The EU’s inability to complete a trade agreement with Canada is an embarrassment and could harm its ability to negotiate future deals, a European Parliament vice president said. “The EU has shown itself to be an impossible international negotiating partner with this wrong whole process,” Alexander Lambsdorff told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. The German Liberal lawmaker said he hoped Belgium could work out its issues over CETA to enable it to be signed this year. Manfred Weber, head of a conservative bloc in parliament, told Hessischer Rundfunk that it was a mistake to allow all European parliaments to vote on the trade pact. (Reuters)
The EU is expecting commitments from Russian state gas exporter Gazprom to avoid fines in a five-year antitrust case, the EU’s competition chief said on Wednesday, adding that for now all options remained on the table. “It is now for Gazprom to formally submit commitments that meet the Commission’s objectives,” Margrethe Vestager said following talks with Gazprom in Brussels. If the Commission accepts the settlement, sources said Gazprom would avoid a finding of infringement and a potential fine to 10 percent of its global turnover. (Reuters)
Germany’s national minimum wage is to rise by 4 percent in January, the first increase in the base pay level that was introduced at the insistence of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-left coalition partners. Merkel’s Cabinet approved Wednesday lifting the minimum wage to €8.84 ($9.62) per hour effective January 1. It’s stood at €8.50 since it was introduced in January 2015. The increase was recommended by a committee that will review the minimum wage every two years. It considers, among other factors, the results of industrial pay negotiations. Germany was long one of few major Western industrial nations with no government-mandated national minimum wage. The center-left Social Democrats insisted on it after a 2013 election. (AP)
European companies will build ground infrastructure for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in accordance with European legislation, Deputy Chairman of Gazprom’s Management Committee Aleksandr Medvedev said Wednesday. He added that the same five companies which started the project alongside Gazprom – BASF/Wintershall, ENGIE, Uniper, OMV and Shell – reiterated their support and intention to continue with the project, Sputnik reported. The Nord Stream 2 project is designed to deliver 55 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas a year to the EU across the Baltic Sea to Germany, bypassing Ukraine. The issue of returning to the South Stream pipeline project in its original configuration is irrelevant at the moment, Medvedev said.
Russia’s Economic Development Minister Aleksey Ulyukayev expects capital outflow at no more than $15 billion in 2016, TASS reported. “In 2014, capital outflow totaled $153 billion, last year it decreased to a third of that: $52 billion,” he said Wednesday. “This year it will decrease to a quarter of that figure, and by the end of year it will be no more than $15 billion.”
Russia’s GDP contraction amounted to 0.7 percent in January-September period of 2016, Economic Development Minister Aleksey Ulyukayev said Wednesday. He added that the contraction may total 0.5-0.6 percent by the end of this year, TASS reports. “Unfortunately, we won’t be able to bust out of the slump by the end of the end as we expect an around 0.5-0.6 percent [contraction] by the end of this year,” he said.
A planned EU-Canada summit to sign a free trade deal was still possible on Thursday, European Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday as Belgian politicians entered a second day of talks on the future of the pact. Prime Minister Charles Michel hosted talks from early on Tuesday of regional authorities, including of Wallonia and Brussels that have rejected an accord backed by all 27 other EU governments. “I still hope that Belgium will prove that it is a consensus-building champion and that we will be able to finalize this agreement soon,” Tusk told a session of the European Parliament. Tusk said that there would be consequences for Europe’s global position if it failed to strike a free trade deal with Canada. (Reuters)