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Optimism in China after US trade thaw but hard work just starting

The Azeri Times

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Optimism in China after US trade thaw but hard work just starting

Beijing, China – A sense of relief spread across China as President Xi Jinping and his United States counterpart, Donald Trump, agreed over the weekend to a 90-day halt to new tariffs as the world’s two leading economies engage in new negotiations aimed at reaching a broader deal.

The smiles and friendly handshakes exchanged between the two leaders on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting in Argentina contrasted sharply with the testy exchanges and thinly-veiled animosity that had for months defined the US-China relations amid a bitter tit-for-tat trade dispute.

The news of the ceasefire, which will see the US not raise tariffs on $200bn of Chinese goods from 10 to 25 percent on January 1, as previously threatened, as well as prevent a potential retaliation from Beijing, was welcomed by investors in China and beyond.

“We dodged the next bullet … the markets were definitely happy,” said Andrew Polk, an economist with Beijing-based consultancy Trivium, citing the yuan’s strong advances in the immediate aftermath of the truce – the Chinese currency’s two-day gain of 1.7 percent on Tuesday was its biggest for more than a decade.

But immediate joy has since given way to “cautious optimism” as confusion over what was actually agreed between the two sides led to some gains being lost, added Polk.

Renewed duty threats by Trump, who on Tuesday called himself a “Tariff Man” on Twitter, did not help either.

“There’s a sense that’s there no time to pop the champagne – it’s time to get to work,” said Polk. 

Jacob Parker, vice president of China Operations at the US-China Business Council, agreed. While expressing the US business community’s satisfaction for the truce, he was quick to note that a long road lies ahead.

“This outcome delays further escalation and gets both sides back on track to find a sustainable long-term solution to the challenges in the relationship,” Parker said.

WATCH: US, China declare trade war ceasefire (02:23)

But others said the pause itself should not be underestimated.

Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Nanjing University, called the trade thaw an extremely positive development that offers a chance to avert a broader crisis between the two sides.

The conflict isn’t just about increasing tariffs, but also different ideas and positions taken by China and the US,” Zhu said.

“As the relationship worsens, the result will be more than just a trade war,” he added, pointing to the tighter controls on Chinese students heading to the US as an example of deepening hostility.

In June, the US State Department curbed visa lengths for Chinese graduates studying aviation, robotics and advanced manufacturing to one year from five, citing national security concerns.

“Growing negative sentiments between China and the US is the most frightening factor in China-US relations,” Zhu said. “So the temporary truce is really important to alleviate increasing opposition between the two countries.”

Shi Yinhong, a professor in Beijing’s Renmin University, had a more somber outlook. “It’s not a big deal. If negotiation fails after 90 days, things will get worse,” he said.

Shi argued that reaching a broader agreement depends on the flexibility of the US side.

“If Trump is very harsh with his demands, then meeting those demands would mean tremendous changes to China’s national affairs and industrial policies,” Shi said. “It will decrease the chance of the Chinese government accepting them.”

INSIDE STORY: Can the US and China resolve their differences? (25:00)

Many analysts see the tight, 90-day negotiating window as short when taking into account the US list of demands, which is believed to include requirements for China to act on issues such as forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers and alleged cyber theft.

In a statement last month, the US Trade Representative’s office said China was continuing “unfair practices”, alleging that Beijing’s IP and technology transfer policies are causing multibillion dollar worth of damages to US companies.

“It is unreasonable to assume that all challenges in the relationship can be resolved in 90 days,” said Parker, adding that setting medium- and long-term targets, as well, is the best way to “ensure sustainable engagement between the two sides”.

Chinese action

Despite the persisting scepticism, the Chinese commerce ministry on Wednesday expressed its “confidence” that an agreement can be reached within the next 90 days.

“China will start with the implementation of the specific matters in which consensus has been reached, the sooner the better,” it said in a statement, without providing more details.

Already, just days after the temporary ceasefire, China has announced a number of significant steps, including a slew of penalties for intellectual property theft that could restrict companies’ access to borrowing and state-funding. According to China’s National Development and Reform Commission, the 38 different punishments will be applied to IP violations starting this month. 

On the trade front, the White House says China has agreed to purchase more agricultural, energy, industrial and other products from the US. Trump also tweeted that China had “agreed to reduce and remove tariffs on cars coming into China from the US” – currently the duties stand at 40 percent. Details on this, however, have been scarce, and Beijing has not confirmed the move.

‘Negative sentiment’

Whether or not the US and China can transform vague commitments into concrete outcomes over the next 90 days, however, remains unclear. But what is certain, Shi said, is that stakes are high.

“If an agreement isn’t reached, there will be significant losses for China” and “damage done to both the US and Chinese economy,” he says.

So far, China has managed to avoid any major economic fallout from the trade war.

“Ironically, we’ve so far seen the opposite,” said Polk, noting how companies have rushed to pump up orders to beat tariff deadlines. “Of course, if we see the 25 percent in tariffs implemented this will turn on its head.”

“Most Chinese exporters say, ’10 percent is no big deal, we can eat that. But 25 percent, we’re going to have a problem with’. So far there hasn’t been much of a macro impact on China, but we could see one if the tariff hike happens,” Polk added.

Ultimately, China’s government doesn’t only have businesses to answer to. Trade tensions with the US are taking place against a backdrop of slowing economic growth and lower state revenue.

“The trade has increased the pressure on China’s economy,” Shi said. “And there are psychological impacts,” he said, referring to an increasingly worried Chinese population.

It’s a view echoed by Polk.

“Already, there’s this feeling of domestic uncertainty, policies not working, a hurting private sector  … and then you throw the trade war on top.

“It’s absolutely more of a very negative sentiment out there.”

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Hamas leader Haniya says movement wants ‘national unity’

The Azeri Times

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Hamas leader Haniya says movement wants ‘national unity’

Hamas chief Ismail Haniya affirmed his willingness to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “at any place” to discuss the internal Palestinian divide.

Haniya’s remarks came in a speech on Sunday during a festival organised by Hamas in Gaza City to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the movement’s establishment, which saw the participation of thousands of Palestinian people.

Members of Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, participated in the rally in camouflage and carrying rifles, while brandishing a range of weapons.

The movement said the large turnout reflected widespread support despite domestic and external challenges.

Palestinians in Gaza take part in a rally marking the 31st anniversary of Hamas’ founding [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Haniya stressed the readiness of his organisation to “comply with any requirement to restore Palestinian national unity and end the division.”

The Hamas leader also expressed his group’s willingness to hold elections, either the presidential or parliamentary.

Last month, delegations from Hamas and Fatah held talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo on ending the Palestinian division.

The talks were one of dozens of rounds – in Cairo and several Arab capitals – between Hamas and Fatah since the start of the Palestinian discord in 2007, but discussions have yet to bear fruit.

‘In total harmony’

Haniya also praised the “resistance” in the occupied West Bank following attacks against Israeli settlers and soldiers in recent days.

“We place our hopes in the West Bank, which is the main area where events are occurring and the most appropriate area to resolve the conflict with our Zionist enemy,” he told the crowd, which waved green Hamas flags.

“The West Bank has shaken and stood up with glory, strength and skill, as if it wanted to say to our people on the occasion of this glorious anniversary that it was with the resistance, in total harmony.”

West Bank shootings kill three Palestinians, two Israelis

He told the crowd the pace of attacks would continue until US President Donald Trump’s policy in the region is brought a halt, singling out the decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Separate shootings last week killed two Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Ramallah, while an Israeli baby, born prematurely after its mother was critically wounded in the settlement of Ofra, later died at hospital. 

“Our people in the West Bank never accept humiliation,” Haniyeh said, describing the recent increase in Palestinian attacks as “another Intifada”.

Israel’s security forces say they arrested at least 37 Hamas operatives in connection with recent violence.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he issued a warning to Hamas after the deadly attacks in the occupied West Bank. “We will exact a high price over them,” he said.

Failed operation

According to Haniya, the Qassam Brigades managed to seize a “security trove” during the failed Israeli security operation in the Gaza Strip, without giving further details.

On November 11, the Qassam Brigades announced they discovered an Israeli special forces’ unit infiltrating Khan Younis, east of the Gaza Strip, and killed one officer in an ensuing clash.

The failed operation led to an escalation in Gaza that left seven Palestinians dead.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas took power in 2007.

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World

What can be done to ensure food security and preserve water?

The Azeri Times

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Over 800 million people live in hunger-stricken areas. The majority of those live in conflict zones.

Ensuring quantity and quality of water for survival, but also for food production in the context of agricultural intensification, is essential to mitigate the risk of mass migration conflict.

On this special edition of Inside Story from the Doha Forum, we ask: Are the current world food governance support systems enough to mitigate current risks?

And what can be done to avoid price volatility and its impact on the poorest?

Presenter: Dareen Abughaida

Guests:

Pablo Campana – Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Investments

Bader Al-Dafa – executive director at Global Dryland Alliance (GDA)

Miguel Angel Moratinos – future UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilisations

Djimé Adoum – executive secretary of Permanent Interstates Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel, CILSS

Source: Al Jazeera

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World

Blast kills four in Syria’s Afrin held by Turkey-backed rebels

The Azeri Times

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Blast kills four in Syria’s Afrin held by Turkey-backed rebels
Rebel forces backed by the Turkish army seized Afrin from Kurdish fighters in early 2018 [File: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters]
Rebel forces backed by the Turkish army seized Afrin from Kurdish fighters in early 2018 [File: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters]

A car bomb has killed at least four people and wounded 20 others in the northern Syrian city of Afrin, held by pro-Turkey rebels, the Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency said.

The explosion on Sunday came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened earlier this week to launch a new offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria “in a few days”.

Meanwhile, the UK-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said eight people – four civilians and four fighters – were killed, with activist-operated Shaam news agency reporting the same death toll.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the blast.

Rebel forces backed by the Turkish army seized Afrin from the YPG in early 2018 in their second large-scale operation into northern Syria since 2016.

Turkey accuses the YPG of being terrorists. However, the armed group is the backbone of a US-backed alliance fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group in Syria. 

The YPG, as well as US forces, are currently present in areas along the Turkish border to the east of Afrin.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the car bomb, which exploded “near a position of pro-Turkey fighters” in a market, wounded dozens.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump agreed with Erdogan for a “more effective coordination” between them in the war-torn country.

Erdogan has strongly criticised Washington’s support for the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces fighting ISIL in their last holdout in the far east of the country.

The US military has set up observation posts in the region in an effort to prevent friction between its NATO ally and the Syrian Kurdish forces.

Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

It has since spiralled into a complex conflict and a proxy war involving armed groups and world powers.

SOURCE:
News agencies

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