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Global Economic Weekly - Oct 10, 2016

It is hard – almost impossible, actually – to know where to start this week. There’s the US election – with the prospect that Trump might pack it in ahead of November 8 back on the table following the shock/horror/outrage prompted by his ‘lewd’ comments (despite his apparently ‘spirited’ response during last night’s debate). There’s the almost equally overwrought reaction to Mrs May’s Tory party conference speech, in which she was accused of ev erything from fascism to communism – as well as for allegedly attacking central bank independence and causing sterling to collapse.

It is all headline stuff – and, indeed, the blatts and blogs have had a field day.

Oh, and then there’s the global economy, which is looking a tad wobbly, and China – which has got the IMF’s knickers in a twist over its level of indebtedness.

Behind all that, I am inclined to think that the real debate over the last week has been over the appropriate roles for monetary and fiscal policy, as well as on broader issues such as globalization and the role of industrial policy.

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Global Economic Weekly - October 3, 2016

While it is tempting to focus on Mrs May’s proposed Great Repeal Bill (which I sort of like), let’s keep things in

perspective. Two other stories have dominated over the last week – and neither of them is likely to figure

prominently at Birmingham:

- The first was the possibility that OPEC would finally do a deal to cut oil production – either with or

without the agreement of major non-OPEC producers (notably Russia).

- The second was the slow-motion implosion of Deutsche Bank – for many years, the most important

non-US ‘universal’ bank, and still a major force in investment banking.

As discussed below, there was a deal on oil at the International Energy Forum meeting outside Algiers last week,

and it certainly had a big impact on the markets. But even a cursory look at what was actually agreed (and,

perhaps more important, who agreed it) suggests that the issue of over-production has not been resolved. Yes,

there was a broad statement of intent that OPEC would aim to cut its production from the 33.2 million b/d that

it is thought to have been pumping in August to somewhere between 32.5 million and 33.0 million. But how that

new total is to be divided was deliberately left for the next OPEC Ministerial meeting in Vienna on November

30. And there was no commitment from Moscow to participate.

No wonder that the sharp rise in the oil price which stunned markets on Thursday was not sustained.

The issue of Deutsche Bank is also discussed below. It is not new; the bank has been known to be in trouble for

several years – and the current CEO, John Cryan (a Brit, and, therefore, assumed to be less beholden to the

German banking establishment), was specifically brought in to clean out a Board and senior management that

was seen as somewhere between seriously incompetent and outright corrupt. The problem is that the bank is

thinly capitalised, not particularly profitable, and vulnerable to penalties as a result of its aggressive involvement

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in the US sub-prime market ahead of the 2007/08 financial crisis. Oh, and that – thanks to super-low interest

rates – banking is not particularly attractive as an investment anyway. What happened last week was that the US

Department of Justice let it be known that Deutsche faces a fine for the mis-selling of mortgage-backed

securities ahead of the crisis that could be as high as US $14 billion. Deutsche itself has admitted that it would

never be able to afford this. Indeed, it is believed that any penalty above US $3-4 billion would be very hard for

it to meet, given the difficulty that it would have trying to raise more capital in the market.

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GLOBAL ECONOMIC WEEKLY - Sept 26, 2016

It is tempting to start with Anglosphere politics – with our own Jeremy Corbyn’s utterly predictable crushing of the

hapless Owen Smith and/or with a quick peek at tonight’s megaduel between Hillary and The Donald. But let’s keep a

sense of proportion... As far as we soi disant economists are concerned, the focus continues to be on central banks.

That is true even though there was an interesting OECD report last week which argued that, some time last year, the

balance between monetary and fiscal policy may have started to tip back in favour of the latter.

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Global Economic Weekly Report - Sept 19, 2016

It has been a busy couple of weeks – much of which I have spent in some discomfort, flat on my back, 'recuperating'

from a hip job. But, for those more mobile, it has encompassed a predictably anodyne G20 meeting in China, a

disappointing employment report from the US (where the economy is looking a little bit worse for wear), a lot of

backroom haggling over who gets Ban Ki-moon's job at the UN, and endless speculation about the course of

international interest rates and whether we are (finally) at the end of a decade-long bond market boom. On top of that,

the EU continues to flounder when confronted with the threat of 'Brexit' (how tough a line can Brussels afford to take

with Ms May in negotiations over access to the single market?). Even closer to home, we move towards the Labour

party's end-game, with voting on a new leader pretty much finished and Corbyn's (re-)coronation set for next Saturday,

ahead of the annual Party Conference.

And – quite remarkably – the US Presidential election has become a lot tighter than almost anyone had expected, with

Trump's apparently hysterical warnings over Hillary Clinton's health suddenly seeming to have been vindicated as she

has been seen to stumble and has admitted to 'pneumonia' (albeit of a rather mysterious kind, since it only appears to

have lasted for 24 hours).

 

Read more here.

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Address to European Parliament by Hon. Steven Ciobo MP

It is a great pleasure to be here today and to have the opportunity to speak with you about
deepening the trade and investment ties between our open, liberalised and advanced economies.
 
Australia is committed to working with the European Commission and Member States for the
expeditious commencement of FTA negotiations. And we look forward to a continuing
dialogue with all Members of the European Parliament.
 
A comprehensive bilateral free trade agreement between our economies will promote stronger trade in goods and services, as well as two-way investment. And just as importantly, because we are both advanced, sophisticated economies, this FTA has the potential to truly set the benchmark on what FTAs can achieve between like-minded partners.
This FTA will enhance mutually beneficial collaboration and cooperation in areas such as standards and regulation, the digital economy, research and innovation.
 
An FTA would help to advance the shared vision of Australia and the EU for the future of the global trading system. We already work together on many elements of the international trade and investment agenda; we have a common interest in supporting a strong rules-based multilateral trading system.
 
 
And we are working together to advance a number of plurilateral initiatives, including the Trade in Services Agreement, which is of high importance to both our policy and commercial interests and to the future health of the global economy.
An Australia
EU FTA will build on the strong economic links already in place.
The EU is our second largest trading partner when taken as a bloc. Although this is under-reported in the official data, the EU is also a very significant destination for Australian foreign investment, including in areas such as infrastructure and medical technology.
The EU is Australia’s largest investment partner. At least some of this investment represents
European businesses seeking to use Australia as a launching pad for linking with commercial networks and value chains in Asia.
 
While tariffs in both Australia and the EU are comparatively low on average, there are some areas where high levels of border protection persist.
 
It is important a bilateral FTA sets the conditions for open, fair and equitable trade in food and agriculture products, reflecting our respective comparative advantage.
 
Australia has a track record of negotiating substantive and balanced outcomes on agriculture with our other
FTA partners and we look forward to the opportunity to engage the EU in this important aspect of the agenda.
Indeed, Australia’s reputation for clean, green food production is well known throughout Asia. However, it may have created the myth that Austral ia’s agriculture exports are greater in volume than they actually are. In fact, the EU exports four times the value Australia does and produces around ten times more than we do.
 
 
On services, Australia also seeks through our FTAs the most comprehensive and liberalising outcomes possible. We approach services negotiations with the aim of seeking to eliminate or minimise barriers across as many sectors as possible
as well as improving transparency.
 
An FTA with the EU presents another opportunity to promote arrangements for our professionals through the mutual recognition of professional licensing and qualifications.
We want an outcome in the FTA that will promote productive two-way investment flows. The investment provisions in our FTAs are aimed at facilitating investment and providing appropriate certainty for investors while protecting the Government’s ability to regulate in the public interest. And we should be able to achieve this without too much difficulty given we
both possess robust and transparent legal systems.
Another benefit of working with like-minded partners is on the regulatory front: because we are both open and transparent economies, there should be much we can achieve in the regulatory space to provide greater certainty for businesses, including SMEs, while reducing red tape to the greatest extent possible.
 
As I am addressing the EU Parliament, it would be remiss of me not to specifica
lly mention intellectual property. I wish to say one thing on this topic-in our view, there should be no
one-size-fits-all approach to these issues in our FTAs. We seek a balance between the interests of rights holders, users, the public, and national interest.
In our recent FTAs we have found innovative ways to recognise the role of technology in the modern business environment. In our negotiations with the EU we expect to be able to innovate even further given our common interests and approaches.
Fostering growth in the digital economy is an important focus for Australia’s international economic and trade
agenda, including for our FTA negotiations.
 
FTAs are complex negotiations and there will undoubtedly be difficult issues that touch on
areas of sensitivity. I see the current scoping phase as a useful mechanism in ensuring there is
a clear understanding of our respective objectives.
 
 
We are committed to the timely conclusion of the scoping process and expeditious movement
toward the launch of negotiations.
 
From Australia’s perspective, it is clear that a bilateral FTA is an idea whose time has come
and the challenge now is to work towards an outcome that delivers real benefits for both sides and sets a positive example for the global trading system.
 
I look forward to maintaining an open dialogue with members of the European Parliament as
we take this initiative forward.
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Government Australia Advisory Board

Simon Crean MP

John Brumby 

Kristina Keneally

Mark Vaile

Nick Greiner

Alexander Downer

Peter Charlton

Trevor Rowe

Warwick Smith

 

Bob Carr