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Lawmakers urge USTR to push for extension of WTO’s moratorium on digital trade

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai speaks during a reception to celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 17, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Fra

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers urged U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to push during World Trade Organization meetings this week for an extension of a moratorium on tariffs on digital trade that has been in place since 1998.

More than 100 trade ministers from the WTO’s 164 members are meeting in Geneva this week, but the 27-year-old trade body remains deeply challenged by crises ranging from Russia’s war in Ukraine to the COVID-19 pandemic.

WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala expressed cautious optimism on Sunday that one or two global deals could be reached this week, but said there were still challenges to overcome.

Thirty-four U.S. lawmakers, led by Democratic Representative Suzan DelBene and Republican Representative Darin LaHood, warned that one of the key issues at hand – whether to renew a moratorium on tariffs on digital goods such as e-books, movies and video games and digital services such as emails, texts and software – would have big consequences for the United States.

“Failing to renew the moratorium, as we have done for more than twenty years, would undermine the strength of the American economy, jobs, and innovation,” they told Tai in a letter dated Friday that was viewed by Reuters.

DelBene told Reuters extending the ban on e-commerce tariffs should be “low-hanging fruit for the WTO.”

One senior USTR official expressed hope the moratorium could be extended, and said U.S. officials had made clear to opponents they would also be harming developing countries.

In their letter, the lawmakers noted trade in digital goods and services had become increasingly vital to U.S. workers and businesses, including many small businesses that used digital tools to export their products and services overseas.

If India and other countries prevailed in their efforts to end the moratorium, countries would be able to slap duties on sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, entertainment, software, and financial services, which would further disrupt supply chains and jack up consumer prices, the lawmakers said.

Economy

South Korean exports dropped 14% in November, the highest in 2.5 years

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exports South Korea

South Korea’s exports fell 14 percent year-on-year to $51.91 billion in November, preliminary data from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy showed. The November drop was the biggest in 2.5 years since May 2020 and was caused both by the deteriorating global economy, which even a Google price chart showed, and a truckers’ strike in the country.

South Korea exports 2022 – reasons for the drop

Exports fell for the second month in a row. Analysts on average expected an 11% decline, according to Trading Economics. Respondents to MarketWatch predicted a 10.5% decline.

Shipments of semiconductor products overseas, the country’s top export item, fell 29.8%; petrochemicals fell 26.5% and steel exports fell 10.6%. Meanwhile, exports of automobiles jumped 31% and petroleum products 26%.

Exports to China, South Korea’s largest trading partner, fell by 25.5%, and to Asian countries – by 13.9%. Below, supplies to the USA grew by 8% and to the European Union – by 0.1%.

In January-November exports rose by 7.8% on the same period last year and reached a record $629.1 billion.

South Korean imports rose 2.7% to $59.2 billion in November, marking the 23rd consecutive month of gains, but the current rate of growth is the lowest since November 2020. Experts had predicted an increase of only 0.2%.

South Korea’s trade deficit last month was $7.01 billion, compared with a surplus of $2,973 billion a year earlier.

The negative balance was recorded for the eighth month in a row. As a result, by the end of 2022, the country may record a foreign trade deficit for the first time since the financial crisis in 2008.

Earlier we reported that the UN estimates the cost of humanitarian aid in 2023 at a record $51 billion.

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The UN estimates humanitarian aid costs in 2023 at a record $51 billion because of an impending humanitarian crisis

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a humanitarian crisis

Joint humanitarian operations will require a record $51.5 billion in 2023 to address urgent problems.

The UN Office for the OCHA estimates that 339 million people will need urgent aid in 2023. At the same time, OCHA called on donor countries to provide funds for assistance in 2023 to the 230 million people most in need, living in 68 countries.

Griffiths explained that aid is needed not only for people experiencing conflicts and disease outbreaks. but also for those suffering the effects of climate change, such as people in peninsular Somalia facing drought and those in Pakistan experiencing severe flooding. For the first time, the growing humanitarian crisis has brought the number of displaced people worldwide to the 100 million mark. Also worsening an already bad situation is the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, which affects the poor. Note that the general economic crisis has begun to negatively affect even the Netflix price chart.

Earlier we reported that house prices in the UK fell by 1.4% in November.

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Economy

Average house prices in the UK fell 1.4% in November

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average house prices in the uk

Average house prices in the UK fell 1.4% in the previous month in November to 263,788 thousand pounds (about $319,000), according to the British mortgage company Nationwide Building Society.

The decline was recorded at the end of the second consecutive month and was the most significant in almost 2.5 years – since June 2020. Analysts on average had forecast a decline of only 0.3%, according to Trading Economics.

Are house prices in the UK going to fall even more?

Residential real estate prices in November compared to the same month last year increased by 4.4%. At the same time, experts expected a larger increase of 5.8%. The growth rate slowed down significantly compared with 7.2% in October. Because of the difficult economic situation, British investors are investing in other instruments. The Microsoft price chart, for example, is showing potential for growth, so many are interested in the U.S. stock market. 

“The market looks set to remain under pressure in the coming quarters. Inflation will remain high for some time, and interest rates are likely to continue to rise,” believes Nationwide Senior Economist Robert Gardner. – The outlook is unclear, and much will depend on how the overall economy behaves, but a relatively soft landing is still possible.”

Earlier we reported that Sanctions Circumvention was included in the EU’s list of criminal offenses.

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