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May 2015 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


May 2015 Edition


Canada is a world leader in the production and export of mustard and Saskatchewan is responsible for 75 per cent of the country’s production. M More than a quarter of world mustard exports in 2014 originated in Saskatchewan. It is claimed that if Canadian farmers stopped using pesticides and GMOs, Canada would need another Saskatchewan, 37-million more acres, to grow the same amount of food that we do today.


Some 12,700 people died as the result of natural or man-made disasters last year. Payouts from insurance companies fell by a fifth to US$35-billion but the number of natural disasters rose as thunderstorms caused damage in the US and Europe. Insured losses from storms have grown by an average of nine percent a year since 1990. The year’s biggest humanitarian disaster was caused by an earthquake in the Chinese province of Yunnan in which 731 people perished.


Traffic congestion in most major Canadian cities is getting worse according to a large GPS maker. Tom Tom’s fifth annual traffic index suggests that the average computer lost 84 hours in 2014 while delayed in traffic in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Vancouver’s traffic is the worst in Canada with an overall congestion factor of 35 per cent which means an average trip would take more than a third longer than if that driver was unencumbered by traffic. During the evening rush-hour Vancouver commutes are 66 per cent longer. The main factor in Vancouver’s score is the “automatic bottlenecks” at the mouths of bridges leading to the downtown core. Istanbul topped the global ranking of 218 cities with 58 per cent overall congestion.


During the lunar New Year Chinese tourists thronged to Japan in record numbers. Many came home lugging a high-end Japanese luxury, a heated toilet seat complete with pulsating water jets, deodorisers and even music. Most popular was a new variety with hands-free lid opening. Chinese visitors bought more high-tech toilet seats costing around US$540 than almost any other Japanese product and some bought several including portable, battery operated ones.


Ford is to sell a car in Europe that can read road signs and adjust its speed to ensure the vehicle is not driving too fast. The speed-limiting technology can be activated via the steering wheel and be briefly overridden by pressing firmly on the accelerator. The adjustable speed limiters use sensors mounted in a car’s wheels to detect how fast it is going. Once software detects the vehicle is at a maximum preset speed, it limits the amount of fuel that reached the engine, rather than applying the brakes. Drivers will be able to set the new system to let them speed at up to 5mph (8km/h) beyond the detected limit.


The collapse in the price of oil is now impacting vehicle sales. Sales of pickups and commercial vans rose by double digits in the first two months of the year in Canada, while deliveries of more fuel-efficient entry level cars, trucks and crossovers dipped by 9 per cent. Sales of large vans soared 35 per cent and pickup trucks by nine per cent. Honda Civic has been knocked out of first place so far this year trailing the Hyundai Elantra and the Toyota Corolla.


The world is in the middle of a skyscraper boom. Last year, nearly 100 buildings over 200 metres tall were built, more than ever before. This year China’s business capital will welcome the Shanghai Tower which will be the world’s second-tallest building. Saudi Arabia is building Kingdom Tower, which will be the world’s tallest (and twice the height of One World Trade Centre in New York, the tallest in the Americas).


The value of Canada’s natural resource assets stood at C$744-billion in 2013, down 13 per cent from 2012.Energy resources accounted for 66 per cent of the value of all natural resource assets, followed by minerals (19%) and timber (15%), Energy resource assets consist of coal, crude bitumen, crude oil and natural gas and were valued at $494-billion. Reserves are defined by the amount of proven and probable stocks that are economical to extract using available technology.


American farmers want the Federal Aviation Administration to relax proposed regulations on commercial drone so that the unmanned aircraft can be used over longer distances at any time of day or night. They also want to make sure farmers can register drones and qualify to fly them easily, quickly and safely. Agriculture is seen as a major beneficiary of commercial drones, which could help farmers to tend to crops more effectively as well as a range of other applications.


In South Africa, as in many other wine-producing countries, China represents the future. Squeezed by low margins and tough competition in Europe and North America, wineries are turning to a fledgling market that could expand swiftly as Chinese wealth increases and its consumer class grows. The strategy seems to be paying off as South Africa’s wine sales to China soared by 63 per cent last year. Last year, after several years of spectacular growth, China became the world’s biggest market for red wine, bolstered by the fact that red is the unofficial national colour and considered a symbol of wealth and good fortune. South Africa’s wine industry directly and indirectly employs about 290,000 people and contributes 1.2 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.


Canadians are proving to be slow to switch to online purchase-and-delivery retailing. New research indicates that online sales are expected to account for just 4.8 per cent of all retail sales in Canada in 2015. That is a paltry number compared to similar projections of 12.7 per cent in the US and 8.4 per cent across Europe. The highest rate of per-capita online spending in Canada is found in the Yukon.


The Hong Kong government has given approval for a third runway at the Asian financial centres airport, aiming to meet surging growth in passengers and air cargo. The project will begin next year and cost US$18.2-billion. About 1,600 acres of land will need to be reclaimed from the sea for the runway and a new passenger building. It is expected to be completed by 2023. Last year, the airport handled 63.4-million passengers and 4.4-million tons of cargo. It is predicted that a new runway will allow it to handle 102-million passengers and 8.9-million tons of freight a year by 2030.


The growth in oil-train shipments fuelled by the US energy boom has stalled in recent months, dampened by safety problems and low crude prices. About 1.38-million barrels a day of oil and fuels such as gasoline rode the rails in March versus an average of 1.5-million barrels a day in the same period a year earlier. Railroads have been a major beneficiary of the US energy boom as oil companies turned to trains to move crude to refineries from remote oil fields in North Dakota and other areas not served by pipe lines. Rail shipments of oil have expanded from 20-million barrels in 2010 to just under 374-million barrels last year.


Large quantities of plastic debris are building up in the Mediterranean Sea. A survey found around one thousand tonnes of plastic floating on the surface, mainly bottles, bags and wrappings. The Mediterranean Sea’s biological richness and economic importance means plastic pollution is particularly hazardous. Plastic has also been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, turtles, whales, and very tiny pieces of plastic have also been found in oysters and mussels. Scientists are saying that marine plastic pollution has spread to become a problem of planetary scale after only half a century of widespread use. Though the Mediterranean represents less than one per cent of the global ocean area, it contains between 4% and 18% of all marine species.


European Union milk quotas have been scrapped after more than three decades of efforts to prevent overproduction. The system, set up in 1984, is ending so EU dairy businesses can compete with international rivals in supplying fast-growing markets in Asia and Africa .The Irish Republic, the Netherlands and Germany are all expected to increase production sharply. UK farmers are worried that it may lead to further falls in the price they receive for their milk. Belgian and other EU dairy farmers have staged protests fearing the lifting of quotas will drive small farms out of business. They argue that the lifting of quotas helps only big food companies and the largest milk producers whose efficiency allows them to operate with slim margins.


Between 2000 and 2003, the number of US children eating fast food on any given day went down, and the calories from some types of fast foods have declined as well. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, in 2003, almost 39 per cent of US children ate fast food on any given day. That dropped to less than 33 per cent by the 2009-2010 survey. Calorie intake from burger, pizza and chicken fast food restaurants also went down Calories from Mexican foods and sandwiches did not change though they were minor contributors to total fast food consumption.


New rankings reveal there is an airport that has not lost a passenger’s bags since it opened in 1994. Kansai International Airport in Japan has been voted the best in the world for reuniting passengers with their luggage with a remarkable zero items of baggage going missing. The study covered 550 airports in 112 nations around the world using reviews from 13-million users to decide rankings in 20 categories. Asian airports took the top six spots for baggage handling, with Copenhagen in seventh followed by Munich and Zurich.


British hotels are struggling to shed their reputation for poor service according to a new survey. An analysis of more than six million reviews left on the website found that UK hotels achieved an average score of 7.92 for service, lower than any other European country except Russia. Budapest was the best capital city for service and the top nation for courteous hotel employees was Finland with Germany, Austria Hungary and Slovakia completing the top five.


The governor of California has implemented the first mandatory water restrictions in the state’s history. The order mandates a 25 per cent reduction in water usage for cities and towns across the parched state. Vast areas of government-owned lawns will be replaced by drought-tolerant landscaping and towns will be banned from watering ornamental grass. The new order will require university campuses, cemeteries, golf courses and other large landowners to make major cuts in their water usage. Snow in the mountains is at its lowest level since records began so water supplies from melting snow will be lower than usual in the coming months.


A light bulb made with graphene, said by its UK developer to be the first commercially viable consumer product using the super-strong carbon, is to go on sale later this year. The dimmable bulb contains a filament-shaped LED coated in graphene. It is said to cut use by 10 per cent and last longer due to its conductivity. The light bulb was developed by a Canadian-financed company. The discovery of graphene by two Russian-born scientists in the UK earned the pair the Nobel Prize for Physics. A micro-thin layer of grapheme is stronger than steel and dubbed a “wonder material” because of its potential uses.


The Benetton family has sold its controlling stake in World Duty Free to Switzerland’s Dufry. The deal creates the world’s largest travel retailer with a market share of 25 per cent and projected annual sales of US9-billion. World Duty Free operates 495 stores in 98 airports. Based in Basel Dufry has 1,650 stores in more than 60 countries with around 20,000 employees. Retail spending at airports is expected to rise in the years ahead, particularly in Asia where more than 350 new airports are set to be built.


A former builder in the UK who bought a 12 tonne hoard of brass doorknobs for scrap has discovered that they have been valued at nearly US$3-million He bought the 12 tonne load of fittings, including light switches, hat stands and letter boxes for around $30.000 believing that they were worth around three times that for scrap.

Thank you for reading the A & A Economic News Digest. For more information visit our website or contact A & A Contract Customs Brokers Ltd. at

Past issues of the A&A Economic News Digest can be found at

April 2015 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


April 2015 Edition


For Singapore, territorial expansion is an essential part of economic development. Since independence in 1965 the country has expanded by 22 per cent, from 58,000 hectares to 71,000 hectares and the government expects to need another 5,600 hectares by 2030. Singapore’s need for sand is acute as it builds not just upwards but outwards adding territory by filling in the sea. Singapore is stockpiling vast amounts of sand to safeguard supplies as it long ago ran out of its own and has now become the largest importer of sand worldwide.


Plans have been unveiled in the UK to generate electricity from the world’s first series of tidal lagoons. The six lagoons, four in Wales and one each in Somerset and Cumbria, will capture incoming and outgoing tides behind giant sea walls and use the weight of the water to power turbines. Each will require massive engineering, in Swansea, the sea wall required to contain the new lagoon will stretch more than five miles and reach more than two miles out to sea. The Cardiff lagoon will include up to 90 turbines set in a 14-mile breakwater. The project is expected to be generating power by 2022.


Scientists in China have produced a herd of genetically engineered cows that are better able to ward off bovine TB infection. The long-term goal of the research is to avoid the need to cull livestock by breeding disease resistant cattle. Bovine TB is a risk in many areas, including New Zealand, England and Wales and parts of Africa and Asia. In 2013, over 26,000 cattle were slaughtered in the UK at a cost to taxpayers of US$200-million.


In a recent report, the CRTC stated that 32 per cent of Canadians had used a payphone at least once in the past year, despite the declining number of phones available and the ubiquitous adoption of mobile phones. However, payphone call volumes are falling by 24 per cent a year and phone companies are taking payphone out at an annual rate that will rise to 15 per cent a year by 2016. Next year there will be about 55,000 pay phones across Canada, about one third of the number in place in 2013. 636 pay phones had no usage at all over a 13-month period.


An Alberta online bank is believed to be the first Canadian financial institution to deny online Internet service to Americans even to those living in Canada. The bank said the reason is partly based on the legal requirements of a US law that has forced financial institutions around the world to track accounts held by Americans for US tax authorities. A number of financial institutions in Europe and elsewhere are already balking at doing business with Americans. The regulations have caused extreme stress for hundreds of thousands of Americans and duel US-Canadian citizens, many of whom have never filed US taxes.


Oysters need a balance of fresh and salt water to thrive. River flows regulate salinity and provide food and discourage predators. Since 1990, Georgia, Alabama and Florida have battled over water from two river basins and to complicate matters, the federal Army Corps of Engineers runs dams and reservoirs on the rivers. The Apalachicola River has long supplied almost half the fresh water to Florida’s west coast. Now, with dropping supplies of water, oyster production has suffered. One town that took three million pounds of oyster meat ashore in 2012, 89 per cent of Florida’s total haul and 9 per cent of the national harvest, saw the figure drop to one million pounds a year later and even less in 2014.


Global defence spending increased by 1.7 per cent in 2014, after three years of decreases. More than half of this growth came from three countries: Saudi Arabia, China and Russia. Saudi Arabia’s spending was the most striking at more than 21 per cent. Spending in North America and Europe declined. While America remains the biggest military power, its share of the global expenditure total has dropped from 47 per cent in 2010 to 38 per cent in 2014.


Dounan in China has become the country’s largest flower market with 1-million stems sold each day to destinations in China and beyond. In 1994 it had a mere 133 hectares devoted to flowers, by 2013 it had 67,400 hectares accounting for about a third of China’s blossom exports, helped by international air links. China now accounts for more than a quarter of land worldwide devoted to growing flowers and pot plants though its exports amount to only about four per cent of the world’s total flower trade by value. Over two-thirds of the blooms it sends abroad are sold in Asia. Myanmar is the biggest buyer. Freight costs are a barrier to the more lucrative markets of Europe and the US.


The amount of charitable donations reported by Canadian tax filers in 2013 increased over the previous year while the actual number of donors fell one per cent. Total donations rose 3.5 per cent to C$8.6-billion. In 2013 21.9 per cent of all tax filers claimed charitable donations.


Armed with a currency that buys 12 per cent more Canadian dollars than a few months ago, Chinese travellers and businessmen are clamouring for visas to cross the Pacific. In January, Chinese applications for visas to Canada climbed 53 per cent over the previous January to roughly 15,000 in a month that is typically the slowest. The Canadian embassy has asked Ottawa to send over enough temporary workers to boost its visa processing ranks by nearly 50 per cent.


There are 29 shipping terminals on the west coast of the United States. The annual value of the cargo through these ports is US$2.1-trillion. 9.2-million jobs are supported by these ports and there are 128,800 port-specific jobs with the average annual pay of a longshoreman around $142,000.


Coca-Cola is coming out with premium milk that has more protein and less sugar than regular and it is hoping that consumers will pay twice as much for it. This is one way the world’s biggest beverage maker is diversifying its offerings as Americans continue turning away from soft drinks. Filters are used to separate the various components in milk. Then, more of the flavourable ones are added, while the less desirable ones are kept out. The result is a drink marketed as Fairlife that is lactose free, has 50 per cent more protein, 30 per cent more calcium and 50 per cent less sugar.


Being a doctor in the US is lucrative but not evenly so. Rural medics make more because fewer doctors want to live in rural areas. Pay is lower in fashionable neighbourhoods: a doctor of general medicine in New York typically earns 64 per cent less than his peer in Alabama. The lowest pay is in Massachusetts which has four medical schools and a surplus of doctors.


Global demand for gold is putting some of the most remote and pristine tropical forests at risk. Some 1,680 square kilometres of rain forest in South America was lost to gold mining from 2001 to 2013 and has become a major threat in countries such as Peru and Suriname. Satellite images show that forest clearance for gold mining accelerated after the international financial crisis of 2007 when it became profitable to mine in areas such as the soil beneath tropical forests.


Riverside County, California, is now home to the world’s largest solar power plant. The 550-megawatt project generates enough electricity to power 160,000 average California homes. In 2009, there were no traditional solar farms in the US larger than 100 megawatts, now, 17 such projects have been financed. The state’s three major utilities are on track to meet or exceed a 33 per cent renewable mandate by 2020.


For the first time, all varieties of apples from the US have gone on sale in China. A deal was reached recently to grant access to all US varieties instead of just Red Delicious and Golden Delicious. The Washington Apple Commission which represents growers of the nation’s largest crop and most apple exports said China stopped buying US apples in 2012 because of concerns over a fungus. The deal culminates 20 years of efforts to send more varieties of apples to China.


German researchers have built shoe-sized devices that harvest power from the act of walking. This technology could be used to power wearable electronic sensors without the need for batteries. There are two separate devices: a “shock harvester” that generates power when the heel strikes the ground and a “swing harvester” that produces power when the foot is swinging. Both devices generate power by exploiting the motion between magnets and coils. As the magnetic field of a moving magnet passes a stationary coil, a voltage is induced and an electric current generated.


Results from the 2012 and 2013 Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) indicate that adults aged 18 to 70 accumulated an average of about 12 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more, or about 84 minutes a week. As such, about only one in five adults achieved the recommended 150 minutes. The percentage of adults meeting the guidelines was lower in older age groups. The results also indicate that most school aged children are not getting enough physical activity.


Never before has so much money been made by a single company in such a short period of time. In the last quarter of 2014, Apple made US$18-billion, beating the previous record of $15.8-billion reported by ExxonMobil in 2012. Apple’s profits stemmed largely from sales of its hugely popular iPhone which accounted for over two-thirds of its $74.6-billion revenue. On average, 34,000 iPhones were bought every hour of every day during the quarter, adding up to 74.5-million phones.


According to Statistics Canada, consumption patterns have changed in recent years. Canadians are spending more on mortgages, gardening, health insurance premiums and bank service fees, and a dwindling amount on reading materials and furnishings. Between 2010 an 2013, expenditures on hair grooming have increased by 98 per cent, vehicle repairs and maintenance by 118 per cent and 128 per cent on horticultural services. Declines have been noted in televisions/videos, 27 per cent, landlines, 16 per cent and photographic services, 27 per cent.


Carmakers in the US sold 16.5-million cars and light trucks in 2014, the most since 2006. The industry has been buoyed by falling gas prices and low interest rates. General Motors sold the most cars, ahead of Ford and Toyota. Fiat Chrysler saw its sales jump by 16 per cent and Americans are also falling in love again with SUVs which lost their appeal to motorists when gas prices were high.


A virulent pathogen that starves olive trees poses a serious threat to EU olive production. It is already affecting a vast area in Southern Italy and as it has numerous hosts and vectors, the bacterium is expected to spread further. Major consequences such as reduced yields and costly control measures will be the outcome if it spreads to other olive producing areas as well as increased prices. In Brazil, where the bacterium is a problem on citrus trees, it went from just a handful of infected trees to two million infected trees in just five years.


In 2013, the number of times the average American gym member actually visited the gym was twice a week. Worldwide, the number of gyms has skyrocketed from 12,000 in 1993 to 32,150 today. The health club industry generates US$72-billion in revenue globally, $22-bilion of that in the US where the average monthly dues are $50. Sales of fitness trackers like Fitbit are expected to increase in the next three years from 19-million in 2014 to 57-million in 2018.


Botanists in the UK were stunned by the results of their annual hunt for plants in flower on New Year’s Day. According to the textbooks, there should be between 20 and 30 species in flower. This year there were 368 in bloom. This raises questions about the effects of climate change during the UK’s warmest year on record. The 368 species in flower is an unprecedented 15 per cent of the flowering plants in Britain and Ireland. The high count was partly due to the growth in the number of volunteers to do the count, but mostly because of climate change.


China’s love of fireworks is at least a millennium old but a Jan 1st law in Nanjing has banned all fireworks at all times which has resulted in the cleanest air in decades. More than 130 cities now ban fireworks entirely.

Thank you for reading the A & A Economic News Digest. For more information visit our website or contact A & A Contract Customs Brokers Ltd. at

Past issues of the A&A Economic News Digest can be found at


March 2015 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


March 2015 Edition


After losing a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling, China has scrapped its quota system restricting exports of rare earth minerals. Beijing imposed the restriction in 2009 while it tried to develop its own industry for the 17 minerals which are crucial to making many hi-tech products, including mobile phones. A WTO panel ruled that China had failed to show the export quotas were justified. China dominates rare earth production. The US, the European Union and Japan complained that China was limiting exports in a bid to drive up prices.


Once hewn out of land during the Industrial Revolution, canals were once Britain’s main arteries of trade until the rise of railways and roads made them redundant. As these grimy factory areas have been improved, so have the 4,800km of canals that remain. In places like Birmingham and Manchester canal paths have been designated as bike routes. Between 2005 and 2014, the number of boats on the canals in England and Wales increased by a quarter to 32,000. In some areas, freight is making a comeback. The number of containers shipped on the Manchester ship canal increased from 3,000 in 2009 to 23,000 in 2013. Also, London’s soaring house prices have made living on the water more attractive.


Onions are eaten and grown in more countries than any other vegetables. The UN estimates that they are grown in at least 175 countries, well over twice as many as grow wheat, the largest crop by tonnage. Unlike wheat, the onion is a staple of every major cuisine and is the only truly global ingredient. There is little global trade in onions as about 90 per cent are consumed in their country of origin. China and India dominate production and consumption, between them accounting for about 45 per cent of the world’s annual production of more than 70-million tonnes. The onion belongs to the lily family.


The airport in Dubai only started appearing among the world’s 30 busiest airports in 2007, when 34.3-million passengers passed through. It is now the world’s busiest airport for international travelers. Last year, 69-million international passengers passed through Dubai airport compared to 67.8-million for London’s Heathrow airport. In 2008, the airport opened the Emirates Terminal 3, the world’s largest passenger terminal. The number of passengers arriving in the city since 2008 has increased twofold and the rapid increase shows little sign of slowing down. The airport is now the largest duty free retailer in the world with revenues reported of over US$1-billion.


Last year when the Sony Corp. was hacked, the beleaguered entertainment company dug up old Blackberrys to use after Sony’s computers and landlines went down and company e-mail was unusable after the cyber attack. The emergence of the old devices as a haven for Sony executives has served as a free advertisement of sorts for Blackberry. Sony stated that Blackberry devices and servers are a lot more secure than other solutions out there that are commercially available.


European Union rules will oblige new networked devices such as modems and internet-connected televisions to switch themselves off when not in use. Many gadgets are connected to the internet 24/7, using 25-100 watts while their owners sleep. New devices will fall asleep, using a trickle of power when not in use which should save an average household about US$70 a year. This is part of the EU’s Ecodesign initiative which aims to cut costs, improve competitiveness and reduce carbon emissions.


Japan’s birth rate slumped to a record low in 2014, dropping to 1,001,000 newborns in 2014, 9,000 fewer than in 2013.The fall is the fourth in consecutive years and comes as the estimated number of deaths continues to rise, at just under 1.3-million last year. Experts warn that the impact of the decline will harm Japan in various ways. By 2050 the population could be as low as 97-million, 30-million lower than now. A lowering of the number of people aged between 15 to 64 is predicted to lower potential growth and shrink Japan’s GDP.


A new facility has opened in the UK to safeguard the future of chocolate. It is a bigger and better clearing house for all the world’s new cocoa varieties, which must be quarantined before they can be grown. Demand for chocolate is increasing faster than the global supply of cocoa, of which an estimated 30 per cent is lost each year to pests and disease. The new facility will consolidate the collection of 400 varieties into a single improved greenhouse and should make the quarantine process faster, cheaper and greener.


Canada’s highest paid chief executive officers saw their incomes soar to pre-recession levels in 2013 according to a new survey. The top 100 CEO’s earned on average C$9.2-million in salary, bonuses and stock options, the second-highest level since 2007, the year before the global financial crisis hit. In comparison, the average Canadian earned $47,358. All five CEOs of Canada’s biggest banks were in the top 30.


The new year meant a new currency for Lithuania; it is joining the euro, following its Baltic neighbours Estonia and Latvia. Some Lithuanians fear price rises but opinion polls point to growing optimism towards the euro. Officials believe that the euro will not only boost investment but will also bring deeper integration with the West. With Lithuania’s entry the eurozone now has 19 members.


A new report warns that the health of Africa’s soil will lock the continent into a cycle of food insecurity for generations to come. Soil degradation is already hampering economic development costing the continent’s farmers billions of dollars in lost income. It is estimated that 65 per cent of arable land, 30 per cent of grazing land and 20 per cent of forests are already damaged. Degraded land leads to lower crop yields and increased greenhouse gas emissions. The average yield in sub-Saharan Africa is about one tonne per hectare. In India it is about two-and-a-half tonnes and in China, more than three tonnes per hectare.


A Vancouver entrepreneur is taking convenience to a new level with his plan to install grocery vending machines in Metro Vancouver condos. The machines will be stocked with staples such as milk, eggs, bacon and coffee. Technology in the machines will tell when items are set to expire. If successful, the concept will be introduced across the country.


Researchers claim that old laptop batteries still have enough life in them to power homes in slums. An IBM study analysed a sample of discarded batteries and found 70 per cent had enough power in them to keep an LED light on more than four hours a day for a year. The researchers say that using discarded batteries is cheaper than existing power options and also helps deal with the mounting e-waste problem. It is hoped that this concept could help the approximately 400-million people in India who are off grid. IBM research estimated that 142,000 computers are thrown away daily in the US.


Under an agreement reached at the European Parliament, an emergency call system dubbed eCall will be installed in all new cars from March 2018. The system will send an automated call to emergency services in the event of an accident and could half response times, especially in rural areas. The system will give emergency services only basic information such as: type of vehicle, fuel used, time of accident and location.


A New Zealand research team has warned of the threat posed by pharmaceutical products as well as soaps and cosmetics dumped in Antarctic waters by Antarctic research bases. It is likely that environmental conditions, including extreme cold, have contributed to the persistence of some compounds in seawater. Contaminants have been found in Antarctic waters in concentrations comparable to more urban areas elsewhere in the world.


From hearty lasagne to creamy spaghetti carbonara, Britain’s love affair with pasta spans decades. But sales of the traditional Italian staple have recently plummeted with speculation that the trend away from carbohydrates and even towards gluten-free food might be to blame. Purchases of pasta are down over four per cent in the past year as high –protein diets see a resurgence. Sales of rice have shown a strong increase and are up by 3.6 per cent and are worth nearly US800-million annually.


Canada sits top of a list of countries ranked for their food safety systems, but has work to do in three key areas, according to the Conference Board of Canada. The country was tied with Ireland for first place in the study of 17 developed countries. However, the study noted some weaknesses in the Canadian system, including the ability to trace food through the processing chain, tests on the levels of pesticides and other chemicals and establishing acceptable levels of radiation in what we eat.


From introducing beer cafes to offering cooking classes, North American grocers are increasingly challenging the notion that customers should only visit their stores to purchase weekly staples. Some grocers are even organizing social activities such as wine tastings. Others have introduced “groceraunts”-in-store eateries, cafes and gourmet delis-in direct competition with restaurants. As more grocers pursue similar projects to turn their stores into destination spots, the lines between convenience stores, drug stores, restaurants and grocery stores are likely to continue to blur.


Average tax revenue rose to 34.1 per cent of GDP last year in the OECD, a club mostly of rich countries, the highest tax take since 2007. As a percentage of GDP, the highest tax rate was in Denmark at 48 per cent, followed by France at 44 per cent, Italy, 42 per cent and Germany, 37 per cent. Mexico has the lowest tax take in the OECD at 20 per cent with revenues equivalent to less than a fifth of its GDP.


With US$1-trillion in assets, Islamic banking is being hailed by British authorities and supported by Canada’s government, major banks and credit unions, leading business schools and influential Muslims across Canada. Islamic banking bans interest payments, pure monetary speculation and investing in such things as alcohol, gambling, media and pork. It is being touted as the next big thing in financing for Canada, which is home to just over a million Muslims. Some of the world’s largest Islamic banks, most of which are in the Middle East, Indonesia and Pakistan, are looking at rebranding to appear less religious and more open to Western investors.


The European Court of Human Rights says that France violated the rights of Somali pirates who attacked French ships and has ordered France to pay compensation to them over judicial delays. The pirates will get thousands of euros because they were not immediately brought before a French judge.

Thank you for reading the A & A Economic News Digest. For more information visit our website or contact A & A Contract Customs Brokers Ltd. at

Past issues of the A&A Economic News Digest can be found at

February 2015 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


February 2015 Edition


Prices in 2015 are expected to outpace inflation for the second straight year resulting in a possible increase in food prices of 2.4 per cent. Meat, seafood and vegetables are expected to lead the increase with gains of 3 to 5 per cent. Dairy and eggs and grains will rise by one per cent. Restaurant foods will rise by as much as 3 per cent. Weather and the drought in California will be important factors. Canada, mainly Ontario and BC, buy about C$5-billion a year from California, including tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber and fruit.


Over 78 per cent of Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected an initiative that would have forced the country’s central bank to hold one-fifth of its assets in gold, a move that would have eroded its ability to conduct monetary policy. For the past three years, the bank has capped the Swiss franc at 1.2 per euro by purchasing huge amounts of the common currency, a policy designed to protect Swiss exports. The initiative, if passed, would have forced the central bank to buy gold every time it intervened in the currency market.


Sony has developed a watch made from electronic paper as part of an initiative to experiment with the use of the material for fashion products. The watch has a minimalist, monochrome design but falls short of the features offered by smartwatches. However, the battery of the e-paper watch could last longer with an estimated 60 days of use. The watch face and straps have an e-paper display, comparable to the technology used in e-book readers such as Amazon’s Kindle. The watch can alternate between several different styles of watch face and strap design.


Proposed plans to cap the number of foreign films shown in Russian cinemas by 50 per cent have been shelved by the country’s parliament. The bill was submitted earlier last year when relations between Russia and the West began to sour. Out of the top 20 grossing films at the nation’s box office last year, only two films were made in Russia, Foreign films are currently capped in China where the government introduced a strict quota of just 34 foreign films to be screened each year. A previous bill in 2013 which aimed to cap foreign films in Russia at 20 per cent was also unsuccessful.


Patents are a key measure of a country’s ability to turn research into viable products, and Canada is slipping. Per capita patent filing in Canada have been on a steady decline since 2000 according to a study of more than one million applications to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. The overall number of patent applications peaked at more than 41,000 in 2007, but had fallen to 39,000 in 2012. Ontario and Alberta are the top per capita patent performers and among industry sectors, technology, construction and utilities are the strong patent performers.


In South Korea, selling a “selfie-stick”, which is considered a telecommunications device that lets people photograph themselves, could mean a fine of up to US$35,000 if the gadget is unregistered. The stick may interfere with other devices using the same radio frequencies.


Police forces across Europe have seized 292 web domains that were being used to sell counterfeit goods. The sites were selling luxury goods as well as sportswear, electronics, pharmaceuticals and pirated goods like movies and music. Visitors trying to reach the sites will now be shown a page educating them on copyright crime. Europol say the total number of domains seized in this way is now 1,829 since the initiative was launched in November 2012.


According to a new study, many Canadian companies are unprepared to deal with cyber-security attacks against new and expanding computer technology such as cloud-based computing. Only 40 per cent of about 500 firms surveyed had security strategies that take into account new technology. The smallest companies were the least prepared with less than ten per cent of businesses reporting any preparation for threats and just 35 per cent of firms with ten to 99 employees having a strategy in place.


Australia has signed a free-trade deal with China, its biggest trading partner. The agreement cuts tariffs for most Australian agricultural imports, including wine but excluding rice and sugar, into China and eases the rules for Chinese investment in Australia. The deal is part of the Australian government’s effort to make the economy less reliant on commodities. This deal, when it goes into effect by the end of the year, will immediately give Australia a competitive edge over Canada.


The Federal Trade Commission has approved two orders setting charges that two companies misled consumers regarding the ability of their caffeine-infused shapewear undergarments to reshape the wearer’s body and reduce cellulite. The companies are banned from claiming that any garment that contains any drug or cosmetic causes substantial weight or fat loss unless they can be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence. The companies are also required to pay over US$1.5-million in refunds to consumers.


Anti-corruption investigators in China have confirmed the reported seizure of the equivalent of US$33-million in cash in an officials home, the largest such haul to date. Four out of 16 counting machines broke while counting the notes. China sentenced more than 13,000 officials found guilty of corruption in the first nine months of 2014.


British planning experts are heading to China to advise on building cities that do not wreck the environment. They will address mayors on the need to avoid Los Angeles-style sprawl by building dense cities with low carbon buildings and good public transport. Their visit follows a report warning that the road-based US model could make climate change impossible to contain. In China, many institutions are taking the climate more seriously than before. Two billion extra people are expected in Chinese cities in the coming decades.


A comedy club in Barcelona is experimenting with charging users per laugh, using facial-recognition technology to track how much they enjoyed the show. Each laugh is charged at 0.30 euros with a cap of 24 euros. Takings are up so far.


There are estimated to be 47-million Wi-Fi hotspots around the world. By 2018 that number is expected to soar to 340-million. Mobile-network operators are increasingly reliant on these hotspots as a cheap way to reduce pressure on their cellular-data networks. Many people when close to a public hot spot switch off their mobile phone’s 3G/4G data network and join the internet courtesy of free Wi-Fi and download lots of data thus avoiding exceeding their monthly charges. Research shows that 42 per cent of mobile-phone traffic and 90 per cent of tablet traffic travels by Wi-Fi instead of the carriers’ own cellular networks.


It is estimated that sales at Canadian farmers’ markets are over C$1-billion each year with a total economic impact of $3-billion. 98 per cent of Canadian farms are family owned and operated and their products are exported to over 190 countries. The food and beverage manufacturing industry contributes over $26-billion to Canada’s GDP. Canada’s annual chicken production is over 1-billion kilos, about 638-million birds.


The car-customization business in America is estimated to be worth around US$33-billion and is increasing by 4 per cent each year. Carmakers are hoping to capitalize by offering a range of variants on their basic models that will boost their brands and their profits.


More than 1.2-million vinyl records were sold in the UK last year. the first time that figure has been achieved since 1996. The figure marks a largely unexpected resurgence in an industry now considered to be dominated by digital. The difference between vinyl and other formats is that it’s viewed as an art form with the audio quality, the sleeve notes and the cover art. Only five years ago the vinyl business was worth around US$6-million annually, now it is worth about $40-million.


Last fall, Russia turned back its clocks for the last time and permanently adopted winter hours. It also increased its time zones from 9 to 11, from the Pacific to the borders of the European Union. For the last three years, Russia experimented with keeping permanent summer time, but it proved to be highly unpopular with many Russians.


A recent report on railway customers states that freight services on North American railways have deteriorated significantly in the past year. More than three-quarters of shippers surveyed labeled service as fair or poor, compared with 32 per cent who gave the railways such a grade a year earlier. Analysts have attributed the widespread dissatisfaction to the impact of congestion and severe weather on deliveries the previous winter. Canadian National Railways received the most positive ratings of the six large railways in Canada and the US.


A shortage of chocolate may soon be upon us according to experts. The planet is running out of the confection. In 2013, the world consumed about 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than it produced. The world’s biggest manufacturers of chocolate goods are warning that by 2020, the consumption-over-production number could increase to 1-million metric tons. Reasons for the shortage include drought and disease. Farmers are now experimenting with new strains of cacao.


Injecting trees in the UK with a concentrated form of garlic might help save them from deadly diseases. Widespread use of the injection process is impractical and expensive but it could potentially help save trees of historic or sentimental value. The experimental injection device is made up of a pressurized chamber and eight “octopus” tubes which inject the solution into the sap system. Garlic is one of nature’s most powerful antibacterial and antifungal agents.
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January 2015 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


January 2015 Edition


Canada is rated second among countries with the lowest business bribery risk in a new survey of 197 nations. Out of a maximum of 100, the higher the score the higher the risk, Canada got 22. Ireland is first with 20 while the US is in 10th place with 27. Other countries in the top ten are New Zealand, Hong Kong and Sweden all with 23, Finland, 24, Singapore and Japan 26 and Germany with 27. Nigeria is the worst rated country with 97. India was far down the list in 185th spot with a score of 80 with Brazil in 149th position with 69. China’s score was 66 and the Russian Federation 65.


Florida has been America’s deadliest state for bicycle riders for many years. In 2012, some 120 cyclists were killed in traffic accidents, three times the national average. The poor design of roads and cities is largely to blame. An official said that a fairer comparison would be to compare annual deaths relative to miles traveled which is done with automobiles but not bicycles. Deaths in Florida are far more than in California which has double the population.


Acknowledging security gaps that could leave airliners vulnerable to attack, the Canadian government is moving ahead with a new system that would allow shippers to screen cargo before it gets to the airport. Transport Canada says the system would bring air cargo screening up to the standards of key trading partners and result in a net benefit to Canadians of C$202-million over 10 years. In Canada, about half of all cargo is carried on passenger flights totaling more than 400-milion kilograms annually.


Canada has roughly 173-billion barrels of oil reserves, of which 167-billion barrels are in the controversial oil sands. Exports of oil bring more than $C220-million a day in revenue. Oil and gas are a key part of Canada’s economy creating 550,000 direct and indirect jobs in 2013 and paying about $18-billion annually to all levels of government.


The US government has agreed to pay US$554-million to the Native American Navajo tribe to settle a legal dispute. This is the largest payment ever made by the government to a single tribe. The Navajos are the largest Native American tribe with more than 300,000 members. About 14-million acres of Navajo land is leased out for purposes including farming, oil and gas production and mining. In 2012, the US reached a similar settlement with 41 tribes, agreeing to pay out about $1-billion.


In 1970, fewer than a third of 16- to 18-year-olds in China were deemed to be short-sighted, now, nearly four-fifths are. The fastest increase is among primary school children, over 40 per cent of whom are shortsighted, double the rate in 2000. That compares with less than 10 per cent of this age group in the US or Germany. The incidence of myopia is high across East Asia, afflicting 80-90-per cent of urban 18-year-olds in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. The problem is social rather than genetic. The biggest factor in shortsightedness is a lack of time spent outdoors.


As railways try to keep pace with soaring freight volumes, they are facing a shortage of locomotives. One of the two US manufacturers is out of the market for two years until it can meet tougher emission standards in the US. The shortage is hampering efforts of railways to clear congested tracks and move the growing amounts of grain, oil and other goods. It is also spurring rail companies to repair and overhaul older equipment. GE has seen locomotive demand rise by 134 per cent in 2013 and has received orders for 1,000 of the lower-emission engines which cost as much as US$3-million each.


In general, video and audio streaming continues to eat up the greatest traffic on virtually every network. In North America, during the prime-time hours of 6pm to 10pm, Netflix and YouTube account for half of all internet traffic. By contrast, Amazon Instant Video garnered just 1.61 per cent of the traffic.


According the UN, about 2,000 hectares of fertile land are lost each day to damage caused by salt. The total area now affected is equivalent to the size of France, 62-million hectares, which has increased from 45-million 20 years ago. Salt degradation occurs in areas of dry irrigated land with little rainfall and where there is no natural drainage. The report suggests that tree planting, deep ploughing and the production of salt-tolerant crops and digging drains or ditches around the affected areas would help. The measures would be expensive, around US$23-billion, but the cost of inaction will be worse. In the Colorado River Basin, damage from salt could cost up to $750-million annually.


A majority of US packaged foods labeled as “natural” and tested by Consumer Reports actually contained a substantial level of genetically modified ingredients. Consumers Reports says that consumers are being misled by the “natural” label. They conducted a survey of 80 different processed foods containing corn or soy, the two most widely grown genetically engineered crops in the United States, to determine whether labeling claims for GMO presence were accurate.


In its first law enforcement action against an online dating service, the US Federal Trade Commission has reached a settlement that prohibits an England-based dating service from using fake, computer-generated profiles to trick users into upgrading to paid memberships and charging these members a recurring monthly fee without their consent. The settlement also requires the defendant to pay US$616,165 in redress.


According to Statistics Canada, in 2013 13 per cent of Canadians (3.7-million) aged 15 and over, reported providing end-of-life or palliative care to a family member or friend at some point in their lives. These caregivers helped the terminally ill with such tasks as personal or medical care, preparing meals, managing finances or providing transportation to and from medical appointments. Providing end-of-life care was most often a reality for those in their 50s and 60s. About one in five of these Canadians reported that they had provided palliative care to a parent, spouse, grandparent, other family member or friend.


The Scots are famous for their whisky but will be licking their wounds after a Japanese single malt was recently named the best in the world. Yamazaki Single Malt was given the title by the 2015 World Whisky Bible. This year marks the first time in the book’s 12-year history that a Japanese whisky has landed the title. To add insult to injury, not a single Scotch managed to make the final five shortlist.


Serial numbers no longer need to be visible on the surface of devices such as smart phones or wearable technology such as smart watches in Canada, thanks to new electronic labeling technology. Previously, Canadian regulations required information such as serial or model identification numbers, registration numbers for terminal equipment devices and certification numbers for radio equipment to be printed directly on the device or attached with a sticker. This meant that some devices marketed in other parts of the world could not enter Canada. Now, high-tech devices with a non-removable screen can carry the information on an e-label.


Engineers in the US have produced child-safe batteries with a special coating that stops them causing harm if they are swallowed. Small, button-shaped batteries can be easy to swallow and cause thousands of injuries each year, some fatal. The new coating only conducts electricity when squeezed, such as when a battery is inside its spring-loaded compartment.


Fleets of self-driving trucks could be tested on UK roads this year. The technology allows a convoy of trucks to travel just a few feet from each other, with only the driver at the front in control. The initiative will help cut fuel consumption. The technology still requires a driver to be in each vehicle in the event of an emergency, but for the most part drivers will be able to relax. Each truck will communicate via wi-fi, infrared cameras and laser sensors.


International art auction house Sotheby’s and eBay will create a web platform to allow viewers to bid on and buy art. Sotheby’s says the number of lots purchased on line increased 36 per cent in 2013 and online art sales are expected to reach US$13-billion by 2020. The venture will start with live auctions streamed from Sotheby’s New York headquarters which will allow real-time bidding from anywhere in the world. Last year, Amazon announced it would sell works of art on its website.


The forest industry’s vision of pushing wood-structure buildings higher in Canada is to get a major boost. The federal body that establishes the standards for building codes is preparing to raise the cap on wood-structure heights from four storeys to six storeys. The decision will help vitalize a moribund forestry industry seeking to reach into innovative products and conquer new export markets. The sector’s goal is to build 10-storey structures by 2020 and says 30 floors are not out of the question one day.


Thousands of mosquitoes have been released in Brazil with a dengue blocking bacteria. The hope is they will multiply, breed and become the majority of mosquitoes, thus reducing cases of the disease. The initiative is part of a programme also taking place in Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia. Dengue re-emerged in Brazil in 1981 after an absence of more than 20 years. Over the next 30 years seven million cases were reported and 800 deaths were reported in the 2009 to 2014 period.


Venezuela’s western border is a smuggler’s paradise. Everything from rice to cement finds its way over the frontier into Colombia. The most lucrative trade is gasoline. It is estimated that the equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil a day is smuggled out of the country. Gasoline is so cheap in Venezuela because of state subsidies and price controls, that to fill a 50-litre car tank costs well under US$1.00. Over the border the gasoline is $1.20 a litre. In an attempt to plug the leaks, the Venezuelan government has begun nightly closures of its 2,200 kilometre border with Colombia.


A new study shows that immigrants to the UK from 10 countries that joined the EU in 2004 contributed more to the UK than they took out in benefits. They added US$8-billion more in taxes in the years to 2011 than they took out in public services. Immigrants who arrived since 2000 were 43 per cent less likely to receive state benefits or tax credits, and seven per cent less likely to live in subsidized housing.


Momentum continues to grow for the construction of planes without windows. A new design has drawn up plans for the creation of a plane that would feature flexible screens wrapped into the interior of the cabin. The screens would be covered in Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) technology which could broadcast film or television footage, be used for video conferencing and presentations or display images of the views surrounding the plane transmitted via cameras on the aircraft’s exterior. Reducing windows on a plane would significantly reduce their weight and improve aerodynamics, resulting in quicker flights, lower fuel costs and cheaper tickets.


Recently, President Obama’s credit card was declined at a New York restaurant. Fraud was expected as the card is rarely used. Fortunately, First Lady Michelle Obama had a card which was used to pay for the meal.

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December 2014 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


December 2014 Edition


From the safari industry to the agricultural and mining sectors, much of Africa’s economy is taking a hammering from the Ebola crisis, and the damage is continuing to rise. The heaviest toll is being suffered in the three main Ebola-afflicted countries in West Africa, but the spill over effect is crossing borders and hitting other regions. And as Ebola cases reach the United States and Europe, foreign anxieties are hurting investments in Africa and wreaking havoc in vulnerable sectors such as tourism and trade. While most of Africa’s economy is not directly affected by the Ebola epidemic, the impact on some sectors and countries is serious enough to hurt the continent’s overall economy, dampening prospects in a region that had been among the world’s fastest-growing.


America’s electricity grid is a mess. For one thing, it is two large and three small grids, rolled into one. Two types of organizations, independent system operators and regional transmission bodies control their own parts which may cover several states, each having its own utility laws. Nobody knows the true state of the national grid until something goes badly wrong as it did in October 2012 when Hurricane Sandy left some 8-million people powerless, some for weeks. The number of big outages, defined as those affecting more than 50,000 people, has more than doubled in the past ten years.


 Millions in suspicious transactions flowed through four of Vancouver’s casinos in a recent three month period, mostly in C$20-bills, a currency frequently used in street level drug transactions. In other cases patrons showed up at the doors with plastic or brown paper bags filled with cash in wads held together by rubber bands. In some cases, patrons bought in and cashed out without even playing. Casinos are required to identify and report any suspicious activity to the provincial government as well as all cash transactions of $10,000 or more. Police were rarely contacted.


With a typical American wedding costing in the region of US$25,000, wedding insurance is now catching on, with many venues requiring couples to take out liability insurance. It was introduced in Britain in 1988 but there were few takers until it caught on in the States. Now, a fifth of couples buy it. Common causes of payouts include the venue or caterers going broke after having taken a big deposit. Extreme weather, a spouse being deployed by the armed forces and an absent priest can all trigger payouts.


For the third time, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled against the US’s meat labelling laws requiring grocery stores to list the origin of meat products, which discriminates against both Canada and Mexico. Canada has warned that unless the US ends the blatantly protectionist regulations, it will strike back with punitive duties on 38 iconic US products ranging from California wine to ketchup and cornflakes. It is estimated that the US regulations cost the North American cattle and hog industry more than US$1-billion a year.


In the 1990’s Europe produced more than 15 per cent of the world’s microchips. Firms headquartered in Europe now account for only 8-9 per cent of global semiconductor revenues which was worth US$315-billion in 2013. Microprocessors and memory chips are mass-produced mainly in Asia and America these days, as the cost of building a “fab” as chip-fabrication factories are called, is too high for all but the largest scale endeavours. However, overall, Europe does provide 20 per cent of the world’s electronics industry’s equipment and materials, 12 per cent of subsystems such as boards and modules and 16 per cent of stand-alone and embedded systems.


Sales of Mattel’s iconic Barbie fashion doll fell a staggering 21 per cent in the third quarter of this year contributing to a 22 per cent drop in profits and an eight per cent decline in sales for the toy maker. Barbie sales have fallen double-digits in each of the past four quarters. The 55-year-old doll has fallen out of favour with young girls who have gravitated to other dolls manufactured by Mattel such as Monster High and more recently, dolls based on the hit Disney movie Frozen.


Around the world, student debt is a financial burden for millions, and in the US, a growing number of senior citizens are still repaying the cost of their education into retirement age. In 2005, older adults owed US$2.8-billion in federal student debt. By 2013, that figure had ballooned to $18.2-billion. According to a General Accounting Office study, the number of individuals whose Social Security benefits were offset to pay student loan debt increased from about 31,000 to 155,000 between 2002 and 2013. In total, outstanding student loan debt in the US amounts to $1-trillion.


Cross-border shopping by Canadians in the US rose between 2006 and 2012, but even with these increases, purchases from the US were between 1 per cent and 2 per cent of total Canadian retail sales. Cross-border shopping by Canadians was an estimated C$4.7-billion in 2006. Since then, annual increases, with the exception of a decline in 2009 have taken the total to $8-billion in 2012, 73 per cent higher than in 2006. The annual amount brought back grew from $370-million in 2006 to $844-million in 2012 while the total from overnight visits doubled from $1.8-billion to $3.6-billion.


Chinese box office revenues surged 32 per cent in the first nine months of this year. Takings have reached C$3.89-billion, nearly equalling the $3.92-billion total for all of 2013. The best performing movie of 2014 so far has been the Transformers which has taken in $356-million. China is the second biggest film market in the world and last year became the first international market to gross more than US$3-billion. China’s boom comes at a time when the US box office has slumped over the summer season to its lowest point in eight years.


Scientists in the UK are warning that an army of species from Turkey and Ukraine is poised to invade Britain’s waterways. One organism, the quagga mussel, was discovered in a river near London just weeks ago. At least 10 others are established in the Netherlands and there is a critical list of them entering the UK. Researchers are concerned that the invaders, including the killer shrimp, will spread rapidly and devastate native species. Researchers say that as well as ballast water from ships, the species often travel in ornamental plants. Damage from the quagga mussel could cost the UK economy in excess of US$2.5-billion annually.


Genomic analysis, that is the examination of the DNA, could allow B.C. dairies to predict which calves will become elite milkers, with the promise of huge savings for farmers who will not have to raise inferior cows that will ultimately be made into hamburgers and bologna. Now, dairy farmers have to raise young cows for a little over two years at a cost of about C$2,500 each before they can determine which animals can produce milk with superior volume, fat content and protein. The result of a genomic test can identify poor producers as young as two months of age.


An app which allows healthcare professionals to share photos is being rolled out across Europe. It is designed to enable doctors to share pictures of their patients, both with each other and with medical students. So far, more than 150,000 doctors have uploaded case photos with the patient’s identity obscured. Patients’ faces are automatically obscured by the app but users must manually block identifying marks like tattoos. Each photo is reviewed by moderators before being added to a database.


A new study has found that Canada is still paying far more than other industrialized countries for generic drugs despite recent efforts by the provinces and territories to cut costs by bulk-buying six particularly costly medications including those for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The study shows that while Canadians are saving some money under the bulk-purchasing schemes, they are still paying much more than people in the UK, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden and the US. The six medications account for about 20 per cent of publicly funded spending on drugs.


New York recently signed Bill 6695 designating yogurt as the official state snack. As the United States’ top yogurt producer, New York State pumped out 336-million kilograms of it in 2013 trouncing the 268-million produced by runner-up California. Dairy manufacturers in New York accounted for about 9,500 jobs with total wages of US$513-million in 2013.


Frustrated by costly delays at the Canada-US border, the business community is urging the governments to seek solutions from private-sector whiz kids. They are being pressed to adopt a model popularized by high-tech start-ups during the original boom in the 1990s: gather a bunch of software engineers in one room, give them a problem to solve and promise them a prize. They call it a “hackathon.” Business groups are requesting a hackathon for the border, unsatisfied by the pace of progress following years of government efforts to reduce wait times.


In the 12-months to June of this year, more money was spent renovating homes in Canada than building new ones. Renovation spending was C$48.4-billion as against $46.3-billion for new builds. Also, prices for higher-priced homes are rising faster than prices of lower-priced homes in cities such as Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa and Edmonton, making it harder for homeowners to trade up to a bigger or better home. Over the past five years, spending on home renovations as a share of total residential investment averaged close to 46 per cent, by far the largest share on record.


Staff at the JTI Gallaher cigarette company in County Antrim, Ireland, has been told the plant is to close permanently by 2017. The firm has manufactured tobacco in Northern Ireland for 15 years. It is the last remaining tobacco factory in the UK.


The Canada-South Korea free trade agreement is now in effect and should help Canadian companies boost sales to the East Asian country’s 50-million citizens, many of whom have plenty of disposable income. The agreement will eventually put Canada on an equal footing with the US and the European Union which already have trade pacts with the country. South Korea is Canada’s seventh-largest trading partner with two-way commerce of about C$10.8-billion in 2013.


Buffalo Niagara International Airport, which garnered almost half its passenger traffic from Canada last year, is seeking to attract even more Canadian. The taxes and fees airlines add to Canadian tickets, congestion around Toronto Pearson Airport, and the additional time it takes to get through security and customs helped push Canadian traffic to about 46 per cent of the 5.5-million passengers using the Buffalo airport last year. That compares with 26 per cent in 2006. A family of four flying to Orlando can save as much as C$500 travelling through Buffalo.


Pope Francis recently allowed the Sistine Chapel to be rented out for Porsche to entertain 40-high-paying tourists. It is the first time the Chapel has been rented out for a corporate function.


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November 2014 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting



November 2014 Edition


More than 20-million Canadians buy organic products weekly and there are 900,000 hectares of farmland across Canada. The organic market is worth C$3.5-billion annually and Canadian organic exports are valued at $458-million. Nationwide, there are over 5,000 certified organic farms, processors and handlers.


In the battle to save Asian forests, disposable chopsticks have long been a target for environmentalists. Last year, China exported over 10,000 tonnes of them and manufactures 80-billion pairs each year. For that, 20-million trees, mainly bamboo, birch and poplar, are chopped down. When the government imposed a 5% tax on throwaways, few people paid attention when the factory price of a pair is about one-third of a US cent. Some campaigners are now turning to the health dangers in using throwaway chopsticks which in small-town workshops are typically bleached in hydrogen peroxide, polished with paraffin and treated with sulphur dioxide.


Digital is now the favourite media category of Canadian advertisers. A new report says Canadian Internet publishers earned more revenue in 2013, making it the first time digital media outperformed television, daily print newspapers and radio broadcasters. Digital ad revenue grew 14 per cent last year rising to C$3.5-billion from $3.1-billion. Though TV advertising was down 2.3 per cent from $3.47-billion, it still took second-highest share of revenue. Daily print newspapers earned the third highest share of revenue, despite a 17 per cent drop from $2.2-billion to $1.68-billion. Magazines fell 2.7 per cent from $573-million to $558-million.


Vancouver’s Mink Chocolate company learned recently that its Mermaid’s Choice bar had been named best chocolate bar at an international competition and awarded a gold medal. Altogether, the company won six medals at the 2014 San Francisco International Chocolate Salon exhibition--three gold, two silver and a bronze. Mermaid’s Choice, which retails at C$6.25, is a ganache-filled bar, about 70 per cent dark chocolate with a soft truffle-like centre.


China issued its strongest pushback yet against global auto makers as it levied fines against Audi and Chrysler totalling US$45.8-million. This signals a growing frustration with foreign dominance in the world’s largest car market. More than three-quarters of the sedans driven off Chinese lots are Chevrolets, Volkswagens, Nissans or other foreign brands. More than two-thirds of China’s luxury-car sales go to just three brands: Audi, BMW and Daimler Mercedes Benz. Most local drivers do not consider Chinese brands as safe or stylish as foreign models.


Abandoning citizenship is often a last resort for Americans living outside the USA to escape a lifetime of onerous tax filings. It is about to become a costlier exit strategy. Citing dramatically increased numbers of Americans abandoning their citizenship, the US State Department is raising its renunciation fees to US$2,350 a person, up from the current $450. Throughout the first half of this year, 1,577 Americans worldwide renounced their citizenship or gave up their green cards. In 2013, a record 3,000 Americans renounced, up from just a few hundred a year in the mid 1990s.


The number of foreign students at US universities reached a new high of 819,644 last year. Many came from China on F-1 visas which are reserved for students. Chinese students in the US now number 200,000, up from 16,000 in 2003. Students from India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia also flock to America’s top universities. Foreign students contribute over US$30-billion to the US economy annually.


A Dutch farm is being run by robots. They feed 180 cows, monitor their health, clean their stables and milk them whenever the cows choose. In 2008, the owner invested US$730,000 in the machines that enabled him to double the number of cattle, increase the milk yield per cow by 15% and reduce wasted feed. An app warns the farmer if a cow needs human attention. Land and labour are expensive in Northern Europe. To compete, Dutch scientists, businesses and government have worked closely to boost productivity and develop high-value crops. Dutch cows now produce twice as much milk as they did in 1960. The value of the country’s agricultural exports are now second only to the US.


When the first Metro Toronto taxi licence was issued in 1953 it had no value. Today, a permit to operate a cab in the city is valued at more than C$300,000. Between 2003 an 2013 the value of a Toronto cab licence has increased 235%. The figure for Vancouver is 220 %. In the same period the value of West Texas crude has increased 191%, Art, 183%, Fine Wine, 182% and Chinese porcelain, 83%.


Between 2007 and 2012, the number of breweries in the US has doubled from 398 to 869. The brewery industry reported US$28.3-billion in shipments in 2012, an increase of nearly 33.6% since 2007 Employment in the brewery industry also climbed over the five year span, rising to 26,077 employees in 2012, up 3825 or 17.2% from 22,252 in 2007. While overall employment grew, the average number of employees per establishment was nearly halved, from 56 in 2007 to 30 in 2012. Beer shipments in cans increased 32% between 2007 and 2012, and was worth $14.3-billion. The wineries industry employed 37,602 people in 2012, up from 33,390 in 2007.


In the midst of the strongest market for commercial trucks in eight years, North American sales of natural-gas-powered vehicles are just crawling along. Their higher purchase price compared with diesel trucks, improved diesel fuel economy and continued scarcity of fuelling stations are damping natural-gas-powered truck demand. About 10,480 of the heavy-duty trucks are expected to be sold this year up 20 per cent from the 8,730 sold last year, but forecasters had expected sales to nearly double to 16,000 given the enthusiasm for natural gas a year ago. A natural-gas truck costs about US$50,000 more than $150,000 diesel truck.


Britain is now the lowest cost manufacturing economy of Western Europe. Stable wages and improved productivity over the past decade has made the UK increasingly competitive even compared to many Eastern European countries. The UK is recovering its mantle as a global manufacturing hub and is now one of the cheapest locations to produce goods in Western Europe. . Direct manufacturing costs in the UK have improved by up to ten percentage points compared to other Western European countries.


Engineers in Canada have built a chin strap that harnesses energy from chewing and turns it into electricity. They say that the device could one day take the place of batteries in hearing aids, earpieces and other small gadgets. Made from a “smart” material that becomes electrically charged when stretched, the prototype needs to be made 20 times more efficient in order to generate useful amounts of power.


The rate of destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has increased for a second year running. Brazilian government figures show deforestation was up by 29% to the 12 months ending in July 2013. Satellite data shows that almost 6,000 sq. km. of forest were cleared during this period. The largest increases were in the states of Para and Mato Grosso where most of Brazil’s agricultural expansion is taking place. Besides agricultural expansion, the rebound in deforestation is due to illegal logging and the invasion of public lands adjacent to big infrastructure projects such as roads and hydroelectric dams.


For half a century, Indonesia and Malaysia have accounted for the vast majority of the world’s palm oil. Now, investors are flocking to West Africa to secure land for rival plantations. Environmentalists say that the forests of South-East Asia have been massively despoiled and are warning West African governments not to follow suit and a growth versus conservation battle is in the offing. Demand for palm oil, whose annual global production is valued at US$50-billion, is soaring and consumption may triple between 2000 and 2050.


Worldwide, the snack industry is worth US$300-billion in revenue and is expected to exceed $380-billion by 2017. The industry is driven by consumers’ changing tastes and health considerations. Since 2004, the number of consumers categorized as “healthy snackers” has grown from 29-million to 41-million. Supermarket sales account for 50 per cent of all snack sales which is important at a time when the average size of supermarkets is declining.


The Economist has again ranked Vancouver as the third most livable city in the world. Three Canadian cities, Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary have been named as some of the best places in the world to live. Toronto was number four and Calgary tied with Adelaide, Australia for fifth. Melbourne, Australia topped the list of 140 cities for the fourth year in a row with Vienna, Austria coming in second.


Google has had to reinforce its fragile undersea internet cables with a material similar to that used in bulletproof vests in order to protect against shark attacks. The company announced it was going back to some of the 100,000 miles of private fibre optic cable it owns around the world and reinforcing it with the protective material to at least in part minimize the damage that results from frequent and unexplainable shark attacks. Fibre optic cables use lasers to send data across the ocean, allowing transfer rates up to 100 times higher than traditional copper cables.


Despite steadily increasing trade with China, Canadian businesses were the least likely to have settled transactions using the Chinese currency of 11 markets surveyed. Only five per cent of Canadian companies reported that they had done cross-border business using Chinese yuan or renminbi. By comparison, 22 per cent of global companies had done business using the yuan and 17 per cent of US businesses made transactions using the currency. More than half the Chinese businesses surveyed said they would offer discounts of as much as five per cent to firms willing to pay using their local currency.


For many, the ideal place for a wedding reception would be a local hall or a nice stately home. Not in Hong Kong however. McDonald’s wedding parties are so popular that the fast food empire has a dedicated wedding service there, available in 15 venues where customers can choose from four different wedding packages.

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October 2014 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


October 2014 Edition



Size is considered a great advantage in the container-shipping industry. The largest of the colossal vessels that now move the metal boxes between the world’s ports are twice as big as those launched a decade ago. Such scale is not to everyone’s pleasing. In June, China’s antitrust regulators sank plans by the world’s three biggest container-shipping firms to form a vast alliance aimed at sharing space on board their vessels, say that such an alliance was not in the “social public interest.”. Of the 20 biggest container lines, 17 are breaking even or losing money. Container-ship operators say that by pooling resources they can offer more frequent service to more ports and that costs can be kept down by ensuring that ships put to sea with less empty space.


Scientists have produced a new computer chip that mimics the organization of the brain, and squeezed on one million computational units called neurons. They describe it as a super computer the size of a postage stamp. Each neuron on the chip connects to 256 others, and together they can pick out the key features in a visual scene in real time, using very little power.


Now the “gluten-free” label on packaged goods has real meaning and should no longer confuse shoppers.. Until now, the terms was unregulated and manufacturers made their own decisions about what it meant. The new US requirement is especially important for people who suffer from celiac disease and don’t absorb nutrients well They can get sick from the gluten found in wheat and other cereal grains. An estimated 3-million Americans have this disease. Gluten-free foods have become big business in the last few years, topping an estimated US$4-billion in sales last year.


Lining the pants of the world’s aging population is lining the pockets of Domtar Corp, the Montreal company best known for its pulp and paper products. The company has made five acquisitions of infant and adult diaper companies and the takeovers are paying off. Domtar’s diaper sales reached US$234-million in the second quarter of this year, a relatively small proportion of their overall business which generated $4.5-billion in sales in 50 countries in 2013. In a few years, the elderly will outnumber babies, growth that will drive increased sales of adult incontinence products.


Newfoundland’s healthy honeybees are an increasing draw for researchers in the race to understand why colonies across much of the globe are struggling or dying off. There are fewer and fewer places to look at around the world that can claim to be free from major bee pests and Newfoundland is one of them. Honeybees are crucial pollinators for fruit, vegetables and other crops. The Canadian Honey Council estimates that the bee population across the rest of Canada has dropped by about 35 per cent in the past three years. A new report shows that more than half of Ontario’s 100,000 colonies died off during the past winter.


Ecuador has been weaving hats since the 17th century. They became known as “Panamas” because that was the market to which they were primarily sold. By the 1840's Ecuadorean entrepreneurs were sending them to Panama in the tens of thousands. They fell out of favour in the second half of the 20th century but demand is now rising again. The country exported finished hats worth US$6-million in 2013, up from $517,000 in 2003. The headgear now goes primarily to Italy, Britain and the US where they can fetch anything from a few dollars to several thousand for the most intricate designs.


From junk food and soda pop to organic snacks and digital payments, the vending machine industry is reinventing itself one treat at a time. Canadians are returning to the automated dispensers they ignored for several years. In the five years to 2018 the Canadian vending machine industry is expected to grow at an estimated annual rate of 1.9 per cent to about C$716-million, driven by products such as coffee, tea, juice and healthy snacks. To boost profits, operators are moving away from the soft carbonated drinks that had been a core industry product to varieties of waters and energy drinks.


According to Statistics Canada, e-commerce sales by retailers reached C$7.7-billion in 2012, up from $6.6-billion in 2011. Retail e-commerce (+16.3%) grew at over five times the pace of overall growth in retail trade (2.9%). Retail e-commerce sales accounted for 1.5% of total retail sales in 2012. Retail e-commerce sales are defined as the purchase or commitment to purchase goods or services over the Internet. On a comparative basis, retail e-commerce sales in the United States accounted for 5.2% of its total retail sales in 2012.


Tourism by American naturists generates more than US$440-million a year according to the American Association for nude recreation( AANR). Castaway Travel which arranges nudist cruises and other vacations saw business soar 20 per cent last year. Another nude-cruise firm which started in 1990 with a cruise for 36 people last year chartered a ship big enough to carry 3,000 to the Caribbean. There are more than 250 nudist and clothing-optional resorts and clubs across the US.


India’s foreign reserves have recently swollen past US$300-billion to a near record high,. But India’s import cover, the number of months of imports its reserves can pay for, has fallen from around 15 months in 2008 to 8.6 byJune of this year. Other BRIC countries (Brazil, China and Russia) have import cover of around 1.5 years and 2 years.. Russia’ import cover, though still a healthy 1.5 years has fallen from nearly 2.5 years in 2010.


Refrigerators are a multi-billion -dollar industry in North America. In the US, sales are expected to grow by three per cent annually over the next three years, reaching a market value of US$14.4-billion by 2016. Fridge makers are keen to score a bigger piece of the market by introducing new gadgets and features of all kinds. The innovations hitting the market this year range from a special temperature-control system to a smart fridge that connects you to recipe website Epicurious. General Electric is introducing one with hot water for tea, soup and so on. The LG model runs an android operating system with a WiFi LCD screen and comes with a built-in app which tracks what’s inside and how long its been around.


A new British report has found that most people hit their peak confidence and understanding of technology when they are just 15. This drops gradually up until their late 50s and then falls rapidly from 60 and beyond. In fact, six-year-olds have the same level of understanding of modern technology as 45-year-olds.. The study also showed that most British adults are still clinging to older forms of physical media such as books, CDs and DVDs despite the growth in digital music, films and devices. Almost 90 per cent of 45- to 54-year-olds own a CD collection and the average 55- to 64-year-olds owns 118 books.


Restrictions on cod and salmon fishing aimed to rejuvenate falling stocks in the Irish Sea and inland waterways do not appear to have halted the decline. After years of light quotas from the EU in Brussels and strict angling controls, there have been no population boost in the two species as scientists expected. They are now looking at other explanations because there is little more the fishing industry can do to reduce their catch of cod in the Irish Sea. The temperature of the Irish Sea has been increasing over the past four decades and cod, originally an Arctic species, are now at the southern limit of their range with respect to tolerating temperature.


When it comes to flight, nature just has the edge on engineers. This is according to a study comparing hummingbirds with one of the world’s most advanced micro-helicopters. Researchers found that in terms of power they require to lift their weight, the best hummingbird was over 20 per cent more efficient than the helicopter.


Money from immigrants and migrant workers in Canada sent to family or for investments back home is a booming business. Remittance centres are the unassuming face of a globalized money transfer industry that has tripled in value in a decade–to $529-billion a year according to the World Bank. The amount of money that leaves Canada was C$24-billion in 2012, a sum that is equivalent to the annual budgets of 12 Universities of British Colombia. The top countries receiving Canadian remittances are China (which received $3.9-billion) , (India $3.5-billion) and the Philippines ($2-billion). After these three, the countries receiving the most Canadian remittances are Britain, France, Lebanon, Vietnam, Germany, Italy and South Korea.


A new study suggests that the production of beef is around 10 times more damaging to the environment than any other form of livestock. Scientists measured the environment inputs required to produce the main US sources of protein. Beef cattle need 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water than pork, poultry, eggs or dairy. The scientists used data from 2000-2010 from the US Department of Agriculture to calculate the amount of resources required for all the feed consumed by edible livestock. Other researchers say the conclusions of the new study are applicable in Europe even though the work is based on US data.


Samsung is to stop producing plasma televisions by the end of November. It has said that falling demand means it will instead focus on producing curved and ultra-high-definition TVs. Panasonic, Sony, Hitachi and Pioneer have also pulled out of the sector in recent years and LG is expected to follow soon. Plasma screens, which use electrically charged ionised gasses, are often applauded for their brightness and deep blacks considered ideal for watching sports and films.


The UK government is making a fresh bid to overturn a US import ban on traditional Scottish haggis which has been outlawed in the US since 1971. The ban was put in place because the country’s food standards agency prohibits sheep lungs, one of the key ingredients in haggis, in food products. Scottish beef is set to make a return to menus in America for the first time in almost 20 years. This follows a move by officials to reopen the US market to EU beef and other bovine products, following a ban put in place in the 1990s over concerns that Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) could infect the human food chain.


Rising power demand from “smart” TVs, game consoles and other network devices are driving up global electricity consumption, leading to calls for greater regulation of the booming electronics industry. Such devices consumed more than 600 terawatt hours of electricity worldwide in 2013, equivalent to the output of 200 medium-size coal-fired power plants. And three times more than they would need if their manufacturers used best-available energy-saving technology. Electricity usage from such electronics is climbing at a rate of six per cent per year, twice the increase in overall global power consumption.


A struggling Korean baseball team which in the past five years has sustained more than 400 losses has invented a novel way to improve the atmosphere at their matches, by bringing in a crowd of robot fans. The robots can cheer, chant and perform a Mexican wave.

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September 2014 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


September 2014 Edition



Google and Microsoft are to add a “kill-switch” feature to their Android and Windows operating systems, The feature is a method of making a handset completely useless if it is stolen, rendering a theft pointless. Apple and Samsung, two of the biggest phone makers, offer a similar feature on some of their devices. The move by Google and Microsoft means that kill-switches will now be a part of the three most popular phone operating systems in the world. Some 3.1-million mobile phone devices were stolen in the US in 2013, nearly double the number of devices stolen in 2012 and one in three Europeans experienced a theft or loss of a mobile device in 2013.




Dying shopping malls are to be found across the US, often in middle-class suburbs wrestling with socio-economic shifts. Estimates on the share that might close or be re-purposed in coming decades range from 15 to 50 per cent. Americans are returning downtown and online shopping is taking a 6% bite out of bricks-and-mortar sales. Shopping malls were a natural product of the post-war era as Americans with cars and fat wallets moved to the suburbs. Leaders in many towns that once fought for malls are now grappling with how to inter their remains, some have been redeveloped to include housing, offices and even green space.




Work has started to excavate Britain’s first new metal mine for 40 years. The mine is on the edge of Dartmoor, will cost $250-million to dig and is expected to start producing Tungsten in 2015. The mine will exploit the world’s fourth-largest deposit of tungsten and hopes to produce about 3,000 tonnes of tungsten and tin a year. Tungsten is almost as hard as a diamond and has one of the highest melting points of any mineral. Up to now, 80% of world’s tungsten production took place in China, allowing it to dictate supply to the rest of the world.




The combined fortune of Britain’s richest 1,000 people has hit a new high of US$1,038-trillion, equivalent to a third of the nation’s economic output and double the figure of five years ago. Meanwhile, real wages, pay adjusted for inflation, have been falling and working people have continued to face a cost-of-living crisis that sees them $3,200 a year worse off than in 2010. Government figures show that Britain’s richest one per cent had accumulated as much wealth as the poorest 55% put together.




Nigeria overtook South Africa as the continent’s biggest economy this year, but Canada will continue to bet that South Africa is still its top priority market in Africa, though bilateral trade with the country is a relatively modest C$1.6-billion. Canada has become the biggest foreign investor in Madagascar and Burkina Faso because of its multi-billion investment in the gold-mining sector in Burkina Faso and nickel mining in Madagascar.




The US Administration has quietly cleared the way for the first exports of unrefined American oil in four decades, allowing energy companies to chip away at the long-standing ban on selling US crude overseas. Two energy companies have been told they can export a kind of ultra-light oil that has become plentiful as drillers tap shale formations across the US. Experts estimate that as much as 700,000 barrels a day could be available starting next year.




Expenditures by Canadian federal departments and agencies in science and technology are expected to decline 5.4% from the previous fiscal year to C$10.3.-billion in 2014/2015. Expenditures peaked in 2010/2011 and have declined since then. Science and technology spending is composed of two components–research and development as well as related scientific activities. Research and development is defined as creative work with an appreciable element of novelty and uncertainty undertaken in a systematic manner to increase the stock of scientific and technical knowledge.




The total value of residential properties in Canada was C$3,838.2-billion in 2011, up 6.5 per cent from 2010. Much of the increase in value occurred in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. Together, these three provinces accounted for 88.7% of the annual increase. Growth in residential property values eased in 2011 compared with 2010, but remained well above rates observed during the economic slowdown of 2008 and 2009.




An invisible barcode is being developed to track explosives, medicines and banknotes. A team from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the US has found that some nanoparticles have unique characteristics that can be used to mark items. The researchers say the technique could link objects to their manufacturer, seller or buyer. Using barcodes to mark and trace objects is now widely used by manufacturers but covert barcodes could be used to fight crime and reduce counterfeiting.




The US imported flower industry is worth US$20-billion annually. Most come from Colombia, a country that is second only to the Netherlands in flower production. Canada imported $26-million worth of roses from Colombia in 2012. This industry is a top user of pesticides and, according to the International Labour Rights Forum, flower workers in Colombia experience higher than average rates of premature births, congenital malformations and miscarriages and are forced to work 70 to 80 hours a week during the peak season.




Researchers have developed a collection of new plastics that are recyclable and adaptable. They include strong stiff plastics and flexible gels that can mend themselves if torn. The findings could lead to cheaper and greener cars, planes and electronics. This is the first time that durable “thermoset” plastics have ben produced in a recyclable form. Because they are strong and light-weight, thermosets are used throughout modern cars and aircraft, often mixed with carbon fibres to form composites. Some 50% of the new Airbus A350 jet, for example, will be made from composites.




In 2013, Canada shipped C$51-billion in goods to Asia, making it Canada’s second largest export market. Of these, 26.5 per cent were Agricultural and Agri-food products. 24% were Metals and Minerals, 16.1% Wood Pulp and Paper, 9.4% Energy products and 9.15% Chemicals, Plastics and Rubber. Only 0.5% were Consumers Goods and Miscellaneous Manufactured Products. Asia now absorbs close to 45% of British Colombia’s merchandise exports and more than 13 % of Nova Scotia’s. In 2013, Asian countries bought 82% of Saskatchewan peas, 87% of Newfoundland’s iron and ores and 99.7% of Nunavut’s tanned furskins. Asia is now the main source of international students studying in Canada and in 2010, 76.9% of international students in Price Edward Island came from China alone.




For the first time, the US has overtaken France as the world’s biggest national market for wine. US drinkers consumed 210.9-billion hectolitres of wine in 2013, 0.5% more than in 2012. Meanwhile French consumption fell 7% from the year before to 2.8-billion litres. The amount of wine drunk per head is still higher in France than in the US. According to 2011 figures, the average French person drinks just over a bottle a week , six times more than the average US consumer. However, the worldwide capital of per capita wine consumption is the Vatican.




The world’s biggest reserves of fresh water are to be found in Brazil, most of it in the Amazon. But Sao Paulo, home to one-fifth of Brazil’s population, is suffering the worst drought since records began in 1930. Low rainfall and high rates of evaporation in the scorching heat have caused levels in the Cantareira system of reservoirs, which supply 10-million people, to drop below 12% of capacity. This time last year, levels stood at 64%.




Mozilla has shown off a prototype of a US$25 smartphone that is aimed at the developing world. The company which is famed mostly for its Firefox browser, has partnered with a Chinese low-cost chip maker. While not as powerful as more expensive models, the device will run apps and make use of mobile internet. It will prove popular in the developing world as a halfway point between “dumb” phones that just make voice calls and other basic functions and fully-fledged smartphones. Mozilla hopes it will capture an early lead in a market that is now being targeted by mobile device manufacturers.




More than 26,000 lives were lost in natural and man-made disasters last year. The biggest catastrophe was Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines where 7,500 died or went missing and more than four million were made homeless. Flooding in India caused a death toll of 6,000. Many parts of Europe also suffered severe flooding, while hailstorms in Germany and France generated the largest insured loss from hail on record, US$3.8-billion. Yet the $45-billion paid out by insurers was down sharply from $81-billion in 2012.




China was the biggest buyer of industrial robots last year, snapping up 36,500 units. (Japan has the largest number of robots in operation). Around 179,000 robots were sold worldwide.




Forty-three per cent of Metro Vancouver, British Columbia residents have an Asian heritage, becoming the most “Asian” city outside Asia. The only other cities around the world that come close to Metro Vancouver for their portion of residents with Asian backgrounds are San Francisco (33%) London, England (21%), Metro Toronto (35%) Calgary (23%) and Sydney, Australia (19%), Statistics Canada projects that the numbers with Asian roots in Vancouver will continue to grow at a faster rate than the non-Asian population.




The human nose can detect one trillion different odours, far more than previously thought, according to Rockefeller University researchers. Until now, the long-held belief was that we can sniff out about 10,000 smells. New estimates suggest the nose outperforms the eye and the ear in terms of the number of stimuli it can distinguish between. The human eye uses three light receptors that work together to see up to 10-million colours while the ear can hear almost half a million tones.




Warmer temperatures are causing malaria to spread to higher levels a new study suggests. Researchers have found that people living in the highlands of Africa and South America are at an increased risk of catching the mosquito-borne disease during hotter years. They believe that temperature rises in the future could result in millions of additional cases in some areas. Areas at higher elevations have traditionally provided a haven from this devastating disease.




The Canadian government has been running a massive robocall campaign out of Ottawa, dialling its own offices and hoping no one answers. The object is to ferret out and cancel the thousands of unused telephone lines that cost taxpayers millions each year.


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August 2014 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


August 2014 Edition



European wine producers together with their Californian and Australian counterparts are fighting a rearguard action to prevent the introduction of internet domain names such as .vin and .wine. Producers of fine wines argue that making these names available could make it easier for unscrupulous companies to pass off inferior wines such as Champagne, or Napa Valley sparkling wines. European wine producers are prepared to boycott the new domain names if they are introduced saying that protecting wine-growing place names is critical to all wine-growing regions of quality.


More than one in five households in Canada have cell phones as their only form of telephone service. In 2013, 21 per cent of households reported using a cell phone exclusively, up from 13 per cent in 2010. This is more pronounced in young households where all of the members are under 35 years of age. Total cell phone usage, whether used exclusively or in a combination with other types of phone service, continues to grow in popularity in Canada. In 2013, 83 per cent of Canadian households had an active cell phone, up from 78 per cent in 2010. The province with the highest proportion of cell phone users was Alberta with 91 per cent and the lowest was Quebec with 76 per cent.


Consumer demand for more natural, environmentally friendly and socially-responsible food has proliferated. More than ever, consumers want to know exactly what is in their food, and they are turning to food labels to provide this information. When shopping for foods, according to Consumers Reports, two-thirds of Americans are checking to see if their food is locally produced. The majority of consumers (59 per cent) are also checking to see if their food is natural. Consumers are less likely to look for fair-trade (31 per cent of consumers), animal welfare (36%), antibiotic (39%) and non-GMO (40%).


Japanese Koi fish have been found in Boundary Dam in Estevan, Saskatchewan. They are not native to the province and are causing problems. The government which has known about the Koi since 2010 speculate that they were dumped into the Dam. The fish uproot submerged vegetation that can impact how other fish and other aquatic species do as they depend on the aquatic vegetation. Koi fish are also known for stirring up sediment and eating the eggs of other fish. There does not appear to be a feasible method that is environmentally friendly of getting rid of the Koi.


Online shoppers in the UK now have longer to cancel orders under new laws. The cooling-off period for an online order has been extended to 14 calender days from seven working days. Shoppers can now claim a full refund during this period without having to give a reason for the cancellation.


Doctors in the US complain that errors in how they code treatments are often mistaken for fraud and that the automation of claims-monitoring could make this worse. Next year, Medicare will have 140,000 different codes, including nine for injuries caused by turkeys. (Was the victim struck or pecked? Once or more often? Did she suffer negative after-effects? And so on). Many clinics have fallen under suspicion and had payments suspended, only to win a reprieve when the facts are studied closely. This could make many doctors reluctant to take Medicare patients.


Just as Russia has its vodka, Mexico its Tequila and Scotland its Scotch, China has its Baijiu. It is the world’s biggest-selling spirit category and represents a US$23-billion market. Producers are now seeking new markets in the US and Europe as sales fall in China after a crackdown on wasteful spending. The Chinese white spirit is distilled from sorghum, wheat or rice and accounts for more than one-third of all the spirits consumed in the world because China is the leading spirit consuming nation. Baijiu can trace its history to the first century BC. Experts say western palates may need some training to appreciate the product which some have compared to drinking paint thinner.


Power plants fired by coal in the US will be hit hardest by an Environmental Protection Agency plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power stations by 30 per cent from their 2005 levels by 2030. Industry groups are already lining up to object with the US Chamber of Commerce warning of a US$51-billion annual hit to the economy from higher energy bills. However, if that estimate is accurate it would still represent only about 0.3% of the annual US GDP. It also ignores the environmental and medical benefits of reducing the use of coal which pumps out double the carbon dioxide of natural gas when burned and contributes to smog and respiratory problems.


Iconic motorbike manufacturer Harley Davidson, has revealed its first electric motorcycle. The bike will not go on general sale, instead the company will select customers from the US to ride it and provide feedback. The bike will travel down the US’s Route 66 visiting more than 30 Harley Davidson dealerships between now and the end of the year.


A new British report from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) says that coffee drinkers who choose brands carrying the Fairtrade label are not helping the poor and the “ethical trading” claims made by fair-trade organizations are hollow. The researchers investigated labour markets for export crops in Uganda and Ethiopia, The report’s conclusions will come as a shock to consumers in rich countries who pick brands carrying the Fairtrade logo, supposedly supporting the earnings of family farms and small-holders by paying of a “Fairtrade premium” helping them compete in a world dominated by large plantations. The SOAS researchers are urging Fairtrade organizations to improve their audit procedures and establish minimum wage standards.


Visitors to Scotland spent 20 per cent more last year than in 2012, a bigger increase than London and the UK as a whole. The number of visitors was up 9.8- per cent to 2.44-million, spending a total of US$3.36-billion. Edinburgh was the biggest draw with 1.3-million people staying one night or more in the city, second only to London. A further increase is expected for 2014.


A Canadian trauma specialist and an armed forces surgeon has developed a new tool for first responders. It looks like a futuristic hair clip and is about the size of a child’s hand-held toy. It looks innocent except for the eight needles protruding from the clamp. The iTClamp is specially designed to close a wound in a way that is so simple, anyone can do it. Instead of applying a complicated tourniquet with the right amount of pressure, let alone performing the long and complicated process of stitching a profusely bleeding wound, the clamp can be placed simply over the injury and squeezed together. This closes the wound and takes about three seconds to apply. The device has been approved by Health Canada for more than a year and a half, by the US Food and Drug administration for a year and by Europe for about 15 months.


The next big thing in the tech world is forecast to be Uber which has raised US$1.2-billion in capital from private investors, giving it an estimated market value of $17-billion. Uber’s limousine and car-sharing services operate in 128 cities in 37 countries through its app. which is a challenge to licensed taxi services. There have been protests by European taxi drivers in Paris and London, angry at what they say is unfair competition from Uber’s unregulated service.


Deforestation is reducing the amount of leaf litter falling into rivers and lakes, resulting in less food being available to fish, a new study claims. Researchers found that the amount of food available affected the size of young fish and influenced the number that went on to reach adulthood. The results illustrate a link between watershed protection and healthy freshwater fish populations. A team of scientists from Canada and the UK collected data from eight locations with varying levels of tree cover around Daisy Lake in Canada which forms part of the boreal ecosystem.


Golf, which usually rides out a recession because so many players are affluent is one of the last victims of the financial crisis. In the US, an estimated five million fewer people play the game at least once a week than a decade ago. A similar measure in England shows a 16 per cent drop in the same period. In Canada the number of occasional golfers is down 17 per cent and those classed as playing infrequently have plunged 49 per cent according to a 2012 study. It is estimated that golf accounts for C$11.3-billion worth of Canada’s GDP. The combined revenues of $4.7-billion produced by golf courses, driving ranges and the like nearly matched the total of all other sports and recreational activities.


An estimated 2.7-million Canadians, or 8.3 per cent of the population have been diagnosed with migraine, a debilitating disorder characterized by pulsating headaches that can last for a few hours to several days, often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Females were more than twice as likely as males to report migraines, 11.8 per cent versus 4.7. For both sexes, migraine was most common in ages 30 to 49. Compared with the national figure, the prevalence of migraine was lower in Quebec, (6.8 per cent) and higher in Manitoba (9.5), Nova Scotia (9.1) and Ontario, (8.8).


Canadian workers are winning a reputation for building quality vehicles. A Toyota plant in Cambridge, Ontario led the global rankings in the widely watched annual survey by J.D. Power and Associates that measures vehicle quality. The General Motors plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, placed second in North America, and Canadian-built vehicles placed first in five out of 23 categories. Quality has a direct and meaningful impact on subsequent loyalty and it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to win back customers who have abandoned a brand.


Doctors in the UK are warning that Britain’s obesity crisis could cripple the National Health Service as hospitals are forced to buy and rent special equipment to keep bodies cool because they are too large to fit into mortuary fridges. Hospitals are also having to widen corridors, buy reinforced beds and lifting equipment in order to cope with the growing numbers of obese patients. A quarter of adults in the UK are estimated to be obese and the number is expected to grow to account for more than half the population in the next 30 years.


India has taken over from the US as the largest importer of oil from Nigeria. The US has drastically reduced its demand for Nigerian crude in recent months and now buys about 250,000 barrels a day. India buys considerably more, about 30 per cent of the country’s 2.5-million barrels of production. US demand for imported oil has fallen sharply because of increasing domestic shale gas and oil production. It is estimated that the US will be largely energy independent by 2035.


Researchers into unusual claims by cellphone owners in Britain has revealed the most bizarre and outlandish accidents befalling the nations’s technology. One farmer claims to have damaged his iPhone while calving, acccidently inserting it into the rear of a cow while attempting to use it as a flashlight. And a woman absentmindedly baked her Nokia 6303i into a sponge cake intended for her daughter’s birthday.

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