Japan puts the brakes on lucrative used-car trade with Russia amid sanctions over Ukraine invasion

Japan puts the brakes on lucrative used-car trade with Russia amid sanctions over Ukraine invasion
Second-hand Toyota cars are seen on sale at a dealer shop in Moscow, Russia, on July 8, 2016. (REUTERS/File Photo)
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Updated 02 October 2023
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Japan puts the brakes on lucrative used-car trade with Russia amid sanctions over Ukraine invasion

Japan puts the brakes on lucrative used-car trade with Russia amid sanctions over Ukraine invasion
  • Russia’s demand for second-hand cars from Japan jumped sharply after global automakers pulled back from operations following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine
  • Because it's cheaper to buy a new car than to maintain a used car in Japan, car owners are compelled to sell their old cars. The used cars are then exported

TOKYO: Japan’s move to bar most used-car sales to Russia slammed the brakes on a trade nearing $2 billion annually that had boomed in the shadow of sanctions over Ukraine elsewhere, according to trade data and market participants.

In early August, Japan’s government banned exports of all but subcompact cars to Russia, cutting off a lucrative backchannel in trade in used Toyotas, Hondas and Nissans for a network of brokers and smaller ports, especially Fushiki, an export hub on the Sea of Japan.
While wiping out Russia’s biggest source of used cars, the sanctions have driven down prices for second-hand cars in Japan and left brokers scrambling to send vehicles to other regions, especially right-hand drive markets in New Zealand, Southeast Asia and Africa.
Russia’s demand for second-hand cars from Japan jumped sharply after global automakers, including Toyota, pulled back from operations following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
By last year, with sanctions elsewhere tightening, Russia was buying more than a quarter of Japan’s used-car exports for an average price of almost $8,200. That was more than double the price in 2020, when Russia took about 15 percent of Japan’s used-car exports.
Those sales had been on track to top $1.9 billion for all of 2023 before Japan imposed its own tougher sanctions, trade data show.
More than half of the 303,000 used cars imported by Russia in the first eight months of the year came from Japan, according to figures from Russian analytical agency Autostat.
That compared to sales of 606,950 new cars of mainly Russian and Chinese brands over the same period, Autostat data showed.
Toyama-based SV Alliance, a two-year-old car export business, had been part of the wartime boom that sent an average of some 6,500 used-cars to Russia every month through July from Japan’s Fushiki. The port is about 800 km (500 miles) from Russia’s Vladivostok, within two day’s sailing for a cargo ship.
“Business is down about 70 percent and we’ve had to let a couple of people go because there isn’t enough work,” said Olesya Alekseeva, a logistics coordinator at SV Alliance.

Cheaper cars for recyclers
Japan has been a leading used-car exporter for decades. A system of mandatory inspections pushes the cost of maintaining used cars higher for customers in Japan. Financing costs for new car purchases, by contrast, are low.
The result: an export industry that has sent hundreds of thousands of cars on the road from Malaysia to Mongolia and Pakistan to Tanzania that were first purchased in Japan.
Takanori Kikuchi, a director for automotive trade policy at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, said the government was “watching to see what kind of an impact” the new sanctions would have.
Japan had originally banned exporting luxury vehicles to Russia in April last year. It added a prohibition on the export of heavy trucks in June.
Under the new sanctions, dealers are still allowed to export smaller cars, such as the Toyota Yaris or the Honda Fit, to Russia.
Element Trading, a used-car dealer in Niigata prefecture that borders Toyama, has seen the share of Russia in its business slide from a peak of above 50 percent to below 20 percent, chief executive Wataru Nishiwaki said.
The number of used cars on offer surged more than 20 percent in August from a year earlier, while average vehicle selling prices posted a 7 percent drop, preliminary data from auto auction house USS showed.
The price decline was welcomed by some. Battery recycling firm 4R Energy has seen a “significant” tailwind from declining used-car prices, including the Nissan Leaf, said chief executive Yutaka Horie.
Lower prices give the joint venture between Nissan and trading house Sumitomo wider opportunity to secure supplies, he said.
 


Illegally brewed liquor kills at least 34 with dozens hospitalized in southern India

Illegally brewed liquor kills at least 34 with dozens hospitalized in southern India
Updated 13 sec ago
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Illegally brewed liquor kills at least 34 with dozens hospitalized in southern India

Illegally brewed liquor kills at least 34 with dozens hospitalized in southern India
  • People died after consuming alcohol tainted with methanol in Tamil Nadu, says chief minister
  • District official says number of those in critical condition keeps changing, death toll could rise

NEW DELHI: At least 34 people have died and dozens hospitalized after drinking illegally brewed liquor in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, local media reported on Thursday.

The state’s chief minister M K Stalin said the 34 died after consuming liquor that was tainted with methanol, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

The incident occurred in the state’s Kallakurichi district, where more than 100 people are being treated in various hospitals, top district official M S Prasanth said. He added that the number of those who are in critical condition keeps changing, suggesting that the death toll could rise.

Ambulances, doctors and specialists from nearby areas were deployed to the district.

Government officials earlier said several people who were vomiting and had stomach pain were admitted to hospitals Wednesday, triggering a police investigation.

Later that day, Stalin, the chief minister, said in a post on social media platform X that those involved in the crime have been arrested, and action has also been taken against officials who failed to prevent it. “Such crimes that ruin the society will be suppressed with an iron fist,” he added.

Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India, where the poor cannot afford licensed brands from government-run shops. The illicit liquor, which is often spiked with chemicals such as pesticides to increase potency, has also become a hugely profitable industry as bootleggers pay no taxes and sell enormous quantities of their product to the poor at a cheap rate.

In 2022, more than 30 people died in eastern India’s Bihar state after allegedly drinking tainted liquor sold without authorization. Earlier that same year, at least 28 died from drinking altered liquor in Gujarat state. And in 2020, at least 120 people died after drinking tainted liquor in India’s northern Punjab state.


Romania to send Patriot missile system to Ukraine

Romania to send Patriot missile system to Ukraine
Updated 14 min 15 sec ago
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Romania to send Patriot missile system to Ukraine

Romania to send Patriot missile system to Ukraine
  • “Council members decided to donate a Patriot system to Ukraine in close coordination with allies,” the Supreme Council of National Defense said
  • NATO countries have been reluctant to send them because they want to protect their own airspace

BUCHAREST: NATO member Romania announced Thursday that it would send a Patriot missile system to Ukraine, which Kyiv has requested to help its fight against Russia’s invasion.
“Considering the significant deterioration of the security situation in Ukraine... council members decided to donate a Patriot system to Ukraine in close coordination with allies,” the Supreme Council of National Defense said in a statement.
The donation was made “on the condition that our country continues negotiations with allies, in particular the US, with a view to obtaining a similar or equivalent system” to protect its own air space, it added.
The country, which borders Ukraine, also needed “a temporary solution to cover the operational vulnerability thus created,” it added.
While Kyiv is calling for more Patriot missile systems, NATO countries have been reluctant to send them because they want to protect their own airspace.
Germany recently announced it would transfer a third Patriot air-defense system to Ukraine, while the United States is expected to send a second battery to Kyiv, according to US media reports.
Romania signed a $4-billion deal for seven Patriot batteries with the US in 2017, the biggest defense acquisition in its history.
Two of the four systems it has received so far are fully operational.
Romania has been providing military help to Kyiv in the war with Russia, but has refused to reveal the scale of the support, citing security concerns.
It has also pledged to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 jets in a regional hub inaugurated in November 2023, although the timeline for that program remains unclear.


Rutte seals NATO top job after lone rival drops out

Rutte seals NATO top job after lone rival drops out
Updated 29 min 57 sec ago
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Rutte seals NATO top job after lone rival drops out

Rutte seals NATO top job after lone rival drops out
  • Rutte is expected to be formally named by NATO’s 32 nations in the coming days and should take over when current chief Jens Stoltenberg’s term ends on October 1
  • Romania’s security council on Thursday announced Iohannis had formally withdrawn and that the country backed Rutte

BUCHAREST: Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Thursday clinched the race to become the next head of NATO at a pivotal time for the alliance, after sole challenger Romanian President Klaus Iohannis pulled out.
The veteran politician, 57, is expected to be formally named by NATO’s 32 nations in the coming days and should take over when current chief Jens Stoltenberg’s term ends on October 1.
Rutte will come in at a perilous moment for the Western allies as Russia’s war in Ukraine drags on and Donald Trump battles to reclaim the presidency in the United States come November.
After staking his claim for the job last year following the collapse of his coalition, staunch Ukraine backer Rutte quickly won the support of heavyweights the United States, Britain, France and Germany.
But he had to use all the diplomatic skills gleaned during almost 14 years in charge of the Netherlands to win over hold-outs led by Turkiye and Hungary.
Rutte overcame Turkish reticence with an April visit to Istanbul, before finally sealing a deal with Hungary’s Viktor Orban at a European Union summit this week.
That left the last sticking point as Iohannis, whose surprise bid had ruffled feathers among allies banking on a smooth appointment for Rutte ahead of a NATO summit in Washington next month.
Romania’s security council on Thursday announced Iohannis had formally withdrawn and that the country backed Rutte.
Rutte will have a lot on his plate when he assumes the reins from Norway’s former premier Stoltenberg, who led the alliance through its most consequential decades since the end of the Cold War.
Just weeks after his four-year term is expected to start, voters in the United States will go to the polls in a crunch vote to chose between incumbent Joe Biden and Trump.
The prospect of the volatile former president returning to the Oval office has rattled allies fearful that he could weaken superpower Washington’s role as Europe’s ultimate security guarantor.
Trump fueled those fears on the campaign trail by saying he would encourage Russia to attack NATO countries not spending enough on their own defense.
Like Stoltenberg, Rutte won plaudits for his careful handling of Trump during his first term in power — when the ex-reality TV star reportedly even mulled pulling the United States out of NATO.
“I think Mark Rutte is a very strong candidate,” Stoltenberg said on a visit to Washington Tuesday. “He has a lot of experience as prime minister. He’s a close friend and colleague.”
While Trump’s return could pose one major challenge — to NATO’s east Rutte will face the far more pressing menace from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin’s forces are currently on the front foot in Ukraine after more than two years of brutal conflict, and the NATO chief will have a key role marshalling aid from Kyiv’s weary backers.
At the same time Rutte will have to ensure the alliance is ready to defend against any potential future attack from Moscow — if, or more likely when, Putin is able to rebuild his forces.
Part of that will involve corralling European allies to spend more on defense — a key demand from Trump, and other US leaders.
This week NATO announced that 23 out of its 32 member countries had hit the alliance’s target of spending two percent of their gross domestic product on defense.
Dubbed “Teflon Mark” for his ability to remain in power for so long in the Netherlands, Rutte will become the fourth Dutchman to lead NATO since it emerged from the ashes of World War II to confront the Soviet Union.
The bicycling conservative threw his country’s economic weight behind Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s 2022 invasion — leading efforts to deliver F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv.
While NATO countries along the alliance’s eastern flank had pushed for one of their own to get the NATO job, Rutte’s backers insist he is fully aware of the threat posed by Russia.
Among the most formative events during his time in charge of the Netherlands was the 2014 shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, with 196 Dutch among the 298 killed, that was blamed of Moscow-backed fighters.


Danish PM’s suspected attacker ordered held until July 4

Danish PM’s suspected attacker ordered held until July 4
Updated 42 min 49 sec ago
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Danish PM’s suspected attacker ordered held until July 4

Danish PM’s suspected attacker ordered held until July 4
  • “The court has decided that the suspect will remain in custody until July 4,” a court official said
  • The man has denied responsibility and says he has no recollection of what happened

COPENHAGEN: The man accused of assaulting Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on a public square earlier this month will remain in custody until July 4, a Copenhagen court ruled on Thursday.
The 39-year-old Polish man is suspected of punching Frederiksen on June 7 as she walked in central Copenhagen, leaving her with a minor whiplash injury.
“The court has decided that the suspect will remain in custody until July 4,” a court official told AFP, following a hearing that lasted less than an hour.
The man, who was arrested immediately after the incident, has denied responsibility and says he has no recollection of what happened.
Frederiksen, 46, underwent a medical examination afterwards and was diagnosed with a “contusion on her right shoulder and a minor whiplash injury,” according to her office.
A medical certificate was presented to the court on Thursday.
Frederiksen and several witnesses have been questioned in the ongoing investigation, police said.
In police questioning, relayed to the court on Thursday, Frederiksen said the man approached her and uttered something incomprehensible, then hit her on the shoulder with a closed fist, Danish news agency Ritzau reported on Thursday.
According to prosecutor Line Steffensen, the man was drunk and had stolen alcohol from a grocery store just prior to his encounter with the prime minister.
Steffensen said the man had been arrested on several occasions for shoplifting since moving to Denmark five years ago.
Frederiksen became Denmark’s youngest ever prime minister when she was elected in 2019, aged 41. She won re-election in 2022.
She said after the attack that she was “shaken” and did not take part in the final day of campaigning for the EU election.


Filipino health workers decry alleged US psyop against Chinese COVID vaccine

Filipino health workers decry alleged US psyop against Chinese COVID vaccine
Updated 20 June 2024
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Filipino health workers decry alleged US psyop against Chinese COVID vaccine

Filipino health workers decry alleged US psyop against Chinese COVID vaccine
  • US military allegedly ran secret propaganda campaign to spread misinformation about Sinovac in the Philippines
  • Philippine COVID-19 death toll reached over 66,000, making it the second highest in Southeast Asia

MANILA: An alleged US covert operation to discredit Chinese vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled dismay and anger among Filipino health workers, who say vaccine hesitancy prevented them from saving more people out of the tens of thousands killed.

A Reuters investigation published last week found that the US military launched a secret propaganda campaign at the height of the pandemic in the Philippines to spread misinformation and influence public discourse on the efficacy of China’s Sinovac inoculation as well as other lifesaving aid supplied by Beijing. 

The operation, which began in 2020 and lasted until mid-2021, involved fake social media accounts — with Reuters identifying at least 300 of them on X — that were meant to sow doubts about Sinovac among Filipinos. The Reuters report alleged that the program was payback for Beijing’s efforts to blame Washington for the pandemic. 

Sinovac was the first available COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines, where its rollout was marred by fears over its supposed unreliability. Vaccine hesitancy among Filipinos was higher than other countries in the region, with almost half unwilling or unsure whether they should be vaccinated as of September 2021, according to a report by the World Bank. 

Frontline health workers who served at the Philippine General Hospital, the country’s main hospital for COVID-19, said it came at the cost of Filipino lives. 

“If the misinformation propaganda was real … the views of the general public about the importance of vaccines may have been affected by these troll farms. We know that Filipinos, especially the elderly, can easily believe what they read online,” Andro Carl Coronejo, a staff nurse at PGH’s pediatric intensive care unit, told Arab News, referring to organizations employing people to deliberately manipulate public opinion. 

“I think if it didn’t happen, more people would have been compliant earlier with vaccines. Hence, more lives would have been saved.” 

The pandemic death toll reached over 66,000 in the Philippines, making it the second highest in Southeast Asia after Indonesia. 

Bryan Elvambuena, who was an internal medicine resident at PGH in 2020, said many people could have survived had it not been for disinformation. He believes it influenced his patients, many of whom had severe COVID-19. 

“I was dismayed and I found it counterproductive and pathetic, because we tried our best to inform people to get vaccinated with the readily available vaccines,” Elvambuena said. 

Filipino health workers recalled how the pandemic brought the country’s healthcare system to the brink of collapse, as doctors and nurses struggled to care for COVID-19 patients amid surging cases. 

During one of her shifts as a staff nurse at PGH in 2020, Dianne de Castro said she was the only other person on duty to care for 24 patients, at least four of whom were hooked up to mechanical ventilators and life support machines. 

“It makes me wonder how we could have prevented or at least lessened the mortalities, the lives lost during the dark time in our generation. ​​I’ve worked in healthcare for around four years before COVID-19 hit, but I’ve never been this scared of seeing so many moms, dads, siblings, relatives, and friends die day in and day out,” De Castro told Arab News. 

“This ploy to spread misinformation to the public angers me. I still view Sinovac (as) a capable vaccine for COVID-19 and spreading this rumor is as close (as) cutting off the oxygen supply of a person gasping for air and fighting for his life.” 

For her, the US propaganda campaign may be a “crime against humanity” that robbed people of the chance to survive the pandemic and stole them away from their families. 

“My patients deserved so much better,” she said. “If this misinformation ploy was only driven for politics and greed, the ones in power now have blood on their hands.”