Posts Tagged ‘John Bolton’

John Kelly’s White House Departure Risks Trump’s Own Return To Chaos of Reince Priebus Days

December 9, 2018

President Donald Trump risks reviving the strife and turf battles that characterised his West Wing before Chief of Staff John Kelly’s arrival after announcing last Saturday (Dec 8) that the retired Marine general would depart by the end of the year.

Mr Kelly’s authority, drawn from more than 40 years in the military, helped him tamp down infighting that broke out between factions of Mr Trump’s administration almost from the day he took office.

In his absence, some White House aides fear that independent-minded senior officials and Cabinet members may once again seek to fill the vacuum.

Image result for President Donald Trump risks reviving the strife and turf battles that characterised his West Wing before Chief of Staff John Kelly's arrival after announcing last Saturday (Dec 8) that the retired Marine general would depart by the end of the year. Mr Kelly's authority, drawn from more than 40 years in the military, helped him tamp down infighting that broke out between factions of Mr Trump's administration almost from the day he took office.

Mr Trump said he’ll name a successor within days. The most likely replacement is Vice-President Mike Pence’s top aide Nick Ayers, a young political operative who’s largely kept Mr Pence out of the daily drumbeat of drama that’s been a hallmark of Mr Trump’s presidency.

But for Mr Trump, the job of chief of staff is almost the opposite – how to maintain order under a boss who always seeks to be the story, often through his Twitter feed. Mr Kelly gave up trying to control Mr Trump’s tweets, and his most notable success was breaking up warring factions and limiting unscheduled visitors to the Oval Office.

Mr Ayers, who already has West Wing detractors, may struggle to keep those forces at bay.


The political stakes for the White House are rising, as Democrats take control of the House and federal prosecutors inch closer towards implicating the president in crimes related to his election.

Mr Ayers, a 36-year-old with a boy band-style mop of blonde hair and a soothing southern drawl, lacks the respect and authority of Mr Kelly, a 68-year-old Marine combat veteran, retired four-star general and former Cabinet member.

The Trump White House remains full of strong personalities. National Security Adviser John Bolton is renowned as a brutal bureaucratic infighter. Economic adviser Larry Kudlow and trade adviser Peter Navarro are both skilled at pursuing their personal agendas via television appearances. Senior advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner enjoy blood ties with the president.

Related image

Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Nick Ayers

Mr Ayers may find it even harder to assert himself if he’s appointed on an interim basis. Mr Trump and Mr Ayers have discussed the job for weeks and Mr Ayers, who would like to return to his home state of Georgia by the end of the school year, has asked to serve in a brief transitional role, people familiar with the matter said. Mr Trump wants a two-year commitment.

The people interviewed for this article asked not to be identified discussing a sensitive personnel matter.

Mr Ayers will enter his new job with a target on his back, said one White House aide. New factions may quickly form to try to counter his power. Others consider him a professional peer, not a superior from whom they’d take orders, and resent him as brash and presumptuous. Further, he’s regarded sceptically in some quarters for an earlier career as a political consultant in which he attained considerable wealth.

Mr Ayers’s chief advantage, from the president’s perspective, is that he possesses political savvy that Mr Kelly lacked, just as the White House begins to shift focus to Mr Trump’s re-election. The president’s team is simultaneously girding to deal with the Democratic-led House of Representatives, pass a replacement for the Nafta trade accord with Mexico and Canada and wage political warfare over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s expected report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

People in the White House who support Mr Ayers say he’s smart and respected for his management of Mr Pence’s office.


Before Mr Kelly’s arrival, the White House was overrun by factions jockeying for power and an Oval Office with a revolving door for Mr Trump’s cast of outside advisers. Mr Kelly put an end to much of that, cutting off walk-in privileges to the Oval and pushing out people he believed to be creating conflict.

Staff members embraced the sense of order and structure Mr Kelly imposed. They worry it may unravel without a chief of staff with deep leadership experience who commands respect – qualities they fear Mr Ayers lacks.

But Mr Ayers has a well-regarded track record running Mr Pence’s office that impressed Mr Trump, said one former White House aide. Mr Ayers has helped the vice-president steer clear of the daily controversies that have consumed so many other White House officials, and maintained a sense of order and relatively low turnover among Mr Pence’s staff.

He played a key role in the midterms, helping Mr Pence raise millions of dollars for Republican candidates and managing a gruelling campaign schedule for the vice-president over the past year.

Mr Trump has brought Mr Ayers closer into his inner circle, inviting him to travel aboard Air Force One without Mr Pence on several recent trips.

With Mr Kelly’s departure, the West Wing also loses one of the few remaining staff members who felt unafraid to tell Mr Trump when he disagreed with a decision and give the president honest advice even at the risk of being fired, said one former White House official.

Mr Kelly primarily accepted the post out of a sense of duty and didn’t need to worry about his future earning potential. Mr Ayers, however, will have to keep in mind his long-term career prospects.



China separates arrest of Huawei executive from US trade talks

December 7, 2018

US national security adviser John Bolton says tech firms like Huawei will be a major topic in negotiations

South China Morning Post

Friday, December 7, 2018

China has separated the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou from trade talks between Beijing and Washington, although the US side is hinting that the case would be a bargaining chip in broad dialogue between the two countries.

Gao Feng, a spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said on Thursday that he had no information at all about Meng’s case. Gao also said China was confident about reaching a trade deal with the United States within the 90-day truce agreed by the two sides in Argentina last weekend.

Image result for Huawei, 5G, photos

Separately, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also refused to directly link the arrest of Meng – in Canada last Saturday at the request of the United States – with the trade negotiations.

China demanded that Canada and the US explain the arrest and release Meng immediately, Geng said. “As for the China-US trade talks, I have been saying in the last two days that … the two sides are accelerating negotiations to reach a win-win deal as soon as possible.”

Beijing’s restrained response marked a contrast to rhetoric in the country’s state-run media. Global Times, the hawkish tabloid backed by the Communist Party’s official mouthpiece People’s Daily, published an editorial calling Meng’s arrest a “despicable” hooligan act by Washington to contain Huawei’s rise.

The editorial argued that the arrest in Vancouver – on the same day as US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping dined together in Buenos Aires – had “clearly violated the important consensus the two leaders reached in Argentina”.

“We are still not clear whether [the arrest] is a joint action by US administrative and judicial forces or is a result of chaotic policies at various US departments,” the editorial read. It added that Meng’s case showed China was facing a complicated power play in the US.

At the same time, US national security adviser John Bolton said in an interview with NPR, the US broadcaster, that global Chinese tech firms like Huawei would be a “major subject” of discussion between the US and Chinese governments during their trade negotiations, although Bolton did not specify whether Meng’s case would be covered in future talks.

“Huawei is one company we’ve been concerned about,” the senior White House adviser was quoted as saying. “There are others as well. I think this is going to be a major subject of the negotiations that President Trump and President Xi Jinping agreed to in Buenos Aires.”

The US is reportedly investigating whether Huawei contravened US sanctions by selling technology to Iran. The telecoms giant has denied any wrongdoing by the company and Meng.

Chinese researchers argued that Meng’s arrest was part of Washington’s plan to seek more from Beijing in trade negotiations.

Liu Weidong, a China-US affairs expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said it was a calculated act by Washington aimed at improving its hand in trade negotiations with Beijing.

“We’ll see more cases like this over the next three months, sanctioning China’s state-owned enterprises and individuals, to boost momentum on the US side,” Liu said.

Meanwhile, China’s state news agency Xinhua again hailed the Xi-Trump summit, saying the talks had been a great success that produced “exciting” results.

Trump tweeted that he shared Beijing’s optimism about a potential trade deal. He wrote: “Statement from China: ‘The teams of both sides are now having smooth communications and good cooperation with each other. We are full of confidence that an agreement can be reached within the next 90 days.’ I agree!”

Additional reporting by Kristin Huang


Use keyword: 

The arrest of a top Huawei executive is ‘a shot into the heart’ of China’s tech ambitions, analysts say

December 7, 2018

The arrest of a top executive at one of the most successful Chinese global companies threatens to upend a delicate detente between the U.S. and China in their months-long trade war.


Meng Wanzhou, deputy chairwoman and chief financial officer of telecommunications giant Huawei, was arrested Saturday during a transit stop at a Vancouver airport and could face possible extradition to the U.S. and an appearance in federal court in New York.


By   and  

The Los Angeles Times

The arrest of a top Huawei executive is 'a shot into the heart' of China's tech ambitions, analysts say


Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, attends an investment forum in Moscow in October 2014. Meng has been arrested in Canada and detained for potential U.S. sanctions violations. (Maxim Shipenkov / EPA/Shutterstock)
A U.S. law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case by name, said the action against Meng involves violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran. Another U.S. official described the violations as serious. Neither official provided specifics.
The arrest comes at a sensitive time as Washington and Beijing aim to strike a trade deal before March 1. White House officials told CNN that Meng could be used as leverage in trade talks. It’s unclear whether President Trump knew about the arrest in advance, though national security advisor John Bolton told National Public Radio that he did.
Now any trade agreement has to overcome what will probably be viewed as a provocation in the eyes of China’s leadership, given Huawei’s importance.
“Huawei embodies the existential angst of China hard-liners in the U.S. concerned about China’s ostensible grand plan for global domination of new high-tech industries,” said Eswar Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell University. “Meanwhile, such actions by U.S. and other governments crystallize fears among Chinese leaders that the real intention is to hold back China’s economic progress and transformation.”
China demanded the immediate release of Meng, who is among the cream of China’s corporate elite. She is the daughter of tech billionaire Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s founder and CEO and a former engineer in the People’s Liberation Army.
Chinese officials said she had not broken any laws, accused the United States and Canada of violating her rights and demanded an explanation as to why she was arrested.
Chinese state media accused the U.S. of harassing Huawei to gain advantage in the worldwide competition for control of next-generation 5G cellular networks.
The arrest “wasn’t a shot across the bow, but a shot into the heart of the ship” because Meng was basically considered an official of the Chinese government, a former U.S. official involved in national security matters said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Meng’s arrest, significant because of her elite connections and prominent corporate position, triggered shock in China. The arrest is doubly sensitive because it threatens the rise of one of China’s top cutting-edge brands, now the world’s second-largest smartphone company, surpassing Apple in sales this year.
The state-owned Global Times reflected Chinese outrage over her arrest in an editorialaccusing Washington of “resorting to a despicable rogue approach” in a bid to hurt the company. The paper also tweeted Thursday that China should be ready for an escalation of the trade war, warning that Meng’s arrest was vivid evidence that Washington would not soften its stance against Beijing.
“It is clear that Washington is maliciously finding fault with Huawei and trying to put the company in jeopardy with U.S. laws,” the editorial said.
Washington is demanding sweeping changes to China’s industrial policy, in particular its state support for key high-tech industrial firms, forced transfers of technology by American companies doing business in China, and tolerance or tacit encouragement of intellectual property theft.
Whereas the U.S. accuses China of getting hold of high-tech American intellectual property by bullying companies wanting to trade in China or by stealing trade secrets, China is convinced that Washington’s true objective is to contain its rise as a leading global power.
“America is trying to use its powerful alliance system to turn domestic laws into ‘international laws,’ shamelessly imposing its own aims and standards onto other countries’ systems,” Mei continued. “This should remind all Chinese and other countries’ scientific or technological personnel and corporate figures to watch out for personal safety and freedom before going to the United States.”
Read the rest:
Use keyword: 


U.S. Pursued Huawei CFO’s Arrest Despite Risk to Trade Talks With Xi

December 7, 2018
  •  Trump dinner with Chinese leader was same day as Meng arrest
  •  White House says president didn’t know of arrest in advance
Huawei Arrest Is ‘Slap in The Face’ for China, Asia Society’s Stone Fish

The Trump administration arranged the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co.’s chief financial officer aware of potential blow-back in trade talks with Beijing but intent on showing resolve to crack down on Chinese companies accused of violating U.S. law.

The arrest happened about the same time that President Donald Trump dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Buenos Aires to discuss the trade war between the countries.

Xi Jinping, left, with Donald Trump along with members of their delegations in Buenos Aires, on Dec. 01.   Photographer: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, who sat at the table with Trump and Xi, knew in advance of the U.S. request that Canadian authorities arrest Huawei CFO Wanzhou Meng, he told National Public Radio Thursday. After Bolton’s interview, a White House official said that Trump was not aware of the arrest in advance, distancing the president from the provocative move.

But planning for the arrest was well underway as Trump prepared for a dinner that he said later resulted in “an incredible” deal with Xi — an agreement that may be in danger of unraveling after Chinese officials learned of Meng’s capture and pending extradition to the U.S.

Trump signaled continued optimism in trade talks in a tweet late Thursday, citing an earlier Chinese statement that Beijing was “full of confidence that an agreement can be reached within the next 90 days.” “I agree!” Trump said.

The U.S-orchestrated detention of a leading figure in the Chinese technology industry — Meng is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei and a possible heir to his company — undercuts a key goal for Xi in the U.S. talks: to show relations between the U.S. and China returning to a more normal footing. The Chinese president has sought to prevent the economic conflict from spilling into other sensitive areas such as Taiwan or the disputed shipping lanes of the South China Sea.

Read More: ‘Shocking’ Huawei Arrest Threatens to Upend Trump-Xi Trade Truce

Canadian authorities detained Meng as she was changing planes in Vancouver at the request of the U.S., which alleges that Huawei violated U.S. sanctions on Iran. The same day, Trump and Xi were meeting for the first time in more than a year.

Meng Wanzhou

Photographer: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

Coincidental Arrest

The timing of the move against Meng was coincidental, driven by an itinerary that put her on Canadian soil on Saturday, said a person familiar with the matter. Even so, the White House didn’t delay or block the action.

Meng’s arrest is part of an ongoing investigation by U.S. prosecutors into whether Huawei violated banking laws as it sought to evade sanctions against Iran by routing a series of transactions through HSBC Holdings Plc, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The U.S. request for Meng’s extradition stems from a Trump administration campaign to increasingly hold Chinese nationals accountable for committing crimes, said a second person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified speaking about the sensitive issue.

Read More: Getting Huawei CFO to U.S. After Canada Bust May Take Years

Bolton, in addressing the arrest in the NPR interview, stressed that the conduct of Chinese companies — and especially technology companies — is a central issue in the trade dispute with the U.S. That includes theft of U.S. intellectual property by Chinese actors and forced technology transfers from U.S. companies to Chinese partners in joint ventures, he said.

“Huawei is one company we’ve been concerned about,” Bolton told NPR. “There are others as well. I think this is going to be a major subject of the negotiations that President Trump and President Xi Jinping agreed to in Buenos Aires.

Other administration officials have also stressed the importance of punishing transgressions of trade rules and U.S. law.

Larry Kudlow speaks to members of the media outside the White House in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 3, 2018.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

“We have to make sure there is enforcement on any so-called agreement. That is so important,” National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters at the White House on Tuesday, a day before Meng’s arrest was announced. “China’s discussed these things with the U.S. many times down through the years and the results have not been very good.”

Huawei Scrutinized

Huawei, China’s largest maker of smartphones and telecommunications equipment, has been swept up in concerns that products made by Chinese technology companies are avenues for surveillance by the country’s intelligence agencies.

Read More: Huawei’s Arrested CFO Rose Through Ranks Despite Father’s Rebuke

In April, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a proposal to prohibit the use of universal service funds to purchase equipment or services from any company identified as posing a national security risk to communications networks.

The agency is seeking comments through Friday on how that proposed rule fits with defense legislation signed in August that bars spending on “‘loans or grants” and specifically targets Huawei and ZTE Corp. In a filing with the agency, Huawei said the defense bill shouldn’t apply to disbursements of the communications subsidy.

So far, China has tempered its response to Meng’s detention. While the government promptly protested the arrest and demanded her release, the foreign ministry later said it was waiting for details on her capture. The ministry also said the U.S. trade talks should continue as a 90-day pause on new tariffs between the U.S. and China enters its second week.

 Updated on 

— With assistance by Jennifer Jacobs, and Chris Strohm


Canada defends Huawei arrest after markets wobble

December 7, 2018

Canada on Thursday defended its arrest of an executive of Chinese tech giant Huawei on a US extradition request after markets wobbled on fears of fresh friction between Washington and Beijing.

With China demanding the release of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said officers who arrested her Saturday as she was changing planes in Vancouver had acted on their own.

AFP / Johannes EISELE
Huawei’s affordable smartphones have made strong inroads in the developing world, but the company has faced repeated setbacks in major Western economies over security concerns

“I can assure everyone that we are a country (with) an independent judiciary,” Trudeau told a tech conference in Montreal. “And they took this decision without any political involvement or interference.”

Citing a court-ordered publication ban sought by Meng, Trudeau declined to comment further on the case, which according to a US senator was brought over Huawei’s activities in Iran.

The arrest took place on the same day that the US and Chinese presidents, Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, had met for a long-awaited summit in Buenos Aires and spoken of easing an intensifying trade row.

Markets were chaotic over news of the arrest. On Wall Street, the broad-based S&P Index closed down 0.31 percent after making up steep early losses.

“The concept of getting a quick resolution is fading,” Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR, said of the trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

China said that Meng — the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, a former engineer in China’s People’s Liberation Army — had violated no laws in either Canada or the United States.

“We have made solemn representations to Canada and the US, demanding that both parties immediately clarify the reasons for the detention, and immediately release the detainee to protect the person’s legal rights,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in Beijing.

Huawei also said in a statement that it was compliant with “all applicable laws and regulations where it operates.”

Huawei’s affordable smartphones have made strong inroads in the developing world, but the company has faced repeated setbacks in major Western economies over security concerns.

– White House foreknowledge –

Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, acknowledged that he knew that Canada was planning to arrest Meng on Saturday just as all eyes were on the summit in Buenos Aires.

“I knew in advance. This is something that we get from the Justice Department,” Bolton told National Public Radio.

He said he was not sure whether Trump — who had trumpeted his summit with Xi as “amazing and productive” as he flew back to Washington — was also aware.

“These kinds of things happen with some frequency. We certainly don’t inform the president on every one of them,” he said of the arrest.

Bolton also declined to discuss specifics over Meng’s arrest, saying it was a matter for law enforcement.

“But we’ve had enormous concerns for years,” Bolton said, “about the practice of Chinese firms to use stolen American intellectual property, to engage in forced technology transfers, and to be used as arms of the Chinese government’s objectives in terms of information technology in particular.”

“So not respecting this particular arrest, but Huawei is one company we’ve been concerned about,” he said.

Senator Ben Sasse earlier linked Meng’s arrest to US sanctions on Iran, which Trump is trying to squeeze economically after withdrawing from a denuclearization deal.

CNN, quoting an unnamed official, said that the United States saw the arrest as providing leverage in trade talks.

But White House trade advisor Peter Navarro denied Meng’s detention was linked to the US-China dialogue.

“It’s pretty simple,” he told CNN. “The two issues are totally separate — the trade negotiations and this arrest.

“The Justice Department acts on an independent track. The coincidence of the arrest happening in the same time frame was just that.”

– Canada fears retaliation –

Canada was bracing for a fallout in relations with China, which has been increasingly willing to punish countries it sees as countering its interests.

Canada’s cyber security chief said the country could face retaliatory cyber attacks.

“I think one of the key things is that we always have to be resilient no matter what the possible trigger could be,” Scott Jones, director of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, told a press conference.

Meng is scheduled to appear in court on Friday for a bail hearing.

Trump and Xi, who were in Argentina for a summit of the Group of 20 major economies, had agreed to set up negotiations to discuss US concerns over China’s trade barriers.

In turn, Trump agreed to hold off on raising tariffs from 10 to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods starting in the new year.



Clues in Marriott hack implicate China – sources

December 6, 2018

Hackers behind a massive breach at hotel group Marriott International Inc (MAR.O) left clues suggesting they were working for a Chinese government intelligence gathering operation, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Marriott said last week that a hack that began four years ago had exposed the records of up to 500 million customers in its Starwood hotels reservation system.

Private investigators looking into the breach have found hacking tools, techniques and procedures previously used in attacks attributed to Chinese hackers, said three sources who were not authorized to discuss the company’s private probe into the attack.

Image result for Marriott, signs, photos

That suggests that Chinese hackers may have been behind a campaign designed to collect information for use in Beijing’s espionage efforts and not for financial gain, two of the sources said.

While China has emerged as the lead suspect in the case, the sources cautioned it was possible somebody else was behind the hack because other parties had access to the same hacking tools, some of which have previously been posted online.

Identifying the culprit is further complicated by the fact that investigators suspect multiple hacking groups may have simultaneously been inside Starwood’s computer networks since 2014, said one of the sources.

If investigators confirm that China was behind the attack, that could complicate already tense relations between Washington and Beijing, amid an ongoing tariff dispute and U.S. accusations of Chinese espionage and the theft of trade secrets.

“China firmly opposes all forms of cyber attack and cracks down on them in accordance with law,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang told Reuters.”If offered evidence, the relevant Chinese departments will carry out investigations according to law.”

Marriott spokeswoman Connie Kim declined to comment, saying “We’ve got nothing to share,” when asked about involvement of Chinese hackers.

Marriott disclosed the hack on Friday, prompting U.S. and UK regulators to quickly launch probes into the case.

Compromised customer data included names, passport numbers, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates and email addresses. A small percentage of accounts included scrambled payment card data, said Kim.

Marriott acquired Starwood in 2016 for $13.6 billion, including the Sheraton, Westin, W Hotels, St. Regis, Aloft, Le Meridien, Tribute, Four Points and Luxury Collection hotel brands, forming the world’s largest hotel operator.

The hack began in 2014, shortly after an attack on the U.S. government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) compromised sensitive data on tens of millions of employees, including application forms for security clearances.

White House National Security advisor John Bolton recently told reporters he believed Beijing was behind the OPM hack, a claim first made by the United States in 2015.

Beijing has strongly denied those charges and also refuted charges that it was behind other hacks.

Former senior FBI official Robert Anderson told Reuters that the Marriott case looked similar to hacks that the Chinese government was conducting in 2014 as part of its intelligence operations.

“Think of the depth of knowledge they could now have about travel habits or who happened to be in a certain city at the same time as another person,” said Anderson, who served as FBI executive assistant director until 2015.

“It fits with how the Chinese intelligence services think about things. It’s all very long range,” said Anderson, who was not involved in investigating the Marriott case and is now a principal with Chertoff Group.

Michael Sussmann, a former senior Department of Justice official for its computer crimes section, said that the long duration of the campaign was an indicator that the hackers were seeking data for intelligence and not information to use in cyber crime schemes.

“One clue pointing to a government attacker is the amount of time the intruders were working quietly inside the network,” he said. “Patience is a virtue for spies, but not for criminals trying to steal credit card numbers.”

FBI representatives could not immediately be reached for comment on the evidence linking the attack to China. A spokesperson said on Friday that the agency was looking into the attack, but declined to elaborate.

Reporting by Christopher Bing in Washington; Editing by Jim Finkle, Rosalba O’Brien and Susan Thomas



John Bolton: US may ban imports from China that rely on stolen intellectual property

December 4, 2018

National security adviser John Bolton suggested Tuesday that the White House could seek to bar any imports from China that employ stolen intellectual property from American businesses.

“It’s an idea that should be considered. We may have some authority in that area already, we may need some legislation,” he told attendees at a Wall Street Journal conference.

His announcement came just days after President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping reached a 90-day trade truce. The agreement will delay both the imposition of tariffs on an additional $267 billion in Chinese products, and the escalation of existing tariffs on $200 billion in goods from the country.

As part of the deal, China will also purchase a substantial amount of agricultural, energy, and industrial products from the U.S., the White House said in a statement. But there is confusion over other aspects of the deal, particularly whether China will remove the additional 25 percent tariff on U.S. auto imports imposed earlier this year as the trade skirmish between the two countries heated up.

While Trump announced the action on Sunday, China has yet to confirm and White House officials haven’t outlined whether the tariffs will go to zero or to 15 percent, in-line with what China levies on other countries.

When asked on Tuesday, Bolton side-stepped answering directly.

“We don’t see the American future being a third world county supplying natural resources and agriculture products to China. We need to see some major changes to their behavior,” he said. “We have to look at other things we might do.”

Trump Sees “Good Signs” for Trade Deal With China

December 1, 2018

 President Trump suggested his Saturday showdown with Chinese President Xi Jinping could produce a cease-fire in the tariff war, capping a day that saw the American leader reach a milestone in his populist economic crusade by signing a regional trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

The president struck a notably more upbeat tone about prospects for his dinner meeting with Xi, scheduled for Saturday evening in a downtown hotel following the annual Group of 20 leaders summit. “We’re working very hard. If we can make a deal, that’d be good. I think they want to; I think we’d like to. And we’ll see,” the president told reporters, adding: “There’s some good signs.”


Speaking before a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the president did not elaborate. But earlier Friday, the architect of Trump’s hard-line ­approach to China, chief trade negotiator Robert E. Lighthizer, previewed the more optimistic stance.

“I would be very surprised if the dinner is not a success. . . . I’m sure at the end there will be a positive feeling by both men,” Lighthizer told reporters after Trump joined Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in signing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Such official optimism, following months of on-again, off-again bargaining, makes it likely that the president will emerge from the dinner with a tangible achievement. But no one expects a sweeping agreement that resolves all of the irritants in the U.S.-China relationship.

One potential bargain would involve the United States deferring further tariff increases in return for China dropping its retaliatory levies on shipments of American soybeans and liquefied natural gas, according to Derek Scissors, a China expert at the American Enterprise Institute who occasionally advises administration officials.

The two presidents also could agree to deputize officials for new negotiations over the most contentious U.S. charges, which go to the core of China’s state-led economic model. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has proposed talks with a six-month deadline to reach a deal that would eliminate tariffs and provide American companies greater access to the Chinese market.

“Trump clearly wants to be seen as tough on China, but also as an effective dealmaker,” said Eswar Prasad, a Cornell University economist and former International Monetary Fund China division chief. “It is unlikely that the substantial differences between the two sides can be bridged anytime in the near future, but even a cessation of additional trade hostilities would be a positive outcome at this stage.”

After earlier talks led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed, the Chinese want to see Lighthizer deputized to lead a renewed dialogue.

“The Chinese now no longer believe anyone else can deliver,” said Douglas Rediker, executive chairman of International Capital Strategies, a market advisory firm.

Even as the outlook brightens for the Trump-Xi dinner, the long-run picture looks darker.

Administration officials regard China as an economic predator, a hostile power that seeks to undermine American technological supremacy and unseat Washington as the globe’s dominant power.

The United States complains that Beijing subsidizes its state-owned giants to compete in world markets, steals American technology and maintains strict limits on foreign businesses in China. Officials in Beijing and Washington speak openly of prospects for a new “Cold War” between the two countries.

“I am quite confident that a year from now the cooperative results finalized tomorrow will be evaporating and 2020 will be more contentious than this year,” Scissors said via email.

Image result for Derek Scissors, photos

The president spent the first part of this week playing down chances for an accommodation with China. He told the Wall Street Journal it was “highly unlikely” he would cancel a planned Jan. 1 increase to 25 percent from 10 percent in tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.

National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, a self-described free-trader, also spoke skeptically, saying China’s responses to U.S. trade complaints had been “disappointing” and “unsatisfying.”

But as the dinner with Xi drew closer, Trump began emphasizing the potential for progress, however limited.

For the president, the day’s signature moment came with the morning’s ceremonial signing of a North American trade deal that overhauls the rules governing more than $1.2 trillion in regional commerce and closes the door on a quarter-century of unbridled globalization.

In a half-hour ceremony, Trump lavished praise on the agreement, calling it a “truly groundbreaking achievement,” and he nodded to his blue-collar base with claims that the measure would promote “high-paid manufacturing jobs” and farm exports.

But the pact faces an uphill battle in Congress next year, where Democrats will control the House and may be reluctant to help the president fulfill a 2016 campaign promise as he gears up to run for reelection.

Major U.S. industries and agricultural interests are also unhappy that the president has not yet removed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Mexico and Canada, as administration officials promised.

“That’s bad news for a lot of us,” said Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents multinational corporations.

Lighthizer is seeking to replace the tariffs with quotas that will limit metals shipments from the two U.S. trading partners.

Canada and Mexico also fear being hurt if Trump follows through on his threats to impose tariffs on imported automobiles. The auto industry is perhaps North America’s most integrated business, with companies shipping parts and half-finished cars across the U.S. northern and southern borders multiple times before completing production.

Friday’s ceremony was relatively subdued, save for Trump’s acknowledgment that the trio had done “battle” to reach an accord. Trump and Trudeau, whose relationship has been rocky, interacted cordially, though the Canadian resisted Trump’s rebranding effort and called their handiwork a “new North American Free Trade Agreement.”

Trump was accompanied by a large U.S. delegation, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mnuchin, Lighthizer, national security adviser John Bolton and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly.

The president’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, both senior White House advisers, also attended. Minutes earlier, Peña Nieto had awarded Kushner the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, the country’s highest award for foreigners, in part for his work on the trade deal.

The measure faces opposition in Congress, despite Trump’s breezy assertion Friday that “it’s been so well reviewed I don’t expect to have very much of a problem.”

In the Senate, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), who backs expanded trade, says he will oppose the deal unless changes are made to several provisions, including protections for investors. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), a likely Democratic presidential aspirant, said Thursday that she would oppose the trade pact.

In a worrisome sign for the administration, major labor unions, fearing additional outsourcing, are refusing to back the pact. Robert Martinez, international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said the USMCA “will do little, if anything,” to keep more American jobs from moving to Mexico.

Lighthizer, who spent 13 months in sometimes acrimonious bargaining, ruled out trying to rework the agreement to reflect lawmakers’ concerns.

“The negotiations are not going to be reopened. The agreement’s been signed,” he said.

Lighthizer said he “absolutely” believes the bill will get support from “a very high number of Democrats.” “I have no doubt about it.”

The president has repeatedly called NAFTA “the worst trade deal ever” and came close to withdrawing the United States from it within months of taking office.

Vows to scrap NAFTA and replace it with a better deal also were staples of Trump’s campaign rallies across the industrial Midwest in 2016.

The agreement requires that 75 percent of each vehicle granted duty-free treatment be made in North America, up from 62.5 percent in the current treaty, and requires a substantial amount of manufacturing be performed by workers earning at least $16 per hour.

That measure is designed to reduce incentives for American work to shift to lower-cost Mexican factories.

The deal also contains new provisions governing e-commerce and cross-border data flows that were not part of the earlier treaty, which was negotiated before the Internet became a commercial force.

Ukraine-Russia sea clash: Trump says may cancel G20 Putin talks

November 28, 2018

US President Donald Trump says he may cancel a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin following a maritime clash between Russia and Ukraine.

Mr Trump told the Washington Post he was waiting for a “full report” after Russian ships fired on and seized three Ukrainian boats on Sunday.

The two leaders are due to meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires later this week.

Meanwhile, the US has urged European states to do more to support Ukraine.

A Russian FSB security service officer escorts a detained Ukrainian sailor to a courthouse in Simferopol, Crimea, on November 27, 2018Image copyrightAFP
Image captionSome of the detained Ukrainians have appeared in court in Crimea


State department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington wanted to see tougher enforcement of sanctions against Russia.

What did Donald Trump say?

He told the Washington Post that the report coming from his national security team would be “very determinative”.

“Maybe I won’t have the meeting [with Mr Putin]. Maybe I won’t even have the meeting. I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all,” he said.

The two men are scheduled to discuss security, arms control, and issues in Ukraine and the Middle East when the summit convenes on Friday and Saturday, national security adviser John Bolton told reporters.

Why tensions between Russia and Ukraine are so high

How is the crisis playing out?

Russian coastguard ships opened fire on Sunday as the two Ukrainian gunboats and a tug sailed through the Kerch Strait off the coast of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. Twenty-four Ukrainians were detained and at least three were wounded in the incident.

Ukraine described it as an “act of aggression” but Russia said the ships had illegally entered its waters.

A Crimean court later ordered that 12 of the Ukrainians be detained for 60 days. The court is expected to issue rulings for the remaining servicemen on Wednesday.

The FSB security service has since released videos of some of the men making statements. One of them, Volodymyr Lisovyi, said he was aware of the “provocative nature” of the Ukrainian action.

Volodymyr Lisovyi on Russian TV
Volodymyr Lisovyi was one of three men who gave statements described as “under duress” by the head of Ukraine’s navy. ROSSIYA 24

Another, Andriy Drach, said he had been on a gunboat with an order to sail from Odessa to Mariupol.

“We were warned by the border service of the Russian Federation that we were violating Russian law. They had repeatedly asked us to leave the territorial waters of the Russian Federation,” he said.

Ukraine’s navy commander, Ihor Voronchenko, told Ukrainian TV that the men had given false statements under duress.

“I know those sailors from Nikopol. They have always been honest professionals in their jobs, and what they say now is not true,” he said.

The head of Ukraine’s SBU security service, Vasyl Hrytsak, confirmed Russian reports that members of the service were on board the boats, but added that it was a “routine counter-intelligence mission” of a type that the Russian navy carried out regularly.

How has Ukraine reacted?

On Monday night, Ukraine’s parliament backed President Petro Poroshenko’s decision to impose martial law for a 30-day period from 26 November in 10 border regions.

On Tuesday, President Poroshenko said there was a threat of “full-scale war” with Russia.

“The number of [Russian] tanks at bases located along our border has grown three times,” he said.

Five of the 10 regions border Russia while two are adjacent to Moldova’s breakaway Trans-Dniester region, where Russian troops are stationed. The other three regions border the Black Sea or Sea of Azov close to Crimea.

Map showing areas under Ukrainian martial law from 26 November
Presentational white space

The move to martial law is unprecedented in Ukraine, and gives military authorities the right to ban protests and strikes.

The flare-up is the first outright clash between Ukraine and Russian forces for years, although since 2014 pro-Russian separatists and Russian military “volunteers” have been fighting Ukraine’s army in two eastern regions – Luhansk and Donetsk.

Tensions escalated when Russia opened a bridge this year between Russia and Crimea over the Kerch Strait, which leads into the Sea of Azov. Ukraine has two big ports on the northern shore of the Azov sea, and a 2003 treaty allows both countries free access to its waters.

Map of route of Ukrainian boats off Crimea on 25 November
Presentational white space

What other reaction has there been?

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the seizure of Ukrainian ships is a “dangerous escalation and a violation of international law”.

The UK condemned Russia’s “destabilising behaviour in the region and its ongoing violation of Ukrainian territorial sovereignty”.

Taking a call from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin argued that the Ukrainians had “deliberately ignored the rules of peaceful passage in the territorial sea of the Russian Federation”, the Kremlin said.

Mrs Merkel had “stressed the need for de-escalation and dialogue,” her spokesman said.

US to vote against UN resolution condemning Israeli presence in Golan — A reversal of Obama administration

November 16, 2018

Signifying dramatic shift in policy, outgoing Ambassador Haley says mission will oppose ‘plainly biased’ annual motion after years of abstaining

United States ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, center, raises her hand as she votes yes to levy new sanctions on North Korea during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council concerning North Korea at UN headquarters, in New York City,  September 11, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

United States ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, center, raises her hand as she votes yes to levy new sanctions on North Korea during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council concerning North Korea at UN headquarters, in New York City, September 11, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

The United States will for the first time vote against an annual UN resolution calling for Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights, the country’s mission to the world body said on Friday, signifying a dramatic shift in US policy toward the territory.

In Friday’s scheduled vote on “The Occupied Syrian Golan” resolution, the US will change its yearly abstention to a “no” vote, outgoing US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said in a statement.

“If this resolution ever made sense, it surely does not today. The resolution is plainly biased against Israel,” Haley said, announcing the planned move.

The non-binding resolution, which is voted on by the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee each year, takes issue with the “illegality of the decision” taken by Israel “to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan,” which it says is illegal under international law.

Israeli soldiers at an army base in the Golan Heights look out across the border with Syria on July 7, 2018. (AFP Photo/Jalaa Marey)

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed the territory in the early 1980s. But the United States and the international community have long refused to recognize Israeli sovereignty there and officially consider it Syrian territory under Israeli occupation.

Haley however, said on Friday that “the atrocities the Syrian regime continues to commit prove its lack of fitness to govern anyone.”

Israel has reportedly pressed the White House in recent months to recognize the annexation, arguing that the bloody civil war in Syria undergirded Israeli claims that the plateau is critical to maintaining security.

In August, Syrian government forces backed by Iran and Russia reached the frontier with the Israeli Golan Heights after capturing the territory from rebels and Islamic State fighters.

Though it has sought to avoid direct involvement in the Syrian conflict, Israel has acknowledged carrying out dozens of airstrikes there to stop deliveries of advanced weaponry bound for Iranian proxy Hezbollah.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon welcomed the US announcement, saying in a statement that “the change in the American voting pattern is another testament to the strong cooperation between the two countries.”

“It is time for the world to distinguish between those who stabilize the region and those who sow terror,” he added.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley talks with Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon before a vote in the General Assembly June 13, 2018 in New York. (AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT)

While a “no” vote from the US is unlikely to stop the resolution passing, it could be a sign that the Trump administration is considering recognizing Israeli control over the Golan.

In September, US ambassador to Israel David Friedman said that he expects the annexed territory to remain under Israeli control “forever.”

“I cannot honestly imagine a situation in which the Golan Heights is not part of Israel forever,” Friedman told the Israel Hayom daily.

But during a visit to Israel a month earlier, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said there were no discussions on such recognition.

“Obviously we understand the Israeli claim that it has annexed the Golan Heights – we understand their position – but there’s no change in the US position for now,” he told the Reuters news agency in an interview.