Top Stories

January 06, 2017


We contribute billions to US economy, Toyota politely tells Trump

Japanese officials have defended Toyota’s contribution to the US economy after Donald Trump threatened to impose a “big border tax” if a new plant in Mexico is to be opened. Trump’s tweet on the 5th January was followed by Toyota shares dropping more than 3% in morning trade in Tokyo on Friday. Shares in Nissan and Honda also fell as unease in Japan grows over the effects of Trump’s “America first” economic policy could have on cross-Pacific trade. The economy, trade and industry minister, Hiroshige Seko, said the carmaker had contributed to the creation of American jobs. Japanese firms employ more than 800,000 people in the US and contributed $78bn to US exports in 2014, according to the US embassy in Tokyo. Analysts said import taxes would have little effect on Toyota’s business in the region. “We think the impact on business performance is limited,” said Akira Kishimoto at JP Morgan. “A cool judgement is needed.” (Guardian)


Samsung to keep up the hunt for AI acquisitions

South Korean multinational Samsung is on the hunt for more acquisitions in the field of artificial intelligence, after snapping up virtual assistant, Viv, last year. BK Yoon, its President and Chief Executive of the consumer electronics division, said that “Samsung’s ultimate goal is to make life easier for Samsung’s consumers”.  The fact that last year various Galaxy Note 7 phones exploded has “prompted us to take a closer look and review our quality assurance processes…to scrutinise the process to provide consumers with safe and quality products.” Samsung has also introduced a new version of its Family Hub fridge, which along with the ability to play music from Spotify or Pandora and stream video on its large touchscreen can now also respond to voice commands. While Samsung has developed its own voice recognition technology in-house, Viv will help to “interpret what is being said” and connect to other services beyond Samsung’s own apps, Mr Yoon said. (Financial Times)

Sustainable Development

Cambodian sand could build a foundation for legal action in Singapore

An environmental non-governmental agency is searching for legal grounds that could uncover the truth about what happened to millions of dollars in sand that disappeared from Cambodia over the past decade. Mother Nature Cambodia founder Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson alleged: “we know that the sand has been exported illegally from Cambodia without paying tax.” In 2013 Prime Minister Hun Sen imposed a ban on dredging along the Mekong and Ton Le Sap, and in 2015 the Cambodian government put a hold on new applications for licenses. In a 2016 report, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) found the Cambodian government had continued to supply licenses to sand miners despite the bans. Singapore is 22 per cent larger than it was in the 1950s, but the sand mining that aids its growth often wreaks havoc on rivers, deltas, and marine ecosystems in Cambodia and elsewhere. The world’s sand mining industry is estimated to be a $70 billion a year industry with illegal trade of the material worth even more, according to a 2016 report in The Sydney Morning Herald. (Eco Business)


London breaks annual air pollution limits five days into 2017

London broke the annual limit for air pollution just five days into 2017, according to data from the capital’s main monitoring system. A site on Brixton Road in south London surpassed hourly limits for nitrogen dioxide concentrations 24 times so far this year, breaking the European Union’s annual permitted limit of 18 breaches, according to provisional data on King’s College London’s Air Quality Network website. The pollutant comes from diesel engines in cars, trucks and other sources. ClientEarth, an environmental law firm, has successfully challenged ministers on air quality strategy twice, and the High Court ruled in November that the U.K. has broken the law by failing to adequately deal with pollutants. It ordered the government to revise current plans to rein in toxic emissions to comply with EU standards. Concerns have also been raised by S&P Global Inc. in a report that questioned whether Britain’s plan to exit from the EU will result in weakened air quality standards. (Bloomberg)


Green prawn imports banned in Australia following white spot disease outbreak

The importation of green prawns into Australia will be suspended following an outbreak of white spot disease in Queensland, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has announced. It was the first time the disease, which kills prawns but is harmless to humans, was discovered in Australia. Since November 2016, there have been four farmers with white spot incursions, spread across five properties between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The Deputy Prime Minister suggested that there had been a breach of importing protocols. The Seafood Importers Association of Australia criticise the ban as being premature, saying consignments of imported raw frozen prawns already undergo strict testing for white spot. (ABC

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