INTERNATIONAL

 

Sep 19 - 25, 2005

 

1.INTERNATIONAL

2. PAKISTAN

 

US TEXTILE INDUSTRY FOR NEW CURBS ON CHINA

The US textile industry clamoured on Thursday for new government safeguards against surging Chinese imports, accusing Beijing of negotiating in bad faith on a political deal to regulate the trade.
A coalition of industry organizations filed petitions with the US government demanding the renewal of nine quota safeguards covering 16 categories of Chinese textile imports through to the end of 2006.
"This is a crisis and the government has within its power the ability to help hundreds of thousands of workers and companies now," Mark Levinson, chief economist of the UNITE HERE trade union, told reporters on a conference call.

The US quotas were due to expire at the end of this year, but industry officials said there was no hope of China taking their protests seriously after high-level talks in Beijing last month failed to achieve a breakthrough.

Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, said the petitions were in line with safeguards allowed by the World Trade Organization.

"This is simply a determined effort on the part of the US industry to make sure we exercise our rights under the WTO and we prevent China from monopolizing the US market through its use of unfair trade practices," he said.

Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations, said the safeguards need to be renewed "because China is refusing to negotiate seriously on a comprehensive bilateral agreement".

"We will continue to file and re-file safeguard petitions until China is willing to come to the table and negotiate seriously," he said.

To the anger of US and European textiles producers, Chinese garment exports have rocketed since a global quota system was abolished on January 1 in line with WTO guidelines to liberalise the trade.

Nearly 400,000 US textile and apparel manufacturing jobs - 38 per cent of the total - have been lost since 2001, primarily due to a flood of subsidized Chinese clothes, the officials said.

Over the past seven months, Chinese apparel exports to the United States have rocketed by 850 million items, an average increase of 627 per cent, they said.

CHINESE VOW TO CUT TRADE SURPLUS

Mr Hu's planned US visit this month was cancelled because of Katrina.

Chinese goods pouring into the US may be countered by more exports going the opposite way after China's leader promised to take action.

President Hu Jintao promised to reduce the trade surplus as he went into talks with George W Bush in New York, where the two are to attend the World Summit.

Concern has grown among US producers at the scale of Chinese imports and limits have been put on a range of goods.

The US has threatened to impose more quotas if Chinese exports keep rising.

The European Union also has put strict limits on imports and China has been accused of undervaluing its currency to boost exports.

The tone was the right tone but the specifics and the specific commitments, that's for the follow-up

"There's no denial that our bilateral trade has developed so fast... it is inevitable that we may have some frictions," Mr Hu said.

China's leader also insisted in New York that his country was not pursuing a huge trade surplus with the US.

"We're willing to work with the [US] to take effective measures to increase China's imports from the United States," he added.

Some US firms say Chinese competition is wiping out their business, the BBC's Duncan Bartlett reports.

American shops are full of Chinese clothes, shoes and toys and the trade gap is expected to reach $200bn this year.

Our business reporter notes that when China previously said it wanted to purchase more US products, it meant hi-tech goods which the US may be wary of exporting.

BLAIR WILL 'CALL BLUFFS ON TRADE'

Tony Blair said he would not accept failure to agree reforms to alleviate poverty at a world trade gathering without a "monumental struggle".

Mr Blair pledged to start calling bluffs made on tariffs and subsidies, ahead of a World Trade Organisation meeting in Hong Kong in December.

He was speaking with campaigner Bob Geldof at the UN summit in New York.

Later Mr Blair joined former US president Bill Clinton to launch a programme aiming at tackling poverty.

The Clinton Global Initiative also aims at finding solutions to climate change and key world issues by involving politicians, business leaders, activists and academics.

Geldof said he was "not thrilled" with the progress made over pledges on debt, trade and development aid.

He gave the UN a mark of four out of ten for failing to make monumental pledges on debt, trade and development aid.

ABN AMRO 'WINS ITALY BANK BATTLE'

The long-running and scandal-hit battle for control of Italian bank Antonveneta looks set to end, with Dutch lender ABN Amro near to buying out its main rival.

ABN Amro had been up against local bank Banca Popolare Italiana (BPI), which owned 29.5% of lender Antonveneta.

BPI looked to have won the tussle, but its bid was frozen amid accusations of illegal share trades and collusion that reached as far as the Bank of Italy.

ABN Amro would become the first foreign bank to buy a major Italian lender.

BPI said it had agreed to sell its shares for 26.50 euros each, more than Antonveneta's closing price of 26.09 euros on Wednesday. The deal would value Antonveneta at close to 7.6bn euros (5.1bn; $ 9.3bn).

US ECONOMY

The US economy seems to be taking a hit from Hurricane Katrina but had solid momentum ahead of the disaster, according to reports . The Federal Reserve reported US industrial production rose a modest 0.1 per cent in August, despite a severe damage to oil, gas and refining industries in the Gulf Coast region from Hurricane Katrina.

GOLD HITS 17-YEAR HIGH

Gold prices hit the highest point for 17 years in New York trading on Thursday, owing to forecasts of higher inflation, analysts here said. On the Comex, a division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold for December delivery rose to $459.20 per ounce - the highest level since June 1988. Later the same day it stood at $458.20. On the London Bullion Market, the price of an ounce of gold rose to as high as $455.20 per ounce, the highest level for nine months.

OIL STOCKS FALL AS WINTER NEARS

Oil prices have risen amid growing fears over declining US fuel stockpiles as winter approaches.

US light sweet crude rose 35 cents to $65.44 a barrel on Thursday, while in London Brent crude was quoted 19 cents higher at $63.56 a barrel.

The US energy department weekly report showed crude oil stocks had fallen more steeply than expected, because of Hurricane Katrina's impact on output.

INSURERS BEING SUED OVER KATRINA

Five US insurance companies are being accused of trying to trick Hurricane Katrina survivors out of millions of dollars in damage payouts.

The claim has been made by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood who has launched legal proceedings.

He said representatives or adjusters for the firms had been asking policyholders to sign forms saying they sustained flood damage. Flood damage is not covered by homeowners' insurance, said Mr Hood.

OPEC HITS BACK AT BROWN COMMENTS

Oil cartel Opec has said it was "surprised" at Chancellor Gordon Brown's comments at the weekend blaming its producers for high petrol prices.

On BBC's Newsnight programme, a spokesman for Opec said the price rise was not the fault of producers, who had accelerated output in recent years. Claims that demand had outstripped supply, Opec said, were not matched by industry figures.

Opec said the call from the Chancellor for a global solution was "welcome".

But it said that everyone, producers and consuming nations, had to do their part to solve the problem.

PRE-PAY SPENDING CARD ON THE WAY

A payment card where users pay as they go is about to be launched in the UK to help those unable to secure credit.

MasterCard European and Advanced Payment solutions (APS) have teamed up to create the card which will work in a similar way to pre-paid mobile phones.

Holders will simply charge up the card with money before they use it.

Once this is done they can use the card to make cash withdrawals, buy goods and services over the internet or in High Street stores.

The new-style card will be targeted at the two million households in Britain that do not have a current account or savings account.

UK CONSUMER SPENDING REMAINS FLAT

UK retail sales for August remained unchanged on the previous month, as the Office for National Statistics revised downwards the annual figure for July.

The ONS said consumer demand remained weak but stable in August, adding that food sales had fallen during the month.

The year-on-year figures showed an 0.8% increase in sales, the weakest since May, while July's decline of 0.3% was revised to a bigger fall of 0.6%.

But underlying growth in the quarter rose 0.8%, its highest since November.

We still expect that the consumer slowdown will prompt more interest rate cuts.

B&Q TO CLOSE 22 STORES IN REVAMP

B&Q-owner Kingfisher has said it is to shut 22 of the DIY chain's stores as it faces up to what it describes as the "toughest" market conditions for years.

The firm said it would also be reducing the size of about 16 other B&Q stores.

The consumer slowdown has hit sales of DIY goods hard and earlier this month B&Q shed 400 office jobs as part of a cost-cutting drive.

Kingfisher said profits for the six months to 30 July fell to 250.8m ($456.5m) from 287.6m last year.

US INFLATION LESS THAN EXPECTED

US inflation grew less quickly than expected in August, figures have shown.

According to Labor Department data, the consumer prices rose by 0.5% in August from the month before, driven higher by surging petrol prices.

Analysts have become concerned that record crude oil prices will stoke inflation, forcing the Federal Reserve to speed up interest rate rises.

US JOBLESS CLAIMS AT 10-YEAR HIGH

US unemployment has surged in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, with the weekly rise in the number of people claiming benefits jumping to 10-year highs.

The US Labor Department said 71,000 people signed up for benefits last week - with 68,000 of those claims directly attributable to the effect of Katrina.

The increase is more than was seen after the 11 September terror attacks.

President George W Bush was expected to announce moves to help people affected by the hurricane Thursday last.

SURPRISE DECLINE IN US TRADE GAP

The US trade deficit fell slightly in July, despite a record oil import bill, the US Commerce Department reported.

The monthly trade gap narrowed by 2.6% to $57.9bn (31.8bn), surprising analysts. It fell from a revised June figure of $59.5bn.

The $18.5bn shortfall in oil trade was offset by high exports, particularly of cotton and steelmaking products.

Imports of capital goods such as computers, civilian aircraft and oilfield equipment were sharply down.

Average crude oil import prices in July hit new heights, reaching $49.03 a barrel.

Overall, US exports were $106.2bn in July, while imports declined to $154.1bn, the Commerce Department said.

Analysts said the improvement in the trade deficit was likely to be brief, since oil prices had continued to soar in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

They pointed out that the impact of the storm on US trade through Gulf of Mexico ports would not become apparent until September trade figures were issued in mid-November.

EU GOVERNMENTS TAKE FUEL ACTION

Governments across Europe are taking action to curb fuel costs amid sporadic protests about rising petrol prices.

France is to offer fuel tax rebates to farmers while President Jacques Chirac has called on petrol retailers to make meaningful cuts to pump prices.

Retailers have cut prices in Austria after the government threatened a one-off tax on their profits.

Belgium, Poland and Hungary have also announced measures to cushion the impact of rising prices on consumers.

UK UNEMPLOYMENT UP AS VACANCIES FALL

Unemployment levels in the UK have risen again, but the long-term trend is "close to flat", the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.

The government's preferred ILO measure - the number of people out of work and seeking employment - rose 12,000 to 1.42 million in the quarter to August. Those out of work and claiming benefit rose 1,600 to 866,200 last month.

PETROL FUELS RISE IN UK INFLATION

Rising petrol prices drove inflation higher in August, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures have shown.

UK consumer price index (CPI) inflation rose to 2.4% in August from 2.3% in July, the highest level since current records began eight years ago.

It is the second month running that inflation has been higher than the 2% target set by the government.

Headline retail price inflation (RPI), which includes housing costs, fell from 2.9% to 2.8% year-on-year.