Merkel, Putin discuss ways to save Iran deal

Merkel will hold talks with Putin next week during an official trip to Russia [PPIO]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the Iran nuclear deal after Washington announced it was violating the peace agreement, the Kremlin said on Friday.

“The two leaders discussed the situation created by the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme. They pointed out the importance of the JCPOA for international and regional security,” a Kremlin statement said.

Merkel will hold talks with Putin next week during an official trip to Russia.

The White House is preparing to impose new sanctions on Tehran soon.

On Friday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

The two foreign ministers said on Thursday they were working to preserve the Iran nuclear deal.

“Without doubt we will make sure firstly that this does not destroy the JCPOA. This is our common objective, we confirmed this,” Lavrov said at a joint conference with Maas.

The German Foreign Minister told Spiegel magazine earlier last week that Berlin is set to change its policy towards the US after Washington’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal.

Reports say the European Union is considering blocking US sanctions over Iran. The EU’s blocking statute bans any EU company from complying with U.S. sanctions and does not recognise any court rulings that enforce American penalties.


Source: Agencies

China, Japan leaders aim to mend fences, boost trade

From right to left: Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Tokyo, Japan on 9 May 2018 [Image: Prime Minister’s Office of Japan]

After tripartite talks between China, Japan and South Korea on regional free trade deals and the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang batted for “new progress” between Beijing and Tokyo.

In Tokyo on Thursday,  Li was quoted in a Xinhua report saying “lasting stable development should be made in China-Japan relationship as it returns to the normal track”.

On Thursday Li attended an event marking the 40th anniversary of the China-Japan peace treaty in Tokyo. Disputes over the two countries’ sensitive wartime history has impacted trade in recent years.

Chinese Premier Li and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe have held multiple rounds of discussions this week on trade, bilateral ties and international issues including North Korea.

“China, Japan and South Korea have all benefited from free trade and are all advocates of free trade. Under the current circumstances, they should stand more firmly together for rules-based multilateral free trade system and against acts of trade protectionism and unilateralism,” Li said in a veiled dig at US President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies that, critics warn, is posing the biggest threat to the world economy this year.

China, Japan and South Korea began free trade agreement talks in November 2012, with the latest round of talks being held in Tokyo.

The three countries together have a market of 1.5 billion people.

Territorial and historical disputes as well as differing views on market access have considerably slowed down negotiations between the three nations.

Japan and South Korea have been involved in a prolonged row over the disputed islands known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan.

Sino-Japanese ties have also been under strain due to a territorial dispute over another set of islands.

Both China and Japan have accused the other of flying military aircraft too close to its own jets in a long-running territorial dispute over a cluster of islets in the East China Sea, known in China as Diaoyu and in Japan as Senkaku, which has left ties between the two nations strained.

But leaders of the three Asian giants have attempted to forge closer ties amid unprecedented diplomatic moves in the region aimed at resolving the Korean crisis.


TBP and Agencies

Russia “deeply disappointed” at US exit from historic Iran deal

File photo of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (2nd from right) with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia [PPIO]

Moscow decried US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the historic 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions with the Russian Foreign Ministry saying it is “deeply disappointed”.

“There are and there may be no grounds for undermining the JCPOA. The plan fully proved its efficiency. It effectively copes with all the goals set for it. Iran strictly sticks to its commitments, which is regularly confirmed by the IAEA. We are fully supporting and welcoming that,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

On July 14, 2015, the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the European Union and Iran reached a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s long-term nuclear programme.

Trump on Tuesday said the “Iran deal is defective at its core” and that “any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could be strongly sanctioned”.

Meanwhile, Russia had said it would back further cooperation within the parties that brokered the Iran deal.

Russia is one of Iran’s oldest allies. Both countries support Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and have provided support to his forces to defeat Islamist rebels in Syrian cities.

On Tuesday, Russia reiterated it’s support for dialogue and cooperation with Tehran.

Moscow’s stance was shared by European leaders as they pledged to keep the accord with Tehran alive.

“Together, we emphasize our continuing commitment to the JCPOA. This agreement remains important for our shared security,”  the leaders of Britain, France and Germany said in a joint statement.

Germany has also said the US exit would not impact their commitment.

“We will try to keep alive this important agreement, which ensures the Middle East and the world as a whole are safer,” said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in a televised broadcast.

This is not the first time the Trump administration has violated an international agreement and a UN resolution, breaking decisively with other world powers.

President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement in June last year, saying the deal would have adversely hit the US economy and killed American jobs.


TBP and Agencies

China congratulates Putin on his inauguration as Russian President

Vladimir Putin at the inauguration ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on 7 May 2018 [PPIO]

Amid a Western standoff with Russia over sanctions and the Syrian crisis, ally China congratulated President Vladimir Putin after he was sworn in for a new term on Monday.

At the Kremlin Palace Putin was sworn in for a new 6-year term on Monday.

“The Chinese side believes that under the leadership of President Putin, Russia will keep making achievements in its nation building and social and economic development,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang told a routine press briefing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke to Putin after more than 70 per cent of voters backed him in a March 18 presidential election.

China’s Foreign Minister said a “personal push by President Xi and President Putin” has boosted ties between the two nations.

Beijing and Moscow “have exchanged views on major international and regional issues in a timely manner, kept close coordination within the framework of multilateral mechanisms, and made significant contributions to world peace and stability” Geng was quoted by Chinese agency Xinhua.

Trade between BRICS allies China and Russia has increased about 30 per cent in the first quarter of 2018, according to Chinese officials.

In May 2014, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping singed a landmark $400 billion gas deal under which Gazprom will supply the China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) 38 billion cubic meters (BCM) of natural gas every year for 30 years.

The deal has brought both countries, BRICS members, closer and has been a massive boost to Sino-Russian ties even as Russia struggles with EU and US sanctions over Ukraine.

On Monday, Putin announced he was retaining Dmitri Medvedev as Prime Minster and Anton Siluanov as Finance Minister.

In a speech after the swearing-in ceremony, Putin said that Russia favours “equitable and mutual cooperation with all states in interest of peace”.

“Russia faced a number of dark periods and challenges, and rose like a phoenix from the ashes every time, achieving heights that seemed unattainable to others,” Putin said.


TBP and Agencies

Top US officials in Beijing to avert trade war with China

Beijing has strongly criticized the Trump administration for pushing tariffs on billions of dollars of imported goods from China but said it would fight to the end to protect its interests

The world’s top two economies will be locked in trade discussions over the next two days after both sides issued warnings about an escalation of trade hostilities.

A US trade delegation, led by senior officials including Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, arrived in Beijing on Thursday for crucial talks over tariffs dispute even as China sought to temper expectations about a breakthrough.

“Consultation between China and the United States on economic and trade issues will be constructive as long as the U.S. delegation comes with sincerity,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Wednesday.

“As long as the U.S. delegation is sincere about maintaining the overall stability of China-U.S. economic and trade relations and an attitude of mutual respect, equal consultation and mutual benefits, the consultation will be constructive, she added.

Both US and China have announced imposition of tariffs on each others’ imports although they are yet to be implemented.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House advisers Larry Kudlow and Peter Navarro, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross are among the officials who will lead trade talks with China this week.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will hold talks with the visiting US trade delegation in Beijing on Thursday and Friday.

According to a report by Consumer Technology Association and the National Retail Federation the US decision to impose tariffs on around $50 billion worth of Chinese exports is going to hit the American economy.

The US tariffs and an ensuing trade war would reduce the GDP of the United States by $2.9 billion and cost almost 134,000 American jobs, says the report.

Both countries have been locked in a war of words and threats over US President Donald Trump’s decision to impose substantial tariffs on Chinese goods entering US markets. China has responded by doing the same, largely focused on agricultural industries in the American heartland.

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has called on China and the US to resolve their looming trade disputes through the use of existing multilateral provisions and organizations.



TBP and Agencies


Chinese Foreign Minister in Pyongyang ahead of Trump-Kim meet

In the North Korean capital this week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is expected to discuss the proposed “quadrilateral” peace talks [PPIO]

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi is in North Korea for a two-day trip beginning Wednesday, the latest in a series of diplomatic power plays in Asia.

Wang will hold talks with his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho during a visit aimed at serving as preparation for Pyongyang’s upcoming summit with the United States.

China’s Foreign Minister is in the country after the historic summit between North and South Korean leaders Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in earlier last week.

They agreed to halt all hostile acts and move toward formally ending the Korean war later this year. They also pledged to work toward |complete denuclearization|, improve bilateral relations and turning the demilitarized zone into a peace zone.

The “peace declaration” signed by Kim and his South Korean counterpart on Friday refers to quadrilateral meetings involving the two Koreas, China and the United States.

China welcomed the apparent rapprochement between the two Koreas and said it hoped for a political resolution of the recent crisis.

Kim and US President Donald Trump are slated to meet in a few weeks.

During the North Korean President’s visit to China in March this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping had promised China would uphold friendship with its isolated neighbour.

The March visit to Beijing was Kim’s first known trip outside North Korea since he assumed power in 2011.

US President Donald Trump on Monday hinted at the border between North and South Korea as the site for his proposed meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“There’s something that I like about it because you’re there, you’re actually there. Where, if things work out, there’s a great celebration to be had on the site not in a third-party country,” Trump told reporters in Washington.

Both North Korea and the US have used belligerent rhetoric against each other for years even as Pyongyang battled sanctions for its nuclear and rocket tests.

US President Donald Trump had earlier called North Korean leader Kim a “sick puppy” and “little rocket man”.

Meanwhile, in the North Korean capital this week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is expected to discuss the proposed “quadrilateral” peace talks.

Wang is also likely to discuss the US deployment of the advanced THAAD missile  defense system in the Korean peninsula.

Washington and Seoul had, while deploying the THAAD, that the missile shield would be focused solely on North Korea. Beijing has repeatedly argued that the US weapons deployment in South Korea would pose considerable threat to neighboring countries.

“Once deployed, the system would pose a direct threat to the strategic security of China and Russia,” Foreign Minister Wang has said previously.

China is also opposed to joint military exercises by the United States, South Korea and Japan in the region.


The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

Read more: North Korea Has No Choice But to Back Down


“Sailing in the same boat”: Xi and Modi talk up bilateral ties

Chinese President Xi Jinping (extreme right) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sipping tea beside a lake in Wuhan, China on 28 April 2018 [Image: PMO, India]

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks all day on a range of bilateral and global issues in the Chinese city of Wuhan on Saturday.

“The great cooperation between our two great countries can influence the world,” Xi said on Friday while welcoming Modi who is looking for a possible rapprochement with China.

The two leaders made statements that seem to suggest they are looking to reset the sometimes touchy relationship between Asia’s most powerful countries.

“The talks with President Xi Jinping focused on diverse areas of India-China cooperation. We discussed ways to give impetus to our economic ties as well as people-to-people relations,” the Indian Prime Minister said on Saturday.

“Strong India-China friendship is beneficial for the people of our nations and the entire world,” he added.

Modi, during a 2-day visit to China, held long informal talks with the Chinese leader, amid growing concerns about a trade row between China and the United States in which the two nations have threatened each other with tariffs.

Both China and India are protesting the US announcement of a 25 per cent tariff on American imports of steel and 10 per cent on aluminum.

A Reuters report this week quoted Indian officials warning India would lodge a trade dispute against the United States at the World Trade Organisation if the Trump administration does not grant it exemptions from higher tariffs on steel and aluminium.

An impending trade war “equally threatens the economic well-being of China and India” writes Indian economist Mohan Guruswamy.

“Thus for the first time in decades the most immediate and important interests of India and China coincide. Both leaders will see the need to act in concert,” according to Guruswamy.

Following Chinese concerns, the Indian administration has also signaled a rethink about the so-called Quad, essentially US efforts to draw India into a maritime security “quad” that includes Japan and Australia.

Earlier this week, India rejected Australian lobbying to take part in a joint naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal with the US and Japan.

In recent months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has also distanced itself from public engagement of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who lives in exile in India and whom China regards as a “splittist”.

On Saturday, Chinese President Xi held talks with Modi during a stroll around a guesthouse in Wuhan.

The two Asian leaders also embarked on an hour-long boat trip on a lake followed by lunch.

China is India’s largest trading partner although India has not yet signed up to President Xi’s signature foreign policy plan to build a new “Silk Road” of infrastructure and trade links between China and Eurasia.



Xi hosts Indian Prime Minister Modi in Wuhan

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Hubei Provincial Museum in Wuhan, China on 27 April 2018 [Image: MEA, India]

Chinese President Xi Jinping is hosting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for two days in an informal summit likely to be dominated by discussions around reducing differences over trade and a long-standing boundary dispute.

Modi arrived in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on Friday.

“Our common interests far outweigh our differences. The two countries have no choice other than pursuing everlasting friendship, mutually beneficial cooperation and common development,” China’s State Councillor Wang Yi told reporters after meeting Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in Beijing earlier this week.

“The summit will go a long way towards deepening the mutual trust between the two great neighbors. We will make sure that the informal summit will be a complete success and a new milestone in the history of China-India relations,” he added.

On Friday, the Chinese and Indian leaders had a one-on-one meeting accompanied by interpreters but no aides, according to Indian media reports.

Modi and Xi are meeting incidentally on the same day as a historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. North Korean leader Kim crossed a military demarcation line to enter the South for the first summit between the two sides in more than a decade.

Throughout the decades of conflict, China has maintained that the only way to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula was to hold diplomatic talks.

China has in recent months pressured both North Korea and the US to tone down the war rhetoric, which reached its apex at the end of 2017.

Meanwhile, the two Chinese and Indian leaders will hold multiple meetings over the next two days to discuss regional, bilateral and global issues, according to officials.

On Friday, Xi and Modi “enjoyed Chinese artefacts” at the Hubei Provincial Museum.

According to Chinese news agency Xinhua, the leaders of the two countries discussed “strengthening exchanges and understanding between the two ancient civilizations of China and India and promoting the harmonious coexistence and dialogue of different civilizations”.

Regional rivalry escalated last year as Indian and Chinese forces mobilised at Donglang/Doklam, a plateau at the tri-junction where the borders of India, China and Bhutan meet.

By the end of August, India withdrew troops from the disputed Himalayan border area, ending a tense 73-day stand-off with China.

But official relations between the world’s two fastest growing economies have come a long way since the two fought a brief border war in 1962.

China’s Commerce Ministry figures show India-China trade volume in 2017 rose by 20.3 per cent and hit a record high of $84.44 billion.

China is also India’s largest trading partner.

Apart from strong economic ties, Modi’s China visit this week is also aimed at boosting mutual political trust.

BRICS members China, India and Russia are the three largest shareholders in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), with a voting share of 26.06 per cent, 7.5 per cent and 5.92 per cent, respectively.

The BRICS Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Silk Road Fund are all initiatives spearheaded by China for a new kind of global development financing.

India has partnered with China on both the BRICS Bank and the AIIB.

Modi will also attend a summit of the China and Russia-led security bloc, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, in June in China’s Qingdao.


TBP and Agencies

India moves up to 100th spot in World Bank’s ease of doing business list

India has made it easier to secure to procure construction permits, according to the World Bank report [Xinhua]

India has moved up 30 places from the World Bank’s last year’s ease of doing business rankings.

Starting a business in India is now faster, says the World Bank report.

This jump is “a very clear signal from India to the rest of the world that not only has the country been ready and open for business, as it has been for many decades, it is now competing as the preferred place to do business globally,” Annette Dixon, World Bank’s vice president for South Asia said on Tuesday in New Delhi.

The report lauds India for boosting access to credit system and making it easier to secure to procure construction permits.

However, a majority of economists forecast a broad and marked slowdown expected in economic activity in India.

A currency ban last year and the new goods and services tax (GST) have disrupted India’s business activity and dampened consumer demand. The World Bank report said it has excluded the impact of both these measures.

The Indian economy grew at 5.7 percent annually in the April-June quarter, its lowest level in more than three years.



TBP and Agencies