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SUPERPOWERS
Trump's pledges -- the firm, the changing, the unknown
By Anne RENAUT
Washington (AFP) Nov 23, 2016


China watching Trump policies, will defend trade rights
Washington (AFP) Nov 23, 2016 - China will pay close attention to trade policies implemented by US President-elect Donald Trump, and will defend its rights in the World Trade Organization, a senior Chinese official said Wednesday.

In a campaign punctuated by incendiary accusations, Trump promised to declare China a currency manipulator on his first day in office, and threatened to slap 45 percent punitive tariffs on Chinese imports to protect jobs.

The Chinese official meeting in Washington, however, said the US has obligations as a member of the WTO.

"Definitely we have paid close attention to the remarks made by Mr. Trump during his presidential campaign," China's Deputy International Trade Minister Zhang Xiangchen told reporters through a translator.

"And we will also (be) closely observing what he will do after he takes office."

But he seemed to cast doubt on whether Trump would follow through on his threats.

"I think after Mr. Trump takes office he will be reminded that (the) United States should honor its obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization," Zhang said.

When asked if China would retaliate, he said that "as a member of the WTO, China also has the right to ensure its rights."

As for the currency issue, Zhang said economists and government officials agree China is not manipulating its currency, and "significant progress has been made" toward establishing a market-based exchange-rate regime.

US and Chinese officials meeting this week for the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, a forum to promote trade and investment and resolve disputes, feel strongly that the bilateral trade relationship will continue to be important "no matter how the leadership changes," Zhang said.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman told reporters following the final JCCT meeting of the Obama administration that the relationship with China is key, but acknowledged there are "headwinds around the world about the benefits of trade and skepticism on the US-China relationship in particular."

He stressed that "the American public expects the relationship be based on a fair and level playing field, and greater reciprocity."

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker noted that 11.5 million Americans have jobs that depend on exports, making engagement with trading partners critical.

She said there are differences with China that President Barack Obama's administration has fought to resolve. "What we work on is where we face an unlevel playing field."

From populist candidate to US president-elect, Donald Trump has stuck to certain campaign pledges, on trade for instance, but has wavered on others including climate and health insurance, while keeping his options open on immigration and foreign policy.

- Consistent: Trade -

Trump, who has blasted international trade agreements as costing American jobs, has said he will announce the United States' withdrawal from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, as soon as he takes office on January 20.

"Instead, we will negotiate fair bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back onto American shores," the Republican tycoon said.

- Consistent: Infrastructure -

It is one of the rare Trump proposals hailed by the International Monetary Fund, the Federal Reserve and opposition Democrats: a $550 billion investment to rebuild infrastructure that could boost economic growth and create thousands of jobs.

The chief strategist for the president-elect's upcoming administration, self-described "economic nationalist" Steve Bannon, argues that with interest rates abnormally low now is the time to launch major work projects, such as highways, bridges, airports and schools.

- Consistent: Abortion, guns -

Trump said after his election that he would name Supreme Court justices opposed to abortion and favorable to the constitutional right to own weapons.

"The judges will be pro-life," he said, and "they're going to be very pro-Second Amendment."

- Shifting: Climate change -

Trump, who in the past vowed to tear up international climate agreements, said in an interview this week he has an "open mind" about supporting global accords

The billionaire had called global warming a "hoax" invented by the Chinese and not scientifically proven.

Trump has in parallel pledged to cancel "job-killing restrictions" on natural-gas and shale-oil production, as well in the coal industry.

- Shifting: Health insurance -

Trump on the campaign trail had promised to "completely repeal" the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature healthcare insurance program.

Since his election, Trump has said he hopes to preserve some of the most popular features of Obamacare.

- Shifting: Clinton emails -

Trump backed away from a campaign threat to prosecute his White House rival Hillary Clinton over her past email practices, saying to do so would be "very divisive for the country."

Candidate Trump had vowed to have the Democrat investigated for using a private email server while she was secretary of state, saying she would face jail if he were elected.

- Shifting: Torture -

Trump said that advice from a Marine general had convinced him to rethink his plan to authorize the torture of detainees to gain information.

The billionaire said he had been "very impressed" when retired general James Mattis, a potential pick for defense secretary, told him that torture was not effective and recommended building a rapport instead.

"Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I'll do better," Mattis told him.

- Shifting: The 'alt-right' -

Trump has disavowed the white nationalist "alt-right" movement that has cheered his election, saying he did not want to "energize" them.

"I condemn them. I disavow, and I condemn," he told the New York Times.

He has pushed back against claims that Steve Bannon, his pick for chief strategist, is affiliated to alt-right or racist movements.

As head of Breitbart News, Bannon described the group last July as "the platform for the alt-right."

- Unclear: Immigration -

A key theme of his campaign, Trump promised to build a wall on the border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants. But he has remained low-key about the wall since his election.

The president-elect now says he will deport as many as three million illegal immigrants with criminal records, after previously vowing to deport all of the estimated 11 million undocumented in the country.

He has named an anti-immigration senator, Jeff Sessions, to be attorney general.

Trump plans on his first day in office to order an investigation of visa abuses.

- Unclear: 'Draining the swamp' -

Trump, a harsh critic of Washington elites and the political mainstream who vowed to "drain the swamp" if elected, has vowed to ban administration officials from lobbying their former employers for five years after leaving their jobs.

He has also named prominent lobbyists to his transition team and appointed several Republican stalwarts, such as party chairman Reince Priebus as chief of staff, and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as US ambassador to the United Nations.

- Unclear: Iran -

Like many Republicans, Trump is deeply suspicious of Iran and had promised to scrap the international deal with Tehran aimed at preventing the Islamic republic from developing nuclear weapons.

He has not publicly discussed the subject since his election but he has named as Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo, a hawkish Republican congressman and strident critic of the Iran nuclear deal.

The future CIA head tweeted the day before his nomination: "I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism."

- Unclear: Syria -

Trump has said he has an "opposite view" to others on the Syrian conflict, without delving into details.

He has argued it would be preferable to focus more on fighting the Islamic State group than on ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. If the US attacks Assad, he said, "we end up fighting Russia," Damascus's ally.

- Unclear: Russia -

The big question mark hanging over US foreign policy concerns the country's notoriously difficult relations with Moscow.

"It is a great thing that we can get along with not only Russia but that we get along with other countries," Trump told the Times on Tuesday.

The president-elect has praised President Vladimir Putin's leadership and said he looks forward to "a strong and enduring relationship with Russia."

- Unclear: Israel -

Trump said he "would love to be the one who made peace with Israel and the Palestinians." But he has angered Palestinians by saying Jerusalem should be recognized as Israel's capital, an idea contrary to traditional US policy.


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