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G-7 foreign ministers hold talks on ‘rising threats,’ Russia, China

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President of Russia Vladimir Putin looks on prior to the Victory Day military parade in Red Square marking the 75th anniversary of the victory in World War II, on June 24, 2020 in Moscow, Russia.

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Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G-7) developed nations are to meet in London on Tuesday to discuss the most pressing geopolitical challenges facing the world, including Russia and China.

The U.K. is hosting G-7 foreign and development ministers in the first face-to-face meetings since the coronavirus pandemic began, and the first gathering of the group’s foreign ministers since 2019.

Geopolitical issues that the U.K. said “threaten to undermine democracy, freedoms and human rights” will be on the agenda Tuesday, including “relations with Russia, China, and Iran, as well as the crisis in Myanmar, the violence in Ethiopia, and the ongoing war in Syria,” the government said in a statement.

Russia’s “ongoing malign activity,” the U.K. said, including the build-up of troops on the border with Ukraine, its imprisonment of opposition figure Alexei Navalny and the situation in Belarus, are high on the agenda.

On Monday, British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. At a press conference, they reiterated their shared commitment to “maintaining transatlantic unity in defense of our common values and in response to direct threats,” Blinken said.

‘Shared challenges’

The talks come ahead of a larger G-7 summit in Cornwall in early June, which will be attended by G-7 leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden who will make his first scheduled trip abroad since taking office.

The G-7 is an alliance of the world’s most industrialized nations: the U.K., U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. The EU participates in all discussions as a guest.

Following talks through the day Tuesday, the foreign ministers will then hold a dinner discussion with guest countries Australia, India, South Korea, South Africa, and Brunei as the current ASEAN Chair.

Diplomatic relations between the G-7 with Russia remain strained since its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine which led to Russia’s suspension from what was then the Group of Eight (G-8) and international sanctions being imposed on Russia.  

Since then, Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, a 2018 nerve agent attack in the U.K., a cyberattack on U.S. government and corporate networks and alleged interference in the 2020 election have prompted further sanctions on the country. The Russian government has repeatedly denied all of the allegations.

Meanwhile, relations between the West and China remain at an impasse since the departure of former U.S. President Donald Trump, yet questions remain over the future of international trade.

International relations with Iran are also in the spotlight after the Biden administration said it was willing to hold talks to potentially revive the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the accord in 2018.

‘Rising threats’

The U.K. currently holds the rotating presidency of the G-7 and Foreign Minister Raab commented that the U.K.’s presidency “is an opportunity to bring together open, democratic societies and demonstrate unity at a time when it is much needed to tackle shared challenges and rising threats.”

Tuesday’s discussions will also cover tensions and escalating conflicts in other parts of the world, including the coup in Myanmar. The U.K. said it would urge G-7 nations to take stronger action against the military junta, including expanding targeted sanctions against those connected to the junta; support for arms embargoes; and increased humanitarian assistance for the most vulnerable in the country.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (R) walk along Downing Street in London, United Kingdom on May 03, 2021.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

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Xiaomi shares rally after US agrees to remove it from blacklist

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Xiaomi’s headquarters in the Xuhui District of Shanghai.

Costfoto | Barcroft Media | Getty Images

GUANGZHOU, China — The U.S. has agreed to remove Xiaomi from a blacklist that would have barred Americans from investing in the Chinese smartphone maker.

Shares of Chinese tech giant Xiaomi rallied as much as 6.5% after the news, before paring some gains.

In January, the administration under former President Donald Trump designated Xiaomi as one of several “Communist Chinese military companies” or CCMC.

This meant the world’s third-largest smartphone maker was subject to a November executive order restricting American investors from buying shares or related securities of any companies given this designation by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

Xiaomi brought a legal challenge against the U.S. Department of Defense.

In March, a U.S. court granted Xiaomi a preliminary injunction against the Trump-era order, saying the company would “suffer irreparable harm in the form of serious reputational and unrecoverable economic injuries.”

And on Tuesday, the DOD agreed that a “final order vacating” Xiaomi’s designation as a CCMC “would be appropriate,” according to a court filing.

Xiaomi and the DOD will “negotiate over the specific terms of the order” and provide the court with a “joint proposed order” on or before May 20.

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Tesla’s China sales tumble 27% in April from March

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A gigafactory of electric carmaker Tesla is seen in Shanghai, China October 18, 2019.

Aly Song | Reuters

BEIJING — One gauge of Tesla’s success in China pointed to a sharp drop in sales in April.

The U.S.-based electric car company sold 25,845 made-in-China vehicles last month, down 27% from 35,478 in March, according to figures released Tuesday by the China Passenger Car Association.

The report noted that in April, Tesla exported 14,174 cars from its Shanghai factory. The association did not disclose Tesla’s export figures for March.

Tesla’s sales decline came amid an overall 12% month-on-month drop in April for new energy passenger cars in China, according to the association. The category includes pure-electric and hybrid cars.

Guangdong-based BYD, which is backed by U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett, came close behind Tesla in April. The passenger car association said BYD sold 25,450 new energy vehicles in April, up 6.5% from 23,906 in March.

The figures are close to those disclosed by BYD itself, which said earlier this month it sold 25,034 new energy passenger cars in April.

Some in China’s electric car industry have cast doubt on the accuracy of the association’s figures.

China becomes more important for Tesla

Tesla does not disclose monthly deliveries by country. The company delivered 184,800 cars worldwide during the first quarter.

Publicly disclosed figures indicate China is becoming a more and more important market for Tesla. The company made $3 billion in sales in the country during the first quarter, accounting for 29% of global sales for the period. That’s up from up from 21% for all of 2020.

Meanwhile, negative press has increased for Tesla in China. In the last few months, local reports of Tesla brake failures, crashes and explosions have mounted and drawn scrutiny from regulators. Separately on Tuesday, Reuters reported, citing sources, that Tesla has halted plans to buy land and expand its Shanghai factory.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report, or the association’s figures. Shares fell about 1.9% overnight and are down roughly 12% for the year so far.

Looking ahead, the passenger car association pointed out the capital city of Beijing is releasing 60,000 new license plates for new energy vehicles this month, which should help sales for recent market launches such as Tesla’s Model Y and Aion Y, produced by a new energy brand spun-off from Chinese state-owned automaker GAC.

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WHO says it accounts for 50% of reported cases last week

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A Covid-19 coronavirus patient rests inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid care centre in New Delhi on May 10, 2021.

Arun Sankar | AFP | Getty Images

India’s daily Covid-19 death toll hit another record high on Wednesday, as the World Health Organization said the country accounted for half the total reported cases in the world last week.

Health ministry data showed that at least 4,205 people died over a 24-hour period — the largest single-day increase in fatalities reported by the South Asian country since the pandemic began. However, reports have suggested that the death toll in India is being undercounted.

Total reported cases in India topped 23 million and more than 254,000 people have died.

The World Health Organization said that India accounted for half of all cases reported globally last week as well as 30% of global deaths.

India has reported more than 300,000 daily cases for 21 consecutive days. On Tuesday, however, the health ministry said its data showed a net decline in the total active cases over a 24-hour period for the first time in 61 days.

The second wave began around February and accelerated through March and April after large crowds were allowed to gather, mostly without masks, for religious festivals and election rallies in various parts of the country.

India’s health-care system is under tremendous pressure due to the spike in cases despite an inflow of international aid, including oxygen concentrators, cylinders, and generation plants as well as anti-viral drug Remdesivir.

To alleviate some pressure on health-care workers, India is recruiting 400 ex-medical officers from the armed forces, the defense ministry announced on Sunday.

WHO’s update on India, South Asia

In its latest weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic, the U.N. health agency said it was observing “worrying trends” in India’s neighboring countries, where cases are also rising.

For example, in Nepal, almost 50% of all individuals tested for Covid-19 are reportedly infected as the landlocked country struggles with a second wave. It is said to have run out of vaccines as India suspended its exports in light of the situation at home.

WHO recently classified the Covid variant B.1.617 that was first detected in India as a variant of concern, indicating that it’s become a global threat. The variant has three sub-lineages “which differ by few but potentially relevant mutations in the spike protein as well as prevalence of detection globally,” WHO said in the report.

India’s dramatic surge in cases has raised questions on the role played by Covid variants like the B.1.617 as well as the B.1.1.7 that was first detected in the United Kingdom.

The international health body said it conducted a recent risk assessment of the situation in India and found that the resurgence and acceleration of Covid-19 transmission in the country had several likely contributing factors: That includes the presence of Covid variants that have potentially increased transmissibility as well as mass gatherings and reduced adherence to public health and social measures.

“The exact contributions of these each of these factors on increased transmission in India are not well understood,” WHO said.

Elsewhere, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not attend a G-7 Summit in person in the U.K. next month due to the Covid-19 situation at home, the Indian foreign ministry said. Modi was invited by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to attend the event as a special invitee, according to the ministry.

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