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It would be ‘foolish’ for GOP to block Mexico tariffs

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President Donald Trump and Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May hold a joint news conference in London, Britain, June 4, 2019.

Carlos Barria | Reuters

President Donald Trump on Tuesday doubled down on his newly unveiled threat to slap 5% tariffs on all Mexican imports — and he said it would be “foolish” for Republican lawmakers to try and stop him.

Trump reaffirmed that his new policy “will take effect next week” during a press conference in London alongside British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Asked by a reporter whether Mexico, which sent a delegation to the U.S. this week for talks with U.S. officials on the tariff and immigration disputes, has done enough to avoid the new duties, Trump said, “No, we haven’t started yet.”

When pressed to give his thoughts on Republicans who have signaled that they might take action to block the tariffs, Trump said, “I don’t think they will do that.”

“I think if they do, it’s foolish,” Trump added.

Multiple outlets reported that Republicans in Congress have met to discuss whether to go against Trump on his latest protectionist threat, which would steadily increase tariffs on all Mexican imports to 25% by October unless Mexico makes strides in stopping illegal immigration to the U.S.

Trump had initially tweeted that the flow of migrants illegally crossing into the U.S. would have to “STOP,” but administration officials later said that there was no specific level of reduction they were looking for.

CNN reported Tuesday, however, that there was no clear GOP plan to handle the president’s tariff threat, which could also jeopardize the new trade deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada that is meant to replace NAFTA.

Even as some experts hypothesized that the White House wouldn’t actually follow through on Trump’s new policy, which would partly marry the fraught issues of trade and immigration, Trump sounded more and more committed to the plan over the weekend.

“Mexico is sending a big delegation to talk about the Border. Problem is, they’ve been “talking” for 25 years,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “We want action, not talk.”

The presser with May came as part of Trump’s second visit to Britain, which coincides with the 75th anniversary of the D-Day allied invasion of Normandy, France, during World War II.

The event also came just three days before May was set to resign as U.K. prime minister, after struggling throughout her tenure to secure a deal for Britain to leave the European Union in accordance with the 2016 Brexit vote.

Trump told reporters at the press conference that “we’ll see if we can do something” during the U.S.-Mexico talks this week. 

“But I think it’s more likely that the tariffs go on and we’ll probably be talking during the time that the tariffs are on, and they’re going to be paid,” Trump said.

“Look, millions of people are flowing through Mexico,” the president said. “That’s unacceptable.”

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Hong Kong protesters, police face off in renewed clashes

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Protesters in Hong Kong threw gasoline bombs and police fired tear gas Saturday in renewed clashes over anti-government grievances.

Reporters saw at least one person arrested after violence erupted following an afternoon march by several thousand people in Tuen Mun, a district in the northwest of the Chinese territory.

Hong Kong is in the fourth month of sometimes violent protests that occur every weekend. They started with opposition to a proposed extradition law and have expanded to include demands for greater democracy.

Most protesters in Tuen Mun were peaceful but some threw gasoline bombs and bricks toward police who faced them down the street. They appeared to fall short of the police and there was no indication anyone was hit.

In the evening, protesters gathered at a shopping mall in another district, Yuen Long. Some threw gasoline bombs in the street. A government statement said some were thrown toward police vehicles, endangering the officers inside, but gave no indication anyone was injured.

In both areas, police with riot helmets and shields responded by firing tear gas.

Elsewhere, scuffles were reported as government supporters heeded a call by a pro-Beijing member of the Hong Kong legislature to tear down protest posters at subway stations.

The events are an embarrassment for China’s Communist Party ahead of Oct. 1 celebrations of its 70th anniversary in power. Hong Kong’s government has canceled a fireworks display that day, citing concern for public safety.

The protesters in Tuen Mun marched about 2 kilometers (1 1/2 miles) from a playground to a government office building. Many were dressed in black and carried umbrellas, a symbol of their movement.

Protesters chanted, “Reclaim Hong Kong!” and “Revolution of our times!”

Most were peaceful but some took down a Chinese flag from a pole outside a government office and set fire to it. Protesters also set up barricades to block traffic.

A government statement said protesters caused unspecified damage to the Tuen Mun light rail station and threw objects onto the tracks.

An organizer quoted by government broadcaster RTHK criticized police for sending armed anti-riot officers.

That will “only escalate tension between protesters and police,” the organizer, Michael Mo, was quoted as saying.

Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, has agreed to withdraw the extradition bill. But protesters are pressing other demands, including an independent investigation of complaints about police violence during earlier demonstrations.

Protesters complain Beijing and Lam’s government are eroding the “high degree of autonomy” and Western-style civil liberties promised to the former British colony when it was returned to China in 1997.

The protests have begun to weigh on Hong Kong’s economy, which already was slowing due to cooling global consumer demand. The Hong Kong airport said passenger traffic fell in August. Business is off at hotels and retailers.

Police refused permission for Saturday’s march but an appeal tribunal agreed to allow a two-hour event.

Protesters in Tuen Mun also complained about a group of women from mainland China who sing in a local park. Residents say they are too loud and accuse some of asking for money or engaging in prostitution.

Those complaints prompted a similar march in July, highlighting tension between Hong Kong residents and migrants from mainland China.

Later Saturday, protesters gathered at a mall in Yuen Long, where men with sticks beat protesters and subway passengers there on July 21 in an incident that caused controversy in Hong Kong.

Some protesters threw gasoline bombs on the street outside the Yoho Mall but there was no indication anyone was injured. Others started small fires in the street.

Also Saturday, there were brief scuffles as government supporters tore down protest posters at several subway stops, according to RTHK, the government broadcaster.

That campaign was initiated by a pro-Beijing member of Hong Kong’s legislature, Junius Ho.

Near the subway station in the Tsuen Wan neighborhood, a woman who was tearing down posters threw a bag at a reporter and a man shoved a cameraman, RTHK reported. It said there was pushing and shoving between the two sides at stations in Yuen Long and Lok Fu.

Ho made an appearance in the Shau Kei Wan neighborhood but residents shouted at him and told him to leave, RTHK said.

Ho initially called for protest signs to be torn down in all 18 of Hong Kong’s districts but he said Friday that would be reduced to clearing up trash from streets due to “safety concerns.”

On Wednesday, the Hong Kong Jockey Club canceled a horse race after some protesters suggested targeting the club because a horse owned by Ho was due to run.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong airport announced restrictions on access Sunday following what it said were calls to disrupt traffic there.

The airport train from downtown will skip Kowloon and other stops en route, the Airport Authority said. Only passengers with valid tickets and travel documents will be allowed into the airport.

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French police break up ‘yellow vest’ and ‘black bloc’ protests in Paris

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A banner is displayed during a protest urging authorities to take emergency measures against climate change, in Paris, France, September 21, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Charles Platiau | Reuters

French police fired tear gas and made over a hundred arrests in Paris on Saturday as they dispersed “yellow vest” protesters attempting unauthorized rallies and black-masked demonstrators who disrupted a climate march.

Police had made 137 arrests in Paris by mid-afternoon and had pushed back around one hundred protesters who gathered on the Champs-Elysees shopping avenue, the Paris police prefecture said.

The government deployed a massive police presence as it feared yellow-vest supporters and other activists, including “black bloc” anarchists, would take advantage of authorized protests over climate change and pension reform.

Some 7,500 police were mobilized, several districts including the Champs-Elysees were made out-of-bounds for protests, and over 30 metro stations closed.

A woman gestures as she attends a protest urging authorities to take emergency measures against climate change, in Paris, France, September 21, 2019.

Charles Platiau | Reuters

The climate rally saw sporadic confrontations between police and masked demonstrators who had infiltrated the march.

Groups wearing black clothing associated with the so-called black bloc anarchist movement formed barricades, set fire to bins and a motorbike, and threw paint over the front of a bank.

Similar skirmishes occurred later in the march with the prefecture again attributing violence to black blocs. Police responded with tear gas.

The violence tarnished an otherwise peaceful march that brought thousands of people, including some yellow vests, onto the streets, a day after marches in Paris and other cities worldwide to demand government action against climate change.

Riot police officers stand next to a burning barricade during a protest urging authorities to take emergency measures against climate change, in Paris, France, September 21, 2019.

Demonstrators carried slogans like “End oil now” and “End of the world” while some held carnival effigies, including one of President Emmanuel Macron wearing a crown marked “King of bla-bla”.

The yellow vests, named after motorists’ high-visibility jackets, were holding a 45th consecutive Saturday of action. The movement emerged late last year, triggered by fuel tax rises and swelling into a revolt against Macron’s style of government.

Some of their protests have been marked by rioting, partly blamed on black blocs.

A separate march on Saturday was called by the FO trade union to contest the government’s planned overhaul of France’s retirement system. The proposed reform prompted a strike by metro workers on Sept. 13, shutting most of the underground network.

Police officers look on during a demonstration on Act 45 (the 45th consecutive national protest on Saturday) of the yellow vests movement in Paris, France, September 21, 2019.

Pascal Rossignol | Reuters

The authorities have also been taking precautions so protesters do not disrupt an annual heritage event this weekend that gives the public special access to many historic sites.

Some sites like the Arc de Triomphe monument have been closed while others like the Elysee presidential palace have required visitors to register in advance.

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Iran’s warnings to Saudi Arabia are ridiculous, Saudi’s Al-Jubeir says

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Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir attends a press event with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the State Department on January 12, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Zach Gibson | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Iran’s recent warnings to Saudi Arabia are “ridiculous” and “laughable” Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir told CNBC amid ongoing investigations by the kingdom tying Iran to a major attack on its oil facilities.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in an interview Friday that he hoped to avoid conflict, but that Iran was prepared for “all-out war” in the event of attack by Saudi or U.S. forces. He then questioned whether Saudi Arabia was ready to fight “to the last American soldier.”

“This is not the first time Iran’s foreign minister has said something ridiculous and frankly laughable,” he told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in Riyadh on Saturday.

His comments come amid a state of heightened tension between Saudi Arabia, Iran and the U.S. following drone and missile attacks on two Saudi oil facilities a week ago. The attacks, claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, shut down half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production.

Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have suggested that Iran had a role in, or was responsible for, the attack on Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq and Khurais oil facility. Iran has denied the accusations, calling them “meaningless” and “pointless.”

Asked about next steps, the minister asserted that Saudi Arabia was responsible for its own defenses ⁠— which were criticized as having failed to effectively counter the drone and missile attacks ⁠— but stressed the international community’s role in reigning in what he called Iran’s aggressive behavior.

“It is our responsibility to protect our borders, our people, our infrastructure ⁠— but the world also has responsibility to make sure Iran isn’t allowed to get away with murder, to ensure freedom of navigation in the Gulf and Arabian Sea so global energy supply isn’t disrupted,” he said.

Engagement with Iran, like the efforts of Germany and France in launching a trade mechanism that would bypass U.S. sanctions, is nothing more than appeasement and will only condone the country’s behavior, al-Jubeir added.

“If you think being lax with Iran will make it behave better, that hasn’t happened in 40 years and won’t happen,” he said. “The idea that Iran can be offered loans we believe is appeasement. Anytime anybody has appeased Iran in the last 40 years, Iran has used that to cause mischief.”

Iran defends its testing and development of ballistic missiles as self-defense. Earlier this year the Donald Trump administration designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, accusing it of destabilizing activity across the Middle East and supporting militant groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have stopped short of any retaliatory action against Iran, although on Friday the Pentagon announced that it will deploy additional U.S. troops and missile defense equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Al-Jubeir said the strikes represented attacks not just on Saudi Arabia but on the entire international community.

Extensive repair work is underway on the two damaged oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Aramco’s Chief Executive Amin Nasser has reportedly told employees of the state oil giant that the company had emerged from attacks on its oil facilities “stronger than ever” and added that full oil production would resume by the end of this month.

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