Tuesday, May 17, 2016

US, China in steel duty war; Japan surprises with growth; Climate change puts 1.3bn at risk

1 US, China in steel duty war (BBC) The US has raised its import duties on Chinese steelmakers by more than five-fold after accusing them of selling their products below market prices.  The taxes specifically apply to Chinese-made cold-rolled flat steel, which is used in car manufacturing, shipping containers and construction.

The US Commerce Department ruling comes amid heightened trade tensions between the two sides over several products, including chicken parts. Steel is an especially sensitive issue. US and European steel producers claim China is distorting the global market and undercutting them by dumping its excess supply abroad.

A separate filing by major US steelmakers to the International Trade Commission is looking to completely ban all Chinese steel imports. The US steel industry claims that around 12,000 workers have been laid off in the past year because of unfair Chinese competition.

China claims the weak economy is more responsible for the industry's problems and that it has taken steps to reduce its steel production.

2 Japan surprises with growth (Straits Times) Japan's economy expanded at the fastest pace in a year in the first quarter on robust private consumption and exports, complicating Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's decision on whether to delay a planned sales tax hike next year.

The world's third-largest economy expanded by an annualised 1.7 per cent in January-March, much more than a median market forecast for a 0.2 per cent increase and rebounding from a 1.7 per cent contraction in the previous quarter.

On quarter-on-quarter basis, the economy grew 0.4 per cent in January to March. Government officials have said the data will be crucial in Mr Abe's decision on whether to postpone a sales tax hike scheduled for next year.

Japan's economy contracted in the final quarter of last year as slow wage growth hurt private consumption, while exports felt the pinch from sluggish emerging market demand and the pain of a strong yen. Mr Abe raised the sales tax to 8 per cent from 5 per cent in 2014, which tipped the economy into recession. That led Mr Abe to delay a second tax hike to 10 per cent by 18 months.

3 Climate change puts 1.3bn at risk (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) The global community is badly prepared for a rapid increase in climate change-related natural disasters that by 2050 will put 1.3 billion people at risk, according to the World Bank.

Urging better planning of cities before it was too late, a report from a Bank-run body that focuses on disaster mitigation, said assets worth $158tn – double the total annual output of the global economy – would be in jeopardy by 2050 without preventative action.

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery said total damages from disasters had ballooned in recent decades but warned that worse could be in store as a result of a combination of global warming, an expanding population and the vulnerability of people crammed into slums in low-lying, fast-growing cities that are already overcrowded.

The facility’s report cited case studies showing that densely populated coastal cities are sinking at a time when sea levels are rising. It added that the annual cost of natural disasters in 136 coastal cities could increase from $6bn in 2010 to $1tn in 2070. The report said that the number of deaths and the monetary losses from natural disasters varied from year to year, but the upward trend was pronounced.

Total annual damage – averaged over a 10-year period – had risen tenfold from 1976–1985 to 2005–2014, from $14bn to more than $140bn. The average number of people affected each year had risen over the same period from around 60 million people to more than 170 million.

According to the facility, disaster risk is affected by three factors. It said these were: hazard – the frequency of potentially dangerous naturally occurring events, such as earthquakes or tropical cyclones; exposure – the size of the population and the economic assets located in hazard-prone areas; and vulnerability – the susceptibility of the exposed elements to the natural hazard.

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