The Week in Brief: 4 March – 10 March

11 March 2018

The Week in Brief: 4 March – 10 March

Story of the week

Donald Trump to meet Kim Jong-Un by May

US President Donald Trump has agreed to meet with Kim Jong-Un by May, following an unprecedented invitation from the North Korean leader.

South Korean National Security Advisor Chung Eui-Yong announced the news at the White House on Friday, adding that Mr Kim has committed to ceasing nuclear and missile testing by his country.

“[Mr Kim] expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible,” Mr Chung said.

While this marks the most significant breakthrough in over two decades, Mr Chung said pressure would remain on North Korea until its words were backed up by actions.

The location and time of the meeting is still under negotiation.

The announcement came after a South Korean diplomatic delegation travelled to North Korea to encourage a meeting between the hermit state and the US.

This is a welcome development after 2017 saw a rise in tensions on the Korean Peninsular with both Mr Trump and Mr Kim exchanging insults.

The Koreas have also agreed to hold a leadership summit in April.


Australia signs massive free trade agreement with 10 other countries

Representatives from 11 countries including Australia signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) accord in Santiago on Thursday local time.

The other 10 nations include Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore, and with a total population of 480 million, produce approximately 13.5% of the world’s economic output.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo says the CPTPP will have a positive impact on jobs growth in the trading area.

Mr Ciobo told Sky News: “This TPP-11 agreement is an important agreement. It’s opening up $13.7 trillion of economic activity to Australian businesses to be able to export their goods [and] their services, to drive investment into these markets.”

The CPTPP aims to improve market access to companies by removing or lowering obstacles such as tariffs.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the original Trans-Pacific Partnership shortly after his inauguration, saying the deal was not in the best interests of American workers.

Australia to be exempt from US steel and aluminium tariffs

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Saturday that Australia will join Canada and Mexico on the list of US trading partners exempt from steel and aluminium tariffs.

The agreement was reached after extensive lobbying by Canberra, major Australian business figures and Australian diplomats in Washington.

“… we respectfully request that your economic team consider the historic trade surpluses, our $1.29 trillion two-way trade between the United States and Australia, and our critical defence relationship before taking any action that might have demonstrable negative impact on the mutually beneficial American-Australian bilateral relationship.” — An extract from aletter to President Trump from the American Australian Business Council.

Flanked by workers who will supposedly benefit from the tariffs, Mr Trump signed off on the 25% levy on steel and 10% levy on aluminium on Thursday afternoon local time.

The White House says the tariffs, which will take effect in 15 days, are a matter of national security.

President Trump said, “A strong steel and aluminum industry are vital to our national security. You don’t have steel, you don’t have a country.”

Mr Trump said countries will be given the opportunity to justify why they should be exempt from the tariffs.

“If the same goals can be accomplished by other means, America will remain open to modifying or removing the tariffs for individual nations, as long as we can agree on a way to ensure that their products no longer threaten our security,” Mr Trump said.

Flooding in North Queensland reaches catastrophic level

North Queensland has been battered by torrential rain over the last week, with some regions receiving over 600mm of rain.

Many areas are experiencing severe flooding, with major warnings for the Herbert and Flinders rivers.

There is also a group of students on school camp that have been trapped by the flood waters.

They have received an emergency airdrops of food, clothing, and medical supplies.

The state government has declared it a disaster situation.


Nerve agent used in attack on former Russian spy, hospitalises 21 people

A former Russian spy and his daughter have been admitted to hospital in England in a serious condition, after being exposed to a nerve agent in what authorities believe was a targeted attack.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, and were rushed to intensive care for treatment.

Experts have identified the rare toxin that incapacitated the pair, but have not disclosed what it is.

So far the identity of the attacker or attackers is unknown, but there are suspicions that the attack may have been sanctioned by the Russian Government.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement and offered to assist in the investigation.

Sergei Skripal is a former Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) officer who provided identities of dozens of Russian undercover operatives to the British in return for payment, while on postings in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s.

Twenty-one other people have also had to seek medical treatment following the attack, although health officials insist the incident only presents a low risk to the public.

The world marks International Women’s Day

Gender equality was the obvious theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, with both men and women calling for progress on issues such as equal pay and opportunities.

According Spanish unions, some 5.3 million spaniards marked May 8 with a nationwide two hour strike causing the cancellation of hundreds of trains.

French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to “name and shame” organisations which paid women less than men for equal work, following a previous warning to companies that the practice would be a fineable offense.

Around 300 women in Iraq’s second largest city Mosul particpated in a 900 metre run which the organiser, Fatima Khalaf said, symbolised giving “women their place back after being kept at a distance for a long time”, as cited by SBS.

Mosul was liberated from Islamic State control in July last year.

Many of the participants held signs calling for an end to child marriages and the promotion of female free speech.

Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli sentenced to seven years imprisonment

On Friday the US Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York sentenced American businessman Martin Shkreli to seven years imprisonment, including the six months he has already held in custody, and fined him US $75,000.

Earlier that week the judge, Kiyo Matsumoto, ruled that Shkreli would have to forfeit assets to the amount of US $9.3 million.

Prosecutors successfully argued that Shkreli had committed securities fraud, alleging that he had defrauded investors in two failed hedge funds.

The jury also found Shkreli guilty of conspiracy to commit securities fraud.

Shkreli notoriously came to public attention after hiking the price of Daraprim, a medication used to treat toxoplasmosis and prevent a form of pneumonia to which HIV and cancer sufferers are prone.

When Shkreli’s Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the marketing rights to Daraprim, the price rose from US $13.50 to $750 per pill — an increase of over 5000%.

Shkreli consequently acquired the derisive nickname ‘Pharma Bro’ in reference to his unsympathetic and apparent unapologetic attitude.

His conviction was not related to the Daraprim price hike, but Shkreli has claimed he was targeted by prosecutors for the negative publicity it caused.

It is not yet known whether he will appeal the decision.