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The Escalating Trade War Between China And U.S. Calls A Truce

Xi also expressed sympathies for the passing of the former president, saying Bush, who also was once the U.S. envoy to China.

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President Donald Trump with China's President Xi Jinping during their bilateral meeting, Dec. 1, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. VOA
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The world’s two largest economies have agreed to a small truce in their escalating trade war after a meeting between presidents U.S Donald Trump and China Xi Jinping following the G-20 summit.

“This was an amazing and productive meeting with unlimited possibilities for both the United States and China,” Trump said in a statement released as he flew back to the United States from Argentina on Air Force One. “It is my great honor to be working with President Xi.”

Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he flew back to Washington, “It’s an incredible deal. What I’ll be doing is holding back on tariffs. China will be opening up, China will be getting rid of tariffs. China will be buying massive amounts of products from us.”

Trump agreed that he will leave the tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese products at the 10 percent rate, and not raise it to 25 percent, for now, as he has threatened to do come Jan. 1, according to a White House statement.

USA, China, Trade War
Mike Starkey offloads soybeans from his combine as he harvests his crops in Brownsburg, Indiana, Sept. 21, 2018. China has agree to immediately U.S. agricultural products again in a trade war truce struck Dec. 1, 2018. VOA

“China will agree to purchase a not yet agreed upon, but very substantial, amount of agricultural, energy, industrial and other product from the United States to reduce the trade imbalance between our two countries,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. “China has agreed to start purchasing agricultural product from our farmers immediately.”

Trump and Xi also “agreed to immediately begin negotiations on structural changes with respect to forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, services and agriculture, according to the White House statement. “Both parties agree that they will endeavor to have this transaction completed within the next 90 days. If at the end of this period of time, the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the 10 percent tariffs will be raised to 25 percent.”

Some of the details were echoed by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who confirmed that both countries will step up negotiations.

The news is likely to bring cheer Monday to global financial markets, which have been sensitive to the escalating trade battles between China and the United States.

USA, China, Trade War
Plastic bags of fentanyl are displayed at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection area at the International Mail Facility at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. VOA

Fentanyl designation

At the dinner, Xi also agreed to designate fentanyl as a controlled substance, meaning that people selling the powerful opioid to the United States will be subject to China’s maximum penalty under the law.

The White House is calling the Chinese president’s decision a “wonderful humanitarian gesture.”

Trump, sitting across from Xi at a long banquet table, described their relationship as “incredible” and predicted that would mean “we’ll probably end up getting something that’s good for China and good for the United States.”

In his remarks, the Chinese president noted, “it’s been a long time since our previous meeting and a lot of things have taken place.”

Xi added, “Only with cooperation between us can we serve the interest of world peace and prosperity.”

TradeWar, China, USA
Many major business leaders in both the United States and China had hoped for some sort of truce.

G-20 summit concludes

The 2½-hour meal, which was moved up an hour earlier than its original start time following the conclusion of the G-20 leaders’ meeting here, included a group of top officials from both sides.

Among those at the table for the United States: Trade policy adviser Peter Navarro, seen as the most hawkish member of Trump’s team when it comes to economic issues with China. The other key attendees for the U.S., according to the White House, were Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, National Security Adviser John Bolton, the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner (who is a senior adviser) and Larry Kudlow, assistant to the president for economic policy.

Fears of no progress

Many major business leaders in both the United States and China had hoped for some sort of truce or partial deal in what is seen as an escalating trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

Despite months of complaints by the United States and the U.S. imposing tariffs on about $250 billion worth of Chinese goods, Beijing “has not fundamentally alerted its unfair, unreasonable, and market-distorting practices,” according to a report issued last week by Lighthizer.

China, USA, Trade War
U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping participate in a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. VOA

Observers feared that if no progress was made at the Trump-Xi dinner, the U.S. president would make good on his threat to double the amount of Chinese goods facing punitive taxes, and escalate tariffs to a 25 percent level at the start of the new year.

China, in response, had been threatening to impose taxes on an additional 5,000 types of American imports worth about $60 billion.

WTO reform

“I think the worst of it is that the conflict between China and the U.S. is again showing the limits of multilateral institutions, in particular the World Trade Organization,” Roberto Bouzas, an international relations and economics professor at the Universidad de San Andres, told VOA.

In its communique Saturday at the conclusion of the leaders’ summit, the G-20 called for reform of the WTO to improve its functioning and said the group would review progress made by the trade organization at next year’s summit in Japan.

“For the first time ever, the G-20 recognized the WTO is currently falling short of meeting its objectives and that it’s in need of reform,” a U.S. official, speaking on condition of not being named, told reporters.

China, USA, Trade war
Secretary Kerry Touts Virtues of 10-Year U.S.-China Business and Tourism Visas Before Presenting First Documents in Beijing, flickr

“We’ll see what reactions we get in the next few months,” to the WTO reform call in the communique, G-20 host Mauricio Macri, the president of Argentina, told reporters, adding, “there is clearly a need for dispute mechanisms that are more agile.”

No press conference

Earlier in the day, Trump canceled a planned news conference, saying the timing was not right because of the death of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush at the age of 94.

“He was a terrific guy and he’ll be missed. He lived a full life and an exemplary life,” Trump said of the late president. He did not respond to a reporter’s question about whether he regrets his past criticism of the 41st president, and his son, George W. Bush, who was the 43rd president.

“The fact that we lost a president really puts a damper on it,” Trump said of Saturday evening’s dinner.

At the table, Trump announced his plane would fly to Houston, in the state of Texas, after the return of Air Force One from Argentina, to transport Bush’s casket to Washington.

Also Read: USA Finally votes On Tuesday To Render Decision On Trump

During the meal, Xi also expressed sympathies for the passing of the former president, saying Bush, who also was once the U.S. envoy to China, had “made many contributions to U.S.-China friendship.”

Xi, according to the White House, also told Trump he is open to approving the previously unapproved $44 billion bid by American semiconductor and telecommunication equipment manufacturer Qualcomm to purchase Dutch semiconductor maker NXP should the deal again be presented to him.

The acquisition collapsed four months ago after Chinese regulators expressed anti-trust concerns. (VOA)

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U.S. Welcomes Pakistan’s Actions Towards Peace in Afghanistan

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan

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Imran Khan, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Pakistan"s Prime Minister Imran Khan is seen during talks in Beijing, China, VOA

The United States said Saturday it welcomes actions Pakistan is taking to promote a negotiated solution to the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

The acknowledgement came a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced his country has arranged another round of Washington’s peace talks with the Afghan Taliban scheduled for Monday.

“The United States welcomes any actions by the Pakistani government to promote greater cooperation, including fostering negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other Afghans,” a U.S. embassy spokesperson in Kabul told VOA.

US negotiator

U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, has met, and will continue to meet, with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, the spokesperson added.

Neither Khan nor the U.S. spokesperson have disclosed the possible venue for the upcoming meeting with Taliban officials.

Some Afghan sources say Monday’s meeting will take place in Islamabad, but no official confirmation is available.

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U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

Khalilzad, who is visiting regional countries to gather support for Afghan peace talks, is to lead the U.S. delegation in talks with insurgent representatives. This will not be the first time Khalilzad has met with the Taliban.

Since taking office in September, the special U.S. envoy has held two publicly known rounds of preliminary discussions with insurgent negotiators in Qatar, where the Taliban runs its so-called political office. The talks have been for the sake of talks, according to insurgent and other sources aware of the meetings.

Trump’s letter to Khan

U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month wrote a formal letter to Khan asking for his help to bring the Taliban to the table for negotiations. A day later, Khalilzad visited Islamabad where he met with Khan and his military chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, to follow-up on Trump’s request, Pakistani officials say.

Speaking in northwestern city of Peshawar on Friday, Khan said the U.S. has changed its tune by requesting help instead of saying Islamabad is not doing enough, as U.S. officials have previously insisted.

“By the grace of Allah, the dialogue is now happening inshallah [God willing] on the 17th [Khan did not mention the month] and Pakistan has facilitated the talks between America and the Taliban,” Khan said. He did not share further details.

taliban, afghanistan
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, right, head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar, takes part in the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

Khan recounted Friday that critics used to mock him as “Taliban Khan” for saying the Afghan war could not be ended without political negotiations but now all key stakeholders are jointly working to pursue a political settlement to end the violence in Afghanistan.

“If peace were achieved, God willing, Peshawar will change and become a hub of commerce and tourism, as things around the 2,500 years old living city are likely to change,” Khan said Friday.

Ambassador Khalilzad is 13 days into an 18-day visit to the region. He has traveled to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belgium and plans to visit the U.A.E. and Qatar.

Withdrawal an issue

Pakistani officials privy to the U.S. interaction with the Taliban have told VOA that until now no progress has been achieved because the insurgents adamantly demand “a date or timeframe” for all foreign troops to withdraw from Afghanistan before the Taliban decides to participate in an intra-Afghan peace process.

Also Read: What to Make of Taliban’s Continued Rare Silence on Ghani’s Peace Offer? 

U.S. officials have long maintained Taliban leaders are sheltering in Pakistan with covert support from the country’s intelligence agency. Washington has been urging Islamabad to use its influence to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan and continue to pose serious battlefield challenges for U.S.-backed Afghan security forces. (VOA)