WHO promise review of handling of Covid-19 pandemic

The World Health Organisation says they will begin and independent review of the global coronavirus response “as soon as possible”.

This is being backed by China and most countries are suporting WHO, but the US are still sticking their boot in, continuing to blame WHO and China for the severity of the pandemic.

RNZ:  World Health Organisation promises Covid-19 response review

The World Health Organisation says an independent review of the global coronavirus response will begin as soon as possible, and it received backing and a hefty pledge of funds from China.

But the US administration of President Donald Trump decried an “apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak by at least one member state”.

Trump has already suspended US funding for the WHO after accusing it of being too China-centric.

Without mentioning China by name, US Health Secretary Alex Azar made clear Washington considered the WHO jointly responsible for the pandemic.

“We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control,” he said on Monday.

“There was a failure by this organisation to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping said China had acted with “openness and transparency and responsibility”.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus defended the organisation’s response.

“WHO sounded the alarm early, and we sounded it often,” he said.

Tedros, who has always promised a coronavirus review, told the forum it would come “at the earliest appropriate moment” and make recommendations for the future.

He received robust backing from the WHO’s independent oversight panel.

“Every country and every organisation must examine its response and learn from its experience,” Tedros said, adding that the review must cover “all actors in good faith”.

In its first report on the handling of the pandemic, the seven-member oversight committee said the WHO had “demonstrated leadership and made important progress in its Covid-19 response”.

It also said “an imperfect and evolving understanding” was not unusual when a new disease emerged.

In an apparent rejoinder to Trump, the panel said a “rising politicisation of pandemic response” was hindering the effort to defeat the virus.

Meanwhile  disagreement in the US over handling of the pandemic and related scapegoating has flared up in public, with Azar defending US efforts.

Fox News – HHS Secretary Azar hits back at Navarro’s criticism of CDC: ‘Inaccurate and inappropriate’

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar hit back Monday at White House trade adviser Peter Navarro for his coronavirus-related criticism of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a striking public spat between two wings of the Trump administration.

“The comments regarding the CDC are inaccurate and inappropriate,” Azar said on Fox News’  “America’s Newsroom” Monday.

Azar’s comments come after Navarro slammed the CDC over the weekend, saying the agency “let the country down” in its early stages of testing for COVID-19.

“Early on in this crisis, the CDC, which really had the most trusted brand around the world in this space — really let the country down with the testing,” Navarro said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Not only did they keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test and that set us back.”

But Azar defended the agency Monday, saying they “had one error, which was in scaling up the manufacturing of the tests they had developed.”

Azar also defended the administration’s coronavirus testing methods, saying that President Trump “is delivering 300,000 tests per day” and that the U.S. has conducted over 10 million tests.

Trump claims US testing is the best in the world (it has now identified over one and a half million cases, but that’s the 39th best testing rate according to Worldometer).

No organisation or country could have handled the rapidly unfolding Covid crisis perfectly. It was impossible to know the best way to respond (that’s still debatable), and most countries were under prepared for any sort of pandemic.

Blaming others is just a way of trying to divert from one’s own inadequacies. The focus should be on learning from mistakes and doing better now and in future health emergencies.

Missouri trying to sue China over Covid-19

The US is ramping up attempts to sue China over the over the Covid-19 coronavirus, with Missouri the firsy state to file a suit.

Fox News: Missouri files suit against China for ‘enormous’ consequences of coronavirus ‘deceit’

Missouri became the first state to file a lawsuit against China on Tuesday, accusing the country of being responsible for the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and seeking damages to make up for “the enormous loss of life, human suffering, and economic turmoil” resulting from the disease.

The suit in the Eastern District of Missouri follows at least seven federal class-action suits that have been filed by private groups, with one filed in Florida saying that China knew “COVID-19 was dangerous and capable of causing a pandemic, yet slowly acted, proverbially put their head in the sand, and/or covered it up in their own economic self-interest.”

It also comes on the heels of 22 Republican lawmakers on Monday requesting that the Trump administration bring a case against China to the International Court of Justice (ICIJ) for the country’s actions during the pandemic.

The text of the lawsuit lays the blame for the pandemic’s consequences squarely at China’s feet.

The suit makes numerous claims of wrongdoing by China and the other defendants related to the Chinese government it seeks to hold responsible, including an “emerging theory on the origin of the virus … that it was released from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was studying the virus.”

The suit is based on ‘an emerging theory? That sounds bizarre, particularly as that ‘theory’ is far from proven.

But U.S. officials and the intelligence community have confirmed to Fox News that they have taken the possibility of the coronavirus being man-made or engineered inside China as some sort of bioweapon off the table and have ruled it out at this point.

Officials say the Missouri suit seeks to present good-faith claims about actions China likely took that led to the pandemic. They also emphasize the Chinese government took other actions to worsen the spread of the coronavirus that have been proven with near certainty.

Because Donald Trump said? Even if they can be proven, responsibilities could be complex. Maybe it would be easier to just sue someone in the US.

Why Trump Deserves More Blame for the U.S. Coronavirus Crisis Than the WHO or China

The United States now claims nearly one-third of the world’s COVID-19 cases, making it the center of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of leaning on the World Health Organization for support, last week President Trump announced that he would be halting the U.N. agency’s funding, accusing it of bungling its early response to the coronavirus.

“This is lunacy. Truly,” responded Jeremy Konyndyk, a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development who previously served as the director of USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, where he coordinated the country’s humanitarian responses to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, and the war in Syria.

Fundamentally, this is not about what WHO did or did not do. It’s not about what WHO did or did not say. What it’s about is turning WHO into a political scapegoat to distract from this administration’s failures to prepare.

WHO’s own information, WHO’s level of alarm, WHO’s characterization of the risk, were always well out ahead of the Trump administration. At a time when the U.S. government was still saying the risk to the American public was low, WHO was saying that this absolutely had pandemic potential.

The administration is clearly grasping for anything it can to distract from its own poor performance. If they can blame this on WHO, or if they can blame this on a lab accident in China, that somehow alleviates them of their responsibility. That is very clearly the play.

The lab thing is a useful target for them because it can’t be disproven.

But at the same time, the U.S. government is obviously doing everything it can to spin this up as a story. The National Security Council is reportedly pushing the intelligence community very hard to try and find anything that would suggest that the lab was the origin.

We have the administration trying to put the story out into the ecosystem, pushing it through favorable media outlets and personalities on the basis of very little. If they had something stronger, we would see it. They wouldn’t be sitting on it.

And now Missouri has taken this and is using it in a lawsuit.

I don’t know how a US state can sue China. If they can this could open a big can of worms. Many Covid cases on New Zealand came from the US. Italy was another source.  But proving where actual damages were caused could be difficult.

There’s a lot still being discovered about the spread of Covid in the US.

Autopsies find first U.S. coronavirus death occurred in early February, weeks earlier than previously thought

Tissue samples taken during autopsies of two people who died at home in Santa Clara County, Calif., tested positive for the virus, local health officials said in a statement. The victims died on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17, respectively.

Initially, the nation’s earliest coronavirus fatality was thought to have occurred on Feb. 29, in Kirkland, Wash., a suburb of Seattle that rapidly became a hot spot. In March, health officials there linked two Feb. 26 deaths to covid-19, the disease caused by the new virus.

The Santa Clara County fatalities push back the earliest coronavirus-related fatality by weeks, with the new findings potentially altering the timeline of the U.S. outbreak.

Even if China can be sued over Covid there’s a lot yet to be discovered or proven.

If somehow China could be found liable, this would set a bad precedent for any future viruses that could emerge from anywhere in the world – and finding where they originate could be impossible to prove. But if there was a risk of huge damages for a country that first discovered a virus, it could deter it from revealing it, or at least cover up evidence.

Missouri and the US would be better concentrating on minimising the effects of Covid. Maybe they are concerned about lawsuits being filed against states or against the federal government for not doing enough soon enough. But going to court won’t do anything to deal with the virus.

And if Trump pushes states to reopen for business too soon will he be liable for legal action?

Jami-Lee Ross claims National received foreign donations

In Parliament yesterday Independent MPs Jami-Lee Ross claimed that he had information showing that up to $150,000 dollars in donations paid to the National party had come via conduits from China. He said that he wasn’t aware of this when he was a National MP (and senior whip), and the party probably wasn’t aware of the source of the donations either. He called on National to pay the donations back.

Ross appears to have got the information from the Serious Fraud Office, so it is probable he has his own legal defence in mind in how he has worded his claims.

Before making the claims in a speech in Parliament Ross appeared to collude with Winston Peters in Question Time, in questions directed at Peters as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Question No. 4—Foreign Affairs

4. JAMI-LEE ROSS (MP—Botany) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Has he received any reports of foreign interference activities in New Zealand from foreign State actors of the type described by Canterbury University Professor Anne-Marie Brady in her paper “Magic Weapons” as united front work carried out by the Chinese Communist Party; if so, what efforts is the Government making to protect New Zealand’s interests?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister of Foreign Affairs): Foreign interference is not a new threat and New Zealand isn’t immune to such attempts. Yes, I have seen reports to that effect, but I can’t discuss specific countries, operational details, targets or methods, or systems of surveillance. But I can assure the member that this Government takes the threat very seriously and has robust measures in place to protect our democratic values, institutions, and our economy.

Jami-Lee Ross: Does he share the concerns of Professor Brady that foreign State actors make efforts to “control diaspora communities, to utilise them as agents of foreign policy, suppress any hints of dissidents as well.”, and if so, what resilience strategy will New Zealand implement to protect against this foreign interference?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Can I tell that member we do share a series of concerns. If that member or, indeed, any member of the public has information that relates to foreign interference from any country, they should report it to the relevant authorities. This is a serious issue that this Government is dedicated to addressing, and appropriate processes should be followed. But let me say this: this is the first time in New Zealand’s history that a political party has announced its candidate list in China, and you have to ask yourself why.

Jami-Lee Ross: Does he share the view of SIS director Rebecca Kitteridge that one vector of foreign interference in elections is “Building covert influence and leverage, including through electoral financing;”, and if so, what advice does he have for New Zealanders concerned about this foreign interference?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The member will, I’m sure, appreciate the fact that we cannot single out any one specific country. The important thing is that we have flexible and adequate mechanisms, we believe, in place to protect our democratic values, institutions, and the economy. The witness and evidence that he has recited in his question is some testimony to that, but the reality is we have open channels to raise issues with countries if and when we ever need to do so. But it behoves political parties not to be undermining this Government’s serious purpose to protect our democratic institutions.

Both Ross and Peters have demonstrated having obvious grudges against National leader Simon Bridges and the National Party, so that context could be important.

Ross, Peters and NZ First have had links to and have been promoted by the Whale Oil and The BFD blogs and Cameron Slater et al.

From the Debate on Prime Minister’s Statement following Question Time:

JAMI-LEE ROSS (Botany):

…In the Prime Minister’s statement, that we are debating, the Prime Minister lists as one of her Government’s achievements the banning of foreign political donations. It’s true that the new $50 threshold for overseas donations is an improvement. But, as I’ve said previously in the House, I doubt it will do very little to deter those determined to find other ways around the ban, including—

SPEAKER: Order! Mr Jackson leave the House.

JAMI-LEE ROSS: —using the wide open gap we still have where foreign State actors can funnel funds through New Zealand registered companies.

The foreign donation ban is one of the few recommendations that has spun out of the Justice Committee’s inquiry into foreign interference activities in New Zealand elections. That has been picked up. Probably the most important submissions that we received through that inquiry were those from Professor Anne-Marie Brady of Canterbury University and what we heard from the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) director, Rebecca Kitteridge. It was all eye-watering and eye-opening stuff and sobering for us to hear and read their evidence. We have not, and I think we still do not, take seriously enough the risk of foreign interference activities that we’ve been subjected to as a country. Ms Kitteridge rightly pointed out in her evidence that the challenge of foreign interference to our democracy is not just about what occurs around the election itself. Motivated State actors will work assiduously over many years, including in New Zealand, to covertly garner influence, access, and leverage.

She also specifically pointed out the risks we face from foreign State actors through the exertion of pressure or control of diaspora communities and the building of covert influence and leverage, including through electoral financing. After Pansy Wong resigned from Parliament, I was selected as the National Party candidate for the 5 March by-election nine years ago. It was made very clear to me at the time that I had to put a big emphasis on getting to know the Chinese community. It was also pointed out to me very early on that I must make good connections with the Chinese consul-general. Madam Liao at the time was very influential with Chinese New Zealanders, and important to my own success as well. In hindsight, it was naive of me to not think carefully about the pull that a foreign diplomat had on a large section of the population in my electorate.

The consul-general in Auckland is treated like a God, more so than any New Zealand politician, except probably the Prime Minister of the day. Each successive consul-general seemed to be better and more effective at holding New Zealand residents and citizens of Chinese descent in their grasp. Consul-generals Niu Qingbao and Xu Erwen were also treating us, as MPs—not just myself, others—as long-lost friends. All this effort, if you read Professor Brady’s paper called Magic Weapons, is a core plank of the Chinese Communist Party’s deliberate and targeted efforts to expand political influence activities worldwide. It’s also the very risk that Rebecca Kitteridge warned the Justice Committee about. Professor Brady’s paper is a 50-page academic work. I can’t do it justice here, but I recommend all MPs read it.

The activities of the Chinese Communist Party here domestically, where Chinese New Zealanders have been targeted, should be concerning enough for all of us. But the efforts that Chinese Communist Party – connected individuals have been making over the years to target us as politicians, and New Zealand political parties, also needs to be taken seriously. Every time we as MPs are showered with praise or dinners or hospitality by Chinese diplomats, we’re being subjected to what Professor Brady calls “united front work”. Every time we see our constituents bow and scrape to foreign diplomats, it’s a result of their long-running efforts to exert influence and control over our fellow Kiwis.

Both Professor Brady and director Kitteridge have warned about the risk of foreign interference activity where funding of political parties is used as a tool. This isn’t necessarily unlawful provided the donations meet the requirements of the Electoral Act. In 2018, I very publicly made some allegations relating to donations. I have said publicly already that the donations I called out were offered directly to the leader of the National Party at an event I was not in attendance at. I did not know at the time that those donations were made that they were in any way unlawful. I never had any control over those donations and I have never been a signatory of any National Party bank account in the time that I’ve been an MP. I never benefited personally from those donations. I was never a part of any conspiracy to defeat the Electoral Act. And the point at which I blew the whistle on these donations—first internally, then very publicly—that point came after I learned new information that led me to question the legality of the donations.

While making the accusations Ross has been careful to try to distance himself from what he claims has happened.

After raising these issues publicly, they were duly investigated first by the police and then the Serious Fraud Office. The result of those allegations is already public and I can’t traverse much detail here, but I will say that I refuse to be silenced and I will keep speaking out about what I know, and have seen, goes on inside political parties. I refuse to be quiet about the corroding influence of money in New Zealand politics.

Last year, I learnt, off the back of concerns I myself took to the proper authorities, that the National Party had been the beneficiary of large amounts of foreign donations. These donations are linked back to China and linked to the Chinese Communist Party, and with ease entered New Zealand. I didn’t go searching for this information. I was asked if I knew anything of the origins of the donations. I didn’t know. It was all new information to me, and I was surprised by what I learnt.

What I learnt was that large sums of money adding up to around $150,000 coming directly out of China in Chinese yuan over successive years ended up as political party donations. Two individuals, _________, were used as conduits for the donations.

These funds eventually made their way to the New Zealand National Party. The New Zealand National Party still holds those funds. The National Party is still holding at least $150,000 of foreign donations received in two successive years. I call on the National Party to return those foreign donations that it holds or transfer the money to the Electoral Commission. I doubt the National Party knew at the time that the money was foreign—I certainly didn’t either—but now that they will have that information to hand, they need to show leadership and do the right thing.

How does Ross know that the national party still holds the donations?

To avoid doubt, this $150,000 dollars’ worth of foreign donations is not the same as the $150,000 from the Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry company that they raised last year.

The warnings sounded from academics and spy agencies are not without reason. These two examples I give are very real examples of foreign money that has entered New Zealand politics. Professor Brady, with reference to the list of overseas members of the overseas Chinese federation, which is part of the Communist Party’s infrastructure, listed three top united front representatives in New Zealand:

_____, _____, and Zhang Yikun. All three are well known to political parties.

In a recent press statement from a PR agency, representatives of Zhang Yikun highlighted the philanthropic approach that he takes in New Zealand. The press statement on 19 February specifically said that he has been “donating to many political parties and campaigns.”, except his name has never appeared in any political party return. When asked by the media if political parties had any record of donations from this individual, all said no. But a quick search online will find dozens and dozens of photos of Zhang Yikun dining with mayors and MPs over the time, inviting them to his home, and his recent 20th convention of Teochew International Federation had a who’s who list of politicians turning up, including a former Prime Minister.

The foreign donations I mentioned earlier all have connections to the Chao Shan General Association. The founder and chairman of Chao Shan General Association is Zhang Yikun. To summarise these two bits of information, the largest party in this Parliament has been the beneficiary of large sums of foreign money. That money is linked to an individual who was listed as one of the top three Chinese Communist Party united front representatives in New Zealand. That individual’s PR agents say he has donated to many political parties and campaigns, yet he’s never showing up in any donation returns in the past.

One of Professor Brady’s concluding remarks in her submission to the Justice Committee was that foreign interference activities can only thrive if public opinion in the affected nation tolerates or condones it. We must not tolerate or condone any foreign interference activities. We must also not stay silent when we see problems right under our nose. It’s time for the political parties in this Parliament to address seriously the political party donation regime that we have.

I realise that both the two main parties in this Parliament often have to agree, but perhaps it’s time to put that out to an independent body. It’s too important for us to ignore, and it’s not right that we should allow these things to go on under our nose.

I seek leave to table two charts that show a flow of money from China into New Zealand and to the New Zealand National Party.

SPEAKER: I seek an assurance from the member that these charts are not integral to any matter currently before the courts.

JAMI-LEE ROSS: These charts have been prepared by the Serious Fraud Office and I cannot give you that assurance.

SPEAKER: You cannot give me that assurance. Well, I’m not going to put the question.

MPs involved in court processes usually refuse to discuss or answer questions about the case, claiming the sub judice rule requires this, so Ross using information he has obtained as a part of being prosecuted may raise some legal eyebrows. Also political eyebrows.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The sub judice rule is not as to the fact; it’s as to the argument of the merit of the case, and I think a far too rigid rule is being applied here. If a flow chart, without any other comment, is to be ruled out from being tabled because you say it is sub judice; it is not arguing anything but the fact. It is not arguing for the merits, it’s not taking sides, it’s not trying to be persuasive, and I think it should be allowed in.

It seems quite ironic that Peters is arguing against the sub judice rule. He has claimed his right to silence on an issue because of the rule multiple times in the past.

SPEAKER: Well, I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for his comments. This is clearly a matter on which I’ve thought long and hard. I think in the last Standing Orders review or possibly the one before that, the sub judice rules were significantly tightened. I think it’s fair to say that those changes were not unanimous. There was one member who stood out against the tightening of those rules, and it was me. But having said that, as Speaker, I am obliged to apply the rules as they exist, and the member has not been able to give me an assurance that the information contained in the chart is not central to a case currently before the court.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The problem with that is you’ve got a serious legal concept that’s been handed down through the decades, indeed the centuries, now being interpreted by parliamentarians as though they are a court of law in this context. The sub judice rule applies to any court of law—any document associated with a court of law—across our legal jurisdiction. But no parliamentarian should be given—sorry, I’m not making an attack on the parliamentarians, but I think it’s improper for parliamentarians to say, “Well, we’ve got a better interpretation of that, and this is what it is.”

Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think, for me, the question is how Mr Ross came to hold the documents: whether in fact he is holding the documents because of his involvement in a case that may be before a judicial body, or whether he came to hold them through some other means.

SPEAKER: Well, I think I’m able to deal with that question on the matter of the briefings that I have received. Jami-Lee Ross has made it clear to me that the chart to which he refers or the information to which he refers is something which has come into his possession as a matter leading up to this and containing information relevant to this case.

Hon Aupito William Sio: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Noting the seriousness and the magnitude of the issues that have been raised with Mr Jami-Lee Ross, and noting also that his time is up, is it appropriate for me to seek leave that he be given extended time to complete his statements?

SPEAKER: The answer to that is that it’s not appropriate for that member to seek leave for another member in that way.

This could add to National’s embarrassment over donations.

But it also shows that Ross seems to be working with Peters in trying to damage National, and Ross will have his defence (of the SFO prosecution) in mind with what he says here – but using court information to do this may cause him some problems.

It will be interesting to see what The BFD runs on this today.


Sources:

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/document/HansS_20200305_051450000/4-question-no-4-foreign-affairs

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/document/HansS_20200305_054225000/ross-jami-lee

Covid-19 concerns but so far seems under control in NZ

There are obvious concerns about the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus (I don’t think I heard of a ‘coronavirus’ until about a month ago) around the world, but so far at least it seems largely contained here in New Zealand.

It started and surged in China, got a hold in South Korea, Iran and Italy, and is getting worse in the United States, but so far there are only two confirmed cases here, both imported by New Zealand citizens. One was someone returning from Iran via Bali (now in hospital), the other returning from Italy via Singapore (now in isolation at home).

There’s a chance that these two may have spread the virus after returning, but that is being checked out and precautions are being taken.

One problem is that most people who get the virus only experience mild to meduim flu-like symptoms and may not get checked for Covid-19, so it could be quietly spreading. Or it may be limited and under control.

There has been an impact on businesses in New Zealand and will impact on finances for some time regardless of how many get the virus here.

However international risks increase, especially from the US.

Reuters: Coronavirus hits New York family, U.S. cases rise; lawmakers near emergency funds deal

Three family members and a neighbor of a New York man infected with the new coronavirus have also tested positive, officials said on Wednesday, and the number of cases increased across the United States.

The latest data here from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed 129 confirmed and presumed cases in the United States from the previous 108.

The cases were 80 reported by public health authorities in 13 states plus 49 among people repatriated from abroad, according to the CDC website. North Carolina became the 13th state to report a case on Tuesday.

Nine people have died in the Seattle area, health officials said. Of the 27 cases documented as of Tuesday in Washington state in the Pacific Northwest, nine were connected to a long-term nursing-care facility in a Seattle suburb.

Reuters: Fragile safety net leaves U.S. economy vulnerable to coronavirus hit

Economists worry that a large number of quarantined workers could sharply curb consumer spending, the pillar of the U.S. economy, and further widen the gap between the affluent and a working class that already struggles to pay the bills.

I know someone who has had a business trip to the US delayed due to concerns about the virus.

US sharemarkets plummeted last week, but recovered a bit at thee start of this week and now Wall Street surges after Biden’s surprise Super Tuesday lead

I wonder who Trump will blame that on, or maybe he will claim the credit.

Trump has been busy on twitter jeering at Democrat candidates who are dropping out (and also past allies like Jeff Sessions: “This is what happens to someone who loyally gets appointed Attorney General of the United States & then doesn’t have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt. Recuses himself on FIRST DAY in office, and the Mueller Scam begins!”

Sport around the world has been impacted by the virus, with doubts about the Olympics.

Reuters: Japan coronavirus cases hit 1,000 mark as Tokyo insists Olympics on track

Japan’s confirmed coronavirus infections rose above 1,000 on Wednesday, most of them from a quarantined cruise liner, as Olympics organizers dismissed speculation that the Tokyo Summer Games could be canceled.

The virus is spreading worldwide, with South Korea, Europe and Iran hit hard, and several countries have reported their first confirmed cases, taking the total to some 80 nations hit with the flu-like illness that can lead to pneumonia.

The number of cases in mainland China, where the outbreak originated in December, has reached 80,270, while the death toll had risen by 38 to 2,981 by March 3.

There have been more than 125 deaths outside China.

The new cases in Japan pushed the total over 1,000, according to Reuters calculations – 706 are from the Diamond Princess cruise liner, which has been quarantined for weeks off Yokohama.

World Health Organisation: Coronavirus disease (COVID-2019) situation reports

SITUATION IN NUMBERS
total and new cases in last 24 hours

Globally
90 870 confirmed (1922 new)

China
80 304 confirmed (130 new)
2946 deaths (31 new)

Outside of China
10 566 confirmed (1792 new)
72 countries (8 new)
166 deaths (38 new)

WHO RISK ASSESSMENT
China Very High
Regional Level Very High
Global Level Very High

All we can do here is hope that the virus is contained here, which will be a challenge given how interconnected the world is now.


UPDATE:

That person seems likely to be connected to one of the two already confirmed to have the virus.

Covid-19 virus and effects spread around the world

Yesterday the Dow Jones dropped 1000 points (over 3%) and early Tuesday it is down another 1%, The NZX50 dropped a further 1.18% on Tuesday.other markets around the world are also down.

Fears and effects of the Covid-19n coronavirus are cited as drivers of the drops. Airlines and tourism in particular have already been significantly affected.

RNZ: Counting the cost of Covid-19s local impact

Hundreds of millions of dollars is likely to be shaved off the value of the economy for the first quarter, with estimates currently between 0.3 and 0.6 percentage points less than pre-virus forecasts.

The International Monetary Fund sees the virus as the biggest threat to the global economy.

Nearly every part of New Zealand’s economy is affected by the outbreak – but particularly exporters and importers who are largely dependent on the Chinese market.

About 50,000 Chinese visitors came through New Zealand’s arrivals gate in February last year, but that traffic has all but disappeared with New Zealand’s border closed to the travellers.

Retail NZ have reported about a third of its members say they are putting up to 30 percent less through their tills, cutting back on forward orders and dropping back staff hours.

Tertiary institutes stand to lose more than $100 million if students from China could not make it to class.

The list goes on, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels New Zealand Limited said it expected to lose up to $3 million in last minute cancellations.

Auckland Airport was in the same boat, with 45 return services to Mainland China reduced to eight, almost overnight. It downgraded its earnings by $5 million.

And to top it off, the primary sector was also dealing with a significant drought.

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Simon Limmer said it was the perfect storm.

The virus is not the only problem but is adding to other problems.

The virus increases it’s spread around the world.

RNZ – Coronavirus: Iran’s deputy health minister tests positive as outbreak worsens

Iran’s deputy health minister and an MP have both tested positive for the new coronavirus disease, as it struggles to contain an outbreak that has killed 15.

They have reported 95 cases, but the actual number is thought to be higher.

The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said the sudden increase in cases in the country is “deeply concerning”.

More people have died in Iran from the virus than anywhere else outside China.

It is one of three global hot-spots causing great concern among health experts that the virus could be developing into a pandemic. The others are South Korea and northern Italy, where cases have surged in recent days.

On Tuesday an MP from the Iranian capital Tehran, Mahmoud Sadeghi, also said he had tested positive for the virus.

More than 80,000 cases of the Covid-19 respiratory disease have been reported worldwide since it emerged last year. About 2,700 patients have died – the vast majority in China.

Reuters: Coronavirus isolates Iran, strains South Korea, Italy

Iran’s coronavirus death toll rose to 16, the most outside China, heightening its international isolation as dozens of nations from South Korea to Italy accelerated emergency measures to curb the epidemic’s global spread.

Beyond mainland China, however, it has jumped to about 29 countries and territories, with some three dozen deaths, according to a Reuters tally. Growing outbreaks in Iran, Italy and South Korea are of particular concern.

A minor local impact – I was in a Dunedin pharmacy yesterday and they had a sign on their counter saying ‘We are out of stock of face masks, try again next week’.

Coronavirus concerns, actions and effects escalate

Last Thursday the World health organisation declared the current coronavirus a Public Health Emergency of International concern.

Yesterday New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern put in place travel restrictions on anyone travelling here from or through China – New Zealand to restrict travel from China to protect against coronavirus

The Government is placing temporary entry restrictions into New Zealand on all foreign nationals travelling from, or transiting through mainland China to assist with the containment of the novel coronavirus and to protect New Zealand and the Pacific Islands from the disease.

This will take effect from tomorrow and will be in place for up to 14 days. This position will be reviewed every 48 hours.

Any foreign travellers who leave or transit through mainland China after 2 February 2020 (NZ time) will be refused entry to New Zealand.

Any foreign travellers in transit to New Zealand on 2 February 2020 will be subject to enhanced screening on arrival but, pending clearance, will be granted entry to New Zealand.

New Zealand citizens and permanent residents returning to New Zealand will still be able to enter, as will their immediate family members, but will be required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival back in the country.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has also raised its travel advice to New Zealanders for all of mainland China to “Do not travel”, the highest level.

This will have a major effect on tourism here.

Evacuation and 14 days isolation is being organised for New Zealanders who were in Wuhan when the virus outbreak happened – Health precautions finalised for Wuhan flight

An Air New Zealand charter flight is on track to evacuate dozens of New Zealanders, Pacific Islanders and Australian citizens in coming days. Final timing of the flight and passenger details are still to be confirmed, in consultation with Chinese authorities.

“A key part of the process is now complete, with health planning finalised for pre-flight checks, in-flight safety measures and isolating passengers for 14 days upon arrival in New Zealand.

“Chinese authorities are already conducting temperature checks for all passengers who are departing from Wuhan.

“In addition, New Zealand St John staff, which includes a Medical Director and two paramedics, and an Air New Zealand Doctor will conduct further health checks prior to boarding.

“These checks will ensure all passengers are fit to fly.

“Measures are also being taken to ensure the safety of all the staff on the flight. Infection control gear will be worn whenever they come into close contact with passengers.

“Health staff will monitor passengers (who will be provided with facemasks) and give them advice during the flight.

“The charter flight will land some distance from the main terminal in Auckland, and further health screening will be conducted.

“Standard border control measures, such as biosecurity checks will be completed as a matter of priority.

“It is expected that any Australian citizens and residents will be transferred on to a dedicated flight (with its own health measures in place) across the Tasman in coordination with the Australian government.

“Returning New Zealanders and Pacific Island citizens will be transported to a military facility at Whangaparaoa, where they will spend 14 days in isolation.

“During the isolation period the returnees will receive daily medical checks. Families will be kept together where possible, but will remain isolated from other returnees. “

In the US: Trump administration declares coronavirus emergency, orders first quarantine in 50 years

The Donald Trump administration declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a public health emergency in the United States on Friday, setting quarantines of Americans who have recently been to certain parts of China.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said it was the first quarantine order issued by the federal government in over 50 years. Marty Cetron, director of CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, said the last time a quarantine was used was in the 1960s for smallpox.

“The risk of infection for Americans remains low,” said Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services and chairman of the coronavirus task force set up by Trump. “We are working to keep the risk low.”

Azar described the new entry rules and quarantines as “prudent, targeted, and temporary.” He said the United States is working to complement efforts by China and the World Health Organization to contain the deadly virus in China. Quarantines are imposed on people who may be exposed to an illness but are not yet sick, Cetron said.

An obvious problem is that no one knows how bad the coronavirus will get. It may end up being adequately controlled and contained, but that my mean measures to restrict it have been successful.

If it does grow to pandemic size the authorities are likely to be criticised for not doing enough. They are best to over-react (in retrospect).

And the spread of the virus is likely to be worse than known and reported.

The Spinoff: As NZ bans arrivals from China, has the coronavirus really infected 100,000?

A few days ago a paper appeared in the medical journal the Lancet estimating that between 37,304 and 130,330 people have been infected with the new coronavirus in Wuhan as of January 25. The authors aren’t the first to suggest that the numbers of reported cases don’t accurately reflect the number of infected people. A team at Imperial College London have published a series of similar reports.

Both teams have made their estimates using the number of cases being seen outside of China and the probability a case would appear based on the number of people leaving from Wuhan International Airport. Given this is a new outbreak with a virus not ever seen before, they had to make some guesstimates as to how infectious it is and the incubation period, hence the wide range.

As of writing this the number of confirmed cases in China is over 14,500 according to the Hopkins online outbreak-tracker. Which is a lot less than 100,000. So are the estimates right, and if so, why are the official numbers so low?

Firstly, the estimates are based on best guesses of things like how infectious the virus is. Secondly, testing to confirm cases takes time and it could be that the testing labs are working at capacity. What would be interesting is to see the number of suspected cases/tests that are pending, and how that number has been changing over time.

It’s very likely that the Chinese are focusing their attention on the people who need medical help. This means anyone with a mild form of the infection won’t be being tested. What wasn’t clear a week or so ago, was whether everyone who got the virus would come down with a very serious infection or whether there would be a spectrum ranging from no or mild infections to death. Now it looks like it might be a spectrum. And that would help explain some of the mismatch.

I have what I presume is a cold at the moment. I don’t know where I picked it up from, but it’s a reminder who easily illnesses can be spread.

Coronavirus concerns

There are worldwide concerns over the coronavirus outbreak in China as it spreads to other countries, including Australia.

Reuters – Coronavirus contagion rate makes it hard to control: studies

Each person infected with coronavirus is passing the disease on to between two and three other people on average at current transmission rates, according to two separate scientific analyses of the epidemic.

Whether the outbreak will continue to spread at this rate depends on the effectiveness of control measures, the scientists who conducted the studies said. But to be able to contain the epidemic and turn the tide of infections, control measures would have to halt transmission in at least 60% of cases.

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak jumped to 41 on Saturday, with more than 1,400 people infected worldwide – the vast majority in China.

Reuters – Hong Kong bans entry of visitors from China virus province

Residents of China’s Hubei province, where the new coronavirus outbreak was first reported, will be banned from entering Hong Kong from Monday as China tries to halt the rapid spread of the outbreak.

Health authorities around the world are racing to prevent a pandemic after more than 2,000 people were infected in China and 56 have died.

A handful of cases of infection have been reported in other countries, including Thailand, Australia, the United States, France and Canada. No fatalities have been recorded outside China.

The newly identified coronavirus has created alarm because much about it is still unknown, such as how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people. It can cause pneumonia, which has been deadly in some cases.

The virus, believed to have originated late last year in a seafood market in Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife, has spread to cities including Beijing and Shanghai.

The World Health Organization this week stopped short of calling the outbreak a global health emergency, but some health experts question whether China can contain the epidemic.

Reuters – Latest on the coronavirus spreading in China and beyond

Here is what we know so far:

** As of midnight in Beijing (1600 GMT) on Jan. 25, the death toll in China had risen to 56, authorities reported. Some 1,975 people in China had been infected with the virus.

** The coronavirus transmission ability is getting stronger and infections could continue to rise, China’s National Health Commission said.

** China temporarily bans wildlife trade nationwide in markets, supermarkets, restaurants, and e-commerce platforms, authorities said.

** The previously unknown coronavirus strain is believed to have emerged late last year from illegally traded wildlife at an animal market in Wuhan.

** Thailand has reported eight infection cases; Taiwan, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia have reported four; the United States, France, Japan three; Vietnam and South Korea two apiece and Canada and Nepal one.

** No reported fatalities outside China

** The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that while the outbreak was an emergency for China, it was not yet a global health emergency.

** Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

** China says the virus is mutating and can be transmitted through human contact.

** Two separate scientific analyses of the epidemic say each person infected is passing the disease on to between two and three other people.

** Those most affected are older people and those with underlying health conditions.

** Three research teams have begun work on developing potential vaccines, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations said. Scientists hope to be testing the first possible vaccines in three months’ time.

** Beijing will delay reopening the city’s kindergartens, schools and universities, state-owned China National Radio (CNR) said on its official Weibo page.

** China may “appropriately” extend the Lunar New Year holiday, state broadcaster CCTV reported, citing a working group meeting hosted by China’s premier Li Keqiang.

** Taiwan further tightens restrictions on visitors from China, suspending entry for many apart from business travellers and a few other exceptions.

** Hong Kong’s popular amusement parks Disneyland and Ocean Park are closed from Jan. 26, state media CCTV reported.

** Wuhan, a city of 11 million, is under severe travel restrictions, with urban transport shut and outgoing flights suspended.

** Tourist access to Beijing’s Forbidden City closed and large gatherings cancelled, including two Lunar New Year temple fairs, and closed part of the Great Wall.

** Hong Kong has declared an emergency and will extend school holiday closures until Feb. 17. The city also cancelled all official Lunar New Year celebrations and official visits to mainland China.

** Airports around the world have stepped up screening.

** Some experts believe the virus is not as dangerous as the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed nearly 800 people, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has killed more than 700 people since 2012.

RNZ – Government alert to coronavirus but not alarmed, says Minister

Health staff will meet flights arriving in New Zealand from China tomorrow, looking for signs of the Wuhan strain of coronavirus, after four confirmed cases in Australia.

Health Minister David Clark announced this afternoon that public health staff will be on the ground in Auckland and Christchurch International Airports to take the temperature of incoming passengers who felt unwell.

David Clark said he had been advised the risk of an outbreak in New Zealand remained low and said the government was active and alert, but not alarmed.

“At this stage we have said that we are very alert to any potential risks. The evidence is that so far there have been no cases of communication person to person outside of China but this is a rapidly developing situation and that’s why we’re taking such a cautious and prepared approach.”

He said anyone displaying symptoms will be appropriately contained and any contact with others will be traced.

Dr Clark said the checks were a precaution, but public health staff would remain at the airports for the foreseeable future.

He is urging people to reconsider any travel plans to China and said unnecessary travel to areas of infection should be avoided.

Dr Clark will take a paper to cabinet on Tuesday, to make the novel coronavirus a notifiable disease.

The Ministry of Health said New Zealand laboratories should be ready to test for the novel coronavirus later in the week.

Stuff – What does the coronavirus epidemic mean for New Zealand?

This epidemic is already having an impact on New Zealand that is likely to grow over time. There is grief and worry for those at the centre of the epidemic in China.

There is the risk of imported and sustained disease in this country. And also the economic impact that is already being manifested in financial markets and may impact on tourist flows to New Zealand.

Of these concerns, the threat of importing disease to New Zealand is probably receiving most attention, as it is one risk that we have the ability to manage. It is stating the obvious to say that we live in a highly connected world with most countries just one or two flights away from China.

If spread continues to occur we are likely to see imported coronavirus cases in New Zealand, just as such cases are being detected in Australia and a growing number of other countries.

The future course of this epidemic is unpredictable. New Zealand is fortunate in having a number of advantages in combating this threat.

Another protective factor for New Zealand is timing. Respiratory viruses of all sorts are highly seasonal and conditions in summer (eg people spending less time indoors) reduce their transmission.

New Zealand has an established pandemic plan and experience with rolling this out during the last influenza pandemic in 2009.

One limitation is that the ‘keep it out’ component of our pandemic plan remains under-developed. Our very small national and regional public health capacity could be easily swamped if a coronavirus epidemic became established here.

Another major challenge for New Zealand is to ensure it does not export this coronavirus to Pacific Islands, where it could be devastating. Now is the time to be thinking about how to minimise this risk.

One good thing in our modern world is this information and scrutiny of what is happening gets around very quickly, with protections and precautions able to be put in place to contain the spread.

But with a lot of rapid world wide travel something like this could be difficult to contain.

And the coronavirus is having an impact here before any known cases in New Zealand.

RNZ – Coronavirus will have impact on Queenstown tourism, says mayor

The deadly coronavirus outbreak has come at the worst possible time for tourism operators in the middle of summer and the Chinese New Year, Queenstown’s mayor says.

Chinese tourists accounted for more than $220 million of spending in the Queenstown Lakes District in the year to October.

Tourism operators are already reporting cancellations as China suspends overseas and domestic group tours as the outbreak worsens.

Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said it was too early to know what effect the outbreak would have on tourism in the area but it would be significant.

“The timing couldn’t be worse because this is probably the biggest week of the industry with Chinese New Year. I guess it’s not a complete disaster because a number of them are already here but the issue will have a significant effect on the tourism industry,” he said.

New Zealand Chinese Travel and Tourism Association chair Simon Cheung said he woke this morning to find tours from China had already been cancelled and other operators would be in the same boat.

Impact on travel and tourism and business is an unfortunate side effect, but limiting the spread is more important – if there was an outbreak of coronavirus in Queenstown or anywhere in New Zealand the impact would be far greater.

Stuff – China arrivals to be checked

Public health staff will begin meeting flights from China from Monday to look for signs of coronavirus.

 

US-Chinese trade deal (Phase 1)

A three year trade war between the US and China, initiated by Donald Trump, created disruptions and uncertainties around the world, and cost the US billions of dollars, ‘phase 1’ of an agreement has been signed.

It’s hard to know whether the gains have been worth the pains.

Fox News:  US, China sign historic phase one trade deal

President Trump signed a landmark trade agreement with China, heralding a period of detente in a trade war between the world’s two largest economies fueled by decades of complaints that Beijing was manipulating its currency and stealing trade secrets from American firms.

The pact, detailed in a 94-page document, is only the initial phase of a broader deal that Trump has said may come in as many as three sections.

During two years of negotiation, there were occasional setbacks because “on some issues, we don’t see eye to eye,” noted Liu He, the Chinese vice premier who represented President Xi Jinping at the signing, but “our economic teams didn’t give up.”

The document specifies that both China and the U.S. “shall ensure fair and equitable market access” for businesses that depend on the safety of trade secrets. Specific measures that will protect pharmaceutical firms’ intellectual property, govern patents, block counterfeiting on e-commerce platforms and prevent exports of brand-name knockoffs are detailed.

The agreement, which was first reported on Dec. 12, includes commitments from Beijing to halt intellectual property theft, refrain from currency manipulation, cooperate in financial services and purchase an additional $200 billion of U.S. products over the next two years.

The purchases will include up to $50 billion of U.S. agriculture, according to Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, $40 billion of which has been confirmed by Chinese sources. China will also buy $40 billion in services, $50 billion in energy and $75 billion to $80 billion worth of manufacturing, the sources said.

BBC – US-China trade deal: Winners and losers

Winner: Donald Trump

Some critics say there is little substance, but the signing offers an opportunity for US President Donald Trump to put the trade war behind him and claim an achievement heading into the 2020 presidential election.

Winner: President Xi Jinping

China appears set to emerge from the signing having agreed to terms it offered early in the process, including loosening market access to US financial and car firms. In many cases, companies from other countries are already benefiting from the changes.

Winners: Taiwan/Vietnam/Mexico

Globally, economists estimate that the trade war will shave more than 0.5% off of growth. But some countries have benefited from the fight, which redirected an estimated $165bn in trade.

Analysts at Nomura identified Vietnam as the country that would gain the most, while the UN found that Taiwan, Mexico and Vietnam saw US orders ramp up last year.

Loser: American companies and consumers

The new deal halves tariff rates on $120bn worth of goods, but most of the higher duties – which affect another $360bn of Chinese goods and more than $100bn worth of US exports – remain in place. And that’s bad news for the American public.

Economists have found that the costs – more than $40bn so far – are being borne entirely by US companies and consumers. And that figure does not even try to measure lost business due to retaliation.

Loser: Farmers and manufacturers

The new deal commits China to boost purchases in manufacturing, services, agriculture and energy from 2017 levels by $200bn over two years.

Mr Trump has said that could include as $50bn worth of agricultural goods a year.

But the official figures are lower, analysts are sceptical those are attainable and China has said the purchases will depend on market demand. So far, the primary effect on business has been pain.

Farmers, who have been targeted by China’s tariffs, have seen bankruptcies soar, prompting a $28bn federal bailout.

Among manufacturers, the Federal Reserve has found employment losses, stemming from the higher import costs and China’s retaliation.

BBC – US-China trade deal: Five things that aren’t in it

The US and China have finally – after almost two years of hostilities – signed a “phase one” deal. But it only covers the easier aspects of their difficult relationship, and only removes some of the tariffs.

The biggest hurdles are still to come, and could stand in the way of a second phase agreement – one that would in theory remove all of the tariffs, bringing some much needed relief for the global economy, which is in the interests of all of us.

So what didn’t make it into the agreement?

1. Industrial subsidies and ‘Made in China 2025’

The deal doesn’t address Beijing’s ambitious ‘Made in China 2025’ programme, which is designed to help Chinese companies excel and become world-class leaders in emerging technologies. It also doesn’t address the subsidies that China gives its state-owned enterprises, says Paul Triolo of the Eurasia Group.

2. Huawei

The trade deal won’t reduce US pressure on Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant that has been caught in the crossfire of the trade war, with the US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin saying the company isn’t a “chess piece” in the negotiations.

3. Access for foreign financial services firms

While the agreement does talk about opening up market access for financial services firms, some analysts have said it doesn’t go far enough to ensure they have equal market access.

4. Enforcement and interpretation

The deal has a dispute resolution mechanism in place, which basically requires China – once a complaint has been made – to begin consultations with the US, with the onus on Beijing to resolve it.

But what the deal leaves out is “how the US is going to monitor enforcement,” says Derek Scissors of the American Enterprise Institute.

5. Further reductions in tariffs

The deal doesn’t include a definitive timeline on when the tariffs that are still in place will go down.

According to research from the Peterson Institute for International Economics, average tariffs on both sides are still up about 20% from pre-trade war levels – six times higher than when the dispute began. That means companies and consumers are still paying more.

So a lot of the pain remains.

Also from BBC:

Bloomberg/Japan Times (opinion): Round one to Trump in U.S.-China trade war

It is too early to give a final assessment of the U.S.-China trade deal, the details of which have just been published, but it’s not too soon for a provisional opinion: China is badly shaken, and American credibility has been greatly enhanced.

In general, I am suspicious of detailed agreements when one of the parties claims the other does not respect the terms of their deals, as the United States does with China. If the U.S. holds up its end of the bargain and China doesn’t, you have to wonder what all the trouble was about.

So what about the potential benefits for the U.S.? Most of them concern credibility.

The U.S. has established its seriousness as a counterweight to China, something lacking since it largely overlooked China’s various territorial encroachments in the 2010s. Whether in economics or foreign policy, China now can expect the U.S. to push back — a very different calculus. At a time when there is tension in North Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea, that is potentially a significant gain.

Credibility is difficult to measure, as is the political effects of of trade issues.

The U.S. still is keeping $360 billion of tariffs on Chinese goods, hardly a propitious sign that China made a great bargain. There is even speculation that China will not report the full deal to its citizens.

That isn’t a great bargain for American businesses and consumers who have to pay the tariffs.

It is too soon to judge the current trade deal a success from an American point of view. Nevertheless, its potential benefits remain underappreciated, and there is a good chance they will pay off.

Some of the agreement will no doubt be beneficial to the US, but there’s definite downsides as well.

Politico (opinion): The U.S.-China Trade Deal Was Not Even a Modest Win

It’s generous to even call it a deal.

The deal simply restores the U.S.-China relationship to where it was pre-President Donald Trump, declares victory in areas that don’t matter as much as they did and has cost the U.S. billions in the meantime.

The A1 article in the Wall Street Journal was measured but said that the deal “contains wins for the U.S.” The New Yorker dubbed the deal “an uneasy truce.” On CNBC, the garrulous Jim Cramer heralded it as a win for Trump and America, saying “tariffs worked.” In general, while few outside the White House saw the agreement as transformative, the reception to it has been amicably positive, if only because it appears to arrest the destructive slide to more and more confrontation, higher tariffs and greater disruption and uncertainty.

Halting the onward march toward an all-out economic Cold War with China is a good thing. But given that the march began with impulse and barely any strategy on the part of the Trump administration and given as well that an even better pseudo-deal, with more agricultural purchases, could have been struck this spring without more escalation of tariffs, the agreement inked this week should be seen as an almost complete failure.

Here’s why. When Trump became president, he immediately latched onto the trade deficit in goods, which showed the United States importing hundreds of billions more goods than it exported to China. Many also assailed China for years of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers and for restricting market access to U.S. financial companies. Those issues were at the heart of the decision to begin using tariffs to coerce China into changing its behavior.

At best, the Phase I agreement modestly revises the status quo before Trump came into office.

At a substantial cost in the meantime.

Politically much will depend on whether Trump can get any voters who aren’t already supporters to buy his “momentous” and “remarkable” and “righting the wrongs of the past” sales pitch.

The reality seems to be that this steadies things back to approximately where they were, with the addition of substantial new tariffs remaining in place. Success or otherwise is likely to be determined in the future, by what both the US and China actually do, and what they agree on in future phases of trade agreements.

 

US trade moves

It’s hard to know what Trump is trying to do with trade.

This week he threatened Mexico with tariffs, and he is now ending trade privileges with India.

This probably won’t strengthen his hand with China.

China also talking tougher.

US-China trade war escalates

President Donald trump has escalated the US-China trade war in while negotiations continue. Playing hardball may be necessary to make decent progress, but it’s risky, not just for the US and Chinese economies, but for all those who trade with them as well, which is most of the world.

.Washington Times: No cheating on friends

A president who talks and acts tough on trade has been a long time coming. Donald Trump made getting fair dealing on trade a major plank in his campaign platform and has followed through. China can’t say it wasn’t warned about the imposition this week of additional tariffs on selected goods coming into the United States.

Bad trade deals have cost the United States billions of dollars and cost millions of American workers their jobs over the last several decades. Supporters of free trade find tariffs against China, Europe, Mexico and Canada hard to take. Tariffs are taxes hiding under another name and lead to higher prices for U.S. consumers. The stock market dropped 500 points after the new China tariffs were announced. Tariffs provide a safe harbor for inefficiencies, and protect markets and manufacturers from the need to innovate and increase productivity.

But as a short-term strategy to get the Chinese to the table to make agreements to protect American intellectual property, for example, it might be that rare occasion on which to do something bad so that good may come.

If it works.

RealClear Politics:  A Don Corleone Offer to China on Trade

You don’t have to like tariffs to like President Trump’s strategy of imposing harsh ones on China. Those he imposed overnight are punishing, not only to China but to American consumers. The longer they last, the more they will cost. Yet serious trade sanctions are the only hope of getting Beijing to roll back its abusive economic practices and open its markets to U.S. exporters and investors.

Half measures and paper promises won’t do. The U.S. wants a big deal, and it wants teeth in it to prevent cheating. To get it, Trump is willing to threaten a trade war. We don’t know if it will work.

We do know that Trump’s threats are credible. He began saying how much he loved tariffs long before he ran for office. The irony is that his protectionist stance could pave the way for freer trade, first with China and then with the European Union.

The problems may be clear, but the solutions are not. No previous administration has figured out how to move China away from its discriminatory policies. Sweet talk and generous gestures don’t work. If they did, President Obama would have succeeded, not only with China but with Iran, Russia, and other hostile powers. Empty threats don’t work either. If they did, several administrations would have gotten China to change its trade and investment practices long ago.

These failed policies don’t leave Washington with many options. The U.S. can either accept Chinese protectionism, as Europeans and previous U.S. administrations have, or it can make them an offer they can’t refuse. The terms are obvious:

  • Threaten China’s export-driven economy
  • Make that threat believable and sustainable
  • Offer China a reasonable deal
  • Make it costly for China to delay, and
  • Buttress the deal with tough enforcement mechanisms

Trump is taking the Don Corleone option. He acted swiftly and ruthlessly when Chinese trade negotiators withdrew concessions they had already made in writing. On Friday, he more than doubled tariffs to 25% on some $200 billion worth of Chinese exports, with promises of more to come.

Trump’s decisive move is directed at China’s economy, but it also sends a sobering message to North Korea’s nuclear negotiators. They are bound to see how costly it is to make empty promises to the Trump administration, as Kim Jong Un has done on denuclearization.

President Trump is forcing Xi to choose between two unhappy alternatives. That’s why he has thrown a severed horse head into the bed. Trump wants to force the issue and make it hard to resist the American offer. If he succeeds, he will present the deal as a huge win for both sides.

But dealing like this can have it’s risks, and it’s down sides.

Washington Post – Another View: Multi-front trade wars hurting U.S

News reports identify the Trump administration’s specific complaint as China’s alleged going back on its promises to put U.S.-requested policy changes into law. For their part, Chinese sources have told Western media that Beijing interpreted Trump’s complaints about purportedly tight Federal Reserve monetary policy as a sign of economic weakness that China could exploit.

It’s anyone guess what will come of the current meetings in Washington between China’s trade delegation and Trump’s team. What should not be in doubt, however, is that throughout the entire bargaining process with Beijing, the administration has undercut its position by attempting to wage simultaneous tariff battles with other countries.

As Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics has shown, Trump’s tariffs now cover 50.5% of Chinese imports — but also 7.3% of imports from Canada, 2.5% of imports from the European Union, 9.6% of imports from South Korea and 3.8% of imports from Japan.

By bracketing old friends with Beijing, even justifying some levies against them (on steel and aluminum) on “national security” grounds, Trump has made it politically difficult for them to rally to the U.S. side in the dispute with China. They were, in fact, obliged to retaliate.

This unforced error is doubly regrettable because Trump arguably had the upper hand going into his talks with China.

In a world where Trump is deeply unpopular, his complaints — shared by previous U.S. presidents — against China represented a rare case in which other nations conceded him the moral high ground. A savvier president would take advantage of that.

The negotiations with China might yet reach a mutually beneficial conclusion, or they might collapse. Either way, Trump will have defied a lesson of history: Multiple-front wars are the hardest to win, whether they are of the military kind or trade wars.

Fighting without allies is harder still.

But for now the big battle is with China, and much will depend on how they react.

Reuters: Trump says no hurry to reach deal with China as trade war escalates

In a series of morning tweets, Trump defended the tariff hike and said he was in “absolutely no rush” to finalize a deal, adding that the U.S. economy would gain more from the levies than any agreement.

“Tariffs will bring in FAR MORE wealth to our country than even a phenomenal deal of the traditional kind,” Trump said in one of the tweets.

Despite Trump’s insistence that China will absorb the cost of the tariffs, U.S. businesses will pay them and likely pass them on to consumers. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.

Global stocks, which have fallen this week on the increased U.S.-China tensions, came under renewed pressure on Friday.

Following the U.S. tariff hike, China’s Commerce Ministry said it would take countermeasures but did not elaborate.

China’s central bank said it was fully able to cope with any external uncertainty.

China responded to Trump’s tariffs last year with levies on a range of U.S. goods including soybeans and pork, which has hurt U.S. farmers at a time when their debt has spiked to the highest level in decades.

Trump escalated the one way war of words. Much now depends on whether China responds by escalating the war of tariffs.

And how markets deal with the war. CNN: Dow Tanks After Trump’s Ballistic Twitter Rant Shellshocks Wall Street

The Dow’s weeklong catastrophe shows no signs of letting up, as the US stock market endured another shellacking at the hands of Donald Trump and his tariff regime on Friday.

The immediate trigger for Friday’s sell-off was the never-ending trade war teeter-totter, which continues to viciously seesaw between dizzying optimism and utter despair.

Less than a day after hinting that Thursday would be a “very strong day” for US-China trade negotiations, President Trump unleashed a ballistic Twitter rant in which he downplayed the need to “rush” into a trade deal.

Time will tell. Trump has a reputation for overstating his abilities and his tactics. Tweeting may be a useful tool for Trump, but like imposing tariffs it has risks.

What is not well known is how China will be approaching the current situation, as they operate far less publicly.

And a number of US businesses will be nervous about how all this will affect them.