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Trump calls red tape impeding NAFTA renegotiation ridiculous

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Washington, April 19, 2017: US President Donald Trump on Tuesday called the complicated legal process standing in the way of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico ridiculous.

Trump again threatened to scrap the pact unless some big changes are made, Efe news agency reported.

“We have all sorts of rules and regulations that are horrendous,” Trump said during a speech at a tool factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“Like we want to start to negotiate with Mexico immediately, and we have these provisions where you have to wait long periods of time, you have to notify Congress, and after you notify Congress, you have to get certified, and then you can’t speak to them for 100 days. The whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said.

The president was apparently referring to the process established by the current US law that gives the president special powers to negotiate trade deals.

That process rules that the chief executive must inform Congress 90 days ahead of time of his intention to revise a previous accord, and present his project before the respective committees of both houses of Congress — the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The Commerce Department has not yet stated whether such notification has been sent to Congress, though Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had said he intended to do so before the legislative recess in April, which has already begun.

“NAFTA has been very, very bad for our country. It’s been very, very bad for our companies and for our workers, and we’re going to make some very big changes or we are going to get rid of NAFTA for once and for all. Cannot continue like this, believe me,” Trump said on Tuesday.

“The fact is, NAFTA has been a disaster for the United States — a complete and total disaster,” he added.

The NAFTA trade treaty, signed in 1994 by the US, Canada and Mexico, includes a clause allowing its members to withdraw, but they must first give a six-month notice.

The wish expressed Tuesday by Trump to begin as soon as possible the process of renegotiating the trade deal with Mexico falls in line with priorities expressed by the Mexican government, which prefers to complete the process this year, because otherwise it could be affected by the campaign leading up to Mexico’s 2018 elections.

“We think there are better conditions for reaching a commercial agreement with the United States or any other nation in 2017,” said Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray during a visit to Washington early this month.

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Australian Dy PM resigns amid sexual harassment claim

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Barnaby Joyce

Canberra, Feb 23: Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced his resignation on Friday following an allegation of sexual harassment.

Joyce tweeted: “On Monday (February 26) morning I will step down as the Leader of @The_Nationals and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. I would like to thank everyone for offering their support to me, especially the people of New England,” reports Efe news.

Joyce’s move follows a complaint against him of sexual harassment by an unnamed woman, leading some MPs of his National Party to withdraw their support.

Nationals federal MP Andrew Gee said on Friday that “until I have clarification regarding some of the issues about Barnaby, I won’t be able to back him”, adding that “all bets are off”.

The most recent claim of sexual harassment follows a weeks-long scandal implicating Joyce in an affair with his former media adviser Vikki Campion, with whom Joyce is expecting a baby.

On Tuesday, Mia Davies, leader of the National Party in Western Australia, said in a statement that her wing of the party no longer supported Joyce as federal leader and urged him to “consider his position” in relation to the best interests of the party.

On February 15, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull publicly criticized Joyce’s actions and announced a ban on sexual relations between ministers and staffers.

Joyce began his political career when he was elected as a senator for Queensland in 2004, and went to become a minister of several portfolios before becoming leader of the conservative National Party in 2016 and Deputy Prime Minister in 2017.

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Maldives president did reject UN mediation for now: Guterres’ spokesman

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Antonio Guteress, UN Secretary General (File Photo)

United Nations, Feb 23: Maldives President Abdulla Yameen did “convey that mediation was not wanted at this stage” when UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke to him last week, Guterres’s Spokesperson Stephane Dujrric has confirmed.

The conversation between the two leaders took place on February 16, Dujarric said.

The government of Yameen extended by 30 days on Wednesday the state of emergency that was declared on February 6 when Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, another judge and several politicians and activists were arrested.

“Obviously, we are all following the situation in Maldives with concern,” Dujarric said.

In an apparent response to a statement from the UN on Wednesday that Yameen had turned down the Secretary-General’s offer to mediate between him and the opposition, Maldives Fisheries and Agriculture Minister Mohamed Shainee tweeted on Thursday that the President had not rejected a UN role in “All Party Talks”.

Asked about Shainee’s claim, Dujarric reiterated that “the Secretary-General, in a conversation with the President, offered UN mediation, but the President conveyed that mediation was not wanted at this stage”.

“I can only speak for half of the phone call, and I can only speak for our half,” Dujarric added.

Asked about contacts with the opposition, which had written to Guterres asking for UN participation in talks with the government, Dujarric said: “I’m not aware that the Secretary-General has spoken to anyone in the opposition.”

In his tweet, Shainee claimed that Yameen had himself requested UN participation in talks and that the opposition was blocking the government’s attempts to have an initial engagement with them, which he said the UN required.

Earlier, the Joint Opposition led by former President Mohamed Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party wrote to Guterres asking him to mediate between them and the government and to oversee any talks held.

The Maldives crisis began on February 1 when the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the terrorism conviction of former President Nasheed, as well as the convictions of eight other politicians on several charges.

After the arrest of the Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and the other judge, the other three judges remaining on the Supreme Court overturned the court’s unanimous ruling ordering the release of the nine politicians.

Meanwhile, Maldives mission to the UN has set up a modest photo exhibition showing both the nature wonders of the archipelago as well as everyday scenes from the country.

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Suicide attack near US embassy in Montenegro

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Image: Reuters

Podgorcia, Feb 22: An unidentified man on Thursday threw a hand grenade near U.S. embassy compound in Montenegro before blowing himself up.

“In front of the USEmbassy MNE building in Podgorica, Montenegro an unknown person committed suicide with an explosive device. Immediately before, that person threw an explosive device,” the Montenegrin government tweeted, adding that the device was “most probably” a hand grenade.

As of now, no casualties or loss of property has been reported.

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