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            [post_content] => Seoul. Eight North Korean defectors in China face involuntary repatriation after being detained by Chinese police last month, the Human Rights Watch group and a pastor who have been assisting them said on Monday (24/04).

Human Rights Watch said Chinese government authorities detained the eight North Koreans in mid-March during what appeared to be a random road check in northeastern China.

The detention of North Korean defectors in China comes as United States President Donald Trump has pressured China to do more to rein in Pyongyang amid heightened tension over its nuclear and missile programs.

"By now, there are plenty of survivor accounts that reveal [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un's administration is routinely persecuting those who are forced back to North Korea after departing illegally, and subjecting them to torture, sexual violence, forced labor – and even worse," Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on Monday.

Robertson called on China not to deport the would-be defectors.

The United Nations has said China is required under international law not to return defectors to North Korea, where they could face persecution, torture and possibly death.

China says North Korean defectors are illegal migrants who flee their country for economic reasons. North Korea calls them criminals and describes those who try to bring them to South Korea as kidnappers.

The eight North Koreans were in the city of Shenyang, where traffic police stopped their vehicle and took them to a police station because they did not have valid documentation, Human Rights Watch said.

A Christian pastor helping North Korean defectors in China and who asked to be identified by the pseudonym Stephan Kim, said they had sent him a video clip asking US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping for help.

The video shows North Korean defectors waiting inside a vehicle outside a Chinese police station.

"President Trump and Chinese President, please save us. If we go back to North Korea we will be dead, " said a female North Korean, whose face was blurred for security reasons.

Another woman sitting next to her put her hands together and pleaded for help.

Scores of North Koreans attempt to flee their country every year, often first crossing into China and then making their way to Southeast Asia. Some countries in the region have worked with South Korea to send them to South Korea.

About 30,000 have made their way to South Korea, many with the help of South Korean human rights groups, religious organizations or commercial brokers.

Reuters
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            [post_content] => Manila/Beijing. United States President Donald Trump's first shot across China's bow over its steel exports, escalating a years-long brawl over trade between the world's top two economies, may not pull up Beijing.

China exported 620,000 tons of steel direct to the United States last year, a fraction of the 800 million tons it produces each year, equal to about half of world output.

Repeated allegations that the world's top steelmaker is dumping excess output on world markets may hit harder closer to home – in Japan and South Korea where steel sectors have borne the brunt of China's rampant sales abroad.

Speaking in the US capitol at IMF and World Bank meetings after Trump launched a trade probe against China and other exporters of cheap steel, Japan's finance minister, Taro Aso, laid the blame squarely on China, saying its vast exports are hurting US, Indian and Japanese steel industries.

China's steel exports hit a record 112.4 million tons in 2015, then dropped slightly to 108.49 million tons last year, as mills have been chastened by threats of a trade dispute and better demand at home, experts said.

Exports fell to a three-year low of 5.75 million tons in February, recovering slightly to 7.56 million tons in March.

Still Trump's salvo will renew concerns that China may retaliate, with US farmers fearing they would be in the crosshairs of any dispute.

"Trump will do what's best for America, but China will do what's best for China," said Roberto Cola, vice president of the ASEAN Iron and Steel Council.

If Trump slaps new tariffs on steel exports from China and elsewhere, that will trigger anti-dumping and countervailing measures from these countries, said Cola.

"It seems we're going back to the protectionist era."

Scale and Sophistication

Two events this week illustrated the challenge and complexity in trying to force China to curb excess steel capacity and cheap exports, an issue which also plagued Trump's predecessor for years.

Customs data showed on Monday (24/04) that Chinese mills in March churned out a record 72 million tons of crude steel, mainly used in construction and infrastructure.

Then, underscoring the scale and sophistication of China's vast export machine, the government on Wednesday published a roadmap outlining its plan to triple its export from almost 80 industries, including steel.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Friday the country needed to ascertain the direction of any US investigation before it could make a judgment.

Chinese steel executives repeated their mantra that overcapacity is not just China's problem and it needs global coordination to resolve it, but also said it would be tough to rein in the sector.

"The Chinese government will not set export limits for the steel mills and could not keep track of every mill," said Li Xinchuang, vice chairman of the China Iron and Steel Association.

"It will not be a good thing for US steel industry and consumers if Trump decides to adopt protectionism."

About a third of China's steel exports flow into ASEAN, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which last year reached 34.3 million tons, based on data compiled by UK-based consultancy MEPS, which has been tracking China's steel industry since the late 1990s.

South Korea is the top market for Chinese exports where 12.3 million tons were shipped last year, followed by Vietnam.

Gaming the System

China's massive steel industry, with an army of millions and largely subsidized by the state, is unlikely to be deterred by Trump's attempt to probe into its cheap exports, as Beijing begins its global campaign to boost overall export shipments.

For years, Chinese steel exporters have been gaming the nation's tax system to pump ever greater amounts of surplus steel into world markets, crafting slightly different alloys to ensure their products sidestep Beijing's cutbacks to trade subsidies.

In China, a rebate system to reward exporters selling more value-added steel has been exploited for years, allowing even shipments that contain just tiny amounts of alloy elements to be given rebates.

The rebates which range between 9 and 13 percent are "in addition to subsidies for state-owned enterprises, which many of China's steel mills are," said Cola.

The rebates are helping many Chinese steel mills deeply undercut rivals overseas although some domestic producers say exports have dropped as demand at home strengthened.

Still, an early-year surge in Chinese steel prices has lifted prices of its export products and China has lost its competitiveness with rivals like India and Russia, said Kevin Bai from CRU consultancy.

"But domestic prices have since dropped quite significantly and close to cost and mills have started to carry out maintenance to try to control output and maintain prices," said Bai, adding that mills could boost exports if demand at home does not pick up.

"The government doesn't want to see higher exports, but I think that's debatable."

Reuters
            [post_title] => Is China Too Tough a Steel Beast for Trump to Tame?
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            [post_content] => United States Vice President Mike Pence's recent Asian tour proves the old adage that "there's no such things as a free lunch."

Taking into account previous talks between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Donand Trump on the fate of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP); the political discourses that developed out of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to the US and their effects on the future of European security — including the future of NATO; and Chinese President Xi Jinping's talks with Trump on furthering US-China partnership, it's quite clear that US foreign policy will now be negotiated on a country-to-country basis.

Pence's visit to Jakarta, apart from being carefully geared to secure US interests in Indonesia (primarily Freeport, though this was never made public), was also meant to convince the Indonesians that the Trump administration will not leave Asean on its own devices to handle regional security.

The Americans also showed they were still eager to make more trade and investment deals with Asean countries.

In response to the escalating tension in South China Sea, Pence reiterated the importance of the SCS Code of Conduct to defuse hostility between the conflicting parties.

In the end though, Pence refused to give guarantee to Asean countries, or to Japan and South Korea, that the US will intervene directly to curb North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's belligerent maneuvers.

Pence said the US will rely on China to put pressure on North Korea to put a stop to its weekly missile tests that have severely compromised regional security arrangements.

Trump is trying to persuade China to agree to a political and security deal: in return for helping the US keep the Korean Peninsula safe, the Americans promise they will do their best to wipe out trade deficit with China.

To Japan, the US is continuing to promise security guarantees, enhancing the existing US-Japan defense agreement by including a clause that says any attempt to strike Japan using nuclear weapons would be interpreted as a direct attack on the US.

In exchange, Trump wants Japan to open more opportunities for American trade and investment.

The US president is also pushing the same deal to the Europeans. Trump has clearly stated that European countries have to start paying up for defense costs that the US has been covering on its own. In other words, Europe needs to start digging deep into its pockets if it wants to keep NATO going.

During a meeting with Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, Pence put pressure on Indonesia to open up more market access for US merchandise and investment. In return, the US will help Southeast Asia's biggest economy maintain peace and security.

To sum up, US foreign policy under Trump shows a new forthrightness that disguises the same old story: a willingness to link economic ventures with security issues. The Americans are only too happy to be a world police, but only as long as its trade and investment partners are willing to pay for it.


Iskandar Hadrianto is a foreign policy analyst. He is a former senior diplomat and official at Indonesia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A graduate of the Salzburg Diplomatic Academy and an alumni of the United Nations Leadership Academy, Iskandar has also worked for the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. 
            [post_title] => US Foreign Policy in South East Asia: There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
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            [post_content] => Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has been ranked the fifth most followed global leader on Instagram, according to a research study released by global public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller earlier this month.

Over the past five years, governments and world leaders have increasingly flocked to the mobile photo and video sharing network to present more personalized images of themselves to a global audience.

In Indonesia, Jokowi uses several social media platforms – including Instagram – to share pictures and videos to engage with millennials and draw the public to participate in the country's political processes.

Burson-Marsteller presented the report, titled "Most Followed World Leaders on Instagram," which ranked 10 world leaders based on how many social media followers they have managed to accumulate and engage with.

The study showed that the number of users who follow Jokowi's Instagram account – @Jokowi – grew a stunning 673 percent over the past 12 months to a total of 3.7 million users.

The president also ranked fourth on the firm's "World's Most Interactive Leader" list, recording a total 17 million interactions with followers last year.

[caption id="attachment_655786" align="aligncenter" width="300"]President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo trails the White House, Pope Francis, Donald Trump and India's Narendra Modi on the 'Most Followed World Leaders on Instagram' list by Burson-Marsteller. (Photo courtesy of Burson-Marsteller) President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo trails the White House, Pope Francis, Donald Trump and India's Narendra Modi on the 'Most Followed World Leaders on Instagram' list by Burson-Marsteller. (Photo courtesy of Burson-Marsteller)[/caption]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi topped the list with 6.8 million followers, ahead of US President Donald Trump with 6.3 million.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis ranked third with 3.7 million Instagram followers, narrowly leading the White House's official Instagram account with a total of 3.4 million.

The firm also recorded Jokowi as having a 3.68 percent interaction rate, averaging 59 thousand likes per post. President Trump surpassed the Indonesian leader with a 3.39 percent interaction rate, averaging 111,000 likes per post and placing him fourth on the "Most Effective World Leaders on Instagram" list.

However, Modi topped that list as well, with each of his posts receiving an average 223,000 and comments or likes per social media post. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ranked sixth on the most effective list, recording a user interaction rate of 6.4 percent.

Over the past 12 months, Khamenei garnered a total 89 million interactions to his 1,423 social media posts, surpassing Pope Francis's 45 million interactions but behind Trump's total of 114 million.

Donald Baer, chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, said in a statement the study aims to show the popularity and effectiveness of how world leaders and governments communicate with their constituents on digital platforms.

"Leaders around the world are pursuing daring communication techniques that show [...] personality and creativity. Leaders in business and other sectors can learn from the way the government uses Instagram."

To expand their social media accounts, some world leaders hire official photographers to capture moments, or do it themselves by taking "selfies," or self-portrait photos typically captured through smartphones.

Through his official Instagram account, President Jokowi is among 13 world leaders who have uploaded selfies to Instagram, including Argentine President Mauricio Macri (@MauricioMacri), Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (@PenaNieto), Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (@ Damedvedev) and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg (@Erna_Solberg).
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            [post_content] => Washington. Donald Trump took power in January pledging to overhaul a global order that he said cheated middle-class Americans with a promise to tear up trade agreements and impose tariffs on China and Mexico.

Some of Trump's policy advisers named allies like Germany and Japan as possible targets for economic retaliation.

Fast-forward almost 100 days into Trump's presidency and the world's most powerful finance officials, gathered in Washington for the International Monetary Fund spring meetings, have found an administration that is far from the disruptive force Trump promised.

Although Trump did act on his campaign promise to tear up a 12-nation Pacific trade pact that had been the cornerstone of President Barack Obama's Asian pivot, he has taken a much softer stance on other issues. He has refrained from pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, did not carry out a pledge to label China a currency cheat, and his administration has signaled the United States may stay in the Paris climate accord.

Constraints being put on Trump by Congress and the courts on issues ranging from health care to immigration that would have filtered into the economy and the slow pace with which he is filling key administration jobs have played a role. And some foreign policy makers say they are still not sure who their counterparts are in the Trump administration.

But these policy makers said that important initial decisions have been far more centrist than might have been expected. The European Union's commissioner for economic and financial affairs, Pierre Moscovici, summed up a widely shared sentiment as he highlighted how two people at the top of Trump's economic team  Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council  have curbed the worst fears over the young US presidency.

"We have the feeling that Mnuchin and Cohn are sensible people with whom we can discuss things, who are conscious of what an open economy requires," Moscovici told Reuters in an interview.

The European Union's view of a more pragmatic administration was shared by Mexico, which attracted some of Trump's greatest ire. Trump's threat to impose punitive tariffs on Mexican exports sent the peso currency tumbling, but it has since recovered.

Mexico's finance undersecretary, Vanessa Rubio Marquez, said discussions with the Trump administration so far have become "anchored" around a handful of issues "that Mexico would be able to deal with."

"There is still a lot of uncertainty," she said in a seminar on Wednesday (19/04). But "dialogue has been more structured, more constant."

'Free Trade Will Continue'

What Trump might mean for the United States and world economies has preoccupied central bankers, investors and analysts since the new president took office promising a virtual revolution in the way the United States relates to the rest of the world.

Though much about Trump's policies remain unformed as the administration approaches the 100-day mark, the more extreme risks  such as a trade war or a budget-busting fiscal program that unhinges inflation  seem to have receded.

"My belief is that a multilateral framework promoting free trade will continue. There won't be huge changes to that," Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda told reporters on Thursday.

In remarks on Thursday, Mnuchin said tax reform remained a priority as are other steps to boost US growth. But he said the hope for faster growth would mean a stronger world economy, and that it was constructive to coordinate policies through international organizations like the Group of 20.

"This administration is willing to reach out and get ideas from the outside," Mnuchin told top-level bankers at a conference organized in parallel with the IMF meeting.

There are still risks. The Trump administration said on Thursday it would embark on a study of whether cheap steel imports from China and other countries were damaging national security. And there are still huge gaps in personnel at key bodies like Treasury and Commerce.

"Many of the top jobs are still vacant," one European diplomat said, who was attending the IMF meetings and spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Nobody outside the US really knows who is the most powerful or influential one at moment," the official said.

Reuters
            [post_title] => Global Finance Leaders Find a More Temperate Trump in Washington: Reuters Analysis
            [post_excerpt] => Donald Trump took power in January pledging to overhaul a global order that he said cheated middle-class Americans with a promise to tear up trade agreements and impose tariffs on China and Mexico.
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            [post_content] => Washington. United States President Donald Trump on Tuesday (18/04) will sign an executive order directing federal agencies to recommend changes to a temporary visa program used to bring foreign workers to the United States to fill high-skilled jobs.

Two senior Trump administration officials who briefed reporters at the White House said Trump will also use the "buy American and hire American" order to seek changes in government procurement practices to increase the purchase of American products in federal contracts.

Trump is to sign the order when he visits the world headquarters of Snap-On, a tool manufacturer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The order is an attempt by Trump to carry out his "America First" campaign pledges to reform US immigration policies and encourage purchases of American products. As he nears the 100-day benchmark of his presidency, Trump has no major legislative achievements to tout but has used executive orders to seek regulatory changes to help the US economy.

The order he will sign on Tuesday will call for "the strict enforcement of all laws governing entry into the United States of labor from abroad for the stated purpose of creating higher wages and higher employment rates for workers in the United States," one of the senior officials said.

It will call on the departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security and State to take action to crack down on what the official called "fraud and abuse" in the US immigration system to protect American workers.

The order will call on those four federal departments to propose reforms to ensure H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest paid applicant.

H-1B visas are intended for foreign nationals in "specialty" occupations that generally require higher education, which according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) includes, but is not limited to, scientists, engineers or computer programmers. The government uses a lottery to award 65,000 visas every year and randomly distributes another 20,000 to graduate student workers.

The number of applications for H-1B visas fell to 199,000 this year from 236,000 in 2016, according US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Companies say they use visas to recruit top talent. More than 15 percent of Facebook's US employees in 2016 used a temporary work visa, according to a Reuters analysis of US Labor Department filings.

But a majority of the visas are awarded to outsourcing firms, sparking criticism by skeptics who say those firms use the visas to fill lower-level information technology jobs. Critics also say the lottery system benefits outsourcing firms that flood the system with mass applications.

Both Democratic and Republican critics have argued that companies such as Walt Disney and Southern California Edison, a utility, have used the program to terminate in-house IT employees and replace them with cheaper contractors. Disney and Edison have said that they paid foreign contractors comparably with local staffers.

The senior official said the end result of how the system currently works is that foreign workers are often brought in at less pay to replace American workers, "violating the principle of the program."

The order also asks federal agencies to look at how to get rid of loopholes in the government procurement process.

Specifically, the review will take into account whether waivers in free-trade agreements are leading to unfair trade by allowing foreign companies to undercut American companies in the global government procurement market.

"If it turns out America is a net loser because of those free-trade agreement waivers, which apply to almost 60 countries, these waivers may be promptly renegotiated or revoked," the second official said.

Reuters
            [post_title] => Trump to Seek Changes in Visa Program to Encourage Hiring Americans
            [post_excerpt] => United States President Donald Trump on Tuesday (18/04) will sign an executive order directing federal agencies to recommend changes to a temporary visa program used to bring foreign workers to the United States to fill high-skilled jobs.
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            [post_content] => South Korea. United States Vice President Mike Pence stared across the demilitarized border between North and South Korea on Monday (17/04), a day after North Korea's failed missile launch, reiterating that the "era of strategic patience" with Pyongyang was over.

Pence is on the first stop of a four-nation Asia tour intended to show America's allies, and remind its adversaries, that the Trump administration is not turning its back on the increasingly volatile region.

The demilitarized zone is a heavily mined, four-kilometer strip of land lined with barbed wire running across the Korean peninsula, with soldiers on both sides in a continual eyeball-to-eyeball standoff.

Pence, whose father served in the 1950-53 Korean War, said the United States would stand by its "iron-clad alliance" with South Korea and was seeking peace through strength.

"All options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country," he told reporters as tinny propaganda music floated across from the North Korean side.

He said US President Donald Trump has made clear he won't talk about specific military tactics.

"There was a period of strategic patience but the era of strategic patience is over," Pence said.

The United States, its allies and China are working together on a range of responses to North Korea's latest failed ballistic missile test, Trump's national security adviser said on Sunday, citing what he called an international consensus to act.

H.R. McMaster indicated that Trump was not considering military action for now, even as a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier strike group heads for the region.

"It's time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully," he said on ABC's "This Week" program. "We are working together with our allies and partners and with the Chinese leadership to develop a range of options.

"There is an international consensus now, including the Chinese leadership, that this is a situation that just cannot continue," McMaster said.

The Trump administration is focusing its North Korea strategy on tougher economic sanctions, possibly including an oil embargo, a global ban on its airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang, Reuters reported last week, citing US officials.

While Trump has employed tough rhetoric in response to North Korea's recent missile tests, the new US president's options appear limited in dealing with a challenge that has vexed his Oval Office predecessors.

Most options fall into four categories: economic sanctions, covert action, diplomatic negotiations and military force.

Pence landed in South Korea hours after the North's failed missile launch. His visit came a day after North Korea held a military parade in its capital, Pyongyang, marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of founding father Kim Il-sung.

What appeared to be new long-range ballistic missiles were on display in the parade.

'We'll See What Happens'

Tensions have risen as Trump takes a hard rhetorical line with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who has rebuffed admonitions from China and proceeded with nuclear and missile programs seen by Washington as a direct threat.

Trump acknowledged on Sunday that the softer line he had taken on China's management of its currency was linked to Beijing's help on the North Korea issue.

"Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!" Trump said on Twitter. The US president has backed away from a campaign promise to label China in that way.

Pence said Trump was hopeful China "will take actions needed to bring about change in policy" in North Korea.

"But as the president has made very clear, either China will deal with this problem or the United States and our allies will," he said.

Trump's decision to order a cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield this month, in response to what he said was Syria's use of chemical weapons, raised questions about his plans for reclusive North Korea.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged North Korea to refrain from taking further provocative actions, comply with United Nations resolutions and abandon its nuclear missile development.

"Japan will closely cooperate with the US and South Korea over North Korea and will call for China to take a bigger role," Abe told parliament.

However, a US foreign policy adviser traveling with Pence sought to defuse some of the tension, saying Sunday's test of what was believed to be a medium-range missile had come as no surprise.

"We had good intelligence before the launch and good intelligence after the launch," the adviser told reporters on condition of anonymity.

China has spoken out against the North's weapons tests and has supported UN sanctions. It has repeatedly called for talks while appearing increasingly frustrated with the North.

Beijing banned imports of North Korean coal on Feb. 26, cutting off Pyongyang's most important export. China's customs department issued an order on April 7 telling traders to return North Korean coal cargoes, trading sources said.

Pyongyang has conducted several missile and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions, and regularly threatens to destroy South Korea and the United States. North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-1953 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty.

The North has said it has developed and would launch a missile that can strike the US mainland, but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering the necessary technology, including miniaturizing a nuclear warhead.

Sunday's missile launch was a calculated move, the China Daily newspaper said in an editorial.

"And making it without prompting a furious response from Washington surely qualifies as a win to some degree from Kim's perspective," it said, referring to Kim Jong-un.

"Trump, too, can claim a win. That the nuclear test did not happen will surely be seen as the pressure working."

Reuters
            [post_title] => Pence Stresses 'Era of Strategic Patience' Over as He Visits Korean DMZ
            [post_excerpt] => United States Vice President Mike Pence stared across the demilitarized border between North and South Korea on Monday (17/04), a day after North Korea's failed missile launch, reiterating that the "era of strategic patience" with Pyongyang was over.
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            [post_content] => Seoul. South Korea's economy would suffer modest collateral damage if the United States were to impose trade restrictions on China, a state-run think tank said in a report on Monday (17/04).

The Korea Development Institute reckoned a 10 percent fall in Chinese exports to the United States would erase 0.31 percent from South Korea's total gross domestic product. KDI said a fall of that magnitude would not represent a crisis, but it reinforced the case for South Korea to continue diversifying its export markets.

Because nearly a quarter of South Korea's exports go to China, KDI estimated that its exports to China would fall 0.44 percent annually if Washington were to impose curbs affecting 10 percent of Chinese exports to the United States.

Conversely, South Korea would suffer a 0.04 percent drop in total gross domestic product if Beijing were to impose countermeasures affecting 10 percent of US exports to China, KDI said.

Washington has pressed China to reduce its gaping trade surplus with the United States, and there have been fears that President Donald Trump would take a tougher stance with Beijing, though his administration adopted a softer tone since a US-China summit earlier this month.

Reuters
            [post_title] => South Korea Economy to Suffer if US Puts Trade Curbs on China: Think Tank
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            [post_content] => Beijing. The 100-day trade talks announced after a Sino-American presidential summit last week will aim to deal with decades of thorny trade issues, leaving some US business leaders wary that the short timeline might yield superficial results.

Business executives are also worried that President Donald Trump's focus on curtailing North Korea's nuclear and missile programs could undercut US commercial interests in China.

Days after Trump's meeting with President Xi Jinping, Trump tweeted that Beijing would get a better trade deal with Washington if it helped resolve the US problem with Pyongyang.

The U.S. business community should not be used as a "bargaining chip," said James Zimmerman, a Beijing-based lawyer and the former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

"Trump's 'far better trade deal' linkage to North Korea is amateurish, illogical horse trading, at best," Zimmerman said.

The White House has said US and Chinese officials are still at the early stages of "fleshing out" a pledge by Trump and Xi to develop the 100-day plan to reduce the US trade deficit with China, which last year reached $347 billion.

It was among the limited set of public outcomes from their first meeting in Florida.

While Trump has promised to aggressively address trade imbalances and open the Chinese market to more American goods and services, William Zarit, the Chamber's current chairman, said the talks need to address the "structural impediments" US companies face in China.

"We'd rather be talking than having a trade war. But remember we've been talking for 20 years and haven't gotten very far," Zarit said.

The White House has said that issues including opening up China's financial services sector and getting US beef exports into China were up for talks.

"We are pleased to hear the issue has been elevated to the highest levels of both governments and that there is commitment to resolve the US beef access issue in an expedited fashion," CEO of the US Meat Export Federation Philip Seng said.

Others remain skeptical.

"Beef should have been done 10 years ago. The fact that that has been going on for so long is emblematic of the imbalance in the way we negotiate and deal with each other," said James McGregor, Chairman of APCO Worldwide in Greater China.

China has purchased hardly any American beef since it conditionally lifted an import ban last year that was imposed in 2003 due to a case of mad cow disease in Washington state.

Despite initial media reports suggesting Xi may have offered access for US beef as a concession to stave off rising trade tensions, China's Premier Li Keqiang this week appeared to link progress on the issue to US restrictions on imports of some Chinese poultry products for food safety reasons.

"China is willing to import market-competitive US beef that meets quality and health standards," Li told a US Congressional delegation in Beijing on Monday, according to the state-run Beijing News.

"Chinese chicken is also very competitive in the international market. We hope the United States can quickly lift the ban on Chinese chicken imports. Only in this way can we better embody fair trade," Li said.

Politically Fraught

While individual companies are hesitant to criticize China for fear of backlash, critics from US business groups accuse Beijing of unfairly subsidizing domestic firms and restricting foreign investment into much of the world's second-biggest economy.

A 50-percent ownership cap for foreign life insurers, for example, despite China's 2001 World Trade Organization commitments to lift it, has helped limit their market share to about 6 percent.

Beijing has repeatedly promised to open up financial services more widely to foreign firms, but has given few details on implementation.

Jacob Parker, vice president of China operations at the US-China Business Council, said concerns persist that China would make commitments but not follow through or take only incremental steps.

While the government could remove some industries from a list of sectors restricted for foreign investment, businesses could still face red tape and licensing hurdles or be restricted to regional pilot zones.

"There are lots of ways China can call something an opening and it is not," Parker said.

Xi proposed further cooperation on infrastructure development in meetings with Trump, but Chinese state-owned companies working on major US public works is a politically fraught issue in the United States, where Trump campaigned on creating jobs.

High-tech industries where China hopes to funnel investment, such as semiconductors, virtual reality and autonomous vehicles, are considered sensitive. Such partnerships would likely also have to clear national security hurdles.

Skeptics also wonder if Chinese cooperation in redressing the trade imbalance will be limited to areas that serve Chinese needs, such as increasing imports of US gas, oil and coking coal.

Xi stopped in Alaska on his way home, meeting with Governor Bill Walker, who touted the state's oil, gas, and mineral resources.

On the market access side, lowering restrictions on foreign investment in Chinese banking, securities, investment management, futures, insurance, credit ratings and accounting sectors, as Beijing has already promised, would help China improve the quality financial of instruments and make their markets more stable and professional, said McGregor.

"If you look at the things that China is talking about opening, it's all areas where China needs help," McGregor said.

Reuters
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