Showing posts with label trade. Show all posts
Showing posts with label trade. Show all posts

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Tweet of the Week

Monday, 15 May 2017

Of Gas and Hot Air

Energy security became a major political issue following a storm-induced blackout in South Australia late last year.  Instead of the massive storm which knocked over the transmission towers being the “villain”, the Prime Minister and his Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg  blamed the state’s level of renewable (wind) energy for the outage. They have persisted with this version of events regardless of all the evidence to the contrary.
In the months since then politicians and others have had a great deal to say about the national energy grid and its shortcomings and renewables and base-load power.  Ideology has played a very significant part in the statements of many politicians. This of course means that truth has often been twisted or completely ignored. 
Recently the focus has been on gas and a predicted gas shortage.
Despite the claims of the Government and many industry players, there is no general gas shortage.  There is, however, a looming domestic shortage because most of the enormous volume of gas being extracted is being exported. 
The Federal Government has rather belatedly recognised that, despite the fact that Australia will soon be the largest gas-exporting country in the world, there will be a shortage of gas for the domestic market.  Moreover, the Government has realised that domestic consumers are paying more for gas than consumers of Australian gas in Japan - even after the cost of processing and transporting of the resource to that country. This has become a rather urgent matter for the Government because domestic gas prices and the uncertainty of supply is hurting local industries.  For a government that talks about jobs and growth, permitting more of our dwindling manufacturing base going either “down the gurgler” or offshore would be politically foolish.
As the Prime Minister’s meetings in recent months with the major gas exporters have not produced the cooperation he hoped for, he recently decided to take further action.  It is action that the industry is unhappy about saying that this will discourage global investment, a claim which is unsubstantiated. There are others, including some in the Government, who believe that this interference in the market is not justified.
What happens elsewhere?  Western Australia, the one Australian state which had the forethought to realise that there was a need to protect local interests, has a gas reservation policy[1]. Many other countries, including Canada, the USA, Israel, Indonesia and Egypt, have various mechanisms to ensure that they won’t end up in the situation that Australia is heading towards.  In their rush to encourage foreign investment, successive Australian Federal Governments failed to see that safeguards to protect domestic gas supplies were needed in the national interest.
Prime Minister Turnbull has stated that his measures will only be needed for the short term because he expects that there will be further development of local gasfields which can service the domestic market. He is referring specifically to NSW and Victoria which have currently stopped unconventional gas mining. (There is an exception in NSW.  Santos’ project in the Pilliga in the north-west is currently going through the planning approval process.)
The Prime Minister is one of many politicians and industry players who have weighed in wanting the opening up of NSW and Victoria to coal seam and unconventional gas mining. 
Recently Ian Macfarlane, the head of the Queensland Resources Council, and a former federal Coalition Minister, criticised the NSW and Victorian Governments for lacking the will to develop their gas resources in the same way that Queensland has.[2] 
What Macfarlane either does not understand or conveniently ignores is that it is what happened in Queensland as well as overseas in the USA and elsewhere that alarmed communities in NSW and Victoria and generated the campaigns against CSG and unconventional gas mining – campaigns that have gathered strength also in the Northern Territory and the north-west of Western Australia. 
In his interview with Leigh Sales on ABC TV’s 7.30 on April 27 Macfarlane paints a very rosy picture of the industry in Queensland [3]. He claims “irresponsible green activism” stopped the industry in NSW.   Blaming the anti-gas campaign on the “greenie” bogey is convenient for many conservatives but is far from a true reflection of the breadth of community opposition to an invasive and polluting industry.
It will be interesting to see whether the urging of the Federal Government and proponents like Macfarlane encourage the NSW and Victorian Governments to change their positions on gas mining. If this happens, the reaction from those who see the industry as an unacceptable threat to agriculture and the environment is easy to predict.
Northern Rivers         
5 May 2017

GuestSpeak is a feature of North Coast Voices allowing Northern Rivers residents to make satirical or serious comment on issues that concern them. Posts of 250-300 words or less can be submitted to ncvguestspeak AT for consideration. Longer posts will be considered on topical subjects.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Just the sheer size and reach of the Trump Organisation's business interests has implications for U.S. foreign policy

For the last eighteen months in particular there has been media comment on the extensive business interests of U.S. president-elect Donald John Trump.

Since the November 2016 presidential election focus has intensified.

However, the U.S. Constitution drawn up in a simpler century teflon coats presidents - never having envisioned the likes of  Donald Trump.

The reach of Trump’s business interests are said to reach as far as Australia.

Given the man doesn’t seem to understand that the only ethical course would be to divest himself entirely of his business interests by placing them in a genuine blind trust not run by family members, close friends or business partners, so that both America and the world can have a measure of confidence in the his decision making as president, one can only look aghast at the potential for these business interests to fatally infect his presidency and U.S. foreign policy.

In July 2015 Donald Trump disclosed 515 U.S. and foreign corporations or partnerships in which he was either president, partner, chair, director, secretary, member and/or shareholder.

Forbes, 17 August 2015:

Under “Our Hotels” on the Trump Hotel Collection website, it lists six domestic hotels and six international hotels…..
The other hotels abroad are in Toronto, Doonbeg, Ireland, Vancouver, and Baku, Azerbaijan. (Toronto and Vancouver also have a Trump Tower.)
On the website for the Trump Real Estate Collection, nine international properties are listed, including two Trump Towers in India and one in Istanbul, another in Uruguay and another in the Philippines, as well as a Trump World in South Korea, among others.

Donald Trump has an interest in more than 30 U.S. properties, roughly half of which have debt on them according to The New York Times on 20 August 2016:

Debt on properties Mr. Trump owns or leases
40 Wall Street
Trump International Hotel*
Trump National Doral golf resort
Trump Tower
Trump International Hotel
167 East 61st Street
Trump Park Avenue
Trump National Golf Club
Colts Neck, N.J.
4-8 East 57th Street "Niketown"
Seven Springs estate
Mount Kisco, N.Y.
Trump National Golf Club Washington
Potomac Falls, Va.
Trump International Hotel and Tower
Trump International Hotel**
Las Vegas
1094 South Ocean Boulevard
Palm Beach, Fla.
124 Woodbridge Road
Palm Beach, Fla.
*This construction loan was for $170 million. The Trump Organization and Times sources confirm roughly $127 million has been drawn down on.
**This loan was worth $110 million in 2010. The Trump Organization says a Trump entity is responsible for $3.2 million of the debt outstanding. The Times could not confirm this.
Debt associated with Mr. Trump's limited partnerships/investments
1290 Avenue of the Americas
555 California Street
San Francisco
Starrett City / Spring Creek Towers
An internal Trump Organization corporate loan, which Mr. Trump says is worth more than $50 million.
Sources: RedVision Systems, Securities and Exchange Commission, New York Times, Bloomberg data, Trump Organization.
The New York Times compiled these debt estimates using bank documents, public filings and through interviews with the Trump Organization and people familiar with the debt who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak on the record about it.

The bulk of these liabilities appear to consist of mortgages maturing between 2016 and 2029.

The Washington Post, 16 September 2016:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection records, compiled by since 2007, give us a look at what has been imported by many of the businesses that are owned by Trump or use his name via licensing deals.

Trump has imported from the countries coloured red and many of the products bearing Donald Trump’s name appear to come from low-wage countries in East Asia.

Trump licensed his name to the Israeli vodka after a 2011 legal battle. Unlike the original Trump vodka made in Holland, the new version was popular as one of the few liquors that’s kosher for Passover.
Made by a crystal company in a small town in Slovenia, its first entry into the U.S. market.
Made in countries such as China and sold on in nearly 200 patterns and sizes.
Made in China.
Including cuff links, belts and eyeglasses made in China and other countries.
Trump’s cologne has been manufactured in and out of the United States.
Trump makes his clothing line abroad. The manufacturers are generally scattered throughout East Asia and Central America.
Chandeliers and lamps
Some of these products retail for more than $4,000. Made in China.
Trump Home sells furniture to consumers made in Germany and Turkey, but his own hotels often get furniture from massive distributors such as the multinational IHS Global Alliance.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

A Trans Pacific Partnership negotiated for Australia by the Coalition Government? Well, what did you expect!

It seems that the Australian Liberal-Nationals Federal Government laboured to bring forth a puny bundle of little joy.....

World Bank, Global Economic Prospects, January 2016:

On October 4, 2015, 12 Pacific Rim countries concluded negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest, most diverse and potentially most comprehensive regional trade agreement yet. The 12 member countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 January 2016:

Australia stands to gain almost nothing from the mega trade deal sealed with 11 other nations including United States, Japan, and Singapore, the first comprehensive economic analysis finds.

Prepared by staff from the World Bank, the study says the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership would boost Australia's economy by just 0.7 per cent by the year 2030.

The annual boost to growth would be less than one half of one 10th of 1 per cent….

Since sealing the deal in October the Australian government has been reluctant to commission an economic analysis of its effects, turning down an offer from the Productivity Commission.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the deal as a "gigantic foundation stone", saying it would deliver "more jobs, absolutely".

It opens up trade between members but makes trade more difficult with non-members through a process known as "cumulative rules of origin" where members lose privileges if they source inputs from countries outside the TPP.

The Productivity Commission has been strongly critical of the provisions saying that they turn so-called free trade agreements into "preferential" agreements.

The Partnership also requires members to sign up to tough intellectual property provisions and to submit to investor-state dispute settlement procedures administered by outside tribunals.

World Trade Online says the negotiating parties are planning to sign the agreement in New Zealand on February 4. It says Chile has confirmed the date and some trade ministers have already made arrangements to travel to Auckland, but it says New Zealand has yet to issue formal invitations.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Australia-US Free Trade Agreement: Big Brother lines up the ducks

It would appear that the U.S. continues to feel hard done by because Australia is not yet the state in the Union.

Amongst other perceived barriers to trade apparently Australian state governments stubbornly continue to insist on buying local where possible and contracting for blood products procured within the country, the Federal Government still insists on subsidising medicines as part of the safety net welfare system, foreign investment rules on telecommunications are unsatisfactory and free-to-air television continues to have some home grown content.

Which perhaps gives a clue as to what may be concealed within this paragraph from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representatives’ latest spin on America’s attempt at a second bite of the free trade cherry through its Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative:

In addition, the TPP countries made solid progress in further framing the new horizontal, cross-cutting issues that will feature in the TPP Agreement. These include such issues as promoting connectivity to deepen the links of U.S. companies to the emerging production and distribution networks in the Asia-Pacific; making the regulatory systems of TPP countries more compatible so U.S. companies can operate more seamlessly in TPP markets; helping small- and medium-sized enterprises, which are a key source of innovation and job creation, participate more actively in international trade; and supporting development.

It is worth noting the difference in emphasis in what the Australian Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Trade has online for public consumption.

Which in turn is very different from how the AFTINET lobby group views these negotiations.

It is perhaps also worth noting that the U.S. biotech industry has a long wish list for changes to trade in genetically modified organisms as the TPP fifth round begins in February 2011 and, that this wish list with regard to labelling has a dot point (first below) which is remarkably similar in intent to Recommendation 29 (second below) recently included in the Blewett report on Australian food labelling .

One of course could take the position that Australians should be thankful for small mercies when faced with what looks suspiciously like a Gillard Government cave-in to the bullying free trade partner the former Howard Government invited in.

Because the Monsanto Corporation takes the line in relation to genetically modified food that information does not necessarily need to be physically present on a label. However, mandated information requirements must be easily accessible to consumers and cost-effective and insists It is clearly not a food safety issue, as these foods have undergone the most rigorous of food safety assessments, and are probably the safest foods on the market. In this context, we support the submission made by CropLife Australia, which clearly sets out the wealth of scientific evidence underpinning the safety of these foods. The Panel needs to bear this in mind when considering this issue. A precautionary approach is already clearly being applied in the case of food derived from GM production systems, by virtue of the extensive risk assessment criteria which have to be met by applicants.

Background can be found at:

ABC Radio LateNightLive audio 18 November 2010, which talks about free trade agreements being in reality investor rights agreements giving corporations superior rights to those of governments

Herald-Sun 28 January 2011, Blewett 'blew it' on GM review - Greens.

North Coast Voices, Monsanto-Mahyco GM eggplant toxicity study receives a fail from researcher - wonder what the opinion will be on Monsanto's latest SDA soybean effort?

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Rio Tinto releases more RSPT spin and now I'm getting annoyed

Like many other observers of the political scene, I've been waiting on Rio Tinto releasing those figures it has been proclaiming would show that the proposed Resources Super Profits Tax was really the economic ogre the Coalition and mining industry said it was.

Well the media release is out and running across the mainstream media.
But the Rio Tinto wording is rather curious.......

"Corporate taxes amounted to A$14.6 billion and royalties were A$5.7 billion in the period 2000-2009. Rio Tinto's rate of taxation over the 10 years to 2009 averaged 35.6 per cent of its earnings before tax payments in Australia."

Huh? Rio Tinto Chief Executive Tom Albanese and friends are calculating the tax rate on the mining multinational's global business enterprise, not the rate it actually pays in Australia?
A global business that earned around US$50.53 billion between 1999 to 2008 according to Rio's own 2008 financial statement and, had a combined profit after tax in 2007 & 2008 of US$12.35 billion on combined earnings of US$37.48 (before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortisation -restated) for the same two years.

Interestingly, at the time of writing Advfin Australia lists Rio's effective tax rate for the last twelve months as 26.4 per cent.

When it comes to its Australian mining interests we are told that its tax direct tax obligations were A$20.3 billion between 2000-2009 (across its 19 operating mines and smelters etc.) and that Rio Tinto has generated net profit after tax of A$37.4 billion in Australia in the 10 years to 2009.

Hold on - didn't the company write off that A$5.7 billion in royalties as business costs?

And didn't the 2007 Business Council of Australia survey also find that Taxes Collected are negative for the mining industry group because as major exporters survey participants reported a significant GST refund which more than offset other Taxes Collected?

I'm sorry Mr. Albanese, I just can't dredge up any sympathy for the mining giant you represent.
Try as I might I can find no justification for the average 35.6 per cent tax figure you complain about.

The bottom line is that I'm more inclined to believe the Federal Treasurer's estimation that; "In Australia, wholly-domestic mining companies paid an effective tax rate of only 17 per cent and multinational mining companies paid an effective tax rate of only 13 per cent".
Because these are somewhat similar percentages to those my own calculator spits out (without benefit of Shakelford and Markle).

Nor do I believe all the gloom and doom Rio Tinto predicts; with regard to this week's annual general meeting it was reported that "China's demand for iron ore, copper, coal and aluminium is expected to continue to grow over the next 15 years, after which time we expect to see increasing commodity demand from India," Mr du Plessis said. Mr Albanese said industrialisation, urbanisation and increased productivity would double demand for iron ore, aluminium and copper in that time.

In fact the longer Rio Tinto and the rest of the mining industry continue this tawdry exercise in spinning figures the more irritated I've become and, that irritation may inform my federal election vote later this year.

Australian Securities Exchange graph of Rio Tinto monthly share activity over ten years:

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The Ugg Boot trademark fight goes on and Deckers does not cover itself in glory

I'm sure everyone will remember that protracted legal battle over who had rights over the term Ug, Ugg or Ugh boots, in which little Aussie battlers were able to convince the Registrar of Trade Marks that these terms in themselves were generic and therefore beyond trademark in Australia by U.S. Deckers Outdoor Corporation (with the exception of one particular graphic representation of a certain trademark incorporating the word UGG).

In the initial Registrar of Trade Marks decision in 2006 it was stated:

34. The evidence overwhelming supports the proposition that the terms UGH BOOT(S), UG BOOT(S) and UGG BOOT(S) are interchangeably used to describe a specific style of sheepskin boot and are the first and most natural way in which to describe these goods which should innocently come to the minds of people making this particular style of sheepskin boot. The terms thus lack any inherent capacity to distinguish the particular goods. The Yellow Pages®, Internet, magazine and dictionary uses of these terms make it quite clear that these terms are generic – they are the most immediate and natural ways in which to refer to a particular style of sheepskin boot.4 They are terms which are required by other traders without any improper motive to describe those boots. The terms, (as opposed to the registered trade mark), are in all senses analogous to the terms SCHOOLIES - Sports Break Travel Pty Ltd v P & O Holidays Ltd, (2000) 50 IPR 51 or CAPS THE GAME - Powell v Glow Zone Products Pty Ltd (1997) 39 IPR 506.

IP Australia now has this fact sheet on its website explaining the current situation as it interprets it, with this particular rider:

The Internet provides easy access to global markets and takes no account of national borders. If you are trading on the Internet you need to understand the laws of the country into which you are selling goods or services. If you place an offer for sale on the Internet in Australia that invites purchase from overseas, this can amount to trading overseas and could leave you vulnerable to legal action and expensive litigation. Likewise an overseas proprietor selling goods in Australia via the Internet may infringe an Australian trade mark.

Decker Outdoor Corporation was such a bad sport about its Australian loss that it apparently attempted to scare away Internet trade from the small Australian company, which led opposition to its attempt to expand the Decker trademark, by creating (it's winter here in Australia, so if you have a little cash to spare why don't you click onto the real Aussie site owned by West Australians Bruce and Bronwyn McDougall and order a pair of Ugg boots to keep those feet warm).

The company also took out additional overseas trademarks using the word UGG, of which some are included in a rolling list of 33 marks in the United States alone.

It seems that in July 2009 the ever-litigious Deckers now has Google Inc in its sights and its legal team is demanding that the Internet search engine cease index listing over thirty websites displaying and selling ugg boots.

Thankfully, it appears that Google is not rushing to obey the dictates of this international marketplace bully as the named websites and goods images were still visible at the time of writing this post.

Graphic from Google Images