World Bulletin/News Desk
France called on the European Commission on Friday to monitor imports of South Korean-made cars, taking the first step towards triggering a safeguard clause in a free-trade deal that could lead to duties being reimposed.
Since the trade pact came into force in July 2011, France has seen imports of South Korean cars surge while its own carmakers have lost domestic market share to the likes of Hyundai and affiliate Kia, leaving them saddled with massive overcapacity.
France's biggest carmaker, PSA Peugeot Citroen announced plans to close a plant near Paris and cut 8,000 jobs, leaving outspoken Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg battling to limit the damage and avoid further closures.
Montebourg, who has in the past openly supported protectionism, said last week that imports of small diesel cars had risen 1,000 percent in a year, which he said warranted monitoring and possibly restrictions.
"The surveillance of vehicle trade flows aims to shed light on the extent of bilateral imbalances," the industry ministry said in a statement.
"It makes importers have to obtain a permit from the European Commission before all imports," he added. That allows the European Union's executive arm to determine if imports are indeed strong enough to trigger the safeguard clause.
One of the most ambitious trade pacts the EU has negotiated, the agreement with South Korea includes a safeguard clause which allows the EU to re-impose duties if producers in sensitive industries such as cars are hit by a particularly strong surge in imports.
The pact has long been a major source of concern for European carmakers, with the ACEA industry lobby sounding the alarm about "asymmetrical trade flow relations".
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht says trade with South Korea benefits Europe overall, pointing to data showing EU exports to the country climbing 16 percent in 2011 from 2010 to 32.4 billion euros ($39.40 billion). That compares to 24.7 billion euros in 2007.
Ecuador, Egypt, Pakistan, Venezuela, Belize, Cuba, Cyprus, Greece, Jamaica and Ukraine are all on the verge of a default, according to Moody's ratings.
A World Trade Organisation pact to ease worldwide customs rules collapsed late on Thursday over India's demands for concessions on agricultural stockpiling.
India's new nationalist government has insisted that a permanent agreement on its subsidised food stockpiling must be in place at the same time as the trade facilitation deal
Chemicals firm LyondellBasell has emerged as the mystery American buyer of Kurdish crude oil this year, but said it will not be buying any more
Some EU member states remain nervous about the impact on their own fragile economies. The sanctions deal was agreed only after initial proposals were narrowed.
Bankers in Singapore say Russians looking for a new Cyprus have come to the wrong place.
The default could get much messier and take longer to clear up if creditors force an "acceleration" for early payment on their bonds.
The ban came a day after the European Union and United States imposed their first sanctions aimed at hitting broad sectors of the Russian economy
Russia called new U.S. sanctions "destructive and short-sighted"
While the default will obviously hurt the economy, it will not be as severe as in 2001, economists say
The Czechs, who supported the action, have been against sweeping sanctions, worried about trade relations with Russia
The trade program has been criticized for disproportionately benefiting certain industries and a handful of countries, including Nigeria, South Africa and Angola.
The United Kalavrvta tanker, carrying some 1 million barrels of crude worth about $100 million, arrived off the coast of Texas on Saturday but has yet to unload its disputed cargo.
The uncertainty comes at a bad time for the 18 countries in the euro zone, whose economy is already in the doldrums.
"Kalashnikov regrets that consumers are faced with such a problem," said spokeswoman Yekaterina Boni.
Cairo and Khartoum had earlier accepted a proposal by Addis Ababa to hold the talks in Sudan in the third week of August.