The development of domestic bond and capital markets in the Middle East remains five to 10 years away, despite successful forays by the likes of Lebanon into international debt markets, senior asset managers said at the Euromoney International Bond Congress.
Robert Parker, chief executive of Credit Suisse Asset Management, said while there's been a big increase in flows to the Middle East equity market, flows to the region from fixed-interest investors are very limited. Before foreign investors can take to Middle Eastern bonds in a big way, he said, access to the markets must be liberalized and a core of market makers must be established to assist liquidity. Other drawbacks cited are geography and bad political press.
Germany says it won't place restrictions on government-backed Hermes export credit insurance to Southeast Asia because of the current economic and financial crises.
This is part of an initiative by export credit insurance authorities in the Group of 7 leading industrial countries to support international efforts to stabilize the region.
However, says Economics Minister Gunter Rexrodt, the interministerial committee that approves individual Hermes coverage applications will increase its scrutiny and give preference to export-oriented customers in the region since local-currency declines have made them more competitive.
So far, he says, Bonn has seen no change in bad-debt levels or payment process on the part of Asian customers and has not had to make good on any outstanding Hermes guarantees to Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia or South Korea.
The Mercosur customs union, comprising Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, will study a proposal for a single currency that could be launched some time between 2010 to 2020, Fabio Giambiagi, macroeconomics manager for Brazil's National Economic and Social Development Bank, said.
The idea of one currency for South America's Southern Cone Common Market partners will be launched during a summit in June, Mr. Giambiagi said. The trade bloc partners are expected to discuss just the general idea without getting into details.
The Food and Drug Administration's product code updates became effective Feb. 16. The FDA's import program is designed to enforce the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and other related acts to protect consumers' health and safety and to protect them from economic fraud.
The FDA's home page at http://www.fda.gov/ carries import information related to products subject to FDA's control of foods (except for certain meats and poultry products), drugs (human, animal and biological), cosmetics, medical devices and radiation emitting devices offered for entry into the United States through U.S. Customs in support of FDA's regulatory activities.
The wholesale and retail trade sectors have opened to foreign investment since Jan. 31, a move inspired by the International Monetary Fund's reform recommendations.
Although detailed implementation guidelines are not yet available, any single foreign firm should be allowed to set up partly or wholly owned wholesale or retail operations, but not both.
For now, however, the opportunity is a dubious one. Much of the local retail sector is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy as higher prices and layoffs erode consumer confidence.
Estonia, the smallest of the formerly communist nations seeking European Union membership, is trying to reform its civil service to cope with the demands of implementing a mass of EU laws, according to Foreign Minister Toomas Ilves.
Reforming its post-Soviet bureaucracy and cleaning up the environment are also priorities.
But Brussels worries about the slow integration of the Russian minority of some 300,000, most of whom are still without citizenship seven years after the Soviet Union's breakup. Many ethnic Estonians resent the presence of such a large minority. Sixty-five percent of Estonia's trade is now with EU countries.
High import tariffs have prompted Sweden's Volvo to assemble two models at a local assembly plant owned by Wheels of Africa. The same factory will assemble South Korean Hyundai vehicles for the Southern African market. Full output of complete knock-down kits is expected to begin in April.
The Botswana plant has the capacity to assemble 40,000 units a year, 10,000 of which will be Volvos. Competition is growing in the region's already overcrowded vehicle industry. Kia Motors, South Korea's second-largest vehicle manufacturer, is now marketing the Sportage, a midsize leisure 4x4 vehicle, and the Pride, a compact sedan, in South Africa.