S Korea sees 5-year low
Consumer confidence in South Korea hit a five-year low last month as the central Bank of Korea said yesterday this year's economic growth will fall below 3 percent because of weak consumption and investment. The consumer evaluation index, which measures current consumer sentiment, fell to 59.9 last month from 63.9 in August, the National Statistical Office (NSO) said. The fall reflected a prolonged slump in consumer confidence amid uncertainty over the long-awaited economic recovery. It marks the lowest level since November 1998, when the data was first collated, the NSO said. The Bank of Korea separately said weaker-than-expected domestic consumption, coupled with meager investment, would drag the GDP growth rate for the fourth quarter to December down to below its latest forecast of 3.8 percent year-on-year.
■ Capital flow
Thaksin plans new tax
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday that his government is planning a tax on fast-capital flow in a bid to curb speculation of the baht in the foreign exchange market. Thaksin's comment immediately led to a drop in the value of baht, which has strengthened to a three-year high against the dollar. Some businesspeople have worried that the unusually strong baht will make exports more expensive. Thaksin told reporters that the Finance Ministry and the central bank are working on details of the tax plan, particularly the definition of fast capital flow. "We haven't reached a conclusion yet about the definition of fast capital flow whether it should be 3-month, 1-month or 7 days," he said.
Valuair to launch next year
Singapore's new no-frills airline Valuair will start its operations early next year, local media said yesterday. Valuair founder and former Singapore Airlines chief executive Lim Chin Beng expects to obtain an air operators' certificate early next year, The Straits Times newspaper reported. Valuair also signed an agreement with Singapore's DBS Bank on Monday to use its automated teller machines for ticket payment, the paper said. The budget airline can expect to face stiff competition from Malaysia's AirAsia, which has also entered a similar ticket-sale arrangement with the bank and the city-state's biggest telecommunication company, Singtel. Valuair will operate short-haul flights out of Changi International Airport, although destinations have yet to be confirmed, it said.
■ Free trade
Mexico, Japan still divided
Japan and Mexico are still divided on the terms of a bilateral free trade accord but are making progress in the eleventh-hour talks ahead of a visit to Tokyo this week by Mexican President Vicente Fox, the Japanese foreign minister said yesterday. "The talks are moving ahead, albeit little by little," Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi told a regular news conference on the eve of Fox's arrival. The sensitive issue of agricultural trade has bogged the talks down, with Mexico pushing to remove high Japanese tariffs on pork while Japan has rejected the idea to protect domestic farmers. Trade, farm and other ministers of the two nations met in Tokyo Monday in a bid to secure a last-minute breakthrough for concluding a free trade agreement while Fox is here but remained divided over a range of issues.
‘NO EQUILIBRIUM’: Taiwan’s increased defense spending is a good step, but it needs to do more to have the ability to deter aggression from China, a senior US official said The US plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems — including mines, cruise missiles and drones — to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said. Pursuing seven sales at once is a rare departure from years of precedent in which US military sales to Taiwan were spaced out and carefully calibrated to minimize tensions with Beijing. However, US President Donald Trump’s administration has this year become more aggressive with China, and the sales would land as relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades over accusations of spying, lingering trade tensions, disputes about the
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
WORKING OVERTIME? NTU professor Lee Duu-jong denied that he had held a part-time position at a Chinese university or joined China’s Thousand Talents Program A candidate for the post of National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST) president yesterday dropped out of the race following a report questioning his links to Chinese academia and government programs. Lee Duu-jong (李篤中), a professor at National Taiwan University’s (NTU) chemical engineering department, was a member of China’s Changjiang Scholars’ Program in 2006 and was on the list of its Thousand Talents Program in 2017, a report by Chinese-language Mirror Media magazine said yesterday. The article said that Lee is suspected of having held a part-time job at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China and was the recipient
A Taiwanese bird protection group yesterday said that it has been kicked out of BirdLife International — a global conservation partnership — after it refused to sign a statement saying it would never advocate independence. The Taipei-based Chinese Wild Bird Federation said that BirdLife International last week voted to remove it, ending a partnership that had been in place since 1996. Over the past 20 years, the federation has changed its English name three times to satisfy BirdLife International, and recently the international group demanded that it change its Chinese name and sign a statement that it is “formally committing to not