Canada, Europe ink deal
Canada said it signed its first free-trade pact with European countries on Saturday, clearing the way for it to boost its commerce there by ties with Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The pact between Canada and the the four countries grouped under the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) was signed on the fringes of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the government said. Bilateral trade between Canada and the EFTA countries is relatively modest, worth some US$10 billion in 2006. The new agreement must now be ratified by the Canadian parliament.
Russia, N Korea mull link
A Russian delegation has arrived in North Korea to discuss a joint project to rebuild a cross-border rail link, North Korean state media said. The delegation will discuss providing power to the northeastern port of Rajin, the official Korean Central New Agency said late on Saturday. "Both sides will focus on discussing the issue of supply of electricity to Khasan-Rajin railways and Rajin Port," it said. Russian officials have visited North Korea to discuss modernizing the 55km line between Rajin and Russia's Khasan. Reconstruction of North Korea's railways would cost about US$2.5 billion, Russia estimates.
Doha on WTO agenda
WTO members aim to conclude negotiations on the most difficult parts of the long-delayed Doha trade deal in April, the Swiss economy minister said on Saturday. Doris Leuthard, who has invited negotiators from 20 countries for talks on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, said ministers were working towards holding a ministerial meeting in Geneva to agree on trade in farm and industrial products. She cautioned however that "the ministers will meet only when the papers and the technical work can lead to solutions" for both areas, as well as other sticking points, such as product protection.
Google eyes Malaysia
US search-engine giant Google is interested in setting up a base in Malaysia, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said, according to reports yesterday. "They want to make their presence felt in Malaysia," Abdullah told Malaysian journalists at the World Economic Forum in Davos. "I was told that Malaysians formed the highest group of Google users in Southeast Asia," Abdullah said according to the Star daily. Earlier reports here said that Google was looking at Malaysia, India or Vietnam to establish the world's biggest "server farm," or cluster of such computers.
■ SOUTH KOREA
Seoul considers tax cut
The government may cut taxes to strengthen its economy amid worries about the impact of the US subprime mortgage crisis, Yonhap news agency said yesterday. Yonhap quoted officials as saying the government could cut taxes, front-load fiscal spending and remove corporate regulations. Experts warned last week that growing overseas financial turmoil and inflationary pressures were threatening to slow the economy despite resilient exports and a recovery in consumption. Annual inflation rose 3.6 percent last month, breaching the Bank of Korea's target range of 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent.