National News

Rise in Forex reserves by USD150 mn to USD398.27 bn

MUMBAI: The Reserve Bank said that there was a rise in Forex reserves by USD150 mn to USD398.272 bn for the week to February 15 on a rise currency assets and gold holdings. The overall reserves had surged by USD2.11 bn to USD398.122 bn in the previous reporting week. RBI said that the foreign currency assets rose USD88.9 mn to USD371.07 bn for the reporting week.

Trade package to be finalized by India and the USA to boost bilateral commerce

NEW DELHI: Commerce Ministry officials and the US Trade Representative (USTR) are in the process of finalizing a trade package to boost bilateral trade, said an official; this package would be announced soon he added.India is pressing for exemption from high duty imposed by the US on certain steel and aluminium products, resumption of export benefits to some domestic goods under their Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), and greater market access for its products from sectors like agriculture, automobile, auto components, and engineering. The official said that the US, on the other hand, is demanding greater market access through cut in import duties for its agriculture goods, dairy products, medical devices, IT and communication items.As the talks are going on, India is extending the deadline for imposing high customs duties on 29 US products in retaliation to Washington’s move to impose high import duties on certain steel and aluminium products.India and the US are having two track discussions, the official said: to increase trade in short and medium term, and identify long term trade potentials. During 2017-18,India’s exports to the US stood at USD 47.9 bn, while imports were USD 26.7 bn. The trade balance is in favor of India.

Commerce Ministry sets USD50-bn bilateral trade target with Russia by 2025

NEW DELHI: An ambitious USD50 bn target for bilateral trade between India and Russia over the next seven years has been set by the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Mr. C.R.Chaudhary. Trade between the two countries stood at USD30 bn at the end of 2018. At the Indo-Russian forum organized by the industry lobby CII here, Chaudhary said, “Our two-way trade have already crossed the USD30- bn mark, which we had set for 2025. We, therefore, propose that we enhance this to USD50 bn by 2025.” Both the countries are confident of achieving the target, he added, saying that by 2030, the country is expected to become the third largest economy in the world with a huge middle class. India needs a better infrastructure, access to energy, more goods and services and a modern agriculture sector are all required to attain that target, he added. Addressing the forum, Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said that small and medium enterprises are the foundation of the economy of any modern Country. Manturov said, “Nearly 22 % of Russian GDP is coming from SMEs and the target is to take this to 40 %. The Indo-Russian collaboration will play a major role in achieving this.”

Suresh Prabhu: India to focus on strategic partnerships for trade growth

NEW DELHI:According to Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu, India will go beyond trade relationships to strategic partnerships in this age of changing world order. Recently, at the Global Business Summit, Prabhu said, “Trade is about strategic partnerships. In this changing world trade, we need to find new edifice of strategic relationships.” He talked about the fact that unprecedented situations are developing in the world, and global trade is facing a real headwind; the World Trade Organization (WTO) was being questioned, he said. Prabhu said, “Now people are talking whether the WTO should be there or not and the efficacy of global trade.” He said that India’s strategy was to increase exports through geography-specific and product-specific matrix to increase the market share. Prabhu added, “We are doing this for Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. While we benefit, we want to make sure that the global community (also) benefits.” The Commerce minister added that India was collaborating with West Asia for food products, and diamonds were the focus area of partnership with Russia. 12 champion sectors have been identified by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry; it has dedicated a fund of Rs. 5,000 crore to help these sectors achieve their true potential. These sectors are information technology & information technology-enabled services, tourism and hospitality, medical value travel, transport and logistics, accounting and finance, audio visual, legal, communication, construction and engineering, education, environmental services, and financial services.

Commerce Ministry to notify WTO regarding revoking MFN status to Pakistan

NEW DELHI:An official quoted that the Commerce Ministry would soon notify to the World Trade Organization (WTO) its decision to revoke the most-favoured nation (MFN) status to Pakistan on security grounds. Through this decision, India would be able to increase Custom Duties on goods imported from Pakistan. In 2017-18, India imported goods worth USD 488.5 mn. The official added, “Now, the Commerce Ministry will notify to the WTO to revoke the MFN status to Pakistan by invoking Article 21 of the WTO which is the security exception.” The Commerce Ministry look over a list of goods imported from Pakistan; India would increase the customs duties on these goods.

Apparel exports drop by 30% due to low demand

INDORE:According to Industry players, there has been a sharp drop in demand of apparel exports leading to towering inventories and rising liabilities of local manufacturers. According to experts, apparel exports have dropped by over 30 % in comparison to a year ago. M.C.Rawat, the Madhya Pradesh Textiles Mills Association Secretary, said, “Apparel exports are going through a rough phase due to price competency. Demand for locally manufactured apparels has gone down in the international market owing to lack of tax benefits as availed by other manufacturing countries.” Despite the fact that MP is the fourth largest cotton producing state, local textile industries are getting tough competition from rivals due to higher costing. Other leading textile exporters get duty exemption for textile industries, industrialists say. Since India does not, it leads to higher costing for Indian products. Of India’s over-5% share of global textile and apparel trade, garments contribute the most (37 %), followed by cotton yarn and fabrics (about 23 %). In absence of demand, stocks are going up and running expenses are mounting, say local manufacturers.

Exporters look to Govt for supporting them if US withdraws GSP benefit

NEW DELHI:Indian exporters fear losing their competitive advantage in US markets, especially in labor-intensive products, if the latter withdraws the popular Generalized System of Preferences Scheme (GSP). They have requested the Centre for support. A Government official recently said, “In the recent Board of Trade meeting, several exporting sectors raised concerns over the imminent withdrawal of the GSP benefit by the US. While some suggested that the Government should lobby further with the US Government with the help of American industry for its continuation, most wanted some alternative schemes devised by the Centre to support exporters in case the benefits are revoked.” The US Government’s GSP scheme was drafted to encourage exports from developing countries. 3500 Indian items get duty-free access to US markets. India is the largest beneficiary of this scheme. In 2017, of India’s total exports to the US worth USD 49 mn, those benefiting from GSP were worth USD 5.7 bn.Last year, India’s eligibility came under cloud when the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) office started a review process for India, Indonesia and Kazakhstan. The eligibility review was initiated under the behest of complaints made by the US dairy industry and the medical equipment industry of perceived trade barriers. No communication effecting a withdrawal has been received from the USTR but there are speculations that the move could mean that Washington is unhappy with the recent tightening of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) rules on e-commerce by India. FIEO Director-General Ajai Sahai said, “We have proposed to the Government that in case the GSP benefits are withdrawn, losses to exporters could be offset by giving some additional incentives to certain labor-intensive sectors.”

Poor demand forces apparel exports to drop by 30%

INDORE:According to Industry players, there has been a sharp drop in demand of apparel exports leading to towering inventories and rising liabilities of local manufacturers. According to experts, apparel exports have dropped by over 30 % in comparison to a year ago. M.C.Rawat, the Madhya Pradesh Textiles Mills Association Secretary, said, “Apparel exports are going through a rough phase due to price competency. Demand for locally manufactured apparels has gone down in the international market owing to lack of tax benefits as availed by other manufacturing countries.” Despite the fact that MP is the fourth largest cotton producing state, local textile industries are getting tough competition from rivals due to higher costing. Other leading textile exporters get duty exemption for textile industries, industrialists say. Since India does not, it leads to higher costing for Indian products. Of India’s over-5% share of global textile and apparel trade, garments contribute the most (37 %), followed by cotton yarn and fabrics (about 23 %). In absence of demand, stocks are going up and running expenses are mounting, say local manufacturers.

Since main port will be hit by curbs, Iran to promote Indian built Chabahar Port

NEW DELHI:With sanctions possibly causing a shut down of Bandar Abbas poty, the Iranian Government is planning to bank on the Chabahar Port being developed by India. This issue was taken up in a major conference on February 26, extending the use of the Indian Ocean port beyond India-Afghan trade alone. Officials said that India is sending an official delegation to the event led by the Shipping Ministry, for which 200 guests from 35 countries have been invited. India is caught between the U.S. tensions with Iran on one side and their objective to achieve the triple aims of trade with Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan and posing a counter to the China-Pakistan developed Gwadar Port nearby.
Focal point
“The Government of Iran wants to build Chabahar as the focal point with the entire coastline of 1,000 kilometres to be developed for oil refineries, petrochemical and steel factories, and other projects,” the newly appointed Iranian Ambassador to India Ali Chegeni said recently. “We want to promote Chabahar as a hub where big ships can enter, offload to smaller ships that can go easily to other ports as well.” According to him the potential for inland trade goes well beyond the present plan of trade from India to Afghanistan via Chabahar, as he disclosed the Government’s plans to connect ‘via Turkmenistan to Central Asia, via Turkey to Europe, and via Iraq to Syria and the Mediterranean’ countries. “Once the railroad from Chabahar connects to Zahedan, many more opportunities will open up,” he said.

2018 passenger car exports down by 5.25 %

NEW DELHI:With 7 lakh passenger cars being exported in 2018, Indian passenger car exports recorded a 5.25% dip from the 2017 number of 7.39 lakh cars, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) data. “India’s overall exports during 2018 witnessed a fall due to various factors, including subdued market conditions. Reflecting the trend, passenger vehicle exports were also down. But, when compared with the export performance by other sectors, automobiles seem to have fared well,” said a top official of a leading automobile manufacturer. Of the 7 lakh units exported, a third was shipped through Kamarajar Port and Chennai Port Trust. The former catering to the demands of various passenger car manufacturers in and around Chennai, is readying up to handle 2 lakh units this year. Chennai Port, which now handles 1.3 lakh units from the earlier 2 lakh cars per annum, blames congestion for reduced numbers, now handles close to 1.30 lakh units. Chennai port usually handles cars made by Hyundai only.

New Agriculture Export Policy to focus on exporting NE products: APEDA

NEW DELHI:APEDA has been exploring various aspects of agri export such as the procedural requirements for export of fresh fruits and vegetables from the Northeastern region. “The agri export policy will pave the way for organizing the supply chain of agri exports from Assam, benefiting the farmers from grassroots,” said APEDA Chairman Paban Kumar Borthakur. “It is required to have a farmer-centric approach for improved income through value addition at the source itself, which will help to minimize losses across the value chain,” said an official of the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry.” The objectives of the agriculture export policy are to diversify our export basket, destinations and boost high value and value added agricultural exports including focus on perishables, besides promoting novel, indigenous, organic, ethnic, traditional and non-traditional agri products exports,” he added. To boost exports from Tripura, Aizawl airport has installed a walk-in cold storage under the infrastructure scheme for maintenance of quality to enhance export from the State. To educate farmers and other stakeholders, APEDA is organizing a buyer-seller meet in March, roping in importers from the Asean and the Middle East. Guwahati – The newly frames agriculture export policy by the Centre strives to reinvigorate the entire value chain from export-oriented farm production and processing to transportation, infrastructure and market access – would lay prime focus on exporting fresh fruits and vegetables from the Northeast to foreign markets. Vegetable exports from Assam picked up since November last year, when the government launched direct custom clearance facility for agri-export from the Guwahati airport to foreign destinations. In the Northeast, the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), the coordinating agency of the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has created five packhouses for fresh fruits and vegetables with State Government agencies in Assam, Sikkim and Mizoram.

Cabinet approves National Policy on Electronics 2019

NEW DELHI: The NPPE 2019 or the National Policy on electronics has been approved by the Union Cabinet and proposed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). The Policy envisions positioning India as a global hub for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing – (ESDM) by encouraging and driving capabilities in the Country for developing core components, including chipsets, and creating an enabling environment for the industry to compete globally. In fact implementation of the Schemes/ Programmes under the aegis of the NPE 2012 has successfully consolidated the foundations for a competitive Indian ESDM value chain. NPE 2019 proposes to build on that foundation to propel the growth of ESDM industry in the Country. The National Policy of Electronics 2012 (NPE 2012) will be replaced by the National Policy of Electronics 2012 (NPE 2012).

Warehousing to attract investment of USD10 bn in next 4-5 years

MUMBAI: Riding on structured reforms including infrastructure status and implementation of Goods & Services Act, the Indian warehousing and logistics sector will attract nearly USD10 bn investments over the next 4-5 years. JLL India estimates that total supply will nearly double with the addition of around 200 mn sq ft warehousing space across India. With e-commerce spreading its reach there has been a corresponding need for space from these companies in both Tier I & II markets and this is forecasted to pump a robust growth in Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru and Chennai markets. “Warehousing and logistics sector has been growing steadily since 2017, when it was granted an infrastructure status. Structured reforms such as the implementation of Goods and Services Act, the formation of a Logistics Department under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and various other policy changes have directly or indirectly resulted in sector’s growth of the sector,” said N Srinivas, Managing Director, Industrial Services, JLL India. A key trend emerging now is the growing demand for warehousing and logistics space from Tier II cities like Coimbatore, Guwahati, Lucknow, and Jaipur & Ludhiana.

Deendayal Port crosses 100 MMT in cargo handling

GANDHIDHAM: On February 16th 2019, Deendayal Port Trust (DPT) once more crossed the magical figure of 100 MMT in cargo handling, as against last year’s high of 95.8 MMT. Of this was 73.59 MMT of import cargo and 26.58 MMT of export cargo. The port is expected to repeat this in this fiscal. DPT has emerged as a vibrant, world class, Multi-Cargo Port offering services at multiple locations and having dominant share of regional cargo by virtue of its ability to effectively leverage its locations and land resources for facilitation of growth of economic activities and investments. On 31st March 2016, DPT became the first Major Port to achieve the milestone of handling 100 MMT cargoes in a year.

PICT sets a new record of loading 947 HR coils in 24 hours

PARADIP: Paradip International Cargo Terminal Pvt. Ltd. (PICT) has overcome many constraints to experience aggressive growth in operational xcellence. Its own record of loading 974 HR coils/21,764.320 MT on December 26, 2018, by loading 974 HR coils/ 21,764.320 MT in 24 hours into M. V. Storm Rider. Loading of the cargo started at 0315 hrs. on December 25, 2018 and was over by 21:55 hrs. Vessel gears/ cranes were used to load the cargo into the vessel and on the yard side, reach stackers/ forklifts and trailers were used to feed the vessel. The team underwent lots of challenges during the operation, the major one being the internal logistics cost (ILC). The team then decided to make buffer stack of the cargo and move it under hook using forklifts, said a release.

ChPT creates landmark achievement in Crude oil handling

CHENNAI: In handling 88,000 tonnes of crude from the vessel m.v. NORDIC MOON on 18.02.2019, Chennai Port has set another landmark achievement. The vessel was carrying 1,46,025 tonnes through the 42” diameter pipeline from Bharathi Dock (BD-III) to CPCL refinery in Manali.

CHINA NEWS

Tuesday will see US-China trade talks resume in Washington : White House

No major deal in the last set of talks ended on Friday in Beijing.
The White House has announced that US-China trade talks which were aimed at ending a damaging tariff war will resume from Tuesday in Washington,. Though US President Donald Trump said the discussions were going “extremely well” and suggested he could extend a March 1 truce deadline for an agreement to be reached, the last set of talks ended on Friday in Beijing without any sparks. Deputy-level meetings will commence the next round of negotiations before moving on to principal-level talks on Thursday, a White House statement issued Monday said. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, economic policy advisor Larry Kudlow, and trade advisor Peter Navarro will lead the talks for the US.Vice Premier Liu He would be representing the China’s commerce ministry as announced by, Beijing’s top trade negotiator. Increasing tariffs to 25 % from the current 10 % on March 1 on USD200 bn in Chinese goods may be held off as Trump re-iterated On Friday, if Washington and Beijing are close to finalizing an agreement to deal with US complaints about unfair trade and theft of American technology. Beijing is being accuse of seeking global industrial predominance through an array of unfair trade practices, including the “theft” of American intellectual property and massive state intervention in commodities markets by American officials. To get US trade negotiators closer to a deal Since a December detente, China has resumed purchases of some US soybeans and dangled massive buying of American commodities. Monday’s statement said the talks are aimed at “achieving needed structural changes in China that affect trade between the United States and China,”. “The two sides will also discuss China’s pledge to purchase a substantial amount of goods and services from the United States.” Beijing and Washington imposed duties, which are weighing on their manufacturing sectors and have shaken global financial markets amount to more than USD360 bn in two-way trade.

As Trump pushes to close deal China trade talks extended

WASHINGTON President Trump is looking at extending a deadline to raise tariffs and hoping to meet next month with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to complete a broad trade agreement, citing progress in U.S.-China trade talks. Four days of talks between U.S and Chinese negotiators his comments in the Oval Office followed, which Mr. Trump extended through the weekend. “We’re having good talks, and there’s a chance that something very exciting can happen,” he said. A pact with Beijing to curb currency manipulation, which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called “one of the strongest agreements ever on currency.” was among the accomplishments that Mr. Trump cited No details of the deal were provided any either men, nor Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. Similarly, none of the officials gathered in the Oval office offered any specifics to back up their assertions of progress. Mr. Trump’s growing impatience for a deal is troubling by what they see as, and are urging him to stand firm and insist China make fundamental changes in its industrial policies China hawks in the business community, the administration and in Congress. “I am encouraged by signs of progress, but remain concerned that the president will accept a quick offer of procurement of U.S. goods rather than fundamental reforms to China’s systemic problems,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., a New Jersey Democrat. Two major issues involved in the discussions still divide the sides said people briefed on the specifics of the talks are: Chinese government pressure on U.S. companies to transfer their technology to Chinese partners; subsidies for Chinese state-owned firms; and protection of intellectual property. The two sides also remain deadlocked on how to enforce any agreement.There has been progress made on unspecified structural issues U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said but cautioned that some “big” hurdles remain before a deal is reached. “It’s a little early for champagne,” added Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Michael Wessel, a commissioner of a congressional panel on China, who advises the Trump trade team, said that 2020 presidential politics were behind Mr. Trump’s move to wrap up a deal. “It seems the Chinese have gotten the president to back down a bit,” Mr. Wessel said. “They are probably going to address the most egregious public issues that might come up prior to the 2020 election and manage the relationship until then. The Chinese don’t want to be an election issue either.” Mr. Trump has to decide whether to extend a March 1 deadline for reaching an agreement, which would prevent 10% tariffs on USD200 bn in Chinese imports from jumping to 25% at 12:01 a.m. the following day. Mr. Trump said he was amenable to an extension of “another month or so or less.” Sometime later next month he would “probably” meet with Mr. Xi at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., he said. Over the weekend, said Hudson Institute China scholar Michael Pillsbury, the U.S. would press Chinese negotiators to be specific. “The White House hopes that the Chinese will actually agree to detailed descriptions of a meaningful agreement,” he said.

‘Difficult discussions’ ahead still for China and US on structural trade issues

Despite the trade war truce’s being extended Washington and Beijing remain divided over the US’ demand that China make structural changes to its economy, analysts say. After negotiators wrapped up two days of extended talks in Washington US President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday that “substantial progress” had been made on intellectual property protection, technology transfer, agriculture, services and currency. For a boost in US tariffs on more than USD200 bn of Chinese goods, Trump also said he would push back the March 1 deadline and that he would soon meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida “to conclude an agreement”. According to US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, during the latest round of talks China also offered to buy an additional 10 mn metric tonnes of American soybeans. China’s official news agency Xinhua, said in a commentary that the two countries remained at odds over some issues and that new uncertainties could emerge. Trump’s upbeat assessment of the trade war negotiations was echoed by which also reported “substantial progress” in the talks. The US would be unlikely to stop pushing for structural changes to China’s economy, Brock Silvers, managing director of Kaiyuan Capital, said despite the truce extension.“Those issues have always been at the core of US demands,” he said. “Yet the ongoing difficulties therein can’t obscure that the [two] parties have made progress on a variety of issues. Trump has reasonably decided that such progress warrants a ceasefire extension.”

Talks to continue on thorny trade issues: Several Chinese negotiators stay in Washington

  • Sources say Vice-Premier Liu He, the head of the delegation, has left Washington to return to Beijing
  • ‘Some technical level’ discussions held the two sides on Monday morning
  • Trade negotiations in Washington on Monday between China and the United States continued their as they try to iron out a framework for a deal to resolve the stickier issues in their stand-off, as told by three people with knowledge of the talks.

On Monday morning some members of the Chinese delegation are staying in Washington for a few more days, China’s chief negotiator and vice-premier, departed for Beijing, two sources told the South China Morning Post. Monday morning saw the two sides hold “some technical level” discussions on, another source said. US President Donald Trump said in a Twitter message on Monday afternoon: “China Trade Deal (and more) in advanced stages. Relationship between our two countries is very strong. I have therefore agreed to delay U.S. tariff hikes. Let’s see what happens?” The issues such as intellectual property protection, technology transfers, agriculture and currency saw formal cabinet-level talks concluded on Sunday, with both sides citing “substantial progress”. On Sunday Trump said that he was delaying the tariff increases on USD200 bn of Chinese products, which were set to be imposed on March 2. Speculation are rife that a final deal could be reached during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida in late March. But structural issues such as technology transfers and enforcement mechanisms still have big gaps and sources said that many problems remained on that both sides. They said there is debate inside the Chinese government on how far the reforms could go and one of the sources said the two sides had different views prioritising the structural issues. Another source said “fundamental difference” each country had on how to define the term negotiations on technology transfers were tough.The source said US wants China to eliminate its requirement that US firms set up joint ventures in order to gain access to Chinese markets. Beijing has never admitted the existence of forced technology transfers. The US has also demanded elimination of the expert panel that reviews China’s licensing process. This is an area where US firms risk the leak of trade and technology secrets.

Beijing shows cautious optimism for US-China trade deal

  • Welcoming the positives Chinese state media warns that any final agreement will not please everyone in either country
  • Concrete progress’ achieved in Washington talks says Senior diplomat Wang Yi
  • On Monday China’s senior diplomat Wang Yi said that the latest round of trade talks with the US had provided “positive prospects” on Sino-American ties and the global economy, as state media reacted with cautious optimism.
  • An immediate delay to US President Donald Trump’s planned extra tariffs on Chinese imports yielded thanks to the talks between chief negotiators in Washington, described by Wang at a Beijing event as “achieving concrete progress”
  • The just-concluded round of talks in Washington sent a cautiously positive sign for a settlement to the friction between the world’s two biggest economies, but also cautioned that any final deal would face criticism both within China and the US, commentaries from top Communist Party mouthpieces like newspaper People’s Daily and state news agency Xinhua said.
  • Citing “substantial progress” in the talks with China’s team led by Vice-Premier Liu He, Trump said late on Sunday that he would delay the application of additional tariffs on Chinese imports.
  • I am pleased to report that the US has made substantial progress in our trade talks with China on important structural issues including intellectual property protection, technology transfer, agriculture, services, currency, and many other issues,” Trump said in a tweet.

Extra tariffs on Chinese imports to be delayed by Donald Trump

  • US president announces he will delay tariff hike, citing ‘substantial progress’
  • US-China negotiations will precede a face-to-face meeting between him and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump further suggested
  • US President Donald Trump said he will delay the application of additional tariffs on Chinese imports, citing “substantial progress” in talks in Washington with a team led by China’s Vice-Premier Liu He.
  • “I am pleased to report that the US has made substantial progress in our trade talks with China on important structural issues including intellectual property protection, technology transfer, agriculture, services, currency, and many other issues,” Trump said in a tweet.
  • Trump, who suggested that more negotiations would precede a face-to-face between the two leaders said a hike in tariffs on USD200 bn of Chinese imports, originally expected to take effect at 12:01am on March 2, would be delayed.
  • “Assuming both sides make additional progress, we will be planning a Summit for President Xi and myself, at Mar-a-Lago, to conclude an agreement”, he continued. “A very good weekend for US & China!”

Asian markets rose on Monday morning following the postponement of the hike in tariffs. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index opened up 0.7 % on Monday, while the Korea Composite Stock Price Index opened 0.5 % higher. The offshore yuan gained as much as 150 pips to 6.6876 against the US dollar in the early morning session. The Retail Industry Leaders’ Association (RILA), a US retail industry lobbying group whose members The US government’s announcement Industry Leaders’ Association (RILA), a US retail industry lobbying group whose members include Walmart and Target, applauded the. “These ongoing negotiations have been hanging over America’s retailers causing uncertainty throughout our supply chain”, said Hun Quach, the association’s vice-president of international trade, in a statement on Sunday. “We commend the president’s decision to delay the tariff increase on thousands of everyday products that mns of American families want and need,” said Quach, a former assistant US Trade Representative (USTR).

AFRICA NEWS

Elections due to open in a few hours, postponed by Nigeria

The Electoral Commission of Nigeria has postponed the Presidential election just hours before polls were set to open on Saturday. It has been pushed to 23rd February. Reports inform that voting material has not reached all parts of the country, but the Commission cited unspecified ‘challenges’ for the same. In Abuja, on Friday Commission Chairman Mr. Mahmood Yakubu told reporters, “This was a difficult decision to take but necessary for successful delivery of the elections and the consolidation of our democracy.” More details would be released on Saturday afternoon he assured. Nigeria is Africa’s most populated nation with the largest economy and produces oil. Current President Mr. Muhammadu Buhari is in for a tight election contest against the opposition’s chief candidate, businessman and former Vice President Mr. Atiku Abubakar.The election is seen as a referendum on Buhari’s first term during which his illness has made sure he was largely absent, a weak economy, and the government’s failure to keep in check corruption and the security situation. 84 mn regiestered Nigerian voters are waking up to realise that they will not be able to vote until next week. In Nigeria, people have to cast their votes from their home states. Many have travelled across the large west African country to do so and may not be able to take the journey again a week later. On Friday, flights taking off from Abuja airport were full of people going home to vote. Travel on election day is restricted and people generally walk to polling stations to cast their votes. State Governor elections that were to be held on 2 March have also been put off by a week. Pegged at 242 mn naira (USD 670 mn) the cost of the election will jack up further. In 2011 and 2015 too elections were delayed over logistics and security issues. The postponement has drawn flak from Mr. Uche Secondus, Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, the main opposition party. He said that the move was an action that was “dangerous to our democracy and unacceptable,” adding that it was part of an attempt by Buhari to “cling on to power even when it’s obvious to him that Nigerians want him out.” Even the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress party criticised the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the delay. Buhari “cooperated fully with INEC by ensuring everything it demanded to conduct free and fair elections were promptly made available,” it said in a statement. “This news is therefore a huge disappointment to us.” An official from the Electoral Commission said, “some result sheets and some ballot papers are reportedly missing. We want to track every (piece of) sensitive material, take inventory of what we have and what is missing”.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas appeals for calm, patience among Nigerians during the election

Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) Mr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas on the eve of the Presidential and parliamentary elections in Nigeria lauded Nigerians for a peaceful and participatory pre-election period.
On February 13 when presidential candidates signed the Second National Peace Accord, he welcomed it urging them to mobilise their sympathisers and supporters toobserve the practices of free, fair, transparent, inclusive and credible elections, devoid of hate and denigration of each other. He called on all Nigerians to firmly reject any undemocratic and negative voices that may seek to disrupt the elections and generate a conflict between them. He urged them to come out in large numbers and cast their vote peacefully while exercising their civic responsibility. He said that the success of the elections was a responsibility of all Nigerians and relevant Nigerian institutions, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies, political parties, candidates, religious leaders, civil society. Redressal of any grievances may be made through legal and constitutional means. He called on all stakeholders to keep the interest of the country their topmost priority hoping that the successful conduct of peaceful, free, fair, transparent, inclusive and credible elections will be an example for elections coming up in West Africa and Africa and restore Nigeria’s leading positions in the region.

New HiPer VR versatile GNSS receiver launched by Topcon

With a mission to provide versatile solutions with the most advanced available GNSS technology, Topcon has unveiled HiPer VR, its latest in the HiPer series of integrated receivers.
Director of GNSS Product Management Mr. Alok Srivastava said, “The HiPer VR is packed with the most powerful GNSS technology in a housing, which is built to withstand the harshest field environments.” “The Topcon advanced GNSS chipset with Universal Tracking Channels technology allows the HiPer VR to automatically track signals from all available constellations, including GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, IRNSS, QZSS and SBAS, now and into the future, ” he added.

Topcon integrated levelling technology

The HiPer VR with Topcon integrated levelling technology (TILT) is designed to compensate the inaccurate field measurements out of plumb by as much as 15 degrees. “TILT incorporates a revolutionary nine-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU) and an ultra-compact three-axis eCompass, thus allowing operators to quickly and confidently take field measurements even in scenarios where getting the receiver into an exact vertical setup is difficult or not possible,” explained Srivastava. The HiPer VR is designed as a complete and versatile solution for a variety of applications including static or kinematic GNSS post-processed surveys, a network RTK option when paired with a field computer equipped with a cellular modem, a radio or LongLink job site RTK rover, as well as the GNSS component of the Hybrid Positioning and Millimeter GPS workflows. Equipped with the the IP67 certification for protection against harsh environmental conditions such as wind and rain the new receiver also has an integrated 400 MHz UHF radio modem and license-free 900 MHz FH915 protocol radio modem.

AMDC moves from ECA to African Union Commission

Following its inception in 2012, the African Mineral Development Centre (AMDC) has been handed over to the African Union Commission (AUC) by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). Endorsed as a flagship project the AMDC was endorsed by the 2nd conference of African Ministers responsible for Minerals Resource Development in 2011 with the objective of coordinating the implementation of the Africa Mining Vision (AMV), which had been adopted in 2009 by Heads of States to ensure that minerals were contributed to the continent’s economic and structural transformation. Eca Executive Secretary Ms. Vera Songwe said, “It underscores the concrete programmes, partnerships and prospects that demonstrate AMDC’s role as a facilitator of choice, for African countries and their global partners seeking to realise AMV aspirations.” Songwe said that it was important that AMDCs partners collaborated with the stakeholders. She said that the AMDCs work will continue getting support from the ECA. “Now we must ensure that AMDC’s work goes forward, as Africa strives to assert its agency in the strategic management of its mineral resources. In so doing, our credibility depends on the extent to which we remain true to Africa’s historic imperative for an AMV paradigm. That imperative applies yesterday, today and tomorrow,” she added. Mr. Kwesi Quartey, AUC Deputy Chairperson lauded the ECA and its partners including the Canadian and Australian governments, for supporting and nurturing the AMDC to its current status enabling it to support member States. The AMDC has a footprint in more than 25 member states of the African Union. This is indeed a great achievement,” noted Quartey, adding that enough resources had been mobilised to support the transition of the AMDC from ECA to the AUC. The AUC will host the AMDC until it is moved to a host country.

CPJ joins call for Nigeria to ensure internet and social media services

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have demanded that Nigeria gets assured and uninterrupted internet and social media services during elections. Nigeria’s federal governemnt denied rumours in early February of a shut down of internet servcies during elections, according to privately owned Guardian Nigeria and Quartz news outlets. Two sets of elections are scheduled in the coming weeks in Nigeria – federal elections on 16 February and state elections on 2 March. Addressed to Mr. Umar Garba Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Nigerin Commission the letter elaborates on how internet disruptions inhibit journalists’ ability to report real time and run contrary to international law. It also drew attention to additional social and economic costs of internet outages. “The media is critical to this particular election and critical to people understanding both the (election’s) processes and procedures,” said Mr. Festus Okoye, national commissioner of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission. Okoye also reiterated the importance of internet connectivity. Smart card readers used for voter identification are based on the internet. “Three networks–Glo, MTN, and Airtel–are powering them (the smart card readers), so if you jam the network there won’t be any election…that’s just the bottom line,” he said.

President Ramaphosa calls for industry-government partnership at Mining Indaba

Addressing a full auditorium President Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa said “We no longer want to meet you in court,” at the 25th annual Investing in African Mining Indaba
“The days of conflict between industry and government should be something that belongs to the past. We want to meet you in your boardrooms and Minister Mantashe’s offices. This is an era where there needs to be more collaboration and more working together.” His speech was received with an applause as he dismissed claims of a bleak future for Africa’s mining industry, insisting that it was “still in its sun rising days”. He also said that it was only fitting that Investing in Mining Indaba should coincide with the 25th anniversary of the establishment of democracy in South Africa. The significant role that the mining industry has played towards the formation of present day South Africa. He explained how the government had made huge strides in driving investments into the country following their inaugural South African investment conference last year. Investments to the tune of USD 20 bn in total had been committed by three mining companies that attended that conference, well beyond its target of USD 100 bn in foreign investment over the next five years. “The fact these three major investment announcements came from the mining sector gives credence to the view that mining in South Africa is indeed what we can regard as a sunrise industry,” he said. “We believe that these companies that have made these commitments will make a valuable contribution to accelerate economic growth and job creation. We recognise that we will not be able to meaningfully reduce unemployment and poverty in our country without increased investment, particularly in critical areas of our economy, in areas that matter most, especially the productive sectors, of which mining is an important part. “South Africa’s mining industry has a history that spans 150 years. The country’s minerals wealth has attracted large investment over the past decades resulting in the development of integrated industrial value chains but generate significant value for the economy of our country. South Africa holds the world largest platinum group metals and manganese and some of the largest reserves of gold, steel, diamonds, chromite, ore and vanadium. As a government we regard mining as a major player in the future growth of the development of our economy, with huge potential for exploration, production and beneficiation.” Addressing the challenges facing Eskom, he said that it was “too important to allow it to fail.” “We have been given detailed attention to the crisis and challenges that our electricity company Eskom is facing. Its contribution to the health of our economy is far too great for it to be allowed to fail. Eskom is just too important and in a number of ways, it is too big to be made to fail and we will not allow Eskom to fail, restoring the energy security for the country is an absolute imperative.” The President said that the government would take steps to stabilise and uplift Eskom’s financial, operational and structural position, and ensure secure energy supply for the economy, the country and the mining industry.
Land reform
Talknig about the fear landowners and investors had about their assets being taken away from them, he said, “We must applaude those mining companies that have come forward and said that we have surplus land that we don’t use or never be able to use. They have indicated to us that they are willing to almost donate that land for housing, local government and for farming for various communities.” Urging the industry to make the most of the technological advances underpinning the Fourth Industrial Revolution he said, “I’m encouraged by some of our mining houses that is already making use of technology in quite a creative way, not for purposes in replacing people with machines but are seeking to improve efficiency, guaranteed safety of workers, produce a skilled workforce, and most importantly, preserve jobs and become profitable.”

Eritrean Road Project launched by EU

During his visit to Eritrea Mr. Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development launched a road project making connections between the Ethiopian border and Eritrean ports at an initial investment of USD 22.69 mn.
He met President Isaias to explore ways to step up political connections and dialogue about issues relevant to the EU and Eritrea. He noted, “The EU is committed to supporting Eritrea and Ethiopia in delivering their historic peace agreement, which ended twenty years of conflict. This will boost trade, consolidate stability and have clear benefits for the citizens of both countries through the creation of sustainable growth and jobs.” The EU Trust Fund will finance the new project through the United Nation’s Office for Project Services. It will restore road connections between the Ethiopian border and Eritrean ports to boost trade and create jobs. This comes as the EU’s new dual-track approach of strengthening political dialogue with Eritrea by encouraging political and economic reforms, improving human rights, pursuing development cooperation to tackle root causes of poverty and reinforcing the peace agreement and economic integration. This first phase of broader support to Eritrea is planned to be scaled up later this year. Restoring transport, trade and communication between the two countries in 2018 is one of the commitments of the Eritrea/Ethiopia peace. As a first step it is essential to rehabilitate the arterial roads between the Ethiopian border and the Eritrean port of Massawa.

Resolve for economic integration: Ethiopia, Djibouti

In January 2019 in Djibouti was held the 15th Djibouti-Ethiopian Joint Ministerial Commission meeting resolving to speed up bilateral relations for economic growth.
Both governments are committed to reform aimed, inter alia, encouraging their people to engage fully and practically in creating employment opportunities for youth, expand the structures of democracy, buttress ongoing economic progress, and respect people’s rights. This Joint Ministerial Commission meeting indicates the fresh commitment on both sides to resolve all issues that need urgent action and highlights their determination to work as a team on peace and stability in the region and to support economic development and regional integration. Ethiopia commended the Djibouti government for taking steps to improve relations with Eritrea. Djibouti lauded Prime Minister Dr Abiy’s bold measures to establish peace in the region. The peace initiatives provide a firm jumping off point encouraging youth to participate in the current winds of hope, change and confidence. The agreement included bolstering cooperation on criminal matters, formulating plans for ensuring regular, safe and orderly migration on the basis of the spirit of the Marrakech Agreement, and producing a new comprehensive agreement on labour issues, as well as enhancing existing cooperation on peace and security issues bilaterally and within the framework of IGAD, the African Union and the United Nations. The second important matter in the Joint Ministerial Commission meeting was the navigation of the future of this symbolic cooperation and make clear the way forward in realising the “Africa we want in 2063.” The Continental Free Trade Area brokered in Kigali last year by the African Union that was signed by 44 of the 55 member states can best be realised if meaningful efforts are made at a regional level. The foremost prerequisite to African unity is the free flow of commodities, goods and services across the continent. An example of this are Ethiopia and Djibouti, both signatories to the CFTA, who have expedited implementation of their bilateral Border Trade Protocol and General Trade Agreement at the JMC meeting. The 15th Djibouti-Ethiopia Joint Ministerial Commission meeting also provided the opportunity for dialogue and a realistic action plan to further speed up the pace of cooperation and economic integration. It called for realisticmeasures to thrash out any pending issues, agreeing to implement solutions to encourage the continued upward spiral of economic links and joint peace and stability. It emphasised the need to forge closer follow-up of agreements, and to hone capacity to manage the systems underpinning prosperity and security. The meeting highlighted the value in having bilateral dialogues regularly to encourage the advancement of the joint common agenda for the greater common good.

Requests for Application (RFA) will remain open until 22 March 2019.

Aimed to catalyse investments and rapid growth in the sector over a three year period, the SHS Kick-Starter Programme complements and amplifies efforts by the World Bank to energize the SHS market in Malawi by building coalitions within the donor community. “We estimate that the program will allow 100,000 to 150,000 households with access to power, bringing in up to USD22.5mn of foreign direct investment into Malawi,” said United States Mission Director Littleton Tazewell. The programme has a wide range of stakeholders including local financiers (FDH Bank, Kuwa Capital, National Bank of Malawi and Standard Bank), international financiers (Lion’s Head Global Partners and SunFunder) and awareness-raising institutions (SolarAid). The USAID Southern Africa Energy Programme – a five-year, 11 country programme – have to date created Power Africa’s more than 150 private and public-sector partners who together have committed more than USD 56 bn to mobilise and organise international efforts to electrify Africa.

W. Sahara to develop using preferential tariffs

To benefit local populations the Parliament is in support of a proposal to lower tariffs in the Western Sahara region to Moroccan tariff levels, a measure by which Western Sahara will enjoy preferential trade tariffs on its exports to the EU.
Put to vote, the Parliament consented with a mjority of 444 votes to 167 and 68 abstentions, to extend the preferential tariff rates to the territory of Western Sahara after the European Commission and Morocco agreed on a traceability mechanism, which helps define the origin of products exported from the territory. This mechanism was requested by the Committee on International Trade prior to its recommendation for consent. The purpose is to be able to track products coming from Western Sahara, so that the benefits of the lower tariffs reach the local population and so that they are measurable, a key condition to MEPs’ backing.
Positive effect of tariff preferences
In the accompanying resolution, adopted by 442 votes to 172 with 65 abstentions, the MEPs emphasised, “The [local] Sahrawi people have the right to develop while awaiting a political solution” on the status of the area of Western Sahara. Granted earlier, the preferential Preferential were withdrawn in 2016 from Morocco following a decision of the EU Court of Justice. MEPs also confirmed that the tariff preferences enjoyed between 2013 and 2016 by Morocco had a positive impact on the agricultural and fisheries sector, investment in infrastructure, health and education. In fact, their non-application will have “adverse effects,” they said. After Parliament’s consent, the Council will finalise the agreement which will come into force then.

Delegation from Eritrea on official visit to Ethiopia

An Eritrean delegation led by Osman Saleh, Eritrean Minister of Foreign Affairs is on an official visit to Ethiopia
Eritrean Foreign Affairs Minister Mr. Osman Saleh has delivered a message from the Eritrean President Mr. Isaias Afwerki’s to Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed on bilateral relations and regional developments, said Eritrean Information Minister Mr. Yemane Gebremeskel. A joint high-level committee meeting was also held to evaluate the progress in the bilateral cooperation between the two countries, according to Yemane. Both the countries have agreed on strengthening bilateral relations in a host of sectors. To start with, the European Commission (EU) has launched a USD 22.69 mn project for road connections between the Ethiopian border and Eritrean ports. To be financed with the EU Trust Fund for Africa and through the United Nation’s Office for Project Services, this project will rehabilitate road connectivity between the Ethiopian border and Eritrean ports to boost trade and create jobs.

Equatorial Guinea takes decisive step, joins EITI

After receiving the endorsement of the EITI International Secretariat and establishing positive bilateral relations between the two parties, Equatorial Guinea has decided to join the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Oslo, Norway.
This is the culmination of decade-long efforts by Equatorial Guinea to join the initiative, which aims to solving important governance issues of transparency and accountability in the extractive sectors. The EITI – already Implemented in 52 countries – serves as a global standard for the responsible governance of oil, gas and mineral resources, seeks to strengthen major public, corporate governance issues of transparency and accountability by requiring disclosure of information along the extractive industry value chain. During a meetinng between a delegation of the EITI National Commission of Equatorial Guinea and the EITI International Secretariat support was garnered support for the country to join the EITI. Equatorial Guinea had applied in 2008 for the first time for EITI membership. IT has undertaken a lot of reforms to qualify for participation in the global initiative. Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons Ms. Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima said, “Membership of the EITI would represent a milestone for the country, and a critical step forward in its path toward greater transparency and improved governance and management of its extractive resources sector.” “It continues to be my firm belief that our membership in the EITI will lead to a more attractive investment climate and an increase in foreign direct investment in the energy and non-energy sectors,” she added. Equatorial Guinea communicated through the minister its intent and commitment to join the EITI and expressed willingness in complying with the requirements of being a member. The international secretariat, represented by its Executive Director Mr. Mark Robinson expressed support to Equatorial Guinea and its efforts to become part of the EITI. An invitation to the General Secretary was extended by the National Commission to the General Secretariat of the EITI to participate in the coming meeting of ministers at APPO Cape VII Congress and Exhibition, to be held in Malabo in April.

WTO Director General says trading system must support LDCs

Director-General of World Trade Organisation (WTO) Mr. Roberto Azevêdo met Mozambique’s President Mr. Filipe Nyusi to talk about means of strengthening global trade cooperation in the future.
The objective is to integrate Mozmbique and other Least Developed Countries (LDCs) into the global exconomy. Azevêdo also met with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Mr. José Condugua António Pacheco, and Minister of State for Industry and Trade Mr. Ragendra de Sousa and paid a visit to the National Institute for Standardisation and Quality. Commenting on his visit, Azevêdo said, “These are challenging times for multilateralism. We need to strengthen the global trading system to ensure that it is equipped to support a changing global economy, and that it continues to support the integration of Mozambique and other LDCs.” “As WTO members discuss how to modernize the organization and make the system more agile and responsive to economic change, Mozambique and the LDCs have to make their voices heard in this debate. Working together, we can ensure that more LDCs benefit from global trade and that the global trading system is truly working for the common good,” Azevêdo added.

AfDB starts electricity cooperative feasibility studies in Nigeria and Ethiopia

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has kicked off a feasibility study, aiming to explore the potential of electric cooperative business models in Nigeria and Ethiopia
The effort is part of AfDB’s goal of achieving universal electricity access across Africa by 2025. Currently, power shortages diminish the region’s GDP growth by two to four % per year, holding back job creation and poverty reduction efforts. Funded by the South-South Cooperation Trust Fund and conducted by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) International the study will last for over three months. Regulatory, legal, technical and socio-economic factors that affect the creation of electric cooperatives in the two nations will be studied by NRECA. AfDB Power Systems Development Director Mr. Batchi Baldeh, said, “This study is timely and aligned with the bank’s New Deal for Energy in Africa. We look forward to working with NRECA International to execute the study, and to leverage its extensive experience in electricity cooperative business models to pave the way for the implementation of transformational projects across Africa.” He said that it was not as important to have government cooperation and commitment, but that the cooperatives rely on strong partnerships among governments, rural as well as local communities and development partners for implementation and success. “We selected Nigeria and Ethiopia following dialogue with their respective ministers of energy during the Bank’s Africa Energy Market Place held in July 2018, where they expressed their governments’ commitment to improving rural access through established models. We rely on this cooperation to explore this innovative model of delivering our High 5 to light up and power Africa”, concluded Baldeh.

Water supply and waste management project inaugurated by Ethiopia

With the inauguration of the model water supply and waste management project in Oromia Region of Ethiopia, it is hoped that sufficient clean drinking water and sanitation facilities will reach the population of the Welenchiti town and surrounding rural areas.
TThis system is part of the ONEWASH Plus programme and integrates solutions to provide water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to more than 48,000 people including more than 22,000 children under the age of 15, residing in the town and its satellite villages. State Minister for Water, Irrigation and Energy Dr Negash Wagesho said that the Ministry has planned to supply clean water across rural, urban and national levels at the end of the second growth and transformation plan. To be able to achieve this the Ministry is working hand in hand with donors, non-governmental organisations and communities. Rapid urbanisation and urban development in Ethiopia has laid stress on water and high potential for disease outbreaks. There is growing demand for developing adequate, resilient, sustainable and inclusive WASH services in the region, which will also meet the targets set in the SDGs.

Providing clean drinking water and sanitation facilities

“This project can provide sufficient clean drinking water and sanitation facilities to the population of the Welenchiti town and surrounding rural areas for the coming 20 years. The project enhances the coverage of the clean water supply of town to its fullest potential. The Ministry appreciates the support and contribution of the DFID and UNICEF to the water sector,” Wagesho added. The Welenchiti project stands for a partnership between the UK, UNICEF and regional and federal governments delivery of improvements to locals’ lives, said Ms. Harriett Baldwin, the UK Minister for Africa. UNICEF Representative Gillian Mellsop noted, “Women and girls no longer have to walk long distances and spend many hours fetching water. Girls can go to school and attend to their schoolwork while mothers have enough time to spend with their children and engage in other productive activities. For communities, a safe and clean environment means fewer disease outbreaks.” The ONEWASH Plus programme, funded by the UK through DFID and by regional governments, is implemented by UNICEF in collaboration with the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy, regional sector bureaus, and the Water Resource Development Fund. The programme also works with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Urban Development and Construction, and respective Sector Regional Bureaus, as well as town administrations and town water supply and sewerage utilities.

Initial financing by OPIC for SunFunder to up solar energy access

SunFunder’s USD85mn Solar Energy Transformation (SET) Fund which supports businesses providing solar solutions in sub-Saharan Africa and India has received initil finances from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the USA government’s development finance institution.
The financing is part of a USD 25 mn commitment of senior and junior debt OPIC entered in September 2018. With OPIC on board, two other lenders chipped in, making the total first close amount raised to USD 42.5 mn. The two investors are Calvery Impact Capital with USD 7.5 mn and Ceniarth with USD 5 mn. Catalytic capital for the fund has come from the IKEA Foundation with a grant of USD5mn mn. “This project will advance OPIC’s mission of empowering people in some of the world’s poorest countries by bringing affordable electricity to remote areas that are not connected to an electricity grid,” said Ray W Washburne, president and CEO at OPIC.
Boosting energy access
3 mn people will get improved access by the SET Fund and it will eliminate 480,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually over the nine-year life of the fund. “SunFunder has now closed more than USD100mn in diversified solar debt funds and the SET Fund opens up new opportunities. As our largest fund and with a nine-year tenor, the SET Fund increases both the range and size of debt capital offerings that we can provide, especially for productive use solutions and commercial projects,” said Mr. Ryan Levinson, Founder and CEO at SunFunder. OPIC’s support of this project advances several agency priorities including the 2X Women’s Initiative, which supports women-owned and women-led businesses. By electrifying some of the remotest locations in Africa and those most difficult to give access to, such projects also advance the USA Power Africa initiative to electrify ho,es of mns of people in sub-Saharan Africa who live without it. Prior to this OPIC has financed off-grid companies in Africa, India, the Pacific Islands and Jordan, together with Calvert Impact Capital and Ceniarth also both invested in previous SunFunder debt funds.

WORLD NEWS

Oxford Economics Report : The next decade to see India remain the fastest growing major economy

LONDON: According to a Global Economic Research Report, India will remain the fastest growing major economy, much ahead of China, in the next decade 2019-28.Oxford Economics has prepared a report, in global forecasting and quantitative analysis, according to, which is India is likely to achieve an average growth of 6.5 % in 2019-28, the highest among the emerging economies.The report titled ‘Emerging Markets Sustained Growth in EMs Calls for Thrift and Innovation’ and authored by eminent economist Louis Kuijs says India will be followed by the Philippines (5.3 %) and Indonesia (5.1 % said. With an average growth rate of 5.1 % for the next decade (2019-28) China has been assigned the fourth slot. According to the International Monetary Fund’s recent World Economy Outlook update, India is projected to grow at 7.5 % in 2019 and 7.7 % in 2020, more than China’s estimated growth of 6.2 % in these two years.

1st Afghanistan cargo to India flagged off via Chabahar by Afghan President

KABUL: On 24th Feb, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani flagged off the first consignment of Afghan exports to India through Chabahar Port, saying the new trade route through Iran will help double his country’s exports to USD2 bn. Officials said Ghani flagged off the convoy of trucks at a ceremony in Zaranj that was attended by the Ambassadors of India, Iran and Turkey and diplomats of Indonesia and Kazakhstan. The consignment will head to Chabahar from Zaranj city in Afghanistan’s Nimroz province. 570 tonnes of cargo includes Afghan carpets, dry fruits, cotton, talc, stones and other items, make up the consignment. Since Afghanistan is not a landlocked country as it is the heart of Asia. the country is shifting focus from being an importer to an exporter, Ghani said while addressing the ceremony and with the opening of the Chabahar route, exports will increase from the current level of USD1 bn. After the launch of an Air Corridor between Kabul and Delh, and new USD2 bn in the next year, he added. Indian Ambassador Vinay Kumar said Afghanistan’s exports to India had increased 40% i. Later, during a meeting in Zaranj, in order to ensure the safe movement of goods, Ghani said it plans to deploy an elite unit of the National Directorate of Security will be to protect the route from Nimroz to Chabahar. To promote the port and the trade corridor, “Chabahar Day” a business event will be held at the Iranian Port on February 26. While CII is sending a delegation of 30 companies, India’s Shipping Secretary will lead the official delegation to the event. The event will provide an opportunity to India, Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian States to explore Chabahar’s potential for promoting regional connectivity and trade with landlocked countries say the people familiar with developments.

Record revenues set for Pilot Freight in 2018

U.S.-based Pilot Freight Services logged a record-high USD800 mn in revenue for 2018, an increase of 24.8 % over the previous year, which the logistics firm attributed to a “broadened selection of e-commerce products” and an “expansion of global capabilities.” Giving it the ability to offer appliance delivery and installation, heavy-goods delivery and “white glove” special-handling delivery, the chief event of the year for Pilot was the July 2018 purchase of Manna Freight Systems, a final-mile logistics provider based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. John Hill, president and chief commercial officer of Pilot Freight, said the “focus for 2019 will be continued growth in e-commerce, domestic business-to-business, truckload brokerage and bolstering technology systems for our expanding global sector.”

Rise in detention-demurrage mitigation demand

Shippers will benefit by being more diligent about contracts and better use technology to avoid thousands of dollars in fines, as US detention and demurrage fees are rising. While these fines were rare ten years ago, today they are quite common. Terminal congestion, bad weather, chassis shortages, or other unforeseen factors prevent beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) from retrieving their goods from ports. While upto USD10,000 in fines per year in detention and demurrage may be easy to pay, but that figure can balloon to USD100,000 or more in certain circumstances. Ever since 2014, when longshore labor strife paralyzed ports on the US West Coast and wreaked havoc on the supply chains that depend detention and demurrage have become major issues. Federal Maritime Commission says Income from these penalties increased 90 % in 2014 and 86 % in 2015. They jumped 30 % in 2017 and remain above pre-2014 levels. The original request in a 2018 petition commission didn’t grant a rule or clarify what are unjust business practices. Commissioner Rebecca Dye instead recommended innovation teams to discuss the problems further and make recommendations. Some BCOs pay USD1 mn annually in penalties, but most do not said Andrew Nutting, senior logistics manager for 1A Auto. It is not uncommon to see shippers moving more than 500 containers annually, however, generally incur more than USD10,000 in detention and demurrage fines, and a six-figure total, he said, due to which detention and demurrage have become major issues. Complicating the issue is a fundamental disagreement on the definitions of detention and demurrage, even among global logistics directors.

Meaning of detention and demurrage

Demurrage is about the land and detention is about the box believe some supply chain executives. Others said demurrage is about what happens inside the terminal and detention is about what happens outside the terminal. When you navigate the complicated world of who does what to whom the second definition seems most accurate. Terminal operators charge terminal demurrage for excessive use of their space. Ocean carriers charge box demurrage if containers are kept their inside the terminal for too long. Ocean carriers also charge box detention for keeping their container outside the terminal too long. While in some ports, the ocean carrier collects all demurrage and then pays the terminal, in others, terminal operators collect and then pay ocean carriers. Outside of North America, the terminal charges for space and the carrier charges for the box. Ocean carriers and terminal operators offer a penalty-free window, referred to as “free time,” but there can be three different clocks. Jack Oney, a former logistics executive at Procter & Gamble, notes, there is no such thing as free time. It’s time prepaid for in your rate and a penalty for going over.

US Gulf warehousing space squeezing by imports

Vacancy rates for warehouse and distribution space in the Gulf Coast region which are already low, are projected to edge even lower this year. Growing imports of consumer products and manufacturing inputs moving through the ports of Houston, New Orleans, and Mobile, as well as e-commerce fulfilment are expected to fuel demand. Improved prospects for greater exports of petrochemical, agricultural, and forest products are seen thanks to the growth in imports. The export-dominant Gulf region until now has been limited somewhat by a shortage of empty containers for its exports. An ample supply of empty containers ready for immediate reloading of exports such as resins, is being produced due to the proliferation of import distribution centres in the past few years, led by Walmart. Gulf ports are making multimn-dollar investments in container terminals, harbor deepening, and landside infrastructure, receiving high marks from industrial real estate executives who said the ports are staying ahead of demand in their development programs. “The Port of Houston saw this coming a number of years ago in petrochemicals, and they’ve had good business plans in place for infrastructure,” said Billy Gold, senior vice-president of industrial and logistics at CBRE.

Demand in Houston strengthening

CBRE stated in its fourth-quarter 2018 report on the Houston market says Houston’s overall industrial vacancy rate in the final quarter of 2018 was 5 % “with no sign of slowing down,”. The last time vacancy rates for warehouses, distribution centers, and other industrial properties were at 5 % was in the fourth quarter of 2016, the report stated. CBRE indicated a new high of 16.3 mn square feet of industrial project starts throughout 2018 reflects the strong demand for warehouse, logistics, and manufacturing space in the Houston region. Industrial real estate asking rent averaged USD7.44 per square foot. Not only in the Gulf, but nationwide, Houston continues to dominate the petrochemical sector, which is resulting in expansion of manufacturing, packing, and logistics development for the entire sector, with resins coming on especially strong. Gold said because of Hurricane Harvey in 2017the resins industry “hit the pause button” in its development plans, but facilities that had been delayed started coming online last year; even the US–China trade war and China’s tariffs on petrochemicals failed to sidetrack expansion plans. Growing polyethylene exports to Europe are picking up some of the slack, Gold said. Fuelled by low-cost shale gas, the explosion in resins production, is benefiting all of the Gulf ports, which handle 56.8 % of US resins exports, according to PIERS, a sister company of within IHS Markit. Houston handles 41.4 % of the resins exports. Walmart has opened its import distribution center in Houston in 2005 which was followed by a number of import and regional distribution centers.Until now Dallas was the traditional distribution hub for the region that includes Texas, Oklahoma, and neighbouring states. However, Houston is now becoming a hub itself without having to rely on Dallas. Compared with 760 mn square feet in Dallas, Houston has 521 mn square feet of industrial real estate space Gold said. Being a port city with a large and growing population, Houston serves as a hub for import distribution facilities, as well as for transloading at regional distribution centers, he said.

New deal at Air Cargo Africa between ACS, Saudia Cargo signed

This week, a new deal was inked by business partners Saudia Cargo and Air Charter Service (ACS) inked at the Air Cargo Africa conference in Johannesburg. The agreement addresses the transportation of rubber fenders for ship docks from Al Makotum International Airport (DWC) to Bangladesh. Chief executive officer for Jeddah-based Saudia Cargo, Omar Hariri, was present at the signing, along with ACS’ assistant director of cargo sales Alex Ignatov and sales executive Nagib Kasbari. Of late, the traditionally passenger-focused charter airline is taking steps to expand the cargo carrying faction of its international business. In the first half of 2018, ACS showed a 21 % increase in scheduled cargo flights, compared to the first six months of 2017. Suggesting its continued investment in cargo is its partnership with Saudia Cargo, which has a freighter fleet of eight widebodies.

Throughput at Rotterdam port reaches a new high thanks to continuing container growth

Rotterdam :At 469 mn tonnes, the port of Rotterdam’s total throughput volume ended up slightly higher in 2018 than in 2017, which was itself a record year (467.4 mn tonnes). Container transhipment was the engine of growth again, with a 4.5 % increase in tonnage. Measured in TEUs, the standard unit for containers, the increase was 5.7 % and the annual total was 14.5 mn TEUs—also a record. This strengthens the position of Europe’s largest container port in this strategically important market segment. Significant underlying shifts were observable in the goods segments. Whereas container transhipment continued to grow at a healthy pace, that of crude oil, mineral oil products and agribulk fell. Throughput of LNG (+163.6 %) and biomass (+31.6 %) saw a further spectacular rises last year. For the Port of Rotterdam, 2018 was marked by a high level of investment. Gross investments rose 91 % to € 408.1 mn (2017: € 213.8 mn), the highest amount since the construction of Maasvlakte 2. By far the largest part of this amount was used to further improve the logistical accessibility of the port of Rotterdam, for example, by constructing the Container Exchange Route on the Maasvlakte, the Princess Amalia Viaduct and relocating the port railway via the Theemsweg route. Also, the Port Authority’s internationalisation strategy was given a significant boost in 2018 by the acquisition of a minority stake in the Brazilian port of Pecém, said a release.

IMO Secretary General urges all Maritime Industry IMO Secretary General urges all Maritime Industry

GENEVA: International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General Kitack Lim has for involvement of all sectors of the maritime industry in achieving the ambitious Greenhouse Gas (GHG) cuts set for the industry last year. A target of at least 50% reduction in CO2 emissions from shipping was set last year by the IMO in 2050. This means that shipping companies as well as related businesses such as ports need to be involved. “We need to focus on technology transfer and research and development; we need expertise; we need IMO’s Member States to come together as one; we need the Member States to bring forward concrete proposals to IMO. We need to involve all maritime sectors – not just shipping. Investment in port infrastructure is just as important,” Lim told the High Level Conference on Climate Change and Oceans Preservation, in Brussels, Belgium, recently. To achieving the IMO’s goals Initial steps will likely include use of Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and the Shipboard Energy Efficiency Management Plans (SEEMP) for ships, as well as gathering information under the fuel-oil data collection scheme. As it stands using existing technology cannot achieve the 2050 target and senior industry officials have highlighted the need to develop new technologies and fuel sources.

As Quarterly outlook indicator hits 9-year low WTO warns of Global trade slowdown

GENEVA: the World Trade Organization said recently, a quarterly leading indicator of world merchandise trade slumped to its lowest reading in nine years on 19th Feb 2019, which should put policymakers on guard for a sharper slowdown if trade tensions continue. The WTO’s quarterly outlook indicator, a composite of seven drivers of trade, showed a reading of 96.3, the weakest since March 2010 and down from 98.6 in November. A reading below 100 signals below-trend growth in trade. “This sustained loss of momentum highlights the urgency of reducing trade tensions, which together with continued political risks and financial volatility could foreshadow a broader economic downturn,” the WTO said in a statement. Last September forecast by WTO that global trade growth would slow to 3.7 % in 2019 from an estimated 3.9 % in 2018, but there could be a steeper slowdown or a rebound depending on policy steps, it said. The quarterly indicator is based on merchandise trade volume in the previous quarter, export orders, international air freight, container port throughput, car production and sales, electronic components and agricultural raw materials. “Indices for export orders (95.3), international air freight (96.8), automobile production and sales (92.5), electronic components (88.7) and agricultural raw materials (94.3) have shown the strongest deviations from trend, approaching or surpassing previous lows since the financial crisis,” the WTO said. The index for container port throughput remained relatively buoyant at 100.3, but that may have been influenced by a front-loading of shipments before an anticipated hike in U.S.-China tariffs, the WTO said. Next month could see a spike in International trade tensions if the United States and China escalate their tariff war, a step that could have negative consequences for the world trading system, according to the United Nations trade agency UNCTAD.

Drewry : Container equipment prices & lease rates falling

LONDON: Container equipment prices plunged below building costs in the last quarter of 2018, and manufacturers will need to cut back if they are to return to profit in 2019. In 2018 output of dry container equipment surged, creating an over-supply that led to a steep fall in prices. Production by box builders who are now struggling to cover their costs, is likely to be reined in, in an effort to stem their losses and shore up prices, according to the latest report edition of Drewry’s Container Census, Leasing & Equipment Insight research service. This could have implications for the availability of container equipment in maritime shipping. While a fall in the price of steel might have eased the pressure on equipment manufacturers, container equipment prices have been falling faster than costs, and the meagre profits of the past couple of years reversed in the fourth quarter, with builders losing USD100-200 per box. Meanwhile, Drewry has been downgrading its container shipping demand forecast so production cuts might not do much to raise prices. Considering these factors into account, Drewry expects dry van prices to keep falling and only stabilise in 2020.