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Mercosur keen to profit from Arab markets
by Staff Writers
Brasilia, Brazil (UPI) Feb 29, 2012

China's Sany sets up ventures with Palfinger
Shanghai (AFP) Feb 29, 2012 - China's Sany Heavy Industry said Wednesday that it would set up two joint ventures with leading Austrian crane maker Palfinger, as the Chinese equipment giant seeks to grow its business.

The two will set up a 900-million-yuan ($143-million) venture to produce cranes in the central city of Changsha, where Sany is based, to be sold in the domestic market, the companies said in statements.

Separately, the two companies will set up another joint venture with investment of 4.0 million euros ($5.4 million) to distribute Sany products in Europe and other markets outside China, they said.

Both ventures, in which each side holds 50 percent, are still subject to regulatory approval, the statements said.

Sany in early February bought German concrete pump maker Putzmeister for 360 million euros, with the help of a private equity firm owned by Chinese state-owned investment group Citic, to enhance its global presence.

The latest deal with the Austrian company will also help Sany look outside the Chinese market for expansion, Sany Chairman Liang Wengen said.

"For Sany, this close cooperation with Palfinger is a major step towards tapping the global market," Liang said in a statement.

Liang is China's richest person with wealth of more than $9.0 billion last year, according to the annual China rich list compiled by Forbes magazine.

Salzburg-based Palfinger produces hydraulic lifting, loading and handling systems.

Latin America's Mercosur trade bloc is keen to profit from Arab cash investments and expanding consumer markets while talks with the European Union on a free trade agreement remain stalled, officials said.

Brazilian government ministers have been wooing Arab investors after a visit to the United Arab Emirates and plans for similar initiatives in other oil-rich Arab states in the Persian Gulf region.

A Mercosur-Arab trade deal is far from sealed but Brazil made a promising start, winning pledges of Arab direct investments in the country and greater access to the gulf's consumer markets.

Brazil has been cultivating the Arab region for decades and ran a lucrative arms trade with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during Iraq's 1980s conflict with Iran.

Despite winning new concessions, however, Brazil ruled out an early deal on Arab petrochemical exports to Latin America, a key topic for Persian Gulf states seeking markets for their refineries.

A Mercosur deal with the GCC region, if finalized, would require parliamentary approval from each of the member states in the trade pact, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay as full members and Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru as associates.

Venezuela, a full member, is awaiting Paraguayan ratification of its membership but is seen in both the Persian Gulf and Europe as a lucrative consumer market for both Arab and European exporters.

Brazilian Trade and Industry Minister Fernando Pimentel said after talks in Dubai both sides stand to benefit from a deal but free trade agreements between Arab states and Mercosur member states may take time.

"Brazil's intention is to sign (a trade agreement) as quickly as possible but it cannot speak on behalf of the whole Mercosur," he said. "The matter must pass the parliaments of those four countries before it can be signed," Pimentel said, referring to founding members Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil.

He couldn't say how soon Mercosur and the GCC would sign a trade agreement.

More than 10 percent of $60 billion in international investment channeled into Brazil last year is believed to be from Arab countries, officials said.

The Brazilian government says it will spend $403.5 billion on infrastructure projects through 2014, when it is the host country for the FIFA World Cup. Pimentel said the investment was needed to keep pace between Brazil's export income and inward investment ratio and the facilities on ground to handle those large sums of cash.

At present, the Brazilian economic and financial infrastructure is struggling to cope with the virtual flood of cash.

Brazilian business and industrial sectors complain of red tape and inefficient customs clearance procedures.

Senior Brazilian officials said developing closer financial and trade links with the cash-rich Arab region was part of a national strategy to shield the economy from any potential fallout of the eurozone crisis.

More Brazilian companies are set to open offices in Dubai, officials said.

In the meantime, free trade talks with Europe remain stalled, partly a response to the eurozone crisis.

A European Commission report on trade talks with Mercosur accused the Latin American trade pact members of protectionist policies and singled out Argentina and Brazil for criticism.

"With protectionism as an ever present threat, we need to ensure that trade continues to be open to promote growth and jobs," EC Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said.

The report said there were "no improvements" in the protectionism outlook in Mercosur countries. However, it said, talks could resolve existing issues and even lead to a much-awaited free trade treaty between the two blocs.

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Pakistan to normalise trade with India by year end
Islamabad (AFP) Feb 29, 2012 - Pakistan will phase out major restrictions on Indian imports by the end of this year, the government said Wednesday, in a bid to normalise trade with its nuclear-armed neighbour.

Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said Islamabad will gradually scrap a "negative list", which bans hundreds of items from India and places barriers on other trade.

"Normalising trade ties with India is in the interest of Pakistan as it would not only help strengthen the national economy but boost economic activities in the region also," Awan told reporters.

The government "decided in principle to phase out the negative list between the two countries by December 31, 2012, which will complete the trade normalisation process", she said.

Deepening economic engagement between the two countries, which have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, is seen as crucial to establishing lasting peace in the troubled South Asian region.

India's Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM) welcomed Pakistan's announcement, saying the move will increase cross-border trade to over $6 billion by 2014.

Direct trade between India and Pakistan currently constitutes less than one percent of their respective global trade. India exported goods worth $2.33 billion to Pakistan last year while its imports were $330 million.

"The steps will also lead to negotiations to step up investments by businessmen in both the countries," said D.S. Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM.

In 1996, India granted Pakistan "most preferred nation" status which is intended to remove discriminatory higher pricing and duty tariffs.

Pakistan agreed in principle to grant a similar status to India last year, paving the way for a radical reorganisation of trade.

At present, Pakistan maintains a list of 1,945 items allowed to run from India to Pakistan -- but only 108 can be transported directly by road through the Wagah border in Punjab.

Major items of export from India to Pakistan are sugar, cotton, man-made filaments and chemicals, while its top imports from Pakistan include fruit, mineral fuels, and organic chemicals.


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China signs deal for mega mosque in Algeria
Algiers (AFP) Feb 28, 2012
Algeria signed a deal with a Chinese construction giant on Tuesday for the building of a vast new one billion euro mosque that is expected to be the third largest in the world. Religious Affairs Minister Bouabdallah Ghlamallah declared that the grand mosque which will overlook the seafront in the east of Algiers would be a "one-of-a-kind". "There will be nothing like it in the world - ... read more

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