BEACON Business Economy And Commerce Online News Fri, 11 Apr 2014 08:36:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Taiwan to Ease Visa Process to Promote Business with Hong Kong Mon, 13 Sep 2010 22:05:55 +0000 Continue reading]]> In a bid to boost trade ties with Hong Kong, Taiwan plans to simplify procedures for visa issuance for Hong Kong citizens in the near future, the Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan said on Monday. Lai expressed this at a meeting with the visiting highest ranking official from Hong Kong, John Tsang – Financial Secretary and honorary member of Hong Kong council.

During a meeting in Taipei to promote economic and cultural co-operation between Taiwan and Hong Kong Lai told civilian exchanges between Taiwan and Hong Kong had largely contributed to lay firm foundation for economic co-operation between the two sides. While Tsang who was on a four-day visit to Taiwan for the first bilateral talks said there should be more such high level exchanges to strengthen the ties.

Both countries are understood to have agreed to co-operate further in the areas of air transport, double taxation avoidance, tourism, health, culture and education. The meeting between the top officials from both sides is regarded as a major step forward in thawing of China-Taiwan relations. The meeting was part of the deal which Taiwan signed with mainland China in June.

Hong Kong is Taiwan’s fourth-largest trade partner, and two-way trade and the number of travelers between the two sides are expected to reach $38.8bn and 3mn respectively. The number of China-based Taiwanese businesses listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange has reached 60, and some leading Taiwanese companies now consider Hong Kong as the main place for raising business capital.

Lai pointed out that to lay emphasis on promoting civilian exchanges between the two sides, the government last year relaxed employment restrictions on Hong Kong students, allowing them to enroll in graduate programs after graduating from local universities, and also began extending the duration of stay on visas for Hong Kong-based Chinese citizens visiting Taiwan. However, she admitted there were still some areas which require special attention to extract full result out of the trade ties with Hong Kong.

Lai was of the opinion that an announcement would be made soon on simplification of visa procedures for Hong Kong visitors. Besides Tsang, the meeting was also attended by Taiwan-Hong Kong Economic and Cultural Co-operation Council (ECCC) Chairman Lin Chen-kuo and its Hong Kong counterpart, the Hong Kong-Taiwan Economic and Cultural Co-operation and Promotion Council (ECCPC) Lee Y.

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Investment Threshold Makes Ghana No Entry for Businesses Mon, 13 Sep 2010 21:51:15 +0000 Continue reading]]> An analysis on investments in Ghana finds that an old law is restricting foreign investments to that country as it prescribes unreasonable minimum investment limit while leaving out domestic ones from the legal periphery. The business entities mainly run by the Nigerian traders claim that their businesses are being targeted on the basis of an obsolete decree that stipulates minimum investment of $30,000.

According to GhanaWeb, Ghana’s investment rules can protect some indigenous businesses against some foreign companies in the short term, and to the detriment of consumers, but this is dwarfed by the economic loss it will cause in the medium to long term. It said the protected local industries and businesses produced inferior goods and were unable to compete on price as they had little incentive to increase productivity, and gave few options to the consumers.

It also suggests that business and trade restrictions make Ghanaian consumers suffer higher prices and undermine sustainable, widespread economic growth. It further indicates that Ghana must evaluate the implications of investment limit since Ghana itself is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

On the contrary, earlier this month, Hanna S. Tetteh, Ghana Minister of Trade and Industry had said that “Now as far as businesses between Ghana and Nigeria are concerned, again from our point of view, we do not have a problem. The issue has been a misrepresentation of the legal position as it stands with regards to business.” She further added that some regulations were in place to protect jobs and petty businesses of the locals.

Despite the obstacles, trade between Nigeria and Ghana in recent years has quadrupled to $525mn in 2008 – but mainly consists of oil. Nigeria earned $89mn in non-oil exports to Ghana (out of $500mn overall exports), while Ghana’s exports to Nigeria reached $25mn. Nonetheless, Nigerians have investments of nearly $6bn in Ghana, boosting jobs, creating wealth and bolstering taxable revenue. According to the Africa Economic Outlook report 2010, only 10 percent of the continent’s total exports are traded within Africa: trade barriers between African nations are the highest in the world.

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Country in Conundrum of Siding Whom Leaves Citizens Starving Mon, 13 Sep 2010 21:23:58 +0000 Continue reading]]> Despite relative success of reaping decent harvest after the worst violence interfered with the first of the two crops of the year in June, the farmers in Southern Kyrgyzstan are at the crossroads for finding buyers for their produce. As reported by TOBOC in June, Kyrgyzstan remains to require hands off reconciliation from the US and Russia to breathe easy as trade is often influenced by political state of affairs as well as policies of any country.

According to EurasiaNet, Kyrgyz farmers are experiencing their worst nightmare since they are not able to sell their produce after Kazakhstan closed borders, and the unsold potatoes are rotting away and depriving them of money to buy food. Farmers are desperate to sell the potatoes even for a loss, and many believe the problems they are facing today are direct fallout of the ethnic violence that rocked the country two months ago.

A farmer said that the price per kilo potato has crashed by more than half from what it was last year. The potatoes are priced at 14 cents but are selling at 10 cents though they received more than 30 cents in 2009.

Furthermore, a new customs union connecting Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus is also seemed to be creating difficulty in getting goods across the borders. The Union is understood to have increased the tariffs by three times, making Kyrgyz products dearer in the new bloc’s markets.

The UN Development Program (UNDP) told that the only way to reboot the Kyrgyz economy was by making the borders open for trade, at least Uzbekistan. Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished Central Asian state hosting Russian and the US military air bases, expects the economy to shrink by 5 percent.

However, the World Food Program, the UN agency said it was preparing to bolster its operations in the country, where almost 350,000 more people might soon be in need of food. It also informed the threat stems from rising foods prices, a poor harvest, and the onset of winter.

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Dubai Free Zone Firms Pick up Pace on Global Recovery Cues Mon, 13 Sep 2010 21:14:44 +0000 Continue reading]]> The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry in its latest release said that the firms within Dubai’s free zones had traded $30.5bn worth of exports and re-exports last year to register a whopping 40.7 percent growth in 2009. Thus proving the world that Dubai is one of the business centers which has woken up from the global economic slumber sparked off by financial crisis in the US three years ago.

The Gulf News reported about $41.5bn worth of imports or 32.6 percent of Dubai’s total imports — valued at $85.5bn — were carried out by companies in the free zones in 2009. Dubai houses around 20 free zones with more than 20,000 companies, and major imports, exports and re-exports happen via Jebel Ali Free Zone, Technopark and Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZ).

Albeit Dubai does not produce oil as compared to other key trade centers in the Middle East to fuel the economy, it relies solely on various business processes of exim trade. Dubai free trade zones are understood to have grown largely owing to its transit point status between growing economies of Asia and Africa as well as plunging into free zone strategy much early on.

Dubai’s first free zone was launched in the early 1980s when the government commissioned Jebel Ali port — now the main trading hub of the Middle East. The free zones across the globe have prospered mainly due to the possibilities of having controlling stake in investments and repatriable revenue generation opportunities.

And Dubai is case in point to it as foreigners can own 100 percent stake in companies within the free zones. It should be noted the UAE’s Commercial Companies Law restricts foreign investment in private companies to 49 percent and foreigners cannot do business without a local partner except at free zones.

Last week, DAFZ said it had recorded a 63 percent jump in sale during the first half of this year while Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone reported that 785 companies have already registered for businesses during the first half of the year. Hamad Bu Amim, Director General of Dubai Chamber, said, “Dubai’s free zones are a major source of attraction for global companies and firms due to the many advantages they offer to investors looking for all the benefits of operating in the designated free zone areas.”

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Dolphin Exports from Solomons Invite Protest – Trader Defends Sale Sat, 11 Sep 2010 05:18:22 +0000 Continue reading]]> The dolphin trading by one of the Solomon Islands’ exporter has not gone well with a leading animal right organization. Solomons dolphin activist Lawrence Makili who is the Earth Island Institute’s Pacific Regional Director has told AAP that despite the institute’s tireless efforts to end the live trade, one dolphin dealer had retarded the momentum.

But Francis Chow, a local businessman who is blamed for restraining and stressing out eight dolphins in a tiny shallow pool for six months informed that his park was neither killing nor breaking any laws on dolphin trade rather exporting them to marine parks in Australia or the US. In response to the protest, Chow said the hypocrite protestors should stop driving Japanese cars, and should harass the Japanese whalers.

However, Chow seemed to be unaware of the fact the people behind the protest played a part to delay Japanese dolphin or whaling hunt last season. Renowned dolphin activist and member of Earth Island Institute’s Marine Mammal Team Ric O’Barry along with his son Lincoln O’Barry exposed the world to the shocking truth of slaughter of thousands of dolphins in Japan in an award winning documentary called ‘The Cove’ last year.

Despite opposition from both the Australian and New Zealand governments, Solomons dolphins are captured and sold to aquariums, marine parks and even hotels around the world, often fetching as much as $200,000. The Earth Island Institute’s effort to stop dolphin trade is believed to have converted the so-called ‘Darth-Vader’ of the Solomons’ dolphin trade, the Canadian Chris Porter from a seller to a savior.

Makili said the Solomons government once banned the trade but now, in the pursuit of much-needed revenue, ignored directives by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Though Solomons government allows about 50 from the earlier quota of 100 dolphins, the CITES recommends just 10 numbers.

Some Solomon Islanders still hunt dolphins for food and use their teeth for traditional ‘shell money’ but since 2003 they have also been hunted to exploit the lucrative live export market. The documentary ‘The Cove’ had exposed the senseless annual slaughter of approximately 20,000 dolphins at the remote Taiji, Japan.

The O’Barry father-son combine is showcasing another mini-series on massive ecological crimes happening worldwide. The Animal Planet on August 27, 2010 would be airing a three-part mini-series titled “Blood Dolphins”, and would highlight how the tiny nation of nearly 1,000 islands in the South Pacific has emerged as a major challenge in the blood trade of wild dolphins.

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Thailand Urges its Investors and Exporters to Cash in on Brazil Sat, 11 Sep 2010 05:04:20 +0000 Continue reading]]> The Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) has suggested that the country should capitalize on business opportunities in South America, particularly Brazil as the Latin America leading economy is preparing to host 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. The TCC through a survey has identified prospective sectors including furniture, food, plastics, spa products, herbs, auto parts and construction materials for Thai trade exploration in Brazil and elsewhere in the region.

Somkiat Anuras, vice-chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) said that Brazil along with other Latin American countries offered Thailand great potential, its vast population and resources as well as high purchasing power. Anuras who travelled with a trade delegation led by Thailand Trade Representative Vachara Panchet last month to Brazil and Panama added that most Thai exporters still remained reluctant to tap into the region despite immense opportunities.

The chamber has recently modified it projections on Thai exports to the Latin America region by $7.5bn for this year from $5bn. While the earlier forecast between this year and 2015 was $10bn but latest release says those figures could go up to $15bn per annum in the coming years.

The TCC vice chairman said as the world was eager to trade with Brazil owing to its growing economic status, the chamber was not far behind to take stock of the situation. While Brazil, South America’s biggest economy and the world’s eighth largest, commences work on 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, the chamber regards that it may provide opportunities for Thai contractors and souvenir producers.

Anuras opines that the Thai investors must forge joint ventures with the Brazilian infrastructure developers to derive infrastructure building opportunities which will be surfacing with the preparation of two mega sporting events. Brazil is expected to spend billions of dollars for add on construction of basic infrastructure, buildings, offices and residences as well as sports arenas, hospitals, hotels and shopping complexes.

Last year, Thailand exported chiefly, automobiles and parts, rubber and machinery to Brazil US$1.22bn worth goods. Although the bilateral trade accrued a trade deficit of $880mn against Thailand due to imports totaling $2.1bn, Brazil still remains the largest trade partner of Thailand in the region.

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Switzerland Prepares for a Historic FTA with China Tue, 17 Aug 2010 19:28:19 +0000 Continue reading]]> The Swiss President Doris Leuthard’s week-long visit to China is likely to make Switzerland once again a first mover from Europe to sign an FTA with China as it had established diplomatic ties 60 years ago. The Swiss Embassy to China apprised Global Times that the FTA talks were officially launched.

Leuthard, who ended a six-day working visit to China on Sunday, had said that the feasibility study which began in 2009 had covered all potential areas of trade. Sun Xiaolan, assistant to the Commerce Department of the Swiss Embassy to China said on Monday the FTA talks had officially kicked off.

Although Sun did not disclose the detail of the initial talks but confirmed that Switzerland would soon be the first European country to conclude an FTA with China, as it was with Japan in 2009. Switzerland has the distinction of becoming one of the first Western countries to establish diplomatic relations with China, today to transform itself into a major trading partner from the region.

The top Chinese legislator Wu Bangguo, while he met Leuthard had said the two nations could explore new ways to better combine Swiss technology with the Chinese market. Similarly, the Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said the country had ‘enormous demand’ for Swiss products relating to environmental protection, energy conservation and emissions reduction.

Switzerland is China’s ninth largest European trade partner, while China is Switzerland’s fourth largest global trade partner. In the first half of this year, bilateral trade jumped 127 percent, and China’s imports from Switzerland increased 180 percent compared to the same time last year.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, bilateral trade between China and Switzerland topped $11.3bn in 2008, and slightly dropped to $10.18bn in 2009, with $5.28bn of Swiss exports and $4.9bn imports from China.

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Philippines is after Casino Biz amid Opposition Fri, 13 Aug 2010 11:08:55 +0000 Continue reading]]> The Philippines aims to become Asia’s next big gambling hub by building casinos and related entertainment zones across the country amid controversy. According to Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), an “Entertainment City” will come up in Manila to rival Macau and Singapore, the regional titans in the gambling trade, and is expected to be completed by 2014.

Nancy Reyes Lumen, Editor in Chief of Cook Magazine in her blog claimed that last week’s church sermons peppered the new government’s policy by making a clarion call – “No to Casinos, no to resorts, no to motels, no to Shabu (meth/illegal drugs).” While the Philippines Inquirer reported that “The lure of easy money is being promoted by some very powerful men”.

It is feared that these gambling centres may become focal point of other “shadow” industries common to casino culture. The blog added that illegal recruiters were on the prowl to lure hapless poor girls (and boys), offering jobs as maids or entertainers, eventually landing them in flesh trade.

Cristino Naguiat, chairman of the PAGCOR informed AFP on Tuesday “We are way behind Macau and Singapore in terms of the casino industry… (but) we would like to be positioned right at the top.” He also revealed that “Like other Asian gambling industries, the Philippines wants to tap into the vast mainland Chinese market.”

The new government of President Benigno Aquino, which took office on June 30, has suspended issuing fresh licenses to casinos giving free hand to existing operators in the country to monopolistically control the gambling industry. There are four licensees, and each is required to spend at least one billion dollars in developing the ambitious Entertainment City.

The four licenses to build the Entertainment City on reclaimed land along Manila Bay were awarded in 2008 under the former President Gloria Arroyo. The moment the government announced its decision to exploit revenue generation through gambling, the shares of the licensees hit new highs in the stock market.

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Trade Overtures by Brazil to Arab World Pay Huge Dividends Thu, 12 Aug 2010 09:21:24 +0000 Continue reading]]> According to the recent data released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply of Brazil indicate that the country’s exports to the Arab region have increased by leaps and bounds. Brazil’s agri-business has posted 40 percent growth in yearly month on month basis to the Arab world which includes Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Algeria and Jordan.

Brazilian agricultural exports reached $ 7.33bn in July, representing growth of 16.6 percent as compared to the same month last year. With a similar yardstick, the sales to the Arab countries grew by almost 40 percent, a growth rate second only to shipments to the Latin American Integration Association (Aladi) member states.

The data shows that four countries from the Arab region have featured in the list of leading 20 export destinations of Brazil. They are – Iran at 5th place behind China, the US, the Netherlands and Russia, and Saudi Arabia in the 10th position, Egypt at13th and the UAE at No.17 appeared on the new list.

Over the past few years’ trade between Brazil and Arab countries have witnessed enormous growth after Lula administration reached out to the Arab world in a stand out manner. It should be recalled the Brazil’s Minister of Agriculture Wagner Rossi informed last month that “President Lula holds the Arab countries in very high esteem. Our trade relations are increasing and will surely develop a lot, because we are complementary economies.”

Brazilian agribusiness exports to the Arab countries increased by 17.2 percent in the first half of 2010 over the same period of 2009, having gone from $2.9bn to $3.4bn. The most shipped products to the Arab region were sugar and meat, whose combined sales constituted 84 percent of Brazilian agribusiness exports.

Last month’s Brazilian exports of sugar and ethanol recorded growth of 44.3 percent, meat at 22.4 percent, forestry products 21.9 percent, coffee 32.4 percent, leathers 31.7 percent and livestock 65 percent. In the first two quarters, export revenues totalled $ 42.3bn, 12.1 percent more than of the same period of last year. The highlights pointed out by the ministry include greater exports to two Arab countries – Egypt 54.4 percent and the UAE 22 percent. While imports from the region, largely fertilizers, too recorded huge growth at $ 1.13bn, a rise of 42 percent over the same month of 2009.

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US Trade Delegation Makes SOS Trip to Columbia Wed, 11 Aug 2010 15:41:12 +0000 Continue reading]]> More than 100 industrialists from the US are touring Columbia to identify potential areas of trade, and maximize their business prospects under the new regime before it is too late as the new president of Columbia is equi-distant in ideology with all schools of thoughts in the Americas. Juan Manual Santos, the 59th president of Colombia, though had vowed to continue his predecessor’s business-friendly economic policies, which had a US-centric face, the delay in the US-Columbia FTA is feared to surrender business to other players in the region.

Already the recently concluded Canada-Columbia FTA has adversely impacted the US wheat exports. The agreement has given Canada an immediate price advantage over the US wheat, which hitherto enjoyed a dominant market share in Columbia. The thaw in Columbia-Venezuela ties with a visit by Santos to Venezuela signals that the number of players in the Columbian marketplace is bound to rise rapidly in the coming days.

The business team is understood to have held meetings with the Bogota Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Commerce; and would proceed to Cali, Medellin, Barranquilla, the coffee region, and other key industrial areas of the country. The US commercial representative in Colombia, Margaret Hanson earlier had expressed a desire to see the stalled FTA between Colombia and the US ratified since the Latin American nation already had open access to the US market for almost all its products but the US did not have backwards – so in terms of common sense, it was hoped that the FTA should happen soon.

Likewise, Colombia’s new ambassador to the US Gabriel Silva said that one of his first tasks would be to kick-start the FTA talks, and added that his country regarded itself as an economic force in the medium term as Colombia’s exports were put at $40bn. The trade deal, which involves the reduction of customs duties and other obstacles to trade, was signed by the former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the former US President George Bush in 2006. While Colombia’s Congress was quick to pass the treaty, the Obama administration has yet to ratify it.

During his presidential election campaign, Barack Obama opposed approving a trade deal with the Andean nation since crimes against the Colombian trade-union leaders remained unprosecuted. As president, Obama has expressed a willingness to push the deal through, provided that Colombia meets certain human rights conditions.

Colombia is believed to provide scope for investments in sectors including plastics, textiles and food stuff. According to Hanson, the delegation comprises of representatives from the security sector, construction, food, plastics, and also a financier who funds companies, particularly the SMEs.

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China Okays Iran Sanctions – Yet Holds Trade with Impunity Wed, 11 Aug 2010 11:51:15 +0000 Continue reading]]> The recent sanctions against Iran hammered out by the US and like-minded countries targeting energy and banking sectors have become more blatantly farcical when China resumed oil trade with Iran even after the embargo came into effect. Desperate moves by Tehran to forge ties with China, the second largest oil consumer, indicate that the latter would be in a position to fish in troubled waters in the absence of competition from energy-starved nations following sanctions.

Iran’s Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi met the Chinese vice Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing last week, and agreed on enhancing relations between the two nations, especially in the oil and gas sector. Li Keqiang is reported to have told the visiting Iranian oil minister that Beijing would maintain co-operation with Tehran on existing projects.

It should be recalled that last month, the Deputy Oil Minister Hossein Noghrekar Shirazi told the state-run Mehr news agency the Chinese companies were already involved in energy exploration and production projects in Iran worth about $29bn, and in refining and related activities at about $10bn.

Interestingly, some reports say that even Russia is not far behind China in cashing in on Iran embargo. Rajab Safarov, head of the Iran Commission of the Moscow Chamber of Commerce and Industry informed Russian companies were discussing “serious deliveries” to Iran in late August or September.

The US and the EU had made repeated requests to China and Russia to comprehensively honor sanctions against Iran. However, despite approval to sanctions both countries have differences on the scale of punitive measures slapped on nuclear interests of Iran.

“Sanctions are not considered an effective tool… and they will only complicate the situation” was the reaction from foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast last month as quoted by the state news agency IRNA. Likewise, Mirkazemi has also told at that point “European oil companies has no presence (in Iran’s energy sector) and so they cannot have any impact on us”, in a response to the EU’s recent oil sanctions.

If China and Russia continue trade with Iran, sanctions not only become meaningless but also jeopardize business prospects of other countries, including that of India which has massive ongoing and some in the pipeline oil trade deals with Iran. Bloomberg reported sanctions were forcing refiners such as India’s Reliance Industries to pay higher costs to ship gasoline to more distant markets. According to Simpson, Spence & Young Ltd., the world’s second-largest shipbroker, India to the US shipping costs, at $1.9mn, are almost five times higher than those to the Persian Gulf.

“It’s boom time for Russian and Chinese oil traders,” said Michael Swangard, a London-based international trade lawyer at Clyde & Co., which counts BP and Lloyds of London among its clients. It’s “practically impossible” for Europeans to buy Iran’s oil or sell it, he said.

According to Chinese customs data, in the first half of 2010, Iran held its place as China’s third biggest supplier of crude with shipments of 9mn tons of oil, putting it behind Saudi Arabia and Angola.

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Aviation Industry Lengthens Trajectory in Africa Mon, 09 Aug 2010 16:52:35 +0000 Continue reading]]> Renewed confidence in the African economic renaissance, most international airlines are on an expansion mode in the African continent to meet the growing demands of a prospective travel and freight market. The stupendous rebound of Africa from the global economic mess, which devastated aviation industry the most, is regarded as the major reason for the industry to make Africa central to their business growth of late.

George Mawadri, British Airways’ commercial manager in Kenya told the Business Daily that “There are great opportunities in Africa and we are eyeing the region keenly.” Likewise, Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank’s chief economist for Africa, had said in April, “Although Africa was the hardest hit by the crisis, its recovery has been so remarkable that we could be at the beginning of what history will describe as Africa’s decade.”

Major carriers such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, British Airways, Brussels, Lufthansa, Turkish Airline, Swiss International, and Delta have been introducing new African routes on their networks and increasing frequency to tap into the raising economic profile of Africa. In addition to the oversees airlines, domestic airlines like Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways, Egypt Air and the Royal Air Morocco have been increasing their presence in the region and connecting their hubs to other international routes.

This July Belgian airline, Brussels, launched four new African destinations to its network — Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo — and increased frequency to Ivory Coast. Emirates with 19 cities in its network and Qatar Airways with similar strong presence in the continent clearly indicate the Middle Eastern airlines will make at least many African cities as a stopover location to extend their airprint to other far-off international destinations.

Africa overcame the meltdown contrary to many forecasts including that of the World Bank, and it is estimated, at this pace of recovery, an economic growth of about 5 percent by the end of this year. Furthermore, in 2011, half of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies are expected to be in Africa.

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Australian Opposition Unfurls Trade Map Ahead of Polls Mon, 09 Aug 2010 16:44:41 +0000 Continue reading]]> The Nationals’ leader Warren Truss revealed that a Coalition government at the centre would restore funding to exporters and appoint an ambassador for trade reforms and specialist trade representatives for Australia’s manufacturing and service Industries. An Abbott government would increase the EMDG cap to AUD 200mn from July 1, 2011, restoring an AUD $50mn shortfall caused by Labour government mismanagement, he added.

Truss’ announcement gains prominence following a recent pre-poll survey gave a slight edge for the Coalition to form the next government of Australia. An opinion poll of Newspoll, a market research firm, commissioned by The Australian newspaper has found that the opposition Liberals leading 52 percent to 48 percent over the ruling Labour.

Truss was echoing similar trade plans which the Australian Opposition Leader Tony Abbott announced on Monday for the tourism industry of the country. Abbot declared a Coalition government would spend an extra AUD $90mn (US$82mn) to help attract visitors to Australia.

The tourism package includes an AUD $40mn (US$36mn) fund that would provide grants of up to AUD $100,000 to build infrastructure for tourism projects.

Another AUD $14mn fund would provide grants to tourism organizations in regional areas. Tourism Research Australia will also be provided with AUD $8mn to identify emerging trends and gaps in the market, to make the industry to become more sustainable.

The Coalition sees tourism a niche business to Australia as the industry employs close to 500,000 people and earns AUD $24bn in export earnings. The Opposition has also allocated AUD $27mn for Regional Medical Workforce Plan to increase the number of doctors, nurses and dentists in regional and remote areas of Australia.

Truss said the Coalition would appoint an ambassador for trade reform to promote global trade reform and re-establish the Trade Advisory Council abolished by the Labour. He clarified that the Coalition’s highest trade priority would be the Doha round of negotiations towards freer world trade, but it would vigorously pursue FTA with China, Japan, Malaysia, the GCC, South Korea and Indonesia.

All details on future plans for trade and industry by the Opposition were laid out during the election campaigns, and were loaded with the Ruling’s inefficiencies and inequities. Australia’s general elections will be held on 21 of this month.

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Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan Sign Quadripartite FTA Sun, 08 Aug 2010 02:50:06 +0000 Continue reading]]> Turkey will join an economic bloc comprising of the Middle Eastern states such as Syria, Lebanon and Jordan ahead of the protracted accession to the EU. Last weekend, the four nations jointly agreed to follow up on creating a free trade zone to boost trade exchanges particularly to support SMEs of respective countries by eliminating trade barriers.

The Turkish Foreign Trade Minister Zafer Çaglayan hosted the meeting, and was attended by the Syrian Economy and Trade Minister Lamia Assi, the Jordanian Minister of Industry and Trade Amir al-Hadidi and the Lebanese Economy and Trade Minister Mohammad Safadi. The meet decided to form a committee, the Close Neighbors Economic and Trade Partnership Council (CNETAC) to further its cause.

The committee will work on to sketch a roadmap to determine priorities regarding areas of co-operation, and will hold its first meeting in September in Amman, Jordan. The meet further informed that a follow-up of the CNETAC ministerial meeting would be held in the Syrian capital of Damascus in December.

Çaglayan apprised that the goal of the bloc would be to increase and diversify trade and investments among the four countries by creating a liberal trade and investment environment with a modern infrastructure at the international level, free from all tariff and non-tariff barriers, encompassed by a geography which fed a population of 105mn and, as of 2009, had a combined GDP of $723bn, imports amounted to $176bn and exports to $131bn.

In response, Lamia Assi said a Syrian market worth $300bn was awaiting Turkey, and the country could achieve a 40 percent advantage in trade with other Arab countries including Saudi Arabia by sending goods via Syria as her state enjoyed customs-free with Arab nations due to the Arab Free Trade Agreement.

According to the Turkish Trade Minister, the bilateral trade between Turkey and Syria is $795mn three years ago, but is $1.8bn by 2009.

Turkey’s proximity to the Middle Eastern countries has had invited criticisms from some quarters that the country was shifting its axis by turning away from the West and gradually becoming more of a Middle Eastern state. Çaglayan rebutted the argument by saying that Turkey’s axis was with the world but not region-centric.

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Tourism Primed to Spur Economic Growth of UK for a Decade Mon, 02 Aug 2010 18:20:40 +0000 Continue reading]]> The finding of a report on the UK tourism industry reveals that the tourism revenue of the country is set to rise by more than 60 percent to £188bn by 2020, and one of the main draws of the next decade includes the 2012 Olympic Games. An independent report by Deloitte and Oxford Economics for VisitBritain, the tourism board of the UK estimates that the industry will grow at a rate of 3.5 percent per annum creating jobs from 264,000 to 2.89mn during the ten-year period.

The report has also discovered that the ‘culture and heritage’ of the country in the widest sense – extending from theatres, galleries, to pubs, Premiership Football, castles and stately homes – generated £4.6bn in total spending by overseas tourists in 2009. It said Britain’s Monarchy played a pivotal role in making the country magnetic to foreign tourists by recording well over £500mn during the same period.

Last year, out of 30mn overseas tourists, 5.8mn visited a castle, 5mn a historic house and 6.4mn chose to visit a religious monument such as a cathedral. The Tower of London was most popular and received about 2.4mn tourists last year, an increase of 11 percent from the previous year.

Christopher Rodrigues of VisitBritain argued that it was clear that tourism, already Britain’s fifth largest industry and third biggest earner of foreign exchange, was going to be central to the health of the British economy for years to come. On the contrary, UKinbound, which manages inbound tourism of Britain, has challenged the findings of the report, claiming it painted an unrealistic rosy picture.

However, the report too reminds of the significance of government intervention for the success of the tourism industry as there is a host of market barriers need to be addressed. They include co-ordinating the marketing of SMEs that cannot afford to do it themselves, empowering of rural firms faced with higher costs of operating to adopt new technology, and to support many districts across the country that rely on tourism as a key source of jobs for low-skilled and part-time workers.

UKinbound chief executive Mary Rance had stated “With no plans to increase capacity at Heathrow or any other London airport and in the absence of a strategy to restore the competitiveness of the UK as a destination by addressing the barriers to growth, it is fantasy to suggest that such huge growth is attainable.”

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Cambodia Garment Strike Spotlights on Labor Rights Fri, 30 Jul 2010 14:08:01 +0000 Continue reading]]> The wraith of global meltdown is still resonating in some form or the other in most outsourcing dependent countries. The recent Cambodia garment workers’ strike turns out to be a perfect case in point to the premise.

On Tuesday, the Cambodian police with riot gears thwarted a week-long strike sparked off by the suspension of a union official at a Malaysian-owned garment factory, which produced goods for international brands including Gap, Benetton, Adidas and Puma. It has been reported that the clashes between more than 100 armed police force and 3,000 garment workers in Phnom Penh had resulted in nine women being hurt, though authorities maintain the operations did not hurt anyone.

The BBC’s Guy De Launey in Phnom Penh says the unrest could be a symptom of a wider social malaise owing to dwindling orders in Cambodia’s crucial garment industry which resulted in tens of thousands of job losses. Early this month, government increased the minimum wage from about $50 to $60, but the double-digit inflation and the trade unions demands of above $80 seemed to be bogging down the effect.

Albeit the unions retracted from a three-day general strike in protest against the meagre rise, the union official’s suspension is believed to have aggravated the situation. But last week’s Huffington Post report interpreted these strikes as a knee-jerk reaction to irrational calibration of wages by the outsourcing firms or associated agencies.

Interestingly, in last week’s blog by Auret van Heerden, President and CEO of the Fair Labour Association visualizes firms that build strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes into their operations and culture would have the edge in many markets. Nevertheless, evidences show such practices by firms are beyond procurement principles as it solely reckons pricing and related aspects devoid of labour rights – especially post-meltdown.

Cambodia’s textile industry accounts for around 85 percent of exports, and is the country’s third-largest source of income after tourism and agriculture. The Southeast Asian state continues to be in the grip of labour problems particularly after the global economic crisis that bombed exports severely to create an economic landscape of joblessness – and desertion of production units by the employers.

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Staunch Trade Ties Do Not Vouch Chinese to Invest in N-Korea Wed, 28 Jul 2010 04:31:02 +0000 Continue reading]]> A Chinese trade expert in an interview to the Global Times, a Chinese newspaper and arm of People’s Daily told many Chinese companies had lost money while trading and investing in North Korea as the country often changed its policies. Gao Xinli, a professor of international economy and trade at Eastern Liaoning University divulged this during an exclusive to the GT.

While responding to the GT reporter Li Yanjie’s query about the investment environment in N Korea, Gao said North Korea had low credibility. However, he admitted though in the short term there was a high level of risk, but in the long term Chinese companies might benefit from investing there.

The history of Sino-North Korean trade dates back to 1954 as China’s Ministry of Foreign Trade, as it was then known, approved border trade between both sides in regards to local residents’ demands for food items. At that time, China’s main exports to North Korea were clothes, paper, textile pigments and other light industry products, and China imported seafood and fruits from the North.

Between 1971 and 1981the trade was interrupted, it got revived since 1982 to hit a trade volume of about $540,000, and grew manifold to reach at around $52.08mn in 1989. According to the Dandong statistics department, the trade volume between Dandong, the main border province and North Korea increased from $15.39mn to $314mn between 1990 and 2004.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the bilateral trade accounted for only 11.6 percent of North Korea’s total foreign trade volume. But by mid-1990s, the border trade reached around 30 percent of North Korea’s total foreign trade volume. However, North Korea’s economy went through a recession during the latter half of 1990s, causing slide in trade.

Gao further added that since 2001, Sino-North Korean trade volume had grown rapidly due to two reasons, one being economic sanctions, and other as China needed the Korean mineral resources in exchange of food. According to the statistics from China’s Ministry of Commerce, by 2007, the two-way trade has reached 41.71 percent of North Korea’s total foreign trade volume.

Although the recent accidental killings of three Chinese by the North Korean border guards have earned nation-wide ire from the people of China, the ties seemed to be strong as North Korean administration is purportedly willing to reciprocate to any Chinese call amicably. Furthermore, Pyongyang has no option other than yield to any kind of Chinese pressure, if applied, as it is hugely dependent on China in diplomatic and trading needs.

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Your Drink Can Help Some Farmers Get Living Wages Tue, 27 Jul 2010 10:51:16 +0000 Continue reading]]> TransFair USA, a non-profit organization and a third-party certifier of Fair Trade (FT) products in the US has now launched FT-labelled vodka which ensures farmers from Bolivia to fetch commensurate earnings for their produce. The organization has added on Fair Vodka of Fair Trade Spirits Company into its kitty to fulfil its goal of including almost everything which is produced through sustainable methods that provide equal benefits to everyone and everything involved in the whole cycle of supply chain.

After being in the market for more than a decade, TransFair today has in excess of 6,000 FT products available in 105 product categories including wine, fruit, chocolate, rice, flowers and garments. To San Francisco Chronicle Paul Rice, TransFair USA’s founder and CEO told he was inspired by the success of FT coffee in Europe and decided to organize a co-op of small coffee farmers in Nicaragua several years ago.

Rice informed during the inception, his co-op could gather the trust of just 24 “brave souls” who each gave it 10 bags of coffee on consignment. It sold for $1.26 per pound, and $1 went to the farmers, who were used to receiving only 10 cents per pound. His co-op comprises of about 3000 farmers today.

Jean-Francois Daniel, co-founder of the 2-year-old Fair Trade Spirits Company based in Paris who has similar background and experience like that of Rice said his distillery made Fair Vodka from quinoa, a grain grown by an association of 1,200 small, TransFair-certified farmers in the Bolivian Highlands. He claimed the daily wage for a non- FT quinoa farmer in Bolivia was $1 per day, but the FT quinoa farmers which his company worked with earned $2.80 per day.

Currently, the vodka is available at some stores and restaurants in California. Amanda Womack the general manager of Cask, the first San Francisco retailer to sell Fair Vodka acknowledged even at $35 per bottle, Fair was one of the less-expensive vodkas Cask sold through its store and website.

According to TransFair, the offering of spirits will not be confined to vodka but also will be coming out with berry and coffee liqueur and rum as well. Fair Goji, a goji berry liqueur made with FT sugar from the African nation of Malawi and Fair Café, a coffee liqueur made with FT coffee from Mexico are likely to hit the markets soon for consumers to give spiritual contribution to FT programs.

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Mercosur-Egypt FTA Likely to Exclude Sensitive Poultry Trade Mon, 26 Jul 2010 11:28:09 +0000 Continue reading]]> The Free Trade Agreement between Mercosur and Egypt is expected to label poultry in the sensitive category as the latter fears it may adversely impact the domestic industry. According to the Al-Masry Al-Youm, an Egyptian daily, Egypt has asked for poultry products and other food commodities to be included in a list of sensitive products on which duties could not be reduced.

The trade deal is likely to be concluded with the fifth round of negotiations at the sidelines of Mercosur summit in Buenos Aires at the end of this month which the Trade Minister of Egypt Rachid Mohamed Rachid would be participating. The Mercosur is a free trade region of South America comprising of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

A reliable source from the Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry is reported to have informed the Egyptian daily that it had agreed with Mercosur to implement the deal in a phased manner by setting up five categories for specific commodities and products.

The first category, which includes intermediate goods and raw materials, will be tariff-free from the effective date of the FTA. The second group’s duties will be removed over a period of four years, the third one’s over eight years, and the fourth over ten years. However, the time period for the fifth category has yet to be worked out as it includes highly sensitive products, and feared to negatively affect the local businesses.

Egypt is understood to have requested Mercosur to include textiles, clothes, construction materials, and engineering and chemical products among the first category. Egypt’s main exports are petroleum, aluminium, raw cotton and leather, whereas it mainly imports poultry, oils, sugar, soya beans and meat. Once the accord is signed, it will become the second FTA that the Mercosur is signing with a non-Latin American nation after Israel.

Last month, Evandro Didonet, the head of the Department of Foreign Negotiations at the Brazilian foreign office (Itamaraty) observed that the FTA with Egypt was “of the greatest importance”, as Egypt was one of the countries with the greatest weight in the Arab world. In his evaluation, it should grant “great visibility” to the South American bloc and open a “gateway” into the Middle East and North Africa.

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Zimbabwe to Buy Small Denominations to Fix Currency Crisis Tue, 20 Jul 2010 15:06:20 +0000 Continue reading]]> The Finance Minister of Zimbabwe has announced that his country would import small change to stave off worsening currency problems. The day to day lives of the Zimbabweans have become difficult ever since the country experienced severe shortage of small change, resulting in transactional impasse.

The Finance Minister Tendai Biti admitted “Under the current multi currency regime, the inadequacy of smaller denominations has posed a number of challenges in transactions.” Nonetheless, the economic commentator Bekithemba Mhlanga told VOA Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube that the country needed to adopt the rand as its principal currency to hold down large importation costs of notes and coins. “Zimbabwe will fail to import all these required small denominations if it does not adopt the rand,” Mhlanga suggested.

The Zimbabwean government dumped the local currency last year in favour of the US Dollar, the South African Rand and the Botswana Pula as the political crisis and economic meltdown triggered record-breaking hyperinflation. Even though the currency situation improved after it adopted multi currency system the cash flow got impeded in view of US embargo pressure and poor returns from investments.

The acute shortage of foreign currency in the country has even deterred many Zimbabweans from depositing their money in banks. Some reports claim that people are literally washing the dirty US dollar bills to extent their lives in circulation.

The US Federal Reserve destroys about 7,000 tons of worn-out notes every year, and it is estimated, the average $1 bill circulates in the US for about 20 months. Though larger denominations are less dirtied since they are either from banks or international trade, smaller denominational US currencies outlive the estimated circulatory cycle in Zimbabwe.

Interestingly, the retailers have resorted to requesting shoppers to take other goods in exchange of change, and in some cases ‘credit notes’ replaced the balance of small change. Such credit notes even entitled shoppers to redeem them at a later stage for more goods from the issued shops.

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Indo-Pak Ties – The Chokepoint for Indian Exports to Afghan Mon, 19 Jul 2010 10:43:40 +0000 Continue reading]]> The trade treaty signed on Sunday between Pakistan and Afghanistan has become a major embarrassment to the visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the deal conspicuously disallows Indian exports to Afghanistan through Wagah border while permitting Afghani exports to India. In recent times, Clinton has projected herself as a peace merchant who encouraged both nuclear nations of the sub-continent to improve diplomatic ties, and thereby facilitate peace in the region.

The shutting of doors to Indian exports is seen as a retaliatory measure, or as to garner more items on the negotiating table while both sides meet again in the ongoing bilateral talks. The case in point for the payback is that India does not allow transit facilities to Pakistan’s exports to Nepal and Bhutan.

At a glance, the accord hugely favours Pakistan as its goods gain access through Afghanistan to Central Asian countries including lucrative markets of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The amended trade deal was signed by Pakistan Commerce Minister Amin Fahim and his Afghan counterpart Anwarul Haq in the presence of Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Islamabad has for long resisted pressure from Kabul to allow the export of Indian goods by land through Pakistani territory. However, this long-standing demand by both Afghanistan and India seemed to impact more the poor of the region than the governments of the nations involved.

The failures of protracted farcical talks between India and Pakistan continue to push every possible event to be used as a tool to blatantly demonstrate displeasure with one another’s actions. Lately, while Islamabad refuses to give India the Most Favoured Nation status, Delhi has raised both tariff and non-tariff barriers to restrict Pakistan’s exports.

It is yet to be seen whether Clinton would be able to play a meaningful role in the region to re-weld the two nuclear states for ushering in peace and prosperity to the region. But given the frequent border tensions and unrest in Kashmir after a respite indicate that any time in near future it is unlikely the two governments giving in to allow each other land transit rights.

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Portugal and Turkey Ink Landmark Visa Exemption Deal Sun, 18 Jul 2010 13:51:40 +0000 Continue reading]]> Turkish Foreign Minister’s one day visit to Portugal has culminated in the signing of a mutually beneficial partial visa exemption agreement. According to the deal, citizens of both countries who have special or service passports will be able to travel to each other’s country without a visa for 90 days within a six-month-period.

During the visit to the Portugal’s capital Lisbon, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with his Portuguese counterpart Luis Amado for the signing of the deal as well as to hold diplomatic talks. Davutoglu while signing the accord stated the bilateral trade between Turkey and Portugal had reached $826mn last year, and there was great prospect of improving from the current value.

Now the deal will go through a formal ratification process by both the countries’ parliaments. The effective date will be declared once the deal is approved by the respective houses.

The similar facilitation of the new deal has been a longstanding demand of Turkey with the EU as agreements signed by the EU and Turkey necessitate that Turks be exempted from visas. However, the EU’s recent nod to three Balkan states including Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro for visa-free travel to their nationals has heightened the Turkish demand for such relaxation is extended to its citizens too.

It should be recalled, last year, the European Court of Justice has issued a ruling paving the way for Turkish businesspeople providing services in the EU member states to enter the EU without having to obtain visas first under a 1973 deal called the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement. While speaking at the occasion, the Portuguese Foreign Minister said that Portugal hoped the membership negotiations would be concluded as soon as possible.

At the sidelines of his official visit, the Turkish Foreign Minister also met up with the visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to discuss bilateral co-operation and trilateral agreements on exchange of fuel for the Tehran research reactor. A tripartite agreement on the exchange of uranium was reached May 17 between Iran, Turkey and Brazil.

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Viet Nam Eyes Robust Myanmar Market Thu, 15 Jul 2010 15:59:11 +0000 Continue reading]]> The Viet Nam Ambassador to Myanmar feels that Myanmar has all the trappings of providing big returns for investments ranging from mining, forestry management, agriculture and aquaculture to telecommunication, tourism and health-care services. Myanmar had a population of 56mn, and it was a large market for consumer products since its local production only met 13 percent of demand, clarified Chu Cong Phung.

Myanmar and Viet Nam have similar history and share almost identical culture and religion. While Viet Nam suffered boycott by the West in the past Myanmar continues to be ostracized by the US and the EU as well.

Phung who is active in Myanmar for some time with humanitarian aid became confident about its market following the back to back success of two trade fairs held to promote Vietnamese products in Yangon last September and April. Although the two-way trade between both sides last year was a meagre $74mn, the first half of this year is showing an uptick by recording $58mn.

Viet Nam exports steel products, cement, processed foods, plastics, pharmaceuticals, and electrical goods and other appliances. On the other hand, Myanmar’s main exports to Viet Nam are wood and forestry products, natural rubber and seafood.

According to the Association of Vietnamese Investors in Myanmar, Vietnamese enterprises have pledged investments of nearly $1bn in Myanmar this year, well short of their investments in the neighbouring Laos and Cambodia of about $6bn each. But Phung believes that the coming years will witness a greater interest among Vietnamese businesses to tap the new market as there is huge demand for their products in Myanmar on account of their quality, range and reasonable prices.

Nevertheless, Phung admitted that the businesses would have to undergo challenges such as tortuous import licensing procedures and difficulties in getting payments, major reason being the US and the EU embargo against Myanmar. But he advised Vietnamese enterprises to strictly follow the guidelines of the Vietnamese embassy in Myanmar and the Ministry of Industry and Trade, and do financial transactions only through designated banks.

Under British colonial era, Myanmar was the second-wealthiest country in South-East Asia but the country is one of the poorest in the region today. Viet Nam aspires to make Myanmar as developed as itself through exchanges as the former too emerged from the shadows of prolonged sanctions from the West.

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Kuwait Out-reaches to South America for Bettering Ties Thu, 15 Jul 2010 15:46:48 +0000 Continue reading]]> A high profile delegation headed by the Prime Minister of Kuwait Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammed will begin its tour of South America on Wednesday. The three-week trip to nine countries including Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico will attempt to explore investment opportunities in these countries, and also to attract investments to Kuwait from the region.

As mentioned by the Kuwaiti premier before the trip that the country had not undertaken a high-level international trip like this in recent past is primarily aimed at leveraging the KD 37bn ($125bn) which the government has set aside for the five-year development plan of Kuwait. Furthermore, Kuwait desires to showcase the region and the world as well its “resilience” to the Iraqi invasion and occupation in 1990.

In an interview with The Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), Ali Al Sammak, who serves as the Kuwait’s Ambassador to Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Canada and Ambassador Designate to Mexico said the Premier was “very keen” on opening embassies in more South American countries. According to a KUNA report, Kuwait is looking to open new embassies in Cuba, Mexico and Chile to strengthen economic and diplomatic ties with most nations in South America.

Al Sammak further added that though Kuwaiti relations with South America was good yet in the fields of education, economy, healthcare, investment, and industry required a lot of effort to exact right results. The high level Kuwaiti team includes the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance, Commerce and Industry as well as officials from the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).

The out-stretched tour is expected to see the signing of a series of co-operation agreements covering trade partnerships and other areas of interests between Kuwait and the touring nations.

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EAC Common Market Likely to Slash Cost of Consumables Mon, 12 Jul 2010 17:27:22 +0000 Continue reading]]> The East African Common Market (EACM) which came into force on July 1 is expected reduce prices of household items as the new ‘competitive’ market environment will trigger some price shake-up on many consumables. Though the EACM may take almost five years to become fully operational, the consumers of East African Community (EAC), Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda are likely to experience price stabilization much early on.

Uganda branch manager Joshua Ng’ang’a of Nakumatt, a Kenyan supermarket chain said at least commodities in the Ugandan supermarkets would see about 20 percent cut as the imports were overpriced to the tune of same percentage. Besides discounted prices, improvement in quality and increase in variety of items is also anticipated from the start of the common market since producers will have to compete with similar business entities among the EAC member states.

Ng’ang’a argued that one of the other reasons for price reduction apart from competition would be the elimination of middlemen from the procurement scene, allowing the supermarkets to directly source from the producers or manufacturers. According to East African Business Week, the leading supermarkets in Uganda are tight-lipped about the future developments in the retail sector.

Last November, the member states of the EAC signed a common market protocol, aimed at expanding the existing customs union. It is commonplace to economies those form blocs to envisage increased competition along with the free movement of services, capital, entrepreneurship and labour across the member states.

In the absence of trade barriers, the architects of the common market expect the businesses in the region to flourish across borders. All five countries have already adopted a common external tariff, an identical tax applied to imports from outside the bloc, and allowed duty-free regional trade with the exception of Kenya, the largest economy. The EAC also has plans of floating a common currency within two years.

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