Asia-Pacific trade ministers mull pandemic, recovery

Asia-Pacific trade ministers mull pandemic, recovery
In this June 3, 2020, file photo, containers are loaded onto a ship for export at Lyttelton Port near Christchurch, New Zealand. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 05 June 2021

Asia-Pacific trade ministers mull pandemic, recovery

Asia-Pacific trade ministers mull pandemic, recovery
  • The trade ministers attending Saturday’s meeting conferred with business leaders on Friday on ways to better manage the health and economic crisis brought on by the pandemic

BANGKOK: Trade ministers from the Pacific Rim were discussing ways to build back better from the pandemic in an online meeting Saturday hosted by New Zealand.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum has long focused on dismantling trade barriers. The meeting of its trade ministers was convened virtually, given the travel restrictions prevailing in the region as coronavirus outbreaks flare in many countries still struggling to obtain and deploy enough COVID-19 vaccines.

On the agenda was a statement on aiding the movement of essential goods needed to fight the pandemic, in line with global trade rules that have been strained in recent years, especially during the administration of President Donald Trump who favored striking trade deals with individual countries.

The trade ministers attending Saturday’s meeting conferred with business leaders on Friday on ways to better manage the health and economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.

“We must ensure that trade plays a role in combatting the worst, continuing effects of COVID-19 through open and unrestricted trade in vaccines, essential medical supplies and associated products,” said Rachel Taulelei, chair of the APEC Business Advisory Council.

In many countries in the Asia-Pacific region, the share of people vaccinated so far is in the low single digits. That includes places like Thailand and Taiwan that initially managed to avoid initial massive outbreaks but now are contending with their worst flare-ups.

APEC members Japan, South Korea and New Zealand are ranked among the worst among all developed nations in vaccinating their people for COVID-19, below many developing countries such as Brazil and India. Australia is also performing comparatively poorly.

This week, President Joe Biden announced the US will swiftly donate an initial allotment of 25 million doses of surplus vaccine overseas through the UN-backed COVAX program, promising infusions for Asia, South and Central America, Africa and others.

That would be a substantial and immediate boost to the lagging COVAX effort, which to date has shared just 76 million doses with needy countries.

While some countries at times have limited exports of vaccines, chemicals needed to make them or of protective equipment such as surgical masks, it’s unclear whether tariffs and other trade barriers have been the main problem since countries like Japan and New Zealand imposed onerous approval requirements that have slowed inoculations.

The average tariff on vaccines is a low 0.8 percent, according to the APEC Secretariat. But duties on some other products can be as high as 30 percent for some countries.

While the average tariff on vaccines is very low within APEC (only 0.8 percent), tariffs are much higher for several goods that are very important in the vaccine supply chain.


Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind
Updated 5 sec ago

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind
ATHENS: Greece, Cyprus and Egypt on Tuesday signed an electricity agreement that could include Egyptian solar power and potentially supply power to other European countries.
The protocol was signed during a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the presidents of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, in Athens.
The deal concerns the “interconnection” of the neighbors and transfer of electricity to their respective networks, Mitsotakis said.
“As energy sources diversify, Egypt can become a supplier of electric power, which will be mainly produced by the sun, and Greece will become a distribution station for Europe,” Mitsotakis added.
The announcement comes as countries around the world face an energy crisis, with the prices of natural gas, oil and coal rising.
El-Sisi said the agreement aims to “reinforce energy cooperation.”
In a joint statement, the Mediterranean neighbors said: “This interconnection reinforces cooperation and energy security, not only between these three countries but also with Europe.”
“It will be a way to transfer important quantities of electricity from and to the eastern Mediterranean,” the statement said.
The three countries also expressed their intention of exploring and transferring natural gas in the region.
Energy cooperation between eastern Mediterranean countries regularly irritate Turkey, which has its eyes set on oil and natural gas deposits in the region.
“Unfortunately, Ankara does not understand the message of the times and its aspirations to the detriment of its neighbors are obviously a threat to peace in the region,” Mitsotakis said.
Tensions soared last year when Turkey sent an exploration ship and small navy flotilla to conduct research in waters that Greece considers its own under treaties.
The Turkish foreign ministry later Tuesday lambasted the joint statement as another example of the “hostile policy” toward Turkey and Turkish-held northern Cyprus.
While Ankara supported energy projects which “increased cooperation between regional countries,” the ministry stressed that Turkish and northern Cyprus’ rights and interests “should not be ignored by these projects.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey seized the north in response to a coup orchestrated by an Athens-backed junta seeking to annex the island to Greece.
Despite attempts this year to normalize relations with Egypt after falling out in 2013, the Turkish ministry also criticized Cairo’s cooperation with Greece and Cyprus.
“The inclusion of Egypt indicates that the Egyptian administration has not yet grasped the real address where it can cooperate in the eastern Mediterranean,” it added in a written statement.

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law
Updated 40 min ago

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

RIYADH: Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday approved raising the penalty for violating the Finance Companies Law to not more than SR2 million ($0.53 million), the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Following the amendment, the penalty shall be SR2 million or 10 percent of the value of finance to which the violation was carried out, or imprisonment for a period of not more than two years, or one of those two penalties.


Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report
Updated 49 min 24 sec ago

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

A report from Bank of America has warned reaching net zero will cost the global economy $5 trillion annually for the next 30 years.

On the eve of the UN’s COP26 environmental conference in Scotland this month, where countries who signed the 2015 Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions will review their progress and outline policies to achieve net zero by 2050, the report offers a stark reminder of the cost of transitioning to greener energy.

However, the report also warned that failing to address climate change could lead to the loss of 3 percent of global gross domestic product annually this decade, amounting to around $69 trillion by the end of this century.

A key priority at COP26 is for governments to agree on specific cash-backed policies that will accelerate the transition toward net zero, including a commitment to phase out the use of coal, sharply reduce deforestation, speed up the transition to electric vehicles and green heating systems, and implement fiscal measures to encourage increased investment in renewable energy.

In addition, the summit, which is taking place in Scotland’s former industrial heartland of Glasgow, will also attempt to get western governments to make good the $20 billion a year shortfall in helping emerging nations transition to greener energy.

Developed nations had agreed to provide $100 billion per year to emerging nations. Not only have they fallen short on that commitment, but the UN wants agreement in Glasgow to increase that funding further.

The UN Environment Programme estimates the cost of transition in emerging countries will reach $140-300 billion by 2030, and $280-500 billion by 2050. San Francisco based think tank, the Climate Policy Initiative, estimates Africa on its own may require up to $3 trillion by the end of this decade.

Against this backdrop, Bank of America estimates the total cost of transitioning will be $150 trillion, at least four times the amount that global COVID-19 stimulus packages are forecast to cost governments this decade.

The report states financing the trillions of dollars of investment needed for net zero will require “significant changes in capital allocation.”

As Arab News reported last week, the World Resources Institute said G20 countries still account for 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, a report by Moody’s Investors Service revealed financial institutions in the G20 were carrying almost $22 trillion of exposure to carbon-intensive sectors.

However, Bank of America said the use of labelled bonds and loans to address environmental issues is expanding rapidly.

It is forecasting more than $1 trillion in labeled bond issuance this year, with $900 billion in green, social and sustainability bonds and a further $100 billion in sustainability-linked bonds.

The report adds that labeled bonds already account for more than 20 percent of European high grade and European high yield issuance for corporates this year, driven by environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns and EU regulations, more than twice the rate in 2020.

However, while the report is bullish about the ability of Western governments to pay for greening the planet, the report notes that while around 50 countries, along with the EU — which between them account for almost 75 percent of CO2 emissions — have committed to reaching net zero, only 10 countries have so far enshrined that commitment in legislation.

The report adds while a number of the countries have pledged to long-term targets, centered on 2050 or the end of the century, they have failed to make 2030 commitments in line with the Paris Agreement.

The good news? Well, Bank of America’s cost estimate is considerably lower than an earlier forecast, published in the summer, by BloombergNEF’s closely watched New Energy Outlook, which put the figure at $173 trillion, of $5.8 trillion annually.

Progress of sorts as the world heads to Glasgow. 


Saudi-Moroccan Business Council to hold expo in Jeddah


Saudi-Moroccan Business Council to hold expo in Jeddah

Updated 59 min 15 sec ago

Saudi-Moroccan Business Council to hold expo in Jeddah


Saudi-Moroccan Business Council to hold expo in Jeddah


RIYADH: The Saudi-Moroccan Business Council on Tuesday signed four memorandums of understanding to strengthen partnership in tourism, electricity, renewable energy, logistics and food sectors.

The council also revealed plans to launch the “Two Kingdom’s Forum and Exhibition” in Jeddah in the first quarter of 2022.

Ali Al-Yami, head of the council, said a list of participating companies is being prepared.


Saudi Arabia launches project to promote algae industry

Saudi Arabia launches project to promote algae industry
Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi Arabia launches project to promote algae industry

Saudi Arabia launches project to promote algae industry

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Fisheries Development Program on Tuesday launched a project to develop commercial algae technology and promote localization of the algae industry in the Kingdom.

The fisheries development program comes under the purview of the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture. 

Ali Al-Shaikhi, the CEO of the program, said the project aims to promote the algae industry in the Kingdom and in order to do so the first commercial model for the cultivation of algae will be established in 2022. 

Al-Shaikhi said plans are also underway to establish an algae center in the Kingdom.