Japan PM Shinzo Abe uses Davos address to put trade, climate change at center of G20 agenda

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday he will seek to use his chairmanship of the Group of 20 leading economies to rebuild trust in the global trade system. (Screenshot/WEF)
Updated 23 January 2019
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Japan PM Shinzo Abe uses Davos address to put trade, climate change at center of G20 agenda

DAVOS, Switzerland: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday he will seek to use his chairmanship of the Group of 20 leading economies to rebuild trust in the global trade system.
His speech to the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alps was significant at a time when a bitter Sino-US trade dispute is one of several factors threatening to bring about a sharp slowdown in global growth.
“Japan is determined to preserve and committed to enhancing the free, open, and rules-based international order,” he told delegates.
“I call on all of you ... to rebuild trust toward the system for international trade. That should be a system that is fair, transparent, and effective in protecting intellectual property rights and also in such areas as e-commerce and government procurement.”
With the French, British and US leaders canceling their visits because of more pressing concerns at home, Abe is one of only three Group of Seven leaders attending the annual event in Davos, where business executives are worried about the damage that populism and trade protectionism are inflicting on the global economy.
Abe said Japan, as chair of this year’s gathering of the Group of 20 (G20), will also seek to spearhead discussions on climate change and ways to facilitate use of digital data while protecting intellectual property.
The comments underscore Japan’s hope to rally support from some of its G20 counterparts in pushing for a multilateral approach in solving trade frictions.
That could help Tokyo fend off pressure from Washington to open up its politically sensitive agriculture market and take other steps to fix bilateral trade imbalances, analysts say.
Japan has to be consistent on the need to promote free trade “and shouldn’t change this stance even if the United States is always talking about doing a bilateral deal,” said Takeshi Niinami, head of brewer Suntory Holdings Ltd. and an economic adviser to Abe.
Australia, Singapore and other Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries could help Japan make free trade a key topic of debate at the G20, he told Reuters.
At his previous Davos visit in 2014, Abe pledged to pull the economy out of stagnation with his “Abenomics” mix of fiscal spending, ultra-easy monetary policy and steps to boost Japan’s potential growth via labor market reform and deregulation.
Five years later, the boost to growth from Abenomics is fading, inflation remains far below the Bank of Japan’s target and critics point to a lack of progress on deregulation.
Abe sought to counter such criticism, saying that through job-creating policies he had demolished “a wall of despair and pessimism on Japan” that had existed five years ago.
He said Japan hoped to build a G20 consensus on the need to reduce plastic waste flowing into the oceans, and coordinate on global usage of digital data without infringing on personal privacy and intellectual property.
“I must say that spending money for a green earth and a blue ocean, once deemed costly, is now a growth generator,” he said.
“Decarbonization and profit making can happen in tandem. We policy makers must be held responsible to make it happen, as I will be stressing in Osaka this year.”
People close to the premier have said Abe is keen to use the G20 summit in Osaka, western Japan, in June to boost his poll ratings ahead of an upper house election looming mid-year.


Trump sets $8bn-plus in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE

Updated 26 May 2019
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Trump sets $8bn-plus in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE

  • Pompeo says US partners in Mideast need contracts to be completed to help deter Iran
  • Trump’s administration also announced that it was sending 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump, declaring a national emergency because of tensions with Iran, has swept aside objections from Congress to complete the sale of over $8 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan.

The Trump administration informed congressional committees that it will go ahead with 22 military sales to the Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan, infuriating lawmakers by circumventing a long-standing precedent for congressional review of major weapons sales.

Members of Congress had been blocking sales of offensive military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for months.

Several of Trump’s fellow Republicans, as well as Democrats, said they would object to such a plan, fearing that blowing through the “holds” process would eliminate Congress’ ability to check not just Trump but future presidents from selling weapons where they liked.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that US partners in the Middle East needed the contracts to be completed to help deter Iran, and that the decision to circumvent Congress was meant to be a “one-time event.”

In documents sent to Congress, Pompeo listed a wide range of products and services that would be provided to the countries. These include Raytheon precision-guided munitions (PGMs), support for Boeing Co. F-15 aircraft, and Javelin anti-tank missiles, which are made by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin Corp. 

Iranian malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to American security at home and abroad. Mike Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Other companies that will benefit include General Electric, now cleared to sell engines for use in F-16 fighter jets operated by the UAE, and the US unit of French firm Thales, which was cleared to sell a fuzing system for Paveway IV precision-guided bombs to Britain and the UAE.

It will also likely be welcome news for Britain’s BAE Systems Plc and Europe’s Airbus, clearing the way for installation of Paveway laser-guided bombs on European-built Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jets sold to Saudi Arabia, as well F-15 fighters built by Boeing.

In his memorandum justifying the emergency declaration, Pompeo listed years of actions by Iran. “Iranian malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to American security at home and abroad,” he wrote and cited “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Tehran.

Trump’s administration also announced that it was sending 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East, which it described as an effort to bolster defenses against Iran over what it sees as a threat of potential attack.

Members of Congress from both parties have worried that Trump is pushing toward war with Iran. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, said the administration was responding to important needs from partners.

“This is about deterrence and it’s not about war,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview.