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WASHINGTON, DC: May 14, 2018. Newly-appointed US secretary of State Mike Pompeo and UAE Foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan have confirmed a new aviation agreement that maintains an Open Skies framework the US has with 120 countries.

Pompeo said all rights and provisions of the 2002 air transport agreement between the two governments would “remain in force”. The UAE Foreign minister added: “On a bilateral level, I think we’ve done an amazing job in the last couple of months on aviation.”

UAE USBoth governments acknowledged Emirates Group and US airlines covered by the agreement continue to publish financial reports based on internationally recognized accounting standards and that Etihad Airways “intends to do so upon completion of its restructuring and reorganization”.

The U.S. Airlines for Open Skies coalition, representing FedEx, Atlas Air Worldwide, Jet Blue and Hawaiian Airlines, said the resolution “was a clear victory for American workers, travellers and exporters, and reaffirms the US commitment to Open Skies. Today’s announcement will allow all sectors of commercial aviation to grow stronger than ever and upholds America’s leading role in global aviation.”

The group said the new accord, and one reached in January with Qatar, ends a long lobbying effort by the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies - representing Delta, United and American - to reopen US Open Skies agreements with both countries in a bid to limit their airlines’ access to the United States.

According to the three-airline group quoting Trump assistant director of Trade and Industrial Policy Peter Navarro, the new accord puts “a freeze on any additional Fifth Freedom passenger flights to the US". Emirates currently operates such flights between Milan and Athens to the New York area.

The UAE subsequently contradicted Navarro's 5th Freedom comment noting: "All current and future rights for both countries’ carriers to fly all flights, including Fifth Freedom flights, remain in place as an outcome of the discussions. Airlines in both countries are free to continue to add, reduce or adjust flights and services consistent with the broad provisions of the 2002 ATA. These rights allow US and UAE airlines to operate services to the other via third counties."

Since 1992 the US has pursued an Open Skies policy designed to eliminate government involvement in airline decision-making about routes, capacity and pricing in international markets.

As a result the rapid expansion of passenger and cargo flights has led to increased travel and trade, enhanced productivity, high-quality job opportunities and economic growth, according to the US State Department.

(Pictured left to right: UAE Foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.)

KARACHI: May 8, 2018. The CDC Group and the Asia Pacific Internet Group (APACIG) have sold South Asia e-commerce marketplace Daraz to Alibaba for an undisclosed sum.

Daraz was founded in 2012 and now enables 30,000 sellers and 500 brands to offer its five million customers two million products covering consumer electronics, household goods, beauty, fashion, sports equipment and groceries.

darazIn 2015 CDC, Britain’s development finance institution, invested €20 million in the company alongside Daraz’s existing investor APACIG in a total financing round of €50 million.

The Daraz platform covers Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal and will now leverage Alibaba to drive further growth in its five South Asian markets that have a combined population of over 460 million, 60 percent of which are under the age of 35.

Bjarke Mikkelsen, Daraz Co-CEO said: "With this transaction Daraz has found its natural home in the Alibaba family and we are proud to carry our part of the mission to 'make it easy to do business anywhere'. With hard work and dedication we have started the e-commerce journey in our markets, but we have still only scratched the surface of the potential."

Founded in 2014, APACIG is a joint venture of Rocket Internet and Ooredoo and consists of e-commerce and online marketplace companies operating across 15 countries.

CDC was launched by the UK government in 1948 to make a lasting difference to people’s lives by building businesses and creating jobs throughout Africa and South Asia. The institution, with net assets of over £3.4 billion, provides capital in all its forms to fund growth.

BERLIN: April 23, 2018. The European Commission has published its proposed Whistleblower Directive to protect individuals who have discovered workplace corruption or illegality while providing employers with greater legal certainty around their rights and obligations.

The proposal, which is a victory for whistleblowers and campaigners alike, could not come at a more vital time said anti-corruption group Transparency International.

Until now EU countries have had different levels of protection for those who wish to expose the truth, with some countries such as Ireland having good laws in place while some such as Cyprus having practically none.

daphneproject 620wCurrently only 10 EU Member States ensure that whistleblowers are fully protected. In the remaining countries the protection granted is partial and only applies to specific sectors or categories of employee.

“Behind each and every major scandal, from Lux Leaks, to the Panama Papers and Cambridge Analytica, change in our time is being driven by whistleblowers,” said Nicholas Aiossa of Transparency International EU. “The European Commission has produced an ambitious proposal, which will need to be strengthened to ensure that whistleblowers, no matter who they are or where they work, will be protected.”

Under the proposed Directive, a whistleblower is granted protection when reporting on breaches of EU rules in the areas of: public procurement, financial services, anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing, product safety, transport safety, environmental protection, nuclear safety, public health, food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, consumer protection, protection of privacy and personal data, and security of network and information systems.

The Directive would also apply to breaches relating to Union competition rules, breaches harming the EU's financial interests and, in view of their negative impact on the proper functioning of the internal market, to breaches of corporate tax rules “or arrangements whose purpose is to obtain a tax advantage that defeats the object or purpose of the applicable corporate tax law”.

European Commission First vice president Frans Timmermans commented: "Many recent scandals may never have come to light if insiders hadn't had the courage to speak out. But those who did took enormous risks. There should be no punishment for doing the right thing. In addition, today's proposals also protect those who act as sources for investigative journalists, helping to ensure that freedom of expression and freedom of the media are defended in Europe."

The proposal will now have to be negotiated between the European Parliament and European Council before being adopted.

Pictured: When anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bombing in Malta last year, the investigations she was working on came to a sudden halt. Last month a whistleblower that reportedly helped her was arrested.

RIGA, Latvia: April 05, 2018. Kazakhstan and Latvia have agreed to develop logistics links following a meeting between Kaspars Ozolins, State Secretary of the Latvia Ministry of Transport, and Kazakhstan first vice minister for Investments and Development Roman Sklyar (right of picture).

Latvia and Kazahkstan rail linksHighlighting the growing importance of rail container traffic between China and Europe, the two countries have agreed to cooperate in air transport, rail container freight transport, international road transport and transport logistics.

Latvia sees Kazakhstan as a strategic partner in developing its 'Baltika-Transit' rail container service while the Central Asia country wants Latvian companies to invest in its Khorgos Special Economic Zone (SEZ) inland rail port that has been the rail interchange between China and Europe for the past four years.

In 2017 the volume of two-way freight traffic between the countries totaled 218,570 tons – up 6,110 tons from the previous year.

Last month DP World announced it would acquire a 51 percent stake in the Khorgos SEZ, and 49 percent in the Port of Akatu SEZ on the Caspian Sea, following the signing of agreements with the Kazakhstan government.

The company has been providing management services at Aktau, Kazakhstan’s main cargo and bulk terminal on the Caspian, and at the Khorgos SEZ to handle containers, bulk and general cargo.

“Kazakhstan is an important link in the New Silk Route and in the development of the Belt and Road Initiative,” said DP World chairman Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem. “Focusing on soft and hard infrastructure development that supports multimodal transport links will be key in realizing its potential as a transit corridor as well as boosting its own economy.”

Kazakhstan’s GDP is forecast to rise 3.8 percent this year, up 0.7 percent on an earlier forecast. The oil-based economy grew 4.0 percent in 2017 to US$163.49 billion and is expected to reach US$178.46 billion in 2018.

SANTIAGO, Chile: March 08, 2018. Eleven Pacific-Rim countries with a combined GDP of US$13.7 trillion and controlling 15.3 percent of world trade, have signed an amended Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP-11) today.

Speaking at the event, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet declared: “Today, we can proudly conclude this process, sending a strong message to the international community that open markets, economic integration and international cooperation are the best tools for creating economic opportunities and prosperity.”

The new free trade deal (FTA), renamed the ‘Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership’ (CPTPP) following Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S., was agreed on January 21, 2018 between Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam.

CPTPP Chile 1Once ratified over the next two years, the CPTPP is expected to eliminate 98 percent of tariffs between the 11 countries.

The agreement provides a framework of rules and commitments that will remove key barriers to providing a more transparent and predictable trade environment throughout the Pacific Rim.

For logistics and transport companies, the tariff-free entry of containers is expected to eliminate considerable costs for exporters who pay up to 20 percent duty in some countries.

The deal also includes new rules on government airlines to ensure they are not subsidized while in competition with privately-owned carriers.

According to Steven Ciobo, Australia’s minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, the CPTPP gives the country preferential access to Canada and Mexico for the first time as nearly one quarter of Australia’s total exports, worth nearly A$88 billion, went to TPP-11 countries in 2016-2017.

“The signing is a significant moment for open markets, free trade and the rules-based international system. It sends an important message to the world that prosperity is achieved through breaking down trade barriers, not building them,” declared Ciobo.

The move comes as the British government continues to ignore the danger of Brexit on the timely delivery of food and goods from Europe, and Trump signs new U.S. trade barriers on steel products worldwide.

Australia is expected to present the CPTPP to its Parliament later this month for ratification. When implemented, it will be the third largest trade agreement in the world after CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the EU, and NAFTA.

BERLIN: April 03, 2018. A report by corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) says the UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is risking unresolved conflicts of interest due to poor governance.

TI notes that 52 percent of the world’s commercial fleet is registered in five tax havens - Panama, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Malta and the Bahamas – that contribute 43.5 percent of total IMO funding from 170 member states. As a result, suggests TI, these five countries could have undue influence over IMO policymaking processes.

At the same time these governments are able to appoint corporate employees, including shipping companies, to their delegations who can determine their position on IMO policy without being subject to conflict of interest rules or a code of conduct.

UN IMO kimAlthough the IMO is not responsible for delegate appointees, TI concludes that such private-sector participation could have undue influence over the IMO policymaking process and undermine its ability to effectively regulate greenhouse gas emissions from maritime trade.

According to a report by the European Parliament, the ocean shipping industry could contribute as much as 17 percent of global CO2 emissions by 2050 if left unregulated.

“A guiding principle of UN system is that member states must represent citizens’ interests. At the IMO this could end up being undermined by corporate participation in the place of nation states,” said Rueben Lifuka, vice chair of Transparency International and an environmental consultant.

TI also claims journalists are unable to report freely on IMO meetings while non-profit organizations with consultative membership can face expulsion if they criticize the agency.

“The IMO was assigned the task of limiting and reducing emissions from shipping under the Kyoto Protocol back in 1997,” explained Brice Böhmer, coordinator of TI’s Climate Governance Integrity Program. “However, it took until 2016 for the IMO to even agree on a roadmap towards an initial strategy, due in 2018, and a revised strategy, due only in 2023.

“A well-functioning organization’s governance structure should enable decisive action, but the governance flaws identified by our research suggests that this is not happening at the IMO because policy-making could be overly controlled by private companies.”

TI says the IMO should engage in a process of open dialogue with its external stakeholders - including civil society and industry - in order to improve transparency, apply “robust” integrity rules and measures, and ensure decision-making processes reflect the public interest.

“The IMO has an integral role in helping the shipping industry meet UN Sustainable Development Goal 13 on climate change, and Goal 14 on oceans. Ultimately, it must reform its governance structure to promote transparency and ensure the voices of citizens – alongside industry – are heard,” added Lifuka.

Click to download the TI proposal document: IMO reform

BRUSSELS: February 28, 2018. The European Commission (EC) has published its draft Withdrawal Agreement between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom prior to the country's expected exit from the EU on March 30, 2019.

The 119-page proposal consists of six parts covering introductory provisions, citizens' rights, other separation issues such as goods placed on the market before the withdrawal date, the financial settlement, transitional arrangements, and institutional provisions - plus a protocol on the future border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

EU transport position with UKAs described in the EC document, the EU understands Britain's negotiating position is based on future regulatory autonomy, an end to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), and an end to the freedom of movement of people.

The EU position, on the other hand, is autonomy of the Union and its legal order - including the CJEU - integrity of the Single Market, no "cherry picking" by Britain, a level playing field and a consistent approach towards third country partners.

In a document covering the future transport relationship between Britain and the EU, the EC says without an agreement on what the future will be, or maintaining the status quo while one is agreed, British businesses and citizens can expect the following to apply from April 'Fool's Day' 2019:

  • All current EU law-based rights, obligations and benefits cease;
  • End of market access based on Community licence (no basis for international carriage of goods or passengers between EU and UK; end of cabotage rights);
  • End of mutual recognition of driving licences, vehicle registration documents and certificates of professional competence for drivers;
  • End of cross-border enforcement of traffic offences;

- and a reminder to Britain that after March 30, 2019, there will be "new Customs and border controls impacting operations."

According to Eurotunnel, last month Le Shuttle Freight set a new record for the month of January by carrying 144,272 trucks, an increase of 10 percent year-on-year. And on January 25 it set a new record by carrying more than 7,000 trucks in a day.

The EC says its draft agreement will now be sent to the European Council and the European Parliament's Brexit Steering Group for review and opinion.

EU-UK_Future_transport_relationship.pdf

LONDON: March 25, 2018. As Qantas begins non-stop service between Perth and London, a report by the UK Parliament’s Transport Select Committee says the British government should safeguard user charges prior to approving the construction of a third runway at Heathrow.

Describing the Northwest Runway proposal as the highest cost expansion option and one of the largest privately financed infrastructure projects in the world, Committee chair MP Lillian Greenwood said there were no guarantees in place to protect customers from the costs associated with the scheme.

QantasWhile acknowledging expanding Heathrow is the “right location”, IATA regional vice president Europe Rafael Schvartzman noted the Committee’s recommendations on cost control should be essential reading for the government and Heathrow Airport Holdings (HAL).

“We need guarantees regarding how costs will be managed, especially if key risks are not known at this stage. An unaffordable Heathrow will have a detrimental impact on the competitiveness of the UK’s only hub airport in comparison to rivals in France, Germany and Netherlands," said Schvartzman.

IATA also shares the Committee’s view that HAL estimates of £14-17 billion for a third runway and associated infrastructure - including a bridge over the M25 motorway - are “optimistic”.

At the same time it warns the proposal to ban early morning flight arrivals will undermine the economic case for the new runway before it's even built.

"Carriers from the US, China and Asia arriving in Europe in the early morning currently have a choice: to stop at Heathrow or land in continental Europe,” explained Schvartzman. “Eliminating night flights removes that choice and may make it uneconomic or impossible for the UK to sustain air links to all these destinations. With the UK looking to open new trade lanes post-Brexit, it can ill-afford to weaken these connections," he continued.

Currently Heathrow has more than 100 direct flights to Chinese cities every week with 55 to Hong Kong, 22 to Shanghai, 20 to Beijing, 10 to Guangzhou and two to Qingdao. This number is expected to increase when Beijing Capital Airlines converts its existing charter operation to a twice-weekly schedule service to Qingdao on March 26, and Hainan Airlines and Tianjin Airlines launch three weekly services to Changsha and X’ian in the summer.

China’s sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation holds 10 percent of HAL.

KUWAIT CITY: January 25, 2018. According to the latest survey of global logistics executives by Agility, India's GDP is accelerating again after early 2017 when businesses struggled to adjust to the requirements of the new Goods & Services Tax (GST), and small enterprises and consumers were trying to cope with the replacement of bank notes used for most everyday transactions.

Introduction of the GST in India has eliminated a tangle of state-level taxes in favor of a single, unified tax. As a result, manufacturing and sales slowed early in 2017 as companies destocked and began to examine more closely their inventory, distribution and strategic supply chain needs.

Gateway terminal MumbaiRemoval of taxes imposed at state borders has since reduced transit time for domestic freight movements and has spurred the growth of e-commerce, says Agility. Amazon and others are investing heavily and consider India the world's fastest-growing e-commerce market.

Many logistics customers in India are still scrutinizing their distribution requirements, something likely to continue well into 2018, the company adds.

Although generally seen as positive, the company thinks the GST regime is still "sorting itself out" as the freight industry faces an additional administrative compliance burden as GST is a state-level tax. In the case of Agility, GST can mean proliferation of invoices and the generation of massive amounts of data to be reconciled with invoices. "Monthly tax calculations can be cumbersome," it notes.

While unbalanced input/output taxes within a state can result in cash flow difficulties because refund processes and interstate transfers of credits are not yet in place, ultimately increased compliance is expected to lead to simplified and reduced tax rates.

Agility says it believes Customs reforms have helped to make Customs clearance in India much easier. Reforms are in place for recapitalizing banks, and it notes there is a new strong bankruptcy law that helps to restructure companies in an orderly manner.

"The introduction of national ID is an effort by the government to close loopholes in the tax system and to identify 'shell' entities previously used to hide income or provide a shield for questionable activities." Agility says an estimated 200,000 companies have been identified for closure.

Demonetisation, although largely negated by the reissuing of new bank notes, has had the impact of forcing significant funds back into the banking sector where they are now traceable. Meanwhile, Moody's has raised India's credit rating from the lowest investment grade of Baa3 to Baa2, and changed its outlook from stable to positive.

SCHIPHOL, the Netherlands: March 21, 2018. During a two-day visit to the Netherlands this week, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and a delegation of government officials including minister of Industry and Trade Yarub Al Qudah; and the Kingdom’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Ahmad Al Mufleh, paid a visit to Schiphol’s Joint Inspection Center (JIC) at SmartGate Cargo.

Royal VisitThe Jordanian delegation was shown how a package arriving at SmartGate Cargo is processed through the JIC in order to make freight handling safer and more efficient by allowing law enforcement and inspection authorities carry out checks in cooperation with business partners.

“The event had the aim to assess the import processes of perishables and their effectiveness as part of a public-private cooperation,” said Panalpina managing director for the Netherlands Rob de Vos. “Essentially how these processes can have a positive impact on the speed of handling cargo by private entities without compromising security,” he added.

Earlier in the day, King Abdullah met with business leaders at the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers to outline opportunities offered by Jordan to foreign investors in the renewable energy, infrastructure and transport sectors, as well as the benefits of logistic services at Aqaba Port.

Jordan is seeking Dutch expertise in agriculture, water management, energy and energy storing solutions and Netherlands minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag said both governments would prepare an action plan and roadmap to identify available investment opportunities in the Hashemite Kingdom.

Center of picture: His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan follows an inspection of fresh asparagus at Schiphol Airport.

 

ESA ship trackPARIS: December 06, 2017. The European Space Agency (ESA) and Rolls-Royce have signed an MoU to investigate how space technology can be used to develop autonomous and remote-controlled ships.

The two organizations plan to apply various space assets to autonomous shipping, such as satellite- based positioning, better situational awareness using Earth observation data, and Satcom services for improved onboard connectivity.

The partners will test, validate and innovate on Satcom connectivity technologies and applications between vessel and shore, as well as support the testing and modeling of safety-critical software that would make self-operated ships viable.

ESA says it supports technology and supply chain solutions required to combine terrestrial and space services, with a focus on maritime, aviation and land base transport, and on other vertical markets including public safety.

"This partnership between ESA and Rolls-Royce will enable satellites to serve ship intelligence, marine operations, navigation, cargo logistics, maritime safety, healthcare, passenger and crew communications," explained ESA director general Jan Wörner.

The proposed unified space-and-ground service will enable the operation of commercial autonomous shipping, as well as drive innovation in future commercial marine vessels, cargo logistics and smart ports, Wörner added.

ESA manages the European Space program on behalf of its 22 members: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

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