VIF News Digest: International Developments (US and Russia), 16-31 Jan 2020
More oil from the US? India’s energy security to be top priority when Trump-Modi meet
Financial Express, 16 Jan 2020

Though no specific dates have been announced for Trump's visit, officials from various sectors of both countries have met frequently in the recent months.
Discussions around India’s energy security will top the agenda during US President Donald Trump’s proposed visit to India this year. Though no specific dates have been announced for Trump’s visit, officials from various sectors of both countries have met frequently in recent months.

Energy is an important component in the Indo-US trade mix, and currently, India imports around $4 billion worth of oil and gas from the United States of America. The ongoing US-Iran imbroglio has affected India’s energy supplies. This will have a cascading effect on India’s strategic oil reserves and is expected to affect the country’s refining capacity as it is a critical source of export earnings and has strategic implications.

The crude imports from the US are expected to go up to around 10 million tonnes (MT) in the current fiscal year, which is likely to double after Trump’s visit. India had to stop the import of crude oil from Iran last year after the Trump administration refused to give further waivers.

According to a senior official who wished to remain anonymous, India’s energy security is expected to be on top of the agenda when the two sides meet. “This is expected to include discussions related to the increase in imports from the US, as well as the technologies that the top companies could offer to India,” the official said. Click here to read....

After Russia's criticism, US, India say Indo-Pacific not aimed at excluding any country
Times of India, 16 Jan 2020

A day after Russia claimed that the Indo-Pacific initiative was targeted at containing China's influence in the region, the US and India said the concept was not aimed at excluding any country and was a "principled vision".

US deputy national security advisor Matthew Pottinger, during a panel discussion at the Raisina Dialogue here, slammed Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov for saying that the Indo-Pacific initiative was aimed at disrupting the existing regional structures and said it was a community of countries that respected the rule of law and stood up for freedom of navigation in the seas and skies.

Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale, who was also part of the panel, said he agreed with Pottinger's views that Indo-Pacific was a principled vision and Asia Pacific was a colonial concept.

"India was connected to China and South East Asia for millennia. That connect was broken by colonisation.... (Today) global commons are important and Indo-Pacific is a global common," he said. Click here to read....

China-U.S. phase-one trade deal considerably addresses concerns of both sides, says vice premier
Xinhua Net, 16 Jan 2020

The China-U.S. phase-one economic and trade agreement has considerably addressed the concerns of both sides, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He said here Wednesday.

Liu, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chief of the Chinese side of the China-U.S. comprehensive economic dialogue, made the remarks during a briefing with some Chinese media outlets. Click here to read....

US faces pressure to increase exports
Global Times, 16 Jan 2020

China promised a $200 billion increase in purchases of US goods and services over two years. China's trade surplus with the US is indeed too large. Much of China's foreign currency has been spent on purchasing US treasury bonds. This is not an ideal trade-financial structure in the long run. Moving toward a trade balance is a healthier direction for China-US economic cooperation.

Because of China's enormous trade surplus, the US has used it as a political weapon against China. Expanding the amount of imports from the US is a process to dismantle this weapon. The increase in Chinese imports from the US means that more weapons to counter the US will be held in our hands.

In the past, China imported more than $20 billion worth of agricultural products from the US in one year. When China suspended purchasing those goods, it exerted great political pressure on the US. When China's purchase of these items reaches over $40 billion, the US will be further tied up.

China needs to work hard to implement the additional $200 billion in imports from the US in the next two more years. The US should also cooperate fully to provide products that the Chinese market really needs and are competitive in price. Click here to read....

US sends nuke-detecting plane to air base in Japan
The Korea Herald, 17 Jan 2020

The United States has deployed a WC-135W radiation detection plane to one of its air bases in Japan, an aviation tracker said Thursday, a move seen as aimed at beefing up surveillance of North Korea.

The WC-135W Constant Phoenix arrived at Kadena Air Base in Japan's Okinawa, Aircraft Spots said in a Twitter post, without elaborating on the exact time of the arrival.

Nicknamed the "nuke sniffer," the WC-135W played a key role in detecting radioactive leaks after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union in 1986.

It is unclear whether the purpose of the deployment was for a simple stopover or for an operation.

An RC-135S Cobra Ball surveillance aircraft is also known to have been deployed at Kadena Air Base. (Yonhap) Click here to read....

Pentagon claims shared defense costs benefit S. Korean economy
The Korea Herald, 17 Jan 2020

The Pentagon claimed Thursday that much of the costs shared between South Korea and the United States to station American troops on the peninsula directly benefits the South Korean economy.

The comment by Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman comes a day after the allies concluded their sixth round of defense cost-sharing negotiations without an agreement due to wide differences over how much of the burden Seoul should carry.

Washington has demanded a significant increase in Seoul's financial contributions, along with payments toward the cost of rotational troop deployments to the peninsula, which were not included in the previous deal, known as the Special Measures Agreement.

"We've continued to push on this since President Trump came into office, and we continue to see it, whether it's in the Middle East, whether it's in Europe, whether it's in Asia, that we expect our allies to pick up a little bit more of the burden," Hoffman said during a press briefing at the Pentagon. "One thing I'd point out with South Korea is much of the monies that are part of that cost-sharing actually go back directly into the South Korean economy in terms of goods and services procured there, the hiring of foreign service nationals who are able to work on the base." Click here to read....

India, U.S. In Advance-Stage Talks To Resolve Trade Issues, Says Piyush Goyal

BloombergQuint. Com, 16 Jan 2020

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday said India and the U.S. are in an "advance stage" of dialogue to resolve some of the pressing trade issues. He said that both the countries can expand their trade relations which in future may result in a preferential or a free trade agreement. "With the U.S., we are in an advance stage of dialogue to sort out some of the pressing issues,” he said in New Delhi.

The remarks assume significance as both the countries are negotiating a trade package to boost two-way commerce. The minister said that both the nations are big trading partners and can further expand trade. "I would believe that going forward both counties will like to further expand that engagement which could lead to PTA (preferential trade agreement) and FTA (free trade agreement) in the years ahead,” he added. Click here to read....

India to cut duty on over 40 US products including high-end mobiles, smartwatches
New Indian Express, 17 Jan, 2020

India and the US have thrashed out the contours of a trade pact to be signed during the proposed visit of US President Donald Trump next month, which will see India agreeing to cut duties on more than 40 US product categories ranging from apples, almonds, up-end mobiles, smartwatches and electronic gadgets, in return for the US allowing Indian manufacturers duty-free trade facilities withdrawn last year.

Officials said that for the US President, the India deal will come before its trade deal announced with China on Thursday. “In some ways, though the scope of the China deal is larger, ours will be better,” said a commerce ministry official.

While going ahead with the deal, India will maintain that while it is open to import of US dairy products, but will stipulate that they have to conform to restrictions over them not being fed animal food matter.

Apparently, animal feed used in the US dairy industry has high-protein blood meal from cattle and bovines. India has pointed out that cultural and religious sensitivities will preclude imports from dairy animals fed with such meals. India’s dairy and poultry industry had lobbied hard against opening up these sectors to unrestricted imports. Click here to read....

India, US in contact over Donald Trump's visit: MEA
Live Mint, 16 Jan 2020

India and the United States are in contact through diplomatic channels over the proposed visit of President Donald Trump, Minister of External Affairs said on Thursday.

"Speculations have been made on this for months... When PM Modi met US President Trump, he had invited him to India... Both the countries are in contact over this. We will share with you as and when we get concrete information," said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said during a weekly briefing in New Delhi.

Kumar's remarks come amid reports that Trump is likely to make a state visit to India towards the end of February.

A senior Indian official had told ANI that Indian diplomat Taranjit Singh Sandhu's appointment as the new Ambassador of India to the US will be announced 'soon' in light of the possibility that Trump is likely to be visiting India in February-end. Click here to read....

Trump impeachment: US House sends historic case to Senate
India Today, PTI, 17 Jan 2020

The US House of Representatives passed a resolution and submitted the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate for a historic trial to remove him from office, a move described by the unfazed President as "another con job" by the Opposition Democrats.

The House, controlled by the Democratic Party on Wednesday voted to send articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate, in a major development to remove him from office for his alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

In a 228-193 vote, which was mainly on party lines, the House appointed seven impeachment managers who will argue the Democrats' case for removing Trump from the office of the US President.

The managers were named by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"We are here today to cross a very important threshold in American history," Pelosi said, addressing the House before the vote. Click here to read....

US Senate passes USMCA, the new North American trade deal
Al Jazeera, 16 Jan 2020

The United States Senate on Thursday approved a revamp of the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that includes tougher rules on labour and automotive content but leaves $1.2 trillion in annual US-Mexico-Canada trade flows largely unchanged.

The legislation for the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) passed on an 89-10 bipartisan vote. The measure will now go to President Donald Trump for him to sign into law.

The US House of Representatives, where Democrats hold the majority, passed the legislation on December 19 after insisting on changes to improve enforcement of new labour rights.

Canada still needs to approve the trade deal before it can take effect and replace the quarter-century-old NAFTA, which Trump has blamed for the loss of thousands of US factory jobs to lower-wage Mexico.

Canada's parliament does not return to session until January 27, so the scheduling of a vote there remains unclear. But the USMCA is expected to see little resistance in Canada, as Conservatives have said they would back the deal negotiated earlier by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal-dominated government. Click here to read....

Who Is Russia’s New Prime Minister?
Foreign Policy, 16 Jan 2020

When Russians woke up on Wednesday morning, most had likely never heard of Mikhail Mishustin, the head of the country’s tax service. But by the time they went to bed that night, Mishustin had been named as Russia’s new prime minister after a day that included a flurry of proposed changes to the constitution and a series of dramatic shake-ups that saw the government resign en masse. It was the first real inkling of the power transfer to come, with President Vladimir Putin set to reach his constitutionally imposed term limit in 2024.

During his annual State of the Nation Address, Putin, who is on his fourth and technically final term as president, announced sweeping constitutional reforms that would redistribute some of the powers of the position to the parliament and State Council. Should Putin head the newly empowered State Council after stepping down, as some analysts expect, he could wield significant influence over whoever succeeds him as president. Click here to read....

Russia’s New Prime Minister Is a Bureaucratic Superman
Moscow Times, 16 Jan 2020

After a blitz of constitutional reform proposals aimed at keeping him in power after his presidential term ends in 2024, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin named his new prime minister — a tech-obsessed tax administrator with no interest in politics. The appointment highlights the Putin system’s fundamental paradox: It is an antiquated, Byzantine, nepotistic, deeply corrupt governance model that nevertheless values and rewards technocratic brilliance.

In the Russian power succession scheme, the prime minister takes over when the president is for some reason unable to govern; Prime Minister Putin became acting president when Boris Yeltsin resigned in the final minutes of 1999. Putin waited out Dmitry Medvedev’s presidential term between 2008 and 2012 as prime minister, and Medvedev assumed the post afterwards. But there have been periods under both Yeltsin and Putin when the prime minister post wasn’t occupied by politically ambitious or important individuals; those were times when the president claimed full responsibility for Russia’s course.
Mikhail Mishustin, the newly confirmed prime minister, fits neither precedent. Click here to read....

Russia to use UN and G20 potential to avoid arms race, Lavrov says
TASS, 17 Jan 2020

Moscow aims to use the potential of international organizations such as the UN and the G20 to avoid an arms race, Acting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday during a news conference on the outcomes of Russian diplomacy in 2019.

"This year, we plan to work on maintaining global security and strategic stability, which includes efforts aimed to avoid an arms race in space and the impermissibility of weaponizing cyberspace," he said.

According to Lavrov, Moscow will use the full potential of the UN, the G20, the CIS, the EAEU, as well as "the potential of BRICS and SCO chairmanships." "We will pay special attention to the efforts of five permanent members of the UN Security Council," the acting minister stressed. Click here to read....

US and Russia discuss possibility of moving beyond bilateral format on arms control
TASS, 17 Jan 2020

Russia and the United States have discussed the possibility of moving beyond a bilateral format on arms control, the US Department of State said in a statement released on Thursday.

At the talks, Russia was represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, and the US was represented by Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation Christopher Ford, who "has been delegated the authorities and functions of the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security."

The delegations discussed "their respective national strategic policies as a means to reduce misunderstandings and misperceptions on key security issues," the statement said. "The U.S. and Russian delegations discussed nuclear stockpiles and strategy, crisis and arms race stability, and the role and potential future of arms control, including the importance of moving beyond a solely bilateral format," the statement noted. Click here to read....

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