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‘Significant Progress’ Seen in Recent TPP Talks

‘Significant Progress’ Seen in Recent TPP Talks

Washington, DC – The recent negotiations between the 12 Pacific Rim nations crafting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement “made significant progress” on proposed rules for state-owned enterprises despite differences over tariffs remaining one of the obstacles to a final deal.

Spanning ten days in Hanoi, the talks “spent successive rounds trying to narrow the gaps,” said US delegation leader, Barbara Weisel, US Trade Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

The TPP would create a free-trade zone from Australia to Peru with $28 trillion in economic output, or 39 percent of the global total. The deal is seen as a major component of the White House’s effort to bolster boost US exports.

The pact, would be the biggest trade deal in US history. The TPP “goes beyond typical trade agreements that focus on reducing tariffs, and highlights issues such as stricter safeguards for patents and copyrights and leveling the playing field for companies that compete with government-backed businesses,” said Weisel.

Responding to the status of the TPP talks, US Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs Myron Brilliant said, “Now is the time to seize upon the extensive economic benefits that the TPP offers every participating country.”

All parties to the negotiations, he said following a recent USCOC event, “must show the political courage required to make the hard decisions needed to conclude the TPP negotiations soon, as this will not get any easier with time.”

Commenting on what he called the “importance of crafting a high-standard, comprehensive trade agreement,” Brilliant said, “If Japan, the United States, or any negotiating partner cannot meet the high standards of the TPP on market access or rules, then the overall ambition of the agreement will be lowered to the detriment of every nation’s interests. We should all guard against that outcome.”

The proposed TPP’s geopolitical importance, he concluded, “is unmistakable. While we must not subordinate commercial priorities to foreign policy goals, the TPP’s geostrategic importance should strengthen our resolve to achieve an ambitious, comprehensive agreement.”

The countries covered by the trade pact are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the US.

China, which has been excluded from the TPP, is separately moving on trade talks with countries such as South Korea, Japan and Australia.

09/30/2014

 

Adobe to Close Its China Research & Development Center

Mountain View, CA – Adobe Systems has said it will shutter its research and development center in China because of what the US software giant says are the country’s “increasingly unfavorable” business conditions.

 

The Beijing facility opened its doors on October 2008 with more than 300 people involved in developing software products specifically designed for the Chinese market.

The process of closing down the center will reportedly continue through the end of the year.

 

Lay-offs have already started with about 300 people likely to face job cuts. Some 30 employees, the company said, will be relocated to the company’s headquarters in Northern California or to branch offices in India.

 

“We are committed to China as a long-term market, and will continue our sales presence nationally as always,” the company said in a statement released to the press.

 

The move, it said, “will not affect Adobe’s overall level of investment in R&D and is not an indication of financial performance in China or worldwide.”

 

Adobe did say it would, however, maintain its Chinese sales offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong.

 

The Silicon Valley-based company is just one of several US-based high-tech firms that have come under increasing scrutiny by the Chinese government over allegedly illegal business practices.

 

Microsoft and Qualcomm are currently being probed, while Adobe recently had its office in Beijing raided by Chinese officials as part of an “anti-monopoly investigation” aimed at its ‘Office’ suite of programs and ‘Windows’ operating system, which is used on the vast majority of computers in China.

 

The head of the government agency investigating Microsoft for what it calls “monopoly actions” said last month that the probe includes the way the US giant distributes its media player and browser.

 

Speculation by industry analysts draws a connecting line between the investigations by Beijing and the US government’s indictment earlier this year of five members of a Chinese military unit for allegedly hacking into the computer systems of several major US companies to steal trade secrets – a charge the Chinese government vehemently denies.

 

09/29/2014

AMCHAM Blasts China’s ‘Opaque’ Investment Rules

Los Angeles, CA – A major US trade promotion group is asserting that Beijing is targeting foreign companies “with opaque laws and rules that contribute to a deteriorating environment for investment.”

According to the American Chamber of Commerce in China (ACCC), 60 percent of those US-based businesses that responded to a recent survey said they feel foreign businesses “are less welcome in the country than before” – up from the 41 percent of respondents in a previous survey conducted in late 2013.

In addition, the group said, 49 percent stated that foreign companies are being “singled out” in the Chinese government’s ongoing pricing and anti-corruption campaign, which, many of those surveyed said, is “politically motivated and threatens to exacerbate a decline in foreign direct investment in the world’s second-largest economy.”

ACCC members say they have “growing perceptions that multinational companies are under selective and subjective enforcement by Chinese government agencies,” according to ACCC Chairman Greg Gilligan.

The country’s laws and rules, he said, “lack transparency and are at times only vaguely related to the particular case.”

Dozens of foreign companies “are being targeted in probes, with regulators opening an anti-monopoly investigation into Microsoft Corp. in July and state media accusing Apple Inc. of using its iPhone to steal state secrets, said Gilligan, who serves as Vice President and Managing Director for PGA Tour China.

In an interview with the state-run China Daily newspaper, Xu Kunlin, the head of China’s National Development and Reform Commission’s anti-monopoly bureau, called the charges that the country is specifically targeting foreign companies “groundless and baseless.”

Xu’s reactions were echoed by a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, who said that China’s anti-monopoly measures “are transparent, fair and done in accordance with the law.”

China, the spokesman said, “will as always welcome foreign companies and enterprises to develop cooperation in all fields and build a good market economy. At the same time, we request foreign companies observe Chinese laws while in China.”

American Chamber members have “concerns that rules are shifting again for foreign companies in China in ways that are highly opaque and difficult for local managers to anticipate or adapt to,” according to the ACCC’s Gilligan.

The group’s members, he said, “strive hard for full compliance and need support and greater clarity to achieve that goal.”

The ACCC’s membership representatives from more than 1,000 US-based companies of all sizes including Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Dell, Oshkosh, Qualcomm, and Mead Johnson.

09/22/2014

 

Hyatt Opens New Hotel in Suzhou, China

Suzhou, China – Hyatt Regency Suzhou has announced the opening of its new Hyatt Regency Suzhou Hotel.

Located in the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) with a subway station at its doorstep, the new hotel is part of Jinghope Plaza, a new complex project that includes a luxury shopping mall, entertainment venues and two ‘Grade-A’ office buildings.

Hyatt Regency Suzhou is a key connecting point between Suzhou and Shanghai, offering easy accessibility to visiting guests.

The hotel is 25 minutes by train from Shanghai, one hour by car to Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, and 10 minutes by car to Suzhou SIP Railway Station, the transportation hub of Yangtze River Delta region.

The hotel offers 355 spacious guestrooms and suites plus a Regency Club. In addition, there are five restaurants and lounges, more than 15,000 square feet of meeting, event and wedding venues, spa and wellness facilities, and a 25-meter indoor swimming pool on the third floor with floor-to-ceiling city views.

The 24-hour fitness center offers the latest cardio and strength equipment, which enables guests to share their workout stats via social media.

The hotel was designed by LTW Designworks and features a 29-story triangular atrium topped with a glass roof. The interior design “is inspired by Suzhou’s classic gardens offset by large-scale contemporary artworks and abstract patterns that reference the modern face of Suzhou,” the company said.

09/02/2014

FDI in China Drops to New Low; Anti-Trust Actions Blamed

Los Angeles, CA – China attracted $71.1 billion in foreign direct investment from January to July, down 0.4 percent on the same period in 2013, with FDI in the country reaching $7.8 billion in July alone, the first decline in overseas capital inflow in 17 months.

The slashing of spending in China’s manufacturing sector by companies from the US, Japan and the European Union is being blamed, primarily, on an increase in Beijing’s recent crackdown on foreign companies alleged to be engaging in “anti-competitive” business practices.

Over the past year, China has taken action against a number of ‘big ticket’ foreign companies, accusing them of breaking the country’s anti-trust regulations, which many feel are opaque and in violation of World Trade Organization rules.

Most recently luxury car brand Mercedes-Benz has been accused of manipulating prices for after-sales services in the country, while Beijing has imposed fines on milk powder companies including Mead Johnson Nutrition Co and Danone SA, alleging breach of its anti-monopoly laws.

China has also launched a probe into US-based Microsoft and chip maker Qualcomm over anti-trust claims, while several pharmaceutical companies including GlaxoSmithKline are facing probe in the country over alleged corruption and price fixing.

The probes have raised concerns among foreign investors that the country is targeting foreign firms operating there in an effort to, as one source out it, “flex its muscles.”

According to the Ministry of Commerce in Beijing, though, the anti-trust investigations aren’t responsible for the drop in FDI. Instead, the agency said, the “volatility of FDI” is a natural reaction to the country’s “efforts to balance the economic structure.”

The monthly decline “is not sufficient enough to reflect the general trend. It must not be linked to the anti-monopoly probes into some foreign invested companies or be associated with other baseless speculations,” said Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang.

“All market players should operate their business according to the law,” he added. “They should be punished according to the law and be subject to appropriate legal penalties if they violate the law.”

Beijing, he said, “expects foreign investment to keep a steady growth in the coming years and total FDI in 2014 to remain at a similar level with last year.”

08/21/2014

Tips On Stemming the Flood Of Counterfeit Goods

Los Angeles, CA – Despite significant government efforts, China remains the world’s primary source of counterfeit goods, constituting 84 percent of shipment seizures in the US in 2012.

Experts, in fact, predict that the online trade of counterfeit goods in China will surpass the physical trade of such goods in the next two to three years.

The problem seems too vast and overwhelming to surmount, however, says Bob Youill, senior managing director in the Global Risk and Investigations practice of New York-based FTI Consulting, “doing so will never be easy, but it can be done” if companies take the appropriate steps.

In an article published this week in the FTI Journal, Youill, an acknowledged authority on product piracy, makes several suggestions on what US-based exporters, importers, retailers and manufacturers can do to stop the production, distribution and sale of counterfeit goods.

First, he says, declare your intellectual property. An effective anti-counterfeiting strategy for China, he says, “begins with begins with registering the relevant intellectual property rights in China, as Beijing doesn’t automatically recognize IP rights registered overseas.”

That done, writes Youill, “quantify the risk to your brand with in-house counsel working directly with key stakeholders to review the company’s markets inside and outside China and organize those markets into those that must be protected and those that are less important to focus on.”

Next, it needs to be understood that the primary responsibility for managing counterfeiting will rest mostly with in-house counsel and will involve representatives from different corporate functions, including a PR lead, external consultants, and internal stakeholders. To achieve that goal, “build your anti-counterfeit team.”

When considering tackling organized counterfeiting operations, a “best course of action” should be strategized that carefully analyzes various tactics that could include ‘street sweeps,’ Customs watches, administrative action, and civil or criminal proceedings.

Lastly, says Youill, “There are a number of risks to manage when dealing with Chinese authorities, such as controlling sensitive corporate information, fulfilling government requests for documents, overseeing internal reporting and complying with reporting rules. So, learn how to work with them.”

08/15/2014

 

WTO Slams China for Lack of Trade Transparency

Los Angeles, CA – China is coming under harsh criticism from the World Trade Organization with members of the 160-nation body asserting that Beijing has failed to live up to key transparency commitments it made when it joined the organization in 2001.

The WTO Secretariat recently released the results of a critical 200-page report on China’s trade policy which concluded that, over the past two years, the country continues to exhibit a lack of clarity, organization and centralization of its trade rules and regulations.

EU ambassador Angelos Pangratis described the lack of clarity on trade issues as “striking,” while Canada’s representative also criticized the “often vague and insufficent information available” from Beijing.

Release of the report came during the WTO’s recent, bi-annual policy review held at the group’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Many of the 50 WTO members who took part in the review also criticized Beijing’s use of export restraints and taxes, restrictions on foreign investments and said it must improve protection for intellectual property rights (IPR).

The US Representative to the WTO, Christopher Wilson, said that China’s “apparently retaliatory conduct” in its use of duties, and said the country appeared to ignore a number of WTO findings against it.”

Wilson added, “An enormous amount of work remains if China is to close significant loopholes in its legal framework and reduce the unacceptably high IPR infringement levels.”

Responding to the WTO report, China’s Assistant Minister of Commerce, Wang Shouwen said its findings were “baseless” and that China “has one of the best track records of implementing WTO rulings.”

But, he added, though China “has made great strides to address these issues…it has pledged to do more to improve transparency.”

07/30/2014

BRICs Meet in Brazil, Create Bloc Development Bank

Los Angeles, CA – Leaders of the BRICS group of emerging powers – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – have decided to create their own development bank as a counterweight to what they perceive are “western-dominated” financial organizations like the US-based World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The move came during the BRICS Summit earlier this week in Fortaleza, Brazil. The summit comes as the five countries, whose economies together represent 18 percent of the world total, are experiencing sharp slowdowns in their once fast-paced rates of growth.

The new development bank will reportedly be based in Shanghai and is expected to be functional within two years. It will be capitalized at $50 billion, a figure that could grow to $100 billion to fund infrastructure projects. The fund would also have $100 billion at its disposal to weather economic hard times.

The new development bank’s first director will reportedly be from India.

“We remain disappointed and seriously concerned with the current non-implementation of the 2010 International Monetary Fund (IMF) reforms, which negatively impacts on the IMF’s legitimacy, credibility and effectiveness,” the group said in a joint press release.

The BRICs leaders are now in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia, meeting with their counterparts from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and several other Latin American nations to discuss future economic and trade cooperation.

BRIC giant China is particularly interested in Latin America. After this week’s discussions, Chinese President Xi Jinping will stay in Brazil to launch a China-Latin America forum with the leaders of several regional countries including Cuba, Argentina, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

China is growing in influence in the region. Last year, the country, two-way trade with the region amounted to more than $261 billion.

07/17/2014

More US Businesses Mull Trading in China’s RMB

New York, NY – German and French companies are using renminbi to trade (RMB) and now, increasingly, American businesses are too, according to a recent HSBC global survey of international business decision makers in 11 countries.

“More US businesses are using RMB to settle trade and more plan to use it amid expectations by business leaders that their trade with China will increase in the next 12 months,” the survey found.

Seventeen percent of US businesses leaders said their companies had used RMB to settle trade this year, up from nine percent last year.

With the global average of RMB use at 22 percent, this places US businesses just behind French (26 percent) and German (23 percent) businesses in terms of RMB use outside of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Furthermore, the survey found, 22 percent of US businesses, who aren’t already using RMB, said they plan to use it within the next six months to five years, up from eight percent a year ago.

Globally, an average of 32 percent of leaders said they planned to use RMB in the future.

“As China continues to internationalize its currency, there are more opportunities and considerations in trade, investment, cash management and funding for US companies,” said Steve Bottomley, Group General Manager, Senior Executive Vice President, and Head of Commercial Banking for North America, HSBC Bank USA.

US-based businesses, he said, “are becoming more comfortable using RMB and are increasingly making it, or looking to make it, a part of their competitive strategy and planning.”

Trade with China Set to Grow

US business leaders may have good reason to do so as 55 percent said they expect trade with China, the world’s largest trading nation, to grow over the next 12 months, though that percentage is down from last year’s survey, when76 percent said it would.

American businesses now sell about seven percent of their exports to China, compared to just one percent a decade ago. HSBC expects that to increase to 14 percent by 2030 with a third of China’s trade settled in RMB by 2015 and the currency fully convertible by 2017.

Still, the survey found most US businesses surveyed said they don’t use RMB because they don’t understand or aren’t aware of the benefits of using it.

However, two-thirds of companies in mainland China and Hong Kong said foreign firms doing business with China gain financial and relationship advantages from using RMB, including receiving discounts on RMB-denominated transactions.

“Hedge Against Fluctuations”

Additionally, global leaders said the top reasons for using RMB were meeting demand from counterparties, minimizing foreign exchange risks and increased convenience.

“US businesses can use RMB to hedge against fluctuations and potentially reach additional suppliers,” said HSBC’s Executive Vice President and Head of Large Corporate, Commercial Banking, Martin Brown.

“It may also improve business relationships by making it more convenient for their Chinese counterparties, who may be reluctant to take on dollar exposure because their cost base is denominated in renminbi,” Brown said.

When asked what might help non-RMB users reconsider trading in the currency, those surveyed suggested more simple procedures, further liberalization of the exchange rate; expansion of RMB eligible transactions; and the availability of more guidance.

The HSBC survey was conducted by Nielsen and involved business executives from 1,304 international companies that currently do business with Mainland China or are a business in Mainland China that imports/exports outside of the region.

The research surveyed international businesses in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, the UAE, the UK, and the US.

07/10/2014

FLASH: China Turns Thumbs Down on P3 Alliance

Los Angeles, CA – China has denied approval of the proposed P3 shipping alliance that would have combined the operations of Denmark’s Maersk Line, MSC of Switzerland and France-based CMA CGM into the largest ocean carrier consortium in the world.

The surprise move was announced this morning by China’s Ministry of Commerce, which released a statement saying that it had decided to prohibit the alliance after conducting “an anti-trust assessment.”

Had it been given the go-ahead, the Ministry said, the alliance would “have a far-reaching impact on the global shipping industry and cause a high level of concern in all sectors.”

It added that the alliance would increase the parties’ “combined capacity in container shipping on Asia-Europe routes” and give them a “substantial increase in market concentration.”

Regulatory agencies in both the US and the European Union green-lighted the proposed P3 earlier this year after stating that they wouldn’t pursue any antitrust issues regarding the deal.

The largest of the three carriers, Maersk, responded to the decision in a joint statement saying that “the partners have agreed to stop the preparatory work on the P3 Network… the P3 Network as initially planned will not come into existence.”

The consortium would have created a combined fleet of 250 ships operating on a global front that would handle an estimated 43 percent of Asia-to-Europe container shipping, 41 percent of the trans-Atlantic box trade, and almost a full quarter of the container volume in the transpacific market.

The alliance had aimed at allowing the three giant carriers to cut billions in annual costs by sharing ocean terminals, space on each others vessels, and exploiting each container carrier’s geographic strengths to move cargo faster and more economically.

06/17/2014