Saudi: GCC Defense Ministers Assert Importance of Protecting Int’l Maritime Navigation



GCC Defense Ministers Assert Importance of Protecting Int’l Maritime Navigation

Thursday, 31 October, 2019 – 12:30
The 16th meeting of the joint defense council of the GCC defense ministers hosted by Oman in Muscat. (Saudi Ministry of Defense’s Twitter Account)
Muscat – Asharq Al-Awsat
Gulf defense ministers discussed regional developments and conflicts, and their effects and risks on the interests of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, stressing the importance of protecting freedom of international maritime navigation in the Arabian Gulf.

The ministers also discussed the impact of regional developments on the security and integral unity of the GCC countries and peoples.

Their statement came during the 16th meeting of the joint defense council of the GCC, hosted by Oman in Muscat. The meeting was chaired by Oman’s Defense Minister Sayyid Bader bin Saud al-Busaidi.

The ministers condemned the September attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais, asserting their support to Saudi Arabia and any measures taken to protect its sovereignty, stability, and interests.

GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif al-Zayani, who attended the meeting in Muscat, praised the operation carried out by US forces on Saturday in Syria’s Idlib province, which left ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and a number of extremists dead.

The ministers stated that Baghdadi’s death is an important step in eliminating the terrorist organization’s cells.

Zayani also lauded the preparedness of the GCC armed forces to defend their countries and peoples, vowing to further upgrade their defense plans. He also praised the cooperation between GCC armed forces and allied countries.

Communist China: Huangpu joins up with eBay



Huangpu joins up with eBay

China International Import Expo

Huangpu District is to establish a cross-border e-commerce platform with eBay to better serve and expand the effect of the upcoming second China International Import Expo.

The district government signed an agreement with the e-commerce giant on Wednesday to develop the platform to offer financial services, build exhibition and trade centers as well as train professionals for cross-border e-commerce trade.

An innovation, entrepreneurship and R&D center to mainly boost e-commerce export trade will be established in Huangpu along with a full industrial chain, said Yang Dongsheng, deputy director with the district.

Shanghai has become the headquarters of eBay’s cross-border trade business across China, Southeast Asia, Russia and Israel as well as east and north Europe, the company said. Its China headquarters are in Huangpu District.

Huangpu endeavors to help local companies expand their overseas businesses through e-commerce platforms. The cooperation is expected to make Huangpu a downtown center for the city’s e-commerce businesses, Yang said.

E-commerce has become a new way for Chinese products to be sold across the world, said Shen Weihua, deputy director of the city’s commerce commission. International pioneers such as eBay are expected to help the city further open up and upgrade its foreign trade, Shen said.

The city’s export e-commerce volume ranks third in the country following Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces.

Local retailers are exporting through e-commerce platforms to over 70 countries. The top destinations are the United States, the UK, Australia, Germany and Canada.

Many local brands, such as Threegun clothing, have become popular with overseas shoppers, according to eBay. Other popular products from Shanghai include those for home decoration, automobile accessories, clothes, cosmetics and sports products.

The city’s exports of home decoration and car accessories have been rising rapidly on cross-border e-commerce platforms this year along with electric appliances.

Shanghai China: City’s economy grows by 6%



City’s economy grows by 6%

Shanghai’s economy grew 6 percent year on year in the first three quarters, 0.1 percentage points higher than the growth rate in the first half, according to the city’s statistics bureau.

Its gross domestic product hit 2.54 trillion yuan (US$358.8 billion) in the nine months ended September 30, with value-added production in the tertiary sector accounting for 72.2 percent of overall GDP, 2.6 percentage points higher than the same period last year.

The gross industrial output value of larger enterprises dipped 2.6 percent year on year to 2.48 trillion yuan, but the decline was narrowed by 1.3 percentage points compared with the drop in the first half.

Of the city’s key industrial sectors, biomedical producers’ output rose 6.9 percent while that of petrochemical and fine chemicals grew 5.5 percent, both posting rapid growth in the January to September period, according to the bureau.

The industrial added value of strategic emerging industries edged up 0.1 percent to 775.36 billion yuan from a year earlier, rebounding from the 3.1 percent decline seen in the first six months.

The bureau also highlighted rises in the biological sector, new energy, and high-end equipment production, at 6.9 percent, 4.6 percent and 2.4 percent year on year respectively.

Fixed-asset investment maintained steady growth to advance by 4.8 percent year on year, with investment in the industrial sector up 16.3 percent to be the 18th consecutive month of double-digit growth.

FAI in real estate development, meanwhile, increased 4 percent from a year earlier, 0.4 percentage points faster than the first half, while that in infrastructure fell 5.6 percent, a 1.1 percentage point smaller drop compared with January-June.

Shanghai’s foreign trade in the first three quarters slipped 1.5 percent year on year to 2.48 trillion yuan, compared with the 1.8 percent drop in the first half, according to data from Shanghai Customs.

Exports edged down by 0.1 percent to 992.88 billion yuan while imports fell 2.4 percent from the same period last year to 1.49 trillion yuan.

The total contract value of Shanghai’s foreign direct investment amounted to US$36.61 billion in the first nine months, up 8.9 percent from a year earlier, 2.6 percentage points faster than January-June.

The paid-in amount of foreign direct investment jumped 13 percent to US$14.63 billion.

The city’s general public budgets increased 0.2 percent to 596.41 billion yuan, among which personal income tax decreased by 26.8 percent due to new tax-cutting measures such as an increase in the personal income tax threshold.

The city’s local general public budget expenditure was 573.353 billion yuan, down 2.7 percent from the same period last year.

Consumer prices in the city advanced 2.2 percent in the first three quarters year on year, 0.1 percentage points higher than in the first half, with prices for consumer products and services both gaining 2.2 percent from a year earlier.

The bureau also said the city’s employment situation remained stable in the first three quarters with 548,800 new jobs added. By the end of September, the number of registered urban unemployed was 189,300, down 3,200 from the same period last year.

China: Harnessing power to combat poverty



Harnessing power to combat poverty


Billions have been invested to upgrade power networks in the rural areas of northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, in a bid to assist local anti-poverty work.

A total of 2.6 billion yuan (US$370 million) from the central government has been spent this year, while the regional government and the local grid power companies have also increased investment to improve power facilities, the regional development and reform commission said.

Thanks to an uninterrupted power supply, an embroidery cooperative in Akqi County in the southern Xinjiang is able to get rid of inefficient handwork and bring in more income for rural women.

Upgrading of old and outdated power infrastructures in the eastern Xinjiang’s Hami, a city famous for its honey-dew melons, has enabled local melon farmers to irrigate land even under severe weather conditions when blackouts used to be prevalent.

The regional government has also invested nearly 3.4 billion yuan so far this year to channel fresh tap water to over 266,000 poor residents.

Nearly 2,500 kilometers of rural roads have been built to make trips more convenient for local residents.

Communists China: Blockchain anonymity to transform world cargo


Blockchain anonymity to transform world cargo

Blockchain anonymity to transform world cargo

 2006 Nobel laureate George Smoot makes a speech at the World Maritime Conference.

Anonymity through blockchain is a significant milestone in developing markets and may transform shipping and logistics, says American economist and 2007 Nobel laureate Eric Maskin.

Maskin told a forum at the first World Maritime Conference on Sunday that getting the right ships at the right time and keeping cargo details and destinations private from competitors were major issues facing the industry.

“Blockchain is the perfect solution to their problem,” he said. “It can achieve an optimal assignment and companies don’t need to disclose information publicly.”

The three-day World Maritime Conference began Sunday. Marking the 110th anniversary of the establishment of the Shanghai Maritime University, it is the first international high-end academic conference held in Lingang Special Area of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone.

More than 400 maritime experts, scholars, representatives of enterprises and institutions and entrepreneurs from nearly 30 countries and regions are present at the conference, including Eric Maskin and American astrophysicist, cosmologist and 2006 Nobel laureate George Smoot.

Smoot, who advocated the “blue” marine economy and blue growth, praised the rapid development of the blue economy in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Qingdao in recent years and predicted that big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, digitalization and autonomous ship technology will bring new development to the shipping industry.

Industries such as fisheries, aquaculture, coastal and marine tourism, marine biotechnology and bioprospecting will also contribute to the development of blue economy, according to Smoot.

And there is still a large space for the research and cultivation of marine micro-organisms.

The Research Report on Navigation Status in the South China Sea 2018 was also issued on Sunday, saying the South China Sea is still some of the safest waters in the world based on meteorological, hydrological and other parameters. The “New era, New Technology, New Maritime” conference covers topics including maritime economics, shipping management, intelligent ships and maritime law.

Merck’s first innovation hub in China settles in Shanghai



Merck’s first innovation hub in China settles in Shanghai

Merck's first innovation hub in China settles in Shanghai

Stephan Oschman, CEO of Merck, addresses the opening ceremony of the Merck China Innovation Hub.

A Merck Innovation Hub, the first in China, opened in Shanghai on Friday as Merck announced a 100 million yuan (US$14 million) seed fund injected into the China Innovation Hub, the first investment by M Ventures, the strategy investment arm of the Merck group.

Stefan Oschman, chairman and CEO of Merck said, “We always have faith in China, and the 100 million seed fund is our commitment to China.”

The innovation hub will serve startups, academic institutions and people with good idea mainly in biopharma and biotech, materials science and health care, the three business sectors of Merck.

“The innovation hub will accelerate Merck’s innovation in China and we hope to promote innovation and serve China together with partners,” Oschman added.

The hub is located in “Front Bund” (Qian Tan in Chinese) in the Pudong New Area, and covers an area of 1,000 square meters.

Merck's first innovation hub in China settles in Shanghai

Ti Gong

The hub is located in World Trade Center.

“When we decide to set up an innovation hub in China, without hesitation, we chose Shanghai because of its innovation ecosystem, especially in biotech and life sciences”, Oschman said.

Merck plans to open a second innovation hub in Guangzhou in November. The company set up hubs in Germany and the US in 2018.

Allan Gabor, president of Merck China Co Ltd said that, “China is not just a huge market, but also one of significant factors influencing global trend and strategy.”

Isabel De Paoli, chief strategy office of Merck, said, “The China Innovation Hub will play major role in the future development of Merck by connecting to the another two innovation hubs in Europe and in the US.”

Sophie Sun, director of Merck China Innovation Hub said, besides giving financial support for the potential programs, they will share Merck’s technology ability such as research team and labs.

Merck is a technology company focused on three fields: medicine and health care, life sciences and performance materials such as liquid crystal used in smart phone and flat screen television. It has 52,000 employees worldwide and in 2018 its sales totaled 116.9 billion yuan.

India: India seeks 10% advantage over China in tariff removal



At RCEP meet, India seeks 10% advantage over China in tariff removal

This advantage for India will mean that its exporters can access 10% more Chinese product lines without facing tariff barriers.

INDIA Updated: Oct 19, 2019 03:10 IST

Rajeev Jayaswal
Rajeev Jayaswal

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Farmers during a protest against the plan to join the Regional Comprehensive Economics Partnership (RCEP).
Farmers during a protest against the plan to join the Regional Comprehensive Economics Partnership (RCEP).(Sameer Sehgal/Hindustan Times)

India has bargained a nearly 10% advantage over China in tariff elimination during the ongoing Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) discussions in a move aimed to placate the domestic industry and pave the way for New Delhi to conclude negotiations ahead of PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangkok next month, three people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

This advantage for India will mean that its exporters can access 10% more Chinese product lines without facing tariff barriers

Indian negotiators and experts are stationed in Bangkok to fine tune commercial and legal issues pertaining to the RCEP, said an official with direct knowledge of the matter. They are expected to iron out key issues before commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal arrives in Bangkok early next month ahead of Modi’s scheduled visit on November 4, the official said.

The Indian leadership is determined to protect the interests of the domestic industry, agriculture and farm sectors before concluding any FTA (free trade agreement), according to the people cited above.

“India will not repeat the mistakes of the past. The Asean FTA has been tilted in favor of countries like Vietnam and Thailand. India’s trade deficit with Asean has soared since the FTA has become operative in 2010,” one of the officials said.

According to official data, while India’s exports to ASEAN grew 9.56% to $37.47 billion in 2018-19, imports surged to $59.32 billion in the same period, a whopping 25.87% growth.

India is determined to bargain hard on the principle of equity, which was perceived to have been sacrificed while signing the Asean FTA, the official said.

“India’s concessions to countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia are disproportionate under the Asean FTA, which is against the principle of equity. While India agreed to eliminate more than 74% of tariff lines, Indonesia agreed to about 50% and Vietnam 70%. Such tilts are the main cause of concern for the Indian industry,” the official added.

An agreement between India and China is the key for successfully concluding the RCEP because New Delhi already has FTAs with most of the other members.

The RCEP is a proposed FTA covering 16 countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and its six FTA partners — China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. India has FTAs with Asean, Japan and South Korea. FTAs are arrangements between two or more countries that primarily agree to reduce or eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers on substantial trade between them.

The RCEP will not be fully successful without India’s participation, which is one of the main reasons why other members agreed to allow time for further negotiation even as the last ministerial (October 11-12) was expected to conclude the deal before the 3rd Leaders Summit scheduled on November 4 this year in Bangkok, an official said.

According to the domestic industry, the FTA with Asean did not bring the desired gains for the Indian industry in terms of enhanced exports.

“India’s trade deficit with Asean, which was approximately US$12 billion in 2010-11 jumped to over US$22 billion in 2018-19,” said Chandrajit Banerjee, director general, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

A NITI Aayog report that reviewed various FTAs, including the one with Asean countries said India has been a net loser in almost all, except with Sri Lanka. The report, ‘A Note on Free Trade Agreements and Their Costs’, said the Asean FTA saw the greatest reduction in Indian import tariffs.

“FTA covers 75% of the two-way trade. India offered around 9,000 products for tariff elimination out of about 12,000 tariff lines, 1,800 lines in sensitive track and almost 1,300 lines in exclusion. Thus India kept around 10% of their tariff lines in exclusion, Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar, Brunei and Vietnam kept more number of tariff lines under exclusion compared to India,” it said.

India’s stand on “free” but “fair” trade has been reinforced recently at a high-level internal meeting on the RCEP in New Delhi. The meeting took place ahead of Goyal’s vist to Bangkok to attend the ministerial (October 10-12).

“The government is also conscious of the fact that the RCEP agreement would be fully operative some time around 2021-22 and its impact will be felt in 2023-24, which will be the time when the government would be seeking a fresh mandate. Hence, it cannot afford to sign a hasty deal as was done in the past,” the second of the people cited above said.

“The industry is opposing the RCEP because of historical blunders in FTA negotiations. For example, India gave more than proportional access to some of the member countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia,” said Ram Singh, professor, Delhi School of Economics. “Now India should negotiate trade deals in favour of its industry and extract more concessions from countries like China before signing the RCEP. This will win the confidence of Indian industry and improve balance of trade for the country.”

Sharad Kumar Saraf, president, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), said, “When you go to negotiate any FTA, there is always some give and take. Important is to strike a balance. A 10% edge is reasonable. It will help India’s exports.”

“Some local industry could feel the heat. But, the government can help them by providing assistance, such as duty-free imports of components that can make them competitive,” he said.

First Published: Oct 18, 2019 23:57 IST

Stockton California giving 125 people $500 a month in 18 month experiment



Stockton is giving people $500 a month, no strings attached. Here’s how they’re spending it


New data released as part of Stockton’s closely watched universal basic income experiment offer a first glimpse into how an extra $500 a month affects the spending habits and quality of life for those receiving the no-strings-attached funds.

The 18-month study — the first of its kind led by a U.S. city — aims to see whether a guaranteed income can reduce stress and, in turn, unlock new opportunities for people struggling to make ends meet. Tracking and analyzing the spending habits of the 125 individuals currently receiving the stipends, the program will also provide greater insight into the viability of long-term basic income models more broadly in the United States.

In Stockton, a city once known as “America’s foreclosure capital” where one in four residents currently live below the poverty line, the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, or SEED, is a kind of safety net that can empower residents financially, said Mayor Michael Tubbs. For people scraping by to pay rent or put food on the table, “something as small as $500 has been enough to allow them to breathe,” he said.

“There’s an ethos of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps,” Tubbs said. “Well, we’re providing the floor to put their feet on to put the boots on, and the cash to buy the boots.”

Nearly half of the recipients reported they’re just managing to get by financially, and one in five said they are going into debt to take care of themselves and their family, according to the newly released SEED data.

The recipients — full-time workers, stay-at-home caretakers, disabled individuals, students — overwhelmingly use the money to feed, clothe and house themselves. The median monthly income among the participants is $1,800, compared to the median household monthly income in the city of about $3,500.

“We heard a lot about, ‘Can $500 even make a difference in California?’” said Stacia Martin-West, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee who is one of the study’s lead researchers. “When we know the median household is making $1,800 a month, we can see there’s a 30 percent increase in income.”


The data are averaged from monthly purchases between February, when the program began, through the end of July, said Amy Castro Baker, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania who is also helping lead the study.

About 43 percent of participants are working full- or part-time, according to Baker. Additionally, 20 percent have a disability that interferes with their ability to work, 11 percent are looking for work, 11 percent work as caretakers for aging parents or young children, 8 percent have retired and 5 percent are students.

Only about 2 percent are not looking for work, busting the myth that anyone who receives free money will stop working or “aren’t deserving” of the funds, Tubbs said.

“The story line of giving people cash is … are they going to be rational with that?” Baker added.

The answer, based on initial results, is yes, she said: For spending, about 38 percent of purchases each month go toward food, and 25 percent on sales and merchandise such as clothing, home goods and items from discount stores such as Walmart.

Gas, electric and telecommunication bill payments make up the third largest spending category, about 11 percent. Less than 1 percent of total money tracked has been spent at alcohol or tobacco retailers, according to SEED spokeswoman Amanda Blanton.

“These folks are just like you and me,” Tubbs said. “There’s nothing crazy about their choices.”

About 47 percent of recipients are white, 28 percent are African American, 13 percent are Asian and 12 percent identified as other. About 37 percent also identified as Hispanic.

SEED will continue to release data on how participants are spending their money on an online dashboard, which will go live Saturday at


Guaranteed or universal basic income programs to address wealth inequality and complement existing safety net systems in the United States have become an increasingly popular policy idea.

California Sen. Kamala Harris and Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib have both recently proposed bills offering tax credits for working and middle class individuals and families that could be accessed as a monthly check.

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has focused his campaign on a universal basic income proposal he calls a “Freedom Dividend.” And cities such as Chicago and Newark, New Jersey, have begun exploring the possibility of starting similar pilot programs.

“We’re in a space where we’re just trying to figure out what is the most ethical, humane way that we can implement a new way of looking at the social contract and economic justice,” Martin-West said.


The Stockton program is partially paid for by a $1 million grant from the Economic Security Project, an organization that has raised millions to fund and explore universal basic income programs. Another $2 million comes from foundations and individual donors, according to ESP spokeswoman Saadia McConville. The city of Stockton is not financing the program, Tubbs said.

The program will run through July 2020.


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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.

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China wows the world with commerce, trade leaps over 70 years



China wows the world with commerce, trade leaps over 70 years: official


70 Years On

China has made solid development in commerce and trade during the past seven decades, impressing the world with investment, consumption and foreign trade hikes.

China is now the world’s second-largest consumer market, with its retail sales of consumer goods at around 38 trillion yuan (US$5.4 trillion) in 2018, up from 27.7 billion yuan in 1952, Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan told a press conference Sunday.

Compared to US$1.13 billion in 1950, China’s foreign trade volume in 2018 topped the world at a whopping US$4.6 trillion, among which US$2 trillion came from imports, said Zhong.

As an increasingly favorable destination for foreign investment, China came in second in the world with US$138.3 billion in foreign direct investment in 2018, with 960,000 foreign-invested companies by the end of last year.

China’s outbound direct investment also snowballed over the past decades to rank second worldwide at US$143 billion in 2018, contributing to the economic growth of local communities around the world, Zhong said.

Brazil: Lava Jato spares Odebrecht owners and executives to plead



Lava Jato spares Odebrecht owners and executives to plead

The new chapter of Vaza Jato reveals that contractor Odebrecht’s owner Emilio was spared tougher measures, such as the obligation to relinquish control, so that prosecutors could strike award-winning deal deals with company executives. At another controversial point, the company was allowed to pay the fines of its award-winning whistle blowers.

Emilio Odebrecht to Leave Odebrecht Board Early
Emilio Odebrecht to Leave Odebrecht Board Early

247 – The new chapter of Vaza Jato, brought by journalists Ricardo Balthazar and Paula Bianchi, in a report published in Folha, reveals behind-the-scenes negotiations about Odebrecht’s award-winning accusation. “Prosecutors of Operation Lava Jato spared Odebrecht and its top executives from drastic measures contemplated during negotiations on the billion-dollar deal that ensured the company’s cooperation with investigations starting in 2016,” the report said.

“Investigators also discussed the possibility of preventing Odebrecht from paying whistle blowers’ lawyers and being liable for fines imposed on executives to prevent them from preserving their accumulated assets when they were involved in corruption at the company,” reporters note. According to them, the prosecutors set aside these measures as the negotiations progressed, so as not to derail the deal with Odebrecht, which was one of the largest business groups in the country and went into crisis when it was hit by the Lava Jato. “

In June 2016, Deltan and two other attorneys suggested to colleagues that the company be prevented from taking the fines. “Executives must afford it, in my opinion,” he said on Telegram. He proposed that the company be punished for terminating the deal if it paid executive penalties. However, the second option prevailed: the company paid the fines of its awarded whistle blowers.