News Archive – November 2015
China-Africa summit: what to look for beyond the hype and hypocrisy
Mail & Guardian (South Africa), Nov 30, 2015 – Beijing’s selection of South Africa to host the China-Africa heads of state summit may indicate Chinese President Xi Jinping’s personal commitment to the continent. This is the first time the summit is being held at this level in Africa…. The Chinese government supports regional and sub-regional integration in Africa for many practical reasons…. And Xi is expected to reiterate commitment to Africa’s Agenda 2063 for: “… an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.” He is also likely to repeat China’s support for African Union commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s vision for a United States of Africa.
Could we be inching closer to a borderless Africa?
Cape Talk (South Africa), Nov 30, 2015 – The African Union’s Commissioner on Political Affairs, Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, reportedly said that the continent is going to work towards being borderless. The talks have escalated about starting to remove the need for visas and allowing Africans more ease of movement within the continent. Stephen Grootes on Monday spoke to CEO of Africa at Work, Dianna Games, about how this could be made a reality. Listen to the conversation:
Quader for borderless connectivity among BBIN
‘We Have to Demolish Borders’
The Daily Star (Bangladesh), Nov 30, 2015 – Road, Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader today batted for “borderless connectivity” with Bhutan, India and Nepal to “achieve fruit of the transport corridor” among these nations. “We have to demolish borders and remove suspicions,” he told a seminar in Dhaka…. The landmark BBIN deal was signed between the four countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal – in June this year.
Asean would be wise to beef up its powers
Financial Times (London, UK), Nov 29, 2015 – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations should be an economic powerhouse…. Thus the launch of the Asean Economic Community, due by the end of this year, represents a milestone…. On paper, the AEC’s aspirations resemble the early days of the European Economic Community…. Unlike the EU, which relies on intrusive powers to ensure policy alignment among its members, the body shows no willingness to jettison its cherished “Asean way”, a consensus approach to decision-making that discourages “interference” in the internal affairs of fellow members.
Asean must prepare a harmonised legal framework’
The Nation (Thailand), Nov 30, 2015
The Keynote opening address by Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol at the opening ceremony of the 5th Biennial Conference of the Asian Society of International Law, Grand Hall, Plaza Athenee Hotel, Bangkok, 26 November 2015
“….By the beginning of next year when all the three pillars of the Asean Community, namely, the Asean Economic Community, the Asean Political and Security Community and the Asean Socio-Cultural Community come into operation, all Asean member states must prepare for a more harmonised legal framework. The law concerning economic liberalisation, international trade and investment, movement of labour, and so on must get somewhat harmonised. At the same time to strengthen the other two pillars, Asean member states must strengthen the rule of law, respect for human rights and criminal justice system in order to create a stronger and more cohesive Asean society. The Asean community dynamism depends on how quickly Asean member states can adjust and harmonise their relevant legal framework.”
‘INSHALLAH’: Turkey Reveals EU Fast Track Membership Bid Starts In Weeks
Breitbart London, Nov 26, 2015 – Turkey first sought EU membership in 1987 but its bid has made poor progress, with issues such as fundamental freedoms and the future of Cyprus proving to be major obstacles…. Turkey first sought EU membership in 1987 but its bid has made poor progress, with issues such as fundamental freedoms and the future of Cyprus proving to be major obstacles.
Court of Justice of the European Union: Bitcoin exchanges are VAT- exempt- Lexology (London, UK), Nov 26, 2015 – Transactions by which traditional currencies are exchanged for units of “Bitcoin” or vice versa are exempt from VAT. This follows the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Skatteverket v David Hedqvist C-264/14 (22 October 2015)…. In coming to its decision, the CJEU reasoned that the VAT exemption applicable to currency exchange is intended to “alleviate the difficulties connected with determining the taxable amount and the amount of VAT deductible which arise in the context of financial transactions”. It considered that these difficulties could also arise in transactions involving virtual currencies, such as “Bitcoin”, and that to refuse virtual currencies the benefit of the exemption would “deprive it of part of its effect”. In reaching this view, the Court was willing to accept that “Bitcoin” was a means of payment and that “Bitcoin” exchanges can be financial transactions. This decision is important both because it recognises “Bitcoin” as a currency (at least for VAT purposes) and because it helps to remove a potential barrier to locating Bitcoin exchanges in the EU.
Russia moves forward with common currency for EEU despite Kazakhstan’s opposition
Tengrinews (Kazakhstan), Nov 25, 2015 – Creation of a common unit of account – a supranational currency – for the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) has been a controversial issue since 2011. Today, Russia is once again actively considering introduction of a common monetary unit for the EEU, while Kazakhstan does not seem so eager to move forward with this project. Chairman of State Duma’s CIS Committee Leonid Slutskiy talked about naming the provisional common unit of account of the EEU evraz.
The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) is an economic union of states located primarily in northern Eurasia. It initially included Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, and was later joined by Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. The Eurasian Economic Union has an integrated single market of 183 million people and a gross domestic product of over 4 trillion U.S. dollars. The EEU introduces the free movement of goods, capital, services and people and provides for common transport, agriculture and energy policies.
ASEAN Creates ‘Community’ Encompassing 600+ Million People
Voice of America, Nov 22, 2015 – Leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Sunday signed a declaration establishing a formal economic, political, security and socio-cultural community…. But analysts say much work remains for the most important pillar – the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) – to achieve its primary goal of allowing freer movement of skilled workers, trade and capital for the region’s more than 600 million people – more populous than North America or the European Union. Compared to the European Union, the AEC is culturally and politically more diverse with various systems of government including communism (Laos and Vietnam), a military junta (Thailand), authoritarian (Cambodia), quasi-civilian (Myanmar) and a monarchy (Brunei). In a number of the ASEAN states corruption is considered endemic, a problem seen as hampering the economic integration process.
Asean regional summit: Obama to meet Najib with relations under scrutiny
Malay Mail, Nov 20, 2015 – The pair even bonded privately as golf buddies last December in Hawaii. But the relationship has come under the microscope as Malaysia cracks down on critics and with Najib embroiled in a massive corruption scandal, raising accusations Washington was putting geopolitics ahead of core US principles. Obama arrives in Kuala Lumpur this afternoon for the Asean regional summit.
Southeast Asia will have integrated market by year-end – CNBC, Nov 19, 2015 – The project to build an integrated Southeast Asian market will be rolled out by the end of this year, but currency integration is not on the cards yet, said a senior official of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council. “It’s probably not on the (meeting) agenda at the moment…Each one of the ASEAN has a different kind of financial district and financial regulations. The merging of that and the harmonization of that is going to be difficult,” said Michael Michalak at the sidelines of the ASEAN Business Summit in Kuala Lumpur. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a group of 10 regional countries.
The ASEAN Economic Community’s path from economic to political integration will be patterned after that of the European Union, which started out as the European Economic Community in the 1950s and ’60s, before its more political emergence as the EU in 1993.
Letter on cooperation between EU, Eurasian Economic Union sent by EC chief to Putin
Tass (Russia), Nov 19, 2015 – European Commission (EC) President Jean-Claude Juncker has sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin offering cooperation between the European Union (EU) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), a representative in the EC press service told TASS on Thursday.
U-Turn? EU President Offers Putin Closer Economic Ties After G20 Summit – Sputnik (Russia), Nov 19, 2015 – “The idea of dialogue between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union – it’s a long-standing idea, and it is promoted by the Russian side, because it is necessary for building or trade and economic relations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, regarding the letter. He also added that hinging closer trade relations on the Minsk agreements “is unlikely to be relevant and hardly possible,” based on the fact that Kiev has shown little interest in complying with the ceasefire, according to Reuters. The European Union, in conjunction with the United States, has imposed a number of sanctions against Russia over what the West deemed an illegal annexation of Crimea, willfully ignoring the fact that the peninsula’s reunification with Russia was the result of a referendum in which over 96% of voters supported the move.
ASEAN and the NEW REGIONAL MERCANTILISM:
Asean region will need a regional Public Private Partnership Centre
New Straits Times, Nov 18, 2015 – The Asean region will need a regional PPP (Public Private Partnership) Centre to help countries with knowledge and expertise with the launch of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and other Chinese initiatives to fund infrastructure development…. HK Yong of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) said …. “Governments in Asean and Asia also don’t have the fiscal space to fund the projects. “We have to tap the private funds. Private funds such as the pension and insurance funds have only invested one per cent of the total US$80 trillion and mainly in developed countries,” he said
Government/private business partnerships are simply old-fashioned fascism. As competition among the world’s emerging regional blocs increases toward what Henry Kissinger called a “new mercantisim” of “competing regional units,” all of these blocs will take on the characteristics of fascist states.
EURASIAN UNION and MULTILATERAL ‘REGION-BUILDING’ :
Preferential bilateral agreements should not replace global trade system — Russian PM
World trade rules must be universal and should be developed within the framework of the WTO, Dmitry Medvedev says
Tass (Russia), Nov 18, 2015 – Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has voiced confidence that preferential bilateral agreements must not replace the global trade system.
“Russia has consistently advocated the deepening regional integration. All preferential trade agreements reached within its framework are important, of course, but, nevertheless, they should not replace the multilateral trade system. Moreover, they should not destroy the existing economic ties, they should only enrich them,” Medvedev said speaking at the APEC CEO summit. He recalled, in particular, that the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) had existed for almost a year now, adding that it comprised five full-fledged members. “We are committed to establishing mutually advantageous cooperation with all partners across the globe. This is our contribution to such integration,” Medvedev said. “There are agreements with our Chinese partners on harmonizing the integration processes within the framework of the Eurasian Union with the Silk Road economic belt.” According to the Russian prime minister, a preferential agreement was signed in May between the EAEU and Vietnam. Work on similar agreements with other countries is in progress.
GCC and OPEN BORDERS:
GCC plans to issue Schengen-model visas to foreign tourists
Saudi Gazette, Nov 18, 2015 – The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are now conducting intensive studies to issue joint Schengen-model visas to foreign tourists. The new visa will enable foreigners to visit all GCC countries without any difficulty, said the source, who requested anonymity
AFRICAN UNION – EAC:
Crossing borders: East African integration
African Law & Business, Nov 17, 2015 – The East African Community (EAC), which comprises Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, is further strengthening ties as the five states push towards closer integration. The region already counts as one of the most integrated areas in the world after Europe, and is largely based on other communities particularly the European Union. This also reflects a global trend, as states seek greater cross-border cooperation. Tom Ottervanger, of counsel at Allen & Overy in Amsterdam notes …. The main purpose for abolishing borders is trade, opening the market and allowing businesses to sell products in a wider region…. “There is no doubt that EAC countries are doing very well but they could do better without economic and national borders,”, he says.
Asean set for major milestone
Establishment of a community to be signed and declared by 10 leaders
The Star (Malaysia), Nov 17, 2015 – A historic declaration will be signed on Sunday to formalise the creation of an Asean Community by Dec 31. The 2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the Asean Community will be signed by all 10 Asean leaders during the 27th Asean Summit at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. And to make it more memorable, the event is expected to be witnessed by leaders of Asean’s dialogue partners, including US President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Recall that the European Union first organized as the “European Community” in the 1950s and ’60s.
Four euro zone countries risk breaking EU rules with 2016 budgets
Reuters, Nov 17, 2015 – Italy, Lithuania, Austria and Spain risk breaking European Union rules with their 2016 budget plans, the European Commission said on Tuesday, while France might also not meet some of the fiscal targets set out by EU finance ministers…. The Commission, the EU executive arm, checks draft budget plans of euro zone countries every year to see if they are in line with the Stability and Growth Pact, which sets rules for EU budgets.
The EU now has assumed more power over member nations than the federal government of the United States that has no constitutional oversight of states’ budgets.
EUROPEAN UNION, EURASIAN UNION:
EU Mulls Direct Talks With Russian-Led Economic Bloc, Angering Some EU Members
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Nov 17, 2015 – An extension of EU sanctions against Russia over its role in the Ukraine conflict is also likely when that issue comes up in December. As Brussels considers ways to lessen the blow, a handful of diplomats tell RFE/RL, the idea of conducting direct talks with the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) has gained some traction…. The prospect of Brussels dealing directly with an economic bloc that aims to rival the European Union, is considered a tool for Moscow to exert political and economic influence on its neighbors, and which has been described as an effort to recreate the Soviet Union has raised some alarms, however.
Iran welcomes idea of joining Eurasian Economic Union
PanARMENIAN, Nov 13, 2015 – The issue of Iran’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) may be settled within 2-3 years, the country’s Minister of Communication told RIA Novosti on Thursday, November 12…. The Eurasian Economic Union is an economic union of states located primarily in northern Eurasia. A treaty aiming for the establishment of the EEU was signed on May 29, 2014 by the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, and came into force on January 1, 2015. Treaties aiming for Armenia and Kyrgyzstan’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union were signed on October 9, 2014 and December 23, 2014, respectively. Armenia and Kyrgyzstan’s accession treaties came into force on January 2, 2015 and August 6, 2015.
UNASUR parliament has 70% advance
Los Tiempos (Bolivia), Nov 13, 2015 (Google Translate) – The construction of the parliament the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), located in the municipality of San Benito, is an increase of 70 percent and a gap of 5 percent. The work will be delivered in May 2016, said yesterday the general coordinator of Unasur, Marcos Loayza.
CLOSED: Sweden Suspends Free Movement, Set To Turn Migrants Away In Major Policy U-Turn
Breitbart, Nov 12, 2015 – Sweden is to reintroduce border controls at its southern frontier from midday today, suspending the ‘Schengen’ free movement agreement with neighbouring countries Germany and Denmark. The move is a significant u-turn for the grand coalition government led by left-wing Social Democrat Stefan Löfven, who just two days ago slammed the centre-right ‘Moderate’ party for suggesting the country control its borders.
EAEC needs parliamentary dimension, Moscow believes
Vestnik Kavkaxa (Russia), Nov 12, 2015 – ‘’First, we need to create a Eurasian Law…. The second thing is the parliamentary dimension…. The third thing is Eurasian security. We, of course, today, as a strong state, understand that we have undertaken risks by opening our borders,…”
ASEAN, CHINA and TPP:
Trump Was Right On China & The TPP Agreement
DC Whistpers, Nov 11, 2015 – There was a brief exchange during last night’s GOP presidential debate that had Senator Rand Paul chiding Donald Trump for his anti-TPP stance. Trump made mention that it was a “terrible deal” that would cost American jobs and that once again China would “sneak in through the back door.”
Paul declared China wasn’t part of the TPP deal. The senator is right. But Mr. Trump, in so much as how the agreement will hurt American jobs and benefit China, is right on those far more important points.
Take this quote from an earlier Globe & Mail report on the subject: “…many TPP countries already have free-trade agreements with China. Even the United States is negotiating a bilateral investment treaty with China…In the shorter run, China is likely to seek to fast-track its own favoured free-trade accord – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which comprises the 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries plus China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand. This 16-country bloc would be a larger grouping than the TPP and include the world’s two most populous countries, China and India.”
Exclusive — Donald Trump: Obama’s Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Deal Is ‘Insanity’ - Breitbart, Nov 9, 2015 – He also hit the deal as a giveaway to China. “We are giving away what ultimately is going to be a back door for China,” he said. “China will take advantage of it—all the weak points in it, more than anybody else,” said Trump, who has previously criticized China’s manipulation of currency prices. China is not part of the TPP deal, but is widely expected to join in the next few years.
Rubio, Trump’s chief rival from the Washington establishment, has publicly backed the TPP deal multiple times throughout the year—in the Wall Street Journal and in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, where he called it a “pillar” of his desired presidency. But now Rubio’s team says he’s undecided about the unpopular deal.
If he’s elected president, Trump told Breitbart News that he would negotiate trade deals with individual countries, rather than giant multinational deals like TPP. He would also stop currency manipulation, he said.If he’s elected president, Trump told Breitbart News that he would negotiate trade deals with individual countries, rather than giant multinational deals like TPP. He would also stop currency manipulation, he said.
U.S. and Iran’s Common Interests in Syria
International Policy Digest, Nov 8, 2015 - The rise of the “Islamic State” (IS) in Iraq and Syria has encouraged both Washington and Tehran to find greater common ground, and it has fostered a growing interest on the part of Western and Iranian officials in exploring a more open relationship to address shared security concerns. At an early stage, the Syrian crisis became another battleground in the rivalry between the Iranian-led so-called “axis of resistance” (Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon) on one side, and the US-backed “axis of moderation” (the Gulf Cooperation Council and other pro-Western Sunni Arab nations) on the other.
EURASIAN UNION and the ‘NEW MERCANTILISM’ :
Kobyakov: Integration will help withstand global economic challenges
Belarus News, Nov 5, 2015 – Integration will help withstand global economic challenges, Belarus’ Premier Andrei Kobyakov said…. According to Andrei Kobyakov, today many countries are facing crisis developments in the economic sector…. “Integration should be comprehensive and well-balanced – in trade, investment and the financial sector. It is important to promote a wide economic integration in the CIS, the Eurasian Economic Union, and the Union State,” he said. It is equally important to develop a full-fledged financial market and harmonize the legislation in all its segments, be it banking and insurance sectors, the securities market. “One more thing is the setting up of big companies and the implementation of large projects. Here, the government has necessary instruments, for instance, guarantees, modern financial services,” he added.
ASEAN and REGIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE:
Ahmad Zahid: Asean regional road safety strategy finalised
The Sun Daily (Malaysia), Nov 5, 2015 – The ASEAN Regional Road Safety Strategy, which will be the standard for road safety in ASEAN countries, has been finalised, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (pix). He said the strategy, which was in line with the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, was essential to safeguard the welfare of the ASEAN people as the region continued to develop land transport infrastructure…. Ahmad Zahid said the transportation sector played a pivotal role in ensuring that ASEAN maintained its position as one of the leading economic blocks in the world and that there were immense benefits to be gained from regional cooperation.
ASEAN defense chiefs fail to agree on South China Sea statement – Reuters, Nov 4, 2015 – Disagreement between the United States and China over how to address rival claims in the South China Sea marred a gathering of Southeast Asian defense officials on Wednesday, with a joint statement scrapped after ministers failed to agree on its wording.
The United States and its allies had pressed for a mention of disputes in the South China Sea in the statement while a senior U.S. defense official said China had lobbied members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to avoid any reference.
SAARC and REGIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE:
Mythic link to Lanka may become a reality
ADB, World Bank to be roped in for $12b project
Financial Chronicle (India), Nov 3, 2015 – In keeping with improving equations with the emerald islands to her south, India will shortly commence negotiations with Sri Lanka to build a road-cum-rail sea-link between Dhanushkodi in Tamil Nadu and Talaimannar in minority Tamil-dominated northern Sri Lanka with an investment of $12 billion…. The rail and road sea-link will also have the provision for movement of ships in the region. This project is being billed as the largest in developing trans-Saarc road and transport network.
GCC and the ‘NEW MERCANTILISM’:
Strengthening the GCC in today’s world
An Arab political bloc that includes Yemen would be geographically vast, with a large population and the third- or fourth-strongest economy in the world
Gulf News (Dubai, UAE), Nov 3, 2015 – Why is the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) delaying the announcement that it is transforming into a confederation that includes Yemen? …. What is the GCC waiting for to shift from its current status into a more effective and advanced political structure, like a confederation that includes Yemen and can have more influence in the course of regional and international political events?
Exposed: US Trade Representative’s link to the European Commission
UKIP, Nov 2, 2015 – It has today been revealed by UKIP Leader Nigel Farage that the US trade representative, who last week warned that the United States is not keen on pursuing a separate free trade deal with Britain if it leaves the European Union, failed to declare his interest in the subject before making his intervention in the ongoing EU Referendum debate as he formerly worked for the European Commission.
Prior to his current role, the US trade representative, Michael Froman, worked for the European Commission President’s own internal think tank, the “Forward Studies Unit”.
Mr Farage revealed this fact speaking to Breitbart News Daily Radiofollowing an appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.
He said: “Froman basically said that if Britain was to leave the European Union there would be no bilateral trade deal between the United States and the Untied Kingdom. It’s ludicrous.
“It is political interference by the Obama administration in the British referendum.
“Prior to being Obama’s trade envoy, he worked for the European Commission. He worked in Brussels for the Commission’s Forward Studies Unit.
“I am outraged at his interference”.
Read the whole story over at Breitbart London.