MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed preparations for forthcoming Syria peace talks with his Kazakh counterpart Kairat Abdrakhmanov on Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Boost for talks backed by Russia and Turkey as opposition groups consent to send delegation to press for ceasefireSyrian rebel groups have decided to attend peace talks backed by Russia and Turkey in Kazakhstan to press for implementation of a widely violated ceasefire, rebel officials have said, in a boost for Moscow-led diplomacy. Rebel groups took the decision at meetings that are under way in Ankara, and are working to form a delegation that will be different to that sent to peace talks in Geneva last year by a Saudi-backed opposition group. Continue reading...
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian rebel groups have decided to attend peace talks backed by Russia and Turkey in Kazakhstan to press for implementation of a widely violated ceasefire, rebel officials said on Monday, in a boost for Moscow-led diplomacy.
There is a reason Vladimir Putin and the Russian top political echelon has been avoiding the media following the onslaught of allegations lobbed at the Kremlin, and Trump: as AP writes, careful not to hurt chances for a thaw in U.S.-Russia relations, President Putin and other Russian officials "have deferred questions about their plans for future contacts with Trump and any agenda for those talks until he takes office on Friday." In short, the "Kremlin is counting the days to his inauguration and venting its anger at Barack Obama's outgoing administration, no holds barred." Trump's desire to restore relations with Russia has brought wide expectations of improved Moscow-Washington relations, but Trump has not articulated a clear Russia policy. His Cabinet nominees include both a retired general with a hawkish stance on Russia and an oil executive who has done extensive business in Russia. At the same time, Russian officials are blasting the outgoing U.S. administration in distinctly undiplomatic language, dropping all decorum after Obama hit Moscow with more sanctions in his final weeks in office. Most recently, Moscow has called Obama's team a "bunch of geopolitical losers" engaged in a last-ditch effort to inflict the maximum possible damage to U.S.-Russia ties to make it more difficult for Trump to mend the rift. Doing its part to improve relations once Trump is sworn in on Friday at noon, in a clear effort to avoid risking a rapprochement with Trump, Putin showed a remarkable restraint when the U.S. expelled 35 Russian diplomats over accusations of meddling in the U.S. election campaign. Instead of a usual tit-for-tat response, Putin invited U.S. diplomats' children to a New Year's party at the Kremlin. Sparking the latest diplomatic mini scandal in the US, late last week it emerged that Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Russia's ambassador to the U.S. were in frequent contact in recent weeks, including on Dec. 29, the day Obama hit Moscow with sanctions in retaliation for election-related hacking, according to a senior U.S. official. That call and others suggest that the incoming administration is already laying the groundwork for a possible thaw with Moscow. Moscow similarly refrained from retaliation when the White House last week added five Russians, including the chief of Russia's top state investigative agency, to the U.S. sanctions list. Still, while Putin and his aides hope Trump will open up to Russia, they know any attempt to fix ties will face massive obstacles, including possible strong resistance in the U.S. Congress. "Any future contacts will have to be prepared quite accurately and thoroughly, as they would follow a tense period," Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. Fyodor Lukyanov, chair of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policies, a group of Russian foreign policy experts, said Syria is one area where a U.S.-Russian rapport is likely. During the call with Flynn, the Russian ambassador invited U.S. officials to a conference on Syria to be held in Kazakhstan later this month, according to a transition official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter. In an interview Friday with The Wall Street Journal, Trump said he might do away with Obama's sanctions if Russia works with the U.S. on battling terrorists and achieving other goals. One place where there could be a major breakthrough between the US and Russia is Rysia: The Kremlin would be eager to embrace a U.S. offer of cooperation on Syria. Obama's administration had refused to coordinate action against the IS with Russia, saying Moscow was bent on shoring up Syrian President Bashar Assad. The complexity of the conflict in Syria — where opposition groups backed by regional players are pitted against Assad's troops and often fight each other — makes hopes for quick progress elusive. "Russia and the United States are important players (in Syria) but not the only ones," Lukyanov said. He noted that nuclear arms control is another possible area where Moscow and Washington could try to find common ground. While new arms control treaties are unlikely, the two countries may try to find ways to increase global stability, Lukyanov said. Putin has pushed for the U.S. to recognize Moscow as an equal global heavyweight and to acknowledge that Russia's ex-Soviet neighbors are in its sphere of "vital interests" — demands rejected by the West. Many in Russia hope that Trump could be more inclined to strike a "grand bargain" with Putin, carving up spheres of influence and helping cement Russia's role as a global power. Alexander Lebedev, a multimillionaire Russian owner of Britain's Evening Standard and Independent newspapers, believes that Putin wants a "big deal" that would envisage cooperation in Syria and possible cooperation in other spheres. Another major area of possible cooperation is the fight against international financial crime. "$1 trillion a year is stolen by global banks and companies and moved offshore," Lebedev said, adding that Russia and the U.S. could launch a worldwide crackdown on corrupt business practices. * * * Russia may be overly optimistic counting on a rapid thaw in icy relations, however. While the Kremlin counts on Trump to roll the sanctions back, many observers are skeptical. "In the current atmosphere, it's very difficult to imagine how Trump could start canceling the sanctions," Lukyanov said. First and foremost, Trump would have to defuse the constant accusations that Russia "hacked the US election." U.S. intelligence officials' accusations that Russian hackers — acting on Putin's orders — interfered into the vote to help Trump win have put the U.S. president-elect in a difficult position. Trump has grudgingly conceded that Russia was likely responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee, but emphasized there was no evidence that hacking affected the U.S. election results. Earlier today, outgoing CIA chief John Brennan warned Trump to watch what he says, warning the president-elect that "absolving Russia of various actions it has taken in the past number of years is a road that he needs to be very, very careful about moving down." The Kremlin has rejected the hacking accusations and also hotly denied reports that it has collected compromising information about Trump. On the other hand, aware that an open show of support for Trump would only make it more difficult for him to restore ties, Russian officials have mostly focused on blasting Obama's administration. Konstantin Kosachev, the head of foreign affairs committee in the upper house of parliament, described the White House's decision to expel Russian diplomats as an "agony of not even lame ducks, but political corpses." But the best comments to date belongs to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova. "If 'Russian hackers' hacked anything in America, there were two things: Obama's brain, and, of course, the report about 'Russian hackers,'" she wrote on Facebook. Zakharova charged that "Obama and his illiterate foreign policy team have dealt a crushing blow to America's prestige and leadership" and described his administration as "a bunch of geopolitical losers, enraged and shortsighted." Zakharova concluded that Obama's administration still has a few days left to "destroy the world." * * * With thousands of US troops entering Poland last week "in the largest deployment since the Cold War", it's probably wise not to tempt him.
Экипаж Off Road Kazakhstan в лице пилота Марата Абыкаева и штурмана Андрея Чипенко прокомментировал свою победу на ралли-марафоне Africa Eco Race-2017, который, 14 января, финишировал в Дакаре (Сенегал), передает корреспондент Vesti.kz. Фото предоставлено командой Off Road Kazakhstan "Боевые" дни на ралли, прошедшего по территории Африки, завершились 13 января. И по результатам сложнейших 11-ти этапов казахстанский экипаж, выступающий на Toyota Land Cruiser в категории Т2, завершил гонку на первом месте в зачете "серийных" автомобилей. Сегодня всех участников ожидал "этап дружбы", на котором результат уже был не важен. Однако 22 километра спецучастка все же нужно было преодолеть. И казахстанский экипаж вновь стал первым в Т2 и 21-м в абсолютном зачете, представленный внедорожниками и грузовиками. После все гонщики добрались до торжественного финиша гонки на Розовом озере в Дакаре. Непосредственно перед награждением казахстанский экипаж поделился эмоциями от своей победы в зачете "серийных" автомобилей. "Вот и закончилась гонка. Мы в категории Т2 одержали, наконец-то, победу. До этого два года мы были вторыми. Спасибо команде. Все отработали отлично. Супер, надеюсь, что все довольны. Поздравляю всех!", - начал Абыкаев. Фото предоставлено командой Off Road Kazakhstan Стоит отметить, что экипаж Абыкаева и Чипенко не только единственный, кто финишировал от Казахстана, но и в своей категории он также является единственным, кто добрался до финиша. "Ну, вот и закончилось ралли Africa Eco Race. Мы в Дакаре, на Розовом озере, стоим на церемонии награждения перед подиумом. Конечно, радостно. Судя по результатам, вообще до финиша доехали не все. Особенно в нашей категории. Мы единственные, кто доехали. Мы давно уже едем сюда. И вот, мы приехали первыми в своем классе. Пока еще даже радость не осознали", - поделился Чипенко. Фото предоставлено командой Off Road Kazakhstan Напомним, на 11-м этапе Africa Eco Race-2017, который состоял из 208 "боевых" километров, Абыкаев и Чипенко вновь стали первыми в своей категории. Таким образом, казахстанский экипаж показал уникальный результат на данном ралли, выиграв все 11 этапов гонки в зачете "серийных" машин Т2. В абсолютном зачете, который представлен внедорожниками и грузовиками, Абыкаев и Чипенко финишировали на 16-м месте. Победителем ралли-марафона в абсолютном зачете стал российский экипаж Владимира Васильева и Константина Жильцова, выступающий на Mini. Второе место заняли чехи Мирослав Заплетал и Марек Сикора на Hummer, а третье - французы Доминик Усье и Кристоф Креспо на Optymus. Фото предоставлено командой Off Road Kazakhstan Фото предоставлено командой Off Road Kazakhstan Фото предоставлено командой Off Road Kazakhstan Добавим, что другой экипаж Off Road Kazakhstan в лице Андрея Чередникова и Дмитрия Цыро попал в серьезную аварию на десятом этапе ралли-марафона. В итоге автомобиль гонщиков был разрушен и они не смогли продолжить участие в гонке. Стоит отметить, что после шестого этапа Чередников и Цыро занимали второе место в абсолютном зачете. Перед десятым этапом экипаж Off Road Kazakhstan располагался на пятом месте в "абсолюте" и в своей категории Т1. Читайте также: Советы юриста: как избежать штрафа за отсутствие временной регистрации>> В Тайланде на детском празднике взорвался военный самолет (фото, видео)>> Казахстанский фристайлист выиграл "золото" на этапе Кубка мира>> Команду Трампа пригласили на переговоры по Сирии в Астане>> Экстрасенс: Сценарий Украины может повториться в Казахстане>> В Казахстане прогнозируют туманы и гололед>>
BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian opposition's High Negotiations Committee said on Saturday it supported efforts towards planned peace talks in Kazakhstan, and viewed the meeting as a preliminary step for resuming the next round of political negotiations in Geneva.
The current system of the oil industry's taxation should not change a lot, as it provides for the sector's stability, Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin told the Gaidar Forum on Jan. 15. "From the point of view of investments under the conditions of frozen production, it means aggressive investments are not to be made either," he said. "It means we do not have to make any changes in the taxation system, it is stable in the form it has now." "We should consider, where we should go gradually," he continued, "in order to have a long-term development of the sector, understanding, the current taxation system does not bear short- or long-term threats." On Dec. 10, 2016, OPEC and non-OPEC countries signed an agreement on joint reduction of oil output at a meeting in Vienna. Also, 11 non-cartel countries (Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Russia, the Republic of Sudan and South Sudan) will join the cut announced by OPEC members of 1.164 mln barrels per day in the first half of this year, and reduce production by another 558,000 barrels per day. Thus, the total crude oil production cut will amount to 1.7-1.8 mln barrels per day. Russia plans to cut its oil production by 300,000 barrels per day in the first half of this year.
A leading Russian opposition politician and critic of Vladimir Putin has a message for the incoming Trump administration: don’t trade Ukraine for a deal in Syria. Ilya Yashin warns that any detente with Russia that includes permitting its 2014 annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine to stand -- even in return for withdrawing its military support for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad -- would be a blow to the Russian democracy movement and only embolden the Kremlin, including possibly to threaten a NATO country.“Putin could yield to the U.S. his positions in Syria in exchange for [recognition] by President Trump of Ukraine as the area of Russian influence,” Yashin, a leading figure in the Russian People’s Freedom Party, predicted in an interview with POLITICO. “Which is extremely dangerous.” “Ukraine should not be an exchange coin … in this global political game."Yashin, 33, who entered politics in 2000, co-founded the civic youth organization Oborona and worked with the prominent opposition figure Boris Nemtsov in the Solidarity and Freedom Party movements. Nemtsov was assassinated in 2015 in Moscow outside the Kremlin in what Yashin calls a "terrorist act" to intimidate the democracy movement in Russia, which in his estimation Putin tolerates only to a point so that he can convince the world that Russia is not a dictatorship.Yashin spoke out against the government’s claim that radical Islamists were behind the murder of Nemtsov and has been jailed multiple times for his anti-Putin activities.He was in Washington this week to meet with members of Congress and think tanks, where he expressed concerns about the ties to the Russian regime of some of the president-elect's advisers, including secretary of State- designee Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil who has personal ties to the Russian leader, and National Security Adviser-to-be Mike Flynn."We keep hearing what Trump and Putin keep telling about each other," Yashin said through a translator. "We cannot but notice the members of the new administration who came from business and this gives a great reason for being concerned." Putin, in his view, is looking to cut a “global deal” with Trump in order to fundamentally change the international order. "I’m here to provide additional ammo to those who support democracy around the world."But he warned in a new report he shared with U.S. officials that if the West abandons Ukraine, Putin might go further. "The outcome of the showdown between the Kremlin and Ukraine will also directly affect the future of Russia and Europe," states "The Kremlin's Hybrid Aggression," about Moscow's efforts to destabilize Ukraine. "If Putin's unrelenting pressure proves fruitful, and Kiev returns into the domain of the Kremlin influence, then there is no doubt that the Russian president will attempt applying the same methods towards other countries pf the former USSR. Putin's obvious targets are Moldova, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. However, there are also risks for the Baltic States, in spite of their NATO membership."And while he said he does not support everything the Ukrainian government does, “there is only one alternative [to the current leadership in Kiev], which is Putin."Inside Russia itself, Putin is far more adept at deflecting and undermining domestic criticism than his predecessors, in Yashin's view. "Putin is way smarter than the old Soviet leaders."In particular, he said that while the Soviet Union tried to prevent any critics from escaping to the West, Putin is more than happy to let his political opponents leave the country, never to return.But when asked what the Trump administration should do to weaken Putin, the young activist cautioned against any aggressive efforts to support opposition groups inside Russia. “Putin is a problem of the Russian people,” he said. “We are not sitting here waiting for the U.S. to change the regime, no. We should do it ourselves. Don't make him stronger than he already is."
Марат Абыкаев и Андрей Чипенко, выступающие за команду Off Road Kazakhstan на автомобиле Toyota Land Cruiser, стали победителями ралли-марафона Africa Eco Race-2017 в зачете "серийных" машин Т2, сообщает корреспондент Vesti.kz. Внедорожник Марата Абыкаева и Андрея Чипенко. Фото с официального сайта ралли На 11-м этапе Africa Eco Race-2017, который состоял из 208 "боевых" километров, Абыкаев и Чипенко вновь стали первыми в своей категории. Таким образом, казахстанский экипаж показал уникальный результат на данном ралли, выиграв все 11 этапов гонки в зачете "серийных" машин Т2. В абсолютном зачете, который представлен внедорожниками и грузовиками, Абыкаев и Чипенко финишировали на 16-м месте. Победителем ралли-марафона в абсолютном зачете стал российский экипаж Владимира Васильева и Константина Жильцова, выступающий на Mini. Второе место заняли чехи Мирослав Заплетал и Марек Сикора на Hummer, а третье - французы Доминик Усье и Кристоф Креспо на Optymus. Стоит отметить, что завтра, 14 января, состоится последний, 12-й этап, Africa Eco Race-2017. Гонщикам предстоит преодолеть 292 километра по Сенегалу и финишировать в Дакаре. Однако результаты этого этапа в общий зачет гонки не пойдут. Напомним, что другой экипаж Off Road Kazakhstan в лице Андрея Чередникова и Дмитрия Цыро попал в серьезную аварию на десятом этапе ралли-марафона. В итоге автомобиль гонщиков был разрушен и они не смогли продолжить участие в гонке. Стоит отметить, что после шестого этапа Чередников и Цыро занимали второе место в абсолютном зачете. Перед десятым этапом экипаж Off Road Kazakhstan располагался на пятом месте в "абсолюте" и в своей категории Т1. Читайте также: США не получали приглашения участвовать во встрече в Астане по Сирии>> В Астане петарда пробила окно и спалила квартиру (фото)>> Cоветник акима: Платный въезд в Астану - это не принятое решение>> Для Трампа создали "Монстра" с дробовиками и донорской кровью>> В Талдыкоргане военный бросил жену и детей, но получал за них пособие>>
In the beginning of 2017, China launched yet another railway freight route to Europe. The new route connects the city of Yiwu in eastern Zhejiang province with London, making it the longest railway freight route in the world. It takes 18 days to cover the journey of 12,000 km, and the train passes through Kazakhstan, the European part of Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France, before reaching the UK. Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment Co., which is running the freight service, said in a press note that a train departs for London once a week, transporting household items, garments, bags, and suitcases. Why Russia built the Trans-Siberian Railway According to logistics expert Alexei Bezborodov from InfraNews, the main purpose behind the opening of this route may be to get publicity, as household products and clothes do not need to be shipped on an urgent basis. “Shipment time is important for expensive products such as auto kits, electronic equipment, and computers,” Bezborodov told RBTH. “For example, the Hewlett-Packard train departs thrice a week from Chongqing to Germany. This launch of this service is an attempt to reach out to the suppliers and buyers of goods. They want to show that the Yiwu-London route exists.” The cost of supplies According to Finam analyst Alexey Kalachev, rail transportation offers just one advantage over the sea route - time. It takes 30 to 45 days to send goods to Europe from China by ship. 5 reasons why Russia's pivot to Asia is more serious than you thought The sea route is cheaper and ships have a larger carrying capacity than trains. While a train can carry up to 200 containers, a ship can easily handle 20,000. “It may cost up to $1700 to send a container on the Yiwu to London route, whereas it costs half the amount to send a container by ship,” Kalachev says. According to Ivan Zuenko, an expert of the Center for Asia Pacific Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, China is interested in diversifying its transport options for foreign trade, so that “it can artificially stimulate the use of railways across the continent.” Benefits for Russia Such a policy has already brought Russia a substantial income, as all freight trains from China cross Russia either through eastern Kazakhstan or via the Russian Far East and the Trans-Siberian Railway. The demand for rail transportation through Russia is fuelled by the devaluation of the ruble, adds Bezborodov. In 2016, the transit cargo flow via Russia amounted to 205,000 containers (an increase of 36 percent year-over-year) and earned the Russian Railways 6 billion rubles ($100 million).
Let me start this course about American economic history with a story: This is a story about a guy born in the late 19th century, in 1879, on the prairie: his family's homestead was 17 miles from the nearest post office. In historical terms, the horse-riding nomads who had dominated...
While Tillerson was CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil, the company did business in some of the most politically sensitive corners of the world, including Iraq, Kazakhstan, Angola and Russia. For his own personal investments, however, Tillerson has kept his money in far more stable regions.
Belarus is introducing visa-free entry for citizens from 80 countries, including the U.S. and all European Union nations. It will be possible to remain in the country without a visa for five days. The decree, signed by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Jan. 9, takes effect a month after its official publication. But what about travelers who decide to travel to Russia from Belarus? There are practically no international crossing points between the countries, and citizens of the two nations can currently cross it without much hassle. Beware of illegal border crossings Regarding third-party foreigners, a legal crossing of the Russian-Belarusian border is only possible if he or she travels by air and has a visa issued by the country he or she is flying to. Russia makes Top 10 tourist destinations for 2017 Traveling from Belarus to Russia using any form of ground transportation has been and remains illegal. While there are no international border crossing points between the two countries, vehicles can be stopped. Russian border control occasionally stops cars at random, and shuttle buses can be stopped to check passengers' passports. A foreigner without a Russian visa cannot buy a ticket in Belarus because he must show his passport at the time of purchase. However, even if he buys a ticket online and is able to get on the bus, passport control might ask him to get off at the Russian border where he will pay a fine. The fine for crossing the Russian border illegally can be as high as 200,000 rubles ($3,335), but authorities can decide the amount as they wish. But my friend had no problems... Some people have easily crossed the Belarusian-Russian border and bragged about it to friends. "No stamps or checks; rarely do they stop you," is what you can often hear on social networks. Indeed, when driving there is a high chance that no one will stop you. Many Poles who enter Belarus by car, for example, have no problem entering Russia, and they believe that such entry is completely legal. In September last year Poland even accused Russia of wrongfully obstructing Polish entry into the country. But then it was learned that none of the Polish travelers had a valid Russian visa. According to current laws, one can enter Russia via ground transportation from Ukraine, Lithuania, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Kazakhstan, and China. Read more: Tight security or tourist dollars? Russia’s visa dilemma
PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Thursday Syrian peace talks should resume as quickly as possible under the auspices of the United Nations and appeared to question plans for Russian-backed discussions on the subject in Kazakhstan.
Good news for globe-trotting Americans: most countries around the world are free or very cheap to get in to. But, as this map from HowMuch.net shows, some countries do charge through the nose for a visa. And it's not the ones you would expect. Source: HowMuch.net First, let's get a persistent myth out of the way, the one that says Americans don't travel overseas. That so-called fact is proven by an oft-cited statistic: only 10% of U.S. citizens – or thereabouts – have passports. Wrong! According to the State Department, the actual figure is closer to 46%. And that corresponds to more than 131 million American passport holders. And that passport is all you need to gain entry in most countries. The official at the border will stamp one of the pages at the back of your booklet and off you go, to explore other climes and cultures. But quite a few nations are not satisfied with passports alone. They require a visa – and to obtain that visa, you must pay. Sometimes you can purchase it on arrival, often you must get it at the embassy or consulate of your destination country. So, who wants how much? Entry into Europe is completely free for U.S. citizens, from Monaco to Moldova, from Liechtenstein to Lithuania, from the UK to Ukraine. And just about anywhere nearby or in between. With a few exceptions. A visa for Belarus costs $65. For that price, you get to visit the landlocked Russian satellite state often branded “the last dictatorship in Europe”. It is highly advised to say only nice things about its president Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994. Talking about countries with long-lasting leaders, the Russia of Putin (in power since 2000, alternately as president and prime minister) currently charges an entry fee of $160. That sounds like a lot, but Russia is the biggest country in the world. Azerbaijan, that Maine-sized ex-Soviet republic on the extreme southeastern edge of Europe, wants exactly as much. In comparison, that seems a bit steep. Lest you think that it's just post-communist near-autocracies that want a visa fee, check out the Czech Republic. Want to see the splendor of Prague? That'll cost ya $98 to get in. Not cheap, but still not as much as a day pass to Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. And all the Czech castles are real. Plus, this is if you want to stay longer than 90 days. Shorter visits are still free. Eat that, Mickey! Free entry is a lot rarer in Asia, but there is still plenty of choice. Americans can get in for free in Mongolia and Kazakhstan, Japan and South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. There is also free entry for countries many not even have heard of – so why not go see Brunei or Kyrgyzstan? The diving is supposed to be good in the Maldives. In the Middle East, you don't pay a cent to get into Lebanon, Israel or the United Arab Emirates, where out of the empty sand dunes the global metropolis of Dubai has arisen almost overnight. Get your Israeli stamp on a separate leaf if you plan to visit any other places in the Middle East: they don't take kindly to people who visit a state they see as mercilessly oppressing Palestine. All the other Asian countries require visas. The cheapest ones, color-coded light green, are Nepal and Tajikistan (both $25); Cambodia, Jordan, Pakistan, Qatar, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste (all $30); and Kuwait and Laos (both $35). In the slightly more expensive yellow bracket, we find Bangladesh, India, Iraq and Oman ($50). Communist North Korea wants 70 of your capitalist dollars, and Bahrain ($77), Uzbekistan ($80) and Vietnam ($85) think you will afford a bit more for the privilege of visiting them. In the orange band, things turn political – or so it would seem. Iran wants $100 before you get a visa. Even more like a shakedown is the $140 you need to get a Chinese single-entry visa... if you're an American. The same type of visa can be had for as little as $30, if you're not an American citizen. The Afghans ($160) want even more, but we doubt if it's that fee which is keeping away all those tourists. Bhutan is a small kingdom jammed between India and China, trying hard to take from the modern world only what it deems culturally appropriate. Perhaps that is why the $200 visa seems a bit dissuasive. Same for the other pink-coded Asian country: Burma, a.k.a. Myanmar, tentatively emerging from decades of isolationist military dictatorship. By all means go see its fly-in-amber culture, but be prepared to fork out $250 for a visa. The most expensive country in the world, visa-wise, charges more than double. For a visa to get into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, you will have to part with no less than 533 of your hard-earned dollars. Well, at least you won't be spending that amount of money on the Riyadh club and bar scene. Africa is a mixed bag, visa-price-wise. Some of the continent's most fabled and popular holiday destinations can be visited free of charge. Island paradises such as the Seychelles and Mauritius. Fabulous South Africa and its neighbors Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia. Northern African dream destinations Morocco and Tunisia. Senegal in West Africa. Egypt would like $20 before you get a live look at the pyramids. Togo and Zimbabwe want $30, while the island paradises of the Comoros ($32) and Cabo Verde ($43), also in the green category, are not as free as the others. Many African countries charge an entry fee between $50 and $100, i.e. the yellow band. These include Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia (it'll be a while before its fee turns into a moneyspinner), Tanzania, Angola, Djibouti, Sao Tome and Principé, Malawi, Benin, Ghana, Mali and Madagascar – to be precise. Yes, buying the movie Madagascar is a lot cheaper, but the island itself is much more awe-inspiring. The most popular color in Africa is orange ($100-$200), with Burundi, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Uganda all charging an entry fee equal to one Ben Franklin. Gabon charges you two Bens, as does the neighboring Republic of the Congo – not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which wants $175 for a visa. Both Congos are the only two countries in the world with their capitals right across from each other. Land in Kinshasa, take off from Brazzaville, and you'll have spent $375 on visa fees alone. That is more than you would spend touching down in Lagos, although Nigeria is the African country with the highest visa fee: $253. So what about Oceania? There is a whole list of island paradises that you can fly to visa-free, from Fiji and Kiribati to Micronesia and Palau; from Samoa to the Solomon Islands, and from the Marshall Islands to Vanuatu; and of course Tonga and Tuvalu. Let's throw in another, slightly larger island paradise for free: New Zealand. But cross the Tasman Sea, and be prepared to fork out $20 to enter Australia. That's half as much as Papua New Guinea wants, and a fifth of Nauru's entry fee. For Americans, it is a bit cheaper to stay closer to home, even if you discount the air fare. You have to travel pretty far on the American continent to find a country that wants money for your visit. It's a pretty short list, even across the entire hemisphere: Suriname, the former Dutch colony marooned on the northern shore of South America, wants $35 for your visit. Paraguay charges at least $100 before you enter the country and its neighbor Brazil takes the cake by taking $160 for your entry visa. Some of the visa fees come across as deliberately dissuasive – Saudi Arabia nor Bhutan seem keen on becoming major tourist destinations. In general, the richer countries are visa-free, while the poorer ones charge higher fees, no doubt not in an attempt to keep out visitors, but to fill the state coffers. That should not keep away the determined visitor: all things considered, none of the fees is prohibitive, especially considering the fact that higher visa fees are likely to be offset by the lower cost of living in most of those destinations.
The U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, a part of the International Trade Administration's Global Markets unit and now 35 years old under this name, traces its heritage to the earliest days of American independence. President George Washington appointed Commercial Agents in various locations, from Portugal to India, to represent the young nation's commercial interests. Today, the work of those intrepid pioneers has expanded to global coverage provided by over 1600 professionals located in 78 countries, all the 50 states and at the U.S. Department of Commerce headquarters in Washington, DC. I was honored to lead this service for three years, following my selection by Secretary Penny Pritzker and nomination by President Barack Obama in October 2013 followed by confirmation by the Senate in March 2014. The Commercial Service is motivated by a very important purpose; that of creating jobs in the U.S. With 95% of the world's consumers living outside the U.S., it has been long recognized that America needs to export in order to boost economic activity and job creation. The Commercial Service is particularly focused on helping small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs), which cannot normally afford the investments and risks. Further, many SMEs face and are often deterred by aggressive foreign competitors. In response to these challenges, the Commercial Service plays a critical role in providing SMEs an affordable way to enter new markets, overcome barriers, and capitalize on new opportunities. We have been elevating, promoting, and protecting the "Made in the USA" brand, while producing solid results for exporters and economic development organizations. From 2010 to 2016, the Commercial Service's assistance to U.S. businesses played a significant role in achieving over $300 billion in U.S. exports and over $23 billion in inward foreign direct investment supporting an estimated 1.7 million American jobs. As the head of the Commercial Service, I have had the privilege of visiting dozens of countries, meeting with heads of governments, economic ministers, and hundreds of business leaders. These visits confirmed four important constants. First, foreign governments seek to attract American investment in their countries. Second, their countries' citizens desire access to U.S. goods and services. Third, the U.S. private sector perspective carries tremendous heft worldwide because it is backed by best-in-class products and services and deep reserves of financial capital. It is also a source of best practices and capacity building. Finally, there is global admiration of America's leadership in entrepreneurship and innovation, reflecting the desire among people worldwide to build their own economic destinies and exercise their creativity. Our teams have been helping more American companies, at home and abroad, develop the capability and interest to navigate the global landscape. The transformational impact of our teams is evident both at home and abroad. In Asia, our Commercial Service teams contributed to the economic component of the Rebalance to Asia. They launched and institutionalized the U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) in September 2015 to accelerate growth in the commercial aspect of this relationship with India, the world's fastest growing emerging market with 1.3 billion people. Our teams in Asia also created new Commercial Dialogues with South Korea and Japan, launched important infrastructure partnerships with Japan and Singapore, formed valuable public-private partnerships in Indonesia's aviation and power sectors, and developed a commercial work plan with the democratically elected government in Myanmar. Our teams in China helped to successfully re-imagine the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, transforming the forum into a venue for valuable private sector consultation resulting in specific commercial policy outcomes that benefit U.S. sectors and companies in areas such as medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and agriculture biotechnology. They also organized trade missions to China focused on smart cities, green infrastructure, and health care business development. High profile commercial diplomacy efforts were led by our Europe teams in Ukraine as well as the Baltic states, Poland, Romania, and Scandinavia, highlighted by Secretary Pritzker's consistent engagement at the highest levels with Ukraine on an economic work plan and the convening of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Forum in 2015. The teams also focused U.S companies on opportunities in Kazakhstan and Georgia. In Africa, our teams significantly elevated our growing commercial partnership on the continent through the widely recognized U.S.-Africa Business Forum held with Bloomberg Philanthropies; Trade Winds-- Africa Business Development Conference and trade mission, which was the largest U.S. government-led trade mission to the region; and the U.S.-Africa Institutional Investor Roadshow. We view sub-Saharan Africa as a region of immense potential for U.S. businesses and expanded our presence in the region by opening new offices in Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania, and Ethiopia and at the African Development Bank in Cote d'Ivoire. Our Western Hemisphere team led the High Level Economic Dialogue (HLED) with Mexico and related initiatives such as the U.S.-Mexico Energy Business Council. The team also made progress on regulatory coherence, standards, and trade facilitation issues with Brazil during a turbulent time, launched a new Commercial Dialogue with Argentina to take advantage of the new reform-minded government. At home, our teams based in our U.S. Export Assistance Centers across the country have moved successfully on a path to reorient their service delivery model to focus on sectoral expertise and instituting a sharper focus on adding value to, and making better use of, the local ecosystems of economic development organizations, state and city leaders, and the District Export Councils. The Trade Winds and Discover Global Markets business conferences have evolved into premier trade and investment events for U.S. businesses. In support of the White House's Made in Rural America export and investment initiative, our U.S.-based teams launched a Rural Export Innovation Team (led out of Fargo, ND) with more than 100 trade specialists nationwide, delivering 25 projects to connect rural American businesses to overseas markets and helping the export success of more than 150 rural companies. They were also instrumental in recruiting over 450 U.S. companies to Hannover Messe 2016. Foreign direct investment into the U.S. is a major source of job creation for U.S. businesses and our SelectUSA program has built a well-established brand promoting the United States as an investment destination. Since its inception, SelectUSA has assisted thousands of U.S. Economic Development Organizations (EDOs) and foreign firms, facilitating over $23 billion in investment and supporting tens of thousands of U.S. jobs.Its 2015 and 2016 Investment Summits featured over 2,500 participants from more than 70 international markets and were signature events for the entire U.S. Government. Planning for the 2017 Summit, held on June 18-20, 2017 in Washington DC, is well under way. Our Advocacy Center team completed 2016 by achieving a record 100 wins or public contracts valued at $50.9 billion, with $36.2 billion in U.S. export content, that support about 178,000 American jobs. The team has further deepened ties with the multilateral development banks and opened a post at the African Development Bank. The Advocacy Center incubates the Department of Commerce's Infrastructure Initiative, which will help more U.S. companies gain access to and compete for global infrastructure projects. Pilot programs to advance U.S. company participation in infrastructure are under way in India, the Philippines, Mexico and sub-Saharan Africa. Looking ahead to future growth opportunities for U.S. exporters, we recognize that burgeoning digital channels and e-commerce platforms offer new avenues for small U.S. businesses to reach customers globally. Using the web allows us the opportunity to broaden and deepen the U.S. exporter base. We have set a goal of expanding tenfold the number of clients we serve from 25,000 to 250,000 through programs including partnerships with the private sector, a Digital Attaché program to address trade barriers and trade policy issues, and an eCommerce Innovation Lab based in Silicon Valley. Strengthening the focus on helping SMEs use digital marketplaces to expand their exports as well as in expanding the digital attaché program will be critical in the years ahead. As is clear from the foregoing snapshot of its activities, the U.S. Commercial Service is intensely engaged around the world and in all our states as a vital player in the business landscape, especially for small and medium enterprises that are the largest job creators in our economy. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
ALMATY (Reuters) - Kazakhstan's veteran leader Nursultan Nazarbayev gave the green light on Wednesday for constitutional reforms that could dilute the sweeping powers he has amassed as president and force his eventual successor to share power with other institutions.