Donald Trump hits out at ‘unacceptable’ India tariffs


US President Donald Trump has called new Indian tariffs on US products “unacceptable” and demanded that they be withdrawn.

India imposed retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products earlier in June, after the US announced it was withdrawing India’s preferential trade treatment.

Mr Trump’s criticism came a day after the two sides had downplayed tensions.

He is due to meet Mr Modi on the sidelines of the G20 summit, which begins on 28 June in Osaka, Japan.

Shortly before leaving for Japan, the US president told reporters on the White House lawn that he would be meeting leaders from different countries, “many of whom have been taking advantage of the United States – but not anymore”.

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Mr Trump’s tweet appeared to contradict a joint statement made by India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday.

It said that “even great friends had differences,” in what was seen as an attempt to downplay tensions.

Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House in June 2017Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMr Modi and Mr Trump, seen here in 2017, have had cordial ties but their countries are at odds over trade

US-India bilateral trade was worth $142bn (£111bn) in 2018, a sevenfold increase since 2001, according to US figures.

But $5.6bn worth of Indian exports – previously duty-free in the US – will be hit since the country lost preferential treatment under America’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) – a scheme that allows some goods to enter the US duty-free.

Trade tensions have been simmering between the two countries. Last year, India retaliated against US tariff hikes on aluminium and steel by raising its own import duties on a range of goods.

Mr Trump has also threatened to impose sanctions if India purchases oil from Iran and goes ahead with plans to buy Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles.

Source:https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48782197

US-Mexico talks: Trump hails deal on migrants to avoid tariffs


President Donald Trump has hailed a deal reached with Mexico to help stem the flow of migrants to the US after he threatened to impose trade tariffs.

Under the deal, in which Mexico agreed to take “unprecedented steps”, the duties that were due to come into effect on Monday have been suspended.

“Mexico will try very hard, and if they do that, this will be a very successful agreement,” said Mr Trump.

There were fears that the tariffs could hurt US businesses and consumers.

Under Mr Trump’s proposal, duties would have risen by 5% every month on goods including cars, beer, tequila, fruit and vegetables until they hit 25% in October.

The deal was reached at the end of three days of negotiations which saw Washington demand a crackdown on Central American migrants.

What do we know about the deal?

In a joint declaration released by the US state department, the two countries said Mexico would take “unprecedented steps” to curb irregular migration and human trafficking.

But it seems the US did not get one of its reported key demands, which would have required Mexico to take in asylum seekers heading for the US and process their claims on its own soil.

Under the deal, Mexico agreed to:

  • Deploy its National Guard throughout the country from Monday, pledging up to 6,000 additional troops along Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala
  • Take “decisive action” to tackle human smuggling networks

The US agreed to:

  • Expand its programme of sending asylum seekers back to Mexico while they await reviews of their claims. In return, the US will “work to accelerate” the adjudication process

Both countries pledged to “strengthen bilateral co-operation” over border security, including “co-ordinated actions” and information sharing.

Media captionFive numbers that explain why the current US border situation is different

The declaration added that discussions would continue, and final terms would be accepted and announced within 90 days.

Should Mexico’s actions “not have the expected results”, the agreement warned that additional measures could be taken but did not specify what these would be.

In one of a series of tweets about the deal, Mr Trump quoted National Border Patrol Council president Brandon Judd as saying: “That’s going to be a huge dealbecause Mexico will be using their strong Immigration Laws – A game changer. People no longer will be released into the U.S.”

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Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard told journalists: “I think it was a fair balance, because they have more drastic measures and proposals at the start, and we have reached some middle point.”

Speaking at a separate news conference, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said “we couldn’t be more pleased with the agreement”.

Mr Trump caught members of his own party unaware when he announced the proposed tariffs last week.

Trump tariff threat recedes – for now

By Will Grant, BBC Mexico and Central America correspondent

It’s still unclear whether it was internal pressure within his party or the measures being offered by Mexico that dissuaded Mr Trump from implementing the plan, or perhaps simply an appreciation of its potential consequences.

It became apparent during the talks just how intertwined the two neighbouring economies are, and many argued that a 5% tax on all Mexican goods would hurt US suppliers and customers too. Furthermore, damaging the already fragile Mexican economy could have pushed it into a full recession and created more migrants heading north in search of work.

Still, some considered the bilateral meetings were useful, in part to recognise that both nations are facing a steep rise in undocumented immigration.

The plan to deploy military personnel to Mexico’s southern border may well have helped bring this dispute to an end. However, President Trump has now tied immigration to bilateral trade and could easily do so again in the future should the situation fail to improve.

What is the reaction in Mexico?

Mexico is currently one of the largest trading partners of the US, just behind China and Canada – two countries also locked in trade disputes with the US.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ran for office vowing to stand up to the US and once said he would not allow Mexico to be Mr Trump’s “whipping boy”.

A pie chart showing Mexico exports to the US

But some Mexican politicians felt he had given too much, too quickly, and they demanded to see details of the deal.

Ángel Ávila Romero, a senior member of the left-wing PRD party, said the agreement was “not a negotiation, it was a surrender”.

“Mexico should not militarise its southern border. We are not the backyard of Donald Trump,” he tweeted.

Media captionWhy are Africans in Mexico heading to US?

Marko Cortés, leader of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), said the sovereignty and dignity of Mexico had been damaged, newspaper El Universal reported.

Mr López Obrador said on Twitter that a rally in the border city of Tijuana on Saturday to celebrate Mexican sovereignty would go ahead.

What’s the situation on the US-Mexico border?

On Wednesday, US Customs and Border Protection said migrant detentions had surged in May to the highest level in more than a decade – 132,887 arrests, a 33% increase from April.

The detentions were the highest monthly total since Mr Trump took office.

Chart showing apprehensions on US-Mexico border

Official figures show illegal border crossings had been in decline since 2000. In 2000, 1.6 million people were apprehended trying to cross the border illegally – that number was just under 400,000 in 2018.

In 2017, Mr Trump’s first year in office, the figures were the lowest they had been since 1971. But the number of arrests has been rising again, especially in recent months.

In February, Mr Trump declared an emergency on the US-Mexico border, saying it was necessary in order to tackle what he claimed was a crisis.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-48568389

Australia media raids: Police do not rule out prosecuting journalists


Media captionPolice officers arrived at the Sydney headquarters of Australia’s public broadcaster on Wednesday morning

Australian authorities say they have not decided whether they will prosecute journalists at the centre of controversial police raids.

Broadcasters and rights groups have condemned searches by police at the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) and a News Corp reporter’s home this week.

They have criticised the seizures of documents as attacks on press freedom.

News reports may have breached national security laws, the Australian Federal Police reiterated on Thursday.

What are the stories in question?

Police searched the ABC’s Sydney headquarters on Wednesday over a 2017 investigative series known as The Afghan Files.

According to the broadcaster, the series “revealed allegations of unlawful killings and misconduct by Australian special forces in Afghanistan”.

ABC lawyers with police officersImage copyrightABC NEWS
Image captionThe warrant allowed police to seize documents from the ABC

Tuesday’s search at the home of newspaper journalist Annika Smethurst related to her 2018 report about a government plan to spy on Australian citizens.

What did police say on Thursday?

In a press briefing, acting Commissioner Neil Gaughan defended the searches. He said they had related to stories where “top-secret and secret” government information had been published.

“No sector of the community should be immune to this type of activity or evidence collection more broadly,” he said.

Asked whether police intended to prosecute media representatives, he said: “We have not made a decision.”

However, the commissioner added that authorities would consider the “public interest” of the news reports before proceeding with any case.

What’s been the backlash?

Rights groups and other news organisations, including the BBC, have made protests over the police raids.

The leading journalists’ union in the country said the two raids represented a “disturbing pattern of assaults on Australian press freedom”. Other unions and civil liberties groups also condemned the actions.

The search of Ms Smethurst’s home provoked anger from her employer News Corp Australia. The multinational media corporation, owned by press mogul Rupert Murdoch, called the raid “outrageous and heavy-handed” and “a dangerous act of intimidation”.

Annika SmethurstImage copyrightABC
Image captionAnnika Smethurst reported top secret discussions about new surveillance powers

In a statement on Wednesday, ABC Managing Director David Anderson said the police raid “raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press”.

“The ABC stands by its journalists, will protect its sources and continue to report without fear or favour on national security and intelligence issues when there is a clear public interest.”

Were the raids conducted independently?

Both the police and Prime Minister Scott Morrison insist that they were.

Mr Morrison said the police investigation was being pursued “at complete arm’s length from the government, not in the knowledge of the government”.

Commissioner Gaughan reiterated on Thursday that police had acted independently, under laws granted to them by parliament.

“Not the government nor any minister has directed the actions of these investigations,” Mr Gaughan said.

He rejected assertions that police were intimidating journalists or “conduct[ing] a campaign against the media.”

Australia introduced new espionage offences last year that human rights advocates say could be used to target journalists and whistleblowers.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-48537377

Sudan crisis: Dozens of bodies pulled from Nile, opposition says


Sudanese security forces are deployed around Khartoum's army headquarters. Photo: 3 June 2019Image copyrightAFP
Image captionSecurity forces, seen here on Monday, moved against protesters after a long stand-off

Dozens of bodies have been recovered from the River Nile in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, following a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests, opposition activists say.

Doctors linked to the opposition say the 40 bodies are among 100 people believed killed since security forces attacked a protest camp on Monday.

Members of a feared paramilitary group are reported to be attacking civilians.

Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) has vowed to investigate.

Residents in Khartoum have told the BBC they are living in fear as members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) roam the streets. The paramilitary unit – formerly known as the Janjaweed militia – gained notoriety in the Darfur conflict in western Sudan in 2003.

“Forty bodies of our noble martyrs were recovered from the river Nile yesterday,” the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

An official from the group told the BBC that they had witnessed and verified the bodies in hospitals and that the death toll now stood at 100.

What is happening in Sudan?

Demonstrators had been occupying the square in front of the military headquarters since 6 April, days before President Omar al-Bashir was overthrown after 30 years in power.

Their representatives had been negotiating with the TMC and agreed a three-year transition that would culminate in elections.

But on Monday, forces swept in and opened fire on unarmed protesters in the square.

Media captionSudan military attacks protesters

On Tuesday TMC leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan announced that negotiations with protesters were over, all previous agreements were cancelled, and elections would be held within nine months. Demonstrators had demanded a longer period to guarantee fair elections and to dismantle the political network associated with the former government.

International condemnation of the crackdown was swift and on Wednesday Gen Burhan made another televised speech in which he said the TMC was willing to resume negotiations.

“We regret the events,” he said, without elaborating.

A TMC spokesman later said an investigation into the deaths of protesters had been launched.

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Sudan’s old politics re-emerge

Analysis box by Fergal Keane

Sudan’s military has faced international condemnation for its attack, but there were clear signs this was likely to happen. The country has been driven backwards by a military elite intent on holding on to power.

The TMC has scrapped agreements reached with the opposition Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), saying this will speed up the transition to democratic elections. That plan is likely a fiction.

The military also enjoys another advantage. In an age of international division, the notion of an “international community” pressuring the regime is fantasy. Sudan’s crisis has exposed the reality of international politics – that force can have its way, without consequence, if the killers and torturers represent a valuable asset to other powers.

It is impossible to say whether the FFC can come back as a street-driven force. What will not change – in fact what has been deepened – is the alienation of people from their rulers.

Protesters had called for the Islamic festival of Eid al-Fitr, marked on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, to be celebrated in the streets, as a gesture of defiance against the military.

However, much of Khartoum is under lockdown. Witnesses said protesters had retreated to residential areas where they were building barricades and burning tyres.

Video shot on mobile phones showed columns of troops advancing through the streets.

What do residents say?

Protest organisers, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), accused the TMC of carrying out “a massacre” and urged its pro-democracy supporters to continue protesting peacefully.

“We have reached the point where we can’t even step out of our homes because we are scared to be beaten or to be shot by the security forces,” one Khartoum resident told the BBC.

Her uncle had witnessed three young men being executed in the city, she said.

Another resident, who also asked not to be named, said he was pulled from his car by members of the Janjaweed and beaten on his head and back.

Deserted street in Khartoum, 4 JuneImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMuch of Khartoum is deserted as security forces spread across the city

Large numbers of heavily armed troops were also reported on the streets of Omdurman, Sudan’s second-largest city, just across the River Nile from Khartoum.

A woman, identified only as Sulaima, told the BBC that troops from the Rapid Support Forces were “all over Khartoum”.

“They’re surrounding neighbourhoods, they’re threatening people. They’re also using live ammunition. They’re everywhere. We’re not feeling safe and we don’t have trust in the security forces. It’s complete chaos.”

The RSF commander, Mohammed “Hemedti” Hamadan, is a close ally of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Reuters reports, and has sent troops to join the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen’s civil war.

What is the international reaction?

An attempt at the UN Security Council to condemn the violence was blocked on Tuesday by China, backed by Russia.

The UK and Germany had circulated a draft statement at the UN Security Council condemning the deaths of civilians and urging Sudan’s military and protesters to “continue working together” towards a solution.

China rejected the text and Russia said the council should first wait for a response from the African Union.

After the move was blocked, eight European countries issued their own joint statement condemning the attacks “by Sudanese security services against civilians” and calling for a transfer of power to a civilian-led government.

Speaking on BBC’s Newsday, former British ambassador to Sudan Rosalind Marsden said a snap election would “simply pave the way for much of the old regime to come back into power”.

“There’s a real risk of violence continuing,” she said.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-48512413

Queensland snowfall: Icy weather brings warnings in Australia


Snow blanketed the Blue Mountains in New South WalesImage copyrightSYDNEY TRAINS
Image captionSnow blankets the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney

Icy conditions have swept across eastern Australia, bringing snow to areas as far north as subtropical Queensland.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology described it as a “rare” sight, noting the state had not experienced significant snowfall since 2015.

Severe weather warnings have also been issued for a 1,000km (620 miles) stretch of coast which includes Sydney.

People have been urged to stay indoors amid heavy rain and gale-force winds.

Meteorologist Lachlan Stone said the snowfall in Queensland, driven by colder air from the south, was an unusual occurrence in a state with a sub-tropical to tropical climate.

“But in the south of the state, particularly near the New South Wales border, it’s quite mountainous and in the elevated areas it can get quite cold,” he told the BBC.

Online, many were quick to comment on the scenes in Australia’s “sunshine state” – as it is more typically known.

Authorities said that snow had fallen near the town of Stanthorpe, 220km south-west of Brisbane.

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The town recorded near-freezing temperatures on Tuesday, said Mr Stone.

Up to 5cm of snow also blanketed the Blue Mountains region, west of Sydney, prompting road closures and travel warnings.

The weather bureau said strong winds along the New South Wales coastline had been blowing in excess of 90km/h (55mph).

A train station platform in the Blue Mountains covered in snowImage copyrightNSW TRAINLINK WEST
Image captionAuthorities warned that the severe weather would cause travel delays

“These winds will whip up heavy surf conditions, making coastal activities dangerous,” it said in a statement.

Ferry services in Sydney Harbour were also suspended due to the rough conditions.

June marks the beginning of winter in Australia.

The nation has just experienced its hottest summer on record and recent extreme weather events including drought, floods and bushfires.

Australians are more concerned about climate change than at any point in the past decade, a recent poll by the Lowy Institute found.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-48507582

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