BMW looking at Chinese-made electric Mini

People check out a BMW at a motor show in Beijing. The German automaker aims to manufacture a Chinese made electric Mini in the country. (Reuters)
Updated 23 February 2018
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BMW looking at Chinese-made electric Mini

BEIJING: BMW Group said Friday it is talking with China’s biggest SUV maker about a possible partnership to produce electric versions of its Mini as automakers ramp up electric development under pressure from Beijing to meet sales quotas.
BMW said it signed a letter of intent with Great Wall Motors headquartered in Baoding, southwest of Beijing, and needs to work out a cooperation agreement and investment details.
Auto brands face pressure to meet quotas that require electric vehicles to make up at least 10 percent of sales starting next year. Later, they face pressure to raise that to meet increasingly demanding fuel efficiency standards.
Beijing is using access to its auto market, the world’s largest, as leverage to induce global automakers to help Chinese brands develop battery and other electric vehicle technology. Foreign automakers that want to manufacture in China must do so through local partners, which requires them to hand over know-how or help potential Chinese competitors develop their own.
General Motors, Volkswagen, Nissan Motor and other brands already have announced similar plans with local partners to produce dozens of electric models for China.
MINI’s first battery electric model is due to be produced at its main British factory in Oxford in 2019, according to BMW.
“This signals a further clear commitment to the electrified future of the MINI brand,” BMW said in a statement.
Sales of pure-electric passenger vehicles in China rose 82 percent last year to 468,000, according to an industry group, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. That was more than double the US level of just under 200,000.
China is BMW’s biggest market. The Munich-based automaker said about 560,000 BMW brand vehicles were delivered to Chinese customers in 2017, more than its next two markets — the United States and Germany — combined.
China was MINI’s fourth-largest market in 2017, with 35,000 vehicles delivered, the company said.
An electrics venture with BMW would be a boost for Great Wall, which industry analysts have warned will struggle to satisfy Beijing’s sales quotas and had yet to announce any significant electric plans.
Great Wall sells more than 1 million fuel-hungry SUVs annually. That sets a high baseline for electric sales and will make it harder to meet fleet average efficiency standards.


South Korea downgrades Japan trade status as dispute deepens

Updated 18 September 2019

South Korea downgrades Japan trade status as dispute deepens

  • The change comes a week after South Korea initiated a complaint to the World Trade Organization
  • The new measures in effect mean it might take up to 15 days for South Korean companies to gain approvals to export sensitive materials to Japan

SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea on Wednesday dropped Japan from a list of countries receiving fast-track approvals in trade, a reaction to Tokyo’s decision to downgrade Seoul’s trade status amid a tense diplomatic dispute.
South Korea’ trade ministry said Japan’s removal from a 29-member “white list” of nations enjoying minimum trade restrictions went into effect as Seoul rearranged its export control system covering hundreds of sensitive materials that can be used for both civilian and military purposes.
The change comes a week after South Korea initiated a complaint to the World Trade Organization over a separate Japanese move to tighten export controls on key chemicals South Korean companies use to manufacture semiconductors and displays.
Seoul has accused Tokyo of weaponizing trade to retaliate against South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese companies to offer reparations to South Koreans forced into labor during World War II. Tokyo’s measures struck a nerve in South Korea, where many still resent Japan’s brutal colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.
According to South Korean trade ministry, the new measures in effect mean it might take up to 15 days for South Korean companies to gain approvals to export sensitive materials to Japan, compared to the five days or less it took under a simpler inspection process provided for favored trade partners.
Lee Ho-hyeon, a South Korean trade ministry official, said the change would affect about 100 local firms that export items such as telecommunications security equipment, semiconductor materials and chemical products to Japan. He said Seoul will work to minimize disruption to South Korean companies.
Japan for decades has enjoyed a huge trade surplus with South Korea, an economy that’s much more dependent on exports. Many major manufacturers heavily rely on parts and materials imported from Japan.
But the dispute is taking a toll. Exports to South Korea from Japan fell 9.4% last month, Japan’s Finance Ministry reported Wednesday.
The trade dispute between the neighbors erupted in July, when Japan imposed tighter export controls on three chemicals South Korean companies use to produce semiconductors and displays for smartphones and TVs, major export items for South Korea. It cited unspecified security concerns over Seoul’s export controls.
A few weeks later, Japan dropped South Korea from its own trade “white list,” triggered a full-blown diplomatic dispute that took relations between the US allies to their worst in decades.
The dispute has spilled over to security issues, with Seoul declaring it plans to terminate a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan that symbolized the countries’ three-way security cooperation with the United States in the face of North Korea’s nuclear threat and China’s growing influence.
Following an angry reaction from Washington, Seoul later said it could reconsider its decision to end the military agreement, which remains in effect until November, if Japan relists South Korea as a favored trade partner.
Seoul announced its plans to downgrade Tokyo’s trade status in August before holding a 20-day period to gather opinions on the decision, during which the Japanese government voiced opposition to the move it described as “arbitrary and retaliatory,” Lee said.
He said Seoul needs to strengthen controls on shipments to a country that’s “hard to cooperate with” and fails to uphold “basic international principles” while managing export controls on sensitive materials.
South Korea previously divided its trade partners into two groups in managing export controls on sensitive materials. Following Wednesday’s change, South Korea now has an in-between bracket where it placed only Japan, which would mostly receive the same treatment in trade as the non-favored nations in what had been the second group.