Global Trade

Trade ministers gather in Tokyo on Friday for a three-day meeting to try to step up the pace of flagging global trade talks, beset by failed deadlines and a lack of progress. Only 25 of the 145 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have been invited to send ministers to the February 14-16 "mini-ministerial". Their task: to thrash out ideas for giving a boost to negotiations, mainly on greater market access in services, industrial goods and the traditionally-thorniest subject of agriculture.
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has called on business to work harder on environmental and social issues.
Despite a recession that knocked down global arms sales last year, the United States expanded its role as the world's leading weapons supplier, increasing its share to more than two-thirds of all foreign armaments deals, according to a new Congressional study.
While City investors have begun to question the role of companies such as BP and Shell in the tar sands business, a new report by Greenpeace claims British motorists are unwitting users of diesel and petrol derived from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada. The carbon-heavy production methods involved make tar sands extraction particularly damaging to the environment.
Natural Fruit, one of Thailand's largest pineapple processors, has sued Andy Hall, a British researcher, over a report that he worked on for Finnwatch on labor abuses in the industry. Hall faces some seven years in jail and $10 million in fines.
Joseph Stiglitz, whose critiques of free market fundamentalism cost him a senior job at the World Bank in 1999 but won him the Nobel Prize for economics last week, has succinct advice for the global justice movement: Keep it up.
Toxic pollution that has mysteriously entered Canada's pristine Arctic region has now been linked to air emissions from specific municipal waste incinerators, cement kilns and industrial plants in the United States, Canada and Mexico, according to a new study released Tuesday.
More than 90% of Royal Bank of Scotland shareholders voted against the bank's pay and pensions policy at its annual general meeting in Edinburgh. RBS does not have to make any changes as a result, saying it was a "substantive" protest at Sir Fred Goodwin's £703,000 a year pension. Sir Philip blamed RBS's difficulties on its acquisition of the Dutch bank ABN Amro in 2007.
Social audits of clothing factories in developing countries are failing to detect excessive and forced overtime, abusive treatment of workers and violations of freedom of association, says a report by the Clean Clothes Campaign, a coalition of trade unions and pressure groups, to be published today.