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CRS — Keystone XL Pipeline: Overview and Recent Developments (April 1, 2015)

April 21, 2015 Comments off

Keystone XL Pipeline: Overview and Recent Developments (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would transport oil sands crude from Canada and shale oil produced in North Dakota and Montana to a market hub in Nebraska for further delivery to Gulf Coast refineries. The pipeline would consist of 875 miles of 36-inch pipe with the capacity to transport 830,000 barrels per day. Because it would cross the Canadian-U.S. border, Keystone XL requires a Presidential Permit from the State Department based on a determination that the pipeline would “serve the national interest.” To make its national interest determination (NID), the department considers potential effects on energy security; environmental and cultural resources; the economy; foreign policy, and other factors. Effects on environmental and cultural resources are determined by preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The NID process also provides for public comment and requires the State Department to consult with specific federal agencies.

CRS — Small Business Administration Trade and Export Promotion Programs (February 3, 2015)

April 21, 2015 Comments off

Small Business Administration Trade and Export Promotion Programs (PDF)
Source: COngressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

According to Census Bureau data, approximately 1% of small businesses in the United States currently export. With roughly three-quarters of world purchasing power and almost 95% of world consumers living outside U.S. borders, more attention is being paid to the potential of small business export promotion programs to grow small businesses and contribute to the national economic recovery. In addition, some Members of Congress believe the contributions of small businesses to commercial innovation and economic growth could be enhanced through greater access to growing international markets.

Consistent with these policy goals, the Small Business Administration (SBA) provides export promotion and financing services to small businesses through its loan guaranty programs, management and training programs, and other initiatives. SBA’s Office of International Trade (OIT) coordinates these activities as it assists with four stages of export promotion: (1) identifying small businesses interested in export promotion; (2) preparing small businesses to export; (3) connecting small businesses to export opportunities; and (4) supporting small businesses once they find export opportunities.

Roundup of Recent Congressional Research Service Reports on the Middle East

April 21, 2015 Comments off

Roundup of Recent Congressional Research Service Reports on the Middle East (PDFs)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

EU — Radio Spectrum: A Key Resource For The Digital Single Market

April 20, 2015 Comments off

Radio Spectrum: A Key Resource For The Digital Single Market
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

Radio spectrum refers to a specific range of frequencies of electromagnetic energy that is used to communicate information. Applications important for society such as radio and television broadcasting, civil aviation, satellites, defence and emergency services depend on specific allocations of radio frequency. Recently the demand for spectrum has increased dramatically, driven by growing quantities of data transmitted over the internet and rapidly increasing numbers of wireless devices, including smartphones and tablets, Wi-Fi networks and everyday objects connected to the internet.

Radio spectrum is a finite natural resource that needs to be managed to realise the maximum economic and social benefits. Countries have traditionally regulated radio spectrum within their territories. However despite the increasing involvement of the European Union (EU) in radio spectrum policy over the past 10 to 15 years, many observers feel that the management of radio spectrum in the EU is fragmented in ways which makes the internal market inefficient, restrains economic development, and hinders the achievement of certain goals of the Digital Agenda for Europe.

In 2013, the European Commission proposed legislation on electronic communications that among other measures, provided for greater coordination in spectrum management in the EU, but this has stalled in the face of opposition within the Council. In setting out his political priorities, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has indicated that ambitious telecommunication reforms, to break down national silos in the management of radio spectrum, are an important step in the creation of a Digital Single Market. The Commission plans to propose a Digital Single Market package in May 2015, which may again address this issue.

The Hong Kong Policy Report

April 17, 2015 Comments off

The Hong Kong Policy Report
Source: U.S. Department of State, Office of Inspector General

The United States has considerable and longstanding interests in Hong Kong. Cooperation between the United States Government and the Hong Kong Government (HKG) remains broad, highly effective, and mutually beneficial. Our relationship with Hong Kong is based on the framework of “one country, two systems,” enshrined in Hong Hong’s Basic Law, which serves as a virtual (or de facto) constitution. Under this system, Hong Kong exercises autonomy in all areas except foreign policy and defense affairs. Hong Kong participates actively and independently in a range of multilateral organizations and agreements such as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), with trade policy objectives that generally align with our own, and is recognized as a separate customs territory by the United States.

There are more than a dozen U.S.-Hong Kong agreements currently in force. Our day-to-day bilateral law enforcement cooperation is on par with many of our closest allies. Hong Kong’s strong traditions of rule of law, low levels of corruption, and high levels of public safety make it a preferred choice for American businesses in the region. The United States enjoys diverse cultural, educational, scientific, and academic exchanges with the people and Government of Hong Kong.

Education for All Global Monitoring Report launched around the World

April 16, 2015 Comments off

EFA Global Monitoring Report launched around the World
Source: UNESCO

The 2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report: Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges was launched yesterday from three global launch locations: Paris, New Delhi and New York.

The new Report gives the verdict on global progress towards the six Education for All goals set in Dakar at the start of the Millennium. It concludes that only a third of countries have met all of the measurable Education for All goals; only a half have reached the most watched goal of universal primary education.

Single European Sky

April 16, 2015 Comments off

Single European Sky
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

uilding on the achievements of the internal market and the need to cope with growth in air transport and congestion, the European Commission launched the Single European Sky (SES) initiative in 1999. Its core objective is to reform the architecture of air traffic control in the EU in order to meet future capacity and safety needs, through improving the overall performance of air traffic management and air navigation services.

Two SES packages have been adopted: SES I, which set the principal legal framework, and SES II, which aimed at tackling substantial air traffic growth, increasing safety, reducing costs and delays and the impact of air traffic on the environment. Nonetheless, European airspace remains heavily fragmented and SES is experiencing significant delays, in particular in terms of achievement of its performance goals and deployment of its basic elements such as ‘functional airspace blocks’.

In order to speed up its implementation, the Commission undertook a review of the SES legal framework, and in June 2013 presented an SES2+ package. While airline associations welcomed the initiative, trade unions have been much more critical on certain provisions. The European Parliament, which has underlined the need to push ahead with SES implementation, adopted its first reading position on the SES2+ package in March 2014. In December 2014, the outcome of the Transport Council somewhat reduced the ambitions of the Commission’s initial objectives. However, progress on SES2+ remains blocked over the disputed question of its application to Gibraltar airport. The adoption of the package still requires the approval of both the Council and the European Parliament.

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