INTERNATIONAL

 

Dec 08 - 14 , 2003

 

1.INTERNATIONAL

2. INDUSTRY

3. FINANCE

4. POLICY

5. TRADE

6. GULF


BUSH DITCHES STEEL IMPORT DUTIES

President George W. Bush has repealed US tariffs on imported steel to avoid a damaging trade war.
The decision follows a World Trade Organisation decision that the duties, imposed in March 2002, are illegal.
Mr Bush had justified them by saying foreign steel firms were driving US firms out of business with unfair competition and government subsidies.

 

 

 

The European Union announced that its sanctions, to be imposed against the US and worth $2.2bn, will be dropped.

"These safeguard measures have now achieved their purpose and, as a result of changed economic circumstances, it is time to lift them," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan in a statement read on behalf of Mr Bush.

"US steel jobs have been given another chance to compete," he said.

US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said the tariff decision had been made independently of the EU retaliation threat.

At no stage did the US administration admit it had acted illegally in breaching WTO rules.

The EU had carefully drawn up a list of products to target, which are produced in states expected to be the key battlegrounds in the November 2004 presidential election, such as citrus fruit from Florida.

After hearing the tariffs were being dropped, Pascal Lamy, EU Trade Minister, said: "This is good news for us. The fact that the US steel industry has started to restructure is good news for the future.

"The important thing is that this sort of thing should not happen again."

He said the decision showed what the EU could do when it acted together and "confirmed its weight".

Referring to the proposed EU counter-sanctions, he said: "We did not just refer the matter to the WTO, we also took some measures of our own on a precautionary basis."

ECONOMIC AID PLEDGES FOR KENYA

International donors have pledged $4.1 bn in 2004-2006 to help with economic recovery, Kenya has said.

It claims a further $50m and 40m euros will be disbursed immediately in 2003. Finance Minister David Mwiraria said: "Nearly 60 percent of all that money will be in grants and 40 percent is in concessionary loans."

The news comes two weeks after The International Monetary Fund resumed aid to Kenya after a three-year gap and approved a loan of $250m.

Mr Mwiraria said the amount was beyond his expectations.

"It definitely will reduce the current budget deficit but I cannot reveal by how much at the moment," he said.

He said more than 90% of the pledged $4.1 billion to help mainly development and budgetary support would go directly to the government, while the rest would be channelled through various aid agencies.

Donor agencies and 25 countries attended the east African country's first donor conference in seven years, where the money was pledged.

Razia Khan, chief economist Africa, at Standard Chartered Bank, said: "Typically, funds pledged by donors tend to be higher than the assistance that is actually disbursed over time.

"Even so, the news is positive, and will support the government's efforts to help economic recovery, starting with an infrastructure rehabilitation programme.

"While growth in 2003 will still languish around 2%, the outlook for 2004 is now much brighter.

"A growth rate of 4.2% next year, rising further in the medium term, is now possible. This will signal the highest growth that Kenya has seen since the mid-1990s."

The IMF had frozen help because of concerns over corruption and due to the country's poor economic record.

STORMS EASE FOR FLOOD-HIT FRANCE

Storm warnings have been lifted for regions in southern France which have endured days of high winds and floods.

The French national weather service forecast a "clear improvement in meteorological conditions".

Thousands of people are still without power or drinking water due to the storms, which left five people dead and forced around 15,000 from their homes.

Nuclear power firms say they have restarted some reactors which were shut down due to debris in cooling water.

French President Jacques Chirac, who visited the area, pledged 12m euros ($14m) in aid for the region.

CHINA'S TRADE SURPLUS SET TO HALVE

China has forecast that its trade surplus with the rest of the world will be halved this year to about $15bn.

Analysts say it is significant because imports are growing faster than exports and China may well move to running a trade deficit.

 

 

But all this may not be of much help to China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, as he faces a rough ride over trade issues on a visit to Washington next week.

China is becoming wearily used to being seen as a country pumping out cheap goods which flood the world's markets and mop up growing numbers of jobs.

But actually the figures for China's trade surplus with the rest of the world tell a somewhat different story.

A senior commerce ministry official has forecast that this year's trade would be only $15bn in the black, that's only about half of last year's surplus.

JAPAN'S BUSINESS OPTIMISM RETURNS

Japanese businesses are optimistic about the economic outlook for the first time in three years, a government report has shown.

Increasing exports to countries such as China have lifted corporate spirits in the world's second-largest economy.

The figures are the latest sign that Japan's sputtering economy may be emerging from a decade of stagnation.

The Bank of Japan has lifted its growth forecast three months in a row, while consumer spending is also on the up.

The Ministry of Finance said its measure of business confidence increased to 5.6 points in the fourth quarter, compared with minus 5.2 points in the third.

The companies questioned also forecast a higher reading for the coming three month period.

RAPID GROWTH FOR UK MANUFACTURING

The UK's struggling manufacturing sector has expanded at its fastest pace in almost four years, thanks to record export orders, a survey suggests.

The CIPS/Reuters purchasing manager's survey showed the strongest investment spending by firms in eight years, building on hopes of a firm recovery.

The survey's overall index of the sector rose to 54.5 from 54.3 a month ago, the highest since December 1999.

Any number above 50.0 shows expansion, anything below 50.0 shows contraction.

The data was much stronger than the comparative figures in the eurozone, where the PMI figure rose to 52.2 from 51.3.

EUROZONE INTEREST RATES ON HOLD

The European Central Bank has left its interest rate for the 12 members of the eurozone unchanged at 2%.

The decision was widely expected by analysts and borrowing costs have now been held at their current levels since the start of June.

There have been increasing signs that the region's stagnated economy is finally beginning to pick up, easing the pressure on policy makers.

A stronger euro, meanwhile, has checked inflation and trimmed import costs.

GERMAN JOBLESS RATE INCHES LOWER

Germany's jobless rate crept down in November for a third month in a row.

The number of people out of work fell 18,000 to a seasonally adjusted 4.363 million or 10.5% of the workforce.

SIEMENS GAINS SALES FROM NOKIA

German mobile phone maker Siemens took sales away from industry leader Nokia during the third quarter, says a new report from Strategy Analytics (SA).

Siemens accounted for an impressive 17% of total European sales, up from 11.2% in Q2, also taking share from Motorola.

Five vendors accounted for 81% of sales in west Europe with Nokia losing market share for the first time in two years.

UK INTEREST RATES LEFT UNCHANGED

UK interest rates have been left on hold at 3.75% following the Bank of England's latest rate-setting meeting.

The Bank had not been expected to take any action this month after it raised the cost of borrowing in November by a quarter percentage point.

Last month's increase was the first for nearly four years and followed concerns that consumer debt and house prices were rising too quickly.

NASDAQ BREAKS SYMBOLIC 2000 LEVEL

The Nasdaq index of technology shares briefly broke the psychological 2,000 barrier on December 3.

 

 

The index, icon of the 1990s technology boom, last traded above 2,000 nearly two years ago.

Its strong performance reflected growing confidence that the US economy is firmly in recovery mode after three years of sluggish growth.

However, it proved unable to hold onto its gains, closing 1% lower at 1,960 as traders chose to take profits.

GM EYES S KOREAN CAR MANUFACTURER

US car giant General Motors has said it is interested in buying South Korean producer Ssangyong Motor to tap into fast-growing Asian markets.

The world's largest carmaker may have to battle rivals from countries including China, France and India.

Demand in Asia, and especially China, is increasing as economic growth picks up and wages and living standards rise.

US WORKS ITS HARDEST IN 20 YEARS

The US is seeing an explosion in productivity to match its growth, after the three months to September produced the fastest increase in 20 years.

Output leapt despite the hours being put in by workers at US companies remaining almost unchanged.

The result was a leap in productivity of 9.4%, the best figure since 1983.

Economists said the pace could only be maintained if companies start hiring, raising hopes of a turnaround in the US's "jobless recovery".

UK HOUSE MARKET STILL GOING STRONG

UK house prices are still rising strongly at a rate of 14.1% year-on-year, according to the Halifax.

But the market is a bit less buoyant than during October, when prices rose by nearly 17% compared to a year ago.

Halifax chief economist Martin Ellis said the figures showed a "gradual easing" of the market after two years of "exceptional growth".

According to the bank, the average home owner now spends 13.6% of their net income on mortgage repayments.

This is still well below the historical average, which has seen home owners spend about 21% of their take-home salary on their mortgage.

IRELAND 'BACK ON ROAD TO GROWTH'

Ireland has dodged the worst of the global slowdown and is set to return to solid growth, its finance chief said.

Presenting a cautious budget, Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy predicted growth of 3.3% in 2004.

The figure is a far cry from the double digit expansion seen in the late 1990s boom, but is a return to form after this year's forecasts of about 2%.

But the slide of the dollar against the euro was a risk given Ireland's dependence on exports, he warned.

Mr McCreevy also extended a reprieve to the tax breaks which have brought a number of big-budget films to Ireland in recent years.

The rules were meant to end this year, but a coalition of Irish actors had pleaded for them to continue.

Mr McCreevy said they will continue until 2008, and upped the ceiling-per-film to 15m euros from 2005 onwards.

MULTINATIONALS PROMISE AIDS HELP

Seven global companies with operations in developing countries have pledged to step up their HIV/Aids prevention and treatment programmes in communities where they operate.

The multinational companies will invest millions of dollars in infrastructure and healthcare training programmes to help support the public sector.

In many developing world countries the private sector already plays a key role in primary health care provision.

HSBC BUYS SLICE OF INDIAN BANK

London-based banking giant HSBC is investing in a leading Indian bank in the latest stage of its expansion into the country.

The bank says it is buying 14.71% of UTI Bank, a subsidiary of India's biggest mutual fund, and is angling to secure a further 25% as well.

 

 

UK PROPERTY LENDING AT NEW RECORD

Borrowing against property in the UK rose to record levels in October, new figures released last week show.

The Bank of England said total lending on dwellings was up 9.47bn compared with the previous record 9.02bn increase in September.

Mortgage lending in October rose 14.4% compared to a year earlier, the fastest rise since records began in April 1993.

The data raise concerns that consumer borrowing is out of control.