News Archive – February 2012

ECOWAS lagging behind SADC, EAC, COMESA in integration – Africa Report, Feb. 29, 2012 – He said other sub-regions were making much better progress than West Africa – the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), East African Community (EAC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) were working on the Cape to Cairo project and achieving much faster liberalisation than the Ecowas region.

Belarus, EU Spat Unlikely to Affect Moscow-Minsk Relations – RIA Novisti, Feb. 29, 2012 – EU sanctions in regard to Belarus will not affect the integration processes underway between Moscow and Minsk, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday….In November, the Russian, Belarusian and Kazakh presidents signed a declaration on Eurasian economic integration, a roadmap of integration processes aimed at creating the Eurasian Economic Union

Thousands protest against European Union austerity cuts – BBC News, Feb. 29, 2012 – The protests come ahead of a European Union summit on Thursday aimed at boosting economic growth and tightening fiscal responsibility. Union leaders and workers called on EU leaders to find an alternative to cuts to social services and welfare.

ASEAN Economic Community On Track For 2015 – Tax-News, Feb. 29, 2012 – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economic ministers, at the conclusion of their meeting in Myanmar, noted the developments in the implementation of various initiatives aimed at establishing the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.

NTPC inks power supply pact with Bangladesh – Times of India, Feb. 29, 2012 – The deal, signed in New Delhi, marks a milestone in bilateral ties and takes a step further to India’s idea of creating a SAARC energy grid. Indian power is expected to start flowing into Bangladesh by July, 2013 – the target date for completing a $200 million transmission link between the two grids.

East Africa: Rift Emerges Over Eac Monetary Union – allAfrica, Feb. 29, 2012 – International economists have advised that the [East African] Commuinty should take time to study all the intricacies involved in setting up a monetary union to avoid any future crisis that might arise, citing the ongoing Euro Zone currency difficulties as a case in point….After the implementation of the Customs Union and the Common Market, the Monetary Union is the next and third stage in the integration process of the EAC. The ultimate step will be the formation of a political federation.
‘Single ECOWAS currency still feasible’ – The Nation (Nigeria), Feb. 29, 2012 – The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states have insisted that the region’s plan to use single currency can still be achieved despite economic crisis in Eurozone. The ECOWAS called for speedy implementation of the commission’s Macroeconomic Convergence, known as ECOMAC, to expedite single monetary union in the region.
SD yet to ratify SADC Finance, Investment Protocol – Swazi Observer, Feb. 28, 2012 – SWAZILAND may have signed the all important SADC [Southern African Development Community] Finance and Investment Protocol (FIP), a pro-poor instrument which also advocates for cooperation in taxation and related matters, but parliament has still not ratified this treaty….Because Swaziland signed the protocol, the country is obligated to implement the commitments placed in it since it has been ratified by two thirds of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states.

The new GCC federation? – Kuwait Times, Feb. 29, 2012 – Although all GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries and heads of governments have approved the call and even the final statement to assure the need for such unity, few columnists undertook the mission of explaining, arguing and maybe advising the public, instead of leaving the crowd misunderstood!

Veep Opens ECOWAS Parliament – Ghana, Feb. 29, 2012 – According to him, African sub-regional integration can be achieved if such checkpoints and barriers on inter-country highways are removed. The Vice President who made this known at the opening ceremony of the ECOWAS Parliamentary seminar in Accra yesterday, call on member countries to map out strategies to deal with the problem to ensure Africa’s integration.

Development Partners to Better Coordinate Democratic Institutions Initiatives – Solomon Times, Feb. 29, 2012 – This emerged out of a meeting on Development Partner Coordination on Strengthening Democratic Institutions organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat as part of the Regional Workshop on Democratic Institutions being held in Brisbane, Australia, 27 – 29 February….Development partners, including the United Nations Development Programme and the Centre for Democratic Institutions, outlined their activities in enhancing good governance in the Pacific region.

European Union: This time is different – The Economist, Feb. 28, 2012 – Twice in recent years—2001 and 2008—Irish voters have rejected changes to EU treaties, before later reversing their positions. Both referendums were rerun, and passed. This time, however, is different….For one, it would mean that Ireland does not qualify for future financial support from the European Stability Mechanism, the euro zone’s bailout fund…

North America: Canada Lobbies Against US Banking ReformCounter Punch (Canada), Feb. 28, 2012 – Flaherty and Carney are trying to cast their opposition as standing for Canadian regulatory sovereignty. But since all five of Canada’s largest banks drew on emergency loans from the U.S. Federal Reserve during the crisis, the U.S. certainly has a moral argument in favor of being able to regulate the behavior of Canadian bank subsidiaries operating within its territory.

GCC aides meet today to weigh nuclear energy options – Arab News, Feb. 28, 2012 – Today, senior officials and nuclear experts of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will hold a meeting in Riyadh to study a project on the use of nuclear energy and to review a plan to boost cooperation between member states and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

US presses Pakistan to allow transit facility to Indian goods for Afghanistan Pakistan Observer, Feb. 28, 2012 – The strengthening of Indian influence in Afghanistan would inflict huge loss not only to Pakistanis economic interests but would also endanger Pakistan’s western border…. Under SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Agreement), Pakistan committed a big mistake during Musharraf regime by including Afghanistan in the SAARC family and under SAFTA, every country will be given the transit facility.

North America: NAFTA, almost 20 years later – El Paso Inc. Feb. 27, 2012 – Blanco mentioned that he had just returned from a trip to Asia and he had never seen so many companies there interested in locating operations to North America. However, to remain competitive in the future, Mexico, Canada and the U.S. must invest in infrastructure that is tied to logistics. That includes more efficient and high-tech border crossings, and a review of regulations that impede the free flow of trade throughout North America.

North America: FMCSA recruiting Mexican motor carriers into pilot program – Land Line, Feb. 27, 2012 – In response to the underwhelming participation in the U.S.-Mexico cross-border pilot program, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration officials are in Mexico drumming up business. Anna Amos, director of safety programs, and Marcelo Perez, a transportation safety investigator for the agency….told Mexican motor carriers that if participation did not increase, the agency wouldn’t be able to statistically justify opening the border to all Mexico-domiciled motor carriers. “It makes no sense that the Department of Transportation would spend our tax dollars to beg for Mexico-based companies to participate in the program,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

North America: Part of Keystone pipeline to go ahead, company says – MSNBC, Feb. 27, 2012 – In the meantime, the company noted Monday, the section from Cushing, Okla., to the Texas Gulf Coast will be built….The section north of Nebraska is currently being built…

Gas transmission lines: Regional integration – Business Recorder (Pakistan), Feb. 27, 2012 – Regional integration has remained a pipedream of the policymakers and the people of South Asia since the visionary idea of Saarc was floated in 1985…..New hopes have sprung in the form of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipelines….Now if the US puts pressure and succeeds in forcing Pakistan to give up plans to import gas and electricity from Iran, the consequences for the two countries and the region are doomed to be disastrous.

EAC Meets to Discuss Euro Zone Experience – allAfrica, Feb. 27, 2012 – Regional economic experts and policymakers are meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, this week, to reflect on the current crisis facing the Euro Zone as they chart the way forward for the East African Community (EAC)’s monetary union. The conference, which will bring together at least 100 delegates including top researchers and business leaders, was jointly organized by the EAC, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Canadian International Development Agency.

Mechanism to boost West African regional trade agreed – Afrique en Ligue, Feb 27, 2012 – A task force comprising officials of the ECOWAS Commission and their counterparts from the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI) working to eliminate impediments to intra-community trade has agreed on a template for four studies….on trade in services in the region for Ministers of Trade of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), which comprises Ministers from the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, ahead of the next Doha round of negotiations. These five countries are working to create a second regional common currency by 2015 on the road to a single regional currency in 2020.

Southern Africa: Sacu Industrialisation Plan to Target Eight Sectors – allAfrica, Feb. 27, 2012 – The Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) is developing a regional framework for cross-border co-operation on industrialisation….Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies said an agreement for the negotiation of the Tripartite Free Trade Area – between SADC, Comesa and the East African Community – was launched last year, and that negotiations would start soon….Commenting on the AU’s proposal last month to create a continent-wide FTA, Davies said such a FTA would build on the Tripartite FTA currently being negotiated.

Iran denies Greece oil shipment of 500,000 barrels: report – Reuters, Feb. 26, 2012 – Iran has refused to give Greece a shipment of 500,000 barrels of crude oil in a retaliatory measure against European Union sanctions on the Islamic state’s lifeblood, oil, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Sunday….Traders told Reuters on February 24 that Swiss-based Totsa, the trading arm of French oil major Total, and trading house Mercuria were in separate negotiations with Greek refiner Hellenic Petroleum to help it replace Iranian crude.

The Eurozone’s coup d’état in Greece is complete – Al-Arabiya, Feb. 26, 2012 – The move has masked a European Union financial coup d’état; not a bailout of Greece, but a bailout for investors in Greek bonds, mostly American and German banks, which in turn would buy time to stabilize the 17-nation euro zone currency bloc….But what is now worrying about Greece is not only the loss of sovereignty, but also the fear that the EU now wants to permanently bypass the elected government with more unelected technocrats.

EA states pass Bill for one-stop border posts – The Citizen (Tanzania), Feb. 26, 2012 – The East African Community (EAC) partner States have cleared the draft One Stop Border Post (OSBP) Bill and adopted a draft EAC Protocol for ICT Networks….This would ultimately lead to efficiency as the Customs and Immigration checks, among others, will be conducted under a ‘common control zone’ and would eliminate the current practice that involves checks on both sides of the common border….“At the same time, border agencies stand to gain through improved information sharing and risk management – leading to more effective controls”, the EAC secretariat said in a statement yesterday.
[Note: The East African Community’s stated goal is a political federated union by 2015 with a common currency, and their “common control zone” perimeter, within which the member nations harmonize customs and immigration mechanisms, is a means to that end. What do you suppose is the ultimate goal of the Obama-Harper “Beyond the Border” agreement with its North American security perimeter?]

The Indo-Pak peace – By:Iqbal Haider, Pakistan Today, Feb. 26, 2012 – Greater cooperation and closer ties of the SAARC countries with China, in my opinion would not only serve our national security concerns but also enable us to give greater priority and allocation to the social sector, which is the craving need of the oppressed people of the entire South Asia region….China is the most trusted ally and strategic partner of Pakistan for close to five decades. China, being the common denominator between India and Pakistan, is well placed to play a significant role in promoting cordial relations, peace and progress…

FM: Only political solution will resolve Syrian crisis – Famagusta Gazette (Cyprus), Feb. 26, 2012 – The solution to the crisis in Syria can only be a political and not a military one, [Cyprus] Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou Marcoullis has stressed in her intervention at the First International Conference of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People….The conference was attended by more than 60 countries and representatives of international organizations such as the United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Maghreb Union [North Africa], the Gulf Cooperation Council and the African Union.

Iran, Syria crisis may spill over: Medvedev – The Hindu, Feb. 25, 2012 – Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev has warned that the crisis in Iran and Syria could spill over to Central Asia and called for closer security cooperation with former Soviet states in the region….The Ministry also said it did not rule out that the U.S. could use its airbase in Kyrgyzstan for a possible attack against Iran. [Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev], who also met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, said he had discussed with the Russian leaders plans for Kyrgyzstan to join the Eurasian economic union Russia is building with Belarus and Kazakhstan. “Kyrgizstan should be in a single economic space with Russia,” he said…

Asean urged to pursue reforms ahead of AEC – AsiaOne (Singapore), Feb. 25, 2012 – Asean countries will be required to reform laws and regulations to facilitate trade and investment growth within the region under the Asean Economic Community (AEC), which will come into effect in 2015, keynote speakers said at a conference yesterday.

The Anti-Palestinian Arab Nations – Algemeiner, Feb. 24, 2012 – While the Arab League supports the right of any Arab to become citizens of any Arab country, they have a single exception: Palestinians. Today… if you are a Palestinian and you want to become a citizen of an Arab country, you are almost certainly out of luck. And the reason being given is the same as in 1959: Arabs say they are doing it to preserve Palestinian nationality… This is, of course, cynical. There are a few reasons why Arab countries do not want Palestinians to become citizens, but they have nothing to do with helping Palestinian nationhood.

Never mind Iran, is Saudi Arabia about to acquire a nuclear bomb? – Daily Mail (London), Feb. 24, 2012 – Both Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council maintain that they want a WMD-free Middle East. However, key members of the Saudi royal elite have recently signalled that if Iran develops a nuclear weapon, then Saudi Arabia will get one too. Speaking of signalling, they have also long indicated that if Israel were to overfly the desert kingdom to bomb Iranian nuclear sites, they would temporarily turn their radars off.

Could a New ‘Commonwealth of Nations’ Lead the Developing World? – The Atlantic, Feb. 24, 2012 – India, once considered the jewel in the crown of the British empire, is a member of the fossilized skeletal remains left behind, the Commonwealth of Nations — but is also a member of the BRICS, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the G-20…the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization….Lord Michael Ancram, also known as Lord Lathian…has proposed a ‘Neo-Commonwealthianism’ to kick-start the hopes and aspirations of both elder powers (like the UK), rising powers like India and South Africa…

Iran comes to South Asia? – Friday Times (Pakistan), Feb. 24, 2012 – What if non-Semitic Iran were to become a part of South Asia and was consequently persuaded to moderate its hostile involvement in the Semitic Middle East on behalf of the people of Shia faith? After all, Afghanistan was Central Asia before it became the 8th South Asian state as member of SAARC. But Iran will not only be transformed in the process, it will transform an energy-starved South Asia itself as Afghanistan never could.

Russian, Kyrgyz Presidents to Meet in Moscow – RIA Novosti, Feb. 24, 2012 – Atambayev attended meetings of regional organizations – the Council of the CIS Heads of State, the Inter-State Council of the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s council – in Moscow.
Sergey Naryshkin wants Eurasian Parliament for further integration – Vestnik Kavkaza, Feb. 23, 2012 – The Russian Chairman of Parliament Sergey Naryshkin believes that further integration and formation of the Eurasian Union requires formation of a Eurasian Parliament, RIA Novosti reports.
Belarus Considers Selling Oil Pipelines – Deputy Premier –, Feb. 22, 2012 – While both energy-poor Ukraine and Belarus have resisted selling off their Soviet-era pipeline assets to Gazprom carpetbaggers, it would now seem that Belarus has begun to reach the end of the road….. Russian Federation’s natural gas monopoly Gazprom said it could increase the amount of gas it sends to Europe through Belarus by 13 percent compared with its 2011 export levels….Four months ago the Russian government issued a press release stating that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Lukashenka had signed a package of agreements to more closely integrate their former Soviet republics, including one creating the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) by 2015.

Latin America Unasur Bloc Summit Will Be Held In Lima Peru In Nov – Bernama, Feb. 24, 2012 – Peruvian President Ollanta Humala said the integration processes of the Andean Community (CAN) and Unasur will be the priorities of Peru’s foreign policy this year. Unasur is made up of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela.

North America: Bringing the War on Drugs North of the Border – Pacific Free Press, Feb. 23, 2012 – In a move that went largely unnoticed, the U.S. government unveiled a new counter-narcotics strategy for the northern border which will work towards closer cooperation with Canada in the war on drugs. This includes both countries strengthening integrated cross-border intelligence sharing and law enforcement operations. Canada has also released a comprehensive counter-terrorism plan aimed at combating the threats of domestic and international violent extremism. The separate U.S.-Canada undertakings are both tied to the Beyond the Border deal and efforts to establish a North American security perimeter.

European Union prepares to shut out Iran’s banks from major global financial clearinghouse – Washington Post, Feb. 23, 2012 – The European Union is preparing regulations that will shut out Iran’s banks from a major financial clearinghouse used by virtually every country in the world, a senior official said Thursday.

India’s Iran rationale – Khaleej Times, Feb. 23, 2012 – Some are even asking India to choose between Iran and Israel on the one hand and between the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries and Iran on the other over the latter’s nuclear policy and the perceived threat emanating from it. As much as India’s policy is being viewed with confusion in some quarters, New Delhi’s non-flamboyant foreign policy indicates a degree of maturity that is difficult to find in today’s hyperactive diplomatic world.

UN and Arab League meet in Cairo to focus on humanitarian collaboration – StarAfrica, Feb. 23, 2012 – The sectoral meetings aim at enhancing cooperation between the LAS [Arab League] and the UN and are held every two years to “address priority areas of major importance to the development of Arab States” (UN General Assembly).

Timely Discussion On Harmonisation Of Asean Laws In Bali – Bernama (Malaysia), Feb. 23, 2012 – “Harmonising laws does not seek to unify all laws but merely to find some common ground for cooperation within ASEAN legal and judicial framework.”

Gulf Cooperation Council: Building a strong GCC union – Gulfnews, Feb. 23, 2012 – Whereas the six Arab Gulf states consciously avoided emphasising the security aspect of their cooperation in 1981, events since then confirmed that this was no longer possible, which was the chief reason why King Abdullah urged the bloc to move from cooperation to full unity at the last GCC summit in December.

UN Council increases Somalia force to 17,731 – Africa Review, Feb. 23, 2012 – The UN Security Council unanimously agreed Wednesday to increase the African Union force in Somalia from 12,000 to 17,731 troops. A resolution passed by the 15-nation council gave the African force a tougher mandate to attack Al-Shabaab Islamist militants and substantially increased international funding for the military operation.

European Union sends ACTA to Europe’s highest court for a decision – GlobalPost, Feb. 23, 2012 – ACTA [Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement] is legislation which aims to strengthen international copyright protection on the internet. However, protesters across the EU and around the world have focused on clauses in the agreement which they believe threaten freedom of expression online.

Deal to give a fillip to trade in SAARC region – Himalayan Times, Feb. 22, 2012 – A SAARC Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement that has been pending since 2007 will be finalised during the 18th summit of the South Asian region to be held in Nepal next year….The guidelines envision opening of intra-regional investment with equal treatment of investments in any of the SAARC countries by any member country without restriction…The region in recent years — after the global recession — has been exploring ways to deepen trade and investment linkages so that domestic markets can absorb the global shock.

GCC panel meets to study Gulf Union plan – Arab News, Feb. 22, 2012 – The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has taken the first step to transform into a stronger union with the launch of the first meeting of a high-powered panel studying the new initiative, said the council’s secretary-general in Riyadh on Tuesday. In his opening remarks at the meeting, Abdullateef Al-Zayani said the Gulf states have started working on the proposal to form the Gulf Union, a provision explained in article four of the GCC charter. Referring to the political unification to be preceded by full-fledged economic integration,….”We are proceeding to a higher degree of harmonization in several areas,” he added.

ASEAN steps up defence cooperation – VietNamNet Bridge, Feb. 22, 2012 – ASEAN senior defence officials are meeting in Phnom Penh to draft a declaration on increasing defence cooperation towards the realisation of the ASEAN Political Security Community by 2015.

CSTO collective forces’ military drills to be held in Armenia – ArmeniaNow, Feb. 22, 2012 – Speaking about integration processes in the territory of the CIS, Bordyuzha said CIS may follow the example of the European Union, where the EU ensures the economic development of the countries, and NATO serves as protective shield. “The same may be in the relations of the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization] and EurAsEC,” the CSTO secretary general said.
Eurasian Union ‘not dependent on Russian elections’ – NewEurope, Feb. 21, 2012 – The project of the creation of the Eurasian Union does not depend on the outcome of the upcoming presidential elections in Russia to be held on 4 March, Russian experts said…

EU beefs up powers over state budgets – Financial Times (London), Feb. 22, 2012 (Google Link) – European Union finance ministers on Tuesday agreed on rules that will give the EU more powers to scrutinise eurozone countries’ budgets, even before they are approved by national parliaments….They are intended to move the EU closer to a “fiscal union.”

EU Assists Forum Countries with Human Rights – Solomon Times, Feb. 22, 2012 – The European Union and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat yesterday signed a contribution agreement to the value of 1 million Euros to support Pacific island countries in their ratification and implementation of international Human Rights Treaties and the Rome Statute.

UN to bolster Somalia peacekeeping troops by 5,700 – Angola Press, Feb. 22, 2012 – The UN Security Council is to vote to increase the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia by more than 5,000 soldiers, diplomats have said.
AU Commission Chairperson Briefs Partners Group on Summit Outcomes – allAfrica, Feb. 21, 2012 – The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Dr Jean Ping today briefed the African Union partners group (AUPG) on the outcomes of the 18th meeting of the Assembly of the African Union….In this regard, he pointed out the significance of the free trade area between the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC), while recommending that other Regional Economic Communities should use it as a best practice in the general African framework to create a continental free trade area.

North America: Those coping with job loss hope for better days ahead – Globe and Mail, Feb. 21, 2012 – As part of our ongoing coverage of the decline of manufacturing jobs in Canada, The Globe and Mail invited readers to share their stories…. Murray MacDonald, 49, Elmvale, Ont. – I would love to see retailers with only North American-made products. I think Canadian-made is great too, but in reality we must co-operate with our largest and closest ally, the U.S.A. We are in this labour shift to Asia together. I am sad to see U.S. protectionist action to take jobs home. Hopefully North America can unite for the greater good.

North America: A common purpose – Windsor Star (Canada), Feb. 21, 2012 – The overall goal is to create a continental security perimeter to better share information, facilitate the free flow of goods and services and make the necessary infrastructure improvements at border crossings. The perimeter would serve as the first line of defence against terrorists and other security threats to external borders, ports and airports. It would pave the way for the faster flow of people and goods and services across our traditional border through the harmonization of regulations and practices.

European Union: Euro Zone Votes to Stick Together – Wall Street Journal, Feb. 21, 2012 – Despite all the talk of pushing Greece into default—never entirely credible—the euro zone has more than doubled its financial commitment to more than €200 billion, giving Greece’s partners a far greater stake in the country’s future. This is the latest in a series of steps since last October that show the euro zone remains determined to hold the currency bloc together.

In Africa, Development Still Comes At Freedom’s Expense – allAfrica, Feb. 21, 2012 – Taking a cue from China, which has an expanding role on the continent as an investor and model, they stress social stability and development over openness and reform….Political dissent is stamped out, and the tales of people left out of economic development, particularly in rural areas, go untold. In January, for example, the outgoing African Union chairman, President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi, signed into law an amendment to the country’s penal code giving the information minister unchecked authority to block the reporting of any news the government deems not to be in the public’s interest.

Skewed resolution – Frontline (India), Feb. 21, 2012 – As in the case of Libya, Western capitals are using the Arab League to institute a regime change in Damascus. The Arab League’s resolution presented to the Security Council was ostensibly to bring a peaceful end to the violence that has gripped Syria since March last year. But it was, in fact, a blueprint for regime change…

Bayer unit bullish on Asean’s potential – Bangkok Post, Feb. 21, 2012 – Chairman Patrick Thomas said the expected strong growth in northern Asean markets will benefit Bayer’s Map Ta Phut plant….Plastics makers are shifting production from China farther south to countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Laos, due partly to rising labour costs. “The Asean bloc is a huge manufacturing centre for the plastic industry. Bayer has followed the market trend,” Mr Thomas said during a visit to Bangkok last week.

Tanzania: Govt Signs Maritime Border Agreements With Neighbours – allAfrica, Feb. 20, 2012 – As part of the implementation of the African Union Border Programme (AUBP), Tanzania, the Comoros and Seychelles on Friday signed agreements on the delimitation of their maritime borders, which signing ceremony took place in Victoria, Seychelles….The overall objective is to prevent conflict and deepen integration.

GCC to meet on union on Tuesday – Oman Tribune, Feb. 20, 2012 – The commission in charge of studying the initiative of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia to turn the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) into a Gulf Union will hold its first meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday.

European Union: Monti Glimpses EU Political Union and Chides Germany – Wall Street Journal, Feb. 20, 2012 – Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on Monday said that “significant steps” have been taken towards European integration and that the public has not fully cottoned on to all of them. The agreement that national governments will submit their annual budgets to Brussels before sending them to their own legislative assemblies “gives an idea of political union,” Mr. Monti said…

SAFTA has potential to establish regional bloc – Gilani – Daily News (Sri Lanka), Feb. 20, 2012 – Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Thursday said that South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) has the potential to establish a regional bloc with collective goals, and diversified abilities and potential as well as accelerate trade among the member countries…. “Let us harness this diversity into unity and create an enabling environment to put our respective countries on the road of economic development by increased mutual trade and investment,” Gilani said while addressing the SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Countries) Commerce Ministers at PM House in Pakistan.

Hoss calls for more robust Arab League – The Daily Star (Lebanon), Feb. 20, 2012 – Former Prime Minister Salim Hoss blasted the Arab League Monday….“The time has come for a radical rethinking of the Arab League’s structure – its path and commitments – so that it can be transformed into an active organization working to consolidate the unity of the Arabs politically, economically and strategically….The Arab League cannot last unless this reality changes and the entire Arab nation functions as a unified force…”

Official: EU set to support expanded Somali force – Seattle Times, Feb. 20, 2012 – The European Union is willing to help pay for more African Union peacekeepers in Somalia in an effort to clear al-Shabab militants from the country, a senior official said Monday.

West Africa: ECOWAS to Introduce Single Currency by 2020 – allAfrica, Feb. 20, 2012 – The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, is to introduce a single currency in the sub-region by 2020, while it will become effective in English speaking countries in 2015.

Saudi- Kosovo seeks full GCC support – Middle East North Africa Financial Network, Feb. 20, 2012 – A senior Kosovan diplomat has sought the support of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for recognition of its independence and to boost its diplomatic stature in global organizations.

European Union: Iran stops oil sales to British and French firms – Reuters, Feb. 19, 2012 – Iran has stopped selling crude to British and French companies, the oil ministry said on Sunday, in a retaliatory measure against fresh EU sanctions on the Islamic state’s lifeblood, oil. “Exporting crude to British and French companies has been stopped … we will sell our oil to new customers,” spokesman Alireza Nikzad was quoted as saying by the Ministry of Petroleum website.

European Union: Eurozone crisis: Will it create a United States of Europe? – Economic Times (India), Feb. 19, 2012 – This thesis runs as follows….”The crafty way forward is to force the pace of European integration faster than the public wants. This will, of course, lead to crises. But every crisis will force voters to choose between greater unification and the huge costs of de-integration. Hopefully they will repeatedly opt for greater unification. In the process, they will give up facet after facet of their national identity and culture….Our solution was Machiavellian….”
Greece is being destroyed by ‘respectable’ fanatics – By Nick Cohen, London Guardian, Feb. 18, 2012 – Europe is now offering to revive Greece by impoverishing it; to heal it by harming it. As Tacitus said of the Roman legions’ earlier attempt to impose a European union: “They make a desert and call it peace.”

China supports Arab League’s proposals for Syria – The Daily Star (Lebanon), Feb. 19, 2012 – China said Saturday that it supports the Arab League’s proposals for ending the violence in Syria, a striking show of support just two weeks after Beijing vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution backing the league’s plans. The seemingly contradictory stances on the Arab League’s proposals appear to reflect Beijing’s desire for mediation but aversion to U.N. involvement that could lead to authorizing force, as happened with Libya.

The connectivity conundrum in Bangladesh – The Hindu, Feb. 19, 2012 – “We are ready to send and receive cargo from Bhutan, India and Nepal,” Mangla Port Chairman Commodore M.A.K. Azad told visiting journalists….marking a major turn in ties among the four SAARC members. Close by, another symbol of SAARC cooperation — a thermal plant to be jointly built by Bangladesh and India — is taking shape.

Uganda and Kenya aim to further regional integration – Coastweek, Feb. 19, 2012 – Kenya and Ugandan governments on Saturday vowed to bolster regional integration for the benefit of the people in the five nations East Africa Community (EAC). “There is need to develop East African Community to the level of the European Union,” [Uganda President Yoweri Museven] said.
West Africa: Jonathan Wants Ecowas Objectives Protected – AllAfrica, Feb. 17, 2012 – President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday warned the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) against using political considerations to destroy the objectives of regional integration for which their community was formed….”Your Excellencies, we must not forget that beyond politics, the economic integration of our sub-region remains the fundamental objective of our organisation. We must therefore accelerate our efforts toward monetary union by meeting the convergence criteria, and achieving the harmonisation of tariff regimes….”

Jordan FM unclear on nature of GCC membership plans – Kuwait News Agency, Feb. 19, 2012 – Jordanian Foreign Minister Naser Judeh expressed hope on Sunday his country would soon be joining the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, but did not explain the kind of membership it would be assuming.
GCC population seen at 50m in 2013 – Saudi Gazette, Feb. 19, 2012 – A booming economy in recent years has created substantial demand for expatriate workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries which has resulted in a rapid growth in population.

ASEAN, Laos and Vietnam: no to human rights and religious freedom because they create “chaos – AsiaNews, Feb. 18, 2012 – Among the limitations, there is also the control of the “practice of a cult or a religion” that must comply with the laws of a nation in which “the rights of the state ‘outweigh’ freedoms and rights of individuals.” This is what emerges from a draft of the ASEAN Declaration on Human Rights, drafted in January during the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission…

Iran: Outgunned In The Gulf – Analysis – Eurasia Review, Feb. 18, 2012 – In 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and launched its war against the United States after Washington blockaded oil shipments to Tokyo. Japan relied on 80 percent of its oil from the United States; oil sales make up 80 percent of Iran’s exports. …Imperial Japan had invaded Manchuria and was ravaging the rest of China and Indochina. In contrast, Iran has invaded no country and exhibits no intent to do so….In nearly every measurement of military power, Iran is overshadowed by the firepower of the neighboring Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a six-member organization consisting of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

United States, European Union say Iran May be Ready to Return to Nuclear Talks – Voice of America, Feb. 17, 2012 – American and European officials say Iran may be serious about returning to talks about its nuclear program….In the letter, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said his government is ready to restart talks at the earliest chance. But in return, he said, the international community must respect Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy.

Marshall Islands Government Welcomes Pacific Experts – Yokwe (Marshall Islands), Feb. 17, 2012 – Peer Reviews are an initiative under the 2009 Cairns Compact for Strengthening Development Coordination (Forum Compact), which is a commitment by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to support the implementation of Pacific Plan priorities, providing the principles and processes for coordinated delivery.
[The Pacific Plan was endorsed by Forum Leaders at their Pacific Islands Forum Meeting in Port Moresby, October 2005. As a ‘living document’ it now forms the basis of ongoing strengthening of regional cooperation and integration efforts for the benefit of the people of the Pacific. – Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat]

What Would Actually Happen If Iran Had The Bomb? – Business Insider, Feb. 16, 2012 – Analysts say Iran is not an irrational, suicidal actor that can’t be deterred. Nor do they believe it is determined to destroy Israel at all costs. A recent Israeli think tank simulation of “the day after” an Iranian nuclear test came to the same conclusion: that nuclear annihilation will not automatically result.

European Union: Greece closes in on bailout, Germany seeks more oversight – Reuters, Feb. 17, 2012 – Northern states in the currency union, led by paymaster Germany, are particularly doubtful that Greek political leaders will stick to the savage cuts in wages, pensions and jobs prescribed by its lenders after an election expected in April. Video: Farage: Globalist Troika Driving Greece Towards Violent Revolution – European Parliament, Strasbourg 2-15-12

North America: Time to harmonize trading regulations: U.S. ambassador – National Post (Canada), Feb. 17, 2012(Google Link) – Beyond facilitating trade, the plan would have Canadian and American officials exchange information on passengers entering and exiting the respective countries….The proposal plays into fears of ceding authority to the U.S. security complex and surrendering some measure of Canadian sovereignty. Those concerns are overblown, Mr. Jacobson said.

Chinese envoy heads to Syria after U.N. vote against Assad – Reuters, Feb. 17, 2012 – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad prepared to welcome a senior Chinese official to Damascus Friday, a show of support from one of the few foreign friends he still has after the U.N. General Assembly voted for an Arab League plan telling him to step down.

Asean waters down human rights draft: leaked document – Mizzima, Feb. 17, 2012 – The draft revealed a number of the Asean-member states – most notably Laos – are seeking to water down the declaration by proposing wording that would limit its scope and application, while officials from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, providing comment as a block of nations, proposed more progressive wording.

Gilani for South Asian economic bloc – The Nation, Feb.17, 2012 – [Pakistani] Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday said that South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) has the potential to establish a regional bloc with collective goals….”I see SAFTA not only as a regional bloc but also as a union of regional countries with collective goals, common objectives and diversified abilities and potential,”….Gilani said while addressing the SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Countries) Commerce Ministers here at PM House.

Breathing life into democracy in Africa – AllAfrica, Feb. 17, 2012 – The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) has come into force heralding a potentially more democratic and progressive path for Africa. The coming into force of the charter means that it is now an official legal working document of the African Union (AU)….This kind of change can indeed appear unrealistic even utopian to some, but it is possible and this needs to be the fervent belief of all the continent’s peoples!

Why Bahrain is not Syria – Thanh Nien Daily, Feb. 16, 2012 – Just like Tunisia and Egypt – and unlike Libya and Syria – the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain was indigenous, legitimate, non-violent and uncontaminated by Western or Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) infiltration. The response was a major crackdown plus a Saudi Arabian invasion over the causeway to Manama. That was the tacit result of a deal struck between the House of Saud and Washington…

Workshop Encourages Cultural Industries – Solomon Times, Feb. 16, 2012 -Creating commercial industries based on the unique heritage of the Pacific was the focus of a four-day workshop co-facilitated by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in Suva. The workshop, held at the Forum Secretariat in Suva, Fiji, 7-10 February 2012, is part of a broader project led by SPC to develop cultural industries in the Pacific, and is supported by the European Union.

Germany Must Decide What the European Union Is For – Clive Crook, Bloomberg, Feb. 16, 2012 – Gideon Rachman writes in the Financial Times: “Across southern Europe, the ‘ugly German’ is back — accused of driving other nations into penury, deposing governments and generally barking orders at all and sundry.” The European Union was intended to bury that caricature once and for all. Instead it has brought the ugly German back to life.

IDF: Syria could attack Israel soon – Israel Today, Feb. 16, 2012 – The Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday that there is growing concern in the Israeli army that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad could attack the Jewish state as pressure mounts for him to step down….The situation has prompted the Arab League and Western powers to consider injecting their own military forces into Syria with the aim of ending Assad’s rule.

In defiant move, Iran proclaims nuclear advances – Fox News, Feb. 15, 2012 – The EU ban on oil imports is to go into effect in July. Iranian officials say their country’s earlier cutoff will hit European nations before they can line up new suppliers, and that Tehran has already lined up buyers for the 18 percent share of its oil that goes to Europe.

US wants SWIFT war on IranAsia Times, Feb. 16, 2012 – No wonder Brussels was caught as a Gucci deer in the headlights when the news started to flow that Tehran would pre-empt the move and immediately slap its own embargo of crude oil exports to six European Union countries – deeply in crisis Club Med members Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain plus recession-hit France and the Netherlands.

Energy as a Building Block in Creating a Euro-Atlantic Security Community – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace – Feb. 2012 – Hence, it is important to incorporate Russia into the World Trade Organization as well as into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Second, it will require a strenuous effort to lower barriers and enhance cooperation among the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the European Union (EU), and the Eurasian Economic Community.

EAC sets vehicle load limit – The Citizen, Feb. 15, 2012 – Experts have recommended the adoption of a 56-tonne gross vehicle limit within the East African Community (EAC) to conform to the Comesa and the Sadc trading blocs.This would bring the whole eastern and southern African region into a harmonised vehicle load capacity regime…

World Bank to release report on regional integration – The Independent, Feb. 15, 2012 – According to a statement from the bank, the study which looks at the Economic Geography of East African Community (EAC) ….The report also concludes that the right approach to get into the global core is to start small and sequence integration right (e.g. fiscal pooling then monetary integration); and, to sustain political integration by compensating the less fortunate partners.

West Africa: Ecowas Ministers Review Regional Security – allAfrica, Feb. 15, 2012 – The meeting, to be presided over by Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, will review regional, political and security situation in the sub-region….the summit would also appoint four judges to replace those whose tenures at the Community Court of Justice had ended.

COMESA to raise $1bn for infrastructure – Tmes of Zambia, Feb. 15, 2012 – The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has said it plans to raise at least US$ 1billion for infrastructure development in the region.

China central banker says Beijing confident in euro, will keep buying European debt – Washington Post, Feb. 14, 2012 – China’s central bank governor expressed confidence in the euro at an appearance Wednesday with visiting European Union leaders and said Beijing will keeping buying the debt of European governments.

U.N. resolution would condemn Syrian regime – USA Today, Feb. 14, 2012 – Diplomats said the resolution could be put to a vote in the 193-member assembly as early as Thursday and is likely to be adopted by a wide margin. There are no vetoes in the assembly….The proposed resolution makes no specific reference to the Arab League’s call Sunday for the Security Council to authorize a joint Arab-U.N. peacekeeping force for Syria.

Argentina confirms it has accepted UN mediation offer for the Malvinas dispute – MercoPress, Feb. 14, 2012 – [Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman] then enumerates a long list of supports outside the UN, for the Argentine position, from Ibero-American summits, and the Group of 77 and China to Unasur, Mercosur and Celac.

Singapore Eyes U.S. Balance – The Diplomat, Feb. 14, 2012 – If Malaysia and other countries in Southeast Asia are willing to accept the argument that what benefits one of them can benefit all, then the goals of connectivity that ASEAN aspires to may well become a reality. And arguably strengthening this region’s organizations and treaties will benefit the United States too.

China says envoy met Arab League head over Syria – Boston Globe, Feb. 14, 2012 – A statement from the Foreign Ministry said Li Huaxin had traveled to Cairo where he held “frank and useful” talks with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby on Monday.

Peru’s President Humala To Visit Argentina In April Or May – Bernama (Malaysia), Feb. 14, 2012 – Both leaders had a meeting in Beijing, China during the visit of Humala in June last year…At that time, the Peruvian president expressed his interest in getting closer to the Southern Common Market and to strengthen the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the newspaper said.

Armenia is not part of pro-Western league of former Soviet – Startfor – Information-Analytic Agengy, Feb. 14, 2012 – Armenia is Moscow’s bridgehead in the Caucasus, states the article of the research center Startfor….The next aim of Russia is Armenia’s integration to the Common Economic Space and Eurasian Union.

PICTA to include trade-in services – Fiji Times, Feb. 14, 2012 – A statement from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat said the latest round of PICTA [Pacific Islands Countries Trade Agreement] trade- in services negotiations focused on refinements to the text for the proposed PICTA trade-in services agreement….As a starting point for liberalisation of services sectors in the region, the PICTA trade-in services commitments focuses on economic sectors with common priorities for all Forum Island Countries, notably tourism, transportation and business services.

East Africa: High Level Meeting to Discuss the Future of EAC – allAfrica, Feb. 14, 2012 – THE East African Community (EAC) in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will hold a high profile conference at the end of this month….”A senior official from the IMF’s European Department will discuss the origins of the Euro crisis, and preliminary lessons for other countries considering monetary union,” said the statement…

ECOWAS to analyse investment climate in West Africa – Ghana Business News, Feb. 14, 2012 – Officials say the data analysis is important for the ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] common market and is expected to “improve the understanding of factors affecting business activities and conditions in the ECOWAS region.”

China-SADC: The roar of the dragon – Afrique en Ligue, Feb. 13, 2012 – China has launched its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) and it entails greater investment in emerging economies, including in the Southern African Development Community….Beijing believes Sadc’s development prospects are good because of its endowment of resources and political stability. The region covers 9,26 million square kilometres, accounting for some 28 percent of Africa’s land area; has a population of 230 million (24,7 percent of Africa’s population) and a GDP of US$200bn (32 percent of Africa’s total).

SDPI holds seminar on climate change – Pakistan Today, Feb. 14, 2012 – Bilateral cooperation between Pakistan and India can turn the climate change threat into an opportunity for ensuring peace and prosperity in both the countries as well as in the South Asian region. This was stated by delegates from India and Pakistan while speaking at the Track-II dialogue on Monday….SAARC could be instrumental and must serve as principle vehicle for sub-regional cooperation on issues related to environment, climate change and socio-economic development in the region.

The linchpin of Europe’s effort to curb global warming is at risk of collapse – Financial Times (London), Feb. 13, 2012 (Google link) – When the European Union decided last month to press ahead with a plan to force foreign airlines to pay for the carbon pollution generated by each flight landing at its airports, Brussels policymakers justified their action as the only way to forge a global solution to one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The policy has indeed succeeded in uniting much of the world – against the EU.

Bahrain Favors Crude Oil Prices at $100 a Barrel, Minister Says – Bloomberg, Feb. 13, 2012 – Bahrain is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. “Bahrain, along with the other producers within GCC prefers to see the prices return to more reasonable levels, say around the $100 a barrel range,” the minister said.

China’s CIC brushes aside Merkel investment plea – Reuters, Feb. 13, 2012 – In comments ahead of a China-EU summit starting on Tuesday, Lou Jiwei, chairman of China Investment Corp (CIC), said any fresh injection of funds into Europe would be in industrial and other real assets, not government bonds.

North America: Red Tories rally against Harper in Toronto-Danforth By-Election – The Canadian, Feb. 13, 2012 – Why is the Harper government binding Canada ever closer to the United States by integrating our economy and harmonizing Canadian regulations with American rules, purportedly to increase cross-border trade, and agreeing to a system of continental perimeter security, yet Mr. Harper’s current trip to China follows statements that if the Americans don’t want our oil, China will buy it?

Somalia: U.S. Ponders Re-Arming Amisom Amid Terror Groups Merger – allAfrica, Feb. 13, 2012 – The United States is considering additional assistance to the African Union military mission in Somalia (Amisom) in the wake of an announced merger between Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda.

Arab League calls for UN to create joint peacekeeping force for Syria – Fox News, Feb. 13, 2012 – The Arab League called Sunday for the U.N. Security Council to create a joint peacekeeping force for Syria and urged Arab states to sever all diplomatic contact with President Bashar Assad’s regime…

Major challenges remain for African free trade area – Irish Times, Feb. 13, 2012 – Ambitious plans to create a continental free trade area in Africa…were recently adopted by the African Union….The taxation of aid money in Africa, taxes from minerals and mining deals and revenues drawn from dealings with banks and multilateral bodies have all been suggested as ways to fund the continental trade boost…..The first [step] would be to finalise the tripartite agreement in the east African community [EAC], the common market for eastern and southern Africa [COMESA], and the southern African development community (SADC) by 2014. This would be followed by other similar trade treaties involving the economic community of west African states [ECOWAS], the economic community of central African states [ECCAS], the Arab Maghreb union [AMU] and the community of Sahel-Saharan states [CEN-SAD] between 2012 and 2014. The final step would be to consolidate all the regional trading entities between 2015 and 2016.

Greeks clean up after riots against austerity vote – Albany Times Union|Associated Press, Feb. 13, 2012 – Greek lawmakers on Sunday began debating legislation introducing severe austerity measures necessary for the country to secure a euro 130 billion ($171.46 billion) bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund and stave off bankruptcy.

EU open to talks but won’t scrap carbon tax – Kansas City Star|Associated Press, Feb. 13, 2012 – Enders said Monday he’s concerned that new European Union carbon emission charges for airlines could spark a trade war between Europe and the rest of the world.

Iran warns Gulf not to side with US – Bahrain King dismisses opposition as disunited – Kuwait Times, Feb. 13, 2012 – The king told Der Spiegel he had called in Gulf Cooperation Council military help, mainly in the form of Saudi troops, to protect Bahrain’s “strategic installations…in case Iran would be more aggressive.”

Russian wrinkle in the South China Sea – Asia Times, Feb. 13, 2012 – The warships, including the anti-submarine Admiral Panteleyev, came at a time two American destroyers – the USS Wayne E Meyer and the USS Chafee – dropped anchor off the coasts of Manila and Cebu, respectively…. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Hanoi last year that the US had a “national interest” in the area.

Indian commerce minister visit to open new era of relations – Pakistan Today, Feb. 13, 2012 – The leadership of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAARC CCI) has welcomed the visit of high powered Indian business delegation led by honorable Commerce Minister of India, Mr Anand Sharma. President SAARC CCI Mr Vikramjit Singh Sahney, former President Mr Tariq Sayeed and Vice President Pakistan Chapter Mr Iftikhar Ali Malik, have regarded this visit as the commencement of new era of relationship between two leading economies of South Asia, adding that such initiatives would help defuse political tension and bring the two nations closer.

The Next Stage of Russia’s Resurgence: The Caucasus States – Town Hall, Feb. 13, 2012 – Russia’s goals for Armenia for 2012 and beyond include maintaining its current levers in Armenia and preparing Armenia for possible integration into the Common Economic Space and Eurasian Union. Russia also wants to sustain the divisions between Armenia and Azerbaijan (and Baku’s ally, Turkey).

Greek Parliament to Vote on Austerity Measures – Voice of America, Feb. 12, 2012 – Greece’s parliament is to vote Sunday on draft austerity measures demanded by the European Union in exchange for a new bailout loan….Several thousand protesters gathered outside the parliament building Saturday, calling on lawmakers to reject the EU’s demands….”We don’t want their loans or their money or their debt. We can’t afford it. The people understand this. They’re angry, so the politicians should be afraid.”
Greek police union wants to arrest EU/IMF officials – Reuters, Feb. 10, 2012 – Greece’s largest police union has threatened to issue arrest warrants for officials from the country’s European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders for demanding deeply unpopular austerity measures. In a letter obtained by Reuters Friday, the Federation of Greek Police accused the officials of “…blackmail, covertly abolishing or eroding democracy and national sovereignty” and said one target of its warrants would be the IMF’s top official for Greece, Poul Thomsen.

North African union proposal resurrected by leaders – Euronews, Feb. 12, 2012 – The idea of a North African economic bloc emulating the EU has been revived during a meeting between the Tunisian and Algerian leaders.

SAARC Chamber sees Pak-India trade relations improving – The News International (Pakistan), Feb. 12, 2012 – The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAARC CCI) has attached great hopes with an upcoming Indian business delegation’s visit to Pakistan and believes that it will bring down political tension between the two neighbours….Secretary General, SAARCC CCI…proposed dismantling non-tariff barriers and full implementation of the legal obligations under the SAARC Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA).

European Union & new GCC initiatives – Arab News, Feb. 12, 2012 – European Union officials expressed support for the new assertive GCC role in addressing regional crises. They connected this enhanced role with the initiative to move the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) into a more integrated union, an initiative about which Europeans have been quite enthusiastic from the day it was announced during the recent GCC Summit in Riyadh on Dec. 19.

Abbas arrives in Egypt ahead of Arab League meet – Ma’an News Agency, Feb. 12, 2012 – [Palestinian] President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Egypt on Saturday, where he will consult an Arab League committee on next steps after exploratory talks with Israeli envoys ended without agreement.

East African Community: Divisions emerge over Bill on shared resources – The East African, Feb. 11, 2012 – Days after the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) passed the Bill, sharp divisions have emerged….Tanzania representatives are opposed to the Bill saying the legislation would infringe on individual countries’ sovereignty especially in the management of land.

North America: Buy North American and save ourselves – By Robert Pastor, Globe and Mail (Canada), Feb. 11, 2012 – “Buy North American” could be the mantra for helping the U.S. recognize the importance of both neighbours…. The “North American idea” has to be big enough to inspire people in all three countries to forge a formidable region able to compete with a dynamic East Asia.

North America: Cross-Border Trade With Mexico – Voice of America, Feb. 10, 2012 – To maintain this competitive edge, the United States and Mexico are addressing several areas of economic cooperation and market integration….The United States and Mexico are also jointly addressing unnecessary differences in product regulations, which can be a burden on business and ultimately undermine cross border trade. To avoid this, the United States and Mexico launched the High Level Regulatory Cooperation Council, which works to enhance economic competitiveness and economic well-being by improving regulatory cooperation.

Putin Seeks to Restore Soviet Influence – Al Arabiya (Dubai), Feb. 11, 2012 – Iran is a different issue in Russian/Putin’s considerations, and this might begin to explain Moscow’s readiness to turn against the League of Arab States and make enemies of the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council….The mere fact of reshaping the new regional order while excluding Russia and China, and in partnership between the West and the Islamists, has angered and infuriated Russia. There is also the fact that the rise of Islamists in the Middle East could spread to Central Asia – then it would not be unlikely for them to rise to power in the Muslim republics in Russia’s backyard…

Indian PM resists pressure on Iran sanctions – Boston Glob, Feb. 10, 2012 – India’s prime minister resisted pressure from the United States and the European Union to curtail its trade with Iran over the countrry’s suspected nuclear weapons program, insisting Friday that diplomacy was the best way to deal with the concerns. Washington and its allies want energy-starved India to curtail its dependence on Iranian oil, which New Delhi imports in immense quantities.

China: Syria veto won’t hurt cooperation with US – CBS News, Feb. 10, 2012 – Last week’s double veto by China and Russia of the resolution that would have endorsed an Arab League plan for ending the Syrian bloodshed deeply angered the U.S., Europe and the Arab League….In a briefing for reporters, Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai reiterated China’s opposition to any measure that could encourage intervention by force or regime change, but sought to minimize the impact on China’s global standing….”I do believe we can still cooperate because both of us want to see regional peace and stability, both of us call for a solution to this issue through dialogue,” Cui said. “So I think there is still scope for cooperation between China and the United States and between other members of the Security Council on this issue.”

Iran Oil Embargo: Europe Sanctions Itself – Muslim News (UK), Feb. 10, 2012 – About six months before the European Union’s embargo on Iranian oil comes into effect (in early July), politicians and analysts have begun considering the harm that could befall the global economy….Should Tehran make good on its threat to stop supplying oil immediately as a pre-emptive measure…then Europe will suffer a shortage of crude oil. With the continent experiencing an exceptionally cold winter, EU governments could come under pressure to breach or bypass the embargo.

World Bank Urges African Leaders To Challenge AU On Trading Changes – Bernama (Malaysia), Feb. 10, 2012 – The World Bank has called on African leaders scheduled to attend a regional integration summit in Ethiopia to challenge the African Union (AU) to pursue changes to escape the current straightjacket of trade fragmentation….”Reforming regulations and immigration rules that limit the substantial potential for cross-border trade and investment in services would increase Africa’s trade potential,” the Bank stated. The Bank noted that trade and regional integration were core elements of the Bank’s new Africa strategy… Let Africa Trade With Africa – YouTube video, based upon the World Bank report: De-Fragmenting Africa: Deepening Regional Trade Integration in Goods and Services

Political sovereignty vs monetary unity – Southern Times, Feb. 10, 2012 – SADC [South African Development Community] is keen on a comprehensive monetary union, which incorporates a single currency and a regional central bank by 2018….But despite the initial integration success, the eurozone crisis has brought to the fore long-held beliefs that macro-economic convergence alone, without fiscal union, will not result in a working monetary union….A monetary union will limit African governments’ fiscal sovereignty and consequently deprive them of policy space. It will also mean transferring tariff decisions and the distribution of customs revenue to a supranational body.

ASEAN Economic Community: the implications for Australia – On Line Opinion (Australia), Feb. 10, 2012 – At the 12th ASEAN Summit in January 2007, the leaders of South East Asian affirmed their strong commitment to accelerate the establishment of an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015 and signed the Cebu Declaration on the Acceleration of the Establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015….The ultimate goal for AEC is to transform ASEAN into a region with free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour, and freer flow of capital. So, what are the implications to Australia?

Pak, Bangladesh stay away from Saarc security meet – Times of India, Feb. 10, 2012 – “Exchange of information among the member states on a real time basis for better coordination to counter terrorism and drug-related activities, developing cooperation, capacity and relationship building among the Saarc police authorities were identified, among others, as possible methods of strengthening the Saarc anti-terrorism mechanism,” the home ministry said.

Arab ministers attend economic, social council session in Cairo – Kuwait News Agency, Feb. 9, 2012 – Arab ministers within the economic and social council met at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Thursday….Also attending the meeting was Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi….The Arab League chief highlighted the importance of economic regional blocs at this day and age, calling on the member countries to sign up to the Arab Free Trade Agreement.

Putin’s post-election agenda – The Day (Ukraine), Feb. 9, 2012 – Putin is determined to rebuild the “post-Soviet space” under Russia’s management and remove unwelcome Western influences that undermine the security and integrity of the Russian Federation. In reality, Russia stands poised between democratic transformation, public revolt, and national breakdown….In particular, Moscow is demanding a freer hand to reconstruct a sphere of dominance in the former Soviet Union, which Putin now styles as the Eurasian Union.
Kremlin has plan B for poll run-off – Financial Times (London), Feb. 10, 2012 (Google Link) – His name is Gennady Zyuganov, an old warhorse of Russian politics, whose gravelly voice and unreconstructed Stalinism have been familiar to voters since 1993….“For the Kremlin he is an ideal enemy, as he has long ago proved that he is incapable of winning,”….While communist parties in Poland and other east European countries reinvented themselves with social democratic ideas and young recruits, Mr Zyuganov is more at home surrounded by pensioners…

Russia’s White Revolution – International News Magazine, Feb. 9, 2012 – US democracy-promotion NGOs such as the National Endowment for Democracy — a key player in Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution — are active in Russia’s opposition, but Putin is clearly gambling that Russians can see past US efforts to manipulate them….His new Eurasian Union…may not be what the NED has in mind, but it would be welcomed by all the “stan” citizens, not to mention China’s beleaguered Uighurs….The union will surely eventually include the mother of colour revolutions, Ukraine, where citizens still yearn for open borders with Russia and closer economic integration.

Russia warns against intervention in Syria – Oman Tribune, Feb. 9, 2012 – Putin drew parallels with Libya, saying that violence after the killing of its leader Muammar Gaddafi demonstrated the “awful consequences of outside interference, most of all when it is armed.” ….The Arab League, which has suspended an observer mission in Syria because of the upsurge in the violence, was originally due to meet on Saturday but delayed the session to allow the Gulf [Cooperation Council] to convene beforehand.

ASEAN, World Bank reaffirms partnership – Philippine Star, Feb. 9, 2012 – The World Bank has reaffirmed its support for ASEAN’s economic integration, particularly at a time when the Asia-Pacific region is rapidly expanding, a press statement from the ASEAN Secretariat said here on Wednesday.

North America: Big business attends perimeter talks in Washington – Embassy (Canada), Feb. 8, 2012 – New information has emerged on the perimeter security plan between Canada and the United States, with hundreds of government and industry representatives meeting in Washington last week….The jam-packed, day-long Jan. 31 meeting covered everything from agriculture and food to pharmaceuticals, veterinary drugs, emission standards, transportation, nanotechnology, disease, vehicle safety standards, and occupational safety issues….The border action plan announced in December indicates that by the end of last month, Canada and the United States would “determine the way ahead” on how to share information and evidence between their police forces and intelligence agencies. A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ian Trites,….indicated that a series of meetings have already taken place that tackle legal problems associated with harmonizing intelligence sharing.
Deep Military Integration: Towards a North American Combined Military Force – Global Research (Canada), Feb. 7, 2012 – In his speech in front of the PJBD, [Canada Defense Minister Peter MacKay] also called for, “increased military involvement implementing the Beyond the Border strategy, saying the Canadian Forces and its American counterparts should be supporting civilian agencies monitoring the cross-border security.”

North America: Harmonizing U.S.-Canada Security Interests – Pacific Free Press, Feb. 8, 2012 – The U.S. and Canada recently signed several bilateral agreements that will further strengthen continental security and defense cooperation. Deeper military integration between both countries is part of efforts to establish a North American security perimeter and better address common global threats….In an article for iPolitics, Colin Horgan wrote that at the recent bilateral defense meeting, “MacKay noted that such initiatives as Beyond the Border and the Regulatory Cooperation Council Action Plan will work to ensure that the vital economic partnership that joins our two countries continues to be the cornerstone of our economic competitiveness and security.” Defense Minister MacKay emphasized that security is linked to the economy and called for even greater cooperation to support the dual action plans.

India pivots, and pivots again – Asia Times, Feb. 8, 2012 – India is the second-largest trading partner of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. The GCC, the “Arab NATO”, was formed in 1981 as a shield against Iran….The silent ally of the Arab NATO is Israel. Regardless of its open declarations of support for the Palestinians, the GCC is reluctant to do anything to ruffle the feathers of Tel Aviv, which would of course irritate the GCC’s main partner, the United States. This opened the door for a strengthening of the India-Israel ties that germinated up in the 1990s and have flourished in the past few years. India now imports over US$5 billion of Israeli arms, making India its largest arms customer.

Africa losing out billions in trade: World Bank – Economic Times, Feb. 8, 2012 – The report comes on the heels of an African Union summit in Ethiopia at which leaders called for a continental free-trade area by 2017….”While uncertainty surrounds the global economy and stagnation is likely to continue in traditional markets in Europe and North America, enormous opportunities for cross-border trade within Africa in food products, basic manufactures and services remain unexploited,” said the Washington-based lender.

WAHO to develop plan for universal health coverage in West Africa – BusinessGhana, Feb. 8, 2012 – Members of West African Health Organisation (WAHO) are meeting in Accra to develop an action plan for the generalisation of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Specifically, ECOWAS countries would be reviewing progress made towards universal health coverage and share ideas on the way forward.

Zambia, Congo DR to pen smooth trade deal – Times of Zambia, Feb. 8, 2012 – [Zambian Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister Robert Sichinga] said commerce and trade ministers in Africa agreed at the last African Union (AU) summit to create Intra-Africa Trade Centres on all borders for Small and Medium enterprises to benefit. He said through agreements under the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the private sectors would be encouraged to exploit opportunities.

Who’s in Somalia? And why? – The Africa Report, Feb. 7, 2012 – The Pentagon sees Somalia as a back office for Al Qaeda operations in the Middle East and its pirates as a serious threat to international shipping. The State Department pushes a more holistic strategy to boosting African Union peacekeeping and regional economic cooperation.

South America Doing Well in Face of Crisis – Prensa Latina, Feb. 7, 2012 – There is an urgency to increase inter-regional cooperation to attain those objectives, close the gaps of poverty, inequality, technology and innovation, with a renovated integration alliance, and move towards a development agenda with equality. A demonstration of such a will was the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the South Common Market (Mercosur)….A similar position was adopted by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa when he proposed an institutional process that harmonizes strategies and interests to form a single economic and political bloc under the umbrella of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur).

China deepens ties to Arab Gulf states while rejecting Western curbs on business partner Iran – Washington Post, Feb. 7, 2012 – That complicates U.S.-led efforts to force Tehran to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program, but it also allows China to expand its influence in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states long allied to the West….The Chinese Ministry of Commerce’s most recent figures show $43 billion in Sino-Saudi trade in 2010, and a combined $49 billion more with the other five Gulf Cooperation Council countries. That compares with just over $29 billion in trade with Iran over the same period.

UK police lauds EAC police harmonization programme – StarAfrica|African Press Organization, Feb. 7, 2012 – The Head of United Kingdom’s National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), Kurt Eyre, has lauded the efforts of the East African Community (EAC) Partner States to harmonize Police Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs)….when addressing a ten-man EAC delegation of senior police officers and experts at the NPIA International Academy in Bramshill, Hampshire, the United Kingdom, over the weekend….The Regional Peace and Security Strategy stresses enhancement of the EAC spirit of co-operation by promoting collective responsibility in the provision of regional security by the Partner States. It broadly covers collaboration on cross border and trans-national organized crimes, among others.

 Red carpet for Gulf firms – Gulfnews, Feb. 6, 2012 – Companies owned by GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] nationals other than UAE citizens and located anywhere in the Gulf will be allowed to open UAE branches with minimum paperwork and receive the same privileges granted to national-owned firms, according to a decision taken by the UAE Cabinet….The move comes four years after the six Gulf countries entered into a common market in 2008 with an objective to integrate their economies with a single currency…

Profile: African Union – BBC News, Feb. 6, 2012 – Conceived by the then Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi as a “United States of Africa”, its structure is loosely modelled on that of the European Union.It inaugurated a pan-African parliament in March 2004… There are far-reaching plans to set up a human rights court, a central bank and monetary fund, and by 2023 an African Economic Community with a single currency.

Gilani leaves for Qatar; looks forward to enhanced bilateral cooperation – Associated Press of Pakistan, Feb. 6, 2012 – Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani left here Monday on a three-day visit to the oil-rich Qatar….About Qatar’s support to Pakistan in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Gilani said all the member countries support Pakistan. To a question Foreign Minister Khar said Qatar has been supporting Pakistan for a Free Trade Agreement with the GCC and hoped that after Prime Minister Gilani’s visit this support would be more forthcoming.

Russia may seek controlled exit of Assad in talks – Reuters, Feb. 6, 2012 – Russia may be seeking a “controlled demolition” of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s rule to save its sole major foothold in the Arab world ….”Russia’s overwhelming objective is to salvage something from the wreckage of the Assad regime and contain Western influence in its most important Arab ally,” said Shashank Joshi, an associate fellow at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, a military think-tank….The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are the most likely to wield a stronger influence in a future Syria, he said.

Syria intervention a greater challenge than Libya – ABC (Australia), Feb. 6, 2012 – With the recent Western military successes in the Libyan revolution, voices from the left, right and centre are increasingly hanging a question mark over the prospect of some form of military intervention into Syria from the Arab League/GCC, NATO or a combination of the two.

Egypt to try 43 NGO workers, including 19 Americans, over funds – Washington Times|Associated Press, Feb. 5, 2012 – Ignoring a stern U.S. threat, Egypt on Sunday referred 43 NGO workers, including 19 Americans, to trial before a criminal court for allegedly using illegal foreign funds to foment unrest….The referral is the latest development in a long-running row between Washington and Cairo over an Egyptian crackdown on U.S.-funded groups promoting democracy and human rights….Among the Americans sent to trial is Sam LaHood, the head of the Egypt office of the Washington-based International Republican Institute and the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

China bars its airlines from paying EU carbon tax, ratcheting up global dispute – Washington Post, Feb. 5, 2012 – The charges are aimed at curbing emissions of climate-changing gases but governments including China, the United States and Russia oppose them. The ratings agency Fitch warned in December the conflict could spiral into a global trade dispute.

Arab League to pursue Syria efforts after UN setback – Reuters Africa, Feb. 5, 2012 – Arab states will not stop their efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis even though their bid to secure U.N. backing was blocked by Russia and China, the Arab League’s secretary-general said in a statement obtained by Reuters on Sunday.
China, Russia Block Security Council Action Against Syria – Atlantic Sentinel, Feb. 4, 2012 – If Assad falls, he would likely make way for an administration that is dominated by Arab Sunnis who might be tempted to align their country to the Arab Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, which are generally favorable to American and Western interests. Russia would thus be without leverage in the Middle East.

European Union, US and globalization – Korean Times, Feb. 5, 2012 – “Germany Dominates Europe Once Again” is the eye-catching headline of an editorial by William Pfaff in….Pfaff argues in his column that characteristic Germanic rigidity threatens Europe, and is counterproductive in today’s political and policy environments. By contrast, he describes with approval the “quantitative easing,” relatively flexible and expansionist monetary policies, of the U.S. Federal Reserve under Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Iran, trade deal high on India-EU summit agenda – Economic Times (India), Feb. 5, 2012 – With the European Union (EU) imposing fresh sanctions on Iran, the country’s oil supply issue will loom large when India hosts its summit with the EU next week….But India has made it clear that Iran, which contributes around 12 percent of its oil imports, is far too important for its energy security and hence it will continue to buy Iranian oil.

Syrian UN Resolution Turns on Russia’s Power of Veto in Security Council – Bloomberg, Feb. 4, 2012 – The United Nations Security Council risks a Russian veto today by voting on a resolution backing an Arab League plan to end the bloodshed in Syria a day after one of the deadliest days of protests in the 11-month uprising.

U.N. leaders consider world tax to fund social protection, services – Deseret News, Feb. 3, 2012 – “No one should live below a certain income level,” stated Milos Koterec, President of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. “Everyone should be able to access at least basic health services, primary education, housing, water, sanitation and other essential services.” ….”We will need a modest but long-term way to finance this transformation,” stated Jens Wandel, Deputy Director of the United Nations Development Program. “One idea which we could consider is a minimal financial transaction tax (of .005 percent). This will create $40 billion in revenue.”

Africa: Wishing AU Well On Free Trade Area – allAfrica, Feb. 3, 2012 – In 2002, the OAU was transformed into the African Union with one of its key goals being the formation of a continental union government….But that calls for tailoring respective member countries’ economic policies to the regional policies of the AU.

Economic sovereignty: Venezuela repatriates gold reserves – Axis of Logic, Feb. 3, 2012 – According to President of [Venezuela’s Central Bank] BCV, the now repatriated gold bars were illegally taken out of the South American nation between 1989 and 1992 as “a guarantee of payment in order to have access to different international institutions” such as the International Monetary Fund…..“The people of UNASUR [Union of South American Nations] should repatriate our monetary reserves and create a strong group which will allow us to utilize these international reserves for our own economic growth and social development”, he declared.

EAC chief says non-tariff barriers must go – IPPmedia, Feb. 3, 2012 – The East African Community (EAC) Secretary-General Richard Sezibera said yesterday the regional economic bloc must remove non-tariff barriers (NTB) if faster integration is to be realised in the region….”In East Africa, NTBs have increased the cost of doing business in several ways through official and unofficial payments to clear goods at the borders…” he said.

European Union: EU bailout funding possible – China Daily, Feb. 3, 2012 – China may offer rescue funds to Europe, Premier Wen Jiabao said after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday. Wen said it was “urgent” to solve the European debt crisis, and China is willing to “involve itself more” in efforts to resolve Europe’s debt issues through the International Monetary Fund, the European Financial Stability Facility and the European Stability Mechanism.

Exposed: The Arab agenda in Syria – Asia Times, Feb. 3, 2012 – Essentially, the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] created an Arab League group to monitor what’s going on in Syria….When the over 160 monitors, after one month of enquiries, issued their report … surprise! ….The report is adamant. There was no organized, lethal repression by the Syrian government against peaceful protesters. Instead, the report points to shady armed gangs as responsible for hundreds of deaths among Syrian civilians….GCC leaders House of Saud and Qatar bluntly dismissed their own report and went straight to the meat of the matter; impose a NATOGCC regime change via the UN Security Council.

Editorial: GCC-EU relations – Arab News, Feb. 3, 2012 – Is the Gulf Cooperation Council finally back on track to sign a long awaited and highly significant free trade deal with the European Union?

Asean Countries Urged To Cut Expenditure On Foreign Defence Assets – Zahid – Bernama (Malaysia), Feb. 3, 2012 – Asean countries should cut spending on buying foreign defence assets, said Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi….In 2009, Zahid had proposed the setting up of the Asean Defence Industry Collaboration (ADIC)…for Asean to be self-reliant by producing its own defence assets. The proposal is still at the concept stage although it had been approved during the Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia on May 19 last year.

Japan to set up insurance with World Bank – SamayLive (India), Feb. 3, 2012 – “Response to natural disasters will be one of the top agenda items at the summit,” involving 16 countries and regions of the Pacific Islands Forum as well as Japan…

NAFTA Tribunals:
An Improved NAFTA? Investor-State Arbitration Provisions Under the Colombia-US Free Trade Agreement – JD Supra (Press Release), February 3, 2012 – Chapter 11 of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was the first international trade agreement provision to give foreign investors a direct cause of action for investment disputes against the host government in a binding international tribunal, commonly known as “investor-state arbitration.” However, NAFTA investor-state arbitration continues to be a source of debate. Critics argue that the text is ambiguous, causing some to misinterpret the provision as a threat to national sovereignty. But, despite its many critics, the United States has adopted a NAFTA style investor-state arbitration provisions within its own trade policy. As a result, almost all free trade agreements signed by the United States after the NAFTA’s implementation include new versions of the agreement’s investor-state dispute provisions. The recently approved Colombia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (“CFTA”) is no exception.
From the Archives: Review of U.S. Rulings by Nafta Tribunals Stirs Worries – New York Times, April 18, 2004 – T]he tribunal declared a Mississippi court’s judgment at odds with international law, leaving the United States government potentially liable for hundreds of millions of dollars…. “This is the biggest threat to United States judicial independence that no one has heard of and even fewer people understand,” said John D. Echeverria, a law professor at Georgetown University…. The availability of this additional layer of review, above even the United States supreme Court, is a significant development, legal scholars said….The tribunals have the potential to upset the settled American constitutional order.

“Produced in North America”:
Stockgrowers back fight for origin labeling – Rapid City Journal, Feb. 2, 2012 – “We’re really disappointed to see that the WTO [World Trade Organization] has this kind of drastic jurisdiction over our U.S. citizens and the laws that our own elected officials are making. That’s a real concern to us and our national sovereignty.” ….The U.S. requires that meat produced from outside the country be labeled as such. The WTO has ruled such labeling is unfair under existing trade agreements.

North America: U.S.-Canada regulatory cooperation seen threatening border inspection – AgraNet, Feb. 2, 2012 – There will be no more inspection of meat and poultry at the border of Canada and the United States if the two countries go through with a pilot project to reduce regulatory barriers to trade discussed this week in Washington, D.C., a USDA border inspector warns Food Chemical News.

Eurasian Union: Putin Urges to Mind EU Errors in EurAsEC Work – (Belarus), Feb. 2, 2012 – He expressed this opinion on February 2 at a meeting with Viktor Khristenko, recently appointed chairman of the Eurasian Economic Commission….”I hope that you and your colleagues, who work in this supranational body, will take into account the pluses and the drawbacks of our neighbors in the European Union. We will do our utmost to avoid those errors and mobilize all that is positive in our own experience and the experience of our partners, friends and neighbors in the European Union, as well as other integration associations, for the benefit of our economies,” said the Russian Prime Minister.

European Union’s fortunes not pinned to the euro alone – Gulfnews (Dubai), Feb. 2, 2012 – There is still plenty of room for the Europeans to get it wrong, but there is a growing consensus that a strong euro will eventually emerge from the crisis. The strong euro will be based on the German model, and must involve a powerful European Central Bank operating in a new fiscal union of Eurozone members which must include some legal obligations on member states to subordinate their economic planning to an agreed transparent overall strategy. The problem is that this strong euro will almost certainly not include Greece…

CNN exclusive with Arab League Secretary General Nabil el-Araby – CNN, Feb. 2, 2012 – In an exclusive and candid interview with CNN anchor and correspondent Hala Gorani, Arab League Secretary General Nabil el-Araby explains why he thinks the international community felt compelled to intervene in Libya but is not ready to do so in Syria, citing both the lack of oil and the global economic situation as potential reasons.

UN shenanigans on Syria – Asia Times, Feb. 2, 2012 – With Qatar at the helm, the Western plan was to set criteria for Arab League monitoring designed to provoke a Syrian refusal…..The whole process was meant to gain a refusal, to move to the second stage of this game,” said the official….Russia continues to insist that it will not support any resolution that facilitates regime change – it wants a Syrian-led political process, not “an Arab League-imposed outcome” or Libyan-style “regime change.”

Beijing against sanctions on Syria – China Daily, Feb. 2, 2012 – “We firmly oppose forcefully pushing for ‘regime change’, which violates the purpose and principles of the UN Charter and the basic norms governing international relations,” Li Baodong, China’s ambassador to the United Nations, said during a Security Council debate on Syria on Tuesday. The council was debating an Arab League plan calling for an end to violence and for the Syrian president to step down.

Mood indigo – Daily News Egypt, Feb. 1, 2012 – This week the neighbors acted up, moving on with Red-Med — the superfast rail link the Chinese want to build across Israel to bypass the Suez Canal.
The Suez Blues: India, China, Malaysia, Japan and Indonesia groan about delays and the time it takes to ship goods to Europe through the canal. Skippers complain it takes an age to join a convoy, moaning over being charged an arm and a leg.
The Red-Med: Owners say it would be cheaper, easier and faster to sail into Eilat on the Red Sea and drop cargo onto bullet trains that could be in Ashdod on the Mediterranean coast 30 miles from Tel Aviv in just over two hours.

China flirts with Israel amid gulf crisis – UPI, Feb. 1, 2012 – China, contemplating the possible disruption of oil supplies from Iran, appears to be making moves toward cementing its links with energy newcomer Israel, a move that could outflank the United States in the Middle East….Israel, which since its foundation in 1948 has been without energy resources, now finds its economy, and likely its foreign policy, about to be transformed. The deep-water fields off its Mediterranean coastline in the Levant Basin contain reserves estimated at 25 trillion cubic feet of gas, far exceeding Israel’s domestic needs.

Russia, China, USA: Big powers crowd Central Asia – The Canadian, Feb. 1, 2012 – Russia already initiated the Customs Union that includes Belarus and Kazakhstan, which is set to enlarge and create a framework for the Eurasian Union….Central Asia will increasingly become one of China’s major suppliers….USA overstays in Kyrgyzstan terror base because of US’s energy interests, though it bluffs about Afghanistan being the only cause.

Developments in Ukraine and Implications for U.S. Policy – Brookings Institution, Feb. 1, 2012 – It remains in the U.S. interest that Ukraine develop as a stable, independent, democratic, market-oriented state increasingly integrated into Europe and institutions such as the European Union….Moreover, Kyiv does not wish to fall too closely into Moscow’s orbit. Mr. Yanukovych does not want to compromise Ukrainian sovereignty…

AfDB, WCO Sign Pact to Strengthen African Customs – allAfrica, Feb. 1, 2012 – The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Customs Organization (WCO) have signed a Memorandum of Understand (MOU) to enhance the capacity of customs administrations in Africa. The two Institutions signed the MOU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the just-ended 18th African Union Summit….”Coordinated efforts by both institutions to improve border management will help many companies in Africa conduct cross-border trade. This will in turn further deepen regional integration in the region,” he added.

European Union: Deutsche Boerse-NYSE Euronext merger blocked by European Union regulators – Washington Post, Feb. 1, 2012 – Deutsche Boerse agreed to acquire its New York rival in a deal valued at $9.5 billion when it was announced last February. Since then, the value has plummeted to about $7.3 billion as Deutsche Boerse shares fell.

North America: Little information so far on perimeter plan progress – Embassy (Canada), Feb. 1, 2012 – The first batch of dozens of deadlines in the Canada-United States perimeter security plan has come and gone, with neither government responding to questions of progress by press time….Emily Gilbert, director of the Canadian Studies Program at the University of Toronto and a researcher of the Canada-US border, said she was concerned that the security elements of both countries were becoming wrapped together without sufficient public oversight. “Deeper security and military interoperability is a bad idea, because it is a signal of deeper militarization and a more militarized Canadian society that I am extremely concerned about,” she said. “We have an onslaught of militarization happening, and it’s coming in through this perimeter security agreement, but no one’s really talking about it.”

A dragon dance in the Negev – Asia Review, Feb. 1, 2012 – Having developed strong interests on the two sides of the Persian Gulf divide – Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and Iran – China is taking an awesome leap as a big-time player in the geopolitics of the Middle East by elevating its ties with Israel to a strategic partnership.

GCC Urges Keeping Strait Of Hormuz Open ‘At All Costs’ – Eurasia Review, Feb. 1, 2012 – Speaking to members of the European Parliament in Brussels, [GCC Secretary General Abdullatif Al-Zayani] called for stronger ties between the GCC and the EU for the benefit of regional and global security as well as for economic prosperity.

European Union: A step forward for the EU – Irish Times, Feb. 1, 2012 – The opening lines of the “Treaty on Stability, Co-ordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union”, agreed in Brussels on Monday, do no more than remind us of that obligation to share or pool our economic sovereignty. The treaty strengthens the administrative and legal means by which it is to be honoured – in the past, unfortunately, often more in the breach.

Saudi Arabia and GCC states to be linked with railway – Bahrain News Agency, Feb. 1, 2012 – Saudi Arabia has approved the $25bn Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) railway project, which will link the six GCC countries through a 2,117km railway network.

African Union: AU Plans Free Trade Area in Five Years – allAfrica, Feb. 1, 2012 – AFRICAN leaders have resolved to establish a continental free trade area (FTA) by the year 2017, in a move designed to boost intra-African trade….Meanwhile, Tanzania will continue supporting various reforms at the Arusha-based African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) including proposed extension of its jurisdiction to enable it preside over genocide, war crimes and other serious offences against humanity. After extension of its jurisdiction the court will have powers similar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Hague, the Netherlands, where several African politicians have been arraigned.

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