G7 finance ministers look to rein in tech giants at French meeting

G7 finance ministers look to rein in tech giants at French meeting
There are concerns the growing powers of big tech companies, such as Facebook, are increasingly encroaching on areas belonging to governments, like issuing currency. (AP)
Updated 17 July 2019

G7 finance ministers look to rein in tech giants at French meeting

G7 finance ministers look to rein in tech giants at French meeting
  • Concerns that the growing powers of big tech companies are increasingly encroaching on areas belonging to governments
  • ‘These digital giants are turning into private states — states over which citizens have no control and where democracy has no place’

CHANTILLY, France: G7 finance ministers will have the growing powers of big digital firms in their sights when they meet on Wednesday outside Paris despite divisions about how best to tax them.
France wants to use its presidency of the two-day meeting in the picturesque chateau town of Chantilly north of Paris to get broad support for ensuring minimum corporate taxation.
G7 governments are concerned that decades-old international tax rules have been pushed to the limit by the emergence of Facebook and Apple, which book profits in low-tax countries regardless of the source of the underlying income.
The issue has become more vexed than ever in recent days as Paris defied US President Donald Trump last week by passing a tax on big digital firms’ revenues in France despite a threat from him to launch a probe that could lead to trade tariffs.
“France is a sovereign nation and will continue of course to decide as a sovereign nation on all taxation issues,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said at a conference at the French central bank on the eve of the G7 meeting.
“So, let’s work during the G7 ... on that key question of digital taxation because this is for us the best way to fix this issue,” Le Maire added.
Their bilateral dispute aside, France and the United States are in favor of rules ensuring minimum taxation as part of an effort among 139 countries to overhaul international tax rules.
Although a G7 agreement would set the tone for the broader push, an agreement among all of the G7 ministers on a minimum rate or range of rates is likely to prove elusive as Britain and Canada have reservations, a French Finance Ministry source said on Friday.
Common ground should be found more easily among ministers and central bankers present at the meeting on the issue of digital currencies and coins.
Facebook’s recent announcement of plans to launch a digital coin has met with a chorus from regulators, central bankers and governments insisting it must respect anti-money-laundering rules and ensure the security of transactions and user data.
But there are also deeper concerns that the growing powers of big tech companies increasingly encroach on areas belonging to governments, like issuing currency.
“These digital giants are turning into private states – states over which citizens have no control and where democracy has no place,” Le Maire said.
“We cannot let companies, which are serving private interests, gather all the attributes of sovereign states. We must act,” he added.
Off the official agenda, ministers are also due to consult on possible successors to replace Christine Lagarde at the head of the International Monetary Fund.
US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and some European ministers are due to meet with Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, who has been mooted as a possible candidate for the IMF job.


Oil prices rise further on tight supply outlook, eyes on OPEC+

Oil prices rise further on tight supply outlook, eyes on OPEC+
Updated 7 min 4 sec ago

Oil prices rise further on tight supply outlook, eyes on OPEC+

Oil prices rise further on tight supply outlook, eyes on OPEC+
  • U.S. infrastructure bill brightens demand outlook - analysts
  • OPEC+ meeting on July 1, seen cautious with easing output cuts

SINGAPORE: Oil prices climbed for a third straight session on Friday, on track for a fifth consecutive weekly gain, as demand growth is expected to outstrip supply on bets that OPEC+ producers will be cautious in returning more output to the market from August.
Brent crude futures rose 6 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $75.62 a barrel at 6:46 a.m. GMT, heading for a 2.9 percent jump for the week.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 5 cents, or 0.1 percent, at $73.35 a barrel, headed for a 2.4 percent weekly gain.
Both benchmark contracts settled at their highest levels since October 2018 on Thursday.
“Expectations of tightness in global market is the major factor supporting crude oil as demand is recovering while OPEC+ has constrained supply and US stocks are falling,” said Ravindra Rao, vice president for commodities at Kotak Securities.
Oil also got some support on Friday as the approval of US infrastructure bill boosted optimism for energy demand outlook, analysts said.
All eyes are on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and allies — together called OPEC+ — who are due to meet on July 1 to discuss further easing of their output cuts from August.
“(The market) certainly has momentum behind it...It’s really in the hands of OPEC+,” said Commonwealth Bank commodities analyst Vivek Dhar.
On the demand side, the key factors OPEC+ will have to consider are strong growth in the United States, Europe and China, bolstered by vaccine rollouts and economies reopening, offset by rising COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in other locations, analysts said.
“I think OPEC+ will carefully calibrate production hikes from August onwards to meet rising demand without causing significant price fluctuations,” said Margaret Yang, a strategist at Singapore-based DailyFX.
“The market has likely priced-in an August hike in advance,” she added.
ANZ analysts have predicted OPEC+ would step up supply with a small increase of 500,000 barrels per day in August, adding to the 2.1 million bpd they agreed to return to the market from May through July.
The prospect of sanctions being lifted on Iran and more of its oil hitting the market anytime soon has dimmed, with a US official saying “serious differences” remain over a range of issues over Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.


Iraq, UAE’s Masdar sign solar power agreement

Iraq, UAE’s Masdar sign solar power agreement
Updated 22 min 53 sec ago

Iraq, UAE’s Masdar sign solar power agreement

Iraq, UAE’s Masdar sign solar power agreement
  • 2,000 MW of solar to be built according to agreement
  • Cost of deal undisclosed by Iraqi Oil Ministry

DUBAI: The Iraqi electricity ministry signed with Masdar, a United Arab Emirates-based renewable power developer, an agreement to build solar power projects in central and southern Iraq, with a total capacity of 2,000 Megawatts, the Iraqi oil ministry said on Thursday in a statement.
The project is the biggest investment in Iraq’s renewable energy industry, the statement said, without indicating its total cost.
Iraq is planning to build a number of power plants in the coming years in partnership with international and Arab companies. Some will use solar energy, while others will run on fossil fuels, including gas that is produced during the extraction of oil, by introducing it into the electricity production system, Iraq Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar told Asharq recently.


Lebanon caretaker PM approves financing fuel imports at weaker exchange rate

Lebanon caretaker PM approves financing fuel imports at weaker exchange rate
Updated 41 min 31 sec ago

Lebanon caretaker PM approves financing fuel imports at weaker exchange rate

Lebanon caretaker PM approves financing fuel imports at weaker exchange rate
  • Lebanon is in the throes of a financial crisis described by the World Bank as one of the deepest depressions of modern history
  • Lebanon’s central bank asked the government on Thursday to provide it with a legal basis to lend it foreign currency from its mandatory reserves to fund the subsidised fuel imports

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister on Friday approved a proposal to finance fuel imports at the rate of 3,900 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, instead of the previous 1,500 pound rate, amidst worsening gasoline shortages.
The weaker exchange rate, which will effectively decrease the subsidy on fuel, is expected to raise the price of gasoline for consumers but enable the government to supply fuel for a longer period of time.
Lebanon is in the throes of a financial crisis described by the World Bank as one of the deepest depressions of modern history. Fuel shortages in past weeks have forced motorists to queue for hours for dribbles of gasoline.
Lebanon’s subsidy program, introduced last year as the country’s economic meltdown translated to harsher living conditions, covers basic goods such as wheat, medicine and fuel and costs around $6 billion a year.
Half of that amount is spent on fuel.
Lebanon’s central bank asked the government on Thursday to provide it with a legal basis to lend it foreign currency from its mandatory reserves to fund the subsidised fuel imports, an indication that the bank has all but run out of reserves.
Mandatory reserves — hard currency deposits parked by local lenders at the central bank — represent a percentage of customer deposits and are usually not drawn upon except in exceptional circumstances, with the correct legal permission.
Lebanon’s foreign currency reserves stood at slightly more than $15 billion in March. The Central Bank has not given an updated figure since then. 


Iraq targets 90% self-sufficiency in natural gas by 2025

Iraq targets 90% self-sufficiency in natural gas by 2025
Updated 25 June 2021

Iraq targets 90% self-sufficiency in natural gas by 2025

Iraq targets 90% self-sufficiency in natural gas by 2025
  • Iraq currently consumers 3,5000 cubic feet of gas, produces 1,300 cubic feet
  • Iraq imports the rest of its gas from Iran

RIYADH: The Iraqi Ministry of Oil plans to attract a contractor to invest in Akkas gas field, to produce 4,000 million cubic feet of gas by 2025, which represents 90 percent of Iraq’s need for electric power production, said Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar.

Iraq will need more gas for electric power by 2030 to keep pace with the rise in the population, which is expected to increase by 10 million people to 50 million by then, he told Asharq.

Iraq will still need to import 15 percent of the gas fuel it needs, he said. Infrastructure is being built in the south to open new outlets to import gas from other countries such as Qatar when needed, he said.

There are currently new projects in the governorates of Dhi Qar and Maysan, Abdul Jabbar said.

Iraq currently consumes about 3,500 million standard cubic feet of natural gas, of which 1,300 cubic feet is produced in Iraq and the rest imported from Iran, while the actual need for Iraq amounts to 4,500 million cubic feet, he said.

Iraq is planning to build a number of power plants in the coming years in partnership with international and Arab companies. Some will use solar energy, while others will run on fossil fuels, including gas that is produced during the extraction of oil, by introducing it into the electricity production system, Abdul Jabbar said.

Iraq plans to end gas flaring altogether by 2025, he said.


UAE may become first major oil exporter to target net zero by 2050

UAE may become first major oil exporter to target net zero by 2050
Updated 25 June 2021

UAE may become first major oil exporter to target net zero by 2050

UAE may become first major oil exporter to target net zero by 2050
  • UAE can hit target while continuing to sell oil and gas
  • UAE may announce plan before Glasgow climate summit

ABU DHABI: The UAE is considering a 2050 target to align with a global push to keep temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, Bloomberg reported citing people familiar with the matter.

If the discussions succeed, the UAE could become the first among OPEC countries to technically reach net zero while continuing with plans to invest billions in oil extraction.

This move would please Western countries pushing for stronger climate commitments but won’t require it to sell less oil.

The net-zero charge is being led by Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the UAE’s special envoy for climate change and its minister of industry and advanced technology.

We are “certainly working on a whole-of-government approach to see at what point it would be feasible to achieve net zero,” Hana AlHashimi, who heads Al Jaber’s office, said on a call hosted by the US-UAE Business Council on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg. “I’d encourage you to stay tuned,” she said.

The country aims to make an announcement before the UN climate summit in Glasgow in November, the people said, asking not to be identified for the privacy of the ongoing talks.

Emissions from burning fossil fuels after they’re shipped abroad aren’t included in such country-level targets. The fossil fuels remain UAE’s biggest source of revenue, contributing about 30 percent to GDP. Still, the nation has taken steps to bolster its green credentials.

Only half of all power capacity is set to be emission free by 2050, consisting of renewables and nuclear, according to the UAE’s long-term energy plan. The country plans to meet the rest of its energy needs with gas and coal.

Climate Action Tracker, a nonprofit that analyzes climate goals, rates the UAE’s policies “highly insufficient.”

The UAE is now bidding to host the UN’s global climate talks in 2023. It’s up against South Korea, which has already set a net-zero by 2050 goal.

The UAE has been a target of US lobbying for stronger green commitments. It’s among the few countries to host special climate envoy John Kerry twice since he took office earlier this year, Bloomberg said.

Kerry expressed optimism that Saudi Arabia will agree to a net-zero emissions target of around 2050 after visiting the nation on his most recent trip to the region.