Xi denounces “Zero-Sum mentality
In his speech at the Boao Forum in southern China, President Xi Jinping announced that China would further open its economy. The liberalization measures will include lowering import tariffs on vehicles and relaxing foreign ownership rules in the automobile sector.
‘This year marks the 40th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms, which opened China to the world. Xi is pledging to pick up the torch by expanding imports, for starters.’ Issaku Harada writes for Nikkei Asian Review
“This [trade] war is bad news for all but a tiny handful of politically influential Americans: Most Americans—consumers and producers alike—will be used as pawns in Mr. Trump’s effort to protect markets for the tiny fraction of American producers who have his attention,” Veronique de Rugy writes for the National Review.
Nearly 800 killed in Afghanistan during Q1 of 2018
The UN mission in Afghanistan reported 763 civilians were killed and 1,495 injured in the first quarter of 2018, similar to casualty levels over the previous two years. The mission noted a six percent increase in casualties from anti-government elements.
‘The UN figures are considered a conservative estimate because they need at least three independent sources to officially register a case.’ Radio Free Europe explains
South East Asia
Manila seeks to sign a joint exploration deal with Beijing
The Philippine ambassador to China said his country is seeking to sign a joint oil and gas exploration deal in the South China Sea with China in the coming months.
‘The two countries agreed in February to set up a special panel to work out how to jointly explore for offshore oil and gas in areas both sides claim, without needing to address the touchy issue of sovereignty.’ South China Morning Post explains.
‘But any potential deals between Manila and Beijing should be agreed with a company and not the Chinese government.’ The Filipino presidential spokesman said to Reuters.
Middle East & North Africa
The US, UK and France launch airstrikes in Syria
The US, UK and France launched strikes against targets at three sites in Syria, following a week of threats of retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians in the Damascus enclave of Douma.
‘The attack came on the eve of a planned visit by inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to the site of last week’s chemical weapons attacks, the Damascus suburb of Douma. The US, UK and France had announced they had reached their own conclusion that the Syrian regime was responsible, an accusation denied by Damascus and Russia, which claimed … the attack had been staged by British intelligence.’ Julian Borger and Peter Beaumont explain for The Guardian.
‘Unless Syrian President Bashar al-Assad chooses to try to take more territory, the spate of killing could slow in the months ahead. Any serious intervention by the US and its allies now would only serve to intensify the war, and potentially prolong the rebellion for years. That may deliver a sense of justice to those for whom the rebels fight, but it would leave many more dead and displaced. The West doesn’t want to own the war, so — airstrikes notwithstanding — it may prefer to stay out of it for now.’ Nick Paton Walsh gives his opinion for CNN.
Sub Saharan Africa
Flintlock military exercise began
The United States began its annual Flintlock military exercise with eight African nations and a dozen Western allies in the city of Agadez. They are the first such drills since an ambush by militants killed several U.S. troops and Nigerien soldiers there last year.
‘Flintlock, an annual military exercise directed by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, involves participants from eight African countries and 12 Western countries. The event helps regional partners learn to work together to patrol vast, ungoverned spaces where terrorist groups such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar Dine and Boko Haram operate.’ Salem Solomon explains for Voice of America.
‘This year’s exercise is the third to involve civilian law enforcement agencies, with the State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program this year training personnel to detect, investigate and prosecute extremists.’ Carley Petesch writes for Military Times.
Russia’s trade with the West surges
Russia’s trade with the United States and Europe’s top economies, including France and Germany, has reached its highest levels since 2014, when Western states imposed trade restrictions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.
New Zealand bans new offshore drilling
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s administration is expected to lay out plans for full reliance on renewable energy sources by 2035 and for a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. The energy minister said some two dozen outstanding permits for offshore oil exploration would not be affected.
‘Any ban on oil and gas exploration would put 11,000 jobs at risk and could harm the environment. The oil and gas industry created thousands of jobs, contributed $2.5 billion to the New Zealand economy and $500 million to the Government in royalties each year.’ Audrey Young quoted ACT New Zealand Leader David Seymour for New Zealand Herald.
‘The announcements come just weeks after Shell sold its last remaining oil and gas permits and producing assets in New Zealand to Austrian oil and gas company, OMV, thus ending more than a century of activity in New Zealand.’ Russia Today explains.
Trump suggests returning to TPP
President Trump told a gathering of lawmakers that he has ordered his advisors to study rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which was originally negotiated between the United States and eleven Asia-Pacific nations and is now known as CPTPP.
‘Experts say trade tension with China is a big factor. Spearheaded by the Obama administration, the original TPP deal was seen as a way of creating a Pacific counterweight to China’s rising economic clout. Beijing is not in the TPP, but some supporters of the pact said it could encourage China to change its behavior on trade.’ Jethro Mullen asserts for CNN.
‘Mr Trump is struggling to get support from other countries for his recent threat to impose import tariffs on China and the US farm lobby is arguing that retaliation by China would hit American agricultural exports receipts.’ The Straits Times opined.