COVID-19 International Developments: Daily Scan, June 04, 2020
Prerna Gandhi, Associate Fellow, VIF
Economic
Saudi Arabia poised to reverse extra production cuts as Opec+ meets

Saudi Arabia is set to unwind the extra production cuts it pledged last month, increasingly confident that the grand bargain agreed by oil producers in April to reduce supply has restored order to a market thrown into disarray by the Covid-19 crisis. As part of the deal two months ago, the Opec+ group that includes Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed its biggest-ever production curbs of 9.7m barrels a day. The deal ended a price war between the countries and sought to offset a collapse in demand triggered by coronavirus. This month, Saudi Arabia went even further by making additional cuts of 1m b/d to placate US president Donald Trump, as America’s domestic shale industry reeled from the price plunge. Click here to read....

Australia on track for first recession in decades as GDP shrinks

Australia's economy shrank 0.3 percent in the first three months of this year, official data showed Wednesday, setting the country on track for its first technical recession in 29 years as it reeled from the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking with reporters in Canberra, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg acknowledged that the country is already in recession, with Treasury department figures predicting the economic fallout in the April-June period to be "far more severe than what we have seen today." Click here to read....

China to bypass provinces with direct payments to cash-strapped local governments, but revenue problems remain

China is planning to channel much of its stimulus funding directly to cash-strapped city and county governments to help revive the economy, a move that highlights the long-standing tax and spending problems between Beijing and local governments. Beijing will create a special central transfer mechanism to direct 2 trillion yuan (US$281.2 billion) – 1 trillion yuan from the central government budget and 1 trillion yuan in special off-budget treasury bonds – to local governments to provide them with working capital. Click here to read....

Coronavirus, US tensions slow tide of overseas Chinese students as international education sector stumbles

The tide of Chinese students flowing abroad to study, which has tripled in the last decade, looks set to recede in the near future due to fears about the coronavirus pandemic and escalating China-US tensions, according to Chinese agencies that help students enrol at foreign universities. About 40,000 mainland students went abroad in 2000, but that number soared to 662,100 in 2018, underlining one of the most significant changes in international education exchanges in decades. Click here to read....

U.S. Senate passes bill lengthening coronavirus small-business loan terms

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved legislation on Wednesday giving small businesses up to 24 weeks to use Paycheck Protection Program loans created during the coronavirus pandemic, up from the current eight-week deadline. The legislation, already passed by the House of Representatives, now goes to President Donald Trump to sign into law. The program was created in March to support small businesses during the pandemic and encourage them to retain their employees. Click here to read....

ECB prepares more aid for virus-stricken euro zone

The European Central Bank is certain to give the ailing euro zone economy another shot in the arm and the only question is the timing, with arguments split between a move on Thursday and holding out until July. As a coronavirus-induced recession runs deeper and longer than expected, governments are running record deficits to cushion the impact, putting a greater burden on the ECB to soak up this new debt and keep borrowing costs manageable. Click here to read....

'Agricultural tech will gain greater focus on growing uncertainties'

The COVID-19 outbreak has triggered an alarm on food security in many countries, as labour migration and logistics suffer difficulties that hurt the global food supply chain. With the pandemic adding more uncertainties to the global food industry, which was already threatened by rapid climate change, countries are heightening their efforts to enhance their food security and self-sufficiency, with some nations having climates and environments unfavourable for agriculture attempting to overcome their challenges. Click here to read....

Singapore restaurants rail against 30% delivery app fees

With Singapore's restaurants relying more than ever on delivery platforms due to coronavirus-related restrictions, concerns are growing that the astronomical fees charged by these apps could drive many eateries out of business instead of saving them. "You call yourselves our 'partners,' but we truly wonder if you know what that means,” a coalition of over 600 restaurants has said in an open letter. Delivery platforms usually charge around 30% in commission for each order, which can wipe out profits for restaurants already operating on razor-thin margins. Click here to read....

FedEx Adds New Delivery Fees to Manage Strain from Coronavirus

FedEx Corp. is adding surcharges to some shipments in the U.S., following rival United Parcel Service Inc. in charging more to offset rising costs and manage a surge of packages flowing through its network during the coronavirus pandemic. The fees are designed to hit some of the largest shippers whose volume has exploded as consumers have hunkered down and ordered everything from cleaning supplies to computer monitors during a broad nationwide lockdown.The move will force the shippers to either absorb the costs as their own expenses rise to manage through the pandemic or pass them on to consumers through higher prices. Click here to read....

Strategic
US threatens to bar Chinese airlines

The Trump administration has said it will ban Chinese passenger airlines flying to and from the US this month unless Beijing relaxes restrictions on American airlines. The US transport department said on Wednesday it would block any scheduled passenger flight by a Chinese carrier from June 16, in an escalation of the two countries’ tussle over which flights should be allowed during the coronavirus pandemic. Click here to read....

Tiananmen vigil: thousands of Hong Kong police officers mobilised for banned June 4 events

More than 3,000 riot officers will be deployed on Thursday to enforce a ban against the annual candlelight vigil to commemorate the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and other public gatherings, according to police insiders. They said the ban was being officially enforced on health grounds, and those trying to circumvent the rules by splitting into smaller groups would still be breaking the law. Click here to read....

Coronavirus threatens to upend Pakistan's long war against polio

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan has had to suspend immunization for another dangerous contagion -- poliovirus -- for 40 million children under the age of five, sparking fears that the disease could spread across the country and other countries declared polio-free.Pakistan halted mass immunization on Mar. 26 under the directives of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative -- a public-private partnership of national governments and international public health organizations. The need for social distancing, vaccine supply disruption due to closed borders and increased freight costs, and the redeployment of polio surveillance teams to COVID-19 duties led to the suspension of some polio campaigns. Click here to read....

Xi's visit to Japan to take place after November: minister

Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Japan, which was postponed from this spring due to the coronavirus outbreak, will take place after November, citing key diplomatic schedules, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Wednesday. On the timing of the visit, Motegi said on a television program, "The G-7 summit will certainly first take place," referring to the meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized nations in September or later. He also said he sees the summit of the Group of 20 major economies slated for November as taking place first. Click here to read....

Tripoli-based Libyan officials visit Moscow as rival factions hold separate talks overseas

The leaders of Libya’s warring factions reportedly travelled abroad for separate talks on Wednesday, after the UN said both sides had agreed to resume ceasefire negotiations. Since April 2019 the eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar has been attacking the capital Tripoli, seat of the internationally recognized government of National Accord (GNA). GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj was expected in Ankara late on Wednesday, according to Turkish media. His deputy, Ahmed Maiteeg, and GNA Foreign Minister Mohamed Siyala arrived in Moscow earlier in the day. Click here to read....

‘Drills amid pandemic’: NATO defense ministers to hold secure teleconference on June 17-18

NATO has confirmed it will hold a scheduled videoconference at the level of defense ministers on June 17-18. The North Atlantic Council (NAC) meetings will be chaired by the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, according to the statement issued by the alliance’s press service on Tuesday. The official agenda for the videoconference has yet to be disclosed. However, diplomatic sources in Brussels told the TASS news agency that the meetings will focus on “military operations and drills of the alliance amid the pandemic, consequences of the US unilateral exit from the Open Skies Treaty and the alliance’s military expenditure.” Click here to read....

NK threatens to scrap military agreement unless Seoul takes action against anti-Pyongyang leaflets

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's powerful sister threatened Thursday to scrap a military tension reduction agreement with South Korea and shut down major exchange projects unless Seoul stops defectors from sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets into the communist nation. Kim Yo-jong, first vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, issued the warning in a statement, adding that good faith and reconciliation can never go together with such hostile activities. "Clearly speaking, the South Korean authorities will be forced to pay a dear price if they let this situation go on while making sort of excuses," she said in the statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency. Click here to read....

Medical
WHO restarts drug trial as doubts grow over clinical data

The World Health Organisation will resume coronavirus trials of the contentious drug hydroxychloroquine after doubts emerged over the validity of a study that led to them being put on hold.WHO officials said on Wednesday that the decision to resume was made after considering data from a number of studies. “We are now fairly confident, not having seen any differences in mortality . . . that the trial can continue,” said Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO’s chief scientist. Click here to read....


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