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.


White House threatens to veto aid bill for migrant families

Updated 25 June 2019
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White House threatens to veto aid bill for migrant families

  • Hispanic and liberal Democrats press House leaders to add provisions to the legislation strengthening protections for migrant children
  • Many House Democrats say the Senate version’s provisions aimed at helping migrant children are not strong enough

WASHINGTON: The White House is threatening to veto a $4.5 billion House bill aimed at improving the treatment of migrant families detained after crossing the US southern border, saying the measure would hamstring the administration’s border security efforts and raising fresh questions about the legislation’s fate.
The warning came as Hispanic and liberal Democrats press House leaders to add provisions to the legislation strengthening protections for migrant children, changes that might make the measure even less palatable to President Donald Trump. Though revisions are possible, House leaders are still hoping for approval as early as Tuesday.
The Senate planned to vote this week on similar legislation that has bipartisan backing, but many House Democrats say the Senate version’s provisions aimed at helping migrant children are not strong enough. House Democrats seeking changes met late Monday with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“Right now, the goal is really to stop — one death is just too much,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., as he left that meeting.
Many children detained entering the US from Mexico have been held under harsh conditions, and Customs and Border Protection Chief Operating Officer John Sanders told The Associated Press last week that children have died after being in the agency’s care. He said Border Patrol stations are holding 15,000 people — more than triple their maximum capacity of 4,000.
Congress plans to leave Washington in a few days for a weeklong July 4 recess. While lawmakers don’t want to depart without acting on the legislation for fear of being accused of not responding to humanitarian problems at the border, it seems unlikely that Congress would have time to send a House-Senate compromise to Trump by week’s end.
In a letter Monday threatening the veto, White House officials told lawmakers they objected that the House package lacked money for beds the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency needs to let it detain more migrants. Officials also complained in the letter that the bill had no money to toughen border security, including funds for building Trump’s proposed border wall.
“Because this bill does not provide adequate funding to meet the current crisis, and because it contains partisan provisions designed to hamstring the Administration’s border enforcement efforts, the Administration opposes its passage,” the letter said.
Several Democrats said some language they were seeking could end up in separate legislation. Several said changes might include provisions aimed at ensuring that detained children are treated humanely.
“We’ve got lives at stake,” said Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif. He said the US has been “the gold standard” for treating refugees fleeing dangerous countries, “and I don’t think we should compromise that at all.”
The meeting may have helped ease Democratic complaints. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., told reporters before the meeting that she would oppose the bill but left the door open afterward, saying, “I oppose the situation we’re in, but my main goal is to keep kids from dying.”
Much of the legislation’s money would help care for migrants at a time when federal officials say their agencies have been overwhelmed by the influx of migrants and are running out of funds.
The back-and-forth on the spending measure came as Congress’ top Democrats criticized Trump for threatening coast-to-coast deportations of migrants.
Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that he would give Congress two weeks to solve “the Asylum and Loopholes problems” along the border with Mexico. “If not, Deportations start!” he tweeted.
The president had earlier warned that there would soon be a nationwide sweep aimed at “millions” of people living illegally in the US, including families. The sweeps were supposed to begin Sunday, but Trump said he postponed them.
Pelosi, D-Calif., said the threatened raids were “appalling” when she was asked about them at an immigration event Monday in Queens, New York.
“It is outside the circle of civilized human behavior, just kicking down doors, splitting up families and the rest of that in addition to the injustices that are happening at the border,” she said.
On the Senate floor, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., described Trump’s “chilling, nasty, obnoxious threats” and said the president “seems far more comfortable terrorizing immigrant families” than addressing immigration problems.
“I mean, my God, to threaten separating children from their parents as a bargaining chip? That’s the very definition of callousness,” Schumer said.
It is not clear exactly what Trump, who has started his 2020 re-election bid, means regarding asylum and loophole changes. He’s long been trying to restrict the numbers of people being allowed to enter the US after claiming asylum and impose other restrictions, a path he’s followed since he began his quest for president years ago. His threatened deportations came as authorities have been overwhelmed by a huge increase of migrants crossing the border into the US in recent months.
For years, Democrats and Republicans have unable to find middle ground on immigration that can pass Congress. It seems unlikely they will suddenly find a solution within two weeks.