■ South Korea
Exports to stay strong
South Korea yesterday forecast a 10.4 percent rise in exports this year over last year despite an expected global economic slowdown and the won's rise against the dollar. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy said exports are expected to rise to US$360 billion from US$326 billion last year. It would be the fifth consecutive year for exports to grow at a double-digit rate. Imports may grow 10.9 percent to US$343 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of US$17 billion compared with a surplus of US$16.7 billion in 2006, the ministry said.
Economy grows 7.7 percent
Singapore's economy accelerated in the last quarter to bring full-year growth to 7.7 percent, the government said yesterday. On a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, Singapore's economy grew 7.6 percent in the fourth quarter, faster than the 5.6 percent rate in the third quarter, according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry's advance estimate. Compared to the same quarter a year ago, the economy expanded 5.9 percent, the government said. In his annual New Year's message on Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍) affirmed the government's target for this year of 4 percent to 6 percent growth.
Starbucks reduces trans fat
Starbucks Corp is cutting trans fats from the doughnuts, muffins and other treats in half of its US stores this week and plans to eventually drop the artery-clogging fats from company-operated coffeehouses across the country, a company spokesman said on Tuesday. The world's largest specialty coffee retailer has been working to eliminate trans fats from its food menu for about two years, spokesman Brandon Borrman said. Trans fats, listed on food labels as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, are believed to be harmful because they wreak havoc with cholesterol levels.
Bank plan approved
The nation has approved a plan to turn its huge postal savings system into a bank, which is set to become the nation's fifth-largest lender, state media said yesterday. The approval for the China Postal Savings Bank to start operations was given by the Banking Regulatory Commission, the China Daily said. The bank will be wholly owned by the China Post Group, a US$10 billion company formed out of the State Post Bureau, formally both the supervisor and a major player in postal services, the China Daily said, citing the commission. The deposit balance of post savings recorded 1.3 trillion yuan (US$166 billion) by the end of 2005, accounting for nearly 10 percent of China's household savings.
China raises luxury tariffs
China has started from the beginning of this year to raise tariffs on individual travelers' purchase of luxury goods from overseas, a move aimed to narrow the price difference between imported and domestic goods, according to state media reports last week. The increase in consumption tax for some luxury goods purchased abroad or shipped back to China was approved by the Ministry of Finance, the China Daily reported. The new tariff will be raised from 10 percent to 30 percent for golf equipment and luxury watchers, as well as from 20 percent to 50 percent for cosmetics, the paper said.
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
CHINESE FIGHTERS: Beijing marked the US Cabinet member’s visit by briefly sending two warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait yesterday morning President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday met with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar in the highest-level official meeting between the two nations since 1979. “It is a true honor to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from [US] President [Donald] Trump to Taiwan,” Azar said during the open portion of his courtesy call to the Presidential Office, which was streamed live online before Tsai and Azar held a closed-door meeting. “Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent,
PARTNERSHIP AND LEARNING: A Princeton University health policy researcher said that the nation would be a ‘treasure trove’ of information for the US health chief US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Friday said he wants to learn about Taiwan’s “incredibly effective” response to COVID-19, even though the nation did things that the US has fumbled, such as having a unified strategy and citizens willing to wear masks. Azar leads a US delegation arriving today for a three-day visit to Taiwan. They are to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and health system leaders, and Azar is to give a speech to public health graduates. “The message of this trip is about Taiwan,” Azar said in an interview, deflecting a question about China.
Taiwanese-independence advocates yesterday accused former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of breaking national security laws and called on the judiciary to investigate after his statement that “China will wage a battle, which will be quick and will be the last battle for Taiwan.” Ma showed his true colors “as a mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party” in his speech on Monday when he said the “first battle will be the last,” Taiwan Republic Office (台灣國辦公室) director Chilly Chen (陳峻涵) said. “Ma is threatening Taiwanese by claiming that Beijing will launch a quick invasion of Taiwan, but that the US military will have no