British minister promotes post-Brexit trade in Israel

Britain's International Trade Secretary Liam Fox arrives at 10 Downing Street in London on November 26, 2018 to attend the weekly meeting of the cabinet. (AFP)
Updated 28 November 2018
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British minister promotes post-Brexit trade in Israel

  • "we want to push our concept of free trade even further,” Fox told Netanyahu
  • Netanyahu said: “Britain is in fact our largest trade partner in Europe"

JERUSALEM: British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox met Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday as his country prepares to leave the European Union and pursue an independent trade policy.
Britain’s exports to Israel already grew by 75 percent in the first half of 2018 compared to the same period last year, Fox’s office said, citing Israeli official figures.
Last year saw more than $9 billion in trade between the two nations, a record high, it said.
“And as we leave the European Union and Britain takes up its place as an independent state of (the World Trade Organization), we want to push our concept of free trade even further,” Fox told Netanyahu ahead of their meeting.
“In a world where the siren calls of protectionism are rising, two free-trade nations like ours need to make the case for global free trade because trade spreads prosperity.”
Netanyahu said: “Britain is in fact our largest trade partner in Europe — one of our most important trading partners in the world — and we value the friendship.”
Israel is notably an import market for British cars, while Scotch whiskey sales in Israel have increased by 300 percent since 2012, according to Fox’s office.
Other leading British exports to Israel have included mineral products and machinery and electrical equipment, as well as chemical industry products, according to the British embassy.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking to convince hostile MPs to back her draft deal for future ties with the EU after her country exits the bloc next March. A vote is scheduled for December 11.
Fox arrived in Israel on Monday and met with Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday.


Venezuela ‘on alert,’ closes Curacao border ahead of aid shipment

Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez attends a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, February 19, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 29 min 45 sec ago
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Venezuela ‘on alert,’ closes Curacao border ahead of aid shipment

  • Despite sitting on the world’s biggest oil reserves, Venezuela is gripped by a humanitarian crisis, with a shortage of food and medicine

CARACAS: Venezuela’s military said Tuesday it was on “alert” at its frontiers following threats by US President Donald Trump and ordered its border with Curacao closed ahead of a planned aid shipment.
Opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido vowed to bring aid in from various points Saturday “one way or another” despite military efforts to block it.
But commanders doubled down on their allegiance to President Nicolas Maduro after Trump warned them to abandon him.
“The armed forces will remain deployed and on alert along the borders... to avoid any violations of territorial integrity,” said Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino.
Regional commander Vladimir Quintero later confirmed media reports that Venezuela had ordered the suspension of air and sea links with Curacao and the neighboring Netherlands Antilles islands of Aruba and Bonaire.
Shipments of food and medicine for Venezuelans suffering in the country’s economic crisis have become a focus of the power struggle between Maduro and Guaido.
Aid is being stored in Colombia near the Venezuelan border and Guaido aims also to bring in consignments via Brazil and Curacao.
A Brazilian presidential spokesman said the country was cooperating with the United States to supply aid to Venezuela but would leave it to Venezuelans to take the goods over the border.
Maduro says the aid plan is a smokescreen for a US invasion. He blames US sanctions and “economic war” for Venezuela’s crisis.

Guaido, the 35-year-old leader of the Venezuelan legislature, has appealed to military leaders to switch allegiance to him and let the aid through.
He has offered military commanders an amnesty if they abandon Maduro.
But the military high command has so far maintained its public backing for Maduro — seen as key to keeping him in power.
“We reiterate unrestrictedly our obedience, subordination and loyalty” to Maduro, Padrino said.
Guaido posted a series of tweets calling by name on senior military leaders commanding border posts to abandon Maduro.
He has branded Maduro illegitimate, saying the elections that returned the socialist leader to power last year were fixed.
The United States and some 50 other countries back Guaido as interim president.
Trump has refused to rule out US military action in Venezuela. He raised the pressure on Monday, issuing a warning to the Venezuelan military.
He told them that if they continue to support Maduro, “you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything.”
Padrino rejected Trump’s threat, branding the US president “arrogant.”
If foreign powers try to help install a new government by force, they will have to do so “over our dead bodies,” Padrino said.

Despite sitting on the world’s biggest oil reserves, Venezuela is gripped by a humanitarian crisis, with a shortage of food and medicine.
It has suffered four years of recession marked by hyperinflation that the International Monetary Fund says will reach 10 million percent this year.
An estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have left the country since 2015.
Guaido says 300,000 people face death without the aid but Maduro denies there is a humanitarian crisis.
Padrino said the military would not be “blackmailed” by “a pack of lies and manipulations.”
Maduro said that 300 tons of Russian aid would reach Venezuela on Wednesday. He previously announced the arrival of goods from China, Cuba and Russia, his main international allies.
In a series of tweets, Guaido urged supporters to write to the generals “from the heart, with arguments, without violence, without insults,” to win them over.

Guaido says he has enlisted the support of 700,000 people to help bring in the aid on Saturday and is aiming for a million in total.
He thanked Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain for pledging “more than $18 million for the humanitarian aid.”
British entrepreneur Richard Branson said he will hold a pro-aid concert just over the border in Colombia on Friday.
British rock star Peter Gabriel and Colombian pop singer Carlos Vives are among those scheduled to perform.
Former Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters weighed in on Maduro’s side in a video broadcast on Venezuelan state media, criticizing Branson and Gabriel and said the aid was being politicized.
Maduro’s government plans to stage a rival concert on its side of the border.