Trump ‘Honored’ to Provide US Farmers with $16 Billion in Aid 

President Donald Trump says he is “honored” to give U.S. farmers hurt by the trade war with China another $16 billion in aid. 

Flanked by potato growers, ranchers and dairymen in the White House, Trump said Thursday the aid “will help keep our cherished farms thriving and make clear that no country has a veto on America’s economic and national security.”

Trump added that trade has been “very unfair” to the farmers who he says support him politically.

This is the second multibillion-dollar bailout the Trump administration has provided to U.S. farmers who have seen Chinese markets for their products dry up because of tariffs China imposed on U.S. goods to retaliate for U.S. tariffs on Chinese products. The White House gave farmers $12 billion last year.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says farmers should see the first installment of the new $16 billion in aid in July or August. Perdue said he doubts if the United States and China can reach a trade deal by then.

Most of the money will go to farmers who grow and sell such crops as soybeans, corn, peanuts and wheat. Money will also be set aside to buy excess products from the farmers and send them to schools and food banks.

“I can’t recall a president more concerned about farmer well-being. We are working hard to assess trade damages and this package ensures farmers will not bear the brunt,” Perdue said.

While Trump said Thursday that many farmers told him he is “doing the right thing,” some trade experts call the bailout a political ploy and say farmers are more concerned about winning back the lost Chinese market.

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Canada, Europe to Choose When 737 MAX Is Safe as Regulators Meet

In a potential challenge to U.S.-led efforts to build consensus on the Boeing Co 737 MAX flying again, Canada and Europe said on Wednesday they would bring back the grounded aircraft on their own terms if their specific concerns are not addressed.

Global regulators will meet in Fort Worth, Texas, on Thursday where the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration hopes to reach an international consensus on how to move forward with the MAX, U.S. officials told Reuters.

The plane was grounded worldwide in March following a fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash just months after a similar Lion Air disaster in Indonesia which together killed 346 people.

Global airlines that had rushed to buy the fuel-efficient, longer-range aircraft have since canceled flights and scrambled to cover routes that were previously flown by the MAX.

“From our point of view, if we all work together and we all reach the same aim, fine. If we don’t, we’ll choose our own time to decide when the planes are safe to fly again,” Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau told Reuters in an interview.

“The number one focus for us is that we in Canada must be satisfied. It doesn’t matter what others do. So if we are not perfectly synchronized with certain other countries that’s how it going to be,” Garneau said.

Regulators are expected to discuss Boeing’s proposed software fix and new pilot training that are both key to re-starting flights. Boeing has not yet formally submitted its proposals to the FAA.

A spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency said on Wednesday that it would complete an additional independent design review of the plane once the FAA approves Boeing’s proposed changes and establishes “adequate training of Boeing MAX flight crews.”

Foreign regulators have already signaled disagreements over measures to end the grounding, with Garneau calling in April for pilots to receive simulator training for the MAX, rather than computer courses, going a step beyond FAA-backed proposals.

Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell told Congress last week the FAA is working closely with other civil aviation authorities “to address specific concerns related to the 737 MAX.”

United Airlines Chief Executive Oscar Munoz said on Wednesday that FAA approval is only the first step, with public and employee confidence key to deciding when to fly its 14 MAX jets again.

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Britain’s May Faces Calls to Resign After Revised Brexit Plan Unveiled

British lawmakers are denouncing Prime Minister Theresa May’s latest proposal to withdraw from the European Union (EU) amid growing demands from her own Conservative Party for her resignation.

May said on Tuesday a bill she plans to present to Parliament next month would include a provision to vote on whether to hold a second referendum to leave the EU, a key demand of many opposition lawmakers.

May also offered closer trading arrangements with the EU as another incentive in what she called a “last chance” opportunity to finalize a Brexit deal.

Speaking before the House of Commons on Wednesday, May implored lawmakers to support her bill, warning a rejection would lead to “division and deadlock.”

May said her withdrawal bill would be disclosed Friday so that lawmakers would have time to study it.

Legislators previously spurned May’s exit deal three times and her latest attempt to win support faces an uphill fight. She plans to ask lawmakers to vote on the bill again during the week of June 3.

Members of May’s own Conservative Party accused her of relenting to pro-EU demands while opposition Labour Party lawmakers rejected her latest plan as too little too late.

On Tuesday, May said after Parliament votes on the measure, she will establish a timetable for her departure as leader of the Conservative Party and as prime minister.

A growing number of Conservative Party members, however, are pressing her to cancel the vote and step down sooner.

May is likely to face even more pressure when the results of this week’s European Parliament elections are released, as the Conservative Party is expected to suffer heavy losses.

The election will be held in Britain on Thursday, but the results won’t be announced until all European countries have finished voting late Sunday.

British citizens voted in a referendum to leave the EU three years ago and the country was scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, but the 28-nation bloc extended the deadline until October 31.

 

 

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Jamie Oliver’s British Restaurant Chain Collapses

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant chain in Britain has filed for bankruptcy protection, closing 22 of its 25 eateries and leaving some 1,000 people out of work.

The remaining outlets, two Jamie’s Italian restaurants and a Jamie’s Diner at Gatwick Airport outside London, will stay open, the financial firm KPMG, which will oversee the process, said in a statement Tuesday.

Oliver said on Twitter he was “devastated that our much-loved UK restaurants have gone into administration,” a form of bankruptcy protection, and thanked people “who have put their hearts and souls into this business over the years.”

​Oliver gained fame as “The Naked Chef” on television, which aired in dozens of countries, after premiering in Britain some 20 years ago.  The television success was followed by a number of cookbooks. The restaurant chain included Jamie’s Italian, Jamie Oliver’s Diner and Barbecoa steakhouses.

Five branches of the Australian arm of Jamie’s Italian have also been sold and another put into administration.

Oliver’s restaurants started to lose revenue in 2016. Business got so bad for the restaurant group that Oliver injected millions of dollars of his own money in an effort to turn the tide. 

“The current trading environment for companies across the casual dining sector is as tough as I’ve ever seen,” Will Wright, an administrator at KPMG, said in a statement. “The directors at Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group have worked tirelessly to stabilize the business against a backdrop of rising costs and brittle consumer confidence.”

Other British chains have also had to close outlets.  Earlier this year, cafe chain Patisserie Valerie was forced to close 70 outlets, at the cost of 920 jobs.

Celebrity chefs in the U.S. have also fallen on hard times. Thomas Keller closed Bouchon in Beverly Hills in 2017, saying it couldn’t remain profitable. That same year, Guy Fieri closed Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar in New York’s Times Square and Daniel Boulud closed DBGB Kitchen and Bar in New York, saying it didn’t get enough business during the week.

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Bloomberg: US May Pay $2 Per Bushel for Soybeans to Help Farmers

The Trump administration is considering payments of $2 per bushel for soybeans, 63 cents per bushel for wheat and 4 cents per bushel for corn as part of a package of up to $20 billion to offset U.S. farmers’ losses from the trade war with China, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

Caitlin Eannello, spokeswoman for the National Association of Wheat Growers, said that 63 cents per bushel for wheat is the number the organization has been hearing for the next round of U.S. trade aid. “That is the number that we’ve been hearing, she told Reuters.

Those payments would exceed the rates paid last year to farmers in a similar aid package.

President Donald Trump earlier this month directed the Department of Agriculture to work on a new aid plan for farmers as Washington and Beijing intensified their 10-month-old trade war by raising tariffs on each other’s goods.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue last week said the new aid package was likely to be $15 billion to $20 billion, exceeding the up to $12 billion in aid rolled out last year to farmers. Most of it was likely to be direct payments, sources told Reuters.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture said the details of the aid package would be released soon, without commenting on the reported payment rates. One lobbyist source said the plan was likely to be announced this week.

The USDA spokeswoman added that the aid was designed to avoid skewing planting decisions. “Farmers should continue to make their planting and production decisions with the current market signals in mind, rather than some expectation of what a trade mitigation program might or might not look like,” she said in emailed comments to Reuters.

However, the aid was seen encouraging more soy planting at a time when supplies are already at record-high levels.

“That [proposed $2 bean payout] is a pretty enticing carrot, and that tells me that they [farmers] are going to try to get as many bean acres in as possible, at the expense of corn,” said Matt Connelly, analyst at the Hightower Report in Chicago.

“The reason is beans [futures] went south is, they saw that $2 a bushel, and that will entice them to plant beans until the July 4th weekend.”

Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures turned lower on the report on worries that farmers would plant more of the crop. Top importer China continues to shun U.S. soybeans.

The administration last year paid $1.65 per bushel for soybeans, 14 cents per bushel for wheat and 1 cent per bushel for corn.

Negotiations between the United States and China have soured dramatically since early May, when Chinese officials sought major changes to the text of a proposed deal that the Trump administration says had been largely agreed.

The dispute between the world’s two largest economies has cost billions, roiled global supply chains and rattled financial markets. American farmers, who helped carry Trump to his surprise 2016 election win, have been among the hardest hit.

Bloomberg, citing anonymous sources, said growers of other commodities were also to receive payments in this year’s aid package, but it did not provide rates. It said the plan could change as Trump could make adjustments.

The Trump administration wants any trade deal with China to include purchases of more than $1.2 trillion worth of American products, including agricultural commodities and industrial goods.

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Portugal’s Economy Rebounds, Though Problems Persist

The Portuguese economy is resisting the prevailing gloom in Europe.

Activity remained strong, with GDP rising by 0.5% in the first quarter, or 1.8% at an annual rate, compared with 1.2% in the euro zone, forecasts Brussels.

Following the trend of 2018, Portugal’s good economic health comes mainly from private consumption fueled by rising wages and employment dynamics. The preliminary data, says the national statistics institute, “reflect a significant acceleration in investment.”

The government deficit has fallen from 7.2% of GDP to 0.5% of GDP since 2014, and the unemployment rate from a peak of 17.9% in early 2013, to about 6% currently.

“The tourism sector has been the largest driver of the export recovery in Portugal,” Ben Westmore, the head of the Portugal desk in the Economics Department of the OECD, confirmed to VOA.

These numbers make Portugal the darling of international financial institutions. The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, praised Portugal’s economic recovery recently in Lisbon. “Portugal and the Portuguese people deserve huge credit for their efforts, for which they should be proud,” Lagarde said.

Low wages

Despite the spectacular recovery and the fall of unemployment, a sense of precariousness and low wages are everywhere in Portugal. The minimum wage is only $669 (€600) per month — a number that has not prompted the return of many young adults, who left during the crisis. Between 2008 and 2014, 120,000 people left Portugal per year. Twenty percent were highly skilled workers, according to professor Joao Miguel Trancoso Lopes.

This sociologist undertook a study and interviewed many of them to understand their motivations to stay abroad or come back in their country.

“They do not feel Portugal is full of opportunities. The low wages are a real hurdle for them. They look for better jobs, outside of the country. Unlike the previous generations, the young Portuguese leaving abroad do not dream of returning home,” he explained to VOA.

This professor used to be paid $3,345 (€3,000) per month before the crisis. Today, he earns $2,901.99 (€2,600) per month. The health care system is another sector that was heavily targeted for budget cuts during the crisis.

Bruno Maia is a neurologist in Lisbon. He acknowledges the current government took some measures to lift the burden, such as hiring of doctors and nurses.

“The damages made to our health care system are so pronounced that these new jobs do not compensate what was lost during the crisis. It is not enough. Problems are accumulating and we are struggling,” he underscores to VOA. For example, Maia says non-emergency procedures, like an MRI, could take up a year to be performed in Portugal.

Besides these issues, Antonio Costa, the Socialist prime minister who vowed in 2015 to overturn austerity, remains popular in Portugal. His party and its allies likely will win the coming European elections on May 26.

“Euroskepticism, which grew a lot during the crisis, it is not as important today. We do not expect a defeat as the Socialist Party is popular in Portugal,” Andre Freire, a political science professor at Lisbon University Institute, told VOA.

Portugal has 21 seats at the European Parliament.

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Huawei Founder Shrugs Off US Blacklisting Order

The founder of Chinese telecom giant Huawei is dismissing the decision by the United States to blacklist the company on the grounds it poses a threat to U.S. national security.

In a series of interviews with state-run news outlets Tuesday, Ren Zhengfei said the Trump administration’s actions underestimate his company’s true capabilities to continue operating and developing the next generation of mobile technology commonly referred to as 5G. 

Last week’s order would curb the future transfer of hardware, software and services to Huawei, possibly limiting the Chinese company’s expansion globally and its efforts to overtake South Korea’s Samsung as the world’s biggest smart phone manufacturer.

The world’s second biggest smartphone maker sustained a major blow Monday when the giant U.S. search engine Google announced it will restrict Huawei from access to its popular Android operating system in compliance with the order.

Google services were already banned in China, so analysts say the impact of the curb on technology sales could mostly affect Huawei’s international sales, making its phones less attractive to customers if they do not have Google features. Last year, Huawei sold nearly half of its production of 208 million smart phones overseas and the rest in China.

The U.S. Commerce Department on Monday granted Huawei a 90-day license to continue providing software updates to existing Huawei smartphones and maintain existing networks. 

The Chinese firm is at the center of ongoing trade disputes between Washington and Beijing. The U.S. contends that Huawei’s technology could be used to spy on Americans, allegations Huawei has repeatedly denied.

The U.S. battle with Huawei has also ensnared Ren Zhengfei’s daughter, Meng Wanzhou, who serves as the company’s chief financial officer. Meng was arrested last December in Vancouver on a U.S. warrant charging her with violating sanctions on Iran, a move that angered China and led to the arrest of two Canadian nationals in an apparent retaliation against Canada.

China and the U.S. are in the midst of months-long trade talks with the world’s two biggest economies engaging in tit-for-tat tariff increases on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of exports.

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Indian Exporters Eye Gains Amid Intensifying US China Trade Dispute

As work on establishing a massive garment-manufacturing unit by one of India’s leading apparel exporters enters the final stages, the company is optimistic about keeping the machines humming. Slated to begin production in August, Orient Craft’s new unit in Jharkhand, one of India’s least developed states, will employ about eight thousand workers.

Inquiries from buyers in the United States, its biggest market, have increased in recent months as a trade dispute with China intensifies, according to A.K. Jain, who heads the Commercial department at Orient Craft.  That is why he is  upbeat about generating new business. “This is an unbelievable blessing in disguise,” he says. “It will give us an edge.”

Exporters in India are reaping the benefits of the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies as business with both countries jumps, according to Ajai Sahai, who heads the Federation of Indian Export Organizations.

“While overall exports have gone up by nine percent, exports to the U.S. have gone up by 13 percent and to China by 32 percent,” he says. And as the confrontation escalated last week after the two countries failed to reach a deal, his optimism increased. “Since the tariff hike is now substantial from 10 to 25 percent we feel we will have more advantage in market access.”

India is among a handful of countries set to benefit from the U.S.-China trade dispute, a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development stated in February. “The saying ‘it’s good to fish in troubled waters’ could apply to some bystander nations,” the report said, pointing out that most of the Chinese exports subject to U.S. tariffs will be captured by firms in third countries.

While China has opened its doors wider to a range of agricultural products from India such as rice and sugar, exports to the United States have increased in areas such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, jewelry, auto components and apparel.

“In various products we were losing out to China with a very narrow margin. With the hike, we are able to offset that,” says Sahai. “That is why the tariff war has presented us an opportunity to enter markets in the U.S. in some areas we were hardly penetrating.”

But even as Indian exports benefit, trade experts warn that clouds are also gathering over New Delhi’s trade relationship with Washington. In recent months, U.S. President Donald Trump has slammed Indian duties on some U.S. goods, saying that India is not providing “equitable and reasonable access” to its markets.

Economists also warn that an eventual slowdown in global trade due to the U.S.-China trade spat will hit all countries including India, which is already staring at an economic slowdown

Growth in the world’s fastest growing major economy flagged to 6.6 percent in the last quarter of 2018 – it’s lowest in more than a year. It is not expected to fare much better this year.

The slump is blamed on slackening domestic consumption, which powers the Indian economy. Unlike East Asian countries, which have raced ahead on the back of exports, growth momentum in India is largely based on an affluent middle class snapping up goods such as cars, refrigerators, air conditioners and other consumer goods.

But there are concerns as automobile sales, the barometer of consumption, plunged to the lowest in nearly eight years in recent months. 

At the Hyundai car showroom in the upscale business hub of Gurgaon, near Delhi, a range of swanky models beckon customers, but there are few to be seen. This is in marked contrast to the last three years when buoyant automobile sales helped India overtake Germany to become the world’s fourth largest automobile market. That prompted car makers such as Hyundai, Honda and Toyota to expand their presence in the country.

“In recent years, March and April used to be good months. But now 20 to 30 percent drop is there in these months also,” says Gagan Arora, business head at the Hyundai showroom. “There is a slowdown in the whole industry. New buyers are not being added so frequently.”

Economists say while rising exports to the United States and China present a silver lining, the first challenge facing India’s new government due to take office after vote counting in elections is completed this week, will be how to restore overall momentum to the economy and see why consumers are not so willing to open their wallets.

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AP Explains: US Sanctions on Huawei Bite, But Who Gets Hurt?

Trump administration sanctions against Huawei have begun to bite even though their dimensions remain unclear. U.S. companies that supply the Chinese tech powerhouse with computer chips saw their stock prices slump Monday, and Huawei faces decimated smartphone sales with the anticipated loss of Google’s popular software and services. 

The U.S. move escalates trade-war tensions with Beijing, but also risks making China more self-sufficient over time.

Here’s a look at what’s behind the dispute and what it means.

What’s this about?

Last week, the U.S. Commerce Department said it would place Huawei on the so-called Entity List, effectively barring U.S. firms from selling it technology without government approval. 

Google said it would continue to support existing Huawei smartphones but future devices will not have its flagship apps and services, including maps, Gmail and search. Only basic services would be available, making Huawei phones less desirable. Separately, Huawei is the world’s leading provider of networking equipment, but it relies on U.S. components including computer chips. About a third of Huawei’s suppliers are American. 

Why punish Huawei?

The U.S. defense and intelligence communities have long accused Huawei of being an untrustworthy agent of Beijing’s repressive rulers — though without providing evidence. The U.S. government’s sanctions are widely seen as a means of pressuring reluctant allies in Europe to exclude Huawei equipment from their next-generation wireless networks. Washington says it’s a question of national security and punishment of Huawei for skirting sanctions against Iran, but the backdrop is a struggle for economic and technological dominance. 

The politics of President Donald Trump’s escalating tit-for-tat trade war have co-opted a longstanding policy goal of stemming state-backed Chinese cyber theft of trade and military secrets. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said last week that the sanctions on Huawei have nothing to do with the trade war and could be revoked if Huawei’s behavior were to change.

​The sanctions’ bite

Analysts predict consumers will abandon Huawei for other smartphone makers if Huawei can only use a stripped-down version of Android. Huawei, now the No. 2 smartphone supplier, could fall behind Apple to third place. Google could seek exemptions, but would not comment on whether it planned to do so.

Who uses Huawei anyway?

While most consumers in the U.S. don’t even know how to pronounce Huawei (it’s “HWA-way”), its brand is well known in most of the rest of the world, where people have been buying its smartphones in droves.

Huawei stealthily became an industry star by plowing into new markets, developing a lineup of phones that offer affordable options for low-income households and luxury models that are siphoning upper-crust sales from Apple and Samsung in China and Europe. About 13 percent of its phones are now sold in Europe, estimates Gartner analyst Annette Zimmermann.

That formula helped Huawei establish itself as the world’s second-largest seller of smartphones during the first three months of this year, according to the research firm IDC. Huawei shipped 59 million smartphones in the January-March period, nearly 23 million more than Apple.

Ripple effects

The U.S. ban could have unwelcome ripple effects in the U.S., given how much technology Huawei buys from U.S. companies, especially from makers of the microprocessors that go into smartphones, computers, internet networking gear and other gadgetry.

The list of chip companies expected to be hit hardest includes Micron Technologies, Qualcomm, Qorvo and Skyworks Solutions, which all have listed Huawei as a major customer in their annual reports. Others likely to suffer are Xilinx, Broadcom and Texas Instruments, according to industry analysts.

Being cut off from Huawei will also compound the pain the chip sector is already experiencing from the Trump administration’s rising China tariffs.

The Commerce Department on Monday announced an expected grace period of 90 days or more, easing the immediate hit on U.S. suppliers. It can extend that stay, and also has the option of issuing exemptions for especially hard-hit companies.

Much could depend on whether countries including France, Germany, the U.K. and the Netherlands continue to refuse to completely exclude Huawei equipment from their wireless networks.

The grace period allows U.S. providers to alert Huawei to security vulnerabilities and engage the Chinese company in research on standards for next-generation 5G wireless networks.

It also gives operators of U.S. rural broadband networks that use Huawei routers time to switch them out.

​Could this backfire?

Huawei is already the biggest global supplier of networking equipment, and is now likely to move toward making all components domestically. China already has a policy seeking technological independence by 2025.

U.S. tech companies, facing a drop in sales, could respond with layoffs. More than 52,000 technology jobs in the U.S. are directly tied to China exports, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association, a trade group also known as CompTIA.

What about harm to Google?

Google may lose some licensing fees and opportunities to show ads on Huawei phones, but it still will probably be a financial hiccup for Google and its corporate parent, Alphabet Inc., which is expected to generate $160 billion in revenue this year. 

The Apple effect

In theory, Huawei’s losses could translate into gains for both Samsung and Apple at a time both of those companies are trying to reverse a sharp decline in smartphone sales.

But Apple also stands to be hurt if China decides to target it in retaliation. Apple is particularly vulnerable because most iPhones are assembled in China. The Chinese government, for example could block crucial shipments to the factories assembling iPhones or take other measures that disrupt the supply chain.

Any retaliatory move from China could come on top of a looming increase on tariffs by the U.S. that would hit the iPhone, forcing Apple to raise prices or reduce profits.

What’s more, the escalating trade war may trigger a backlash among Chinese consumers against U.S. products, including the iPhone. 

“Beijing could stoke nationalist sentiment over the treatment of Huawei, which could result in protests against major U.S.technology brands,” CompTIA warned. 

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Huawei Founder Sees Little Effect From US Sanctions

Huawei Technologies’ founder and chief executive said Saturday that the growth of the Chinese tech giant “may slow, but only slightly,” because of recent U.S. restrictions.  

 

In remarks to the Japanese press and reported by Nikkei Asian Review, Ren Zhengfei reiterated that the Chinese telecom equipment maker had not violated any law. 

“It is expected that Huawei’s growth may slow, but only slightly,” Ren said in his first official comments after the U.S. restrictions, adding that the company’s annual revenue growth might undershoot 20%.  

 

On Thursday, Washington put Huawei, one of China’s biggest and most successful companies, on a trade blacklist that could make it extremely difficult for Huawei to do business with U.S. companies. China slammed the decision, saying it would take steps to protect its companies. 

Trade, security issues

 

The developments surrounding Huawei come at a time of trade tensions between Washington and Beijing and amid concerns from the United States that Huawei’s smartphones and network equipment could be used by China to spy on Americans, allegations the company has repeatedly denied. 

 

A similar U.S. ban on China’s ZTE Corp. had almost crippled business for the smaller Huawei rival early last year before the curb was lifted. 

 

The U.S. Commerce Department said Friday that it might soon scale back restrictions on Huawei. 

 

Ren said the company was prepared for such a step and that Huawei would be “fine” even if U.S. smartphone chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. and other American suppliers would not sell chips to the company. 

 

Huawei’s chip arm HiSilicon said Friday that it had long been prepared for the possibility of being denied U.S. chips and technology, and that it was able to ensure a steady supply of most products. 

 

The Huawei founder said that the company would not be taking instructions from the U.S. government. 

 

“We will not change our management at the request of the U.S. or accept monitoring, as ZTE has done,” he said.

In January, U.S. prosecutors unsealed an indictment accusing the Chinese company of engaging in bank fraud to obtain embargoed U.S. goods and services in Iran and to move money out of the country via the international banking system. 

 

Ren’s daughter, Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada in December in connection with the indictment. Meng, who was released on bail, remains in Vancouver and is fighting extradition. She has maintained her innocence.  

 

Ren has previously said his daughter’s arrest was politically motivated.

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China’s Top Diplomat Calls for US Restraint on Trade, Iran 

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday that recent U.S. words and actions had harmed the interests of China and its enterprises, and that Washington should show restraint, China’s Foreign Ministry said. 

 

Speaking to Pompeo by telephone, Wang said the United States should not go “too far” in the current trade dispute between the two sides, adding that China was still willing to resolve differences through negotiations but that the nations should be on an equal footing. 

 

On Iran, Wang said China hoped all parties would exercise restraint and act with caution to avoid escalating tensions. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that Pompeo spoke with Wang and discussed bilateral issues and U.S. concerns about Iran, but she gave no other details. 

 

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased in recent days, raising concerns about a potential U.S.-Iran conflict. Earlier this week the United States pulled some diplomatic staff from its Baghdad embassy following attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. 

Harder line

 

China struck a more aggressive tone in its trade war with the United States on Friday, suggesting a resumption of talks between the world’s two largest economies would be meaningless unless Washington changed course. 

 

The tough talk capped a week that saw Beijing unveil fresh retaliatory tariffs, U.S. officials accuse China of backtracking on promises made during months of talks, and the Trump administration level a potentially crippling blow against one of China’s biggest and most successful companies. The United States announced on Thursday it was putting Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., the world’s largest telecom equipment maker, on a blacklist that could make it extremely hard to do business with U.S. companies.  

 

The U.S. Commerce Department then said on Friday that it might soon scale back restrictions on Huawei. It said it was considering issuing a temporary general license to “prevent the interruption of existing network operations and equipment.” 

 

Potential beneficiaries of this license could, for example, include telecom providers in thinly populated parts of U.S. states such as Wyoming and Oregon that purchased network equipment from Huawei in recent years. 

 

On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, asked about state media reports suggesting there would be no more trade negotiations, said China always encouraged resolving disputes with the United States through dialogue and consultations.

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US Warns Airliners Flying in Persian Gulf Amid Iran Tensions

U.S. diplomats warned Saturday that commercial airliners flying over the wider Persian Gulf faced a risk of being “misidentified” amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

The warning relayed by U.S. diplomatic posts from the Federal Aviation Administration underlined the risks the current tensions pose to a region crucial to global air travel. It also came as Lloyd’s of London warned of increasing risks to maritime shipping in the region.

 

Concerns about a possible conflict have flared since the White House ordered warships and bombers to the region to counter an alleged, unexplained threat from Iran that has seen America order nonessential diplomatic staff out of Iraq. President Donald Trump since has sought to soften his tone.

 

Meanwhile, authorities allege that a sabotage operation targeted four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, and Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for a drone attack on a crucial Saudi oil pipeline. Saudi Arabia directly blamed Iran for the drone assault, and a local newspaper linked to the al-Saud royal family called on Thursday for America to launch “surgical strikes” on Tehran.

 

This all takes root in Trump’s decision last year to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers and impose wide-reaching sanctions. Iran just announced it would begin backing away from terms of the deal, setting a 60-day deadline for Europe to come up with new terms or it would begin enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels. Tehran long has insisted it does not seek nuclear weapons, though the West fears its program could allow it to build atomic bombs.

 

The order relayed Saturday by U.S. diplomats in Kuwait and the UAE came from an FAA Notice to Airmen published late Thursday in the U.S. It said that all commercial aircraft flying over the waters of Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman needed to be aware of “heightened military activities and increased political tension.”

 

This presents “an increasing inadvertent risk to U.S. civil aviation operations due to the potential for miscalculation or misidentification,” the warning said. It also said aircraft could experience interference with its navigation instruments and communications jamming “with little to no warning.”

 

The Persian Gulf has become a major gateway for East-West travel in the aviation industry. Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates, home to Emirates, is the world’s busiest for international travel, while long-haul carriers Etihad and Qatar Airways also operate here.

 

In a statement, Emirates said it was aware of the notice and in touch with authorities worldwide, but “at this time there are no changes to our flight operations.”

 

Qatar Airways similarly said it was aware of the notice and its operations were unaffected.

 

Etihad, as well as Oman Air, did not respond to a request for comment Saturday about the warning.

 

The warning appeared rooted in what happened 30 years ago after Operation Praying Mantis, a daylong naval battle in the Persian Gulf between American forces and Iran during the country’s long 1980s war with Iraq. On July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes chased Iranian speedboats that allegedly opened fire on a helicopter into Iranian territorial waters, then mistook an Iran Air heading to Dubai for an Iranian F-14. The Vincennes fired two missiles at the airplane, killing all aboard the flight.

 

Meanwhile, Lloyd’s Market Association Joint War Committee added the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the United Arab Emirates on Friday to its list of areas posing higher risk to insurers. It also expanded its list to include the Saudi coast as a risk area.

 

The USS Abraham Lincoln and its carrier strike group have yet to reach the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil traded at sea passes. A Revolutionary Guard deputy has warned that any armed conflict would affect the global energy market. Iran long has threatened to be able to shut off the strait.

 

Benchmark Brent crude now stands around $72 a barrel.

 

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