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News from China
Progress seen in mixed-ownership reform in SOEs
25th May 2017

 CHINA’S mixed-ownership reform in centrally administered state-owned enterprises has made steady progress, the country’s top economic planner said yesterday.

 
Two groups of about 20 central SOEs have piloted the mixed-ownership reform scheme and made smooth progress, the National Development and Reform Commission said.
 
“The scope of the third group of central SOEs chosen to conduct the reform will expand, and priority will be given to enterprises in provincial-level regions,” an online NDRC statement said. “Mixed-ownership reform, conducted through diversifying the shareholding structure of SOEs, is an icebreaker for overall SOE reform.”
 
The reform includes bringing in multiple types of investors to central SOEs, exploring flexible and market-based salary systems and selling shares to SOE employees.
 
The reform has taken substantial steps in electricity, oil, natural gas, railway, civil aviation, telecommunications and military industries.
 
China has 102 central SOEs, which manage the bulk of the country’s state assets. But their monopolies in many sectors shut out smaller market entities and lead to low efficiency and poor service.
 
Mixed-ownership reform appears to be the most significant means to improve the efficiency of central SOEs.
 
The companies saw their combined profits and revenues both return to growth in 2016. Total profits climbed 0.5 percent year on year to 1.23 trillion yuan (US$179 billion), while revenues rose 2.6 percent to 23.4 trillion yuan.
Source: Shanghai Daily, May 25, 2017
Consumer confidence climbs in Q1
24th May 2017

 CHINA’S consumer confidence climbed to the highest level in two years, edging up 2 points from a quarter earlier to 110 points at the end of the first quarter, Nielsen said in a report yesterday.

 
The rebound of the Nielsen’s Consumer Confidence Index suggests a recovery of consumer confidence along with the stable growth of individual income.
 
“China’s consumption upgrade trend has fueled people’s spending intentions,” said Vishal Bali, managing director of Nielsen China. “When people’s basic needs such as food, clothing and transportation have been satisfied, the consumption upgrading will aim at high-end development and services and this trend will further stimulate spending intentions.”
 
Bali said employment opportunities and personal financial situation “are translating into demand for premium pro­ducts and services.”
Source: Shanghai Daily, May 24, 2017
China slaps 3-year duties on sugar imports
23rd May 2017

 THE Ministry of Commerce yesterday announced the final ruling on an investigation into sugar imports, deciding to begin three-year duty on out-of-quota shipments to protect the domestic industry.

 
But experts said the ruling may not go far enough to stem the flow of lower-priced sweetener into the world’s top importer.
 
China now allows 1.95 million tons of imports at a tariff of 15 percent as part of its commitment to the World Trade Organization.
 
Imports beyond this attract a 50 percent levy.
 
Yesterday’s ruling will add an extra 45 percent duty to these imports from yesterday to May 21, 2018, the ministry said in a statement. The duty will be reduced to 40 percent, then 35 percent in each subsequent year, according to the statement.
 
The investigation, launched last year in response to pleas by the domestic industry, found that increasing imports were causing serious harm to local producers.
 
WTO members may take measures to protect their domestic industries from any increase in imports which causes, or threatens to cause, serious problems for local producers.
 
The move could dent imports from top growers such as Brazil and Thailand as it will close the big gap between Chinese and international prices. Chinese sugar prices are around double those on the London market.
 
But traders said the higher tariffs will also likely spur increased smuggling across China’s porous southern border, while some imports from major producers may be shipped through third-party nations excluded from the tariffs.
 
Sugar is one of the few sectors in which China struggles to compete given the higher costs of its smallholder farmers, who produce about 10.5 million tons of cane and beet sugar a year.
 
The country imports another 3 million tons of the sweetener a year, while China has been trying to crack down on illegal shipments of as much as 2 million tons a year, sources have said.
 
“While smuggling has temporarily slowed, there is a risk that the incentives for smuggling are still strong and in fact could increase if domestic prices rise,” said Tom McNeill, director of Green Pool Commodities in Brisbane.
 
The latest ruling exempted about 190 smaller countries and regions from the new duty, including smaller producers such as the Philippines and Pakistan as well as Myanmar on its southern border.
 
“Of course it will support the domestic industry for a short time,” said a China-based trader. But “the global raw sugar market just needs to drop a little below 15 cents” to make it profitable to import into China.
 
The measures, which will affect about a third of China’s annual sugar imports, may also increase pressure on Beijing to sell more of its state reserves to prevent supplies tightening and prices spiking.
 
Last year, China imported 3.06 million tons of sugar, down 36.8 percent from 2015.
 
Thailand, the world’s third-largest producer, played down the impact of the duty.
 
Its millers have a much lower shipping cost to China than rivals Brazil and Australia, said Viboon Panitwong, chairman of the Thai Sugar Millers Corp, who did not expect the duty to sharply affect sugar exports.
 
Thailand exports 300,000 tons to 400,000 tons of sugar to China a year, but sells much more to Cambodia and Myanmar, which then re-export sweetener to other countries.
 
Source: Shanghai Daily, May 23, 2017
TPP talks to move forward without US
22nd May 2017

 ASIA-PACIFIC trade ministers agreed yesterday to try to revive a massive free trade pact, even though the United States reaffirmed its decision to pull out, as fears grow of a new global era of protectionism.

 
The 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership covered 40 percent of the global economy before Trump abruptly abandoned it in January to meet a campaign pledge to save American jobs which he says have been sucked up overseas.
 
Japan, Australia and New Zealand are leading efforts by the so-called TPP 11 to resuscitate the agreement, convinced it will lock in future free trade and strengthen labor rights and environmental protection.
 
After an early-morning huddle in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay said the TPP 11 “are committed to finding a way forward to deliver” the pact.
 
Trade representatives agreed to help the US to rejoin the deal at any time, pinning hopes on a U-turn in American policy.
 
But Trump’s newly appointed trade chief Robert Lighthizer poured cold water on the prospect of a US return, saying Washington “pulled out of the TPP and it’s not going to change that decision.”
 
“The TPP 11 can make their own decisions, the United States makes its decisions, that’s what sovereign nations do,” Lighthizer said, adding that his nation will “stay engaged” in the area, albeit on a bilateral basis.
 
After seven years of talks, the finalized TPP proposal was signed in February last year but cannot go into force until it is ratified by six countries with a combined 85 percent of the bloc’s total GDP.
 
The deal goes further than most existing free trade pacts, with labor laws, environmental protection and intellectual property rights touted as a new gold standard for global trade.
 
It promised to transform smaller economies such as Vietnam by offering unprecedented access to the world’s top economies.
 
The Trump administration has said it is seeking bilateral agreements rather than sweeping free trade pacts, and is pushing for fair trade with partners and not just free trade.
Source: Shanghai Daily, May 22, 2017

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