US-China trade deal gets tepid reception
Washington (AFP) – US officials announced a truce in the trade war with China with much fanfare, but economists and trade experts call it largely a victory for Beijing.
After a dispute that raged for close to two years, with several fumbled efforts at a resolution, the US agreed to cancel planned tariffs and rollback others immediately, without a similar commitment from China to lift tariffs it imposed on the US.
„Pardon me if I don’t pop champagne, but aside from a cessation of continued escalation, there is not much worth cheering,” leading China expert Scott Kennedy said in an analysis of the agreement.
„The costs have been substantial and far reaching, the benefits narrow and ephemeral.”
The US Trade Representative office said they expect to sign the phase one agreement in the first week of January, and issued a fact sheet highlighting key points, including enforcement provisions and improved protection for American technology.
In addition, it includes a Chinese commitment to buy $200 billion more in US goods and services over two years, USTR said.
That would be a significant increase: China imported just shy of $190 billion in goods and services in 2017, so if the target is met it would cut the US trade deficit with China by a third.
President Donald Trump has long railed against the trade imbalance, citing it as proof China is using distorting policies to gain an unfair advantage.
Trump tweeted that Beijing „agreed to many structural changes and massive purchases of Agricultural Product, Energy, and Manufactured Goods, plus much more.”
– Back from the brink –
Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said agreeing to remove tariffs amounted to „giving away much of our leverage, while kicking the can down the road on the most meaningful trade issues with China.”
And trade economist Mary Lovely said the deal could only be viewed as a „partial win” which „didn’t move the needle very much.”
„We were kind of on a brink, and we saw the negotiators reach a deal that pulled us back, and I think that is important,” she said of the news Trump canceled the 15 percent tariffs on electronics that were due to hit Sunday.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has invited Donald Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani to appear in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee to present information he claims to have dug up in Ukraine—even though the details of Giuliani’s self-directed investigation raise serious doubts about the credibility of any information he presents.
“Rudy, if you want to come and tell us what you found, I’ll be glad to talk to you,” Graham said in an interview for CBS’ Face the Nation set to air Sunday. “I don’t know what Rudy found, I don’t know what he was up to when he was in the Ukraine.”
Giuliani traveled to Hungary and Ukraine earlier this month with a camera crew from One America News, a pro-Trump cable network that has eagerly courted the president’s approval in its rivalry against Fox News. Giuliani and OAN White House reporter Chanel Rion interviewed former Ukrainian prosecutors who repeated widely debunked claims that former Vice President Joe Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to drop investigations into a Ukrainian energy company that had hired his son to sit on its board.
While Giuliani told Trump he had uncovered “plenty” on his Ukraine dirt-digging mission, his sources alone have raised red flags. Several of Giuliani’s witnesses are widely seen as discredited in Ukrainian circles, while OAN reporter Rion is a conspiracy theorist whose botched reporting on another story recently prompted a retraction from her network.
OAN has had other questionable ties to Ukraine. The network tried to get a United States visa for a Ukrainian millionaire who had promised dirt on the Biden family. Before that could happen, though, the millionaire was arrested on a warrant issued by Ukrainian anti-corruption prosecutors. He’d been wanted on embezzlement charges for years and was accused of treason.
Graham’s offer also comes as Giuliani is reportedly the subject of multiple federal investigations aimed at his foreign ties. Two Giuliani associates involved in his Ukraine crusade are facing campaign finance charges.
Giuliani, who was spotted at the White House on Friday, claims that he returned from Ukraine with a suitcase full of documents about the Bidens. Graham said he’s open to hearing from Giuliani at a hearing separate from impeachment.“We can look at what Rudy’s got and Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and anything else you want to look at after impeachment,” Graham said in his Face the Nation appearance. “But if Rudy wants to come to the Judiciary Committee and testify about what he found, he’s welcome to do so.”
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, launched a personal Twitter account on Saturday with simple message about the big football game of the day: #GoArmyBeatNavy.
But the West Point graduate’s hashtag did not stoke conversations about Army v Navy in Philadelphia. Instead, it added fuel to speculation that Pompeo will soon quit the Trump administration and seek a Senate seat in Kansas.
According to the conservative writer and Trump critic Bill Kristol, it was “sort of amusing” that Pompeo’s official Twitter account identified him as “the 70th US secretary of state” while his new “pre-Senate campaign” account said he was “CURRENTLY serving as the 70th secretary of state”.
The political scientist Ian Bremmer, meanwhile, called the owner of the new account “secretary of (the) state (of Kansas)”, although he subsequently deleted the tweet.
Among the first 26 accounts followed by the new Pompeo account were KFDI News, “Wichita’s news, weather and traffic leader for more than 50 years”; KAKE News, “the most powerful name in Kansas news”; NBC affiliate KSN News Wichita; and Wichita State University.
Pompeo was born and schooled in California, went to college in New York and at Harvard, served with the US army in Germany and worked as a lawyer in Washington. But he moved to Wichita in 1998 and his official Twitter account identifies him as a “proud Kansan”.
He was a Kansas congressman before he became Trump’s first CIA director and then his second secretary of state.
An ardent supporter of the president, Pompeo has denied reports that he is seeking a way out.
But his concentration on and frequent appearances in his home state while representing America on the world stage have been widely noted, relentlessly dissected and, among Democrats, formally protested.
“If Pompeo comes in, it would be no contest,” David Kensinger, a Kansas Republican consultant, told the Guardian last month. “His affiliation with the president will only help him, and no Republican has lost a Senate race in Kansas since 1932.”
Others have suggested Pompeo may be making a feint, preferring to target the Republican presidential nomination after Trump in 2024.
Trump himself seemed to acknowledge the possibility of a Senate run last month, telling Fox News: “Mike would win easily in Kansas.
“He came to me and said ‘Look, I’d rather stay where I am,’ but he loves Kansas, he loves the people of Kansas. If he thought there was a chance of losing that seat, I think he would do that and he would win in a landslide.”
Control of the upper chamber will be fiercely contested next year. Republicans hold it 53-47, giving them a block on legislation from the Democratic-held House, control of judicial appointments and, crucially for Trump, the ability to keep him in office after seemingly inevitable impeachment.
On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported an internal Republican poll which said the former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach was on track to win the Senate nomination in question – unless Pompeo jumped in.
Kobach, a hardline rightwinger, led Trump’s widely derided and swiftly shuttered commission on voter fraud before losing last year’s gubernatorial election to Democrat Laura Kelly. Republicans reportedly courting Pompeo do not seem thrilled by the prospect of a Kobach Senate campaign.
“If Mike Pompeo doesn’t run, we don’t have a prayer,” the Journal quoted a Republican strategist as saying.
Melania Trump has been silent over her husband’s attacks on Greta Thunberg after protesting a mention of her own son in an impeachment hearing because Barron Trump “is not an activist who travels the globe giving speeches”, a spokeswoman said on Friday.
“He is a 13-year-old who wants and deserves privacy.”
Thunberg is 16.
The White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, also said: “It is no secret that the president and first lady often communicate differently – as most married couples do.”
Donald Trump has been criticised before for his tweeted criticism of Thunberg. This week the Swedish climate protester, in Madrid for the COP25 summit, was named Time magazine’s person of the year – an accolade close to the president’s heart after he won it in 2016.
“So ridiculous,” Trump tweeted. “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”
Thunberg responded in familiar fashion, changing her Twitter biography to mimic Trump’s words but otherwise refraining from passing comment.
In turn she was widely applauded. The former first lady Michelle Obama, for instance, told Thunberg in a tweet not to “let anyone dim your light”.
“Ignore the doubters and know that millions of people are cheering you on,” Obama added.
Critics, meanwhile, targeted Trump for his attacks on a 16-year-old with an autism spectrum diagnosis and his wife for her silence on the matter.
One of the aims of the first lady’s Be Best initiative is tackling cyberbullying. The irony of such work being undertaken by a woman married to perhaps the world’s foremost online troll has been noted extensively, particularly earlier this month when the first lady reacted with anger to a witness using her son’s name in a pun in an impeachment hearing.
“A minor child deserves privacy,” Melania Trump said in a tweet, “and should be kept out of politics.”
The first lady told Pamela Karlan, the Stanford law professor who riffed on her son’s name to make a point about America’s lack of titled nobility, she “should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it”.
In her statement on Friday, Grisham also said: “Be Best is the First Lady’s initiative and she will continue to use it to do all she can to help children.”
Two months ago, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was commanding support from about one-quarter of Democratic primary voters nationwide and seemed to be building a coalition that cut across demographics.
While she remains a leading candidate, after a grueling autumn, polling averages show that her support has dipped back into the teens nationwide — as well as in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire — and she is working to regain momentum.
For Warren, this reflects a historical quirk to her candidacy: She has been fighting a two-flank war unlike any seen by a major Democratic candidate in the modern era.
To her left, national and early-state polls show Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., holding onto steady support from 15% to 20% of Democratic voters, most of them liberals. Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, have been snatching supporters from Warren across the ideological spectrum.
This is the first presidential race in the past half-century in which two staunchly left-wing candidates have mounted viable, top-tier candidacies for the Democratic nomination. In many ways, this reflects the state of a party whose rank-and-file members have been moving steadily left since the mid-1990s. Last year, a majority of Democrats identified as liberals for the first time on record, according to Gallup polling.
“The Democratic electorate has a larger liberal bloc than it ever did,” Sean McElwee, a co-founder of Data for Progress, said in an interview. “The rise in college education has created a much higher concentration of ideological liberalism in a way that hasn’t existed in the past as a coalition in the Democratic Party.”
For now, both Warren and Sanders appear to be fighting for support from many of the same voters — while refusing to attack each other on the campaign trail.
Both candidates are seen favorably by more than three-quarters of liberal Democratic primary voters, according to national polls like the one released this week by Quinnipiac University. That survey showed that both Warren and Sanders remain the most popular second-choice pick for each other’s supporters.
This is particularly salient in Iowa, where election rules force caucusgoers to support their second choice if their preferred candidate falls short of the minimum threshold at their caucus site. A Des Moines Register/CNN poll last month found that 45% of Sanders’ supporters said Warren would be their second choice in the state’s caucus. Roughly 2 in 5 of Warren’s supporters said the same of Sanders.
Sanders has a seemingly unshakable base of support, with 15% to 20% of Democratic primary voters consistently saying they will vote for him, both nationwide and in the earliest-voting states.
So Warren finds herself needing to pick up some of the more moderate voters, many of whom are also considering Biden and Buttigieg.
With voting in Iowa still more than a month away, much remains to be determined: Roughly 3 in 5 Democratic primary voters who expressed a candidate preference in the most recent Quinnipiac poll said they might still change their minds. Warren’s support is particularly fluid, with over two-thirds of her supporters saying they were open to supporting someone else.
Quinnipiac polling shows that Warren has flagged significantly since October among older voters and those with incomes under $100,000. Biden has picked up big gains among both groups.
Biden now commands the support of 22% of liberal Democratic voters, roughly even with both Sanders and Warren, and double his numbers with this group two months ago, according to Quinnipiac’s polling.
And Sanders has clipped much of Warren’s support among younger voters. Among Democratic primary voters under 35, her share dropped by 13 points from October to December, while Sanders’ rose by 21 points.
To a degree, the drop in support she experienced this fall can be seen as self-perpetuating: Some less-ideological voters got behind her in the late summer and early fall, when she was increasingly being seen as a front-runner. As questions took hold about her viability against President Donald Trump in a general election and how she would fund her proposal for a “Medicare for All”-type health care system, some of those supporters defected to other top candidates, such as Biden and Buttigieg.
In Iowa, where Warren seemed to have an edge, Buttigieg has pulled ahead in most polls. Both candidates have staked much of their momentum on this first-voting state, and both have opened more than 20 campaign offices there. As Buttigieg has emerged as the leader of the pack in Iowa, he has argued that he will be able to appeal to potential swing voters in a general election.
Indeed, many Democrats this year said they are driven by an almost single-minded desire to unseat Trump. In various polls, Democratic voters have indicated that finding a candidate who can defeat the president next November matters to them more than nominating one whose policies gibe with their own views.
Nationwide, it is Biden who is generally seen as the most capable of doing that, though most of the leading Democratic candidates, including Warren, come out ahead in potential matchups with Trump. A Gallup poll last month found that 51% of Democrats said they viewed Biden as the potential nominee with the greatest chance of beating Trump. Sanders and Warren were locked in a virtual tie for a distant second place, with 16% and 15% each.
“For a big chunk of the Democratic electorate, the goal of this election is to have a Democrat who can beat Trump,” McElwee said, adding that head-to-head polls showing Warren performing slightly worse than Biden and Sanders against the president have contributed to her decline. But he cautioned against reading too deeply into the current trends.
“I think Warren actually still has shown that, yes, she has a lot of supporters who are quite fluid, but there’s still a chance in the next two months she can solidify those voters,” he said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
© 2019 The New York Times Company
Bolivia’s interim leader says arrest warrant to be issued against Morales
SANANDITA, Bolivia (Reuters) – Bolivia will issue an arrest warrant in the coming days against former leftist President Evo Morales, accusing him of sedition, interim Bolivian President Jeanine Anez said on Saturday.
Morales is in Argentina, granted refugee status this week just days after the inauguration of new President Alberto Fernandez. Peronist Fernandez succeeded outgoing conservative Argentine leader Mauricio Macri, who lost his bid for re-election in October.
Morales had spent the previous month in Mexico in the wake of a highly-contested October election in Bolivia. He had proclaimed victory after his government was accused of manipulating the vote results. Morales, who had been in power nearly 14 years, left Bolivia as the controversy grew.
„He can return whenever he wants. He left because he wanted to,” Anez told reporters. „The arrest warrant will be issued in the next few days, because we have already brought the charges.”
Morales had obtained his fourth consecutive term in the October vote, according to the official count, which was criticized for irregularities by the Organization of American States. Morales resigned under pressure from the armed forces in what he has called a coup d’etat.
(Reporting by Bolivia newsroom, writing by Maximilian Heath and Hugh Bronstein)