Lebanese party cau­tious over new gov’t talks EU weighs US trade sweet­ener

Viet Nam News - - WORLD -

BEIRUT — The leader of one of Le­banon’s main Chris­tian par­ties said yesterday he didn’t want to cre­ate “ar­ti­fi­cial op­ti­mism” about a break­through in talks over a new gov­ern­ment, a day after Prime Min­is­ter-des­ig­nate Saad al-Hariri said one would be formed soon.

Five months since a par­lia­men­tary elec­tion, Lebanese politi­cians re­main un­able to agree on how to share out min­is­te­rial port­fo­lios in the new unity gov­ern­ment that Hariri is try­ing to form.

Hariri said on Thurs­day the new gov­ern­ment, ex­pected to com­prise 30 min­is­ters, would be formed within a week to 10 days be­cause the econ­omy could not tol­er­ate fur­ther de­lay. He called on all sides to make con­ces­sions.

But Free Pa­tri­otic Move­ment (FPM) leader Ge­bran Bas­sil, in a tele­vised news con­fer­ence yesterday, stuck by his de­mand that the FPM bloc get six port­fo­lios in the new gov­ern­ment. The FPM is the big­gest Chris­tian party in par­lia­ment.

Bas­sil, cur­rently for­eign min­is­ter in the care­taker gov­ern­ment and a po­lit­i­cal ally of the Iran­backed Shi’ite group Hezbol­lah, also gave no ground in de­mand­ing a sep­a­rate share of five cab­i­net seats for Pres­i­dent Michel Aoun, the FPM’s founder and Bas­sil’s fa­ther-in-law.

His com­ments sig­nalled no com­pro­mise with the Lebanese Forces party, Le­banon’s se­cond largest Chris­tian party and a staunch op­po­nent of Hezbol­lah. Bas­sil said the LF should get three cab­i­net posts, based on the leg­isla­tive elec­tion re­sult.

The LF, which nearly dou­bled its MPs in the elec­tion, says it is en­ti­tled to a third of the Chris­tian rep­re­sen­ta­tion in gov­ern­ment. The com­pet­ing de­mands of the LF and FPM are seen as the big­gest ob­sta­cle to an agree­ment.

Lebanese of­fi­cials are warn­ing the heav­ily in­debted state faces eco­nomic cri­sis. The IMF wants to see im­me­di­ate and sub­stan­tial fis­cal ad­just­ment to im­prove the sus­tain­abil­ity of Le­banon’s pub­lic debt, which stood at over 150 per cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct at the end of 2017. — REUTERS BRUS­SELS — Euro­pean Union min­is­ters de­bated yesterday what to of­fer the United States to ease trade ten­sions and avoid a re­turn to a tit-for-tat tar­iff con­flict that could hit EU cars.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump agreed in July to hold back on a threat­ened 25-per cent im­port tar­iff on EU cars while the United States and Europe dis­cussed re­mov­ing trade bar­ri­ers, in­clud­ing du­ties on in­dus­trial goods.

Aus­tria, which holds the six­month ro­tat­ing pres­i­dency of the Euro­pean Union, put for­ward a pa­per ahead of yesterday’s meet­ing sug­gest­ing EU coun­tries could agree the focus of transat­lantic talks could be reg­u­la­tory co­op­er­a­tion.

This could in­clude agree­ments that each side recog­nise as suf­fi­cient the other’s safety stan­dards in cars, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and med­i­cal de­vices. For ex­am­ple, a seat belt meet­ing EU stan­dards could be sold in the United States, and vice versa.

Ger­man Econ­omy Min­is­ter Peter Alt­maier said the meet­ing in Inns­bruck, Aus­tria, was tak­ing place against a “very, very dif­fi­cult” in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment”.

He told re­porters that the Euro­pean Union needed to push ahead with talks to find an agree­ment with the United States.

“Time is get­ting tight. We must hurry up,” he said. “We are work­ing for an agree­ment that cov­ers as many in­dus­trial goods as pos­si­ble. That is our clear po­si­tion.”

French min­is­ter of state JeanBap­tiste Le­moyne sug­gested any transat­lantic agree­ment would be lim­ited, em­pha­sis­ing that agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, among the United States’ ma­jor ex­ports, would not be in­cluded.

Le­moyne said the Euro­pean Union could con­clude com­pre­hen­sive trade agree­ments only with par­ties that have signed up to the Paris cli­mate ac­cord, which Trump has aban­doned. — REUTERS

Five months since the elec­tion, Lebanese politi­cians re­main un­able to agree on how to share out min­is­te­rial port­fo­lios.

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