Tag Archives: Free Trade

Trump victory rattles Asia

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
November 19, 2016

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addresses the audience after a meeting with Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (not pictured) at the presidential palace ahead of the 2016 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Lima, Peru November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

Related story: Pacific Rim Leaders Scramble in Trump Trade Era Above, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addresses the audience after a meeting with Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (not pictured) at the presidential palace ahead of the 2016 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Lima, Peru November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

Public displays of anxiety are frowned on in Japanese culture, and are especially unacceptable in political leaders.

Even more anathema to the spirit of “Bushido” – the chivalric code of the samurai warrior – is indulging in self-humiliation.

Thus it was extraordinary on Thursday to see Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe take a detour on his flight to Peru for the Asia-Pacific summit next week, in order to scurry to New York to seek an audience with Donald Trump.

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Like other world leaders, Japanese prime ministers usually have much more self-esteem and sense of decorum than to play court to United States presidents before they are inaugurated. Rushing off to kiss the ring of an ethically challenged real estate developer, failed casino owner and jumped up “realty” TV performer is demeaning, to say the least.

Even more demeaning for Abe was being seen and photographed in the executive rooms in Trump Towers. The décor is how one imagines the waiting area of a Russian oligarchs’ brothel looks. Given the apparent Russian financial links of the Trump family, this may not be a coincidence.

The 25 per cent of registered US voters who have made Trump president have not only chosen a liar, bully, cheat, racist, misogynist, they have also anointed a man whose idea of tasteful art is retro bordello.

That Abe would put himself through this distasteful encounter speaks volumes about the fear and dread with which not only Japan, but much of Asia, contemplates the ascension of Trump on January 20.

Trump, after all, is inexperienced in international affairs, unless one counts whatever his dealings with Russia amount to. He showed, during the campaigns for his nomination as the Republican Party candidate and the contest with Hillary Clinton for the presidency, that he is supremely and dangerously ignorant.

What undoubtedly prompted Abe to set aside his better instincts, and decide he had to size up the monster a small minority of U.S. voters have foisted on the world, was some of Trump’s unbelievably stupid campaign rhetoric.

Trump not only said Washington’s allies should pay a greater share of the cost of their protection – there are about 50,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan, at heavy cost to the Tokyo and regional governments – he mused about withdrawing Washington’s ultimate defence guarantee. Instead of Washington protecting Japan and South Korea from attack with the U.S. “nuclear umbrella,” it might be better if Tokyo and Seoul developed their own nuclear weapons arsenals, he said.

Of course, that one little unconsidered piece of nonsense not only knocked out of the window the alliances that have underpinned Far Eastern security since the Second World War, it also beat the stuffing out of the whole concept of nuclear non-proliferation. It reinforced the perception that Trump is a man of dangerous stupidity, who cannot be trusted to sustain U.S. alliances. In these circumstances, it might indeed be a good idea for Washington’s traditional allies to get nuclear weapons of their own.

The other question that prompted Abe to divert his flight to New York was whether the U.S. will continue to be a sound economic partner for Japan. Trump’s mindless rubbishing of free trade agreements is of special concern to not only Japan, but to all U.S. business partners. Abe and his government are particularly anxious about Trump’s contempt for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation free trade agreement awaiting ratification by the U.S. Congress.

Tokyo took a lot of persuading by Barack Obama’s administration to join the TPP initiative. But having done so, Abe’s government has become one of the TPP’s most ardent fans. Indeed, TPP would be one of Abe’s most significant achievements to revitalize the Japanese economy. But there is now no hope of Obama being able to get TPP approved by a hostile Congress before he leaves office, and Trump says he plans to junk any agreement that appears to have exported blue collar jobs from the U.S.

Abe emerged from his meeting with Trump saying the new U.S. President is someone “in whom I can have great confidence.”

“We were able to have a very candid talk over a substantial amount of time (90 minutes). We held it in a very warm atmosphere,” he said to reporters after the meeting. “Without confidence between our two nations, our alliance would never function in the future.”

Well, that script could have been written before Abe’s plane touched down in New York. And how well Washington’s alliances function is going to depend a great deal on who Trump picks to advise and administer policy. One can only hope this is done with more sophistication than Trump portrayed as the sociopathic bully-boss in the TV show “The Apprentice,” a performance which seems to have been a major rung on his ladder to the presidency.

The announcement of Trump’s first senior appointments is not encouraging. The common thread among these men appears to be past rejections for anti-social behaviour.

The potential impact on Asia of the Trump presidency goes well beyond Japan, of course.

In Beijing, the Communist Party leaders are delighted. They see the election of Trump not only as a wonderful example of the deadly flaws in democracy, but also as clear evidence of the withering of the U.S. as the world’s supreme super power.

Chinese state media is already trotting out a propaganda line aimed at countries in Asia and Africa, saying the Trump election shows how fallible is the democratic system. Far better, says the Beijing line, is a system of guided meritocracy, such as that followed by the Chinese Communist Party, which aims to produce leaders prepared for the job.

Beijing is ready for some pain if Trump follows through on promises he made during the campaigns. He accused Beijing of currency manipulation and threatened retribution, including imposing a 45 per cent tax on imports from China with the aim of bringing back to the U.S. jobs that have been moved to China to take advantage of lower production costs. But as Trump within the first few days after the election reneged on promises he made during the campaigns, Beijing has good reason to think his threats are empty.

Of more long-term encouragement to Beijing is that China’s leaders see Trump’s victory as a major step in the decline of the American Imperium. Over the last 20 years or so Beijing has pursued a massive program of military reform and modernization that now means China’s armed forces are potent enough to deter the U.S. from supporting Asian allies, without grave risks.

At the same time, Beijing has used the massive profits generated from becoming the world’s manufacturing centre to finance a sustained charm offensive throughout Asia. Beijing’s investment in infrastructure projects such as ports, pipelines, roads and railways in Asian countries has put China at the hub of a network of client states.

Some countries have welcomed the apparent end of the U.S. guarantee of security in Asia. The world recently witnessed the unsettling picture of the new Philippines President, Rodrigo Duterte, pointedly abandoning his country’s century of reliance on Washington for its security and running to Beijing to swear fealty to China’s President and Communist Party boss, Xi Jinping. Soon afterwards, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak, did the same.

Other Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Thailand have already made pacts with Beijing. But there are several who are put in a tight spot by Trump’s victory and the uncertainty about what policies he will pursue towards Asia.

The ascendancy of Trump, with his seemingly off-hand regard for nuclear weapons, comes at an especially difficult time for South Korea, which is always under threat of attack by the rogue Marxist monarchy of Kim Jong-un in North Korea. The Seoul government is also an essential player in the international efforts to get Kim to give up, or at least contain, the crude but dangerous nuclear weapons his regime has managed to produce.

But South Korean President, Park Geun-hye, has been made almost entirely politically impotent by a scandal. For some years she had nursed a secret relationship with a spiritualist whom she has allowed to dictate government policies and decisions. She has offered to hand over power to the prime minister, but the opposition, which controls parliament, has rejected this. It looks as though South Korea will be effectively leaderless for much of next year.

Trump’s lack of interest in Asia is also disturbing for Vietnam. The Hanoi government has been growing its trade and political links with Washington for several years, both to build its economy and to provide backing against Beijing, which claims large areas of the South China Sea also claimed by Vietnam.

Vietnam is likely to find itself under increased pressure from Beijing and it is unclear where Hanoi may look for support to replace Washington’s failing hand. By judicious use of its money, Beijing has already destroyed any chance of a united push-back against its territorial expansion in the South China Sea from among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Vietnam has already made some overtures towards India, a regional rival to China. But India’s interest in supporting Vietnam is unlikely to extend much beyond the fun of irritating Beijing.

Trump’s victory is also disconcerting for another natural ally of Washington. Indonesia has 250 million people and is now well into a successful transition from dictatorship to a vigorous democracy. The country is rich in resources and has a young population that makes it a perfect candidate for industrial and technological development.

But nearly 90 per cent of Indonesians are Muslim, though of a particularly moderate brand. Trump’s anti-Muslim diatribes during the campaign – his threats to ban Muslims entering the U.S. and keeping official registers of those already in the country – have not gone down well in Indonesia, just as they have diminished Washington’s influence in the rest of Islam.

It is hard to imagine how any candidate for the U.S. presidency could do a better job of discrediting himself in the eyes of Asia – or the rest of the world for that matter – than Trump has done. So one can understand why Abe was willing to abandon conventions and to open himself to ridicule by going to see exactly what sort of creature U.S. voters have foisted on the world.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

Contact, including queries about syndication/republishing: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

Related story: Pacific Rim Leaders Scramble in Trump Trade Era, Reuters

Leaders of Pacific rim nations scrambled to find new free-trade options on Friday as a looming Donald Trump presidency in the United States sounded a possible death knell for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

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Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. He is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan,” and has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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Pacific Rim Leaders Scramble in Trump Trade Era

China's President Xi Jinping (2nd L) and Peru's second Vice President Mercedes Araoz (L) walk after he and his wife Peng Liyuan (2nd R) arrived for the 2016 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Lima, Peru November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

Related: Trump victory rattles Asia, Analysis by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs columnist China’s President Xi Jinping (2nd L) and Peru’s second Vice President Mercedes Araoz (L) walk after he and his wife Peng Liyuan (2nd R) arrived for the 2016 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Lima, Peru November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

By Rosalba O’Brien and Mitra Taj
November 18, 2016

LIMA (Reuters) – Leaders of Pacific rim nations scrambled to find new free-trade options on Friday as a looming Donald Trump presidency in the United States sounded a possible death knell for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

After lower-level meetings, U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Russian President Vladimir Putin were due to arrive at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that brings together leaders whose economies represent 57 percent of global gross domestic product.

While campaigning for the presidential election which he won, Trump labelled the TPP a job-killing “disaster” and called for curbs on immigration and steeper tariffs on products from China and Mexico.

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Though Obama championed the TPP as a way to counter China’s rise, his administration has now stopped trying to win congressional approval for the deal that was signed by 12 economies in the Americas and Asia-Pacific, but excluded China. Without U.S. approval the agreement as currently negotiated cannot come to fruition.

China’s Xi is selling an alternate vision for regional trade by promoting the Beijing-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which as it stands excludes the Americas.

The Obama administration said China would be happy to take over the United States’ role as global free-trade promoter.

“We see people around the table here right now talking about if the TPP does not move forward then they’re going to have to put their eggs in the RCEP basket,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told journalists.

Froman said that RCEP would not have labour and environmental protections that are written into TPP.

Mexico, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore, however, aim to continue with TPP with or without the United States, Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said.

“We determined that our countries will press ahead with this agreement independently of what Washington decides,” Guajardo said of the trade deal on Mexican radio. He said Mexico had not ruled out joining RCEP but was focusing on TPP.

Peru and Japan, on the other hand, signed a joint statement pledging to work harder to put into force the 12-nation accord.

DIFFICULT TO EXCLUDE U.S.

Alan Bollard, the APEC secretariat’s executive director, said it was premature to write the TPP off, and that excluding the United States could prove difficult.

“Actually there were concessions given to the U.S. in those negotiations that they may not want to sign up to without the U.S. in it,” he said in an interview. “Without the U.S., it does change the economics of the whole thing quite a bit.”

The 21 members of the APEC have finished a study for a regional free-trade area but will not discuss it until the next annual summit in Vietnam, Peruvian Trade Minister Eduardo Ferreyros said. Both the TPP and RCEP were seen as pathways toward an APEC-wide agreement.

Robert Moritz, the global chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers, said not implementing TPP would represent the loss of a potential economic growth accelerator, but that CEOs surveyed by the auditing and corporate advisory firm hoped other trade deals could be reached.

“Many of those countries and the companies within them are also looking for bilateral and trilateral trade agreements in addition to or maybe even separate from TPP,” Moritz said in an interview. “So to me it’s a question of how do they pivot if in fact TPP does not go forward.”

Though most were careful not to criticise Trump directly, leaders at APEC, which ends on Sunday, universally warned of the dangers of turning away from globalisation and free trade.

“To anyone who wants to propose protectionism I suggest that you read the history books about the 1930s,” Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said.

Sun Xiao from China’s Chamber of International Commerce blamed unequal distribution of free trade’s benefits for rising protectionism, and suggested it would be different under Chinese leadership.

“If there was a bigger role for China we would promote the principle of joint participation and shared benefits to ensure free trade arrangements can benefit all,” he said.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Reporting by Rosalba O’Brien, Teresa Cespedes, Caroline Stauffer, Ursula Scollo and Mitra Taj in Lima, Additional reporting by Natalie Schachar in Mexico City; Writing by Caroline Stauffer and Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Alistair Bell, Mary Milliken and Lisa Shumaker)

Related story: Trump victory rattles Asia, analysis by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs columnist

it was extraordinary to see Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe take a detour on his flight to Peru for the Asia-Pacific summit next week, in order to scurry to New York to seek an audience with Donald Trump. That Abe would put himself through this distasteful encounter speaks volumes about the fear and dread with which not only Japan, but much of Asia, contemplates the ascension of Trump on January 20.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) leave after their bilateral meeting at the APEC Ministers Summit in Lima, Peru November 17, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Ralston/Pool

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) leave after their bilateral meeting at the APEC Ministers Summit in Lima, Peru November 17, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Ralston/Pool

China’s Sinochem Boss Dismisses “Crazy” Trump Policies

By Rosalba O’Brien

LIMA (Reuters) – Global business leaders meeting in Lima think proposals by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to build a wall along the Mexican border and hike tariffs on Chinese imports are unlikely to happen, said the head of China’s state-run Sinochem on Friday.

“We worried a bit on the incoming U.S. President Donald Trump, and his policies, but I think we basically agree we don’t think he will really build a wall between Mexico and the U.S, and we don’t think he will really increase import duties on Chinese products,” Ning Gaoning told journalists on the sidelines of a conference of Pacific rim economies.

“We believe countries are rational, and we doubt Mexico will pay for that wall…I don’t think our world will go that crazy.”

Trump, a Republican, pulled off a surprise victory in the U.S. presidential election after appealing to voters in states that had long supported Democrats, promising to curb immigration and bring back jobs by renegotiating international trade deals.

His victory vote has exacerbated worries that about the future of free trade and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, which Trump has criticized. Those are the key themes under discussion in this week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Peru.

But Ning said he remained optimistic that there would not be a “major retreat” on free trade and suggested Trump’s words were little more than rhetoric.

“Due to lack of knowledge and understanding, some people fall for the theories of protectionism,” he said.

“Trump said in Michigan that he would create automobile factories and bring the industries back. I don’t think what he said can be delivered.”

Sinochem Group was a monopoly oil and chemicals trader until the early 1990s and has since expanded into oil and gas production, refining, agriculture and real estate.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Reporting by Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

 

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EU Bids to Seal Canada trade Pact as US Prospects Dim

Thousands of people demonstrate against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in the centre of Brussels, Belgium September 20, 2016. Reuters/Eric Vidal

Thousands of people demonstrate against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in the centre of Brussels, Belgium September 20, 2016. Reuters/Eric Vidal

By Philip Blenkinsop and Tatiana Jancarikova
September, 2016

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) – EU ministers took steps Sept. 23 to approve a contentious free trade deal with Canada, while France and Austria demanded that talks towards a similar agreement with the United States should stop.

Both deals have triggered demonstrations by unions and protest groups who say they will spark a ‘race to the bottom’ in labour, environmental and public health standards and allow big business to challenge governments across Europe.

After a first session devoted to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) struck with Canada two years ago but still awaiting approval, ministers agreed the two sides would produce a binding declaration that spelt out the limits of the pact to dispel public concerns.

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The ministers are expected to convene an extraordinary meeting on Oct. 18, allowing the deal to be signed during the visit of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Brussels on Oct. 27. It could provisionally enter force early next year.

“There was a great willingness to sign the agreement in October,” Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s economy minister and vice-chancellor, told reporters.

Gabriel on Monday overcame left-wing resistance to the deal within his Social Democrats, the junior coalition partners in government.

However, lingering doubts remain elsewhere, notably in Austria, where Chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democrats have grave concern, and Belgium, where not all regions back the deal.

Reinhold Mitterlehner, Austria’s Christian Democrat vice chancellor, said a declaration making clear that standards were not under threat and that a special court would not allow big business to dictate public policy would help.

NO TTIP?

By contrast, Mitterlehner and his French counterpart argued that the EU-U.S. Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks, which have been going on for the past three-and-a-half years should be halted.

The Austrian told reporters they should be relaunched after the U.S. presidential elections with greater transparency, clearer goals and a different name. The current process, he said, was doomed.

Luxembourg and Slovenia also expressed strong reservations.

Washington and Brussels are officially committed to sealing this deal before President Barack Obama leaves office in January.

But their chances of doing so are remote given approaching elections on both sides of the Atlantic, with trade not a vote-winner, Britain’s June vote to leave the European Union and the calls for a fresh start.

EU trade chief Cecelia Malmstrom said all ministers had expressed doubts a deal could be struck before Obama’s departure, adding it was “increasingly unlikely”.

A next round of talks would go ahead in October and Malmstrom said talks could continue after the November election.

“If we do not conclude TTIP before January 19, then there will be a natural pause,” she said, adding it was hard to say when they might restart.

Some ministers spelt out the difference between concessions granted by Canada and what they said was U.S. intransigence.

“If the Americans are not ready to meet at least the standard of CETA, with Canada, then there will be no chance of a deal,” said Gabriel.

Finnish trade minister Kai Mykkanen said most of his peers preferred to let the Commission push on with talks, with an assessment of progress in November. He said a possible relaunch under a new president might need a new name.

“There are so many unreasonable fears and maybe they are tied to the name TTIP,” he said. The name has become synonymous in many people’s mind with the evils of globalisation and big business.

Outside the ministers’ meeting in Bratislava, around 100 local trade unions and Friends of the Earth activists held banners, mostly in English and German, denouncing CETA and TTIP. On the other side of the Danube river, Greenpeace unveiled a large banner on the top of a tower reading “No TTIP”.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Additional reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Writing by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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G7 warns of risks to economic growth, health

(From L) European Council President Donald Tusk, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pose for the family photo during the first day of the Group of Seven (G7) summit meetings in Ise Shima, Japan, May 26, 2016.  REUTERS/Pool

(From L) European Council President Donald Tusk, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pose for the family photo during the first day of the Group of Seven (G7) summit meetings in Ise Shima, Japan, May 26, 2016. REUTERS/Pool

by F&O
May 27, 2016

U.S. President Barack Obama, right, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel participate in a G-7 Working Session in Shima, Japan, Friday, May 27, 2016, during the G-7 Summit. REUTERS/Carolyn Kaster/Pool

U.S. President Barack Obama, right, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel participate in a G-7 Working Session in Shima, Japan, Friday, May 27, 2016, during the G-7 Summit. REUTERS/Carolyn Kaster/Pool

The G7 wrapped up its 2016 summit with warnings, of risks to economic growth, health threats from microbes resistant to antibiotics and the handling of health emergencies, as well as a loss of public trust in tax systems to the need for infrastructure investment and trade agreements.

Always a document crafted of diplomacy, with hard issues at times reduced to milquetoast, this year’s statement ran over 30 pages and occasionally bristled.

 

Threats to global growth include the risk of a “Brexit” — British exit from Europe — in the United Kingdom referendum in June;  “escalated geo-political conflicts, terrorism and refugee flows;”  and violent extremism and terrorist attacks that “pose serious threat to the existing rule based international order, and common values and principles of “freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.”

The G7  statement, following a summit in Japan from May 26 to 27, is worth at least a scan, not least because the organization — more so than the United Nations and its agencies — is arguably the closest thing the world has to a global government body with real-world influence. The criteria for membership includes wealth and a  high Human Development Index, and today includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with the European Union represented,

Global growth is the urgent priority, and the group said it would support fiscal, monetary and structural policies to strengthen demand and tackle supply constraints.

Members said they would “increase global assistance” to short and long term refugee needs.

Free trade and several free trade agreements now in progress  —  many increasingly contentious in the current American election cycle and cited as helping the rise of far-right  factions — ranked third on a list of commitments. “We reaffirm our commitment to keep our markets open and to fight all forms of protectionism” said the G7, and stressed its commitment to eliminate”market distorting measures” — specifically citing the steel sector, a contentious issue with China.

The group committed to tackle medical research and development including on microbial resistance to antibiotics, and “to promote Universal Health Coverage,” a hot-button topic in America. It pledged to lead the response to public health emergencies, usually the bailiwick of the World Health Organization. And, in a sharp comment, it said “the Ebola outbreak turned into a major epidemic partly due to the lack of swift and coordinated actions among relevant stakeholders,” and said reform of the WHO is needed for “prompt and effective responses to public health emergencies.”

Equality for and empowerment of women received a separate note of commitment, identifying a need for education and training and promoting women in science, technology, engineering and math.

Other pledges included “an accessible, open, interoperable, reliable and secure cyberspace;” a pledge to fight corruption and improve transparency, and law enforcement cooperation.

Climate change was listed at the bottom of the G7’s priorities, a placement that may or may not have meaning. The group statement said:

“The G7, continuing to take a leadership role, commits to taking the necessary steps to secure ratification, acceptance or approval of the Paris Agreement as soon as possible, and calls on all Parties to do so striving for a goal of entry into force in 2016. We commit to take the lead by early, transparent and robust implementation of our nationally determined contributions, and promoting increased ambition over time. We also commit to actively participate in the regular review of global stock-take progress every five years. We commit to formulate and communicate ambitions mid-century long-term low greenhouse gas (GHG) emission development strategies well ahead of the 2020 deadline. “

It added, “we are determined to accelerate our work towards the transition to an energy system that enables a decarbonization of the global economy, and commit to further invest in supporting innovation in energy technologies and encouraging clean energy and energy efficiency …

Read the full G7 Ise-Shima Leaders’ Declaration here: http://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000160266.pdf

—  Deborah Jones         

Copyright Facts and Opinions 2016

Links:

G7 Summit site: http://www.japan.go.jp/g7/summit/documents/index.html

Wikipedia page for the G7: of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Leaders attend the the first Outreach Session during the second day of the Group of Seven (G7) summit meetings in Ise Shima, Japan, May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Watson/Pool

Leaders attend the the first Outreach Session during the second day of the Group of Seven (G7) summit meetings in Ise Shima, Japan, May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Watson/Pool

G7 warns on global glut of steel

By Yuka Obayashi and Ami Miyazaki

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a news conference during the G7 Ise-Shima Summit in Shima, Japan, May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a news conference during the G7 Ise-Shima Summit in Shima, Japan, May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO/ISE-SHIMA, JAPAN (Reuters) – Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) pledged on Friday to tackle a global glut in steel, though their statement did not single out China, which produces half of the world’s steel and is blamed by many countries for flooding markets with cheap steel.

While not included in the text, China was brought up in the discussions among leaders of the G7 industrial powers, a senior Japanese government spokesman told reporters.

China insists that its steel exports do not violate trade rules nor are its policies designed to encourage mills to sell overseas. It also says it has sought to reduce tax rebates on exported steel.

But with steel mills from Australia to Britain under threat of closure, pressure is mounting on Beijing to cut capacity after output hit a record high earlier this year.

“We recognise the negative impact of global excess capacity across industrial sectors, especially steel, on our economies, trade and workers,” said the statement.

“We are committed to moving quickly in taking steps to address this issue by enhancing market function, including through coordinated actions that identify and seek to eliminate … subsidies and support,” it added.

Leaders of the G7 – which comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – met this week near Nagoya, a Japanese car production and steel manufacturing centre.

“The reference to steel overcapacity is significant as it underlines that the G7 nations are firmly united in dealing with the issue,” a Japanese industry ministry official told Reuters.

But Yusuke Miura, senior economist at Mizuho Research Institute, saw little direct impact from the G7 call.

“China’s main focus is domestic issues rather than foreign concerns, such as protecting jobs and preventing bankruptcies,”

said Miura.

China has cut 90 million tonnes of steel capacity and plans to cut another 100-150 million tonnes through 2020.

Yet China’s crude steel output hit a record high of 70.65 million tonnes in March as rising prices and better margins prompted some mills to resume production.

“China knows it needs to slash capacity, but it will take time,” Miura said, predicting trade actions and price competition worldwide to continue.

EU lawmakers rejected this month any loosening of trade defences against China, whose eligibility for market economy status is being debated by the European Union.

Meanwhile, the United States slapped Chinese steelmakers with import duties of 522 percent on cold-rolled flat steel used for car body panels and construction.

The G7 should acknowledge that government subsidies and China’s state-owned steel mills are the major contributors to the global excess capacity, Philip Bell, president of the U.S. Steel Manufacturers Association, said in an email.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Additional reporting by Nick Carey in CHICAGO and David Stanway in BEIJING; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Ed Davies)

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