Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

‘World still needs NATO’ writes German defense minister in New York Times op-ed

January 19, 2019

With NATO rattled amid pressure from Donald Trump, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen made an appeal for the alliance in a New York Times op-ed. She described NATO as an “emotional bond” between the US and Europe.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (picture-alliance/dpa/B. Pedersen)

In an appeal to the American public, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen penned a New York Times opinion piece on Friday making a case for the continuation of NATO.

The western security alliance, which turns 70 this year, has been repeatedly criticized by US President Donald Trump, who has reportedly expressed doubts about remaining in the alliance.

In her opinion piece entitled “The World Still Needs NATO,” von der Leyen said that NATO is an “irreplaceable building block for an international order that favors freedom and peace.”

The “international order” is under threat from military actions by Russia and China as well as “Islamic State” (IS) terrorism and nuclear weapon production, she writes.

“Maybe the most basic benefit of NATO is that it provides reliability in an unreliable world,” the Christian Democrat politician wrote.

Describing what the alliance has meant to her personally, von der Leyen said that Germany was grateful for the security provided by NATO and that in her mind, the alliance was inextricably linked to her memories of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“It represents a special, even emotional bond between the American and European continents,” she wrote.

Defending the weakest, and strongest

Von der Leyen doesn’t explicitly name the United States or Trump in the piece. She does, however, note that the one time that NATO’s “an attack on one of us is an attack on us all” maxim was activated, it involved the alliance’s other members coming to the aid of the US.

“We will help our weakest ally just as we have helped our strongest by invoking Article 5 — for the first and only time in NATO’s history — after September 11, 2001.”

At a NATO summit last July, Trump voiced doubts over whether the US would honor Article 5, the alliance’s collective defense principle, for Montenegro — NATO’s newest member.

Trump putting pressure on allies

Von der Leyen’s op-ed comes on the heels of a New York Times report that said Trump spoke with senior US officials about pulling the US out of NATO.

On Thursday, Trump told military members at the Pentagon that Washington was fully committed to the security alliance, but repeated his demand for other countries to increase their defense budgets.

He also reiterated his belief that NATO allies in Europe have been taking advantage of US security for decades.

“We cannot be the fools for others. We cannot be. We don’t want to be called that. And I will tell you for many years behind your backs, that is what they were saying,” said.

Germany is one of the members currently falling well short of the 2 percent of GDP target for military expenditure recently set by NATO. As defense minister, von der Leyen has been at the forefront of calls for a higher budget, but with only limited success.


Theresa May leaves diplomats in ‘disbelief’ after presenting EU leaders with unchanged Brexit demands

January 19, 2019

No New Brexit Demands?

  • Mrs May’s requests continued to focus around three solutions to Irish backstop 
  • Repeated demands to leaders of Germany, France, Netherlands and Ireland
  • Mark Rutte and Angela Merkel have signalled opposition to tweaks to the deal 
The Prime Minister (seen in May 2018) left EU diplomats in a state of 'disbelief' over her failure to shift her stance despite the historic defeat by a margin of 230 votes, a source said

The Prime Minister (seen in May 2018) left EU diplomats in a state of ‘disbelief’ over her failure to shift her stance despite the historic defeat by a margin of 230 votes, a source said

Theresa May made no change to her Brexit demands in cross-Channel phone calls with European Union leaders despite her own plan being heavily defeated by MPs earlier this week, it has been reported.

The Prime Minister left EU diplomats in a state of ‘disbelief’ over her failure to shift her stance despite the historic defeat by a margin of 230 votes, a source said.

Mrs May’s requests continued to focus around either a legally binding time-limit for the Irish backstop; a right for Britain to unilaterally withdraw, or a commitment to a trade deal finalisation before 2021 to prevent the backstop from coming into force.

She repeated her demands in talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, reported The Telegraph.

‘It was the same old story – the same set of demands – all unchanged despite the defeat,’ a source with knowledge of the calls said.

The solutions to the border issue were rejected by the EU at the European Council meeting in December after leaders expressed doubts that they would be enough to get the deal over the line in Westminster.

It comes as the Dutch and German governments publicly signalled their opposition to any new concessions for Britain, with Mr Rutte telling Mrs May the deal could not be ‘tweaked’.

‘I said: “I don’t see how the current deal can be tweaked”,’ he told journalists after his phone call. ‘She is really expecting Brexit to go ahead on March 29.’

Angela Merkel (pictured in Berlin on December 30) appears unwilling to allow Britain any new concessions  

Angela Merkel (pictured in Berlin on December 30) appears unwilling to allow Britain any new concessions

Mr Rutte said that any form of Brexit, with or without a deal, will damage the Netherlands, a major British trading partner and one of the world’s top five export countries.

‘It will cause disruptions and we are trying to minimise those,’ he said. ‘We need to look at the facts and prepare for all scenarios. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.’

Among measures taken by the Dutch government is the hiring of roughly 1,000 customs officials to deal with changes in border checks.

‘I appeal to social organisations, companies and institutions, if they have not done so already, to inform themselves about what must be done to be prepared. Time is running out. March 29 is only 10 weeks away.’

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (seen in Dublin on Wednesday) also spoke to Mrs May on the phone 

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (seen in Dublin on Wednesday) also spoke to Mrs May on the phone

The German government appears to be similarly unwilling to shift its stance, with foreign minister Heiko Maas saying Mrs Merkel had made it ‘very clear’ to Mrs May that she would not allow the deal to be changed.

There was little let up on the home front for the Prime Minister, with Tory MP Nick Boles warning that ministers in her Government are prepared to defy her and vote for a backbench plan to give MPs power to block a no-deal Brexit.

Nick Boles told the BBC that some non-Cabinet ministers had told him directly they would quit if whipped against a bill allowing parliamentarians to demand Article 50 be extended for fresh talks with Brussels.

Speaking to the Radio 4 podcast Political Thinking the Grantham and Stamford MP also said members of his local Tory party in Lincolnshire may try to deselect him because of his stance on Brexit and said he continued to receive death threats.

Mr Boles’ dropped a planned bill giving more power to the backbenches on Wednesday but has swung behind the cross-party replacement European UnionWithdrawal (Number 3) Bill, which is due to be tabled by Labour’s Yvette Cooper on Monday.

He told the programme’s presenter Nick Robinson: ‘We have had indications that many ministers, including Cabinet ministers are very, very keen to see it pass and are telling the Prime Minister that they will not vote against it.

‘There is a bandwagon rolling, it’s got a lot of momentum behind it and I very much hope that any MP who shares my view that a no-deal Brexit would be a disaster, will jump on board.

‘I have been told directly by ministers, not in the Cabinet, that they have said that they would resign if they are whipped to vote against it.’

But Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom hit back, telling the Telegraph that colleagues who want to stop no deal wrongly ‘think they know better’ than voters, but will ‘fail our country’ and weaken the UK’s negotiating hand.

Emmanuel Macron (seen yesterday in Souillac, southern France) has long urged a tough stance against Britain 

Emmanuel Macron (seen yesterday in Souillac, southern France) has long urged a tough stance against Britain

Ms Leadsom said: ‘Parliamentarians are the servants of the people – and the people gave us a very direct answer to a direct question. We must leave the EU.

‘No deal is not the desired outcome, but it would be incompetent for any responsible government to rule it out, and there are very good reasons for that. If we rule out no deal, we can forget about the EU taking us seriously. We weaken our negotiating hand.’

Ms Leadsom said people campaigning to block no deal were ‘conveniently ignoring’ the fact that Parliament had passed legislation which meant the UK will leave the EU on March 29 whether there is a deal or not.

She said: ‘It’s the legal default position between the UK and the EU. If we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail our country.

‘The will of the people is not something that should be redefined by parliamentarians who think they know better, and want to pursue their own agenda.

‘Anyone who wants to cheer the optimistic future we have ahead of us is worthy of our support, not our derision.’

Germany looks to ban Huawei from 5G

January 17, 2019

Berlin turns against Chinese telecoms supplier over security concerns

Image result for Huawei, 5G, photos

By Guy Chazan in Berlin

Germany is looking at how to stop the use of Huawei products in the build of its 5G network, making it the latest western country to clamp down on the company over mounting security concerns.

The German government is considering introducing security requirements for 5G, the next generation of mobile communications, that would be harder for Huawei to meet. The initiative was first reported by the German daily Handelsblatt. A statement from the economics ministry said the security of the future 5G network and the safety of products offered by different telecommunications suppliers was “highly relevant” for the German government, and it would be “guided” by such concerns in its buildout of the network. But it also stressed that no decision had yet been taken on concrete measures.

The German move came at a time when the US has been actively lobbying countries to ban Huawei from developing 5G mobile phone networks on national security grounds, arguing that its technology can be used by the Chinese government for spying or cyber attacks. The tough new position is a shift from Berlin’s previous view of the company.

In October, Günter Krings, deputy interior minister, wrote to the Green MP Katharina Dröge that there was “no concrete legal basis” for excluding any particular equipment supplier from the 5G buildout in Germany “and none is being planned”. He said the German law on telecommunications was contained provisions that were “sufficient . . . to address possible security concerns”.

But as the deadline for Germany’s 5G buildout approaches, the government’s position has hardened. The 5G spectrum licences are to be auctioned this spring, and telecoms companies need clarity by then as to which suppliers they can work with.

Last month Deutsche Telekom said it would reassess its system for procuring network equipment. A spokesman told Handelsblatt that the company “takes the global discussion about the security of network elements made by Chinese producers very seriously”. Opposition MPs said they were pleased that the German government was finally taking security concerns over Huawei seriously.

“For too long, the government underestimated the explosive nature of this issue,” said Katharina Dröge. She called on ministers “to finally say publicly what they think of Huawei being involved in the 5G buildout.” The EU is also increasingly concerned about Huawei.

Andrus Ansip, the senior Brussels official on tech policy, recently warned that Chinese groups could be ordered by Beijing’s intelligence services to build “back doors” into their systems. Australia and New Zealand, which are members of the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing network with Canada, the US and the UK, have already blocked Huawei from forming partnerships with local telecoms carriers.

The UK and Japan have also publicly distanced themselves from Huawei’s plans to supply 5G telecoms, a breakthrough technology that will allow objects such as fridges, cars and smartphones to “talk” to each other. This week Huawei’s founder and president Ren Zhengfei broke his silence over the allegations against the company, saying it had “never received any request from any government to provide improper information”.

The 74-year-old former Chinese army engineer also denied that China’s new national security law obliged Huawei to build back doors into its telecoms equipment in order to gather electronic intelligence. Huawei has also been thrown into crisis by the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, its chief financial officer and Ren Zhengfei’s daughter, on charges of breaking US sanctions against Iran as she tried to change planes in Canada.


German police arrest suspected Sicilian mobsters (Mafia) for drug smuggling

January 17, 2019

Italian and German police have launched raids against members of the Sicilian Mafia, according to Italian officials. The suspects nabbed in Germany were allegedly linked with Turkish clans and the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta.

German police patrol in Cologne in 2018 (picture-alliance/dpa/O. Berg)

At least four members of a Sicilian Mafia “cell” were arrested on drug-related charges in Germany, Italian officials said on Thursday.

Authorities believe the detainees were smuggling drugs between Sicily, Rome and Germany.

Around 100 officers from both Italy and Germany previously launched a joint anti-Mafia crackdown based on arrest warrants from the Sicilian town of Caltanissetta. Italian police arrested at least one person and were searching for another suspect in cooperation with colleagues from Germany. Five more suspects linked with the investigation had been detained or placed under house arrest before Thursday’s crackdown.

Specialist German police units from the SEK raided an apartment in Cologne to detain three of the suspects overnight, according to Germany’s public broadcaster WDR. Another suspect was captured further south, in Mannheim. The four suspects are allegedly members of the so-called Rinzivillo clan, which is part of the Sicilian Mafia. The clan operates in the northwest German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, according to the DPA news agency.

Read moreItalian Mafia, bikers, Berlin clans: Europe’s crime gangs

The cell maintained contacts with Turkish-linked crime syndicates and also with the ‘Ndrangheta, which is a rival Mafia organization in southern Italy. Their ‘Ndrangheta contacts apparently included alleged mafia boss Antonio Strangio, who was arrested in Germany’s Duisburg in 2017 after five years on the run.

In recent years, both the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta have developed extensive operations in Germany.

CEOs Say Recession Is Top Worry for 2019

January 17, 2019

A year ago, recession ranked low on list of executive worries


Image result for container ship at a port in Qingdao, China, photos

Workers moor a container ship at a port in Qingdao, China. China’s trade growth slowed in 2018 as a tariff battle with the U.S. heated up and global consumer demand weakened. Global trade ranked high as a top 2019 concern for chief executives from both the U.S. and China. PHOTO:ASSOCIATED PRESS

The possibility of a global recession ranks as the top concern on the minds of corporate leaders as they head into 2019, according to a new survey of chief executives from the Conference Board, a business research group.

That is a dramatic reversal from a year ago, when executives were sanguine about the risk of recession, ranking it their 19th concern overall out of 28 issues, below issues like outdated infrastructure, workforce diversity and income inequality.

The survey of more than 800 CEOs from around the world was conducted in the fall, before a sharp decline in stock prices amplified worries that economic growth is stalling.

Given that CEOs sensed the possibility of recession before the markets’ recent decline, much of their sentiment stems from other challenges that ranked high on their list of external concerns, said Bart van Ark, the Conference Board’s chief economist. After recession, the top four risks were threats to global trade systems, global political instability, new competitors and declining trust in political and policy institutions.

“There are worries that the policy environment is just not ready to deal with the economic challenges we’re facing,” Mr. van Ark said.

In a separate report on global risks, the World Economic Forum, which produces the annual Davos confab of politicians, business leaders and academics, on Wednesday identified trade wars and rising political tensions as the biggest global threats. Cyberattacks and climate change were also high on that list.

The Conference Board ranked concerns by region. In Japan, China and Latin America, recession was the top external risk. In the U.S., where hackers have breached the computer systems of Facebook Inc., Marriott International Inc. and the country’s electric grid, it was cybersecurity, which Chinese CEOs ranked 10th.

European CEOs named global political instability as their dominant worry.

If the Conference Board had surveyed CEOs in December, after the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 10% from its October level, recession “would probably have been first in the U.S. and Europe too,” Mr. van Ark said.

Global trade ranked especially high for executives from the two countries at the center of the most contentious trade dispute, the U.S. and China. In China, CEOs ranked it their second-biggest external concern. In the U.S., it was fourth.

Those worries are starting to show up in corporate earnings and statements from chief executives. Earlier this month, Apple Inc. cut its quarterly revenue forecast for the first time in more than 15 years because of slowing sales in China, where growth is under pressure in part because of trade tensions with the U.S.

Internally, executives in every region identified their ability to attract and retain top employees as their primary challenge. Other top concerns are creating new business models to adapt to disruptive technologies, developing the next generation of leaders, aligning compensation and incentives with business performance and reducing costs.


Top executives cited worries about a global recession and the war for talent as their top concerns in 2019.


• 1. Recession risk

• 2. Threats to global trade

• 3. Global political instability

• 4. New competition

• 5. Declining trust in political institutions


• 1. Attracting and retaining top talent

• 2. Creating new business models to adapt to disruptive technologies

• 3. Developing the next generation of leaders

• 4. Better alignment of compensation with business performance

• 5. Reducing baseline costs

Source: The Conference Board

Write to Lauren Weber at

Global economy is headed for recession

January 17, 2019

Global growth is slowing and the world economy is headed for a recession in 2019 unless something happens to give it renewed momentum.

By Jack Kemp

A help wanted sign is posted at a taco stand in Solana Beach, California, U.S., July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

The OECD’s composite leading indicator fell to just 99.3 points in November, its lowest since October 2012, and down from a peak of 100.5 at the end of 2017.

Growth momentum has been easing for some time in Britain, Canada, France and Italy and there were tentative signs of slackening momentum in the United States and Germany in November.

The composite indicator is likely to fall even further when data for December are published next month, given the weakness already revealed in equity markets and business surveys.

The OECD composite leading indicator has been weakening consistently for the last year and now points unambiguously to a contraction ahead (


In the last 50 years, whenever the index has fallen below 99.3, there has almost always been a recession in the United States (1970, 1974, 1980, 1981, 1990, 2001 and 2008).

The one exception was the weakening of the index in 1998, when the United States continued to grow, despite the weakening global economy in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis.

Even in this case, however, the interest-rate setting Federal Open Market Committee noted “the economy has been holding up but is now showing clear signs of deterioration.”

“When we feed this information into our various models, they inevitably, as we might expect, engender a quite considerable softening.”

The observations are contained in the transcript of an unusual, out-of-cycle conference call held by the Federal Open Market Committee in September 1998.

One week later, the Federal Reserve responded to signs of a weakening economy by cutting U.S. interest rates.


Most of the world’s major economies outside the United States showed clear signs of slackening growth in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Even in the United States, the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index for December showed the sharpest deceleration in growth since the recessions of 2008 and 2001.

Global trade volumes showed signs of slowing towards the end of 2018 after strong growth in 2017.

Air freight through Hong Kong International Airport, the world’s busiest air cargo hub and a proxy for global trade, was down 1.6 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter.

Air freight volumes in Hong Kong were down by a massive 5 percent in December compared with the same month a year earlier, according to the Civil Aviation Department.


Most economists now forecast a period of slower growth in 2019 but policymakers have expressed hope for a soft landing rather than an outright recession.

Policymakers almost always aim for a soft landing, in an effort to maintain business and consumer confidence, but there are good reasons to be sceptical about the scenario.

Experience shows the economy is characterised by a significant number of positive feedback mechanisms which amplify booms and slumps.

 JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon doesn't expect the next recession to be as bad as the previous one.


JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon doesn’t expect the next recession to be as bad as the previous one.CREDIT:BLOOMBERG


Expansions tend to accelerate as business investment, employment, incomes, consumer spending and equity prices reinforce each other.

Once the economy starts to lose momentum, however, all these factors tend to interact with each other in the opposite direction to intensify the slowdown.

A soft landing is still possible but a hard landing is more likely unless something happens to kickstart global growth.

If policymakers want to avoid a recession, they have two principal options:

(a) cut U.S. interest rates to ease global financial conditions; or

(b) conclude a trade agreement between China and the United States to ease trade tensions and boost business confidence.

But unless policymakers intervene with one of these alternatives, the global economy’s momentum will continue to slacken and push it towards recession.

Related columns:

– U.S. economy flashes warning signs of impending slowdown (Reuters, Jan. 3)

– Global economy is running out of momentum (Reuters, Oct. 23)

– Global economy falters as politicians take expansion for granted (Reuters, Oct. 11)

– Global economic outlook is darkening (Reuters, Aug. 14) (Editing by Mark Potter)


See also:

‘Won’t be like last time’: JP Morgan chief has some good news about the next recession

Grassley Sees Shutdown Delaying Major Trade Talks

January 17, 2019

Issues warning ahead of parleys with EU and Japan as chief negotiator’s staff is severely reduced

Image result for Chuck Grassley, cnn, photos

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) said trade negotiations with the EU and Japan will likely be delayed, and congressional consideration of a new Nafta may also be put off.

WASHINGTON—The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said Wednesday that the Trump administration’s trade negotiations may be delayed as a result of the partial government shutdown, which is now on day 26.

The estimated start dates for two major trade negotiations appear to be in jeopardy amid significant reductions in staff at the U.S. trade representative’s office, the White House and other key offices, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said.

“I think they’re going to be delayed,” he said, referring specifically to talks expected to start with the European Union and Japan.

Congressional consideration of President Trump’s revised trade deal with Mexico and Canada may also be delayed because the International Trade Commission, the office charged with producing an economic report on the deal, has been closed since the start of the shutdown. Congress won’t move forward without that report, Mr. Grassley said.

A senior White House official dismissed Mr. Grassley’s prediction and said there are enough staffers working to proceed with the pending trade talks.

Mr. Trump’s request to Congress for more than $5 billion to build a portion of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico has triggered a spending battle that has partially shut down the government since Dec. 22. The president has asserted that Mexico will pay for a wall through revenues from his new trilateral trade deal, which also includes Canada, even if its leaders have refused to do so directly. But Mr. Grassley and other lawmakers are concerned that this battle will trigger setbacks for Mr. Trump’s broader trade agenda. Trade experts are also trying to figure out how the administration intends to force Mexico to foot the bill for the wall.

The Trump administration has released its negotiating objectives for possible trade agreements with the EU and Japan, and had planned to start formal talks as soon as this month. But as of Monday, staff reductions caused by the shutdown hit Mr. Trump’s trade office, hurting it at a time when the administration is setting the groundwork for some negotiations and continuing critical talks with China.

Only 74 regular staffers in the office of Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, plus five political appointees, are expected to continue working through the government shutdown, according to a memo from the Office of Management and Budget—down from 265.

The agency had said in December it would continue with its negotiation and trade-enforcement activities using existing funds.

On Tuesday, USTR said in a statement that “excepted personnel will ensure USTR continues to conduct operations, including trade negotiations and enforcement.”

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The furloughs come at a busy time for Mr. Lighthizer, who is expected to take the lead this year in pressing Congress to ratify the new version of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta, that his office negotiated with Canada and Mexico last year.

Democratic members of Congress want changes to the pact, and delays caused by the shutdown or disagreements with lawmakers could push any vote on the new Nafta, known as USMCA, into the 2020 election season.

Mr. Lighthizer’s office late Friday released its negotiating objectives for a deal with the European Union. Some trade experts are playing down expectations for a deal with Brussels this year as the EU struggles with the U.K.’s exit and the Trump administration negotiates with China following rounds of tariffs imposed by Mr. Lighthizer’s office.

Mr. Grassley addressed some of the conflicting goals between the U.S. and EU to be addressed in pending talks, in particular a demand by Washington to reduce or eliminate tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods.

Earlier this week, he met with European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström to reject Europe’s refusal to include agriculture as part of the coming discussions.

“My inference was that what’s the sense of negotiating if you don’t include agriculture,” Mr. Grassley said. “She took the opposite point of view.”

Write to Vivian Salama at and William Mauldin at


U.S. Calls Canadian’s Death Sentence in China ‘Politically Motivated’

January 17, 2019
Beijing’s action poses global threat, Trudeau minister warns
Tensions escalate further in feud over Huawei executive
Robert Lloyd Schellenberg is seen at the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court in Dalian, China, in this photograph made available on Jan. 14, 2019.Source: Dalian Intermediate People’s Court

The U.S. State Department said a death sentence issued to a Canadian this week in China was a political decision, with Justin Trudeau’s top diplomat calling the detention of two other men a threat to all nations.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, speaking to reporters near Montreal, said Canada is in a “difficult moment” after the arrest of a top Huawei Technologies Co. executive last month in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition request. Nine days after that, a Canadian diplomat and a businessman were seized separately by state security officers in China.

Chrystia Freeland

Photographer: David Kawai/Bloomberg

“Our government has been energetically reaching out to our allies and explaining that the arbitrary detentions of Canadians aren’t just about Canada,” Freeland said Wednesday. “They represent a way of behaving which is a threat to all countries.’’

On Tuesday, she spoke about the escalating tensions with her U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. His office backed Canada’s effort to increase international pressure on China in a summary of the call issued Wednesday morning.

Freeland and Pompeo shared their concerns over the detentions and the “politically motivated sentencing of Canadian nationals,” a State Department spokesman said in the statement. They also reiterated their “commitment to Canada’s conduct of a fair, unbiased, and transparent legal proceeding” in response to the American request to extradite Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of the Chinese telecom giant’s founder.

Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on Jan. 10.

Photographer: Ben Nelms/Bloomberg

Death Penalty

Meng is free on bail pending her next court hearing. But Michael Kovrig, who was on leave from his foreign service posting in Hong Kong, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who ran tours into North Korea, remain in Chinese custody. The third Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, had an earlier 15-year sentence on drug smuggling charges increased to execution after a Chinese court ruled on his appeal Monday.

Michael Kovrig

Source: International Crisis Group

“My first priority by far is to do everything in my capacity to secure the release of the two Michaels as quickly as possible, and to help to save the life of Mr. Schellenberg,” John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, told reporters Wednesday evening before a meeting with Trudeau’s cabinet in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

“I have visited all three of them, I have spoken to all of their families, I will be speaking tomorrow to Mr. Schellenberg’s father, so I am determined to do what I can — and there are various things we are doing — to secure their release and his life. Our work is consumed every day by these priorities.”

Read more about Huawei’s founder breaking his silence on the case

Freeland and Trudeau have also sought support from President Donald Trump and leaders of other nations including Germany, Argentina and New Zealand. Those efforts have drawn fresh rebukes from Chinese officials.

The foreign minister is also talking with Canadian executives with operations in China about how to handle new tensions around international travel. China earlier this week matched a Canadian travel warning about the risk of arbitrary law enforcement.

Another sign of frayed relations came Wednesday with the Globe and Mail newspaper reporting that Canada has protested China’s questioning of Kovrig over his past diplomatic work in that country. Canada brought in Chinese Ambassador Lu Shaye to discuss the case, the newspaper said, citing unnamed officials.

Trudeau accused China last week of violating the principles of diplomatic immunity, and Freeland mentioned international support for that idea too. “Some of the statements from our partners have said that it’s very important that the Vienna Convention be upheld,’’ she said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying has said repeatedly the immunity claim makes Canada a “laughing stock’’ because Kovrig entered the country on a business visa.


Donald Trump is leaning towards car tariffs, key ally says

January 17, 2019

Iowa senator insists US president wants to pressure EU on farm products Chuck Grassley, Republican chairman of the Senate finance committee: ‘I’m not in favour of tariffs but they are a fact of life when Trump is in the White House — they may be an effective tool’

Getty Images

By James Politi in Washington

Chuck Grassley, the top US senator on trade policy and a close ally of Donald Trump, said the president was leaning towards slapping tariffs on automotive imports, in the hope of forcing Brussels to further open the EU market to American farm products. In a briefing with reporters in the US Capitol on Wednesday, Mr Grassley said Europe was “very afraid” of US tariffs on cars and car part imports and they could be “the instrument that gets Europe to negotiate” on agriculture.

“I think it would not necessarily be the best thing to do but I think the president is inclined to do it,” Mr Grassley, the 85-year-old Iowa Republican who is chairman of the Senate finance committee, said in reference to car tariffs.

“I’m not in favour of tariffs but they are a fact of life when Trump is in the White House — they may be an effective tool.” If you want to get something done through the US Senate you almost have to have something on agriculture in it Chuck Grassley, Republican senator from Iowa Mr Grassley’s comments came ahead of a February 17 deadline for the US commerce department to publish a report on whether automotive imports constitute a threat to US national security, which could pave the way for Mr Trump to slap tariffs on the products in a big blow to both the EU and Japan.

US negotiators are pressing hard for the EU to drop its resistance to the inclusion of agriculture in trade talks that were launched after a summit in July last year between Mr Trump and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission. They are taking that position even though the agreement reached at the time only envisaged a narrower package based on regulatory reform and lowering trade barriers related to non-auto industrial goods.

While American officials may be tempted to use the car tariffs as leverage to get the EU to make concessions, European officials have warned that automotive levies would halt the negotiations in their tracks and lead to retaliation, unless Brussels was granted an exemption.

A US move to slap tariffs on cars and car parts would do great damage to EU and Japanese car manufacturers, including those that have manufacturing facilities in the US but use foreign-made components such as engines. If Mr Trump presses ahead with tariffs after the commerce department issues its report, it may not affect all car and car parts imports.

Wilbur Ross, US commerce secretary, told the Financial Times in December that all options were on the table and that Mr Trump would have a lot of “flexibility” in deciding whether and how to impose any levies. Recommended The left behind Free Lunch: Tariffs are bad for GM and bad for America Mr Grassley — who has recently met with both Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU trade commissioner, and Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative — said bringing agriculture into the negotiations was essential to getting any trade deal approved by the US Congress.

He said farmers and farm lobby groups were a “locomotive” that brought manufacturing and services groups along as well. “If you want to get something done through the US Senate you almost have to have something on agriculture in it,” Mr Grassley said.

“My inference to Malmstrom was: what’s the sense of negotiating if you don’t include agriculture?” However, for many European politicians allowing US farm products greater access to their markets is politically toxic, given powerful agricultural interests there and longstanding consumer fears about genetically modified crops and lax sanitary standards in US meat — from chicken washed with chlorine to hormone-raised beef.

Germany detains Bundeswehr employee for spying for Iran

January 15, 2019

German prosecutors say an army employee has been detained on suspicion of spying for Iranian intelligence. The German-Afghan citizen worked as a translator for the German military.

German troops Afghanistan (picture-alliance/dpa)

German federal prosecutors on Tuesday said an employee of the German army had been held on suspicion of spying for the Iranian intelligence service.

The prosecutor’s office said in a statement that a 50-year-old German-Afghan citizen, whose name was given as Abdul Hamid S., was a language expert and cultural adviser for the German armed forces.

“Abdul Hamid S. is strongly suspected of having worked for a foreign intelligence agency,” the intelligence officer said.

The German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that the suspect had access to sensitive information, including possible details of troop deployments in Afghanistan. It said he had worked for Iranian secret services for several years.

Germany’s military the Bundeswehr often uses native interpreters to accompany troops on patrol in Afghanistan. The man was reportedly arrested in Germany’s Rhineland region.

Read more: Denmark foils ‘Iranian intelligence agency’ attack

Intelligence officials in Germany and Europe have raised fears about what they see as increasing espionage by Iran. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency in July reported that Iran had upped its cyber warfare capabilities and posed a danger for German companies.

German has past examples of uncovering spies working for foreign agencies that made for big headlines.

In 2016, former German intelligence officer Markus Reichel was convicted of spying for both the CIA and Russian intelligence.

In 2013, Germany jailed a married couple who it found had spied for the Russian secret services for more than 20 years. The pair had been planted in the former West Germany from 1988 by the Soviet Union’s KGB and later its successor, the SVR.

rc/jil (dpa, Reuters, AP)