Facing US trade uncertainty, China seeks closer ties with neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a bilateral meeting with China’s Premier Li Keqiang in southwest China’s Sichuan province on Wednesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 December 2019

Facing US trade uncertainty, China seeks closer ties with neighbors

  • Beijing willing to strengthen economic cooperation with Japan in third-country markets, says prime minister

CHENGDU: China made overtures on trade to Japan and South Korea and offered support for an infrastructure initiative as it hosted the leaders of its two neighbors this week amid strained ties with the US.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday at a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that Beijing was willing to strengthen economic cooperation with Japan in third-country markets.

At the meeting on the sidelines of a trilateral summit in the southwestern city of Chengdu, Li added that China would “further open up its services industry” to Japan.

During a separate meeting on Monday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Li said China was willing to work on a rail network linking Korea with China and Europe, Yonhap news agency reported.

Li’s remarks come as China and the United States edge closer to an initial trade agreement after imposing tariffs on billions of dollars worth of goods over nearly two years in a bruising trade war that has hit the global economy.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump touted a “very good talk” he had held with China’s President Xi Jinping on a deal to resolve the dispute.

However, details of the so-called “phase one” deal between the world’s two largest economies have yet to be published in writing, with officials citing incomplete translation and legal work.

Meanwhile, relations between the pair have been further strained by US legislators’ support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, and their condemnation of the mass internment of Muslim minorities in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang.

Li stressed on Wednesday the importance of China’s trade ties with Japan and South Korea, saying their vast volume of trade was due to the “joint protection of regional stability and peace.”

China, Japan and South Korea held a summit on Tuesday that also touched on a planned free-trade agreement between the three nations, which has been many years in the making.

Trade among the trio was worth more than $720 billion in 2018, according to a joint statement issued Tuesday night by the leaders.

The countries will “speed up the negotiations” on the agreement and “strive to realize a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment”, the statement said.

The leaders plan for the new trilateral free trade agreement (FTA) to build on a separate, sprawling China-backed Asian trade pact, which if signed would be the world’s biggest trade deal.

That pact, called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), was meant to account for 30 percent of global GDP and loop in half of the world’s people.

But India rejected the RCEP deal at a summit in November, dealing it a major blow.

The remaining members of RCEP, which include all 10 ASEAN states plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, are aiming to sign it next year after reviewing an agreed draft text.

“Negotiations on the trilateral FTA will become more active as soon as they are able to conclude the negotiation on RCEP,” Japanese foreign ministry spokesperson Masato Otaka said Tuesday.


Arabtec Holding said to hire AlixPartners for debt advisory

Updated 25 September 2020

Arabtec Holding said to hire AlixPartners for debt advisory

DUBAI: Dubai-listed contractor Arabtec Holding has hired advisory firm AlixPartners to help it restructure the company’s debt, two sources familiar with the matter said.

AlixPartners is assessing the company’s debt profile, before any potential discussions with Arabtec’s creditors, according to the sources, who declined to be named as the matter is not public.

Arabtec did not respond to a query for comment when contacted on Thursday. AlixPartners declined  to comment.

Arabtec Holding is due to hold a shareholder meeting on Thursday afternoon to decide whether to continue operating or liquidate and dissolve the firm after the pandemic hit projects and led to additional costs.

FASTFACT

 

Arabtec last month posted a first-half loss of 794 million dirhams ($216.18 million).

The company, which last month posted a first-half loss of 794 million dirhams ($216.18 million) and total accumulated losses of 1.46 billion dirhams, said on Sept. 9 that it was calling a general assembly under an article of UAE company law.

The law requires companies to vote on whether they should continue operating if their accumulated losses reach half of their issued share capital.

Shares of Arabtec Holding, which helped to build the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, have plunged 56.7 percent this year. They were down almost 5 percent when a suspension of trading was triggered at 1 p.m. local time ahead of the meeting, which was being held in Abu Dhabi.

Several UAE companies have sought to extend debt maturities or agree better terms in recent years to avoid defaults, after an oil price crash hit energy services and construction.

This week, creditors started to enforce claims against Abu Dhabi-based Al Jaber Group, which has struggled since building up debt in the wake of a UAE real estate crisis and began talks with creditors in 2011.

Dubai-listed construction firm Drake & Scull is working under the UAE bankruptcy law to reach an agreement with its creditors in an out-of-court process.