Ahead of election, Macron banks on rosy French economy, new jobs

French President Emmanuel Macron. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 January 2022

Ahead of election, Macron banks on rosy French economy, new jobs

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron will on Monday tout 21 new foreign investment projects in France and a booming economy as proof his economic reforms have been bearing fruit less than three months before a presidential election in which he is expected to run.
During a visit to Alsace in the east, Macron will announce a 300-million-euro ($342 million) industrial project by German chemical giant BASF, one of 21 new projects worth 4 billion euros and 10,000 jobs as part of a drive to attract foreign investors, his office said.
As the presidential race heats up, his aides are keen to shift the debate away from immigration and law-and-order issues and put the spotlight on the economy, which has been recovering strongly from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is the result of all the reforms that were carried out since the start of the mandate,” a presidential aide told reporters.
“Three months before an election, we could have expected investors to be in wait-and-see mode because of the uncertainty of an election. Instead, we see very strong confidence from foreign investors in the president’s economic policy,” he said.
Since 2017, Macron has pushed through a cocktail of supply-side economic reforms meant to boost businesses’ competitiveness, cut taxes on investors and loosen strict labor market rules.
Critics say he has acted as “president of the rich” who wants to do away with France’s cherished social safety nets and has cut welfare benefits for some of the poorest.
But three months ahead of the April election, indicators show the French economy is booming, with growth expected to have hit 6.7 percent in 2021 and France having returned closer to pre-pandemic levels than any G7 peer bar the United States.
Macron supporters also received an unexpected boost from economist Paul Krugman on Friday.


Russian military says it destroys western arms consignment in Ukraine — Interfax

Updated 8 sec ago

Russian military says it destroys western arms consignment in Ukraine — Interfax

Russian military said on Saturday it had destroyed a major western arms consignment in Ukraine’s Zhytomyr region, west of Kyiv, using sea-launched Kalibr missiles, Interfax news agency reported.

US, others walk out of APEC talks over Russia’s Ukraine invasion – officials

Updated 47 min 4 sec ago

US, others walk out of APEC talks over Russia’s Ukraine invasion – officials

  • Representatives from Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia joined the Americans

BANGKOK: Representatives of the United States and several other nations walked out of an Asia-Pacific trade ministers meeting in Bangkok on Saturday to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, officials said.
The walkout was “an expression of disapproval at Russia’s illegal war of aggression in Ukraine and its economic impact in the APEC region,” one diplomat said.
Representatives from Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia joined the Americans, led by Trade Representative Katherine Tai, in walking out of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, two Thai officials and two international diplomats said.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, saying it aimed to demilitarize and “denazify” its neighbor. Ukraine and the West say President Vladimir Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression, which has claimed thousands of civilian lives, sent millions of Ukrainians fleeing and caused economic fallout around the world.
Another diplomat said the five countries that staged the protest wanted “stronger language on Russia’s war” in the group’s final statement to be issued on Sunday.
“The meeting will not be a failure if (a joint statement) cannot be issued,” Thai Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit told reporters, adding that the meeting was “progressing well” despite the walk out.
The walkout took place while Russian Economy Minister Maxim Reshetnikov was delivering remarks at the opening of the two-day meeting from the group of 21 economies.
The delegations from five countries that staged the protest returned to the meeting after Reshetnikov finished speaking, a Thai official said.


Britain wants to arm Moldova to protect it from Russian threat — The Telegraph

Updated 21 May 2022

Britain wants to arm Moldova to protect it from Russian threat — The Telegraph

Britain wants to send modern weaponry to Moldova to protect it from the threat of invasion by Russia, The Telegraph reported, citing Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
She told the newspaper that Russian President Vladimir Putin was determined to create a “greater Russia” even though his invasion of Ukraine had failed to achieve quick success.
Russia has called the invasion it launched on Feb. 24 a “special military operation” aimed at disarming Ukraine and ridding it off radical anti-Russian nationalists. Ukraine and its allies have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for war.
Moldova, which borders Ukraine to the south west, is not a member of the NATO alliance.
Truss said talks were taking place to make sure that Moldova’s defenses could deter any future attack.
“I would want to see Moldova equipped to NATO standard. This is a discussion we’re having with our allies,” she told The Telegraph.
“Putin has been absolutely clear about his ambitions to create a greater Russia. And just because his attempts to take Kyiv weren’t successful doesn’t mean he’s abandoned those ambitions,” she said.
If Truss’s plans are adopted, NATO members would provide modern weaponry to Moldova, replacing its Soviet-era equipment, and will train soldiers on how to use it.


Shanghai inches toward COVID-19 lockdown exit, Beijing plays defense

Updated 21 May 2022

Shanghai inches toward COVID-19 lockdown exit, Beijing plays defense

  • Shanghai’s lockdown since the beginning of April has dealt a heavy economic blow to China’s most populous city

BEIJING/SHANGHAI: Shanghai cautiously pushed ahead on Saturday with plans to restore part of its transport network in a major step toward exiting a weeks-long COVID-19 lockdown, while Beijing kept up its defenses in an outbreak that has persisted for a month.
Shanghai’s lockdown since the beginning of April has dealt a heavy economic blow to China’s most populous city, stirred debate over the sustainability of the nation’s zero COVID-19 policy and stoked fears of future lockdowns and disruptions.
Unlike the financial hub, Beijing has refrained from imposing a city-wide lockdown, reporting dozens of new cases a day, versus tens of thousands in Shanghai at its peak. Still, the curbs and endless mass testing imposed on China’s capital have unsettled its economy and upended the lives of its people.
As Beijing remained in COVID-19 angst, workers in Shanghai were disinfecting subway stations and trains before planned restoration of four metro lines on Sunday.
While service will be for limited hours, it will allow residents to move between districts and meet the need for connections to railway stations and one of the city’s two airports. More than 200 bus routes will also reopen.
Underlining the level of caution, Shanghai officials said commuters would be scanned for abnormally high body temperatures and would need to show negative results of PCR tests taken within 48 hours.
Shanghai found 868 new local cases on Friday, compared with 858 a day earlier, municipal health authorities said on Saturday, a far cry from the peak in daily caseloads last month.
No new cases were found outside quarantined areas, down from three a day earlier, health authorities added.
The city of 25 million has gradually reopened shopping malls, convenience stores and wholesale markets and allowed more people to walk out of their homes, with community transmissions largely eliminated in recent days.
Still, Shanghai tightened stringent curbs on two of its 16 districts on Friday.
The authorities “urge enterprises to strictly implement safe production, which is their responsibility, especially in meeting some epidemic prevention and control requirements,” an official from the city’s emergency bureau told a news conference on Saturday.
Delta Airlines said on Friday it would resume one daily flight to Detroit from Shanghai via Seoul on Wednesday.
Most of Beijing’s recent cases have been in areas already sealed up, but authorities remained on edge and quick to act under China’s ultra-strict policy.
In Fengtai, a district of 2 million people at the center of Beijing’s counter-COVID-19 efforts, bus and metro stations have been mostly shut since Friday and residents told to stay home.
A Fengtai resident was stocking up on groceries at a nearby Carrefour on Saturday, uncertain whether restrictions would continue.
“I’m not sure if I can do more shopping over the next week or so, so I’ve bought a lot of stuff today and even bought some dumplings for the Dragon Boat holiday” in early June, she said, asking not to be identified.
On Friday, thousands of residents from a neighborhood in Chaoyang, Beijing’s most populous district, were moved to hotel quarantine after some cases were detected, according to state-run China Youth Daily.
Social media users on China’s Twitter-like Weibo were swift to draw parallels with Shanghai, where entire residential buildings were taken to centralized quarantine facilities in response to a single positive COVID-19 case in some instances.


Russia halts gas supplies to Finland

Updated 21 May 2022

Russia halts gas supplies to Finland

  • Natural gas accounts for about eight percent of Finland’s energy consumption and most of it comes from Russia

HELSINKI: Russia on Saturday halted providing natural gas to neighboring Finland, which has angered Moscow by applying for NATO membership, after the Nordic country refused to pay supplier Gazprom in rubles.
Natural gas accounts for about eight percent of Finland’s energy consumption and most of it comes from Russia.
Following Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has asked clients from “unfriendly countries” — including EU member states — pay for gas in rubles, a way to sidestep Western financial sanctions against its central bank.
Finnish state-owned energy company Gasum said it would make up for the shortfall from other sources through the Balticconnector pipeline, which connects Finland to Estonia, and assured that filling stations would run normally.
“Natural gas supplies to Finland under Gasum’s supply contract have been cut off,” the company said in a statement.
Gasum said Friday that it had been informed by Gazprom Export, the exporting arm of Russian gas giant Gazprom, that the supply would stop on Saturday morning.
In April, Gazprom Export demanded that future payments in the supply contract be made in rubles instead of euros.
Gasum rejected the demand and announced on Tuesday it was taking the issue to arbitration.
Gazprom Export said it would defend its interests in court by any “means available.”
Gasum said it would be able to secure gas from other sources and that gas filling stations in the network area would continue “normal operation.”
In efforts to mitigate the risks of relying on Russian energy exports, the Finnish government on Friday also announced that the country had signed a 10-year lease agreement for an LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminal ship with US-based Excelerate Energy.
On Sunday, Russia suspended electricity supplies to Finland overnight after its energy firm RAO Nordic claimed payment arrears, although the shortfall was quickly replaced.
Finland, along with neighboring Sweden, this week broke its historical military non-alignment and applied for NATO membership, after public and political support for the alliance soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Moscow has warned Finland that any NATO membership application would be “a grave mistake with far-reaching consequences.”