US-China trade dispute Current Affairs - 2019

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HarmonyOS: Huawei launches its own Operating System

Chinese telecom giant Huawei launched its own operating system called HarmonyOS or HongMeng in Chinese. It was revealed by Richard Yu, head of Huawei’s consumer business at a press conference in Dongguan.

This unveiling comes at a time when telecom giant is facing threat of losing access to Google’s Android platform, amid escalating U.S.-China trade tensions, although Huawei has reportedly been working on its own operating system since 2012.

About HarmonyOS

HarmonyOS is future oriented and designed to be more smooth and secure, and is completely different from Android and iOS.

The first version of this operating system would launch in late 2019 in its smart screen products and would later be expanded to across a range of smart devices, including wearable technology, over next 3 years.

Backup Plan: Although Huawei had no plan to launch a smartphone with HarmonyOS but the company has a backup plan ready i.e. if in future Huawei would cannot use Android then the company can immediately switch to HarmonyOS. This is because without access to full version of Android/other popular services offered by Google (including applications available on Google Play store), Huawei may face trouble in convincing its consumers outside China to buy its phones.

Importance: This highly anticipated operating system is considered crucial for Huawei’s survival as it confronts a looming White House ban on U.S. companies that are selling technology products to Huawei, which could possibly remove Huawei’s access to Android.

Background

In May 2019 Huawei was swept into deepening trade war between China and US which has seen punitive tariffs slapped on billions of dollars of two-way trade.

US President Donald Trump amid suspicions that Chinese telecom giant Huawei which is considered world leader in superfast fifth-generation (5G) equipment and is also world’s number 2 smartphone producer, provides a backdoor for Chinese intelligence services, blacklisted the company. However firm denies US accusations.

Blacklisting of Huawei by US, has resulted into restrictions on American companies which are theoretically no longer allowed to sell technology products to firm, however a 3-month exemption period (which ends in second week of August), was granted by US before measure came into force.

Ban could prevent Chinese tech firm from getting hold of key hardware and software which includes smartphone chips and elements of Google Android operating system (OS), which equips vast majority of smartphones in world, including those of Huawei.

G20 Ministerial meeting on Trade and Digital Economy

G20 Ministerial meeting on Trade and Digital Economy is being held from 8 June- 9 June 2019 in Japanese city of Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. Tsukuba is Japan’s one of main academic and research centers.

Key Highlights

  • Background: Japan has assumed its 1st ever rotating presidency in G20 thus a series of various ministerial meetings are being held in Japanese cities in 2019. Japan’s presidency will be culminating during G20 summit in Osaka on 28-29 June 2019.
  • Chairman: Two day meet was chaired by Masatoshi Ishida, Japanese Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications and Hiroshige Seko, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry.
  • Objective: to discuss how economies of G20 countries can promote trade and investment and maximize benefits from development of digital economy and technologies so as to ensure sustainable growth of global economy.
  • Feature:
  • Over 50 Trade and Digital Economy Ministers got together for 1st time in G20 history in Tsukuba, Japan.
  • G20 Trade Ministers deliberations will form part of G20 Summit Leaders agenda in formal discussions and will also be a part of Summit Declaration.
  • The meet discussed importance of Digitalization that is expected to continue to create benefits for economies and societies as a whole and will also help achieve inclusive, innovative and human-centred future society ‘Society 5.0’.
  • Discussions:
  • Issues related to free trade dominated discussion in meeting against backdrop of ongoing trade war between United States (US) and China and US President Donald Trump’s policy of creating trade barriers and imposing tariffs.
  • Ways to reorder trade rules and finances in an era of technological change and protectionism were also discussed.

India and G20 Meet

  • Background: Ever since G20 was founded in 1999, India has been actively participating in its meetings. Indian delegation for G20 Ministerial meeting on Trade and Digital Economy is being led by Piyush Goyal, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry & Railways.
  • Discussion: Indian Commerce Minister will discuss developments in World Trade Organisation (WTO) matters, global trade situation, Digital trade and will also hold dialogue with other participating Trade Ministers on issues related to current international trade and investments.
  • Significance: This is for first time that Ministers of Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and Union Ministry of Commerce (MCA) will participate in a joint session on Digital Economy at G20 Ministerial Meeting.