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Joe Biden, Xi Jinping exchange warnings on US election and Taiwan

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President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed Taiwan, artificial intelligence and security issues Tuesday in a call meant to demonstrate a return to regular leader-to-leader dialogue between the two powers.

The call, described by the White House as “candid and constructive,” was the leaders’ first conversation since their November summit in California produced renewed ties between the two nations’ militaries and a promise of enhanced cooperation on stemming the flow of deadly fentanyl and its precursors from China.

Xi told Biden that the two countries should adhere to the bottom line of “no clash, no confrontation” as one of the principles for this year.

“We should prioritize stability, not provoke troubles, not cross lines but maintain the overall stability of China-U.S. relations,” Xi said, according to China Central Television, the state broadcaster.

The roughly 105-minute call kicks off several weeks of high-level engagements between the two countries, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen set to travel to China on Thursday and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to follow in the weeks ahead.

Biden has pressed for sustained interactions at all levels of government, believing it is key to keeping competition between the two massive economies and nuclear-armed powers from escalating to direct conflict. While in-person summits take place perhaps once a year, officials said, both Washington and Beijing recognize the value of more frequent engagements between the leaders.

The two leaders discussed Taiwan ahead of next month’s inauguration of Lai Ching-te, the island’s president-elect, who has vowed to safeguard its de-facto independence from China and further align it with other democracies. Biden reaffirmed the United States’ longstanding “One China” policy and reiterated that the U.S. opposes any coercive means to bring Taiwan under Beijing’s control. China considers Taiwan a domestic matter and has vigorously protested U.S. support for the island.

Taiwan remains the “first red line not to be crossed,” Xi told Biden, and emphasized that Beijing will not tolerate separatist activities by Taiwan’s independence forces as well as “exterior indulgence and support,” which alluded to Washington’s support for the island.

Biden also raised concerns about China’s operations in the South China Sea, including efforts last month to impede the Philippines, which the U.S. is treaty-obligated to defend, from resupplying its forces on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal.

Next week, Biden will host Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House for a joint summit where China’s influence in the region was set to be top of the agenda.

Biden, in the call with Xi, pressed China to do more to meet its commitments to halt the flow of illegal narcotics and to schedule additional precursor chemicals to prevent their export. The pledge was made at the leaders’ summit held in Woodside, California, last year on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting.

At the November summit, Biden and Xi also agreed that their governments would hold formal talks on the promises and risks of advanced artificial intelligence, which are set to take place in the coming weeks. The pair touched on the issue on Tuesday just two weeks after China and the U.S. joined more than 120 other nations in backing a resolution at the United Nations calling for global safeguards around the emerging technology.

Biden, in the call, reinforced warnings to Xi against interfering in the 2024 elections in the U.S. as well as against continued malicious cyberattacks against critical American infrastructure.

He also raised concerns about human rights in China, including Hong Kong’s new restrictive national security law and its treatment of minority groups, and he raised the plight of Americans detained in or barred from leaving China.

The Democratic president also pressed China over its defense relationship with Russia, which is seeking to rebuild its industrial base as it presses forward with its invasion of Ukraine. And he called on Beijing to wield its influence over North Korea to rein in the isolated and erratic nuclear power.

As the leaders of the world’s two largest economies, Biden also raised concerns with Xi over China’s “unfair economic practices,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, and reasserted that the U.S. would take steps to preserve its security and economic interests, including by continuing to limit the transfer of some advanced technology to China.

Xi complained that the U.S. has taken more measures to suppress China’s economy, trade and technology in the past several months and that the list of sanctioned Chinese companies has become ever longer, which is “not de-risking but creating risks,” according to the broadcaster.

Yun Sun, director of the China program at Stimson Center, said the call “does reflect the mutual desire to keep the relationship stable” while the men reiterated their longstanding positions on issues of concern.

The call came ahead of Yellen’s visit to Guangzhou and Beijing for a week of bilateral meetings on the subject with finance leaders from the world’s second largest economy — including Vice Premier He Lifeng, Chinese Central Bank Gov. Pan Gongsheng, former Vice Premier Liu He, American businesses and local leaders.

An advisory for the upcoming trip states that Yellen “will advocate for American workers and businesses to ensure they are treated fairly, including by pressing Chinese counterparts on unfair trade practices.”

It follows Xi’s meeting in Beijing with U.S. business leaders last week, when he emphasized the mutually beneficial economic ties between the two countries and urged people-to-people exchange to maintain the relationship.

Xi told the Americans that the two countries have stayed communicative and “made progress” on issues such as trade, anti-narcotics and climate change since he met with Biden in November. Last week’s high-profile meeting was seen as Beijing’s effort to stabilize bilateral relations.

Ahead of her trip to China, Yellen last week said that Beijing is flooding the market with green energy that “distorts global prices.” She said she intends to share her beliefs with her counterparts that Beijing’s increased production of solar energy, electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries poses risks to productivity and growth to the global economy.

U.S. lawmakers’ renewed angst over Chinese ownership of the popular social media app TikTok has generated new legislation that would ban TikTok if its China-based owner ByteDance doesn’t sell its stakes in the platform within six months of the bill’s enactment. Kirby said Biden “reiterated our concerns about the ownership of TikTok” to Xi during their call.

As chair of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which reviews foreign ownership of firms in the U.S., Yellen has ample leeway to determine how the company could remain operating in the U.S.

Meanwhile, China’s leaders have set a goal of 5% economic growth this year despite a slowdown exacerbated by troubles in the property sector and the lingering effects of strict anti-virus measures during the COVID-19 pandemic that disrupted travel, logistics, manufacturing and other industries.

China is the dominant player in batteries for electric vehicles and has a rapidly expanding auto industry that could challenge the world’s established carmakers as it goes global.

The U.S. last year outlined plans to limit EV buyers from claiming tax credits if they purchase cars containing battery materials from China and other countries that are considered hostile to the United States. Separately, the Department of Commerce launched an investigation into the potential national security risks posed by Chinese car exports to the U.S.



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United Airlines (UAL) 1Q 2024 earnings

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A United Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft lands at San Francisco International Airport.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

United Airlines on Tuesday cut its aircraft-delivery expectations for the year as it grapples with delays from Boeing, the latest airline to face growth challenges because of the plane-maker’s safety crisis.

United expects to receive just 61 new narrow-body planes this year, down from 101 it said it had expected at the beginning of the year and contracts for as many as 183 planes in 2024.

“We’ve adjusted our fleet plan to better reflect the reality of what the manufacturers are able to deliver,” CEO Scott Kirby said in an earnings release. “And, we’ll use those planes to capitalize on an opportunity that only United has: profitably grow our mid-continent hubs and expand our highly profitable international network from our best in the industry coastal hubs.”

United said it plans to lease 35 Airbus A321neos in 2026 and 2027, turning to Boeing’s rival for new planes as the U.S. manufacturer faces caps on its production and increased federal scrutiny. In January, United said it was taking Boeing’s not-yet-certified Max 10 out of its fleet plan. The airline said it has converted some Max 10 planes for Max 9s.

It lowered its annual capital expenditure estimate to $6.5 billion from about $9 billion.

United is also facing a Federal Aviation Administration safety review, which has prevented some of its planned growth. A spokeswoman told CNBC earlier this month that the carrier will have to postpone its planned service from Newark, New Jersey, to Faro, Portugal, and service between Tokyo and Cebu, Philippines.

United earlier this month postponed its investor day, which was scheduled for May, “because our entire team is focused on cooperating with the FAA to review our safety protocols and it would simply send the wrong message to our team to have an exciting investor day focused primarily on financial results.”

The airline said it would have reported a profit for the quarter if not for a $200 million hit from the temporary grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 9 in January.

The FAA temporarily grounded those jets after a door plug blew out minutes into an Alaska Airlines flight, sparking a new safety crisis for Boeing and slowing deliveries of its planes to customers including United, Southwest and others.

The airline posted a net loss of $124 million, or a loss of 38 cents a share, in the first quarter compared with a $194 million loss, or 59 cents, a year earlier. Revenue rose nearly 10% in the first quarter compared with the year-earlier period to $12.54 billion, with capacity up more than 9% on the year.

Here’s what United reported in the first quarter compared with what Wall Street expected, based on average estimates compiled by LSEG:

  • Loss per share: 15 cents adjusted vs. a loss of 57 cents expected
  • Revenue: $12.54 billion vs. $12.45 billion expected

The airline expects to post earnings of between $3.75 and $4.25 in the second quarter, ahead of analysts’ estimates of about $3.76 a share. Airlines make the bulk of their profits in the second and third quarters, during peak travel season.

The carrier also reiterated its full-year earnings forecast of between $9 and $11 a share.

United’s shares were up more than 4% in after-hours trading on Tuesday.

United executives will hold a call with analysts at 10:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

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Ex-Post Office boss regrets ‘missed opportunity’ to halt Horizon scandal

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“On reflection, and I have reflected on this very hard, when I finished being the Horizon programme director [in early 2000] it would have been very beneficial if I had notified both the lawyers and the [investigations team] that Horizon was a new system coming in, and that they should be very cautious about evidence coming out of that system,” he said.



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Sri Lanka’s economic crisis and debt restructuring efforts By Reuters

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COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s government rejected a proposal from its international bondholders on Tuesday on restructuring the more than $12 billion the country owes to them.

It means a near two-year spell in default will drag on for Sri Lanka and that the country’s next tranche of vital IMF support money could potentially get delayed.

Below is a timeline of the key events in the crisis and the efforts to resolve it:

2021-2022: Sri Lanka’s economy crumbles after years of overspending leaves its foreign exchange reserves critically low and the government unable to pay for essentials, such as fuel and medicine.

The country’s bonds suffer from multiple downgrades by credit rating agencies warning of the increasing risk of default. At the start of 2022 it manages to make a $500 million bond payment but it leaves its foreign exchange reserves precariously low.

MAY, 2022 – Sri Lanka is declared in default after it fails to make a smaller $78 million bond coupon payment.

JULY, 2022 – Public anger drives protesters to storm then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office and residence. Rajapaksa flees to the Maldives, before moving on to Singapore.

Current President Ranil Wickremesinghe is voted into power by Sri Lankan lawmakers.

MARCH, 2023 – The International Monetary Fund approves a near $3 billion bailout for Sri Lanka after talks with Wickremesinghe’s government and assurances about its plans to repair the country’s finances.

OCTOBER, 2023

Sri Lanka announces an agreement with China’s EXIM (export/import) Bank to delay payments on about $4.2 billion worth of loans the Chinese lender it has extended to the country.

NOVEMBER, 2023

Other creditor nations including India, Japan and France agree to restructure about $5.9 billion in debt.

MARCH, 2024

A group of Sri Lankan officials arrives in London to meet with a number of investment funds that hold its more than $12 billion worth of government bonds. Talks advance to the key “restricted” phase where proposals are discussed privately and those involved agree not to buy or sell any of the debt on the open market.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A general view of the main business district as rain clouds gather above in Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 17, 2020. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File Photo

APRIL, 2024

The government rejects a proposal tabled by the bondholders. The main stumbling blocks are that some the “baseline” assumptions used differ to those of the IMF and that the plan did not include a contingency option for the government in case the economy fails to recover as expected.





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