EU lawmakers move to ban throw-away plastics

admin   •   October 25, 2018   •   2229

 

Plastic along a coastline in Cap-Haitien, Haiti | REUTERS

European Union lawmakers moved on Wednesday (October 24) to ban widely-used, throw-away plastics such as straws and cotton buds, and put a greater burden on manufacturers to recycle in an effort to clear up ocean pollution.

Under the proposal, overwhelmingly backed by the European Parliament, 10 single-use plastic products with readily available alternatives would be banned by 2021. EU states would be obliged to recycle 90 percent of plastic bottles by 2025 and producers to help cover the costs of waste management.

EU lawmaker Frederique Ries, a Belgian liberal who is representing the parliament in negotiations with EU governments, told reporters after the vote that most of the alternatives to the products to be banned were European and not expensive.

The EU recycles only a quarter of the 25 million tonnes of plastics waste it produces per year.

China’s decision to stop processing waste coupled with growing alarm over damage to oceans has pushed the continent to end reliance on developing countries to deal with its waste. Regulators hope the new rules will lead to a drop in the price of recycled plastics.

The EU’s final rules still need to be approved in talks with member states – some of which have balked at the curbs, worried they will be too difficult to implement for the industry. — Reuters

EU business lobby fears losses as China promises to import more from US

UNTV News   •   January 16, 2020

European Chamber report on China epa05174731 Joerg Wuttke, President of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, delivers a briefing on a new report on the increased overcapacity in China’s industrial economy at the Four Seasons hotel in Beijing, China, 22 February 2016. According to a statement from the European Chamber, it’s report titled ‘Overcapacity in China: An Impediment to the Party’s Reform Agenda’ provides recommendations to address problems of ineffectual efforts by China’s government in resolving excessive production capacity in its industrial economy. EPA/ROLEX DELA PENA

Beijing – A European business lobby in China on Thursday said Beijing’s promise to buy $200-billion worth of products from the United States in two years as part of the first phase of a bilateral trade agreement could result in a drop in imports from Europe.

“Will our exports to China be possibly hurt? Possibly yes,” European Union Chamber of Commerce President Joerg Wuttke told reporters.

He warned that Chinese commitments could mean that it stops purchasing European products in the relevant sectors to substitute them with US imports.

In the agreement signed in Washington on Wednesday, China has pledged to boost its imports of US goods and services by $200 billion over the next two years.

This includes $32 billion in additional agricultural purchases, $52 billion in energy products and $78 billion in additional manufactured goods.

In 2018, the US had exported products worth $120 billion to China.

“The US always stood for competition and openness and it’s very interesting to see only that China gets told now what to buy, where to buy (…) All of a sudden, the lead of the free world is turning into a system that resembles the Chinese system. It’s ironic,” Wuttke said.

Although the EU trade representative welcomed the deal as a “good news” that meant the end of the “negative spiral” caused by the tariff war between the US and China, he criticized what he called a trend of “managed trade” and said it was “rewriting globalization”.

The business lobby also expressed doubts over specific parts of the agreement, such as the emphasis on bigger purchases of steel, even though China has been struggling with overproduction in the sector.

Wuttke welcomed Chinese Vice Premier Liu He’s statement that the deal would not affect third parties.

“(The statement) indicates that China might not be willing to just be forced to buy American products, they still want to maintain the right to source globally where products are (the) cheapest and best,” Wuttke said.

How the conflict between Beijing and Washington has been resolved – at least partially and temporarily – has not surprised European companies, which have been hit by US tariffs in sectors like Spanish olive oil.

“There’s this particular ban on Scottish whiskey and Spanish olive oil. There might be Italian or Greek olive oil but the fact is the American consumer gets told ‘you buy only this’,” Wuttke said.

“We do not like this kind of protectionism. Tariffs are something like an addiction, once you have it you don’t get rid of it, and certain interest groups will defend them. Getting tariffs down, as we learned last night, is very difficult,” he said.

Wuttke said that the real challenge in resolving the trade dispute lay in the “tech war”.

“There is tremendous pressure from the US on European business, you know the Huawei 5G story. But then again, like China, Europe doesn’t like to be told what to buy, where to buy,” he insisted.

Wuttke said EU firms suffered from the trade war because most of them operated in China and sold to China.

“We happen to sell to many Chinese exporters so indirectly many of us took a hit by this,” he said.

As part of Wednesday’s deal, the US agreed to cut tariffs on $120-billion worth of Chinese imports (imposed in September) from 15 percent to 7.5 percent and also suspend plans for 15 percent tariffs on $150 billion of Chinese goods that had been scheduled to go into effect last month.

However, tariffs ranging between 15 and 25 percent will remain in place on $370 billion worth of goods: roughly two-thirds of all US imports from China. EFE-EPA

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Britain clinches Brexit deal, Johnson now faces parliament challenge

Robie de Guzman   •   October 17, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (not pictured) at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 15 October 2019. EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN / POOL

Britain clinched a last-minute Brexit deal with the European Union on Thursday (October 17), but still faced a challenge in getting it approved by parliament.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Britain and the European Union had agreed a “great” new Brexit deal and urged lawmakers to approve it at the weekend.

“We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control,” Johnson said in a tweet.

Johnson is hoping to get approval for the agreement in a vote at an extraordinary session of the British parliament on Saturday, to pave the way for an orderly departure on October 31.

However, the Northern Irish party that Johnson needs to help ratify any agreement has refused to support the deal that was hammered out over weeks of negotiations.

The head of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said in Brussels he was “unhappy” with the deal and would vote against it. Lawmakers in his party said they had been told to vote for another referendum on Saturday.

Johnson has no majority in the 650-seat parliament, and in practice needs 320 votes to get a deal ratified this Saturday – in what will be the first Saturday session since the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982. The DUP have 10 votes.

The British parliament defeated similar deals struck by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, three times.

Johnson won the top job by pledging to renegotiate May’s agreement, though he is reviving the bulk of it now, with changes to the protocol on how to treat the border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

The uncertainty over parliament’s approval means that, two weeks before the latest date for the United Kingdom’s departure from the world’s largest trading bloc, the possible outcomes still range from an orderly departure to a chaotic exit or even another referendum that could reverse the entire endeavour.

It is unclear what Brexit will ultimately mean for the United Kingdom and the European project – built on the ruins of World War Two as a way to integrate economic power and thus end centuries of European bloodshed.

Johnson, who was the face of the campaign to leave the EU in Britain’s 2016 referendum, has repeatedly said he will not ask for a delay – even though parliament has passed a law to oblige him to do just that if it has not agreed and ratified a deal by Saturday. (Reuters)

UK PM presents new Brexit negotiation terms with EU

Robie de Guzman   •   August 20, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk to propose conditions on negotiating a new Brexit deal by seeking the removal of the Irish backstop.

In the letter, Johnson said the so-called “backstop” agreement designed to avoid border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland undermines the sovereignty of Britain, which must be removed.

Johnson has proposed to find a “flexible and creative” border agreement to solve the potential problems regarding the Northern Ireland border.

According to the withdrawal agreement reached by the former British Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU, the “backstop” will serve as an insurance policy to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the event that the UK leaves the EU without securing an all-encompassing deal.

Some critics believe that this arrangement could trap Northern Ireland inside the EU and cause the split of Britain.

Johnson vowed to bring Britain out of the EU by Oct. 31, and this is his first attempt to reopen Brexit negotiations after becoming the prime minister in July. (Reuters)

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