Archive for ‘Twitter’

18/04/2019

Tobacco vendors illegally advertise and sell cigarettes on China’s social media and e-commerce platforms

  • Health watchdog warns that tobacco products are widely available on both social media and online retailers
A tobacco seller’s advert posted on WeChat. Photo: Handout
A tobacco seller’s advert posted on WeChat. Photo: Handout
Illegal tobacco trading is rife online in China both via social media and e-commerce platforms, a health watchdog has warned.
The Beijing Centre for Disease Prevention and Control released a report on Monday that said almost 52,000 advertisements and listings for tobacco products had been found on 14 social media and e-commerce platforms in the first half of last year.
“Compared with traditional advertising, tobacco promotion on the internet uses methods such as sponsored content, which is more discreet,” the report said.
China’s internet advertising regulations prohibit the online promotion of tobacco products.
Selling cigarettes online is illegal as the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration bans the sale of tobacco across provinces and strictly controls the production, sale and import of the product.
Screenshot from Weibo of an advertisement for imported cigarettes. Photo: Handout
Screenshot from Weibo of an advertisement for imported cigarettes. Photo: Handout

The social network Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, was highlighted as the platform where most of the banned promotion and selling were found, with nearly 43,000 adverts and listings, or 82 per cent of the total.

The South China Morning Post found that tobacco advertising and direct selling proliferates on Weibo, where searching for terms such as “cigarettes” and “women’s cigarettes” yielded almost 1,300 results, many of them offering WeChat and QQ contact information.

Five vendors found through Weibo offered various imported cigarettes such as Marlboro and South Korean brand Esse.

One seller claimed his wares were smuggled into China from places like the US. Another offered refunds for products that were confiscated, but only if they were bought for delivery within the same province.

A 10-packet carton of Kent cigarettes, an American brand, was selling for around 30 per cent less than the retail price in Beijing.

An extraordinary man’: China’s tobacco and orange king, entrepreneur Chu Shijian, dies aged 91
“A few days ago, cigarette sellers on Little Red Book began trending. People in different places have stopped. I’m still going, one step at a time,” a vendor calling herself “24 hours online cigarette hawker” wrote on her WeChat timeline on Wednesday.
She was referring to media coverage of Little Red Book the e-commerce platform popular with influencers selling lifestyle products.
Little Red Book, whose investors include Alibaba, the owner of the South China Morning Post, has pledged to remove as many as 95,000 adverts and listings for tobacco products found on the app on Tuesday in response to a report by newspaper Beijing Youth Daily.
Searches for “cigarettes” or “women’s cigarettes” no longer yielded results on Thursday.
“We are working hard to remove related content. We ask users to promptly report cases and work together to maintain order on the platform,” Weibo’s PR director Mao Taotao said.
Imported cigarettes on sale on Weibo. Photo: Handout
Imported cigarettes on sale on Weibo. Photo: Handout

While advertising and online selling of tobacco are prohibited, e-cigarettes fall in a grey area. China’s tobacco agency has banned the sale of IQOS, a type of battery heated cigarette that delivers nicotine. However, regulations for non-nicotine vaporisers are less clear. These continue to be widely available online.

“In China, even toilet paper has standards. There are none for e-cigarettes,” Li Enze, the industrial law committee secretary for the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, said.

“I think there needs to be a total ban on the sale of e-cigarettes until standards and regulations are set.”

E-cigarettes and vaporisers come in a variety of flavours and shapes to target women and young people, which poses a serious problem according to Li.

Under-18s can easily purchase vaporisers online and can be induced to smoking the real thing, he said.

Two sets of standards for e-cigarettes have been considered by the Standardisation Administration of China since 2017.

However, both were proposed by organisations associated with the state tobacco monopoly, which Li deemed a conflict of interest.

Source: SCMP

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12/03/2019

U.S.’s Bolton says Pakistan committed to easing tensions with India

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House national security adviser John Bolton said on Monday Pakistan’s foreign minister has assured him Islamabad is committed to de-escalating tensions with India and dealing “firmly” with terrorists.

Bolton’s comments follow a Feb. 14 suicide bombing, claimed by Pakistan-based militants, which killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police.

“Spoke with Pakistani FM (Shah Mehmood) Qureshi to encourage meaningful steps against JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammed) and other terrorist groups operating from Pakistan,” Bolton said on Twitter.

“The FM assured me that Pakistan would deal firmly with all terrorists and will continue steps to deescalate tensions with India,” Bolton added.

Pakistan, which denies Indian accusations of aiding militant groups, last week announced a crackdown against all proscribed outfits.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry late on Monday said Qureshi informed Bolton “about the de-escalatory measures taken by Pakistan” in the wake of the aerial bombing missions carried out by both countries in late February.

Qureshi told Bolton that Pakistan’s strike in Kashmir on Feb. 27 was in self-defence and retaliation to India’s raid on its territory a day earlier. New Delhi said it hit a JeM training camp in Pakistan, but Islamabad denies any such camp exists.

The two countries fought an aerial dogfight over Kashmir on Feb. 27, and a couple of days later Pakistan returned a downed Indian pilot in a gesture that appeared to de-escalate the crisis.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, in a joint conference with Qureshi, commended Pakistan on Tuesday for returning the pilot and offering talks with India. But he also urged Islamabad to stamp out militant groups which attack neighbouring countries.

“We both agreed that cross-border terrorism has to be permanently stopped and there too there have been positive signs in the past few days that we welcome very much,” Maas said. “Ultimately it’s about fighting any kind of terrorism and extremism.”

Source: Reuters

10/03/2019

India and Pakistan: How the war was fought in TV studios

An Indian man watches live news channels broadcasting images of Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander pilot Abhinandan Varthaman returning to India from the India-Pakistan Wagah border in New Delhi on March 1, 2019.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionAn Indian man watches the news broadcasting images of the released Indian pilot

As tensions between India and Pakistan escalated following a deadly suicide attack last month, there was another battle being played out on the airwaves. Television stations in both countries were accused of sensationalism and partiality. But how far did they take it? The BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan in Delhi and Secunder Kermani in Islamabad take a look.

It was drama that was almost made for television.

The relationship between India and Pakistan – tense at the best of times – came to a head on 26 February when India announced it had launched airstrikes on militant camps in Pakistan’s Balakot region as “retaliation” for a suicide attack that had killed 40 troops in Indian-administered Kashmir almost two weeks earlier.

A day later, on 27 February, Pakistan shot down an Indian jet fighter and captured its pilot.

Abhinandan Varthaman was freed as a “peace gesture”, and Pakistan PM Imran Khan warned that neither country could afford a miscalculation, with a nuclear arsenal on each side.

Suddenly people were hooked, India’s TV journalists included.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he speaks during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) "Sankalp" rally in Patna in the Indian eastern state of Bihar on March 3, 2019.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionIndian PM Narendra Modi is accused of exploiting India-Pakistan hostilities for political gain

So were they more patriots than journalists?

Rajini Vaidyanathan: Indian television networks showed no restraint when it came to their breathless coverage of the story. Rolling news was at fever pitch.

The coverage often fell into jingoism and nationalism, with headlines such as “Pakistan teaches India a lesson”, “Dastardly Pakistan”, and “Stay Calm and Back India” prominently displayed on screens.

Some reporters and commentators called for India to use missiles and strike back. One reporter in south India hosted an entire segment dressed in combat fatigues, holding a toy gun.

And while I was reporting on the return of the Indian pilot at the international border between the two countries in the northern city of Amritsar, I saw a woman getting an Indian flag painted on her cheek. “I’m a journalist too,” she said, as she smiled at me in slight embarrassment.

Print journalist Salil Tripathi wrote a scathing critique of the way reporters in both India and Pakistan covered the events, arguing they had lost all sense of impartiality and perspective. “Not one of the fulminating television-news anchors exhibited the criticality demanded of their profession,” she said.

Media captionIndia and Pakistan’s ‘war-mongering’ media

Secunder Kermani: Shortly after shooting down at least one Indian plane last week, the Pakistani military held a press conference.

As it ended, the journalists there began chanting “Pakistan Zindabad” (Long Live Pakistan). It wasn’t the only example of “journalistic patriotism” during the recent crisis.

Two anchors from private channel 92 News donned military uniforms as they presented the news – though other Pakistani journalists criticised their decision.

But on the whole, while Indian TV presenters angrily demanded military action, journalists in Pakistan were more restrained, with many mocking what they called the “war mongering and hysteria” across the border.

In response to Indian media reports about farmers refusing to export tomatoes to Pakistan anymore for instance, one popular presenter tweeted about a “Tomatical strike” – a reference to Indian claims they carried out a “surgical strike” in 2016 during another period of conflict between the countries.

Media analyst Adnan Rehmat noted that while the Pakistani media did play a “peace monger as opposed to a warmonger” role, in doing so, it was following the lead of Pakistani officials who warned against the risks of escalation, which “served as a cue for the media.”

What were they reporting?

Rajini Vaidyanathan: As TV networks furiously broadcast bulletins from makeshift “war rooms” complete with virtual reality missiles, questions were raised not just about the reporters but what they were reporting.

Indian channels were quick to swallow the government version of events, rather than question or challenge it, said Shailaja Bajpai, media editor at The Print. “The media has stopped asking any kind of legitimate questions, by and large,” she said. “There’s no pretence of objectiveness.”

In recent years in fact, a handful of commentators have complained about the lack of critical questioning in the Indian media.

Indians celebrated on hearing news of the strikesImage copyrightAFP
Image captionIndians celebrated news of the strikes

“For some in the Indian press corps the very thought of challenging the ‘official version’ of events is the equivalent of being anti-national”, said Ms Bajpai. “We know there have been intelligence lapses but nobody is questioning that.”

Senior defence and science reporter Pallava Bagla agreed. “The first casualty in a war is always factual information. Sometimes nationalistic fervour can make facts fade away,” he said.

This critique isn’t unique to India, or even this period in time. During the 2003 Iraq war, western journalists embedded with their country’s militaries were also, on many occasions, simply reporting the official narrative.

Secunder Kermani: In Pakistan, both media and public reacted with scepticism to Indian claims about the damage caused by the airstrikes in Balakot, which India claimed killed a large number of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants in a training camp.

Hamid Mir, one of the most influential TV anchors in the country travelled to the area and proclaimed, “We haven’t seen any such (militant) infrastructure… we haven’t seen any bodies, any funerals.”

“Actually,” he paused, “We have found one body… this crow.” The camera panned down to a dead crow, while Mr Mir asked viewers if the crow “looks like a terrorist or not?”

There seems to be no evidence to substantiate Indian claims that a militant training camp was hit, but other journalists working for international outlets, including the BBC, found evidence of a madrassa, linked to JeM, near the site.

A cropped version of a satellite image shows a close-up of a madrasa near Balakot, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, March 4, 2019. Picture taken March 4, 2019.Image copyrightPLANET LABS INC./HANDOUT VIA REUTERS
Image captionThe satellite image shows a close-up of a madrassa near Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Paktunkhwa

A photo of a signpost giving directions to the madrassa even surfaced on social media. It described the madrassa as being “under the supervision of Masood Azhar”. Mr Azhar is the founder of JeM.

The signpost’s existence was confirmed by a BBC reporter and Al Jazeera, though by the time Reuters visited it had apparently been removed. Despite this, the madrassa and its links received little to no coverage in the Pakistani press.

Media analyst Adnan Rehmat told the BBC that “there was no emphasis on investigating independently or thoroughly enough” the status of the madrassa.

In Pakistan, reporting on alleged links between the intelligence services and militant groups is often seen as a “red line”. Journalists fear for their physical safety, whilst editors know their newspapers or TV channels could face severe pressure if they publish anything that could be construed as “anti-state”.

Who did it better: Khan or Modi?

Rajini Vaidyanathan: With a general election due in a few months, PM Narendra Modi continued with his campaign schedule, mentioning the crisis in some of his stump speeches. But he never directly addressed the ongoing tensions through an address to the nation or a press conference.

This was not a surprise. Mr Modi rarely holds news conference or gives interviews to the media. When news of the suicide attack broke, Mr Modi was criticised for continuing with a photo shoot.

Imran KhanImage copyrightAFP
Image captionImran Khan was praised for his measured approach

The leader of the main opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, dubbed him a “Prime Time Minister” claiming the PM had carried on filming for three hours. PM Modi has also been accused of managing his military response as a way to court votes.

At a campaign rally in his home state of Gujarat he seemed unflustered by his critics, quipping “they’re busy with strikes on Modi, and Modi is launching strikes on terror.”

Secunder Kermani: Imran Khan won praise even from many of his critics in Pakistan, for his measured approach to the conflict. In two appearances on state TV, and one in parliament, he appeared firm, but also called for dialogue with India.

His stance helped set the comparatively more measured tone for Pakistani media coverage.

Officials in Islamabad, buoyed by Mr Khan’s decision to release the captured Indian pilot, have portrayed themselves as the more responsible side, which made overtures for peace.

On Twitter, a hashtag calling for Mr Khan to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize was trending for a while. But his lack of specific references to JeM, mean internationally there is likely to be scepticism, at least initially, about his claims that Pakistan will no longer tolerate militant groups targeting India.

Source: The BBC

08/03/2019

Indian cricketers wear army camouflage caps as patriotism grips country

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian cricketers wore army camouflage-style caps in a match with Australia on Friday in solidarity with Indian paramilitary police killed in a militant attack by a Pakistan-based group and in an unusually strong display of patriotic fervour in sport.

The suicide bombing last month killed 40 in Indian-controlled Kashmir, a region also claimed by Pakistan. The attack prompted India to launch an air strike inside Pakistan, which responded with an aerial attack the next day.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has in recent days tried unsuccessfully to isolate Pakistan in the cricketing world. The International Cricket Council rejected India’s calls to boycott games against Pakistan, whose prime minister is former cricketing hero Imran Khan.

But there are still calls within India for the national team to pull out of a World Cup match against Pakistan in June in England.

“(Indian cricket) teams have expressed solidarity in the past but not this kind of public display of that solidarity,” Majumdar told Reuters.

“Sport has always been meshed with politics and people have often used it to make very strong points. This is yet another one. This is a peaceful way of expressing solidarity in a manner which I don’t see problematic at all.”

But Pakistani lawyer Abdullah Nizamani said on Twitter the BCCI and international cricket board should keep “sports away from petty politics”. Some Pakistanis even asked on social media if Indian cricketers would turn up for the World Cup match with Pakistan in military fatigues.

Nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence over Kashmir, which both sides claim in full but rule in part.

Source: Reuters

07/03/2019

In sensitive year for China, warnings against ‘erroneous thoughts’

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s ruling Communist Party is ramping up calls for political loyalty in a year of sensitive anniversaries, warning against “erroneous thoughts” as officials fall over themselves to pledge allegiance to President Xi Jinping and his philosophy.

This year is marked by some delicate milestones: 30 years since the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square; 60 years since the Dalai Lama fled from Tibet into exile; and finally, on Oct. 1, 70 years since the founding of Communist China.

Born of turmoil and revolution, the Communist Party came to power in 1949 on the back of decades of civil war in which millions died, and has always been on high alert for “luan”, or “chaos”, and valued stability above all else.

“This year is the 70th anniversary of the founding of new China,” Xi told legislators from Inner Mongolia on Tuesday, the opening day of the annual meeting of parliament. “Maintaining sustained, healthy economic development and social stability is a mission that is extremely arduous.”

Xi has tightened the party’s grip on almost every facet of government and life since assuming power in late 2012.

ROOTING OUT DISLOYALTY

The party has increasingly been making rooting out disloyalty and wavering from the party line a disciplinary offence to be enforced by its anti-corruption watchdog, whose role had ostensibly been to go after criminal acts such as bribery and lesser bureaucratic transgressions.

The graft buster said last month it would “uncover political deviation” in its political inspections this year of provincial governments and ministries.

Top graft buster Zhao Leji, in a January speech to the corruption watchdog, a full transcript of which the party released late February, used the word “loyalty” eight times.

“Set an example with your loyalty to the party,” Zhao said.

China has persistently denied its war on corruption is about political manoeuvring or Xi taking down his enemies. Xi told an audience in Seattle in 2015 that the anti-graft fight was no “House of Cards”-style power play, in a reference to the Netflix U.S. political drama.

The deeper fear for the party is some sort of unrest or a domestic or even international event fomenting a crisis that could end its rule.

Xi told officials in January they need to be on high alert for “black swan” events..

That same month the top law-enforcement official said China’s police must focus on withstanding “colour revolutions”, or popular uprisings, and treat the defence of China’s political system as central to their work.

The party has meanwhile shown no interest in political reform, and has been doubling down on the merits of the Communist Party, including this month rolling out English-language propaganda videos on state media-run Twitter accounts to laud “Chinese democracy”. Twitter remains blocked in China.

The official state news agency Xinhua said in an English-language commentary on Sunday that China was determined to stick to its political model and rejected Western-style democracy.
“The country began to learn about democracy a century ago, but soon found Western politics did not work here. Decades of turmoil and civil war followed,” it said.
Source: Reuters
04/03/2019

Chinese mother detained over bus driver attack after letting son urinate on bus

  • Police say woman told toddler to use a rubbish bin when he needed to go to the toilet then got into argument with driver after he called her ‘uncivilised’
  • Security camera footage shows her bashing on compartment door and grabbing the man’s coat as he is driving

Mother detained over bus driver attack after letting son urinate on bus

4 Mar 2019

The woman is seen in security camera footage grabbing the bus driver’s coat while he is behind the wheel. Photo: Weibo
The woman is seen in security camera footage grabbing the bus driver’s coat while he is behind the wheel. Photo: Weibo

A mother in central China has been detained after she allowed her two-year-old son to urinate in a rubbish bin on a bus then attacked the driver when he told her she was “uncivilised”.

Security camera footage of the incident in Dazhi, Hubei province on Saturday shows the woman supporting the toddler by the bin on the floor of the bus while he urinates in front of the other passengers.

She is then seen rushing up to the driver and arguing with him after he complains about her behaviour, bashing on the compartment door and grabbing the man’s coat as he is driving.

A police officer told news website PearVideo on Sunday that the woman, identified only by her surname Chen, said the boy needed to go to the toilet while they were on the bus so she took him over to the bin.

“The driver saw them and said she was uncivilised, and they got into an argument over it,” the officer said. “Chen became agitated – she hit the driver’s compartment door and reached around to attack him while he was driving.”

The driver, who was not identified, is seen in the security footage calmly pulling over and calling the police while the woman is attacking him.

Chen has been placed under criminal detention for posing a threat to public security and Dazhi police are investigating the case, according to the report.

It comes after a series of recent attacks on bus drivers in China, including an accident in October when an angry passenger who missed her stop assaulted the driver, causing the bus to veer off a bridge and crash into the Yangtze River in Chongqing, killing all 15 people on board.
A police investigation found that the 48-year-old woman had been fighting with the driver as he tried to steer the bus when the crash happened.

Reacting to the latest case, some social media users said they understood the mother’s situation, but it has angered others, who say she should have used a diaper or got off the bus at the next stop.

“Anyone might need to use the toilet [on a bus], especially a kid, but parents should take heed of the criticism – she was clearly in the wrong,” one person wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter.

There have been other cases in recent years of Chinese parents sparking anger for letting their children urinate in public – on the mainland and elsewhere. Last month, photos of a Chinese tourist allowing her son to pee on the floor of the Forbidden City in Beijing triggered a strong reaction on social media, with many people criticising the woman.
Source: SCMP
02/03/2019

Trump asks China to lift tariffs on U.S. farm products

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said he had asked China to immediately remove all tariffs on U.S. agricultural products because trade talks were progressing well.

He also delayed plans to impose 25 percent tariffs on Chinese goods on Friday, as previously scheduled.
“I have asked China to immediately remove all Tariffs on our agricultural products (including beef, pork, etc.) based on the fact that we are moving along nicely with Trade discussions,” Trump said on Twitter, pointing out that he had not raised tariffs on Chinese goods to 25 percent from 10 percent on March 1 as planned.
“This is very important for our great farmers – and me!” Trump said.
Farmers are a key constituency for Trump’s Republican Party, and the U.S. president’s trade war with China has had a heavy impact on them. Beijing imposed tariffs last year on imports of soybeans, grain sorghum, pork and other items, slashing shipments of American farm products to China.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said this week that U.S. trade negotiators had asked China to reduce tariffs on U.S. ethanol, but it was not immediately clear whether Beijing was willing to oblige.
Trump’s post on Twitter came several hours after the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said that it would delay the scheduled hike in tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

The notice, due to be published in the Federal Register next Tuesday, says it is “no longer appropriate” to raise the rates because of progress in negotiations since December 2018. The tariff would remain “at 10 percent until further notice.”

In a statement on Saturday, China said it welcomed the delay.

Speaking at a separate briefing in Beijing, a Chinese government official said both countries were working on the next steps, though he gave no details.

“China and the United States reaching a mutually-beneficial, win-win agreement as soon as possible is not only good for the two countries, but is also good news for the world economy,” said Guo Weimin, spokesman for the high profile but largely ceremonial advisory body to China’s parliament.

A tariff increase to 25 percent from 10 percent was initially scheduled for Jan. 1, but after productive conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Trump administration issued a 90-day extension of that deadline.

Trump had said on Sunday he would again delay the increase because of progress in the talks.

Source: Reuters

28/02/2019

Social media fake news fans tension between India and Pakistan

MUMBAI (Reuters) – With India and Pakistan standing on the brink of war this week, several false videos, pictures and messages circulated widely on social media, sparking anger and heightening tension in both countries.

The video of an injured pilot from a recent Indian air show and images from a 2005 earthquake have been taken out of context to attempt to mislead tens of millions on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and its messenger service, WhatsApp.

The spurt of fake news comes after New Delhi this week launched an air strike inside Pakistan, the first such move in over more than decades. India says the attack destroyed a militant camp run by the group that claimed responsibility for killing 40 paramilitary troops in Indian Kashmir on Feb 14. Pakistan denied there had been any casualties in the attack.
Tensions between the nuclear-armed nations peaked with both sides claiming they’d shot down each other’s fighter jets on Wednesday, and Pakistan capturing an Indian pilot.
As claims and counter claims poured in from both sides, social media became a hotbed of unverified news, pictures and video clips, according to fact checkers.
Partik Sinha, co-founder of one such fact-checking website, Alt News, said it had received requests to verify news from journalists and people on social media.
“It’s been crazy since Tuesday. There is so much out there that we know is fake, but we’re not able to fact-check all of it,” Sinha said.
A Facebook group that says it supports Amit Shah, the chief of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), posted images on Tuesday of the alleged destruction caused inside Pakistan by the Indian air strike.
Three photos posted on the group page showed debris from a destroyed building and bodies and have been shared hundreds of times.
Alt News said the pictures were from a 2005 earthquake in Kashmir.
India, where roughly 450 million people have smartphones, is already struggling with a huge fake news problem with misinformation having led to mass beatings and mob lynchings.
Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter have begun to take steps to combat the issue, but as India heads toward general elections, due by May, fake news is getting more intensely politicized.
Another message circulated on a WhatsApp group supporting the BJP claimed the Indian jet was not shot down, but crashed due to a technical snag and blamed the opposition Congress party for failing to upgrade the jets during its tenure.
Similarly in Pakistan, a purported video of a second captured Indian pilot was being widely circulated. Fact-checking website Boom noted the clip was from an air show in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru, where two planes crashed on Feb. 19.
“Everyone has a role to play in ensuring misinformation doesn’t spread on the internet and we encourage people who use Twitter not to share information unless they can verify that it’s true,” a spokeswoman for Twitter said.
Source: Reuters
23/02/2019

Trump says he’s inclined to extend China trade deadline and meet Xi soon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Friday there was “a very good chance” the United States would strike a deal with China to end their trade war and that he was inclined to extend his March 1 tariff deadline and meet soon with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“I think that we both feel there’s a very good chance a deal will happen,” Trump said.

Liu agreed there had been “great progress”.

“From China, we believe that (it) is very likely that it will happen and we hope that ultimately we’ll have a deal. And the Chinese side is ready to make our utmost effort,” he said at the White House.

The Republican president said he probably would meet with Xi in March in Florida to decide on the most important terms of a trade deal.

 

Optimism that the two sides will find a way to end the trade war lifted stocks, especially technology shares. The S&P 500 stock index reached its highest closing level since Nov. 8. Oil prices rose to their highest since mid-November, with Brent crude reaching a high of $67.73 a barrel. [.N] [O/R]

CURRENCY AGREEMENT

Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the two sides had reached an agreement on currency. Trump declined to provide details, but U.S. officials long have expressed concerns that China’s yuan is undervalued, giving China a trade advantage and partly offsetting U.S. tariffs.

Announcement of a pact aimed at limiting yuan depreciation was putting “the currency cart before the trade horse,” but would likely be positive for Asian emerging market currencies, said Alan Ruskin, global head of currency strategy at Deutsche Bank in New York.

“How can you agree to avoid excessive Chinese yuan depreciation or volatility if you have not made an agreement on trade that could have huge FX implications?” Ruskin asked in a note to clients.

In a letter to Trump read aloud by an aide to Liu at the White House, Xi called on negotiators to work hard to strike a deal that benefits both country.

Trump said a deal with China may extend beyond trade to encompass Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp.

The Justice Department has accused Huawei of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran and of stealing robotic technology from T-Mobile US Inc.

Chinese peer ZTE was last year prevented from buying essential components from U.S. firms after pleading guilty to similar charges, crippling its operations.

MEMORANDUMS NO MORE

Trump appeared at odds with his top negotiator, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, on the preliminary terms that his team is outlining in memorandums of understanding for a deal with China. Trump said he did not like MOUs because they are short term, and he wanted a long-term deal.

“I don’t like MOUs because they don’t mean anything,” Trump said. “Either you are going to make a deal or you’re not.”

Lighthizer responded testily that MOUs were binding, but that he would never use the term again.

Reuters reported exclusively on Wednesday that the two sides were drafting the language for six MOUs covering the most difficult issues in the trade talks that would require structural economic change in China.

Negotiators have struggled this week to agree on specific language within those memorandums to address tough U.S. demands, according to sources familiar with the talks. The six memorandums include cyber theft, intellectual property rights, services, agriculture and non-tariff barriers to trade, including subsidies.

An industry source briefed on the talks said both sides have narrowed differences on intellectual property rights, market access and narrowing a nearly $400 billion U.S. trade deficit with China. But bigger differences remain on changes to China’s treatment of state-owned enterprises, subsidies, forced technology transfers and cyber theft of U.S. trade secrets.

Lighthizer pushed back when questioned on forced technology transfers, saying the two sides made “a lot of progress” on the issue, but did not elaborate.

The United States has said foreign firms in China are often coerced to transfer their technology to Chinese firms if they want to operate there. China denies this.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Friday urged the U.S. government to ensure the deal was comprehensive and addressed core issues, rather than one based on more Chinese short-term purchases of goods.

China has pledged to increase purchases of agricultural produce, energy, semiconductors and industrial goods to reduce its trade surplus with the United States.

China committed to buying an additional 10 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans on Friday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Twitter. China bought about 32 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans in 2017. The commitments are a “show of good faith by the Chinese” and “indications of more good news to come,” Perdue wrote.

China was the top buyer of U.S. soybeans before the trade war, but Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans slashed business that had been worth $12 billion annually.

Source: Reuters

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