The European Commission has reinstated duties on rice from Cambodia and Myanmar for three years after determining that imports were causing economic damage to European producers.
The tariffs, which came into effect on Friday, will apply a duty of 175 euros per tonne of Indica rice in the first year, reducing it to 150 euros per tonne in the second year and 125 euros per tonne in the third year.
“An investigation has confirmed a significant increase of imports of Indica rice from Cambodia and Myanmar into the European Union that has caused economic damage to European producers,” the Commission said in a statement on Wednesday announcing the move.
“The European Commission has therefore decided today to re-introduce import duties that will be steadily reduced over a period of three years.”
In a probe launched last March, the European Union’s executive arm found that Indica rice imports from Cambodia and Myanmar have increased by 89 percent in the past five seasons.
The Commission said it also found that “the prices were substantially lower than those on the EU market” and dropped over the same period. It added the surge in cheaper imports had caused European producers to see their market share in the 28-member bloc plummet from 61 percent to 29 percent.
Italy, which is responsible for half of the EU’s rice production, had asked for protection in February, receiving support from all of the bloc’s other EU rice producers in Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.
In April 2017, European producers denounced a “critical situation”, with Cambodia exporting 345,000 tonnes of rice in 2016, up from 8,000 in 2009.
Special trading status fears
Cambodia and Myanmar benefit from the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme, which unilaterally grants duty-and quota-free access to the world’s least developed countries except weapons.
Citing human rights concerns, however, the EU has started the process of temporarily suspending Cambodia from the EBA, and is considering doing the same for Myanmar.
The EU threatened to withdraw the trade preferences because of a Cambodian government crackdown on dissent which resulted in the country’s largest opposition party being disbanded ahead of last year’s general election. The July 2018 vote saw the party of long-time Prime Minister Hun Sen won all the seats
“The first step initiated by the EU in October will see Cambodia under investigation for six months, after which the formal process of imposing tariffs will begin,” Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Cambodia’s capital, Phmom Penh, said, noting that such a move would be particularly hard on the country’s garment sector which employs around 800,000 people.
On Monday, Hun Sen threatened to retaliate against the opposition if the European bloc went ahead with its plans to withdraw the trade benefits.
“If you want the opposition dead, just cut it,” Hun Sen said in a speech, addressing the EU and referring to his country’s special trading status.
Hay said that the prime minister has remained publicly defiant in the face of pressure and scrutiny from the West, which has come amid a surge of investment and trade with China – a country he will visit on Sunday.
“Privately his attitude may be different though given that Cambodian businesses are set to become less competitive in their largest market – Europe,” Hay added, noting that for the past decade Cambodia has had one of the best performing economies in the world thanks largely to European countries buying more than 40 percent of its goods.
Activists said the action by the EU provides an opportunity for the Cambodian government to clean up its act.
“It’s very important for the government to make sure that they have the capacity to maintain the investors and also to build the trade environment, strengthen the legal mechanisms and reduce corruption,” Khum Tharo, of the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights, told Al Jazeera.
Politics ban eased
In 2017, the country’s Supreme Court dissolved the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and banned 118 party members from politics at the request of the government after accusations that the party was plotting to take power with the help of the United States.
The CNRP and Washington rejected any such plot.
CNRP leader Kem Sokha was released from prison in September after spending more than a year in jail on treason charges but remains under house arrest awaiting trial in Phnom Penh. He denies any wrongdoing. Other senior party members have left the country for fear of arrest.
Last month, Cambodia’s single-party parliament passed an amendment to the Law on Political Parties, paving the way for the opposition figures from the dissolved CNRP to apply for the lifting of their five-year bans to regain their political rights.
Anybody wishing to return, however, must make the request to Hun Sen or Interior Minister Sar Kheng. The prime minister meanwhile has warned that any politicians who do not recognise the legality of the CNRP’s dissolution would be arrested.
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SULAIMANIYA: An attack by Daesh militants on a village in northern Iraq on Friday killed three villagers and 10 Kurdish soldiers, officials in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region said. Daesh claimed responsibility for the deadly attack in a statement posted on an affiliated Telegram account.The attack took place in the Makhmour region, a hotbed for Daesh…
SULAIMANIYA: An attack by Daesh militants on a village in northern Iraq on Friday killed three villagers and 10 Kurdish soldiers, officials in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region said.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the deadly attack in a statement posted on an affiliated Telegram account.The attack took place in the Makhmour region, a hotbed for Daesh activity that sees regular attacks against Kurdish forces, Iraqi forces and often civilians.Makhmour is a mountainous area about 70 km southeast of Mosul and 60 km southwest of the Kurdish capital of Irbil.Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Masrour Barzani called for greater security cooperation between Iraqi Kurdish and Iraqi security forces to stop Daesh’s insurgent activities.Iraqi officials and analysts have long blamed a lack of coordination along a stretch of territory claimed by both Baghdad and Irbil for Daesh’s continued ability to wage deadly attacks.Daesh controlled roughly a third of Iraq between 2014 and 2017, including the remote Makhmour region but also major cities including Mosul.A loose coalition of US-led forces, Iraqi and Kurdish troops and Iran-backed Shiite militias defeated the extremist group in 2017, but its members still roam areas of northern Iraq and northeastern Syria.Western military officials say at least 10,000 Daesh fighters remain in Iraq and Syria.A statement from the Kurdistan region’s armed forces, the peshmerga, said Daesh militants attacked the village in the early hours of Friday killing three residents.It said peshmerga forces intervened, resulting in clashes that killed at least seven of their soldiers.Kurdish security and hospital officials said the final death toll was at least 10 peshmerga soldiers and three villagers.In a separate development, Kurdish demonstrators in The Hague stormed the headquarters of the global chemical weapons body on Friday, sparking clashes in which six people were hurt and 50 arrested, Dutch police said.
A loose coalition of US-led forces, Iraqi and Kurdish troops and Iran-backed Shiite militias defeated the Daesh extremist group in 2017, but its members still roam areas of northern Iraq and northeastern Syria.
Dozens of protesters alleging that Turkey is using toxic arms in northern Iraq broke through security to enter the grounds of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.A number of them managed to get inside the lobby of the building before police removed them, diplomatic sources said, while the rest staged a noisy protest outside the front doors.Police dragged the demonstrators off one by one, put them on the ground and handcuffed them, journalists saw. Some were bundled into waiting vans, but the large number meant many were taken away in a hired bus.At least a dozen police vehicles sealed off the road outside the OPCW, which is opposite Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s official residence. Several ambulances and a medical helicopter were also at the scene.Two police officers and four protesters were wounded when the demonstrators “stormed the building,” The Hague police said.Turkish jets regularly attack the separatists’ bases in northern Iraq and autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, with several villages having emptied of their inhabitants since a new Turkish army offensive in April.The PKK and Kurdish organizations in Europe have in recent months accused Turkey of using chemical weapons, including a nerve agent and sulfur mustard gas, in dozens of attacks in northern Iraq.“We have called on OPCW and all international bodies to come and independently investigate the use of chemical weapons,” Zagros Hiwa, a spokesperson for the Kurdistan Democratic Communities Union, the PKK’s political branch, told AFP.
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Yemeni military commander hopeful of Marib advance after army cuts Houthi supply lines LONDON: Yemen’s military commander heading army troops in Marib Maj. Gen. Mansour Thawaba said he was hopeful of advancements in the strategic province after Houthi supply lines were cut. There have been “great advances” in the past two days in Bayhan, Usaylan…
Yemeni military commander hopeful of Marib advance after army cuts Houthi supply lines
LONDON: Yemen’s military commander heading army troops in Marib Maj. Gen. Mansour Thawaba said he was hopeful of advancements in the strategic province after Houthi supply lines were cut.
There have been “great advances” in the past two days in Bayhan, Usaylan and Harib, the major general told Al-Arabiya, noting that army forces cut the Houthis’ supply line between Bayhan and Harib.
He explained that military operations continued on all fronts, with the southern front seeing most of the action. He also noted the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s support with airstrikes.
“Marib is not besieged, and the Houthis are far from achieving this,” he said.
He added that most of those fighting for the Houthis were children and young men.
“They do not care about the children of Yemenis who are killed by the dozens every day,” he said, referring to the Houthi militia.
The coalition announced on Friday night that it had destroyed a ballistic missile launcher south of Sanaa.
The coalition added that it also destroyed a “mine-making workshop” in the capital, stressing that it had taken “preventive measures to spare civilians and civilian structures from collateral damage” during the airstrikes.
US critics of Israel face challenges in redrawn Congress districts
CHICAGO: Nine members of Congress who have been vocal critics of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians could face tougher re-election campaigns as a result of their districts being redrawn, an analysis by Arab News shows. Every 10 years, the dominant political parties in many states re-draw district boundaries based on demographic data provided by the…
CHICAGO: Nine members of Congress who have been vocal critics of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians could face tougher re-election campaigns as a result of their districts being redrawn, an analysis by Arab News shows.
Every 10 years, the dominant political parties in many states re-draw district boundaries based on demographic data provided by the US Census, which does not count Arab and Muslim Americans as a separate category.
Where population shifts have led to proposed boundary changes, incumbents may be forced to stand in new districts. That’s the challenge facing Illinois representative Marie Newman, who won election in 2020 in the 3rd Congressional District, which has the largest concentration of Palestinian American voters.
Newman has chosen to face-off with Sean Casten, who is very strong on climate change, in the new 6th District rather than stand against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who is one of only two Hispanic congress members in Illinois, in the 4th District. Casten is a strong supporter of Israel and silent on Israeli violence against Palestinians, while Garcia has often joined Newman to support pro-Palestinian legislation, including voting against a bill giving Israel $1 billion for its Iron Dome defense system last September.
“Rep. Newman was supportive of the push to create a second congressional district of Latino influence and understood that doing so would mean the need to shift boundary lines of existing CDs in the Chicagoland area,” Newman campaign spokesperson Ben Hardin said.
Describing the challenges as “inevitable,” Hardin said: “Representative Newman is grateful … to have the support of so many people here in Chicago’s southwest side and in the south and west suburbs, including a strong coalition of supporters from the Arab and Muslim American community.”
The new Illinois district map was approved by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, one of Israel’s strongest advocates, in November. Pritzker aroused anger among Arab Americans after refusing to apologize for disparaging remarks he made in a 1998 congressional race in which he accused a rival of accepting money from a Muslim group that Pritzker asserted supported terrorists.
“There is no doubt that the Illinois Democrats are seeking to undermine Newman, who has been a vocal supporter of Palestinian, Arab and Muslim rights,” said Hassan Nijem, the president of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce.
“She and Chuy Garcia are the only Illinois Democrats to defend Palestinian rights and recognize our growing community.”
The Illinois primary has been delayed from March until June 28, 2022, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to Newman and Garcia, seven other members of Congress who voted against the Iron Dome money could be affected by district changes.
They include Cori Bush of Missouri; André Carson of Indiana; Raúl Grijalva of Arizona; Ilhan Omar of Minnesota; Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a Republican Congressman who consistently votes against all foreign aid regardless of the recipient.
Tlaib, Pressley and Omar are members of the “Squad,” a group of progressive Democrats that includes New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Instead of voting against the Iron Dome funding, however, AOC voted “present” not taking a position.
In Michigan, which is holding its primary on Aug. 2 next year, mapmakers are proposing to re-draw Tlaib’s 13th district, increasing the number of African American voters. That could be important even though Tlaib defeated several African American candidates when she first ran and won office in the predominantly African American district in 2018.
Tlaib may be forced into a new district against pro-Arab Democrat Debbie Dingell. However, she could survive as the Michigan process puts remapping in the hands of an independent commission rather than partisan politicians. The final Michigan remap might not be completed until late January.
Also in Michigan, proposed changes would pit Jewish Democratic Congressman Andy Levin, who has been an outspoken supporter of the two-state solution for Palestine and Israel, against Brenda Lawrence.
Minnesota congressional remapping plans have targeted Omar and another pro-Palestinian Congresswoman, Betty McCollum, although maps in those districts have not been finalized.