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  1. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping soon to try to seal a comprehensive trade deal as Trump and his top trade negotiator both cited substantial progress in two days of high-level talks. Trump, speaking at the White House during a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, said he was optimistic that the world’s two largest economies could reach “the biggest deal ever made.” No specific plans for a meeting with Xi were announced, but Trump said there could be more than one meeting. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were invited to bring a U.S. negotiating team to Beijing around mid-February, with dates still pending. At the end of two days of high-level talks next door to the White House, Liu told Trump that China would make a new, immediate commitment to increase soybean purchases. An administration official later clarified the amount as a total of 5 million tonnes, effectively doubling the amount bought by China since resuming limited purchases in December. U.S. soybean sales to China, which totaled 31.7 million tonnes in 2017, were largely cut off in the second half of last year by China’s retaliatory tariffs and the announcement drew a positive reaction from Trump, who said it would “make our farmers very happy.” While China has offered increased purchases of U.S. farm, energy and other goods to try to resolve the trade disputes, negotiators dug into thornier issues, including U.S. demands that China take steps to protect American intellectual property and end policies that Washington says force U.S. companies to turn over technology to Chinese firms. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said there was “substantial progress” on these issues, including verification mechanisms to “enforce” China’s follow-through on any reform commitments it makes. “At this point, it’s impossible for me to predict success. But we’re in a place that if things work out, it could happen,” Lighthizer said at the Oval Office meeting. Later, he told reporters that the U.S. objective was to make China’s commitments “more specific, all-encompassing and enforceable” with a mechanism for taking action if China fails to follow through, but declined to provide specific issues. Reuters previously reported that such an enforcement mechanism would involve a snap-back of U.S. tariffs. Asked whether the two sides discussed lifting U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods, Lighthizer said tariffs were not part of the talks. A person familiar with the discussions said a broad range of concerns about access to Chinese agricultural markets were raised in the talks but little progress was made. The White House said in a statement that a scheduled March 2 tariff increase on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 percent from 10 percent was a “hard deadline” if no deal was reached by March 1. Trump said he did not think he would need to extend the deadline. “I think when president Xi and I meet, every point will be agreed to,” Trump added. But Trump has vetoed multiple proposed trade deals with China, choosing to push ahead with tariffs on Chinese goods to gain leverage. Earlier, Trump said on Twitter he was looking for China to open its markets “not only to Financial Services, which they are now doing, but also to our Manufacturing, Farmers and other U.S. businesses and industries. Without this a deal would be unacceptable!” The U.S. complaints on technology transfers, and intellectual property protections, along with accusations of Chinese cyber theft of American trade secrets and a systematic campaign to acquire U.S. technology firms, were used by Trump’s administration to justify punitive tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports. China has retaliated with tariffs of its own, but has suspended some and is allowing some purchases of U.S. soybeans during the talks. Chinese officials have said their policies do not coerce technology transfers. The U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods are just one front in Trump’s efforts to upend the global trading order with his “America First” strategy. He has also imposed global tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, washing machines and solar panels and has threatened to raise tariffs on imported cars unless Japan and the European Union offer trade concessions. Source
  2. Facebook has apologized for translating Chinese President Xi Jinping’s name as “Mr Shithole” on its platform during his visit to Myanmar this week. The company said the incident was due to a “technical issue” that caused incorrect translations from Burmese to English on Facebook. The technical error produced a rather embarrassing and awkward situation for all the parties involved. As part of his visit to the Myanmar, President Xi met with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi to sign various infrastructure agreements backed by China. A post about the visit was published to Suu Kyi’s official Facebook page, which meant that it was loaded with references to “Mr Shithole” when translated to English. Additionally, according to Reuters, a headline from the local news site The Irrawaddy was translated as, “Dinner honors president shithole.” Facebook said it had fixed the technical issue. Reuters reported that Google’s translation system did not produce the same error. “This should not have happened and we are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” Facebook said in a statement to Reuters. “We sincerely apologize for the offense this has caused.” Facebook explained that the error occurred because its system did not have President Xi’s name in its Burmese database and guessed at the translation. After running translation tests, the company found that its system also translated similar words that start with “xi” and “shi” in Burmese to “shithole” in English. Kenneth Wong, a Burmese language instructor at the University of California, Berkeley, told The New York Times that he could understand why a machine would have made that translation error. Wong said that President Xi’s name sounds similar to “chi kyin phyin,” which roughly translates to “feces hole buttocks” in Burmese. The “Mr Shithole” incident is an unwelcome hiccup for Facebook, which has a somewhat curious relationship with China. On one hand, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has taken a critical stance on China. In a speech at Georgetown University in October, Zuckerberg said that Facebook “could never come to agreement on what it would take for us to operate there.” However, on the other hand, Facebook is dedicating more resources to its Chinese advertising business, which generated more than $5 billion for the company in 2018. At the beginning of the month, the company confirmed the creation of a new engineering team in Singapore to focus on its Chinese customers. Although Facebook is blocked in mainland China, it is not blocked in Hong Kong. Chinese companies and other entities, such as government agencies, use Facebook to promote their products and messages at the international level. This in mind, it’s easy to imagine the reactions at Facebook when employees realized that their system had called President Xi, “Mr Shithole.” It isn’t the first time Facebook has had problems with its Burmese to English translations. Reuters cites that in the past, Facebook translated a post advocating the killing of Muslims to, “I shouldn’t have a rainbow in Myanmar.” It’s probably time to really fix what’s happening with Burmese to English translations. Just saying. Source
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