The primary goal of Chinese President Xi Jinping in the first face-to-face meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, was to seek a new beginning for his “major powers” initiative. But he got off to a rather rocky start; the summit was overshadowed by a series of unexpected events.
On Thursday night, Xi and his wife arrived at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in an already summery Florida, where daytime temperatures reach 30 C. During the dinner, the couple enjoyed listening to Trump’s granddaughters singing Chinese folk songs and reciting poems from China’s Tang dynasty.
As they were enjoying the entertainment, U.S. forces were bombing Syria. It was only toward the end of dinner that Trump told Xi about the operation.
Xi must have felt quite awkward. He might have felt completely taken in by Trump. Xi was right next to the commander in chief who had just ordered a bombing campaign in a politically sensitive region of the world, happily smiling and talking without knowing anything about the assault.
The timing of the missile attack was carefully calibrated. Just before meeting with Xi, Trump suggested the U.S. might engage in unilateral military action against North Korea, which had launched a ballistic missile days before the U.S.-China summit. The bombing of Syria — and the campaign’s timing — was apparently intended to pressure China, which is reluctant to cooperate with the U.S. in dissuading Pyongyang from pursuing missile and nuclear weapons programs.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has dampened hopes for a speedy UK exit and trade deal, warning talks will be bedeviled by details over the next two years.
“Theresa May’s [Article 50] letter seeks a rapid agreement, but quite clearly the devil is going to be in the detail. The six months work I’ve done so far points to that”, said Mr Barnier, addressing MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
The former French foreign minister, who will be carrying out Brexit negotiations on behalf of the EU, said Britain’s desire to carry out its divorce talks alongside arrangements for a free trade deal was a “very risky approach”.
“We are not proposing this to be tactical or to create difficulties. It is an essential condition to maximise our chances of reaching an agreement together in two years. It is our best chance to build trust before proceeding to the second phase.”
One day after yesterday’s at times painfully uncomfortable first official meeting between Angela Merkel and Donald Trump, it will hardly come as a surprise that during today’s G-20 meeting in Baden Baden, Germany- the first for the Trump administration, whose delegation is led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – where the dominant topic is trade, and specifically globalization vs protectionism, that a row would break out over how the post-Trump world will deal with trade.
At stake is the language in the official communique to be released later on Saturday and which is expected to serve as the blueprint for future trade relations, which pressured by Trump may be increasingly transformed from multi-lateral to bilateral.
As Bloomberg reports, at the heart of the disagreement are globalist (and mercantilist) powers such as Germany (and China) defending the existing rules-based system, on the other the U.S. is calling for a recognition that trade must be “fair” without however explicitly stating what that means. Chinese Finance Minister Xiao Jie said in a Saturday statement that the G-20 should be “adamantly against” protectionism. According to reports, China has been the most insistent on a commitment to the current system that the World Trade Organization represents, which is understandable: together with such exporting powerhouses as Germany and South Korea, China has the most to lose from a dramatic overhaul of the status quo.
After yet another round of inconclusive bailout talks in Athens, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he believed a comprehensive deal with creditors could be reached by April while taking a dig at the International Monetary Fund over its tough stance on labor rights.
In comments to reporters at the end of a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels, Tsipras said he believed a technical-level agreement could still be reached in time for a March 20 Eurogroup, with a broader accord, including the specification of medium-term debt relief measures, coming in April.
Tsipras indicated, however, that tough talks on collective wage bargaining would be harder to conclude. “That issue can’t be solved at the technical level. There’s a disagreement,” he said, adding that the IMF must understand that Greece is a European country and that non-European labor models cannot be imposed on it.
In a related development, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said Tsipras asked the Fund “to stand by Greece” in its third bailout program.
“To commit to Greece, as the Greek prime minister has requested, in addition to reforms, the debt should be sustainable,” Lagarde told French newspaper Le Parisien in an interview.
On Friday, the US Commerce Department announced its plans to raise import tariffs for the Chinese stainless steel products from 63 percent to 190 percent citing a probe that found they were selling on US market at dumping-level price.
“China is disappointed that the United States continued to launch high taxes on Chinese steel export products and calls into question the unfair way the US conducted its investigation,” Wang said, as quoted by the South China Morning Post newspaper.
The United States did not take into the account the evidence previously submitted by the Chinese steel manufacturers and avoided cooperation with the Chinese government, violating the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Chinese official underlined.
This is a second blow for the Chinese steel importers in the recent months. The European Commission imposed in January anti-dumping duties on Chinese stainless steel tubes and pipe butt-welding fittings to protect its industry from steel overcapacity.
According the European Commission, Chinese imports will be taxed with duties ranging from 30.7 to 64.9 as its investigation commission confirmed that Chinese stainless steel products had been sold in Europe at dumping prices.
The cross-border movement of goods, services, and capital increased markedly for the thirty years up to the Great Financial Crisis. Although the recovery has given way to a new economic expansion in the major economies, global trade and capital flows remain well below pre-crisis levels. It gives a sense globalization is ending.
The election of Donald Trump as the 45th US President has underscored these fears. His first few weeks in office clearly mark a new era not just for America, but given its central role in late-20th-century globalization, for the world as well. Trump is a bit of a Rorschach test. He did not win a plurality, let alone a majority of the popular vote, but that does not stop pundits from claiming that Trump won because of this or that issue.
There are some campaign promises which Trump has backed away such as citing China as a currency manipulator on his first day as President or pursuing legal charges against Hillary Clinton. His priorities have been repealing the national health insurance, formally withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and signaled an intention to re-open the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump and his closest advisers seem intent to unwind not just his predecessor’s initiatives, but the general thrust of America’s grand strategy since the end of WWII. His rhetoric of America First harkens back to Warren Harding, who succeeded Woodrow Wilson after the US Senate rejected the League of Nations. Some historians refer to that period as ‘isolationism, ’ but in practice it was unilateralist.
“It’s a great thing for the American worker, what we just did,” Trump said on Monday after signing an order withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord with 11 other nations. He didn’t sign any actions to direct a renegotiation of the Nafta accord with Mexico and Canada, yet he said on Sunday he would begin talks with the two leaders on modifying the accord, BBG reported. “We’ve been talking about this a long time,” Trump said.
As the AP notes, the move is basically a formality, since the agreement had yet to receive required Senate ratification. Trade experts say that approval was unlikely to happen given voters’ anxiety about trade deals and the potential for job losses. It remains unclear if Trump would seek individual deals with the 11 other nations in TPP— a group that represents roughly 13.5 percent of the global economy, according to World Bank figures. Trump has blamed past trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization for a decline in U.S. factory jobs.
Trump’s trade focus fulfills a campaign promise to rewrite America’s trade policy during his first days as president. In declaring his determination to renegotiate Nafta, Trump would rework an agreement that has governed commerce in much of the Western hemisphere for 22 years. By scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord negotiated by former President Barack Obama, Trump will delight many of his most fervent supporters as well as a good many Democrats, while opening an economic vacuum in Asia that China is eager to fill.
Trump campaigned against the TPP and other trade deals, including Nafta, during his campaign for the White House. In a video released in November, Trump promised to exit TPP “on day one,” calling it “a potential disaster for our country.”
India is planning to shift fully from limiting cheap steel imports by way of minimum prices to applying anti-dumping duties, according to Steel Secretary Aruna Sharma.
“The [Minimum Import Price] was initially imposed on 173 steel items, which came down to 66 and now it is down to 19,” Sharma said in an interview with the Nikkei Asian Review. “On balance, 19 items, if [the] case is made out by industry, they will also be shifted.”
The main objective of the move is to target foreign suppliers alleged to be selling steel below cost. India started imposing an anti-dumping duty of $474-$557 a ton on hot-rolled flat products of alloy and non-alloy steel imported from China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Brazil and Indonesia in August. These six nations account for almost 90% of India’s steel imports.
Other categories of steel, such as color-coated products, are expected to be hit with anti-dumping duties amounting to the difference between the producer’s current price and approximately $800 a ton. By contrast, minimum import prices have been set at $350 to $700 a ton depending on the category of steel. The shift is expected to lift import prices to a level more on a par with the cost of domestic production.
MIP is calculated as the weighted average international price of a particular category of steel product, while anti-dumping duties are based on an estimate of the cost of production in the exporting country.
Between 2013 and 2016, India’s imports of finished steel more than doubled from about 5 million tons to 11 million tons a year. The government claims to have “sufficient evidence” against Japan and other countries of dumping cheap steel, Sharma said. India signed a preferential trade agreement with Japan in 2012.
A reversal in U.S. trade policy could make 2017 the year that efforts to build multinational trade zones crumble, returning the focus to tough, bilateral dealmaking.
In October 2015, officials from 12 nations including the U.S. and Japan gathered in the American city of Atlanta to ink the historic Trans-Pacific Partnership, confident of the dawning of a new age of trade governed by such high-level, multilateral agreements. Yet that dream lies all but dead just over a year later, not least due to Donald Trump’s presidential victory and his pledge to pull the U.S. from the agreement upon taking office Jan. 20.
Many bilateral free trade agreements, which reduce or abolish tariffs and set rules for trade in goods and services between two nations, have been struck over the years. Multilateral agreements extend this notion to the regional level and improve security in the areas they cover, further greasing the wheels of commerce.
Yet Trump prefers his trade pacts one on one — the better to drive hard bargains, leveraging U.S. economic and diplomatic might to secure the most advantageous terms. Multilateral pacts involve far more careful compromise and require each nation to give and take small concessions rather than pushing for an unambiguous win.
As the FT first reported yesetrday, in a dramatic development for Sino-US relations, Trump picked Peter Navarro, a Harvard-trained economist and one-time daytrader, to head the National Trade Council, an organization within the White House to oversee industrial policy and promote manufacturing. Navarro, a hardcore China hawk, is the author of books such as “Death by China” and “Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World” has for years warned that the US is engaged in an economic war with China and should adopt a more aggressive stance, a message that the president-elect sold to voters across the US during his campaign.
In the aftermath of Navarro’s appointment, many were curious to see what China’s reaction would be, and according to the FT, Beijin’s response has been nothing short of “shocked.” To wit:
The appointment of Peter Navarro, a campaign adviser, to a formal White House post shocked Chinese officials and scholars who had hoped that Mr Trump would tone down his anti-Beijing rhetoric after assuming office.
“Chinese officials had hoped that, as a businessman, Trump would be open to negotiating deals,” said Zhu Ning, a finance professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing. “But they have been surprised by his decision to appoint such a hawk to a key post.”