U.S. could cut ties with China over pandemic, warns Trump

Washington imposes additional punitive measures against Huawei.


U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday threatened to cut ties with China over its role in the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), as the global death toll from the disease topped 3,00,000.

The Trump administration also said on Friday that it would restrict the ability of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, which it considers a national security risk, to develop semiconductors abroad with U.S. technology. “This announcement cuts off Huawei’s efforts to undermine U.S. export controls,” the Commerce Department said in a statement. The department said it would “narrowly and strategically target Huawei’s acquisition of semiconductors that are the direct product of certain U.S. software and technology”.

Huawei has been under relentless pressure from the Washington, which has lobbied allies worldwide to avoid the company’s telecom gear over security concerns. Washington last year said it would blacklist Huawei from the U.S. market and from buying crucial American components, though it has extended a series of reprieves to allow U.S. businesses that work with Huawei time to adjust. On Friday it extended this reprieve by another 90 days.

Refugees at risk

Despite fears of a second wave of infections, national and local governments around the world are easing lockdown orders as they try to get stalled economies moving again. But there were warnings on Friday that some of the world’s poorest people remain the most vulnerable.

The nexus of poverty and risk was highlighted by the discovery of cases in the world’s biggest refugee camp, where upwards of a million Rohingya live in squalor. “We are looking at the very real prospect that thousands of people may die from COVID-19” in these camps, Save The Children’s Bangladesh health director Shamim Jahan said.

In the U.S., the man formerly charged with developing a vaccine told lawmakers the government in Washington has no “master plan” to fight the pandemic and is unprepared to distribute enough vaccines to immunise millions of Americans. “We don’t have a single point of leadership right now for this response,” said Rick Bright, who was removed from his job last month. The U.S. has registered almost 86,000 deaths linked to COVID-19 — the highest toll of any nation, with a third of all known global infections.

‘Very disappointed’

In an interview aired on Thursday, Mr. Trump again accused Beijing of concealing the true scale of the problem after the virus emerged in Wuhan late last year.

“I’m very disappointed in China. I will tell you that right now,” he said. Asked how the United States might choose to retaliate, Mr. Trump said: “We could cut off the whole relationship”.

The U.S. and China are the world’s two largest economies, doing hundreds of billions of dollars of mutually beneficial trade every year.

Nevertheless, the U.S. President is keen to make Beijing the bogeyman in an election year. New figures showed a further three million job losses, taking the newly unemployed to 36.5 million — more than 10% of the U.S. population.

Germany’s treasury is also expecting a big hole in its budget, with around €100 billion euros wiped off the tax take in 2020. Europe’s biggest economy has already slipped into a recession, with GDP expected to shrink by 6.3% this year — the biggest contraction since 1949.

Much of Europe appears to be over the worst, with more parts of the continent opening up. Austria and Germany were expected to open their border on Friday, while Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were set to create their own “mini-Schengen on the Baltic”, allowing free movement among the three countries.