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Lula criticises French ‘protectionism’ in dispute over EU-Mercosur trade deal

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Lula criticises French ‘protectionism’ in dispute over EU-Mercosur trade deal

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Brazilian leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva lashed out at French “protectionism” on Thursday in response to President Emmanuel Macron’s sharp criticism of a pending trade deal between the EU and the Mercosur bloc of South American nations.

The exchanges added to the last-minute setbacks the agreement — which has been 20 years in the works — has faced in the past week.

Lula said during a summit in Rio de Janeiro of Mercosur nations: “I appealed to Macron to stop being so protectionist [but] it’s not just a case of Macron. All of them [French presidents] are protectionist when it comes to their agricultural products.”

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Diplomats from both the EU and South American group that includes Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and new member Bolivia had hoped to announce the successful conclusion of the long-delayed “cows for cars” trade deal at the gathering in Rio.

But Argentine diplomats backed away from talks, saying they had lost their mandate to continue negotiations given the election of the new Javier Milei administration in Buenos Aires.

Then Macron earlier this month came out vocally against the deal, saying he opposed it and that it was “completely contradictory with what [Lula] is doing in Brazil and with what we are doing”.

“It’s a deal that was negotiated 20 years ago and which we’ve tried to mend, and which has been badly mended,” said Macron, adding he was concerned about the lack of environmental targets.

The comments frustrated EU and Mercosur diplomats.

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Despite French opposition, however, diplomats involved in the negotiations say the deal is not dead and the new Argentine administration has signalled its interest in completing the treaty after it takes office on December 10.

“It’s just a matter of giving the new government in Argentina time to assess the situation,” said a senior diplomat involved. “The new Argentine foreign minister came to Brasília and made clear that the new government would support closing the deal even now.”

“People were led to the conclusion that Macron’s statements had a direct impact on the negotiations, which they don’t. It was crafted for his domestic audience. The authority to negotiate these agreements is up to the [European] commission.”

Lula echoed the comments on Thursday, saying: “We need to keep trying to get this agreement done . . . I had a dream that in my presidency and that of [Spain’s] Pedro Sánchez, in the European Union, we could conclude the negotiations.”

The leftwing leader also criticised a provisional 2019 version of the trade deal, negotiated by his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro. Lula said that agreement, which has since been substantially modified, “treated us as if we were an inferior, even colonised people”.

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Negotiations this year were dominated by an EU demand for additional environmental commitments from South America. The Mercosur nations rejected this as protectionism from Europe, fearing competition from agricultural and wine exports.

Last month, diplomats involved in the talks said they hoped to overcome the issue by crafting a “middle-ground instrument” that would represent a compromise between both sides.

A joint EU-Mercosur statement released on Thursday said: “Considerable progress has been made in the past months. Negotiations continue with the ambition to conclude the process and reach an agreement.”

Despite the setbacks with the EU, Lula hailed Bolivia’s official accession to Mercosur on Thursday as well as the bloc’s signing of a trade treaty with Singapore as “a sign that things continue to work”.

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Trial begins for Vietnamese property tycoon accused of $12bn fraud

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Trial begins for Vietnamese property tycoon accused of $12bn fraud

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The fraud trial of a Vietnamese real estate tycoon who allegedly misappropriated $12bn started on Tuesday, as part of the country’s largest corruption case that has also ensnared officials from the central bank and government.

Truong My Lan faces a death sentence or imprisonment if found guilty in the graft case, which has rocked the property and corporate bond markets of one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

The graft case is part of a corruption crackdown launched by Vietnam’s Communist party that has resulted in the arrests of hundreds of senior government officials, including cabinet ministers. Lan, developer Van Thinh Phat Group’s chair, is the most prominent businessperson to face graft allegations.

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Vietnam has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of manufacturers seeking to diversify their supply chains beyond China as geopolitical tensions between Washington and Beijing rise. However, the Vietnamese economy grew 5.05 per cent in 2023, missing the government’s official target, as overseas demand slowed.

The anti-corruption campaign has slowed down project approvals by the government, and more state scrutiny of private businesses could hurt investor confidence, analysts said.

Lan, 67, comes from one of Vietnam’s richest families who made their fortune in property. She has been charged with bribery, embezzlement, abuse of power and “lack of responsibility causing serious consequences”, according to state media.

She has denied wrongdoing, state media reported. Lawyers for Lan, who was arrested in 2022, did not respond to a request for comment.

Lan is accused by Vietnamese authorities of using Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank (SCB), in which she owns a controlling stake of about 90 per cent, to funnel 304tn dong ($12.3bn) to her real estate company Van Thinh Phat.

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Loans worth more than $44bn were given by SCB to Van Thinh Phat and related companies between 2012 and 2022, accounting for 93 per cent of the total loans disbursed by the bank.

Authorities also said Van Thinh Phat used allegedly fake companies to sell corporate bonds through SCB to the bank’s depositors.

In addition to Lan, 85 people — including 15 officials from Vietnam’s central bank — are charged in connection with the case. The central bank officials are accused of receiving bribes from Lan to cover up the alleged fraud.

“The trial is important in terms of scale and because it signals that the [Communist] party is willing to expand its anti-corruption campaign to the private sector despite potential risks that it might have on the economy,” said Nguyen Khac Giang, a visiting fellow at Singapore’s Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute.

He said Lan’s corruption case had dented the confidence of some private businesses in Vietnam worried about the risks of operating in the country and the state companies they work with.

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The anti-corruption campaign has also made government officials hesitant to approve projects, he added, out of fear that they could be implicated in graft.

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FAA audit faults Boeing for 'multiple instances' of quality control shortcomings

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FAA audit faults Boeing for 'multiple instances' of quality control shortcomings

Boeing workers at the Renton Municipal Airport in Washington finalize assembly of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max jet on Feb. 27. An FAA audit faulted Boeing for “multiple instances” of quality control shortcomings.

Jovelle Tamayo for NPR


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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR


Boeing workers at the Renton Municipal Airport in Washington finalize assembly of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max jet on Feb. 27. An FAA audit faulted Boeing for “multiple instances” of quality control shortcomings.

Jovelle Tamayo for NPR

WASHINGTON — After a six-week audit of Boeing, federal regulators say they found quality control problems at Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems, one of its top suppliers.

The Federal Aviation Administration says it found “multiple instances” of Boeing and Spirit failing to “comply with manufacturing quality control requirements.”

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The FAA launched the audit of Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems, which builds the fuselage for the Boeing 737 Max, after a door plug panel blew out in midair during an Alaska Airlines flight on Jan. 5.

No one was seriously hurt when the plug came off as the new jet climbed through 14,000 feet after departing Portland, Ore. It returned to make an emergency landing as winds whipped through a hole in the fuselage.

A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board determined that four key bolts that were supposed to hold the door plug in place were missing when the plane left Boeing’s factory.

The audit found problems in “Boeing’s manufacturing process control, parts handling and storage, and product control,” the FAA said in a statement.

The agency says FAA administrator Mike Whitaker discussed the findings with Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun last week, when the agency gave Boeing 90 days to come up with a plan of action to address its quality control problems.

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The FAA says it provided both companies with a summary of the audit findings. But the agency declined to share those details with NPR, citing its ongoing investigation.

Auditors visited Boeing’s factory in Renton, Wash., and Spirit’s plant in Wichita, Kan.

Boeing confirmed Friday that it is in talks to buy Spirit AeroSystems.

“We believe that the reintegration of Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems’ manufacturing operations would further strengthen aviation safety, improve quality and serve the interests of our customers, employees, and shareholders,” said Jessica Kowal, Boeing’s director of media relations, in a statement.

That would be a change of strategy for Boeing, which nearly two decades ago sold off the assets that are now part of Spirit.

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But the supplier has had several costly and embarrassing problems with quality control in recent years as it pushed to keep up with Boeing’s ambitious production schedule.

NPR’s Joel Rose reported from Washington, D.C., and Russell Lewis from Birmingham, Ala.

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Read the Decision in the Trump Colorado Ballot Case

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Read the Decision in the Trump Colorado Ballot Case

Cite as: 601 U. S.

Per Curiam

(2024)

5

a wide array of offices-rather than by granting rights to all. It is therefore necessary, as Chief Justice Chase concluded and the Colorado Supreme Court itself recognized, to “ascertain[] what particular individuals are embraced”” by the provision. App. to Pet. for Cert. 53a (quoting Griffin’s Case, 11 F. Cas. 7, 26 (No. 5,815) (CC Va. 1869) (Chase, Circuit Justice)). Chase went on to explain that “[t]o accomplish this ascertainment and ensure effective results, proceedings, evidence, decisions, and enforcements of decisions, more or less formal, are indispensable.” Id., at 26. For its part, the Colorado Supreme Court also concluded that there must be some kind of “determination” that Section 3 applies to a particular person “before the disqualification holds meaning.” App. to Pet. for Cert. 53a.

The Constitution empowers Congress to prescribe how those determinations should be made. The relevant provision is Section 5, which enables Congress, subject of course to judicial review, to pass “appropriate legislation” to “enforce” the Fourteenth Amendment. See City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U. S. 507, 536 (1997). Or as Senator Howard put it at the time the Amendment was framed, Section 5 “casts upon Congress the responsibility of seeing to it, for the future, that all the sections of the amendment are carried out in good faith.” Cong. Globe, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., at 2768.

Congress’s Section 5 power is critical when it comes to Section 3. Indeed, during a debate on enforcement legislation less than a year after ratification, Sen. Trumbull noted that “notwithstanding [Section 3] … hundreds of men [were] holding office” in violation of its terms. Cong. Globe, 41st Cong., 1st Sess., at 626. The Constitution, Trumbull noted, “provide[d] no means for enforcing” the disqualification, necessitating a “bill to give effect to the fundamental law embraced in the Constitution.” Ibid. The enforcement mechanism Trumbull championed was later enacted as part of the Enforcement Act of 1870, “pursuant to the power

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