Slovakia bucks euro trend
Slovakia’s auto sector is speeding into high gear despite eurozone’s hard times, making it the world’s top per capita carmaker and fueling the best growth in the crisis-struck 17-nation currency bloc. While leading French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen recently announced it was shutting a plant and slashing 8,000 jobs at home, the company’s Slovak branch has hired 900 new workers. Plans call for overall production to soar to 780,000 vehicles this year from 639,763 last year, despite gloomy growth forecasts for much of Europe. The automotive sector employs almost 72,000 people out of the country’s 5.4 million people and accounts for 39 percent of total Slovak output.
Currency controls loosened
Caracas will allow the opening of foreign currency bank accounts, the central bank said. The move, announced on Friday in the Official Gazette, applies to both individuals and companies. “It simplifies the system,” Central Bank director Armando Leon told the newspaper El Universal. The measure is also aimed at foreign firms involved in public projects. The government has had strict foreign exchange controls since 2003 and regulates access to US dollars. Funds may be withdrawn in bolivars, the local currency, at the official rate, the central bank said.
State firms to be revamped
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung approved proposals to boost the competitiveness and profit margins of state companies, according to a posting on the government Web site. Selling shares in some state companies will be a “key task” during the period from now until 2015, according to the restructuring plan. Some companies, such as those classified as important to national defense or economic production, will remain under full government control, according to the proposals. State companies facing financial difficulties are to “focus resources on core business activities” and clarify management responsibilities, the plan states. Strengthening the performance of state companies would require “decisive measures,” according to an IMF report this month.
Summit opens in Boston
The Global Business Travel Association convention, which began yesterday in Boston, Massachusetts, will bring together thousands of travel industry leaders, suppliers and managers to discuss challenges, policy trends and potential profit areas during the annual convention. The four-day convention, which runs through to Wednesday, will also feature keynote addresses from former US presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton tomorrow and on Wednesday respectively. Clinton previously spoke at the convention in 2009.
China appeals WTO ruling
China has appealed a WTO panel’s finding that it has been unfairly imposing tariffs on a high-tech US steel product. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in a statement posted on its Web site late on Friday that the WTO panel’s report, issued last month, failed to properly interpret relevant regulations. China asked a WTO appellate body to review the report. The US lodged a complaint in 2010 that challenged Chinese tariffs on US-made grain-oriented flat-rolled electrical steel. China says it imposed the tariffs because US “Buy American” provisions and state government procurement laws amount to a subsidy.