ZETA.- U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and Mexican Finance Minister Jose Antonio Gonzalez Anaya issued the following statement today which encapsulates initiatives and work streams underway between Treasury and the Mexican Finance Ministry, including an update to the framework for financial support between Treasury, the Government of Mexico, and the Banco de Mexico:U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and Mexican Finance Minister Jose Antonio Gonzalez Anaya issued the following statement today which encapsulates initiatives and work streams underway between Treasury and the Mexican Finance Ministry, including an update to the framework for financial support between Treasury, the Government of Mexico, and the Banco de Mexico:

We met today to discuss areas of further cooperation on financial and economic issues.   

The close coordination between our ministries, Treasury and Hacienda, is reflective of the mutual benefits derived from continued economic growth and financial stability in our two economies.  

Exchange Stabilization Agreement

Today, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding memorializing our decision to update our Exchange Stabilization Agreement (ESA) – which is a framework for a financial support facility between our governments. 

We continue to value the very close economic and financial cooperation that exists between our countries to help promote macroeconomic growth and stability, including on exchange rates.

The United States and Mexico have had a standing framework for financial support since 1941. The ESA was last updated 24 years ago, in the context of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

Today, we have decided to amend the ESA to increase the potential size of the Treasury’s swap line with Mexico, from the existing $3 billion to $9 billion, reflecting the tremendous growth in trade and financial flows that have occurred between our economies over the last 24 years. 

This facility will continue to be complemented by a swap line of $3 billion with the Federal Reserve.

Macroeconomic and Financial Sector Engagement

We look forward to our governments signing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and its subsequent approval by both our legislatures. 

The Financial Services Chapter includes commitments to liberalize financial services markets and facilitate a level playing field for U.S., Mexican, and Canadian financial services providers, including a first-ever prohibition on local data storage and processing requirements and expanded cross-border commitments.  The chapter also includes an Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism between the United States and Mexico, specific to the financial services sector.

The currency chapter reflects the conviction that market-determined exchange rates are fundamental for smooth macroeconomic adjustment, and that the parties to the USMCA share the objective of pursuing policies that strengthen underlying economic fundamentals, foster growth and transparency which reinforce the conditions for macroeconomic and exchange rate stability, and avoid unsustainable external imbalances. 

The parties commit to refrain from competitive devaluations and to foster the transparency of economic data for exchange rate markets. When the USMCA enters into force, we will initiate a special consultation mechanism to review currency and related economic policies.

North American Development Bank

The United States and Mexico are strongly committed to supporting growth and development on our shared border.

We are confident that, in carrying out its mission, the North American Development Bank (NADB) can do more to advance the economic well-being of the people of the United States and Mexico. 

Our governments are committed to strengthening the Bank’s ability to improve infrastructure and create economic opportunities for the benefit of the border communities, improving the quality of life along both sides of our shared border.

We will continue to analyze the best strategic and financial mechanisms to improve NADB’s ability to fulfill these ambitions. 

Other Areas of Cooperation

We are proactively exploring how Treasury’s Office of Technical Assistance can support Mexico to build upon Hacienda’s already impressive technical capacities to strengthen Mexico’s priorities for economic and financial sector policy reforms.

Treasury and Hacienda look forward to enhanced regulatory cooperation on financial sector developments; and to continuing joint efforts to combat money laundering and corruption, and to disrupting the illicit financial activity of drug trafficking organizations.  

Also, Treasury and Hacienda have had a strong dialogue on helping to meet our mutual objectives for prosperity in the Northern Triangle of Central America – in particular, we maintain active coordination between our ministries and multilateral institutions to support pro-growth economic reforms to increase median incomes and generate employment in this region.

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ZETA.- The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions today on Afaq Dubai, an Iraq-based money services business (MSB) that has been moving money for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  Today’s designation follows action taken by the Department of Defense—announced on October 11—against a key ISIS financial facilitation group.  This MSB is a part of ISIS’s financial network that includes an array of other MSBs, hawalas, and financial facilitators in the Middle East.  OFAC named Afaq Dubai as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224, for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, ISIS.  Contrary to what the name may imply, this MSB is located in Iraq and does not have any branches in the United Arab Emirates. 

“This Iraq-based MSB is a part of ISIS’s complex network of money services businesses, hawalas, and financial facilitators funding terrorism across the Middle East.  We are targeting this network in concert with the Department of Defense as part of this Administration’s ongoing campaign to cut off ISIS’s ability to launder money and move illicit funds,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.  “Even as ISIS’s hold on territory is eliminated, we will continue to search for and shut down the illicit financial networks ISIS utilizes to fund terror attacks and sustain operations.”

Today’s action is a continuation of Treasury’s ongoing efforts to shut down financial facilitators and MSBs worldwide that move money on behalf of ISIS.  It follows the designation of two ISIS financial facilitators in September with ties to the Caribbean and the Middle East.  In December 2016, OFAC designated Selselat al Thahab Money Exchange in Iraq, ISIS financier Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr al-Rawi, and his company, the Hanifa Currency Exchange in Albu Kamal, Syria.  Prior to his death, al-Rawi used the Hanifa Currency Exchange in Albu Kamal, Syria and a global network of financiers to move millions of dollars on behalf of the terrorist group.

OFAC closely coordinated today’s designation with the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), which released details on October 11 regarding its joint action against members of a key ISIS financial facilitation group, who leveraged this MSB as part of its operation.   Coordinated actions such as those conducted by DoD and Treasury this week disrupt and curtail ISIS’s logistical infrastructure, recruiting, and revenue generation.

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of Afaq Dubai subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.


Afaq Dubai

Afaq Dubai was designated for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of ISIS.                                                

Afaq Dubai — which is located in Iraq — is part of a network of ISIS-associated money services businesses and financial facilitators in the Middle East.  It is run by two ISIS financiers, and, as of early 2018, laundered money for ISIS and provided money to ISIS families.  

In May 2018, a Jordan-based ISIS financial facilitator deposited $3 million from Iraqi dinar into three exchanges, including Afaq Dubai.

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ZETA.- The Financial Stability Oversight Council (Council) today announced that it has rescinded its determination that material financial distress at Prudential Financial, Inc. (Prudential) could pose a threat to U.S. financial stability and that Prudential shall be subject to supervision by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and enhanced prudential standards.  

“The Council’s decision today follows extensive engagement with the company and a detailed analysis showing that there is not a significant risk that the company could pose a threat to financial stability,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “The Council has continued to act decisively to remove any designation that is not warranted.”

Section 113(d) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires the Council to reevaluate its nonbank financial company determinations at least annually.

The Council approved the rescission of Prudential’s designation unanimously.  Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton was recused from this matter and delegated his voting authority to SEC Commissioner Elad Roisman. 

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Mission control ready for Mercury


BARCELONA, (ESA)..- Teams responsible for flying the bold BepiColombo mission to Mercury today completed the last major step in preparation for Saturday’s liftoff — the final pre-launch ‘dress rehearsal’ at ESA’s ESOC control centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

Experts from mission operations, flight dynamics, ground stations and software systems, together with representatives from science and management teams, and the manufacturer, came together for a final practice of the countdown and liftoff sequence for this uniquely complex mission.

Engineers worked throughout the day in ESOC’s Main Control Room simulating BepiColombo’s launch, maintaining data and voice contact with their counterparts at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, and at the ground stations that will support BepiColombo’s departure.

The real countdown at mission control will start just after 20:00 CEST on Friday evening, with liftoff set for 03:45 CEST (01:45 UTC) on Saturday, 20 October.

BepiColombo will hitch a ride on the back of an Ariane 5 rocket, taking off from Kourou in the early hours of Saturday morning. 


Journeying to the extremes

“Mercury is a planet of extremes, and getting there requires some equally extreme techniques, navigation solutions and operations expertise,” says Paolo Ferri, Head of Mission Operations at ESOC. 

“Following its departure from Earth, the spacecraft will travel nine billion km in seven years, completing nine planetary flybys at a top speed of 60 kilometres per second, all in order to reach the least explored planet of the inner Solar System.”

Today’s dress rehearsal follows four months of simulations in which teams practised all phases of flight control, including how to handle unexpected contingencies. The satellite itself joined mission controllers for today's test via an umbilical cable — a connection that will be dropped just a few minutes before liftoff (watch live on 20 October starting at 03:15 CEST).


Between Earth and space

The first few hours of flight and the first few days in space are the most critical period in any mission.

From liftoff until the spacecraft is functioning stably in its planned orbit, BepiColombo will be in what engineers call the ‘Launch and Early Orbit Phase’ (LEOP) — the period in which the spacecraft is gradually switched on and systems are checked out to ensure the craft is healthy.

“At this point we are at the interface between Earth and space,” explains Elsa Montagnon, Spacecraft Operations Manager for BepiColombo.

“Key elements of the spacecraft, such as its thrusters or its solar sails, must be activated as soon as possible after it has separated from the launcher, but before ground teams have fully taken over control. Until then, the spacecraft cannot function fully.”

At about 26 minutes after liftoff, BepiColombo will separate from the Ariane 5 ‘upper stage’, and ten minutes later teams at ESOC will be keenly awaiting the first signals from the interplanetary explorer itself, now travelling solo.

This ‘Acquisition of Signal’, or, AOS, is expected at about 04:22 CEST, and will be picked up by the New Norcia ground station in Western Australia — part of ESA’s global ESTRACK network of antennas that scour the skies to communicate with spacecraft and launchers. 

Carefully watching

Compared to satellites that spend their lives in orbit around Earth, BepiColombo will be immediately ejected from its home planet and begin heading in the direction of Venus.

After mission control establishes a data link with the spacecraft, teams must still wait about an hour to deploy the spacecraft’s solar arrays, and longer still to deploy its antennas. These vital steps will be “seen” by ground teams through telemetry — real-time status updates — received from the spacecraft.

While BepiColombo’s main science camera is enshrouded for the trip to Mercury, the craft is equipped with three low-resolution monitoring cameras to provide additional visual confirmation that arrays and antennas have deployed correctly — images of each will be received by ESOC over the course of the weekend.

All this information will be closely assessed before flight controllers can finally determine that the mission is off to a good start.  

“This is an exciting time,” says Rolf Densing, ESA’s Director of Operations.

“After months of practice, teams here at mission control are eager to see BepiColombo depart from our planet, and they’re ready to guide it carefully every day for seven years until it arrives at Mercury.”

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WASHINGTON, (VOANEWS).-  President Donald Trump criticized growing condemnation of Saudi Arabia and allegations it is behind the disappearance of a Saudi journalist, saying, "Here we go again with, you know, you're guilty until proven innocent," in an interview Tuesday with the Associated Press.

Trump compared the case of Jamal Khashoggi, a missing journalist who was critical of the Saudi monarchy, with the case of his recent Supreme Court nominee who faced sexual abuse allegations.

"We just went through that with Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I'm concerned," Trump told the AP. "I think we have to find out what happened first."

The interview was released after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about Khashoggi, who was last seen Oct. 2 entering Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul to fill out paperwork for his upcoming marriage to his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz.

The Saudis have rejected Turkish claims that Saudi agents murdered Khashoggi inside the consulate. However, U.S. news reports said Saudi Arabia was edging toward acknowledging that Khashoggi was killed after he entered the consulate, blaming his death on an interrogation gone wrong.

Khashoggi, a critic of the crown prince in columns written for The Washington Post, had been living in the U.S. in self-imposed exile.

Turkish investigators

Pompeo's visit to Riyadh came hours after Turkish crime scene investigators finished an inspection of the Saudi consulate. The AP quoted an unnamed high-level Turkish official as saying that evidence was found there of Khashoggi's killing, without elaborating, while Reuters said investigators found "strong evidence" but no conclusive proof of Khashoggi's death.

The Turkish official also told AP that authorities were likely to search the consul general's home. The diplomat had left Turkey, according to the official.
In a statement after meetings with both the Saudi king and crown prince, Pompeo said they "strongly denied any knowledge of what took place in their consulate in Istanbul."

"My assessment from these meetings is that there is serious commitment to determine all the facts and ensure accountability, including accountability for Saudi Arabia's senior leaders or senior officials," he said in a statement.

Pompeo next travels to Turkey to meet with officials there.

While Pompeo was in Riyadh, Trump said on Twitter that he had talked with the crown prince, the country's de facto leader, "who totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish consulate."

Trump said the Saudi leader assured him that "he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter. Answers will be forthcoming shortly."

The U.S. State Department said Pompeo made it clear to the Saudis that "learning what happened to Jamal Khashoggi is the primary reason" Trump dispatched him to Riyadh, and that the matter "is of great interest to the president."

Pompeo met first with King Salman, then twice with the crown prince. As they sat down for their first meeting, the crown prince, in English, told Pompeo, "We are strong and old allies. We face our challenges together — the past, the day of, tomorrow."

"Absolutely," Pompeo replied.

While the meetings were going on, Trump, in Washington, said on Twitter, "For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter). Any suggestion that I have is just more FAKE NEWS (of which there is plenty)!"

But during a 2015 campaign stop, Trump boasted about his business dealings with the Saudis. "Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them," Trump said. "They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much."

As he dispatched Pompeo to Riyadh on Monday, Trump told reporters at the White House that King Salman's denials to him about Khashoggi's fate in a phone call "could not have been stronger."
U.S. lawmakers' reactions

But some lawmakers in the U.S. have all but accepted Turkey's version of the events, that a team of Saudi agents arrived in Istanbul and killed Khashoggi when he went to the consulate.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Tuesday the U.S. should "sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia" over the incident and said he would never again work with the crown prince, assailing him as "toxic" and calling him a "wrecking ball."

The State Department said Pompeo also met with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, continuing their conversations from the recent United Nations General Assembly about a range of Middle East issues and U.S.-Saudi concerns.

Up until this point, Saudi officials have strongly denied accusations that Khashoggi was murdered, saying instead he left the diplomatic outpost on his own. Neither side has publicly shown clear evidence to back up its claims, and the two governments agreed on a joint working group to probe Khashoggi's disappearance.

State Department correspondent Nike Ching contributed to this report.

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Tags: The United States Saudi Arabia Jamal Khashoggi