China clinches Russia deal
China said yesterday it has secured a Russian promise for more oil shipments by train for the next two years, as it scrambles to secure the energy it needs to feed its booming economy. China will receive at least 10 million tonnes (70 million barrels) of crude oil from Russia by train next year, and at least 15 million tonnes (105 million barrels) by train in 2006, in a deal signed between the two countries' governments on Thursday in Beijing, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Further, Russian railways should be prepared to carry as much as 60 million tonnes (420 million barrels) of oil a year to China by 2010, up from the 20 million tonnes (140 million barrels) they are able to transport at present, it said.
■ Automakersbr />
S Korean workers on strike
Assembly line production at South Korea's two largest automakers ground to a halt yesterday as tens of thousands of workers launched six-hour strikes across the nation to protest proposed labor legislation. The strike was called by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, which wants the government to withdraw a bill aimed at allowing companies to hire more temporary employees while making it easier for companies to downsize. Hyundai Motor Co said the strike would cost 80 billion won (US$76 million), or 5,600 cars, in lost production. Hyundai Motor affiliate Kia Motors Corp estimated its production losses at 48 billion won (US$45.6 million), or 3,450 cars.
Japan, S Korea mull pacts
Japan and South Korea have agreed to begin negotiating a free trade agreement with ASEAN members next year, and the discussions with Japan will wrap up within two years, an official said yesterday. The Japanese and Korean plans to enter talks came as one of their biggest economic rivals, China, prepared to sign parts of a trade pact with the 10-nation group. Japan and South Korea, which aren't ASEAN members, were invited to join meetings this week at ASEAN's annual summit in the Laotian capital of Vientiane.
Vietnam supports expansion
The Vietnamese government will subsidize 15 percent of the national air carrier's plan to buy 10 new Airbus SAS planes as part of its 10-year expansion, state-controlled media reported yesterday. Under Prime Minister Phan Van Khai's decision issued on Tuesday, Vietnam Airlines will arrange loans with a government guarantee to cover about US$93.8 million of the total deal worth US$625.2 million, the Thanh Nien newspaper said. The first two Airbus A321s are expected to be delivered in 2006, with four more in 2007 and two each in 2008 and 2009, it said.
Ikea founder honored
The founder of Swedish do-it-yourself furniture giant Ikea, Ingvar Kamprad, was on Thursday named "Entrepreneur of the 20th Century" by a group of Swedish business leaders, officials said. The award was organized by the Swedish branch of consultancy firm Ernst and Young and was presented on the sidelines of the group's Entrepreneur of the Year prize ceremony. Kamprad, 78, is known for his frugal habits and modest lifestyle. He announced two years ago that he would hand over the reins of Ikea to his three sons, but no date has been set.