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U.S., Canada, Mexico set to donate vaccines, unveil new methane curbs

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November 18, 2021

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Scherer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico are set to agree to new methane curbs and COVID-19 vaccine donations when they meet for the first time in five years on Thursday, according to senior Biden administration officials.

The U.S. officials expect the three North American countries to agree to cut methane emissions in their oil-and-gas sectors by 60% to 75% by 2030, as the countries work to curb https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/nearly-90-countries-join-pact-slash-planet-warming-methane-emissions-2021-11-02 the potent greenhouse gas.

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Canada and Mexico will also announce they are donating millions of doses of the vaccines – initially loaned to them by the United States – to other countries, one of the officials who declined to be named said.

The deals are part of an effort by President Joe Biden to revive the so-called Three Amigos, a working group ditched by his predecessor Donald Trump.

Washington wants to shore up alliances with countries to help reorient the economy to a lighter carbon footprint, fight the pandemic, ease immigration pressures and compete with China.

“The most important thing about this summit is that we update a vision of North America’s future,” said Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.

Yet tensions with Ottawa and Mexico City over the auto industry, ‘Buy American’ policies and a Mexican energy bill could weigh on the White House-hosted talks formally known as the North American Leaders’ Summit.

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The leaders are set to commit to prohibiting the import of goods made with forced labor, a policy the administration has been aiming at China https://www.reuters.com/world/china/exclusive-biden-will-push-allies-act-china-forced-labor-g7-adviser-2021-04-24. Activists and Western politicians accuse China of using forced labor in its northwestern Xinjiang province, an allegation Beijing denies.

Biden is eager to shore up a key political issue: supply chains battered by the pandemic and contributing to product shortages and inflation. Biden aides want to move the country away from dependence on raw materials and products from China, which they regard as the country’s main compeitor.

As part of the meetings with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the U.S. president is expected to launch a North American supply chain working group to address concerns including where to obtain the critical minerals needed to make America a powerhouse in developing electic vehicles (EVs).

Canada and Mexico are worried about Biden’s ‘Buy American’ provisions and a proposed electric-vehicle tax credit that would favor unionized, U.S.-based manufacturers.

“Job one here in the U.S. this week, is first of all, to really make our American counterparts aware of the extent to which their current approach to this issue is a problem for Canada,” said Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister.

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The United States is Mexico’s and Canada’s top trade partner, and cars and trucks are the most-traded manufactured product between the three. Canada and Mexico want a level playing field as they compete to lure companies to set up plants for the EV supply chain.

Besides EV tax credits, Trudeau is likely to bring up Enbridge Inc’s Line 5 oil pipeline https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/canadian-lawmakers-call-action-us-canadian-leaders-pipeline-dispute-2021-04-15, which the state of Michigan wants to close on environmental grounds. Canada invoked a 1977 pipeline treaty to trigger bilateral negotiations over the issue.

“Because Canada has invoked the treaty there’s a limit to what we can actually discuss,” said one of the U.S. officials but added Biden is “prepared to discuss anything” raised by Trudeau.

Biden may address Mexico’s contentious bill https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/mexican-congress-pushes-back-debate-power-bill-into-2022-2021-11-04 to change electricity market rules to give a state-owned power company priority over private investment.

Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday he would explain the plan to Biden and Trudeau if it came up, adding that past governments rigged the market in favor of private interests.

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“It’s very simple,” he told a news conference. “We want to keep electricity prices from increasing, and to end abuses by private companies, especially foreign companies.”

But the legislation has drawn fire from the U.S. government and business groups concerned the rule may not be compliant with Mexico’s trade obligations.

    “We closely track Mexico’s proposed energy reforms,” said one U.S. official, without elaborating.

On immigration, U.S. officials said they want to focus not on issues at the 1,960 mile (3,155 km) U.S.-Mexico border but on “root causes” driving people away from other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

(Additional reporting by Mexico City Newsroom; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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Germany’s Free Democrats back coalition agreement

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December 5, 2021

BERLIN (Reuters) – Members of Germany’s pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) voted on Sunday by a large majority to back a coalition agreement with the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens, paving the way for the three-way alliance to form a new government next week.

The coalition, the first at federal level between the environmentalist Greens, the FDP and Olaf Scholz’s centre-left SPD, will end 16 years of conservative governments led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The SPD approved the agreement on Saturday and the Greens are due to announce the outcome of a member survey on the deal on Monday. The three parties hope the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, will vote Scholz in as chancellor on Wednesday.

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The “traffic light” alliance, named after the parties’respective colours, will usher in a new era of relations with Europe, and plans to speed up digitalisation of the continent’sbiggest economy and put a focus on fighting climate change.

(Reporting by Alexander Ratz; Writing by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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Gambian President Barrow on course for resounding election win

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December 5, 2021

By Bate Felix

BANJUL (Reuters) – Gambia’s incumbent president, Adama Barrow, was on course for a resounding election win on Sunday, partial results indicated, that could help to draw a line under recent political turmoil.

Saturday’s vote was the first in 27 years without disgraced former president Yahya Jammeh, who lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea after refusing to accept defeat to Barrow in 2016.

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Jammeh, whose 22-year rule over the tiny nation of 2.5 million people was characterised by killings and torture of political opponents, had tried to persuade supporters to vote for an opposition coalition in telephoned speeches that were relayed to campaign rallies.

But his lingering influence was not enough to dent Barrow’s showing. The president, who only needs to win more votes than the second-placed candidate, won 36 of the first 41 constituencies announced, taking 315,547 votes.

His nearest rival, political veteran Ousainou Darboe, had 133,177 votes, with four other candidates far behind.

Only 12 constituencies remained to be announced.

The election was seen as a test of Gambia’s democratic progress and its ability to leave the Jammeh era behind.

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Barrow’s first term was marked by the coronavirus pandemic, which damaged an economy that relies heavily on tourism, as well as exports of peanuts and fish.

(Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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S.Africans protest against Shell oil exploration in pristine coastal area

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December 5, 2021

By Siyabonga Sishi

PORT EDWARD, South Africa (Reuters) – South Africans took to their beaches on Sunday to protest against plans by Royal Dutch Shell to do seimsic oil exploration they say will threaten marine wildlife such as whales, dolphins, seals and penguins on a pristine coastal stretch.

A South African court on Friday struck down https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/shell-wins-court-case-start-seismic-surveys-offshore-south-africa-2021-12-03 an application brought by environmentalists to stop the oil major exploring in the eastern seaboard’s Wild Coast, rejecting as unproven their argument that it would cause “irreparable harm” to the marine environment, especially migrating hump-back whales.

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The Wild Coast is home of some of the country’s most undisturbed wildlife refuges, and it’s stunning coastal wildernesses are also a major tourist draw.

At least 1,000 demonstrators gathered on a beach near Port Edward, a Reuters TV correspondent saw.

“It’s just absolutely horrendous that they are even considering this. Look around you?” said demonstrator Kas Wilson, indicating an unspoilt stretch of beach. “It’s unacceptable and … we will stop it.”

Shell officials were not immediately available for comment, but the company said on Friday that its planned exploration has regulatory approval, and it will significantly contribute to South Africa’s energy security if resources are found.

But local people fear the seismic blasting conducted over 6,000 square kilometres will kill or scare away the fish they depend on to live.

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“I don’t want them to operate here because if they do we won’t be able to catch fish,” said 62-year-old free dive fisherwoman Toloza Mzobe, after pulling a wild lobster from the ground. “What are we going to eat?”

Environmentalists are urging Shell and other oil companies to stop prospecting for oil, arguing that the world has no chance of reaching net zero carbon by 2050 if existing oil deposits are burned, let alone if new ones are found.

Earlier this year, a Dutch court ordered Shell to reduce its planet warming carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels, a decision it plans to appeal.

South Africa’s environment ministry referred Reuters to a statement late last month that “the Minister responsible for environmental affairs is … not mandated to consider the application or to make a decision on the authorisation of the seismic survey.”

(Writing by Tim Cocks;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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