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Britain Went Ahead To Seek Arms Deals With Saudi Arabia After Murder Of Khashoggi Which It Condemned |RN

Theresa May standing next to a vase of flowers on a table       © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited 

 

The British government pursued arms deals with Saudi Arabia in the weeks after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, even as it publicly condemned the murder.

Khashoggi was killed by Saudi officials inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, prompting global condemnation and calls for a re-evaluation of ties with the Kingdom.

As the UK government called for answers over the dissident’s death, British trade officials responsible for arms sales continued to hold high-level meetings with their Saudi counterparts.

A delegation from the Defence and Security Organisation – an office within the Department for International Trade that promotes arms exports for UK companies – travelled to Riyadh on 14 and 22 October, according to a Freedom of Information request obtained by the Mirror newspaper.

The latter of those meetings came on the same day as the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, condemned Khashoggi’s killing “in the strongest possible terms” in a speech to parliament.

“Whilst we will be thoughtful and considered in our response, I have also been clear that if the appalling stories we are reading turn out to be true, they are fundamentally incompatible with our values and we will act accordingly,” Mr Hunt said on October 22.

The foreign secretary made a point of announcing the cancellation of a planned visit to Riyadh by the trade secretary, Liam Fox. However, he did not disclose that meetings over arms sales were still taking place.

Even before the murder of Khashoggi, the UK government had been under pressure to halt arms exports to Saudi Arabia over alleged war crimes and rising civilian casualties in Yemen.

Riyadh intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 to reinstate the internationally recognised government of Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was ousted by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The fighting has killed at least 10,000 civilians – most of whom were victims of airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition – and left nearly 16 million people on the brink of famine.

The coalition has admitted causing civilian casualties, but attributes the deaths to “unintentional mistakes”, and says it is committed to upholding international law. The Houthis have also targeted civilians throughout the conflict, according to the UN.

Since the war began, the UK has licensed £4.7 billion worth of weapons to Saudi forces, making it by far the largest buyer of UK arms. Khashoggi’s killing brought new pressure on the British government to reassess its ties to Saudi Arabia, after Germany and Norway halted all future arms sales to Riyadh.

“Jeremy Hunt was quick to join the condemnations of the killing, but he has done nothing to stop the arms sales. How many more atrocities and abuses would it take for him to act?” said Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade.

“It has used these weapons to devastating effect in Yemen, where the Saudi-led coalition have inflicted the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was yet another appalling crime by the Saudi authorities.”

Even as more evidence has emerged pointing to the culpability of the Saudi government in Khashoggi’s killing, the UK appears to have made no substantial change to its relationship.

British prime minister Theresa May held face-to-face talks last month with Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de-facto leader whose close aides carried out the killing and subsequently attempted to cover it up.

The prime minister said she stressed “the importance of a full, transparent and credible investigation into the terrible murder” during her meeting with the Crown Prince at the G20 summit in Argentina. But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Ms May of not following through with action.

“Rather than be robust, as she promised, we learned the Prime Minister told the dictator ‘please don’t use the weapons we are selling you in the war you’re waging’ and asked him nicely to investigate the murder he allegedly ordered,” Mr Corbyn said last month.

“Leaders should not just offer warm words against human rights atrocities but back up their words with action,” he added.

Mr Hunt has defended arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing Britain’s “important strategic partnership” with the country “which has saved lives on the streets of Britain.”

The Saudi meetings are not the first time that Britain has been criticised for putting trade before human rights concerns. British academic Matthew Hedges was detained for months in the United Arab Emirates and accused of spying on behalf of the UK.

During the five months Mr Hedges was held in solitary confinement, Mr Hunt called the arrest “appalling” and criticised the UAE publicly. Behind the scenes, however, high-level trade meetings continued apace. Liam Fox, the trade secretary, Baroness Rona Fairhead, UK Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion and Alistair Burt, Britain’s Minister for the Middle East, all met with UAE officials to drum up trade between the two countries.

Polly Truscott, Amnesty International UK’s foreign affairs expert, told The Independent in November that the UK has “long given the impression that security and trade interests trump human rights concerns in the UAE.”

“With Matthew Hedges’ case, it almost seems to have come as a surprise to the government that the UAE actually locks up people after deeply unfair trials,” she said.

The Freedom of Information request by the Mirror found that the 14 October talks focused on “Riyadh Operations Centre requirements,” which is likely a reference to the operations centre where Saudi strikes against Yemen are coordinated.

Commenting on the meetings with Saudi officials, a government spokesperson told The Independent: “The government takes its export responsibilities very seriously, operating one of the most robust export control regimes in the world. Risks around human rights abuses are a key part of any licensing assessment.

“Visits by officials from the UK will continue to play a role in maintaining our relationship with Saudi Arabia including in how we work together to tackle regional threats, and support mutual national security and prosperity interests.”

(Independent)

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LIVE VIDEO: Buhari, Trump Hold Press Conference |The Republican News

By Michael Abimboye

Presidents Muhammadu Buhari and Donald Trump are currently holding a press briefing in the U.S. leader’s first meeting with a leader from sub-Saharan Africa at the White House.

The U.S. president also commended Mr Buhari for the role he played in securing the release of kidnapped Dapchi schoolgirls.

Mr Buhari also promised to secure the remaining Dapchi and Chibok girls in Boko Haram custody. He also said he would work to end the killings in the north-central states.

Watch the video below:

(New Telegraph)

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IMF Forecasts Trouble Ahead As Solid Global Economic Growth Poised To Slow |RN

Andrew Mayeda
                 © Shutterstock 

The International Monetary Fund predicted the world economy’s strongest upswing since 2011 will continue for the next two years, but warned the seeds of its demise may have already been planted.

The fund on Tuesday left its forecasts for global growth this year and next at the 3.9 percent it estimated in January and raised its outlook for the U.S. as Republican tax cuts take effect.

Beyond that horizon, it was more pessimistic, projecting global growth will fade as central banks tighten monetary policy, the U.S. fiscal stimulus subsidies, and China’s gradual slowdown continues.

“Global growth is projected to soften beyond the next couple of years,” the IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook report. “Once their output gaps close, most advanced economies are poised to return to potential growth rates well below pre-crisis averages, held back by ageing populations and lacklustre productivity.”

The IMF warned the expansion could be derailed if countries resort to tit-for-tat trade sanctions.

“The first shots in a potential trade war have now been fired,” IMF Chief Economist Maurice Obstfeld said in a foreword to the fund’s outlook, reiterating the IMF’s warning earlier this month that the global trading order is in danger of being “torn apart.”

“Conflict could intensify if fiscal policies in the United States drive its trade deficit higher without action in Europe and Asia to reduce surpluses,” he said.

Maurice Obstfeld, Economic Counsellor and Director of the Research Department at the IMF, holds a press briefing on the World Economic Outlook at IMF Headquarters in Washington, DC© SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Image Maurice Obstfeld, Economic Counsellor and Director of the Research Department at the IMF, holds a press briefing on the World Economic Outlook at IMF Headquarters in…

In a press conference later Tuesday, Obstfeld called the current trade frictions “more of a phoney war,” referring to the period of limited conflict at the start of the Second World War. “There’s still room for countries to engage in a more multilateral set of discussions to take advantage of the set of dispute resolution mechanisms that are in place to avoid an intensification,” he said, adding that all countries would lose in a trade war.

Investors with $543 billion of assets are the least optimistic about global growth momentum since the U.K. voted to leave the European Union, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Just 5 percent of money managers project the international economy to be stronger in the next 12 months, the lowest level since June 2016, according to the bank’s April survey. Underscoring diminished growth momentum, earnings expectations have peaked.

Good Times

a screenshot of a cell phone: Solid Growth            © Bloomberg Solid Growth

Governments should take advantage of the good times to make structural reforms and put in place tax policies that raise the potential output of their economies, Obstfeld said.

The IMF outlook is a reality check for finance ministers and central bankers from its 189 member countries as they gather this week in Washington for the fund’s annual spring meetings. President Donald Trump’s war of words with China over trade will be front and centre. The U.S. has threatened to slap tariffs on as much as $150 billion in Chinese goods, while Beijing has vowed to retaliate in kind.

But the guardians of the global economy face challenges beyond trade, including the end of years of easy central-bank money and a world debt pile that has climbed to a record $164 trillion. Financial markets have been choppy this year, with U.S. stocks down slightly after a strong performance in 2017.

Broad Recovery

Globally, growth is being driven by a surge in business spending and a recovery in trade volumes, according to the IMF. Last year, the expansion covered two-thirds of countries, accounting for three-quarters of global output, making it the broadest upswing since 2010 when the world was coming out of the financial crisis.

But there are signs the synchronized recovery may be becoming a little more uneven, at least in the short term, with the U.S. charging ahead, fueled by tax cuts and government spending.

International Monetary Fund logo             © Reuters International Monetary Fund logo

 

The U.S. economy will grow 2.9 percent this year, the IMF said, up 0.2 percentage point from the fund’s forecast in January. The U.S. will expand at a 2.7 percent pace next year, also up 0.2 points from three months ago.

The IMF’s revised U.S. forecasts include the benefits of the tax cuts passed in December, as well as a $1.3 trillion spending bill. However, the fund said growth will be lower than expected after 2022, due to the higher budget deficit and the expiry of fiscal stimulus.

Faster Growth

The IMF also raised its forecast for the euro area, predicting the currency zone will grow 2.4 percent in 2018, up 0.2 points from January. The fund left its forecast for euro-zone growth next year unchanged, at 2 percent.

China will grow 6.6 percent this year and 6.4 percent in 2019, the fund said. Both forecasts were unchanged from three months ago.

The world’s second-biggest economy will continue re-balancing away from investment and manufacturing toward consumption and services, the IMF said, warning that rising debt clouds the nation’s medium-term outlook.

The IMF also left its outlook for Japan flat, predicting the nation will expand at a 1.2 percent pace this year and 0.9 percent in 2019.

India will grow 7.4 percent this year and 7.8 percent in 2019, both unchanged from January.

The fund cut its forecast for Canada to 2.1 percent this year, down 0.2 points from three months ago. The IMF also lowered its outlook for the Middle East and North Africa this year by 0.2 points, to 3.2 percent.

(Bloomberg)

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Russia To Build A Bridge To North Korea |The Republican News

Adam Taylor
"I am offended, you know," Putin joked              © Provided by AFP “I am offended, you know,” Putin joked

 

The one with Russia is just 11 miles, following the Tumen River and its estuary in the far northeast. There is one lone crossing, dubbed the “Friendship Bridge.” It opened in 1959 and offers the two nations a fairly basic rail connection. This week, amid a period of relative calm on the oft-tense Korean Peninsula, Russian representatives travelled to North Korea to discuss an idea: They should open another bridge.

Though the planning appears to be at a preliminary stage, it may show that Russia and North Korea are looking toward a trading future beyond sanctions and military tensions.

The two nations have long suggested a crossing that would allow vehicles to go between them without a lengthy detour through China. And Wednesday, the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East announced in a statement that the two sides would create a working group on a new crossing.

“There are 23 automobile checkpoints between [North Korea] and China, and not one with Russia,” the ministry quoted Ro Tu Chol, a North Korean minister, as saying during the meeting. “Currently, when importing goods from [Russia’s far east], they do not come across the border with Russia, but through China. This greatly extends the path.”

a close up of a map           © Provided by WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post

The Russia-North Korea summit caught the attention of NK News, which reported that the two nations would “push ahead” with the new border crossing. Anthony Rinna, an analyst on Russian foreign policy in East Asia for Sino-NK, told the North Korea-watching publication that the new border crossing could be used to “alleviate any unforeseen problems, such as logistical or technical glitches that may undermine North Korea’s rail links.”

The proposed bridge may be more noteworthy for its symbolic value than economic worth, said Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, an associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and co-editor of North Korean Economy Watch.

Trade between Russia and North Korea is insignificant, Katzeff Silberstein added, largely because of multilateral sanctions imposed by the United Nations, but “there also seems to be a belief that in the longer run, the trade will pick back up again.”

a close up of a map           © Provided by WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post

Russia and North Korea certainly have a trading history. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was easily North Korea’s most important financial ally, accounting for as much as half of North Korea’s foreign trade during the 1970s and 1980s. It was only after the end of communism that Moscow and Pyongyang drifted apart, with Russia’s new president, Boris Yeltsin, seeking a closer relationship with Seoul.

Things improved when Russian President Vladimir Putin took power: He visited Pyongyang in 2000 and received adulating praise in North Korean state media. However, the economic links between the two nations did not increase by much: In 2013, Russia amounted to just 1 percent of North Korea’s foreign trade, according to one study, far below China.

Though both sides have expressed hope for better economic ties, one detail — North Korea’s international pariah status because of its pursuit of nuclear weapons — has stood in the way. Russia has supported a number of U.N. votes on sanctions against North Korea; in late December, new multilateral sanctions limited the number of North Koreans who can work in Russia and other countries, arguably the two nations’ most important economic link.

Artyom Lukin, a professor of international politics at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia, said it was clear that trade between Russia’s far east and North Korea has been hit considerably in the past two years. He said that the railway bridge had once been important for transporting Siberian coal to the North Korean port of Rajin in the city of Rason, where Moscow owns a terminal.

“From this terminal, the coal is sent for export to Asian countries, mostly China,” Lukin wrote in an email. “At least, this was the case prior to the introduction of tough sanctions on [North Korea] in the latter part of 2017.”

a large ship in the background: North Korean coal piles up in November on a dockside at the port in Rason. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images) © Provided by WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post North Korean coal piles up in November on a dockside at the port in Rason. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Occasionally, foreign tourists cross the Russian border on trains from North Korea. It happens so infrequently, according to one traveller, that border guards seem confused by it.

For the time being, Lukin said, it’s hard to imagine Russian backers investing in a bridge. “The North Koreans will expect Russia to provide the funding,” he said. “However, no Russian investor, private or state-owned, will commit to the project unless the political risks related to North Korea subside considerably.”

If those risks subside, there are obvious benefits for Russia to invest in North Korea. While it is thought to be losing money, the terminal at Rajin port could provide Russia with an important regional foothold if sanctions were lifted. There are also hopes of eventually connecting to South Korea via rail — a move that could open up a freight route to and from Europe through Russia — or of a trans-Korean pipeline to provide Russian natural gas to both nations.

Putin-kim-jong-un

And so Russia appears to be keeping its economic options open in North Korea. Last year, a Russian firm gave North Korea a new Internet connection, apparently running fibre-optic lines over the railway bridge. Now the Russian state is planning a new bridge. “Sooner or later North Korea should come out of isolation,” Lukin said. “Then the bridge will be in high demand.”    (The Washington Post)

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China Hits Back At Trump Tariffs As Trade War Finally Arrives ( Video) |RN

 China said it doesn’t fear a trade war with the U.S. and announced plans for reciprocal tariffs on $3 billion of imports from the U.S. in the first response to President Donald Trump’s ordering of levies on Chinese metal exports.China plans tariffs on imports of U.S. pork imports, recycled aluminium, steel pipes, fruit and wine, according to a Commerce Ministry statement on Friday. China will also pursue legal action against the U.S. at the World Trade Organization in response to the U.S. planned tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, the statement said and called for dialogue to resolve the dispute.

The announcement came hours after Trump instructed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to slap tariffs on at least $50 billion in Chinese imports. That was in addition to the metals duties ordered earlier this month on China and other countries. The news sent U.S. equities tumbling, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 724 points, almost 3 percent, its biggest drop in six weeks. All major indexes in Asia also fell on Friday.

“The U.S. declared a trade war, but China is acting quite restrained. The list that China has announced appears to be a retaliation, but still, it is very measured,” said Li Yong, senior fellow of China Association of International Trade. “The move sends a message that China is able to fight back, but we still want a trade peace instead of a trade war.”

The U.S. will impose 25 percent duties on targeted Chinese products to compensate for the harm caused to the American economy from China’s policies, according to a fact sheet released by USTR. The proposed product list will include items in aerospace, information and communication technology and machinery. The USTR will announce the proposed list in the next “several days,” according to the fact sheet.

Long in Making

“This has been long in the making,” Trump said, adding that the tariffs could affect as much as $60 billion in goods. “We have a tremendous intellectual property theft situation going on” with China affecting hundreds of billions of dollars in trade each year, he said.

As he signed the tariffs order, Trump told reporters, “This is the first of many.”

“This is an opening gambit by China, signalling that the imposition of tariffs by the U.S. will elicit what Beijing views as a proportionate retaliatory response,” said Eswar Prasad, a former chief of the International Monetary Fund’s China division and now a professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. “China has the ability to inflict significant economic harm on U.S. exporters of certain goods and can also use other overt as well as covert actions such as supply chain disruptions to hurt U.S. manufacturers.”

Brookings Institution’s Eswar Prasad discusses President Trump’s tariffs against China and the expected retaliation.

a close up of a black background: Chinese Goods Coming to America         © Provided by Bloomberg LP Chinese Goods Coming to America

Policymakers across the world are warning of a brewing trade war that could undermine the broadest global recovery in years. Meanwhile, business groups representing companies ranging from Walmart Inc. to Amazon.com Inc. are warning U.S. tariffs could raise prices for consumers and sideswipe stock prices.

Fed Warnings

Even central banks, which normally stay above the fray of trade spats, are weighing in. “A number of participants reported about their conversations with business leaders around the country and reported that trade policy has become a concern,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said this week while cautioning that trade issues haven’t changed the Fed’s outlook. The Bank of England warned Thursday that increased protectionism could have a “significant negative impact” on global growth.

Trump also directed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to propose new investment restrictions on Chinese companies within 60 days to safeguard technologies the U.S. views as strategic, said senior White House economic adviser Everett Eissenstat.

Chinese President Xi Jinping                          © Getty Chinese President Xi Jinping

The Trump administration is framing the move as a major turning point in U.S.-China relations. It followed a seven-month investigation by USTR into allegations China violates U.S. intellectual property, under the seldom-used section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act. The U.S. concluded China engages in a range of violations, including policies that force American companies to transfer technology and the accessing of trade secrets through hacking, said Eissenstat.

The initial Chinese response may not be as severe as many fear but the conflict could easily escalate, said Robert Manning, an expert on U.S.-China relations at the Atlantic Council in Washington.

“What you’re probably going to get from the Chinese is a low-key response to try to negotiate their way out of it,” Manning said. “I just worry if it gets really ugly, they may go for the nuclear option.”

He says nuclear option would be to sell a “couple hundred billion” in U.S. Treasuries, which would tank markets and raise U.S. interest rates.

Trump tried to make it clear he wasn’t trying to provoke China or its leader, President Xi Jinping.

“I view them as a friend. I have tremendous respect for President Xi,” Trump said. But, the U.S.’s trade deficit with China is “the largest deficit in the history of our world,” he said.

Trump’s actions represent a “seismic shift from an era dating back to Nixon and Kissinger, where we had as a government viewed China in terms of economic engagement,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told reporters on Thursday. “That process has failed.”

“The problem is that with the Chinese in this case, talk is not cheap. It has been very expensive for America,” said Navarro. “Finally the president decided that we needed to move forward.”

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross predicted a strong stand on trade would bring concessions without escalating into a broader conflict. ‘We will end up negotiating these things rather than fighting over them, in my view,” Ross said.

Before the tariffs become final, there will be a 30-day comment period, the White House said. Trump also directed his officials to pursue a World Trade Organization complaint against China for discriminatory licensing practices.    (Bloomberg)

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