HONG KONG, July 19 — Asian markets rallied today as comments from a top Federal Reserve official were pounced on by investors as indicating the central bank will unveil a deep interest rate cut at the end of the month. John Williams, the…
WASHINGTON, July 4 ― The US trade deficit jumped in May and trade tensions between the United States and China helped drive activity in the services sector to a two-year low in June, further signs that economic growth slowed sharply in the second…
WASHINGTON, July 3 ― International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde yesterday announced she would step down “temporarily” from the global crisis lender after being nominated to lead the European Central Bank. EU leaders announced a deal…
VIENNA, July 3 ― When Vladimir Putin announced at the weekend that Opec would extend oil production cuts, broadcasting a deal before the group had even met to approve it, the move angered some member nations. They were dismayed at the leading role…
BERLIN, July 2 — Three German industry groups slashed their production forecasts for this year today, citing trade conflicts that have plunged Germany’s export-dependent manufacturers into a recession that is hindering growth in Europe’s…
LONDON, July 1 — Britain’s economy has lost momentum and might have shrunk in the second quarter of 2019, according to data that showed the double impact of Brexit and the slowdown in the global economy. Manufacturers had their worst month in…
OSAKA, July 1 — The United States and China agreed on Saturday to restart trade talks after President Donald Trump offered concessions including no new tariffs and an easing of restrictions on tech company Huawei in order to reduce tensions with…
SYDNEY, June 30 — Australia’s record-breaking economic run isn’t about to end because of a ban on plastic bags — as one lobby group spuriously claimed — but consumers are buying less, offering a cautionary tale for the rest of the world….
OSAKA: World leaders kicked off one of their most high-stakes G20 meetings in years Friday, with rows brewing over a bruising US-China trade war and climate change despite a more conciliatory tone from US President Donald Trump.
After lashing out at friend and foe alike en route to Osaka in western Japan for the meeting, Trump appeared in a less combative mood when meeting fellow world leaders face-to-face.
Fresh from describing traditionally close US ally Germany as “delinquent” for not paying enough into the NATO budget, he was effusive when meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“She’s a fantastic person, a fantastic woman and I’m glad to have her as a friend,” he said.
Merkel appeared well during the talks, a day after a second public shaking attack raised fears about her health. German officials insist she is not ill.
Likewise, Trump hailed his host, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, for sending “many automobile companies” to the United States, apparently pleased by a document Abe gave him showing investment into the US.
Only two days earlier, he had seemed to call into question the US-Japan alliance, saying that Washington was committed to protecting Japan but if America was attacked, the Japanese could just “watch it on a Sony television.”
As the meeting opened, world leaders jostled and greeted each other during the family photo with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker whispering extensively into Trump’s ear.
Trump entered with President Vladimir Putin, chatting amicably, and the Russian leader patted his American counterpart gently on the back as they parted ways.
Very serious issues
Despite the warm words in public, the meeting is shaping up to be one of the most fractious in years, with clashes possible over trade, Iran, and climate change.
The most eagerly anticipated part of the meeting will be on Saturday when Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping hold their first face-to-face since the last G20, to thrash out a truce in a long-running trade war that has stymied the world economy.
Experts believe there is little chance of a full deal immediately, saying the best hope is for a truce that would avoid Washington imposing new tariffs and ramping up the conflict.
But even a truce is not guaranteed, with the Wall Street Journal reporting Thursday that Beijing will not agree to any deal unless Washington lifts its ban on Chinese telecoms firm Huawei.
In an apparent reference to this issue, Trump at the opening session said: “We must also ensure the resilience and security of our 5G networks.”
Before arriving, Trump said China wanted a ceasefire because its economy was “going down the tubes”, appearing to also threaten another $325 billion in levies in addition to the $200 billion Washington has already imposed.
After Xi held a meeting with counterparts from Egypt, South Africa and Senegal, Dai Bing, an official from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said “all leaders stressed that… bullying practices are on the rise.”
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who dined with Trump Thursday, said the dispute would “take a lot to work through.”
“I walked away with the view that this is going to be tough, because there are some very serious issues that they’re trying to resolve,” he told Australia’s Channel 7 Sunrise programme.
Trade will be far from the only contentious issue on the table, with climate change emerging as another sticking point.
Host Japan is hoping to bridge the gaps between European leaders who want strong action and an American administration committed to withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said he wants strong wording in support of climate change action but Washington is unlikely to back any statement endorsing the Paris deal.
With Macron insisting the issue is a “red line”, Japanese officials concede agreement will be tough.
“The work to consolidate various opinions is expected to be difficult,” a Japanese official admitted to reporters Thursday.
Macron has also he would not sign a major trade deal between the EU and Latin American countries that some hope might be reached at the G20 if Brazil withdraws from the Paris agreement.
Looming over the talks will also be continuing tensions in the Middle East. Trump said before heading to Japan that any war with Iran “wouldn’t last long.”
That assessment is unlikely to find favour among G20 leaders, with Macron warning Thursday: “there are no short wars.”
When a war begins, he said, “we know when it starts, but rarely when it will end.” – AFP
BRUSSELS: Negotiations between Europe and South America to finalise a blockbuster trade deal will continue Friday, after French President Emmanuel Macron sent a warning shot to Brazil over environmental issues.
Ministers from the South American trade bloc known as Mercosur and top EU officials are hoping to seal what would be one of the world’s biggest regional trade agreements but stumbling blocks remain.
“Meetings between the EU and Mercosur continue and each party is working hard to overcome the remaining differences,” a source close to the European Commission told AFP, at the talks in Brussels.
Another source on Thursday described the agreement as “still up in the air”.
But Macron has threatened to snub the deal if Brazil withdraws from the Paris climate accord that commits signatories to reduce emissions and which Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has threatened to leave.
“If Brazil leaves the Paris accord, we could not sign trade deals with them,” Macron said Thursday night in Japan en route to Osaka for the G20 summit, which kicks off on Friday.
“The reason is simple, we are requiring our farmers to stop using pesticides… our businesses to reduce emissions. That has a competitive cost,” Macron added.
Activists have already urged the EU to halt the Mercosur trade talks over Brazil’s alleged harm to its rainforests and indigenous peoples.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she wanted “straight talk” with Bolsonaro over “dramatic” deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
However, Merkel also said the issue would not hold up the trade deal and believes it would boost Europe’s economy and ultimately benefit the rainforests in Brazil.
Discussions between heads of state are expected to be held on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
Two decades of EU negotiations with the countries of Mercosur — grouping Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay — have repeatedly stalled over the highly sensitive beef market, with cattle farmers in Europe furiously against any deal.
Last week Ireland, Belgium, Poland and France expressed their concerns for farming to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Pro-trade members meanwhile have staunchly backed the pact, which would mark a blow against protectionism, with US President Donald Trump caught in a trade war with China that is destabilising the world economy.
More recently, differences have emerged with Brazil over trading meat, sugar and automobiles.
“The political context is quite charged in Europe. The anti-trade rhetoric is strong in many countries, including pro-trade ones,” said an EU diplomat.
The increasingly acrimonious debate resembled the pushback against a highly ambitious trade deal with the United States, known as TTIP, that triggered mass protests in Germany, Austria and France a few years ago.
EU sources said Europeans await progress from the South Americans on geographical indications that protect European products such as cognac and Manchego cheese and especially on the opening up of their auto sector.
The EU would like to see the deal passed before the end of the current commission’s term later this year. – AFP