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U.S.: Efforts to Remove Assad Underway; Xi Arrives for Meeting with Trump; European Regulators Warn Over Plane Electronics Ban; Argentina's President Tells U.S. What It Can Learn About Trade and Protectionism. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired April 6, 2017 - 16:00:00   ET


[16:00:00] ZAIN ASHER, CNN ANCHOR: That sound marks the end of yet another trading day on Wall Street. Let me show you quickly how the day started

off. It started off solidly in the red, just ever so slightly for about an hour or so. Then we were up about 50 points. And then as we rushed

towards the finish line, the Dow is ending the day pretty much flat. Investors sort of seem to be in this holding pattern as they await to see

what happens with this meeting with Xi Jinping, with the Chinese president, as discussions range from trade to North Korea to jobs, that sort of thing.

We get that all-important jobs report tomorrow.

It is Thursday, the 6th of April. Tonight, breaking news. The United States says an international effort for Syrian regime change is under way.

China's president flies into Florida as a geopolitical crisis unfold. And Argentina's president tells us the world can learn from his country's

brushes with populism.

Hello, everyone, I'm Zain Asher and this is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

All right, welcome, everyone. Tonight, we begin with pretty significant breaking news, as an international effort is under way as I speak to you to

pretty much remove Syrian President Bashar al Assad from power. This is according to the U.S. Secretary of State. Rex Tillerson issued a warning

to Russia saying the Kremlin should carefully consider its continued support for the Assad regime.

Now, sources are telling CNN that President Trump is considering U.S. military action in retaliation for these images you see on your screen

right now, that horrific chemical attack that happened on Tuesday that left 80 people dead. This is certainly an unexpected foreign policy crisis for

Donald Trump. It certainly threatens to derail President Trump's trade agenda as he hosts a pretty important meeting with his Chinese counterpart.

A few moments ago, Rex Tillerson set out the Trump administration stance on the future of Syrian president Bashar al Assad.


REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Assad's role in the future is uncertain clearly. With the acts that he has taken, it would seem that

there would be no route for him to govern the Syrian people.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What steps is the United States prepared to take in order to remove him from power?

TILLERSON: The process by which Assad would leave is something that I think requires an international community effort. Both to first defeat

ISIS within Syria, to stabilize the Syrian country, to avoid further civil war, and then to work collectively with our partners around the world for a

political process that would lead to Assad leaving.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you and President Trump organize an international coalition to remove Assad?

TILLERSON: Those steps are under way.


ASHER: Rex Tillerson there saying those steps are under way to potentially remove Syrian President Bashar al Assad. This looks like a major shift for

a commander in chief who had promised a more isolationist stance than his predecessor Barack Obama. Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona served as a

U.S. military attache in Syria. So, he's the perfect person to talk to about all of the events unfolding right now. Lieutenant colonel, given

that the Russians have control of the airspace in Syria, given that they're the main sort of power player in the region, what options does the United

States really have at this point?

COL. RICK FRANCONA, FORMER U.S. MILITARY ATTACHE IN SYRIA: That question will have to be answered when they determine what do we want to do. Does

the United States want to punish Assad? Do they want to remove Assad? Do they want to cripple some of his capabilities? These are some of the range

of options that will be presented to the president by the pentagon and he'll have to determine what he wants to do. As you say, the big wild card

in all of this, the big unknown is, what will the Russians do?

As you say, they controlled a good portion of the airspace in Syria. They've got a very, very capable air defense system over the north-

northwestern part of Syria. If we're going to undertake any action, we have to determine, are the Russians going to interfere? Are they going to

challenge us? Are we going to get into a shooting confrontation with the Russians? All very, very important policy questions, before you even get

to the military dimension. So, I think right now those conversations are being had between the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and the

President. Just what are we going to do and what are the ramifications once we do it.

ASHER: And you're absolutely right in terms of these conversations being had because I've just been told that Defense Secretary Mattis is actually

talking to Donald Trump right now, giving him his options in Syria. In your experience, lieutenant colonel, is there any way to try to get

President Assad to surrender his chemical weapons without direct military intervention? Is there a way to negotiate with Russia here?

[16:05:06] FRANCONA: We thought we had done that. If you remember, in 2013, the only way the Syrians averted military action was an agreement

brokered by the Russians in which they declared and allow the removal of all the chemical weapons from their territory. There was a process in

which they did declare and remove some of them. Obviously, they retained the capability.

ASHER: Some of them buy not all of them. What do we know about --

FRANCONA: I'm sorry?

ASHER: Yes, some of them but clearly not all of them. What do we know about the stockpile of chemical weapons that President Assad has left?

What does he have left?

FRANCONA: Obviously, he has a quantity of sarin. This stuff is not hard to make. Although he may have given up old stocks, he retained the

capability to make more. This is not hard to do. Any decent chemical engineer can make nerve agent. Sarin has been around for decades. It's

not inconceivable that the Syrians may have turned over most of what they had and just continued to create more. In an almost unlimited capability.

What's important, he has multiple systems by which to deliver. Not only aircraft bombs. In fact, his favorite is the use of the artillery rocket.

That's what he used in the Damascus suburbs. To go after his capability will be a big effort. If you just want to send a message and say, stop

doing this, you could take out two or three of his airfields and send a message that way.

ASHER: In your opinion, military action in Syria, good idea, bad idea? What would you advise the president if you had his ear?

FRANCONA: I would say we have to do something. You know, there's such global outrage over this thing, the Syrians have to pay a price for this.

We have to do something that doesn't get us in a shooting war with the Russians. What I would do is I would probably figure out which airfield

these aircraft came from and do a lot of damage to that. We have to ameliorate his behavior right now and then hopefully in the future,

Secretary Tillerson can broker some way to get him out with a political solution. I don't think we want to get into a military coalition to remove

Bashar al Assad.

ASHER: In terms of possible air strikes, though, what would some targets, examples of targets, what would they be?

FRANCONA: They've got three major airfields. And they're in an area just northeast of Damascus. You could take out one of those. I would not use

airplanes to do this. I would use tomahawk missiles, I would use air launch cruise missiles. Something that's standoff, so we don't really get

in the Russians' face. The Russians have to survive this as well. They've got to be able to come through an American punishing raid but not get into

a shooting war. We've got to come up with some accommodation with the Russians. And as long as the Russians are there we have to take that into


ASHER: The Russian involvement complicates everything for the United States.

FRANCONA: Absolutely.

ASHER: All right, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, live for us. Thank you so much, appreciate that.

All of this breaking news with Syria, all of this comes as Donald Trump prepares for his very first all-important face-to-face meeting with the

Chinese President, Xi Jinping. The White House has been trying to lower expectations about the meeting. In fact, one Democrat on the Senate

Foreign Relations Committee told CNN that in these volatile times, the president certainly needs to proceed with caution.


ED MARKEY, U.S. SENATE DEMOCRAT: So, this meeting today, again, gives President Trump a chance to do a pivot. Obviously, there were reckless

comments that were made by the President about the Chinese during the campaign and even after the campaign. So, I think that this is a moment

for the President to realize that both in the way in which he was coddling Russia or recklessly attacking China, that he now gets a chance to reset

both of those relationships in a way to have a peaceful resolution of the key challenges which his administration is facing right now.


ASHER: Donald Trump's verbal attack on China loomed large over today's summit on trade. Candidate Trump said China's policies were, "Raping the

U.S. economy." So far, President Trump has refused to say whether he will place tariffs on imports from China. Less than a week ago he ordered a

review of the reasons why the U.S. had a large trade deficit. On exchange rates, Mr. Trump promised he would brand China a currency manipulator on

his first day in office. 76 days later, that still has not happened.

On North Korea, a sense of urgency increased Wednesday morning when North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the sea off the Korean peninsula.

Trump has said if China doesn't do more to restrain its ally, North Korea, the U.S. could actually end up going alone. Kevin Rudd has served twice as

the Prime Minister of Australia. He joins me live now.

[16:10:00] We've all heard preempted on cable news the sound bites of Donald Trump as a candidate talking about China, China's raping the U.S.

economy, that sort of thing. I'm sure the Chinese never expect that in a million years that Donald Trump was going to win the U.S. election. Given

that he has, how do they handle his unpredictability, do you think?

KEVIN RUDD, FORMER AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: The Chinese are deeply pragmatic. They look at President Trump's election. They're as surprised

as you and I were by his election. But he's the president of the United States. They understand he has an entirely different take on the U.S.-

China relationship than his predecessors both Republican and Democrat. The value that they see in this first meeting at Mara-a-Largo, is frankly to

try and set the personal and policy parameters for how this relationship will go in the further. Everyone is being deliberately cautious about

expectation management, because no one knows precisely how this is going to go.

ASHER: There is one reason for the Chinese to perhaps be I guess a little bit optimistic. And that is the fact that the U.S. has withdrawn from TPP.

That is quite significantly a win for China.

RUDD: If you're putting a ledger together, there was some applause in Beijing when that happened, because that was clearly President Trump's pre-

election commitment. Of course, that opened up fresh opportunities for China with other forms of trading relationships across the Asia-pacific

regional, which is the most dynamic economic region in the world today and very important to China's economy.

On the other side of the ledger, you President Trump's challenge initially the one-China policy. You now have a much more forward-leaning posture it

seems on both North Korea and respectably the South China Sea. So, on the geopolitics of it, it is a challenge as far as the Chinese leadership is

concerned. Then you go down to the pure bilaterals on trade. That's where you really start to talk turkey, because China itself doesn't have the high

growth rates that it used to and is under some economic pressure.

ASHER: What is going to be, just speaking about trade, what is going to be China's negotiating strategy dealing with Donald Trump? Because Donald

Trump has talked about it endlessly in his campaign, what about jobs disappeared to China, there's a massive trade deficit with China. How is

China going to counteract that? What's going to be there negotiating style?

RUDD: They haven't asked me for my advice on that, but I do go there a bit and talk to them. The bottom line I think is this. Again, they're

pragmatists. They may not like the fact that President Trump has these policies and made these statements. But they respect the fact that he's

president of the most powerful country on earth. And they have made a pragmatic assessment. This is so inseparably linked to his domestic

political narrative. He's not going to easily walk away from it.

Therefore, I think there's a mood going into Mar-a-Lago that the Chinese aren't prepared to talk turkey on trade questions. Is it about tariffs?

Is it about non-tariff barriers? Is it about other forms of even purchase agreements to shrink what is a $350 billion bilateral trade deficit in

China's favor?

ASHER: It's interesting, because Xi Jinping has very important political year ahead for him. So, his mind is kind of much more focused on what's

happening domestically in China, given the 19th National Congress, versus what's happening internationally.

RUDD: Well, if you're a head of state, a head of government, you don't get to choose. All this stuff happens at the same time. But in a perfect

world from Xi Jinping's point of view, 2017 is the year of living domestically. You've got the 19th Congress, as you rightly pointed out,

coming up in November. It's a five-yearly event which changes the party leadership apart from him on this occasion.

And they'll be a huge turnover in terms of standing committee members of the Politburo. General Politburo members and the central committee.

Ministers, governors, party secretaries, this is a big year. So, in a perfect year, you want to therefore decrease your external risks. On the

security front reduce the temperature in the South China Sea and see if you can manage North Korea in a stable manner. In terms of an economic or

trade war, avoid that at all costs.

ASHER: Donald Trump actually -- speaking of North Korea -- Donald Trump actually spoke to "The Financial Times" recently and he said, listen, you

know, if China doesn't help us when it comes to North Korea, that's fine, we'll going to deal with it on our own. What will Xi Jinping's likely

response to that be, do you think?

RUDD: He will pause. And he will say, Mr. President, what do you mean by that? Look, as a matter of logic and with a bit of China background, I

suppose, there are three strategic options here. One, business as usually on diplomacy vis-a-vis North Korea, U.N. sanctions, et cetera. We've had

four or five rounds of those now, the North Koreas basically say, we'll just keep going, thank you very much. That's not working. Even in Beijing

they accept that isn't working.

[16:15:00] Option two is the one President Trump talked about, which is unilateral military action. Of course, that is the ultimate dread

scenario. And I say this not just in Beijing, but if you're sitting in Seoul and in Tokyo, the thought of a unilateral American military strike

and what would then come, we assume, as being an immediate retaliatory attack by the North against the South. You then are very quickly stepping

into general war with huge potential losses in South Korea itself. That's the second big option, and it's full of what I would describe as disturbing


ASHER: Of course.

RUDD: But it's still on the table. The third therefore, if one or two above is not going to work, there is a new diplomacy. I think if these two

leaders can establish some rapport on this question and open the door to a new combined diplomacy with North Korea which would involve China also

applying pressure for the first time in terms of its oil exports to North Korea on which the North Koreans depend. But an exchange for a clear

timetable for a cessation of testing and the removal of existing arsenals. But then as a part of a broader grand diplomatic bargain on the future of

the Korean peninsula.

ASHER: And I do have to ask you. This whole meeting with Xi Jinping, was what everybody was talking about on Monday, and now obviously, it's been

overshadowed by what's happened in Syria in terms of the chemical attack and now Rex Tillerson potentially talking about removing Assad. China has

a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. How will this topic of Syria come up if at all?

RUDD: China's historical policy in the Middle East is one of, whenever China can get away with it, it has considered neutrality. They have good

relations with Israel. They have good relations with the Arab states. A good relationship with Iran. They had good relations with the Gulf states.

This is China's posture in the Middle East as one of, let's, frankly, avoid taking sides. If push comes to shove about authorization of a military

action against Syria, this will run against the grain of traditional Chinese policy.

What's my own view, by the way, if we now have a line crossed, if the evidence is incontrovertible that this is a Syrian government use of

chemical weapons against the Syrian people, look, I was a great supporter of president Obama, I worked with him in office. I think he got it wrong

in 2013 when we first had the first clear evidence of use of chemical weapons.

ASHER: When he talked about the red line and then went back.

RUDD: The red line and then we didn't act. But of itself the incremental -- what really worries me, Zain, is the incremental legitimization of the

use of chemical weapons.

ASHER: Because failures to act in the past sort of sets the wrong tone.

RUDD: Creates a new set of norms whereby a bit useful let's go by. A bit more use may be. And now we've had 80 people killed including a lot of

kids. From an international point of view, international norms point of view, let alone international criminal court point of view, where this is a

barbaric act, I think it's important to draw some lines in the sand here. Military options -- that's a separate matter of course, for the Pentagon.

ASHER: You're saying President Trump should do something at least. All right, Kevin Rudd, live for us, pleasure having you on this show, sir.

RUDD: Thanks, Zain.

ASHER: The Congressional committee investigating possible collusion between President Trump's campaign and Russia is undergoing more upheaval.

Devin Nunes is stepping aside as he fends off accusations that he's not impartial, that's next.


ASHER: The congressman leading the investigation into whether Russia interfered in the U.S. election has found himself under investigation now.

Republican Devin Nunes said earlier he would step aside from the investigation. The chair of the House Intelligence Committee is facing

allegations he mishandled classified information during a secret meeting at the White House. The House's Ethics Committee is now looking into the

matter. Critics say that Nunes created a conflict of interest clouding his ability to be impartial. Manu Raju is live for us on the hill tonight.

Manu, the fact that he decided to step down or temporarily step aside and didn't even bother to tell his own committee, what does that tell you? Was

this investigation broken from the very beginning?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: In some ways, it was in the last few weeks. In fact, is was in the aftermath of Mr. Nunes's decision

to go brief the president of the United States on this surveillance information that he said showed that some of the Trump campaign

communications were picked up incidentally and it appeared in intelligence reports, and was this unmasking of these Trump associates in these

intelligence reports.

That decision to brief the president before his own committee fed this criticism that perhaps he's been too cozy with the White House, at a time

when his committee was investigating any of those contacts that occurred during the presidential election season between the Trump campaign and

Russian officials.

That came right before Mr. Nunes's decision to abruptly cancel a public hearing in which those contacts between Trump officials and Russia

officials were bound to get even more public light. And then this latest revelation, that the House Ethics Committee was investigating whether or

not Mr. Nunes mishandled and improperly revealed classified information really amounted to be a bridge too far. He realized he could no longer

lead this investigation. And the Republican leaders agreed with him, Zain.

ASHER: Talk to us about what happens next. Representative Conaway is taking over from Devin Nunes. Is there real faith at this point? Is there

any faith that this investigation can still be impartial?

RAJU: It depends who you ask. Democrats are saying today they believe that it can be impartial, they have faith in Mr. Conaway moving forward.

But there are clear dividing lines between the two sides about what they view as the most important things to investigate right now. Democrats

believing there are some clear links of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. That's not how Republicans see it so far. So, we'll

see if they can reach a bipartisan consensus. But today at least, Democrats say that Nunes made the right decision, they believe they can

perhaps reach a bipartisan result at the end of the day, Zain.

ASHER: All right. Manu Raju live for us there, thank you so much, appreciate that.

Let's turn to Wall Street now. U.S. markets closed in the green, only ever so slightly, up about 40 points, pretty much flat. Paul La Monica is here

to talk about the markets with me. The focus today, pretty much on this meeting that the president is having with the Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Was the jobs report, is the jobs report a factor at all yet?

PAUL R. LA MONICA, CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT: I think it is. I think that clearly investors have a wait and see attitude with regards to both the

meeting that President Trump is going to have with President Xi but also what will those jobs numbers look like on Friday. We've had a very strong

report about the private sector from ADP yesterday. That's raised hopes we could get another month of steady jobs gains, the unemployment rate is not

going down, at least staying where it is. More than 187,000 jobs put into our economy surveyed by CNNMoney, unemployment rate probably staying

steady. But Wage gains, again, that's another key number that people are going to be watching.

ASHER: So, in terms of the meeting though, the Xi Jinping, what are investors actually looking for? You mentioned they're in this wait and see

approach. I get that the jobs report is tomorrow, but in terms of today, what are they looking for from this meeting?

LA MONICA: I think there are hopes what really Wall Street wants to see is maybe some cooler heads prevailing and having a sense of diplomacy on both

sides. We all know that the Chinese market is incredibly important to many big U.S. companies like Apple, for example. At the same time, China owns

so much U.S. debt, there's always a fear that if the Chinese government started to unwind some of those assets, that could wreak havoc on the

financial markets here. But President Trump does have a point, of course, about wanting global trade to be competitive. And he is trying to make

deals that are great for American workers. That is obviously something that, you know, deserves merit and applause.

ASHER: We'll see what comes out of these meetings. Paul La Monica, live for us, we appreciate that.

LA MONICA: Thank you.

[16:25:00] ASHER: Well, it was a mixed day in the European market after some dovish comments by the head of the ECB, Mario Draghi. The Paris CAC

was one of the better performers, let's take a look here. Up about half of one percent. Shares in Unilever finished up nearly 1 percent in London.

The company says it's selling its margarine and spreads business which includes flora and stock brands as well.

European leaders have held meetings to clear the path for Brexit negotiations. Britain's Prime Minister met the president of the European

council earlier today in London. The EU says Theresa May and Donald Tusk agreed to keep in touch and try to lower tensions when talks become

strained. In Berlin, the Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, has been talking to Germany's Angela Merkel. He says it's important there's no

return to a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.


ENDA KENNY, IRISH PRIME MINISTER: Whatever happens in the Brexit negotiations, nothing should undermine the peace and stability that the

Chancellor has referred to in Northern Ireland, which has taken so long to achieve and in which the European Union has placed such an important part.

As demonstrated by recent developments, the peace and stability there remains in a fragile state. It is therefore critical that there is no

return to a hard border.


ASHER: Enda Kenny speaking there. Our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, is live for us in London. So, Nic, the EU really has to be

careful about some of the political sensitivities given the good Friday agreement. A hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern

Ireland would be a very difficult pill for a lot of people to swallow.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: And it would certainly be a politically damaging thing as well in Northern Ireland as we heard

Enda Kenny say right there. The pressure however, seems to be more on the British government than it does on the European Union in this part of the

negotiations. If you put up a hard border, the farmers on the north who trade across the border to the south selling their milk, buying their feed,

on both sides would be essentially out of pocket. And it would begin to fuel the paramilitaries who still exist on the northern side, begin to fuel

their campaign against the British government.

So, it would be, where things stand right now, and he alluded to this, it is, you know, compared to the last 20 years since the troubles ended into a

peace agreement was made, things are tense in Northern Ireland. And so, this is a very real concern. You put up a hard border, you damage business

interests. The economy goes down. It helps the narrative of those who want to return to violence. So that's the concern there. But the pressure

is really on the British, that came in the negotiating points from Donald Tusk last week, when he said one of the key things for him was that the

agreement, whatever was decided, could not reinstate that wall and could not undermine the peace.

It's not clear how the British government is going to achieve this. There is a conventional movement that's existed across the border since 1922.

But the British government has talked themselves about they're not going to do this, but now going to negotiate. Actually, get into this negotiation,

they're beginning to realize from their former European partners, it's going to be tougher than they expected, they're going to have to concede

more ground that they expected. But they haven't yet said how really this soft border that they want to achieve in Northern Ireland can actually

happen. There's so much detail we don't know about. That's the concern. Of course, the fact that Enda Kenny went to Germany and raise this with

Germany, really shows how worried they are. Of course, they hope that the German Chancellor can really be the strong partner and strong voice in the

EU 27 during these talks.

ASHER: So, Nic, then what would a soft border even look like?

ROBERTSON: t would be one that would allow trade across the border. It would be one that would allow the ready movement of people across the

border. But that begs the question, how can you have, you know, one set of rules, regulations, and restrictions on one side of the border, and one on

the other side? How could you have, for example, EU citizens from let's say Spain, turning up in Ireland, and have the same ability as the Irish

farmer living on the south side of the border traveling across the border to sell his products in market, as happens today, on the northern side of

the border, which would be Britain?

If it's OK for the Irish farmer to do that, what about the Spanish citizen? That's what a soft border means. It means that the border would be

potentially open for anyone, migrants or anyone else. Of course, the real complaint here behind the whole Brexit movement was the free movement of

people. What would there be without a hard border to stop the free movement of people across the border who wanted to come into Britain?

[16:30:00] So there hasn't been articulated a clear way to do this other than an aspiration. The aspiration is that those business ties can

continue. But this sort of EU citizens arriving who aren't Irish wouldn't be able to move across the border. At the moment, the technicalities

really aren't clear to anyone.

ASHER: So many questions unanswered. One MP said, how do you have a hard Brexit without a hard border? Nic Robertson live for us there, thank you

so much, appreciate that.

Still to come on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, the U.S. Secretary of State says an international effort is under way to oust President Bashar al Assad as

President Trump contemplates using force in Syria.


ASHER: Hello, everyone, I'm Zain Asher. Coming up in the next half hour, European regulators sent a warning about the electronic ban on some Middle

East flights. Argentina's president tells us what the U.S. can learn about his country's troubled past.

Two days after the suspected chemical attack in northern Syria, the U.S. now says Syrian planes were in the air and dropped bombs in the city center

around the time of the attack. One U.S. official tells CNN radar intelligence tracked the regime's planes and infrared heat of the bombs.

Following that attack, one source says U.S. President Donald Trump has told some lawmakers he's considering military action in Syria. The source says

Mr. Trump has not decided to go ahead with anything but is discussing possible action with his defense secretary.

The Chinese and U.S. presidents have both arrived in Florida for a two-day summit at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. It will begin with dinner a couple of

hours from now. The meeting will be closely watched for signs of how Mr. Trump intends to conduct foreign policy with Beijing. Trade and North

Korea will be top of the agenda.

I want to turn now to our top story. Sources tell CNN that President Trump is considering, he's weighing his options, considering military action in

Syria. He's actually due to get a briefing from his secretary of defense James Mattis. Our Jeremy Diamond is in Palm Beach, Florida.

[16:35:00] Jeremy, this marks a dramatic about-face from the types of rhetoric we heard from Donald Trump as a private citizen a few years ago

when he was staunchly against military action in Syria. I guess now he's learning that there's a huge difference between campaigning and governing.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Reporter: Yes, that's right, Zain. We saw yesterday the president really publicly undergoing this kind

of shift. We saw him kind of mulling over the issue and saying clearly that the chemical attack that took place in Syria crossed many lines for

him and really has changed his thinking in Syria, not just on how the U.S. role should be in Syria, but particularly as it pertains to Syrian

President Bashar al Assad. The president also said when asked by reporters whether Assad should leave power, should be deposed in some way, the

president said simply "something should happen," underscoring again that Assad did something, quote unquote, terrible, and happened in Syria was,

quote, one of the truly egregious crimes.

Clearly the president is taking a different tack here. During the campaign trail, if you'll remember, he repeatedly criticized President Barack Obama,

when he put special forces in Syria, saying he should either put more or none at all. But he wants to focus on going after is, perhaps partnering

with Russia, one of Syria's big benefactors to do so. As of now we don't know whether he'll go forward with that. He is going to be briefed this

afternoon by his secretary of defense, James Mattis.

ASHER: So, you just said we don't know whether or not he's going to go forward with a military action in Syria. But the fact that he's raised the

stakes, the fact that he's even talked about this, the fact that he's talked about removing Assad, the administration has talked about removing

Assad, it makes it that much more difficult for the administration to then go back on their word in the same way that president Obama did a few years


DIAMOND: Yes, I think there is a slight difference, where president Trump is not saying, listen, there's a red line in Syria and if we cross that we

are absolutely going to act militarily. What he's saying though is he's considering military action. That in and of itself, as you said, is an

escalation and a change from his past position on this issue. I think it's important to under64, though, during the campaign, while the president has

hesitant to go after Bashar al Assad and hesitant to lay out what kind of increase in troop levels he would do in Syria, you know, he was very

cautious in saying that he didn't want to lay out those plans, he didn't want to telegraph that message. That's one of key things that's

underpinned his foreign policy. The president under his administration, as we know already, the U.S. has increased troop numbers in Syria already.

So, we have seen a certain escalation already. The question is now whether that escalation will take place and affect Bashar al Assad's forces as

well, or whether the U.S. will simple focus on going after is.

ASHER: Jeremy Diamond, live for us there, we appreciate it.

The Mar-a-Lago summit was meant to be a chance for President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to talk trade. Donald Trump has pledged to

put a dent in the $3 billion U.S. trade deficit -- -- $300 billion deficit, excuse me, with China. Joining me is the president of the U.S.-China

Chamber of Commerce. Thanks for being with us. What are President Trump's options right now when it comes to reducing the trade deficit with China in

a way that doesn't hurt the American consumer by making goods more expensive?

SIVA YAM, PRESIDENT, U.S.-CHINA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: I don't think we have many options. Basically, those goods we do not want to make in America,

it's very difficult for us to imagine that U.S. factories will go back to make coffee makers which are selling for 10, $20, much cheaper than 20

years ago before China opened up the market. I think the real option is for us to ask China to honor the intellectual property rights, not to copy

our technology. I think those are the strengths of U.S. companies. Technology is what we do the best. For our products like shoes, like

coffee makers, microwaves, if we don't buy from China, we're going to buy from some other country, those have no margin. What we're good at is not

manufacturing those commodity types. It's high value added.

ASHER: So --

YAM: And I don't think we don't have a larger option. I'm sorry.

[16:40:00] ASHER: No, no problem. I was saying that basically the option for President Trump is to try and get China to limit the restrictions they

have on American goods coming into their country, that way the U.S. can actually boost their exports to China.

YAM: That is correct. And also, to make the playing field more level, so that U.S. companies will have a chance to export more to China.

ASHER: So just walk us through in terms of Donald Trump has promised, he's promised the American people that listen, we're going to talk to China,

it's going to be very difficult because his goal is to try and bring American jobs back from China to the U.S. at this point, in your opinion,

is that really possible?

YAM: To some extent, yes. But not really. We have seen some manufacturing moving back from America. But they do not create jobs.

Because we are more advanced in technology, we are more efficient. So -- and after the financial crisis, they can do the same amount of jobs by

employing fewer people. You have seen some manufacturing moving back to America. But not jobs, simply because we are more efficient.

ASHER: Thank you so much, we appreciate it.

Still to come here on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, U.S. and European airline authorities can't agree if the safest place to stow electronic items should

be in the hold or cabin. We will have details after the break.


ASHER: Welcome back, everybody. In Europe, an aviation regulator is calling on airlines to take new precautions on electronics. Many devices

in the cabin were banned amid fears of terrorism. The European safety agency is concerned about gadgets in the hold, in the cargo area informant

plane. It says increasing the number of electronic devices in the hold could actually increase the risk of an accidental fire. The international

air transport association says the U.S. move to restrict electronics in the cabin was a shock and that governments are making some intolerable

decisions. Airline executives have told CNN they have to balance the risks according to what each individual government is telling them.


ALAN JOYCE, CEO, QANTAS: We know that these lithium batteries have had issues in the past and it's a risk, having them in the hold. Every airline

will have to make sure it understands what the unintended consequences of this is and make sure they're minimalized.

RICHARD BRANSON, CEO, VIRGIN AIRLINES: If they've got a worry about big devices, putting them in the hold is not necessarily any safer than keeping

them in the cabin and in some ways, I would have marginally thought it was better if people had them in the cabin and properly checked as they got

into the cabin.


[16:45:00] ASHER: Mary Schiavo joins us live. I'm having trouble understanding why a large amount of electronics in the cargo, specifically

in the hold, actually increases the risk of a fire versus carrying it on with you in your hand luggage.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, because in the cargo hold, it will be inaccessible where someone can put the fire out. In most modern

aircraft, you have fire protection and suppression equipment in the cargo hold. What they've found out is it's very difficult to put out an

electrical fire that's caused by these lithium ion batteries. In fact, the best way to put it out is with copious amounts of water. There are

instructional videos out on all the airlines how to do it, if one catches fire in the cabin, and it's pouring water on it, which can't be done in an

environment where the halon was trying to put out the fire. That's a technical side with the batteries. The United States, the U.K., and all

aviation agencies have banned shipments of these batteries in the cargo holds, pallets of them, and encourages passengers not to put them in the

hold because of the fire risk.

ASHER: If a fire did break out in the cargo hold, how would the pilots be alerted to the fire, would they be alerted to the fire?

SCHIAVO: Yes, they would. All modern aircraft, certainly all Boeing aircraft, all Airbus aircraft, they have several systems. They have the

fire detection systems which are automatic, they put warnings into the pilots' cabin. What happens is, when one goes, if there's another one near

it, it can cause a series of events. It's called a cascade event. And then the pilots can apply additional fire suppression methods if the first

one fails. But experiments as of late said water is the key. As you know, water is very heavy, so aircraft don't carry lots of water to put out fires

in the cargo holds. The best thing would of course be to get the plane back on the ground.

ASHER: Why is there a difference between European regulators with how they see this and American regulators?

SCHIAVO: Because of the threat. The U.K. and the United States have had to weigh the threat for terrorism and the threat of terrorism right now

against the risk of a lithium ion battery fire when it's not a pallet of batteries, when they're separated and isolated. Because the key is keeping

the heat down and the ventilation between the batteries. And so, the U.S. and the U.K., sadly, have had a lot more experience of terrorist plots

taking out a large number of airliners. We had a plot in `94-'95, aimed at U.S. carriers, U.S. flights across the pacific. They wanted to take out 11

planes. And then the 2006 plot out of London where the terrorists wanted to take as many as 18 flights out. Probably it was somewhere between eight

to ten of flights headed to the United States. That's why we have the liquid ban or near liquid ban, the limited amount of liquids. Then we had

the underwear bomber, the shoe bomber, Britain and U.S. plots, terrorist plots against the U.K. and the U.S. and so sadly, the U.S. and the U.K.'s

intelligence might be more attuned to the risk, because it's named at those two nations.

ASHER: So, it's all about the threats. Mary Schiavo live for us there, thank you so much.

He met Donald Trump across a negotiating table because of a real estate deal, now he is the president of Argentina and says the U.S. president can

learn from his country's economic mistakes.


ASHER: Welcome back, everybody. The president of Argentina wants the United States to learn from his country's decades of mistakes. He says

protectionism only leads to poverty. Opening up the Argentine economy hasn't exactly been pain-free. Right now, much of the country is at a

standstill after a general strike over government spending cuts, job losses as well. The president told CNN's Gabrielle Frias that populism is out and

democracy is in.


MAURICIO MACRI, PRESIDENT, ARGENTINA: You can't change 20 years of mistakes. But the good thing is, as we saw on Saturday, the majority of

the Argentines, we have learned from our mistakes of the past, and now we want to work together. We feel that democracy is the system in which we

have to create constructive relations, that we have to dial up among every sector. That is going on. Argentina is in the middle of a cultural change

with an incredible energy towards the future. But still there are a minority of people that are still thinking that old times were better, and

that populism is a good way to continue handle relations. Fortunately, the majority are thinking differently.

GABRIELLE FRIAS, CNN EN ESPANOL: I'm sure you're aware of many concerns about possible protectionism in the United States. Nothing has been

finalized. But the concern is there. But for Argentina, what did Argentina learn from protectionism, and why are you moving away from


MACRI: Protectionism, isolation, in the last 30 years, it only achieved consolidating poverty. So, we believe that we have to go through a journey

of gradual intelligent openness to the world. We don't believe that keeping with the same rules of the past will bring up any different result.

FRIAS: As you know, Mexico is facing a lot of uncertainty with the U.S. from NAFTA and the immigration policy, also the border wall. What's the

message that you and other Latin American leaders are sending to Mexico while it faces these un-certainties?

MACRI: That is a great opportunity to turn around and look a bit more to south America. In Argentina, it's a great chance to balance relations.

Mexico has a wonderful relationship with the United States. But this shows that it's better to keep and to deepen relationships with many other

countries, especially the ones in the region that we share a language. We share culture, football. How many argentines have been playing Mexican

football in the last ten years? And coaches. It shows the recent friendly -- it's a friendship among our countries. It should be very easy to deepen


[16:55:00] FRIAS: You're visiting President Trump at the end of April. Some people compare his style, his rhetoric, his trade policies, to Peron

and your most recent predecessor. Do you see any similarities between Trump and Argentina's former presidents?

MACRI: No, no. He's unique. He's unique. Donald Trump is unique.

FRIAS: You know President Trump of course from your days in real estate. And your family did a real estate project with him in New York in 1980s.

Who is the better negotiator, you or resident Trump?

MACRI: In those days, I think it was President Trump. I expect that I will be better now. I have grown a lot. I was only 24 in those days, no?

At the end, both parts take something that is reasonable. I expect we will reach that equilibrium.


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That is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS this evening. I'm Zain Asher in New York. The news continues on CNN.