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India moves WTO against US

India has moved the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the US as it has not yet complied with the rulings of the WTO pertaining to imposition of high import duty on certain Indian steel products.

In December 2014, the WTO’s appellate body pronounced a ruling against the act of US which is imposing high import duty on certain Indian steel products. It had ruled that the imposition of import duty on steel products was inconsistent with various provisions of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures.  

The Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (the SCM Agreement) – addresses two separate but closely related matters-The multilateral disciplines on the use of subsidies and the conditions under which Members may apply countervailing measures.

India has sought consultation with the US for compliance of the WTO’s rulings. If the US refuses to comply then India has planned to approach the WTO’s compliance panel.

In order to comply with the WTO rulings on countervailing duties on imports of hot-rolled carbon steel products from India, the US needs to amend its domestic norms.

Earlier, the US had moved the arbitration panel of the WTO against India as it complained that India had failed to remove trade restrictions on American poultry.

WTO

The WTO is an inter-governmental organization for governments to negotiate global trade agreements and progressively liberalizing trade. The WTO operates a system of trade rules that apply to all its members. The WTO is also a place for Member governments to settle their trade disputes. Its located in Geneva, Switzerland. It was established on 1 January 1995 and its official languages are English, French and Spanish.

Countervailing duties are those duties that are imposed by a country to counter the negative impact of import subsidies to protect domestic producers.

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IOC Approves New Events for Tokyo Olympics

The International Olympic Committee has approved a number of new events for the 2020 Tokyo Games at the IOC’s Executive Board meeting held at Lausanne, Switzerland. The new events were added to reflect the IOC’s focus on gender equality and appeal to young people.

Salient Highlights

The Tokyo Olympics would include 321 events which is an increase from 306 events held at Rio 2016.

The new additions inlcude a mixed 4x400m relay along with 14 other events such as 3-on-3 basketball, the mixed relay, mixed swimming, mixed team archery, BMX freestyle etc. In addition, Mixed triathlon will also be included in the Tokyo games for the first time.

Further, a mixed team event for judo will be included. Each team of judo will have 3 men and 3 women, all representing different weight classes. At the judo world championships, team events on mixed-gender basis have not taken place. Mixed Doubles Table Tennis competition will also be included. The mixed event was recently featured in the world championships held in Germany.

The 10 minute 3-on-3 basketball event which will be played on a half-sized court is known for its speed. The game was adopted by the International Basketball Federation as an official discipline with common rules in 2007.

Totally, the number of mixed events at Tokyo Olympics will double to 18 up from 9 held in Rio Olympics.

The IOC’s focus in selecting the new events was for their appeal to young and urban audiences as well as for redressing long-standing imbalances between male and female athletes.

IOC also reduced the number of athletes who will be competing in Tokyo olympics by 285 compared to Rio in order to prevent the games from being increasingly bloated and costly.

IOC

The IOC is the supreme authority of the Olympic Movement headquartered at Lausanne, Switzerland. It is a not-for-profit independent international organisation comprised of volunteers. It was founded on 23rd June, 1894. The IOC Session and Executive Board are responsible for making important decisions for the organisation.

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Government awards Contracts for completion of Kaladan project in Myanmar

Government has awarded a Rs 1,600-crore contract for constructing 109-km road connecting Paletwa river terminal to Zorinpui in Mizoram border as a part of the $484-million Kaladan multi-modal transport (KMTT) projects in Myanmar which will offer connectivity to Mizoram.

Salient Highlights

Kaladan multi-modal transport projects was the first major project undertaken by the Indian government in Myanmar. 

India has finished constructing Sittwe port in the trouble-prone Rakhine state of Myanmar. Also, the extension of the Aizawl-Saiha National Highway by 90 km to the international border at Zorinpui at the Indian side is nearing completion. In addition, four-laning of the 300 km Aizawl-Tuipang highway to ensure faster movement of goods between Sittwe and Aizawl is also nearing completion.

KMTT

KMTT is essentially a multi-modal transport project having three different stretches involving shipping, Inland Water and road transport stretches. The longest among them is Shipping segment from Kolkata to Sittwe port in Myanmar.

Government of India is funding this project and it is considered as an important investment of India in its neighbourhood.

The cargo will start from Kolkata port and reach Sittwe port in Myanmar by ship. The Sittwe Port would be linked to Lashio (also in Maynmar) via the Kaladan river transport route. Lashio would be connected to Mizoram via road transport (National Highway 54).


Background

The idea for Kaladan multi-modal transport projects was mooted in 2003. However, India and Myanmar signed the framework agreement for Kaladan project only in 2008. Construction began in 2010 but inadequate fund allocation and planning failure delayed the completion of the project.

In 2015, the present government revised the budget estimates by nearly six times and has involved the State-owned Ircon Infrastructure and Services Ltd as consultant with an objective to complete the project in 2019.

As per the terms of the framework agreement, India should also set up an SEZ at Sittwe. The setting up of SEZ at Sittwe is important to promote Indian investment in the region which has overwhelming Chinese influence.

Significance

The completion of KMTT project will play a major role in economic development of the North-East India and it will improve the bilateral relations between India and Myanmar.

When completed, the KMTT will shorten the current time taken to transport goods from Kolkata to Mizoram by three-four days, and the distance by around 950 km. KMMT is hailed as “Future gateway to South East Asia”.

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