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China Oct trade surplus nearly doubles: customs

Greek dockers call off anti-Cosco port strike
Athens (AFP) Nov 11, 2009 - Dockers at the main Greek port of Piraeus have called off a strike over government moves to grant Chinese firm Cosco control of two terminals, their union said Wednesday after losing a court ruling. On Tuesday, a Piraeus court judged that the strike by some 1,500 dockers since October was illegitimate as jobs were not under threat. The walkoff had blocked thousands of containers in the harbour to the outrage of traders. The court forbade any new strike over the same issue and threatened a daily fine of 4,000 euros (6,000 dollars). "Industrial action will be suspended as of Wednesday," the union said. Workers agreed to talks with the government, a statement from the Greek port employees federation (OMYLE) said.

A new government negotiator promised to begin talks "on the full and perpetual retention of employment posts and labour rights," it said. The industrial action was the latest in a series of rolling strikes which began last month. The workers are angry at the deal for Chinese container giant Cosco to take over two terminals at the port of Piraeus. The previous conservative Greek government granted Cosco a 35-year concession on the two main container terminals at Piraeus in a deal which is to bring a guaranteed premium of 3.4 billion euros (five billion dollars).

The new socialist government elected last month is now trying to find ways to improve the terms of the agreement for Greece. The union wants the deal scrapped, fearing the new operators will bring large-scale lay-offs and that the influx of cheap Chinese goods will undermine the already shaky Greek family-owned store sector. They also argue that the deal gives Cosco excessive tax breaks. On Sunday, Economy and Shipping Minister Louka Kasteli warned that the government could not simply cancel a legal contract and said cooperation with China was strategically important for Greece.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Nov 11, 2009
China's trade surplus nearly doubled in October from the previous month, official data showed Wednesday, indicating overseas demand for Chinese goods was strengthening.

The nation's trade surplus rose to 23.99 billion dollars in October, up from 12.93 billion dollars in September, the General Administration of Customs said in a statement on its website.

Exports fell 13.8 percent to 110.76 billion dollars on-year in October, the data showed -- the best result since exports fell by 2.8 percent in December as the global crisis began to set in.

In the first 10 months of 2009, the trade surplus stood at 159.23 billion dollars, compared with 135.5 billion dollars in the January to September period, customs authorities said.

Exports from January to October totalled 957.36 billion dollars, down 20.5 percent from the same period a year earlier, data showed.

"The exports numbers are encouraging, and suggest that stronger external demand should provide additional support to China's recovery in the months ahead," said Brian Jackson, a Hong Kong-based strategist at Royal Bank of Canada.

"This would then provide scope for Beijing to start moving to tighten policy some time early next year, including letting the currency strengthen."

earlier related report
Beijing ready to sign financial pact with Taipei: official
Beijing (AFP) Nov 11, 2009 - China is ready to sign an agreement on financial cooperation with Taiwan which would clear the way for each side to buy the other's banking assets, an official said Wednesday.

The two sides have agreed on the details of a memorandum of understanding on financial supervision, Yang Yi, spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, told a press conference, according to state media.

The signing of the pact would allow both sides to set up cross-strait bank branches and buy shares in each others' financial institutions, Yang said, according to a transcript on the website of state-run China National Radio.

The official did not specify when, where or how the signing would take place, but said China "would have no problem" with those details, without elaborating.

A senior Taiwanese official in charge of relations with China said at the weekend that the signing "could take place soon", according to local media.

Taiwan and China have been ruled separately since they split at the end of a civil war in 1949, but Beijing still considers the island part of its territory and has vowed to get it back, by force if necessary.

Ties have improved markedly since May last year when the China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou assumed office as the island's president.

earlier related report
China October new loans lowest this year: central bank
Beijing (AFP) Nov 11, 2009 - New Chinese bank loans hit the lowest monthly level since the beginning of the year, the central bank said Wednesday, as regulators press banks to reduce lending amid fears of asset price bubbles.

New loans dropped to 253.0 billion yuan (37.1 billion dollars) in October, less than half the 516.7 billion yuan lent in September and much lower than the 410.4 billion yuan in August, according to the People's Bank of China figures.

The pace slowed after regulators told banks to rein in lending and step up risk management, while seasonal factors following the lending spree in the first half of year also played a role, economists said.

"China began fine-tuning its monetary policy in the third quarter, after maintaining ultra-accommodative credit policies that contributed rapid asset price increases in the stock and property markets this year," said Jing Ulrich, a Hong Kong-based economist with JP Morgan.

China's new bank loans reached a massive 7.4 trillion yuan in the first half of the year, hitting a record 1.89 trillion yuan in March, as banks heeded Beijing's calls to pump money into the world's third largest economy.

The figure declined significantly to 355.9 billion yuan in July before rebounding in August and September amid concerns that much of the money had been funnelled into stocks and property at the risk of spiking asset prices.

The China Banking Regulatory Commission unveiled draft rules in October to increase supervision of personal loans such as mortgages and car financing.

Analysts, however, were divided on when China will actually move to a tighter monetary policy, saying broad-based tightening was unlikely in the near term.

"The lower number is no big surprise and does not indicate that policymakers have moved to tighten liquidity conditions," said Brian Jackson, a Hong Kong-based economist with Royal Bank of Canada.

"This reinforces the case for a move to tighter policy starting early next year ... If policymakers move fairly early, they can probably afford to tighten at a gradual pace, and that should remove some of the pressure on asset prices without derailing the economic recovery," he said.

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China, US keen to avoid trade war: US official
Beijing (AFP) Nov 10, 2009
The United States and China will work to keep their latest tit-for-tat trade spats from escalating into an all-out war, a top US official said Tuesday, just days before a visit by President Barack Obama. Robert Hormats, the US Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs, said "tensions, misunderstandings and frictions" were inevitable between major trade partners a ... read more

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