Int’l building, construction industry expo opens in Tehran
The 18th edition of an international exhibition on building and construction industry opened on Monday in the Iranian capital of Tehran with the participation of domestic and foreign firms.
The inaugural ceremony of the expo was attended by Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi, IRIB reported.
More than 900 domestic and foreign firms are taking part in the international event.
Representatives from Norway, Italy, Germany, Brazil, South Korea, India, Finland, France, the UK, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Australia, Austria, Japan and Spain have set up pavilions at the exhibition, the report added.
The three-day exhibition is aimed at developing construction style, promoting employment and creating a commercial atmosphere conducive to competitiveness with international companies.
China state media attacks Trump policies on trade
China’s state media on Monday lashed out at the policies of US President Donald Trump in an unusually direct attack, accusing him of “starring in his own carefully orchestrated street fighter-style deceitful drama”.
Trump’s wish for others to play along with his drama is “wishful thinking,” the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper said in an editorial, Reuters reported.
The editorial said the US had escalated trade friction with China, and turned international trade into “zero-sum game”.
“Governing a country is not like doing business,” the editorial said, arguing that Trump’s actions imperiled the national credibility of the US.
The state media sought to reassure investors anxious about China’s economy as growth concerns battered its financial markets.
The heated dispute between the world’s two biggest economies has roiled financial markets including stocks, currencies and the global trade of commodities from soybeans to coal in recent months. Last month, the International Monetary Fund warned that escalating trade conflicts following US tariff actions on its trading partners threaten to derail the global economic recovery.
The United States and China implemented tariffs on $34 billion worth of each other’s goods in July. Washington is expected to soon implement tariffs on an additional $16 billion of Chinese goods, which China has already said it will match immediately.
On Friday, China’s Finance Ministry unveiled new sets of additional tariffs on 5,207 goods imported from the United States worth $60 billion.
That move was in response to the Trump administration’s proposal of a 25-percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.
“US now has upper hand on China”
Trump defended his use of tariffs, telling an audience of diehard supporters on Saturday that playing hardball on trade is “my thing,” Bloomberg reported.
“We have really rebuilt China, and it’s time that we rebuild our own country now,” Trump said. He added that Chinese stocks are down, weakening that nation’s bargaining power in the escalating trade war.
Trump continued his focus on tariffs Sunday morning, tweeting that the duties are working “big time” and that imported goods should be taxed or made in the US. He also suggested duties will allow paying down “large amounts of the $21 Trillion in debt that has been accumulated” while reducing taxes for Americans.
“Every country on earth wants to take wealth out of the US, always to our detriment,” Trump tweeted, “I say, as they come, Tax them.”
The trade war, rising corporate bankruptcies, and a steep decline in the value of the yuan versus the dollar have raised concerns that China’s economy could face a steeper slowdown.
Recent data showed growth has already started to cool. The government has responded by releasing more liquidity into the banking system, encouraging lending and promising a more “active” fiscal policy.
US companies are putting in place measures to cushion the impact of the trade row, including price hikes, and a number of companies – from industrial firms to home furnishers and toymakers – have said they will move some sourcing and manufacturing outside of China.
China’s exports are expected to have maintained solid growth in July despite the new tariffs on billions of dollars of shipments to the US, though the outlook has darkened as both sides raised the stakes in the trade brawl.
EU vows to protect trade with Iran as US reimposes sanctions
Zarif says Trump, its regional allies isolated
Germany upholds export, investment guarantees
The European Union and heavyweight members Germany, France, and Britain on Monday said they “deeply regret” the restoration of sanctions by the United States on Iran, adding the EU and other signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal will work on keeping “effective financial channels with Iran” open.
“The remaining parties to the JCPOA have committed to work on, inter alia, the preservation and maintenance of effective financial channels with Iran, and the continuation of Iran’s export of oil and gas,” said EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini in a statement jointly signed with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany.
“We are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran... This is why the European Union’s updated Blocking Statute enters into force on 7 August to protect EU companies doing legitimate business with Iran from the impact of US extra-territorial sanctions.”
The statute will forbid European businesses from complying with the US sanctions, nullifying any foreign court rulings against them and allowing them to recover damages from the penalties.
The joint statement also stressed that “preserving the nuclear deal with Iran is a matter of respecting international agreements and a matter of international security.”
The Germany Economy Ministry said on Monday it will continue to offer export and investment guarantees for companies doing business with Iran.
“Export guarantees and investment guarantees from the Federal Ministry of Economics are still available to companies,” the economy ministry said. The ministry added that Berlin remains in dialogue with the US on exemptions for German companies from Iran sanctions.
A first round of US sanctions against Iran, lifted under the JCPOA, are due to be reinstated on Tuesday following US President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the nuclear deal in May – a move opposed by all other parties to the agreement. The sanctions will cover Iran’s purchases of dollars, its trade in gold and precious metals and its automotive sector.
Under the deal between Tehran and world powers, most international sanctions imposed on Iran were lifted in 2016 in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear program.
Saying the deal had failed to address Iran’s ballistic missile program, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 and its role in the Middle East, Trump withdrew from it in May.
Despite efforts by Russia, China and Europe to salvage the deal, the Trump administration is pushing countries to cut all imports of Iranian oil from November 5, when the United States reimposes the second round of sanctions targeting Iran’s oil and shipping industries.
Several countries including China, India and Turkey have indicated they are not willing to entirely cut their Iranian energy purchases.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday Trump and his allies in the Middle East have become isolated by their hostile policies toward Tehran.
“Today, Trump, (Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad) Bin Salman and (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu have become the symbol of mistrust in the world,” Zarif said.
“Their oppressive policies and violent measures have made them isolated... The world has distanced itself from their hostile policies against Iran.”
Trump’s withdrawal from the deal was welcomed by Israel and Saudi Arabia who both supported the imminent resumption of US sanctions on Iran.
“They want to create psychological tension against Iran ... We will overcome this period of hardship,” Zarif said.
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Iran eases currency rules, hoping to lift rial
Iran unveiled a much-awaited package of policies that it expects to help strengthen its national currency – the rial – that has lost half its value since April due to fears about US sanctions set to be imposed Tuesday.
Central Bank Governor Abdolnasser Hemmati said the plan reflected Iran’s self-confidence in the face of the looming US sanctions.
“This shows our power. The same day you (Americans) impose sanctions we open our economy. We have no problems, so why should our people worry?,” Hemmati, who was appointed to the post last month, said in a live televised interview on Sunday night.
US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear agreement to lift sanctions in return for Iran curbing its nuclear program caused a run on the rial as companies and savers bought hard currency to protect themselves from the looming economic sanctions.
The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) has blamed “enemies” for the fall of the currency, and the judiciary said 29 people had been arrested on charges that carry the death penalty. On Sunday the judiciary said it had arrested a further seven people, including the CBI’s former top foreign exchange official and five foreign exchange dealers.
A state body led by President Hassan Rouhani and including the heads of the Judiciary and Parliament on Sunday partially lifted a ban on the sale of foreign currency at floating rates, allowing exchange bureaux to sell at unofficial market rates for purposes such as overseas travel.
That reverses the decision in April to ban trading currency outside the rate of about 42,000 rials to the dollar.
The April decision – combined with fears over US sanctions – fueled a run on the currency that saw it lose more than half its value.
Ahead of the announcement of the new measures, the rial gained slightly on the unofficial market, trading at 98,500 to the dollar, compared with 103,000 on Saturday. Hemmati said the CBI will allow a “managed float” of the rial’s exchange rate and try to avoid using up its reserves to support the currency.
“The central bank will try not to interfere in setting the price of hard currencies, which will be determined by supply and demand, however, the bank’s supervision will prevent unbridled (market swings) and the creation of a black market,” Hemmati said.
It will allow the reopening of high street currency exchange bureaus that were shut down in April, although they will face stricter monitoring.
Essential items will still be available at the official government exchange rate of around 42,000 rials to the dollar, while other importers will negotiate rates with exporters.
The unofficial rate for the rial fell to a record 119,000 last week, before rallying in response to the government’s efforts to address the crisis.
To encourage Iranians to return their hard cash to the economy, the plan allows the central bank to set up dollar savings accounts for ordinary people.
Non-oil exporters will be allowed to sell hard currency to importers, and there will be no limit on bringing currency or gold into the country.
In July, Iran opened a secondary foreign-exchange market for importers of non-essential goods that are not eligible to receive the preferential rate from the central bank.
On Tuesday, Washington will reimpose sanctions on Iran’s purchases of US dollars, its trade in gold and precious metals, and its dealings with metals, coal and industrial-related software.
The United States has told third countries they must halt imports of Iranian oil from early November or face US financial measures.
Reuters and AFP contributed to this story.
Imran Khan’s party nominates him as Pakistan’s next PM
Imran Khan’s party on Monday officially nominated the cricket star-turned-politician to be Pakistan’s next prime minister.
To assume office, Khan will face a vote in parliament — perhaps as early as Saturday — in which he will have to defeat a rival candidate fielded by the opposition, AP reported.
Khan’s Tahreek-e-Insaf party won the most parliament seats in last month’s general elections — 115 — but fell short of a majority in the 342-seat assembly, requiring it to form a coalition. Many lawmakers who won as independents in the July 25 vote have joined his coalition.
Tahreek-e-Insaf leader Arif Alvi, a lawmaker elected from Karachi, said Khan was formally nominated at a party meeting in Islamabad on Monday. He was unanimously endorsed, said Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a former foreign minister and party deputy leader.
But Khan is likely to face tough opposition from the Pakistan Muslim League of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and other parties, which allege vote-rigging in last month’s elections. Sharif is currently appealing a 10-year prison sentence for corruption and the party is led by his brother, Shabaz Sharif.
Qureshi insisted the opposition would not be able to undermine the new government and quoted Khan as saying during Monday’s meeting that all they can do is “create a rumpus.”
Also Monday, the Pakistan Muslim League convened in the eastern city of Lahore to discuss the formation of the provincial government in Punjab. It’s relying on assembly members who won seats as independents to side with it in the 371-seat provincial assembly. The party won 129 seats there.
Khan’s party, which won 123 seats in Punjab, is also aspiring to form the provincial government, saying it also has won over many independents.
Saudi expels Canadian envoy, recalls its own over ‘interference’
Saudi Arabia said Monday it was expelling the Canadian ambassador and had recalled its envoy while freezing all new trade, in protest at Ottawa’s vigorous calls for the release of jailed activists.
The kingdom gave the Canadian ambassador 24 hours to leave the country, in an abrupt rupture of relations over what it slammed as “interference” in its internal affairs, AFP wrote.
The move, which underscores a newly aggressive foreign policy led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, comes after Canada demanded the immediate release of human rights campaigners swept up in a new crackdown.
“The Canadian position is an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry tweeted.
“The kingdom announces that it is recalling its ambassador to Canada for consultation. We consider the Canadian ambassador to the kingdom persona non grata and order him to leave within the next 24 hours.”
The ministry also announced “the freezing of all new trade and investment transactions with Canada while retaining its right to take further action”.
Canada last week said it was “gravely concerned” over a new wave of arrests of women and human rights campaigners in the kingdom, including award-winning gender rights activist Samar Badawi.
“We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists,” the Foreign Ministry tweeted on Friday.
Samar was arrested along with fellow campaigner Nassima al-Sadah last week, the latest victims of what Human Rights Watch called an “unprecedented government crackdown on the women’s rights movement”.
Samar is a vocal campaigner for blogger Raif Badawi, her brother who was arrested in 2012. The latest arrests come weeks after more than a dozen women’s right campaigners were detained and accused of undermining national security and collaborating with enemies of the state. Some have since been released.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry slammed the Canadian statement, signaling its growing irritation over Western criticism of the kingdom’s poor human rights record.
“Using the phrase ‘immediately release’ in the Canadian statement is very unfortunate, reprehensible, and unacceptable in relations between states,” the ministry tweeted.
In April, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his “serious concern” over the continued jailing of Badawi to Saudi King Salman.
Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar has been granted asylum by Canada, where she is raising their three children now aged 14, 13 and 10 as a single mother.
Riyadh’s expulsion of the Canadian ambassador was meant to send a strong message to other critical Western governments, observers say.