Patterico's Pontifications


The G7 (Trump + 6) Summit in France

Filed under: Economics,International — DRJ @ 7:28 am

[Headlines from DRJ]

In the US, the media sees the G7 summit as Trump facing limits of go-it-alone stance:

BIARRITZ, France (AP) — President Donald Trump arrived Saturday in France for an international summit with the leaders of the globe’s economic powers as he confronts the consequences of his preference for going it alone, both in a sharply divided United States and an interconnected world. The meeting of the Group of Seven nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S. — in the beach resort town of Biarritz comes at one of the most unpredictable moments in Trump’s White House tenure, with his public comments and decision-making increasingly erratic and acerbic of late.

Trump, growing more isolated in Washington, faces a tepid reception on the world stage, where a list of challenges awaits. Anxiety is growing over a global slowdown , and there are new points of tension with allies on trade, Iran and Russia.

Fears of a financial downturn are spreading, meaning the need for cooperation and a collective response is essential. Yet Trump has ridiculed Germany for its economic travails at a time when he may have to turn to Chancellor Angela Merkel and others to help blunt the force of China’s newly aggressive tariffs on U.S. goods. Those trade penalties, combined with the economic slowdown, have raised political alarms for Trump’sreelection effort.

Meanwhile, in France, an Isolated Trump descends on G7, talking trade war:

An isolated President Donald Trump arrived Saturday for the G7 summit in Biarritz bearing threats of tariffs against host France and a decision to deepen his trade war with China, despite fears of US or even global recession.

Trump dislikes the kind of multilateral forums epitomized by the G7, insisting on a policy of “America first” and his own skills, honed in a real estate career, of one-to-one deal making.

Ahead of the summit in the elegant French seaside resort, he has criticized most of his partners, rowing with them over Iran, trade, global warming and Brexit. And on the eve of his trip, he brushed aside concerns of global economic slowdown to exchange new tariffs with China, insisting “we’ll win.”

Finally, in China, no reports about the G7 — of which China is not a member — but there are several reports about Trump and tariffs including China adds crude oil to tariffs list for first time in targeted retaliation against US:

Beijing will also resume imposing duties on American cars in what observers say is a restrained but focused response to latest US tariffs.

State media commentary says it was designed to ‘inflict pain on the US manufacturing sector’ and rattle US financial markets.



What does Greenland have that Trump wants?

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 4:57 pm

[Headlines from DRJ]

Climate change turns Arctic into strategic, economic hotspot:

TASIILAQ, Greenland (AP) — From a helicopter, Greenland’s brilliant white ice and dark mountains make the desolation seem to go on forever. And the few people who live here — its whole population wouldn’t fill a football stadium — are poor, with a high rate of substance abuse and suicide.

One scientist called it the “end of the planet.”

When U.S. President Donald Trump floated the idea of buying Greenland, it was met with derision, seen as an awkward and inappropriate approach of an erstwhile ally.

But it might also be an Aladdin’s Cave of oil, natural gas and rare earth minerals just waiting to be tapped as the ice recedes.

It’s not about climate change, it’s about China and rare earth minerals:

US President Donald Trump’s interest in buying Greenland, the autonomous territory of Denmark, has been making headlines.

For the general public, the president’s bizarre idea of buying an ice-covered island seems like a joke. Many are wondering why Trump suddenly proposed buying a sovereign nation’s territory. One guess is that Greenland is abundant in natural resources, including some of the largest deposits of rare earths. A Chinese company has already been engaged in a rare-earth mining project in Greenland by acquiring a stake in an Australian company called Greenland Minerals.

So even if Trump is joking, the fantasy has exposed his anxiety about China’s dominance over production of rare-earth metals, which are broadly used in high-technology products from smartphones to electric vehicles. 


British PM Johnson seeks Renewed Brexit Talks

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 6:54 am

[Headline from DRJ]

UK’s Johnson presses for fresh Brexit talks in Paris:

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson exuded confidence Thursday as he pressed French President Emmanuel Macron to accept his request to reopen Brexit negotiations, meeting in Paris on the second stop of his first European tour as U.K. leader.

After ticking off examples of close ties between the two countries, Johnson turned on a charm offensive, stressing that the U.K. wants a Brexit deal with EU. But even as he chummily called the French leader by his first name, Johnson added it was his duty to carry out the wishes of the British people, who by a narrow margin voted to leave the EU.

“As you yourself have just pointed out, Emmanuel, it is vital for trust in politics, that if you have a referendum, then you should act on the instructions of the voters. And that is why we must come out of the EU October 31, deal or no-deal,” Johnson said. “Then of course we can take our relationship forward. I agree with you wholeheartedly Emmanuel that it is a quite extraordinary relationship.”

But even as he smiled for the cameras, Macron dampened expectations, stressing “we have to respect what was negotiated.” He also reiterated what the EU has been saying for months — that it won’t re-open the Brexit withdrawal deal negotiated with Britain’s previous prime minister, Theresa May.

There may have been some movement, although not in France:

That Brexit deal includes an insurance policy known as the Irish backstop, which would keep the U.K. closely aligned in trade with the EU if the two sides can’t find another way to prevent the return of checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Macron said that the backstop is indispensable. Johnson repeatedly countered that Britain would not place checks at the border, raising the possibility that the EU would be forced to decide how to deal with that land border between the U.K. and the EU.

Johnson was buoyed Wednesday by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who raised the possibility in talks Wednesday that a negotiated departure from the EU may still be possible if Britain comes up with alternative plans for the Irish border within 30 days.

But The Guardian does not see much daylight between Merkel and Macron:

Throughout the Brexit negotiations, Merkel has often sought a politer, more positive tone towards Britain than those carried by the soundbites coming out of Paris. Once stripped of their rhetoric, however, the two countries’ positions have so far been closely aligned.

And behind her optimistic phrasing on Wednesday lay the same cold reality that Germany and the rest of the EU are unwilling to countenance Britain’s desire to reopen the withdrawal agreement.

Merkel’s intervention appeared intended to nudge Johnson towards exploring potential for compromise in the political declaration, the second component of the Brexit deal negotiated by Theresa May. Currently only in draft form, it outlines the future trade and security relationship between the UK and the EU.

While the political declaration is not legally binding, Merkel seemed to suggest that a reformulation of the text could render the controversial backstop unnecessary, possibly by positing a closer relationship.

Sounds like a carrot and stick negotiation with Merkel as the carrot and Macron as the stick. That makes Johnson the horse.



Trump Administration “listening” in Venezuela

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 8:23 pm

[Headline from DRJ]

AP Exclusive: US talks secretly to Venezuela socialist boss

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — The U.S. has opened up secret communications with Venezuela’s socialist party boss as members of President Nicolás Maduro’s inner circle seek guarantees they won’t face retribution if they cede to growing demands to remove him, a senior U.S. administration official has told The Associated Press.

Diosdado Cabello, who is considered the most-powerful man in Venezuela after Maduro, met last month in Caracas with someone who is in close contact with the Trump administration, said the official. A second meeting is in the works but has not yet taken place.


The administration official said that under no circumstances is the U.S. looking to prop up Cabello or pave the way for him to substitute Maduro. Instead, the goal of the outreach is to ratchet up pressure on the regime by contributing to the knife fight the U.S. believes is taking place behind the scenes among competing circles of power within the ruling party.

Similar contacts exist with other top Venezuelan insiders, the official said, and the U.S. is in a listening mode to hear what it would take for them to betray Maduro and support a transition plan.

I thought this is what the CIA or the local embassy does, while Administrations try to avoid inconvenient entanglements.



Trump delays Chinese Tariffs

Filed under: Economics,International — DRJ @ 10:06 am

[Headline from DRJ]

Donald Trump CAVES on tariffs on Chinese goods putting them off for MONTHS after ‘very good call’ with Beijing so they do not send cost of Christmas shopping soaring amid fears they will end his economic boom:

The Trump Administration announced Tuesday morning that is delaying tariffs on Chinese-manufactured goods like laptops and cell phones until Dec. 15.

Trump’s trade office says that certain products ‘will not face additional tariffs of 10 percent’ due to health, safety or national security concerns. Some of the products it listed were cell phones, laptop computers, video game consoles, computer monitors, footwear and clothing. USTR said it will post a list of items that are being excluded on its website.

It announced the postponement shortly after the the stock market opened, and the Dow jumped nearly 500 points within minutes of the news.

Donald Trump has not commented directly but hinted in a tweet that the action was intended to get China to move forward with large agricultural orders.

Did Trump’s negotiating strategy work or did he cave because of farmers and Christmas?



Trump jokes …

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 4:40 pm

[Headline from DRJ]

No, this isn’t a post for Jokes about Trump. This is about an article that begins Trump cracks jokes …:

Trump cracks jokes about Equinox scandal, kamikaze pilots at Hamptons fundraiser


Trump also made fun of US allies South Korea, Japan and the European Union — mimicking Japanese and Korean accents — and talked about his love of dictators Kim Jong Un and the current ruler of Saudi Arabia.

He started by saying how the EU had not paid its share to NATO and he insisted it does so.

Talking about South Korea, Trump said it makes great TVs and has a thriving economy, “So why are we paying for their defense. They’ve got to pay.” He then mimicked the accent of the leader Moon Jae-in while describing how he caved in to Trump’s tough negotiations.

On his remarkable friendship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, “I just got a beautiful letter from him this week. We are friends. People say he only smiles when he sees me.

“If I hadn’t been elected president we would be in a big fat juicy war with North Korea. “

Turning to Japan, Trump then put on a fake Japanese accent to recount his conversations with Shinzo Abe over their conversations over trade tariffs.

Trump spoke about his friendship with Abe and how fascinated he was with Abe’s father, who had been a kamikaze pilot. Trump asked Abe if the kamikaze pilots were drunk or on drugs. Abe said no, they just loved their country. Trump remarked, “Imagine they get in a plane with a half a tank of gas and fly into steel ships just for the love of their country!”

Joe Biden likes to imitate Asians, too.



Trump Tweets North Korea News

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 6:00 pm

[Headlines from DRJ]

Trump: Kim says ready to restart talks when U.S.-South Korea joint drills end:

WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday that Kim Jong Un told him he was ready to resume talks on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and would stop missile testing as soon as U.S.-South Korea military exercises end.

Trump and Kim have met twice since their first summit in Singapore last year, but little progress has been on Washington’s aim of getting the North Korean leader to give up his weapons.

“I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un in the not too distant future!” Trump said on Twitter.

The sticking point delaying their next meeting seems to be the computer-simulated joint exercises between the US and South Korea:

North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range missiles on Saturday, South Korea said, in a “show of force” against the exercises.

More missile launches are highly probable, as the North Korean military is conducting its own summer drills, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement. The exercises are largely computer-simulated as an alternative to previous large-scale annual drills that were halted to expedite denuclearization talks.

In his tweet, Trump said Kim sent him a letter saying “very nicely” that he wanted to meet once the “ridiculous and expensive” U.S.-South Korea exercises were over. Trump added: “It was also a small apology for testing the short range missiles, and that this testing would stop when the exercises end.”

Trump had previously ended the full-scale joint exercises to please Kim but without gaining any concessions. However, that didn’t dampen Trump’s praise for Kim’s “positive letter:”

Trump previously praised the contents of Kim’s letter in remarks to reporters on Friday, calling it a “beautiful” gesture by the North Korean leader.

“I think we’ll have another meeting,” Trump said. “He really wrote a beautiful, three-page — I mean, right from top to bottom — a really beautiful letter. And maybe I’ll release the results of the letter, but it was a very positive letter.”

This reminds me of those old movies where the couple argue and then make up (but only after the guy gives the girl expensive make-up gifts), only to repeat again and again.


Hong Kong Protests and a U.S. Diplomat (Updated)

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 1:31 am

[Headlines from DRJ]

As Hong Kong braces for another weekend of protests “which began in June and have become increasingly violent:”

The protests began after Hong Kong’s government tried introducing an extradition bill that would have allowed defendants to be sent to the mainland for trial.

The bill has been suspended, but protesters have stepped up their demands and are now calling for greater democracy and [Hong Kong leader Carrie] Lam’s resignation.

The protests have been condemned by the central government in Beijing. China has also accused foreign powers of fueling the unrest.

Now the U.S. State Department has responded:

A US official has described China as a “thuggish regime” for disclosing personal details about a US diplomat who met student leaders involved in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

The denunciation came as the US became the latest country to issue a travel alert to the territory on Thursday, and Hong Kong’s police force brought out of retirement a senior officer who led the police response to the 2014 Occupy movement.

China’s Hong Kong office asked the US on Thursday to explain reports in Communist party-controlled media that American diplomats were in contact with leaders of protests that have convulsed Hong Kong for nine weeks.

U.S. officials suggested the diplomat and her family were targeted and/or doxxed for doing their job:

Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao published a photograph of a US diplomat, who it identified as Julie Eadeh of the consulate’s political section, talking to student leaders including Joshua Wong in the lobby of a luxury hotel.

The photograph appeared under the headline “Foreign Forces Intervene”, continuing a theme of previous protests from Beijing officials, who have blamed Hong Kong’s unrest on “black hands” from the US.

“I don’t think that leaking an American diplomat’s private information, pictures, names of their children, I don’t think that is a formal protest, that is what a thuggish regime would do,” state department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told a briefing late on Thursday. “That is not how a responsible nation would behave.”

“Black hands” is how China branded protesters before the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy uprising.

UPDATE 8/12/2019: Hong Kong airport grinds to halt; China likens protests to terrorism.



Mexico announces Intention to Sue US over El Paso Shooting

Filed under: International,Law — DRJ @ 1:48 pm

[Headline from DRJ]

Mexican government says it will sue U.S. over mass shooting in El Paso:

Ebrard referred to the mass shooting as a “barbarous” act, and said the Mexican government would be taking action to protect its citizens living in the United States.

“The president of the Republic has instructed me so that this posture and indignation from Mexico is translated, first in protecting affected families, and then in legal actions, efficient and prompt, quick and convincing so that Mexico can demand the conditions to protect to the Mexican-American community and Mexicans in the United States,” he said.

I am not sure what Mexico has in mind. Normally a country with concerns about its citizens’ safety in another country will advise its citizens to return home.


Russian Election Meddling succeeded in Poland

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 1:40 pm

[Headline from DRJ]

Was Polish scandal a Russian test for US election tampering?

High-ranking Polish politicians used a side door to get to the VIP section of Sowa & Przyjaciele, a posh Warsaw restaurant. Sealed off from other patrons, government ministers and lawmakers felt free to speak their minds while enjoying continental cuisine and wine at taxpayers’ expense.

But the privacy was an illusion, the special dining room a trap.

For about a year, waiters secretly recorded public officials at Sowa & Przyjaciele and another restaurant, Amber Room. When a newsmagazine published transcripts from some of the recordings, it spawned a scandal dubbed “Waitergate” that helped topple a pro-European Union government.

According to one observer, Russia’s goal in Poland and in the US is to weaken Western democracies:

Grzegorz Rzeczkowski, a respected investigative reporter for the Polityka newsmagazine, argues in a new book that Russian intelligence services carried out the restaurant buggings on behalf of the Kremlin. He also presents evidence to allege that Polish intelligence figures conspired to use the recordings to bring the right-wing Law and Justice party, or PIS, to power.

In his book, titled “In a Foreign Alphabet: How People of the Kremlin and PIS Played with the Eavesdropping,” Rzeczkowski maintains that, just as with the U.S. election meddling that special counsel Robert Mueller called “sweeping and systematic,” Russia’s goal with Waitergate was to weaken the West.

“It was to open the road to power for the anti-Western, anti-liberal, anti-democratic opposition of the time,” Rzeczkowski told a Polish parliamentary panel last month. “Russia had a full, spectacular success.”

It also works to undermine our institutions and faith in our system of government.


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