Ahad, 4 Mei 2014

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The Star Online: World Updates

China's trade situation to improve after May - commerce ministry

Posted: 04 May 2014 08:55 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's overall trade is likely to gain momentum after May when high base effects fade off and data more accurately reflects the underlying picture, the commerce ministry said in a report on its website.

External trade is looking in better shape this year than the previous year although uncertainties continue to weigh on exports, the ministry said in its quarterly report on foreign trade.

It noted that demand from emerging markets was constrained due to slower growth there while consumption from developed economies was also relatively soft.

China's exports unexpectedly fell for the second straight month in March and import growth dropped sharply, intensifying concerns about weak manufacturing and slowing growth.

Analysts have attributed the weak trade figures partly to an inflated comparison base with last year due to a rash of fake invoicing of exports to beat foreign exchange restrictions. The authorities have cracked down on such activities since May of last year.

"With the base effects that affect trade growth disappearing, the foreign trade data will reflect the situation more accurately and the situation is likely to improve after May," said the report on the ministry's website, www.mofcom.gov.cn, on Sunday.

Imports and exports in the first quarter were within a stable growth range after excluding the base effects and were better than other major economies, the ministry said.

"If there are no big changes in the external environment, China's imports and exports are likely to maintain relatively stable growth in 2014," the report said.

Still, exporters face increasing challenges including rising labour and land costs, appreciation of the yuan currency and trade friction, it added.

A private survey on China's manufacturing sector on Monday, and a separate one from the government last week, both showed export orders contracted in April.

China's Premier Li Keqiang said last week that China will step up support for trade, including quickening the pace of tax rebate payments for exporters, as part of policy measures to support a slowing economy.

China will release April trade data on Thursday.

(Reporting By Xiaoyi Shao and Jonathan Standing; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

China hunting family members of Xinjiang bombers

Posted: 04 May 2014 08:25 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - Police in China's restive far western region of Xinjiang are looking for the family members of one of the men who died in an apparent suicide bombing at a train station last week, a state-run newspaper said on Monday.

The Chinese government has blamed religious extremists for carrying out a bomb and knife attack at a train station in Urumqi, regional capital of Xinjiang, on Wednesday evening that killed one bystander and wounded 79.

Both attackers were killed in the blast, according to the government. In an embarrassing security lapse, the attack happened just as President Xi Jinping was wrapping up his first visit to Xinjiang since becoming president last year.

The newspaper identified one of the attackers as Sedirdin Sawut, a 39-year-old man from Xayar county in Xinjiang's Aksu region. The man is a member of the Muslim Uighur minority, judging by his name.

The Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, said police are now looking for Sawut's wife, father, two cousins and his father-in-law, who seem to have gone missing after the attack.

They are all suspected of helping Sawut in the attack, the newspaper said, citing anonymous Xinjiang police officers.

Police are also looking for two other men who may have been involved in making the bombs, both of whom knew Sawut and also come from the same county, the report added.

Resource-rich and strategically located Xinjiang, on the borders of central Asia, has for years been beset by violence blamed by the Chinese government on Islamist militants and separatists, but suicide attacks have been extremely rare.

There have been suicide bombings before in China, mostly by people with personal grievances, but it has generally not been a tactic employed by Uighurs.

"Previously the attackers would try to leave after they planted the bomb. This time they obviously stayed to be killed," the newspaper quoted another unnamed security official as saying.

In October, a car ploughed into tourists on the edge of Beijing's Tiananmen Square, killing the car's three occupants and two bystanders, in what the government believed was a suicide attack by people from Xinjiang.

Exiles and many rights groups say the real cause of the unrest in Xinjiang is China's heavy-handed policies, including curbs on Islam and the culture and language of the Uighur people.

Unrest in Xinjiang has caused the deaths of more than 100 people in the past year, prompting a tougher stance against the Turkic-language speaking Uighurs, many of whom resent government controls on their culture and religion.

In March, 29 people were stabbed to death in the southwestern city of Kunming, far from Xinjiang and on the borders of Southeast Asia. The government blamed that attack on Xinjiang extremists.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)

Panama leader's deputy-turned-rival wins presidency

Posted: 04 May 2014 08:15 PM PDT

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Panama's vice-president, running as an opposition candidate, won the presidential election on Sunday after a campaign in which he took credit for outgoing leader Ricardo Martinelli's successful economic policies while promising a cleaner government. Juan Carlos Varela of the center-right Panamenista Party (PP) helped Martinelli get elected as president in 2009 but later fell out with him. He has vowed to tackle corruption, lower inflation and reduce poverty.

Varela had 39 percent support with about 80 percent of votes counted, enough for a comfortable victory over his two main rivals, Jose Domingo Arias or the ruling Democratic Change party (CD) and left-leaning former Panama City mayor Juan Carlos Navarro of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD).

"Better times are on the way. There will be an honest, humane government of national unity, a government of social peace," Varela told Reuters at a Panama City hotel after the election tribunal declared him the winner.

Varela ran a campaign largely based around claiming credit for Martinelli's successes, including a popular program to give $120 a month to people over the age of 70 and outside the social security system, and infrastructure projects such as the Panama City metro.

Under Panamanian law, Martinelli was unable to seek re-election but his wife was Arias' vice presidential running mate and critics accused the outgoing president of trying to maintain control of Panama behind the scenes.

He blamed the media for his protegee's defeat, accusing them of spreading lies. He was also unable to contain his scorn for Varela.

"I know the winner. May God have mercy on us," he said.

Varela, 50, inherits an economy that has grown rapidly in recent years and oversight of a major expansion of the Panama Canal, which briefly stalled earlier this year in a row with the building consortium over costs.

Martinelli, a supermarket magnate, has pushed the canal expansion and other infrastructure projects that helped spur economic growth. But his reputation was tarred by allegations that his government gave contracts and other favors to friends and business interests.

"This government ... will defend to the last cent money that belongs to the Panamanian people and it will not tolerate corruption," Varela told a cheering crowd on Sunday night.

No major changes in policy are expected. All the main candidates had similar platforms so the campaign focused more on personalities than proposals.

"I am so overwhelmed, I can barely find words," said Agustin Cerru, 54, as sounded the horn of his car, a Varela banner flying from the window. "A lot of people didn't think we were going to win."

Pollsters had put Varela in third place, though not far behind his two main rivals in what was expected to be a very close race. A banking and trading hub, Panama is best known for the canal that links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Accounting directly for 8 percent of gross domestic product, it has helped fuel the fastest growth in Latin America in the last few years. Varela, whose family runs Panama's biggest liquor company, faces the challenge of maintaining buoyant growth but ensuring more of the benefits trickle down in a land where a quarter of the population lives in poverty. At up to $624 a month, the minimum wage in Panama is among the highest in Latin America, but many of the country's poorest are feeling the bite of nagging inflation. The discontent has led to a nationwide construction strike over pay since April 25. That has halted thousands of projects, including work on the canal expansion, much to the annoyance of Martinelli, who will hand over power on July 1.

(Additional reporting by Noe Torres; Editing by Simon Gardner, Elinor Comlay and Kieran Murray)

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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