Monthly Archives: June 2012

This is the kind of case that gets the WTO a bad name: confirming a ruling that the US acted illegally in requiring that beef and pork sold in America be marked with a country of origin label (hence the COOL acronym applauded by sub-editors worldwide). Predictably the WTO’s discontents are agin it.

But without getting into the technicalities of the case, which require more qualifications in food technology than I possess (ie >0) to explore fully, the principle behind the ruling is quite simple and quite fair. It’s whether the labelling has the effect of discriminating against foreign producers by being needlessly complex or otherwise unjustifiably difficult to comply. Read more

Welcome to the FT’s live blog assessing the outcome of an extraordinarily dramatic night in Brussels. Markets have responded powerfully with sharp moves in equities, bonds and currencies after EU leaders agreed measures that will see a shift towards central supervision of eurozone banks in exchange for short-term support on Italian and Spanish sovereign debt. We will bring you details of the overnight deal and trace reaction.

18.10: We’re wrapping up the live blog after a day that started very early in Brussels. The action is now shifting over to Berlin, where the German parliament will hold a key vote to approve the ESM and the previously agreed fiscal discipline treaty. For updates on the Bundestag this evening from our own Gerrit Wiesmann, please follow

In the meantime, here are some of the highlights from a busy day following the summit’s late-night deal. Read more

How are poor people helped by an “individual mandate” that forces them to spend money they don’t have on health insurance, asks Gideon Rachman. Read more

After a tense wait, the US Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the core components of the Affordable Care Act, a victory for the president. Many had expected the fate of the law to lie in the hands of Anthony Kennedy, but it was in fact the Chief Justice John Roberts who made the decisive vote.

This graphic explains how each judge voted and previous landmark judgments that the court has made. Read more

Mexico’s three month presidential campaign ended officially on Wednesday. The vote is on Sunday, with results expected by midnight, local time. JP Rathbone gives us his insights on the possible outcomes.  Read more

We’re keeping an eye on the Euro summit after a dramatic first day. Head over to our live blog for all the latest reaction and analysis, or take a look at some of these pieces as we head into the weekend:

Photo AFP

Welcome to our coverage of the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday. By John Aglionby and Ben Fenton in London, and Shannon Bond in New York. All times BST.

The big question will be whether the European leaders who favour quick fixes to the eurozone crisis can persuade German chancellor Angela Merkel that she is wrong to describe their proposals as “eyewash and fake solutions”.

The key event today will be the Italy-Germany semifinal of the Euro 2012 championship the leaders’ dinner but we’re expecting much jockeying and market action before then.

01.40: As of pixel time, negotiations continue in Brussels and our crack team is still on the case.

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We’re shutting down our live updates from New York, but this blog will be back in the swing of things soon, anchored by the FT’s Hong Kong bureau and later by our London colleagues.

As always, keep tuned to for the latest news. Read more

Those worrying about the US being in hock to the rest of the world have fresh reasons for alarm: the US net international investment position (what Americans owe foreigners minus vice versa) last year worsened by about a trillion and a half dollars to a nice round $4tn deficit.

Alarm and despondency! America going bust! Ravening wolves on the streets of Manhattan! Read more

So primed was everyone for an iconoclastic Supreme Court ruling that it took a few moments to realise Obamacare had emerged pretty much unscathed. Among those who mis-skimmed the 66-page document were CNN, Fox News and a host of Republican lawmakers. “Individual mandate ruled unconstitutional. Let Freedom ring!” tweeted Dennis Ross, a Republican congressman from Florida. A few minutes later Mr Ross deleted that and followed up with a new one: “Truly disappointed with Justice Roberts and others who allowed this assault on the Republic to stand.”

Legal scholars will pore over what motivated John Roberts to side with his four liberal colleagues and deprive his fellow conservative justices of a majority. Self-preservation might have been one motivation – it would be a rash chief justice who put his name to the obliteration of a sitting president’s signature domestic reform. Political analysts have less patience than scholars. In addition to the pundits, campaign staff for Mitt Romney and Barack Obama instantly agreed that the ruling would offer bigger political benefits to the Republicans. Read more

Fighters loyal to the Free Syrian Army prepare their weapons (Lo/AFP/GettyImages)

Fighters loyal to the Free Syrian Army prepare their weapons (Lo/AFP/GettyImages)

Activists close to the Free Syrian Army say that recent defections from the regime include a general who was associated with non-conventional weapons, adding that he is the most senior military official to join the opposition thus far.

Syria has an arsenal of chemical weapons, allegedly including significant stocks of nerve gas, that has been high on the list of concerns of western governments and Israel.

The activists say they expect the general will now help them restructure the leadership of the rebels. “He has a lot of information about the deployment of security forces and the regime’s assets,” one activist says. The general, whose name is likely to be made public in the next few days, is thought to have left his post a month ago and gone into hiding before being smuggled to Turkey. Read more

Following the elimination of Lleyton Hewitt and a couple of compatriots in the first round of this year’s Wimbledon, there is no Australian man in the second round of the men’s singles. This is the first time this has happened since 1938. Gideon Rachman asks why. Read more

We’ll be keeping an eye out for the US Supreme Court decision on Obamacare today, but these are the reads that caught our eye on the world news desk this morning:

Hillary Clinton and Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics on June 28 (Ilmars Znotins/AFP/GettyImages)

Hillary Clinton and Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics on June 28 (Ilmars Znotins / AFP/ GettyImages)

Visiting Latvia on Thursday, Hillary Clinton praised the Baltic state for taking “very difficult” austerity measures that would ensure a “stable, prosperous future”.

The US secretary of state is not the only high-profile figure praising Latvia’s economic record.

Christine Lagarde, the IMF managing director, dropped in this month and proclaimed its austerity programme an “inspiration” for heavily-indebted eurozone countries.

Latvia and its Baltic neighbours Estonia and Lithuania suffered the world’s steepest economic contractions in 2009 amid swingeing austerity measures. But now they find themselves in the frontline of the debate over austerity versus growth as the best way to tackle the eurozone’s debt problems. Read more

Cypriot and EU flags. PATRICK BAZ/AFP/GettyImages

The Cypriot and EU flags. PATRICK BAZ/AFP/GettyImages

The same place it was in the 2008 Iceland bailout and that China took in the financial rescue of Pakistan: providing only a supporting role, and showing that cash-for-geopolitical-influence has yet to replace multilateralism as the dominant mode of crisis lending.

In all three cases, there was lots of excited chatter in the run-up to the bailouts about aid-for-influence deals to avoid the strictures of an IMF rescue. Russia was going to bail out Iceland and keep Cyprus out of the clutches of the EFSF/IMF in return for naval bases; Islamabad appealed to China to use some of its huge forex reserves to help out its old foreign policy pal. Read more

Kofi Annan. Photo: Reuters

Kofi Annan, the international envoy on Syria, is trying to salvage his six-point peace plan with an international conference in Geneva this Saturday to build consensus over the form of a political transition.

The UN and Arab League backed plan was in tatters long before today’s statement from the UN that the violence in Syria has, at least, matched levels reached before ceasefire brokered in April. Read more

Euro 2012: Football and politics in Poland and Ukraine

With the European football championship reaching its climax this week, we look at how Poland and Ukraine have fared by hosting the tournament. Neil Buckley, east Europe editor, Jan Cienski, Warsaw correspondent and Simon Kuper, the FT columnist covering the tournament, join Gideon Rachman.

Here are our tips from the world new desk today:

Photo: AP

A day after Recep Tayyip Erdogan,  Turkey’s powerful prime minister, effectively declared Damascus a hostile state and announced that Ankara would retaliate without warning against Syrian border incursions, the rest of the country is still trying to work out what those words mean – for rules of engagement, for Syria’s rebels, and for politics at home.

The short answers are that the border will become more militarised, with the Turkish army aiming at Syrian forces before they cross the frontier, that the rebels can expect considerably more help, probably including arms, and that Erdogan, long a dominant political figure, now has even more room for manoeuvre. Read more

Image by Getty

The US Supreme Court is expected to rule this Thursday on whether or not the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – rechristened “Obamacare” by its detractors – is constitutional.

Find out more about Obamacare, the justices making the decision and the nitty-gritty elements of this ruling with these articles: Read more

Thoughtful speech today by Pascal Lamy, who has signalled he will step down as director-general of the World Trade Organisation when his term finishes in August 2013, and thus, we journalists fervently hope, will be speaking more and more bluntly as the end approaches.

Lamy compares the general shambolic state of multilateralism (last week’s utterly futile Rio+20 climate change summit perhaps setting a new low) with the difficulties with governing the eurozone: Read more