Trump visits Beijing amid mounting tensions over trade

Published: Tuesday, November 07, 2017 @ 8:13 PM
Updated: Tuesday, November 07, 2017 @ 8:12 PM


            Chinese soldiers and children holding U.S. and Chinese flags line up on the tarmac to greet President Donald Trump as he arrives at Beijing Airport, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, in Beijing, China. Trump is on a five country trip through Asia traveling to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Chinese soldiers and children holding U.S. and Chinese flags line up on the tarmac to greet President Donald Trump as he arrives at Beijing Airport, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, in Beijing, China. Trump is on a five country trip through Asia traveling to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

BEIJING (AP) — After a brief truce with China to cooperate on North Korea, President Donald Trump arrived in Beijing on Wednesday amid mounting U.S. trade complaints, with limited prospects for progress on market access, technology policy and other sore points.

The strains between the world's two biggest economies are fueling anxiety among global companies and advocates of free trade that they could retreat into protectionism, dragging down growth.

Washington accuses Beijing of backsliding on market-opening promises, and Trump said last week that the U.S. trade deficit with China — $347 billion last year — is "so bad that it's embarrassing."

"I don't want to embarrass anybody four days before I land in China, but it's horrible," said Trump.

His government has raised import duties on Chinese aluminum foil, stainless steel and plywood, and is investigating whether Beijing improperly pressures foreign companies to hand over technology.

If they discuss trade during the two-day visit, Chinese President Xi Jinping's government is unlikely to offer enough "to appease U.S. negotiators," said John Davies of BMI Research.

That is likely to lead to "more protectionist measures on the part of the U.S.," said Davies.

While Trump is looking to boost sagging public approval ratings, the Chinese leader enters their meeting on a political high.

The ruling Communist Party added Xi's name to its constitution at a twice-a-decade congress last month, giving him status equal to Mao Zedong, founder of the communist government, and Deng Xiaoping, who launched economic reforms in 1979.

At the congress, Xi promised to open the economy wider but affirmed plans to build up state-owned companies that dominate industries including finance, energy and telecoms. That, along with plans for government-led development of electric cars and other technology, makes foreign companies worry that Beijing is squeezing them out of promising fields.

The chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, William Zarit, expressed concern that Trump appears to have done too little to prepare and said some companies worry his focus on trade in goods will mean he does too little about such "structural issues." Zarit said those include limits on access to finance, health care and other industries.

In contrast to "advance work" for previous presidential trips to Beijing, "there really hasn't been much of that for this visit, which makes us a bit concerned that there may not be much discussion on the structural issues," said Zarit, a former American diplomat.

A senior administration official who briefed reporters in Washington denied that Trump hasn't adequately prepared.

"We've analyzed this probably more than most administrations," said the official, who spoke on condition that he not be identified further.

The official said Beijing has shifted to "moving away from market-based principles" and Washington wants movement toward a "market-oriented" system.

That echoes complaints by foreign companies that despite a 2013 pledge by the ruling party to give market forces a "decisive role," restrictions on them in some industries are increasing. That led to a 1.2 percent fall in foreign investment in China in the first seven months of this year, breaking a series of annual double-digit gains.

Business groups have warned that Beijing's efforts to shield its fledgling competitors in electric cars, clean power and other fields are fueling a backlash against globalization.

A possible U.S. response might be "closing down certain industry sectors that are now open to Chinese investment," said Zarit. "I know we do not want to see any kind of a tit-for-tat, which could end up in a trade war."

For its part, Beijing is pressing Washington and the European Union to grant "market economy" status to its state-dominated system. That would make it harder for trading partners to bring anti-dumping and other cases against China.

China says that when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, it was promised that status would take effect last December. The United States, Europe and Japan reject that and say Beijing has yet to meet market-opening goals to qualify.

Chinese economists argue their country isn't to blame for U.S. problems. They say global companies benefit from low-cost Chinese labor and a growing consumer market.

The loss of American factory jobs is due not to Chinese exports but to U.S. manufacturers moving to lower-wage countries, said Sun Lijian, an economist at Shanghai's Fudan University.

"In the end, it is U.S. companies that have gained large profits," said Sun.

Trump temporarily set aside trade complaints in April after meeting Xi for the first time in Florida and said he hoped Beijing would help discourage North Korea from pursuing nuclear weapons. They issued a "100-Day Plan" under which Beijing agreed to discuss expanding market access for electronic payments and financial services.

Despite renewed criticism on trade, "the U.S. needs continued Chinese cooperation" over North Korea, economist Rajiv Biswas of IHS Markit said in an email.

That means Trump will feel compelled to negotiate instead of using "blunt bilateral trade measures that could endanger the overall bilateral geopolitical relationship," said Biswas.

Potential options for a possible new package of immediate measures include raising Chinese ownership limits in fields including securities, in which foreign firms can own only 49 percent of a venture, said Zarit.

"If you raised it to 51 percent, I think that would be progress," he said.

China criticized Trump's order in September to investigate whether Beijing violates its free-trade commitments by pressing foreign companies to hand over technology in return for market access. They complained that Trump was jeopardizing the global system by launching the probe under U.S. law instead of the World Trade Organization.

Few American companies have provided evidence for the investigation, possibly due to fear of Chinese retaliation.

The U.S. Commerce Department also is investigating whether Chinese exports including metal tubing, industrial resin and polyester fiber benefit from improper subsidies.

Trade is a smaller share of China's economy than it was a decade ago and the U.S. market is losing importance for its exporters as sales to other developing markets grow. That blunts the potential impact of American tariffs or other sanctions, but the United States still accounts for about one-third of China's trade surplus, and export industries employ millions of workers.

"The U.S. does have leverage to realistically threaten to damage China's economic prospects," said BMI Research's Davies.

Texas officer arrested, accused of stealing $830 in groceries from Walmart

Published: Thursday, November 23, 2017 @ 2:41 PM

SECAUCUS, NJ - NOVEMBER 20:  Shoppers enter the Wal-Mart store November 20, 2007 in Secaucus, New Jersey. 
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
SECAUCUS, NJ - NOVEMBER 20: Shoppers enter the Wal-Mart store November 20, 2007 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

A police officer in Texas has been arrested, accused of stealing over $800 in groceries from a Walmart, law enforcement officials said.

Christopher Hankins, 30, is a Dallas Police Department officer, WFAA reported. He was arrested at a Denton County Walmart Wednesday, accused of leaving the store with $830 in groceries and not paying for them.

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The store's manager told police that Hankins was wearing his police department jacket, and spent almost three hours in the store, acting suspiciously. Arresting officers reported smelling alcohol on Hankins' breath.

Hankins has been with the Dallas Police Department since 2014, WFAA reported. He has been placed on administrative leave pending and investigation.

Poll: Americans wary about talking politics on Thanksgiving

Published: Thursday, November 23, 2017 @ 7:33 AM

Some Thanksgiving dinners will be held outside.
Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Some Thanksgiving dinners will be held outside.(Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

It’s OK to talk turkey during today’s Thanksgiving dinner, but a new poll reveals that more than a third of all Americans do not want to discuss politics.

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According to The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, only two out of 10 people said they were eager to talk politics. Four out of 10 do not feel strongly either way. 

Democrats are slightly more likely than Republicans to say they’re uneasy about political discussions at the table, 39 percent to 33 percent. And women are more likely than men to say they dread the thought of talking politics, 41 percent to 31 percent.

With a cascade of sexual misconduct scandals now echoing similar allegations against Trump during the campaign, tempers on the subject of Trump may not have cooled.

Those who do think there’s at least some possibility of politics coming up are somewhat more likely to feel optimistic about it than Americans as a whole. Among this group, 30 percent say they’d be eager to talk politics and 34 percent would dread it.

In the past, the Emily Post Institute Inc. received Thanksgiving etiquette questions that were typically about how to handle difficult relatives, author Daniel Post Senning said.

“Now, I am hearing questions like, ‘I don’t want to go,’ or ’I can’t imagine sitting at a table with someone who has this perspective and staying through the meal,’” he says. “My impression is that it’s still out there. ... The shock of that election is a little further in the rearview mirror, but I think people still have strong feelings about it.”

The AP-NORC poll of 1,070 adults was conducted Nov. 15-19. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods and later interviewed online or by phone.

Police: Self-professed ‘voodoo priest’ arrested in death of Ollie the pit bull

Published: Thursday, November 23, 2017 @ 1:11 PM

Brendan Evans, 31, was charged with aggravated animal cruelty.
Palm Beach Post
Brendan Evans, 31, was charged with aggravated animal cruelty.(Palm Beach Post)

A man, who Florida detectives believe fatally stabbed and left a pit bull named Ollie in a suitcase is behind bars.

Brendan Evans, 31, was charged with aggravated animal cruelty Wednesday, the Palm Beach Post reported. 

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>> Ollie the pit bull, found beaten, stuffed in suitcase, dies

Hollywood police said that DNA evidence left on the suitcase is what linked Evans to the Oct. 11 crime, where Ollie was found behind an abandoned building with 30 stab wounds and died days later. 

During the investigation, Evans allegedly told police that he was “a voodoo priest” and it was “his right to kill” animals if he wanted, according to WPLG

>> Stabbed, beaten dog found inside suitcase in Florida

Detectives reportedly found rats with their scalps removed, cat paws and blood in Evans’ refrigerator, the Palm Beach Post reported. There was also a CrimeStoppers poster of Ollie ripped in two, WPLG reported.  

“We will not tolerate any form of animal cruelty or violence in our city. Each reported case of animal cruelty, be it physical abuse or neglect, is disturbing, and this case is particularly heartbreaking,” said Acting Police Chief Chris O'Brien. “We were all pulling for Ollie to survive, but unfortunately he didn't make it. However, due to our investigation, we are now able to provide justice for Ollie.” 

>> See who was recently booked into the Palm Beach County Jail  

Pit bull pup dies after being stabbed, stuffed in suitcase

Published: Saturday, October 14, 2017 @ 4:34 AM

Pit bull.
Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Pit bull.(Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Ollie, the pit bull that stole the hearts of Floridians after being found bleeding inside a suitcase Tuesday, died Thursday night at the facility where he was receiving medical care.

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The VCA Hollywood Animal Hospital that was treating Ollie posted on Facebook Friday morning saying that Ollie died due to the trauma of his injuries. 

“Our team of specialists, emergency doctors and staff worked for over an hour to keep Ollie with us,” the VCA Hollywood Animal Hospital said on Facebook. “His body simply could not overcome the inflammation and damage to his body caused by his horrific ordeal.”

All of the staff at VCA Hollywood Animal Hospital are sad to confirm that Ollie the pit-bull, passed away last night at...

Posted by VCA Hollywood Animal Hospital on Friday, October 13, 2017

On Tuesday morning, Ollie was found injured a suitcase behind an abandoned apartment complex. His paw was sticking out of the luggage.

The next day, the dog underwent surgery to close the wounds on his head and was said to be wagging his tail. 

The Grateful Paws Dog and Cat Rescue was also looking to find Ollie a home and created a GoFundMe account to pay for his medical bills. 

Donations for Ollie's recovery can be made to Grateful Paws Pet Rescue at gratefulpaws.org or through their GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/oliver-stabbed-left-for-dead

Posted by VCA Hollywood Animal Hospital on Tuesday, October 10, 2017
“The outpouring of love we have seen over the last few days in support of Ollie is an affirmation of the true goodness in people,” the animal hospital wrote. “Detectives are still investigating the crimes committed against Ollie in the hopes that the perpetrators of this grotesque brutality will come to justice.”