China’s August exports unexpectedly shrink, imports remain weak

Many analysts expect China’s export growth to slow further in coming months. (AFP)
Updated 08 September 2019

China’s August exports unexpectedly shrink, imports remain weak

  • Beijing is widely expected to announce more support measures in coming weeks to avert the risk of a sharper economic slowdown
  • There were expectations that looming tariffs may have prompted some Chinese exporters to bring forward or ‘front-load’ US-bound shipments into August

BEIJING: China’s exports unexpectedly fell in August while imports shrank for a fourth month, pointing to further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy and underlining a pressing need for more stimulus as the Sino-US trade war escalates.
Beijing is widely expected to announce more support measures in coming weeks to avert the risk of a sharper economic slowdown as the United States ratchets up trade pressure, including the first cuts in some key lending rates in four years.
On Friday, the central bank cut banks’ reserve requirements for the seventh time since early 2018 to free up more funds for lending, days after a cabinet meeting signaled that more policy loosening may be imminent.
August exports fell 1 percent from a year earlier, the biggest fall since June, when it fell 1.3 percent, customs data showed on Sunday. Analysts had expected a 2.0 percent rise in a Reuters poll after July’s 3.3 percent gain.
That’s despite analyst expectations that looming tariffs may have prompted some Chinese exporters to bring forward or “front-load” US-bound shipments into August, a trend seen earlier in the trade dispute.
Many analysts expect export growth to slow further in coming months, as evidenced by worsening export orders in both official and private factory surveys. More US tariff measures will take effect on Oct. 1 and Dec. 15.
Sunday’s data also showed China’s imports shrank for the fourth consecutive month since April. Imports dropped 5.6 percent on-year in August, slightly less than an expected 6.0 percent fall and unchanged from July’s 5.6 percent decline.
Sluggish domestic demand was likely the main factor in the decline, along with softening global commodity prices. China’s domestic consumption and investment have remained weak despite more than a year of growth boosting measures.
China reported a trade surplus of $34.84 billion last month, compared with a $45.06 billion surplus in July. Analysts had forecast a surplus of $43 billion for August.
August saw dramatic escalations in the bitter year-long trade row, with Washington announcing 15 percent tariffs on a wide range of Chinese goods from Sept. 1. Beijing hit back with retaliatory levies, and let its yuan currency fall sharply to offset some of the tariff pressure.
China and the United States on Thursday agreed to hold high-level talks in early October in Washington, the first in-person discussions since a failed US-China trade meeting at the end of July.
But there was no indication that any planned tariffs on Chinese goods would be halted, and markets expect a lasting peace between the two countries seems more elusive than ever.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Friday the United States wants “near term” results from US-China trade talks in September and October but cautioned that the trade conflict could take years to resolve.
China’s trade surplus with the United States stood at $26.95 billion in August, narrowing from July’s $27.97 billion.
It still reached $195.45 billion in the first eight months of 2019, highlighting continued imbalances which have been a core complaint of Trump’s in his administration’s negotiations with Beijing.


Greek town bets on slow tourism to overcome virus

Updated 12 August 2020

Greek town bets on slow tourism to overcome virus

  • The pandemic is an opportunity to promote alternative tourism, fishing tourism

PREVEZA, Greece: Yannis Yovanos scans the waters of the Ambracian Gulf with his binoculars for dolphins shooting into the air before curving back down into the sea.

His early warnings prompt just a dozen tourists on the deck of Yovanos’ small boat to scramble for their smartphones, hoping to secure a snap of the aquatic mammals’ aerial acrobatics.

Officials in his home town of Preveza hope that it’s just this kind of small, family-run business that will help them overcome the coronavirus’ impact on travel — while sparing the region the environmental impact and economic distortions of the mass tourism more common on Crete or the Ionian islands.

“We don’t want to stay all day on a beach, we’re looking for a different experience,” said Dutch tourist Frederika Janssen.

“The pandemic is an opportunity to promote alternative tourism, fishing tourism,” as well as local life and culture “directly related to the natural resources that date from Antiquity,” said Constantin Koutsikopoulos, who heads the agency charged with managing the Ambracian Gulf.

Inside the gulf is a protected wetlands park, some 400 sq. km that is one of Europe’s Natura 2000 wildlife diversity regions.

One hundred and fifty dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles and 300 species of aquatic birds including the rare Dalmatian pelican live in the lagoons and reed beds of the gulf.

Nestled between green hills, the Ambracian Gulf is fed by rivers descending from the mountains of the Epirus region of northwestern Greece.

Yovanos’ hometown guards the little strait that connects the gulf with the Ionian Sea.

Dolphin watching trips like these mean “I am realizing my dream of living the life of a fisherman among our natural riches,” said the 49-year-old from behind a greying beard.

For Greece as a whole, a gamble on reopening its borders to tourists as early as June appears to have paid off for now.

New coronavirus cases have appeared only slowly since then, with fewer than 6,000 cases and just over 200 deaths nationwide from the pandemic.

Although Preveza has opted for a slower, more family-oriented approach to travel compared to better-known Greek destinations, it hasn’t renounced Mediterranean holiday clichés altogether.

With the sector suffering a big hit from the coronavirus epidemic, Preveza city officials launched a promotional campaign, securing the title of safest place for a European beach holiday from website European Best Destinations.

“Monolithi beach, the main beach of Preveza, is ... the longest one in Europe... you won’t have to struggle to get a nice spot, fix your beach umbrella and spend relaxing days in the sun,” it wrote.

And new infrastructure in the shape of a marina has helped draw sailors away from packed ports on the islands.

“Preveza is the right place compared to Corfu which is a very nice island but very crowded,” said Nick Ray, a British businessman, from the deck of his yacht that had put into the town’s port.

With its fishing and fish farming, the Ambracian Gulf is already the region’s economic motor.

Sustainable, environment-focused tourism should give the authorities even more reason to deal with the threats to the gulf such as pollution, poaching and illegal fishing.

There’s even something for ancient history buffs in the ruins of Nicopolis, founded by Caesar Augustus in honor of his naval victory nearby in 31 BC, where some Roman mosaics are still preserved.