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Mexico fully expects to reach a consensus with US and Canada

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Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (C) speaks before the start of a trilateral meeting with Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo (L) and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer during the third round of NAFTA talks involving the United States, Mexico and Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, September 27, 2017.

Chris Wattie | Reuters

Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (C) speaks before the start of a trilateral meeting with Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo (L) and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer during the third round of NAFTA talks involving the United States, Mexico and Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, September 27, 2017.

Ministers from the U.S., Canada and Mexico are trying to press ahead with the negotiations in order to try to avoid clashing with a presidential election in Mexico on July 1. Nonetheless, reaching this milestone would mean overcoming major differences on several U.S. demands.

Canada and Mexico have battled with the U.S. over their apparent reluctance to adhere to tougher NAFTA regulations on the content of vehicles made in North American nations. Often referred to as the rules of origin, it is widely considered to be a key sticking point to the talks.

President Donald Trump‘s negotiators had initially called for tariffs on the content of vehicles made in NAFTA nations to increase to 85 percent from 62.5 percent. However, Washington’s stance over this issue has reportedly softened in an effort to reach a consensus with their North American neighbors sooner rather than later.

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Trump is expected to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ginsburg Supreme Court vacancy

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Judge Amy Coney Barrett

Matt Cashore | Notre Dame | Reuters

President Donald Trump is expected to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, sources familiar with the matter tell NBC News. 

Trump is expected to make the announcement at an event planned for 5 p.m. ET Saturday. 

Barrett is a 48-year-old federal appeals court judge favored by social conservatives and the religious right. Her confirmation to replace Ginsburg, a feminist icon who sat on the bench for 27 years, would solidify a 6-3 majority for Republican appointees on the bench for the foreseeable future. 

Trump’s announcement will come just 38 days before voters will decide whether he will hold the White House for a second term, and is bound to have profound reverberations on all three branches of government. 

Barrett’s expected selection will come just a week after Ginsburg died from complications due to cancer found on her pancreas. She will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery next week. 

Ginsburg, who had in the past publicly sparred with the president, said in a statement issued while she was dying that it was her “most fervent wish” that she not be replaced until after Election Day. 

That comment, and the precedent Republicans set in 2016 when they opposed former President Barack Obama’s nominee to the bench, prompted a battle between Democrats and Republicans over whether a vote on a new nominee would take place before Nov. 3. 

Barrett has long been anticipated as a potential nominee to the Supreme Court, and it came as a surprise to some when Trump passed over her in favor of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat vacated by Anthony Kennedy. Trump reportedly said at the time that he was saving Barrett for Ginsburg. 

Trump has repeatedly pressed for a vote ahead of Election Day, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said there is more than enough time to do so, despite his 2016 posture that prohibited a vote on Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. 

Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his allies in Congress have blasted the president’s decision to nominate a justice. During a speech in Philadelphia, Biden said of Ginsburg that “we should heed her final call to us, not as a personal service to her, but as a service to the country, our country, at a crossroads.”

But it appears Republicans will have the votes they need. Two moderate Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, came out in opposition to holding a vote, but failed to attract other defectors. McConnell needs just 50 of the Senate’s 53 Republicans to stay in line, given Vice President Mike Pence’s ability to cast a tie breaking vote. 

Any selection Trump could have made was likely to be contentious, but Barrett could prove especially so. 

Barrett, whom Trump appointed to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has already started to spur a cultural battle over the place of religion on the high court, and the future of abortion rights in the United States. 

Democrats are worried that Barrett’s deeply held Catholic faith will bias her in cases that could cause the court to revisit Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion. 

They have pointed to Barrett’s comments to students suggesting that their legal careers were a means to “building the kingdom of God,” and a 1998 paper in which Barrett explored whether orthodox Catholic judges should recuse themselves from cases concerning the death penalty. In the paper, Barrett referred to aborted fetuses as “unborn victims.” 

Barrett wrote in the article, co-authored with a professor while in law school, that the Catholic church’s opposition to the death penalty provided a reason for federal judges to recuse themselves in capital cases. She wrote that the same logic did not apply to abortion or euthanasia.

“We might distinguish between executing criminals and killing the aged and the unborn in this way: criminals deserve punishment for their crimes; aged and unborn victims are innocent,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, Barrett’s path to confirmation is bolstered by support among social conservatives, who accuse Democrats of attempting to put a “religious test” in the way of the Supreme Court vacancy. 

Barrett has only considered two cases touching on abortion as a federal appeals court judge, in both cases voting to reconsider rulings that struck down abortion restrictions. 

In both appeals, Barrett signed onto opinions authored by another judge, rather than independently outlining her thinking, making an assessment of her abortion jurisprudence more complicated. 

‘The dogma lives loudly within you’

One comment in particular from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to Barrett energized conservatives and became something of a rallying cry. 

During Barrett’s confirmation hearing in September of 2016, Feinstein said she had concerns related to past statements about religion. 

“I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern,” Feinstein said.

Conservatives promptly put versions of the statement on merchandise as a sign of protest. “‘The Dogma Lives Loudly Within You’; Now It Lives Loudly On Your T-Shirt,” read one headline in The Daily Wire, a conservative outlet. 

Democrats are likely to choose their words carefully in any potential Barrett confirmation hearings, but whether she will make decisions based on her faith is expected to be a prominent line of inquiry. 

Membership in People of Praise

Barrett has also courted controversy with her membership in a small, primarily Catholic organization called People of Praise. Members of the group swear to uphold so-called “covenants” and are held accountable to advisors. 

Female advisors were referred to as “handmaidens” until the term was introduced into popular culture by the dystopian television show, Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” based on the Margaret Atwood novel. 

Critics of the group have called it a “cult,” and said the idea of a justice on the Supreme Court being accountable to a spiritual leader crossed the typical bounds defining the separation between church and state. 

As with Feinstein’s comments during Barrett’s confirmation, the controversy over Barrett’s membership in People of Praise similarly led to a conservative backlash against what some saw as anti-Catholic bigotry.  

Conservatives deny that the group is a cult, and have criticized Democrats and newspapers like The New York Times for what they say are unfair attacks on religion. Conservative writer David French wrote in The National Review that “parachurch” organizations such as People of Praise are misunderstood.

“It betrays fundamental ignorance about the way millions of American Christians live their lives,” he wrote, noting that groups like People of Praise are common places where religious people seek advice on issues like dating, marriage, careers, and child-rearing. Words like “covenant,” he said, were very common. 

Members of the organization have also pointed out that it is open to both Republicans and Democrats. 

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How a process using carbon dioxide could stop your wine from spoiling

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Whether it’s a dry Chablis or punchy, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, a glass or two of quality wine can be one of life’s small pleasures.

A phenomenon known as “cork taint” can, however, create a host of problems including rancid smells and an off-putting taste.

It’s a problem that Fredérique Vaquer, a winemaker in the south of France, has first-hand experience of.

“One time, I was with a lot of customers, it was a very important tasting and I opened a magnum,” she told CNBC’s Sustainable Energy.

“I had only one magnum … normally, it’s a beautiful wine and that time it was ‘corky’.”

When it comes to cork tainted wine, the chemical compound 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole, or TCA, which can make its way into the cork, plays a significant role.

However, in France, a firm called Diam Bouchage has been developing a process that looks to tackle the issue head on through the use of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Dominique Tourneix, the company’s CEO, explained that its system addressed the problem by using pressurized, “supercritical” CO2.

According to a video demonstration on its website, Diam Bouchage takes this supercritical CO2 — a fluid state of carbon dioxide — and injects it into an autoclave containing granulated cork that’s been pre-sifted.

The idea is that the CO2 passes through the cork, removing all the substances, including TCA, that could taint wine.

The CO2 itself is then “removed, filtered and … recycled in a closed circuit,” while the cleaned and purified cork grain is turned into stoppers at a manufacturing site. Diam Bouchage has also developed a product range which incorporates beeswax and a bio-based binding agent. 

In his interview with CNBC, CEO Dominique Tourneix explained how by-products of the company’s process could also be recycled and reused. 

“Different companies are actually purchasing our extract coming from the cork to use the extract for their cosmetic applications,” he said.

The power of green chemistry

Diam Bouchage’s use of nature-based solutions such as beeswax within an industrial and manufacturing context is also interesting.

Some of the company’s work encompasses so-called “green chemistry.” A relatively broad term, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has defined it as “the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances.”

Paul Anastas is director of Yale University’s Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering. Together with John Warner — a chemist who is now president and chief technology officer of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry — Anastas co-authored the book “Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice,” a key body of work in the field.

Speaking to CNBC’s Sustainable Energy, he was asked about the relationship between business and science when it came to green chemistry.

“People think I’m joking when they ask, ‘how did you come up with this name, green chemistry, all those years ago?’,” he explained. 

“And I say it’s true that green is the color of the environment but here in the U.S. it’s also the color of our money,” he added.

“So this was about how you accomplish both goals at the same time, that you align environmental and health goals with your economic and profitability goals.”

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China is set to join FTSE World Government Bond Index in October 2021

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A Chinese national flag seen in front of Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai on September 8, 2019.

Alex Tai | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Major index provider FTSE Russell said Thursday it will add Chinese government bonds to its flagship World Government Bond Index from October next year — a development that will bring billions of dollars of inflows into China.  

The inclusion — which will be China’s third entry into a major global bond index — comes at a time when investors are hunting for yield in an environment of ultra-low interest rates. Several investors estimated that at least $100 billion will flow into China after its bonds debut on the FTSE Russell index.

“I think this is another important landmark in China’s … internationalization of their domestic financial markets,” Ben Powell, BlackRock Investment Institute’s chief investment strategist for Asia Pacific, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Friday.

He pointed out that 10-year Chinese government bonds are yielding around 3% which is “a very high number in the global context.”

Boosting foreign participation

China’s roughly $16 trillion bond market is the second largest globally, but is under-owned by international investors.

Pan Gongsheng, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China and director of State Administration of Foreign Exchange, said in a statement that international investors held 2.8 trillion yuan ($410.69 billion) of Chinese bonds as at end August. That’s less than 3% of the entire Chinese bond market.

Chinese authorities have implemented significant improvements to the fixed income market infrastructure to expand access to international investors.

Joining the FTSE World Government Bond Index could further increase foreign investor participation in the Chinese bond market, which will also boost the yuan, according to Hong Kong-based CSOP Asset Management. The company said the Chinese yuan will be the fourth largest currency in the index, after the U.S. dollar, euro and Japanese yen.

FTSE Russell said it will confirm in March the exact date when Chinese government bonds will debut on its index. Before FTSE, Chinese government bonds had been added to the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Index and the J.P. Morgan Government Bond Index-Emerging Markets.

“Chinese authorities have implemented significant improvements to the fixed income market infrastructure to expand access to international investors,” FTSE Russell said in a statement announcing its decision on China.   

Those improvements include enhancing liquidity in the bond market, allowing additional choice of counterparties in foreign exchange trading, and better post-trade settlement processes, the company added.

— CNBC’s Eustance Huang contributed to this report. 

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