Germany’s GDP growth outlook hit by euro crisis, US-EU trade conflict

Ifo said the economic upswing in Germany should continue but at a slower pace, echoing an assessment by the Bundesbank last week. (Reuters)
Updated 19 June 2018
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Germany’s GDP growth outlook hit by euro crisis, US-EU trade conflict

ERLIN: Germany’s Ifo institute on Tuesday cut its forecasts for growth in Europe’s biggest economy this year and next, citing a weak start to the year and increased global risks.
Ifo said it expected the German economy to grow by 1.8 percent this year and in 2019, a big revision downwards from previous forecasts of 2.6 percent and 2.1 percent respectively.
“The economy developed significantly more weakly than anticipated in the first few months of the year,” Ifo economist Timo Wollmershaeuser said. “The global economic risks have risen significantly,” he added.
Ifo said the economic upswing in Germany should continue but at a slower pace, echoing an assessment by the Bundesbank last week.
In addition to weak industrial activity and exports in the first four months of the year, a trade dispute between the United States and the European Union is clouding the outlook for the German economy. US President Donald Trump is threatening to impose hefty tariffs on car imports from European allies in addition to unilateral metals duties.
The Bundesbank said on Monday that German growth should rebound in the second quarter thanks to higher state spending, a humming construction sector and strong private consumption.
But it warned that trade and political concerns have made the outlook for the economy more uncertain and revised down its own growth projections.
A new Italian coalition government that comprises anti-establishment parties with a brief to shake up EU institutions has also unnerved German companies.
“The downside risks for the German economy have significantly risen,” said Ifo’s Wollmershaeuser. “Germany’s economic advantages are far outweighed by two risks — euro crisis 2.0 through Italy and a trade war.”
As well as the US-EU trade dispute, German business leaders are worried that a trade confrontation between the United States and China could harm exporters that rely on the world’s two largest economies for growth.
China has raised tariffs on $50 billion in US goods, responding to similar measures by Trump, who has also threatened a 10-percent tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods.
“The likelihood that we have a trade war that also affects Germany is higher now than it was in spring,” said Wollmershaeuser.


Japan, EU to sign widespread trade deal eliminating tariffs

Updated 17 July 2018
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Japan, EU to sign widespread trade deal eliminating tariffs

  • Both sides are heralding the deal, which covers a third of the global economy and more than 600 million people
  • Besides the latest deal with the EU, Japan is working on other trade agreements, including a far-reaching trans-Pacific deal

TOKYO: The European Union and Japan are signing a widespread trade deal Tuesday that will eliminate nearly all tariffs, seemingly defying the worries about trade tensions set off by President Donald Trump’s policies.
The signing in Tokyo for the deal, largely reached late last year, is ceremonial. It was delayed from earlier this month because Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe canceled going to Brussels over a disaster in southwestern Japan, caused by extremely heavy rainfall. More than 200 people died from flooding and landslides.
European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who arrived Monday, will also attend a gala dinner at the prime minister’s official residence.
Both sides are heralding the deal, which covers a third of the global economy and more than 600 million people.
The deal eliminates about 99 percent of the tariffs on Japanese goods to the EU, but remaining at around 94 percent for European imports into Japan for now and rising to 99 percent over the years. The difference is due to exceptions such as rice, a product that’s culturally and politically sensitive and has been protected for decades in Japan.
The major step toward liberalizing trade was discussed in talks since 2013 but is striking in the timing of the signing, as China and the US are embroiled in trade conflicts.
The US is proposing 10 percent tariffs on a $200 billion list of Chinese goods. That follows an earlier move by Washington to impose 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods. Beijing has responded by imposing identical penalties on a similar amount of American imports.
Besides the latest deal with the EU, Japan is working on other trade agreements, including a far-reaching trans-Pacific deal. The partnership includes Australia, Mexico, Vietnam and other nations, although the US has withdrawn.
Japan praised the deal with the EU as coming from Abe’s “Abenomics” policies, designed to wrest the economy out of stagnation despite a shrinking population and cautious spending. Japan’s growth continues to be heavily dependent on exports.
By strengthening ties with the EU, Japan hopes to vitalize mutual direct investment, fight other global trends toward protectionism and enhance the stature of Japanese brands, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The EU said the trade liberalization will lead to the region’s export growth in chemicals, clothing, cosmetics and beer to Japan, leading to job security for Europe. Japanese will get cheaper cheese, such as Parmesan, gouda and cheddar, as well as chocolate and biscuits.
Japanese consumers have historically coveted European products, and a drop in prices is likely to boost spending.