UN to Advertisers: Go Beyond the Female Stereotypes

Demeaning images in advertising of women doing domestic chores or scantily clad act as stubborn obstacles to gender equality, the head of U.N. Women said Thursday, urging the global ad industry to become a weapon for good.

Advertising has the power to create positive portrayals of women and eliminate stereotypes, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of the United Nations’ agency on women, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Mlambo-Ngcuka spoke from France, where she is calling on advertising leaders who are attending the industry’s annual Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity to eliminate stereotypes and commit to gender equality.

“People are more likely to see adverts in their lives than read books,” she said. “It’s a waste if we are not using this opportunity for good.”

​Stereotypes everywhere

Stereotypes of women permeate the globe, she said, be it in nations such as Iceland with high gender equality or those with very little in the way of equal rights, like Yemen.

“Of the many things that we’ve tried to do to obtain gender equality, we are not getting the kind of traction and success that we are looking for, because of the underlying stereotypes and social norms in existence in society,” she said.

“Adverts create a role model that people look up to, even mimic and try to be like,” said the veteran South African politician.

“If they see men in powerful positions most of the time and do not see women and people who look like them … then they think this is not for them.”

Research illustrates issue

Research by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media illustrates the issue, said Philip Thomas, chief executive of the annual advertising event in Cannes, who also participated in the interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

One in 10 female characters in advertising is shown in sexually revealing clothing, six times the number of male characters, he said.

Of characters portrayed as intelligent, such as doctors or scientists, men are 62 percent more likely than women to play those roles, he said. Women are 48 percent more likely to be shown in the kitchen, he said.

Creative teams at advertising agencies are predominantly male, and just 11 percent of creative directors around the world are female, he said.

The industry can make an effort to mentor women, employ and promote more female creative teams and reward work that promotes positive images, he said.

Mlambo-Ngcuka said she welcomed efforts such as one in Berlin, where the city’s ruling coalition has agreed on a ban on degrading or sexist advertising.

An expert committee will examine and prevent discriminatory advertising on both privately and publicly owned advertising billboards and hoardings.

Opposition parties in Berlin say such a ban infringes on free speech.

“When it’s so much that is against us, I think we are allowed sometimes to make some extreme measures even if there’s a controversy,” she said. “Let’s have the discussion.”

Minnesota to Still Engage With Cuba Despite Trump Setback

Minnesota’s government and businesses will continue to engage with Cuba in the areas they can, like agricultural trade, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s partial rollback of the detente, Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith said on Thursday.

The first U.S. state representative to make an official visit to Communist-run Cuba since Trump’s announcement on Friday, Smith said authorities there were worried about the setback to bilateral relations.

Leading a bipartisan trade delegation from Minnesota, she said she was therefore glad to carry the message that there was still plenty of support for continuing to normalize relations.

“There is no denying the actions Trump took last Friday are a real setback,” Smith, a Democrat, said in an interview in the gardens of Havana’s iconic Hotel Nacional. “But the important thing to me is that there is bipartisan support at the federal level for normalizing and modernizing our relationship.”

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, in May led a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, to introduce legislation to lift the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.

Minnesota is one of the largest U.S. farming states, and Smith’s delegation included its agriculture commissioner and the head of its corn growers association. The delegation hopes to improve ties with and promote exports to Cuba.

U.S. farm groups have been particularly critical of the decision by Trump, a Republican, to retreat from Democratic predecessor Barack Obama’s opening toward Cuba, saying it could derail huge growth in agricultural exports that totaled $221 million last year.

U.S. law exempts food from a decades-old embargo on U.S. trade with Cuba, although cumbersome rules on executing transactions have made deals difficult and costly.

While Trump’s new Cuba policy does not directly target agriculture, it damages improved relations, the farm groups say.

Trump ordered tighter restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and a clampdown on U.S. business dealings with the island’s military, which manages much of the economy.

The Minnesota delegation met this week with officials of the Cuban ministries of foreign affairs and agriculture, while also visiting a cooperative and local food markets.

But the tour did not include the usual trip to the Mariel port and special development zone, which Cuba hopes will attract foreign investment and become a major shipping hub in the Caribbean. It is controlled by a military-affiliated company.

“In Minnesota we don’t have a lot of cocoa or coffee or pineapples, but we do have a lot of corn and beans,” Smith said. “We need each others’ products.”

Cuba invited the Minnesota delegation to a trade show later in the year, Smith said, while Minnesota invited Cuban officials to visit.

“I am very hopeful all of those things will lead us to a place where we can move forward.”

Chile’s New Low-cost Airline JetSmart Plans to Sell $1.50 Tickets

JetSmart, a low-cost airline set to launch this year in Chile, said on Thursday it will offer one-way tickets for less than $2, as the nation’s passenger air market becomes increasingly competitive.

“We will have 30,000 tickets for 1,000 pesos ($1.50) per one-way trip plus taxes, to fly within Chile … in 2017,” JetSmart, owned by Indigo Partners, an airline-focused U.S. investment fund Indigo Partners, said on its website.

Indigo Partners has already carved out a niche in ultra-low-cost airlines and owns Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris and part of Denver-based Frontier Airlines.

Indigo is known for unbundled, or a la carte, fares that carry cheap base prices but charge additional fees for extras, such as carry-on bags too big to fit under the seat and advance seat assignments.

In February, Indigo announced that JetSmart would operate three Airbus A320s in Chile in 2017, and another six in 2018.

While the company will focus on domestic routes, it will eye opportunities for regional expansion once established in Chile, Indigo managing partner Bill Franke said at the time.

Chile’s airline market is dominated by LATAM Airlines, Latin America’s largest carrier, with a smaller share taken by established low-cost carrier Sky.

LATAM, which has been facing increasing pressure from low-cost airlines throughout the region, is rolling out a partial low-cost model this year.

Low-cost carrier Viva Air launched in Peru in May, low-cost airline Flybondi is set to launch later this year in Argentina, and Norwegian Air is set to launch long-haul, low-cost routes from Europe to Buenos Aires early next year.

EU Leaders to Discuss Brexit at Summit

European Union leaders open a two-day summit in Brussels Thursday to address everything from Britain’s planned exit from the regional economic bloc to the resurging economy.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s remarks at the two-day meeting are expected to include reassurances about the futures of the three million citizens of other EU countries currently living in Britain.

Together with the future of more than 1 million British citizens living elsewhere in the EU, the issue is one of the major topics the two sides must agree on as part of negotiations that began earlier this week.

After May speaks Thursday night, the rest of the leaders will meet without her to discuss their side of the Brexit process that was triggered by a British referendum one year ago and is set to finish by the end of March 2019.

The EU summit will also tackle migration, renewing sanctions against Russia and efforts to combat online extremism.

Compelling Vietnam: Foreign Investors Unfazed by Trump’s Trade Deal Rebuff

Every 45 seconds or so, a neatly wrapped VanHeusen dress shirt destined for a J.C. Penney store in the United States drops off a new production line at a factory north of Vietnam’s capital.

Next door, rice paddies the size of 40 football fields have been filled for the $320 million textile mill which Hong Kong based TAL Group plans to build so it won’t need to import cloth for the shirts.

As elsewhere in Vietnam, there has been no sign of an impact on investment plans since U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal which had been expected to benefit Vietnam more than any country.

In fact, foreign direct investment rose 6 percent year-on-year to $6.15 billion in the first five months of 2017.

Cheap labor is an obvious lure for foreign investors. TAL’s chief executive, Roger Lee, said Vietnam also scores highly on middle management, work ethic and government policy.

Though the removal of U.S. import tariffs under a TPP pact would have been a bonus, Lee said he had no second thoughts about investment plans after Trump pulled out of the deal soon after taking office.

“Vietnam is a very compelling proposition,” said Lee.

The wage for garment workers is $250 a month in Vietnam, compared to $700 in China, where TAL recently shut a factory for cost reasons.

The removal of tariffs of up to about 30 percent would have made clothing firms particular beneficiaries of the TPP deal, which had been forecast to add 28 percent to Vietnam’s exports and 11 percent to its gross domestic product over a decade.

Other clothing firms were also not discouraged by the scrapping of the deal. Lawsgroup’s chief executive, Bosco Law, told Reuters it was now seeking to expand from its three factories with 10,000 workers.

Vietnam’s trade surplus over the United States – the sixth biggest last year – has come under scrutiny as a result of Trump’s “America First” policy to bring manufacturing jobs back to America. But it hasn’t discouraged investment.

“We have started working for a couple of American manufacturing companies that contacted us after the TPP’s demise and that are willing to relocate part of their operations from China,” said Oscar Mussons, Senior Associate at Dezan Shira and Associates professional services firm.

Cheaper than China

Vietnam has been a big winner as Chinese manufacturing costs have risen and China itself is now one of the three biggest investors in Vietnam.

The TPP deal would have further improved access to U.S. and other markets for manufacturers based there, but also bound Vietnam to reforms meaning everything from opening up food import markets to strengthening labour rights.

Investment and Planning Minister Nguyen Chi Dung told Reuters that Vietnam planned to go ahead with its commitments under TPP anyway – both to strengthen the economy and because of other trade deals, such as one with the European Union. The 11 remaining TPP members are also still trying to keep it alive.

Dung said Vietnam had a target of $10 billion a year in foreign direct investment over the next five years — compared to nearly $16 billion in 2016 alone — as it sought a change in the type of investment it wants to draw.

“Before we focused on quantity, now we switch to quality,” Dung said. “Higher technology, higher added value, less use of energy, less use of raw materials, less cheap labor.”

That is where Vietnam has a greater challenge. It lags competitors for top skills. The proportion of secondary school leavers going on to further studies is a third higher in China and over three times higher in South Korea.

“Vietnam is still a very attractive country, but companies might not invest as much as expected because they find the employees lack the skills for that added value,” Mussons said. “Companies have been too focused on reducing costs and not enough on training.”

Threats, NATO Demands Underpin Global Arms Demand

Military conflicts and growing threats around the world continue to underpin demand for weapons, but industry and government leaders from the United States, Europe, Russia and the Middle East say they don’t see a huge near-term spike in arms orders.

Executives report being busier than ever at this year’s Paris Airshow, the oldest and biggest aerospace expo in the world, which featured aerial acrobatics by Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 fighter jet.

But they caution that foreign arms sales take years to complete, and NATO governments must get through lengthy budget and bureaucratic processes before they can raise military spending to meet a NATO target for members to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defense.

No big spurt seen

“We’re seeing some growth, but I like to be pragmatic. I’m not seeing a big tick up in defense spending across the board,” Leanne Caret, who heads Boeing’s defense business, told Reuters in an interview. Her division generates about 40 percent of its revenues overseas, a big change from just several years ago.

Boeing officials expect steady gains in weapons sales, but warn against expectations for any kind of “gold rush” despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s pledge to boost military spending, saying there may be more of a shift in what platforms and weapons programs are in demand.

Recent increases in tensions between Russia and the United States have raised concerns about another arms race, but top officials in both countries agree that there will not be a mad rush to bulk up on weapons.

Moscow’s top arms trade official, Dmitry Shugaev, told reporters at the show that Russian weapon makers remained competitive despite Western sanctions, but the cyclical nature of the business and budget constraints are dampening prospects for a big surge in global arms sales.

He also expressed skepticism that NATO members would rapidly increase their military budgets, despite pledging to move toward the 2 percent goal.

Trump position

Trump’s public declarations that NATO members are not pulling their weight may have had some impact. Lockheed Martin’s Aeronautics business leader, Orlando Carvalho, said national security budgets and military systems’ demand outside the United States are beginning to increase, “especially with the focus that the president has put on NATO.”

In 2016, total world military expenditure rose 0.4 percent to $1.69 trillion, according the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

The European Union’s economic and financial affairs commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, also cited that risk, warning that European countries needed to match political pledges to boost military spending with actual resource commitments.

“There is now a window of opportunity for investing more in European defense … but as with all windows, a window closes if you don’t go through it,” he said.

Gradual increases in Europe

Germany and other European countries are boosting military spending, concerned about terrorism and Russia’s increasingly assertive military stance after its annexation of Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, but the increases are likely to be more gradual than dramatic.

In the missile defense arena, Western concerns about rapid advances in technology by North Korea, China and Iran, as well as Russia’s increased military activities, are driving orders for a range of defensive systems, according to U.S. and European executives.

“The threat is absolutely increasing and it’s increasing rapidly,” said Tim Cahill, vice president of air and missile defense systems at Lockheed. “In every region around the world, the level of interest in integrated air and missile defense has been going up in the last few months.”

Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems, said he was meeting with officials from countries that had not shown any interest in missile defense systems just four or five years ago.

“Back then, they didn’t see a ballistic missile threat, or they didn’t see Russia as a threat, but now that has changed,” he said.

India and Afghanistan Open Air Freight Corridor to Bypass Pakistan

Although Afghan businesses have long wanted to exploit the potential of India’s huge market, trade between the two countries has been hampered due to their tense relations with Pakistan.

But a plane loaded in Kabul with 60 tons of medicinal plants landed in New Delhi this week, raising hopes of giving a major boost to commerce between landlocked Afghanistan and India.

The flight flagged off the establishment of a new air cargo corridor between the two countries. Along with another, more long-term initiative to develop the Iranian port of Chabahar, India hopes to ease access to conflict-ridden Afghanistan and eventually to Central Asian countries.

Pakistan is a barrier

Pakistan allows Afghanistan to send a limited amount of perishable goods over its territory to India, through which the shortest and most cost effective land routes lie. However, India is not allowed to send any imports through Pakistani territory.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani decided to establish the air corridor last September after Pakistan rejected fresh calls by the Afghan leader to allow his country to engage in direct trade with India over its territory.

Although India is the second largest destination for exports from Afghanistan, this lack of easy access has been a dampener.

Air corridor trade

In New Delhi, officials hope the new corridor will boost annual trade between the two countries from $700 million to $1 billion in three years and give a lift to exports of Afghanistan’s agricultural and carpet industries.

A second flight is scheduled to land in New Delhi next week, bringing 40 tons of dried fruit from Kandahar.

At a ceremony marking the inaugural flight in Kabul on Monday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he wants to make Afghanistan an exporter country.

“As long as we are not an exporter country, then poverty and instability will not be eliminated,” he said.

Indian foreign ministry officials say the connectivity will allow Afghan businessmen to leverage India’s economic growth and trade networks for its benefit and give farmers quick access to sell perishable products.

Does the air corridor trade have a viable future?

A prominent trader in New Delhi, Shyam Sunder Bansal, said he stopped trading with Afghan businesses several years ago due to the challenges such as transit routes, banking and currency facilities.

India is hoping to eventually extend air cargo flights to other cities. 

But Bansal is skeptical whether it will be commercially viable to sustain imports via air. “They cannot continue it forever because that will be unconventional, uneconomical,” he said.

However, a South Asia expert with the Indian Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, Sukh Deo Muni, said since the distance involved is not too long, the air freight corridor could be viable.

He said New Delhi is committed to the project as it will open up access for India to not just Afghanistan but also Central Asian markets. According to Muni, “broader significance is to give two messages. We are committed to Afghanistan and we want to tell Pakistan, you cannot obstruct our access to Afghanistan and Central Asia. This is the long term view.”

Afghanistan mainly sends fresh and dried fruits, vegetables and oilseeds to India. It also takes a host of products from India — a flight from New Delhi has carried pharmaceuticals, water purifiers and medical equipment to Kabul as part of the initiative.

Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said the frequency of the air service would depend on demand. “It is, at the end of the day, a commercial venture which is supported very heavily, very strongly and very purposefully by both the governments.”

Land corridor through Iran

India has also initiated another key project to develop the Iranian port of Chabahar and open a direct transport corridor to Central Asia and Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan. This would also give Kabul an alternate route to the Indian Ocean, which currently uses the Pakistani port of Karachi for sea trade.

There was optimism last year that the project would take off, but it is barely making headway amid fresh worries that the U.S. administration under President Donald Trump may reimpose sanctions on Iran. 

Uber CEO Kalanick Resigns Under Investor Pressure

Travis Kalanick, the combative and troubled CEO of ride-hailing giant Uber, resigned Tuesday under pressure from investors.

The company’s board confirmed the move early Tuesday, saying in a statement that Kalanick is taking time to heal from the death of his mother in a boating accident -while giving the company room to fully embrace this new chapter in Uber’s history.” He will remain on the Uber Technologies Inc. board.

In a statement, Kalanick said his resignation would help Uber go back to building -rather than be distracted with another fight.”

The resignation came after a series of costly missteps by Kalanick and the fast-growing company that he helped found eight years ago. Uber on Monday embarked on a 180-day program to change its image by allowing riders to give drivers tips through the Uber app, something the company had resisted under Kalanick.

The San Francisco-based company is trying to reverse damage done to its reputation by revelations of sexual harassment in its offices, allegations of trade secrets theft and an investigation into efforts to mislead government regulators.

Uber’s board said in a statement that Kalanick had -always put Uber first.”

While building the world’s biggest ride-hailing service, Uber developed a reputation for ruthless tactics that have occasionally outraged government regulators, drivers, riders and its employees.

The company’s hard-charging style has led to legal trouble. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating Uber’s past usage of phony software designed to thwart regulators.

Uber also is fighting allegations that it relies on a key piece of technology stolen from Google spin-off Waymo to build self-driving cars.

US Expands Sanctions Against Russia, Ukraine Separatists

The United States Treasury Department announced additional sanctions Tuesday against Russia, pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, and individuals and companies associated with them.

The move comes on the heels of a White House meeting Tuesday between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

The increased sanctions is in response to continued Russian support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. Prior to his meeting with Trump, Poroshenko stressed the importance of taking such action before the U.S. president’s meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

The sanctions will target 38 individuals and business entities linked to the continuing conflict in eastern Ukraine. The penalties will remain in place until Russia meets the terms of 2014 and 2015 peace accords reached in Minsk, Belarus.

“These designations will maintain pressure on Russia to work toward a diplomatic process that guarantees Ukrainian sovereignty,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement. “There should be no sanctions relief until Russia meets its obligations under the Minsk agreement.”

Among those sanctioned are two high-level Russian officials, Deputy Economy Minister Sergey Nazarov and Russian MP Alexander Babakov.

Nazarov, who oversees Russia’s humanitarian aid programs in separatist-controlled areas of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, has been designated for materially assisting and sponsoring the separatist campaigns and advocating international investment in Crimea.

Babakov, Putin’s special liaison for expatriates, voted in favor of annexing Crimea in 2014 on the grounds that Moscow is obligated to represent ethnic Russians living abroad.

Russia’s largest arms producer, Kalashnikov Concern, has been designated along with a number of small Russian-owned banks for operating in Crimea, along with Oboronlogistyka, a Russian Defense Ministry subsidiary in charge of procurement and provisioning for the annexed Black Sea peninsula.

KPSK, one of Russia’s top corporate property underwriters, has been designated for insuring the Kerch Bridge project, which, if completed, would link Crimea and mainland Russia.

The action follows moves by lawmakers last week to pass a bill to limit the White House’s authority to lift sanctions against Russia without congressional approval. The bill passed with 98 votes in the Senate and now moves on to the House of Representatives.

The Trump administration had pushed back against the Senate bill.

“I would urge Congress to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told lawmakers last week.

Ukrainian President Poroshenko said he received strong assurances of U.S. support for his country from Trump during Tuesday’s meeting.

Trump is expected to meet with Putin at the upcoming Group of 20 (G-20) summit slated for July 7-8 in Hamburg, Germany, under the theme “Shaping an Interconnected World.”

Oksana Bedratenko and Oleksiy Kuzmenko of VOA’s Ukrainian Service contributed to this article.

MSCI to Add Chinese Mainland Shares to Emerging Markets

Chinese stocks will be included for the first time in a leading U.S. index of emerging market shares.

The New York-based index giant MSCI said Tuesday that it would add 222 Chinese A shares beginning next year.

“International investors have embraced the positive changes in the accessibility of the China A shares market over the last few years, and now all conditions are set for MSCI to proceed with the first step of the inclusion,” Remy Briand, MSCI managing director and chairman of the MSCI Index Policy Committee, said in a release.

MSCI’s decision to give the Chinese shares the green light represents a victory for the Chinese government, which has long sought MSCI inclusion because it could help establish Shanghai and Shenzhen as global financial centers.

MSCI has in the past cited obstacles such as China’s restrictions on market access and on moving capital in and out of the country. Prior to Tuesday’s decision, it had excluded Chinese shares for three years in a row.

“Inclusion in the MSCI index family is a strong signal of greater market openness, and it will undoubtedly help the A share market to attract broader attention and participation of international investors,” said Yannan Chenye, head of China equities research and portfolio manager at Harvest Global investments in Hong Kong.

While China celebrated, Argentinian investors reeled as the index compiler defied predictions that the country would be upgraded to emerging-market status, keeping it in its frontier group for at least another year.

MSCI also said it would consult on adding Saudi Arabia to the benchmark, and that Nigeria would remain a frontier market, awaiting further review on a possible downgrade to “standalone” status.