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But there’s at least one aspect of their relationship that seems to be on steady ground: trade. Both sides, and the recession-scarred global economy, need it to stay that way, at least for now.

A lot has changed since the two countries signed a partial trade agreement in January — nearly two years after the United States fired the first shots in a bruising trade war. That truce reduced some tariffs the US government had imposed on China while averting new ones. Beijing also agreed to buy billions of dollars worth of agricultural goods.

Even so, January’s trade deal appears to be largely intact. Kudlow said China has “substantially” increased its purchases of US goods. During the month of July alone, China bought more than 4.6 million metric tons of soybeans from the United States, according to a CNN Business calculation using US Department of Agricultural data.

“China and the US have a history of continuing economic relations even in the face of other disagreements, on security issues or human rights,” said David Dollar, a senior fellow in the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. “At the moment, each country has an interest in stable economic relations.”

US and Chinese trade officials were expected to review their “phase one” deal this weekend via video conference, a senior Trump administration official and a person with direct knowledge of the status of talks told CNN earlier this week.

It’s unclear whether those talks will proceed as planned. Reuters reported Friday that the discussions will be postponed because of scheduling conflicts and the need to allow China more time to buy additional US goods, citing sources familiar. One source told Reuters that the delay didn’t reflect big problems with the deal.

Asked about the status of trade talks Friday, US President Donald Trump was cryptic.

“We’re doing very well on our trade deal,” he said. “But I feel differently about China than I’ve ever felt.”

A way of managing tensions

While Washington has hammered Beijing in recent months on tech and national security, China does have an incentive to keep at least some part of the relationship functional.

“Beijing will likely not seek to scuttle the deal,” analysts at Eurasia Group noted in a research note last month, adding that the stability of the agreement is likely to withstand rhetoric from Chinese media threatening otherwise.

“Aside from the economic risks from tariff re-escalation, the phase one deal is a way of managing tensions with Washington,” the analysts added.

Chinese officials have said as much, too.

“China’s door for communicating with the US is always open,” Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi, wrote in an article published by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week. “China hopes the US will cooperate to create favorable conditions for implementation of the trade deal.”

China is also wrangling with some serious economic issues of its own, and not just because of the pandemic.

Historic flooding in the country has destroyed millions of acres of farmland and threatened agricultural production. That makes preserving a relationship with a major trading partner like the United States important.

Last month’s influx of soybean purchases, for example, was likely to shore up food supplies: China imported about half as many soybeans from the United States last month as it did through the first six months of the year.

Even so, analysts have pointed out that China likely isn’t going to fulfill all of its trade commitments by the end of the year, given the fragile state of the global economy.

By the end of June, China had only purchased $40.3 billion worth of US goods covered by the phase one deal — roughly a fifth of the target for 2020, according to estimates published by Nomura.

Dollar, of the Brookings Institution, also finds it unrealistic for China to meet some targets.

“Aspects of the Phase 1 trade deal are simply not realistic in the current environment,” Dollar said, adding for example that its “services” commitments won’t likely be met, as that would require more Chinese tourists and students to visit the United States and spend money. “That is not going to happen,”

Trump’s choices

Faced with the possibility that China might fail to meet its promises, the Trump administration has a choice. It can either abandon the trade deal or try to make it work.

“Tearing up the deal would probably bring a negative reaction from the stock market, so Trump is likely to stick with the deal for the moment,” said Dollar, who added that Washington is likely to pressure Beijing to honor more realistic commitments, such as agricultural purchases. “He can always repudiate it later in the campaign if that seems expedient.”

The future of their trade ties, though, is far from certain. After all, Trump faces an election this fall, and could lose the presidency to Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

“The outcome of the election will alter the China/US relationship for sure,” said Mauro Guillén, professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

If Trump wins, Guillen said, “the hawkish wing of the White House will apply even more pressure on China.” If Biden wins, “there will be an attempt to return to negotiations over technology, trade, and security,” he added.

But Guillén still believes that it’s important for the world’s two largest economies to sit down and find a solution.

“Five to 10 years down the road the world needs these two large economies and trading partners to talk, negotiate, and find an accommodation,” he said. “Otherwise, the global economy cannot work.”

— Vivian Salama contributed to this report.

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China document leak shows flawed pandemic response

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An unprecedented leak of internal Chinese documents reveals how the country mishandled the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. The documents – from Hubei province, the site of the world’s first known outbreak – show China announced misleading numbers of new cases and deaths, was hampered by an average three-week delay in diagnosing new cases, and experienced a huge spike in influenza in the epicenter province in early December.

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Lawmakers to Biden: ‘Step it up’ on Cabinet diversity

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“We’re very, very concerned as a community, as a Latino community,” said Texas Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who called last week for at least five Latinos to be appointed to Cabinet-level positions.

Asian American and Pacific Islander advocates and officials are warning the Biden administration, in writing, it will be “deeply disappointing if several AAPIs are not nominated” to Cabinet positions. They’re growing increasingly convinced the president-elect will not match President Barack Obama’s total of three Asian Americans in his first Cabinet.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Black Caucus is urging Biden to choose a Black Defense secretary and up the number of African Americans leading departments overall.

Together, the criticism highlights the challenges the Biden transition faces in satisfying expectations for a historically diverse Cabinet. And it underscores the growing demands for equal representation after a presidential election in which Asian Americans were difference-makers in Georgia, Latinos boosted Biden in Arizona, and Black voters propelled him to the nomination and ultimate victory.

But appeasing everyone may be a nearly impossible task, especially given the zero-sum reality of Cabinet jockeying and the limited slate of top-tier positions.

Latino lawmakers and outside groups, for example, are pushing New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for Health and Human Services secretary — but tapping her over former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who is Indian American, could anger Asian American advocacy groups.

“It’s no secret that as you look at the number of people that have been appointed … we don’t see too many Asian Americans there, do we?” said Bel Leong-Hong, chair of the Democratic National Committee’s AAPI caucus.

Those lobbying the transition team say there is still time for Biden to meet his lofty diversity goals. But some Democrats are pessimistic after seeing the first rounds of personnel picks.

Biden’s core White House team will be mostly white, including his chief of staff, communications director, press secretary, legislative affairs director and one of his top economic advisers. And two of the so-called “Big Four” Cabinet positions — atop the State, Treasury, Justice and Defense Departments — have already been filled by white candidates.

“A true way for Biden to make history would be to nominate a person of color for one or more of those ‘Big Four’ positions, and now they’re down to just two,” said Janet Murguía, the president of UnidosUS and a former adviser to President Bill Clinton. “So there will be enormous scrutiny from both the Black and Latino community for the remaining two jobs — DoD and Justice — and rightfully so.”

A Black House lawmaker, who requested anonymity to speak more freely as Biden fills positions, put it more bluntly. “He’s got to step it up,” the lawmaker said, noting that Kamala Harris’ selection as vice president doesn’t give Biden an excuse to appoint fewer African Americans to head key departments.

The Biden transition team says the president-elect will have a diverse administration when all is said and done. “His success in finding diverse voices to develop and implement his policy vision to tackle our nation’s toughest challenges will be clear when our full slate of appointees and nominees is complete,” a Biden-Harris transition official said in a statement.

It’s true that, as the transition official pointed out, Biden has “announced several historic and diverse White House appointments and Cabinet nominees.” He appointed an all-female senior communications team, for example, as well as the first woman of color to lead the Office of Management and Budget and the first female nominee for Treasury secretary.

But in 2020, the bar for diversity has been raised well beyond the seven women and 10 nonwhite officials in President Barack Obama’s first Cabinet.

Senior AAPI officials highlight huge increases in voter turnout among Asian American voters in the 2020 election — including in crucial battleground states he won, such as Georgia and Arizona — as one reason they should be well-represented throughout the administration. Early and absentee voting among AAPI voters rose nearly 300 percent in battleground states this year, according to the Democratic data firm Catalist.

The Biden transition announced Monday that Neera Tanden, an Indian American woman, will be nominated to lead the Office of Management and Budget. But some AAPI officials said they still fear Biden is unlikely to meet the benchmark set by Obama, who appointed three AAPI candidates to Cabinet positions at the start of his term.

“We just want to make sure that the Biden administration — and we’ve conveyed this from Day One — has a diverse representation, and that diversity includes AAPIs,” said Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), vice chair of the DNC. “That’s not always fully understood.”

The influential Congressional Hispanic Caucus has also mounted an active pressure campaign.

In phone calls and letters, the lawmakers pointed out the transition’s agency review teams are roughly 11 percent Latino and their COVID-19 Advisory Board is about 15 percent Latino — each less than the roughly 20 percent share of the U.S. population Latinos represent.

And though they cheered the nomination of Cuban American Alejandro Mayorkas to run Homeland Security — the first immigrant and first Latino to hold the position, if confirmed — it does not come close to representing the breadth of Latinos across the country, they say.

“When we talk about diversity, we also need to talk about diversity within the Hispanic community,” said California Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz. “The vast majority of Hispanics in the U.S. are Mexican Americans, so it would be important and helpful to have them represented in nominations. The Puerto Rican and Cuban American and Dominican American experiences are also important and should also be reflected.”

Gonzalez, the Texas Democrat, said he’s warned Democrats about the surge in support for Republicans among Mexican American communities in South Texas and other battleground states.

“When Republicans are coming into our districts saying, ‘what have the Democrats done for you?’ And we have a Democratic president with a low showing or low representation of Latinos in his Cabinet and government, it is a tough response,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t want to have to defend that.”

In addition to Lujan Grisham, Latino lawmakers support either DNC Chair Tom Perez or California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the Justice Department. Ruiz’s name has also been floated by some members of the Hispanic Caucus as a potential addition to a Biden administration, given his health care background as a physician.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been pressuring Biden’s transition team on an individual level, according to multiple members. Many take their cues from Clyburn, who is pushing for Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge to be selected as the first Black female Agriculture secretary.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said he’s keeping a close eye on who Biden names to lead Housing and Urban Development, pointing out that Democrats have not nominated a Black man to lead HUD since 1965, when the department was created by President Lyndon Johnson. And he echoed other CBC members who are saying former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s “name needs to be in the mix” for Defense Secretary.

“I’m not ready to panic,” Cleaver said of representation within the administration, adding that members see Biden as someone who understands their demands and the “delicacy” of keeping a diverse party happy.

“The philosophy of those of us who’ve been in the civil rights movement is that even if it’s friends, you know, you don’t let up in your expressions of anticipation,” said Cleaver. “We’re anticipating that he does the right thing.”

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Everything You Need To Know About #ScotchEggGate And “Substantial Meals”

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The vexed issue of whether a scotch egg constitutes a ‘substantial meal’ has consumed the political discourse in recent days (PA)


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As the second lockdown ends and England enters the new tier system of coronavirus restrictions, the government has found itself embroiled in a bizarre row about scotch eggs and whether they constitute a “substantial meal”.

That is not a sentence anyone would have expected to have read this time last year, but for pub landlords and bar owners struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic it is serious business.

The rules, which are due to come into force on Thursday, say that any hospitality venue placed into Tier 2, which will cover 57.3% of the country, can only serve alcohol if it is alongside “substantial meals”.

But just what that entails has become a massive source of contention, which despite Number 10’s repeated assertions that it has made it clear, continues to cause confusion.

The Question Of Cornish Pasties

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If all this sounds familiar, then that is because it was first raised as an issue when the previous tier system was introduced earlier this autumn.

The communities secretary Robert Jenrick suggested a Cornish pasty would not count as a substantial meal unless it was served with chips and a side salad.

“If you would expect to go into that restaurant normally, or pub, and order a plated meal at the table of a Cornish pasty with chips or side salad or whatever it comes with, then that’s a normal meal,” the minister said.

That did not clarify things entirely, but as the country soon went back into lockdown and hospitality was closed altogether the matter drifted out of the discourse.

The reason it matters though is that many pubs in tier 2, of which there are more than 20,000, cannot simply re-tool as full restaurants, and unless they can serve full meals they will have to remain closed in the crucial pre-Christmas period and potentially much beyond that.

They therefore need to know with a great deal more clarity than there has been so far on what they can serve to customers and fulfil the requirements in the regulations and remain in operation.

And crucially without that clarity it puts the onus on local councils and the police in each area to decide what constitutes a full meal, meaning a pub on one street in one borough might get away with serving a scotch egg, while one street over into a different borough another pub might face a fine for doing the same.

This exact issue played out in Manchester back in October, when pubs were forced to serve a substantial meal with alcohol when the city was placed in the old tier 3.

Staff at Common bar say police told them serving single slices from a 22-inch pizza didn’t count, only to later backtrack and deem that it was sufficient to be a full meal.

It’s co-owner Jonny Heyes said at the time: “It’s just a bit of a joke. I don’t want to say anything bad about the officers because they had obviously been sent round to check everyone was serving food and adhering to the guidelines.

“But they don’t have any information about what actually constitutes a substantial meal. They’re just winging it.

“As far as I can tell there is no proper guidance. The government policy is just so woolly, there’s no clarity.”

So with less than 48 hours until pubs and bars can re-open their doors it has roared back into the news, kicked off by a question to environment secretary George Eustice on Monday morning about the now infamous scotch egg.

“I think a Scotch egg probably would count as a substantial meal if there were table service,” he said.

“And often that may be as a starter. But yes, I think it would.”

The Thin Line Between Snack And Dinner1606884949 986 Everything You Need To Know About ScotchEggGate And Substantial Meals

Asked to clarify if that was the case, Downing Street only served to blur the issue by failing to set out the where the line is between a snack and a dinner.

“It’s a principle that’s well established in the hospitality industry and it’s something they’ve been applying for some time,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said.

“We introduced the rule that you can only provide alcohol along with a substantial meal along with the first set of tiering. That remains the case under this set of tiering.”

But so far nobody in government can point to anything in the Licensing Act or any other legislation, either during Covid or pre-pandemic, which defines what exactly is substantial or not.

The Licensing Act 2003 contains a clause which permits 16- or 17-year-olds to consume beer, wine or cider with a table meal if they are accompanied by an adult, infamously depicted in an episode of the TV show The Inbetweeners.

It goes on to define a “table meal” as a “meal eaten by a person seated at a table, or at a counter or other structure which serves the purpose of a table and is not used for the service of refreshments for consumption by persons not seated at a table or structure serving the purpose of a table.” 

This is the same definition adopted by Parliamentary Counsel which drafted the tier system, but while the regulations say pubs “remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant – which means serving substantial meals, like a main lunchtime or evening meal”, there is nothing to say what size “a main lunchtime or evening meal” is.

Pork Pies and Ploughman’s

It led to the PM’s spokesman being pressed on whether the new rules extended to sausage rolls, pork pies, or a ploughman’s lunch counting as a substantial meal, to which he said: “I’m obviously not going to get into the detail of every possible meal.

“But we’ve been clear: bar snacks do not count as a substantial meal but it’s well established practice in the hospitality industry what does.”

That sounded rather like Number 10 was coming down on the snack side of the debate, which appeared to be backed up my Michael Gove this morning, who told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “As far as I’m concerned it’s probably a starter.”

Later on LBC he appeared to harden his stance on scotch eggs, the Cabinet Office minister saying: “A couple of scotch eggs is a starter as far as I’m concerned.”

But by the time he spoke to ITV News shortly afterwards Mr Gove appeared to have performed a volte face, he said: “A scotch egg is a substantial meal.”

Pressed on whether it was actually a bar snack, he replied: “I myself would definitely scoff a couple of scotch eggs if I had the chance, but I do recognise that it is a substantial meal.”

But the issue of whether under law it really is a meal, and crucially, whether a pub can serve it with a pint and not be in breach of the legislation and face racking up thousands of pounds-worth of fines, remains undefined.

And the issue over lots of other things a pub may be able to serve without having to upgrade or instal a kitchen, and all the regulations that entails, is also unclear and seems to be placed in the hands of publicans to make the call themselves and risk falling foul of the law.

Perhaps even more bizarrely, this is far from the first time this particular issue has been raised, with the previously obscure 1965 legal case of Timmis v Millman thrust into the public eye.

That involved the defendant and a friend caught in a hotel bar at 11.30pm consuming light ale and stout outside of permitted drinking hours.

But the-then Lord Chief Justice decided their meal of a “substantial sandwich” served with pickles and beetroot constituted a “table meal”, and not just a “bar snack”, which allowed them to stay within rules which allowed for an extra hour after the end of the ordinary permitted drinking time as long as it was for finishing their supper meal.

And that built on the court ruling in Solomon v Green a decade earlier, where sandwiches and sausages on sticks were found to constitute a meal.

Whether any enterprising landlord will attempt to use such case law to justify serving cocktail sausages on toothpicks to thirsty drinkers remains to be seen, but if they do then the obliqueness of the current rules may work in their favour.



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