BEIJING

Nokia logo is seen at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona
The Nokia logo is seen at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

March 25, 2019

VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria’s flagship telecoms group A1 said on Monday it had selected Nokia as its partner for building next-generation 5G mobile networks in the country, continuing a long-standing cooperation with the Finnish equipment supplier.

A1 Group, which is controlled by Mexico’s America Movil and the Austrian state, said Nokia would provide it with 5G wireless technology and cloud-based core network technology.

5G will deliver super-fast connectivity and facilitate new applications from self-driving cars to medical robots.

The selection of suppliers for the new networks has become a politically sensitive issue after the United States lobbied Europe to shut out China’s Huawei, saying its equipment could be used by Beijing for espionage. Huawei has strongly rejected the allegations and this month sued the U.S. government over the matter.

The European Commission will urge EU countries to share more data to tackle cybersecurity risks related to 5G networks but will not call for a Huawei ban, sources have told Reuters.

Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson are the leading European contenders to provide 5G equipment.

“Together with Nokia, we will leverage the full potential of 5G,” said A1 Austria Chief Executive Marcus Grausam.

“We rely on a trusted and long-standing partner with whom we have already successfully implemented numerous major projects.”

A1 Group agreed to pay 64.3 million euros ($72.8 million) for spectrum in the 3.5 Ghz band in Austria’s first 5G auction earlier this month. It has said it will finance that from its operational cash flow.

(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Mark Potter)

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks during a Franco Chinese seminar of global governance in Quai d'Orsay in Paris
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks during a Franco Chinese seminar of global governance in Quai d’Orsay in Paris, France, March 25, 2019. Julien de Rosa/Pool via REUTERS

March 25, 2019

By Michel Rose and John Irish

PARIS (Reuters) – France and China will sign trade deals worth billions of euros on Monday during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping but Paris will also take the opportunity to push back against Beijing’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative.

President Emmanuel Macron wants to forge a united European front to confront Beijing’s advances.

After he and Xi meet later on Monday, the two will hold further talks on Tuesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker, heads of the EU executive.

Xi arrived in France after visiting Italy, the first Western power to endorse China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative as Rome tries to revive its struggling economy.

The Belt and Road Initiative plan, championed by Xi, aims to link China by sea and land with Southeast and Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, through an infrastructure network on the lines of the old Silk Road.

France says Silk Road cooperation must work in both directions.

An official in Macron’s office said significant progress was expected in terms of opening up the Chinese market for some farm goods, especially poultry.

French officials have also expressed the hope that a multi-billion dollar deal for China to buy dozens of Airbus planes could be finalised.

In a column in Le Figaro published on Sunday, Xi made clear he wanted Paris to cooperate in the Belt and Road project, calling for more trade and investment in sectors ranging from nuclear energy, aeronautics and agriculture.

“French investors are welcome to share development opportunities in China. I also hope that Chinese companies can do better in France and make a greater contribution to its economic and social development,” he wrote.

French officials describe China as a both a challenge and partner, saying France must remain especially vigilant over any Chinese attempts to appropriate foreign technology for its own means.

The EU is already weighing a more defensive strategy on China, spurred by Beijing’s slowness in opening up its economy, Chinese takeovers in critical sectors, and a feeling in European capitals that Beijing has not stood up for free trade.

“An awakening was necessary,” Macron said in Brussels on Friday. “For many years we had an uncoordinated approach and China took advantage of our divisions.”

As part of efforts to push that approach, Macron will host Merkel and Juncker on Tuesday to meet with Xi to move away from a purely bilateral approach to ties.

“Macron is not happy to see China win so many prizes in Rome, so he has invented a bizarre European format by inviting Merkel and Juncker as a counterbalance to show that he is the driving force behind European integration,” said one Paris-based Asian diplomat.

($1 = 0.8833 euros)

(Additional reporting by Marine Pennetier and Richard Lough; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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FILE PHOTO: The world's largest corn mill of global grain company Archer Daniels Midland is pictured in Decatur
FILE PHOTO: The world’s largest corn mill of global grain company Archer Daniels Midland is pictured in Decatur, Illinois, U.S., March 16, 2015. REUTERS/Karl Plume/File Photo

March 25, 2019

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Flooding and severe winter weather in the U.S. Midwest will reduce Archer Daniels Midland Co’s first-quarter operating profit by $50 million to $60 million, the U.S. grains trader said on Monday.

Record floods have devastated a wide swath of the Farm Belt across Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and several other states. The waters have idled ethanol plants, slowed rail shipments of agricultural products and swamped storage bins holding grain from previous harvests.

The disruptions come as the U.S. agriculture industry is grappling with the trade war between Washington and Beijing, which slashed shipments of American farm products to China.

For ADM, the floods are affecting two crucial business units; Origination, which buys, stores and transports grains, and Carbohydrate Solutions, which mills corn and wheat, the company said. The $50 million to $60 million impact on pre-tax operating profit will be roughly equal between the segments, with minor impacts to other units, ADM said.

“Extreme winter weather has affected our first quarter North American operations beyond what we would experience in a typical winter,” ADM said.

With rail lines washed out, and corn in storage flooded, production of ethanol has declined.

ADM’s corn processing complex in Columbus, Nebraska, was idled due to flooding and is running at reduced rates, the company said.

Unfavorable conditions on U.S. rivers since December are also severely limiting barge transportation movements and port activities, according to ADM.

Key rivers were swollen from flooding and ice buildup.

(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Susan Thomas)

Source: OANN

Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 25, 2019

By Shreyashi Sanyal

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures dipped on Monday, struggling to shrug off global economic slowdown worries triggered by weak factory numbers, despite a report that President Donald Trump’s campaign did not collude with Russia and positive data from Germany.

S&P 500 futures initially rose on Sunday after the report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but it left unresolved the issue of whether Trump obstructed justice by undermining the investigations that have dogged his presidency.

Wall Street’s main indexes on Friday posted their biggest one-day percentage declines since Jan. 3, after a clutch of dour factory data caused the spread between yields of U.S. three-month Treasury bills to exceed those of 10-year notes for the first time since 2007.

An inverted yield curve is widely understood to be a leading indicator of recession.

On Monday, yields on the 10-year bonds rose back above three-month rates, after a rise in a key German business confidence index.

A survey showed German business morale rose unexpectedly in March after six consecutive drops, suggesting that Europe’s largest economy is likely to pick up in the coming months.

Investors will keep a close watch for developments on trade as top U.S. officials travel to Beijing for the latest round of high-level talks, scheduled to start on March 28.

At 7:15 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 37 points, or 0.14 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 5.25 points, or 0.19 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 34 points, or 0.46 percent.

Among stocks trading premarket, Apple Inc dipped 0.3 percent ahead of an event where the company is widely expected to launch its video streaming service. The event is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. ET.

Akamai Technologies fell 3.8 percent after a report brokerage Deutsche Bank downgraded the stock to “sell” from “hold”.

Viacom Inc’s shares rose 4 percent after company and AT&T Inc renewed their contract to continue carriage of Viacom’s services.

(Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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FILE PHOTO: INTERPOL President Meng Hongwei poses during a visit to the headquarters of International Police Organisation in Lyon
FILE PHOTO: INTERPOL President Meng Hongwei poses during a visit to the headquarters of International Police Organisation in Lyon, France, May 8, 2018. Jeff Pachoud/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

March 25, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – The wife of the missing Chinese former head of Interpol said she had written to French President Emmanuel Macron to ask for his help on the eve of a visit by his counterpart Xi Jinping.

Grace Meng told France 24 she had not heard from her husband Meng Hongwei since he travelled to China from France, where Interpol is based, in late September. China has said it is investigating Meng for wrongdoing.

“I hope the president can help Mr Meng and his family, to protect our fundamental human rights,” Grace Meng said in the interview broadcast on Sunday evening.

China’s foreign ministry declined to comment.

France’s Agence France Presse said Grace Meng wrote to Macron on March 21.

Meng’s wife, who has remained in Lyon with the couple’s two children, said she feared the Chinese authorities wanted to kidnap her family.

“They have no bottom-line. Even if I am in France, they want to kidnap me and my children.”

Meng, 65, was appointed president of the global police cooperation agency in late 2016, part of a broader Chinese effort to gain leadership positions in key international organizations.

Under Xi, China has been engaged in a sweeping crackdown on official corruption. Chinese authorities said several days after Meng’s arrest that the vice minister was being investigated for bribery.

Macron hosted Xi at a private dinner on the French Riviera on Sunday night, ahead of a working meeting in Paris on Monday.

Grace Meng said her husband was “devoted to the motherland”.

“He was well-known for his reformist views”, she said in the interview.

(Reporting by Richard Lough in Paris, additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: INTERPOL President Meng Hongwei poses during a visit to the headquarters of International Police Organisation in Lyon
FILE PHOTO: INTERPOL President Meng Hongwei poses during a visit to the headquarters of International Police Organisation in Lyon, France, May 8, 2018. Jeff Pachoud/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

March 25, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – The wife of the missing Chinese former head of Interpol said she had written to French President Emmanuel Macron to ask for his help on the eve of a visit by his counterpart Xi Jinping.

Grace Meng told France 24 she had not heard from her husband Meng Hongwei since he travelled to China from France, where Interpol is based, in late September. China has said it is investigating Meng for wrongdoing.

“I hope the president can help Mr Meng and his family, to protect our fundamental human rights,” Grace Meng said in the interview broadcast on Sunday evening.

China’s foreign ministry declined to comment.

France’s Agence France Presse said Grace Meng wrote to Macron on March 21.

Meng’s wife, who has remained in Lyon with the couple’s two children, said she feared the Chinese authorities wanted to kidnap her family.

“They have no bottom-line. Even if I am in France, they want to kidnap me and my children.”

Meng, 65, was appointed president of the global police cooperation agency in late 2016, part of a broader Chinese effort to gain leadership positions in key international organizations.

Under Xi, China has been engaged in a sweeping crackdown on official corruption. Chinese authorities said several days after Meng’s arrest that the vice minister was being investigated for bribery.

Macron hosted Xi at a private dinner on the French Riviera on Sunday night, ahead of a working meeting in Paris on Monday.

Grace Meng said her husband was “devoted to the motherland”.

“He was well-known for his reformist views”, she said in the interview.

(Reporting by Richard Lough in Paris, additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Relatives look for a missing worker at the pesticide plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical following an explosion, in Xiangshui county
Relatives look for a missing worker at the pesticide plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical following an explosion, in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, Jiangsu province, China March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

March 25, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – The death told from a massive explosion last week at a pesticide plant in eastern China rose to 78 on Monday, with 13 people listed as being critically injured, as the government again pledged stricter safely controls, state media reported.

Public anger over safety standards has grown in China over industrial accidents, ranging from mining disasters to factory fires, that have marred three decades of swift economic growth.

State television said 566 people were still being treated in hospital after Thursday’s blast at the Chenjiagang Industrial Park in Yancheng city, Jiangsu province on China’s east coast.

Air quality remained within a safe range, the report added.

The official Xinhua news agency said China would strengthen the control and management of dangerous chemicals, and conduct risk assessments for all chemical industry parks.

“Authorities at all levels should inspect enterprises that are involved in nitration manufacturing and storage to make sure they comply with regulations on dangerous chemicals,” Xinhua said, citing a statement from the Ministry of Emergency Management.

Despite repeated government pledges to tighten safety, disasters have hit chemical plants in particular, with 23 people killed in November in a series of blasts during the delivery of a flammable gas at a chemical maker.

In 2015, 165 people were killed in explosions at a chemical warehouse in the northern city of Tianjin, one of the world’s busiest ports, which is not far from the capital, Beijing.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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FILE PHOTO: With Xinjiang’s fabled Tianshan mountains in the background, what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre is seen in Turpan
FILE PHOTO: With Xinjiang’s fabled Tianshan mountains in the background, what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre is seen in Turpan in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

March 25, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – Trips organized by China’s government to the western region of Xinjiang for diplomats and reporters have been very successful at showing people the true situation there, the foreign ministry said on Monday, denouncing U.S. criticism as “slander”.

China has been stepping up a push to counter growing criticism in the West and among rights groups about a controversial de-radicalisation program in heavily Muslim Xinjiang, which borders Central Asia.

Critics say China is operating internment camps for Uighurs and other Muslim peoples who live in Xinjiang, though the government calls them vocational training centers and says it has a genuine need to prevent extremist thinking and violence.

A U.S. official told Reuters that “highly choreographed” tours to Xinjiang organized by the Chinese government were misleading and propagated false narratives about the troubled region.

Speaking at a daily news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said such trips were to raise the international community’s understanding about Xinjiang’s social and economic development.

“The people who have been on the trips felt for themselves the real situation Xinjiang’s calm and order and the happy lives and jobs of all the people’s there, and all positively appraised China’s policy governing Xinjiang,” Geng said.

The U.S. criticism “does not accord with the facts”, he added. “It is purely rumor starting and slander.”

China resolutely opposes the United States interfering in its internal affairs using the Xinjiang issue, Geng said.

“At present Xinjiang is politically stable, the economy is developing and society is harmonious.”

The foreign ministry said late last week it would invite Beijing-based European diplomats to visit soon. Sources have told Reuters the invitation was made to European Union ambassadors based in Beijing.

Geng said talks were ongoing about that trip. He did not elaborate.

There have been two visits by groups including European diplomats to Xinjiang this year. One was a small group of EU diplomats, and the other by a group of diplomats from a broader mix of countries, including missions from Greece, Hungary and North African and Southeast Asian states.

A Reuters journalist visited on a government-organised trip in January.

Late last year, more than a dozen ambassadors from Western countries, including France, Britain, Germany and the EU’s top envoy in Beijing, wrote to the government to seek a meeting with Xinjiang’s top official, Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo, to discuss their concerns about the rights situation.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has weighed sanctions against senior Chinese officials in Xinjiang, including Chen.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: With Xinjiang’s fabled Tianshan mountains in the background, what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre is seen in Turpan
FILE PHOTO: With Xinjiang’s fabled Tianshan mountains in the background, what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre is seen in Turpan in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

March 25, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – Trips organized by China’s government to the western region of Xinjiang for diplomats and reporters have been very successful at showing people the true situation there, the foreign ministry said on Monday, denouncing U.S. criticism as “slander”.

China has been stepping up a push to counter growing criticism in the West and among rights groups about a controversial de-radicalisation program in heavily Muslim Xinjiang, which borders Central Asia.

Critics say China is operating internment camps for Uighurs and other Muslim peoples who live in Xinjiang, though the government calls them vocational training centers and says it has a genuine need to prevent extremist thinking and violence.

A U.S. official told Reuters that “highly choreographed” tours to Xinjiang organized by the Chinese government were misleading and propagated false narratives about the troubled region.

Speaking at a daily news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said such trips were to raise the international community’s understanding about Xinjiang’s social and economic development.

“The people who have been on the trips felt for themselves the real situation Xinjiang’s calm and order and the happy lives and jobs of all the people’s there, and all positively appraised China’s policy governing Xinjiang,” Geng said.

The U.S. criticism “does not accord with the facts”, he added. “It is purely rumor starting and slander.”

China resolutely opposes the United States interfering in its internal affairs using the Xinjiang issue, Geng said.

“At present Xinjiang is politically stable, the economy is developing and society is harmonious.”

The foreign ministry said late last week it would invite Beijing-based European diplomats to visit soon. Sources have told Reuters the invitation was made to European Union ambassadors based in Beijing.

Geng said talks were ongoing about that trip. He did not elaborate.

There have been two visits by groups including European diplomats to Xinjiang this year. One was a small group of EU diplomats, and the other by a group of diplomats from a broader mix of countries, including missions from Greece, Hungary and North African and Southeast Asian states.

A Reuters journalist visited on a government-organised trip in January.

Late last year, more than a dozen ambassadors from Western countries, including France, Britain, Germany and the EU’s top envoy in Beijing, wrote to the government to seek a meeting with Xinjiang’s top official, Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo, to discuss their concerns about the rights situation.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has weighed sanctions against senior Chinese officials in Xinjiang, including Chen.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a poster showing the QR codes for job-seeking information during an internet expo at the fifth WIC in Wuzhen
FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a poster showing the QR codes for job-seeking information during an internet expo at the fifth World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, November 7, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

March 25, 2019

By Sijia Jiang and Pei Li

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese tech giants are in the hunt for young, energetic staff to take the place, in some cases, of veteran managers.

The companies deny that the moves, which are worrying some older employees, reflect any discrimination based on age. Explicit age discrimination is illegal in many countries, though not in China.

Chinese tech companies are known to prefer young workers, in part because of demands such as the so-called “996” schedule that asks employees to work 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.

On Thursday, Tencent Holdings confirmed plans to reshuffle 10 percent of its managers.

“Let some older members of management retire from their positions,” Tencent Holdings President Martin Lau said. “Their jobs will be taken up by younger people, new colleagues who may be more passionate.”

Asked to elaborate on the reshuffle, Tencent cited its annual report as stating its employment practice complies with laws and regulations and “does not discriminate on the grounds of gender, ethnicity, race, disability, age, religious belief, sexual orientation or family status”.

Analysts said the move to promote younger managers is driven in part by the rise of a new generation of Chinese internet companies such as Pinduoduo and Bytedance, which are mostly run by entrepreneurs and engineers born in the 1980s or 1990s.

“The environment and external pressures are pushing these companies to reform, if the leadership is too old, it’s easy for them to fall behind,” said Li Chengdong, a Beijing-based tech analyst who used to work at Tencent and e-commerce giant JD.com Inc.

“In the U.S. and Europe you rarely see companies going through structural reform every other year, but it’s quite common in China… core leadership can be replaced within a very short amount of time.”

RETIREMENT PLAN

At Baidu, CEO Robin Li said in an internal letter – which the company made public – that it plans to accelerate efforts to become more youthful this year by promoting more workers born after 1980, and also announced an executive retirement plan.

The first executive to leave under that plan is its president for new business, Zhang Yaqin, who will retire in October, Li said. Local media reported Zhang’s age as 53.  

“For senior managers which have worked hard for the company and accompanied its growth, if they want to choose a new life because of personal or family reasons, we will take care of them under the executive retirement plan,” Li wrote.

A Baidu spokesman said that age is not a factor in whether managers chose to retire or not and that it was up to them if they wanted to join the plan.

Lei Jun, chief of Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, said at a news conference on March 20 that the company was appointing new, younger general department managers as part of an organisational restructuring.

A Xiaomi spokesman said the company was not cutting the senior management team but that it needed to promote “younger talents” to support its rapid expansion.

Chinese tech workers in their 30s and 40s told Reuters they had come to accept the industry’s preference for youth but worried that it was becoming more extreme, especially in up-and-coming fields such as artificial intelligence.

“I’m not worrying so much about losing my job, but certainly there is worry that I will not get promoted,” said a 38-year-old engineer at JD.com. Like other employees interviewed for this story, he declined to be identified because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

A JD.com spokeswoman said it did not discriminate and that any high-performing employee is eligible for promotion.

LONGER TIME TO PROGRESS

A 29-year-old female programmer for one of China’s top short video platforms said ageism was of greater concern to women.

“It can take a longer time for women to progress to the better jobs, so the age restriction more heavily affects women,” she said. “There is definitely the feeling that if you are older, you won’t understand the product.”

Older workers have few legal options.

“The only recourse Chinese workers have is if they’re not properly compensated once they’re laid off,” said Geoffrey Crothall of China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based labour rights group.

While age discrimination is illegal in the United States, it is often hard to prove. Bias in favour of younger workers often shows itself openly in the Silicon Valley start-up scene, where investors often prefer to back entrepreneurs in their 20s and 30s.

In China, some in the tech industry said older employees could still get ahead if they were top performers. At telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, known for an aggressive internal culture where everyone’s contract is up for renewal every few years, one employee defended the approach as common in the industry. Huawei declined to comment.

“Companies are moving away from the traditional iron rice bowl type of mentality,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Cate Cadell in Beijing and Josh Horwitz in SHANGHAI; Writing by Brenda Goh; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Richard Borsuk)

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China's Minister of Industry and Information Technology Miao Wei speaks at the annual session of CDF 2018 in Beijing
China’s Minister of Industry and Information Technology Miao Wei speaks at the annual session of China Development Forum (CDF) 2018 at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

March 25, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China will reduce direct government intervention in its vast industrial sector, the industry minister said on Monday, as Beijing seeks to ease concerns about its industrial policy, core to Washington’s complaints in the Sino-U.S. trade war.

The government’s pledge to reduce its influence over operational matters in China’s manufacturing sector follows an apparent toning down of its high-tech industrial push, which has long annoyed the United States.

“We will gradually reduce the government’s micro-management and direct intervention, in order to allow the market to effectively decide resource allocation and support the development of the manufacturing industry”, Miao Wei, minister of industry and informational technology, said at the China Development Forum.

But China will continue to encourage higher-value production, he said.

In his speech, Miao did not touch on the so-called “Made in China 2025” plan, an initiative intended to help China catch up with global rivals in sophisticated technologies such as semiconductors, robotics, aerospace and artificial intelligence (AI).

The state-backed industrial policy has provoked alarm in the West, due to China’s open efforts to deploy state support and subsidies.

The comments came days ahead of the latest round of high-level trade talks between China and the United States starting in Beijing on Thursday.

Washington has threatened further action if China does not change its practices on issues ranging from industrial subsidies to intellectual property.

China is not conceding to U.S. demands to ease curbs on technology companies, the Financial Times reported on Sunday, citing three people briefed on the discussions.

‘VALLEY OF DEATH’

The latest conciliatory tone struck by Beijing to placate Washington does not mean China is less serious about its high-tech manufacturing drive, with local governments still rolling out plans to help manufactuers move up the value chain.

Local governments have also been told to pursue new engines of industrial growth by developing innovative technologies, such as new energy vehicles (NEVs) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Miao said technology manufacturers needed to survive “the Valley of Death” as they seek to turn laboratory samples into mass production.

The southern province of Hunan this month issued a three-year plan for the AI sector, pledging more support for a local industry whose size is projected to reach 10 billion yuan ($1.49 billion) by 2021.

In the central province of Henan, production of service robots rose 14.3 times in January-February from a year earlier, according to local media. [nL3N216108]

When asked to comment on President Donald Trump’s wish to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, Miao said that such decisions could not be made by a single person because an entire supply chain was involved.

“Every company will consider putting its supply chain in a country were costs are relatively lower, this the purpose of the law of economics,” he said.

“If, after comparisons are made, that the United States has lower costs and possess advantages versus other countries, I’m sure that a company…will bring its manufacturing back to the United States.”

In a bid to support to small companies, many of which have been struggling to get financing, Miao said small and medium-sized companies will play a bigger role in the sector’s innovation.

China is planning to launch a highly-anticipated Nasdaq-style technology board – a move by Beijing to counter U.S. curbs on China’s technology advances.

The government’s next move is to implement policies such as tax reductions and to improve the protection of intellectual property rights, according to Miao, adding that the general manufacturing sector will be fully liberalized.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh and Shu Zhang; Writing by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump meets with former hostage Danny Burch and his family in the Oval Office at the White House
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a question as he meets with former hostage Danny Burch, an oil engineer who was taken hostage in Yemen in September 2017, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

March 25, 2019

By David Lawder, Philip Blenkinsop and Michael Martina

WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS/BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s blunt-force use of tariffs in pursuing his “America First” trade agenda has angered many, from company executives to allied governments and members of both parties of Congress.

But there’s one effort which has drawn broad support from those who oppose him on almost everything else – his push to force Beijing to change what are widely viewed as China’s market-distorting trade and subsidy practices.

As U.S.-China talks to end a trade war reach their endgame, politicians, executives and foreign diplomats are urging Trump and his team to hold out for meaningful structural reforms in China to address entrenched problems in the relationship that hurt U.S. and other foreign companies and workers.

Trump’s trade war “has let the genie out of the bottle” by lifting expectations that the trade war will force China to reform policies that businesses and foreign governments regard as unfair, said Steven Gardon, vice president of indirect taxes and customs at Lear Corp. Gardon’s firm is an automotive seating and electrical supplier with plants in 39 countries, including the United States and China.

“Now that all these issues have been raised, there’s a lot more domestic political support to address these issues, and I don’t think you can pull back from that,” Gardon said at a Georgetown Law School forum this month. “There’s now pressure politically that they have to be addressed for the long term.”

Gardon’s comments reflect a broad shift in U.S. and international business sentiment towards China’s economic and trade policies, one that is aligned with Trump’s goals, if not his tactics.

Trump’s trade team say they are in the final stages of negotiating what would be the biggest economic policy agreement with China in decades. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin head to Beijing this week to try to accelerate talks with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. Liu is set to travel to Washington for another round of negotiations in early April.

Eight months into the trade war that has disrupted the flow of billions of dollars of goods between the world’s two largest economies, it is unclear if a deal acceptable to both sides can be done.

China’s President Xi Jinping is seen as reluctant to make economic reforms under pressure from the United States, and Trump has said he may keep tariffs on Chinese goods in place for “a substantial period” even if a deal is struck.

Xi may find it easier to live with the tariffs Trump has imposed on trade than to change China’s model for economic development.

As part of a deal, Beijing has offered to make big-ticket purchases from the United States to help reduce a record trade gap. Trump’s team has said those purchases would be worth more than a trillion dollars over about six years.

While big Chinese purchases might be tempting for Trump’s administration, they would do nothing to address what U.S. firms competing in China or against Chinese firms say are structural problems with a system stacked against them.

The United States complains China engages in systematic intellectual property theft, forces foreign firms to give up trade secrets for market access and spends huge sums subsidizing its own industry. Redressing those complaints would require policy reform at the highest level from Xi and China’s ruling Communist Party.

A survey released by the American Chamber of Commerce in China in late February showed that a majority of member U.S. companies supported increasing or maintaining tariffs on Chinese goods, and nearly twice as many as last year want the U.S. government to push Beijing harder to create a level playing field.

The U.S. tariff demands have even encouraged some reform-minded Chinese officials and private-sector business executives to call for a faster pace of reform in China as it celebrates the 40th anniversary of its first steps toward capitalism.

Lighthizer told lawmakers in late February that Chinese-American business people in particular have urged him to “hang tough” in the talks and not to “sell out for soybeans.”

STAY THE COURSE

When Trump delayed a threatened tariff increase well before a March 1 deadline for a deal, he stoked fears that he may be swayed by the big purchase order and leave longstanding structural problems unresolved.

Since then, a steady drumbeat of lobbyists, company executives, foreign diplomats and U.S. lawmakers from both parties have urged Trump to stay the course on his structural demands.

Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, one of the most pro-trade Republicans and a critic of Trump’s tariffs, recently joined that call.

“While we want China to buy more U.S. goods … it’s even more important for us to hold China accountable to meeting high international standards on intellectual property rights, subsidization, overcapacity, and the other structural ways in which China distorts the global economy,” he said at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing just days after the tariff delay was announced.

Last week, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, a longtime China trade hawk, took to the Senate floor to urge Trump not to “back down” and take a deal based largely on Chinese purchases of American soybeans and other goods.

On Thursday, Schumer tweeted: “Now’s not the time to drop $200B in tariffs just because China’s close to a deal, @realDonald Trump.”

QUIETLY ROOTING FOR TRUMP

European Union members, traditional allies of the United States, are still smarting about the steel and aluminum tariffs Trump imposed on imports into the United States last year. The EU is also worried that Trump will impose duties on autos. But the bloc shares many of the same frustrations over China’s technology transfer policies and market access constraints.

“We get complaints every day from our companies,” one European official told Reuters in Beijing, noting that despite repeated pledges from the Chinese government to make life easier for foreign companies, little had changed.

    EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom’s assessment of China’s behavior sounds almost like it was written by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, charging that China has abused global trading rules.

China has “blurred the lines between state and private sector. The state has undue influence,” she said in a Washington speech this month. “Intellectual properties of companies are stolen. State subsidies, direct or indirect, are common. And these impacts are felt at home and abroad.”

Malmstrom says that while the U.S. and EU “agree on the diagnosis,” they differ on tactics, and she argues for a more multilateral approach, citing the EU’s work with the United States and Japan to address the issues through reform of World Trade Organization rules.

Some worry that Europe could lose out if Washington and Beijing strike a deal to purchase billions of dollars more in products to try to shrink the U.S. goods trade deficit with China.

“If China is buying more from America then inevitably it will buy less from Europe,” a second European official based in Beijing said, adding that could in particular affect large European multinationals.

But European diplomats and officials acknowledge a begrudging support for Trump’s goals, even if they are repulsed by his blunt tactics. Many are secretly rooting for his success.

“We are against unilateral measures, but nobody is exactly sorry for China. On content we think he does have a point,” said one EU diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity in Brussels. “Beijing has to understand that without reform, the system could just stop working.”

Trump administration officials insist that he has gotten the message and is holding out for “structural changes” to the U.S.-China relationship, along with an enforcement mechanism that holds China to its pledges.

Clete Willems, a White House trade adviser, told the Georgetown Law School forum that Trump is determined to fix problems with China’s trade relationship that he has railed against for years, long before he ever sought office.

“The notion that he’s just going to suddenly accept a bad deal is totally inaccurate. The president is going to walk away from bad deals,” said Willems, who announced on Friday that he is leaving the White House for family reasons.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Simon Webb and James Dalgleish)

Source: OANN

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern leaves after the Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch
FILE PHOTO: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern leaves after the Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

March 25, 2019

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday she will travel to China at the end of the week for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Ardern said she would travel to Beijing on Sunday.

She first announced her plans to visit China last year but no final dates had yet been announced.

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Writing by Praveen Menon; Editing by Paul Tait)

Source: OANN

The U.S. Coast Guard Legend-class maritime security cutter USCGC Bertholf (WMSL 750) pulls into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
The U.S. Coast Guard Legend-class maritime security cutter USCGC Bertholf (WMSL 750) pulls into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawii, U.S. to support the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012 exercise in this June 29, 2012 handout photo. Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Dasbach/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

March 25, 2019

By Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States sent Navy and Coast Guard ships through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, the military said, as the United States increases the frequency of movement through the strategic waterway despite opposition from China.

The voyage risks further raising tensions with China but will likely be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support from Washington amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing.

The two ships were identified as the Navy Curtis Wilbur destroyer and the Coast Guard Bertholf cutter, a U.S. military statement said.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the statement said.

“The U.S. will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” it added.

Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which also include a trade war, U.S. sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom of navigation patrols.

Washington has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help defend the island nation and is its main source of arms. The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taiwan more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.

China has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island, which it considers a wayward province of “one China” and sacred Chinese territory.

China has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle the island on drills in the past few years and worked to isolate the island internationally, whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency released a report earlier this year describing Taiwan as the “primary driver” for China’s military modernization, which it said had made major advances in recent years.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said trade negotiations with China were progressing and a final agreement “will probably happen,” adding that his call for tariffs to remain on Chinese imported goods for some time did not mean talks were in trouble.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S and China trade talks in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Chinese staffers adjust U.S. and Chinese flags before the opening session of trade negotiations between U.S. and Chinese trade representatives at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via REUTERS

March 24, 2019

(Reuters) – Ahead of fresh high-level trade talks this week, China is not conceding to U.S. demands to ease curbs on technology companies, the Financial Times reported on Sunday, citing three people briefed on the discussions.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are scheduled to travel to Beijing for talks starting on March 28, the White House said on Saturday.

The FT report said Beijing had yet to offer “meaningful concessions” to U.S. requests for China to stop discriminating against foreign cloud computing providers, to reduce limits on overseas data transfers and to relax a requirement for companies to store data locally.

China made an initial offer on digital trade that the United States judged as insufficient, the report said, citing a source.

China then retracted the offer after the United States demanded stronger pledges, the report said, without giving further details.

The White House and China’s Commerce Ministry did not respond to requests from Reuters for comment on Sunday.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday that the talks aimed at resolving the trade dispute were progressing and a final agreement seemed probable.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Neil Fullick)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: With Xinjiang’s fabled Tianshan mountains in the background, what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre is seen in Turpan
FILE PHOTO: With Xinjiang’s fabled Tianshan mountains in the background, what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre is seen in Turpan in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

March 24, 2019

By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) – “Highly choreographed” tours to Xinjiang organized by the Chinese government are misleading and propagate false narratives about the troubled region, a U.S. official said, after China announced plans to invite European envoys to visit.

China has been stepping up a push to counter growing criticism in the West and among rights groups about a controversial de-radicalization program in heavily Muslim Xinjiang, which borders Central Asia.

Critics say China is operating internment camps for Uighurs and other Muslim peoples who live in Xinjiang, though the government calls them vocational training centers and says it has a genuine need to prevent extremist thinking and violence.

China’s foreign ministry said late last week it would invite Beijing-based European diplomats to visit soon. Diplomatic sources said the so-far informal invitation had gone specifically to ambassadors and was planned for this week.

A U.S. government official, asked by Reuters if the U.S. ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, had been invited to visit Xinjiang, said there were no meetings or visits to announce.

“Highly choreographed and chaperoned government-led tours in Xinjiang have propagated false narratives and obfuscated the realities of China’s ongoing human rights abuses in the region,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The visit this month would be the first by a large group of Western diplomats to the region since international concern about Xinjiang’s security clampdown began intensifying last year. Hundreds have died in unrest in Xinjiang in recent years.

Several groups of diplomats from other countries have already been brought to Xinjiang on tightly scripted trips since late December to visit the facilities.

There have been two visits by groups including European diplomats to Xinjiang this year. One was a small group of EU diplomats, and the other by a group of diplomats from a broader mix of countries, including missions from Greece, Hungary and North African and Southeast Asian states.

A Reuters journalist visited on a government-organized trip in January.

The U.S. official described what was happening in Xinjiang as “a highly repressive campaign”, and said claims that the facilities were “humane job-training centers” or “boarding schools” were not credible.

“We will continue to call on China to end these counterproductive policies, free all those who have been arbitrarily detained, and cease efforts to coerce members of its Muslim minority groups residing abroad to return to China to face an uncertain fate.”

China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. China has rejected all foreign criticism of its policies in Xinjiang, and says it invites foreigners to visit to help them better understand the region.

Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department said China’s treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang marked the worst human rights abuses “since the 1930s”.

The issue of Xinjiang adds another irritant to already strained ties between Washington and Beijing, who are trying to end a bitter trade war and have several other areas of disagreement, including the disputed South China Sea and U.S. support for Chinese-claimed Taiwan.

Late last year, more than a dozen ambassadors from Western countries, including France, Britain, Germany and the EU’s top envoy in Beijing, wrote to the government to seek a meeting with Xinjiang’s top official, Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo, to discuss their concerns about the rights situation.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has weighed sanctions against senior Chinese officials in Xinjiang, including Chen.

Two diplomatic sources told Reuters on Saturday that government officials had said a meeting with Chen was not being offered to the European ambassadors, and that the trip was not to discuss human rights but to talk about China-Europe cooperation on President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road project.

It remains unclear whether they would accept the invitation, though the two sources said it was unlikely.

The European Union’s embassy in Beijing has declined to comment on the invitation.

Xi is currently in Europe on a state visit to Italy, Monaco and France. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang goes to Brussels next month for a China-EU summit.

EU leaders said on Friday the bloc must recognize that China is as much a competitor as a partner.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by John Ruwitch in SHANGHAI; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng speaks during the meeting with Kuwaiti first Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng speaks during the meeting with Kuwaiti first Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China December 17, 2018. Wang Zhao/Pool via REUTERS

March 24, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s economy may face a more challenging environment this year but the government is nevertheless confident of achieving its key 2019 targets, Vice Premier Han Zheng said on Sunday.

Han, speaking at the China Development Forum, reiterated that China will further deepen market-oriented reforms and open up its economy. He also said China’s imports of goods are expected to exceed $12 trillion in the next five years.

China targets economic growth of between 6 percent and 6.5 percent for the year, compared with 6.6 percent growth last year.

(Reporting by Kevin Yao; writing by Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, second from left, talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping as U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, left, and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, right, look on before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China February 15, 2019. Andy Wong/Pool via REUTERS

March 23, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will travel to Beijing for the latest round of high-level trade talks scheduled to start on March 28, the White House said in a statement on Saturday.

The United States also will receive a Chinese trade delegation led by Vice Premier Liu He for meetings in Washington that are set to begin on April 3, the White House said.

President Donald Trump said on Friday the negotiations with China were progressing and a final agreement seemed probable, as the world’s two largest economies seek to ease tensions from an eight-month-old trade war.

But earlier this week, Trump warned the United States may leave tariffs on Chinese imports for a while, though Beijing has pushed for them to be removed as part of any deal.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Source: OANN

China Development Forum in Beijing
People attend the China Development Forum in Beijing, China, March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

March 23, 2019

(Reuters) – China will reduce the time needed for patent review by at least 15 percent in 2019, the Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.

The review time for trademarks will also be reduced to within 5 months, Xinhua reported without giving further details on the trademark or patent review timeframes. It was citing remarks made by the deputy head of National Intellectual Property Administration, Gan Shaoning, at the 20th China Development Forum.

The administration will further strengthen protection of intellectual property by optimizing the mechanisms governing intellectual property, raising the costs for IP infringements, and treating all market entities as equals in terms of IP protection, Xinhua reported citing Gan.

(Reporting by Philip George in Bengaluru; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the China Development Forum in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the China Development Forum in Beijing, China, March 18, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

March 23, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – Apple chief executive Tim Cook nudged China on Saturday to open up and said the future would depend on global collaboration, as the United States and China remained locked in a bitter trade dispute.

“We encourage China to continue to open up, we see that as essential, not only for China to reach its full potential, but for the global economy to thrive,” Cook said at a China Development Forum in Beijing.

Despite official pledges and repeated assurances that China would continue to open its markets, some analysts worry that its reform project has slowed or even stalled under President Xi Jinping, who has sought greater control over the economy and a bigger role for state-owned firms at the expense of the private sector.

Cook’s comments come as Apple weathers sinking sales in China because of a contracting smartphone market, increasing pressure from Chinese rivals, and slowing upgrade cycles. The company reported a revenue drop of 26 percent in the greater China region during the quarter ending in December.

Before those results came out, in a January letter to investors, Cook blamed the company’s poor China performance on trade tension between the United States and China, suggesting that pressure on the economy was hurting sales in China.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Writing by John Ruwitch; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

China Development Forum in Beijing
Fang Xinghai of the China Securities Regulatory Commission attends the China Development Forum in Beijing, China, March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

March 23, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China can speed up the opening of its financial sector if the United States is unhappy with the pace because it will be good for both countries, Fang Xinghai, vice chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, said on Saturday.

“If the U.S. side complains that we have opened up too slowly, we can speed it up … We are fully convinced it’s good for both countries – it’s good for China and good for the United States,” Fang said at the annual China Development Forum.

“In the securities industry, mutual fund management, no problem, we can compete.”

The two countries have been working to resolve a bitter trade dispute that has rattled financial markets and disrupted world supply chains in a blow to global growth.

The United States has accused China of limiting market access for U.S. firms, forcing companies to transfer technology and providing little protection for intellectual property rights.

(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

Malaysia's new government advisor Daim Zainuddin speaks during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing
Malaysia’s new government advisor Daim Zainuddin speaks during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, China Wednesday, July 18, 2018. Andy Wong/Pool/via Reuters

March 23, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia will finalize talks with China in early April regarding a $20 billion rail project that has been suspended since July last year, the Malaysian representative for the negotiations said late on Friday.

The renegotiations could result in cost savings of more than 10 billion ringgit ($2.5 billion) for Malaysia, the country’s envoy for the discussions, Daim Zainuddin said in an interview with a local television station.

China representatives have extended an invitation to Malaysia for a visit on April 2 to conclude negotiations on the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) in the first week of next month.

“They were here two weeks ago in talks with me, and they have invited me to China … to finalize talks,” Daim said.

Daim said the renegotiations could include commercial elements that would benefit Malaysia but did not elaborate.

The ECRL had been threatened by cancellation since Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who came into power in May last year, vowed to renegotiate or cancel what he calls “unfair” Chinese projects authorized by his predecessor Najib Razak.

Hit by ballooning costs, lack of transparency and the risk it could saddle Malaysia with uncomfortably large debt, the project that was launched in 2017 has come to symbolize Najib’s scandal-ridden administration.

In January, ministers flip-flopped on Malaysia’s decision about the ECRL – the centerpiece of China’s infrastructure push in Southeast Asia – first saying it was canceled and then announcing that talks were still ongoing.

Reuters reported in January, citing sources, that China had offered to nearly halve the cost to save the 688-km (430-mile) rail project.

(Reporting by Liz Lee)

Source: OANN

Villagers stand outside their damaged houses following an explosion at a pesticide plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical, in Xiangshui county
Villagers stand outside their damaged houses following an explosion at a pesticide plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical, in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, Jiangsu province, China March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

March 23, 2019

By David Stanway

YANCHENG, China (Reuters) – Rescuers pulled a survivor from rubble early on Saturday in the wake of a massive explosion at a pesticide plant in eastern China that flattened buildings, blew out windows more than a mile away and killed at least 64 people.

Officials said more than two dozen people were still missing and hundreds had been injured in Thursday’s blast at the Chenjiagang Industrial Park in the city of Yancheng, in Jiangsu province on China’s east coast.

The cause of the explosion was under investigation, but an editorial in the China Daily newspaper speculated it was likely to be identified as “a serious accident caused by human negligence”.

The company, Tianjiayi Chemical Co – which produces more than 30 organic chemical compounds, some highly flammable – had been cited and fined for work safety violations in the past, the China Daily had reported.

At the Xiangshui People’s Hospital on Saturday morning, the ward corridors were filled with temporary beds for the wounded.

“I was just going to collect my wages when it blew up,” said a worker who identified himself as Zuo. His head was covered in bloody gauze.

“I don’t even have a home to go to now,” he said.

The hospital was relying on dozens of unpaid volunteers.

“No one is thinking about how people will pay their medical bills at the moment – the priority is rescuing them and worrying about fees later,” said one volunteer surnamed Jiang, who was sent to help out at the hospital by his employers on Friday.

Public anger over safety standards has grown in China over industrial accidents, ranging from mining disasters to factory fires, that have marred three decades of swift economic growth.

In 2015, 165 people were killed in explosions at a chemical warehouse in the northern city of Tianjin, one of the world’s busiest ports, which is not far from the capital, Beijing.

Those blasts were big enough to be seen by satellites and register on earthquake sensors.

Despite repeated government pledges to tighten safety, disasters have hit chemical plants in particular, with 23 people killed in November in a series of blasts during the delivery of a flammable gas at a chemical maker.

After the blast in Yancheng, police, some wearing face masks, sealed off roads to what was left of the devastated, smoldering plant.

The explosion smashed windows in the village of Wangshang 2 km (1.2 miles) away. Stunned villagers likened it to an earthquake.

A provincial official told Reuters on Saturday the accident has shown that the market for dangerous chemicals has grown too quickly and production to meet demand has expanded too crudely.

President Xi Jinping, who is in Italy on a state visit, ordered all-out efforts to care for the injured and to “earnestly maintain social stability”, state television said.

Authorities must step up action to prevent such incidents and determine the cause of the blast as quickly as possible, Xi said.

“There has recently been a series of major accidents, and all places and relevant departments must fully learn the lessons from these,” the report cited Xi as saying.

Cheng Jie, an official with the environment bureau, told reporters the priority was to ensure contaminated water doesn’t leak into the public water supply system.

The Jiangsu environmental protection bureau said late on Friday that a team of 126 inspectors found various degrees of contamination in local water samples, with nitrobenzene concentrations exceeding standards at one location.

Some volatile organic chemical measurements far exceeded surface water standards, 15 times over in one case, the Jiangsu bureau said.

(Reporting by David Stanway; Writing by John Ruwitch; Editing by Tom Hogue)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Ricardo Hausmann from Harvard University
FILE PHOTO: Ricardo Hausmann from Harvard University speaks on Day 1 of Securing Sport 2015 – the annual conference of the International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS). Photo Andrew Kelly for ICSS

March 22, 2019

By Lesley Wroughton and Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Inter-American Development Bank on Friday canceled a meeting of its member countries due to be held in China next week after Beijing refused to allow a representative of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to attend, two sources with knowledge of the decision said.

The sources said the decision was made by the board of the IADB, the region’s largest development lender, after China refused to change its position.

The sources said the board of member countries would vote within 30 days to reschedule the annual meeting for another date and location.

On Thursday, the United States threatened to derail the meeting unless Beijing granted a visa to Guaido’s representative, Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann. The meeting, which is an annual gathering of the IADB’s 48-member countries, was meant to mark the bank’s 60th anniversary.

Guaido invoked the constitution to assume Venezuela’s interim presidency in January, saying the re-election of President Nicolas Maduro was not legitimate. Most Western countries have recognized Guaido as head of state, but Russia and China, among others, back Maduro.

The Washington-based IADB voted last week to replace Maduro’s board representative with Hausmann.

It would have been the first time the IADB held its annual meeting in China. The Asian country has become a major player in Latin America and has poured more than $50 billion into Venezuela over the past decade in oil-for-loan agreements.

With relations between Washington and Beijing marred by an acrimonious trade dispute, U.S. officials have expressed concern in recent months at China’s growing influence in Latin America – a region Washington has long regarded as its backyard.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Roberta Rampton; editing by Leslie Adler and Rosalba O’Brien)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Worker is seen at a factory at the Keihin industrial zone in Kawasaki
FILE PHOTO: A worker is seen at a factory at the Keihin industrial zone in Kawasaki, Japan, March 8, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

March 22, 2019

By Jonathan Cable and Stanley White

LONDON/TOKYO (Reuters) – Manufacturers in Europe, Japan and the United States suffered in March as surveys showed trade tensions had left their mark on factory output, a setback for hopes the global economy might be turning the corner on its slowdown.

Factory activity in the 19-country euro zone contracted at the fastest pace in nearly six years.

In Japan, manufacturing output shrank the most in almost three years, hurt by China’s economic slowdown.

And a measure of U.S. manufacturing was its weakest since June 2017 while forecasters at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia slashed their estimate for economic growth in early 2019.

German 10-year bond yields, which plunged on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve signaled no more rate hikes this year, dived again to fall below zero.

In New York, the U.S. 10-year Treasury note yield plunged to a 14-month low as growth worries further weighed on inflation expectations.

That benchmark yield dropped below the yields on all maturities of T-bills for the first time in 12 years, a so-called yield-curve inversion that is often a harbinger of economic recession. [nL1N2190J6]

“While such an inversion has traditionally been an indicator of a recession, this time around it may be less about the prospects for the U.S. economy and more about spillovers from what is happening in Europe and the bond market there, together with the effects of the Fed’s surprising decision to be very dovish again with its unconventional policy tools,” said Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz in Newport Beach, California.

U.S. stocks, European shares and the euro also fell on Friday. The benchmark S&P 500 was off by 1.6 percent and on pace for its biggest drop in nearly three months.

Global trade tensions continue to be among the main culprits behind the gloom.

“No other factor shapes the euro zone business cycle more than the ups and downs of global trade,” economists at Berenberg, a bank, said.

The United States and China are due to resume face-to-face talks next week, but it is unclear if the two sides can narrow their differences and end the trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

European officials are also worried about the risk of U.S. tariffs on car imports from Europe.

RISKS – US CHINA TENSIONS, BREXIT, ITALY

The drop in the euro zone’s manufacturing purchasing managers index to a 71-month low of 47.7 from 49.4 in February raised the risk trade flows could turn even more negative in the short term, the Berenberg economists said.

The manufacturing downturn was partly offset by stable — but relatively weak — growth in the euro zone’s dominant services industry.

But the surveys suggested the bloc’s economy had a poor start to 2019.

IHS Markit, which published the surveys, said the PMIs pointed to first-quarter economic growth of 0.2 percent in the euro zone, below the 0.3 percent predicted in a Reuters poll last week.

The euro zone grew 0.2 percent in the final three months of 2018, its slowest pace in four years. [ECILT/EU]

Earlier this month, the European Central Bank changed tack by pushing out the timing of its next rate increase until 2020 at the earliest and said it would offer banks a new round of cheap loans to help revive the economy.

“We highlight downside risks mainly stemming from the external side – e.g. trade tensions, a Chinese-led global slowdown,” Barclays economists Radu-Gabriel Cristea and Francois Cabau said about the euro zone.

“The protracted weakness in manufacturing remains a lingering risk, and overall growth concerns are likely to intensify should the industrial backdrop further deteriorate. At the same time, Italy and Brexit woes remain non-negligible, the uncertainty a further drag on sentiment.”

In the U.S. series, Markit’s measure of manufacturing activity slipped to 52.5 in March from 53 in February, falling short of economists’ forecasts for a modest rebound. Markit’s manufacturing output index was the weakest since June 2016.

“The survey is consistent with the official measure of manufacturing production falling at an increased rate in March and hence acting as a drag on the economy in the first quarter,” Markit’s chief business economist, Chris Williamson, said.

U.S. GDP is forecast to expand at an annualized rate of 1.6 percent this quarter, down from the 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to a Reuters poll of more than 100 economists released last week. In last month’s poll, first-quarter growth had been pegged at 1.9 percent.

The headline Flash Markit/Nikkei Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was a seasonally adjusted 48.9, the same as February’s final reading.

The index was below the 50 threshold that separates contraction from expansion for the second consecutive month.

“Concern of weaker growth in China and prolonged global trade frictions kept business confidence well below its historical average in March,” Joe Hayes, an economist at IHS Markit, said.

The flash index for total new orders – domestic and foreign – fell to its lowest since June 2016, the survey showed.

Japan is exposed to the dispute between Washington and Beijing as it ships to China big volumes of electronics items and heavy machinery used to make finished goods destined for the United States.

(Writing by William Schomberg and Dan Burns; editing by Jon Boyle and Susan Thomas)

Source: OANN

Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

March 22, 2019

(Reuters) – Following are five big themes likely to dominate thinking of investors and traders in the coming week and the Reuters stories related to them.

1/ TAKE IT EASY

With the U.S. Federal Reserve well and truly doubling down on its dovish guidance this month, the global rate hiking cycle is at an end. There are exceptions of course but the big central banks of the developed world — the Fed, the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan — have all reacted decisively to the steady drumbeat of depressing economic data by pushing any policy tightening plans to the backburner.

But instead of deriving any comfort from the pivot, some in the market are interpreting the moves as desperate measures to ward off impending recession. That fear is certainly evident on bond markets where the gap between three-month and 10-year U.S. treasury yields — one of the gauges the Fed uses to assess inflation risks — has inverted. European yield curves too have flattened and German 10-year government borrowing costs have slid back below zero percent for the first time since 2016.

There are outliers. Norway has hiked rates while Hungary and Czech rates may also rise this coming week. One could argue Norway’s economy has been lifted by oil this year, while emerging European economies have been recovering nicely. But the question is: with the world’s biggest economy starting to hurt, Fed rate cuts bring priced for 2020 and G4 bond yields plunging, can any market avoid being sucked in? On Wednesday, New Zealand’s central bank could become the latest to flag downside risks to growth and interest rates.

(Graphic: U.S. federal funds activity png link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2EcJkRq).

2/ DEADLINES, RED LINES

March 29 is when Britain was supposed to leave the European Union, 2-1/2-years after a slender majority voted to leave the bloc. EU leaders have now granted Prime Minister Theresa May a two-week reprieve, during which she must persuade lawmakers to accept the divorce deal she has negotiated. Not easy, given they have resoundingly defeated it twice already. She is expected to make another attempt and if the deal still fails, several possibilities open up, from a no-deal Brexit to Brextension and even exit from Brexit.

The question is whether May will be flexible on any of the “red lines” she outlined in 2016, ruling out a customs union with the EU, UK’s membership of the single market and any role for the European court of justice. Seen by many as an extreme interpretation of the referendum, it has stymied efforts to find a solution to the Northern Ireland border issue.

With all this in play, many warn that markets are still assigning too low a probability to a no-deal Brexit — banks such as Goldman Sachs and Deutsche reckon that risk at just 15-20 percent. But though this is rising, most analysts warn.

Sterling has tumbled this month after strengthening for two months straight and jitters are bubbling up on derivative markets. Here one-month pound risk reversals show an elevated premium for sterling puts — options that confer the right to sell at a certain price. Implied sterling volatility — a gauge of expected daily swings — has slipped off highs but remain above some typically volatile emerging currencies such as Brazil’s real or the Turkish lira.

(Graphic: No-deal Brexit probabilities IMG link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2VlgLGT).

3/ GLASS QUARTER FULL

Back in January, the U.S. Federal Reserve fired up investors’ appetite for risk by pledging to be patient with future rate rises. In March it sealed that promise by doubling down on its dovish stance and scaling back projected 2019 interest-rate increases to zero. The result: a 10 percent-plus bounce on global stocks in the January-March period. The S&P500 is headed for its best first quarter of any year since 1991. Other big Q1 winners with dollar-based gains close to 30 percent are Chinese shares and Brent crude.

What happens next? To some, the rally in what are inherently risky, growth-reliant assets makes little sense when the world economy is in slowdown mode and should therefore evaporate. But others counter the second quarter will bring more gains. They note that despite double-digit gains, investors have mostly been betting against stocks for most of 2019. Investment research firm TrimTabs says equity funds have seen outflows of $18.7 billion this year through Wednesday. They have instead channeled $73.1. billion into bond funds.

(Graphic: S&P 500 vs U.S.10-Year Treasury Yield link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2UNzRFP).

(Graphic: Q1 performance link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2UQo3CG).

4/EURO GLOOM TO BOOM — OR DOOM

Despite a strong rally across markets this year, European equities remain one of the most disliked regions in the world. Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s monthly fund manager survey confirmed that view, with investors naming “short” European equities as the most crowded trade for the first time.

For contrarians, that’s a gift – a sign bearish positioning on Europe has got too extreme and stocks should rise from here.

Indeed, there are some positive signals from recent macroeconomic data, from retail sales to wages. That has sparked a quiet rise on Citi’s index of euro zone macro surprises which now, interestingly, sits above the equivalent U.S. index. There are also predictions that as China’s economy starts benefiting from the stimulus its authorities have unveiled, Europe too will feel the effect.

But after every glimmer of hope, comes a dampener. February PMI data from Germany and the euro zone sent markets reeling.. Next up are the Ifo business climate survey and consumer confidence figures. Those should tell us whether it is too early to call a bottom.

(Graphic: macro surprises March 22 link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2HAy8B0).

5/YUAN: STRONG AND STABLE

Chinese markets aren’t abandoning hopes that authorities may soon relax trading rules for the yuan. Beijing and Washington are locked in heated discussions on a deal to end their trade war and President Donald Trump hopes to extract a commitment to yuan stability. The Chinese have other compulsions. The yuan fell more than 5 percent in 2018 but this year it is rising too rapidly for comfort. As China makes its way into global benchmark stock and bond indices, foreigners are rushing into its markets. In January and February, inflows under the Stock Connect scheme were almost quadruple the amount last year.

Rumors are swirling that China’s currency regulator SAFE will rescind requirements for banks to maintain reserves on dollar purchase contracts and also remove the secretive X-factor used to guide the currency’s trading range. Theoretically, those steps would count as efforts to free the yuan – they were imposed last year to curtail speculators betting against the yuan. Detractors might say China is creating conditions for yuan depreciation. The coming week should offer some visibility as a U.S. trade delegation, headed by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, shows up in China for the next round of tariff negotiations.

(Graphic: China’s yuan rises as foreign investment picks up link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2HBZbLX).new york stock

(Reporting by Karin Strohecker, Saikat Chatterjee and Helen Reid in London; Jennifer Ablan in New York and Vidya Ranganathan in Singapore; Compiled by Sujata Rao; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

A worker at German manufacturer of silos and liquid tankers, Feldbinder Special Vehicles, moves rolls of aluminium at the company's plant in Winsen
FILE PHOTO: A worker at German manufacturer of silos and liquid tankers, Feldbinder Special Vehicles, moves rolls of aluminium at the company’s plant in Winsen, Germany, July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

March 22, 2019

By Jonathan Cable and Stanley White

LONDON (Reuters) – Manufacturers in Europe, Japan and the United States suffered in March as surveys showed trade tensions had left their mark on factory output, a setback for hopes the global economy might be turning the corner on its slowdown.

Factory activity in the 19-country euro zone contracted at the fastest pace in nearly six years.

In Japan, manufacturing output shrank the most in almost three years, hurt by China’s economic slowdown.

And a measure of U.S. manufacturing was its weakest since June 2017 while forecasters at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia slashed their estimate for economic growth in early 2019.

German 10-year bond yields, which plunged on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve signaled no more rate hikes this year, dived again to fall below zero.

European shares and the euro also fell on Friday.

In New York, the spread between the three-month U.S. Treasury bill yield and the 10-year note yield narrowed to a 12-year low — a sign of concern among investors about the growth outlook.

“No other factor shapes the euro zone business cycle more than the ups and downs of global trade,” economists at Berenberg, a bank said.

The United States and China are due to resume face-to-face talks next week, but it is unclear if the two sides can narrow their differences and end the trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

European officials are also worried about the risk of U.S. tariffs on car imports from Europe.

RISKS – US CHINA TENSIONS, BREXIT, ITALY

The drop in the euro zone’s manufacturing purchasing managers index to a 71-month low of 47.7 from 49.4 in February raised the risk trade flows could turn even more negative in the short term, the Berenberg economists said.

The manufacturing downturn was partly offset by stable — but relatively weak — growth in the euro zone’s dominant services industry.

But the surveys suggested the bloc’s economy had a poor start to 2019.

IHS Markit, which published the surveys, said the PMIs pointed to first-quarter economic growth of 0.2 percent in the euro zone, below the 0.3 percent predicted in a Reuters poll last week.

The euro zone grew 0.2 percent in the final three months of 2018, its slowest pace in four years.

Earlier this month, the European Central Bank changed tack by pushing out the timing of its next rate increase until 2020 at the earliest and said it would offer banks a new round of cheap loans to help revive the economy.

“We highlight downside risks mainly stemming from the external side – e.g. trade tensions, a Chinese-led global slowdown,” Barclays economists Radu-Gabriel Cristea and Francois Cabau said about the euro zone.

“The protracted weakness in manufacturing remains a lingering risk, and overall growth concerns are likely to intensify should the industrial backdrop further deteriorate. At the same time, Italy and Brexit woes remain non-negligible, the uncertainty a further drag on sentiment.”

The headline Flash Markit/Nikkei Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was a seasonally adjusted 48.9, the same as February’s final reading.

The index was below the 50 threshold that separates contraction from expansion for the second consecutive month.

“Concern of weaker growth in China and prolonged global trade frictions kept business confidence well below its historical average in March,” Joe Hayes, an economist at IHS Markit, said.

The flash index for total new orders – domestic and foreign – fell to its lowest since June 2016, the survey showed.

Japan is exposed to the dispute between Washington and Beijing as it ships to China big volumes of electronics items and heavy machinery used to make finished goods destined for the United States.

(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Jon Boyle)

Source: OANN

U.S. trade delegation member Clete Willems leaves a hotel for talks with Chinese officials in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: U.S. trade delegation member Clete Willems leaves a hotel for talks with Chinese officials in Beijing, China February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

March 22, 2019

(Reuters) – Clete Willems, the deputy director of the National Economic Council, is planning to leave the White House in the coming weeks, CNBC reported on Friday, citing sources familiar with the top trade official’s plans.

The main reason for Willems exit was attributed to the wear of frequent travel on his young and growing family, CNBC reported, adding that his departure was expected to take place as U.S. trade talks with China linger into April.

The report, citing a source, also said that a replacement for Willems was in the works.

(Reporting by Philip George in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Source: OANN

Top Trump trade official Clete Willems is leaving the White House in a matter of weeks, CNBC reports, citing three unidentified sources.

Willems, who is deputy director of the National Economic Council, has been lead trade negotiator for the U.S. and has represented the council in trade talks with China in Beijing, subbing for NEC Director Larry Kudlow, who has been unable to travel for health reasons.

Source: NewsMax

Traders work on the floor of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) after the opening bell in New York, U.S., March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

March 22, 2019

By Amy Caren Daniel

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes were set to open lower on Friday after downbeat German data exacerbated fears of a slowdown in global growth following an abrupt dovish turn by the Federal Reserve earlier this week.

German manufacturing contracted further in March, showing its lowest reading since June 2013 and adding to worries that unresolved trade disputes were slowing down Europe’s biggest economy.

Another survey showed the Euro zone’s business growth was worse than expected in March as factory activity contracted at the fastest pace in nearly six years.

“Today’s economic numbers indicate the strong relationship that China has with Europe. China has been slowing down, especially in ordering industrial products and automobiles, and that is going to hit Germany out-proportionally,” said Kim Forrest, chief investment officer at Bokeh Capital Partners in Pittsburgh

“Moreover, the Fed’s action on Wednesday show that they don’t believe the economies of the world are strong enough to continue their raising program.”

The Fed on Wednesday abandoned projections for any interest rate hikes this year as policymakers see a U.S. economy that is rapidly losing momentum.

Rate-sensitive financial stocks were set to extend their three-day decline. Citigroup Inc, Bank of America Corp and JPMorgan Chase & Co fell about 1 percent.

Adding to the uncertainty were concerns over trade after Bloomberg reported that U.S. officials downplayed the prospect of an imminent trade deal with China, just as U.S. trade delegates head to Beijing next week.

Chipmakers, which get a huge chunk of their revenue from China, fell in premarket trading. Micron Technology Inc, Intel Corp and Nvidia Corp declined between 0.4 percent and 1 percent.

Their shares rallied in previous session after Micron predicted a recovery in a memory market saddled with oversupply, as demand for mobile phones slows.

Nike Inc dropped 4.6 percent after the sportswear maker’s quarterly revenue failed to beat Wall Street estimates, as sales fell short of expectations in North America.

Nike’s partner Foot Locker Inc fell 3.7 percent.

At 8:15 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 186 points, or 0.72 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 18.5 points, or 0.65 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 44 points, or 0.58 percent.

In light of bleak factory data from Europe, investors will be watching for the U.S. Services Sector Final Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which is likely to come in at 53.6 for March, compared with 53 for February. The report is due at 9:45 a.m. ET.

Tiffany & Co dropped 4.6 percent after the luxury retailer missed quarterly sales expectations, blaming low spending by Chinese tourists and weakness in Europe.

(Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: An attendant walks past EU and China flags ahead of the EU-China High-level Economic Dialogue in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: An attendant walks past EU and China flags ahead of the EU-China High-level Economic Dialogue at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

March 22, 2019

By Philip Blenkinsop and Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU leaders said on Friday the bloc must recognize that China is as much a competitor as a partner, after calls for a more assertive policy toward Beijing over the openness of Chinese markets and the role of state-led firms.

The bloc has sought to avoid taking sides in a multi-billion dollar trade war between Washington and Beijing.

But it has become increasingly frustrated by subsidies, state involvement in the Chinese economy, and what it sees as a slow pace of change there.

Brussels will host an EU-China summit on April 9.

EU leaders had been intending to discuss China on Thursday at their summit, but their schedule was blown off course by a long day of talks over how to deal with Britain and its looming departure from the bloc.

The goal of presenting a united front on China was complicated by a simultaneous visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Italy, whose eurosceptic government was due to sign an accord drawing the country into China’s giant “Belt and Road” infrastructure plan.

Other largely eastern EU countries have also signed up to the plan.

The EU debate on China will be combined with a discussion on improving the competitiveness of Europe’s industry. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the debate was long overdue.

“China is a partner, but it is at the same time a competitor,” he said. “It’s crucial that there be fair trade conditions.”

He also questioned why China could be regarded under World Trade Organization rules as a developing country given special treatment, while being on course to become the largest economy in the world – a view shared by Washington.

“We need fair rules and naturally also protection for intellectual property and know-how from Europe and proper treatment of our investors in China,” Kurz continued.

In signs the European Union wants to end unfettered access to Chinese business, it is about to introduce a system to screen foreign investments, particularly those affecting vital infrastructure or technology.

The European Commission, which coordinates trade policy for the 28 member nations, has also urged leaders to back its plan to limit access to EU public tenders worth 2.4 trillion euros ($2.7 trillion) to companies from countries whose procurement markets were not open.

Pro-free trade countries such as the Nordics and the Netherlands say the plan could unfairly restrict commerce and amount to a surcharge for taxpayers by shutting out cheaper providers.

The EU leaders were also due to discuss Huawei Technologies Co and whether it should be allowed to provide equipment for future high-speed 5G networks. The U.S. government has said the equipment could be used to spy on the West.

“We need a relationship of trust. I know that there are questions now about 5G and Huawei in Europe. I think we need a base of rules to be respected by anyone who wants to do 5G in Europe,” Bettel said.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Robin Emmott; Additional reporting by Robin Emmott, Francesco Guarascio, Andreas Rinke and Thomas Escritt; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

A Tiffany & Co logo is seen outside the store on 5th Ave in New York
FILE PHOTO: A Tiffany & Co logo is seen outside the store on 5th Ave in New York, New York, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

March 22, 2019

(Reuters) – Tiffany & Co narrowly missed Wall Street estimates for quarterly sales on Friday, two months after the luxury retailer signaled soft demand in the holiday season because of low spending by Chinese tourists and weakness in Europe and at home.

Weakening economic growth in China, especially against the backdrop of an ongoing trade spat between Beijing and Washington, has been a worry for luxury goods companies that rely on the country’s burgeoning middle class to boost sales.

“Softer trends in the second half of the year reflected, in part, what we believe were external challenges and uncertainties,” Chief Executive Officer Alessandro Bogliolo said in a statement.

In January, the company blamed a stronger dollar for weak tourist spending globally.

The company reaffirmed its financial forecasts for fiscal 2019 and expects a decline in per share profit in the first half of the year, due to the external factors.

In the reported quarter, comparable-store sales dropped 1 percent as demand for engagement and designer jewelry fell.

Tiffany’s net sales fell to $1.32 billion, while analysts on average were expecting sales of $1.33 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The company’s net earnings rose to $204.5 million, or $1.67 per share, in the fourth quarter ended Jan.31, from $61.9 million, or 50 cents per share, a year earlier, when the company had higher provisions for income taxes.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

Source: OANN

The world's economy is slowing, but the United States' isn't, despite Federal Reserve policies that have hindered growth, President Donald Trump said in an interview airing Friday.

"If we didn't have somebody that would raise interest rates and do quantitative tightening, we would have been at over 4 [percent] instead of at 3.1," Trump told Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo.

The Fed agreed earlier this week to keep interest rates at a target range of 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent and to hold benchmark federal funds steady. It also announced a plan for ending its balance sheet reduction program by September.

Trump denied that his frequent criticism of the Fed influenced its signals that it won't see future rate hikes this year.

“I hope I didn't influence, frankly, but it doesn't matter. I don't care if I influenced or not,” he told Bartiromo. “One thing, I was right. But we would be over four [percent] if they didn't do all of the interest rate hikes, and they tightened. They did $50 billion a month. I said, ‘What are we doing here?’”

Trump also commented on the current trade negotiations with China, as top U.S. trade and economic officials travel to Beijing this weekend for further talks.

Already, Trump has imposed tariffs on $250 billion of China's imports, which he says are going to stay intact "for a substantial period of time," but he told Bartiromo the tariffs won't hinder the trade negotiations.

“I think a lot of people are waiting for the deal with China," said Trump.

"I think that’s going to have a very big impact, maybe bigger than people know,” Trump continued. “As to whether or not it makes it, I think it will. I think we’re getting very close. That doesn’t mean we get there, but I think we’re getting very close.”

Source: NewsMax

U.S. President Trump salutes U.S. Army soldier as he observes military demonstration with Major General Piatt at Fort Drum, New York
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump salutes a U.S. Army soldier as he observes a military demonstration with U.S. Army Major General Walter “Walt” Piatt, the Commanding General of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, U.S., August 13, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

March 22, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Defence Ministry on Friday accused its United States counterpart of deliberately seeking to hype up the threat from China and other nations to justify its own military expenditure, calling the move short-sighted and dangerous.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s $750-billion defense spending request to Congress is the largest ever in dollar terms, though not after being adjusted for inflation, and is meant to counter the growing strength of the Chinese and Russian militaries.

By comparison, China this month unveiled a hike of 7.5 percent in defense spending for the year, to 1.19 trillion yuan ($177 billion), though many experts and diplomats say the real figure is probably far higher. China denies that.

In a statement, China’s Defence Ministry reiterated its standard line about being committed to a peaceful path, and said the United States loved to talk up the “China threat theory”.

“We have noted that when the U.S. Defense Department is fighting for military spending, it always likes petty niggling, trying to get even more benefit for itself by exaggerating the threat posed by other countries,” it said.

“This is short-sighted and extremely dangerous,” it added.

It urged the United States to cast aside Cold War thinking, and take steps to promote the healthy and stable development of two-way ties between the two militaries.

The two countries frequently say they are committed to a sound military-to-military relationship, but their armed forces have seen some tense stand-offs in recent years, particularly in the disputed South China Sea, where the U.S. Navy conducts freedom of navigation patrols.

China is also deeply opposed to U.S. arms sales to self-ruled and democratic Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its sacred territory, to be brought under its control by force if necessary.

Responding to reports the Trump administration has approved the sales of more F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman on Friday said the government had already lodged “stern representations” with the United States.

“We urge the U.S. side to fully acknowledge the extreme sensitivity of the relevant issue, and extreme harmfulness of it,” he added.

The United States is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will stop over in Hawaii next week at the end of a tour of the Pacific, to China’s anger.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: OANN

Paris Auto Show
The Daimler is seen during a press conference on the second press day of the Paris auto show, in Paris, France, October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

March 22, 2019

By Kane Wu and Julie Zhu

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Daimler has asked Goldman Sachs to help it explore increasing its stake in Chinese carmaker BAIC Motor Corp, its main China joint venture partner, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

A deal would be only the second since the world’s biggest auto market relaxed foreign ownership rules last year.

Daimler’s rival BMW became the first to take advantage of the changes when it agreed in October to buy control of its venture with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd for 3.6 billion euros ($4.08 billion).

Caps on foreign ownership previously prevented overseas carmakers from controlling any Chinese maker or joint venture with foreign peers. Last year those limits were removed for firms making fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which will be followed in 2020 by the removal of limits on makers of commercial vehicles such as trucks and buses.

In 2022, the limits will be lifted on the wider car market. BMW’s deal with Brilliance China will only take effect then.

Daimler’s discussions with BAIC are at an early stage and its plan to increase the stake in BAIC’s Hong Kong-listed entity has not been finalised and could change later, cautioned the people, who declined to be identified as the information is confidential.

Daimler holds 30.4 percent of BAIC’s Hong Kong-listed shares, representing a 9.55 percent overall stake in its Chinese partner, according to BAIC’s June 2018 interim report.

State-owned BAIC Group and steel giant Beijing Shougang owns 42.6 percent and 12.8 percent of BAIC through its non-tradable domestic shares, respectively.

It is not clear whether Daimler would seek a majority stake in BAIC, which has a current market capitalisation of $4.9 billion.

Daimler declined to comment on speculation about its partnerships. Beijing-based BAIC did not respond to a request for comments. Goldman declined to comment.

Daimler owns 49 percent in Beijing Benz Automotive Co, its main JV with BAIC, as well as a 3.93 percent stake in Beijing Electric Vehicle Co., a subsidiary of BAIC. It also has a smaller JV with new energy vehicle maker BYD.

It is also setting up a ride-hailing JV in China with Geely Group, Reuters reported in October. Geely bought a 9.69 percent stake in Daimler in early 2018 and demanded an alliance.

Daimler sold 653,000 cars in China last year, its biggest sales market in the world.

Two separate people with knowledge of the matter said Daimler would still like to raise its 49 percent stake in Beijing Benz Automotive. It held talks with BAIC last year but those petered out earlier this year, said one of them.

BAIC denied a Bloomberg report in early December that Daimler had raised the prospect of increasing its stake in Beijing Benz to at least 65 percent.

(Reporting by Kane Wu and Julie Zhu in Hong Kong, and Yilei Sun in Beijing; Additional reporting by Arno Schuetze and Edward Taylor in Frankfurt; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A man stands near the logo of Alibaba Group at the company's newly-launched office in Kuala Lumpur
FILE PHOTO: A man stands near the logo of Alibaba Group at the company’s newly-launched office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin/File Photo

March 22, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s major automobile and internet companies, including Chongqing Changan Automobile, Alibaba and Tencent, are setting up a 9.76 billion yuan ($1.46 billion) joint venture to invest in ride-sharing industry, Chongqing Changan Automobile said on Friday.

Chongqing Changan Automobile has invested 1.6 billion yuan ($238.70 million) in the investment company in Nanjing with partners such as Alibaba’s investment firm, Tencent’s affiliate, Suning’s investment unit, FAW, and Dongfeng Motor.

Changan, Dongfeng, and FAW will each have a 15 percent stake in the investment firm, while Suning will be the biggest shareholder with a 19 percent stake, Changan said in an exchange filing.

Alibaba and Tencent’s investment units will together hold the remainder shares with some other funds, according to the stock exchange filing.

The joint venture will invest in ride-sharing industry with focus on new energy vehicles. It will set up a ride-sharing company. The firm will not engage in other businesses, according to the filing.

(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh in Beijing; Editing by Shreejay Sinha)

Source: OANN

A man is seen walking under mannequins at a shopping mall in Beijing
A man is seen walking under mannequins at a shopping mall in Beijing April 10, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

March 22, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is extending a public holiday to get people to travel and spend more as the government pins its hopes on a vast consumer base to help cushion an economic slowdown.

People can have two more days off for the Labour Day holidays that start on May 1, which falls on a Wednesday this year, creating a 4-day break through May 4 to encourage more travel, the state council said on Friday.

To compensate for the extra time off, people will have to work on April 28 and May 5, both Sundays.

Retail sales growth slid to the lowest in over a decade last year as consumers bought fewer cars, electronics and home appliances.

The Labour Day holidays are one of the peak seasons for people to travel and spend in China.

It was reduced to a one-day holiday in 2018, but the government extends the break to three or four days when it falls close to a weekend.

(Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; editing by Darren Schuettler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Xiaomi founder and CEO Lei Jun attends a launch ceremony of the new flagship phone Xiaomi Mi 9 in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Xiaomi founder and CEO Lei Jun attends a launch ceremony of the new flagship phone Xiaomi Mi 9 in Beijing, China February 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

March 22, 2019

By Josh Horwitz

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Smartphone retailers in China say it’s a tough sell of late with consumers reluctant to upgrade, put off by chill economic winds.

Even so domestic brands led by Huawei have made big strides, wooing consumers with top-notch hardware and innovative features as they move upmarket in the $500-$800 price range. The result: a loss of share in a key segment for Apple Inc and fresh price cuts for iPhones by Chinese retailers.

“Of those people who are upgrading, there are many switching from Apple to Chinese brands but very few switching from Chinese brands to Apple,” said Jiang Ning, who manages a Xiaomi store in the northern province of Shandong.

Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, Xiaomi Corp, Oppo and Vivo once sought to grab share in the world’s biggest smartphone market with value-for-money devices, but consumer demand for better phones has prompted strategic rethinks.

“People are more attached to their phone than ever and have higher expectations for the function and experience it offers. The response has been constant upgrading of hardware specs,” Alen Wu, global vice president at Oppo, told Reuters.

He Fan, CEO of Huishoubao which buys and resells used phones, said he has seen a consumer shift to Huawei from Apple, driven by the Chinese love of selfies and emphasis on camera quality. Huawei has had a tie-up with German camera maker Leica since 2016.

“Huawei’s cameras have become noticeably better than Apple’s in that they suit the tastes of Chinese consumers more,” he said.

Compared to dual-cameras common in most smartphones, Huawei’s P20 Pro device boasts three rear-facing cameras, with the additional one improving zoom capabilities.

It is one of several new devices in its P20 and Mate 20 lines, which helped Huawei’s share of the $500-$800 segment in China surge to 26.6 percent last year from 8.8 percent, data from research firm Counterpoint shows.

Apple, by contrast, saw its share of the segment tumble to 54.6 percent from 81.2 percent, also hurt by its decision to move even further upmarket with the iPhone X series.

“Most Chinese smartphone buyers are not ready to shell out beyond $1,000 for a phone,” said Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint. “This left a gap in the below-$800 segment, which Chinese vendors grabbed with both hands.”

(For a graphic on ‘Chinese smartphones increase share of home market’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2HvsyQi)

Shipments of phones priced above $600 in China grew 10 percent in 2018, data from research firm Canalys shows. By contrast, the overall market shrunk 14 percent, marking a second year of contraction.

OVERSEAS GAINS

The weaker cachet for Apple in China was underscored this month when several major retailers simultaneously cut iPhone prices for a second time this year.

A 64GB iPhone 8 sold at Suning.com Co Ltd now costs 3,899 yuan ($580), roughly 25 percent less than it did in December. That’s also lower than its $599 price tag in the United States, where iPhones typically cost less to buy than in China. Most iPhone models through to the iPhone 8 series have seen prices in China cut, albeit not equally.

In earnings too, it seems to be a tale of divergent fortunes. Apple’s October-December revenue from the Greater China region fell by about a quarter from a year earlier. Greater China currently accounts for 15.6 percent of its overall revenue.

Huawei, the world’s No. 2 smartphone maker, has estimated revenue for 2018 rose 21 percent, which analysts attribute in large part to robust smartphone sales.

More broadly, fewer sales for Apple means fewer customers for its App Store and media streaming services. The shift to higher-end phones by Chinese brands has also meant greater inroads in overseas markets.

Huawei’s shipments in Europe jumped 55 percent in the latest quarter and it now has 23.6 percent market share, according to Canalys. That’s not far behind Samsung Electronics and Apple which saw small declines in shipments.

OPPO, VIVO

If Huawei is taking the lion’s share of turf that Apple once had in China, Oppo and Vivo – brands owned by electronics hardware conglomerate BBK – are the newest threats.

In June, Vivo launched the Nex which starts from 3,898 yuan ($610) and in July, Oppo launched the Find X, priced at 4,999 yuan ($755).

The models mark the first time the brands have priced a phone above $600, a sharp departure from their roots selling $300-$500 models to young consumers in second-tier cities.

The devices came with features unavailable in the iPhone, including under-the-glass fingerprint sensors and “notchless” displays, both of which increase the size of usable screen.

Xiaomi too is going upmarket, announcing in January it would split off its low-budget Redmi range of phones into a sub-brand. In doing so, it is taking a leaf out of Huawei’s book which has for years sold cheaper devices under the Honor brand, helping differentiate its products.

Redmi will target international markets and e-commerce sales, while the flagship Xiaomi brand will target China and offline retail markets, company founder Lei Jun told reporters.

Last month, Xiaomi unveiled the Mi 9, its latest flagship device with a price tag of 2,999 yuan ($450). But the company also said it might be the last time a Xiaomi flagship phone would be priced under 3,000 yuan.

“Xiaomi’s flagship series phones were once always set at 1,999 yuan,” said Lei. “This was a contributing factor to our rise, but it also became an obstacle to our growth,” he said.

(For a graphic on ‘Chinese smartphones increase share of home market’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2Hx2KD4)

(Reporting by Josh Horwitz; Additional reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco, Paul Sandle in Barcelona and the Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Edwina Gibbs)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - A woman is reflected in a window behind Chinese and Hong Kong flags after celebrations commemorating the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to Chinese sovereignty from British rule, in Hong Kong
FILE PHOTO – A woman is reflected in a window behind Chinese and Hong Kong flags after celebrations commemorating the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to Chinese sovereignty from British rule, in Hong Kong, China July 2, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone SiuTyrone Siu

March 22, 2019

By James Pomfret and Anne Marie Roantree

HONG KONG (Reuters) – The United States warned in a report on Friday that increased meddling from China in Hong Kong had adversely impacted the city, straining international business confidence in the Asian financial hub.

The U.S. State Department report cited incidents such as the expulsion of Financial Times editor Victor Mallet, the banning of a pro-independence political party, the jailing of young democracy activists and barring people from local elections.

The city is now also seeking to amend laws to allow individuals to be extradited to mainland China, despite grave human rights concerns toward Beijing.

“The tempo of mainland central government intervention in Hong Kong affairs – and actions by the Hong Kong government consistent with mainland direction – increased, accelerating negative trends seen in previous periods,” the U.S. State Department said in its 2019 report on the Hong Kong Policy Act.

“Growing political restrictions in Hong Kong may be straining the confidence of the international business community.”

The 1992 U.S.-Hong Kong policy act allows Washington to engage with Hong Kong as a non-sovereign entity distinct from China on matters of trade and economics.

The areas of special treatment for Hong Kong are fairly broad and now include visas, law enforcement including extraditions, and investment.

“Policies and practices of the mainland central government adversely impacted Hong Kong in multiple areas, and mainland pressure resulted in new constraints on Hong Kong’s political space,” the report said.

“In some particularly concerning instances, Hong Kong authorities took actions aligned with mainland priorities at the expense of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The continuation of the U.S. Congress enacted policy is predicated upon China and Hong Kong maintaining a so-called “one country, two systems” arrangement.

This mode of governance, that came into effect after Hong Kong reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997, grants the city a high degree of autonomy, the rule of law and freedoms not allowed under the Communist China controlled mainland.

Some critics, including pro-independence activist Andy Chan, have called on the U.S. to review the viability of this act in future, given China’s tightening grip on the city’s freedoms.

Hong Kong, which has long acted as a leading re-export and entrepot hub for U.S.-China trade, has largely escaped the brunt of current U.S.-China trade tensions, given its special status as a separate customs entity.

Should the policy act be reviewed, however, the economic impact could be much larger, say observers.

In 2018, the United States’ largest worldwide bilateral trade-in-goods surplus was with Hong Kong, at $25.9 billion, the report noted.

The U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong Kurt Tong in February expressed concerns about Hong Kong’s autonomy, noting erosions to the “one-country, two systems” formula

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Michael Perry)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Trader works at his desk at the stock exchange in Frankfurt
FILE PHOTO: A trader works at his desk at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

March 22, 2019

By Josephine Mason

LONDON (Reuters) – Investors are betting on heightened political uncertainty and greater volatility in European stock markets ahead of European Parliament elections in May amid growing concerns about rising populism.

In one of the first concrete signs in financial markets that investors are bracing for political instability, VSTOXX futures, which reflect investor sentiment and economic uncertainty, have jumped in recent weeks.

While the classic gauge of fear — known as implied volatility, which tracks demand for options in European stocks — is currently at 15.68, futures that bet on the same thing over the coming months show a pronounced jump.

That’s because investors have piled on trades that bet on big swings in stocks as election day nears.

Implied volatility for futures contracts expiring in May show a pronounced jump to 16.8, compared with 15.35 in April. The contracts measure the 30-day implied volatility of the euro zone STOXX 50 index.

“We are seeing a bit of a kink around May when we have European elections and we have this wave of populism,” said Edmund Shing, head of equities and derivatives strategy at BNP Paribas.

(GRAPHIC: Rising implied volatility – https://tmsnrt.rs/2UL77h9)

LOOMING ELECTIONS

More than 350 million EU citizens will head to the polls between May 23 and 26 to elect a new Parliament, a vote that will shape the future of the bloc amid a backlash against immigration and years of austerity.

Mainstream center-left and center-right lawmakers may lose control of the legislature for the first time, as euroskeptic and far-right candidates build support.

Herve Guyon, Societe Generale’s head of European equity derivatives flow strategy and solutions, said the rise of populism had triggered a recent flurry of speculative trades.

“Political uncertainty might be coming from the EU rather than the United States. We’ve seen investors doing very large trades to benefit from an increase in volatility around these events,” he said.

“We as a bank don’t expect the elections to be a massive game-changer. The populists won’t get enough to disrupt the political system, but we do note some investors did take some positions on this event.”

The implied volatility is still well below levels seen in late 2018 when global stock markets were routed amid worries about rising interest rates, slowing economic growth and the trade war between Beijing and Washington.

In late December, it shot to above 26, its highest since February.

But the flurry of activity suggests investors are seeking out new opportunities after a slide in implied volatility across major asset classes.

Edward Park, deputy chief investment officer at asset manager Brooks MacDonald, said some of the activity may also be due to persistent uncertainty about Britain’s exit from the European Union as the Brexit date of March 29 nears.

This year, volatility across currency, fixed income and stocks markets has plunged as the U.S. Federal Reserve and European Central Bank have taken dovish policy stances.

The Deutsche Bank currency volatility indicator hit multi-year lows this week, while the proxy for fixed income volatility is languishing at all-time lows.

In stocks, the Cboe volatility index, Wall Street’s so-called “fear gauge”, fell to its weakest in six months this week.

“There’s been a cross-asset volatility crash — in euro-dollar, U.S. rates and equities — in the aftermath of (ECB President Mario) Draghi’s and (Fed Chairman Jerome) Powell’s comments and the expectation of lower rates for longer,” said Guyon.

(GRAPHIC: Falling financial market volatility – https://tmsnrt.rs/2ULmq9z)

(Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A view of the city skyline from the Shanghai Financial Center building
FILE PHOTO: A view of the city skyline from the Shanghai Financial Center building, October 25, 2011. The world’s population will reach seven billion on October 31, 2011, according to projections by the United Nations. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

March 21, 2019

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Several Chinese regions, including the capital Beijing, saw birthrates decline again in 2018, the official China Daily reported, after a 2016 move to relax family planning controls failed to encourage couples to have more children.

Citing figures from local authorities, the newspaper said Beijing’s birthrate fell to 8.24 per 1,000 people, compared to 9.06 in the previous year. And in Shanghai, the birthrate dropped to 7.2 per 1,000, down from 8.1 in 2017.

The birthrate in the northeast rustbelt province of Liaoning, which has experienced a net population decline in recent years after an exodus of younger residents, fell to 6.39 per 1,000, down from 6.49 in 2017.

Alarmed by the rapid rate of aging in its population, China relaxed its controversial “one-child policy” in 2016, allowing all couples to have two children instead of just one.

But the policy change failed to reverse what demographers say is a long-term trend of falling birthrates, brought about by growing levels of prosperity along with concerns about the high costs of raising children.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that the number of births last year reached 15.23 million, down 2 million compared to 2017, and the second consecutive annual decline.

China’s fast-ageing population was one of the major preoccupations during the annual session of China’s parliament earlier this month, with delegates calling for radical new measures to reverse the decline in new births.

Think tanks expect China’s population to peak at 1.4 billion in 2029 and then begin an “unstoppable” decline that could reduce the workforce by as many as 200 million people by the middle of the century.

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Ricardo Hausmann from Harvard University
FILE PHOTO: Ricardo Hausmann from Harvard University speaks on Day 1 of Securing Sport 2015 – the annual conference of the International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS). Photo Andrew Kelly for ICSS

March 21, 2019

By Lesley Wroughton and Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Thursday threatened to pull out from the annual meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank in China next week if Beijing refuses to allow a representative of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to attend.

The IADB, which is Latin America’s largest development lender, voted last week to replace Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s board representative with Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann, who is backed by Guaido.

Several sources familiar with the situation told Reuters that China – one of the Venezuelan government’s few remaining international allies – had proposed not inviting representatives from either the Maduro or Guaido camps to “de-politicize” the meeting.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Diane Craft)

Source: OANN

French President Emmanuel Macron prepares to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels
French President Emmanuel Macron prepares to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium March 21, 2019. Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Pool via Reuters

March 21, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Emmanuel Macron will host Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as the leaders of Germany and the European Union’s executive arm at a March 26 meeting to discuss multilateral relations between Europe and China, a French presidency official said.

The talks will focus on trade, climate and China-European relations, the official said. France wants a more coordinated EU approach to China, rather than member countries focusing on bilateral relations.

The meeting comes at a time when the EU is weighing a more defensive strategy on China, spurred by China’s slowness to open up its economy, Chinese takeovers in critical sectors and a feeling in European capitals that Beijing has not stood up for free trade.

“This meeting is a first step,” the Elysee official said, adding that the meeting would help lay the groundwork for concrete results at an EU-China summit on April 9.

Macron, arriving at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday, spoke of a “European awakening” that China is seeking to produce sophisticated products that will compete with those made in Europe.

“Since the beginning of my mandate I’ve been calling for a real awareness and for the defense of European sovereignty,” Macron told reporters.

(Reporting by Richard Lough; editing by John Irish)

Source: OANN

Graeme Gallagher | Contributor

Six people have been killed and 30 are seriously injured after a chemical plant explosion in eastern China on Thursday.

Occurring at around 2:50 p.m. local time, the blast at the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical factory, which produces fertilizer and pesticides, created a fireball and billowing clouds over the industrial park area in Yancheng, Jiangsu, province, according to BBC.

Damaging further buildings in the radius, the explosion is believed to have caused a 2.2-magnitude earthquake that was recorded by China’s earthquake administration at the same time as the factory erupted.

Videos and images of the deadly explosion have surfaced social media. (RELATED: Multiple Fatalities After Explosion Devastates Kindergarten In China)

Shockwaves from the explosion shattered nearby windows of residential buildings and destroyed cars, injuring many through flying debris. Children are among those injured as online maps show 10 schools are within the 5K radius of the explosion.

“Workers were trapped after buildings were knocked down by the shock wave, which also shattered windows of nearby homes,” reported state-run news agency Xinhua. “Witnesses said many workers were seen running out of the factory covered in blood after the blast.”

A total of 176 fire trucks and 928 firefights have been sent to the site for rescue operations and to combat the ongoing flames from the blast. (RELATED: China Backs Venezuela’s Claim That Blackout Is Result Of U.S. Sabotage, Offers Help)

Paramilitary police officers and a medical staff transfer an injuried man as smoke rises from an explosion site behind them in Yancheng in China's eastern Jiangsu province on March 21, 2019. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Paramilitary police officers and a medical staff transfer an injuried man as smoke rises from an explosion site behind them in Yancheng in China’s eastern Jiangsu province on March 21, 2019. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

The chemical company, Tianjiayi Chemical, was founded in 2007 and was listed by the State Administration of Work Safety to have had 13 safety problems, including a lack of safety training among management, at the plant. In addition, the company has received past punishments for “failures regarding solid waste management, environmental impact assessments and air pollution,” according to the South China Morning Post.

Industrial accidents have become prevalent in the East Asian country, as poor safety regulations have led to past factory explosions.

Two massive explosions, linked to haphazard management of explosive materials and poor regulations, in the port of Tianjin killed more than 160 people in 2015. Similarly, another explosive, due to problems in their safety management systems, in the Hebei province, near Beijing, killed 23 people last year.

Source: The Daily Caller

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte arrives to greet the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base in Manila
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte arrives to greet the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base in Manila, Philippines, Thursday, February 28, 2019. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

March 21, 2019

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte said Manila’s relations with Beijing will not be jeopardised despite two former officials filing a complaint with the International Criminal Court over China’s aggression in the disputed South China Sea.

Since taking office in 2016, the Philippine leader re-oriented his foreign policy away from longtime ally the United States and toward China, despite decades of mistrust and bitter maritime disputes with Beijing.

However, the country’s former anti-graft chief and former foreign affairs minister is asking the ICC to conduct a preliminary examination on China’s role in the South China Sea.

The letter was dated March 13 – four days before the Philippines’ unilateral withdrawal from the ICC was formalized.

Duterte said: “They think they have a good case and I would say that there is no jurisdiction over this country and of China.”

Close ties will remain as China understands that anyone can file a case as the Philippines is a democratic country, he told reporters late on Thursday.

Duterte is facing criticism from opponents for making too many political concessions to China in return for billions of dollars of pledged Chinese loans and investment, most of which have yet to materialize.

China says it has irrefutable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and the waters around them.

Under the ICC rules, any individual, group or state can communicate with the prosecutor on alleged crimes falling under the court’s jurisdiction. The complaints can form the initial basis of the preliminary examinations.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 21, 2019

By Amy Caren Daniel

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures were subdued on Thursday, a day after the Federal Reserve abandoned projections for any interest rate hikes this year amid signs of an economic slowdown.

At the conclusion of its two-day monetary policy meeting on Wednesday, the central bank brought its three-year drive to tighten monetary policy to an abrupt end, and released details of a plan to end the monthly reduction of its balance sheet.

Shares of U.S. lenders, which are sensitive to interest rates, took a hit after the statement.

Citigroup Inc, Bank of America Corp and JPMorgan Chase & Co fell between 0.10 and 0.47 percent in light premarket trading on Thursday.

“The decision by the Fed to go all in on the dovish pivot caught markets off guard, with investors expecting a more cautious and gradual approach from a central bank that typically errs on the more hawkish side,” Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda in London, wrote in a note.

“Whether this is a sign that policy makers are genuinely concerned about the economy in 2019 or that they’ve finally bowed to external pressure, it’s certainly a bold move.”

A dovish Fed and hopes of a resolution to the ongoing trade war between United States and China have spurred a rally in stocks this year, with the S&P 500 now about 4 percent away from its record closing high in September.

Investors will now keep a close watch on trade talks between the United States and China as U.S. trade delegates travel to Beijing to resume negotiations.

President Donald Trump warned on Wednesday that Washington may leave tariffs on Chinese goods for a “substantial period” to ensure that Beijing complies with any trade agreement.

At 6:37 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 18 points, or 0.07 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 0.5 points, or 0.02 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 10.5 points, or 0.14 percent.

Among stocks, Micron Technology Inc rose 3.6 percent after the chipmaker said it sees a recovery in the memory chip market coming and reported a quarterly profit that beat estimates.

Boeing Co slipped 0.4 percent after pressure mounted on the world’s largest planemaker in Washington as U.S. lawmakers called for executives to testify about two crashed 737 MAX jets.

Economic data on tap includes initial claims for state unemployment benefits, which are expected to have fallen to 225,000 in the week ended March 16 from 229,000 in the previous week. The data is due at 8:30 a.m. ET.

(Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Source: OANN

Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 21, 2019

By Amy Caren Daniel

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures were subdued on Thursday, a day after the Federal Reserve abandoned projections for any interest rate hikes this year amid signs of an economic slowdown.

At the conclusion of its two-day monetary policy meeting on Wednesday, the central bank brought its three-year drive to tighten monetary policy to an abrupt end, and released details of a plan to end the monthly reduction of its balance sheet.

Shares of U.S. lenders, which are sensitive to interest rates, took a hit after the statement.

Citigroup Inc, Bank of America Corp and JPMorgan Chase & Co fell between 0.10 and 0.47 percent in light premarket trading on Thursday.

“The decision by the Fed to go all in on the dovish pivot caught markets off guard, with investors expecting a more cautious and gradual approach from a central bank that typically errs on the more hawkish side,” Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda in London, wrote in a note.

“Whether this is a sign that policy makers are genuinely concerned about the economy in 2019 or that they’ve finally bowed to external pressure, it’s certainly a bold move.”

A dovish Fed and hopes of a resolution to the ongoing trade war between United States and China have spurred a rally in stocks this year, with the S&P 500 now about 4 percent away from its record closing high in September.

Investors will now keep a close watch on trade talks between the United States and China as U.S. trade delegates travel to Beijing to resume negotiations.

President Donald Trump warned on Wednesday that Washington may leave tariffs on Chinese goods for a “substantial period” to ensure that Beijing complies with any trade agreement.

At 6:37 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 18 points, or 0.07 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 0.5 points, or 0.02 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 10.5 points, or 0.14 percent.

Among stocks, Micron Technology Inc rose 3.6 percent after the chipmaker said it sees a recovery in the memory chip market coming and reported a quarterly profit that beat estimates.

Boeing Co slipped 0.4 percent after pressure mounted on the world’s largest planemaker in Washington as U.S. lawmakers called for executives to testify about two crashed 737 MAX jets.

Economic data on tap includes initial claims for state unemployment benefits, which are expected to have fallen to 225,000 in the week ended March 16 from 229,000 in the previous week. The data is due at 8:30 a.m. ET.

(Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Worker walks past coal piles at a coal coking plant in Yuncheng
FILE PHOTO: A worker walks past coal piles at a coal coking plant in Yuncheng, Shanxi province, China January 31, 2018. Picture taken January 31, 2018. REUTERS/William Hong/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By David Stanway and Andrew Galbraith

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese regulators are close to releasing new “green bond” standards that would exclude polluting fossil fuel projects from corporate financing channels designed to lift environmental standards, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Beijing has in recent years promoted new green financing methods to help industry pay for its transition to cleaner modes of growth.

But China’s inclusion of “clean coal” in a 2015 central bank list of technologies eligible for green bonds has put the country at odds with global standards, a point of contention for some international investors and many environmental groups.

Two sources with direct knowledge of the situation say China’s central bank, which regulates financial institution debt issuance and whose 2015 guidelines were adopted by other market regulators, has already revised the eligibility list. One of the people said the list is due to be published later this month. The People’s Bank of China did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

“If confirmed, ending the policy of financing coal with green bonds would be a much-needed step in the right direction,” said Liu Jinyan, senior campaigner with environmental group Greenpeace in Beijing.

“With no new coal projects taking money from the green bonds market, those funds can actually accelerate China’s energy transition and green development,” she said.

Of the $42.8 billion worth of green bonds issued in China last year, only $31.2 billion would have met global criteria, according to a report published at the end of February by the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI), a non-profit group backing green bond standards.

The share of what CBI calls “internationally aligned” green bonds has been steadily increasing as China’s institutions move to align themselves more with global markets.

The PBOC’s revised criteria, however, would not apply to green “enterprise bonds”, which are regulated by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the state planner, and are primarily issued by state-owned enterprises and unlisted companies.

In its “green industry” catalog of approved environmental sectors, the NDRC in February still included the production and utilization of “clean coal”, allowing coal companies to issue “green enterprise bonds” to finance the installation of low-emission technology.

The NDRC did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Green bonds have already financed a number of big coal projects in China. Tianjin SDIC Jinneng Electric Power Co Ltd issued 200 million yuan ($29.81 million) in commercial paper on the interbank market in mid-2017 to finance a low-emissions coal-fired power plant.

Coal-to-chemical plants have also received billions of yuan in financing through green bonds, despite criticism from environmental groups.

Industry experts say the two-tiered regulatory framework – one under the PBOC and one under the NDRC – means some coal-related projects could still issue green bonds, although access to the most active green finance markets would be restricted.

“Many of the international investors and financiers have publicly announced plans to reduce their coal portfolio,” said Herry Cho, head of sustainable finance for Asia Pacific at ING.

She said the NDRC catalog is already “largely aligned” with international standards, and even includes some categories, such as equipment related to renewable energy and resource recycling, that are not yet included in global guidelines.

Shengzhe Wang, counsel at Hogan Lovells in Shanghai, who has worked on green bonds in the U.K.-China Green Finance Taskforce, said it was unrealistic to expect the sudden exclusion of coal from all green financing in China.

“For the time being perhaps we have to put up with, make a compromise with clean coal,” she said.

While that compromise may limit foreign involvement in the market, Peter Corne, managing partner at legal firm Dorsey & Whitney in Shanghai said green financing was still required to help clean up China’s coal sector.

“I don’t think it necessarily means there will be more coal projects because of it, because there has already been a moratorium for quite some time,” said Corne, who follows China’s environmental policies.

“Coal’s not going to go away, and it will greatly accelerate our progress towards achieving emission goals if we do clean up the coal sector.”

(Reporting by Andrew Galbraith and David Stanway; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S and China trade talks in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Chinese staffers adjust U.S. and Chinese flags before the opening session of trade negotiations between U.S. and Chinese trade representatives at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

March 21, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday that a U.S. trade delegation headed by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will visit Beijing on March 28-29 for another round of negotiations.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will travel to the U.S. in early April for more talks, Gao Feng, the commerce ministry spokesman told reporters in a regular briefing.

(Reporting by Yawen Chen and Beijing Monitoing Desk; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: China's Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Gao Feng attends a news conference at the commerce ministry in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: China’s Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Gao Feng attends a news conference at the commerce ministry in Beijing, China, June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

March 21, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s imports and exports rebounded in the first half of March, Gao Feng, a commerce ministry spokesman said on Thursday, adding that the overall trade performance in the first quarter remained stable.

China’s exports tumbled the most in three years in February while imports fell for a third straight month, pointing to a further slowdown in the economy.

(Reporting by Yawen Chen and Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Source: OANN


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