Posts Tagged ‘U.S.’

Russia not withdrawing forces from Syria, Pentagon says

December 12, 2017

Reuters

Image result for Putin in Syria, december, 2017, photos

Russian President Vladimir Putin, 2nd left, and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, chat with Russian military pilots at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria, on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. Declaring a victory in Syria, Putin on Monday visited a Russian military air base in the country and announced a partial pullout of Russian forces from the Mideast nation. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Tuesday it has not observed any meaningful withdrawal of Russian combat forces from Syria, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement on Monday of a significant pullout.

“There have been no meaningful reductions in combat troops following Russia’s previous announcements planned departures from Syria,” said Marine Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman.

Advertisements

Fracking Our Way to Mideast Peace

December 12, 2017

Low oil prices have so eroded Arab states’ power, they now see Israel as a protector.

Fracking Our Way to Mideast Peace
PHOTO: ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES

Whatever you think of President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it points to the most important strategic reality in the Middle East: Arab power has collapsed in the face of low oil prices and competition from American frackers.

The devastating oil-price shocks of the 1970s, orchestrated by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, nearly wrecked the world economy. Ever since, the U.S. has looked for ways to break OPEC’s parasitic and rent-seeking grip on the oil market—and thereby to reduce America’s geopolitical vulnerability to events in the Middle East.

Victory did not come easily. Intense conservation efforts made the U.S. much more energy-efficient. New oil discoveries in Africa and elsewhere significantly broadened the available supply. Renewable energy sources added to the diversification. But the most decisive development was that decades of public and private research and investment unleashed an American oil-and-gas boom, leading to a revolution in energy markets that has sent geopolitical shocks through world affairs.

The consequences reverberate in the Middle East and beyond. Future oil revenues to countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Russia and Iraq will fall trillions of dollars short of what once might have been expected. The shift in energy markets will benefit consumer economies like Japan, China, India and the nations of the European Union. The U.S. and similarly situated nations, like Australia and Canada, can look forward to faster growth and greater foreign investment, since they will capture much of the oil revenue that Russia and OPEC lose.

Low energy prices already have given the EU’s struggling southern countries a chance to return to growth. They have limited Russia’s prospects and forced Vladimir Putin onto a tight budget. They have largely offset the gains Iran had hoped to make from signing the nuclear deal and escaping Western sanctions.

But the greatest consequences are being felt in the Arab world, where the long-term decline in oil revenues threatens the stability of many states. It is not only the oil producers that will suffer; the prosperous Gulf economies have been a major source of opportunity for Egyptians, Pakistanis, Palestinians and many other Middle Easterners.

The shining cities that rise where the desert meets the Gulf may be in for harder times. The sheikhdoms’ glassy skyscrapers, gleaming malls and opulent apartment complexes were conceived for a world in which runaway energy demand and limited sources (remember “peak oil”?) led to inexorably rising prices. These fragile and artificial economies require hothouse conditions that a weakened OPEC can no longer provide. Now the great Gulf Bubble seems set to slowly deflate.

There’s more. The staggering affluence of the Gulf countries during the OPEC era concealed the Arab world’s failure to develop states and economies capable of competing effectively in the 21st century. As their dream of revival through oil riches fades, they are waking to a new era of weakness and dependency.

The Gulf states increasingly see Israel not as an insect to be crushed by resurgent Arab power, but as a lion that can defend them from Iran. Syria, once a citadel of Arab nationalism, now haplessly hosts Russian, American, Iranian and Turkish forces that the Assad dynasty can neither control nor evict.

Arab diplomats, lobbyists and financiers must brace for more bad news: As the declining long-term prospects of the OPEC states become apparent, their diplomatic and economic influence across the West can be expected to wane even further.

Many analysts look at the frustrations of America’s policy in the Middle East and conclude that the U.S. is in retreat and hegemonic decline. That misses the deeper truth. American diplomacy has had its share of failures, but the region is now being fundamentally reshaped by drillers in Texas, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and elsewhere.

Even with OPEC’s hold broken, the Middle East will remain a problem for American policy. Moreover, not all the consequences of OPEC’s decline are good. In the short term, Russia and Iran are likely to double down on adventurous foreign policies as a way of distracting their populations from the tough challenges ahead. Instability in America’s key Gulf allies and in Egypt could create major headaches for the U.S.

Nevertheless, reducing OPEC’s ability to capture rents, while forcing more corrupt petrostate oligarchies to contemplate reform, is likely over time to reduce both the costs and the risks of American foreign policy. This is what winning looks like.

Mr. Mead is a fellow at the Hudson Institute and a professor of foreign affairs at Bard College.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/fracking-our-way-to-mideast-peace-1513035925

Iran Urges to Foil US-Israeli ‘Plan’, Hezbollah Calls Washington Isolated

December 12, 2017

Sputnik

December 12, 2017

Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israeli Capital: Consequences
Image may contain: 3 people
Lebanese and Palestinian students burn a picture of President Trump as they protest in the port city of Sidon, Lebanon, on Dec. 7, 2017. (Mohammed Zaatari – Associate Press)

US President Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem has faced outrage in the Muslim world and sparked international criticism as a threat to the peace process in the Middle East.

Iran Calls for Response to US

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has criticized the move by US President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, calling it a “plan” against Palestine and the Muslim world, according to Press TV.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran strongly condemns this US move,” Rouhani said Monday in a phone call with Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Palestine’s Hamas movement.

Rouhani said that the “incorrect” move by the US and Israel has demonstrated that they “do not want to officially recognize the Palestinian people’s rights.”

READ MORE: Possible Motives Behind Trump’s Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

The Iranian president also called on all movements in Palestine to respond to Tel Aviv and Washington.

Haniyeh, in turn, said that Trump’s decision was a blatant violation of rights of all Muslims, adding that Palestine would never allow Israel and the US to implement their plan.

Hezbollah Calls to Isolate US, Israel

Addressing the nation, the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement on Monday called to isolate the US and Israel in response to the Jerusalem decision.Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah pointed out the negative international reaction to Trump’s move, saying as a result of these reactions Washington has become even more isolated among other nations.

He called on all Arab countries, first of all Palestine, to stand up to Trump’s decision on the status of Jerusalem.

“The whole nation must stand up in the face of this American threat,” he said, as quoted by PressTV.

Nasrallah also said that one of the most powerful responses to Trump’s decision would be isolating Israel.

“We must put pressure on the Arab and Islamic states to repeal peace treaties and other deals with Israel. I call on Palestinians to kick out any delegation that aims to visit them from countries that have normalized relations with Israel, no matter what the background of those delegations is,” he said.

READ MORE: Netanyahu Hopes EU to Follow Trump’s ‘Recognition of Reality’ on Jerusalem

On Wednesday, Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of the Israeli state and announced the US would start moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move has faced backlash in Muslim countries and sparked international criticism.

On Thursday, the Hamas leader called for a new “intifada” in response to Trump’s decision and urged Arab countries to suspend cooperation with the US.

https://sputniknews.com/world/201712121059920355-iran-rouhani-hezbollah-trump-israel/

Turkey’s Erdogan Angry With Arab Nations for “Feeble” Response After Trump’s Recognition of Jerusalem as Capital of Israel

December 12, 2017

Saudi Aramco Ramps Up Spending to Over $40 Billion a Year

December 12, 2017

World’s biggest oil company needs investments to maintain production capacity

DUBAI—Saudi Arabian Oil Co. Tuesday unveiled a plan to invest more than $40 billion a year in projects over the next decade, a significant expansion for the world’s largest energy company ahead of its expected public listing next year.

The $414 billion proposal is up almost 25% from a 10-year spending plan outlined last year by Saudi Aramco, as the company is commonly known. The increased spend is being driven by its goal of maintaining its production capacity at about 12 million barrels of oil a day, the most of any company in the world.

Saudi Aramco’s spending plan coincides with the Saudi government’s efforts to prop up oil prices with coordinated supply cuts via the 14-nation cartel it leads, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and an alliance of 10 other producers led by Russia. The group last month reaffirmed its commitment to limiting oil output through all of 2018 to reduce a long-built-up global oversupply of petroleum.

Saudi Aramco’s announcement came on the same day that Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil prices, passed $65 a barrel for the first time since June 2015. Oil prices have risen by almost a third since their lows over the summer, thanks to OPEC’s production cuts, rising demand and supply disruptions in the U.K., the U.S., Iraq and Venezuela.

Saudi Aramco’s plans to increase spending buck a general trend in the global oil industry. Big publicly listed oil companies like Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Exxon Mobil Corp. have either pulled back expenditure or maintained current levels as they weather the market downturn.

The Aramco plan was revealed at an industry event in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, where most of its oil-sector is based. About $134 billion will be spent on drilling and well services and $78 billion will be invested to maintain oil output potential, according to a presentation by Nassir Al Yami, Saudi Aramco’s general manager for procurement.

More than half of the $334 billion previously announced by Aramco will be invested in offshore fields. The spending also represents a boost to sectors like refining, as the Saudis try to process more of their own crude into fuel, a more lucrative enterprise than exporting pure petroleum.

“Our numbers compared to the previous business plan have increased…we expanded into other sectors,” the company’s chief executive Amin Nasser told reporters Tuesday.

“We are into so many sectors…before we used to talk about oil and gas but now we are in renewables and infrastructures,” he said.

Saudi Aramco is planning potentially the world’s largest-ever public offering, with a domestic and international listing next year. More recently Riyadh has considered scrapping the international listing and selling a private placement to a Chinese consortium including pension and sovereign-wealth funds and state oil companies, according to people familiar with the matter.

Write to Summer Said at summer.said@wsj.com

Chinese air force flexes muscle into Western Pacific, sends message to Taiwan, U.S. — “Breaks Line of Containment”

December 12, 2017

Team of bombers, fighter jets and support aircraft evidence of country’s combat capabilities on the high seas, military spokesman says

By Minnie Chan
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2017, 6:40pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2017, 6:40pm

Chinese warplanes conducted a series of multi-purpose drills in the Western Pacific on Monday including “island encirclement” patrols over Taiwan, the air force said on Tuesday.

The exercises came just a week after a spokesperson for the air arm of the People’s Liberation Army said it recently staged drills over the Yellow and East seas near the Korean peninsula, using “routes and areas it has never flown before”.

Monday’s drills involved aircraft flying over the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, and the Miyako Strait near the Japanese island of Okinawa. Other patrols encircled Taiwan, air force spokesperson Shen Jinke said, according to a statement posted on the air force’s website.

 The exercises showed the air force’s mobility and combat capabilities on the high seas, military spokesman Shen Jinke said. Photo: Handout

The aircraft, including long-range strategic H-6K bombers, Su-30 and J-11 fighter jets, and surveillance, early-warning and refuelling planes, were from the PLA’s Eastern and Southern Theatre Commands.

“The team, which included [the latest generation of] H-6K bombers, strengthens [the air force’s] mobility and combat capabilities on the high seas,” Shen was quoted as saying, adding that the air force would continue to extend the range of its patrols.

 Military commentator Song Zhongping said the drills showed China’s ability to break the “first island chain” – a series of archipelagos between China and the Western Pacific that Beijing says has been used by the United States to contain it since the cold war. Photo: Handout

Military commentators said the drills were also intended as a reminder to the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party that rules Taiwan that Beijing will not put up with any moves on secession.

“Exercises near Taiwan are [primarily] a warning to the DPP, which always plays down Beijing’s military might, and a reminder to the Taiwanese public,” Beijing-based military expert Zhou Chenming said.

“In the East China Sea, however, where China’s air defence identification zone overlaps with Japan’s, drills are more complicated and challenging, because Tokyo scrambles its fighters to [effectively] join the training, which helps the Chinese pilots to improve their combat skills,” he said.

Taiwan’s Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan said on Tuesday that the island had dispatched aircraft and ships to monitor the PLA’s exercises, but said they were not unusual and that the public should not be alarmed.

China’s military has conducted several naval and air drills near Taiwan this year. In July, a flotilla led by its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, entered the Taiwan Strait en route to Hong Kong in a symbolic show of strength amid worsening cross-strait relations since DPP leader Tsai Ing-wen became president last year.

Song Zhongping, a military commentator with Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television, said that this week’s drills also helped to demonstrate China’s ability to break the “first island chain” – a series of archipelagos between China and the Western Pacific that Beijing says has been used by the United States to contain it since the cold war.

Image result for Miyako Strait and Bashi Channel, map

Miyako Strait and Bashi Channel

“Both the Miyako Strait and Bashi Channel are the main aisles used by the PLA navy and air force to reach the Western Pacific,” he said.

“Frequent flights by Chinese [military] aircraft over those routes help to increase the PLA’s presence in the region and show off its growing combat effectiveness.”

Late last month, the PLA said teams led by H-6K bombers had conducted another round of air patrols over the East and South China Seas, again breaching the cold war era line of containment.

The Island Chain Strategy was first mentioned by US statesman and diplomat John Foster Dulles in 1951 during the Korean war as a way of containing Communist countries allied to the Soviet Union.

With the current climate on the Korean peninsula, Monday’s drills were also useful for China as preparation for a possible nuclear conflict on its doorstep.

As tensions between Pyongyang and Washington continue to bubble, the threat of war was very real, Hong Kong-based military observer Liang Guoliang said.

“While China has pushed for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, circumstances are such that war and peace are equally likely outcomes,” he said.

“To prepare for the worst, the PLA will conduct more frequent and more targeted drills in the region involving the different forces from its theatre commands.”

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2124014/chinese-air-force-flexes-muscle-western-pacific-sends

Related:

Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines Plan To Incease Anti-Terror Sea Patrols, With U.S., Australia to Assist

December 12, 2017

Philippine Star — December 12, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, ocean and outdoor

A member of Philippine Navy loads bullets for a machine gun during a bilateral maritime exercise in June 2014. AP/Noel Celis, file
.
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Security against cross-border kidnapping and piracy in waters shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines will be boosted when more joint patrols, which could include Australia and the US, are launched next year.
.
Around $5 trillion in commercial cargo passes through the waters, which needs to be better secured against abductions and hijacking by groups affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf group.
.
R.Adm. Rene Medina, commander of Naval Forces Western Mindanao, said the trilateral patrols with Malaysia and Indonesia in border waters have drawn more attention from the Australian and US navies, which have indicated interest in participating.
.
Medina said the Philippine Navy held joint patrols with the Royal Malaysian Navy and Indonesian Navy late November. He said that arrangement will continue under the Trilateral Cooperative Agreement among the three countries.
.
The Philippine Navy also held drills with the Royal Australian Navy along the southern border in late November. Medina said he and his Australian counterpart have discussed holding joint patrols aside from maritime exercises.
.
“The US Navy was also talking with us on how they can come up or join in the area with regards to bilateral patrol,” Medina said. — Roel Pareño
.
http://www.philstar.com/nation/2017/12/12/1767695/more-joint-patrols-along-southern-border-seen-2018

Japan air force drills with U.S. bombers, stealth fighters near Korean peninsula

December 12, 2017

Dec. 12, 2017, at 4:54 a.m.

Japan Air Force Drills With U.S. Bombers, Stealth Fighters Near Korean Peninsula
Image result for Photo, Japan's Self-Defense Force's F-15 fighter jets (top and 2nd from top) conduct an air exercise with U.S. Navy F/A 18 Hornet aircrafts in the skies above the Sea of Japan, Japan
FILE PHOTO – Japan’s Self-Defense Force’s F-15 fighter jets (top and 2nd from top) conduct an air exercise with U.S. Navy F/A 18 Hornet aircrafts in the skies above the Sea of Japan, Japan, in this photo released by the Air Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan November 13, 2017. Air Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan/HANDOUT via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese F-15 fighters on Tuesday held drills with U.S. B1-B bombers, F-35 stealth aircraft and F-18 multirole combat jets

above the East China Sea, south of the Korean peninsula, Japan’s Air Self Defence Force (ASDF) said.

The exercise was the largest in a series aimed at pressuring North Korea following its ballistic missile tests. The latest launch, on Nov. 29, featured a new missile type the North said could hit targets in the United States, such as Washington D.C.

“The drill was meant to bolster joint operations and raise combat skills,” the ASDF said in a statement.

Two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flew from Andersen Air Force Base on the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam, joined by six F-35s four F-18s and a tanker aircraft from U.S. bases in Japan.

The Japanese air force dispatched four F-15 jet fighters and a patrol aircraft.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

India’s deafening silence after Trump’s Jerusalem shift

December 12, 2017

Al Jazeera

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Tel Aviv in July [Oded Balilty/Reuters]
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Tel Aviv in July [Oded Balilty/Reuters]

India’s two-sentence response to the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week elicited mixed reactions after New Delhi for decades strongly backed the Palestinian cause.

The static statement to a dynamic situation was described by some as muted, others as pragmatic, and still others alleging it imbibes the anti-Muslim right-wing consensus of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“India’s position on Palestine is independent and consistent. It is shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesman of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said last Thursday.

But critics say this was deliberately vague and India should have posited a more vigorous reaction, considering the serious and retrograde effect of US President Donald Trump‘s Jerusalem announcement.

“A more robust response would be to state India’s position upfront. In any case, it would call for a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state,” Manoj Joshi, senior analyst at the Observer Research Foundation, told Al Jazeera.

In previous decades – with the centrist Congress Party in power – solidarity with Palestine was an integral part of India’s foreign policy.

Nivedita Menon, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the government’s lone comment has clearly reversed India’s stance on Palestine.

“It is not surprising that India will now not say anything against Israel as there is a very close bond being built between the two. The current Indian government’s closeness to Israel is also owing to the very clear Islamophobia of both the regimes. That’s very obvious. It’s a coming together of Islamophobic regimes,” Menon told Al Jazeera.

“India has always expressed solidarity with Palestine. India has always opposed Israel’s occupation of Palestine. There has been a long history of that. The democratic people of India still support Palestine, but the Indian state has clearly marked a shift,” she added.

The ruling BJP has fought most national and local elections on a Hindu nationalist agenda, with many party members accused of making anti-Muslim statements to polarise Hindu voters.

BJP legislator Subramaniam Swamy has also called on India to shift its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem like Trump pledged to do.

Palestinian cause

India-Israel ties have flourished since a ground-breaking trip by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July this year. Modi’s predecessors had kept Israel at arm’s length with New Delhi being a vocal supporter of the Palestinians.

Why Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel

Modi, however, has spoken of his personal affinity for Israel and his visit to the country before he became prime minister. He pointedly missed visiting Ramallah this year, the seat of the Palestine Authority and a customary stop for visiting leaders trying to maintain a balance in political ties.

But Sreeram Chaulia, dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs, said India’sevolving ties with Israel are based on pragmatism.

“I don’t think the fact that we are increasing our strategic cooperation with Israel should in any way come at the expense of the Palestinians. Our cooperation is based on pragmatic mutual benefit,” Chaulia told Al Jazeera.

“We are independent, not influenced by outsiders. Similarly on this issue, we have an embassy of Palestine in Delhi. India is a major contributor to the Palestinian Authority and its institutions … If India was a major political player in the Middle East, we would have been forced to take a stand, but we are not.”

India and Israel have deep military ties. In 2017, India signed two arms deals, spending $2.6bn on Israeli missile defence systems.

Economist Prabhat Patnaik said the decolonisation of Palestine is a precondition for world peace and in India’s interest.

“Since an overwhelming number of countries in the world support Palestine’s decolonisation, by distancing itself from this goal, India is also distancing itself from these countries,” he told Al Jazeera.

However, the “Hindu right which currently rules the country” wants to get closer to the US-Israel axis because of its “ideological affinity … of a shared anti-Muslim attitude”, Patnaik said.

India’s silence

India’s stated position on East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital has remained a part of official statements.

READ MORE

Why Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel

On Monday, the foreign ministers of Russia, China, and India said in a joint statement in New Delhi that they continue to back an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through various UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, among initiatives.

But India’s relative silence after Trump’s radical decision on Jerusalem could well mark a point of departure in the country’s moral support for the Palestinian cause.

Professor Menon said India’s solidarity with the Palestinians will for now have to be borne by ordinary citizens.

“It will have to be non-state, people-to-people contacts for India-Palestine solidarity now. I don’t see how any ethical stance can condone Israel’s occupation of Palestine. There is no ethical argument that can justify the occupation,” Menon said.

Jerusalem: Is the two-state solution dead?

 http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/india-deafening-silence-trump-jerusalem-shift-171211155054771.html

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

EU, Japan and US to ramp up trade pressure on China

December 12, 2017

Three economies will target ‘severe excess capacity’ in sectors like steel

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer
.
By Shawn Donnan in Buenos Aires
FT (Financial Times)
.

The EU, Japan and the US are set to announce a new alliance to take on China more aggressively over trade issues such as overcapacity in steel and forced technology transfers, in a rare effort at international economic co-operation by the Trump administration.

In a statement due to be issued on Tuesday on the sidelines of a World Trade Organization meeting, the three economies will target the “severe excess capacity” in important sectors like steel and the role of illegal subsidies, state financing and state-owned enterprises in fuelling it, according to a draft read to the Financial Times.

Also targeted are the rules in countries such as China that require foreign investors to hand over important proprietary technologies or house content and data on local servers.

The statement will not name China. But it reflects all three economies’ growing angst about its continuing economic rise, officials said. It also addresses two of the Trump administration’s main complaints against China — its flooding of global markets with cheap steel, aluminium and other commodities and the way it is using intellectual property rules to acquire strategic technologies.

Mr Trump and his aides have lashed out at China and revived US trade statutes to launch controversial investigations that could lead to punitive tariffs and other trade sanctions.

But the EU and Japan have been seeking to talk the administration out of unilateral action, arguing that co-operating with the EU and countries like Japan would better serve US interests and do more to raise pressure on Beijing.

The goal is to stave off a feared surge in protectionism. A new study due to be released on Tuesday by Simon Evenett, a researcher at St Gallen University in Switzerland, is set to show that protectionist measures introduced since the 2008 global financial crisis have caused the growth of EU exports to stall.

Subsidies, Mr Evenett said, have been a major component of that. “This isn’t the protectionist mix our forefathers would have recognised and reflects the holes in the WTO’s rule book, especially as they relate to subsidies,” he said.

EU officials are also keen to convince the Trump administration to embrace the WTO as a venue for fighting its trade battles rather than going it alone. Tuesday’s statement is due to call for “enhancing trilateral co-operation in the WTO”, according to one EU official.

The move comes amid a combative biennial meeting of ministers from the WTO’s 164 member countries in Buenos Aires. Many see the Trump administration’s assault on the institution as casting a dark cloud.

Addressing his fellow ministers on Monday, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer said the WTO faced “serious challenges” including “losing its essential focus on negotiation and becoming a litigation-centred organisation”. He called for the WTO to do more to focus on issues like chronic industrial overcapacity and the role of state-owned enterprises in distorting global trade.

He also complained about WTO rules that allow China and other major emerging economies special treatment that exempts them from certain requirements.

“If in the opinion of a vast majority of members playing by current WTO rules makes it harder to achieve economic growth, then clearly serious reflection is needed,” he said.

Mr Lighthizer did not mention a US bid to force change in a WTO dispute-settlement arm that it sees as too interventionist.

Because the US is now blocking the filling of vacancies on its appellate body as members’ terms run out, one of the main subjects of discussion on the sidelines in Buenos Aires has been what many fear is a US bid to dismantle the dispute system. Monday marked the final day of a Belgian member’s four-year term, leaving the appellate panel with just four of its seven judges in place.

In meetings with fellow ministers Mr Lighthizer has continued to lay out the US’s complaints about the dispute system. But he has not offered any potential solutions, officials say.
.
https://www.ft.com/content/5f0aad90-deae-11e7-a8a4-0a1e63a52f9c