Trump says China trade talks ‘back on track,’ new tariffs on hold

OSAKA (Reuters) – The United States and China agreed on Saturday to restart trade talks after President Donald Trump offered concessions including no new tariffs and an easing of restrictions on tech company Huawei in order to reduce tensions with Beijing. China agreed to make unspecified new purchases of U.S. farm products and return to the negotiating table. No deadline was set for progress on a deal, and the world’s two largest economies remain at odds over significant parts of an agreement. Financial markets, which have been rattled by the nearly year-long trade war, are likely to cheer the truce. Washington and Beijing have slapped tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s imports, threatening to put the brakes on an already slowing global economy. Those tariffs remain in place while negotiations resume. “We’re right back on track,” Trump told reporters after an 80-minute meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies in Osaka, Japan. “We’re holding back on tariffs and they’re going to buy farm products,” Trump said, without giving details about the purchases. The U.S. president had threatened to slap new levies on roughly $300 billion (£236 billion) of additional Chinese goods, including popular consumer products, if the meeting in Japan proved unsuccessful. Such a move would have extended existing tariffs to almost all Chinese imports into the United States. Trump offered an olive branch to Xi on Huawei, the world’s biggest telecom network gear maker. The Trump administration has said the Chinese firm is too close to China’s government and poses a national security risk, and has lobbied U.S. allies to keep Huawei out of next-generation 5G telecommunications infrastructure. Trump’s Commerce Department has put Huawei on its “entity list,” effectively banning the company from buying parts and components from U.S. companies without U.S. government approval. But Trump said on Saturday he did not think that was fair to U.S. suppliers, who were upset by the move. “We’re allowing that, because that wasn’t national security,” he said. Financial markets and businesses worldwide were eager to get relief from the U.S.-China trade war. “Returning to negotiations is good news for the business community and breathes some much needed certainty into a slowly deteriorating relationship,” said Jacob Parker, a vice-president of China operations at the U.S.-China Business Council.   Nick Bit: so much for the China trade war slowing the global economy. In fact just the opposite will happen

Trump meets Kim Jong Un, becomes first sitting U.S. president to step into North Korea

“Stepping across that line was a great honor,” Trump said after the two walked toward each other and shook hands.

Hell on earth: The horrors of North Korean torture camps

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is said to preside over a brutal system of torture camps imprisoning as many as 120,000 citizens of his isolated regime.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is said to preside over a brutal system of torture camps imprisoning as many as 120,000 citizens of his isolated regime.

US student Otto Warmbier died on Monday at age 22, just days after his release from North Korea in a vegetative state following 17 months in custody.
US student Otto Warmbier died on Monday at age 22, just days after his release from North Korea in a vegetative state following 17 months in custody.

Now, the death of Otto Warmbier has brought fresh scrutiny to the regime’s brutal torture camps under leader Kim Jong Un. The 22-year-old student passed away from mysterious brain damage he suffered while a prisoner in the isolated state. He succumbed to his horrifying injuries just six days after he was released from North Korea back to his parents in a vegetative state following 17 months in custody. Its believed he spent some of that time in one of Kim’s prison camps, where thousands of his citizens are believed to have died.

Bodies of prisoners in the gulag: 'The mice eat the eyes, nose, ears, and toes of the corpses'. Photo / UN
Bodies of prisoners in the gulag: ‘The mice eat the eyes, nose, ears, and toes of the corpses’. Photo / UN

Warmbier’s doctors in Cincinnati said that the student had suffered ‘extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of his brain’ consistent with oxygen deprivation for a prolonged period. The isolated North Korean regime is believed to have as many 120,000 political prisoners in its harsh labor camps. Grotesque stories of torture offer among the few clues to Warmbier’s fate.

This drawing depicts prisoners foraging among live wild animals. In the Korean description: 'out of starvation and hunger, find snakes and rats and you eat them'.
This drawing depicts prisoners foraging among live wild animals. In the Korean description: ‘out of starvation and hunger, find snakes and rats and you eat them’.

In a 2014 report, the United Nations Human Rights Commission called North Korea ‘a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world’ due to the country’s ‘systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations’. Beatings are widespread in the camps, in which guards are given near-absolute authority to abuse and kill prisoners, according to survivors who have survived to speak out.Escapees have said that the sounds of beatings were so extreme each night that it was impossible to sleep.

'Scale, airplane, motorcycle.' Survivors told the U.N. that they had to stay in stress positions until they collapsed. 'Scale, airplane, motorcycle.' Survivors told the U.N. that they had to stay in stress positions until they collapsed. Photo / UN
Survivors told the U.N. that they had to stay in stress positions until they collapsed. Photo / UN

One woman interviewed for the UN report, who had been imprisoned for practicing Christianity, told of a torture room with a water tank in which suspects could be immersed to simulate drowning. ‘She indicated that she was fully immersed in cold water for hours,’ the report said. ‘Only when she stood on her tip-toes would her nose be barely above the water level. She could hardly breathe. She was gripped by panic, fearing that she might drown.’ Other baroque torture methods of the North Korean regime have come to light as well.
One Ministry of People’s Security official who defected revealed that the agency made use of small metal cages in the Pyongyang offices of its pre-trial investigative bureau.

Horrendous: This drawing by a former North Korean prison guard depicts a position called 'pigeon torture' where prisoners are beaten on the chest until they vomit blood. Photo / UN
Horrendous: This drawing by a former North Korean prison guard depicts a position called ‘pigeon torture’ where prisoners are beaten on the chest until they vomit blood. Photo / UN

‘Victims would be crammed into the cage for several hours so that the circulation of blood to extremities becomes interrupted and other parts of the body swell up,’ according to the UN report. ‘The victim turns into a rusty brown color. After removal from the cage, the victim is abruptly “unfolded” causing further excruciating pain,’ the report said. The same witness recalled receiving formal training on torture techniques, including ‘how to cut off a suspect’s blood circulation using straps, while simultaneously placing the suspect in physical stress positions in order to inflict the maximum level of pain.’

A rare glimpse of life inside a North Korean prison camp is seen in this undated image.
A rare glimpse of life inside a North Korean prison camp is seen in this undated image.

Nick Bit: Trump calls a brutal dictator a great man and his friend. Kim should be charged with crimes against humanity and put on trial at the Hague. I am outraged what this president will do for a publicity stunt. And i am Amazed that Americans fall for this shit. Sleeping Americans deserved to be Nuked by North Korea. And mark my words it will happen

Russia agrees with Saudi to extend OPEC deal by 6-9 months: Putin

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan June 29, 2019. Yuri Kadobnov/Pool via REUTERS

OSAKA (Reuters) – Russia has agreed with Saudi Arabia to extend by six to nine months a deal with OPEC on reducing oil production, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. Russia, Saudi deal shows commitment to oil market stability: Novak Putin, speaking after talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, told a news conference the deal would be extended in its current form and with the same volumes. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers, an alliance known as OPEC+, meet on July 1-2 to discuss the deal that involves curbing oil output by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd). The pact expires after June 30. “We will support the extension, both Russia and Saudi Arabia. As far as the length of the extension is concerned, we have yet to decide whether it will be six or nine months. Maybe it will be nine months,” said Putin said, who met the crown prince on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Japan.. A nine-month extension would mean the deal runs out in March 2020. Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of Russian Direct Investment Fund who helped design the OPEC-Russia deal, said the pact in place since 2017 has already lifted Russian budget revenues by more than 7 trillion roubles ($110 billion). “The strategic partnership within OPEC+ has led to the stabilisation of oil markets and allows both to reduce and increase production depending on the market demand conditions, which contributes to the predictability and growth of investments in the industry,” Dmitriev said.

Trump said Saturday he planned “major” new sanctions against Iran to take effect Monday

Trump may sanction Iranian STFI: informed source

Trump may sanction Iranian STFI: informed source
TEHRAN, Jun. 24 (MNA) – While Trump and his aides haven’t elaborated on what additional sanctions would look like a person familiar with Treasury discussions said that the US President may wish to sanction Iran’s Special Trade and Finance Instrument (STFI).

According to wall Street Journal, “in the mix are sanctions against Iran’s Special Trade and Finance Instrument (STFI), the mirror company to Europe’s Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges, a special-purpose vehicle set up to try to circumvent US sanctions,” a person familiar with Treasury discussions said.

One possible channel for ratcheting up the pressure would be to penalize banks, insurers, traders or any other companies outside Iran that are still helping the country, a move supporters say would stifle the remaining flows of cash keeping the country and regime on life support, the report said about other possible new US sanctions for Iran.

Other sanctions could target economic sectors not already hit such as consumer- or industrial-goods manufacturing, or entities that move money or products in and out of Iran, such as trading houses or shipping concerns, the same report confirmed. The US Treasury Department, which is responsible for levying sanctions, has declined to comment about the issue according to WSJ. Trump said Saturday he planned “major” new sanctions against Iran to take effect Monday, without providing details. According to Iranian officials, STFI is ready to start operation and Europeans have to purchase Iranian oil or establish a financial line with Iran to have it operational. STFI was established to ease INSTEX implementation and if the financial instrument is decided to become operational, there is be no problem having it run in Iran.

Trump proposes third meeting with North Korea’s Kim

SAUL LOEB / AFP | US President Donald Trump (R) and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un hold a meeting during the second US-North Korea summit at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi on February 28, 2019.

North Korea said Saturday President Donald Trump’s offer to meet leader Kim Jong Un at the Korean Demilitarized Zone is a “very interesting suggestion,” brightening prospects for a third face-to-face meeting between the two leaders. The North’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said that the meeting, if realized, would serve as “another meaningful occasion in further deepening the personal relations between the two leaders and advancing the bilateral relations.”  Choe still said that North Korea hasn’t received an official proposal for the DMZ meeting from the United States. Her statement was carried via the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. Earlier Saturday, Trump invited Kim to shake hands during his planned visit the DMZ, which has served as a de-facto border between the Koreas since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. Trump is scheduled to fly to South Korea later Saturday for a two-day trip after attending the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. Trump tweeted that “If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!”   “All I did is put out a feeler if you’d like to meet,” Trump said later of the invitation, adding that he’s not sure of Kim’s whereabouts. Trump and Kim have met twice since Kim entered talks with the United States early last year to deal away his advancing nuclear arsenal in return for political and economic benefits. Their first summit in Singapore in June last year ended with Kim’s promise to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which lacked any specific timetable and roadmap. In Singapore, the two leaders also agreed to improve bilateral relations and build lasting peace on the peninsula. They met again in Vietnam in February, but that second summit collapsed due to disputes over how much sanctions relief North Korea should win in return for dismantling its main nuclear complex   a limited denuclearization step.  Kim has since asked Trump to work out acceptable proposals to salvage the negotiations by the end of this year. U.S. officials said sanctions on North Korea would stay in place until North Korea takes firmer steps toward nuclear disarmament.Talks of a revival of diplomacy have flared again since Kim and Trump recently exchanged personal letters. Kim called Trump’s letter “excellent” while Trump described Kim’s as “beautiful.” The United States and North Korea are in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 American soldiers are deployed in South Korea as deterrence against potential aggression from North Korea.

China agrees to restart U.S. trade talks as Trump says ‘back on track’

U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping shake hands ahead of their bilateral meeting during the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

OSAKA (Reuters) – The United States and China have agreed to restart trade talks and Washington will not level new tariffs on Chinese exports, China’s official Xinhua news agency said on Saturday, as U.S. President Donald Trump said the talks were “back on track”. Saturday’s high-stakes meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping was being closely watched in hopes that it would ease tension rather than plunge the world’s two biggest economies into a deeper trade war. The dispute has already cost companies in both countries billions of dollars, disrupted global manufacturing and supply lines, and roiled markets. “The U.S. side said it would not add new tariffs on Chinese exports,” Xinhua said in a brief report, adding that negotiators of both countries would discuss specific issues, but gave no details. Trump told reporters he had an excellent meeting with the Chinese leader and that talks were “back on track”. The two met in Japan’s western city of Osaka, on the sidelines of a summit of leaders of Group of 20 (G20) developed economies. “We had a very good meeting with President Xi of China, excellent, I would say excellent, as good as it was going to be,” Trump said. “We discussed a lot of things and we’re right back on track and we’ll see what happens.” Ahead of the talks, Trump had said a fair trade deal would be “historic”, but gave no details. The trade dispute, which includes a feud over Huawei Technologies Co [HWT.UL] has fanned fears it could threaten global growth. “The trade relations between China and the United States are difficult, they are contributing to the slowdown of the global economy,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Friday, the summit’s first day. The U.S. president has said he would extend existing tariffs to cover almost all imports from China into the United States if the meeting brought no progress on wide-ranging U.S. demands for economic reforms. At the start of Saturday’s talks, Xi told Trump he was ready to exchange views on fundamental issues and stressed the need for dialogue rather than confrontation. “Cooperation and dialogue are better than friction and confrontation,” he said. The G20 leaders will agree on Saturday to accelerate reforms of the World Trade Organization, but stop short of calling for the need to resist protectionism in their closing communique, Japan’s Nikkei newspaper said. The United States says China has been stealing U.S. intellectual property for years, forces U.S. firms to share trade secrets as a condition for doing business in China, and subsidizes state-owned firms to dominate industries. China has said the United States is making unreasonable demands and must also make concessions. The dispute escalated when talks collapsed in May after Washington accused Beijing of reneging on reform pledges. Trump raised tariffs to 25% from 10% on $200 billion of Chinese goods, and China retaliated with levies on U.S. imports. As ties have soured, the dispute has spread beyond trade. The U.S. administration has declared Chinese telecoms giant Huawei a security threat, effectively banning U.S. companies from doing business with it. U.S. officials have also pressed other governments to drop Huawei from plans to develop fifth generation, or 5G, networks. Trump has suggested easing U.S. restrictions on Huawei could be a factor in a trade deal with Xi. China has demanded the U.S. drop the curbs, saying Huawei presents no security threat.

With Iran nuclear deal on the brink, U.S. vows to choke off Iranian oil sales

FILE PHOTO: Iran’s national flags are seen on a square in Tehran February 10, 2012, a day before the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/File Photo

VIENNA (Reuters) – World powers warned Iran to respect the terms of their nuclear deal in talks on Friday that Tehran said were the “last chance” to save the pact, as Washington vowed to choke off all sales of Iranian oil. “We will sanction any imports of Iranian crude oil… There are right now no oil waivers in place,” Brian Hook, the U.S. Special Representative On Iran, told reporters in London. The United States would study reports of Iranian crude going to China, Hook said when asked about the sale of Iranian crude to Asia, adding: “We will sanction any illicit purchases of Iranian crude oil.” Washington has re-imposed tough sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear accord, which lifted sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear programme, verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The Trump administration aims to cut Iran’s oil sales to zero to force Tehran to negotiate a broader deal that includes its missile capabilities and regional influence.

Hook said the United States was on track to deprive Iran of $50 billion (£39 billion) in oil revenues and told European companies to choose between doing business with the United States or Iran. His comments ratcheted up pressure on European allies who are struggling to save the nuclear deal, also signed by Russia and China, in the face of U.S. sanctions. Tehran is threatening to pull out of the accord unless it secures a reprieve from U.S. measures that have led to a collapse in sales of crude, its main export. Hook’s statement further lowered expectations of a breakthrough at the Vienna talks, where senior diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia met with Iranian officials around midday (1000 GMT). Tehran is threatening to exceed the maximum amount of enriched uranium it is allowed under the deal unless fellow signatories of the deal rein in the United States, adding to fears of a military escalation in the region. “We will repeat to the Iranians that nuclear issues are not negotiable. We want them to stay in the accord, but we won’t accept them messing us around,” a senior European diplomat said before the meeting. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Friday described the talks as a “last chance for the remaining parties … to gather and see how they can meet their commitments towards Iran.” An Iranian official told reporters ahead of the meeting that his country’s main demand was to sell its oil at the same levels that it did before Washington withdrew from the accord. However, he cautioned that Tehran had lost patience with the European signatories. Until its demand is met, Iran will continue on its current path and go over limits of the deal one by one, starting with the uranium enrichment level, the official said, although none of the actions are irreversible. “For one year we exercised patience. Now it is the Europeans’ turn to exercise patience,” he said. “They should try to find solutions, practical solutions and there’s always enough time for diplomacy and there’s always the possibility to go back, to reverse.”

UAE becomes Japan’s largest crude supplier in May as Iran oil imports halt

Singapore — The UAE became the largest crude supplier to Japan in May after it halted imports of Iranian oil, creating a need for some its refiners to search for light sour crudes to blend with heavy grades from Ecuador. Japan’s crude imports from the UAE surged 66.1% year on year and were up 42.8% month on month to average 1.03 million b/d in May, preliminary data released Friday by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry showed. The UAE was the largest crude supplier to Japan in May for the first time since June 2016, while Japan hiked its total imports in May to the highest level since July 2015, a METI official said. Japan imported 1.5 million barrels of crude from Ecuador in May — including Oriente crude for the first time since May 2015 at 376,080 barrels, the METI data showed. Total Ecuadorian crude imports in May, which also included 1.14 million barrels of Napo crude, were the highest since April 2017, the METI official said. Refiner Fuji Oil, which had been one of Japan’s major importers of Iranian crude, has said it is using Napo as the main basis for replacing Iranian Heavy, blending it with other grades from the Middle East, including Abu Dhabi crudes and Qatar Marine. Fuji Oil finds Ecuadorian crude “very heavy” as a replacement for medium or medium-heavy crudes from Iran and is “looking at Upper Zakum and Banoco Arab Medium as replacement for Iran,” a source familiar with the matter said. Japanese refiners completed their imports of Iranian oil by mid-April before the US allowed sanctions waivers to Iran’s top oil buyers to expire in early May. Japan last suspended Iranian oil imports over November-January, with refiners importing last barrels from Iran early last October. Confusion surrounding shipping, insurance and banking rules under the US sanctions kept some other countries from resuming imports after the US granted the waivers on November 5 last year. Japan typically bought mostly Iranian Heavy crude from Iran prior to the end of the US sanctions waiver. The light sour Abu Dhabi grades have been fetching increasingly higher premiums over Iranian Heavy during the last few trading cycles, possibly making a case for Japanese refiners to consider looking for cheaper alternatives later in the year. “It’s never easy finding cheap alternatives because Iranian crude and condensate have always been among the most affordable feedstock grades … but Japanese refiners would need to diversify crude procurement options because Abu Dhabi grades are indeed rather expensive,” a trading desk manager at a Japanese refiner said.

OPEC and its allies grapple with murky market outlook as they prepare to meet in Vienna

OPEC meets in the shadow of Trump's showdown with Iran

London — Three months ago, OPEC and its allies deferred a decision on extending their oil production cuts beyond the first half of the year, cancelling a planned April meeting to get a better read on the market. Receive daily email alerts, subscriber notes & personalize your experience. With the 1.2 million b/d cut agreement set to expire in three days and OPEC ministers set to meet Monday in Vienna, the signals appear no clearer. Bearish outlooks for demand and unresolved global trade disputes have kept a lid on prices, even as many forecasters predict a tight market ahead on supply risks caused in large part by US sanctions. Heightened Middle East geopolitical tensions following a series of attacks on oil tankers and other infrastructure in the Middle East in recent weeks have failed to reverse the bearish sentiment. Faced with the uncertainty and with oil prices still slumping, many OPEC ministers have signalled that an extension of the cuts is the preferred option. The exact length and level of the cuts is yet to be negotiated, with some Russian oil companies pushing for their country’s quota to be eased, while Algeria has reportedly floated a deeper cut to provide a price boost. But a rollover of the current agreement is the most likely scenario, Russia’s public ambivalence nonwithstanding, said Shin Kim, S&P Global Platts Analytics’ head of supply and production. It is the fear of substantial price declines from this level if the cut is not extended that the Russian government fears.” The OPEC/non-OPEC coalition also has flexibility to raise output and still maintain the parameters of the deal, given that

Saudi Arabia has voluntarily lowered its production some 600,000 b/d below its quota to “lead by example” and sanctions-hit Iran and Venezuela continue to see their volumes slide.

The OPEC schedule, finalized only days ago after a prolonged spat over the meeting date, calls for a delegate-level Joint Technical Committee to convene Sunday morning and the nine-country Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee to meet Monday morning, followed by the regular OPEC ministerial meeting Monday afternoon. Russia and the nine other non-OPEC partners in the supply accord will then join the talks Tuesday.  Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are scheduled to meet at the G20 summit and could announce an agreement on OPEC/non-OPEC production policy ahead of the Vienna meeting. “We should wait, including for meetings during the G20,” Russian energy minister Alexander Novak said Tuesday, declining to commit to a rollover. “We will see what issues will be discussed there, how the economy and the market situation will develop. We will have a clearer idea of the situation by the OPEC/non-OPEC meeting.” Increasingly messy geopolitics may, however, color the meeting, given the escalation in attacks in the Middle East that have raised concerns about oil supply security. Saudi Arabia and the US have accused Iran of being behind the incidents that have targeted six oil tankers and a key Saudi oil pipeline.

Iran has denied involvement but has repeatedly threatened to shut down traffic through the narrow Strait of Hormuz if its oil exports are further choked off by US sanctions, which have already caused Iran’s oil output to fall almost 1.4 million b/d — more than one third — in the span of a year, according to Platts’ monthly survey of OPEC production.

Iranian officials have complained that Saudi Arabia and its close ally the UAE were destroying OPEC comity by backing the US in its sanctions. Saudi Arabia has been among the most outspoken OPEC members in advocating for a cut extension, and Iran’s primary interest is in protecting its threatened market share. “While an extension of the OPEC agreement is looking fairly straightforward, the mounting tensions between Iran and its regional rivals will likely be on full display in Vienna,” Croft