World Business Quick Take


Mon, Dec 29, 2003 - Page 12

■ Politics

Goh promises to step down

Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong (吳作棟) said he would be comfortable about stepping down in favor of chosen successor Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍) if the economy grew 3 percent to 4 percent, the Sunday Times newspaper reported. Goh, who has been Prime Minister since 1990, chose Deputy Prime Minister Lee in August to succeed him, saying the transition could occur before the next general election due in 2007 and possibly even next year if the economy recovered. The newspaper quoted Goh as telling reporters on Saturday he would decide after the first quarter of next year. "Political transition is on track. At the moment, I am open. I do not have any date in mind," Goh said. The government's official forecast is for GDP growth of 0.5 to 1.0 percent this year, rising to between 3 percent and 5 percent next year.

■ Statistics

Businesspeople optimistic

About 70 percent of business leaders believe the Japanese economy is improving, a Kyodo News survey showed. According to the survey results released late Saturday, not only was business sentiment improving but there was optimism for a full recovery next year, with 75 percent of business executives expecting the economy to moderately expand. Twenty-eight major companies, or 25 percent, of the 112 polled said the economy "remains flat" -- a sharp decline from 85 percent in a similar survey in the summer, Kyodo said. In contrast, 78 firms regarded it as "expanding moderately," with none suggesting it was "suffering a setback."

■ Trade

Australia-US talks planned

Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile may visit Washington late next month to complete a free-trade agreement with chief US negotiator Bob Zoellick, Sydney's Sunday Telegraph reported. Talks remain unresolved on opening US agricultural markets to more Australian exports, Australia's strict quarantine laws and on government-mandated prices charged in Australia for some US drugs, the newspaper said. Australian Prime Minister John Howard and US President George W. Bush had said they wanted to sign an agreement by the end of this year. Annual trade between the two nations was worth US$31 billion last year. A free-trade agreement may be worth US$2.7 billion in extra annual sales for Australian businesses, an Australian government report said. The US is Australia's biggest market for beef and lamb, and is a major buyer of minerals and fiber.