China buys U.S. soybeans after declaring ban on American farm goods

FILE PHOTO: Soybeans fall into a bin as a trailer is filled at a farm in Buda, Illinois, U.S., July 6, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Acker

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO (Reuters) – China snapped up a small volume of U.S. soybeans last week after pledging to halt purchases of American farm products due to the escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing, U.S. Department of Agriculture data showed on Thursday.

The world’s largest soybean importer struck deals from Aug. 9 to 15 to buy 9,589 tonnes for delivery in the current marketing year and 66,000 tonnes, approximately one cargo, for the next year, the data showed.

China’s Commerce Ministry said on Aug. 5 that Chinese companies stopped buying U.S. farm products in the latest escalation of the trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

“You do have some buying going on,” said Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist for INTL FCStone. “It’s a little bit of a surprise.”

China last year imposed retaliatory tariffs that remain in place on imports of U.S. farm products including soybeans and pork. The duties have slashed exports of U.S. crops and prompted the Trump administration to compensate American farmers for losses over two years with as much as $28 billion.

China said on Thursday it hopes the United States will stop a plan to impose new tariffs, adding that any new duties would lead to a further escalation.

China has largely turned to South America for soybeans since the trade war began last year. U.S. soybean sales to China in 2018 dropped 74% from the previous year.

“Compared to what they used to buy, they essentially have halted – but some have gotten through,” Suderman said.

The sales of 9,589 tonnes for delivery in the current marketing year will probably be rolled ahead to be delivered in the next year, which begins on Sept. 1, said Don Roose, president of Iowa-based broker U.S. Commodities.

The cargo sold for delivery in the next marketing year could have been in the works before Beijing said Chinese companies would suspend purchases of U.S. farm goods, said Terry Reilly, senior commodity analyst for Futures International.

“The government may have just given the green light to say, ‘Let this one go through,'” Reilly said.

“One cargo is not going to change the fact that they’re not buying millions of tons of soybeans.”

(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Japan, South Korea agree on need for dialogue to resolve feud on wartime labor and Fukushima

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono pose for photo ahead of the ninth trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting among China, South Korea and Japan at Gubei Town in Beijing, China, 21 August 2019. Wu Hong/Pool via REUTERS

By Hyonhee Shin and Ami Miyazaki

TOKYO/SEOUL (Reuters) – Japan and South Korea on Wednesday agreed on the need for dialogue to resolve a feud over compensating Korean wartime workers that has spilled into trade and put a deep chill on ties between Washington’s two biggest Asian allies.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, speaking after talks with South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha, said both sides shared that view over the dispute, which is a bitter legacy of Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean peninsula.

“In that sense, I want to firmly make progress towards resolving (this matter),” Kono said outside the Chinese capital of Beijing, in comments carried live on Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

“I think the fact that we … were able to talk in this difficult situation could lead to big progress towards resolving this problem,” Kono said. “I want to stay in close touch and continue to talk.”

A South Korean official said both sides reiterated their positions but the meeting was meaningful in restoring diplomatic dialogue and reaffirming the need to keep talking, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said.

Relations soured after the South Korean Supreme Court ordered some Japanese firms to compensate Korean wartime workers last October, a move strongly condemned by Tokyo, which says the matter was resolved by a 1965 treaty normalizing ties.

The feud has spilled over into trade, after Japan tightened export controls on materials vital to South Korean chipmakers and then dropped Seoul from a list of countries eligible for fast-track exports, prompting South Korea to take a similar step towards Japan.

The number of South Korean tourists visiting Japan fell last month to its lowest in nearly a year, amid a far-reaching boycott of Japanese products and services, from cars to beer and tours.

Kang again urged that Japan’s tightened controls be eased, and relayed concerns about media reports and international environmental groups’ claims that Japan plans to release contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean, Yonhap said.

Kono also said Japan wanted Seoul and Tokyo to maintain a military intelligence-sharing pact that could expire if South Korea decides not to roll it over this week.

“This is an important framework for the United States, Japan and South Korea and … should be maintained,” Kono said, adding that he had discussed the intelligence pact with Kang.

Though Kang declined to comment after the meeting whether South Korea would renew the deal, Kim Sang-jo, policy chief of President Moon Jae-in, said on Wednesday that Seoul would continue consideration “until the last minute”.

Kono urged both China and South Korea to scrap their import curbs on produce from areas around Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster site, where three reactors suffered melt downs after an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Seoul said on Wednesday it would double radiation testing of some Japanese food imports, for fear of contamination from the Fukushima plant.

An official of Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said Japanese food products were safe and increased radiation testing was unnecessary.

(Writing by Linda Sieg; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Simon Cameron-Moore)

Predicting the next U.S. recession, investors apprehensive

FILE PHOTO: Ships and shipping containers are pictured at the port of Long Beach in Long Beach, California, U.S., January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Saqib Iqbal Ahmed

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A protracted trade war between China and the United States, the world’s largest economies, and a deteriorating global growth outlook has left investors apprehensive about the end to the longest expansion in American history.

The recent rise in U.S.-China trade war tensions has brought forward the next U.S. recession, according to a majority of economists polled by Reuters who now expect the Federal Reserve to cut rates again in September and once more next year.

Trade tensions have pulled corporate confidence and global growth to multi-year lows and U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement of more tariffs have raised downside risks significantly, Morgan Stanley analysts said in a recent note.

Morgan Stanley forecast that if the U.S. lifts tariffs on all imports from China to 25 percent for 4-6 months and China takes countermeasures, the U.S. would be in recession in three quarters.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc <GS.N> said on Sunday that fears of the U.S.-China trade war leading to a recession are increasing and that Goldman no longer expects a trade deal between the world’s two largest economies before the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Global markets remain on edge with trade-related headlines spurring big moves in either direction. On Tuesday, U.S. stocks jumped sharply higher and safe-havens like the Japanese yen and Gold retreated after the U.S. Trade Representative said additional tariffs on some Chinese goods, including cell phones and laptops, will be delayed to Dec. 15.

Besides watching developments on the trade front economists and investors are watching for signs they hope can alert them to a coming recession.

1. THE YIELD CURVE

The U.S. yield curve plots Treasury securities with maturities ranging from 4 weeks to 30 years. When the spread between the yield on the 3-month Treasury bill and that of the 10-year Treasury note slips below zero, as it did earlier this year, it points to investors accepting a lower yield for locking money up for a longer period of time.

As recession signals go, this so-called inversion in the yield curve has a solid track record as a predictor of recessions. But it can take as long as two years for a recession to follow a yield curve inversion.

The closely-followed yield spread between U.S. 2-year and 10-year notes has also narrowed – marking the smallest difference since at 2007 – according to Refinitiv data.

GRAPHIC – Yield curve as a predictor of recessions🙂

2. UNEMPLOYMENT

The unemployment rate and initial jobless claims ticked higher just ahead or in the early days of the last two recessions before rising sharply. Currently the U.S. unemployment rate is near a 50-year low.

“Although job gains have slowed this year, they continue to signal an above-trend economy,” economists at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research said in a recent note.

Claims will be watched over the coming weeks for signs that deteriorating trade relations between the United States and China, which have dimmed the economy’s outlook and roiled financial markets, were spilling over to the labor market.

(GRAPHIC – Unemployment rate: )

3. GDP OUTPUT GAP

The output gap is the difference between actual and potential economic output and is used to gauge the health of the economy.

A positive output gap, like the one now, indicates that the economy is operating above its potential. Typically the economy operates furthest below its potential at the end of recessions and peaks above its potential towards the end of expansions.

However, the output gap can linger in positive territory for years before a recession hits.

(GRAPHIC – The GDP output gap peaks before recessions🙂

4. CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

Consumer demand is a critical driver of the U.S. economy and historically consumer confidence wanes during downturns. Currently consumer confidence is near cyclical highs.

(GRAPHIC – Consumer confidence is at cyclical highs: )

5. STOCK MARKETS

Falling equity markets can signal a recession is looming or has already started to take hold. Markets turned down before the 2001 recession and tumbled at the start of the 2008 recession.

The recent pullback in U.S. stocks has done its share to raise concerns about whether the economy is heading into a recession. On a 12-month rolling basis, the market has turned down ahead of the last two recessions. The 12-month rolling average percent move is now below the recent highs of January 2018 but still above higher than the lows hit in December.

(GRAPHIC – The S&P 500 has fallen during recessions🙂

6. BOOM-BUST BAROMETER

The Boom-Bust Barometer devised by Ed Yardeni at Yardeni Research measures spot prices of industrials inputs like copper, steel and lead scrap, and divides that by initial unemployment claims. The measure fell before or during the last two recessions and has retreated from a peak hit in April.

(GRAPHIC – The Boom-Bust Barometer🙂

7. HOUSING MARKET

Housing starts and building permits have fallen ahead of some recent recessions. U.S. homebuilding fell for a second straight month in June and permits dropped to a two-year low, suggesting the housing market continued to struggle despite lower mortgage rates.

(GRAPHIC – Housing starts have fallen before prior recessions: )

8. MANUFACTURING

Given the manufacturing sector’s diminished role in the U.S. economy, the clout of the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing index as a predictor of U.S. GDP growth has slipped in recent years. However, it is still worth watching, especially if it shows a tendency to drop well below the 50 level for an extended period of time.

ISM said its index of national factory activity slipped to 51.2 last month, the lowest reading since August 2016, as U.S. manufacturing activity slowed to a near three-year low in July and hiring at factories shifted into lower gear, suggesting a further loss of momentum in economic growth early in the third quarter.

“The slowdown in manufacturing activity likely reflects, in part, the tariffs that went into effect over the course of last year,” economists at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research said in a note on Friday.

(GRAPHIC – ISM Manufacturing Index: )

9. EARNINGS

S&P 500 earnings growth dipped ahead of the last recession. Earnings estimates for S&P 500 companies have been coming down but companies are still expected to post growth for most quarters this year.

(GRAPHIC – Earnings fell during the last recession: )

10. HIGH-YIELD SPREADS

The gap between high-yield and U.S. government bond yields rose ahead of the 2007-2009 recession and then widened dramatically.

Credit spreads typically widen when perceived risk of default rises. Spreads have fallen from their January highs.

(GRAPHIC – Junk bond yields jumped in the 2008 recession🙂

11. FREIGHT SHIPMENTS

The Cass Freight Index, a barometer of the health of the shipping industry produced by data company Cass Information Systems Inc, logged a 5.3% year-over-year decline in June. That marked the index’s seventh straight month with a negative reading on a year-over-year basis.

“Whether it is a result of contagion or trade disputes, there is growing evidence from freight flows that the economy is beginning to contract,” Broughton Capital analyst Donald Broughton wrote in the June Cass Freight Index report.

(GRAPHIC – Cass Freight Index – shipments🙂

12. MISERY INDEX

The so-called Misery Index adds together the unemployment rate and the inflation rate. It typically rises during recessions and sometimes prior to downturns. It has slipped lower in 2019 and does not look very miserable.

(GRAPHIC – The Misery Index: )

(Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Trump push for China trade reform draws wide support at home, abroad

FILE PHOTO: Shipping containers of China Shipping and China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) are seen on a container ship at Kwai Tsing Container Terminals in Hong Kong, China July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

By David Lawder, Philip Blenkinsop and Michael Martina

WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS/BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s blunt-force use of tariffs in pursuing his “America First” trade agenda has angered many, from company executives to allied governments and members of both parties of Congress.

But there’s one effort which has drawn broad support from those who oppose him on almost everything else – his push to force Beijing to change what are widely viewed as China’s market-distorting trade and subsidy practices.

As U.S.-China talks to end a trade war reach their endgame, politicians, executives and foreign diplomats are urging Trump and his team to hold out for meaningful structural reforms in China to address entrenched problems in the relationship that hurt U.S. and other foreign companies and workers.

Trump’s trade war “has let the genie out of the bottle” by lifting expectations that the trade war will force China to reform policies that businesses and foreign governments regard as unfair, said Steven Gardon, vice president of indirect taxes and customs at Lear Corp. Gardon’s firm is an automotive seating and electrical supplier with plants in 39 countries, including the United States and China.

“Now that all these issues have been raised, there’s a lot more domestic political support to address these issues, and I don’t think you can pull back from that,” Gardon said at a Georgetown Law School forum this month. “There’s now pressure politically that they have to be addressed for the long term.”

Gardon’s comments reflect a broad shift in U.S. and international business sentiment towards China’s economic and trade policies, one that is aligned with Trump’s goals, if not his tactics.

Trump’s trade team say they are in the final stages of negotiating what would be the biggest economic policy agreement with China in decades. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin head to Beijing this week to try to accelerate talks with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. Liu is set to travel to Washington for another round of negotiations in early April.

Eight months into the trade war that has disrupted the flow of billions of dollars of goods between the world’s two largest economies, it is unclear if a deal acceptable to both sides can be done.

China’s President Xi Jinping is seen as reluctant to make economic reforms under pressure from the United States, and Trump has said he may keep tariffs on Chinese goods in place for “a substantial period” even if a deal is struck.

Xi may find it easier to live with the tariffs Trump has imposed on trade than to change China’s model for economic development.

As part of a deal, Beijing has offered to make big-ticket purchases from the United States to help reduce a record trade gap. Trump’s team has said those purchases would be worth more than a trillion dollars over about six years.

While big Chinese purchases might be tempting for Trump’s administration, they would do nothing to address what U.S. firms competing in China or against Chinese firms say are structural problems with a system stacked against them.

The United States complains China engages in systematic intellectual property theft, forces foreign firms to give up trade secrets for market access and spends huge sums subsidizing its own industry. Redressing those complaints would require policy reform at the highest level from Xi and China’s ruling Communist Party.

A survey released by the American Chamber of Commerce in China in late February showed that a majority of member U.S. companies supported increasing or maintaining tariffs on Chinese goods, and nearly twice as many as last year want the U.S. government to push Beijing harder to create a level playing field.

The U.S. tariff demands have even encouraged some reform-minded Chinese officials and private-sector business executives to call for a faster pace of reform in China as it celebrates the 40th anniversary of its first steps toward capitalism.

Lighthizer told lawmakers in late February that Chinese-American business people in particular have urged him to “hang tough” in the talks and not to “sell out for soybeans.”

STAY THE COURSE

When Trump delayed a threatened tariff increase well before a March 1 deadline for a deal, he stoked fears that he may be swayed by the big purchase order and leave longstanding structural problems unresolved.

Since then, a steady drumbeat of lobbyists, company executives, foreign diplomats and U.S. lawmakers from both parties have urged Trump to stay the course on his structural demands.

Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, one of the most pro-trade Republicans and a critic of Trump’s tariffs, recently joined that call.

“While we want China to buy more U.S. goods … it’s even more important for us to hold China accountable to meeting high international standards on intellectual property rights, subsidization, overcapacity, and the other structural ways in which China distorts the global economy,” he said at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing just days after the tariff delay was announced.

Last week, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, a longtime China trade hawk, took to the Senate floor to urge Trump not to “back down” and take a deal based largely on Chinese purchases of American soybeans and other goods.

On Thursday, Schumer tweeted: “Now’s not the time to drop $200B in tariffs just because China’s close to a deal, @realDonald Trump.”

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a question as he meets with former hostage Danny Burch, an oil engineer who was taken hostage in Yemen in September 2017, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a question as he meets with former hostage Danny Burch, an oil engineer who was taken hostage in Yemen in September 2017, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

QUIETLY ROOTING FOR TRUMP

European Union members, traditional allies of the United States, are still smarting about the steel and aluminum tariffs Trump imposed on imports into the United States last year. The EU is also worried that Trump will impose duties on autos. But the bloc shares many of the same frustrations over China’s technology transfer policies and market access constraints.

“We get complaints every day from our companies,” one European official told Reuters in Beijing, noting that despite repeated pledges from the Chinese government to make life easier for foreign companies, little had changed.

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom’s assessment of China’s behavior sounds almost like it was written by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, charging that China has abused global trading rules.

China has “blurred the lines between state and private sector. The state has undue influence,” she said in a Washington speech this month. “Intellectual properties of companies are stolen. State subsidies, direct or indirect, are common. And these impacts are felt at home and abroad.”

Malmstrom says that while the U.S. and EU “agree on the diagnosis,” they differ on tactics, and she argues for a more multilateral approach, citing the EU’s work with the United States and Japan to address the issues through reform of World Trade Organization rules.

Some worry that Europe could lose out if Washington and Beijing strike a deal to purchase billions of dollars more in products to try to shrink the U.S. goods trade deficit with China.

“If China is buying more from America then inevitably it will buy less from Europe,” a second European official based in Beijing said, adding that could, in particular, affect large European multinationals.

But European diplomats and officials acknowledge a begrudging support for Trump’s goals, even if they are repulsed by his blunt tactics. Many are secretly rooting for his success.

“We are against unilateral measures, but nobody is exactly sorry for China. On content we think he does have a point,” said one EU diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity in Brussels. “Beijing has to understand that without reform, the system could just stop working.”

Trump administration officials insist that he has gotten the message and is holding out for “structural changes” to the U.S.-China relationship, along with an enforcement mechanism that holds China to its pledges.

Clete Willems, a White House trade adviser, told the Georgetown Law School forum that Trump is determined to fix problems with China’s trade relationship that he has railed against for years, long before he ever sought office.

“The notion that he’s just going to suddenly accept a bad deal is totally inaccurate. The president is going to walk away from bad deals,” said Willems, who announced on Friday that he is leaving the White House for family reasons.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Simon Webb and James Dalgleish)

‘We need it now’: U.S. farm country pins hopes on China trade deal

FILE PHOTO: A tattered U.S. flag flies on an old tractor in a farm field outside Sutherland Springs,Texas, U.S. November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

By Humeyra Pamuk

(Reuters) – Corn and soybean farmer Lorenda Overman from North Carolina has been selling her crops at a loss and delaying paychecks to her workers since the U.S. trade war with China tanked agriculture prices, and her farm’s debt recently topped $2 million.

If the Trump administration fails to clinch a deal with Beijing soon to end the trade dispute, she says, her operation may have a hard time staying afloat.

“We need some stability, we need some action and we need it now,” Overman, who farms in Goldsboro, said via telephone.

Her desperation reflects the mounting urgency across U.S. farm country over ongoing talks aimed at ending Washington’s trade dispute with China and pulling the U.S. agriculture industry out of its worst crisis since the 1980s.”

U.S. trade negotiators currently locked in talks with their Chinese counterparts are demanding Beijing change the way it does business with the United States, providing more access for U.S. companies, enforcement of intellectual property protection and an end to industrial subsidies.

While the talks mark the closest point yet to an end to the nine-month trade war, the two sides are yet to agree on the core issues which are essential for a deal that would reopen a critical market for U.S. farm goods like soybeans, sorghum and corn-based ethanol.

So far, the American rural heartland that helped carry President Donald Trump to victory in 2016 remains largely supportive of his hard line on trade, saying unfair Chinese practices had to be addressed for longer-term economic gain.

But it has also taken the brunt of the dispute, losing a massive export market. With credit conditions eroding in the agrarian economy and total debt hitting levels unseen for decades, the pain has deepened and patience is wearing thin.

“I voted for Trump and I have no regrets. I still feel like he has a handle on what needs to be done but I am frustrated that we are still sitting here with no deal,” Overman said.

Beijing imposed tariffs last year on imports of U.S. agricultural goods, including soybeans, grain sorghum and pork as retribution for U.S. levies. Soybean exports to China have plummeted over 90 percent due to the trade dispute and sales of U.S. soybeans elsewhere failed to make up for the loss.

Trump last week delayed plans to deepen tariffs on China, citing progress in the current talks.

PLANTING AMID UNCERTAINTY

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue last week said the current debt levels in farm country have rapidly risen to levels seen in the 1980s, when thousands of farm operations financially collapsed after producers dealing with low crop prices fell behind on high-interest land and equipment loans.

Meanwhile, Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings have hit the highest level in a decade in parts of the U.S. Midwest and Great Plains states, according to federal data, though stable farmland prices and low-interest rates have helped.

The administration sought to protect farmers from some of the impacts of the trade war with an aid package of up to $12 billion last year. But it has said it will not provide additional support in 2019 even if the dispute continues.

That heaps pressure on farmers, who must decide what to plant this spring without guarantees they will have a market for it, and without any safety net if they make the wrong choice. U.S. farmers planted 89.1 million acres of soybeans in 2018, the second most ever, but without a market, much of it ended up plowed under, rotting in piles, or in storage.

“If we get a trade deal done and soybeans are worth 20 percent more over the next six months, but we decided to plant all corn because we didn’t know – that’s something that worries a lot of people,” said farmer Derek Sawyer, 38, from Kansas.

He said his debt has risen into the millions of dollars.

“Bankers so far have been OK to work with us as far as restructuring some debt,” he said. “But that rope keeps getting shorter.”

Delays to a trade deal have also kindled worries over the permanent loss of market share, as other suppliers such as Argentina and Brazil replace the tariff-blocked U.S. supply.

“It’s going to be a long time before we gain some of those markets back,” said Bill Tentinger, a 69-year-old third-generation corn, soybean and hog farmer from Le Mars, Iowa.

“If we could have settled this with China in a month or two, we would have seen more excitement in the market,” he said.

He said he borrowed $500,000 to plant this year’s crop, after an “absolutely brutal” 2018.

Chris Pollack, a dairy farmer from Wisconsin which saw hundreds of milk producers go out of business last year, says it is getting harder for the industry to embrace the administration’s focus on long-term gains targeted from the China trade standoff.

His farm has suffered from Chinese tariffs on U.S. cheese and other dairy products, and has been further hurt by Trump’s trade disputes with Canada and Mexico.

“Agriculture didn’t have a whole lot to gain but we had a whole lot to lose,” he said. “Certainly, we want to get stuff straightened out… but right now it’s a real tough sell to a hurting agriculture industry,” he said.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Lisa Shumaker)

Pompeo says China trade deal has ‘got to be right’: interview

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Trump will reject a U.S.-China trade deal that is not perfect, but the United States would still keep working on an agreement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a media interview.

“Things are in a good place, but it’s got to be right,” Pompeo told Sinclair Broadcasting Group, according to a transcript released by the State Department on Tuesday.

Asked if Trump would walk away from any deal that was not perfect, Pompeo said, “Yes” and pointed to the Republican president’s rejection of an agreement with North Korea at a summit last week in Hanoi.

Trump last week said that he was willing to abandon trade talks with China, but U.S. advisers in recent days have signaled more positive outcomes.

Pompeo made his remarks following stops in Iowa, where he was attending a conference for farmers, who have been caught up in the ongoing trade war with the world’s top two economies.

“This has to work for America. If it doesn’t work, we’ll keep banging away at it. We’re going to get to the right outcome. I’m confident that we will,” Pompeo told Sinclair.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Hours after U.S. troops killed in Syria, Pence says Islamic State defeated

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks to the news media outside the West Wing with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) after a meeting with President Donald Trump and congressional leadership about the partial government shutdown at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Islamic State has been defeated in Syria, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday, hours after Americans were killed in a northern Syria bomb attack claimed by the militant group.

Pence did not mention the attack in his address to 184 chiefs of U.S. diplomatic missions who gather annually in Washington from around the world to discuss foreign policy strategy.

“The caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated,” Pence told the U.S. ambassadors and other senior American diplomats, referring to Islamic State.

In separate statements later, both the White House and Pence condemned the attack and expressed sympathy for the deaths of the U.S. personnel.

The Pentagon said two U.S. servicemembers, a Department of Defense civilian employee and one contractor working for the military were killed and three servicemembers were injured in the blast in the northern Syria town of Manbij.

An Islamic State-affiliated website said the attack was the work of a suicide bomber.

Trump made a surprise announcement on Dec. 19 that he would withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria after concluding that Islamic State had been defeated there. His decision led to the resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who cited policy differences with the president for his departure.

FILE PHOTO: A Syrian national flag flutters next to the Islamic State's slogan at a roundabout where executions were carried out by ISIS militants in the city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria in this April 1, 2016 file photo. Omar Sanadiki/Files/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: A Syrian national flag flutters next to the Islamic State’s slogan at a roundabout where executions were carried out by ISIS militants in the city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria in this April 1, 2016 file photo. Omar Sanadiki/Files/File Photo

LACK OF PROGRESS

Despite talks of a second leaders’ summit between Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, Pence acknowledged that efforts to convince Pyonyang to give up its nuclear arsenal had not made headway.

“While the president is promising dialogue with Chairman Kim we still await concrete steps by North Korea to dismantle the nuclear weapons that threaten our people and our allies in the region,” he said.

The vice president also criticized China’s “unfair” trade practices and loans to developing countries that pushed up their debt levels as it tries to gain greater influence in the world.

“The truth is that too often in recent years China has chosen a path that disregards the laws and norms that have kept the world state prosperous for more than half a century,” he said. “The days of the United States looking the other way are over,” he added.

Pence said the administration’s foreign policy was based on Trump’s “America First” agenda. “No longer will the United States government pursue grandiose, unrealistic notions at the expense of American people,” he said.

He acknowledged that Trump’s foreign policy was “different from what the world has come to expect” and that the United States faced different threats than during the Cold War.

“Today we are not up against one superpower but several great powers competing with us for preeminence across the world,” he said, saying the United States faced a “wolf pack” of rogue states including Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Tom Brown and Cynthia Osterman)

President Donald Trump’s Accomplishments; The List is Growing

U.S. President Donald Trump closes his eyes in prayer along with Pastor Andrew Brunson, after his release from two years of Turkish detention, in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, U.S., October 13, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

By Kami Klein

On January 20th, 2019 it was two years since President Donald Trump took the oath to lead our country and began the task of making America great again.  It has been an arduous task under constant scrutiny, challenging world policies as well as many profound events in our country. Despite these daunting obstacles the inventory of accomplishments from the White House grows even longer.

Below is a list compiled by the Washington Examiner and compared with information offered through the White House, on the accomplishments and promises kept by the President.  This list was released in October of 2018, showing 20 months of actions and leadership of this Presidency. Despite his opponents, President Trump continues to make new policies as well as fight for the campaign promises he made when he decided to run for the highest office in our country.  

While we do try to keep up with the ever-broadening list of accomplishments it can be a daunting task. One of our most direct research sites is within the White House itself.  Media today has the tendency to take small bites out of statements and remove the entirety of the comments made which can be very misleading.  If you are interested in hearing the press briefings, remarks by the president and news covered by White House press you can follow this link to get the entire briefing. 

For incredible articles written by directors of the many departments in our United States Government please follow this link.  These are well written, informative articles authored by people like Vice President Pence and  Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin as well as staff White House reporters.

For a list of very informative Presidential actions, you can follow this link.  Here you will find nominations, directives and proclamations as well as executive orders signed by and created by the President.

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With change come difficult moments and we understand as Americans that it is in those times that we can take action with prayer and encouragement.  We ask that you keep our President, Lawmakers, Senators, World Leaders, as well as community leaders in your prayers. May God’s blessings be upon this Nation!  

Economic Growth
4.2 percent growth in the second quarter of 2018.
For the first time in more than a decade, growth is projected to exceed 3 percent over the calendar year.

Jobs
4 million new jobs have been created since the election, and more than 3.5 million since Trump took office.
More Americans are employed now than ever before in our history.
Jobless claims at lowest level in nearly five decades.
The economy has achieved the longest positive job-growth streak on record.
Job openings are at an all-time high and outnumber job seekers for the first time on record.
Unemployment claims at 50 year low
African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American unemployment rates have all recently reached record lows.
African-American unemployment hit a record low of 5.9 percent in May 2018.
Hispanic unemployment at 4.5 percent.
Asian-American unemployment at a record low of 2 percent.
Women’s unemployment recently at the lowest rate in nearly 65 years.
Female unemployment dropped to 3.6 percent in May 2018, the lowest since October 1953.
Youth unemployment recently reached its lowest level in more than 50 years.
July 2018’s youth unemployment rate of 9.2 percent was the lowest since July 1966.
Veterans’ unemployment recently hit its lowest level in nearly two decades.
July 2018’s veterans’ unemployment rate of 3.0 percent matched the lowest rate since May 2001.
Unemployment rate for Americans without a high school diploma recently reached a record low.
Rate for disabled Americans recently hit a record low.
Blue-collar jobs recently grew at the fastest rate in more than three decades.
Poll found that 85 percent of blue-collar workers believe their lives are headed “in the right direction.”
68 percent reported receiving a pay increase in the past year.
Last year, job satisfaction among American workers hit its highest level since 2005.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans rate now as a good time to find a quality job.
Optimism about the availability of good jobs has grown by 25 percent.
Added more than 400,000 manufacturing jobs since the election.
Manufacturing employment is growing at its fastest pace in more than two decades.
100,000 new jobs supporting the production & transport of oil & natural gas.

American Income
Median household income rose to $61,372 in 2017, a post-recession high.
Wages up in August by their fastest rate since June 2009.
Paychecks rose by 3.3 percent between 2016 and 2017, the most in a decade.
Council of Economic Advisers found that real wage compensation has grown by 1.4 percent over the past year.
Some 3.9 million Americans off food stamps since the election.
Median income for Hispanic-Americans rose by 3.7 percent and surpassed $50,000 for the first time ever in history.
Home-ownership among Hispanics is at the highest rate in nearly a decade.
Poverty rates for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans have reached their lowest levels ever recorded.

American Optimism
Small business optimism has hit historic highs.
NFIB’s small business optimism index broke a 35-year-old record in August.
SurveyMonkey/CNBC’s small business confidence survey for Q3 of 2018 matched its all-time high.
Manufacturers are more confident than ever.
95 percent of U.S. manufacturers are optimistic about the future, the highest ever.
Consumer confidence is at an 18-year high.
12 percent of Americans rate the economy as the most significant problem facing our country, the lowest level on record.
Confidence in the economy is near a two-decade high, with 51 percent rating the economy as good or excellent.

American Business
Investment is flooding back into the United States due to the tax cuts.
Over $450 billion dollars has already poured back into the U.S., including more than $300 billion in the first quarter of 2018.
Retail sales have surged. Commerce Department figures from August show that retail sales increased 0.5 percent in July 2018, an increase of 6.4 percent from July 2017.
ISM’s index of manufacturing scored its highest reading in 14 years.
Worker productivity is the highest it has been in more than three years.
Steel and aluminum producers are re-opening.
Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, and NASDAQ have all notched record highs.
Dow hit record highs 70 times in 2017 alone, the most ever recorded in one year.

Deregulation
Achieved massive deregulation at a rapid pace, completing 22 deregulatory actions to every one regulatory action during his first year in office.
Signed legislation to roll back costly and harmful provisions of Dodd-Frank, providing relief to credit unions, and community and regional banks.
Federal agencies achieved more than $8 billion in lifetime net regulatory cost savings.
Rolled back Obama’s burdensome Waters of the U.S. rule.
Used the Congressional Review Act to repeal regulations more times than in history.

Tax Cuts
Biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history by signing the Tax Cuts and Jobs act into law
Provided more than $5.5 trillion in gross tax cuts, nearly 60 percent of which will go to families.
Increased the exemption for the death tax to help save Family Farms & Small Business.
Nearly doubled the standard deduction for individuals and families.
Enabled vast majority of American families will be able to file their taxes on a single page by claiming the standard deduction.
Doubled the child tax credit to help lessen the financial burden of raising a family.
Lowered America’s corporate tax rate from the highest in the developed world to allow American businesses to compete and win.
Small businesses can now deduct 20 percent of their business income.
Cut dozens of special interest tax breaks and closed loopholes for the wealthy.
9 in 10 American workers are expected to see an increase in their paychecks thanks to the tax cuts, according to the Treasury Department.
More than 6 million American workers have received wage increases, bonuses, and increased benefits thanks to tax cuts.
Over 100 utility companies have lowered electric, gas, or water rates thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Ernst & Young found 89 percent of companies planned to increase worker compensation thanks to the Trump tax cuts.
Established opportunity zones to spur investment in left behind communities.

Worker Development
Established a National Council for the American Worker to develop a national strategy for training and retraining America’s workers for high-demand industries.
Employers have signed Trump’s “Pledge to America’s Workers,” committing to train or retrain more than 4.2 million workers and students.
Signed the first Perkins CTE reauthorization since 2006, authorizing more than $1 billion for states each year to fund vocational and career education programs.
Executive order expanding apprenticeship opportunities for students and workers.

Domestic Infrastructure
Proposed infrastructure plan would utilize $200 billion in Federal funds to spur at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment across the country.
Executive order expediting environmental reviews and approvals for high priority infrastructure projects.
Federal agencies have signed the One Federal Decision Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) streamlining the federal permitting process for infrastructure projects.
Rural prosperity task force and signed an executive order to help expand broadband access in rural areas.

Health Care
Signed an executive order to help minimize the financial burden felt by American households Signed legislation to improve the National Suicide Hotline.
Signed the most comprehensive childhood cancer legislation ever into law, which will advance childhood cancer research and improve treatments.
Signed Right-to-Try legislation, expanding health care options for terminally ill patients.
Enacted changes to the Medicare 340B program, saving seniors an estimated $320 million on drugs in 2018 alone.
FDA set a new record for generic drug approvals in 2017, saving consumers nearly $9 billion.
Released a blueprint to drive down drug prices for American patients, leading multiple major drug companies to announce they will freeze or reverse price increases.
Expanded short-term, limited-duration health plans.
Let more employers to form Association Health Plans, enabling more small businesses to join together and affordably provide health insurance to their employees.
Cut Obamacare’s burdensome individual mandate penalty.
Signed legislation repealing Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board, also known as the “death panels.”
USDA invested more than $1 billion in rural health care in 2017, improving access to health care for 2.5 million people in rural communities across 41 states
Proposed Title X rule to help ensure taxpayers do not fund the abortion industry in violation of the law.
Reinstated and expanded the Mexico City Policy to keep foreign aid from supporting the global abortion industry.
HHS formed a new division over protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom.
Overturned Obama administration’s midnight regulation prohibiting states from defunding certain abortion facilities.
Signed executive order to help ensure that religious organizations are not forced to choose between violating their religious beliefs by complying with Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate or shutting their doors.

Combating Opioids
Chaired meeting the 73rd General Session of the United Nations discussing the worldwide drug problem with international leaders.
Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand, introducing new measures to keep dangerous drugs out of our communities.
$6 billion in new funding to fight the opioid epidemic.
DEA conducted a surge in April 2018 that arrested 28 medical professions and revoked 147 registrations for prescribing too many opioids.
Brought the “Prescribed to Death” memorial to President’s Park near the White House, helping raise awareness about the human toll of the opioid crisis.
Helped reduce high-dose opioid prescriptions by 16 percent in 2017.
Opioid Summit on the administration-wide efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
Launched a national public awareness campaign about the dangers of opioid addiction.
Created a Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis which recommended a number of pathways to tackle the opioid crisis.
Led two National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days in 2017 and 2018, collecting a record number of expired and unneeded prescription drugs each time.
$485 million targeted grants in FY 2017 to help areas hit hardest by the opioid crisis.
Signed INTERDICT Act, strengthening efforts to detect and intercept synthetic opioids before they reach our communities.
DOJ secured its first-ever indictments against Chinese fentanyl manufacturers.
Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team, aimed at disrupting online illicit opioid sales.
Declared the opioid crisis a Nationwide Public Health Emergency in October 2017.

Law and Order
More U.S. Circuit Court judges confirmed in the first year in office than ever.
Confirmed more than two dozen U. S. Circuit Court judges.
Followed through on the promise to nominate judges to the Supreme Court who will adhere to the Constitution
Nominated and confirmed Justice Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Signed an executive order directing the Attorney General to develop a strategy to more effectively prosecute people who commit crimes against law enforcement officers.
Launched an evaluation of grant programs to make sure they prioritize the protection and safety of law enforcement officers.
Established a task force to reduce crime and restore public safety in communities across Signed an executive order to focus more federal resources on dismantling transnational criminal organizations such as drug cartels.
Signed an executive order to focus more federal resources on dismantling transnational criminal organizations such as drug cartels.
Violent crime decreased in 2017 according to FBI statistics.
$137 million in grants through the COPS Hiring Program to preserve jobs, increase community policing capacities, and support crime prevention efforts.
Enhanced and updated the Project Safe Neighborhoods to help reduce violent crime.
Signed legislation making it easier to target websites that enable sex trafficking and strengthened penalties for people who promote or facilitate prostitution.
Created an interagency task force working around the clock to prosecute traffickers, protect victims, and prevent human trafficking.
Conducted Operation Cross Country XI to combat human trafficking, rescuing 84 children and arresting 120 human traffickers.
Encouraged federal prosecutors to use the death penalty when possible in the fight against the trafficking of deadly drugs.
New rule effectively banning bump stock sales in the United States.

Border Security and Immigration
Secured $1.6 billion for border wall construction in the March 2018 omnibus bill.
Construction of a 14-mile section of border wall began near San Diego.
Worked to protect American communities from the threat posed by the vile MS-13 gang.
ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations division arrested 796 MS-13 members and associates in FY 2017, an 83 percent increase from the prior year.
Justice worked with partners in Central America to secure criminal charges against more than 4,000 MS-13 members.
Border Patrol agents arrested 228 illegal aliens affiliated with MS-13 in FY 2017.
Fighting to stop the scourge of illegal drugs at our border.
ICE HSI seized more than 980,000 pounds of narcotics in FY 2017, including 2,370 pounds of fentanyl and 6,967 pounds of heroin.
ICE HSI dedicated nearly 630,000 investigative hours towards halting the illegal import of fentanyl.
ICE HSI made 11,691 narcotics-related arrests in FY 2017.
Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand introduced new measures to keep dangerous drugs out the United States.
Signed the INTERDICT Act into law, enhancing efforts to detect and intercept synthetic opioids.
DOJ secured its first-ever indictments against Chinese fentanyl manufacturers.
DOJ launched their Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team, aimed at disrupting online illicit opioid sales.
Released an immigration framework that includes the resources required to secure our borders and close legal loopholes, and repeatedly called on Congress to fix our broken immigration laws.
Authorized the deployment of the National Guard to help secure the border.
Enhanced vetting of individuals entering the U.S. from countries that don’t meet security standards, helping to ensure individuals who pose a threat to our country are identified before they enter.
These procedures were upheld in a June 2018 Supreme Court hearing.
ICE removed over 226,000 illegal aliens from the United States in 2017.
ICE rescued or identified over 500 human trafficking victims and over 900 child exploitation victims in 2017 alone.
In 2017, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) arrested more than 127,000 aliens with criminal convictions or charges, responsible for
Over 76,000 with dangerous drug offenses.
More than 48,000 with assault offenses.
More than 11,000 with weapons offenses.
More than 5,000 with sexual assault offenses.
More than 2,000 with kidnapping offenses.
Over 1,800 with homicide offenses.
Created the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office in order to support the victims and families affected by illegal alien crime.
More than doubled the number of counties participating in the 287(g) program, which allows jails to detain criminal aliens until they are transferred to ICE custody.

Trade
Negotiating and renegotiating better trade deals, achieving free, fair, and reciprocal trade for the United States.
Agreed to work with the European Union towards zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies.
Deal with the European Union to increase U.S. energy exports to Europe.
Litigated multiple WTO disputes targeting unfair trade practices and upholding our right to enact fair trade laws.
Finalized a revised trade agreement with South Korea, which includes provisions to increase American automobile exports.
Negotiated a historic U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement to replace NAFTA.
Agreement to begin trade negotiations for a U.S.-Japan trade agreement.
Secured $250 billion in new trade and investment deals in China and $12 billion in Vietnam.
Established a Trade and Investment Working Group with the United Kingdom, laying the groundwork for post-Brexit trade.
Enacted steel and aluminum tariffs to protect our vital steel and aluminum producers and strengthen our national security.
Conducted 82 anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations in 2017 alone.
Confronting China’s unfair trade practices after years of Washington looking the other way.
25 percent tariff on $50 billion of goods imported from China and later imposed an additional 10% tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods.
Conducted an investigation into Chinese forced technology transfers, unfair licensing practices, and intellectual property theft.
Imposed safeguard tariffs to protect domestic washing machines and solar products manufacturers hurt by China’s trade policies
Withdrew from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Secured access to new markets for America’s farmers.
Recent deal with Mexico included new improvements enabling food and agriculture to trade more fairly.
Recent agreement with the E.U. will reduce barriers and increase trade of American soybeans to Europe.
Won a WTO dispute regarding Indonesia’s unfair restriction of U.S. agricultural exports.
Defended American Tuna fisherman and packagers before the WTO
Opened up Argentina to American pork exports for the first time in a quarter-century
American beef exports have returned to China for the first time in more than a decade
OK’d up to $12 billion in aid for farmers affected by unfair trade retaliation.

Energy
Presidential Memorandum to clear roadblocks to construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Presidential Memorandum declaring that the Dakota Access Pipeline serves the national interest and initiating the process to complete construction.
Opened up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to energy exploration.
Coal exports up over 60 percent in 2017.
Rolled back the “stream protection rule” to prevent it from harming America’s coal industry.
Cancelled Obama’s anti-coal Clean Power Plan and proposed the Affordable Clean Energy Rule as a replacement.
Withdrew from the job-killing Paris climate agreement, which would have cost the U.S. nearly $3 trillion and led to 6.5 million fewer industrial sector jobs by 2040.
U.S. oil production has achieved its highest level in American history
United States is now the largest crude oil producer in the world.
U.S. has become a net natural gas exporter for the first time in six decades.
Action to expedite the identification and extraction of critical minerals that are vital to the nation’s security and economic prosperity.
Took action to reform National Ambient Air Quality Standards, benefitting American manufacturers.
Rescinded Obama’s hydraulic fracturing rule, which was expected to cost the industry $32 million per year.
Proposed expansion of offshore drilling as part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy
Held a lease sale for offshore oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico in August 2018.
Got EU to increase its imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States.
Issued permits for the New Burgos Pipeline that will cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Foreign Policy
Moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Withdrew from Iran deal and immediately began the process of re-imposing sanctions that had been lifted or waived.
Treasury has issued sanctions targeting Iranian activities and entities, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force
Since enacting sanctions, Iran’s crude exports have fallen off, the value of Iran’s currency has plummeted, and international companies have pulled out of the country.
All nuclear-related sanctions will be back in full force by early November 2018.
Historic summit with North Korean President Kim Jong-Un, bringing beginnings of peace and denuclearization to the Korean Peninsula.
The two leaders have exchanged letters and high-level officials from both sides have met resulting in tremendous progress.
North Korea has halted nuclear and missile tests.
Negotiated the return of the remains of missing-in-action soldiers from the Korean War.
Imposed strong sanctions on Venezuelan dictator Nicholas Maduro and his inner circle.
Executive order preventing those in the U.S. from carrying out certain transactions with the Venezuelan regime, including prohibiting the purchase of the regime’s debt.
Responded to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.
Rolled out sanctions targeting individuals and entities tied to Syria’s chemical weapons program.
Directed strikes in April 2017 against a Syrian airfield used in a chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians.
Joined allies in launching airstrikes in April 2018 against targets associated with Syria’s chemical weapons use.
New Cuba policy that enhanced compliance with U.S. law and held the Cuban regime accountable for political oppression and human rights abuses.
Treasury and State are working to channel economic activity away from the Cuban regime, particularly the military.
Changed the rules of engagement, empowering commanders to take the fight to ISIS.
ISIS has lost virtually all of its territory, more than half of which has been lost under Trump.
ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital city, Raqqah, was liberated in October 2017.
All Iraqi territory had been liberated from ISIS.
More than a dozen American hostages have been freed from captivity all of the world.
Action to combat Russia’s malign activities, including their efforts to undermine the sanctity of United States elections.
Expelled dozens of Russian intelligence officers from the United States and ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle, WA.
Banned the use of Kaspersky Labs software on government computers, due to the company’s ties to Russian intelligence.
Imposed sanctions against five Russian entities and three individuals for enabling Russia’s military and intelligence units to increase Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities.
Sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs, and 12 companies they own or control, who profit from Russia’s destabilizing activities.
Sanctioned 100 targets in response to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and aggression in Eastern Ukraine.
Enhanced support for Ukraine’s Armed Forces to help Ukraine better defend itself.
Helped win U.S. bid for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Helped win U.S.-Mexico-Canada’s united bid for 2026 World Cup.

Defense
Executive order keeping the detention facilities at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay open.
$700 billion in military funding for FY 2018 and $716 billion for FY 2019.
Largest military pay raise in nearly a decade.
Ordered a Nuclear Posture Review to ensure America’s nuclear forces are up to date and serve as a credible deterrent.
Released America’s first fully articulated cyber strategy in 15 years.
New strategy on national biodefense, which better prepares the nation to defend against biological threats.
The administration has announced that it will use whatever means necessary to protect American citizens and servicemen from unjust prosecution by the International Criminal Court.
Released an America first National Security Strategy.
Put in motion the launch of a Space Force as a new branch of the military and relaunched the National Space Council.
Encouraged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies to increase defense spending to their agreed-upon levels.
In 2017 alone, there was an increase of more than 4.8 percent in defense spending amongst NATO allies.
Every member state has increased defense spending.
Eight NATO allies will reach the 2 percent benchmark by the end of 2018 and 15 allies are on trade to do so by 2024.
NATO allies spent over $42 billion dollars more on defense since 2016.
Executive order to help military spouses find employment as their families deploy domestically and abroad.

Veterans affairs
Signed the VA Accountability Act and expanded VA telehealth services, walk-in-clinics, and same-day urgent primary and mental health care.
Delivered more appeals decisions – 81,000 – to veterans in a single year than ever before.
Strengthened protections for individuals who come forward and identify programs occurring within the VA.
Signed legislation that provided $86.5 billion in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the largest dollar amount in history for the VA.
VA MISSION Act, enacting sweeping reform to the VA system that:
Consolidated and strengthened VA community care programs.
Funding for the Veterans Choice program.
Expanded eligibility for the Family Caregivers Program.
Gave veterans more access to walk-in care.
Strengthened the VA’s ability to recruit and retain quality healthcare professionals.
Enabled the VA to modernize its assets and infrastructure.
Signed the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act in 2017, which authorized $2.1 billion in additional funds for the Veterans Choice Program.
Worked to shift veterans’ electronic medical records to the same system used by the Department of Defense, a decades-old priority.
Issued an executive order requiring the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs to submit a joint plan to provide veterans access to access to mental health treatment as they transition to civilian life.
Increased transparency and accountability at the VA by launching an online “Access and Quality Tool,” providing veterans with access to wait time and quality of care data.
Signed legislation to modernize the claims and appeal process at the VA.
Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, providing enhanced educational benefits to veterans, service members, and their family members.
Lifted a 15-year limit on veterans’ access to their educational benefits.
Created a White House VA Hotline to help veterans and principally staffed it with veterans and direct family members of veterans.
VA employees are being held accountable for poor performance, with more than 4,000 VA employees removed, demoted, and suspended so far.
Signed the Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act, increasing the number of VA employees that can assist justice-involved veterans.

China allows first-ever U.S. rice imports in ‘goodwill gesture’ ahead of trade talks

FILE PHOTO: Shipping containers are seen at a port in Shanghai, China July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has opened the door to imports of rice from the United States for the first time ever in what analysts took to signal a warming of relations between the world’s two biggest economies after a frosty year marked by tensions and tit-for-tat tariffs.

The green light from Chinese customs, indicated in a statement posted on the customs authority’s website on Friday, comes in the run-up to talks between the countries in January after U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a moratorium on higher tariffs that would affect trade worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much rice China, which sources rice imports from within Asia, might seek to buy from the United States. But the move, which comes after years of talks on the matter, follows pledges from China’s commerce ministry of further U.S. trade openings earlier this week.

As of Dec. 27, imports of brown rice, polished rice and crushed rice from the United States are now permitted, as long as cargoes meet China’s inspection standards and are registered with the United States Department of Agriculture.

“The permission for U.S. rice suggests an improving U.S. and China relationship,” said Cherry Zhang, an agriculture analyst with consultancy JCI. Zhang said she expected any imports would likely be ordered by state-owned companies.

Officials at a government-affiliated think-tank in Beijing said the price of U.S. rice is not competitive, compared with imports from South Asia, and said the move to formally permit import should be interpreted as a goodwill gesture.

China opened its rice market when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, but a lack of phytosanitary protocol between China and the United States effectively banned imports, according to trade group USA Rice.

Nonetheless, in July, China formally imposed additional tariffs of 25 percent on U.S. rice, even though imports were not permitted at the time.

(Reporting by Meng Meng and Ryan Woo; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

Frost thaws in U.S.-China ties ahead of G20 meeting

FILE PHOTO: U.S. and Chinese flags are placed for a joint news conference by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China June 14, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

By David Brunnstrom and John Geddie

WASHINGTON/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The United States and China will hold a delayed top-level security dialogue on Friday, the latest sign of a thaw in relations, as China’s vice president said Beijing was willing to talk with Washington to resolve their bitter trade dispute.

The resumption of high-level dialogue, marked by a phone call last week between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, comes ahead of an expected meeting between the two at the G20 summit in Argentina starting in late November.

It follows months of recriminations spanning trade, U.S. accusations of Chinese political interference, the disputed South China Sea and self-ruled Taiwan.

China and the United States have both described last week’s telephone call between Xi and Trump as positive. Trump predicted he’d be able to make a deal with China on trade.

In a concrete sign of the unfreezing, the U.S. State Department said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Chinese politburo member Yang Jiechi and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe will take part in diplomatic and security talks later this week in Washington.

China said last month the two sides had initially agreed “in principle” to hold the second round of diplomatic security talks in October but they were postponed at Washington’s request amid rising tensions over trade, Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Mattis had been due to hold talks with Wei in Beijing in October, but those plans were upended after Washington imposed sanctions on China’s People’s Liberation Army for buying weapons from Russia.

Mattis did meet Wei in Singapore on Oct. 18 and told him that the world’s two largest economies needed to deepen high-level ties to reduce the risk of conflict.

Speaking in Singapore on Tuesday, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, who is close to Xi, reiterated China’s readiness to hold discussions and work with the United States to resolve trade disputes as the world’s two largest economies stand to lose from confrontation.

“Both China and the U.S. would love to see greater trade and economic cooperation,” Wang told the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore.

“The Chinese side is ready to have discussions with the U.S. on issues of mutual concern and work for a solution on trade acceptable to both sides,” he said.

“The world today faces many major problems that require close co-operation between China and the United States,” Wang said.

Wang echoed comments made by Xi on Monday at a major import fair in Shanghai that Beijing will embrace greater openness.

Trump has railed against China over intellectual property theft, entry barriers to U.S. business and a gaping trade deficit, which U.S. data showed reached a record $40.2 billion in September.

The trade war, which has seen both sides impose tariffs on billions of dollars worth of the other’s imports, is beginning to hurt China’s economy and has battered Chinese shares and the yuan currency.

It has also brought purchases of U.S. soybeans by China to a virtual standstill. Soybeans are the largest U.S. agricultural export to China.

Jim Sutter, CEO of the U.S. Soybean Export Council, told Reuters on the sidelines of the Shanghai import fair that both countries understood the need to maintain their relationship.

“I think both sides are optimistic … more optimistic after the call last week that took place, that some kind of a solution can be reached,” he said.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and John Geddie; Additional reporting by Tom Daly and Michael Martina in Shanghai; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Tony Munroe and Neil Fullick)