Iran Seeks Ways to Defend Against US Sanctions

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Iran is studying ways to keep exporting oil and other measures to counter U.S. economic sanctions, state news agency IRNA reported Saturday.

Since last month, when U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal that lifted most sanctions in 2015, the rial currency has dropped up to 40 percent in value, prompting protests by bazaar traders usually loyal to the Islamist rulers.

Speaking after three days of those protests, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the U.S. sanctions were aimed at turning Iranians against their government.

Other protesters clashed with police late Saturday during a demonstration against shortages of drinking water.

“They bring to bear economic pressure to separate the nation from the system … but six U.S. presidents before him [Trump] tried this and had to give up,” Khamenei said on his website Khamenei.ir.

With the return of U.S. sanctions likely to make it increasingly difficult to access the global financial system, President Hassan Rouhani has met with the head of parliament and the judiciary to discuss countermeasures.

“Various scenarios of threats to the Iranian economy by the U.S. government were examined and appropriate measures were taken to prepare for any probable U.S. sanctions, and to prevent their negative impact,” IRNA said.

One such measure was seeking self-sufficiency in gasoline production, the report added.

Looking for buyers

The government and parliament have also set up a committee to study potential buyers of oil and ways of repatriating the income after U.S. sanctions take effect, Fereydoun Hassanvand, head of the parliament’s energy committee, was quoted as saying by IRNA.

“Due to the possibility of U.S. sanctions against Iran, the committee will study the competence of buyers and how to obtain proceeds from the sale of oil, safe sale alternatives which are consistent with international law and do not lead to corruption and profiteering,” Hassanvand said.

The United States has told allies to cut all imports of Iranian oil by November, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.

In the separate unrest, demonstrators protesting against shortages of drinking water in oil-rich southwestern Iran clashed with police late Saturday after officers ordered about 500 protesters to disperse, IRNA reported.

Shots could be heard on videos circulated on social media from protests in Khorramshahr, which has been the scene of demonstrations for the past three days, along with the nearby city of Abadan. The videos could not be authenticated by Reuters.

A number of protests have broken out in Iran since the beginning of the year over water, a growing political concern because of a drought that residents of parched areas and analysts say has been exacerbated by mismanagement.

Speaking before the IRNA report on the clash, Khamenei said the United States was acting with Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab states, which regard Shiite Muslim Iran as their main regional foe, to try to destabilize the government in Tehran.

“If America was able to act against Iran, it would not need to form coalitions with notorious and reactionary states in the region and ask their help in fomenting unrest and instability,” Khamenei told graduating Revolutionary Guards officers, in remarks carried by state TV.

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Trump Claims Saudi Arabia Will Boost Oil Production

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President Donald Trump said Saturday that he had received assurances from King Salman of Saudi Arabia that the kingdom will increase oil production, “maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels” in response to turmoil in Iran and Venezuela. Saudi Arabia acknowledged the call took place, but mentioned no production targets.

Trump wrote on Twitter that he had asked the king in a phone call to boost oil production “to make up the difference…Prices to (sic) high! He has agreed!”

A little over an hour later, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on the call, but offered few details.

“During the call, the two leaders stressed the need to make efforts to maintain the stability of oil markets and the growth of the global economy,” the statement said.

It added that there also was an understanding that oil-producing countries would need “to compensate for any potential shortage of supplies.” It did not elaborate.

Oil prices have edged higher as the Trump administration has pushed allies to end all purchases of oil from Iran following the U.S. pulling out of the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. Prices also have risen with ongoing unrest in Venezuela and fighting in Libya over control of that country’s oil infrastructure.

Last week, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries cartel led by Saudi Arabia and non-cartel members agreed to pump 1 million barrels more crude oil per day, a move that should help contain the recent rise in global energy prices. However, summer months in the U.S. usually lead to increased demand for oil, pushing up the price of gasoline in a midterm election year. A gallon of regular gasoline sold on average in the U.S. for $2.85, up from $2.23 a gallon last year, according to AAA.

If Trump’s comments are accurate, oil analyst Phil Flynn said it could immediately knock $2 or $3 off a barrel of oil. But he said it’s unlikely that decrease could sustain itself as demand spikes, leading prices to rise by wintertime.

“We’ll need more oil down the road and there’ll be nowhere to get it,” said Flynn, of the Price Futures Group. “This leaves the world in kind of a vulnerable state.”

Trump is trying to exert maximum pressure on Iran while at the same time not upsetting potential U.S. midterm voters with higher gas prices, said Antoine Halff, a Columbia University researcher and former chief oil analyst for the International Energy Agency.

“The Trump support base is probably the part of the U.S. electorate that will be the most sensitive to an increase in U.S. gasoline prices,” Halff said.

Trump’s comments came Saturday as global financial markets were closed. Brent crude stood at $79.42 a barrel, while U.S. benchmark crude was at $74.15.

Saudi Arabia currently produces some 10 million barrels of crude oil a day. Its record is 10.72 million barrels a day. Trump’s tweet offered no timeframe for the additional 2 million barrels — whether that meant per day or per month.

However, Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser told journalists in India on Monday that the state oil company has spare capacity of 2 million barrels of oil a day. That was after Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the kingdom would honor the OPEC decision to stick to a 1-million-barrel increase.

“Saudi Arabia obviously can deliver as much as the market would need, but we’re going to be respectful of the 1-million-barrel cap — and at the same time be respectful of allocating some of that to countries that deliver it,” al-Falih said then.

The Trump administration has been counting on Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members to supply enough oil to offset the lost Iranian exports and prevent oil prices from rising sharply. But broadcasting its requests on Twitter with a number that stretches credibility opens a new chapter in U.S.-Saudi relations, Halff said.

“Saudis are used to U.S. requests for oil,” Halff said. “They’re not used to this kind of public messaging. I think the difficulty for them is to distinguish what is a real ask from what is public posturing.”

The administration has threatened close allies such as South Korea with sanctions if they don’t cut off Iranian imports by early November. South Korea accounted for 14 percent of Iran’s oil exports last year, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

China is the largest importer of Iranian oil with 24 percent, followed by India with 18 percent. Turkey stood at 9 percent and Italy at 7 percent.

The State Department has said it expects the “vast majority” of countries will comply with the U.S. request.

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AP Fact Check: Were Tax Cuts an ‘Economic Miracle?’

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Editor’s note: A look at the veracity of claims by political figures

President Donald Trump has elevated his tax cuts to an act of biblical proportions, misleadingly claiming at a White House speech Friday that they triggered an “economic miracle.”

Not quite.

Also Friday, the president’s top economics aide, Larry Kudlow, appeared on the Fox Business Network to address one of the major problems with the tax cuts — that they’ll heap more than $1 trillion onto the national debt. Kudlow falsely countered that the budget deficit was falling because of growth generated by the tax cuts. The deficit is actually rising.

A look at the statements and the fact:

TRUMP: “Six months ago, we unleashed an economic miracle by signing the biggest tax cuts and reforms … the biggest tax cuts in American history.”

THE FACTS: The president is exaggerating, if not being outright deceptive.

Rather than achieving a miracle, his tax cuts have helped stoke additional growth in an economic expansion that was already approaching its 10th year. The additional growth is largely fueled by government borrowing, as the federal deficit rises because of the tax cut. The pace of growth is expected to taper off after next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the Federal Reserve and outside analysts.

And while the $1.5 trillion worth of tax reductions over the next decade are substantial, they’re far from the largest in U.S. history as a share of the overall economy. The Trump tax cut ranks behind Ronald Reagan’s in the early 1980s, post-World War II tax cuts and at least several more, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which advocates for deficit reduction.

Trump proudly went through a list of economic achievements that build on the progress begun under former President Barack Obama. The 3.8 percent unemployment rate and the historically low level of requests for jobless aid are both the result of a steady and gradual recovery from the worst economic meltdown since 1929.

Several hundred companies responded to the tax cuts by paying workers bonuses or hiking hourly wages, but any significant income growth has yet to surface in the overall economy.

The tax cuts have added on average $17 a month to people’s incomes, according to an analysis by Ernie Tedeschi, head of fiscal policy analysis at the investment firm Evercore ISI and a former Treasury Department economist. The analysis is based off consumer spending, income and inflation data released Friday.

That $17 monthly gain is helpful, but it’s far from miraculous.

​KUDLOW: “As the economy gears up, more people working, better jobs and careers, those revenues come rolling in, and the deficit, which is one of the other criticisms, is coming down, and it’s coming down rapidly.”

THE FACTS: Nope.

Since the fiscal year started in October, Treasury Department reports show the federal government has recorded a $385.4 billion deficit, a 12 percent jump from the same period in the previous year.

The Congressional Budget Office was even more blunt in a long-term assessment released Tuesday.

It estimates that the national debt — the sum of yearly deficits — will be $2.2 trillion higher in 2027 than it had previously forecast, largely a consequence of Trump’s 10 year, $1.5 trillion tax cut. The size of the debt could be even higher if provisions of the tax cut that are set to expire are, instead, renewed.

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GM: US Import Tariffs Could Mean Fewer Jobs

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General Motors Co warned on Friday that higher tariffs on imported vehicles under consideration by the Trump administration could cost jobs and lead to a “a smaller GM” while isolating U.S. businesses from the global market.

The administration in May launched an investigation into whether imported vehicles pose a national security threat, and U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to impose a 20 percent vehicle import tariff.

The largest U.S. automaker said in comments filed with the U.S. Commerce Department that overly broad tariffs could “lead to a smaller GM, a reduced presence at home and abroad for this iconic American company, and risk less — not more — U.S. jobs.”

Higher tariffs could also hike vehicle prices and reduce sales, GM said.

​Less investment, fewer workers

Its comments echoed those from two major U.S. auto trade groups Wednesday, when they warned that tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported vehicles would cost hundreds of thousands of auto jobs, dramatically raise prices on vehicles and threaten industry spending on self-driving cars.

Even if automakers opted not to pass on higher costs “this could still lead to less investment, fewer jobs, and lower wages for our employees. The carry-on effect of less investment and a smaller workforce could delay breakthrough technologies,” GM said.

GM operates 47 U.S. manufacturing facilities and employs about 110,000 people in the United States. It buys tens of billions of dollars worth of parts from U.S. suppliers every year, and has invested more than $22 billion in U.S. manufacturing operations since 2009.

Still, 30 percent of the vehicles GM sold on the U.S. market in 2017 were manufactured abroad, according to the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research. Eighty-six percent of those vehicles came from Canada and Mexico, while others came from Europe and China.

Detroit automakers Ford Motor Co and Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles NV also import many of the vehicles they sell in the United States.

“The overbroad and steep application of import tariffs on our trading partners risks isolating U.S. businesses like GM from the global market that helps to preserve and grow our strength here at home,” GM said.

GM shares closed down about 2.8 percent on Friday at $39.40. 

National security probe

Some aides have said that Trump is pursuing the national security probe to put pressure on Canada and Mexico to agree to concessions in talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Toyota Motor Corp filed separate comments opposing the tariffs on Friday saying they would “threaten U.S. manufacturing, jobs, exports, and economic prosperity.”

The company noted that Trump has repeatedly praised the Japanese automaker for investing in the United States, including a new $1.3 billion joint venture assembly plant in Alabama with Mazda.

“These investments reflect our confidence in the U.S. economy and in the power of the administration’s tax cuts,” Toyota said.

Toyota noted that international automakers assembling vehicles in the United States are based in countries including Japan, German and South Korea “that are America’s closest allies.”

The Commerce Department plans two days of public hearings next month, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said last week he aimed to wrap up the probe into whether imported vehicles represent a national security threat by late July or August.

“We have received approximately 2,500 comments already,” Ross said in a statement Friday, adding that he expected more before a midnight deadline.

“The purpose of the comment period and of the public hearing scheduled for July 19th and 20th is to make sure that all stakeholders’ views are heard, both pro and con. That will enable us to make our best informed recommendation to the president,” the statement said.

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Trump Celebrates Tax Cut Law at 6-Month Mark

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U.S. President Donald Trump touted the Republican tax cut plan Friday, six months after he signed it into law, saying it was strengthening the U.S. economy and helping average Americans by increasing investment, jobs and wages.

“It is my great honor to welcome you back to the White House to celebrate six months of new jobs, bigger paychecks and keeping more of your hard-earned money where it belongs: in your pocket or wherever else you want to spend it,” he said.

A recent report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, however, projects a gloomy fiscal outlook in the U.S., which is experiencing rising debt under the Trump administration.

The CBO report predicts the country’s debt burden will double in 30 years, exceeding even the U.S. debt load during World War II.

The tax law, officially titled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, was the largest overhaul of the country’s complex tax laws in three decades. It cut the corporate tax rate, which was among the highest in the industrialized world, from 35 to 21 percent. It trimmed rates for millions of individual taxpayers as well, with the biggest cuts mostly benefiting the wealthiest earners, although some taxpayers saw bigger tax bills because of various changes in the tax regulations.

The CBO report, which cautioned the high debt levels also increase chances of a fiscal crisis, projects the tax cuts could spur short-term economic growth, but it quickly would fall back to a long-term average of 1.9 percent.

While most of the rising debt is due to increasing entitlement spending and other problems that existed before Trump’s 2016 election, the report said the new tax law is contributing to the short-term debt by cutting government revenue. Spending increases approved by both Republicans and Democrats are also raising deficits.

The Republicans’ $1.5 trillion in tax cuts and $1.3 trillion in spending enacted earlier this year have already helped push the CBO’s debt projections higher through 2041, the report said.

Some analysts say the country’s fiscal health is quickly deteriorating because of higher spending for entitlement programs such as Social Security, insufficient government revenue and spiraling interest payments on debt.

“The massive deficits caused by policymakers’ recent tax and budget decisions have drastically worsened the country’s long-term finances,” said Bipartisan Policy Center economic policy director Shai Akabas. 

The Brookings Institution’s Tax Policy Center concluded in a June 13 report that “the new tax law will raise deficits and make the distribution of after-tax income more unequal.”

Former Federal Reserve Bank chair Janet Yellen, a Democratic appointee whom Trump replaced with Republican Jerome Powell, said Thursday that the tax cuts would probably provide only a meager boost to the growth of the U.S. economy.

“The calculations that I’ve seen and seem reasonable to me suggest that the payoff is likely to be in tenths of a percent, which in growth is a lot, but may not be what some people are hoping for,” she said.

Tariffs

Any benefits for individuals and corporations from the tax cuts may be undermined by Trump’s imposition of tariffs on foreign countries.

Tariffs have already been announced on Chinese products, foreign aluminum and steel imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union, and on solar panels and washing machines and Canadian lumber and paper. Trump has also threatened tariffs on automobile imports and on other foreign products and materials.

“Tariffs on steel and aluminum imports are a tax hike on Americans and will have damaging consequences for consumers, manufacturers and workers,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, a Republican, said May 31.

The Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady of Texas, said last month that the tariffs “hurt our efforts to create good-paying jobs by selling more ‘Made in America’ products to customers in these countries.”

Retaliatory tariffs imposed by Canada, China, the EU and Mexico could hinder the ability of U.S. companies to sell products to other countries, which could in turn kill American jobs and suppress wages.

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Concerns Mount About US Commitment to Allies, Global Order

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President Donald Trump is denying any immediate plan to withdraw the United States from the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“We have been treated very badly by the WTO,” Trump said to reporters on Air Force One during a short Friday afternoon flight from Maryland to New Jersey.

But asked if he intends to pull the United States from the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations, Trump replied, “Not at this point, but they have to treat us fairly.”

The remarks come as Trump appears increasingly intent on confrontation, rather than cooperation, with the European Union, the Group of Seven (G-7) nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the WTO. He has repeatedly suggested the United States would be better off pursuing trade and strategic deals with nations one on one.

“Rather than playing the U.S. president’s traditional role as leader of the free world, Trump looks like he is declaring war on the international rules-based order: undermining the G-7 and WTO, raising doubts about continued U.S. support for a strong NATO to counter Russia, and falsely declaring that the European Union was invented to take advantage of the United States,” Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and a former NATO deputy secretary general, tells VOA News.

Trump, in less than two weeks, heads to Europe for the annual NATO summit before separate meetings in Britain with Prime Minister Theresa May and then, in neutral Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Putin couldn’t have scripted this better himself. And the Helsinki meeting could cement a new partnership between Trump and Putin at our allies’ expense,” adds Vershbow, who also has been a U.S. ambassador to Russia, South Korea and NATO.

Trump, on Friday’s Air Force One flight, said he would raise with Putin the issue of Russian election meddling, as well as differences between Washington and Moscow about Ukraine and Syria.

Macron mum

French President Emmanuel Macron was asked Friday if it was true that Trump had suggested to him that France should leave the EU.

“What was said in the room stays in that room,” replied Macron about his private meeting with the U.S. president at the White House in April.

Trump, at the annual G-7 leaders’ meeting in Canada early this month, clashed with some of Washington’s closest allies and advocated readmitting Russia, which was suspended from the group in 2014 for annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

NATO

The president, according to the online Axios news site, said to the other G-7 leaders, “NATO is as bad as NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement that Trump wants renegotiated). It’s much too costly for the U.S.”

Asked about NATO on Air Force One, Trump on Friday said Germany, Spain and France have to spend more money on the defense alliance. 

“It’s not fair what they’ve done to the United States,” the president said. 

Trump, last year, told The New York Times that the United States would only come to the aid of its NATO allies if they “fulfill their obligations to us,” a reference to required spending by members of 2 percent of their gross domestic production on defense, a promise not kept by many NATO states.

Article 5 of the NATO treaty declares that an attack on one member is an attack on all. That is a cornerstone of the 1949 pact, the first peacetime military alliance the United States entered outside the Western Hemisphere.

According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking last week to the Wall Street Journal, Trump is attempting to “reset” the liberal world order, not wreck it.

“The president is committed to both American leadership and American sovereignty. The president is willing to question the usefulness of rules that disadvantage American interests and American workers,” a National Security Council spokesman told VOA News on condition of not being named. “When rules have outlived their usefulness and are no longer fair and equitable, the president is willing to stand up for Americans and advocate for reform.”

The official adds “American leadership means we will continue to meet our global commitments, and in return we expect our allies to shoulder their fair share of our common defense burden and to do more in areas that most affect them. American leadership also means the President can no longer tolerate chronic trade abuses, and the United States will promote free, fair and reciprocal economic relationships.”

That does not reassure globalists, such as former White House and State Department official Harry Blaney.

“The harsh truth today is that there is a wide consensus among foreign affairs experts on all sides of the ideological spectrum of fear and skepticism about the outcome of the NATO and Putin meetings,” Blaney told VOA.

“There is a clear sense of foreboding,” Trump is making an effort to undermine both the defense alliance and the EU, said Blaney, who was a key U.S. official for decades dealing with the EU and NATO.

“The sad fact is that these actions together spell for, not just the developed world, but for the entire global community a period of high risk and uncertainty for its economies, security, and brings a high level of risk for everyone,” Blaney predicted.

“What we don’t have, and everyone is asking, is why is he (Trump) doing this?” Blaney said.

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Minnesota Approves Enbridge Energy Line 3 Pipeline Project

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Minnesota regulators on Thursday approved Enbridge Energy’s proposal to replace its aging Line 3 oil pipeline across the northern part of the state.

All five members of the Public Utilities Commission backed the project, though some cited heavy trepidation, and a narrow majority later approved the company’s preferred route despite opposition from American Indian tribes and climate change activists.

In discussion before the vote, several commissioners cited the deteriorating condition of the existing line , which was built in the 1960s, as a major factor in their decision.

“It’s irrefutable that that pipeline is an accident waiting to happen,” Commissioner Dan Lipschultz said ahead of the vote. “It feels like a gun to our head … All I can say is the gun is real and it’s loaded.”

Some pipeline opponents reacted angrily when it became clear commissioners would approve the project. Tania Aubid, a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, stood and shouted, “You have just declared war on the Ojibwe!” Brent Murcia, of the group Youth Climate Intervenors, added: “We will not let this stand.”

Opponents argue that the pipeline risks spills in pristine areas in northern Minnesota, including where American Indians harvest wild rice. Ojibwe Indians, or Anishinaabe, consider wild rice sacred and central to their culture.

Winona LaDuke, founder of Honor the Earth, said opponents would use every regulatory means possible to stop the project — and threatened mass protests if necessary.

“They have gotten their Standing Rock,” she said, referring to protests that drew thousands of people to neighboring North Dakota to rally against the Dakota Access pipeline. 

Others welcomed Thursday’s vote, including Bob Schoneberger, founder of Minnesotans for Line 3. He said Minnesota needs the line now “and will need it even more into the future.”

After commissioners agreed the pipeline upgrade was needed, the commission voted 3-2 in favor of Enbridge’s preferred route, which departs from the existing pipeline to largely avoid two American Indian reservations currently crossed.

The approved route does clip a portion of the Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa’s land, and commissioners said they would adjust the route if the Fond du Lac don’t agree. Tribal leaders had reluctantly backed a route that went much farther south as the least objectionable option.

After the commission’s work is formalized in the next few weeks, opponents may file motions asking it to reconsider. After that, they can appeal the decision to the state Court of Appeals. 

Several commissioners said the overall issue posed a difficult decision. Chairwoman Nancy Lange choked up and took off her glasses to wipe her eyes as she described her reasoning for approving the project. Another commissioner, Katie Sieben, said it was “so tough because there is no good outcome.”

The pipeline currently runs from Alberta, Canada, across North Dakota and Minnesota to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. Enbridge has said it needs to replace the pipeline because it’s increasingly subject to corrosion and cracking, and that it would continue to run Line 3 if regulators rejected its proposal.

Much of the debate has focused on whether Minnesota and Midwest refineries need the extra oil. Enbridge currently runs Line 3 at about half its original capacity of 760,000 barrels per day for safety reasons, and currently uses it only to carry light crude. 

The project’s opponents, including the Minnesota Department of Commerce, have argued that the refineries don’t need it because demand for oil and petroleum products will fall in the coming years as people switch to electric cars and renewable energy sources. Opposition groups also argue that much of the additional oil would eventually flow to overseas buyers.

Enbridge and its customers strongly dispute the lack of need in the region. They said Line 3’s reduced capacity is already forcing the company to severely ration space on its pipeline network, and that failure to restore its capacity would force oil shippers to rely more on trains and trucks, which are more expensive and less safe. Business and labor groups support the proposal for the jobs and economic stimulus. 

The Public Utilities Commission’s decision likely won’t be the final word in a long, contentious process that has included numerous public hearings and the filings of thousands of pages of documents since 2015. Lange said earlier this year that the dispute was likely to end up in court, regardless of what the commission decides.

Opponents have threatened a repeat of the protests on the Standing Rock Reservation against the Dakota Access pipeline, in which Enbridge owns a stake. Those protests in 2016 and 2017 resulted in sometimes violent skirmishes with law enforcement and more than 700 arrests. 

Similar concerns over the role of tar sands oil in climate change, indigenous rights and the risk of spills has fueled opposition to other pipelines out of Alberta’s oil sands region. Opponents of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline to Nebraska are still fighting that project in court. The Canadian government agreed last month to buy Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline across Canadian soil to the Pacific Coast for $4.5 billion Canadian (US$3.4 billion) to ensure completion of the company’s plan to triple the line’s capacity. 

Enbridge has already replaced the short segment of Line 3 in Wisconsin and put it into service. Construction is underway on the short segment that crosses northeastern North Dakota and on the longer section from Alberta to the U.S. border, and Enbridge plans to continue that work. Enbridge has estimated the overall cost of the project at $7.5 billion, including $2.6 billion for the U.S. segment.

 

 

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US Delegation Attends Kenya’s Inaugural Economic Summit 

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A U.S. delegation traveled to Kenya on Thursday to attend the inaugural economic summit of the American Chamber of Commerce, Kenya.

About 500 delegates, including Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Gilbert Kaplan, U.S. undersecretary of commerce for international trade, other high-ranking government officials from both nations and representatives from nearly 30 major U.S. corporations, gathered at the summit, which was aimed at creating partnerships between the two nations’ public and private sectors in order to foster economic growth. 

The Kenyan agenda was centered on advancing Kenyatta’s “Big Four” priorities — universal health care, manufacturing, food security and affordable housing — that he set out after his re-election to a second term last year.

American companies in attendance were looking for opportunities to expand and to increase trade and investment in Africa.

Kaplan told VOA that increasing business and economic development in Africa would benefit many Americans, which aligns with the promises of President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” agenda. 

“If we can export more and do more transactions here, do more investment here, that’s going to be incredibly helpful for the United States, for the people back home, because we’ll be making profitable ventures, and that will naturally help,” he said.

But the U.S. delegation also had a strong message for Kenya: Real, meaningful economic growth can’t happen unless Kenya commits to fighting corruption.

‘It’s got to stop’

“Corruption is undermining Kenya’s future,” said Robert Godec, U.S. ambassador to Kenya. “It’s clearly a major problem for the country. We welcome President Kenyatta’s commitment and the push recently to address this problem. Corruption is theft from the people, and it’s got to stop.”

In his speech to the delegation, Kenyatta pledged to “fight this animal called corruption and ensure that it is a beast that shall never infect or inflict future generations” of Kenyans. 

Kaplan told VOA that the U.S. government was providing support and training to the Kenyan government to help tackle corruption.

“We’ve dealt with that — the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, rule of law and international standards,” he said. “I think we can convince Kenya that following those rules is ultimately to their benefit because it brings more businessmen and women into the system and being able to be successful.” 

Part of the objective of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is to make it illegal for companies and their supervisors to influence foreign officials with personal payments or rewards.

C.D. Glin, president and chief executive of the U.S. African Development Foundation, told VOA that the U.S. government’s and private sector’s support of businesses in Africa that had ramped up under the previous administration was being continued by Trump.

For instance, the President’s Advisory Council for Doing Business in Africa, begun under the Barack Obama administration and still in force, “really is looking at Africa from a business standpoint and from an opportunity standpoint so that Africans can benefit from U.S. support, but also can support the U.S.,” Glin said.

Major boost

Nicholas Nesbitt, chairman of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, said the increased U.S. private sector investment had been hugely beneficial for the Kenyan economy.

“We see a lot more tourism coming to Kenya, a lot more trade and a lot more business,” he said. “We’re very excited to see the numbers of American companies — small, midsize and even large corporations — looking at Kenya as a destination. It’s also a gateway to east Africa, where there are 200 million potential consumers. So, the investments, the energy, the excitement is absolutely tremendous today at this summit between American and Kenyan business.”

Six commercial deals between Kenyan and American companies were signed at the summit. Maxwell Okello, chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce, Kenya, called that a sign that significant economic change would be driven by private sector innovation.

“I think at the end of the day, with what we’re hearing today here, it’s really down to what the private sector wants to do from a commercial engagement,” he said. “And I believe conversations such as this is really where you spark that interest, where you create those linkages and the sort of engagement that you need. And the opportunities are there for anyone. They’re obvious.

“So, I think that various policies aside, from a commercial business engagement perspective, the sky is wide open.” 

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