In male-dominated Egypt, the workforce participation rate among women and girls ages 15 and older is an estimated 15%, falling below the Middle East-North Africa region’s average of 19%, according to the International Labor Organization. For VOA, photojournalist Hamada Elrasam traces a thread that binds the everyday struggles of mothers and young female professionals across Cairo: dreams of agency amid far-reaching, often gender-based barriers to participation. Words by Elle Kurancid.
The African Continental Free Trade Area has been operating for more than a year with the aim of cutting red tape to expand inter-African trade and lift millions of people out of poverty. But the largest trade pact in the world, in terms of member countries, has seen slow progress and mixed results. Anne Nzouankeu reports from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in this report narrated by Moki Edwin Kindzeka.
Videographer: Anne Nzouankeu
This week, the Group of Seven leaders launched a $600 billion global infrastructure initiative they say will compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell reports from Telfs, Austria, with reporting from Patsy Widakuswara in Washington.
Sri Lanka has run out of fuel, according to a report Monday in the country’s Daily Mirror newspaper.
The 1,100 tons of petrol and 7,500 tons of diesel the country has would not last a day, the newspaper reported, citing anonymous sources in the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation Trade Union.
According to Reuters, which cited a top government official on Sunday, the country of 22 million people is down to just 15,000 tons of petrol and diesel to keep essential services running in coming days.
Without any deliveries of fuel, the newspaper said, Sri Lanka “will come to a complete standstill from this week, as even public transportation will come to a grinding halt.”
The country’s energy crisis is compounded by a financial crisis.
The Daily Mirror said Sri Lanka has been “blacklisted by international companies as it has defaulted on its debts and companies now require international bank guarantees for fresh orders.”
However, Sri Lanka is sending two ministers to Russia, according to The Associated Press, for face-to-face negotiations to try to acquire the much-needed fuel.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.
«Що стосується індивідуального опалення, то насправді ціни подекуди будуть зростати»
U.S. President Joe Biden comes to the Group of Seven summit with the war in Ukraine showing no signs of stopping and China’s ambition spreading. The White House says they are committed to countering these issues. VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell reports from Telfs, Austria.
Air traffic is booming this summer, but after European vacations are over will passenger demand hold up?
The question was the focus of the annual congress of the Airports Council International (ACI) Europe in Rome this week, held at the cusp of the approaching peak season.
The summer period is shaping up to be by far the best since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis that has severely affected the airline industry since 2020.
Some airlines, such as Ryanair, and countries, in particular Greece, have already recovered or even exceeded their 2019 daily flight numbers, according to Eurocontrol, a pan-European air traffic agency.
Across the continent, air traffic was last week at 86 percent of the same period in 2019, Eurocontrol said, and expected to reach up to 95 percent in August under its most optimistic estimate.
And companies are filling seats for the coming weeks despite the sharp rise in ticket prices, long lines in various airports from Frankfurt to Dublin to Amsterdam and strikes by flight attendants, pilots or air traffic controllers.
But after that?
“Visibility is low because there is a lot of uncertainty,” said Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe.
“We’re now in a war economy in Europe, we have the prospect of a quite harsh recession, we have inflation at record levels, so how all of this is going to play into consumer sentiment… the jury’s still out.”
The director general for transport and mobility at the European Commission, Henrik Hololei, echoed that thought.
“We really need to tighten the seatbelt because there’s going to be a lot of turbulence,” he told delegates.
“We are entering… a period of uncertainty which we have never experienced in the last decade. And that of course is the biggest enemy of the business,” he said.
Too many unknowns
Hololei listed the war in Ukraine, high energy prices and shortages of energy, food and labor.
“We have also interest rates which are going up for the first time in a decade,” he said.
The price of jet fuel has doubled over the past year, with a refinery capacity shortage compounding the explosion in crude oil prices.
Fuel accounts for about a quarter of the operating costs of airlines, which have passed them on to consumers in ticket prices as they seek to refill coffers drained by the two-year health crisis.
Still, strong demand has returned, confirmed Eleni Kaloyirou, managing director of Hermes Airports, which manages the airports of Larnaca and Paphos in Cyprus, where the high tourist season extends into November.
“People want to take their holidays,” she said, acknowledging, however, “we do worry about next year.”
The general manager of Athens International Airport, Yiannis Paraschis, similarly expressed fears that “the increase in energy costs and inflation will consume a great part of European households’ disposable income.”
The head of Istanbul International Airport, Kadri Samsunlu, voiced concerns about inflation’s effect in Western Europe.
And if consumer confidence is damaged, “We don’t know what’s going to happen to the demand,” he warned.
The last unknown hanging over European air travel in the medium term is a possible new outbreak of coronavirus.
“COVID has not disappeared, and it is not a seasonal flu either,” Hololei warned.
«На момент фактичної окупації на цих територіях було близько півтора мільйона тонн зерна»
Before the 2016 presidential election, Illinois farmer Brian Duncan looked to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement between the United States and Asian countries, to boost demand for his crops, and in particular, prices for the thousands of hogs he raises annually.
“Pork is very much in demand in Asian countries, the Pacific rim,” he explained to VOA in a recent interview outside one of the sheds where he tends to his animals. “I was really looking forward to what opportunities could come for pork sales to that part of the world.”
But the TPP became politically problematic for both Democrats and Republicans who eventually distanced themselves from a trade agreement some voters believed would negatively affect U.S. manufacturing jobs. When Republican Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, hopes of passing the TPP ended.
“Part of TPP’s role was to counter China’s growing economic influence and position the United States to be a positive force in the region,” Duncan said. “Those countries have gone ahead without us, they left us behind on trade.”
Max Baucus, a former U.S. senator from Montana and former U.S. ambassador to China, agrees.
“When we pulled out of TPP, we really abdicated our leadership and created a huge vacuum in Southeast Asia,” said Baucus, now a co-chairman of the Farmers for Free Trade advocacy group, while attending a recent online meeting about the Biden administration’s efforts to engage Asian nations in new trade talks. “It’s important to establish an economic counterweight to China. That’s important. That was the whole point of TPP.”
Mark Gebhards, executive director of governmental affairs for the Illinois Farm Bureau, said, “We have been strongly encouraging the Biden administration to do more in terms of building true market access.”
Gebhards says Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) with 12 Asian countries — Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — is a welcome development that could boost U.S. agriculture exports.
“The benefit for us is to increase the market access in extremely important countries which are very willing, very interested in our agricultural products. For our farmers, for our members, there is a direct benefit here,” Gebhards told VOA in an interview at the Illinois Farm Bureau headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois.
“It’s great to talk, it’s a great first step, but we really feel that we need more actual trade agreements put in place especially in light of the Ukrainian conflict and all the things that are happening in the world today. The Indo-Pacific Framework, it is important to note, it is not a trade agreement with these 12 countries that are involved in it. It is really along the lines of a framework to sit down and talk about trade issues. It’s not negotiation that you would enter into in a trade agreement, especially in a bilateral approach that we have with many of these countries.”
Duncan said, “Something is better than nothing, that’s where I’m at with it. Sixty percent of … the world’s population is going to be in those Indo-Pacific countries.”
The White House says the 12 nations in the IPEF also account for about 40% of global GDP.
But Duncan is aware of the limitations of the current talks. “It’s just a framework. We hope it provides a mechanism to go forward and build upon. When I see this framework, it at least answers one of the questions — we haven’t given up on a multilateral agreement in the Pacific Rim, and I think that’s good news. So now, we hope that’s a start, we hope there’s dialogue, and we hope we can build upon this and get people to realize that multilateral agreements are not evil, they can work, and they have worked in the past.”
As he waits — and hopes — for trade talks to turn into trade negotiations, Duncan sees the IPEF as meaningful change in U.S. trade policy.
“I think there’s hope again and realization of the importance of international trade.”
«Кошти будуть спрямовані до держбюджету України для фінансування першочергових соціальних та гуманітарних видатків»
Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged this week to help advance four economic powers, despite pandemic problems at home and knock-on effects from Russia’s war in Ukraine. Analysts expect the pledges to take time, with no immediate results.
Xi made his remarks Thursday at the virtual BRICS Summit hosted by Beijing.
The other countries are Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, which together with China make up the grouping known as BRICS. These large emerging economies see themselves as an alternative to the U.S.-led world order.
The leader of China advocated BRICS cooperation in cross-border payments and credit ratings, the official Xinhua News Agency in Beijing reported Thursday. The report says he further recommended “facilitation” of trade, investment and financing.
Xi as host of the group’s 14th summit said he would work with the BRICS countries to support global development that is “stronger, greener and healthier,” Xinhua added.
The leader urged more countries to join the New Development Bank, a concessional lender founded by BRICS countries in 2015. He called, too, for improving the group’s emergency balance-of-payments relief mechanism, the Contingent Reserve Arrangement, Xinhua added.
View toward future deals
Substantive progress on these goals will likely take time, analysts say, as the member countries do not always get along with one another and China’s ambitions may take time to evolve given issues at home and abroad.
“At the highest level, there’s a little bit of a discussion, then that may lead to further opportunities to be further engaged down the road,” said Song Seng Wun, a Singapore-based economist in the private banking unit of Malaysian bank CIMB.
China’s economy has outgrown the others after decades of export manufacturing for much of the world. But the keeper of a $17.5 trillion GDP has teetered this year amid lockdowns to contain a COVID-19 surge — which snarled world supply chains originating in China.
BRICS member Russia faces economic sanctions from the West over its war in Ukraine, which has sparked food shortages and inflation. China still faces tariffs on goods shipped to the United States, fallout from a bilateral trade dispute.
India and China have their own differences. The world’s two most populous countries contest sovereignty over mountain territories between them, and China bristles at India’s geopolitical cooperation with the West.
Developing countries, including those among the BRICS, can easily turn to Japan, the European Union and other alternatives to China for economic support, said Stuart Orr, School of Business head at Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. Those choices will slow China’s ambitions to sow BRICS cooperation as developing states prefer not to over-rely on Beijing, he said.
“There’s a lot of talk but probably not so much real progress in that regard and I suspect things will probably end up sort of getting pushed back to the next BRICS meeting for further progress once the dust has settled,” Orr said.
China still “struggles with health issues” while its historic political rival the United States is finding new suppliers and customers for soy exports, Orr said.
Officials in Beijing want to expand cooperation with other countries as the United States sanctions Russia over the war and China over trade, said Huang Kwei-bo, associate professor of diplomacy at National Chengchi University in Taipei.
The BRICS countries might reassure one another over energy and food shortages linked to the war, Song said. Later, he said, they could “flesh out” substantive agreements.
China regularly offers economic aid, investments and COVID-19 vaccines to friendly developing countries from Africa into Central Asia. Its flagship is the Belt and Road Initiative, a 9-year-old, $1.2 trillion list of foreign infrastructure projects aimed at opening China-linked trade routes.
Chinese officials feel the BRICS nations will welcome their support, and in turn, accept some of their political views, analysts say. Of the BRICS states, only Brazil voted against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations earlier this year. China, India and South Africa abstained.
India, despite its West-leaning political activity and reservations about China’s Belt-and-Road, still takes Russian oil.
“India-China relations are very sensitive, but outside these existing relations, like in the Caribbean and Latin America, those spots are where India and China wouldn’t have clashes of interest,” Huang said.
Brazil in particular is looking for more international support to overcome the “devastating impacts” of COVID-19 in the country, Orr said.
“There should be some other countries that would think about joining this kind of regime,” Huang said. “Then, if a lot of those countries don’t have such good relations with the U.S. side, doesn’t that mean it’s one more thing causing a headache for the United States in terms of geopolitics?”
A declaration issued at the summit Thursday says the five countries support talking further about expanding their group.
President Joe Biden’s proposed Indo Pacific Economic Framework with key Asian nations signals a new approach for U.S. trade policy in the region. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, U.S. farmers are optimistic the Framework will provide new markets for their goods.
Camera: Kane Farabaugh Producer: Kane Farabaugh
«Сімдесят відсотків туристів, які приїжджають до Хорватії, також приїжджають з країн єврозони», повідомив прем’єр-міністр країни
«Держава-агресор, що, порушує міжнародні угоди, зневажає права інших держав і народів, як і її сателіт, заслуговують на міжнародну ізоляцію»