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International relations and impact on businesses in 2019

International relations and impact on businesses in 2019
With more than 9 months remaining in 2019 and range of budding topics we expect it to be an interesting year for geopolitics.

From US-China trade tensions to Brexit woes in Europe, 2019 is likely to be a roller coaster for geopolitics. As much as a government can help businesses reach their full potential with various reforms, its relations with other countries can significantly hamper operations.

Taking the example of US-China trade war, US President Donald Trump in March 2018 had said that, "Trade wars are good, easy to win," but a year down the line, US businesses operating in China don't seem to share the view. According to a survey, 60% of companies surveyed believe tariffs have harmed their operations.

And it is not just the trade war, we've seen big corporate giants move operations out of the United Kingdom, fearing the impact of Brexit as uncertainty rose after failed Parliamentary votes. Similarly, US sanctions on Iran impacted the global supply and prices of crude oil.

With more than 9 months remaining in 2019 and budding topics like Venezuelan political crisis, European Parliamentary elections, Canada-China tensions, we expect it to be an interesting year for geopolitics.

In this Live Discourse, we are tracking all the interesting happenings in geopolitical relations and its impact on businesses worldwide.


Parag Narang
Updated: 17-06-2019 14:39 IST Created: 11-03-2019 21:58 IST

2:39 PMSwiss ties with the European Union, its biggest trading partner, face a critical test this week as Brussels decides whether the two sides have made enough progress on a stalled draft treaty to head off punitive measures set to start at the end of June. After more than four years of negotiations produced a draft text in November, the Swiss government this month tentatively endorsed the accord but said it needed clarifications on three areas -- protecting Swiss wages, regulating state aid, and spelling out citizens' rights -- before it could sign off.

2:34 PMThe Group of 20 major economies said they agreed to a deal to reduce plastic waste that is choking the seas at a meeting in Japan on Sunday. They added that the steps would be voluntary and progress would be reported once a year.Plastic pollution has become a global concern, particularly after bans imposed by China and other countries on the import of plastic waste from overseas.

2:20 PMEnergy ministers from the Group of 20 major economies have shared concerns over attacks on tankers in the Gulf and will collaborate to maintain stability in the oil market, Japan's Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko has said Saturday.Two tankers, one operated by a Japanese shipping company, were attacked on Thursday. The United States blamed Iran for the attacks, raising concerns about a confrontation and driving up oil prices.Energy ministers from the Group of 20 major economies have shared concerns over attacks on tankers in the Gulf and will collaborate to maintain stability in the oil market, Japan's Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said on Saturday. Two tankers, one operated by a Japanese shipping company, were attacked on Thursday. The United States blamed Iran for the attacks, raising concerns about a confrontation and driving up oil prices.

1:01 PMUS President Donald Trump defended his administration's deal with Mexico against criticism that there were no major new commitments to stem a flow of Central American migrants crossing into the United States and said on Sunday more details would soon be released. Key aspects of the agreement are still unclear, including whether Mexico has pledged to buy more US agricultural products and if the deal materially expanded a previous commitment by Mexico to more vigorously police its southern border with Guatemala.

0:46 PMIran said on Sunday Europe was in no position to criticize Tehran for its military capabilities and it called on European leaders to normalize trade ties with the Islamic Republic despite US sanctions, or face consequences. President Donald Trump last year withdrew the United States from world powers' 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sweeping sanctions. Trump condemned the accord, signed by his predecessor Barack Obama, as flawed for not being permanent and for not covering Iran's ballistic missile program or its role in conflicts around the Middle East.

0:36 PMChinese state media has revealed that the government is planning to create a system to protect China's technology as the US restricts the access of Chinese companies to American technology in a spiralling trade dispute. The People's Daily newspaper reported on Sunday that the system will build a strong firewall to strengthen the nation's ability to innovate and to accelerate the development of key technologies. No details have been released about what China is calling a national technological security management list.The official Xinhua News Agency says the aim is to forestall and defuse national security risks more effectively. It says detailed measures would be unveiled in the near future. The initiative follows US moves to restrict sales to Huawei Technologies and other Chinese tech firms on national security grounds.

5:58 PMUS President Donald Trump has made immigration a central theme of his administration but has grown increasingly frustrated with the ballooning numbers of mostly Central American families crossing the US-Mexico border and turning themselves in to US authorities. A threat of across-the-board tariffs on Mexican goods starting on Monday unless Mexico does more to stop migrants from reaching the United States has led to high-stakes negotiations between the two governments.

5:53 PMUS President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would decide whether to carry out his threat to hit Beijing with tariffs on at least $300 billion in Chinese goods after a meeting of leaders of the world's largest economies late this month. Relations between the United States and China have deteriorated since Trump in early May accused Beijing of reneging on commitments to change its ways of doing business with the rest of the world.

09:44 AMThe world risks a descent into lawlessness and a new Cold War if multilateralism fails, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, calling on the European Union to take a lead role in fighting to preserve a rules-based global order. Speaking in the western German city of Aachen, where he was being awarded the annual Charlemagne Prize for promoting European unity, Guterres described the 28-nation bloc as a pillar of multilateralism that was "too big to fail".

09:41 AMMexico wants to sharpen existing measures in its bid to narrow a flood of Central American migrants to the US border, a top Mexican official said ahead of planned meetings in Washington over tariffs threatened by President Donald Trump.Trump had said that he would introduce the tariffs, starting at 5% on June 10 and quickly ratcheting higher if Mexico did not substantially halt illegal immigration, largely from Central America, across the US-Mexican border.

09:32 AMThe United States on Wednesday warned that Turkey will have to face "very real and very negative consequences" if Ankara finalises the purchase of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defence systems. In a statement, the State Department said, "We have said that the S-400 defence system, the acquisition of that would have serious consequences for the US and NATO's defence relationship with Turkey."The two NATO allies have argued for months over Turkey's order for the Russian S-400 defences, which Washington says are incompatible with the Western alliance's defence network and would pose a threat to American F-35 stealth fighters which Turkey also plans to buy.

09:26 AMActing US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Wednesday that tense trade negotiations between China and the United States should be treated separately from military talks between the two countries."The trade runs a separate track and we'll solve that, it is too important not to solve," Shanahan told reporters en route to Jakarta, Indonesia. "I don't believe they'll spill over into our dialogue and discussion on defence," he added.Tensions between China and the United States have intensified in the past year over an ongoing trade war, the disputed South China Sea and U.S. support for self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own.In a week-long trip that will take Shanahan to a number of Asian countries, his talks are likely to be dominated by China, with questions from allies about increasing tensions with Iran and stalled talks with North Korea.

09:23 AMUS commerce department on May 16 put Huawei on a trade blacklist that bans companies from doing business with Huawei, in a move which immediately disrupted the global tech sector.The ban comes amid an escalating trade dispute between the world's two biggest economies. Huawei, which has been given a 90-day reprieve from the ban, has denied that its products pose a security threat and protested Washington's attempts to limit its business.Huawei has now filed a motion for summary judgment in its lawsuit against the US government, according to a court filing in the United States, in the telecoms equipment maker's latest attempt to fight sanctions from Washington that threaten to push it out of global markets.

0:42 PMPeru, Ecuador and Colombia have signed a new trade deal with Britain, Peru's trade and tourism ministry said. The deal, which was signed by representatives of the four countries in Ecuador's capital Quito, will keep tariff preferences for the South American countries in place once Britain leaves the EU, the ministry said in a statement.The three countries already have an existing trade agreement with the EU.

0:34 PMThe European Union said on Friday it is prepared to negotiate a limited trade deal, including on cars, with the US, after President Donald Trump held off imposing auto tariffs. "We note that US postpones decision on car tariffs for 180 days," European trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom tweeted.Read More: EU seeks negotiation with US on limited trade deal

3:55 PMOn late Friday night, diplomatic cable from China arrived in Washington with systematic edits to a nearly 150-page draft trade agreement, according to three US government sources and three private sector sources briefed on the talks. The document was riddled with reversals by China that undermined core US demands, the sources told Reuters. This move by China can jeopardise the progress made after weeks of trade negotiations between US and Chinese officials and bring back the pressure on businesses facing an uncertain future due to the geopolitical tensions.The US President Donald Trump had last week warned of increased tariffs on USD 200 billion worth of Chinese goods, although it is not yet clear which categories of goods will be targetted, going by the previous stance of US, the steel sector is likely to bear the brunt.China has not yet threatened any retaliatory tariffs but more talks are planned this week that is likely to make the situation clearer.China's Vice Premier Liu He is set to arrive in Washington on Thursday for two days of talks that just last week were widely seen as pivotal – a possible last round before a historic trade deal.Also Read: China backtracking on aspects of U.S. trade deal, what lies ahead

00:18 AMU.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday the trade deal the United States is negotiating with China is going pretty well.Earlier this week, Trump's chief of staff said talks between Washington and Beijing aimed at ending a conflict marked by tit-for-tat tariffs would be resolved in the next two weeks.

08:37 AMIndia has once again delayed the implementation of higher tariffs on some goods imported from the United States to May 15, a government official said on Friday.The new tariff structure was to come into force from May 2, the spokeswoman said without citing reasons for the delay.Angered by Washington’s refusal to exempt it from new steel and aluminium tariffs, New Delhi decided in June last year to raise the import tax from Aug. 4 on some US products including almonds, walnuts and apples.But since then, New Delhi has repeatedly delayed the implementation of the new tariff.Trade friction between India and the US has escalated after US President Donald Trump announced plans earlier this year to end preferential trade treatment for India that allows duty-free entry for up to USD 5.6 billion worth of its exports to the United States.In a further blow, US also demanded buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers including India to continue importing limited volumes.

11:53 PMUS President Donald Trump has decided to eliminate all waivers issued to eight economies allowing them to buy Iranian oil without facing US sanctions, the White House said on Monday while vowing to ensure global oil market was well supplied.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to make an announcement on Monday detailing the decision. "The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates... along with our friends and allies, are committed to ensuring that global oil markets remain adequately supplied," the White House said.Oil prices spiked after Sunday reports that the waivers would end and remained higher on Monday. International benchmark Brent rose 2.6 per cent to $73.87 a barrel after earlier touching $74.31, highest since early November. The US crude futures gained 2.4 per cent, or $1.52 a barrel, to $65.52. It earlier touched a high of $65.87, a level not seen since late October.The United States reimposed sanctions in November on exports of Iranian oil after Trump unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers. Washington is pressuring Iran to curtail its nuclear program and stop backing militant proxies across the Middle East. Along with sanctions, Washington granted waivers to eight economies that had reduced their purchases of Iranian.oil, allowing them to continue buying it without incurring sanctions for six more months. They were China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece.

11:40 PMTurkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday Turkey is looking into establishing new trade mechanisms with Iran, like the INSTEX system set up by European countries to avoid U.S. sanctions reimposed last year on exports of Iranian oil.Cavusoglu reiterated Turkey's opposition to the sanctions and said Ankara and neighbouring Iran needed to keep working to raise their bilateral trade to a target of $30 billion, around triple current levels.These sanctions were followed President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw unilaterally from a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers to pressure Iran to curtail its nuclear programme and stop backing militant proxies in the Middle East.France, Germany and Britain have opened a new channel for non-dollar trade with Iran to avert sanctions, dubbed The Instrument In Support Of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX). Washington's European allies opposed Trump's move to abandon the 2015 deal, under which sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for Tehran accepting curbs on its nuclear programme.

10:55 PMEuropean Union governments agreed to the start of formal trade negotiations with the United States on Thursday, a move designed but not guaranteed to smooth strained relations between the world's two largest economies.The European Commission, which coordinates trade policy for the 28 member European Union, had sought clearance for two negotiating mandates - one to cut tariffs on industrial goods, the other to make it easier for companies to show their products meet EU or U.S. standards.This comes after the US threatened to impose tariff counter-measures of up to USD 11.2 billion on a host of European products in response to subsidies received by aircraft maker Airbus.In a tweet, US president Donald Trump said: "The EU has taken advantage of the US on trade for many years. It will soon stop!"

11:16 AMAn all-out trade war would severely damage the US and Chinese economies but could also be a boon to countries like Canada and Mexico, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday.The world's top two economies themselves would be the biggest losers in the event of a 25 per cent hike in duties on all trade in goods, the IMF said in a report released ahead of next week's spring meetings, to be held jointly with the World Bank.Bilateral US-China trade could fall by up to 30 per cent in the short-term as a result and by as much as 70 per cent later on -- taking sizable chunks out of both countries' economies.According to a range of models cited by the report, the hypothesis showed annual growth in China could be 1.5 per cent lower, while such a scenario could shave as much as 0.6 per cent off growth in the US."The effect on China is typically larger across all models, as exports to the United States represent a larger share of the Chinese economy (than vice versa)," the report said.Under the scenario explored by the IMF, Canada and Mexico could ultimately benefit as they export more to the United States, making up for the shortfall in US imports from China.And according to one model, these shifting export relations among countries would mean that, while the US trade deficit with China would fall somewhat, there would be "no economically significant change" in either country's overall trade balance.A separate statistical model showed China would ultimately cease to be "the number one exporter of electronics and machinery to the United States", as Canada, Mexico and other Asian countries picked up the slack.

5:24 PMAn agreement to build a proposed $3.85 billion oil refinery in Sri Lanka will take at least a year to be finalized as its main investor, India’s Accord Group, says it is yet to recruit partners and conduct an assessment of the plan’s viability.The comments add to the confusion about the project, which was announced last week by the Sri Lankan government as the nation’s largest single foreign direct investment ever, but has since been the subject of conflicting statements by various parties.Accord’s Chairman S Jagathrakshakan, a former Indian government minister, said he has submitted a preliminary proposal to the Sri Lankan government to invest in the project but has not finalized any terms of the deal.

9:52 PMGermany's junior coalition party is prepared to allow some arms exports to Saudi Arabia, a softening of its position which may defuse a row with its conservative partners in power, media reports said on Wednesday. Such a move by the Social Democrats (SPD) would also ease concerns in Britain and France that Germany's current ban on arms exports to the kingdom, imposed after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, may threaten joint tank, combat jet and drone development.Citing government sources, the RND group of newspapers reported that Germany's security council would decide whether to extend the ban, due to expire at the end of March, on Wednesday. The discussion would include what to do about joint European arms projects that have been approved but can no longer be delivered due to the moratorium. RND said it had information showing the SPD was prepared to pull back from a blanket ban and allow such joint projects to go ahead, provided that no more than 20 per cent of the components involved came from Germany. Read more...

9:22 PMItaly recently became the first G7 country to sign up for Beijing's Belt and Road initiative (also called "Silk Road" project) of the road, rail and sea transport and trade links stretching from Asia to Europe. The project has raised eyebrows in Washington and in some EU capitals where critics say it will give China too much sway.China's President Xi Jinping has said it would be a two-way street of investment and trade.This comes as Macron has called for united EU and lauded the EU's "awakening" to the challenges posed by China, which the bloc now labels a "rival" despite being Europe's biggest trading partner. "The reality is that the world has changed significantly -- China is not the country it once was, and we are dealing with a very major partner," a Macron aide had said ahead of Xi's visit.Chinese President Xi Jinping and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron met for dinner in the south of France on Sunday ahead of official talks.On Tuesday, Macron and Xi will be joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to explore "points of convergence" ahead of an EU-China summit in Brussels next month.

7:32 PMBritain's economy has struggled beneath the weight of Brexit uncertainty for nearly three years, but many business leaders would probably be relieved just to have more of the same for the next few months. The risk of a damaging no-deal exit by the world's fifth-biggest economy from the European Union on March 29 has been averted by the reprieve granted to Prime Minister Theresa May by other EU leaders on Thursday. But the possibility could return as soon as April 12. Or the delay could stretch into May or beyond, depending on the prime minister's ability to break the Brexit impasse in parliament.Employers took some comfort from the postponement, even if it did little to settle the wide range of Brexit outcomes that has led to many of them putting their expansion plans on hold. "Businesses will accept a short extension because it’s a better alternative to no deal," Seamus Nevin, chief economist at Make UK, an engineering trade group, said.

09:45 AMThe heads of Britain's biggest employers' grouping, the Confederation of British Industry, and union umbrella organisation the Trades Union Congress urged PM Theresa May to change tack and find a "Plan B" to avert no-deal Brexit scenario."Our country is facing a national emergency. Decisions of recent days have caused the risk of no-deal to soar," read the letter from CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn and TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady. "Firms and communities across the UK are not ready for this outcome. The shock to our economy would be felt by generations to come," added the pair, who have demanded an "urgent meeting" with May."The current deal-or-no-deal must not be the only choice," added Fairbairn and O'Grady in their joint letter. "A 'Plan B' must be found -- one that protects workers, the economy and an open Irish border, command a parliamentary majority, and is negotiable with the EU."A new approach is needed to secure this -- whether through indicative votes or another mechanism for compromise," they added. "We cannot overstate the gravity of this crisis for firms and working people."May's Brexit deal has twice been resoundingly rejected by British lawmakers, and a third vote the premier hoped to hold this week was cancelled by the House of Commons speaker on procedural grounds.

1:22 PMThe European Union will discuss a more defensive strategy on China, potentially signalling an end to the unfettered access that Chinese business has enjoyed in Europe but which Beijing has failed to reciprocate. Caught between a new US-Chinese rivalry for economic and military power, EU leaders will try to find a middle path during a summit dinner in Brussels, the first time they have discussed at the highest level how to deal with Beijing."We are fully open," European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said of the EU's economy. "China is not, and it raises lots of questions," Katainen said, arguing that the world's second-largest economy could no longer claim special status as a developing country.

9:56 PMChina's foreign minister lashed out Monday at "abnormal, immoral" attacks on Huawei amid growing concern, led by the US, that the telecom giant poses a security risk to the West. Wang Yi demanded a "fair and just competition environment" for Chinese firms as he met EU foreign ministers and officials for talks in Brussels. His call comes as Washington steps up pressure on allies, particularly in Europe, to shut Huawei out of tenders for fast fifth-generation, or 5G, telecom networks, because of the firm's ties to the Chinese government."China hopes all countries will create a fair and just competition environment for companies of all countries," Wang told reporters. "What we oppose is groundless accusations out of political purposes and attempts to bring down a foreign company. We think such practices are abnormal, immoral and have no support from other countries." Huawei strenuously denies allegations its equipment could be used for espionage and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang insisted Friday that Beijing would "never" ask its firms to spy on other nations.

9:24 PMMalaysia on Saturday threatened to bring a World Trade Organisation (WTO) challenge if the European Union goes ahead with recommendations to phase out palm oil from transport fuel used in the bloc. In a list of criteria published on Wednesday, the European Commission concluded that palm oil cultivation results in excessive deforestation and its use in transport fuel should be phased out.Indonesia, the world's largest palm oil producer, has already threatened to bring a challenge to the WTO over the Commission's plan. Malaysia's foreign ministry described the recommendation as a "calculated political act" aimed at removing its palm oil exports from the EU marketplace."Such an aggressive trade barrier targeted at Malaysia's national interests, and our 650,000 small farmers, cannot pass without a strong response," the ministry said in a statement. Malaysia is the world's second-largest palm oil producer behind Indonesia. Both countries have been battling with EU governments and the EU parliament over attempts to curtail exports in a bid to address rampant deforestation linked to palm oil cultivation.Malaysia's foreign ministry said the country had consistently provided evidence of the sustainability of its palm oil, highlighting the implementation of the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification standard. "The Malaysian government does not accept that the Delegated Act is justified on scientific or environmental grounds. No convincing explanation or data have been provided to justify the discrimination against Malaysian palm oil," the ministry said.

10:02 PMPakistan owes its "all-weather friend" China at least USD 10 billion debt for the construction of the Gwadar port and other projects, the top US general has said, as he underlined Beijing's "predatory economics" to expand its global influence. The strategic Gwadar Port in Balochistan province on the Arabian Sea is being built by China under the multi-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and is considered to be a link between Beijing's ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) and Maritime Silk Road projects."Let us look at just a few examples. Saddled with predatory Chinese loans, Sri Lanka granted China a 99-year lease and 70 per cent stake in its deep-water port," General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. The Maldives owes China roughly USD 1.5 billion in debt - about 30 per cent of its GDP - for construction costs, he said."Pakistan owes China at least USD 10 billion in debt for the construction of Gwadar Port and other projects," Dunford said. "China is diligently building an international network of coercion through predatory economics to expand its sphere of influence," he said, adding that nations around the globe are discovering the hard way that China's economic "friendship" via OBOR can come at "a steep cost" when promises of investment go unfulfilled and international standards and safeguards are ignored.In Africa, Djibouti owes China over 80 per cent of its GDP and in 2017, the country became host to China's first overseas military base. In Latin America, Ecuador agreed to sell 80 to 90 per cent of its exportable crude oil to China through 2024 in exchange for USD 6.5 billion in Chinese loans, he said. And after leasing land tax-free to China for 50 years, Argentina is denied access and oversight to a Chinese satellite tracking station on its sovereign territory, unwittingly allowing the facility's use for military purposes, the US general said.

9:36 PMThe US decision to scrap concessions to India under the Generalised System of Preferences will not adversely impact seafood exports to that country as most marine food products, including high-in-demand shrimps, enjoy zero tariffs under GSP, says a top export development authority. "There is widespread apprehension that the US decision will affect seafood exports from India to America, which is a major importer of our marine products. But such apprehension is unfounded," said K S Srinivas, Chairman of the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA).MPEDA made a detailed analysis and found that there would not be any immediate setbacks anticipated due to the withdrawal of GSP benefit in seafood exports, he said in a release here. "The exports of prepared and preserved shrimps and crab to America will not be adversely affected as these enjoy zero tariffs at present under the GSP regime," Srinivas said.India usually exports seafood worth USD 2,300 million to the U.S.A., with frozen shrimp being the flagship item of exports. However, frozen shrimp currently enjoy zero tariffs and is not covered under the GSP regime."Moreover, exports of other items such as frozen fish and frozen cephalopods are also not currently benefitted under the GSP. Hence the withdrawal of GSP will not affect our seafood exports to the US," he noted. In the 2017-18 fiscal, India shipped 13,77,244 Million tonnes of seafood that earned USD 7.08 billion (Rs 45,106.89 crore), with frozen shrimp and frozen fish continuing to be the principal export items.The USA, the leading destination for Indian seafood in value terms, imported seafood worth USD 2,320.05 million. The overall shrimp export during 2017-18 was 5,65,980 MT worth USD 4,848.19 million, with USA continuing to be the largest market (2, 25,946 MT) for frozen shrimp and accounting for 53 per cent of total Vannamei shrimp exports.Frozen shrimp was the principal item of exports to the USA with a share of 95.03 per cent in Dollar value. The GSP scheme, launched in 1974, aims to assist developing countries to increase their exports by facilitating duty-free entry for thousands of products from designated beneficiary countries.

4:22 PMJapanese carmaker Honda said any delay to Brexit must be "purposeful" and long enough to give business stability after British lawmakers voted to seek a delay to Britain's exit from the European Union."We are now looking to the government to deliver a clear, legally certain, path forward to avoid no deal and to reach an agreement with the EU that delivers the conditions that support the continued competitiveness of our European operations," said a spokesman. "Any extension of Article 50 must be purposeful and long enough to give business stability."

09:33 AMIt is not realistic to decouple the economies of the United States and China, Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday, adding that common interests between the world’s two largest economies far outweigh disputes.China hopes trade talks between the two countries can achieve results, Li told reporters at a news conference at the conclusion of the annual parliament meeting.

11:38 PMUK Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said last-minute new agreements "reduce the risk" of Britain being "indefinitely and involuntarily" held in the so-called Irish border backstop. However, "the legal risk remains unchanged" that Britain, without being able to prove bad faith on behalf of the European Union, would have no legal means of exiting the backstop without the agreement of Brussels.The backstop, designed to keep the land border between the UK and Ireland free-flowing after Brexit, would see Britain stick to EU trade arrangements unless a new trade deal is struck. The backstop would essentially mean that the trade between Ireland (part of EU) and the UK will remain free-flowing even after Brexit.Prime Minister Theresa May rushed to Strasbourg on Monday for last-minute talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in a bid to salvage the Brexit deal, with British MPs set to vote Tuesday on whether to accept the withdrawal agreement. The two sides then announced a three-part package of legally-binding changes to the old deal.

11:16 PMMike Pompeo is set to speak at IHS Markit's CERAWeek conference, the oil and gas industry's largest annual gathering in the United States. Executives from major companies including Chevron Corp, Total SA, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, ConocoPhillips and Occidental Petroleum Corp have been invited to the closed-door meeting. Representatives from a number of those companies are scheduled to speak earlier in the day at CERAWeek.A US State Department spokesperson did not immediately comment on Pompeo's schedule but did say that Frank Fannon, the department's top energy diplomat, was meeting with energy companies on Tuesday in Houston to talk about the Asia policy.Tuesday's sit-down is also likely to include discussions on the United States' policy in Asia. Dubbed 'Asia Edge' by the administration, it aims to grow Asian energy security by further expanding US oil and gas exports to the region, according to the sources.The United States produces more than 12 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude, making it the world's largest producer, and it is the world's biggest exporter of refined products like diesel fuel and gasoline. It has expanded sales of fuels, crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asian customers, including China in a bid to dominate worldwide energy trade after a four-decade ban on crude exports was ended by President Obama in 2016.The Trump White House has also imposed harsh sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, both members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), removing more than 2 million bpd of oil from daily global supply. In addition, OPEC and allied producers including Russia have been limiting their own output in an effort to buoy prices, which has helped independent U.S. producers.

17-06-2019 02:39:11 PM

Swiss-EU ties to face critical test as EU reviews progress on draft treaty

Swiss-EU ties to face critical test as EU reviews progress on draft treaty

Swiss ties with the European Union, its biggest trading partner, face a critical test this week as Brussels decides whether the two sides have made enough progress on a stalled draft treaty to head off punitive measures set to start at the end of June. After more than four years of negotiations produced a draft text in November, the Swiss government this month tentatively endorsed the accord but said it needed clarifications on three areas -- protecting Swiss wages, regulating state aid, and spelling out citizens' rights -- before it could sign off.

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17-06-2019 02:34:21 PM

G20 countries step up efforts to tackle plastic waste in water bodies

The Group of 20 major economies said they agreed to a deal to reduce plastic waste that is choking the seas at a meeting in Japan on Sunday. They added that the steps would be voluntary and progress would be reported once a year.

Plastic pollution has become a global concern, particularly after bans imposed by China and other countries on the import of plastic waste from overseas.

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17-06-2019 02:20:57 PM

G20 energy ministers express concerns about oil market stability after tanker attacks

Energy ministers from the Group of 20 major economies have shared concerns over attacks on tankers in the Gulf and will collaborate to maintain stability in the oil market, Japan's Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko has said Saturday.

Two tankers, one operated by a Japanese shipping company, were attacked on Thursday. The United States blamed Iran for the attacks, raising concerns about a confrontation and driving up oil prices.

Energy ministers from the Group of 20 major economies have shared concerns over attacks on tankers in the Gulf and will collaborate to maintain stability in the oil market, Japan's Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said on Saturday. Two tankers, one operated by a Japanese shipping company, were attacked on Thursday. The United States blamed Iran for the attacks, raising concerns about a confrontation and driving up oil prices.

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10-06-2019 01:01:14 PM

Trump defends deal with Mexico after 'old deal'

US President Donald Trump defended his administration's deal with Mexico against criticism that there were no major new commitments to stem a flow of Central American migrants crossing into the United States and said on Sunday more details would soon be released. Key aspects of the agreement are still unclear, including whether Mexico has pledged to buy more US agricultural products and if the deal materially expanded a previous commitment by Mexico to more vigorously police its southern border with Guatemala.

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10-06-2019 12:46:56 PM

Iran rakes up pressure on European nations to restore trade ties

Iran said on Sunday Europe was in no position to criticize Tehran for its military capabilities and it called on European leaders to normalize trade ties with the Islamic Republic despite US sanctions, or face consequences. President Donald Trump last year withdrew the United States from world powers' 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sweeping sanctions. Trump condemned the accord, signed by his predecessor Barack Obama, as flawed for not being permanent and for not covering Iran's ballistic missile program or its role in conflicts around the Middle East.

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10-06-2019 12:36:32 PM

Tech industry might face another blow as US-China trade war accelerates

Tech industry might face another blow as US-China trade war accelerates

Chinese state media has revealed that the government is planning to create a system to protect China's technology as the US restricts the access of Chinese companies to American technology in a spiralling trade dispute. The People's Daily newspaper reported on Sunday that the system will build a strong firewall to strengthen the nation's ability to innovate and to accelerate the development of key technologies. No details have been released about what China is calling a national technological security management list.

The official Xinhua News Agency says the aim is to forestall and defuse national security risks more effectively. It says detailed measures would be unveiled in the near future. The initiative follows US moves to restrict sales to Huawei Technologies and other Chinese tech firms on national security grounds.

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07-06-2019 05:58:46 PM

It has not changed much on US-Mexico border

US President Donald Trump has made immigration a central theme of his administration but has grown increasingly frustrated with the ballooning numbers of mostly Central American families crossing the US-Mexico border and turning themselves in to US authorities. A threat of across-the-board tariffs on Mexican goods starting on Monday unless Mexico does more to stop migrants from reaching the United States has led to high-stakes negotiations between the two governments.

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07-06-2019 05:53:45 PM

Trump to decide on $300 billion China tariffs after G20 meeting

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would decide whether to carry out his threat to hit Beijing with tariffs on at least $300 billion in Chinese goods after a meeting of leaders of the world's largest economies late this month. Relations between the United States and China have deteriorated since Trump in early May accused Beijing of reneging on commitments to change its ways of doing business with the rest of the world. 

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03-06-2019 09:44:17 AM

Stand firm or face a new Cold War, Guterres warns Europe

The world risks a descent into lawlessness and a new Cold War if multilateralism fails, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, calling on the European Union to take a lead role in fighting to preserve a rules-based global order. Speaking in the western German city of Aachen, where he was being awarded the annual Charlemagne Prize for promoting European unity, Guterres described the 28-nation bloc as a pillar of multilateralism that was "too big to fail".

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03-06-2019 09:41:02 AM

Mexico eyes steps to cut immigrant flows to US border after Trump's tariffs threat

Mexico wants to sharpen existing measures in its bid to narrow a flood of Central American migrants to the US border, a top Mexican official said ahead of planned meetings in Washington over tariffs threatened by President Donald Trump.

Trump had said that he would introduce the tariffs, starting at 5% on June 10 and quickly ratcheting higher if Mexico did not substantially halt illegal immigration, largely from Central America, across the US-Mexican border.

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