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NAFTA Deal Not Yet in Sight, Canada Stands Firm on Auto Tariffs

Canada and the United States showed scant sign on Thursday of closing a deal to revamp NAFTA, and Canadian officials made clear Washington needed to withdraw a threat of possible autos tariffs, sources said.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump wants to be able to agree on a text of the three-nation North American Free Trade Agreement by the end of September, but major differences remain.

“We discussed some tough issues today,” Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters after meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Freeland, who has visited Washington four weeks in a row to discuss NAFTA, gave no further details.

Market fears over the future of the 1994 pact, which underscores $1.2 trillion in trade, have been regularly hitting stocks in all three nations, whose economies are now highly integrated.

While multiple deadlines have passed during the more than year-long negotiations to renew NAFTA, pressure on Canada to agree to a deal is growing, partly to push it through the U.S. Congress before Mexico’s new government takes office on Dec. 1.

Canada says it does not feel bound by the latest deadline.

Asked whether time was running out, Freeland said her focus was getting a deal that was good for Canadians.

Trump came to power last year vowing to tear up NAFTA unless major changes were made to a pact he blames for the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Trump struck a side-deal on NAFTA with Mexico last month and has threatened to exclude Canada if necessary. He also said he might impose a 25 percent tariff on Canadian autos exports, which would badly hurt the economy.

​Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, who was briefed on the talks by Canada’s negotiating team, said Ottawa insisted that the tariff threat be withdrawn.

“Why would Canada sign a trade agreement with the United States … and then have Donald Trump impose a 25 percent tariff on automobiles?” Dias told reporters.

“That for us is a deal breaker. It doesn’t make a stitch of sense. … We are a small nation, we’re not a stupid nation,” added Dias.

Freeland said she would return to Canada on Thursday ahead of a two-day meeting of female foreign ministers she is co-hosting in Montreal. Early next week she will be in New York for a United Nations session.

Ottawa is under pressure from some sectors to abandon its insistence that a bad NAFTA is worse than no NAFTA.

Jim Wilson, the trade minister of Ontario — Canada’s most populous province and heart of the country’s auto industry — met federal negotiators on Wednesday and tweeted on Thursday, “It is imperative that the feds reach a deal.”

The Globe and Mail newspaper on Thursday reported that U.S. negotiators want Ottawa to agree to capping its auto exports to the United States at 1.7 million vehicles a year, something that Canadian industry sources dismissed as unacceptable.

Separately, a Canadian source directly familiar with the negotiations said, “We have not discussed a cap.”

Reuters and other outlets reported in August that a side letter with Mexico would cap tariff-free or nearly duty-free Mexican imports to the United States at 2.4 million vehicles.

U.S. automakers privately question why the United States would seek to cap Canadian exports to the United States, given that companies are unlikely to expand production in Canada compared with lower-cost Mexico.

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NAFTA Deal Not Yet in Sight, Canada Stands Firm on Auto Tariffs

Canada and the United States showed scant sign on Thursday of closing a deal to revamp NAFTA, and Canadian officials made clear Washington needed to withdraw a threat of possible autos tariffs, sources said.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump wants to be able to agree on a text of the three-nation North American Free Trade Agreement by the end of September, but major differences remain.

“We discussed some tough issues today,” Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters after meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Freeland, who has visited Washington four weeks in a row to discuss NAFTA, gave no further details.

Market fears over the future of the 1994 pact, which underscores $1.2 trillion in trade, have been regularly hitting stocks in all three nations, whose economies are now highly integrated.

While multiple deadlines have passed during the more than year-long negotiations to renew NAFTA, pressure on Canada to agree to a deal is growing, partly to push it through the U.S. Congress before Mexico’s new government takes office on Dec. 1.

Canada says it does not feel bound by the latest deadline.

Asked whether time was running out, Freeland said her focus was getting a deal that was good for Canadians.

Trump came to power last year vowing to tear up NAFTA unless major changes were made to a pact he blames for the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Trump struck a side-deal on NAFTA with Mexico last month and has threatened to exclude Canada if necessary. He also said he might impose a 25 percent tariff on Canadian autos exports, which would badly hurt the economy.

​Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, who was briefed on the talks by Canada’s negotiating team, said Ottawa insisted that the tariff threat be withdrawn.

“Why would Canada sign a trade agreement with the United States … and then have Donald Trump impose a 25 percent tariff on automobiles?” Dias told reporters.

“That for us is a deal breaker. It doesn’t make a stitch of sense. … We are a small nation, we’re not a stupid nation,” added Dias.

Freeland said she would return to Canada on Thursday ahead of a two-day meeting of female foreign ministers she is co-hosting in Montreal. Early next week she will be in New York for a United Nations session.

Ottawa is under pressure from some sectors to abandon its insistence that a bad NAFTA is worse than no NAFTA.

Jim Wilson, the trade minister of Ontario — Canada’s most populous province and heart of the country’s auto industry — met federal negotiators on Wednesday and tweeted on Thursday, “It is imperative that the feds reach a deal.”

The Globe and Mail newspaper on Thursday reported that U.S. negotiators want Ottawa to agree to capping its auto exports to the United States at 1.7 million vehicles a year, something that Canadian industry sources dismissed as unacceptable.

Separately, a Canadian source directly familiar with the negotiations said, “We have not discussed a cap.”

Reuters and other outlets reported in August that a side letter with Mexico would cap tariff-free or nearly duty-free Mexican imports to the United States at 2.4 million vehicles.

U.S. automakers privately question why the United States would seek to cap Canadian exports to the United States, given that companies are unlikely to expand production in Canada compared with lower-cost Mexico.

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Analysts: Poor Economy, Unemployment Lure Tunisians to Extremism

Seven years after the Arab Spring, little has been done to address youth unemployment in Tunisia, a key factor in extremist groups’ ability to recruit marginalized youth, rights groups and experts warn.

“Someone who is marginalized with nothing to lose, no stability in life, no vision of the future, no hope for change, can become a very easy target for terrorist groups,” Amna Guellali, director of Human Rights Watch’s Tunisia office, told VOA.

The Arab Spring was ignited in Tunisia, in part because of deteriorating economic conditions. A frustrated street vendor set himself on fire outside a local municipal office in Sidi Bouzid to protest repeated harassment from authorities, who often confiscated his goods or fined him for selling without a permit. 

Although economic conditions that force people to eke out a living on society’s margins play a big role in the unrest, Guellali said that unemployment is the central issue in Tunisia.

 “Unemployment stands at 15 percent, rising to 36 percent for Tunisians under 24 years old. Unemployed youths with diplomas are 25 percent, according to the last statistic of 2017,” Guellali added.

The World Bank, which has been helping Tunisia in its development, has also warned that unemployment among young people is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

Economic growth 

The World Bank says Tunisia has made progress in its transition to democracy and good governance practices, compared with other countries in the Middle East, but still grapples with growing its economy and providing economic opportunities. 

Tunisia’s economic growth in the post-Arab Spring era remains weak despite a modest increase in 2017. According to World Bank data, the economy grew by 1.9 percent in 2017 compared with 1.0 percent in 2016. Since the revolution, the economy has been growing by an average 1.5 percent annually, lower than previous years.

“Tunisian youth don’t see improvement; they actually see that the economic conditions have worsened more than the previous regime,” Darine El Hage, a regional program manager at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), told VOA. 

El Hage added that the institute’s field research indicates that Tunisian youth are both frustrated and feel hopeless, with some appreciating the previous government of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali for its relative stability. 

Mohamed Malouche, founder of the Tunisian American Young Professionals organization, agrees. He believes that ordinary Tunisians feel betrayed by the country’s politicians.

“The Tunisian public has been very patient, but they are not seeing that democracy is paying off. They all feel that they have been cheated by politicians,” Malouche said. 

Ripe for extremism

Terror groups such as the Islamic State group and al-Qaida have large numbers of Tunisians among their ranks and are active in various countries in the region.

Youssef Cherif, an independent Tunisian analyst, believes that when young people join militant groups, it is not due to ideological or religious preferences.

“Tunisian youth are trying to find a space where they can feel that they are important and feel a sense of identity and sense of belonging,” Cherif said.

Malouche agrees. “The lack of economic opportunities, the feeling of injustice and the lack of trust in the government institutions force Tunisian youth to take the extremism route,” he said. 

“Tunisia is becoming a fertile ground to extremism recruiters who are taking advantage of vulnerable young men by offering them money and promises,” he added.

Malouche said lack of political representation is also a factor.

“The Tunisian youth are not [seeing] themselves in the political process. They don’t feel that they are truly represented by the current people in power,” he said.

Root causes

Since the toppling of autocrat Ben Ali in 2011, nine Cabinets have been elected, none of which fully addressed high inflation and unemployment.

“The government has not addressed the root causes of the situation. They haven’t adopted comprehensive policies. They only adopted some cosmetic measures,” Human Rights Watch’s Guellali said.

The government is trying to encourage foreign investment, but continued instability has deterred investors, she said. 

Political division

Political differences between President Beji Caid Essebsi and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed further complicate efforts to bring about reforms.

In July, Essebsi urged the prime minister to step down, citing the country’s political and economic problems. Chahed ignored the call.

“A change of government will shake the confidence of Tunisia’s international partners … as economic data will begin to improve by the end of this year [2018],” Chahed told state news agency TAP, responding to the president’s call for his resignation.

The Tunisian government has taken a number of steps to try to address  inflation and unemployment, including efforts to strengthen small businesses in the country and exemption of foreign companies from taxation to encourage more foreign investment. But analysts, like USIP’s El Hage, believe that these solutions are at best easy fixes.

“There are some mobilizations at the level of the government. However, these mobilizations are short-lived and don’t reflect long-term and comprehensive economic reform policy,” El Hage said. 

Some of the information in this report came from Reuters.

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Analysts: Poor Economy, Unemployment Lure Tunisians to Extremism

Seven years after the Arab Spring, little has been done to address youth unemployment in Tunisia, a key factor in extremist groups’ ability to recruit marginalized youth, rights groups and experts warn.

“Someone who is marginalized with nothing to lose, no stability in life, no vision of the future, no hope for change, can become a very easy target for terrorist groups,” Amna Guellali, director of Human Rights Watch’s Tunisia office, told VOA.

The Arab Spring was ignited in Tunisia, in part because of deteriorating economic conditions. A frustrated street vendor set himself on fire outside a local municipal office in Sidi Bouzid to protest repeated harassment from authorities, who often confiscated his goods or fined him for selling without a permit. 

Although economic conditions that force people to eke out a living on society’s margins play a big role in the unrest, Guellali said that unemployment is the central issue in Tunisia.

 “Unemployment stands at 15 percent, rising to 36 percent for Tunisians under 24 years old. Unemployed youths with diplomas are 25 percent, according to the last statistic of 2017,” Guellali added.

The World Bank, which has been helping Tunisia in its development, has also warned that unemployment among young people is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

Economic growth 

The World Bank says Tunisia has made progress in its transition to democracy and good governance practices, compared with other countries in the Middle East, but still grapples with growing its economy and providing economic opportunities. 

Tunisia’s economic growth in the post-Arab Spring era remains weak despite a modest increase in 2017. According to World Bank data, the economy grew by 1.9 percent in 2017 compared with 1.0 percent in 2016. Since the revolution, the economy has been growing by an average 1.5 percent annually, lower than previous years.

“Tunisian youth don’t see improvement; they actually see that the economic conditions have worsened more than the previous regime,” Darine El Hage, a regional program manager at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), told VOA. 

El Hage added that the institute’s field research indicates that Tunisian youth are both frustrated and feel hopeless, with some appreciating the previous government of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali for its relative stability. 

Mohamed Malouche, founder of the Tunisian American Young Professionals organization, agrees. He believes that ordinary Tunisians feel betrayed by the country’s politicians.

“The Tunisian public has been very patient, but they are not seeing that democracy is paying off. They all feel that they have been cheated by politicians,” Malouche said. 

Ripe for extremism

Terror groups such as the Islamic State group and al-Qaida have large numbers of Tunisians among their ranks and are active in various countries in the region.

Youssef Cherif, an independent Tunisian analyst, believes that when young people join militant groups, it is not due to ideological or religious preferences.

“Tunisian youth are trying to find a space where they can feel that they are important and feel a sense of identity and sense of belonging,” Cherif said.

Malouche agrees. “The lack of economic opportunities, the feeling of injustice and the lack of trust in the government institutions force Tunisian youth to take the extremism route,” he said. 

“Tunisia is becoming a fertile ground to extremism recruiters who are taking advantage of vulnerable young men by offering them money and promises,” he added.

Malouche said lack of political representation is also a factor.

“The Tunisian youth are not [seeing] themselves in the political process. They don’t feel that they are truly represented by the current people in power,” he said.

Root causes

Since the toppling of autocrat Ben Ali in 2011, nine Cabinets have been elected, none of which fully addressed high inflation and unemployment.

“The government has not addressed the root causes of the situation. They haven’t adopted comprehensive policies. They only adopted some cosmetic measures,” Human Rights Watch’s Guellali said.

The government is trying to encourage foreign investment, but continued instability has deterred investors, she said. 

Political division

Political differences between President Beji Caid Essebsi and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed further complicate efforts to bring about reforms.

In July, Essebsi urged the prime minister to step down, citing the country’s political and economic problems. Chahed ignored the call.

“A change of government will shake the confidence of Tunisia’s international partners … as economic data will begin to improve by the end of this year [2018],” Chahed told state news agency TAP, responding to the president’s call for his resignation.

The Tunisian government has taken a number of steps to try to address  inflation and unemployment, including efforts to strengthen small businesses in the country and exemption of foreign companies from taxation to encourage more foreign investment. But analysts, like USIP’s El Hage, believe that these solutions are at best easy fixes.

“There are some mobilizations at the level of the government. However, these mobilizations are short-lived and don’t reflect long-term and comprehensive economic reform policy,” El Hage said. 

Some of the information in this report came from Reuters.

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Українка стала наймолодшою в історії чемпіонкою світу з дзюдо

17-річна українка Дарія Білодід стала наймолодшою чемпіонкою світу з дзюдо в історії цього виду спорту

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Українка стала наймолодшою в історії чемпіонкою світу з дзюдо

17-річна українка Дарія Білодід стала наймолодшою чемпіонкою світу з дзюдо в історії цього виду спорту

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EU Getting ‘Impatient’ with Facebook Over Consumer Data Use

The European Union’s consumer protection chief said Thursday she’s growing impatient with Facebook’s efforts to improve transparency with users about their data, warning it could face sanctions for not complying.

EU Consumer Commissioner Vera Jourova turned up the pressure on the social media giant, saying she wants the company to update its terms of service and expects to see its proposed changes by mid-October so they can take effect in December.

 

“I will not hide that I am becoming rather impatient because we have been in dialogue with Facebook almost two years and I really want to see, not the progress — it’s not enough for me — but I want to see the results,” Jourova said.

 

The EU wants Facebook to give users more information about how their data is used and how it works with third party makers of apps, games and quizzes.

 

“If we do not see the progress the sanctions will have to come,” she said. She didn’t specify punishment, saying they would be applied by individual countries. “I was quite clear we cannot negotiate forever, we just want to see the result.”

 

The EU has been pressing the U.S. tech company to look at what changes it needs to make to better protect consumers and this year Facebook has had to adapt to new EU data protection rules. The concerns took on greater urgency after the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal erupted, in which data on 87 million Facebook users was allegedly improperly harvested.

Jourova said she hopes Facebook will take more responsibility for its nearly 380 million European users.

 

“We want Facebook to be absolutely clear to its users about how their service operates and makes money,” she said.

 

Facebook said it has already updated its terms of service in May to incorporate changes recommended at that point by EU authorities.

 

The company said it “will continue our close cooperation to understand any further concerns and make appropriate updates.”

 

Jourova also said U.S.-based property rental site Airbnb has agreed to clarify its pricing system in response to complaints that it could mislead consumers.

 

Airbnb has promised to be fully transparent by either including extra fees in the total price for a booking quoted on its website or notifying users that they might apply, she said.

 

The company is complying with EU demands spurred by concerns that consumers could be confused by its complicated pricing structure, which could add unexpected costs such as cleaning charges at the end of a holiday.

 

Airbnb is also changing its terms of service to make it clear that travelers can sue their host if they suffer personal harm or other damages. That’s in response to complaints that its booking system can leave tourists stranded if the rental is canceled when all other arrangements have been already made.

 

Airbnb said “guests have always been aware of all fees, including service charges and taxes, before booking listings,” and will work with authorities to make it even clearer.

 

 

 

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Scrounge for Workers Sees US Jobless Claims Hit 48-Year Low

New U.S. claims for jobless benefits fell for the third week in a row, hitting their lowest level in nearly 49 years for the third straight week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The new figures suggest the U.S. economy’s vigorous job creation continued unabated this month as the data were collected during the survey week for the department’s more closely watched monthly jobs report, due out next week.

Amid a widely reported labor shortage, employers are reluctant to lay off workers who are difficult to replace.

For the week ended September 12, new claims for unemployment insurance fell to 201,000, down 3,000 from the prior week. Economists had instead been expecting a result of 209,000.

The result was the lowest level since November of 1969, whereas the prior week’s level had been the lowest since December 1969.

However, economists say that in reality the levels are likely the lowest ever, given demographic changes in the United States in the past half century.

Claims have now held below the symbolic level of 300,000 for more than 3.5 years, the longest such streak ever recorded.

Though they can see big swings from week to week, jobless claims are an indication of the prevalence of layoffs and the health of jobs markets.

In a decade of economic recovery, the United States has seen uninterrupted job creation, driving the unemployment rate to historical lows.

In light of these trends, the Federal Reserve is widely expected to raise interest rates next week to prevent inflation from rising too quickly.

 

 

 

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