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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Popular Toyota Alphard, Previa now officially available

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd has added two new multi-purpose models (MPVs) – the Toyota Alphard and Previa – to its vehicle line-up.

The Alphard and Previa were previously available only through private importers.

UMW Toyota said the decision to offer the models was in response to customer feedback and market demand.

The Previa 2.4GL is priced at RM258,017, the Alphard 2.4G at RM338,000, and the Alphard 3.5G at RM398,000. All prices are on-the-road with insurance.

On top of this, the company is offering an introductory package of three years free service, first year free road tax and insurance for the first 300 customers.

To give owners better peace of mind, the MPVs are sourced directly from Toyota factories in Japan and come with a three-year or 100,000km (whichever comes first) warranty and full after-sales support.

Previously, the models brought in by private importers had been obtained from used-car dealers in Japan and sold locally without manufacturer warranty or after-sales support.

The 2.4-litre Previa is a sleek seven-seater with a generous cabin space, leather seats and wider door openings on both sides. It also comes equipped with dual airbags, anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD).

The Alphard, also a seven seater, is available in 2.4- and 3.5-litre variants and has a luxurious exterior and interior, automatic doors, seven airbags, ABS, EBD and vehicle stability control.

Weighty issues remain for Japan, Australia in trade pact talks

Posted: 05 Apr 2014 07:39 AM PDT

TOKYO: Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said substantive issues remained in trade negotiations with Japan as the two nations rushed to conclude a free trade agreement before their prime ministers meet on Monday.

"We made progress. There are still a couple of substantial issues we are negotiating and we will meet again tomorrow," Robb said after a five-hour session with Japanese Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasu Hayashi in Tokyo on Saturday. Robb described the meeting as exhausting.

Hayashi said afterwards that there had been a "frank exchange of opinion." He said he would report on the progress to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will meet Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot in Tokyo on Monday.

Abbott has set the Japan free trade deal as his top priority, promising to drop tariffs on manufactured imports, including Japanese cars, while pushing Tokyo to cut tariffs on agricultural goods, particularly beef. In doing so, say analysts, he risks alienating China and South Korea.

Japan is already Australia's biggest beef export market both in volume and value terms, taking almost a third of all beef exported in 2012, according to Meat & Livestock Australia.

Failure by Japan and Australia to secure a pact could help ease U.S. concern that a separate trade deal with Australia before an agreement on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership will giving Australian exporters better access to Japan than their U.S. counterparts.

"In the short term, Australia gets preferential treatment over the U.S. and America will be under pressure to strike a TPP deal short-term that puts it on a level playing field with Australia," said Aurelia George Mulgan, a professor of Japanese politics at the University of New South Wales.

The United States urged Japan on Thursday to open up its farm and auto markets to overseas competition, with Trade Representative Michael Froman saying Tokyo's reluctance to lower trade barriers was holding up the TPP.

President Barack Obama, who had hoped to complete the TPP by the end of last year, is expected to press the case for an ambitious TPP deal with Abe during a visit to Japan later this month. The prospective trade pact is a centerpiece of Obama's push to expand the U.S. presence in Asia.

For the United States, cars are also a source of contention. Imported cars in Japan make up less than 10 percent of the market, which Washington blames on strict dealership limits, regulation and taxes, even though there are no tariffs.

Japanese automakers say the small market share reflects a failure by U.S. car companies to offer smaller cars that are more popular with Japanese drivers.

Australia has a lower hurdle on tariffs for Japanese cars after domestic units of the three remaining carmakers - Toyota Motor Corp, General Motors and Ford Motor - decided to quit domestic production by 2017 due to high costs and a strong currency. - Reuters

European officials line up against French deficit reprieve

Posted: 05 Apr 2014 06:06 AM PDT

BERLIN: The top conservative candidate for European Commission president and the head of the German Bundesbank have come out against granting France more time to cut its deficit, warning such a move would set a dangerous precedent for other EU states.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg and longtime head of the Eurogroup forum of euro zone finance ministers, said in Berlin that France should not receive "special treatment" again after it was given two extra years to reach deficit targets only last year.

France, whose deficit stood at 4.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013, has signalled it wants to renegotiate the existing deadline of 2015 for bringing it down to 3 percent.

French Finance minister Michel Sapin is due to travel to Berlin on Monday to make the case for more leeway.

"France must stick to the same rules as Cyprus, as Malta, as all the others," Juncker, the centre-right candidate for the top job at the European Commission after EU parliamentary elections in May, told reporters at a congress of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) in Berlin.

"I would not expect France to get special treatment again," he added.

Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, speaking in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), called the request for more leeway a "serious act", coming from a country that should be setting an example in Europe.

"We should be making clear to France what its responsibilities are," Weidmann said, echoing tough comments from Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, who told the same German newspaper that deficit rules did not exist to be "fiddled about with".

France has a long history of not complying with its fiscal promises and the push for another postponement could stoke tensions with Berlin.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who will meet with Sapin on Monday, has voiced support for Rehn's tough line, though stopped short of ruling out some flexibility.

Martin Schulz, the Social Democrat (SPD) president of the European Parliament and leftist rival to Juncker for the top European Commission job, has signalled that both France and Italy should be given more time to meet deficit goals if they need it. - Reuters


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