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By Lisa Twaronite TOKYO (Reuters) - During the early days of "Abenomics," U.S. businesses were optimistic they could convince Japan's government to make a small change to the nation's tight immigration rules to let more household helpers into the country. But a year after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office, an idea that some thought might be an easy win for immigration reform while meeting a stated aim of Abe's growth strategy has made no apparent progress. If Abe's government drags its feet on one small step, it suggests scant prospects for any broader measures to let in foreign workers any time soon - which many experts say will be necessary for Japan to sustain its economic growth in the face of a rapidly shrinking workforce. "Japan needs to let in more foreign workers to solve its population problem," said Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau.
By Rosa-Tania Valdes HAVANA (Reuters) - For sure it's just what Nelson Mandela would have wanted, but does it amount to more than that? The historic handshake between U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuba's Raul Castro at a memorial for Mandela on Tuesday in Johannesburg was greeted on the streets of Cuba with surprise and hopes of improved relations. Reaction was more muted in Miami, where Cuban exiles have had a hard time accepting Mandela's respect for Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Castro's smile as Obama moved to shake his hand on the way to speak at the ceremony was seen by many Cubans as a signal of reconciliation, after more than a half-century of bitter ideological and political differences between the two countries whose shores are separated by only 90 miles.
By Richard Cowan and David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Budget negotiators in the Congress have reached an agreement on Tuesday that, if approved by the House and Senate, could restore some order to the nation's chaotic budget process and avoid another government shutdown on January 15. The chief negotiators, Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Representative Paul Ryan, were to announce details at a news conference at 6 p.m. ET (2300 GMT). The most immediate result would be to avoid starting the new year with another government shutdown on January 15. The government was partially closed from October 1 to October 16 after a battle over Obamacare held up passage of a measure to fund the government.
General Motors Tuesday named company veteran Mary Barra as its new chief executive, making her the first woman ever to lead a major automaker. With the company just exiting its 2008 government rescue and sales hitting their best levels in six years, Barra was named to succeed Dan Akerson as CEO on January 15. Barra, 51, currently works as executive vice president for global product development, purchasing and supply chain. GM said she had been "a leader in the company's ongoing turnaround."