S Korea, Australia ink pact
South Korea and Australia signed a free-trade deal yesterday which is to scrap almost all tariffs within a decade while immediately lifting levies on some key exports, including South Korean cars and Australian wine. The deal is to see almost all tariffs on goods traded between the two countries scrapped within 10 years of the pact taking effect. Canberra is to immediately abolish 5 percent tariffs on most South Korean-made cars, as well as televisions, refrigerators and machinery. Seoul is to immediately lift tariffs on nearly half of agricultural imports from Australia, including wine and coconut oil, as well as about a fifth of fish imports. It is hoped that the deal will be ratified by the end of the year, the South Korean trade ministry said.
Bank upbeat on economy
The Bank of Japan yesterday painted an upbeat picture of the world’s No. 3 economy and delayed action on its monetary easing program as it assesses the impact of a controversial rise in sales tax. Policymakers decided to hold fire on the multibillion-dollar asset-purchase scheme introduced in April last year as part of a drive by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to drag the country out of years of deflation and slumbering growth.
Japan posts surplus
Japan posted its first current account surplus in five months in February, helped by a narrower trade deficit and higher returns on investment abroad, Japanese government data showed yesterday. Japan logged a surplus of ￥612.7 billion (US$5.9 billion) in February, down 5.7 percent from the surplus the year before, but a reversal of a deficit of ￥1.59 trillion in January. The monthly trade deficit shrank by 1.4 percent on-year to ￥533.4 billion as exports grew faster than imports. Exports rose 15.7 percent to ￥5.94 trillion, while imports went up 14.1 percent to ￥6.47 trillion.
GSK probes Iraq claims
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) said on Monday it has launched an investigation into allegations it bribed doctors in Iraq, as the pharmaceuticals giant remains embroiled in a major corruption scandal in China. The company said it is probing allegations of “improper conduct in our Iraq business” after reports that it hired 16 doctors and pharmacists in Iraq as paid sales representatives at a time they continued working for the government. “In total, we employ fewer than 60 people in Iraq in our pharmaceuticals operation and these allegations relate to a small number of individuals in the country,” it said in a statement, adding: “We have zero tolerance for unethical or illegal behavior.”
Ford recalls two models
Ford Motor Co issued two vehicle recalls on Monday, one to fix a corrosion risk that could affect steering and another to replace seat frames that do not meet safety standards. Ford said it was recalling about 385,7500 Ford Escape sport-utility vehicles in the model years 2001 to 2004 to address a potential subframe corrosion issue that could cause the lower control arm to separate, resulting in reduced steering control and an increased crash risk. The No. 2 US automaker said it was aware of one crash that may be related to the issue, but knew of no injuries.