Posts Tagged ‘BRICS News’

Time running out for Egypt, Ethiopia over Nile issue

Egypt was expected to host Sudan and Ethiopia in another round of negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Cairo on April 20, but senior officials said that neither country responded to the Egyptian invitation. Egypt maintains it is keen to reach consensus on the issue.

The Nile River is an agricultural and economic lifeline for 100 million Egyptians [Photo: Laila Sherif Said]

Days after winning his second term in office, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi faces the most challenging crisis of his tenure –Egypt’s dispute with Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project.

Last week, marathon 18-hour talks in Khartoum failed to secure an agreement, with no date set for a resumption of negotiations.

The dispute over the Renaissance Dam has been ongoing for years. It started in March 2011, amidst the turmoil in Egypt following the ousting of ex-president Mubarak, when the project was made public. Tension rose between the two countries in May 2013, when Ethiopia unilaterally started to divert a stretch of the Blue Nile for the purpose of building the dam.

In the same month, Ethiopia belittled Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi by only sending its Mining Minister to receive him at the airport during a formal state visit. During President Sisi’s first term, Egypt tried to mend relations with Ethiopia.

In March 2015,Egypt managed to secure a tripartite Declaration of Principles on Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam, which was signed by Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

In February 2018, however, the Ethiopian government formally handed over to Egypt and Sudan a unilateral plan for filling the dam reservoir.

Reports suggest that Ethiopia has named two phases of the filling process: The first is a filling phase to start generating power; the second is to fill the dam reservoir to its full capacity.

The reservoir of the GERD will have the capacity to store up to 74 billion cubic meters of water, which is 40% more than Egypt’s entire annual Nile water supply. Experts dispute whether the declaration of principles provides a legally binding framework for Ethiopia on the timing of the filling, compounding Egypt’s fears from Ethiopia’s unilateral actions.

Nonetheless, Egypt is in no mood to escalate disagreement. Before the Khartoum meeting, Egyptian President El-Sisi congratulated the new Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, and asserted his desire to maintain good relations with Ethiopia.

This charm offensive, however, was not enough to soften the Ethiopian stance. The new Ethiopian PM is clearly not keen to portray a softer image, while his country is facing the prospect of inter-ethnic civil war, and sees the dam as a tool for national unity.

In his first government meeting after being elected, President Sisi discussed new water policies, including 19 new desalination projects.

For years, Egypt was rightly criticized for abusing its Nile water. Such recklessness has changed recently.

A more constructive water policy has started to evolve, with planned desalination projects and local media adverts encouraging people to cut water consumption in view of the current shortage.

Are Egypt’s rational diplomatic efforts and its new water preservation policies enough to save the country from a looming water crisis? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Ethiopia simply has no incentive to compromise. Therefore, the Egyptian leadership needs to consider changing its approach:

First, enough with polite secrecy:

Egypt has understandably remained tight lipped on all the details of disagreement for fear of ruining its chances of securing a fair deal. Now that negotiations have failed, it is time for the Egyptian authorities to rally public support, inside and outside of Egypt, against Ethiopia’s passive aggression.

Second, engaging the international community:

A water dispute between two African countries may seem trivial in comparison to other global conflicts, and some countries will even be happy watching Egypt suffer from drought in the hope that it can speed up a collapse of the regime.

In light of this, it is the duty of the Egyptian leadership to garner support, isolate regional enemies, and ring the alarm bells in Western capitals of the implications of the deadlock with Ethiopia. International mediation and pressure are needed to convince the Ethiopian leadership to forge a fair deal with Egypt.

Third, the dreaded military option:

Ethiopia is galloping to finish the first filling phase of the dam because it knows that any Egyptian military strike will be almost impossible following that phase.

Hence, Egypt is snookered; it has only a few months to consider a military intervention of some sort. There are practical challenges that prevent the country from launching air strikes against the Ethiopian Dam, but it is still possible, particularly with regional support from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Ethiopia’s rival, Eretria.

The Egyptian president has rightly asserted that Egypt does not want war with its African neighbors. But reducing Egypt’s share of Nile water is simply an act of aggression that cannot be ignored.

The desire to secure Egypt’s water supply is not new. Khedive Ismail tried to invade Ethiopia twice – in 1875 and 1876 – but the Egyptian troops were badly defeated. Underestimating the terrain and lack of appreciation among soldiers of the purpose behind the war were the main reasons behind the defeat.

It has become increasingly clear that Ethiopia is playing for time, creating facts on the ground that will be hard to reverse. Egypt is neither a warmonger nor a smug neighbour that once tried to invade others.

For more than four years Egypt negotiated in good faith, but still failed to secure a deal. How long can Egypt afford to wait? Perhaps military pressure is needed to ensure political success. Waiting for Egypt to struggle with drought is simply not an option.

A version of this article was previously published in Arabic and English on the Al Hurra website

China-Russia trade volume surges in 2018

Putin and Xi Jinping have cemented not only trade ties but found common ground on political issues as well [PPIO]

Trade between BRICS allies China and Russia has increased about 30 per cent in the first quarter of 2018, Chinese officials said.

The uptick in exchange between the two economic giants will take their trade to $100 billion in 2018, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng told reporters on Thursday.

Gao said that this year’s trade volume would surpass last year’s which was $84 billion – a 21 per cent rise over 2016.

In the past few years, multi-sector ties have been strengthened between China and Russia.

Last week, Russian oil giant Gazprom said that the Power of Siberia natural gas pipeline is 75 per cent complete and runs over 1,600 kilometers.

In May 2014, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping singed a landmark $400 billion gas deal under which Gazprom will supply the China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) 38 billion cubic meters (BCM) of natural gas every year for 30 years.

The project will strengthen Russian-Chinese energy cooperation, and defines the main terms of the natural gas supply from Russia to China through the East-Route, including the cross-border section of the gas pipeline across the Amur River (the Heilongjiang River in China) near Blagoveshchensk (capital of the Amur region in the Russian Far East) and China’s border city of Heihe.

The pipeline has geopolitical and strategic value as it means Russia’s energy export targets are now eastward, and China can wean itself off the polluting coal as an energy supply.

The deal has brought both countries, BRICS members, closer and has been a massive boost to Sino-Russian ties even as Russia struggles with EU and US sanctions over Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Gao said that both countries are likely to benefit from the fifth China-Russia Expo in July and the China International Import Expo in November.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

China to ease foreign investors’ access to markets

Premier of the State Council of China Li Keqiang has been the main proponent of Made in China 2025 [PPIO]

China is ready to facilitate the ease of foreign investors doing business on the mainland by significantly reducing restrictions and cutting red tape.

Spokesperson of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) Yan Pengcheng told reporters on Wednesday that the government wants to open up and facilitate investment opportunities in finance, infrastructure, transportation and the automobile industries, to name a few.

On the other hand, the NDRC is also drafting a “negative list” of industries which will not be open for foreign investment.

Yan also said that foreign and local investors will be on par when they bid for investments as part of the Made in China 2025 manufacturing sector campaign.

This campaign was was introduced by Premier Li Keqiang in 2015 as part of a strategy to transform the Chinese economy into one that is self-sufficient and competitive with global industrial nations such as the US and Germany, for example.

The NDRC announcement comes a week after the Ministry of Commerce said that FDI in China has been steadily growing in Q1 of 2018.

Total FDI during this period grew by 0.5 per cent to 227.54 billion yuan, or $36 billion, with a focus on technology industries.

Year on year, the increase has been 0.4 per cent.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

China to expand renewable energy development

China will account for more than one-third of the world’s use of renewable energy by 2040 [By Kenueone [CC0 or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons]

With the US opting out of the Paris Accords on Climate Change, many have turned their focus to China to spearhead efforts to curb green house emissions and move from fossil fuel to renewable energy.

The potential for growth in the latter in China is usge says a British Petroleum Energy Outlook report for 2018.

The report says that not only is reliance on coal as a major energy source declining in China – forecast to fall from 62 per cent consumption in 2016 to 36 per cent in 2040 – but it will also account for 31 per cent of the earth’s renewable energy consumption by the same year.

The UN has commended China for leveraging decreased manufacturing costs and increased investment to boost trade in renewable trade products.

In addition to curbing the use of vehicles and applying stricter pollution controls to construction sites and those that use coal as an energy source, the government is fast-tracking the manufacturing of “green” cars.

In 2017, nearly 800,000 such “green” vehicles were sold on the Chinese market.

“New energy vehicle production jumped 53.8 per cent to 794,000 units last year, up 53.8 per cent from the previous year,” the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said.

This comes as the Chinese government seeks to adopt a two-tier approach to environmental safety and boost its automotive industry.

Beijing is also going to reclaim forests that have been transformed to agricultural lands

The New Development Bank (NDB) launched by the BRICS countries has been part and parcel of the bloc’s drive toward clean and renewable energy.

In July 2016, it issued its first bonds worldwide to raise funds for clean energy projects in member states.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

Learn from Iraq, Libya Lavrov warns US

Russian FM Serge Lavrov does not want Syria to go the way of Iraq and Libya [PPIO]

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has once again pointed to the US debacle in Iraq and Libya as likely fallout if Washington repeats its former foreign policies in Syria.

“God forbid anything adventurous will be done in Syria following the Libyan and Iraqi experience,” Lavrov told a press conference on Friday.

Russia has previously pointed to these two Middle Eastern and North African states as the aftermath of US interventionism in the region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as his Turkish counterpart, has blamed the refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East on the wars there supported by France, the UK and the US.

The three Western allies are currently consulting on what military measures they should take against the Syrian government in Damascus for its alleged involvement in a chemical weapons attack in the besieged city of Douma.

In February, Lavrov said that US actions in Syria could lead to the country’s disintegration.

Four years ago, Lavrov accused the US and its invasion of Iraq of plunging the entire Middle East into chaos.

“We warned long ago that the adventurism the Americans and the British started there would not end well,” he said at the time.

Now, the Russian foreign minister is accusing the Americans of using the Kurds to partition Syria, which would be tantamount to playing with fire.

He said that he feared that Washington was not looking at the long-term effects of their meddling in Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In 2017, the US maintained its influence on the Al-Tanf region which borders Jordan and Iraq currently houses a large refugee camp, but Russian officials have charged that some hostile factions, such as the terrorist Al Nusra Front, slip in and out of the area.

Lavrov has called on the US to “shut down” this area.

He also warned Israel and Iran not to use Syria for their proxy conflict saying that a de-escalation zone in the southwest was being violated.

He called on both Israel and Iran to back down from their increased war footing in the area.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

Xi: Build the navy to a world-class force

Chinese naval vessels have participated in several exercises in the South China Sea and in drills with the Russian navy [Courtesy: Russian Ministry of Defence]

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for the navy to “unwaveringly accelerate its modernization” to become a world-class force.

“The task of building a strong navy has never been as urgent as it is today,” he said.

Xi was touring the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the South China Sea on Thursday.

Speaking from China’s sole aircraft carrier Liaoning, Xi said that the navy guarantees the “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” as a parade of some 76 aircraft flew overhead.

The country’s first aircraft carrier, the Soviet-built Liaoning, was bought in 1998 and refitted in China.

The Liaoning was put into commission in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy in 2012.

Xi watched as the J-15 Shenyang (or Flying Shark) fighter jet took off and landed on the Liaoning.

The carrier-based J-15 has a maximum speed of 2,550 kph and a range of 3,500 kilometers.

It has been used in a number of live-fire exercises with the Liaoning in the South China Sea.

More than 48 naval vessels carrying some 10,000 men at arms were also included in the parade.

Maritime disputes between China on the one hand and the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan on the other have caused tensions in the region and often led to a war of words between Beijing and Washington.

Beijing claims 90 per cent of the South China Sea, a maritime region believed to hold a wealth of untapped oil and gas reserves and through which roughly $4.5 trillion of ship-borne trade passes every year.

Beijing has long accused Washington of meddling in the South China Sea. The US conducts periodic air and naval patrols near the disputed islands that have angered Beijing.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

FDI in China steadily growing – report

China has enacted 36 sets of conditions for its companies to invest abroad in a bid to curb bad investments and cut debt [PPIO]

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday that foreign direct investment (FDI) in China has been steadily growing in Q1 of 2018.

Total FDI during this period grew by 0.5 per cent to 227.54 billion yuan, or $36 billion, with a focus on technology industries.

Year on year, the increase has been 0.4 per cent.

In the high-tech manufacturing sector, FDI has grown by 66 per cent, mostly from overseas investors, said Gao Feng, spokesman with the Ministry of Commerce.

Meanwhile, China continues to invest overseas to the tune of at least $180 billion in 2016 and is expected to be one of the worlds’s largest investors by 2020.

But in 2017, the Chinese government enacted a new set of rules and regulations meant to tighten control on capital leaving the country in a bit to ensure that waht was being invested overseas was in sound assets.

Chinese FDI in the US, for example, fell to US$29 billion in 2017, from US$46 billion in 2016.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

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