Asian Insider Sept 13: Whole deal v interim deal, more haze, Hong Kong faces raft of event cancellations

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

In today’s bulletin: The haze situation in South-east Asia, as does the finger-pointing; Trump says he would rather do a “whole deal” with China, thus somehow prompting more talk of partial deals; two former enemies in Malaysia look to formalise a deal; Hong Kong loses one of its most prestigious sporting events and more.

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BIG DEAL, SMALL DEAL OR NO DEAL?

President Donald Trump today said he would rather do a “whole deal” with China rather than a more limited one meant to provide some short-term tariff relief. Almost everyone understood this to mean that an interim deal was thus the most likely outcome. The disclaimer is that discussions are at a very preliminary phase but there now appears to be some anxiety within the White House about the economic impact of continuing hostilities heading into an election year. Markets still welcomed news of even this minuscule glimmer of hope.

Top stories on the trade war today

Trump says he'd consider an interim trade agreement with China but prefers 'whole deal'

US, China tariffs could lower global GDP by 0.8% in 2020, says IMF

Asia stocks hit 6-week high on trade war hopes ahead of ECB

FORMER FOES IN MALAYSIA JOIN HANDS

Tomorrow, Malaysia’s two biggest Malay Muslim parties, Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), are set to sign a pact outlining political cooperation - setting aside more than four decades of bitter enmity and creating a significant opposition bloc against the Pakatan harapan government. As Malaysia Bureau Chief Shannon Teoh writes, Umno and PAS have of late found the “arithmetic of straight contests against PH compelling”. Just based on numbers, had the two joined hands in 2018, their combined vote totals would have prevented a PH victory.

Analysis: Umno-PAS charter riding on Malay siege mentality

Some of PH’s other problems: As Kuala Lumpur veers right, Democratic Action Party bears brunt of backlash

HAZE ROUND-UP: MORE BAD AIR BETWEEN MALAYSIA AND INDONESIA

The escalating row between Indonesia and Malaysia about who was to blame for the worsening haze situation in the region is now reaching the highest levels of government with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad due to write a letter to his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo raising concerns about the haze. The environment ministers of both sides have been engaging in a war of words over where the smoke is actually coming from. Indonesia has called on Malaysia to be “objective and sequential in their data analysis”, while Malaysia responded by saying that Indonesia “should not be in denial”. Meanwhile, hundreds of schools were closed in both countries as air quality deteriorated and thousands joined a mass prayer for rain in Indonesia.

What you need to know about the haze today:

Malaysian PM Mahathir to contact Indonesian President Joko over transboundary haze

Indonesia seals off plantations, including those linked to Malaysian firms, as forest fires rage on

Whose fault is it? Netizens take sides as Malaysian and Indonesian environment ministers bicker over haze

Look out for a special report on the haze crisis at straitstimes.com on Sunday

HONG KONG FACES RAFT OF EVENT CANCELLATIONS

The WTA Hong Kong Open women’s tennis tournament, one of Hong Kong’s most prestigious sporting competitions, today became the latest event to get called off because of the ongoing unrest. In recent weeks, the territory has seen a series of high profile concerts and events cancel or postpone. Two K-pop acts called off shows, as did US-based comedian Trevor Noah. Producers behind the musical matilda scrapped a planned month-long run in the city and a global wellness summit moved to Singapore. The cancellations are another salient symbol of the price Hong Kong is paying as protests enter a fourth month. In August, year-on-year tourist arrivals dived 40 per cent.

Top stories on Hong Kong today: 

Tennis tournament, K-pop concerts, musical: Event cancellations mount in protest-wracked Hong Kong

China prods state firms to boost investment in crisis-hit Hong Kong: Sources

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to prioritise housing, livelihoods to appease protesters

VAPING COMPANIES LOOK EAST AS US CLAMPS DOWN

On Sept 11, the US government announced plans to ban all flavoured vaping products amid concerns about its appeal to youth. Two days earlier, US e-cigarette maker Juul opened a virtual store on Tmall, an Alibaba e-commerce site. It also had a store on another major Chinese retail site, JD.com. As e-cigarette companies are finding their the US an increasingly hostile market for their products, they are turning their attentions east - to the world’s largest single market for tobacco consumption, where the regulatory framework is less suffocating. But it is not clear if this will be true for long. Earlier this year, China released a draft document suggesting that e-cigarettes laws there will eventually resemble those in Europe.

Background: The tide turns on vaping

US to ban flavoured vaping products as lung disease cases surge

'It is time to stop vaping': Kansas reports 6th US death linked to mystery illness

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Mugabe: The family of former Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe have agreed to bury him in the National Heroes Acre monument in Harare, a family spokesman said on Friday (Sept 13). His family and President Emmerson Mnangagwa had been at odds over where he would be buried after his body returned home on Wednesday.

Alternate driving days in Delhi: India's capital New Delhi will enforce strict restrictions on use of private cars from Nov 4 to 15 to curb pollution, its chief minister said on Friday (Sept 13), in an effort to help improve air quality that tends to deteriorate sharply in winter months.Private vehicles will be allowed to use roads only on alternate days during the period.

Pope to visit Thailand: Catholics in Thailand are celebrating the official announcement of the first papal visit in 35 years. Pope Francis is due to arrive in Thailand on Nov 20 for a four day visit, the first leg of an Asia trip that will also take him to Japan, Catholic officials announced Friday (Sept 13).

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and see you on  Monday.

Jeremy