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Europe to Impose New Tariffs on US Goods

The European Union is set to impose tariffs Friday on billions of dollars worth of American goods — including jeans, bourbon and motorcycles.

The action is the latest retaliation against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to slap import tariffs on steel and aluminum from around the globe.

The U.S. is scheduled to start taxing more than $30 billion in Chinese imports in two weeks.

China has promised an immediate retaliation, a measure that would put the world’s two largest economies at odds.  

John Murphy, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce senior vice president, estimates that $75 billion in U.S. products could be subjected to new foreign tariffs by the end of July.

“The U.S. is abusing the tariff methods and starting trade wars all around the world.” said a spokesman for China’s Commerce Ministry.

“Clarity (is) still lacking about how far things will ultimately go between (the) U.S. and China and the potential ripple effect for world trade,” said financial analyst Mike van Dulken.

During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to apply tariffs because he said countries around the world had been exploiting the U.S.

The European stock market was bracing itself in the face of the new tariffs .  

In early Friday trading London’s FTSE 100 index of major blue-chip firms rose 0.2 percent to 7,571.78 points (compared with Thursday’s closing level.)

In the eurozone, Frankfurt’s DAX 30 was unchanged at 12,507.72, while the Paris CAC 40 gained almost 0.3 percent to 5,330.5 points.

But that could all change after the reality of the tariffs takes hold.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” at least not since the Great Depression, said Syracuse University economist Mary Lovely.

A former White House trade advisor says Trump “has been so belligerent that it becomes almost impossible for democratically elected leaders – or even a non-democratic leader like (Chinese President) Xi Jinping – to appear to kowtow and give in.”  Phillip Levy, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, said, “The president has made it very hard for other countries to give him what he wants.”

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump Falsely Claims Progress on North Korea

President Donald Trump is trumpeting results of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that get ahead of reality.

He is declaring that North Korea has begun ridding itself fully of nuclear weapons following an agreement with Kim in Singapore earlier this month, even though his Defense Department says otherwise.

Trump also prematurely claimed the return of remains of U.S. servicemen missing from the 1950-53 Korean War.

A look at how his statements compare with the facts:

TRUMP: “The big thing is, it will be a total denuclearization, which has already started taking place.” — remarks Thursday at Cabinet meeting.

THE FACTS: That’s not what his Pentagon chief, Jim Mattis, says. When asked by a reporter Wednesday whether he had seen any sign that North Korea had begun steps toward denuclearization, Mattis replied, “I’m not aware of any. Obviously, we’re at the very front end of the process. Detailed negotiations have not begun.”

At the summit, Kim committed to “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” but no details were worked out.

In May, before the summit, North Korea demolished tunnels at its sole underground nuclear test site, although outsiders have not inspected the result. Its nuclear program has many other elements, including nuclear materials production facilities, nuclear warheads, ballistic missiles and missile launchers.

Soldiers’ remains

TRUMP: “We got back our great fallen heroes, the remains sent back today, already 200 have been sent back.” — remarks Wednesday at rally in Duluth, Minnesota.

THE FACTS: No remains have been returned, although Pentagon officials say they are prepared to receive them. Although the Singapore declaration said this would happen immediately, U.S. officials have given no indication that North Korea has committed to any specific timetable for the return.

On Thursday, in remarks at a Cabinet meeting, Trump modified his claim, saying, “They’ve already sent back or are in the process of sending back the remains of our great heroes who died in North Korea during the war.”

Aside from uncertainty over when North Korea will return the remains it has collected over the years, it’s unclear whether all will be in a condition to permit their positive identification, or whether they all are even Americans. A number of allied soldiers who fought alongside the U.S. during the war also are missing.

Nearly 7,700 American service members are listed as unaccounted for from the Korean War, of which an estimated 5,300 were lost in North Korea.

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Trump’s Immigration Actions Could Shape Midterm Election

This week could turn out to be pivotal for the Trump White House as both major parties get ready for midterm congressional elections in November.

President Donald Trump’s decision to reverse a policy of separating families coming across the U.S. southern border came in the wake of a political firestorm that fired up opposition Democrats and alarmed even some Republicans. At the very least, it likely set the stage for immigration to be a key issue in November.

WATCH: Trump’s Immigration Actions Could Shape Midterm Election

​Defiant tone

Trump was in combat mode Wednesday during a political rally in Duluth, Minnesota, where he vowed to make immigration a central focus in the upcoming congressional campaign.

“If you want to create a humane, lawful system of immigration then you need to retire the Democrats and elect Republicans to finally secure our borders,” Trump said to an enthusiastic crowd, some chanting, “Build the wall!”

Just hours earlier, the president reversed his controversial policy of separating children from their parents by signing an executive order in the White House. 

“We are going to have strong, very strong, borders. But we are going to keep the families together,” he said.

​Outcry over separation

Trump decided to back away from the controversial policy of separating families after an outcry from around the country that included protests in several states, including Arizona, Texas, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

Also driving the outrage was a recording of children crying out for their parents released by the investigative journalist group ProPublica.

The separation policy drew condemnation from Republicans including former first lady Laura Bush and a host of Democrats.

“We should be able to agree that we will not keep kids in child internment camps indefinitely and hidden away from public view,” said Maryland Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings. “What country is that? This is the United States of America!”

Divisive issue

Advocates for a tough border policy sided with the president including Art Arthur of the Center for Immigration Studies. He cited a recent upsurge in attempted border crossings.

“That large influx of individuals would suggest that we are starting to creep back up the numbers we saw during the Obama administration,” Arthur told VOA via Skype. “And the Trump administration needed to take action to respond, and this is an appropriate response.”

But many religious leaders were critical, including Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities for Archdiocese of New York, who also spoke via Skype.

“To use the means of separating a child from his or her mother just is completely unacceptable for us as Americans,” he said.

​Political fallout

The immediate political fallout could be damaging for the president, especially with the midterms coming up later this year.

“It is a public relations disaster area for the Trump administration, and just about everybody but Donald Trump and his very strongly anti-immigration aides seem to realize that,” said University of Virginia analyst Larry Sabato.

Sabato also told VOA via Skype that Trump’s tough stance is also aimed at shoring up his political base for the midterms.

“Of course, they are focusing on their base. They are trying to make sure that they are going to show up and vote and it could make some difference in close midterm elections.”

Polls pro and con

Trump’s poll numbers have improved of late, but that was before the firestorm over separating families at the border.

Recent polls by Quinnipiac University and the Associated Press showed a majority of Americans approved of his outreach to North Korea to defuse the nuclear threat.

But surveys by Quinnipiac and CNN also found Americans opposed his child separation policy by margins of 2 to 1.

There is also fresh evidence that Trump is firing up both political parties in the run-up to the midterm voting. The Pew Research Center found that 55 percent of voters who intend to vote for Democrats in November are more enthusiastic than usual.

But the survey also found that 50 percent of those who intend to support Republicans are also more enthusiastic, setting the stage for what could be a monumental get out the vote struggle for both parties come November.

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Trump’s Immigration Actions Could Shape Midterm Election

President Donald Trump’s decision to reverse a policy of separating immigrant families coming across the U.S. southern border came in the wake of a political firestorm this week. It also sets the stage for immigration to be a key issue in this year’s congressional midterm elections. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more on the political fallout from Washington.

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Turkey Joins Nations Placing New Tariffs on US Products

Turkey announced Thursday that it would impose tariffs on $1.8 billion worth of U.S. goods in retaliation for U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The World Trade Organization said the new Turkish tariffs would amount to $266.5 million on products including cars, coal, paper, rice and tobacco.

Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said in a statement that Turkey would not allow itself “to be wrongly blamed for America’s economic challenges.”

He continued, “We are part of the solution, not the problem.”

On Wednesday, the EU announced that it had compiled a list of U.S. products on which it would begin charging import duties of 25 percent, a move that could escalate into a full-blown trade war, especially if U.S. President Donald Trump follows through with his threat to impose tariffs on European cars.

“We did not want to be in this position. However, the unilateral and unjustified decision of the U.S. to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on the EU means that we are left with no other choice,” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement.

The commission, which manages the daily business of the EU, adopted a law that places duties on $3.2 billion worth of U.S. goods, including aluminum and steel products, agricultural products, bourbon and motorcycles.

Malmstrom said that the EU response was consistent with World Trade Organization rules and that the tariffs would be lifted if the U.S. rescinded its metal tariffs, which amount to $7.41 billion.

Trump slapped tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum on the EU, Canada and Mexico, which went into effect at the beginning of June.

Canada said it would impose retaliatory tariffs on $12.5 billion worth of U.S. products on July 1.

Mexico imposed tariffs two weeks ago on a range of U.S. products, including steel, pork and bourbon.

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UN: 40M in US Live in Poverty

A report by the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights finds 40 million people in the United States live in poverty, 18.5 million live in extreme poverty and more than 5 million live in conditions of absolute poverty. 

Special Rapporteur Philip Alston called the United States the most unequal society in the developed world. He said U.S. policies benefit the rich and exacerbate the plight of the poor.

He said the policies of President Donald Trump’s administration stigmatize the poor by insisting those receiving government benefits are capable of working and that benefits, such as food stamps, should be cut back significantly. He said the government’s suggestions that people on welfare are lazy and do not want to work misrepresent the facts.

“The statistics that are available show that the great majority of people who, for example, are on Medicaid are either working in full-time work — around half of them — or they are in school or they are giving full-time care to others,” Alston said.

He said 7 percent of people were not working.

Worst of the West

In his report, which will be delivered Friday to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Alston noted the United States had the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries, with the top 1 percent of the population owning more than 38 percent of total wealth. He said the Trump administration’s $1.5 trillion in tax cuts would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy and would worsen the situation of the poor.

The U.N. investigator told VOA that at the completion of each of his country fact-finding missions, he issues what he calls an end-of mission statement. That, he said, gives some governments the opportunity to immediately respond.

“The U.S. chose not to do that, and since then there has not been any official response to either that end-of-mission statement or to the final report, which has now been out for a couple of weeks,” he said.

As is common practice, after Alston formally presents his report to the Human Rights Council, the concerned country has a right of reply. Though the United States has withdrawn as a member of the council, it still has the right to respond to the report as an observer country.

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India, Top Buyer of US Almonds, Hits Back With Higher Duties

India, the world’s biggest buyer of U.S. almonds, raised import duties on the commodity by 20 percent, a government order said, joining the European Union and China in retaliating against President Donald Trump’s tariff hikes on steel and aluminum.

New Delhi, incensed by Washington’s refusal to exempt it from the new tariffs, also imposed a 120 percent duty on the import of walnuts in the strongest action yet against the United States.

The move to increase tariffs from Aug. 4 will also cover a slew of other farm, steel and iron products.

It came a day after the European Union said it would begin charging 25 percent import duties on a range of U.S. products on Friday, in response to the new U.S. tariffs.

India is by far the largest buyer of U.S. almonds, purchasing over half of all U.S. almond shipments in 2017. A kilogram of shelled almonds will attract duty of as much as 120 rupees ($1.76) instead of the current 100 rupees, the Commerce Ministry said.

Last month, New Delhi sought an exemption from the new U.S. tariffs, saying its steel and aluminum exports were small in relation to other suppliers. But its request was ignored, prompting India to launch a complaint against the United States at the World Trade Organization.

“India’s tariff retaliation is within the discipline of trade tariffs of the World Trade Organization,” said steel secretary Aruna Sharma.

Trade differences between India and the United States have been rising since U.S. President Donald Trump took office. Bilateral trade rose to $115 billion in 2016, but the Trump administration wants to reduce its $31 billion deficit with India, and is pressing New Delhi to ease trade barriers.

Earlier this year, Trump called out India for its duties on Harley-Davidson motorbikes, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to cut the import duty to 50 percent from 75 percent for the high-end bikes.

But that has not satisfied Trump, who pointed to zero duties for Indian bikes sold in the United States and said he would push for a “reciprocal tax” against countries, including U.S. allies, that levy tariffs on American products.

In the tariff rates issued late on Wednesday, the commerce ministry named some varieties of almonds, apples, chickpeas, lentils, walnuts and artemia that would carry higher import taxes. Most of these are purchased from the United States.

Walnuts have gone from 100 percent duty to 120 percent, the government note said.

India also raised duties on some grades of iron and steel products. In May it had given a list of products to the WTO that it said could incur higher tariffs.

An official from the steel ministry said at the time that the new tariffs were intended to show displeasure at the U.S. action.

“It is an appropriate signal. I am hopeful that all of this (trade war) will die down. In my view this is not in the interest of the global economy,” said Rajiv Kumar, vice chairman of the Indian government’s policy thinktank Niti Aayog.

Rising trade tensions between the United States and some major economies have threatened to derail global growth.

Officials from India and the United States are expected to hold talks on June 26-27 to discuss trade issues, local daily Times of India reported on Thursday citing Press Trust of India.

The U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday announced a preliminary finding that imports of large-diameter welded pipe from China, India, South Korea and Turkey were subsidized by those countries, and said it was imposing preliminary duties that could top 500 percent.

In a separate trade dispute, Trump threatened on Monday to hit $200 billion of Chinese imports with 10 percent tariffs if Beijing retaliates against his previous announcement to target $50 billion in imports. The United States has accused China of stealing U.S. intellectual property, a charge Beijing denies. ($1 = 68.1700 Indian rupees)

 

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Melania Trump Visits Migrant Children at Texas Detention Center

Melania Trump made an unannounced visit to a Texas facility Thursday, talking with children and staff as she got a first-hand look at some of the migrant children sent there by the U.S. government after their families entered the country illegally.

 

The first lady’s stop at Upbring New Hope Children’s Center came the morning after President Donald Trump signed an executive order halting the practice of separating these families. The visit to the one-story red brick building, which houses 55 children between the ages of 12 and 17, was intended to lend support to those children who remain separated from their parents, said Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s spokeswoman.

 

“She wanted to see everything for herself,” Grisham said.

Third-graders at the facility welcomed the first lady with a large paper American flag they’d signed taped to a wall. With the words, “Welcome! First Lady” written in black marker across the red and white bars, Mrs. Trump also signed the flag, which the children gave to her. Next to the flag on the classroom walls: A drawing of a flowering plant, a butterfly, a hummingbird and a heart, with the words, “New Hope, We Love You All, Staff” written in cursive.

Visiting another classroom, Mrs. Trump asked children where they were from, if they were friends and how long they’d been at the center where staff said children typically spend between 42 and 45 days. The children responded, sometimes in English, other times in Spanish, many of them wearing gray T-shirts with the red, white and blue words “We Are One.” She told children to “be kind and nice to each other” as she left for another classroom.

 

The first lady thanked the staff for their “heroic work” and asked them to reunite the children with their families as quickly as possible. In a makeshift conference room, Mrs. Trump met with staff from New Hope, HHS and border patrol, asking several questions about the children’s welfare and asking that the children be reunited with their families “as quickly as possible.”

 

New Hope staff reassured Mrs. Trump, who was accompanied by Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar, that the children are assessed for physical and mental health issues when they enter the facility and are often distraught. They attend school five days a week and have a variety of activities.

 

“We just have a tremendous passion for working with these children,” said program director Roy De La Cerda. “We see them as our own.”

The trip was intended to lend support to those children who remain separated from their parents, said Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s spokeswoman.

 

“She wanted to see everything for herself,” Grisham said.

 

The president had insisted incorrectly that his administration had no choice but to separate families apprehended at the border because children cannot go to jail with adults who are being criminally prosecuted for crossing the border illegally. Trump had said only Congress could fix the problem and he specifically pointed a finger at Democrats.

 

He reversed course Wednesday by signing the order ending separations and keeping families together when they are in custody, at least for the next few weeks. The administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy of criminally prosecuting illegal border-crossers, which has led to the removal of some 2,300 children from their parents since May, remains.

 

Accompanied by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Mrs. Trump met with the executive director of the facility and other staff in a makeshift conference room where she was told the staff treated the 58 children housed there as if they were their own.

 

The first lady asked that the children be reunited with their families “as quickly as possible.”

 

WATCH: Melania Trump at Texas facility

President Trump had come under pressure to stop the practice of separating families, including from GOP allies and the first lady herself, following a public outcry sparked by widespread images of children held in fence-like structures. Plans for a visit to a second facility where children housed in cages were seen by The Associated Press last week were canceled because of flooding.

 

The trip was intended to lend support to some of the more than 2,300 children who remain separated from their parents, Grisham said. In addition to the meetings with staff and children, Mrs. Trump also was briefed on the children’s medical care by nursing staff.

 

The president had insisted incorrectly that his administration had no choice but to separate families apprehended at the border because children cannot go to jail with adults who are being criminally prosecuted for crossing the border illegally. Trump had said only Congress could fix the problem and he specifically pointed a finger at Democrats.

 

He reversed course Wednesday by signing the order ending separations and keeping families together when they are in custody, at least for the next few weeks. The administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy of criminally prosecuting illegal border-crossers, which has led to the removal of some 2,300 children from their parents since May, remains.

 

When asked Thursday if the first lady supports the policy, Grisham said, “She supports that the law should be followed.”

The trip came together within the past 48 hours, Grisham said.

 

“She told her staff she wanted to go and we made that happen,” she said.

President Trump spilled the beans about his wife’s trip to the border before it was announced, telling reporters during a Cabinet meeting: “My wife, our first lady, is down now at the border because it really bothered her to be looking at this and seeing it, as it bothered me, as it bothered everybody at this table. We’re all bothered by it.”

 

Grisham said that the first lady had the full backing of her husband.

 

“She told him ‘I am headed down to Texas’ and he was supportive.”

Mrs. Trump, whose focus as first lady is on child well-being, appears to have been among those pushing her husband to act.

 

Grisham released a statement last weekend saying the first lady “hates” to see children separated from their families and “believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

 

WATCH: Melania Trump ask how often children speak to family

Hours before Trump used his executive order to halt family separations, a White House official let it be known that Mrs. Trump had been voicing her opinion to the president for some time, including that he needed to help families stay together. The official refused to be identified discussing Trump’s private conversations with his wife.

 

Trump acknowledged Wednesday that the mother of his 12-year-old son, Barron, had been prodding him.

 

“My wife feels very strongly about it,” he told reporters after he signed the order.

 

The pair of statements from the first lady amounted to an unusual public intervention by Mrs. Trump into a policy debate. Her four former living predecessors, seemingly encouraged after Laura Bush authored a scathing opinion piece, followed with sharper commentary of their own condemning the family separations as shameful.

 

The last-minute trip to Texas marks the first public action by Mrs. Trump since she announced in May an initiative named “Be Best” to focus on the overall well-being of children and help teach them kindness. She had been expected to travel to promote the campaign but was sidelined a week after the announcement following surgery to treat a benign kidney condition.

 

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For Tanzanian Farmers, Grain Harvest Is in the Bag

Maize farmers are preparing as the harvest season approaches in Tanzania’s Kondoa District.  The weather has been good and most farmers here expect bumper yields.

Amina Hussein, a mother of four in Mnenia village, is testing a new way to store her harvest.

 

“In the past, we used to store our produce in normal bags, we would buy them three times a year because we faced the risk of losing harvests to pest infestation,” Hussein said.  “But since the introduction of this new technology, using the hermetic storage bags, we are not incurring huge costs anymore to buy chemicals to preserve the maize.”

 

The bags keep grain dry and fresh, and keep bugs and mold out.

 

Amina, who is the chairperson of a local farmers’ association, says she used to spend precious cash on pesticides to preserve her maize.  The new bags cut that cost.

 

Grain Losses

 

About 85 percent of Tanzania’s population lives in rural areas and relies on agriculture for a living.  Small-hold farmers constitute the majority of the population.

 

Here, post-harvest losses are a major concern, especially for grains, which form the base for nutrition and income for Tanzania’s rural communities.

 

Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture estimates that small farmers lose between 15 percent and 40 percent of their harvests each year to mold, mildew, bugs, rats and other causes, says Eliabu Philemon Ndossi, a senior program officer at the ministry.

 

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 1.3 billion tons of food go to waste globally every year.  That’s about a third of the food produced for human consumption around the world.

 

And post-harvest loss reduces the income of small-hold farmers by 15 percent.

 

Food Security

 

Researchers from the University of Zurich and their partners are looking to cut those losses.  Their project in Tanzania is looking at ways to help farmers keep more of their grain.

 

It’s a collaborative effort bringing together government agencies, businesses and international development organizations.

 

More than 1,000 small-scale farmers in two regions in central Tanzania are involved in the project, which in part uses air-tight and water-tight storage bags instead of normal plastic or cloth bags.

 

The study is conducted within a larger project that Swiss development agency Helvetas runs to help increase farm income.

 

But reducing losses is more than an issue of farmers’ income, says Rakesh Munankami, a project manager at Helvetas.

 

“If we can reduce post-harvest loss, there wouldn’t be any problem with the food security.  This study is important because we would like to see what’s the impact at the broader level, how does it affect the price volatility of the crop as well as how does it affect the food security of the smallholder farmers,” he said.

 

And the study has proven a success.  Initial findings show that improved on-farm storage sharply cut the number of food insecure households, said Michael Brander, one of the lead researchers from the University of Zurich.

 

“We are now one year into the study and the most astonishing finding so far is that we see that the number of people that go hungry has reduced by one third,” he said.  “That’s especially astonishing because the intervention has worked very fast.”

 

Munanakami says he thinks the results can be replicated elsewhere.  And the project’s partners hope that will encourage policy makers and aid organizations focus on preventing harvest losses.

 

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UN: US Withdrawal from Human Rights Council Uncharted Territory

The United Nations has begun the process of filling the seat the United States left vacant at the U.N. Human Rights Council now that it has received official notification that Washington is resigning from the council.

The U.N. body wasted no time adjusting to the new reality. It already has removed the U.S. nameplate from the area where the 47-members of the Human Rights Council sit and has placed it among the observer states.

Council spokesperson Rolando Gomez told VOA the seat eventually will be filled by a new member elected by the General Assembly.

“This is new uncharted territory,” he noted. “This is something — a first — that has never happened before where a member of the council has withdrawn its membership. So, we are moving the best way we can in following the proper procedures.”

Council members are elected from five regional groups — the African, Asian, Eastern European, Latin American and Caribbean, and Western groups. Gomez said the U.S. vacancy will be filled by a country from the Western Group, including Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Israel.

“In theory yes, Israel could assume membership as they are members of the western group,” he said. “Any state within the western group has potential to fulfill that vacancy.

The irony of such an outcome is not lost on observers considering that Washington blames what it calls the hypocrisy of the U.N. council and its chronic bias against Israel for its decision to quit the council.

Gomez said the United States can continue to participate and play an influential role as an observer state. He said it is their prerogative to engage or disengage.

“The key difference between a member and an observer is that members can vote, and observers cannot,” he said. “… The United States would be able to sponsor resolutions, hold side events, influence language and resolutions. The key difference is they would not be able to vote.”

While the United States can continue to exert immense influence as an observer, Gomez noted it is always better to be part of the equation than to be on the sidelines watching.

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