China urges US to lift trade restrictions, stop interference

China urges US to lift trade restrictions, stop interference
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on the US Monday to lift restrictions on trade and people-to-people contacts while ceasing what Beijing considers unwarranted interference in the areas of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet. (AP)
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Updated 22 February 2021

China urges US to lift trade restrictions, stop interference

China urges US to lift trade restrictions, stop interference
  • Trump hiked tariffs on Chinese imports in 2017 and imposed bans and other restrictions on Chinese tech companies and academic exchanges

BEIJING: China’s top diplomat called Monday for new US President Joe Biden’s administration to lift restrictions on trade and people-to-people contacts while ceasing what Beijing considers unwarranted interference in the areas of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s comments at a Foreign Ministry forum on US-China relations come as Beijing presses the new administration in Washington to drop many of the confrontational measures adopted by former President Donald Trump.
Trump hiked tariffs on Chinese imports in 2017 and imposed bans and other restrictions on Chinese tech companies and academic exchanges as he sought to address concerns about an imbalance in trade and accusations of Chinese theft of American technology.
Trump also upgraded military and diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy claimed by China as its own territory, while sanctioning Chinese officials blamed for abuses against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang and a crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong.
“We know that the new US administration is reviewing and assessing its foreign policy,” Wang told diplomats, scholars and journalists at the Lanting Forum. “We hope that the US policy makers will keep pace with the times, see clearly the trend of the world, abandon biases, give up unwarranted suspicions and move to bring the China policy back to reason to ensure a healthy, steady development of China-US relations.”
While Biden has pledged reengagement and a more civil tone in US diplomacy, its unclear whether he will make any fundamental changes in Washington’s policies toward Beijing. China faces more opposition than ever in Washington due to its trade record, territorial disputes with neighbors, and accusations of technology theft and spying. Taiwan enjoys strong bipartisan support, as do criticisms of China’s human rights record, especially on Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.
In his first address before a global audience Friday, Biden said the US and its allies must “prepare together for a long-term strategic competition with China.”
“Competition with China is going to be stiff. That’s what I expect, and that’s what I welcome, because I believe in the global system Europe and the United States, together with our allies in the Indo-Pacific, worked so hard to build over the last 70 years,” the president said in remarks delivered virtually to the annual Munich Security Conference.
As is standard in Chinese foreign policy, Wang put the onus for improving relations squarely on the shoulders of the US and offered no direct proposals for major breakthroughs, even while encouraging increased dialogue.
Wang said China had “no intention to challenge or replace the United States” and was ready to peacefully coexist and seek common development.
Wang urged the US to “stop smearing” the reputation of China’s ruling Communist Party and to “stop conniving at or even supporting the erroneous words and actions of separatist forces for Taiwan independence and stop undermining China’s sovereignty and security on internal affairs concerning Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.”
He said the US should reactivate all levels of dialogue that he said the US had effectively halted under the Trump administration, and boost cooperation on major bilateral and international issues. The COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the global economic recovery are the three biggest issues on which the sides can cooperate, he said.
On trade, Wang said China would defend the rights of US companies while hoping the US would “adjust its policies as soon as possible, among others, remove unreasonable tariffs on Chinese goods, lift its unilateral sanctions on Chinese companies and research and educational institutes and abandon irrational suppression of China’s technological progress.”
The US should also lift restrictions on media, educational and people-to-people exchanges to reverse sharp declines in numbers of Chinese studying in the US and visits by Chinese for tourism or business, Wang said.
“I hope that the two sides will work together to steer the giant ship of China-US relations back to the course of sound development toward a bright future with boundless prospects,” he said.
While the tone taken toward the US by high-ranking diplomats such as Wang, senior foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi and President Xi Jinping himself appears more positive than under Trump, China’s Foreign Ministry spokespeople have remained combative.
At a briefing on Friday, spokesperson Hua Chunying contrasted the freak winter weather striking Texas with the robust social and economic interactions seen in China over the just-passed Lunar New Year holiday, without offering any show of sympathy.
“All this has given us a deeper understanding of what human rights truly mean and how to better protect them. We are more convinced that we are on the right path and have every confidence in the future,” Hua said.


Saudi Arabia’s euro bond 3 times oversubscribed

The bond issuance was more than three times oversubscribed, with total orders in excess of 5 billion euros ($6.11 billion). (Shutterstock/Illustrative)
The bond issuance was more than three times oversubscribed, with total orders in excess of 5 billion euros ($6.11 billion). (Shutterstock/Illustrative)
Updated 25 February 2021

Saudi Arabia’s euro bond 3 times oversubscribed

The bond issuance was more than three times oversubscribed, with total orders in excess of 5 billion euros ($6.11 billion). (Shutterstock/Illustrative)
  • Saudi Arabia will issue a total of 1.5 billion euros in two tranches
  • 1 billion euros for three-year notes set to mature in 2024, and 500 million euros for nine-year notes scheduled to mature in 2030

RIYADH: The Saudi National Debt Management Center (NDMC) has announced the receipt of subscriptions from investors for its second international issuance under the Kingdom’s Global Medium-Term Note Program in Euro.

The bond issuance was more than three times oversubscribed, with total orders in excess of 5 billion euros ($6.11 billion).

Saudi Arabia will issue a total of 1.5 billion euros in two tranches: 1 billion euros for three-year notes set to mature in 2024, and 500 million euros for nine-year notes scheduled to mature in 2030.

Saudi Minister of Finance and Acting Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammed Al-Jadaan, said that the euro-denominated issuance came within the framework of the NDMC’s efforts to secure the Kingdom’s financing needs in accordance with the objectives of the fiscal policy and public debt strategy.

He pointed out that the center took advantage of the opportunity to enter the euro market, the second largest after the US dollar market, by issuing debt instruments with negative returns, making it the largest tranche issued with a negative return outside the EU.

The minister noted that the high demand was an indication of the strength of Saudi Arabia’s ability to enter different markets without affecting long-term debt prices, as well as it being able to build strategic relationships with investors in different countries.

Al-Jadaan added that the NDMC sought to diversify its financing instruments across local and external markets.

Alternative government financing methods have recently been used as part of the Ministry of Finance’s plan to support the continuity and completion of major development projects in the Kingdom, in order to achieve the goals of the Vision 2030 reform plan, he said.

Dr. Saleh Al-Sultan, an economics writer and former chief economist at the Ministry of Finance, told Arab News that after the economic impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic global investors were “looking to keep money safe as possible” and searching for safe-haven vehicles.

He added that the government was aiming to “diversify our sources of getting money in terms of countries and currencies” and that this also had a political aspect as it showed the US “that there are other important world currencies, not just dollar.”


Egypt’s foreign investments in government debt instruments amounted to $29bn

Egypt’s foreign investments in government debt instruments amounted to $29bn
Updated 25 February 2021

Egypt’s foreign investments in government debt instruments amounted to $29bn

Egypt’s foreign investments in government debt instruments amounted to $29bn
  • Foreigners exited the government debt market when the pandemic began to take hold, but they were enticed back when some stability returned during the current fiscal year
  • Egypt has one of the highest interest rates in the world, but in 2020 rates fell from 12.25 percent to 8.25 percent, making it more attractive for potential investors

CAIRO: The value of foreign investments in Egyptian government debt instruments in the first quarter of the current fiscal year amounted to about $29 billion, according to a government official.

Egypt’s portfolio of foreign investors in its treasury bills and bonds includes sovereign funds and large Arab financial institutions, the official said.

The country has one of the highest interest rates in the world but, according to the Egyptian Central Bank, in 2020 rates fell from 12.25 percent to 8.25 percent, making it more attractive for potential investors.

The official explained that foreigners exited the government debt market at the beginning of last year, when the impact of the coronavirus pandemic began to take hold in March, but they were enticed back when some stability returned during the first quarter of the current fiscal year.

During the period of the pandemic, about $18 billion of foreign investment exited Egypt’s government debt market, seeing it drop to about $10 billion. The peak of investment was recorded in Feb. 2020, at $27.8 billion.


Saudi firm leads $5m funding for scooter startup

Since its launch in Nov. 2020, Fenix has experienced rapid growth in the region, launching in two countries and four cities in less than three months of operations. (Supplied)
Since its launch in Nov. 2020, Fenix has experienced rapid growth in the region, launching in two countries and four cities in less than three months of operations. (Supplied)
Updated 25 February 2021

Saudi firm leads $5m funding for scooter startup

Since its launch in Nov. 2020, Fenix has experienced rapid growth in the region, launching in two countries and four cities in less than three months of operations. (Supplied)
  • Since its launch in Nov. 2020, Fenix has experienced rapid growth in the region

RIYADH: A scooter startup firm, Fenix, founded by former Careem executives, has secured $5 million in seed funding, with $1.2 million coming from Saudi venture capital firm Emkan Capital.

Since its launch in Nov. 2020, Fenix has experienced rapid growth in the region, launching in two countries and four cities in less than three months of operations.

Founders Jaideep Dhanoa and IQ Sayed met at Dubai-based ride-hailing company Careem, where they worked as senior director of growth and strategy, and vice president of engineering, respectively.

Fenix plans to use the new funds to invest in research and development of their scooters and to expand across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

The company has already staked its innovation leadership position with the launch of the region’s first private e-scooter subscription — MyFENIX — and the world’s first e-scooters with integrated hand sanitization packs for extra coronavirus protections.

Dhanoa said: “Micromobility is transforming the way countries engage in commerce and Fenix is proud to ignite impactful commerce in the region, one city at a time. Closing a $5 million seed round from value-adding investors that understand our market provides tremendous support to bring our vision to fruition.”

Ghassan Aloshban, general partner at Emkan Capital, said: “We believe that micromobility will be a critical component of the broader transportation spectrum, and we expect this to only be amplified by the increased development of public transport options in the region.”


Saudi elevator and escalator market set for post-COVID recovery

Activity in Saudi Arabia's elevator and escalator market went down by 8.40 percent in 2020 due to the pandemic slowing down construction. (Shutterstock/Illustrative)
Activity in Saudi Arabia's elevator and escalator market went down by 8.40 percent in 2020 due to the pandemic slowing down construction. (Shutterstock/Illustrative)
Updated 25 February 2021

Saudi elevator and escalator market set for post-COVID recovery

Activity in Saudi Arabia's elevator and escalator market went down by 8.40 percent in 2020 due to the pandemic slowing down construction. (Shutterstock/Illustrative)
  • Saudi Arabia elevator and escalator market is expected to recover in the short-term and be worth $1.34 billion by 2025

RIYADH: Activity in Saudi Arabia's elevator and escalator market went down by 8.40 percent in 2020 due to the pandemic slowing down construction, but experts believe it will rebound quickly as delayed projects restart and the megaprojects announced as part of Vision 2030 come to fruition.

According to the latest report by global consultancy firm TechSci Research, the Saudi Arabia elevator and escalator market is expected to recover in the short-term and be worth $1.34 billion by 2025, compared to $961.70 million in 2020.

This growth is “owing to the increasing construction activities, development of infrastructure, rising number of multi-storey commercial and residential buildings and skyscrapers, growth in the real estate sector and technological advancements in the elevator industry,” the report said.

The report added that increased foreign direct investment into the Kingdom’s retail and construction sectors was indirectly boosting the market for escalators and elevators.

While the number of construction contracts in Saudi Arabia declined in 2020, many real estate experts believe the market will make a quick recovery.

“Whilst the total value of new contracts has decreased, the level of activity underway in Saudi Arabia still remains high compared to previous years and considering new financing agreements signed during the course of 2020, particularly those relating to urban and real estate development, we expect new contracts activity levels to begin to return to pre-pandemic highs in 2021,” Taimur Khan, an associate partner at real estate consultancy Knight Frank, told Arab News in December.

In its Q3 2020 construction report, the US-Saudi Business Council also said that the government’s megaprojects related to Vision 2030 would continue to be its focal point in the near-term, with investments continuing into these strategically important areas.

A recovery in the construction sector would be the catalyst for the elevator and escalator market, the TechSci Research report said.

The Kingdom’s “rising urbanization and growing population are driving the urban construction sector in Saudi Arabia. An increase in demand for high-rise buildings across various cities of Saudi Arabia is augmenting the installation of elevators and escalators,” the report said.


Saudi women-owned companies jump 60 percent

Saudi women-owned companies jump 60 percent
Updated 25 February 2021

Saudi women-owned companies jump 60 percent

Saudi women-owned companies jump 60 percent
  • World Bank regional director: Kingdom has adopted legislative reforms and lifted restrictions on women’s work

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia was the top reformer and improver among 190 economies in the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2021 report, achieving a score of 80 out of 100, ahead of last year’s 70.6 rankings.

The report places the Kingdom first among leading countries in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA).

Saudi Arabia will achieve further progress in women employment, World Bank’s Regional Director for GCC, Issam Abu Sulaiman, told Al Arabiya on Wednesday.

“The Kingdom is continuing its bold women-related legislative reforms despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which will be reflected positively in achieving the Vision 2030 goals,” he said.

Abu Sulaiman said that the Kingdom has adopted a package of legislative reforms that has significantly transformed the lives of women, most notably lifting restrictions on their work in industrial sectors and in night jobs, such as nursing.

These steps contributed to Saudi Arabia’s progress from the 70th to the 80th place in the global index in the space of a year. The Kingdom also increased the number of women-owned companies by 60 percent in the past two years.

Abu Sulaiman said that he hoped Gulf countries will follow the Kingdom’s efforts in this regard, adding that women’s participation in the labor market in Saudi Arabia increased from 22 percent to nearly 30 percent.

According to the World Bank report, this achievement confirms the strength and continuing momentum of legislative reforms in women’s regulations, as the Kingdom has achieved gender equality in all areas of employment to cater to the needs of the labor market.

Saudi Arabia has achieved a full score of 100 in five key indicators out of eight measured by the report: Women’s mobility, pension, entrepreneurship, work environment and salary, while maintaining its score in the other three indicators: Marriage, childcare, assets and property.

The Kingdom’s new global standing places it among developed economies with historical depth in implementing reforms and regulations related to women.