visit by a French president with the two sides expected to agree on greater cooperation in the Pacific to counter a rising China.

© POOL/AFP | Emmanuel Macron (R) is expected to say France is willing to do much more with Australia in the South Pacific

AFP

Fresh from meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington, Macron touched down for the first foray Down Under by a French leader since Francois Hollande came to Brisbane for a G20 summit four years ago.

His advisers said he wanted to discuss a “common response” to security and climate tensions in the South Pacific, which includes the French territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia.

Cuisine and defence will be on the agenda during the two-day visit.

France’s ambassador to Australia Christophe Penot said Paris saw Canberra as a “pivot” for his country’s broader involvement in the Indo-Pacific.

“What the president will tell your prime minister is that we are ready and willing to do much more with Australia in the South Pacific,” he told the Australian Financial Review Tuesday.

“We must support the South Pacific islands in their development and give them options when they want to develop infrastructure.

“That doesn’t mean we want to oppose China on that. It is just that we want to be complementary and make sure they have all the options on the table.”

Australia has become increasingly alarmed at China’s push into the Pacific, which could potentially upset the delicate strategic balance in the region.

A senior Australian minister recently called Chinese infrastructure projects in the Pacific “white elephants” while reports last month, that were denied, said Beijing wanted to establish a permanent military base in Vanuatu.

Australia’s Lowy Institute estimates China provided US$1.78 billion in aid, including concessional loans, to Pacific nations between 2006-16.

Macron will also be keen to talk defence and trade, building on a mega Aus$50 billion (US$37 billion, 31 billion euros) deal agreed in late 2016 for France to supply Australia’s new fleet of next-generation submarines.

The May 1-3 trip comes hot on the heels of his pomp-filled visit to Washington and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s journey to Normandy for World War I Anzac Day commemorations last month.

It will have a strong cultural flavour with France’s 40-year-old leader discussing food Wednesday at a lunch with Australian and French chefs.

As often on his foreign trips, Macron will also meet local artists, specifically Aboriginal artists whose work deals with the climate change — a subject on which Macron, custodian of the 2015 Paris Agreement, has taken a leadership role.

Following the Australia visit, the French leader will continue on to the French territory of New Caledonia, where a crucial independence referendum is due in November.

EU Sounds Alarm Over Trade War as Trump Puts Gun to Its Head

April 28, 2018

The European Union warned about the costs of a trans-Atlantic trade war while bracing for one to erupt after the U.S. signaled it will reject the bloc’s demand for an unconditional waiver from metals-import tariffs.

 Updated on 
  • EU in the dark as exemption from metal tariffs expires Tuesday
  • Bloc won’t accept curbing exports at 90% of last two years
Shipping containers sit on board a cargo ship at the Eurogate Terminal at the Port of Hamburg.

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

The European Union warned about the costs of a trans-Atlantic trade war while bracing for one to erupt after the U.S. signaled it will reject the bloc’s demand for an unconditional waiver from metals-import tariffs.

“A trade war is a losing game for everybody,” Belgian Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt told reporters in Sofia. “We should stay cool when we’re thinking about reactions but the basic point is that nobody wins in a trade war so we try to avoid it at all costs.”

Donald Trump’s administration is asking Europe, Canada and other allies to accept quotas in exchange for an exemption from steel and aluminum tariffs that kick in May 1, when a temporary waiver expires. “We are asking of everyone: quotas if not tariffs,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Friday.

This puts the EU in the difficult position of either succumbing to U.S. demands that could breach international commerce rules or face punitive tariffs. Forcing governments to limit shipments of goods violates World Trade Organization rules, which prohibit so-called voluntary export restraints. The demand is also contrary to the entire trade philosophy of the 28-nation bloc, which is founded on the principle of the free movement of goods.

EU Waiver

The White House last month temporarily shielded some trading partners including the EU from the duties, at 25 percent for imported steel and 10 percent for aluminum on the grounds of protecting national security. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is negotiating with countries seeking permanent exemptions. So far, South Korea is the only nation to be spared from the duties, after reaching a deal to revise its bilateral free-trade agreement with the U.S.

While WTO rules foresee the possibility of countries taking emergency “safeguard” measures involving import quotas for specific goods, such steps are rare, must be temporary and can be legally challenged. The EU is demanding a permanent, unconditional waiver from the U.S. tariffs.

Trump’s demands to curb steel and aluminum exports to 90 percent of the level of the previous two years are unacceptable, an EU government official said. The official, who asked not to be named as talks are ongoing, signaled the EU’s response would depend on the level of the quotas after which the punitive tariffs would kick in.

The European Commission, the EU’s trade authority in Brussels, declined to comment on the prospect of an agreement with the U.S. involving any import quotas while stressing the bloc’s consistent call for an unconditional, permanent exclusion from the American metal levies.

“In the short run it might help them solve their trade balance but in the long run it will worsen trade conditions,” Bulgarian Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said in Sofia. “The tools they’re using to make America great again might result in certain mistakes because free world trade has proven to be the best solution for the development of the world so far.”

Meanwhile, the EU has made clear it won’t be intimidated. French President Emmanuel Macron said this month that “we won’t talk about anything while there’s a gun pointed at our head.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she discussed trade disputes with Trump during talks at the White House on Friday and that she failed to win a public commitment to halt the tariffs.

Adding to signs of trans-Atlantic tensions, Le Maire told his peers in Sofia during a discussion on taxation: “One thing I learned from my week in the U.S. with President Macron: The Americans will only respect a show of strength.”

— With assistance by Piotr Skolimowski, Joao Lima, Slav Okov, Alexander Weber, Viktoria Dendrinou, Andrew Mayeda, and Elizabeth Konstantinova

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-28/eu-sounds-alarm-over-trade-war-as-trump-puts-gun-to-its-head

In Iran, Oliver Stone likens Trump to ‘Beelzebub’ — Also hammers Emmanuel Macron who has been telling Trump to leave Iran alone…

April 25, 2018

You can see Oliver’s fellow panelists looking like they wished they were in Montana….

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The Hill

By  JULIA MANCHESTER – 

Filmmaker Oliver Stone slammed President Trump during an appearance at the International Film Festival in Tehran this week, comparing him to “Beelzebub.”

Stone made the comments while criticizing foreign policy in the Middle East, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“We made a mess out of Iraq, Syria, Libya, but it doesn’t matter to the American public. It’s OK to wreck the Middle East,” Stone said. “It doesn’t matter who is president — Bush, Obama or Trump, the U.S. will break any treaty.”

He told a local journalist that, having compared former President George W. Bush to John Wayne, he would have to compare Trump with “Beelzebub.”

Stone also criticized French President Emmanuel Macron, who visited Trump this week in the administration’s first state visit and on Wednesday addressed a joint session of Congress.

The filmmaker called Macron a “young man without much sense of history or memory of the great traditions of France,” referring to French colonialism and imperialism.

Stone has criticized Trump in the past, calling him a “disaster” last year.

“This is a little too early to tell if Trump lasts, but it seems he’s not to be the kind of president who plans, who deliberates,” Stone said.

http://thehill.com/blogs/in-the-know/in-the-know/384821-in-iran-oliver-stone-likens-trump-to-beelzebub

Could The Trump-Macron Bromance Leave Netanyahu Without a Dance Partner Against Iran?

April 25, 2018

French president tries to spin U.S. continuation of Iran nuclear accord as a ‘new deal’

.President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron embrace at the conclusion of a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 24, 2018.
President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron embrace at the conclusion of a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 24, 2018.\ JIM BOURG/ REUTERS

President Donald Trump savaged the “insane” and “ridiculous” Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, declaring it “a disaster.” With French President Emmanuel Macron at his side, Trump threatened Iran, in blunt language that should sound familiar to its leaders, that Tehran would pay prices “like never before” if it dared threaten the United States or relaunch it’s nuclear program. He certainly sounded, at times, as if a U.S. withdrawal on May 12 from the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was already a done deal.

President Trump with President Emmanuel Macron of France on Tuesday at the White House.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Benjamin Netanyahu must have been delighted with Trump’s rough rhetoric, but can the prime minister relax and rest on his laurels? Not necessarily, or at least not yet.

Macron is the star quarterback in a last minute Hail Mary play by the international community in general, and Western European powers in particular, to dissuade Trump from decertifying the Iran nuclear accord in two and a half weeks, effectively withdrawing the U.S. from the deal altogether. German Chancellor Angel Merkel will come to the White House in two days with an identical message, but the chips are mostly on Macron. Trump’s animosity towards Barack Obama fuels his hostility towards the nuclear accord, but his special – not to say weird – relationship with Macron may temper it. The last thing Trump wants is to sacrifice his treasured ties with Macron on the altar of their seemingly sharp clash over the nuclear deal.

Trump’s harsh diatribe against Iran was thus tempered by more ambiguous statements that indicate, to Netanyahu’s horror, that the door to maintaining the nuclear deal might still be open. Macron and Merkel are trying to persuade Trump to make do with new side agreements – which won’t include ChinaRussia and the United Nations, the three other signatories to the deal – that would impose new sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, its regional expansion and its support for terror, as well as agreements on how they would deal with any Iranian violation of the JCPOA. Trump may have simply wanted to provide Macron with a face saving gesture that would ease his embarrassment in Paris, but he might also be preparing an alibi for himself should he decide, contrary to current expectations, to keep the nuclear deal alive.

Macron, for his part, supplied Trump with the spin that could whitewash such a reversal: It’s a new deal, the French president suggested, sealing his proposal with an unconventional kiss on Trump’s cheek.

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Trump, for his part, pulled out all the stops to accord his favorite foreign leader a grand reception, with red carpets, 21 guns and a state dinner, but Trump being Trump, he also succeeded in embarrassing him as well. He mocked the nuclear deal that Macron was defending while the French president sat by his side. He used one of their question times to tout his own economic achievements and another to blast his Democratic opponents. He knocked the trade policies of the European Union, which Macron staunchly defends. And to illustrate their intimate ties, Trump even removed a speck from Macron’s tailored French suit, making sure to tell the astonished reporters that it was dandruff. Lovers of etiquette and defenders of diplomatic protocol throughout the world groaned, then buried their heads in shame.

But Macron, make no mistake, knows exactly whom he’s dealing with. Unlike Trump, who governs by instinct and gut feelings, Macron is a wily, disciplined and calculating politician. After his election in May 2017, the French leader decided he would embrace his widely reviled American counterpart — flatter him incessantly, give him a royal welcome in Paris on Bastille Day, participate in the recent U.S. attack on Syria and then come to Washington not only as Trump’s first official guest but as his best friend on earth. It’s no wonder that the name most often mentioned at the White House on Tuesday was that of Marquis Lafayette, the French hero of the American Revolution: It’s hard to think of another time in which America’s relations with France were so significantly better than those with other countries in the world.

Both leaders share their respective sensational achievements of coming out of nowhere to take over their governments, but this is where the similarities end. In addition to the traditional animosity of the American right to France, which last peaked when French Fries were renamed Freedom Fries in the wake of Paris’ refusal to support the Iraq War, Macron is just the kind of guy that Trump should have despised: young, smart, educated, globalist, multilateralist, a man of culture and a champion of environmental protection. Nonetheless, the two men have developed what seems like a beautiful friendship, though it’s hard to tell whether it’s a case of opposites attracting or a marriage of convenience that can be annulled at a moment’s notice.

Macron’s unequivocal defense of the agreement that Trump seems determined to smash is supposed to make clear to the American president that he and the U.S. could pay a heavy price if the nuclear deal collapses. In addition to the threat of a military confrontation with Iran, a unilateral decision by Trump to abandon the deal would drive a deep wedge between Washington and its European allies and would further harm America’s already faltering standing abroad. Coming as it may shortly before or after an expected meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, which Trump extolled repeatedly on Tuesday, it’s not clear that Trump would benefit from coming to the dramatic summit as a leader who reneges on a signed nuclear deal without any proof or claim that the other side has violated it.

In their press conference, Trump asserted that he’s already reached a decision how he will act on May 12, and Macron already knows what it is. Judging by Macron’s response, at least, the French president hasn’t given up hope. Perhaps he is relying on the precedent of Kim Jong Un, whom Trump once described as a “rocket man” and a “monster” but now speaks of favorably, depicting him on Tuesday as “responsible” and “positive.” With the mercurial Trump, after all, one really can’t be sure until the very last minute. In public, Netanyahu may be showing confidence that Trump is about to fulfill his dream of nixing the Iran deal, but after watching the Francophile lovefest at the White House, he’s probably biting his nails all the same.