BRUSSELS, MAY 18 -- European Finance Ministers meeting in Brussels on Friday dropped Aruba, Barbados and Bermuda from its tax-haven blacklist.
The list, now down to 12 countries and territories, was established in December 2017 following a series of scandals, including Panama Papers and LuxLeaks, that prompted the EU to step up its action against tax fraud by multinationals and wealthy individuals. It aims to prevent tax evasion and promote fiscal transparency, fiscal equity and international standards against tax-base erosion and profit transfers.The Finance Ministers noted that Barbados had committed to address the EU’s concerns by replacing its “harmful” preferential regimes with a measure of like effect, while Aruba and Bermuda had now fulfilled their commitments, the finance ministers noted.
Barbados and Bermuda have been shifted to the grey list of countries that have made enough commitments, while Aruba has been completely removed from both black and grey lists. The remaining 12 names on the blacklist are: American Samoa, Belize, Dominica, Fiji, Guam, Marshall Islands, Oman, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, U.S. Virgin Islands and Vanuatu.
LONDON, May 12 -- Investigations show how cash, legal support and millions of tweets underpin anti-Islam activist - but Facebook removes his ‘donate’ button.
The British far-right activist Tommy Robinson is receiving financial, political and moral support from a broad array of non-British groups and individuals, including US thinktanks, rightwing Australians and Russian trolls, a Guardian investigation has discovered. Robinson, an anti-Islam campaigner who is leading a “Brexit betrayal” march in London on Sunday, has received funding from a US tech billionaire and a thinktank based in Philadelphia. Two other US thinktanks, part-funded by some of the biggest names in rightwing funding, have published a succession of articles in support of Robinson, who has become a cause célèbre among the American far right since he was jailed in May for two months. His imprisonment on contempt of court charges prompted a vigorous international Twitter campaign, with 2.2m tweets being posted using the hashtag #freetommy between May and October. An analysis conducted for the Guardian by the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue found that more than 40% of the tweets came from the US, 30% from the UK and other significant volumes from Canada, the Netherlands and nine other countries.
A separate study of about 600 Twitter accounts, believed to be directly tied to the Russian government or closely aligned with its propaganda, found significant numbers had tweeted prolifically in Robinson’s defence. On Facebook, Robinson has more than 1 million followers from at least a dozen countries outside the UK, including the US, Australia, Sweden and Norway. Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has been using Facebook donation tools designed for charities to raise funds for his activism for several months. He says he has raised several hundred thousand pounds via online donations, some of which were solicited via the Facebook donate button. Robinson has said he plans to use the money to launch a European version of the rightwing conspiracy website Infowars, and to sue the British government over his prison treatment. But the tool is meant for charities alone. When the Guardian alerted Facebook to this, the social media company switched off the function within hours.
The investigation has established that:
Horowitz, the co-founder of the DHFC, told the Guardian in an email: “Tommy Robinson is a courageous Englishman who has risked his life to expose the rape epidemic of young girls conducted by Muslim gangs and covered up by your shameful government.”
SHANGHAI, April 15 -- Racked by scandal, high-profile collapses and high-profile company exits, the world’s largest peer-to-peer lending market could soon face a second reckoning, as Beijing prepares to adopt stricter licensing requirements.
China’s peer-to-peer (P2P) industry, much like payday lenders in the United States, has provided a valuable lifeline for some of the country’s most vulnerable consumers and small businesses that have had trouble accessing the traditional banking system, although it only accounts for a small portion of total borrowing in the country. The internet-based lending platforms match private investors – who have money they are willing to lend – with individuals or small companies that want to borrow, with the platforms taking a small cut of each transaction. Investors can make up to 10 per cent annual returns on their lending through the platforms. The number of P2P platforms shrank dramatically last year amid tightening regulation to arrest an epidemic of fraud and weakening investor sentiment fuelled by massive defaults. For the lending platforms that remain, the country will start a trial registration process in pilot cities during the second half of this year, according to Economic Information Daily, a state-run newspaper.
The programme will clarify the registration threshold and business boundaries for the remaining P2P services, categorising them into national and regional platforms, and require all of them to set aside general risk reserves and loan loss provision for lenders on the platforms.
“Cleaning up and exiting will be the theme [of the registration programme],” Xue Hongyan, director of the internet finance research centre at the Suning Institute of Finance, wrote in a note. “Nearly 90 per cent of all remaining platforms will not qualify for a license.”
Xue suggested that only about 100 platforms would survive under the new regulatory environment, out of the 1,021 P2P lending platforms still operating at the end of March. That number has fallen by about half from a year ago due to business failures and pressures from government regulators,
LONDON, April 3 -- Prime Minister Theresa May was to meet Wednesday with Britain's main opposition party leader in a bid to forge a Brexit compromise that avoids a dreaded "no-deal" departure from the EU in nine days.
May decided to tear up her steadfast negotiating strategy and seek Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's support in a moment of peril for both her country and government. Her divorce deal with the other 27 EU nations has been rejected three times by parliament and patience with London is wearing thin in Brussels as the 46-year partnership nears a potentially chaotic end. The premier emerged from an intense seven-hour meeting with her ministers Tuesday to announce she would seek another "short" Brexit extension at an EU leaders' summit in Brussels on April 10. She crucially added that she was now willing to bend her previous principles and would listen to proposals for much closer post-Brexit relations with the EU than most in her Conservative party are ready to accept. "I think there are actually a number of areas that we agree on in relation to Brexit," May told a rowdy question-and-answer session in parliament. "What we want to do now is to find a way forward that can command the support in this House and deliver on Brexit." She specifically did not rule out remaining in a customs union with the European Union -- a key Labour demand that she has until now dismissed out of hand.
The British premier's last-minute change of tack has been received cautiously by EU leaders who would love to see the agonising split resolved by the time European Parliament elections roll around at the end of May. EU president Donald Tusk tweeted Tuesday that even if "we don't know what the end result will be, let us be patient". But it enraged the staunchly pro-Brexit wing of her Conservative party and saw junior minister Nigel Adams resigned in protest at May's "grave error" in judgement. Fervent EU critic Jacob Rees-Mogg said the prime minister's decision to seek an alliance with Corbyn meant she was collaborating with a "known Marxist". But other prominent Brexit-backing ministers were holding their fire as all eyes turned on the outcome of May's first meaningful engagement with her top domestic rival in years.
Corbyn has sought to keep Britain in a European customs union after Brexit enters into force. May's government has previously rejected this because it would keep Britain from striking its own trade agreements with giant nations such as China and the United States. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said Wednesday that May was entering her talks with Corbyn "without preconditions". Barclay said failure by May and Corbyn to reach a compromise would see the two sides try to come up with some mutually-acceptable options that would be put up for a vote in parliament in the coming days. He said these would be "binding" on the government -- even if parliament came out in favour of the customs union being added to May's existing deal. "Ultimately, if that is where the numbers of the House of Commons go, the government would -- in order to bring this to a resolution in the national interest -- would accept what the House voted for," Barclay said in reference to a customs union.
EU leaders have warned they will want clear answers from May in Brussels about what the new extension was for. The timeframe she laid out Tuesday is meant to see Britain leave the bloc on May 22 -- the day before the first nations holds its European Parliament vote. May's spokesman conceded that Britain would still probably have to prepare for elections just in case. Britain must formally notify electoral authorities of its participation in the vote on April 11. "But it's also the case that right up until the moment of the poll you can stop your participation," May's spokesman said. Cross-party lawmakers will try to rush a law through the parliament later Wednesday aimed at making sure that Britain does not leave the bloc without a deal.
The British pound rallied Wednesday on expectations of the sides managing to avoid a messy breakup in the coming days. "Not only did May reaffirm her opposition to no deal, she's technically opened the door to a softer Brexit," Oanda trading house analyst Craig Erlam said.
HONG KONG, March 16 -- Hong Kong has been ranked among the top 3 global financial hubs, following New York and London.
Following Singapore, Shanghai grabbed fifth position on the list ahead of Tokyo, Toronto and Zurich, according to the report jointly released by the city of London's think tank Z/Yen Group and Shenzhen's China Development Institute. Beijing ranked ninth ahead of Frankfurt, putting three Chinese cities in the top 10 world financial hubs. The index tracked 112 financial centers globally, with 102 centers in the main index and 10 in the associate list, according to their business environment, human capital, infrastructure, financial sector development and reputation. Nine financial centers across the Chinese mainland were included in the main index, namely Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Qingdao, Tianjin, Chengdu, Hangzhou and Dalian.
Shanghai ranked first as the city with best future prospects over the next two to three years, and other Chinese cities including Qingdao, Chengdu, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Beijing were among the top 15 financial hubs that will become more significant. Shanghai and Shenzhen were also included in the top 15 most competitive global financial hubs for the FinTech industry, based on questionnaire responses. Z/Yen Group released the first edition of the GFCI in March 2007 and partnered with CDI in July 2016 to produce the GFCI as a valuable reference for policy and investment decisions.
FRANKFURT, March 8 -- Mario Draghi revealed the biggest cut in the European Central Bank’s economic outlook since the advent of its quantitative-easing programme as policy makers delivered a new round of stimulus to shore up growth.
The ECB president said the euro-zone economy will now expand only 1.1% this year, a drop of 0.6 percentage point from the forecast given out just three months ago. A package of assistance from new loans for banks to a longer pledge on record-low rates is intended to expand the institution’s existing stimulus, he said. “The persistence of uncertainties related to geopolitical factors, the threat of protectionism and vulnerabilities in emerging markets appears to be leaving marks on economic sentiment,” Draghi told journalists in Frankfurt on Thursday. “The risks surrounding the euro area growth outlook are still tilted to the downside.”
The ECB is reverting to stimulus just three months after policy makers decided to end their bond-buying programme and hoped to start weaning the euro-area economy off its crisis-era stimulus. Their luck ran out after the export-dependent European economy buckled under the weight of trade tensions, a slowdown in China and the uncertainties around Brexit. While many anticipated the ECB would act, an announcement wasn’t expected as early as Thursday. That signals the level of concern among Governing Council members, something that’s been echoed across other institutions and central banks in recent days. The OECD slashed its forecasts for European and global growth, the Bank of Canada said there’s “increased uncertainty” about the timing of its future rate increases, and New York Federal Reserve President John Williams said the US central bank can be patient about deciding its next move.
BEIJING, March 7 -- China's consumer price index (CPI), a main gauge of inflation, is expected to moderate in February, according to a UBS report.
The CPI growth in February likely edged down to 1.4 percent year-on-year on a high base, said the report. The report expects that prices of fruit, vegetable and poultry rose by 3 percent, 9 percent and 2 percent respectively, while pork and egg prices declined by 6 percent and 4 percent month-on-month from January. Non-food prices likely picked up during the holidays according to previous seasonal patterns, the report said. The National Bureau of Statistics will release the official February CPI data on March 9. China's CPI rose 1.7 percent year-on-year in January, down from 1.9 percent for December 2018. China's CPI for 2018 rose 2.1 percent year-on-year, up from 1.6 percent for 2017. The growth exceeded 2 percent for the first time in the past four years but remained well below the government's target of around 3 percent in 2018.
FRANKFURT, March 7 -- The European Central Bank is to offer more cheap loans to banks from September in a bid to boost lending in a slowing economy.
The euro area's central bank kept its core interest rates unchanged following the March meeting of its Governing Council - held against a backdrop of continuing pressure from global economic headwinds and Brexit uncertainty. Following the conclusion of its quantitative easing programme last year, the bank was widely expected to announce more help to support businesses and consumers. This is the third time since the eurozone crisis that the bank has launched so-called 'Targeted longer-term refinancing operations' (Tltro) - essentially cheap loans. It is the provision of long-term loans to banks, with the incentive that those who lend more to the real economy will be able to borrow more and at a lower interest rate than the ECB usually offers.
The Bank also confirmed it was pushing back guidance on the earliest possible date for any interest rate increase until the end of this year having previously eyed the autumn. Its core interest rate remains at zero at at minus 0.4% for banks to park their money with the ECB - encouraging them to lend the money rather that store it. The Bank's president, Mario Draghi, was expected to give more details at a news conference shortly. Economists widely believe he will downgrade economic growth forecasts.
The ECB's action follows a more cautious approach by its US counterpart, the Federal Reserve, which has paused its series of interest rate hikes amid the fallout from the country's trade war with China.
The effects have damped demand elsewhere in the global economy - damaging Germany's export-led economy especially while Italy has fallen into recession.
Financial markets were quick to react to the ECB's measures - with eurozone banking stocks leaping as the euro weakened.
BANGKOK, February 9. -- Switching to mutual payments in the national currencies is an important area of focus in relations between Russia and Thailand, Russian Ambassador to Thailand Yevgeny Tomikhin told Russian reporters in the run-up to Diplomats’ Day.
"Not only Russia, but many other countries are discussing that issue", the diplomat said. "We are conducting such negotiations with a number of countries, primarily with those with which we have a large trade turnover". According to the ambassador, these schemes will be convenient for expanding business cooperation in the future. "This issue is on the agenda in our relations with Thailand," he stressed. "We have a working group tackling the issue of inter-bank cooperation. Its next meeting is expected to be held this year, and I believe that mutual settlements in the national currencies will be one of the focal points", he said. Tomikhin noted that work was in progress to develop bilateral military-technical cooperation. "Thailand is one of our promising partners in terms of military-technical cooperation," he emphasized. "[We will] try to work with our Thai partners in terms of searching for opportunities to expand this cooperation".
The ambassador noted that Thailand was pursuing an active foreign policy, including with regard to Russia. "I believe that cooperation with our counterparts at Thailand’s Foreign Ministry is very effective. We have established good relationship and cooperation, but we will try to promote cooperation in all areas in the future", he said.