China Ends US Sorghum Anti-Dumping Probe, OKs Toshiba Deal

China has dropped an anti-dumping investigation and given long awaited approval for the sale of Toshiba’s memory chip business, in gestures that could suggest a thaw between Beijing and the U.S. as trade talks resumed in Washington.

The Commerce Ministry said Friday ended the probe into imported U.S. sorghum because it’s not in the public interest. A day earlier, Beijing cleared the way for a group led by U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital to buy Toshiba Corp.’s computer memory chip business.

The moves signaled Beijing’s willingness to make a deal with Washington amid talks between senior U.S. and Chinese officials aimed at averting a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies, analysts say.

“I think China is willing to make concessions,” said Wang Tao, chief China economist at UBS. “The Chinese stance has been very clear, that China wants to mute any trade dispute. But of course it doesn’t mean China would heed to all the demands the U.S. would place.”

A White House official said China had offered to work to cut the trade deficit with the U.S. by $200 billion, while stressing that the details remained unclear. But China’s Foreign Ministry denied it.

“It’s untrue,” said spokesman Lu Kang. “The relevant discussion is still underway, and it is constructive.”

The Commerce Ministry said it was ending the anti-dumping probe and a parallel anti-subsidy investigation because they would have raised costs for consumers.

The U.S. is China’s biggest supplier of sorghum, accounting for more than 90 percent of total imports. China’s investigation, launched in February, had come as a warning shot to American farmers, many of whom support the Trump administration yet depend heavily on trade. They feared they would lose their largest export market for the crop, which is used primarily for animal feed and liquor.

The Commerce Ministry said that, “Anti-dumping and countervailing measures against imported sorghum originating in the United States would affect the cost of living of a majority of consumers and would not be in the public interest,” according to a notice posted on its website.

It said it had received many reports that the investigation would result in higher costs for the livestock industry, adding that many domestic pig farmers were facing hardship because of declining pork prices.

China’s U.S. sorghum imports surged from 317,000 metric tons in 2013 to 4.76 million tons last year while prices fell by about a third in the same period.

The ministry said any deposits for the preliminary anti-dumping tariffs of 178.6 percent, which took effect on April 18, would be returned in full.

The announcement came after President Donald Trump met at the White House with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, the leader of China’s delegation for talks with a U.S. team headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Trump had told reporters earlier that he had doubts about the potential for an agreement. He also raised fresh uncertainty about resolving a case involving Chinese tech company ZTE, which was hit with a crippling seven-year ban on buying from U.S. suppliers, forcing it to halt major operations. Trump said the company “did very bad things” to the U.S. economy and would be a “small component of the overall deal.”

Song Lifang, an economics professor and trade expert at Renmin University, said haggling is currently underway.

“It’s time for both to present their demands, but it’s also a time to exhibit their bargaining chips,” said Song, adding that approval for the Toshiba deal, worth $18 billion, was “an apparent sign of thaw” amid a U.S. investigation into Chinese trade practices requiring U.S. companies to turn over their technology in exchange for access to China’s market.

The Trump administration has proposed tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese products to punish Beijing while China has responded by targeting $50 billion in U.S. imports. Neither country has yet imposed tariffs.

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EU Mulls Direct Iran Central Bank Transfers to Beat US Sanctions

The European Commission is proposing that EU governments make direct money transfers to Iran’s central bank to avoid U.S. penalties, an EU official said, in what would be the most forthright challenge to Washington’s newly reimposed sanctions.

The step, which would seek to bypass the U.S. financial system, would allow European companies to repay Iran for oil exports and repatriate Iranian funds in Europe, a senior EU official said, although the details were still to be worked out.

The European Union, once Iran’s biggest oil importer, is determined to save the nuclear accord, that U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned on May 8, by keeping money flowing to Tehran as long as the Islamic Republic complies with the 2015 deal to prevent it from developing an atomic weapon.

“Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has proposed this to member states. We now need to work out how we can facilitate oil payments and repatriate Iranian funds in the European Union to Iran’s central bank,” said the EU official, who is directly involved in the discussions.

The U.S. Treasury announced on Tuesday more sanctions on officials of the Iranian central bank, including Governor Valiollah Seif,. But the EU official said the bloc believes that does not sanction the central bank itself.

European Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete will discuss the idea with Iranian officials in Tehran during his trip this weekend, the EU official said. Then it will be up to EU governments to take a final decision.

EU leaders in Sofia this week committed to uphold Europe’s side of the 2015 nuclear deal, which offers sanctions relief in return for Tehran shutting down its capacity, under strict surveillance by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, to stockpile enriched uranium for a possible atomic bomb.

Sanctions-blocking law

Other measures included renewing a sanctions-blocking measure to protect European businesses in Iran.

The Commission said in a statement it had “launched the formal process to activate the Blocking Statute by updating the list of U.S. sanctions on Iran falling within its scope,” referring to an EU regulation from 1996.

The EU’s blocking statute bans any EU company from complying with U.S. sanctions and does not recognize any court rulings that enforce American penalties. It was developed when the United States tried to penalize foreign companies trading with Cuba in the 1990s, but has never been formally implemented.

EU officials say they are revamping the blocking statute to protect EU companies against U.S. Iran-related sanctions, after the expiry of 90- and 180-day wind-down periods that allow companies to quit the country and avoid fines.

A second EU official said the EU sanctions-blocking regulation would come into force on August 5, a day before U.S.

sanctions take effect, unless the European Parliament and EU governments formally rejected it.

“This has a strong signaling value, it can be very useful to companies but it is ultimately a business decision for each company to make [on whether to continue to invest in Iran],” the official said.

Once Iran’s top trading partner, the EU has sought to pour billions of euros into the Islamic Republic since the bloc, along with the United Nations and United States, lifted blanket economic sanctions in 2016 that had hurt the Iranian economy.

Iran’s exports of mainly fuel and other energy products to the EU in 2016 jumped 344 percent to 5.5 billion euros ($6.58 billion) compared with the previous year.

EU investment in Iran, mainly from Germany, France and Italy, has jumped to more than 20 billion euros since 2016, in projects ranging from aerospace to energy.

Other measures proposed by the Commission, the EU executive, include urging EU governments to start the legal process of allowing the European Investment Bank to lend to EU projects in Iran.

Under that plan, the bank could guarantee such projects through the EU’s common budget, picking up part of the bill should they fail or collapse. The measure aims to encourage companies to invest.

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US Warns China Against Imposing ‘Political Correctness’ on US Firms

U.S. officials and politicians say they are increasingly frustrated and looking for ways to fight back against what they see as China’s use of its market power to impose “politically correct” behavior on American companies. Airlines, retailers and hoteliers all have been pressured to alter products and promotions that offended Beijing.

“These actions are outrageous and disturbing,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs Alex Wong told American lawmakers Tuesday.

“China is very much well aware that it’s wading through treacherous waters here. And they understand that if they continue along this path, continue to employ these tactics, that will negatively affect the U.S.-China relationship and that there will be consequences,” said Wong during a hearing at Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia, The Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.

“The consequences are under review,” Wong added.

His remarks come after American clothing retailer Gap apologized and recalled the sale in the Chinese market of its T-shirts showing a map that’s seen by Beijing as politically incorrect. The T-shirts were also destroyed. 

A Chinese student earlier this week posted pictures of the T-shirt, which did not include Taiwan, parts of Tibet and islands in the South China Sea that Beijing claims are Chinese territories. Gap quickly apologized, citing “unintentional error.” Photos circulated on Chinese social media network Weibo were said to be have been taken at an outlet store in Canada. 

A Chinese government spokesperson took note of Gap’s apology and the American company’s pledge to respect “China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and is conducting an internal inspection.”

“We have taken note of this statement. We will continue to listen to its [Gap’s] words, and watch the actions,” said Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Lu Kang on Tuesday.

But U.S. officials and lawmakers are hitting back.

“American companies are being bullied,” said Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio during Tuesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing.

Rubio said U.S. airlines “are being threatened by China, that if their website doesn’t say Taiwan [is part of] China, they’re going to lose their routes and have fines and penalties.”

On April 25, the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration sent a letter to 36 foreign air carriers, including a number of American carriers, demanding the carriers remove references on their websites or in other material that suggests Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are independent territories from China.

And in January, Beijing requested U.S. hotel giant Marriott International change the way it referred to Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau to be in line with Beijing’s views.

The request came after a Marriott employee “liked” a tweet by Friends of Tibet that praised Marriott for “listing #Tibet as a country along with #HongKong and #Taiwan” in an online customer questionnaire.

The employee was fired and Marriott apologized to Beijing.

Observers said market access to the growing population of affluent Chinese consumers leads to American companies’ compliance.

“It’s totally based on market strategy or, more precisely, fear of being shut out of the China market,” Brooking Institution’s Senior Fellow Richard Bush told VOA on Thursday. 

U.S. officials said they have raised this issue privately with their Chinese counterparts, while also condemning Beijing’s actions in public. U.S. officials have also talked with companies who have been involved in the incidents.

China claims democratically ruled Taiwan is part of its territory, and it has never renounced the use of military force to bring the island under Beijing’s control. The U.S. broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979 and has “acknowledged” Beijing’s position, while insisting on a “peaceful resolution of cross-Strait differences.”

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Trump Meets Chinese Vice Premier Amid Tough Trade Talks 

President Donald Trump stepped into a round of tough trade talks with China on Thursday after the White House confirmed a meeting between the U.S. president and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.

The two world powers are taking part in a second series of trade negotiations that started Thursday. The initial talks were held in Beijing two weeks ago.

Speaking to reporters before his meeting with Liu, Trump repeated his strong dislike for previous deals between Washington and Beijing.

“The United States has been ripped off for many, many years by its bad trade deals. I don’t blame China; I blame the leadership of this country from the past,” Trump told reporters before a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

“China has taken out hundreds of billions of dollars a year from the United States, and I explained to President Xi [Jinping] we can’t do that anymore,” Trump added.

The talks are aimed at “rebalancing the United States-China bilateral economic relationship,” according to the White House. They are also aimed at avoiding a full-blown trade war after the two countries exchanged tariff threats in March.

Despite the tough talks, Trump tweeted over the weekend that he was working with Xi to give Chinese phone company ZTE a way to get back into business.

The U.S. slapped sanctions against the Chinese telecommunications company last month for breaking U.S. trade control laws by selling components to Iran and North Korea. The move prompted ZTE to shut down its U.S. operations.

U.S. law enforcement and intelligence communities have long had national security and espionage concerns about ZTE.

“ZTE was a company I spoke to with President Xi. He asked me if I could take a look at that, because it was very harmful to them in terms of their jobs and probably other things, and I certainly said I would — he asked me to do it, and I would do that. I like him, he likes me, we have a great relationship,” Trump said in explaining his tweet to reporters. 

Trump noted it was his administration that had first put strong clamps on ZTE.

“Anything we do with ZTE is just a small component of the overall deal. I can only tell you this: We are going to come out fine with China,” Trump said. “When you’re losing $500 billion a year on trade, you can’t lose the trade war, you’ve already lost it.”

Liu, who is Xi’s top economic adviser, is taking part in two days of talks with a U.S. trade delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, told reporters Wednesday that the administration was conducting “very serious” talks with China, and that Trump was “very hands-on” and “involved in every decision.”

“We have requested that China change their trading practices, which are unfair and in many ways illegal,” Kudlow said.

“This is with respect to the issue of theft of technology, forced transfers of technology, high tariffs and non-tariff barriers” that are preventing the United States from making a competitive effort to export goods and services to China, he said.

The economic adviser said the administration had given China a “lengthy, detailed list” of what the U.S. wanted, including narrowing the U.S.-China trade deficit, lowering non-tariff barriers and permitting American ownership of its own companies in China. 

“Right now, the limit is 49 percent and that’s one of the causes of the theft and transfer of viable technology,” Kudlow said. “When we do these joint ventures, we should have to own 51 percent on to 100 percent. That’s a key part of these talks.”

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Bulgarian Truckers Protest Proposed EU Rules During Summit

Hundreds of truck drivers blocked roads across Bulgaria on Thursday as European Union leaders met in Sofia, protesting proposed EU rules they say would cost their jobs and put their firms out of business.

Transport company owners described the initiative, known as the Mobility Package, as a protectionist measure designed to help rival firms in western Europe. The Bulgarian transport association said around 120,000 drivers from the country would lose their jobs under the proposed rule changes.

Trucks from Bulgaria and other low-wage eastern European countries are a common sight on the roads of western Europe, competing with local firms whose drivers are much higher paid.

Under the package, backed by France, Germany and other higher-wage states, truck drivers from eastern Europe would receive the same payment for work abroad as those employed by western European transport companies.

The package has long been the subject of negotiations between EU member states and has yet to be laid before the European Parliament.

The Bulgarian government backed the local truck companies.

“We declare our strong support for Bulgarian carriers,” Transport Minister Ivaylo Moskovski said.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who is hosting the EU summit, said the proposed changes would “kill the Bulgarian sector.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said he hoped a compromise could be found in the coming months. “We will find a balanced deal together that will ensure the proper working of the single market, good social protection and fair competition in the transport sector. September has to be our objective,” he told a news conference at the Sofia summit.

Drivers from Bulgaria, where average monthly wages of little more than 500 euros ($600) are among the lowest in the EU, often spend weeks moving loads between countries including Germany, France and Britain before returning to their home base.

Under the package, drivers would have to rest for at least 45 hours in a hotel rather than their cab and return home every three weeks.

Bulgarian transport firms said this would nullify eastern European companies’ competitive advantage.

“These restrictions are absolutely unnecessary,” said Vladislav Kalchev, owner of a transport company. “They are trying to help, in some way, the market in the big countries.”

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«Укрзалізниця» з 30 травня підвищить ціну квитків на 12 відсотків

«Укрзалізниця» з 30 травня підвищить ціну квитків на 12 відсотків, повідомила прес-служба компанії агентству «Інтерфакс-Україна».

Це буде перший етап індексації тарифів. Другий має відбутися з 1 жовтня – тоді ціни на квитки також підіймуть на 12 відсотків. Відповідний наказ мають оприлюднити 29 травня в «Урядовому кур’єрі».

У разі купівлі квитків до 29 травня на більш пізні дати доплата не передбачена, уточнили в «Укрзалізниці».

В компанії зазначили, що остання індексація тарифів на пасажирські перевезення проводилася в жовтні 2014 року (на 12 відсотків). Водночас фактичне зростання індексу споживчих цін становило 192,2 відсотка, індекс цін виробників промислової продукції – 206,3 відсотка.

Читайте також: «Укрзалізниця»: «Щоб пасажирські перевезення стали беззбитковими, тариф треба підняти удвічі»

«Таким чином, тільки у 2017 році «Укрзалізниця» отримала від перевезень пасажирів у дальньому сполученні 3,6 мільярда гривень збитку. Але навіть у таких умовах за останні чотири роки компанія майже вдвічі збільшила фонд заробітної плати залізничників і розширила соціальні гарантії для працівників», – заявили в компанії.

Ціни на квитки мали підвищити з 1 квітня, однак цього не відбулося через непогодження відповідного наказу Міністерством інфраструктури України.

У січні 2018 року виконувач обов’язків голови правління компанії Євген Кравцов заявляв, що «Укрзалізниця» планує підвищити тарифи на пасажирські перевезення у 2018 році. Він зазначив, що «пасажирське господарство для УЗ збиткове», а тариф на пасажирські перевезення не піднімався вже кілька років.

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В Україні майже вдвічі зросла кількість працівників з зарплатою 10 тисяч гривень – Держстат

У Державній службі статистики заявляють, що в Україні майже вдвічі зросла кількість працівників з зарплатою 10 тисяч гривень.

Як свідчать дані Держстату, у березні кількість робітників, які отримують заробітну плату в 10 тисяч гривень і більше, становила 21,3% проти 12,6% в березні минулого року.

За даними Держстату, зарплати вищі 10-15 тисяч гривень отримували здебільшого працівники фармацевтичної промисловості, металургії і енергосектору.

Кількість людей, які отримували мінімальну зарплату, скоротилася до 7,9% з 10,3%, додають у службі.

Раніше у Держслужбі заявляли, що в Україні середня заробітна плата в березні зросла порівняно з лютим на 5,9% – до 8382 гривень.

Читайте також: Заробітчани повернуться, якщо зарплата буде 15 тисяч гривень – Солодько

В держбюджеті на 2018 рік встановили мінімальну заробітну плату на рівні 3723 гривні, прожитковий мінімум – 1700 гривень.

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Ціна нафти Brent – майже 80 доларів за барель. Попит впаде, кажуть експерти

Котирування нафти марки Brent зранку 17 травня продовжують зростати. Станом на 10:48 барель еталонного сорту оцінюється в 79 доларів 57 центів.

Міжнародне енергетичне агентство в оприлюдненому 16 травня щомісячному звіті знизило прогноз зростання світового попиту на нафту в 2018 році. Причиною фахівці називають зниження споживання, спровоковане зростанням цін на 17% з початку року.

Агентство Reuters з посиланням на кілька джерел в Організації країн-експортерів нафти (ОПЕК) вказало, що зростання цін на нафту спровоковане насамперед геополітичною напруженістю, а не дефіцитом пропозиції. За словами джерел в ОПЕК, у Brent є ще деякий потенціал зростання.

Співрозмовники агентства зауважили, що в Саудівській Аравії не вважають поточний спекулятивний зліт цін підставою для зростання видобутку країнами ОПЕК. Лідер нафтового картеля залишається прихильником продовження реалізації угоди про обмеження обсягу видобутку. У червні ОПЕК розглядатиме, чи дія цієї угоди має бути продовжена.

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