Last-Minute India Demands Jeopardize 16-Nation Asian Trade Pact

Last-Minute India Demands Jeopardize 16-Nation Asian Trade Pact(Bloomberg) — India keeps making last-minute requests after it agreed to terms for the world’s largest regional trade agreement, potentially preventing Asian leaders from announcing a breakthrough on the 16-nation pact during a summit in Bangkok next week, people familiar with the situation said.In recent days, India angered other negotiators by making additional requests on the China-backed pact covering half the world’s population, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. Leaders had planned to announce a preliminary deal on Nov. 4 when leaders gather for meetings hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, they said.Chief negotiators are still confident they can reach a broad agreement on the deal to reduce tariffs, known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), during a planned meeting on Thursday in Bangkok, the people said. Any announcement would pave the way for nations to finalize the details on the legal framework in the coming months.A breakthrough after seven years of talks would mark a win for trade liberalization in an era of rising tariffs and resurgent nationalism. The deal would also further integrate Asia’s economies with China at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump is seeking to convince the region to shun Chinese infrastructure loans and 5G technology.India, which has raised some tariffs under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has long been the main holdout on an RCEP deal due to strong domestic opposition over fears the country would be flooded with cheap Chinese goods.India DemandsModi, who is fresh off a landslide re-election win in May, agreed to move ahead with the deal after receiving personal assurances from Chinese President Xi Jinping in an informal seaside meeting earlier this month, an Indian official said. China has long pushed to conclude the pact, which also includes Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and 10 Southeast Asian nations.Still, India came up with new demands after a broad RCEP agreement was concluded, seeking changes in base duties and product-specific rules, according to an Indian official. Two Indian officials said Modi’s government would push for further concessions but is likely to agree to sign due to fears that India could be left out of the announcement, forcing it to negotiate with countries on a bilateral basis.The office of the prime minister in India didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for India’s trade ministry didn’t answer two calls made to her mobile phone.‘New Energy’“I have been quite skeptical of a robust RCEP coming to conclusion, due entirely to India’s intransigence,” said Richard Rossow, the Wadhwani Chair in U.S. India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “However, since Modi’s re-election, there seems to be new energy behind completing the deal despite serious concerns about how it could impact India’s trade balance with China.”India will cut duties for more than 90% of items for most nations in RCEP, excluding China, with some duties being phased out over 10-year, 15-year and 20-year time frames, one of the Indian officials said.India’s government plans to sell the deal as a political win because tariffs won’t kick in for a decade, another Indian official said. But the administration still worries that local manufacturing will struggle when tariffs eventually drop and the country’s poor, small-scale and low-tech farmers would struggle to compete.It’s “highly likely” the RCEP deal will be agreed to in Bangkok even if the agreement is not completely finalized, according to Juan Sebastian Cortes-Sanchez, a senior trade policy analyst at the Asian Trade Centre think-tank in Singapore.“I don’t think we can expect a complete, crisp agreement, with all the tariff schedules and information, and all the chapters completed,” he said. “But we would expect them to sign something so that they can move forward with it.”\–With assistance from Karlis Salna and Michelle Jamrisko.To contact the reporters on this story: Archana Chaudhary in New Delhi at achaudhary2@bloomberg.net;Shruti Srivastava in New Delhi at ssrivastav74@bloomberg.net;Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at imarlow1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net, Karthikeyan SundaramFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

National Security Council official's testimony seems to contradict Rick Perry's Ukraine denial

National Security Council official's testimony seems to contradict Rick Perry's Ukraine denialIn his testimony before House impeachment investigators on Tuesday, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman appeared to contradict a statement Energy Secretary Rick Perry made regarding Ukraine, Politico reports. Vindman is the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, and he listened to President Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In his opening statement, Vindman said he attended a July 10 meeting at the White House during which U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland requested Ukrainian officials launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.Vindman said he let Sondland know this was "inappropriate," as the "request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the [National Security Council] was going to get involved in or push."Earlier this month, Perry told the Christian Broadcasting Network that he never heard anyone mention Ukraine investigating the Bidens. "Not once, as God is my witness, not once was a Biden name — not the former vice president, not his son — ever mentioned," he said. Fiona Hill, Trump's former adviser on Russia, testified earlier this month that Perry was in the meeting with Vindman and Sondland, and he left as she arrived, Politico reports. This testimony puts Perry in the room when Sondland's Ukraine request was mentioned.An Energy Department spokesperson contacted by Politico would not comment on the July 10 meeting, only saying Perry stands by his statement. Perry, who is resigning effective Dec. 1, has received congressional subpoenas requesting information on meetings and phone calls he had with Ukrainian officials, but said he will not comply.

Navy upholds sentencing of Navy SEAL for posing with corpse

Navy upholds sentencing of Navy SEAL for posing with corpseThe U.S. chief of naval operations on Tuesday denied a request for clemency and upheld a military jury’s sentence that will reduce the rank of a decorated Navy SEAL convicted of posing with a dead Islamic State captive in Iraq in 2017. Adm. Mike Gilday made the decision after carefully reviewing the trial transcripts and the clemency request by the lawyers of Edward Gallagher, said Cmdr. Nate Christensen, spokesman for Gilday, in a statement. Gallagher’s lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, said they are disappointed in the ruling that will cost Gallagher up to $200,000 in retirement funds because of his loss of rank from a chief petty officer to a 1st class petty officer.

Correction: Puerto Rico-Cruise Ship Death story

Correction: Puerto Rico-Cruise Ship Death storyIn a story Oct. 28 about charges brought in a cruise ship death, The Associated Press reported erroneously that a child who died was 2 and the man’s niece. SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A man who police say dropped his young granddaughter from the 11th floor of a cruise ship docked in Puerto Rico in July has been accused of negligent homicide.

Strong quake jolts southern Philippines, 1 dead, dozens hurt

Strong quake jolts southern Philippines, 1 dead, dozens hurtA powerful earthquake shook the southern Philippines on Tuesday, killing one person, injuring dozens and sending people dashing out of homes and buildings in a region still recovering from recent strong quakes. The 6.6 magnitude earthquake was caused by movement in a local fault about 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) deep about 25 kilometers northeast of Tulunan town in Cotabato province, the Philippine Institute of Seismology and Volcanology said. The U.S. Geological Survey had the same measurement, adjusted from a preliminary 6.8.