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Washington’s Decision To End Iran Oil Waivers, Will Not Impact U.S. China Trade Talks

"The smart thing would be to remove the tariffs on all of the parts and components, and perhaps on some consumer goods. It seems likely to get that compromise,"

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Washington’s decision to end Iran oil waivers to China will not have a negative impact on the latest trade talks between two countries. VOA

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Washington’s decision to end Iran oil waivers to China will not have a negative impact on the latest trade talks between the world’s two leading economies.

“We have had lots of talks with China about this issue. I’m confident that the trade talks will continue and run their natural course,” Pompeo told an audience in Washington on Monday.

China is Iran’s largest oil buyer.

Pompeo added the U.S. would ensure the global oil markets are adequately supplied.

Last Monday, the United States announced it was ending waivers on sanctions to countries that import Iranian oil, including China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey. Since the sanctions were reintroduced, Italy, Greece and Taiwan have halted their Iranian oil imports.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Beijing on Tuesday, for the latest round of negotiations. The two sides will discuss intellectual property, forced technology transfer, non-tariff barriers, agriculture, and other issues.

Vice Premier Liu will then lead a Chinese delegation to Washington for additional talks on May 8.

China
There has to be something for China. On the other hand, I guess I will be surprised if the U.S. removed all of the tariffs because clearly, the USTR team would like to keep at least some of them in place. VOA

Washington and Beijing have held several rounds this year to resolve a trade war that began in 2018 when President Donald Trump imposed punitive tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports. He has been trying to compel Beijing to change its trade practices. China retaliated with tariff increases on $110 billion of U.S. exports.

Positive tone

The U.S. and China have struck a positive tone ahead of this week’s talks in Beijing, aimed at ending the trade war, as both countries work toward an agreement.

“We’re doing well on trade, we’re doing well with China,” President Trump told reporters last week.

In Beijing, Chinese officials said that “tangible progress” has been achieved.

“Both sides are also maintaining communication. We believe that both sides’ trade delegations can work together, meet each other halfway and work hard to reach a mutually beneficial agreement,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said last week.

As the United States and China appear close to reaching a negotiated settlement over trade disputes, a group of American business and retailers has called for a “full and immediate removal of all added tariffs” on Chinese goods in a deal, saying anything less would be a “loss for the American people.”

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“Americans have paid over $21 billion in taxes due to the imposition of new tariffs,” said a letter to President Trump April 22.
Pixabay

Business groups from “Americans for Free Trade” have asked the Trump administration to “fully eliminate tariffs” on Chinese goods, saying tariffs are taxes that American businesses and consumers pay.

“Americans have paid over $21 billion in taxes due to the imposition of new tariffs,” said a letter to President Trump April 22.

Some experts say the administration lacks confidence in China’s enforcement of a trade deal, and predict some punitive tariffs are likely to remain.

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“I cannot imagine China accepting a deal where all the tariffs stay in place. I don’t see how [Chinese President] Xi Jinping can take that to his people. There has to be something for China. On the other hand, I guess I will be surprised if the U.S. removed all of the tariffs because clearly, the USTR team would like to keep at least some of them in place,” David Dollar, Brookings Institution’s senior fellow, told VOA Mandarin.

“The smart thing would be to remove the tariffs on all of the parts and components, and perhaps on some consumer goods. It seems likely to get that compromise,” he added. (VOA)

Next Story

China- Top Contributor in Global Warming

China is the leader in coal and clean energy and is the top emitter of greenhouse gases

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Climate China Coal
In this photo, smoke and steam rise from a coal processing plant that produces carbon black, an ingredient in steel manufacturing, in Hejin in central China. VOA

As world leaders gather in Spain to discuss how to slow the warming of the planet, a spotlight falls on China — the top emitter of greenhouse gases.

China burns about half the coal used globally each year. Between 2000 and 2018, its annual carbon emissions nearly tripled, and it now accounts for about 30% of the world’s total. Yet it’s also the leading market for solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles, and it manufactures about two-thirds of solar cells installed worldwide.

“We are witnessing many contradictions in China’s energy development,” said Kevin Tu, a Beijing-based fellow with the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. “It’s the largest coal market and the largest clean energy market in the world.”

That apparent paradox is possible because of the sheer scale of China’s energy demands.

But as China’s economy slows to the lowest level in a quarter century — around 6% growth, according to government statistics — policymakers are doubling down on support for coal and other heavy industries, the traditional backbones of China’s energy system and economy. At the same time, the country is reducing subsidies for renewable energy.

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A solar panel installation is seen in Ruicheng County in central China. VOA

At the annual United Nations climate summit, this year in Madrid, government representatives will put the finishing touches on implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, which set a goal to limit future warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Nations may decide for themselves how to achieve it.

China had previously committed to shifting its energy mix to 20% renewables, including nuclear and hydroelectric energy. Climate experts generally agree that the initial targets pledged in Paris will not be enough to reach the goal, and next year nations are required to articulate more ambitious targets.

Hopes that China would offer to do much more are fading.

Recent media reports and satellite images suggest that China is building or planning to complete new coal power plants with total capacity of 148 gigawatts — nearly equal to the entire coal-power capacity of the European Union within the next few years, according to an analysis by Global Energy Monitor, a San Francisco-based nonprofit.

Separately, investment in China’s renewable energy dropped almost 40 percent in the first half of 2019 compared with the same period last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a research organization. The government slashed subsidies for solar energy.

Last week in Beijing, China’s vice minister of ecology and environment told reporters that non-fossil-fuel sources already account for 14.3% of the country’s energy mix. He did not indicate that China would embrace more stringent targets soon.

“We are still faced with challenges of developing our economy, improving people’s livelihood,” Zhao Yingmin said.

China is alternately cast as the world’s worst climate villain or its potential clean-energy savior, but both superlatives are somewhat misplaced.

As a fast-growing economy, it was always inevitable that China’s energy demands would climb steeply. The only question was whether the country could power a sufficiently large portion of its economy with renewables to curb emissions growth.

Many observers took hope from a brief dip in China’s carbon emissions between 2014 and 2016, as well as Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s statement in 2017 that China had “taken a driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change.”

Renewed focus on coal

Today the country’s renewed focus on coal comes as a disappointment.

China Pollution
The pollution in China is at extreme levels. VOA

“Now there’s a sense that rather than being a leader, China is the one that is out of step,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Helsinki. He notes that several developed countries — including Germany, South Korea and the United States — are rapidly reducing their reliance on coal power.

Fossil fuels such as coal, gasoline and natural gas release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, trapping heat and changing the climate. Coal is the biggest culprit.

Last year, coal consumption in the United States hit the lowest level in nearly 40 years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

One place to consider the rise, pause and rise again of China’s coal sector is Shanxi province — a vast mountainous region in central China.

Shanxi is the heart of China’s traditional coal country, dotted with large mines, but also the site of some of the country’s largest solar and wind-power projects, according to state media.

During most of the past 30 years of rapid economic growth, the coal business boomed in Shanxi and nearby provinces. As China’s cities and industries expanded, coal supplied much of that power, and China surpassed the U.S. as the world’s top carbon emitter in 2006.

But after climbing sharply for two decades, China’s emissions stalled around 2013 and then declined slightly in 2015 and 2016, according to Global Carbon Budget, which tracks emissions worldwide. This dip came as Chinese leaders declared a “war on pollution” and suspended the construction of dozens of planned coal power plants, including some in Shanxi.

At the same time, the government required many existing coal operators to install new equipment in smokestacks to remove sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and other hazardous substances. About 80% of coal plants now have scrubbers, said Alvin Lin, Beijing-based China climate and energy policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit.

Climate change China
This coal processing plant in China produces toxic air pollutants. VOA

As a result, the air quality in many Chinese cities, including Beijing, improved significantly between 2013 and 2017. Residents long accustomed to wearing face masks and running home air-filter machines enjoyed a reprieve of more “blue sky days,” as low-pollution days are known in China.

Annual levels of PM 2.5 — a tiny but dangerous pollutant — dropped by roughly a third across China between 2013 and 2017, from 61.8 to 42 micrograms per cubic meter, according to scientists at Beijing’s Tsinghua University and other institutions. They made the report in November in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal.

“That’s a big improvement, although in terms of safe air quality, we’re still not there yet,” Lin said. China’s pollution levels are still well above standards set by the World Health Organization.

While these retrofitted coal plants emit fewer pollutants that harm human health, the scrubbers do not reduce greenhouse gases. “The new plants are good for air quality, but you still have all that carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere,” Lin said.

Carbon emissions rising

In the past three years, China’s carbon emissions have begun to rise again, according to Global Carbon Budget.

That trend was evident in the first half of 2019, when China’s carbon emissions from fossil fuels and concrete production rose 4%, compared with the same period last year, according to Myllyvirta’s preliminary analysis of Chinese government data.

The coming winter in Beijing may see a return of prolonged smog, as authorities loosen environmental controls on heavy industry — in part to compensate for other slowing sectors in the economy. Cement and steel production remain both energy intensive and heavily polluting.

Permits for new coal plants proliferated after regulatory authority was briefly devolved from Beijing to provincial governments, which see construction projects and coal operations as boosts to local economies and tax bases, said Ted Nace, executive director of Global Energy Monitor.

“It’s as though a boa constructor swallowed a giraffe, and now we’re watching that bulge move through the system,” said Nace. In China, it takes about three years to build a coal plant.

In November, Premier Li Keqiang gave a speech to policymakers emphasizing the importance of domestic coal to energy security.

But because China’s coal-power expansion is growing faster than energy demand, overcapacity “is a serious concern now,” said Columbia University’s Tu.

And once new infrastructure is built, it’s hard to ignore.

People in China
The highest red alert was issued for heavy smog in several cities in China. VOA

“It will be politically difficult to tear down a brand-new coal plant that’s employing people and supporting a mining operation. It will make it more difficult for China to transition away from coal,” Nace said.

Reliance on China

The world has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius. All scenarios envisioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for holding planetary warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius involve steep worldwide reductions in coal-power generation.

In that effort, other countries rely on China to manufacture most of the solar panels installed worldwide, according to an analysis in the journal Science co-authored by Jonas Nahm, an energy expert at Johns Hopkins University.

“If we have any chance to meet climate targets, we have to do a lot by 2030 — and we won’t be able to do it without China’s clean-energy supply chain,” Nahm said.

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China’s manufacturing helped bring down the cost of solar panels by 80% between 2008 and 2013. Prices for wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries also dropped significantly, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“China has a really mixed record. On the one hand, it’s seen rapidly rising emissions over the past two decades,” Nahm said. “On the other hand, it’s shown it’s able to innovate around manufacturing — and make new energy technologies available at scale, faster and cheaper.” (VOA)