Return to Transcripts main page


S&P Downgrades EU Bailout Fund; European Markets Up; Captain of Sunken Cruise Ship May Face Charges; Concerns About Fuel Leak From Shipwreck; Carnival Stock Tumble in London Market; Impact of Wreck on Cruise Industry; Disaster Management; Future Cities: Doha Plans for Life After Oil

Aired January 16, 2012 - 14:00   ET


MAX FOSTER, HOST: Another Triple-A trashing. Standard and Poor's downgrades the EU bailout fund.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Saudi Arabia's oil minister says he wants $100 a barrel.

And we uncover widespread child labor on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast.

I'm Max Foster, this is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

Hello to you. First, they cut the countries, now they've downgraded the bailout fund. Standard and Poor's has cut the rating of the EFSF to Double-A-plus. It had warned since December that it could lose its Triple- A status if the countries that funded it were downgraded.

Now, after cutting the ratings of nine eurozone countries on Friday, S&P has downgraded the very tool that Europe is relying on. This could make it so much more difficult for Europe to dig its way out of the crisis. Let's go to Felicia Taylor for some reaction from New York. And what have you got, Felicia?

FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this doesn't really come as a surprise. As you mentioned, the EFSF sort of represents the European zone, so it's not unlikely for them to have received this kind of a downgrade.

The director of the EFSF has said that, by the way, they will be able to fulfill their commitments and they will maintain at that 440 billion euros-worth of funds and, basically, from 2012 until the ESM is set up.

So, there's no real concern here about the EFSF's stability and its ability to help its member countries which, so far, has just been Ireland and Portugal. So, not a lot of reaction.

What was interesting today, though, was the really decent reaction we had in the bond market in France. They had a sale of -- an auction of shorter-term paper, three-month, six-month, and one-year, and that went quite well.

So basically, the market is telling you that these downgrades don't really mean that much to them. They were expected, we heard about it since last December. Now that they've actually happened, it's sort of like, OK, great. That subject is now off the table and we can keep going.

So, there's a little bit more transparency out there. The bond market is liking what it's doing and effectively saying, OK, fine, we're going to step in. Word is from at least one trader that I spoke to, though, that it was the ECB, the European Central Bank, that did step in and help buy that paper.

There are concerns still out there. As you probably remember, on Friday of last week, the conversation was put on pause about Germany (sic). And that is of really great concern, whether or not they're going to have this voluntary or non-voluntary kind of an agreement between those that have accepted the fact that they need to take a 50 percent haircut.

They're expected to resume conversations on Wednesday, so that will certainly be something that all eyes will be watching. Max?

FOSTER: Could these downgrades that we've had on the eurozone and the EFSF -- I presume it does get concerning, though, as they head towards B. I know they're a long way off from that, but that's when these -- that's when we get concerned, right?

TAYLOR: Yes. I mean, we're sort of one step closer to the precipice, but it's not news that we didn't already know of. Certainly, we didn't want to see a downgrade. But if you remember, when the US was downgraded, there wasn't that much of a reaction in the long term. Actually, the bond market was -- did fine, and the equity markets did OK.

The thing that's probably of most concern right now is the euro. That has continued to -- it's around $1.26 right now, $1.28, but that's really been the currency that has felt the brunt of some of this. That's down about 10 percent since October.

So, of course nobody wants to see a downgrade on any of the member zone countries, because it just points to the fact that there is a significant problem, but it's not a problem that we didn't know about. We've been talking about this for two years.

So, it's sort of like taking the poison out of the experiment and saying, OK, you know what? We know, and this is what's going on. Where are we going to see these austerity measures? It's really a commentary about the European leaders as opposed to the financial system. The European leaders have to come through with the promises that they've made about those austerity measures.

FOSTER: Felicia, thank you so much.

Now, markets in Europe had closed when news of this downgrade broke and had no impact on Monday's figures, so Germany's DAX was among the better performers. London, Paris, and Zurich also finished the day slightly stronger. US stock markets are closed this Monday for a public holiday.

Now, after the break, we'll be live in Italy where a human disaster threatens to turn into an environmental one.


FOSTER: Tonight, the captain at the center of the cruise ship disaster could face up to 15 years in prison. Francesco Schettino will appear before a judge for questioning on Tuesday. He may eventually face charges of manslaughter, shipwreck, and abandoning a ship.

He said he is "shattered, dismayed, and saddened" by the accident. Both prosecutors and the owners of the Costa Concordia are putting the blame squarely on him. Rescue efforts are continuing on around and in the partially-submerged ship. At least six people were -- or are dead, with 16 still missing.

Alongside the human tragedy, there are growing concerns that fuel could leak into the pristine waters there. Our Senior International Correspondent, Dan Rivers, reports from the scene.


DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This picture says it all about how precarious, dangerous, and difficult this search and rescue operation is proving to be.

Earlier on, fire officers had be winched off the superstructure of the Costa Concordia as she started shifting in the sea. Now, they're beginning to resume their search operation of the some 2,000 cabins inside.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of Costa Cruises has defended the actions of the crew following this disaster, but says the captain's actions probably contributed to this wreck.

PIER LUIGI FOSCHI, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, COSTA CRUISES: The explanation is that he wanted to show the ship -- and to nearby this island of Giglio and so he decided to change -- the course of the ship to go closer to the island and pass through in front of the little city that sits on that island.

RIVERS: The other unknown is whether the 2,300 tons of fuel oil aboard can be prevented from spilling out into the pristine waters. Italy's environment minister has said very urgent action is needed to avoid an environmental catastrophe here.

Dan Rivers, CNN, on Giglio Island, Italy.


FOSTER: On top of the human toll, there's more pain for Costa Concordia's parent company, Carnival. Now, shares in the world's biggest cruise line tumbled 16.5 percent in London. Wall Street is shut for a holiday, so we'll be watching how Carnival's stock fairs in New York on Tuesday.

Now, winter is a crucial time for the company, along with the wider cruise industry. This is when people tend to book their summer holidays.

Jim spoke to the head of the Passenger Shipping Association for his thoughts on the cruise industry's bounce-back ability, where it had also been coping with the global downturn.


WILLIAM GIBBONS, DIRECTOR, PASSENGER SHIPPING ASSOCIATION: Well, the cruise industry is standing very high. It's a vigorous and growing industry, and more and more people have actually been turning to cruise holidays.

We've got approximately six million cruises taken in Europe every year, which we're about 1.7 million are Brits. And because of the value of cruising during the recession and its inclusive nature. In fact, more and more people were turning to cruising, and we have about the only sector of the holiday market which is growing.

JIM BOULDEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If you look at previous accidents, do expect there to be a hit on takings, on bookings, or would you describe the industry as pretty resilient.

GIBBONS: I think the industry is very, very resilient. This was obviously a horrendous incident, our heart goes out to the families of the bereaved and for all those passengers and crew onboard who must have had a dreadful experience.

Can you imagine setting off on a cruise and then you're sitting down to dinner, and then this totally, unexpected incident happens? It must have been a quite dreadful experience to go through, and we have full praise to all the passengers and crew onboard and to the emergency services in Italy, who've done such a splendid job.

In terms of recovery, we have a job to do in restoring confidence in the cruise industry. We certainly have, throughout the public and the travel agency people who book cruises through.

I think the general feeling amongst the public is that the cruise -- that this incident is so rare and so totally unexpected that they will still have total confidence to book cruises, although of course, we will cooperate fully with the inquiry, which will be undertaken by the Italian authorities.

We'll be completely transparent, and we will implement any recommendations that come from the inquiry as quickly as possible.


FOSTER: I'm joined now by someone who's no stranger to disaster management. Robert Jensen is the CEO of Kenyon International Emergency Services. Thank you so much.

Obviously, we're focusing on the human impact first, but there's a knock-on impact, now, from the fact that this huge ship is just lying there. Are you concerned about what's about to unfold?

ROBERT JENSEN, CEO, KENYON INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY SERVICES: Absolutely. I've been concerned since I've seen it start. The hundred years that we've been involved in this business, the first thing that people should remember is that human element.

There are six deceased people and, what, 12, 16 that are missing? Each one of those is a family that's going to have a huge impact. Their life will never be the same. Environmentally, I think that's the next crisis that's coming.

But this is an example of an industry that has not come to grips with the massive amount of people that they are carrying, the fuel that they carry, and the potential for damage that's caused when these accidents occur.

This is an industry that doesn't need any more wake-up calls. It doesn't need public relations. It needs to focus on being better prepared for these type of events and responding in a much more responsible manner.

FOSTER: It's interesting that you're talking about the industry, because this is an industry problem, isn't it? Because that image, for anyone considering a cruise, will put them off.

JENSEN: Oh, it's huge for the industry, and it's not just Carnival. It's not just Costa. It is the industry as a whole. There have been accidents year after year. A ship was grounded Saturday in the Bahamas. These things aren't unexpected.

FOSTER: The ships are getting too big for the ports? They're just pushing things too tight, right? Because they get clearance to go into these ports.

JENSEN: I think they're pushing the fact that humans still operate these ships, humans build these ships.

FOSTER: And there's not enough flexibility when they're going into a place like this -- area of Italy, where it got grounded?

JENSEN: You look at the number of ships that they try to put into these cruises -- to these shipping lanes, you look at the number of people they're putting on these ships, there is a breaking point that is quickly if not already been reached.

FOSTER: But they've been tested, these routes, so you're saying that they just -- there isn't enough margin of error there for human error?

JENSEN: I'm saying that humans make mistakes. We look at the aviation industry. An airplane carries maximum 500 passengers. And the amount of legislation and regulation -- and airlines still know that accidents can and do occur, randomly. Or, very rarely, fortunately.

Just like sea accidents are rare. But when they occur, there has to be a plan on how they respond to them.

FOSTER: I'm under the impression that the airline industry works more cohesively as an industry, is that right? Am I right in saying that?

JENSEN: Well, the airline industry has made great strides in learning how to respond to the rare accident.

FOSTER: So the cruise industry, the -- or the whole shipping industry needs to really get together in an emergency manner and sort something out as an industry issue because of this one disaster?

JENSEN: The cruise industry is the most atrocious industry that I've ever come across when looking at planning for and responding to the loss of a ship or the loss of human life.

FOSTER: Which will be apparent, now. So, what should they do now? Can they really coordinate in the way that you're suggesting?

JENSEN: Until passengers make decisions with their pocketbooks and decide not to take cruises --

FOSTER: Nothing's going to change.

JENSEN: Or until governments say we have to do to the cruise industry what was done to the airline industry, there won't be any change. Because so far, it's an industry that has not wanted to make a change. It's an industry that's given lip service to that message.

FOSTER: We can assume that passengers are going to use their pocketbooks to vote now, or am I jumping the gun?

JENSEN: I hope they do. I hope they do, but consumers, passengers, have a short-term memory and when the next big story makes this story go away, people will forget --

FOSTER: And there's going to be some bargains around, as well, let's be honest.

JENSEN: Oh, I think back in December, Carnival was already telling everyone they were going to lower the fares because of the weak euro.

FOSTER: OK. Thank you very much, Mr. Jensen, thank you for joining us.

JENSEN: You're welcome.

FOSTER: We'll be back after a short break.


FOSTER: Qatar is currently the world's largest exporter of liquified natural gas, yet a new $34 billion project in Australia will see Qatar slip to second place in 2017, by which time the country's ruler hopes to be resource rich in other areas, too. They include education, innovation, and culture.

Tonight's future city is Doha, the Qatari capital, where the construction is king, but for how much longer?


RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL (voice-over): The message is bright. It's yellow, loud and clear, across Doha.

In Qatar's capital city, the country's ruling elite have spent great treasure on the creation of a knowledge-rich society.

HER EXCELLENCY SHEIKHA MAYASSA, CHAIRPERSON, QATAR MUSEUMS AUTHORITY: What Qatar Foundation is doing, led by Her Highness Sheikha Mozah, my mother, is very important for the future generations, which is moving away from carbon resources and investing in knowledge-based societies.

I don't know how many countries today, considering our GDP, has 2.8 percent of their GDP towards research. And it's research in health and education and science and innovation, and it's -- so I think it -- it's a very exciting time.

QUEST: Much of this excitement is to the west of Doha, where the city meets the desert. Just a third completed, this is the Qatar Science and Technology Park, designed as a cradle of innovation and development. The likes of Microsoft, General Electric, SISCO, Rolls-Royce, Chevron, and Shell have already moved in.

At the park's robotic surgery center, it is local Qataris learning and honing their cutting edge.

TIDU MAINI, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, QSTP: Today, the country relies almost entirely on its wealth from oil and gas, and the recognition is, that's fine while it lasts, but in the future, we need to make sure that we have in place enough local people who are talented and who are committed to this country and who can create new industries of the future.

QUEST: Adjacent to this science park is education city. In line with the rest of the capital, stellar architects have left their mark on the campus. It's a Middle Eastern base for eight international universities.

QUEST (on camera): Texas A&M. Cornell University in Qatar. And in the spirit of the great philanthropist of the last century, Carnegie Mellon.

QUEST (voice-over): It is here that Qatar is sowing the seeds of a knowledge-based society, fast-tracking its system of higher education.

THILO REHREN, DIRECTOR, UCL IN QUATR: Look at Europe 200, 300 years ago. Trying to replicate the big example in Versailles in their own small palaces, trying to replicate the Italian renaissance, just trying to be slightly better than the neighboring chief or king.

So, this competition with royal patronage of the arts, of the scientists, of collecting, that is very much replicated here, and I think in Europe, it proved an extremely successful model.

QUEST: Mohammed Kamal is a business student at Carnegie Mellon's Doha outpost. Set to graduate this year, Mohammed is something of a pioneer in this part of the world.

MOHAMMED KAMAL, STUDENT/COMEDIAN: So, how many visas you've canceled so far?


KAMAL: Yes, "I don't know, visa --"

QUEST: A stand-up comedian, he's hoping to use his degree to help him set up an entertainment events business in Doha.

KAMAL: Now you see people my age, they want to become filmmakers, make big movies about Qatar, sell those movies, create this new -- image that, OK, it's fine. I can be a -- filmmaker, I can be an actor. It's OK.

QUEST: Hand-in-hand with knowledge goes culture, and Doha is investing in the stuff like it was running out. Resources in oil and gas can build an empire, but culture is the way to the world's heart, or so the idea goes.

QUEST (on camera): The Museum of Islamic Art is the cultural icon representing the vision of a knowledge-based economy.

QUEST (voice-over): It has been joined by the Mathaf Museum of Modern Art and the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, which has become an annual fixture. With her father's national vision behind her, the emir's daughter, Sheikha Mayassa, has been described as the most influential figure in the global art market.

QUEST (on camera): To the critics who say it -- you can't import culture, what do you think?

SHEIKHA MAYASSA: I think this is a misconception. We are not importing culture. If anything, we're exporting culture. We're promoting -- we're providing, with the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, we're providing a platform for Arab voices and we're investing in Arab filmmakers. We're investing in local talent.

In four years, we're opening our National Museum, which is all about Qatar identity, heritage, culture, but also looking to the future.

QUEST (voice-over): At the Katara Cultural Village, artists emerge after dark. Local talent, supported by government sponsorship.

SHEIKHA MAYASSA: It's looking at culture as part of our development strategy, so it will be really the DNA of our nation, and we look forward to the results.

QUEST: Ultimately, this investment in culture, education, and research, it amounts to an investment in people. And that's seen as the key to Doha's sustainable growth, completing the picture of the emir's vision.


FOSTER: Now, 10 years of efforts without success. The chocolate industry has been trying to stop child labor for 10 years. Next, the shocking evidence that they're still a long way from winning this battle.


FOSTER: Welcome back, I'm Max Foster, these are the main news headlines this hour.

Standard and Poor's has downgraded the credit rating of the EU bailout fund, the EFSF. It comes after it downgraded nine eurozone countries on Friday. S&P says the fund is no longer backed by enough Triple-A countries and has downgraded it one notch to Double-A-plus.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy says the loss of his country's Triple-A credit rating will not define his policies. He made the comment on a visit to Spain, the first by a head of state since Prime Minster Mariano Rajoy took office last month.

As Standard and Poor's downgraded France on Friday, another ratings agency, Moody's, affirmed the country's top rating on Monday.

The Italian fire department has released new images of search and rescue efforts at the shipwreck near Giglio Island. An attorney for the cruise liner's captain says his client will appear before a judge for questioning on Tuesday. Prosecutors say he could face manslaughter charges and up to 15 years in prison.

In Nigeria, demonstrations are suspended for now, but there's a much heavier security presence on the streets of Lagos. After a week of protests over high fuel prices, union leaders are considering a government concession to bring down those prices, but not as much as protesters have demanded.





FOSTER: The Syrian opposition says the army has shelled houses near Zabadani, near Damascus, wounding 20 people. CNN accompanied Arab League monitors to Zabadani over the weekend and found a town besieged by the military. Activists say 13 people have been killed today across Syria.

US Republican Jon Huntsman is ending his presidential run. The former Utah governor made the announcement a few hours ago, saying he'll now support Mitt Romney. Huntsman's decision comes just days before a key primary in South Carolina. A recent poll there put his support there at just one percent.

Well, tonight, hard evidence of the chocolate industry's failure to stop child labor. CNN has produced a special Freedom Project documentary airing this Friday. It proves the pledge signed 10 years ago by industry representatives has failed to protect vulnerable children in West African cocoa farms.

David McKenzie is in Nairobi, and he can tell us more on this -- David.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Max. We went to Ivory Coast. Now that country produces around 40 percent of the world's cocoa. So every major company that produces chocolate will, in fact, take cocoa from the Ivory Coast to make their product.

And chocolate is the world's favorite treat, as it were, $80 billion industry. But yet at the baseline of this industry, in the fields of Ivory Coast, what we found was very disturbing.

Ten years ago, the protocol was signed by all the big names in chocolate. It said they wanted to stop child labor and, importantly, child trafficking as, quote, "a matter of urgency." But what we found was a lot of unkept promises and a lot of broken futures in Ivory Coast.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): On this farm, we find Abdul (ph). He survived three years of work. He's just 10. He earns no wages for his work, he says, just food, the occasional tip from the owner and the torn clothes on his back.

Put in the simplest of terms, Abdul (ph) is a child slave. We move away from the group, so he can speak more freely. And through our translator, he tells us his story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he had a choice, he wouldn't work.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Abdul (ph) says he's from neighboring Burkina Faso. When his father died, he says, a stranger brought him to Ivory Coast. Abdul (ph) has never eaten chocolate. He tells us he doesn't even know what cocoa is for.

We met Jaku (ph) on the same farm, also from Burkina Faso.

"My mother brought me when my father died," he tells me. Jaku (ph) insists he's 16, but he looks much younger. His legs bear machete scars from hours clearing the bush. The emotional scars seem much deeper.

"I wish I could just go to school," he says, "to learn to read and write." But Jaku (ph) says he's never spent a day in school.


MCKENZIE: Well, Max, it's not just about Jaku (ph) and Abdul (ph). UNICEF, the children's agency, estimates that hundreds of thousands of children are working in the worst forms of child labor in the Ivory Coast. That includes using machetes, having long hours and, of course, not going to school.

But beyond that, child trafficking also seems to be a major problem in their country. And, again, to put it in perspective, this $80 billion industry which promised to make changes to end these practices hasn't done it.


FOSTER: David, thank you very much indeed. We have seen some signs of improvement in the chocolates companies recently. Nestle announced in November it's sending independent investigators into the Ivory Coast to investigate its supply chains there.

The chocolate company says it's frustrated by the systems in place to fix the problems. Nestle's efforts bring it closer in line with Mars, which has committed to having all its cocoa sustainably harvested and certified by independent companies by the Rain Forest Alliance by 2020. Mars will partner with Fair Trade in 2012 to certify their Maltesers brand in the U.K. and Ireland.

Progress is happening literally bar by bar, brand by brand. Kraft Cadbury now has fair trade certification on its Dairy Milk Bar, one of its most popular products. These efforts are all appreciated. The problem is, the message just doesn't seem to be getting through.

In Ivory Coast, just 3 percent of communities growing cocoa have been reached at all by schemes like this. That's according to new report commissions by the United States. Richard takes a look at why progress has been so slow in coming.


RICHARD QUEST, HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS (voice-over): There is a dark connection between the chocolate we enjoy and the child slavery in West Africa. Researchers have documented disturbing signs of forced labor and trafficking, children held against their will, many never paid.

Ivory Coast is the world's largest producer of cocoa. The U.S. State Department estimates there are more than 100,000 children involved in the worst forms of child labor on cocoa farms throughout the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is trafficking, a child being trafficked, a child being forced to work? It doesn't get worse than that. I don't think it's -- it can't be just about are there enough of them. It's a serious abuse.

QUEST (voice-over): According to an industry-wide agreement signed on September the 19th, 2001, this should not be the case. The Harkin-Engel Protocol was written to put an end to forced child labor in chocolate by 2005. That deadline had to be extended to 2008, and again to 2010. It's now been more than 10 years.

SEN. TOM HARKIN, (D) IOWA: If these companies aren't willing to come forward and work with us and put some more money forward to get these kids out of the cocoa fields, I think they may face a really big backlash.

Kevin Bales with Free the Slaves signed the protocol in 2001, along with leading companies in the cocoa market.

KEVIN BALES, FREE THE SLAVES: I am disappointed, and it'll -- to a large part, it's a resource question. It's all about the fact that while several million dollars are year are moving from the chocolate industry into work on the ground in West Africa, it's simply not enough to meet the size of the problem.

QUEST (voice-over): CNN has spoken to the top chocolate and cocoa companies, inviting them to be on our air. They either declined or did not respond. Those that did passed us along to the International Cocoa Initiative. The ICI was set up by the protocol to bring all parties together to address the worst forms of child labor in the supply chain.

JOANNA SCOTT, SPOKESPERSON FOR COCOA AND CHOCOLATE COMPANIES: The progress isn't enough, and that's why we've joined force with other partners to this new framework of action, and we have -- we really believe we have to accelerate action. We have to do more and we have very challenging goal that we're all supporting.

QUEST (voice-over): The goal now is to reduce the worst forms of child labor within the next eight years by 70 percent. However, the International Labor Rights Forum sees flaws within the cocoa initiative.

JUDY GEARHART, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL LABOR RIGHTS FORUM: The idea that companies can join an initiative and sit behind that initiative, I don't think, answers the real question. It's not the same as getting companies to step forward and transparently say this is what we're doing.


FOSTER: And that was (inaudible) story of missed targets and missed deadlines. And the buck keeps getting passed to the International Cocoa Initiative. Earlier, Becky spoke to its executive director, Nick Weatherill. She asked him whether so much time spent on fixing this problem, why are we still not seeing any results.


NICK WEATHERILL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL COCOA INITIATIVE: The targets that were originally set were very, very ambitious, and I think as we've taken time to understand the complexity of the problem, when we start talking about social change and political change as well, I think we will understand that those are not overnight processes that can take root, particularly in a country like Cote d'Ivoire.

At the same time, I think the progress that has been -- I mean, that you refer to 3 percent of communities and so forth, this is -- the communities where we as ICI are working, these are the role of -- ICI is really to be a catalyst to demonstrate what can work, and then to influence the actions of others to scale them up and apply them at a broader level.

And, frankly, I think the conditions in Cote d'Ivoire for that scale- up just haven't been in place up until now.


WEATHERILL: It's not a failure. I think -- I think progress has been made, and now the question is do we have the alignment of all the necessary factors to really sort of make the most of the momentum that we've gained.

As far as we're concerned, the new government in the Ivory Coast has made very strong commitments and appears very, very committed to tackling this problem. We're near out of the conflict in Cote d'Ivoire, and I think there is much greater scope for us from a -- from an operational point to reach communities and expand the work.

ANDERSON: So what is the likelihood of ending 70 percent of the forced child labor in the next eight years?

WEATHERILL: I have to be optimistic. I'm looking forward. I think we've learned a lot. I really genuinely believe that we're at a critical point now where we have the political commitments in place from the governments so that they can fulfill their responsibilities towards the welfare of their children and their citizens.

I think the Industry, the chocolate industry themselves, is seized of the problem and are putting in more and more initiatives to tackle it and to clean up. I mean, I think it's unthinkable. Ten years ago, it would have been unthinkable that we would have big companies opening up their supply chains to independent scrutiny in order (ph), committing to 100 percent sustainable and responsible sourcing.

So progress is being made. But I think now is the -- is the pivot point at which we hope that, with all the factors in alignment, we will be able to make much more progress than has been made so far.


FOSTER: Nick Weatherill -- now as we get ready for Friday's world premiere of this documentary, we're asking you what you think about fair trade stickers on chocolates.

I've been tweeting, using the #endslavery, so do let me know if you think people are prepared to check for fair trade symbols. And join us at We're exploring problems to this -- solutions, rather, to this problem. The documentary premieres on Friday, 8:00 pm London time.

Now Saudi Arabia says it's poised to pump more oil if supplies run short. An exclusive interview with the Saudi oil minister coming up.


FOSTER: The price of crude oil is holding at just under $100 a barrel, and Saudi Arabia's oil minister likes it that way.

Ali al-Naimi told CNN's John Defterios the world's biggest oil producer is keen to keep prices stable at around $100 a barrel. In an exclusive interview, he also says Riyadh can turn on the taps to make up for Iran's oil exports if sanctions hit Tehran.

Now the oil minister stresses Saudi Arabia's extra reserves are big enough to lift oil exports by nearly 2 million barrels a day. That's a big boost for countries such as China, which depend on Iran's oil.


Ali al-Naimi, Saudi oil minister: We know their overall demand ranges yearly, that is, ranges between 400,000 and 500,000 barrels a day. But like (inaudible) customers, they have diversified their supplies.

So if we were to be asked to provide additional 200 or 300, that's not a big deal, because you know that we have the capacity to produce (inaudible). And we are idling now between 9.4 and 9.8. So we have substantial spare capacity.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN REPORTER: The simple math would suggest -- and you can produce 2.5 to 2.7 million barrels a day more. How long would it take for you to get to that level, if the world needed that oil?

AL-NAIMI: I believe we can easily get up to the 11.4, 11.8, almost immediately in a few days, because all we need is sand valves (ph). Now to get to the next 700 or so, we probably need about 90 days.

DEFTERIOS: So this is concern that Iran's exports of 2.2 million barrels a day could not be filled. The reality is that the kingdom can fill those exports almost straightaway, sir.

AL-NAIMI: This spare capacity is to respond to emergencies worldwide, to respond to our customer demand. And that is really the focus. Our focus is not on who drops out from production, but who wants more.

DEFTERIOS: In fact, South Korea and Japan had concerns of cutting off Iranian crude, because they didn't think anybody else could fill the void. They're customers of yours. You could step up to the plate, could you not, sir?

AL-NAIMI: Absolutely. And as long as they're our customers, we would honor their requests.

DEFTERIOS: In fact, you're playing the role that you did during the Gulf War or during the Iran-Iraq War. If Saudi Arabia needs to be the swing producer for the world when needed, and it's built up to capacity, it's prepared to do -- these are the clear words that you're saying to us.

AL-NAIMI: Right. But we also need for Katrina (ph). You remember when we had Katrina in 2005? We immediately responded to all the shortages anywhere as a result of that hurricane.

DEFTERIOS: We're at a case right now where North Sea Brents are around $110 a barrel. What should the world be prepared for in 2012 with the tensions that we see in the Gulf right now, in particular with Iran?

AL-NAIMI: Our wish and hope is we can stabilize this oil price and keep it at a level around $100.

DEFTERIOS: You're speaking for North Sea Brent or for (inaudible)?

AL-NAIMI: For the average of the crudes worldwide. You know, there is NYMEX and Brent. There's OPEC crudes. But if we were able, as producers and consumers, to average $100, I think the world economy would be in better shape.

DEFTERIOS: There is some concern that Iran would actually shut the Straits of Hormuz. How much of your daily production of 9.8, 9.4 million barrels a day, depending on the month, goes through the strait, and how concerned are you about this?

AL-NAIMI: And I personally do not believe the strait, if it were shut, would be shut for any length of time. The world cannot stand for that.

DEFTERIOS: And are you concerned that sort of the provocations that are being made by Iran today, and the language being shared by the U.S., France and Iran, in the -- in the Gulf at this juncture?

AL-NAIMI: Let me put it this way: I don't think all these pronouncements are helpful to their international oil market or to the price of oil. It's really disturbing.


FOSTER: The Saudi oil minister speaking exclusively to John in Iran. Now, on Friday, there were protesters. Tonight, there are soldiers. The streets of Lagos have changed hands once again as protests in Nigeria are called off. We'll be hearing from the finance minister next.


FOSTER: Now soldiers are patrolling the streets in Nigeria's biggest city tonight to keep the peace. It's after two unions suspended nationwide strikes and rallies over the soaring price of fuel. Roadblocks have been set up in Lagos, and an eyewitness told CNN the security forces will try to keep protesters out of demonstration zones.

It followed a decision by President Goodluck Jonathan to reduce fuel prices from 86 cents a liter to 60, but still more (inaudible) were paying before the government revealed on New Year's Day that it was scrapping a popular fuel subsidy. I've been speaking to Nigeria's finance minister and former managing director of the World Bank, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for the government's response.

NIGERIAN FINANCE MINISTER NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA: Yes, this oil company has (inaudible) completely eliminated but it's (inaudible) a long way towards that. We defend their native speech (ph) in which he says the government remains committed to full deregulation of the tetco (ph) and as part of that, we have moved from a price of 65 naira a liter to 97 naira a liter.

FOSTER: The joint action forum has deplored the suspension, though, urging continued strikes because, as you say, the prices aren't back down to where they were originally. So is there going to be any moves towards reducing the price even further?

OKONJO-IWEALA: No, I mean, you can see that labor has called off the strike and, you know, that is -- that we're very happy and very grateful to labor that they decide to make this day (ph) kind of like a nonsense day (ph), and so they've called it off. It's been suspended.

And we're in talks to keep talking to try and sort out what the issues are and use the time also to work on the benefits. I must say that we have a full program of benefits that could cushion the impact of the subsidy phase-out.

FOSTER: The Trades Union Congress has called this a lesson that Nigerians have sovereignty belonging to them. They say this is a great triumph. The truth is, there's no way you're going to be able to take this subsidy away again. There's no way that the public will accept that. So this needs to be permanent, doesn't it?

OKONJO-IWEALA: Absolutely not. I don't know where that idea comes from. Nigerians are (inaudible) for deregulation. That was not at all what they were asking about. They were upset about the timing of the announcement.

But the fact that we have to fully deregulate as we are absorbed (ph) by many Nigerians now, we ask a legitimate question, which is that we trust -- it is like in many governments all around the world, the trust in the people as a government is frayed (ph).

And, therefore, they want to know how can we trust you, that you use these resources properly to recushion (ph) the impact of withdrawing the (inaudible) --


OKONJO-IWEALA: After we answer that, we have to adjust because (inaudible) we implement the problem.

FOSTER: We've learned that the people don't trust the government, and that's the one thing that this whole exercise has proven. So they're not going to trust you to, you know, bring back this -- take the subsidy away again. It's not going to be acceptable to them.

OKONJO-IWEALA: Well, you know, it's every comment (ph) in the world, that was not just a (inaudible) that you (inaudible) where trust is also a problem, or the U.S. If you look at opinion polls, you'll see people don't trust their government in the U.S., either.

If you said, look, we're not going to implement any programs because people don't trust us, then you would not have any implementation of policies for many countries around the world. So let's let it clear (ph), I think that we need to earn back that trust.

FOSTER: Very well then, Nigerian science minister speaking to me earlier. And we speak now to Jennifer Delgado at the weather center. What's going on in Europe from your perspective, Jennifer?

JENNIFER DELGADO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Ah, actually, pretty quiet over there through parts of Great Britain, but we are dealing with a little bit of snow out there as well as cold temperatures over towards the east.

Here is the forecast. As we go through today as well as tomorrow, we're expecting this ridge of high pressure just to really kind of sink down towards the south, and that's going to clear conditions up for northern Africa as well as into areas including France as well as into Portugal.

And it's also going to improve the conditions for Italy. We've talked about the shipwreck there. They were dealing with rough seas. We do know that low's going to move down towards the south, and that means tranquil weather as we go through tomorrow.

But as I show you on the satellite, you can really kind of visualize where that ridge is, because really through central Europe, dealing with a lot of clouds, over towards the east we're taking through parts of Russia, that's going to be moving into Moscow, pulling in a lot of that moisture.

That's going to mean more snowfall, and the same for parts of Turkey, as we'll see some of those accumulations reaching about 10 to 15 centimeters, especially in those higher elevations. And then you can see that low that was causing the rough seas through parts of Italy.

Now high temperatures for your Tuesday, 4 degrees in Paris, 12 in Madrid, 8 in London, then over towards the east, we're talking temperature, oh, right around -3 degrees for Bucharest as well as into Kiev (ph). He's a look at some of your travel delays, if I just move out of the way, you see a little bit better. You can figure out the airports I'm talking about.

For London, Paris, Amsterdam, into Brussels, green means good and the same for Frankfurt as well as into Munich and for Zurich as well. Now different story setting up for parts of the Pacific Northwest, across the U.S., expecting a big snowstorm coming through. You can see some of those totals, 25 centimeters, we're talking for Oregon as well as into Washington.

And let's go to some video coming out of Seattle, and it's rare to see snow across this region because, Max, we're very close, of course, to the ocean, so that really limits the amount of cold air and the snow potential across the region. But they picked up several centimeters of snowfall.

Max, just a couple weeks ago, they actually had an ice rink with fake ice because they just couldn't support an outdoor rink with real ice. So time has changed.

FOSTER: Look at it now, very careful drivers there. Thank you so much, Jennifer, thank you for that.

We'll be back in a moment with some tweets from the top for you.


FOSTER: Well, we've been taking the pulse of the business world via tweets for -- from some of the most influential people, really, in social media. Tweets from the top starts with one of the newest users, but certainly influential, Rupert Murdoch. He's weighing in on the Stop Online Piracy Act in the U.S.

"Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advertising around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying."

Founder of O'Reilly Media, Tim O'Reilly, seems to be other side of Murdoch on this one. "Reports of the Stop Online Piracy Act demise are premature," he says, "Congressman Cantor just said won't move forward 'till consensus is reached.' Keep up the fight."

Finally, the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, tweets, "Financial stability is key. It won't be reached overnight, nor with a quick fix. To overcome the crisis, sustained committed effort required."

And for one last tweet from the top, you can follow me, MaxFosterCNN. That is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. I'm Max Foster in London. Thank you for watching. The news continues on CNN.