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
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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.


No crowds as Apple’s iPhone 11 hits stores in China

Updated 20 September 2019
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No crowds as Apple’s iPhone 11 hits stores in China

  • The sales performance of the US tech giant’s latest line-up is being closely watched in the world’s largest smartphone market
  • Apple has been losing ground to competitors with cheaper and feature-packed handsets in recent years

BEIJING/SHANGHAI: Apple’s latest iPhone 11 range hit stores in China on Friday, with short queues of die-hard fans contrasting with the hundreds who camped out ahead of some previous launches.
The sales performance of the US tech giant’s latest line-up is being closely watched in the world’s largest smartphone market, where Apple has been losing ground to competitors with cheaper and feature-packed handsets in recent years.
The queues at the Shanghai and Beijing stores, which combined added up to few dozen customers, were in sharp contrast to previous years, when hundreds used to wait for hours outside Apple’s shops to be the first to grab its latest offerings.
But much of the fanfare in China has moved online where the pre-sales for iPhone 11, priced between $699 and $1,099, started last week.
Analysts said they had gotten off to a better start than the last cycle a year ago. Chinese e-commerce site JD.com said day one pre-sales for the iPhone 11 series were up 480 percent versus comparable sales for the iPhone XR last year.
Among customers that took to a store in Beijing on Friday to make a purchase in person was a programmer who only gave his surname as Liu, who said he had a model from every Apple series since the 3G range.
He said he was particularly attracted to the more expensive iPhone 11 Pro, which has three cameras on the back. “When it comes to taking photos, it’s better for night shots and the image is clearer,” he told Reuters.
Other customers, however, said that they were concerned that the range was not enabled for fifth-generation networks, putting them behind 5G models already released by China’s Huawei Technologies and smaller rival Vivo, and expressed hopes that Apple could make it happen for its next line-up.
“I think by the end of next year, especially in big cities like Beijing, 5G will be commonplace,” said civil servant Liu Liu. “If they don’t research this then they’ll lag way behind.”
The in-store launch of the iPhone 11 in China came a day after Chinese smartphone maker Huawei unveiled new smartphones which it said were more compact, with more sensitive cameras and wraparound screens more vivid than those of the latest iPhone, though it played down concerns about the lack of access to Google’s popular apps.
Huawei has experienced a surge in support from Chinese consumers after the brand was caught up in a trade war between the United States and China, which has in turn eaten into Apple’s market share in the country.