Beijing, Sep 2 (AP/UNB) — African leaders will likely press their Chinese hosts at a conference this week to help narrow their trade deficits with Beijing by shifting more manufacturing to their continent, the chief executive of the biggest African bank said.
China has passed Europe and the United States as the biggest trading partner of most African countries. Most run large deficits with Beijing, exporting minerals and buying Chinese manufactured goods.
"The question of the trade imbalance is one that I think will be placed firmly on the table by the African delegates," the chief executive of South Africa's Standard Bank Group, Sim Tshabalala, told reporters.
China's commercial presence in Africa has prompted complaints in some countries that the continent gets too little from the relationship. Africa is a major target of Beijing's "Belt and Road" initiative to build ports, highways and other trade-related infrastructure, but some critics in Tanzania, Kenya and other countries say they leave hosts with too much debt.
"I would expect African leaders to put on the table the opportunity that arises from building the African continent's manufacturing capability in a way that is in the best interests of the African continent but benefits china as well," Tshabalala said Saturday.
The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, opening Monday, brings together leaders from China and more than 50 African countries. Dozens of African leaders have met with Chinese President Xi Jinping ahead of the conference.
The participants are looking for ways to "advance common growth and development," said South Africa's foreign minister, Lindiwe Sisulu.
Some Chinese manufacturers are expanding to Africa but the bulk of Chinese investment goes into mining or construction of roads and other infrastructure. A state-owned automaker, BAIC Group, announced plans this year to start producing electric cars in South Africa.
As Chinese manufacturers move to making higher-value products, "the slack that is produced as a consequence can be taken up by African economies," according to Tshabalala.
Standard Bank represents the biggest Chinese investment in Africa to date, after state-owned Industrial and Commerce Bank of China Ltd. agreed in 2007 to buy 20 percent of the African lender for $5.5 billion. Since then, the two banks say they have collaborated on channeling billions of dollars of Chinese investment into Africa.
Some 300 companies account for the majority of China's business activity in Africa, but the region also has some 30,000 smaller Chinese firms that are of growing importance, said Francois Gamet, head of Standard Bank Group's Asian operation.
Asked about concerns over Africa's rising debts to China, the banks said those still are relatively small and most countries can repay them.
"The reality is that Chinese debt as a percentage of total African debt is still relatively small," said Kenny Fihla, Standard Bank's chief executive for corporate banking.
Governments in the region have "fiscal discipline," said Tshabalala.
"Wars, pestilence, violence and conflict have declined," he said. "We are quite comfortable that most of these countries have both the ability and the willingness to meet their obligations."
Buenos Aires, Aug 31 (AP/UNB) — Argentina's Central Bank on Thursday increased its benchmark interest rate to 60 percent — the world's highest — in an effort to halt a sharp slide in the value of the peso, which plunged to a record low.
The peso fell more than 13 percent against the dollar on Thursday, closing at an all-time low of 39.2 per greenback, after slipping about 7 percent the day before.
The Central Bank said in a statement that it was hiking its benchmark interest rate by 15 percentage points to 60 percent in response to the currency problems and the risk of greater impact on local inflation, which is already running at about 30 percent a year.
The tumult in the exchange market came a day after President Mauricio Macri said he was asking for an early release of some IMF funds under an $50 billion backup financing arrangement approved earlier.
Some experts said the announcement, combined with the interest rate hike, had the unintended effect of fueling the crisis of confidence.
"I think today's interest hike announcement will do nothing but leave investors even more jittery," said Monica de Bolle, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
"I'm finding it difficult to understand why, after yesterday's announcement about front-loading more of the IMF funding, the government thought the hike was warranted. Hyperactivity starts to look like desperation."
Macri has struggled to calm markets and bring confidence to Argentines who continue to lose purchasing power. Many are frustrated with layoffs, higher utility rates and a rise in poverty levels.
Many also have bad memories of the IMF and blame its free-market economic policies for contributing to the country's worst crisis in 2001-2002, when one of every five Argentines went unemployed and millions fell into poverty.
Seeing journalists filming screens showing the exchange rates in downtown Buenos Aires, Ruben Montiel, 55, burst out: "Macri is an embarrassment!
"You can't live like this. The prices of everything go up on a daily basis," he said. "There's no work, utility rates have gone through the roof ... people are sleeping on the streets."
Macri, a pro-business conservative who came into office in 2015, had promised to trim Argentina's fiscal deficit, reduce poverty and curb inflation. He cut red tape and tried to reduce the government's budget deficit by ordering layoffs and cutting utility subsidies, but it triggered labor unrest.
Then in December, officials announced a rise in the inflation target, which caused investors to begin doubting Macri's commitment to taming price rises.
Meanwhile, the peso slumped against the dollar as rising U.S. interest rates lured investors to pull greenbacks out of Argentina.
That caused jitters among Argentines, who have been used to stashing away dollars as a cushion since the 2001 crisis, when banks froze deposits and put up sheet-metal barricades as thousands of protesters unsuccessfully tried to withdraw their savings. Dozens died in protests and looting in December 2001 as the economy unraveled and Argentina eventually suffered a record $100 billion debt default.
"The government will need to shuffle its cabinet and strike deals with provincial governors for next year's budget," said Argentine economist Marcos Buscaglia. "In the short-term, the government just needs to stop this crisis.
Dhaka, Aug 30(AP/UNB)- Ports and ground terminals in nearly every state handle goods that are now or will likely soon be covered by import tariffs. Port executives worry that this could mean a slowdown in shipping that would have ripple effects on truckers and others whose jobs depend on trade.
The Associated Press analyzed government data and found that from the West Coast to the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, at least 10 percent of imports at many ports could face new tariffs if President Donald Trump's proposals take full effect.
Since March, the U.S. has applied new tariffs of up to 25 percent on nearly $85 billion worth of steel and aluminum and various Chinese products, mostly goods used in manufacturing.
Trump said in a recent tweet, "Tariffs are working big time." He has argued that the tariffs will help protect American workers and force U.S. trading partners to change rules that the president insists are unfair to the United States.
In New Orleans, port officials say a tariff-related drop in shipments is real, not merely a forecast. Steel imports there have declined more than 25 percent from a year ago, according to the port's chief commercial officer, Robert Landry.
The port is scouting for other commodities it can import. But expectations appear to be low.
"In our business, steel is the ideal commodity," Landry said. "It's big, it's heavy, we charge by the ton so it pays well. You never find anything that pays as well as steel does."
The port of Milwaukee imports steel from Europe and ships out agricultural products from the Midwest. Steel imports haven't dropped yet because they are under long-term contracts, said the port director, Adam Schlicht. But there has been "an almost immediate halt" in outbound shipments of corn because of retaliatory duties imposed by the European Union on American products.
Much of the corn, he said, "is just staying in silos. They are filled to the brim."
Most other ports have been humming along and even enjoyed an unexpected bump in imports during June and July as U.S. businesses moved up orders to ship before the new tariffs took effect. That started with manufacturing goods and is now spreading to retail items for back-to-school and Christmas.
"Some of my retail customers are forward-shipping the best they can to offset proposed tariffs," says Peter Schneider, executive vice president of T.G.S. Transportation, a trucking company in Fresno, California.
Port officials were encouraged by this week's announcement that the United States and Mexico had reached a preliminary agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, hoping it might lead to reduced trade barriers. Canada's participation in any new deal to replace NAFTA, though, remains a major question mark.
The port officials continue to worry, though, that Trump will make good on a plan to expand tariffs to an additional $200 billion in Chinese imports — a list that includes fish and other foods, furniture, carpets, tires, rain jackets and hundreds of additional items. Tariffs would make those items costlier in the United States. And if Americans buy fewer of those goods, it would likely lead to fewer container ships steaming into U.S. ports.
The impact will be felt keenly at West Coast ports like Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, relying on information from his port officials, said his port — the biggest in the United States — could suffer a 20 percent drop in volume if the additional $200 billion in tariffs are imposed against Chinese goods.
Jock O'Connell, an economist in California who studies trade, said he doubts a downturn would be so severe — that would match the slump that accompanied the global recession of 2008 — "but we will see a definite impact."
Here are some of the key findings from the AP analysis:
— U.S. tariffs will cover goods that are imported at more than 250 seaports, airports and ground terminals in 48 states.
— At 18 of 43 customs districts — including those representing ports around Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans and Houston — at least 10 percent of their total import value could be covered by new tariffs if all Trump's proposals take effect.
— Retaliatory duties by China and other countries cover $27 billion in U.S. exports.
Eugene Seroka, executive director of the Los Angeles port, worries that "if tariffs make it too expensive to import, there will be an impact on jobs."
Seroka and others don't expect layoffs on the docks. Union longshoremen — whose average pay last year on the West Coast was $163,000, according to the Pacific Maritime Association, which negotiates for the ports — often have contract provisions ensuring that they are paid even if there's no work. And there are fewer of them than there were a few decades ago because the advent of shipping containers has reduced the need for people on the docks.
Dwayne Boudreaux, an International Longshoremen's Association official in Louisiana, said, though, that his stevedores are handling about 10 percent less steel from Japan because of the new tariffs.
"We don't think it's going to (get) worse," he said. But, he added, "who knows — that could change from the next press conference."
The impact might be greater on truck drivers and warehouse workers. Fewer will be needed, according to O'Connell.
Many drivers who deliver shipping containers from the dock to warehouses are independents contracted by trucking companies, and they don't get paid if there is nothing to haul. Some might leave the profession, said Weston LaBar, CEO of the Harbor Trucking Association in Long Beach, California.
"It's hard to retain drivers," he said. "If we don't have work for those drivers, we're worried they will leave for some other segment of the trucking business or go into another business, like construction."
Less shipping means less revenue for the ports — something that could limit their ability to pay for expansion and improvement projects, according to Kurt Nagle, president of the American Association of Port Authorities. He said U.S. ports are in the midst of a planned $155 billion in infrastructure spending from 2016 through 2020.
The current trade war was foreshadowed in January by steep U.S. tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines. It exploded with the U.S. tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. Then came two rounds of duties targeting about $50 billion in imports from China — punishment against that country for pressuring U.S. companies to transfer technology and intellectual property to Chinese companies.
Along the way, China, the European Union, Turkey, Canada and Mexico imposed retaliatory duties on U.S. goods including farm products and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
This week, the U.S. Trade Representative's office finished six days of hearings on a plan to hit another $200 billion in Chinese imports with 10 percent duties. Trump has said that if China continues to retaliate he could eventually add tariffs on $450 billion in Chinese goods, nearly 90 percent of that country's 2017 exports to the U.S.
Trade wars are usually temporary. President George W. Bush abandoned his steel tariffs after less than two years.
Milwaukee's port director worries, however, that damage from the current trade dispute could linger. Canada is increasing corn exports to Europe, and Brazil is trying to pick up the slack in soybean exports to China.
"Others are already picking up that business," Schlicht said.
London, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — Aston Martin, the maker of James Bond's favorite sports car, says it may sell shares for the first time as the company seeks to attract more wealthy buyers with an expanded product range including sedans, sports utility vehicles and even submarines.
The company says it will sell at least 25 percent of Aston Martin's shares if it decides to go forward with an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange. Details of the IPO would be published around Sept. 20.
The announcement came as Aston Martin said first-half pre-tax profit rose to 20.8 million pounds ($26.8 million) from 20.3 million pounds during the same period last year.
Chief Executive Andy Palmer says the potential IPO "represents a key milestone in the history of the company."
Beijing, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — Asian stock markets edged higher Wednesday after Wall Street gained on strength in technology and retailing shares.
KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 rose 0.5 percent to 22,927.35 points and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 22 points to 28,373.74. The Shanghai Composite Index was off 2 points at 2,775.89 and Seoul's Kospi gained 2 points to 2,305.98. Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 advanced 0.3 percent to 6,321.20 and benchmarks in Taiwan and New Zealand gained.
WALL STREET: The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed at a new record. Shoe retailer DSW surged 20.2 percent after reporting stronger-than-expected results. Apple added 0.8 percent and chipmaker Qualcomm gained 3.6 percent. The S&P 500 rose less than 0.1 percent to 2,897.52. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.1 percent to 26,064.02. The Nasdaq composite gained 12.14 points, or 0.2 percent, to 8,030.04. Energy companies dipped along with oil prices.
NAFTA: Canada's foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said she had a "constructive conversation" with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer about how to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement. Freeland arrived in Washington for talks after the Trump administration reached a preliminary deal with Mexico to replace NAFTA. While some experts think stocks could rally if the U.S. and its partners make progress on new trade deals, others say it is unclear how much tensions have harmed stocks.
ANALYST'S QUOTE: "The initial euphoria from the U.S.-Mexico agreement died down" and "mixed views" from Canadian officials gave investors little guidance, said Jingyi Pan of IG in a report. Investors appear to be looking at the Mexico talks "to project how the U.S. administration would likely remain adamant as well in dealing with China that could invite further tensions ahead," said Pan. "One to watch, nevertheless, as more tariffs loom."
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 10 cents to $68.63 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract sank 34 cents on Tuesday to close at $68.53. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 6 cents to $76.35 in London. It shed 21 cents the previous session to $76.29.
CURRENCY: The dollar gained to 111.29 yen from Tuesday's 111.19 yen. The euro advanced to $1.1692 from $1.1696.