World Bulletin/News Desk
The Senate unanimously passed a bill on Saturday that would shield U.S. airlines from paying for their carbon emissions on European flights, pressuring the European Union to back down from applying its emissions law to foreign carriers.
The European Commission has been enforcing its law since January to make all airlines take part in its Emissions Trading Scheme to combat global warming, prompting threats of a trade fight.
The Senate approved the bill shortly after midnight, as it scrambled to complete business to recess ahead of the Nov. 6 congressional and presidential elections.
Republican Senator John Thune, a sponsor of the measure, said it sent a "strong message" to the EU that it cannot impose taxes on the United States.
"The Senate's action today will help ensure that U.S. air carriers and passengers will not be paying down European debt through this illegal tax and can instead be investing in creating jobs and stimulating our own economy," Thune said in a statement.
The House of Representatives has passed a similar measure, and could either work out differences with the Senate's version or accept the Senate bill when Congress returns for a post-election session.
So far, nearly all airlines have complied reluctantly with the EU law, but Chinese and Indian carriers missed an interim deadline to submit information required under it.
China earlier this year threatened retaliation - including impounding European aircraft - if the EU punishes Chinese airlines for not complying with its emissions trading scheme.
The dispute between China and the EU froze Airbus purchase deals worth up to $14 billion, though China signed an agreement with Germany for 50 Airbus planes worth over $4 billion during Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Beijing last month.
The Senate bill gives the U.S. transportation secretary authority to stop U.S. airlines from complying with the EU law.
But new amendments agreed to during negotiations among lawmakers said the secretary could only do so if the EU trading scheme is amended, an international alternative is agreed to, or the United States implements its own program to address aviation emissions.
This increases pressure on the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to devise a global alternative to the EU law.
Connie Hedegaard, the European Climate Commissioner, said on Saturday that while the bill encourages the United States to work within the U.N. organization for a global deal on aviation emissions, she is skeptical that Washington will accept such a deal.
"It's not enough to say you want it, you have to work hard to get it done," she told Reuters on Saturday. "That means that the U.S. needs to change its approach in ICAO and show willingness to actually seal a meaningful global deal that will facilitate action."
Annie Petsonk, a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund, said the bill will put pressure on the U.N. body, which has been working on a global framework for years.
"Passage of the Thune bill amps up the pressure on ICAO to move swiftly to reach a global agreement on addressing aviation's global warming pollution," she said.
Volatility eased as traders focused on the world economy and corporate earnings after a week dominated by the dramatic spike in tensions over North Korea, which triggered a global sell-off before prices bounced back Monday.
Investors greeted the more conciliatory tone after US stocks dropped three days in a row last week on President Donald Trump's vow of "fire and fury" if North Korea continued to pursue its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
The ultra-conservative kingdom has moved to diversify its traditionally oil-dependent economy following a sharp fall in crude prices.
In its monthly report on the global oil market, the International Energy Agency said, however, that it believes the supply glut is easing, partly because demand is growing faster.
US stocks have been in retreat since President Donald Trump Tuesday issued a fiery warning to North Korea to halt its nuclear program.
The move by one of Japan's best-known firms greatly reduces the chance of an embarrassing delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE).
London's benchmark FTSE 100 index weakened by 0.5 percent to 7,503.39 points.
The approval by the European Commission comes just over two months after the European Central Bank -- which took on the role of the eurozone's banking supervisor in 2014 -- allowed the sale to go ahead for a symbolic fee of one euro.
BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Total have all published results in recent days, showing they pocketed $23 billion in net profit in the first half fo the year.
Higher cereal, sugar and dairy prices pushed food price index by 10.2 percent annually in July
HSBC was also a big riser, gaining three percent at £7.65 ($10, 8.5 euros) in late morning trade after the British banking giant announced a share buyback plan alongside a rise in first-half profits.
Both main crude contracts made strong gains, with WTI testing $50 a barrel for the first time since late May and Brent heading towards $53, while mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto saw their share price rise as commodities strengthened.