BEIJING, September 5 -- China’s commerce ministry said that a phone call on Thursday with US top trade negotiators went very well, adding that Beijing opposes any escalation in the trade war.
Both sides will strive to achieve real progress during a high-level meeting scheduled for early October, ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters in a weekly briefing. China and the United States agreed to hold high-level trade talks in Washington, the ministry said earlier on Thursday, following a phone call between China’s Vice-Premier Liu He and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, People's Bank of China Governor Yi Gang and deputy head of the economic planning commission Ning Jizhe were also on the call. The call came amid fears that an escalating trade war could trigger a global economic recession. "Both sides agreed that they should work together and take practical actions to create good conditions for consultations,” the ministry said. Trade teams from the two countries will hold talks in mid-September before the high-level talks next month, the ministry said. Both sides agreed to take actions to create favourable conditions, it said. A spokesman for the US Trade Representative’s office confirmed that Mr Lighthizer and Mr Mnuchin spoke with Mr Liu and said they agreed to hold ministerial-level trade talks in Washington “in the coming weeks”.
Washington began imposing 15 per cent tariffs on an array of Chinese imports on Sunday, while China began placing new duties on US crude oil. That prompted China to lodge a complaint against the United States at the World Trade Organisation. The United States plans to increase the tariff rate to 30 per cent from the 25 per cent duty already in place on US$250 billion (S$346 billion) worth of Chinese imports from Oct 1. US President Donald Trump warned on Tuesday that he would be tougher on Beijing in a second term if trade talks dragged on, compounding market fears that ongoing trade disputes between the United States and China could trigger a US recession. Chinese leaders will have a packed schedule next month, gearing up for National Day celebrations scheduled for Oct 1. They will also hold a key meeting in October to discuss improving governance and “perfecting” the country’s socialist system, state media has said, more than a year after the last was held. “Neither China nor the US want to be blamed by the rest of world for escalating the trade war and damaging the world economy,” said Mr Zhou Xiaoming, a former Chinese commerce ministry official and diplomat. “But the talks don’t mean the two sides will inch closer or that their stances soften,” he added.
Some within the Trump administration are sceptical that China is willing to make the sort of broad commitment to reforms sought by the US that caused a breakdown in talks in May, according to people familiar with the officials’ thinking. Others have become increasingly focused on trying to calm financial markets and forestall any further economic fallout in the US where Mr rump’s tariffs and the uncertainty surrounding the trade war are being blamed for a slowdown in manufacturing. It is unclear if the two sides will go back to a May draft agreement as the United States has been seeking. "No one is holding their breath” with regard to the talks, said Mr Chua Hak Bin, an economist at Maybank Kim Eng Research in Singapore. “Investors are slowly coming to terms that a trade deal is increasingly remote, with both sides talking tough and preparing for a long battle.”
BANGKOK, August 26 -- The government has banned hoarding of glutinous rice and will sell discounted packs as prices soar amid shortages.
Government spokesperson Narumon Pinyosinwat said on Monday that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had ordered the Commerce Ministry to prevent hoarding and to launch discounted packs in the wake of the all-time high price of glutinous rice. Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit ordered the Internal Trade Department to impose the ban immediately since the grain is on the ministry's price control list, Mrs Narumon said. "There will be discussions with millers, traders and cooperatives so they can quickly produce packed glutinous rice at a special price to relieve people's trouble," she said. Mrs Narumon attributed the expensive glutinous rice to drought that caused its low yield. The situation should improve when the new yield comes out in October, she said. Glutinous rice now sells for 50,000 baht a tonne while Hom Mali fragrant rice costs 35,000 baht. Local retail prices were nearly 50 baht per kilogram and a smallest bag of steamed glutinous rice is now 10 baht, double recent prices.
SHANGHAI, August 26 -- China's currency on Monday (Aug 26) slid to its lowest point in more than 11 years as concerns over the US trade war and the potential for global recession weighed on markets.
The onshore yuan fell to 7.1487 to the US dollar, its weakest point since early 2008, in Asian trading. Global economic tensions have intensified in recent days with the US and China raising tariffs on each other's imports, and President Donald Trump calling on US businesses to pull out of China. The yuan is not freely convertible and the Chinese government limits its movement against the dollar to a two percent range on either side of a figure that the central bank sets each day to reflect market trends and control volatility. The People's Bank of China has set that rate steadily weaker in recent weeks and set it on Monday at 7.057 to the dollar. Allowing the yuan to depreciate makes Chinese exports cheaper and offsets some of the burden of punitive US tariffs. The yuan breached the key 7.0 threshold against the dollar earlier in August, days after the US announced plans to impose fresh tariffs on Chinese imports from September 1.
BEIJING, August 25 -- United States trade groups have joined in a chorus of opposition to the latest escalation of tariffs Washington threatened for all the Chinese imports.
It's been heard that "enough is enough" as intensified tensions roil stock markets, ruin businesses and rid farmers of their most important export markets. Last Friday, US President Donald Trump announced that he would hike duties on US$250 billion (S$346 billion) worth of Chinese goods from the current 25 per cent to 30 per cent starting from Oct 1, and the remaining imports of US$300 billion from the planned 10 per cent to 15 per cent from Sept 1. The move followed Beijing's plan last Thursday to raise tariffs on US$75 billion worth of US goods in retaliation to the US side's planned taxing on an additional US$300 billion worth of Chinese imports, which was announced earlier this month. China's Ministry of Commerce said on Saturday that the country is "firmly opposed" to Washington's "unilateral and bullying acts of trade protectionism and extreme pressure", and urged it to immediately stop its "erroneous practices". The ruling Communist Party's People's Daily said on Sunday that China will fight back against the latest US step to increase tariffs on Chinese goods. “China is confident that it will follow its own path and do its own things well, and will never waver in its stand on countering any provocations by the US side,” the newspaper said in a commentary.
US politicians, seeking to hamper China’s economic development, still want to use the tactics of exerting maximum pressure on China that has achieved few results, the paper said. But the US will not win the trade war because of the plight faced by its farmers and businesses. In the US, Mr Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive officer of the Consumer Technology Association, said that "enough is enough", as shown by the 623-point drop in the Dow last Friday. "Global markets are reeling on fears of a global recession. And today's (last Friday) announcement only inflicts more pain on American businesses, workers and families," said Mr Shapiro. "These escalating tariffs are the worst economic mistake since the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 - a decision that catapulted our country into the Great Depression," Mr Shapiro said. "Instead of making America great again, the president is using tariffs to make a great economic mistake - again." He continued: "How much longer will our families, companies and economy be forced to bear the financial burden of this misguided trade policy?" Mr Rick Helfenbein, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, also lamented that what the US businesses now get is "a 1930s trade strategy" that will be a disaster for consumers, businesses, and the economy.
BEIJING, August 24 -- China said Friday that it will impose further tariffs on U.S. imports worth around $75 billion, in retaliation for planned tariff hikes on Chinese products by Washington.
The Commerce Ministry said it will impose additional tariffs of 5 percent or 10 percent on a total of 5,078 products of U.S. goods, some of which would take effect on Sept. 1 and the rest on Dec. 15. China will also resume imposing additional tariffs of 25 percent and 5 percent on U.S.-made vehicles and auto parts starting from Dec. 15, the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council announced. The announcement comes as U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged that Washington will impose 10 percent tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, effective on those two dates, in a move that would see nearly all imports from Asia's biggest economy taxed. The U.S. decision "has greatly hurt interests" of China, the United States and other countries and "has seriously threatened the multilateral trade system and the free trade system," Beijing said, adding, "China is forced to take reciprocal measures." "We hope China and the United States will resolve differences in a manner acceptable to both sides on the premise of mutual respect, equality, good faith, and consistency of words and deeds," the Customs Tariff Commission said in a statement.
The Trump administration has so far imposed 25 percent levies on a total of $250 billion of Chinese imports in an effort to reduce the chronic U.S. trade deficit with China, as well as to address alleged intellectual property and technology theft by Chinese companies. On Aug. 13, it delayed imposing a 10 percent tariff on laptop computers, cellphones, video game consoles and other "certain articles" imported from China to Dec. 15 from Sept. 1 as planned. The announcement drew some relief from retailers and other businesses concerned that the new levies, which in combination with current ones would have meant tariffs on nearly all Chinese imports, could have dampened consumption especially around the holiday shopping season.
BEIJING, August 22 -- China is hopeful that US President Donald Trump can “honour” his earlier hands-off stance on Hong Kong, although the Commerce Ministry spokesman neglected to mention the latest statement from the American leader linking the trade talks between Washington and Beijing with the anti-government protests in the city.
China is hopeful that US President Donald Trump can “honour” his earlier hands-off stance on Hong Kong, although the Commerce Ministry spokesman neglected to mention the latest statement from the American leader linking the trade talks between Washington and Beijing with the anti-government protests in the city. Trump had been distancing himself from the tensions until earlier this week saying that trade talks with China would be hampered if Beijing used violent means to crack down on the ongoing protests in Hong Kong similar to those employed against pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.Trump said that if a similar crackdown happened in Hong Kong, “there’d be tremendous political sentiment not to do something”, referring to trade negotiations between China and the United States. “It does put pressure on the trade deal. If they do something negative, it puts pressure,” he added. “We noticed that President Trump had said that Hong Kong is part of China and [China and Hong Kong] can sort it out on their own. We hope the US side can honor these words,” said Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng on Thursday.
Protests have taken place in Hong Kong since June 9, sparked by demands for the city’s government to withdraw an unpopular extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of suspects to mainland China. Protests have continued in the city for over 11 weeks despite Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam stating that the bill “is dead”. The stance from China’s Commerce Ministry is in line with China’s Foreign Ministry and state media as Beijing is opposed to linking the situation in Hong Kong with the talks over the ongoing trade war. Earlier on Wednesday, Trump added that “I don’t view it as leverage. I hope Hong Kong works out in a very humane way. I don’t view it as leverage or non-leverage. I hope it works out in a humane way. And I think that President Xi Jinping has the ability to make sure that happens”. Gao said China’s negotiating team has maintained contact with their American counterparts, with Vice-Premier Liu He believed to have taken part in a scheduled phone call with US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week.
HONG KONG, August 22 -- Hong Kong stocks are poised for their worst quarter since 2015 and corporate earnings are unlikely to save them.
After a sell-off erased more than US$600 billion from the city’s equities, attractive valuations stood as a potential bright spot. But those multiples don’t look so good when analysts keep slashing their profit forecasts for 2019. Their call for an average 19 per cent slump in operating income would be the biggest contraction for Hang Seng Index companies since the global financial crisis, data compiled by Bloomberg show. While a protracted US-China trade war and a weak yuan are to blame for a big chunk of the profit reductions, the latest cuts reveal a deeper issue. With Hong Kong’s slowing economy buckling under the pressure of 11 straight weeks of protests, demand for everything from bank loans to utility gas may be jeopardized. “The third quarter could be even worse given the local political situation and the trade war escalation,” said Jackson Wong, asset management director at Amber Hill Capital. “Potential downside surprises have not been fully reflected in share prices.” Shares of utilities provider Hong Kong and China Gas fell 5.3 per cent on Wednesday after it posted disappointing results and said the local business environment is “full of challenges.” Political unrest in Hong Kong may dampen its sales to the hospitality industry as people opt to cook at home rather than dine out, analysts at Daiwa Securities Group say. The threat from the trade war and weeks of local unrest has been apparent in the property market, as well as hotel occupancy and retail sales. CK Asset Holdings, whose shares fell to lowest since January 2017 last week, postponed a luxury residential project because of the protests. HSBC Holdings and BOC Hong Kong Holdings have lost about 9 per cent this month as investors become increasingly concerned about capital flight.
LOS ANGELES, August 22 -- Action movie hero Dwayne Johnson, star of the "Jumanji" and "Fast and Furious" franchises, topped the annual list of the world's highest-paid actors, Forbes magazine reported.
Johnson, the former wrestler once known as The Rock, pulled in US$89.4 million (S$123 million) from June 2018 to June 2019, the magazine said. That includes his salary and a share of profits from films, US$700,000 per episode of HBO series Ballers, and seven figures in royalties from his line of clothing, shoes and headphones with Under Armour. Last year, Johnson was second behind George Clooney, who reaped a windfall from the sale of his tequila company. Next on this year's list were two stars of Avengers: Endgame, the highest-grossing movie of all time. Chris Hemsworth, who played Thor, took in US$76.4 million, while Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr earned US$66 million, Forbes said. Other "Endgame" stars - Bradley Cooper, Chris Evans and Paul Rudd - also landed in the top 10. Most of Cooper's earnings, however, came from A Star Is Born, the musical drama he directed, produced, co-wrote and starred in with Lady Gaga. Cooper collected US$40 million of his US$57 million total from that film, Forbes said. The fourth-biggest earner was Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, with US$65 million, and Hong Kong-born actor and martial artist Jackie Chan with US$58 million. The figures are pre-tax and do not include deductions for fees given to agents, managers and lawyers, Forbes said.
BEIJING, August 21 -- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday asked Japan and South Korea to seek a solution to resolve their differences "through dialogue," amid concern that worsening relations between Tokyo and Seoul may threaten regional economic stability down the road.
Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono also called on Beijing and Seoul to bolster trilateral cooperation even when respective bilateral ties sour, but his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung Wha lambasted Tokyo's moves to tighten export controls against her country.
"While maintaining a constructive attitude, it is important (for Japan and South Korea) to find out an appropriate solution through dialogue," Wang said at the outset of a foreign ministerial gathering of the three nations in Beijing.
Kono said, "Two countries sometimes face various difficulties respectively, but even under such circumstances, Japan, China and South Korea should work together trilaterally." A Japanese government official briefing reporters later in the day quoted Kono as telling Wang and Kang that the foreign ministers "should refrain" from raising issues related to bilateral relations during the trilateral meeting.
Kang, however, told Kono and Wang that South Korea hopes that the three nations will stick to "free and fair" trade for prosperity in the region in an apparent jab at Japan, underscoring that strains between Tokyo and Seoul are unlikely to wane soon.
She also said at a joint press appearance following the talks, "It is important to eliminate unilateral and arbitrary trade retaliatory steps and remove uncertainties" in East Asia. Kang did not single out Japan.
The Japanese official said Wang did not make comments aimed at mediating in the row between Tokyo and Seoul.
Recently, Japan-South Korea ties have plunged to the lowest point since normalization in 1965 over Japanese imposition of export control measures in the wake of a string of South Korean court rulings last year ordering compensation for wartime labor.
At a three-way meeting in Bangkok earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged his Japanese and South Korean counterparts to make efforts to ease their confrontation, but no resolution has been in sight.
Although Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul agreed Wednesday to accelerate negotiations to reach regional free trade agreements, Japan-South Korea trade spats would make it more difficult for them to be realized, foreign affairs experts say.
BANGKOK, August 21 -- Thailand's finance ministry has cut its 2019 economic growth forecast to 3.0% from the 3.8% it projected in April, due to falling exports.
The ministry also said it changed its 2019 estimate for exports, a key driver of growth, to a fall of 0.9% instead of a 3.4% rise. However, the economy will be helped by a $10 billion stimulus package approved by the cabinet on Tuesday, it said. The outlook downgrade came a day after Thailand reported second-quarter growth of 2.3%, the weakest annual pace in nearly five years. Southeast Asia's second-largest economy expanded 4.1% last year, the best in six years.