- US farm groups seek to exclude Japan from TPP talks
- S. Korea current account surplus narrows in April
- KLCI extends gains as plantations climb, E&O in focus
Posted: 28 May 2014 07:18 PM PDT
WASHINGTON: US farm groups said on Wednesday Japan should be suspended from Pacific trade talks if the Asian nation insists on keeping tariffs on sensitive agricultural sectors.
Japanese Economics Minister Akira Amari told Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trading partners at talks in Singapore last week that Japan will not agree to abolish all tariffs on wheat, rice, dairy, sugar, beef and pork.
US and Japanese negotiators will hold two more days of meetings in Washington on farm exports from Thursday and groups representing dairy, wheat, rice and pork farmers said they could still reach a deal.
"Failing that, the alternative is suspending negotiations with Japan for now and concluding a truly comprehensive agreement with those TPP partners that are willing to meet the originally contemplated level of ambition," the National Association of Wheat Growers, US Wheat Associates, USA Rice Federation, the National Pork Producers Council and the International Dairy Foods Association said in a statement.
"It is a big step but one that will be justified if Japan continues to refuse to open its agricultural sector to meaningful competition."
The joint statement is important because of the power the farm lobby wields in Washington. If farm groups refuse to support the TPP, which would create a 12-nation trade bloc covering 40% of the world economy, support in Congress could weaken further.
Beef producers from the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia have already demanded that the TPP eliminate all tariffs on beef, following reports that Japan might offer the United States a tariff reduction to around 9%.
Cattle farmers also want a guarantee Japan will offer the same terms it gives to the US to other trading partners.
Australia has separately agreed on a deal with Japan cutting tariffs on frozen beef to 19.5% and on fresh beef to 23.5%. The US has said the deal does not go far enough.
But US Trade Representative Michael Froman said after the Singapore meeting the US was pressing for tariff elimination to the "maximum extent possible," suggesting some room for flexibility.
A USTR spokesman said the office was confident it would secure a deal giving farmers new opportunities.
Japan, which levies average agriculture tariffs of 16.6%, wants to protect its politically powerful farmers although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keen for reforms to open Japan's economy and stimulate growth.
The Asian power's entry to the TPP last year was a game changer for many participants given its high-income population and relatively low import penetration, and excluding Japan would make the TPP less attractive for some countries.
Froman has said any decision on whether Japan should leave the TPP is up to Japan.
As well as cutting tariffs, the TPP seeks to set common standards on issues like intellectual property and labor. More than 140 members of Congress have signed a letter urging better protection for workers' rights, lawmakers said on Wednesday. – Reuters
Posted: 28 May 2014 07:04 PM PDT
SEOUL: South Korea's current account surplus narrowed slightly in April, but strong car and steel exports kept it in the black for the 26th straight month, the central bank said Thursday.
The April surplus stood at US$7.12bil, down 2.2% from a revised US$7.29bil in March, the Bank of Korea (BoK) said.
Compared with a year earlier, the surplus was up 56.5% from US$2.57bil.
Asia's fourth-largest economy posted an all-time high surplus of US$79.88bil in 2013.
The current account is the broadest measure of cross-border trade. The service account, which includes outlays by South Koreans on overseas trips, logged a US$1.04bil deficit last month, up from a revised shortfall of US$647.8mil in March. – AFP
Posted: 28 May 2014 06:45 PM PDT
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's blue chips extended their gains early Thursday, underpinned by gains in plantation stocks while Eastern & Oriental Bhd (E&O) was in focus after Sime Darby dispelled speculation of a takeover of the property company.
At 9.20am, the FBM KLCI was up 2.74 points to 1,874.40. Turnover was 140.64 million shares valued at RM110mil. There were 201 gainers, 136 losers and 189 counters unchanged.
BIMB Securities Research reckons foreign based funds are returning into the region as values in the developed markets are now at the highs.
"Locally, the FBMKLCI gained 4.09 points at 1,871.66 on Wednesday from some foreign buying that saw a net inflow of almost RM209mil yesterday pushing net foreign inflows to RM354mil so far this week after a net inflow of RM999mil last week. We should expect some consolidation today but see the index to be flat," said the research house.
United Plantations rose34 sen to RM27.96 and KL Kepong 34 sen to RM24.54 following a recovery in crude palm oil prices.
BAT was the top gainer, adding 60 sen to RM63 with just 200 shares done.
Insurer Alllianz added 44 sen to RM10.84 while Allianz-PA added 30 sen to RM10.64.
E&O rose 18 sen to RM2.56 with 2.83 million shares done.
Sime Darby reduced its stake in E&O by 9.9% by selling it to Morning Crest Sdn Bhd, which is owned by E&O managing director Datuk Terry Tham Ka Hon for RM319mil, or RM2.90 per share. The move has dispelled market talk that the conglomerate planned to launch a takeover of E&O.
Other gainers were MESB, up 15 sen to 95 sen while Naim Holdings gained 13 sen to RM4.04 and glove maker Kossan added 11 sen to RM4.09.
Nestle extended its losses, down 52 sen to RM67. Prestariang lost eight sen to RM1.76 while IJM shed seven sen to RM6.78.
Bonia fell seven sen to RM51.2. Its net profit for the nine months ended March 31, 2014 was in line with expectations, accounting for 75% of CIMB Equities Research's and 72% of consensus full-year forecasts.
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