#AceFinanceNews – WASHINGTON:Dec.20 – President Barack Obama has signed the $585 billion defense policy bill that endorses US efforts to fight Islamic State militants and allocates military spending for fiscal year 2015.
#AceFinanceNews – BRUSSELS:Dec.20 – The EU will, from Saturday (20 December), ban almost all forms of business co-operation with Crimea in a further blow to the Russian economy.
The new law – agreed on Thursday and seen by EUobserver: – is designed to give teeth to EU non-recognition of Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian region.
It stops European entities from buying real estate, acquiring shares in Crimean firms, and providing loans or financial services.
It prohibits them: “to sell, supply, transfer, or export goods and technology” in the transport, telecommunications, energy, and oil and gas exploration sectors.
It prevents provision of any EU services “directly relating to infrastructure: … [and] tourism activities”, listing seven ports where EU cruise ships cannot call: Chernomorsk; Evpatoria; Kamysh-Burun; Kerch; Sevastopol; Theodosia; and Yalta.
It also lists 165 goods and products under embargo, hitting both industry and private consumers.
They include: salt; sulphur; iron; nickel; rock-drilling tools; steam turbines; fridges; washing machines; fork-lift trucks; machine parts; and office equipment.
They also include: radio and TV broadcasting equipment; light bulbs; trucks and vans; motorcycles; and liquid crystal devices.
The law contains exemptions to “minimise the effect … on the civilian population” and on EU businesses.
It does not apply: to contracts signed three months or more before 20 December or to Crimea-based firms’ operations outside the region.
Cruise ships can keep calling until 20 March.
Derogations also cover supplies to foreign consular missions, hospitals, and schools, as well as work to maintain “safety of existing infrastructure” or to protect “human health and safety … or the environment”.
#AceFinanceNews – BRUSSELS:Dec.20 – Prior to close of business for Christmas holidays, the EU leaders have given negotiators until the end of 2015 to conclude talks on a trade deal with the United States following the final summit of 2014 in Brussels.
Wrapping up on Thursday night (18 December), leaders in a joint communique said “the EU and the US should make all efforts to conclude negotiations on an ambitious, comprehensive and mutually beneficial TTIP by the end of 2015”.
“The aim is still 2015”, commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters at the post-summit press conference.
EU and US trade officials will gather in Washington in February for the next round of talks, on a deal which the European Commission estimates could be worth as much as €100 billion extra to the EU’s GDP.
Talks on the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) have progressed in most areas, with both sides tabling offers to remove almost all remaining tariff barriers and proposing to harmonise standards.
But the anti-TTIP campaign has gained popular strength over the course of 2014 with the status of investor protection clauses has become one of the most hotly disputed issues in the talks.
Critics say that a mechanism known as investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) could be used by companies to take legal action against governments if they put public welfare before profits.
The commission parked the issue by opening a public consultation on ISDS at the start of the year and won’t take a decision on whether ISDS can be included in the talks until next spring.
Prior to the summit, UK prime minister David Cameron held talks with business leaders and the prime ministers of Italy, Spain, Denmark, Poland, Latvia and Finland on how to “bust some of the myths that are being put around," on the proposed deal.
Cameron has come under pressure to ensure that Britain’s publicly-run national health service would not be threatened. For his part, Juncker insisted that EU negotiators would “remain faithful to the principles of Europe”.
“This will not end up with Europe jettisoning a number of principles to which we are attached, in particular, public services,” he said, adding that “public services will not be sidelined … in the same way that water will not be privatised”.
But for her part, trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom is adopting a more cautious tone.Speaking earlier on Thursday in Geneva, she told reporters that “having a full deal ready to put to member states by the end of 2015 is probably not realistic.”
The closer that the talks get to the next US presidential elections in November 2016, the more likely that a deal will be kicked into the long grass by US political leaders.
Both the US Congress and the European Parliament would have to ratify any trade agreement before it could come into force.
#AceFinanceNews – MOSCOW:Dec.20 – Russian prosecutors have called for a 10-year jail sentence for anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny in a trial on fraud charges seen by civil society as a political attack Tass reported on Dec.19.
They called for an eight-year sentence for his brother.
Navalny is already on a five-year suspended sentence related to a 2013 conviction.
#AceFinanceNews – GREECE:Dec.20 – Haikalis, an MP from the Independent Greeks party, says a consultant, who used to work for Deutsche Bank, tried to bribe him to vote for government candidate Dimas to become Greek president.
If Dimas fails, it will trigger snap elections that could bring the far-left Syriza party into power.
EU Ticker News
#AceFinanceNews – BRUSSELS:Dec.20 – Protesters gathered in front of an empty EU summit building on Friday (19 December) to demonstrate against the EU-US free trade pact talks EUobserver reported.
A planned two-day summit in Brussels ended early on Thursday evening with EU leaders pledging to have the deal, which is set to remove trade tariffs and harmonise standards with the US, signed by the end of 2015.
But Sebastian Franco, one of the protest organisers at Alliance D-1920, a social movement opposed to the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), told this website their anti-free trade message had not been lost.
“It is the first time the summit finished so early, I would not say it was just because of us, but it was also because of us,” he said.
TTIP is stirring general controversy, with critics saying it will have a negative impact on a whole range of issues from the environment to energy and food.
The lack of transparency behind the deal-making with the Americans and its broader implications are among the long list of issues that worry the citizens across Europe, said Franco.