Al-Dahra to invest $400m in Serbian agriculture

Updated 29 March 2013

Al-Dahra to invest $400m in Serbian agriculture

BELGRADE: Abu Dhabi-based firm Al-Dahra agreed to invest $ 400 million to buy eight Serbian farm companies and develop them to grow and process food and fodder for export, in the biggest investment in Serbian agriculture for decades.
The agreement between Belgrade and Al-Dahra came a day after the UAE Development Fund approved a separate $400 million loan for Serbian agriculture, Serbia’s Finance Ministry said.
“With $ 400 million from Abu Dhabi’s Development Fund ... and $ 400 million from Al-Dahra, we have secured a total of $ 800 million for agriculture,” Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic, Dinkic, on a visit to Abu Dhabi, was quoted as saying by the ministry.
Serbia is looking to potential investors such as Russia, China and the UAE, while its traditional trading partners in the euro zone struggle with a debt crisis.
Meanwhile, countries in the Gulf, one of the world’s biggest food importing regions, have stepped up efforts to buy and lease farmland in developing nations to secure food supplies since 2007-2008, when food prices rose to record levels.
Under the agreement, Al-Dahra will use a third of its investment to purchase eight bankrupt agricultural firms, mainly in Serbia’s fertile north.
The remainder will be invested in irrigation and the development of at least five fodder plants, Dinkic said.
“This is the biggest investment (in Serbian agriculture) in decades,” he said. “Al-Dahra will be a producer but also a buyer of Serbian agriculture products.”
Agriculture accounted for 20 percent of Serbia’s exports in 2012, but farms lack modern irrigation and suffer from floods and droughts. The government plans to increase agriculture subsidies this year by 25 percent from 2012 to reach 3.7 percent of the budget.
Serbia is targeting economic growth of 2 percent this year after a contraction of about 1.9 percent in 2012.
On Wednesday, Dinkic said Abu Dhabi’s Etihad airline could also become a strategic partner of Belgrade’s JAT Airways.


US trade offensive takes out WTO as global arbiter

Updated 15 min 11 sec ago

US trade offensive takes out WTO as global arbiter

  • Two years after starting to block appointments, the US will finally paralyze the WTO’s Appellate Body
  • Two of three members of Appellate Body exit and leave it unable to issue rulings

BRUSSELS: US disruption of the global economic order reaches a major milestone on Tuesday as the World Trade Organization (WTO) loses its ability to intervene in trade wars, threatening the future of the Geneva-based body.
Two years after starting to block appointments, the United States will finally paralyze the WTO’s Appellate Body, which acts as the supreme court for international trade, as two of three members exit and leave it unable to issue rulings.
Major trade disputes, including the US conflict with China and metal tariffs imposed by US President Donald Trump, will not be resolved by the global trade arbiter.
Stephen Vaughn, who served as general counsel to the US Trade Representative during Trump’s first two years, said many disputes would be settled in future by negotiations.
Critics say this means a return to a post-war period of inconsistent settlements, problems the WTO’s creation in 1995 was designed to fix.
The EU ambassador to the WTO told counterparts in Geneva on Monday the Appellate Body’s paralysis risked creating a system of economic relations based on power rather than rules.
The crippling of dispute settlement comes as the WTO also struggles in its other major role of opening markets.
The WTO club of 164 has not produced any international accord since abandoning “Doha Round” negotiations in 2015.
Trade-restrictive measures among the G20 group of largest economies are at historic highs, compounded by Trump’s “America First” agenda and the trade war with China.
Phil Hogan, the European Union’s new trade commissioner, said on Friday the WTO was no longer fit for purpose and in dire need of reforms going beyond just fixing the appeals mechanism.
For developed countries, in particular, the WTO’s rules must change to take account of state-controlled enterprises.
In 2017, Japan brought together the United States and the European Union in a joint bid to set new global rules on state subsidies and forced technology transfers.
The US is also pushing to limit the ability of WTO members to grant themselves developing status, which for example gives them longer to implement WTO agreements.
Such “developing countries” include Singapore and Israel, but China is the clear focus.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Reuters last week the United States wanted to end concessions given to then struggling economies that were no longer appropriate.
“We’ve been spoiling countries for a very, very long time, so naturally they’re pushing back as we try to change things,” he said.
The trouble with WTO reform is that changes require consensus to pass. That includes Chinese backing.
Beijing has published its own reform proposals with a string of grievances against US actions. Reform should resolve crucial issues threatening the WTO’s existence, while preserving the interests of developing countries.
Many observers believe the WTO faces a pivotal moment in mid-2020 when its trade ministers gather in a drive to push through a multinational deal — on cutting fishing subsidies.
“It’s not the WTO that will save the fish. It’s the fish that are going to save the WTO,” said one ambassador.