Fishing Rights Top Of The Menu As Brexit Talks Continue

Photo: Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

 

Last-ditch Brexit trade talks continued in London on Sunday with fishing rights remaining an “outstanding major bone of contention,” according to British foreign minister Dominic Raab.

European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters that “work continues, even on a Sunday,” as he arrived for the second day of talks.

Barnier had arrived in London on Friday following a spell in self-isolation after a member of his team contracted coronavirus and ahead of the resumption of talks with British counterpart David Frost on Saturday.

Both men warned that a deal could not be reached without major concessions from the other party.

There are only five weeks to go until the end of the current transition period, during which trade relations have remained largely unchanged.

The two key sticking points remain post-Brexit access to British fishing waters for European vessels and the EU’s demand for trade penalties if either side diverges from common standards or state aid regulations rules.

Raab told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday that this could be the final week of “substantive” talks, with time running out to agree and ratify a deal.

“There’s a deal to be done,” he said.

“On fishing there’s a point of principle: as we leave the EU we’re going to be an independent… coastal state and we’ve got to be able to control our waters,” he added.

Barnier told envoys last week that London was asking that European access to UK waters be cut by 80 percent, while the EU was willing to accept 15 to 18 percent, according to a Brussels source.

A British official called the demands “risible”, according to the domestic Press Association, adding that the “EU side know full well that we would never accept this.”

“There seems to be a failure from the Commission to internalise the scale of change needed as we become an independent nation,” said the source.

However, Raab was cautiously optimistic over the “level playing field” issue, saying “it feels like there is progress towards greater respect” for Britain’s position.

A failure to reach an agreement would see Britain and the EU trading on World Trade Organization terms, with tariffs immediately imposed on goods travelling to and from the continent.

As it stands, Britain will leave Europe’s trade and customs area on December 31, with no prospect of an extension.

A no-deal scenario is widely expected to cause economic chaos, with customs checks required at borders.

Concern is particularly acute on the border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland, where the sudden imposition of a hard border threatens the delicate peace secured by 1999’s Good Friday Agreement.

The talks have already dragged on much longer than expected and time is running out for ratification of any deal by the European Parliament by the end of the year.

AFP

Canada Grants Poultry, Egg Producers Aid Over Free Trade Losses

In this file photo Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on January 9, 2020 in Ottawa, Canada. Dave Chan / AFP
Dave Chan / AFP

 

Canada on Saturday announced aid of Can$691 million (US$531 million) to its poultry and egg producers for losses caused by free trade deals with Europe and Asia-Pacific countries.

Canada controls the production and price of eggs, poultry and milk through annual quotas and import taxes — a system deemed protectionist by its foreign partners.

But with the entry into force in recent years of free trade deals with the European Union (CETA) and another with a dozen Asia-Pacific countries (TPP), Ottawa has agreed to open further its market to foreign producers, angering Canadian farmers.

By announcing these breaches of the supply management system, in place since the 1970s, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government had promised that compensation would be paid to breeders.

Federal aid to some 4,800 egg and poultry producers will extend over 10 years, said Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Bibeau also announced an acceleration in disbursements of the Can$1.75 billion pledged in 2019 to compensate dairy farmers over eight years.

More than 10,000 farmers had received a first aid tranche of Can$345 million last year.

The remaining Can$1.4 billion is to be paid to them over the next three years.

Bibeau cited an example payment, saying the owner of an 80-cow farm would receive compensation of about Can$38,000 per year.

Bibeau also reiterated the government’s intention to offer compensation to producers affected by a greater opening of the Canadian market under the new free trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico, in force since earlier this year.

AFP

EU Trade Sanctions On Cambodia Come Into Force

 

The European Union reimposed customs duties on many of Cambodia’s exports on Wednesday, suspending its trade arrangement over concerns about human rights.

Trade commissioner Phil Hogan stressed that while Brussels stands by Cambodia in battling the coronavirus, “Our continued support does not diminish the urgent need for Cambodia to respect human rights and labour rights.”

“We have provided Cambodia with trade opportunities that let the country develop an export-oriented industry and gave jobs to thousands of Cambodians,” he said.

Now, Cambodia has lost its access to the EU’s “Everything But Arms” trade arrangement for least developed countries, which will hit typical exports such as garments, footwear and travel goods.

These products represent around 20 percent of Cambodia’s exports to the EU and will now be subject to the general tariffs applied under World Trade Organisation rules.

Hogan said he would restore tariff-free access if the EU sees “substantial improvement” in Cambodia’s human rights record.

Cambodia’s textile sector employs 700,000 people. Total trade between the two partners was 5.6 billion euros last year.

AFP

Asian Markets Mixed As Trade Hopes Play Against Stimulus Worries

A woman walks past a screen showing information and the index of the Taipei Stock Exchange on July 24, 2020. Sam Yeh / AFP
A woman walks past a screen showing information and the index of the Taipei Stock Exchange on July 24, 2020. Sam Yeh / AFP.

 

Asian markets were mixed Wednesday with worries that US lawmakers might not agree to a fresh stimulus deal any time soon playing up against optimism about upcoming US-China trade talks.

Both nations are due this weekend to meet to review their much-vaunted trade pact, which had been a cause for concern among investors owing to ongoing tensions between the superpowers.

But Donald Trump’s top economic adviser eased concerns Tuesday by saying the pact was “fine right now”.

Larry Kudlow told reporters that despite the tensions, “one area we are engaging is trade”. He added that Beijing had promised to stick to its promises on the January trade deal and there was evidence it was increasing purchases.

However, optimism that US lawmakers will thrash out a new stimulus package to accompany Federal Reserve’s ultra-loose monetary policy is waning.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave traders a jolt when he told Fox News there had been no progress, fanning concerns the talks could take a lot longer than envisaged.

“Another day has gone by with an impasse,” McConnell said, sparking a sell-off on Wall Street, which had been well in positive territory until then.

“The hope was that US politicians will look to restart negotiations on a new fiscal stimulus this week. Now with no talks scheduled, the deadlock between Republicans and Democrats is at risk of dragging on for weeks,” National Australia Bank’s Rodrigo Catril said.

Hong Kong rose 1.4 percent, with airlines boosted by a report that the city’s airport might restart transfer flights to China soon.

Tokyo gained 0.4 percent, while Seoul added 0.6 percent and Singapore put on 0.5 percent. Manila and Jakarta each rose 0.7 percent.

But Shanghai fell 0.6 percent while Sydney, Taipei and Mumbai were also lower.

Wellington dropped more than one percent after a three-day lockdown was announced for Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city with a population of 1.5 million, after four people tested positive, ending a 102-day run that had fanned hopes the disease had been contained.

London started slightly higher as data showed the economy suffered a historic contraction in the second quarter but officials said it was showing signs of bouncing back.

The UK economy shrank a record 20.4 percent in the second quarter but deputy national statistician Jonathan Athow said things “began to bounce back in June, with shops reopening, factories beginning to ramp up production and house-building continuing to recover.”

Michael Hewson at Markets.com said the reading largely was in line with expectations and “economic activity is bouncing back” but warned that “getting back to 2019 levels of activity is going to take a very long time”.

“Britain’s economy is on the ropes, but we knew this already,” he added.

Frankfurt fell and Paris edged up in morning trade.

– Deflated optimism –

“When you walk back the market’s expectations of an imminent fiscal deal, it is like poking the balloon with a straight pin as all semblance of near-term optimism gets immediately deflated,” said AxiCorp’s Stephen Innes.

“Let us face it, the only relevant information that might aid investors’ comprehension of the path of the real economy has come from fiscal stimulus chatter,” he added.

“Take that out of this week’s equation, and you are left hoping on a wing and a prayer for a vaccine.”

Analysts said easing concerns about the future of the US-China trade pact and healthy China data provided some cheer to investors, giving them the confidence to shift out of safe havens such as gold and the yen.

Gold prices fell three percent, extending the previous day’s sell-off on profit-taking and owing to a pick-up in the dollar, which had been hammered through July to push the yellow metal to multiple records.

– Key figures around 0810 GMT –

Tokyo: Nikkei 225: UP 0.4 percent at 22,43.96 (close)

Hong Kong: Hang Seng: UP 1.4 percent at 25,244.02 (close)

Shanghai: Composite: DOWN 0.6 percent at 3,319.27 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 6,187.94

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1739 from $1.1734 at 2045 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 106.79 yen from 106.50 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3045 from $1.3047

Euro/pound: UP at 89.99 pence from 89.94 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.9 percent at $42.00 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.9 percent at $44.91 per barrel

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.4 percent at 27,686.91 (close).

AFP

Cambodia’s Tourist Hotspot Bans Dog Meat Trade

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 25, 2019 dogs are kept in a cage as a woman boils water at a slaughterhouse in Siem Reap province. – The Cambodian tourist town of Siem Reap has banned the dog meat trade on July 7, 2020, a victory for animal rights campaigners who describe the area as the “lynchpin” of an industry that slaughters millions of creatures each year. TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP.

 

The Cambodian tourist town of Siem Reap has banned the dog meat trade, a victory for animal rights campaigners who describe the area as the “lynchpin” of an industry that slaughters millions of creatures each year.

Dog meat, a cheap source of protein, is eaten in several Asian countries, including Cambodia, although it is much more popular in neighbouring Vietnam.

But animal rights group Four Paws has identified Siem Reap province — home to the famed Angkor Wat temple complex — as a hub for the trade within the kingdom, where they say three million dogs are butchered annually.

Siem Reap authorities announced a ban late Tuesday, with the provincial agricultural department saying the dog meat trade has descended into “anarchy” in recent years.

“It has caused the infection of rabies and other diseases from one region to another, which affects the public health,” said the statement.

“The catching, buying, selling and slaughtering of dogs… will be punished severely.”

The maximum penalty for dealing in dogs for slaughter as food is five years in prison, while fines range from 7-50 million riel ($1,700 to $12,200).

How the ban will be enforced remains to be seen, as Cambodia has long struggled with lax policing.

However, Four Paws on Wednesday hailed the decision to take out Siem Reap as a “lynchpin for the Cambodian dog meat trade”.

“We hope that Siem Reap will serve as a model for the rest of the country to follow suit,” said veterinarian Dr. Katherine Polak.

Their investigation last year found that the northern province served as a gateway for the trade, with roving dog catchers nabbing animals and selling them to over 20 dog meat restaurants in the tourist city.

Thousands are also transported each month to different parts of the country, including the capital Phnom Penh where there are still more than 100 restaurants.

On Wednesday, a streetside vendor in the capital continued to advertise dog meat on his menu, hawking barbecue dishes from $2.50 to $10 a kilogram.

Tourism to Cambodia has seized up due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Siem Reap draws the bulk of the kingdom’s six million tourists, nearly half from China.

AFP

European Stock Markets Rebound Strongly At Open

 

European stock markets rebounded strongly at the start of trading on Monday following a rally in Asia, driven by hopes of a swift and solid economic recovery.

London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index surged 1.8 percent at 6,267.78 points, having slid by 1.3 percent Friday on profit-taking.

In the eurozone, Frankfurt’s DAX 30 index jumped 1.9 percent to 12,766.05 points at the open Monday and the Paris CAC 40 won 2.0 percent to 5,109.28.

AFP

Global Trade Set To Shrink 18.5% In Q2, Defying Worst Fears – WTO

 

Global trade is expected to drop around 18.5 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2020 in a huge coronavirus-driven plunge which nonetheless could have been much worse, the WTO said Tuesday.

“Initial estimates for the second quarter, when the virus and associated lockdown measures affected a large share of the global population, indicate a year-on-year drop of around 18.5 percent,” the World Trade Organization said in a statement.

The global trade body said that in the first quarter, the volume of merchandise trade shrank by three percent year‑on‑year.

Giving its initial estimates for the second three months of the year,the expected drop of 18.5 percent was better than the WTO’s worst predictions.

“The fall in trade we are now seeing is historically large — in fact, it would be the steepest on record. But there is an important silver lining here — it could have been much worse,” said outgoing WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo.

“This is genuinely positive news but we cannot afford to be complacent.”

In its annual trade forecast issued on April 20, the WTO forecast volumes would contract by between 13 percent at best and 32 percent at worst in 2020.

READ ALSO: South Africa To Start Africa’s First COVID-19 Vaccine Pilot

“As things currently stand, trade would only need to grow by 2.5 percent per quarter for the remainder of the year to meet the optimistic projection,” the WTO said.

“However, looking ahead to 2021, adverse developments, including a second wave of COVID‑19 outbreaks, weaker than expected economic growth, or widespread recourse to trade restrictions, could see trade expansion fall short of earlier projections.”

Azevedo said policy decisions had softened the ongoing blow and would help determine the pace of economic recovery from the crisis.

“For output and trade to rebound strongly in 2021, fiscal, monetary, and trade policies will all need to keep pulling in the same direction,” said the Brazilian career diplomat, who is leaving his post a year early at the end of August.

AFP

Canada Trade Deficit Widens As Oil, Car Exports Fall

NIAGARA FALLS, – APRIL 27: Clinton hill in the town of Niagara Falls is seen during the coronavirus pandemic on April 27 2020 in Niagara Falls, Canada. Tourist attractions across Canada have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Emma McIntyre/Getty Images/AFP.

 

Despite keeping its borders open for goods shipments during the coronavirus pandemic, Canadian trade fell in March while its trade deficit widened to Can$1.4 billion (US$1 billion), according to data released Tuesday.

The figure, up from a Can$894 million deficit in February, beat analyst forecasts. Year over year, trade fell 10 percent.

But with a full month of physical distancing policies in place in April, trade values are expected to “decrease more severely” in that month, warned Statistics Canada.

Total exports fell 4.7 percent to Can$46.3 billion in March while imports declined 3.5 percent to Can$47.7 billion, the government agency said.

Automakers and several auto engine and parts suppliers in North America notably began to cease production or shifted production to medical masks and ventilators, with the introduction of physical distancing measures.

READ ALSO: Spain Adds 280,000 Jobless During April Lockdown – Govt

This had “a significant impact” on trade, according to Statistics Canada.

Energy imports and exports were also down in the month, reflecting weaker global demand for oil, with the collapse in oil prices likely to be felt “more severely in future months,” it said.

The double drop in car and oil sales resulted in “a sharp decline in trade” with the United States, while Canada’s trade surplus with its largest trading partner narrowed slightly from Can$4.0 billion in February to Can$3.9 billion in March.

The month also saw lower exports of aircraft, but higher exports of farm, fishing and intermediate food products, with the end of rail blockades by indigenous rights activists allowing a grain backlog to be cleared.

AFP

Britain, US Start Post-Brexit Trade Talks

The flags of Britain (R) and the European Union flutter in front of the Chancellery in Berlin, where the British Prime Minister was expected on April 9, 2019. MICHELE TANTUSSI / AFP.

 

Britain begins post-Brexit trade talks with the United States on Tuesday, with 100 negotiators on each side joining via videoconference.

Many in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government hope for a free trade agreement with Washington as one of the biggest benefits of leaving the European Union.

Officials said the first round of talks would last two weeks and cover issues such as goods and services trade, digital trade, investment and how to support small businesses.

The US ambassador to Britain, Woody Johnson, said the deal could “jumpstart the economy after we conquer coronavirus” — a message repeated by British officials.

“The US is our largest trading partner and increasing transatlantic trade can help our economies bounce back from the economic challenge posed by coronavirus,” International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said.

Bilateral trade was worth £220.9 billion ($275 billion, 252.6 billion euros) in the last year, and a free trade deal could increase this by £15.3 billion on 2018 levels, in the long run, the British government says.

Truss and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will kick off the talks before officials take over, with further rounds due at six-week intervals.

Britain voted in a referendum in June 2016 to leave the EU, and after years of politically wrangling finally quit on January 31 this year.

Its departure allowed Britain to start trade talks with other countries, including the US.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus Deaths Top 250,000 As Billions Raised For Vaccine Push

However, Britain remains in a transition period until December 31 that keeps its ties to the EU largely the same, to allow time for both sides to thrash out a new relationship.

Many in the EU had already warned of the difficulties of getting a trade deal with Britain by the end of the year.

The disruption of the coronavirus outbreak has prompted calls from some in Britain for the transition to be extended.

But Johnson, who led the 2016 “Leave” campaign and won a huge election victory in December promising to “Get Brexit Done”, has so far refused.

The latest round of UK-EU talks broke up on April 24 with little progress, stuck on key issues such as fishing rights, how to maintain common standards and the role of European judges.

A source close to the British negotiating team last week warned that “we’re talking past each other”, while expressing hope that a deal could be struck.

AFP

Kenya Bans Controversial Donkey Slaughter Trade

A volunteer from the county government sprays pesticide on February 25, 2020 at a hatch site near Isiolo town in Isiolo county, eastern Kenya where locust nymphs have hatched en masse. TONY KARUMBA / AFP.

 

Kenya has decided to ban the slaughter of donkeys for use in Chinese medicine, a practice condemned by animal rights activists as cruel, unnecessary and devastating to donkey populations in Africa, a minister said on Thursday.

Agriculture Minister Peter Munya told AFP that the ban, imposed earlier this week, came after “people petitioned my office to ban the slaughtering of donkeys because theft of donkeys to sell had increased”.

A ministry statement said rampant theft of donkeys was hitting farmers who use them to transport agricultural produce and water, and causing “massive unemployment”.

Four abattoirs dealing in donkey meat have been given a month to stop the practice.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) hailed Kenya’s decision to “cut ties with a cruel trade that sentences gentle donkeys to miserable deaths by the millions.”

“No one needs donkey skin except the animals who were born in it,” said PETA Senior Vice President of International Campaigns Jason Baker.

Donkey skins are exported to China to make a traditional medicine known as ejiao, which is believed to improve blood circulation, slow ageing, and boost libido and fertility.

It was once the preserve of emperors but is now highly sought after by a burgeoning middle-class.

A PETA investigation last year showed donkeys being cruelly beaten by workers, or dead after long truck journeys from neighbouring countries.

UK-based animal welfare organisation The Donkey Sanctuary told AFP at the time that there were tales of the animals being rounded up and machine-gunned or bludgeoned to death

China is increasingly looking to Africa to satisfy demand as its own donkey population has nearly halved in recent years.

However several African countries have now banned Chinese-funded abattoirs or implemented policies to stop the export of donkey skins to China.

Donkeys reproduce slowly and do not handle stress well, and activists have raised fears that populations could be wiped out in east Africa in a matter of years.

AFP

Asian Markets Fall As US, China Prepare To Sign Trade Pact

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on August 23, 2019 in New York City.  Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images/AFP

 

Asian markets fell Wednesday as investors took their foot off the pedal following weeks of gains, with focus on the signing later in the day of the China-US trade deal.

While the mood on trading floors was broadly upbeat as tensions between the economic superpowers eased, analysts warned there will not likely be much more progress on the next phase of talks ahead of the US presidential election in November.

The mini pact, which has de-escalated a two-year standoff that has jolted the global economy, saw the White House halve tariffs imposed on September 1 on $120 billion of Chinese goods and cancel another round set for December 15.

In return, Beijing pledged vast sums to buy US products including pork and soybeans.

Still, the next round of negotiations is expected to be the toughest, with key issues including China’s massive subsidies for state industry and forced technology transfer proving key sticking points.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin denied a report that it could include provisions to roll back more levies on China after the presidential vote, with progress on phase two the key to measures being removed.

But he did tell Fox Business network: “I think phase one is an enormous step in the right direction.”

Officials said full details would be made public after the signing ceremony in Washington.

‘Constructive process’ 

“We should not expect further tariff relief until after the November presidential elections, suggesting that today’s agreement is probably as good as it gets for 2020,” said National Australia Bank’s Tapas Strickland.

But he added: “Importantly for China… the deal will allow it to re-focus on its domestic economy which should reduce fears of a slowing economy.”

However, Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson, warned that the year could see fresh volatility.

“It’s possible that instead we see Trump threaten China more, dangling the prospect of abandoning the deal and taking an even tougher stance going into the election,” he said in a note.

With few other catalysts to drive buying on Wednesday, regional markets tracked a weak lead from Wall Street.

Tokyo and Shanghai both ended down 0.5 percent, while Hong Kong was off 0.4 percent.

Seoul and Singapore each dropped 0.4 percent, while there were also deep losses in Mumbai, Taipei, Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila, though Sydney and Wellington rose.

Still, with most negative headlines in the rearview mirror, analysts were upbeat.

“Right now we are in a more constructive process,” Omar Aguilar, at Charles Schwab, told Bloomberg TV.

“While the uncertainty is still there, the fact that there’s a laid-out plan for phase one and phase two has already been priced by the market and there is a positive view.”

In early trade, London and Paris both rose 0.2 percent, while Frankfurt was flat.

Key figures at 0820 GMT 

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.5 percent at 23,916.58 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.4 percent at 28,773.59 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.5 percent at 3,090.04 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 7,633.51

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3029 from $1.3019 at 2145 GMT

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.44 pence from 85.46 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1135 from $1.1126

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.93 yen from 109.98

Brent Crude: DOWN 15 cents at $64.34 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 16 cents at $58.07 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 0.1 percent at 28,939.67 (close).

AFP

 

US, Mexico, Canada To Sign Deal Finalising Trade Agreement

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (L), US President Donald Trump (C) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are pictured after signing a new free trade agreement in Buenos Aires, on November 30, 2018, on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders’ Summit.  Martin BERNETTI / AFP

 

The United States, Mexico and Canada will sign an “initial deal” Tuesday finalizing the USMCA trade agreement, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said.

“There is an initial deal between the governments,” the leftist leader told his daily news conference, as negotiators from the three countries prepared to meet in Mexico City.

“Today it will be signed by… the three countries’ negotiators.”

Lopez Obrador was due to chair a meeting of top officials from the three countries at the presidential palace at 1800 GMT.

Initially signed in November 2018, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is meant to replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which President Donald Trump complains has been “a disaster” for the US.

But Mexico is the only country to ratify it so far.

In Washington, opposition Democrats — acutely aware of the need to win back blue-collar voters they lost to Trump in 2016 — have insisted on greater oversight of Mexican labor reforms promised under the new deal, including wage hikes and increased power for unions.

AFP