The Brazilian Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, has cut
short a trip to Africa at the request of US Trade Representative, Robert
Zoellick. Brazil and the United States are presiding over the talks on a
future Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, which would stretch from
Alaska to Patagonia. If things go to plan, the framework of a deal will be
agreed at the ministerial summit to be held in Miami in a week's time. But
obstacles have arisen making the prospect look less and less likely.
Celso Amorim and Robert Zoellick are meeting this
weekend to discuss some of the problems they need to resolve if the talks
in Miami are to bear fruit. The two men have not met since the collapse of
the World Trade Organisation talks in Cancun in September. The US has
blamed developing countries led by Brazil for their failure. And
Washington doesn't want the same to happen during the Miami talks later
this month. Brazil has been at the forefront of a wave of opposition
within South America to a deal on the US's terms.
CASPIAN SEA PACT AGREED
The five countries bordering the Caspian Sea have
agreed a framework treaty in Iran aimed at halting further damage to the
sea's fragile environment. The United Nations-sponsored deal involving
Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan seeks to reduce the
amount of sewage and industrial waste pumped into the sea. It also ends
nearly 10 years of quarrelling over its oil and gas reserves.
In New York, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan hailed the
signing as "a significant step forward for the region". "By
signing this important new treaty the Caspian states are demonstrating
their firm commitment to saving the beautiful and resource-rich Caspian
Sea," Iranian Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar said. Toxic waste
dumping, oil leaks, agricultural run-off, and over-fishing of the
caviar-producing sturgeon fish, have all contributed to the Caspian's
serious ecological decline. The sea is soon set to be one end of a
pipeline which will transport Central Asian oil to Europe.
The World Bank has approved loans of just over $300m to
help the ongoing construction of the pipeline which will run from an oil
field off the coast of Azerbaijan, through Georgia, to the Turkish
Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. It is said to be the longest of its kind in
the world. Engineers have carried out nearly 40% of the work, and the
first crude oil is expected to flow in 2005. The World Bank has said
possible risks of the pipeline to the environment have been addressed.
PUTIN TO END EU VISIT IN FRANCE
Putin is due to meet France's Jacques Chirac in Paris
after the Rome EU-Russia summit. He will visit along with his Foreign
Minister, Igor Ivanov, who is also due to have talks with his French
counterpart, Dominique de Villepin. Human rights activists may hold a
protest outside the meeting over Mr Chirac's stance on abuses in Russia.
But Mr Putin, who visited France earlier this year, is expected to receive
a warm welcome from Mr Chirac.
That visit was back in February in the run-up to the
war in Iraq, when Russia signed up to the coalition of the unwilling,
standing firm with France and Germany in opposition to America over the
war. Even as Moscow and Paris seek to mend fences with Washington, it
seems Mr Chirac remains determined to build on this current alliance with
Mr Putin, aiming to intensify their partnership.High on the agenda will be
ever-closer trade ties.
EUROZONE RATE KEPT ON HOLD
The European Central Bank has decided to keep its key
interest rate on hold at 2%. Meeting for the first time since the
appointment of the bank's new president Jean-Claude Trichet, its monthly
meeting determined that no monetary policy tightening was yet needed in
the 12 countries that share the euro. The decision was universally
expected by analysts, despite sluggish economic growth across the eurozone.
Speaking at a press conference after the announcement, Mr Trichet said:
"At the present moment we judge that the (current) interest rate is
BANK RAISES UK RATES TO 3.75%
The Bank of England has raised interest rates to 3.75%
— the first rise in almost four years. The move was widely expected and
follows concerns that consumer debt and house prices were rising to
dangerously high levels. Raising rates will put a heavier burden on
borrowers, with the average mortgage of £60,000 set to rise by about £9
And manufacturers are concerned that increasing the
cost of borrowing will stifle their attempts to recover from tough times.
But it is good news for savers, who can expect to see marginally better
returns on their cash savings. The previous rate of 3.5% was the lowest
for 48 years. The rise is unlikely to have any immediate effect on house
prices, but an upward trend would slow them down, the Royal Institution of
Chartered Surveyors said.
EU SLAPS $200M TARIFF ON US IMPORTS
The EU has said US imports are to face duties of $200m
(£120m) from March 2004. The European Commission decided to impose the
duties in retaliation against US tax breaks for exporters, which have been
criticised by the World Trade Organisation. Initially, the tariffs will be
applied at a rate of 5% on up to $4bn of goods. Trade Commissioner Pascal
Lamy said: "The Commission hopes to pass a very clear message to the
United States that their continued failure to implement three years after
the expiry of the original WTO deadline is unacceptable." The World
Trade Organisation (WTO) gave the EU the right to impose 100% tariffs on
more than $4bn of US exports after ruling that the US tax breaks were
GREENSPAN: 'MORE US JOBS SOON'
US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said
employment is likely to grow, bringing an end to the jobless recovery. His
remarks coincided with data showing new unemployment claims dropped to
pre-recession levels. New unemployment claims for the week to 1 November
were down 43,000 to 348,000, a level last seen in early 2001, Labor
Department statistics showed.Investors showed their confidence in the US
economy by pushing stock markets higher on November 6, sending the Nasdaq
technology stocks index to its highest close since 17 January 2002 at
1,976.37, up just under 1%.
AIRBUS HIT BY PROFITS SLUMP
European aerospace giant EADS has reported a sharp fall
in core profits, hit by slower Airbus deliveries and weakness in its space
business. The EADS group posted a third-quarter net loss of 58m euros
(£40m, $66.3m) compared with a loss of 68m euros a year ago.
'DIRTY MONEY' FORCE RAPS BURMA
An international task force has demanded that sanctions
be imposed against Burma, saying it has failed to cooperate in the war on
money laundering. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) called for
measures that would press the country's financial institutions to identify
their clients.Banks would also have to report any suspicions of illegal
The demand came as an FATF deadline for Burma to clean
up its act and develop new laws to prevent money laundering passed. The
FATF said: "Burma has failed to establish a framework to engage in
effective international cooperation in the fight against money laundering.
DVD SALES LIFT NEWS CORP
Profits at Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation have
surged ahead thanks to strong sales of DVDs at its film unit. The media
conglomerate reported a net profit of $422m (£253m) for the first
quarter, up from $162m in the same period last year.
EU TARGETS INSURANCE EQUALITY
Plans to end discrimination in insurance premiums
between men and women have been unveiled by the European Commission. The
proposals would mean an end to the practice where statistical differences
between the sexes are applied to insurance rates. The move has sparked
uproar in the European insurance industry, but the Commission has insisted
it is merely an extension of existing sex discrimination laws currently
applied only to the workplace.
ANTI-VIRUS FIGHT GETS CASH BOOST
A $5m reward fund has been set up by Microsoft to help
track down people who unleash damaging computer viruses. The first rewards
on offer will give payments of $250,000 to anyone with information about
the creators of the MSBlast or Sobig viruses.
SALES BOOST LIFTS CISCO PROFITS
Profits at Cisco Systems, the world's largest maker of
equipment that directs Internet traffic, have been bolstered by a pick-up
in business spending on technology. The firm reported a profit of $1.1bn
during the three months to 25 October, up from $618m in the same period
AUSTRALIA RAISES INTEREST RATES
The Australian central bank has put up interest rates
in an effort to curb runaway consumer borrowing. The move is the first in
a major economy in months, and could prove the start of a round of hikes
worldwide. The Reserve Bank of Australia said it had put up the cost of
loans by a quarter of a percentage point to 5%, because it feared that
households were taking on too much debt.
PROFITS RISE AT TOYOTA
Japanese car giant Toyota has seen profits rise 23% as
sales between July and September climbed. The company, the most profitable
carmaker in the world, announced net profits for the six months to
September of 524.46bn yen ($4.8bn; £2.8bn), with operating profit — a
key measure of ongoing health — up 12%.
SOLID SHARES GOOD NEWS FOR KOIZUMI
Solid gains for Japanese stocks on Tuesday could prove
good news for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi as he faces a general
election this weekend. Pollsters are predicting that Mr Koizumi's Liberal
Democratic Party — in power for all but a handful of years in the past
half-century — could face a tough challenge from the Democratic Party of
Japan in Sunday's poll. But much rides on perceptions of whether Japan's
flagging economy is finally turning the corner.
And after fresh data indicated that the rapid third
quarter growth of 7.2% in the US could be an understatement, record
manufacturing figures in Japan sent key stocks soaring. Manufacturing
activity accelerated faster in October than for two years, a survey said,
and shares such as motor giant Toyota, with earnings due out later this
EU TO HIT BACK IN US STEEL ROW
The European Union (EU) has said it will press ahead
with plans to retaliate against US tariffs on steel imports if the World
Trade Organisation (WTO) rules in its favour. EU trade commissioner Pascal
Lamy said punitive tariffs on a range of US imports could be in place by
the middle of next month in the event of a favourable ruling. "If the
US does not move, retaliation is a racing certainty in mid-December,"
The WTO is due to deliver its verdict on an appeal
against its original ruling that the US steel tariffs breach international
trade rules. President George W. Bush's government imposed tariffs of up
to 30% on steel imports in January last year in an effort to protect
domestic producers from tough foreign competition.
N KOREA ECONOMY 'FACES COLLAPSE'
The powerful international credit ratings agency
Standard & Poor's (S&P) has warned that it is simply a matter of
time before the economy of communist North Korea disintegrates. "The
economic model of North Korea is not sustainable," said the chairman
of S&P's sovereign ratings committee, John Chambers. S&P, which
monitors the financial stability of governments and big companies, also
said the cost to neighbouring South Korea of dealing with the emergency
when it does occur would be massive.