Scrutiny of the incoming US administration intensified on Wednesday. President-elect Donald Trump held his first formal press conference in New York and confirmation hearings for his cabinet choices continued in the Senate. There, the focus was on Rex Tillerson, the long-serving Exxon Mobil chief executive, who has been nominated for secretary of state.
- At his press conference, Mr Trump hit out at fresh claims about his ties to the Kremlin and detailed how he plans to separate his business interests to avoid a conflict of interests.
- Mr Trump gave his strongest indication yet that he believes Russia was behind the hacking during the election.
- Pharma stocks fell after Mr Trump targeted the industry over drug pricing. The peso also whipsawed after his comments on a ‘major border tax’.
- In DC, Mr Tillerson was pushed hard by senators on the foreign relations committee regarding his ties to Russia.
- The confirmation hearing of Jeff Sessions for attorney-general also continued, with prominent civil rights leaders testifying against him.
Additional reporting by Ed Crooks.
Donald Trump’s telephone conversation with the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen was a massive break with established policy – which will be greeted with shock in Beijing. When the US re-established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1979, it also severed diplomatic links with Taiwan. Since then there have been no direct conversations between the leaders of the US and Taiwan.
The stakes involved in the triangular relationship between Taipei, Beijing and Washington could not be higher. The Chinese government has repeatedly stressed that it is prepared to go to war, rather than accept Taiwanese independence. The US, while it does not promote the independence of Taiwan, has also promised to resist any attempt to incorporate Taiwan into China by force. I have personally witnessed a conversation between Chinese officials and high-ranking Americans, in which the US side has said openly that a Chinese attack on Taiwan would lead to war between the US and China. Read more
Donald Trump sought to reset his flailing candidacy with what his campaign billed as a major economic address on Monday in Detroit, with the property developer and former reality TV star promising to slash regulation, cut taxes in a “tax revolution” and revive manufacturing through an “America First” economic policy.
Trump’s aim was to attract Republicans who have been repelled by some of his xenophobic rhetoric and erratic impulses. But an open letter signed by 50 senior Republican national security officials illustrates just how difficult that may be. In it, Republican former heads of the CIA, NSA and homeland security, among others, write, “none of us will ever vote for Donald Trump” because he “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and wellbeing”. Read more
It must be hard being Ted Cruz. Just when you assume there could not be more people who dislike you, your own support base turns on you. The Texas senator’s decision not to endorse Donald Trump as the Republican candidate on Wednesday evening highlighted the divisions that have been simmering in Cleveland. Mr Cruz has the dubious honour of being the first person to be jeered at this convention — after Hillary Clinton, of course — and his wife, Heidi, had to be escorted from the arena.
Depending on your perspective, Cruz’s address was petulant or noble — given the personal attacks he has endured from Trump. He attempted to address those concerns head-on with the Texas GOP delegation on Wednesday morning, explaining he was not a “servile puppy dog” to Trump. But there were plenty of detractors present. (Read our report on Cruz’s clash with his own supporters here — and watch this video of Texans opining on what he has done.) Read more
Outside the perimeter of the Republican National Convention, protesters have beenmaking the case against Donald Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico. Inside the convention, Marco Gutierrez, a 42 year-old Mexican-American mortgage broker, has found himself preaching a more unusual message: “Latinos for Trump”.
“He’s got life experience, knowledge and an ability to restore the economy. I’ve seen a lot of Latinos lose their savings. Donald Trump brings hope to businesses,” Mr Gutierrez said in an interview. Read more
On the eve of his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, Donald Trump has rattled allies in Europe and Asia with an extensive interview about his foreign policy worldview with the New York Times. Here are the most striking passages from the transcript:
1) The US and Nato Most of the attention has focused on Trump’s views on whether the US would defend a Nato ally under attack from Russia: Read more
Donald Trump has disappointed millions of people in America – and probably the head of every television network who hoped to make a killing – by deciding not to debate with Bernie Sanders. On Thursday he revealed that the campaigns were in discussions about a debate, which would have been a huge television hit. But on Friday he reversed course, saying it would be “inappropriate” because Sanders has no way to beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Read more
Every presidential nominee over the past four decades has released his tax returns for all to devour, but Donald Trump says his effective tax rate is “none of your business”. That snippy response to an ABC interviewer’s question dominated the presidential news.
He did say “you’ll see it when I release it’, then added something that has got less attention: “I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible.” That’s hardly unusual coming from a canny billionaire, but it carries a certain irony as Trump doesn’t seem to think it’s OK for other businesses to do the same thing. Read more
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There are few things as American as Budweiser, even though there are many craft breweries across the US that produce beer that this Irishman finds more palatable. But the legendary brand is undergoing a temporary makeover by renaming itself as “America” for the summer months. The push to tap into the patriotic mood as the US election approaches is a novel way to jump on the Trump bandwagon. Read more
Can world powers make common cause against Isis?
France has been courting US and Russian support for a war on Isis in the wake of the Paris terror attacks. But while Russia and Turkey, a Nato member, claim to be fighting the same foe, they themselves saw armed combat this week when Turkey shot down a Russian jet on its border with Syria. Mark Vandevelde asks Gideon Rachman and Geoff Dyer whether world powers are capable of making common cause against Isis.
Hillary Clinton faced her next big challenge in her quest for the 2016 US presidential race with an appearance before a Republican led congressional committee to testify about the 2012 Benghazi attack that left four Americans dead, including US ambassador Christopher Stevens. Barney Jopson followed the action from Washington with Demetri Sevastopulo, DC Bureau Chief and Emiliya Mychasuk, US Online News Editor. A link to the live stream of the hearing is here
Britain has long built its foreign policy around a special relationship with the US. The coming week will witness an attempt by the UK government to build another special relationship — this time with the People’s Republic of China. The government of David Cameron will be straining every sinew to honour President Xi Jinping, during his five-day state visit to the UK. The Chinese leader will be the guest of honour at a banquet at Buckingham Palace, he will give a speech at Westminster, he will spend time with the prime minister at Chequers and will travel to Manchester with the chancellor of the exchequer.
President Xi’s visit has been meticulously planned to provide images that will play well in China. But all this pomp could well be disrupted by some unplanned circumstances. The US Navy has let it be known that, over the next few days, it intends to challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Beijing has been bolstering these claims in recent months, by “land reclamation” exercises that have created artificial islands — some of which now host airstrips. The Americas are expected to sail within 12 miles of these new islands — to make the point that they do not accept that China has established new territorial waters in the Pacific Ocean. Read more
What the TPP means for US-Asia ties
The US reached agreement this week with Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim economies on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. Gideon Rachman discusses the scope of the pact and what it will mean for those who have signed up, and those left out, with Shawn Donnan and Geoff Dyer
By Gideon Rachman
“American and Chinese presidents do not really know how to talk to each other. They are like computers running on different operating systems.” That was the verdict once offered to me by a US official, who has watched many US-China summits from close quarters.
By Gideon Rachman
Muslims have replaced Hispanics as the focus of verbal attacks on the US campaign trail with Donald Trump shifting his anti-immigrant focus to people of the Islamic faith.
The 2nd Republican presidential debate saw Donald Trump face off against 10 other GOP contenders for the White House, as the challengers tried to gain ground against the bombastic billionaire, who has surprised the pundits by leading the field by a long way. Carly Fiorina made her debut in the big league, joining the main debate for the first time.
Barack Obama’s first trip to Beijing as president in 2009 took place at a moment of great weakness in the US during a deep recession, and apparent strength in China, which had rapidly engineered a return to growth.
The roles seem oddly reversed ahead of Xi Jinping’s state visit to Washington later this month. In contrast with steady if unspectacular US growth, Chinese leaders are struggling on multiple fronts, to calm a wobbly stock market and maintain output in a slowing economy. Read more
If you think that getting fast-track authority from Congress to negotiate trade agreements is hard, just wait for the deal that it is designed to pass.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the US, Japan and 10 other economies in Asia and Latin America has run into a barrage of criticism. Some of it is probably justified; some of it is not. The problem is that we don’t really know.
The governments involved, and particularly the US administration, have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the negotiating texts secret. Even senators and congressmen are only allowed to look at them in a secure location without taking away notes.
© Getty Images
Have the US and its allies in Asia reached a tipping point in their relations with China? The question posed by US China scholar, David Lampton, in a speech in Shanghai in March looks disturbingly prescient after a whirl of diplomatic and security offensives in recent weeks in the region.
The US and Japan substantially upgraded their defence alliance in a high profile summit meeting in Washington earlier this month. Japan, in turn, held its first naval exercises with Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea. This week, the US announced (and then later denied) it would station B-1 bombers in northern Australia, also with an eye on balancing China in the region.
Then, just in time for John Kerry’s weekend visit to Beijing, the Pentagon made it known it was contemplating limited military options in the form of naval patrols and surveillance flights in contested areas in the South China Sea to reinforce its opposition to Chinese actions. Read more
Obama seeks to cement Japan ties
Siona Jenkins, Gideon Rachman and Lindsay Whipp discuss the Japanese prime minister’s visit to Washington as the US seeks to cement defence and trade ties with Japan, a key ally in its bid to push back against growing Chinese influence in Asia.