Раздел: Економика

экономические новости

Trump Hails Signing of Deals Worth ‘Billions’ With Vietnam

U.S. President Donald Trump discussed trade with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc during a White House visit on Wednesday and welcomed the signing of business deals worth billions of dollars and the jobs they would bring.

General Electric said earlier it had signed deals with Vietnam worth about $5.58 billion for power generation, aircraft engines and services, its largest ever single combined sale with the country.

“They just made a very large order in the United States — and we appreciate that — for many billions of dollars, which means jobs for the United States and great, great equipment for Vietnam,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

Phuc said on Tuesday he would sign deals for U.S. goods and services worth $15 billion to $17 billion during his Washington visit, mainly for high-technology products and for services.

Protesters greet Phuc

Hundreds of people upset by Vietnam’s human rights record, called “dire” by Human Rights Watch, protested outside the White House on Wednesday afternoon.

Mai Huynh, a U.S. Navy veteran said, “I’m here today because I think it’s our responsibility to show the young generation in Vietnam that we’re supporting them in their fight for basic human rights, including the right to freely elect our leaders and ask them to listen to our call.”

Others posted comments on VOA Vietnamese: “President Trump, prior to any deal with Vietnam, please make sure to prioritize human rights as a core condition,” said Tien Nguyen.

Lolita Mancheno-Smoak, vice-chairwoman of the Fairfax (Virginia) County Republican Committee, told VOA Vietnamese, “The United States, as a nation, can’t have relationship or coordination with the government that prosecute and imprison its own citizens just because they’re blogging on in the internet and sharing their opinions, or just gathering peacefully or even worshipping the God, and holding the Bible in the public.

“We stand in solidarity with the Vietnamese community and the people in Vietnam to fight for their freedom,” Mancheno-Smoak said of a nation where the ruling Communist Party tightly controls many activities. “It goes to our hearts here in America when we know that people are dying and we feel for them.”

From adversary to partner

Communist Vietnam has gone from being a bitter adversary of the United States during the Cold War to an important partner in the Asia-Pacific, where both countries share concerns about China’s rising power.

Phuc told Trump the relationship had undergone “significant upheavals in history,” but that the two countries were now “comprehensive partners.”

However, while Hanoi and Washington have stepped up security cooperation in recent years, trade has become a potential irritant, with a deficit widening steadily in Vietnam’s favor, reaching $32 billion last year, compared with $7 billion a decade earlier.

Trump, who has had strong words for countries with large trade surpluses with the United States, said he would be discussing trade with Phuc, as well as North Korea.

Washington has been seeking support for efforts to pressure North Korea to drop its nuclear and missile programs, which have become an increasing threat to the United States. Hanoi has said it shares concerns about North Korea.

Analysts said that while the Trump administration welcomed new business deals with Vietnam, it wants to see moves on trade.

Murray Hiebert, a Southeast Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said the view was that deals were “nice, but not enough.”

“They want Vietnam to bring some ideas about how to tackle the surplus on an ongoing basis,” he said.

On Tuesday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressed concern about the rapid growth of the deficit with Vietnam. He said it was a new challenge for the two countries and he was looking to Phuc to help address it.

The deficit with Vietnam — Washington’s sixth largest — reflects growing imports of Vietnamese semiconductors and other electronics products in addition to more traditional sectors such as footwear, apparel and furniture.

Vietnamese Trade Minister Tran Tuan Anh presented Lighthizer on Tuesday with suggestions to address some U.S. concerns, such as advertising on U.S. social media, electronic payment services and imports of information security and farm products, Vietnam’s trade ministry said.

 

Vietnam also urged the United States to remove an inspection program for catfish, speed import licenses for its fruit and make fair decisions on anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures on Vietnamese products, the ministry said.

Vietnam was disappointed when Trump ditched the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, of which Hanoi was expected to be one of the main beneficiaries, and focused U.S. trade policy on reducing deficits.

Phuc’s meeting with Trump makes him the first Southeast Asian leader to visit the White House under the new administration.

It reflected calls, letters, diplomatic contacts and lower-level visits that started long before Trump took office in Washington, where Vietnam retains a lobbyist at $30,000 a month.

Tra Mi of VOA’s Vietnamese Service contributed to this report.

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Migrants Find Poverty, Exclusion in South America’s Copper Capital

Immigrants from around South America hoping to seek their fortunes in the continent’s copper mining capital of Antofagasta, Chile, are instead finding poverty, exclusion and a precarious home in the city’s growing temporary slums.

Chile, one of Latin America’s most developed countries, has become a magnet in recent years for immigrants from poorer and less stable parts of the region, especially Haiti, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador.

Many are attracted to this northern Chile city, close to where the majority of mines are located in the world’s biggest copper exporter. Not all seek work in the mines themselves, but rather in providing the ancillary services that mushroomed during the previous decade’s commodity boom.

But the end of that boom and a sharply lower copper price have hit investment and jobs, which has been felt particularly sharply in Chile’s northern provinces. While most of the country has maintained weak economic growth thanks to other industries like agriculture, Antofagasta has been plunged into recession.

Migrants to Chile on average have a higher level of education than Chileans, according to U.N. data. But anti-immigrant sentiment — increasingly exploited by politicians — means they are more likely to be left without work.

Reality is different

“The idea was to move up and progress,” said Angela Maria Concha, 36, a photographer who arrived in Antofagasta from Colombia three years ago.

“When we got here, we found reality was different,” she said. “It’s not the way it’s pictured there [in Colombia]. … Before there were not so many immigrants. Now there are a lot.”

Ecuadorean Yoana Paredes, 34, who arrived in 2009 hoping to study and work, said: “We are good people, working people, and we always end up stigmatized for being foreigners, and [they think] we all come to commit crime.”

Paredes lives in the “Ecuachilep campamento,” where temporary homes built from sheets of plywood and metal have sprung up in the dry desert dust, housing mainly immigrants from Andean countries.

Such camps now dot the city’s outskirts, said Antofagasta Mayor Karen Rojo.

“In today’s conditions, with the economic crisis our country is going through, the copper price fall, the Antofagasta labor market is not able to absorb all the immigrants who come today looking to improve their life chances,” she said.

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Vietnam to Sign Deals for Up to $17B in US Goods, Services

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said Tuesday that he would sign deals for U.S. goods and services worth $15 billion to $17 billion during his visit to Washington, mainly for high-technology products and for services.

“Vietnam will increase the import of high technologies and services from the United States, and on the occasion of this visit, many important deals will be made,” Phuc told a U.S. Chamber of Commerce dinner.

Phuc, who is due to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday at the end of a three-day visit to the United States, did not provide further details of the transactions.

GE Power Chief Executive Officer Steve Bolze told the dinner that General Electric Co. would sign deals worth about $6 billion with Vietnam, but also offered no details.

Phuc’s comments came after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressed concern about the rapid growth of the U.S. trade deficit with Vietnam, saying this was a new challenge for the two countries and that he was looking to Phuc to help address it.

“Over the last decade, our bilateral trade deficit has risen from about $7 billion to nearly $32 billion,” Lighthizer said. “This concerning growth in our trade deficit presents new challenges and shows us that there is considerable potential to improve further our important trade relationship.”

Reducing deficits

Lighthizer and other Trump administration trade officials have pledged to work to reduce U.S. bilateral deficits with major trading partners. The $32 billion deficit with Vietnam last year — the sixth-largest U.S. trade deficit — reflects growing imports of Vietnamese semiconductors and other electronics products in addition to more traditional sectors such as footwear, apparel and furniture.

The trade issue has become a potential irritant in a relationship where Washington and Hanoi have stepped up security cooperation in recent years, given shared concerns about China’s increasingly assertive behavior in East Asia.

Phuc’s meeting with Trump makes him the first Southeast Asian leader to visit the White House under the new administration.

It reflected calls, letters, diplomatic contacts and lower-level visits that started long before Trump took office in Washington, where Vietnam retains a lobbyist at $30,000 a month.

Vietnam was disappointed when Trump ditched the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, in which Hanoi was expected to be one of the main beneficiaries, and focused U.S. trade policy on reducing deficits.

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Mexico to Review Rules of Origin to Help NAFTA Renegotiation

Mexico’s foreign minister says the country is “inevitably” set to review rules of origin when renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, giving a boost to President Donald Trump’s manufacturing push.

Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray said Tuesday at an event in Miami that NAFTA has allowed Mexican industry to enter the U.S. market with lax rules of origin. The rules dictate how much U.S. content a product assembled in Mexico must have in order to escape tariffs when being imported into the United States. Currently set at 62.5 percent for the auto industry, that number could increase.

“One part that must inevitably be reviewed is the chapter on rules of origin,” Videgaray said at the University of Miami. “Over time, the free trade agreement has sometimes been used — not always, of course, but sometimes — as a way to access the U.S. market perhaps with laxity in some ways of rules of origin.”

The Trump administration told Congress this month there would be 90 days of consultations on the renegotiation of the 23-year-old pact before beginning talks with Canada and Mexico. Annual trade of goods between Mexico and the U.S. was worth $525 billion in 2016, with the U.S. running a trade deficit of more than $63 billion.

The foreign minister said Mexico won’t entertain any talks on building a wall along the border. Videgaray maintained it is seen as an unfriendly sign and questioned its efficiency. Trump’s budget seeks $2.6 billion for border security technology, including money to design and build a wall along the southern border. Trump repeatedly promised voters during the campaign that Mexico would pay for a wall.

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Man Probing Ivanka Trump Brands in China Arrested; Two Others Missing

A man investigating working conditions at a Chinese company that produces Ivanka Trump-brand shoes has been arrested and two others are missing, the arrested man’s wife and an advocacy group said Tuesday.

Hua Haifeng was accused of illegal surveillance, according to his wife, Deng Guilian, who said the police called her Tuesday afternoon. Deng said the caller told her she didn’t need to know the details, only that she would not be able to see, speak with or receive money from her husband, the family’s breadwinner.

China Labor Watch Executive Director Li Qiang said he lost contact with Hua Haifeng and the other two men, Li Zhao and Su Heng, over the weekend. By Tuesday, after dozens of unanswered calls, he had concluded: “They must be held either by the factory or the police to be unreachable.”

China Labor Watch, a New York-based nonprofit, was planning to publish a report next month alleging low pay, excessive overtime and the possible misuse of student interns. It is unclear whether the undercover investigative methods used by the advocacy group are legal in China.

For 17 years, China Labor Watch has investigated working conditions at suppliers to some of the world’s best-known companies, but Li said his work has never before attracted this level of scrutiny from China’s state security apparatus.

“Our plan was to investigate the factory to improve the labor situation,” Li said. “But now it has become more political.”

Disney decision

Walt Disney Co. stopped working with a toy maker in Shenzhen last year after the group exposed labor violations. China Labor Watch has also published reports on child labor at Samsung suppliers and spent years investigating Apple Inc.’s China factories. In the past, the worst thing Li feared was having investigators kicked out of a factory or face a short police detention.

That has changed.

The arrest and disappearances came amid a crackdown on perceived threats to the stability of China’s ruling Communist Party, particularly from sources with foreign ties such as China Labor Watch. Faced with rising labor unrest and a slowing economy, Beijing has also taken a stern approach to activism in southern China’s manufacturing belt and to human rights advocates generally, sparking a wave of critical reports about disappearances, public confessions, forced repatriation and torture in custody.

Another difference is the target of China Labor Watch’s investigation: a brand owned by the daughter of the president of the United States.

White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks referred questions to Ivanka Trump’s brand. The Ivanka Trump brand declined to comment for this story.

Abigail Klem, who took over day-to-day management when the first daughter took on a White House role as presidential adviser, has said that the brand requires licensees and their manufacturers to “comply with all applicable laws and to maintain acceptable working conditions.”

No reply from police

Li said China Labor Watch asked police about the three missing investigators on Monday but received no reply. Li added that a friend had tried to file a missing-person report on Li Zhao in Jiangxi, where the factory is located, but was told he had to do so in the man’s hometown.

AP was unable to reach the other investigators’ families. China’s Ministry of Public Security and police in Ganzhou city and Jiangxi province could not be reached for comment Tuesday, which was a national holiday in China.

All three men were investigating Ganzhou Huajian International Shoe City Co.’s factory in Jiangxi province, just north of Guangdong province. Su Heng had been working undercover at the factory since April, Li said. The parent company is known as Huajian Group.

In January, Liu Shiyuan, then spokesman for the Huajian Group, told AP the company makes 10,000 to 20,000 pairs of shoes a year for Ivanka Trump’s brand — a small fraction of the 20 million pairs the company produces a year. A current spokeswoman for the company, Long Shan, did not reply to questions Tuesday. “I told you I could not check until tomorrow,” she said. “If your official letter contains a stamp and signature, we can confirm whether the media is real or not.”

Li said investigators had seen Ivanka Trump-brand shoes in the factory, as well as production orders for Ivanka Trump, Marc Fisher, Nine West and Easy Spirit merchandise.

“We were unaware of the allegations and will look into them immediately,” a spokeswoman for Marc Fisher, which manufactures Ivanka Trump, Easy Spirit and its own branded shoes, said in an email. Nine West did not respond to requests for comment.

Li Zhao and Hua Haifeng were blocked from leaving mainland China for Hong Kong in April and May — something that had never happened to his colleagues before, Li said. Hua Haifeng was stopped at the border Thursday and later questioned by police, Li said. During their final phone conversation on Saturday, Hua told Li that police had asked him to stop investigating the Huajian factory — another turn of events that Li said was unprecedented.

Excessive overtime, low wages

Li said the men had documented excessive overtime, with working days sometimes stretching longer than 18 hours, and a base salary below minimum wage. They were working to confirm evidence suggesting that student interns, some of whom allegedly quit in protest, were putting in excessive hours on work unrelated to their field of study, in violation of Chinese law, Li said.

The use of student workers in China is legal, but meant to be strictly regulated. Rights groups and journalists have documented widespread abuse of the system over the years.

“It is the role of the police to prevent that kind of independent investigation,” said Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia director for Amnesty International. “The threshold is much lower today than it was one year ago, two years ago, and if this is something that has a foreign diplomacy dimension, that would make national security personnel even more willing to stop it.”

Hua’s wife, Deng, meanwhile, has yet to tell the couple’s children, ages 3 and 7, about their father’s plight. But they seem to know anyway, she said.

“My son suddenly burst into tears. He said he missed Papa,” Deng said by phone from her home in central China’s Hubei province. “I said Papa would come home soon and buy you toys.”

She said the child looked at her and answered: “Papa was taken away by a monster.”

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Brazil’s Labor Reform Vote in Senate Put Off Until Next Week

The Brazilian government decided on Tuesday to wait until next week to put a bill modernizing labor laws to a vote in the Senate Economic Affairs Committee, its leader in the upper chamber, Senator Romero Jucá, said.

Speaking earlier at an investment forum in Sao Paulo, Budget and Planning Minister Dyogo Oliveira said the bill that will lower labor costs for businesses would clear the Senate this week and be ready for President Michel Temer to sign into law.

The bill, which has already been approved by the lower house, has faced fierce opposition from labor unions that will lose power over workplaces. It also allows more temporary work contracts and outsourcing, eliminating mandatory union dues.

Leftist parties in Congress had vowed to obstruct a vote in the Senate committee where it will be debated this Tuesday.

The vote will take place next Tuesday, said Juca, who leads the coalition of pro-government parties in the Senate. He said the reason to postpone the vote was to avoid a “battle over procedures” in the committee.

Quick passage of the labor reform bill was important for the government to show that its reform agenda aimed at restoring economic growth and business confidence is on track.

Temer’s main proposal for reducing Brazil’s gaping budget deficit is reform of the costly pension system.

But its progress in the legislature has been slowed down by the political crisis sparked by allegations that the president condoned corruption. The fate of the unpopular measure is uncertain.

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Nigeria’s Senate Passes Bill to Crackdown on Money Laundering

Nigerian lawmakers passed a bill aimed at cracking down on money laundering by urging foreign countries where currency crooks are hiding to cooperate in prosecuting them, a senior official said on Tuesday.

According to the bill, Nigeria may ask any country where a money launderer is hiding to help it prosecute the offender, or prosecute that person itself. In the second case, Abuja would supply the country with evidence to support a conviction.

Development in the OPEC member, which has Africa’s largest economy, has been stunted by endemic corruption. Most people live on less than $2 a day despite the country’s vast energy wealth, much of which has been plundered by a rich elite.

“This act will facilitate the needed cooperation with other states to prevent individuals from escaping prosecution by fleeing to another country,” said Senate President Bukola Saraki.

The bill was originally presented by President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected in May 2015 after vowing to fight corruption.

The 74-year-old president is on medical leave in Britain for an unspecified ailment. He has handed over power to his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, in his absence.

 

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Chicago Startup Founded by Military Veterans ‘Cultivating Peace’ in Afghanistan

At Café Bar-Ba-Reeba on Chicago’s north side, there is one key ingredient that could make or break Executive Chef Matt Holmes’ menu.

“We feature it in our paeallas, which are our signature dish here at Café Bar Ba Reeba, as well as use it in a dessert and some other dishes as well, so its incredibly important to have high quality saffron,” Holmes explained to VOA from his test kitchen above the restaurant, where he was preparing one of those signature dishes.

Saffron has long been one of the world’s most expensive spices, at times traded as currency. The saffron “crocus” that produces the spice grows mostly in parts of Europe, Iran and India.

It is a staple in cuisine throughout Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, but less so in the United States, where saffron — while a $60 million market  has limited appeal.

But Rumi Spice, Holmes’ saffron supplier, is hoping to change that.

“We are named after Juhalladin Rumi, he was a 13th century poet and philosopher who was born in present day Afghanistan, and a Sufi mystic,” says founder Kimberly Jung.  “One of his most famous sayings is, ‘Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure.’”

Veterans inspired by relationships

Kimberly Jung, Keith Alaniz and Emily Miller are three of the founders of Rumi Spice, U.S. military veterans who served in Afghanistan who returned with more than just combat experience.

“I was never able to resolve just going to Afghanistan, spending time, and then leaving and never thinking about the place again, especially when you form relationships with people who live there,” says Alaniz.

Those relationships inspired the business strategy for Rumi Spice — increasing demand in the U.S. for saffron produced by Afghan farmers they met in Herat province. Saffron has very limited demand in Afghanistan, leaving the market for it outside the country.

“Afghanistan has essentially been cut off from the international market for 30 years,” says Alaniz.  “They are producing a great product but they aren’t able to get a fair value for their goods because they are not able to export it anywhere.”

Another challenge

Afghanistan’s enduring instability isn’t the only challenge to getting Afghan saffron to market.

“Near to 20 years we’ve been growing saffron, there are still no certificates for our saffron product,” says Abdullah Faiz, chancellor of Heart University, which is working with Purdue University in Indiana to develop a “department of food technology,” with Afghan saffron farmers in mind.

“The department of food technology will teach and give training for the farmers to produce the saffron with hygiene quality,” says Faiz, adding that it could help increase demand for Afghan saffron in new markets.

Quality, taste is key

A lack of international certification hasn’t stood in the way of Rumi Spice, which conducts rigorous tests to make sure the saffron it is importing is clean and pure before arriving in the United States.

The quality and taste of Rumi Spice saffron is what attracted Matt Holmes as a customer.

“It’s much higher potency,” says Holmes.  “So while we pay a premium to use Rumi, it actually goes a longer way, so that’s another benefit of using a higher quality product  you can stretch how much you are using each time.”

Famous investor

“Our supply is outpacing our demand,” says Alaniz, “which is good for us because it keeps our prices low at the moment, but we hope to increase more demand here in the U.S. so we can purchase more saffron.”

“The good thing about Rumi is they have a premium product that’s fantastic to use,” says Chef Matt Homes.  “You are kind of doing double duty with the program that they have with helping farmers in Afghanistan and helping women, being a positive influence instead of just selling a product, so you really get the best of both worlds.”

These are qualities investors also are noticing.  Rumi Spice was recently featured on the U.S. reality television show “Shark Tank,” where entrepreneur Marc Cuban committed $250,000 for a 15 percent stake in the company, signaling his faith in Rumi Spice, and the future potential for saffron grown in Afghanistan.

 

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Border Closure Hurts Afghan-Pakistan Produce Trade

Cross-border fighting between Afghanistan and Pakistan has suspended trade worth millions of dollars and stranded hundreds of trucks loaded with fruits and vegetables at the border, where the produce stands to spoil in the rising heat.

Pakistan had temporarily closed the Chaman border crossing, across from Afghanistan’s Spin boldak, after a frontier skirmish earlier this month between Afghan and Pakistani border guards left more than 10 people dead. Global economic institutions say South Asia is one of the world’s least economically connected regions, and the periodic closures of border crossings complicate things further.

Summer is peak time for fruit and vegetable production in the two countries. Under normal circumstances around this time of the year, a significant portion of Afghanistan’s grapes and pomegranates is ferried overland to Pakistan.

Pakistan’s mangoes and vegetables go the opposite direction, along with bilateral trade in many other commodities — some legal and some otherwise.

Part of the Afghan fruit produce is sold in Chaman and nearby villages; the remainder finds its way to markets across Pakistan.

It’s a long-established system that relies heavily on trust: Pakistani fruit traders send advance payments to their Afghan counterparts, who then send the fruit after it’s harvested. But so far this year, the Chaman businessmen say they have not cut the usual deals because the border closure have created the risk of coming up empty-handed.

Amant Khan, a fruit trader in Chaman, said he suffered losses last year as tensions rose between the two countries.

“This season we did not give the grape or melon dealers anything,” he said. “In fact, we decided not to do business with Afghanistan.”

For traders in Waish Mandi, a thriving Afghan market town across from Chaman, these are hard financial times, too. Hundreds of people, who used to benefit from border trade, have lost work. Unable to move their merchandise across the border, goods worth millions of dollars are stranded in truck containers.

Apart from the fruit trade, bilateral trade between Afghanistan and Pakistanonce worth $3 billion a year has dropped to $1.2 billion, said Khan Jan Alkozai, president of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Pakistan’s own fruit exports to Central Asia via Afghanistan, which usually average 2 million pounds, also suffer because of border closures, Alkozai said.

Daro Khan, former vice president for the Afghanistan-Pakistan Joint Chamber of Commerce, said Pakistani farmers and businessman have not recovered from losses due to border closures last year.

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India’s Limits on Selling Cattle Could Hurt Industry, Diets

A new ban imposed by India’s government on the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter to protect animals considered holy by many Hindus is drawing widespread protests from state governments and animal-related industries.

Many state governments criticized the ban as a blow to beef and leather exports that will leave hundreds of thousands jobless and deprive millions of Christians, Muslims and poor Hindus of a cheap source of protein.

 

The rules, which took effect Friday, require that cattle traders pledge that any cows or buffalos sold are not intended for slaughter.

 

At least one state government is planning a challenge in court. Some have said the ban infringes on states’ commercial autonomy and are calling for a nationwide protest.

 

Others say the ban will hurt farmers who will be forced to continue feeding aged animals, and that millions of unproductive cattle will be turned out on the streets.

 

The new rules also propose the setting up of a vast animal monitoring bureaucracy, including animal inspectors and veterinarians, to ensure the rules are followed. Traditionally, cattle fairs and markets allow the sale of animals headed to abattoirs to provide raw materials used in dozens of industries, including leather making, soap and fertilizer.

 

The state governments have appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal the order, which they say was issued without consultations with them. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has been pushing a Hindu nationalist agenda since it came to power in 2014.

 

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the top elected official in southern Kerala state, wrote to Modi on Sunday describing the restrictions as a “drastic move” that would have “far-reaching consequences and would be detrimental to democracy.”

 

He said the move amounts to “an intrusion into the rights of the states” in India’s federal structure and violates the principles of the Indian Constitution.

 

The government of West Bengal state also protested the move, saying the Modi government cannot make such decisions unilaterally.

 

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the state would not accept the imposition of such restrictions on its commercial authority. She described it as a step by the Modi government to “destroy the federal structure of the country.”

 

“We won’t accept the decision. It is unconstitutional. We will challenge it legally,” Banerjee told reporters Monday.

 

Hindus, who form 80 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people, consider cows to be sacred, and for many eating beef is taboo. In many Indian states, the slaughtering of cows and selling of beef is either restricted or banned. India has the highest number of vegetarians in the world as a result of Hinduism’s predominance, although not all Hindus are vegetarians.

 

While the eating of beef is not a crime in many states, slaughtering a cow carries a punishment of up to seven years in jail throughout the country. In Gujarat state, lawmakers have approved a bill increasing the punishment for killing a cow to life imprisonment.

 

Critics say the new rules, ostensibly to protect the way animals are treated and transported, are in keeping with demands of Hindu nationalists, who have long been pressing for a nationwide ban on the sale of beef. The past two years have also seen a rise in vigilante attacks on Muslims and lower caste Hindus involved in the cattle trade. Several deaths have occurred.

 

On Monday, police arrested seven people on suspicion of assaulting two Muslim men who were transporting meat in western Maharashtra state. The men were beaten and forced to chant Hindu slogans by a vigilante group on Sunday, police said.

 

Meanwhile, leather and meat industry groups said the ban could push them out of business.

 

Fauzan Alavi of the All India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association said beef exports, which had been growing rapidly, have already been affected. “Such a drastic move is bound to hit the industry,” Alavi said Sunday.

 

The government “has handed a death certificate to us,” said Ramesh K. Juneja of the Council of Leather Exports.

 

 

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