Nov 29 - Dec 05, 2004






Leaders of 21 Asia-Pacific states in the Apec grouping have ended a summit recently in Chile with a call for action to lower global trade barriers.
Apec plans to seek rules to benefit developing nations before World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in Hong Kong in December 2005.
Apec members Russia and Vietnam got backing for their bids to join the WTO.
The leaders also approved a number of anti-terrorist measures to protect aircraft, shipping and food stocks.





The Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Forum, set up in 1989 mainly to promote trade among Pacific Rim states, now accounts for more than half of global economic output and almost half of all international trade.

The two-day annual Apec gathering in Santiago was the first official summit involving the leaders of all 21 member states, who include Canada, China, Japan, Russia and the US.

"We reaffirmed our determination to advance the prosperity and sustainable growth of our economies and the complementary mission of ensuring the security of our people," a statement from the Apec leaders said.

The WTO talks broke down last year in a dispute over reducing subsidies offered by rich countries to their farmers. But the negotiations resumed in July.

The Apec summit was the first big international gathering that President George Bush has attended since his re-election and the meeting was held under tight security.


Slumping prices and aggressive competition mean the US will import as much food in 2005 as it sells overseas, government figures say.

The Department of Agriculture report suggests exports will fall about 10% to about $56bn (30bn), while imports grow 3.3% to reach the same level.

The US has been a net exporter of foodstuffs for almost half a century.

Canada is the only country thought likely to buy more US goods, with China showing the biggest fall in sales.

Cotton and soybeans are likely to be the biggest victims of a $1.5bn reduction in Chinese demand, the report's authors said.

Soybean sales the world over were predicted to fall almost 15%, as competition from Brazil and other countries hots up, while Russia once a lucrative customer is now a rival in the wheat trade.

And there could be more bad news yet to come for beef farmers.

Some 30 countries, including Japan, have banned US beef after several cases of BSE, or "mad cow disease", reducing exports by about $300m.

Tests on the most recent cow suspected to have been infected are due shortly.

The predictions from the Department of Agriculture could spur heightened calls from US farmers for more government assistance.

In 2002, the Bush administration upped farm subsidies by some $60bn, despite criticism from trading partners and potential problems with World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations.


Venezuela, the world's fifth largest oil exporter, has signed an agreement to supply Paraguay with more than 18,000 barrels of oil per day.

The agreement was signed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his Paraguayan counterpart Nicanor Duarte.

Mr Chavez said such agreements were important to create an energy alliance across South America.

Paraguay will pay for 75% of the oil on delivery and will have 15 years to pay the balance.

After signing the deal, President Duarte said it would allow Paraguay to invest US $75m in social programmes.

Venezuela says it produces some 3.1m barrels of oil a day but critics say it produces closer to 2.6m barrels.

Mr Chavez says regional integration is one of the arms of his "peaceful revolution".

Venezuela already has deals for preferential oil rates with more than 15 countries in the region.


Nissan is to stop production at some of its domestic car plants for five days due to a steel shortage.

Japan's second-biggest car maker will suspend operations at three of its four domestic plants on 29 and 30 November and from 6 to 8 December.

It will result in the lost production of about 25,000 vehicles, due to be made up early next year.

Steel prices have been rising due to tight raw-material supplies and a surge in demand from the Chinese economy.

Nissan said the problem has arisen since the roll-out in early September of a series of new models, and that the production backlog would be overcome by running the closed factories during January holidays.

It is introducing six new lines in Japan between this autumn and January, after producing no new models for a year.


Japan's trade surplus rose by 8.8% in October from a year earlier, to 1.164 trillion yen ($11.32bn; 6.02bn).

The rise was above market expectations, because of one-off exports of vessels, the Ministry of Finance said.

Close study of the figures showed export activity slowed down due to a downturn in global demand for IT products.

Export growth has, until recently, been the main engine behind Japan's economic recovery over the past few years.

The recovery has depended to a large extent on a healthy appetite for its goods in China and other Asian nations.

In October exports increased 3.2% to 5.29 trillion yen, while imports rose 2.7% to 4.43 trillion yen.

A Ministry of Finance official warned of the downturn in global demand for IT products, observing "with regard to the trend of exports of ITs, we no longer see as a strong growth momentum as we had observed earlier this year".


The dollar has slumped to a new low against the euro, fuelling concerns about future European economic growth.



Fears that the strong euro could have a serious effect on European economies in 2005 were sharpened by data showing a fall in business confidence in Germany.

The euro jumped to a high of $1.3248 on Thursday on suggestions the US may tolerate a weaker dollar, while gold prices surged to sixteen-year highs. The dollar also fell to a new four-year low against the yen of 102.61 yen.


The Brazilian stock market has risen to a record high as investors display growing confidence in the durability of the country's economic recovery.

The main Bovespa index on the Sao Paolo Stock Exchange closed at 24,866 points last Thursday, topping the previous record market close.

The market's buoyancy reflects optimism about the Brazilian economy, which could grow by as much as 4.5% in 2004. Brazil is recovering from last year's recession its worst in a decade.


Prices of Japanese goods continued to fall in October, an indication that deflation has not been curbed.

But, including the cost of vegetables, soaring because of storms that damaged crops, prices rose from a year earlier for the first time in over five years.

Figures showed the core nationwide consumer price index (CPI), which excludes fresh food, fell 0.1% in October from the same month in 2003.

Deflation has hit the world's second-largest economy for six years.

In September, core prices nationally were unchanged from a year earlier after falling 0.2% in August and July, and 0.1% in June.


Order books for UK manufacturers have fallen this month to their lowest level since the start of 2004 as higher base rates and oil prices bite.

The CBI's latest industrial trends survey found that 16% of firms reported order books above normal, but 32% said they were below.

In response, the business lobby group has lowered its forecasts for economic growth by 0.3% to 2.5% for 2005.

And it warned government borrowing was also likely to exceed expectations.

The CBI believes Chancellor Gordon Brown will need an extra 6bn for the public coffers than previously thought, with a budget deficit now likely to be 37.1bn in the current financial year.

Gordon Brown was in danger of getting his sums wrong, the CBI said, and was "cutting it very fine" on his golden rule of balancing the budget.


Zimbabwe's national airline is to start flying to the Chinese capital Beijing twice a week.

The plan, announced by Chinese media, comes as China is upping its influence in Zimbabwe's battered economy.

The latest stage of a long-standing relationship has seen floods of cheap goods imported from China, and big construction deals go to Chinese firms.

China is also ramping up its presence elsewhere in Africa, from construction in Botswana to oil in Sudan.

Air Zimbabwe is thought to have only two working long-haul aircraft, although it expects another two from China thanks to a deal signed earlier this year.

The Beijing flights will help service China's extensive investments in Zimbabwe, estimated by Zimbabwe's government to be worth US$600m but by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to be much higher.


Brazil has announced it will begin enriching uranium officially, saying it has received the approval of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.

International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors paid a "successful" visit to the Resende enrichment plant in October, a minister told reporters.

Science and Technology Minister Eduardo Campos said production of enriched uranium would start within months.


Tesco says it is continuing to enjoy fast sales growth after a strong third quarter performance across all parts of its business.

The UK's largest supermarket group said overall sales were up 12.2% during the 14 weeks to 20 November, compared to the same period last year.

Tesco said UK sales alone were up 12.3%, compared to the second quarter rise of 11.8%, aided by petrol sales. It said it had kept petrol prices as low as possible despite oil hikes.


Second quarter profits at ketchup maker Heinz have been hit by higher material and transport costs.

The US food giant said its frozen and microwavable potato products help boost sales in North America by 8.4%.

But Heinz said packaging, raw material and fuel prices will increase by more than $100m (53.5m) this year.

Its net profits in the three months to 27 September rose 4% to $199m, from $191.5m a year earlier. Sales were $2.2bn compared to $2.09bn.




German industrial giant Siemens has sealed a deal to supply power generating technology in China.

Siemens is to enter a joint venture with Shanghai Electric which will see it invest 55m euros ($71m; 38m) in supplying parts for new gas turbines.

China's booming economy has placed severe demands on the country's energy supply, and Beijing is keen to end its dependence on foreign technology. The firms will build turbines worth 210m euros for Chinese power plants.


Merged airline group Air France KLM has bucked gloom and doom in the airline industry by reporting upbeat results.

Profits for the three months to September 30 were 201m euros ($264m; 140m), compared with year-ago like-for-like profits of 143m euros.


China's economy is in for a "soft landing" amid plans for a "gradual" shift in exchange rates, President Hu Jintao has told Asian leaders.

Economic growth of more than 9% a year and a currency locked to the declining dollar have worried other countries.

There are fears that China may overheat or that credit controls intended to take the economy off the boil could slam on the brakes too sharply. But Mr Hu said that would not happen, and promised "stable and fast growth".


EU agriculture ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss how to carry out urgently needed reforms of Europe's multi-million dollar sugar industry.

The World Trade Organisation last month ruled that the industry is unfairly subsidised by governments, undermining producers in developing countries.

The EU is now proposing to cut prices by about a third. It also wants to reduce the amount of sugar produced, so that the excess is not dumped on other countries.

Two international aid groups, Oxfam and the World Wide Fund for Nature, have produced reports to coincide with the meeting that allege sugar subsidies cost ordinary Europeans billions of dollars in higher taxes and food prices.