Posts Tagged ‘New Zealand’

‘Substantial progress’ made on massive China trade deal that excludes US, Li Keqiang says

November 14, 2018

Substantial progress has been made on hammering out a China-backed trade deal, Singapore’s leader said Wednesday, driving ahead the world’s largest commercial pact which the United States is excluded from.

World leaders gathered in the tropical city state this week for a summit where a massive Beijing-backed agreement covering half the world’s population has dominated discussions.

Diplomats have been trying to nail down details as Beijing entices its neighbours to join a commercial alliance seen as an antidote to President Donald Trump’s “America First” protectionist trade policy.

© AFP | During a meeting with Southeast Asia leaders, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said he was hopeful talks would “break through the ceiling” and take regional trade “to new heights”

The US has imposed tariffs on roughly half of what it imports from China, prompting Beijing to retaliate with its own levies.

Beijing’s leaders have recast themselves as the defenders of global commerce — with the United States under Trump relegated to the sidelines.

China, Japan and India are among 16 Asia-Pacific countries negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

“Substantial progress has been made this year to advance the RCEP negotiations,” Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Wednesday evening, adding talks were now “at the final stage”.

“With the strong momentum generated this year, I am pleased to note that the RCEP negotiations are poised for conclusion in 2019,” he added.

But he cautioned any further delays could risk “losing credibility” for a deal — which has already taken six years to negotiate.

– Trump absent –

This week’s meetings are the biggest in a series of annual gatherings organised by regional bloc the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN), and are attended by 20 leaders.

RCEP was given extra impetus after US President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the rival Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in early 2017.

That deal was spearheaded by his predecessor Barack Obama and aimed to bind fast-growing Asian powers into an American-backed order to counter China.

The TPP is still alive even without Washington — and will come into effect in December — but RCEP, if realised, will be the world’s biggest trade deal.

However, the Beijing-backed pact is much less ambitious than the TPP in areas such as employment and environmental protection.

Beijing had hoped to have the meat of the deal done by the end of this year, but the timetable has now slipped to 2019.

However, this has not stopped Chinese leaders from basking in the progress already made.

During a meeting with Southeast Asia leaders, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said he was hopeful talks would “break through the ceiling” and take regional trade “to new heights”.

Trump is not at the Singapore summit, nor will he attend a subsequent gathering of world leaders in Papua New Guinea at the end of the week, having sent Vice President Mike Pence instead.

National Security Advisor John Bolton, however, told reporters in Singapore that the president’s no-show should not be seen as a lack of commitment towards the region.

He blamed a “schedule crunch” after a particularly frenetic few weeks that included the midterm elections, attending the World War I armistice commemorations in France and preparing for the G20 in Argentina later this month.

– Sticking points –

There are still major sticking points in RCEP talks — with regional rival India particularly nervous about giving Chinese companies greater access to its markets, and wealthier nations wanting to see more progress on labour reforms.

Disagreements on intellectual property rights, goods tariffs and financial services are also on a long list of issues that still need to be concluded.

Also, the spectre of possible leadership changes with several general elections scheduled early next year — India, Thailand and Indonesia — have also complicated the timeline for a deal.

Aaron Connelly, an expert on Southeast Asian politics at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the fact that RCEP negotiations were not concluded at this year’s ASEAN could indicate China has some way to go to convince neighbours to sign up.

“It’s interesting that when Beijing is at its most vulnerable on trade, with US tariffs biting, they weren?t willing to concede enough to their neighbours in terms of market access to get a deal done,” he told AFP.

At the same time, trade ministers across Asia Pacific have sounded a largely positive tone this week, saying they expect the pact to be agreed sooner rather than later.

“The future lies in RCEP,” Indian trade minister Suresh Prabhu told reporters earlier in the week.




Ministers defer agreement on RCEP trade deal to 2019

November 13, 2018

Asia-Pacific pact risks bogging down as some member nations go to polls

However, the deal lacks the protections for labor, human rights and the environment set by the TPP.

SINGAPORE — Economic ministers representing members of the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership on Monday postponed the year-end target for reaching a “substantial conclusion” to the free trade deal, throwing its prospects into doubt.

The ministers on Monday gathered in Singapore hoping to resolve sensitive issues, including lowering tariffs, but they failed to reach an agreement. RCEP members are expected to continue the talks next year, but it is now unclear whether a deal can be reached.

“We made significant progress [but] not the final conclusion,” New Zealand agriculture minister Damien O’Connor told reporters after Monday’s meeting, adding that he hoped a conclusion would come “next year.”

Leaders of the RCEP countries will hold a summit on Wednesday in Singapore, where they are expected to commit to continuing the talks.

Japan’s trade minister, Hiroshige Seko, told reporters that the members closed some of the chapters at the meeting, saying that the discussions had gone as far as they could at the ministerial level.

Separately, Indian Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu told reporters: “We are very happy that India’s concerns have been taken on board, and we feel that we should conclude in a way that will be long-term sustainable so that every country will benefit from it.”

RCEP is envisioned as a huge framework for economic cooperation in Asia that encompasses China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The 16 countries together account for about 50% of global population and roughly 30% of the world’s gross domestic product.

If RCEP takes effect, members will gain access to new export markets, draw more cross-border investment and encourage international movement of labor. Having a common set of rules should also make the region more attractive to multinational corporations.

Progress on the negotiations has been slow since they began in 2013, due to wide differences among the members in their levels of economic development and trading interests.

But U.S. President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies have spurred the discussions forward. The signing in March of another regional trade agreement, the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP-11, which takes effect on Dec.30, was another encouragement to RCEP negotiators.

Earlier this year, the ministers agreed to aim for a “substantial conclusion” to the talks by year’s end, overcoming the main obstacles to an agreement. But sensitive issues, including the scrapping of tariffs on agricultural products, facilitating cross-border movement of labor and setting up common rules for e-commerce must still be dealt with. Only five of the 18 “chapters,” or major negotiation topics, had been closed before the Singapore meeting.

One concern about the negotiations being postponed is that some members will hold elections next year, including Indonesia, India and Thailand. Political decisions over sensitive issues may be put on hold as the votes draw near.

World leaders gather in Paris to mark 100 years since WWI Armistice

November 11, 2018

Leader of some 70 countries are commemorating the Armistice that ended World War One a century ago. Some 10 million soldiers lost their lives in the conflict.

Paris commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice (picture-alliance/TASS/M. Metzel)

Some 70 world leaders gathered at the famous Arc de Triomphe in the French capital, Paris, on Sunday to mark one hundred years since the end of World War One.

Commemorations in Paris had been scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. local time (1000 UTC), the time that the Armistice signed by the Allies and the Germans on November 11, 1918, went into force. However, the proceedings were slightly delayed, with leaders arriving too late for the exact moment.

The large number of countries represented in Paris reflects the widespread nature of a conflict in which an estimated 37  million people, including 10 million soldiers, lost their lives. The city of Paris itself was a key objective in the war, with the Allies fighting successfully against German efforts to capture it in 1914.

The solemn ceremony, held in rainy conditions, featured schoolchildren reading moving messages written by soldiers in eight languages, as well as musical performances, including by French-born Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma and West African singer Angelique Kidjo.

Patriotism, not nationalism

French President Emmanuel Macron held an address in which he described the joy at the end of the conflict, but also remembered the horrors and millions of dead and wounded.

In his speech, he called the nationalism that underlay the war a betrayal of patriotism. He appealed for friendship and dialogue between the nations to create a peaceful future.

“The old demons are rising again,” Macron said. “We must reaffirm before our peoples our true and huge responsibility.”

Read more: World War I: Europe and the politics of remembrance

Macron walking on red carpet before his speech (Reuetrs/M. Ludovic)Macron stressed the dangers of nationalism in his speech

Wide-flung conflict

The Paris commemorations were preceded by ceremonies in New Zealand, Australia, India, Hong Kong and Myanmar, former British colonies that lost tens of thousands of people sent to fight in the war.

Although Sunday’s ceremonies celebrate an act that brought a short-lived peace to the world, they are taking place at a time  of growing nationalism and international tensions.

US President Donald Trump, one of the leaders attending the event, is seen by many as undermining the Western alliance and world bodies such as the UN with his self-declared nationalism. Trump will not be present at the Paris Peace Forum scheduled to take place after a memorial service on the Champs-Elysees. The conference was conceived by Macron and aims to highlight the importance of international institutions for global peace and prosperity.

The Forum is to be opened with a speech given by German Chancellor Angela Merkel alongside UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

 Melania Trump, Donald Trump and Angela Merkel (Reuters/F. Mori)Trump, with his wife Melania, sat next to Merkel during the ceremony

Some protest

Other attendees of the memorial service and Forum included Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump and Putin greeted each other and shook hands at the ceremony, Russian television showed. The gesture comes as relations between their two countries remain strained, among other things because of alleged Russian interference in recent US elections.

The US president pointedly did not extend his hand to Trudeau. Earlier this year, Trump described the Canadian premier as “dishonest and weak” amid a dispute over what he alleges are Canada’s “unfair” trade practices.

As Trump’s motorcade made its way up the Champs-Elysees, it was temporarily halted after two topless protesters approached it wearing human rights slogans on their bodies. Police quickly overpowered the protesters, whom the feminist group Femen claimed as its own.

tj/rc (AFP, AP)

World leaders gather in Paris a century after WWI armistice

November 11, 2018

Netanyahu one of around 70 leaders attending French commemoration to mark 100 years since the end of the conflict

Times of Israel and AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and his wife Sara, second right, are greeted by French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and his wife Brigitte Macron as they arrive at the Elysee Palace in Paris to participate in a World War I Commemoration Ceremony, November 11, 2018 (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and his wife Sara, second right, are greeted by French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and his wife Brigitte Macron as they arrive at the Elysee Palace in Paris to participate in a World War I Commemoration Ceremony, November 11, 2018 (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

World leaders gathered in Paris led global commemorations on Sunday to mark 100 years since the end of World War I at a time of growing nationalism and diplomatic tensions.

Around 70 leaders including US and Russian presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin were marking the centenary of the 1918 Armistice in the French capital starting at 11 a.m. local time (1000 GMT).

Ceremonies in New Zealand, Australia, India, Hong Kong and Myanmar marked the start of the memorial events worldwide for a conflict that involved millions of troops from colonized countries in Asia and Africa.

The leaders of Commonwealth nations — whose forces were deployed under British command 100 years ago — also sounded a message of peace and hope for the world in the new century.

“This was a war in which India was not directly involved yet our soldiers fought world over, just for the cause of peace,” said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter on Sunday.

“For our tomorrows, they gave their today,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told people gathered at the Remembrance Day national ceremony in Canberra.

The Paris commemorations, centered on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe, were set to feature warnings about the modern-day danger of nationalism.

“This day is not just about remembering, but should be about a call to action,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday after visiting the forest clearing in northeastern France where the Armistice was signed.

Merkel will give the opening address alongside UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at a conference called the Paris Peace Forum, which will take place after a memorial service on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday.

Military officer Garcia plays the original Armistice bugle from 1918 under the Arc de Triomphe Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 in Pariis (AP Photo/Francois Mori, Pool)

Conceived by French President Emmanuel Macron, the Forum is intended to highlight the importance of international institutions in helping resolve conflicts, avert wars and spread prosperity.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth will attend a separate event in London.

Netanyahu and Hamdallah in Paris

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah are also in Paris to attend the events surrounding the armistice centenary.

Prior to his departure, Netanyahu said that though World War I predated Israel’s creation, the conflict had “great importance” because hundreds of thousands of Jews participated in the fighting, which he said foreshadowed the Jewish people’s ability to defend itself.

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, while and his wife Sara kisses Brigitte Macron, second left, in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace, Nov. 11, 2018 in Paris (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

On Monday, Netanyahu and Macron are scheduled for a bilateral meeting, before the prime minister heads back to Israel, according to his office.

Netanyahu is hoping to convince Paris to pressure Beirut over what Israel says are Iranian plans to build precision missile factories in Lebanon, according to Hebrew media reports.

During his brief stay in Paris, Netanyahu is also expected to meet with Merkel for a bilateral meeting, though neither Berlin nor Jerusalem confirmed the meeting. Netanyahu will not meet with Putin, despite his repeated efforts to schedule such a meeting.

Tensions lurk

Despite the show of unity at the Arc de Triomphe, where school children were set to read out messages written by soldiers in eight languages, tensions are expected to lurk beneath the surface.

Trump, whose hardline nationalism has badly shaken the Western alliance, arrived in Paris on Friday, criticizing host Macron for being “insulting.”

Trump took umbrage at a recent interview in which Macron talked about the need for a European army and listed the US along with Russia and China as a threat to national security.

The “America First” leader, who faced criticism on Saturday for canceling a trip to an American cemetery because of the rainy weather, will snub the Paris Peace Forum.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, right, and French President Emmanuel Macron walk together past gravestones after laying wreaths at the World War I Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. (AP/Francisco Seco, Pool)

Other attendees of the memorial service and Forum included Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Canadian premier Justin Trudeau, and Putin.

With far-right nationalist politicians coming to power from Brazil to Italy to Austria, 40-year-old centrist Macron was set to invoke the war to make the case for international cooperation.

“We want to make these commemorations a time to reflect on the present, not just the past, so that they have a meaning for us today,” an aide to Macron said earlier this week.

He was set to deliver a short speech during Sunday’s ceremony, which organizers have made deliberately international and cross-cultural.

The French-born Chinese-American cellist Yo-yo Ma will perform, as will West African singer Angelique Kidjo, and a European youth orchestra with a Russian conductor.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel hold hands after unveiling a plaque in a French-German ceremony in the clearing of Rethondes (the Glade of the Armistice) in Compiegne, northern France, on November 10, 2018, as part of commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. (Philippe Wojazer/Pool/AFP)

Some 10,000 police have been drafted in to ensure maximum security in a city repeatedly targeted by jihadists since 2015.

Macron is also set to speak later at UN cultural body UNESCO and at the Peace Forum.

The Forum is part of the “fightback” against nationalism worldwide, chief organizer Justin Vaisse told AFP as he played down the significance of Trump’s decision not to attend.

“The aim of the forum is to show that there are lots of forces in the international system — states, NGOs, foundations, intellectuals, companies — who believe we need a world of rules, an open world and a multilateral world,” he said.

Other ceremonies

About 70 current-day nations were involved in the conflict that had six empires and colonial powers at its heart: Austria-Hungary, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

Around 10 million soldiers are generally estimated to have been killed during the fighting and more than double that number wounded overall.

Between five and 10 million civilians are estimated to have been killed.

In Britain, church bells are set to ring out across the country at 11 a.m., at the same time as a national remembrance service at the Cenotaph in London.


Calls for open trade to greet Pence as Trump skips Asia summit

November 11, 2018

Asia-Pacific leaders will join the heads of Southeast Asian states this week in Singapore to renew calls for multilateralism and fresh pledges to resolve regional conflicts ranging from the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar to tensions in the South China Sea.

Notably absent when regional powers such as China, Japan and India seek to enlist support for a multilateral trading system will be U.S. President Donald Trump, whose decision to skip the Asia summit has raised questions about his commitment to a regional strategy aimed at checking China’s rise.

Vice President Mike Pence will attend instead of Trump, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are among those expected to join leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Image result for mike pence, photos

Mike Pence

Li is expected to rally support for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact now being negotiated, showcased to be the free trade deal that will encompass more than a third of the world’s GDP.

The pact includes 16 countries, including China, India, Japan and South Korea, but not the United States.

Trump has demanded trade agreements that are fair and enforceable and based on the principle of reciprocity. He has re-negotiated an existing pact with South Korea and the three-way deal with Mexico and Canada, and pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which involved four Southeast Asian states.

The United States is also in the midst of a bitter trade war with China which has undermined global markets.

China is pushing the RCEP deal – Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong told reporters on Thursday it “will be of great significance for deepening regional cooperation, coping with unilateralism and protectionism, and promoting an open, inclusive and rules-based international trading system.”

However, Li is expected to appeal in Singapore for the need for the world’s two largest economies to work together to resolve trade disputes, reiterating commitment made by Beijing’s top leaders last week for market opening and lowering tariffs.

It was not clear if Li and Pence will hold separate talks on the sidelines of the Singapore meetings, which would be a prelude to a summit scheduled between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the end of the month in Buenos Aires.

The encounter, if it happens, would come on the heels of high-level talks in Washington where the two sides aired their main differences but appeared to attempt controlling the damage to relations that has worsened with tit-for-tat tariffs in recent months.

Many of the leaders in Singapore will also meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Papua New Guinea next weekend.

ASEAN, which will hold its own summit on Tuesday before being joined by other leaders, also faces the challenge of working through sharp differences over the handling of the Rohingya minority by Myanmar whose military has been accused of “genocidal intent” by the United Nations.

Leader Aung San Suu Kyi is due to attend the Singapore meetings this week while Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, attending his first multilateral summit since returning to power in May, has served notice he has lost faith in the Nobel peace laureate over the issue.

The Rohingya crisis is one of the biggest man-made disasters involving a member since ASEAN was founded in 1967, and it is one of the thorniest issues yet faced by a group that traditionally works by consensus.

Many diplomats and rights activists say ASEAN’s credibility is at risk if it fails to tackle the matter head-on.

At the meetings, ASEAN and China will try to make headway in negotiations for a code of conduct for the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety while ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the area. Taiwan is also a claimant.

But an agreement is unlikely to be announced.

Also, ASEAN members states may announce the successful conclusion of agreements with Russia and the United States on cooperating on cyber security.

Reporting by Jack Kim; additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Roberta Rampton in Washington



China-backed trade deal centre stage at summit as US retreats — Questions about Washington’s commitment to Asia

November 11, 2018

World leaders will push for the rapid completion of a massive, China-backed trade deal that excludes the US at a summit this week, in a rebuke to rising protectionism and Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda.

China, Japan, India and other Asia-Pacific countries could announce a broad agreement on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which covers half the world’s population, on the sidelines of the annual gathering.

Not only is the US absent from the deal, but Trump is skipping the summit in Singapore, highlighting how far he has pulled back from efforts to shape global trade rules and raising further questions about Washington’s commitment to Asia.

© AFP | China, Japan, India and other Asia-Pacific countries could this week announce broad agreement on a trade pact covering half the world’s population

Trump launched his unilateralist trade policy with a bang shortly after coming to office by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal spearheaded by predecessor Barack Obama that aimed to bind fast-growing Asian powers into an American-backed order to counter China.

His approach has left the floor open for Beijing to promote a rival pact it favours, the 16-member RCEP, a free trade deal which also aims to cut tariffs and integrate markets, but gives weaker protection in areas including employment and the environment.

The pact championed by Obama has been kept alive even without the US, and is due to go into force this year, but the Beijing-backed pact has now overtaken it as the world’s biggest.

Announcing in Singapore that talks for the deal — which formally began in 2012 — are mostly concluded would be “important as a symbol of Asia’s commitment to trade at a time of rising global tensions”, Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre, told AFP.

– US commitment questioned –

She said negotiations in some areas were likely to continue into next year, however, while a diplomat attending the summit, speaking anonymously, said “substantial progress” had been made but there were still sticking points.

The gathering of 20 world leaders comes against a backdrop of a months-long trade dispute between China and the United States after Trump imposed tariffs on most Chinese imports this summer, and Beijing retaliated with its own levies.

The standoff is having an impact far beyond the US and China, and leaders at the four days of meetings that begin Monday will be keen to voice their grievances to Vice President Mike Pence, attending in Trump’s place, and Premier Li Keqiang.

Trump’s absence from the Singapore gathering and a subsequent meeting of world leaders in Papua New Guinea is even more notable given Obama, who launched a so-called “pivot to Asia” to direct more US economic and military resources to the region, was a regular participant.

Washington, however, argues that it remains committed to Asia, pointing to regular visits by top officials.

“We are fully engaged,” insisted Patrick Murphy, one of the State Department’s most senior Asia diplomats. “That is very sustained and has been enhanced under the current administration.”

– Nukes, sea tension –

Myanmar’s embattled leader Aung San Suu Kyi is attending the meetings, and will deliver a keynote address at a business forum Monday.

She may face criticism over a military crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya that saw hundreds of thousands flee to Bangladesh last year, and has sparked rare criticism of Myanmar from within regional bloc the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Also on the agenda will be North Korea’s nuclear programme. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a vaguely worded agreement on denuclearisation at a historic summit in June, but progress has been slow since.

Pence will also keep on pressure on Beijing over its growing aggression in the South China Sea. China claims almost all the strategically vital waters, a source of friction with Southeast Asian states that have overlapping claims as well as the US, the traditionally dominant military power in the region.

Other leaders attending include Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

But much of the focus will be on the RCEP as leaders seek to send a message in support of free trade. The deal groups the 10 ASEAN members plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

World leaders “should present a united front advancing trade liberalisation in (the Asia-Pacific) despite global headwinds to trade from the rising tide of global protectionism,” Rajiv Biswas, chief regional economist at IHS Markit, told AFP.


Plans for world’s largest ocean sanctuary in Antarctic blocked by Russia and China

November 3, 2018

A plan to create the world’s largest marine sanctuary in Antarctic waters was shot down when a key conservation summit failed to reach a consensus, with environmentalists on Saturday decrying a lack of scientific foresight.

Member states of the organisation tasked with overseeing the sustainable exploitation of the Southern Ocean failed at an annual meeting Friday to agree over the a 1.8 million square kilometre (1.1 million square miles) maritime protection zone.

Image result for russia, china, flags

The proposed sanctuary — some five times the size of Germany — would ban fishing in a vast area in the Weddell sea, protecting key species including seals, penguins and whales.

Consensus is needed from all 24 members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and the European Union.

But environmental groups say Russia and China — whose concerns over compliance issues and fishing rights have proved key stumbling blocks in the past — along with Norway, played a part in rejecting the plan.

Image result for emperor penguins, photos

Emperor penguin chick. Photo via Gary Miller/ Australian Antarctic Division

“This was an historic opportunity to create the largest protected area on Earth in the Antarctic: safeguarding wildlife, tackling climate change and improving the health of our global oceans,” Greenpeace’s Frida Bengtsson said in a statement on Saturday.

Image result for antarctic, whales, photos

“Twenty-two delegations came here to negotiate in good faith but, instead, serious scientific proposals for urgent marine protection were derailed by interventions which barely engaged with the science and made a mockery of any pretence of real deliberation.”

Antarctica is home to penguins, seals, toothfish, whales and huge numbers of krill, a staple food for many species.

© Stony Brook University/AFP/File | The proposed sanctuary would ban fishing in a vast area in the Weddell sea, protecting key species including Adelie penguins

They are considered critical for scientists to study how marine ecosystems function and to understand the impacts of climate change on the ocean.

Plans were set out in 2009 to establish a series of marine protected area (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean allowing marine life to migrate between areas for breeding and foraging, but it has been slow going.

The CCAMLR summit, held in each year in Hobart, Australia, was able in 2016 to establish a massive US and New Zealand-backed MPA around the Ross Sea covering an area roughly the size of Britain, Germany and France combined.

Image result for Ross Sea, MPA, antarctic, map

As well as the huge Weddell Sea sanctuary, proposals to establish two further MPAs in East Antarctica and the Western Antarctic Peninsula were also dashed this year. Together, the three zones would cover close to three million square kilometres.

Related image

Andrea Kavanagh, head of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Antarctic and Southern Ocean work, described the failure to achieve an MPA designation as “discouraging”.

“Without an East Antarctic MPA, critical foraging grounds for emperor and Adelie penguins, toothfish, and many other species will not be safeguarded,” she said in a statement.

The CCAMLR released a statement saying the new MPAs were the “subject of much discussion” and would be considered again at next year’s meeting.



China’s Military Scientists Exploit Collaborations at Universities Abroad, Report Says

October 31, 2018

Over the past 10 years, Beijing has used a covert agenda to strengthen its military by sending scientists to study at colleges and universities around the world, posing a risk to the West’s strategic advantages, according to a recent think tank report.

On Oct. 30, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), an independent think tank partially funded by Australia’s Department of Defense, issued a report detailing Beijing’s scheme to send scientists with ties to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) abroad, mostly to the “Five Eyes” alliance countries—Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States—as well as Singapore, Germany, and Norway.

From 2006 to 2017, the top five destination countries for Chinese military scientists were the United States, the UK, Canada, Australia, and Germany, based on the number of publications with the scientists’ names as co-authors.

The report estimated that since 2007, more than 2,500 Chinese military scientists and engineers have traveled abroad, often by masking their military ties.

For example, when disclosing their academic affiliations, scientists would use the common name of a Chinese military institute instead of the formal name. For example, the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT), a military academy, would be referred to as Changsha Institute of Technology instead.

Scientists also resorted to using names of non-existent research institutions as their cover. Sometimes, they would create LinkedIn profiles listed with their fake academic affiliations in order to establish a credible cover. Others claimed affiliation with real civilian institutions in the same regions as their military units.

According to the report, the PLA describes such schemes as “picking flowers in foreign lands to make honey in China”: acquiring foreign technology to advance the Chinese military’s capabilities. It warned of the risk of espionage by Chinese military scientists, especially those who haven’t come clean about their military ties.

How China sends its scientists on overseas programs is different from standard military exchanges, where understanding, dialogue, and a mutual relationship are built between China and the host countries’ militaries.

The PLA’s scientists have very little or no interaction with military officials in their host countries.

According to the report, roughly half of the 2,500 of the PLA scientists are PhD scholars, who go abroad to complete their doctoral degrees, or spend up to two years overseas as visiting scholars. The rest stay for a shorter period, about a year, as visiting scholars.

Chinese military scientists typically study in fields with military applications, such as hypersonic missiles, navigation technology, quantum physics, signal processing, and cryptography at overseas campuses.

Most of these scientists are from the military academy, National University of Defense Technology (NUDT), according to the report. Other Chinese schools that have sent many scientists are the Army Engineering University in Nanjing City; Northwestern Institute of Nuclear Technology and the Rocket Force Engineering University in central China’s Shaanxi Province; the Navy Submarine Academy in Qingdao, a port city located on the eastern coast; and the Armored Forces Engineering Academy and Chemical Defense Institute of the Academy of Military Sciences in Beijing.


The report also identified the top 10 university destinations for Chinese military scientists. The most popular destination was Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, followed by University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, and the University of Southampton in the U.K.

Several well-known Chinese military scientists from the PLA Rocket Force Engineering University (RFEU), an important research arm of the military’smissile forces, were named in the report for spending time studyingoverseas. Major General Hu Changhua, who heads the REFU’s missile testing and simulation center, studied at Germany’s University of Duisburg–Essen for four months in 2008.

Zhou Zhijie and Wang Zhaoqiang, scientists from RFEU, claimed to be from the Xi’an Research Institute, which appears to only exist on paper, when they were visiting scholars at universities in England.

Zhu Yijun, an associate professor at China’s PLA Information Engineering University (PLAIEU), claimed to be from the Zhengzhou Information Science and Technology Institute, another cover institute, when he studied at Canada’s McMaster University. According to the report, Zhu studied wireless communications technology with wide-ranging military applications while at McMaster.

For universities that decided to collaborate with Chinese military scientists on scientific research, the report warned of many risks and costs, including that Chinese military scientists are unlikely to share any major breakthroughs of military value with their foreign colleagues. Additionally, universities could risk damaging their reputation by working with China—a non-allied military.

The report provided several suggestions: One is improving the scrutiny of visa applications so that military scientists are identified and properly vetted. In addition, regulations should be put in place to limit the scientific training that foreign military personnel can receive while studying abroad.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison may need to compromise on refugees to prop up ailing government

October 23, 2018
  • Morrison is poised to lose his one-seat parliamentary majority after voters deserted the ruling Liberal Party in a Sydney by-election
  • Two independents have said their support is conditional on the immediate resettlement of 52 children detained on Nauru
South China Morning Post
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2018, 12:39pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2018, 12:39pm
Image result for Scott Morrison, photos

Australian opposition lawmakers have offered a deal to resettle 150 refugees from a Pacific detention camp, which if accepted by embattled Prime Minister Scott Morrison could strengthen his tenuous grip on power.

Morrison’s government is on the verge of losing its majority, after a devastating by-election on Saturday, and key independents have warned their support hinges on him freeing children from the Australian-run detention camp on Nauru island.

The Australian government has steadfastly refused to allow any refugees arriving by boat to enter the country, instead detaining them in remote Pacific detention centres.

The settlements and hospital on the island of Nauru. Photo: AP

Nearly 1,300 asylum seekers have been detained in Papua New Guinea and Nauru for more than five years after being intercepted while trying to travel to Australia by boat.

New Zealand has offered to resettle 150 refugees, a proposal Canberra has previously said it would only accept if opposition lawmakers agreed to change the law to prevent any refugee from ever travelling to Australia in future.

Amid warnings by aid agencies of a health crisis on Nauru, the opposition Australian Labor Party said it would agree to a compromise amendment which would only ban refugees sent to New Zealand.

“Labor is prepared to compromise with the government,” deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek told reporters in Canberra. “We understand that it is beyond time that these people who have been reported by their doctors and other support workers to be in the most desperate circumstances, find a new home.”

Morrison said he would consider the compromise.

Labor is prepared to compromise with the government. It is beyond time that these people … find a new home

Eleven child migrants were transferred from Nauru to Australia for medical treatment on Monday, only hours after two independents said they would only support the government if it stopped detaining children.

Morrison is poised to lose his one-seat parliamentary majority after voters, angry about the party’s ousting of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, deserted the ruling Liberal Party in a Sydney by-election. Turnbull was the sitting member for the Sydney seat and quit politics after being dumped.

Although counting continues, Morrison is likely to have to rely on the support of five independents to prevent a no-confidence motion that could trigger an election. The next general election is due by May 2019.

Two independents have said their support is conditional on the immediate resettlement of 52 children detained on Nauru.

Human rights groups warn all refugees on PNG and Nauru are in need of resettlement as a controversial resettlement deal with the US stalls.

In 2016 Australia and the US agreed to a refugee swap which would see Australia take people from Latin America and in return the United States would take up to 1,250 refugees held in the Australian camps. Two years on, only 422 refugees have been given US resettlement.

“Lives are at risk,” said Catherine Stubberfield, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

“They need to step in now and make sure that further harm and even deaths are not occurring.”

Japan raises concerns over Pacific’s debt to China

October 15, 2018

Japan’s foreign minister has raised concerns  about the high levels of debt accrued by some Pacific Island nations and said his country wants to help resolve the problem.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono made the comments on Monday while visiting New Zealand, where he met  his counterpart Winston Peters.

Image result for Taro, Kono, Winston Peters. photos

Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono, left, with his counterpart Winston Peters in Wellington on Monday.CREDIT:AP

Some observers have become alarmed at the growth in Chinese lending in the Pacific and worry that small countries such as Tonga and Vanuatu are becoming beholden to China because of their high debt levels.

Kono didn’t mention China specifically in his comments. But he said the Pacific region was important in a strategic sense to both Japan and New Zealand.

Peters said New Zealand was also concerned about the loans and the ability of small island nations to repay them.

“We’re looking very seriously at that, saying ‘What does it mean for us when those nations may forfeit the very asset value that they’ve sought to develop, and have it owned by some other country?”‘ he said.

Peters said neither Japan nor New Zealand had gone so far as to offer to repay the loans directly.

“We understand the problem,” Peters added. “We’ve got our eyes wide open.”

Kono’s visit to New Zealand was the first by a Japanese foreign minister in five years. It marks a warming relationship between the two nations over the past year since Jacinda Ardern became New Zealand’s prime minister.

Kono thanked New Zealand for deciding last month to deploy a maritime patrol plane to Japan as part of an effort to enforce UN sanctions against North Korea.

Australia, Canada and the US are also helping Japan monitor offshore ship-to- ship transfers of oil allegedly involving North Korean ships, which would violate UN sanctions imposed over the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

“Regarding the situation in North Korea, we reaffirm our cooperation to achieve a complete, verifiable and irreversible disposal of all the weapons of mass destruction and the ballistic missiles of all ranges,” Kono said through an interpreter.

Kono said he was concerned about the developing trade war between the US and China, and hoped the issues could be resolved through the World Trade Organisation.

Kono met Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne last week before travelling to New Zealand.