Daily Current Affairs for 15th Sept 2021

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India-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

Why in news

Formal negotiations for a proposed India-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will begin on 1st November 2021, with an interim “early harvest” agreement to be completed by March 2022.

Key Points

  • The interim trade pact would involve early tariff or market access concessions on certain key “high priority products and services.
  • The U.K. government, in a separate statement, noted that the two Ministers agreed on the steps to get ready to launch negotiations “later this year”.
  • The steps include a series of trade working groups from September to help both sides “better understand each other’s position on potential chapter areas in any trade deal, including tariffs, standards, IP and data regulation”.
  • The proposed trade agreement would unlock the “extraordinary” business opportunities and generate jobs.
  • The International Trade Secretary reaffirmed her ambition to negotiate a trade agreement that delivers results for the British people and businesses, including those in digital and data, tech and food and drink.
  • The U.K. India Business Council, in its pre-FTA submission to the U.K. Department of International Trade, had sought measures to ensure tax parity between the U.K. and Indian businesses and lower tariffs on alcoholic spirits and medical devices, among other items.
  • It had also pitched for curbing non-tariff barriers to goods trade by aligning standards and “simplifying burdensome and costly customs procedures” and steps such as “IP protection and alignment of data protection rules” to enable digitally driven future focussed industries.


UPI-PayNow linkage

Why in News

The Reserve Bank of India and the Monetary Authority of Singapore have announced an initiative that will link fast payment systems- Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and PayNow- of India and Singapore.

Key Points

  • The linkage payment system between the two nations has been targeted for operationalization by July 2022.
  • The latest project is in line with the Reserve Bank of India’s plan of reviewing the corridors and the charges for the inbound cross-border remittances that have been drafted in the Payment Systems Vision Document 2019-2021.
  • The initiative by India and Singapore closely aligns with the G20’s financial inclusion priorities of driving cheaper, faster, and more transparent cross-border payments.
  • The linkage between the two countries has been built upon the earlier efforts of NPCI International Private Ltd and the Network for Electronic Transfers to develop the cross-border interoperability of payments with the use of cards and QR codes between India and Singapore.

Significance of linkage payment system

  • The linkage between UPI-PayNow will enable the customers of each of the two fast payment systems to make quick, low-cost fund transfers on a reciprocal basis without any need to get onboarded on the other payment system.
  • The project will also be significant for the development of infrastructure for cross-border payments between Singapore and India.
  • The UPI-PayNow linkage will further anchor travel, trade, and flow of payment between the two countries.

UPI in India

  • Unified Payment Interface (UPI) is a mobile-based, fast payment system in India.
  • It facilitates the customers to make round-the-clock payments instantly with the use of a Virtual Payment Address (VPA) that has been created by the user.
  • UPI eliminates the risk of sharing bank details by the remitter.
  • It supports both Person to Person (P2P) and Person to Merchant (P2M) payments as the system also enables the user to send or receive the money.

PayNow in Singapore

  • PayNow is the fast payment system of Singapore.
  • It enables peer-to-peer funds transfer service that has been available to the retail customers in the country through the participating banks and Non-Bank Financial Institutions (NFIs) in Singapore.
  • PayNow in Singapore enables the users to send and receive instant funds from one bank to another in the country by using just their mobile number, VPA, or Singapore NRIC/FIN.


QUAD summit

Why in News

The US President Joe Biden will host the Quad first-ever (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) leaders’ Summit at the White House on September 24.

Key Points

  • The Quad members are the grouping of four nations- India, the US, Australia, and Japan.
  • This will also be the first-ever in-person Quad meet.
  • The virtual meeting of the leaders was held in March 2021.

Focus of Quad Summit 2021

  • In Quad 2021, the leaders will focus on deepening the ties and advancing the practical cooperation in areas such as combating the Coronavirus pandemic, partnering on emerging technologies and cyberspace, addressing the climate crisis, and promoting free and open Indo-Pacific.
  • As part of their ongoing effort to contain the pandemic, the Quad leaders during the summit will review the Quad vaccine initiative which was announced in March 2021.
  • They will also review the progress made since the first virtual summit of Quad in March 2021 and will discuss the regional issues of shared interest.
  • During Quad Summit, the views will be exchanged on contemporary global issues such as connectivity and infrastructure, critical and emerging technologies, maritime security, cyber security, climate change, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief.
  • The recent developments in Afghanistan and rising global terror threats are also expected to be part of the discussion for four leaders.

Facts about QUAD 2021

  • The upcoming Quad summit in the US will be the first-ever in-person summit of four Quad leaders.
  • It will be the second international trip of PM Modi after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He visited Bangladesh in 2021.
  • The upcoming Quad summit will be the first in-person meeting between PM Modi and US President Joe Biden.
  • This will be the first and last international event to be attended by the Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga. He recently announced that he will not run for the leadership election.
  • The quad summit will also be the first high-level meeting between four major nations after Taliban take over Afghanistan.

About QUAD

  • The ‘Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’, is a strategic forum between the four nations for exchanging strategic intelligence and conducting joint military exercises.
  • Quad meetings have semi-regularly happened only at the foreign ministers’ level.
  • The dialogue was initiated in 2007 by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, with the support of Vice President Dick Cheney of the US, Prime Minister John Howard of Australia and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India.
  • It is the group of the India-United States-Japan -Australia.
  • During the 2017 ASEAN Summits in Manila, all four former members were agreed to revive the quadrilateral alliance in order to counter China militarily and diplomatically in the South China Sea.
  • The grouping was conceived as a space to cooperate for safeguarding joint security and other interests in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • In a 2021 “The Spirit of the Quad,” Quad members described “a shared vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” and “rules-based maritime order in the East and South China Seas,” which Quad members are needed to counter Chinese maritime claims.
  • The Quad pledged to respond to COVID-19 and held a first Quad Plus meeting with New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam to work on its response to it.


76th United Nation General Assembly session

Why in News

Prime Minister of India will address the General Debate of the high-level segment of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on September 25, 2021.

Key Points

  • The 76th session of UN General Assembly is going to be held on 25th September, 2021.
  • The UNGA General Debate theme for this year is ‘Building Resilience through hope to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalise the United Nations’.
  • The 76th UNGA session will take place in a hybrid format, chaired by UNGA President Volkan Bozkir.
  • The UNGA President announced that 83 heads of state are anticipated to attend the session.

Key Highlights of 76th UNGA session

  • The 76th UNGA session kicked off on September 14, 2021 in New York. It would include several meetings including the high-level General Debate, attracting political leaders from across the world.
  • There will be restrictions on the number of people allowed inside the main building due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, roughly only 6 delegates will be allowed to accompany each head of state for the meetings.

United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)

  • The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is the main deliberative and policy-making body of the United Nations.
  • The UNGA takes up complex world issues for discussions along with challenges facing individual members. It is the only UN body where all members have representation.
  • As per the UN Charter, the UNGA is responsible for addressing matters of international peace and security that are not currently being addressed by the UN Security Council (UNSC).
  • It also holds talks and debates over matters of international law, human rights and cooperation in social, economic, cultural, educational and health fields. It is the UNGA that approved the UN; s annual budget and one of its six main committees directly oversees the funding of peacekeeping missions around the world.
  • The historic 75th UNGA session was forced to take place most only due to the outbreak of COVID-19.


No firm commitment from India on ‘net zero’

Why in News

India has not yet given a commitment date for achieving carbon neutrality or net zero, while about 130 countries have set or are considering a target of reducing emissions to net zero by 2050, including the United States.

Key Points

  • China, the world’s largest emitter of 25% of global greenhouse gases, has set 2060 as its date for carbon neutrality.
  • According to the Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, India is focused on the “key issues” of climate justice and sustainable lifestyles, stressing on the inequality between the demands of developed societies from developing countries on emissions cuts.
  • According to the recent report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if the world achieves a global warming level held at 1.5 degrees by 2050, it would still be “too little too late” to clean up the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, as a “clarion call” for developed countries.
  • The United States Special Presidential Envoy was making a pitch for India to announce a pledge to reduce emissions to “net zero” (carbon-neutral) by 2050 — to ensure that global warming is held at 1.5 degrees Celsius — at the upcoming COP26 summit in the U.K. in November.
  • However, the government said it does not consider the “net zero” goal its only priority at present.
  • Mr. Kerry said it is important to announce the target of 450 GW of renewable energy as part of India’s “Nationally Determined Contributions” to counter global warming now, as the next decade is critical for the battle against climate change.

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