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July 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


July 2013 Edition




New data shows that Canadians consume, on average C$220,000 in publicly funded health-care over a lifetime. Spending is fairly consistent across income groups, despite significant differences in the health status of rich and poor. People in the lowest income group have $237,000 in lifetime health costs compared with $206,000 for the highest income group. The wealthy live an average of five years longer than the poor. But the wealthy also tend to be healthier, so their lifetime cost to the health-care system tends to be less.




The orange-coloured fungus called roya, or coffee-leaf rust, continues to wreak economic havoc in Latin America. The fungus is hurting production and is expected to cause crop losses of US$500-million and cost 374,000 jobs in Central America alone. Roya is making some of the world's most desired coffee beans scarcer and driving up their prices. Some varieties of Guatemalan coffees now cost about 70 cents more a pound. The fungus has swept through coffee fields from Mexico to Panama, where some of the world's rarest and most expensive beans are grown.




Each year, 1.3-million people die in car accidents and 10 countries are responsible for nearly half these deaths. Over all, India is responsible for the highest number of road deaths, followed by China and the United States. Meanwhile Eritria is home to the highest concentration of road deaths (48.4 per 100,000 people) followed by the Cook Islands, Egypt and Libya. The World Health Organization estimates that road traffic deaths will be the fifth leading cause of death by 2030.




Researchers are predicting a two-thirds fall in production in the world's premier wine regions because of climate change. The study forecasts sharp declines in wine production from Bordeaux and Rhone regions in France, Tuscany in Italy, in the Napa Valley in California and Chile by 2050, as a warming climate makes it harder to grow grapes in traditional wine country. But is also anticipates a big push into areas once considered unsuitable. This could mean more grape varieties from Northern Europe, including Britain, the U.S. Northwest and the hills of central China. Wine grapes are one of the most sensitive crops to subtle shifts in temperatures, rain and sunshine.




Last year, 32.4-million people around the world were forced to flee their homes by disasters such as floods, storms and earthquakes. While Asia and west and central Africa bore the brunt, 1.3-million were displaced in rich countries, with the United States particularly affected. Ninety-eight per cent of all displacement was prompted by climate and weather-related events, with flood disasters in India and Nigeria accounting for 41 per cent of global displacement in 2012. In India, monsoon floods affected 6.9-million people and in Nigeria, 6.1-million.




Five decades after Fidel Castro ordered golf courses to be closed in Cuba because he considered them to be elitist, the island's Communist government has approved the construction of a luxury golf resort, complete with an 18-hole golf course. The US$350-million resort is the start of a new policy to increase the presence of golf in Cuba according to the Ministry of Tourism. A second golf project with Chinese investment is expected to be approved by the end of the year. Other resorts will then be developed gradually across the island with Spanish, Vietnamese and Russian funding.




Some 60 per cent of Nigeria's 167-million people are farmers and farming accounts for 41 per cent of the GDP of Nigeria according to the Central Bank. Nigeria's governments talk grandly about the potential of large scale agri-business but the country still awaits its green revolution. Nigeria should be able to feed itself but fails to do so. It spends about US$11-billion a year importing food and is the world's largest buyer of rice. Before the discovery of oil in the 1970s, Nigeria was the world's biggest exporter of peanuts and palm oil but since then farming has been neglected and less than half of Nigeria's arable land is used.




Houses could be painted with a super-material that generates electricity from sunlight and can even change colour on request, according to new research. Manchester University scientists used wafers of grapheme with thin layers of other materials to produce solar-powered surfaces. The resulting surfaces, which are paper-thin and flexible are able to absorb sunlight to produce electricity at a level that would rival existing solar panels. These could be used to create a "coat" on the outside of buildings to generate power needed to run appliances inside while also carrying out other functions too, such as being able to change colour.




Danes are the most indebted people in the world with personal debt that is equal to almost three times income. Denmark is the Scandinavian economy hardest hit by the global financial crisis. Households there saw their personal wealth drop by US$69,900 on average since the property market peaked in 2007 when house prices dropped by 20 per cent, wiping out more than 12 banks.




Between 2000 and 2010 Latino buying power in the U.S. has more than doubled. But wooing Latino consumers is easier said than done. And as they grow richer and more numerous, their tastes are changing too. One sign of the shift is language. When Latino advertising was born in the 1980s, a largely immigrant audience could safely be addressed in Spanish. Today, most Hispanics were born in the U.S. and only 23 per cent of the young ones prefer Spanish to English. 62 per cent reside in California, Florida, Texas or New York. Marketing to Latinos was once a niche affair, Now it can be at the heart of a campaign.




It is estimated that Canadians are cross-border shopping for cheaper air fares which cost the country's airline business an estimated 70 flights a day. A recent Senate committee report recommends giving the carriers a fee break that could help them fight back by ending rental charges for the use of the country's 26 busiest airports as a means of making Canadian airlines more competitive. It is estimated that the leakage of Canadian airline passengers to the U.S. in 2010 cost the GDP C$1.1-billion, 8,890 jobs and $190-million in tax revenues.




A Swedish start-up is selling a stamp-sized wearable camera called Momento that you can pin on your clothes which takes a photograph every thirty seconds ensuring that no experience, however mundane, will go undocumented. The device also has an app and cloud-storage, so your pictorial record of commuting, shopping or cooking can be searched and shared. Something must have appealed as when Momento tried to raise US$50,000 on a crowdfunding platform, it raked in more than $500,000. It will sell for $279 and will offer support services such as storage for a subscription fee.




First it was milk, then butter, coffee and cornmeal ran short, now Venezuela is running out of the most basic of necessities, toilet paper. The embattled government has had to import 50-million rolls recently as state-controlled prices have led to shortages of basic consumer goods. Economists say that Venezuela's shortages stem from price controls meant to make basic goods available to the poorest parts of society and the government controls on foreign currency.




Canada's lumber producers ought to be enjoying the fruits of a U.S. housing recovery but they cannot take advantage of it. The forestry companies say that a shortage of rail cars is causing them to lose sales and market share, just as American demand for their products returns after a long, severe slump. The problems the companies face include irate customers threatening to impose penalties for late delivery; empty ships sitting uselessly in port for lack of timber to move; and idled shipments that have to be stored under tents.




The coal mining industry in British Columbia contributes C$3.2-billion in value added GDP to the provincial economy. It also pays $715-million in total tax payments by the coal industry to all levels of government. There are 10 operating mines in BC which contribute 40 per cent to the national coal production. The industry contributes 21.8 per cent of B.C.'s total exports. 26,000 jobs in BC are attributable to the coal industry with estimated annual earnings of $95,174 for workers directly employed by coal companies.




Canada's major drugstores say they can help save provinces up to C$11-billion over three years if pharmacists were to get the green light to treat minor illnesses, administer vaccines and manage chronic conditions. While provinces have moved to varying degrees in these areas, more can be done that would result in better health outcomes for patients and urgently needed government savings, the stores say.




The OECD reports that the gap between rich and poor widened more in the three years to 2010 than in the previous 12 years. It says the richest 10 per cent of society in the 33 OECD countries received 9.5 times that of the poorest in terms of income. Those with the biggest gap included the U.S., Turkey, Mexico and Chile. The OECD says that this gap will grow wider if governments do not stop cutting back on welfare programs which they have been doing to reduce debt and balance government books as tax revenues have fallen because of weak growth.




British scientists have developed a new type of wheat which could increase productivity by 30 per cent. The group has combined an ancient ancestor of wheat with a modern variety to produce a new strain. In early trials the resulting crop seemed bigger and stronger than the current modern wheat varieties but it will take at least five years of tests and regulatory approval before it can be harvested by farmers. One in five of all the calories consumed around the world come from wheat.




The U.S. Senate has passed a bill that would impose sales taxes on online retailers. The vote to enable States to collect the taxes now has to go to the House of Representatives where some Republicans oppose it as a new tax. States lost US$12-billion last year in sales on online purchases. The law would not apply to retailers with less than $1-million in online sales.




China has overtaken the U.S. as the world's biggest market for personal computers. Shipments to the country rose to 69-million units in 2012. The U.S. was the biggest market up until 2011. Last year, it had orders for 66-million units. China is also the world's biggest market with more than 500-million users. Laptops are the fastest growing sector in developed markets and have overtaken PCs, but in China, sales of desktops and laptops is evenly split.




A New York real estate company is allegedly offering a 15-per cent raise to employees who get the company's logo tattooed on their bodies. A total of 40 employees have now been tattooed.


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

June 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting

June 2013 Edition

The book industry has felt more pain than pleasure in the past few years, largely thanks to technology. But in only three years, things have changed for electronic books. American publishers generated US$2.1-billion in revenue from them in 2012, up more than 3,200 per cent since 2008. In theory e-books offer better margins because they are cheaper to produce but publishers worry that customers will soon expect to pay less for all books which will impact profits. However, if piracy hits publishing as it did music, profits could evaporate anyway.


The international organization of fishing countries has decided to follow scientific recommendations and maintain strict quotas on the fishing of endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna resisting the call for a major increase in quotas. The quota will rise from 12,900 tonnes a year to 13,500, within the limits recommended by scientists. Lax quotas resulted in stocks of bluefin falling by 60 per cent from 1997 to 2007.


A group of University of Toronto graduates claim to have built the most energy-efficient light bulb in the world. At about 200 per cent more efficiency than the current wave of energy-saving LED technology, the Nanolight doesn't even look like a regular bulb.The 10-or 12-watt bulbs which cost C$30 and $40 respectively, pump out the equivalent of 75 or 100 watts, and pay for themselves over their lifespan, about 20 years at three hours per day. The first bulbs will be shipped by September. It is not a bad time to revolutionize the LED business which is estimated to be worth $1-billion by 2014.


The number of personal computers shipped in the first three months of this year decreased by almost 14 per cent, the largest drop since worldwide sales began to be tracked by International Data Corp. in 1984. The drop highlights a generational shift among users who have turned to the convenience and portability of tablets and smartphones for most of their computing needs.


China is building a high eco-city where no one will need to drive. Outside Chengdu in central China, a 78-million square foot site has been allocated for an unconventional construction project: It will be a city built from scratch for 80,000 people, none of whom will need a car to get around.The ambitious urban centre is designed to limit its residents environmental impact by producing clean energy, reducing waste and promoting public transportation over individual car use. The project expects to reduce energy use by 48 per cent, water use by 58 per cent and produce 89 per cent less waste compared to a conventional development.


Households in Europe's fragile southern countries have far higher paper wealth than in Germany. A report compiled through a survey of over 60,000 households across the euro zone between 2009 and 2010 shows a dichotomy between cash strapped governments and wealth citizens. Households in Cyprus, whose government recently agreed to a 10-billion euro (US$13-billion) rescue from the European Union and the IMF, are the second wealthiest in the euro zone with an average net wealth of 670,000 euros, trailing only Luxembourg whose households had accumulated net wealth of more than 700,000 euros. German households had just under 200,000 euros in net wealth.


Until recently, Duqm was a dusty fishing village and little else. Home to Bedouin tribes it lies 450km south of Muscat, Oman's capital. But in the next decade it is to be turned into a vast port and international business hub. A dry dock, the second biggest in the Middle East, has already been built at a cost of US$1.5-billion. Its quays stretch for 4km and a special economic zone is to be ringed with a petro chemical factory, a refinery, an airport, beach front hotels, and housing for more than 100,000 people. The project is to use this export hub to make Oman's economy less reliant on dwindling reserves of oil.


More than half the rivers previously thought to have existed in China appear to be missing, according to 80,000 surveyors who compiled the first national water census. Only 22,909 rivers were located, compared with the more than 50,000 in the 1990s. Officials are blaming the apparent loss on climate change, arguing it has caused waterways to vanish and on mistakes by earlier cartographers. Environmental experts though say the disappearance of the rivers is real and a result of headlong, ill-conceived development where projects are often imposed without public consultation.


Australia, Norway and Canada lead the world with the highest salaries in the oil and natural gas industry, according to a new survey. Average annual salaries for locally employed professionals in the industry are highest in Australia at the equivalent of US$163,600, while Norwegians earned $152,600. Average salaries in the U.S. were $121,400 ranking below Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands. The average global annual salary was $87,300, an 8.5 per cent increase from the previous year.Local workers in the Sudan earned the least at $31,100.


Between 2001 and 2011, corporations bought or leased an estimated 227-million hectares of property around the world, a land grab that's about equal to Quebec and Alberta combined. The top countries where land was purchased were: Indonesia, Malaysia and India for agriculture and forestry and Brazil and the Philippines for agriculture and resources extraction. An Alberta based corporation purchased 2,500 square kilometres of forestry land in Australia for C$412-million in 2011 and a Toronto company bought $28.7-million of agricultural landholdings in Uruguay.


Moody's Investor Service estimates that at the end of 2012 non-financial companies in America had amassed a record cash pile of US$1.45-trillion, much of it because of the swelling coffers at tech companies. Apple had by far the most cash , with $137-billion in hand which is facing investor pressure to return more of its money mountain to shareholders. The next cash-rich companies were Microsoft, Google, Pfizer and Cisco Systems.


As China is set to become the world's biggest economy, it's e-commerce market is overtaking America's. One giant company dominates the market: Alibaba, by some measures already the world's largest e-commerce company. Last year, two of Alibaba's portals together handled US$170-billion in sales, more than eBay and Amazon combined. Alibaba is on track to become the world's first e-commerce firm to handle $1-trillion a year in sales. Alibaba's sites account for over 60 per cent of parcels delivered in China. The company is expected to go public shortly and estimates for the initial public offering range from $55-billion to $120-billion.


In 1980, more than half French adults were consuming wine on a near-daily basis. Today that figure has fallen to 17 per cent. Meanwhile, the proportion of French who never drink wine has doubled to 38 per cent.


The mysterious malady that has been killing honey bees for several years appears to have expanded drastically last year. U.S. commercial beekeepers say it has wiped out 40- to 50-per cent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation's fruits and vegetables. A conclusive explanation has so far eluded scientists studying the ailment since it surfaced in 2005. A quarter of the American diet, from apples to cherries, to watermelons to onions depends on pollination by honeybees. Fewer bees mean smaller harvests and higher food prices.


Canadians are increasingly choosing pixels over paper and ink when it comes to getting their news. A new survey found that while fewer people are reading traditional newspapers, they are still turning to established publications when looking for their news online. The Globe and Mail leads all publications in terms of national readership, with a national audience of 3.5-million in print and online. Online readership is 1.7-million readers weekly and is steadily gaining on print readership of 2.5-million. Numbers add up to more than 3.5-million because many readers consume both print and online versions.


Electronic cigarettes are now posing a serious threat to the large tobacco companies. In 2012, sales of e-cigarettes in America were between $300- and $500-million. This is paltry compared with the $80-billion-plus market for conventional cigarettes in the country. But e-cigarette sales doubled last year and are expected to double again in 2013 and it is believed that sales of e-cigarettes could overtake sales of normal cigarettes within a decade. E-cigarettes work by turning nicotine-infused liquid into vapour, which is then inhaled. A user is said to be "vaping," not smoking. Last year, one large U.S. tobacco company bought an e-cigarette maker for $135-million.


Ninety-five per cent of Americans use coupons when shopping and 73 per cent say they use them at least a couple of times a month. While 78 per cent of respondents named the Sunday paper as the source for their coupons, 61 per cent also use online sites for coupons and promotion codes. Age is a factor with 85 per cent of those 45 or older clipping coupons from the Sunday paper. When shopping 67 per cent of respondents say they check their smart phones to see if there is a better deal elsewhere.


The UN World Tourism Organization reports that the Chinese have now become the single biggest source of global tourism after spending US$102-billion on travelling abroad in 2012. Higher incomes, looser travel restrictions and a strengthening economy are behind the surge which is 45 per cent higher than the year before and puts China well above the next two highest spending countries, Germany and the U.S. The Russian Federation also saw spending rise by 32 per cent to $43-billion.


The real estate boom is being credited with the boom in the sales of small appliances in Canada. Sales of products such as blenders, mixers, deep fryers and coffee makers grew to C$122-million in 2012, from $22-million in 2009. In the same period, sales of consumer electronics, excluding smartphones and tablets were down 17 per cent. Sales of traditional drip coffee makers dropped to $52-million from $59-million in 2009.


Global consumption of fish and seafood per person is rising steeply, but research also shows that much of what gets sold turns out to be not as described on the packaging. Cheap fish is being substituted for expensive fish and new varieties, never being consumed are being detected in fish dishes. Researchers believe there is large-scale deception going on. For example, scientists found that seven per cent of cod and haddock, the staples of British fish and chips are actually cheaper fish substituted to save costs.


The City of Waterloo, Ont, plans to spend as much as C$90,000 studying whether to erect a wind turbine despite a report saying the city wasn't windy enough. Ottawa is giving another $63,000 to keep studying the project.

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

May 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting

May 2013 Edition

Last year, C$4.1-billion worth of Canadian seafood landed on tables in more than 100 countries. with lobster remaining the most valuable export. More than 60 per cent of Canada's seafood exports were shipped to the U.S. last year at a value of $2.6-billion but China and the European Union remain major markets, each taking in hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Canadian seafood products last year. Canada has a significant opportunity to gain preferential access to the European Union, a 500-million consumer market and the world's largest importer of fish and seafood, importing an average of $25-billion annually.


China overtook America last December as the world's biggest oil importer for the first time. America's net oil imports slid to 5.98-million barrels a day, the lowest since February 1992, while China's rose to 6.12-million. America's reliance on oil imports has fallen as domestic production has surged to 7-million barrels a day, mostly because of the boom in shale oil.


A German food company has invented an edible spray paint for people wanting to give meals a splash of colour. The cans, called Food Finish, come in gold, silver, red and blue. The spray paint has no taste by itself and can be applied to any item of food to offer a quirky alternative to regular meals. Cooking enthusiasts must spray the paint layer by layer and wait for it to dry to enjoy the perfect finish.


There are disturbing signs that the number of Canadian students defaulting on their loans is rising. Recently, the government announced it was writing off more than 44,000 student loans that were in default, totalling C$231-million. That represents loans that the government has been trying to collect for more than six years, after which it is barred from going after debtors under the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act. The default amount has more than doubled since 2010 when the government wrote off $89-million. In total, $540-million has been written off over the last three years.


Global internet traffic continues to grow. Over the past five years the amount of active capacity on subsea cables has grown threefold, the fastest spurt since the internet went mainstream more than a decade ago. Then, the majority of traffic flowed between the U.S. and Europe. Now, trans-Atlantic bandwidth accounts for only a quarter of the capacity in use. The fastest growing region for traffic is Asia. Intra-Asian connections have overtaken the trans-Pacific ones. New undersea cable links for sub-Sahara Africa have given the continent more connectivity at lower cost.


The scourge has come from Asia and has destroyed tens of millions of trees in America. Now Massachusetts has become the latest state to impose a quarantine on ash-wood in an effort to halt its spread. The emerald ash borer has already wrought havoc in 17 other states and in Canada, depleting stocks of a valuable hardwood used to make baseball bats, flooring, tool handles and kitchen cabinets, among other things. The metallic green beetle was discovered in Michigan in 2002 but probably arrived years earlier in wooden packing material aboard a ship that docked near Detroit.


Sales of recorded music grew in 2012 for the first time since 1999, albeit by only 0.3 per cent. The internet sank the music industry but is now helping it to resurface. Digital sales rose 9 per cent last year; a third of the industry's revenue now comes through digital channels. Download stores represents roughly 70 per cent of digital revenues. Over 100 countries now host digital music services for download and streaming, compared with only 23 in January 2011.


The bonus pool for people working in the securities industry in the city of New York rose by 8 per cent last year, to US$20-billion. And with fewer workers to divide the spoils, the average bonus increased to $121,800. The industry employed 1,000 fewer workers last year and has only regained 30 per cent of the jobs lost during the financial crisis. Business and personal income tax from Wall Street used to make up around 20 per cent of the state's tax revenues: last year it was only 14 per cent. The average pay for someone on Wall Street, including bonuses, has risen to almost $362,900, over five times more than New York's other private-sector workers.


General Electric became the world's biggest manufacturer of wind turbines in 2012. Vestas, a Danish company, had held the top spot since 2000. It has struggled recently, partly because the European push for wind power has been curtailed by the debt crisis. GE on the other hand, benefitted from activity in the U.S. to install turbines ahead of the expiration of a tax break, which was subsequently extended.


When Pele signed a contract for US$4.7-million with the New York Cosmos in 1975, the great Brazilian was said to be the highest paid athlete in the world. Football in America is in a very different state now. More high-schoolers play soccer than baseball. One recent ESPN poll showed that Americans between the ages of 12 and 24 ranked professional soccer as their second favourite sport, behind only American football. Attendance at Major League Soccer matches is now higher than at National Hockey League and National Basketball Association games.


A recent study in the Netherlands has found that about 50 per cent of all junk e-mail emerges from 20 internet service providers. A survey of more than 42,000 ISPs tried to map the nets "bad neighbourhoods" to help pinpoint sources of malicious mail. Of the 42,201 ISPs studied, about 50 per cent of all junk mail came from just 20 networks. Many of these were concentrated in India, Vietnam and Brazil. On the net's most crime-ridden network, Spectranet in Nigeria, 62 per cent of all the addresses controlled by that ISP were seen to be sending out spam.


A complete ban on the sale of cosmetics developed through animal testing has taken effect in the EU. The ban applies to all new cosmetics and their ingredients sold in the EU, regardless of where in the world testing on animals was carried out. The 27 EU countries have had a ban on such tests in place since 2009, but the EU is now asking the EU's trading partners to do the same.


In 2011, about 22 per cent of Canadian households reported that they drank primarily bottled water at home, down from 24 per cent in 2009 and 30 per cent in 2007. In contrast, 68 per cent reported that they drank primarily tap water, an increase from 66 per cent in 2009. Households are increasingly using water conservation devices in the home. About 63 per cent reported using low-flow shower heads, more than twice the proportion of 28 per cent in 1991. 47 per cent of households have low-volume toilets, a five fold increase from 9 per cent in 1990 and more than twice the proportion of 28 per cent in 1991.


According to the Census, there are 34.5-million Americans who list their heritage as either primarily or partially Irish. That number is seven times larger than the population of Ireland itself (4.68-million). Irish is the second-most common ancestry among Americans, falling just behind German. New York has the most concentrated Irish population, 12.9 per cent of its residents claim Irish ancestry, followed by Boston. Miami is the least Irish city along with Southern Texas.


U.S. Federal agencies awarded US$115.2-billion in no-bid contracts in fiscal year 2012, an 8.9 per cent increase from $105.8-billion from 2009. In 2009, contracts awarded without competition made up about 20 per cent of total dollars awarded, compared with 23 per cent in 2012. Lockheed Martin the Number one U.S. contractor, captured the greatest share of no-bid contracts with about $17.4-billion. Boeing received the second largest amount, about $17.1-billion and Raytheon was third with about $7.04-billion.


The Great Rift Valley in Kenya is a 700-kilometre volcanic trench ripped open by shifting tectonic plates, known as the cradle of mankind for the million-old remains of human forebears discovered there. Oil drillers say the area also holds a string of fields that could make East Africa's largest economy, a major energy producer. It is estimated that the valley could yield 10-billion barrels, enough to supply Kenya for three centuries, or the U.S. for about 18-months.


Chile's government will carry out a record cloud-seeding program in 2013 to alleviate a fourth year of drought that's hurting the country's fruit and wine industries.Seeding in other regions of Chile helped reduce a shortage in rainfall by 10 per cent. The government pumped US$152-million last year into its irrigation program that includes artificial dams and cloud seeding.


Demand for diesel fuel has long been a signal of financial health as trucks surge onto the roads in good times and stay parked when the economy slows. But amid broader shifts in the transportation industry such as tightening fuel economy standards, cargo diversion onto more efficient trains and conversion to natural gas powered trucks, diesel has become disconnected from economic growth. U.S. diesel demand has steadily fallen since mid-2011 and in January was down nearly 9 per cent. At the same time, trucking activity grew some 2.5 per cent in 2012.


Scientist have warned that a fishing rethink is needed after finding that catches of fish trigger a rapid change in the gene pool of fish stocks. Over-harvesting larger fish leads to a population of smaller fish that are less fertile and these changes happen within just a few generations. These findings could have a massive impact for the future of global fishing policies.


A vote by the European Parliament has left the EU divided over how to define absinthe, the intensely alcoholic drink nicknamed "the green fairy." After its heyday in the 19th Century it was the subject of a long ban in much of Europe, only lifted in recent years. Today it is produced across Europe, from Italy to the Czech Republic. The drink comes in a variety of flavours and colours and at issue is whether absinthe needs to contain minimum levels of two substances, anethole and the chemical thujone, a toxin extracted from wormwood, which reputedly has mind-altering effects.


Once the sole preserve of nomadic Somali and Middle East communities, camel milk, which is semi-skimmed, three times as rich in vitamin C as cows' milk and packed with antibodies is increasingly being recognised for its health benefits by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and health conscious consumers. In Nairobi, camel milk is now available in restaurants and supermarkets. Camels can produce milk during the dry season and in times of drought.


A Brazilian doctor faces charges of fraud after being caught on camera using silicon fingers to sign in for work for absent colleagues. The prosthetic fingers were used to fool the biometric attendance device.

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 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


April 2013 Edition



According to the World Bank, the value of exports from developing countries to other developing countries (South-South trade) now exceeds exports from poor countries to rich ones (South-North trade). In 2002, developing countries bought only 40 per cent of total developing country exports, the rest went to rich nations. In 2010 the share was split evenly, now the developing country share is larger. Developing countries have been increasing their role in everything, such as world output and bank loans, and their share of world trade has doubled from 16 per cent in 1991 to 32 per cent in 2011. 


Consumption of wine in Canada is growing three times faster than globally and Canada is projected to be the fifth fastest-growing wine market in the next five years. Between 2007 and 2011, Canadian wine consumption increased by 14.55 per cent, hitting 43.21-million cases in 2011; one case represents 12 bottles. Most of the wine is imported but Canada is now strong on the production side and domestic wines are getting more popular. 


Cotton with a special coating that collects water from fog is a potential solution to providing water in desert regions. Dutch researchers have developed a special polymer treatment for cotton fabric that allows the cotton to absorb exceptional amounts of water from misty air, as much as 240 per cent of its own weight compared with only 18 per cent without the coating. The coated cotton then releases the collected water as it gets warmer. The water is pure and the cycle can be repeated many times. 


Changing climate threatens to reduce the flow of coffee which presently fills 1.6-billion cups each day according to the New Scientist. It may not be long before an espresso costs more than a glass of wine. There are some 26-million farmers who depend on coffee to feed their families. The apparently insatiable demand has made coffee the second most traded commodity after oil, with exports worth US$15-billion each year. All that is under threat because the coffee industry is built on a plant that is peculiarly vulnerable to our changing climate. 


The unique "Find Yourself Here" tourism campaign for Newfoundland has racked up 173 awards so far but is now facing many competitors. Since the campaign began, non-resident visits to the province have risen by 22 per cent and visitor spending is up by 37 per cent. Tourism in the province is set to become a billion-dollar business. 


Honda officials report that the only Chinese-made car on sale in Canada has been a success so far after importing the Fit subcompact from a Honda plant in China for a year. Fit sales grew to 4,736 in 2012 from 2,835 in 2011 helped by the greater availability of the car from China, though Honda could sell more of the cars in Canada if it could get them. 


Data from the 2011 census reveals that Polish is now the second language in England. The survey of 54.1-million residents of England and Wales shows 546,000 speak Polish making it England's second main language. There are still slightly more Welsh speakers in Wales at 562,000. The next biggest main languages are the south Asian languages of Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali and Gujarati followed by Arabic, French, Chinese and Portuguese. 


A gene that raises rice yields by enhancing root growth and nutrient absorption in low quality soils has been identified in a species of rice in India and successfully introduced into other rice varieties. Scientists and rice breeders have known for years that Kasalath rice is unusually efficient at nutrient absorption but have only just identified the gene responsible. Using conventional breeding methods they introduced the gene into a few rice types in Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan and found that it raised yield by up to 20 per cent. 


According to the United Nations, the world now has nearly as many cellphone subscriptions as inhabitants. At the end of 2011, there were about six billion subscriptions, roughly one for 86 of every 100 people. China alone accounted for 1-billion subscriptions and India should hit the 1-billion mark this year. 2.3-billion people, or about one in three of the world's 7-billion inhabitants, were Internet users by the end of 2011, but there is a strong disparity between rich and developing countries.


A credit card with an LCD display and built-in keyboard has been launched in Singapore by Mastercard. The card has touch-sensitive buttons and the ability to create a "one-time password" doing away with the need for a separate device sometimes needed to log in to online banking. Eventually the card will be rolled out globally and could display information such as loyalty or reward points or recent transaction history. 


Mexico and the U.S. have agreed new rules on sharing water from the Colorado River, which serves some 30-million people in the two nations. Under the deal, the US will send less water to Mexico during a drought, while Mexico will be able to store water north of the border during wet years. The Colorado River flows 2,230km from the Rockies into the Gulf of California. The US and Mexico signed a treaty in 1944 governing the allocation of resources from the Colorado River, which supplies seven US and two Mexican states. Mexico will also get US$10-million to repair irrigation channels damaged during a 2010 earthquake.


Last year, 14,205 patent applications for computer-related products and technologies were filed. In 2011 that figure was 11,974 showing an increase of 19 per cent in 2012. Graphene has been a particularly popular patent subject in 2012. It is an ultra-thin carbon layer that can be used to make flexible screens and the potential for graphene in the next generation of devices is huge.


Sales of fruits and vegetables by Canadian farmers reached C$1.7-billion in 2012, up 9.2 per cent from 2011. Fruit sales increased 13 per cent to $872-million while vegetable sales rose 5.4 per cent to $874-million. The largest contributors to vegetable sales were carrots with $92-million in sales, tomatoes ($82-million), sweet corn ($72-million) and cabbage ($63-million). Among fruits, sales of cranberries rose 43 per cent and sales of blueberries were up 22 per cent. Unseasonable spring weather caused a drop in apple sales of 32 per cent. Farmers in Quebec, Ontario and B.C. account for more than 88 per cent of Canadian fruit and vegetable sales.


Cuba has been connected to the global Internet for the first time with a high-speed cable. The US$70-million cable arrived from Venezuela last year but tests on the line have only just begun. Cubans currently rely on expensive and slow satellite links to go online. Government and research institutions are expected to be the first beneficiaries of the new connection.


Glaciers in the tropical Andes have shrunk by 30-50 per cent since the 1970s. The glaciers, which provide fresh water for tens of millions in South America, are retreating at their fastest rate in 300 years. The Santa River valley in Peru could be the most affected, its hundreds of thousands of inhabitants rely heavily on glacier water for agriculture, domestic consumption and hydropower. Also, La Paz in Bolivia gets 15 per cent of its water from glaciers, increasing to 27 per cent in the dry season.


After talks in Colombo between Sri Lanka, India, Kenya, Indonesia, Malawi and Rwanda, which account for more than 50 per cent of global tea production, the nations announced the formation of the International Tea Producers' Forum. Efforts will initially focus on sharing knowledge and boosting demand for tea to raise prices, but more sophisticated and controversial methods such as supply controls could be raised in the future. A tea cartel was proposed in 1994 but there was no unity among producing nations at the time.


A U.S company is looking to asteroids for precious metals. It hopes to land spacecrafts on asteroids and have them scrape up material for return to Earth for sale. The company has unveiled plans to hunt for small asteroids that pass close to Earth which might one day be mined for their precious resources. It is intended that a series of low cost prospecting satellites will be launched in 2015 on missions of two to six months, with larger spaceships embarking on round-trips to collect materials a year later.


Britain has now become Germany's biggest trading partner. The Anglo-German trade in goods and services in the first nine months of 2012 was US$207-billion with both exports and imports going at double digit rates with British exports to Germany rising 20 per cent. The surge was led by medical equipment, drugs, car components and petroleum goods. It is one of the fastest growing trade relationships in the developed world.


India has raised its gold import tax to tackle its trade deficit. The import tax is rising from 4 per cent to six per cent a year, after doubling from 2 to 4 per cent. The government wants to curb imports of gold. India is the biggest importer of gold in the world. Many Indians buy gold jewellery and coins to protect the value of their money in the face of inflation.


More than 13,000 households across the UK are still using black-and-white television sets according to the TV Licensing authority. London has the biggest number of monochrome licences at 2,715, followed by Birmingham and Manchester. The number of licences issued has dwindled from 212,000 in 2000. A total of 13,202 monochrome licences were in force at the beginning of 2013. Black-and white licenses cost US$77.50 a year and colour $230.


Attendance at movies in the U.S. has risen for the first time in three years, bucking a trend of declining audiences. Takings were a record US$10.8-billion, this growth can largely be attributed to inflation and rising ticket prices. Ticket sales hit their modern peak in 2002 when 1.6-billion tickets were sold. International box office takings for 2013 are predicted to be $23-billion.


Newcastle University researchers say that recipes by prominent TV chefs are less healthy than supermarket ready meals. The meals in TV chefs' cookbooks contained more calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar, but less salt. The study, published in the British Medical Journal compared 100 main meals from four TV chefs, who had books at the top of the bestsellers charts to 100 supermarket ready meals. These were then compared to nutritional guidelines set by the World Health Organization. However, it was widely agreed that cooking from scratch was healthier than buying prepared meals.


Botanists have pointed out that the maple leaves featured on Canada's new C$20, $50 and $100 notes are Norway maple leaves, not Canadian ones.

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March 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


March 2013 Edition



Trade in illegal garlic in Europe has become so serious that inspectors have had to resort to forensic data analysis, mobile X-ray machines, DNA labs and a whistleblowing website. Contraband garlic in the EU has been depriving authorities of tens of millions of euros in lost taxes. China produced 18,560,000 tons of garlic in 2010, 82 per cent of the world's output, according to the United Nations. Growers from other countries complain they cannot compete against the cheap, abundant Chinese crop. Garlic smuggling cases are, after meat and sugar, the most common type of agricultural investigations probed in Europe.


According to the World Economic Forum, a major systemic financial failure, extreme weather patterns, a water-supply crisis, weapons of mass destruction, cyber attacks and stark income disparity, are just a few of the major risks to the global economy this year. The single most likely risk in the next decade is severe income disparity, according to a study, based on a survey of more than 1,000 experts in industry, government and academia who were asked to assess 50 global risks. This is the second year in a row the widening gaps between the world's richest and poorest citizens was flagged as the most likely global risk.


Operating revenues for the Canadian advertising and related services industry rose 2.1 per cent between 2010 and 2011 to C$6.9-billion. The strongest increase was in Alberta with 11.2 per cent and the lowest in New Brunswick with a 16.5 per cent decrease. Among the different industries, the strongest growth was posted by direct mail advertising. As in previous years, firms in Ontario accounted for most of the revenue generated by the industry with 59.9 per cent, followed by Quebec, 23.4 per cent and British Columbia with 8.4 per cent.


Canadians ignored the anaemic economic recovery and warnings about mushrooming household debt to drive 1,676-million cars off dealers' lots in 2012, with favourable financing conditions propelling the industry to the second-highest sales year on record. The best year was in 2002 with sales of 1,707-million vehicles sold. The strong Canadian dollar helped but over the past decade, new auto prices have dropped an average of one per cent each year.


Researchers in the Netherlands say that the wriggly beetle larvae known as mealworms could one day dominate supermarket shelves as a more sustainable alternative to chicken, beef, pork and milk. Currently, livestock use about 70 per cent of all farmland. In addition, the demand for animal protein continues to rise globally, and is expected to grow by up to 80 per cent between 2012 and 2050. The researchers found that growing mealworms released less greenhouse gases than producing cow milk, chicken, pork and beef. Growing mealworms takes up only about ten per cent of land used to produce beef, 30 per cent for pork and 40 per cent of the land used to produce chicken to generate similar amounts of protein.


According to scientists, brass door knobs, handles and handrails should be brought back into common use in public places to help combat superbugs. Researchers have discovered that copper and alloys made from the metal, including brass, can prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Plastic and stainless steel surfaces, which are now widely used in hospitals and public settings, allow bacteria to survive and spread when people touch them, Even if the bacteria die, DNA that gives them resistance to antibiotics and survive can be passed on to other bacteria on these surfaces. Copper and brass however, can kill the bacteria and destroy this DNA.


With a surge in record-setting trophy sales to billionaires, the Manhattan apartment market had its strongest year in 2012 since the peak of the real-estate boom in 2008. The number of sales rose by 10.5 per cent compared with a year earlier, even for lower priced apartments and median prices continued to rebound. Five of the 10 most-expensive residential sales on record in Manhattan closed in 2012, including the three most expensive. There were 11 sales at more than US$30-million each, more than double the number in 2011. The record sale was a condominium on West 62nd Street which sold for $88-million.


A smart test road with glow-in-the-dark pavement and weather indicators will be installed by the middle of the year in the Netherlands. The inventor has developed a photo-luminescing powder that will replace road markings, charging up in sunlight to provide up to 10 hours of glow-in-the-dark time once darkness falls. Special paint will also be used to paint markers like snowflakes across the road's surface, images which will become visible when temperatures drop to a certain level, warning drivers that the surface will likely be slippery.


Thailand is trying to put together a cartel of rice-producing countries. But unlike oil, rice rots. The alliance, which could include Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos may be announced soon with a view to raising rice prices in global markets. The five Asian nations are expected to export 15-million tons of milled rice this year, about 40 per cent of the total global trade in the staple.


China's patent office received more applications than any other country's in 2011, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, a body that follows 126 patent offices. China received 526,412 applications, exceeding those for America and Japan. Globally, filings rose by 7.8 per cent, breaking the two million mark. China has accounted for 72 per cent of the world's patent-filing growth between 2009 and 2011. The U.S. contributed 16 per cent. Almost one million patents were granted in 2011; Japan has approved the most, but the U.S. has the most patents in force, more than 2.1-million out of an estimated 7.9-million worldwide.


Canada's small hemp industry is growing, but still faces hurdles because of its illegal and potent cousin marijuana. Production of hemp is forecast to almost double by 2015, which will translate to about C$100-million to the Canadian economy. About 200 growers across the country have been licensed by Health Canada and can only plant seeds that have been approved by the federal government. Hemp is filled with nutritious Omega 3 and 6 and is used to make breakfast cereals, pretzels, protein powders, salad dressings and lactose-free milk. Fibres from the hearty plant is made into building products, paper and clothes. Hemp oil is used to make cosmetics.


Scientists in Southampton, UK., are now able to change the colour of gold, which could have implications for jewellery-making and security features. The technique used by the scientists involves embossing tiny raised or indented patterns on the metal's surface, altering the way that it absorbs or reflects light, thus changing its colour to the naked eye. The gold can now be made red or green, or a multitude of other hues.


The U.S. Department of Energy is giving US$120-million to set up a new research centre charged with developing new methods of rare earth production. Rare earths are 17 chemically similar elements crucial to making many hightech products, such as phones and PCs. They are also used in wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars. The U.S. wants to reduce its dependency on China, which produces more than 85 per cent of the world's rare earth elements. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates there may be deposits of rare earths in 14 US states.


The U.K. Office for National Statistics reports that nearly one million tourists attended a Premier League football match last year, helping to boost the British economy by spending US$1.12-billion. Over 900,000 visitors spent an average of $1,256, an increase from 2010, when 750,000 visitors attended football games. The most popular teams to visit were Manchester United,and Liverpool. London clubs Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham were the next most popular.


There was a lot of interest in the Winbot 7 at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It automatically moves along the surface of a window while cleaning and squeegeeing the glass. What makes this robot better than some others is that it uses a vacuum seal to stick onto the window instead of a separate magnet. To clean a window, you plug it into a power port, spray the cleaning pads with a solution, place it against a window and turn it on.


PC makers sold 89.8-million units worldwide in the fourth quarter of last year, down 6.4 per cent from the same quarter in 2011. For all of 2012, 352-million PCs were sold, down 3.2 per cent from 2011. That was the first annual decline since 2001. A 2.8 per cent growth is forecast for 2013. Analysts now say that people are waiting up to ten years to replace computers rather than five in the past.


The hotly-anticipated Pebble smartwatch, which was created thanks to US$15-million in crowdsourced funds, is now available. The Pebble has a e-ink display, similar to those found on e-readers, and lasts seven days on one battery charge. The 1.26in screen is able the display a multitude of apps as well as tell the time. On the Pebble website, the cost of the watch is US$149. Wearers can also receive text messages and e-mails through the device.


U.K consumers are going to have to pay more for the 382-million fish-and-chip meals they eat each year after the second wettest year in a century. Most of the country's 10,500 outlets have raised their prices for chips about 10 per cent. A medium portion of chips now costs US$2.42, 30 cents more than a month previously. This may increase again because the new crop won't be ready until summer. The average person in the U.K. eats 104.5-kilograms of potatoes a year, almost twice as many as in the U.S.


Four cranes, each 14 stories high and costing US$40-million, have just been unloaded from China in the port of Baltimore and are being prepared for operations. They are part of the city's gamble that when supersize container ships start coming through the expanded Panama Canal in 2015, Baltimore will be one of the few ports on the East Coast ready for their business.


San Francisco's building code has been downsized. A pilot program has been approved which will see efficiency units or apartments with reduced square footage requirements. Approval has been given to an ordinance that will change the definition of an efficiency dwelling to include units that are as small as 220 square feet, including the bathroom and closets. The Planning Commission is required to provide an analysis of the smaller living program before it can be expanded. Currently, one bedroom apartments or studios rent for about $3,000 a month.


The idea behind the SwipeTie is simple. a silk necktie with a patch of microfibre fabric (the same stuff used for lens-cleaning cloths) behind the tip of the tie, at the ready to wipe smudges and greasy fingerprints from the screen of a smart phone or tablet.

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February 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting

February 2013 Edition


U.S. researchers have developed a new type of lighting that could replace fluorescent bulbs. The new source is made from layers of plastic and is said to be more efficient while producing a better quality of flicker-free light. The new light source is called field-induced polymer electroluminescent technology. It is made from three layers of light-emitting polymers that contain a small volume of nanomaterials that glow when electric current is passed through them. It is believed that the first units will be produced this year. 


Communist-run Cuba has legalized non-agricultural co-operatives as the state slowly pulls back from its centrally planned economy in favour of private initiative and market forces. The move is the latest reform under the President, Raul Castro, who wants to transform the country's Soviet-style economy into one more in line with Asian Communism where political control remains absolute, while allowing more space for the private sector. The initial stage calls for the establishment of more than 200 associations in sectors such as transportation, food services, fishing, personal and domestic services, recycling and construction. 


By the end of last year, Canada had about 6,500 megawatts of wind power capacity, enough to power close to two million homes. For the second consecutive year, more than 1,000 MW of power had been added to Canada's grid and there will be around 1,500 MW of new installations on average annually over the next few years. Ontario has the most installations. There are now 159 wind farms across Canada with more than 3,500 turbines. Wind power generates about 3 per cent of the country's power.


In an age of vitamin waters and energy drinks, the decades-long decline in U.S. milk consumption has accelerated, worrying dairy farmers, milk processors and grocery chains. Per capita U.S. milk consumption, which peaked around the Second World War, has fallen almost 30 per cent since 1975, even as sales of yogurt, cheese and other dairy products have risen. Children, who tend to be heavy milk drinkers, account for a smaller share of the U.S. population than they once did. Americans drank an average of 20 gallons (75 litres) of milk last year, a decline of 3.3 per cent from the previous year, and the biggest slide year-over-year since 1993.


The U.S. Transportation Department has proposed a regulation imposing criminal penalties and jail time for truck and bus companies that try to evade regulations by changing their names. The rule would let the agency more effectively keep the small number of carriers with the worst safety records off the road. The Department has been criticized for not being aggressive enough in targeting rogue carriers, especially so-called chameleons who repaint their buses and transfer employees and assets to a new company.


Toronto's Pearson International Airport employs 40,000 workers, creating a C$26-billion annual economic impact including revenues related to direct, indirect and induced activities. In 2011, 33.4 million passengers passed through Toronto which had 448,000 take-offs and landings. Vancouver International Airport has 23,614 direct jobs, creating a $5.3-billion gross domestic product and handles 17-million passengers. 


Last October, it was learned that an international computer hacker had stolen from the South Carolina Department of Revenue data base, the tax records of every South Carolinian who has filed a tax return online since 1998, 3.8-million individuals and almost 850,000 businesses. It is believed to be the largest cyber-attack against a state tax agency in America's history. Hijacked information included anything listed on the tax returns, from Social Security numbers and bank account information to details about taxpayers' children. 


Gross domestic expenditure on research and development (R&D) in Canada amounted to C$30-billion last year, up slightly from 2011. Of this, Business accounted for about $15.5-billion, the higher education sector for about $11.5-billion, the federal government for about $2.5-billion and the balance by provincial governments, provincial research organizations and private non-profit organizations. 


There has been an increase in traffic on the Northern Sea Route, the icy passage along Russia's Arctic coast. Global warming has opened a route between Europe and Asia that can cut journey times by three weeks. Last year, some 50 vessels made the voyage. One ship that left Norway last November was the first to carry liquefied natural gas. It sailed for Japan where the Fukushima nuclear disaster has led to an increase in demand. 


Millions of Brazilians are leaving poverty and marching into the middle class. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the perfume sector where Brazil has now become the world's largest fragrance market, and third in the US$300-billion-plus global beauty market. Its consumer class, the biggest in the continent, also has a voracious demand appetite for cellphones, flat-screen TVs and tablet computers. According to the World Bank, throughout Latin America, once better known for hyper-inflation, political instability and high poverty, in the past decade, more than 50-million people have joined the middle class.


Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may have a silver lining: doubling the size of the sweet potato, the fifth most important food crop in the developing world. Many studies of the effects of higher atmospheric carbon dioxide on crops have shown rising yields of rice, wheat and soy. The hardy sweet potato is increasingly becoming a staple in Africa and Asia, producing more edible energy per hectare per day than wheat, rice or cassava.


China's automobile sales and output exceeded 19-million units last year. This figure is a jump from 2011's level of 14-5-million. China hit its target of exporting one million vehicles in 2012.

China Automobiles


Canada is reviving its long-stalled free trade talks with South Korea as the federal government shifts its negotiating focus from Europe to fast-growing Asia. South Korea is the world's 15th-largest economy. Reaching a final agreement pits the interests of auto-makers who have long fought duty-free entry of Korean vehicles such as Hyundai and Kia to Canada against the Canadian agri-food exporters who are losing market share to rivals in the U.S. and Europe which already have free trade there.


Record coffee harvests in Brazil, the biggest coffee grower, are compounding a global glut of arabica used by chains like Starbucks Corp. and Dunkin' Donuts Inc. which should lower their costs. Brazilian farmers will reap 50.8-million bags this year, a record for the so-called low season. The harvest reached 55.9-million 60-kilogram bags in 2012, an all time high. Output usually drops in alternate years because of growing cycles. 


The Conference Board of Canada forecasts that by 2025, Canada's exports to the U.S. will drop from about three quarters to about two-thirds. By contrast, Canada's share of goods trade with booming China will expand to almost 7 per cent from 3 per cent currently. The share of Canada's exports to India will more than double and will be roughly equal to Canada's trade with Mexico. Trade with Brazil will also double by 2025. 


Some 50-million of China's 230-million urban households live in substandard quarters often lacking their own toilet and kitchen. It is estimated that China will need to build 10-million new apartments each year until 2030. Some may be as small as 160 square feet to be affordable. Recently, larger apartments have been the traditional focus of China's developers which can cost as much as 40 years' income. 


High-definition televisions have rapidly become the norm in U.S. homes. More than three-quarters of American homes now have a high-def TV and nearly 40 per cent have more than one. In 2007, only 11 per cent of homes had a high-def TV. However, there is more of a taste for high definition than a supply of programming. In May of 2011, 61 per cent of all prime-time viewing was done on a high-def set, yet only about 29 per cent of prime-time viewing on networks was in true high definition programming and it was even less for cable networks. Sports and entertainment are the most likely to be seen in high definition. 


Canada is losing ground on a key measure of gender equality, sliding out of the world's top twenty list along with the United States. Canada fell three notches in the World Economic Forum's annual list, landing in 21st spot behind the Philippines, Latvia and Nicaragua. The world's most equal societies are still the Nordic ones: Iceland remains in first place followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden. Yemen is in last place in the 135-country list. 


A new U.S. study says that setting a speed limit for cargo ships sailing near ports and coast lines could cut their emissions of air pollutants by up to 70 per cent. Such speed-reduction policies would help reduce the impact of marine shipping on Earth's climate and human health. While marine shipping is the most efficient form of transporting goods with more than 100,000 ships carrying 90 per cent of the world's cargo, engines on large cargo vessels burn low-grade oil that produces large amounts of pollution.


It is estimated that Canadian retailers lose about C$4-billion a year to theft, accounting errors and damaged products. A Retail Council of Canada report estimates that employee theft has grown to more than 33 per cent of theft-related incidents from 19 per cent in 2008. Theft by external parties, including shoplifters and organized crime dropped to 43 per cent of reported incidents from 65 per cent in 2008. Alcohol, women's apparel, cosmetics and fragrances are among the top stolen items. 


Lettuce is California's main vegetable crop. The state grew US$1-6-billion worth of the plant in 2010 and accounts for more than 70 per cent of all lettuce grown in the U.S., the world's second-biggest exporter of the plant. Lettuce are fussy to grow needing fertilizing, weeding and thinning so they do not grow too close to each other. Now, an application has been developed for a robotic labourer which can be pulled behind a tractor which takes pictures of the plants and identifies weeds and lettuces that are growing too close to each other and kills them but feeds the remaining crops at the same time.


People around the world are living longer but with higher levels of sickness. High blood pressure, smoking and alcohol have become the highest risk factors for ill health replacing child malnourishment which topped the list in 1990. The burden of HIV/AIDS remains high accounting for 1.5-million deaths last year.


The Latino growth has impacted U.S. grocery trends to the extent that it has redefined American cuisine. Overall, the U.S. market for Hispanic food and beverages exceeded US$8-billion in 2012, an increase of three per cent from the previous year and an increase of eight per cent from 2009. This sector is expected to approach $11-billion in 2017, up 31 per cent from present levels. Given the enormous buying power of Latinos this is a trend marketers cannot afford to ignore.


A fifty per cent federal tax on chewing gum is being proposed in Mexico to help pay for the cleaning of chewing gum that people spit out in public places such as sidewalks, plazas and parks.

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January 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting

January 2013 Edition



Mexico was once feared as a key source of low-cost labour for American and Canadian companies when the NAFTA was signed, then along came China. But now, as China's workers increasingly demand higher wages, Mexico has re-emerged as an attractive place for North American manufacturers. Already, economists are saying that Mexican labour is as cheap as China. Mexico also has the advantage of being close to the United States and sharing a long land border which reduces shipping costs. 


Last year, Somali piracy cost the shipping industry an estimated US$7-billion, but the recent fall in the number of successful hijackings has been dramatic. In 2010 there were 219 cases of pirates trying to board vessels and 236 in 2011. This year, the total is just 71. Successful seizures are down from 49 in 2010 to 28 in 2011 and only 13 this year. Piracy has become far riskier and less profitable in the last year or so. 


The ubiquitous "Made in China" label may be losing some of its power as Americans seek products manufactured at home but it is not just U.S. consumers who want to buy American. Recent research indicates that a rising middle class in China has an appetite for U.S. goods, preferring them to Chinese-made products because of their perceived higher quality and durability. However, a strong majority of consumers in Germany and France prefer products made in their own countries to U.S. goods, and would be prepared to pay more for local goods as well.


Canada has been granted observer status in a new Latin American trade bloc. The Pacific Alliance is comprised of Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Peru and boasts about 215-million consumers with a combined GDP of US$2-trillion. While they are not as integrated as the European Union the members have sought to remove restrictions on the movement of goods and services as well as capital and people between them. They have also linked their stock markets, opened joint trade offices and moved to ease visa requirements. Canada has free trade agreements with all four countries but their integration should make it easier for companies to do business there.


The U.S. Transportation Department has proposed a regulation imposing criminal penalties and jail time for truck and bus companies that try to evade regulations by changing their names. The rule would let the agency more effectively keep the small number of carriers with the worst safety records off the road. The Department has been criticized for not being aggressive enough in targeting rogue carriers, especially so-called chameleons who repaint their buses and transfer employees and assets to a new company.


By this month, there will be 379 Wal-Mart stores in Canada with a total square footage of 4.6-million and employing 90,000 staff. Each day, one million people visit the stores. Wal-Mart is set to open 73 more Canadian stores this year. The larger stores carry about 100,000 items with the small stores around 70,000. This year, Target is planning to open about 130 stores in Canada. 


The Canadian wireless industry is vowing to combat mobile device theft following months of pressure from the federal telecom regulator, police and politicians. The plan will make it more difficult for criminals to reactivate stolen devices, such as smart phones and tablet computers which should reduce the incentive for theft. Violent cell phone thefts have increased by 71 per cent from 2010 to 2011 in Montreal and 37 per cent in Vancouver in the same period. Stolen phones can sell for hundreds of dollars on the black market. 


The fast-growing economies of China and India will soon be worth more than the combined domestic product of the Group of Seven countries. However, it is now predicted that China's GDP growth will slow significantly after 2020 because of a rapidly aging population that will present major policy challenges to the country's leadership. By 2030, more than 35 per cent of China's population will be older than 65 and by 2060, more than 60 per cent of people living in China will be seniors. After 2020, China's economic growth will be overtaken by India and Indonesia. 


At least three firms paid millions for product placement and marketing rights in the latest James Bond movie Skyfall. Coke is the spy's soft drink of choice (specifically Coca-Cola Zero). French wine maker Bollinger makes Bond's Champagne but the biggest drink-related deal involves Heineken, which reportedly paid US$45-million to convince Bond to ditch his martini. Omega recently released 11,007 watches to mark the 50th anniversary of the franchise and an additional 5,007 limited edition Skyfall watches which have an 007 emblem on the dial. 


The global market for liquified natural gas (LNG) will shift further to Asia by 2020, where high prices will attract new supply sources, while Europe is expected to remain dependent on pipeline supplies and North America will become a marginal LNG exporter. Trading in LNG will rise by over 4 per cent a year between now and 2020 with Asia taking the lion's share. The value of LNG cargoes will rise to around US$325-billion up from $250-billion in 2011, based on global supplies of 460-million tonnes a year. Japan and South Korea are the world's top two buyers of LNG with China and India not far behind.


It has been learned that both Hyundai and Kia overstated the gas mileage on 900,000 vehicles sold in the past three years, a discovery that could bring sanctions from the U.S. government and millions of dollars in reimbursements to car owners. The results were uncovered in an audit of test results by the Environmental Protection Agency which has ordered the window stickers on the Korean vehicles changed to show that they are one to six miles per gallon lower depending on the model. Hyundai and Kia executives said the higher figures were unintentional errors.


U.S. researchers are claiming that a device which can harness energy from the heart can produce enough electricity to keep a pacemaker running. Presently, pacemaker batteries need replacing. Tests suggest that the device could produce 10 times the amount of energy needed. If researchers can refine the technology and it proves robust in clinical trials, it will further reduce the need for battery changes.


The 105-storey hotel which dominates the skyline of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, may open this year, 26 years after construction began. Started in 1987, the pyramid-shaped building has become known as the "Hotel of Doom" It is the 47th tallest building in the world at 1,100 feet and has the fifth greatest number of floors, 105. Construction was abandoned in 1992 when North Korea suffered an economic crisis. Esquire magazine has called it the "Worst Building in the History of Mankind" which is hideously ugly, even by communist standards.


An international trade dispute over bananas dating back two decades has finally been settled. The European Union and ten Latin American countries signed an agreement to formally end eight separate World Trade Organization (WTO) cases. Latin American banana exporters had long protested against EU tariffs designed to protect small growers in former European colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. The agreement involves the EU reducing tariffs on imported bananas from US$224 per tonne to $145 per tonne within eight years. 


The Danish government intends to abolish a tax on foods that are high in saturated fats. The measure, introduced a little over a year ago was believed to be the worlds first so called "fat tax." Foods containing more than 2.3 per cent saturated fat, including dairy produce, meat and processed foods, were subject to the surcharge. Authorities are now saying that the tax had inflated food prices and put Danish jobs at risk. 


The UK government is to end financial aid to India by 2015. Support worth about US$319-million will be phased out between now and 2015 and the UK will then shift to offering technical assistance. This move reflects India's economic progress and status. Until last year, when it was overtaken by Ethiopia, India was the biggest recipient of bilateral aid from the UK. 


The United States will overtake Saudi Arabia to become the world's top oil producer by 2017. And by 2020, the U.S. will be a net exporter of gas. This will have enormous implications for an abundant supply of cheap gas for its chemical, plastics, glass and steel industries. The U.S. presently imports 20 per cent of its energy needs. 


With health and global realities important concerns for consumers, some food trends in 2013 will be moving from cutting-edge to mainstream. Sour will be common as palates move beyond sweet, salty and fatty to tart, acidic and bitter. Weight watchers will see chefs exchanging their butter and bacon for broth and beets. Asian foods will infiltrate American comfort foods and vegetables will star as the main dish rather than just a side plate or salad. 


The U.S. grocery market grew to US$645-billion in 2011 from $568-billion in 2007 a growth of 14 per cent. over four years.


Experts say that a global treaty is required to crack down on the deadly trade in fake medicines. Currently, there are more sanctions around the use of illegal tobacco than counterfeit drugs. The World Health Organization (WHO) says more than one in every 10 drug products in poorer countries are fake and that a third of malaria drugs are counterfeit. WHO estimates nearly a third of countries have little or no medicine regulation. 


Experimental concrete that patches up cracks by itself is to undergo testing. The concrete contains limestone-producing bacteria, which are activated by corrosive rainwater working its way into the structure. The new material could potentially increase the service life of concrete, with considerable cost savings as a result. Concrete is the world's most widely used building material, but it is prone to cracks, which means that structures need to be substantially reinforced with steel.


A poor wine harvest in 2012 is predicted to lead to a shortage of wine across the world. The International Organization for Wine and Vine (OIV) says wine production has fallen to its lowest level since records began in 1975. Hardest hit are wine-makers in Argentina, where output has fallen 24 per cent and in the world's two largest wine producers, Italy and France. Overall production is expected to have been around five billion gallons. Global thirst for wine is growing, especially in the developing world, and demand is expected to outstrip production. The exception is the U.S. where output grew by 7 per cent.


A Swedish town has hit on a novel way to cut its unemployment figures: it is paying young people to move to Norway, and more than 100 have already found work there.

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December 2012 Economic Digest

December 2012 Edition



Chinese shoppers at home and abroad are pushing global sales of luxury items to new heights, helping the sector post its third consecutive year of strong growth since the global recession. A new study forecasts that global luxury goods market for clothing, accessories, jewellery, cosmetics and art will grow ten per cent this year to US$274 billion. This represents an increase from $240 billion in 2011.


Malicious software, or malware, is now being installed on some Windows computers before they even leave the factory. Microsoft said that one out of five computers it tested in China was shipped with malware, the worst being a virus that connects with an illicit network of infected computers. Microsoft blames less reputable manufacturers who preload machines with counterfeit Windows software, which is more vulnerable to attack.


Major U.S. soft drink manufacturers are to start displaying their drinks' calories on vending machines next year and point customers towards less sugary products. This is their latest response to critics who have singled them out for contributing to the U.S. obesity epidemic. The project, which will first launch in Chicago and San Antonio aims to stop the spread of anti soda measures in municipalities after New York City moved to limit portion sizes and other cities contemplate taxes on sugary beverages.


Winnebago Industries has reported its highest motor home order backlog since the recession, underscoring the recovery of the U.S. recreational vehicle market. The largest motor home maker, known for its luxurious touring vehicles that provide home like comfort on the road, said total order backlog nearly doubled to 1,884 units at the end of the fourth quarter. More staff have been hired to handle the orders and it plans to increase production.


A growing number of U.S. companies are helping their workers buy some extra time. Vacation "buy sell" programs which let employees purchase extra time off or sell days they don't expect to use, are increasingly popular. Workers who buy time, pay in instalment via payroll deduction, while those who sell get credits on their pay. Fifty one per cent of firms surveyed now offer paid time off programs compared with 42 per cent in 2009. The median full time worker in the U.S. gets 2.6 weeks vacation a year, but 57 per cent do not use their full entitlement. One Chicago building company has had a buy sell program for 20 years which has become so popular that management has had to cut the maximum purchase to one week.


Kellogg Co. is hoping to turn cereal into a breakfast staple in China. The company currently gets most of its revenue from North America but is seeking to developing markets in China and India where the appetite for convenience foods is growing. China is expected to be the largest food and beverage market within the next five years. This year, the cereal market in China is expected to be worth US$225 million, more than double what it was five years ago.


Mexico has discovered new deep water oil deposits with estimated reserves of 125 million barrels. The latest find was at about 2,900 meters in the Gulf of Mexico. Earlier in the year, at another well in the same region, reserves of around 300 million barrels were confirmed.


According to Forbes, the ten most valuable sports teams in the world are worth a combined US$16 billion, up from $14.4 billion a year ago, an 11 per cent increase. Two soccer teams top the list: Manchester United and Real Madrid. Joint third are the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys. Of the 50 most valuable teams, 41 are American, including all 32 NFL teams.


Government support for agriculture in the mostly rich countries of the OECD amounted to US$252 billion in 2011, or 19 per cent of total farm receipts. The general trend for subsidies is downward: compared with the second half of the 1990s, subsidies fell in all countries. Levels of support vary widely. In Norway, Switzerland and Japan, more than half of gross farm receipts came from subsidies in 2009 11. For farmers in Australia, Chile and New Zealand, it was less than five per cent.


The Saudi Arabia of olive oil is Spain with its baking summers and warm winters and it accounts for half of global production. But the absence of rain this year may reduce total global supply by around 20 per cent compared with a year ago when the world was awash in over three million tonnes of olive oil. Then, high levels of production had pushed prices to a nine year low. Over the past three months, the price of extra virgin olive oil has risen by 50 per cent to about US$3,400 a tonne. Germans are using five times more olive oil and the British ten times the amount of oil compared with 1990.


The Canadian RCMP has just one member nationwide working full time as a forest crimes investigator. Thieves are targeting specific trees but curly Maple trees at around 120 years old are highly coveted for their unique grain pattern and hard wood and are used for making instruments. Typically, thieves will chop a tree into pieces and sell the raw chunks to export brokers or local businesses. A vehicle load of high quality maple can fetch up to C$6,000 from local mills who process the wood for sale to instrument makers. Cedar trees have also become a favourite target of poachers in British Columbia.


The balloon industry is in a down cycle due to a shortage of helium gas. Hospital radiology departments also use liquid helium to cool magnets in equipment such as an MRI scanner. Helium plant shutdowns in Algeria, Poland and Australia have contributed to the global supply and in Texas, which has one of the largest geological deposits of helium rich natural gas, a pipeline that carries about 30 per cent of global supply of helium has been closed for maintenance in July. The main target for blame is the Federal Helium Reserve which stores around about 13 million cubic feet of helium but is only allowed by law to sell a specific amount of helium annually privately.


The Cayman Islands is losing some of its allure as it has introduced what amounts to the territory's first ever income tax. It will fall only on expatriate workers who have helped build the territory into one of the most famous, or notorious, offshore banking centres that offer tax advantages for foreign investments. The tax is a 10 per cent payroll levy on expatriates who earn more than US$36,000 a year. It is a monumental shift for a territory of 56,000 people where zero taxes and a friendly reputation have attracted 91,712 companies, including 235 banks and 758 insurance companies.


More Americans are taking to the road on two wheels. Between 1977 and 2009, the total number of annual bike trips more than tripled. Commuting cyclists have also increased in number, with twice as many biking to work in 2009 as in 2000. Cities are increasingly vying to be bike friendly. Among them, Chicago has said it will build over 30 miles of protected cycle lanes next year. At the moment it ranks fifth. Ahead of it are Washington, DC, Boulder, Colorado, Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon.


The Swedish government is to invest US$8.2-billion to improve its railway network after a summer of technical problems. The government says the plans will lead to more frequent, faster and more punctual rail services that will not only benefit passengers and rail cargo users, but also create jobs and growth.


Britain's wealth has more than doubled over the past 20 years and was equivalent to US$178,000 per person last year. The rise in the country's wealth by 3.3 per cent to $10.9-trillion came despite a poor year for the economy. Property alone is now worth $6.5-trillion and accounts for more than half of household wealth with houses and apartments more than tripling in value in the past 20 years.


Several companies in the U.K. are trying to provide a better way of finding a taxi. All are entering the fast growing market for taxi apps on mobile phones. The concept is simple: to hail a cab, just pull up an app on your phone and press a button. The app-makers then find a nearby driver looking for a fare. The customer can then watch on a map as their ride makes its way to pick them up within minutes.


The squishy things much sought after by fishermen for bait and birds for nutrition are now being put to work treating thousands of tonnes of toxic sludge left in farms and fields by Indian factories as industrial growth has skyrocketed in recent years. The worms burrow up to five feet deep in the contaminated soil, soak up heavy metals and other toxins and come to the surface without releasing the toxins. They may then be transported to a secure long-term dump site or burned.


Between April and June of this year Canadian acquisitions in Europe reached C$15.1-billion, nearly 70 per cent of the record $21.8 billion Canadian companies spent taking over foreign companies.


Sales of children's e-books nearly tripled over the first six months of this year compared to the same period in 2011. 2.6-million of children's e-books were sold compared to one million last year at the same time. Much of the increase is due to the advances in technology which have caused the sales of digital books for children, including picture books, to take off dramatically. Experts are concerned that such a trend could result in a generation of children reading more from screens than from books.


Canadians may complain about high internet bills and low download limits but it still isn't stopping then downloading songs like crazy. Canadians are fourth in the world for unauthorized music downloads. Only the U.S., Britain and Italy rank higher but on a per capita basis , Canadians download more unauthorized music than any other country. On a per capita basis, Canadians downloaded two and a half times as many songs as Americans.


The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has taken action against two Indian companies for breaking Canada's telemarketing rules. The companies have been found guilty of making unsolicited telemarketing calls to Canadians who have registered their numbers with the National Do Not Call List. One company has been fined C$495,000 and the other $12,000.


Vancouver B.C. is using remote sensing to measure the diesel pollution from thousands of semi-trailer trucks, dump trucks, buses and other heavy-duty vehicles. The program uses infrared and ultraviolet beams from a specialized testing trailer at the side of the road. Trucks and buses do not have to slow down or stop for the emissions testing.


Two men in Brighton England have been banned from an all-you-can-eat restaurant after the manager branded them as "pigs".

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November 2012 Economic Digest - Freight Forwarding - Customs Broker


Fleet in Vancouver


Shipments of RVs in the U.S. have increased 5 per cent over 2010 and are expected to grow another 7 per cent by the end of 2012. Some areas are seeing double digit growth in sales. RVs sell for as little as US$5,000 for a caravan to $1.5-million for a deluxe motor home. More than 90 per cent of them are made in the U.S. and more than 80 per cent in a single county in Indiana. The RV market is considered by some as a an indicator of the health of the American economy and a growth in sales indicates that credit is opening up.


Authorities in Cuba report that tourism revenues rose 12.8 per cent in 2011, returning to levels three years earlier as the key sector recovers from losses due to the global financial downturn. Tourism income was US$2.5-billion compared with $2.2-billion the previous year. In all, the island hosted 2.7-million visitors, up 7 per cent from 2010.


Besides drugs, extortion and people-smuggling, a growing sideline in Mexico is stolen oil. In 2010, criminals made off with 3.35-million barrels of oil belonging to Pemex, the state owned oil monopoly, up from 2.16-million barrels in 2010. The thefts are reckoned to deprive the company of as much as US$1-billion a year. Some goes missing from trucks and some siphoned out of lengthy exposed pipes. Last year, Pemex detected 1,324 taps, over twice as many as the year before.


Tape and corrugated cardboard boxes for moving are apparently on their way out. Now, starting in California but spreading across the country, several companies are offering reusable tough plastic boxes which are delivered to the mover and then picked up afterwards. These containers can stack higher than cardboard and have built-in carrying handles for easy carrying. One company charges US$99 for 25 of its containers, suitable for a small apartment and has a variety of other rates up to $269 for 100 containers. Customers have the use of the boxes for two weeks.


Canadians realized only 3.72 per cent of all the savings available through the use of coupons in 2006, according to an industry study. That's just C$134-million saved out of a possible $7-billion that year. Unlike in the U.S, Canadians still don't take extreme couponing seriously.


Researchers predict that space tourism and commercial spaceflight could become a US$1.6-billion business in the next decade. It is estimated that there will be enough demand for such space flights to fill 400 to 500 seats per year at an average of $200,000 per seat.


China's explosive economic growth and the global rebound last year propelled the sale of art and antiques to US$60-billion last year, up by more than 50 per cent over previous years. $20.4-billion were sold in the U.S. 34 per cent of the total market: $13.8-billion in China, $13.2-billion in the U.K and $3.6-billion in France.


It is estimated that there are 18,000 parking lot attendants in the U.S. with college degrees. and some 5,000 janitors in the U.S. with PhDs. In all, some 17-million college educated Americans have jobs that do not require their level of education.


It is estimated that Americans throw away nearly half their food and, in 2010, recycled only 34 per cent of their waste. In Sweden, by contrast, only four per cent of waste from households ends up in landfills. And burning waste powers 20 per cent of the country's district heating as well as supplying electricity for a quarter million homes. Because it has become so good at recycling, Sweden now imports 800,000 tonnes of trash each year from other European countries, including Norway, to power its waste-to-energy program.


By September of this year America's total national debt, which includes government debt owed to business and foreign government, passed US$16-trillion for the first time. It passed $15-trillion only ten months previously.


Delivery of arms to developing countries last year were the highest since 2004, totalling US$28-billion. The U.S. and Russia, the world's leading arms suppliers, accounted for two-thirds of deliveries to the developing world. America's exports in particular are helped by a long-standing client base, which orders upgrades, spare parts and support services every year. Arms deals were buoyed last year by unusually high demand from Saudi Arabia which is the Middle East's biggest arms buyer with $2.8-billion in purchases. India, which is Russia's biggest high-value client was close behind at $2.7-billion.


Dubbed the "green plague" an infestation of iguanas are wreaking havoc on Puerto Rico chewing up plants and crops and burrowing under roads and dikes. The reptiles, which are not native to Puerto Rico, have few natural predators and their numbers are now estimated to be around four million, outnumbering humans in the U.S. territory. Now, the authorities are planning on slaughtering them and exporting the meat to countries in Latin America, Asia and elsewhere with a taste for lizards. In Central America where they are prized, they are eaten roasted and in stews


The organic milk business in Canada and the U.S. is worth US$2.4-billion a year and is growing. However, this is an industry with headaches, from legal battles to accusations of putting profits before quality, to conflicts over what "organic" really means. Both Canada and the U.S. have regulations as to what qualifies as organic milk, including requirements that cows consume organic feed and graze on fresh grass.


After 18 years of growing pains, Russia has become the 156th full member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the ninth largest economy on the planet. Canada may be a prime beneficiary of the Russian opportunity. Canada-Russia trade is now only about C$2.5-billion a year, about half Canada's trade with Brazil and a fifth of Canada's investment in the Netherlands. There are not many economies that are growing and modernizing at the rate Russia's is. Canada is already involved with agriculture in Russia and with mining and industrial machinery.


Argentine growers are planting corn and soy after ideal conditions, thanks to a record August rainfall that has raised hopes that the country's harvest could bolster global grain stocks depleted by the worst U.S. drought in decades. The dry spell in the U.S. Midwest and poor crops from the Black Sea bread basket have lifted prices of corn, wheat and soybeans. The world is now looking to Southern Hemisphere producers, Argentina, Brazil and Australia to replenish shrinking grain reserves. Argentina is the world's biggest corn exporter after the U.S.


The cost of mining-truck tires, those of 3.5 metres in diameter, is soaring. Resurgent global growth and China's appetite for raw materials haven't just propelled gold over US$1,600 an ounce, they have tripled the price of mining-truck tires. Normally about $30,000 to $60,000 apiece, the gargantuan tires are now selling for up to $100,000. When one considers that mining trucks run on six wheels and wear out tires in about 12 months, the cost of keeping a mining vehicle on the road could be $600,000 a year.


Thanks to decades of diligent brand-building, Colombian coffee sold for a premium in the world market. But nowadays most coffee served in the country is from beans grown in Ecuador or Peru. Output in Colombia, once the second producer after Brazil, hit a 35-year low in 2011 of 7.8-million 60kg bags, down from an average of 13-million in the 1990s. Although the collapse in the harvest was partly due to unusually heavy rains over the past three years, the farmers face other problems such as fungal rust and insect infestations as well as the price volatility caused by the strength of the peso.


A giant federal tax hike has spurred a historic drop in smoking in the U.S. The tax jumped from US39 cents to $1.01 per pack in 2009 to finance expanded health care for children. Since then the tax has brought in more than $30-billion in new revenue. About three million fewer people smoked last year than in 2009, despite a larger population. Teen smoking immediately fell between 10- and 13 per cent when the tax hike took effect.


Across the United States, 26 per cent of dogs had implanted microchips in 2010, compared to 17 per cent in 2009. Some 12 per cent of cats also had microchips in 2010. These figures are likely going to increase this year after two highly publicized cases of owners being reunited with their pets because of implanted microchips. Most shelters and humane societies now implant microchips in animals before allowing them to be adopted.


Tourism to Croatia is on the rise. In July, nore than 3.1-million people visited the Adriatic country. A total of 6.6-million tourist visits have been recorded since January. In 2011 more than 11.4-million tourists visited Croatia spending about US$8.3-billion. The Croatian economy recorded essentially no growth in 2011 for the third consecutive year but in the first quarter of 2012 the economy expanded for the first time.


Best known for its DIY furniture, Scandinavian retailer Ikea is planning to launch a chain of 100 budget hotels in Europe. The first two will open in Germany in 2014.


China is ramping up its exports of cheap steel, sometimes at a loss, as bulging stocks give way to a worsening domestic demand. Slowing construction and industrial activity has hit Chinese steel demand and prices hard, prompting market participants to export more agressively than ever, even to markets such as the Middle East and Africa where it doesn't usually sell.


Emerging economies in Asia, including India and the Philippines face the greatest financial risk from natural disasters. Last year was deemed to0 be the most costly 12 months on record for natural disasters costing US$380-billion. The main reason was the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 which was estimated to have cost $210-billion.


In the UK, approximately 50 per cent of lottery winners move house within the first three months of a big win and thirty per cent said they now employ a cleaner to look after the new home. 2,800 millionaires have been created by the National Lottery since it started.


Pedestrian fatalities in car crashes in the U.S. are on the rise again after five years of decline. Nearly 4,300 people died when hit by cars in 2010, a 4 per cent increase from 2009. About 75 per cent of pedestrian deaths were in urban areas. A meeting was held recently to finalize a global safety standard that includes proposed changes to the design of hoods and fenders so they absorb more of the impact when cars collide with people. In 2010 there was a total of 32,885 fatalities in car crashes.

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October 2012 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


October 2012 Edition


The U.S. was the world's biggest exporter of services last year, with 13.9 per cent of the US$4.1-trillion total. Britain was next followed by Germany. The U.S. also complains the most having brought 20 trade disputes to the World Trade Organization since 2006. However, the WTO recently ruled in favour of some of America's complaints against China. The world's biggest merchandise exporter is China with 10.4 per cent of the world's total.


The U.S. book market declined 2.5 per cent in 2011 as sales of lower-priced e-books more than doubled. Publishers generated US$27.2-billion in book sales, down from $27.9-billion in 2010. Sales of trade books-adult fiction, nonfiction, children's books and others-were little changed at almost $14-billion. E-books in the category more than doubled to $2.07-billion, although print remained dominant, with $11.1-billion. The industry lost revenue because of the proliferation of e-books.


One bright tourism trend is the increase in the number of visitors to Canada from Asia, particularly Mainland China. In the first five months of 2012, residents from China made 115,200 trips to Canada, a 22.9 per cent increase from the same period in 2011. China has now overtaken Australia as the fourth largest overseas market for visitors to Canada, behind the UK, France and Germany. China is now one of the world's most influential markets for international travellers. More than 77-million Chinese are expected to take a trip overseas this year.


Canada's broadcast regulator says that an obscure fee that cable companies charge to fund local television content is being scrapped and the companies have until this fall to explain how the fee will be removed from customers' bills. The fund was originally created to ensure that television stations had the resources to meet Canadians' needs for local programming. Starting in 2008, cable and satellite firms were ordered to pay into the C$100-million fund to protect Canadian content.


Not long ago, American farmers were expecting bumper harvests and the prices of grains and oilseeds were falling. Since then, a severe heatwave has hit the Midwest wilting crops and sending prices soaring. Soyabeans have hit a record of US$16 a bushel. World stocks of the oilseed which is crushed for animal feed are already low following a drought in South America. Yields of maize stocks will be at their lowest since 2003. Higher feed prices will depress American beef and poultry production and will likely affect other food prices as well.


Scientists at the University of South Carolina have found a way to use a cheap T-shirt to store electrical power. It could pave the way for clothes that are able to charge phones and other devices. Fibres in the fabric, when soaked in a solution of fluoride and baked, convert from cellulose to activated carbon. By using small parts of the fabric as an electrode, the researchers showed the material could be made to act as a capacitor and store an electrical charge. Capacitors are components of nearly every electronic device on the market.


New research shows that people in the UK are now more likely to text than to make a phone call. While 58 per cent of people communicated via text on a daily basis in 2011, only 47 per cent made a daily phone call. The shift away from traditional ways of keeping in touch is being led by young people aged 16-24. The average UK consumer now sends 50 text messages a week, while fewer calls are being made on both fixed and cell phones. In 2011, for the first time, there was a drop in cell phone calls by one per cent while landline calls were down by 10 per cent and overall time spent on the phone was down by five per cent.


After nearly a decade of generous increases, health-care spending across the 34 countries of the OECD was largely flat in 2010. Spending increased by an annual average of 4.8 per cent between 2000 and 2009. In 2010, eight countries cut spending while only three increased it by more than three per cent in real terms. Austerity-hit Ireland and Greece cut their health spending by 7.6 per cent and 6.5 respectively. In 2010 OECD governments spent an average of 9.5 per cent of their GDP on health care, up from 6.9 per cent in 1990. The U.S. spends by far the greatest amount at 17.6 per cent of its national income.


The U.S. government has announced a crackdown on computer-controlled, pre-recorded phone calls. The Federal Trade Commission is calling on telecom and marketing industry leaders to attend a meeting about the issue this month. The FCC wants to explore innovations that could let it trace where such calls come from and prevent the use of faked caller IDs. The U.S. made it illegal to make unwanted calls in 2009. Experts believe many offenders operate by routing calls via the internet from offshore centres, making it hard for the U.S. to completely eradicate the problem.


The Canadian government has launched a study of the health impacts of turbine noise on people living near wind power developments. The study will focus on 2,000 homes at 8 to 12 wind installations. It will measure individuals' blood pressure and test hair samples and interview people about annoyance, sleep quality and stress. The results will be published in 2014. While the wind industry has always claimed there is no evidence of direct health impacts from turbines, anti-wind advocates say there are ample reports proving that people are suffering.


India is moving ahead with ambitious plans to spend nearly US$5-billion to supply free drugs to patients, bringing the nation closer to universal health coverage. This is part of the government's latest five year spending plan (2012-2017) and should start this month. The central government will pay $3.61-billion while India's 29 states will be asked to pay the balance. This initiative will be a giant step in expanding access to medicine in the country of 1.2-billion people.


Top metals consumer China and world No.1 copper producer Chile plan to double their bilateral trade to US$60-billion by 2015. Until now, China has made relatively few investments in the Andean country, despite being its main trade partner and sharing a free-trade agreement. The two countries have also signed an agreement to give investors security for their investments in either of the two countries.


California law makers have approved financing for a bullet train that would eventually become part of the first dedicated high-speed line in the U.S. Approval was given for a 130 mile (209km) stretch, part of a larger line proposed to run from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The final cost of the LA-San Francisco line is estimated at US$68-billion. The vote allows California to use $3.2-billion in federal funding. The project is essential because of population growth. California's budget is presently $16-billion in the red.


The number of women in the top ranks of Canada's largest companies has climbed by less than one percentage point over the past two years, a glacial pace of change that means many firms are vastly underutilizing talented women. A review of almost 500 companies found that 17.7 per cent of senior officer positions were held by women in 2010, a modest increase from 16.9 per cent in 2008. Crown corporations lead with 27 per cent of top jobs filled by women.


The export value of Scotch whisky, which has proved virtually impervious to the global economic slowdown, rose by 71 per cent between 2006 and 2011 to US$6.72-billion. Over the same period, food exports have risen by a similarly impressive 65 per cent. Much of this is salmon. Scottish producers rushed to fill a gap in the world market when disease affected Chile's salmon exports a few years ago.


Statistics from the U.S. Commerce Department show that the U.S. grocery market grew to US$645-billion last year from $568-billion in 2007, a 14 per cent growth in four years. Warehouse clubs and supercentres remain the key competitor to supermarkets, despite all the coverage of dollar and drug stores. The supermarket share of the total grocery market has dropped again from 59.2 per cent in 2010 to 58.9 per cent in 2011.


By adding rubber "crumbs", reclaimed from shredded tires, to the bitumen and crushed stone used to make asphalt, engineers are designing quieter streets. First used experimentally in the 1960s, this rubberized, softer asphalt cuts traffic noise by around 25 per cent. Even better, it also lasts longer than the normal sort. Enough tires are recycled each year in the U.S. to produce 20,000-lane miles. Rubber roads are popular in China, Brazil, Spain and Germany.


Canada's prime shopping strips are cheap compared to big cities around the world. The most expensive is a strip of Bloor Street in the Yorkville area of Toronto which features some of the country's fanciest designer stores and is worth US$310 per square foot, making it the 34th most expensive strip in the world. Top spot is New York's Fifth Avenue at $2,633, a gain of 22 per cent in the past year.


A far-reaching ban on advertising alcohol advertising has gone into effect in Russia, part of a campaign to tackle the country's drinking problems. The ban prohibits alcohol advertising on television, radio, the internet, public transit and billboards. And as of next year, the ban will also apply to print media. Russian alcohol consumption is double the critical level set by the World Health Organization.


It used to be that lobster was considered a luxury. But thanks to an abundance of the soft-shell crustaceans in recent months, it is no longer a meal for special occasions. An excess supply in Maine has driven prices to under US$4 a pound making the sea creature cheaper per pound than deli meat in some cases.


Recent consumer research shows that when consumers search for online coupons and savings, 62 per cent search for store related deals and 24 per cent for product specific coupons, while only 14 per cent search specifically for brand name product discounts online. Nearly half of U.S. consumers--88.2-million-- will use online coupons and codes in 2012 and it is estimated that by the end of 2013, 96.8-million U.S. adults will have used such discounts.


China has offered to set up a US$10-billion credit line for Latin American countries to support infrastructure projects. China has been keen to increase trade in the area and with many of the Latin American countries still at the development stage, they are anxious to build new infrastructure in a bid to boost economic growth.


Islamic worshippers may now purchase "e-rugs." These are prayer mats with a built in alarm for the five daily prayer times and a compass that points towards Mecca.

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