Who Is Jon Huntsman President Trump’s Pick To Be The U.S. Ambassador To Russia?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) Former Utah governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has accepted President Donald Trump’s offer to serve as the next ambassador to Russia, several senior administration officials told CNN.

If confirmed, Huntsman would become one of the highest-profile US ambassadors, helming the diplomatic mission to a country that has seen its relationship with the US become increasingly strained in recent years. Huntsman would also take on the post amid ongoing questions about connections between Russians known to US intelligence and Trump campaign advisers — and just months after Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
The post would be the third ambassadorship for Huntsman, who previously served as US ambassador to Singapore and China. Huntsman was the ambassador to China during President Barack Obama’s administration.
Huntsman’s selection comes two weeks after the Utah Republican was first floated as a contender for a top diplomatic post.
One senior administration official said Huntsman was tapped because he is a “brilliant guy,” “tough” and understands what Trump wants.

Labor abuses found at Indonesian palm plantations supplying global companies: Amnesty

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Labor abuses found at Indonesian palm plantations supplying global companies: Amnesty

By Eveline Danubrata and Bernadette Christina Munthe | JAKARTA

Global consumer companies, including Unilever, Nestle, Kellogg and Procter & Gamble, have sourced palm oil from Indonesian plantations where labor abuses were uncovered, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Children as young as eight worked in “hazardous” conditions at palm plantations run by Singapore-based Wilmar International Ltd and its suppliers on the Indonesian islands of Kalimantan and Sumatra, Amnesty said in a report.

Amnesty, which said it interviewed 120 workers, alleges that many of them worked long hours for low pay and without adequate safety equipment. The palm oil from these plantations could be traced to nine multinational companies, it said.

“Despite promising customers that there will be no exploitation in their palm oil supply chains, big brands continue to profit from appalling abuses,” said Meghna Abraham, senior investigator at Amnesty.

The NGO said it chose Wilmar as the focus of its investigation as the company is the world’s largest processor and merchandiser of palm and lauric oils, controlling more than 43 percent of the global palm oil trade.

Other companies operating palm plantations in Indonesia include Golden Agri-Resources Ltd, Indofood Agri Resources Ltd and PT Astra Agro Lestari Tbk.

Even though Indonesia had strong labor laws under which most of the abuses can amount to criminal offences, these laws were poorly enforced by the government, Amnesty said.

Wilmar said it welcomed the NGO’s report, which helps to highlight labor issues within the broader palm oil industry, but added that finding a solution requires collaboration between governments, companies and civil society organizations. (For Wilmar’s full statement, click bit.ly/2fx0q1t)

“We acknowledge that there are ongoing labor issues in the palm oil industry, and these issues could affect any palm company operating in Indonesia,” it said.

“The focus on Wilmar … is often used to draw attention to problems in the wider palm oil industry.”

Wilmar supplies around 10 percent of the total palm oil used in Nestle’s products, the Swiss food giant said in an email. Nestle said it is working with Wilmar to improve the traceability of the commodity.

“Practices such as those identified in Amnesty International’s report have no place in our supply chain,” Nestle said. The company said it would investigate allegations related to its purchase of palm oil along with its suppliers.

Procter & Gamble also said in an email it is working with Wilmar to “ensure they can remedy any potential human rights infringements in their supply chain”.

Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, used in everything from snacks and soaps to cosmetics and biofuels, with the sector employing millions of workers. But plantation operators say it is difficult to have complete oversight of labor conditions.

No company would “consciously” hire underage labor as that is against the law, but some plantation workers get their children to help out, Sumarjono Saragih, an official at the Indonesian Palm Oil Association, told Reuters by telephone.

“If children want to help their parents, companies cannot forbid that.”

Agus Justianto, an official at Indonesia’s environment ministry, said that a company found guilty of labor violations could get its permit revoked, but it is “not in the environment ministry’s domain.”

Indonesia’s manpower ministry did not immediately provide comment.

U.S. snack and breakfast food company Kellogg Co said it is committed to ensuring that its palm oil is obtained from “known and certified sources that are environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable”.

If Kellogg finds or is made aware of any supply chain violations, it would discuss corrective actions with its suppliers, it said. “If the concerns are not adequately addressed, we take action to remove them from our chain.”

Unilever said while significant progress has been made to tackle environmental issues associated with palm cultivation, more needs to be done to address “these deeply concerning social issues” and promised to work with its partners.

(Reporting by Eveline Danubrata and Bernadette Christina Munthe in JAKARTA; Additional reporting by Masayuki Kitano in SINGAPORE; Editing by Tom Hogue and Kenneth Maxwell)

China Confiscates Singapore Military Equipment They Bought From Taiwan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Warning against Taiwan military ties

CHINA yesterday warned countries against maintaining military ties with Taiwan, after Singaporean armored troop carriers were seized en route from the island.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China was verifying reports that Hong Kong customs had seized nine Singapore troop carriers and other equipment in 12 containers being shipped from Taiwan after military exercises.

Hong Kong customs said its officers were still investigating the shipment.

“The entry and exit of foreign personnel and goods in the Hong Kong special administrative region should respect its relevant laws,” Geng said.

“I wish to reiterate that the Chinese government consistently and resolutely opposes any form of official exchanges, including military exchanges and cooperation, between countries with which we have diplomatic relations and the Taiwan region.”

The seizure comes amid rising tensions between China and Singapore, which has deepened its security relationship with the United States over the past year.

Regional diplomatic sources say Chinese officials are particularly concerned at Singapore’s hosting of increased deployments of US P-8 Poseidon surveillance planes, which are equipped with various sensors that can target China’s expanding Hainan-based submarine fleet.

Singapore has had a long-standing if low-key military relationship with Taiwan. Singaporean defense experts say the Singaporean military still maintains a small semi-permanent presence in Taiwan, with larger numbers of infantry troops being sent to the island for annual training drills.

It has gradually reduced that training, moving to other facilities in Australia and India, but is unlikely to pull out of Taiwan completely, experts said.

Singapore defense ministry officials said yesterday that the shipment involved no ammunition or sensitive equipment, and it had earlier contracted commercial shipping line APL to handle the cargo.

“APL was required to comply with all regulations including … obtaining the necessary permits required to transit through ports,” a ministry statement said.

APL staff are now working with Hong Kong officials to free the shipment, aided by Singaporean diplomats and military officials, it said.

An APL spokesman confirmed the discussions. “APL is committed to ensuring cargo security as well as full compliance with all regulatory and trade requirements in its conduct of business,” he said.

APL is a subsidiary of the French-based CMA CGM Group.

No Country Seems To Have The Political Guts To Control Excessive Oil Price Swings!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Oil prices dip after reaching June highs following U.S. crude stock draw

By Henning Gloystein | SINGAPORE

Oil prices dipped on Thursday but remained near June highs reached the previous session when they were buoyed by a fall in U.S. crude inventories.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were trading at $49.63 per barrel at 0051 GMT, down 20 cents from their last settlement.

International Brent crude futures were down 24 cents at $51.62 per barrel.

Traders said the price dips early on Thursday were largely a result of profit-taking following strong price rises the day before.

Both contracts hit their highest levels since June on Wednesday after the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said crude stockpiles fell 3 million barrels last week to 499.74 million barrels, and as international oil markets prepared for a planned output cut by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

“Another week another surprise draw down in crude inventories by the EIA … Although crude in storage remains at record highs, this is the third week of unexpected draw downs in a row,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at brokerage OANDA in Singapore.

He added that WTI prices would likely be “eyeing the psychological $50” soon, although there was the downside risk of shale drillers putting rigs back into operation which were mothballed at lower prices.

Other analysts said that overall market conditions pointed to slightly higher prices, largely due to the planned OPEC cut, but also due to the risk of forced disruptions.

“All in all, oil prices seem headed for higher levels in the coming period,” Global Risk Management said in its quarterly report published this week. It pointed to the risk of “several oil producing countries struggling to increase or even keep production at current levels due to unrest/oil facility wreckage and lack of industry investments”.

(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Joseph Radford)

Shanghai China Now Ranked 16th Among World Financial Hubs

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News)

Global survey ranks city 16th among financial hubs

SHANGHAI ranked 16th in a list of 87 global financial hubs, with Shenzhen at 22nd and Beijing at 26th place, a survey showed yesterday.

London, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo were ranked in the top five, according to the Global Financial Centers Index report.

Shanghai stayed sixth in Asia rankings, a repeat of its position in the prior survey released in March. However, the city’s financial infrastructure gained higher points.

The index is compiled by the London-based Z/Yen Group and the non-official think tank China Development Institute. The index began the ranking in 2007, featuring five sub-indexes of human resources, business environment, entry barrier, infrastructure and general features.

Shanghai ranked fifth in 2011, but has since been surpassed by cities such as Los Angeles and Montreal, due to fast development of financial technology firms and better plans to deal with post-economic crisis problems.

“I believe Shanghai has real capacity,” said Mark Yeandle, associate director of the Z/Yen Group. “If we give it some true light in years to come, Shanghai might rank back among the top-10 centers though that’s with the expectation of how long it will take for the yuan to become truly internationalized.”

Shanghai aims to become an influential global financial center by 2020, “in accordance with China’s economic strength and a broader use of the yuan,” Zhen Yang, director-general of the Shanghai Financial Service Office, said in a speech yesterday.

The country’s currency will be included in the International Monetary Fund’s currency basket from October 1, holding a 10.9 percent weighting in the Special Drawing Rights administered by the fund, as China looks for a bigger say in the global market.

China’s Version Of Cooperation With Other Asian Countries In The South China Sea

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News Paper)

Asian, China code for sea encounters

LEADERS from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China issued a joint statement yesterday on the application of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea in the South China Sea.

The statement was issued after the two sides held the 19th Asia-China Summit in Laotian capital Vientiane and commemorated the 25th anniversary of relations between Asia and China.

The document reaffirmed commitment to the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the Joint Statement of the Foreign Ministers of Asian Member States and China on the Full and Effective Implementation of the DOC, including the importance of the freedom of navigation and overflight.

It said the two sides recognized that maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea region serves the fundamental interests of Asian member states and China as well as the international community.

The joint statement recognized that Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and China are members of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium and have adopted CUES.

CUES, as a coordinated means of communication to maximize safety at sea, offers a means by which navies may develop mutually rewarding international cooperation and transparency, according to the document.

Leaders from the two sides reaffirmed in the statement their commitment to CUES in order to improve operational safety of naval ships and naval aircraft in air and at sea, and ensure mutual trust.

The document said the leaders agreed to use the safety and communication procedures for the safety of all the naval ships and naval aircraft, as set out in CUES, when they encounter each other in the South China Sea.

Premier Li Keqiang said relations between China and Asia have made great strides and promoted regional peace, stability and prosperity.

China and Asia have valued the development and cooperation of the principle of mutual respect, understanding, trust and support since 1991, when they established the dialogue relations, he said.

“The past 25 years have seen growing mutual trust and pragmatic achievements made between China and Asia,” he said yesterday.

The premier added that China has always regarded Asia as an important force in safeguarding regional peace and stability and in promoting regional integration and world multi-polarization.

Li also pledged to give Asia a priority in China’s drive to develop its relations with neighboring countries.

He said China will support the building of an Asian community, Asia’s central role in regional cooperation, and its growing part to play in international and regional affairs.

China is willing to work with Asian nations to cement the strategic communication between the two sides, advance the 2+7 cooperation framework, and energetically promote people-to-people and cultural exchanges, he said.

Asian leaders, who praised the amazing achievements the two sides have made in the past 25 years, echoed the premier’s thoughts and expressed confidence for their relations in future.

Asian leaders said the development of relations with China would benefit Asian nations and are conducive to building an Asian community.

Asia is ready to cement the relations and tap new potential in promoting mutual political trust, deepening economic and trade cooperation, and expanding people-to-people and cultural exchanges with China, they said.

They looked forward to lifting China-Asian relations to a new level to promote regional peace and development.

In the ceremony held at the National Convention Center in Vientiane, Li and Asian leaders watched a short film chronicling China’s growing relations with Asia in the last quarter of a century and looking into their bright prospects in the future.

Li and Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith also inaugurated a handbook titled “25 Years of Asian-China Dialogue and Cooperation: Facts and Figures.”

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, whose country is the coordinator of China-Asian relations, joined them to cut a commemorative cake.

 

South Korea: Is Hanjin ‘To Big To Let Fail’ Or Is Failure Exactly What Shipping Industry Needs

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News Paper)

Hanjin Group vows US$90m to help resolve shipping cargo woes

HANJIN Group said yesterday it will inject US$90 million, including US$36 million from its chairman Cho Yang-ho’s personal assets, to help resolve disruptions to container cargo transport caused by Hanjin Shipping Co’s financial troubles.

The move follows South Korean government demands that the parent firm do more to help as Hanjin’s vessels remain stranded outside ports after the company filed for bankruptcy protection last week.

Hanjin Shipping is seeking protection from creditors in dozens of countries, hoping to minimize seizures of its assets. With its assets frozen, its ships are being refused permission to offload or take on containers at ports worldwide, out of concern tugboat pilots or stevedores may not be paid. Out of 141 vessels the company operates, 68 were not operating normally, were stranded or seized, as of Sunday.

The world’s seventh largest ocean shipper, Hanjin Shipping is part of the Seoul-based Hanjin Group, a huge, family dominated conglomerate, or chaebol, that also includes Korean Air.

The Hanjin Group said in a statement yesterday that it will provide its stakes in overseas terminals, such as the one Hanjin operates in Long Beach, California, as collateral to borrow 60 billion won (US$54 million).

That still falls short of the fees that Hanjin Shipping must pay for services it needs to offload cargoes already on its vessels. According to local media reports, that amounts to 600 billion won.

It was unclear if banks or the government might provide more financing to resolve the immediate crisis.

In the meantime, South Korean regulators said they are directing Hanjin Shipping vessels to unload cargoes in a few key ports, including in Singapore and Hamburg, Germany.

With the country’s largest ocean shipper idled and the shipbuilding industry also in crisis, a government task force is directing moves to salvage the container shipping sector, which like ocean shipping worldwide has been battered by weak demand and overcapacity.

“The government is making all-out efforts to minimize damage and loss of consignees,” Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho said late Monday. “Korean government-led response teams will be formed in the selected offshore ports to swiftly receive stay orders or guaranteed protection,” Yoo said in Hangzhou where he was attending a Group of 20 summit.

Officials appear set on a consolidation, without committing huge sums of taxpayer cash, of Hanjin and its smaller rival, Hyundai Merchant Marine, which already is being restructured.

Hanjin Shipping was handling nearly 8 percent of the trans-Pacific trade volume for the US market, and with its container ships marooned offshore, major retailers have been scrambling to devise contingency plans to get their merchandise into stores.

The shipping company has posted net losses every year since 2011. Last week, creditors led by the Korea Development Bank rejected a plan by Hanjin Group to spend another 500 billion won to rescue the shipping firm, way short of Hanjin Shipping’s more than 6 trillion won in debts.

Hanjin’s shares rose 20 percent yesterday on hopes for government help for the firm.