Posts Tagged ‘trade’

Trump trade tsar warns against China ‘market economy’ status

June 22, 2017
Robert Lighthizer says a change in standing of country by WTO would be ‘cataclysmic’
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Image result for Robert Lighthizer, photos

Germany’s Merkel Vows Not to Give Up on US Free Trade Deal

June 20, 2017

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel is telling German business leaders that she won’t give up on a free trade deal between Europe and the U.S., and will seek broad agreement on trade at next month’s Group of 20 summit.

Prospects for the planned EU-U.S. deal look poor, particularly after President Donald Trump quit a Pacific nations’ trade agreement.

But Merkel told an annual German industry congress Tuesday: “I will continue to push for us to move forward here, for us not to put the project on ice.”

Merkel will host the G-20 summit July 7-8. She underlined the advantages of free markets and trade and said she will seek a “broad agreement.”

She added: “In view of the new American administration that isn’t easy, but we must make the effort.”

Hong Kong firms join forces to make deals under Silk Road plan

June 19, 2017

Companies will draw on their experience to initially establish infrastructure projects and industrial parks in Thailand and Vietnam

By Josh Ye
South China Morning Post

Monday, June 19, 2017, 8:48pm

Hong Kong companies will form a consortium to build infrastructure projects and industrial parks in Thailand and Vietnam under mainland China’s Silk Road project, the Trade Development Council says.

Council president Vincent Lo Hong-sui said over 40 business leaders from Hong Kong and Shanghai formed a delegation while visiting the two countries last month and met both prime ministers.

He added that this was one of many steps in further involving Hong Kong companies with the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

Lo said the statutory body was now forming “a consortium of local companies” to help them enter these developing markets as a collective force.

“We are looking to build infrastructure projects and industrial parks in countries under the belt and road initiative.”

The initiative was launched by Beijing in 2013 to promote the building of railways, roads, power plants and other infrastructure projects in 60 countries from Asia to Europe on its old Silk Road to promote trade and economic growth.

The council has identified eight countries out of the 65 under the scheme as the initial destinations for Hong Kong investment – Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Nicholas Kwan, research director at the council, said Hong Kong investors were seasoned in managing supply chain systems across countries.

 Vincent Lo says numerous multibillion-dollar deals will be closed this year. Photo: Sam Tsang

Lo said the development level of many of the belt and road countries reminded him of mainland China three decades ago.

“Hong Kong investors have garnered a lot of practical experience in developing mainland China,” he said. “This experience is unique and will definitely benefit other countries.”

He said the council aimed to close several deals this year and estimated some projects were worth more than US$10 billion.

Lo added that chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had told him the next administration would fully support the council in furthering deals with countries linked to the trade initiative.

The council also announced that it would host its second belt and road summit in September, which looked to introduce more concrete plans for local firms to enter relevant countries.

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2099050/hong-kong-firms-join-forces-make-deals-under-silk-road-plan

A Look at What Is Ahead Now That Brexit Talks Have Started

June 19, 2017

BRUSSELS — The talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union finally started Monday when EU negotiator Michel Barnier said “Welcome David” to his counterpart, David Davis, and led him toward a huge oval table at the European Commission headquarters.

As the negotiations kick off, here’s a look at some of the major issues the sides face.

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DIVORCE FIRST

They will first have to unravel the British from the EU, which will be challenging to say the least. That will involve everything from deciding what waters each side can fish in to how nuclear agreements should be renegotiated. Only when there is “sufficient progress” does the EU want to look at creating a new relationship with Britain on things like trade and migration. Britain hopes the two themes — divorce terms and future relationship — can be discussed in parallel.

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WHAT DIVORCE ISSUES GET TACKLED FIRST?

While Britain has struggled to agree on and present a coherent list of demands, the 27 EU nations have had one message all along — in the words of Barnier on Monday: “We must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit.” It means clarifying the fate of EU citizens in Britain and vice versa, how to manage the border between Ireland and the U.K., and how much Britain will pay.

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MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

The EU says Britain can’t leave without settling its bill, paying up for all its commitments that are still ongoing, including projects that might reach into the next decade, as well as the U.K.’s share of EU staff pensions. EU officials have put the figure at around 50 billion euros ($63 billion) while other estimates by think tanks and in the media go as high as twice that amount. As in any divorce, count on both sides to be picky in splitting the goods and dues.

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WHAT ARE THE RED LINES?

The EU says it will not compromise on its core “four freedoms”: free movement of goods, capital, services and workers. Britain insists that it must regain the right to control immigration and end free movement from other EU countries into Britain. May says Britain will leave the EU’s single market in goods and services and its tariff-free customs union, but nonetheless, somehow, wants “frictionless” free trade.

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DEAL OR NO DEAL?

Even though May triggered the two-year process on March 29, negotiators will have to get a full agreement much faster than March 2019. EU nations and the European Parliament will have to approve any future deal and that can take months. EU officials have therefore put the realistic deadline at October — and at the latest November — of 2018. If no deal is struck by then, the sides may have to create a transitional deal, possibly prolonging some of the current relationship.

If Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal, that would create huge uncertainties for citizens and businesses as well as issues like global security. How bad that would be in reality is anyone’s guess.

Pay up, make nice if you want “soft Brexit”, EU to tell May — Plus Hammond’s plan for soft Brexit days before talks open

June 17, 2017

 

“I think on balance in the House of Commons there is a majority for something softer than Theresa May’s idea of Brexit.”

Reuters

By Alastair Macdonald | BRUSSELS

Theresa May should agree to pay Britain’s bills to the European Union and drop threats to walk out without a legal deal if she wants talks on the “softer Brexit” some of her allies are calling for, EU negotiators say.

If the chastened prime minister and Brexit Secretary David Davis take a gentler tone when talks finally launch in Brussels next week, they could win valuable concessions, some think.

A week after May lost her majority in an election she had called in the hope of strengthening her hand in the talks, some fellow Conservatives want her to focus more on limiting the damage to business and less on cutting immigration and other ties to the EU when Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

Other EU governments will be happy to let Britain keep trade open as it would limit the hit to their own economies, officials told Reuters, though they are not ready to ease conditions that May would struggle to sell to her party’s Brexit hardliners.

But speculating now on different kinds of trade pact – on “soft Brexit” or “hard” – is to put cart before horse, they say. EU leaders gave chief negotiator Michel Barnier no authority to so much as talk about trade until he clinches outline deals on Brussels’ priority issues, including on what London owes them.

Barnier this week acknowledged “sensitivity” in London at EU suggestions that Britain might owe it some 60 billion euros in 2019 and said sorting out the issue soon would help a trade deal: “I would like to very quickly play down this question, and find concrete, pragmatic and just solutions,” he said on Monday.

“We need trust to build the future relationship.”

EU leaders, who will meet May at a summit next Thursday, have been irritated by her repeated threats to walk out with “no deal” — even if most see that as a campaigning bluff given the chaos it would cause. They are also irked by her refusal to say Britain will definitely pay what Brussels calls a “hefty bill” — some ministers have even said the EU may owe London money.

HAGGLING OVER BILL

If Davis, who launches the formal negotiations with Barnier on Monday, can show British willing on the EU’s priority “Phase One” issues, then trade talks could get under way by the turn of the year — a step-by-step timetable Barnier says must be followed to limit the risk of a disruptive “no deal” scenario.

An EU official close to the matter said the “softer Brexit” talk could be “productive” and help progress in the first months, where the British attitude to discussing the financial settlement “will be the first serious test of the negotiations”.

There are also differences over the other priority issue for Brussels — securing the rights of 3 million EU citizens living in Britain — but diplomats see those as less problematic.

And as leaders welcomed the new tone in London and talk of a “softer Brexit” that may be less disruptive than May’s clean break with the single market and customs union, officials from at least some governments saw compromise on the British bill.

“If they refuse to pay, there will be no agreement,” a senior official handling Brexit for one EU member state government told Reuters. “However, discussing about the amount of money, here there will be flexibility,” he added.

A senior Brussels official said the amount, which compares to London’s annual net EU payment of around 10 billion euros, would still be “peanuts” in terms of the overall economy and also that the final bill would be determined less by technical and legal arguments than by hard-headed political horse-trading.

TRADE TRADE-OFFS

Significant progress in talks on the budget and citizens’ rights issue, as well as on issues around the new EU-UK land border in Ireland, would allow EU leaders to give Barnier a mandate by December to discuss a future, close relationship and, potentially, years of transition after 2019 to smooth its way.

Barnier speaks of a willingness to look at various options but EU officials also stress that greater access to EU markets will mean accepting greater costs, closer to EU membership, and question whether Britain can find a political consensus on that.

The other 27, including lead powers Germany and France, want to dissuade others from emulating Britain and so insist that any Brexit deal must be less advantageous than full membership.

“All the options are balanced and come with obligations,” an EU official working on Brexit said, noting that May had seemed to be looking for a sweeping free trade deal like that agreed last year with Canada but that some of those calling for “soft” Brexit cited arrangements such as those with Norway and Turkey.

Norway is in the single market, in return for accepting free immigration from the EU, EU courts and budget payments. Turkey has special arrangements with the customs union but must follow Brussels in trade policies with other global players.

For Brussels, a concern with starting talks on such models would be that Brexit supporters might end up blocking them, raising the risk of time running out to get any deal: “Would you … 10 months later find that there was no real majority for that?” the official said. “It all becomes very uncertain.”

(Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; @macdonaldrtr; editing by Mark John)

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Hammond’s plan for soft Brexit days before talks open

At loggerheads: Philip Hammond is fighting Theresa May for a softer Brexit

At loggerheads: Philip Hammond is fighting Theresa May for a softer Brexit CREDIT: REUTERS

Philip Hammond is drawing up detailed plans for a softer Brexit that will prioritise “protecting jobs” over Britain’s ability to strike free trade deals after Britain quits the EU.

Senior Whitehall sources have told The Daily Telegraph that Mr Hammond is pushing for a bespoke deal under which Britain would retain associate membership of the EU’s customs union, but retain the freedom to negotiate separate deals on trade services.

As he entered a meeting of EU finance ministers in Luxembourg yesterday, the Chancellor made clear that he was not giving up his battle to resist a hard Brexit. “My clear view, and I believe the view of the majority of people in Britain, is we should prioritise protecting jobs, protecting economic growth and protecting prosperity,” he said, in an apparently open challenge to hardline Brexiteers.

Read the rest:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/16/revealed-hammonds-plan-soft-brexit-days-talks-open/

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‘Soft Brexit’ Forces Rise in Britain on the Eve of Talks

LONDON — Ridiculed by the right-wing tabloid media and ignored by Prime Minister Theresa May as she pursued plans for a clean break with the European Union, Britain’s pro-Europeans suddenly have something they have long wanted: leverage.

After the recent stunning general election, in which her governing Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority, Mrs. May faces pressure from both inside and outside the party to soften her plans to exit the bloc, a process known as Brexit, as talks are set to begin on Monday.

The pro-Europe Britons’ demands that Mrs. May maintain closer ties to the European Union have grown louder and more assertive — in particular the calls to keep Britain in Europe’s customs union, which provides tariff-free access to Continental markets and helps integrate the British and European economies.

For the first time since the referendum on Britain’s exit, there is “an opportunity to have a much better relationship with the European Union,” said Roland Rudd, a senior figure in the defeated “remain” campaign and founder of Finsbury, a communications company.Anand Menon, a professor of European politics and foreign affairs at King’s College London, said, “I think on balance in the House of Commons there is a majority for something softer than Theresa May’s idea of Brexit.”

This, Professor Menon said, creates a difficult and dangerous dynamic for Mrs. May. She emerged from the snap election she called with a far weaker hand for Brexit negotiations, and must also avert a return to feuding over Europe in her Conservative Party, where there is still strong support for a tough stance.

Read the rest: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/world/europe/britain-brexit-theresa-may.html?_r=0

Britain’s financial obligations to the European Union on the Brexit agenda Monday, first round of negotiations

June 16, 2017

The Associated Press

Top negotiators will on Monday discuss Britain’s financial obligations to the European Union as the long and complicated process of the U.K. leaving the bloc finally gets underway.

The EU’s executive Commission said in a statement Friday that the first round of negotiations in Brussels will be part of a “sequenced approach to the talks.”

The EU has insisted that this sequence involve sorting out Britain’s departure and urgent issues like the rights of citizens affected by Brexit before the shape of future ties or trade are discussed.

The unprecedented negotiations come almost exactly a year after Britons voted last June 23 to leave the EU. The talks must be completed and endorsed by parliaments by the end of March 2019.

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BBC News

UK to agree Brexit divorce bill before trade talks – EU sources

Michel Barnier and David Davis
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier (left) and UK Brexit Secretary David Davis confirmed the start of talks. Reuters

The UK has agreed to sort out its EU “divorce bill” and citizens’ residence rights before starting Brexit trade talks, EU sources have told the BBC.

But the UK’s Brexit department has insisted a trade deal must be agreed at the same time.

Brexit negotiations are due to start on Monday in Brussels but that will be the only day of talks next week.

The talks are set to continue every month throughout the summer.

The EU will aim to see if “sufficient progress” has been made by October to move on to the next phase of negotiations, sources told the BBC’s Europe correspondent Damian Grammaticas.

‘Withdrawal process’

Monday’s talks between Brexit Secretary David Davis and EU negotiator Michel Barnier follow preliminary negotiations in Brussels between officials.

In a statement the European Commission said: “The opening of negotiations at political level next week will focus on issues related to citizens’ rights, the financial settlement, the Northern Irish border and other separation issues, as part of the sequenced approach to the talks.

“Both sides will also discuss the structure of the negotiations and the issues that need to be addressed over the coming months.”

A spokesman for Mr Davis’s Brexit department stressed that nothing had changed as far as the UK was concerned and trade talks must take place alongside withdrawal talks.

“We have been crystal clear about our approach to these negotiations,” said the spokesman.

“As we set out in the Article 50 letter, our view is that withdrawal agreement and terms of the future relationship must be agreed alongside each other. We are clear this is what is set out in Article 50.

“We believe that the withdrawal process cannot be concluded without the future relationship also being taken into account.

“As the EU has itself said, ‘nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed’.”

‘First aim’

The spokesman added that although some issues would be given early priority “the withdrawal and future are intimately linked”.

“In particular, we want to move ahead on securing the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU. We want to end the anxiety facing four million citizens.

“That has always been our first aim and that is what we will do.”

David Davis has said the UK will pay what was legally due, in line with its rights and obligations, but “not just what the EU wants”, following reports the “divorce bill” could be 100bn euros (£87bn).

Mr Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has said there was no desire to punish the UK but “its accounts must be settled”.

“There is no Brexit bill. The final settlement is all about settling the accounts,” he said last month.

‘Viable option’

In Prime Minister Theresa May’s letter triggering Article 50, she states: “We believe it’s necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EU.’

But European Council president Donald Tusk and other senior EU officials have consistently ruled out parallel talks.

Sir Keir Starmer
Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer is seeking meetings with Brexit civil servants. Reuters

Labour’s Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has written to David Davis urging him to “reset” the government’s “belligerent and reckless” approach to leaving the EU.

In the letter, obtained by the Financial Times, Sir Keir warned that Theresa May’s “inflexible” stance “makes a good deal for Britain less likely, not more likely”.

He urged ministers to make jobs and the economy their priority in negotiations, echoing comments earlier by Chancellor Philip Hammond.

Sir Keir said the government should now drop their claim that “no deal is better than a bad deal” on Brexit, saying it had “never been a viable option”.

“To threaten to jump off a cliff rather than to be pushed is not a viable negotiating strategy,” he said.

Labour is seeking regular meetings with the most senior civil servant at the Department for Exiting the EU, saying it needs to be ready to take over negotiations at an stage if Mrs May’s government falls.

Analysis by BBC Europe correspondent Damian Grammaticas

We now know that at precisely 11:00 BST on Monday morning, almost exactly a year after the Brexit referendum, the all important exit negotiations will begin.

It’s been confirmed that they will start with talks between David Davis representing the UK and Michel Barnier for the EU side.

The EU has pressed for openness and a press conference is expected at the end of the first day.

After that, an EU source said, there will be one week of face-to-face negotiations every four weeks throughout the summer.

And the source told the BBC that it was understood the talks would broadly follow the EU’s preferred sequence, dealing with issues of citizens’ rights and a framework for calculating outstanding financial liabilities before moving on, possibly later in the year, to deal with the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

EU countries have said they will only move on if they believed sufficient progress had been made in the first phase of talks.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-40303761

Turkey FM heads to Doha as UN ‘alarmed’ by Gulf crisis

June 14, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by David Harding | Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks at a news conference in Ankara, on June 5, 2017

DOHA (AFP) – The search for a diplomatic solution to the Gulf crisis intensified Wednesday as Turkey’s top diplomat headed to Qatar while the UN voiced fears over growing humanitarian concerns in the region.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, foreign minister of one of Qatar’s strongest allies, is expected to hold talks with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, on a mission which could also see him travel to regional powerbroker Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia has the potential and capability to solve this crisis as a wise state and big brother of the region and also as a major actor,” Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Wednesday.

“We aim to involve all actors in this process.”

Riyadh is one of several countries which has imposed a political and economic “blockade” on Qatar, in protest at Doha’s support for Islamist extremist groups as well as over its ties to Shiite Iran.

The move has been backed by nations including Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt and others.

Qatar strongly denies the charges and claims neighbouring countries are trying to interfere with its foreign policy.

Before heading to Doha, Cavusoglu said that “if the programme allows I will also visit Saudi Arabia”, in quotes reported by the Anadolu news agency.

“It is very useful to take into account the opinions and suggestions of Saudi Arabia.”

He added that the situation “was causing great discomfort for everybody” especially during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who has described the decision by Gulf states to cut political and economic ties with Qatar as “inhumane” — is expected to hold phone talks with US President Donald Trump in the coming days.

In addition, the Turkish president’s spokesman said a trilateral meeting between Ankara, Paris and Doha was planned.

The planned talks follow discussions on Tuesday between Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

– UN ‘alarmed’ –

In Geneva, concern surrounding the humanitarian situation grew Wednesday, with the intervention of the UN human rights chief.

“I am alarmed about the possible impact on many people’s human rights in the wake of the decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain to cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, in his first comments on the crisis.

“It is becoming clear that the measures being adopted are overly broad in scope and implementation,” he added.

The decision to isolate Qatar had led to fears that thousands of families in the Gulf would be split apart.

As well as economic and political ties, the Gulf states also ordered Qataris out within 14 days as well as calling home their own citizens.

Amnesty International has warned of “heartbreak and fear” being suffered by ordinary people in the region.

It also accused Saudi Arabia and its allies of “toying with the lives of thousands of Gulf residents”.

Bahrain and the UAE have also banned expressions of sympathy for Qatar.

Manama announced on Wednesday that it had detained a citizen for sympathising with Qatar on social media.

There have also been fears of food shortages in Qatar — so far not realised — and a disruption of imports needed for a number of capital projects in the gas-rich emirate.

Qatar is receiving food deliveries from Turkey, Iran and Morocco among others.

The 2022 World Cup host is also in the middle of building huge capital projects worth an estimated $200 billion-plus, many of which rely on suppliers in the region.

Doha-based airline Qatar Airways has been banned from using the airspace of neighbouring countries since measures were announced on June 5.

However, the carrier said services were largely unaffected by the decision in a statement Wednesday.

“Qatar Airways’ global operations continue to run smoothly, with the vast majority of our network unaffected by the current circumstances,” said chief executive Akbar Al-Baker.

Although the crisis remains a diplomatic one, there have been some fears voiced it could end in a military solution.

Also on Wednesday, Qatar announced it was withdrawing its troops from the Djibouti-Eritrea border.

by David Harding
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Theresa May Meets With Macron, Reaffirms She Will Not Compromise Over Brexit

June 14, 2017

By

Theresa May has signalled she will not compromise over Brexit despite growing demands for a change in approach in the wake of last week’s election result.

The Prime Minister is understood still to be determined to enter talks in Brussels next week with a threat that Britain is prepared to leave the EU without a future trading deal.

She also wishes to stick to the pre-election Conservative plan for this country to leave the single market and customs union to allow the UK to negotiate free-trade deals around the world, and control immigration.

Read the rest:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/13/defiant-may-signals-will-not-compromise-hard-brexit/

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EU door remains open until UK departs, Macron tells May

Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace.

Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

The French president called for Brexit negotiations to “start as soon as possible,” but also added that as long as the negotiations are not over, there is still a possibility to change the course of events.

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, greets Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May prior to their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Tuesday. After their talks, the two leaders will watch a France-England football match at the stade de France that will honour victims of extremist attacks in both countries.

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, greets Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May prior to their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Tuesday. After their talks, the two leaders will watch a France-England football match at the stade de France that will honour victims of extremist attacks in both countries.  (THIBAULT CAMUS / AP)  

PARIS—She wants to escape the European Union, he wants to embolden it. British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron held talks Tuesday from opposite sides of the Brexit front line and agreed that negotiations for Britain’s divorce from the European bloc will start next week as planned.

They also reached common ground on fighting a shared enemy: terrorism. Standing side by side in the garden of the Elysée Palace after a working dinner, the two leaders announced plans to pursue an initiative to require tech companies to better police online extremism and hold them legally liable if they fail to do so.

“We are united in our total condemnation of terrorism and our commitment to stamp out this evil,” May said.

Read more:

U.K.’s Boris Johnson says May is ‘the right person’ to continue amid calls for her resignation

Election win puts Emmanuel Macron on course to redefine European politics: Burman

Macron’s party takes strong lead in French parliamentary elections

May arrived in Paris with her leadership hobbled by a catastrophic election last week just as Britain heads into tough talks on leaving the EU.

While May struggles to hold onto power, Macron is on the ascendancy, with his year-old party set to win a huge majority in parliamentary elections Sunday. That should fortify Macron’s standing in Europe as he tries to push the remaining EU nations to stand tough in Brexit negotiations, and to unite even more closely as Britain departs.

Seeking to allay European concerns after her election setback, May reaffirmed Tuesday that “the timetable for Brexit negotiations remains on course and will begin next week.”

British officials had previously suggested they wouldn’t be able to formally start Brexit negotiations as scheduled.

Macron shakes hands with May after their joint press conference at the Elysee Presidential Palace. May met Macron to discuss the fight against radicalization and terrorism.
Macron shakes hands with May after their joint press conference at the Elysee Presidential Palace. May met Macron to discuss the fight against radicalization and terrorism.  (THIERRY CHESNOT/GETTY IMAGES)  

Macron called for the negotiations to “start as soon as possible,” but also added that the door remains open for the U.K. to remain in the European Union. From a European point of view, he said, as long as the negotiations are not over, there is still a possibility to change the course of events.

Still, he acknowledged, “the decision (to exit the EU) has been taken by the sovereign British people. I do respect that.”

The talks Tuesday also focused heavily on deepening counterterrorism co-operation, especially reducing extremist propaganda circulated online. Britain and France face similar challenges in fighting homegrown Islamic extremism and share similar scars from deadly attacks that rocked London, Manchester, Paris and Nice.

May said major internet companies have failed to live up to prior commitments to do more to prevent extremists from finding a “safe space” online. Macron urged other European countries, especially Germany, to join the effort to fight Islamic extremist propaganda on the web.

After Daesh, also known as ISIS or ISIL, recruited hundreds of French fighters largely through online propaganda, France introduced legislation ordering French providers to block certain content, but acknowledges any such effort must reach well beyond its borders. Tech-savvy Macron has lobbied for tougher European rules, but details of his plans remain unclear.

Britain already has tough measures, including a law known informally as the Snooper’s Charter, which gives authorities the powers to look at the internet browsing records of everyone in the country. Among other things, the law requires telecommunications companies to keep records of all users’ web activity for a year, creating data bases of personal information that the firms worry could be vulnerable to leaks and hackers.

Macron, May and French interior minister Gerard Collomb attend a friendly soccer match between France and England at the Stade de France in Saint Denis, north of Paris on Tuesday.
Macron, May and French interior minister Gerard Collomb attend a friendly soccer match between France and England at the Stade de France in Saint Denis, north of Paris on Tuesday.  (FRANCOIS MORI/AP)  

After their talks, May and Macron headed to the Stade de France stadium north of Paris to watch a France-England exhibition soccer match honouring victims of the recent attacks in Manchester and London. In an emotional show of support, players from both teams walked onto the field to sounds of the Oasis song “Don’t Look Back in Anger” played by the French Republican Guard. Then Macron and May joined French and British fans in singing the British national anthem “God Save the Queen,” followed by a minute of silence.

Two big screens at the stadium projected the red-and-white Cross of St. George and giant flags from both countries were rolled out onto the field.

Three attackers mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge and then stabbed people in nearby Borough Market on June 3. Eight people were killed and dozens more injured. On May 22, a man detonated a bomb as crowds were leaving an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, killing 22 people.

France’s players were touched by the overwhelming show of support they received from England fans when they played an exhibition match at Wembley Stadium on Nov. 17, 2015 — just four days after attacks hit a Paris stadium, cafes and a rock concert, killing 130 people. England fans that night sang along with the French national anthem.

Asian Allies Still Have Doubts About U.S. Commitment

June 5, 2017

By Greg Torode | SINGAPORE

As many in Asia question the durability of the United States’ long-standing security role in the region, one veteran military commander is reassuring old allies and newer friends that nothing has changed.

Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), has emerged as the frontman of Washington’s strategic diplomacy in Asia, according to several military officials, diplomats and analysts.

From his base in Hawaii, the 60-year-old former PC-3 maritime patrol pilot has spent the last two years shuttling constantly across the region, grappling with issues like North Korea, the disputed South China Sea and the spread of jihadist movements.

But Harris has a tougher task as he serves a new administration – he has to shore up U.S. alliances amid growing worries in the region that Washington’s pullout from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact and the Paris climate accord signals a withdrawal from a global role.

Asian nations worry that any diluted U.S. presence, just a few years after former president Barack Obama’s strategic rebalance to the region, could leave them at the mercy of an increasingly assertive China.

Carl Thayer, a regional security analyst at the Australian Defense Force Academy, said the U.S. Pacific commander is like a pro-consul of old, with vast delegated authority and responsibility across 36 nations. He knows both political leaders and senior military officials personally.

“But at this moment, he’s something more – he’s the very glue holding the traditional U.S. line together across Asia,” Thayer said.

As one of America’s six combatant commanders, Harris reports to President Donald Trump through the Secretary of Defense. But the Pacific command is by far the biggest of the U.S. military commands – it accounts for 60 per cent of all U.S. navy ships, 55 per cent of army forces and two-thirds of its fleet marine forces. It will soon account for 60 percent of U.S. tactical aviation assets overseas.

At the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security gathering in Singapore last weekend, Harris operated behind closed doors as U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis pushed China to rein in North Korea and end its militarization in the South China Sea.

U.S. officials said Mattis’s speech at the forum reflected Harris’ firm views on the need to stand up to China. It also addressed the fears of Asian allies that Washington was willing to give China a more free role in the region in exchange for tackling North Korea.

Harris has described U.S. challenges as including “an aggressive China and a revanchist Russia.”

In a statement to Reuters this week, he said: “We will continue to co-operate where we can, but have to be ready to confront if we must.”

“So I simply continue to focus on building critical relationships while ensuring that we have credible combat power to back up our security commitments and to help American diplomacy operate from a position of strength.”

America’s alliances, he added, were “ironclad”.

CHINA BRISTLES

Harris’ statement came from Australia, a long-standing ally he is visiting with Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

It is one of 10 country visits he’s made since Trump was elected – missions that have included nations as diverse as Japan, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea.

Chinese officials openly bristle at some of Harris’ remarks, and the state press has criticized his explicit backing of Beijing’s long-time rival Japan, with some reports noting his Japanese heritage. Harris was born in Yokosuka to a Japanese mother and American father serving with the U.S. navy.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry denied, however, a Japanese press report last month that a senior Chinese envoy had demanded the Trump administration fire Harris.

Those who have served with Harris insist he is well equipped to deal with the pressures he faces, while some of his foreign military peers respect him as a straight shooter.

“He is brusque and is a demanding boss, but he inspires loyalty from those who make it, and shows great loyalty as well,” said one former staffer.

Some U.S. officials acknowledge that Harris is playing a greater role to reassure allies, in part because a number of senior positions have not been filled by the Trump administration in the Pentagon and State Department. They expect once those positions are filled,  he will share less of a burden in reassuring allies.

As the pressures mount five months into the Trump presidency, some note that Harris nonetheless faces an uphill battle to ease fears in the region.

“In the face of “America First,” withdrawal from TPP and the Paris climate accord, the region is looking for a lot more reassurance than Commander Harris can provide,” said Bonnie Glaser, a regional security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

(This story fixes typo in para 21.)

(Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Singapore and Tim Kelly in Tokyo; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Trump’s opportunity in South-East Asia

June 4, 2017

By Patrick M. Cronin For The Straits Times

No American president sought to charm South-east Asia as much as Mr Barack Obama. Yet his vaunted pivot left the impression that the United States had over-promised and under-delivered.

President Donald Trump can flip that equation. His unorthodox leadership style may extract greater effort on both sides. An America-first mantra will rankle with many. Yet it may also require Asians to shoulder more local security burdens and negotiate fairer trade deals, while prodding the US to replace hoary promises with hard returns on investment.

For the new US policy approach still under review, success will be measured by demonstrable progress on a short list of big wins.

Despite a challenging domestic political transition, the US has striven to reiterate its ascending interests in South-east Asia. During his April visit to Indonesia, Vice-President Mike Pence trumpeted the strategic partnership with the world’s third-largest democracy and praised the Muslim-majority country for a tradition of tolerance.

Early last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson touted the importance of the half-century-old Asean when he hosted its foreign ministers.

These high-level exchanges may not match the Obama administration’s hyperactivity in regional diplomacy. But results matter. With sufficient focus, the Trump administration can showcase real benefits for both the US and its friends in South-east Asia.

President Trump’s catchphrase for the region should be simple and durable. US-South-east Asian relations should keep “peace, prosperity and people” at the centre of joint endeavours.

AFP Photo — US President Donald Trump’s catchphrase for South-east Asia should be simple and durable, says the writer. Relations should keep “peace, prosperity and people” at the centre of joint endeavours. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 

Peace is the indispensable precondition for moving forward. While this region of enormous human and geographical diversity has known its share of war and turmoil, it is relatively tranquil today. But political violence and terrorism, maritime tensions and North Korea’s missile programme threaten to spread conflict and thereby transform what should be a bulwark of stability into a sea of troubles.

Working together, the US and regional actors can prevent groups affiliated with the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from permanently terrorising South-east Asia.

America’s military clout can also peacefully support the rule of law, as seen recently through a routine freedom of navigation exercise near the artificially built-up Mischief Reef. And both the region and the world profit when South-east Asian nations think beyond their borders and join the US and others in helping to curb Pyongyang’s dangerous nuclear and missile proliferation.

Prosperity is a second pillar of US policy towards South-east Asia. After China and India, the Asean Economic Community has been the region’s fastest-rising economy, growing 66 per cent between 2006 and 2015. Last year, its GDP approached the US$2.5 trillion (S$3.5 trillion) mark (three times that in purchasing power parity).

Individual countries offer unique prospects, as suggested by high US foreign direct investment in Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines and elsewhere. Indonesia alone accounts for more than US$90 billion in total annual bilateral economic relations with the US, and that figure could top US$130 billion by 2019.

 

America’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership has left China in the driver’s seat with its Belt and Road Initiative and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Fashioning an alternative long-term geo-economic strategy is vital. But the US administration need not wait for a full-fledged strategy before identifying smart deals.

Specific investments should underscore the US commitment to shared economic growth and job creation: breaking down unfair trade barriers and leveraging America’s competitive advantages in areas such as information technology, finance and energy.

People comprise the essential third leg of a Trumpian triad for South-east Asian policy.

While critics of the Republican leadership may prefer to focus on the amount of public funding for foreign assistance, the Trump administration should look afresh at how to focus public-private partnerships where they will do the most good. A decade from now, there should be an exponential growth in the educational, business and military networks of people linking the US and key partners in South-east Asia. People remain the surest bonds that will matter over the long haul.

It is easier to speak about peace, prosperity and people than to ensure their advancement. A Trump administration may leave regional relations in worse shape than it found them. Surely disengagement from the region’s security challenges and trade opportunities would accelerate the erosion of America’s power and attraction throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

President Trump must either surprise the region by his determination to make his mark or retreat from South-east Asia, thereby leaving it to the arresting gravitational pull of Chinese influence or local divisions.

Fortunately, senior US officials have started down a path for rewarding engagement. Vice-President Pence and Secretary Tillerson took foundational steps.

At the Shangri-La Dialogue, Secretary of Defence James Mattis can reinforce a message of American strength and restraint. After the Secretary of State visits the Philippines in August for the Asean Regional Forum, the stage will be set for President Trump to hammer home broad themes such as peace, prosperity and people.

The White House has confirmed his participation this November in both the East Asia Summit in Manila and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Da Nang.

In these, as well as intercessionary talks, the US must keep a laser-like concentration on achieving tangible returns on security cooperation, trade and investment, and benefits for the people of both the US and Asean countries. Whatever “peace, prosperity and people” lacks in ambition or vision can be more than recouped by delivering results.

  • Dr Patrick M. Cronin directs the Asia programme at the Centre for a New American Security, a Washington, DC-based national security think-tank .

http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/trumps-opportunity-in-south-east-asia