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News from China
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
Alibaba’s quarterly profit doubles
19th May 2017

 CHINESE e-commerce giant Alibaba said yesterday that its net profit almost doubled in the latest quarter amid soaring growth in online shopping.

 
Alibaba, which has made billionaire founder Jack Ma one of China’s richest men, is a dominant player in online commerce and its robust earnings highlight the strength of the sector even as the country’s broader economy sputters.
 
Net profit attributable to ordinary shareholders soared 98 percent from a year ago to 10.65 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion) in the quarter ended on March 31, the company said in a statement.
 
That was on the back of a faster-than-expected 60 percent surge in revenue to 38.58 billion yuan — a key figure for gauging China’s increasingly important consumer sector.
 
Flushed with cash, Alibaba said it has authorized a US$6 billion buyback to take place over two years.
 
“Our robust results demonstrate the strength of our core businesses, as well as the positive momentum of our emerging businesses, including cloud computing, where we continue to see strong growth,” said Maggie Wu, Alibaba’s chief financial officer.
 
But net profit for its full fiscal year fell 39 percent to 43.68 billion yuan, hit by a weak performance in the first six months of the year.
 
Alibaba’s Taobao platform is estimated to hold more than 90 percent of the consumer-to-consumer market. Its Tmall platform is believed to handle over half of business-to-consumer transactions.
 
But China’s largest online shopping portal has been on the defensive since the office of the US Trade Representative put Taobao on its annual blacklist in December, saying it was not doing enough to curb sales of fake and pirated goods.
 
Alibaba has been expanding outside its core e-commerce business into sectors ranging from sports to entertainment.
 
In October, Alibaba Pictures took a minority stake in Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners, a film creation company that includes DreamWorks studios.
 
Revenue from digital media and entertainment soared 234 percent year on year in the quarter to 3.93 billion yuan.
 
“Investors will be paying attention to Alibaba’s top-line growth guidance for next year,” Ray Zhao, an analyst at Guotai Junan Securities, told Bloomberg News.
 
“Alibaba has done a lot of acquisitions this past year, so revenue growth might not be as fast as people expect.”
 
The results came after Ant Financial Services Group, which is controlled by Alibaba and valued at roughly US$60 billion last April, reportedly delayed its highly anticipated public listing.
 
Ant is behind Alipay, a platform that accounts for 80 percent of electronic payments in China where it is used for e-commerce at Alibaba online venues and a large number of mobile applications.
 
Mobile monthly active users on Alibaba’s China retail marketplaces hit 507 million in March, up 97 million from a year earlier.
Source: Shanghai Daily, May 19, 2017

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