Trade war risk to dominate BRICS summit in South Africa

China’s President Xi Jinping is on a whistle-stop tour to cement relations with African allies. (AFP)
Updated 24 July 2018

Trade war risk to dominate BRICS summit in South Africa

  • Earlier this month, China said that it would step up cooperation with other developing nations like the BRICS grouping to counter ‘trade protectionism’
  • The trade war risk also dominated a meeting of Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers at the weekend in Buenos Aires

JOHANNESBURG: Leaders of the BRICS emerging economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — will meet in Johannesburg this week, with the threat of a worsening global trade war topping the agenda.
US President Donald Trump’s hardening stance has compounded fears of an all-out trade war after he slapped levies on goods from China worth tens of billions of dollars as well as tariffs on steel and aluminum from the EU, Canada and Mexico.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the annual three-day summit opening in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
Earlier this month, China said that it would step up cooperation with other developing nations like the BRICS grouping to counter “trade protectionism.”
China on Monday rejected accusations by Trump that it was manipulating the yuan to give its exporters an edge, saying Washington appeared “bent on provoking a trade war.”
Trump has said he is ready to impose tariffs on all $500 billion of China imports, complaining that China’s trade surplus with the US is due to unfair currency manipulation.
“As to the US being bent on provoking a trade war, China does not want a trade war but is not afraid,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman said when asked about Trump’s threat to impose the across-the-board tariffs on Chinese goods.
Russian Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin said last week ahead of the Johannesburg meeting that “this summit is about the context — we are at a time when the US and China announce new measures almost every week.”
He said much of the discussions with China would likely focus on what is happening with the US.
“This is a trade war, so leaders’ discussions are particularly important in coordinating our positions,” said Oreshkin.
Sreeram Chaulia, of the Jindal School of International Affairs outside Delhi, said BRICS leaders would “concur that the US has unleashed punitive trade wars that are hurting all the BRICS members.”
“They have a collective interest in promoting intra-BRICS trade. The urgency this time is greater,” he said.
The BRICS group, comprising more than 40 percent of the global population, represents some of the biggest emerging economies, but has struggled to find a unified voice — as well as achieving sharply different growth rates.
Analysts say US trade policy could give the group some renewed momentum.
“Trade agreements between associations of countries like BRICS have become increasingly important given the self-seeking, and ultimately short-sighted, barriers to trade that are being instigated by the US,” Kenneth Creamer, an economist at Johannesburg’s Wits University, told AFP.
“South Africa, and Africa more broadly, can benefit from increasing exports to fast growing countries like India and China. BRICS has the strategic potential to re-shape world trade.”
The trade war risk also dominated a meeting of Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers at the weekend in Buenos Aires, while International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde again spoke out against the tit-for-tat tariffs.
China’s President Xi was due to hold bilateral talks with South African Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday after visiting Senegal and Rwanda as part of a whistle-stop tour to cement relations with African allies.
Signaling diplomatic rivalry over influence in Africa, India’s Narendra Modi is visiting Rwanda and Uganda on his own five-day tour of the continent including the BRICS summit.
Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan will also attend a summit as the current chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Erdogan will reportedly meet Putin on the summit’s sidelines.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker travels to Washington on Wednesday to meet Trump as part of the EU’s effort to head off a trade war.


Lufthansa accepts tweaked demands by Brussels over state bailout

Updated 30 May 2020

Lufthansa accepts tweaked demands by Brussels over state bailout

  • Lufthansa and the rest of the airline sector have been hard hit by what is expected to be a protracted travel slump

BERLIN/FRANKFURT: Lufthansa’s management board has accepted a more favorable set of demands from the European Commission in exchange for approval of a $10 billion government bailout, the carrier said on Saturday, paving the way for its rescue.
The agreement comes after the airline’s supervisory board on Wednesday rejected an initial deal with Brussels including conditions that were significantly more painful.
Lufthansa and the rest of the airline sector have been hard hit by what is expected to be a protracted travel slump due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the latest agreement, Lufthansa said it will be obliged to transfer up to 24 takeoff and landing slots for up to four aircraft to one rival each at the Frankfurt and Munich airports.
This translates into three take-off and three landing rights per aircraft and day, it said, confirming what sources had earlier told Reuters.
“For one-and-a-half years, this option is only available to new competitors at the Frankfurt and Munich airports,” Lufthansa said, initially excluding budget carrier Ryanair. “If no new competitor makes use of this option, it will be extended to existing competitors at the respective airports.”
The previous deal had included forfeiting 72 slots used by 12 of 300 jets based at the Frankfurt and Munich airports, a source familiar with the matter said.
The slots, to be allocated in a bidding process, can be taken over only by a European peer that has not received any substantial state aid during the pandemic, Lufthansa said.
The Commission said once it has been officially notified by Germany on the aid package it will assess the issue as a matter of priority.
“(Lufthansa’s remedies will) enable a viable entry or expansion of activities by other airlines at these airports to the benefit of consumers and effective competition,” it said in a statement.
The airline’s supervisory board needs to approve the deal, Lufthansa said, adding it would convene an extraordinary general meeting to obtain shareholder approval for the bailout.
The largest German corporate rescue since the coronavirus crisis struck will see the government get a 20 percent stake in Lufthansa, which could rise to 25 percent plus one share in the event of a takeover attempt. A deal would also give the government two seats on Lufthansa’s supervisory board.
Rivals such as Franco-Dutch group Air France-KLM and US carriers American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines are all seeking state aid due to the economic effects of the pandemic.
Germany, which has set up a $110 billion fund to take stakes in companies hit by the pandemic, said it plans to sell the Lufthansa stake by the end of 2023.
“The German government, Lufthansa and the European Commission have reached an important intermediate step in the aid negotiations,” the Economy Ministry said in a statement.
It said talks with the Commission over state aid would continue.