East African nations approve individual trade pacts with EU if joint deal not reached

A worker delivers certified beef for export into cold storage at Kenya’s main abbatoir, in Machakos county in this April 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 02 February 2019
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East African nations approve individual trade pacts with EU if joint deal not reached

  • The East African Community and the EU have been at loggerheads for years over signing the so-called Economic Partnership Agreement
  • The bloc launched a common market in 2010 but missed its target of having a common currency in place in 2012

DAR ES SALAAM: East African countries can individually sign separate trade agreements with the European Union (EU) if a joint deal is not reached within the next four months, according to a statement from a meeting of regional leaders.
The East African Community (EAC) and the EU have been at loggerheads for years over signing the so-called Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), designed to replace preferential trade deals struck down by the World Trade Organization.
“The summit ... decided that the EAC engages the EU on the matter in the next four months to get more clarification on the pertinent issues of concern. Thereafter, partner states who wish to, may or may not sign the EPA,” East African leaders said in a joint statement late on Friday.
The agreement was reached at the summit in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha on Friday. It was attended by Tanzania’s President John Magufuli, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Rwanda President Paul Kagame and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Kenya and Rwanda signed the agreement in 2016 but it needs approval from all other members of the EAC bloc — Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Burundi — to take effect.
At the summit, Museveni handed over the rotating chairmanship of the EAC to Kagame, who is also the current chairman of the African Union.
The bloc launched a common market in 2010 but missed its target of having a common currency in place in 2012. The stated goal was a political federation, although analysts say that is likely to be many years off if it happens at all.
South Sudan, which joined the bloc in 2016, was not part of initial negotiations on the EPA deal, which began in 2002.
The trade bloc has a combined gross domestic product of $146 billion, according to the EAC website.


HSBC plans more China tech jobs in push for market share

Updated 35 min 32 sec ago
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HSBC plans more China tech jobs in push for market share

  • Europe’s biggest bank by assets will boost headcount at its technology centers in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Xi’an by 14 percent
  • HSBC’s expansion plan in China comes amid growing use of technology in the financial sector — from payments to transactions
HONG KONG: HSBC plans to add more than 1,000 jobs this year at its technology development centers in China, as the Asia-focused lender seeks to bolster its presence in the world’s second largest economy.
Europe’s biggest bank by assets will boost headcount at its technology centers in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Xi’an by 14 percent from a current 7,000-strong workforce, said HSBC Chief Information Officer Darryl West.
In recent years the London-based bank has spent $3 billion annually on its group technology operations which employ 40,000 people worldwide, and West said annual investments of $3-$3.5 billion are planned over the next few years.
Many global banks set up low-cost hubs in China and India more than a decade ago to maintain their complex worldwide information technology networks, but these centers have now become a core part of their operations.
The centers develop and implement risk and fraud management technologies, as well as digital applications that make it easier for banks to attract customers and deliver faster and more secure services.
HSBC’s expansion plan in China, a key market for the bank, comes amid growing use of technology in the financial sector — from payments to transactions.
At stake is a bigger share of the billions of dollars worth of retail and corporate banking business in a major financial market with a growing customer base.
“There is a lot more we can do with technology in mainland China. The level of technology adoption and innovation in China is way ahead of other markets,” West told reporters during a tour of HSBC’s technology center in the southern city of Guangzhou last week.
“We see mainland China as a tremendous source of talent, not just for the local market but our technology operations globally. We are hiring very aggressively here,” he added.
About 30 percent of the work done at the Guangzhou center, the largest HSBC tech facility in China with more than 5,000 employees, is for the mainland market and that share is expected to grow over the next couple of years.
HSBC is also using China-based tech centers to develop banking products for its global network, such as the bank’s UK mobile app which was developed in the northwestern city of Xi’an.
Outside China, HSBC employs more than 10,000 people at technology centers in India, with the rest in countries such as Britain, Canada, Hong Kong and the United States.
HSBC has in recent years lifted investment in China, including the prosperous southern Pearl River Delta region. Mainland China and Hong Kong together accounted for nearly 40 percent of the bank’s revenue in 2018.
The bank will invest $15-$17 billion in the next three years in areas including technology and China, its Chief Executive John Flint said last year.
The limited physical presence of foreign banks in China compared to dominant domestic rivals has been a challenge.
HSBC’s losses in retail banking and wealth management (RBWM) in mainland China widened to $200 million last year from $44 million in 2017. The bank aimed to reverse that with its investments in technology.
“Things like that, we see as very important for the next phase of our business growth ... once the major investments have gone in, RBWM will grow bigger and also profitable,” said HSBC Greater China Chief Executive Helen Wong.