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News from China
Pacific rim nations agree trade deal
6th October 2015

TWELVE Pacific Rim countries yesterday sealed a deal to create the world’s largest free-trade area, delivering US President Barack Obama a major policy triumph, a United States Official said.
Agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), led by the US and Japan, aims to set the rules for 21st century trade and investment and intends to press China, not one of the 12, to shape its behavior in com¬merce to the TPP standards.
US Trade Representative Michael Froman announced the hard-won deal on the sixth day of talks in Atlanta, Georgia.
In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confirmed the “broad agreement.” Besides the US and Japan, the deal includes Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia.
Agreement came after talks between 12 ministers in Atlanta went four days past deadline to resolve conflicts over how to protect the rights of creators of biologics, a cutting edge class of drugs, and how to open more markets to trade in dairy products.
The TPP will affect 40 percent of the world economy, reshape industries and influence everything from the price of cheese to the cost of cancer drugs. It will also stand as a legacy-defining achievement for Obama, if it is ratified by Congress.
Lawmakers in other TPP countries must also approve the deal.
The final round of negotiations in Atlanta, which began on wednesday, had snared on the question of how long a monopoly period should be allowed on next-generation biotech drugs, until the US and Australia negotiated a compromise.
The TPP deal has been controversial because of the secret negotiations that have shaped it over the past five years and the perceived threat to an array of interest groups, from Mexican auto workers to Canadian dairy farmers.
Although the complex deal sets tariff reduction schedules on hundreds of imported items from pork and beef in Japan to pickup trucks in the US, one issue had threatened to derail talks until the end — the length of the monopolies awarded to the developers of new biological drugs.
Negotiating teams had been deadlocked over the question of the minimum period of protection to the rights for data used to make biologic drugs, made by companies including Pfizer, Roche Group’s Genentech and Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical.
The US had sought 12 years’ protection to encourage drug companies to invest in expensive treatments. Australia, New Zealand and public health groups had sought a period of five years to bring down the burden on state-subsidized medical programs.
Negotiators agreed on a compromise on minimum terms that was short of what US negotiators had sought, people involved in the closed-door talks said.
A politically charged set of issues surrounding protections for dairy farmers was also addressed in the final hours of talks, officials said. New Zealand, home to the world’s biggest dairy exporter, Fonterra, wanted increased access to US, Canadian and Japanese markets.
Separately, the US, Mexico, Canada and Japan also agreed rules governing the auto trade that dictate how much of a vehicle must be made within the TPP region in order to qualify for duty-free status.
 

Source: Shanghai Daily
Former Hong Kong leader charged with misconduct
5th October 2015

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Donald Tsang, Hong Kong’s former leader, has been charged with misconduct in public office after an investigation into his close links with the city’s tycoons during his seven years in power.
The highest-profile official to be charged with corruption since Hong Kong was returned to Chinese control in 1997, Mr Tsang faces a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment if found guilty.
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The 70-year-old former civil servant, who ended his second term as chief executive in 2012, is due to appear in court on Monday afternoon to hear the charges read out, according to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
The charges relate to his failure to disclose the fact that while chief executive of Hong Kong he leased an apartment in Shenzhen, a neighbouring Chinese city, from a businessman whose company was also applying to the government for licences.
Mr Tsang said he was innocent of the charges, in a statement given to the South China Morning Post, a local newspaper.
“My conscience is clear,” he said. “I have every confidence that the court will exonerate me after its proceedings.”
The case is the latest high-level action brought by Hong Kong’s ICAC. Last year Thomas Kwok, one of the city’s richest tycoons, was jailed for five years after being found guilty of bribing one of the city’s top officials.
An investigation into Mr Tsang’s dealings was launched following allegations that he received inappropriate favours from business tycoons.
Mr Tsang, who is known for his trademark bow tie, has previously said he did take some trips on private jets and on yachts while in office but he denied any conflict of interest.

A career civil servant in Hong Kong under British rule, Mr Tsang was chief executive between 2005 and 2012, taking over after his predecessor Tung Chee-hwa was forced to step down following street protests against unpopular policies
 

Source: Financial Times
PMI data points to recovery on rise in domestic demand
2nd October 2015

CHINA’S manufacturing and service activities in September appeared to have bottomed out in large state-owned enterprises but continued to weaken in private and export-oriented firms, according to surveys released yesterday.

The official Purchasing Managers’ Index, a comprehensive gauge of operating conditions in large state-owned industrial companies, landed at 49.8 last month after August’s 49.7, according to the National Bureau of Statistics and the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing.
 
A reading below 50 is contraction. The latest figure was the first rebound in three months, although still in negative territory.
 
The official non-manufacturing PMI, a gauge of conditions in the state-owned service sector, was 53.4 in September, the same as the previous month.
 
Zhao Qinghe, an analyst at the bureau, said the figures indicated stabilization in the economy thanks to slightly better domestic demand and easing policies.
“The data lent some optimism, and we expect more improvement with the supportive measures taking effect,” Zhao said.
 
The official PMI’s component indexes showed industrial production added 0.6 points from a month earlier to 52.3 in September, while new orders increased 0.5 points to 50.2. The components in the official non-manufacturing PMI also showed improvement in both production and demand, partly due to the arrival of the weeklong holiday to celebrate yesterday’s National Day.
 
However, the performance in private and export-oriented companies proved disappointing.
 
The Caixin China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, a similar indicator slanted toward private and export-oriented companies, landed at 47.2 last month, down from August’s 47.3 to become the worst in six and a half years.
The figure has been below 50 for the seventh straight month after a brief rebound in February.
 
The Caixin Services Business Activity Index posted 50.1 in September, decelerating from 51.5 in August and signaled the slowest increase in the current 14-month sequence of expansion.
He Fan, chief economist at Caixin Insight Group, said the data indicated continued economic weakness, although the pressure driving the declines had eased.
 
“The industry has reached a critical stage in its structural transformation, and tepid demand is a main factor behind oversupply of manufacturing and why it has not recovered,” He said.
Earlier data showed that profits of China’s industrial companies fell more than expected in August, dropping 8.8 percent from a year earlier to 448.1 billion yuan (US$70.6 billion).
China’s economic performance surprised the market with a 7 percent increase in the second quarter.
But data in the past three months for trade, industrial production, retail sales and fixed-asset investment all showed little cause for optimism.

Liu Ligang, an economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Co Ltd, said the readings suggested third-quarter gross domestic product may slow to as weak as 6.4 percent. “However, as monetary policy easing and expansionary fiscal policy gradually take effect, we expect GDP growth to modestly rebound to 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter, leading to a full-year growth of 6.8 percent,” Liu said.
Source: Shanghai Daily
China lowers deposit rates for 1st-time property buyers
1st October 2015

CHINA said yesterday it will cut the minimum downpayment for first-time home buyers in many cities, stepping up support for the sluggish property market and stumbling economy.
It was the second measure in two days to fire up consumption following a decision to halve the tax on the sale of small cars.

The central bank and banking regulator said they will lower the minimum downpayment for first-time home buyers to 25 percent, from 30 percent, in cities that do not have purchase restrictions.

The move aims to “support reasonable consumption of housing,” the People’s Bank of China and China Banking Regulatory

Commission said in a statement on the central bank’s website yesterday.

China’s property sector has hit a weak patch in the past year or so, with slowing sales leading to an overhang of unsold apartments and affecting demand for everything from steel to home appliances.

“The relaxed rule is helpful, but the impact will not be immediate because the main reason for high inventory in some cities is bad location and transportation,” said David Ji from Knight Frank.

“The rule will likely stimulate demand from buyers who are already observing,” he said.

The property sector accounts for 15 percent of China’s gross domestic product, so even modest signs of improvement would relieve some pressure on the economy.

Home prices rose for a fourth consecutive month in August as sales and market sentiment improved.

In a separate move yesterday, the housing ministry asked local governments to increase financial support to home buyers funding their purchases with housing provident funds.

Still, analysts don’t expect a full-blown turnaround in the property market any time soon, as the huge overhang of unsold homes discourages construction and investment in all but the biggest cities.

Haitong Securities said the move “shows the government’s intention to stabilize the property market. We expect favorable policies to be sustained until investment starts to recover.”

While home sales and prices have picked up in the past couple of months, annual growth in property investment in the first eight months of the year slowed to 3.5 percent, its lowest since early 2009.

The lower downpayment requirements will not apply in certain big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen that have imposed restrictions on buying to prevent bubbles.

Source: Shanghai Daily

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