Japan seeks Myanmar ties
Japan’s foreign minister will suggest that Myanmar enter negotiations on a bilateral investment accord when he holds talks with the country’s top officials this week, Kyodo News reported yesterday. The talks would mark another step as Myanmar gradually reconnects with the rest of the world after decades of tight military rule. A series of reforms have been initiated by Myanmar President Thein Sein aimed at pushing for the lifting of decades of Western sanctions and attracting much-needed foreign investment in the country. In Naypyidaw, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba will discuss the investment accord, which would promote cross-border investment and allow trade disputes to be settled under international frameworks, Kyodo said, citing a government source.
Indonesia strike ends
Workers at Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold Inc’s mine in Indonesia will gradually return to work this week to end a three-month strike that has crippled output and exports from the world’s second-biggest copper mine, union officials said yesterday. Some workers have started a traditional stone burning ritual and removed a road blockage that kept other workers from accessing the Grasberg mine in the central highlands of Papua island in eastern Indonesia, Juli Parorrongan, a union spokesman, said via telephone yesterday. The union had planned to mobilize workers to return to the mine on Saturday, but some of them are celebrating Christmas with their families in Papua, which is predominantly Christian. Many workers at the Grasberg mine are Papuans. In mid-December, workers reached a deal including a 37 percent pay rise over two years and extra benefits.
Growth slows to 0.3 percent
The nation’s economy, the eurozone’s second largest, grew at a weaker pace than previously estimated in the third quarter as companies cut spending. GDP rose 0.3 percent from the second quarter, when it fell 0.1 percent, Paris statistics institute Insee said on Friday. It had previously reported a gain of 0.4 percent. In the year, the economy expanded 1.5 percent, down from 1.7 percent in the previous quarter. The economy is probably already in recession, with output shrinking this quarter and next, Insee said last week. While business confidence dropped to the lowest in one-and-a-half years this month and manufacturing contracted, government leaders have refused to use the word recession, saying France is in a “slowdown” or an “air pocket.” Investment growth slowed to 0.2 percent in the third quarter from 0.6 percent in the previous three months, the report showed. Consumer spending increased 0.3 percent after dropping 0.6 percent in the second quarter and exports advanced 0.8 percent, up from 0.7 percent.
Flood crisis funding sought
The government will seek Cabinet approval this week for a 350 billion baht (US$11.12 billion) budget for infrastructure and water management to prevent a repeat of the country’s recent flood crisis, a top official said on Saturday. The government’s post-flood rehabilitation task force would propose the budget for flood prevention and infrastructure upgrades to restore investor confidence as soon as possible, the head of the task force, Veerapong Ramangkuland, said in a televised speech. Veerapong said the fund would allow the government to raise and allocate necessary funds to fast-track the work and prevent further damage to the economy.