Thursday, October 13, 2011

China strikes back at US over tariffs

Source: Russia Today

A game of cat-and-mouse between Washington and Beijing intensified yesterday after Congress gave the go-ahead on a bill that increases tariffs on Chinese goods. Those overseas have already fired back, however, and the consequences could be chaotic.

Though the US bill that was aimed at hitting so-called “currency manipulators” like China will most likely fail to receive votes in the House, China is taking the game that Washington has waged seriously and last night decided to lower the value of the yuan in retaliation to what DC hoped they wouldn't do.

Domestically, lawmakers had hoped that tariffs imposed on Chinese exports would convince the country to readjust the currency of the yuan, and though US politicians had presupposed that the battle between the two nation’s economies would be a cold one, China has called their bluff and upped the ante.

It has seemed clear that passing of the bill into a law in America would all but happen, with lawmakers hoping the threats of legislation would worry the Chinese into revaluating their currency to a high dollar amount that the US would favor. While America’s threats were largely seen as empty, China’s real response will only worsen matters in the United States, where the country is currently engrossed in a trade deficit. Now with China’s response to America’s attempt at spooking currency bosses overseas, the US’ deficit will surely take a turn for the worse.

Though American leaders had shrugged off warnings of a trade war between nations as impossible, things are quickly heating up. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu has quickly fired back at US leaders by saying that the new bill "gravely violates World Trade Organization rules” and continued support out of the States could be detrimental to not just the relationship between the two massive economies but for the rest of the world.

“China urges the US government, Congress and all quarters to resolutely oppose using domestic legislation to create a fuss about and put pressure on the renminbi exchange rate," Ma writes on the website for the Foreign Ministry. The “renminbi” is a common name applied to the yuan, the official currency of China.

Ma adds that if the legislation passes in the House it will “disrupt the shared efforts of China and the United States, as well as the international community, to promote vigorous recovery and growth in the global economy.”

Last month China expressed anger over American politicians for giving Taiwan nearly $6 billion towards military upgrades which Beijing said could pose a threat to their own country. At the time, Minister Zhang Zhijun said the deal would “inevitably undermine bilateral relations as well as exchanges and cooperation in military and security areas.”

Investigative journalist Wayne Madsen told RT then that “If its weaponry that China doesn’t look at as aggressive towards China, they will probably be okay with . . . But if it’s any sort of advanced weaponry, were going to see some problems between Beijing and Washington.”

Now a debate over an impending trade war escalates aggressions between the countries.

Jin Canrong, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing, tells Reuters, "If this bill is passed, and the United States exacts tariffs as the bill demands, I think China will respond by imposing tariffs on some U.S. products,"

“If it turns into a trade war, it is the most momentous thing of 2011,” economist Jim Rogers told RT last month. “Trade wars always lead to wars. Nobody wins trade wars, except general who end up fighting the physical wars when they happen. This is very dangerous.”

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cairo comes under curfew after clashes

Egyptian Coptic Christians clash with military forces and police during a protest in Cairo on October 9, 2011.

Source: Press TV

Egyptian military authorities impose a curfew on parts of the country's capital after clashes between protesting Coptic Christians and military forces killed at least two dozen people.

State TV announced that the night-time curfew, imposed on Monday on Cairo's Tahrir (Liberation) Square as well as the downtown area, would last from 02:00 to 07:00 am (local time), Reuters reported.

The angry demonstrators were rallying against the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Their major demand was that the military rulers rebuild a church in southern Egypt that was allegedly torched in October.

More than 200 people were also injured during the confrontation.

The casualties were caused after the forces started firing live rounds at the protesters outside the TV's building in the Maspero district.

At least three soldiers were among the fatalities from the clashes, which also saw a number of Army vehicles being set on fire.

The Egyptian military claims that the protesters were armed with deadly weapons.

Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, meanwhile, said, "What is taking place are not clashes between Muslims and Christians but attempts to provoke chaos and dissent."

Skirmishes have also erupted between government forces and protesters near the hospital in Cairo, where the wounded from the deadly clashes were being treated.

The Coptic Christian minority makes up about 10 percent of Egypt's population.

At least 846 people were killed during Egypt's February revolution, which led to the ouster of the country's former dictator Hosni Mubarak's regime.

The SCAF has refused to hold presidential election within six months of the revolution as it had promised. The military rulers are also yet to determine a clear timetable for transfer of power to a civilian government.

The Egyptians have, meanwhile, started taking to the streets again, saying the public needed to 'reclaim the revolution.

Iran warns Turkey on NATO missile plan

Deputy Head of Iran's Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri

Source: Press TV

A senior Iranian commander has warned Turkey against adverse consequences of its agreement to host the base for the US-led NATO missile shield system, urging the neighboring state to reconsider its strategic interests.

Turkey should rethink its long-term strategic interests and draw lessons from “bitter historical experiences” of other countries, said Deputy Head of Iran's Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri on Sunday.

Ankara should rely more on the strength of its Muslim nation as well as the potency of Muslims elsewhere and assume a role geared towards improving security in the region, he added, IRNA reported.

The Iranian commander emphasized that Turkey should be held accountable for its all-out support for the Israeli regime following Ankara's agreement with the installation of the US-backed missile shield on its soil.

He also pointed to “serious concerns” among US officials about emerging threats to the very existence of the occupying Israeli regime and insisted that Washington seeks to utilize all possible means and opportunities, including its so-called missile shield deployment in Turkey, to salvage Israel.

Jazayeri furthermore noted that geopolitics in the Middle East have undergone changes, reiterating that the Israeli regime is approaching its eventual termination.

The US Defense Department has announced that the American-engineered 'early warning' radar system for the NATO military alliance will become operational in Turkey by the end of 2011.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal declared on September 2 the country's intention to host the apparatus.

Turkey claims that NATO's missile system aims to strengthen the alliance's “defense capacity and strengthen [Turkey's] national defense system,” and would not target any specific country.

However, in efforts to ease major Russian concerns regarding the missile system, Washington has clearly implied on numerous occasions that Iran is the primary target of its so-called missile shield deployment in Europe.

Following Ankara's announcement, Russia also blasted the plan as an effort by NATO to advance eastward.

Pakistan: US drone strikes intolerable

Pakistani Foreign Office spokeswoman, Tehmina Janjua (file photo)

Source: Press TV

Pakistan has denounced the US drone attacks on its territory as unacceptable, reiterating that the strikes were being carried out in violation of the country's sovereignty.

“There is no change in Pakistan's stance on drone attacks. It is very clear that drone attacks are against the sovereignty of Pakistan,” Pakistani Foreign Office spokeswoman, Tehmina Janjua, was quoted by Pakistani daily, The Nation, as saying in the capital, Islamabad, on Sunday.

The US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, recently alleged that Islamabad had stopped demanding an end to the aerial assaults, which are carried out by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on northwestern Pakistan.

Janjua rejected Clapper's remarks, saying that the country would never retreat from its principally-adopted position on the drone attacks.

Major General Athar Abbas, spokesperson for the Pakistan Defence Forces, has also described the US official's comments as 'incorrect' and stressed that the strikes were counterproductive.

Last year alone, over 1,200 people were killed and hundreds others injured in the non-UN-sanctioned US drone strikes, which are being conducted amid growing popular outrage.

Pakistan's Ministry of Human Rights has reportedly asked the government to complain about the 'extra-judicial killings' to the United Nations and other international bodies.

The world body says the US-waged attacks posed a growing challenge to the international rule of law.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Italy bonds devalued on econ. jitters

Italy and the eurozone are facing a debt crisis.

Source: Press TV

Moody's credit rating agency has downgraded Italy's government bonds as the eurozone's third largest economy struggles with a burgeoning debt and a faltering economy.

In a statement, the agency said Monday's downgrading of Italy's bonds from “AA2” to “A2” level reflects ongoing economic risks faced by the European country and the eurozone, the Associated Press reported.

Moody's analysts have warned that the rating could even deteriorate further if long-term liquidity support remains uncertain.

"Moody's believes that the structural shift in sentiment in the euro area funding market implies increased vulnerability of this country to loss of market access at affordable rates that is incompatible with an 'AA' rating," the analysts said.

The action follows one-notch similar downgrade by Standard & Poor's (S&P) Ratings Services last month.

S&P analysts have said that Italy's economic growth has weakened and it has higher-than-expected levels of government debt.

The European Central Bank has also demanded harsh austerity measures from Rome. Yet, there are doubts about how serious Italy is about coming to grips with its debt.

The Italian government has announced an austerity package aimed at stopping its debt crisis.

However, the measures have triggered widespread protests and political power struggles within the ruling center-right coalition.

Russia, China veto anti-Syria UN effort

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin

Source: Press TV

Russia and China have vetoed a Western-backed United Nations Security Council resolution threatening military action and sanctions against Syria.

On Tuesday, nine countries voted for the text drawn up by France, Britain, Germany and Portugal, but Russia and China voted against, killing the resolution because of their veto power as permanent members of Security Council, AFP reported.

South Africa, India, Brazil and Lebanon abstained, despite weeks of relentless efforts by the Western states to convince them to vote in favor the motion.

Syria has been experiencing unrest in the past months, with demonstrations held both against and in support of President Bashar al-Assad's government. Hundreds of people, including security forces, have been killed during clashes in the country since the beginning of the unrest in mid-March.

Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said the Western-backed resolution was based on a philosophy of confrontation, adding, the threat of sanctions, which the text of the resolution put as "targeted measures,” is not acceptable.

Churkin questioned why there was no emphasis on the opposition-generated violence in the text of the resolution.

The Russian ambassador stated that Moscow would not let a resolution get through the Security Council that could be used as a pretext for military action against Syria.

"It is a conflict of political approaches," added Churkin, who advocated for a rival of Russian text which calls for dialogue but makes no mention of potential action.

Chinese ambassador to the UN, Li Baodong, spoke in favor of the Russian draft and stated that the Syrian issue must be addressed through a process of dialogue.

Since July 2008, it is the first double Russian-Chinese veto at the Security Council.

US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice said Washington was furious that the Security Council could not approve the resolution condemning Syria.

Damascus says the unrest in Syria is being orchestrated by foreign powers and that the security forces have been given clear instructions not to harm civilians.

Syria state TV has also broadcast reports and images of seizure of arms caches and confessions by alleged terrorists, who point out that how they obtained weapons from the foreign sources.

Putin proposes 'Eurasian Union'

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

Source: Press TV

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has called on former Soviet states to join hands for the creation of a Eurasian Union, while rejecting the notion that he was attempting to resurrect the USSR.

"It would be naive to try to restore or copy something that belongs to the past, but a close integration based on new values and economic and political foundation is a demand of the present time," Putin said in an article published in the Russian daily Izvestiya.

Putin said the alliance would become a powerful global player, serving as “one of the poles of the modern world” as well as an “efficient link between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific region.”

He further added that an economic cooperation group consisting of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan would come into force in 2012.

The three countries had during the past summer removed all customs barriers in mutual trade and are as of January 1 expected to introduce a set of collective market rules and regulations.

Putin further hinted that both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are expected to join the new economic group.

He did, however, said that the development of the Eurasian Union was not meant to act as a hinder for the country's aspiration to establish closer ties with the European Union.

US unions join Occupy Wall Street camp

'Occupy Wall Street' (OWS) demonstrations

Source: Press TV

Many major US unions express support for the countrywide protests at the dire economic situation, which have been raging on under the banner 'Occupy Wall Street' (OWS).

The Transit Workers Union (TWU) said that all its 38,000 members had voted unanimously to support and join the OWS demonstrators, British newspaper The Guardian reported on Tuesday. The union also said it was seeking an injunction to stop the New York Police Department (NYPD) from forcing bus drivers to carry arrested protesters.

Fueled by the economic insecurity in the country, the rallies started on Wall Street, New York on September 17.

Protesters say they are demonstrating against high unemployment, home foreclosures, and 2008 corporate bailouts among other things, while mainly raising objection to 'corporate greed.'

The 700,000-strong Communication Workers of America (CWA) and Operational Weather Squadron (OWS) also endorsed the campaign, describing it as an “appropriate expression of anger for all Americans, but especially for those who have been left behind by Wall Street."

The unions together with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and other such outfits will join protesters, who plan to march on City Hall in New York on Thursday.

Promising protests for Thursday in Washington, DC, organizer, Kevin Zeese, said, “Just like the Vietnam war draft made the war more personal, economic insecurity is making the economic policies of this country more personal.”

The National Nurses United (NNU) has said its members would join the Washington protests to “demand human needs over corporate greed.”

There have so far been over 700 arrests and scenes of police brutality have occurred before the eyes of the angry people and broadcast through national and international media.

China warns US against trade war

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu

Source: Press TV

China has warned that a US Senate bill to punish Beijing for its alleged “currency manipulation” will block Sino-American trade ties.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu urged certain US Senators in a statement on Tuesday to "rationally savvy the Sino-US trade cooperation, which is mutually beneficial in nature, and stop to pressure China by using domestic law-making means of the United States."

The Chinese spokesman added that the US move has violated the rules of the World Trade Organization.

The US Senate advanced the bill by a 79-19 vote on Monday. China and the US business community, however, oppose the decision which awaits a final passage this week.

Fifty-one US business groups have recently written a letter, warning the legislation will be “counterproductive.”

The bill allows retaliatory duties on Chinese goods in case Beijing continues to artificially keep its currency down and therefore its exports cheap.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said China's currency practices have cost the Americans more than a million jobs.

“China's deliberate actions to devalue its currency give its goods an unfair competitive advantage in the marketplace,” Reid said.

"Their goods do not deserve that. That's not fair. It hurts our economy. It costs American jobs," Reid added.

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