‘Worker Bee’ Round of NAFTA Talks to Focus on Easier Chapters

NAFTA trade negotiators convene in Washington next week for a limited round of talks unlikely to move the needle on major sticking points, but aimed at demonstrating some progress toward closing easier chapters.

Last month’s round of negotiations to update the North American Free Trade Agreement in Mexico City failed to resolve major differences, as Canada and Mexico pushed back on what they saw as unreasonable U.S. demands on automotive content rules, dispute settlement and a five-year sunset clause.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said that the United States wanted to see “meaningful progress” before year’s end.

The “intersessional” meetings in a Washington hotel come with lower expectations and without trade ministers from the three countries, who are due to attend a World Trade Organization meeting in Buenos Aires.

Some lobbyists and trade experts said that chapters with the best chances of showing progress were among those that Canada and Mexico had agreed to create or update in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal: digital trade, food safety, state-owned enterprises and telecommunications.

NAFTA negotiators have not closed any chapters since completing talks on competition policy and small-medium enterprises in late September. Talks have since been dominated by U.S. demands, such as for half of all North American automotive content to be produced in the United States.

Less rhetoric, more substance

“The intersessional could be a chance to turn the temperature down,” said Max Baucus, a former U.S. senator who chairs Farmers for Free Trade, a coalition of U.S. farm sector groups. “This should be a round for the worker bees, with less rhetoric and more concrete negotiations.”

A senior Canadian government source said no progress would be made on the most contentious issues at the Washington talks.

Separately, Canada’s chief negotiator, Steve Verheul, said the U.S. “extreme proposals” were proving very hard to deal with.

“We will not accept U.S. proposals that would fundamentally weaken the benefits of NAFTA for Canada and undermine the competitiveness of the North American market in relation to the rest of the world,” Verheul told Canadian lawmakers this week.

The Washington meetings follow stepped-up lobbying efforts by NAFTA backers in the United States to warn against the dangers of withdrawing from the nearly 24-year-old trade pact.

Top Detroit auto executives met with Vice President Mike Pence, and pro-trade Republican senators met with President Donald Trump.

Moises Kalach, the head of Mexico’s CCE business lobby and a government consultant, said that the United States would need to back off from some of its “extreme” positions for compromises to be made.

“We’re ready to dance. The question is whether the American government is willing to do so,” Kalach told Reuters.

Звинувачення на адресу Саакашвілі є політичними – адвокат Чорнолуцький

Адвокат лідера партії «Рух нових сил» Міхеїла Саакашвілі Руслан Чорнолуцький заявив уночі 9 грудня, що складу злочину у висунутих на адресу його підзахисного звинуваченнях немає, а справа є політичною.

«Він (Саакашвілі – ред.) наголошує, що ніяких грошей від ні від кого не отримував… Більше того – ніякі гроші не спрямовувалися на повалення влади, ви бачите, що відбувалися лише мирні ходи, мирні акції», – сказав захисник, виступаючи перед кількома десяткками прихильників Саакашвілі після виходу з ізолятора тимчасового тримання, де відбувалися слідчі дії.

«Склад злочину відсутній тут, і я вам, як представник захисту, хочу довести, що ми максимально готуємося до, скоріш всього, запобіжного заходу, який буде протягом декількох днів (обраний – ред.)… Але кажу вам, аналізуючи перший процесуальний документ, який ми отримали, це повідомлення про підозру, що складу злочину там немає, і справа політична на 200 відсотків», – наголосив адвокат Чорнолуцький.

Він також оприлюднив на своїй Facebook-сторінці звернення, написане рукою Саакашвілі.

Сторона обвинувачення клопотатиме про домашній арешт із носінням електронного браслета як запобіжний захід для лідера партії «Рух нових сил» Міхеїла Саакашвілі. Про це вночі 9 грудня повідомила речниця генпрокурора Юрія Луценка Лариса Сарган.

Міхеїл Саакашвілі був затриманий у Києві ввечері 8 грудня.

Саакашвілі оголосили в розшук після того, як 5 грудня йому вдалося уникнути затримання. Того дня правоохоронці прийшли з обшуком до квартири Саакашвілі в центрі Києва. Співробітники СБУ спільно з працівниками Генпрокуратури затримали екс-президента Грузії, проте автомобіль правоохоронців із Саакашвілі всередині заблокували прихильники політика і через кілька годин, зламавши двері авта, звільнили його.

Після цього екс-президент Грузії разом зі своїми соратниками прийшов до будівлі Верховної Ради України, де влаштував мітинг. У наступні дні Саакашвілі перебував у наметовому містечку біля Верховної Ради і виступав перед прихильниками.

5 грудня генеральний прокурор України Юрій Луценко заявив, що лідер партії «Рух нових сил» Міхеїл Саакашвілі отримав від бізнесмена Сергія Курченка, який переховується в Росії, півмільйона доларів на свою діяльність в Україні.

Саакашвілі назвав неправдивими всі обвинувачення на свою адресу.

Прокурори клопотатимуть про домашній арешт для Саакашвілі – Сарган

Сторона обвинувачення клопотатиме про домашній арешт як запобіжний захід для лідера партії «Рух нових сил» Міхеїла Саакашвілі. Про це вночі 9 грудня повідомила речниця генпрокурора Юрія Луценка Лариса Сарган.

«Прокурори клопотатимуть перед судом про обрання запобіжного заходу для затриманого Саакашвілі у вигляді домашнього арешту із носінням електронного браслета. Слідчі дії завершено. Чотири адвокати залишають наразі ізолятор тимчасового тримання. Прокурори готують клопотання до суду», – написала речниця в Twitter.

Міхеїл Саакашвілі був затриманий у Києві ввечері 8 грудня.

«Згідно постанови про розшук працівники Нацполіції виявили місцеперебування Саакашвілі на вулиці Відрадній міста Києва та затримали його. Затриманий поміщений до ізолятора тимчасового тримання. Плануються слідчі дії та звернення в суд про обрання запобіжного заходу. Як і обіцяли, силовики зробили все, щоб уникнути крайніх силових дій і крові», – написав у Facebook генеральний прокурор України Юрій Луценко.

Саакашвілі оголосили в розшук після того, як 5 грудня йому вдалося уникнути затримання. Того дня правоохоронці прийшли з обшуком до квартири Саакашвілі в центрі Києва. Співробітники СБУ спільно з працівниками Генпрокуратури затримали екс-президента Грузії, проте автомобіль правоохоронців із Саакашвілі всередині заблокували прихильники політика і через кілька годин, зламавши двері авта, звільнили його.

Після цього екс-президент Грузії разом зі своїми соратниками прийшов до будівлі Верховної Ради України, де влаштував мітинг. У наступні дні Саакашвілі перебував у наметовому містечку біля Верховної Ради і виступав перед прихильниками.

5 грудня генеральний прокурор України Юрій Луценко заявив, що лідер партії «Рух нових сил» Міхеїл Саакашвілі отримав від бізнесмена Сергія Курченка, який переховується в Росії, півмільйона доларів на свою діяльність в Україні.

Саакашвілі назвав неправдивими всі обвинувачення на свою адресу.

From Poles to Filipinos? UK Food Industry Needs Post-Brexit Workers

Britons who voted for Brexit in the hope of slashing immigration seem set for disappointment. In the farming and food industries at least, any exodus of Polish and Romanian workers may simply be followed by arrivals of Ukrainians and Filipinos.

From dairy farms to abattoirs, employers say not enough Britons have an appetite for milking cows before dawn or disemboweling pig carcasses — jobs often performed by workers from the poorer, eastern member states of the European Union.

With unemployment at a four-decade low of 4.3 percent, even Brexit supporters acknowledge the industries will need some migrant workers after Britain leaves the EU in 2019, ending the automatic right of the bloc’s citizens to work in the country.

Employers praise eastern European staff for their skills and work ethic.

“They are a massively valuable part of our work force and a massively valuable part of the food industry overall,” said Adam Couch, chief executive of Cranswick plc, a meat processing group founded by pig farmers.

Food and drink is the largest U.K. manufacturing sector, with a turnover of 110 billion pounds ($147 billion) in 2015, government figures show. Much of it depends heavily on staff from elsewhere in the EU, mainly the post-communist east.

For example, the British Meat Processors Association says 63 percent of workers in the sector come from other EU countries, and in some plants it can be as high as 80 percent.

The proportion has risen partly due to increased demand for more labor-intensive products such as boneless meat.

Association members have found it impossible to recruit the additional employees needed from Britain, the BMPA says.

Pro-Brexit campaigners say Britain needs to reduce its reliance on EU workers.

“Our sights should be firmly set on raising the skill level of our own domestic workers, employing domestic whenever we possibly can and automating,” said Owen Paterson, a member of parliament for the ruling Conservatives.

But Paterson, who as a former Environment Secretary was responsible for U.K. agricultural policy from 2012-14, added: “Where there is a clear shortage and no technological solution, by all means bring in labor but the good news is we wouldn’t be limited to the EU. We will have the whole world to choose from.”

‘Money for a month’

On the meat production line, Romanian Dumidru Voicu explained the attractions of working at Cranswick’s plant in Milton Keynes, a town northwest of London.

“I just want to do something with my life, save some money and make my own business. The money for a week here is the money for a month in Romania,” said Voicu, who arrived in the country about the time that Britons voted to leave the EU in June last year.

An estimated 27,000 permanent staff from elsewhere in the EU worked in British agriculture last year, House of Commons staff noted in a briefing paper for members of parliament. This figure is swollen at times by around 75,000 seasonal workers.

A further 116,000 EU citizens worked in food manufacturing.

The Food and Drink Federation predicts the sector, which employs about 400,000 people, needs to recruit another 140,000 by 2024.

The government, which wants to reduce immigration sharply, has yet to announce its post-Brexit policy but farm minister George Eustice has recognized employers’ concerns. “Leaving the EU and establishing controlled migration does not mean closing off all immigration,” he told parliament in earlier this year.

However, a government document leaked in September showed that restrictions for all but the highest-skilled EU workers were under consideration.

Such a possibility alarms farm employers. “Without EU labor there will be no British pig industry as we know it,” said Zoe Davies, chief executive of the National Pig Association.

British farmers have relied on foreign labor for a long time, at least around harvest time. A Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme was introduced shortly after World War II.

The government ended it in 2013 before Romanians and Bulgarians won the automatic right to work in Britain, arguing that there were now enough EU workers to fill farm vacancies.

With EU citizens to lose that right on Brexit, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) wants the scheme — or something similar — reinstated. This may mean going back to the time when people from beyond eastern Europe filled farm jobs.

Michael Oakes, chairman of the dairy board at the NFU, says older colleagues remember when people from countries such as the Philippines worked on British farms.

“There are other countries in the world that would help to solve the problem but at the moment because they are not within the EU they are not necessarily able to come in and work.”

Filipinos already work on New Zealand farms but such an idea could prove politically difficult in Britain as the pro-Brexit side fought the referendum on promises to curb immigration.

Many of the 17 million Britons who voted to leave are likely to be unhappy if they find eastern Europeans simply replaced by non-EU workers such as Filipinos or Ukrainians.

“Perhaps we need to broaden out the opportunities but a lot of people voted for Brexit because of immigration reasons, so it is a tricky one for the government,” said Oakes.

Making sacrifices

Any new seasonal plan could still recruit in the EU, but might be forced to widen its scope to get the required numbers.

Net migration to the UK fell to 230,000 in the year to June, far from the government’s ambition of arrivals “in the tens of thousands”. Still, EU citizens accounted for three quarters of the 106,000 drop, the Office for National Statistics reported.

The figures present a mixed picture, with a net 20,000 Poles leaving the country in 2016 but 50,000 Romanians arriving.

But some eastern Europeans say they feel less welcome since the referendum and resent the negative attitude of some Britons.

“I was quite upset. Why do you have a problem with me if I am coming to take a job you don’t want and I am paying tax?” said Zoltan Peter, who came to England in 2009 to work on a dairy farm in western England, initially leaving his wife and baby daughter at home in Romania.

Peter now works as a regional manager for LKL, a firm which recruits workers to the dairy industry, but says the early years were not easy. “I didn’t catch my daughter starting to talk, but you sometimes you make sacrifices and eastern European people are making sacrifices,” he told Reuters.

A drop in sterling since the referendum has also made Britain less attractive for farm workers who earn at least 7.20 pounds an hour. That was worth 41 Polish zlotys before the vote but now it buys only 34.

Part of the answer may lie in a drive to recruit and train more British workers, despite Peter’s doubts.

Oakes said he needed people prepared to work long, unsocial hours often in cold, wet conditions. Milking on his farm starts at 4.30 a.m. and the day does not end until 8 p.m. “It is an early start or a late finish, and occasionally on bad days you might have to do both,” he said.

‘Star Wars’ Cast Reflects on Legacy of Fisher, Leia

Carrie Fisher may have been the “madcap Auntie Mame” to Mark Hamill’s “square” homebody, but despite their differences, the Star Wars siblings got along famously right till the end.

While both skyrocketed to celebrity with their Star Wars roles in 1977 and remained inextricably linked through their on-screen family, Hamill says he missed a lot of Fisher’s life — during “the Bryan Lourd years” and when her daughter Billie Lourd was an infant. That’s why, even before Fisher’s untimely death last year, he felt especially grateful to just get to spend time with his friend during the filming of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

 

“I’d see her periodically during charity events or when there were Star Wars celebrations and so forth. But this was the first time where we could really hang and enjoy each other. Even if I wasn’t shooting, I was coming in for stunt training and this or that, hair tests, coming into her trailer and hanging out with her and [her dog] Gary,” Hamill said. “There was a comfort level we’d developed over all these years. She knew me. She knew I hadn’t really changed. She knew I wasn’t out to get something.”

Fisher was apparently beloved by all in the cast, both for who she was and what the character of Leia meant to them. Her death at age 60 came after filming had finished and deep into post-production, but presented a bit of a conundrum for the filmmakers who had anticipated Leia being part of the next film, too.

Closure comes later

The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson said he ultimately didn’t end up changing anything about her role in this installment, which is the eighth in the Star Wars films about the lives and adventures of the Skywalker clan. That’ll be something J.J. Abrams will have to grapple with in Episode IX, in which Fisher was meant to have a much more prominent role.

“We’ll have to find a way to give her closure in IX, but we’ll never be able to replace her,” Hamill said.

Although no one can talk about exactly what Leia’s arc entails in The Last Jedi, out December 15, Johnson expects it will be an emotional experience.

“She is so good in it,” Johnson said. “I always think about the fans who didn’t know her in real life and grew up watching her, and it’s like they’re all going through their own type of loss. It’s really going to be emotional for people whom she means something to see this. I hope it’ll be good. I hope it’ll mean something to them.”

Many in the cast speak almost interchangeably about the feisty princess-turned-general and the unapologetic boldness of Hollywood royalty who embodied her. The women in particular recall being deeply affected by the Leia character when they were young. 

 

“I truly remember thinking ‘She’s different. She’s not like all the rest,’ ” Gwendoline Christie said of seeing Leia for the first time when she was 6 or 7 years old. “I’m thinking, ‘I want to be like her.’ ”

But it was Fisher’s extraordinary persona that was atop call cast members’ minds.

“It’s hard to do it justice, describing the life of someone. She’s so complicated,” said Adam Driver, who plays her estranged son. “It is always exciting to see someone who is not interested in conforming to any way of how you should behave. And I think she embodied that with a really great sense of irony.”

Picture of courage

Fisher made newcomer Kelly Marie Tran realize “how much courage it takes to be yourself when you’re on a public platform.”

“She was so unapologetic and openly herself,” Tran said. “She will always be an icon as Leia but also as Carrie. What an example. I am so fortunate to have met her.”

But Fisher’s famed frankness and spirit was only one part of a complex person, according to Hamill, who, after 40 years of knowing her, got to see the nuance. 

 

“As tough as she was and as venomous as her wit could be, she was really vulnerable in a way. Even though we weren’t really brother and sister, there was sort of a protectiveness I felt. I was defensive when people would criticize her, and I’d get mad at her when she was self-indulgent, which was quite a lot. But I loved her so much,” Hamill said.

“When I get mad and selfish and think, ‘Darn it, Carrie, your timing used to be perfect — why now?,’ you have to say, ‘At least we have that. We should be grateful for the time we had with her.’ And I do know one thing: She would want us to be laughing and happy, not morose and depressed over her not being around anymore.”

Maldives Rushes Through Trade Pact With China Despite Opposition

The Maldives government signed a free trade agreement with China during a visit to Beijing by its leader, Abdulla Yameen, it said on Friday, despite criticism from the opposition over the speed at which the deal was concluded.

Under the deal – a document of more than 1,000 pages that the Maldives parliament signed off on last week after less than an hour of discussion – China and the archipelago nation will impose no tariffs on imports from each other.

Fisheries are the main export from the Maldives, an Indian Ocean country of 400,000 that also relies heavily on tourism.

“The free trade agreement between China and Maldives signed during the visit was a milestone in the development of China-Maldives economic and trade relations,” Yameen’s official website said in a joint communique.

The Maldives government also endorsed China’s proposed Maritime Silk Road business development project, part of its vast Belt and Road infrastructure project.

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Chinese President Xi Jinping as telling Yameen that the Belt and Road program matched up with the Maldives’ development strategies.

President Yameen’s government has had good relations with China since taking power in 2013. China has been striking deals with countries in Asia and Africa to improve its imports of key commodities and boost its diplomatic clout.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said in a statement that the FTA contained technical details that should have been thoroughly reviewed and called for its implementation to be suspended until an independent feasibility study is conducted.

The government says the FTA will help diversify the $3.6 billion economy and boost fisheries exports, crucial since the European Union declined in 2014 to renew a tax concession on them. Fisheries account for 5 percent of Maldives’ economic output and earned the country $140 million in 2016.

The EU declined to extend the tax exemptions because the country has failed to comply with international conventions on freedom of religion, European diplomats in Colombo say.

Maldives law prohibits the practice by citizens of any religion other than Islam, while non-Muslims are barred from voting, gaining citizenship or holding public office.

USOC Says All Systems Go for Pyeongchang Olympics 

The U.S. Olympic Committee on Friday said it would send a full team to compete at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in February despite mixed messages this week from the White House about whether the U.S. would participate.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley had said it was an “open question” as to whether the U.S. would travel to South Korea amid weapons tests by its neighbor North Korea, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters no official decision had been made before clarifying in a tweet that the “U.S. looks forward to participating.”

“I think there was just some miscommunication there, rather than anything intended to be substantive,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun told reporters following a board meeting in New York.

“We are going to take a team to Pyeongchang unless it’s physically impossible or legally impossible to do that,” he said. “We are 100 percent committed to our athletes on that.”

Blackmun said no Olympic sponsor or athlete had raised concerns about the safety of traveling to South Korea despite growing tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.

“We are going to be bringing a team and showing up like 100 other nations,” he said.

Кількадесят активістів ночують під будівлею СБУ в Києві, де може утримуватися Саакашвілі

Кілька десятків активістів залишилися на нічліг біля будівлі Служби безпеки України, де, як вони вважають, силовики утримують лідера партії «Рух нових сил», екс-голову Одеської облдержадміністрації Міхеїла Саакашвілі. Ці люди принесли діжки, в яких розпалили багаття, щоб зігрітися.

Інша частина прихильників Саакашвілі залишається в таборі поблизу будівлі Верховної Ради. Раніше цієї ночі депутат Верховної Ради Семен Семенченко спростував повідомлення про штурм наметового містечка біля будівлі парламенту.

Після повідомлень про затримання Саакашвілі частина активістів з табору протестувальників під Верховною Радою рушили до будівлі, де правоохоронці можуть утримувати лідера їхнього протесту.

Міхеїл Саакашвілі був затриманий у Києві ввечері 8 грудня.

«Згідно постанови про розшук працівники Нацполіції виявили місцеперебування Саакашвілі на вулиці Відрадній міста Києва та затримали його. Затриманий поміщений до ізолятора тимчасового тримання. Плануються слідчі дії та звернення в суд про обрання запобіжного заходу. Як і обіцяли, силовики зробили все, щоб уникнути крайніх силових дій і крові», – написав у Facebook генеральний прокурор України Юрій Луценко.

Саакашвілі оголосили в розшук після того, як 5 грудня йому вдалося уникнути затримання. Того дня правоохоронці прийшли з обшуком до квартири Саакашвілі в центрі Києва. Співробітники СБУ спільно з працівниками Генпрокуратури затримали екс-президента Грузії, проте автомобіль правоохоронців із Саакашвілі всередині заблокували прихильники політика і через кілька годин, зламавши двері авта, звільнили його.

Після цього екс-президент Грузії разом зі своїми соратниками прийшов до будівлі Верховної Ради України, де влаштував мітинг. У наступні дні Саакашвілі перебував у наметовому містечку біля Верховної Ради і виступав перед прихильниками.

5 грудня генеральний прокурор України Юрій Луценко заявив, що лідер партії «Рух нових сил» Міхеїл Саакашвілі отримав від бізнесмена Сергія Курченка, який переховується в Росії, півмільйона доларів на свою діяльність в Україні.

Саакашвілі назвав неправдивими всі обвинувачення на свою адресу.

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