China files WTO challenge to US tariffs on solar panels

The 30 percent tariffs announced in January improperly help US producers in violation of WTO rules, China’s commerce ministry said. (Reuters)
Updated 15 August 2018
0

China files WTO challenge to US tariffs on solar panels

  • The 30 percent tariffs announced in January improperly help US producers in violation of WTO rules, China’s commerce ministry said
  • China has tried to portray itself as a defender of the WTO-based trading system

BEIJING: China says it is challenging a US tariff hike on solar panels before the World Trade Organization, adding to its sprawling conflicts with President Donald Trump over trade and technology.
The 30 percent tariffs announced in January improperly help US producers in violation of WTO rules, the Commerce Ministry said. It said a formal complaint was filed Tuesday with the WTO in Geneva.
The solar duties are separate from tariff hikes imposed by the Trump administration starting in July on Chinese imports in response to complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology.
The duties also apply to imports of solar cells and modules from Europe, Canada, Mexico and South Korea. That strained relations with US allies.
The Trump administration has defended the solar tariffs as necessary to protect American producers, saying import prices were unfairly low due to subsidies and other improper support.
Washington took action under a 1974 US law instead of through the WTO. That led to complaints it was undermining the global trade body. US officials say such action is necessary because the WTO lacks the ability to address Chinese trade tactics.
China has tried to portray itself as a defender of the WTO-based trading system. It has attempted to recruit European and other governments as allies against Washington, but they echo US complaints about Chinese market barriers and industrial policy.
The European Union filed its own WTO complaint in June against Chinese technology policies it said violate Beijing’s free-trade commitments.
The US solar action “seriously damaged China’s trade interests” and “also affects the seriousness and authority of WTO rules,” said a Commerce Ministry statement.
WTO complaints begin with negotiations between parties to the dispute. If those fail, the case moves to a panel of experts who can decide whether the trade controls are improper.
In their technology dispute, Washington imposed 25 percent duties on $34 billion of Chinese goods it said benefit from improper industrial policies. Beijing responded with similar penalties.
Another round of US tariff hikes on $16 billion of Chinese goods is due to take effect Aug. 23. Beijing says it will retaliate.
Earlier, Beijing filed a separate WTO challenge on July 16 to Trump’s proposal for yet another round of increases that would add 25 percent import duties on an additional $200 billion of Chinese goods.


Record budget spurs Saudi economy

The budget sets out to lift spending and cut the deficit. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 December 2018
0

Record budget spurs Saudi economy

  • “It is a growth-supportive budget with both capital and current expenditure set to rise.”
  • Government spending is projected to rise to SR 1.106 trillion

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday announced its biggest-ever budget — with spending set to increase by around 7 percent — in a move aimed at boosting the economy, while also reducing the deficit. 

However, analysts cautioned that the 2019 budget is based on oil prices far higher than today — which could prove an obstacle in hitting targets. 

Government spending is projected to rise to SR 1.106 trillion ($295 billion) next year, up from an actual SR 1.030 trillion this year, Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan said at a briefing in Riyadh. 

The budget estimates a 9 percent annual increase in revenues to SR 975 billion. The budget deficit is forecast at SR 131 billion for next year, a 4.2 percent decline on 2018.

“We believe that the 2019 fiscal budget will focus on supporting economic activity — investment and wider,” Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), told Arab News.

“It is a growth-supportive budget with both capital and current expenditure set to rise.”

A royal decree by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, also announced on Tuesday, ordered the continuation of allowances covering the cost of living for civil sector employees for the new fiscal year.

“The continuation of the handout package will be positive for household consumption by nationals,” said Malik. “We expect to see some overall fiscal loosening in 2019, which should support a further gradual pickup in real non-oil GDP growth.”

World oil prices on Tuesday tumbled to their lowest levels in more than a year amid concerns over demand. Brent crude contracts fell to as low as $57.20 during morning trading.

Malik cautioned that the oil-price assumptions in the Saudi budget looked “optimistic.”

“We see the fiscal deficit widening in 2019, with the higher spending and forecast fall in oil revenue,” she told Arab News.

Jason Tuvey, an economist at London-based Capital Economics, agreed that the oil forecast was optimistic, but said this should not pose problems for government finances.

“The government seems to be expecting oil prices to average $80 (per barrel) next year,” he said. 

“In contrast, we think that oil prices will stay low and possibly fall a little further to $55 … On that basis, the budget deficit is likely to be closer to 10 percent of GDP. That won’t cause too many problems given the government’s strong balance sheet. 

“Overall, then, we think that there will be some fiscal loosening in the first half of next year, but if oil prices stay low as we expect, the authorities will probably shift tack and return to austerity from the mid-2019, which will weigh on growth in the non-oil sector,” Tuvey said.

John Sfakianakis, chief economist at the Gulf Research Center, based in Saudi Arabia, said that the targets of the budget were “achievable” and the forecast oil price reasonable. 

“It is an expansionary budget that should spurt private sector activity and growth,” he said. 

“With Brent crude averaging around $68 per barrel for 2018 and $66 per barrel for 2019, the authorities have applied a conservative revenue scenario.”