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Tue, Feb 18, 2003 - Page 12 News List

World business quick take

WTO

Zoellick meets with Chinese

US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick opened meetings yesterday with Chinese trade officials in an effort to further prise open the market for American farmers, 14 months after Beijing joined the WTO. Facilitating China's accession to the WTO had been a priority in the first year of President George W. Bush's administration, Zoellick said in a statement ahead of the Feb. 17 to Feb. 20 visit. The US trade chief said China had made important progress in reforming its economy but he had concerns that in some areas, particularly agriculture, Americans were not getting the access China promised and which the WTO mandates. According to the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, the Chinese side will hold consultations with Zoellick over bilateral and multilateral trade issues, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Credit Rating

Australia raised to AAA

Australia's foreign currency credit rating was raised to AAA from AA+ by Standard & Poor's, which cited the country's string of budget surpluses and falling foreign debt. The outlook on the credit rating is "stable," S&P said. The currency rose after the announcement. Australia's Liberal-National coalition government has delivered four budget surpluses in five from fiscal 1996 to fiscal 2001. The upgrade comes almost four years after S&P last raised Australia's foreign-rating currency, and puts S&P on the same level as Moody's Investors Services, which raised the rating in October, 2002. Australia's has had a AAA local-currency rating from S&P since July 1992, according to Bloomberg data. "It's a reason to support the Australian dollar in the short-term," said Chris Loong, Sydney-based manager of foreign exchange hedging at AMP Henderson Global Investors, which has about US$155 billion under investment.

Chip Equipment

Global sales up 14 percent

Worldwide sales of chipmaking equipment rose in December, the fourth straight gain after 18 months of declines, an industry group said. The rise may signal a recovery in global chip demand is under way. Chip equipment sales rose 13.9 percent in December from the same month a year earlier to US$1.82 billion, the Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan said. Demand for equipment is rebounding as chipmakers such as Samsung Electronics Co expand production capacity. Samsung, the world's No. 1 maker of memory chips, will surpass Intel Corp as the biggest buyer of chip equipment this year, based on their spending forecasts for this year. Global chip sales will probably increase 12 percent this year to about US$174 billion after gaining 1.4 percent last year, according to market researcher Dataquest Inc.

Internet

Agere make traffic chip

Agere Systems Inc, the unprofitable semiconductor maker spun off from Lucent Technologies Inc, said it developed the fastest chip to direct information across computer networks and the Internet. Agere's US$295 APP540, one-fourth the size of a credit card, performs the functions of two or three chips from competitors, uses less power and is cheaper, said Rob Munoz, Agere's product marketing manager. KT Corp, South Korea's largest telephone company, plans to build a new nationwide network based on equipment that runs on the APP540 chips, Munoz said.

Agencies

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