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New Zealand PM Ardern welcomes signs of U.S. greater presence in Indo-Pacific

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November 6, 2021

(Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed signs from the United States of a bigger engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, saying in an interview that her government has “mature” ties with China that allow for disagreement.

Ardern will host an online summit next week of leaders from the Asia-Pacific, including the United States, China and Japan, to discuss how the region can recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis.

In the interview to air on Sunday on the U.S. network NBC, Ardern said that under President Joe Biden, the United States has “an incredibly important role” to play in strategic defence, economy and trade ties in the region.

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“We welcome that physical presence, being part of important talks in our region,” she told the “Meet the Press” programme. “And we have seen, we have seen that greater … engagement in recent times.”

Ardern reiterated https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/new-zealand-wants-mature-relationship-with-china-foreign-minister-says-2021-05-07 her government’s position that New Zealand – which has major trade ties to China and has long been touted by Beijing as a model of its relations with Western countries – will pursue a policy of “integrity” with China.

“We do still believe that we have the maturity in our relationship to raise issues that we’re concerned about, be it human rights issues, be it labour issues, be it environmental issues,” Ardern said.

“And it’s very important to us that we continue to be able to do that and do that regardless of those trading ties.”

Ties between New Zealand’s neighbour Australia and China have worsened markedly since 2018, when Canberra banned Huawei Technologies Co from its nascent 5G broadband network. Relations cooled further last year when Australia called for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, first reported in central China in 2019.

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China responded by imposing tariffs on Australian commodities, including wine and barley, and limited imports of Australian beef, coal and grapes – moves the United States called “economic coercion https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/us-will-not-leave-australia-alone-face-china-coercion-blinken-2021-05-13”.

This has not affected China’s ties with New Zealand, however, as both nations upgraded a free trade agreement in January, although New Zealand united https://www.reuters.com/world/china/australia-new-zealand-unite-over-china-human-rights-issues-2021-05-31 with Australia over China human rights issues.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by William Mallard)

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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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