Posts Tagged ‘Group of 20’

China’s Liu and Mnuchin Talk Trade for the First Time in Months

November 13, 2018
The Trump administration has said that it wanted a substantive response to a long list of demands for what it calls “structural” changes in Chinese industrial policy — But there is no sign that China will move in that direction….

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He have resumed talks on trade, and a potential Washington visit by Liu is being considered before the nations’ top leaders meet later this month.

The two officials spoke by phone on Friday, according to people briefed on the matter, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic. The conversation didn’t yield any concrete results, the people said. The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported Tuesday that Liu was “expected” to visit Washington shortly. The Wall Street Journal first reported the phone call Monday.

Liu He  — Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

The phone discussion followed a call between President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping two weeks ago — the first publicly disclosed call in six months. The two leaders are slated to meet at the Group of 20 nations summit in Argentina, which is scheduled to take place from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1.

Asian stocks came off their lows after the report Tuesday, and the Australian and New Zealand dollars climbed. China’s yuan was poised to advance for the first time in five days.

U.S.-China talks have made little progress since May, when Trump put a stop to a deal that would have seen China buy more energy and agricultural goods to narrow the trade deficit. In Beijing, Trump’s move was seen as an insult to Xi, who sent Liu — his top economic policy official — to Washington for the negotiations, and cemented a view that Trump’s real goal was to thwart China’s rise.

“We are willing to negotiate with the U.S.,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said at an event Tuesday in Singapore, adding that the talks should be carried out on the basis of mutual respect, balance and good faith. He said he was confident China and the U.S. have the wisdom to “be able to find a solution that is acceptable to both sides.”

While Li acknowledged that China and the U.S. had disputes in areas other than trade, he said those disagreements could also be contained with dialogue. “As long as we respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, we will be able to contain and resolve the disputes,” Li said.

China’s Foreign Ministry didn’t immediately respond to a faxed request for comment on the call.

Steven Mnuchin —  Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The two nations have levied several rounds of tariffs on each other’s goods, and tariffs on $200 billion Chinese imports are due to rise to 25 percent from January in the absence of a breakthrough in negotiations.

In a speech to a Washington think-tank on Friday, Peter Navarro — a White House trade adviser who is one of the most outspoken China hawks in the administration — warned “Wall Street” bankers not to get involved in shuttle diplomacy with Beijing. In a thinly-veiled broadside at Mnuchin and other advocates of a negotiated solution he also said no one but Trump or Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, should be negotiating with Beijing.

The Trump administration has said that it wanted a substantive response to a long list of demands for what it calls “structural” changes in Chinese industrial policy. Trump has rejected a number of deals negotiated by aides such as Mnuchin and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that were focused on increasing purchases rather than substantive reforms.

 Updated on 

— With assistance by Steven Yang, Shawn Donnan, and Miao Han



U.S., China Resume Talks to Cool Trade Tensions

November 13, 2018

High-level communication signals a willingness on both sides to reach an accommodation

Image result for china, cargo, ship, photos


U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has resumed discussions with his Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Liu He, about a deal that would ease trade tension, ahead of a meeting of the leaders of China and the U.S. set for the end of the month.

The two spoke by telephone on Friday, said people briefed on the conversation, as the U.S. demands that China put forward a concrete offer before negotiations on a trade deal can take place. Chinese officials are resisting and say they want to talk first before making a formal proposal. They worry that once they make a formal offer they will lose leverage, say officials in both countries.

The Friday conversation didn’t lead to any breakthrough in those issues but the renewed discussions indicate the two sides are trying to reach an accommodation, the officials say.

Some U.S. officials who take a hard line toward China say they think the Chinese will make an offer before the two leaders meet at the Group of 20 nations summit in Buenos Aires. At most, they say, the U.S. and China might be able to reach a kind of ceasefire in the trade battle, with the U.S. refraining from increasing tariffs. That could be followed by detailed negotiations. But even a limited ceasefire may prove difficult.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has required different ministries to come up with specific negotiations expectations so that both sides can keep talks going after the G-20 summit.

Chinese officials don’t expect to resolve the trade dispute at the G20 meeting. Instead, they are hoping for a broad framework of a deal, which would be followed by negotiations on the details.

Decoding Xi Jinping’s Strategy on Trade

Decoding Xi Jinping's Strategy on Trade

At a mega-trade show in China, global businesses and political leaders were looking for hints of Xi Jinping’s strategy ahead of planned trade talks with President Trump. Photo: Reuters

The White House’s National Economic Council is looking at what sort of offers on agricultural tariffs, technology transfer, cyber security and intellectual property protection would be acceptable. But the administration remains bitterly divided on China trade, with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer arguing that the U.S. needs to continue with tariffs to get China to make necessary concessions.

At G-20 meetings, Treasury and the White House usually take leading roles, not USTR.

The discussions follow a phone call between Mr. Xi and President Trump on Nov. 1. A day later Mr. Trump said that “I think we’ll make a deal” with China. His remarks came shortly before the mid-term elections, making it difficult to judge whether Mr. Trump was evaluating prospects for a deal or looking for a way to calm markets before voting began.

The U.S. has put tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese imports. Of that, levies on $200 billion of goods are set to increase to 25% from 10% on Jan. 1, unless Mr. Trump agrees to suspend the increase. The U.S. is also putting the finishing touches on tariffs on most of the rest of China’s imports—about another $250 billion, although mobile phones and perhaps laptops may be exempted, say people familiar with the administration’s thinking.

Spokesman for the U.S. Treasury and Chinese Embassy in Washington didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Beijing has been sending signals that could be enticing to Mr. Trump. At a Shanghai import fair last week Mr. Xi said that China expected to import services worth $10 trillion over the next 15 years. Should that occur, U.S. firms would be in line to get a big share.

Around the same time, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met with leaders of six multilateral institutions. They jointly pledged to support free trade and to “work together to de-escalate and resolve current trade tensions,” according to the group’s communique.

But many Trump administration officials, including Mr. Lighthizer, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro and officials in the defense establishment are deeply skeptical of China’s record in carrying out such pledges.

During the last two weeks, some former U.S. officials with long experience in China and solid connections with Trump officials, have been meeting with Chinese leaders. They include former Treasury secretary Hank Paulson and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who engineered the U.S. opening to China in 1972.

Mr. Kissinger has been especially visible, with Chinese state media reporting his meeting with Mr. Xi and Mr. Liu, the Chinese negotiator. U.S. officials say he isn’t acting as intermediary.

“There is a consistency in the (Chinese) messages that can be seen by optimists as the outlines of a deal,” Michael Pillsbury, who consults frequently with the administration, said. “But it’s not an offer.”

Mr. Pillsbury’s book, “The Hundred-Year Marathon,” argues that Beijing uses stealth and misdirection to try to replace the U.S. as the world’s leading power.

Write to Bob Davis at and Lingling Wei at

Appeared in the November 13, 2018, print edition as ‘U.S., China Resume Talks To Cool Trade Tensions.’

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Prospect of Trump-Xi talks raises hope for thaw in trade war

October 13, 2018

With China and the United States opening the door to a meeting next month between Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, hopes are rising for a potential easing of tensions in the trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

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Worries about the increased tariffs the two sides have imposed on each other’s goods contributed to a dizzying bout of volatility in financial markets this week. The higher tariffs raise costs for companies in both countries, and economists say that if they remain in place indefinitely, they could depress economic growth.

A Xi-Trump meeting, if it happens, would take place during a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 biggest global economies in Argentina in late November.

“I don’t think any decision has been made in regards to a meeting,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters Saturday in Bali, Indonesia, where he’s attending global finance meetings.

Still, Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, said in Washington on Friday that preparations for the talks were under way.

“It looks like there will be a meeting in Buenos Aires at the G-20,” Kudlow said in an interview with CNBC. “We are looking at it. The Chinese are looking at it. Preparations are being made. I can’t say 100 percent certainty, but there is no question everybody is looking at it.”

Kudlow said that so far, the administration viewed China’s negotiating offers as “rather unsatisfactory” but that “maybe talks between the two heads of state will bear fruit.”

Asked if China would need to make specific concessions for such a meeting to take place, Mnuchin said, “To the extent that we can make progress toward a meeting I would encourage that and that’s something we’re having discussions about, but for the moment there’s no preconditions. The president will decide on that.”

The trade feud has been fueled by US accusations that China engages in cyber-theft and coerces foreign companies into handing over technology in return for access to the Chinese market, as well as by Trump’s anger over China’s trade surplus with the US It is far from clear that the US might be preparing to consider lifting penalty tariffs on about $250 billion of Chinese products.

Mnuchin repeated the Trump administration’s determination to achieve a more balanced trading relationship that does not require foreign companies to form joint ventures to transfer technology to gain market access.

Lu Kang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, offered no specifics Friday but said, “I have also seen the relevant reports.”

The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post have cited officials as saying Trump has decided to proceed with a meeting with Xi.

Global indexes bounced back sharply Friday after their recent plunges, on word of the possible presidential meeting, along with strong Chinese export data. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.5 percent to 22,694.66 after a nearly 4 percent loss on Thursday.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng surged 2.1 percent to 25,801.49. The Shanghai Composite index advanced 0.9 percent to 2,606.91. Shares recovered in Taiwan and rose throughout Southeast Asia.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 305 points, or 1.2 percent, in late-morning trading, and the Nasdaq composite surged 138 points, or 1.9 percent. Later, both stock indexes gave up much of their gains.

Friday’s volatility followed a swoon over the previous two days that erased 1,300 points from the Dow and dragged the S&P 500 down more than 5 percent.

Reports that Mnuchin has advised against labeling China a currency manipulator — a status that could trigger penalties — were also seen as easing tensions. The Chinese currency has been falling in value against the dollar in recent months, raising concerns that Beijing is devaluing its currency to make Chinese goods more competitive against US products.

In his comments in Bali, Mnuchin did not say what the forthcoming Treasury report, set to come out next week, will conclude about China’s currency practices. In the past, Treasury has placed China on a watch-list but found that Beijing did not meet the threshold to be labeled a currency manipulator.

Mnuchin met Thursday with Yi Gang, head of China’s central bank.

“I expressed my concerns about the weakness of the currency.” Mnuchin said.

He said that in the discussions he had with the Chinese, they had made clear that they didn’t see a further weakening of the Chinese yuan as being in their interests.

Concerns have been raised that China, the largest foreign holder of US Treasurys, might start dumping its holdings as a way to pressure the United States in the trade dispute. But Mnuchin said this possibility didn’t concern him because it would be contrary to Beijing’s economic interests to start dumping its Treasury holdings.

“That would be very costly for them,” Mnuchin said.

China’s surplus with the United States widened to a record $34.1 billion in September as exports to the American market rose 13 percent from a year earlier to $46.7 billion, down slightly from August’s 13.4 percent growth. Imports of American goods increased 9 percent to $12.6 billion, down from August’s 11.1 percent growth.

Beijing’s exports to the United States have at least temporarily defied forecasts they would weaken after being hit by punitive US tariffs of up to 25 percent.

September marked the second straight record Chinese monthly trade surplus with the United States. Export numbers have been buoyed by producers rushing to fill orders before American tariffs rose. But they also benefit from “robust US demand” and a weaker Chinese currency, which makes their goods cheaper abroad, Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics said in a report.

The Chinese yuan has lost nearly 10 percent of its value against the dollar this year. That prompted suggestions Beijing might weaken the exchange rate to help exporters. But that might hurt China’s economy by encouraging an outflow of capital. The central bank has tightened controls on currency trading to prevent further declines.

The Associated Press

G20 finance ministers meet in Argentina as trade dominates agenda

July 21, 2018

With trade conflicts brewing around the world, this weekend’s G20 meeting of finance ministers in Argentina might not be the most fun place to be on the planet. Yet critical questions will be on the agenda.

Buenos Aires G20 Finanzministertreffen Mnuchin (Reuters/M. Brindicci)

G20 finance ministers meet this weekend in Buenos Aires in their first meeting since global trade tensions moved beyond rhetoric into a volley of tariffs and counter-tariffs.

Trade will dominate the agenda in the Argentine capital, with much attention likely to be focused on US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as he looks to “respond to concerns on US trade policies” at the gathering of finance ministers and central bankers from the world’s 20 leading economies.

The EU, China and Canada will be among those represented, with all of those having come into direct conflict with the trade polices of US President Donald Trump in recent weeks and months.

Read more: US firms try to protect themselves amid Trump trade battles

The US and China have placed $34 billion (€29 billion) worth of tariffs and counter-tariffs on each other, with more expected to follow, with the US also placing tariffs on steel and aluminum from the EU, Canada and Mexico, resulting in further counter-tariffs from those trade partners.

With tensions escalating markedly in recent weeks, both from the continuing rounds of tariffs and from some of the rhetoric concerned — such as President Trump describing the EU as “a foe” — the hopes for any kind of tangible progress emanating from the meeting are low.

In the group’s first meeting of the year back in March, little of note emerged other than a joint statement agreeing that “economic and geopolitical tensions” threatened global growth.

Talk has given way to tariffs in the intervening period, and on the eve of this weekend’s gathering, International Monetary Fund (IMF) boss Christine Lagarde warned that the current tensions over trade present “the greatest near-term threat” to the world economy. However it should be noted that the IMF still projects global growth of 3.9 percent in 2019.

Big gathering, little significance?

While Mnuchin and the US delegation are likely to spend the weekend trying to convince Japan, the EU and other members of the ‘Group of Seven’ (G7) of the need for a stronger collective stance against the trade practices of China, it is unlikely that they will find their ostensible allies to be at their most obliging.

Read more: Sieren’s China: Pendulum politics between China and the EU

“US trading partners are unlikely to be in a conciliatory mood,” Eswar Prasad, international trade professor at Cornell University and former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China Division, told Reuters.

“(US) hostile actions against long-standing trading partners and allies has weakened its economic and geopolitical influence,” he said, referring to the raft of tariffs the Trump White House has driven.

While the economic heft of those represented at the gathering is not in doubt — at the close of the last G20 meeting, the financial leaders represented 75 percent of world trade and 85 percent of gross domestic product — concrete progress on the various issues appears to be out of reach, particularly with more tariffs and counter-tariffs expected in the near future.

Aside from the trade issues, the meeting will also address crises threatening a number of emerging economies, not least in host nation Argentina, which recently accepted a $50 billion IMF loan to try to stabilize its economy.

aos/kd (Reuters, AFP)



Donald Trump Likely To Shape Trade Discussions of G20

July 21, 2018

US President Donald Trump’s latest attacks on China and the European Union will shape the discourse on global trade conflicts and competitive devaluation as Group of 20 finance ministers meet in Buenos Aires this weekend.

Trump’s protectionist policies that have seen him slap steep tariffs on steel and aluminum, angering allies such as the EU, Canada and Mexico, already looked set to fashion discussions between finance ministers and central bankers from the world’s 20 leading economies during two days of meetings.

That is even more the case after his latest Twitter outburst on Friday saw him accuse the EU and China of “manipulating their currencies and interest rates lower,” while he also took aim at the US Federal Reserve for hiking interest rates, complaining that it eroded “our big competitive edge.”

Image result for G20, photos

China and the US have no plans for bilateral talks, according to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has vowed to “respond to concerns on US trade policies” when he meets with fellow ministers.

But China will be a hot topic as Group of Seven ministers hold a one-hour session on the margins of the wider meeting, not least after Trump threatened to crank up punitive tariffs against the country to include the entire $500 billion in goods the US imports from the Asian powerhouse.

As well as his steel and aluminum duties, and threats to likewise hit foreign car imports with tariffs, Trump has already slapped China with a 25 percent levy on $34 billion in goods, with another $16 billion on the way.

– ‘Very serious’ –

Other than announcing counter-measures, China has kept relatively quiet over Trump’s various threats — perhaps safe in the knowledge that his tariffs are a drop in the bucket next to their expected $2.4 trillion exports for 2018.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the EU was “ready” to respond to the US should more excises be forthcoming, describing current trade tensions as “very serious.”

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, whose press conference will kick off activities on Saturday morning, said earlier this week that increasing trade restrictions pose “the greatest near-term threat” to the world economy, despite projected growth of 3.9 percent through 2019.

She also warned Trump that “the US economy is especially vulnerable” due to “retaliatory measures.”

IMF economists say that in a worst case scenario $430 billion — a half point — could be cut off global GDP in 2020 if all tariff threats and retaliation are implemented.

Others are also worried about Trump’s measures, including India, which alongside China, Brazil, Russia and South Africa make up the five emerging market BRICS countries, all of which are G20 members.

“All BRICS members have benefitted from globalization. All of them need finance and capital inflows,” said Sreeram Chaulia, dean at Delhi’s Jindal School of International Affairs.

“Trump is trying to put a brake on trade and finance. We rely on international capital movement and inward FDI, Trump wants to stop it.”

– ‘History is clear’ –

The economic problems plaguing a number of emerging markets will occupy ministers, particularly given that host nation Argentina recently secured a $50 billion IMF loan to try to stabilize its economy, after the peso plunged 35 percent between April and June.

“The situation facing certain emerging markets is more delicate with the rise of the dollar and the question of capital flows,” a French source told AFP.

As well as the dollar, rising oil prices and US interest rates have helped fuel the capital flight from emerging economies such as Brazil and Argentina, with investors taking out $14 billion between May and June.

“The meeting will take place against the backdrop of ongoing financial vulnerabilities in emerging market economies and global trade tensions,” said Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison.

He headed to Buenos Aires planning to urge G20 members to keep markets open.

“History is clear: when trade barriers go up, growth and jobs go down,” he added.

Economist Rubens Barbosa, former Brazilian ambassador to Washington and London, says Brazil will try to defend multilateralism in international trade — notably as upheld by the World Trade Organization.

“In Buenos Aires, what will be on the table is protectionism and the strengthening of the WTO from the point of view of emerging countries such as Brazil,” he said.

Trump, Putin Shake Hands in First Face-to-Face Meeting

July 7, 2017

First encounter between the two leaders occurs in advance of their highly-anticipated bilateral meeting later Friday

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July 7, 2017 6:34 a.m. ET

MOSCOW—U.S. President Donald Trump shook hands and exchanged greetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 meeting in Hamburg on Friday.

It the first face-to-face encounter between the two leaders ahead of a much-anticipated bilateral…


Image may contain: 1 person, suit

From RT

Putin and Trump shake hands ahead of first face-to-face meeting at G20

Putin and Trump shake hands ahead of first face-to-face meeting at G20
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart, Donald Trump, shook hands for the first time before their much-anticipated meeting in Hamburg. Syria, Ukraine, and North Korea are among the potential talking points.

There are no pictures of the handshake so far, but the Kremlin spokesman confirmed the fact.

As the G20 summit kicked off in Germany, the leaders had their first short contact, shaking hands and confirming the upcoming full-fledged meeting.

No automatic alt text available.

Donald Trump announced the meeting over Twitter, while Putin’s spokesman provided confirmation.

“They shook hands and said that soon they will hold a separate meeting, that they will see each other soon,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

I look forward to all meetings today with world leaders, including my meeting with Vladimir Putin. Much to discuss.🇺🇸

The Kremlin has said that it will not be a brief contact on the sidelines, but “a full-fledged ‘sit down’ meeting.” Previously, the leaders spoke only by phone.

In the lead up to the meeting, Moscow and Washington have voiced some of their expectations. The Kremlin sees the event as an opportunity to “establish a working dialogue” between Putin and Trump, which is vital for resolving “a critical mass of conflicts and problems,” according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. He also said that the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine and the ways of resolving them may be discussed, among other issues, in the first meeting between the two leaders.

The US State Department also outlined its vision for resolving the conflict in Syria ahead of the July 7 event. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Washington is ready “to explore the possibility of establishing with Russia joint mechanisms for ensuring stability, including no-fly zones.”

In response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow is awaiting clarification on the no-fly zones mentioned by Tillerson. He also stated that Russian proposals on Syria were presented to the Americans in spring in preparation for the first contact between the leaders.

There is also the North Korean issue, which Moscow and the US have different approaches to. At a UN Security Council (UNSC) meeting over Pyongyang’s recent missile launch, the US delegation urged the implementation of new sanctions against North Korea, while Moscow called on the UNSC member states to follow a joint Russia-China initiative which envisages a halt to joint US South-Korean drills in exchange for North Korea freezing its nuclear weapons programs.

READ MORE: Moscow promotes joint Russia-China plan instead of US attempts to ‘strangle’ N. Korea at UNSC

US President Donald Trump pledged during his visit to Poland on Thursday that the North will face repercussions over its“dangerous” behavior.

Just one day ahead of the G20 summit and the long-awaited meeting, Trump visited Warsaw, where an agreement on delivering American Patriot missile defense systems to Poland was signed. The systems are to be delivered by 2022. During his short visit, Trump also stated that Washington is working with NATO ally Poland to deal with Russia’s “destabilizing behavior.”

The Trump-Putin meeting is grabbing attention in light of the worsening Russia-US relations, which are currently “at the zero mark,” according to Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov. Meanwhile, the US is still investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election. Moscow has consistently dismissed the accusations as baseless.

READ MORE: US, Poland agree to strike deal on Patriot missile defense systems

Tillerson Says U.S. Is Ready to Talk to Russia About No-Fly Zones in Syria

July 6, 2017

Chief U.S. diplomat sounds optimistic note on Moscow in advance of Trump meeting with Putin

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last month

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last month PHOTO: MANDEL NGAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

WASHINGTON—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. was prepared to hold discussions with Russia on setting up no-fly zones in Syria, describing prospects for cooperation with Moscow in markedly optimistic terms despite tense relations between the two countries.

Mr. Tillerson’s comments, in a statement issued late Wednesday, come as he is leaving to meet President Donald Trump at a summit of leaders from the Group of 20 leading nations in Hamburg, Germany, where Mr. Trump and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin will meet face-to-face for the first time.

The chief U.S. diplomat said Mr. Trump would tell Mr. Putin that the U.S. was prepared to cooperate with Moscow to end more than six years of civil war in Syria.

“The United States and Russia certainly have unresolved differences on a number of issues, but we have the potential to appropriately coordinate in Syria in order to produce stability and serve our mutual security interests,” Mr. Tillerson said in a statement.

The Russian embassy in Washington, D.C., didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Offering to discuss no-fly zones is a significant step by the Trump administration toward expanded cooperation with Russia. No-fly zones have long faced opposition from U.S. military officials, who see them as risky and expensive and could potentially drag U.S. forces further into the conflict.

But Mr. Tillerson cited progress in efforts between the U.S. and Russia on avoiding accidents between their militaries in Syria as evidence that they could collaborate further. Russia backs the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“This cooperation over deconfliction zones process is evidence that our two nations are capable of further progress,” he said. “The United States is prepared to explore the possibility of establishing with Russia joint mechanisms for ensuring stability, including no-fly zones, on the ground cease-fire observers, and coordinated delivery of humanitarian assistance.”

There are multiple “deconfliction zones” in Syria where U.S. and Russian militaries have been working to avoid mishaps, including one around a base near the Syrian town of Al Tanf close to the Iraqi border. U.S. forces and their allies are operating near the zone.

The U.S. has warned Mr. Assad and his forces to steer clear of the area and has alerted the Russian government that it seeks to avoid mishaps but will take defensive action as needed, and American forces have taken several actions against allies of the Syrian government.

The U.S. and Russia have been meeting secretly over the past several months to set up a “de-escalation zone” in southwest Syria, where Moscow and Washington would agree to keep their proxies away from each other. If that effort is successful, officials said that the U.S. would look to set up other such zones around Syria to try to wind down the conflict.

A no-fly zone would involve a commitment both to refrain from flights in a given area and to shoot down planes that enter secure areas. Officials have said no-fly zones would require increased military resources from the U.S.

Mr. Tillerson’s olive branch to Russia on Syria comes amid a recent rise in battlefield confrontations between the Syrian regime and American forces battling Islamic State in Syria, which threaten to widen into a direct clash with the regime.

In recent weeks U.S. forces have shot down a Syrian regime warplane as well as two Iranian-made drones viewed as threatening to American forces and Syrian fighters they are working with. The U.S. also has carried out airstrikes on Syrian government forces and their Iranian-backed allies in southern Syria.

Mr. Tillerson said the U.S. is committed to fighting Islamic State in Syria but also wants to see stability in Syria once areas are liberated from the hold of the terrorist group.

“While there are no perfect options for guaranteeing stability, we must explore all possibilities for holding the line against the resurgence of ISIS or other terrorist groups,” Mr. Tillerson said. “The United States believes Russia, as a guarantor of the Assad regime and an early entrant into the Syrian conflict, has a responsibility to ensure that the needs of the Syrian people are met and that no faction in Syria illegitimately retakes or occupies areas liberated from ISIS’ or other terrorist groups’ control.”

Mr. Trump’s scheduled meeting Friday with Mr. Putin has drawn international interest, given U.S. findings of Russian interference in the 2016 election on Mr. Trump’s behalf and the president’s longstanding reluctance to criticize Russia or Mr. Putin.

Speaking to reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Wednesday before leaving to join Mr. Trump in Germany, Mr. Tillerson said the Trump administration hoped the meeting would be the start of broader cooperation between Moscow and Washington.

“We’re at the very beginning…at this point it’s difficult to say exactly what Russia’s intentions are in this relationship,” he said. “That’s the most important part of this meeting, is to have a good exchange between President Trump and President Putin over what they both see as the nature of this relationship between our two countries.”

Write to Felicia Schwartz at

German police use water cannon on G20 protesters — Police seized knives, baseball bats and presumed incendiary devices

July 5, 2017


© POOL/AFP/File | The world leaders of the Group of 20 big industrialised and emerging economies are set to meet in Hamburg, Germany from July 7-8, 2017

HAMBURG (AFP) – Riot police used water cannon overnight Tuesday to disperse several gatherings of protesters ahead of the G20 summit in Hamburg.

Police first dislodged protestors who had set up tents in a park in the western district of Altona, according to police and media reports.

“This is not a legal rally but unauthorised camping,” said a police spokesman.

A little later, shortly before midnight, police used water cannon and pepper spray to disperse rallies of several hundred people who had started blocking roads in various locations, in particular the Sankt-Pauli neighbourhood.

One person was arrested and a passerby, who was not involved in the demonstration, was slightly injured, according to a police message on Twitter.

On Sunday police used pepper spray as they cleared tents set up by some 600 activists on the banks of the Elbe river.

Anti-G20 protest organisers and the city-state of Hamburg have for weeks sparred in the courts over whether activists could set up tent cities.

Courts have found that, while such a protest camp would in principle be a legitimate political demonstration, police had the right to prohibit overnight camping on public lands.

More than 100,000 anti-capitalist demonstrators, including several thousand leftwing extremists, are expected to descend on the northern city ahead of the summit which opens on Friday.

About 20,000 police will be deployed to protect leaders attending the two-day meeting.



German police said on Tuesday they had seized knives, baseball bats and presumed incendiary devices at locations in and around Hamburg apparently intended for anti-capitalist rioting during a Group of 20 summit in the city on Friday and Saturday.

Authorities expect about 8,000 violent protesters to converge on Hamburg as Chancellor Angela Merkel hosts the leaders of 20 major advanced and developing economies, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Tuesday. Some 20,000 police will be on duty.

“There is evidence that the acts of violence around the G20 summit that we had expected and feared will take place,” said Ralf Martin Meyer, president of Hamburg’s police.

Senior police officer Jan Hieber said police had probably only found a small proportion of the weapons that had been stockpiled for use in disturbances.

Police said the items found also included batons, bottles and cans presumed to be filled with flammable liquid, containers with unknown powder or chemicals, and gas masks.

De Maiziere said during a visit to Hamburg that peaceful protests were welcome and permissible in a democracy but violent demonstrators could not invoke the right to the freedom of assembly and would be suppressed.

“No demonstrator can determine whether and when and where leaders of states and governments meet in Germany upon the chancellor’s invitation,” he said, stressing that the summit would not be disrupted by protests.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Reuters Television; Writing by Joseph Nasr and Michelle Martin; Editing by Mark Heinrich)


Anti-Capitalist protestors with homemade weapons converge on Hamburg ahead of G20 summit 

Special police assemble head of the meeting for world leaders
Special police assemble head of the meeting for world leaders CREDIT: REUTERS/CHRISTIAN CHARISIUS/POOL

Thousands of violent anti-Capitalist protestors are planning to disrupt this week’s G20 summit in Hamburg, the German interior minister warned on Tuesday.

Thomas de Maiziere said security forces expect a hard core of 8,000 potentially violent protestors to converge on Hamburg ahead of Friday’s summit, at which Angela Merkel will host world leaders including Theresa May, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

There are growing concerns demonstrations may get out of hand.

A special federal police unit stands during a visit by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere
A special federal police unit stands during a visit by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere CREDIT: EPA/FRIEDEMANN VOGEL

Police on Tuesday displayed an arsenal of more than 100 home-made weapons seized in Hamburg and the nearby city of Rostock in recent weeks.

They included fire extinguishers adapted to work as flamethrowers, ingredients for Molotov cocktails, slingshots filled with ball bearings and baseball bats.

“We can assume this is only a small fraction of what is still hidden in cellars and garages around Hamburg,” Jan Hieber, the head of the city’s CID said.

Confiscated weapons were put on display by the police
Confiscated weapons were put on display by the police CREDIT: REUTERS/FABIAN BIMMER

“Movements have been observed by the autonomous scene in the direction of Hamburg,” Ralf Martin Meyer, the police chief said.

“This is not a question of sit-ins, but of major attacks.”

Authorities gave demonstrators until yesterday to dismantle tents set up in designated “protest camps”.

The city government has ordered that no one will be allowed to sleep overnight in the camps.

Protestors have vowed to defy the order, and there were scuffles on Sunday night when police broke up one camp with pepper spray.

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North Korea’s Latest Missile Test Puts China in a Corner

July 5, 2017

Beijing calls for calm and restraint as Trump urges ‘heavy move’ on Pyongyang

U.S. President Donald Trump welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Fla., in April.

U.S. President Donald Trump welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Fla., in April. PHOTO:JIM WATSON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

BEIJING—North Korea’s announcement of an intercontinental-ballistic-missile test intensifies pressure on Beijing to penalize Pyongyang or risk further tensions with Washington as the U.S. and Chinese presidents prepare to meet this week.

Tuesday’s test of the Hwasong-14 missile marked a setback for Beijing, analysts said, undermining its repeated calls for the U.S. to negotiate with North Korea and increasing the risk that the Trump administration could turn to military action to quash Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

The test also provides political leverage for U.S. President Donald Trump at meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders at a summit of the Group of 20 major economies in Germany later this week. Mr. Trump is expected to try to rally other international leaders behind stricter United Nations sanctions on North Korea and urge stronger measures by China to restrain North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“This test is a heavy blow for China,” said Zhu Feng, an international security expert at China’s Nanjing University. “Beijing wants to see the U.S. talking with North Korea and not just emphasizing sanctions and isolation. But North Korea keeps escalating the tension.”

Mr. Xi has trod a careful line with Mr. Trump, who for months has appealed to Beijing to rein in its North Korean neighbor. China has backed existing U.N. sanctions and banned imports of North Korean coal, a recent key source of revenue, while opposing more potent measures that might destabilize Pyongyang, triggering a flood of refugees into northeastern China and bringing U.S. troops closer to the Chinese border.

Even before the test, Mr. Trump signaled his rising frustration with Beijing, in recent days by approving a big arms sale to Taiwansending a U.S. Navy destroyer close to a Chinese-held island in the South China Sea and sanctioning two Chinese companies and two Chinese nationals for alleged dealings with North Korea.

Soon after Tuesday’s test, Mr. Trump posted on Twitter another appeal to Beijing, saying “Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

China’s options for ratcheting up pressure on Pyongyang include cutting exports of oil and other essential goods, reducing imports of commodities such as iron ore, and banning Chinese tourists from North Korea, said Nanjing University’s Mr. Zhu.

He said that Beijing might also consider discussing contingency plans with the U.S. over what would happen in the event of a military strike against Pyongyang—something that the Chinese leadership has been reluctant to do despite repeated urgings from Washington.

Fueling Beijing’s caution are disagreements within the civilian and military leadership over how to respond, with some arguing that a united, democratic Korea poses a greater threat to Beijing than a nuclear-armed Pyongyang, other Chinese experts said.

At a regular briefing Tuesday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said the issue was “complicated and sensitive” and reiterated Beijing’s position that China opposes any North Korean actions that violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The spokesman, Geng Shuang, urged all countries involved to “remain calm and exercise restraint, stop irritating each other, work hard to create an atmosphere for contact and dialogue between all sides, and seek a return to the correct path of dialogue and negotiation as soon as possible.”

China has repeatedly suggested that North Korea halt its nuclear program in exchange for a suspension of joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea—a proposal rejected by Washington.

Zhang Liangui, an expert on North Korea at the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Party School, said Beijing’s position was unlikely to change fundamentally until it recognized that Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons program didn’t just threaten the U.S.

Image may contain: people standing, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

North Korea said it successfully test-fired its first intercontinental ballistic missile, a claim that could escalate tensions between Pyongyang and the rest of the world. Image: KRT/AP

“In China, a considerable number of people think the North Korean nuclear issue is not a matter for China, but is between the U.S. and North Korea,” he said. “I think it’s an absolute mistake for the U.S. to rely on China to resolve the problem.”

Write to Jeremy Page at

Appeared in the July 5, 2017, print edition as ‘Missile Test Puts China in Tough Spot.’

Turkey Says German Comments on Erdogan’s Planned Rallies ‘Unacceptable’

June 29, 2017

ANKARA — Turkey lashed out on Thursday at German politicians for opposing President Tayyip Erdogan’s planned public appearances in Germany outside the G20 summit, saying they underlined double standards against Ankara.

Earlier on Thursday, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the German government believed it would be inappropriate for Erdogan to make the appearances given tensions between the two NATO allies.

“It is regrettable that some politicians in Germany are making unacceptable comments with domestic political calculations,” Turkey’s foreign ministry spokesman, Huseyin Muftuoglu, said in a statement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosts leaders of the G20 leading economies at a summit in Hamburg on July 7-8.

Muftuoglu also appeared to take a swipe at former European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who earlier this week referred to Erdogan as an “autocratic ruler”.

© AFP | Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

“The approach of the person who has chaired the European Parliament… once again underlines the true face of the mentality we are facing and their double standards,” he said.

Schulz, who served as president of the European Parliament from 2012 to January of this year, likened Erdogan to Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump, saying Europe must become stronger in response to a weakening of democracy elsewhere.

“There are some in the G20 that behave like autocratic rulers: Turkish President Erdogan, Russian President Putin and also U.S. President Trump,” he said.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Editing by David Dolan)


Members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail are shown violently reacting to peaceful protesters during Erdogan's trip last month to Washington (picture alliance/AP Photo/Voice of America)