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 5. TRADE  6. GULF



Nov 12 - 18, 2001

Tourism plunges in Egypt, no recovery seen

The vital tourism business in Egypt, a mainstay of the economy, plunged by between 40 and 45 per cent this month and is expected to decline further, the government press said Monday, quoting Tourism Minister Mamduh Beltagui.

"The fall in tourist activity in Egypt in October was between 40 and 45 per cent," he told the Consultative Council, the upper house of the Egyptian parliament, Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar dailies reported, without specifying if the figure referred to reservations or revenue.

On the repercussions of the September 11 terror attacks in the United States and subsequent US strikes on Afghanistan, hideout of suspect Osama bin Laden, Beltagui predicted, "There will be a still steeper fall in the number of bookings in the months to come." The number of visitors to Egypt in September fell in September by 18.2 per cent, compared with the same month last year, according to tourism ministry statistics.

Tourism is Egypt's main source of foreign currency, providing record revenues last year of 4.3 billion dollars.

Morocco, Spain relations on the edge

Morocco has asked Spain to postpone a long-awaited summit days after unexpectedly recalling its ambassador, putting new pressure on ties strained by disputes ranging from drug-running to fishing rights.

Morocco informed the Spanish embassy in Rabat Tuesday that it wanted the summit, scheduled for December 27 and two years in the pipeline, to be pushed forward into the new year, a Spanish official said.

The meeting bringing together Spanish Premier Jose-Maria Aznar, Moroccan King Mohammed VI and Prime Minister Abderrahmane Youssoufi was aimed at soothing a host of nagging disputes and giving relations a fresh start.

'Jac the knife' Nasser finds himself slashed

In spite of his reputation as a ruthless cost-cutter and an innovative thinker, "Jac the knife" Jacques Nasser leaves Ford Motor Co. in need of a confidence boost in its core Ford-brand vehicles.

The outgoing Australian chief executive officer, a feisty, diminutive 53-year-old was first appointed to lead the company in tandem with William Clay Ford Jr., the great grandson of company founder Henry Ford.

In something of a family tradition, Ford Jr., 44, now has ousted the automaker's top outsider to become the new CEO of the Michigan-based auto giant.

China, Japan trade row rumbles on

Chinese farm products have been targeted. A round of talks between Japanese and Chinese trade officials on Thursday is unlikely to resolve a six-month-old trade spat between the two countries, according to reports.

The state-owned China Daily News on Wednesday played down the prospect of an agreement, claiming the officials involved aren't senior enough to negotiate a deal.

In Tokyo, an official who did not wish to be identified said the Japanese government was not expecting a breakthrough.

"The window for a solution is very small," he said.

Thursday's meeting is part of a rolling programme of talks designed to settle the dispute by 8 November, the deadline by which Japan must decide whether or not to renew controversial import tariffs on Chinese goods.

BIS won't hold Nov 12th meeting

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) said on Monday it will not hold a meeting of central bank governors in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 12th as originally scheduled.

The meeting of heads of major central banks had been planned before the attacks on the United States on September 11.

"The Riyadh meeting has been postponed in the light of current uncertainties in the international situation. It may be possible to reschedule for a later date," a BIS spokeswoman said.

The November 12 meeting will be held instead in Basel.

The BIS has in recent years sought to hold one meeting a year outside of its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland, as it seeks to open its operations more to the world beyond Europe.

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority is the country's top monetary authority and one of 50 institutions with voting rights at the BIS, a bank and forum to the world's central bank.

Dollar recoups losses despite growing economic fears

The dollar steadied Tuesday, recouping its early losses despite renewed pressure from a slump in US consumer confidence that sent stock markets sharply lower.

The euro traded at 0.9043 dollars, against 0.9052 dollars in New York late Monday after the single European currency rose to within a whisker of 91 US cents.

The greenback was quoted at 121.93 yen from 121.99 yen in New York Monday.

The dollar fell in early trade after US Conference Board's closely watched consumer confidence index slumped to 85.5 points in October the lowest reading since February 1994 from 97.0 points in September.

"The American figures were very bad and we have seen the dollar slip," said Jane Foley, an economist at Barclays Bank.

But the euro's gains evaporated amid growing concerns that where the US leads, Europe will follow.

"If this is happening in the US, what's going to happen in Europe?" said ABN Amro forex strategist Rob Hayward.

"We are factoring poor economic figures from the US over the next couple of days and then the attention will switch to Europe." Investors are nervously awaiting US third-quarter gross domestic product figures due out Wednesday, the manufacturing index of the National Association of Purchasing Management on Thursday and labor market data Friday.

Blair on tightrope to soothe Mideast crisis

British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Occupied Jerusalem Thursday faced with the tough task of calming soaring regional tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, as he promoted a US-British so-called "war on global terrorism." Blair was here to help get the peace process back on track, but his arrival was preceded by an Israeli helicopter striking dead two Palestinians, whom Israel alleged plotted a "terror attack."

Asked directly about Israel's policy of targeted assassination, Blair said: "It is important any measures that are taken in relation to (Israeli) security are measures that are proper in accordance with international law."

Violation of Lebanese airspace

The United Nations expressed "concern" Monday over a new Israeli violation of Lebanese airspace last week, according to a statement from the UN information center in Beirut.

Staffan de Mistura, the personal representative of the UN secretary general in southern Lebanon, "has noted with concern that an Israeli military helicopter violated the Blue Line on October 27, 2001," it said.

De Mistura said "even one such violation may contribute negatively to the already tense situation" at the Lebanese-Israeli borders.

He "reiterates his call upon the Israeli authorities to halt such air violations and to fully respect the Blue Line," the statement said.

Riyadh knocks on WTO door

OPEC heavyweight Saudi Arabia is knocking loudly on the door of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), but is not willing to give up its "unique religious status" in return for membership.

The kingdom is alone among the six-nation alliance of the oil-rich Gulf Arab states that has been denied accession rights to the WTO which meets in neighbouring Qatar November 9-13, and has remained a candidate since 1996.

Global market hit by fear on economy, terrorism

Stocks tumbled around the globe Tuesday on intensified concerns of a weak global economy that may deteriorate further as a military campaign in Afghanistan and terrorism fears take a toll.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrials tumbled 147.52 points (1.59 per cent) to close at 1,667.33, and the Standard and Poor's 500 shed 18.51 points (1.72 per cent) to 1,059.79.

The Nasdaq composite declined 32.11 points (1.89 per cent) to 1,667.41.

London's FTSE 100 index ended the day off 1.62 per cent at 5,003.6 points, after having fallen below 5,000 points for the first time in more than three weeks.

Frankfurt's DAX index slid 2.50 per cent to 4,543.98 points, while in Paris, the CAC 40 index fell 3.00 per cent to 4,251.93 points.

The wider euro-zone Euro Stoxx 50 index gave up 3.40 per cent to 3,407.64 points, while the euro shot up on the US confidence data to 0.9064 dollars.

Developing countries warn of WTO failure at Doha

Developing countries voiced dissatisfaction on Wednesday and warned that the WTO could be heading for a repeat performance of the Seattle failure, as delegates met to formally send a draft agenda for a new trade round to next week's Doha talks.

With nine days to go before ministers of the World Trade Organisation open talks in the Gulf state of Qatar that aim to launch a new series of trade liberalisation negotiations, an official from a developing country warned "the situation is critical".

US economy shrinks

Output from US factories has fallen in recent months US President George W Bush has urged Congress to take swift action on measures to revive the country's economy, after data revealed output had shrunk for the first time in eight years.

US economic output, or GDP, fell by 0.4% in the three months from July to September, the Commerce Department said.

The statistics are being viewed as the first official indication that recession is on the way for the world's largest economy, after a record spell of economic expansion.

Tesco to expand organic food market

Tesco says customers want more organic produce. The UK's largest supermarket chain has announced it is to expand its market for organic food to 1bn within five years.

Tesco said it was already the country's largest organic retailer selling 200m worth of produce a year but customers wanted more.

And the supermarket chain called on British farmers to grow more organic produce so demand need not continue to be mostly met by imports.

UK shoppers hit by nerves

The High Street could soon become less crowded. Consumer confidence in the UK has slumped to its lowest level since last year's crippling fuel crisis, according to a new survey.

The robust nature of British shoppers has been one of the key props holding up the UK economy.

But since the terror attacks in the United States, that prop has begun to show clear signs of weakening.

This signals tougher times ahead for the British retail sector, which has so far managed to avoid the gloom surrounding the manufacturing and service sectors.

French jobless rate still rising

Analysts say unemployment has not yet spiked. The rate of unemployment in France rose in September for the fourth month in a row.

Analysts expect the jobless rate to continue rising at a rapid pace.

The data suggested that unemployment was not in a "stabilisation phase" as the government had thought in August, the Labour Ministry's Elisabeth Guigou said in an interview with French radio.

South Africa installs new privatisation boss

Poor market conditions have delayed the telecom sell-off. South Africa has appointed a new privatisation chief after the finance minister announced a delay on Tuesday to the flagship sale of state-owned phone company Telkom.

Malixole Gantsho takes up his position as Head of Restructuring at the Department of Public Enterprise (DPE) on Thursday.

His predecessor Leslie Maasdrop is leaving the post five months before his contract expires but will continue in an "advisory" role.

"The two events are not related," a DPE spokesman told BBC News Online.

US-Africa business summit opens

Delegates from more than 30 African countries have gathered in the American city of Philadelphia for a business summit aimed at increasing trade and investment between the United States and Africa.

The meeting brings together leading business and political figures including the presidents of Algeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The US-Africa business summit boasts a high powered and wide ranging guest list of well over 1,000 business executives and politicians.

It would have been even more impressive were it not for the fact that the conference, originally scheduled for last month, had to be postponed because of the attacks on New York and Washington.