International

U.S. and EU flags are pictured during the visit of Vice President Pence to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: U.S. and European Union flags are pictured during the visit of Vice President Mike Pence to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

March 19, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said on Tuesday that Washington’s “selfish” approach to trade was not sustainable, but it was too early to say that EU-U.S. trade talks were doomed to fail.

The Trump administration has imposed stiff tariffs on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum and set off a trade war with China in a bid to redress what it sees as unfavorable terms that contribute to a U.S. trade deficit of over half a trillion dollars a year.

The Commission, which negotiates trade agreements on behalf of the 28-nation European Union, has been in talks with U.S. authorities since last July, seeking to clinch a deal on industrial goods trade.

EU governments are now discussing the details of a negotiating mandate for the Commission, while Washington has until mid-May to decide whether to make good on President Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on imports of European cars.

“It is too early to say that our trade discussions are doomed to fail,” Katainen told a regular news briefing.

“There are discussions going on on several levels and … we can end up having some sort of an agreement with the U.S. on trade, but let’s not go deeper than this,” he said, adding that the scope of negotiations had to be clear and that a deal would require a lot of good will and political capital on both sides.

Asked about a reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Katainen said it was problematic and that attempts to get it done were like pushing a rope.

“Japan, China and the EU are willing to reform the WTO, the U.S. has not been that interested, but they are willing to cooperate,” he said.

“Even though the U.S. authorities may think that selfishness is better than cooperation, it is not a sustainable way of thinking. We need better, rules-based trade in the future where the international community sets the rules,” he said.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Congress last week that the WTO was using an “out of date” playbook despite dramatic changes including the rise of China and the evolution of the internet.

He said Washington was nonetheless working “diligently” to negotiate new WTO rules to address these problems.

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Honduran migrant Ariel, 19, who is waiting for his court hearing for asylum seekers returned to Mexico to wait out their legal proceedings under a new policy change by the U.S. government, is pictured after an interview with Reuters in Tijuana
Honduran migrant Ariel, 19, who is waiting for his court hearing for asylum seekers returned to Mexico to wait out their legal proceedings under a new policy change by the U.S. government, is pictured after an interview with Reuters in Tijuana, Mexico March 18, 2019. Picture taken March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes

March 19, 2019

By Lizbeth Diaz and Mica Rosenberg

TIJUANA/NEW YORK (Reuters) – A group of asylum seekers sent back to Mexico was set to cross the border on Tuesday for their first hearings in U.S. immigration court in an early test of a controversial new policy from the Trump administration.

The U.S. program, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), turns people seeking protection in the United States around to wait out their U.S. court proceedings in Mexican border towns. Some 240 people – including families – have been returned since late January, according to U.S. officials.

Court officials in San Diego referred questions about the number of hearings being held on Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which did not respond to a request for comment. But attorneys representing a handful of clients were preparing to appear in court.

Migrants like 19-year-old Ariel, who said he left Honduras because of gang death threats against himself and his family, were preparing to line up at the San Ysidro port of entry first thing Tuesday morning.

Ariel, who asked to use only his middle name because of fears of reprisals in his home country, was among the first group of asylum-seeking migrants sent back to Mexico on Jan. 30 and given a notice to appear in U.S. court in San Diego.

“God willing everything will move ahead and I will be able to prove that if I am sent back to Honduras, I’ll be killed,” Ariel said.

While awaiting his U.S. hearing, Ariel said he was unable to get a legal work permit in Mexico but found a job as a restaurant busboy in Tijuana, which does not pay him enough to move out of a shelter.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other advocacy groups are suing in federal court to halt the MPP program, which is part of a series of measures the administration of President Donald Trump has taken to try to curb the flow of mostly Central American migrants trying to enter the United States.

The Trump administration says most asylum claims, especially for Central Americans, are ultimately rejected, but because of crushing immigration court backlogs people are often released pending resolution of their cases and live in the United States for years. The government has said the new program is aimed at ending “the exploitation of our generous immigration laws.”

Critics of the program say it violates U.S. law and international norms since migrants are sent back to often dangerous towns in Mexico in precarious living situations where it is difficult to get notice about changes to U.S. court dates and to find legal help.

Immigration advocates are closely watching how the proceedings will be carried out this week, especially after scheduling glitches created confusion around three hearings last week, according to a report in the San Diego Union Tribune.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which runs U.S. immigration courts under the Department of Justice, said only that it uses its regular court scheduling system for the MPP hearings and did not respond to a question about the reported scheduling problems.

Gregory Chen, director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said there are real concerns about the difficulties of carrying out this major shift in U.S. immigration policy.

“The government did not have its shoes tied when they introduced this program,” he said.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Tijuana and Mica Rosenberg in New York; Editing by Bill Trott)

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A general view shows destruction after Cyclone Idai in Beira
A general view shows destruction after Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March 16-17, 2019 in this still image taken from a social media video on March 19, 2019. Care International/Josh Estey via REUTERS

March 19, 2019

MAPUTO/HARARE (Reuters) – Cyclone winds and floods that swept across southeastern Africa affected more than 2.6 million people and could rank as one of the worst weather-related disaster recorded in the southern hemisphere, U.N. officials said on Tuesday.

Rescue crews are still struggling to reach victims five days after Cyclone Idai raced in at speeds of up to 170 kph (105 mph) from the Indian Ocean into Mozambique, then its inland neighbors Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Aid groups said many survivors were trapped in remote areas, surrounded by wrecked roads, flattened buildings and submerged villages.

“There’s a sense from people on the ground that the world still really hasn’t caught on to how severe this disaster is,” Matthew Cochrane, spokesman for International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.

“The full horror, the full impact is only going to emerge over coming days,” he added.

The official death count in Mozambique stands at 84 – but its president Filipe Nyusi said on Monday he had flown over some of the worst-hit zones, seen bodies floating in rivers and now estimated more than 1,000 people may have died there.

The cyclone hit land near Mozambique’s port of Beira on Thursday and moved inland throughout the weekend, leaving heavy rains in its wake on Tuesday.

Studies of satellite images suggested 1.7 million people were in the path of the cyclone in Mozambique and another 920,000 affected in Malawi, Herve Verhoosel, senior spokesman at the U.N World Food Programme said. It gave no figures for Zimbabwe.

WORST FEARS

Several rivers had broken their banks, or were about to, leaving a huge area covered by the waters, and only accessible by air and water, Lola Castro, WFP regional director for Southern Africa, told the U.N. briefing by phone from Johannesburg.

Heavy rains preceded the cyclone, compounding the problems, said Clare Nullis of the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said .

“It the worst fears are realized … then we can say that it is one of the worst weather-related disasters, tropical-cyclone-related disasters in the southern hemisphere.” Droughts are classed as climate-related not weather-related.

In Beira, a low-lying coastal city of 500,000 people, Nullis said the water had nowhere to drain. “This is not going to go away quickly,” she said.

Beira is also home to Mozambique’s second largest port, which serves as a gateway to landlocked countries in the region.

The control room of a pipeline that runs from Beira to Zimbabwe and supplies the majority of that country’s fuel had been damaged, Zimbabwe’s Energy Minister Jorum Gumbo told state-owned Herald newspaper on Tuesday.

“We, however, have enough stocks in the country and I am told the repairs at Beira may take a week,” he was quoted as saying.

(Reporting Manuel Mucari in Maputo and Macdonald Dzirutwe in Harare; Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva and Mfuneko Toyana and Emma Rumney in Johannesburg; Editing by Catherine Evans and Andrew Heavens)

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FILE PHOTO: Iranian Material Display at a Military Base in Washington
FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Department of Defense exhibit shows a “Qiam” ballistic missile manufactured in Iran, at a military base in Washington, U.S., November 29, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago/File Photo

March 19, 2019

GENEVA (Reuters) – A senior U.S. arms control official said on Tuesday that Iran’s missile program is detribalizing the Middle East and raising the risk of a “regional arms race” through the provision of such weapons to armed groups in Lebanon and Yemen.

U.S. President Donald Trump said when he quit a landmark 2015 deal that lifted international sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear activities that it failed to rein in Iran’s missile program or curb its regional meddling.

The United States has accused Iran of defying a U.N. Security Council resolution by carrying out a ballistic missile test and two satellite launches since December.

“Iran’s missile program is a key contributor to increased tensions and destabilization in the region, increasing the risk of a regional arms race,” Yleem Poblete, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, said in a speech to the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament.

“Iran must immediately cease activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and halt the proliferation of missiles and missile technology to terror groups and other non-state actors,” she said, denouncing Iran’s support to the Houthi movement in Yemen and to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

She said Iran had provided ballistic missiles to the Houthis that were fired into Saudi Arabia and unmanned aerial systems to Houthi groups that enable strikes against land-based targets in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“We are committed to aggressively countering Iran’s regional proliferation of ballistic missiles and its unlawful arms transfers,” she added.

Poblete urged “all responsible countries” to enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions restricting the transfer of missile-related technologies to Iran.

She further accused Iran of “pursuing pharmaceutical-based agents for offensive purposes”, but did not elaborate.

An Iranian diplomat took the floor to reject her remarks as “cheap, unprofessional, false, irrelevant and pathetic” and accused the United States of “sabotaging” the Geneva forum.

“We should all be truly worried about the U.S. representative’s misbehavior as we all warn that they may turn violent since they lack any human logic to talk and listen in a normal manner as we are used to,” he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Tom Miles; writing by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by William Maclean)

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FILE PHOTO: Protesters wearing yellow vests walk down the Champs Elysees during a demonstration by the
FILE PHOTO: Protesters wearing yellow vests walk down the Champs Elysees during a demonstration by the “yellow vests” movement in Paris, France, March 9, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

March 19, 2019

By Leigh Thomas

PARIS (Reuters) – A strong majority of people in wealthy countries want to tax the rich more and there is broad support for building up the welfare state in most countries, a survey conducted for the OECD showed on Tuesday.

In all of the 21 countries surveyed, more than half of those people polled said they were in favor when asked: “Should the government tax the rich more than they currently do in order to support the poor?” The OECD gave no definition of rich.

Higher taxation of the rich has emerged as a political lightning rod in many wealthy countries, with U.S Democrats proposing hikes and “yellow vest” protesters in France demanding the wealthy bear a bigger tax burden.

Support was highest in Portugal and Greece, both emerging from years of economic crisis, at nearly 80 percent compared with an average of 68 percent, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said.

The Paris-based forum’s survey of 22,000 people about perceived social and economic risks also found deep discontent with governments’ social welfare polices, which many people said were insufficient, the OECD said.

On average, only 20 percent said they could easily receive public benefits if needed while 56 percent thought it would be difficult to get benefits, the survey found.

People were on average particularly concerned about access to good quality, affordable long-term care for the elderly, housing and health services.

Not only did people say they were not getting their fair share given what they paid into the system, people in all countries except Canada, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands did not think that their governments were heeding their views.

“These feelings spread across most social groups, and are not limited just to those deemed ‘left behind’,” the OECD said in an analysis of the survey’s results.

The feeling of injustice was even higher among the highly educated and high-income households, it added.

In light of the high level of discontent, a majority of people wanted their government to do more in all countries except France and Denmark, whose welfare systems are among the most generous in the world.

Most people said the top priority should be better pensions with 54 percent saying that would make them feel more economically secure.

Healthcare followed in second place at 48 percent while nearly 37 percent were in favor of a guaranteed basic income benefit, which has attracted international interest from policymakers but has yet to be tried at the national level.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Richard Lough and Janet Lawrence)

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FILE PHOTO: A Jet Airways plane is parked as another moves to the runway at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport in Mumbai
FILE PHOTO: A Jet Airways plane is parked as another moves to the runway at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport in Mumbai, India, February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

March 19, 2019

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s aviation regulator said on Tuesday that Jet Airways is currently operating only 41 aircraft, just a third of its original fleet, as the debt-laden carrier struggles to finalize a rescue deal with lenders and its major shareholder Etihad Airways.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said in a statement the situation is fluid and that Jet may reduce the number of aircraft it is flying in coming weeks.

Saddled with debt of more than one billion dollars, Jet has delayed payments to banks, suppliers, pilots and lessors – some of whom have ended lease deals with the airline before taking the planes out of the country.

The DGCA also said that pilots, cabin crew and ground staff who have reported any kind of stress should not be put on duty, and the airline should carry out regular maintenance of its aircraft even if they are currently grounded.

(Reporting by Aditi Shah; Edited by Martin Howell)

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a speech at the annual Global Solutions Summit in Berlin
FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a speech at the annual Global Solutions Summit in Berlin, Germany, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

March 19, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that if there was no international agreement on taxing digital companies by the second half of next year, Europe should go ahead anyway.

Merkel also, however, expressed optimism that a global solution would be reached given that U.S. President Donald Trump is also interested in achieving that.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin and Madeline Chambers)

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The British union flag and the EU flag are seen flying near the Houses of Parliament, in London, Britain
The British union flag and the EU flag are seen flying near the Houses of Parliament, in London, Britain, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

March 19, 2019

By Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union is uncertain nearly three years after the 2016 Brexit vote.

Most diplomats and investors think the United Kingdom faces three main options: leaving with a divorce deal, throwing the question back to the people or exiting without a deal.

Graphic on no-deal Brexit probabilities from major banks: https://tmsnrt.rs/2UIhlyz

Following are the main scenarios:

1) BREXIT WITH A DEAL – May gets her deal approved at a third attempt and the United Kingdom leaves in an orderly fashion after a modest delay.

May’s divorce treaty, the product of more than two years of negotiations with the EU, was defeated by 149 votes on March 12 and by 230 votes on Jan. 15.

She had been intending to put the deal to another vote in parliament as early as this week, but the speaker ruled on Monday that she could not do so unless the deal was re-submitted in fundamentally different form. [nL8N2153SV]

Unless May can find a way around Speaker John Bercow’s ruling – such as adding an addendum or starting a new session of parliament – she will have to ask the EU to delay Brexit to avoid a no-deal exit on March 29.

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on Tuesday played down the possibility of cutting the parliamentary session short in order to start a new one.

Because May must now spice any deal with additional legal and procedural innovation, Bercow’s ruling means she is likely to get just one more chance to put the deal to a vote.

She had warned lawmakers that unless they approved her divorce deal, Britain’s exit could face a long delay which many Brexiteers fear would mean Britain may never leave.

May could discuss a delay and seek to get last-minute concessions at a March 21-22 EU summit, though with such chaos in London a crunch decision on Brexit might be delayed until the following week.[nL8N2154G1]

The EU has repeatedly said the Withdrawal Agreement is the only deal on the table and May’s spokesman said Britain would not be seeking to renegotiate the most contentious part – the Irish border plan.

If May is looking for a legal fix, though, she could seek a change to the accompanying Political Declaration.

Sources in Brussels said on Monday that Britain could ask for a Brexit delay even after the summit, suggesting that the decisive moment for Brexit might still be some days ahead.

One possible way out for May would be a Brexit delay until the end of 2019, with an option to leave earlier should her deal get passed. Ultimately, May might have to offer a date for her own resignation to win enough Conservative votes for her deal.

To get her deal through parliament, May must win over at least 75 lawmakers: dozens of rebels in her own Conservative Party, some Labour lawmakers, and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of eurosceptics in Britain’s House of Commons, signaled he could fall in behind the deal. [nL8N2152DJ]

Many banks and investors still say her deal could be struck and approved, and cite previous EU crises such as the Greek debt crisis, where solutions were found at the eleventh hour.

“I think MPs (lawmakers) will see sense and approve the Meaningful Vote before March 29,” said Matthew Elliott, the head of the 2016 campaign for leaving the European Union, told Reuters after Bercow’s ruling.

“The most likely outcome at this juncture is the deal going through,” Elliott said. “When it becomes apparent that the only extension on offer from the EU is long, tortuous and with lots of conditions, I suspect enough MPs will get behind the deal for it to pass.”

If May’s deal fails, or if another vote on the same deal is prevented, another option is that parliament at some point takes control of Brexit and lawmakers seek a closer relationship with the EU, staying in the EU customs union.

Lawmakers could seek indicative votes on a way forward and there might be a majority for a softer Brexit than May’s deal. To avoid that, May could call a snap election, though her party does not want one.

Another option, being pushed by some lawmakers is a referendum on May’s Brexit deal, though such a vote, were it ever called, would effectively become a referendum on EU membership.

2) BREXIT REFERENDUM – May’s deal fails and a long delay allows the campaign for another referendum to gain momentum.

It is far from clear how the United Kingdom would vote if given another chance.

An often chaotic set of votes in parliament last week has shown that none of the alternatives to May’s deal – such as leaving with no deal, a referendum or allowing parliament to decide how to leave – can muster a majority among lawmakers yet.

In the June 23, 2016 referendum, 17.4 million voters, or 51.9 percent, backed leaving the EU while 16.1 million, or 48.1 percent, backed staying.

While many surveys ahead of the vote incorrectly predicted that the United Kingdom would vote to stay in the club it joined in 1973, polls now suggest no great desire for a second referendum and indicate that many voters, fatigued by the political squabbling, would be happy to leave without a deal.

Corbyn, who voted against membership in 1975 and gave only reluctant backing to the 2016 campaign to remain in the EU, has given ambiguous backing for another referendum, saying he would push for one alongside a national election.

When asked if he would vote to remain in the EU in a possible future referendum, Corbyn said on Sunday: “It depends what the choice is in front of us.”

At the highest levels of government, there are worries that a second referendum would exacerbate the deep divisions exposed by the 2016 referendum, alienate millions of pro-Brexit voters and stoke support for the far-right.

Already, many supporters of Brexit, and even some lawmakers, say the elite has sabotaged the EU divorce and is trying to subvert the will of the people.

It is far from clear how the United Kingdom would vote and even if it did vote to remain, Brexit supporters might demand a third and decisive vote.

A new party backed by Nigel Farage, the insurgent who helped shove Britain towards the EU exit, has a message for the country’s leaders: The foundations of the political system will explode if Brexit is betrayed.

3) NO-DEAL EXIT – The chaos in London is such that parliament cannot find a way to approve May’s deal or find another divorce deal option, and after one or more delays, the EU says it will extend no longer. The United Kingdom then leaves without a deal.

Lawmakers on Wednesday voted 321 to 278 in favor of a motion that ruled out a potentially disorderly “no-deal” Brexit under any circumstances.

While the approved motion has no legal force and ultimately may not prevent a no-deal exit, it carries considerable political force.

Still, as the March 29 exit date is set in law, the default is to leave on that date unless May agrees a delay or parliament changes the law.

“You either have a deal, you have no deal, or you have no Brexit,” said Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay.

While an extension would avoid a no-deal exit on March 29, the potential for a no-deal Brexit would remain if the British parliament was unable to approve a deal.

And the European Union’s 27 other members must unanimously approve a delay to Brexit.

Barclay has said Britain should not be afraid of leaving without a deal if it cannot get a divorce deal approved.

No-deal means there would be no transition so the exit would be abrupt, the nightmare scenario for international businesses and the dream of hard Brexiteers who want a decisive split.

Britain is a member of the World Trade Organization so tariffs and other terms governing its trade with the EU would be set under WTO rules.

(Editing by Anna Willard and Giles Elgood)

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Container cranes are pictured at the Port of Singapore
FILE PHOTO: Container cranes are pictured at the Port of Singapore, June 10, 2018. REUTERS/Feline Lim

March 19, 2019

By Jonathan Saul and Nina Chestney

LONDON (Reuters) – More ports around the world are banning ships from using a fuel cleaning system that pumps waste water into the sea, one of the cheapest options for meeting new environmental shipping rules.

The growing number of destinations imposing stricter regulations than those set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are expected to be a costly headache for cruise and shipping firms as they face tough market conditions and slowing world trade. They might have to pay for new equipment and extra types of fuel and adjust their routes.

Singapore, China and Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates have already banned the use of the cleaning systems, called open loop scrubbers, from the start of next year when the new IMO rules come into force.

Reuters has learned that individual ports in Finland, Lithuania, Ireland and Russia, have all banned or restricted such equipment, according to interviews with officials and reviews of documents by Reuters. One British port has occasionally imposed restrictions.

Norway is also working on open loop scrubber bans around its world heritage fjords, an official with the climate and environment ministry told Reuters. A ban on all types of scrubbers is also proposed, the official added.

The IMO rules will prohibit ships from using fuels with sulfur content above 0.5 percent, unless they are equipped with exhaust gas cleaning systems. The open loop scrubbers wash out the sulfur and some industry experts believe they are the cheapest way to meet the new global rules.

Companies that invested in open loop scrubbers will be unable to use them while sailing through those port waters. They also fear the IMO rules could change again and ban open loop scrubbers altogether.

The world’s top cruise operator Carnival Corporation has invested over $500 million to deploy the devices.

Carnival’s Mike Kaczmarek, senior vice president for marine technology and refit with oversight of the group’s scrubbers program, said the port moves were “very troubling”.

“The more ports that participate in this, the greater the (economic) impact,” he said.

“A lot of people out there…in good faith have made significant investments.”

Ships with open loop scrubbers docking or sailing through those ports would need to store waste in tanks until it could be discharged elsewhere or avoid the ports.

The other option is to use a scrubber with a “closed loop”, which stores the waste until it can be treated on land. There are also hybrid scrubbers with a loop that can be open or closed.

Ship owners could also choose another energy source such as low sulfur fuel or liquefied natural gas (LNG). Some experts say there will be enough low sulfur fuel available to avoid fitting scrubbers.

Data from Norwegian risk management and certification company DNV GL shows there will be a total of 2,693 ships running with scrubbers by the end of 2019 – based on current orders – and over 80 percent of them will be open loop devices, compared with 15 percent using hybrid scrubbers and 2 percent opting for closed loop scrubbers.

REGULATORY UNCERTAINTY

Initial research to date into the environmental impact of open loop scrubbers has produced a range of results. The ports and authorities that have banned them have acted in anticipation of studies that conclusively show the discharge is harmful, environmental groups say.

International regulation often lags local action and the IMO rules were agreed in 2016 after years of tense discussions.

An official with Sweden’s Gothenburg port said it recommended shipowners in their waters not to use open loop scrubbers as a precautionary principle to “avoid discharges of scrubber wash water in coastal waters and port areas”.

Businesses are waiting to see if the IMO rules will change.

“What is terrible for business is uncertainty in regulation and changes which are not broadcast well in advance,” said Hamish Norton, president of dry bulk shipping group Star Bulk Carriers, among the biggest investors in scrubbers.

Jurisdictions that have not imposed restrictions are also watching closely.

The IMO encouraged member states in February to research the impact of scrubbers on the environment. An IMO spokeswoman said it was up to countries to make any proposal to tighten scrubber regulation, which would need consensus approval by its 174 member states.

The 28 European Union countries submitted a paper to the IMO which said the use of open loop scrubbers was “expected to lead to a degradation of the marine environment due to the toxicity of water discharges”. It said it wanted to see “harmonization of rules and guidance”.

A separate paper submitted to the IMO, commissioned by Panama – the world’s top ship registration state – and conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said more scientific investigation was needed.

THE FRONT PAGE TEST

A number of jurisdictions without bans, including Gibraltar, South Korea and Australia said they were investigating.

“We will study to find out how harmful it is to oceans and then consider what actions we can take,” said an official with South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

“If the IMO sets out a guideline on this, we will comply.”

Others are pushing back. Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, said it concluded in research last year that there was little impact on the marine environment from scrubber water discharges.

Carnival said a study it commissioned concluded that scrubbers were safe and discharges were over 90 percent lower than maximum allowable levels in various waters.

Nevertheless, many in the industry expect the rules to change.

Ivar Hansson Myklebust, chief executive with Hoegh Autoliners, said at a recent Marine Money conference the vehicle transporter was not ordering any scrubbers.

“The (open loop) scrubbers have a hard time passing the front page test taking pollutants from the air and dumping it into the sea,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston, Gederts Gelzis in Riga, Andrius Sytas in Vilnius, Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Roslan Khasawneh in Singapore, Esha Vaish in Stockholm, Jane Chung in Seoul, Yuka Obayashi in Tokyo, Gus Trompiz in Paris, Gleb Stolyarov in Moscow and Anne Kauranen in Helsinki; editing by Anna Willard)

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The German share price index DAX graph at the stock exchange in Frankfurt
FILE PHOTO: The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Staff

March 19, 2019

By Sruthi Shankar and Agamoni Ghosh

(Reuters) – European shares were on course for a fifth day of gains on Tuesday, with retail and basic resources stocks particularly strong as investors anticipated a more accommodative policy stance from the U.S. Federal Reserve this week.

The benchmark STOXX 600 rose 0.5 percent by 0932 GMT, hitting a five-month peak in what would be its longest winning streak since mid September. Gains were broad-based although Germany’s DAX led the pack with a 0.6 percent rise.

The Fed’s two-day meeting starts on Tuesday, with financial markets expecting the U.S. central bank to reinforce a halt to further rises in interest rates while possibly going further on a plan to cease reductions in its balance sheet.

That would follow moves by the European Central Bank two weeks ago to reloosen policy and pump more money into the financial system, offering hope of a continuation of stock market gains.

“There is a slightly better sentiment about stabilization on the global economy compared to late last year,” said Geoffrey Yu, head of UK investment office at UBS Wealth Management.

“As long as we have this stabilization anchored by clear expectations of a dovish Fed, or at least a non-hawkish Fed, this will be enough to keep things going,” Yu said.

Bank stocks handed back early losses to trade up 0.4 percent, after jumping more than a full percentage point on Monday following confirmation of merger talks between Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank.

Scandal-hit Danske Bank fell more than 5.3 percent in the aftermath of a vote by shareholders against a proposal to break up the bank.

NEW VOTE

News on Brexit also pointed to a delay in efforts by British Prime Minister Theresa May to get her divorce deal through parliament.

The speaker of parliament on Monday ruled May could not put her deal to a new vote unless it was re-submitted in a fundamentally different form. May is due at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday at which she will ask for a delay to Britain’s planned departure from the bloc on March 29.

London’s FTSE 100, packed with international companies that benefit from a weaker British pound, rose 0.4 percent, boosted by oil majors and miners.

Online supermarket Ocado climbed to a record high after posting strong gains in first-quarter retail sales despite a fire at its flagship distribution center.

Luxury stocks got a lift from positive trade surplus data from Switzerland, with the retail index gaining nearly 1 percent.

Chilean copper miner Antofagasta advanced about 4 percent and was the top gainer on the STOXX 600, as a higher than expected dividend overshadowed a drop in core earnings.

French telecoms operator Iliad dropped more than 2 percent after the company cut its cashflow target for 2020 in France and added it was considering the sale of part of its mobile assets.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Agamoni Ghosh in Bengaluru; Editing by Catherine Evans and David Holmes)

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