Tag Archives: CPTPP

Global Developments and Analysis: Weekly Monitor, 13 September – 19 September 2021

Economic
U.S.-China tensions knock 96% off of bilateral tech investment

Political tensions have decimated tech-sector investment between the U.S. and China as the world’s two biggest economies attempt to decouple their supply chains, according to a recent report. Between 2016 and 2020, overall direct investment between the two countries fell 75% from $62 billion to $16 billion, with the tech sector alone plunging 96% over the period, according to Bain and Co.’s latest annual technology report released on Sept 20. Investments from China to the U.S. fell much more steeply than those in the opposite direction due to Washington’s crackdown on Chinese companies creating geopolitical uncertainties for businesses, Anne Hoecker, the partner with Bain & Co. who led the research, told Nikkei Asia. “The business environment for Chinese companies in the U.S. was probably a little bit less secure than it was before, and they [China] just turned their focus to investments in Europe and Africa,” said Hoecker, who specializes in technology and semiconductor practices.Chinese overall direct investment to the U.S. dwindled to just $7.2 billion in 2020 from $48.5 billion in 2016. U.S. investment in China dropped 35% to $8.69 billion over the same period.

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Raise debt limit or face crisis, warn US CEOs

Business Roundtable, an association of over 200 chief executive officers (CEOs) of America’s leading companies, on Sept 15 warned US congressional leaders of the prospect of an economic crisis if they fail to swiftly raise the debt limit. “Failure to lift the US federal debt limit to meet US obligations would produce an otherwise avoidable crisis and pose unacceptable risk to the nation’s economic growth, job creation and financial markets,” the letter read. Doug McMillon, chairman of Business Roundtable and president & CEO of Walmart, and Joshua Bolten, president & CEO of Business Roundtable, were among the writers of the letter to congressional leaders. “An extended period of uncertainty around the debt ceiling poses an even higher risk than usual as America continues to confront economic risk from the pandemic,” the executives wrote. Moreover, erosion of the country’s credit position would also result in “permanently higher borrowing costs” for the federal government and American companies, they warned, urging Congress to raise the debt limit “well before the mid-October deadline.”
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Beijing’s bid to join CPTPP may fail yet also succeed, experts say

Beijing’s attempt to join the 11-country Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) may be a tough sell for members with which it has strained relations, such as Australia, Japan and Canada, but experts said it signalled to the region that China was a willing strategic partner, and to the United States that it would not be pushed around. It had already floated the idea to members after President Xi Jinping said last November his country was seriously interested in joining. A Beijing-based professor, who declined to be named because of the political sensitivity, said it was very unlikely China would agree to CPTPP requirements or that members would trust China to follow those standards if it committed to. “This is very likely to be a diplomatic démarche, rather than pursued out of long-term economic calculation,” they said. “It is just like the rationale for signing the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment with the European Union. Perhaps the Chinese government feels that it needs to send this message to the US that China cannot be boycotted.
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Beijing to break up Ant’s Alipay and force creation of separate loans app

Beijing wants to break up Alipay, the 1bn-plus-user superapp owned by Jack Ma’s Ant Group and create a separate app for the company’s highly profitable loans business, in the most visible restructuring yet of the fintech giant.Chinese regulators have already ordered Ant to separate the back end of its two lending businesses, Huabei, which is similar to a traditional credit card, and Jiebei, which makes small unsecured loans, from the rest of its financial offerings and bring in outside shareholders. Now officials want the two businesses to be split into an independent app as well. The plan would also require Ant to turn over the user data that underpins its lending decisions to a new credit scoring joint venture which would be partly state-owned, according to two people familiar with the process. “The government believes big tech’s monopoly power comes from their control of data,” said one person close to financial regulators in Beijing. “It wants to end that.” The move may slow down Ant’s lending business, with the enormous growth of Huabei and Jiebei partly powering its planned IPO last year. The CreditTech unit, which includes the two units, overtook Ant’s main payment processing business for the first time in the first half of 2020, to account for 39 per cent of the group’s revenues.
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Climate change to force mass migration

Reduced agricultural production, water scarcity, rising sea levels and other effects of climate change could cause up to 216 million people to leave their homes and migrate within their own countries by 2050, the World Bank has warned. The estimate from the Washington-based development lender released Sept 13 updates a 2018 report with new figures from Eastern Europe and Central Asia, North Africa and East Asia and the Pacific to provide a more complete overview of the potential toll from rising global temperatures.”Climate change is an increasingly potent driver of migration,” the report said. Shortages of food and water along with rising seas highlight “the urgency for action as livelihoods and human well-being are placed under increasing strain.”Juergen Voegele, the World Bank’s vice president for sustainable development, said the data give a “global estimate” of the scale of potential migration.
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China seeks to lure new international corporate sustainability body to capital

China is trying to persuade a new international agency that will set corporate rules on climate change and environmental reporting to set up its headquarters in Beijing. The effort to bring the International Sustainability Standards Board to the capital is part of China’s efforts to stop its economy becoming decoupled from the rest of the world and play a leading part in international ruling bodies. It follows its application this week to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and discussions with the Group of 20 over global tax rates and e-commerce. The creation of the new body, which is being set up by the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation, was endorsed by a meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bankers in Venice in July. In his letter this week to Erkki Liikanen, chairman of IFRS Foundation Trustees and former governor of the Finnish central bank, Finance Minister Liu Kun pledged to “work together” to ensure the body could be set up early. “We warmly invite the trustees to set up the [sustainability board] headquarters in Beijing,” said the document, dated Sept 14 and published online on Sept 17.
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Taiwan investment delegation to visit Slovakia, Czech Republic, Lithuania

A Taiwan investment delegation will visit Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Lithuania Oct. 20-30 as part of government efforts to enhance business and trade ties with the EU member states, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sept. 14. Led by National Development Council Minister Kung Ming-hsin, the 65-member group comprising officials and business leaders will work with regional counterparts on building interconnected and resilient supply chains for the democratic world, the MOFA said.Taiwan, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Lithuania are like-minded partners sharing the values of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights, the MOFA said, adding that the country enjoys increasingly frequent exchanges with all three EU member states.The historic visit to Taiwan by the Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil and his delegation Aug. 30 to Sept. 4, 2020, is also a contributing factor, the ministry added.According to the MOFA, the tour is expected to expand the reach of Taiwan firms in key industrial sectors, help fast track supply chain restructuring among global democratic partners and promote peace, stability and prosperity for people.
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Taiwan calls for quick start to trade talks with EU

Taiwan’s government called on the European Union to quickly begin trade talks after the bloc pledged to seek a trade deal with the tech-heavyweight island, something Taipei has long angled for. The EU included Taiwan on its list of trade partners for a potential bilateral investment agreement in 2015, the year before President Tsai Ing-wen first became Taiwan’s president but has not held talks with Taiwan on the issue since then.Responding to the EU’s newly announced strategy to boost its presence in the Indo-Pacific, including seeking a trade deal with Taiwan, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said on Sept 17 talks should start soon. The European Parliament has already given its backing to a EU trade deal with Taiwan. “We call on the European Union to initiate the pre-negotiation work of impact assessment, public consultation and scope definition for a Bilateral Investment Agreement with Taiwan as soon as possible in accordance with the resolutions of the European Parliament,” it said.
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Airlines’ Debt Pile Hits $340 Billion as Covid Chokes Travel

Airlines are piling on more debt as surging coronavirus cases force travellers to cancel plans and stay home. The industry’s outstanding debt has jumped 23% since 2020 to $340 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. So far this year, global air carriers have sold $63 billion in bonds and loans. It’s more evidence that the industry faces a bumpy road ahead, with many border restrictions still in place and the highseason of summer vacations in the U.S. and Europe coming to an end. EasyJet Plc and Japan Airlines Co. announced new fundraising plans this month to help them weather the prolonged pandemic. “The spread of the Delta variant may lead to other countries imposing tougher quarantine rules on visitors,” said Susannah Streeter, a senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. Many carriers are returning to the bond market after last year’s dash-for-cash when the pandemic first struck. The big sales show that investors are still ready and willing to give ample funding to the industry.
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Suit claims BP trader sacked for raising Nigeria bribe concerns

BP Plc fired an ex-oil trader because he voiced concerns about bribes being paid in Nigeria to secure local contracts, according to a sprawling London employment suit that sheds light on the energy giant’s lucrative trading floor. Jonathan Zarembok, who traded on BP’s West Africa desk, said that the company paid an “abnormally large” fee to a local agent to participate in a state oil tender. He alleged that BP’s traders also sought to make payments in a deal that would have been the largest the desk had ever struck in Nigeria, before the transaction was ended, according to the lawsuit. “We were paying agents in Nigeria huge multiples of what we paid in other regions even though those agents did not perform services of any real value to BP,” Zarembok said in his witness statement. “Our proposed reasons for paying the agent these sums were a sham.”BP argued that the payments were legitimate and were fully scrutinized by its deal governance board that included the trading floor’s most senior executives. Lawyers for the firm said that the bribery allegations were investigated and couldn’t be substantiated. Zarembok didn’t raise specific concerns about corruption at the time, BP said.
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Strategic
Biden denies China’s Xi turned down meeting offer

U.S. President Joe Biden denied on Sept 14 a media report that his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, last week turned down an offer from Biden for a face-to-face meeting. The Financial Times cited multiple people briefed on a 90-minute call between the two leaders last week as saying Xi did not take Biden up on the offer and instead insisted that Washington adopt a less strident tone toward Beijing. “It’s not true,” Biden said when asked by reporters if he was disappointed that Xi did not want to meet with him.Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said in a statement earlier on Sept 14 that the report was “not an accurate portrayal of the call. Period.” A source who was among those briefed on the call confirmed the report was accurate.The G20 summit in Italy in October has been talked about as a possible venue for a face-to-face meeting, but Xi has not left China since the outbreak of the pandemic early last year.In his statement, Sullivan added: “As we’ve said, the Presidents discussed the importance of being able to have private discussions between the two leaders, and we’re going to respect that.”
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Blinken defends Afghan withdrawal at angry U.S. congressional hearing

Secretary of State Antony Blinken beat back criticism of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan on Sept 13, at a contentious congressional hearing where at least one Republican called on him to resign.In testy exchanges with lawmakers, Blinken defended President Joe Biden’s decision to pull out and pushed back on accusations that the State Department might have done more to help Americans and at-risk Afghans to be evacuated, blaming the previous administration for lacking a plan. He repeatedly noted that Republican former President Donald Trump had negotiated the withdrawal agreement with the Taliban and said President Joe Biden’s administration did not consider renegotiating because of threats from the group to resume killing Americans.”There’s no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government any more resilient or self-sustaining,” Blinken said.”We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a plan,” Blinken said, referring to the Trump administration’s agreement to remove all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by May 1.Members of Congress – Biden’s fellow Democrats as well as opposition Republicans — have planned hearings since the Taliban seized control of the country last month after a rapid advance.
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Taliban Deny Rift Within Ranks of New Afghan Leadership

Taliban leaders insisted that there is no rift within the Islamist movement over how to rule Afghanistan, with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a deputy prime minister, appearing Sept 16 on state television to squelch rumours of his death or injury. Mr. Baradar, who headed the Taliban’s political office in Doha, Qatar, and signed the February 2020 Doha agreement on the withdrawal of American troops, skipped Sept 05 meeting between the Taliban leadership and the visiting foreign minister of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani. Sheikh Mohammed’s trip was the first and so far only public ministerial-level visit to Kabul since the Taliban seized the Afghan capital on Aug. 15 and proclaimed a restoration of their Islamic Emirate, deposing the Afghan republic established following the 2001 U.S. invasion. Mr. Baradar, a relative moderate, was flown back to Afghanistan aboard a Qatari military aircraft last month, and his absence from the meeting with Sheikh Mohammed sparked a swirl of social-media speculation about conflict within the Taliban. Kabul residents relayed rumours about an alleged shootout in the presidential palace between Mr. Baradar and leaders of the Haqqani family, another power center within the Islamist movement. It didn’t help that it had taken days for Mr. Baradar to surface on video since then.
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Regional powers at summit demand U.S. fund Afghan aid

Russia, China, Pakistan and other regional states called on the United States on Sept 17 to engage with the Taliban and fund aid to Afghanistan, though they also urged the former insurgents to yield power to a more inclusive government. Leaders of the SCO group said it was the responsibility of the West in general and the United States in particular to help avert a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan, where Western aid propped up the government swept away by the Taliban last month. “The main part of the expenses related to Afghanistan’s post-conflict rebuilding should be borne by the United States and NATO countries who are directly responsible for the grave consequences of their prolonged presence in the country,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said. He called on Washington to unfreeze assets of the Afghan central bank, which have been blocked since the Taliban takeover, saying without access to the funds, Afghanistan’s new rulers would be tempted to turn to the drugs and arms trades. China’s President Xi Jinping, without mentioning the United States by name, said “certain countries” should assume their due responsibilities for Afghanistan’s future development, having been “instigators” of the situation.
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Quad leaders to call for securing chip supply chain

Leaders from the U.S., Japan, India and Australia will agree to work toward creating a safe supply chain for semiconductors when they meet for the Quad summit in Washington next week, a signal that the four-way alliance meant to counter China in the Indo-Pacific is broadening its scope. The four nations are expected to confirm that “resilient, diverse and secure technology supply chains for hardware, software, and services” are vital to their shared national interests, according to the draft of a joint statement obtained by Nikkei. The document sets common principles on technological development, holding that “the way in which technology is designed, developed, governed and used should be shaped by our shared democratic values and respect for universal human rights. “The draft of the joint statement does not specifically mention China, a nod to India’s intention to keep its nonaligned status and avoid moving forward on cooperation with specific countries. Still, in an apparent reference to China’s alleged tech misappropriation, the draft stresses that “illicit transfer or theft of technology is a common challenge that undermines the very foundation of global technological development and should be addressed.”
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Myanmar shadow government sets up office in South Korea

Myanmar’s pro-democracy camp opposing the military regime that took over the country has established a representative office in South Korea. This is the National Unity Government’s first representative office in Asia, having already set up in the U.S., the U.K., France, Czech Republic and Australia. The pro-democracy camp launched its first-ever representative office in the U.S. in February, according to NUG members. This was followed by the opening of the Czech office in May. “The representatives have been officially appointed, and their credentials have been provided to diplomatic officials in those countries,” said an NUG official. The NUG was formed in April by lawmakers of the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and others. Its activities have mostly been carried out online. The NUG has been trying to win recognition from the international community as the legitimate government of Myanmar while the military, which assumed power on Feb. 1, tightens its control of the country. Establishing a representative office alone does not mean that a host nation has officially recognized the NUG, but it could facilitate dialogue.
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Turkey’s push into Africa has China looking over its shoulder

Turkey’s inroads into Africa have seen the country expand the number of embassies in Africa to 43 from just 12 in 2002. During his time in power since 2003 — both as prime minister and president — Erdogan has visited 28 different African countries for a total of 38 times, making him the most frequent-visiting global leader to the continent. Calling Turkey “an Afro-Eurasia state,” Erdogan has used every tool in his kit to engage with African states. In Muslim African countries, Turkey has built mosques. In Northern Africa, Erdogan has used the Ottoman card, talking about the historic ties. In countries unhappy with old colonial powers exploiting oil and minerals, Erdogan uses his favourite move serving as the “voice of the oppressed people.” Turkey’s web of relations is not well understood in the West. Richard Outzen, a geopolitical consultant and former member of the U.S. State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, says that of all the misconceptions in Washington about Turkey, the notion that Ankara is diplomatically isolated is “perhaps the most distorted of all the lenses.”For Turkey, the new target is penetration into sub-Saharan Africa, utilizing the newly established embassies, commercial counsellors and direct flights.
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Hundreds of aid trucks have failed to return from Tigray, UN says

Hundreds of aid trucks have not returned from Ethiopia’s war-hit Tigray region, and their disappearance is “the primary impediment” to ramping up the humanitarian response, the United Nations has said. The disclosure on Sept 17 from the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) comes amid rising fears of starvation deaths in Tigray, where the UN has previously estimated that about 350,000 people faced famine-like conditions. Since July 12, 445 contracted non-WFP trucks have entered Tigray, but only 38 have returned, WFP spokeswoman Gemma Snowdon said in a statement. “At the moment this is the primary impediment to moving humanitarian aid into Tigray. We are unable to assemble convoys of significant size due to lack of trucks,” Snowdon said. “We are continuing to work with transporters and local authorities in Tigray for trucks to be released.” WFP has no information about where the trucks are or what they are being used for, Snowdon said. Northern Ethiopia has been racked by violence since last November when President Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, sent troops into Tigray, saying the move was in response to attacks on army camps by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
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Secret Syria talks speak to a post-US Middle East era

In early September, a delegation of leaders from Lebanon’s Druze community met with Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus, a move that surprised many regional observers.This was because the Syrian president’s status – after years of brutal and bloody civil war – has been largely that of international pariah. Yet, as the often-ostracized Al-Assad reportedly remarked to his Lebanese visitors, these days, “Many leaders of Arab and non-Arab states are communicating with us, but asking us to keep this a secret.” Those “secret” contacts have been ratcheting up in recent days against the background of renewed conflict inside Syria.Indeed, with Russian, Iranian and pro-Assad forces finally crushing a new uprising in the southern Syrian city of Dara’a earlier this month, the diplomatic players have been moving around the Middle Eastern checkerboard at an unusual rate. On August 28, leaders and foreign ministers from Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq (plus France) met in Baghdad. Joining them were foreign ministers from Iran and Saudi Arabia – long major regional rivals. Similarly, the UAE and Turkey also met at the summit, despite major disputes over issues ranging from Libya to the Middle Eastern status quo.
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What Iran’s membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation means

Iran’s bid to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was approved after almost 15 years by the bloc’s seven permanent members on Sept 17. After the technical and legal process concludes – which could take up to two years – Iran will formally join a group that accounts for about one-third of the world’s land and exports trillions of dollars annually – as it counts China, Russia and India, in addition to several Central Asian states, among its members. Following his return from a summit in Tajikistan’s Dushanbe, President Ebrahim Raisi termed the approval a “diplomatic success” that means linking Iran to the economic infrastructures of Asia and its vast resources.During a speech at the two-day summit, he had denounced “unilateralism” by the United States and called for a concerted effort to fight sanctions. President Raisi held a string of high-level bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the SCO summit. Among other things, they led to the signing of eight agreements with Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon. The two set a target of $500m for annual bilateral trade, which is close to 10 times higher than the current levels.Rather than major political or economic gains, Iran’s main takeaway from this success in the short term may be limited to a boost in prestige and diplomacy.
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US Coast Guard spots Chinese warships off Alaska

Four Chinese warships, including one of its most advanced destroyers, were spotted sailing in the waters off Alaska late last month as the Chinese navy steadily expands its range, according to photos posted on a Pentagon information service. The photos taken by the US Coast Guard showed the four Chinese naval vessels shadowed by two US Coast Guard cutters in international waters within the US’ exclusive economic zone in the Aleutian Islands on August 29 and August 30, according to the Defence Visual Information Distribution Service. According to the photo captions, the US and Chinese vessels had “safe and professional” interactions and their verbal communications were in accordance with international standards, including the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, a non-legally binding agreement to prevent clashes at sea. The Chinese vessels were a Type 055 destroyer, a Type 052D destroyer, a Type 815 spy ship and a Type 903 replenishment ship. The photos were posted online on Sept 13 and removed hours later. The Chinese defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
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Chinese military steps up night drills and brings in more advanced equipment close to Indian border

The Chinese military’s Western Theatre Command has introduced more night drills for units stationed near the Himalayan border as it seeks to familiarise its troops with new-generation weapons and equipment. Since the start of the autumn, several forces in the Xinjiang military district have been carrying out night battle drills at altitudes of around 5,000 metres (16,400 feet), according to the military newspaper PLA Daily. “We have revised our schedules and demanded soldiers meet higher standards for high-altitude training as we need to deal with a harsher battlefield environment amid increasing challenges in the peripheral areas,” Yang Yang, a company commander, told the newspaper. Yang said his mechanised force had been crossing the snowy highlands without lights and practising night-time live-fire machine gun drills. Song Zhongping, a former PLA instructor, said almost all the old generation J-7 fighter jets in the Western Military Command had been replaced by the advanced J-16 multirole strike fighter. “All advanced weapons need to be repeatedly tested through regular drills, and pilots flying at high altitudes need to cooperate with land forces, special combat troops and other units in the modern joint operation concept,” Song said.
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How a submarine deal sparked a major diplomatic crisis

Australia’s decision to cancel a multibillion-dollar order for French submarines in favour of American and British technology has sparked a diplomatic row of unprecedented proportions between long time Western allies. The French foreign ministry recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia citing “duplicity, disdain and lies”. Alongside the economic damage for tens of billions of euros, France said it resents the way Australia and its partners have handled the matter. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, said, “There has been contempt so it’s not going well between us, not at all.” President Emmanuel Macron will have a call with his US counterpart, Joe Biden, in the next few days, the French government said on Sept 19.Australia announced on Sept 15 it would ditch a contract worth more than 50 billion euros ($59bn) to acquire 12 French-made diesel-electric submarines. Instead, it will commission at least eight US nuclear-powered submarines in the framework of a new alliance – known by its acronym AUKUS. The partnership, however, cuts France out of the procurement deal it won in 2016 over offers from Germany and Japan. The US and the UK had not taken part in the bidding process.
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‘Not a defence alliance’: Australia looks to assuage Asean’s concerns over Aukus nuclear subs deal

Australia on Sept 20 sought to assuage regional anxieties over its plans to acquire nuclear-powered submarines through a joint arrangement with Britain and the United States, with Canberra’s envoy to Asean saying the agreement was “not a defence alliance or pact”. In a statement, Will Nankervis said the arrangement would not change “Australia’s commitment to Asean nor our ongoing support for the Asean-led regional infrastructure”. Canberra was committed to continuing to foster a “peaceful, secure region” with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations at its centre, Jakarta-based Nankervis said. His comments follow expressions of concern by Indonesia and Malaysia over the tripartite Aukus group’s announcement last week regarding Australia’s submarine acquisition plans. Though Canberra had made clear it had no intention for the submarines – which are to be operational in the 2040s – to be armed with nuclear weapons, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said he was concerned the development might “catalyse a nuclear arms race” in the Indo-Pacific.
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Malaysia PM to sign cooperation pandemic pact

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s coalition and the main opposition bloc is set to sign a cooperation pact on Sept 13 to ensure political stability during the COVID-19 pandemic, in a move that could also help the premier with any confidence vote. Parliament is scheduled to convene from Sept 13, but no date has been set for the confidence vote. In a joint statement published late on Sept 12, representatives from the government and the Pakatan Harapan opposition bloc – led by Anwar Ibrahim – said they have agreed to focus on “transformation initiatives and reforms.” “All parties have agreed that this MoU is aimed at returning political stability to the country in order to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and revive the economy through bi-partisan cooperation,” they said. The pact follows Ismail Sabri’s offer on Sept 10 to introduce political reforms including new laws to prevent defections and limit the term of a prime minister to 10 years, in a bid to win opposition support for his leadership. His offer also includes bipartisan agreement on every bill to be introduced in parliament, input from opposition parties on a national recovery council and immediate lowering of the minimum voting age from 21 to 18.
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TTP’s enmity toward Pakistan creates risk for Chinese projects: analysts

By claiming it has close ties with the Afghan Taliban and no hostility toward China, the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is hoping to improve its circumstances following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, analysts said. But they warned that the TTP may continue its attacks in Pakistan and cause damage to China’s projects and personnel in the country. In an exclusive interview with Japanese media outlet Mainichi Shimbun, TTP leader Mufti Wali Noor Mehsud welcomed the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan after 20 years of absence and said that “we are hopeful for a strong relationship between the two of us.” The TTP, established in 2007, is an alliance of militant groups based in northwest Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan. Encouraged by the Afghan Taliban’s victory, the TTP wants to realize Pashtuns’ rule in Pakistan. This is an issue of concern for the Pakistan government, Zhang said, noting that the resurgence of extremist groups in the region may affect the regional situation and more problems may emerge after the US withdrawal.
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Afghanistan’s Taliban Prohibit Girls From Attending Secondary School

Teenage Afghan girls weren’t allowed to return to school on Sept 18 as classrooms across the country reopened for the first time since the Taliban took power last month, raising fears that their new fundamentalist government will permanently ban secondary education for girls. The absence of teenage girls in classrooms, while their male peers returned, followed a decree issued by the Taliban on Sept 17 ordering male students and teachers to return to high schools and religious seminaries. The statement from the ministry of education didn’t mention girls, amounting to a de facto ban for now on them going to secondary school. The Taliban have allowed girls up to sixth grade to attend school, but they will be taught in separate classrooms from boys. Some private universities have also been allowed to open classrooms for girls, though most female students appear to be staying home out of fear. Afghanistan’s universities are regulated by a separate ministry from the ministry of education.The news raises fresh fears as to how the Taliban will treat Afghan women.
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Japan PM candidates deny toning down views on hot-button issues to attract votes

Two of the candidates vying to become Japan’s next prime minister denied on Sept 18 they had toned down their positions on nuclear energy and gender issues to attract conservative backing in a tight ruling party leadership election this month. The winner of the Sept. 29 contest to lead the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is almost certain to succeed Yoshihide Suga as the country’s next premier because the party has a majority in the lower house. Suga announced he would step down two weeks ago amid sinking approval ratings, triggering the leadership race between four candidates. They are vaccine minister Taro Kono, 58, former foreign minister Fumio Kishida, 64, Sanae Takaichi, 60, a former internal affairs minister from the party’s most conservative wing, and Seiko Noda, 61, a former minister for gender equality. Surveys of voters show Kono is their top choice, a key factor ahead of a general election due by November. But the social-media savvy, U.S.-educated Kono, who has also served as foreign and defence minister, is widely seen as a maverick – an image that worries many veteran party members.
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Comrades in arms? West is cheering on Russia’s Communists, but heirs of Bolsheviks even more skeptical of US, EU & NATO than Putin

According to the exit polls and those votes counted so far, the Communist Party (KPRF) is set to be the biggest winner from the drop in support for United Russia, the governing faction backed by President Vladimir Putin. The Communists are, however, the main – if not the only – nationwide opposition party that can challenge the direction of Putin and United Russia. As the largest opposition group, the KPRF was always likely to make gains after a turbulent few years of sanctions, rising prices and the socio-economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.It’s also worth asking why those in the Western media are so at ease with the prospect of the Communists doing well in Russia, three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Few seem to be asking what it really means. Amid all the furore, it is easy to forget that Putin has historically positioned himself as a political moderate and did his part to prevent the return of the communists and keep the country on a market economy track. In the 1990s, then-President Boris Yeltsin’s entire liberal and pro-Western political platform collapsed when it became evident that Russia would be excluded from the new Europe, while the country faced socio-economic and political implosion.
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Medical
China’s first giant quarantine station to be put into use

China’s first giant international health station providing quarantine and medical services to all inbound travellers is expected to be put into use in Guangzhou, South China’s Guangdong Province in late September, which could reduce the infection risk during quarantine and replace quarantine hotels, media reports said on Sept 17.Construction of the first phase of the station has been completed and the first batch of 184 medical staff started working in the station on Sept 17. The 250,000-square-meter station with 5,074 rooms is China’s first international health station to replace quarantine hotels, jiemian.com reported on Sept 17. The first batch of medical staff will work with the help of artificial intelligence equipment to reduce unnecessary contact. Smart equipment can help travellers to have a temperature check, epidemiological investigation and check in and out, while a screen in the quarantine room can automatically upload health information and conduct temperature checks, with robots providing food and other daily necessities to travellers. Guangzhou experienced China’s first outbreak with the Delta variant in May.
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India to resume COVID vaccine exports to COVAX, neighbours

The country’s monthly vaccine output has since more than doubled and is set to quadruple to more than 300 million doses next month, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said, adding that only excess supplies would be exported. “We will help other countries and also fulfil our responsibility towards COVAX,” he told reporters on Sept 20. Media reports last week said India was considering restarting exports of COVID-19 vaccines soon. It donated or sold 66 million doses to nearly 100 countries before the export halt. The announcement on resumption of exports comes before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States this week where vaccines are likely to be discussed at a summit of the leaders of the Quad countries – the US, India, Japan and Australia. India wants to vaccinate all its 944 million adults by December and has so far given at least one dose to 64 percent of them and two doses to 22 percent. India’s inoculations have jumped since last month, especially as the world’s biggest vaccine maker, the Serum Institute of India, has more than trebled its output of the AstraZeneca shot to 200 million doses a month from April levels. Indian companies have set up the capacity to produce nearly three billion COVID vaccine doses a year.
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