Big Power actions in East and West | Daily News


Big Power actions in East and West

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He said the agreement he signed with US President Donald Trump ‘considerably addressed the concerns of both sides.’
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He said the agreement he signed with US President Donald Trump ‘considerably addressed the concerns of both sides.’

Key international developments this week saw major actions, economic and political, in the leading world powers the United States and China, and moves for a far-reaching political change in the other world power, Russia.

The US and China signed an agreement to ease a trade war, the US Congress submitted its impeachment resolution on President Trump to the Senate for a later trial, and Russia’s government resigned on moves to have major constitutional changes as proposed by President Vladimir Putin. These factors will have a major impact on world economic affairs, and political developments in the US and Russia, that will also influence international affairs.

The trade agreement between the US and China is aimed at easing the trade war between the two major economic powers that have rattled markets in both countries and weighed on the global economy.

US President Donald Trump said the pact would be “transformative” for the US economy, and Chinese leaders called it a “win-win” deal that would help foster better relations between the two countries. China has pledged to boost US imports by $200bn above 2017 levels and strengthen intellectual property rules. In exchange, the US has agreed to halve some of the new tariffs it has imposed on Chinese products.

The US and China have engaged in a tit-for-tat tariff war since 2018, which has led to extra import taxes being levied on more than $450bn worth of traded goods. The ongoing dispute has disrupted trade flows, dampened global economic growth and unnerved investors.

Under the new deal, China has committed to increasing its US imports boosting purchases of agriculture by $32bn, manufacturing by $78bn, energy by $52bn and services by $38bn. China has also agreed to take more action against counterfeiting and make it easier for companies to pursue legal action over trade secret theft.

The US will maintain up to 25% tariffs on an estimated $360bn worth of Chinese goods; China, which has levied new tariffs on $100bn worth of US products, is expected to maintain the majority of them.

Although many aspects of the US-China trade dealings remain unresolved, this agreement is seen as an important political move for President Trump for the coming presidential election later this year, as it will ease many burdens on the cost of imported consumer goods in the US.

At the signing ceremony in Washington, President Trump said: “Together we are righting the wrongs of the past and delivering a future of economic justice and security” … “Far beyond even this deal, it’s going to lead to an even stronger world peace.”

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who signed the deal on behalf of China, said the agreement was rooted in “equality and mutual respect”. “China has developed a political system and a model of economic development that suits its national reality,”...”This doesn’t mean that China and the US cannot work together. On the contrary, our two countries share enormous common commercial interests.”

Trump Impeachment move

While President Trump got political mileage with the US-China Trade Pact, he faces the impeachment move on him by the US House of Representatives, which has passed a resolution to submit articles of impeachment against him to the Senate for a trial.

The resolution passed largely along party lines by 228 votes to 193. A team of Democratic lawmakers will prosecute against Trump, while the Senate that has a Republican - pro-Trump majority - will decide whether to convict the President.

House Speaker Mrs Pelosi said: “Today we will make history. When the managers walk down the hall, we will cross a threshold in history - delivering articles of impeachment against the president of the United States for abuse of power and obstruction of the House.”

The trial in the Senate is expected to begin next week. There are reports of new evidence on President Trump’s actions in violation of the law that are to be presented at the hearings.

The Republican majority in the Senate is expected to ensure he will not be found guilty, with the Senate members being the jury. However, the impeachment trial could bring disadvantages to him in the presidential election campaign that is now moving ahead, with Democrats having debates to select the main opponent to President Trump.

Donald Trump will be the third US President to face an impeachment move. The US Congress has so far not convicted any President of violations of the law. Trump will also keep this record, but after a prolonged hearing and much evidence against him being made public.

Russia: power transfer

Russia’s government has resigned this week, hours after President Vladimir Putin proposed sweeping constitutional changes, seeking to transfer power from the presidency to the parliament or Duma.

Mr. Putin is due to step down in 2024 when his fourth term of office comes to an end. The government’s resignation comes amidst speculation that the new constitutional moves would prolong his stay in power or give him a stronger hold on power.

Constitutional reforms included giving the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, “greater responsibility” for the appointment of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Currently, the president appoints the prime minister, and the Duma approves the decision.

Mr. Putin also suggested an increased role for an advisory body called the State Council. The council, which is currently chaired by Mr. Putin, comprises the heads of Russia’s federal regions. Mr. Putin said it had proved to be “highly effective”.

Other measures in the proposed constitutional changes include: Limiting the supremacy of international law, amending the rules that limit presidents to two consecutive terms, strengthening laws that prohibit presidential candidates who have held foreign citizenship or foreign residency permits.

The proposed reforms would make Putin’s successor as president less powerful, by redistributing power in such a way that the Russian parliament and the office of prime minister will have greater clout.

In the last two years, Putin’s approval ratings have taken a dip, partly a result of unpopular pension reforms and a stagnating economy. 2019 was also riddled with street protests over municipal elections.

President Putin is the second longest-serving Russian leader, as President and Prime Minister, since Josef Stalin’s 29-year rule. He was elected to his fourth term as president in 2018 and will serve six years till 2024 when he will near 25 years in power.

Aussie fires

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has suffered a massive hit to his personal approval rating as the bush fires keep razing in three states.

The Newspoll, published on Monday, the first published opinion poll of 2020, confirms that a horror summer in which Morrison holidayed in Hawaii, during the extended bushfire crisis that has claimed 28 lives and more than 2,000 homes, and fumbled at meetings with victims, has significantly impacted his popularity. Satisfaction in Morrison fell eight points and dissatisfaction increased 11 points. Just 4% of voters were “uncommitted” when asked how Morrison is performing.

Meanwhile, the government will pledge $50m to help rescue and protect wildlife affected by the bushfire crisis, with assurances of more aid to follow, as environmental groups warn that some species may have already been driven to extinction. The commitment, to be drawn from the government’s $2bn bushfire recovery fund, will be described as a downpayment to be spent immediately on priorities in burned areas and to start the longer-term restoration of lost habitat.

There are increasing calls for the federal government to boost emergency payments for those affected by the continuing bushfires, with concerns that the current amount is “seriously inadequate”. The Australian Council of Social Service is calling for the payment, which has not increased since 2006, to be boosted from $1,000 to $3,000, and from $400 a child to $1,000 a child.

There is an increasing debate, and public protests too, about the continuing bushfires, and the causes of these fires. Competing arguments have been made about the principal causes of the human and environmental tragedy, and the impact of climate change on these fires, which aspect is largely downplayed by the government.

The economic damage from the bushfires devastating Australia’s eastern seaboard is likely to exceed the record $4.4bn set by 2009’s Black Saturday blazes.

There is a continuing risk of damage to the broader economy, outside areas ravaged by fire because the bushfire season still had months to run.

So far the fires have charred at least 8.4m hectares across the whole of Australia.


Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen was re-elected for a second term raising major questions for China, which was supportive of her opponent from the Kuomintang Party.

She won by a landslide after a campaign in which she focused heavily on the rising threat from Beijing. The Chinese Communist Party has long claimed sovereignty over Taiwan and the right to take it by force if necessary.

Ms Tsai insisted that the sovereignty of the self-governing island was not in doubt or up for negotiation. “We don’t have a need to declare ourselves an independent state,” the 63-year-old president told the BBC in an exclusive interview, her first since the election. “We are an independent country already and we call ourselves the Republic of China, Taiwan.”

The Chinese Communist Party has long claimed sovereignty over Taiwan and the right to take it by force if necessary.

The landslide win by President Tsai Ing-wen raises further issues for Beijing in the context of the anti-China protests continuing in Hong Kong. Beijing seeks a return to the “One China” policy supported by her main rival for the presidency, Han Kuo-yu from the Kuomintang Party.

Ms Tsai’s victory shows little appetite in Taiwan for the One China concept and the ambiguity it allowed over Taiwan’s real status.

She also said that with the things happening in Hong Kong, people get a real sense that this (Beijing) threat is real and it’s getting more and more serious.

The presidential election saw Taiwan’s youth strongly supporting her political cause as the youth in Hong Kong. Tsai said: “We’re a successful democracy, we have a pretty decent economy, we deserve respect from China.”

The re-elected president is trying to diversify Taiwan’s trading relationships and boost the domestic economy, in particular by encouraging Taiwanese investors who have built factories in China to consider relocating back home.

She is also reportedly planning for all eventualities that cannot exclude war with China. “You cannot exclude the possibility of war at any time,” she has told the BBC, and that “Invading Taiwan is something that is going to be very costly for China”.

Philippine volcano

More than 50,000 people have fled a potential ‘explosive eruption’ of Taal volcano, which erupted earlier this week, and has spewed lava and plumes of ash near the Philippine capital Manila.

The volcano has led to a high alert level 4 since the eruption began on Sunday. Thousands have fled the 14 km danger zone around Taal, south of the capital Manila, where volcanologists warned that a devastating eruption could rain rocks and magma, and set off a tsunami from the lake in which the volcano sits.

A thick ash fall from the volcano has cloaked many towns in Batangas province, causing millions of dollars worth of damage to crops. Clouds of ash blown to Manila 62 miles away have forced hundreds of flights to be cancelled.

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