G20 financial leaders seek “free trade” pledge amid US tariffs concern

The main focus of the G20 talks is the threat of a trade war between the US and its trading partners, particularly China and the European Union. (Reuters)
Updated 19 March 2018

G20 financial leaders seek “free trade” pledge amid US tariffs concern

BUENOS AIRES: The world’s financial leaders were seeking on Monday to clearly endorse free trade and renounce protectionism amid concern that US tariffs on steel and aluminum and looming actions against China could trigger a trade war that would hurt global growth.
Finance ministers and central bank governors of the world’s 20 biggest economies are meeting in Buenos Aires to discuss the economic outlook, capital flows, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, and how to prevent tax avoidance by international companies.
But since the unilateral decision by US President Donald Trump on March 8 to impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, trade has become the focal point of the meeting.
“I am seriously concerned that the foundation of our prosperity — free trade — is being put at risk,” German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told German mass-selling daily Bild.
“Protectionism is not the answer to the difficulties of our time. The situation is serious,” he said, adding he would be cautious yet about using the term trade “war.”
On Sunday Scholz said he would seek to dissuade Washington from imposing the planned punitive steel and aluminum tariffs which only come into effect on March 23.
Others at the G20 meeting, which will conclude on Tuesday with a joint communique, shared Germany’s concern.
“There is a solid understanding among the global community that free trade is important,” Japanese central bank governor Haruhiko Kuroda told reporters upon arrival for the talks. Brazilian Central Bank governor Ilan Goldfajn also called on the G20 to work to keep global trade flows open.
The US import tariffs on steel and aluminum have raised alarms among trading partners that Trump is following through on his threats to dismantle the decades-old trading system based around World Trade Organization rules in favor of unilateral US actions.
Potentially broader anti-China tariffs and investment restrictions under consideration as part of a US intellectual property probe have raised concerns that retaliation could seriously diminish global trade and choke off the strongest global growth since the G20 was formed during the 2008 financial crisis.
Morgan Stanley economists said in a report to clients late on Sunday that a broad-based application of US “Section 301” remedies resulting in a 20 percent tariff on Chinese manufactured goods, coupled with a commensurate response from China, would slash annual growth rates in both countries by a full percentage point within a year.
An early draft of the G20 communique seen by Reuters contained the phrase “international trade and investment are important engines of growth.”
It also said that G20 finance ministers stood by an agreement reached by their leaders in July last year in Hamburg.
A G20 official said discussions now centered on whether that language on trade would remain in the communique, which has to be endorsed unanimously, including by the United States.
The agreement from Hamburg, to which the Buenos Aires draft referred, said: “We note the importance of bilateral, regional and plurilateral agreements being open, transparent, inclusive and WTO-consistent, and commit to working to ensure they complement the multilateral trade agreements.”
Unilateral decisions by the United States to impose tariffs are seen as going against negotiated, or “multilateral” measures that would be part of the WTO.
The draft G20 communique also said that while the global economic outlook has been improving, “a retreat to inward looking policies” — suggesting protectionist trade practices — was a risk to growth.


Saudi Credit Bureau issued 116m reports in 16 years

Updated 10 April 2021

Saudi Credit Bureau issued 116m reports in 16 years

  • SIMAH plays an important role in helping consumers, corporates, and SMEs obtain financing
  • Its credit data on individuals and corporate borrowers helps remove the uncertainty that has traditionally been associated with lending

RIYADH: The Saudi Credit Bureau (SIMAH) issued more than 116 million credit reports to the Saudi market since its establishment in 2004 until the end of December 2020, helping its members identify their customers’ credit behavior and bring more transparency to the Kingdom’s lending system.
Over the same period, the size of SIMAH’s database of consumers rose to around 18 million — individuals and companies. The number of credit scores it provided between 2018 and 2020 amounted to over 28 million.
SIMAH plays an important role in helping consumers, corporates, and small and medium-sized enterprises obtain financing.
Its credit data on individuals and corporate borrowers helps remove the uncertainty that has traditionally been associated with lending.
The new data comes as SIMAH launched its latest awareness campaign Amwalk-2. The financial literacy program is designed to help all segments of society achieve their financial goals, reduce defaults and enhance the culture of savings.
With Amwalk-2, SIMAH aims to shed light on issues related to financial and credit aspects of individual consumers, in an effort to raise the level of financial literacy and introduce consumers to the importance of financial planning.
It also aims to enhance the essential role of SIMAH, being the first licensed credit bureau in the Saudi market, in helping consumers assess their creditworthiness and guide them toward the most optimal use of credit cards.
Through Amwalk-2, SIMAH is actively contributing to the preservation of consumers’ rights and follows the eight credit principles: Neutrality, transparency, education, awareness, credit behavior, complaints, protection and confidentiality.
It seeks to stress the importance of a credit report in organizing and managing budgets, taking financing decisions and knowing financial obligations with credit donors.
“Amwalk-2 comes as an extension of Amwalk-1 that SIMAH launched in 2019, as one of the largest financial education programs. We believe in the importance of spreading financial culture and try to play a role in this aspect by highlighting consumers’ rights,” SIMAH CEO Swaied Alzahrani said in a statement.
“Financial education is progressively necessary. It’s turning into essential for the typical family making an attempt to determine the way to balance its budget, buy a home, fund the children’s education and ensure an income when the parents retire. Recent developments have created financial education more and more necessary for financial well-being.”


Aramco agrees $12.4 billion pipeline deal with EIG

Updated 10 April 2021

Aramco agrees $12.4 billion pipeline deal with EIG

  • Aramco to hold 51% stake in new company
  • Aligns with recently announced "Shareek" program

RIYADH: Aramco has agreed a $12.4 billion leaseback deal with a consortium led by EIG Global Energy Partners in one of the biggest energy infrastructure transactions.
It represents a continuation of Aramco’s strategy to unlock the potential of its asset base and maximize value for its shareholders, it said in a statement.
A newly-formed unit called Aramco Oil Pipelines Company will lease usage rights in Aramco’s stabilized crude oil pipelines network for a 25-year period.
In return, Aramco Oil Pipelines Company will receive a tariff payable by Aramco for the stabilized crude oil that flows through the network, backed by minimum volume commitments.
Aramco will hold a 51 percent majority stake in the new company and the EIG-led consortium will hold a 49 percent stake.
The Saudi oil giant said it would retain full ownership and operational control of its stabilized crude oil pipeline network and that the transaction would not impose any restrictions on Aramco’s actual crude oil production volumes.
“This landmark transaction defines the way forward for our portfolio optimization program,” said Aramco President Amin Nasser. “We are capitalizing on new opportunities that also align strategically with the Kingdom’s recently-launched Shareek program. Aramco’s strong capital structure will be further enhanced with this transaction, which in turn will help maximize returns for our shareholders.”

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Oil prices dip on mixed supply and demand outlook

Updated 10 April 2021

Oil prices dip on mixed supply and demand outlook

  • Downward pressure has been exerted by the decision of OPEC+ to increase supplies by 2 million barrels per day between May and July

LONDON: Oil prices edged lower on Friday on rising supplies from major producers and concerns over a mixed picture on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on fuel demand.

Brent crude futures for June fell 37 cents, or 0.59 percent, to $62.83 a barrel while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for May was at $59.24, down 36 cents.

Both contracts are on track for a 2-3 percent drop this week but still far from a low of $60.47 hit two weeks ago.

Downward pressure has been exerted by the decision of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, known as OPEC+, to increase supplies by 2 million barrels per day between May and July.

Analysts expect global oil inventories to continue to fall, but predict fuel demand will accelerate in the second half of the year as the global economic recovery gathers steam.

“A lot of destocking is going on, so we are well into the rebalancing process,” said Energy Aspects analyst Virendra Chauhan.

Physical markets will still need to pick up before prices and inter-month spreads can rally, he added.

For all the optimism, renewed lockdowns in some parts of the world and problems with vaccination programs could threaten the oil demand picture.

Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at Axi, said oil prices are expected to trade in a range between $60 and $70 as investors weigh these factors.

“Oil is currently in a wait-and-see mode, with market participants looking at the vaccination pace to understand when oil demand will recover further and at nuclear talks in Vienna to see when more Iranian barrels might come back,” said UBS commodity analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

Talks to bring Iran and the US fully back into the 2015 nuclear deal are making progress, delegates said on Friday, but Iranian officials indicated disagrement with Washington over which sanctions it must lift.

“If a fulsome framework can be crafted in the coming weeks, significant quantities of Iranian oil will likely hit the market in H2 2021,” RBC Capital analyst Helima Croft said in a note this week.


Pakistan's current $16 billion forex reserves will make import payments ‘easy’ — experts

Updated 10 April 2021

Pakistan's current $16 billion forex reserves will make import payments ‘easy’ — experts

  • The country's foreign currency reserves increased to $22.18 billion after four years, following significant Eurobond inflows
  • The situation has not done much for the national currency that may come under pressure in the long term due to debt servicing

KARACHI: Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves have reached $22.18 billion, with more than $16 billion held by the central bank, after a span of four years, as the country raised $2.5 billion by issuing Eurobonds, said an official statement released on Thursday.

"The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has received the proceeds of government's $2.5 billion Eurobond issuance in its account," said the statement circulated on Thursday night. "As a result, SBP's foreign exchange reserves closed above $16 billion, their highest level since July 2017."

According to economic analysts, the inflows have brought the government in a more comfortable position to pay for its imports, including any COVID-19 vaccines.

"The inflow of $2.5 billion has raised the cushion of the State Bank and it will also improve the country's current account position," Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri, member of the government's Economic Advisory Council (EAC), told Arab News on Friday.

"The inflows have made it easy for the country to make payments for imports of COVID-19 vaccine, wheat or sugar due to an improved reserves position," he continued. "This is also the right time to tap international market."

Some economists also suggested that Pakistan should utilize the Eurobond proceeds to pay off some of its debts.

"The country has arranged the liquidity to pay off previous external debts because time to make these payments is due and the prices of oil are also increasing with the ease of lockdown," Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, joint executive director at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), said.

"For the payment of external debts and oil imports the Eurobond proceeds can be utilized," he added.

The inflows did not generate any major fluctuations in the currency and interbank markets as the rupee only appreciated 0.05 percent to close at Rs152.94 against the greenback on Friday.

"Going forward the rupee can come under pressure due to debt servicing since the country is availing G20 debt relief at present," Samiullah Tariq, head of research at the Pakistan-Kuwait Investment, told Arab News. "Only strong and enduring inflows can resist the fall of rupee. Otherwise, we expect three to four percent depreciation in the long run."

Despite its limited impact on the national currency, an official statement announced that the country had returned to the international market for the first time by issuing securities since 2017.

"Pakistan has entered the international capital market after a gap of over three years by successfully raising $2.5 billion through a multi-tranche transaction of 5, 10 and 30-year Eurobonds," the finance ministry said on Thursday.

"The transaction generated great interest as leading global investors from Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the US participated in the global investor calls and the order book," it added.

This is for the first time that Pakistan has adopted a program-based approach with registration of Global Medium-Term Note program.

"The program will allow Pakistan to tap the market at short notice," the ministry continued in its statement. "The government intends to make full use of this program and become a regular issuer in the International Capital Markets."


Riyadh city chiefs deny Bloomberg report of unpaid Metro contractor claims

Updated 09 April 2021

Riyadh city chiefs deny Bloomberg report of unpaid Metro contractor claims

  • Pandemic leads to supply chain disruptions
  • All claims go through contractual process

RIYADH: The Royal Commission for Riyadh City (RCRC) has denied claims it has not paid contractors building the city’s multi-billion dollar metro project.
It follows a Bloomberg report published earlier in the week headlined “Saudi Arabia’s Unpaid Tab With Metro Builders Runs Into Billions.”
It said that payments had been made in a timely manner on the project which started in 2013 and that any contractual claims were assessed through a dispute resolution process.
“All claims filed go through a dispute resolution process in order for all disputes to be resolved professionally and amicably,” it said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic affected the construction of mega projects, such as supply chain interruptions. However, despite the outbreak, we have ensured the project’s continuity, as we adapted business behavior and construction processes.”
The Riyadh Transit Network Project (RTNP) aims to support the Kingdom’s 2030 economic diversification agenda by boosting the transportation sector and raising the capital city’s profile.
With its six lines totaling 176km and 85 metro stations, the metro network will cover most of the densely populated areas of the city, public facilities, as well as governmental, educational, commercial and medical institutions.
It will connect to King Khalid International Airport and King Abdullah Financial District, in addition to main universities and the downtown area.
The metro service will also be integrated with the Riyadh Bus network, linking to 3,000 bus stops spread across the city over 1,900 km of routes.