Tag Archives: Trade

Tense G7 opens in Biarritz

World leaders are gathering in Biarritz (France) for the G7 summit. Addressing the event the European Council President Donald Tusk said will be a “difficult test of unity and solidarity” due to deep divisions over a range of issues including trade and climate change.

The annual gathering of the G7 nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) some of the world’s key industrial countries, open on August 24 in the French Atlantic resort of Biarritz.

The three-day summit is taking place against the backdrop of an escalating trade war between the US and China, Brexit, mounting tensions between Washington and Tehran over Iran nuclear programme and global concern over Amazon forest fires ravaging Brazil.

Thousands of different groups of protesters from all over the world rallied in the nearby town of Hendaye.

Siberia fires: illegal timber trade with China

Among major causes of devastating Sibera fires Duma Ecology committee chair Vladimir Bourmatov points at the activities of illegal lumberjacks, or “black loggers”. At present upon the request of the State Duma, the government and the Investigative committee of the Russian Federation, have launched the investigation into the occurrence of 500 epicenters of forest blaze as cause of illegal human activities. (Image above: Russian social networks).

The entire forest industry in Russia is in the “shadow” sector. A temporary timber export embargo has been suggested earlier this year. The statement was made by the chairwoman of the Federation Council (upper house of Russian parliament) Valentina Matvienko, requesting an imposition of embargo on the export of timber from Russia until rules are in place. She suggested to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to take measures without delay in February this year.

Matvienko explained the ways of illegal logging and illegal export abroad. The entire trade is oriented toward China as the largest importer of round timber in the world. Thus, massive deforestation is conducted under the pretext of sanitary protection of removing the diseased and rotting trees, instead the companies which are supposed to take care of the forests, are cutting down the best of spruces, pines and oaks and transporting them to China. The lucrative illegal trade is masked by ecological activities across the entire Siberia.

The forest fires in Siberia began almost a week ago, but because of the negligence of Russian officials, who were unwilling to take an action, the area of ignition has been steadily and rapidly increasing reaching an epic scale: more than three million hectares in flames, and smoke stretches for 700 km. At present it has already reached the coast of the USA and Canada, cities touched Vancouver and Seattle.

However the smoke from the blaze continues to stretch further: is now visible in Alaska. In total, three million hectares of forest burn in Siberia. It roughly reaches the size of Belgium.

Meteorology professor from Moscow State University, Alexander Kislov said that the burning particles can fly around the entire planet from west to east, following the movement of Earth in space.

Under wave of international criticism Roscosmos Corporation revealed the gravity of the situation publishing the images of fires swiftly spreading along territories of Russian Federation in the Jewish Autonomous Region, the Republic of Sakha, Buryatia, the Irkutsk Region, the Krasnoyarsk and Khabarovsk Territories.

After the situation caused grave international concern, Russian authorities started to act under direct orders of President Putin, who sent army to resolve the ecological crisis.

At present more than 2.8 million hectares of forest are consumed by blaze, withe the largest area in fire is in Yakutia, where 1.1 million hectares of forest are in flames, in the Krasnoyarsk Territory the flames spread to more than one million hectares, and in the Irkutsk Region – 700 thousand hectares.

This week only 2.700 people, 390 units of ground equipment and 28 aircraft take part in extinguishing on the territory in flames equal to Belgium. The Siberians claim the response in not relevant to the scale of drama.

Among the other causes of Siberia fires Bourmatov names the inefficient and insufficient measures of prevention.

President Trump spoke with President Putin on July 31, and offered U.S. help in fighting according to a Kremlin account of the call.

Putin, in response, expressed his “sincere gratitude” to Trump and said that if necessary, he will accept the offer, the Kremlin said.

Putin, has called in the army to fight the forest fires, enveloping entire Siberian cities in black smoke for weeks. The local authorities has been explaining to population that measures against forest fires are not “economically viable“. They added that rains will stop the advancement of blaze, while meteo scientists clarified that hot air raising from fires prevents formation of clouds. There are no natural heavy rainfall expected until mid-September.

 

Merkel wishes Brexit on “good terms”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said  she wanted the UK and the European Union to part on good terms.

I care now that we and Britain divorce in a good process so that afterwards we can still work closely together in the areas where we must cooperate – on defense, on domestic security, on policing, on combating terrorism, and in trade too, and so that Britain can take part in our research projects if they want,Merkel said.

EU-Japan ‘strategic partners’ era

From December 2018 to February 2019 EU-Japan relations are set to receive a major lift with the signing of a new trade agreement and a strategic partnership.

Although EU and Japan already enjoy good relations, they have agreed to upgrade their partnership against a background of increasing international tensions and protectionism.

The proposed trade agreement will make it easier for European companies to export to Japan, while a planned strategic partnership will boost cooperation on common challenges such as security and the environment.

 

The European Parliament endorsed both proposals of the Commission during the December plenary. The Council will also have to approve both agreements before they can enter into force.

EU companies export more than €58 billion worth of goods and €28 billion in services to Japan a year, but the trade agreement will boost this even further by removing remaining barriers to trade. This includes eliminating 90% of tariffs on more than 90% of the EU’s exports to Japan. This is expected to save EU exporters about €1 billion in customs duties a year. In addition, Japan will recognise the special status of more than 200 European agricultural products from specific regions, known as Geographical Indications. Measures will also be taken to lower non-tariff barriers, for example by relying on international standards rather than specific Japanese requirements.

The EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement sends a timely signal in support of open, fair, values- and rules-based trade at a time of increasing protectionism and an erratic trade policy by US President Donald Trump. This agreement also represents an opportunity for the European Union (EU) in the Asia-Pacific, especially since the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) regional free trade agreement, and helps promote EU values and high standards in the region.”  MEP Pedro SILVA PEREIRA a Portuguese member of the S&D group, said the agreement was being concluded at an important time:

“This agreement will foster not only closer bilateral economic ties, but also concrete cooperation on sustainable development like the fight against climate change. The agreement can, in addition, enhance coordination on multilateral issues with Japan and help shape rules for the global economy in line with our high standards and shared values of respect for human rights, democracy and the rules of law” the MEP added.

MEPs said they saw the agreements as possible models for cooperation with other countries.

It is the first EU trade agreement with a commitment to the implementation of the Paris Agreement to combat climate change and with dedicated chapters on corporate governance and small and medium-sized enterprises. The agreement also upholds the EU’s high standards on environmental protection, consumer protection, food safety and labour rights, protects public services and respects the right to regulate
Silva Perreira said.

The two agreements have been possible because the EU and Japan are like-minded partners with shared values of democracy and a common vision for global trade and cooperation… high standards and the readiness to address current global challenges should be the cornerstone of future cooperation agreements” MEP Alojz
Peterle said.

Swiss cabinet against EU immigration referendum

The Swiss government said  it opposed curbing immigration from the European Union as suggested in a planned referendum because it  could harm exports to the country’s biggest trade partner.

“Cancelling the free movement of people would fundamentally call into question the bilateral path for Switzerland and Europe,” Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga  said at a press conference in Bern.

The 500-million strong EU insists its citizens be admitted to live and work freely in non-member Switzerland in exchange for enhanced Swiss access to the bloc’s Single market.

Anti-immigration members of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the largest party in parliament, have pushed to end that free movement on the grounds that it leaves the country without adequate tools to manage its growing population and encroaches on its sovereignty.

A referendum must be held on the matter as the required number of signatures has been gathered, but it remains unclear how much support such a proposal might garner in a nationwide vote. No date for the vote has been set yet.

The seven-member cabinet  said approving of the proposal at referendum would hurt Swiss efforts to attract qualified workers, stunt economic growth by crimping exports and raise the prices consumers pay for EU imports.

 

British minister sees “difficult end” to Brexit talks

The UK may not be able to reach the Article 50 Agreement  with the European Union because a number of contentious issues still stand in the way, Trade minister Liam Fox said in an interview to Sky News.

We are seeing a difficult end to the negotiation,” Fox pointed out. Answering the question on a possible Northern Ireland border settlement failure he added:

In that case we may not be able to reach an agreement with the European Union.”

Lamy warns EU trade about hardships ahead

The European Union should prepare for its companies to be targeted by US sanctions in a worsening trade dispute between the United States and China, former World Trade Organisation (WTO) director general Pascal Lamy said.

If the U.S. were to step further in not only hitting China with trade measures but with sanctions, if they were to deal with China the way they did with Iran, then we would all have a big problem,” Lamy said. “That’s why we need to have a careful look at what will happen in the case of Iran,” he added.

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