China denies setting target to cut US trade surplus

Workers perform quality check on toys for export at a factory in Lianyungang in east China’s Jiangsu province. (AFP)
Updated 24 May 2018
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China denies setting target to cut US trade surplus

BEIJING: China said Thursday it has not set a target to cut its trade surplus with the US but will seek to increase imports after the two sides stepped back from a potential trade war.
Officials from Beijing were reported to have offered to slash the country’s huge surplus by $200 billion during high-level talks last week — meeting a key Washington demand — by ramping up imports from the US.
That was followed on Monday by President Donald Trump tweeting that China will buy “massive amounts” of additional American agriculture products.
But commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng denied that any figure was set during negotiations in Washington, which ended with the two countries agreeing to back off imposing tit-for-tat tariffs, though few details were revealed.
“China did not make any commitment on the specific amount of reduction of trade surplus with the US,” Gao told a regular news briefing.
“China will actively encourage companies to increase imports of US commodities and services according to market principles” and its own economic and consumption needs, Gao said.
“The two sides are willing to further strengthen cooperation in fields including agricultural products, energy, medical treatment, high-tech industry and finance.”
Both sides have extended olive branches since the weekend, with China announcing on Tuesday that it will cut auto import tariffs from July 1.
And Trump said his administration could impose a new fine of as much as $1.3 billion on embattled Chinese telecom company ZTE to replace crippling sanctions imposed last month that threatened to put the firm out of business.
However, there are concerns about Sunday’s agreement after Trump said he was “not satisfied” with it.


Meet the Dubai ad men who pay you to sit in traffic

Updated 20 August 2018
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Meet the Dubai ad men who pay you to sit in traffic

  • Blockchain technology challenges traditional outdoor media
  • Adverts connect to driver mobile phone

LONDON: A new startup founded by UAE-based entrepreneurs is in the process of test-running a blockchain-based technology that could help people turn their cars into mobile advertising vehicles.
It could challenge the use of traditional advertising methods such as outdoor billboards, the founders of The Elo Network claim.
The platform — which has been set up by Mohammed Khammas and Mohammed Bafaqih and incorporated in the Cayman Islands — will enable people to be paid for displaying adverts on the side or back of their vehicles while they go about their daily routines of driving to work, the mall or doing the school run.
The adverts will feature low-frequency bluetooth ‘beacons’ that connect to the drivers' mobile phone which will be able to monitor when the driver is in the car and where the car is being driven.
There is a minimum threshold for the number of miles being driven a day, but the main prerequisite is that the driver is in the car. Drivers will still be paid even if stuck in a traffic jam.
Advertising clients will be able to put out requests that drivers head to a particular area — for instance to be close to a new brand launch — with drivers being paid up to 4 or 5 times more than their standard rate if they accept.
While the concept of paying people to use their cars for advertising is not new, it is the use of blockchain technology that will make The Elo Network particularly grounding-breaking in the advertising world, its founders said.
“Billboards are very expensive and static and don’t give you the KPIs and insightful information that brands want these days. You solve that by getting them that data,” Bafaqih said.
The Elo Network collates detailed data by tracking the movements of the drivers and their day-to-day activities. Data points such as a particular area’s population density can been collected.
The information will be encrypted ensuring that the brand will never know the identity of the driver, said Bafaqih.
“It creates data sets that didn’t exist before. You don’t have to worry about privacy but at the same time the brand can know about your patterns. They can know where you go in mornings, where you drive, what normal patterns are created in certain areas and countries,” he said.
This level of detail is increasingly important for brands looking to run targeted campaigns, and it is something that traditional billboards are unable to offer.
The technology will also be used to overcome the payment problems that other similar car advertising schemes have faced.
“Historically what happens, where there is a authority that is issuing payments, it causes a lot of problems. There can be disputes on how much they (the drivers) are owed or how many miles were driven or what campaign someone has done,” he said.
Under the Elo Network program, the blockchain technology allows you to create so-called “Smart Contracts” — which is a software protocol that enforces and verifies the performance of a contract.
“It says driver A is going to be paid — for example — a dollar per mile — so as the person drives he starts receives ‘IOUs’. Those IOUs are convertible at any time,” he said.
With no ‘middle man’ involved, the driver is able to redeem their IOUs and get paid as and when they want.
The network is currently at ‘proof of concept’ stage and is test-running the platform with a number of brands. It is anticipated that the network will be rolled out to the public toward the end of this year and early 2019.