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December 6, 2018: National Current Affairs
1. Pak-India trade much below full potential: World Bank
• Trade between Pakistan and India is only valued at a little over $2 billion, but it could be as high as $37bn, says a World Bank report.
• The current trade between the two countries is much below its full potential. It could only be harnessed if both countries agreed to tear down artificial barriers.
• The bank also estimated Pakistan`s potential trade with South Asia at $39.7bn against the actual current trade of $5.1bn.The report, `Glass Half Full: Promise of Regional Trade in South Asia`, released here on December 5, 2018 unpacks four of the critical barriers to effective integration.
• The four areas are tariff and para-tariff barriers to trade, complicated and non-transparent nontariff measures, disproportionately high cost of trade, and trust deficit.
• World Bank`s Director for Macroeconomics, Trade and Investment Caroline Freund said Pakistan`s frequent use of tariffs to curb imports or protect local firms increased the prices of hundreds of consumer goods, such as eggs, paper and bicycles.
• They also raised the cost of production for firms, making it difficult for them to integrate into regional and global value chains, she said. `Pakistan needs to promote export promotion policies to ensure sustainable growth.
2. Rs82bn plan launched to reduce rural poverty
• The Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) on December 5, 2018 unveiled Rs82 billion plan for the agriculture sector, with the aim of enhanced crop yield, improved water efficiency, livestock and fisheries development, and creation of agro-markets with the overall objective of uplifting small farmers and reducing rural poverty.
• The transformative plan based on recommendations made to Prime Minister Imran Khan by MNFSR Task Force follows the `100 Days Agenda` and is part of the Rs200 billion package for the agriculture sector by the federal and provincial governments.
• Listing targets, the minister said that all goals are achievable and every effort will be made by the ministry in this regard.
3. President House set to be opened to general public on 8th
• After the opening of three Governor Houses and a government rest house in Murree to the general public, the highly secured and spacious President House, commonly known as Aiwan-i-Sadr, is set to welcome visitors on Saturday (Dec 8).
• Government had decided to open President House only for one day and people with their families could visit it from 9am to 4pm. So far no decision had been made to make it a regular feature.
• On Saturday (Dec 8), the visitors would have the opportunity to take a round of a mini-zoo inside President House, besides enjoying walk on green lawns and visiting the historic halls situated on the fifth floor, where oath-taking ceremonies of top government functionaries, including the prime ministers, took place.
4. Islamabad knows peace in Afghanistan unlikely without its support: US general
• A senior US general has informed Congress that Pakistan knows very clearly there can be no peace in Afghanistan without their assistance and the United States has to make it `attractive` for them to cooperate.
• Lt Gen Kenneth F. McKenzie, the next commander of the US Central Command, also said at his confirmation hearing that the death toll of Afghan security forces was unsustainable and that`s why a peace deal was needed.
• `Their losses have been very high. They are fighting hard, but their losses are not going to be sustainable unless we correct this problem,` Lt Gen McKenzie told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
• Senator Mazie Keiko Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat, introduced the Pakistan factor in the debate when she asked the general why he believed Pakistan had a role in the Afghan peace process. `Are there any indications that Pakistan wishes to play that kind of a role?` the senator asked.
• `I do believe that any solution in Afghanistan is going to require the assistance of Pakistan. It has to be a regional solution, not just a solution centered in Afghanistan,` Gen McKenzie replied.
5. Japan lends full support to Afghan peace efforts
• Japan on December 5, 2018 lent full support to efforts for peace in Afghanistan through political reconciliation in order to end decades-old Afghan conflict.
• These views were expressed by National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister of Japan Kentaro Sonoura during his meeting with Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa at GHQ in Rawalpindi.
• Kentaro Sonoura expressed full support of his government for peace in Afghanistan through political reconciliation.
• Matters of mutual interest, including bilateral security cooperation and overall regional situation, were discussed during the meeting.
• The developments took place the same day Pakistan assured all-out support to the US for a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict.
December 6, 2018: International Current Affairs
6. China loops Portugal into belt initiative
• China will always stick to `mutual respect` in its efforts to deal with global challenges, President Xi Jinping said on December 5, 2018 in Lisbon, where he signed agreements to link Portugal to Beijing`s belt and road initiative.
• Portugal was Xi`s last stop on a trip that included a meeting of G20 leaders in Buenos Aires, where China and the United States agreed to negotiate a solution to their trade war.
• His comments came on the back of growing caution in parts of Europe about Chinese investment in strategic sectors such as energy and ports, with governments wary that the security of infrastructure could be compromised or that innovations that have had years of research could be lost.
• By contrast, Portugal, which had to be bailed out by the international community during the global financial crisis, has been open to such acquisitions in recent years.
7. Global CO2 pollution set to make sharp rise this year
• Global emissions of carbon dioxide mainly from fossil fuel burning will rise 2.7pc in 2018, scientists said on December 5, 2018, signalling a world `completely off course` in the fight against climate change.
• Last year, CO2 pollution increased by 1.6pc after a three year hiatus that raised hopes manmade greenhouse gas emissions had finally peaked despite an expanding world economy.
• The findings, co-authored by a team of nearly 80 scientists, were published in the journal Open Access Earth System Science Data.
• Rapid deployment of solar and wind power, along with gains in energy efficiency, have been outpaced by growth in demand for freight, personal transport, shipping, and aviation, the research showed.
8. Putin threatens to develop nuclear missiles
• A defiant Vladimir Putin on December 5, 2018 threatened to develop nuclear missiles banned under a treaty with the United States after Washington gave Moscow a deadline to comply with the key arms control agreement.
• The latest spike in tensions came a day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would withdraw from a major Cold War treaty limiting midrange nuclear arms within 60 days if Russia does not dismantle missiles that the US claims breach the deal.
• Putin dismissed Pompeo`s statement as a smokescreen, saying Washington had already decided to ditch the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF).
• Putin said about a dozen countries were now producing mid-range missiles of the type banned by the INF treaty.
9. First baby born via uterus transplanted from dead donor
• In a medical first, a mother who received a uterus transplant from a dead donor gave birth to a healthy baby, researchers reported on December 5, 2018.
• The breakthrough operation, performed in September 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, shows that such transplants are feasible and could help thousands of women unable to have children due to uterine problems, according to a study published in The Lancet.
• The baby girl was born in December 2017, the medical journal added.
• Until recently, the only options available to women with so-called uterine infertility were adoption or the services of a surrogate mother.
• The first successful childbirth following uterine transplant from a living donor took place in 2014 in Sweden, and there have been 10 others since then.
10. Russian tech giant Yandex unveils first smartphone
• Russian internet giant Yandex on December 5, 2018 launched its first ever smartphone in a highly anticipated move into hardware that builds on its popular service apps.
• The company behind the most widely used search engine in Russia and the ex-Soviet region has recently diversified to defend its market share against Google. Like its US rival, it has created a range of popular phone apps for services from taxihailing to ordering takeaway food.
• The new smartphone, called Yandex.Phone, will go on sale today in Russia and online. It will cost 17,990 rubles ($269) less than similar phones from competitors Apple and Samsung and will work with the Android system.