Sunday 7th February 2016
NEWS TICKER: Friday, February 5th: According to Reuters, Venezuela's central bank has begun negotiations with Deutsche Bank AG to carry out gold swaps to improve the liquidity of its foreign reserves as it faces debt payments of some $9.5bn this year. Around 64% of Venezuela's $15.4bn reserves are held in gold bars, which in this fluid market impedes the central bank's ability to mobilise hard currency for imports or debt service. We called the central bank to confirm the story, but press spokesmen would not comment - The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) says official foreign currency reserves stood at $357bn (equivalent to seven times the currency in circulation or 48% of Hong Kong M3) as at the end of January, down compared with reserve assets of $358.8bn in December. There were no unsettled foreign exchange contracts at month end (end-December: $0.1bn) - BNP Paribas today set out plans to cut investment banking costs by 12% by 2019 to bolster profitability and reassure investors about the quality of its capital buffers. The bank is the latest in a line of leading financial institutions, including Credit Suisse, Barclays and Deutsche Bank which look to be moving away from capital intensive activities. BNP Paribas has been selling non-core assets and cutting back on operations including oil and gas financing for the last few years as it looks to achieve a target of 10% return on equity. Last year the bank announced a €900m write-down on its BNL unit in Italy, which pushed down Q4 net income down 51.7% to €665m - Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)-listed tech company, Huge Group, will move its listing from the Alternative Exchange (AltX) to the JSE main board on March 1st - Moody's says it has assigned Aaa backed senior unsecured local-currency ratings to a drawdown under export credit provider Oesterreichische Kontrollbank's (OKB) (P)Aaa-rated backed senior unsecured MTN program. The outlook is negative in line with the negative outlook assigned to the Aaa ratings of the Republic of Austria, which guarantees OKB’s liabilities under the Austrian Export Financing Guarantees Act – As the first phase of talks between Greece and its creditors draws to an end, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde stressed to journalists in Greece that debt relief is as important as the reforms that creditors are demanding, notably of the pension system. "I have always said that the Greek program has to walk on two legs: one is significant reforms and one is debt relief. If the pension [system] cannot be as significantly and substantially reformed as needed, we could need more debt relief on the other side." Greece's pension system must become sustainable irrespective of any debt relief that creditors may decide to provide, Lagarde said, adding that 10% of gross domestic product into financing the pension system, compared to an average of 2.5% in the EU, is not sustainable. She called for "short-term measures that will make it sustainable in the long term,” but did not outline what those measures might be. According to Eurobank in Athens, IMF mission heads reportedly met this morning with the Minister of Labour, Social Insurance and Social Solidarity, Georgios Katrougalos, before the team is scheduled to leave Athens today. According to the local press, it appears that differences exist between the Greek government and official creditors on the planned overhaul of the social security pension system. Provided that things go as planned, the heads are reportedly expected to return by mid-February with a view to completing the review by month end, or at worst early March. In its Winter 2016 Economic Forecast published yesterday, the European Commission revised higher Greece’s GDP growth forecast for 2015 and 2016 to 0.0% and -0.7%, respectively, from -1.4% and 1.-3% previously - Fitch says that The Bank of Italy's (BoI) recent designation of three banks as 'other systemically important institutions' (O-SIIs) has no impact on its ratings of the relevant mortgage covered bond (Obbligazioni Bancarie Garantite or OBG) programmes. Last month, BoI identified UniCredit, Intesa Sanpaolo. and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena as Italian O-SIIs. Banco Popolare and Mediobanca have not been designated O-SIIs. This status is the equivalent of domestic systemically important bank status under EU legislation. Fitch rates two OBG programmes issued by UC and one issued by BMPS, which incorporates a one-notch Issuer Default Rating (IDR) uplift above the banks' IDRs. The uplift can be assigned if covered bonds are exempt from bail-in, as is the case with OBG programmes under Italy's resolution regime and in this instance takes account of the issuers' importance in the Italian banking sector – Meantime, according to local press reports, Italian hotel group Bauer and special opportunity fund Blue Skye Investment Group report they have completed the rescheduling and refinancing of Bauer’s €110m debt through the issue of new bonds and the sale of non-core assets, such as the farming business Aziende Agricole Bennati, whose sale has already been agreed, the Palladio Hotel & Spa and a luxury residence Villa F in Venice’s Giudecca island – Meantime, Russian coal and steel producer Mechel has also agreed a restructuring of its debt with credits after two intense years of talks. The mining company, is controlled by businessman Igor Zyuzin - Asian markets had a mixed day, coming under pressure. Dollar strengthening worries investors in Asia; from today’s trading it looks like dollar weakening does as well. Actually, that’s not the issue, the dollar has appreciated steadily over the last year as buyers anticipated Fed tightening; but it has hurt US exports and that has contributed to investor nervousness over the past few weeks, which is why everyone is hanging on today’s The nonfarm payrolls report, a bellwether of change – good or bad in the American economic outlook. Back to Asia. The Nikkei 225 ended the day at 16819.15, down 225.40 points, or 1.32%; and as the stock market fell the yen continued to strengthen. The Nikkei has shed 5.85% this week. The dollar-yen pair fell to the 116-handle, at 116.82 in afternoon trade; earlier this week, the pair was trading above 120. It is a hard lesson for the central bank, whose efforts to take the heat out of the yen by introducing negative interest rates has done nothing of the sort. Australia's ASX 200 closed down 4.15 points, or 0.08% after something of a mixed week. The index closed at 4976.20, with the financial sector taking most of the heat today, with the sector down 0.7%. In contrast, energy and materials sectors finished in positive territory, buoyed by gains in commodities. The Hang Seng Index closed at 19288.17, up 105.08 points (or 0.55%) while the Shanghai Composite was down 0.61%. down 17.07 points to 2763.95. The Shenzhen composite dropped 20.36 points (1.15%) to 1750.70, while the Kospi rose marginally by 0.08% to 1917.79. Today is the last day of trading on the Chinese exchanges for a week.

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ACTA: MEPs seek clarity on enforcement

Thursday, 01 March 2012
ACTA: MEPs seek clarity on enforcement International Trade Committee MEPs from all political groups want to know more about how the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) will be enforced before advising the European Parliament as a whole on whether or not to approve it, it emerged from the committee's first debate on it on Thursday. David Martin (UK), who will draft the committee's recommendation, asked it to back his plan to refer ACTA to the European Court of Justice, for a ruling on questions to be prepared by the Parliament. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

International Trade Committee MEPs from all political groups want to know more about how the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) will be enforced before advising the European Parliament as a whole on whether or not to approve it, it emerged from the committee's first debate on it on Thursday. David Martin (UK), who will draft the committee's recommendation, asked it to back his plan to refer ACTA to the European Court of Justice, for a ruling on questions to be prepared by the Parliament.

Martin has suggested that while the Court of Justice referral is being prepared, the time set aside for Parliament's assent to ACTA should instead be used to prepare an interim report setting out questions to the European Commission and EU Member States on how it is to be enforced. He stresses that Parliament should prepare its own questions, rather than simply associating itself with the European Commission's parallel referral of ACTA to the court.

Examples could include questions about how border control agencies would be expected to deal with counterfeit imports, or whether internet service providers would have to enforce ACTA against users, and if so what legislation would require them to do so.



Protecting intellectual property rights

"We have critical interest in defending EU intellectual property and we need to act in this regard", said Mr Martin, stressing that "it is not the intentions of ACTA that raise concerns but its possible unintentional consequences. ACTA lacks detail. The main concern is how the text might be read".

For example, "There is no 'three strikes' rule in ACTA, but we do not know how internet service providers will interpret the tasks given to them and if they will feel that they have the duty to cut people off the internet," he says.

"What I plan to do is bring about clarity on ACTA in the next year, to provide the facts for this Parliament to vote", Martin says, adding that in the coming weeks he planned to meet as many civil society representatives as possible to discuss citizens' concerns while drafting his interim report.

Not just a trade deal

The EPP group's shadow rapporteur on ACTA, Christofer Fjellner (SE) agreed that Parliament must now scrutinize the ACTA text in detail. "It's not the trade deal that changes citizens' everyday lives but the legislation that enforces it", he told Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, adding "I've heard from the Commission and Member States that there will not be a big change in legislation. I will not take your word for it. We need to scrutinize it".

Martin's position was also welcomed also by Parliament's former rapporteur on ACTA, Kader Arif, who had resigned while accusing Parliament of orchestrating a "masquerade" on the ACTA case. "Today I am very happy to see my colleagues thinking differently, Parliament's transparency, openness to public and the direction the ACTA case is taking in Parliament", he said."

Robert Sturdy (ECR, UK) backed the European Commission's decision to refer ACTA to the European Court of Justice.

ACTA lacks transparency

Mr Martin and other speakers objected to the "lack of transparency" in the ACTA negotiations to date and reiterated Parliament's many requests to be more closely involved, and not merely left with the option of accepting or rejecting the existing text.

French Green Yannick Jadot complained that "procedural excuses" had been used to avoid involving Parliament, and noted that MEPs had learned of the Commission decision to refer ACTA to the Court of Justice from the press. "I'm not sure that this is in line with our inter-institutional agreement with the Commission", he said.

Swedish Green Carl Schlyter complained that emerging economies were not involved in ACTA negotiations, noting that 95% of all counterfeiting takes place in countries that will not be affected by ACTA. He also observed that if the aim now was to spread ACTA via bilateral agreements with countries not yet party to it, this would not be a democratic way to influence other countries.

Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL, DE), also noted that the countries where most piracy takes place are outside ACTA and insisted that it should be tackled through existing international structures instead. "Gobalization raises different challenges and ACTA is the wrong way to handle things", he said.

Civil society protests

Several MEPs said the Commission must accept its share of responsibility for civil society protests against ACT, since it had not kept people properly informed of the progress of negotiations. "The lack of transparency has created a lot of mistrust. This might be a lesson to the future. We need to change things", said Mr Fjellner.

Metin Kazak (ALDE, BG), said that in many Member States, these protests had prompted governments to "give up". "Both in the ACTA text and also in communication about it there are many cumbersome words and phrases - that something will perhaps happen or may happen. In such circumstances you have to expect citizens to be afraid from the possible consequences", he said.

Inese Vaidere (EPP, LV), said the Commission had done too little to explain ACTA's benefits, even though there was much to be explained, such as the definitions of terms "counterfeiting" or "commercial scale". "Now it may already be too late. I fear that we don't have much chance of reviving ACTA. The Commission has not done its job", she said.

Committee chair Vital Moreira (S&D, PT), defended ACT on the grounds that intellectual property rights are vital to Europe's ability to innovate and compete. He was sure that properly interpreted, ACTA would not threaten fundamental freedoms.

No ACTA enforcement without Parliament's consent

Commissioner De Gucht replied that any substantive laws passed to enforce ACTA would be the responsibility of Parliament and Member States.

"ACTA cannot be changed into substantive law without Parliament's consent. You are also responsible for that" he said, suggesting that Parliament should pay more attention to Member States' laws that threaten fundamental freedoms.

"The so called 'three strikes' rule is effective in French law and that is a law that was passed to implement EU directives. On the contrary, ACTA explicitly states that you can not impose anything similar to three-strikes rule on the international level", he said.

Commissioner De Gucht reiterated his view that referring ACTA to the European Court of Justice would be the right decision, as "our responsibility as politicians is to establish the facts and not follow the crowd" and the "Court will provide much needed clarity on our concerns".

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