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Experts Warn Cambodia’s Trade Deal With China is Poor Substitute For EU Scheme




Cambodia’s quote to balance out the partial loss of a European Union preferential trade scheme by pursuing a complimentary trade arrangement (FTA) with China will leave the nation poorer and beholden to Beijing, experts and unions stated Thursday, ahead of an anticipated finalizing of the deal next month.

On Monday, Cambodia and China revealed completion of trade arrangement settlements in between Cambodian Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak and Chinese equivalent Zhong Shan with a deal they stated will strengthen ties in between the 2 countries and benefit them both.

In a declaration posted to Facebook, Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce hailed the arrangement as “reflective of the long-lasting relationship and collaboration between the two countries,” and stated it would “provide economic and social benefits” for both sides.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce called reaching the arrangement “an implementation of the two countries’ leaders’ instructions and a specific measure for developing a comprehensive strategic partnership and promoting the joint establishment of a community forged by a shared future,” China’s official Global Times paper reported, mentioning a news release.

While the information of Cambodia’s first FTA with a foreign country have actually not been made public, it is anticipated to concentrate on enhancing farming exports, consisting of rice and mangoes, to China, based upon current remarks by ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) representative Phay Siphan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry representative Wang Wenbin informed a routine press rundown in Beijing on Tuesday that the deal concentrates on China’s Belt and Roadway Effort (BRI) cooperation, trade in services and items, financial investment, technical and financial cooperation, and e-commerce.

Wang stated the arrangement would develop a more supported supply and commercial chain that would assist weather crises like the coronavirus pandemic.

The $1.3 trillion BRI is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature geopolitical policy, which features significant financial investments to construct facilities supporting trade in between China and countries throughout Asia, Europe and Africa. It has actually been dogged by debate after countries in Asia and Africa accumulated unsustainable financial obligations.

Cambodia’s pro-government Fresh News outlet pointed out Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong, who likewise took part in settlements, as stating Prime Minister Hun Sen will take a trip to Beijing to sign the arrangement with his equivalent Li Keqiang “no later than” Aug. 12– the very same day the EU is anticipated to suspend trade choices for the Southeast Asian country.

The EU in mid-February revealed strategies to suspend tariff-free access to its market under the “Everything But Arms” (EBA) scheme for around one-fifth of Cambodia’s exports, mentioning rollbacks on democracy and human rights– a relocation that would restore tariffs on garments and shoes start Aug. 12, unless it is reversed by the bloc’s federal governments or its parliament.

The decision will result in a loss of around U.S. $1.1 billion of the nation’s yearly U.S. $5.8 billion in exports to the EU, some 75 percent of which are comprised of clothes and fabrics– an essential market in Cambodia that uses one million people.

Hun Sen has actually brushed off the relocation, however unions have actually cautioned that the reinstatement of tariffs on Cambodian exports to the EU might leave 80,000 employees from more than 1,000 garment factories in Cambodia out of work if purchasers from the bloc stop putting orders due to the fact that of increased expenses.

Cambodian Ministry of Commerce representative Seang Thai just recently stated that Cambodia anticipates to increase its exports by 25 percent through the FTA, which he declared is “not meant to substitute for the EBA,” however to bring fringe benefits to the nation.

Uneven deal

Nevertheless, on Thursday, experts and unions recommended the deal totaled up to a “swap,” and one which greatly preferred China.

Ath Thon, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, cautioned that the EU trade scheme stays important to Cambodia’s economy.

“Cambodia has apparently abandoned the U.S. and EU in embracing an unproven market to export its products—it’s not a smart move,” he stated.

“The U.S. and European markets are still important because they import the most and at good prices.”

He stated that if the EBA is withdrawn, Cambodia will lose an enormous market in the EU and the expense to the nation’s economy will be ravaging.

Economic analyst Nget Chou stated any FTA would supply more advantages to China due to the fact that of an existing trade imbalance which Cambodia will wind up losing considerable tax profits through such a deal. According to official stats, bilateral trade in between China and Cambodia over the past 2 years has actually totaled up to more than U.S. $7 billion, of which Cambodian exports represented just around U.S. $900 million.

Nget Chou recommended that the federal government not hurry to sign a trade arrangement with China and rather deal with the EU to preserve full EBA status, mentioning the bloc’s bigger market.

” We have a trade deficit [with China], so we must preserve the status quo and develop a national method to construct a strong economy first,” he stated.

Growing impact

The EU introduced the procedure to strip Cambodia of its preferential trade terms following the arrest of opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) President Kem Sokha in September 2017 and the Supreme Court’s decision to prohibit his party for its role in a supposed plot to fall the federal government 2 months later on.

The restriction, together with a broader crackdown on NGOs and the independent media, led the way for Hun Sen’s CPP to win all 125 seats in parliament in the nation’s July 2018 basic election.

Hun Sen has actually stated that EU requires to preserve the EBA, that include dropping charges of treason versus Kem Soka and restoring the CNRP, are unreasonable and an infringement on Cambodia’s internal affairs.

China has actually actioned in to wield substantial impact in Cambodia as relations in between Phnom Penh and Western federal governments have actually subsided amidst issues over the nation’s human rights scenario and political environment.

Chinese financial investment has actually streamed into Cambodia over the last few years, however Cambodians routinely chafe at what they call dishonest business practices and unbecoming habits by Chinese entrepreneurs and homeowners.

Analyst Kim Sok stated Thursday that while authorities declare that the FTA is essential to assist Cambodia’s delicate economy, the very same is true of the EBA, and it needs to not be deserted.

However he revealed doubt that Hun Sen would ever concur with the EU’s require Cambodia to bring back democratic securities due to the fact that the conditions would successfully “kill Hun Sen’s power.” Hun Sen, who turns 68 next month, has actually ruled Cambodia given that 1985.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Equated by Samean Yun. Composed in English by Joshua Lipes.



Virginia Supreme Court Grants Temporary Moratorium on Evictions




Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam speaks during a news conference on June 4, 2020 in Richmond. Last month, the governor wrote to the state’s supreme court to request a moratorium on evictions. Zach Gibson/Getty Images hide caption

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Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Virginia’s Supreme Court has granted a request from Gov. Ralph Northam to temporarily stop evictions proceedings, extending protections for tenants who can’t pay their rent through the beginning of September.

In a 4-3 ruling Friday, the court agreed to a moratorium on eviction proceedings through September 7, declaring that public safety concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic constituted a “judicial emergency.”

“The ease with which the COVID-19 virus can spread, the risks associated with traveling to and appearing in the courthouse for those … with certain health conditions that disproportionately afflict the economically disadvantaged, and the inability of many citizens to access the courts remotely or to hire lawyers who can argue on their behalf, may ‘substantially endanger’ or ‘impede’ the ‘ability of [tenants] to avail themselves of the court,'” the majority wrote in their decision.

Northam praised the decision on Friday. The Democratic governor had requested the moratorium in a July 24th letter to the court’s chief justice, Donald Lemons, as congressional efforts to provide relief for renters stalled, allowing for the expiration of federal protections for Americans facing economic hardships due to the pandemic.

Virginia had used some $50 million in federal coronavirus aid to fund rent-relief programs.

“As the ongoing Congressional stalemate leaves hundreds of thousands of Virginians without federal housing protection or unemployment relief, this is a critical step towards keeping families safely in their homes,” Northam said in a statement following the decision.

The court’s moratorium begins on August 10, granting time for Virginia’s legislature to take up potential relief efforts in a special session later this month.

In a dissenting opinion, the chief justice said relief efforts fell to “the legislative branch and its responsibility to provide sufficient appropriations to fund rent relief efforts and with the executive branch to effectively administer such programs.”

“If there is to be a subsidy, it is properly the responsibility of the legislative and executive branches. The judicial branch should not put a heavy thumb on the scales of justice and deny property owners access to the courts and enforcement of their long-established rights under the law,” Lemon wrote in his dissent.

Another dissenting justice, D. Arthur Kelsey, contended that a spate of evictions due to the pandemic did not constitute a judicial emergency, arguing that “the alleged inability of a tenant to pay rent” did not affect the operation of or access to courts.

Kelsey also argued that the decision infringed on the rights of landlords, taking away their ability to seek legal redress or action against non-paying tenants.

“It does not matter whether the landlord will eventually get paid everything that he is owed (a highly optimistic supposition at best) or whether he can collect future rents if the tenant becomes employed or starts receiving government subsidies. What the landlord wants is possession of his property. He does not want to continue in a breached lease against his will,” Kelsey wrote.


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2 Out Of 3 Churchgoers: It’s Safe To Resume In-Person Worship




A parishioner sits after Mass last month at a Catholic church in New York City. An overwhelming majority of U.S. adults believe that houses of worship should be subject to the same restrictions on public gatherings that apply to other institutions. John Minchillo/AP hide caption

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John Minchillo/AP

Five months after the coronavirus forced houses of worship across the country to close their doors, a new survey finds that two-thirds of regular churchgoers feel it’s now safe to resume in-person worship.

The Pew Research Survey nonetheless found that an overwhelming majority of U.S. adults also believe that houses of worship should be subject to the same restrictions on public gatherings that apply to other organizations or businesses in their local area. Although Republicans are somewhat more likely than Democrats to favor special treatment for houses of worship, they still oppose such exemptions by a 2-to-1 margin.

Among the respondents to the Pew survey who said they previously attended worship services at least once a month, 6% said their congregations were operating just as they had before the coronavirus outbreak. About half the respondents said they have personally engaged in worship only online or via television.

About 8 in 10 of all U.S. adults surveyed by Pew don’t expect their church attendance or nonattendance habits to change as a result of the pandemic. Of those who do anticipate a change, some said they will be more inclined to attend church when life returns to normal, with a smaller margin saying they will be less likely to go back to worship.

The strong support for reopening houses of worship suggests that Americans are eager to resume their routines, though important distinctions remain, especially along racial lines.

“White Christians are much more confident that it is safe to go to religious services right now than Black and Hispanic worshippers,” says Claire Gecewicz, the primary researcher on the Pew survey.

The greater reluctance to go back to church among people of color is not surprising, given that they have been hit much harder by the COVID-19 pandemic. Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be essential workers, so they have faced more exposure to the coronavirus on the job. In addition, many people of color live in extended family households. A return to in-person worship would expose them to even greater risk of infection.

With respect to religious groups, the Pew survey found that Catholics and evangelical Protestants are more ready than other Christians to return to regular worship. Catholics are obligated under church teachings to attend Mass weekly. Evangelical Protestants may be generally less deferential to governmental authority.


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Gov. Cuomo Clears The Way For In-Person Learning At Schools In New York State




Due to the low COVID-19 infection rates across the state, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that all New York school districts may reopen this fall. Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Schools across New York state will be allowed to open for in-person learning this fall because of low coronavirus infection rates, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday.

“We’ve been smart from day one. We do the masks, we do the social distancing, we’ve kept that infection rate down,” Cuomo said during the announcement. “And we can bring the same level of intelligence to the school reopening that we brought to the economic reopening.”

Last month, the governor announced that schools can reopen if they are in a region that’s in Phase 4 reopening and where the 14-day average daily infection rate remains below 5%. That’s now true for the whole state.

It’s up to the discretion of local school districts to decide whether they want to have in-person learning. The choice goes away if infection rates spike, Cuomo said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last month that the city’s schools would open in the fall with a mix of in-person and distance learning.

New York was once the state with the largest coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. Then, new cases dropped to about 800 per day in mid-July, compared to about 10,000 in mid-April. According to the governor’s office, of the 70,170 test results reported to state health officials on Thursday, 714, or 1%, were positive.

The New York State Department of Health will review reopening plans submitted by school districts to ensure they meet the department’s guidelines. Cuomo said districts will be notified Aug. 10 of the department’s decision.

The governor also announced that school districts must publicly post their plans for distance learning and for testing and contact tracing, and hold three to five public meetings with parents before Aug. 21 and at least one with teachers.

Teachers have expressed concerns about returning to their classrooms too early.

“We have been clear all along: Health and safety is the most important consideration in reopening school buildings. Viral infection rates tell only one part of the story,” said Andy Pallotta, president of New York State United Teachers, which represents more than 600,000 members.

“Many educators and parents have anxiety about local school district reopening plans that have been submitted to the state — if they even have been yet, with 127 districts that didn’t bother to submit them by last week and 50 considered incomplete by the state,” Pallotta said. “Right now, there may be some areas where parents and educators are confident in their district’s plan, but in many others, we know they aren’t. No district should consider themselves ready to reopen buildings until their plans are safe and everything in that plan meant to keep the school community safe is implemented.”

Other large school districts, such as Chicago, Los Angeles and San Diego, have decided to stick with distance learning for the beginning of the school year.


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