Executives plead guilty
Three South Korean executives from Samsung Electronics Co agreed to plead guilty and serve jail time in California for participating in a conspiracy to fix the price of computer memory chips, the US Justice Department said on Wednesday. Each executive agreed to pay a US$250,000 fine, cooperate with US authorities on the investigation and serve prison sentences ranging from seven to eight months for their role in a scheme to raise prices for dynamic random access memory (DRAM) from 1999 to 2002. A federal judge in San Francisco must still approve the deal. Samsung, the world's largest maker of DRAM chips, said in a statement on Wednesday that the company was "strongly committed to fair competition and ethical practices and forbids anticompetitive behavior."
GM reaches deal with union
General Motors Corp on Wednesday agreed to an early retirement deal for more than 125,000 hourly workers, a key element in its massive restructuring plan. Subject to bankruptcy court approval, the deal with GM's main union and its bankrupt former parts subsidiary Delphi Corp could help avert a potentially crippling strike at Delphi, which faces a March 30 deadline to void its union contracts. The agreement also will facilitate plans by the world's largest automaker to eliminate 30,000 workers by 2008 as it attempts to cut costs after posting a US$10.6 billion loss last year. Union members at both GM and Delphi who are already eligible to retire with full benefits will be offered a US$35,000 cash bonus to do so, the United Auto Workers (UAW) said in a statement. GM workers who are within three years of eligibility will be offered monthly payments until it is time for them to retire with full benefits. All other GM employees will be offered a buyout of up to US$140,000 in exchange for giving up retirement health care and other benefits, the union said.
EU adopts shoe duties
The European Commission yesterday formally approved the introduction of anti-dumping duties on leather shoes imported from China and Vietnam, a plan that has generated protests by both Asian countries. "The European Commission has adopted proposals by European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson to impose a provisional anti-dumping duty on leather shoes from China and Vietnam," it said in a statement. Brussels has said it found evidence of state intervention helping shoemakers in China and Vietnam and it will impose duties of 16.8 percent on shoes from Vietnam and 19.4 percent from China to be phased in over five months from April 7. Sports shoes and footwear for children will be exempted from the duties. China has said it might consider a complaint to the WTO.
US, EU agree on tariff cuts
The US and EU on Wednesday agreed to cut several tariffs for US farm and industrial goods being exported to 10 EU member states which joined the bloc in 2004. The EU will reduce tariffs on some goods, such as chemicals and fish, and expand tariff quotas for other US exports like boneless ham, poultry and chocolate, the US Trade Representative's office said. The changes will go into effect no later than July 1.
The deal was signed in Geneva by the US and EU ambassadors to the WTO.