- The Washington Times - Monday, March 29, 2010

SWEDEN

Chinese firm inks deal to buy Volvo

STOCKHOLM | Zhejiang Geely Holding Group signed a binding deal Sunday to buy Ford Motor Co.’s Volvo Cars unit for $1.8 billion, representing a coup for the independent Chinese automaker which is aiming to expand in Europe.

The purchase gives Geely a European luxury car brand with a reputation for safety and quality at a time when China, which last year surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest car market, is eager to improve its competitiveness by acquiring foreign automotive brands that might help it improve its technology and expand into overseas markets.

The price, which includes a $200 million note with the remainder to be paid out in cash, is far less than the $6.45 billion Ford paid for the Swedish automaker in 1999. The U.S. automaker has been trying to sell Volvo since late 2008 to focus its resources on managing its core Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands.

“We think it’s a fair price for a good business, and yes, we’re happy with the deal we’ve achieved with Geely,” said Ford Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth on Sunday at a news conference at Volvo Cars headquarters in Goteborg.

BRITAIN

‘Special relationship’ over, panel says

LONDON | The “special relationship” is not so special anymore.

That’s the word from a committee of lawmakers in Britain, who say the phrase coined by Winston Churchill to describe the country’s close ties with the United States should no longer be used because it fails to reflect a true picture of relations between the two countries.

Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee said the government should be “less deferential” toward the U.S.

In a report published Sunday, the committee said that, while ties with America remain close, it is important to recognize that Britain is just one of many countries with important U.S. links.

“The overuse of the phrase by some politicians and many in the media serves simultaneously to devalue its meaning and to raise unrealistic expectations about the benefits the relationship can deliver to the U.K.,” the committee said in its report.

Churchill used the phrase shortly after World War II to describe the shared cultural, political and historic ties that helped defeat Nazi Germany, and the fears of the looming Cold War.

RUSSIA

Two time zones see final bell strike

MOSCOW | Russia’s president thinks the country had too much time on its hands, so he has eliminated two time zones.

The sprawling country, which takes up about 11 percent of the world’s land mass, used to have 11 time zones, but now has a slightly less-unwieldy nine. President Dmitry Medvedev pushed the initiative, saying it could help streamline communications and logistics.

The changes went into effect before dawn Sunday when most of Russia switched to daylight savings time. People in the eliminated time zones didn’t move their clocks an hour ahead.

The eliminated zones covered the Chukotka and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky regions in the Pacific Far East and Samara and Udmurtia, two regions in central Russia that now are on the same time as Moscow.

SPAIN

Female labor touted in economy strategy

VALENCIA | Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Sunday that more women should enter the labor force as part of the European Union’s new 10-year plan to make the bloc’s economy more competitive.

, Mr. Zapatero, whose country holds the rotating six-month presidency, said the the strategy set as one of its goals raising the female employment rate across the 27-nation EU to 70 percent by 2020.

The EU also should also seek to make a “maximum” reduction in the wage gap between men and women, he said at the end of the two-day “Women for a Better World” conference in this Mediterranean port city.

“I support the idea that the economic strategy for the next decade, known as the 2020 strategy, should include the basis for a more sustainable, balanced and innovative development that fully affirms equality between men and women,” he said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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