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Greek police begin moving asylum-seekers into new camp

Monitoring Desk

KARA TEPE: A Greek police operation was underway on the island of Lesbos Thursday to move thousands of migrants and refugees who have been sleeping on a roadside after a fire destroyed their overcrowded camp into a new facility on the island.

Police said the morning operation included 70 female police officers who were approaching asylum-seekers with the aim of persuading them to move to the new camp in the island’s Kara Tepe area. No violence was reported as the operation began. The UN refugee agency’s local representative welcomed the move.

“As long as it is peaceful, we believe it is a good move, considering that here on the street it is a risk for security, for public health and it’s not dignity which we need for everyone,” said Astrid Castelein, head of the UNHCR’s office on Lesbos. The notoriously squalid Moria camp burned down last week in fires that Greek authorities said were deliberately set by a small group of the camp’s inhabitants angered by lockdown restrictions imposed after a coronavirus outbreak.

The blazes have left more than 1,200 people in need of emergency shelter. The vast majority have been sleeping rough by the side of a road leading from Moria to the island capital of Mytilene, erecting makeshift shelters made of sheets, blankets, reeds and cardboard. The new camp consists of large family tents erected in a field by the sea. By Wednesday night, it had a capacity of around 8,000 people, according to the UN refugee agency, but only around 1,100 mostly vulnerable people had entered.

New arrivals are tested for the coronavirus, registered and assigned a tent. “This is an operation for the protection of public health and with a clear humanitarian content,” the police said in a statement. It said 450 people had been moved to Kara Tepe on Thursday morning, and 250 of them had already entered the new camp after undergoing a rapid test for the coronavirus. The rest were waiting to enter, while more people were due to arrive.

The medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders, or MSF, said Greek police were preventing its staff on the island from accessing a clinic it has set up there. “We are the only medical organization in that particular zone, but we continue to not have access!” MSF Greece tweeted. “Many people need medical help but we can’t reach them. Why are they stopping us?”

Six Afghans, including two minors, were arrested on suspicion of causing last week’s fires at Moria. The blazes broke out after isolation orders were issued during a generalized camp lockdown, when 35 people tested positive for the coronavirus. Moria had a capacity of just over 2,700 people, but more than 12,500 people had been living in and around it when it burned down. The camp and its squalid conditions were held up by critics as a symbol of Europe’s failed migration policies.

Greece has long called for more solidarity from other European Union countries, saying it should not be left to shoulder the burden of the continent’s migration issues just because of its geographical location on the EU’s southeastern border. Several countries have said they will take in some of those who had been in Moria, but all were pledges to take only some of the 406 unaccompanied teenagers and children who had been living there. The minors were flown to the northern Greek mainland the day after Moria was destroyed.

Germany, however, said earlier this week it would take in 1,553 refugees from the Greek islands who had already had their asylum applications approved. On Wednesday night, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told Germany’s ARD television that his country would take in up to 15 refugees. Belgium has offered to relocate between 100 and 150 refugees, mainly families with children, mothers or single women, while it pledged last week to take in 12 of the unaccompanied minors. (AP)

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Suspected arms dealers moved millions in Somali money transfers

Monitoring Desk

NAIROBI: Somali money transfer companies moved more than $3.7 million in cash between suspected weapons traffickers in recent years, including to a Yemeni under US sanctions for alleged militant links, according to a report seen by Reuters.

The findings by a Geneva-based research group, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, could further complicate attempts by Somali transfer companies to retain access to international banking services. Though they provide a lifeline to millions in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation, few banks will do business with them because of the risk of falling foul of international transparency and anti-money laundering regulations.

Asked about the report, the Central Bank of Somalia, which regulates money transfer firms, said it was unaware of the transfers but would investigate and was in general making progress in countering terrorism financing. Contacted by Reuters, the four companies each said they did their best to comply with global “know your customer” norms despite Somalia having no national identity card. The firms also said they maintained databases of internationally-sanctioned individuals.

The Global Initiative analysed nearly six years of transaction records from the city of Bossasso, matching them with mobile phone records provided by security sources and database searches. The report identified 176 transactions from the last six years that it said appeared to be linked to suspected weapons dealers in Somalia and Yemen. Nearly two-thirds were over the $10,000 threshold that should trigger an automatic report to regulatory authorities.

They include two transfers totaling nearly $40,000 to numbers linked to Sayf Abdulrab Salem al-Hayashi after the US Treasury sanctioned him in 2017 for allegedly providing weapons and financial support to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Islamic State in Yemen, the report said. Al Hayashi could not be reached for comment.

Somalia-based Amal Express and Iftin Express handled the transactions, which used different combinations of his name and nickname, the report said. Amal Express said a transfer slip shown in the report and allegedly linked to al Hayashi was a forgery. Iftin Express declined to comment on individual transactions but said it reported all transactions over $10,000 to Somali authorities. The report did not find any instances where the other two companies, Dahabshiil and Taaj, made transfers to any sanctioned individuals. But it noted instances where individuals were able to make transfers with them using multiple names and numbers, a violation of Somali law.

One man used 24 names between the four companies, the report said. All four companies said they did not allow customers to use multiple identities or phone numbers. Dahabshiil also said it has stopped doing transfers between Somalia and Yemen. The companies did not say whether the six men named in the report are in their databases.

Apart from al Hayashi – the only one under US sanctions – three others whose names appear in the suspect transactions were identified as suspected arms dealers in public reports by the United Nations panel of experts on Somalia. Two were flagged – one as a proxy for al Hayashi, and one as an arms trafficker – in a confidential annex to a 2018 report by the same panel. Few Somalis have bank accounts. Money transfer companies – often known as hawalas – are vital to economic activity and delivering humanitarian aid. (Reuters)

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Saudi allies embrace Israeli expansion project

Shakir Hussain

The process of Palestinian displacement began under British colonialism and continues more than a century on, attracting new quislings willing to betray a cause dear to the Muslim world.

At stake is the Palestinian dream of statehood, despite losing a vast part of their historical land to the father of modern political Zionism Theodor Herzl’s Jewish state project. Also at stake is the right of Islamic communities to reclaim their third holiest city, Jerusalem, while recognizing the city’s status as Palestine’s future capital.

It has been an old Zionist plan to occupy as much Arab land as possible to render the Palestinians stateless under illegal Israeli occupation or to subject them to other forms of terror. A genuine regional campaign, in which Egypt and Jordan must play a significant role, can help the Palestinians in achieving their ambitions.

It is clear that Israel and its Zionist allies would not yield an inch to them willingly. Israel’s Zionist allies are those who support its racist occupation and policies, including successor states of European colonialism, the United States, and the Arab dictators whose survival depends on Western tutelage. Even today, Britain is unapologetic for its crimes in Palestine. After British colonialism, the U.S. became the Jewish state’s protector and collaborator and continues to subsidize its aggression.

US policy: U.S. leaders follow the tradition of their predecessors in manipulating Arabs, chiefly the Saudi kingdom, to serve Israeli interests. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945 may have failed in getting Saudi Arabia’s founder King Abdulaziz, also known as Ibn Saud, to endorse the Israeli project, but he did win a relationship that serves American and Western interests to this day.

Now, U.S. President Donald Trump is confident he will get King Abdulaziz’s descendants to enthusiastically embrace Israel.

There are unmistakable signs that Saudi Arabia and Israel maintain furtive relations and the next stage will be a formal Israeli presence in Riyadh. After all, Saudi Arabia has been helping Israel in developing links in the region and beyond.

When the United Arab Emirates (UAE), controlled by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ), announced that it would recognize Israel, Saudi Arabia quickly opened its airspace to Israeli-Emirati flights. A strong signal of Saudi Arabia’s willingness to accommodate Israeli interests came in 2018 when it allowed the Indian national carrier to use its airspace for Tel Aviv flights.

The move might have helped Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s (MBS) administration to gauge political risks and public opinion in case he took further steps toward Israel’s recognition. The original Ibn Saud thinking as Saudi policy became diluted over the decades as Riyadh’s dependence on the U.S. grew. Arab disunity, lack of capacity and political insincerity have bedeviled the Palestinian struggle for statehood.

The late King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz unveiled what became known as the Arab Peace Initiative, which was endorsed by the Arab League in 2002 at its Beirut meeting, and offered Israel recognition in exchange for withdrawal from occupied Arab lands.

No one takes that proposal seriously, thanks mainly to Saudi Arabia abandoning the Palestinians for political expediency and MBS’s out-of-control ambitions. The island nation of Bahrain, linked to Saudi Arabia via a 25-kilometer (15.53-mile) causeway, has become another Saudi ally to recognize the Jewish state.

Trump on Sept. 15 hosted a ceremony at the White House where the UAE and Bahrain agreed to normalize relations with Israel. It means Israel opening embassies on the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf seaports and airports getting linked with Israel. There will be no need for the Israelis to use their dual nationality papers to live or travel in the Gulf for business, leisure or committing an occasional murder.

Those who remember the 2010 assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a top commander in the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, by Israeli agents in Dubai, must be curious as to what an Israeli presence in the Gulf would mean for the wider region’s delicate security situation.

Arab states’ support: Israeli citizens will now be dining and dancing with Gulf Arabs, and indeed with many Muslim residents in the region, even though their own governments still do not recognize Israel.

The UAE and Bahrain are helping Israel expand in a way that has dangerous security implications for many countries. As for the Palestinians, they can forget about securing an end to Israeli occupation with Arab support. They will have to admit that the Oslo peace process was a mistake and utter deception and come up with new ways to revive their struggle for an independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital.

The King Abdullah plan was based on U.N. resolutions 242 and 338, calling for Israel’s withdrawal from Arab lands occupied since 1967. The contempt MBZ and MBS hold for the Palestinian people and what the Islamic world considers as sacred is clear in their promotion of the so-called “Deal of the Century” offered in January by the U.S. administration and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

The UAE-Saudi political yokels, who present themselves as trendy dealmakers, didn’t care that the Trump proposal promised the Palestinians not a state but a series of Bantustans in the vein of apartheid-era South Africa. With no contiguous Palestinian territory, no Jerusalem and Israel being gifted huge tracts of land it didn’t possess before 1967, the deal was rightly condemned as the “Fraud of the Century.”

Palestinians mocked the Trump plan by saying it created two states – but that “both states are Israel.”

Those involved in that fraud continue to come up with new tricks to cheat and defeat the Palestinians. What the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the UAE may end up achieving through their deals is Arab enslavement by Israel. The weakness of their faith is only matched by their meekness to serve Israel, which sees a formal recognition from Riyadh as the bigger prize than Roosevelt securing control of Arabian oil in the 20th century.

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How Pakistan can combat the financial waste of high oil import bill?

Abdus Saboor

Pakistan’s public is probably the most accustomed with power outages among all the nations of the world. It has taken decades for the power sector to confront this problem. Over the years, Pakistanis have increased at a rapid rate, from slightly over 100 million in 1990 to about 220 million in 2020, and accordingly an increase in urbanization and energy demands. However, in the past three decades, policy makers were outpaced by the increasing power demand as the primary energy production lagged behind the primary energy as well as economic growth. For this lag, no one but the governments are to be blamed for not devising a firm and stable policy to tackle it for once and all. The policies designed were either restricted to slogans, to achieve short term benefits, or thrown out with political intent.

Despite its potential and location in the Himalayan region, Pakistan has been unable to produce enough hydel energy- the cheapest source- and clearly not taking advantage from its geographic locality. Consequently, this disadvantage has forced Pakistan to go for other expensive options such as production from furnace oil, natural gas and coal. There is no doubt that energy is one of the most important contribution for the economic growth and sustain of industrial and commercial activities.

Due to the power outages and its expensive nature, the industrial and commercial sectors have resulted in limited growths. In addition, about thirty to forty million people lack access to electricity, which not only forcing them to live under-privileged livelihoods and affect social cohesion but also resulting in negligible and insignificant contribution in the national GDP.

Pakistan primarily depends on the expensive fraction- fossil fuels- for energy production and produces more than half of its energy need from them. Unlike the middle east and gulf countries, Pakistan is not self-sufficient in hydrocarbons and produces about ~95,000 barrels/day of oil against the consumption of 450,000 barrels/day. The tall consumption vs production ratio makes Pakistan unable to provide sufficient oil and gas to its consumers in residential, industrial and transportation sectors. As a result, Pakistan has no way but to import oil from international market thus putting a huge pressure on budgets and reserves. The rupee depreciation by 200% and high consumption of oil (due to low prices and overall reduction in CNG driven vehicles) in the past 8 years has further aggravated the oil import expenditures.

An increase in gas consumption, due to the combined effects of urbanization, transportation and power generation, has also outpaced the domestic gas production as well. The reduction in indigenous natural gas production urged Pakistan to import gas from its neighboring countries like Iran and Turkmenistan. The high oil import bill (US$ 16 billion in 2019-20) coupled with use of oil and gas in power generation has a profound effect on the national exchequer. Miracles aside, but it will take a long time for Pakistan to be autonomous in exploration and production of hydrocarbons.

However, the last few years of the previous as well as present government has been optimistic for Pakistan in terms of catering power needs and there is no doubt that CPEC is one of the main driving forces behind it. The completion of the power projects in near future will relieve Pakistan from a significant financial burden and till the country is self-sufficient in indigenous production of electricity, it can adopt the policy of China to swiftly combat the oil import bill.

Peoples Republic of China is the largest importer of oil in the world as its indigenous resources are unable to provide fuel to ~1.4 billion people. However, unlike Pakistan, China is producing enormous amount of electricity from its indigenous resources of coal, water, wind and sun. In such a circumstance, it does not have a need to import oil for power generation purpose and ‘waste’ money on it. Due to a rise in international pressure, regarding vast emissions of greenhouse gases, China has reduced the proportion of coal generated electricity, but it is still the leading producer of electricity in the world. The world environmental protection agency is concerned about the vast emissions of greenhouse gases from China into the atmosphere owing to its high rates of urbanization and industrialization.

Despite its giant nature in international politics and robust economy, China reduced its dependency on oil and, in a positive, it has further restricted its oil import bill.  China has successfully managed to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels by introducing the electric run vehicles long ago and is currently in a mature stage. These include the electric run trains, public transport buses, cars and many variants of two-wheeled and three-wheeled vehicles. Though Chinese people prefer bicycles for short distances, in modern day urbanized China there are tens of millions of electric vehicles which not only are environmentally protective but also has a high share in the national GDP and save a handsome amount of money.

Pakistan is the fifth populous country of the world but unfortunately its electric vehicles industry is not even in infant stages and it will still take quite some time to start, grow and reach to a mature stage. If it has a ‘significant’ start now, by the time Pakistan is self-reliant in power sector, its electric vehicle industry will be in a ‘decent’ progress stage, thereby further reducing the financial burden of gasoline import. However, in the same time, it is dreadful to think that when the world environmental protection agency would restrict the production of power generation from fossil fuels and a large chunk of gasoline run vehicles. In order to prepare for such a scenario, Pakistan should devise a strategy, re-think over the distribution and use of fossil fuels- the quicker, the better.

abdus.saboor@uop.edu.pk

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Why the US and Africa should lead a collaborative rules-based approach to food security

Katrin Kuhlmann

The 2020 global pandemic has given us a glimpse into the tenuous relationship between economic systems, global supply chains, climate change, and food security. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicts a “global food emergency” absent immediate action, highlighting that we are at a critical turning point, both as nations and as a global community. While this challenge bears some similarity to the 2007-08 food crisis, it is also profoundly different due to the unprecedented scale of the current market disruption and a multitude of factors colliding at once, including climate change, uncertainty in access to agricultural inputs and fertilizer, labor market factors, pest outbreaks, and social disruptions. Food systems are also currently stressed at a time when major fault lines have appeared in the international institutional framework for trade, including the rules-based global trade architecture at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Barriers to food trade in the form of export constraints have already appeared in response to the pandemic; from January to August 2020, a total of 32 jurisdictions had put in place 52 export restrictions. Experts have warned against these measures, which will impact vulnerable economies in particular, calling instead for global collaboration in trade to minimize supply chain disruptions, yet the risk remains that too many countries will choose zero-sum gains in the short term rather than working together to develop a balanced, rules-based approach that can serve the interests of many nations over the long term.

With global food security now intertwined with a global health crisis and massive supply chain shifts, leadership on global food security and trade is needed more than ever before. Signs of hope are emerging in regions like the African continent, which has long been focused on food security, where many countries are now looking to trade as a way out of the pandemic and economic crisis. The United States, which has historically been a global leader in addressing food security and is a significant exporter of food to deficit markets, should continue to play a central role. Below are three avenues for the United States and Africa to lead on trade and food security regionally, bilaterally, and globally.

With global food security now intertwined with a global health crisis and massive supply chain shifts, leadership on global food security and trade is needed more than ever before.

Within Africa, agricultural development and food security are pressing priorities, particularly in light of Covid-19, and recent innovations in African trade policy have created a viable path for progress. African leadership is moving forward with plans to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a monumental new trade arrangement that garnered political support from 54 of 55 African Union (AU) states in record time. The AfCFTA holds the potential to expand trade both within the continent and with the rest of the world, including in agriculture where Africa’s exports have been trending upward, and provides a framework for building upon the foundation of market rules established by the African regional economic communities (RECs), including the eight sub-regional bodies that form the building blocks of the AU. It also represents the world’s largest regional trade agreement in terms of country membership, creating a rules-based trade body second in size only to the WTO. With respect to food security, the AfCFTA will include important concessions on market access and will address critical non-tariff issues, including trade facilitation issues and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, with a laudable mechanism for tracking non-tariff measures. However, although the agreement recognizes agricultural development and food security among its objectives, it does not yet incorporate a comprehensive approach to food security. Yet, the AfCFTA, which will move forward in stages, is both flexible and rules-based, and this innovative structure will be instrumental in addressing critical challenges presented by the pandemic. For example, a recent AU decision formally authorized future negotiation of a protocol on e-commerce, given the growing importance of digital trade in light of Covid-19, setting a precedent for food security.

To date, the United States is one of the few large economies that has yet to meaningfully engage on trade with the African continent.

Food security should also be central to the U.S. trade relationship with Africa, and the United States could set itself apart among Africa’s trading partners at this historic time as the AfCFTA gains momentum. To date, the United States is one of the few large economies that has yet to meaningfully engage on trade with the African continent. While it is true that the U.S.-African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which has been in place since 2000, has generated gains in some sectors, the program is unilateral and limited in its potential impact, particularly in the agricultural sector. Although the recently launched U.S.-Kenya Trade Agreement and the new U.S. International Development Finance Corporation signal a shift in the U.S. trade and investment relationship with the continent, the United States’ Africa strategy is relatively underdeveloped. The European Union, for example, has an intricate relationship with Africa through the Economic Par-tnership Agreements (EPA-s); however, the EPAs have been criticized for keeping Africa’s trade potential largely at bay, focusing instead on asymmetrical historical trade arrangements. China, which is now Africa’s largest trading partner, is taking a markedly different approach to trade with Africa, eschewing trade deals for large-scale infrastructure projects through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI stands to strengthen physical market systems, which will be important for making the AfCFTA operational, but it seems to place little emphasis on issues like food security and Africa’s own leadership in determining the rules of trade and investment with and within the continent.

As the pandemic highlights, there is room for a more collaborative approach, and the United States could set a new standard for bilateral engagement. If the U.S.-Kenya Trade Agreement is to be the model for future U.S.-African trade arrangements, however, it should look different than trade agreements of the past. Food security and agriculture would be a natural focal point and would be in the interests of both Kenya (which has prioritized food security due to extreme weather and a severe locust outbreak, among other factors) and the United States (due to both the larger im-portance of food security and because agricultural pr-oducts are among top U.S. exports to Kenya). Howe-ver, focusing mainly on m-arket access and SPS, as m-any trade agreements do, although important, will likely not be enough to fully address food security challenges. A deal between the United States and Kenya would also have broader implications and could either establish a new model or represent a significant setback in global food security efforts. National interests and the bilateral relationship should be approached in light of Kenya’s role in African regional integration and the direction in which the continent is heading. In addition, how the agreement is designed and implemented will really matter. If balanced and aligned with Africa’s trade framework, the agreement and the rules it encompasses could not only be a foundation for deeper U.S.-African trade ties, but could also pave the way for a global approach on trade and food security. Ultimately, bilateral, regional, and global approaches will need to reflect a broader range of needs, in particular those of vulnerable economies, and address issues of global priority like export measures, safeguards, public stockholding, and additional commitments on domestic support, while also incorporating other areas like preservation of biodiversity, recognition of Africa’s efforts to improve trade in agricultural inputs, and strengthened transport networks and trade corridors that can deliver on food security.

As countries navigate the Covid-19 pandemic and more frequent climate ev-ents, achieving global food security will require innovative approaches, strengt-hened leadership, and enhanced collaboration. Given the central role that trade will continue to play in food security, a cooperative, rules-based approach presents a promising path to feed a changing world as well as a stronger model for engagement between the United States and African countries.

Katrin Kuhlmann is the president and founder of New Markets Lab (NML), a nonprofit law and development center; a visiting professor at Georgetown Law; and a senior associate with the Global Food Security Program at the Center for Strategic and Interna-tional Studies in Washin-gton, D.C. Commentary is produced by the Center for Strategic and Intern-ational Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues.

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It is time for the United States to again show leadership at the WTO

Joseph Glauber

Global agricultural trade has seen tremendous growth since the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. Since 1995, global agricultural exports have more than tripled in value and more than doubled in volume, exceeding $1.8 trillion in 2018. As one of its founding architects, and long recognized as one of its stalwart proponents, the United States has been a major beneficiary of the rules-based system. Recent shifts in U.S. trade policy could have profound adverse impacts on the global trading system.

Today, almost 25 years after the creation of the WTO, many may have forgotten the state of the trading environment facing agriculture in the 1980s. D. Gale Johnson, a prominent University of Chicago economist, referred to it as a “world in disarray.” Many markets were highly protected through high tariffs, limited quotas, or outright bans on imports. Domestic support to agriculture, particularly among the rich, developed members such as the United States, Japan, and the European Union, was large and growing. Governments propped up domestic prices by storing production in large public stockpiles, by maintaining high tariff barriers, or both. Surplus production was dumped on export markets, often through export subsidies or under the guise of humanitarian aid. Those market distortions harmed other exporters, often developing countries that had little or no means with which to protect their own producers and limited recourse within the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to redress trade disputes.

Through the leadership of the United States and others, countries forged a multilateral agreement that created the WTO and brought discipline to agricultural trade by increasing market access through lower tariffs, lowering trade-distorting support, and capping and reducing export subsidies. Members agreed that sanitary and phytosanitary trade rules must be science-based and not imposed arbitrarily to restrict trade. A binding dispute settlement mechanism was established for members to resolve their trade disputes without resorting to unilateral trade actions.

As a result of more open markets, imports have grown as a percent of total food consumption. Trade enhances food security and nutrition by enabling countries to diversify their food supplies to ensure adequate food when droughts or other production shortfalls occur. Trade will be even more important in the future as population and income growth increase food demand; at the same time, global food production will be challenged by climate change, water scarcity, and other environmental pressures. Meeting those challenges will require a more open trading system.

Trade will be even more important in the future as population and income gr-owth increase food dema-nd; at the same time, global food production will be ch-allenged by climate cha-nge, water scarcity, and ot-her environmental press-ures. But current trade policy actions threaten that course and could plunge the world again into disarray. Unilateral trade actions and resulting trade wars have disrupted agricultural markets, hurting U.S. producers who have lost export markets and have faced declining prices and crop receipts as a result. The Trump administration responded by providing $28 billion to farmers and ranchers adversely affected by the trade actions. Those payments, combined with payments under the price and income support program and federal crop insurance program, have significantly increased trade-distorting support reported to the WTO. As a result, U.S. trade-distorting support will likely exceed its cap under WTO rules for 2019 and 2020 and could trigger trade disputes with other exporting members.

The current impasse over appointments of new members for the WTO Appellate Body points to what many members would agree are legitimate concerns with the operation of the Appellate Body. The danger is that, without resolution, the impasse will paralyze the dispute settlement process, which, in turn, threatens the stability of the multilateral trading system. The food system is one critical place where consequences could land: disputes over food products that escalate or cause damage to the multilateral system could potentially have human costs for countries that rely on food trade, exacerbating hunger and hurting food producers’ income opportunities. To avoid such economic and human costs, it is critical that WTO members find a resolution to the current Appellate Body crisis.

The next four years will present an opportunity for the United States to again take up a leadership role in global trade policy. But this will mean abandoning its aggressive unilateralism and instead working with its trading partners to find solutions to those problems. The challenges of meeting future food needs will require a concerted effort from governments to improve the functioning of food and agricultural markets. The WTO can play an enormous role by reducing trade-distorting support, improving market access, ending distortions caused by export restrictions and subsidies and—perhaps most importantly—continuing to provide a forum to which members can bring and hopefully resolve trade disputes rather than engaging in unilateral trade actions that can quickly escalate trade tensions. The United States has the responsibility to take up that mantle and lead the world to a more open and fair trading system.

The writer is a senior research fellow with the International Food Policy Research Institute  and visiting scholar at the American Enterprise In-stitute . Commentary is p-roduced by the Center for Strategic and Inte-rnational Studies, a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues.

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Powell can’t disguise the limits of monetary policy

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has made his first policy announcement since unveiling the central bank’s new monetary strategy in August. Financial markets have plenty of questions about the plan, but Powell on Wednesday provided no further answers, except to keep saying it would be “very powerful.” That’s certainly questionable — but the fault isn’t Powell’s. With interest rates close to zero, there’s only so much the Fed can do, and only so much the chairman can do to pretend otherwise.

The new strategy aims, in effect, to convince investors that the central bank will hold interest rates at zero for longer than it would have under the old approach, allowing inflation to rise above its long-term 2% target, even with the economy at full employment and following years of steady expansion. Building that expectation into investors’ economic forecasts would indeed provide some additional monetary stimulus.

Yet the Fed won’t say how far above 2% it would let inflation rise, or for how long. In a sense, that’s understandable. It can’t let anybody suspect that it no longer takes its long-term target seriously, and policy makers want to retain the discretion to deal with unforeseen circumstances. The problem is, it’s hard to keep this room for maneuver and make firm promises at the same time. For the policy to be “very powerful,” it has to be both understood and believed.

The Fed’s new economic-policy projections, released alongside the announcement, might have shed some light — but, as it turns out, they don’t. They show inflation rising slowly to 2% by the end of 2023, with unemployment at 4% (a shade below the estimated longer-term rate, suggesting higher than “full employment”), and interest rates still at zero. The test of the new approach is how much longer the Fed would keep rates there, with its dual mandate accomplished, if inflation kept going up. The projections give no indication. The Fed is silent about what might happen between 2023 and an unspecified “longer run” that shows inflation at 2% and interest rates comfortably back at 2.5%.

In truth, the projections also gloss over far greater uncertainties — concerning the course of the pandemic, any lasting structural harm to the economy and above all the outlook for fiscal policy. The Fed’s policy makers are presumably betting that there’ll be further fiscal stimulus at some point, and this assumption is implicitly embedded in their respective projections. But the stalemate in Washington and the impending elections mean that the scale and timing of additional budget support are anybody’s guess. The Fed is paying the price of being competent. It adjusts the limited policy instruments at its disposal skillfully and deliberately, striving at every point to explain what it’s doing. Congress and the administration have at their command the far more potent tool of fiscal policy — under current conditions, changes in public spending really would be “very powerful” — but can’t manage to discuss it intelligently, much less wield it effectively. As a result, the central bank is left to do everything. Whatever the Fed’s new strategy turns out to mean, US economic policy is falling short. The longer the country’s political paralysis goes on, the more obvious the limits of monetary policy will become.

Bloomberg

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Getting off the hook

It is happy tiding that PTI government of razor thin majority managed to pass three crucial FATF related legislations in the joint session of the Parliament with a slim margin of 10 votes on Wednesday. The Bills which have been passed include the Anti-Money laundering (Second Amendment0 Bill, the Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill and the Anti-Terrorism Act (Amendment) Bill 2020. The first two Bills were rejected by the opposition dominated Senate last month after their passage by the National Assembly. Likewise, the Anti-Terrorism Act (Amendment) Bill was passed by the National Assembly but earlier on the day of  joint sitting of the Parliament opposition dominated Senate rejected it with 34-31 vote. Now all the three FATF related legislations have been passed from the joint session of the parliament with 200 voters in support and 190 against them. The passage and enforcement of these laws were inevitable to get Pakistan of the greylist when FATF Plenary meeting, in October, will take up the matter of implementation of 27 points Action of this global financial watchdog by Pakistan.

Pakistan had been put on the greylist of countries with weak ant-Money Laundering and Counterterrorism financing regimes in June 2018, before PTI led government came to power. In the tenure of last PML- N government FATF showed some leniency after its plenary held in Paris in February 2018, asking for commitment on the implementation of action plan when it is handed down to Pakistan. A short leash of four months was given to previous government for this purpose. Former Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal gave lambasting reaction of blaming the FATF to have decided to destroy the flourishing economy of Pakistan, much before Pakistan could receive the contents of action plan. The response of former state minister for finance Rana Muhammad Afzal (late) was sagacious, while telling that FATF has not yet shared the action plan with Pakistan. On the contrary, former finance minister Dr. Miftah Ismael claimed that Pakistan Anti-Money Laundering and Counterterrorism regimes were best in the world. Hence deliberately, the last PML-N government left the filth of money laundering and weak counterterrorism financing regime to caretaker government, which culminated into grey-listing of Pakistan in June 2018.

There was bold indication that PML-N defacto Supremo Nawaz Sharif was pulling the strings of opposition from self-imposed exile in London to block the passage of FATF related legislations to pave the way for placing Pakistan on the blacklist, about which BJP government of India released rumors through media. After the rejection of two legislations by Senate last month Prime Minister Imran Khan had to say that opposition wants the country to be blacklisted by FATF.  Later in a tweet Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz said that opposition tried to make a bargain with government during negotiation on FATF related Bills. On the Senate rejection vote he said that opposition gave precedence to self-interest over national interest. In fact opposition wanted to incorporate certain amendments in NAB Ordinance, making this institution toothless.

The multilateral donor agencies were telling that removal of Pakistan from the greylist is essential for uninterrupted inflow of foreign capital. Speaking at seminar at Institute of Policy Studies in Islamabad last year IMF representative in Pakistan Ms Teresa Daban Sanchez had cautioned against it.

PTI government has showed that Pakistan is a responsible member of the United Nations. The government has fulfilled its responsibility of complying with the provisions contained in UNSC resolutions numbering 1267 and 1373 to effectively curb the twin menace of money laundering and terror financing. But it is also a bare fact that FATF members like the UK is not cooperating with Pakistan to bring money launderers to justice, who have taken refuge there. The UK government had not entertained the request for extradition of Nawaz Sharif family money laundering “Guru”, former Finance Minister Isaq Dar. Is not a classic example of double standard?

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TCP asked to start importing wheat

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The Econ-omic Coordination Commi-ttee (ECC) of the Cabinet here Thursday decided that the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP )will start importing wheat in the required quantities through small tenders from time to time to maintain the wheat supply at a reasonable price and for keeping additional strategic reserves.

The ECC meeting was chaired by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, said a press statement issued by the ministry.

ECC discussed in detail the need to import wheat in the country through the government and private sector.

The Chair directed that the availability of wheat was an important issue and there is a need to maintain sufficient stock of wheat in the country which could be made available at a reasonable price.

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Pakistan Army to participate in Turkey defense event

ANKARA (AA): Seeking to give the Turkish defense industry a stronger presence in world markets plus access to new opportunities, the sixth Defense Port Turkey expo is set for Oct. 26-28 under the name Defense Port Turkey-South Asia.

This year’s expo will be held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, said Hakan Kurt, the CEO of Capital Exhibition.

The event is expected to bring together more than 80 military delegations from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, Kurt said.

Noting that the recent development of the Turkish defense industry has been reflected in its export performance, Kurt said:

“Our goal is to hit $5 billion of defense industry exports to those three countries over the next decade.”