Hong Kong unrest. Last night, thousands of Hong Kong civil servants gathered for a rally to protest how the government has handled the recent unrest. Today, tens of thousands marched through the city without clashing with police as has been the case in recent weekends. More demonstrations are scheduled for tomorrow, and protest leaders have called for a general strike in Hong Kong on Monday. Spokesmen for Hong Kong authorities insisted that the police could handle the situation, even as a host of Western news agencies suggest the People’s Liberation Army was preparing to intervene to stabilize the situation.

Dealing “sternly” with Japan. The South Korean government criticized Japan’s decision yesterday to cut it from a list of preferred trading partners, saying Japan had crossed a line and must be dealt with “sternly.” Japan has had a “whitelist” of nearly 30 preferred trading partners, but the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced that Tokyo would now classify trading partners in four different categories – A, B, C and D – and would downgrade South Korea from A to B. South Korea was the only country whose status was affected by the change in Japanese regulations. Though the ministry said it is not a blanket ban on Japanese exports, it also said Japanese companies would be required to meet “higher standards” on export controls and security to be granted a license.

A reprieve on auto tariffs. We mentioned yesterday that there was a good chance the United States would announce new tariffs of up to 25 percent on European automobiles. Instead, the U.S. announced it was signing a previously agreed to deal for the U.S. to supply 35,000 out of an allotted 45,000 metric tons of non-hormone treated beef to the European Union. U.S. President Donald Trump said auto tariffs were still on the table but that for now he was satisfied. Trump made the announcement at the White House in front of a gathering of European Union bureaucrats and cowboy-hatted American ranchers. Oh, to be a fly on the wall of the Roosevelt Room for that shindig.

What’s the UAE up to? An anonymous source at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs said coast guard talks with Iran on July 30 had gone well, Emirates News Agency reported. Meanwhile, the minister for foreign affairs tweeted yesterday that the UAE agreed with Saudi Arabia on a strategy for the next phase of the war in Yemen – and that the UAE had “redeployed” its forces in the Yemeni port city of Hodeida accordingly. It’s a curious development in light of media reports last month that suggested the UAE was on the verge of withdrawing the bulk of its troops from Yemen’s interminable conflict.

What to do about North Korea. Despite the trade dispute between South Korea and Japan, representatives from both countries met with the United States’ North Korea envoy on the sidelines of the ASEAN foreign ministers summit currently underway to talk about North Korea’s recent tests of short-range missiles. Trump said the recent tests do not violate any of his agreements with Kim Jong Un, but an official at South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the missile tests were proof that Pyongyang isn’t ready to resume working-level talks with the United States on denuclearization.

Honorable Mentions

  • Three Turkish state banks lowered interest rates on housing loans from 1.49 percent to 0.99 percent to give the Turkish construction sector a boost.
  • Thai police arrested three teenagers for their alleged role in a series of bombings in Bangkok yesterday that left four injured.
  • Moscow police arrested 30 people for participating in an unauthorized demonstration in the city center.
  • The foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Iraq will meet in Baghdad tomorrow.
  • Trade ministers throughout Asia are in Beijing to discuss the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a proposed multilateral free trade agreement backed by China.
  • Deutsche Bank is reportedly setting aside more than 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to help cover the costs of offloading derivatives in its capital release unit.