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Trump-Merkel air differences in frosty 1st meeting

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Washington, March 18, 2017: US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have acknowledged past differences here in a frosty first encounter with widely diverging views of the world, a media report said.

The face-to-face talks at the White House on Friday seemed to do little to narrow the breach exposed by Trump’s criticism of Merkel during the 2016 Presidential campaign, Efe news reported.

What may have been the most telling episode of the visit took place during a photo opportunity in the Oval Office.

In response to calls from the press, Merkel asked Trump if he wanted to shake hands for the cameras, but the President did not respond.

Trump, known for his enthusiastic greetings, did extend his hand to Merkel when she arrived at the White House.

“I’ve always said it’s much, much better to talk to one another and not about one another, and I think our conversation proved this,” Merkel said through a translator during a joint press conference with her host, who in the past accused her of “ruining” Germany by admitting large numbers of Middle Eastern refugees.

The President, meanwhile, praised the Chancellor for Germany’s efforts in Afghanistan and its contributions to the fight against the Islamic State.

At the same time, he again raised the complaint that many European members of NATO – which he has described as “obsolete” – were not pulling their weight within the Atlantic Alliance.

“Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years and it is very unfair to the US. These nations must pay what they owe,” he said, apparently referring to the failure of some member-states to comply with the NATO guideline calling for devoting at least two per cent of gross domestic product to the military.

Trump expressed appreciation for Merkel’s assurance that Germany is committed to increasing its military spending.

More differences were evident on the subject of immigration.

“Immigration is a privilege, not a right, and the safety of our citizens must always come first, without question,” Trump said in the wake of court rulings blocking his second attempt to temporarily ban refugees as well as travellers from six Muslim-majority nations.

The German leader, who has criticised Trump’s travel ban, said that efforts to make borders secure and integrate immigrants must include “looking at the refugees as well, giving them opportunities to shape their own lives.”

The West, she said, should “help countries who right now are not able to do so, sometimes because they have civil war.”

On economic matters, the Chancellor said she hoped Trump would consider re-opening discussions on the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a proposed pact between the US and the European Union.

One of Trump’s first actions as President was to formally withdraw the US from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and he made no secret of his dislike for multilateral deals.

Merkel said she was in agreement with Trump that “trade has to be fairer, has to be a win-win situation.”

“Globalisation ought to be shaped in an open-minded way, but also in a fair way,” she said.

“I am a trader, I am a fair trader, a trader that wants to see good for everybody worldwide, but I’m not an isolationist by any stretch of the imagination,” Trump said, clearly annoyed at a German reporter for posing a question to Merkel about the President’s “isolationism.”

Germany, one of the world’s biggest exporters, currently enjoys a trade surplus with the US.

“I would say that the negotiators for Germany have done a far better job than the US but hopefully we can even it out,” Trump said.

The press conference ended on an unusual note, as a German reporter asked Trump about the controversy created when the White House cited a media report claiming that a British intelligence agency spied on him during the 2016 campaign at the request of then-President Barack Obama.

“As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps,” Trump said, looking over at Merkel, who reacted with anger in 2013 when documents provided by Edward Snowden revealed that the US had monitored her communications.

“We said nothing,” the President said. “All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn’t make an opinion on it.”

“You shouldn’t be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox (News),” Trump said, though he did stand by his assertion that Obama spied on him.

IANS

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President Trump orders creation of ‘Space Force’

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Washington, June 19 : US President Donald Trump has ordered the creation of a “Space Force”, saying it would be “separate but equal” from the Air Force.

“We must have American dominance in space. Very importantly, I’m hereby directing the Department of Defence and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. That’s a big step,” he said in the White House during a meeting of his National Space Council on Monday.

“We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force: separate but equal, it is going to be something so important,” CNN quoted the President as saying.

In addition to calling for the Space Force, Trump signed Space Policy Directive — 3 on Monday, part of his administration’s push to lead in the space space.

Space Policy Directive — 3 is primarily focused on satellite traffic management and mitigating debris in space. The policy, executive secretary of the National Space Council Scott Pace told reporters, “seeks to address the challenges of a congested space environment”.

“If we’re going to expand the economy in space, we need to make sure it’s done in a sustainable way,” Pace said.

Trump previously floated the idea of adding a “Space Force” branch to the US military — a concept that has received some support on Capitol Hill but drawn scepticism from the Pentagon, CNN reported.

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Poll shows 66% of US voters oppose family separations

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Washington, June 19 (IANS) : Sixty-six per cent of US voters oppose the administration’s controversial policy of separating children from their parents who get caught crossing the country’s border illegally, according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll released on Monday.

Among those polled, 91 per cent of Democratic voters oppose the policy, compared with 35 per cent of Republicans. Only 7 per cent of Democrats surveyed support the policy, while 55 per cent of Republicans support it, reports Xinhua news agency.

The poll comes as pressure is building on Washington to act upon the family separation practice. Some Republicans have joined Democrats in denouncing the “zero tolerance” policy that has led to parents being separated from their children as they are prosecuted for illegal immigration.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families after illegally crossing the US border in April and May.

Half of voters say the Trump administration has been too aggressive in deporting illegal immigrants, as 13 per cent of voters think the White House is not aggressive enough, while 33 per cent of voters believe it is acting appropriately.

Illegal immigrants currently living in the US should be allowed to stay and eventually apply for citizenship, 67 per cent of American voters say. Another 8 per cent say they should be allowed to stay, but not become citizens, and 19 per cent say they should be forced to leave.

Fifty-eight per cent of voters oppose building a wall along the US border with Mexico. The only listed groups to support the wall are Republicans and white voters with no college degree.

Speaking at the White House Monday, US President Donald Trump said the country “will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility.” He has blamed Democrats for the situation.

The poll, conducted from June l4 to 17, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points, with 905 voters surveyed nationwide through landlines and cellphones.

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Trump threatens to levy additional tariff on Chinese goods

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Washington, June 19: US President Donald Trump has threatened China by asking his trade advisers  to levy a 10 per cent tariff on $200 billion  of Chinese goods in a tit-for-tat trade row with Beijing.

Last week Trump announced the US would impose 25 per cent tariffs on $50bn worth of Chinese goods.

Beijing responded by saying it would hit 659 US goods worth $50bn with a similar tax.

The US president released a statement on Monday night saying “these tariffs will go into effect if China refuses to change its practices, and also if it insists on going forward with the new tariffs that it has recently announced”, reports BBC.

“If China increases its tariffs yet again, we will meet that action by pursuing additional tariffs on another $200 billion of goods. The trade relationship between the United States and China must be much more equitable,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, stock markets across the globe fell amid fears of further deterioration of US-China trade relations.

The Chinese product lines that have been hit range from aircraft tyres to turbines and commercial dishwashers.

In response, China announced tariffs on $34bn of US goods including agricultural products, cars and marine products which will also take effect from 6 July.

Tariffs on other US goods will be announced at a later date, the Xinhua news agency reported.

US tariffs that affect more than 800 Chinese products worth $34bn in annual trade are due to come into effect on 6 July.

The White House said it would consult on tariffs on the other $16bn of products, and would apply these later.

The US wants China to stop practices that allegedly encourage transfer of intellectual property – design and product ideas – to Chinese companies, such as requirements that foreign firms share ownership with local partners to access the Chinese market.

However, many economists and businesses in the US say the tariffs are likely to hurt some of the sectors the administration is trying to protect, which depend on China for parts or assembly.

The US announced plans for tariffs this spring, after an investigation into China’s intellectual property practices.

It published a draft list of about 1,300 Chinese products slated for tariffs in April. The list released on Friday was slightly shorter, incorporating feedback and criticism received in the ensuing weeks.

The plans have elicited a mixed political reaction, drawing praise from Democrats and opposition from Republicans, who typically favour free trade policies.(IANS)

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