Goaltide Daily Current Affairs 2020

Aug 19, 2020

Current Affair 1:
Rules of origin' for imports under FTAs

The government has come out with norms for the enforcement of 'rules of origin' provisions for allowing preferential rate of customs duties on products imported under free trade agreements. The new norms have been framed with a view to checking inbound shipments of low-quality products and dumping of goods by a third country routed through an FTA partner country. The Department of Revenue has notified the 'Customs (Administration of Rules of Origin under Trade Agreements) Rules, 2020' which would "come into force on September 21, 2020".

Important points:

  1. These rules "shall apply to import of goods into India where the importer makes a claim of preferential rate of duty in terms of a trade agreement.

  2. The ''rules of origin'' provision prescribes for the minimal processing that should happen in the FTA country so that the final manufactured product may be called originating goods in that country. What GATT has to say about Rules of Origin:
  3. Under this provision, a country that has inked an FTA with India cannot dump goods from some third country in the Indian market by just putting a label on it.
  4. It has to undertake a prescribed value addition in that product to export to India. Rules of origin norms help contain dumping of goods.
  5. India has inked FTAs with several countries, including Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and ASEAN members.
  6. Under such agreements, two trading partners significantly reduce or eliminate import/customs duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them.
  7. According to the notification, to claim preferential rate of duty under a trade agreement, the importer or his agent, at the time of filing bill of entry, has to make a declaration in the bill that the imported products qualify as originating goods for preferential rate of duty under that agreement; and produce certificate of origin.
  8. The claim of preferential rate of duty may be denied by the proper officer without verification if the certificate of origin is incomplete or has any alteration not authenticated by the issuing authority or the certificate is produced after its validity period has expired.
  9. The importer, it said, also has to possess all relevant information related to country of origin criteria, including the regional value content and submit the same to the proper officer on request.
  10. It also said that an officer may, during the course of customs clearance or thereafter, request for verification of certificate of origin from verification authority where there is a doubt regarding genuineness or authenticity of the certificate for reasons such as mismatch of signatures or seal when compared with specimens of seals and signatures received from the exporting country.
  11. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech had stated that the government would review 'rules of origin' requirements, particularly for certain sensitive items, "so as to ensure that FTAs are aligned to the conscious direction of our policy".
  12. She had also said that it has been observed that imports under FTAs are on the rise and undue claims of FTA benefits have posed threat to the domestic industry and such imports require stringent checks.
  13. Rules of Origin are the criteria needed to determine the national origin of a product. Countries which offer zero or reduced duty access to imports from certain trade partners often apply a set of preferential rules of origin to determine the eligibility of products to receive preferential access.
  14. The role of preferential rules of origin is to ensure that only goods originating in participating countries enjoy tariff or other preferences.

Current Affair 2:
Earth’s inner core is older than previously determined, find researchers

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Researchers have revised the estimate of the age of Earth’s solid inner core to 1-1.3 billion years from 565 million years old.

Over the years, estimates for core age have fluctuated between very young and relatively high. A year ago, Nature Geosciences had reported inner core was only about 565 million years old — quite young compared to the age of our 4.5-billion-year-old planet.

The research to re-determine the age of the core has shed light on several other interesting attributes, such as the process of heat convection of the iron core and the energy sources that power geodynamo that sustains magnetic field.

Geodynamo paradox

  1. Earth’s inner core is the innermost geologic layer of the Earth — it is made of iron and is solid. And it is very hot — about 6,000 degrees Celsius. The outer core is also iron but is liquid due to relatively lower pressure.
  2. As lighter elements rise through the liquid iron of the outer core at different temperatures, they cause convection currents, believed to resemble a dynamo. The process is like cream swirling in a mug of coffee.
  3. The circulation of liquid metal creates electric currents (kinetic energy is converted into magnetic energy) and turns Earth into a giant electromagnet. This is how Earth’s magnetic field is generated. The process is called geodynamo and is fed by convection.
  4. The age of the inner core, however, has been essentially calculated by the effectiveness of iron to transfer heat, known as thermal conductivity.
  5. But there was a paradox with the previously determined younger estimates of the age of the inner core: The core would have had to reach unrealistically high temperatures to sustain the geodynamo for billions of years before the inner core would be formed.

The research

  1. The new research looked at the paradox and found a solution by keeping the temperature of the core within realistic parameters.
  2. The researchers achieved these conditions by squeezing laser-heated samples of iron between two diamond anvils. Result: The new conductivity was measured at 30-50 per cent less than the conductivity of the young core estimate.
  3. The research suggested that geodynamo was sustained by two different energy sources and mechanisms: Thermal convection (the buoyancy is due to temperature fluctuations) and compositional convection (buoyancy produced by light material released at the inner-core boundary)
  4. The high amount of conductivity of the iron core, however, was impossible because it would have little energy to convection.
  5. It also only supported the existence of the geodynamo for about a billion year, whereas other studies have showed that the process has existed for at least 3.4 billion years.

Current Affair 3:
Pumas adapt behaviour to save energy for mountain survival: Study

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Pumas, also known as mountain lions or cougars, have an ability to assess their surrounding terrain and accordingly use a suitable walking gait to conserve energy, a new study has shown.

  1. The cats travel more slowly while ascending or descending mountains to conserve energy, the new study conducted by Queen’s University in Belfast, UK, has found.
  2. This, a press statement by the university said, was important as many top predators were having to move into what it termed ‘energetically challenging environments’ as the areas they usually inhabited were being occupied by humans.
  3. The areas that these animals move into, force them to use more energy and cause declines in their populations.
  4. The puma is the top feline predator in the Americas, along with the jaguar. However, its native range is diminishing due to increasing agriculture and urbanization.
  5. Puma habitat in California is predicted to diminish 35 per cent by 2030. Road collisions, fires and poaching of their wild prey are other threats.

The researchers also found that pumas traversed hillsides to decrease the angle that they climb and travelled much more slowly when climbing, thus conserving their energy. The animals spent much of their time resting (60 per cent) and less than 10 per cent of the day travelling, further conserving their energy.



Current Affair 4:
Lithium Sulfur (Li-S) batteries- New Technology developed

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Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay and Shiv Nadar University claim to have developed a technology for production of environment friendly Lithium-Sulfur (Li-S) batteries which will be three times more energy efficient and cost effective than Lithium-ion batteries commonly used at present.

According to the team, the Li-S battery technology leverages principles of green chemistry, incorporating usage of by-products from the petroleum industry (Sulfur), agro-waste elements and copolymers such as cardanol (a by-product of cashew nut processing) and eugenol (clove oil) as cathodic materials.

What researchers have to say:

Current Affair 5:
National Council for Transgender Persons

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The Centre has constituted the National Council for Transgender Persons to formulate policies, programmes, legislation and projects regarding members of the community for achieving equality and full participation by them.

The council was established by the Centre in exercise of the powers conferred by the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, according to a gazette notification issued late on 21 August 2020 night.

  1. The council has representatives from community members, five states and 10 central departments.
  2. Its chairperson will be the Union Minister of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment while the vice-chairperson will be the junior minister in the ministry, according to the gazette notification.
  3. The other members will be from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry Home Affairs, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Minority Affairs ministry and Rural Development ministry among others, it said.
  4. The representatives of the state governments and union territories by rotation, one each from the north, south, east, west and northeast regions have also been announced.
  5. Also, five representatives of the transgender community (this is important), one each from the north, south, east, west and northeast regions have also been announced.

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