The HINDU Notes 24th August 2019

China announces new tariffs on $75 bn worth U.S. imports

•China announced Friday it will hit US soybeans, lobsters, peanut butter and other imports worth $75 billion with new tariffs in retaliation for Washington’s planned duty hikes, further intensifying the bruising trade war between the world’s top two economies.

•The punitive tariffs of 5 to 10 percent will apply to 5,078 items from the US, starting September 1 and December 15, China’s state council tariff office said.

•Beijing also announced it will reimpose a 25 percent tariff on US autos and a 5 percent tariff on auto parts, also starting December 15. China had lifted those tariffs earlier this year as a goodwill measure while trade talks were underway.

•The escalating trade war is adding to growing fears of a possible recession in the US, with the tariffs weighing on global trade and both countries’ growth.

•US President Donald Trump has imposed steep tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods, with a further $300 billion in imports targeted for new duties in two more rounds, September 1 and December 15.

•Meanwhile China has hit back with duties on around $110 billion of US goods — or nearly all of the $120 billion worth of American goods it imported last year.

•Some of those goods will now have their tariff rates raised even further.

•China’s commerce ministry said it will hit American frozen lobster, frozen chicken feet, peanut butter and 914 other goods with new 10 percent punitive tariffs starting September 1.

•Soybeans, crude oil and other energy goods face 5 percent tariffs.

•The US actions “have led to the continuous escalation of China-US economic and trade frictions, violating the consensus reached by the two heads of state in Argentina and the consensus reached in Osaka,” China’s State Council Tariff Commission Office said in a statement.

•”China’s adoption of punitive tariff measures is forced under the pressure of US unilateralism and trade protectionism,” the office said.

•US-made mango juice, electric buses and chemical products face 10 percent duties XX come mid-December while smaller aircraft, hand pumps and bearings will be hit with 5 percent taxes.

  • ‘The chosen one’ –

•Wall Street stocks opened lower Friday after Beijing’s announcement.

•Also on Friday Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned that trade tensions were exacerbating the global slowdown and the Fed didn’t have a “rulebook” for dealing with the fallout.

•Those comments came after Trump proclaimed himself “the Chosen One” Wednesday as he defended his trade war against China, indicating that it was his destiny to take on Beijing.

•An alarm bell went off in the US Treasury bond market last week when 10-year bond yields briefly fell below the yields offered on a two-year bond — the inverse of what normally happens.

•US officials have said in recent days that trade talks with China will continue face-to-face next month.

•However China’s commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said Thursday he had no information on the next round of meetings, while noting the two sides remain in contact.

•The two economic giants are squaring off in an increasing number of areas with officials and spokespeople taking daily shots at each other over trade, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, protests in Hong Kong and US actions against Chinese tech giant Huawei.

With Amazon forest on fire, Brazil faces global backlash
•The Amazon rainforest, often referred to as the lungs of the Earth, has been ravaged by a record number of fires this year, sparking global outrage over Brazil’s environmental policies.

•World leaders, environmental groups and celebrities have publicly decried the vast swaths of forest being destroyed by the fires, while satellite images of dark smoke billowing out of the Amazon has been shared on social media by space agency NASA.

•An intensifying wave of international criticism comes shortly after Brazil’s research center, the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), reportedthat it had detected 72,843 fires in the world’s largest rainforest so far this year.

•That marked an 84% rise when compared to 2018 and the highest since records began in 2013.

What have world leaders said?

•French President Emmanuel Macron has described the phenomenon as an “international crisis” that needs to be top of the agenda at this weekend’s Group of Seven (G-7) summit.

•“Our house is burning. Literally,” Macron said via Twitter on Thursday, highlighting that the world’s largest rainforest produces 20% of the world’s oxygen.

•Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he “couldn’t agree more” with Macron’s call to raise the issue at the G-7 summit, saying world leaders needed to act for the Amazon.

•In response, Brazil’s firebrand right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has angrily told foreign powers not to interfere with his country’s sovereignty, despite admitting his country is not equipped to fight the fires.

•He also accused non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of starting some of the fires, but admitted he had no evidence to support this claim.

•On Twitter, Bolsonaro singled out Macron and accused him of sensationalizing the issue for personal political gain.

•The long-time climate sceptic added that the prospect of the Amazon fires being discussed at the upcoming G-7 summit, without the participation of any Amazonian countries, evoked a “misplaced colonialist mindset.”

What makes the Amazon unique?

•The Amazon rainforest produces around 20% of the world’s fresh water and serves as the habitat of more than 34 million people, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

•It covers roughly 5.5 million square kilometers — about half the size of Europe.

•“We have so much to lose with the Amazon burning and yet not enough action is being taken to stop its destruction!” the WWF said via Twitter.

•The Amazon is critical in absorbing the planet’s carbon dioxide — making it a vital bulwark against an intensifying climate crisis.

•The United Nations (UN) has recognized climate change as “the defining issue of our time,” with a recent report calling the crisis “the greatest challenge to sustainable development.”

•“In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity. The Amazon must be protected,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said via Twitter, adding that he was “deeply concerned” about the fires.

•Actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio said in an Instagram post published Thursday that “the lungs of the Earth are in flames,” calling on his 34 million followers to become more environmentally conscious.

What caused these fires?

•Although fires in the Amazon basin are a regular and natural occurrence during the dry season at this time of the year, environmental activists have blamed the sharp rise on farmers setting alight clear land to pasture.

•Richard Mello, head of the WWF Amazon Programme, told the BBC that the fires were “a consequence of the increase in deforestation seen in recent figures.”

•Bolsonaro, who came to power in January, has repeatedly said he believes Brazil should open the Amazon up to business interests. This would allow mining, agricultural and logging companies to exploit its natural resources.

•During his campaign for president, Bolsonaro said he would seek to limit fines for damaging the Amazon and weaken the influence of the environment agency.

•Brazil’s president also warned he could withdraw the country from a landmark climate agreement restricting global efforts to cut carbon, saying the requirements of the Paris Agreement compromise Brazil’s sovereignty over the Amazon region.

Terror funding watchdog FATF Asia-Pacific Group ‘blacklists’ Pakistan
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has already greylisted Pakistan for failing to curb anti-terror financing.

•Pakistan has been placed on the lowest rung, or “blacklist”, of the Financial Action Task Force’s Asia Pacific Group (APG) for non-compliance and non-enforcement of safeguards against terror financing and money laundering.

•The APG, one of nine regional affiliates of the FATF, met in Canberra from August 18 to 23 to discuss a five-year review of the Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) for Pakistan, and decided to place it among countries requiring “enhanced, expedited follow-up”.

Quarterly reporting

•While the placing does not bring any new punitive measures on Pakistan, it will mean quarterly reporting to the group on improvement in its financial safeguards.

•While the APG’s final report will be published in October, the group said in a statement that it had “adopted a number of follow-up reports for APG members and for joint APG/FATF members and also agreed on revised evaluation procedures for the coming year reflecting recent changes to global procedures”. Countries under review during the current session included China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, China, Pakistan, the Philippines and the Solomon Islands

•The APG process is one of three review processes that Pakistan faces in the next few months. On September 5, the APG will meet again, to take forward the main 15-month process of Pakistan’s FATF evaluation, which will present its recommendations for the FATF plenary session in Paris from October 18 to 23. At present, Pakistan is on the “greylist” of the FATF, a common group for countries that are termed “high risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions”.

•The Paris plenary will decide whether to remove Pakistan from the greylist, continue the listing, or downgrade it to a blacklist of non-cooperative countries. Officials said the downgrade might not occur, given that any three countries in the FATF can veto it, and Pakistan is likely to secure the backing of China, Turkey and Malaysia. However, the APG decision on Friday would make it difficult for Pakistan to extricate itself from the greylist.

‘Wrong terminology’

•In a statement, Pakistan’s Finance Ministry accepted that it had been placed in the enhanced follow-up, which requires it to report on a quarterly basis, but said that the term “blacklist” did not apply to the APG process, calling the terminology “incorrect and baseless”.

•Pakistani officials said that since the APG process only looked at Pakistan’s actions till October 2018, it did not represent the decisions taken in the past year, which will be considered by the next two reviews. The Imran Khan government has claimed to have successfully shut down terror financing channels for groups banned by the UNSC like the Lashkar e Toiba and Jaish e Mohammad, charging leaders like Hafiz Saeed under the Counter-Terrorism Department’s terror financing laws, and amending its Anti-Terrorism Act to align it with the FATF’s requirements. These actions have been included in Pakistan’s 450-page compliance document submitted this week for the FATF process.

•According to sources, at the APG Canberra meet, Pakistan failed in 32 of 40 ‘compliance’ parameters for its legal and financial systems, and failed 10 of 11 ‘effectiveness’ parameters for enforcing safeguards against terror-financing and money-laundering by UN-sanctioned entities and other non-government outfits.

•“Despite its efforts, the Pakistani delegation could not convince the [APG] to upgrade its status on any parameter,” a government source said.

An end to arms control consensus
An end to the New START in 2021 will leave the arsenals of the two major nuclear powers unencumbered by any pact

•The countdown on the U.S.-Russia Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty began last October when President Donald Trump announced that U.S. was considering a withdrawal. On August 2, the U.S. formally quit the pact. Concluded in 1987, the agreement had obliged the two countries to eliminate all ground-based missiles of ranges between 500 and 5,500 km, an objective achieved by 1991.

•At risk is the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) signed in 2010 and due to lapse in February 2021. It has a provision for a five-year extension but Mr. Trump has already labelled it “a bad deal negotiated by the [Barack] Obama administration.”

•In May, Director of the Defence Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley declared that “Russia probably is not adhering to the nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the ‘zero-yield’ standard” imposed by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The CTBT has not entered into force but the U.S. is a signatory and Russia has signed and ratified it. Many have interpreted Lt. Gen. Ashley’s statement as preparing the ground for a resumption of nuclear explosives testing. Taken together, these ominous pointers indicate the beginning of a new nuclear arms race.

•The decade of the 1980s saw heightened Cold War tensions. Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 provided the U.S. an opportunity to fund a (barely) covert jihad with the help of Pakistan. President Ronald Reagan called the USSR “an evil empire” and launched his space war initiative. Soviet deployments in Europe of SS-20 missiles were matched by the U.S. with Pershing II and cruise missiles.