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VANCOUVER — The first stage of an extradition hearing for a senior executive of Chinese tech giant Huawei started in a Vancouver courtroom M onday, a case that has infuriated Beijing, caused a diplomatic uproar between China and Canada and complicated high-stakes trade talks between China and the United States.

Canada’s arrest of chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s legendary founder, in late 2018 at America’s request enraged Beijing to the point it detained two Canadians in apparent retaliation.

Huawei represents China’s progress in becoming a technological power and has been a subject of U.S. security concerns for years. Beijing views Meng’s case as an attempt to contain China’s rise.

“Our government has been clear. We are a rule of law country and we honour our extradition treaty commitments,” Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said at a cabinet retreat in Manitoba. “It is what we need to do and what we will do.”

China’s foreign ministry complained Monday the United States and Canada were violating Meng’s rights and called for her release.

“It is completely a serious political incident,” said a ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang. He urged Canada to “correct mistakes with concrete actions, release Ms. Meng Wanzhou and let her return safely as soon as possible.”

Washington accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It says Meng, 47, committed fraud by misleading the HSBC bank about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

Meng, who is free on bail and living in one of the two Vancouver mansions she owns, sat next to her lawyers wearing a black dress with white polka dots. She earlier waved at reporters as she arrived at court.

Meng denies the allegations. Her defence team says comments by President Donald Trump suggest the case against her is politically motivated.

“We trust in Canada’s judicial system, which will prove Ms. Meng’s innocence,” Huawei said in a statement as the proceedings began.

Meng was detained in December 2018 in Vancouver as she was changing flights — on the same day that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for trade talks.

Prosecutors have stressed that Meng’s case is separate from the wider China-U.S. trade dispute, but Trump undercut that message weeks after her arrest when he said he would consider intervening in the case if it would help forge a trade deal with Beijing.

China and the U.S. reached a “Phase 1” trade agreement last week, but most analysts say any meaningful resolution of the main U.S. allegation — that Beijing uses predatory tactics in its drive to supplant America’s technological supremacy — could require years of contentious talks. Trump had raised the possibility of using Huawei’s fate as a bargaining chip in the trade talks, but the deal announced Wednesday didn’t mention the company.

Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for cellphone and internet companies. Washington is pressuring other countries to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft.

James Lewis at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said the U.S. wanted to send a message with Meng’s arrest. There is good evidence that Huawei wilfully violated sanctions, he said.

“The message that you are no longer invulnerable has been sent to Chinese executives,” Lewis said. “No one has held China accountable. They steal technology, they violate their WTO commitments and the old line is, ‘Oh, they are a developing economy, who cares.’ When you are the second-largest economy in the world you can’t do that anymore.”

The initial stage of Meng’s extradition hearing will focus on whether Meng’s alleged crimes are crimes both in the United States and Canada. Her lawyers filed a a motion Friday arguing that Meng’s case is really about U.S. sanctions against Iran, not a fraud case. Canada does not have similar sanctions on Iran.

“This extradition has every appearance of the United States seeking to enlist Canada to enforce the very sanctions we have repudiated,” Meng’s lawyer Richard Peck said in court.

The second phase, scheduled for June, will consider defence allegations that Canada Border Services, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI violated her rights while collecting evidence before she was actually arrested.

The extradition case could take years to resolve if there are appeals. Nearly 90 per cent of those arrested in Canada on extradition requests from the U.S. were surrendered to U.S. authorities between 2008 and 2018.

In apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor. The two men have been denied access to lawyers and family and are being held in prison cells where the lights are kept on 24-hours-a-day.

China has also placed restrictions on various Canadian exports to China, including canola oil seed and meat. Last January, China also handed a death sentence to a convicted Canadian drug smuggler in a sudden retrial.

“That’s mafia-style pressure,” Lewis said.

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Gillies reported from Toronto

Jim Morris And Rob Gillies, The Associated Press





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CALGARY — The oil and gas industry needs to increase efforts to address climate change or risk becoming socially unacceptable and unprofitable, according to a new International Energy Agency report.

“No energy company will be unaffected by clean energy transitions,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, in a statement Monday.

The world is demanding energy services and emissions reductions at the same time, the report said. Social pressures on the industry are rising, it noted, highlighting growing opposition to new infrastructure projects in certain areas and fracking bans.

“Every part of the industry needs to consider how to respond. Doing nothing is simply not an option.”

Some companies have taken steps to address climate change, but the report said the industry as a whole could do more.

The diverse industry requires a variety of approaches dependant on individual company’s circumstances, according to the report, which was produced in co-operation with the World Economic Forum and will be presented at the organization’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Tuesday.

The “immediate task” for the industry is to reduce its operational environmental footprint, Birol said.

Approximately 15 per cent of the world’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions come from getting oil and gas out of the ground and to consumers, the report found.

“A large part of these emissions can be brought down relatively quickly and easily,” said Birol.

The most important and cost-effective measure would be to reduce methane leaks to the atmosphere, the report said. Other measures include integrating renewables and low-carbon electricity into new upstream and liquefied natural gas (LNG) developments.

The report argues the industry and its resources and skills “will be critical” in helping some key capital-intensive clean energy technologies, like low-carbon hydrogen and biofuels, reach maturity. It says that scaling up such technologies and lowering their cost requires qualities the industry has, such as large-scale engineering and project management capabilities.

“Without the industry’s input, these technologies may simply not achieve the scale needed for them to move the dial on emissions,” Birol said.

On average, oil and gas companies invest about one per cent of their total capital spending in non-core areas — with the greatest amount in solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind. Leading individual companies spend about five per cent, according to the report, which adds “a much more significant change” in capital spending allocation is needed to accelerate energy transitions.

The energy sector can transform without the help of the oil and gas industry, the report reads, but that is a more difficult and expensive path.

“Regardless of which pathway the world follows, climate impacts will become more visible and severe over the coming years, increasing the pressure on all elements of society to find solutions. These solutions cannot be found within today’s oil and gas paradigm.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2020.

The Canadian Press


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Alberta’s rural municipalities say the amount of unpaid property taxes they’re owed by oil and gas companies has more than doubled over the past year.

The association says they are owed a total of $173 million — a 114 per cent increase over last spring.

Years of low oil prices have left many small producers in dire straits.

But rural officials say recent court decisions have left them powerless to collect tax money owed them by financially troubled companies.

As well, they say the provincial government recently ended a program which refunded them money they lost by reducing taxes for certain kinds of wells.

Reeve Paul McLauchlin of Ponoka County, where unpaid taxes amount to about 10 per cent of overall revenues, suggests the non-payment amounts to a tax revolt by an industry looking to cut costs wherever it can.

He says some of those taxes are owed by companies that are still operating and viable.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2020

The Canadian Press

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WASHINGTON — When President Donald Trump’s historic impeachment trial is called to order in the Senate this week, he won’t be watching from inside the chamber or on television from the White House.

He’ll be thousands of miles away at the Davos economic forum in the Swiss Alps, trying to charm global CEOs over dinner.

Trump’s participation in the annual World Economic Forum will provide a conspicuous split-screen moment in a presidency familiar with them. His two-day visit to Switzerland will test his ability to balance his anger over being impeached with a desire to project leadership on the world stage.

Administration officials say Trump remains focused on serving the public.

“The president’s work doesn’t stop just because of the impeachment sham,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an email.

Trump, who departs Washington on Monday night, said he’s going to Davos to encourage businesses to invest in the U.S.

“We’re now where the action is,” he said at a farmers’ convention Sunday in Texas.

Swooping in for what will be his second appearance at the annual Swiss economic forum, Trump was scheduled to arrive at the ski resort early Tuesday and jet back on Wednesday to a Washington that will be consumed by the impeachment trial.

The White House did not release much advance information about the president’s schedule but he is expected to give a speech and meet world leaders and business executives.

The Democratic-controlled House impeached the Republican president last month for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after it was revealed that he had pressed Ukraine’s president to announce investigations into former Democratic Vice-President Joe Biden, a Trump political rival. Trump withheld foreign aid that Congress had approved for the Eastern European nation and dangled the prospect of an Oval Office meeting as leverage.

Trump denies any wrongdoing and argues that Democrats want to remove him from office because they know they can’t deny him reelection in November. Trump would be forced to leave office if convicted, but the Republican-controlled Senate is expected to acquit him.

Trump said he would attend the Davos forum despite the awkward timing because he wants to encourage businesses to come back to the U.S.

“Our country is the hottest country anywhere in the world,” he said at the White House last week. “There’s nothing even close. I’ll be meeting the biggest business leaders in the world, getting them to come here.”

The White House has not said which presidents or prime ministers will get one-on-one sessions with Trump, but he is expected to have his first meeting with the new European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to hold the position.

That meeting could be the most significant, said analyst Matt Goodman, given Trump’s many disagreements with Europe over tax and trade policy, like a new digital levy by the French that will force American tech giants such as Amazon and Google to pay up.

“She’s new and she’s formidable,” said Goodman, who studies international economic policy as a senior vice-president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He predicted a difficult year ahead for U.S.-EU relations.

“It could either go very well or very badly,” Goodman said.

Trump has smarted over the French tax and his administration has announced plans to impose retaliatory tariffs of up to 100% on cheese, wine, lipstick and other French imports. France has threatened to fight back.

The U.S. has also threatened to impose retaliatory duties on $7.5 billion worth of European airplanes, cheese, wine and other goods in a separate dispute over subsidies for Airbus, a competitor to Chicago-based Boeing Co.

Trump also has sought to wring trade concessions from the EU by threatening tariffs on German autos, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Trump heads to Switzerland as just the third American president, after Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, to face a Senate impeachment trial. Johnson and Clinton were both acquitted by the Senate.

There is precedent for international travel by an impeached U.S. leader.

During his impeachment over an affair with a White House intern, Clinton visited Japan, South Korea, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He also travelled to Jordan for King Hussein’s funeral in February 1999, just a few days before he was acquitted by the Senate.

Two days after acquittal, Clinton went to Mexico on a state visit.

Trump is planning to make his first visit to India at the end of February, probably after the conclusion of his impeachment trial. He also has talked about travelling soon to Beijing, although he has given no dates, to open a new round of trade talks with China.

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Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap

Darlene Superville, The Associated Press


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TORONTO — TekSavvy Solutions Inc. is appealing to Canadian consumers for support in a politically charged battle between Canada’s independent internet service providers and the big phone and cable companies.

Bell, Rogers and Canada’s other major phone and cable companies asked the federal cabinet in November to overrule a 2019 regulatory decision that slashes how much they can charge independent ISPs like TekSavvy.

The industry giants argued the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission overstepped its authority in August by cutting wholesale capacity rates by up to 43 per cent and chopping access rates up to 77 per cent.

Canada’s small and mid-sized ISPs collectively serve about one million households using infrastructure they either own or rent.

TekSavvy vice-president Janet Lo said Monday that the Chatham-based company — Canada’s largest independent ISP — has launched a campaign to urge the public and politicians to support the CRTC.

The campaign will include billboards, transit ads, radio advertising and social media, she added.

An ad included in a TekSavvy press release asks, “Tired of being gouged?”, and urges consumers to “speak up.”

“We’re just trying general awareness, to make sure all Canadians know that they can have their voices heard and talk to their MPs if this issue is important to them,” Lo said in an interview from Ottawa.

The cabinet has set Feb. 14 as the deadline for receiving comments on the issue and TekSavvy says it will collect comments through the website Paylesstoconnect.ca.

Bell and a group of other mainstream internet service providers have also launched complementary but separate challenges through the Federal Court of Appeal and the CRTC itself.

Among other things, one of the key issues in dispute is whether the CRTC or the carriers themselves are in the most qualified to calculate how much it costs the big providers to provide wholesale infrastructure.

The big carriers argue that the CRTC’s review process — which took more than three years to complete — was flawed and will undermine confidence required for them to risk billions of dollars to build high-quality networks.

TekSavvy argues that the big carriers are attempting to use the CRTC, courts and cabinet to “game the system with impunity” by using inflated wholesale costs that cripple their smaller rivals.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:BCE, TSX:RCI.B, TSX:T, TSX:SJR.B, TSX:QBR.B)

David Paddon, The Canadian Press


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