National News

Rise in forex reserves by USD 167.2 mn to USD 393.28 bn

MUMBAI: RBI data says that India’s foreign exchange reserves increased by USD167.2 mn to USD 393.287 bn in the week to December 21, mainly due to a rise in foreign currency assets. Data showed that the reserves had declined by USD613.9 mn to USD393.12 bn In the previous week; gold reserves rose by USD37.2 mn to USD21.224 bn in the reporting week. According to Apex Bank, the special drawing rights with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increased by USD8.9 mn to USD1.459 bn. India’s reserve position with the IMF also surged by USD15.9 mn to USD2.633 bn.

Rise in forex reserves by USD 167.2 mn to USD 393.28 bnN. Chandrababu Naidu: foundation stone to be laid for Ramayapatnam Port on January 9

HYDEBABAD: The foundation stone for Ramayapatnam Port will be laid on January 9 in Prakasam district, said Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, releasing a white paper on the industrial development in the State during the past four years after the TDP Government assumed charge at Amaravati. The Centre had failed to accord special category status to AP, curtailing the scope for industry development, the Chief Minister alleged. The Centre had also omitted grants for Visakhapatnam-Chennai industrial corridor. It had failed to fulfil promises for he bifurcation of a green-field petro-chemical complex at Kakinada and a steel plant in Kadapa.

India gets more FDI inflows than China for the first time in 20 years

MUMBAI: India has been getting more foreign investment than its neighbour China for the first time in two decades. From Walmart to Schneider Electric and Unilever on the one side and TPG Capital or KKR on the other, a tide of global capital is flooding India from strategic investors to financial sponsors. This is changing the pecking order of mega M&A sweepstakes in the prized market of Asia. India witnessed more than USD38 bn of inbound deals compared with China’s USD32 bn in 2018, buoyed by stable fundamentals, a bankruptcy code and fresh opportunities in sunrise sectors. As per data from Dealogic, a global M&A and capital markets data provider, India’s foreign direct investment (FDI) was the highest ever, with 235 deals amounting to USD37.76 bn this calendar year. It overtook China, which has historically been the favorite for emerging market bets. China’s trade standoff with the US is seen as a major reason for the slowdown.

Jewellery exporters commend Govt move to exempt gold import from IGST

MUMBAI: Jewellery exporters have welcomed the Government’s decision to exempt 3% of integrated goods and services tax (IGST) on gold sourced from nominated agencies, effective January 1. Pramod Kumar Agrawal, Chairman, Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council, said, “We commend the Government’s decision on 3% IGST exemption on gold sourced from nominated agencies.” The GST Council found it necessary to exempt the intra-state supply of gold by nominated agencies in public interest under the scheme for ‘export against supply by nominated agency’. The chairman added, “We are also expecting a similar relief to the exporters of articles of silver and platinum very soon.”

ICRA: demand for Indian shrimps may be impacted by New US norms on seafood imports

MUMBAI: The Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) enforced recently has new regulations in the United States (US) for shrimp imports; this might curtail demand for Indian shrimps in the Country. The revised norms establish reporting and record-keeping requirements for imports of certain seafood products to prevent the entry of illegal, unreported, and unregulated seafood into the US. They have laid down stringent data requirements to trace the entire supply chain of seafood from the point of harvest to the point of entry into the US. Pavethra Ponniah, Vice-President and Sector Head, Corporate Sector Ratings, ICRA, said, “The SIMP requirements for the shrimp supply chain are expected to create temporary headwinds for export of Indian shrimps, harvested in unregistered farms. While most of the medium and large Indian shrimp exporters to the US and the European Union use registered farms, shrimp exports to Vietnam go both from registered and unregistered farms. This would hamper Vietnam’s re-export prospects to the US (owing to the lack of traceability), in turn curtailing Indian demand temporarily.” The USD7-bn US market is a major destination of seafood exported by India, which has a 32% share. In the last fiscal year, the US imported seafood worth USD2.3 bn. With a share of 95.03%, frozen shrimp is the principal export item to the US. ICRA expects Indian shrimp export volume growth to slow down to 7-10% in 2019 after a period of robust compounded annual growth rate of 17% from 2013 to 2017. According to trade sources, smaller exporters might find it extremely difficult to ship to the US, their largest market by value.

India exports Basmati rice worth 16k crore in Apr-Oct

NEW DELHI: According to an official release on Monday, India exported 2294787 metric tonnes of Basmati rice worth 16,963 in the April-October period. The release said that India was the largest exporter of Basmati rice, one of the major varieties of aromatic or scented rice. The major export destinations for Basmati Rice are Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, UAE, Kuwait, Yemen Republic, USA, and UK. There is a marginal decline of 3.28% in terms of quantity; however, in terms of value, the exports have grown by 11.54%. There is no question of any major hardship due to non-export of basmati rice. APEDA, or the Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority, an autonomous organization under the administrative control of the Department of Commerce, has been mandated with the export promotion of Basmati rice.

Despite global trade war, India shows export growth in 2018

NEW DELHI: India succeeded in increasing its exports in 2018 despite a global trade war; however, high crude prices and rising domestic demand continued to inflate the trade deficit. The year began with a 56-month high in the monthly trade deficit. By October, it had risen to more than USD153 bn. Double-digit export growth continued for half of the year despite reports of crippling capital inadequacy in the wake of the new Goods and Services Tax regime. However, imports also increased, because volatile crude prices made a comeback to haunt policymakers after a year of relative ease. Economists predict that India’s current account deficit (CAD) will triple to USD19-21 bn in Q2 of FY19, or about 3% of the GDP, from the modest USD7 bn in Q2 last fiscal year. Consequently, the Government placed import restrictions and raised inbound duties on six separate occasions for hundreds of products such as textile inputs, steel, mobile phones and solar panels, etc. This step was strongly criticized for raising protectionist barriers at a time when economic growth was tepid. However, India managed to navigate through a host of tariff issues as the US-China trade war heated up throughout the year.

Finance Ministry: Indian economy on path to maintain high growth rate:

NEW DELHI: According to the Finance Ministry, the Indian economy is predicted to be the fastest-growing major economy in the current and upcoming FY 2019-20. It emphasised that the Government has taken several measures to boost investors’ confidence. A recent World Bank report shows that India has improved its ranking in the Ease of Doing Business to 77th in 2018. Between 2014-15 and 2017-18, the Indian economy showed an average growth of 7.3%, the fastest growth among the major world economies, said the Ministry in Year End Review 2018. It said, “The Indian economy is projected to be the fastest-growing major economy in 2018-19 and 2019-20 (International Monetary Fund October 2018 database). This is borne by GDP growth of 7.6% in the first half of 2018-19.” The Ministry added that the Indian economy was on the path to maintain a high growth rate in the current global environment. As it highlighted the various initiatives taken to improve the confidence and boost the growth of the Indian economy, it said that there were means to boost manufacturing, comprehensive reforms in the foreign direct investment policy, special packages for the textile industry, and push to infrastructure development by giving infrastructure status to affordable housing and focus on coastal connectivity.

FIEO President lauds extension of Interest equalization scheme

NEW DELHI: Mr Ganesh Kumar Gupta, President, FIEO, said that the extension of the Interest Equalization Benefit to merchant exporters will help in increasing India’s exports. He observed that merchant exporters contribute to about 35% of the country’s exports, and high cost of credit equally blunts their competitive edge. This is timely support to merchant exporters indeed, as interest rates are moving northward in the Country, and the 3% subsidy will significantly decrease the cost of operation. As the majority of exports by merchant exporters are products manufactured by MSME, the MSME sector will benefit through this. The push given to manufacturing in MSME through this move will create job opportunities as well, said the FIEO president.

Rs 600 crore subsidy sops to merchant exporters receive Government approval

NEW DELHI: A proposal by the Department of Commerce has received approval from the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. This proposal requests the inclusion of merchant exporters under the Interest Equalisation Scheme (IES) for pre- and post-Shipment rupee export credit by allowing them an interest equalisation rate of 3% on such credit for the export of products covered under 416 tariff lines identified under the scheme. These products are largely in MSME-/ labour-intensive sectors such as agriculture, textiles, leather, handicraft, machinery, etc. The proposal will entail benefits of around Rs 600 crore to exporters on interest equalisation, for the remaining period of the scheme. Merchant exporters are expected to become more competitive once included in this scheme. They will be encouraged to export more MSME-manufactured products, increasing India’s exports; increased exports by them will increase production by MSMEs, increasing employment generation, as MSME are generally in the employment-intensive sectors. The current scheme (in force from 1.4.2015 for five years) provides an interest equalization rate of 3% on pre- and post-shipment rupee credit to all manufacturing exporters exporting identified 416 four-digit tariff lines, and 5% on all merchandise products manufactured and exported by MSMEs. Merchant exporters were not covered under the scheme thus far. Merchant exporters play an important role in finding overseas markets, getting export orders, communicating to MSME manufacturers the current preferences, trends and demand for products in international export markets. They also play a crucial role in exports of MSME manufacturers, as MSME manufacturers export significant quantity of products through merchant exporters. Hence the inclusion of the merchant exporters in the ongoing scheme has been a persistent demand by the exporting community. Merchant exporters factor the high interest costs in their export costing; hence the high cost of credit impacts their competitiveness to a great extent.

GST Council recommending online refund of input tax credit from next fiscal; speedier refund to exporters

NEW DELHI: The GST Council is recommending an online refund of input tax credit (ITC); hence exporters can hope for speedier ITC refund from the next fiscal. Once the refund happens entirely online, the clearance of pending ITC refunds, estimated by exporters at around Rs. 10,000 crore, will also gain traction. Ajay Sahai, Secretary-General, FIEO, said, “It is very encouraging that the GST Council has also recommended online ITC refund mechanism for exports. We are hopeful that it may start from the next fiscal.”ITC refund is currently a partly online and partly manual procedure. Exporters complain that the manual part increases the cost and time, and places them at the mercy of tax officials who, at times, ask for irrelevant documents. According to Commerce Ministry officials, while some snags still remain in the refund of ITC, especially because some States are reluctant to part with their funds, the problems related to refund of IGST (Integrated GST) had been sorted out. An official said, “We are happy that because of our continued interaction with exporters and officials in the Finance Ministry, we were successfully able to identify all problems related to refund of IGST and refunds are happening smoothly now.” IGST was now more or less streamlined, said Mr. Sahai, except for ICD (Inland Container Depot) shipments. He added, “Many of the hinterland exporters complain that when they are filing shipments, one or two cases out of ten remain pending because of fault of the shipping lines. These errors are not attributable to exporters.”
E-wallet system
Exporters have to pay the tax upfront and then apply for a refund as per protocol in the GST regime. The Government is working on an e-wallet system under which a notional credit would be transferred to the exporters’ accounts based on their past record and the credit can be used to pay taxes on inputs.

Govt increases MEIS incentive for onions to 10% to boost exports

NEW DELHI: A delegation representing various stake holders’ in the onion trade met with Union Cabinet Minister Nitin Gadkari in New Delhi on December 28 asking for an increase in the incentives under the MEIS. Following this, the incentives given under Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) were increased from 5% to 10% by the Central Government to boost domestic prices. The decision is expected to boost domestic prices by increasing exports, which are already continuing in full swing as Indian onion is available at competitive price. The country’s fresh and chilled onion exports were USD256 mn in the April-October period of 2018-19 compared with USD511.5 mn in 2017-18.

Rice exports from India witnesses a downward trend

NEW DELHI: India’s rice exports have witnessed a downward trend despite expectations of an upswing. This is due to the elections that took place in some states and the upcoming general elections, apart from global geopolitical factors in the ongoing season. Global factors such as recessionary trends in key export markets and persisting payments issue with Iran have played a role in this decline. There are a few domestic factors: big traders are avoiding taking long positions due to the impending Lok Sabha election in the early months of 2019, as a caution before the results could reflect in amended export terms with any change in political equations. In 2017, the world’s largest rice exporter, India, had accounted for 25% of the global rice trade valued at USD 7.73 bn, primarily due to its competitive cost advantage. Last year, India’s net rice exports touched 12.7 mn tonnes (MT). Basmati exports were about 4 MT; almost 80% of the consignment went to the Gulf countries, including Iran. The fall in exports started from August this year ahead of state elections. Although arrival of new season crop was also awaited exports of basmati and non-basmati were down 6% to USD4.67 bn during April-November 2018. The fall has been attributed to lower exports of non-basmati rice. Earlier, a change of Government had led to an export ban on staple food grains, which had caused economic loss to exporters holding large inventories meant for exports. “At the same time, the banks have become jittery about extending credit to exporters due to stricter norms. This has resulted in complex paper works and delays, which has also affected trade,” said a North India-based exporter.

China’s hike in VAT refund: Exporters raise concern

NEW DELHI: China’s increasing of the refund on value-added tax (VAT) on steel, wooden items, and machinery products without raising the actual tax, has led to the voicing of concerns by countries exporting these products. In the last few months, Beijing has increased the export tax rebate on about 400 ‘electromechanical and cultural’ products including steel bars, nuts, bolts, safety pins, rivets, photo frames and wooden products to “improve the export tax rebate policy”. Those in the know of the development commented that India competes with China on certain items, and domestic exporters will feel the pinch. As an official said, “This is a cash support which China is using to protect itself from any tariff increase by the US.” Beijing has hiked the export tax rebate rate for multi-component integrated circuits, non-electromagnetic interference filters, books, newspapers and other products from the earlier 13% or 15% to 16%. On bamboo carvings and wood fans, the benefit has been raised from the earlier zero to 13%. The export tax rebate rate on safety pins has been raised to 9% compared with the earlier 5%. The CEO of Federation of Indian Export Organizations (FIEO), Ajay Sahai, estimates the Indian exports of these products to be worth USD30 bn across Asia, Africa and Latin America, which could get affected in the next few months.

US-China trade war: opportunity for India: Victor Fung

NEW DELHI: India has a window of opportunity in the milieu of the US-China trade war, and the trade imbalance between China and India will be corrected as Chinese consumption increases, says Hong Kong-based bnaire Victor Fung. According to Fung, China is facing higher import duties on exports to the US as the US-China trade war refuses to abate despite talks of a truce; hence China would now look to markets such as India from where the products can be finished and exported. Victor Fung, Honorary Chairman of Li & Fung group of companies, said, “The trade war has made the finishing in China very difficult because of high duties. There is a diversification of final stages of finishing. Made-in-China products will have trouble going in some markets like the US.” He added, “While there are places like Vietnam and Bangladesh that are becoming active, they have limited capacity while India has infinite capacity. We are making that transition ourselves and moving in this direction by necessity.” Li and Fung group, dealing with export trading and global supply chain management since 1906, wants to push its supply of global brands to Indian retailers through business-to-business ecommerce platform ShopX, which it invested in this year. Mr. Fung said that Chinese markets are also opening to imports, and Li & Fung itself is looking at India as a supply base. India and China have had a growing trade imbalance, with the deficit widening to USD63 bn in 2017-18. He said, “I think that trade imbalance is well on its way to being corrected. China is opening up its markets. The Chinese economy is driven by consumption and there is a huge opportunity in China for Indian goods.”

Govt further extends by four months its ban on import of milk products from China

NEW DELHI: According to a recently-issued notification by the Commerce Ministry, the Government has further extended the ban on import of milk and its products, including chocolates, from China by four months, till April 23 next year. The DGFT said, in a statement, “Prohibition on import of milk, milk products (including chocolates, chocolate products, candies, confectionary food preparations with milk or milk solids as an ingredient) from China is extended for a further period of four months, i.e. till April 23, 2019, or until further orders.”The ban, first imposed in September 2008, was later extended from time to time.

As exports fall, India plans to brand its cashew better

KOCHI: The cashew industry is planning a branding exercise to promote Indian cashew as the country’s cashew export heads for one of the worst falls in recent times, From a year ago at 30,805 tonnes, the data of Cashew Export Promotion Council of India (CEPCI) shows about 32% decline in shipments in the six months to September in 2018-19. Also despite a marginal increase in unit value, the revenue is also down by 32% at Rs 2,135 crore for the period. Vietnam has been able to increase its share in the US, hitherto India’s biggest market, by selling at lower prices, whereby Indian cashew lost its dominance in the US. “Vietnam now accounts for 76% of the cashew imports to the US, where India was the major supplier,’’ said RK Bhoodes, chairman of CEPCI. Employing extensive mechanisation has helped Vietnam cut costs. “Vietnam sells 20 cents per pound less than Indian rates. But in terms of quality, the Indian nuts are superior,’’ Bhoodes explained. with a view to revive Indian cashew’s earlier glory in the US market, the cashew industry is planning to promote Indian brand of cashew at premium level. “We are looking at emotional connect in marketing with tags like ‘If you buy Indian cashew you will support 1 mn workers’,’’ he said. This suggestion along with other demands such as financial support for the industry as rising cost of production has forced closure of many processing factories in Kerala and measures to control dumping of imported cashew kernels in the Indian market which is currently the largest consumer of cashew, will be placed by CEPCI at the global cashew summit in India to be held in February. Export prospects in the second half of the year are not promising since the cashew kernel prices in the global market NSE 0.00% remain low.

Trade experts say cotton imports to India in current fiscal may grow over 80%

AHMEDABAD: Some of the factors that are set to push India’s cotton imports for the year 2018-19 to a record in recent years include uncertain crop conditions, a stronger rupee and weak international prices. Trade estimates suggest owing to the dismal crop outlook following water scarcity in the growing regions of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka, India may end-up importing cotton in excess of 27 lakh bales (each of 170 kg). “This year, we will see more imports than we saw in recent years. But the trend will depend on multiple factors. Even if imports are higher than last year, they will face quality limitations. All the good quality cotton of the US, Australia and Brazil has already been sold. For the remaining cotton, not all the Indian mills can consume that,” said Atul Ganatra, President of the Cotton Association of India.As far as India’s cotton exports are concerned, owing to the unfavourable currency exchange rate and availability of cheaper alternative sources, it is likely to be lower by about 30%. Due to the cost advantage offered by those countries and amid the trade war with the US, the world’s largest buyer, China, has focussed more on Australia and Brazil for its cotton purchases.

Freight traffic at Gujarat ports will shift to dedicated freight corridor in current year

AHMEDABAD: After September next year, with the completion of works on the Dadri (Uttar Pradesh) to Palanpur stretch, freight traffic from Gujarat ports will be shifted to dedicated freight corridor. Anurag Sachan, MD of the Dedicated Fright Corridor Corporation of India said , the work on Madar (Ajmer) to Marwar junction (Pali) is scheduled to be completed by March 2019, and under the next phase, by September 2019, Palanpur (Gujarat) will be connected. “When the work till Palanpur will be completed by September 2019, freight from ports like Mundra will be shifted to the dedicated corridor and the entire traffic of ports will move through the corridor,” Sachan said. 99% of land acquisition has been completed and the work on the mega project having two — Eastern and Western –dedicated freight corridors is going on. The project running in 3,300 km and passing through nine States and 64 district had a big issue of land acquisition but 99% land has been acquired and we are moving on the right track. In order to push the work, we are completing different sections in phase manner,” he said at New Sakhun railway station near Jaipur after flagging off a trial train on Madar – New Rewari – Kishangarh Balawas (Haryana) stretch. By 2020, after the commissioning of the project, nearly 400 MT of the goods will move through the corridor, the goods train will run on the dedicated lines, which will reduce the time of transportation and enhance the punctuality of passenger trains. According to him, not only the Railway’s goods trains, private operators would also be allowed to operate their rolling stock on the paths in the dedicated freight corridor. The trial train ran on 306-km long section in the first phase of the Western corridor. This section is provided with 9 newly built freight stations consisting of six crossing stations and three junction stations. Earlier) last month, DFCCIL had completed the 194 Km section from Bhadan to Khurja (Uttar Pradesh) of the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC).

Export promotion cell for MSMEs sets up by Government

NEW DELHI: Parliament was informed recently that the MSME Ministry has established an export promotion cell to create a sustainable ecosystem for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). The integration of MSMEs into global value chain, evaluation of readiness of MSMEs to export their products and services, and recognition of areas where improvements are required in order to be able to export effectively and efficiently, are some of the benefits likely to accrue from the setting up of the cell.As per the information received from the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS), the current status of exports from the MSME sector the value of MSME-related products is USD 147,390.08 mn and share of MSME-related products in the country’s exports was 48.56% during 2017-18. A Governing council, has also been proposed to formulated by the Ministry, that will be chaired by Secretary of the MSME Ministry and co-chaired by the Development Commissioner, MSME. The council will comprise senior officials and members from Ministries of MSME and commerce, MSME Export Promotion Council, Export Development Authority, Commodity Boards, and other bodies.

INTERNATIONAL News

Trade, transit routes for Chabahar Port agreed upon by India, Afghanistan & Iran

CHABAHAR : A trilateral meeting of the Agreement between India, Afghanistan and Iran was held on December 24, 2018 in the port city of Chabahar in Iranat Chabahar, at the level of Joint Secretary/ Director General India Ports Global Ltd. Company opened its office on the occasion, and took over operations at the Shaheed Behesti Port at Chabahar. The three sides on full operationalization of the Trilateral Transit Agreement held positive and constructive discussions for international transit & transport through the Chabahar Port. The routes for the trade and transit corridors between the three countries were agreed upon. It was agreed to finalise at the earliest the protocol to harmonize transit, roads, customs, and consular matters. Cargo movement was agreed to be allowed at Chabahar using TIR Convention provisions. It was decided to promote and popularize the potential of Chabahar on 26 February 2019 by holding an event. A study would be undertaken to determine measures to make the route attractive, decrease logistic costs and pave the way for smooth operation of the Chabahar Agreement. The next Follow-up Committee meeting, followed by the 2nd Coordination Council Meeting the level of Secretaries/ Deputy Ministers, will held in India in 2019.

US exports worth USD 900 mn hit by India’s retaliatory tariffs : US Congressional report

WASHINGTON: According to the latest Congressional report, retaliatory tariffs proposed by India against US agricultural products including apples, almonds and lentils will have an adverse impact on American exports worth nearly USD 900 mn. Last year India announced higher import duties on many US products like apples, almonds, walnuts, chickpeas and lentils in retaliation to President Donald Trump’s decision to impose heavy tariffs on imported steel and aluminium items. The move has sparked off fears of a global trade war. However, despite announcing it more than six months ago, India is the only major country which has been continuously postponing the implementation of the retaliatory tariffs. Trump described India as a “tariff king” in October last year, as he reiterated his allegations that New Delhi has a high tariff rate on various American products. India’s proposed retaliatory tariffs on more than 800 American gricultural products which accounted for approximately USD 20.6 bn in exports to the US in 2017 are far less than that by China. China is followed by Canada (USD 2.6 bn), Mexico (USD 2.5 bn), the European Union (EU) (USD 1 bn) and Turkey (USD 250 mn) in slapping retaliatory tariffs on the agricultural products from the US.

Drewry: Asia trade to Mediterranean facing choppy waters

LONDON: The Asia to Mediterranean headhaul market has experienced notable improvements in the second half of 2018, according to UK-based shipping consultancy Drewry. After a flat second quarter, Westbound Asia to Mediterranean volumes in the period July-September rose by 3.4%, and returns for October yielded a growth rate of 5.6%, Drewry said citing CTS data. The year-to-date rise in headhaul demand was by the end of October reading 3.5%, much better when compared to 1.2% improvement recorded for the North Europe trade. The increases of imports by Spain that rose by 4.8% with those to Italy and France pushing ahead by 5.9% and 8.8% respectively from July to October have mainly driven recovery. Propelled chiefly by Egypt’s reviving economy, the recovery in North African volumes continued apace. Asian boxes discharged in the five countries bordering the Mediterranean increased by almost 11% in the ten-month period from January to October. As informed, traffic into Egypt rose by 17.5% and continues to gather momentum; between July and October the year-on-year increase was touching 29%. The ten-month period , according to Drewry, saw East Mediterranean sector is this year’s laggard in the trade, with volumes dropping by 4.7%. Israeli imports fell by 2.4% and Lebanese traffic gave up almost 11%. Greece, on the other hand, has marked its exit from an eight-year financial rescue program by allowing its imports from Asia to rise by 11%. However, the Turkish market has been the major casualty in the East Med where imports fell by 10%, equating to some 75,000 TEU. A currency crisis fuelled record inflation rates and stunted consumer demand caused damage in the second half of the year. In the first six months of 2018, Asian exports entering Turkey were marginally up by just over 1%, but in the subsequent four months they collapsed by 27%. “Although the lira has made a partial recovery from the depths it touched in August, it has still lost 40% of its value this year. Households have to contend with inflation rates which reached 25% in October, and higher interest rates have put the cost of borrowing well beyond the reach of the average consumer,” the shipping consultancy explained. Drewry believes headhaul volumes may struggle to match this year’s growth rate due to the expected absence of demand growth in the Turkish inbound market in the first half of 2019 and only weak expansion in the West Mediterranean sector. Freight rates could well come under further pressure in 2019 should cascading of ships from the North Europe trade into the Mediterranean continue.

Dry bulk demolitions may be seen a slow year in 2018

London: With only 4.2 mn DWT scrapped (as of December 17), down 71.6% compared to last year 2018 has been a slow year for dry bulk demolitions. An analysis by Mr Peter Sand, BIMCO’s Chief Shipping Analyst shows an almost total halt in Panamax demolitions has been an important factor behind this fall, with demolition in every ship segment down. The analysis further says: While last year, Panamax ships accounted for 23% of total dry bulk demolition, this year, with only two ships demolished, totalling 144,485 DWT, this segment accounts for only 3%. The last time Panamax demolition was so low was in 2007 when the total came to 141,479 DWT. “The last year in which only two Panamax ships were demolished was in 2007 when the dry bulk market was booming, and Panamax demolition hasn’t been in single figures since 2010. “Historically, better freight rates lead to a decrease in demolition and with average earnings in the dry bulk market at their highest since 2011, owners are more likely to keep their ships sailing,” Mr Sand said. Compared to last year in which ten months saw demolition above 0.8 mn tonnes, no month in 2018 has experienced more than 0.8 mn DWT of dry bulk demolition.. While January saw the highest levels this year at 748,666 DWT. April was the lowest month, during which only one Supramax ship was demolished. Since 2017, the average age of dry bulk ships being demolished has risen to reach 28.1 years, up from 24.7 years (Source: Clarksons). The highest average age of demolished ships peaking at 31.7 years was observed in May. The average age for demolished Capesize ships and Panamax ships over the course of the year on average was 23.8 years, and 21.6 years of age respectively. The smaller ship sizes had a higher average age at demolition of 29.8 years and 31.9 years for Handymax and Handysize ships, respectively, a release elaborated.

Despite ‘muted’ peak, US spot truck rates rise

Early December saw trucking activity in the US hit a pre-holiday peak, at least on the truckload spot market, as transactional rates shot up and load volumes declined after surging in November. Truckload freight moving on DAT Solutions load boards declined 13% in the week that ended Dec. 8 after rising 39% the previous week, DAT said. Through November, freight surged on the spot market in what proved to be a delayed “peak” season for pre-holiday freight moved by truck and intermodal rail. The delay is attributed to a substantial “pull forward” of retail freight in June and July ahead of US tariffs on Chinese goods. Importers racing to front-loading goods to the US pulled the maritime peak from August to July this year. That meant some freight that typically moves inland by truck in September and October moved earlier in the summer. Hurricanes early in the autumn in the Southeast US also saw a depression in some truck demand. However. the trucking’s spot market didn’t really heat up until November, starting with what DAT called a “bubble” of van freight that spread out from Los Angeles early in the month. Last week finally saw the bubble burst. Dry van freight volumes fell 5.3% on DAT’s top 100 truckload lanes, by midweek and spot rates slumped as well, with pricing falling an average of 1.9% on 62 of the top 100 lanes. Hhowever, the average US dry van and flatbed rates rose overall from the prior week, climbing 6 and 3 cents per mile to USD2.14 and USD2.43, respectively. The DAT US dry van average rate, which includes fuel surcharges, is 4 cents higher than the same week a year ago. Over the course of 2018, in the week ending July ,7, that average peaked at USD2.45. It appears that the rate has dropped back to a plateau reached last December after rising 30 cents per mile in four months from an average of USD1.79 per mile in August 2017. The spot market last week was nearly the inverse of the market snapshot in the week of Nov. 24, when spot van rates rose on 78 of DAT’s top 100 truckload lanes, with rates on all those lanes rising 2.3% or 5 cents per mile. However, the national dry van rate, dropped 1 cent to USD2.07 per mile. The next week saw the US average rise 1 cent to USD2.08 per mile.

Bunkering agreement signed by Port of Duqm

Muscat: A fuel bunkering agreement has been signed between Port of Duqm and Shell Oman Marketing SAOG which establishes a bunkering terminal to provide different grades of quality fuels and lubricants as well as other ancillary facilities to marine liners calling at the port. Port of Duqm is set to become a future bunker hub serving the entire region with new global bunker regulations coming into effect from 2020. It is determined to take advantage of its prime location as well as the availability of the right fuel specs to offer prime bunker services. According to a release, being located close to the major oil and gas and mining projects in Oman, Port of Duqm seeks to increase its activities significantly in the years to come.

From Jan 1, UAE introducing classification restriction for vessels from 25 flag states

ABU DHABI: Come 1 January 2019 the UAE is introducing a new classification requirement for vessels from 25 flag states calling or anchoring in its waters. As per a circular from the Federal Transport Authority (FTA) of the UAE , vessels from 25 flag states calling at UAE ports or anchoring in its waters up to its EEZ would be required to either be classed with an IACS classification society or the UAE classification society Tasneef. While the new regulation comes into force from 1 January, it impacts owners mainly flagged with smaller, open registries. The London P&I Club said in a circular, “It is reported that the aim of the new regulation is to try to ensure that all tonnage trading in UAE waters is compliant with accepted safety and quality standards.” The 25 flag states affected are: Albania, Belize, Cook Islands, North Korea, Sao Tome and Principe, Tonga, Congo, Cambodia, Georgia, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea, Vanuatu, Maldives, Mauritius, Republic of Moldova, Palau, Honduras, Costa Rica, Ghana, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Bolivia, Togo, Tanzania and Comoros.

Port in Indonesia reopens after tsunami

Jakarta : The port of Merak which had shutdown after a tsunami was triggered by a combination of underwater landslides caused by the eruption of Mount Krakatoa and an abnormal tidal surge due to a new moon late last week has reopened. After the wave hit coastal areas of South Sumatra and the western tip of Java at 21.30 hours local time on Saturday, December 22, 2018, dozens of buildings were destroyed, at least 222 people died, 843 were injured and 28 are missing,. The Pandeglang region of Banten province in Java was the worst affected area. The port of Merak reopened at 0700 hours local time on December 24. Though no change to draught restrictions at its two terminals, approach channels or anchorage is reported, vessels should be alert to the possibility of floating materials around the terminals, cautioned a communiqué.

AFRICA NEWS

Boeing, Green Africa Airways announce landmark commitment

A commitment for up to 100 737 MAX 8 aircraft was announced by Boeing and Lagos-based Green Africa Airways, evenly split into 50 firm aircraft and 50 options, as the airline gears up to begin commercial operations. Touted the largest aircraft agreement from Africa, the total deal carries a list price of USD11.7bn, and will be reflected on Boeing’s Orders and Deliveries website once finalized. “Today is a historic day for the Nigerian and African aviation industry,” said Babawande Afolabi, founder and CEO of Green Africa Airways. “This landmark deal takes us much closer to our long-held dream of building a world-class airline that will unlock a new realm of positive possibilities for mns of customers. Broadly speaking, this deal is a bold symbol of the dynamism, resilience and soaring entrepreneurial drive of the next generation of Nigerians and Africans.” Being a value airline based in Lagos, Nigeria, Green Africa Airways, aims to offer safe, quality and affordable air travel. Also it aims to be a significant contributor to the economic development of Nigeria and the African continent. The Nigerian government has issued the new airline its Air Transport License which is anchored by a group of senior industry leaders led by Tom Horton, former Chairman and CEO of American Airlines, William Shaw, founder and former CEO of Viva Colombia and Virasb Vahidi, former CCO of American Airlines. “Nigeria is uniquely positioned to be the home of the next major value airline. The strategic partnership with Boeing positions Green Africa Airways to expand and improve air travel for customers in Nigeria, and further strengthens the relationship between the United States, Nigeria and Africa,” Vahidi said. Initially the airline plans to develop the Nigerian market and then build a strong Pan African network. As the continent boosts both intra-continental and intercontinental connectivity over the next couple of decades, airlines in Africa will require 1,190 new aeroplanes according to Boeing’s 20-year Commercial Market Outlook. “The growth potential for air travel across Nigeria and Africa is extraordinary with the aeroplane fleet expected to more than double over the next 20 years. We are delighted that Green Africa Airways has selected the 737 MAX to serve this expanding market,” said Ihssane Mounir, Senior Vice President of Commercial Sales & Marketing, The Boeing Company. “We look forward to Green Africa Airways building their fleet with the MAX and taking advantage of the jet’s efficiency and dependability to open new options across Nigeria and the African continent. Boeing will be a trusted partner to Green Africa Airways as the MAX is introduced into their operations and through their long-term success.”Accumulating more than 4,800 orders from over 100 customers worldwide, the 737 MAX is the fastest-selling aeroplane in Boeing history. Enabling the aeroplane’s superior performance is the latest technology in the single-aisle market, including advanced CFM International LEAP-1B engines, Advanced Technology winglets, and other airframe enhancements.

First African-based operator, Air Tanzania, to take delivery of the Airbus A220

The latest member of Airbus aircraft operators, Air Tanzania has become the first African carrier to take delivery of the Airbus A220 aircraft. “The A220 unrivalled passenger comfort combined with its remarkable performance and economics will be an excellent asset to further develop Air Tanzania’s network,” said Tito Kasambala, Acting CEO, and Tanzanian Government Flight Agency (TGFA). The aircraft handover at the A220 Mirabel assembly line was celebrated by representatives from the airline as well as officials from the United Republic of Tanzania Government alongside executives from the A220 programme. The A220 will allow Air Tanzania to further develop its domestic and regional market as well as open new routes to India and the Middle East from its home base Dar es Salaam. “With the addition of the A220 in our fleet we are confident that we will expand our footprint in the growing African markets and beyond, as we unlock additional routes and regain our position as a key player in the African air transport market,” added Ladislaus Matindi, managing director and CEO, Air Tanzania Company Limited.

Markets Growing in Africa

“After Europe, Asia and America, we are proud to see the A220 fly now also on the African continent and in Air Tanzania’s livery. With over 240 Airbus aircraft flying in Africa and a large network of flight service offices in the region, we are ready to contribute to the airline’s success,” said Philippe Balducchi, CEO of the A220 partnership. Delivering fuel efficiency and wide body comfort in a single-aisle aircraft, the A220 is the only aircraft purpose-built for the 100-150 seat market. As compared to previous generation aircraft, the A220 brings together state-of-the-art aerodynamics, advanced materials and Pratt & Whitney’s latest-generation PW1500G geared turbofan engines to offer at least 20% lower fuel burn per seat. With a range of up to 3,200 nm (5020 km), the A220 offers the performance of larger single-aisle aircraft.

5% of International arrivals are in Africa

Over the years Africa’s’ tourism industry has shown an impressive growth. In 2017, it recorded a high of 63 mn international tourist arrivals as compared to 58 mn in 2016, an increase of 9%, slightly higher than the 2017 global average of 7%. Tunisia & Morocco, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritius and Zimbabwe have been attributed as being the chief drivers for this increase. Island destinations like Seychelles, Cabo Verde and Reunion recorded double-digit growth in arrivals too. This 63 mn however accounts for only 5% of the international tourists. Jumia co-founder Sacha Poignoinnec notes in the recently launched Africa Hospitality Report 2018-19 that this% age represents a “great potential for the African travel market, as demand continues to grow due to strong economic growth, a middle class on the rise and a young population”. Europe boasts a 51% world share of international arrivals, while Asia and the Pacific 24%, the Americas 16% and the Middle East 4%
Existing challenges deterring Africa’s better performance
UNWTO’s Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili in the same report highlights challenges in the growth of the sector in Africa. These include travel advisories by international tourist sources and political instability at some. Top reasons are also that intra-African cities air connectivity is very poor and there as been no effort to build brand Africa. “We are also dealing with negative perception of brand identity and image of the continent. Africa is not a country but a continent, home to more than a bn very creative, entrepreneurial and tech savvy Africans. It is however viewed as the only home to fascinating wildlife and torn apart by war, poverty and diseases,” adds Pololikashvili. Other factors include underdeveloped tourism infrastructure, visa restrictions and lack of a common visa policy, lack of access to adequate funding and underfunding at the ministerial level. International tourist spending in Africa stands at 40% as compared to domestic tourists spending at a high of 60% according to the report. The impressive record in domestic travel is because of increased affordability and improving ease of travel across the continent. Besides, leisure travel remains dominant in Africa with a share of 70% while business travel records an expenditure of 30%

Healthcare in Sub-Saharan Africa powering up

The governments of countries in sub-Saharan Africa have partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to promote the Solar for Health initiative to install solar systems in rural health centres and clinics.
This initiative aims to make use of solar power for refrigeration of medicines, maintenance of health information systems, and creating adequate facilities with appropriate conditions for the delivery of babies. Using solar power will reduce emissions which harm the environment. Director for Hospital Planning and Infrastructure in the Ministry of Health and Child Care of Zimbabwe MrClive Marimo explained, “The rolling-out of the Solar for Health project tallied well with the ministry’s strategic plan of improving primary healthcare. Most primary healthcare facilities located remotely are off grid and the solar project transformed the services of such facilities where basic procedures were not possible due to unavailability of a power source.” Provincial Director for Lusaka, Zambia, Dr Mwale Consity added, “The Solar for Health is very important in the supply and management of medical and surgical consumables, most so, the cold chain.” “Vaccines, which are basically the future of our country, remain potent and viable,” he stated.In Zimbabwe, in a bid to strengthen national health systems, UNDP has equipped 405 health facilities with solar systems. Installation of solar systems in health facilities with otherwise unreliable energy sources assure a return of investment of upto 100% in less than 5 years.

City road development expenditure of USD 11.7 mn by Kenyan government

The government of Kenya will spend USD 11.7 mn to restore and develop 600 km of roads in Nairobi City.
The project will be executed the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura) and the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (Kerra), according to the Daily Nation. Kura has blocked USD 12.6 mn for upgrading 588.60 km of city roads while Kerra has allocated USD 1.6 mn for building 21.2 km of road. Kenya Roads Board (KRB) revealed this in the Annual Public Roads Programme (APRP) for the financial year 2018-19. Roads in Jogoo and Lusaka have been allocated USD 101,205 for the upgrades, while Landhies Road will receive USD 37,193. Another USD 411087 will be used on 60 km of stretch of the northern and eastern bypasses. Other roads under consideration by Kura include Spine and Manyanja roads in Kayole, Bogani East, Baba Dogo, Peponi, Josep Kang’ethe, Utawala and Kasarani-Mwiki. At least 18 major roads, 29 streets and five lanes will be upgraded by the urban road agency in the central Lusaka. They are Dubois, Tsavo, Temple, Haile Selassie, Lagos and Taveta. KRB Executive Director Mr. Jacob Ruwa explained, “The fuel levy fund managed by the Kenya Roads Board is shared with the road agencies where Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) gets 40%, Kenya Rural Roads Authority 21. 8%, Kenya Urban Roads Authority 10.2%, county governments 15% and Kenya Wildlife Service one%. KRB retains the remaining 10% which it allocates to road agencies on a case-by-case basis and another two% for its operations.” Tenders for these have been won by three Chinese companies, namely China Wu Yi, Sinohydro Corporation and China Roads and Bridges Corporation.

Social mobility under transformation by Biometric
technology

Disruptive fingerprint tech company Touch Biometrix CEO thinks that advances in mobile technology have the capability to be a “game-changer” for social mobility.
Mr. Mike Cowin, CEO said that developments in biometrics open the biggest opportunity to give 3.5bn people worldwide access to an internet-enabled smartphone and with it, the ability to bank online. South Asia and Eastern Africa are slow when it comes to smartphone adoption. Compared to the global average of 50%, adoption rates in South Asia and Eastern Africa are at 30% and 25% respectively. These people are referred to as ‘unbanked’ and providing access to them is stressed so as to allow the unbanked to gain access to financial systems through mobile apps. Cowin added, “Making financial services available to the unbanked through access to micro-financing or financial inclusion offers a unique opportunity in many developing parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, Indonesia, and large swaths of Asia, with the goal of providing their populations with affordable, quality banking and fostering economic development.” “Mobile phones were introduced to developing nations over a decade ago, yet biometrics as a form of user identification has not proceeded at the same pace as smartphone ownership,” he continued. “We have the opportunity to achieve truly global financial inclusion using mobile phone technology to enrol the unbanked and to make it as easy as possible to use. The use of mobile biometrics is seen as the answer to the unbanked challenge and the technology exists to be able to do this in a way that is convenient, accessible, secure and, most significantly, cheap,” he explained. “Touch Biometrix’s fingerprint sensing technology will enable the auto-enrolment of new mobile users who do not have ID. Biometrics uses an individual’s fingerprint or face to prove who they are.” Cowin noted, “Ease of use is not the only factor. Affordability is the key and there is momentum in Asia to deliver a smartphone handset that is biometrically enabled and also meets the right cost point to serve this market. Around 134mn people in India still cannot afford the cheapest internet-enabled handset. “Recent research has shown that with the right biometric technology there is even the potential to issue the smartphone for free and allow the user to pay in instalments or save to pay over a manageable time period. Imagine the number of people who could be helped with such an accessible technology platform,” he further added. “It could enable the biggest shift in social mobility in modern times, a genuine game-changer for large swathes of the world,” Cowin concluded.

Goldstone briefs on its Ghana gold project

GoldStone Resources Limited has provided an update on activities at its Akrokeri-Homase Gold Project (AKHM) in the Ashanti Region of Ghana
AKHM is based on two previously producing assets, the high-grade Akrokeri underground mine and the Homase open pit mine, which are under simultaneous development for starting gold production by mid-2020. The company is clearing out old rails, wood and debris at the Akrokeri North Shaft, where level one has been intersected to form a safe access to continue working in the shaft for reopening the mine to access a depth of 400 feet (approximately 122 meters). A pilot heap leach project is underway at the Homase Open Pit Mine as part of the scoping study along the eight km Homase Trend the company said. This will help determine parameters for near-term development including the period required for leaching and potential gold recoveries through heap leach treatment. After 40 days of irrigation of a pilot heap leach plant, using 2.5 tonnes of material from Homase South within the Homase Trend, recoveries are 67.5%, with irrigation continuing through to extinction. GoldStone said that it was estimated by the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT) in Tarkwa, Ghana that the leach cycle would be 65 days with recoveries of up to 80%. The oxide zone within Homase South is demonstrating amenability to low-capex heap leach treatment, it explained. Within the Homase Trend at the Homase North Resource Zone historic trenching had shown signs of high-grade gold mineralisation including 15.0 metres at 6.31 g/t Au which includes 4.5 metres at 18.23 g/t Au which the scoping study will look at. Pursuant to results of from the soils programme announced on 20 June 2018, a deep trenching programme is underway, to prove the continuity of mineralisation within the Homase Trend north of the former Homase pit. Samples from the first stage of trenching at the Homase North and Adubriem deposits have been submitted to the laboratory and results are expected in Q1 2019. The company explained that the potential Homase North and South pits have been included in the expanded scope of the Environmental Baseline Study. CEO of Goldstone Ms Emma Priestley said, “Our strategy of advancing development at both Akrokeri and Homase is centered on achieving production at multiple mining operations in as short time as practicable.” “Akrokeri has the distinct advantage of demonstrating exceptionally high-grade material, including intercepts of 1.0 meter at 51.01 g/t Au, and established mining infrastructure, while Homase offers the potential benefit of being amenable to low capital heap leach treatment,” she added. “When looking at the assets in unison, I am confident that GoldStone has a clear pathway to production in mid-2020, utilizing the significant support and expertise of our strategic shareholders and team who have a proven track record in building gold mines,” she concluded.

To support low-income countries ADF approves USD 149 mn credit facility

The African Development Fund Board (ADF) has approved credit risk facility of USD 149 mn by the Private Sector Credit Enhancement Facility (PSF) in seven private sector operations targeting low-income countries.
Credit risk participations by the PSF has been approved in seven loans amounting to USD 149 mn by the Board of Directors of ADF, the concessional window of the African Development Bank Group. Launched by ADF in 2015, the PSF provides credit risk participations in private sector operations of the African Development Bank in low-income countries. It is planning to build a USD 1.5 bn portfolio of exposures. The seven operations include senior loans targeting renewable energy and agro-industry sectors in Uganda, Sudan, and Cameroon among others, as well as lines of credit to lenders in Liberia and Mali. PSF Administrator Ms. Cecile Ambert said, “These approved operations bring the facility’s total portfolio to more than 40% of its USD 1.5 bn target size and increase the PSF’s footprint to 29 countries.” “They deliver on our mandate to contribute to development impact through enabling additional financing of private sector projects in low-income countries,” she added. The operations were prioritised based on their superior expected development results and additionally; especially from increased access to electricity, food security, and job creation.

New MCC Senegal Power Compact signed by USA and Senegal

The US government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the government of Senegal have signed the new five-year USD 550 mn MCC Senegal Power Compact.
MCC Chief Operating Officer and Head of Agency Mr Jonathan Nash joined US Secretary of State Mr. Michael Pompeo and Senegalese Prime Minister Mr. Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne to recognise the signing at the US Department of State. The Senegalese government will bring an additional USD 50 mn to the compact, bringing the total to USD 600 mn. The compact was developed to strengthen the power sector and meet the growing demand for reliable electricity in Senegal which is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies and a strategic partner of the US in West Africa. The compact will create access to electricity and increase reliability, support economic growth and reduce poverty. Mr Nash said, “We mark an important milestone: the signing of the USD550mn MCC Senegal Power Compact. MCC compact is designed to catalyse private sector investment, spur economic growth and reduce poverty by improving Senegal’s power sector, reducing costs and expanding access to electricity.” Expected to benefit more than 12mn people, the Senegal Power Compact has three projects:
– The modernising and strengthening of Senelec Transmission Network Project. This aims to make Senegal’s high-voltage transmission network more reliable in and around capital city of Dakar and improve service levels across the country. The compact will enable Senelec in reducing high production costs, facilitating private sector investment in generation and increasing the reliability of electricity for consumers.
– The project that increases access of rural and peri-urban areas to electricity also seeks to extend and reinforce the electrical grid in select rural and peri-urban areas in Senegal’s south and centre regions, which have high economic potential but low connection rates. It will also help residents and businesses to connect to the grid and access electrical equipment.
– The power sector enabling environment and capacity development project will work to strengthen laws, policies and regulations governing the power sector as well as the institutions responsible for implementing them to support long-term economic progress.

CHINA News

Inspiration for world economy are China’s new imports record, amid protectionist headwinds

BEIJING: As 2018 draws to an end, China’s imports are expected to surpass a record high of 2 trn USD. Another piece of good news is that nearly 100,000 square meters of exhibition area has been booked for the second China International Import Expo (CIIE) next year. Official Custom’s data from China reveals that China’s imports increased 14.6% year-on-year in the first 11 months of 2018. The expected imports of 2 trn USD equals the gross domestic product (GDP) of Brazil and Italy in 2017. This robust growth in imports and last month’s successful inaugural CIIE in Shanghai illustrate China’s success in ramping up imports and the role the world has played in China’s reform policy and its opening-up. Duty levels have been lowered from 9.8% to 7.5% by China this year on a range of products from medicines to vehicles. Beijing’s resolve to boost imports has sent a strong message to the international community that China is opening-up and is committed to reform. The Commerce Ministry of China plans to lower tariffs, ease customs clearance and improve car import policies by next year. It is delivering on its commitment to support free trade, bolster openness in world economy and safeguard a multilateral trading system. The strong momentum in China’s imports has inspired a world economy struggling with the rising tide of trade protectionism.

5% of China Southern Airlines acquired by Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways Group today announced its on-market purchase of 5% shares in China Southern Airlines Company Ltd, amounting to roughly 5% of the carrier’s total issued share capital. This is after Qatar Airway’s fellow Oneworld member American Airlines’ own March 2017 2.76% investment in China Southern. These investments are a harbinger of China Southern’s exit from the Cargo Alliance, which was announced in November 2018 and was effective, Tuesday. China Southern Airlines is now part of the Oneworld alliance, as it strengthens its competitive edge against China Eastern Airlines – another China-based carrier and Skyteam alliance member, invested in by Delta Airlines for a 3.55% stake in 2015. Not all is hunky dory at Oneworld, guaging from last October’s dissatisfaction over being art of the alliance, voiced by Qatar Airways. If Qatar exits the alliance, it is not clear if the action could influence Oneworld cargo operations because Qatar now maintains a larger stake in China Southern than American Airlines. Qatar Airways’ new investment in China Southern demonstartes its global investment strategy, which already includes a 20% stake in International Airlines Group, 10% ownership of LATAM Airlines Group, 49% purchase of Air Italy, and 9.99% investment in Cathay Pacific.

Reunification of Taiwan with China ‘inevitable’: Xi

BEIJING: President Xi Jinping on Wednesday said that Taiwan’s unification with China is “inevitable”, warning against any efforts to maintain its independence. He said that China will not renounce the option of using military force to do so.China still assumes democratic Taiwan as its own part, soon to be reunified, even though the two have been ruled separately since the end of a civil war on the mainland in 1949. In a speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of China’s message to Taiwan calling for a reunification and an end to military confrontation Xi said, “China must and will be united… which is an inevitable requirement for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people in the new era. “We make no promise to give up the use of military force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means against Taiwanese separatist activities and outside forces that interfere with reunification,” he said. In his speech, Xi described unification under a “one country, two systems” approach that would “safeguard the interests and well-being of Taiwanese compatriots”. Taiwan considers itself a sovereign state, with its own currency, political and judicial systems, but has never declared formal independence from the mainland. Relations soured two years ago when the elected President Tsai Ing-wen refused to acknowledge Beijing’s stance that the island is part of “one China”. On Tuesday, Tsai warned Beijing that Taiwan’s people would never give up the kind of freedoms unseen on the authoritarian mainland. Beijing “must respect the insistence of 23 mn people for freedom and democracy” and “must use peaceful and equal terms to handle our differences”, she said. Analysts say that though Xi’s speech takes a strong stance against Taiwanese separatists and pushes for reunification, it is aimed mostly at domestic audiences. “It’s rather empty and doesn’t have any new points except that cross-strait unification would not affect the interests of other countries,” said Fan Shih-ping, political analyst at National Taiwan Normal University, adding that Xi’s words could also be intended for the US. The US in 2018 infuriated China by sending its ships through the Taiwan Strait – which are seen as international waters open to all by the US and the others, but are seen by China as its territory. USA remains Taipei’s most powerful unofficial ally and its main arms supplier despite switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979. Says Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, who studies Chinese foreign policy that Xi’s speech is likely to be “very poorly received,” by the US. To accommodate the differences between Taiwan’s political system and civil society, China has proposed using the “one country, two systems” policy, which it did in Hong Kong after it was handed back to China by the British in 1997. It is said that Hong Kong’s erosion of civil liberties after China’s advent sets a negative precedent for Taiwan. Ms Caludia Mo, a pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmaker told AFP, “China is gobbling up Hong Kong, not just politically but culturally and economically too. It’s so obvious that they’re trying to assimilate Hong Kong into wider mainland China in every way. How would any Taiwanese think that’s going to work for them?” Last October, tens of thousands of campaigners for independence of Taiwan took to the streets in the first ever large-scale protest calling for an outright independence vote since the island first became a democracy more than 20 years ago. Some Taiwanese say that worsening relations with Beijing have proven detrimental to businesses, cuts in pensions and a reduction in public holidays along with compounded frustrations over a stagnant economy where salaries have not kept up with the rise in cost of living. Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive party suffered a massive defeat in mid-term polls last year, causing Tsai to resign as leader of the party. The main opposition Kuomintang witnessed an unprecedented thaw with Beijing before Tsai took office in 2016, made gains. To diminish Taiwan’s presence on the international stage, Beijing has adopted a multi-pronged in recent years, such as blocking it from global forums and poaching its dwindling number of official diplomatic allies.

Cool-chain corridor formed between Hong Kong and Brussels airports with Pharma.Aero

Today, a pharma corridor was established between Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), Brussels Airport (BRU) and Pharma.Aero – a group centered around upholding pharma shipping standards – as news of a three-way collaboration to create a seamless cold-chain link between the two major international airfreight hubs. Shipments moving along the route will be handled in compliance with IATA’s standards and be carried by CEIV Pharma-certified airlines. General Manager of Aviation Logistics for the Airport Authority at HKIA Ms. Alaina Shum said that the airport is already implementing measures to improve its temperature-sensitive capabilities with plans to take delivery of 19 cool-chain dollies for airlines’ use, as well as the construction of new apron shelters to protect pharmaceutical shipments from the elements. Head of Cargo and Logistics at BRU Mr. Steven Polmans said that the volume of pharma traffic between the two hubs, as well as between BRU and other Asian and Australian destinations, is quite significant. “Our aim is to grow the volume of pharmaceutical shipments at Brussels Airport by focusing on quality and transparency,” he said. “From the beginning, we have reached out to shippers and manufacturers to understand their requirements and work with them and the rest of our cargo community. We have been focusing on improving processes, finding innovative solutions and effectively implementing various projects.” After launch, Pharma.Aero intends to take the initiative to its other member airports in an effort to form a network of pharma corridors.