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Shisha tobacco products to be tax marked from Q4 2019

DUBAI (Agencies): The Federal Tax Authority (FTA) said on Sunday it planned to launch phase two of the “Marking Tobacco and Tobacco Products Scheme” starting from the fourth quarter of 2019, expanding it to cover tobacco products used in shisha, be they imported or produced and distributed locally.

The scheme is already in force on cigarettes, allowing for electronically tracking them from production and until they reach the end consumer, in order to ensure full compliance with Excise Tax laws on tobacco and tobacco products, according to the FTA. The scheme intends to combat tax evasion and manipulation, they added.

The scheme’s first phase came into effect on January 1, 2019, covering all types of imported and domestically produced and distributed cigarettes. The digital marks were made available to producers and importers of all kinds of cigarettes to place on cigarette packs before they leave the factory to local markets, which allows them to ensure due Excise Tax has been paid.  As of May 1, 2019, the import of any type of cigarettes into the UAE not bearing the digital marks will be prohibited; meanwhile, the sale of cigarettes packs not bearing the marks will be prohibited across UAE markets as of August 2019.

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Visa, Mastercard mull increasing fees for processing transactions: WSJ

NEW YORK (Reuters): Visa Inc and Mastercard Inc, the two biggest US card networks, are preparing to increase certain fees levied on US merchants for processing transactions that will kick in this April, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Some of the changes relate to so-called interchange fees, the report said. Interchange fees are what merchants pay to banks when consumers use a credit or a debit card to make a purchase from their store.

Fees that Mastercard and Visa charge financial institutions, such as banks, for processing card payments on behalf of merchants are also set to increase, the report said.

Visa and Mastercard did not immediately to a request for comment.

Merchants often pass on any increases in processing fees to consumers, in an attempt to protect their own profits. Up to 2.5 percent of prices for goods and services go to cover card fees, the WSJ said.

Card companies have said in the past that their credit and debit cards usually result in more sales for merchants, especially in countries like the US They also say that expenses for ramping up anti-fraud/theft security measures, to make payment processing safer, need to be covered.

Recently, the two companies along with several US banks, had to pay over $6 billion to settle a lawsuit brought by merchants who accused the credit card companies of violating federal antitrust laws by forcing merchants to pay swipe fees and prohibiting them from directing consumers toward other methods of payment.

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Europe to face more pipeline gas vs. LNG competition

ANKARA (AA): Europe is likely to see increased competition between LNG and pipeline gas in the coming years, according to BP’s latest Energy Outlook published on Thursday.

According to BP, the increase in LNG supplies will lead to greater competition between LNG and pipeline gas, especially in Europe and China – two of the largest importers of gas.

In accordance with BP’s scenario – the ET scenario, European gas production will decline by 40 percent causing Europe’s import dependency to increase by around three-quarters by 2040.

“Europe’s existing infrastructure means it has the capacity to increase substantially its imports of either LNG or pipeline gas, especially from Russia,” it said.

BP added that the ease of transportation means pipeline gas has a marked cost advantage over LNG, in addition to stressing the main constraint on pipeline imports is concern about Europe’s dependency on Russia for gas.

However, the outlook showed the development of a globally integrated gas market would ease these concerns, allowing Russia to increase slightly its share of European gas demand.

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EU trade balance posts $26.7b deficit

ANKARA (AA): The EU’s foreign trade balance saw a €22.6 billion deficit in 2018, according to official figures released on Friday. Eurostat said the 28-member bloc’s exports of goods rose 4 percent on a yearly basis, amounting to nearly €1.95 trillion last year.

The EU’s imports from the rest of the world totaled some €1.97 trillion, climbing 6.5 percent year-on-year. The intra-EU28 trade saw annual growth of 4.8 percent to reach around €3.51 trillion over the same period.

One euro was exchanged for $1.18 on average in 2018, while the previous year the average EUR/USD exchange rate was 1.13. Last year, the US was the top market for EU exporters with some €406 billion or 20.8 percent of the bloc’s total exports, followed by China, Switzerland, Russia, and Turkey.

On the imports side, China was the main source for the EU with €394 billion ($465 billion), accounting for 19.9 percent of total imports.

Following China, the EU’s other major import partners were the US, Russia, Switzerland, and Norway.

In 2018, the bloc’s trade balance saw its largest deficit with China — €184 billion ($217 billion) — and the biggest surplus with the US, with nearly €140 billion ($165 billion).

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EU passenger car market sees slow start to 2019

ANKARA (AA): Demand for passenger cars in the EU fell by 4.6 percent year-on-year in January, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) reported on Friday.

“Nevertheless, with nearly 1.2 million units registered in total, this still represents the second-highest January volume on record since 2009,” the association said.

The ACEA said that demand for new cars fell across almost the entire 28-member bloc, including the EU’s five major markets.

“Spain and Italy posted the strongest declines, down 8.0 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively.

“… while percentage drops were more modest in the UK (down 1.6 percent), Germany (down 1.4 percent) and France (down 1.1%),” it said.

VW Group was the top manufacturer by sales with a 24.1 percent share in the first month of this year.

The group — which owns Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda, Seat and Porsche brands — saw a 6.5 annual decline in sales, amounting 288,266 passenger cars. PSA Group, of which major brands are Peugeot, Citroen, and Opel, and Renault Group had 17.1 percent and 9.7 percent market share, respectively.

Last year, over 15 million new passenger cars were registered in the EU. The EU is the main automotive export market for Turkey, where top international automakers — including Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes, Renault, and Toyota — are operating.

Turkey’s automotive exports to the European countries totaled over $25 billion, amounting to 79.5 percent of Turkey’s total automotive exports in 2018.

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Turkey’s unemployment rate at 12.3%

ANKARA (AA): Turkey’s unemployment rate reached 12.3 percent in November 2018, the country’s statistical authority announced on Friday. November’s figure was up two percentage points compared to the same month a year earlier, the TurkStat data revealed.

The number of unemployed persons aged 15 years and over increased by 706,000 to reach 3.98 million in the month. The non-agricultural unemployment rate reached 14.3 percent, rising 2.1 percentage points from the same month last year.

The youth unemployment rate — persons aged between 15 and 24 — surged 4.3 percentage points year-on-year to hit 23.6 percent in November last year.

The unemployment rate for the age group 15-64 also saw a rise of 2.1 percentage points to 12.6 percent over the same period.

The TurkStat data showed that the employment rate fell 0.8 percentage points year-on-year, reaching 46.5 percent in November 2018.

The number of employed people fell 201,000 to reach 28.3 million during the same period. “According to the distribution of employment by sector; 17.7 percent was employed in agriculture, 20 percent was in industry, 6.5 percent was in construction and 55.8 percent was in services,” the institute said.

In November 2018, the labor force participation rate (LFPR) rose by 0.2 percentage point from the same period last year to reach 53 percent.

“LFPR for male was 72.4 percent with a 0.3 percentage point increase and the rate for female was 34.1 percent with a 0.3 percentage point increase compared with the same period of the previous year.” TurkStat said.

The government aims to reach an unemployment rate of 11.3 percent in 2018, 12.1 percent this year, 11.9 next year and 10.8 percent in 2021, under the new economic program announced in September last year.

Turkey targets to generate 2 million new jobs by the end of the new economic Medium-Term Program period.

Last year, the lowest unemployment rate was observed in April with 9.6 percent.

Since November 2013, the highest unemployment rate was 13 percent in January 2017, while the lowest was in May 2014 with 8.8 percent.

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Turkey: Retail sales volume down 9.2% in Dec

ANKARA (AA): Turkey’s calendar-adjusted retail sales volume with constant prices fell 9.2 percent year-on-year in December 2018, according to the official figures on Friday.

“In the same month food, drinks and tobacco sales decreased by 2.7 percent,” TurkStat said.

Excluding automotive fuel, non-food sales went down by 12.6 percent, while automotive fuel sales declined 9.5 percent over the same period.

Retail sales volume of computers, books, telecommunications equipment dropped 21.7 percent while electronic goods and furniture sales volume saw an annual fall of 19 percent.

Textiles, clothing and footwear sales volume rose by 1.4 percent, as medical goods and cosmetic sales volume were down 0.4 percent.

Official data showed that non-food sales volume via mail orders and the Internet climbed by 16.8 percent on a yearly basis in December.

TurkStat also noted that the country’s calendar-adjusted retail sales volume was up 1.4 percent on average last year.

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China’s soybean imports plunge 13 percent in January

BEIJING (Reuters): China’s soybean imports fell 13 percent in January from the same month a year earlier, customs data showed on Thursday, as a hefty duty imposed on shipments from the United States, its second-largest supplier, curbed purchases.

China brought in 7.38 million tonnes of soybeans in January, down from 8.48 million tonnes a year earlier, preliminary data from the General Administration of Customs showed. January’s imports were up 29 percent from 5.72 million tonnes in December.

“The figures were higher than expected. It was mainly because some cargoes delayed in December cleared customs in January. They were mainly Brazilian beans,” said Monica Tu, analyst with Shanghai JC Intelligence Co.

China, the world’s top soybean buyer, typically imports the majority of its oilseeds from the United States in the period October-January after the U.S. harvest comes to market.

However, purchases of American soybeans plummeted through 2018 as buyers avoided U.S. cargoes amid tariffs and a trade war between Beijing and Washington. The customs department doesn’t disclose the origin of imports in its preliminary data.

The two countries then agreed a trade truce on Dec. 1, and Chinese firms have so far bought about 10 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans for delivery in the first months of 2019, although a 25 percent tariff on U.S. shipments remains in place.

Imports of the oilseed are expected to rise in coming months as the new harvest from Brazil enters the market and as more U.S. shipments clear customs, analysts have said.

China’s national weekly soybeans stocks were at 6.19 million tonnes by Jan. 29, down from a record high in October, but still above January levels in previous years.

Still, demand for the oilseed usually weakens after Chinese New Year holiday, which fell in early February this year, while a fast-spreading outbreak of African swine fever might also dampen consumption.

China has reported about 100 cases of the highly contagious disease since early August. Some producers have abandoned pig farming on fears the disease will spread and as a government ban on hog transport has depressed prices.

Imports of vegetable oils in January were 859,000 tonnes, up 16 percent from the previous month.

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Dutch economy grew 2.5% in 2018

Monitoring Desk

AMSTERDAM: The Dutch economy grew by 2.5 percent last year, compared to 2.9 percent growth in 2017, Statistics Netherlands reported based on initial figures. The economic growth was boosted by higher consumer spending and business investment. The trade balance – the difference between imports and exports – contributed less to the growth than the year before.

Consumer spending increased by 2.5 percent last year. Consumers especially spent more on cars and electrical appliances. Spending also increased on servicers like restaurants and public transport and communication. Services account for more than half of consumer spending. In 2017 consumer spending increased 1.9 percent compared to the year before.

According to Statistics Netherlands, the increased consumption is in line with the growth in employment. The tension on the Dutch labor market reached a new high at the end of last year, with 80 vacancies per 100 unemployed.

Investments in homes, buildings and machines, for example, grew 4.8 percent in 2018. In 2017 investments grew 6.1 percent.

The export of goods and services grew less rapidly in 2017, only increasing 2.7 percent last year. Imports of goods and services also increased by 2.7 percent in 2018. The trade balance therefore contributed less to economic growth than in 2017.

In the last quarter of 2018 the economy picked up somewhat with a growth of 0.5 percent compared to the previous quarter. In the third quarter the growth stood at 0.2 percent.

Courtesy: (nltimes.nl)

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Foreign tourists spent $73.1 billion in China in 2018

Monitoring Desk

BEIJING: Foreign visitors made 30.54 million trips to China in 2018, a 4.7 percent increase than that of 2017, according to China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Travelers stayed at least one night in China on 23.64 million of the trips, a growth of 5.2 percent than the figure of 2017, said a post on the ministry’s website Tuesday.

It said foreign travelers spent 73.1 billion U.S. dollars on their trips in China last year, 5.1 percent more than the amount in 2017.

The Republic of Korea, Japan, the United States, Malaysia and Singapore were among China’s 10 largest source markets of tourism in 2018, according to the ministry.

China offers a 24-hour visa-free transit to eligible international travelers, while people of 53 nationalities can enjoy a 144-hour visa-free transit through a number of cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, the northern city of Shijiazhuang and the northeastern city of Shenyang.

The country’s southernmost island province of Hainan, which offered a 15-day visa-free stay for group tourists from over 20 countries for years, started to allow group and individual visitors from 59 countries to travel there visa-free and stay for up to 30 days under certain conditions in May last year.

China’s tourism revenue rose by 10.5 percent year on year to 5.97 trillion yuan (about 856.5 billion U.S. dollars) in 2018, with over 79.9 million people working in tourism and related industries.

Courtesy: (eturbonews.com)