Irish PM: Ireland could try to block Mercosur trade deal on Amazon concerns

DUBLIN, Aug 23 — As wildfires rage through the Brazilian Amazon, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said Dublin will vote against a trade deal between the European Union and South American trade bloc Mercosur unless Brazil takes action to…

Indonesia tells some Jakarta supermarkets to remove 'palm oil-free' products

JAKARTA, Aug 23 ― Indonesia, the world's top palm oil producer, has told some retailers in Jakarta to remove food products with “palm oil-free” labels from their shops, a government official said, as it seeks to protect its key export. Palm…

Trump attacks Ford Motor for not backing fuel economy rollback

WASHINGTON: U.S. President Donald Trump stepped up a series of attacks on automakers on Wednesday for not backing his administration’s plan to roll back Obama-era fuel efficiency rules, singling out Ford Motor Co in particular for backing a deal with California for stricter fuel economy standards.

Ford is one of four automakers, along with Honda Motor Co , BMW AG and Volkswagen AG, that reached a voluntary agreement with California on fuel efficiency rules, defying Trump and his administration’s effort to strip the state of the right to fight climate change by setting its own standards.

The rules under the California plan are looser than the Obama-era regulations but stricter than what the Trump has proposed.

Trump said company founder Henry Ford would be “very disappointed if he saw his modern-day descendants wanting to build a much more expensive car, that is far less safe and doesn’t work as well, because execs don’t want to fight California regulators.”

Ford said in a statement that it is focused on acting to protect the environment while also protecting the affordability of vehicles. “This agreement with California provides regulatory stability while reducing CO2 more than complying with two different standards,” it said.

There is no evidence that existing fuel economy rules would degrade vehicle performance. And environmentalists and many states challenge Trump’s assertion that his administration’s proposed rule would boost vehicle safety or dramatically reduce the price of vehicles — and argue that consumers will save more in reduced fuel costs under the Obama rules.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra responded to Trump’s attacks on automakers saying it would result in an additional 540 million metric tons of greenhouse gases and other harms. “This doesn’t look like a better alternative to us,” he said.

The White House has urged other automakers not to back the California agreement, while Democrats have been calling and writing automakers urging them to sign on with California.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday ridiculed the voluntary framework, which it said “so far has been nothing more than a press release.”

“My proposal to the politically correct Automobile Companies would lower the average price of a car to consumers by more than $3000, while at the same time making the cars substantially safer. Engines would run smoother. Very little impact on the environment! Foolish executives!” Trump tweeted earlier.

Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, representing General Motors Co, Toyota Motor Corp, Ford, Volkswagen and others, said the companies “look forward to seeing a final rule soon. We support increases to standards that optimize all the priorities, including affordability so more Americans can buy a new car, plus preserving jobs and safety at the same time.”

GM has not backed the voluntary agreement, arguing that it does not properly credit the company’s electric vehicles.

Even so, Trump tweeted that the founders of Ford and GM “are ‘rolling over’ at the weakness of current car company executives” over the fuel rules, adding: “Crazy!”

GM said late Wednesday that the company is “continuously improving fuel economy” and is focused on “working with all parties on a solution that would involve a 50-state solution and a national electric vehicle program.”

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said Trump’s tweet was completely untrue. “Trump’s rollback is unraveling from every corner,” he said.

All major automakers are on record saying they oppose the administration’s “preferred option” announced in August 2018, which would freeze fuel economy requirements at 2020 levels through 2026.

Trump’s tweet misstated some aspects of the administration’s proposal, expected to be finalized sometime after late September. The proposal said that by the 2030 model year, the average price increase of a new vehicle would be reduced by $1,850 and consumers would pay $490 less for financing, insurance and taxes. There is nothing in the administration’s proposed revisions that would result in engines running more smoothly.

The Trump plan’s preferred alternative would hike U.S. oil consumption by about 500,000 barrels per day in the 2030s while reducing automakers’ collective regulatory costs by more than $300 billion. It would bar California from requiring automakers to sell a rising number of electric vehicles or setting state emissions rules.

The administration says the increased fuel use would hike the average global temperature by 3/1000th of one degree Celsius by 2100, but would save thousands of lives over the next 30 years — in part because consumers would more quickly buy safer, cheaper vehicles.

Environmentalists and many states reject that analysis.

The Obama-era rules adopted in 2012 called for a fleetwide fuel efficiency average of 46.7 miles per gallon by 2025, with average annual increases of about 5%, compared with 37 mpg by 2026 under the Trump administration’s preferred option. – Reuters

Japan, S.Korea agree on need for dialogue to resolve feud on wartime labour

TOKYO, Aug 21 — Japan and South Korea today agreed on the need for dialogue to resolve a feud over compensating Korean wartime workers that has spilled into trade, and put a deep chill on ties between Washington’s two biggest Asian allies….

FGV: Most issues raised in NGOs’ petition to US Customs resolved

PETALING JAYA: FGV Holdings Bhd has clarified that most allegations in a petition submitted by a coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been corrected over the period beginning December 2018.

The plantation giant said one major item – pertaining to the legalisation of foreign workers in Sabah, which requires engagement at government level and involves policy changes – is expected to be com-pleted by year-end.

FGV was responding to the petition dated Aug 15, 2019 and addressed to the Acting Commissioner for the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). There are several allegations made against FGV in the petition, citing a number of sources, including an article in The Wall Street Journal that was published on July 26, 2015.

“Regrettably, some of those allegations were indeed factually accurate at the time,” FGV said in a press releasetoday.

FGV said it will appoint independent third parties next month to audit and verify each of the newly appointed foreign worker recruitment agencies to ensure that they are in full compliance with FGV’s requirements.

The agreements with the independent third parties are being finalised and an announcement will be made at an appropriate time.

Earlier in March, FGV revised its foreign worker recruitment processes and appointed 13 new recruitment agencies for Indonesia and India. All these recruitment agencies were appointed through an open tender process.

It said each agency had been vetted through a stringent process and engaged under new contractual terms that included protection of the rights of foreign workers.

FGV also is in the process of engaging and appointing independent third-party assessors to audit and verify its grievance mechanism processes, independent third-party assessors to map the risks within its traceability protocols for oils produced by third party suppliers, including smallholders and estates, who account for 70% of the palm oil produced by FGV.

“A key element in addressing the issues that have been raised in the petition is the traceability of the fresh fruit bunches (FFB) supplied to FGV’s mills. At this time, FGV has 100% traceability to all our own estates and to all FFB produced by smallholders who are part of organised government schemes. This accounts for about 70% of the oil produced by FGV.

“Of the additional 30% or about one million tonnes of oil produced from plantations owned by independent smallholders and estates, FGV is now able to trace 66% of its FFB quantity to Tier 1 suppliers (estates of origin and collection centres). Thus, 86% of the oil produced by FGV’s mills is now fully traceable to Tier 1 suppliers,” explained FGV.

FGV said any supplier who does not comply with its requirements on labour standards, human rights and environmental sustainability will be terminated if they are unable to change their practices within a reasonable time frame.

FGV has 68 mills in Malaysia and an oil palm planted area of 339,385ha. Of this, 290,829ha is leased from the Federal Land Development Agency (Felda) and was developed as part of the national agricultural development

EU slaps anti-subsidy duties on Indonesian biodiesel

BRUSSELS, Aug 13 — The European Union has imposed duties on imports of subsidised biodiesel from Indonesia in order to level the playing field for EU producers, officials said today. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, imposed…

VEWC finances the largest bauxite mine in Malaysia

SUBANG JAYA: Private investment firm Via East West Capital (VEWC) has sealed a memorandum of understanding with The One Minerals Mining Sdn Bhd (TOMM), where VEWC would provide TOMM staged funding of US$350 (RM1.47 billion) for 7,000 acres of bauxite mining area in Johor.

The first tranche of funding would be US$50 million for 1,000 acres of bauxite mine.

This project is going to be the largest mining project in this country. It is expected to be lucrative and would provide a big boost to the country’s export income. This world-class mine is expected to generate around 500,000 metrics tons of bauxite per month or 6 million metrics tons annually.

The main market for bauxite is China. Bauxite prices have remained historically strong at a time when other commodity prices have fallen.

The bauxite mine would be operated, engineered, procured and constructed by TOMM in Johor. Mining for bauxite is simple, requiring little more than stripping back topsoil to reveal bauxite ore. The bauxite forms blankets typically between 1 and 6m, but in places up to 10m thick. Once the ore is extracted the top soil is easily re-established and the land restored.

TOMM plans to increase the mining area to a total of 7,000 acres over the next five years.

The project would be financed by the VEWC, which provides real time and insight investment details to all their investors directly, without going through third party. Investment information of the investors are securely stored with VEWC private node block technology, which is bulletproof and unhackable.

In recent years, bauxite mines near Kuantan came under deep scrutiny by local residences, media and relevant government agencies due to its poor environmental track records.

TOMM plans to remove the stigma associated with bauxite mining and is committed to be an environmental-friendly mining company. Equipped with VEWC latest vessel and GPS tracking technology, TOMM’s monitoring center would have 24 hours satellite surveillances to assure green mining practices.

TOMM has also plans for mining areas which have turned non-viable for bauxite mining. These plots of waste mining land would be turned into solar energy farms, which would supply clean energy to the rakyat.

Indonesia threatens tariff hike on EU dairy in palm oil trade spat

JAKARTA, Aug 9 — Indonesia’s trade minister today threatened to impose higher tariffs on EU dairy imports in response to the bloc’s proposed move to hit biodiesel made from palm oil with anti-subsidy duties. The warning could escalate a trade…

Minister: Over RM100m allocated to assist smallholders get Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil certification

JERANTUT, Aug 4 — The government has allocated more than RM100 million to assist smallholders obtain the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification to increase the value of the commodity in the international market. As such, Primary…

Former Audi boss joins ex-VW chief in dock over ‘dieselgate’

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, July 31 — Former Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler could become the first auto boss to stand trial in Germany over the “dieselgate” emissions cheating scandal, four years and tens of billions of euros after parent company…