China says hopes it can reach trade agreement with US as soon as possible

US advisers said there were no plans for Trump and Jinping to meet. (AFP)
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Updated 09 December 2019

China says hopes it can reach trade agreement with US as soon as possible

  • Washington’s next round of tariffs against Chinese goods are scheduled to take effect on Dec. 15

BEIJING: China said on Monday that it hoped to make a trade deal with the US as soon as possible, amid intense discussions before fresh US tariffs on Chinese imports are due to kick in at the end of the week.

Beijing hopes it can reach a trade agreement with the US that satisfies both sides, Assistant Commerce Minister Ren Hongbin told reporters on Monday.

“On the question of China-US trade talks and negotiations, we wish that both sides can, on the foundation of equality and mutual respect, push forward negotiations, and in consideration of each others’ core interests, reach an agreement that satisfies all sides as soon as possible,” Ren said.

China and the US are negotiating a so-called “phase one” deal aimed at de-escalating their prolonged trade dispute, but it is unclear whether such an agreement can be reached in the near term.

Washington’s next round of tariffs against Chinese goods are scheduled to take effect on Dec. 15.

China has demanded that some of the existing US tariffs imposed on about $375 billion worth of its exports be removed, in addition to cancelation of the Dec. 15 tariffs on some $156 billion of its remaining exports to the US.

US President Donald Trump has demanded that China commit to specific minimum purchases of US agricultural products, among other concessions on intellectual property rights, currency and access to China’s financial services markets.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Friday that the two sides had talked almost daily, but there were currently no plans for face-to-face talks or a signing ceremony between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

With less than a week to go before the deadline amid “intense” negotiations, Kudlow said Trump would make the final decision on the tariffs, which would hit Chinese-made cellphones, laptop computers, toys and clothing.

“We’ll have to see, but right now we’re moving along,” Trump said last week. “On Dec. 15 , something could happen, but we are not discussing that yet. We are having very good discussions with China, however.”


HSBC Hong Kong shareholders mull legal action over dividend suspension

Updated 35 min 34 sec ago

HSBC Hong Kong shareholders mull legal action over dividend suspension

  • Europe’s biggest bank by assets has a large number of small shareholders in the city
  • Hong Kong is HSBC’s single most important market, and it is one of three note issuing banks there

HONG KONG/LONDON: HSBC shareholders in Hong Kong are calling for an extraordinary meeting with the bank’s management and considering legal action against its decision to scrap dividend payments.
HSBC and other top British banks on Wednesday announced the suspension of dividend payouts after pressure from the regulator to conserve capital as a buffer against expected losses from the coronavirus crisis.
Founded in Hong Kong about 150 years ago as Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp, Europe’s biggest bank by assets has a large number of small shareholders in the city who have long benefited from the bank’s stable dividend payments.
Some of the Hong Kong shareholders have created a Facebook page, which had more than 3,000 members as of Sunday, to discuss possible action against the London-headquartered bank’s dividend halt.
“At this stage, we must call an EGM (extraordinary general meeting) to let the management explain to us,” H.T. Chan, a 46-year-old retired driver who is part of the Facebook group, told Reuters. “For legal action, it depends on what they respond in the EGM. Hopefully, we can call this meeting.”
Shareholders of a company with at least 5 percent of the total voting rights may require it to convene an EGM, according to Hong Kong laws.
As of Sunday, the newly formed HSBC Shareholders Alliance in Hong Kong had registered members with combined ownership of about 2 percent of the bank’s stock, Ken Lui, the convenor of the alliance, told reporters on Monday.
“Our goal is to gather 5 percent of shareholding to call for an EGM ... we are very optimistic as we have only set up this alliance four, five days ago.”
In a letter to Hong Kong shareholders after the dividend halt, HSBC Chief Executive Noel Quinn said the bank’s board would review the position once the economic impact of the pandemic was better understood.
“We profoundly regret the impact this will have on you, your families and your businesses. We are acutely aware of how important the dividend is to our shareholders in Hong Kong,” he wrote.
Analysts and investors saw little chance of the shareholder group reversing the dividend decision.
“I see the debate about the banks’ dividends as a very short one: regulator tells them what to do and they comply – end of story,” said one London-based institutional investor.
The bank’s retail investors have a good chance of forcing the EGM to happen, said Ed Firth, analyst at KBW in London.
“Whether HSBC holders getting an EGM will result in any change is far less likely,” he said.
“On the margins they may be able to establish that the Bank of England was responsible for the cut which might be relevant for future legal actions, but it looks reasonably marginal,” he said.
Hong Kong is HSBC’s single most important market, and it is one of three note issuing banks there.
A spokeswoman for HSBC said on Sunday the bank was not able to comment on any legal proceedings not yet started.
“I am following the majority action. This is a significantly essential issue as you have promised substantial and persistent dividend-paying, but you fail to do that,” said Kingsley Chow, a 39-year-old unemployed man relying on dividend income.
“Our first demand, at least, you have to open (an) EGM to explain to us face-to-face, not just an apology letter!,” he wrote on the Facebook page, referring to Quinn’s letter.