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Canada, U.K. announce transitional trade agreement – CBC.ca

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Negotiations between Canada and the United Kingdom to hammer out the terms of their post-Brexit trade have concluded, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a video Saturday morning as this weekend’s virtual G20 summit begins.

“Now we get to continue to work on a bespoke agreement, a comprehensive agreement, over the coming years that will really maximize our trade opportunities and boost things for everyone,” Trudeau said. 

“Free trade is an important part of the way that we’re going to bounce back from COVID, but I also think that Canada and the U.K. share a perspective about building back greener,” said Johnson, who also took a moment to congratulate Trudeau for taking steps to get Canada to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Following the U.K.’s exit from the European Union last winter, the two countries agreed to let the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) — the bilateral trade deal in effect between Canada and the EU since 2017 — continue to apply to Canada–U.K. trade until the end of 2020.

Negotiating a new comprehensive bilateral trade agreement between the two that could be fully ratified and in place before Jan. 1 was difficult, because the British did not have jurisdiction over their own trade affairs until their exit from the EU was complete.

Instead, the two sides agreed to “roll over” the CETA in a short-term transitional agreement, replicating most of the existing language and renegotiating only what was required to make it fit U.K.-only trade.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as they take part in a working session with G7 leaders in Biarritz, France on Aug. 25, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

“We knew that having an interim agreement would be crucial to ensure that businesses, exporters, our workers on both sides of the Atlantic have the continuity and the predictability that they need,” International Trade Minister Mary Ng said Saturday.

Now that negotiations have concluded, the deal must be approved by both governments. In Canada’s case, legislation to change regulations and laws (including its custom tariff) to comply with the new agreement must be approved by Parliament before the deal can take effect.

The timeline for passing such a bill is now very tight, but both countries have said they don’t want to disadvantage or disrupt businesses who’ve benefited from CETA and depend on this two-way trade.

There’s no end date or sunset clause for the transitional agreement, but both sides intend to begin negotiations toward a permanent agreement to replace it sometime next year. Those negotiations are expected to be more ambitious than what’s included in this temporary deal.

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – Richmond News

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):

6:30 p.m.

COVID-19 continues to spread in an outbreak in Nunavut.

The territory says there are four new cases in Arviat, the only community where there are active cases.

Arviat, which has a population of about 2,800, has had 337 COVID-19 cases, 25 of which are currently active.

All schools and non-essential businesses in Arviat have been closed for months and travel has been restricted.

6 p.m.

Alberta’s chief medical health officer says there are an estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases, but says firm information isn’t available today due to a system upgrade.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw says on Twitter that the new cases include 54 that involve variants of concern.

Information was not available Sunday on the number of hospitalizations or new deaths.

Hinshaw says about 8,100 COVID-19 tests were completed in the previous 24 hours, and that the positivity rate was approximately four per cent.

She says the system upgrade work is nearly complete and that online updates will resume Monday.

4 p.m.

Health authorities on Prince Edward Island are reporting two new cases of COVID-19.

Officials say both involve men in their 20s who are now self-isolating.

One case is connected to a previously known diagnosis, and the other tested positive after he was at a public exposure site more than a week ago.

With 26 active reported cases, chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says there are more active infections in the province now than at any other point in the pandemic.

3 p.m.

Saskatchewan is reporting two new deaths among people who tested positive for COVID-19, one of whom was under 20 years old.

The exact age of that person was not released, but the government’s daily pandemic update says the patient was from Saskatchewan’s North West zone.

The other person who died was in the 40-to-49 age group and was from the Far North West zone.

The province is reporting 116 new COVID-19 cases today.

The government says a shipment of 7,022 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected to arrive Tuesday and will be divided between Saskatoon and Regina.

Another 7,020 doses of that vaccine are expected Wednesday and will go to North Battleford, Yorkton and Prince Albert.

2:45 p.m.

Public health officials in New Brunswick are reporting two new cases of COVID-19.

Authorities say one case is related to travel and the other is connected to a previously known infection.

Effective midnight tonight, officials are loosening public health restrictions across the entire province.

In the new provincewide “yellow” alert level, residents can expand their contacts from 10 to 15 people and team sports activities may resume.

2:10 p.m.

Manitoba health officials are reporting two new deaths of people with COVID-19.

The province’s daily pandemic update says both deaths were in the Winnipeg health region and are linked to outbreaks at care facilities.

The province says there were 56 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba as of this morning.

1:20 p.m.

Newfoundland and Labrador health authorities are reporting one new case of COVID-19 today.

Officials say the person involved is a man between 20 and 39 years old, and his infection is related to international travel.

The province has now seen 10 consecutive days of single-digit case counts following an outbreak in St. Jon’s last month.

Public health says there are 87 active reported COVID-19 cases in the province, including three people in intensive care.

1 p.m.

Nova Scotia health authorities are reporting two new cases of COVID-19.

Officials say one infection is travel-related, while the other is a close contact of a previously known case.

There are now 29 active reported COVID-19 infections in the province.

Authorities say two patients are in hospital and one is in intensive care.

11:10 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 707 new cases of COVID-19 and seven new deaths linked to the pandemic.

Two of the deaths occurred in the last 24 hours while the rest happened earlier.

Hospitalizations declined by nine to 592, with 107 people in intensive care, which is two fewer than a day prior.

The province administered 15,329 doses of vaccine on Saturday.

10:40 a.m. 

Ontario is reporting 1,299 new cases of COVID-19 today and 15 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 329 new cases in Toronto, 192 in Peel Region, and 116 in York Region.

Today’s data is based on 46,586 completed tests.

The province also says 30,192 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Saturday’s update.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021

The Canadian Press

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Chinese giant DJI hit by U.S. tensions, staff defections

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By David Kirton

SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) – Chinese drone giant DJI Technology Co Ltd built up such a successful U.S. business over the past decade that it almost drove all competitors out of the market.

Yet its North American operations have been hit by internal ructions in recent weeks and months, with a raft of staff cuts and departures, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former employees.

The loss of key managers, some of who have joined rivals, has compounded problems caused by U.S. government restrictions on Chinese companies, and raised the once-remote prospect of DJI’s dominance being eroded, said four of the people, including two senior executives who were at the company until late 2020.

About a third of DJI’s 200-strong team in the region was laid off or resigned last year, from offices in Palo Alto, Burbank and New York, according to three former and one current employee.

In February this year, DJI’s head of U.S. R&D left and the company laid off the remaining R&D staff, numbering roughly 10 people, at its flagship U.S. research centre in California’s Palo Alto, four people said.

DJI, founded and run by billionaire Frank Wang, said it made the difficult decision to reduce staffing in Palo Alto to reflect the company’s “evolving needs”.

“We thank the affected employees for their contributions and remain committed to our customers and partners,” it said, adding that its North American sales were growing strongly.

“Despite misleading claims from competitors, our enterprise customers understand how DJI products provide robust data security. Despite gossip from anonymous sources, DJI is committed to serving the North American market.”

It did not comment on the other U.S. staff departures that current and ex-employees spoke of, although it told Reuters last year its global structure was becoming “unwieldy to manage”.

DJI, which has become a symbol of Chinese innovation since it was founded in 2006, is one of dozens of companies caught in the crossfire of trade and diplomatic hostilities between Washington and Beijing, like Huawei and Bytedance.

Staff sources and competitors say the company’s brand reach, technical know-how, manufacturing might and sales force mean it won’t lose its crown anytime soon in the multi-billion-dollar U.S. and global markets for non-military drones.

But a December order adding the company to the U.S. Commerce Department’s “Entity List” along with the closure of its R&D operation in California could affect its ability to serve the needs of U.S. customers, according to three former senior executives and two competitors.

The Commerce Department listing, enacted over allegations including DJI enabled “high-technology surveillance”, prohibits the company from buying or using U.S. technology or components.

The same month, Romeo Durscher, DJI’s U.S.-based head of public safety, who had played a central role in building the company’s business in providing drone technology to non-military U.S. government departments and agencies, left his job.

Durscher, a former NASA project manager and an influential figure in the drone industry, now works at Swiss company Auterion, a competitor to DJI.

He said he left DJI because he was disheartened by the staff cuts and what he described as internal power struggles between the U.S. team and its China headquarters. He added that the U.S. reorganisation complicated the task in dealing with the fallout from U.S.-China tensions and winning government business.

“It’s not an easy decision to leave the market leader that’s really far ahead of everyone else,” said Durscher, who joined DJI in 2014. “But those internal battles were distracting from the real purpose and in 2020 it got worse … we lost tremendous talent at DJI and that’s very unfortunate.”

U.S. SECURITY CONCERNS

Privately held DJI doesn’t publish sales figures. The U.S. Department of Defense estimated the American non-military market was worth $4.2 billion last year. Consultancy DroneAnalyst said DJI controlled almost 90% of the consumer market in North America and over 70% of the industrial market.

The December listing by the Commerce Department, and the prohibition on buying U.S. parts, may impact the firm’s mobile apps, web servers and some battery and imaging products, said David Benowitz, head of research at DroneAnalyst and a senior figure with DJI’s enterprise team, which works with industrial customers, in Shenzhen before he left last summer.

DJI said in December that the ban would not affect U.S. customers’ ability to buy and use its products.

The listing followed other official blows. In October, the U.S. Department of the Interior said it would only buy drones from companies okayed by the Department of Defense, which last August published a list of five approved drone suppliers to the federal government – four American and one French.

DJI said there was no “broad-based U.S. government ban on purchasing DJI drones”.

“Congress considered that approach last year and rejected it, because … such a ban would be challenging for many companies and government bodies that rely on drones,” it added.

‘WE’RE STILL PRIMITIVE’

Benowitz said persisting U.S.-China tensions and the push by Washington to support DJI’s rivals could see the company’s North American market share decline. He added that, while the federal government comprised a relatively small part of DJI’s business, its restrictions could have a “chilling effect”, with other buyers worried about tougher measures in the future.

“We’re at a point where there are too many market opportunities for one player to dominate,” he said.

Yet he added alternatives to DJI were relative minnows, though both policy support and security concerns over Chinese drones had brought them growth in the last year. Competitors to DJI include France’s Parrot and California-based Skydio.

Chris Roberts, CEO of Parrot Inc, Americas, said 2020 had been a significant year for the company in the United States, having been named an approved supplier by the Defense Department and won business from emergency services and security agencies.

Skydio announced $170 million in D-round funding last week and said it had a valuation of over $1 billion.

“DJI makes good hardware but we are still very early in the market, and very primitive compared to what ultimately should exist,” Skydio CEO Adam Bry told Reuters.

PHANTOM DRONE FLEETS

When Durscher joined DJI back in 2014, the company’s Phantom series was transforming drones from a niche hobby to a mainstream gadget. He said he was particularly drawn by the chance to bring drones into the kit of fire and rescue departments.

He said the technological advances of smaller rivals in the last year were tempting for some public-safety agencies, who might say “let’s go with this drone now so we don’t have to deal with the data security”.

He added that change could come as government departments and companies looked to replace drone fleets that are nearing the end of their life cycles.

A fleet is typically expected to last three to four years, according to Benowitz.

Durscher and several other staff compared DJI’s internal rivalry over projects to “Game of Thrones”, the TV series where rival factions vie for power. He said this resulted in a rotating door of Shenzhen bosses, and that he reported to 12 different managers in his six years at the company.

Durscher’s departure from DJI followed those of other key executives in North America last year, including director of business development Cynthia Huang.

Huang, who now works with Durscher at Auterion, said she became increasingly frustrated because she felt DJI wasn’t able to meet all the growing demands of the enterprise market. Additionally, she said, job cuts over the past year added to the reasons she decided to leave. The losses in Palo Alto, Burbank and New York had followed cuts made to DJI’s global sales and marketing teams, which Reuters reported in August.

“Some of the people that we lost in those layoffs, it didn’t make sense,” said Huang, who was hired in 2018 to take the lead in building DJI’s enterprise business in North America. “The continued exodus of talent was discouraging.”

 

(Reporting by David Kirton; Additional reporting by Jane Lee in San Francisco, Alexandra Alper and David Shephardson in Washington; Editing by Pravin Char)

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Socially distanced Iditarod sled dog teams dash off from secluded Alaska river site

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By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – Forty-six mushers and their teams of huskies dashed off into the Alaska wilderness on Sunday in a socially distanced start to the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, embarking on a course drastically altered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The starting gate of the 2021 event was placed off-limits to the usual crowds of cheering spectators, and few if any fans are expected along the abbreviated route for this year’s 49th running of the world’s most famous sled-dog marathon.

Access to the starting area – a secluded spot at the edge of the frozen Deshka River in Willow, Alaska, about 75 miles north of Anchorage – was generally restricted to competitors, essential race personnel and media.

The staggered launch of the race began with Iditarod veteran Aaron Peck of Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada, followed by rivals charging onto the trail one team at a time every two minutes amid sunny skies and a clamor of barking and yapping.

Victoria Hardwick of Bethel, Alaska, was last out of the chute, rounding out the smallest field of contestants since 1978. A 47th musher on the roster scratched hours earlier due to a non-COVID-19 family health concern, race organizers said.

The weather was relatively balmy by Alaska standards, with temperatures climbing to at least 25 degrees Fahrenheit, the warmest Iditarod start on record, though the mercury was expected to plunge on the trail as the day wore on.

But the biggest change this year was in diverting the finish line far from the Bering Sea gold-rush town of Nome, the usual end point for a race commemorating the legendary diphtheria serum run to Nome by dog sled teams in 1925.

Instead, the 2021 race will run to an uninhabited checkpoint called Iditarod and an abandoned mining settlement named Flat, then turn around for a second leg sending mushers back to Deshka Landing for the finish.

The total distance is about 860 miles, roughly 100 miles shorter than the traditional route to Nome.

“This is kind of a different year. It’s going to be a little odd going on the trail,” 2018 champion Joar Leifseth Ulsom, a native Norwegian who lives full time in Alaska, said on Sunday before the start. He is considered one of this year’s favorites.

VIRUS-ALTERED ROUTE

The coronavirus-altered route is designed to minimize contact with residents of the region.

Even where the trail nears villages, checkpoints are isolated with restricted access. The route skips all the native Athabascan villages along the Yukon River and all the Inupiat villages on the Bering Sea coast.

The mountains of the Alaska Range will pose the greatest challenge to competitors this year, with mushers routed across the range twice in two directions.

This year’s highly competitive field includes Leifseth Ulsom and three other returning champions – four-time winners Dallas Seavey and Martin Buser, and 2019 victor Pete Kaiser.

Also competing are the Iditarod’s top women – Aliy Zirkle, planning to retire after this year’s race, and Jessie Royer, who finished third the past two years.

The Iditarod, as it has every year, faced criticism from animal-rights activists condemning the event as inhumane, putting pressure on race sponsors.

Exxon Mobil has said it will end its longtime sponsorship after this year’s race.

The Iditarod, however, has gained some new sponsors and is drawing revenue from a subscription service sending video directly to fans.

 

(Reporting by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage, Alaska; Editing by Steve Gorman, Diane Craft and Himani Sarkar)

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