Daily Current Affairs for IAS/HAS
80th Session of the Policy Commission of the World Customs Organization (WCO) was held recently in Mumbai. The Session was organized by the WCO and hosted by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC).
The World Customs Organization (WCO), established in 1952 as the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC) is an independent intergovernmental body whose mission is to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of Customs administrations.
- As the global centre of Customs expertise, the WCO is the only international organization with competence in Customs matters and can rightly call itself the voice of the international Customs community.
- The WCO has divided its Membership into six Regions. Each of the six Regions is represented by a regionally elected Vice-Chairperson to the WCO Council.
Roles and functions:
- As a forum for dialogue and exchange of experiences between national Customs delegates, the WCO offers its Members a range of Conventions and other international instruments, as well as technical assistance and training services.
- Besides the vital role played by the WCO in stimulating the growth of legitimate international trade, its efforts to combat fraudulent activities are also recognized internationally.
- WCO has also been responsible for administering the World Trade Organization’s Agreements on Customs Valuation, which provide a system for placing values on imported goods, and the Rules of Origin, which are used to determine the origin of a given commodity.
Qatar has announced that it would leave OPEC on January 1, 2019. The decision comes just days before OPEC and its allies are scheduled to hold a meeting in Vienna, Austria. Qatar said it is leaving OPEC in order to focus on gas production.
What’s the issue?
The decision to pull out after more than five decades comes at a turbulent time in Gulf politics, with Doha under a boycott by former neighbouring allies including Saudi Arabia for 18 months.
Since June 2017, OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia — along with three other Arab states — has cut trade and transport ties with Qatar, accusing the country of supporting terrorism and its regional rival Iran. Qatar denies the claims, saying the boycott hampers its national sovereignty.
Qatar’s oil production is around 600,000 barrels per day, making it the world’s 17th largest producer of crude. It also only holds around two percent of the world’s global oil reserves.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a group of oil-producing nations that was first established in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1961. OPEC is one of the most powerful international organizations in the world and was a major player in the shift towards state control over natural resources.
The OPEC Statute distinguishes between the Founder Members and Full Members – those countries whose applications for membership have been accepted by the Conference.
- The Statute stipulates that “any country with a substantial net export of crude petroleum, which has fundamentally similar interests to those of Member Countries, may become a Full Member of the Organization, if accepted by a majority of three-fourths of Full Members, including the concurring votes of all Founder Members.”
- The Statute further provides for Associate Members which are those countries that do not qualify for full membership, but are nevertheless admitted under such special conditions as may be prescribed by the Conference.
- Currently, the Organization has a total of 15 Member Countries. The current OPEC members are the following: Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea,
Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, the Republic of the Congo, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.
- Indonesiais a former member, and Qatar will no longer be the member of OPEC starting on 1 January 2019.
A Soyuz rocket carrying Russian, American and Canadian astronauts took off from Kazakhstan and has reached orbit, in the first manned mission since a failed launch in October.
Soyuz- key facts:
- The Soyuz (SAW-yooz) is a Russian spacecraft. Astronauts and cosmonauts travel to the International Space Station on the Soyuz.
- The Soyuz transports crews to the International Space Station and returns them to Earth after their missions.
- The Soyuz is like a lifeboat for the space station. At least one Soyuz is always docked at the space station. If there is an emergency, the station crew can use the Soyuz to return to Earth.
- The Soyuz is the only means of reaching the ISS since the U.S. retired the space shuttle in 2011.
What Is the International Space Station?
- The International Space Station is a large spacecraft in orbit around Earth. It serves as a home where crews of astronauts and cosmonauts live. The space station is also a unique science laboratory. It orbits Earth at an average altitude of approximately 250 miles. It travels at 17,500 mph. This means it orbits Earth every 90 minutes. NASA is using the space station to learn more about living and working in space. These lessons will make it possible to send humans farther into space than ever before.
- The ISS programmeis a joint project among five participating space agencies:
NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA.