TrendLines

October 5, 2018

History repeats, and so it was with the Silver Way, successor to China’s ancient Silk Road.Today’s China is a rising world power that can be bewildering, increasingly willing to go its own way outside the structure of multinational institutions.China bewildered the Spanish of 450 years ago as well, restricting navigation, wanting to set the terms of trade, rarely amenable to either persuasion or the use of force – expecting the world to accept it on its own terms . . .
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  – philosopher George Santayana. 

SURPRISING as it may seem, the looming U.S. — China trade war is a complete about-turn from the first global trading exchange between China and the Americas — the Ruta de la Plata or Silver Way.
That trade lasted for 250 profitable years, ushering in what we now term “globalisation”.
Its largely forgotten history is concisely recalled (87 pages) in The Silver Way (Penguin - China Specials, 2017), by Peter Gordon, founder/editor of the Asian Review of Books, and historian Juan Jose Morales, former President of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.
The trade left some enduring benefits: spurring economic and cultural exchange between East and West; the rise of Mexico City as the world’s first “world city”; a population spike and agricultural transformation in China through the introduction of New World crops like maize, sweet potatoes and peanuts; and, not least, the foundation of the first global currency, in the shape of the Spanish silver dollar.
The link between the narrative of the Silver Way and the later Anglo-American narrative is silver — or, rather, the monetisation and integration of the world’s economies via currency and financial markets.
The link remains today in the form of the US dollar and the Chinese yuan — both of which are descended from the Spanish peso.
In 1565, the Spanish explorer Andres de Urdaneta discovered how to sail east from Asia, back across the Pacific to the Americas.
By following “Urdaneta’s route”, his friend, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, was able to establish Manila in 1571 as a Spanish regional trading hub, to foster an East-West trade — most importantly, silver from the New World in exchange for Southeast Asian spices, Chinese porcelain and silks, Indian fabrics, and rubies and emeralds from India and Ceylon.
This led to the creation of the world’s first global shipping line — the Manila galleon.




September 27, 2018

MAURITIUS is becoming increasingly important in the structuring of Australian METS business into Africa. Liquidity is increasing in Mauritius because of an inflow of cash from Africa . . .

PERTH — Australian resources and investment entities looking for opportunities to gain a foothold across the African continent have been urged to use the small island state of Mauritius, off Africa’s east coast, as their gateway.
 Speaking at the Paydirt 2018 Africa Down Under  mining conference in Perth, Sanjiv Bhasin, Chief Executive of AfrAsia Bank, said Mauritius was unusual in the combination of financial, taxation, investment and political regimes it could offer international investment communities wanting to expand, or to tap into Africa’s exploration, project development and mining opportunities.
He pointed to Mauritius’ simple tax jurisdiction, its access to 44 Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs), and a network of Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (IPPAs) which offered full investment protection in key African nations.
Bhasin said the IPPAs guaranteed Mauritian investment in regard to expropriation and social unrest in contracting states, while also providing arrangements for settlement of disputes between investors and contracting states.
“That is the sort of investment comfort Australian miners and explorers are looking for in joint venture and other commercial partnerships covering African resources projects,” he said.
Bhasin also urged Australia’s resources players to utilise what he called “Mauritius’ efficient investment structures pertaining to Africa”.
“This includes multi-currency capital raisings in every form, from debt to equity, backed by an OECD-compliant jurisdiction and regional arbitration centre,” he said.
“The Stock Exchange of Mauritius (SEM) also offers the potential for a dual Mauritian-Australian Stock Exchange listing, and that has appeal.”
Addressing the same conference at a break-out session, Kareena Neisius, Vice President of the newly-formed Australian Chamber of Commerce in Mauritius, emphasised the importance of Mauritius as a hub for Africa for Australian State Government trade representatives.




September 5, 2018

Robert Horn
ATI Correspondent

Government and industry measures to cut waste, especially plastic waste, are providing an opening for investors . . .




September 5, 2018

SEOUL - It seems simple: South Korea has labour market woes, and to solve them, President Moon Jae-in proposes a higher minimum wage, more fiscal spending on the social safety net, and higher taxation on larger corporates. But there lies the rub . . .




August 23, 2018

AMONG its 10 target industries for development, Thailand is heavily promoting bioscience and its associated medical research and technology spinoffs  .  .  .

THAILAND has staged three seminars/workshops in Australia to promote investment opportunities in emerging industries and tertiary education.
There was a particular focus on the education sector and on new technology linked to smart farming.
Also high on the development agenda in Thailand are emerging areas in life sciences.
Through its Thailand Centre for Excellence in Life Sciences (TCELS), a division of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Thailand is offering to assist foreign firms wanting to commercialise their innovations.




August 8, 2018

Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s looks at the defence, energy and economic security drivers behind China’s grand plan for a new Silk Road . . .

CHINA’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a gigantic venture capital project, according to a briefing note by the Standard & Poor’s China Senior Analysis Group.
It says an undertaking of the magnitude of BRI has potentially large payoffs as well as large risks.
Success will rest on whether China’s seed money in the BRI will create creditworthy projects that attract true private-sector outside money. “Seen this way, the BRI is arguably the world’s largest attempted venture capital project,” the note says.
“The geopolitical factor is that China has decided it wants to have greater control than Japan in shaping both its economic and security environment in this region.”
Unlike the United States, which shares borders with two countries, China borders no fewer than 17 countries.
“Of particular interest to China are the western borders, which abut Central Asia that was once part of the former Soviet Union.
“These nations tend to be less political and economically stable than China. As such, they are seen as potential sources of risk, particularly in Xinjing province in China’s northwest.”
 The note says that engaging these countries economically and connecting them to Western China through the BRI serves several purposes.




August 2, 2018

CHINA’s dizzying climb to superpower status is heading for trouble. At least, that seems to be the gloomy verdict of Carl Minzner, an American Professor of Law.
In End of an Era: How China’s Authoritarian Revival Is Undermining Its Rise (Oxford University Press, 2018) Minzner analyses the key challenges facing China today — mounting socio-economic problems, worsening governance difficulties, rising social unrest, and increasing social polarisation.
Cynics might point out that many of these problems are confronted by virtually every civilised society.
But Minzner sets out to explain why these shortcomings may be leading to China’s social and political collapse, and why China is looming as a perceived threat to the current world order.
He points out that China’s 1.4 billion people have never had a chance to benefit from the centuries-old Western democratic tradition of state-society relations.
From dynastic Qing rule, they have lurched from Republicanism to Communism, from Five-Year Plans to Cultural Revolution, before morphing - after three decades of severe ideological and economic reform - into “red capitalism”.  
According to the Professor, there are now unmistakable signs of the nation’s immanent dysfunction.    
He nominates a lack of political opposition as China’s greatest weakness … moderate voices and independent civil society organisations committed to gradual institutional reform — these China sorely lacks.    




August 2, 2018

CYBER ATTACKS on critical infrastructure are multiplying, and are now one of the top two or three priorities that CEOs know they must deal with, says Kumar Parakala, Global Digital Leader of the diversified professional services company, GHD.
He says the rate of growth of cyber threats has been exponential — a seven-fold increase in two years. And the costs are escalating.
Lloyds, in a joint report with Cyence, a leading cyber risk analytics modelling firm, estimates that the impact of a major global cyber-attack has the potential to trigger US$53 billion in economic losses.
That is roughly the equivalent of a catastrophic natural disaster like 2012’s Superstorm Sandy.
“A serious global cyber-attack — on predominantly businesses, government agencies and some individuals — is anticipated to cause that level of havoc, Parakala told ATI.
Some expect global cyber-crime damage to reach US$6 trillion annually by 2021 — up from US$3 trillion in 2015.
And spending on cyber security could exceed US$1 trillion from 2017-2021. The rising tide of cyber-crime pushed information security
(a subset of cybersecurity) spending alone to more than US$86.4 billion in 2017, according to the research and advisory group, Gartner.




July 6, 2018

CHINESE online shoppers prefer to buy from Japan, Korea, the U.S. and Australia, in that order, according to new research by Frost and Sullivan An estimated 500 million Chinese are now shopping online . . .

SYDNEY — Cross-border online shopping spending in China has exceeded US$100 billion, almost eight times larger than Australia’s total online shopping market, according to new research by Frost & Sullivan, in conjunction with the Chinese retail strategy firm Azoya Consulting.
The study reveals that 87% of Australian respondents see China as a lucrative market, with huge opportunities arising from affluent Chinese consumers seeking quality products from other countries - but only 20% are satisfied with their current online capabilities in reaching Chinese shoppers.
“With China now the world’s largest online shopping market, Australian retailers and brands need to consider the best approach to reach Chinese consumers if they want to take advantage of this booming opportunity,” said Mark Dougan, managing director, Australia/New Zealand, of Frost & Sullivan.
“The complexities and challenges involved mean a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t appropriate to meet market demands. They need to carefully determine which model will work best for them.”
The study of 1,000 cross border online shoppers in China, as well as 100 international brand owners and retailers in Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada and the European Union, was conducted in 2018 to understand the strategies, expectations and experiences of online sales in China.
Mid-size and large retailers with annual revenue of over US$50 million participated in the study, with 36% earning annual sales of more than US$1 billion.




July 6, 2018

U.S. doubts over progress in China on IP protection may be at the heart of the current trade dispute. And a 10% U.S. tariff on Chinese exports worth US$200 billion would equate to an estimated 0.2% to 0.3% decline in China’s GDP growth . . .

WASHINGTON — ANZ Bank believes U.S. wariness about technology transfers is still the major hurdle to overcome in resolving differences between the U.S. and China – and, going forward, it expects the U.S. to continue to initiate other trade measures, with China reciprocating.
Following talks in Washington, the two countries issued a joint statement vowing not to launch a trade war against each other, but based on the official release, ANZ researchers do not see any substantial progress in resolving existing issues in the Sino-US trade relationship.




July 6, 2018

Chaoping Zhu, Shanghai-based Global Market Strategist for J.P. Morgan Asset Management, says that if the U.S. does apply 10% tariffs to Chinese exports worth US$200 billion, this will equate to an estimated 0.2 - 0.3 percentage point decline in Chinese GDP growth.
There are several inherent risks, he says:
 1) Global investor confidence may be hurt, leading to slower capital inflows;
2) Multi-national corporations might reallocate their supply chains out of China, making it difficult for China to improve its technology and long-term productivity; and
3) Financial risk may rise since Chinese exporters rely heavily on debt in their business.  
But Zhu believes China has room to counter any economic slowdown with monetary and fiscal policies.
“Deleveraging measures undertaken in the past two years have tightened liquidity conditions, temporarily suppressing infrastructure investment by local governments — and property purchases by urban households,” he says.
“Yet these demands remain strongly intact, suggesting investment could grow quickly as a result of monetary and fiscal stimulus, much as we saw in 2009.”
Zhu says short-term growth would come at the cost of soaring credit risks, posing dangers.




July 6, 2018

Both Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un can walk away from their Summit in Singapore, if not satisfied, at least not scarred . . .

SEOUL — The diplomatic whirlwind of Trumpian proportions tossed both allies and adversaries for a bit of a ride. At the G-7 summit in Charlevoix, Canada (June 8-9), Trump revealed a strong willingness to pursue perceived American interests unilaterally in defiance of Europe, Canada and Japan.
Conversely, at the Singapore Summit a few days later (June 12), he not only agreed with long-standing North Korean assertions that U.S.-South Korean war drills were indeed “provocative”, but unilaterally cancelled them without informing either the Pentagon or Seoul.
Trump professed to be establishing “a very special bond” with Kim.
Unvoiced were his previous derisive dismissals of the “Little Rocket Man” with a small nuclear button.
In Singapore, Trump revealed the educational aspect of the summit. Of Kim Jong-un, he said: “I learned he’s a very talented man. I also learned that he loves his country very much.” In turn, Kim’s people had “great fervour” toward their leader, he added.

But Trump did concede that “I may be wrong . . . I may stand before you in six months and say: ‘Hey I was wrong’.” (This from a man who claimed an ability to assess Kim’s sincerity within the first minute after meeting).
He then revealingly continued: “I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of excuse.”
In the run-up to, and in the course of the very brief summit, Trump’s perspective appeared to be that of the businessman he projects himself to be.
In mid-May, Trump announced that, unlike Libya, his idea of an agreement “would be with Kim Jong Un, something where he would be there. He’d be in his country. He’d be running his country. His country would be very rich”.




May 24, 2018

WASHINGTON - The second round of negotiations in Washington between the U.S. and China to resolve a long standing trade dispute has yielded mixed results. With US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, expected to visit China next to continue the talks, investors will seek credible action from both sides to diffuse trade tensions further.

ON A positive note, the two sides acknowledged the need to avert a trade war and that continued formal talks were the best way to address bilateral trade issues,” says BBVA in a research note.

“Post-meeting statements to this effect from China’s top economic advisor, Liu He, and U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, should help soothe unnerved investors’ fears of a lose-lose trade war.

“The former noted that ‘both sides agree not to go ahead with imposing tariffs’, while the latter stated: ‘We’re putting the trade war on hold’.




March 29, 2018

TRADE finance default rates from 2008 to 2016 are low across all products and regions – but despite its low-risk nature, trade finance is a product that is shrinking as banks retreat to their core businesses . . .

Having analysed US$10.5 trillion in trade finance transactions and US$670 billion in export finance exposures, the International Chamber of Commerce  (ICC) has concluded that financing trade is a low-risk business.




March 3, 2018

CHRIS PATTEN is ardently pro-EU. He sees Brexit as a betrayal of the UK - and a bar to Britain remaining a major player on the world stage. And he is clearly no fan of how world politics is panning out . . .

CHRIS PATTEN can be best described as an over-achiever.

Across the 300 pages of his First Confession [Allen Lane, 2017], he wears a bewildering number of hats: Chairman of the Conservative Party; British Cabinet Minister; the EU’s European Commissioner for External Affairs; confidante of Lee Kuan Yew; crony of Margaret Thatcher; chastiser of China; English patriot; Chairman of the BBC; Co-Chairman of the International Crisis Group; advisor to Pope Francis; Chancellor of Oxford University; and — most famously — the last Governor of British Hong Kong. 




March 2, 2018

AN ADB survey finds that 57% of trade finance requests by SMEs are rejected, compared with only 10% for multinational companies . . .

THE Asian Development Bank (ADB) has identified a gap of US$1.5 trillion in trade finance in the global market in 2016.

In its Trade Finance Gaps, Growth and Jobs Survey, the Manila-based multilateral institution found that the funding gap affected — and continues to affect — SMEs most.




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