New York, Nov 5 (AP/UNB) — Amazon is following Target and temporarily dropping the minimum amount shoppers need to spend to qualify for free shipping.
Typically, Amazon shoppers need to spend $25 to qualify for free shipping or pay $119 a year for a Prime membership. Amazon's offer, which started Monday, applies to hundreds of millions of items and on orders that arrive in time for Christmas. Shoppers who aren't Prime members will get slower shipping, though, which can take five to eight days.
Retailers are competing hard for holiday shoppers, who increasingly expect fast shipping that's free. Target dropped its minimum purchase amount last week, offering free two-day shipping on hundreds of thousands of items until Dec. 22. Walmart, which offers free two-day shipping on orders over $35, told reporters after the Target announcement that it has no plans to change its shipping policy.
Amazon also said Monday that it has expanded the number of items and locations where Prime members can get free same-day delivery.
Beijing. Nov 4 (AP/UNB) — Facing a blizzard of trade complaints, China is throwing an "open for business" import fair hosted by President Xi Jinping to rebrand itself as a welcoming market and positive global force.
More than 3,000 companies from 130 countries selling everything from Egyptian dates to factory machinery are attending the China International Import Expo , opening Monday in the commercial hub of Shanghai. Its VIP guest list includes prime ministers and other leaders from Russia, Pakistan and Vietnam.
The United States, fighting a tariff war with Beijing, has no plans to send a high-level envoy.
Xi's government is emphasizing the promise of China's growing consumer market to help defuse complaints Beijing abuses the global trading system by reneging on promises to open its industries.
"This says, look, we're not a global parasite that is creating massive deficits, we are buying goods," said Kerry Brown, a Chinese politics specialist at King's College London.
The event also is part of efforts to develop a trading network centered on China and increase its influence in a Western-dominated global system.
President Donald Trump and his "American first" trade policies that threaten to raise import barriers to the world's biggest consumer market loom in the background.
Exporters, especially developing countries, want closer relations with China to help "insulate themselves from what is happening with Trump and the U.S.," said Gareth Leather of Capital Economics.
China has cut tariffs and announced other measures this year to boost imports, which rose 15.9 percent in 2017 to $1.8 trillion. But none address the U.S. complaints about its technology policy that prompted Trump to impose penalty tariffs of up to 25 percent on $250 billion of Chinese imports. Beijing has responded with tariff hikes on $110 billion of American imports.
Chinese leaders have rejected pressure to roll back plans such as "Made in China 2025," which calls for state-led creation of global champions in robotics and other fields, ambitions that some American officials worry will undermine U.S. industrial leadership.
To keep the economy growing, China needs to nurture its consumer market and that requires more imports.
But foreign companies say regulators are still trying to squeeze them out of promising industries and that they face pressure to hand over technology.
The Shanghai expo "will be of little consequence to U.S. and other companies unless its pageantry is matched by meaningful and measurable changes in China trade practices," Kenneth Jarrett, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, said in an email.
Some companies might get a brief sales boost, "but its long-run impact will be defined by China's willingness to end many of its unfair trade practices," said Jarrett.
Europe, Japan and other trading partners have been leery of Trump's tactics but echo U.S. complaints.
They say Beijing improperly hampers access to finance, logistics and other service industries. European leaders are frustrated that Beijing bars foreign acquisitions of most assets while its own companies are on a global buying spree.
Writing in a Chinese business magazine, the French and German ambassadors to Beijing appealed for changes including an end to requirements that foreign companies operate in joint ventures with state-owned partners. They called for an overhaul of rules they say hinder companies from profiting from and protecting their technology.
"We encourage China to address these issues through concrete and systematic measures that go beyond tariff adjustments," Ambassadors Jean-Maurice Ripert of France and Clemens von Goetze of Germany wrote in the magazine Caixin.
China already is the No. 1 trading partner for all its Asian neighbors, though a big share of the iron ore, industrial components and other goods it buys are turned into smartphones, TV sets and other goods for export.
Tariff cuts announced over the past year were aimed at giving Chinese consumers better access to foreign goods. Chinese leaders emphasize those include anti-cancer drugs and other medical products. But many are specialty goods such as high-end baby strollers, avocados and mineral water that don't compete with Chinese suppliers.
The Shanghai expo also gives Beijing a chance to repair its image following complaints about its "Belt and Road" initiative to expand trade by building ports, railways and other infrastructure across a vast arc of 65 countries from the South Pacific through Asia to Africa and Europe.
Governments including Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand have scrapped or scaled back projects due to high costs or complaints too little work goes to local companies. Sri Lanka, Kenya and other nations have run into trouble repaying Chinese loans.
"It's become too associated with debt and China getting what it wants," said Brown. "They are trying to get out this more positive message that China is open for business."
London, Nov 1 (AP/UNB) — The Bank of England is expected to keep interest rates on hold Thursday as it waits for the outcome of the stalled Brexit discussions between the British government and the European Union.
After the decision on the bank's main interest rate, which is currently at 0.75 percent, Governor Mark Carney will hold a news conference at which Brexit is likely to loom large.
Brexit has the potential to completely tear up the bank's economic projections — also due to be published Thursday — as well as the government's budget projections. That's why the central bank is likely to tread cautiously even though inflation is above the official target, which in theory would warrant higher rates.
"For the bank's immediate policy decision, near-term Brexit risks are likely to matter more than its expected medium-term outlook for growth and inflation," said Kallum Pickering, senior economist at Berenberg Bank.
The central bank's quarterly projections since the Brexit vote in June 2016 have been based on an assumption that the Brexit process would be smooth, that Britain's transition to a new trading relationship with the EU will be orderly. However, after 18 months of discussions, a deal has yet to be reached and fears are growing that one won't be reached given divergent views in particular on how to ensure a hard border does not return between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
A summit of EU leaders held earlier this month was supposed to be the moment by which to reach a Brexit deal, to give parliaments time to pass it into law ahead of the March departure. Now, officials are talking about a summit in December as potentially the last chance to agree on a Brexit deal. By then, many Britain-based firms may have already activated contingency plans that could include transferring business to the continent and jobs cut.
This week, credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's warned that Britain faces the prospect of an immediate and prolonged recession, spiking unemployment and inflation if it crashes out of the EU with no deal on future relations and no transition period. Carney will likely face questions on what the central bank anticipates for the British economy in a scenario that would see legal and regulatory uncertainty, border delays and rising tariffs.
"Given the mounting uncertainty surrounding the negotiations, the bank's 'smooth Brexit' assumption is looking challenged," said James Smith, an economist at ING.
Dhaka, Oct 31 (UNB) - Bangladesh has shown the sign of slight improvement as the World Bank’s Doing Business report put it on 176th position among 190 countries.
Bangladesh was ranked at 177 among 190 countries in the last year’s index.
In a first for South Asia, two of the region’s economies earned coveted spots in the global top improvers, according to Washington-based global lending agency.
India continued its reform agenda, implementing six reforms in the past year and advancing 23 spots to 77th place in the global ranking, it said.
India is now the region’s top-ranked economy. Afghanistan, with five reforms, moved up 16 spots to 167th place in the global rankings, said the WB.
Governments around the world set a new record in bureaucracy busting efforts for the domestic private sector, implementing 314 business reforms over the past year, says the World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2019: Training for Reform report, released on Wednesday.
The reforms, carried out in 128 economies, benefit small and medium enterprises as well as entrepreneurs, enabling job creation and stimulating private investment.
This year’s reforms surpass the previous all-time high of 290 reforms two years ago.
“The private sector is key to creating sustainable economic growth and ending poverty around the world,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.
“Fair, efficient and transparent rules, which Doing Business promotes, are the bedrock of a vibrant economy and entrepreneurship environment. It’s critical for governments to accelerate efforts to create the conditions for private enterprise to thrive and communities to prosper.”
The report finds that reforms are taking place where they are most needed, with low-income and lower middle-income economies carrying out 172 reforms.
In the World Bank Group’s annual ease of doing business rankings, the top 10 economies are New Zealand, Singapore and Denmark, which retain their first, second and third spots respectively for a second consecutive year, followed by Hong Kong SAR, China, Republic of Korea, Georgia, Norway, the United States, the United Kingdom and FYR Macedonia.
The reforms in Mauritius included the elimination of a gender-based barrier to equalise the field between men and women in starting a business.
This year’s top 10 improvers, based on reforms undertaken, are Afghanistan, Djibouti, China, Azerbaijan, India, Togo, Kenya, Côte d'Ivoire, Turkey and Rwanda.
With six reforms each, Djibouti and India are in the top 10 for a second consecutive year.
Afghanistan and Turkey, top improvers for the first time, implemented record single-year reforms, with five and seven, respectively.
“The diversity among the top improvers shows that economies of all sizes and income levels, and even those in conflict can advance the business climate for domestic small and medium enterprises. Doing Business provides a road map that different governments can use to increase business confidence, innovation, and growth and reduce corruption,” said Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank’s Senior Director for Development Economics and Acting Chief Economist.
“This year’s results clearly demonstrate government commitment in many economies, large and small, to nurture entrepreneurship and private enterprise. If the reform agendas are complemented with training programs for public officials, the impact of reforms will be further enhanced, new data show,” said Rita Ramalho, Senior Manager of the World Bank’s Global Indicators Group, which produces the report.
Since its inception in 2003, more than 3,500 business reforms have been carried out in 186 of the 190 economies Doing Business monitors.
By region, East Asia and the Pacific is home to two of the world’s top 10 Doing Business economies, Singapore and Hong Kong SAR, China.
Additionally, China is one of this year’s top 10 improvers, advancing more than 30 spots to 46th place in the global rankings.
The region’s economies carried out a total of 43 reforms in the past year, with a major push seen in the areas of Starting a Business and Getting Electricity.
The pace of reforms accelerated in the region, with 54 reforms implemented during the past year, compared with a revised number of 43 reforms the previous year.
While reforms in the region covered all areas of Doing Business, many improvements focused on easing construction permitting and cross border trade.
Doing Business 2019 is the 16th in a series of annual reports investigating the regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it.
Data in Doing Business 2019 are current as of May 1, 2018. The indicators are used to analyse economic outcomes and identify what reforms of business regulation have worked, where and why.
This year, the name of the Doing Business distance to frontier score has been changed to “ease of doing business score” to better reflect the main idea of the measure - a score indicating an economy’s position to the best regulatory practice.
Bangkok, Oct 31 (AP/UNB) — The Pacific rim trade pact abandoned by President Donald Trump will take effect at the year's end after Australia became the sixth nation to ratify it.
Australia announced Wednesday that it had completed procedures needed for the trade arrangement, the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, to progress. It will take effect Dec. 30.
The deal is aimed at streamlining trade and slashing tariffs to facilitate more business activities between member nations with a combined population of nearly 500 million people and GDP of $13.5 trillion.
"Our ratification means we are guaranteeing maximum benefits for our farmers and businesses," Simon Birmingham, minister for Trade, Tourism and Development, said in a statement. He said the deal would bring annual benefits of up to $15.6 billion to the Australian economy by 2030.
The 11 nations remaining after the U.S. withdrawal in early 2017 amended the pact to enable it to take effect even without its participation. Japan, Canada, Mexico and Singapore also have ratified it.
The U.S. departure was a huge loss given the size of the American market. However other countries are said to be interested in joining the trade deal, which is seen as a first step toward a pan-Pacific free trade zone.
Trump said he was putting "America first" in seeking bilateral deals rather than broader ones like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said earlier this year that the U.S. would consider rejoining the pact after it deals with other priorities.
Other TPP member countries have said they hope the U.S. will rejoin, while emphasizing their commitment to the global trading system that has enabled many of them to build thriving modern economies.
Nearly two-dozen stipulations sought by the U.S. in the original TPP deal reportedly were shelved after Washington withdrew, watering down somewhat the plan proclaimed by the Obama administration of being the "gold standard" for 21st century trade rules.
Birmingham, the Australian trade minister, said the deal would help farmers gain better access to Canada's market for grains, sugar and beef, and to Mexico's market for pork, wheat, sugar and other farm products.
It will also help iron and steel, leather, paper products and medical equipment manufacturers who export $19 billion annually to other markets within the trade pact, he said.
For New Zealand, the trade arrangement will bring duty-free access for its exporters of wine, meats, wool, timber and fisheries products, the government said in a statement.
The countries that have not yet ratified the agreement are Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Peru and Chile.
Separate efforts are underway to forge a free trade arrangement within Asia called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which encompasses the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, as well as Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India and China, but not the United States.