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Daily News - Tuesday, 03 July 2007

Mexican talks
Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso met in Mexico with the Foreign Relations Minister of Mexico Patricia Espinosa Castellanos to resume talks for a free trade agreement between the DR and Mexico. The meeting was within the framework of the IVth Meeting of the Mixed Intergovernmental Commission Mexico-Dominican Republic, as reported in Clave Digital.
The FTA would foster increased bilateral trade, but also among other nations in Latin America and the rest of the Caribbean. Morales spoke of the success the DR has already had in attracting Mexican investment and the increase in trade and business deals in recent years.
Morales explained that the forum seeks to foster closer regional ties in these days of enhanced security. Furthermore, he mentioned that Mexico could be an ally to the DR as it confronts its energy challenges.
The subject of Haiti was also brought up, and both Morales Troncoso and the Mexican colleague backed more international support for governance and development of economic and social programs in Haiti.
Morales also spoke of the need to strengthen the Grupo de Rio, as a space for political dialogue and for the region to defend its interests.
Foremost on the agenda, though was to secure the support of Mexico so the DR could source Mexican textiles in its apparel exports to the US, as is established in DR CAFTA. This facility would make DR exports more competitive. DR has requested technical assistance to Mexico in order to administer the agreement, given the Mexican conflict resolving experience with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

DR seeks African vote
The DR is courting the African vote in its diplomatic efforts to be voted to the non-permanent seat on the Security Council by the Assembly of Nations of the United Nations in November 2007. Hans Dannenberg, Dominican ambassador in India, represented the DR at the 9th Summit of the African Union that the country attended as an observer.
The DR competes against Costa Rica, which has held the seat on two previous occasions. The DR is a member of the United Nations since its founding in 1945, and has never held a seat on the Security Council.
Dannenberg explained that the DR also attended the summit to strengthen bilateral relations with the African countries and consolidate historic and cultural ties with the region.

Taiwanese Vice President visits tomorrow
Taiwanese Vice President Annette Lu Hsiulien will be arriving in the DR tomorrow on an official three-day visit, part of a tour to the Americas. Hsiulien will meet with President Leonel Fernandez and Vice President Rafael Alburquerque. She will visit the Robert Reid Cabral Children's Hospital where she will make a donation. She will also be awarded an honorary degree from the UASD state university and will visit the Institute of Technology of the Americas, to which Taiwan is a major contributor. She is scheduled to meet with the local Taiwanese community. On her agenda is also a visit to the Colonial City of Santo Domingo.

Security paper for property titles
The Supreme Court of Justice will be issuing 1,400,000 property title certificates using a new secure system that will be implemented at all real estate registrars. The Supreme Court judge Jorge Subero Isa announced it has signed an agreement with the Chicago firm Moore & Wallace to issue the documents. The new titles comply with recently modified Law 108-05 on Property Registration.

CDEEE explains blackouts
State Run Electric Companies (CDEEE) says that the increase in blackouts is due to an increase in demand for power caused by the summer months. The CDEEE also explained that the Itabo II generator, which produces 125 MW of power, is shut down, contributing to the blackouts that are especially noticeable in areas that had been having reliable power service. The plant will be out of service for 15 days due to maintenance.

How to keep milk prices reasonable
High ranking members of the government met yesterday at the Presidential Palace to discuss the issue of the rumored increase in the price of powdered and liquid milk and to try to come up with ways to keep prices from rising above reasonable prices. Presidential Administrative Secretary Luis Manuel Bonetti chaired the first meeting with the participation of the ministers of Agriculture and Industry & Commerce, Salvador Jimenez and Francisco Javier Garcia, and the director of Customs (DGA), Miguel Cocco. Cattleranchers and dairy producers are scheduled to meet again tomorrow to finalize guiding points of a strategic plan that will be developed and then presented to President Leonel Fernandez.

EPA and dairy import duties
The mechanism that regulates the duties on powdered milk imports is to be revised within the ongoing trade negotiations with the European Union. The quota arrangement now in place is a protocol that was subscribed by the DR and the EU 9 years ago.
Customs Director, Miguel Cocco, said that a variation in the import duty paid by European dairy products "would affect the ongoing negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union. Nevertheless, he left open the possibility of finding a way to favor the poor is advances are not made towards the signing of the EPA with Europe, of if milk prices continue to increase. The quota arrangement now in place is a protocol that was subscribed by the DR and the EU 9 years ago.
DGA director Cocco said that the objective is that Dominican children can continue to drink milk, not that the local producers or the importers are doing good business. Cocco said that a reduction in the tariffs of dairy products from Europe could affect talks leading to the EPA with Europe. "The Europeans are not going to accept that we raise the prices to favor importers," said Cocco, who rejects the possibility of reducing milk tariffs. Recent, the president of the Association of Canned Milk Importers, Bayardo Mejia proposed that the government reduce the 20% tariff on powdered milk from Europe as one of the contingency measures given the increase in the cost of the product worldwide following the elimination of subsidies to dairy producers in the EU and the dry season in Australia. Both factors have contributed to push prices from US$2,300 to US$5,000 per metric ton.
The next EPA round (9th), the last one before the summer break, will take place in Brussels this month from 23-27 July, preceded by the Technical Working Groups CARIFORUM meetings in Grenada 16-20 July.

Category 1 for Dominican aviation
Norge Botello, director of the Dominican Institute of Civil Aviation (IDAC) presented President Leonel Fernandez with the certificate that authorizes Dominican registered airplanes (HI) to fly to US territory. The ban had lasted 14 years.
The flights had been banned on grounds of weak local supervision. An FAA delegation that visited in April determined that the country had made advances and meets the aviation security requirements established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Despite millions spent by the government to comply with requirements, it was not until recently that major advancements were made. The government has announced it will be participating in a new airline in partnership with private investors.
Speaking at the event, US Charge D'Affairs Roland Bullen highlighted that 1.1 million American citizens vacationed in the DR last year, and the security enhancements will contribute to the development of the aviation and tourism industry of the DR.
Melvin Cintron, manager for International Programs and Policy of the Federal Aviation Administration came for the presentation at the Presidential Palace. He commented that the upgrade was achieved because of mutual political will on behalf of the governments. Cintron is a Dominican. In his congratulations, he stated: "May you receive my congratulations, Mr. President, in my role as chief of the International Programs and Policy Office of the FAA, and taking pride in seeking how my country gets ahead."
Also present was Planning Minister Juan Temistocles Montas, Tourism Minister Felix Jimenez, and the president of the Civil Aviation Board, Luis Rodriguez Ariza.

Level 3 alert at airports
Dominican international airports are on Level 3 alert following a recommendation of the Transport Security Administration (TSA) of the United States. The measure is taken following the discovery of two vehicles loaded with explosives in London, and the subsequent attack on Glasgow airport in Scotland, says Major General Juan Bautista Rojas Tabar, who is the chief of the Specialized Airport Security Force (CESA). Security supervisors and coordinators at the Las Americas (Santo Domingo), La Isabela (Santo Domingo) Gregorio Luperon (Puerto Plata), Cibao (Santiago), El Catey (Samana), La Romana and Punta Cana International Airports have been instructed to reinforce security measures and assign more military personnel to the terminals. Level 3 calls for an increase in pre-boarding inspection of passengers, as reported in the Listin.

Theft at AILA
The Corruption Prevention Department (DEPRECO) is investigating the theft of RD$1.6 million and US$4,800 from a safe at the Immigration Department at the International Airport of the Americas (AILA). Two AILA officers are the main suspects. Initial reports reveal that neither the door to office where the safe was kept nor its lock had been forced opened. The money was part of the collections at the airport for the day.

Stolen cell phone activation decreases
The activations of stolen cell phones, a common practice in the DR, has decreased by 90% after strict measures have been put in place by the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (INDOTEL), the Attorney General's Office and the National Police and the Association of Cell Phone Store Owners (ADUCITEL). Diario Libre reports that previously up to 50% of cell phones that were being registered were either stolen or illegally purchased.

Chinatown attracts investors
The Barrio Chino (Chinatown) being constructed by the government around the Duarte Avenue commercial stretch at a cost of RD$100 million is 70% complete. Real estate in the area has increased in worth and the area is already attracting interest of investors and business persons from Asia, as reported in Diario Libre. Rosa Ng Baez, president of the Flor Foundation that heads the effort, denied that the delays in the construction have forced businesses to close. On the contrary, she says the attractiveness of the project is such that new businesses are opening. Ng says that work at the Confucius Plaza is 85% advanced, and only a few pieces are missing to complete the main entrance to the Barrio. A shipment from China with the pieces is expected by 18 July. The Ministry of Public Works recently injected RD$25 million to ensure the completion of the project by this August, as reported in the Listin. Ng explained that in addition to the funding aspect, the obsolete systems of sewage and electricity in the area have caused technical delays. Chinatown gates are located at the Mexico and Mella avenues. For the grand opening, 700 Asian investors are expected.

Pope receives Dominican bishops
Pope Benedict XVI received members of the Dominican Episcopal Conference at the Vatican on Monday, 2 July on an ad limina apostolorum visit. The object of the visit was to make a pilgrimage to show reverance for the Pope and to acknowledge his universal jurisdiction by giving an account of the condition of their dioceses, to receive the Pope's admonitions and counsels, and thus bind more closely to the Roman Catholic Church's appointed head. Cardinal Nicolas Lopez Rodriguez gave an interview to Radio Vatican on occasion of the visit of the bishops. Attending are Monsignor Ramun Benito de la Rosa y Carpio (Santiago), Monsignor Antonio Camilo Gonzalez (La Vega), Monsignor Diumedes Espinal de Leun (Mao-Monte Cristi), Monsignor Jerunimo Tomus Abreu Herrera, Monsignor Julio Cesar Corniel Amaro (Puerto Plata), Monsignor Jesus Maria De Jesus Moya (San Francisco de Macoris), and Monsignor Freddy Antonio de Jesus Bretun Martinez (Bani).

DR delegation to Rio Pan Am
The DR delegation to the 2007 Rio de Janeiro Pan American Games will be 172 athlete- strong. The Games will take place 14-29 July. The athletes will be assisted by 94 technicians and delegates, for a 266-person delegation. Leonardo Monsanto is the chief of the delegation. The team members will depart for Brazil starting 7 July to give time for the athletes to become accustomed to the humidity of Rio in the summer. While 240 athletes qualified, the sports authorities are only sending athletes of the sports that won medals in the Central American and Caribbean Sports Games held in Cartagena. Team sports that are traveling to Brazil are handball (men's and women's), baseball and volleyball (women's). The largest individual sport delegation is that of track and field with 14 athletes, followed by weightlifting with nine and karate with eight athletes, as reported in Diario Libre.
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