World News in Brief: December 21

Saturday, 2019-12-21 14:18:25
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Cuba is looking to increase exports by 3.7 percent next year, Cuban Minister of Economy Alejandro Gil said on Friday (December 20). Gil made the remarks during the fourth session of the ninth National Assembly of People's Power, Cuba's single-chamber parliament.

* The phase-one economic and trade deal between China and the United States benefits both sides and the whole world, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Friday. In a phone conversation with his US counterpart, Donald Trump, Xi noted that the two countries have reached the phase-one agreement on the basis of the principle of equality and mutual respect.

*US President Donald Trump on Friday signed into law a US$738-billion defense bill which includes controversial provisions calling for sanctions against Russia and Turkey. Trump approved the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which will increase the US defense spending by about US$20 billion, or about 2.8 percent, on Friday night at a signing ceremony held at the Joint Base Andrews near Washington.

* Lawmakers in Britain's House of Commons gave overwhelming backing Friday for Prime Minister Boris Johnson's re-shaped Brexit deal. By 358 votes to 234, a majority of 124, MPs voted in favor of the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, giving Johnson a clear run to end Britain's membership of the bloc on January 31.

* A Russian shipyard will deliver five nuclear-powered submarines to the Russian Navy in 2020, Mikhail Budnichenko, chief executive officer of the shipyard, said in an interview with TASS news agency published on Friday.

* The European Commission adopted on Friday a new aid program for Morocco worth EUR389 million (US$431 million). The program includes EUR289 million financed through bilateral cooperation to support reforms and inclusive development in Morocco, official news agency MAP reported.

* The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the government of India on Friday signed a loan of US$490 million for a public-private partnership (PPP) project to upgrade about 1,600 km of roads in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.

* The reduction of Brazil's basic interest rate Selic will save the Brazilian government BRL110 billion (US$26.8 billion) in 2020, President Jair Bolsonaro said on Friday.

* The six-month firearms buyback and amnesty was officially over with around 60,907 prohibited firearms removed from circulation, said New Zealand Minister of Police Stuart Nash on Saturday.

* US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday spoke over phone with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on the construction of Nord Stream 2 and other issues of mutual concern, said the US State Department.

* Foreign ministers of the Adriatic Trilateral countries on Friday agreed on more initiatives for the enlargement of the European Union (EU) and the cooperation of southeast European countries with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

* Nine people died on Thursday night when a private plane crashed in Venezuela's northern state of Miranda, the country's attorney general, Tarek William Saab, confirmed on Friday.

* The casualty toll in protests since early October in Iraq has risen to 485 dead and some 27,000 wounded, an official from the human rights watchdog said Friday.

* At least 30 Palestinian demonstrators were injured on Friday during clashes with Israeli soldiers stationed on the border between the eastern Gaza Strip and Israel.