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African, Chinese law firms ink deal to boost investments in Africa

NAIROBI — African and Chinese laws firms on Friday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that aims to boost Chinese investments in Africa.

The MOU between Lex Africa and the Global Chinese Speaking Lawyers’ Association aims to improve the confidence of Chinese entrepreneurs operating in Africa.

Lex Africa founder member Fred Ojiambo told a media briefing that Chinese firms have began to recognize the importance of seeking legal assistance while doing business in Africa.

“So under the deal, Chinese business community can seek legal advice from Lex Africa partner lawyers who are situated in 20 African countries,” Ojiambo said during a trade and investment forum organized by the Kenya Investment Authority and China’s Shenzhen city.

The deal runs for an initial period of seven years, with a possibility of renewal depending on the outcomes. It is expected to give Chinese firms additional comfort that their investments and contracts will be fully respected.

Ojiambo said that Chinese firms are increasingly attracted to Africa due to the numerous business opportunities present in the continent.

“So our aim is to smoothen the Chinese experiences in Africa so that Sino-Africa relations are enhanced,” he said, noting that the legal environment in Africa is very different from that in China.

“As a result, Chinese firms often face difficulties whenever they find themselves in legal disputes with African governments or businesses,” he added.

Africa has diverse legal systems as African countries inherited different European legal systems.

The deal is also said to expand opportunities for African lawyers.

“We will now get referrals from Chinese lawyers on Chinese entrepreneurs who are seeking to establish presence in the continent and require legal representation,” Ojiambo said.

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Trump Saving Jobs For Coal Miners and Law Professors

Trump Could Help Stop Law School Crisis

Trump Could Help Stop Law School Crisis

WASHINGTONJune 17, 2017PRLog — Although President Donald Trump’s efforts to protect and bring back jobs for coal miners is well known, he’s now – perhaps inadvertently – doing the same for professors at our nation’s law schools, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

        News that Trump’s own attorney Michael Cohen has had to hire another lawyer, Stephen Ryan, to represent him regarding various investigations already ongoing in Washington, D.C., almost certainly sent a clear message to many others on the White House staff, Trump’s transition team, and high level executives at his many business ventures that they too probably need lawyers to protect their interests if not their freedoms, even if they are themselves lawyers.

        Cohen’s action probably reinforced the message which earlier was broadcast loud and clear when Trump’s other lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, reportedly told many White House “aides gathered in one meeting” that “it was not yet necessary” for each of them to go out and hire their own legal counsel.

        As a popular lawyer website, AboveTheLaw, noted, “I’m sure that’s what a lot of lawyers would like to tell potential witnesses against their clients.  Because, of course, once they get their own lawyers, Kasowitz can’t talk to them directly.”  So, many will take it as a signal to get lawyered up.

        When lawyers have to go out and hire their own lawyers, it really helps to reduce the current glut of lawyers looking for work, says Banzhaf, noting that many would be happy to have even low-paying jobs reviewing documents in windowless rooms.

        Add to this the growing number potentially involved in various probes who will now need lawyers, and any of those lawyers who will have to hire their own lawyers, there could be a hiring boom among D.C.’s lawyers not seen since the days of Watergate, says Banzhaf, who played a role in that scandal.

        All this is coming at a perfect time to help bail out law schools and law professors, says Banzhaf, noting that most law school have been forced to slash class size and/or significantly lower their admissions standards simply in order to remain afloat.

        This dire situation, which many have labeled a crisis, was precipitated by the recent financial collapse, but is also a logical result of advances in data processing and AI, and the outsourcing of work by law firms to specialty shops and to other countries, thereby slashing the need for new attorneys.

        As a direct result, law school are in trouble. For example, between 2011 and 2015, it was estimated that tuition revenue fell by about 35% among the great majority of law schools not at the top of the rankings list.

        Since most law schools are very heavily depended on tuition revenue, anything Trump does which creates an increased demand for more lawyers – including not only the D.C. probes, but also litigation over immigration and increased deportations, the need to fight changes in federal regulations, and, shortly, renewed litigation over whatever replaces Obamacare – is welcomed with joyful arms by the legal profession, and by the many law schools which continue to turn out more graduates than the nation really needs.

JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH),
2000 H Street, NW, Wash, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418
http://banzhaf.net/  jbanzhaf3ATgmail.com  @profbanzhaf

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3 firms picked to score Ohio medical-pot grower applications

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Three companies have been selected to review Ohio’s anticipated flood of applications for medical marijuana grow licenses.

A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Commerce said Friday the companies are iCann Consulting, B&B Grow Solutions and Meade & Wing. A fourth bidder, GenFin Services, was not selected.

Friday was the deadline for small-scale cultivators to apply to compete for 12 available licenses. Companies seeking to become one of the state’s 12 large-scale cultivators have until the end of the month to submit applications.

Applicants for licenses will be scored in several areas, including operation plans, security, quality assurance and finances

Ohio passed its medical pot law last year. Cannabis for eligible medical conditions should be available by September 2018.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Tuskegee Airman Dr. Robert M. Higginbotham Offers Inspiration to Aspiring Lawyers at UB Law School Program

On Wednesday, June 7th  participants in the University of Baltimore School of Law (UBL)’s Charles Hamilton Houston Scholars Program heard remarks from former Tuskegee Airman Dr. Robert M. Higginbotham, Sr., father of F. Michael Higginbotham UBL’s

(PHOTO/Danielle P. Anderson)

Dean Joseph Curtis Professor of Law.

The 91-year-old Tuskegee Airmen veteran shared his experience from his childhood near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to serving as one of the famed World War II Tuskegee Airmen who helped America win victory. His inspiring words were part of the empowerment curriculum provided to approximately a dozen prospective law students selected from undergraduate colleges in Maryland and across the country.  

He discussed his journey to overcome racial discrimination that ultimately led to his becoming an orthopedic surgeon in Beverly Hills, California. He was among the group of Black veteran awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in a 2007 White House ceremony by then President George W. Bush. Giving a formal military salute during that ceremony, the president told the honorees, “I would like to offer a gesture to atone for all the unreturned salutes and unforgivable indignities…” Dr. Higginbotham encouraged the students to “work hard, be excellent in everything, deal honestly with people and you will earn their respect.” 

     The Charles Hamilton Houston scholars program is a pipeline initiative of the University of Baltimore Law School to reach out to minority students who are interested in the practice of law. According to the Program’s Director, law Professor Cassandra Jones Havard, the program is named in honor of Baltimorean Thurgood Marshall’s great mentor and Harvard trained Black lawyer who did much of his groundbreaking civil rights courtroom work here in Baltimore. In its sixth year, the program  has had students from colleges and universities as far away as Illinois, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas as well as college students from local schools who participate in the intensive academic enrichment classes that help them learn about the legal profession. The students visited local courts and law firms to hear from members of the legal profession and received training in legal analysis, case briefing techniques, professional skills and other activities that lead them to a smoother transition into law school. Federal Judge George L. Russell, III, state Judge Wanda Keyes Heard as well as lawyers from national law firms McGuire, Woods and Saul, Ewing hosted the scholars at their Baltimore offices and offered then insight and encouragement on their journey toward a legal career.

*Danielle Anderson is a Senior at UMBC and served as a teaching and media assistant for the Charles Hamilton Houston Scholars Program.

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SHAREHOLDER ALERT: Pomerantz Law Firm Reminds Shareholders with Losses on their Investment in Intra-Cellular Therapies, Inc. of Class Action Lawsuit and Upcoming Deadline – ITCI

NEW YORK, NY / ACCESSWIRE / June 16, 2017 / Pomerantz LLP announces that a class action lawsuit has been filed against Intra-Cellular Therapies, Inc. (“Intra-Cellular” or the “Company”) (NASDAQ: ITCI) and certain of its officers. The class action, filed in United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, and docketed under 17-cv-03197, is on behalf of a class consisting of investors who purchased or otherwise acquired Intra-Cellular securities, seeking to recover compensable damages caused by defendants’ violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

If you are a shareholder who purchased Intra-Cellular securities between August 12, 2014 and April 28, 2017, both dates inclusive, you have until July 11, 2017 to ask the Court to appoint you as Lead Plaintiff for the class. A copy of the Complaint can be obtained at www.pomerantzlaw.com. To discuss this action, contact Robert S. Willoughby at rswilloughby@pomlaw.com or 888.476.6529 (or 888.4-POMLAW), toll free, ext. 9980. Those who inquire by e-mail are encouraged to include their mailing address, telephone number, and number of shares purchased.

[Click here to join this class action]

Intra-Cellular Therapies, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company that is focused on the discovery and clinical development of innovative, small molecule drugs that address underserved medical needs in neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders by targeting intracellular signaling mechanisms within the central nervous system, or CNS. The Company’s lead drug candidate, ITI-007 also known as lumateperone, is supposed to treat schizophrenia, behavioral disturbances in dementia, bipolar disorder and other neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders.

The Complaint alleges that throughout the Class Period, Defendants made materially false and misleading statements regarding the Company’s business, operational and compliance policies. Specifically, Defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (i) the findings related to toxicity observed in animals treated with lumateperone (ITI-007); (ii) these findings posed an additional safety concern regarding lumateperone; (iii) as a result of the foregoing, Intra-Cellular’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times.

On May 1, 2017, before the market opened, the Company issued a press release entitled, “Intra-Cellular Therapies Provides Corporate Update on Schizophrenia Program” which revealed findings of toxicity in animals treated with lumateperone.

On this news, Intra-Cellular’s share price fell $3.33, or over 24%, to close at $10.49 on May 1, 2017.

The Pomerantz Firm, with offices in New York, Chicago, Florida, and Los Angeles, is acknowledged as one of the premier firms in the areas of corporate, securities, and antitrust class litigation. Founded by the late Abraham L. Pomerantz, known as the dean of the class action bar, the Pomerantz Firm pioneered the field of securities class actions. Today, more than 80 years later, the Pomerantz Firm continues in the tradition he established, fighting for the rights of the victims of securities fraud, breaches of fiduciary duty, and corporate misconduct. The Firm has recovered numerous multimillion-dollar damages awards on behalf of class members. See www.pomerantzlaw.com

SOURCE: Pomerantz LLP

ReleaseID: 466053

NEW YORK, NY / ACCESSWIRE / June 16, 2017 / Pomerantz LLP announces that a class action lawsuit has been filed against Intra-Cellular Therapies, Inc. (“Intra-Cellular” or the “Company”) (NASDAQ: ITCI) and certain of its officers. The class action, filed in United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, and docketed under 17-cv-03197, is on behalf of a class consisting of investors who purchased or otherwise acquired Intra-Cellular securities, seeking to recover compensable damages caused by defendants’ violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

If you are a shareholder who purchased Intra-Cellular securities between August 12, 2014 and April 28, 2017, both dates inclusive, you have until July 11, 2017 to ask the Court to appoint you as Lead Plaintiff for the class. A copy of the Complaint can be obtained at www.pomerantzlaw.com. To discuss this action, contact Robert S. Willoughby at rswilloughby@pomlaw.com or 888.476.6529 (or 888.4-POMLAW), toll free, ext. 9980. Those who inquire by e-mail are encouraged to include their mailing address, telephone number, and number of shares purchased.

[Click here to join this class action]

Intra-Cellular Therapies, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company that is focused on the discovery and clinical development of innovative, small molecule drugs that address underserved medical needs in neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders by targeting intracellular signaling mechanisms within the central nervous system, or CNS. The Company’s lead drug candidate, ITI-007 also known as lumateperone, is supposed to treat schizophrenia, behavioral disturbances in dementia, bipolar disorder and other neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders.

The Complaint alleges that throughout the Class Period, Defendants made materially false and misleading statements regarding the Company’s business, operational and compliance policies. Specifically, Defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (i) the findings related to toxicity observed in animals treated with lumateperone (ITI-007); (ii) these findings posed an additional safety concern regarding lumateperone; (iii) as a result of the foregoing, Intra-Cellular’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times.

On May 1, 2017, before the market opened, the Company issued a press release entitled, “Intra-Cellular Therapies Provides Corporate Update on Schizophrenia Program” which revealed findings of toxicity in animals treated with lumateperone.

On this news, Intra-Cellular’s share price fell $3.33, or over 24%, to close at $10.49 on May 1, 2017.

The Pomerantz Firm, with offices in New York, Chicago, Florida, and Los Angeles, is acknowledged as one of the premier firms in the areas of corporate, securities, and antitrust class litigation. Founded by the late Abraham L. Pomerantz, known as the dean of the class action bar, the Pomerantz Firm pioneered the field of securities class actions. Today, more than 80 years later, the Pomerantz Firm continues in the tradition he established, fighting for the rights of the victims of securities fraud, breaches of fiduciary duty, and corporate misconduct. The Firm has recovered numerous multimillion-dollar damages awards on behalf of class members. See www.pomerantzlaw.com

SOURCE: Pomerantz LLP

ReleaseID: 466053

Source URL: http://marketersmedia.com/shareholder-alert-pomerantz-law-firm-reminds-shareholders-with-losses-on-their-investment-in-intra-cellular-therapies-inc-of-class-action-lawsuit-and-upcoming-deadline-itci/208865

Source: AccessWire

Release ID: 208865

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Chinese Patent Law and Antitrust Expert Erick Robinson…

Erick Robinson, a leading expert in Chinese patent law and litigation as well as antitrust law, has been selected as one of the top IP Strategists for the third consecutive year. Mr. Robinson is Director of Patent Litigation at Beijing East IP and author of http://www.ChinaPatentBlog.com.

(PRWEB) June 16, 2017

Leading Chinese law firm Beijing East IP announced today that its Director of Patent Litigation, Erick Robinson, was named to the 2017 edition of IAM Strategy 300 — The World’s Leading IP Strategists. This is the third consecutive year that Mr. Robinson was selected as a top intellectual property specialist.

Mr. Robinson thanked IAM and his colleagues and clients for selecting him. “I am honored to be the first senior US patent litigator working at a Chinese law firm, and particularly thankful for being able to work with Dr. Lulin Gao, the ‘Father of the Chinese Patent System.’ Dr. Gao is a major reason why China is where it is, and had the foresight to help create a patent system that supports innovation throughout the Middle Kingdom.”

Erick Robinson is an expert in Chinese patent law, patent litigation, antitrust law, and business strategy. He is currently Director of Patent Litigation for Beijing East IP in Beijing, China, where he leads patent litigation, licensing, and prosecution as well as competition and antitrust efforts for Chinese and Western entities ranging from SMEs to Fortune 100 companies.

Mr. Robinson is an experienced U.S. patent attorney and trial lawyer with a technical background in computer science and physics, as well as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and oil & gas. He is a trusted authority on patent and antitrust law in China. Erick Robinson is the author of the award-winning China Patent Blog (http://www.ChinaPatentBlog.com) as well as numerous articles on Chinese patent litigation. Mr. Robinson is frequently quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Intellectual Asset Management, Intellectual Property Magazine, the Global Times, and other publications on Chinese patent and antitrust issues.

Before joining Beijing East, Mr. Robinson was Chief Patent Counsel for a major international law and consulting firm in Beijing. He previously served as Director of Patents for Qualcomm in Asia, where he managed a broad range of IP issues ranging from patent drafting, prosecution, licensing, and litigation, to regulatory, policy, and antitrust matters. He also managed open source issues for Qualcomm Atheros, and created, implemented, and enforced open source protocols. Before Qualcomm, Erick managed patent and open source matters for Red Hat.

Mr. Robinson began his legal career at a Wall Street law firm negotiating and drafting technology agreements, and then moved to Texas, where he managed and tried patent cases for top U.S. law firms Weil Gotshal and McKool Smith. During his time in Texas, he managed bet-the-business patent cases on both the plaintiff and defendant side for Fortune 100 companies to sole inventors.

As a U.S. patent attorney and experienced American trial lawyer, Erick Robinson now helps companies in the United States, Canada, and Europe protect their technologies in the sometimes-confusing Chinese market. He also works with Chinese companies to maximize the value of their IP domestically and around the world. As a litigator, prosecutor, businessperson, and former in-house counsel, Erick provides unique insight and strategy for companies to achieve success in China.


For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2017/06/prweb14429463.htm


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Trenton gives $105K contract to former law director’s firm





TRENTON >> David Minchello apparently can’t separate himself from Trenton.

The city’s former law director has stayed connected to Trenton by employment or through law firms since Mayor Eric Jackson assumed office in July 2014.

On Thursday, city council approved two contracts for Minchello’s newly formed law firm, Rainone Coughlin & Minchello, totaling $105,000. The firm is politically connected as one of the law firm’s partners is Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), who is rumored to be in the running for the next Assembly speaker.

Rainone Coughlin & Minchello received a $75,000 contract for legal services regarding labor matters and $30,000 to perform legal work for employment matters.

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Minchello was an early supporter of Jackson’s bid for mayor. In May 2013, Minchello’s former firm, Antonelli Minchello, donated $2,000 to Jackson’s campaign.

After winning the mayoral race, Jackson appointed Minchello as law director. Minchello stayed in the role for a year but he also was named a partner with DeCotiis, FitzPatrick & Cole, which had an active contract with the city, four months before he resigned.

Minchello was named a partner of the firm in March 2015 after he received the blessing from Jackson, who reportedly secured approval from the state.

In April 2015, Jackson appeared before council declaring the city would end its $80,000 contract with DeCotiis due to the then-law director’s ties with the Teaneck-based law firm.

But that never occurred.

DeCotiis has remained a contracted firm with the city. The law firm was also given a $50,000 contract for general municipal and other legal matters on Thursday.

Minchello and several other DeCotiis members left the firm to form Rainone Coughlin & Minchello earlier this year.

The city’s former law director also had another connection to another contract that was approved by city council on Thursday.

City council approved a $50,000 legal services contract to the law firm of Antonelli Kantor. Daniel Antonelli was Minchello’s former law firm partner when the company contributed $2,000 to Jackson’s campaign in 2013.

Antonelli also became a partner at DeCotiis the same month as Minchello. Antonelli formed his new firm in March.

With the latest round of legal services contracts, it appears the city is rewarding those who are connected to Minchello.

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iBhushan, Essar Steel among 12 firms listed

India’s central bank has asked lenders to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against a dozen companies, including Essar Steel, Bhushan Steel Ltd., Monnet Ispat and Energy Ltd., sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

This follows a change enacted in laws last month that gives the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) greater power to address the $150 billion stressed loan problem plaguing growth in Asia’s third-largest economy.

This week, the RBI said it had identified 12 of the country’s biggest loan defaulters.

Jaypee Infratech, Electrosteel Steels, unlisted Bhushan Power & Steel, textiles maker Alok Industries, ABG Shipyard and Jyoti Structures are also among the firms that will be taken to insolvency courts by the RBI, said the sources, who asked not to be named as the list was not public.

A fourth of bad loans

The RBI has yet to officially name any of the 12 companies, which account for about ₹2 trillion ($31 billion) of India’s non-performing loans, or roughly 25% of all the country’s bad loans.

CNBC TV18, which reported the 12 names earlier on Friday, also said Lanco Infratech, Amtek Auto and Era Infra Engineering were on the list.

Reuters could not immediately verify these three names.

According to the television station, the central bank has asked banks to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against six of the firms within 15 days and to file petitions for the others within 30 days.

The RBI had no official comment.

A spokesman for Essar Steel declined to comment, while a spokesman for Electrosteel said they had heard from their main lender that creditors wanted to initiate resolution of the unpaid loans through the National Company Law Tribunal.

The NCLT has been appointed as the nodal court for insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings in India.

A bankruptcy filing would result in recovering some funds owed through a debt restructuring, or ultimately through liquidation of the company. Such action means banks would no longer leave bad debt on their books and it could force them to put more money aside to cover losses — at a time when funds are already short as banks seek to comply with international capital standards.

The filings could have far reaching implications, as India’s new insolvency code sets out a tight deadline for restructuring resolutions to be struck, failing which the defaulters would be moved into forced liquidation, potentially leading to further value erosion and jeopardizing tens of thousands of jobs at the heavy industry companies on the list.

Lenders’ meetings

Indian banks typically lend larger sums in groups.

Lead banks plan to call meetings of the groups over the next two weeks to decide the next course of action, one source said.

Jaypee Infratech, Lanco, Bhushan Steel, Monnet, Bhushan Power & Steel, Jyoti, Era, Amtek, Alok and ABG were not immediately reachable for comments.

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Germany threatens retaliation if U.S. sanctions harm its firms

By Gernot Heller and Alissa de Carbonnel
| BERLIN/BRUSSELS

BERLIN/BRUSSELS Germany threatened on Friday to retaliate against the United States if new sanctions on Russia being proposed by the U.S. Senate end up penalizing German firms.

The Senate bill, approved on Thursday by a margin of 98-2, includes new sanctions against Russia and Iran. Crucially, it foresees punitive measures against entities that provide material support to Russia in building energy export pipelines.

Berlin fears that could pave the way for fines against German and European firms involved in Nord Stream 2, a project to build a pipeline carrying Russian gas across the Baltic.

Among the European companies involved in the project are German oil and gas group Wintershall, German energy trading firm Uniper, Royal Dutch Shell, Austria’s OMV and France’s Engie.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman described the Senate bill, which must be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by President Donald Trump before it becomes law, as “a peculiar move”.

He said it was “strange” that sanctions intended to punish Russia for alleged interference in the U.S. elections could also trigger penalties against European companies.

“That must not happen,” said the spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

In an interview with Reuters, German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries said Berlin would have to think about counter-measures if Trump backed the plan.

“If he does, we’ll have to consider what we are going to do against it,” Zypries said.

The sharp response from Berlin comes at a time of deep strains in the transatlantic relationship due to shifts in U.S. policy and a more confrontational rhetoric towards Europe under Trump.

The new U.S. president has lambasted European partners for not contributing more to NATO, slammed Germany for running a large trade surplus with the United States and broken with allies on climate change with his decision to exit the landmark Paris agreement on combating greenhouse gas emissions.

Ironically, the part of the Senate bill that targets Russia was introduced by some of the president’s top critics, including Republican hawk John McCain.

They are intent on limiting Trump’s ability to forge warmer ties with Russia, a key foreign policy pledge during his campaign for the presidency, but one he has been unable to deliver on amid investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

DIALOGUE BREAKS DOWN

Under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, Washington and Europe coordinated closely as they ramped up sanctions against Moscow for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

But the dialogue has broken down under Trump, who considered easing sanctions against Russia when he first came into office, according to U.S. officials.

“I regret that the joint approach of Europe and the United States on Russia and sanctions has been undermined and abandoned in this way,” Zypries told Reuters.

France and the European Commission also urged the United States to coordinate with its partners on such matters.

“For several years, we have underlined to the United States the difficulties that extraterritorial legislation spark,” a French foreign ministry spokesman told reporters.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, due to start pumping gas from Russia to Europe from 2019, has been dogged by controversy.

Eastern European and Baltic states fear it will make them hostage to Russian gas and undercut Ukraine by depriving it of transit fees for Russian gas supplies to Europe.

Nordic nations, meanwhile, have security concerns over the pipeline running through territorial waters, where Russia has bolstered its military presence in recent months.

Some EU diplomats fear the threat of new measures out of Washington may harden Germany’s defense of Nord Stream and complicate already difficult talks among EU nations over whether to seek joint talks with Russia over the pipeline.

“This is not helpful now. It tends to stir up desires to protect our territorial space,” one EU diplomat said.

The House of Representatives is expected to debate the Senate bill in the coming weeks but it is unclear whether it will come up for a final vote before lawmakers leave Washington at the end of July for their summer recess.

(Additional reporting by Michael Nienaber; Writing by Noah Barkin; Editing by Andrew Roche)


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Germany threatens retaliation if US sanctions against Russia harm European firms


angela merkel germany
German
Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a press conference with
Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas at the Chancellery in Berlin,
Germany, June 15, 2017.

Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Germany threatened on Friday to
retaliate against the United States if new sanctions on Russia
being proposed by the US Senate end up penalizing German firms.

The Senate bill, approved on Thursday by a margin of 98-2,
includes new sanctions against Russia and Iran. Crucially, it
foresees punitive measures against entities that provide material
support to Russia in building energy export pipelines.

Berlin fears that could pave the way for fines against German and
European firms involved in Nord Stream 2, a project to build a
pipeline carrying Russian gas across the Baltic.

Among the European companies involved in the project are German
oil and gas group Wintershall, German energy trading firm Uniper,
Royal Dutch Shell, Austria’s OMV and France’s Engie.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman described the Senate
bill, which must be approved by the House of Representatives and
signed by President Donald Trump before it becomes law, as “a
peculiar move”.

He said it was “strange” that sanctions intended to punish Russia
for alleged interference in the US elections could also trigger
penalties against European companies.

“That must not happen,” said the spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

In an interview with Reuters, German Economy Minister Brigitte
Zypries said Berlin would have to think about counter-measures if
Trump backed the plan.

“If he does, we’ll have to consider what we are going to do
against it,” Zypries said.

The sharp response from Berlin comes at a time of deep strains in
the transatlantic relationship due to shifts in US policy and a
more confrontational rhetoric towards Europe under Trump.

The new US president has lambasted European partners for not
contributing more to NATO, slammed Germany for running a large
trade surplus with the United States and broken with allies on
climate change with his decision to exit the landmark Paris
agreement on combating greenhouse gas emissions.

Ironically, the part of the Senate bill that targets Russia was
introduced by some of the president’s top critics, including
Republican hawk John McCain.

They are intent on limiting Trump’s ability to forge warmer ties
with Russia, a key foreign policy pledge during his campaign for
the presidency, but one he has been unable to deliver on amid
investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the US election.


Donald Trump
U.S.
President Donald Trump announces his decision that the United
States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, in the
Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1,
2017.

REUTERS/Joshua
Roberts



Dialogue breaks down

Under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, Washington and Europe
coordinated closely as they ramped up sanctions against Moscow
for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

But the dialogue has broken down under Trump, who considered
easing sanctions against Russia when he first came into office,
according to US officials.

“I regret that the joint approach of Europe and the United States
on Russia and sanctions has been undermined and abandoned in this
way,” Zypries told Reuters.

France and the European Commission also urged the United States
to coordinate with its partners on such matters.

“For several years, we have underlined to the United States the
difficulties that extraterritorial legislation spark,” a French
foreign ministry spokesman told reporters.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, due to start pumping gas from Russia
to Europe from 2019, has been dogged by controversy.

Eastern European and Baltic states fear it will make them hostage
to Russian gas and undercut Ukraine by depriving it of transit
fees for Russian gas supplies to Europe.

Nordic nations, meanwhile, have security concerns over the
pipeline running through territorial waters, where Russia has
bolstered its military presence in recent months.

Some EU diplomats fear the threat of new measures out of
Washington may harden Germany’s defense of Nord Stream and
complicate already difficult talks among EU nations over whether
to seek joint talks with Russia over the pipeline.

“This is not helpful now. It tends to stir up desires to protect
our territorial space,” one EU diplomat said.

The House of Representatives is expected to debate the Senate
bill in the coming weeks but it is unclear whether it will come
up for a final vote before lawmakers leave Washington at the end
of July for their summer recess.

(Additional reporting by Michael Nienaber; Writing by Noah
Barkin; Editing by Andrew Roche)

Read the original article on Reuters. Copyright 2017. Follow Reuters on Twitter.