WTO fails to seal global trade deal; Argentina defaults, defiant; Tesla, Panasonic tie up for battery factory; Why Turkish women are laughing more

1 WTO fails to seal global trade deal (BBC) The World Trade Organization says its 160 members have failed to agree a global customs pact drawn up in meetings in Bali last December. The Trade Facilitation Agreement would have streamlined global customs procedures, and should have been finalised by Thursday. But it was blocked over a number of rifts, including India’s demands for concessions on the stockpiling of food.

US ambassador to the WTO, Michael Punke, said that the failure to agree a deal had “put this institution on very uncertain new ground”. The WTO had seemed to be on the verge of reaching its first comprehensive agreement since it was founded in 1995. India had said last year that the planned deal could endanger domestic policies designed to help feed its poor.


2 Argentina defaults, defiant (Angela Monaghan & Uki Goni in The Guardian) Argentina’s government was in a defiant mood on Thursday after defaulting on its debt for the second time in 13 years. Economy minister Axel Kicillof played down the impact it would have on the country’s citizens. “We’re not going to sign an agreement that jeopardises the future of all Argentinians,” he said. “Argentinians can remain calm because tomorrow will just be another day and the world will keep on spinning.”

Markets appeared to disagree, with Argentina’s Merval share index falling almost 7% on Thursday and the peso down more than 4% against the dollar. Analysts said a fall in Argentina’s currency would cause further pain in the country, pushing up the price of imports and driving inflation higher. Steen Jakobsen, chief economist at Saxo Bank, said the fallout would be difficult for a country where inflation is already 12% on official measures and 40% unofficially. “At a minimum we’ll see a loss of GDP of at least 1% if not 2%,” he said.

Economists at the Washington-based Centre for Economic and Policy Research called on the US Congress to intervene, warning in a letter that Griesa’s decision to uphold the holdout investors claim could cause “unnecessary economic damage to the international financial system, as well as to US economic interests”. In Argentina, the government said the country was the victim of a conspiracy of international financial agents.


3 Tesla, Panasonic in battery factory tie-up (BBC) Electric carmaker Tesla is to team up with Japanese electronics firm Panasonic to build a “gigafactory” battery manufacturing plant in the US. Tesla said the plant would be built in Nevada, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico or California and create 6,500 jobs.

The factory will produce cells, modules and packs for Tesla’s electric cars. California-based Tesla will prepare, provide and manage the land and buildings, and Panasonic will make and supply the lithium-ion battery cells. Tesla said the move would reduce its battery costs by 30%.

“The ‘gigafactory’ represents a fundamental change in the way large-scale battery production can be realized,” said Tesla chief technical Officer and co-founder J B Straubel, referring to the cost reductions. Sales of zero-emission electric vehicles currently make up less than 1% of the world’s car market.


4 Why Turkish women are laughing more (Johannesburg Times/Daily Telegraph) Turkish women are flooding social media with pictures of themselves smiling to protest against the killjoy comments of their deputy prime minister. During a speech this week to celebrate the end of Ramadan, Bulent Arinc said women should not laugh out loud in public or speak of trivial matters on their phones. “Women give each other meal recipes on the mobile phone. ‘What else is going on?’ ‘When is the wedding?’

“Talk about all this face to face,” he said. “A woman will know what is haram and not haram. She will not laugh out loud in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness.” Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the main opposition candidate against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said: “Our country needs women’s and everyone’s laughter more than anything.”



About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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