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New British ambassador urges swift US-UK trade negotiations

Britain says it is ready to start trade negotiations with the United States but is waiting for agreement from the Trump administration on whether those negotiations can now be conducted virtually.

Karen Pierce, Britain’s new ambassador to the United States, told POLITICO that moving quickly on the bilateral trade negotiations would “put a bit of optimism into the world economy,” and that Britain is “actively discussing” the matter with the U.S. Trade Representative and Commerce Department. Pierce said American negotiators are “famously tough on trade” but that Britain “certainly intends to fight our corner.”

Pierce also said the U.K. will fiercely resist the “backward step” of protectionism as a way of dealing with the supply chain weaknesses exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Addressing “strategic vulnerabilities in supply” can coexist with “keeping the global economy open and keeping trade flowing,” she added.

Negotiations between the U.S and U.K. were slated to begin in March, but were disrupted by coronavirus lockdowns and travel restrictions. Britain is conducting separate trade negotiations with the European Union via videoconference.


Brexit: Disappointing progress in trade talks, says Michel Barnier

The EU’s chief negotiator said, “genuine progress” and a decision on whether to extend the transition period were both needed by June.

The UK said “limited progress” had been made and talks needed to “move forward in a constructive fashion”.

The two sides will hold two further rounds of talks before the end of the transition period in December.

Mr. Barnier said a joint decision would be taken on 30 June about whether to extend the transition period. But the UK government has already said it will refuse to extend it beyond December, even if the EU requested a delay.

Following the talks – which took place using video-conferencing technology because of the coronavirus pandemic – Mr. Barnier said: “The UK has affirmed once again this week its wish to make tangible progress between now and June and we’re on the same wavelength on this and we respect the same timetable.


European Commission aims to bring back medicine production to Europe

The EU needs to focus on ways to bring the production of medicines and pharmaceutical ingredients back to Europe to avoid a future recurrence of shortages experienced during the COVID-19 crisis, the EU health boss Stella Kyriakides told MEPs on Tuesday (21 April).

“It has become abundantly clear that we need to work towards the need for increasing the production of medicines and innovation within the EU,” she said while speaking before the European Parliament’s health committee (ENVI).

The Cypriot Commissioner said the EU executive will include this proposal in the pharmaceutical strategy expected to be released at the end of this year.

Together with the Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton, Kyriakides wrote a letter urging the industry to increase the production of life-saving medicines in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

However, the problem is exacerbated by some protectionist measures put in place by third countries such as export bans on critical medicines used for the treatment of COVID-19.

She said that, in the midst of the crisis, the Commission had to go through diplomatic channels, asking Indian authorities to lift the export ban on paracetamol and 12 other active pharmaceutical ingredients.

With the supply chain spanning several continents these days, European pharmaceutical companies have their products manufactured in India, while 70% of the underlying active ingredients come from China.



Middle East

Mideast’s first next generation ‘Smart hub’ logistics warehouse launches in Bahrain

On Thursday (23 April), Bahrain’s MVC Global – providers of one of the leading supply chain track-and-trace platforms for pharmaceuticals and medical devices – announced a strategic partnership with Cox Logistics Group, a Bahrain-based Logistics provider, to launch a first-of-its-kind “SmartHub” logistics warehouse for pharmaceuticals and food to be headquartered in Bahrain and serve the GCC market.

At a time when global supply chains are decimated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this next generation logistics warehouse will utilize emerging technologies to ensure the speedy and efficient distribution of much-needed foods and medicines across the entire GCC, drastically reducing the time required for paperwork, administration and bureaucracy. It will be the first ‘smart hub’ in the Middle East to integrate a track and trace system on a blockchain platform with smart contracts for customs clearances and fee payments.

The MVC ‘SmartHub’ platform integrates blockchain with serialized Track & Trace, IoT sensors, and ‘SmartPass’ with smart contracts for compliance and government clearances, as well as Fintech for supply chain finance and cross border payments. The ‘SmartHub’ will combine MVC’s platform with advanced AI technologies and will facilitate both cold and non-cold storage distribution for food, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies in Bahrain and across the GCC. The configuration and deployment of the system are currently under way.

Cox Logistics Group joins MVC’s existing strategic partners — value chain platform provider AVC Global and leading track and trace solutions provider rfxcel Corporation. Additional strategic partnerships are being announced soon. The partners are all working together with a view to deploy a network of Smart Hubs and Node Operations with ‘SmartPass’ across the entire GCC.

[Saudi Gazette]

Abu Dhabi Ports announces measures to provide relief to businesses facing operational challenges

Abu Dhabi Ports announced on Thursday (23 April) major initiatives to address concerns of its customers across its industrial and economic zone subsidiaries in these uncertain times.

The relief package includes several measures for existing customers, including a three-month rent deferment for Q2, a freeze on late payment penalties and an exemption from Tawtheeq fees.

The relief package also includes measures for new investors, including a waiving of applications fees, a 25 percent reduction in land lease rates for the first year, an exemption on Tawtheeq fees and a relinquishing of land fixing fees.

The measures are part of Abu Dhabi Ports’ relief effort for investors and customers in response to the global economic slowdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, Abu Dhabi Ports Group CEO, said, “In line with the Government’s effort to extend relief to businesses during these exceptional economic circumstances, Abu Dhabi Ports is taking necessary steps to help our industrial and economic zone customers overcome the current challenges brought on by the spread of coronavirus.

“Supporting customers in maintaining their competitive advantage is at the core of Abu Dhabi Ports’ decision making. The steps we have announced today reflect our commitment to enhancing the growth and stability of our customers and tenants in line with the government directives.

“We remain united and resolute in facing our difficulties together, confident in the belief that we will emerge from this crisis better and stronger.”

The relief measures come on the heels of a 25% waiver on rentals for new customers at Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi, KIZAD.

[Emirates News Agency]



Egypt exports $55mln medicinal plants, herbs

Egypt has exported 35,000 tons of medicinal and aromatic plants as well as herbs from July 2019 to March, the Ministry of Trade and Industry announced.

With a total value of $55 million, Egypt has exported to 86 countries in the European Union (EU), North and South America, Africa, Australia, and Arab states.

Meanwhile, Egypt has exported 12,500 tons of medicinal and aromatic plants as well as herbs during the first quarter from January to March.

The country has exported 29 items of these plants at a total value of $20 million during the first three months of 2020.