India, Ethiopia review bilateral ties

May 9, 2018 0

New Delhi– Reflecting New Delhi’s increasing engagements with Africa, India and Ethiopia on Wednesday reviewed bilateral ties during the second Joint Commission Meeting headed by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Ethiopian counterpart Workneh Gebeyehu here.

“The discussions focused on building closer cooperation in areas of defence cooperation, lines of credit, human resource development, capacity building, trade and investment, cultural exchanges and enhancing people to people contact,” the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

“India reiterated its commitments towards development partnership with Ethiopia.

“The two sides also exchanged views on issues of mutual interest at regional and multilateral levels including cooperation at the United Nations and other international organisations,” it said.

India-Ethiopia bilateral trade in 2016 stood at $1.37 billion, of which India’s exports to Ethiopia were $1.30 billion and imports were $68.4 million, according to figures provided by the External Affairs Ministry.

An MoU between the Foreign Service Institute of India and the Foreign Service Training Institute of Ethiopia was signed between the two countries after the conclusion of the meeting.

Indian companies are among the top three foreign investors in Ethiopia.

There are over 540 Indian companies in Ethiopia with licensed investment of over $4 billion of which about $2 billion is estimated to be on the ground, according to figures provided by the External Affairs Ministry. (IANS)

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Deal reached to sell Sahara’s NY Plaza Hotel for $600 million

May 4, 2018 0

New York– A Dubai investment group and a New York real estate company have reached a deal to buy the majority stake owned by Subrata Roy’s Sahara Group in the New York Plaza Hotel for $600 million, according to media reports.

The prospective buyers have seven weeks to close the deal, real estate newspaper Real Deal reported quoting sources close to the buyers.

Roy’s Sahara Group has been under orders from the Indian Supreme Court to make refunds of thousands of crore rupees to investors.

The New York Times identified the buyers as Shahal Khan, founder of the Dubai-based White City Ventures, and Kamran Hakim of the Hakim Organisation, a New York City real estate company.

The newspaper said the deal was confirmed by Sandeep Wadhwa, head of corporate finance at the Sahara Group, which owns a 70 per cent stake in the hotel, and Sant Singh Chatwal, a hotelier who owns 5 per cent being sold.

One of the sources for funding the acquisition by Khan and Hakim is a loan from David and Simon Reuben, whom the Real Deal described as “Mumbai-born British billionaires” who “bought the note on the Plaza from Sahara in 2015”.

A partnership of the real estate firm Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp and Saudi Prince Al-waleed bin Talel-controlled Kingdom Holdings owns the remaining 25 per cent of the Plaza, the Times said.

The Plaza Hotel founded in 1907 is one of the city’s landmarks.

The Sahara Group is under court orders in India to pay off debts amounting to several thousands of crores of rupees.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) had asked the court in 2014 to order the recovery of Rs 36,000 crore from Sahara to pay investors who had bought securities from two companies belonging to the group.

Roy is now out on parole after spending time in Delhi’s Tihar Jail for failing to comply with court orders.

Last year, a New York company, MG Capital Holdings, backed out of an offer to buy the hotel for $550 million and failed to pay the required deposit of Rs 750 crore in the SEBI account for Sahara refunds to investors.

The Supreme Court, which had ordered the repayment of Sahara debts, jailed Prakash Muthuswamy, who held the power of attorney for the prospective buyer, for one month.

Unlike previous deals, the offer by Khan and Hakim is expected to go through because they made an irrevocable $30-million deposit, the Times said.

However, the Times said that the minority shareholder, the Ashkenazy and Kingdom partnership, have the right of first refusal to buy the hotel at the same price.

The Real Deal said that Sahara may consider a lower bid from Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported that employees at the hotel were on strike and that guests who had booked rooms costing as much as $1,000 a night were being turned away.

Real Deal described Khan as the founder of Chimera Group and the Dubai-based investment company, White City Ventures.

According to the newspaper, Hakim is an immigrant from Iran and a company controlled by him owns more than 100 properties in New York.

CNBC, the business TV channel, reported that Chimera had considered a proposal to raise money for buying the Plaza Hotel through a cryptocurrency offering valued at $375 million.

But Real Deal said that cryptocurrency was not being used. (IANS)

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India, Japan agree to work on electric vehicle development

May 1, 2018 0

New Delhi– India and Japan on Tuesday agreed to initiate discussions on development of electric vehicles (EVs) by collaborating at a policy dialogue on next generation zero emission vehicles, an official statement said.

According to an Indian Power Ministry statement, both countries confirmed their commitment to promoting well-functioning energy markets as well as cooperation on environmental measures for coal-fired power plants at the ninth India Japan Energy Dialogue co-chaired by Power Minister R.K. Singh and Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko.

“Both countries agreed to initiate the discussion towards development of EVs by collaborating on the ‘Policy dialogue on next generation/Zero emission vehicles’,” it said.

“Both India and Japan further confirmed their commitment to work together in promoting well-functioning energy markets and affirmed to promote transparent and diversified liquefied natural gas (LNG) market through the relaxation of destination clause.

“Both Ministers agreed on further strengthening of bilateral energy cooperation for energy development of both countries, while also contributing to worldwide energy security, energy access and climate change issues,” it added.

According to the ministry, India and Japan also reiterated the continued importance of coal-based electricity in the energy mix of both countries and agreed to promote cooperation on environmental measures for coal-fired power plants. (IANS)

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Pakistani investors in Sri Lanka to discuss business opportunities

Apr 24, 2018 0

Colombo– A group of Pakistani investors arrived in Sri Lanka on Tuesday to explore investment opportunities in the island nation in the fields of health, housing, tourism, science and technology.

The Pakistani delegation met President Maithripala Sirisena in Colombo, during which special emphasis was also given to building highways and oil exploration, reports Xinhua news agency.

The investors also expressed their interest in constructing a state-of-the-art hospital in Sri Lanka to perform heart surgeries and to build two tourism zones as well as to construct a low-cost new housing scheme.

Sri Lanka and Pakistan recently agreed to redouble trade promotion efforts to reach the target of $1 billion in trade by the end of 2018.

Pakistan is the second largest trading partner of Sri Lanka in the SAARC region.

The value of total trade between the two countries has increased from $158 million in 2005 to $423.06 million in 2017. (IANS)

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China hits back, slaps new tariffs on 106 US products

Apr 4, 2018 0

By Gaurav Sharma

Beijing–  China in no time hit back by slapping tariffs of worth $50 billion on 106 US products on Wednesday, hours after Washington decided to impose import taxes on 1,300 Chinese products.

The Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council has decided to impose an additional tariff of 25 per cent on 106 items of products under 14 categories, Xinhua quoted the Chinese Finance Ministry as saying.

The Ministry said the move was in response to Washington’s proposed list of products subject to additional tariffs, which covered Chinese exports worth $50 billion with a suggested tariff rate of 25 per cent.

The date of implementation will depend on when the US government impose the tariffs on Chinese products, the Ministry said.

The Chinese Commerce Ministry said the US move was “an evident violation of rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO)”.

Washington’s action “severely infringed on the legitimate rights and interests that China enjoys in accordance with the WTO rules, and threatened China’s economic interests and security”, said the Commerce Ministry.

New tariffs China decided to impose on US products were a reaction to “the emergency caused by the US violation of international obligations”, it added.

Affected products will include a wide variety of agricultural products such as soybeans, corn, beef, orange juice and tobacco. A range of chemicals and automobiles as well as aircraft with unladen weight between 15 and 45 tonnes, will also be subject to the tariffs, Xinhua said.

The trade war between the world’s two largest economies has escalated. The US says it is taxing Chinese products as punitive measures against Beijing’s arm-twisting American companies to transfer their technology in return of letting them do business in China.

Beijing says although doors for talks are always open for Washington, it will give befitting reply if it faces the heat. (IANS)

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India, Japan call for free, stable, prosperous Indo-Pacific

Mar 29, 2018 0

Tokyo– India and Japan on Thursday called for a peaceful, stable, free and prosperous Indo-Pacific region following the Ninth India-Japan Strategic Dialogue co-chaired by Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono here.

“Our Special Strategic and Global Partnership has acquired a broader significance in the current global context,” Sushma Swaraj said while jointly addressing the media with Kono.

“Our growing convergence on economic and strategic issues is important for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” she said.

Kono said India was Japan’s most important partner in its Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.

“Our Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy and India’s Act East Policy should be further merged,” he said.

The remarks assume significance given China’s belligerence in the South China Sea and attempts to increase its footprint in the Indo-Pacific region.

India and Japan, along with the US and Australia, are also part of the recently revived quad that seeks to work for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.

In her address, Sushma Swaraj said that in Thursday’s Strategic Dialogue, she and Kono discussed bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.

Stating that India has emerged as the fastest-growing large economy in the world, she said that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is strongly committed to improving the “ease of doing business” and has “set into motion many far-reaching changes to build infrastructure, reform the business environment and promote education, skills and economic development”.

“In my discussions with Foreign Minister Kono, I emphasized that in India’s transformational journey, we regard Japan as a natural partner.”

Sushma Swaraj said that India welcomes Japanese entrepreneurs with new opportunities in flagship initiatives such as Smart City, Digital India, Start-Up India and many others.

“Foreign Minister Kono and I had very productive discussions on how India and Japan are today working closely to build robust ties in high speed rail, information and communications technology, innovation, space science, healthcare and food processing, to name just a few.

“We also exchanged views on some new areas of focus in our engagement, such as skills development, Japanese language training in India and the possibility of Indian professionals working in Japan under the Technical Intern Training Programme.”

She said that both sides appreciated the growing people-to-people ties between the two countries and “also expressed our satisfaction over growing role of states in India and prefectures in Japan as active stake-holders in our partnership”.

Stating that both sides exchanged views on some important global issues where India and Japan have growing convergences, she said: “We shared the view that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is a global scourge that requires global action in the spirit of azero tolerance’, including by rooting out terrorist safe havens, disrupting terrorist networks and financing channels and halting cross-border movement of terrorists.”

Sushma Swaraj also said that both sides emphasised the need for concerted global action to deal with other common challenges such as climate change.

She said she believed the Strategic Dialogue has laid a sound foundation for the annual bilateral summit between Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe to be held later this year.

Following the talks, the two sides signed loan agreements on projects being implemented in India with Japanese aid, including on connectivity in northeastern India, Mumbai Metro Line 3, construction of Chennai Sea Water Desalination Plant and Himachal Pradesh forest ecosystem management.

Earlier, Sushma Swaraj addressed the Indian community at the Vivekanand Cultural Centre here during which she lauded the contribution of the diaspora in strengthening India’s relations with Japan and creating a positive image about India in Japan.

She met former Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who is Chairman of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, and discussed ways to take the bilateral relationship forward. (IANS)

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Sri Lanka for stronger ties with Bangladesh to boost trade

Mar 27, 2018 0

Colombo– Sri Lanka has called for stronger maritime and air links with Bangladesh to boost bilateral trade and investments between the two nations, the Commerce and Industry Ministry said on Tuesday.

The Ministry said that while the ports of Hambantota and Colombo were of vital importance to the maritime industry due to their strategic locations in the Indian Ocean, there could now be strong linkages between these ports and the port of Chittagong in Bangladesh to facilitate shipping, tourism and investments, Xinhua news agency reported.

In addition, the Ministry said more frequent direct air links between Colombo and Dhaka too shall strengthen economic cooperation, investment promotion, tourism and people-to-people contacts.

“Expansion of air links would bring more opportunities to entrepreneurs and investors of the two countries,” said Commerce and Industry Minister Rishad Bathiudeen.

“As neighbouring members of the Bay of Bengal region, both countries have many commonalities. Our common cultural affinities and historical links have immensely nourished our modern day inter-state relations,” Bathiudeen added.

He said that in recent years, Sri Lanka’s bilateral trade with Bangladesh saw a surge.

In 2017, apparels, plastics and petroleum products were Sri Lanka’s leading exports to Bangladesh. (IANS)

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China promises action on India’s trade deficit, urges RCEP focus

Mar 26, 2018 0

New Delhi– China on Monday promised to address the issue of its massive trade surplus with India and work towards a more balanced trade relationship, while urging greater focus on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations at a time of increasing protectionist trends globally.

This was stated in an Indian Commerce Ministry release following the 11th meeting here of the India-China Joint Group on Economic Relations, Trade, Science and Technology co-chaired by Indian Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu and his Chinese counterpart Zhong Shan.

“Chinese Minister Zhong Shan welcomed Indian investment in China and promised to address the trade deficit between the two countries.

“The Minister highlighted the important issues discussed in the meeting like two-way trade relations, preparation of an action plan, greater focus on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and e-dialogue,” the statement said.

India’s trade deficit with China has been growing in recent years and stood at over $51 billion in 2016-17.

According to the statement, Prabhu exhorted his Chinese counterpart for greater market access for Indian agricultural products like rapeseed, soyabean, basmati and non-basmati rice, fruits, vegetables and sugar.

“Another commodity which could be exported from India to China is high quality pharmaceutical products. Export of India’s I’ and IT Enabled Services (ITES) to China and cooperation in the sectors of tourism and healthcare needs to be focussed on,” it said.

The statement cited Prabhu as saying said that the joint group between India and China “is the oldest and the most important dialogue mechanism between the two countries.”

“Addressing India’s trade imbalance with China is the most important issue to be taken up by the group.”

The India-China Joint Economic Group meeting and China’s call on RCEP comes in the backdrop of growing protectionism with the US President Donald Trump slapping import tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium earlier this month, unfolding the prospect of an all-out global trade war,

The mega free trade agreement — RCEP — is currently being negotiated between Asean member states — Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — and Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

The RCEP negotiations include trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement, e-commerce and small and medium enterprises, among others. (IANS)

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As US-China trade war escalates, financial markets hit

Mar 23, 2018 0

Washington/Beijing– Global financial markets plunged on Friday as a trade war between the US and China escalated, with President Donald Trump imposing tariffs worth $60 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing threatening Washington with higher tariffs worth $3 billion for imported American products.

In his strongest trade confrontation with China in nearly a quarter century, Trump signed an order imposing the tariffs and also limiting China’s freedom to invest in the US technology industry.

Financial markets took a hit on fears of a potential trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Trump declared that China was responsible for thousands of lost American jobs and billions in lost revenues.

The Chinese government fired back on Friday, calling Trump’s Thursday announcement “typical unilateralism and protectionism”. China’s Commerce Ministry said the US had set a “very bad precedent” while the Foreign Ministry called the US to make “rational and prudent decisions”.

The US also launched a complaint against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO), the BBC reported.

“China appears to be breaking WTO rules by denying foreign patent holders, including US companies, basic patent rights to stop a Chinese entity from using the technology after a licensing contract ends,” the US government said in a statement.

“China also appears to be breaking WTO rules by imposing mandatory adverse contract terms that discriminate against and are less favourable for imported foreign technology.”

The White House said it was taking action in retaliation for China’s use of pressure and intimidation to obtain American technology and trade secrets.

The measures included a significant change in Trump’s looming steel and aluminium tariffs that would aim them primarily at China, the Washington Post reported.

After Trump’s announcement, China’s Commerce Ministry said it was proposing tariffs on 128 US products including pork, wine and seamless steel tubes.

It will include an additional 15 per cent tariff on products including fruit, nuts, wines and seamless steel tubes and an additional 25 per cent tariff on pork and recycled aluminium products.

“China does not want to fight a trade war, but it is absolutely not afraid,” the Chinese Ministry said. “We are confident and capable of meeting any challenge.

But it also urged the Trump administration to resolve differences through dialogue.

The $3 billion worth of goods that Beijing planned to penalize represented just about 2 per cent of US exports to China, which amounted to $130 billion in 2017, said Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in the US.

Trump’s actions fulfil his campaign pledge to demand fairer trade deals with countries and to retaliate against trading partners if the US does not secure better agreements.

“We have one particular problem,” Trump said before signing the order that will impose tariffs on hundreds of Chinese products, from shoes and clothing to consumer electronics. “We have a tremendous intellectual property theft situation going on. We’re doing things for this country that should have been done for many, many years.”

Trump said Washington “would no longer tolerate running a trade deficit of nearly $400 billion with China”, its second-largest trading partner, after the EU.

The US administration’s increasing focus on punishing China was evident in its decision to exempt allies like the EU, South Korea, Brazil, Canada and Mexico from what were supposed to be worldwide tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.

The levies, which went into effect on Friday, will largely hit China.

Stock markets were hit by fears that Trump’s tariff plan could trigger a trade war. Japan’s Nikkei share index fell 4.5 per cent and in the US the Dow Jones sank 2.9 per cent. China’s Shanghai Composite Index closed down 3.4 per cent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index ended 2.5 per cent lower.

Trump, on March 8, signed proclamations to impose a 25 per cent tariff on imported steel and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminium, causing mounting dissent among trading partners around the world.

Trump had exempted Canada and Mexico from the import levies for the duration of talks aimed at renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. (IANS)

 

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Pakistan minister asks India to review CPEC approach

Mar 23, 2018 0

Islamabad– India should review its “short-sighted” approach towards the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project and benefit from it, instead of criticising it, Pakistani Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal has said.

“CPEC is purely an economic development project that would bring prosperity. India should get benefit from the project rather than pursuing unnecessary criticism,” Iqbal was cited as saying by Dawn online on Friday.

The CPEC connects China’s Kashgar in Xinjiang province with Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Balochistan through a network of roads, railways and highways. India strongly objects to the route of the corridor, which goes through Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Iqbal said India’s reaction to the CPEC was “not positive and sooner or later it would realise that the project would benefit the entire region”.

“The CPEC would bring prosperity to the region, including China and Pakistan,” he added.

The Minister further said “the resolution of the issues didn’t lie in tensions and disputes among regional countries”. He said that “India held the key to peace in South Asia and that country could not progress without cooperation”.

Iqbal said the future of Asian countries depended on promotion of trade and commerce and connectivity through transport corridors. “Transport corridors help connect the countries and play a pivotal role in economic integration, trade development and regional connectivity across the globe.” (IANS)

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