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China and Russia: the world’s new superpower axis?

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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Welcome to the Caspian Daily, where you will find the 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region. We appreciate ideas, reports, news and interesting articles. Send along to Caspian[at]moderndiplomacy.eu or on Twitter: @DGiannakopoulos

1China and Russia: the world’s new superpower axis? “Forget euro summits and G7 gatherings: for the countries that like to style themselves as the world’s rising powers, the real summitry takes place this week in central Russia, where Vladimir Putin will hold court. Leaders of the Brics countries (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) will meet Putin in Ufa on Wednesday, then make way for the Asian powers grouped in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation” [The Guardian]

2Brics to set up $100bn New Development Bank in Russia. Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan in Russia, will witness the establishment of New Development Bank (NDB), a joint initiative of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) with an initial capital of 100bn. The signing of documents on the establishment of NDB – which will have its headquarter in China and whose first president elect is an Indian veteran banker K V Kamath – will take place along the VII Summit of Brics during July 8-10. The summit is also expected to see the establishment of “Fund of Reserve Currencies” with a capital of 100bn, which is an alternative to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which “depends on the pressure of the US and EU countries”, Russian Ambassador to Qatar HE Nurmakhmad Kholov told the media here yesterday.

3India to renew contract with Kazakhstan for uranium supply. Sources said the two countries will renew their old contract under which Kazakhstan supplied uranium to India. India and Kazakhstan already have civil nuclear cooperation since January 2009 when NPCIL and Kazakh nuclear company KazAtomProm signed an MoU under which KazAtomProm supplies uranium for Indian reactors.

4Azerbaijani Minister of Culture and Tourism Abulfas Garayev met the delegation headed by the Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad Matthias Fekl. At the meeting, the sides discussed the current state and prospects of cooperation between Azerbaijan and France in the sphere of tourism, AzerTag reports. Abulfas Garayev noted that in the sphere of tourism there are wide opportunities for cooperation between the two countries, as well as in the field of culture. According to him, activity of the First Lady of Azerbaijan, the head of the Azerbaijan-France inter-parliamentary friendship group, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva, the realized projects are extremely important for development of relationship between France and Azerbaijan.

5PM Modi arrives in Astana. Prime Minister Modi is in Kazakhstan for the second leg of his eight-day tour to five central Asian countries and Russia. A high powered FICCI delegation, representing sectors such as construction, pharmaceuticals, mining, banking, power transmission and IT, has accompanied him on his visit. Top Indian companies such as Essar group, GMR, BHEL, NASSCOM, Punjab National Bank, Lupin, Punj Llyod and SUN Group are being represented in the business delegation. During the visit, the CEOs will meet leading companies from Kazakhstan and discuss a comprehensive strategy to enhance our mutual trade and investment.

6Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has agreed to invest $10 billion (Dh36.7 billion) in Russia, in a powerful sign of the rapprochement between Moscow and Riyadh. The Public Investment Fund signed a deal with the Russian Direct Investment Fund for the largest foreign direct investment yet in Russia, RDIF said late on Monday. “The first seven projects have received preliminary approval, and we expect to close 10 deals before the end of the year,” said Kirill Dmitriev, RDIF chief executive. [Gulf News]

7Beware The Iranian Oil Mirage. “Investors are jittery at the prospect of Iran suddenly adding millions of barrels of oil to an oversupplied market if sanctions are lifted. This, according to many, is the primary cause of Monday’s oil sell-off. Iran is projecting oil strength in advance of a possible deal in the nuclear talks and the possibility that all sanctions will be lifted. However, Iran is not trustworthy and information that comes out of government ministries is not reliable. Iran’s goal here is to portray power” writes Ellen Wald for the Investing.com

8Turkmenistan seeks investments in textile industry. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammadov of Turkmenistan has said that the main purpose of restructuring in the textile industry is to increase the manufacturing of competitive products and attract investments, according to the country’s national television channel. The issues of development of the textile industry were discussed during the last meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers, the channel said. Turkmenistan traditionally grows cotton, which serves as a basis for developing the textile industry. In 2014, the annual turnover of the textile industry was about $400 million.

9Russia seen as biggest oil market loser when Iran returns. “The return of Iranian barrels would increase availability of heavy sour crude and would be positive for refiners,” said Vasilis Tsaitas, a spokesman for Hellenic Petroleum. The company operates three of the five refineries in Greece, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

10Turkistan, a cultural gem in the south of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan’s southern city of Turkistan is an ancient Silk Road destination, with a history that goes back to the 4th century. With a population of more than 230,000, the city is about 160 kilometres from Shymkent and its medium-sized airport.Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, Turkistan was the capital for the Kazakh Khans. [Euronews]

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine. follow @DGiannakopoulos

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EU Politics

EU and 16 WTO members agree to work together on an interim appeal arbitration arrangement

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EU and Ministers from 16 Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have agreed to develop a multi-party interim appeal arrangement that will allow the participating WTO members to preserve a functioning and two-step dispute settlement system at the WTO in disputes among them. This initiative was launched in mid-December 2019 by the EU and a number of other WTO members following the effective paralysis of the WTO Appellate Body, due to the blockage of any new appointments since 2017.

Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan said: “This statement testifies to the high importance that the EU and the participating WTO members attach to retaining a two-step dispute settlement process in WTO trade matters. The multiparty appeal arbitration arrangement will guarantee that the participating WTO members continue to have access to a binding, impartial and high-quality dispute settlement system among them. Let me underline again that this remains a contingency measure needed because of the paralysis of the WTO Appellate Body. We will continue our efforts to seek a lasting solution to the Appellate Body impasse, including through necessary reforms and improvements.”

The multi-party interim arrangement will be based on Article 25 of the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU). It will secure the participating WTO members (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the European Union, Guatemala, Republic of Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Singapore, Switzerland, and Uruguay) an effective and binding dispute settlement process for potential trade disputes among them.

The arrangement is a contingency measure and it will only apply until the WTO Appellate Body becomes operational again. The EU believes that an independent and impartial appeal stage, giving the necessary guarantees of rulings of the highest quality, must continue to be one of the essential features of the WTO dispute settlement system.

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Tech News

CTCN publication explores role of technology transfer in raising climate ambition

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The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) has published a report titled, ‘Climate Change Strategies 2020′, which highlights the role of technology transfer in the fight against climate change. The publication includes contributions from Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as well as a foreword by CTCN Director, Rose Mwebaza, on how CTCN connects countries with the know-how, technology and finance to achieve their climate goals.There are different sections introducing best practices and cases stories regarding the action, technology, systematic change and making it happen.

The publication outlines the organizational structure and operating modalities of the CTCN in fulfilling its technology support and financing mandate for Parties to the UNFCCC. It explains how CTCN interventions help to build country capacities to adopt and use climate technology,  including through engaging local partners to develop context-specific solutions that are implemented through the global network of more than 500 specialized technical partners. 

It discusses the role of CTCN members in disseminating knowledge products, such as technology assessments, and information on new technologies and approaches, through the ctc-n.org online portal, which also serves as a clearinghouse for information on technical assistance interventions undertaken by the CTCN and its partners.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) hosts the CTCN in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the support of a consortium of partners that are engaged in some 1,500 activities related to climate technologies in over 150 countries.

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Mongolia, ADB Sign Grant to Develop Participatory Food Waste Recycling

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Mongolia have signed a $3 million grant agreement to improve food waste recycling in local communities in the capital city, helping to keep Ulaanbaatar cleaner.

“Discarded food waste sullies the city and can be unhealthy for the people living here,” said ADB Country Director for Mongolia Mr. Pavit Ramachandran. “Implemented jointly with the government, the grant will help improve the living conditions in Ulaanbaatar by introducing participatory food waste recycling practices. It supports national programs and policies of Mongolia on solid waste management and the operational priorities of ADB’s long-term strategy—Strategy 2030.”

Around 1.2 million tons of solid waste are generated annually in Ulaanbaatar. Although close to 20% of the waste is recycled, food waste is typically dumped in formal or informal landfills. This large quantity of food waste pollutes the soil and groundwater and damages the health of urban communities, particularly in ger areas, where there are few water, sanitation, and waste disposal services.

The Ulaanbaatar Community Food Waste Recycling Project, with the participation of local communities, will identify food waste generation and composting options based on current food waste recycling practices. It will also pilot both smaller and larger food waste recycling activities, scale-up existing projects across Ulaanbaatar, and raise overall awareness of the need to recycle food waste.

The project is funded by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, which has supported projects in Mongolia in poverty alleviation, improving livelihoods, and safeguarding the environment over the past 20 years.

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