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Daily Archives: August 1, 2020

Two-Thirds of UK Firms ‘Fully Operational’ After COVID, Survey Says

LONDON – Two thirds of British businesses say they are now “fully operational” after the coronavirus lockdown, up from half in June, according to a survey on Sunday.

A further 21 percent of the firms, polled in the first half of July by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said they were partly operational with some premises still closed.

“With businesses gradually reopening, this month’s data seems to indicate a turning point for the economy,” said Alpesh Paleja, an economist for CBI, one of Britain’s main business lobby groups.

But many firms, especially those in consumer-facing sectors, remained in “acute financial distress,” he added.

Britain’s lockdown has been slowly lifting since May, with the last major change on July 4, when hotels, pubs and restaurants were allowed to reopen.

However, on Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was postponing further relaxation, which would have helped some arts and entertainment venues, due to rising cases.

Businesses on average said they were operating at 85 percent of usual capacity due to social distancing, compared with 72 percent when a stricter rule generally requiring two meters of distance was in force.

Lack of demand from customers continued to be businesses’ most common challenge to resuming normal operations, the CBI said. More than two thirds of firms named it as a barrier to normal operations, down slightly from three quarters in June.

The Bank of England is due to set out new quarterly forecasts on Thursday, as different sectors of the economy recover at different rates from the unprecedented economic damage.

Whether the main barrier to growth is lack of consumer demand, or businesses’ difficulties meeting it, will be key to the central bank’s decisions on stimulus later this year.



Source: Voice Of America

WHO Predicts Lengthy Pandemic; Another US Lawmaker Tests Positive

Seven Chinese health officials, the first of a 60-member team, are set to arrive in Hong Kong on Sunday to begin widespread COVID-19 testing in the territory. The global financial hub is experiencing a third wave of the coronavirus outbreak. Hong Kong’s infection rate has been in the triple digits for the past 11 days.

The coronavirus pandemic, declared by the World Health Organization on March 11, will be a lengthy one, the WHO said Saturday.

Citing the likelihood of response fatigue, the health organization’s emergency committee anticipates the COVID-19 pandemic will be long and the global risk level of COVID-19  very high, it said in a statement.

So far worldwide, at least 17.7 million people have been infected and at least 681,000 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

“It’s sobering to think that six months ago,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said before entering the meeting as it began Friday, “there were less than 100 cases and no deaths outside China.”

In the United States, which leads the world in confirmed cases, 4.6 million, and deaths, more than 145,000, another member of the U.S. Congress has tested positive for the virus.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, 72, a Democrat from Arizona, on Saturday became at least the 11th member of Congress to test positive for the coronavirus. Grijalva is the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, where he sat close to Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, who earlier this week tested positive for the virus. It is unclear where Grijalva was exposed to the virus, and like Gohmert, he has no symptoms.

“While I cannot blame anyone directly for this, this week has shown that there are some members of Congress who fail to take this crisis seriously,” Grijalva said in the statement. “Numerous Republican members routinely strut around the Capitol without a mask to selfishly make a political statement at the expense of their colleagues, staff, and their families.”

Lawmakers for the Navajo Nation, another area hit hard by the pandemic, passed nearly $651 million in spending to fight the coronavirus. The funds came from more than $714 million the tribe received as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.


About 175,00 people live on the reservation that spreads across parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. About one-third of the homes lack running water, and quarantining is an unfamiliar concept.

As of Friday, the tribe reported more than 9,000 people infected and 456 deaths.

On Saturday, Vietnam said it plans to test everyone in Danang, a city of 1.1 million, for the coronavirus.

The country had been a success story, passing 100 days without a new case of coronavirus, when a cluster of cases surfaced in the popular resort city.

Forty new cases were reported Saturday and four more Sunday, for a total of nearly 600 confirmed cases of coronavirus and three deaths.

Up to 800,000 visitors to Danang have left for other parts of the country since July 1, the Health Ministry said Saturday, adding that more than 41,000 people have visited three hospitals in the city since.

New coronavirus cases in other cities, including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, have links to Danang.

Also Saturday, France began testing travelers for the coronavirus when they arrive at airport or port from one of 16 countries. Travelers can skip the test if they have proof of a negative test within 72 hours.

France is not allowing most travel to or from those 16 countries, which include the U.S. and Brazil.

Daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 have increased in France recently to more than 225,000 and more than 30,200 deaths. It is now mandatory to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces.


Source: Voice Of America

U.S. Agriculture Praises Senate Letter Urging Administration to Make Greater Strides to Protect Common Food and Wine Terms

ARLINGTON, Va., July 31, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — A diverse range of farm and agricultural industries is praising a bipartisan Senate letter sent today to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging stronger international safeguards to protect U.S. exporters using common food and wine terms. Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) led this effort that resulted in support from a total of 61 Senators.

The letter requests that the U.S. government enhance their  common food name protections as a core policy objective in all trade-related discussions. This is a direct challenge to the European Union (EU)’s misuse of protections meant for valid geographical indications (GIs) to instead block American exports of common or generic food and wine terms, such as parmesan, feta, bologna or chateau. These unjustified trade barriers harm American farmers, limit choices for consumers and have put manufacturing jobs across an essential sector at risk.

Signers of the letter included several senators holding leadership positions on committees with jurisdiction over this issue, notably the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance and the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture. In addition, the letter also includes the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property.

Farm and agricultural industries commending the letter include:

  • Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN)
  • U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC)
  • American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF)
  • North America Meat Institute (NAMI)
  • National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA)
  • National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF)
  • Wine Institute (WI)

“The United States has been fighting the EU’s unfair GI trade policies with one hand tied behind its back while the EU has been battling with its full force. This unbalanced approach has helped the EU in its efforts to block U.S. exports of products using common food and wine terms, causing serious harm to America’s farmers, ranchers, food manufacturers and exporters. We applaud Senators Thune, Stabenow Tillis and Baldwin for leading this effort to meet the EU’s efforts to block American exports with an equal force to promote fair trade and ensure the free flow of products using all tools available to the U.S. government,” said Jaime Castaneda, Executive Director of CCFN.

“We encourage USTR and USDA to immediately establish the explicit protection of common food names as a primary policy objective in all trade discussions. The overwhelming bipartisan support demonstrated by the U.S. Senate for this goal underscores the importance of breaking down these GI-related barriers and achieving greater export safeguards for U.S. cheeses and other common name products. By putting protections for common food and wine terms first, we will ensure that American-made products do not come in last,” said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of USDEC.

“Protection for the use of common food names will greatly assist in the export of high-quality American agricultural products around the world.  We applaud the U.S. government for their efforts to remove  trade barriers that block our exports,” said Zippy Duvall, President of AFBF.

“The European Union has for too long unjustifiably and erroneously attempted to restrict trade in common food name products, including meat exports from the U.S. The policy advocated in the bipartisan letter sent today to USDA and USTR will advance critical safeguards for common food name products in international trade and will enable America’s meat and poultry packers and processors, agricultural producers and food manufacturers to compete on a level playing field with their counterparts in the EU. We thank Sens. Thune, Stabenow, Tillis and Baldwin for their leadership, and we stand ready to work with the Administration to defend against anti-competitive and protectionist policies pursued by trading partners that serve only to impede U.S. meat and poultry exports,” said Julie Anna Potts, CEO of NAMI.

“As tireless advocates for U.S. food and agriculture exports, NASDA members understand the importance of protecting the use of common food names. Securing clear assurances from trading partners that preserve the value of U.S. market access must be an integral part of U.S. trade policy. NASDA looks forward to supporting our federal partners as they continue to seek trade deals that increase sales of U.S. products around the globe,” said Dr. Barb Glenn, CEO of NASDA.

“Europe has demonstrated it will not yield in its efforts to erect trade barriers and limit fair competition from high-quality American-made food and wine products, including U.S. cheeses. A comprehensive long-term U.S. trade strategy is required to protect American farmers and food producers. The letter sent today by Senators Thune, Stabenow, Tillis and Baldwin is a critical step forward for advancing freer trade,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF.

“We have watched time and again as the EU has gone well beyond protecting legitimate GIs to erect trade barriers that benefit their own producers at our expense. The recent EU-China agreement on GIs is a perfect example of how the EU abuses GIs for their own gain. We are grateful to these Senators for saying enough is enough, the U.S. must do more to ensure a level playing field for common food names, grape varietal names and traditional terms,” said Bobby Koch, President and CEO of Wine Institute.

Shawna Morris
Consortium for Common Food Names