Canada warns US not to politicise extradition cases

OTTAWA (REUTERS) – Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday (Dec 12) warned the United States not to politicise extradition cases, a day after President Donald Trump said he could intervene in the affair of a Chinese executive detained in Canada at Washington’s request.

Ms Freeland also told reporters that a second Canadian citizen could be in trouble in China.

The authorities in China are already holding former diplomat Michael Kovrig, who was detained on Monday.

China has strongly protested against the arrest in Vancouver on Dec 1 of Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou.

Ms Meng has been accused by US prosecutors of misleading multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions, putting the banks at risk of violating US sanctions. She has said she is innocent.

Mr Trump told Reuters on Tuesday that he would intervene in the US Justice Department’s case against Ms Meng if it would serve national security interests or help close a trade deal with China.

But the legal process should not be hijacked for political purposes, Ms Freeland said.

“Our extradition partners should not seek to politicise the extradition process or use it for ends other than the pursuit of justice and following the rule of law,” Ms Freeland said when asked about Mr Trump’s comments.

Others also questioned whether Mr Trump might be misusing the extradition request.

“This is a legal issue and one that appears properly executed, but your comments can only diminish an important extradition agreement we have with our next door neighbour,” said Mr Bruce Heyman, a former US ambassador to Canada who was appointed by president Barack Obama, Mr Trump’s predecessor.

Ms Meng was released on bail by a Canadian court on Tuesday.

The US has not yet made a formal extradition petition. Once it does, if a Canadian judge rules in favour of the request, Canada’s justice minister must decide whether to extradite Ms Meng to the US.

Ms Freeland expressed deep concern over the Kovrig case and said a second unnamed Canadian had made contact with Canadian authorities to say Chinese officials were asking him questions. Canada has not been able to make contact with him since, she added.

Officials said earlier they have no indication from Beijing that Mr Kovrig’s detention was tied to Canada’s arrest of Ms Meng.

But they have seen an uptick in anti-Canadian sentiment online and in China, an official said, and have communicated concerns about diplomatic staff safety to the Chinese government, which beefed up security in response.

“We have in general informed our personnel in Beijing and in our consulates to take extra precautions,” an official said.

Related Stories: 

Source: Read Full Article

Exclusive: White House delays new farm aid payments on China trade hopes – sources

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The White House is delaying additional payments from a $12 billion aid package for farmers stung by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China because it expects Beijing to resume buying U.S. soybeans, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The move comes despite a lack of evidence in agricultural markets of any return by China to the U.S. soy market. China last year purchased about 60 percent of U.S. soybean exports, but it has not inked any new soybean deals since Beijing imposed tariffs on U.S. supplies in July.

Trump told Reuters in an interview late on Tuesday that discussions to resolve U.S. trade disputes with Beijing were taking place by telephone, and that China was “just starting” to buy “tremendous amounts” of U.S. soybeans.

The Office of Management and Budget at the White House is now holding up approval of the second and final tranche of aid payments Trump had promised farmers stung by the trade disputes due to concern over the cost of the program, and because it wants to see if the trade issues with China are resolved, the three sources told Reuters.

The sources asked not to be named because the matter had not yet been made public.

“It has been no secret that OMB has not been terribly excited about the trade aid package,” one of the sources said. The source added, however, that the payments will likely eventually be approved after some “back and forth.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in July had authorized up to $12 billion in aid for farmers and ranchers hit by the fallout from Trump’s escalating trade war with China and the agency outlined payments for the first half last August.

An announcement on the second tranche had been expected in early December. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Dec. 3 that OMB was deliberating on the second round of trade aid, and that it could be outlined by the end of that week.

On Tuesday, USDA spokesman Tim Murtaugh told Reuters that the agency was still in the “final stages” of the process of approving the second tranche of payments.

“We are in discussions with the White House and anticipate that the second payment rates for the Market Facilitation Program will be published before the end of the year,” Murtaugh said in a statement.

The Office of Management and Budget declined to comment.

CHINA COMEBACK?

The sources said the White House was delaying its approval mainly on hopes China will soon resume purchases of soybeans, which has raised questions over how much aid farmers will need.

China had imposed a 25 percent tariff on American soybeans in July in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

Perdue said last week China will probably resume buying American soybeans around Jan. 1, after talks between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping during the G20 meeting about a potential trade ceasefire.

However, little concrete evidence has emerged of a purchase looming and farmers have been on edge.

Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures edged higher on Tuesday on hopes that new deals would be inked soon, but there were no signs of increased activity in the cash markets.

U.S. Agriculture Department rules require exporters to promptly report sales of 100,000 tonnes or more of a commodity made in a single day.

John Heisdorffer, the chairman of the American Soybean Association and a farmer in Iowa, said he feared the government was going to reduce the size of the aid payments to farmers on misplaced beliefs the trade pain was ending.

“There are a lot of farmers that sold beans out of the field and that is done,” Heisdorffer said. “They need to get the extra (support) to make sure that they’re taken care of.”

Source: Read Full Article

Exclusive: White House delays new farm aid payments on China trade deal hopes – sources

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The White House is delaying a second round of payments from a $12 billion aid package for farmers stung by a trade dispute between China and the United States, amid optimism China will soon resume buying U.S. soybeans, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget at the White House is holding up approval of the payments due to concern over the cost of the program, and wants to see if the trade issues with China are resolved, the sources said, asking not to be named because the matter had not yet been made public.

“It has been no secret that OMB has not been terribly excited about the trade aid package,” a source familiar with the matter said. The source added, however, that the payment will likely eventually be approved after some “back and forth.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in July had authorized up to $12 billion in aid for farmers and ranchers hit by the fallout from Trump’s escalating trade war with China, a major buyer of American agricultural products, and the agency outlined payments for the first half last August.

An announcement on the second tranche was expected in early December. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Dec. 3 that OMB was deliberating on a second round of trade aid, and that it could be outlined by the end of that week.

But on Tuesday, USDA spokesman Tim Murtaugh told Reuters that the agency was still in the “final stages” of the process of approving the second tranche of payments.

“We are in discussions with the White House and anticipate that the second payment rates for the Market Facilitation Program will be published before the end of the year,” Murtaugh said in a statement.

A senior administration official with the Office of Management and Budget said on Tuesday, “We do not comment on alleged leaks and will not discuss deliberative and pre-decisional information.”

CHINA COMEBACK?

The sources said the White House was delaying its approval mainly on hopes China will soon resume purchases of soybeans, which has raised questions over how much aid farmers will need.

China bought about 60 percent of U.S. soybean exports last year in deals worth $12 billion, but has mostly been buying from Brazil since the trade war. It imposed a 25 percent tariff on American soybeans in July in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

Trump in late May had announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, prompting the retaliation from top trading partners like China.

Perdue said last week China will probably resume buying American soybeans around Jan. 1, after talks between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping during the G20 meeting about a potential trade ceasefire.

However, little concrete evidence has emerged of a purchase looming and farmers have been on edge.

John Heisdorffer, the chairman of the American Soybean Association and a farmer in Iowa, said he feared the government was going to reduce the size of the aid payments on the expectation crop prices could rise on renewed China buying.

“There are a lot of farmers that sold beans out of the field and that is done,” Heisdorffer said. “They need to get the extra (support) to make sure that they’re taken care of.”

Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures closed higher on Tuesday as traders anticipated potential Chinese purchases of U.S. agricultural products, and shrugged off a bearish monthly global soy inventories report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Source: Read Full Article

China, US officials engage on trade while Huawei row burns

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) – Top Chinese and American trade officials spoke by phone on Tuesday (Dec 11), signalling that dialogue between the two nations on trade issues is at least continuing despite a diplomatic row over the arrest of a senior Chinese businesswoman. 

China’s Vice-Premier Liu He, USTreasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke by phone Tuesday morning Beijing time, according to a statement from China’s Ministry of Commerce.

The two sides exchanged views on the timetable and road map of future trade talks, the ministry said, without providing further details. 

At a time when the status of a deal brokered between the two sides in Buenos Aires this month was already in doubt, the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co. Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou – linked to potential sanctions violations – had threatened to torpedo the progress made.

Both sides have signalled that they want to separate the two issues, with an eye on the March 1 deadline for further agreement on trade differences.

“It’s a positive signal that work is in progress” on trade negotiations despite tensions related to the arrest of Meng, said Michelle Lam, a greater China economist at Societe Generale SA in Hong Kong. 

The news of Meng’s arrest in Canada contributed to increasing alarm in financial markets about the lack of specifics in a trade truce announced after US President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping dined together at the Group of 20 meeting.

Under the terms disclosed, Trump agreed to pause increasing tariffs on Chinese imports for 90 days while negotiations got under way. 

S&P 500 E-Mini futures pared losses on news of the phone call and China stocks turned positive. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.3 per cent before falling back a little. 

Meanwhile, China has accused Canada of violating a bilateral agreement by failing to speedily inform its consulate of Meng’s arrest – an accusation the Canadian government denies.  Over the weekend, Chinese authorities separately summoned the ambassadors of Canada and the US to protest Meng’s arrest on allegations she committed fraud to sidestep sanctions against Iran.

The case has become a flash-point in ties between the U.S. and China that’s rattled investors and sent stock markets tumbling. 

Since the Buenos Aires agreement, China has acted to meet its side of the bargain. For example, it intends to announce this month the first batch of US soybean purchases where most, if not all, will be destined for state reserves, according to government officials.

Source: Read Full Article

U.S. says March 1 'hard deadline' for trade deal with China

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S.-China trade negotiations need to reach a successful end by March 1 or new tariffs will be imposed, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Sunday, clarifying there is a “hard deadline” after a week of confusion among administration advisers.

Global markets are jittery over prospects of a collision between the world’s two largest economic powers over China’s huge trade surplus with the United States and U.S. claims that China is stealing intellectual property and technology.

“As far as I am concerned it is a hard deadline. When I talk to the president of the United States he is not talking about going beyond March,” Lighthizer said on the CBS show “Face the Nation,” referring to President Donald Trump’s recent decision to delay new tariffs while talks proceed.

“The way this is set up is that at the end of 90 days, these tariffs will be raised,” said Lighthizer, who has been tapped to lead the talks and appeared to tamp down expectations that the negotiation period could be extended.

In Argentina last weekend, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a truce that delayed the planned Jan. 1 U.S. hike of tariffs to 25 percent from 10 percent on $200 billion of Chinese goods while they negotiate a trade deal.

However, the arrest of a top executive at China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s [HWT.UL] has roiled global markets amid fears that it could further inflame the China-U.S. trade row.

(This story has been refiled to correct word in first paragraph to new, not news)

Source: Read Full Article

China's vow to curb fentanyl will not end US opioid crisis: Experts

BEIJING (AFP) – The United States-China trade war truce includes a pledge by Beijing to tackle another lucrative – and deadly – export: fentanyl, a potent opioid ravaging US communities.

The US has pressed Beijing to do more to crack down on the drug, as smugglers from China are suspected of being the main suppliers of the narcotic, which is 50 times stronger than heroin.

At the weekend G-20 summit in Argentina, China agreed to designate any type of fentanyl as controlled substances, with the US saying this would expose offenders to the maximum penalty under Chinese law – capital punishment.

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday (Dec 5) that the move could be a “game changer”.

“If China cracks down on this ‘horror drug’ using the Death Penalty for distributors and pushers, the results will be incredible!” he tweeted.

But experts doubt it will make a major difference.

Fentanyl production has become a “very profitable” business for Chinese traffickers, said Mr Mike Vigil, a former chief of international operations at the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

It is going to be tough for the Chinese government to control the business, he said, “especially given the huge demand that we currently have in the United States”.

China is believed to be one of the main manufacturers of synthetic drugs that have been blamed for public health crises in the US, Canada and Australia, among other countries.

Getting the drug is relatively easy – buyers find fentanyl from suppliers online, pay for it with cryptocurrencies, credit cards or money transfers, and receive their order via international mail services, according to a US congressional report.

It has become a booming business for clandestine chemical labs in China, where 1kg of fentanyl can produce 50kg of “high-grade” heroin, turning a less than US$10,000 (S$13,700) investment into half a million dollars, said Mr Vigil.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, deaths from drug overdose in the US surged to nearly 72,000 last year – far more than traffic accident deaths, gun-related deaths, or suicide. Fentanyl was linked to the deaths of singers Prince and Tom Petty.

ZERO TOLERANCE

At first glance, China does not seem like an ideal base for manufacturing and shipping fentanyl to the US.

Scarred by its own opium crisis in the 19th century, China has a zero-tolerance policy towards illicit drugs.

But chemical distributors in China have been able to dodge international and domestic law enforcement with fentanyl, which does have legal uses, such as treating extreme pain for cancer patients.

China has previously banned fentanyl variant by variant.

Savvy chemists would simply tweak their chemical formula, creating an analogue or slightly different chemical compound to bypass regulations.

China’s decision to list all fentanyl-like substances could address that issue, but systemic challenges remain.

“It seems to be that China just has a huge chemical and pharmaceutical industry, and it just has too many firms and too few police to manage that industry,” said Dr Bryce Pardo, a drug policy researcher at Rand, a US-based think-tank.

According to a 2015 US State Department report, China had about 400,000 chemical manufacturers and distributors.

China also has an unknown number of underground chemical labs that produce synthetic drugs. In 2015, Chinese authorities destroyed 259 labs and arrested 1,570 suspects, according to a 2017 US State Department report.

The interests of provincial and central government authorities are also misaligned, Dr Pardo told AFP.

Beijing sets the rules, but turns enforcement over to local authorities, “who are incentivised to export as much product as possible”.

The Chinese foreign ministry said before the G-20 talks last week that it had taken measures to control 25 fentanyl analogues, increased intelligence sharing with other countries and strengthened checks of suspicious parcels.

“The US government surely has a bigger role to play in reducing the demand,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters.

“The US has time and again accused China of being a key source of the fentanyl-like substances at home, but never submitted any accurate statistics or effective evidence to the Chinese side,” he said.

LAST BULWARK

Even if China successfully cracks down on fentanyl, it is likely that another hub of synthetic opioid production will pop up elsewhere, experts said.

Fentanyl production could move to India, which has an enormous pharmaceutical industry and labour supply with “the technical know-how to synthesise these chemicals”, said Dr Pardo.

Production of illicit drugs will not stop at fentanyl either.

According to China’s narcotics control commission, domestic seizures of methamphetamine, ketamine and other synthetic drugs climbed by 106 percent year-on-year in 2016, and synthetic drug production was rising.

Enforcing harsher punishments will not necessarily address the growing global drug demand, said Professor Michelle Miao, an expert on China’s legal system at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The US “has launched the war on drugs in the past century, but what you can see now is it is a total failure”, she added.

“Criminal law should be the last bulwark when things are out of control,” she added. “The last measure we can do is mete out punishment, because it does not really solve the root issues.”

Source: Read Full Article

Exclusive: China's Unipec to buy U.S. oil after Xi-Trump tariff truce

BEIJING/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Chinese oil trader Unipec plans to resume U.S. crude shipments to China by March after the Xi-Trump deal at the G20 meeting reduced the risk of tariffs being imposed on these imports, three sources with knowledge of the matter said.

The sources told Reuters that Unipec – trading arm of state refiner Sinopec (600028.SS) – is looking to import U.S. oil by March 1, which marks the end of a 90-day negotiating period agreed by the leaders of the world’s two biggest economies.

China’s crude oil imports from the United States ground to a halt in October as this year’s trade war between the two countries escalated.

“Chinese buyers who want to buy U.S. crude will rush to import the oil during this window,” a senior executive from Asia’s largest refiner Sinopec said, adding that the oil has to arrive in China before March 1.

“Oil prices are low, so it makes economic sense to store some crude as commercial inventories,” said the executive, who asked not to be named.

Sinopec said it has a policy not to comment on specific trade deals. Unipec did not respond to an email.

Oil prices have slumped by around a third since early October amid an emerging glut, triggering expectations that the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will agree to supply cuts at a meeting this week. [O/R]

It was unclear how much oil Unipec – China’s largest crude oil importer – would order from the United States, but one of the sources said the company could lift a record volume of oil in January.

China’s previous record for a month came in January 2018, when it imported about 472,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the United States, according to Chinese customs data.

Before the trade dispute erupted in mid-2018, China had become the largest importer of U.S. crude. China imported on average 325,000 bpd of U.S. crude in the first nine months of 2018 before imports fell to zero in October, customs data shows.

Although crude oil was not included on Beijing’s import tariff list, Chinese buyers started avoiding U.S. oil from mid-2018.

U.S.-based trade and shipping sources said Unipec is back in the market, looking to buy U.S. crude and book ships for China.

Unipec may have chartered VLCC Manifa to load U.S. oil this month, one of the sources said. Another said the company has provisionally booked a VLCC to load U.S. oil in January and make the 45-50-day voyage to China for $8.4 million.

While China is expected to maximize U.S. oil imports during the 90-day window, the overall outlook for this trade flow in 2019 remained murky.

“Tensions have eased between the two countries but we can’t forecast what will happen after March,” the Sinopec executive said.

“There is a lot of pressure on both sides to reach a mutual agreement in 90 days.”

Source: Read Full Article

New Zealand's Trade Me gets second, higher buyout offer for $1.8 billion

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s top online marketplace Trade Me Group (TME.NZ) said it has received a NZ$2.56 billion ($1.8 billion) buyout proposal from a U.S. private-equity firm, trumping a rival offer and setting the stage for a possible bidding war.

The offer adds to a flurry of deals made this year in Australia and New Zealand – attractive for private-equity firms given their stable and advanced economies that offer a steady cash flow amid a global financial market rout. [MKTS/GLOB]

California-based Hellman & Friedman offered NZ$6.45 per share for Trade Me, or NZ$0.05 higher than an offer London-based private equity group Apax Partners made last month.

Shares of Trade Me, similar to auction website eBay Inc (EBAY.O), rose 3 percent on the news to a record of NZ$6.25 on Wednesday, just short of the indicative offer price, as investors allowed for uncertainty that a sale would go through.

“It validates our thesis that the company was being undervalued given its very low gearing and its cash generative nature,” said Mark Brown, chief investment officer at Auckland-based fund Devon Funds Management that owns shares in Trade Me.

“It has a dominant position within the NZ market. You can buy a dominant player in a smaller market, but it’s clearly more difficult to buy a dominant player in a global or much bigger market,” Brown added.

Launched in 1999 with 15 staff, Trade Me now has more than 600 employees and says it has the most customers among online classified advertising platforms in New Zealand.

The website offers auctions and fixed-priced sales for cars, real estate and other household items. It also has jobs and online dating services.

Trade Me said it would open its books for the U.S. bidder to conduct due diligence, as it has done for the U.K. bidder Apax. Apax was not immediately available for comment.

“These kind of distribution companies like Trade Me don’t require a lot of capital investment and don’t require (much) working capital so they’re very attractive … for private equity firms,” said Brian Gaynor, head of Auckland-based Milford Asset, which holds Trade Me shares.

Among other deals by private-equity firms in Australia and New Zealand this year, Canadian landlord Oxford Properties Group made a $2.4 billion offer for Investa Office Fund (IOF.AX), beating private equity giant Blackstone Group (BX.N).

Restaurant Brands New Zealand Ltd (RBD.NZ), operator of KFC and Pizza Hut franchises, said in October it was in takeover talks with Mexico-based Finaccess Capital that made a $578 million bid for a controlling stake.

Source: Read Full Article

Volkswagen says it might use Ford manufacturing capacity in U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) chief executive said on Tuesday after a meeting at the White House that the German automaker was building an alliance with Ford Motor Co (F.N) and that they might use the U.S. automaker’s plants to build cars.

VW CEO Herbert Diess said the company was also “considering building a second car plant,” adding, “We are in quite advanced negotiations and dialog with Ford Corporation to really build up a global automotive alliance, which also would strengthen the American automotive industry.”

Source: Read Full Article

Trump: if no China trade deal possible, 'I am a Tariff Man'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that if a trade deal with China was possible it would get done, but if the two sides could not resolve their disputes he would revert to tariffs.

Trump said his team of trade advisers led by China trade hawk U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, will determine whether a “REAL deal” with China was possible.

“If it is, we will get it done,” Trump said in a Twitter post. “But if not remember, I am a Tariff Man.”

The Republican president also held out the possibility of an extension of the 90-day trade truce he and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on over the weekend.

“The negotiations with China have already started. Unless extended, they will end 90 days from the date of our wonderful and very warm dinner with President Xi in Argentina,” Trump said on Twitter.

Trump and Xi agreed to the ceasefire in a trade war that has seen the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods between the world’s two largest economies disrupted by tariffs.

The two leaders said they would hold off on imposing additional tariffs for 90 days starting on Dec. 1 while they seek a solution to their trade disputes.

Trump said on Tuesday that China is supposed to start buying “agricultural product and more immediately.”

The United States expects China to take immediate action to cut tariffs on U.S. car imports and end intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers as the two countries move toward a broader trade deal, Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, said on Monday.

Related Coverage

  • Cut in China tariffs on cars a 'litmus test' for trade talks: KudlowCut in China tariffs on cars a 'litmus test' for trade talks: Kudlow

Trump has long accused China of unfair trade practices that hurt Americans and the U.S. economy.

“When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. It will always be the best way to max out our economic power,” he said on Tuesday.

His appointment of Lighthizer to lead the talks instead of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin puts one of the administration’s toughest China critics in charge. Trump said on Tuesday that Lighthizer would work closely with Mnuchin, Kudlow and trade adviser Peter Navarro.

Source: Read Full Article