The World Today for January 09, 2018



Trade Off

For much of 2017, Canada’s dynamic prime minister was feted as a champion of the globalized world – in large part due to America’s drift toward isolationism under President Donald Trump.

But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces a dilemma when it comes to free trade, Bloomberg reported.

In the midst of negotiating changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Mexico, Trudeau is weighing the advantages of joining a similar pact with Asian trade partners. Previously known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it’s now called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Despite more than five years of negotiations by the preceding administration, Trump pulled the US out of the trans-Pacific trade deal on his first day in office. But now Trudeau is emerging as the biggest obstacle to that pact.

Trudeau skipped a Nov. 10 meeting in Vietnam to hash out details, signaling he aims to take a go-slow approach to the Asian deal to strengthen Canada’s position in the NAFTA talks.

Called a “disappointing development” by Australia’s trade minister and “very unusual” by a more euphemistic Japanese official, the surprise decision prompted speculation by the Australian Financial Review that it might scuttle Trudeau’s invite to the East Asia Summit later that month.

Such a snub never materialized. Instead, Trudeau was celebrated as the first sitting Canadian prime minister to join the annual gathering of 18 Asian nations, the Toronto Star reported. Not long after, his ballyhooed efforts to wangle a separate deal with China came to naught in early December, however. He left Beijing empty-handed after trying to convince his potential partners to accept progressive preconditions, former finance minister Joe Oliver opined in the Toronto Sun.

Another meeting is being planned for January to finalize the actual text of the CPTPP. But where Canada is concerned, progress won’t come easy.

Canadian interests in the new Pacific agreement depend on whether NAFTA remains in place – a complicated question, given the uncertainty of the Trump administration, argue Caroline Freund and Chad P. Bown, of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, in an essay in the Hill.

As long as the US was a member, the original TPP threatened Canadian auto-parts firms, as it would have lowered NAFTA’s local-content requirement for automobiles. So the US pullout makes the renamed Asian pact more attractive. But if NAFTA falls apart, Canada’s own auto-parts companies would get burned by the CPTPP’s local-content requirements, as Canadian firms are deeply enmeshed with US suppliers.

Trudeau is therefore wise to try to negotiate both deals simultaneously. But the longer the NAFTA talks drag on, the more pressure he will face to ink the Asian deal – which could benefit Canada by making it easier for local companies to compete in the global market for services, advocates for Canadian business opined in the Vancouver Sun.

For Trudeau the benefits could be even bigger, say Freund and Bown, projecting “a Canada that punches well above its weight on the global stage.”



Almost Ping Pong

It’s not exactly the “ping-pong diplomacy” that marked a thaw in US-China relations in the 1970s. But the Olympics offer hope that Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington will back away from the brink.

After a meeting of delegates from North and South Korea on Monday, the North said it would send athletes and a high-level delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month, Bloomberg reported.

Pyongyang also said it wants to resolve issues on the divided peninsula through dialogue and negotiations. Seoul will look to use the Olympics as a carrot to make concrete progress on that sentiment, the agency said.

In the first meeting between officials from both Koreas in more than two years, Seoul proposed reunions of families divided by the Korean War during the upcoming Lunar New Year, as well as a resumption of military dialogue.

However, CNN quoted experts as cautioning that North and South Korean negotiators have met multiple times in the past, without any permanent decrease in tensions or hostilities.


You Can’t Handle the Truth

The governor of the Mexican state of Chihuahua accused the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto of withholding federal funds in retaliation for a corruption investigation that reaches the highest ranks of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral said Monday that the federal government had pledged millions of dollars to help alleviate an ongoing financial crisis, but the Ministry of Finance has refused to transfer some of the funds, the New York Times reported. An opposition politician, Corral claimed that the finance minister himself said the money would not be released unless Corral provided details about an investigation into corruption that occurred under the previous governor of Chihuahua. That investigation has already resulted in the arrest of Alejandro Gutiérrez – a top PRI official and ally of the president.

The ministry of finance said in a statement that nearly $4 million dollars was not paid to Chihuahua because of an incorrect bank account and a lack of available funds.


We Don’t Need No Education

Iran has banned the teaching of English in its primary schools in an apparent response to the largest anti-government protests to hit the country since 2009.

The announcement follows claims by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that early learning of the language paves the way for “cultural invasion” of Western values, Business Insider reported.

English instruction normally begins in middle school in Iran, when pupils are between 12 and 14 years old. But Khamenei voiced outrage in 2016 over the “teaching of the English language spreading to nursery schools,” according to the Guardian.

Neither Khamenei nor the regime mentioned any connection to the protests, in which thousands of young and working-class Iranians took to the streets in more than 80 cities and rural towns before a crackdown last week.

However, the ban echoes a statement by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards that blamed meddling by “the United States, Britain, the Zionist regime (Israel), Saudi Arabia, the hypocrites (Mujahideen) and monarchists” for the unrest.


Looking Sick

No thermometer handy? No problem.

Humans can detect sickness from facial cues alone, according to new research by Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, the Washington Post reported.

“We can detect subtle cues related to the skin, eyes and mouth,” said John Axelsson, co-author of the study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “And we judge people as sick by those cues.”

Researchers injected healthy volunteers with a molecule found in bacterial membranes which induces feelings of sickness.

Two hours after the injections when subjects started to feel a bit off, researchers took their picture. They also photographed the subjects on a different date after they received a placebo injection of saline solution.

They selected photos of eight men and eight women and asked university students if they could differentiate between sick and healthy faces.

The students were able to determine if a subject was feeling sick significantly more accurately than chance, with the most discernible features being a change in skin complexion, heavy eyelids and pale lips.

The next step, said Axelsson, is to see if doctors and medical professionals can outperform students in the task.


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