Asian Insider, Jan 14: Recoupling begins?; Beijing’s Taiwan gameplan; Taal volcano

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.


In today’s bulletin: we look at the upcoming Phase 1 trade deal to be signed between US & China, what will Beijing do next after President Tsai Ing-wen’s win, fears of a more hazardous volcanic eruption in Philippines, how investors are faring in Myanmar, and more.

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Here are some of the things we know about the Phase 1 trade deal to be signed by US and China on Wednesday, as per US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer's briefing to reporters last month: US will reduce import tariffs on some Chinese goods,  while Beijing will be obliged to make purchases and have an exclusion process for its tariffs.

The deal will centre on intellectual property (IP) commitments and could include a breakthrough on forced technology transfer - reasons that led US President Donald Trump to impose tariffs in the first place. A dispute resolution mechanism will be included.

The announcements ahead of the signing of the agreement have been promising. The US Treasury has moved to remove China off its list of currency manipulators, two days ahead of the signing of the agreement. China's exports rose in December, for the first time in five months, signalling a modest recovery and a source told Reuters that China will pledge to buy nearly an additional US$80 billion worth of manufactured goods from the United States over the next two years, plus just over US$50 billion more in energy supplies.

So, will it mark the beginning of recoupling? And what's next? Reports say the deal itself will take effect 30 days later. Discussions for a Phase 2 agreement are due to commence soon. China Daily reports that Asean overtook the US as China's second largest trading partner in 2019, after the EU. This could change.

Read more on this issue: 

US drops China's currency manipulator tag: Positive signals but American farmers stay cautious

Trump trade deal raises issue of trusting China to deliver, analysts say

US-China contest won't let up, will impact Asean: Tommy Koh


How will China react to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's recent re-election in polls? Will it follow a carrot-and-stick approach? Soft loans for those who wish to study, work and invest in China and difficult times for those who oppose reunification? ST's Global Affairs Correspondent Benjamin Kang Lim, says China could heap even more pressure on Tsai and her government in the next four years as it pushes harder for reunification. Click here for his insights into what to expect next. 

Here's more on Taiwan: 

US, Japan and UK told off for violating one-China principle

Separatists will leave a stink for 10,000 years, China says after Taiwan vote

Time for Beijing and Taiwan to reassess cross-strait policy


Thousands of people continued to flee ash-blanketed villages in the danger zone near the Taal volcano, with eruptions continuing for a third day. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised the alert level to four, indicating a hazardous eruption could be possible in hours to days. Meanwhile, a couple who went ahead with their wedding in the area, saw their photos going viral on social media. 

Read more here: 

Panic grips many in towns near volcano

Philippine tourism likely to be hit hard by eruption

In Pictures: Thousands evacuated after Taal volcano in Philippines erupts


Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi's appointment as Myanmar's state counsellor, after her landslide win in 2015 elections, raised expectations of an upturn in the country's economy, even though the National League for Democracy government put several projects, approved by the outgoing government, on hold. Still, that didn't prevent investors from looking around for long-term opportunities. Click here to read Indochina bureau chief Tan Hui Yee’s full report

Read more on Myanmar:

Visit by China's Xi to Myanmar consolidates bilateral ties

Suu Kyi’s pragmatic turn fails to sway critics


More than 5 million traffic offences are committed in the country every year. And only about 30 per cent get settled. Kuala Lumpur is offering a 50 per cent discount to those who do so digitally. It is also their way of encouraging e-payments. Will it work? The response has been overwhelming in the past. 

Previous reports:

Thousands queue to pay traffic summonses at 50% discount in KL

Big rush to settle traffic summonses in Penang as police offer 50% discount


SINKHOLE SWALLOWS BUS: A massive sinkhole in front of a hospital in Xining, the capital of Qinghai province swallowed a bus, pedestrians, leaving six people dead and more than 10 missing.

MAHATHIR TO QUIT IF ASKED: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said he is ready to give up his post as the head of government at any moment the Pakatan Harapan presidential council demands it.

WEWORK TO EXPAND: Co-working space operator WeWork, that has been dogged by cash flow problems and was forced to lay off about a fifth of its workforce last year, might consider expanding in Singapore and the rest of South-east Asia.

That’s it for today. We’ll be back with you tomorrow and thanks for reading.  

- Shefali

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