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US signals Trumps Buy American agenda nonnegotiable in NAFTA talks

OTTAWA — The U.S. appears to be signalling that President Donald Trump’s vow to aggressively promote a “buy American, hire American” agenda is not open to discussion during negotiations on a new North American Free Trade Agreement.The Trump administration has served notice that it’s dealing with the issue outside NAFTA.While it’s being pulled in one direction by Canada and Mexico, urging it to reduce Buy American rules for public-works contracts, and in the other direction by domestic U.S. politicians seeking an increase in Buy American, the administration has issued a reminder that it’s working on a separate path.The U.S. government posted a notice seeking public comment on the costs and benefits of trade agreements on the operation of Buy American laws in government procurement, which appeared just as negotiators were huddled in Washington for the opening round of NAFTA talks.It flows from an executive order Trump signed earlier this year designed to make maximum use of Buy American rules. The order instructed government departments to perform studies within five months, with a report due to the president by Nov. 24.A notice is now inviting public comment for this report. The notice from the Department of Commerce and the U.S. trade czar has just appeared online and is to be officially posted on the U.S. federal register on Monday, seeking industry submissions by Sept. 18.Ohio-based trade lawyer Dan Ujczo says it’s no coincidence that the notice turned up while NAFTA negotiators for Canada and Mexico were still in the U.S. capital.“It’s a strategy,” he said in an interview. “They want people to know that it’s coming out.”Both Canada and Mexico want to expand procurement obligations in NAFTA, giving their companies more opportunity to bid on major U.S. government contracts, particularly lucrative infrastructure projects at the state and local level.Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland in a speech last week referred to the argument that these buy-local rules are poor public policy, driving up prices and resulting in worse infrastructure, and harming the economy: “(It’s) political junk food — superficially appetizing, but unhealthy in the long run,” she said.But expanding procurement flies in the face of Trump’s promise to bolster Buy American laws. One former U.S. trade official once responsible for procurement policy, Stephen Kho, told The Canadian Press last week that it’s hard to imagine Canada making any progress on this.He said expanding foreign companies’ procurement rights to state- and local-level contracts is always complicated and it’s especially the case now, he said, in a political climate marked by a so-called “America First” presidency.Ujczo suspects American NAFTA negotiators now have an easy argument to make: that they just can’t discuss procurement while the domestic process is ongoing. The cabinet officials will review submissions, and provide a report to the president by Nov. 24.“The issuance of this notice is a deliberate strategy for the USTR to then say, ‘We can’t really talk about procurement, it’s a multilateral issue, it’s much broader than the NAFTA … and we have a process underway so we really can’t put this on the table for discussion,”‘ he said.“So I think this is a way to essentially shut down that discussion…In my view, the U.S. is playing hardball on this issue.”It’s conceivable, but not likely in Ujczo’s view, that American negotiators could use the notice to signal to their NAFTA partners that they might be flexible on expanding procurement, depending on the feedback they get from industry. Or, even more unlikely, they might be hoping that the feedback gives them political cover to agree with Canada and Mexico on the issue.But if, as he suspects, the objective is to make procurement non-negotiable, Ujczo said Canada and Mexico will have to decide whether that’s sufficient reason to walk away from the NAFTA talks.He doesn’t believe they should.Indeed, he questions whether NAFTA is the best place to resolve the issue. Ujczo, who has clients in both Canada and the U.S., said Canadian provinces would be better off trying to negotiate reciprocal procurement agreements with individual states, through which most federal money for infrastructure flows.“This isn’t something I would walk away from the NAFTA table for. I would just adjust my strategy for focusing really on the states.”–With files by Alexander Panetta read more

Activision expanding Call of Duty esports competition to yearround league

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Activision is widening the scope of e-sports competition for “Call of Duty” players.The publisher of the hugely popular military shooter franchise is expanding its e-sports program next year from an annual tournament to year-round international leagues, as well as increasing the prize pool from $1 million to $3 million. The international leagues will be comprised of professional and amateur divisions, culminating in a championship at the end of the year.“This is going to mark a new era of e-sports for ‘Call of Duty,’” said Rob Kostich, senior vice-president and general manager for “Call of Duty” at Activision. “It signals Activision stepping up our commitment to what we’ve been doing with e-sports. We’re expanding our season to make it a fun, competitive year leading into the ‘Call of Duty’ Championship.”The Santa Monica, Calif.-based publisher is calling the revamped e-sports offering the “Call of Duty” World League. The competition will launch in early 2016 with leagues in North America, Europe and Australia and New Zealand. The three territories will each feature independent seasons concluding with 32 teams at the “Call of Duty” Championship in fall 2016.“It felt like the right time to do it,” said Kostich. “We’ve learned a lot over the past few years and talked a lot to our community. We think we have an agenda that’s going to be really attractive to them, and we have a new game coming out, ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops III,’ that we couldn’t be more excited about to lead us into this new era of e-sports.”Activision first hosted a $1 million “Call of Duty” tournament in 2011 during an official “Call of Duty” fan convention and has organized the “Call of Duty” Championship since 2013. Kostich said next year’s expanded e-sports program was devised to offer a deeper level of engagement with pro gamers while also encouraging casual fans and aspiring competitors.“The pro division is really the cream of the crop, the top 150 guys who are actually going to make money from playing this game,” said Sam Cooper, senior director of product management for “Call of Duty” at Activision. “One of the big things we wanted to do with the league was make it much more financially viable to be a pro player in our ecosystem.”Cooper noted that players from regions outside the three pro leagues could compete for a spot in the “Call of Duty” Championship through the amateur division, which will feature both online and in-person competitions. He said that each match in the pro division would be broadcast but declined to specify how, outside of the “Blacks Ops III” live event viewer.Kostich also refused to comment if Activision would drug-test players at its e-sports events. The Electronic Sports League began working with the World Anti-Doping Agency to administer e-sports’ first random drug tests during its ESL One Cologne tournament in August. ESL said all players tested negative but did not specify how many players were tested.ESL began the drug testing after a player said in a YouTube video posted in July that he and his team used the drug Adderall during an ESL tournament in March where players competed for $250,000. Previously, ESL and several other e-sports organizations prohibited the use of drugs, alcohol and other performance enhancers but did not test for doping.Over the past 10 years, e-sports has evolved from a niche genre of gaming to a lucrative sport that draws tens of millions of spectators online and in person. Activision said earlier this year during the “Call of Duty” Championship that more than 175 million copies of “Call of Duty” have been sold across all platforms since the series debuted over a decade ago.___Online:http://www.callofduty.com/esports___Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang. Activision expanding ‘Call of Duty’ e-sports competition to year-round league FILE – In this June 10, 2014 file photo, models dressed as characters from the video game “Call of Duty” stand at the Activision booth at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, in Los Angeles. Activision is expanding its “Call of Duty” e-sports competition from an annual tournament to a year-round season. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File) by Derrik J. Lang, The Associated Press Posted Sep 24, 2015 12:05 pm MDT Last Updated Sep 24, 2015 at 3:00 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more