Tax-News.com: Paraguay Becomes Second South American Nation To Ratify TFA

by Mike Godfrey, Tax-News.com, Washington

07 March 2016

Paraguay ratified the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement on March 1, 2016, becoming the 70th WTO member – and the second South American member after Guyana – to do so.

Paraguay is also the first member of the MERCOSUR trade bloc to ratify the TFA, according to a statement from the WTO.

The TFA will create binding commitments across all WTO members to expedite the movement, release, and clearance of goods and improve cooperation among WTO members in customs matters, forming part of international efforts under the Doha Round to cut tax barriers to trade on a global basis. In addition, the Agreement states that assistance and support should be provided to help least-developed countries implement the TFA. Two-thirds of the WTO’s membership will need to ratify the TFA in order for the agreement to take legal effect.

In addition to Paraguay, the following WTO members have also accepted the TFA: Hong Kong, Singapore, the United States, Mauritius, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, Botswana, Trinidad and Tobago, South Korea, Nicaragua, Niger, Belize, Switzerland, Taiwan, China, Liechtenstein, Laos, New Zealand, Togo, Thailand, the European Union (on behalf of its 28 member states), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Pakistan, Panama, Guyana, Côte d’Ivoire, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Kenya, Myanmar, Norway, Vietnam, Brunei, Ukraine, Zambia, Lesotho, Georgia, Seychelles, Jamaica, Mali, and Cambodia.

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Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton Stretch Facts In Flint Debate

This story was originally published on FactCheck.org.

Summary

False and exaggerated claims from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders include:

  • Clinton twisted a Sanders vote on the Wall Street bailout package to claim he was “against the auto bailout.”
  • Sanders said he doesn’t support fracking because scientists tell him it’s “doing terrible things to water systems all over this country.” The EPA says fracking hasn’t led to “widespread, systemic impacts” on drinking water.
  • Clinton said that an auto parts supplier in Wisconsin got part of the auto bailout and is now moving to Europe. The company didn’t receive any bailout money, though it benefited indirectly from the program.
  • Sanders promised that the U.S. would no longer have the world’s largest prison population by the end of his first term. We can’t predict the future, but that would require a reduction of 500,000 inmates in four years.
  • Clinton claimed that when she was a senator she scolded Wall Street executives for “wrecking the economy,” but the speech in question didn’t go that far.
  • Sanders claimed NAFTA had caused the loss of 800,000 jobs, but independent economists say the impact on jobs has been small.

The two candidates also repeated claims we’ve checked before on guns, childhood poverty and unemployment.

Analysis

The Democratic presidential candidates met in Flint, Michigan, for the March 6 debate, hosted by CNN.

Clinton: Sanders Against Auto Bailout

Clinton accused Sanders of being “against the auto bailout” in 2009. That’s a stretch.

Clinton: He was against the auto bailout. In January of 2009, President-elect Obama asked everybody in the Congress to vote for the bailout.

… I voted to save the auto industry. He voted against the money that ended up saving the auto industry. I think that is a pretty big difference.

In fact, Sanders voiced support for a $15 billion package of aid to the auto industry after it passed the House Dec. 10, 2008, in the final days of the Bush administration. The measure was supported by President-elect Obama and an overwhelming majority of House Democrats, but died in the Senate when it failed to reach the floor for a vote.

After the Senate failed to act, President Bush decided to help automakers by tapping the Wall Street bailout package that Sanders had opposed and then Sen. Clinton had supported on Oct. 1, 2008. Specifically, Bush agreed to provide $13.4 billion to GM and Chrysler in Troubled Assets Relief Program funds, as explained in a January 2009 report by the Congressional Research Service.

Clinton referred to a bill that came up in January 2009, but that measure was mostly about bailing out failing financial institutions and reducing home foreclosures, not about saving the auto industry, as Clinton claimed.

The Senate vote on Jan. 15, 2009, was on a measure that would have blocked the Treasury Department from gaining access to the second half of a $700 billion Wall Street bailout package. President-elect Obama urged Senate Democrats to allow the release of the second $350 billion — which included an additional $4 billion already promised to automakers by Bush. But Obama made no mention at the time of using TARP to provide any more money for the automakers.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Obama’s chief economic adviser, Lawrence H. Summers, promised that Obama would devote $50 billion to $100 billion of the $350 billion to “a sweeping effort to address the foreclosure crisis.”

The only mention of possible aid to automakers came almost as an afterthought, in the second to last paragraph. Summers wrote: “Firms in the auto industry … will only receive additional assistance in the context of a comprehensive restructuring designed to achieve long-term viability.”

It’s true as Clinton said that she voted to release the money, and Sanders voted to block it. And ultimately, the Obama administration disbursed nearly $80 billion to General Motors, Chrysler Corp. and others in the auto industry (all but $9.3 billion of which was eventually paid back).

But at the time of the vote, it was by no means clear that Obama would use more than one-fifth of the $350 billion for an auto bailout. And most of the money still went for the bank bailouts that Sanders opposed.

So Clinton’s claim that her Jan. 15, 2009, vote was “to save the auto industry” is — to be charitable — quite a stretch.


ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sanders on Fracking

Sanders said he does not support fracking because “scientists … tell me that fracking is doing terrible things to water systems all over this country.” While the Environmental Protection Agency published a report last June that found fracking has led to “specific instances” of contamination to drinking water resources, it concluded fracking has not led to “widespread, systemic impacts.”

As debate moderator Anderson Cooper explained, fracking, also called hydraulic fracturing, “is a process of oil and gas drilling that’s led to a significant increase in American energy production and jobs, but also raises serious environmental concerns.”

Sanders’ response, when asked about his position on fracking, was succinct: “I do not support fracking.” Sanders went on to say, “I talk to scientists who tell me that fracking is doing terrible things to water systems all over this country.”

As SciCheck has written previously, scientists at the EPA would disagree. The EPA’s June 2015 report states that the number of cases of contamination was small compared with the number of wells across the country.

EPA, June 4: We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States. Of the potential mechanisms identified in this report, we found specific instances where one or more mechanisms led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells. The number of identified cases, however, was small compared to the number of hydraulically fractured wells.

This isn’t to say fracking has been proven safe. The EPA’s report does indicate contamination can occur. And Sanders was correct when he followed up his comments on fracking by noting its potential impact on climate change.

Scientists have found that the process of fracking can lead to methane leaks. According to the EPA: “Pound for pound, the comparative impact of CH4 [methane] on climate change is more than 25 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period.”

Another Stretch on Auto Bailout

Clinton said that Johnson Controls, an auto parts supplier in Wisconsin, “got part of the [auto] bailout … and now they want to move headquarters to Europe.” Johnson Controls did not receive any bailout funds, although the company supported it and benefited indirectly by the government’s actions to keep U.S. auto manufacturers in business.

Clinton: I am also going to go after companies like Johnson Controls in Wisconsin. They came and got part of the bailout because they were an auto parts supplier and now they want to move headquarters to Europe. They are going to have to pay an exit fee. We are going to stop this kind of job exporting and we are going to start importing and growing jobs again in our country.

Clinton has added Johnson Controls to her talking points of late. In a March 1 speech, Clinton said taxpayers “helped to bail out” Johnson Controls, and now it is “turning their back on America” and moving its headquarters to Ireland.

It’s true that Johnson Controls announced in late January that it will purchase Tyco International, which is based in Ireland, and the merged company will be located in Ireland. The merger will save an estimated $150 million annually in taxes.

But Johnson Controls did not receive any bailout funds.

On Dec. 4, 2008, Keith Wandell, the president and CEO of Johnson Controls, testified in support of the auto bailout, saying the industry’s failure would have a devastating impact on small suppliers that provide parts to Johnson Controls.

Once approved by Congress, the Automotive Industry Financing Program provided nearly $80 billion to General Motors and Chrysler, including more than $400 million in loans to the two companies through the Auto Supplier Support Program, according to the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The auto supplier program guaranteed auto suppliers would receive timely payments from the troubled manufacturers.

But Johnson Controls did not receive any of that money. The company recently issued a statement that said: “Contrary to recent reports and comments, Johnson Controls did not request or receive aid from the government during the financial crisis. Nor did it declare bankruptcy or seek other means of protection like many of its competitors and other suppliers did at the time.”

Sanders’ Prison Promise

Sanders promised to reduce the prison population so that by the end of his first term the U.S. will no longer have the world’s largest prison population. We can’t predict the future, but let’s put his promise into context: It would require reducing the U.S. prison population by more than 500,000 inmates in four years.

Sanders: But where we are right now is having more than 2.2 million people in jail — more than any other country on earth. This is a campaign promise, at the end of my first term, we will not have more people in jail than any other country.

Sanders made the same promise during the Feb. 11 debate. He’s right that there are about 2.2 million people in the U.S. who are incarcerated in state and federal prisons and local jails. That is the most of any country, according to a new report released Feb. 3 by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research in London. China is second with 1.65 million.

But as others have pointed out — including Vox, Slate, and U.S. News and World Report — this would be a difficult if not impossible promise to keep, in part because most prisoners in the U.S. are held in state, not federal prisons, as the chart below from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows.

Prisoners

Also, the total U.S. prison population — including those held in local jails — has been above 2 million since the early 2000s, as can be seen in Figure 1 of a Bureau of Justice Statistics report that plots incarceration data from 2000 through 2014.

We asked Warren Gunnels, policy director of the Sanders campaign, how the senator intends on keeping that promise. He said that Sanders “will appoint a commission of criminal justice experts” to propose reforms, and he “will rely on both legislative and executive actions” to implement reforms proposed by Sanders and the commission.

As we said, we cannot predict the future and leave it for voters to decide how realistic his promise is.

Clinton’s Talk to Wall Street

Clinton claimed that when she was a senator she scolded Wall Street executives for “wrecking the economy.”

Clinton: [L]et’s have some facts instead of some rhetoric for a change. I went to Wall Street when I was a United States senator. I told them they were wrecking the economy. I asked for a moratorium on foreclosures.

Not so much. When Clinton addressed a Wall Street audience in 2007 about the housing crisis, which was about to trigger the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, she actually said:

Clinton, Dec. 5, 2007: Now these economic problems are certainly not all Wall Street’s fault – not by a long shot.

She also said at the outset of her remarks:

Clinton, Dec. 5, 2007: I’m proud to represent New York, to represent the financial capital of the world. I see a lot of people who I recognize in this audience that are integral to what happens in our markets, how we create wealth, how we provide a dynamic economy that will hold out the promise of a better life for so many of our fellow citizens, but indeed for people far flung from here.

It’s true that Clinton eventually went on to say that Wall Street “has played a significant role in the current problems,” had “financed irresponsible mortgage lending,” and was guilty of a “bond rating system riddled with conflicts of interest.”

And she indeed called for a voluntary moratorium on foreclosures of at least 90 days, along with a voluntary rate freeze on adjustable-rate mortgages to subprime borrowers.

But there was no fiery accusation that her constituents were “wrecking the economy.”

Sanders on Trade Deals

Sanders blamed “disastrous” trade policies for the loss of jobs in Michigan and across the country. But his claim that the North American Free Trade Agreement cost “800,000 jobs nationwide” has been disputed by studies from independent economists.

Sanders: NAFTA, supported by the secretary cost, us 800,000 jobs nationwide, tens of thousands of jobs in the Midwest. Permanent normal trade relations with China cost us millions of jobs.

As we have written before, economists have debated what impact NAFTA — the trade deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico that took effect on Jan. 1, 1994 — has had on jobs. We wrote about the issue during the 2008 presidential campaign, finding that “[n]early all economic studies say NAFTA’s net effect on jobs was negligible.”

A 2015 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service concurs that the impact on the economy “has been relatively small”:

CRS, April 16, 2015: In reality, NAFTA did not cause the huge job losses feared by the critics or the large economic gains predicted by supporters. The net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest, primarily because trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for a small percentage of U.S. GDP.

Sanders’ 800,000 figure comes from an anti-NAFTA source, the Economic Policy Institute, which is partly funded by labor unions.

He has also cited EPI’s work on the impact of establishing permanent normal trade relations with China in 2001, when China was admitted to the World Trade Organization. Recent independent studies do support the idea that the increased competition from Chinese imports led to the loss of manufacturing jobs.

EPI’s work puts the number at 2.4 million “lost or displaced” manufacturing jobs from 2001 to 2013 (and more jobs beyond that in other industries).

An August 2014 paper by economists primarily with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology put the net job loss because of China import competition at 2 million to 2.4 million over the 1999 to 2011 period, in both manufacturing and other industries outside of manufacturing.

Some of the authors of that report wrote in a 2016 paper on this topic: “At the national level, employment has fallen in U.S. industries more exposed to import competition, as expected, but offsetting employment gains in other industries have yet to materialize.”

MarketWatch reported on that 2016 paper, whose lead author was MIT’s David Autor, earlier this year, saying that the findings ran counter to longtime economic theory on trade deals.

MarketWatch, Jan. 27: The idea that free trade causes such permanent damage is generally viewed as a ridiculous proposition among mainstream economists. Economic theory has long insisted that free trade creates far more winners than losers.

While that’s usually been the case historically, the rise of China has put the argument to the test.

The Autor paper does say that the impact on jobs by China might fade away, as wages have risen in China, reducing the country’s advantage over other nations.

An April 2015 paper by the Federal Reserve’s Justin Pierce and Yale University’s Peter Schott also found “a link” between the 18 percent drop in manufacturing jobs between March 2001 and March 2007 and the U.S. granting of PNTR status to China, though the paper does not put a number on how many were lost specifically because of trade with China.

Democratic Deja Vu

Clinton and Sanders repeated claims that we have heard before:

  • Clinton said “on average, 90 people a day are killed by gun violence in our country.” Annual gun deaths do average about 90 people a day, but only a third of those are homicides. Most gun deaths are suicides — a violent act, but not a crime, as some voters may think Clinton’s claim implied. According to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 63 percent, or 21,175, of the 33,636 firearm deaths in 2013 were suicides. Homicides totaled 11,208, and the rest were unintentional discharges (505), legal intervention/war (467) and undetermined (281).
  • Clinton also repeated her inaccurate claim that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005 “removed any accountability from the makers and the sellers” of guns. As the Congressional Research Service pointed out in a 2012 report, the legislation, which Sanders voted for and Clinton voted against, included six exceptions where civil lawsuits could still be filed, including cases in which a firearm seller acted with negligence, cases involving the transfer of a firearm with the knowledge that it would be used to commit a crime, and cases in which manufacturers and sellers marketed or sold a firearm in violation of state or federal law.
  • Sanders claimed that “we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on Earth.” His campaign previously told us the senator was referring to a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. However, among the 38 countries listed, the U.S. ranked seventh in “relative childhood poverty,” behind Turkey, Israel, Mexico, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria.
  • Sanders repeated a claim that “51 percent of African American kids today are unemployed.” That’s false. As we recently wrote, when Donald Trump made a similar claim, the official unemployment rate for blacks ages 16 to 19 in January was 25.2 percent. We also calculated, with the help of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of black youths who are unemployed and underemployed. That is, all those ages 16 to 19 who are unemployed, marginally attached to the workforce, and working part time but want full-time jobs. That rate would have been 38.8 percent in January.

For sources on this story, visit FactCheck.org.

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In numbers: Scotland’s financial services sector

The number of people employed across Scotland’s finance sector has reached almost 157,000, according to a study published today.

Trade body TheCityUK, which represents Britain’s financial services industry, said the sector’s headcount north of the Border grew by 6,300 during 2014 – in sharp contrast to steep falls in employment seen in Wales and the West Midlands.

Scotland’s finance sector employs 156,700 people

TheCityUK

Overall, some 156,700 people in Scotland were working in the financial and related professional services at the end of 2014, today’s report revealed.

In Edinburgh, the sector’s workforce grew by 1,400 to hit 52,800, while Glasgow saw the creation of 2,600 roles to bring the city’s financial services headcount to 37,800.

Chris Cummings, chief executive of TheCityUK, said: “This is a national industry, the importance of which goes well beyond London and the south east.

“The financial services sector employs over one million people in the UK, with another one million in the related professional services industry – two-thirds of whom are based outside the M25.”

He added: “The sector has helped to raise living standards by spreading high productivity and high-value added employment around the country in a sustainable way. The value added to the economy per financial and related professional services worker is £87,000, compared to the £52,000 annual average for workers in other sectors.”

READ MORE: Fund management sets fresh £7tn asset record

Of the almost 2.2 million people working in the sector across the UK, 417,000 are employed in banking, while insurance roles account for a further 309,000. Across the professional services arena, management consultancy accounts for some 483,000 roles, with accounting and legal services employing 319,000 and 314,000 respectively.

Today’s report also highlights data from the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) showing that Scotland had an 8 per cent share of the UK’s bank lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), totalling £7.7 billion. Small firms in Glasgow accounted for £1.2bn of that lending figure.

Scotland also enjoyed a “sizeable increase” in private equity investment during 2014, with the amount of money ploughed into firms by private equity and venture capital houses doubling year-on-year to reach £206m.

TheCityUK said that, overall, financial and related professional services employ more than 7 per cent of the UK workforce, produce nearly 12 per cent of total economic output and contribute £66bn in taxes.

Cummings added: “We must not lose sight of the importance of an industry that connects us all. Keeping the UK economy strong and globally competitive will be a key policy challenge for the foreseeable future.”

Its report also shows there are about 9,000 bank branches in the UK and almost 70,000 cash machines, which delivered about 2.8 billion cash withdrawals in 2014. The UK has the most cash machines in the European Union, with more per person than France, Germany or Italy.

BBA figures also reveal how the retail banking landscape is changing as more customers go online rather than visit their local branch. The banking trade organisation predicts that customers will use their mobile phones more than 2.3 billion times to check their current accounts in 2020 – up from just 86 million times in 2010. Over the same period, the number of account interactions in branches is predicted to drop from 502 million to just 268 million.

Some 22.9 million banking apps were downloaded in 2014, a rise of 8.2 million in one year. Banking app log-ins now amount to more than 10 million a day.

Although cash remains a popular choice – accounting for 90 per cent of transactions worth less than £20 – TheCityUK predicts that cash payments are likely to decline over the coming decade “due to growth in mobile phone payment services, a continuing migration towards plastic cards and migration of spending from the high street to the internet”.

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Anne Applebaum: Leaving the EU will weaken Britain and its place in Europe

If this were 1996 instead of 2016, if the greatest crisis facing Europe was the Bosnian war, if the United States were the only superpower and if Britain still had an army of 250,000 — and a foreign policy to match — then I might say, yes: If you are willing to pay the economic price, then do it. Vote Leave.

But this is 2016, not 1996. The West, as we used to call it, no longer dominates the international political system. Western ideas — which are all British ones — about democracy, rule of law and competitive, free-market economics are in retreat around the world. American prestige and influence are waning everywhere, and after this year’s presidential election they will certainly shrink further. 

America itself may also be changing. Donald Trump, the Republican Party presidential front-runner, advocates torture, mass deportation and religious discrimination. He cares nothing for Nato, the Special Relationship, or security guarantees. Of Europe, he has written that “their conflicts are not worth American lives. Pulling back from Europe would save this country millions of dollars annually”. But even if Trump loses, the rise of isolationism in the US cannot be discounted — he clearly has a constituency — and the possibility that the US military presence in Europe will weaken cannot be ignored. 

Not that Nato even matters as much as it once did in any case, for the greatest challenges to Western democracies right now are not strictly military. On the eastern borders of the Continent, a revanchist Russia seeks to undo the liberal order and undermine Nato by exporting corruption, buying politicians, funding radical parties and manipulating social media. 

To the south, an explosion of fanaticism, violence and poverty has transformed Europe’s hinterland. Across the Continent and beyond, populist advocates of protectionism, xenophobia and authoritarianism are growing loud and powerful.   

If you imagine these to be problems that only afflict people living in faraway countries of which you know little, then think again. Muslim extremism is already here: fanaticism can’t be stopped by a barbed wire fence, as Iain Duncan Smith imagines, or even by the choppy waters of the Channel. The murderers of soldier Lee Rigby outside Woolwich Barracks in 2013 didn’t cross any EU borders to get here; the terrorists who blew up Tube trains in 2005 were all British too. 

As for the powerful, influential advocates of crony capitalism, they’re all here already too. Have a stroll around central London, feel the presence of Russian, Kazakh, Chinese and Arab money and think about how much of it is being spent on lawyers and lobbyists who want to mould the laws and customs of this country in their favour, the better to evade British taxes and to launder illegal money. 

‘Outside Europe, we will have fewer allies to help us fight terrorism, fewer friends to help us resist the power of the new oligarchies’

Anne Applebaum

Nato, even if it stays together, will not protect us from these financial, political and ideological threats, let alone from the hybrid wars of the future. Nor will the World Trade Organisation, the United Nations security council, or any other international institution you care to name. The only international institution explicitly committed both to democratic government and to rule-based markets in Europe is the European Union. It’s an institution that we have helped shape, and although we don’t always realise it, it promotes our view of the world, advocates competition and campaigns for the removal of barriers to trade. 

It’s also an institution within which we have allies, and can create coalitions. Inside Europe, for example, we were able to impose meaningful sanctions on Russia’s most corrupt oligarchs, putting them in place and keeping them in place thanks to a EU process. Inside Europe, we already share experience in counter-terrorism and information about terrorists with other Europeans who are fighting the same things as us. Inside Europe, we already have recourse if our people or products are subjected to discrimination.

Outside Europe, we will be on our own. We will have fewer allies to help us fight terrorism, fewer friends to help us resist the power of the new oligarchies. We will have fewer partners who share our vision of rules-based free trade. The US — even if it isn’t run by a President Trump — is right now negotiating a free trade deal with the EU, and has no interest in turning around and doing a separate one with us. The Chinese might do a deal — they like negotiating with weaker partners — but I hope no one here expects a country which steals intellectual property and commercial information to hold up some British notion of “rule of law” or “fair play” in trade.  

Finally, by leaving the EU we will not isolate ourselves from the wave of protectionism and xenophobia on the Continent. Brexit is more likely to strengthen them. Marine Le Pen in France wants the EU to fall apart and for Nato to be dismantled. So do radical parties in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, central Europe and even Germany. 

It is a grave mistake to imagine that these continental eurosceptics are our allies. All of them want to put an end to the Europe of markets, trade and rule of law. All of them want to destroy the EU because they believe free trade is a bulwark against the authoritarianism they want to build. 

If Britain leaves, it will help them make their case. If they succeed, the result will be a Europe from which Britain is excluded, and within which British views and values will be diminished. The result could be a world which is less democratic, less law-abiding and less free. Britain will not be richer, happier or more powerful as a result.  

Anne Applebaum is an editor of InFacts, a journalistic enterprise making the fact-based case for Britain to stay in the EU, and a columnist for the Washington Post.

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Li Keqiang's speech unveils a path to stronger economic growth and a greater responsible China

Full coverage: 2016 NPC & CPPCC Sessions

China is kicking off its parliament session; it is like the super bowl, the nucleus of China’s political calendar. The all important meeting is taking place in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People where, some 3,000 delegates come together to caucus the country’s affairs and finalize China’s new year plan. The session is scheduled to conclude on March 16.

Before the proceedings began for the opening session of China’s annual legislature a flag raising ceremony took place at the historic Tiananmen Square, large sums of people poured in to witness the ceremony.

Once the delegates were seated after the national anthem Premier Li Keqiang took the stage to deliver the much awaited government work report.  The Premier stated that it is “a difficult battle” especially when the world is exhibiting sluggish economic growth but China being a major driver of the world economy is ready and steadfast in dealing with the challenges. The Premier started off with a review of the previous year, he talked about the challenges as to how the Government is planning on using the Challenges as opportunities to move towards the new economic growth model. 

Premier Li Keqiang’s annual work report revealed that the economic growth target has been set at 6.5-7 percent for this year. The target is roughly close to a growth of a trillion dollars for the year 2016 and also the average annual growth rate for the next five years is set at above 6.5 percent which means growth of a trillion or more every year for the next five years which is a healthy sign of forecasting stability.

The major areas highlighted in the Premier’s speech are not just buzz words but actual reforms and policies which will be formally finalized during the annual meeting of the legislature. The major areas are; Growth, Innovation-Driven Development, Modern Industries, Internet, Energy Revolution, Urbanization, Maritime Power, Environment, Opening-up, Belt & Road Initiative, Global Economic Governance, International Responsibility, People’s well-being and Strategy and Security. 

The first point highlighted by the Premier accounts for “economic growth” and 2016 marks the starting point of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan till 2020 and by the end of this five year plan it is forecasted that China will eventually have a strong domestic consumer base which will not only mean stable economic growth but also a prosperous China; as by 2020, the 2010 GDP and the GDP per capita income will be doubled through innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development.

China has been striving really hard in recent years by investing heavily in research and development to steer China’s path for growth towards “innovation-driven development” this is why this point is an integral part of the new five year plan. The Premier stated that in the 13th five year plan special emphasis will be given to “breakthroughs in core technologies including information communication, new energy, new materials, aviation, biological medicine and intelligent manufacturing.” China will try and forcefully initiate international major science projects, indulge in advanced research.  Policies will be set to ease the criteria for foreign talents’ applying for permanent residence.

The process of curbing waste production started last year and in the next five years will focus on “modern industries” which will support the initiative of “Made in China 2025.” Premier Li said, “Innovation is the primary driving force for development and must occupy a central place in China’s development strategy.” That is why key areas of focus will involve information technology, new energy, biological technology and low-carbon industries, as well as high-end equipment and materials. Li said, “We will promote greater user of Chinese equipment, technology, standards, and services in the international market, and help Chinese manufacturing brands gain international recognition.”

The Premier stressed the importance of “internet” during his speech and during the next five years, China’s internet revolution will go through a phase of metamorphosis through which it will be one of the major drivers of the new economy of China. Focus will be given to; “Speed up building a new generation of information infrastructure, Advance 5G telecom technology, Implementation of ‘Internet Plus’, Promotion of  big data and social governance innovation.”

In today’s world the energy is a hot topic and in the coming five years China will endeavor to bring about an “energy revolution” “by establishing a modern clean energy system and by building a coordinated and integrated energy network” and in the process lowering carbon emissions at a drastic level. 

China’s Challenges also include “urbanization” and until 2020 the government will take measures to accelerate urbanizing rural migrants and will take key steps to build world-class city clusters in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta.

China’s massive trade volumes over the seas demand “maritime power” and to develop this, China needs to strengthen maritime law enforcement, safeguard maritime interests, maintain free navigation and maritime passage safety, improve sea-related dialogue and cooperation mechanisms with neighboring countries to boost pragmatic maritime cooperation.

As highlighted during the energy revolution point, “environment” is going to be a major policy matter for the 13th five year plan. For coal consumption the target is to keep annual energy consumption within five billion tons. A strict environmental protection regime will be set to improve the environment, Control carbon emissions, honor climate commitments and deeply participate into global climate governance. Premier Li said, “Over the next five years, we should aim to ensure that water consumption, energy consumption, and carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP are cut by 23 percent, 15 percent, and 18 percent, respectively, and that forest coverage reaches 23.04 percent.”

As part of China’s ongoing endeavors of “opening up the coming five years will also experience China’s further opening up to boost trade, expand international production capacity cooperation in sectors including steel, railway, telecommunications, machinery and aviation. It is forecasted that the service trade’s share in total foreign trade will see a spike of 16 percent. Premier Li said, “We must make consistent efforts to encourage the public to start businesses and make innovations.” As part of the strategy of a more open China, restrictions will be relaxed in the service sector for foreign capital. The previous year paved the way for widening the market access on the securities and banking sector and in this five year plan it will be further expanded upon. Foreign investment will be welcomed to flow into advanced manufacturing, high-tech industries and energy saving sectors.

Special efforts will be made to further China’s win-win strategy to build new bilateral agreements with nations and mechanisms will be set for the Yuan’s convertibility to promote its global use and access.

“Belt and Road” initiative will be one of the prime objectives. Measures will be taken to speedup the work and to open up the landscape.  The government will aim to boost cooperation with international financial institutions, while bolstering the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the BRICS New Development Bank; consequentially improving operations for the Silk Road Fund. All these measures will put the work on a fast track.

China aims to be a responsible player with in the “global economic governance” system and will try to safeguard the role of the World Trade Organization and push forward multilateral trade negotiations. Within the ambit of the Belt and Road initiative China will actively set up free trade areas with partner countries.  Free Trade Agreements for creating an environment of win-win will be followed through and Li said, “We wish to actively negotiate and sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement. We will help speed up negotiations on the establishment of the China-Japan-ROK free trade zone. We will work to make progress in negotiations on investment agreements between China and the United States and between China and the European Union.”

 China will actively participate in the making of international rules on the Internet, deep sea, polar region and space and of international standards.

China prides itself in-terms of “international responsibility” and with the 13th five year plan coming in to affect, it will Increase assistance to developing countries in education, medicine, disaster relief, animal protection and poverty alleviation. China will work with the international community to ensure international public security and will oppose any forms of terrorism.

Just like the goals which were set in the 12th five year plan for the “people’s well-being” through which China was able to uplift millions of people from poverty, this endeavor will continue in the 13th five year plan with renewed zeal as the new target is to lift 50 million people out of poverty and build a moderately prosperous society in all aspects. China will fully implement the two-child policy, with the total population reaching 1.42 billion.

China will equip its self to meet the challenges of “Strategy and security” whether they may be in the sphere of politics, territory, economy, society, terrorism, resources or the internet. The defense spending will see an increase of 7-8% in 2016 and during the next five years China will set policies which will see it poised for advancing its national defense and military modernization plans. 

After reviewing the aims of the 13th five year plan of China it seems China is ready to sail through these challenging times when the world economy is growing at its slowest pace. it seems China will remain as the growth engine for the world and the coming five years will witness some of the red ribbons being cut on the projects of the belt and road initiative which will not only make China strong but the fruit of this initiative will be shared by all.

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No 10 Did Not Push Business Leader, Says Fallon

By Jon Craig, Chief Political Correspondent

Claims Downing Street put pressure on the British Chambers of Commerce to suspend its director general for Brexit comments are for “conspiracy theorists”, Michael Fallon told Sky News.

The Defence Secretary denied that Number 10 nobbled the BCC after John Longworth make comments in support of Britain leaving the EU in an interview with Sky last week.

His comments come as Mr Longworth resigned leaving him free to campaign for the UK to leave the EU.

Explaining his decision to stand down, he told Sky News: “I would like to be free to be able to express my own views on the EU referendum debate.”

Mr Longworth was suspended for speaking out in support of Brexit because it did not reflect the group’s view – the majority are in favour of remaining in the EU.

Director General Of BCC Is Suspended After Advocating Leaving EU On Sky News

Director General Of BCC Is Suspended After Advocating Leaving EU On Sky News

The business group has denied being influenced by politicians or interest groups, but UKIP MP Douglas Carswell tweeted: “Well done Downing Street. You got your man.

“This is what Project Fear looks like. Nasty people in Number 10.”

:: BCC Chief’s Departure Is Coup For Leave Camp

Mr Fallon said: “The board of the BCC have made it very clear that this was their decision and there was no external pressure from anybody else.

“You get, I think, people who want to leave Europe, to vote no in the referendum, are seeing conspiracy theories everywhere now because they don’t want to answer the basic question, which is if you leave Europe where are you going?

“They have to start answering these questions instead of coming up with rather bizarre conspiracy theories that here the British Chambers of Commerce have flatly denied.”

A BCC spokesman said Mr Longworth has accepted his sympathy for the Out campaign was “likely to create confusion” over the group’s official stance.

His comments had been at odds with the majority of BCC members, who are in favour of staying in the EU, according to the organisation’s own research.

Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson.

Nora Senior, president of the BCC, said: “John Longworth and the BCC Board recognise that John’s personal view on the referendum is likely to create confusion regarding the BCC’s neutral stance going forward.”

The former boss of the Confederation of British Industry, Sir Richard Lambert, criticised Mr Longworth’s decision to speak out saying it was the job of directors of trade associations to represent the views of their members.

He said: “A recent survey of BCC members found that three-fifths of them wanted to stay in the EU, yet Longworth spoke a week ago in favour of leaving. He was, he said, only speaking in a personal capacity – but that is not his job.”

Sir Richard said it was not surprise that Mr Longworth had been suspended.

Earlier, Boris Johnson had described the BCC’s decision to suspend Mr Longworth as “absolutely scandalous”.

The London mayor, a prominent supporter of the Out campaign, had said: “It cannot be right that when someone has the guts to dissent from the establishment line, he or she is immediately crushed by the agents of Project Fear.”

Adam Marshall has been named as acting director general of the BCC until a permanent replacement is appointed.

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