Latest Developments, May 27

In the latest news and analysis…

European arms
The Guardian reports that EU sanctions against Syria have “collapsed” due to disagreement over supplying arms to rebels:

“Michael Spindelegger, the Austrian vice-chancellor and foreign minister, voicing anger at the outcome, directly blamed the collapse on the UK, with the sanctions regime ending at midnight on Friday.

He added that France joined Britain in demanding a lifting of the arms embargo, in order to supply weapons to what they call the ‘moderate’ opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but that the other 25 member states were opposed”

Mali election
Agence France-Presse reports that Mali will hold the first round of presidential elections on July 28, keeping to a timetable insisted upon by France, whose troops have led the fight against Islamist rebels in its former colony:

“Acting president Dioncounda Traore has said that neither he nor his ministers will stand in the polls, which will go to a second round on August 11 if required.

Paris has said about 1,000 soldiers will remain in Mali beyond this year to back up a UN force of 12,600 peacekeepers that is to replace [the International Mission for Support to Mali] gradually from July and will be responsible for stabilising the north.

The international community hopes the July elections will produce an effective government but Mali’s national electoral commission has voiced concerns about the tight timeframe.”

French intervention
Reuters reports that French special forces helped kill suspects in the twin bombings of a Nigerien military camp and a French-owned uranium mine, meaning that French troops have now killed people in at least four African countries (after Mali, Somalia and the Central African Republic) so far this year:

“The coordinated dawn attacks killed 24 soldiers and one civilian and damaged machinery at Areva’s Somair mine in the remote town of Arlit, a key supplier of uranium to France’s nuclear power programme. The attacks raised fears that Mali’s conflict could spread to neighbouring West African states and brought an Islamist threat closer to France’s economic interests.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM television that special forces had intervened at the request of Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou. France stationed special forces in northern Niger to help protect its desert uranium mines, providing one-fifth of the fuel for France’s reactors.”

Pascua Lama on hold
The Associated Press reports that Chile has blocked a mining project owned by Canada’s Barrick Gold and imposed the maximum fine over “very serious” environmental violations:

“After a four-month investigation, the Environmental Superintendent said all other construction work on Pascua-Lama must stop until Barrick builds the systems it promised to put in place beforehand for containing contaminated water.

Chile’s regulator noted that while Barrick itself reported failures, a separate and intensive investigation already begun by the agency’s own inspectors found that the company wasn’t telling the full truth.
‘We found that the acts described weren’t correct, truthful or provable. And there were other failures of Pascua Lama’s environmental permit as well,’ said the superintendent, Juan Carlos Monckeberg.”

Racialized justice
Reuters reports that Ethiopian prime minister and current African Union chairman Hailemariam Desalegn has denounced the International Criminal Court for its seemingly exclusive focus on Africa:

“The Hague-based court was set up to bring the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice – a mission that Hailemariam said it has lost sight of.
‘The intention was to avoid any kind of impunity but now the process has degenerated into some kind of race-hunting,’ Hailemariam told reporters at the end of African Union summit in Addis Ababa. ‘So we object to that.’
During the summit, African leaders backed a Kenyan proposal for the tribunal to refer its cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy for alleged crimes against humanity back to Kenya.”

Food protests
The Associated Press reports that organizers said protests against US agribusiness giant Monsanto took place in more than 50 countries over the weekend:

“Organizers said ‘March Against Monsanto’ protests were held in 52 countries and 436 cities, including Los Angeles where demonstrators waved signs that read ‘Real Food 4 Real People’ and ‘Label GMOs, It’s Our Right to Know.’

Protesters in Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina, where Monsanto’s genetically modified soy and grains now command nearly 100 percent of the market, and the company’s Roundup-Ready chemicals are sprayed throughout the year on fields where cows once grazed. They carried signs saying ‘Monsanto-Get out of Latin America’ ”

Hoarding secrets
Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia has said its response to a deadly “SARS-like virus” has been hampered by a Dutch lab’s patent rights:

“[Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Health Minister Ziad Memish] said [the coronavirus] was taken out of the country without permission and Saudi Arabia only learned of its discovery from ProMED, a U.S.-based internet-based reporting system.
The Rotterdam-based Erasmus lab then patented the process for synthesizing the virus, meaning that anyone else who wanted to use their method to study it would have to pay the lab.
The patenting had delayed the development of diagnostic kits and serologic tests for the disease, Memish said.”

Asylum denied
A new report by Amnesty International accuses governments around the world of enacting immigration policies that threaten the rights and even the lives of people fleeing conflict in their home countries:

“The European Union implements border control measures that put the lives of migrants and asylum-seekers at risk and fails to guarantee the safety of those fleeing conflict and persecution. Around the world, migrants and asylum-seekers are regularly locked up in detention centres and in worst case scenarios are held in metal crates or even shipping containers.
The rights of huge numbers of the world’s 214 million migrants were not protected by their home or their host state. Millions of migrants worked in conditions amounting to forced labour – or in some cases slavery-like conditions – because governments treated them like criminals and because corporations cared more about profits than workers’ rights. Undocumented migrants were particularly at risk of exploitation and human rights abuse.”

Latest Developments, May 2

In the latest news and analysis…

Subsidiary immunity
The Associated Press reports that a Canadian judge has dismissed an attempt by Ecuadorian plaintiffs to have a $19 billion judgment enforced against US oil giant Chevron:

“Justice David Brown ruled Wednesday that the Canadian courts have no jurisdiction to enforce the controversial award handed down by an Ecuadorian court against Chevron.
The award to the villagers was made in Ecuador for black sludge contamination of a rainforest between 1972 and 1990 by Texaco, which Chevron Corp. bought in 2001.

Brown concluded the judgment was levied against Chevron Corp., and not Chevron Canada, therefore the subsidiary’s assets do not belong to the U.S. parent company

Alan Lenczner, the Toronto lawyer for the Ecuadorians, said they would appeal.
‘It cannot be right that a multinational company that operates entirely through subsidiaries is immune from the enforcement of a judgment in Canada, particularly where the subsidiary is 100% owned,’ Lenczner said in a statement.”

Unwanted aid
Al Jazeera reports that Bolivia has expelled the US Agency for International Development over “alleged political interference”:

“ ‘Never again, never again USAID, who manipulate and use our leaders, our colleagues with hand-outs,’ [Bolivian president Evo] Morales said in announcing the expulsion.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Philip Brenner, an international relations professor at the American University in Washington DC, said USAID became a target after its suspected role in encouraging secession in Santa Cruz, ‘a very wealthy part’ of Bolivia.”

Timber laundering
Global Witness reports that “shadow permits” are keeping the illicit logging trade flowing from Africa to the EU which imported up to to €12.4 billion worth of illegal timber in 2011:

Meanwhile, the EU has been developing Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with timber-exporting countries, which involve comprehensive forest governance reforms aimed at stamping out the illegal trade. Neither the EU Timber Regulation nor the VPAs take account of the widespread use of shadow permits, however. This means they could end up laundering the type of wood products they were designed to exclude.
‘Unless European and African policy-makers take urgent action, shadow permits could become the Trojan horse by which illegal timber is brought into the EU and passed off as legitimate. Timber importers must do proper checks right the way along their supply chains to make sure they know exactly where their timber came from and whether the permit used to get it was legal,’ said [Global Witness’s Alexandra] Pardal.

Illegal resource extraction
Reuters reports that nearly all of Liberia’s resource deals since 2009 have violated national laws:

“Liberian law sets rules for foreign investment projects including on competitive tendering, tax rates and equity stakes to be held by the government.
While some failures to comply with the law are relatively minor, the Moore Stephens draft shows the government granted vast swathes of land to firms including Golden Agri’s Golden Veroleum and Sime Darby without competitive bidding, and otherwise skipped contract steps meant to ensure a fair deal for Liberians.
Other companies with contracts found to be flawed include U.S. oil firm Chevron Petroleum and mining giant BHP, according to the report, which also accused Liberian authorities of having tried to stonewall the audit process since late last year by failing to hand over information promptly.”

No more executions
The Associated Press reports that Maryland has become the 18th US state and the first south of the Mason-Dixon line to abolish the death penalty:

“[National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] President and CEO Ben Jealous, who worked to get the repeal bill passed, noted the significance of a Democratic governor south of the Mason-Dixon line with presidential aspirations leading an effort to ban capital punishment. Jealous noted that in 1992, then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton left the presidential campaign trail to oversee the execution of a man who had killed a police officer, a move widely viewed as an effort to shed the Democratic Party’s image as soft on crime.
‘Our governor has also just redefined what it means to have a political future in this country,’ Jealous said”

Fighting biopiracy
EurActiv reports that the EU is debating new measures that would require companies to compensate indigenous people for the commercial use of their knowledge:

“Under the law – based on the international convention on access to biodiversity, the Nagoya protocol – the pharmaceuticals industry would need the written consent of local or indigenous people before exploring their region’s genetic resources or making use of their traditional knowhow.
Relevant authorities would have the power to sanction companies that fail to comply, protecting local interests from the predatory attitude of big European companies.

But obstacles remain due to vested interests, particularly in the European pharmaceuticals industry. ‘90% of genetic resources are in the south and 90% of the patents are in the north,’ [Green MEP Sandrine] Bélier told EurActiv.”

Free trade racket
The Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Dean Baker argues that international trade agreements, such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, have more to do with “securing regulatory gains for major corporate interests” than free trade:

“All the arguments that trade economists make against tariffs and quotas apply to patent and copyright protection. The main difference is the order of magnitude. Tariffs and quotas might raise the price of various items by 20 or 30 percent. By contrast, patent and copyright protection is likely to raise the price of protected items 2,000 percent or even 20,000 percent above the free market price. Drugs that would sell for a few dollars per prescription in a free market would sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars when the government gives a drug company a patent monopoly.
In the case of drug patents, the costs go beyond just dollars and cents. Higher drug prices will have a direct impact on the public’s health, especially in some of the poorer countries that might end up being parties to these agreements.”

Pharma power
This is Africa’s Adam Robert Green discusses concerns that pharmaceutical companies may be “shaping the public health agenda” in poor countries:

“One example is the HPV vaccination programme for cervical cancer in Rwanda, enabled by a donation from Merck. After three years, the freebies expire, but Merck promised to provide Rwanda with a discounted access price to the vaccine. Assuming donors and governments pick up the bill, the donations could be interpreted as market-priming – creating the conditions for adoption – rather than corporate citizenship.”

Latest Developments, April 23

In the latest news and analysis…

Operation Serval extended
Radio France Internationale reports that French politicians have voted overwhelmingly in favour of extending the military intervention in Mali beyond the initial four-month timeframe:

“All the political parties agreed on the need to continue the French intervention in Mali: 342 votes for, 0 votes against. Later in the evening, senators confirmed this vote by 326 votes for and 0 votes against.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also made an important announcement: starting in July, the UN could contribute peacekeepers to join the French and African forces.” [Translated from the French.]

Apology questioned
The Globe and Mail reports that the Canadian government is under fire for failing to hand over documents to a commission investigating years of abuse of indigenous students at church-run residential schools:

“The Department of Aboriginal Affairs has given about a million records to the commission and has promised hundreds of thousands more. But 23 other departments have yet to follow suit.

‘We respect the fact that it’s really a huge task,’ said [Truth and Reconciliation Commission chair Justice Murray Sinclair].
‘But the reality is that we haven’t seen any additional documents,’ he said, ‘which really tells us that the government wasn’t ready, that it had done no preparation whatsoever.’

Alvin Fiddler, the deputy chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation in Northern Ontario, said Monday that failure to produce the records would cast doubt on the historic apology for the residential school system that Prime Minister Stephen Harper made in 2008 on behalf of Canadians. ‘It goes back to the question of how sincere was he and how sincere was the apology,’ Mr. Fiddler said.”

Patent loophole
Reuters reports that South Africa plans to rework its intellectual property laws in order to make cancer and HIV/AIDS medication more affordable:

“Central to the reforms is closing a loophole known as ‘ever-greening’, whereby drug companies slightly modify an existing drug whose patent is about to expire and then claim it is a new drug, thereby extending its patent protection and their profits.

As an example, [Julia Hill of Médecins Sans Frontières] said India had avoided patenting Novartis cancer medication imatinib, as opposed to South Africa, which granted an initial patent in 1993 that only expires this month.
In addition, Hill said South Africa had granted secondary patents on imatinib to extend Novartis’ monopoly until 2022, meaning it costs $34,000 a year to treat a patient – 259 times more than the cheapest Indian generic alternative”

Swing and a miss
The Associated Press reports that a US judge has blocked an attempt by the government to seize a “$38.5 million Gulfstream jet” from the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president:

“The Justice Department had alleged that Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue bought the jet with money derived from extortion, misappropriation, theft and embezzlement. But U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled Friday that the government did not link the jet to any specific illicit acts and dismissed the civil forfeiture complaint.”

The worst thing
The Royal African Society’s Richard Dowden argues it would be better for G8 countries to “stop doing bad things to poor countries” than to pledge more aid:

“The worst thing we – the British – do is to maintain the world’s most iniquitous secret tax havens.

On average, between 2002 and 2006 $857 billion flowed into developing countries each year. Of that $84bn was aid, $187bn was migrant remittances, $226bn foreign direct investment and $380bn was loans. Meanwhile, on average every year over the same period, $1205bn flowed out: $130bn profits for investors, $456bn in debt repayments and a whopping $619bn in ‘illicit flows’. Some of that is corruption money – about 3%. About 30% goes through criminal networks but some 60% of the ‘outflow’ is tax avoidance schemes. Unaccountable and un-transparent tax havens – many of them British – are where these schemes operate.”

Institutionalizing torture
Foreign Policy’s James Traub writes that a recent report on US torture after 9/11 shows how a democratic country can engage in “things that are repugnant to its principles”:

“Military dictators can simply order dissidents to be pushed out of planes into the sea or thrown into prison to rot; the political leaders of a democracy need the legitimacy of law to justify otherwise despicable acts, whether it’s Jim Crow legislation or the fraudulent treaties that drove Native Americans from their land.

Americans have an apparently ineradicable view of themselves as a force for good. Republicans shamelessly play to this angelic self-conception when they accuse Obama of not subscribing to the national credo of ‘American exceptionalism.’ But what dark deeds has that credo excused! To know for a certainty that your ends are noble is to excuse yourself in advance for whatever means you choose to fight your adversaries, who by definition must be evil.”

Casual racism
Anthropologist Sarah Kendzior describes as “irresponsible” the media’s emphasis on the Chechen ethnicity of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing:

“One hundred years ago, the violent act of one Polish-American [who assassinated US President William McKinley] caused a country to treat all Polish-Americans with suspicion. Now, the Poles have become ‘white’ – which is to say they are largely safe from the accusations of treason and murderous intent that ethnic groups deemed non-white routinely face. When a Polish-American commits a crime, his ethnicity does not go on trial with him.
But this change is not a triumph for America. It is a tragedy that it happened to Poles then, and a greater tragedy that we have not learned our lesson and it happens still – to Hispanics, to Arabs, to Chechens, to any immigrant who comes here seeking refuge and finds prejudice instead.”

Bean drain
The UN News Centre reports that two UN experts have said the World Bank-led privatization of Burundi’s coffee industry is hurting farmers:

“In 2007, the Burundian President declared that coffee was owned by the growers until it was exported, an arrangement that allowed them to manage the supply chain and entitled them to 72 per cent of revenues from coffee sales on international markets.
However, in 2008-2009 the Burundian Government moved towards full privatization of the industry under alleged pressure from the World Bank, whose support for public health programmes was reportedly tied to coffee sector reforms. Since then, less than 5 per cent of Burundian coffee was processed in the country, with the higher value-added operations taking place abroad.”

Latest Developments, March 7

In the latest news and analysis…

Drone filibuster
The Washington Post reports that US Senator Rand Paul has ended a nearly 13-hour speech aimed at raising questions about American policy on extrajudicial killings:

“Paul said he was ‘alarmed’ by a lack of definition for who can be targeted by drone strikes. He suggested that many colleges in the 1960s were full of people who may have been considered enemies of the state.
‘Are you going to drop . . . a Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda?’ he asked at one point.
Repeatedly, Paul suggested that his cause was not partisan and not meant as a personal attack on the president — only on his drone policy.

‘I would be here if it were a Republican president doing this,’ Paul added. ‘Really, the great irony of this is that President Obama’s opinion on this is an extension of George Bush’s opinion.’ ”

New timetable
The BBC reports that France’s president, François Hollande, has said some of the 4,000 French troops currently in Mali will pull out next month:

“France had initially said that troop numbers would decrease from March if all went according to plan.
On Wednesday, Mr Hollande said that the ‘final phase’ of the French intervention ‘will last through March and from April there will be a decrease in the number of French soldiers in Mali as African forces will take over, supported by the Europeans’.”

See no evil
The Guardian reports on new evidence suggesting ex-CIA boss David Petraeus had extensive knowledge of torture being committed during his time as top commander in Iraq:

“[Special police commando] detention centres bought video cameras, funded by the US military, which they used to film detainees for the show [called ‘Terrorism In The Hands of Justice’]. When the show began to outrage the Iraqi public, [General Muntadher al-Samari] remembers being in the home of General Adnan Thabit – head of the special commandos – when a call came from Petraeus’s office demanding that they stop showing tortured men on TV.

Thabit is dismissive of the idea that the Americans he dealt with were unaware of what the commandos were doing. ‘Until I left, the Americans knew about everything I did; they knew what was going on in the interrogations and they knew the detainees. Even some of the intelligence about the detainees came to us from them – they are lying.’”

The grapes of graft
Reuters reports that an Italian vineyard may be key for an investigation into bribes allegedly paid by energy firm Eni to obtain oil and gas contracts in Algeria:

“[Farid Noureddine] Bedjaoui is suspected of channeling nearly 198 million euros in bribes to officials in Algeria via a company called Pearl Partners Limited for eight contracts totaling $11 billion awarded to [Eni subsidiary] Saipem, Europe’s biggest oil services company, between 2007-9, the warrant says.

The Feb 6 warrant alleges [Pietro Varone, former chief operating officer of Saipem’s engineering arm] recommended Pearl Partners to the Saipem board to advise on Saipem’s business activities in Algeria and the Middle East.
Varone was one of several senior managers at Saipem and Eni to resign in December as a result of the investigation. Eni and Saipem have denied wrongdoing.
Eni, Italy’s largest company in terms of market value, is the biggest foreign energy operator in Africa. It has operated in Algeria since 1981 and has extensive gas interests there.”

Fighting words
The Council of Canadians provides a transcript of comments made by a Greek mayor to the Canadian ambassador over a mining project planned by Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold:

“ ‘We have studies that establish the utter devastation and we don’t want to discuss it any further. We are tired. What we want from you is to leave us alone so that we can develop here our agriculture, our stock farming, our fishery, our tourism, our forests, so that we can manage, through what we know, to keep the purity of our country, to advance,’ [said Alexandroupolis mayor Evangelos Labakis].

“You will get the gold, the 450 tons and we will keep the cyanide? Why should we do that when we have the opportunity to develop and we will do it?’ ”

Mining’s shadow
An Ottawa Citizen editorial calls on Ottawa to hold to account Canadian mining companies that behave badly abroad:

“Canada has many reasons to take a lead role in addressing unethical and illegal behaviour of mining companies around the world. A compelling one is that Canada is a major player on the world stage and companies that get into trouble are, therefore, frequently Canadian.
And, although the mining industry and the federal government have both been behind a major push to encourage corporate social responsibility, the federal government must do more, especially now that the giant mining industry is also at the centre of a shift in Canadian foreign aid toward more partnerships with private companies operating overseas.
With so much riding on our mining industry, Canada must move to remove the shadow that bad corporate citizens cast on it.”

Dirty City
TrustLaw reports that Transparency International’s new UK head has said London is “a clearing house for international corruption”:

“[TI-UK’s Robert] Barrington was one of a group of experts who drafted the official guidance to the UK Bribery Act, Britain’s strict new anti-bribery law. Since the Act came into force in July 2011, it has generated just two prosecutions, both for relatively minor bribery offences.

One reason for the small number of prosecutions under the Bribery Act is that Britain’s main anti-corruption prosecutor, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), has had its funding slashed in the last five years, Barrington said.”

Sharing benefits
Intellectual Property Watch reports that one expert has described the Nagoya Protocol, a proposed UN text on cultural diversity and traditional knowledge, as a “masterpiece of erratic treaty drafting”:

“In correspondence with Intellectual Property Watch, [the University of Sienna’s Riccardo] Pavoni said: ‘The Nagoya Protocol is absolutely neutral in relation to the issue of patentability of genetic material. The principle of sovereign rights over genetic resources may only allow states to ban the exploration and/or exportation of genetic resources found in their territories, but may not prevent a company from seeking patent protection in its home state or in other countries where such patents are granted.’
The core issue, he said, ‘is that of securing that genetic material has been accessed pursuant to the prior informed consent of the source country and that some form of benefit-sharing has been agreed upon with the same country.’ ”

Latest Developments, March 6

In the latest news and analysis…

Presidential death
The University of London’s Oscar Guardiola-Rivera argues that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose death was announced Tuesday, made his country more inclusive during his 14 years in power:

“Chávez’s Social Missions, providing healthcare and literacy to formerly excluded people while changing their life and political outlook, have proven the extent of such a transformative view. It could be compared to the levelling spirit of a kind of new New Deal combined with a model of social change based on popular and communal organisation.
The facts speak for themselves: the percentage of households in poverty fell from 55% in 1995 to 26.4% in 2009. When Chávez was sworn into office unemployment was 15%, in June 2009 it was 7.8%. Compare that to current unemployment figures in Europe.”

Meddling allegations
The Associated Press reports that a British diplomat has been accused of “shadowy, suspicious and rather animated involvement” in Kenya’s presidential election by supporters of Uhuru Kenyatta who is currently leading as ballot counting continues:

“Kenyatta’s party also asked the high commissioner, Christian Turner, to explain what it called ‘the sudden upsurge of British military personnel’ in Kenya. British troops attend a six-week training course near Mount Kenya before deploying to Afghanistan. A new battle group arrived the week before Kenyans voted.
Britain’s Foreign Office said claims of British interference ‘are entirely false and misleading.’ It said the British soldiers in Kenya are part of a regular training program planned nine months ago ‘completely unrelated to the Kenyan elections.’ ”

New gun market
Reuters reports that the UN Security Council has voted for a British-drafted partial suspension of the longtime arms embargo on Somalia:

“The Security Council resolution would allow sales of such weapons as automatic assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, but leaves in place a ban on surface-to-air missiles, large-caliber guns, howitzers, cannons and mortars as well as anti-tank guided weapons, mines and night vision weapon sights.

Human rights group Amnesty International called one the U.N. Security Council on Monday not to lift arms embargo on Somalia, describing the idea as premature and warning that it could “expose Somali civilians to even greater risk and worsen the humanitarian situation.”

Violent mine
The Daily News reports that two more people have died in clashes at a Tanzanian mine owned by Canadian giant Barrick Gold:

“The [North Mara Gold Mine] has been experiencing frequent invasions carried out by mostly young men targeting gold sand. The intruders have often been clashing with police officers guarding the mine 24 hours. In 2011 five civilians were shot dead after hundreds of people invaded the mine and clashed with anti-riot police.
The mine is also guarded by private security guards. The Canadian miner is currently setting up a multimillion wall fence at Gokona pit in a bid to boost safety and security in one of the country’s largest gold mine located at Nyamongo area.”

Toxic fog
Etiame reports that Togolese fishermen have said they encountered a suffocating cloud at sea, near a coastal area where the World Health Organization noted reports of a “strange” outbreak of coughing and chest pains last month:

“ ‘We were on the high sea that day. It was as if someone had launched tear gas. It stung our nostrils. It was probably toxic discharge from a ship. If it had been pollution from a neighbouring country, it would have dissipated by that point,’ said a visibly perturbed Koffa.” (Translated from the French.)

Protecting assets
The Globe and Mail reports that Canada has negotiated “so-called foreign investment promotion and protection agreements” with Cameroon and Zambia, bringing to seven the number of African countries that have made such deals with Ottawa:

“The FIPAs are meant to give businesses greater confidence to invest at a time when resource nationalism has become one of the leading concerns of the global mining industry. The trend became especially pronounced in recent years as emerging nation’s sought to renegotiate terms of mining investments in the wake of booming prices for metals like gold and copper, trading several times where they were a few years ago even.

Canada has 24 FIPAs in force around the world. It has also concluded the agreements with Benin, Madagascar, Mali, Senegal and Tanzania and is pursuing FIPAs with Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Tunisia.”

Killer deal
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières has said the Trans-Pacific Partnership, currently in its 16th round of negotiations in Singapore, could become “the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines in developing countries”:

“The negotiations are being conducted in secret, but leaked drafts of the agreement include aggressive intellectual property (IP) rules that would restrict access to affordable, lifesaving medicines for millions of people.
Proposed by U.S. negotiators, the IP rules enhance patent and data protections for pharmaceutical companies, dismantle public health safeguards enshrined in international law, and obstruct price-lowering generic competition for medicines.”

Nothing to see here
Reuters reports that Western observers will not be welcome in Zimbabwe during this year’s constitutional and presidential votes, purportedly due to the punitive policies their countries have imposed:

“Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, from Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that Harare would bar U.S. and European Union observers because of sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle for alleged human rights abuses.
‘To be an observer, you have to be objective and once you impose sanctions on one party, your objectivity goes up in smoke,’ Mumbengegwi, who is responsible for inviting and accrediting foreign observers, was quoted as saying.
‘I do not see why they need to be invited when they have never invited us to monitor theirs.’ ”