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Final version of mega Pacific trade deal dumps rules the US wanted

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The 11 remaining nations, led by Japan, finalized a revised trade pact in January, called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). It is expected to be signed in Chile on March 8.

The deal will reduce tariffs in economies that together amount to more than 13 percent of the global GDP — a total of $10 trillion. With the U.S., it would have represented 40 percent.

“The big changes with TPP 11 are the suspension of a whole lot of the provisions of the agreement. They have suspended many of the controversial ones, particularly around pharmaceuticals,” said Kimberlee Weatherall, professor of law at the University of Sydney.

Many of these changes had been inserted into the original TPP 12 at the demand of U.S. negotiators, such as rules ramping up intellectual property protection of pharmaceuticals, which
some governments and activists worried would raise the costs of medicine.

The success of the deal has been touted by officials in Japan and other member countries as an antidote to counter growing U.S. protectionism, and with the hope that Washington would eventually sign back up.

“CPTPP has become more important because of the growing threats to the effective operation of the World Trade Organisation rules,” New Zealand Trade Minister David Parker said on Wednesday.

Last month, Trump told the World Economic Forum in Switzerland that it was possible Washington might return to the pact if it got a better deal.

However, Parker said on Wednesday that the prospect of the U.S. joining in the next couple of years was “very unlikely” and that even if Washington expressed a willingness to join CPTPP,
there was no guarantee that the members would lift all the suspensions.

Parker said the deal would likely come into force at the end of 2018 or the first half of 2019.

Governments were quick to tout the economic benefits of the agreement.

“The TPP-11 will help create new Australian jobs across all sectors — agriculture, manufacturing, mining, services — as it creates new opportunities in a free trade area that spans the Americas and Asia,” said Steven Ciobo, Australia’s minister for trade in an emailed statement.

New Zealand’s government expected the CPTPP to boost the island nation’s economy by between NZ$1.2 billion ($881.40 million) to NZ$4 billion a year, with beef and kiwifruit
exporters among the top beneficiaries of the deal.

The 11 member countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

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China loan prime rates, coronavirus, currencies

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SINGAPORE — Stocks in Japan were set to trade higher at the open as investors in Asia-Pacific wait for the release of China’s latest benchmark lending rate.

Futures pointed to a higher open for Japanese stocks. The Nikkei futures contract in Chicago was at 28,755 while its counterpart in Osaka was at 28,700. That compared against the Nikkei 225’s last close at 28,633.46.

Meanwhile, shares in Australia edged higher in early trading, with the S&P/ASX 200 up about 0.5%.

In Southeast Asia, stocks in Malaysia will be closely watched following reports that almost all states in the country will be placed under Movement Control Order from Friday as the government seeks to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Investor focus on Wednesday will likely be on China’s benchmark lending rate, expected to be out at around 9:30 a.m. HK/SIN. A majority of traders and analysts in a snap Reuters poll predict no change to either the one-year loan prime rate (LPR) or the five-year LPR, which were last sitting at 3.85% and 4.65%, respectively.

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 90.476 following an earlier high above 90.7.

The Japanese yen traded at 103.87 per dollar, having weakened from levels below 103.8 against the greenback yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7706, still off levels above $0.775 seen last week.

Here’s a look at what’s on tap:

  • China: One year and five year loan prime rates at 9:30 a.m. HK/SIN

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From Jeep to Maserati, Stellantis to rollout 10 new EV models in 2021

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PM Giuseppe Conte wins Senate vote, leads minority government

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