South Korea and London Finance Ministers Meet

South Korea’s finance minister recently met with the City of London’s mayor to work closely after the aftermath of Brexit.

Jeffery Mountevans, the Lord Mayor of the City of London, met with Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho. The two plan to create a closer connection to prevent contraction in trade and investment for each country.

Lord Mounevans was on a five-day trip to South Korea to celebrate the launch of a British fintech firm’s local unit, Xntree Korea.

As Yoo said, “South Korea expects that new Prime Minister Theresa May’s leadership will help ease uncertainties in the world financial market.”

Colt PrizmNet Expands Its Footprint

Colt PrizmNet just announced that is connecting to Equinix’s International Business Exchange (IBX) data centers in Hong Kong and Singapore. Colt is a financial extranet and can now interconnect with key FX centers around the world and through Asia. The move will now double the size of Colt PrizmNet’s footprint in Hong Kong and Singapore.

As Richard man, the Head of Solution Sales, Capital Markets for Colt in Asia Pacific explained, “By expanding the availability of Colt PrizmNet in Hong Kong and Singapore to customers hosted in Equinix IBX data centres in each city, we are able to provide an even more flexible and cost-effective solution. Colt PrizmNet is a managed connectivity solution available to financial companies of all sizes wanting to gain an advantage by improving their international reach and their ability to trade all of Asia’s major FX centres.”

Japan Plans Climate Financing Initiatives

Japan recently said that it plans to provide 1.3 trillion yen ($10.6 billion) in climate financing a year for developing countries from 2020. This would include both public and private funds. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made this announcement as he gets ready to join over 100 world leaders in Paris to negotiate an agreement to limit climate change.

As he said, “Our country attaches importance to the participation of all countries in a new international framework.”

The new plan would be an increase from the current 1 trillion yen ($8.2 billion) a year that they give now. As Japan’s chief negotiator in the talks, Atsuyuki Oike said, “I think we are on the right track and I hope our contributions will be a big step forward.”

He explained that the ratio of public to private funding was not yet decided.

Japan has committed to reducing carbon emissions from their 2013 levels by 26% by 2030. While they have drawn criticism for being less ambitious than other countries, Oike has countered by saying, “Our efforts are very much substantial and ambitious. That is what we believe.”

Learn more by reading the whole article.

Relationships Between Singapore and Russia

Commercial links between Singapore and Russia are growing. This progress was recently noted after the sixth session of the High-Level Russia-Singapore Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) which took place in Moscow. The event was chaired by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies along with Mr. Igor Shuvalov, the First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.

There is interest by Singapore’s offshore and marine companies to have opportunities in Russia. Food production companies in both companies are also interested in having cross-border exports.

Both countries have agreed to start the process to negotiate for a comprehensive free trade agreement between Singapore and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

Learn more details here.

Advice from Crescent Petroleum CEO in the Post-Saddam Hussein World

At the World Economic Forum in January, Majid Jafar, the CEO of Crescent Petroleum, called for leaders at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos to place the economic stability high on their list of priorities.

Majid Jafar said, “The Arab Spring has now clearly turned into a winter of discontent. In parallel with all the political efforts, we need quick and urgent economic action to address the issue of high youth unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region. Insufficient economic growth in the region has led to massive youth unemployment, in some areas more than 60%. This is turning into a demographic time-bomb. The recent fall in the oil price is also a warning that the region cannot be over-reliant on energy resources for GDP growth. We must create long-term sustainable economic growth. Employing our youth is the key to unlocking our true natural resource. We cannot achieve political stability without economic stability.”

One scheme Jafar suggests could address the issues around youth unemployment is the  Arab Stabilization Plan (ASP). This is a policy initiative for the region that would promote infrastructure investment and create jobs. The proposal, which takes its inspiration from the US-led Marshall Plan that was used to rebuild post-war Europe. The plan would prioritize infrastructure projects on a national level and would help with the economy in countries like Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia and Iraq where, more than seven years after the Saddam Hussein was removed, the country’s infrastructure remains in tatters.

Majid Jafar explained that “The MENA Region is currently going through changes that are unprecedented in the last century. In many cases the region has failed to build national identities let alone a regional one, failed to build inclusive and stable institutions, and above all failed to build private-sector driven competitive economies. There is capital, but the region needs a focused multinational effort to create regional trust and direct it into long-term infrastructure investments. This will create employment and sustain economic competitiveness.”

India’s New Budget for the Coming Year

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government unveiled their first full-year budget this week. They have planned a major increase in public spending on infrastructure and a lower corporate tax rate. There will also be a new welfare program for the poor and more relaxed plans for fixing the fiscal deficit.

The government is predicting a growth rate of 7.4% in this fiscal year.

Mr. Jaitley started out his speech saying, “The credibility of the Indian economy has been re-established. The world is predicting that it is India’s chance to fly.” He continued by saying “We have to think in terms of a quantum jump.”

Some found the budget’s focus on welfare to be a surprise. As Jayshree Sengupta, a senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, said “You know, I had expected it to be a very pro-business, pro-rich budget, and I was really surprised by how much he has given to the rural employment scheme.”

Read more details about the budget and the reaction from many.


India Investments

by Robert Lavinsky
by Robert Lavinsky

SITA (Supporting India’s Trade Preferences for India)’s goal is to increase exports in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. The organization’s focus is on the following sectors: pulses; edible and essential oils; spices; business process outsourcing and information technology-enabled services; coffee; cotton, textiles and apparel; and leather. Given that all the countries listed above (except Kenya) are given special access to the Indian market (under the preferential tariff treatment New Delhi accords), such investment is becoming increasingly popular.

According to SITA’s recent workshop participants, it is private sector based development – supported by Indian business investors – that will be the driving force of more trade between East Africa and India. There will also be an attempt to increase the value of East African products by getting more Indian-based investment opportunities.

Moving across to China, a substantial shift in its cohesion with India from trade to investment needs to happen. This is because, according to General Didar Singh, Ficci Secretary, it is only with an escalation in investments that the issue of trade imbalance can be addressed between China and India.

He explained: “Our trade with China is doing fine. There are some imbalances in the bilateral trade, but in the global context that does not mean much. The real important question is how open we are about our investments.” Indeed, the total trade amount between India and China in 2013 was $65.50 billion. However, the trade surplus was “heavily tilted in China’s favor.”

Vis-à-vis Tanzania, trade with India has been growing at an impressive rate. The only negative of that is that it has been in favor of India, which did not aid Tanzania’s manufacturing sector much. For example, even though tanzanite is mined in Tanzania, it seems that India is the largest exporter of the gem. In addition, Tanzania’s deficit remains “huge.”

So it seems that India is doing well but needs to assist its Asian neighbors in trade and deficit for the east to continue to thrive.

China Pushes India Investments

China is currently focusing on making investments in India. This is quite timely, given that Xi Jinping, China’s President, is scheduled to make a visit to the country. The focus is transport. China is seeking to enhance railways in India while constructing expressways.

China-to-IndiaTo further improve relations and investment opportunities between the two countries, China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi committed to China continuing the trend of issuing visas to Arunachal Pradesh residents, one of India’s 29 states. It is hoped that this will be seen as a “goodwill gesture” to Indian citizens.

Wang has pointed out that these days there are “consultations and a positive attitude” between the two countries, which facilitates the process of issue resolution as it arises.

What all this shows also is that China is committed to supporting India with its economic progress. Of India Wang said that his country “stands by your side throughout your efforts of reform and development. No country can choose its neighbour, but friendship may be fostered.”

This sentiment was echoed by India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesman, Syed Akbaruddin, who pointed out that, “both leaders felt that there was tremendous untapped potential for the growth of economic ties.” Still, before these efforts can move forward, there is some significant unfinished business.   The fact is, India runs a $40 billion trade deficit with China. There is a chance of China putting money into industrial parks in India. This might help rebalance trade.

In conclusion, there is work to be done but if the trend of positive attitudes and communication is maintained, a large space could be created for China India investments to move forward.

Three Rising Stars in the Hong Kong World of Photography

ImageHong Kong is one of the world’s greatest centers for business and culture. As a colony under British rule from the mid-1800s until 1997, Hong Kong became an influential international hub in Asia. Today, Hong Kong is one of two areas known as Special Administrative Regions, or SARs, under the sovereignty of the People’s Republic of China, the other being Macau.

The popularity of Hong Kong as a headquarters for financial firms is growing, while its reputation as a center for the arts continues to rise. For example, many of the world’s most creative and innovative artists have begun their careers in the “Fragrant Harbor,” including several up and coming photographers.

Ray Kam is the founder and chief photographer at 6ixsenze Production in Hong Kong. His astounding work captures the mystery, beauty and excitement of fashion and style. The winner of the WPPI 2011 competition in the Advertising/Fashion Category, Ray Kam is a teacher of photography at UNIART where his students describe him as “pragmatic and inspirational.”

Another prominent young photographer on the art scene in Hong Kong is Carmen Chan. Chan was born in Las Vegas, but grew up in Los Angeles and Hong Kong, where she now resides and plies her trade. Her love of photography was sparked after working for three years in film and TV production in Hollywood. After leaving Hollywood she almost immediately found herself working with such notable international fashion photographers as Hedi Slimane, Colette de Barros, and Melissa Rodwell.

Despite his youthful smile, Felix So has been working in photography for over twenty years. So was chosen to be the President of the Hong Kong Institute of Professional Photographers from 2006 until 2008, and has earned recognition in all corners of the globe for his special capturing of still, fashion and portrait photography. He widely lectures in the Hong Kong area on photography,  including such respected institutes as the Hong Kong Chingying Institute of Visual Arts, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and the City University of Hong Kong.

Paamco Sets Its Eyes on Asia

Pacific Alternative Asset Management Co is turning to Asia to diversity its investor base. The fund-of-hedge funds is an $8.6 billion US company with US investors that account for 85% of its clients.

As David Walter, the Singapore-based director for the Irvine, California company known as Paamco, said, the company is now looking at Asian managers who are employing relative-value strategies.

Paamco wants to capitalize on the growing demand in Asia for alternative investments like hedge funds, hedge fund strategies and real estate.  According to a recent survey by Natixis (KN) Global Asset Management, 30% of institutional investors in Asia want to increase their holdings of alternative and non-correlated assets in the next 12 months. As Walter recently said, “Asian investors are becoming more sophisticated and open to alternative investments. There is now great potential to expand our relationships in the region.”

As Walter explained, “In both cases, as investors get more sophisticated, they are increasingly going directly into large global hedge funds. That’s where we see interest — is working with them in building customized portfolios of emerging managers to complement their existing holdings.”

At the moment, Paamco is invested in 10 managers that are focused in Asia. The majority of them are in equities, while some are in credit, currencies, rates and commodities. They are mostly based in Hong Kong and Singapore, while one is in the UK and one in the US.