8 May 2019   Leave a comment

Reuters has published an article describing the reasons why the Trump Administration has decided to impose new tariffs on Chinese products. The trade talks have been going on for some time, and there was a sense that an agreement was in the offing. But the Chinese apparently understood certain parts of the agreement in ways that differed profoundly from the US understanding. It is hard to determine whether the disagreements are substantive or whether they are part of a negotiating strategy. The Reuters report gives the impression that the disagreements are real:

“The administration said the latest tariff escalation would take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, hiking levees on Chinese products such as internet modems and routers, printed circuit boards, vacuum cleaners and furniture.

“The Chinese reversal may give China hawks in the Trump administration, including Lighthizer, an opening to take a harder stance.

“Mnuchin – who has been more open to a deal with improved market access, and at times clashed with Lighthizer – appeared in sync with Lighthizer in describing the changes to reporters on Monday, while still leaving open the possibility that new tariffs could be averted with a deal.

“Trump’s tweets left no room for backing down, and Lighthizer made it clear that, despite continuing talks, ‘come Friday, there will be tariffs in place.’”

Iran has indicated that it will no longer observe some parts of the nuclear deal (JCPOA). The Washington Post reports:

“In a televised speech, [Iranian President] Rouhani said that Iran would hold on to stockpiles of excess uranium and heavy water used in its nuclear reactors. He set a 60-day deadline for new terms to the nuclear accord, after which Tehran would resume higher uranium enrichment.

“’We are ready to negotiate, within the boundaries of JCPOA,’ he said referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal. ‘It is not us who has left the negotiation table.’”

The International Atomic Energy Agency has reported that Iran has up to this point adhered to the agreement despite the US withdrawal from it. It seems as if Rouhani’s statement is an attempt to prod more negotiations on the deal, but there is no evidence that the US is interested in further discussion.

Dina Esfandiary, writing in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, raises an interesting take on the US actions: that the US policy of maximum pressure is designed to provoke a war:

“Reframing a routine deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln strike force to the region only serves to unnecessarily heighten tensions and foster the potential for miscalculation. The only reason to do any of this is to push Iran into a corner, paving the way toward military confrontation—something few want because it will achieve little.”

Sending an aircraft carrier close to Iran is an unmistakable provocation. Sending an aircraft carrier into the Strait of Hormuz is also not a smart move. The aircraft carrier is designed for open waters, not the cramped space of the Strait.

Posted May 8, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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