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News from China
HK set to gain new growth with Greater Bay Area
13th March 2017

 HONG Kong will gain new growth momentum with the emergence of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, an ambitious central government initiative aimed at boosting development of the Cantonese-speaking region in south China, local scholars and economic analysts say.

In his annual government work report, Premier Li Keqiang announced that the government will draw up a plan for the development of a city cluster in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, in a bid to give full play to the distinctive strengths of Hong Kong and Macau, and elevate their positions and roles in the country’s economic development and opening-up.
The idea of building a Greater Bay Area is not new. Most recently, the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), unveiled last year, pledged to facilitate the construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area.
The Greater Bay Area is an updated version of the previous regional development initiatives, such as the Pearl River Delta and the Pan-Pearl River Delta, and it transcends regional divisions to highlight economic growth efficiency in the hub as a whole, said Andrew Fung, executive director of Hang Seng Bank.
The Greater Bay Area is a kind of natural, geological existence, which goes beyond administrative divisions, and it provides a vivid image, making it easier for policy-makers to map growth strategies through comparing it with the world’s leading bay areas, such as Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo, said Ma Xufei, head of the Center for Entrepreneurship of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The hub will mainly involve Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong, namely Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Zhongshan, Dongguan, Huizhou, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing.
Analysts believe Hong Kong can seek new growth momentum in the collaborative dynamics in the proposed hub.
Ma believed Shanghai has succeeded as a financial center through integrating with the Yangtze River Delta, a key manufacturing center in east China, linking its financial services with the real economy.
Another key manufacturing center, the Pearl River Delta in south China, is within the reach of Hong Kong, Ma said, explaining that Hong Kong’s manufacturing chain is incomplete and its own market is small, but the weaknesses can be overcome through joining hands with the Pearl River Delta, which boasts a complete manufacturing chain and a large market.
Analysts believe the initiative will enable the cities included to further boost their strengths and complement each other in collaboration.
Hong Kong has advanced financial services and other professional services such as accounting, auditing and project management, while demand for such services is huge in the inland, which is upgrading its manufacturing sector, Ma said.
Hong Kong is endowed with standard market system, mature legal system, advanced infrastructure equipment and relatively low tax rates, which will enable it to remain competitive in the coming years, said Ye Bingnan, an analyst with Bank of China International.
Hong Kong is well placed in the finance and services sectors, Shenzhen is good at innovative technology, and Guangzhou boasts leading colleges and research institutes, Ye said, noting different cities will build on their strengths in collaboration.
Foundation for such a proposed hub is solid.
The region shares similar folk culture and Cantonese dialect, which allows space for cultural and creative industries, said Witman Hung, president of Hong Kong’s Internet Professional Association.
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge will cut the driving time remarkably between Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Zhuhai and Macau, and this is an impetus to greater integration of the region in the proposed hub, Hung said.
Source: Shanghai Daily, March 13, 2017
China’s CPI cools but PPI heats up
10th March 2017

 CHINA’S consumer inflation cooled in February because of lower food prices, but factory-gate inflation continued to warm.

The Consumer Price Index, a main gauge of inflation, rose 0.8 percent year on year in February, the lowest since January 2015 and down from January’s 2.5 percent, the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday.
It also missed market expectations of 1.7 percent, according to a Reuters poll.
The CPI for January and February combined rose 1.7 percent.
Meanwhile, the Producer Price Index, which measures costs for goods at the factory gate, surged 7.8 percent, the fastest year-on-year increase in more than eight years.
The gain compared with a 6.9 percent rise in January and market hopes of 7.7 percent.
Sheng Guoqing, a bureau analyst, attributed the slower CPI to a high base last year and lower prices of food.
Prices of fresh vegetables tumbled 26 percent year on year and pork prices fell 0.9 percent, Sheng said.
Fewer travelers after the Chinese New Year also resulted in a 12.2 percent drop in air ticket prices month on month, a 7.7 percent decline in travel agency prices and a 3.6 percent fall in hotel rates.
Sheng attributed the fast growth in the PPI to a low base last year and price rise in oil and gas, which surged 85.3 percent year on year.
Of the 40 industries covered by the bureau, prices rose in 33 industries, flat from January.
Analysts said the divergence between CPI and PPI indicated very little inflation was transferred from factory gate to consumers.
“The high base effects of food prices last year could continue to weigh on the overall CPI in the coming months, and we forecast the PPI to soften later this year, based on our assumption of relatively stable commodity prices through 2017,” Australia and New Zealand Banking Group said in a note yesterday. “But the data back our opinion that the transfer effect should be rather weak.”
ANZ said the lower-than-expected CPI should alleviate the upward pressure on benchmark deposit or lending rates amid the central bank’s efforts in preventing financial risks.
The government kept this year’s CPI target at 3 percent and economic growth target around 6.5 percent, compared with last year’s 6.5-7 percent.
Source: Shanghai Daily, March 10, 2017
US workers’ productivity rises more slowly in Q4
9th March 2017

 The productivity of American workers grew at a slower pace in the fourth quarter and last year recorded the smallest annual gain in five years.

The US Labor Department said yesterday that productivity grew at a 1.3 percent annual pace from October through December, down from 3.3 percent in the third quarter. For 2016, productivity eked out a 0.2 percent increase, the smallest since a 0.1 percent gain in 2011.
Labor costs, which account for changes in productivity, rose at a 1.7 percent annual pace in the fourth quarter. That’s up from a 0.7 percent increase from July through September.
The fourth-quarter numbers were flat from an original report in February.
Productivity gains have slowed in recent years for reasons economists are struggling to understand. Since 2007, productivity has grown by an average 1.2 percent a year, compared with an average 2.6 percent from 2000 through 2007 and 2.1 percent from 1947 through 2016.
Productivity measures output per hour worked. Increases are crucial for economic prosperity. When their workers are more productive, employers can afford to pay them more. And productivity gains, along with growth in the number of people working, determine how fast the economy grows.
Source: Shanghai Daily, March 9,2017
China says US steel ruling ‘groundless’
6th March 2017

 A Chinese commerce ministry official has rejected a recent US ruling on Chinese steel product imports as “groundless.”

In the ruling, the United States declared that stainless steel sheet and strip imports from China are subsidized and sold in the US at less than fair value.
The US failed to take into consideration the evidence and documents provided by Chinese manufacturers, and its ruling is against the facts, said Wang Hejun, head of the Ministry of Commerce’s trade remedy and investigation bureau.
The US International Trade Commission said on Friday that it had determined that US industry is materially harmed by imports of stainless steel sheet and strip from China.
Difficulties facing the US steel industry mainly stem from its outdated equipment and low efficiency and are thus not related to products China has sold in the country, Wang said.
During the investigation, demand for Chinese-made stainless steel sheet and strip grew, and imports from China have actually helped meet the rising demand, Wang added.
China and the US are complementary in their steel trade, and China not only exports steel products to the country but also imports US-made steel products, Wang said.
China urges the US to make an objective and fair ruling to avoid negatively affecting the normal economic and trade relations between the two countries, Wang added.
Chinese exporters suffered a total of 20 trade remedy probes initiated by the US involving US$3.7 billion last year, up 81.1 percent and 131 percent from a year earlier respectively, the ministry said in February.
Source: Shanghai Daily, March 6, 2017

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