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Australia “won’t walk away” from free trade despite TPP blow: government

CANBERRA, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) — Australia will work with the remaining Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) nations and look to other nations to salvage what it can of the doomed free trade agreement after U.S. President Donald Trump’s overnight decision to withdraw from the deal, Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said.

Following Trump’s decision to axe America’s involvement, effectively leaving the deal in its current form ‘dead in the water’, Ciobo has already said other nations which were a part of the original deal had opened up discussion lines about a potential replacement, as the Trump decision was “not unexpected”.

“We are not going to walk away from pursuing high quality trade deals that are good for Australian exports,” Ciobo told Sky News on Tuesday.

He said there was a possibility that a “TPP 12 minus one” deal, which would involve the remaining 11 signatories, could get off the ground as the Australian government had been in close contact with representatives from the original TPP nations.

“A number of us had a conversation about a possible ‘TPP 12 minus one’ in other words, the Trans-Pacific Partnership minus the United States in order to keep hold of the gains we’ve been able to agree (upon),” Ciobo told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Monday.

“I’ve had conversations with Canada, Japan, Mexico, with New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia. I know there have been conversations with Chie and Peru.

“There are quite a number of countries that have an interest in looking to see if we could make a ‘TPP 12 minus one’.”

The Trade Minister also hinted at the possibility of introducing a new, or multiple new nations, into the agreement; he told the ABC there has been interest from Indonesia, while China may also be approached.

“The original architecture was to enable other countries to join,” Ciobo said.

“Certainly I know that Indonesia has expressed a possible interest. And there would be scope for China if we’re able to reformulate it to be a ‘TPP 12 minus one’ for countries like Indonesia or China – or indeed other countries – to consider joining.”

However, he said, it may be some time before formal discussions about the matter take place, considering Trump was also keen to “renegotiate” the existing North American Free Trade Agreement.

“President Trump has indicated he wants to renegotiate elements of the North American FTA, and that would have an impact on Canada and Mexico, which in turn would have an impact on the kind of deal we could reach under the ’12 minus one’,” Ciobo said.

Despite the optimism from the government on the matter, the federal opposition has urged the government to “move on” from the doomed multilateral trade deal; opposition spokesperson Jason Clare said

“This executive order means the TPP is now officially dead,” Clare said. “(Prime Minister) Malcolm Turnbull’s credibility is not in much better shape.”

“Last week he announced that his big economic plan for the year was to introduce legislation to implement the TPP. Donald Trump’s executive order today means Malcolm Turnbull’s big economic plan is also dead. It would have no effect at all.

“It’s time for Malcolm Turnbull to wake up and move on, and develop a real economic plan for Australia.”


Written by Kham

24/01/2017 at 9:51 am

Assange: Snowden “a hero to all humanity”

SYDNEY, June 13 (Xinhua) — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has called whistleblower Edward Snowden “a hero to all humanity”in a live video address to the University of Sydney on Thursday.

“Men like Snowden have shown extreme degrees of civic courage,” he told a packed auditorium of delegates on the closing night of the 19th International Symposium on Electronic Art.

“Edward Snowden revealed something that I have been speaking about for a long time. .. That as the internet has penetrated every aspect of society, riding on with it is mass surveillance.

“He provided a clear direction so that we can understand where we are now, and for that he is .. a hero to all in fact of humanity. Because this phenomena is something that affects all of humanity,” said Assange.

Snowden is understood to be hiding out in Hong Kong after coming forward on Sunday as the source of leaked classified material exposing U.S. spy agency data collection program PRISM. Assange has previously expressed support for the ex-CIA contractor, calling on the international community to offer him protection.

Assange’s address to Australia also comes during the ongoing trial of U.S. Army private Bradley Manning, accused of leaking military intelligence to WikiLeaks.

Assange called on international citizens to show the same courage displayed by Snowden and Manning to achieve a more free and transparent society.

“We feel and live keenly because of the risks we take. Every day that we do not live up to our principles is a wasted day,” he said.

Assange also spoke about his plans for an Australian WikiLeaks party, backing his campaign to be elected to the Australian Senate- – which he hopes will allow him to escape extradition to Sweden from Britain.

Assange has now been closeted away in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for nearly a year, but the Australian hacker said his self- imposed imprisonment has only helped his cause.

“The way the situation is going is actually helpful for our cause for me to be in prison. For a while, not forever, but for a small while.

“The situation is very useful for projecting the principles that I believe in. And every day that we are able to project our principles into the world, every day that we are able to operate in such a way that we follow our beliefs .. is a day that has been truly lived,” he said.


Former Pakistani president Musharraf arrested by police

ISLAMABAD, April 19 (Xinhua) — Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was arrested early Friday morning, a day after a court ordered his arrest for imposing emergency rule in 2007.

Musharraf appeared before a court of a local magistrate in Islamabad and formally offered his arrest, said his defence lawyer Qamar Afzal.

The judicial magistrate Abbas Shah granted a two-day transit remand of Musharraf to the police to question him about his action to detain judges after they restrained from work.

Musharraf left the court room after a brief appearance to fulfill legal requirements following Thursday’s orders of his arrest by Islamabad High Court.

Officials have requested that Musharraf should be placed in house and his house be declared as sub-jail over security concerns.

Musharraf’s lawyer had also requested the magistrate to send his client on judicial remand instead of handing over to the police on physical remand.

Police sources said that the former president was brought to the court of judicial magistrate, Abbas Shah, as his appearance was a legal requirement after his arrest order.

The Islamabad High Court on Thursday ordered Musharraf’s arrest for detaining senior judges when he imposed emergency rule in 2007.

The Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqi, had canceled his interim bail in the case. However, Musharraf succeeded in fleeing the court with his security guards.

A case had been filed against Musharraf for placing dozens of top judges under house arrest when he imposed emergency rule and suspended the constitution in November 2007. The judges had refused to take oath under his Provincial Constitutional Order.

A lower court had previously issued arrest warrant for Musharraf in the case and had declared him proclaimed offender as he had previously failed to appear before the court despite several orders.

The Islamabad High Court had granted interim bail in the case and canceled his bail when he appeared before the Chief Justice on Thursday.

Musharraf is also facing other legal cases, including treason charges for imposing emergency rule, the 2007 assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto and the killing of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti in 2006.

Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008, denied all charges and said he would defend himself in courts. He had resigned in August 2008 to avoid impeachment by the parliament and went into exile since then.

He returned to Pakistan last month after over four years of self-imposed exile in Britain and the United Arab Emirates to take part in the May 11 parliamentary elections for his All Pakistan Muslim League party. But a couple of days ago, he was disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan for contesting the coming elections.


Mahathir confident of ruling coalition’s victory in May general election

Mahathir Mohammed longest serving Malay PM

Mahathir Mohammed longest serving Malay PM

KUALA LUMPUR, April 11 (Xinhua) — Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister, has expressed confidence that the ruling coalition will retain power in the upcoming general election to be held in May.

Speaking at a talk show aired on a local channel late Wednesday, Mahathir said he is sure that the ruling coalition, National Front, will win Malaysia’s 13th general election, which is widely deemed as the least predictable since the country’s independence in 1957.

However, he was cautious on National Front’s chance to retake the two-thirds majority in parliament that it lost in the previous election in 2008.

“The chance is 50-50, but the National Front will definitely perform better than in 2008,” he said.

The 87-year-old has been campaigning vigorously across the country for the National Front and its dominant component party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO).

He has also engaged with the opposition in war of words, urging some senior opposition leaders to retire “as he did.”

Mahathir stepped down in 2003 after 22 years of premiership. Mahathir is likely to win hearts of many of voters of the Malay majority for the ruling coalition with his charisma, but he may also alienate some non-Malay voters with his pro-Malay comments.

Lim Kit Siang, a senior opposition figure, has urged Mahathir to stop “race-baiting and inciting communal sentiments.”

Mahathir’s active campaigning in the run-up to the general election this year serves as a sharp contraction to the election in 2008, when he was opposing his successor and then Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Mahathir quit UMNO later the year, only rejoined after Abdullah stepped down a year later.

The opposition alliance is now headed by Anwar Ibrahim, Mahathir’s former deputy. Anwar fell out with Mahathir in 1998 and was thrown into jail for corruption and sodomy charges.

Cambodia, China Sign 8 Cooperation Deals

Cambodia and China signed on Monday eight cooperation documents during Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s official visit in China, according to Chinese News Agency Xinhua.

After the bilateral meeting between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Chinese Premier H.E. Li Keqiang in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Monday, eight deals were signed, said Xinhua.

They are the Memorandum of Understanding between the National Bank of Cambodia and the China Banking Regulatory Commission,the Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation between the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) and the Government of China (300 million Yuan), the Framework Agreement on a Concessional Loan Agreement Provided by China to Cambodia (Koh Thom Bridge Project) between the RGC and the Government of China (126 million Yuan), the Exchange of Notes on the Project of Vocational School on Agriculture in Kratie Province between the RGC and the Government of China, the Concessional Loan Agreement on the Staung River Basin Water Resources Development Project Phase I between the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Cambodia and the Export-Import Bank of China (329.75 million Yuan), the Concessional Loan Agreement on the Koh Thom Bridge Project between the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Cambodia and the Export-Import Bank of China (126 million Yuan), the Action Plan on the Implementation of the China-Cambodia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Cooperation between the Government of China and the RGC, and the Memorandum of Understanding on the 5 million tons Oil Refinery Project among China Development Bank, China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation, China Perfect Machinery Industry Corporation and Cambodia Petrochemical Company (US$1.67 Billion).

Yesterday the Cambodian delegation led by Hun Sen arrived in Beijing after attending the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2013 held in China’s Hainan province.


Written by Kham

09/04/2013 at 5:01 pm

British former PM Thatcher dies after stroke

Iron Lady ruled England between 1979-1990

Iron Lady ruled England between 1979-1990

LONDON, April 8 (Xinhua) — Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke, her family spokesman announced Monday.

Lady Thatcher’s children Mark and Carol said their mother, who suffered bouts of ill health in recent years, died peacefully on Monday morning.

Baroness Thatcher, nicknamed the “Iron Lady,” was Conservative prime minister from 1979 to 1990, the first woman to hold the post.

Her death has drawn great attention both at home and abroad.

British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted shortly after the news broke out, “It was with great sadness that I learned of Lady Thatcher’s death. We’ve lost a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton.”

Cameron, who was in Madrid for meetings with EU leaders, decided to cut short his trip and will return home this afternoon.

The Queen is “sad to hear the news of the death of Baroness Thatcher and will send a private message of sympathy to the family,” said the Buckingham Palace.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described Lady Thatcher as one of the “defining figures in modern British politics.”

“She may have divided opinion during her time in politics but everyone will be united today in acknowledging the strength of her personality and the radicalism of her politics,” said Clegg.

Labour leader Ed Miliband, who was launching his local election campaign on Monday, cancelled the party’s operations as a mark of respect.

He said, “She will be remembered as a unique figure. She reshaped the politics of a whole generation. She was Britain’s first woman Prime Minister. She moved the center ground of British politics and was a huge figure on the world stage.”

Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair called the ex-PM a “towering political figure” who exercised a huge influence over Britain and the world.

“Very few leaders get to change not only the political landscape of their country but of the world. Margaret was such a leader. Her global impact was vast,” he said.

London Mayor Boris Johnson tweeted, “Very sad to hear of death of Baroness Thatcher. Her memory will live long after the world has forgotten the grey suits of today’s politics.”

British Independence Party leader Nigel Farage called Lady Thatcher a “great inspiration.”

“Whether you loved her or hated her, nobody could deny that she was a great patriot, who believed passionately in this country and her people. A towering figure in recent British and political history has passed from the stage. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.”

French President Francois Hollande described Thatcher as a “great figure who left a profound mark on the history of her country.”

“Throughout her public life, with conservative beliefs she fully assumed, she was concerned with the United Kingdom’s influence and the defence of its interests,” Hollande said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed Thatcher as an “extraordinary leader” who played a pivotal role in overcoming Europe’s Cold War division.

“She was an extraordinary leader in the global politics of her time,” Merkel said in a statement. “I will never forget her part in surmounting the division of Europe and at the end of the Cold War.”

Merkel, a fellow conservative who was often compared to Thatcher when she became chancellor in 2005, said Thatcher would not be remembered as a “female politician” but one who had blazed a trail for women in the halls of power.

But not every one speaks highly of Thatcher’s legacy. One of her most significant opponents gave a critical assessment.

Ken Livingstone, twice the mayor of London and a former Labor MP as well as the former leader of the Greater London Council (GLC) which was abolished by Lady Thatcher, said many of Britain’s current problems were her legacy.

Livingstone said, “She created today’s housing crisis. She created the banking crisis, and she created the benefits crisis. It was her government which started putting people on incapacity benefit rather than register them as unemployed because the Britain she inherited was broadly full employment.”

He added, “She decided when she wrote off our manufacturing industry that she could live with two or three million unemployed, and the benefits bill, the legacy of that, we are struggling with today. In actual fact, every real problem we face today is the legacy of the fact that she was fundamentally wrong.”

No. 10 said Thatcher will not have a state funeral but will be accorded the same status as Princess Diana and the Queen Mother.

The ceremony, with full military honors, will take place at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral. Both the Downing Street and the Buckingham Palace have lowered their flags at half mast.

The streets between Westminster and St Paul’s will be cleared for the procession, the date of which is yet to be decided. The route will be lined with members of Armed Forces.

Lady Thatcher retired from public speaking in 2002. Over the decade, She suffered acute short-term memory loss and a series of strokes.

Her husband Denis died in 2003 and her children Mark and Carol both live abroad.

Written by Kham

09/04/2013 at 4:49 pm

China’s Xi caps rise to take on myriad challenges…Xi,China’s New Emperor

Associated Press/Ng Han Guan - Outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao, center, poses with his successor Xi Jinping, right, after Xi was elected at a plenary session of the National People's Congress held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Thursday, March 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Associated Press/Ng Han Guan – Outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao, center, poses with his successor Xi Jinping, right, after Xi was elected at a plenary session of the National People’s Congress held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Thursday, March 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

14-3-2013 BEIJING (AP) — Xi Jinping caps his rise to the helm of China at a time when calls are mounting for bold leadership to tackle faltering economic growth, unbridled corruption and a severely befouled environment that endanger his Communist Party’s legitimacy.

Xi was elevated to the presidency Thursday by the rubber-stamp national legislature, giving him the last of the three titles held by his predecessor, Hu Jintao. Xi already was China’s pre-eminent leader after being appointed head of the Communist Party and chairman of the military last November in a once-a-decade handover to a new group of leaders.

The final steps in the transition unfold over the next two days with the expected anointing of Li Keqiang, the party’s No. 2, as premier on Friday. The central bank governor and finance and other ministers will be appointed Saturday.

Xi and his team now steer a rising global power beset with many domestic challenges that will test their leadership. Chief among them are a sputtering economy that’s overly dominated by powerful state industries and mounting public anger over widespread corruption, a burgeoning income gap and social inequality.

An increasingly vocal Chinese public is expressing impatience with the government’s unfulfilled promises to curb abuses of power by local officials, better police the food supply and clean up the country’s polluted rivers, air and soil.

“What do ordinary people care about? Food safety, and smog if you are in a big city, and official corruption,” said the prominent Chinese author and social commentator Murong Xuecun, the pen name of author Hao Qun. “They just want to have a peaceful, stable and safe life. To have money and food, and live without worry of being tortured, or having their homes forcefully demolished.”

“The entire country is watching for Xi’s next step,” the writer said.

That sentiment was echoed by at least one National People’s Congress delegate as he filed out from the huge, red-carpeted cavern of Beijing’s Great Hall of the People after Thursday’s vote. Li Qinghe veered slightly from the ingratiating remarks that have come to be expected of deputies, saying that while he “resolutely endorsed” Xi’s selection as president, the position was vested with high expectations.

“I hope that he will pay more attention to problems affecting the people’s lives,” said Li, a petrochemical plant worker and delegate from the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. He cited as his concerns jobs for rural migrants, schools for their children and affordable medical care.

Xi’s accession marks only the second orderly transfer of power in more than six decades of Communist Party rule. He was the only candidate for president in Thursday’s ballot and won 2,952-1, with three abstaining in the tightly choreographed ritual the party calls an election.

After the result was announced, the 59-year-old Xi bowed to delegates and turned to his predecessor, Hu, seated on his right. The two shook hands and posed for photos.

A liberal-minded reformer and a close ally of Hu, Li Yuanchao, was named vice president in a break with the practice of recent years because he is not in the party’s seven-member ruling inner sanctum. The appointment to what has previously been a wholly ceremonial role is seen as a concession to Hu’s lingering influence. Li is known as a progressive, capable official, but in charge of personnel matters the past five years, he angered some party power-brokers by favoring officials in Hu’s camp.

Ahead of the votes on the government’s top slots, legislators approved a government restructuring plan that abolishes the Railways Ministry and combines two agencies that regulate newspapers and broadcasters into a super media regulator. It also merges the Health Ministry with the commission that oversees the much-disliked rules that limit many families to one child.

Early indications of Xi’s priorities came in a government policy program delivered during last week’s opening of the legislative session. It pledged to clean up the country’s environment, fight pervasive graft and official extravagance and improve welfare benefits for the poor.

The report, delivered by Premier Wen Jiaobao in his last speech before stepping down, promised to give private companies a fairer chance to compete, but did not say how Beijing would deal with big state companies controlling most of China’s industries that economists have warned need to be curbed in order to preserve future growth. Many experts fear the government will be too hamstrung by powerful interest groups, linked to state industries, to be able to make these changes. But few doubt the urgency of the reform that’s needed.

“Now most Chinese can still afford to keep their stomach full, so there isn’t any intense resistance,” said Murong Xuecun, the writer. “But if the economy enters a depression, it will be hard to say.”

Currently, both the Communist Party and the government enjoy little credibility with the public, said Zhang Ming, a China politics expert at prestigious Renmin University in Beijing.

“The way to regain credibility is to at least show some results, but at this point that can’t be seen, and I predict there won’t be any real results later,” Zhang said.

The son of a revolutionary veteran, Xi cuts an authoritative figure with a confidence and congeniality that was lacking in his predecessor, the aloof and stiff Hu. He quickly moved to court the military after taking over from Hu as head of the party’s Central Military Commission, making high-profile visits to naval, air force and infantry bases and meeting with nuclear missile commanders.

Xi has also sought to court other constituencies. He made a trip to the south to show he’s interested in economic reforms, repeatedly stated his staunch belief in party power to appeal to hard-liners, visited the poor to burnish his common-man credentials and espoused the “Chinese Dream” to tap into middle class aspirations.

But for Xi to consolidate his power within the party, he will come up against various interest groups, such as the sons and daughters of communist China’s founding fathers who want to keep benefiting from their connections, or those with links to banks and state industries who don’t want their privileged positions threatened.

Ideologically, there are those who believe China needs an even stronger, more authoritarian government that promotes more egalitarian economic and social policies, while others want a transition to a more democratic government.