Posts Tagged ‘trade’

South Korean President Moon Jae-In hopes to “normalise” ties with China on his first state visit

December 11, 2017


South Korean President Moon Jae-In hopes to “normalise” ties with giant neighbour China on his first state visit to the country this week, his office said Monday, after Beijing was infuriated by a US missile system deployment.

Seoul and Washington decided to install the powerful US THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system in the South earlier this year to guard against threats from the nuclear-armed North.

Beijing saw it as a threat to its own security and reacted furiously, slapping a string of measures against South Korean businesses and banning group tours to the South, in moves seen as economic retaliation.

 Image result for Moon Jae-In, photos, china
South Korean President Moon Jae-In

China is the South’s top trading partner and the diplomatic row took a major toll on many South Korean firms, most notably retail giant Lotte Group, which provided the land to host the powerful US missile system.

Angry boycott campaigns and regulatory crackdowns by Chinese authorities decimated its business in the world’s second-largest economy, and it was forced to put its supermarket unit in China up for sale.

But last month the two countries issued identically-worded statements on their mutual desire to improve relations.

It did not state any specifics, but Beijing has demanded that Seoul formally promise not to deploy any more THAAD launchers and not to join any regional US missile defence system.

Nam Gwan-Pyo, a deputy director of the presidential national security office, did not give reporters details of any concrete steps that could be expected from Moon’s four-day trip — his first to China since taking power in May.

But he said it would be a turning point in relations towards a “more mature” relationship, he said, “by recovering bilateral trust and strengthening friendship between the leaders of the two nations”.

Ties recently showed some — albeit limited — signs of thaw as China’s state tourism board approved last month Seoul-bound group tours from some parts of China.

Moon heads to Beijing on Wednesday and will hold a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping the following day to discuss issues including how to curb the North’s nuclear weapons drive, Nam added.

China — the North’s sole diplomatic ally and economic lifeline — has stepped up sanctions on the North amid pressure from the US and the international community to play a bigger role in taming its regime.

Beijing has backed recent UN sanctions imposed on the North over its nuclear and missile tests, including a ban on coal imports, although it repeatedly pushed for talks to defuse the tensions.

It has urged a “double freeze” on both North Korean weapons tests and joint military exercises by Seoul and Washington — an idea consistently rejected by the US and South Korea.


UK won’t pay Brexit bill if no trade deal agreed: Davis

December 10, 2017


© AFP | Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator David Davis (left) and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier

LONDON (AFP) – Brexit Secretary David Davis said Sunday Britain will not honour financial commitments agreed this week with the European Union if they fail to secure a future trade deal, contradicting finance minister Philip Hammond.”No deal means that we won’t be paying the money,” he told the BBC.

“It is conditional on an outcome. It is conditional on getting an implementation period, it is conditional on a trade outcome,” he said.

“It has been made clear by number 10 already. So that’s not actually new,” Davis added, referring to the Downing Street office and residence of British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Under an initial agreement reached with the EU on Friday, Britain will pay a financial settlement of between £35 billion-£39 billion (40-45 billion euros, $47-52 billion) for leaving the bloc in March 2019.

The 15-page document, detailing post-Brexit arrangements for citizens’ rights and the Irish border, was hammered out after nearly six months of negotiations and now allows the talks to move on to a future trade deal.

Davis’ stance contradicts comments from Hammond on Wednesday, who said London would pay the bill regardless of their outcome.

“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed in this negotiation,” he told a parliamentary committee.

“But I find it inconceivable that we as a nation would be walking away from an obligation that we recognised as an obligation,” he said.

“That is not a credible scenario. That is not the kind of country we are. Frankly, it would not make us a credible partner for future international agreements.”

A spokeswoman for the Treasury reached Sunday declined to comment on Davis’ remarks.


Brexit: May’s EU deal not binding, says David Davis — Britain should sign a Canada-style trade deal with the European Union after Brexit

December 10, 2017

BBC News

David Davis

The UK’s Brexit negotiator David Davis has described the deal struck by Theresa May to move to the next phase of talks as a “statement of intent”.

He said it was not “legally enforceable” and if the UK failed to get a trade deal with the EU then it would not pay its divorce bill.

But he stressed that the UK was committed to keeping a “frictionless and invisible” Irish border.

And it would “find a way” to do this if there was a “no deal” Brexit.

The Brexit secretary also stressed that the odds of the UK exiting without a deal had “dropped dramatically” following Friday’s joint EU-UK statement in Brussels.

And he spelled out the kind of trade deal he wanted with the EU, describing it as “Canada plus plus plus”.

‘Hard border’

Canada’s deal with the EU, signed last year, removes the vast majority of customs duties on EU exports to Canada and Canadian exports to the EU.

But Mr Davis said it did not include trade in services, something he wanted to see in the UK’s “bespoke” deal with the EU.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has previously suggested the Brexit divorce bill – which the Treasury says will be between £35bn and £39bn – will be paid even if no EU trade deal is struck.

Prime Minister Theresa May signed an agreement on Friday ruling out the return of a “hard border” on the island of Ireland, protecting the rights of EU and UK citizens and agreeing a formula for the divorce bill.

EU leaders are now expected to recommend starting the next phase of Brexit talks at a summit on Thursday.

But Mr Davis stressed Friday’s agreement was conditional on achieving an “overarching” trade deal with the EU, agreements on security and foreign affairs, as well as the two year transition period the UK wants after if officially leaves the EU in March 2019.

Friday’s agreement includes a fallback position if the UK fails to get a trade deal, which proposes full regulatory “alignment” between the EU and the UK.

This clause had been diluted at the insistence of the Democratic Unionist Party, which fears Northern Ireland would be separated from the rest of the UK, and move closer to Ireland, if it had to adopt EU rules to keep goods flowing across the border.

Labour’s position

But there is still controversy, and confusion, over what “full alignment” would mean in practice, with some Brexiteers fearing the UK would have to continue to abide by EU regulations on agriculture and other issues after Brexit.

Mr Davis said: “I think if we don’t get a deal we’re going to have to find a way of making sure we keep the frictionless border – as it were an invisible border – in Northern Ireland.

“We do it at the moment. Understand something: at the moment there are different tax and levy regimes and excise regimes north and south of the border.

“We manage that without having border posts allotted along the 300 roads there and we will find a way of doing that.”

The UK’s opposition Labour party has ruled out remaining in the EU single market and customs union if it wins power.

But the party’s shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the party wanted a partnership with the EU that “retains the benefits of the single market and the customs union”.

Asked if Theresa May’s deal would mean Britain would stay very close to the single market and the customs union, he said: “Yes, and I think that’s the right thing and I think we should hold her to that because that goes to the heart of the question what sort of Britain do we want to be?

“Do we see Europe as our major trading partner in the future or do we want to rip ourselves apart from that?”

Asked if Britain would have to carry on paying some money in, he said: “Norway pays money in, they do it actually on a voluntary basis… there may have to be payments, that’s to be negotiated.”


Britain should sign a Canada-style trade deal with the European Union after Brexit


Britain should sign a Canada-style trade deal with the European Union after Brexit, David Davis said today.

The Exiting the Exiting the European Union secretary said that he thought a substantive trade deal can be struck within a year.

Mr Davis’s backing for a Canada-style deal lays bare the divisions in the Cabinet with other Remain-supporting ministers like Philip Hammond supporting a deal which would leave Britain more aligned with the EU, like Norway.

Mr Davis used an interview on the Andrew Marr programme on BBC 1 to set out his vision for the UK outside the European Union a week before the Cabinet holds a formal discussion of the ‘end state’ of the Brexit talks.

Mr Davis said he wanted to see an “over-arching trade deal” based on Canada’s trade treaty with the European Union but  including services.

It would set out “individual arrangements for aviation, nuclear and for data”, as well, he said, describing it as “Canada plus plus plus”.

He said: “All we want is a bespoke outcome. We will probably start with the best of Canada, the best of Japan and the best of South Korea.

“And then add to that the bits that are missing – which are the services.”

The Exiting the EU secretary said that the odds of against leaving with no deal from the EU have “dropped dramatically”.

Mr Davis also delivered a slapdown for Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, who said recently that Britain will continue to pay into the EU whatever the terms of the exit.

Asked if “under all circumstances we will pay the money to the EU”, Mr Davis said: “No it is conditional on an outcome that isn’t quite right.

“It is conditional on a trade outcome and other elements of the treaty like foreign affairs and security.”

Squaring circles: EU and Britain plot next Brexit chapter — “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” makes everything precarious — “The most difficult challenge is still ahead”

December 10, 2017


© AFP/File / by Cédric SIMON | Several questions remain over the future relationship between Britain and the EU

BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) (AFP) – The European Commission and the British government let out an audible sigh of relief on reaching Friday’s historic Brexit divorce terms deal.Yet numerous questions remain on the future trade relationship between the EU 27 and the bloc’s departing member as the discussions now move on to a new phase at a December 14-15 Brussels summit.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned “there is still work to be done” to “consolidate” the progress made to date.

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

 Michel Barnier

The preamble to the 15-page divorce deal published after British Prime Minister Theresa May’s morning dash for talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker illustrates the still precarious nature of the deal.

“Under the caveat that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, the joint commitments set out below in this joint report shall be reflected in the Withdrawal Agreement in full detail,” says the introduction to the text.

The conclusion notes that the deal is conditional on “an overall agreement under Article 50 on the UK’s withdrawal, taking into account the framework for the future relationship, including an agreement as early as possible in 2018 on transitional arrangements”.

– Unanswered questions –

Even Friday’s deal itself leaves elements open to question surrounding the thorny issue of the Irish border post-Brexit, along with the size of Britain’s divorce bill and the protection of expats’ rights.

The deal is clear on guaranteeing the post-Brexit rights of Britons already living in the bloc and of their EU counterparts based in Britain with family members able to claim residence.

But there is no mention, for example, of future spouses.

“We demand before we can give green light to the withdrawal agreement, that… the future free movement and residence of UK citizens will also be guaranteed and this in all 27 Member States,” said Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberals group in the European Parliament.

It is not yet clear if British expats will be able to retain their full current rights when they move to another EU country.

Regarding citizens rights, the divorce bill text indicates Britain will bring forward a bill to incorporate them into UK law.

On adoption, the bill’s provisions in relation to citizens’ rights “will prevail over inconsistent or incompatible legislation, unless Parliament expressly repeals this Act in future”.

But it is not clear what will happen if Westminster actually one day repeals the bill.

“Any change by UK parliament to citizens’ rights will be very visible and can only happen via express repeal of treaty,” was how Stefaan de Rynck, a member of the EU negotiating team, commented on Twitter.

– How much will it cost? –

There are also elements of ambiguity as to the exact size of the divorce bill, despite the methodology having been agreed to determine how deep Britain must delve into its pockets.

“We cannot calculate exactly the sums in question — all these figures will fluctuate,” says Barnier, although unofficial EU estimations are in the order of 60 billion euros ($70 billion).

Britain puts the sum at between 40 and 45 billion euros, though that does not include items such as an EU-guaranteed loan for Ukraine, which could generate costs for all current EU members — Britain included.

Then there is the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which almost scuppered the deal over concerns in the North that Britain was headed for a deal entailing a ‘hard’ border separating the former from the rest of the United Kingdom.

In the agreement, the United Kingdom says it “remains committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border” between the two.

Britain said if that was not possible, it would propose “specific solutions to address the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland,” including alignment with the Internal Market and the Customs Union rules, while respecting the terms of the Northern Ireland peace agreement.

EU President Donald Tusk has already warned that “the most difficult challenge is still ahead”.

And Jonathan Powell, chief of staff to former British prime minister Tony Blair, suggests squaring the circle may prove a tall order.

“The language on ‘full alignment’ means different things to different people,” Powell told the Financial Times.

“A series of contradictory undertakings have been given and a new separate strand of negotiation on Ireland opened in the next stage.”

by Cédric SIMON

Trump fiddles with phone as US burns out in Asia, and China gives a lesson in leadership

December 9, 2017

By Richard Heydarian

President’s Twitter rants and lack of a coherent strategy have seen confidence in US leadership plummet, and Beijing has not been slow to fill the void

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 December, 2017, 8:32pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 December, 2017, 8:33pm

“Of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses men the most,” warned Thucydides, who painfully observed the Peloponnesian war and the devastation of the Athenian empire.

Centuries from now, the world is likely to look back at the Donald Trump presidency as the beginning of a precipitous decline in America’s global influence. His midnight rants on Twitter, open hostility to the international liberal order, and lack of a coherent grand strategy has alienated friends and allies like never before.

In contrast, Beijing has deftly forged ahead with constructing an “Asia for Asians”, while luring the world with ambitious infrastructure projects that will transform globalisation in China’s image.

Meanwhile, US allies such as Japan, Australia and the European Union have openly expressed their willingness to fill the leadership vacuum by pushing for alternative trade, security and climate-related agreements.

To be fair, what we are witnessing is partly driven by a relative decline in the foundations of American power, primarily due to the meteoric rise of China and other major developing countries.

In the coming years, Beijing is expected not only to oversee the world’s largest economy, but also emerge as a leading global source of investment and technology. Even in the realm of military power, where the US holds a decisive edge, China is rapidly closing the gap.

 Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Apec summit in Da Nang, Vietnam last month. The two leaders support free trade in the Asia region. Photo: Xinhua

According to a Rand Corporation study, Beijing is catching up in virtually every crucial area of military technology, while enjoying geographical advantage vis-à-vis crucial flashpoints such as the Taiwan Strait, South China Sea and Korean Peninsula.

Nonetheless, as Thucydides observed in ancient Greece, quality of leadership can define the fate of superpowers and the broader trajectory of history.

Throughout my conversations with senior officials and experts from American allied nations in Asia and Europe, I have seen nothing short of outright trepidation regarding the Trump presidency.

While the statements and actions of able officials such as US Defence Secretary James Mattis have been warmly received, there is still an excruciating clamour for a steady hand at the top.

Surveys show that global confidence in America’s leadership has collapsed in the past year alone. A Pew study reported an average 42 per cent decline among 37 surveyed nations.

An intensified “Russia-gate” investigation into members of Trump’s inner circle is expected to further distract an already wobbly administration.

Trump’s “America first” mantra has been interpreted as an unvarnished expression of unilateralism and isolationism by the global superpower. In response, many countries have found themselves either embracing China or veering away from America.

 Despite the best efforts of US Defence Secretary James Mattis, global confidence in America’s leadership has plummeted this year. Photo: Reuters

During his November trip to Asia, the US president struggled to secure a single major concession from either allies or rivals, namely China. Crucially, Trump was deeply isolated during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Vietnam, where he openly called for bilateral trade agreements and lashed out at globalisation.

Aside from nixing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which deeply alienated regional allies and new friends such as Vietnam, Trump failed to propose any new economic initiative in the region.

In a blatant rebuke, allies such as Japan and Australia subsequently discussed a revitalised TPP deal, which excludes America yet upholds the principles of free trade. Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping extolled the virtues of an open global order.

The Chinese leader described globalisation as an “irreversible historical trend”, reiterating his country’s commitment to a “multilateral trading regime and practice”, which enables “developing members to benefit more from international trade and investment”.

In particular, China supports the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which covers 16 nations and aims to dramatically reduce tariff barriers across the Asia-Pacific. In fact, it’s here where Beijing’s greatest strength lies: commercial diplomacy.

 Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (left) extended his stay in Manila last month to discuss multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte (right). Photo: Reuters

Across Southeast Asia, China is increasingly seen as the next major driver of industrialisation and development, including among American treaty allies Thailand and the Philippines.

While Xi used the bully pulpit to promote globalisation during the Apec summit, China’s Premier Li Keqiang, in turn, offered concrete investment deals during his visit to Manila for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit just days after.

While Trump cut his visit to Manila short by 24 hours, Li extended his stay in the city by several days. He met and discussed multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Lured by China’s economic initiatives, the Filipino president leveraged his Asean chairmanship this year to deepen ties between Beijing and Southeast Asian nations. We may have finally found a glimpse of Pax Sinica in Asia.

Richard Javad Heydarian is an Asia-based scholar and the author of several books, including Asia’s New Battlefield: US, China and the Struggle for Western Pacific and The Rise of Duterte: A Populist Revolt Against Elite Democracy.

Brexit Breakthrough Struck as Path Cleared for Tough Trade Talks

December 8, 2017


By Emma Ross-Thomas, Nikos Chrysoloras, Ian Wishar, and  Viktoria Dendrinou

 Updated on 
  • May reaches deal on Irish border with DUP, Ireland’s Varadkar
  • European officials warn that the hardest part lies ahead
 BREAKING: Britain and EU reach a Brexit deal, opening the way for trade talks

The U.K. and the European Union struck a deal to unlock divorce negotiations, opening the way for talks on what businesses are keenest to nail down — the nature of the post-Brexit future.

A deal was sealed before dawn in Brussels after talks went through the night. While the EU said it had given ground, Prime Minister Theresa May conceded on all the main issues, bringing to Brussels an offer on the financial settlement, an agreement on Europeans living in the U.K. and a solution to keep open the border that divides the island of Ireland after the split.

The last turned out to be the thorniest, requiring delicate four-way talks as the Northern Irish party that holds the balance of power in London wielded a powerful veto until the last minute. The issue is far from resolved and threatens to dog the next stage of negotiations. The leader of the Northern Irish party that holds the balance of power in London said her lawmakers could still vote down a final exit deal if they’re not happy.

The pound initially rose before erasing its gains. According to Vassilis Karamanis, a currency strategist writing for Bloomberg, it shows that while traders recognized that a crucial phase had been reached, the path ahead could be even “more frustrating and time-consuming.”

Read more: U.K.’s Irish Fudge Will Come Back to Haunt May as Foster Hedges

The U.K. has now won the prize it has been seeking since March — the right to start discussing relations between the two when Britain parts ways with the bloc after 40 years. Crucially, the EU said it was ready to start talking about the transition deal that businesses are keen to pin down. But EU officials warned that the most difficult bit lies ahead.

“So much time has been devoted to the easier part of the task and now to negotiate a transition arrangement and the framework for our future relationship we have, de facto, less than a year,” European Council President Donald Tusk said. “We all know that breaking up is hard but breaking up and building a new relation is much harder.”

The View from London: How Brexit Cheerleaders are responding to the news

A trade deal may take years to formulate, and allowing companies and even people to adapt to the new reality will take time. That’s why the two-year transition that May seeks is key — businesses want to know how long they have to plan for the future, whether that means relocation or continued investments.

May’s Conservative administration is fiercely divided over Brexit — her Cabinet has yet to decide what kind of trading arrangements it wants from Europe. Tusk called for clarity on that on Friday.

The second phase will be even more delicate and important than the first. The two sides are going in with widely different expectations; the EU unity that was on display in the first phase could now splinter as interests diverge; and trade deals don’t usually cover the service industries that make up most of the U.K. economy.

Deal Confirmed! Ireland supports Brexit negotiations moving to Phase 2 now that we have secured assurances for all on the island of Ireland – fully protecting GFA, peace process, all-Island economy and ensuring that there can be NO HARD BORDER on the Island of Ireland post Brexit

Britons will also be watching to see if talks live up to what was promised: they were told that Brexit would mean free trade deals with Europe and the rest of the world, controls on European immigration and the repatriation of regulation.

Now for the Real Fight: Why the Brexit Bill Is the Easy Part

May has said she wants a deep and special partnership and a better deal than the free-trade agreement that Canada secured from the EU. But ministers will have to decide what they are willing to sacrifice in order to get what they want and the answer will vary from one faction to another within government and within the Tory Party.

The EU has already started mapping out what it intends to put on the table — a deal along the lines of the one it offered Canada. That deal was the best in its class but still far short of what the U.K. currently enjoys as a full member of the single market and customs union.

May has got the deal that she needed — and the agreement that businesses were clamoring for. Amid off-and-on threats to oust her, failure to move talks along could have cost May her job, and brought more instability.

Today is a big step forward in delivering Brexit. Been a lot of work but glad the Commission have now recommended that sufficient progress has been reached. 

Irish Problem

Pro-Brexit Conservatives including Environment Secretary Michael Gove were initially supportive of the deal. But lawmakers have objected to the role given to the European Court of Justice in the U.K. after Brexit. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson — a leading Brexit campaigner — voiced concerns to May earlier this week when it looked like she was aiming for to preserve EU rules after the divorce.

Also, no one should expect the Irish problem — whose roots go back centuries — to go away. The wording of the Irish text leaves room for the border issue to continue rearing its head in the second phase of talks. The Republic of Ireland wants no border on the island, the U.K. wants to leave the single market that makes the almost invisible border possible, and the Democratic Unionist Party that props up May in London is adamant that any efforts to prevent a border on the island don’t create the need for a boundary between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

— With assistance by Alex Morales, Tim Ross, Dara Doyle, Marine Strauss, and Jones Hayden

The World Has Taken Trump’s Measure

December 6, 2017

From Asia to Europe, he has squandered America’s influence and moral authority.

President Donald Trump walks towards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Dec. 4.
President Donald Trump walks towards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Dec. 4. PHOTO: SUSAN WALSH/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Donald Trump campaigned on a pledge to make America great again. As president he is doing the opposite: He is making America smaller than at any time in the past 100 years.

By pulling the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Mr. Trump has ceded economic leadership in Asia and beyond to China, whose president touts the Chinese model to other countries that want the blessings of prosperity without the inconveniences of liberty. To back up this offer, China is investing huge sums in its “One Belt, One Road” plan and in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

These moves are having the intended effect. Myanmar, which had long been dominated by anti-Chinese sentiment, is now accepting China’s blandishments. The country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, went to Beijing last week for a conference hosted by the Communist Party.

Vietnam, which has looked to the U.S. as a counterweight against its historical enemy to the north, now wonders whether it must accept Beijing’s economic leadership and yield to its claims in the South China Sea. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has made noises about abandoning his country’s alliance with the U.S. in favor of China. Even Australia, one of our closest allies, is openly debating how to deal with American decline.

In the Middle East, the Trump administration is busy giving ground to Russia. Vladimir Putin is conducting Syrian peace talks while America languishes on the sidelines. Turkey, a member of NATO since 1952, is endorsing the Kremlin’s leading role. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently met with Mr. Putin and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani to support negotiations on the future structure of the Syrian government and state.

Egypt was another long-term linchpin of American diplomacy, and Mr. Trump has lavished praise on its autocratic leader. Yet Cairo has just struck a deal allowing the largest Russian military presence on its soil and in its airspace since 1973. The U.S. doesn’t even have an ambassador in Egypt, let alone a coherent policy to deal with this pivotal country.

Even in Europe, America has been diminished. Mr. Trump’s early ambivalence toward NATO, which gave way to a grudging expression of support, have left a residue of doubt about the credibility of American guarantees. He has driven a wedge between the U.S. and Germany, long our closest ally on the Continent. The “special relationship” with the United Kingdom may not survive his repeated gaffes, capped by his impulsive decision to retweet discredited anti-Muslim videos from a British fringe group.

Close to home, Mr. Trump’s brand of leadership is sorely trying Canadians’ patience: 93% view him as arrogant, 78% as intolerant, and 72% as dangerous. Mexico’s people have also been united against the U.S., by Mr. Trump’s ham-handed immigration policies and heedless negotiations to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement. This may well lead Mexicans to elect an anti-American left-wing populist as their president next year. That Mr. Trump has no discernible policy toward Central and South America is probably a good thing.

Squandering America’s economic and political influence is bad enough. Far worse has been the way Mr. Trump has dissipated our moral authority. Yes, the U.S. has struck deals with unsavory regimes, especially during the Cold War, and has sometimes failed to respect the outcomes of free and fair elections. In the main, however, America has pushed for free societies and democratic governments around the world, while speaking against repression in all its forms.

Until now. The Trump administration has all but abandoned democracy promotion. In practice, an “America First” foreign policy means being indifferent to the character of the regimes with which the U.S. does business.

I wish I could say that President Trump shares this indifference. In fact, he prefers autocrats to elected leaders. He admires their “strength.” He envies their ability to get their way without the pesky opposition of legislatures and courts. He probably wishes he had their power to shut down critical news organizations. In his ideal world, everyone would fall in line behind his goals, and his will would be law.

The world has taken President Trump’s measure. In a 2017 survey of 37 countries, 64% of people expressed confidence in Barack Obama’s ability to do the right thing in international affairs, compared with 22% for Mr. Trump. The current president’s figures were 11% in Germany, 14% in France, and 22% in the U.K. The principal exception was Russia, where Mr. Trump enjoyed 53% approval, compared with 11% for Mr. Obama.

In 1776, at the threshold of American independence, the Founding Fathers espoused a “decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” Today, citizens of countries around the world regard the U.S. as morally diminished under Mr. Trump’s leadership. He shows no signs of caring, and he probably doesn’t.

Appeared in the December 6, 2017, print edition.


Britons pessimistic about Brexit outcome, new UK poll says — Only 19 percent thought Britain would get a good deal

December 6, 2017

In the most recent polling only 19 percent thought Britain would obtain a good deal from Brexit negotiations, the polling found. (AFP)

LONDON: Britons are increasingly critical of the government’s handling of Brexit negotiations and pessimistic about their outcome, according to new polling on Wednesday.

The National Center for Social Research found that the proportion of Britons who think the government is handling talks badly rose from 41 percent in February to 55 percent in July to 61 percent in October.
The number predicting Britain would get a bad deal in Brussels also rose from 37 percent in February to 44 percent in July to 52 percent in October.
In the most recent polling only 19 percent thought Britain would obtain a good deal, the polling found.
The results were based on a survey of 2,200 people.
“It might be thought the increased pessimism is primarily the result of Remain voters becoming increasingly disenchanted with the Brexit process,” senior research fellow John Curtice said.
“However, this is not what happened. Rather, pessimism has become much more widespread among those who voted Leave” in last year’s Brexit referendum.
But Curtice added that voters criticize the Brexit process “rather than draw the conclusions that the act of leaving is misguided.”
“A difficult Brexit could simply prove politically costly for (British Prime Minister Theresa) May and her beleaguered government rather than a catalyst for a change of heart on Brexit,” he said.

South Korea’s Moon to visit China next week

December 6, 2017


© YONHAP/AFP | This will be President Moon’s first trip to China since taking office in May
SEOUL (AFP) – South Korean President Moon Jae-In will visit China next week, his office said Wednesday, as tensions soar over Pyongyang’s growing nuclear and missile threats.Moon will make the trip just weeks after North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in defiance of multiple sets of UN sanctions, prompting Washington to press Beijing to take a tougher stance against Pyongyang.

He will arrive in Beijing next Wednesday for a four-day state visit and hold a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss ways “to peacefully resolve North Korea’s nuclear issue,” the South Korean presidential office said.

Pyongyang claimed it has reached nuclear statehood with the success of its missile test last week, and that it can now target the entire United States.

This will be Moon’s first trip to China since taking office in May, and comes as the two countries seek to improve ties strained by Seoul’s deployment of a US missile defence system.

The nations have been at loggerheads over the placement in South Korea of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which Seoul and Washington say is intended to defend against missile threats from nuclear-armed North Korea.

Beijing sees it as a threat to its own military capabilities. It has imposed a series of sanctions on South Korean firms and banned Chinese tour groups from going to the country in moves seen as economic retaliation.

China is South Korea’s biggest trading partner and its measures have had a big impact on some of the South’s biggest companies, including retail conglomerate Lotte — which provided a golf course used for the THAAD deployment — and auto giant Hyundai.

How will Trump’s Asian diplomacy play out?

December 5, 2017

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Akihiko Tanaka, left, and Ryozo Kato

The Yomiuri Shimbun

U.S. President Donald Trump has completed his first Asian tour since being inaugurated. With the Asia-Pacific region facing problems, including the threat of North Korea’s continued nuclear and missile development and the conflict between China and its neighbors as China’s economic and military strength fuels increased maritime expansion, what was the outcome of Trump’s “America First” diplomacy? What are its future tasks? We asked experts for their thoughts.


Time to assess North Korea sanctions

Akihiko Tanaka

President of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies

Trump safely passed the diplomacy test. He was able to maintain the deterrence power against North Korea and to deliver the message of reinforcing sanctions. On this point, he received a degree of commitment even from slightly worried South Korean President Moon Jae In and Chinese President Xi Jinping. It was also significant that Southeast Asian countries have expressed the idea of implementing economic sanctions against North Korea.

Now is the time to assess the effect of sanctions. We can see North Korea’s attitude and decide whether to hold talks with them. If it continues its nuclear and missile development, there is no point in talking.

The United States has adopted an offensive military stance to ensure that deterrence is effective. The question is whether the United States will start a preemptive war to destroy nuclear and missile facilities even if there is no indication of a nuclear attack by North Korea. That would violate international law and is difficult to imagine, since it is unknown whether a North Korean counterattack could be 100 percent contained.

The United States would lose authority in the event of massive casualties among the South Korean people and American citizens in South Korea.

However, I think there is little possibility of North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons and missiles due to strengthened sanctions. Solving the issue in one or two years is unrealistic. It may take five, 10 or 20 years. Even if North Korea threatens Japan or South Korea with nuclear weapons, we don’t have to submit to it.

Nevertheless, there are concerns of an outbreak caused by a miscalculation or mistake, so it is important for Japan to develop ballistic missile defenses.

Japan and the United States agreed on a common diplomatic strategy of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” I myself have insisted on the concept of emphasizing the Indo-Pacific region, so I think it’s fine.

However, it is a mistake to think of this as a strategy to create a network encircling China. The region is important because it is expected to see high growth in the future. I think China would find the strategy acceptable because it coincides with the “one road” element of its “One Belt, One Road” [initiative], which can be regarded as a maritime silk road for the 21st century.

The important point is to reduce the threat of war as much as possible in this region. A range of conflict zones exist in the northern inland area, and stable growth will not happen unless the threat of terrorism or civil war is reduced. In the South China Sea, where the Pacific and Indian oceans connect, we need to watch how China acts. It is imperative that it is not allowed to proceed with the construction of more bases.

Finally, a broad agreement by the 11 countries participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement showed Japanese diplomacy is a force to be reckoned with. I don’t think the United States will return to the TPP under the Trump administration, but mainstream U.S. experts in international relations and economics want their country to understand the disadvantages of not joining the multilateral agreement. Though unusual in terms of Japan’s diplomacy, the country must steadily build a framework without the United States, while being willing to welcome the United States if it returns.

Tanaka is an expert in international politics. He served as a professor at the University of Tokyo, vice president of the university, and president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency before assuming his current position in April. His major publications include “Word Politics” and “The Post-Crisis World.” He is 63.

(This interview was conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Writer Haruki Sasamori.)


Japan, U.S. should align views on China

Ryozo Kato

Former Japanese Ambassador to the United States

Trump’s Asia tour was a kind of debut performance, and he deployed his brand of omnidirectional foreign policy. Although he was absent from the East Asia Summit at the end of his itinerary, I think his emphasis was ultimately on bilateral meetings.

The tour was of major significance in terms of U.S. involvement in Asia. The United States’ two security priorities are Russia, which opposes it on the Ukraine issue, and the Middle East. I’d hesitate to say that Asia is an urgent issue. Because of this, it was important that the tour offered Trump and his aides the chance to feel for themselves the future importance of Asia.

In Japan, Trump first visited the U.S. Yokota Air Base.

He must have recognized the strong presence of the Japan-based U.S. military in East Asia and the firmness of the Japan-U.S. alliance. With North Korea’s nuclear warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles approaching actual deployment capability, it is obvious but also very significant that he and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mutually recognized that the situation is approaching the stage where maximum pressure is required to really bring [development] to a halt.

For the United States, I think Japan plays a role similar to that of Britain in Europe, and China is like the former Soviet Union.

However, one aspect is different: While the Soviet Union prioritized the military, China is a major power both economically and militarily. It is not an easy opponent. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s invitation to Trump to visit the Forbidden City was reminiscent of the behavior of an emperor. Trump may not agree with Xi’s values, but it is possible he was impressed by his style of governance.

Traveling through Japan, China and South Korea, Trump likely saw that the position of each country differs even on the single issue of North Korea, and that the issue is not easy to address. It is impossible to formulate and implement a plan to deal with the Korean Peninsula problem without considering China’s strategy.

In a press announcement after the U.S.-China summit, Xi said, “The Pacific is large enough to accommodate both the United States and China,” and raised the possibility of a “G-2 concept” that includes the United States and China. Although this was a natural statement for China to make, steadily implementing such a strategy would diminish the prestige of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region and also harm U.S. national interests.

It must be acknowledged that the Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy is still short on specifics. I would like the United States to first review future changes in the military balance and trends in China before coming up with its Asia policy.

Japan should strengthen talks with the United States on China to develop a shared view on the country. Additionally, Japan must take the necessary steps to ensure the stability of the Asia-Pacific region and that the United States play its role properly.

To increase the deterrence power of the Japan-U.S. alliance, Japan must raise its defense budget that, in turn, requires open domestic discussions about such matters as constitutional amendments, the nuclear issue, energy and cyber issues.


Kato joined the Foreign Ministry in 1965. After working as director general of the Asian Affairs Bureau, senior deputy minister and other posts, he served as the ambassador to the United States from October 2001 to June 2008. After retirement, he served as a commissioner of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization. He is 76.

(This interview was conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Writer Tatsuya Fukumoto.)