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US offer to EU: We’ll remove tariffs if Airbus repays billions

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The US has offered to settle an aircraft subsidy dispute with the EU if Airbus repays billions in aid, Reuters reports.

The United States has offered to settle a long-running aircraft subsidy dispute with the European Union and remove tariffs on wine, whisky and other products if Airbus repays billions of dollars in aid to European governments, several sources close to the matter told Reuters news agency.

The offer was made by US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer days before the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) release on Tuesday of a report authorising Brussels to slap counter-tariffs on US goods over subsidies to planemaker Boeing.

Lighthizer’s proposal, however, is unlikely to win support from the EU, which appears set to ask the WTO at an October 26 meeting to endorse $4bn in EU tariffs on US goods. The imposition of $7.5bn of US tariffs over Airbus subsidies has already started to hit European goods.

The European Commission confirmed it had received what it described as the first US response to its own July proposal to end the dispute.

“That is the first time we have received US feedback on some substantive aspects of our proposal. We have now provided our reaction and we are prepared to continue these discussions,” a commission spokeswoman said.

The USTR’s office, which earlier this week said it was awaiting answers from the EU on an unspecified offer, did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Airbus shares were down 3.3 percent at 12:14 GMT, extending earlier losses.

WTO ruling

The WTO has ruled that European government loans to Airbus were unfairly subsidised through low interest rates while Boeing received unfair support from tax breaks. Both sides say they have remedied past flaws and are in line with WTO rules now.

The loans stand at the centre of a dispute that has dragged on for 16 years and bedevilled trade relations in sectors ranging from luxury goods to agriculture as the two nations seek to punish aircraft subsidies with tariffs.

The Airbus logo is pictured at the entrance of the company’s facility in Bouguenais, near Nantes, France [File: Stephane Mahe/Reuters]

Under the US offer, interest rates on past loans to support Airbus development programmes would be reset to a level that assumed that only as few as half of the projects would succeed, two of the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

That would assume a higher risk than Airbus partner nations – Britain, France, Germany and Spain – have traditionally priced into the loans and reflects a speculative type of investment.

Such repricing could cost Airbus up to $10bn, seen as unacceptable to the EU at a time when aircraft manufacturers have been seeking funds to survive the coronavirus crisis.

One European source called the US proposal “insulting” and said it could accelerate the tariff war. A US source, meanwhile, said Lighthizer was “serious” about getting Airbus to repay aid.

Jostling for position

Analysts say the US and EU are trying to strengthen their positions ahead of any future negotiations. Both sides have urged negotiations while accusing the other of refusing to engage seriously.

Repaying old subsidies is one of the thorniest topics in the discussions because WTO remedies are often forward-looking. The commission said its proposals covered future aid for the sector.

The US argues that merely addressing future types of support would fail to resolve continuing harm to Boeing caused by the presence on the Airbus balance sheet of past loans that it can still use to develop jets and offer unfairly low prices.

Jamieson Greer, former chief of staff to Lighthizer and now a partner with law firm King & Spaulding, said that any deal must involve some form of subsidy payback by Airbus.

“(Lighthizer) has been very public on the basic principle that … some form of restitution is an important part of any resolution,” Greer said.

European sources say that Boeing would also have to hand back billions if the same philosophy were applied to the US planemaker.

Currently, Airbus repays government loans only when its sales exceed a certain threshold, while loans for weak-selling planes such as the A380 superjumbo can be waived partly or fully.

Airbus says the disputed system favours taxpayers because loan repayments on successful jets such as the A320 far outweigh amounts written off on jets that fail to reach sales targets.

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Melania Trump to vote on Election Day, first lady’s spokeswoman says

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President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Pickaway Agricultural and Event Center on October 24 in Circleville, Ohio.
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Pickaway Agricultural and Event Center on October 24 in Circleville, Ohio. Evan Vucci/AP

Shortly after Ohio State defeated Nebraska on the opening weekend of Big Ten college football, President Donald Trump took credit for the return of the conference’s season. 

“And it’s great to be back in Ohio to celebrate the return of Big Ten football with a big victory today for the Buckeyes,” Trump told the crowd Saturday at a rally in Circleville, Ohio, just outside of Columbus. 

“So then I had an idea, I said I’m gonna get it open if it’s shutdown, that’s what happened,” Trump said. “And I worked hard to bring back Big Ten and I got together with your commissioner, he did a good job, and we got it back, and today you won your football game and you were very happy about it.”

Trump repeatedly pressured the conference to play football this fall, which it ultimately decided to do. However, it’s unclear how much influence the President’s pressure had on that decision despite him taking credit for it. 

CNN’s Harry Enten wrote earlier that Trump obviously saw a political opportunity with concern to the Big Ten. There’s a reason he focused most of his attention on the Big Ten suspending play, as opposed to the many other conferences that did. Most of those other conferences aren’t based in swing states.

And Trump wasn’t alone. Biden also made ads showing empty college football stadiums due to the coronavirus with the blame landing at Trump’s feet.

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Poland had some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe. They just got even stricter.

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Poland’s highest court on Thursday banned abortions due to fetal defects, a ruling that further narrows reproductive rights in a country with some of the most conservative abortion laws in Europe.

On Friday, protestors took to the streets and clashed with police in several major cities across Poland to demonstrate against what reproductive rights advocates say is effectively a near-total ban on abortions.

The Polish constitutional tribunal found that abortions in cases where “prenatal tests or other medical indications indicate a high probability of severe and irreversible fetal impairment or an incurable life-threatening disease” violate the right to life.

The only remaining reasons someone can get a legal abortion in Poland now are in the case of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger. According to CNN, around 98 percent of legal abortions in Poland are conducted due to fetal defects.

Dunja Mijatović, the human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, condemned the ruling and deemed it a “sad day for women’s rights.”

“Removing the basis for almost all legal abortions in Poland amounts to a ban and violates human rights,” she tweeted. “Today’s ruling of the Constitutional Court means underground/abroad abortions for those who can afford and even greater ordeal for all others.”

The decision prompted fierce protests in many cities. In the capital of Warsaw, protesters gathered outside the house of Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Poland’s right-wing ruling party, holding signs that read, “You have blood on your hands.” After protesters clashed with riot police, a Warsaw police spokesperson said on Friday that 15 people had been arrested and the police had filed 89 motions in court.

More protests are expected throughout the weekend. “In a few days, hell for women will begin in this country,” reads the Facebook event description for a protest planned this weekend in the city of Gdańsk, according to the Guardian.

Further restricting abortion isn’t likely to be a popular move

Over 100 conservative and nationalist lawmakers asked the constitutional tribunal last year to consider the legality of abortion in the case of fetal defects, something they’ve framed as “eugenic” abortion.

Critics say that the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has undermined judicial independence and packed the constitutional tribunal with partisans who will rule in favor of its political programs.

Political analysts say that the timing of the decision might reflect that tribunal’s desire to help buttress the PiS party’s political interests, particularly at a time when its governing coalition with a smaller, hard-right party is in a state of crisis.

“It’s PiS trying to score points with the far right,” Marta Lempart, an activist with Polish Women’s Strike, a grassroots movement focused on abortion rights, told Politico Europe.

The court’s ruling does not appear to be in sync with public opinion. “Although Poland is one of Europe’s most staunchly Roman Catholic countries, opinion polls suggest there is a clear majority against making the abortion law stricter,” BBC reported.

Former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk tweeted: “Throwing the topic of abortion and a ruling by a pseudo-court into the middle of a raging pandemic is more than cynical.”

Women’s rights organizations in Poland say that the actual number of abortions performed every year is far larger than the official numbers show — many are conducted illegally within Poland or legally in neighboring countries.

While the official number of abortions last year was 1,100, Lempart estimated that Poles conducted 100,000 to 150,000 abortions, either illegally within the country or across the border in neighboring countries with less stringent regulations on abortion.

The new ruling could push illicit abortions even further underground by making it an even rarer and more strictly regulated act — and that in turn could potentially make them more expensive.

“Safe abortion will effectively be accessible only to women who can afford it,” Lempart told Politico Europe. “Others will look for cheaper and therefore more dangerous options.”


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UFC lightweight champion Khabib retires after beating Gaethje

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Khabib Nurmagomedov chokes Justin Gaethje unconscious to retain title, announces retirement following death of his father and coach.

UFC superstar Khabib Nurmagomedov has announced his retirement after defeating Justin Gaethje to successfully defend his lightweight title and retain his perfect record.

The undefeated 32-year-old mixed martial artist from Dagestan, Russia, collapsed in the centre of the octagon and sobbed after choking his American opponent unconscious at UFC 254 on Saturday.

On getting up, he took off his gloves and left them on the mat.

“This is my last fight in the UFC,” he said.

His father and coach Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov passed away in July due to complications caused by COVID-19.

Nurmagomedov said in the post-fight interview that he talked to his mother for three days before deciding to accept the fight against Gaethje in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

“There’s no way I’m going to be back without my father. I spoke to my mother. She don’t know how I fight without father, but I promised it’s going to be my last fight, and if I give my word, I have to follow it.”

The American troubled the champion with leg kicks but succumbed to a triangle choke in the second round as Nurmagomedov cemented his claim to be the most dominant MMA fighter of all time with a 29-0 record.

Social media erupted in celebration and tribute following Nurmagomedov’s win and retirement announcement.

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