Milan, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — European producers of premium specialty agricultural products like French wine, Italian Parmesan and Spanish olives are facing a U.S. tariff hike due Friday with a mix of trepidation and indignation at being dragged into a trade war they feel they have little to do with.
The tariffs on $7.5 billion on a range of European goods were approved by the World Trade Organization as compensation for illegal EU subsidies to plane maker Airbus.
The U.S. has some leeway in deciding what goods it puts tariffs on. So while it is taxing European aircraft goods an extra 10%, it is walloping agricultural products an extra 25%.
"It's a nightmare," says Aurélie Bertin, who runs the 700-year-old winery Chateau Sainte-Roseline in southern France. "We don't know what will be the result at the end."
Her rosé wine business has boomed also thanks to Americans' growing demand for the beverage. She fears her U.S. sales could drop by a third under the new tariffs.
The punitive tariffs take particular aim at European agricultural products that have a "protected name status." Those are goods that can be sold under a name - like Scotch whiskey or Manchego cheese - only if they are from a particular region and follow specific production methods. The result is they fetch premium prices, protect cultural heritage - and are shielded from competitors.
U.S.-made Parmesan cheese, for example, is not allowed access to the European market as a copycat of the traditional Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano - a barrier that the U.S. milk producers lobby are pressuring to bring down.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella sought to impress on U.S. President Donald Trump during a White House Visit on Wednesday that the result of the tariffs may turn out to be "a mere race between tariffs" after the WTO decides Europe's case later this year over U.S. subsidies to Boeing. Trump was undeterred.
At home, European producers feel they are collateral damage from a political squabble entirely unrelated to their business.
"We consider that we are hostages of politics. We are very, very far from aeronautics, even if our wines are served on planes every day," said Burgundy wine producer Francois Labet.
The president of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese consortium, Nicola Bertinelli, said that its members "are embittered because one of the strongest sectors of our economy is being unjustly hit." He noted that Italy doesn't even participate in the Airbus consortium of countries that prompted the penalties.
The four shareholders in Airbus - Spain, France, Germany and Britain - were targeted with more tariffs than other EU countries. Spanish olives, for example, have been singled out, while those from Italy and Greece have been left alone.
That has created additional anxieties, with Spanish olive producers worried that U.S. buyers will turn to buying from Italian companies instead.
The U.S. tariffs appeared to be selectively chosen to hit premium specialty items that well-heeled U.S. consumers could continue to afford even at higher prices - and not sectors that would more directly correlate to the unfair subsidies for Airbus, which could put a damper on the U.S. economy, said Gianmarco Ottaviano, an economics professor at Milan's Bocconi University.
"We don't see a lot of tariffs on things that Italy is exporting a lot, like machinery. The reason is that this is probably more useful than Parmesan cheese to the U.S. economy," he said. "You want to punish, but at the same time, you don't want to shoot yourself in the foot."
A tariff is essentially a tax on importers and for small U.S. retailers, they come at a bad time ahead of the holiday season.
U.S. wine retailers, distributors and importers already expect some customers to seek alternatives from countries whose products aren't being taxed. And any signs that customers are balking at higher prices will force retailers to absorb their increased costs.
The vice president of Italy's main industrial lobby, Lisa Ferrarini, said that European producers could in the longer-term shift exports away from the U.S. market. But director of the Spanish food and beverage industry director disputes that logic, saying, "there is no alternative to the American market."
European producers and diplomats were still pressing for a last-minute change of heart using all available channels, from social media to diplomacy.
Italy's agriculture minister, Teresa Bellanova, tweeted a photo to Trump promoting grapes and Italian Parmesan as a healthy snack, and the president of the Emilia Romagna region, where much of the cheese is produced, has launched a social media campaign in support of the product.
Trump, meanwhile, rebuffed Mattarella's in-person overtures, arguing that Europe "has taken tremendous advantage of the United States."
France's finance and economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, will make another attempt to soften the tariff blow when he meets with U.S. trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer in Washington on Thursday. Le Maire told Europe 1 radio he will warn Lighthizer that Europeans would strike back if the tariffs take effect on Friday.
"We, Europeans, will take similar sanctions in a few months, maybe even harsher ones - within the framework of the WTO - to retaliate to these US sanctions," he said.
Dhaka, Oct 17 (UNB) - Bangladeshi multinational electronics brand Walton was honoured with ‘Manufacturing Achievement Award’ for its outstanding contribution to the ‘Digital Bangladesh’ establishment through producing various sorts of digital devices.
Walton achieved the award at the ‘Award Night’ and the concluding ceremony of three-day long ‘Digital Device and Innovation Expo 2019’ at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the capital on Wednesday.
In the ‘Award Night,’ the local brand also received ‘Best Pavilion Award’ for setting up an eye-caching pavilion in the country’s mega expo on ICT and digital devices.
State Minister for ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak presided over the function while Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi was present as the chief guest.
Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Posts, Telecommunications and IT Affairs AKM Rahmatullah and Senior Secretary of Information and Communication Technology Division NM Zeaul Alam also attended the function as special guests.
In the event, Walton Group’s Executive Directors SM Zahid Hasan and Tapash Kumar Mojumder, Operative Director Tawfiq-Ul-Quader and Deputy Director Syed Md. Roble Islam received the crests of ‘Manufacturing Achievement Award’ and ‘Best Pavilion Award.’
In 2017, Walton established the country’s first-ever full-fledged mobile phone manufacturing industry. And in 2018, the local electronics giant started the domestic production of various sorts of ICT devices like computer, laptop, keyboard etc.
While expressing his reaction, SM Zahid Hasan said that Walton made electronics and ICT devices are now being exported to more than 30 countries of Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe. The ‘Made in Bangladesh’ tagged world-class Walton products are getting sound response from the global buyers.
Walton is not only brightening the positive image of Bangladesh in the global arena but also making an outstanding contribution to the country’s economic progress through raising export volume, creating employment and reducing import dependency, he noted.
Walton has products’ based several research and development centers, where a good number of local and international engineers and experts are doing extensive research to deliver new sorts of products with innovative designs and features.
Beijing, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — China appealed to Washington for a quick end to their tariff war but gave no indication Thursday what more Beijing might want before it carries out what President Donald Trump says is a promise to buy up to $50 billion of American farm goods.
Trump's promise Friday to delay a tariff hike in exchange for Chinese purchases of U.S. exports helped to reassure financial markets. But the deal has yet to be put on paper and few details have been announced, leaving companies questioning whether Beijing has required other conditions such as lifting of punitive tariffs before purchases go ahead.
Business groups welcomed the deal as a possible step toward breaking a deadlock in the 15-month-old fight over China's trade surplus and technology ambitions. Trump promised to delay a tariff hike this week on $250 billion of Chinese imports.
Still, economists warned it fails to address the core issues of the dispute that threatens to derail global economic growth. Those include complaints about Beijing's technology plans.
Negotiators are "striving to reach a consensus on the text of the agreement as soon as possible," said a Ministry of Commerce spokesman, Gao Feng, at a weekly news briefing. He said he couldn't give details.
Beijing has yet to confirm whether it will make purchases on the scale announced by Trump.
Beijing wants "economic and trade relations back on the right track at an early date," Gao said.
Achieving results "will help eliminate uncertainty and restore market confidence and also is highly significant for stabilizing the global economic situation," he said.
Beijing is resisting American pressure to roll back plans for government-led creation of Chinese global competitors in robotics and other technologies.
Washington, Europe, Japan and other trading partners complain those violate Beijing's market-opening commitments and are based on stealing or pressuring companies to hand over know-how.
On Tuesday, a foreign ministry spokesman said China would "speed up procurement" of American farm exports but gave no scale or time frame.
China has bought 20 million tons of soybeans and 700,000 tons of pork this year from the United States, according to the spokesman, Geng Shuang. China's imports of American soybeans averaged 33 million tons a year before the tariff fight and collapsed to 16.6 million tons.
Shopian, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — Kashmir's apple orchards, a backbone of the economy that supports nearly half the people living there, are deserted with fruit rotting on the trees at a time when they should be bustling with harvesters.
Losses are mounting as insurgent groups pressure pickers, traders and drivers to shun the industry to protest an Indian government crackdown.
Apple growers call it a "silent war declared on their stomachs."
"That's almost $1,200 worth of produce. It's all a waste now," said apple farmer Mohammad Shafi, pointing to a heap of rotten apples thrown into a pit in Wuyan, a small village 37 miles (60 kms) east of Srinagar, the region's main city.
Kashmir's pristine mountainous landscapes, ski resorts, lake houseboats and orchards have long made it a tourist attraction. But an armed rebellion that began 30 years ago in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir rages on.
In August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist-led government stripped Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status and imposed a strict crackdown, sending in tens of thousands more troops, detaining thousands of people and blocking mobile phones and internet services.
More than two months later, the region remains under a communications blockade. Authorities have restored landline services and some cellphones, but not internet, making it difficult to reach traders outside the region to conduct business.
Apple growers were expecting a bumper crop this year. Now, they say, losses are in the millions of dollars and the business might suffer its worst year since the beginning of the insurgency that has resulted in almost 70,000 deaths.
"It all started in August. We haven't recovered since," Shafi said.
On Wednesday, police said suspected militants shot dead an apple trader and injured another in a late-night attack in southern Shopian. The same day, a migrant laborer who worked at a brick kiln was also shot dead, police said.
That followed the arrests Tuesday of two militants suspected of shooting dead a truck driver near an apple orchard where he had collected 800 boxes of fruit.
On Sept. 6, unknown gunmen fired at a fruit trader in northern Sopore, injuring him and four members of his family.
So, the orchards lie empty of harvesters, as overripe fruit ripens and thuds to the ground.
The apple trade, worth $1.6 billion in exports in 2017, accounts for nearly a fifth of Kashmir's economy and provides livelihoods for 3.3 million. This year, less than 10% of the harvested apples had left the region by Oct. 6.
"It will take us years to recover from this shock," said Basheer Ahmad Basheer, who heads an apple growers' union in Srinagar.
The authorities set up four wholesale markets to help support the industry, but as of Oct. 6 those markets had only managed to buy $300,000 worth of apples out of what was expected to be a crop worth close to $1.9 billion this year.
"We have only managed to dispatch two trucks from this place to outside Kashmir," said Anshul Mittal, a government official at a wholesale market set up in Parimpora, Srinagar.
Many of the more than one dozen officials sent to help out at the market said the effort was failing, partly because truckers are refusing to take the risk of shipping the apples. None wanted to be named as they feared retribution from higher-ups.
The worst-hit region is southern Kashmir, where dense apple orchards stretch through hundreds of villages.
Shafi's orchard in Wuyan usually produces almost 10,000 boxes of apples per year. He says he's only sold 1,000 boxes this year. Half of the rest of the harvest had to be thrown out because the apples were bruised from falling off the trees, he said.
Growers like Shafi often rely on loans to pay for labor, fertilizer and other costs.
"A few days ago a friend came to me asking for the repayment of loans. I wept and begged in front of him as I have no money to give back to him," Shafi said.
The despair trickles down to unskilled workers like 22-year-old Sheeraz Ahman, who was counting on 45 days of work to earn more than $400 to help support his family.
So far, he's only gotten five days of work.
"We are in a desperate situation," Ahmad said.
Still, there are fewer laborers looking for work than usual: many left the region at the same time tourists were advised to get out in August.
One young apple picker, who asked not to be named out of fear of the authorities, said he preferred to be hungry rather than trapped in an army camp.
The army has denied allegations of arrests and torture.
But rumors of such tactics have alarmed those who usually would be working in the orchards.
So have the shootings.
Police blamed a local rebel for the Sept. 6 shooting and claimed insurgents were intimidating traders and truck drivers.
Many farmers told The Associated Press such threats were keeping them away from the orchards, regardless of who was brandishing weapons.
Beyond the crippling of this bedrock of the Kashmir economy is the symbolic importance of its apples.
Some working in the industry said they preferred to let the apples rot to foil Indian efforts to show the situation has returned to normal.
The government's crackdown, by stifling communications and provoking the insurgents, has made that impossible, said Aabid Gulzar, a 19-year-old English literature student who also works as a laborer at an apple orchard to help support his family of six.
"They (India) can blame anybody they want to but who created this rapidly deteriorating situation in first place?" he asked.
Bangkok, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — Asian shares were mixed Thursday on renewed caution over the truce in the tariff war between the U.S. and China.
Hong Kong initially led regional gains after its chief executive, Carrie Lam, announced help Wednesday for the property sector. The semi-autonomous city's economy has been languishing amid months of increasingly violent political protests that are in part fueled by the sky-high cost of housing.
The Hang Seng index added 0.4% to 26,776.97 after rising more than 1% earlier in the day.
Elsewhere, sentiment was tepid. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index lost 0.1% to 22,451.86 while the Shanghai Composite index slipped 0.2% to 2,972.42.
Australia's S&P ASX 200 lost 0.8% to 6,684.70 and the Kospi in Seoul gave up 0.4% to 2,074.02. India's Sensex was flat at 38,602.70.
Shares fell in Taiwan and Singapore but inched higher in Jakarta and Bangkok.
Investors are awaiting the release of Chinese data on Friday that will likely show the world's second largest economy slowed further in the July-September quarter given the toll the trade dispute is taking on the export manufacturing sector.
Thursday's lackluster trading tracked similar action on Wall Street, where the S&P 500 index lost 0.2% to 2,989.69. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.1% to 27,001.98 and the Nasdaq fell 0.3%, to 8,124.18. The Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks eked out a tiny gain, adding 1.76 points, or 0.1%, to 1,525.06.
The benchmark S&P 500 index remains 1.2% below its all-time high set in July.
The modest losses came as investors weighed mixed data on the economy and the latest batch of corporate earnings reports.
A move on Tuesday by the House of Representatives to show support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong appeared to dim some investor optimism about the prospects for progress in the latest trade talks between the U.S. and China.
On Friday, the U.S. agreed to suspend a planned hike in tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods that had been set to kick in Tuesday. Beijing, meanwhile, agreed to buy $40 billion to $50 billion in U.S. farm products.
But in a White House news conference on Wednesday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters that officials were still ironing out details of their preliminary agreement.
President Donald Trump has said he does not expect to sign an agreement until next month, when he is due to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the regional Asian Economic Cooperation, or APEC, forum in Chile in November.
In other trading, benchmark crude oil lost 48 cents to $52.88 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 55 cents to settle at $53.36 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, lost 45 cents to $58.97 a barrel.
The dollar fell to 108.75 Japanese yen from 108.76 yen on Wednesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1077 from $1.1073.