Top Chinese, US officials to continue trade talks: Xinhua

This photo taken on August 1, 2017 shows a man walking out of a roadside grocery store in Beijing. (AFP)
Updated 24 March 2018

Top Chinese, US officials to continue trade talks: Xinhua

BEIJING: China’s top economic official Liu He spoke by phone with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday and “agreed to continue to communicate” on trade issues, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The call came at a time of heightened tensions after US President Donald Trump on Thursday authorized tariffs on as much as $60 billion of Chinese imports, targeting sectors in which Washington says Beijing has stolen American technology.
Liu He, a Harvard-educated Communist Party official who was elevated on Monday to the key role of vice premier, is expected to oversee China’s financial and economic sectors.
On the phone, he accused a US investigation of violating international trade rules and told Mnuchin that Beijing was ready to defend its interests, Xinhua said.
“China is ready to defend its national interests and hopes that both sides will remain rational and work together to safeguard the overall stability of China-US economic and trade relations,” Xinhua cited Liu as saying.
China warned the US on Friday that it was “not afraid of a trade war” as it threatened tariffs on $3 billion worth of US goods in retaliation to Trump’s new measures.
It unveiled a hit list of products from fresh fruit to pork that could face duties of up to 25 percent, though it stopped short of pulling the trigger as it indicated its readiness to negotiate an agreement.
In August, the US formally launched a trade investigation into China’s intellectual property practices and the forced transfer of US technology under Section 301 of US trade law, which addresses intellectual property.


Crisis-hit Moroccans join ‘informal economy’ as job market shrinks

Updated 14 July 2020

Crisis-hit Moroccans join ‘informal economy’ as job market shrinks

  • More than a third of Moroccan workers are already in the informal economy
  • However, the crisis is expected to expand this informal economy as people lose their jobs

RABAT: The coronavirus crisis is expected to expand Morocco’s informal economy of people who work for cash, reducing tax revenue and leaving many without social protection, the head of the state planning agency and economists said.
More than a third of Moroccan workers are already in the informal economy, doing manual or domestic labor, driving taxis or selling in the streets, accounting for 14% of gross domestic product, according to the agency.
However, the crisis is expected to expand this informal economy as people lose their jobs in companies and consumers seek the cheaper goods and services provided by workers who are not registered with the state’s pension fund.
Morocco, with 16,047 coronavirus cases, last month allowed cafes, restaurants and other services to resume activity at half capacity except in provinces where infections remain high. Last week, it extended an emergency decree giving local authorities leeway in taking restrictive measures until Aug. 10.
Unemployment is expected to surge to a rate of 14.8% in 2020 from about 9.2% before the pandemic, the agency said.
Fatima Hamdane, 53, who lost her job as a worker at a car parts manufacturing plant in Casablanca, said she would work as a cleaner even if her employer did not pay social security duties. She has diabetes and has already skipped medical checks because of her hard financial situation.
“I knocked on many doors, but couldn’t find a job,” she said. “Most have rejected me because of my age.”
Ahmed Lahlimi, the planning agency chief, told Reuters that while the number of people moving into the informal economy was expected to grow, the agency did not have any updated figures estimating the extent of the problem.
The informal economy already costs the state 34 billion dirhams ($3.4 billion) in annual tax losses, Finance Minister Mohamed Benchaaboun said.
Morocco’s fiscal deficit stood at $2.3 billion at the end of May with revenue down and spending up because of the crisis. It is expected to widen to 7.5% of gross domestic product in 2020 from 4.1% last year while the economy is expected to shrink by 5%, according to the government’s reviewed budget.
The Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises, a business group, says the informal economy puts 2.9 million jobs at risk in formal companies by undercutting their costs. In May, it recommended offering tax incentives to make more companies register officially.
“In the past, the state has tolerated the informal economy in times of social tensions such as during the 2011 pro-democracy protests,” said Rachid Awraz, of the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis.
But, in the long run, it leaves workers without social protection and prey to poverty in addition to its low added value for the economy, he said.
Labour Minister Mohamed Amekraz did not answer Reuters requests for comment.