Friday, October 26, 2007

Canada Aims to Match U.S.-Korea Trade Deal: Minister

Canada Aims to Match U.S.-Korea Trade Deal: Minister

Canada is entering a difficult final phase of free-trade negotiations with South Korea and needs to secure a deal if it wants to be able to compete with the United States in Asia, Trade Minister David Emerson said on Tuesday.

Ottawa and Seoul began trade talks in 2005, and Emerson had hoped to sign a pact by the end of this year. He now appears reluctant to commit to that timeline, however.

"Unless we get some breakthroughs that so far we haven't been able to get, we're not going to get there this year," he told reporters.

"We've made some serious progress in recent sessions but we're not there yet."

Even if a deal is struck, Emerson faces fierce opposition from autoworkers who are lobbying opposition political parties to defeat any eventual trade pact with South Korea when it is presented to Parliament.

Meanwhile, he is racing against the clock as the U.S. Congress heads toward a vote next year on that country's trade accord with South Korea.

The United States and South Korea struck a deal in April but it has yet to be approved by legislators in either country.

Senior U.S. Democrats have called for the pact to be renegotiated to strengthen its auto provisions, which they say could fail to effectively open South Korea's market to more U.S. cars. Another obstacle to congressional approval of the deal is a beef trade dispute.

"If the United States ratifies its free-trade agreement with Korea, we will then be in a world where Canadian exporters to Korea will be discriminated against vis-a-vis Americans. We'll be in a world where there'll be at least two Korean auto plants in the United States shipping in to Canada," Emerson said.

The Canadian Auto Workers on Tuesday unveiled a study that estimates a deal would result in 33,000 total job losses across Canada. It is lobbying opposition parties to defeat an eventual South Korea trade pact in Parliament.

"From everything we're seeing and hearing, Mr. Emerson is rushing ahead to try to sign a free-trade agreement with South Korea in the midst of a manufacturing crisis, in the midst of an automotive industry crisis," said CAW President Buzz Hargrove.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

China Threatens Polluters with Ban on Exports

China Threatens Polluters with Ban on Exports
(International Herald Tribune)

China has raised the stakes for companies violating environmental laws with rules to block polluters from exporting their goods, after its trade surplus jumped 56 percent last month.

Companies found ignoring waste-discharge limits face a ban from international trade for as long as three years to discourage exporters from cutting costs at the expense of the environment, according to a statement Friday from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and the State Environmental Protection Administration.

The government is struggling to reduce the effect of its expanding economy on the environment and to combat charges that its exports are kept inexpensive by lax environmental and labor standards. China said this month that the gap between exports and imports jumped 56 percent in September to $23.9 billion.

"It's the government's belief that China's trade surplus is not really due to the exchange rate, it's due to structural problems – the cost of production is much lower than it should be because environmental standards aren't strong enough," said Paul Cavey, an economist at Macquarie Securities. "The idea is to try and enforce pollution standards and labor standards, that'll raise the cost."

China's economy expanded 11.9 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier. The growth has come at a cost, with farming and industrial waste polluting one-third of Chinese lakes, rivers and coastal waters, according to a report in July by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

"Some enterprises seek to reduce export costs by exceeding pollution limits," the statement said. Export prices then "don't fully reflect social costs, aggravate trade frictions, fuel unreasonable growth in the trade surplus and damage the image of China's products."

China passed the United States last year to become the world's largest source of carbon dioxide gas, from burning fossil fuels and producing cement, according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. China has set a goal of cutting the energy consumed for each unit of gross domestic product by 20 percent and major pollutant discharges by 10 percent in the five years to 2010.

China has "very serious" pollution problems and has paid a "large environmental price" to industrialize and urbanize, the deputy prime minister, Zeng Peiyan, said last month as he urged stronger enforcement of environmental regulations.

In July, Wang Qinhua, industry policy director of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, said China planned to broaden the factors considered in evaluating exporters' qualifications to include environmental protection and workers' social security.

"It's welcome, it's definitely something China should be doing," Cavey at Macquarie Securities said. "But the first question is how will this be enforced at the local level, which is always the problem in China."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wollongong ranked equal first as Australia’s top teaching university

Wollongong ranked equal first as Australia’s top teaching university

3 Oct 2007 Bernie Goldie

Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop today (3 October 2007) announced the allocation of $83 million to reward excellence in teaching and learning at Australia’s universities with the University of Wollongong and the University of Technology Sydney the only universities to make the top A1 band for all four discipline groupings.

According to a league table drawn up by The Australian newspaper the overall results place UOW and UTS as equal first in the country for the 2008 Learning and Teaching Performance Fund.

Twenty three of Australia’s universities will receive a share of the $83 million with UOW allocated $5,896,225.

UOW has been rewarded for its commitment to high quality learning and teaching across the multiple discipline groups of (a) science, computing, engineering, architecture and agriculture; (b) business, law and economics; (c) humanities, arts and education; and (d) health

UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gerard Sutton, described the announcement as a stunning result which reinforced Wollongong’s strong performance over the previous two rounds.

The Australian newspaper in 2005 named UOW the number one ranked university in the country for teaching performance when the Federal Government first started the Performance Fund.

Professor Sutton said today’s announcement follows the recent release of the 2008 Good Universities Guide which reaffirmed Wollongong’s standing as one of Australia’s leading research institutions and a place where students experience a five-star educational experience and a five-star chance of gaining a job with a top salary at the end of their degree.