Saudi Arabia, UAE poised to launch digital currency

Although there is much skepticism around bitcoin, the underlying blockchain technology is viewed as a groundbreaking system. (Reuters)
Updated 14 December 2017

Saudi Arabia, UAE poised to launch digital currency

LONDON: Saudi Arabia and the UAE are working on the launch of a digital currency that could be used for transactions between the region’s banks by using blockchain, the technology that underpins bitcoin.
Citing UAE Central Bank Gov. Mubarak Al-Mansouri, Reuters reported on Wednesday that UAE and KSA banks would issue a digital currency that would be accepted in cross-border transactions between the two countries.
In a speech to a regional financial conference, Al-Mansouri explained that blockchain is a shared ledger of transactions, maintained by a network of computers on the Internet rather than by a central authority.
Although there is official skepticism around bitcoin, blockchain is viewed as a groundbreaking system with huge potential for saving time and costs for businesses and financial services.
Arab News recently reported that banks around the world were looking to create digital versions of their currencies. Unlike bitcoin, these digital currencies would be backed by the monetary authorities and could one day replace cash.
James Bernard, development director of the Dubai Multi Commodities Center (DMCC), told Arab News that a clear distinction should be made between blockchain, which offers huge potential, and cryptocurrencies that have faced hacking issues and massive swings in value. “Bitcoin is dependent on blockchain, but the blockchain technology is independent of bitcoin,” Bernard said.
The KSA and UAE central banks have in the past expressed skepticism about bitcoin, with the UAE Central Bank saying it did not recognize it as an official currency.
In July, the Saudi central bank warned against trading bitcoin because it was outside the bank’s regulatory reach.
On Wednesday, however, Al-Mansouri said the central banks wanted to understand blockchain technology better. He told reporters that the UAE-Saudi digital currency would be used among banks, not by individual consumers, and would make transactions more efficient.
“It is digitization of what we do already between central banks and banks,” he said.
At a panel discussion on banking and blockchain during November’s Global Financial Forum — hosted by the Dubai International Financial Center — speakers agreed that blockchain was in its early stages and had many years before going mainstream, but all agreed the potential was massive.
Leanne Kemp, CEO of Everledger, told the forum that banks could benefit from the immutable track-and-trace application of blockchain, which helps enhance trust and security.
Brian Behlendorf, executive director at Hyperledger, explained that there are two different types of blockchain: Permissioned and permission-less, with the latter used by bitcoin.
Behlendorf said he believed the potential benefits of the permissioned blockchain makes it attractive to financial institutions and other enterprises.
At the end of 2016, the Royal Mint of the UK announced plans to launch a digital gold product called Royal Mint Gold (RMG), a joint venture with US exchange, CME. A spokesman told Arab News earlier the system is now “up and running” and the Royal Mint is “in advanced discussions to sign up a number of corporate users.”
“By using distributed ledger technology, we can make it more cost-effective and provide increased transparency for traders and investors to trade, execute and settle gold,” said the Royal Mint.
A decade ago, the UAE and Saudi Arabia discussed the possibility of creating a single currency among members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council but the UAE pulled out of the project in 2009.
However, diplomatic and economic ties between the UAE and Saudi Arabia have been strengthening this year, and last week the UAE said it planned to establish a bilateral committee with Saudi Arabia on economic, political and military issues.

 

Beijing counter-strike over US sanctions list

Updated 20 September 2020

Beijing counter-strike over US sanctions list

  • Foreign enterprises in the firing line under planned punitive measures

BEIJING: China said on Saturday it had launched a mechanism enabling it to restrict foreign entities, a much-expected move seen as retaliation to US penalties against Chinese companies such as telecom giant Huawei.

An announcement by the Ministry of Commerce did not mention any specific foreign entities, but broadly spelled out the factors that could trigger punitive measures, which may include fines, restrictions on import export business or investment in China, and the entry of personnel or equipment into the country.

It covers “foreign enterprises, other organizations and individuals,” it said.

The launch of the “unreliable entities list” ups the ante in the escalating commercial fight with the Trump administration, which has used its own “entity list” to bar Huawei from the US market on national security grounds.

The announcement also came a day after the United States ordered a ban on downloads of popular video app TikTok and effectively blocked the use of the Chinese super-app WeChat on similar grounds, which prompted a threat by China to strike back.

Beijing would consider sanctions on entities whose activities “harm China’s national sovereignty, security, and development interests” or violate “internationally accepted economic and trade rules.”

That language closely tracks wording that Beijing has used to repeatedly denounce US actions against Chinese companies.

The ministry said that if an entity is suspected of violating the provisions, an investigation would be launched under China’s Cabinet, the State Council.

The foreign party in question would have an opportunity to defend its conduct to the Chinese investigators.

Chinese enterprises that rely on business with the targeted organizations also will be allowed to apply for exemptions from any ban on doing business with them, as the US system allows.

The US and China are engaged in an escalating trade battle centered on technology.  Huawei, the world’s leading supplier of telecoms networking equipment, has been a particular target.

Washington has used its own entity list to essentially ban Huawei from the US market and prevent American companies from doing any business with it or with Huawei-affiliated organizations.

The US says Huawei could be used by Chinese state security to infiltrate communications networks.

China’s government and Huawei deny that, saying the US has offered no evidence supporting the claim.

Under a US order on Friday, the Tencent-owned WeChat app would lose functionality in the US from Sunday. TikTok users will be banned from installing updates but could keep accessing the service through Nov. 12.

China has for years blocked or restricted leading US tech companies from operating in its market, including Facebook, Twitter and Google.