Saturday February 16, 2019
Home Uncategorized India, Africa...

India, Africa to forge common cause against Western trade bullying

0
//

New Delhi: India and the 54 countries of Africa are expected to join forces at a mega summit later this month to form a united front to counter perceived Western bullying, notably by the US, over global trade negotiations ahead of an upcoming WTO ministerial meet to be held in Nairobi in December.

Trade officials from India and Africa are already into negotiations ahead of the Third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) being held here October 26-30, to firm up a joint front that will seek to protect the interests of developing countries in the face of Western pressure to succumb to laws seen as tailored to suit their interests.

The 10th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to be held in Nairobi on December 15-18, is likely to see the developed world led by the US and the EU in a stand-off against developing countries led by India, China and others, over protecting their interests.

The forging of an alliance between India and the 54 African countries assumes all the more importance in the face of two mega regional trading agreements being negotiated – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the EU and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) among 12 countries including the US, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan.

Many of the developed countries of the two groupings are keen to see that the “high standards” of these agreements are imported into the WTO corpus.

India is concerned that the TPP and TTIP agreements, that it is not part of, may seek to set international phyto-sanitary standards and factory standards for goods that India and developing countries like it are not yet ready to measure up to.

The two US-led mega trade groupings, being aggressively pursued by the Barack Obama administration, are expected to go beyond WTO standards and protection measures for intellectual property, environment and labour. The standards they set up are also expected to put constraints on India’s pharmaceutical sector, which produces vital generic drugs at cheap rates for the masses.

Another alarming factor is that foreign investors can file complaints against governments for not adhering to standards or any other issue at dispute panels under a special mechanism as part of the mega agreements, which would put constraints on countries like India.

India and developing countries like in Africa are not yet ready to meet the high norms that the two trading blocs are seeking to impose.

The negotiations at the IAFS would seek to form a support base of partnership in countering such heavy-handedness from big blocs, said a source.

Besides forming a common partnership on international trading concerns, the India-Africa Forum Summit would also see India and the 54 African countries forming a partnership on global issues like reform of the UN Security Council for greater representation and on climate change.

The discussions on climate change are set to figure in a major way at the summit, especially ahead of Conference of the Parties in Paris next month.

Terrorism, especially in the wake of terror groups like Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and Islamic State, spreading their network and activities in the continent would also feature in a big way at the IAFS. Countering terror, sharing information and forging a united front would feature in the talks.

Skilling of their large burgeoning youth population, which is a matter of concern for both sides, would also be a major focus area of talks at the summit.

 

(Ranjana Narayan, IANS)

Next Story

Islamic State Using Women, Children as Human Shields to Postpone Defeat

In the meantime, U.S. officials have been talking with other members of the coalition about increasing their help as U.S. troops prepare to leave.

0
Islamic State
FILE - U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters sit atop a hill in the desert outside the village of Baghuz, Syria, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

Fighters and families with the Islamic State terror group are clinging to one last sliver of land next to the Euphrates River in Syria, using women, children and possible hostages as human shields in an effort to postpone defeat.

Human rights observers and officials with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces say IS followers have been pushed out of the eastern Syrian village of Baghuz and taken refuge in what they describe as a collection of tents. Various officials have described the size of the camps as covering less than one square kilometer.

But efforts by the SDF to deal a final defeat to the terror group’s self-declared caliphate have been slowed due to the presence of the civilians, and efforts to negotiate a surrender have also gone nowhere.

Islamic State, Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden at the White House, Feb. 15, 2019. VOA

Speaking at the White House on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump said, “We have a lot of great announcements having to do with Syria and our success with the eradication of the caliphate and that’ll be announced over the next 24 hours and many other things.”

In Munich, the top U.S. defense official offered a cautious assessment.

“We have eliminated the group’s hold on over 99 percent of the territory it once claimed as part of its so-called caliphate,” acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan said during a Friday news conference with his German counterpart at the Munich Security Conference.

“We have ensured ISIS no longer holds the innocent people of Syria or Iraq in their murderous, iron fist,” he said, using an acronym for the terror group. “We have destroyed its ability to mass forces, and we have eliminated most of its leadership and significantly diminished its resources.”

Islamic State
FILE – Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan holds a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

‘Despicable and ghastly acts’

Coalition officials Thursday described SDF efforts in and around Baghuz as “clearance operations,” warning that IS fighters had become so desperate that they were shooting at their wives and children as they sought to flee.

“These utterly despicable and ghastly acts further illustrate their barbaric nature and desperation,” Operation Inherent Resolve Deputy Commander, British Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, said in a statement.

“The end of the physical caliphate is at hand,” he added.

Some IS followers appear to have given up.

Monitors with the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said about 240 IS fighters surrendered this past week. The U.S.-led coalition and an SDF commander contacted by VOA could not confirm the claim.

They said the SDF also evacuated about 700 people, mostly women and children, from the terror group’s refuge outside Baghuz on Thursday, taking them by cars and trucks to secured areas away from the front.

Islamic State, Syria
FILE – Women and children fleeing from the last Islamic State group’s tiny pocket in Syria sit in the back of a truck near Baghuz, eastern Syria, Feb. 11, 2019. VOA

The SDF itself says over the past several weeks, tens of thousands of civilians have fled from IS.

But they say about 300 hardened IS fighters, many of them foreign, still remain, willing to fight to the death. And some SDF commanders say more civilians are being brought to the tent city, apparently from underground tunnels.

Observers late Thursday reported a resumption of shelling by the SDF and coalition forces, saying it appeared to be another attempt to convince the remaining IS holdouts to give up.

IS threat to remain

Still, even once the last pocket of IS-held territory is taken, U.S. and coalition officials warn the fight will not be over.

Top U.S. military officials have warned the terror group still has 20,000 to 30,000 followers, including fighters, spread across Syria and Iraq. And they worry about the ability of their Syrian partners, in particular, to keep IS in check once U.S. troops withdraw under plans announced by Trump.

The commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, Central Command Commander Gen. Joseph Votel, told CNN on Friday he disagreed with Trump’s decision to call for U.S. forces to leave.

 

Islamic state, Syria
FILE – U.S. Gen. Joseph Votel, top U.S. commander in the Middle East, speaks to reporters during an unannounced visit to a military outpost in southern Syria, Oct. 22, 2018. VOA

“It would not have been my military advice at that particular time. … I would not have made that suggestion, frankly,” he said. “[The caliphate] still has leaders, still has fighters, it still has facilitators, it still has resources, so our continued military pressure is necessary to continue to go after that network.”

In the meantime, U.S. officials have been talking with other members of the coalition about increasing their help as U.S. troops prepare to leave. But so far, other coalition members, many of whom have no troops on the ground in Syria, have been unwilling to make any specific commitments.

ALSO READ: Soviet War in Afghanistan was No Less Than a ‘Hell’, Say Survivors

“I think there’s a tremendous desire to have a security arrangement or mechanism that doesn’t result in a security vacuum. What that is … is still being developed,” a senior defense official said Friday on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

“We’ve been pretty clear that this is going to be a deliberate withdrawal,” the official added. “There’s a timeline associated with that that’s conditions-based. We’ve said publicly on a number of occasions that it will be here in months, not weeks and not years.” (VOA)