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BEIJING — Beijing wants the EU to scrap its preliminary tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles by July 4, China’s state-controlled Global Times reported, after both sides agreed to hold new trade talks. 

Provisional European Union duties of up to 38.1% on imported Chinese-made EVs are set to kick in by July 4 while the bloc investigates what it says are excessive and unfair subsidies. 

China has repeatedly called on the EU to cancel its tariffs, expressing a willingness to negotiate. Beijing does not want to be embroiled in another tariff war, still stung by U.S. tariffs on its goods imposed by the Trump administration, but says it would take all steps to protect Chinese firms should one happen. 

Both sides agreed to restart talks after a call between EU Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis and China’s Commerce Minister on Saturday during a visit to China by Germany’s economy minister, who said the doors for discussion are “open.” 

China’s Global Times, citing observers, said the best outcome is that the EU scraps its tariff decision before July 4. 

But the Commission, analysts and European trade lobby groups stressed that talks would be a major undertaking and China would need to come willing to make major concessions. 

“Nobody will dare to do this now. Not before the elections in France,” said Alicia Garcia Herrero, senior fellow at Bruegel, an influential EU affairs think tank, on whether the planned curbs could be dropped. 

“The Commission can’t change a decision it has been pondering for months on months on months,” she added. “Yes, China is putting pressure on the member states, but they would need to vote with a qualified majority against the Commission.” 

The tariffs are set to be finalized on Nov. 2 at the end of the EU anti-subsidy investigation. 

“The EU side emphasized that any negotiated outcome to its investigation must be effective in addressing the injurious subsidization,” a Commission spokesperson said on Monday. 

The Chinese commerce ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. 

Talks are a ‘good sign’  

Siegfried Russwurm, head of Germany’s biggest industry association BDI, said it was a “good sign” that both sides would hold talks in the ongoing dispute. 

“You know the old saying: as long as there are talks you’re not shooting at each other,” he told German public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. 

Russwurm, who also serves as chairman for German conglomerate and car supplier Thyssenkrupp, said tariffs was the last thing Germany needed as a major exporting nation. 

At the same time, Brussels’ move to apply tariffs of varying degrees suggested a thorough analysis has taken place and that this was not an effort that targets the entire Chinese car sector in equal measure. 

Meantime, Maximilian Butek, executive director at the German Chamber of Commerce in China, said there was “zero chance” that the preliminary tariffs would be removed by July 4 unless China eliminated all the issues flagged by the European Commission. 

EU trade policy has turned increasingly protective over concerns that China’s production-focused development model could see it flooded with cheap goods as Chinese firms look to step up exports amid weak domestic demand. 

China has rejected accusations of unfair subsidies or that it has an overcapacity problem, saying the development of its EV industry has been the result of advantages in technology, market and industry supply chains.  

“When European Commission President Von der Leyen announced she would investigate China’s new energy vehicles … I had an intuitive feeling it was not only an economic issue but also a geopolitical issue,” said Zhang Yansheng, chief research fellow at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges. 

Armed and ready 

Trade relations between the 27-strong bloc and the world’s No. 2 economy took an abrupt turn for the worse in May 2021 when the European Parliament voted to freeze ratification of what would have been a landmark investment treaty because of tit-for-tat sanctions over allegations of human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region. 

They came to blows again that year when China downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania and told multinationals to sever relations with the Baltic state after Vilnius invited democratically governed Taiwan, which China claims as part of its territory, to open a representative office in the capital. 

Although calling for talks, Beijing has also indicated that it has retaliatory measures ready if the EU does not back down, and that it considers Brussels wholly responsible for the escalating tensions. 

The Global Times, which first reported China was considering opening a tit-for-tat anti-dumping investigation into European pork imports — which the commerce ministry confirmed last week — has also teed up an anti-subsidy investigation into European dairy goods and tariffs on large engine petrol cars. 

Chinese authorities have dropped hints about possible retaliatory measures through state media commentaries and interviews with industry figures. 

“It seems probable that Beijing will raise tariffs up to 25% for Europe-made cars with 2.5 or above liter engines,” said Jacob Gunter, lead analyst at Berlin-based China studies institute MERICS. 

“Pork and dairy are already on the table for Beijing, and likely more agricultural products will be threatened,” he added. 

“On the EU side, there are a variety of ongoing investigations … so we should expect some sort of measures targeting distortions on [Chinese] products ranging from medical devices to airport security scanners to steel pipes.” 

Hong Kong — A suspected Chinese state-sponsored hacking group has stepped up its targeting of Taiwanese organizations, particularly those in sectors such as government, education, technology and diplomacy, according to cybersecurity intelligence company Recorded Future. 

In recent years, relations between China and Taiwan, a self-governed island across the Taiwan Strait that Beijing claims as its territory, have deteriorated. The cyberattacks by the group known as RedJulliett were observed between November 2023 and April 2024, during the lead up to Taiwan’s presidential elections in January and the subsequent change in administration. 

RedJuliett has targeted Taiwanese organizations in the past, but this is the first time that activity was seen at such a scale, a Recorded Future analyst said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of safety concerns. 

The report said RedJuliett attacked 24 organizations, including government agencies in places like Laos, Kenya and Rwanda, as well as Taiwan. 

It also hacked into websites of religious organizations in Hong Kong and South Korea, a U.S university and a Djiboutian university. The report did not identify the organizations. 

Recorded Future said RedJuliett accessed the servers of those places via a vulnerability in their SoftEther enterprise virtual private network, or VPN software, an open-source VPN that allows remote connections to an organization’s networks. 

RedJuliett has been observed attempting to break into systems of more than 70 Taiwanese organizations including three universities, an optoelectronics company and a facial recognition company that has contracts with the government. 

It was unclear if RedJuliett managed to break into those organizations: Recorded Future only said it observed the attempts to identify vulnerabilities in their networks. 

RedJuliett’s hacking patterns match those of Chinese state-sponsored groups, according to Recorded Future. 

It said that based on the geolocations of IP addresses, RedJulliett is likely based out of the city of Fuzhou, in China’s southern Fujian province, whose coast faces Taiwan. 

“Given the close geographical proximity between Fuzhou and Taiwan, Chinese intelligence services operating in Fuzhou are likely tasked with intelligence collection against Taiwanese targets,” the report said. 

“RedJuliett is likely targeting Taiwan to collect intelligence and support Beijing’s policy-making on cross-strait relations,” the Recorded Future report said.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately comment.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson dismissed the allegations.

“I don’t know the specifics of what you mentioned, but I can tell you that it’s not the first time the company you mentioned has fabricated disinformation on so-called Chinese hacking operations. There is absolutely no professionalism or credibility to speak of in what the company does,” the spokesperson, Mao Ning, said.

Microsoft reported in August last year that RedJuliett, which Microsoft tracks under the name Flax Typhoon, was targeting Taiwanese organizations. 

China has in recent years stepped up military drills around Taiwan and imposed economic and diplomatic pressure on the island. 

Relations between Taiwan and Beijing worsened further after the election in January of Taiwan’s new president Lai Ching-te, who China has deemed a “separatist,” after he said in his inauguration speech that Taiwan and China were not subordinate to each other. Like his predecessor Tsai Ing-wen, Lai has said that there is no need to declare Taiwanese independence because it is already an independent sovereign state. 

Like many other countries including the U.S., China has been known to engage in cyberespionage. Earlier this year, the U.S. and Britain accused China of a sweeping cyberespionage campaign that allegedly hit millions of people. 

Beijing has consistently denied engaging in any form of state-sponsored hacking, instead saying that China itself is a major target of cyberattacks. 

According to Recorded Future, Chinese state-sponsored groups will likely continue to target Taiwanese government agencies, universities and critical technology companies via “public-facing” devices such as open-source VPN software, which provide limited visibility and logging capabilities. 

Companies and organizations can best protect themselves by prioritizing and patching vulnerabilities once they become known, Recorded Future’s threat intelligence analyst said.

Gia Lai Province — Vietnam’s coffee growers have been hit hard by the worst drought in nearly a decade this year, and that could mean a morning espresso is about to get more costly.  

The country is the world’s second biggest coffee producer and the top producer of robusta beans, the variety most commonly found in espressos and instant coffees.  

Domestic forecasts for next season’s harvest in Vietnam remain grim, with the nation’s Mercantile Exchange expecting a 10-16% fall in output due to the extreme heat.  

Doan Van Thang is a 39-year-old coffee farmer from the central Gia Lai province.  

“The drought dried up this whole area and the surrounding areas, and the water shortage is so severe that compared to last year, the harvest of coffee cherries is very low. We lost a lot of the output. It’s very small, very low this year.”  

With the price of coffee beans hitting a record high, farmers are enjoying the extra cash.  

They are also trying out new tactics to protect trees in the heatwave, like letting them grow for longer, allowing their roots to access deeper water reserves.  

Growers also soften the soil around plants, or cover it with leaves to improve absorption of rainwater and fertilizers.  

And a return of rainfall in recent weeks has improved the outlook, boosting confidence among farmers and officials.  

But it remains unclear whether the improved weather conditions and new farming practices will help boost output and drive down prices of robusta beans.

“We farmers should be happy when the price increases, but due to this drought, we are not very happy because the price increases but the output decreases. So in general, we’re happy and we’re sad at the same time because the climate changes erratically, and we can’t grasp those changes, so we are more sad than happy because the output has decreased much more compared to previous years.”  

The United States Department of Agriculture has been far less pessimistic than domestic projections – estimating Vietnam’s next harvest to be roughly steady.  

Whatever the impact on the harvest, coffee costs for drinkers around the world are likely to rise.  

While record wholesale prices have so far had a limited impact on consumer prices, there are signs that might be changing.  

Recent data from Eurostat showed coffee inflation up by 1.6% in the European Union in April and 2.5% in robusta-loving Italy.  

That’s still well below price rises from a year earlier, but it was higher than 1% in the March EU reading – a sign roasters may have started to pass their higher costs on to consumers.

Paris — The promises are appealing — and expensive.   

Vying to oust the centrist government of President Emmanuel Macron in an upcoming two-round parliamentary election June 30 and July 7, French political parties of both the far right and far left are vowing to cut gasoline taxes, let workers retire earlier and raise wages.   

Their campaign pledges threaten to bust an already-swollen government budget, push up French interest rates and strain France’s relations with the European Union.   

“The snap election could well replace Macron’s limping centrist government with one led by parties whose campaigns have abandoned any pretense of fiscal discipline,’’ economist Brigitte Granville of Queen Mary University of London wrote Thursday on the Project Syndicate website.   

The turbulence began June 9 when voters handed Macron a defeat at the hands of Marine Le Pen’s hard right National Rally party in EU parliamentary elections. Macron promptly and surprisingly called a snap parliamentary election, convinced that French voters would rally to prevent the first far-right government from taking power in France since the Nazi occupation in World War II. 

  

Macron is aligned against both Le Pen’s National Rally and the New Popular Front, a coalition of far- to center-left parties.   

“The center has kind of evaporated,’’ said French economist Nicolas Veron, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. The National Rally and the New Popular Front are “radical in very different ways, but they’re both very far from the mainstream.’’   

The political extremes are benefiting from widespread voter discontent about painful price rises, squeezed household budgets and other hardships. The French economy is sputtering: The International Monetary Fund expects it to eke out weak growth of 0.7% this year, down from an unimpressive 0.9% in 2023.   

The political pledges to put money in voters’ pockets sent economists reaching for calculators. Their answer: The costs could be considerable, at least tens of billions of euros.   

News of National Rally’s political ascendance sent France’s CAC 40 stock index tumbling to its worst week in more than two years, although the market calmed somewhat last week. Yields on French government bonds also rose on worries about the potential strain on government finances.   

Macron acknowledged that National Rally’s economic pledges “perhaps make people happy,” but claimed they would cost 100 billion euros ($107 billion) annually. And the left’s plans, he charged, are “four times worse in terms of cost.’’   

Jordan Bardella, the National Rally president gunning to become France’s prime minister in the election, poo-poos the figure cited by Macron, saying it was “pulled out of the government’s hat.” But Bardella has yet to detail how much his party’s plans would cost or to say how they’d be paid for.   

Likewise, the New Popular Front’s 23-page list of campaign pledges doesn’t cost them out or detail how they’d be financed. But the coalition vows to “abolish the privileges of billionaires,” taxing high earners, fortunes and other wealth more heavily. It says it doesn’t intend to add to France’s debts.   

Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whose France Unbowed party is fielding the largest number of candidates in the coalition, says its platform would require 200 billion euros ($214 billion) in public spending over five years but would generate 230 billion euros ($246 billion) in revenue by stimulating France’s economy.   

Bardella vows to slash sales taxes — from 20% to 5.5% — on fuel, electricity and gas, “because I think there are millions of French people in our country who this year can no longer afford to heat themselves or are forced to limit their trips.” The Paris-based Institut Montaigne think tank estimates the cost of that pledge at between 9 billion and 13.6 billion euros ($9.6 billion to $14.5 billion) annually in lost revenue. France’s Finance Ministry estimates an even bigger dent in public coffers: 16.8 billion euros ($18 billion) per year.   

On the left, the New Popular Front pledges to freeze prices for essentials — fuel, energy and foodstuffs — as part of a package to help some of France’s poorest. It’s also promising a considerable bump in the minimum wage, raising it by 200 euros ($214) to 1,600 euros ($1,711) net per month. The Institut Montaigne says that those two pledges together could amount to an annual hit of between 12.5 billion euros ($13.4 billion) and 41.5 billion euros ($44.4 billion) for public finances. It also warns that the wage bump could hurt the economy and jobs by making labor costlier.   

Both the left and the right pledge to roll back pension reforms that Macron railroaded through parliament last year in the face of massive street protests, raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 to help finance the pension system. Doing so risks reopening the politically divisive question of how France can continue to adequately fund pensions as its population ages.   

Even before the latest political turbulence, France was already under pressure to do something about its unbalanced government budget. The EU watchdogs have criticized France for running up excessive debts. France already is operating with a higher debt load than European neighbors, with its public debt at an estimated 112% of the size of its economy. That compares with less than 90% for the eurozone overall and just 63% for Germany.   

The EU has long insisted that member states keep their annual deficits below 3% of gross domestic product. But those targets have often been ignored, even by Germany and France, the EU’s biggest economies.   

France’s deficit last year stood at 5.5%. The EU’s Commission recommended that France and six other countries start an “excessive deficit procedure,’’ beginning a long process that can ultimately force a country to take corrective action.   

The upcoming election is for the lower house of France’s parliament, the National Assembly. Macron would remain president until 2027 even if his party loses, which might require an awkward “cohabitation’’ with the National Rally on the far right or New Popular Front on the left.   

Macron, who had sought to rein in France’s budget deficits, would have a greatly reduced say over economic policy, though he would still oversee foreign and defense policy. With a leftist or rightwing government calling the shots on economic policy, the country’s budget problems would likely go unresolved, leading to higher yields on French bonds.   

The nightmare scenario would be a replay of what happened to the United Kingdom in September 2022 when then-Prime Minister Liz Truss spooked financial markets after proposing a wave of tax cuts without cutting any spending to offset them. Truss’ plan immediately sent the values of the British pound and U.K. government bonds tumbling. The Bank of England ultimately had to step in to stabilize financial markets, while Truss quit after just 45 days in office.   

Something similar might happen if a right- or left-wing French government chose to ignore the EU’s budget rules and went on a spending spree that sent French bonds tumbling and interest rates higher. The European Central Bank might then be forced to buy French bonds to drive yields lower and calm markets.   

“The ECB would be reluctant to come to the rescue of France itself unless and until any future government put in place a credible plan to bring the deficit down,’’ Andrew Kenningham, chief Europe economist for Capital Economics, wrote Thursday. “But if yields were spiraling out of control, it could also be forced to step in, just as the Bank of England did.’’ 

AMSTERDAM — Apple’s App Store rules breach EU tech rules because they prevent app developers from steering consumers to alternative offers, EU antitrust regulators said on Monday, a charge that could result in a hefty fine for the iPhone maker.

The European Commission, which also acts as the European Union’s antitrust and technology regulator, said it had sent its preliminary findings to Apple following an investigation launched in March.

The charge against Apple is the first by the Commission under its landmark Digital Markets Act which seeks to rein in the power of Big Tech and ensure a level playing field for smaller rivals. It has until March next year to issue a final decision.

EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager cited issues with Apple’s new terms.

“As they stand, we think that these new terms do not allow app developers to communicate freely with their end users, and to conclude contracts with them,” she told a conference.

The Commission said under most of the business terms, Apple allows steering only through ‘link-outs’, meaning that app developers can include a link in their app that redirects the customer to a web page where the customer can conclude a contract.

It also criticised the fees charged by Apple for facilitating via the App Store the initial acquisition of a new customer by developers, saying they went beyond what was strictly necessary for such remuneration.

Apple said it had made a number of changes in the past several months to comply with the DMA after getting feedback from developers and the Commission.

“We are confident our plan complies with the law, and estimate more than 99% of developers would pay the same or less in fees to Apple under the new business terms we created,” the company said in an email.

The EU executive said it was also opening an investigation into the iPhone maker over its new contractual requirements for third-party app developers and app stores and whether these were necessary and proportionate.

DMA breaches can cost companies fines as much as 10% of their global annual turnover.

«У нас є юридична процедура для просування, уникаючи будь-якого блокування з боку деяких держав-членів, які не є частиною рішення»

MILAN — The post-pandemic surge in global sales of luxury handbags, shoes and apparel is set to stall this year amid a creativity crisis and price hikes as brands shift focus to the biggest spending customers, a new study by the Bain consultancy said Tuesday.

Bain is forecasting flat worldwide luxury sales in 2024 following a slight first-quarter dip, according to the study commissioned by the Altagamma association. The consultancy cited political uncertainty during a presidential election year in the United States as well as economic uncertainty in China that has brought on a phenomenon of “luxury shaming.”

Beyond socioeconomic factors and rising geopolitical tensions, the slowdown is also partly “self-inflicted,” said Bain partner Claudia D’Arpizio.

She cited a “creativity crisis,” in the sector, as a number of major fashion houses are transitioning creative directors, and a new focus on the super-wealthy customers, at the expense of the aspirational middle class and Gen-Z youngsters who fueled growth before the pandemic.

“There is a lack of clarity for many of these brands. They are making attempts to regain focus. It is five, six brands under turn-around, big ones. This is not helping the overall excitement,” D’Arpizio told The Associated Press. “This is a supply-driven industry. When you have the brands really in tune with customer needs, it usually reacts quickly.”

She said some “tweaks” are needed on strategy and price points, adding that “you can’t grow without the middle class and younger generations.”

Among major fashion houses, Gucci and Moschino have made runway debuts of their new creative directions, while the first Valentino collection by the new creative director hits the runway in September. Chanel has the position to fill after the incumbent resigned earlier this month.

While inflation is one element of price hikes, D’Arpizio said brands are also refocusing on the estimated 6 million to 8 million consumers at the top of the pyramid as they search for better profit margins. At the same time, there has been less rejuvenation in the offerings.

Steep price increases for items that don’t show significant innovation, and feel like something they have seen before, leaves customers “upset and puzzled.”

Flat global luxury sales forecasts follow a pent-up post-pandemic spending surge that pushed sales during the 2021-23 period up 24% over 2019 levels.

Last year, sales of personal luxury goods grew by 4% to 362 billion euros (about $388 billion) from 349 euros in 2022, due largely to a resurgence of U.S. and Asian tourism to Europe fueling purchases. Add in luxury travel, fine art, cars and yachts, the vast global luxury market expanded to 1.5 trillion euros last year — highlighting a trend toward experiences over tangible goods.

Japan is a bright spot as the return of foreign tourists with the yen at the lowest level to the U.S. dollar in 20 years, while Europe continues strong trends due to tourist spending and an increase in local consumption, especially in French and Italian cities.

Shanghai, China — The German vice-chancellor assured China on Saturday that the “doors” remained “open” to discuss EU surcharges on Chinese electric vehicles, without reassuring Beijing which promised to “firmly defend” its manufacturers.

Also, the Minister of Economy and Climate, Robert Habeck is making a visit that seems like a last chance to avoid a trade war between the Old Continent and the second world power, an important economic partner of Germany.

A task further complicated by the political context, the German leader reproached China on Saturday for its economic support for Russia against a backdrop of the invasion of Ukraine, stressing it was “harming” relations between Beijing and Brussels.

China regularly denounces these upcoming surcharges on electric vehicles as being “purely protectionist.”

“These are not punitive customs duties,” Habeck assured Zheng Shanjie, director of the Chinese Economic Planning Agency (NDRC) Saturday, according to a recording sent to AFP by the Chinese Embassy in Germany.

“This is not a punishment,” he insisted.

Up to 28% increase

Without compromise by July 4, the European Commission will impose up to 28% increase in customs duties on imports of Chinese electric vehicles, accusing Beijing of having, according to it, distorted competition by massively subsidizing this sector.

These surcharges would become definitive from November.

“For Europe, I can say that the doors are open and the invitation or offer for discussion has been made several times. Now it must be accepted,” Habeck said at a news conference in Shanghai.

From Brussels, Olof Gill, the EU spokesperson, assured that European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis and Chinese Trade Minister Wang Wentao “had a frank and constructive call on Saturday regarding the anti-subsidy investigation of the EU on electric cars produced in China.”

“Both sides will continue to engage at all levels in the coming weeks,” he added.

China vows to defend ‘rights’

Earlier Saturday, the tone had been firm on the Chinese side.

“If the EU shows sincerity, China wants to start negotiations as soon as possible” on the surcharges, Trade Minister Wang told him, according to the English-speaking state television CGTN.

“But if the EU persists in this course, we will take all necessary measures to defend our interests. This will include lodging a complaint with the dispute settlement mechanism of the World Trade Organization (WTO). We will firmly defend the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises.”

Beijing had already announced Monday that it had launched an anti-dumping investigation into imports of pork and pork products from the European Union.

German and European manufacturers are strongly affected by cheaper Chinese competition. Imports of Chinese electric vehicles into Germany increased tenfold between 2020 and 2023.

China argues that the success of its electricity sector is due to innovation and efficient supply chains, not subsidies.

“(EU) protectionism will not protect (its manufacturers’) competitiveness and will only slow down the global fight against climate change and the promotion of a green transition,” Zheng told Habeck.

“We expect Germany to show leadership within the EU and take the right measures,” implying the cancellation of surcharges, he insisted, according to the New China agency.

Habeck blames Beijing

Such an epilogue seems improbable, with Habeck again blaming Beijing on Saturday for the surge in its trade with Moscow.

“The Russian war of aggression and Chinese support for the Russian government are already harming trade and economic relations between Europe and China,” he said he told his Chinese interlocutors.

China has pledged not to supply weapons to Russia and calls for respect for the territorial integrity of all countries — including Ukraine. But China has never condemned Moscow for its invasion.

Habeck assured Saturday that many “dual-use” goods (both civil and military) were used by Russia after passing through “third countries” — implying China.

“We therefore cannot accept” that the Russian invasion is supported with these products, insisted the German vice-chancellor, calling on Beijing to ban their export to its Russian neighbor.

German car manufacturers still fear a major trade conflict with Beijing, which would undermine their activity in this crucial market. For Mercedes, Volkswagen or BMW, China represents up to 36% of sales volumes.

Nairobi, Kenya — A 21-year-old man died after being hit by a tear gas canister during protests in Kenya this week, a human rights official and the victim’s relative said Saturday, in the second fatality in connection with the youth-led demonstrations. 

Led largely by Gen-Z Kenyans who have livestreamed the demonstrations against tax increases, the protests have been galvanized by widespread anger over President William Ruto’s economic policies. 

Thursday’s demonstrations in Nairobi were mostly peaceful, but officers fired tear gas and water cannons throughout the day to disperse protesters near parliament. 

According to a Kenya Human Rights Commission official, 21-year-old Evans Kiratu was “hit by a tear gas canister” during the demonstrations. 

“He was rushed to hospital around 6 p.m. on Thursday … and died there,” Ernest Cornel, a spokesperson at the Kenya Human Rights Commission, told AFP. “It is tragic that a young person can lose his life simply for agitating against the high cost of living.” 

The victim’s aunt told national broadcaster Citizen TV that her nephew had died in the hospital before she was able to see him. 

“We are demanding justice for my nephew,” she said. 

The rallies began in Nairobi on Tuesday before spreading across the country, with protesters calling for a national strike on Tuesday. 

Kiratu’s death comes on the heels of another fatality reported Friday, when a police watchdog group said it was investigating allegations that a 29-year-old man was shot by officers in Nairobi after the demonstrations. 

The Independent Policing Oversight Authority said it had “documented the death … allegedly as a result of [a] police shooting” Thursday. 

According to a police report seen by AFP, a 29-year-old man was taken to the hospital in Nairobi around 7 p.m. Thursday, “unconscious with a thigh injury” before “succumbing” to his injuries, without giving further details. 

Several organizations, including Amnesty International Kenya, said that at least 200 people were injured in Nairobi after Thursday’s protests, which saw thousands of people take to the streets across the country.

Following smaller-scale demonstrations in Nairobi earlier in the week, the cash-strapped government agreed to roll back several tax increases laid out in a new bill. 

But Ruto’s administration still intends to increase some taxes, defending the proposed levies as necessary for filling its coffers and cutting reliance on external borrowing. 

The tax increases will pile further pressure on Kenyans, with many already struggling to survive as the cost of living surges and well-paid jobs remain out of reach for young people. 

Organized largely through social media, the protests have caught the government by surprise, with demonstrators now calling for a nationwide shutdown. 

“Tuesday 25th June: #OccupyParliament and Total Shutdown Kenya. A national strike,” read a poster shared widely online, adding that “Gen Z are granting all hard-working Kenyans a day off. Parents keep your children at home in solidarity.” 

After the government agreed to scrap levies on bread purchases and car ownership as well as financial and mobile services, the treasury warned of a 200 billion shilling ($1.5 billion) shortfall. 

The proposed taxes were projected to raise 346.7 billion shillings ($2.7 billion), equivalent to 1.9% of GDP, and reduce the budget deficit from 5.7% to 3.3% of GDP. 

The government has now targeted an increase in fuel prices and export taxes to fill the void left by the changes, a move critics say will make life more expensive in a country battling high inflation. 

Kenya is one of the most dynamic economies in East Africa, but a third of its 51.5 million people live in poverty. 

Xichang, China — A French-Chinese satellite blasted off Saturday on a hunt for the mightiest explosions in the universe, in a notable example of cooperation between a Western power and the Asian giant.

Developed by engineers from both countries, the Space Variable Objects Monitor, or SVOM, will seek out gamma-ray bursts, the light from which has traveled billions of light years to reach Earth.

The 930-kilogram (2,050-pound) satellite carrying four instruments — two French, two Chinese — took off around 3 p.m. aboard a Chinese Long March 2-C rocket from a space base in Xichang, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, AFP journalists witnessed.

Gamma-ray bursts generally occur after the explosion of huge stars — those more than 20 times as big as the sun — or the fusion of compact stars.

The extremely bright cosmic beams can give off a blast of energy equivalent to over a billion billion suns.

Observing them is like “looking back in time, as the light from these objects takes a long time to reach us,” Ore Gottlieb, an astrophysicist at the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Astrophysics in New York, told AFP.

“Several mysteries”

The rays carry traces of the gas clouds and galaxies they pass through on their journey through space — valuable data for better understanding the history and evolution of the universe.

“SVOM has the potential to unravel several mysteries in the field of [gamma-ray bursts], including detecting the most distant GRBs in the universe, which correspond to the earliest GRBs,” Gottlieb said.

The most distant bursts identified to date were produced just 630 million years after the Big Bang — when the universe was in its infancy.

“We are … interested in gamma-ray bursts for their own sake, because they are very extreme cosmic explosions which allow us to better understand the death of certain stars,” said Frederic Daigne, an astrophysicist at the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris.

“All of this data makes it possible to test the laws of physics with phenomena that are impossible to reproduce in the laboratory on Earth,” he said.

Once analyzed, the data could help to better understand the composition of space, the dynamics of gas clouds or other galaxies.

The project stems from a partnership between the French and Chinese space agencies, as well as other scientific and technical groups from both nations.

Space cooperation at this level between the West and China is uncommon, especially since the United States banned all collaboration between NASA and Beijing in 2011.

Race against time

“U.S. concerns on technology transfer have inhibited U.S. allies from collaborating with the Chinese very much, but it does happen occasionally,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the United States.

In 2018, China and France jointly launched CFOSAT, an oceanographic satellite mainly used in marine meteorology.

And several European countries have taken part in China’s Chang’e lunar exploration program.

So, while SVOM is “by no means unique,” it remains “significant” in the context of space collaboration between China and the West, said McDowell.

Once in orbit 625 kilometers (388 miles) above the Earth, the satellite will send its data back to observatories.

The main challenge is that gamma-ray bursts are extremely brief, leaving scientists in a race against time to gather information.

Once it detects a burst, SVOM will send an alert to a team on duty around the clock.

Within five minutes, they will have to rev up a network of telescopes on the ground that will align precisely with the axis of the burst’s source to make more detailed observations.

ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN — Economic analysts in Kazakhstan say the government is using a formulation for setting the poverty line that fails to capture the number of people living below a humane standard of living. The result, they say, lowers the amount of assistance provided to the poor.

Kazakhstan sets the poverty line at about $70 a month, slightly over $2 a day. That results in an official poverty rate of 5.1% of the population. The World Bank, in a March report, More, Better and Inclusive Jobs in Kazakhstan, said that using its poverty line of $3.65 a day for lower middle-income countries (although the World Bank actually classifies Kazakhstan as upper middle-income) puts the poverty rate at about 10% in 2018.

Meruert Makhmutova, an economist and director of the Almaty-based Public Policy Research Center, said Kazakhstan should adopt the World Bank standard, which she said would result in more people receiving government assistance.

“The switch to $3.65 a day would automatically increase the number of the poor and the government would have to provide targeted social assistance to a greater number of people,” Makhmutova said. “As a result, the government, failing to admit the real scale of poverty, reduces budget spending on social assistance to poor citizens.”

The official Kazakh poverty level is close to the World Bank’s extreme poverty line of $2.15 a day, but Andrey Chebotarev, an Almaty-based economist and director of the Alternativa center for topical research, told VOA that figure is not applicable in Kazakhstan because of climate.

“It’s hard to just survive on the street in Kazakhstan in winter because the weather and climate make it impossible,” he told VOA, referring to winter temperatures that could drop to minus 30 degrees Celsius.

“We need to assess poverty differently,” he said.

Makhmutova also disputed methods authorities use to set the minimum wage and gauge the unemployment level.

Until recently, the minimum wage has been set arbitrarily without consideration of personal incomes or the real cost of living in the country. It was set around $190 a month for 2024, even though the average monthly wage was $890 at the end of last year.

“The government doesn’t use the average wage for setting the minimum wage, that’s why the minimum wage doesn’t grow substantially and its growth in the past few years doesn’t even match the inflation rate,” Makhmutova said.

Baglan Kasenov, the head of the Kazakh Labor and Social Protection Ministry’s department for labor and social partnership, told VOA the Kazakh government had adopted a new methodology to set the minimum wage starting next year. It conforms to International Labor Organization recommendations, he said, and will be based on the median wage and productivity, reaching 50% of the median wage in future. The median wage, where half of workers receive less than that and half receive more, was about $560 a month last year.

The joblessness rate is another contentious issue in Kazakhstan, as authorities, Chebotarev said, now categorize people, for example, farming their kitchen gardens and working without pay in family businesses as “self-employed,” which is new.

Makhmutova said the move “masks unemployment”; the number of jobless has been constant at around 450,000 people or under 5% in the past few years, whereas the number of self-employed is around 2.1 million, according to the government.

“As for unemployment, it’s a Kazakh invention of global scale because we have invented 2 million self-employed and blame everything on them,” Chebotarev said. “Our estimates of unemployment should be revised … but no one in government wants to consider self-employed as jobless.”

World Bank report questioned

Use of the government figures has resulted in criticism of the World Bank report, which claimed that despite declining economic growth, Kazakhstan’s poverty rate had dropped.

Makhmutova questioned the World Bank’s report because it based its analysis on “irrelevant” official Kazakh income and unemployment statistics – figures that are derived from the wrong method to assess poverty as well as being out of date.

She told VOA the report “is not objective in the first place because it relies on statistics provided by the labor ministry which avoids the assessment of the real scale of poverty and unemployment.”

In addition, although the report was published this year, “the latest statistical data on poverty is from 2018, which is why it is irrelevant for the assessment of the current situation,” she said, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and high inflation after Russia invaded Ukraine as having worsened living standards and increased poverty in Kazakhstan since 2018.

In response to Makhmutova’s criticism, the World Bank said it welcomes “critique and debate” over its reports, adding that the report “used the latest available data as is standard in World Bank reports for analysis.”

Єврокомісар додав, що «в першу чергу увага на використанні доходів буде зосереджена на військовій підтримці України»

President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump agree on few things, but a ban of the Beijing-based social network TikTok is one of them. Now with a presidential election at stake, both are joining the platform they previously attempted to take down. Will it make a difference on Election Day? Tina Trinh reports.

Washington — U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on Thursday banned Russia-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky from providing its popular antivirus products in the United States over national security concerns, the U.S. Commerce Department said.

“Kaspersky will generally no longer be able to, among other activities, sell its software within the United States or provide updates to software already in use,” the agency said in a statement.

The announcement came after a lengthy investigation found Kaspersky’s “continued operations in the United States presented a national security risk due to the Russian Government’s offensive cyber capabilities and capacity to influence or direct Kaspersky’s operations,” it said.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said, “Russia has shown time and again they have the capability and intent to exploit Russian companies, like Kaspersky Lab, to collect and weaponize sensitive U.S. information.”

Kaspersky, in a statement to AFP, said the Commerce Department “made its decision based on the present geopolitical climate and theoretical concerns,” and vowed to “pursue all legally available options to preserve its current operations and relationships.”

“Kaspersky does not engage in activities which threaten U.S. national security and, in fact, has made significant contributions with its reporting and protection from a variety of threat actors that targeted U.S. interests and allies,” the company said.

The move is the first such action taken since an executive order issued under Donald Trump’s presidency gave the Commerce Department the power to investigate whether certain companies pose a national security risk.

Raimondo said the Commerce Department’s actions demonstrated to America’s adversaries that it would not hesitate to act when “their technology poses a risk to the United States and its citizens.”

While Kaspersky is headquartered in Moscow, it has offices in 31 countries around the world, servicing more than 400 million users and 270,000 corporate clients in more than 200 countries, the Commerce Department said.

As well as banning the sale of Kaspersky’s antivirus software, the Commerce Department also added three entities linked to the firm to a list of companies deemed to be a national security concern, “for their cooperation with Russian military and intelligence authorities in support of the Russian government’s cyber intelligence objectives.”

The Commerce Department said it “strongly encouraged” users to switch to new vendors, although its decision does not ban them from using the software should they choose to do so.

Kaspersky is allowed to continue certain operations in the United States, including providing antivirus updates, until September 29, “in order to minimize disruption to US consumers and businesses and to give them time to find suitable alternatives,” it added.  

«Вантажні автоперевезення з України до ЄС та з Євросоюзу в Україну і далі не потребуватимуть спеціальних дозволів»

Шмигаль зауважив, що під час зустрічі з Гопінах він «подякував за успішну роботу над четвертим переглядом програми EFF»

«Позитивні тенденції спостерігались у транспортній галузі, промисловості, будівництві, сільському господарстві та внутрішній торгівлі»

«Ми маємо повернути реальну енергетичну безпеку в усіх її аспектах та подолати російське ставлення до енергії, до енергоресурсів як до зброї»

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China wants EU to remove tariffs on EVs by July 4 as talks resume 

BEIJING — Beijing wants the EU to scrap its preliminary tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles by July 4, China’s state-controlled Global Times reported, after both sides agreed to hold new trade…

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