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Monday, June 18, 2018

US trade war & tariff list aims to hinder China’s high-tech development: expert

https://youtu.be/vK4ADxuvIgk https://youtu.be/HdADW3ZpFNs


China will impose 25 percent in tariffs on 659 US goods worth $50 billion, including soybeans, cars and seafood.

The move came as a tit-for-tat response to the tariffs announced by the Trump administration Friday morning. An expert said the US decision does not aim to tackle the trade deficit with China but to block the Chinese government's efforts in high-tech development.

Tariffs on 545 US goods worth $34 billion will take effect on July 6, involving agricultural products, car parts and seafood, according to a statement released by China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) on Saturday morning. Soybeans, which are China's biggest import from the US in value, are on the list.

Chemicals, medical equipment and energy products from the US will also be subject to 25 percent tariffs, which will be announced at a later date.

The revised list is longer and involves more categories of products than a preliminary list of 106 US goods published by the ministry in April, but the total value of the products remains at $50 billion.

A Chinese commerce expert found that aircraft were removed from China's new list, which is noteworthy.

"We need aircraft [from the US]. We have to consider the costs of the countermeasures we plan to take," Bai Ming, deputy director of the Ministry of Commerce's International Market Research Institute, said on Saturday soon after the Chinese tariffs were announced.

It's like acting as a soccer referee who will not call out the offenses and let the play continue when the game still benefits the attacking team even though an attacking player is fouled, Bai further explained.

China is one of the fastest-growing civil aviation markets in the world, and 15 to 20 percent of Boeing's aircraft deliveries are projected to end in the Chinese market over the next two decades, according to Morgan Stanley.

The US has kept changing their mind and ignited a trade war, which China does not want and will firmly oppose, a spokesperson of the MOFCOM said immediately after US took trade measures on China. "This move not only hurts bilateral interests, but also undermines the world trade order."

"China and the US still have hopes of negotiating and reaching an agreement, as both the tariffs announced by the two countries will not take into effect until next month," said Wang Jun, deputy director of the Department of Information at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.

Wang told the Global Times that the removal of aircraft from the new list can be a signal that China still wants to talk, and also aircraft can be a valuable chip in the next round of trade negotiations.

Meanwhile, Wang said the Trump administration's newly published list is not so much a solution for the trade deficit problem with China as efforts to hinder China's technology development.

US President Donald Trump on Friday announced 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods, containing industrially significant technologies related to China's "Made In China 2025" strategy.

According to a list published by the office of the US Trade Representative, the tariffs will be applied on more than 1,000 types of Chinese goods, including aircraft engine parts, bulldozers, nuclear reactors and industrial and agricultural machinery.

American industry also opposed Trump's decision.

"Imposing tariffs places the cost of China's unfair trade practices squarely on the shoulders of American consumers, manufacturers, farmers, and ranchers. This is not the right approach," US Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a statement posted on the chamber's website on Friday.

By Zhang Ye Source:Global Times

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Looking East policy with a twist to China ?


Japan may have led Malaysia's Look East policy of yore, but the stakes are heavily tipped in China's favour now as the leader of the new world order.


PRIME Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pic) has announced that Malaysia is renewing, or to be more precise, upgrading the Look East policy he adopted as a foreign policy 30 years ago.

It was unveiled after he came to power in 1981 and now, as the premier for the second time, he has picked up the pieces of his past and repackaged it.

His inclination to Japan then was understandable since the country was the rising star of Asia.

Although Look East included South Korea and Taiwan, it basically meant Japan.

There were sound reasons to why Dr Mahathir wanted Malaysia to emulate some of the East Asian characteristics, both economically and ethically.

I think any Malaysian who has visited Japan can vouch for the people’s work ethic, honesty, orderliness, politeness, punctuality, cleanliness, precision, dedication to excellence, innovation and good manners.

Malaysians in Japan feel safe – they rarely get cheated despite being tourists, which is more than can be said for many countries.

Personally, Japan remains my No. 1 holiday destination. Like Dr Mahathir, I have the highest admiration for the Japanese. They are certainly exemplary, and that is indisputable.

Dr Mahathir has continued to have high regard for the Japanese and history seems to be repeating itself.

His Look East Policy shocked and confused the Malaysian foreign ministry, with many officials viewing it as undefined and vague.

The Ministry being left in the dark about the Prime Minister’s move led to it being unaware of how to implement the policy.

Fast forward to 2018. It’s likely that his new batch of ministers were also caught off guard with the revival of the Look East policy, more so when the Foreign Minister has yet to be installed.

Without doubt, Japan is an important partner to Malaysia because we have more than six decades’ ties with the country.

In 2016, Japan ranked Malaysia as its fourth-largest trading partner with bilateral trade standing at RM120bil.The strong trade and investment relations between the nations are also underpinned by the Malaysia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.

The latest Malaysia-Japan collaboration includes the Bukit Bintang City Centre project, which has managed to attract the leading real estate group in the Land of the Rising Sun, Mitsui Fudisan Co Ltd, to invest in what will be the mega project’s RM1.6bil retail mall.

But Dr Mahathir’s choice of his first foreign visit to Japan as PM has raised many eyebrows. Perhaps it was just the coincidental timing of the annual Nikkei Conference, which he attends without fail.

I was told that his office had informed the Chinese Embassy here, as a matter of courtesy, to avoid reading into the matter, given the long, bitter rivalry between the two nations.

Dr Mahathir was also visiting Japan after a series of announcements, calling for the review, if not cancellation or postponement, of several mega Chinese-driven projects in Malaysia.

The method of repayments with China, involving huge amounts of money, has, of course, been called into question and condemned. One critic even described the terms as “strange.”

It’s apparent the situation is delicate now, and we need to tread carefully because we are dealing with a global leader.

Powerful alliance

The PM admitted that his government was “dealing with a very powerful country. As such, matters affecting both parties will require friendly discussions”.

Former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin also said that Malaysia will carefully handle business contracts with China made by the previous administration.

In an interview with The Star, Daim admitted that the economic superpower is a friend to Malaysia.

“China is very important to us,” the Council of Eminent Persons spokesman said.

“We enjoy very close relations, but unfortunately, under the previous administration, a lot of China contracts are tainted, difficult to understand and the terms are one-sided,” said Daim.

There is plenty at stake here. The world has also changed, and Malaysia needs to be mindful of its diplomatic move. These are sensitive times, and to the Chinese, the issue of “face” is an important one.

Whether we like it or not, the whole world is looking towards China because this is where the fundamental building blocks of a future global digital economic model is being curated and built.

Japan’s economy, on the other hand, has been in regression over the last two decades, and open data is easily available to prove this point. Just google it.

That aside, China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner in Asean, especially after Malaysia-China bilateral transactions rose as much as 28% to RM139.2bil in 2017’s first half.

The Chinese government has been very positive with bilateral relations with Malaysia over the years, and this great foundation is what we must build on. It doesn’t matter who the Malaysian Prime Minister is now.

With Ali Baba and Tencent coming to Malaysia, SMEs – which comprise more than 95% of Malaysian business entities – exporting to China will be a huge foreign trade opportunity.

Of all the Asean nations, Malaysia has the largest pool of businessmen who speak the relevant Chinese dialects and understand the culture. But it’s not just the Malaysian Chinese businessmen who stand to benefit, but other races too.

Let’s not forget that China will be under steady stewardship for the coming decade since Xi Jinping has strengthened his position as the premier. And with Dr Mahathir rightfully announcing that Malaysia will be a neutral country, this will mean a stable foreign policy which is crucial for the rules of engagement.

The same can’t be said of Japan, though, as it has a history of turbulent domestic politics, with frequent changes in leadership.

Truth be told, China has outperformed Japan. The republic has become a model of socio-economic reform that connects, not only the past with the present, but more importantly, can rewrite the history of human development into our common future.

The One Belt, One Road initiative is the future. It was also reported that China has overtaken Japan in global patent applications filed in 2017 and is closing in on the United States, the long-standing leader, the World Intellectual Property Organization said in a report.

With 48,882 filings, up 13.4% from a year earlier, Chinese entities came closer to their American counterparts, which filed 56,624 applications. Japanese applicants ranked third with 48,208 demands for patents, up 6.6% from a year ago, the report, released Wednesday, revealed. According to the Geneva-based institution, China will likely overtake the US as the world’s largest patent applicant within three years.

“This rapid rise in Chinese use of the international patent system shows that innovators there are increasingly looking outward, seeking to spread their original ideas into new markets as the Chinese economy continues its rapid transformation,” WIPO director-general Francis Gurry said.

The overall filings in 2017 were 243,500, up 4.5% from a year earlier.

Data indicates that China and Japan were key drivers of the surge in applications.

“This is part of a larger shift in the geography of innovation, with half of all international patent applications now originating in East Asia,” Gurry reportedly said.

Two Chinese firms topped the list, led by Huawei Technologies Co with 4,024 patent applications and ZTE Corp with 2,965 submissions. Intel Corp of the United States is placed third with 2,637 filings, followed by Mitsubishi Electric Corp with 2,521.

China has also declared its ambition to equal the US in its AI capability by 2020 and to be number one in the world by 2030.

If there is a single country to take a cue from, then it can only be China. Look at its growth since 1957, 1967, 1987, 1997 and 2017, and see the strides it has made in the shortest time. Remember, China was once poor and backwards. Many Malaysian Chinese used to send money back to their families in China, especially in 1950s and 1960s, and even 1970s. But look where the country is now.

Malaysia is in pole position to take advantage since our neighbour Singapore has always been perceived to be too US-centric. It will be a waste if we let politics get in the way, as no one can dispute that China now plays a respected and vital role.

Anyone can tell that China will reshape the new world order. It is the new Middle Kingdom and is the country to look to.

And Dr Mahathir should pick up on this because at the end of his trip to Japan, the press bombarded him with the predictable and nagging question – when will he be visiting China?

By Wong Chun Wai On The Beat

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group's managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.


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    Friday, June 15, 2018

    US Federal Reserve rate rise, Malaysia and regional equity markets in the red


    Fed’s big balance-sheet unwind could be coming to an early end


    NEW YORK: The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet may not have that much further to shrink.

    An unexpected rise in overnight interest rates is pulling forward a key debate among US central bankers over how much liquidity they should keep in the financial system. The outcome will determine the ultimate size of the balance sheet, which they are slowly winding down, with key implications for US monetary policy.

    One consequence was visible on Wednesday. The Fed raised the target range for its benchmark rate by a quarter point to 1.75% to 2%, but only increased the rate it pays banks on cash held with it overnight to 1.95%. The step was designed to keep the federal funds rate from rising above the target range. Previously, the Fed set the rate of interest on reserves at the top of the target range.

    Shrinking the balance sheet effectively constitutes a form of policy tightening by putting upward pressure on long-term borrowing costs, just as expanding it via bond purchases during the financial crisis made financial conditions easier. Since beginning the shrinking process in October, the Fed has trimmed its bond portfolio by around US$150bil to US$4.3 trillion, while remaining vague on how small it could become.

    This reticence is partly because the Fed doesn’t know how much cash banks will want to hold at the central bank, which they need to do in order to satisfy post-crisis regulatory requirements.

    Officials have said that, as they drain cash from the system by shrinking the balance sheet, a rise in the federal funds rate within their target range would be an important sign that liquidity is becoming scarce.

    Now that the benchmark rate is rising, there is some skepticism. The increase appears to be mainly driven by another factor: the US Treasury ramped up issuance of short-term US government bills, which drove up yields on those and other competing assets, including in the overnight market.

    “We are looking carefully at that, and the truth is, we don’t know with any precision,” Fed chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday when asked about the increase. “Really, no one does. You can’t run experiments with one effect and not the other.”

    “We’re just going to have to be watching and learning. And, frankly, we don’t have to know today,” he added.

    But many also see increasingly scarce cash balances as at least a partial explanation for the upward drift of the funds rate, and as a result, several analysts are pulling forward their estimates of when the balance sheet shrinkage will end.

    Mark Cabana, a Bank of America rates strategist, said in a report published June 5 that Fed officials may stop draining liquidity from the system in late 2019 or early 2020, leaving US$1 trillion of cash on bank balance sheets. That compares with an average of around US$2.1 trillion held in reserves at the Fed so far this year.

    Cabana, who from 2007 to 2015 worked in the New York Fed’s markets group responsible for managing the balance sheet, even sees a risk that the unwind ends this year.

    One reason why people may have underestimated bank demand for cash to meet the new rules is that Fed supervisors have been quietly telling banks they need more of it, according to William Nelson, chief economist at The Clearing House Association, a banking industry group.

    The requirement, known as the Liquidity Coverage Ratio, says banks must hold a certain percentage of their assets either in the form of cash deposited at the Fed or in US Treasury securities, to ensure they have enough liquidity to deal with deposit outflows.

    The Fed flooded the banking system with reserves as a byproduct of its crisis-era bond-buying programs, known as quantitative easing, to stimulate the economy. The money it paid investors to buy their bonds was deposited in banks, which the banks in turn hold as cash in reserve accounts at the Fed.

    In theory, the unwind of the bond portfolio, which involves the reverse swap of assets between the Fed and investors, shouldn’t affect the total amount of Treasuries and reserves available to meet the requirement. The Fed destroys reserves by unwinding the portfolio, but releases an equivalent amount of Treasuries to the market in the process.

    But if Fed supervisors are telling banks to prioritise reserves, that logic no longer applies. Nelson asked Randal Quarles, the Fed’s vice-chairman for supervision, if this was the Fed’s new policy. Quarles, who was taking part in a May 4 conference at Stanford University, said he knew that message had been communicated and is “being rethought”.

    If Fed officials do opt for a bigger balance sheet and decide to continue telling banks to prioritise cash over Treasuries, it may mean lower long-term interest rates, according to Seth Carpenter, the New York-based chief US economist at UBS Securities.

    “If reserves are scarce right now, and if the Fed does stop unwinding its balance sheet, the market is going to react to that, a lot,” said Carpenter, a former Fed economist. “Everyone anticipates a certain amount of extra Treasury supply coming to the market, and this would tell people, ‘Nope, it’s going to be less than you thought’.” — Bloomberg

    Malaysia and regional equity markets in the red


    In Malaysia, the selling streak has been ongoing for almost a month. As of June 8, the year to date outflow stands at RM3.02bil, which is still one of the lowest among its Asean peers. The FBM KLCI was down 1.79 points yesterday to 1,761.

    PETALING JAYA: It was a sea of red for equity markets across the region after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter percentage point to a range of 1.75% to 2% on Wednesday, and funds continued to move their money back to the US. This is the second time the Fed has raised interest rates this year.

    In general, markets weren’t down by much, probably because the rate hike had mostly been anticipated. Furthermore for Asia, the withdrawal of funds has been taking place over the last 11 weeks, hence, the pace of selling was slowing.

    The Nikkei 225 was down 0.99% to 22,738, the Hang Seng Index was down 0.93% to 30,440, the Shanghai Composite Index was down 0.08% to 3,047.34 while the Singapore Straits Times Index was down 1.05% to 3,356.73.

    In Malaysia, the selling streak has been ongoing for almost a month. As of June 8, the year to date outflow stands at RM3.02bil, which is still one of the lowest among its Asean peers. The FBM KLCI was down 1.79 points yesterday to 1,761.

    Meanwhile, the Fed is nine months into its plan to shrink its balance sheet which consists some US$4.5 trillion of bonds. The Fed has begun unwinding its balance sheet slowly by selling off US$10bil in assets a month. Eventually, it plans to increase sales to US$50bil per month.

    With the economy of the United States showing it was strong enough to grow with higher borrowing costs, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates on Wednesday and signalled that two additional increases would be made this year.

    Fed chairman Jerome H. Powell in a news conference on Wednesday said the economy had strengthened significantly since the 2008 financial crisis and was approaching a “normal” level that could allow the Fed to soon step back and play less of a hands-on role in encouraging economic activity.

    Rate hikes basically mean higher borrowing costs for cars, home mortgages and credit cards over the years to come.

    Wednesday’s rate increase was the second this year and the seventh since the end of the Great Recession and brings the Fed’s benchmark rate to a range of 1.75% to 2%. The last time the rate reached 2% was in late 2008, when the economy was contracting.

    “With a slightly more aggressive plan to tighten monetary policy this year than had previously been projected by the Fed, it will narrow our closely watched gap between the yield rates of two-year and 10-year Treasury notes, which has recently been one of a strong predictor of recessions,” said Anthony Dass, chief economist in AmBank.

    Dass expects the policy rate to normalise at 2.75% to 3%.

    “Thus, we should potentially see the yield curve invert in the first half of 2019,” he said.

    So what does higher interest rates mean for emerging markets?

    It means a flight of capital back to the US, and many Asian countries will be forced to increase interest rates to defend their respective currencies.

    Certainly, capital has been exiting emerging market economies. Data from the Institute of International Finance for May showed that emerging markets experienced a combined US$12.3bil of outflows from bonds and stocks last month.

    With that sort of global capital outflow, countries such as India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Turkey, have hiked their domestic rates recently.

    Data from Lipper, a unit of Thomson Reuters, shows that for the week ending June 6, US-based money market funds saw inflows of nearly US$34.9bil.

    It makes sense for investors to be drawn to the US, where the economy is increasingly solid, coupled with higher yields and lower perceived risks.

    Hong Kong for example is fighting an intense battle to fend off currency traders. Since April, Hong Kong has spent at least US$9bil defending its peg to the US dollar. Judging by the fact that two more rate hikes are on the way this year, more ammunition is going to be needed.

    Hong Kong has the world’s largest per capita foreign exchange reserves – US$434bil more in firepower.

    By right, the Hong Kong dollar should be surging. Nonetheless, the currency is sliding because of a massive “carry trade.”

    Investors are borrowing cheaply in Hong Kong to buy higher-yielding assets in the US, where 10-year Treasury yields are near 3%.

    From a contrarian’s perspective, global funds are now massively under-weighted Asia.

    With Asian markets currently trading at 12.3 times forward price earnings ratio, this is a reasonable valuation at this matured stage of the market.

    By Tee Lin Say StarBiz

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    Tuesday, June 12, 2018

    Korean historic Kim-Trump summit begins with handshake in Sinapore, is 'very, very good'

    https://youtu.be/spyX1T8sG1o
    https://youtu.be/acSMJJfF_ag
    China Air carried Kim to Singapore talks with Trump
    https://youtu.be/V3PbgGb8zIE

    The historic meeting on Tuesday between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump began with a handshake at the Capella hotel, Singapore.

    The handshake lasted about 20 seconds before the two leaders walked to the meeting room accompanied by their interpreters.

    Trump and Kim sat next to each other and answered a few questions from the media. Trump said he hopes the historic summit would be "tremendously successful,” adding, "We will have a terrific relationship ahead" as he faced Kim.

    Kim said there were a number of “obstacles” and “prejudices” which made today’s meeting more difficult. “We overcame all of them and we are here today,” he told reporters through a translator.

    Of particular note is the display of the two countries’ flags at the hotel, which is unusual between two countries with no formal diplomatic ties. Observers believe that this is a positive sign.

    Trump arrived at the hotel about 8:30am, with Kim arriving five minutes after.

    Displaying the national flag of North Korea shows that the US wants to express its sincerity and kindness to North Korea, Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor at the Renmin University of China's School of International Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

    “The move toward establishing formal diplomatic ties could be an achievement of the summit,” Cheng said.

    Hundreds of journalists are gathered at the Press Filing Center of the JW Marriott Hotel Singapore, where they can watch the livestream of the historic moment. Dozens of photographers attempted to get closer to Sentosa Island in the morning to film and take photos for the two leaders’ motorcades.

    Trump and Kim met alone at 9:15 am and held an expanded bilateral meeting 45 minutes after. At 11:00, the two leaders are scheduled to have a working luncheon. Trump will leave Singapore at 7pm on Tuesday, the White House said.

    Trump says summit with North Korea's Kim is 'very, very good'


    SINGAPORE: U.S. President Donald Trump said he had forged a "good relationship" with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the start of a historic summit in Singapore on Tuesday, as the two men sought ways to end a nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula.

    Should they succeed in making a diplomatic breakthrough, it could bring lasting change to the security landscape of Northeast Asia, like the visit of former U.S. President Richard Nixon to China in 1972 led to the transformation of China.

    "There will be challenges ahead," Kim said, but he vowed to work with Trump. Both men sat against in the hotel's library against a backdrop of North Korean and U.S. flags, with Kim beaming broadly as the U.S. president gave him a thumbs up.

    With cameras of the world's press trained on them, Trump and Kim displayed an initial atmosphere of bonhomie.

    Both men had looked serious as they got out of their limousines for the summit at the Capella hotel on Singapore's Sentosa, a resort island with luxury hotels, a casino, manmade beaches and a Universal Studios theme park.

    But they were soon smiling and holding each other by the arm, before Trump guided Kim to the library where they held a meeting with only their interpreters. Trump had said on Saturday he would know within a minute of meeting Kim whether he would reach a deal.

    After some initial exchanges lasting around 40 minutes, Trump and Kim emerged, walking side-by-side through the colonnaded hotel before re-entering the meeting room, where they were joined by their most senior officials.

    Kim was heard telling Trump through a translator: "I think the entire world is watching this moment. Many people in the world will think of this as a scene from a fantasy...science fiction movie."

    Asked by a reporter how the meeting was going, Trump said: "Very good. Very, very good. Good relationship."

    Kim also sounded positive about the prospects.

    "We overcame all kinds of scepticism and speculations about this summit and I believe that this is good for the peace," he said.

    Trump was joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff, for the expanded talks, while Kim's team included former military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol, foreign minister Ri Yong Ho and Ri Su Yong, vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party.

    MARKETS CALM

    As the two leaders met, Singapore navy vessels, and air force Apache helicopters patrolled, while fighter jets and an Gulfstream 550 early warning aircraft circled.

    Financial markets were largely steady in Asia and did not show any noticeable reaction to the start of the summit. The dollar was at a three-week high and the MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares was largely unchanged from Monday.

    While Trump and Kim search each other’s eyes and words for signs of trust or deceit, the rest of the world will be watching, hoping that somehow these two unpredictable leaders can find a way to defuse one of the planet's most dangerous flashpoints.

    A body language expert said both men tried to project command as they met, but also displayed signs of nerves.

    In the hours before the summit began, Trump expressed optimism about prospects for the first-ever meeting of sitting U.S. and North Korean leaders, while Pompeo injected a note of caution whether Kim would prove to be sincere about his willingness to denuclearise.

    Officials of the two sides held last-minute talks to lay the groundwork for the summit of the old foes, an event almost unthinkable just months ago, when they were exchanging insults and threats that raised fears of war.

    Staff-level meetings between the United States and North Korea were going "well and quickly," Trump said in a message on Twitter on Tuesday. But he added: "In the end, that doesn't matter. We will all know soon whether or not a real deal, unlike those of the past, can happen!"

    The combatants of the 1950-53 Korean War are technically still at war, as the conflict, in which millions of people died, was concluded only with a truce.

    On Tuesday morning, Pompeo fed the mounting anticipation of diplomatic breakthrough, saying: "We're ready for today."

    He earlier said the event should set the framework for "the hard work that will follow", insisting that North Korea had to move toward complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation.

    North Korea, however, has shown little appetite for surrendering nuclear weapons it considers vital to the survival of Kim's dynastic rule.

    Sanctions on North Korea would remain in place until that happened, Pompeo said on Monday. "If diplomacy does not move in the right direction ... those measures will increase."

    He added: "North Korea has previously confirmed to us its willingness to denuclearise and we are eager to see if those words prove sincere."

    The White House said later that discussions with North Korea had moved "more quickly than expected" and Trump would leave Singapore on Tuesday night after the summit, rather than Wednesday, as scheduled earlier.

    Kim is due to leave on Tuesday afternoon, a source involved in the planning of his visit has said.

    One of the world's most reclusive leaders, Kim visited Singapore's waterfront on Monday, smiling and waving to onlookers, adding to a more affable image that has emerged since his April summit with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in. 'CHANGED ERA'

    Just a few months ago, Kim was an international pariah accused of ordering the killing of his uncle, a half-brother and scores of officials suspected of disloyalty.

    The summit was part of a "changed era", North Korea's state-run KCNA news agency said in its first comments on the event.

    Talks would focus on "the issue of building a permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean peninsula, the issue of realising the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and other issues of mutual concern", it added.

    Ahead of the summit, North Korea rejected unilateral nuclear disarmament, and KCNA's reference to denuclearisation of the peninsula has historically meant it wants the United States to remove a "nuclear umbrella" protecting South Korea and Japan.

    Trump spoke to both South Korea's Moon and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday to discuss developments ahead of the summit.

    "I too, got little sleep last night," Moon told his cabinet in Seoul as the summit began in Singapore.

    "I truly hope it will be a successful summit that will open a new age for the two Koreas and the United States and bring us complete denuclearisation and peace." - REUTERS

    Monday, June 11, 2018

    Malaysian new hope for the housing industry with new government


    MALAYSIANS have been in an uplifting mood, with the various measures announced by the new government since the new Cabinet was formed.

    Out of my passion for the housing industry, I am paying special interest and attention to Pakatan Harapan’s proposals on housing matters. There are several initiatives which will give a new breath of life to the industry if they are implemented successfully.

    In its manifesto, Pakatan Harapan promises to build one million affordable homes within two terms of their administration. This is a realistic and encouraging move to address the affordable housing issue in Malaysia.

    As mentioned in my previous article, I often wondered why the previous government didn’t directly drive affordable housing. I was enlightened when a friend told me last year, “The reason is that there isn’t any ‘money’ involved in affordable housing”. Given the new government’s promise of a cleaner government, I believe this is the right time.

    To build one million affordable houses within two terms means that the government needs to build an average of 100,000 homes every year. This exceeds our yearly residential housing production recorded for the past few years.

    To make this a reality, the government needs to put in real money to make it happen. The previous government depended on the private sector to drive that number. However, as we have seen from successful public/affordable housing models from Hong Kong and Singapore, our government should be the main driving force in providing affordable homes.

    The reasons for such success are obvious. Governments have control over land, approval rights, public funds and development expertise. Given enough political will, and backed by tax payers’ funds, we can achieve these targets.

    According to the manifesto of the new government, the above mission will be carried out by a National Affordable Housing Council chaired by the Prime Minister. Setting up a central authority has been suggested by Bank Negara and also in this column before. A centralised system will ensure effective planning and allocation of affordable homes, just as is done by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) in Singapore.

    Currently, we have different agencies looking at affordable housing, such as the various State Economic Development Corporations (SEDCs), Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd (SPNB), Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Selangor (PKNS) and 1 Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme (PR1MA).

    Many of them are working in isolation from one another and some have strayed from their original purpose.

    In Singapore, prior to the formation of the Housing and Development Board (HDB) in 1960, less than 9% of Singaporeans stayed in government housing. Today, HDB has built more than a million flats and houses. About 82% of Singaporeans stay in HDB housing, according to HDB’s annual report. It is a great example for reference.

    Based on the recently published statistics from the National Property Information Centre (Napic), the total residential homes in Malaysia as at the end of 2017 was 5.4 million. Low-cost houses and flats accounted for 21% or 1.15 million of the total.

    Some may question whether the number of low-cost homes is sufficient. However, there may be some “leakages” or misallocation in the previous distribution system that caused qualified applicants to face difficulties when buying or renting a low-cost home.

    Many years ago, The Star reported that thousands of government housing units in Kuala Lumpur were being sub-let to third parties at five times above the control rental price. It stated that the number of applicants for low-cost units in Kuala Lumpur had reached 26,000, and that many of them had been on the waiting list for more than a decade.

    It was even rumoured that some low-cost housing units across Malaysia were sold to political nominees, instead of going towards the rakyat who really couldn’t afford housing. If this practice did actually happen, it is disgusting and should be reviewed.

    It is timely for the new government to inspect whether our low-cost homes have fallen into the wrong hands. It is essential to repair the allocation system and stop any form of corruption while building more low cost and affordable homes.

    The new government’s manifesto to coordinate a unified and open database on affordable housing, can be one of the solutions to the matter.

    In addition, the idea of managing a rent-to-own scheme for lower income groups is a positive measure to encourage residents to take care of their houses, as they will eventually own them.

    I am glad to see the manifesto of the new government addressing many areas of concern in building homes for the rakyat. We understand that it takes time to implement these new measures. The rakyat will need to be patient for these new measures to reap their full results. We hope that a fresh start in the right direction will finally shine some light at the end of the tunnel.

    By Alan Tong - Food for thought

    Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was the World President of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.


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    Sunday, June 10, 2018

    SCO submit, non-Western Eurasia rises

    https://youtu.be/tUCzHV3Vfe4 https://youtu.be/Hpw5ZMIo8NI https://youtu.be/2jLWJWNtJro https://youtu.be/WyL3x6eUKtI https://youtu.be/1nRtQ8vFC0Q https://youtu.be/y4CZ6FQHcVM

    First among equals: Putin and Xi had an official meeting before the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Qingdao. Sloppy US policies have helped to build a growing China-Russia alliance for a full decade now.- AFP

    THE week that was ended with a significant non-Western event often ignored or misunderstood by the West: the latest Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit.

    The 18th annual SCO summit in the Chinese port city of Qingdao this weekend is only the fourth held in China. Beijing is relaxed about its role in a growing organisation of eight member countries, six Dialogue Partners and four observer nations – a confidence that suggests considerable clout.

    China and Russia are the two hulking members of a group that boasts formal parity, being the conspicuous “firsts among equals.” And as two consecutive US administrations unwittingly drive these giants closer than ever before strategically, Western attention is led astray.

    Western reports track President Putin’s travel to Qingdao and the diplomatic niceties exchanged there. At the same time, Western commentators are tempted to dismiss the summit as yet another futile talkfest.

    Both approaches are wrong or misplaced. While Xi-Putin exchanges may not be the highlight of this year’s SCO summit, neither are they insignificant.

    Sloppy US policies helped to build a growing China-Russia alliance for a full decade now. This is evident enough from the meeting rooms of the UN Security Council to the battlefields of Syria to the South China Sea and the Baltics.

    The latest SCO summit reaffirms the trend but adds only marginally to it by way of atmospherics. There are more important developments visible at, if not represented by, the Qingdao summit.

    It is the first SCO summit at which both India and Pakistan arrive as full members.

    Beginning as the Shanghai Five in the mid-1990s, the SCO has grown steadily and now incorporates three giants – China, Russia and India – in the great Eurasian land mass where both the US and the EU have scant inputs.

    With Pakistan coming in at the same time as India as an equal partner, the SCO should be free from any sub-regional turbulence within South Asia.

    Turkey is also an SCO Dialogue Partner whose interest in full membership is not without broader implications for the West.

    Turkey has considerable military strength and is also a member of Nato, hosting its Allied Land Command and a US air base in Izmir. However, Ankara’s years-long effort to join the EU has been snubbed by Brussels.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has famously mulled over choosing between the EU and the SCO, reportedly preferring the latter. How would the West find a Nato member joining a non-Western group led by Russia and China?

    Deep-seated discomfort would be a mild way to put a reaction in Brussels and Washington. To US policymakers, Turkey is a strategic country because of its location as well as its status as a prominent Muslim country.

    Both China and Russia have sounded positive about Turkey’s prospective membership of the SCO. Nonetheless, SCO members share an understanding of sorts that Turkey may have to forego its Nato membership before SCO membership can be entertained.

    However, Beijing and Moscow may be less concerned than Washington and Brussels about Turkey’s SCO membership with its Nato credentials intact. That immediately makes Turkey more comfortable to be in SCO company.

    Turkey has already received what amounts to special treatment within the SCO that no other Dialogue Partner has enjoyed. Last year it was elected as Chair of the SCO’s Energy Club, a position previously enjoyed only by full members.

    Erdogan has called the SCO “more powerful” than the EU, particularly in a time of Brexit. Bahrain and Qatar seek full SCO membership; Iraq, Israel, Maldives, Ukraine and Vietnam want to be Dialogue Partners; and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Syria want Observer status.

    Iran already has SCO Observer status and had applied for full membership in 2008. Following the easing of UN sanctions on Tehran, China declared its support for Iran’s membership bid in 2016.

    The recent US pullout from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“Iran nuclear deal”) has further prodded Tehran to “look East.” These days that means China and a China-led SCO.

    Iran already trades heavily with China with myriad deals in multiple sectors. Mutual interests abound, far exceeding the basic relationship of oil and gas sales to China.

    As Europe treads carefully, mindful of possible new sanctions on Iran following the US cop out, cash-rich Chinese firms take up the slack. US policy is also pushing Iran, among others, closer to China.

    In preparing for Prime Minister Modi’s arrival in Qingdao on Friday, Indian Ambassador Gautam Bambawale said both countries were determined to work in close partnership and would never be split apart.

    This echoed two main points already shared by Indian and Chinese leaders – that their countries are partners in development and progress, and what they have in common are greater than their differences.

    All of this seems set to undo the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) that groups the US with Japan, Australia and India, all boasting a democratic system in common in a joint strategic encirclement of China. But India’s relations with China have been on the upswing for half a year now.

    The day before Modi arrived in Qingdao, a Quad meeting in Singapore closed on Friday with India expressing differences with the other members. Its Ambassador to Russia Pankaj Saran said the Quad was not the same as its hopes for an inclusive “Indo-Pacific region” (IPR) that did not target any country.

    He added that India wanted closer ties with Russia as well in an IPR. Just a fortnight before, Russia’s recent Ambassador to the US Sergei Kislyak said President Trump also wanted closer ties with Russia.

    That was only a small part of the roller-coaster ride of international diplomacy in the first half of 2018.

    In January Trump condemned the Taliban for a spate of attacks in Afghanistan, vowing that all talks with them were off. Until then, top US diplomats were carefully planning negotiations with the Taliban.

    In March, US officials blasted Russia for allegedly arming the Taliban, which Moscow denied. The following month Nato voiced support for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s efforts to talk with the Taliban to “save the country.”

    Meanwhile Trump’s ramparts of trade barriers in the direction of a trade war would decimate allies from East Asia to Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron expressed a European position in reaching out to China on climate and security issues.

    By March the EU had dug in, preparing for the worst of US trade barriers while vowing retaliation. The WTO also warned Washington that it was veering towards a trade war with tariffs on steel and aluminium.

    In April, China’s new Defence Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe arrived in Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu. Wei rubbed it in for Washington, publicly announcing that his visit was to show the US the high level of strategic cooperation between China and Russia.

    Two days later the Foreign Ministers of China and Russia expressed similar sentiments. They championed negotiations and sticking to pledges while weighing in against the unilateralism of a unipolar power.

    Where China has the SCO, Russia has the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

    If any discomfort is felt in Washington, it is from acting as a unipolar power in an increasingly multipolar world.

    Source: Behind the headlines by Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.



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    Saturday, June 9, 2018

    Malaysia can’t extradite Jho Low, key people in 1MDB saga

    https://youtu.be/_6gFyKNI1JA https://youtu.be/tZDpDTXpVfE

    Deep discussion: Dr Mahathir, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption director-general Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed having a chat after a ministry event in Putrajaya. — Bernama

    Deep discussion: Dr Mahathir, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption director-general Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed having a chat after a ministry event in Putrajaya. — Bernama

    KUALA LUMPUR: They know where he is. But they can’t get their hands on him.

    That is the predicament that the authorities face in bringing back Malaysia’s most wanted man these days – Low Taek Jho better known as Jho Low.

    Low is at the centre of the debt-laden and scandal-ridden 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) that is a thorn in the administration of the previous Barisan Nasional government.

    Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Low is in a country in which Malaysia does not have an extradition treaty with.

    "We are trying to arrest Jho Low, but he is not in the country. And we do not have extradition rights in the country where he is at,” said Dr Mahathir without disclosing the country.

    Legal experts say while it is not impossible to bring him back despite the absence of extradition treaty with the country, they cautioned this can be a long and tedious process.

    Low has been identified as the mastermind behind 1MDB, which is the subject of investigations by Malaysian as well as international authorities for alleged corruption and money laundering.

    1MDB accumulated debts of more than RM35bil in ringgit and US dollar denominated bonds in less than five years from 2009. Most of the money raised were placed outside Malaysia, which the Government is trying to recover.

    Apart from Low, the principal officer in another 1MDB-related company is also on the wanted list.

    The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has issued an arrest warrant for SRC International director Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil.

    SRC International was a former subsidiary of 1MDB, which had allegedly transferred RM42mil into the personal account of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

    It issued two tranches of RM2bil debt papers in 2011 and 2012. The money was to be used to purchase resource based assets in the region. However, there are no assets to back the purchases.

    MACC deputy chief commissioner (operation) Datuk Seri Azam Baki told Bernama there is no excuse for Low and Nik Faisal not turn up to facilitate investigations into the SRC International case.

    “I refuse to comment on what action can be taken against both of them (Low and Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil). As far as I know, they cannot give any excuses and must present themselves,” he said.

    Nik Faisal, 47, last stayed in Alam Impian, Shah Alam.

    Low, 37, previously resided in Tanjung Bungah, Penang.

    The Prime Minister’s Office in a statement earlier announced the setting up of a special task force to conduct detailed investigations, detection and seizure of assets and prosecution of individuals who committed any criminal offence in the management of 1MDB.

    Meanwhile, sources said Low’s lawyers have yet to get in touch with the MACC.

    It was earlier reported that Low had instructed his lawyers to make contact with the MACC after he was made aware they were seeking him for assistance.

    By Mazwin nik anis, Wddie chua, Joseph kaos jr, and Royce Tan The Star

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