The United States said Thursday it was taking Indonesia back to the WTO to loosen its rules on the import of agricultural products, saying that reforms have been insufficient. The United States, joined by fellow agricultural exporter New Zealand, said that they were seeking consultations under the World Trade Organization. The United States in early 2013 also held WTO consultations with Indonesia over its \"opaque and complex\" rules on imports. In response, Indonesia streamlined its import licensing process and removed a number of items from regulation including garlic, chili powder and cabbage.
US National Security Adviser Susan Rice assured Israel at high-level talks on Thursday that Washington remained determined to stop Iran developing nuclear arms, the White House said. \"The US delegation reaffirmed our commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,\" said a White House statement released after talks in Jerusalem between Rice, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior officials from both sides. \"The delegations held thorough consultations on all aspects of the challenge posed by Iran, and pledged to continue the unprecedented coordination between the United States and Israel,\" it added.
US officials voiced concern Thursday at the sale of French warships to Moscow as they mulled tougher sanctions on Russia for the political upheaval triggered by the Ukraine crisis. \"We have regularly and consistently expressed our concerns about this sale even before we had the latest Russian actions and we will continue to do so,\" Assistant Secretary for Europe Victoria Nuland told US lawmakers ahead of a visit next week to Washington by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. The first of two Mistral warships is not due to be delivered to Russia until later this year, and France has so far resisted pressure to suspend the controversial $1.2 billion contract. The Mistral is an advanced helicopter assault ship and France's 2011 agreement to sell them to Russia already triggered protests from the United States and other NATO allies.
By Andy Sullivan and Valerie Volcovici WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As Boston Red Sox fans streamed into Fenway Park last April for an early-season baseball game, a small plane circled above, towing a banner that read \"Steve Lynch for Oil Evil Empire.\" Downtown, truck-mounted video screens looped attack ads against the Democratic congressman, who was running for a Senate seat. The man footing the bill for this sharp-edged campaign, San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, called Lynch \"Dr. Evil\" in a local TV interview because he did not oppose the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the United States, which environmentalists say would worsen climate change. When Lynch, a former steel worker, lost the Democratic primary to environmentalist Ed Markey, politicians across the United States were served notice: a deep-pocketed activist was willing to punish them if they did not tackle climate change. Steyer's take-no-prisoners stance on Keystone, an issue that divides Democrats, and his willingness to spend millions of dollars to aggressively push his agenda, has raised questions about whether he might undercut the party's chance to retain control of the Senate in the November 4 congressional elections.
By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bill to end the government's bulk collection of telephone records got a unanimous go-ahead on Thursday from a second U.S. congressional committee, advancing the first legislative effort at surveillance reform since former contractor Edward Snowden revealed the program a year ago. The House of Representatives Intelligence committee voted unanimously by voice vote for the \"USA Freedom Act,\" which would end the National Security Agency's practice of gathering information on calls made by millions of Americans and storing them for at least five years. The panel's vote cleared the way for the measure to be considered by the full House of Representatives, a day after the House Judiciary Committee also voted unanimously to advance a similar, but somewhat more restrictive, measure addressing the collection of telephone metadata. Republican Michigan U.S. Representative Mike Rogers, the intelligence panel's chairman, and Maryland Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, its top Democrat, said they were pleased the measure had garnered strong support from both Republicans and Democrats.
US President Barack Obama has no plans to meet one-on-one with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in June when both attend the D-Day anniversary in France, the White House said Thursday. Russia's intervention in the political crisis in Ukraine has triggered the worst chill in relations between Washington and the Moscow since the end of the Cold War. Both leaders are expected to attend the June 6 ceremony of remembrance in Normandy to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings in Nazi-occupied France during World War II.
U.S. Democratic Senator Carl Levin on Thursday said he plans to introduce legislation soon to prevent corporate inversions, an increasingly popular restructuring that involves U.S. companies moving overseas to avoid U.S. taxes. Levin, a long-time advocate for closing corporate tax loopholes, said he is talking with other senators about potential legislation.
US National Security Adviser Susan Rice assured Israel at high-level bilateral talks on Thursday that Washington remained determined to stop Iran developing nuclear arms, the White House said. \"The US delegation reaffirmed our commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,\" said a White House statement released after talks in Jerusalem between Rice, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior officials from both sides. \"The delegations held thorough consultations on all aspects of the challenge posed by Iran, and pledged to continue the unprecedented coordination between the United States and Israel,\" it added.\"
The United States portrays itself as a bastion of the unfettered free market, but when foreign firms launch takeover bids for American businesses things are not always so laissez faire. The United States is the world's top destination for foreign investment. Business leaders here scoff at protectionism, such as the French government's opposition to US engineering giant General Electric's bid for the energy business of French rival Alstom. \"There's a sense here that the highest bidder should prevail,\" said Mitchell Marks, a mergers and acquisitions specialist at the University of San Francisco.
US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will travel to China on May 11-13 for talks on the economic outlook for the world and the two superpowers, the Treasury announced Thursday. Lew and Chinese counterparts will also discuss China's reform agenda, the coming annual US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, and \"efforts to level the playing field for US workers and firms.\" The Treasury said Lew's meetings with senior Chinese government officials will be on Tuesday. Last month the Treasury warned Beijing over the recent fall in the yuan currency, which the United States has maintained is undervalued and contributes to China's huge trade surplus with the US.
The United States and Canada said Thursday they were \"appalled\" by aerial bombing which Sudan reportedly carried out near a hospital in war-torn South Kordofan. \"We strongly condemn any targeting of civilians, and are appalled by this attack on those providing essential medical care or humanitarian assistance to people in need,\" embassies of the two North American nations said in a joint statement. \"International humanitarian law obligates all parties to a conflict to distinguish civilians from combatants.\" The statement said a number of bombs were reportedly dropped by Sudan's air force near the Mother of Mercy Catholic Hospital in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan state on May 1-2.