General Motors Korea and union to hold new round of wage talks

The most thorny issue between GM Korea and its union is job security for 680 workers at the Gunsan factory that is due to be closed by May. Above, an assembly line of GM Korea's Bupyeong plant in Incheon. (Reuters)
Updated 20 April 2018

General Motors Korea and union to hold new round of wage talks

SEOUL: General Motors’ South Korean unit and its labor union are set to hold another round of wage talks on Friday afternoon, keen to stave off a threat by the US automaker to seek bankruptcy for the loss-making unit.
GM, which in February announced its plan to shut down one of its plants in Korea, wants wage concessions from its labor union as well as government funding and incentives to save three other factories in the country.
The Detroit automaker has said the unit is likely to file for bankruptcy if there was no restructuring agreement by Friday. Marathon talks on Thursday failed to reach an agreement.
The two sides will hold another round of talks at 1 p.m. Korea time (0400 GMT), a union official said, adding that the most thorny issue is job security for 680 workers at the Gunsan factory that is due to be closed by May.
“We don’t want a disaster. We still have to keep in mind the worst situation,” he said, declining to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the talks.
“Today is an important day and we will concentrate our efforts on the negotiations.”
Any deal reached would be subject to a vote by union members in the coming days.
If they fail to reach a deal, GM Korea plans to hold a board meeting at around 8 p.m. to discuss a plan to file for bankruptcy protection for the operation, a source familiar with the matter said, also declining to be identified.
GM Korea is “committed to reach a tentative agreement with the labor union today to support the plan to make the company profitable and viable for the long-term,” said company spokesman Park Hae-ho.

Merkel seeks united front with China amid Trump trade fears

Updated 22 May 2018

Merkel seeks united front with China amid Trump trade fears

  • Merkel seeks common ground to ward off trade war
  • Plans complicated by US policy moves

Chancellor Angela Merkel visits China on Thursday, seeking to close ranks with the world’s biggest exporting nation as US President Donald Trump shakes up explosive issues from trade to Iran’s nuclear deal.

Finding a common strategy to ward off a trade war and keep markets open will be Merkel’s priority when she meets with President Xi Jinping, as Washington brandishes the threat of imposing punitive tariffs on aluminum and steel imports.

“Both countries are in agreement that open markets and rules-based world trade are necessary. That’s the main focus of this trip,” Merkel’s spokeswoman Martina Fietz said in Berlin on Friday.

But closing ranks with Beijing against Washington risks being complicated by Saturday’s deal between China and the US to hold off tit-for-tat trade measures.

China’s economic health can only benefit Germany as the Asian giant is a big buyer of Made in Germany. But a deal between the US and China effectively leaves Berlin as the main target of Trump’s campaign against foreign imports that he claims harm US national security.

The US leader had already singled Germany out for criticism, saying it had “taken advantage” of the US by spending less than Washington on NATO.

Underlining what is at stake, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire warned the US-China deal may come “at the expense of Europe if Europe is not capable of showing a firm hand.”

Nevertheless, Merkel can look to her carefully nurtured relationship with China over her 12 years as chancellor.

No Western leader has visited Beijing as often as Merkel, who will be undertaking her eleventh trip to the country.

In China, she is viewed not only as the main point of contact for Europe, but, crucially, also as a reliable interlocutor — an antithesis of the mercurial Trump.

Devoting her weekly podcast to her visit, Merkel stressed that Beijing and Berlin “are both committed to the rules of the WTO” (World Trade Organization) and want to “strengthen multilateralism.”

But she also underlined that she will press home Germany’s longstanding quest for reciprocity in market access as well as the respect of intellectual property.

Ahead of her visit, Beijing fired off a rare salvo of criticism.

China’s envoy to Germany, Shi Mingde, pointed to a “protectionist trend in Germany,” as he complained about toughened rules protecting German companies from foreign takeovers.

Only 0.3 percent of foreign investors in Germany stem from China while German firms have put in €80 billion in the Asian giant over the last three decades, he told Stuttgarter Nachrichten.

“Economic exchange cannot work as a one-way street,” he warned.

Meanwhile, looming over the battle on the trade front is another equally thorny issue — the historic Iran nuclear deal, which risks falling apart after Trump pulled the US out.

Tehran has demanded that Europe keeps the deal going by continuing economic cooperation, but the US has warned European firms of sanctions if they fail to pull out of Iran.

Merkel “hopes that China can help save the atomic deal that the US has unilaterally ditched,” said Die Welt daily.

“Because only the giant emerging economy can buy enough raw materials from Iran to give the Mullah regime an incentive to at least officially continue to not build a nuclear weapon.”