In the forthcoming meeting of the G7 finance minister
would put debt relief and development issues at the top of its agenda,
Brown said, adding that this had been agreed with all the ministers from
the world's richest countries.
The meeting will also be addressed by former South
African President Nelson Mandela, who will argue the case for
comprehensive debt relief.
Anti-poverty campaigners like rock star Bono and
former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, now president of Oxfam
International, praised the UK and French finance ministers, but warned
that they would hold them to account at the end of the year.
Global Call to Action Against Poverty is supported by
a wide range of organisations, from Action Aid and the All Africa
Council of Churches to global trade unions and World Vision
The organisation even plans three action days this
year to lobby G7 governments with peaceful demonstrations.
ARGENTINA, VENEZUELA IN OIL DEAL
Argentina and Venezuela have extended a food-for-oil
deal, which helped the former to overcome a severe energy crisis last
Argentine President Nestor Kirchner and Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez signed the deal in Buenos Aires last week.
Last April, Argentina signed a $240m agreement to
import Venezuelan fuel in exchange for agricultural goods and this deal
has now been extended.
Venezuela will now import cattle, medicines and
Last year, Argentina's severe energy crisis forced
President Kirchner to suspend gas exports to Chile. Argentina fears that
rising demand could spark another crisis and wants to prevent it by
signing this deal.
The two countries also formalised a co-operation deal
between Venezuelan energy firm PDVSA and Argentina's Enarsa.
Under this deal, the Argentine market will be opened
to Venezuelan investment.
President Chavez added that Brazil's Petrobras could
join soon the co-operation deal.
President Chavez is an ardent promoter of the concept
of a South American oil company, which could include the state-owned
companies of Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia.
The two presidents also agreed to create Television
Sur, a Latin American network of state-owned television channels.
RUSSIA GETS INVESTMENT BLESSING
Soaring oil sales and a budget surplus mean Russian
debt is no longer a risky investment, one of the world's leading credit
rating agencies says.
Standard & Poor's has classed Russian bonds as
"investment grade", up from their former
Russia's reputation among investors has been hurt in
recent months by the heavy tax bills and asset seizures imposed on
companies such as oil giant Yukos.
S&P said the solidity of government finances
outweighed the risk.
Russia is now a net creditor rather than a debtor.
Gold and foreign currency reserves of $119bn beat its foreign public
debt of some $113bn.
The other two major ratings agencies — Fitch and
Moody's have long since upped their rating of Russia's sovereign debt.
EUROPE SET TO EXTEND RATE FREEZE
The cost of borrowing money in Europe looks set to
stay on hold when the European Central Bank (ECB) makes its decision on
Most economists are expecting the ECB to keep rates
at 2% for the 20th month in a row.
The standstill reflects slow European growth and high
unemployment, most notably in the giant German economy.
But it contrasts sharply with the US, which increased
rates for the sixth month in a row.
The quarter-point rise took US rates to 2.5%, and the
Federal Reserve – the US's central bank and rate-setting body –
promised more moves at a "measured pace" through 2005.
The target is expected to be 3.5%-4%, with future
decisions trying neither to stifle growth — currently running above 4%
a year — or fuel inflation.
CHINA DAM FIRM TO STOP SOME WORK
China's Three Gorges Project Corp has agreed to obey
a state order and stop work on some construction sites amid
The firm that runs the world's largest hydroelectric
project had previously refused to stop construction.
Work will now stop at an underground power station, a
supply unit on the Three Gorges Dam and a power station on its sister
Xiluodu dam. The company had been threatened with fines if it continued
Last week, China called for work to be suspended on
30 large-scale projects because they had failed to carry out proper
environmental impact checks.
China's State Environmental Protection Administration
(SEPA) said that all 30 projects "are in the midst of
MANUFACTURING RECOVERY 'SLOWING'
UK manufacturing grew at its slowest pace in
one-and-a-half years in January, according to a survey.
The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS)
said its purchasing manager index (PMI) fell to 51.8 from a revised 53.3
in December. But, despite missing forecasts of 53.7, the PMI number
remained above 50 — indicating expansion in the sector.
The CIPS said that the strong pound had dented
exports while rising oil and metals prices had kept costs high.
The survey added that rising input prices and cooling
demand had deterred factory managers from hiring new workers in an
effort to cut costs.
That triggered the second successive monthly fall in
the CIPS employment index to 48.3 - its lowest level since June 2003.
The survey is more upbeat than official figures –
which suggest that manufacturing is in recession — but analysts said
the survey did suggest that the manufacturing recovery was running out
AMAZON'S PROFITS FAIL TO IMPRESS
Shares in Amazon fell 13% in after-hours trading
after the online retailer's latest profits fell below market
Although posting a 250% rise in net fourth quarter
profits, up to $346.7m (£184m) on a year earlier, this was boosted by a
large one-off tax break.
FED INCREASES US INTEREST RATES
The Federal Reserve has raised US interest rates by a
quarter of one percent to 2.5%, its sixth rise in succession since last
The increase was widely expected and in a statement
following its two-day meeting, the Fed said the decision had been
It added that it may continue to raise rates at a
"measured pace" into 2005.
With the US economy now growing strongly, the Fed
wants this growth to continue without seeing prices rise.
ROSNEFT DENIES CHINA YUGANSK LINK
Confusion about the role of Chinese banks in the sale
of Russia's Yuganskneftegas deepened last week.
Russian state oil company Rosneft has denied that its
$6bn (£3.2bn) deal to supply oil to China is linked to its takeover of
oil giant Yugansk.
Rosneft was responding to government comments that
the Rosneft/China oil deal was payback for a $6bn Chinese loan used to
pay for Yugansk. Russia's Ministry of Finance is now distancing itself
from these comments.
NEWS CORP PROFITS GET MOVIE BOOST
Billionaire Rupert Murdoch's News Corp has reported
an 80% jump in quarterly profit, boosted by demand for films on DVD and
advertising on its TV channels.
Net income in the three months ending 31 December
totalled $386m (£205m) from $215m a year earlier. It also predicted
that profits would rise in 2005.
FIVE MILLION GERMANS OUT OF WORK
Germany's unemployment figure rose above the
psychologically important level of five million last month.
The German Federal Labour Agency said the jobless
total had reached 5.037 million in January, which takes the jobless rate
SUBSCRIBER GROWTH BOOST FOR BSKYB
Satellite TV firm BSkyB has reported a
better-than-expected rise in subscriber numbers and strong profits
BSkyB lifted its half-year profits to £250m ($470m)
from £204m last year while revenues rose 10% to £1.9bn.
ETHIOPIA'S CROP PRODUCTION UP 24%
Ethiopia produced 14.27 million tonnes of crops in
2004, 24% higher than in 2003 and 21% more than the average of the past
five years, a report says.
In 2003, crop production totalled 11.49 million
tonnes, the joint report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation and
the World Food Programme said.
Good rains, increased use of fertilizers and improved
seeds contributed to the rise in production. Nevertheless, 2.2 million
Ethiopians will still need emergency assistance.
TOYOTA'S PROFIT DRIVE CONTINUES
Profits at Japanese carmaker Toyota are rising
despite pressure from a rising yen and more expensive raw materials.
The firm reported a net profit in the three months to
December of 296.5bn yen ($2.85bn; £1.51bn), up 3.5% from 2003.
Toyota, the fourth-biggest car firm in the world,
said sales rose 5.9%, with gains in market share worldwide.
RICE WARNS EU OVER CHINA ARMS BAN
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has warned
Europe against sending "the wrong signal" to China by ending
an arms embargo on the country.
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said last week the
European Union could drop the embargo within six months.
It was imposed in 1989 after Chinese troops opened
fire on protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
Washington has warned that if the blockade is lifted,
China could embark on an arms-buying spree.
The US fears any weapons it buys could be used to
threaten Taiwan, which Beijing considers as a renegade province of
The EU decided in December against lifting the
embargo immediately, but the proposal is still under discussion. France
and Germany, both major arms exporters, back the move to lift sanctions.
ADVERTISING REVENUE BOOSTS GOOGLE
Google has thanked strong advertising revenues over
the Christmas period for a seven-fold rise in quarterly profits.
The world's most popular Internet search engine
achieved net profits of $204.1m (£108m) in the three months to
MEXICAN EMIGRANTS SEND $16BN HOME
Mexican labourers living in the US sent a record
$16.6bn (£8.82bn) home last year.
The Bank of Mexico said that remittances grew 24%
last year and now represent the country's second-biggest source of
income after oil.
Better records and greater prosperity of Mexican
expatriates in the US are the main reasons behind the increase.
About 10 million Mexicans live in the US, where there
are 16 million citizens of Mexican origin.
Remittances now represent more than 2% of the
country's GDP, according to the Bank of Mexico's figures.
BMW TO RECALL FAULTY DIESEL CARS
BMW is to recall all cars equipped with a faulty
diesel fuel-injection pump supplied by parts maker Robert Bosch.
The company said the faulty part does not represent a
safety risk and the recall only affects pumps made in December and
BMW added that it was too early to say how many cars
were affected or how much the recall would cost.
WTO BOSS PUSHES FOR TRADE DEAL
The much-delayed deal to liberalise global trade
could be struck by the end of 2006, the director general of the World
Trade Organisation (WTO) has said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum
in Davos last week, Supachai Panitchpakdi urged countries to work
"as hard as possible" and give clear commitments by the
The so-called Doha round of trade talks has been
dead-locked for years, with industrialised and developing countries
squabbling mainly over subsidies and tariff barriers for agricultural
A summit of the 148 WTO members in Hong Kong in
December is supposed to agree a draft deal, but many observers believe
that a breakthrough is unlikely before 2007.