Latest Developments, November 14

In the latest news and analysis…

Scary TPP
The International Business Times offers up five “scary provisions”, including one relating to affordable medicines, found in a purported chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership published by Wikileaks:

“ ‘The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has proposed measures harmful to access to affordable medicines that have not been seen before in U.S. trade agreements,’ Public Citizen stated Wednesday. ‘These proposals aim to transform countries’ laws on patents and medical test data, and include attacks on government medicine formularies. USTR’s demands would strengthen, lengthen and broaden pharmaceutical monopolies on cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS drugs, among others, in the Asia-Pacific region.’
The TPP would limit access to medicines by expanding medical patents’ scope to include minor changes to existing medications; instituting patent linkage, a regime that would make it more difficult for many generic drugs to enter markets; and lengthening the terms of patents by forcing countries to extend patents’ terms during lengthy review processes.”

Dirty rubber
Global witness is calling on the World Bank, among others, to stop investing in a company the NGO has accused of land grabbing in southeast Asia:

“Vietnamese rubber giant Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) has failed to keep to commitments to address environmental and human rights abuses in its plantations in Cambodia and Laos, Global Witness said today. The campaign group says the company now poses a financial and reputational risk to its investors, including Deutsche Bank and the International Finance Corporation, and recommends they divest.”

Western onus
Xinhua reports that China is calling on rich countries to keep their past climate promises, including the financial ones, at this month’s climate change negotiations:

“The UN determines that developed countries should be held accountable for the accumulated high levels of greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial era.

For the period from 2013 to 2020, developed countries are obliged to further cut their carbon emissions as well as providing funding and technologies to help developing nations handle challenges caused by climate change, [Chinese COP 19 delegate Su Wei] said.
‘Finance holds the key to the success of the Warsaw conference,’ Su said, urging developed countries to keep their promises made in previous climate talks.
Developed countries have agreed to jointly provide 100 billion US
dollars per year by 2020 for developing countries to better cope with climate change, which is far from implementation.
‘I hope we can make concrete progress in facilitating the operation of financial and technical transfer from developed countries at the Warsaw talks,’ he said.”

Thinking bigger
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports on the argument that, “with climate-changing emissions still growing despite 20 years of negotiations and agreements to limit them”, consensus should not be the top objective at the current COP 19 climate summit:

“ ‘It’s ambition that’s needed, from my point of view,’ says Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow on climate change at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development.
Right now, ‘everybody is willing to do something’ – a big change from the 2009 Copenhagen talks, when many countries were still refusing to budge – ‘but the cumulative amount that comes to is insufficient,’ he says. ‘So raising the ambition collectively of everyone is the key. The issue of inclusion has already been solved. Ambition has not.’

The problem is that negotiators tend to have fixed positions. No major developed countries have increased the ambition of their emissions reduction commitments so far in Warsaw, for instance.”

Muscular soft power
The Independent reports that both Western and non-Western powers are deploying troops across Africa for “not entirely altruistic” reasons:

“The last British campaign in Africa was 13 years ago in Sierra Leone, but the UK is currently training forces in three states that are anything but calm. General Sir Peter Wall, the head of the Army, said: ‘We have got three relatively new things which don’t involve significant numbers of people but nevertheless are pointers to the future: Somalia, Mali and also the training of Libyan militias for integration into the military.’

‘If the world’s one remaining superpower is taking soft power seriously and the emerging one, China, is also starting on that path, soft power of a muscular variety can only get more traction,’ said Robert Emerson, a security specialist. ‘Conflicts will not go away from Africa any time soon, but we are seeing major adjustments in dealing with them. It will be fascinating scene of competition for influence in the future.’ ”

A baby step too far
The Guardian reports that even conservative reforms to some “potentially disastrous” kinds of US food aid may not happen:

“The Senate bill includes changes to the food aid programme that would at least partly satisfy reformists. These include a small expansion of a pilot programme that allows food aid to be bought locally, as well as restrictions on the use of monetisation. The House version largely maintains the status quo, while eliminating local sourcing and actually encouraging organisations to monetise food aid.
‘We’re seeing a lot of intransigence on the part of the House in terms of getting anything done,’ said Eric Munoz, a senior policy adviser at Oxfam America. He admitted he was ‘not at all confident … that the [final] bill will include the reforms to food aid that the Senate has proposed’.
The Senate provisions marked a step in the right direction, said Munoz, but even if its reforms were adopted, they would amount to ‘only an incremental step toward where we ultimately need to go’.”

Haunted by loss
Madiha Tahir responds to criticism of her newly released documentary “about drone survivors and the families of the dead” in Pakistan:

“The springboard for the narrative is a speech by President Obama delivered this year in which he claims to be haunted by the loss of civilian life resulting from his policies. We make the frame clear by beginning with this speech followed by a guiding question: ‘What does it mean to be haunted by loss?’ It should be clear that to answer that question by saying ‘Because, Taliban’ is utterly nonsensical.

While [Malala Yousafzai] has commanded the attention of President Obama – to whom she was not shy about voicing her opposition to drone attacks – nine-year-old Nabila, who travelled to the US this month to deliver testimony to Congress about the bombing that killed her grandmother and injured the little girl, was received by a paltry five members out of the 435 US House of Representatives. There has been a studious disinterestedness in the stories of drone survivors. They don’t sell. That’s the broader context for ‘Wounds’.”

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Latest Developments, September 5

In the latest news and analysis…

G20 friction
As the G20 summit kicked off in Russia, Reuters reports that US President Barack Obama encountered “growing pressure” from world leaders not to attack Syria:

The first round at the summit went to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, as China, the European Union, the BRICS emerging economies and a letter from Pope Francis all warned of the dangers of military intervention in Syria without the approval of the U.N. Security Council.

Putin was isolated on Syria at a Group of Eight meeting in June, the last big summit of world powers, but could now turn the tables on Obama, who recently likened him to a ‘bored kid in the back of the classroom’ who slouches at meetings.
Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, portrayed the ‘camp of supporters of a strike on Syria’ as divided, and said: ‘It is impossible to say that very many states support the idea of a military operation.’ ”

What’s missing
The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is talking for the first time about air strikes against Syria, while a range of alternative scenarios are being floated:

“The latest is from Senator Joe Manchin III, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia who proposes giving Mr. Assad 45 days to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention and begin securing and ridding the country of its weapons stockpiles. Only if Mr. Assad refuses would the president be authorized to take military action.
‘We need some options out there that does something about the chemical weapons,’ Mr. Manchin said. ‘That’s what’s missing right now.’
The concept is already being debated by some government officials and foreign diplomats, though the White House has not weighed in.”

Rome pullout
Al Jazeera reports that Kenya’s parliament has voted to sever “any links, cooperation and assistance” with the International Criminal Court, which is set to try the country’s new president and his deputy:

“Many Kenyan politicians have branded the ICC a ‘neo-colonialist’ institution that only targets Africans, prompting the debate on a possible departure from the Rome Statute of the ICC.

Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from Nairobi, said that Kenya had the support of African Union in this matter, and that other African countries could now follow suit.”

Open-pit protests
The Guardian reports on “the symbolic fight of our generation” against a Canadian-owned gold mining project in Romania that, if given the green light, would be Europe’s biggest:

“Thousands of citizens first took to the streets on Sunday, in cities across the country, spurred by the Romanian government’s recent draft bill to allow Canadian company, Gabriel Resources, to mine gold and silver at the Carpathian town, Rosia Montana.
Campaigners have criticised the “special national interest” status the bill would give the mine, which would allow the Romanian branch of Gabriel Resources, Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, to move the few remaining landowners off the site through compulsory purchase orders.”

No teeth
Care International’s Gerry Boyle dismisses the UK government’s newly launched Action Plan on Business and Human Rights as relying almost entirely on “encouragement and exhortation”:

“As a society, we all bear responsibility for the actions of the businesses that build our wealth and deliver the products we consume, and so we have an obligation to ensure that companies operating in the UK uphold these basic standards.

So how can the guiding principles be enforced? The question of whether breaches should be a criminal offence is a complex one that requires more work, especially on how this would be enforced. It is however, a reasonable request that the Companies Act should give rise to a civil remedy that could be pursued by victims, shareholders, or indeed by the company’s own directors seeking to pursue redress where human rights abuses have occurred.”

Corporate shield
Harvard University’s John Ruggie calls on rich-country governments to do much more to ensure corporations do not violate people’s human rights with impunity:

“Exceptional legal measures may be needed where the human rights regime cannot possibly be expected to function as intended, as for example in conflict zones; and where it concerns business involvement in the worst human rights abuses. The international community no longer regards sovereignty as a legitimate shield behind which egregious human rights violations can take place with impunity; surely the same must be true of the corporate form. Greater clarity on this critical point would benefit all stakeholders.”

Two kinds of countries
In a Q&A with the Washington Post, author Teju Cole discusses his series of tongue-in-cheek tweets on whether the UK should be bombed for selling chemicals to Syria:

“It seems to me that, without quite thinking it through, we’ve divided the world into two: countries we can imagine bombing and countries we can’t imagine bombing. It’s a question of imagination. The idea that the US would launch missiles into London in 2013 is beyond absurd. But the tragedy is that it’s all too easy to imagine the U.S. launching missiles into other cities in other places in the world. I wanted to bridge that gap, in the little drive-by way of troublemaking that Twitter allows.

All that said, U.K.’s issuance of a license for the export of chemicals or holding arms trade fairs for whomever has the money does not not make Cameron a butcher like Assad. That’s one indelible truth. The fact that Cameron and Obama preside over needlessly vicious war machines is yet another. We can hold both thoughts in our heads at the same time.”

Unhealthy priorities
The Center for Global Development’s Amanda Glassman slams a recent US trade proposal concerning tobacco in the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations:

“The proposal put forward by the US Trade Representative (USTR) last week in Brunei would reduce prices for US tobacco in low- and middle-income countries and make it more difficult for these countries to enforce anti-tobacco policies like package warnings and advertising and marketing restrictions.

A ‘carve-out’ for tobacco – where tobacco would simply be excluded from the terms of the TPP agreement – was proposed by Malaysia and makes sense. But the USTR worries that a carve-out would set a precedent that could be used to block a variety of other US exports on health grounds.”

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 22

In the latest news and analysis…

Double Standard
Guardian columnist Michael Cohen asks why the US reacts so strongly to “terror” and so meekly to far deadlier threats, such as gun violence and diabetes:

“So for those of you keeping score at home – locking down an American city: a proper reaction to the threat from one terrorist. A background check to prevent criminals or those with mental illness from purchasing guns: a dastardly attack on civil liberties. All of this would be almost darkly comic if not for the fact that more Americans will die needlessly as a result. Already, more than 30,000 Americans die in gun violence every year (compared to the 17 who died last year in terrorist attacks).

It’s not just firearms that produce such legislative inaction. Last week, a fertiliser plant in West, Texas, which hasn’t been inspected by federal regulators since 1985, exploded, killing 14 people and injuring countless others. Yet many Republicans want to cut further the funding for the [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] that is responsible for such reviews. The vast majority of Americans die from one of four ailments – cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease – and yet Republicans have held three dozen votes to repeal Obamacare, which expands healthcare coverage to 30 million Americans.”

Multilateral smokescreen
The UN News Centre reports that a number of international experts have called on the World Bank to ensure its investments do not contribute to human rights violations:

“[Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Cephas Lumina] said it was no longer acceptable to use the excuse that the World Bank is precluded by its Articles of Agreement from taking human rights into consideration in the design and implementation of its policies and projects.
‘The Articles allow, and in some circumstances, enjoin the Bank to recognize the human rights implications of its development policies and activities,’ Mr. Lumina said. ‘We should not forget that States must also adhere to their international law obligations when they act through international organizations. The World Bank is no exception.’ ”

Rough trade
David McLaren argues that Canada’s push to sign bilateral trade agreements “may make things worse” in terms of human rights and the environment in partner countries:

“Since elected in 2006, his government has entered into negotiations for more than 50 free trade agreements and foreign investment protection and promotion agreements (FIPAs for short).

Our new trade partners include Mali, Tanzania, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Panama and a whole lot of others who have no serious investments in Canada. But our mining companies have billions invested in them.

There are no provisions in these agreements for prior consultation with groups most affected. Clauses prohibiting expropriation of any kind and protecting investment so favour corporations that it is very difficult for a Third World country to buck the wishes of a Canadian-owned mining company, even if its government wanted to.”

Growing protest
The Independent reports that over half the inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison are now on hunger strike:

“The number of prisoners on hunger strike has risen to 84, an increase of 32 since last Wednesday, with 16 now receiving ‘enteral feedings,’ a process involving being force-fed via tubes.

It has been four years since President Obama pledged that the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, repeatedly criticised by human rights organisations, as well as prominent American public figures, would be closed down. Instead, his administration is now considering a $200 million renovation project, which will include the construction of a new prison building for so-called ‘high-value’ prisoners.”

Trail blazing
ECONorthwest’s Ann Hollingshead describes as “stunning” the latest European efforts to promote automatic tax information exchange and rein in tax evasion:

“Yet if these systems and agreements exist only between developed nations and tax havens—and until developing countries participate in a similar system or agreements of their own—the progress we’ve made will have little effect on economic development and acute poverty.
But this is not a note of pessimism or caveat. The news this week on automatic tax information exchange is unequivocally good. The world needs the United States and Europe to blaze this path because, in all honesty, those are the only nations with the political power necessary to turn the tide on this.”

Tax challenged
Reuters reports that the UK government has launched a legal challenge against a financial transaction tax in the euro zone:

“Britain was concerned that the planned tax would affect transactions carried out beyond the borders of countries that sign up for it, Chancellor George Osborne said on Friday.
‘We’re not against financial transaction taxes in principle … but we are concerned about the extra-territorial aspects of the (European) Commission’s proposal,’ he said on the sidelines of meetings of finance leaders at the International Monetary Fund.

A pan-EU proposal for the tax failed due to opposition from Britain, home to the City of London and Europe’s largest financial services industry, as well as other member states including Sweden.”

Foodopoly
Food & Water Watch’s Wenonah Hauter decries the “financialization of nature”:

“This summer, President Obama will attempt to fast-track two trade deals — the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement —which are permanent power grabs by corporations and their financers. For Americans this means increased gas exports and increased imported foods, an undermining of our domestic laws and increasing corporate ownership of our natural resources. They will forever enshrine the very economic system that has lead to an ever greater imbalance in income and wealth, and increasingly frequent economic crises. And it will all be enforced by new international tribunals akin to the WTO.”

Evolution of xenophobia
Ian Birrell condemns the UK public’s “fear-fuelled contempt” of Muslims:

Indeed, it is worth pointing out that in the eight years after 9/11, the number of jihadist attacks in Europe represented less than 1% of total terrorist incidents on the continent.

We have been here before, of course. Each new wave of immigration provokes the same fears before newcomers are assimilated into evolving nations. After Irish immigration rose and Fenian bombs started going off in Victorian Britain, there were claims the country’s stability was at risk from adherents of an alien religion who owed loyalty to an authoritarian figure in Rome.

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.’ ”