Asia Pacific Focus

Australia seeks WTO action against China over wine tariffs
Asia Pacific Focus

Australia seeks WTO action against China over wine tariffs

Trade tensions between Australia and China further escalated on Saturday as Canberra announced that it is filing a formal complaint with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over China’s imposition of brutal tariffs on its wine exports.

In a statement issued by Australia’s Trade Minister Dan Tehan, the decision to take action against China’s imposition of anti-dumping duties on Australian wine was taken after extensive consultation with Australia’s wine makers.

“Australia will defend the interests of Australian wine makers by taking action in the World Trade Organization over China’s imposition of anti-dumping duties on Australian wine,” the statement said.

Canberra also expressed willing to engage directly with Beijing to resolve the issue. The minister maintained that the government will continue to vigorously defend the interests of Australian wine makers through WTO’s established system to resolve differences. The minister added that Australia’s decision to use WTO aligns with its support for rules-based trading system.

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In November 2020, China imposed heavy taxes on Australian wine of upto 212%, alleging Canberra of trading malpractice. A statement by the Chinese commerce ministry said that the anti-dumping measures were introduced to stop subsidised imports of Australian wine after a year-long investigation found evidence of dumping.

Australia had denied the allegations, maintaining that there was no basis of the claims.

Noting that China has been the biggest market for Australian wine, the crackdown resulted in millions of dollar worth of loss to Australian wine makers and exports.

Addressing the media, Trade Minister Tehran said that the actions taken by the Chinese government have caused serious harm to the Australian wine industry. Canberra has pointed out that Beijing’s tariffs have surged the price of Australian wine to a triple rate, making the Chinese market unviable for the country’s wine makers and exporters.

As per reports, Australia’s wine exports to China fell to $20 million last month from $1.1 billion in November 2020.

In recent months, Beijing has imposed numerous economic sanctions on several Australian products and services, including coal, tourism, and agricultural goods. Earlier in December 2020, the Australian government lodged a formal complained at the WTO against China’s 80% anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs on Australian barley. This trade tiff has worsened geopolitical and economic relations between the two countries. Bilateral relations between the two countries became tense after Australia banned Chinese tech giant Huawei from 5G network in 2018. Later in 2020, Australia backed an independent investigation into the origins of Coronavirus in a major blow to its already-strained ties with China.

Japan’s political parties prepare for elections as Diet session ends
Asia Pacific Focus

Japan’s political parties prepare for elections as Diet session ends

As Japan’s parliamentary session concluded on Wednesday, the country’s ruling coalition and opposition parties are gearing up for the upcoming general elections. At the end of the 150-day ordinary session of the Diet, the ruling coalition rejected the opposition’s call for a three-month extension of the parliamentary proceedings to effectively handle the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

This development came a day after the lower house voted down a no-confidence motion against the cabinet led by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. The country’s main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party (CDPJ) and three other parties (Democratic Party for the People, Japanese Communist Party, and Social Democratic Party) had filed the no-confidence motion against Suga’s cabinet after the ruling coalition dismissed their proposal to extend the Diet session.

Opposition leaders have been highly critical of the prime minister and his cabinet for mismanagement of the pandemic and an array of controversies coming to light in recent months. In view of the COVID-19 response, Suga’s cabinet’s approval rate fell down to a record 32.3 percent in May 2021, as per a Jiji Press survey. At the same time, public disapproval increased 6.9 points to 44.6% for the fifth successive month.

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Speculations are rife that Suga might dissolve the House of Representatives and call for snap elections in the first week of September following the Tokyo Olympics Games (starting from July 23) come to an end.

However, responding to media reports, senior leaders of the ruling coalition have indicated that Suga will not be dissolving the Lower House ahead of the Metropolitan Assembly elections in Tokyo as well as the Olympics Games that are scheduled to take place next month.

Japan must hold its general election before the four-year term of the incumbent members of the lower house ends on October 21.

In addition, Suga will also face Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) leadership elections with his term as the party president ending on September 30. Suga is seeking re-election in the party elections in order to stay in power.

With about 40 days left for the Tokyo Olympics to kick off in the Japanese capital, prime minister Suga has assured to take all safety measures related to the novel Coronavirus to ensure the Games would be “safe and secure”. The Japanese government is scheduled to ease the COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo and few other regions ahead of the Olympics. Meanwhile, the LDP and other political parties have begun their election campaign amid ongoing efforts to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Fresh military drills near Takeshima/ Dokdo islands stir sourness in Japan-South Korea ties
Asia Pacific Focus

Fresh military drills near Takeshima/ Dokdo islands stir sourness in Japan-South Korea ties

 Disputed territorial islands saw fresh rounds of annual military drills by South Korea near the waters of Dokdo islands, referred to as Takeshima islands in Japan. The military exercise began few days after meeting of both nations’ leaders on G7 Summit in Cornwall’s sidelines was cancelled as Japan raised objections over the military drills conduction. This long-running territorial dispute between the countries has further threatened Tokyo Olympics to be held this year.

Lasty weekend, the meeting between South Korean president Moon Jae-in and the Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga was cancelled after Mr. Suga raised concerns over South Korean drills near disputed islands. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, Moon was planning on attending Olympics opening ceremony on July and had plans of telling Suga about this during meeting. This would have been a starting point of relations improving between the two nations.

Moon expressed his disappointment over not being able to meet Suga during the G7. “My first encounter with prime minister Suga would have been a precious chance [for] a new start in the South Korea-Japan relationship, but I am sorry that it could not develop into a meeting,” he said in a Facebook post.

Japanese officials say that meeting had to be cancelled over scheduling problems.

Earlier in month of June, South Korea had raised concerns and lodged a complaint with IOC (International Olympic Committee) after organizers of Tokyo Olympics 2020 identifies the disputed islands as Japanese territories in an online map that displayed Olympic torch relay route. The fresh rounds of military drills by South Korea is expected to further stir in strains in an already sour relationship between Tokyo and Seoul over bitter war history.

The prime reason of bitterness in war history is because of disagreements around Japan’s indulgence in sexual slavery during wartime and forcing of laborers into mines and factories during and even before World War II. Nevertheless, both Japan and South Korea are key allies to the USA and share a common cause of ‘denuclearizing’ North Korea.

The South Korean Defense Ministry has relayed that military drills would be participated by naval, air and coast guard forces, while being limited at sea and minimum contacts between all troops citing coronavirus concerns. 

The chief cabinet secretary in Japan, Katsunobu Kato, said on Tuesday, “The drills are unacceptable and extremely regrettable. We have protested to the South Korean government and called for them to be halted.” Kato added that news around Moon having intentions of attending Olympic opening ceremony has “no truth”. Furthermore, Japan has dismissed all calls by South Korean officials of amending the Olympics torch relay map.

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Military junta in Myanmar rejects UN chief’s allegations of human rights abuse ahead of Suu Kyi’s trial
Asia Pacific Focus

Military junta in Myanmar rejects UN chief’s allegations of human rights abuse ahead of Suu Kyi’s trial

Ahead of the trial of Suu Kyi, state counselor of Myanmar, the military junta has gone on record to refute the claims of human rights abuse in the country after the chief of the United Nations blamed the military control for unjust practice.

There have been many incidents in the country after the military take over when human rights were witnessed to be neglected. Many residents also took to social media handles to project the demonstrations against the current power and their force on common people who were demonstrating against them.

Following these incidents, the United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights  commented on deadly practices but the military junta on Sunday completely refuted the claims. On February 1, when the military started governing the Burma administration, Suu Kyi was detained by the military power along with some of the most senior diplomats of the country.

There have been tons of requests to free their leader which resulted in armed forces coming fighting the unarmed citizens of the country. Even after a lot of requests were made to conduct fair set up, there was nothing that could change the mind of the military junta.

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The 75-year-old has since been in detention and it was decided that on Monday, trial for her breaching the coronavirus regulations was scheduled. She had reportedly done an election campaign without taking covid-19 protocols into consideration. She clearly won the elections held in November last year but was blamed for health negligence as well as possession of unlicensed walkie-talkies.

Her legal representative said that her trial will stretch till July and there is no way it could be concluded any sooner. Other charges on the nobel laureate include intent to incite and breach of official secrets act. She has also allegedly accepted $600,000 and 11.4 kg worth of gold from the Yangon minister.

The army stresses that they took control of the administration because they believe that Suu Kyi took over Myanmar only by fraud. The accusations are however rejected by the previous election commission but the military nevertheless continues to stress that there was election fraud. Things got worse when it was reported that the military had killed over 800 people during the administrative crackdown in three months. Hence the activists had to jump in to protect human rights but the strong reluctance to accept the civil crimes further threatens the existence of democratic powers.

Philippines face a shortage of vaccine supplies as mass immunisation halts
Asia Pacific Focus

Philippines face a shortage of vaccine supplies as mass immunisation halts

A delay in deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines has made some cities in the capital region close vaccination sites, hindering Manila’s aims to ramp up its immunisation run.

So far, only 4.5 million of the promised 7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered. Head of the government’s vaccine procurement programme, Carlito Galvez, told this to the DZMM radio on Wednesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Thursday appealed to the public for understanding while assuring them that soon the country will have ample supply in the coming months and the whole of the population will be vaccinated.

The overall vaccination programme by the government has been heavily mismanaged as it didn’t make any classification on the basis of age. The delay has come just as the government announced to open up vaccinations to about 35 million people working beyond the vicinity of their homes, to halt COVID-19 transmission and open the economy up.

Mayor of Quezon City, Joy Belmonte, said several vaccination sites in her city were being closed forcibly because of “erratic” supplies.

Ever since the start of the coronavirus, doctors have warned that people are not taking the SOPs into account. The government has also not been very strict with the restrictions and now the residents are said to be paying the price. People, for most of the time, questioned whether the pandemic was actual or “just a money-making venture”.

Some mayors allowed the reopening of cockfighting arenas, a place for gambling and mass gatherings. Furthermore, few Catholic priests also subtly encouraged people to attend Sunday masses in person, despite directions of church attendance being limited to half of the maximum capacity.

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In fishing villages and farming communities, residents have been seen practising their usual habits – hanging out, walking around in the neighbourhood or playing billiards and basketball – mostly maskless.

King of Malaysia meets key politicians to discuss the covid situation in the country
Asia Pacific Focus

King of Malaysia meets key politicians to discuss the covid situation in the country

A series of the meeting was started by Malaysian king several political leaders amid public discontent over the government’s handling of a coronavirus crisis that has forced the nation into a third lockdown. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration imposed strict COVID-19 measures for two weeks in the country. With this announcement so far they have seen a surge in infections and deaths, and new emergency covid cases. To curb the spread of the disease these leaders met to discuss and make effective decisions. However, the opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who spent an hour on Wednesday with King Al-Sultan Abdullah, said the national emergency has done more harm than good.

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This pre-Cabinet meeting was among the weekly activities of Al-Sultan Abdullah to discuss and exchange views with the prime minister on government affairs and issue. Meeting has said to be productive as even the ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad was involved to discuss efforts to battle the epidemic during the emergency. With nearly 634,000 cases among its 32 million people, Malaysia has the highest number of infections per capita in Southeast Asia. People believe that that allowing this emergency to continue will lead to losses to the country and those in the lower economic strata of society.

During the meeting with the king, Mohamad Sabu, President of the National Trust Party said he had appealed to the ruler to reconvene parliament so members can discuss the government’s programmes in addressing the COVID-19 crisis. Alongside even ministers from the opposition parties and activists had set up a Committee for Ending the Emergency Declaration in March. They have launched a petition to appeal for an end to the state of emergency so that the public can resume normal life while maintaining caution.

How An Intelligent App Has Busted A Criminal Syndicate
Asia Pacific Focus

How An Intelligent App Has Busted A Criminal Syndicate

New Zealand and Australian governments worked in tandem to crack a racquet of criminals. In a mass cheat moment, they worked out a massive blow to a syndicate that was blow apart through a messaging app. Apparently; hundreds of criminals were tricked into using this messaging app that was being secretly run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

What has been busted is a syndicate of organized criminals ranging from those drug smuggling, money laundering and even planned killings. For months together authorities monitored millions of messages exchanged on the ANOM application.

Named as the operation Trojan Shield, the app was part of a worldwide sting led by the FBI and involved the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the EU’s police agency Europol, and law enforcement agencies in over a dozen countries.

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It is massive victory for the world against organized crime, amidst a raging fight against the unseen enemy called Covid-19. One reason that the pacific countries said this worked is because stripped-back mobile phones were used to attract their attention. The popularity of the app grew organically baiting in some high-profile underworld figures described as “criminal influencers,” vouching for the app.

Australia and New Zealand made public announcements for the criminal bust while other European nations made their independent announcements nationwide.

In Sydney, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw said that the police had arrested 224 people and seized more than four tons of drugs and $35 million in an ongoing operation that dates back three years. With this, shutters were brought down on six clandestine laboratories and 21 death threats were stopped, including saving a family of five.

New Zealand police said they had arrested 35 people and seized drugs and assets worth millions of dollars.

The sting was put into action since 2018, when a similar application called the Phantom Secure was seen to be not than effective. ANOM app was then introduced and could see a great fan following building in no time amongst the criminal lot.

US to aid Taiwan in its fight against Covid-19
Asia Pacific Focus

US to aid Taiwan in its fight against Covid-19

The United States has announced to donate 750,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan as the latter is in dire need of jabs to boost its fight against the pandemic.

Three US Senators, speaking at Taipei’s downtown Songshan airport, announced that Taiwan would be getting 750,000 vaccines as part of the first tranche of donations.

The step is a part of the global superpower’s plan to share more and more vaccines with the countries in need.

US President Joe Biden last week announced that the US will swiftly donate the initial allotment of 25m doses of vaccine overseas via the UN-backed Covax program. The initiative, to date, has shared only 76m doses with needy countries.

Taiwan is currently dealing with a sharp spike in domestic Covid-19 cases but has been affected by global vaccine shortages.

From its population of 23.5 million people, only around 3% have been vaccinated so far. Most of those vaccinated have got only the first shot of two needed.

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Taiwanese health authorities announced on Sunday that there were 343 new locally transmitted cases. Taipei contained coronavirus last year but the outbreak that started in May has spread into some factories in the electronics industry. The industry forms the backbone of the country’s export sector.

Taiwan’s opposition has heavily bashed the government of President Tsai Ing-wen over the failure of mustering up enough vaccine supplies. The government fears that China is trying to use the health crisis to turn the public against Tsai. Beijing denies this allegation and has accused Tsai of “plotting independence aided by the pandemic”.

China says it is all set to provide vaccines to Taiwan, but Taipei accuses Beijing of blocking efforts to obtain vaccines directly. China has recently shown its displeasure on Japan for its vaccine donation to Taiwan.

ASEAN envoys meet Myanmar’s General Min Aung Hlaing to press for a solution
Asia Pacific Focus

ASEAN envoys meet Myanmar’s General Min Aung Hlaing to press for a solution

On Friday, envoys of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations met with Myanmar’s junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. For more than a month and a half after a crisis regional summit on the coup in the nation brought signs of progress toward finding a solution however didn’t reach any promising outcomes. 

Adversaries of Myanmar’s junta leader stated on Friday that they had lost confidence in Southeast Asian endeavors to end the tensions faced by the country. 

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“We have little trust in ASEAN’s endeavors. All our expectations are gone,” stated Moe Zaw Oo, a deputy foreign minister in the opposition that the junta has pronounced treacherous, “I don’t think they have strong plans for proving their credibility,” he stated for ASEAN, Reuters reported. 

ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations) has driven the primary diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the tension and crisis in Myanmar, a country in strife since the tactical Feb. 1 defeat of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government. 

According to Reuters, Myanmar has fallen into more chaos since the coup, with countrywide protests, blacklists that weaken the economy, and a huge number of citizens uprooted due to fighting between the military and ethnic minority rebels and recently formed militia. 

Moreover, around 845 individuals got killed by security forces and more than 4,500 imprisoned, as indicated by activists. However, the Junta government raises questions about those figures. 

The United Nations, China, and the Western nations have supported ASEAN’s mediation, yet some Western forces have additionally forced sanctions on junta members and their financial interests, AP reported. 

Brunei is also helping in negotiating with the Myanmar junta since it holds ASEAN’s chairmanship. ASEAN includes Cambodia, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Recently, an Indonesian representative stated that the delegation’s goal was to seek Myanmar’s approval of an ASEAN special diplomat for the crisis, which is not yet been announced. He added that the decision included both sides.

However, “Any conversations, any meetings about the eventual fate of Myanmar should include people of Myanmar, (their) voices should be heard,” stated representative Sa Sa. 

Taiwan to never forget Tiananmen Square massacre: Present
Asia Pacific Focus

Taiwan to never forget Tiananmen Square massacre: Present

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said, on Friday, that her people will never forget China’s gaping crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square 32 years ago.

She reiterated that resolve that the Taiwanese will stick with their faith in democracy.

Taiwan uses the Tiananmen Square anniversary to blame China and urges it to meet eyeballs with what it did. This has so far led to Beijing’s repeated annoyance as China lays a claim on Taiwan and considers it as its own territory that could be taken over by force if necessary.

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Huge crowds usually take to roads each year to mark the painful memory of Chinese troops toeing peaceful democracy protestors in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989.

There was an international condemnation after tanks and troops opened fire on protesters in Beijing. Estimates of the people dead stay contested to date, as it varies from a few hundred to several thousand.

The coming Friday marks 32 years to the deadly assault.

The President, writing on her Facebook page, said Taiwan’s people can not forget what had happened.

“I believe that all Taiwanese are proud of their freedom and democracy and they will firmly stick to their faith, unshaken by challenges,” said Tsai.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council urged China, on Thursday, to give the power back to the people and allow a real political reform rather than avoiding remembering a crackdown.

On the other hand, Pro-democracy activist Chow Hang Tung was arrested by Hong Kong police for promoting an unauthorized assembly on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

She is the vice chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance. The group organizes annual vigils for victims of China’s crackdown on democracy protesters.

Macau and Hong Kong remain the only places in Chinese territory that see people commemorate the unfortunate incident.

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