Exports grew from Middle East, Russia and Africa in 2017 says WTO

WTO director general Roberto Azevedo warned that “a cycle of retaliation is the last thing the world economy needs.” Reuters
Updated 12 April 2018
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Exports grew from Middle East, Russia and Africa in 2017 says WTO

  • Stable demand for oil and other commodities lifts exports 2.3%
  • “A cycle of retaliation is the last thing the world economy needs,” warns WTO director general

The Middle East, Africa, and Russia saw steady export growth of 2.3 percent in volume terms last year on the back of stable demand in quantity terms for oil and other natural resources, according to the latest report by the World Trade Organization.
Imports generated by the combined regions increased slightly by 0.9 percent partly as a result of higher primary commodity prices, “which raise export revenue in resource exporting countries and allow more imports to be purchased,” the WTO said.
Energy prices have more than doubled since January 2016, but even at around $70 per barrel oil prices “still remain below the $100 level that prevailed before the middle of 2014,” the organization noted.
World trade in global goods is expected to maintain its robust recovery since the global financial crisis, but might falter if trade tensions between China and US escalate further.
Trade in goods was forecast to grow 4.4 percent this year after a decade averaging 3 percent a year following the crisis. Last year it grew 4.7 percent — much higher than the 3.6 percent forecast in September — and a further 4 percent rise is expected in 2019, the WTO said.
“However, this important progress could be quickly undermined if governments resort to restrictive trade policies, especially in a tit-for-tat process that could lead to an unmanageable escalation,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in a statement. “A cycle of retaliation is the last thing the world economy needs.”
The United States and China have threatened each other with tens of billions of dollars’ worth of tariffs in recent weeks, leading to worries that Washington and Beijing may engage in an all-out trade war.
The WTO’s 2018 forecast puts world trade growth at the top end of previous expectations, since the organization said last September that it expected 2018 growth of 1.4 to 4.4 percent.
The latest forecast raises that to 3.1 to 5.5 percent based on current GDP forecasts, but “a continued escalation of trade restrictive policies could lead to a significantly lower figure,” the WTO said.
“These forecasts do not, and I repeat, they do not factor in the possibility of a dramatic escalation of trade restrictions,” Azevedo told a news conference.
“It is not possible to accurately map out the effects of a major escalation, but clearly they could be serious,” he said. “Poorer countries would stand to lose the most.”


China opens up finance sector to more foreign investment

Updated 20 July 2019
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China opens up finance sector to more foreign investment

  • China will remove shareholding limits on foreign ownership of securities, insurance and fund management firms in 2020
  • Beijing has long promised to further open up its economy to foreign business participation and investment

BEIJING: China lifted some restrictions on foreign investment in the financial sector Saturday, as the world’s second largest economy fights slowing growth at home and a damaging trade war with the US.
China will remove shareholding limits on foreign ownership of securities, insurance and fund management firms in 2020, a year earlier than originally planned, the Financial Stability and Development Committee said in a statement posted by the central bank Saturday.
Foreign investors will also be encouraged to set up wealth management firms, currency brokerages and pension management companies, the statement said.
Beijing has long promised to further open up its economy to foreign business participation and investment but has generally dragged its feet in implementing the moves — a major point of contention with Washington and Brussels.
Saturday’s announcement followed a Friday meeting chaired by economic czar Liu He where policymakers focused on tackling financial risk and financial contagion and pledged new steps to support growth, according to a state council statement.
Additional measures include scrapping entry barriers for foreign insurance companies like a requirement of 30 years of business operations and canceling a 25 percent equity cap on foreign ownership of insurance asset management firms.
Foreign owned credit rating agencies will also be allowed to evaluate a greater number of bond and debt types, the statement said.
US President Donald Trump has launched a damaging tariff war in an attempt to force Beijing to further open up its economy and limit what he calls its unfair trade practices.
The US and China have hit each other with punitive tariffs covering more than $360 billion in two-way trade.
Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to revive fractious trade negotiations when they met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan on June 29 and top US and Chinese negotiators have held phone talks this month.