* The US side has been urged to view China’s development and bilateral trade ties with an open mind and work with China towards the same direction. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on February 19 made the comments when meeting with a US delegation led by US Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Myron Brilliant in Beijing. * The US State Department confirmed Tuesday that US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams had met with Venezuela officials recently to ensure the security of US personnel in the South American country. * Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and visiting European Council President Donald Tusk met on February 19 to discuss the situation in and around Ukraine. * German government and industry should cooperate in the expansion of the new 5G mobile communications standard, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged during a speech at the Digitising Europe Summit in Berlin on February 19. * Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with his Slovak, Czech and Hungarian counterparts on February 19, a day after a high-profile summit was cancelled amid a quarrel between Poland and Israel. * Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine El Othmani reaffirmed Tuesday in Rabat his country’s support to stability in Libya. * At a joint press conference in Helsinki, Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on February 19 stressed the need to fill the gap in the ranks of the defenders of free trade and the single market after the exit of the… [Read full story]
Illustrative image (Source: BBC) Hanoi (VNA) – Over 10,000 Thai individuals have been verified as candidates running as parliamentary hopefuls in the March 24 election, Thai media reported on February 19. The Election Commission (EC) verified a total of 10,792 candidates contesting over 350 individual constituencies in the nationwide race to parliament. Earlier this month, a total of 11,181 people had applied to run as candidates in individual constituencies. Of them, 389 candidates have been disqualified, according to the EC. On February 15, a total of 2,810 candidates had been verified to run as members of parliament (MPs) on the party list, while 107 others have been disqualified. A total of 500 MPs will be elected, including 350 MPs for individual constituencies and 150 others on the party list. Meanwhile, a total of 68 candidates have been verified by the polling agency to run for the post of prime minister, including Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who has been named by the Palang Pracharath Party, and former PM and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. In another move, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) of Thailand has ordered state agencies to issue immediate clarifications to counter distorted news in the run-up to the March 24 election. NCPO deputy spokesperson Colonel Sirichan Ngathong, said that more people are now following the news as the election nears with wider spread of information through multiple channels, particularly the Internet. Certain pieces of information made available to the public were embellished to give certain… [Read full story]
The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in California, said the president’s order was contrary to the Presentment Clause that outlines legislative procedures and the Appropriations Clause, which defines Congress as the final arbiter of public funds. The move had been previously announced by Xavier Becerra the attorney general of California who said his state and others had legal standing because they risked losing moneys intended for military projects, disaster assistance and other purposes. Several Republican senators have decried the emergency declaration, saying it establishes a dangerous precedent and amounts to executive overreach. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia are party to the complaint seeking an injunction. “Use of those additional federal funds for the construction of a border wall is contrary to Congress’s intent in violation of the US Constitution, including the Presentment Clause and Appropriations Clause,” the complaint said. It added that Trump had “veered the country toward a constitutional crisis of his own making.” “Congress has repeatedly rebuffed the president’s insistence to fund a border wall, recently resulting in a record 35-day partial government shutdown over the border wall dispute,” the document read. “After the government reopened, Congress approved, and the president signed into law, a $1.375 billion appropriation for fencing along the southern border, but Congress made clear that funding could not be used to build President Trump’s proposed border wall.” The complaint added that the Department of Homeland Security had violated… [Read full story]
LISBON — Portugal’s socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa on Sunday announced a reshuffle of his government as part of his preparations for May’s European Parliament elections. Costa notably replaced the infrastructure and housing minister, Pedro Marques, who is stepping down to become the head of the Socialist Party list for the European polls on May 26, it was announced late Saturday at the end of the party’s convention. On the premier’s recommendation, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa appointed three new ministers and eight junior ministers, said a presidency statement. All the new appointments will take up their posts on Monday in a ceremony at the presidential palace. On Wednesday Costa’s socialist cabinet faces a no-confidence vote filed by the small, right-wing CDS party. But as the CDS have only 18 deputies in the 230-seat parliament, the government should easily fight off the challenge. — AFP
Addressing an audience including Ivanka Trump, daughter of US President Donald Trump, Merkel defended plans for a new gas pipeline from Russia to Germany that he has criticised. During a question and answer session, she added that it would be wrong to exclude Russia politically. “Geostrategically, Europe can’t have an interest in cutting off all relations with Russia.” Merkel appealed for global cooperation on a range of issues from dealing with Iran to preventing another migrant crisis. Responding to the question on international relations posed by the conference organisers – “The Great Puzzle: Who Will Pick Up the Pieces?” – Merkel responded to loud applause: “Only all of us together.” International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde was among those who stood up to applaud Merkel.
“The parties noted the need to promote the intra-Syrian political dialogue and to launch the work of the Constitutional Committee as soon as possible,” a Kremlin statement said. Putin and Macron discussed the developments in northeastern Syria and the Idlib de-escalation zone, and Putin warned that militants are preparing chemical weapon provocations, citing available data. They reaffirmed mutual commitment to continue Russia-France contacts for the sake of assisting Syria’s return to peace, it said. Putin and Macron also agreed on further cooperation to accelerate the settlement of the Ukrainian internal conflict, including in the Normandy format, the Kremlin said. On February 14, Putin and his Turkish and Iranian counterparts agreed on several key directions of future interaction in the settlement of the Syrian crisis after a trilateral summit in the Russian city of Sochi, including pushing forward the constitutional reform in the country. Putin said that most of the participants of the constitutional committee had been agreed on with the Syrian government and the opposition, and that the next step would be to elaborate regulations for the main parameters of its functioning.
Trump and Kim are due to meet in Hanoi on Feb. 27 and 28 following their historic first meeting last June in Singapore. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday Washington aims to “get as far down the road as we can” at the summit. Kim will meet with Vietnamese officials when he arrives in Hanoi, said three sources with direct knowledge of Kim’s schedule on Saturday, who requested anonymity citing the sensitivity and secrecy surrounding the movements of the North Korean leader. He will also visit the Vietnamese manufacturing base of Bac Ninh and the industrial port town of Hai Phong, one source said. Vietnam’s president and general secretary of the ruling Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, will meet Kim ahead of a planned trip by Trong to neighboring Laos, one of the sources with direct knowledge told Reuters. A Reuters witness saw Kim’s close aide, Kim Chang Son, in Hanoi on Saturday visiting a government guesthouse and the Metropole and Melia hotels in the center of the capital. Reuters was first to report last month that Hanoi was preparing to receive Kim for a state visit this month. Communist-ruled Vietnam, which has embraced economic reforms and developed close diplomatic ties with its former foe the United States, has been widely touted as a model of reform for isolated and impoverished North Korea. The former Cold War allies, which share a similar socialist ideology and exchanged military and political support during the Vietnam War, are eyeing a new… [Read full story]
It is clear that the two sides made steady and methodical progress on both core and subsidiary issues in the talks within this week, said Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Institute for China-America Studies on February 15. “That negotiators are meeting again next week itself is testament to the earnestness with which both sides are pursing these talks as well as to the forward movement within the talks,” Gupta told Xinhua. Both China and the United Sates are motivated to negotiate due to the economic pain from tariffs imposed by the two sides on imported goods from each other in 2018, said Ethan Harris, head of global economics research at Bank of America (BofA) Merrill Lynch. The US incentive to clinch a deal is quite strong and one thing to remember is that US President Donald Trump wants a deal, said Harris at a media briefing on February 14. When US fiscal stimulus started to fade at the end of last year, it became more and more apparent that the trade war was hurting business confidence, said Harris. The two sides are still engaged in negotiations and there might be some shadow boxing in the media by the main protagonists on the US side, said Gupta. “On the trade talks, my view is that they are at a critical juncture. We should factor in the possibility for some slippage, perhaps into late March,” said Gupta. China and the United States held the sixth round of… [Read full story]
* India on February 15 withdrew the most favoured nation (MFN) status to Pakistan in the aftermath of Thursday (February 14)’s suicide attack on a convoy of paramilitary force in India-controlled Kashmir. * Pakistan on late Friday (February 15) rejected Indian allegations of its involvement in a suicide attack in the Indian-controlled Kashmir that left 40 soldiers killed, local media reported. * US President Donald Trump signed on February 15 a national emergency to expand the US-Mexico border wall and push for his signature campaign promise. * British Prime Minister Theresa May is to return to Brussels within days to meet European Union (EU) officials in a bid to rescue her Brexit deal, it emerged Friday. * Russia and India will discuss joint production of military equipment at the Aero India Show 2019 next week in Bangalore, said an official of Russian state conglomerate Rostec on February 15. * Nigeria’s electoral body announced on February 16 that the country’s presidential election was postponed until February 23 as a scheduled proceeding of the vote was not “feasible.” * The US State Department said Friday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels, and the two discussed US-EU cooperation on a range of issues. * The Mexican government said on February 15 that it will provide MXN107 billion (US$5.2 billion) to help the state-run Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) improve its financial condition. * Many parts of north China will be swept by snow, while south… [Read full story]
Malaysia recorded an economic growth rate of 4.7 percent in 2018 (Photo: propertyhunter.com.my) Kuala Lumpur (VNA) – Malaysia posted a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 4.7 percent in the fourth quarter (Q4) of last year, leading to an overall economic growth of 4.7 percent in 2018, Bernama news agency reported, citing Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM)’s announcement. According to the news agency, the growth was slower than the 5.9 percent recorded in 2017. In 2018, the economy grew 5.4 percent in the Q1, 4.5 percent in Q2 and 4.4 percent in Q3. BNM Governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus was quoted as saying at a press conference that the 4.7 percent growth in the economy last year was supported by resilient private sector activities amid temporary supply disruptions. In the Q4, private sector activity remained the main driver of growth, while a rebound in exports of goods and services contributed towards the positive growth of net exports. On the supply side, major sectors continued to expand. Bernama also cited a statement by BNM which said the services sector was supported by continued strength in consumer spending, particularly in the retail segment, while growth in the manufacturing sector remained driven by the electronics and electrical (E&E) and consumer-related clusters. Commodities-related sectors continued to recover from production disruptions experienced since the Q2, with higher growth in the mining and agricultural sectors.-VNA