Canada ‘positive’ on NAFTA, Mexico says deal possible by end-May

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (AFP)
Updated 17 May 2018
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Canada ‘positive’ on NAFTA, Mexico says deal possible by end-May

  • There is a good deal on the table: Trudeau

NEW YORK/MEXICO: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday said he felt “positive” about talks to rework the NAFTA trade pact, while a top Mexican official held out hope a deal could be hammered out by the end of May.
US officials say the negotiations need to wrap up very soon to give the current Congress time to vote on a final text for a revamped North American Free Trade Agreement.
“To be honest, we are down to a point where there is a good deal on the table,” Trudeau told the Economic Club of New York, saying top Canadian officials were in Washington for talks on how to advance the negotiations.
“It’s right down to the last conversations ... I’m feeling positive about this, but it won’t be done until it’s done.”
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was due to travel to the US capital later on Thursday for internal meetings and talks with key stakeholders, said a spokesman.
A Mexican technical negotiating team is in Washington but there is no date set for the next NAFTA ministerial meeting with the United States and Canada.
Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said a deal could be reached by the end of May, but added that if no agreement is reached the talks could extend beyond the July 1 Mexican presidential election.
For that to happen, though, the United States and Mexico would have to end what officials say is deadlock over US demands to raise wages in the auto sector and boost the North American content of cars made in the three NAFTA nations.
Critics complain the move is a clear swipe at Mexico, which US President Donald Trump says added low-wage manufacturing jobs at American expense after NAFTA was signed in 1994.
“Any renegotiated NAFTA that implies losses of existing Mexican jobs is unacceptable,” Guajardo said in a tweet.
Under the Trade Promotion Authority statute that would allow a simple yes or no vote on NAFTA, Trump must notify Congress 90 days before he can sign the agreement. The US International Trade Commission then has up to 105 days after the signing to produce a study on the effects of the agreement.
US House Speaker Paul Ryan had said that the Republican-controlled Congress would need to be notified of a new deal by Thursday to give lawmakers a chance to approve it before a newly elected Congress takes over in January.
Ryan, asked on Thursday whether there was any wiggle room in the NAFTA approval timeline for Congress, said “the wiggle room would be at the ITC.”
He added: “My guess is there is probably some wiggle room at the ITC for what it takes for their part of the process but not an indefinite amount and that means time is really of the essence.”


Can a hungry Mali turn rice technology into ‘white gold’?

Updated 20 October 2018
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Can a hungry Mali turn rice technology into ‘white gold’?

  • Malians are cautiously turning to a controversial farming technique to adapt to the effects of climate change
  • Dubbed the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the new method was pioneered in Madagascar in 1983

BAGUINEDA: When rice farmers started producing yields nine times larger than normal in the Malian desert near the famed town of Timbuktu a decade ago, a passerby could have mistaken the crop for another desert mirage.
Rather, it was the result of an engineering feat that has left experts in this impoverished nation in awe — but one that has yet to spread widely through Mali’s farming community.
“We must redouble efforts to get political leaders on board,” said Djiguiba Kouyaté, a coordinator in Mali for German development agency GIZ.
With hunger a constant menace, Malians are cautiously turning to a controversial farming technique to adapt to the effects of climate change.

 

Dubbed the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the new method was pioneered in Madagascar in 1983. It involves planting fewer seeds of traditional rice varieties and taking care of them following a strict regime.
Seedlings are transplanted at a very young age and spaced widely. Soil is enriched with organic matter, and must be kept moist, though the system uses less water than traditional rice farming.
Up to 20 million farmers now use SRI in 61 countries, including in nearby Sierra Leone, Senegal and Ivory Coast, said Norman Uphoff, of the SRI International Network and Resources Center at Cornell University in the US.
But, despite its success, the technique has been embraced with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Uphoff said that is because it competes with the improved hybrid and inbred rice varieties that agricultural corporations sell.
For Faliry Boly, who heads a rice-growing association, the prospect of rice becoming a “white gold” for Mali should spur on authorities and farmers to adopt rice intensification.
The method could increase yields while also offering a more environmentally-friendly alternative, including by replacing chemical fertilizers with organic ones, he said.
He also pointed out that rice intensification naturally lends itself to Mali’s largely arid climate.

FACTOID

Up to 20 million farmers now use rice intensification in 61 countries, including in nearby Sierra Leone, Senegal and Ivory Coast.