Indonesian president says trade wars too destructive

Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged the IMF to identify countries that use economic, foreign exchange, and trade policies to ‘contribute to unfair competitive advantages.’ (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2018
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Indonesian president says trade wars too destructive

  • ‘Victory or defeat in wars always brings the same result — destruction. It’s pointless to become the leading economy in a sinking world’

NUSA DUA, Indonesia: Indonesian President Joko Widodo added to the chorus of criticism on Friday over trade friction between the US and China, telling financial leaders gathered in Bali, Indonesia, that victory in a trade war would be pointless in a “sinking world.”
Widodo’s comments to the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank came as share markets rebounded after The Wall Street Journal reported that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping may meet at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, late next month.
Much attention at the finance meetings in this tropical resort has focused on threats to growth from the uncertainty and disruptions associated with trade friction. A bout of turmoil in financial markets this week added to the sense of urgency over the issue.
Widodo, who often sprinkles his speeches with references to movies, underscored those worries in his opening speech as host to the IMF-World Bank meeting.
“The balance of powers and the alliances among major economies are breaking down. Weakness in coordination and cooperation has caused many problems, including the dramatic rise in the price of crude oil and turmoil in the currency markets of developing economies,” Widodo told the gathering of financial officials, central bank governors and experts.
Instead, attention should be focused on slowing growth and disruptions from new technologies that are turning many industries “upside down,” he said.
In an allusion to the popular TV series “Game of Thrones,” he said fighting among the “great houses” was distracting them from the threat of an “evil winter.”
“Victory or defeat in wars always brings the same result — destruction,” he said. “It’s pointless to become the leading economy in a sinking world.”
In a statement released Thursday, the senior American official in Bali, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, pointed to relatively strong US economic indicators as evidence policies meant to nurture sustained growth are working.
He urged the IMF to identify countries that use economic, foreign exchange, and trade policies to “contribute to unfair competitive advantages.”
The Trump “administration is committed to achieving a fair and reciprocal trading and investment relationship with all of our partners, including China,” he said. “We welcome the IMF’s work on tariff and non-tariff barriers, and we encourage the IMF to focus on less open trade regimes in order to play a constructive role in promoting global solutions.”
Finance ministers and central bank governors of the Group of 20 industrial nations wrapped their meeting in Bali with no major announcements.
Asked about the tussle between Washington and Beijing over technology policy and trade, Argentine Finance Minister Nicolas Dujovne said the G-20 does provide a ground for discussing such issues.
But he added, the “difference that persists should be resolved between those countries.”
Friday’s IMF-World Bank meeting began with a moment of silence for victims of recent disasters, including a Sept. 28 earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 2,000 people on another Indonesian island, Sulawesi, and left perhaps thousands buried in mud.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the disasters were a reminder of the institution’s mission of helping countries build resilience and deal with disasters, manage debt levels and invest in their people to prepare for the future, while helping to alleviate poverty and promote economic growth.
“Every day that you don’t build human capital, your economy, and your country, will fall farther and farther behind,” Kim said, noting that as when he was born in 1959, South Korea, now an affluent manufacturing powerhouse, was among the poorest countries in the world, with a literacy rate of only 23 percent.


German economy ‘in better shape’ than thought in Q4

Updated 28 min 7 sec ago
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German economy ‘in better shape’ than thought in Q4

  • Destatis confirmed preliminary readings of 0.0 percent expansion between October and December, adjusted for price, seasonal and calendar effects
  • Europe’s powerhouse only just escaped a technical recession — two successive quarters of negative growth — in the second half of 2018

FRANKFURT AM MAIN: The German economy is “in better shape” than feared, analysts said Friday, after detailed data for the fourth quarter of 2018 showed a dashboard with few red lights despite flat growth.
Figures from federal statistics authority Destatis confirmed preliminary readings of 0.0 percent expansion between October and December, adjusted for price, seasonal and calendar effects.
“German economic growth has stalled,” the statisticians said in a statement, with the flatline in the final three months of last year following contraction of 0.2 percent between July and September.
That meant Europe’s powerhouse only just escaped a technical recession — two successive quarters of negative growth — in the second half of 2018.
Nevertheless, “the German economy is in a better shape than its current reputation,” economist Carsten Brzeski of ING Diba bank commented on the release.
Private consumption, government spending and investments all picked up, while both imports and exports grew at around the same pace, leaving the country’s trade surplus almost flat.
“None of the traditional growth components” were negative, Brzeski noted, arguing the data showed the massive car industry’s struggles to adapt to new tougher emissions tests were the main culprit for the slowdown.
Stocks of newly-built cars had piled up in the second and third quarter, he pointed out, before being finally delivered in the fourth after passing the so-called WLTP process introduced in September.
“Inventories were a massive drag” on growth in the final three months, Unicredit analysts agreed, calculating the effect slowed the economy by “a whopping 0.6” percentage points.
“The temporary problems in the car industry mask solid fundamentals,” Brzeski said.
“In a couple of months, the German economy should be able again to show its true colors.”