Internet VAT enforced
A new law forcing non-EU firms to collect value-added tax (VAT) on goods sold over the Internet to customers in the 15-nation bloc came into force on Tuesday, officials said. The law has sparked complaints from some companies outside the EU, although those inside the bloc which have been charging VAT up to now have complained that competitors abroad had an advantage. European Commission officials said the change was likely to affect US Internet firms such as service provider AOL and online auctioneer e-Bay. One official said rival firms such as service provider Freeserve had complained that they were suffering because US firms were not obliged to collect VAT.
UN approves standards
The UN's food standards body approved guidelines Tuesday for assessing the safety of food derived from biotechnology, including the use of product tracing as a tool of risk management, an official said. The UN Codex Alimentarius Commission is currently meeting in Rome -- a session that comes at a delicate time when the US and the EU are bickering over genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The three documents approved Tuesday deal with standards for risk assessment of biotech food and with methods to raise public awareness over the issue, said Jorgen Schlundt, the director of the food safety department at the UN World Health Organization. The Codex is a joint commission of the health agency and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
US expands duty-free list
The US on Tuesday expanded the range of products that more than 140 developing countries can import duty-free, said the Office of the US Trade Representative. US President George W. Bush signed a proclamation that renews Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits for imports worth about US$900 million, including for some requested by Argentina, the Philippines and Turkey, it said. It granted US$96 million worth of additional GSP benefits to Argentina, US$30 million worth to the Philippines and US$130 million worth to Turkey. Bush also redesig-nated products or provided waivers on certain goods from Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Morocco, Thailand an Uruguay, said US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick. Last year, imports worth US$17.5 billion entered the US duty-free under the GSP program.
Numbers are picking up
Passenger numbers in the Asia-Pacific region are picking up faster than expected on airlines clobbered by the SARS outbreak, flagging global economy and the war in Iraq, a grouping of carriers reported yesterday. The Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines, representing 17 carriers including Singapore Airlines, said travel bookings have improved and more people are flying. Flights in the region plunged 44.8 percent in April and by 50 percent in May. A key to recovery is the World Health Organization's lifting of travel advisories for more destinations in Asia. Cathay Pacific said recently it would restore 170 weekly flights this month and resume a full schedule by the end of September. Japan Airlines has also said it will restore normal services on some routes to China and other regional destinations. Sin is restoring eight weekly flights to Fukuoka and Nagoya in Japan, Madrid and Auckland.