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Saudi Gazette, Friday, June 23, 2017







Theresa May serves up Brexit

menu with added humble pie

Done and dusted? Vietnam’s chicken

feather cleaners face stiff competition


Markets stumble as oil tumbles again

European stocks fell for a third straight day on Thursday, as oil prices kept

within sight of the seven-month lows reached overnight on worries about

a supply glut and falling demand. Britain’s FTSE 100 and France’s CAC 40

slipped 0.4 percent each. Germany’s benchmark stock index DAX pared

earlier losses but remained in negative territory. Trading in US stock futures

suggested Wall Street shares would open flat to a touch weaker. “Most of

the weakness in equity markets is related to the energy sector, and that’s

due to the massive weakness we’ve seen in oil, which is now trading in

bear territory,” said Naeem Aslam, the chief market analyst at ThinkMarkets

in London. “In oil markets, however, we are at levels where you would see

bargain hunters come back into the market.” In fact, oil prices edged higher

as the European session continued but remained within sight of lows hit on

Wednesday. Global benchmark Brent was up 0.6 percent at around $45.08

but not far off Wednesday’s seven-month low of $44.35. US crude futures

were 0.4 percent firmer at $42.67 a barrel. They closed down 1.6 percent

on Wednesday after touching their lowest level since August.

— Reuters


China urged to limit food import control

Food exporters including the United States and European Union

are stepping up pressure on China to scale back plans for intensive

inspections of imports that they say would hamper access to its fast-

growing market. The group, which also includes Japan and Australia,

sent a joint letter to Chinese regulators asking them to suspend a

proposed requirement, due to take effect Oct. 1, for each food shipment

to have an inspection certificate from a foreign government. They say

that would disrupt trade and ask Beijing to follow global practice by

applying the requirement only to higher-risk foods. The dispute, about

which governments have said little in public, adds to complaints Beijing

is reducing market access for goods ranging from medical technology

to farm-related biotech in violation of its free-trade commitments. The

letter was sent by an unusually broad group including the 28-nation

European Union, the United States, Japan, Australia, Argentina and Israel

and four other countries. It is addressed to the director of the General

Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, known

as AQSIQ, and the Chinese commerce minister.

— AP


Takata plummets on bankruptcy fears

Takata suffered another crushing collapse on Thursday, plummeting

more than 50 percent on fears the airbag maker at the center of the

auto industry’s biggest-ever safety recall is headed for bankruptcy. The

Tokyo-based car parts giant, facing lawsuits and huge recall-related

costs over a bag defect linked to at least 16 deaths globally, has

tumbled for four straight days. It is now worth less than a quarter of

its value from just a week ago when a report by Japan’s leading Nikkei

business daily said it would seek bankruptcy protection and sell its

assets to a US company. At Thursday’s close, the embattled stock had

plummeted 55 percent to 110 yen ($1) from a day earlier. “The shares

are going to keep falling because the only buyers are day traders

hoping to lock in gains from fluctuations in the price,” Hiroaki Hiwata, a

strategist at Toyo Securities, said earlier. Another Nikkei report Thursday

said Takata, with liabilities exceeding one trillion yen, would file for

bankruptcy protection as early as Monday.



Uber CEO quits under investor pressure

Uber Technologies Inc Chief Executive Travis Kalanick, co-founder of one

of the most influential technology companies of its generation, resigned

on Tuesday under pressure from investors after a string of setbacks.

Kalanick’s departure caps a tumultuous period for the world’s largest

ride-services company that has revolutionized the taxi industry and

challenged transportation regulations worldwide. The resignation sent

shockwaves through Silicon Valley and leaves Uber’s board of directors

with the problem of finding a dynamic leader who also has a steady hand

needed to heal Uber after a bruising six months. “The person who still

best personifies Uber’s potential is the person who left Tuesday night,”

said Bradley Tusk, an Uber investor and adviser. “But it’s not like he

really could stay without it being brutally bad for the company.” Kalanick’s

pugnacious style largely defined Uber’s approach and helped it become

a transportation colossus valued at $68 billion, the largest private firm

backed by venture capitalists in the world.

— Reuters


Amonth before Brit-

ain’s general election, Theresa

May was in combative mood as

she warned that a hung parliament

would yield a bad Brexit and de-

cried alleged threats from Brussels.

Today, the hardline rhetoric is

gone as Britain’s prime minister

pledges to listen and reach out

following her disastrous electoral

showing on June 8, when the Con-

servatives’ parliamentary majority


The serving of humble pie

bows to the new political land-

scape, which has not got any easier

for May from her stilted response

to a shocking fire in a London

tower block.

But it does risk complicating

the Brexit negotiation as Europe

wonders whether its British inter-

locutors have the power to deliver

on any deal.

And compounding the drift

in London is an apparent rift as

May’s finance minister, Philip

Hammond, argues for a phased

withdrawal that puts jobs and liv-

ing standards first, rather than the

clean break that militant Brexiteers


Jonathan Portes, professor of

economics and public policy at

King’s College London, said the

change in tone by May and the

rejuvenation of Hammond as a

political force was striking.

“Mr. Hammond didn’t even

pretend to agree with Theresa May

about immigration policy,” he


May, arguing that last year’s

Brexit referendum was a vote

against uncontrolled migration

A European flag is being flown in front of the Elizabeth Tower which

houses the “Big Ben” bell in the Palace of Westminster, London, in this

July 2, 2016 file photo. — AFP

A Vietnamese worker bunches chicken feathers together to make a

feather duster at a house in the outskirts of Hanoi in this May 8, 2017

file photo. — AFP

A placard showing a picture of

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa

May, saying “You can’t trust her”

is raised in front of the Elizabeth

Tower, commonly referred to as

Big Ben as protesters gather in

Parliament Square after marching

through central London on

Wednesday. — AFP


Fluffy, soft and easy

to buy off the back of a bike:

Vietnam’s chicken feather dusters

have ruled the roost for genera-

tions. But artisans fear for their

future as buyers turn to cheaper


The dusters, ubiquitous across

the country’s leafy capital, have

long been a staple in Vietnamese

homes to clear cobwebs from

ancestral altars or hard-to-reach

corners of the house.

But today, cheap synthetic

dusters have flooded the market

— the latest influx of mass-

produced goods to chip away at

traditional artisans’ profits.

“We don’t earn as much

money as we could in other jobs,

but I do this job to keep my

family tradition alive,” Nguyen

Huy Tho, 36, said near his stuffy

garage, filled with hanging lines

of feather plumes.

His family has been mak-

ing the dusters for more than a

century, and unlike his five sisters

who all work in office jobs or as

teachers, he decided to follow in

his father’s footsteps after gradu-

ating from college.

It was once a soaring trade.

Tho used to earn about $350 per

month selling the dusters, but

today profits are down by a third.

His 85-year-old grandfather,

who still helps out on occasion,

says many young people are now

looking for better-paying jobs.

“Most people now think about

earning good money, but this job

is tedious, like making a tooth-

pick,” Nguyen Huy De said.

Each duster takes about two

hours to make, and they sell on

the streets of Hanoi for about $7.

Traditionally, families sold

feathers to door-to-door collec-

tors after a chicken feast, with

sales spiking around traditional


But today Tho’s family buys

feathers from chicken wholesal-

ers, as the duty of killing chickens

has mostly moved out of the


Even though the feathers are

easier to find, there’s only about

10 families still making the dust-

ers in Tho’s Trieu Khuc village

on the outskirts of Hanoi, once a

renowned hub for the trade.

It’s not just families like Tho’s

feeling the squeeze.

Vendor Nguyen Minh Quang

says sales have dipped in recent

years, but he still cycles 50 km

into Hanoi daily to peddle the


“Now that there are plastic

dusters in the market, fewer

traditional feather dusters are sold.

I don’t get much money selling

them, and I get really tired cycling

to Hanoi every day.”


from the rest of the European

Union, has pledged to drive net

immigration down to the “tens of

thousands” per year.

But with business groups warn-

ing of lasting harm if the economy

is deprived of foreign labor, Ham-

mond on Tuesday said that “while

we seek to manage migration, we

do not seek to shut it down.”

May’s shift in tone became ex-

plicit on Wednesday in the Queen’s

Speech marking the formal opening

of the new parliament, which will

be dominated by the marathon task

of turning Brexit into law before

the deadline of March 2019.

Vulnerable to mutineers in her

own party and to a newly empow-

ered opposition, while struggling to

negotiate a parliamentary partner-

ship with a hard-line party from

Northern Ireland, May introduced

the speech by stressing she would

respond “with humility and re-

solve” to the electorate’s message.

Reading out May’s program for

the new parliament, the queen said

her ministers were committed “to

build the widest possible consensus

on the country’s future outside the

European Union.”

It is all a far cry from May 3,

when May accused Brussels of

deliberately threatening Britain

over the Brexit talks in order to

affect the outcome of the coming


In remarks that have come back

to haunt her, she also warned vot-

ers: “Britain simply will not get the

right Brexit deal if we have the drift

and division of a hung parliament.”

And she said that “no deal is

better for Britain than a bad deal,”

insisting that her government stood

ready to walk away from the EU


That formulation was a leitmo-

tif of May’s election campaign.

But it has now been under-

mined by Hammond’s calls for an

interim deal governing cross-

Channel trade that stops the British

economy from falling off a cliff’s

edge when Brexit finally takes


The Confederation of British

Industry said May’s “welcome

change in tone” in the Queen’s

Speech “needs to be backed by

clarity and action now,” as the

country extricates itself from its

biggest trading market.

Opposition Labour leader

Jeremy Corbyn echoed Hammond

in calling for a Brexit deal that pri-

oritizes jobs and the economy, and

said: “No deal is not better than a

bad deal. It’s a bad deal.”

Yet at the formal start of the

EU talks on Monday in Brussels,

May’s Brexit minister David Davis

emphasized the need for Britain

to quit the EU’s common market

and customs union in order to take

back control of its own affairs.

So the Europeans could be

forgiven for wondering what

exactly is the message from

London, especially given British

press speculation that Conserva-

tive heavyweights stand ready

to dethrone May in a leadership


Like the financial markets, Eu-

ropean officials say the EU would

welcome more certainty from

Britain as it looks to move on from

Brexit and focus on long-term

challenges such as defense and the