BRITAIN

British Airways Dispute at Standstill

Talks broke down as British Airways failed to reach agreements with the Transport and General Workers Union and airline catering company Gate Gourmet, whose firing of 670 workers led to a baggage handlers' sympathy strike last week that stranded an estimated 100,000 of the airline's passengers. Gate Gourmet said it had offered to reinstate some of the dismissed employees and provide generous severance terms for others but added it was not willing to reinstate workers who had instigated an illegal strike.

CANADA

Lumber Talks With U.S. Suspended

Canada suspended talks with the United States on a lumber dispute to protest Washington's refusal to heed a North American Free Trade Agreement panel ruling that sided with Ottawa. A NAFTA panel dismissed Washington's claims that Canada subsidizes its softwood exports, damaging the U.S. lumber industry. Canada demanded the return of $4.1 billion in anti-dumping duties paid since 2002; the U.S. pledged to retain the tariffs and seek a negotiated settlement.

FRANCE

Consumers May Get Share of Taxes

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said the government will respond to unusually high oil prices by handing surplus oil tax revenue back to consumers.

Villepin said the government plans to set up an independent committee in the fall to assess how much surplus tax revenue may have landed in state coffers as a result of high oil prices.

"If it transpires that receipts are running ahead of those budgeted for, the amounts will be handed back to those in France who have been most directly affected," Villepin said.

Workers for whom fuel makes up a majority of costs and those earning close to minimum wage would be among those to benefit from the redistribution, he said.

INDIA

Privatization Plans Are Halted

India's Finance Ministry scrapped plans made by the previous government to sell 13 profitable state-owned companies, including aluminum, petroleum and engineering firms. The ministry said canceling the divestment was part of an agreement the governing Congress Party signed with its political allies when it came to power last year. The previous Hindu nationalist-led government accused its successors of bowing to pressure from communists.

Compiled from news service reports.