China threatens reprisals on NZ dairy, wool and kiwifruit if government doesn’t back off cheap steel inquiry | Stuff.co.nz

Those seeking trading partnerships with China should be wary.
Manawatu dairy farmer Andrew Hoggard says struggling farmers can’t take another hit from a trade war with China. China has threatened “retaliatory measures” against New Zealand trade, warning it will slow the flow of dairy, wool and kiwifruit imports.

The world’s biggest trading nation is angry at New Zealand inquiries into a glut of Chinese steel imports flooding the market; the Chinese believe New Zealand is part of a US-led alliance to target Chinese national interests.

The behind-the-scenes threat comes just days before the arrival of US Vice President Joe Biden in New Zealand, forcing government and commerce officials to scramble to open urgent talks with China. New Zealand is angry that China should take such a combative approach, and is asking that it desist.

Manawatu dairy farmer Andrew Hoggard fears the impact of a vengeful China – but says New Zealand must stand up for its free trade principles. “The rules are the rules.”

Pacific Steel, the sister company of iron miner and processor NZ Steel, has lodged a confidential application, under local and World Trade Organisation rules, for an investigation into China dumping cut-price steel on the New Zealand market. The local industry is struggling to compete with the glut of sometimes substandard Chinese metal, which is being used in major projects like the $1.4 billion Waterview Connection and bridges on the Waikato Expressway.

Right now, lawyers for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment are deciding whether the investigation should proceed, which could result in punitive anti-dumping tariffs against China.

But somehow, China learned of the application – and it is taking retaliatory action.

In the past week, representatives of New Zealand’s biggest export industries have been called in by Chinese officials, and told to exert their influence to make sure the MBIE investigation does not go ahead.

To up the ante, they have been told China has begun consulting with its local food producers about imposing reprisal tariffs to slow down the access of New Zealand dairy, wool, kiwifruit and potentially meat to the 1.35 billion-strong Chinese consumer market.

Local producers are alarmed.

“A trade war with China is definitely not in our interests,” says Andrew Hoggard, a Manawatu dairy farmer. “It’s about 20 per cent of our markets and we’re getting good market penetration with added value products in there.”

Hoggard, who chairs the Federated Farmers dairy division, said many farmers were still struggling to meet mortgage payments and a number had been forced off the land, after last year’s very low milk solid prices. The last thing they needed was to be slammed by Chinese trade barriers.

Highly-placed sources have confirmed China is applying pressure in an attempt to sway regulators away from imposing anti-dumping or countervailing duties – which are imposed when goods are subsidised – on imported Chinese steel. Zespri and Fonterra are said to have been heavied, and other exporters may have been.

Pacific Steel’s parent company BlueScope Steel has also been strongly critical of the anti-dumping protections against Chinese imports in Australia, and is said to have applied for punitive measures there, as well. In New Zealand, Pacific Steel did not respond to a request for comment, and MBIE’s acting manager of trade, Karl Woodhead, said the ministry could not confirm or deny if it had received an application.

Under World Trade Organisation rules “applications relating to anti-dumping or countervailing duties are confidential unless investigations are initiated”, begging the question of how China found out.

The world’s biggest trading nation believes the United States is leading an alliance of sycophantic nations, doing the US bidding by shutting down Chinese trade and trying to force its military out of the contested islands and atolls of the South China Sea.

Joe Biden landed on the USS John C Stennis aircraft carrier in the South China Sea on Friday, where he told crew, “we’re going to be active in the region as long as all of you are alive”.

He flies into New Zealand on Wednesday – and it seems certain relations with China will again be high on his agenda.

The US and the EU have been at the forefront of actions against Chinese steel exports. They believe China is dumping steel at prices far below the cost of production with its output far outstripping demand as its economy slows.

The US has imposed anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties of up to 450 per cent on corrosion-resistant steel from China in the latest move against its steel exports. China described the move as “irrational”. China would likely view any New Zealand move on steel as part of an orchestrated attack on its steel exports led by the US. However NZ industry representatives and officials have made it clear MBIE’s processes are independent and rules-based and are not influenced by foreign powers.

China’s unusual tactics have caused government and industry to close ranks. The Ministry of Commerce of China (MOFCOM) has denied consulting on retaliatory tariffs. Fonterra spokesman Phil Turner and Zespri’s chief operating officer Simon Limmer both denied any knowledge of the Chinese industry consultation.

But trade expert Charles Finny, who has worked on China-New Zealand trade issues for decades, said sources in Government confirmed at least one major exporter had been told “the Chinese Government would like pressure to be applied to MBIE”.

New Zealand was the first country to recognise China as a market economy – a fact that is likely to have sharpened China’s response to any NZ move.

China believes any anti-dumping move against its 600,000 tonnes of exports to New Zealand would be out of proportion, when the value of the imports from China were less than 6 per cent of total New Zealand imports of similar productIt has said it thought New Zealand and China were “at peace” on trade issues – but apparently not.

Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng had been expected to raise the Pacific Steel complaint at his meeting with Trade Minister Todd McClay in China this week, where McClay was attending the G20 meeting. But McClay said no competition issues were raised.

Chinese ambassador Wang Lutong said there was no issue with the imported steel quality but the embassy had been discussing the industry’s concerns with New Zealand authorities.

Speaking to TV3’s The Nation in unscreened footage this weekend, he said: “I have no idea where the media got this information from. I couldn’t possibly comment on the motivation and intention of those reports. What I can say is, we will have a very detailed investigation of any report concerning the quality of steel, and we spoke to your people about that. But I think both sides are satisfied with this procedure.”

NZ First leader Winston Peters said China was “monstering” Fonterra, Zespri and the NZ steel industry. “And as for the upgrade of the trade agreement, it’s all dependent on what stance we take on the South China Sea. That’s the reality of it now.

“I can’t believe the ministers haven’t talked. You’ve got officialdom and business operating in isolation from government.”

The Chinese Embassy had not responded to specific questions, by deadline.

– Additional reporting Gerard Hutching

 – Sunday Star Times

 

Source: China threatens reprisals on NZ dairy, wool and kiwifruit if government doesn’t back off cheap steel inquiry | Stuff.co.nz

United Nations News Centre – At climate summit in Washington, UN officials call to take action ‘to the next level’

5 May 2016 – Recalling that just two weeks ago, 175 countries came to the United Nations to sign the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said it is time to take climate action to the next level. “We need to accelerate the speed, scope and scale of our response, locally and globally,” Mr. Ban told participants of the Climate Action Summit 2016 in Washington D.C, a two-day meeting that started today and aims to strengthen the multi-stakeholder approach to climate implementation. In particular, it is expected to deepen and expand the action coalitions of government, business, finance, philanthropy, civil society and academic leaders launched at the Secretary-General’s Climate Summit 2014 in New York. “I have been looking forward to this event because it is about solutions – innovation and imagination; collaboration and partnerships between the public and private sectors. Today as never before, the stars are aligning in favour of climate action. Everywhere I look, I see signs of hope,” he said. Noting that the current Summit would focus on six, high-value areas of multi-stakeholder partnership: sustainable energy; sustainable land-use; cities; transport; and tools for decision-making, the UN chief underscored that strong partnership would be needed at all levels to tackle those challenges. “No sector of society and no nation can succeed alone. I encourage you to collaborate. Innovate. Invest. Together we can build the world we want,” he said. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Jim is greeted by Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. Former Vice President Al Gore of the United States looks on. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe ‹› The signing of the Paris Agreement on 22 April received overwhelming support from all regions of the world; never before had so many countries signed an international accord in one day. Adopted in Paris by the 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at a conference known as COP21 last December, the Agreement’s objective is to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. It will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification. “Two of the world’s largest emitters – China and the United States – have pledged their continued commitment and collaboration,” Mr. Ban stressed, noting that leaders must turn the “promise of Paris” into action and implementation as soon as possible. The UN chief also announced that in September, on the margins of the G20 meeting, he intends to co-convene a meeting in China similar to this one to further solidify coalitions. Also speaking at the event, the President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim said there is no time waste.

Read more….Source: United Nations News Centre – At climate summit in Washington, UN officials call to take action ‘to the next level’

Antarctica shaping up as 21st century geopolitical hotspot – Nature, News, Society – NZEDGE

Antarctica shaping up as 21st century geopolitical hotspot The locale of one of today’s greatest real estate development grabs might surprise you. It’s not Dubai, Las Vegas, or Shanghai, but the frozen continent that rests at the end of the world. Writing in The New York Times in late December 2015, Simon Romero describes increased activity from various global players, including Russia building its first Orthodox church (with logs imported from Siberia), China’s plans to operate five bases (complete with indoor badminton court in its Great Wall Station), and India’s spaceship-looking Bharathi base, built on stilts and interlocking shipping containers. “An array of countries is rushing to assert greater influence here,” Romero writes, “with an eye not just toward the day those protective treaties expire, but also for the strategic and commercial opportunities that exist right now.” Why the race to the bottom? “The newest players are stepping into what they view as a treasure house of resources,” University of Canterbury School of Social and Political Sciences Professor Anne-Marie Brady told the Times. A treaty banning mining in Antarctica—which shields coveted reserves of iron ore, coal, and chromium—is expected to come up for review by 2048 and the continent’s mineral, oil, and gas deposits are all highly prized. The Times article details how researchers recently found deposits that hint at the existence of diamonds in the region and geologists estimate the area holds at least 36 billion barrels of oil and natural gas. Rather than the desolate, monolithic icescape of popular imagination, Antarctica is shaping up to be a 21st century geopolitical hotspot. Professor Brady is perhaps the world’s foremost scholar at navigating Antarctica politics. Editor of The Emerging Politics of Antarctica (2012, Routledge Advances in International Relations and Global Politics), a volume that examines the post-Cold War challenges facing the continent’s governance, Professor Brady specializes in subject matter related to the power and influence of China, New Zealand’s largest trading partner and the nation that arguably has the fastest-growing operations in Antarctica. Prof. Brady has published groundbreaking research in the field, covering China’s modern propaganda system and the nation’s relationships with Antarctica and the Pacific, as well as major revisionist histories of the Long March and of New Zealand’s national icon, Rewi Alley.

Source: Antarctica shaping up as 21st century geopolitical hotspot – Nature, News, Society – NZEDGE

World powers lead frenetic final push for climate accord

Le Bourget (France) (AFP) – World powers led a frenetic final push Friday to seal a UN accord aimed at averting catastrophic climate change, as sleep-deprived envoys battled in Paris over trillion-dollar disputes blocking a deal. The 195-nation conference in Paris had been scheduled to wrap up on Friday, delivering a historic agreement that would brake global warming and ease its impacts. But weary negotiators braced themselves for a third straight round of all-night haggling after ministers wrestled with a myriad of deal-busting rows. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he would submit a proposed final agreement on Saturday morning, and declared he was “sure” of success. “We are almost at the end of the road and I am optimistic,” said Fabius, who is presiding over the talks that began nearly a fortnight ago with a record summit of more than 150 world leaders. Many leaders billed the talks as the last chance to avert disastrous climate change: increasingly severe drought, floods and storms, as well as rising seas that would engulf islands and populated coasts. The planned accord would seek to revolutionise the world’s energy system by cutting back or potentially eliminating coal and other fossil fuels, replacing them with renewables such as solar and wind. The Paris talks have largely been free of the fierce arguments that have plagued previous UN climate conferences. But the biggest disputes over funding the climate fight, worth trillions of dollars over the decades to come, remain as potential deal-breakers in a draft accord released on Thursday night. – Success not guaranteed –

Source: World powers lead frenetic final push for climate accord

Paul Ashwin. 5 ways universities have already changed in the 21st century – Agenda – The World Economic Forum

Global higher education underwent a period of remarkable change in the first 15 years of the 21st century. Five key trends affecting universities around the world illustrate how, despite increased access to information, our understanding of higher education remains limited.

via 5 ways universities have already changed in the 21st century – Agenda – The World Economic Forum.

China does not support rogue African states, it creates them —new study says | Mail & Guardian Africa (Mobile edition)

WITH China’s flagship event showcasing how its influence has grown in Africa set for the continent this year, the focus will inevitably be on the amount of new aid and loans Beijing dangles at the continent.

The last summit of the triennial Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) saw president Hu Jintao put on the table $20 billion in loans to African countries, doubling its previous offer.

As bilateral trade volumes have grown, Beijing will be expected to offer billions more at this year’s forum in South Africa, despite its domestic economy having cooled in recent months.

However, Africa can also expect to witness notably more incidences of state-sponsored domestic violence, both against civilians and competitors such as rebel groups, as Chinese aid increases, a new study shows.

Authors Roudabeh Kishi and Clionadh Raleigh, of the University of Sussex’s Department of Geography, say this effect is largely because aid from China is fungible, with its use determined by recipient countries.

Their working paper, titled Chinese Aid and Africa’s Pariah States, finds that political violence by the state increases with receipt of Chinese aid.

The same is not observed with aid from ‘traditional’ or Western donors, which comes tagged with conditions.

via China does not support rogue African states, it creates them —new study says | Mail & Guardian Africa (Mobile edition).

Diálogo Chino | Brazil blocks State Grid plans to employ 11,000 Chinese on mega dam project

The Brazilian government is refusing to sanction a proposal by Chinese state-owned power company State Grid to send 11,000 of its employees to Brazil to work on the construction of a 2,100-kilometer power transmission line beginning at the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant. Local labor laws forbid companies from hiring foreign workers as long as qualified Brazilians are available.

The dispute is the latest episode in the ongoing drama of the controversial megaproject that has been implicated in an unprecedented corruption scandal and is expected to force the displacement of over 20,000 indigenous people.

Belo Monte‘s so-called linhão or “big line”, one of the longest in the country, will require the installation of 4,500 towers and 25,000 kilometers of cabling, requiring investment of around US$1.6 billion. But work cannot begin until the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) has issued an environmental permit.

With Brazil in the throes of a record-breaking drought, stagnant growth and potential energy crisis, job creation and energy capacity are sensitive issues but this chapter is expected to be a short one for State Grid as the first step in the process for beginning work is already underway – IBAMA has authorized public consultations on the additional line.

“This industrial policy was designed to create jobs in Brazil,” Professor Nivalde de Castro, coordinator of the Electric Sector Study Group at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro told Diálogo Chino. But China’s entry into Brazil’s energy sector  is not necessarily a threat.

According to Castro there is still a lot of room for new companies – especially Chinese ones – to participate in Brazil’s energy market, as long as they do so indirectly: “Chinese companies are strongly encouraged to open subsidiaries” Castro added, explaining that by doing so, China can provide finance for the sector without harming local industry and Brazil can keep imports down.

The new transmission line tenders scheduled for this year alone will offer opportunities for almost US$7 billion in investments.

But according to Castro, the question is whether China will remain interested in investing if it has to comply with Brazil’s industrial and financial policy and operate through subsidiaries.

Brazil’s Minister of Mines and Energy, Eduardo Braga, has discussed plans to speed up overdue energy infrastructure projects – including power plants and transmission lines. While the specific projects under consideration are still unknown, it is likely that the linhão will be a priority given the centrality of Belo Monte to Brazil’s energy expansion plans.

At 11,233 MW of installed capacity, Belo Monte will be the second largest hydropower plant in Brazil, and a considerable part of its output will be transmitted to Brazil’s industrial Southeast, which accounts for almost 70% of the country’s energy consumption.

Ultra High Voltage technology will deliver 800 kilovolts (kV) of direct current to a system that interconnects almost the entire country and extends for almost 117,000 kilometers, according to data from the National Electric System Operator (ONS).

State Grid paid US$1bn to purchase seven transmission lines from Plena Transmissoras (a joint venture of Spanish and Brazilian companies), and also bid successfully for the main transmission system through a partnership with Eletrobras, the largest energy company in Brazil – which, like its Chinese peer, is controlled by the federal government.

The IE Belo Monte consortium is composed of State Grid (51%) and two Eletrobras subsidiaries: Furnas (24.5%) and Eletronorte (24.5%). At the bidding, the consortium asked for annual revenues of around US$140 million. Under the rules of transmission line bids in Brazil, bids compete against each other to offer the lowest cost to the national grid.

State Grid’s chairman of the board, Liu Zhenya, had stated that Brazil and China have some similarities in their interconnected energy systems with power supply sometimes extending more than 2,000 kilometers away from the country’s load centers. This, he said at the bidding event, can generate demand for the construction of long-distance distribution channels with high capacity and low levels of energy loss.

State Grid has already faced problems in Brazil with the construction of the transmission line that will connect to Teles Pires, a 1,820 MW hydroelectric plant whose construction is nearing completion. The plant, located in the Amazon rainforest, will not be operational until a 1,005-kilometer transmission line connecting it to the national grid is finished. But the line has been delayed because of problems acquiring an environmental permit as it would interfere with important indigenous and archaeological sites, according to the daily newspaper O Estado de São Paulo.

via Diálogo Chino | Brazil blocks State Grid plans to employ 11,000 Chinese on mega dam project.