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.

Egypt, Maersk’s C2X sign $3bn agreement to produce green fuel in Suez Canal  

Updated 12 sec ago

Egypt, Maersk’s C2X sign $3bn agreement to produce green fuel in Suez Canal  

RIYADH: Egypt is poised to produce green fuel through its recent agreement with Maersk’s C2X worth up to $3 billion signed on Wednesday, according to its prime minister’s office.  

The deal, signed during a meeting between Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and C2X CEO Brian Davis, is aimed at producing green fuel for ship supplies and achieving zero carbon emissions. 

The agreement was formalized during a signing ceremony involving the General Authority for the Suez Canal Economic Zone, the Sovereign Fund of Egypt, the New and Renewable Energy Authority, the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Co., and the C2X company. 

Egyptian AI startup Intella raises $3.4m from Saudi investors 

Updated 26 min 50 sec ago

Egyptian AI startup Intella raises $3.4m from Saudi investors 

RIYADH: In a significant development for Saudi Arabia’s technology sector, Egyptian deep tech firm Intella has successfully secured $3.4 million in a pre-series A funding round. This funding round was led by Saudi-based HALA Ventures and Wa’ed Ventures, the venture arm of Aramco. 

The capital injection is set to accelerate Intella’s foray into the Saudi market and underpin the development of artificial intelligence models tailored for the Middle East and North Africa audience.    

To demonstrate its commitment to the market, Intella is strategically relocating its headquarters to Saudi Arabia, positioning itself in the midst of the Kingdom's growing tech and AI landscape. 

“Saudi Arabia is quickly becoming a hub for technological advances. This move fits perfectly with our plans for expansion,” said Nour Taher, CEO and co-founder.   

In its pursuit of technological excellence, Intella’s Voice system achieved a 95.73 percent accuracy rate after extensive testing involving 30,000 hours of Arabic audio. This accuracy rate surpasses industry giants like Google and IBM Watson. 

Omar Mansour, Intella’s co-founder and chief technology officer, highlighted the Arabic-focused voice technology, emphasizing its move into advanced audio analytics.   

Hailing Intella’s pioneering approach, Ali Abussaud of HALA Ventures noted: “We’re excited to back Intella’s vision. They’re making significant strides in connecting global AI progress with the needs of the Arab-speaking community, and it’s exactly the kind of initiative the region needs right now.”   

As Intella aims to lead the way in Arabic voice technology, this funding brings it closer to its goal of aligning the MENA region with global tech advancements. 

The funding round also received contributions from Sanabil500, INSEAD’s alumni angel network, and several other prominent investors.

SADAFCO partners with NTSC to implement zero-emission vehicles 

Updated 57 min 44 sec ago

SADAFCO partners with NTSC to implement zero-emission vehicles 

RIYADH: In a bid to further strengthen its commitment to sustainability, Saudia Dairy & Foodstuff Co. has entered into an agreement with National Transport Solutions Co. to introduce zero-emission vehicles into its fleet. 

According to a press statement, this initiative, aimed at reducing carbon emissions, aligns with SADAFCO’s Sustainability 2030 Vision. Under the agreement, NTSC will assist SADAFCO in quantifying the current carbon emissions produced by its vehicle fleet and will help formulate a comprehensive roadmap for the transition to ZEVs. 

“SADAFCO is committed to creating a sustainable future through decarbonization. The decarbonization journey with NTSC is another crucial step toward creating a more sustainable future,” said Patrick Stillhart, CEO of SADAFCO.  

He added: “By switching to electric vehicles, SADAFCO will reduce carbon emissions and help create a cleaner, healthier world. Decarbonization is a long-term goal that requires a transformation of the energy systems. At SADAFCO, we have already set up our solar-powered warehouses and are planning to add more.”   

The proposed project will be executed in several phases. In the initial phase, an analysis will be conducted to assess the current carbon emissions generated by SADAFCO’s vehicle fleet.  

Subsequently, the focus will shift to assessing the availability of zero-emission vehicles in Saudi Arabia. This will be followed by integrating emissions data, fleet composition, operational cycles, and ZEV availability to formulate a strategic roadmap for the transition. 

“This partnership underscores SADAFCO’s unwavering commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, driving sustainability initiatives, and fostering a greener future. Both SADAFCO and NTSC are eager to set a precedent for responsible corporate citizenship in the region with this move toward sustainable transportation,” stated the company in the press statement.   

In July, SADAFCO, one of the prominent names in Saudi Arabia’s food market, announced a net profit of SR107.63 million ($28.69 million) for the first quarter of 2023, compared to SR56.27 million in the same period the previous year. 

Oil Updates — crude falls $1 on demand fears

Updated 04 October 2023

Oil Updates — crude falls $1 on demand fears

LONDON: Oil fell on Wednesday, as Saudi Arabia’s announcement to continue crude output cuts to the end of 2023 was offset by demand fears stemming from macroeconomic headwinds.

Brent crude oil futures were down 87 cents, or 0.96 percent, to $90.05 a barrel at 1:14 p.m. Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate crude fell 94 cents, or 1.05 percent, to $88.29 per barrel.

Both contracts traded more than $1 lower than Tuesday’s settlement price at their intraday on Wednesday, with Brent falling to $89.83 a barrel, and WTI to $88.11 a barrel.

Prices remain under pressure from demand fears driven by macroeconomic headwinds.

“Oil prices are resuming their decline amid concerns over high interest rates for longer, hurting the demand outlook and as investors look ahead to the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) meeting,” said Fiona Cincotta, analyst at City Index.

Saudi Arabia’s energy ministry confirmed on Wednesday it will continue its voluntary 1 million barrel per day crude supply cut until the end of this year.

Russia said it will continue its current 300,000 bpd crude export cuts until the end of the year, and will review its voluntary 500,000 bpd output cut, set back in April, in November.

Russia was also discussing partial permission for fuel exports “at all levels,” state-run TASS agency reported on Wednesday, citing Russian Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov.

The Kremlin could be ready to ease its diesel ban in coming days, according to a daily Kommersant report on Wednesday citing unidentified sources.

A strong US dollar could also be weighing on investor sentiment.

The current dollar strength is “a rally that will continue to haunt all markets including oil, even when, as is now, there is a compelling fundamental backdrop,” PVM analyst John Evans said.

As the trade currency of oil, a strong dollar makes oil comparatively expensive for holders of other currencies, which can dampen demand.

Elsewhere, latest purchasing managers’ index data showed a score of 47.2 in September for the euro zone, edging higher from 46.7 in August. Anything below 50 implies economic contraction.

Makkah Chamber bags economic excellence award  

Updated 04 October 2023

Makkah Chamber bags economic excellence award  

RIYADH: The Makkah Chamber of Commerce has been honored with this year’s Economic Excellence Award in recognition of its commitment to providing constructive economic solutions for the business sector in the city. 

According to the Saudi Press Agency, the announcement was made on Monday by the governorate of Makkah, which organizes the award annually.  

The chamber had previously received the Urban Excellence Branch Prize, SPA reported. 

Over the recent period, the organization has undertaken numerous projects and initiatives of significant economic and social value while playing a crucial role in supporting various business sectors. 

One of the notable initiatives was the tripartite benefits agreement, which brought together the Makkah Chamber, the Madinah Chamber and the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture to transform the two cities into centers for financial and commercial activities in the Islamic world.