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(Trinidad Guardian) The European Union (EU) continues to increase its funding for T&T and the rest of the region, said EU Ambassador to T&T, Arend Biesebroek.

“For the period 2014 to 2020, 346 million euros have been set aside for co-operation with the region. Three main areas have been identified for the EU and Cariforum to work together, which include regional economic integration, climate change, environmental disaster management and sustainable energy,” he said.

Biesebroek spoke on Monday at a workshop on capacity building within Cariforum states at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port-of-Spain.

Some of the areas that the capacity building workshop covered included public procurement, customs, trade facilitation which are all geared towards supporting the implementation of the Cariforum-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

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SANTIAGO, Chile (CMC) – The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) says new ports ranking confirms the decline in the region's foreign trade last year and marks a loss in activity not seen since the crisis of 2009.The throughput of containerised cargo in the ports of Latin America and the Caribbean fell 0.9 per cent in 2016, according to data released by ECLAC.

ECLAC said this regional average continues the negative trend of deceleration that has been observed in the last few years and represents the biggest loss since the 2009 crisis.

The United Nations body unveiled a new edition of its ranking of container port throughput, published in its “Maritime and Logistics Profile,” which confirms two trends seen in the region in recent years: an overall steepening of the deceleration of foreign trade in container terminals and a high degree of heterogeneity in this activity's growth rates within the region.

ECLAC said the deceleration in the regional average of port throughput began several years ago: six per cent in 2012, 1.3 per cent in 2013, 2.4 per cent in 2014 and 2.5 per cent in 2015.

ECLAC said the deterioration in 2016 was mainly determined by a decline in activity in five countries, namely Brazil (-4.4 per cent), Panama (-9.1 per cent), Colombia (-3.6 per cent), Argentina (-6.1 per cent) and the Bahamas (-14.3 per cent).

It said these drops were mitigated by the increases seen in some countries of the region, which contributed to raising the total volume: Mexico (3.2 per cent rise), Chile (4.8 per cent), Peru (8.4 per cent), Ecuador (4.5 per cent), the Dominican Republic (8.3 per cent), Guatemala (8.8 per cent), Costa Rica (7.3 per cent) and Uruguay (9.5 per cent).

ECLAC said the total volume of activity in 2016 reached about 47.5 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit).

TEU is the standard unit of measurement, equivalent to a container of a length of 20 feet, or 6.25 meters, meaning it is a standard-sized metallic box that can be easily transferred between different modes of transportation, such as ships, trains and trucks, ECLAC said.

It said the first 40 ports in the ranking represent nearly 90 per cent of operations with this type of cargo in the region. The following 100 ports move the remaining 10 per cent (4.4 million TEU).

“The data compiled by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) points to great heterogeneity in the performance of port throughput, both at a sub-regional level and by country,” the statement said.

ECLAC said the sharpest declines in volume of port activity were recorded by the terminals of Buenos Aires in Argentina (-5.7 per cent), Kingston in Jamaica (-5.2 per cent), Freeport in the Bahamas (-14.3 per cent), Santos in Brazil (-6.9 per cent), Cartagena in Colombia (-4.0 per cent), and Colón (-8.9 per cent) and Balboa (-9.2 per cent) in Panama.

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(Reuters) Apple Inc (AAPL.O) is expected to announce plans next week to make its Siri voice assistant work with a larger variety of apps, as the technology company looks to counter the runaway success of Amazon.com Inc's (AMZN.O) competing Alexa service.

But the Cupertino, California company is likely to stick to its tested method of focusing on a small amount of features and trying to perfect them, rather than casting as wide a net as possible, according to engineers and artificial intelligence industry insiders.

Currently, Apple's Siri works with only six types of app: ride-hailing and sharing; messaging and calling; photo search; payments; fitness; and auto infotainment systems. At the company's annual developer conference next week, it is expected to add to those categories.

Some industry-watchers have also predicted Apple will announce hardware similar to Amazon's Echo device for the home, which has been a hot-seller recently. Apple declined comment.

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Amazon is making a play for low-income shoppers.

The online leader is offering a discount on its pay-by-month Prime membership for people who receive government assistance.

The move, announced Tuesday, is seen by some analysts as an attempt to go after rival Walmart's lower-income shoppers. The world's largest retailer has revamped its shipping program and improved other services to drive online sales growth as it tries to narrow the gap with Amazon.

People who have a valid Electronic Benefits Transfer card, used for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs, or food stamps, will pay $5.99 per month for the Amazon Prime benefits like free shipping and unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows.

The typical Prime membership is $99 a year, but those who cannot afford to pay up front also have a $10.99-a-month option.

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Puerto Rico's governor unveiled a budget Wednesday that prioritizes pension payments for tens of thousands of retired government workers who depend on a public pension system that is crumbling amid a deep economic crisis.

The proposed $9.56 billion budget is more than a half million dollars larger than last year's, and Gov. Ricardo Rossello said that for the first time in recent history the budget would be truly balanced.

"In the past, money was taken from areas, increasing budgeted spending and hiding debt," he said. "That's over."

The U.S. territory is struggling to emerge from a 10-year recession that has prompted more than a half million Puerto Ricans to flee to the U.S. mainland. Rossello's administration is in the midst of restructuring a portion of a $73 billion public debt load through a bankruptcy-like process in federal court after previous administrations borrowed millions of dollars to cover the island's debt for decades. The budget calls for $400 million in debt service payments.

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