China Pledges to Implement U.S. Trade Deal Amid Rising Tensions

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China reiterated a pledge to implement the first phase of its trade deal with the U.S. despite setbacks from the coronavirus outbreak, and as tensions escalate between the world’s two biggest economies.

“We will work with the United States to implement the phase one China-U.S. economic and trade agreement,” Premier Li Keqiang told an annual gathering of lawmakers in Beijing on Friday. “China will continue to boost economic and trade cooperation with other countries to deliver mutual benefits.”

Over the past two years, the Trump administration had imposed punitive duties on roughly $360 billion in Chinese goods, and China retaliated by raising levies on more than half of America’s exports. The two sides signed a phase-one trade pact on Jan. 15 and rolled back some of the tariffs, but the agreement has come under treat as the two nations escalate disputes on many fronts.

The centerpiece of the January agreement was China’s promises to buy more U.S. goods and services, but even before the coronavirus hit analysts were questioning whether those targets were realistic. Now, with both Chinese demand and U.S. manufacturing and transport capacity down due to the virus — and prices falling for energy and other goods — those promises look even further out of reach.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier this month pledged to create favorable conditions for implementing the trade deal and cooperating on the economy and public health. But President Donald Trump said later in an interview that he is having “a very hard time with China” and last week said the U.S. would “save $500 billion” if it cut off ties with China.

China on Friday also abandoned its usual practice of setting a numerical target for economic growth this year due to the turmoil caused by the virus, breaking with decades of Communist Party planning habits in an admission of the deep rupture that the disease has caused.

Beijing is using the legislative session to pass a bill establishing “an enforcement mechanism for ensuring national security” for Hong Kong, setting up a potential showdown with Trump, who has come under pressure in Washington to reconsider the city’s special trading status. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has delayed an annual report on whether the city still enjoys a “high degree of autonomy” from Beijing, telling reporters Wednesday that he was “closely watching what’s going on there.”

— With assistance by Sharon Chen, and Miao Han

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MPTF Nursing Home Reports No New Coronavirus Cases Among Residents In Nearly 6 Weeks

The extraordinary steps taken to combat the coronavirus at the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s nursing home in Woodland Hills are paying off. While six residents died in the early days of the outbreak, there have been no deaths there due to the virus since April 23, and no residents have tested positive since April 12. The last caregiver tested positive on April 30, and none has died.

A key tool in keeping the virus in check, said MPTF president and CEO Bob Beitcher, is lots of testing, which was not available in the early days of the pandemic. But even that, he said, is “no silver bullet.”

“Not only is there no silver bullet, but, worse, there are random and invisible bullets – in the form of asymptomatic caregivers – being sprayed at you and it’s hard to defend yourselves against that,” he said. “In terms of changes we’ve made, the biggest single transformative thing is testing. We’ve done close to 2,000 tests in the past six weeks of residents, staff, and private caregivers. We’ve just completed our second round.”

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Going forward, he said, “We will be testing direct caregivers every two weeks and the rest of staff and residents every month. While we’d like to do it more often, this is still very useful. Additionally, every day we are building up our culture of ‘community cares’ – the simple but powerful concept of ‘I don’t want to be the one to get others sick so I will take all precautions to keep myself safe, and in so doing, keep my family safe, my friends safe, my co-workers safe, and my residents safe.’

“This is so critical now that the city is ‘opening up’ a bit,” he said. “We can only control our staff when they’re on campus. What they do at home is their choice and we want to educate and remind that those choices can have a big impact – and staff has seen six people die – on others. We are also very fortunate to be able to do things for staff like feed them for free when they’re on campus, provide meals donated by Amazon Studios and prepared by Jon & Vinny’s every night when they go home; provide hard-to-get groceries curated by Morrison Senior Living, our hospitality partner on campus; provide household goodies from an amazing donation we got from a relief fund in Ohio – all of them good for staff’s households and good for keeping them out of grocery stores.”

Across the country in Englewood, New Jersey, The Actors Fund’s retirement home is also reporting success in battling the virus, with no new cases in nearly a month after losing 11 residents in the early weeks of the contagion.

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