Monday, December 31, 2007

The International Fame of Korea's White Elephants

The International Fame of Korea's White Elephants

Agence France-Presse recently released a selection of "wild and wonderful news items" from 2007, including one about a local airport in South Korea. It said, "A town in South Korea which spent some US$140 million to build its own airport was then forced to admit that no airlines actually wanted to fly there."
The "zany airport" in the report is Uljin Airport in North Gyeongsang Province, which has not yet opened. Uljin Airport was originally scheduled to open in 2003 but operations have been delayed since no airlines want to fly there, as AFP correctly reported. The airlines know that very few passengers would want to fly there.

Uljin Airport isn't the only local airport in Korea that can't attract airlines. Daegu Airport has had no flights since November when airlines decided not to fly there. Yangyang Airport in Gangwon Province handled an average of just 66 passengers per day in July, the peak summer vacation season. That's fewer than the number of people employed to run the place -- 82. Muan International Airport in South Jeolla Province, which opened in November, averages just one domestic and one international flight per day.

Local airports in South Korea have become a global laughingstock because they were built by political rather than market logic. In addition, a new transport network including the launch of the KTX bullet train and the construction of new highways has made it possible for travelers to reach once remote destinations much more easily. All this makes many local airports a source of public scorn instead of pride.

Local airports are not the only public facilities that have squandered time and money for the sake of politics. The central government will have to pay W318.6 billion (US$1=W940) to private builders in 2008 to compensate for its wrong market predictions for the construction of the Cheonan-Nonsan Expressway, and the Incheon International Airport Highway and Railroad. We are worried that foreign news agencies might learn about these boondoggles and include them in their selection of "wild and wonderful" news items from 2008.

This column was contributed by Kim Jae-gon, from the Chosun Ilbo's National News Desk.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Part Two Review: The Geography of Thought

Part Two Review: The Geography of Thought

What's happening? Thursday morning I found out I was moving on Friday morning. Really couldn't believe it nobody told me when they knew on Monday! Anyway in the middle of marking and felt like what the hell is going on why now? Anyway the owner wanted to move back in (breaking the rental contract - pretty common here). So rushed with the housing coordinator to find an apartment which didn't take long. So moving and packing all Thursday night and then an express moving service crew arrived Friday morning at 7:00 and it was sleet and freezing rain out. But by nine o'clock they had me on my way to my new place just five minutes walk away.

The crew had a super fast delivery elevator ladder truck that runs the stuff up to the patio window like a rocket ship and I just sat and pointed where things should go. Was pretty wrecked on Friday falling asleep around noon and waking up at nine pm then going to back to bed around 11:00 pm and getting up Saturday around 7:00 am. It was a whirlwind. So I didn't put in any marking on Saturday and cancelled an evening out in Seoul with a friend recently returned from Australia. She is Korean but seemed pissed that I didn't have enough umph left to run down the two hours on bus and subway to go out for the evening anyway.

Sunday had a meeting at the Korea Herald building with the editor Matt Lamers from Canada and a collection of Korea's best foreign bloggers and writers (Zen Kimchi, Marmot, EFL Geek, Gypsy Scholar, wow they were all there). He invited me to contribute a column on Expat Finance after reading my blog. Anyway it is a thrill to be considered one of the best English writers in Korea and it will be good for my exposure level here anyway. The meeting was cool because with literate people, writers anyway, no topic seems too outlandish and intellectual curiousity seems pretty high at a table like that.

Yesterday I finished marking and dropped off some wine and green tea to my secretary and my boss who is polishing a paper for a conference in China on January 2nd. Got a call from an Australian lady I work with named Pauline and I invited her over to see the new place and go out for dinner. Was waiting for a gas range hose installation so that I can actually cook but nobody showed up when they told me. We went into Pocheon proper (we live ten minutes out) to a restaurant I found the first night I came here in 2006 - a beef ribs BBQ place and we had a little feast. The last time we went was my birthday and this time they put out extra whole raw oysters and marinaded green crabs. Luckily Pauline doesn't like spicy food so I had all those crab legs to my lonesome. I took the bones and gave them to neighbourhood dogs.

Pauline went to church this morning but I slept in and then for dinner I prepared an olive oil and red wine salad with smoked quail's eggs, nachos and herb cheese in the rice cooker (what haven't I cooked in there yet?), smoked Atlantic salmon with diced green onions, sliced calamata olives and garam masala on Carr's cracked pepper crackers, cold cajun fried chicken from GS Supermarket in Pocheon (purchased the night before) with various wines including Argentina Bodega Privada Cabernet Sauvignon, J.P.Chenet white medium sweet, Gran Reserva Torre Maria Vanecia Bodega Enguera 1999 (in the salad), a young white Spanish Valhondo, and last night with Spanish cured salami some Casillero del Diablo Cabernet from Concha Y Toro which the Koreans don't seem to like and for which I got 25% discounts at Samsung-TESCO Homeplus Supermarket.

Dinner was finished with green tea from Hadong a private stock reserved for Buddhist temples of which a small canister costs about seventy-five dollars and powdered oiled chesnut robed rice cakes which have become one of my favourite desserts.

This is all a nod to the Chinese philosophy of the world not having any logic whatsoever or empiricial nature having few comparative qualities as defined by the Greeks. Nisbett defines the differences between the two as a contrast in defining the nature of things. Greeks according to Nisbett took great pains to identify attributes and categorisations of abstract qualities, discrete objects having distinctive limits which together form construction of patterns and rules and accordances to those observable variables. Nisbett describes how Greek logic once born can be made fairly irrelevant through excessive contradictory logic at odds with being, changing, or otherwise flawed reasoning through slavery to either-or and linear logic as described by Robert Logan.

His description of Chinese logic starts with duality of change and the contradictions in affairs which can provide benefits and pitfalls in expression of fortune, life's lessons, and wisdom similar to the philosphy of the yin and yang of all things and events. Such theories on life's teaching have a basis in Confucian, Taoist and spirit in all its changeable essences. For there to be truth there is fallacy, for there to be good there is evil, for there to be fortune is to be misfortune. In its blending with Buddhism these thoughts on the nature of things tends towards the prospect of resonance or that everything is connected and that nothing especially logic is at all concrete. In such a world view the interconnections and influences between things are more important than their respective categories.

Thus there is no surprise that cultural studies plot American versus Korean culture very much as two halves of the same coin or two opposites in terms of yin and yang.
The basis of much of each cultural framework is the apogee of each highly contrasted philosophy.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Canadian jazz great Oscar Peterson dies

(Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Canadian jazz great Oscar Peterson dies
CBC News

Jazz fans and Canadians both home and abroad are mourning the death of Oscar Peterson, the virtuoso known globally as one of the most talented musicians ever to play jazz piano.

Peterson died Sunday night at his home in Mississauga, Ont., from kidney failure. He was 82.

In August 2005, Canada Post paid tribute to Oscar Peterson on his 80th birthday by issuing a postage stamp in his honour. "The world has lost the world's greatest jazz player," Hazel McCallion, mayor of Mississauga and Peterson's friend, told CBC News on Monday afternoon.

Renowned for his speed and virtuosity as a pianist, Peterson — who was born in Montreal and later made Toronto his home — made hundreds of recordings in his career, even after a stroke in 1993 disabled his left hand.

Oscar Peterson - You Look Good To Me

Monday, December 24, 2007

Review One: The Geography of Thought

Review One: The Geography of Thought
How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why
Richard E. Nisbett

This book was recommended to me sometime ago, long enough ago to forget who recommended it. It reads quickly and easily something most people might not associate with books on comparative social behavioural psychology. Perhaps insane people over analyze psychological differences between cultures however giving some framework to the differences an expatriate from the west encounters in any long-term stay in Asia is if anything to be highly appreciated and Nisbett covers the territory or sketches the major general differences in attitudes, perspectives, and attributions theories in an objective manner, highlighting the differences and making a strong case for the combined benefits of learning about one cultural mindset versus another.

This reading has been punctuated by a visit from an evangelical Bible thumping Christian who claims my Catholic sentiments and my curiosity regarding world religions is somewhat obtuse as in his mind there is no God but the One True God. At the same time I am reminded of various incidents in my life here in Korea and elsewhere where I have felt my values are not in tune with those stranger and friends around me Asian or Western alike. However listening to CBC Radio as I am attuned to do at times especially marking during exam weeks I caught a special program on the benefits of reading especially when seeking a moral lesson. I do seek moral lessons and find them at times in The Bible, at other times in other great books. The program describes the hypothetical extension of the messages we find in stories, parables, readings and the imaginative world one may create in one’s own mind to exercise the hypothesis read about. To practice the mind’s extensions into the stories and settings which often effects realizations and learnings of an intrinsic value in effect perhaps a reshaping or remoulding of self-image, self-expression, and self-searching.

It is easy to participate in such activities when one has the time to reflect on challenges such as existing as an expatriate with some degree of self-reliance and questioning the actions, thoughts and patterns of behaviour of others particularly when these do not coincide one’s own concepts of fairness, rightness, or understanding. Nisbett begins with a contrastive and comparative description of the ancient philosophical differences between Greek critical discourse and Chinese moral codes of Confucianism a set of standards most Koreans know well. While there are similarities there are also differences.

Freedom of movement was a practice of Ancient Greece according to Nisbett and an embodiment of liberty described as personal agency or the freedom to act and choose one’s path in life as one sees fit or that one’s actions determine one’s rewards or the fruit of labour. Such values consider few constraints are necessary in the development of a member of community with an individualistic purpose illustrated in the Greek sagas of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Even in the act of oral traditional recitation prior to actual written books on these folk tales indicates the freedom and creativity to tell the story in one’s own peculiar way, with some variations feely expected as there was no written scripts prior to the eighth or ninth centuries BC the degrees of freedom for story-tellers were then quite expansive as compared to any time since written texts became standard. Differences fueled argument, debate, and exchange of ideas and enriched a community fulfilling a curiosity and desire to learn and know as a result of one’s efforts to do so with a reward being innovative new ideas.

At roughly the same time Ancient Chinese festivities are described as being opportunities not to explore and discover new places and new ideas but to return to family ancestral homes, relatives, and close friends with a contrastive emphasis on the harmonious interactions within the family unit which could be quite large and comprised of several generations. I am reminded of the sizes of the first Europeans and their tiny door frames in Louisburg, Nova Scotia where the French held a major bastion in North America. The quality of life in a family tightly compacted within four tiny walls will greatly benefit from harmony if they can get it. Isolation perhaps seen as contemplative necessity among the Greeks is shunned in traditional Chinese history as Nisbett describes an Ancient Chinese character is considered an identity only in its interwoven interknit connections within a collective or family association. In this difference the power of a group’s agency or influence upon its interactions in a community of groups rather than an individual defines the difference in perspective also noted by Kluckhohn in his personality studies among the Navaho and others in the USA in the 1920s and 1930s.

It appears these differences remain alive and well in the modern worlds where East meets West and vice versa.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Priority Regions Get Boost in Trade Officials

Priority Regions Get Boost in Trade Officials at Expense of Old Allies
(With Costello Comments)

The government has slashed its trade commissioner ranks in Europe over the past two years, while bolstering its presence in key Latin American and Asian countries, as well as the United States, Embassy has discovered.

The results have garnered mixed reactions from various corners, though respondents overwhelming agreed that Canada is not devoting sufficient resources to its trade and investment promotion efforts abroad. "For me, it is reflective of the bigger picture," Liberal Trade critic Navdeep Bains said Monday, "which is that they cut the funding overall for the department, which means they are really stretched for resources."

For example Nova Scotia and other smaller provinces are seeing a movement towards local produce to support local farming. At the same time this localized type of consumption pattern should stimulate local/global marketing efforts to sell those spare pigs, chickens, and organic materials to emerging countries like Korea with many specialized however small "well-being" type shops.

In the fall of 2005 and 2006, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade compiled for Canadian and international businesses a book containing a list of all trade commissioners posted in Canada and in Canadian missions abroad. The list included the name, title, contact details and area of expertise for each official, including heads of mission involved in trade or investment promotion, trade commissioner assistants and provincial trade representatives. The government has not prepared a similar handbook this year, but does have the most up-to-date information available on its Virtual Trade Commissioner website in the same format.

This virtual trade commissioner website removed my password without notification and upon enquiry I was told by Ingeborg Henn, "because you represent a foreign company you are not eligible for a Virtual Trade Commissioner. We appreciate your understanding in this matter." I wrote a reply asking for consideration and the control and flow of information as it stands at DFAIT left my reply unanswered.

Embassy compiled the lists last week, deciding to use statistics from 2005 to compare to this year because it has only been in the last year that the government has closed four missions abroad and clearly stated its international goals and priorities. According to the listing, the number of trade commissioners Canada has sent abroad increased by 20 from two years ago, up to 932.

Asia as a whole hosted more Canadian trade commissioners than any other region, and saw the largest increase over the past two years, with 18 more added. The country that registered the largest increase was China. Fifteen more were added to the ranks, resulting in the presence of 72 trade commissioners working on the ground.

China has been identified as a priority for the Canadian government as part of its emerging economies strategy. A number of other Asian countries, notably the Philippines and Malaysia, also saw notable increases as the government also focused on Southeast Asia.

Surprisingly, however, is that Canada increased its trade commissioner presence in India by only three to 31, though that increase actually occurred last year. India has also been lumped in with China as a priority.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the government also increased the Canadian presence in Latin America, adding nine new trade commissioners to the region, including five to Colombia. The Conservative government has come under fire for standing by Colombia's government and promoting an agenda of free trade at a time when the country is still plagued by countless human rights violations, government corruption and the continued paramilitary presence.

Brazil, on the other hand, which has been identified as the region's major economy, saw no change over the past two years, nor did Peru, which the government has also touted as an important element of its Americas strategy.

Despite repeated statements from International Trade Minister David Emerson that Canada needs to diversify its trade portfolio away from the United States, especially given the current economic climate, Canada has devoted nine new trade commissioners to enhancing Canada's largest trading relationship.

Mexico, however, saw no change from two years ago. Four trade commissioners that had been added last year were gone by this year, even though Canada has said it wants to drum up relations with the other NAFTA nation.

Reductions Hit Europe Hardest

In March, the government closed four missions abroad with little advance notice. The consulates-general in St. Petersburg and Milan both economic hubs within Europe, as well as the consulates in Osaka and Fukuoka, Japan, were shuttered. The end result, it is now clear, was a significant reduction in presence in each of those countries. Canada scaled back the number of trade commissioners it has posted in Russia over the past year from 11 to nine, while four were moved out of Japan, leaving 34.

Italy, however, was the hardest hit of all countries in the world, down from 20 trade commissioners two years ago to nine as of last week. Europe as a whole suffered from the reshuffling, losing 15 commissioners over the past two years.

Italian Ambassador to Canada Gabriele Sardo said he was not surprised that his country had lost the largest number of Canadian trade commissioners, or that the government is moving away from Europe. "This can only point to one very simple fact," he said, "that Canada is losing interest in keeping a close look at what happens inside Europe, but rather is focussing on other parts of the world, which we already knew."

Mr. Sardo said many countries are ramping up resources to engage India and China, but would not comment on whether it was a good strategy. "Everyone talks about catching up," he said. "Maybe so much catch up is not necessary, but maybe it is certainly necessary."

In explaining the changes, International Trade spokeswoman Valerie Noftle said in an email that the department "needs to ensure that we are at the right place with the right people and doing the right thing."

"Fundamentally it is about finding more efficient ways to work in support of the government's foreign policy and international trade priorities," she added. "Staffing strategies are developed in terms of recruitment and retention, so that our work force can play a key role in advancing Canada's international agenda."

Funny that my applications to DFAIT for twelve years have gone unanswered.

The department is planning to "better align" its resources in support of the government's foreign and trade policy priorities, Ms. Noftle said. "Like other departments, our annual business plan requires us to examine where our resources are and re-calibrate to respond to emerging demands and priorities. The government is ensuring that these resources are strategically allocated internationally."

India a Missed Opportunity: MP

When shown the statistics compiled by Embassy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Perrin Beatty said he was pleased to see the government devoting more trade commissioners to China and India, in particular.

"This appears to be a reflection of the priorities set out by the government in its Global Commerce Strategy, which we consider a great start to Canada's international strategy," Mr. Beatty said in an email. "The trade commissioners do an excellent job for Canadian companies, and in both of the Canadian Chamber's China and India strategy papers, our members had identified the need for 'more boots on the ground' to increase our bilateral commercial ties."

These boots have been waiting patiently. Actually there appear to be graying areas on them.

However, Mr. Beatty noted that Canadian trade commissioners are still operating out of four offices in China, whereas Australia, "which is doing much better in China than Canada is," has 15 trade offices.
" It is not strictly more people that are needed in these countries," he said. "We also need to open more trade offices in China and India, particularly in the second- and third-tier cities."

I think there is answer: outsource research and consulting to locally situated Canadian expatriates.

Mr. Bains, the Liberal trade critic, said the overall increase of trade commissioners was a positive sign, but that it merely represents "baby steps" at a time when global competition is increasing and Canada is being put on the hot seat.

These baby steps represent Canada's historical trade related risk aversion, an over-reliant complacency in terms of US market share, and domestic shields in the forms of non-tarriff barriers particularly in the educational evaluation and equivalency measures taken in the form of private contracted certification agencies which restrict immigrants from taking jobs for which they are already qualified to do.

He questioned the decision to make massive cuts in Italy and Japan. "These are two very key allies of ours, they are both foreign, mature markets and we need to maintain that relationship," he said. "You can see it's a direct trade off."

Mr. Bains also questioned whether Canada was seeing the benefit of its increased presence in China given frosty relations between the emerging economic power and the Canadian government, and whether border issues with the U.S. are being addressed to ensure the nine new commissioners there are having a benefit. " It's great that we have trade commissioners to promote trade," he said, "but if the product doesn't cross the border, that is something that needs to be addressed."

One thing that stood out for Mr. Bains was the lack of additional resources for India.

"It's a missed opportunity," he said, noting the government has said the country is a priority. "They haven't put any resources behind it. It's all window dressing, it's all photo ops and nothing substantial behind it in terms of increasing the resources. In order to take advantage of the emerging economy in India, you need to have additional trade commissioners and additional resources. Other countries seem to be putting forward additional resources and we seem to be just taking pictures."

NDP Trade critic Peter Julian said his primary concerns were that the government was continuing to put its eggs in the U.S. basket by adding more trade commissioners there, and that the government is focussing on countries with poor human rights records like China, Colombia, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines. "And where they've taken them away from are exactly the areas where we should be looking for growth and trade diversification, that whole list of democracies," he said.

It would be a step forward for Canadian manufacturers to investigate joint-ventures in the North South Korean Gaesong Industrial Complex.

"What the Conservatives have said is we're going to continue to put all our eggs in one basket, except that we're going to enhance our trade support in areas where human rights violations are occurring. And where we're cutting back is where human rights are not a concern and you have vibrant economies."

Mr. Julian also criticized the government for failing to put more resources into trade and investment promotion efforts. "Despite the fact that we've been calling for trade diversification and that Canada needs much more on-the-ground support for its products and services abroad," he said, "what we're seeing over a couple of years, from the old Liberals to the new Conservatives, that there's been a very, very marginal increase."

Again, opening up the virtual trade commissioner website to expatriates willing to do local global consulting would be a powerful step to having more minds thinking about the same difficult problems. Not all of us are government employees or even work for Canadian companies. However in the interests of independent consulting as Friedman remarks in "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" sharing knowledge is everything and the willingness to share it often determines your output, profit, and levels of success.

China Becomes Top Source of Eurozone Imports

China Becomes Top Source of Eurozone Imports
(Financial Times)

China overtook the UK as the biggest source of imports into the eurozone in the first nine months of this year, according to official figures yesterday that highlighted the competitive threat facing Europe-based manufacturers.

Imports from China, at €123.7bn ($178.3bn, £88.3bn) were 20 per cent higher in the year to September than in the same period in 2006, reported Eurostat, the European Union's statistical unit. Imports from the UK fell by 2 per cent to €122.3bn.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Snapshots in Time: Moments of Truth Revisited

Service Management: Strategy and Leadership in Service Businesses (Review Part Two)Richard Normann (1984) Wiley Press

Richard Normann appears to have set a new benchmark for explaining the service process as consecutive moments of truth. His framewwork satisfies and continously solidfies the working relationships among business co-participants, internal and external customers and perhaps establishes strong loyalites among these herds where the model is well demonstrated through continued patronage and purchase. However the analogy of matador and bull where carried through to its full cycle is somewhat worrying for the health of the customer. The analogy maintains a position of superior control in the hands of the skilled business service management of the customer and implies that the customer is somehow difficult, dangerous, unpredictable and unreliable unless handled with a coup de grace and quickly dispensed.

While the visual artistry of the matador may be more heavily relied upon to support a positive allegory such entertainment which in some manner must be convincing in solidifying purchase decisions or commitments on the part of undecided customers by observation of and appreciation for the spectacle takes on an incredibly artistic and thus intangible element. This positively supports the process of finding and achieving moments of truth in service. Such moments of truth engage and compel the business service due to the delight and satisfaction of customers who appear to remain in some ways prey-like in the analogy. How the gleam of an iridescent pearl might catch the eye of a raven or otherwise curious bird - excellent service is thus portrayed as the asset that many of today’s companies claim are the goals while in the backroom their adage might be process the customer as quickly as possible at the same time.

A friend of mine who manages things somewhere in the call centre industry reminds me of the swift progress made from moments of truth to common moments of hurry up and wait in reality. The services customers often contend with today as a global standard often lack humanity. Her early beginnings in call centre services were novel, new, creative and ground-breaking in the early nineties. Enough so that her office was situated in a leafy block of trendy West Vancouver and she and her coworkers were eager to demonstrate the support of their software assistance contracts to new users globally. The days of call centres being a new idea are long over and perhaps the end of their useful lifecycle is at hand.

Normann demonstrates in Chapter 9 the problems associated with service businesses over their lifecycle. Schumpeter's creative destruction theories suggest something will follow the era of call centre service to replace it even in its outsourced or off-shored formats through a continued diversification, a continued internationalisation over time which will propel further new innovations to consume and reflect more profitable moments of truth. He also posits that technology while serving a significant role in shaping service innovations is not more important than social behaviours which adapt and change as readily which tend towards greater client participation in the refinement of service delivery. Here he describes reproduction of innovation and the growth of a service company as being the two most difficult challenges through numerous examples. But Normann fully reaffirms the process of continuous self-improvement as being the focal dynamic capability which companies require to succeed in a simple variable approach to change and innovation, process location, context, resources, client input, self-designed versus borrowed improvements and economic benefits which coincide with dispersed diluted managerial head office control over the changes desired.

In Chapter Ten Normann delivers a positive cycle of successful internationalisation which defines foci as the structural capacity of a company to develop a deep network of business contacts to infuse new knowledge into the business, attract good customers and personnel alike, retain them through developing high quality and cost advantages which lead to profitable results and opportunities for continued growth which enrich the nodes of the cycle. His description of quality in product and service reveals different areas of discussion of quality as precepts enrobing product, process, production, and philosophy. He affirms that the goals of quality are an affirmation of human dignity which coincidentally support aspects of human nature which I believe need to be confirmed in the present world globally as to the standards of humane treatment of customers and workers alike to encourage the continued growth of enlightened attitudes of care and helpfulness for others even in the context of competitive businesses. He defines hard and soft features of service which determine its quality such as core packaging, delivery and interactions and the culture of the service itself in a systemic view.

Again, Normann believes the defining strategic positioning of a service process is the drive to create quality in the transaction of the service benefiting from continuous feedback mechanisms between personnel and clients in the interest of precisely matching a need for moments of truth to encourage higher customer loyalty, satisfaction and limit turnover. He defines failures in service as directly the responsibility of top management not driving the company through example, specialization of quality improvements into a service department responsibility rather than a general employee motivated element of work, ambiguity as to the role of customer management, an inability to motivate or maintain quality circles as the essential ownership and responsibility of staff without support or actions taken upon their considerable recommendations, a failure to conceptualize long-term planning, and attempts to attach price tags to sustained customer satisfaction improvements.

Singapore to Scan U.S.-Bound Cargo for Hazardous Material

Singapore to Scan U.S.-Bound Cargo for Hazardous Material

Singapore, one of the world's busiest container ports, will scan U.S.-bound cargo for hazardous materials under an international trial project, a statement said Monday.

Officials from the two countries have signed a declaration to conduct the six-month trial under the Secure Freight Initiative (SFI), a joint statement from the U.S. embassy and Singapore's Ministry of Transport said.

Singapore is one of seven global ports participating in the trial, under which U.S.-bound shipping containers are scanned for nuclear or radiological materials before being loaded onto ships, the statement said.

Data from the scanning are sent in near real-time to the United States where officers determine whether the container carries hazardous material, it said.

"This trial project is an important step toward a possible trade model that secures the global supply chain," said the United States ambassador to Singapore, Patricia Herbold.

SFI trials began in Honduras in April. Other participating ports are in the United Kingdom, Oman, Pakistan, South Korea and Hong Kong.

Data from the trial will allow the U.S. to assess the viability and effectiveness of implementing 100 percent scanning of US-bound containers, the statement said.

Border Security Chills Trade Relations

Border Security Chills Trade Relations

The following was reported in December 17, 2007 edition of “”.

Canada's trade relations with the United States are being hurt by U.S. protectionism and Washington's aggressive security bureaucracy, forces that are regularly erecting new obstacles to cross-border commerce, International Trade Minister David Emerson warns.

"I think the threat is that we will just continue this bottom up accumulation of little, border-impeding, border-thickening initiatives," he said in an interview.

"[It's] been disheartening for some years now, the degree to which protectionist forces in the U.S. – and now some of the rigid mindsets of the security establishment – are really starting to, I think, threaten the special relationship that used to be there."

He said he hears more and more "horror stories" of companies forced by border delays to warehouse costly inventory on either side of the Canada-U.S. border and "referring to it as a just-in-case supply chain rather than just-in-time."

He said the United States must act to stop this creeping "thickening" of the Canada-U.S. border.

"They have to, at a very high level, recommit, to the North American relationship and it has to be a ... top-down thing," Mr. Emerson said. "Somebody at the high level has to say it's time that this stopped."

Mr. Emerson said that while Canada's political relationship with the United States is the best it's been in 20 years, impediments to doing business with Americans are growing.

"It's a source of serious concern because Canada cannot afford – [and] frankly neither can the U.S. – to see cross-border supply chains start to be weakened."

He said the post-9/11 security approach among U.S. government departments has led to a raft of new border obstacles, fees and inspections.

"You get this absolute supremacy of security trumping everything ... You get the bureaucrats in the departments and they are all powerful and they don't feel they have to listen to compromise or alternative solutions. In a way it's a disease of institutional bureaucracy and excessive empowerment."

Mr. Emerson said it's troubling that U.S. military export rules are preventing Canadian defence and aerospace contractors from working for Washington in Canada, because U.S. prohibitions against sharing military data with citizens of about two dozen countries are denying work to staff with dual nationalities based in this country.

"Private companies are in some cases finding they have no choice but to produce on the U.S. side of the border."

Canada this year failed to prevent Washington from imposing controversial new border taxes and inspections on trucks and railway cars. Also, this spring, talks collapsed on a pilot project to conduct customs inspections well before the border, following a dispute over whether U.S. authorities could fingerprint individuals on Canadian soil.

Mr. Emerson said the 2004 Security and Prosperity Partnership agreement – which is supposed to deepen economic relations between Canada and the United States by removing irritants – has helped a bit.

"But as long as the ... [U.S.] bureaucracy is out there creating new problems almost monthly, you've got to stop the overall erosion," he said.

David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, is far more optimistic about the state of bilateral trade relations and suggested security problems are being ironed out.

"I think the headlines should be reading: 'U.S. and Canada trade $1.6-billion of trade and commerce today without any security incidents.' We don't talk about the good news," Mr. Wilkins said.

More costs, more delays

March, 2007: Less than six months after a softwood lumber truce is signed by Canada and the United States, Washington disrupts the peace by formally complaining over allegedly unfair conduct by Ottawa and the Canadian provinces, launching arbitration that could impose more costs on this country's timber producers.

April, 2007: Talks collapse between Washington and Ottawa on a pilot project to conduct customs inspections well before reaching the border, following a dispute over whether U.S. authorities could fingerprint individuals on Canadian soil even if they didn't cross the border.

June, 2007: Washington plows ahead with controversial new border taxes and inspections for trucks and railway cars from Canada – part of a rash of new levies that will extract more than $75-million (U.S.) a year.

June, 2007: A Conference Board of Canada report says the harsh security crackdown at the Canada-U.S. border since 9/11 has forced exporters in key industries to abandon just-in-time delivery and return to the outdated practice of stockpiling goods.

Summer, 2007: Border crossing wait times worsen, according to some observers. Stan Korosec, vice-president of operations of the Blue Water Bridge, which links Sarnia, Ont., and Port Huron, Mich., calls 2007 the "summer from hell," saying he saw some of the longest waits since 2001, adding that U.S. border guards are asking more questions and sending more trucks to secondary inspection.

November, 2007: Anti-terror security measures put in place by the U.S. and Canadian governments since 9/11 have burdened Canada's transportation industry with up to half-a-billion dollars in extra costs, a Transport Canada report says.

Viewpoint – Top Five China Recall Lessons

Viewpoint – Top Five China Recall Lessons
(Industry Week)

Kick an anthill, you find ants. Dig a ditch, you find dirt. Inspect Chinese imports, you find defects.

You're muttering amen if you've ever done business in China. Unfortunately, disruptions and defects are the norm there, not the exception. We can expect more product recalls, from more companies in more industries, if only because we're finally looking.

Don't be the next Mattel. The trick is not to learn from experience, as Warren Buffett says, but to learn from other people's experience. Here are five lessons to consider.

1. Pride goeth before the recall.

If PR is a window on the corporate soul, then Mattel's publicity reveals a complacent giant, just weeks before the massive recalls hit. In a feature profile last July, the Internal Herald Tribune (IHT) portrayed Mattel as the gold standard in China manufacturing. Mattel had invested in China "before it was cool" and had the game beat, piped experts and Mattel's own staff.

A few weeks later, they were recalling millions of toys.

RC2 got complacent, too. After years of China sourcing, they just assumed that their contractors and subcontractors would keep delivering goods that complied with specifications.

The time to worry is when you've had some success under your belt. Conditions in China mutate daily, and no system is impregnable. Keep checking for breaches in your defenses. Don't assume that what happened yesterday will happen again tomorrow.

2. What you don't know, can hurt you.

Mattel owns majority stakes in more than half its China suppliers. What did that get them? As they say in Mandarin, bubkes. Clearly, ownership will not improve your oversight. Visibility will. Remember Mighty Mattel got blindsided by puny subcontractors.

Since a typical Chinese supply chain has sixteen parties or more, you've got to get a handle on who takes title of the goods and materials along the way. That's the first step in mitigating performance risk.

Map out the players in your chain. Then once you've established the lay of the land, try to stay alert to the shifting sands. In China, factories close in the middle of the night and move away. A subcontractor in your line-up may have been swapped for another without your knowledge – and it's that guy you need to be worrying about.

3. Don't rely. Verify!

I met a man who imported chairs from China. Containers would arrive piled high with chairs that broke when you sat on them.

No amount of clarification of the specs would do. The defective chairs kept coming. So the man institutionalized the Tush Test. If he hadn't sat on it first, the chair didn't pass inspection. While you don't need to be that, uhm, anal, the lesson here is that on-site verification at key points in your production cycle is critical to success.

Unfortunately for Mattel, headquarters relied on the QC reports from hindquarters. There was even a local Chinese manager on staff, specifically tasked to monitor the lead levels in paint. He was singled out in the pre-recall IHT article. (I'd hate to be that guy right now.)

Don't rely on inspection reports. Go see for yourself.

4. The world ain't flat.

Flat Worlders get their heads handed to them in China. Mattel thought it could run a plant in Guanjo as if it were in Gary. RC2 thought it could beam files to design engineers in Dongguan, then sit back and wait for quality merchandise to roll out of its 35 Chinese contract manufacturers.

In a flat world, these procedures could have worked. But I.T. is not the great leveler the pundits preach it is. So you can Skype an engineer on the plant floor. So what? You can't run your China supply chain from the click of a mouse. In China, paper, not packets, is still the dominant mode of information delivery and storage.

If anything, technology brings the chaos of China's operating environment right into your living room. And it's an ilk of chaos you've probably never encountered before. Just because Americans and Chinese both embrace the profit motive doesn't mean our fundamental assumptions about doing business are aligned. Bedrock concepts in the West that underpin contracts, financial reporting, and corporate governance – the very way we do business – are still quite new in China and have yet to be assimilated.

There's no parity in China and there's no flatness. To assume otherwise is to court disaster.

5. Opportunity knocks.

If it's still a crapshoot to make a Barbie doll in China that complies with specs, try building a car. Sure, the recalls have exposed a few companies that need to do a better job at QC, but Mattel and RC2 can improve. The real take-away from the outbreak of product recalls is just how far China still has to go before it can rival American industrial capability.

While China catches up, its consumer markets are booming. China's middle class already numbers over 160 million people. These new, urban consumers want all the amenities of a modern, middle class existence – or put another way: they want all the value-added goods and services that China is not good at making and that we're number one at making.

This basic congruence points to why China today is, far and away, America's fastest growing export market. Many U.S. industries – from raw materials to semi-finished to finished goods – are seeing double digit quarterly export growth to China.

And with the falling dollar making your goods even cheaper to sell overseas, now more than ever is the time to get in there. In China's growing consumer class, we have a once in a century windfall opportunity to make money and create jobs here at home.

As more and more products get recalled in the coming months, resist the urge to lean back. The lessons the recalls impart, you can take to the bank.

Jeremy Haft is the author of "All the Tea in China: How to Buy, Sell, and Make Money on the Mainland" (Penguin/Portfolio, 2007) and founder of BChinaB Inc, a China contract manufacturing and logistics firm.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Asia Pacific Region to Avoid Recession, But Other Challenges Loom

Asia Pacific Region to Avoid Recession, But Other Challenges Loom Says New Report
(Canada-Asia News)

The Asia Pacific region will experience slower economic growth in 2008, but is likely to avoid a sharp downturn due to the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US, according to the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council’s annual State of the Region report. PECC forecasters expect 4.9% real GDP growth for the region as a whole in 2008, rising to 5.2% in 2009. This forecast assumes that the United States will not enter into a recession and that a recovery in the housing sector will take place in the second half of 2008.

The report includes the findings of PECC’s annual survey of opinion leaders in the Asia Pacific region. Survey respondents identified high energy prices, water pollution, and global warming as the top three risks to economic growth in the region.

The full report can be found at

Monday, December 17, 2007

China Opens Largest Free-Trade Harbor Area in N Port City

China Opens Largest Free-Trade Harbor Area in N Port City
(China View)

China's largest free-trade harbor area, which enjoys the most preferential tax treatments, started operation in the northern port city of Tianjin Tuesday, a further move in the country's opening-up strategy.

Dongjiang Bonded Harbor Area, close to Beijing and located in the Bohai-rim region, "is designated as the pilot among others to adopt reforms and renovations to promote the opening-up drive," LiKenong, deputy chief of China Customs, said at the inauguration ceremony.

The area is set to enjoy the most favorable policies in taxation and foreign exchange policies and offers comprehensive services in international shipping, distribution, purchase, transit trade and export processing businesses following the practices of international hubs, free ports and free trade zones, according to Li.

The first phase of the harbor area, which currently covers foursquare kilometers and includes warehouses, container terminals, processing and logistics zones, involved 6.6 billion yuan (nearly 900 million U.S. dollars) in corporate investment.

The project, which was approved by the State Council on August 31, last year, is scheduled to become fully operational by 2010 when the second phase of another 6-sq-km area is completed, realizing a designed capacity of handling 4 million containers per year.

The bonded area is expected to boost development of Tianjin Binhai New Zone, which has been designated as pilot for many of China's new economic and financial policies. …

Complete article at

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The cat is out of the bag...

I admit this cat has been ruminating upon lots of diffusive materials related to international trade and anything that catches my reading and writing eyes really.

The Korea Herald editorial team has requested me to contribute a weekly column on the topic of expat finance from January 2008 and I am really excited to put some suggestions and discussions forward to improve the lives of expats in Korea and beyond.

Any suggestions on what you would like me to cover however briefly please feel free to send me a note.

China Grants U.S. Expanded Role in Inspecting Foods

China Grants U.S. Expanded Role in Inspecting Foods
(International Herald Tribune)

China and the United States, seeking to ease the furor over the safety of food exports, signed an agreement Tuesday calling for a greater U.S. role in certifying and inspecting Chinese food exports, including an increased presence of American officials at Chinese production plants.

The accord, part of several aimed at easing economic tensions with China on a number of divisive subjects, would impose new registration and inspection requirements on Chinese food exporters for 10 specific products. The U.S. government would maintain a public list of the exporters' records.

Michael Leavitt, secretary of health and human services, said he expected that U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials would eventually be embedded in China's food safety bureaucracy to help train Chinese officials and keep records on their inspections. He offered no numbers on how many officials would be involved, however. …

Complete article at

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Key Oil Exporters Can Turn Into Importers in 10 Years: Report

Key Oil Exporters Can Turn Into Importers in 10 Years: Report

Some of the leading oil-exporting countries may start importing oil 10 years from now in order to satisfy the needs of their own booming economies, The New York Times reported on its website late Saturday.

Citing experts and industry projection, the newspaper said this change of roles had already occurred in Indonesia, while Mexico could start importing oil within five years.

According to the paper, these two countries could be followed later by Iran, which is currently the world’s fourth-largest crude exporter.

"It is a very serious threat that a lot of major exporters that we count on today for international oil supply are no longer going to be net exporters any more in 5 to 10 years," the report quotes Amy Myers Jaffe, an oil analyst at Rice University, as saying.

A recent report by CIBC World Markets indicated that increasing oil consumption in Russia, Mexico and in several members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would reduce crude exports by as much as 2.5 million barrels a day by the end of the decade, or about three percent of global oil demand, according to The Times.

The paper recalls that a 2002 labor strike in Venezuela reduced global oil production by about that much, but the net result was a 26-percent increase in oil prices.

The trend, experts say, will most likely result in market shifts, in which unconventional sources like Canadian tar sands will gain in importance, especially for the United States, The Times pointed out.

Political pressure to open areas now closed to oil production is also likely to increase, the paper noted.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

List of Major American and Korean Banks in Korea

List of Major American and Korean Banks in Korea

List of American Banks in Seoul
List of Major Korean Banks in Seoul
(Note: Telephone dialing information when calling from outside of Korea:
82 is the country code for Korea, followed by 2 which is the city code for Seoul)

List of American Banks in Seoul

American Express Bank Ltd. (Seoul Branch)
15th Floor, Kwanghwamoon Bldg.
64-8, Taepyungro 1-ka, Jung-gu, Seoul 100-101
Tel: 82-2-399-2929

Bank of America National Association
Tel: 82-2-2022-4500, Fax: 82-2-2022-4400

Bank of New York (Seoul Branch)
23rd Floor, Young Poong Bldg.,
33, Seorin-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul 100-752
Tel: 82-2-399-0001/6, Fax: 82-2-399-0055

Citibank, N.A. (Seoul Branch)
CitiCorp Center Bldg.
89-29, Shinmoonro 2-ka, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-062
Tel: 82-2-1566-1000 Fax: 82-2-722-1426

JP Morgan Chase (Seoul Branch)
JP Morgan Chase Bldg.
34-35, Jung-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul 100-120
Tel: 82-2-758-5114, Fax: 82-2-758-5423

List of Major Korean Banks in Seoul

Hana Bank
101-1, Ulchiro 1-ka, Jung-gu, Seoul 100-191
Tel: 82-2-1588-1111

Woori Bank
203, 1-ga, Hoehyun-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul 100-792
Tel: 82-2-2008-5000

Kookmin Bank
9-1, Namdaemoonro 2-ka, Jung-gu, Seoul 100-703
Tel: 82-2-2073-7114

KorAm Bank
39, Da-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul 100-180
Tel: 82-2-3704-7205

Korea Exchange Bank
181, Ulchiro 2-ka, Jung-gu, Seoul 100-793
Tel: 82-2-729-8000, Fax: 82-2-775-9819 (Int'l. Div.)

SC First Bank
SC First Bank, 01-2284 Gongpyungdong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Tel: 82-2-3702-3114 Fax: 82-2-3702-4965

Shinhan Bank
120 Taepyeongno-2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul 100-865
Tel: 82-2-1544-8000, Fax: 82-2-774-7013 (Int'l. Div.)

Presidential Candidates All Oppose Media Policy

Presidential Candidates All Oppose Media Policy

All six leading presidential candidates surveyed by the JoongAng Ilbo said the government decision to shut down the press rooms was a bad idea and unlikely to succeed. But their positions diverged on other media issues, such as whether print companies should be allowed to operate broadcasting firms. While Lee Myung-bak, Lee Hoi-chang and Rhee In-je, all following the typically conservative line, said newspapers should be allowed to run television stations to be more competitive, Chung Dong-young, Moon Kook-hyun and Kwon Young-ghil, on the liberal side, said permitting such an arrangement could lead to a monopoly of opinion. All six candidates oppose President Roh Moo-hyun’s media policy, which took effect in August. Roh put the policy in effect to try to end the exclusive atmosphere among reporters in the press rooms at various ministries, and also restricted access to officials. Grand National Party candidate Lee Myung-bak said he “certainly believed a media policy should be based on a grand principle that the press should have the freedom to write and report.” “Closing down press rooms and voiding existing press passes are outdated measures only an authoritarian government can do,” he said. “When I become elected, I am going to review this policy from the starting point.” Running independent this time, Lee Hoi-chang, in his third bid for president, called the media policy “deadly.” The United New Democratic Party candidate Chung Dong-young, a former television journalist who was a unification minister under Roh, said, “I understand why this policy went into effect, but I do not agree with how it’s being conducted,” Chung said. “It should be conducted in a way that lets reporters have enough access to sources for the sake of letting people know what they should know.” Only Lee Myung-bak and Rhee vowed to undo the changes.

From 11/16/2007

Gov't to Allow Labor-strapped Service Sector to Hire More Foreigners

Gov't to Allow Labor-strapped Service Sector to Hire More Foreigners

Korea's service sector will be featuring more foreign faces. Hotels, restaurants and related services will be able to employ a larger number of foreigners for the first time in order to break through their manpower shortage, the Labor Ministry said on Nov. 8. Accommodation services such as inns and motels, regulated by the Health and Welfare Ministry, will be able to start employing foreigners from the end of this year. Under the new regulation, accommodation services, other than hotels, will now be able to hire foreign nationals but only those who are over 45 years of age and have emigrated from Korea in the past. This specific qualification was set just for this sector in order to limit employment to those that can speak Korean fluently, the ministry said. Hotels, regulated separately by the Tourism Ministry, will be allowed to start hiring foreign nationals from Nov. 12. In detail, foreigners with English skills will be able to work at hotels located in industrial sites frequented by foreigners, but the program is operating on a trial run only, the ministry explained. Also starting from now, restaurants with six to 10 employees will be able to employ up to four foreign nationals, a rise from the current limit of three. These and other measures are to help alleviate a manpower shortage in the nation's service industry. The government also decided to expand the employment opportunities for foreigners in other industries such as construction, farming and livestock, with improved operation of Korean-language tests offered to those wishing to work in Korea. There are over one million foreigners residing in Korea with nearly 430,000 working here.

From 11/09/2007

SOUTH KOREA: Among Top Science, Tech Powerhouses by 2012: Gov't

SOUTH KOREA: Among Top Science, Tech Powerhouses by 2012: Gov't

Korea aims to become the one of the world's top five science and technology powerhouses by 2012, the government said Sunday (Nov. 4). The plan by the Ministry of Science and Technology calls for more allocation of funds for research and development (R&D), the strengthening of knowhow in innovative cutting-edge technologies and concentration of scientific resources on promising growth industries. "About 3.2 percent of the gross domestic product is being used for R&D at present, but Seoul wants to raise the figure to at least 3.5 percent by 2012, with 1 percent of the state's budget set aside to bolster this endeavor," said a ministry official. In 2005, the country spent roughly US$23.59 billion on R&D. The United States spent more that 13 times that amount, with Japan spending 6 times as much. The figure increased to slightly more than $29 billion last year. He said the ranking will be determined by the Switzerland-based International Institute of Management and Development (IMD), whose 2007 competitiveness report placed South Korea seventh among 55 countries in the science area and sixth in terms of technological prowess. The official also said policymakers and experts want to concentrate efforts to build up 40 key strategic technologies along with 60 vital skills that could ensure South Korea's standing in the science and technology field. Among the key technologies, Seoul wants to become a world leader in next-generation high-speed trains, nano-materials, robotics, eco-friendly cars, hydrogen fuel cells and energy storage as well as biotech areas, including stem cell and cancer treatment. The Science Ministry said there will be fine-tuning of objectives as the government receives feedback, and the goal of making the top five will not be easy. In the 2007 IMD report, the United States ranked first in both science and technology areas, with Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Taiwan taking second to sixth place in the science ranking. In technology competitiveness, Singapore came in second, followed by Hong Kong, Denmark and Israel.

From 11/04/2007

NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA: Inter-Korean Business

NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA: Inter-Korean Business to Be Funded by Private, Public, Global Investment

Criticism of South Korea's economic assistance to North Korea is mounting after the 2007 South-North Korean summit. Reports say that the assistance is one-sided, not synergistic, discouraging economic collaboration and widening the ideological gap between the two. South Korean economic investment in the North is both public and private. Public assistance by the governemnt is aimed at providing core industrial infrafastructures to improve the investment environment in North Korea. Private investment is aimed at generating profits. Taking the Gaeseong Industrial Complex (GIC) as an example, the price for lots was extremely burdensome for South Korean SMEs when the complex first opened. So, the government initially provided critical manufacturing resources such as electricity and water to bring down the overall costs. Gaeseong Industrial ComplexSome fault the South Korean government's efforts to help SMEs form inter-Korean businesses as being counter productive. Still, many South Korean manufacturers have so far chosen to invest in North Korea despite the high risks from an underdeveloped market and the nuclear problems. South Korean SMEs have been struggling since tne early 1990s, when labor-intensive small- and mid-sized manufacturers lost their competiveness with the rise of Chinese rivals. They began to move their bases to East Asian countries and China. Korean manufacutrers have steadily gained ground in China, but most investment has been made by robust conglemerates, not SMEs. The GIC's opportunities threw a lifeline to SME owners who were being squeezed by lower-priced foreign competitors but lacked the capital to relocate production off the peninsula.

It is unreasonable to call government assistance to these SMEs as unrewarding. Recently, media have been reporting that most corporations in the GIC are operating in the red. First of all, it is important to note that a company's profit status depends a lot on the timing of the analysis. Inter-Korean Donghae Line on the east coastSecond, no company reaches the break-even point in the initial phase wheter it is domestic or foreign investment. Korean SMEs in China, Vietnam and India break even 3 to 5 years after operation. GIC firms however have broken even only 10 months after launch and plan to expand their operation luring more investment from outside. It is true that the GIC has obstacles blocking investment, but the situation is gradually improving. Another erroneous argument about North Korean investment is that the South Korean government is compensating for losses -- as much as 70 billion won according to one article. The government merely provides insurance through the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund to cover unforseen accidents beyond the employers' control, including war. Some are concerned about how to maintain financial suport for inter-Korean cooperation projects. They estimate the required budget from one to 116 trillion won, which is groundless. The financial burden for the South Korean government is much lighter than their expectations because most resources will come from private investment. Government's investment will be limited to the necessary infrastructure establishment. Foreign countries are also showing interest in inter-Korean economic collaboration. For example, China and Russia are reviewing support for North Korea's railway refurbishment. European countries, including Germany, intend to participate in the linking of the inter-Korean railway to inter-continental railroads. What counts is how much North Korea is willing and ready to attract international monetary support. Once North Korea is removed from the list of terror-sponsoring states and economic sanctions are lifted, many countries are likely to invest in its economy. Although such investment will not be huge, it will be a great starting point for economic recovery. When investments from the private sector, the government and international entities are combined, they will not only reduce the cost of unification but also lay the groundwork for inter-Korean economic integration.

From 11/05/2007

Finnish Investment Decisions in South Korea

Finnish Investment Decisions in South Korea

(Holy Hannah its huge!)
"Foreign Direct Investment in a Changing Political Environment: Finnish Investment Decisions in South Korea" by Kristina Korhonen
Helsinki School of Economics

Saturday, December 01, 2007

China 'ends illegal tax breaks'

China 'ends illegal tax breaks'
(BBC News)

China has agreed to end the granting of tax breaks to local manufacturers at the expense of U.S. and Mexican firms, according to US trade officials.

Under the deal, China will remove the subsidies that the U.S. claimed gave Chinese companies an unfair competitive advantage by the end of the year.

The move is a major breakthrough for U.S.-China trade relations which have been strained recently, analysts say.

It comes months after the U.S. filed a case on the issue at the WTO.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Silly Job Interview

First PBS station to broadcast Monty Python's Flying Circus

U.S. workers don't know how to go on vacation

U.S. workers don't know how to go on vacation
(The Morning Call) November 17, 2007

American workers are no doubt productive workers, but it appears that many white collar American workers don't take vacations seriously. Many take some of their responsibilities that they have at work along with them during their vacations.
I have been a consultant and have worked for different organizations since 1996. I have encountered managers who gave their pager and cell phone numbers to their team members before leaving for vacation. Hence, they worry about work during their short vacation period.
In Europe, in contrast, people are given longer vacations, which they fully enjoy. For instance, in Germany, many employees get about two months of paid vacations in a year and their employers pay them extra to enjoy their vacation. German workers don't take any stress from work during their vacations and are at least as equally productive as American workers.

American workers should adopt the ''work hard, play hard'' attitude. That will make them more productive and happier at work.
Mayank Shyam
Bethlehem Township

Supply Chain Is Looking for Green Transport and Logistics

Supply Chain Is Looking for Green Transport and Logistics
(Industry Week)

The push towards green is driven by financial ROI , public relations payback and improved supply chain efficiency, says a new survey.
The vast majority of respondents to a survey produced by eyefortransport, 85%, said that over the next three years green issues will become more important to their transport and logistics processes. Thirteen percent identified green issues as their No.1 priority over the next three years.With up to 75% of a company's carbon footprint coming from transportation and logistics, eyefortransport asked respondents to pinpoint what they were doing to green their transportation and logistics, and what effects these initiatives have had.
An average of 25% of respondents reported that they have or plan to partner with a logistics providers to help them green their processes, and an additional 27% are actively exploring the possibility of adding a logistics partner to help move environmental projects forward. This push towards green is reported to be driven by a number of factors, including financial ROI (45%), public relations payback (34%) and improved supply chain efficiency (34%).
When asked what actual green initiatives have been implemented or planned in their companies, the results revealed that 63% are or are planning to improve energy efficiency, 45% are redesigning warehousing and distribution center networks, 42% are re-routing vehicles to reduce miles and 40% are measuring and/or reducing emissions.An additional finding of the survey was that 34% report that green initiatives are actually making their supply chains more efficient.

Korea Trade Deal Not Close (Embassy)

Korea Trade Deal Not Close (Embassy)

A free trade deal between Canada and South Korea is nowhere near closure, Bloomberg News reported Finance Minister Jim Flaherty as saying, as South Korea has not pledged adequate access to its market. Ford Motor Co. has threatened to rethink new investment in Canada if such a bilateral deal does not give the automaker better access to that market.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Alberta Economic Update: Becoming an Energy Superpower

Alberta Economic Update: Becoming an Energy Superpower

Edmonton, Alberta - "1 million people and 174 billion barrels of oil." By 2030, $280+ billion in energy investments and an additional $200 billion in indirect (business, private and social) investments. World Scale Opportunity."
Date: Sunday, December 9, 2007
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Place: Emirates Palace, Meeting Room 1 (near Auditorium)

Guest speaker: Ron Gilbertson, President and CEO of Edmonton Economic Development

Cost: CBC Member - AED 100 Non-member/guests: AED 125

Ron Gilbertson is the newly appointed president and CEO of Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, a not-for-profit company owned by the City of Edmonton that is responsible for regional economic development and tourism marketing, and management of the Shaw Conference Centre and Edmonton Research Park. He was previously with the Alberta Research Council where as vice president he was responsible for restructuring the technology commercialization division and investment fund, and for implementing a growth plan for the Engineered Products and Services division. Prior to joining the ARC, Ron was president of Lacent Technologies where he helped transform the start-up company into a world leader in high speed laser cutting. He has also served as president of the Edmonton Regional Airports Authority, leading the organization through its formative years and establishing Canada's first independent airports authority. Earlier in his career as a senior manager at Stanley Associate Engineering, Ron help build one of Western Canada's largest economics consulting practices and Canada's second largest airports and aviation consulting group.

Reserve online (News)

Payment may be made at the door, but please register by December 6.

We will invoice no-shows.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Review of Service Management: Strategy and Leadership

Review of Service Management: Strategy and Leadership in Service Businesses
Richard Normann (Wiley and Sons: 1984)
Part One

The cover of the 1984 edition is slightly less photogenic yet displays a simple dark brown four square intersected flow chart with a central inter-connected point on a plain brown background. That also amply describes the contents of the book, a heavily lined thesis of simplicity itself and a reassuring brown bag background which makes me think this Normann was an incredibly honest and easy to understand leader and educator. I can see him quietly going about his business and venturing around with a brown bag lunch and perhaps quite low-key at the office. We have dug or are digging most of the accessible resources out of the earth's ground. Our factories are chugging along on JIT most of the time. So Normann correctly tagged service industries as the next big growth opportunity of the future and the intangibility in definition of services, be they acts or interactions, all which have simultaneous occurances. He contended that operational service quality is created and contended in series upon series of "moments of truth", his term, he coined it in terms of business service quality, describing the customer as the raging bull and the matador the dashing service provider.

Normann contends this definition of quality is greater than the sum of its definitive parts in description of 'personality intensity' where it is not what a person does in the service of a customer but how one does it, regardless of the capital, equipment, logo, or corporate background attached to that service. Refreshing to note even some painters manage to do great things with a few scraps of paper, crusts of bread and unsteady scratches.

Normann selected a few notable case studies, refreshing in their relative antiquity, none of the companies listed were really known to me, nor have I ever feasted upon escargots in any European climates anyway. One may tire of hearing about the same business success stories over and over again. Perhaps some of these companies are now fossils fertilizing the successes of newer European shoots? He seems to be discussing EF English First which perhaps in 1984 existed as a former organisation known simply as EF Colleges? The one which most clearly demonstrates moments of truth concerns Les Freres Troisgros where instead of bulls and matadors we are presented with an operatic anticipatory equivalent to lolling canine tongues salivating over the latest culinary feasts being lovingly basted and prepared in the gormande kitchens which seem to recall a medieval tendancy to revel in observation of moments of truth be they timeless as in Shakespeare or tiresome as in the 100 years war.

His thesis is encapsulated by diagramatic representation on the original 1984 cover and by the third edition it loses its prominence and emminence (savoury food would be a more dramatic illustration) but is comprised of five facets: service concept, market segment, culture and philosophy, service delivery system, and the image of the company. How well these facets inter-relate through the extension of personality intensity and moments of truth which reverberate and vibrate through internal customer as well as external customer relations determine whether or not a workplace can be as satisfying as witnessing one's portion of spring lamb levered from up out of the stove and thus carved on to the warmed plate of one's own portion or slapped together like a Big Mac.

In the service concept, the entire package is described as tangible, intangible, explicit, implicit, core, and peripherals in a grid block of inter-relatedness. He describes the service elements as one would whisk together a cup of soup. First specialized capacities to deliver services better or more cheaply are considered essential. Linkages and social relationships are then described as required to create connections that would not otherwise exist. This is followed by an ability to transfer knowledge, information and capabilites such as formal courses or training programs for customers even when allowing them access to new services might implicate their desire to continue using old ones. Finally the sale of management systems has become a service within a service determining options to consult or take-over management of key services. In the market segment, the client serves two roles; first as customer and second as participant/observor. He credits Alvin Toffler for detailing the needs and role of the "prosumer" and Zeleny as originating a descriptive 'self-service" customer as determining the improvements possible in industries where many innovations have already been made. Client participation is described on a variety categorical determinations from development of service, marketing, physical, intellectual and emotional participation. He states that finding the right questions often determines the productivity of a client relationship to service improvements. Normann explains the concept of creating customers where there were none through participatory evaluation and whether contact personnel actually embody the image and emotional empathy required of them through the expression and practice commitment, patience and skills to guarantee the satisfaction of customers, minimizing turnover and maximizing profitability.

In the culture and philosophy, Normann illustrates that service concepts themselves require innovation and creativity which transfers knowledge and capabilities from the company to the clients to ensure continued patronage. These vital transfers include variety and consumer freedom, and the growth of what is termed "social innovation." Such innovations include: client participation, the linkages of different contexts, career and job rotations, refocusing human energy, and scale advantages in knowledge. In the service delivery system, Normann describes the physical aids to delivery of services and the requirements of cost rationalisation, quality control, increasing quality, forging closer links to customersand the use and benefits of specific technologies interestingly noting the potential for inappropriate technological use implicating the social processes of effective services or the possibility that such processes may be disturbed rather than enhanced in some cases. In the image of the company, Normann relies on Kenneth Boulding for a definition of image a s merely a model or signifier of beliefs or understandings of phenomena or situations. He describee image as constituting culture, organsiation and people influences, products or service influences, market segmentation influences and other image influencing activities such as thr reshaping of reality by managers to suit a reshaping of image. This aspect of service is described as purposeful in the art of strategic market positioning, making certain resources available, and increasing motivational and productivity factors in the company which leads to internal marketing to "sell" the company essence or mission to internal customers first.

If any of this appears at all familiar it could be due to its role as a keystone to current day concepts of service. While some might argue it is all common sense, it seems trite to suggest that of course it is, now.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Review of: The Asian Mind Game

Review of, "The Asian Mind Game: Unlocking The Hidden Agenda of The Asian Business Culture - A Westerner's Survival Manual"
Chin-Ning Chu (Scribner: 1991)

First, credit goes to Chin-Ning Chu's Asian mind and her willingness to elucidate the minds of western readers by immersing them in her thoughts upon what westerners might need to know about the Asian Mind. First off, do some comparison shopping my dear westerners. Alibris had a perfectly decent copy of this title for the entire cost of a $1.99, a whole $ 16.99 cheaper than the discounted price of $18.98 on Amazon where Ms. Chu's webpage link for this title quickly led. Black faced indeed!

I grabbed for this title because it has a really couched assumption that westerners really need to be spoon fed on Asian negotiation patterns. For me, communalist megotiation patterns or collective requirements for assent or a majority of "nays" versus "yays" always seems to involve a pattern of shuffling and passing of the buck, usually my buck. In addition, I am often confused to assume I could learn anything about the Asian mind. I continue to insist that Matt Ngui was correct that, "One may never know what an Asian is thinking." I have mulled over this point and come to some sort of peace with it.

According to social attribution theories and psychological principles which comprise human understanding of implicit cognitive knowledge no one of us is ever actually able to know what any other one of us is ever actually thinking. So understanding one's own mind is forever the point of attempting to make some general understanding of what others are thinking regardless of their ethnic or cultural background. So in attempting even to think about one's own mind in terms of similarities or differences to the thoughts of others one is making attributions on a cognitive level which originate, again, within one's own mind. So here are my thoughts on Chu's book.

"We need to get through the ignorance." Kang Jeong Hwan (on stereotypes)

Is it dated? Well, things have changed as some critics contend the Japanese miracle has resulted in a lot of bridges and tunnels to nowhere with the most recent long term leader Koizumi having seemingly ruffled few feathers at the Postal Bank where the vast majority of those seeming-Samurais of the early nineties have been burying their savings out of the glint or glare of the swords of international investment risk. Furthermore, it often appears that Japan's long-term future as a leader of the Asian world economically relies as heavily or more heavily on public debt than American public debt does with a rapidly aging collection of Samurai seemingly guarding their economic borders with similar however more successful zeal.

"We need to get through the ignorance." Kang Jeong Hwan (on stereotypes)

Chu appears to rely heavily upon the precepts of The Art of War in describing what is felt every Asian already knows and every westerner is obviously in need of; more Sun Tsu. Perhaps all of us really only need more Lao Tsu to understand each his own mind better. While I would suggest a re-evaluation of Sun Tsu as a formation of business planning and strategy tools for modern economic warriors, it allseems rather tired at this point. Even a brief comparison of titles on the topic of Sun Tsu seems to suggest that a host and variety of interpretations exist, enough, perhaps, to contend in some ways with the cognitive principles of implicit knowledge earlier mentioned. Perhaps Asians interact with Sun Tsu precepts in the same ways that Muslims contend with God? That is upon individual and at times imdependent levels, therefore, perhaps in highly individualistic ways? When may one expect an interpretation of the ageless art of carpets weavings and its relevance ot business and understanding the Asian mind? I mention this as it is another ageless Asian legacy. For example, I was reminded I live in a city founded in 375 according to latest estimates and proudly emblazoned on the side of a rickety bus.

However tiresome a rehashing of Sun Tsu's precepts might appear in Chu's book, I do actually appreciate his writings among others such as Montaigne. Highly enjoyable is Chu's depiction of the stratified layers of economic man in terms of the Asian business hierarchy. Black-faced indeed are base peddlars, especially those with hi-fi systems and loud-speakers, ringing bells and gongs in the wee hours of the morning in Korean streets and alleyways seeking out the rare customer willing to submit to such horrendous sales tactics. Again, the baubble or bit seller weaving about on the subway platforms, stations and carriages blistering the creaking and rattling of mass transport with some other monotonous tirade of sound to make spare change and perhaps boredom turn into big money.

Chu's haunting descriptions of even greater barbarities, notably the blood-marked paths to Japanese Police Stations in colonial Korea only remind one that the disparities of thought whatever thought reigns supreme in the oriental sphere merely appears to have as many diversities as it does similarities and the fact that the continent of Asia in its vastness tends to remain quite unique in its myriad of corners and reaches contends towards a local rather than global mindset at times perceived to be more global than it might actually be. Chu provides a text of conjecture and anecdotal evidence of a mainstream Asia with several Asian tributaries and an implicitness of knowledge with wholely local influences. Did this book convince me how to survive Asia? Absolutely not. I am consistently and constantly lost here. Was I overly offended by Chu or her depicitions of Asian cultural mindsets which remind me of curmudegeonly smug fairly loquacious grandmothers of western extraction?

No, no more than I am by anyone who might think they could know what I am thinking. Address the individual in all cases perhaps the connections and relationships between cultures does not grow or develop out of generalisations. In negotiation, if it is not the strong who win as John Wayne might contend, but the fair, or those who share winnings and losses, then a business grows between two negotiators and is likely to be renewed. I am still waiting to see when the largest of Asia's great economic miracles becomes a free market-based consumer driven economy. How many more companies are there willing to plunge in to stake a position with seemingly indeterminant future promised profits? It would appear there are westerners who really need to read Chu's book sinking shareholders interests into China and a few other Asian neighbourhoods. The streets of Asia are paved with something other than gold. Is some part of that paving a collective hubris? How many of today's generation of westerners really embodies the John Wayne depiction of them? I would say that part of Chu's book is dated. The rest is a bargain really worth reading especially at a $1.99.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Yusuf Islam - Maybe There's a World

I have dreamt of a place and time,where nobody gets annoyed,
But I must admit I’m not there yet but Something’s keeping me going
Maybe there’s a world that I’m still to find
Maybe there’s a world that I’m still to find
Open up o world and let me in, then there’ll be a new life to begin

I have dreamt of an open world,Borderless and wide
Where the people move from place to place And nobody’s taking sides

Maybe there’s a world that I’m still to find
Maybe there’s a world that I’m still to find
Open up a world and let me in, then there’ll be A new life to begin

I’ve been waiting for that moment to arrive
All at once the palace of peace will fill My eyes – how nice!

Maybe there’s a world that I’m still to find
Maybe there’s a world that I’m still to find
Open up o world and let me in,then there’ll be A new life to begin

I’ve been waiting for that moment to arrive
All at once the wrongs of the world, will be put right – how nice!

Midnight Oil - One Country

Midnight Oil - One Country

Whod like to change the world, who wants to shoot the curl
Who gets to work for bread, who wants to get ahead
Who hands out equal rights, who starts and ends that fight
And not not rant and rave, or end up a slave

Who can make hard won gains, fall like the summer rain
Now every man must be, what his life can be

So dont call, me, the tune, I will walk away

Who wants to please everyone, who says it all can be done
Still sit up on that fence, no-one Ive heard of yet
Dont call me baby, dont talk in maybes
Dont talk like has-beens, sing it like it should be
Who laughs at the nagging doubt, lying on a neon shroud
Just gotta touch someone, I want to be

So dont...(one country one, country one country)

Who wants to sit around, turn it up turn it down
Only a man can be, what his life can be

One vision, one people, one landmass, we are defenceless, we have a lifeline
One ocean, one policy, seabed lies, one passion, one movement, one instant
One difference, one lifetime, one understanding
Transgression, redemption, one island, our placemat, one firmament
One element, one moment, one fusion, yes and one time

Peak Oil: Gas Prices, Supply Depletion & Energy Crisis SHORT

Teacher Aaron Wissner, in a compact 10 minutes video summary, details Peak Oil, the evidence, the impacts, and the solutions. See the full one-hour video at Also, at YouTube, see the conclusion, of that presentation, part 5 of 5, which highlights the impacts, underlying problem, and solutions to Peak Oil.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre: A brief description

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre: A brief description

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has become the world’s leading independent resource on the subject. Our website is updated hourly with news and reports about companies’ human rights impacts worldwide – positive and negative.

The site covers over 3600 companies, over 180 countries. It receives over 1.5 million hits per month. Topics include discrimination, environment, poverty & development, labour, access to medicines, health & safety, security, trade.

“An essential guide to the world's companies and their records on human rights.” Guardian newspaper

“No debate can move forward, no positive change can be made, without facts. The Resource Centre is the only website to provide such a broad range of balanced information on business and human rights – company by company, country by country, issue by issue.” Mary Robinson (Director of the Ethical Globalization Initiative, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and President of Ireland)