Bangladesh Factories — The European Union is considering taking action to enhance working conditions in Bangladeshi factories following the death of hundreds of people when a factory collapsed, reports the BBC. One of the actions the E.U. could take include using the trade preference system, which gives Bangladesh duty- and quota-free access to E.U. markets, to enforce the improvement of working conditions. Bangladesh’s garment industry is one of the biggest in the world and makes up nearly 80% of the country’s annual exports.
Rights Abuses — Amnesty International has said that the Sri Lankan government is cracking down on critics to consolidate power, according to Reuters. In a new report based on interviews with witnesses, lawyers and activists, the rights group alleged that Colombo clamps down on dissenters through threats, harassment, imprisonment and violent attacks. Journalists, human rights activists and opposition politicians have also been reportedly abused, often by security forces or their proxies, said the report. Amnesty has urged the 54 member countries of the Commonwealth to not hold a bi-annual heads of government meeting in Sri Lanka this November unless the situation improves.
South Africa Aid — The United Kingdom has announced that it will stop all direct aid to South Africa by 2015, notes VOA News. The British Department for International Development announced that it would end direct aid to South Africa, worth about $29 million a year, after agreeing with officials in Pretoria that “South Africa is now in a position to fund its own development.” South Africa’s foreign ministry said they were not told of the decision in advance and that the move “is tantamount to redefining our relationship.” Although South Africa boasts a growing black middle class, and the biggest economy in Africa, it has been displeased with the suddenness of the announcement, according to VOA.
Scottish Independence – Keeping with news in the United Kingdom, and If Scotland were to gain independence from the U.K. then it would likely lose its European Union and NATO memberships, according to a new report by British lawmakers, writes the Wall Street Journal. In September next year, Scotland votes on whether they want to stay in the U.K. But the report said the Scottish government is wrong to assume that it would be able to simply re-negotiate E.U. membership, and it would have to “start anew” at an international level if the Scottish people voted in favor of independence. Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has said that an independent Scotland would keep the sterling currency and enter a formal monetary union with the rest of the U.K. – an arrangement that British Chancellor George Osborne has said would be unlikely to come to fruition.
China’s Faltering Recovery – China’s manufacturing sector, a key driver of its economic growth, has slowed unexpectedly, suggesting that the country’s economic recovery may not be as solid as previously thought, reports the BBC. China’s Purchasing Managers Index — a key indicator of manufacturing activity — fell to 50.6 from 50.9 last month, as export orders fell. And analysts have warned that China’s growth could slow down even further, writes the BBC, leading for calls for China to increase domestic consumption, thus reducing its dependence on exports.
Euro Zone Unemployment – Economic recovery is also taking longer than expected in the euro zone, as the New York Times reports. The unemployment rate in the euro zone’s 17 nations rose to a record 12.1% in March, according to Eurostat – the highest level since the statistical agency began keeping records in 1995. Eurostat’s report, together with separate Eurostat data released this week that shows inflation has dropped well below the target rate set by the European Central Bank (ECB). It suggests that the euro zone’s economic recovery is taking longer than hoped – possibly leading the ECB to take action at its policy meeting on Thursday, including cutting its interest rate target, reports the Times.