Britain Seeks ‘Bespoke’ EU Trade Deal, Pact With China

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British Finance Minister Philip Hammond said Saturday it is likely Britain will want to negotiate a bespoke arrangement for a future trade deal with the European Union, rather than copying existing arrangements like the Canada-EU deal. The European Union agreed Friday to move Brexit talks onto trade and a transition pact, but some leaders cautioned that the final year of divorce negotiations before Britain’s exit could be fraught with peril. Summit chairman Donald Tusk said the world’s biggest trading bloc would begin “exploratory contacts” with Britain on what London wants in a future trade relationship, as well as starting discussion on the immediate post-Brexit transition. No off-the-shelf deal Speaking in Beijing, Hammond it was probably not helpful to think in terms of off-the-shelf models like the Canada-EU deal. “We have…
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Huge Tax Bill Heads for Passage as GOP Senators Fall in Line

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After weeks of quarrels and qualms and then 11th-hour horse-trading, Republicans revealed their huge national tax rewrite late Friday, along with announcements of support that all but guarantee approval next week. The legislation would slash tax rates for big business and lower levies on the richest Americans in a massive $1.5 trillion bill that the GOP plans to pass through Congress before the year-end break. Benefits for most other taxpayers would be smaller. "This is happening. Tax reform under Republican control of Washington is happening," House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told rank-and-file members in a conference call. "Most critics out there didn't think it could happen. ... And now we're on the doorstep of something truly historic." According to the 1,097-page bill, today's 35 percent rate on corporations would fall…
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Powerful CEOs Demand DACA Fix

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Two titans of U.S. business have come together to demand that Congress find an immediate solution for DACA recipients, whose legal immigration status will come to an end in March without intervention. Charles Koch, chairman and chief executive of Koch Industries, and Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, wrote in an opinion piece published Thursday in The Washington Post that “we strongly agree that Congress must act before the end of the year to bring certainty and security to the lives of dreamers. Delay is not an option. Too many people’s futures hang in the balance.” Dreamers is another term for participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has protected undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. as children and provided them with work permits.…
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Fish Farming Project Helps CAR Refugees Feed Themselves

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The United Nations says humanitarian needs in refugee camps in Cameroon are increasing, exceeding the means available to take care of the growing number of refugees. But some of the refugees have empowered themselves by making use of resources around them to earn a living for their families. At Gado refugee camp in eastern Cameroon,  200 refugee women have developed a fish pond by a river and are supplying fish not only to people in need in the camp but to surrounding villages. More than a hundred women sing here on the side of a river at Gado near the United Nations refugee camp. It is a day of harvest and many refugees have come to buy. Among the fish farmers is 31-year-old Christine Mboula, a Central African Refugee who…
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Greek Unions Strike as Bailouts to End With Austerity Blitz

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Greece's workers walked off the job for a 24-hour general strike Thursday, as the country prepares to stop relying on European rescue loans but continues to pile more austerity measures on hard-hit taxpayers.   The strike halted ferry services to the islands, closed state schools, and left public hospitals accepting only emergency cases.   Airlines rescheduled and cancelled flights as some airport staff joined the labor action with a four-hour work stoppage, and public transport was operating only for certain hours during the day.   Thousands of people gathered in Athens for anti-government protests, while demonstrations were planned in more than 50 cities and towns across the country.   “The government is doing a dirty job at the expense of the Greek people,” said Greek Communist Party leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas,…
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Decade Since Recession: Thriving Cities Leave Others Behind

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As the nation's economy was still reeling from the body blow of the Great Recession, Seattle's was about to take off. In 2010, Amazon opened a headquarters in the little-known South Lake Union district — and then expanded eight-fold over the next seven years to fill 36 buildings. Everywhere you look, there are signs of a thriving city: Building cranes looming over streets, hotels crammed with business travelers, tony restaurants filled with diners.   Seattle is among a fistful of cities that have flourished in the 10 years since the Great Recession officially began in December 2007, even while most other large cities — and sizable swaths of rural America — have managed only modest recoveries. Some cities are still struggling to shed the scars of recession.   In Las Vegas, half-finished…
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US Central Bank Raises Interest Rate Slightly

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The U.S. central bank raised its key interest rate slightly Wednesday, but left the level low enough to continue stimulating economic growth. The Federal Reserve pushed up rates a quarter of a percent to a range between 1.25 and 1.5 percent. The increase leaves the benchmark rate below historic averages.       The Fed slashed rates nearly to zero during the recession in a bid to boost the economy and fight unemployment by making it cheaper to borrow the money needed to build factories, buy equipment and hire people. Janet Yellen, at her last press conference as chair of the Federal Reserve, said economic growth is "solid" as business investment and overseas demand grow. She said the impact of tax changes working their way through Congress is "uncertain" but would probably…
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Sweet Victory: French Candymakers Win China Legal War

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Revenge is sweet for the makers of France's traditional "calisson" candies, who have won a months-long legal battle with a businessman who trademarked the product's name in China. The lozenge-shaped sweets, made of a mixture of candied fruit and ground almonds topped with icing, are widely enjoyed in France's southern Aix-en-Provence region. Their makers were none too pleased when Chinese entrepreneur Ye Chunlin spotted a sweet opportunity in 2015 to register the "Calisson d'Aix" name for use at home, as well as its Mandarin equivalent, "kalisong". The trademark was set to be valid until 2026, sparking angst among Provence's sweetmakers who worried Ye's move could have barred them from entering the huge Chinese market. But China's copyright office rejected Ye's claim to the brand name in a decision seen by…
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Tanzania Orders Tighter Controls on Currency, Bank Crackdown as Growth Slows

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Tanzanian president John Magufuli ordered the central bank on Wednesday to tighten controls on the movement of hard currency and take swift action against failing banks in a bid to tackle financial crimes and protect the local shilling currency. The move comes as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) called on Tanzania to speed up reforms and spend more to prevent a slowdown in one of the world's fastest-growing economies. Magufuli pledged to reform an economy hobbled by red tape and corruption and begin a program to develop public infrastructure after he was elected in 2015. "We now have some 58 banks in Tanzania, the [central] Bank of Tanzania should closely monitor these banks and take swift action against failing institutions. It's better to have a few viable banks than many…
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US, EU, Japan Slam Market Distortion in Swipe at China

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The United States, European Union and Japan vowed Tuesday to work together to fight market-distorting trade practices and policies that have fueled excess production capacity, naming several key features of China's economic system. In a joint statement that did not single out China or any other country, the three economic powers said they would work within the World Trade Organization and other multilateral groups to eliminate unfair competitive conditions caused by subsidies, state-owned enterprises, "forced" technology transfer and local content requirements. The move was a rare show of solidarity with the United States at a World Trade Organization meeting dominated by differences over U.S. President Donald Trump's "America First" trade agenda and U.S. efforts to stall the appointment of WTO judges. It reflected growing frustration among industrial countries over China's…
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Afreximbank Pledges Up to $1.5B to Post-Mugabe Zimbabwe

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The African Export and Import Bank has pledged up to $1.5 billion in new loans and financial guarantees to Zimbabwe in a major boost for new President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government, the bank's president and chairman said Tuesday. Mnangagwa, who took over last month after veteran autocrat Robert Mugabe quit following a de facto military coup, has vowed to focus on reviving the struggling economy and provide jobs in a nation with an unemployment rate exceeding 80 percent. Afreximbank was the only international lender that stood by Zimbabwe throughout Mugabe's repressive 37-year rule, but its quick announcement of a fresh package of loans and guarantees appeared to be a vote of confidence in the new government. Cairo-based Afreximbank was a major funder of Zimbabwe while the country was cut off from…
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Filipino Houses From Debris, Californian Fruit Pickers’ Homes Win Major Award

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A project in the Philippines that used debris to rebuild typhoon-ravaged houses and Californian homes providing year-round housing for migrant workers won one of the world's most prestigious housing awards on Tuesday. The development charity CARE used innovative techniques, such as teaching building skills to residents and using wreckage from destroyed homes, to rehouse more than 15,000 Filipino families devastated in 2013 by Typhoon Haiyan. "This is the first time self-recovery has been used on such a large scale," said David Ireland, director of British charity World Habitat, which co-hosts the World Habitat Awards together with the United Nations (U.N.) settlement program, UN-Habitat. "It has helped more people, more quickly, than traditional disaster recovery programs. The potential of this approach to be used elsewhere is absolutely huge." The winners of…
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Waiting for Congress, Mnuchin Makes 2nd Emergency Debt Move

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday he is making a second emergency move to keep the government from going above the debt limit while awaiting congressional action to raise the threshold.   In a letter to congressional leaders, Mnuchin said he will not be able to fully invest in a large civil service retirement and disability fund. Skipped investments will be restored once the debt limit has been raised, he said.   In September, Congress agreed to suspend the debt limit, allowing the government to borrow as much as it needed. But that suspension ended Friday.   The government said the debt subject to limit stood at $20.46 trillion on Friday. Mnuchin has said he will employ various "extraordinary measures" to buy time until Congress raises the limit.   The…
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US High Court Turns Away Dispute Over Gay Worker Protections

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by a Georgia security guard who said she was harassed and forced from her job because she is a lesbian, avoiding an opportunity to decide whether a federal law that bans gender-based bias also outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation. The justices left in place a lower court ruling against Jameka Evans, who had argued that workplace sexual orientation discrimination violates Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Workplace protections are a major source of concern for advocates of rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Gregory Nevins, an attorney at Lambda Legal, an LGBT legal advocacy group representing Evans, said it was unfortunate the court turned away the case. Lambda Legal had cited language…
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EU-Mercosur Talks Hit Snags, Announcement Could Be Delayed

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Free-trade talks between the European Union and South American trade bloc Mercosur still face hurdles over beef and ethanol, and an expected deal announcement this week might not happen, officials involved in negotiations said on Monday. Mercosur diplomats involved in the talks on the sidelines of the World Trade Organization minister's meeting in Buenos Aires said EU officials had not presented improved offers on EU tariff-free imports of South American beef and ethanol as promised. “Basically, they want us to show our cards before they show theirs,” a senior diplomat from a Mercosur country told Reuters, asking not to be named due to the sensitive stage of the negotiations. Resistance by some EU member states to agricultural imports, such as Ireland and France, has delayed negotiation of the free trade…
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US: WTO Losing Trade Focus, Too Easy on Some Developing Nations

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U.S. President Donald Trump's trade chief said on Monday that the World Trade Organization (WTO) is losing its focus on trade negotiations in favor of litigation, and was going too easy on wealthier developing countries such as China. With Trump's "America First" trade agenda casting a cloud over the WTO's 11th ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires, representatives of other major members criticized protectionism and advocated a stronger multilateral trading system, while acknowledging the WTO's shortcomings. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who has said he does not want major agreements out of the meeting, voiced concern that the WTO was becoming a litigation-centered organization. "Too often members seem to believe they can gain concessions through lawsuits that they could never get at the negotiating table," he said. "We have to ask…
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Russia Urges India to Back China’s Belt and Road Initiative

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Russia threw its weight behind China's massive Belt and Road plan to build trade and transport links across Asia and beyond, suggesting to India on Monday that it find a way to work with Beijing on the signature project. India is strongly opposed to an economic corridor that China is building in Pakistan that runs through disputed Kashmir as part of the Belt and Road initiative. India was the only country that stayed away from a May summit hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping to promote the plan to build railways, ports and power grids in a modern-day recreation of the Silk Road. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said New Delhi should not let political problems deter it from joining the project, involving billions of dollars of investment, and benefiting…
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Will Misconduct Scandals Make Men Wary of Women at Work?

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Some women, and men, worry the same climate that’s emboldening women to speak up about sexual misconduct could backfire by making some men wary of female colleagues. Forget private meetings and get-to-know-you dinners. Beware of banter. Think twice before a high-ranking man mentors a young female staffer. “I have already heard the rumblings of a backlash: ‘This is why you shouldn’t hire women,’” Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a recent post . “So much good is happening to fix workplaces right now. Let’s make sure it does not have the unintended consequence of holding women back,” said Sandberg, author of the working women’s manifesto “Lean In.” Ana Quincoces, a Miami-based attorney and entrepreneur who owns her own food line, says her business and its success involves working…
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Traders Brace for Launch of Bitcoin Futures Market

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The newest way to bet on bitcoin, the cyptocurrency that has taken Wall Street by storm with its stratospheric price rise and wild daily gyrations, will arrive Sunday when bitcoin futures start trading. The launch has given an extra kick to the cyptocurrency’s scorching run this year. It has nearly doubled in price since the start of December, but recent days saw sharp moves in both directions, with bitcoin losing almost a fifth of its value Friday after surging more than 40 percent in the previous 48 hours. But while some market participants are excited about a regulated way to bet on or hedge against moves in bitcoin, others caution that risks remain for investors and possibly even the clearing organizations underpinning the trades. The futures are cash-settled contracts based…
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Argentina Blocks Two Activists From Entry on Eve of WTO Meeting

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Argentina blocked two European activists from entering the country on the eve of the World Trade Organization's ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires, the two told a local radio program Saturday. Sally Burch, a British activist and journalist for the Latin American Information Agency, said Argentina had already revoked credentials given to her by the WTO to attend the meeting but thought she would be able to enter the country as a tourist. "They found my name on a list and started asking questions ... supposedly I was a false tourist," Burch said on Radio 10. "It's not very democratic of Argentina's government." Petter Titland, spokesman for the Norweigan NGO Attac Norge, said authorities denied him entry without explaining why. Late last month, Argentina rescinded the credentials of 60 activists who…
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Wind, Fire, Ash Destroy Much of California Avocado Crop

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The wildfire that roared through the orchards of California’s Ventura County destroyed much of the region’s avocado crop not just with flames, but also with fierce Santa Ana winds and a thick blanket of ash. With the so-called Thomas Fire just 10 percent contained by Friday afternoon, after blackening more than 132,000 acres across Ventura County and destroying some 400 homes and other structures, it is too soon to know the extent of the damage to the upcoming avocado harvest. But experts say even the mostly family-owned orchards spared by the epic conflagration may have suffered devastating losses to their crops from the hot, dry Santa Ana winds that blow out of the California desert, knocking avocados from the trees with gusts up to 80 miles per hour. (129 kilometers…
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‘Worker Bee’ Round of NAFTA Talks to Focus on Easier Chapters

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NAFTA trade negotiators convene in Washington next week for a limited round of talks unlikely to move the needle on major sticking points, but aimed at demonstrating some progress toward closing easier chapters. Last month's round of negotiations to update the North American Free Trade Agreement in Mexico City failed to resolve major differences, as Canada and Mexico pushed back on what they saw as unreasonable U.S. demands on automotive content rules, dispute settlement and a five-year sunset clause. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said that the United States wanted to see "meaningful progress" before year's end. The "intersessional" meetings in a Washington hotel come with lower expectations and without trade ministers from the three countries, who are due to attend a World Trade Organization meeting in Buenos Aires. Some lobbyists…
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Bangladesh Asks NY Fed to Help it Recover Stolen Millions

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Bangladesh’s central bank has asked the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to join a lawsuit it plans to file against a Philippines bank for its role in one of the world’s biggest cyber-heists, several sources said. The Fed has yet to respond formally, but there is no indication it would join the suit. Unidentified hackers stole $81 million from Bangladesh Bank’s account at the New York Fed in February last year, using fraudulent orders on the SWIFT payments system. The money was sent to accounts at Manila-based Rizal Commercial Banking Corp and then disappeared into the casino industry in the Philippines. Nearly two years later, there is no word on who was responsible, and Bangladesh Bank has been able to retrieve only about $15 million, mostly from a Manila…
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7 Years in Prison for Former Top Volkswagen Manager  

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A federal judge in Michigan has sentenced a former high-level Volkswagen manager to seven years in prison for his part in the scheme to cheat emissions tests and defraud consumers. Oliver Schmidt has also been fined $400,000. He pleaded guilty in August to charges that included defrauding the United States and violating the Clean Air Act. “This sentence reflects how seriously we take environmental crime,” Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Lemisch said Wednesday. “Protecting national resources is a priority of this office. Corporations and individuals acting on behalf of corporations will be brought to justice for harming our environment.” Schmidt was the general manager of Volkswagen’s U.S. Environment and Engineering office. He admitted knowing about and agreeing with engineers to carry out a scheme to install a device on certain VW…
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China’s Ofo Joins Crowded Paris Bike-share Market

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China's Ofo launched its dockless bicycles in Paris on Wednesday, becoming the fourth bike-sharing plan operator in a city set to banish all combustion-engine cars by 2030. Ofo France general manager Laurent Kennel told Reuters the firm, one of two bike-sharing giants in China, had put just over 100 of its bright yellow bicycles on Paris roads on Wednesday and plans to ramp that up to 1,000 bikes by year-end. Ofo comes hot on the wheels of Hong Kong-owned Gobee.bike, which launched in October and whose bright green bikes, estimated at a few thousand, can be seen on every Paris street. A third Asian player, Singapore-owned oBike, has a few hundred bikes on Paris streets, and will also compete with the city's long-established Velib plan. Unlike the dockless Asian bikes,…
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Climate ‘Refugees,’ Sidelined From Global Deal, Ask: ‘Where Is the Justice?’

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Vulnerable communities uprooted by climate change are being left out of a voluntary pact to deal with migration, campaigners said, after the United States pulled out of the global deal. Although people within low-lying states are being forced to relocate because of worsening storms and rising seas, they will not be recognized in U.N. migration pact talks next year, putting lives at risk, campaigners said. "Many of the situations we find ourselves in, here in the Pacific, are not caused by us. We continue to ask, 'Where is the justice?' Those of us who are least responsible, continue to bear the brunt," said Emele Duituturaga, head of the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (PIANGO). Hoping for acceptance "We hope that there will be an openness and an acceptance that climate-induced…
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France’s War on Waste Makes It Most Food Sustainable Country

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A war on food waste in France, where supermarkets are banned from throwing away unsold food and restaurants must provide doggy bags when asked, has helped it secure the top spot in a ranking of countries by their food sustainability. Japan, Germany, Spain and Sweden rounded out the top five in an index published the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which graded 34 nations based on food waste, environment-friendly agriculture and quality nutrition. It is "unethical and immoral" to waste resources when hundreds of millions go hungry across the world, Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said at the launch of the Food Sustainability Index 2017 on Tuesday. "We are all responsible, every person and every country," he said in the Italian city of Milan, according to a…
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