BRUSSELS

FILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Theresa May holds a news conference following an extraordinary European Union leaders summit to discuss Brexit, in Brussels, Belgium April 11, 2019.
FILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Theresa May holds a news conference following an extraordinary European Union leaders summit to discuss Brexit, in Brussels, Belgium April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

April 24, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s governing Conservative Party will not change the rules governing leadership challenges but demanded a clear timetable for Prime Minister Theresa May’s departure if her Brexit deal is rejected in parliament, a lawmaker at a party meeting said.

The executive of the so-called 1922 Committee, which groups Conservative lawmakers, met on Wednesday to discuss whether to change the leadership rules after some demanded a change to oust May from her post earlier than current procedures allow.

But a Conservative lawmaker at a broader meeting of the 1922 Committee said the executive had told lawmakers that there would be no change to the rules, but that the committee would call for a “clear schedule” for May’s departure if her Brexit deal is not passed in parliament.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Kylie MacLellan; editing by William James)

Source: OANN

The logo of ING bank is pictured at the entrance of the group's main office in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: The logo of ING bank is pictured at the entrance of the group’s main office in Brussels, Belgium September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

April 23, 2019

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Shareholders of Dutch bank ING on Tuesday voted against a motion granting executives discharge from legal liability for 2018, the company said, in a rare rebuke for the $900 million fine the company incurred in September for failing to prevent money laundering.

The largely symbolic vote means the company could, theoretically, seek to hold managers legally responsible for damages, though such action is unlikely.

Institutional investors including the country’s two largest pension fund managers APG and PGGM, plus small shareholders’ association VEB, voted against the motion.

ING has said the investigation and fine, which did not have a major impact on its share price, were properly disclosed.

The company said on Tuesday that other motions at the annual meeting had been approved by shareholders.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by David Goodman)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: Eurogroup President Mario Centeno attends a news conference at the end of a eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium, December 4, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

April 23, 2019

By Axel Bugge and Sergio Goncalves

LISBON (Reuters) – The euro zone is worried about the heavily indebted Italian economy’s weak growth and needs Rome to implement its budget plans “with credibility”, the head of the currency bloc’s group of finance ministers said.

Speaking in an interview with Reuters, Mario Centeno, who leads the Eurogroup of 19 ministers, said it was essential that the euro zone’s third-largest economy returned to growth while meeting its budget targets.

“It is a challenge we should never be complacent about and that is why there is worry. That is where the big challenge of the Italian economy is — to grow,” he said.

Centeno was speaking late on Monday, on the eve of a Rome cabinet meeting to discuss stimulus measures. That meeting on Tuesday evening is expected to sign off on tax breaks, investment incentives and debt relief for local government.

Italy last year unveiled a big-spending budget for 2019, rattling the euro and other financial markets, but it has so far had little impact on growth. The economy slipped into technical recession at the end of 2018 and is now barely expanding.

The government, a fractious two-party coalition, downgraded its 2019 growth outlook this month to just 0.2 percent, from a December forecast of 1 percent. Its budget deficit is now set to climb to 2.4 percent of gross domestic product, above a goal of 2.04 percent previously agreed with the European Commission.

“Italy is facing some difficulties in this economic cycle,” Centeno said.

“The message is relatively simple: the government has a demanding budget to execute and it needs to be executed with credibility, and we need to gather all our efforts to reverse Italy’s growth tendency.”

Italy’s mix of high debt and low growth has shaken investors who have pushed relative yields on sovereign debt to high levels not only against German government bonds, considered the euro zone’s safest, but also above Spanish and Portuguese paper.

Centeno is also the finance minister of Portugal, which is often praised as an example in Europe for its combination of budget discipline with economic growth over the past few years.

Italy, the euro zone’s second-most indebted nation after Greece, had public debts equaling 132.2 percent of GDP in 2018, up from 131.4 percent in 2017. This year, its economy is again expected to expand less than all its euro-zone peers.

EURO ZONE REFORM

Despite the challenges of Italy and broadly slower growth across Europe, Centeno stressed that the euro zone had experienced a record 22 quarters of uninterrupted growth.

The budget positions of the euro zone’s 19 members are closer than at any time since 1995, thanks to reforms carried out during the debt crisis, he said.

That has resulted in the creation of about 10 million jobs in the euro area since 2013 and brought investment levels close to where they were before the 2009-14 euro debt crisis, he said.

“Europe reformed, today the euro zone is more robust and credible than it was five, six years ago,” he said.

To further reform the euro area and boost competitiveness, Centeno said a common budgetary instrument would go into effect in 2021 when the EU’s next multi-year budget began.

The new tool would set aside existing European funds to support reforms and convergence between economies and to help investments in countries facing temporary economic shocks.

A final decision on funding it is likely to be made in October.

Centeno has pushed hard for the creation of a common budget for the euro, calling it a longer-term project that would “make the euro area more robust and resilient”.

(Editing by Mark Bendeich and Andrei Khalip)

Source: OANN

Extraordinary European Union leaders summit in Brussels
FILE PHOTO – British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves after a news conference following an extraordinary European Union leaders summit to discuss Brexit, in Brussels, Belgium April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

April 20, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – A top member of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party will tell her in the coming week that she must step down by the end of June or her lawmakers will try again to depose her, the Sunday Times reported, without citing sources.

May survived a vote of no confidence in December and although party rules mean lawmakers cannot challenge her again until a year has passed, lawmaker Graham Brady will tell her the rules will be changed unless she quits, the newspaper said.

Brady, who chairs the Conservative Party’s influential 1922 Committee of backbench lawmakers, will tell her that 70 percent of her members of parliament want her to resign over her handling of Brexit, the Sunday Times said.

Britain was originally due to leave the European Union on March 29, but that deadline was pushed back to April 12 and then again to Oct. 31 as May failed to break an impasse in parliament on the terms of Brexit.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Source: OANN

European Commission President Juncker addresses the European Parliament in Brussels
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker addresses the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

April 19, 2019

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – There is a still a concern that Britain may leave the European Union without a deal to smooth the way, the bloc’s chief executive said on Saturday, urging Britain to take advantage of a six-month delay to work out the details of its departure.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made the comments in an interview with German newspaper FUNKE Mediengruppe, a week after EU leaders gave Britain six months more to exit the EU.

“Nobody knows how Brexit will end. This is creating great uncertainty. There is still a fear that there will be a hard Brexit without any withdrawal treaty arrangements,” Juncker said, citing the long-term negative impact on Europe’s economy.

Even though the extension to Oct. 31 offers little clarity on when, how or even if Brexit will happen, Britain should use the time wisely, he said.

“I hope that the British will make use of this time and not waste it again. We cannot keep on putting off the withdrawal date indefinitely. The best solution would be for the British to adopt the Withdrawal Agreement during the extra time that has been agreed,” Juncker said.

The withdrawal deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May with the EU has been rejected three times by the British parliament.

Juncker, who is scheduled to meet U.S. President Donald Trump at the G20 meeting in Osaka in June, predicted a “lively discussion” ahead.

“The last discussion lasted 6 hours and it is good that you were not there,” Juncker said, referring to raised voices at his last talks with Trump.

Trade relations between the United States and the EU have soured in recent months after Washington hit the bloc with tariffs and threatened more. Asked about possible new tariffs ahead of the G20 meeting, Juncker counseled patience.

He called on Germany and other countries to spend more to boost growth in the bloc, which is expected to see a slowing economy, a day after German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz ruled out taking on new debt to stimulate his country’s anemic growth.

“However, Germany should use its financial leeway to further reduce public debt and boost investment. This also includes eliminating bureaucratic hurdles,” Juncker said.

He also cautioned there was a risk of foreign manipulation around next month’s European Parliament elections where eurosceptic groups are expected to gain ground.

With Britain expected to take part, the proportion of the assembly’s seats held by eurosceptics is seen rising to 14.3 percent from around 10 percent currently, according to the compilation of national polls commissioned by the European Parliament.

“I can see an attempt to rig the European Parliament elections. This comes from several quarters, and not only from outside the EU. States within the EU are also seeking to direct the will of voters in a particular direction with fake news,” Juncker said, adding that the Commission was ready to deal with the issue.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks next to Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel during their meeting at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas
FILE PHOTO: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks next to Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel, wearing a Venezuelan flag sash, during their meeting at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Bello

April 17, 2019

By Zachary Fagenson, Matt Spetalnick and Lesley Wroughton

MIAMI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration on Wednesday imposed new sanctions and other punitive measures on Cuba and Venezuela, seeking to ratchet up U.S. pressure on Havana to end its support for Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro.

Speaking to a Cuban exile group in Miami, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said the United States was targeting Cuba’s military and intelligence services, including a military-owned airline, for additional sanctions and was tightening travel and trade restrictions against the island.

Bolton’s speech followed the State Department’s announcement on Wednesday that it was lifting a long-standing ban against U.S. citizens filing lawsuits against foreign companies that use properties seized by Cuba’s Communist government since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

President Donald Trump’s decision, which the State Department said could unleash hundreds of thousands of legal claims worth tens of billions of dollars, drew swift criticism from European and Canadian allies, whose companies have significant interests in Cuba.

The Cuban government, which could be hindered in attracting new foreign investment, denounced it as “an attack on international law.”

Taking aim at Venezuela, Bolton said the United States was also imposing sanctions on the country’s central bank to prohibit access to dollars by an institution he described as crucial to keeping Maduro in power. Bolton also announced new sanctions on Nicaragua.

In a state television address, Maduro called the sanctions “totally illegal.”

“Central banks around the world are sacred, all countries respect them,” Maduro said, adding that the central bank would “confront and defeat” the sanctions. “To me the empire looks crazy, desperate.”

While accusing Cuba of propping up Maduro with thousands of security force members in the country, Bolton also warned “all external actors, including Russia,” against deploying military assets to support the Venezuelan leader.

“The United States will consider such provocative actions a threat to international peace and security in the region,” Bolton said, noting that Moscow recently sent in military flights carrying 35 tons of cargo and a hundred personnel.

However, Cuba appears unlikely to be budged by demands to dump Maduro, a longtime ally of Havana, and Maduro has also shown little sign of losing the loyalty of his military despite tough oil-related U.S. sanctions on the OPEC nation.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel responded defiantly. “No one will rip the (fatherland) away from us, neither by seduction nor by force,” he said on Twitter. “We Cubans do not surrender.”

ROLLING BACK OBAMA-ERA DETENTE

Amid Venezuela’s political and economic crisis, opposition leader Juan Guaido invoked the constitution in January to assume the interim presidency. The United States and most Western countries have backed Guaido as head of state. Maduro, backed by Cuba, Russia and China, has denounced Guaido as a U.S. puppet.

Bolton, a longtime Cuba hardliner, was frequently interrupted by applause in his address to veterans of the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion on the 58th anniversary of the failed operation to overthrow Castro. His speech was a sequel to one late last year branding Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua a “troika of tyranny.”

Bolton’s announcements included further measures to roll back parts of the historic opening to Cuba, an old Cold War foe, under his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The Obama administration’s approach, he said, “provided the Cuban regime with the necessary political cover to expand its malign influence.”

Among the Cuba measures announced by Bolton was reinstatement of limits on U.S. citizens sending remittances to Cuba at $1,000 per person per quarter. Remittances have surged since Obama started easing restrictions, becoming an important part of the economy and fueling growth of the private sector.

“Restricting remittances that can be sent to Cubans will directly hurt the Cuban people,” said Ben Rhodes, a former Obama adviser who negotiated the 2014 diplomatic breakthrough with Havana. “This is a shameful and mean-spirited policy.”

Bolton said the United States would also further restrict “non-family” travel to Cuba and cited military-owned Cuban airline Aerogaviota among five entities being added to the U.S. sanctions blacklist.

The Trump administration has previously sought to curtail Venezuela’s subsidized oil shipments to Cuba.

Also on Wednesday, Bolton announced sanctions on Nicaragua’s Bancorp, which he called a “slush fund,” and on Laureano Ortega, a son of President Daniel Ortega for what he described as “vast corruption.”

Trump’s toughened stance on Cuba as well as Venezuela and Nicaragua has gone down well among Cuban Americans in south Florida, an important voting bloc in a political swing state as he looks toward his re-election campaign in 2020.

Trump has added Cuba hawks to top posts. Bolton brought in Mauricio Claver-Carone, known as staunchly anti-Castro and an outspoken critic of Obama’s rapprochement with Havana, as his top Latin America adviser.

However, the risk, some former U.S. officials say, is that Trump’s team will overdo the targeting of Cuba in their anti-Maduro campaign and alienate some European and Latin American allies who have good relations with Havana but are also needed by Washington to maintain pressure on Venezuela.

Over the objections of key allies, Trump decided to allow a law that has been suspended since its creation in 1996 to be fully activated, permitting Cuban-Americans and other U.S. citizens to sue companies doing business in Cuba over property seized in decades past by the Cuban government.

Until now, Title III of the Helms-Burton Act had been fully waived by every president over the past 23 years.

Among the foreign companies heavily invested in Cuba are Canadian mining firm Sherritt International Corp and Spain’s Melia Hotels International SA. U.S. companies, including airlines and cruise companies, have forged business deals in Cuba since the easing of restrictions under Obama.

Toronto-based Sherritt said it would not be materially impacted by the Trump administration’s Helms-Burton decision and would continue to operate as usual focusing on meeting its nickel/cobalt production targets.

It was unclear, however, how Cuba property claims, some of which involve complex legal matters, will fare in U.S. courts.

The European Union said it will “consider all options at its disposal to protect its legitimate interests.”

Chrystia Freeland, minister of foreign affairs for Canada, which has coordinated with Washington on Venezuela, said: “Canada is deeply disappointed with today’s (U.S.) announcement.”

Kim Breier, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said a U.S. government commission has certified nearly 6,000 claims for property confiscated in Cuba with a current value of about $8 billion and that there could be up to 200,000 uncertified claims worth tens of billions of dollars if pursued.

(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Miami and Matt Spetalnick and Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Additional reporting by Makini Brice, David Alexander and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Sarah Marsh and Marc Frank in Havana; Philip Blenkinsop and Jan Strupczewski in Brussels; Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Deisy Buitrago and Luc Cohen in Caracas; writing by Matt Spetalnick; editing by Mary Milliken and Lisa Shumaker)

Source: OANN

The Trump administration on Wednesday intensified its crackdown on Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, rolling back Obama administration policy and announcing new restrictions and sanctions against the three countries whose leaders national security adviser John Bolton dubbed the “three stooges of socialism.”

“The troika of tyranny — Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua — is beginning to crumble,” Bolton said in a hard-hitting speech near Miami on the 58th anniversary of the United States’ failed Bay of Pigs invasion of the island, an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government.

Bolton announced a new cap on the amount of money families in the United States can send their relatives in Cuba. The Obama administration had lifted limits on remittances, but the new limit will be $1,000 per person per quarter, Bolton said. Remittances to Cuba from the United States amounted to $3 billion in 2016, according to the State Department.

Bolton also announced that the U.S. was sanctioning the Central Bank of Venezuela, which the Trump administration says has been instrumental in propping up the embattled government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. He also announced sanctions against financial services provider Bancorp, which he claimed is a “slush fund” for Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega.

“The United States looks forward to watching each corner of this sordid triangle of terror fall: in Havana, in Caracas, and in Managua,” Bolton said in South Florida, which is home to thousands of exiles and immigrants from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

He said Obama administration policies gave the Cuban government “political cover to expand its malign influence” across the region, including in Venezuela. Cuba has trained Venezuelan security forces to repress civilians and support Maduro, Bolton said.

“Havana continues to prop up Maduro and help him sustain the brutal suffering of the Venezuelan people,” Bolton said. “As President Trump has said, Maduro is quite simply a ‘Cuban puppet.'”

“Thousands of Cuban doctors in Venezuela are being used as pawns by Maduro and his Cuban sponsors to support his brutal and oppressive reign.”

Bolton’s pledge to “never, ever abandon” the people of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua in their fight for freedom also might ring hollow in light of the historical events he sought to highlight at the event hosted by the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association.

Many Cuban Americans to this day resent the late President John F. Kennedy for not deploying American troops at a critical moment in the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Meanwhile, with the high stakes of the Cold War a fading memory, some critics of U.S. policy toward Venezuela worry that the Trump administration’s stance that all options are on the table, including a military one, to oust Maduro is an empty threat that will only serve to ignite the streets and geopolitical tensions with Russia, compounding the misery of Venezuelan citizens.

“Honoring one of U.S.’ greatest military fiascos from 60 years back suggests U.S. policy to Latin America owes more now to a perverse Cold War nostalgia than practical benefits for people of the region,” said Ivan Briscoe, the Latin American director for the International Crisis Group, a think tank headquartered in Brussels.

Bolton spoke just hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in Washington a new policy that allows lawsuits against foreign firms operating on properties Cuba seized from Americans after the 1959 revolution. The United States has enforced a trade blockade against Cuba since the early 1960s.

The announcement comes at a moment of severe economic weakness for Cuba, which is struggling to find enough cash to import basic food and other supplies following a drop in aid from Venezuela and a string of bad years in other key economic sectors.

Pompeo said he won’t renew a bar on litigation that has been in place for two decades, meaning that lawsuits can be filed starting on May 2 when the current suspension expires. The decision could cost dozens of Canadian and European companies tens of billions of dollars in compensation and interest.

Pompeo’s decision gives Americans the right to sue companies that operate out of hotels, tobacco factories, distilleries and other properties Cuba nationalized after Fidel Castro took power. It allows Cubans who became U.S. citizens years after their properties were taken to sue.

The Justice Department has certified roughly 6,000 claims as having merit, according to Kimberly Breier, the top U.S. diplomat for the Americas. Those claims have an estimated value of $8 billion: $2 billion in property and $6 billion in interest, she said. In addition, another 200,000 uncertified claims could run into the tens of billions of dollars, she said.

Breier said there would be no exceptions to the decision, which has already prompted stern responses from Canada and Europe as they have vowed to protect their businesses from lawsuits.

“European companies that are operating in Cuba will have nothing to worry about if they are not operating on properties taken from Americans,” she said.

The decision deals a severe blow to Havana’s efforts to draw foreign investment to the island and comes as Trump steps up pressure to Venezuela’s Maduro , who is holding power with help from other countries, including Cuba, China and Russia.

Spain, which has large investments in hotels and other tourism-related industries on the island, was the first to react. A senior government official told The Associated Press that Madrid would ask the European Union to challenge the U.S. move in the World Trade Organization.

Businesses from Canada, France and Great Britain among other countries also conduct business in properties nationalized after Castro took power.

Johana Tablada, Cuba’s deputy director of U.S. affairs, said on Twitter: “Before they try to euphorically ride a wave of wickedness and lies, they should take a dose of reality. The world has told John Bolton and the U.S. government to eliminate the criminal blockade against Cuba and the Helms-Burton Act” of 1996.

Countries with large investments in Cuba have ferociously protested the law.

“The extraterritorial application of the U.S. embargo is illegal and violates international law,” said Alberto Navarro, the European Union ambassador to Cuba. “I personally consider it immoral. For 60 years the only thing that’s resulted from the embargo is the suffering of the

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before a Senate foreign Relations Committee hearing on the State Department budget request in Washingto
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before a Senate foreign Relations Committee hearing on the State Department budget request in Washington, U.S. April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

April 17, 2019

By Lesley Wroughton and Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is lifting a long-standing ban against U.S. citizens filing lawsuits against foreign companies that use properties seized by Cuba’s Communist government since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday.

The major policy shift, which the State Department said could draw hundreds of thousands of legal claims worth tens of billion of dollars, is intended to intensify pressure on Havana at a time Washington is demanding an end to Cuban support for Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro.

But President Donald Trump’s decision, which was quickly denounced by Cuba as “an attack on international law,” could also further strain economic relations with U.S. allies in Europe and Canada, whose companies have significant interests on the island.

“Any person or company doing business in Cuba should heed this announcement,” Pompeo said at a news conference.

“Cuba’s behavior in the Western Hemisphere undermines the security and stability of countries throughout the region, which directly threatens United States national security interests,” he said.

Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, will discuss the administration’s decision in a speech on Wednesday in Miami, where he will also announce new sanctions on Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, countries he has branded a “troika of tyranny,” a senior U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Trump decided to allow a law that has been suspended since its creation in 1996 to be fully activated, permitting Cuban-Americans and other U.S. citizens to sue foreign companies doing business in Cuba over property seized in decades past by the Cuban government.

Title III of the Helms-Burton Act had been fully waived by every president over the past 23 years due to opposition from the international community and fears it could create chaos in the U.S. court system with a flood of lawsuits.

“I strongly reject the announcement of State Secretary Pompeo,” Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said in a message on Twitter. “This is an attack on international law and the sovereignty of Cuba and third states. Aggressive escalation of #USA against #Cuba will fail.”

The move, which could deal a blow to the Cuban government’s efforts to attract foreign investment, marks a further step by Trump to roll back parts of the historic opening to Cuba, an old Cold War foe, under his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Pompeo said the Obama administration had played “a game of footsie with the Castros’ junta” and accused the Cuban government of widespread human rights abuses. “Detente with the regime has failed,” he told reporters.

PUSHBACK FROM EU, CANADA

Among the foreign companies heavily invested in Cuba are Canadian mining firm Sherritt International Corp and Spain’s Melia Hotels International SA. U.S. companies, including airlines and cruise companies, have forged business deals in Cuba since the easing of restrictions under Obama.

It was unclear, however, how such property claims, some of which involve complex legal matters, will fare in U.S. courts.

“The EU will consider all options at its disposal to protect its legitimate interests, including in relation to its WTO rights and through the use of the EU Blocking Statute,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a joint statement.

A joint EU-Canada statement said the U.S. move was “regrettable” and will have an “important impact on legitimate EU and Canadian economic operators in Cuba.”Kim Breier, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said the administration had been in close contact with allies in Europe and elsewhere before the Cuba decision and that a “vast number” of European firms operating there would not have any problems.

She said, however, that a U.S. government commission has certified nearly 6,000 claims for property confiscated in Cuba with a current value, including interest, of about $8 billion.

“There could be up to 200,000 uncertified claims … and that value could very easily be in the tens of billions of dollars,” Breier added. “It will depend on whether claimants decide to pursue legal cases or not.”

U.S. officials left no doubt that the Helms-Burton decision, which takes effect on May 2, is part of the Trump administration’s effort to force Cuba to abandon Maduro, something Havana has insisted it will not do.

Washington says Havana’s security and intelligence support is critical to Maduro’s grip on power amid Venezuela’s economic and political crisis.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido invoked the constitution in January to assume the interim presidency.

The United States and most Western countries have backed Guaido as head of state. Maduro, backed by Cuba, Russia, China and the Venezuela military, has denounced Guaido as a U.S. puppet who is seeking to foment a coup.

Trump’s toughened stance on Cuba as well as Venezuela has gone down well in the large Cuban-American community in south Florida, an important voting bloc in a political swing state as he looks toward his re-election campaign in 2020.

(Additional reporting by Makini Brice and Doina Chiacu in Washington, Sarah Marsh in Havana,Philip Blenkinsop and Jan Strupczewski in Brussels, Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Tom Brown)

Source: OANN

European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

April 17, 2019

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Planes, tractors, food and handbags featured on a list of U.S. imports worth $20 billion that the European Union said on Wednesday it could hit with tariffs in a transatlantic aircraft subsidy dispute.

The 28-nation bloc said this week it was ready to open negotiations with the United States to cut industrial duties, but has now detailed plans that could lead to a new tit-for-tat trade conflict between the two global powers.

Transatlantic tensions were enflamed again on Wednesday when Washington said it would end a ban against U.S. citizens filing lawsuits against foreign companies operating in Cuba, with EU firms seen among the targets.

The two sides have been battling for almost 15 years at the World Trade Organization over subsidies given to U.S. planemaker Boeing and its European rival Airbus.

Washington last week issued a seven-page list of EU products to target for tariffs, from large aircraft to dairy products and wine, to counteract $11 billion of harm it says EU subsidies for Airbus have caused.

Brussels has responded with its own list of some $20 billion worth of U.S. imports, also including planes and wine.

The 11-page list also features a diverse range of agricultural produce from dried fruit to ketchup, as well as frozen fish, tobacco, handbags, suitcases, tractors, helicopters and video game consoles.

It is now open to a public consultation until May 31 and could then be revised.

Both sides have said they would prefer a settlement that did not lead to the imposition of tariffs.

“We must continue to defend a level-playing field for our industry. But let me be clear, we do not want a tit-for-tat,” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement

WTO arbitrators have yet to set amounts of damages or countermeasures in each case, but the U.S. case against Airbus is more advanced, with a ruling expected in June or July. Damages for the EU’s Boeing complaint could come early in 2020.

UNEASY DETENTE

Washington and Brussels are already in conflict after U.S. President Donald Trump subjected EU steel and aluminum imports to punitive tariffs. The EU responded with duties on 2.8 billion euros ($3.2 billion) of U.S. imports.

Brussels then chose politically sensitive products, such as whisky from Kentucky and Harley Davidsons from Wisconsin.

An EU official said the new list was drawn up with the aim of having minimal impact on EU businesses, but also to serve as a deterrent and to cause discomfort to the other side.

It includes some 7 billion euros worth of aircraft; steam coal is in, but coking coal, used by steelmakers, is not; U.S. soybeans, which the EU has pledged to promote, have also been left out.

The two sides had appeared to reach a detente last July when Trump agreed not to impose tariffs on EU-produced cars and parts as long as the two sides negotiated on trade, including the removal of tariffs on “non-auto industrial goods.”

The European Union declared itself ready on Monday to start formal talks to do just that.

The Commission is proposing two sets of negotiations – one to cut tariffs on industrial goods, the other to make it easier for companies to show that products meet EU or U.S. standards.

However, it has insisted that agriculture not be included, putting it at odds with Washington, which wants farm products to be part of the talks.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Gareth Jones)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The Canary Wharf financial district is seen at dusk in London
FILE PHOTO: The Canary Wharf financial district is seen at dusk in London, Britain, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Marika Kochiashvili/File Photo

April 16, 2019

(Reuters) – British companies spent more on marketing in the opening quarter of 2019 despite uncertainty around Brexit, but their budgets for the rest of the year could be the most subdued since after the financial crisis, a survey showed.

The IPA Bellwether survey, conducted by IHS Markit, showed on Wednesday that 21.6 percent of marketing executives raised their budgets during the quarter, while just under 12.8 percent of executives who took part in the survey cut their marketing budgets.

“This sharp increase following Q4 2018’s flatlining signals that UK marketing budgets have received a much-needed kiss of life in an economy gripped by Brexit uncertainty,” IPA Director General Paul Bainsfair said.

Bainsfair, however, added that the forecast for the year ahead was uncertain given the seemingly endless negotiations around Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The report showed that cautious undertones were still apparent in budget plans for the current financial year, with panelists providing only modest growth expectations in available marketing spend.

Brexit was postponed by a late-night agreement in Brussels last week that gave Prime Minister Theresa May until Oct. 31 to persuade parliament to approve the terms of the country’s departure.

“A return to growth in marketing budgets during the opening quarter of 2019 may come as a surprise given that the uncertainty that shrouds the UK political and economic climate has only built further,” said Joe Hayes, economist at IHS Markit.

A six-year run of marketing spending growth at British companies ended in the final quarter of 2018 as uncertainty over Brexit led companies to clamp down on costs.

While Brexit uncertainty continued to prompt belt tightening and a delay in decision-making, some companies pushed resources into their brands in the first quarter, the report showed.

The survey found that the best performing category was internet with its net balance seen at a growth of 17.2 percent in the quarter.

The rise in marketing spend was supported by demand for big ticket advertising campaigns such as those on TV and radio. The survey also flagged that marketing executives expect further growth in traditional media advertising through the year.

Around 300 UK marketing professionals, primarily from Britain’s top 1,000 companies and across all key business sectors, were interviewed for the survey.

(Reporting by Samantha Machado and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Source: OANN


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