RCEP free trade deal signed among 15 participating countries

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement was signed among its 15 participating countries on Nov. 15, 2020, launching the world's biggest free trade bloc.

Participating countries include the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

More details are available in the following:

https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/asean-china-partners-set-worlds-biggest-trade-pact-74214375

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-11/15/c_139517507.htm

 

Inas Abdulkareem

Lebanon should join the new paradigm of the Belt and Road. But watch out for the war-party!

In the last three weeks, Lebanon has been poised to join the “new paradigm” in international relations and economic cooperation as envisaged by China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Russia’s intervention to end the endless wars and regime/changes in West Asia. The tiny country, with a collapsed physical economy and bankrupt state and banking system, and host to 1,5 million Syrian refugees (compared to 5 million of its own citizens), can also become the most significant battlefield between the pro-old paradigm of Anglo-American geopolitics local agents and those who want to chart a new path for the country, this time eastwards. Many warnings are being issued against a new civil war in Lebanon. The “going east” can become a catalyst if wise heads don’t prevail. In addition, with a neighbor like Israel run by a rabid and trigger/happy Jabotinskyite like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a new regional war can be ordered by Anglo-American forces as simply as ordering a pizza. 

Lebanon is also the main trade outlet for Syria. This means that Lebanon will suffer enormously as a result of the new U.S. sanctions imposed since June 17 under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act (Caesar Act). It imposes punishment on anyone doing trade with Syria. For the Syrians, who have already been suffering from previous sanctions that have collapsed the economy, this Caesar act means mass starvation in Syria. The Lebanese leadership and people are put in a position to accept to be complicit in the mass murder of the Syrian people, or suffer the wrath of the U.S.

It was in this context that Hassan Nasrallah the leader of the Lebanese Hizbollah, the main duly elected partner in the coalition government of President Michal Aoun, made a televised speech on June 16 to denounce the Caesar Act and vowed to fight it. However, two other important aspects of his speech were breaking up with the International Monetary Fund and its Western backers, and to contact China again to accept an offer to help rebuild the productive economy of Lebanon.

In his speech, Nasrallah reiterated what he said in November 2019, that Chinese companies were willing to invest billions of dollars in Lebanon in infrastructure, industry and agriculture. He stated in this new speech that China was willing to build a modern railway connecting the coastal cities of the country from Tripoli in the north, through Beirut and to Naqoura in the south. They also pledged to build new power plants and modernize ports. The ailing power sector in Lebanon is one of the main causes of the frustration expressed by the revolting population, and it costs the state 2 billion dollars annually in subsidies and lost revenues, not to mention the losses to other economic activities due to the lack of reliable electricity supply.

While the Chinese government remained silent last year in response to Nasrallah, this time it responded. The Chinese Embassy in Beirut issued a statement which was sent to Lebanese media on June 17 stating: “In answering the inquiries addressed to it, the Chinese embassy in Lebanon indicated that the Chinese side is ready to carry out practical cooperation actively with the Lebanese side on the basis of equality and mutual benefit in the framework of joint work to build the belt and the road”. It further indicated: “China is committed to cooperation with other nations mainly through the role of its companies, the leading role of the market, and the catalytic role of government and commercial operation. Chinese companies continue to follow with interest the opportunities of cooperation in infrastructure and other fields in Lebanon and keep in touch with the Lebanese side in this regard."

In March 2019, a large Chinese delegation visited Lebanon and a major conference on the Belt and Road was held in Tripoli. The Chinese business and official delegations proposed various infrastructure, industrial and agricultural projects to be financed and built by China. However, under the government of Saad Al-Hariri, this offer was rejected. Instead he pushed the previous Anglo-French proposal from 2018 which was backed by the World Bank and European Bank of Development and Reconstruction (EBDR). The offer was made in the Paris CEDRE conference (Conference for Economic Development and Reform through Enterprise) in April 2018, when Lebanon was promised 10 billion dollars in infrastructure projects. Needless to say, none of the projects were implemented. It just made Lebanon loose two more years, while the social and economic conditions further deteriorated.

Now, it seems that Lebanon is left with no choice other than “going east”.

Since 2018, Lebanon have been in negotiations with international “donors” to resolve the government financial crisis. The IMF have proposed, and still proposing draconian measure to privatize what is left of the state-owned enterprises. Besides, Lebanon has come under pressure from the U.S. and the EU to stop all trade with Syria. On June 17, the U.S. Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act (Caesar Act) came into effect. It imposes punishment on anyone doing trade with Syria. For the Syrians, who have already been suffering from previous sanctions that have collapsed the economy, this Caesar act means mass starvation and famine.

In Lebanon, two days after Nasarallah’s speech and one day after the Chinese embassy press release the Lebanese government cabinet confirmed that is was “going east”. However, it did not want to alienate the West. In a press conference, the industry minister confirmed that the cabinet was in line with what Nasrallah has stressed. However, he said it is like a "bidding process". The party which comes with the best offer will get the job. Actually, in his speech on June 16, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah said the same thing. He stressed that all countries that want to build infrastructure Lebanon are welcome, except for Israel. This includes the United States.

 

In this way, the Lebanese government is not taking sides. But from experience in Africa for example, only China can make such reasonable offers and implement them efficiency and in record time.

To confirm the Chinese intentions, a pro-Hezbollah website Al-Ahednews, published three letters from Chinese companies addressed to the government of Lebanon, one from power corporation (China National Machinery IMP&EXP Corporation) offering to build 3 power plant each with a generating capacity of 700 Megawatts and building a supporting national grid, a railway company (China Machinery Engineering Corporation) to build a railway from north to south of Lebanon (Tripoli-Naquora) and the third corporation to build a strategic tunnel connecting the west and east of the country with a highways. The connection between the Mediterranean and Syria, Iraq, Iran and further to China is obvious in these projects too. The companies offered to finance the projects through loans, but through BOOT (Build, Own, Operate, Transfer) which is actually a method pushed by western countries. Chinese companies are building similar projects in Pakistan.

U.S. Olympic lying team

U.S. State Department Officials are rushing to the scene in Lebanon to saw division and confusion among the Lebanese people who find themselves in a very fragile situation with potential civil war being stirred up by provocateurs of all types and shapes on the streets. One such official is US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker. He remains true to the pedagogical methods of his boss, State Secretary Mike Pompeo, who said in a public meeting (during a Q&A discussion at Texas A&M University as part of the Wiley Lecture Series, in College Station, Texas on April 15, 2019.): “I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. It's – it was like – we had entire training courses."

Pompeo himself had visited Lebanon in March 2019 with the declared intention to denounce the government partner Hezbollah. He threatened the Lebanese government and people in the a press conference that followed his meeting with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil  ““Lebanon and the Lebanese people face a choice: bravely move forward as an independent and proud nation or allow the dark ambitions of Iran and Hezbollah to dictate your future,” Pompeo said. Bassil responded: “For us, Hezbollah is a Lebanese party, not terrorists. Its members of parliament were elected by the Lebanese people, with high popular support.” At the time of that visit, Saad Al-Hariri, a darling of the Anglo-American forces, was still prime minister. However, by October a popular uprising forced him to resign.

Both Pompeo and the Lebanese people know that it is impossible to disarm and cancel Hezbollah without causing a bloody civil war. Anybody who is proposing this should be aware of this fact.

Cuba has the right to follow its own developmental path

Virginia Galan works on her lettuce garden in the backyard of her home in Havana, Cuba. Through unity and resilience Cuba not only managed to defeat ongoing attacks by the USA, it also managed to mobilise the whole world into condemning the US aggression, says the writer.

By Reneva Fourie

 

On July 26 in 1953, Fidel Castro and his comrades laid siege to the Moncada Barracks marking the start of the Cuban revolution, which ultimately overthrew the Batista regime six years later, This laid the basis for the implementation of a more egalitarian social and economic system, called socialism. The full potential of this developmental path has however been significantly undermined by constant interference from the United States of America.

Stealing water

As part of the "starvation until submission" campaign against the Syrian people led by the US occupation and its allies, including the terrorists and the Turkish occupation, the Turkey's regime has closed many water gates to Syria from Turkey, which will limit the Syrian people's access to electricity and running water.

On Wednesday, local sources published on social media "shocking" footage and photos of the Euphrates River in which it is easy to notice a significant drop in water levels of the largest river in the country due to the recent Turkish violation.

US occupation forces in Hasaka countryside trying to abuse children

Locals in Hasaka countryside have complained to Hasaka Police Department that US occupation soldiers are trying to abuse their children by luring them with money in exchange for indecent acts.

Syria Insider facebook page yesterday published a memo issued by the Hasaka Police Command saying that some locals in Tal Hamis town filed a complaint saying that their children informed them that US soldiers at the checkpoints they have built near Harir Bridge in the town, have tried to abuse them while crossing the checkpoints. The soldiers tried to offer the children money for doing immoral acts, but the children fled and threw stones at the soldiers.