Current Affairs Analysis

30th & 31st October 2016 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

National Committee on Trade Facilitation; Trade Facilitation Agreement; Seaweed Cultivation in India; United Nations Human Rights Council; Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement; New Productivity Linked Reward (PLR) Scheme; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
October 31, 2016



  • National Committee on Trade Facilitation holds first meeting
  • Andaman gets training in seaweed farming

Bilateral & International Relations

  • In historic vote, Russia ousted from UN Human Rights Council
  • EU and Canada sign CETA free trade deal

Science & Technology

  • Three astronauts return from ISS

Key Facts for Prelims

  • New Productivity Linked Reward (PLR) Scheme



National Committee on Trade Facilitation holds first meeting

The first meeting of National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF) was held in New Delhi to discuss ways for developing roadmap for implementation of WTOs trade facilitation agreement.

  • It was headed by Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha and was attended by all 24 members along with secretaries of various ministries and departments like Home, Shipping, Civil Aviation.

What is National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF)?

  • The NCTF is a mandatory requirement under the WTOs Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
  • It is a national level body to facilitate domestic co-ordination and implementation of TFA provisions.
  • It aims to develop the pan-India road map for trade facilitation.
  • It will have three tier structure with main national committee for monitoring implementation of TFA.

What is Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA)?


  • TFA is the WTO’s first-ever multilateral accord that contains provisions for expediting the movement, clearance and release of goods, including goods in transit.
  • It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Andaman gets training in seaweed farming

The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) recently transferred seaweed cultivation technology to the Andaman administration.

  • The decision will boost the emerging seaweed farming industry in the country
  • The CMFRI has provided scientific inputs on methods of seaweed farming suitable for the islands as part of the institute’s initiative to intensify its consultancy services.

Why Andaman was selected?

  • A feasibility study conducted in the seawater-inundated areas in south Andamans by a team of CMFRI scientists revealed that these regions had good prospects for seaweed farming.
  • Also, aimed at avoiding environmental disruptions, the CMFRI selected the coastal areas devoid of coral reefs.

What is seaweed cultivation?


Seaweed farming is the practice of cultivating and harvesting seaweed.

  • In its simplest form, it consists of the management of naturally found batches.
  • In its most advanced form, it consists of fully controlling the life cycle of the algae.
  • They gained prominence during 13th century, after the discovery of agar-agar in Japan and Alginic Acid in European continent.

Importance of Seaweed cultivation:

  • Seaweed cultivation is perceived as one of the most environmentally benign types of mariculture.
  • Seaweeds are of immense industrial, human and agricultural value.


Seaweed cultivation in India:

  • The Southern Coast of India bears luxuriant growth of seaweeds. More than 200 species of seaweeds have been found in this area.
  • In coastal waters, they grow almost like grass in large areas, extending over hundreds of kilometres.
  • Indian seaweed industries depend on this coastline for raw materials for the production of Agar and Sodium Alginate.
  • In India, agar-agar gained importance as seaweed chemicals during the Second World War.
  • After the advent of Central Salt and Marine Chemical Research Institute (CSMCRI), commercial technologies for agar-agar, alginic acid, Carrageenan and LSF, the importance of seaweed wealth on Indian coast especially South Indian coast has been greatly realised.
  • Consequently, a systematic study on seaweed resources assessment in South Indian coast has been carried out jointly by Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute and Central Marine Fisheries Institute and the Department of Fisheries, Government of Tamil Nadu.
  • The surveys conducted in this connection revealed the vast hidden wealth of seaweeds from this region which has a great bearing on the future of seaweed based industries in India.
[Ref: The Hindu, PIB, Wiki]


Bilateral & International Relations

In historic vote, Russia ousted from UN Human Rights Council

Recently, Russia failed to win re-election to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Key facts:

  • Russia was beaten out by Hungary and Croatia, following lobbying by 80 different human rights organizations against Russia’s candidacy because of its military support for the Syrian government.
  • The General Assembly elected 14 countries to the 47-member council. With 112 votes, Russia lost to Hungry and Croatia.
  • This is the first time Russia has not been part of the UNHRC since the council’s inception in 2006.

About the United Nations Human Rights Council:


  • The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a United Nations System inter-governmental body whose 47 member states are responsible for promoting and protecting human rights around the world.
  • The UNHRC is the successor to the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR, herein CHR), and is a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly.
  • The General Assembly established the UNHRC by adopting a resolution in 2006, in order to replace the previous CHR, which had been heavily criticised for allowing countries with poor human rights records to be members.


  • The UNHRC addresses mostly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and occasionally addresses rights-related situations in countries such as in Burma, Guinea, North Korea, Côte d’Ivoire, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, Libya, Iran, and Sri Lanka, though with much lesser frequency.
  • The UNHRC also addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities.


  • The UN General Assembly elects the members who occupy the UNHRC’s 47 seats.
  • The General Assembly takes into account the candidate States’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.
  • The term of each seat is three years, and no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms.
  • The seats are distributed among the UN’s regional groups as follows: 13 for Africa, 13 for Asia, six for Eastern Europe, eight for Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC), and seven for the Western European and Others Group (WEOG).
  • The General Assembly, via a two-thirds majority, can suspend the rights and privileges of any Council member that it decides has persistently committed gross and systematic violations of human rights during its term of membership.
[Ref: LiveMint, Wiki]


EU and Canada sign CETA free trade deal

The European Union (EU) and Canada have signed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a landmark trade deal.


  • However, it must still clear some 40 national and regional parliaments in Europe in the coming years to enter fully into force.

What is Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)?

CETA is a free free-trade agreement (FTA) between Canada and the EC.

  • It aims to revoke roughly 9,000 tariffs, covering many industrial goods and agricultural and food items.
  • It links single European Union market with Canada, world’s 10th largest economy. It will add around €11.6 billion to the EU economy and around €8.2 billion to Canada’s economy.
  • It also promises to open up competition and cooperation in the services sector ranging from regulations, to financial services, and telecoms.
  • It removes customs duties, open-up the services market, end restrictions on access to public contracts, offer predictable conditions for investors and help prevent illegal copying of EU innovations and traditional products.
[Ref: Indian Express]


Science & Technology

Three astronauts return from ISS

Three astronauts recently landed safely in Kazakhstan following a 115-day mission aboard the International Space Station.


Key facts:

  • The team included US astronaut Kate Rubins, the first person to sequence DNA in space.
  • Molecular biologist Rubins and Onishi were both returning from their first missions in space, while flight commander Ivanishin undertook a five-month mission at the ISS five years ago.
  • Rubins’ participation in the mission generated particular excitement after NASA announced plans for the career scientist to sequence DNA aboard the ISS in a world first.
  • Rubin’s participation was aimed at identifying potentially dangerous microbes aboard the ISS and diagnose illnesses in space.
  • This journey marks the first complete mission to and from the orbital lab for a new generation of Soyuz spacecraft with upgraded features.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Key Facts for Prelims

New Productivity Linked Reward (PLR) Scheme


  • Recently, the Union Cabinet approved the New Productivity Linked Reward (PLR) Scheme for all Major Port Trusts and Dock Labour Board employees and workers for the years 2015-16 to 2017-18.
  • The PLR scheme will benefit about 38 thousand Port and Dock workers in all the Major Port Trusts and the yearly outgo will be over 49 crore rupees.
  • The new PLR Scheme will foster better industrial relationship and congenial work atmosphere in the Port Sector, apart from stimulating better productivity.
  • The move will help improve the availability of these commodities to general public at reasonable rates, and control the tendencies of hoarding and profiteering.


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