All posts by MBusiness

India, EU Give WTO Lists of US Goods for Potential Tariff Retaliation

India and the European Union have given the World Trade Organization lists of the U.S. products that could incur high tariffs in retaliation for U.S. President Donald Trump’s global tariffs on steel and aluminum, WTO filings showed Friday.

The EU said Trump’s steel tariffs could cost $1.5 billion and aluminum tariffs a further $100 million, and listed rice, cranberries, bourbon, corn, peanut butter, and steel products among the U.S. goods that it might target for retaliation.

India said it was facing additional U.S. tariffs of $31 million on aluminum and $134 million on steel, and listed U.S. exports of soya oil, palmolein and cashew nuts among its potential targets for retaliatory tariffs.

One trade official described the lists of retaliatory tariffs as “loading a gun,” making it plain to U.S. exporters that pain might be on the way.

India said its tariffs would come into effect by June 21, unless and until the United States removed its tariffs.

The EU said some retaliation could be applied from June 20.

Trump’s tariffs, 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, came into force in March to strong opposition as many see the measures as unjustified and populist.

There were also objections that the tariffs would have little impact on China, widely seen to be the cause of oversupply in the market.

Trump justified the tariffs by claiming they were for U.S. national security, in a bid to protect them from any legal challenge at the WTO, causing further controversy.

Rather than challenging the U.S. tariffs directly, the EU and India, like China, South Korea and Russia, told the United States that they regarded Trump’s tariffs as “safeguards” under the WTO rules, which means U.S. trading partners are entitled to compensation for loss of trade.

The United States disagrees.

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China Ends US Sorghum Anti-Dumping Probe, OKs Toshiba Deal

China has dropped an anti-dumping investigation and given long awaited approval for the sale of Toshiba’s memory chip business, in gestures that could suggest a thaw between Beijing and the U.S. as trade talks resumed in Washington.

The Commerce Ministry said Friday ended the probe into imported U.S. sorghum because it’s not in the public interest. A day earlier, Beijing cleared the way for a group led by U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital to buy Toshiba Corp.’s computer memory chip business.

The moves signaled Beijing’s willingness to make a deal with Washington amid talks between senior U.S. and Chinese officials aimed at averting a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies, analysts say.

“I think China is willing to make concessions,” said Wang Tao, chief China economist at UBS. “The Chinese stance has been very clear, that China wants to mute any trade dispute. But of course it doesn’t mean China would heed to all the demands the U.S. would place.”

A White House official said China had offered to work to cut the trade deficit with the U.S. by $200 billion, while stressing that the details remained unclear. But China’s Foreign Ministry denied it.

“It’s untrue,” said spokesman Lu Kang. “The relevant discussion is still underway, and it is constructive.”

The Commerce Ministry said it was ending the anti-dumping probe and a parallel anti-subsidy investigation because they would have raised costs for consumers.

The U.S. is China’s biggest supplier of sorghum, accounting for more than 90 percent of total imports. China’s investigation, launched in February, had come as a warning shot to American farmers, many of whom support the Trump administration yet depend heavily on trade. They feared they would lose their largest export market for the crop, which is used primarily for animal feed and liquor.

The Commerce Ministry said that, “Anti-dumping and countervailing measures against imported sorghum originating in the United States would affect the cost of living of a majority of consumers and would not be in the public interest,” according to a notice posted on its website.

It said it had received many reports that the investigation would result in higher costs for the livestock industry, adding that many domestic pig farmers were facing hardship because of declining pork prices.

China’s U.S. sorghum imports surged from 317,000 metric tons in 2013 to 4.76 million tons last year while prices fell by about a third in the same period.

The ministry said any deposits for the preliminary anti-dumping tariffs of 178.6 percent, which took effect on April 18, would be returned in full.

The announcement came after President Donald Trump met at the White House with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, the leader of China’s delegation for talks with a U.S. team headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Trump had told reporters earlier that he had doubts about the potential for an agreement. He also raised fresh uncertainty about resolving a case involving Chinese tech company ZTE, which was hit with a crippling seven-year ban on buying from U.S. suppliers, forcing it to halt major operations. Trump said the company “did very bad things” to the U.S. economy and would be a “small component of the overall deal.”

Song Lifang, an economics professor and trade expert at Renmin University, said haggling is currently underway.

“It’s time for both to present their demands, but it’s also a time to exhibit their bargaining chips,” said Song, adding that approval for the Toshiba deal, worth $18 billion, was “an apparent sign of thaw” amid a U.S. investigation into Chinese trade practices requiring U.S. companies to turn over their technology in exchange for access to China’s market.

The Trump administration has proposed tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese products to punish Beijing while China has responded by targeting $50 billion in U.S. imports. Neither country has yet imposed tariffs.

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China Ends US Sorghum Anti-Dumping Probe, OKs Toshiba Deal

China has dropped an anti-dumping investigation and given long awaited approval for the sale of Toshiba’s memory chip business, in gestures that could suggest a thaw between Beijing and the U.S. as trade talks resumed in Washington.

The Commerce Ministry said Friday ended the probe into imported U.S. sorghum because it’s not in the public interest. A day earlier, Beijing cleared the way for a group led by U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital to buy Toshiba Corp.’s computer memory chip business.

The moves signaled Beijing’s willingness to make a deal with Washington amid talks between senior U.S. and Chinese officials aimed at averting a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies, analysts say.

“I think China is willing to make concessions,” said Wang Tao, chief China economist at UBS. “The Chinese stance has been very clear, that China wants to mute any trade dispute. But of course it doesn’t mean China would heed to all the demands the U.S. would place.”

A White House official said China had offered to work to cut the trade deficit with the U.S. by $200 billion, while stressing that the details remained unclear. But China’s Foreign Ministry denied it.

“It’s untrue,” said spokesman Lu Kang. “The relevant discussion is still underway, and it is constructive.”

The Commerce Ministry said it was ending the anti-dumping probe and a parallel anti-subsidy investigation because they would have raised costs for consumers.

The U.S. is China’s biggest supplier of sorghum, accounting for more than 90 percent of total imports. China’s investigation, launched in February, had come as a warning shot to American farmers, many of whom support the Trump administration yet depend heavily on trade. They feared they would lose their largest export market for the crop, which is used primarily for animal feed and liquor.

The Commerce Ministry said that, “Anti-dumping and countervailing measures against imported sorghum originating in the United States would affect the cost of living of a majority of consumers and would not be in the public interest,” according to a notice posted on its website.

It said it had received many reports that the investigation would result in higher costs for the livestock industry, adding that many domestic pig farmers were facing hardship because of declining pork prices.

China’s U.S. sorghum imports surged from 317,000 metric tons in 2013 to 4.76 million tons last year while prices fell by about a third in the same period.

The ministry said any deposits for the preliminary anti-dumping tariffs of 178.6 percent, which took effect on April 18, would be returned in full.

The announcement came after President Donald Trump met at the White House with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, the leader of China’s delegation for talks with a U.S. team headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Trump had told reporters earlier that he had doubts about the potential for an agreement. He also raised fresh uncertainty about resolving a case involving Chinese tech company ZTE, which was hit with a crippling seven-year ban on buying from U.S. suppliers, forcing it to halt major operations. Trump said the company “did very bad things” to the U.S. economy and would be a “small component of the overall deal.”

Song Lifang, an economics professor and trade expert at Renmin University, said haggling is currently underway.

“It’s time for both to present their demands, but it’s also a time to exhibit their bargaining chips,” said Song, adding that approval for the Toshiba deal, worth $18 billion, was “an apparent sign of thaw” amid a U.S. investigation into Chinese trade practices requiring U.S. companies to turn over their technology in exchange for access to China’s market.

The Trump administration has proposed tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese products to punish Beijing while China has responded by targeting $50 billion in U.S. imports. Neither country has yet imposed tariffs.

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EU Mulls Direct Iran Central Bank Transfers to Beat US Sanctions

The European Commission is proposing that EU governments make direct money transfers to Iran’s central bank to avoid U.S. penalties, an EU official said, in what would be the most forthright challenge to Washington’s newly reimposed sanctions.

The step, which would seek to bypass the U.S. financial system, would allow European companies to repay Iran for oil exports and repatriate Iranian funds in Europe, a senior EU official said, although the details were still to be worked out.

The European Union, once Iran’s biggest oil importer, is determined to save the nuclear accord, that U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned on May 8, by keeping money flowing to Tehran as long as the Islamic Republic complies with the 2015 deal to prevent it from developing an atomic weapon.

“Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has proposed this to member states. We now need to work out how we can facilitate oil payments and repatriate Iranian funds in the European Union to Iran’s central bank,” said the EU official, who is directly involved in the discussions.

The U.S. Treasury announced on Tuesday more sanctions on officials of the Iranian central bank, including Governor Valiollah Seif,. But the EU official said the bloc believes that does not sanction the central bank itself.

European Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete will discuss the idea with Iranian officials in Tehran during his trip this weekend, the EU official said. Then it will be up to EU governments to take a final decision.

EU leaders in Sofia this week committed to uphold Europe’s side of the 2015 nuclear deal, which offers sanctions relief in return for Tehran shutting down its capacity, under strict surveillance by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, to stockpile enriched uranium for a possible atomic bomb.

Sanctions-blocking law

Other measures included renewing a sanctions-blocking measure to protect European businesses in Iran.

The Commission said in a statement it had “launched the formal process to activate the Blocking Statute by updating the list of U.S. sanctions on Iran falling within its scope,” referring to an EU regulation from 1996.

The EU’s blocking statute bans any EU company from complying with U.S. sanctions and does not recognize any court rulings that enforce American penalties. It was developed when the United States tried to penalize foreign companies trading with Cuba in the 1990s, but has never been formally implemented.

EU officials say they are revamping the blocking statute to protect EU companies against U.S. Iran-related sanctions, after the expiry of 90- and 180-day wind-down periods that allow companies to quit the country and avoid fines.

A second EU official said the EU sanctions-blocking regulation would come into force on August 5, a day before U.S.

sanctions take effect, unless the European Parliament and EU governments formally rejected it.

“This has a strong signaling value, it can be very useful to companies but it is ultimately a business decision for each company to make [on whether to continue to invest in Iran],” the official said.

Once Iran’s top trading partner, the EU has sought to pour billions of euros into the Islamic Republic since the bloc, along with the United Nations and United States, lifted blanket economic sanctions in 2016 that had hurt the Iranian economy.

Iran’s exports of mainly fuel and other energy products to the EU in 2016 jumped 344 percent to 5.5 billion euros ($6.58 billion) compared with the previous year.

EU investment in Iran, mainly from Germany, France and Italy, has jumped to more than 20 billion euros since 2016, in projects ranging from aerospace to energy.

Other measures proposed by the Commission, the EU executive, include urging EU governments to start the legal process of allowing the European Investment Bank to lend to EU projects in Iran.

Under that plan, the bank could guarantee such projects through the EU’s common budget, picking up part of the bill should they fail or collapse. The measure aims to encourage companies to invest.

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EU Mulls Direct Iran Central Bank Transfers to Beat US Sanctions

The European Commission is proposing that EU governments make direct money transfers to Iran’s central bank to avoid U.S. penalties, an EU official said, in what would be the most forthright challenge to Washington’s newly reimposed sanctions.

The step, which would seek to bypass the U.S. financial system, would allow European companies to repay Iran for oil exports and repatriate Iranian funds in Europe, a senior EU official said, although the details were still to be worked out.

The European Union, once Iran’s biggest oil importer, is determined to save the nuclear accord, that U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned on May 8, by keeping money flowing to Tehran as long as the Islamic Republic complies with the 2015 deal to prevent it from developing an atomic weapon.

“Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has proposed this to member states. We now need to work out how we can facilitate oil payments and repatriate Iranian funds in the European Union to Iran’s central bank,” said the EU official, who is directly involved in the discussions.

The U.S. Treasury announced on Tuesday more sanctions on officials of the Iranian central bank, including Governor Valiollah Seif,. But the EU official said the bloc believes that does not sanction the central bank itself.

European Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete will discuss the idea with Iranian officials in Tehran during his trip this weekend, the EU official said. Then it will be up to EU governments to take a final decision.

EU leaders in Sofia this week committed to uphold Europe’s side of the 2015 nuclear deal, which offers sanctions relief in return for Tehran shutting down its capacity, under strict surveillance by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, to stockpile enriched uranium for a possible atomic bomb.

Sanctions-blocking law

Other measures included renewing a sanctions-blocking measure to protect European businesses in Iran.

The Commission said in a statement it had “launched the formal process to activate the Blocking Statute by updating the list of U.S. sanctions on Iran falling within its scope,” referring to an EU regulation from 1996.

The EU’s blocking statute bans any EU company from complying with U.S. sanctions and does not recognize any court rulings that enforce American penalties. It was developed when the United States tried to penalize foreign companies trading with Cuba in the 1990s, but has never been formally implemented.

EU officials say they are revamping the blocking statute to protect EU companies against U.S. Iran-related sanctions, after the expiry of 90- and 180-day wind-down periods that allow companies to quit the country and avoid fines.

A second EU official said the EU sanctions-blocking regulation would come into force on August 5, a day before U.S.

sanctions take effect, unless the European Parliament and EU governments formally rejected it.

“This has a strong signaling value, it can be very useful to companies but it is ultimately a business decision for each company to make [on whether to continue to invest in Iran],” the official said.

Once Iran’s top trading partner, the EU has sought to pour billions of euros into the Islamic Republic since the bloc, along with the United Nations and United States, lifted blanket economic sanctions in 2016 that had hurt the Iranian economy.

Iran’s exports of mainly fuel and other energy products to the EU in 2016 jumped 344 percent to 5.5 billion euros ($6.58 billion) compared with the previous year.

EU investment in Iran, mainly from Germany, France and Italy, has jumped to more than 20 billion euros since 2016, in projects ranging from aerospace to energy.

Other measures proposed by the Commission, the EU executive, include urging EU governments to start the legal process of allowing the European Investment Bank to lend to EU projects in Iran.

Under that plan, the bank could guarantee such projects through the EU’s common budget, picking up part of the bill should they fail or collapse. The measure aims to encourage companies to invest.

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Switzerland Seeks a Study of Starting Its Own Cryptocurrency

Switzerland’s government has requested a report into the risks and opportunities of launching its own cryptocurrency, a so-called “e-franc” that would use technology similar to privately launched coins like bitcoin but have backing of the state.

The lower house of the Swiss parliament must now decide whether to back the Federal Council’s request for a study into the subject, which has been discussed in Sweden.

Cryptocurrencies have drawn scrutiny from lawmakers and international governing bodies coming to grips with the technology’s rapid ascent. The coins use encryption and a blockchain transaction database designed to enable anonymous transactions that do not require centralized processing.

Other countries interested

Several countries have begun evaluating the viability of introducing their own state-backed digital currency, with Sweden’s Riksbank saying an e-crown might help counteract issues arising from declining cash use and help make payment systems more robust.

But existing digital currencies such as bitcoin have been hampered by extreme volatility, high-profile hacks and doubts about long-term viability. Venezuela has issued a state-backed coin, but major developed economies have so far steered clear.

The Bank of International Settlement in March warned central banks to think hard about potential risks and spillovers before issuing their own cryptocurrencies.

Swiss bank cautious

In Switzerland, if the proposal is approved, a study will be produced by the Swiss finance ministry. No timing has been given on when it would be published should the go-ahead be given.

Swiss lawmaker Cedric Wermuth, vice president of the Social Democratic Party, called for the study. In its response Thursday, the Swiss government, or Federal Council, backed the proposal to look into it, although it said there were hurdles.

“The Federal Council is aware of the major challenges, both legal and monetary, which would be accompanied by the use of an e-franc,” it said. “It asks that the proposal be adopted to examine the risks and opportunities of an e-franc and to clarify the legal, economic and financial aspects of the e-franc.”

The Swiss National Bank has so far been cautious on the issue. Private-sector digital currencies were better and less risky than any version that might be offered by a central bank, SNB governor Andrea Maechler said last month.

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Switzerland Seeks a Study of Starting Its Own Cryptocurrency

Switzerland’s government has requested a report into the risks and opportunities of launching its own cryptocurrency, a so-called “e-franc” that would use technology similar to privately launched coins like bitcoin but have backing of the state.

The lower house of the Swiss parliament must now decide whether to back the Federal Council’s request for a study into the subject, which has been discussed in Sweden.

Cryptocurrencies have drawn scrutiny from lawmakers and international governing bodies coming to grips with the technology’s rapid ascent. The coins use encryption and a blockchain transaction database designed to enable anonymous transactions that do not require centralized processing.

Other countries interested

Several countries have begun evaluating the viability of introducing their own state-backed digital currency, with Sweden’s Riksbank saying an e-crown might help counteract issues arising from declining cash use and help make payment systems more robust.

But existing digital currencies such as bitcoin have been hampered by extreme volatility, high-profile hacks and doubts about long-term viability. Venezuela has issued a state-backed coin, but major developed economies have so far steered clear.

The Bank of International Settlement in March warned central banks to think hard about potential risks and spillovers before issuing their own cryptocurrencies.

Swiss bank cautious

In Switzerland, if the proposal is approved, a study will be produced by the Swiss finance ministry. No timing has been given on when it would be published should the go-ahead be given.

Swiss lawmaker Cedric Wermuth, vice president of the Social Democratic Party, called for the study. In its response Thursday, the Swiss government, or Federal Council, backed the proposal to look into it, although it said there were hurdles.

“The Federal Council is aware of the major challenges, both legal and monetary, which would be accompanied by the use of an e-franc,” it said. “It asks that the proposal be adopted to examine the risks and opportunities of an e-franc and to clarify the legal, economic and financial aspects of the e-franc.”

The Swiss National Bank has so far been cautious on the issue. Private-sector digital currencies were better and less risky than any version that might be offered by a central bank, SNB governor Andrea Maechler said last month.

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New US Sanctions Hit at Hezbollah-Linked Financier, Companies

The United States sought on Thursday to further choke off funding sources for Iranian-backed Hezbollah, imposing sanctions on its representative to Iran, as well as a major financier and his five companies in Europe, West Africa and the Middle East.

The U.S. Treasury said Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi was a Hezbollah financier operating through Belgium, Lebanon and Iraq, and was a close associate of Gambia’s former president Yahya Jammeh, who is accused of acquiring vast wealth during his decades-long rule.

It also imposed sanctions on Hezbollah’s representative to Iran, Abdallah Safi Al-Din, who it said served as an interlocutor between Hezbollah and Iran on financial issues.

The department said it had blacklisted Belgian energy services conglomerate Global Trading Group; Gambia-based petroleum company Euro African Group; and Lebanon-based Africa Middle East Investment Holding, Premier Investment Group SAL Offshore and import-export group Car Escort Services. All were designated because they are owned or controlled by Bazzi, the Treasury said.

“The savage and depraved acts of one of Hezbollah’s most prominent financiers cannot be tolerated,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“This administration will expose and disrupt Hezbollah and Iranian terror networks at every turn, including those with ties to the Central Bank of Iran,” he said.

The sanctions are among a slew of fresh measures aimed at Iran and Hezbollah since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last week.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to outline in a speech in Washington on Monday plans by the United States to build a coalition to look closer at what it sees as Iran’s “destabilizing activities,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters at the State Department.

In one of the biggest moves this week aimed at clamping down on Iran’s overseas operations, the Treasury sanctioned Iran’s central bank governor, Valiollah Seif.

On Wednesday, the United States, backed by Gulf States, imposed additional sanctions on Hezbollah’s top two leaders, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Naim Qassem.

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New US Sanctions Hit at Hezbollah-Linked Financier, Companies

The United States sought on Thursday to further choke off funding sources for Iranian-backed Hezbollah, imposing sanctions on its representative to Iran, as well as a major financier and his five companies in Europe, West Africa and the Middle East.

The U.S. Treasury said Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi was a Hezbollah financier operating through Belgium, Lebanon and Iraq, and was a close associate of Gambia’s former president Yahya Jammeh, who is accused of acquiring vast wealth during his decades-long rule.

It also imposed sanctions on Hezbollah’s representative to Iran, Abdallah Safi Al-Din, who it said served as an interlocutor between Hezbollah and Iran on financial issues.

The department said it had blacklisted Belgian energy services conglomerate Global Trading Group; Gambia-based petroleum company Euro African Group; and Lebanon-based Africa Middle East Investment Holding, Premier Investment Group SAL Offshore and import-export group Car Escort Services. All were designated because they are owned or controlled by Bazzi, the Treasury said.

“The savage and depraved acts of one of Hezbollah’s most prominent financiers cannot be tolerated,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“This administration will expose and disrupt Hezbollah and Iranian terror networks at every turn, including those with ties to the Central Bank of Iran,” he said.

The sanctions are among a slew of fresh measures aimed at Iran and Hezbollah since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last week.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to outline in a speech in Washington on Monday plans by the United States to build a coalition to look closer at what it sees as Iran’s “destabilizing activities,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters at the State Department.

In one of the biggest moves this week aimed at clamping down on Iran’s overseas operations, the Treasury sanctioned Iran’s central bank governor, Valiollah Seif.

On Wednesday, the United States, backed by Gulf States, imposed additional sanctions on Hezbollah’s top two leaders, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Naim Qassem.

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UN Forecasting Global Economy Will Expand by Over 3 Percent

The United Nations is forecasting that the global economy will expand by more than 3 percent this year and next year — but it warns that increasing risks could trigger “a shock to investment and trade” and a sharp drop to 1.8 percent growth in 2019.

 

The U.N.’s mid-year report on the World Economic Situation and Prospects launched Thursday says growth in the world economy is surpassing expectations, reflecting further economic expansion in developed countries and broadly favorable investment conditions.

 

However, the report said, “downside risks” have increased including “a rise in the probability of trade conflicts between major economies.”

 

Dawn Holland, chief of the U.N.’s Global Economic Monitoring Branch, cited the Trump administration’s imposition of tariffs in January and proposed new tariffs against China as well as the renegotiation of the U.S. trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, which has left “a void of uncertainty.”

 

There are also negotiations between the European Union and the United States partly linked to tariffs on steel, she said, and an increasing number of disputes have been raised with the World Trade Organization over the last six months.

 

The report said other factors also pose risks including uncertainty over monetary policy, increasing debt levels, and greater geopolitical tensions including in the Korean peninsula, Middle East, South China Sea and Ukraine.

 

But the U.N.’s assessment was generally upbeat citing continued economic improvements over the last several months including accelerating wage growth, improved investment prospects, and the short-term impact of the U.S. fiscal stimulus package.

 

“Many commodity-exporting countries will also benefit from the higher level of energy and metal prices,” the report said.

 

According to the U.N., world growth is now forecast to reach 3.2 percent in both 2018 and 2019, up from its forecast in December of 3 percent growth this year and 3.1 percent next year.

 

While many countries will experience growth, the report said output is expected to decline in central Africa and southern Africa, the report said. And the forecast for economies in transition including Russia and the world’s poorest countries have been revised “marginally downward” for 2018.

 

Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development Elliott Harris cautioned, however, that “there is a strong need not to become complacent in response to upward trending headline figures.”

 

The report not only highlights the risks to economic growth but “the need to urgently address a number of policy challenges, including threats to the multilateral trading system, high inequality and the renewed rise in carbon emissions,” he told a press conference launching the report.

 

And it warned that if trade tensions and barriers were to “spiral over the course of 2018, through widespread retaliations and extensive disruption to global value chains, this could trigger a sharp drop in global investment and trade.”

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