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U.S. Donald Trump And China Xi Jinping To Meet In Argentina

In Trump's "America First" rhetoric and persistent criticism of the damaging effect he says Chinese trade practices have on America.

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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
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U.S. President Donald Trump and China ‘s President Xi Jinping are expected to meet on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Argentina this week for what some see as the most important meeting in years between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies.

After months of bitter bickering between their governments over trade and security that has raised questions about the very future of a complex but economically pivotal relationship, the two leaders took a step back from the edge with an ice-breaking telephone call early this month.

They expressed optimism about resolving their damaging trade war ahead of the meeting on Saturday, but there have been few tangible signs of progress. They will be in Buenos Aires for the summit of the leaders of the 20 major economies.

China, USA
(Representational Image) FILE – In this April 29, 2015 file photo, visitors use a laptop computer at a display booth as a security guard stands nearby at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing. A coalition of international business groups has appealed to China in a letter dated Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016 to change proposed cybersecurity rules they warn will harm trade and isolate the country. VOA

Even so, differences among Trump’s top advisers over China policy and his personal unpredictability and fondness for headline-grabbing moments mean it remains anyone’s guess what the Trump-Xi meeting might bring.

What caused the trade war?

Trump railed against the massive U.S. trade deficit with China during his 2016 election campaign and after a year in office, with no sign of the gap narrowing, the U.S. president attacked the issue head-on.

Trump has imposed tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports to force concessions on a list of demands that would fundamentally change the two countries’ terms of trade. China has responded with tariffs of its own on U.S. goods, targeting farm states that are an important part of Trump’s political base.

Trump has threatened tariffs on another $267 billion worth of Chinese products, including cell phones, computers, clothing and footwear. And 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods are scheduled to rise to a more prohibitive 25 percent on Jan. 1, 2019 unless a truce is agreed.

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

Washington wants Beijing to act to reduce a $375 billion trade surplus by opening its economy to foreign competition, increasing protection for U.S. intellectual property, ending joint venture requirements that lead to technology transfers and cutting subsidies to state-owned industries.

It particularly wants to prevent exports to China of advanced technologies in areas such as artificial intelligence and robotics and has tightened rules on foreign investment in 27 sensitive sectors to stop Chinese deals.

The U.S. Justice Department recently charged China state-owned Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co with conspiring to steal trade secrets in what is expected to be the first of several similar cases to attempt to stop the flow of intellectual property into China.

U.S. officials say China has delivered a written response to U.S. demands for wide-ranging trade reforms, but they remain doubtful this will be enough to bring about a breakthrough when Xi and Trump meet.

How serious is the US-China security rivalry?

In the past 20 years China has grown rapidly to become arguably Washington’s biggest security rival, with defense spending that now far outstrips former Cold War rival Russia. A hundred years after the end of World War One, some academics have even warned of another “Thucydides Trap” – a theory that sees a risk of rivalry between a rising and an established power spiraling into open conflict.

China
Chinese censors have erased online debate over US-China trade negotiations as the two countries appeared to back away from a trade war.

Recent years have seen a steady uptick in tensions, punctuated by U.S. naval and air patrols challenging China’s extensive claims in the South China Sea and U.S. warship movements through the highly sensitive Taiwan Strait.

While the two sides have taken care to maintain military-to-military contacts, close encounters have raised fears that an accidental clash could escalate into an unexpected conflict – particularly over Taiwan, which Beijing considers a wayward province and a “red line” not to be crossed.

Trump added new uncertainty when he said the United States would quit a Cold-War era treaty with Russia that has prevented Washington from stationing ground-based intermediate-range missiles in Asia as well as Europe.

In what was billed as a major policy speech on Oct. 4, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence escalated Washington’s trade-driven pressure campaign, highlighting Chinese military and industrial espionage activity and accusing China of “malign” efforts to undermine Trump in the Nov. 6 mid-term congressional elections. He offered no concrete evidence of that.

China
Video: US-China Trade Talks End in an Impasse. (VOA)

Is the current trend reversible?

White House insiders say there remain substantial differences within the Trump administration over how far to push China.

Also Read: U.N. Food And Agriculture Organisation Renews Its Policy To Achieve ‘Zero Hunger’

This division groups anti-China hardliner and trade adviser Peter Navarro, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and those who favor a complete reevaluation of the relationship on one side. On the other are pragmatists led by White House chief economist Larry Kudlow and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, concerned about the harm deepening friction could do to the U.S. economy and markets.

In Trump’s “America First” rhetoric and persistent criticism of the damaging effect he says Chinese trade practices have on America, he has appeared to favor Navarro’s school of thought. But he has also shown himself very aware of the immediately positive effects any indication of an improved mood with Beijing can have on U.S. financial markets and his ratings for handling of the economy at a time when he is under fire on other domestic fronts. (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.

USA, afghanistan
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)