Sounding positive, Donald Trump plans to meet his trade team for update on US-China talks

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – President Donald Trump planned to meet with members of his trade team on Saturday (Feb 16) for an update on ongoing talks with China, the White House said.

The meeting came as US and China send signals they may reach a deal or extend talks to end their trade war, easing fears that the Trump administration will ratchet up tariffs when a key deadline arrives in two weeks.

Investors on Friday cheered signs that the trade war between the world’s two largest economies is not escalating, with US equities climbing.

White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders named 10 officials who would participate in Saturday’s meeting, either in person in Florida, where the president is spending the weekend, or by phone.

The attendees included US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, along with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, White House economic director Larry Kudlow, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and others.

Mr Trump on Friday hailed progress made in negotiations this week in Beijing attended by Mr Mnuchin and Mr Lighthizer. The two countries said they are working towards a preliminary written agreement, and will continue discussions in Washington next week.

The US has threatened to more than double tariffs on US$200 billion (S$271 billion) of Chinese goods if there is no deal by March 1.

“It’s going extremely well,” Mr Trump said on Friday. “If we can make the deal it would be my honour to remove” the tariffs, but otherwise many billions of dollars are pouring into Treasury, the president said at the White House.

President Xi Jinping also sounded upbeat, saying the latest round of meetings “achieved important progress in another step”, according to China’s Xinhua News Agency.

Mr Trump also said on Friday that he would consider bringing Democrats to the negotiating table. His remark suggested he may be preparing a campaign to sell a potential trade deal with China in Washington.

Some Democrats have pressed Mr Trump to stick to a tougher approach to Beijing.

“Any deal I make towards the end I’m going to bring Schumer – at least offer him – and Pelosi. I’m going to say please join me on the deal,” Mr Trump said, referring to Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “I’ll put them in the room and let them speak up.”

Mr Trump’s optimistic comments contrast with the measured tone of the official US statement on the talks released by the White House. In the statement, the US cautioned that “much work remains”, making no mention of the “consensus in principle” cited by the Chinese in their own statement.

Both sides agreed to resume discussions in the US capital next week as they work towards a memorandum of understanding that could form the basis of a deal between Mr Trump and Mr Xi. A summit meeting between the leaders has not yet been scheduled.

US business groups welcomed the signs of progress but urged the two sides to close the gaps.

“A final, comprehensive deal is only possible if progress is made to address a range of structural reforms – including concerns over forced technology transfers – and tangible improvements in market access are clear, concrete, and enforceable,” US Chamber of Commerce head of international affairs Myron Brilliant said in a statement.

Any agreement should be “detailed, enforceable, time-bound, and result in market-access improvements that have a meaningful impact” on American companies, workers and farmers, said Mr Craig Allen, president of the US-China Business Council.

Mr Trump repeated on Friday that he is open to extending the March 1 deadline for higher tariffs if the two sides are close to striking a deal. He is considering a 60-day extension for negotiations, people familiar with the matter said earlier this week.

The White House statement on Friday said the Americans focused on structural issues in the Chinese economy “including forced technology transfer, intellectual property rights, cyber theft, agriculture, services, non-tariff barriers, and currency”.

Mr Mnuchin sounded a positive note in Beijing while in Beijing, saying he and Mr Lighthizer held productive meetings with China’s Vice-Premier Liu He. Mr Xi also met the two Americans on Friday.

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US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin hopes for 'productive' trade meetings in China

BEIJING (REUTERS) – United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday (Feb 13) that he hopes for “productive” trade meetings in China this week, as the two countries seek to hammer out an agreement amid a festering dispute that has seen both level tariffs at each other.

US tariffs on US$200 billion (S$271 billion) worth of imports from China are scheduled to rise to 25 per cent from 10 per cent if the two sides cannot reach a deal by a March 1 deadline, increasing pain and costs in sectors from consumer electronics to agriculture. 

Mr Mnuchin, asked by reporters as he left his Beijing hotel what his hopes were for the visit, said “productive meetings”. He did not elaborate. 

Mr Mnuchin, along with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, arrived in the Chinese capital on Tuesday. 

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he could let the deadline for a trade agreement “slide for a little while”, but that he would prefer not to and expects to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping to close the deal at some point. 

Mr Trump’s advisers have previously described March 1 as a “hard deadline”, but Mr Trump has told reporters for the first time that a delay was now possible.

A growing number of US businesses and lawmakers have expressed hopes for a delay in the tariff increase while the two sides tackle the difficult US demands for major “structural” policy changes by China aimed at ending the forced transfer of American trade secrets, curbing Beijing’s industrial subsidies and enforcing intellectual property rights.

Mr Trump said last week that he did not plan to meet Mr Xi before the March 1 deadline. 

Mr Mnuchin and Mr Lighthizer are scheduled to hold talks on Thursday and Friday with Vice-Premier Liu He, the top economic adviser to Mr Xi. 

The latest round of talks in Beijing kicked off on Monday with discussions among deputy-level officials to try to work out technical details, including a mechanism for enforcing any trade agreement.

A round of talks at the end of January ended with some progress reported, but no deal and US declarations that much more work was needed.

China and the US, the world’s two largest economies, have a series of other disagreements too, including over Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cautioned allies on Monday against deploying equipment from Chinese telecoms giant Huawei on their soil, saying it would make it more difficult for Washington to “partner alongside them”. 

The US and its Western allies believe Huawei’s apparatus could be used for espionage, and see its expansion into central Europe as a way to gain a foothold in the European Union market. 

Both the Chinese government and Huawei have dismissed these concerns. 

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More outcomes expected from US-China trade talks: Analysts

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He will hold a new round of high-level China-US economic and trade consultations with United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Beijing on Thursday (Feb 14) and Friday.

Analysts said the two sides are likely to propose weightier measures to address economic and trade differences and to broaden overall cooperation.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, based on recent talks in Washington, China and the US will engage in further discussions on issues of common concern. The US delegation arrives in Beijing on Monday.

China and the US have been embroiled in trade frictions for several months. The two sides are now in the midst of a 90-day tariff truce, which began on Dec 1, when President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart, Donald Trump, met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

Wei Jianguo, vice-chairman of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said China-US trade consultations have made “a big stride forward”.

“In the next stage, the two sides will still be subject to various global pressures. However, I believe that the two sides will be able to propose more weighty measures to solve differences in their further consultations,” Wei said.

Zhou Mi, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said companies in the two countries definitely do not want to end their cooperation. Calling for a stable environment, Zhou said more and more achievements may be made through cooperation at different levels.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-US diplomatic ties. In 2018, trade volume between China and the US exceeded US$630 billion (S$854 billion), and two-way investment surpassed US$240 billion, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Nicholas Burns, former US undersecretary of state, said the Sino-US relationship is “the most important relationship that both of our countries have.” The US and China, though facing certain challenges in bilateral relations, should learn how to compete with each other as well as how to work together, the official Xinhua News Agency cited him as saying.

Zhang Yansheng, a senior CCIEE researcher, said the two countries can properly handle trade conflicts and foster cooperation despite some headwinds, adding that cooperation is the best and only choice for the two sides.

Xue Rongjiu, deputy director of the Beijing-based China Society for WTO Studies, stressed that the US should not consider China as an economic threat. A country shouldn’t be measured by the size of its economy, but by its development level, pointing out that in terms of per capita GDP, China still ranks as a developing country, Xue said.

The global community should give China more room for gradual reform including offering more access to foreign companies and supporting investment in industrial upgrading, infrastructure, environmental protection and urbanization, which will further stimulate economic growth, he said.

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US President Trump to meet China's top trade negotiator Liu He on final day of talks

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) – US President Donald Trump will meet China’s top trade negotiator in the Oval Office later on Thursday (Jan 31) for high-level talks, with little indication that Beijing will bend to American demands to deepen economic reforms.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will lead a second and final day of negotiations with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He, the highest-level talks since Trump met Chinese President Xi Jinping on Dec 1 and declared a 90-day truce to reach a lasting deal to end the trade war. Trump is scheduled to meet Liu at 3.30pm US time (4.30am Singapore time), according to an e-mail of his schedule from the White House.

While a breakthrough deal is seen as unlikely from this round of negotiations, the White House has said a concluding statement will be released on the progress they’ve made on core issues such as Chinese technology transfers and intellectual property practices, market access and Beijing’s pledge to buy more American goods.

Stocks in Asia and Europe advanced on Thursday, following gains in the US on Wednesday. The S&P 500 reached the highest since Dec 6, after the Federal Reserve said it will be “patient” on any future interest-rate moves.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday expressed concern that prolonged negotiations could cause further uncertainty for investors. “The concern is a longer drawn-out set of negotiations, which could result in sapping business. Uncertainty is not the friend of business,” Powell said in response to a question during a press conference.

The talks began with an awkward silence on both sides of a long negotiating table during a photo opportunity, broken when Lighthizer made joking remarks about table positioning and appearing in photographs of a dinner between Trump and Chinese Xi in that December meeting.

Seated next to Liu was People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang, a reform-minded official who has advocated further opening of China’s financial services markets, with officials from the Finance and Commerce ministries also present.

But details of Wednesday’s closed-door talks were scant, with official statements seen as unlikely before they conclude.

Unless a deal is reached by March 1, the US has threatened to raise tariffs on US$200 billion (S$269.2 billion) worth of Chinese products to 25 per cent from 10 per cent.

Administration officials and other people familiar with the state of play say the two sides remain far apart on key issues, with the US side still engaged in an internal debate over how to proceed and ill-prepared for this week’s meetings.

The US’s unveiling this week of criminal charges against Chinese corporate giant Huawei Technologies isn’t helping the mood.

The last round of US-China talks led by Deputy USTR Jeffrey Gerrish in Beijing earlier this month ended with no progress on IP practices and technology transfer issues, which are Washington’s main concerns in the trade war that has roiled financial markets for months. China did offer at that meeting to go on a six-year buying spree to ramp up imports from the US, which was met with scepticism from the Trump administration.

In a sign that Beijing is serious about addressing US complaints, Chinese lawmakers this week completed a second review of a new law that is aimed at protecting the IP of foreign investors and banning forced technology transfers.

But US business groups said the draft law will not address the real regulatory issues of concern where forced technology transfer is occurring in the Chinese system. Another longstanding concern with Chinese laws is the breadth and scope of the national security review, the US Chamber of Commerce, AmCham China and AmCham Shanghai said in comments submitted on the Bill.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

Trump this month said that China’s slumping economy gave the country no choice but to make serious commitments. “China posts slowest economic numbers since 1990 due to US trade tensions and new policies,” Trump said Jan 21. “Makes so much sense for China to finally do a Real Deal, and stop playing around!”

But the impact of Trump’s trade policy is also being felt by the US. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office on Monday said it expected that Trump’s tariffs on steel, aluminium, and Chinese goods would cut the US real gross domestic product by at least 0.1 per cent on average through 2029. It also predicted overall US GDP growth would slow to 2.3 per cent this year, 1.7 per cent in 2020, and 1.6 per cent in 2021.

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China most active in cyber espionage against US: Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – Russia and China pose the biggest espionage and cyber attack threats to the United States and are more aligned than they have been in decades, the leader of the US intelligence community told US senators on Tuesday (Jan 29).

While the two countries seek to expand their global reach, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said, some American allies are pulling away from Washington in reaction to changing US policies on security and trade.

“China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea increasingly use cyber operations to threaten both minds and machines in an expanding number of ways – to steal information, to influence our citizens, or to disrupt critical infrastructure,” Coats said.

“Moscow’s relationship with Beijing is closer than it’s been in many decades,” Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee’s annual hearing on worldwide threats, where he testified with the director of the CIA, FBI and other top intelligence officials.

He also said some US allies are seeking more independence, responding to their perceptions of changing policies on security and trade and “are becoming more open” to new partnerships.

“The post-World War II international system is coming under increasing strain amid continuing cyber and WMD proliferation threats, competition in space and regional conflicts,” Coats said, using the acronym for weapons of mass destruction.

ELECTION SECURITY

Coats also said US adversaries likely are already looking to interfere in the 2020 US election, refining their capabilities and adding new tactics.

He said Russia’s social media efforts will continue to focus on aggravating social and racial tensions, undermining trust in authorities and criticising politicians perceived to be anti-Russia.

Senator Mark Warner, the panel’s top Democrat, said in his opening statement that he was particularly concerned about Russia’s use of social media “to amplify divisions in our society and to influence our democratic processes” and the threat from China in the technology arena.

The United States on Monday announced criminal charges against China’s Huawei Technologies, escalating a fight with the world’s biggest telecommunications equipment maker and coming days before trade talks between Washington and Beijing.

“Especially concerning have been the efforts of big Chinese tech companies – which are beholden to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) – to acquire sensitive technology, replicate it, and undermine the market share of US firms with the help of the Chinese state,” Warner said.

The US Justice Department on Monday charged Huawei and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, with conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran by doing business with Teheran through a subsidiary it tried to hide and that was reported on by Reuters in 2012.

“China is going to be a major competitor of ours in every way that there is,” said Republican Senator Jim Risch, an intelligence committee member who is also chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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China expresses serious concern about US charges on Huawei

BEIJING – China expressed serious concern on Tuesday (Jan 29) after the United States announced criminal charges against Huawei Technologies and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, for allegedly conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran.

China’s Foreign Ministry urged the United States to stop “unreasonable suppression” of Chinese companies, including Huawei, and to lift an arrest warrant against Meng, Reuters reported.

Beijing would resolutely protect the lawful interests of Chinese companies, the ministry said in a statement.

“The Chinese government has consistently required Chinese companies to conduct foreign economic cooperation on the basis of legal compliance, and requires countries to provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for the normal operation of Chinese enterprises,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

“For some time, the US has used state power to discredit and crack down on specific Chinese companies in an attempt to stifle the legitimate operations of enterprises. There are strong political attempts and political manipulation behind them. We strongly urge the US to stop unreasonable suppression of Chinese companies including Huawei and treat Chinese enterprises objectively and fairly.”

On Meng’s case, Mr Geng said that China has repeatedly stated its solemn position.

“The abuse of bilateral extradition treaties between the United States and Canada and the unreasonable enforcement of compulsory measures against Chinese citizens are serious violations of the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens,” said Mr Geng.

“We once again urge the US to immediately revoke the arrest warrant against Ms Meng Wanzhou and not to issue a formal extradition request to avoid going further and further up the wrong path. We also urge Canada to take seriously the Chinese position and immediately release Ms Meng Wanzhou and effectively protect her legitimate rights and interests.”

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US scrambles to outrun China in new arms race

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) – British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt arrived in Washington last week for a whirlwind of meetings dominated by a critical question: Should Britain risk its relationship with Beijing and agree to the Trump administration’s request to ban Huawei, China’s leading telecommunications producer, from building its next-generation computer and phone networks?

Britain is not the only US ally feeling the heat. In Poland, officials are also under pressure from the United States to bar Huawei from building its fifth generation, or 5G, network. Trump officials suggested that future deployments of US troops – including the prospect of a permanent base labelled “Fort Trump” – could hinge on Poland’s decision.

And a delegation of US officials showed up this spring in Germany, where most of Europe’s giant fiber-optic lines connect and Huawei wants to build the switches that make the system hum. Their message: Any economic benefit of using cheaper Chinese telecom equipment is outweighed by the security threat to the Nato alliance.

During the past year, the United States has embarked on a stealthy, occasionally threatening, global campaign to prevent Huawei and other Chinese firms from participating in the most dramatic remaking of the plumbing that controls the internet since it sputtered into being, in pieces, 35 years ago.

The administration contends that the world is engaged in a new arms race – one that involves technology, rather than conventional weaponry, but poses just as much danger to US national security. In an age when the most powerful weapons, short of nuclear arms, are cyber-controlled, whichever country dominates 5G will gain an economic, intelligence and military edge for much of this century.

The transition to 5G – already beginning in prototype systems in cities from Dallas to Atlanta – is likely to be more revolutionary than evolutionary. What consumers will notice first is that the network is faster – data should download almost instantly, even over cellphone networks.

It is the first network built to serve the sensors, robots, autonomous vehicles and other devices that will continuously feed each other vast amounts of data, allowing factories, construction sites and even whole cities to be run with less moment-to-moment human intervention. It will also enable greater use of virtual reality and artificial intelligence tools.

But what is good for consumers is also good for intelligence services and cyber attackers. The 5G system is a physical network of switches and routers. But it is more reliant on layers of complex software that are far more adaptable, and constantly updating, in ways invisible to users – much as an iPhone automatically updates while charging overnight. That means whoever controls the networks controls the information flow – and may be able to change, reroute or copy data without users’ knowledge.

In interviews with current and former senior US government officials, intelligence officers and top telecommunications executives, it is clear that the potential of 5G has created a zero-sum calculus in the Trump White House – a conviction that there must be a single winner in this arms race, and the loser must be banished. For months, the White House has been drafting an executive order, expected in the coming weeks, that would effectively ban US companies from using Chinese-origin equipment in critical telecommunications networks. That goes far beyond the existing rules, which ban such equipment only from government networks.

Nervousness about Chinese technology has long existed in the United States, fuelled by the fear that the Chinese could insert a “back door” into telecom and computing networks that would allow Chinese security services to intercept military, government and corporate communications. And Chinese cyberintrusions of US companies and government entities have occurred repeatedly, including by hackers suspected of working on behalf of China’s Ministry of State Security.

But the concern has taken on more urgency as countries around the world begin deciding which equipment providers will build their 5G networks.

US officials say the old process of looking for “back doors” in equipment and software made by Chinese companies is the wrong approach, as is searching for ties between specific executives and the Chinese government. The bigger issue, they argue, is the increasingly authoritarian nature of the Chinese government, the fading line between independent business and the state and new laws that will give Beijing the power to look into, or maybe even take over, networks that companies like Huawei have helped build and maintain.

“It’s important to remember that Chinese company relationships with the Chinese government aren’t like private sector company relationships with governments in the West,” said William Evanina, director of the US National Counterintelligence and Security Centre. “China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law requires Chinese companies to support, provide assistance and cooperate in China’s national intelligence work, wherever they operate.”

The White House’s focus on Huawei coincides with the Trump administration’s broader crackdown on China, which has involved sweeping tariffs on Chinese goods, investment restrictions and the indictments of several Chinese nationals accused of hacking and cyber-espionage. President Donald Trump has accused China of “ripping off our country” and plotting to grow stronger at America’s expense.

Trump’s views, combined with a lack of hard evidence implicating Huawei in any espionage, have prompted some countries to question whether the US campaign is really about national security or if it is aimed at preventing China from gaining a competitive edge.

Administration officials see little distinction in those goals.

“President Trump has identified overcoming this economic problem as critical, not simply to right the balance economically, to make China play by the rules everybody else plays by, but to prevent an imbalance in political/military power in the future as well,” John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, told The Washington Times on Friday. “The two aspects are very closely tied together in his mind.”

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White House denies reports of cancelled trade meeting with China

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The White House on Tuesday (Jan 22) said high-level trade talks with Beijing were proceeding uninterrupted, quickly rebutting media reports that progress toward resolving their trade war had faltered.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is to meet his US counterparts in Washington next week as the two sides work to resolve their trade disagreements by March 1, when a 90-day truce is due to expire, allowing US import duties on Chinese goods to increase sharply.

Washington and Beijing imposed tit-for-tat tariffs on more than US$360 billion (S$489.6 billion) worth of goods in two-way trade last year.

Trump initiated the trade war because of complaints over unfair Chinese trade practices – concerns shared by the European Union, Japan and others.

The Financial Times and CNBC both reported Tuesday afternoon that Washington had cancelled a preliminary meeting set for this week ahead of Liu’s visit.

American officials had reportedly cited a lack of progress on the most difficult issues in the trade dispute – including allegedly forced technology transfers and far-reaching structural reforms to China’s economy.

The reports sent Wall Street even further into the red. US stocks had already opened lower on downgraded forecasts for global economic growth.

But, shortly before the close of trading in New York, top White House economic aide Larry Kudlow flatly denied the reports during an appearance on CNBC.

“With respect, the story is not true,” Kudlow said.

“There was never a planned meeting that was cancelled.”

Stock prices recovered some of their losses following his remarks but still finished substantially lower for the day.

Kudlow said the United States continued to press the Chinese on the subject of intellectual property and state intervention in markets, among other matters.

He also said American officials were insisting that any agreement have teeth to ensure Beijing’s compliance.

“Enforcement is absolutely crucial to the success of these talks,” Kudlow said.

“Will it be solved at the end of the month? I don’t know. I wouldn’t dare predict and want to make sure people understand how important that is to put it on the table.”

If both sides fail to reach a resolution to the trade war, US duty rates on US$200 billion in Chinese goods are due to rise to 25 per cent from their current 10 per cent, a prospect that has shaken markets in recent months.

Last year, the Chinese economy posted its slowest annual growth in nearly three decades, according to official figures published Monday in Beijing, underscoring concerns the trade conflict with the United States could sap the strength of the world’s second-largest economy and harm global growth in the process.

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Beijing warns US against proceeding with extradition of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, threatens to take action

BEIJING – China has warned the United States against proceeding with the extradition of Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, threatening action if it does.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying issued the warning at a regular press briefing on Tuesday (Jan 22) after news broke that Washington intended to file an extradition request for Ms Meng, who is currently under house arrest in Canada.

“China will of course take action in response to measures taken by the US,” Ms Hua told reporters.

“Everyone has to be responsible for their actions, and I think the same is true for a country. We hope that both Canada and the United States will recognise the serious nature of this incident and take steps to correct their mistakes.”

Ms Hua said both the US and Canada have abused the bilateral extradition treaty between them and called on Washington to “immediately rectify its mistake” and not issue a formal extradition request to Ottawa.

Ms Meng’s arrest was “plainly aimed at putting unreasonable pressure on China’s high-tech enterprises”, she added.

Beijing’s latest salvo worsens the already strained ties between China and Canada, which arrested Ms Meng last month at Vancouver airport following a request from the US.

In what was seen as retaliation, China later detained two Canadians – former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor – on the grounds that they violated the country’s national security. Shortly afterwards, another Canadian was sentenced to death on drug charges after an appeal by prosecutors.

The US wants to extradite Ms Meng so she can face charges for violating US sanctions against Iran.

On Tuesday, Canada’s Globe and Mail reported that Washington had informed Ottawa of its intention to proceed with a formal extradition request, which it has to file by Jan 30.

The report said Canada’s Ambassador to the US David MacNaughton met several times with senior White House and US State Department officials about Ms Meng’s case, during which he expressed Ottawa’s anger and resentment with it.

“We do not like that it is our citizens who are being punished,” Mr MacNaughton said. “(The Americans) are the ones seeking to have the full force of American law brought against (Ms Meng) and yet we are the ones who are paying the price. Our citizens are.”

On Monday, over 140 former diplomats and scholars from various countries issued an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping calling for the release of Mr Kovrig and Mr Spavor.

In their letter, the signatories wrote that Mr Kovrig, was the Northeast Asia expert for the International Crisis Group, an NGO whose mission was to “build a more peaceful world”. Mr Spavor, they said, has worked to build links between North Korea, China, the US and Canada.

“However, Kovrig and Spavor’s detentions send a message that this kind of constructive work is unwelcome and even risky in China,” said the letter.

Ms Hua responded by saying that by calling for the release of the two Canadians, the letter showed “disrespect” for Chinese law, and was not representative of the opinions of the international community.

Addressing the signatories, she said: “Do they hope for China’s 1.4 billion people to also sign an open letter to Canada’s leader? I believe the righteous voice of the Chinese people will definitely be louder than the voice of these 100 people.”

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US to formally seek extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou: Report

OTTAWA (REUTERS, AFP) – The United States has informed the Canadian government that it plans to proceed with a formal request to extradite Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on allegations violation of US sanctions against Iran, the Globe and Mail reported on Monday (Jan 21).

However, Canada’s ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton, in an interview, did not say when the formal extradition request will be made but the deadline for filing it is Jan 30, according to the Globe and Mail.

Huawei said it has no comment on the ongoing legal proceedings, while the US Justice Department officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Meanwhile, a group of former diplomats and academics have signed an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping calling for the release of two Canadians who have been detained on allegations of espionage.

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were last month arrested in China for activities that “endanger China’s security” – a phrase often used by Beijing when alleging espionage.

Their detentions are thought to be in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Meng.

The letter said both Kovrig and Spavor worked to improve understanding of China and to promote better relations with the world.

“Kovrig and Spavor’s detentions send a message that this kind of constructive work is unwelcome and even risky in China,” read the page-long letter, which had 143 signatories from 19 countries.

The list includes six former Canadian ambassadors to China: Fred Bild, Joseph Caron, Earl Drake, David Mulroney, Guy Saint-Jacques and Robert Wright as well as former US ambassadors Gary Locke and Winston Lord and Hong Kong’s last British governor Chris Patten.

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