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July 2014 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


July 2014 Edition


A new study for the Canadian Council of Chief Executives has concluded that Canada should declare itself a free trade zone. Removing all remaining tariffs coming into Canada would generate C$20-billion a year in economic gains making the country wealthier, more productive and a magnet for foreign investment. The economic gains, equivalent to a percentage point of gross domestic product, are roughly five times the $4-billion a year Canada now collects from import duties.


Las Vegas or Los Angeles would love to have Berlin’s problem: too much water. In the Spree valley, the water table has risen in places to just 2.5 metres below ground level. With most cellars in Berlin between two and three metres deep, that means wet basements, water damage and mould. Some 200,000 people, out of Berlin’s total of 3.4-million, live in the worst hit areas. On average Germans would be expected to use about 300 cubic metres of water annually but because of conservation measures they are using only about 200 cubic metres.


The European Parliament has voted to scrap roaming fees charged for using a cell phone while abroad. Under the wide-ranging telecom reforms, the cost of making a call or downloading internet data in another EU country will be the same as at home. Some UK consumers have faced bills for thousands of pounds after falling foul of current high roaming charges. The change is due to come into effect from December but still requires approval from EU governments.


A Greek entrepreneur is planning a network of humanitarian drones for transporting cargo, which aims to help the one billion people who do not have year-round access to roads by delivering medical supplies to them. The drones can deliver parcels up to 2-kilograms in weight. In sub-Saharan Africa, 85 per cent of roads are inaccessible during the wet season, cutting off huge swaths of the population and hindering the delivery of medical supplies. Test runs have been made in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and aid agencies are being targeted as the first users.


A new design for USB, a standardised connection for data transfer between electronic devices, has been shown off for the first time. The new connector will be reversible, bringing an end to the everyday irritant of trying to force a USB cable in the wrong way. But the rollout of new ports will take some time as manufacturers gradually incorporate them into their products. The first USB cables were introduced in the mid 1990s and, until now, could only be plugged into a computer or other device one way round to ensure a data connection.


A US wedding planner, has surveyed 13,00 brides and grooms across the country and sourced statistics on everything from location fees and tuxedo costs. It has found that tying the knot keeps growing more expensive, despite the trend for casual weddings. The average wedding cost in 2013 was about the price of a new car, or about US$30,000, excluding the honeymoon. The most expensive place to wed is Manhattan, $86,916 on average. Wedding dress costs: New York City and Long Island brides spent most on their gowns, $3,027 and $2,160 respectively while brides in Alaska and Oklahoma spent far less, $804 and $859 respectively.


Canada’s agriculture and agri-food GDP has grown 1.4 per cent annually since 1997, despite a global economic downturn that saw many other sectors stagnate. The food and beverage manufacturing industry is the largest manufacturing industry in Canada in terms of value of production, with shipments worth C93-billion. It accounts for 16 per cent of total manufacturing shipments. Exports of manufactured food products were worth $24.6-billion in 2012, an increase of 5.6 per cent from 2011 and reached 185 countries. Approximately 25 per cent of food and beverage shipments were exported with the largest share going to the United States.


Quebec is the undisputed world champion of the maple syrup business but the dramatic rise in production by Vermont has industry officials casting an eye southward. Quebec’s powerful producer’s federation has hired researchers to find out what is fuelling the rapid growth where production has doubled over the past 13 years. Even with the dramatic rise, the US accounts for only 20 per cent of maple syrup production (Vermont taps about 40 per cent of US production), while Quebec accounts for most of Canada’s 80 per cent. Last year, Vermont had record production. Vermont’s three year average to start the 2000s was 1.6-million litres per year. The past three years ending 2013 saw the state produce 3.1-million litres.


The value of the Canadian chocolate confection market is about C$2.7-billion. Nestle’s Canada has a 16 per cent share of that with its Coffee Crisp and Kit Kat brands leading in total sales. Globally the market is expected to hit almost $100-billion this year from $83-billion in 2010 largely due to a growing sweet tooth among Asian consumers. Chocolate prices were $12.25 a kilogram last year, a 45 per cent increase from 2007 which will hurt Swiss consumers who devour 11.8 kilograms of chocolate per capita each year, compared to 6.4 in Canada and 5.5 in the United States (a large chunk of which is sold around February 14th.


One of America’s earliest food crops, almonds, is also one of the most important for commercial bee keepers. Almonds depend on bees for pollination but the growth of this crop taxes the honeybees that the industry needs to thrive, California produces over 80 per cent of the world’s almonds, valued at over US$4-billion in 2012. The boom is expected to continue with new food products and expanding overseas markets increasing demand, to the point that no young almond trees are available for purchase until 2016. This demand for almonds translates into demand for pollination so every year 60 per cent of all US honeybees are shipped to California and will require 1.5-million hives this year.


In 2012, the value of the worldwide retail diamond market was US$72-billion. Diamonds took a huge hit during the financial crisis and have only just recovered. Sales were up just two per cent last year. Russia has diamond reserves of more than one billion carats followed by Zimbabwe with 200-million, Canada 195-million and Congo and Brazil 180-million each.


General Motors which is already locked in a public relations crisis because of a deadly ignition defect that has triggered a recall of millions of vehicles now has another problem on its hands. A new survey of top suppliers to the car industry in the US now considers GM as the worst big auto maker to deal with. The survey asks the industry’s biggest suppliers to rate their relationships with the six auto makers that account for 85 per cent of all light vehicles sales in the US. Suppliers gave GM low marks on all kinds of key measures including its overall trustworthiness, communication skills and protection of intellectual property. Toyota and Honda finished in No.1 and 2 spots respectively.


NASA scientists have begun deploying satellites and other advanced technology to help California water officials assess the state’s record drought and better manage it. The scientists are also embarking on projects that use satellite images to help more accurately measure the number of fields farmers have chosen not to plant and where land is sinking because of excessive ground-water pumping. California’s relationship with NASA began shortly after the dry year of 2009 when officials sought answers to problems exacerbated by the lack of rain and snow, such as sinking land.


In a survey of 60 countries by a Swiss business school, Canada remains the seventh most competitive. The IMD International based in Lausanne, says the United States retains its No. 1 spot, reflecting the resilience of its economy. Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sweden and Germany are also ahead of Canada. The UAE, Denmark and Norway are also in the top ten. While Europe fared better than last year because of its gradual economic recovery, the survey shows big emerging economies have dropped in the ranking as economic growth and investment slows.


In a nation of mostly haves and have-mores, Swiss voters have rejected a poll which would have seen the nation-wide minimum wage raised to US$27.77 an hour, the world’s highest. Meanwhile, Washington State is expected to approve an increase in their minimum wage to $15.00 an hour, the highest in the United States.


Connectivity for wi-fi from a light bulb, or “li-fi” has come a step closer according to Chinese scientists. A micro chipped bulb can produce data speeds of up to 150-megabits per second (Mpbs). A one watt LED light bulb would be enough to provide net connectivity to four computers it is claimed. Li-fi, also known as visible light communications, at these speeds would be faster, and cheaper, than the average Chinese broadband connection.


US authorities have said they are considering allowing the film and television industries to use drones. The Federal Aviation Authority feels there could be tangible economic benefits but cautions about safety issues. Businesses have been pushing hard for permission to use drones which are much less expensive to run than manned aircraft. However, the FAA is concerned about the fact that the US has some of the busiest airspace in the world and it needs to be sure that drones can be integrated with existing commercial and military traffic.


Scientists at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands would like to turn umbrellas into rain gauges. The smart umbrella has a sensor that detects raindrops falling on its canvas and uses bluetooth to send this information via a phone to a computer Though we have radar and satellites, rain is not being measured on the ground and scientists are relying on an ever dwindling number of scientific gauges which are expensive to maintain.


The US$3.9-billion nut-based and sweet spread category grew 34 per cent from 2008-13 and is forecasted to reach $6.5-billion by 2018, a 65 per cent increase. Due in part to countless new product launches, including industry-leading Nutella, such products maintain high household penetration rates and have become pantry staples. One in five consumers surveyed (20 per cent) say they want to see more indulgent nut-based spread, such as raspberry, white chocolate or chocolate chip. From 2009-13 there was a 97.7 per cent increase in new products.


The abolition of duty-free sales within the European Union in 1999 looked like the end of a big chunk of business. But since 2009, sales have grown by more than 12 per cent a year. Half the growth comes from a rise in the number of passengers, especially from places like China. A bit is inflation and the rest comes from travellers’ greater appetite for shopping. Once passengers are through security they are at a loose end and most are relatively prosperous. Airport retailers know the flight schedules and shopping habits of travellers according to their boarding cards and are primed to receive them. Sales at airports alone are forecast to grow by 73 per cent from 2013 to 2019. In 2013, travel retailers sold around US$60-billion worth of goods.


Though the engineers measured them, nearly 1,300 French stations are a few centimetres too narrow to take the order of 341 new trains to be introduced between now and 2016. It will cost US$68-million to fix the problem.

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 2014 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


June 2014 Edition


A machine with a US$13,000 price tag is said by its manufacturer to make the perfect cup of tea. It claims that the brewing process is far more complicated than simply dipping a tea-bag into some boiling water. Prototypes are being tested in US coffee shops and the device could be commercially available later this year. It uses a brewing chamber into which loose tea leaves and water are placed. The air is then drawn out to create a vacuum. This negative pressure in the chamber brings the tea leaves to the surface of the liquid and draws out flavour more precisely than simply adding boiling water. The process is repeated for between 60 and 90 seconds and different flavours need different numbers of infusion cycles. The machine can brew more than 60 cups of tea an hour.


Tablet computers are behind a swift rise in people aged 65 and over using the Internet in the UK. In the past 12 months the percentage of older people going online rose by more than a quarter to 42 per cent. In 2013, 17 per cent of people in the 65-or- over category had used a tablet for their web browsing. In 2012, tablet use in this group was just five percent. Despite the increase, the oldest group of people spend the least amount of time online of any adult age group with an average of nine hours 12 minutes per week. By contrast, those aged 16-24 devote about 24 hours each week to online activities.


Denmark is home to 1,500 mink farmers who together rear about 17.2-million of the mammals a year, about one-fifth of the world’s supply. It also produces smaller quantities of other furs such as white fox and chinchilla. Danish food companies make the world’s most nutritious mink food, a foul-smelling, fishy concoction and Danish design companies drive fur fashions. The Danish Fur Breeders Association is the world’s largest fur-auction house which sells fur from all over the world. Last year it auctioned 21-million pelts and had a turnover of US$2.8-billion.


Although US$91-billion is spent each year on American roads, that is nowhere enough to keep the country’s 4.1-million miles of public roadways in good shape. The Federal Highway authority estimates that $170-billion in capital investment is needed every year. Last year, a report from a civil engineering group said that 31 per cent of America’s major roads were in poor or mediocre condition. Main roads through cities were in worst shape with almost half the miles travelled over urban interstates in 2013 giving a bumpy ride.


With a workforce of just over 491,000 in 2013, the United States Postal Service is second only to Walmart among civilian employers in America. But it still employed more than 200,000 fewer people last year than it did just nine years earlier, when it handled nearly 500-million more pieces of mail and had almost 2,000 more retail offices. The rise of e-mail has left America’s massive postal service with far less to do and it has been scrambling to find ways to raise revenue. A new report suggests that post offices should begin offering financial services such as cheque-cashing, small loans, bill payments and international money transfers.


Nearly one in ten international tourists worldwide is now Chinese, with 97.3-million outward-bound journeys from the country last year, of which around half were for pleasure. Most of those who travel go to Hong Kong, Maca or Taiwan Chinese tourists spent most in total, US$129-billion in 2013, followed by Americans at $86-billion. More than 80 per cent of Chinese tourists say shopping is vital to their plans and that they are expected to buy more luxury goods next year while abroad than tourists from all other countries combined. This growth is expected to continue. Currently, only about five per cent of the Chinese population have passports.


Last year, developing countries received US$134.8-billion in aid, the highest ever according to the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee. Donations fell in 2011 and 2012 as rich countries adopted austerity budgets. Five DAC member countries, including Britain for the first time, met the UN target of 0.7 per cent for aid as a share of gross national income (GNI). The Netherlands missed the benchmark for the first time since 1974. The United Arab Emirates increased aid fourfold, chiefly to help Egypt. America gives less than 0.2 per cent of its GNI but remains the largest donor providing $32-billion in 2013.


For the fifth year in a row, Vancouver International Airport has been recognized as the Number One airport in the world. The Skytrax rankings are based on more than 12-million passenger surveys conducted in airports around the world on 39 elements of airport experience.


A decision by Canada’s Competition Bureau means retailers will now be able to lower the prices of e-books. The Bureau has reached a deal with the four major e-book publishers that forces them to drop their practice of stopping retailers from offering discounts on e-books. Similar settlements in the US over the past two years resulted in shaved prices for e-books there. Best selling e-books are now sold at discounts of 20 per cent or more south of the border.


Scottish potato chip maker Mackie’s has reported a six-fold leap in annual exports to Canada.. The company exported 279,000 packages in 2013, up from 46,000 in the previous year. The Canadian market now makes up about 40 per cent of Mackie’s export sales turnover.


A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) says that resistance to antibiotics poses a major global threat to public health. It analysed data from 114 countries and said resistance was happening now in every region of the world. It described a post-antibiotic era when people die from simple infections that have been treatable for decades. The report focussed on seven different bacteria responsible for common serious diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and blood infections.


Plans to open the world’s first mine in the deep ocean have moved closer to reality. A Canadian mining company has finalized an agreement with Papua New Guinea to digging up an area of seabed. The controversial project aims to extract ores of copper, gold and other valuable metals from a depth of 1,500 metres. Environmental campaigners say mining the ocean floor will prove devastating, causing lasting damage to marine life. Under the agreement, PNG will take a 15 per cent stake in the mine by contributing US$120-million towards the cost of operation.


A farmer who stumbled across an ancient Korean method for curing garlic is now supplying some of the UK’s top restaurants with so called “black garlic”. He wanted to find a way of preserving some of the 900,000 pungent bulbs of garlic he grows so they could be eaten all year round. The answer came when he chanced upon a 4,00-year-old Korean recipe giving a way of preserving garlic bulbs by exposing them to heat and moisture for more than a month. The closely-guarded process kickstarts a chemical reaction between the sugars and amino acids which transforms regular bulbs into sweet, sticky black garlic.


Filmmakers digging in a New Mexico landfill have unearthed hundreds of E.T, The Extra Terrestrial cartridges, considered by some the worst made video game ever and blamed for contributing to the downfall of the video-game industry in the 1980s. Some speculate that thousands or even millions of the unwanted cartridges made by Atari were buried in the landfill. The game was a design and marketing failure after it was rushed out to coincide with the release of the movie.


Rising levels of CO2 around the world will significantly impact the nutrient content of crops, such as wheat, rice and soybeans, according to a new study. Experiments show levels of zinc, iron and protein are likely to be reduced by up to ten percent in wheat and rice by 2050. The scientists say this could have health implications for billions of people, especially in the developing world. Around a third of the global population are already suffering from iron and zinc shortages.


Vancouver’s ban on doorknobs on all new buildings has set off a chain reaction across the country as other jurisdictions ponder whether to follow Vancouver’s lead. The war on doorknobs is part of a broader campaign to make buildings more accessible to the elderly and disabled, many of whom find levered doorhandles easier to operate than fiddly knobs. Vancouver’s code adds private homes to rules already in place in most of Canada for larger buildings, stipulating wider entry doors, lower thresholds and lever-operated taps in bathrooms and kitchens, In BC, bears have been known to scavenge for food inside cars whose doors have handles for this reason and one county in Colorado has banned door levers on buildings for this reason.


Almost a fifth of China’s soil is contaminated an official government study has shown. Conducted between 2005 and 2013, it found that 16 per cent of China’s soil and 14.5 per cent of its arable land showed contamination. The report named cadmium, nickel and arsenic as the top pollutants. The study took samples across an area of 6.3-million square kilometres, two-thirds of China’s land mass. The contamination is notably higher than the previous survey between 1986 and 1990. Up to now, this report has been classified as a state secret because of its sensitivity. There is growing fear in China over the effect that modernization has had on the country’s air, soil and water.


The Canadian government hopes changes will lead to a huge expansion of BC’s fish farms. Bureaucratic hurdles and legal uncertainty are being swept away as part of an attempt to help the Canadian industry, which has stagnated for years, to take advantage of rising global demand for seafood. It is believed that aquaculture could expand from C$2-billion in total annual economic activity to $5.6-billion in 10 years and to more than $8-billion in 15 years. BC has been compared unfavourably to Norway which has a coastline identical in length to BC and a population size similar to BC. Norway sold more than 1.2-million tonnes of farmed salmon in 2012. In 2013, BC produced 57,000 tonnes.


A battery that can charge in under 30 seconds has been shown at a technology conference in Tel Aviv. A Samsung S4 device went from a dead battery to full power in 26 seconds in the demonstration. The battery is currently only a prototype and it is predicted that it will take three years to become a commercially viable product. It is estimated that the batteries are likely to be 30- to 40 per cent more expensive to manufacture compared to traditional ones and the final product will be twice as expensive as those on the market today.


Gasoline-sniffing spiders have forced Mazda to issue a voluntary recall notice so it can apply a software fix to its cars. The yellow sac spider is attracted to the smell of gasoline and the manufacturer fears it could weave its web inside engines causing a blockage and build-up of pressure increasing the risk of engine fires. 42,000 Mazda 6 vehicles from 2010 to 2012 are involved in the recall.


A homeless man in Maine used the cash advance feature on a bank ATM to give him US$700 and he did it 53 times for a total of $37,000.

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 2014 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


May 2014 Edition


Bananas are now the world’s most valuable fruit. Exports rose from 11.9-million tonnes in 2001 to 16.5-million tonnes in 2012. Americans eat more bananas than apples and oranges together. But the export industry is fighting to survive on two fronts. First Black Sigatoka, a disease which blackens leaves and can halve yields is showing resistance to the fungicide used to combat it. Second, Foc Tropical Race 4, a strain of disease that attacks the Cavendish banana, a variety that accounts for 95 per cent of the exports of all bananas, has struck in several countries. Central and South America which produce four-fifths of exports have so far escaped, but it is just a matter of time.


Canada has become a creditor nation. For the first time in at least nine decades, Canada has more assets abroad than foreigners have here. Statistics Canada recently reported that the country had net assets of C26.7-billion, up from a net liability position of $302.1-billion at the end of 2012. The reason for the dramatic turnaround is a combination of strong foreign stock market gains in the US and elsewhere, coupled with a roughly 10 per cent decline in the Canadian dollar. The result was a 21 per cent gain in the value of foreign assets, which outpaced a 7 per cent increase in liabilities.


The bonus pool for people employed in the securities industry in New York City increased by 15 per cent in 2013, to US$26.7-billion. The average bonus paid also rose by 15 per cent to $164,530. This was the third highest average bonus on record and the biggest since the 2008 financial crisis. The industry has been profitable for five consecutive years, but the number of jobs, estimated to be 165,000, is still 12.6 per cent below the crisis level.


Homes in the United States are getting bigger again. In 2008, the median size of a new home built for sale in square feet was 2,266. In 2010 that figure had dropped to 2,210. In 2011 it had risen to 2,327 and in 2012, it was 2,384.


Identifying agricultural areas where truffles will grow is often hit and miss. A Washington company is analyzing data about places where they grow successfully using 11 variables, including geology and altitude, to create maps where the fungi should grow well. Some Oregon truffles are fetching about US$400 a pound at the moment, but this is still about half the cost of some Italian and French ones. Attempts to grow truffles commercially are now being tried in Chile, China and New Zealand.


Military drones already fly frequent missions and civilian operations using unmanned aircraft are coming. Ships, like aircraft are increasingly controlled by electronic systems, which makes automation easier. Now the maritime industry is interested in crewless ships for two reasons. The first is safety as most accidents at sea are the result of human error, just as they are in cars and planes. The second reason of course is cost as it is getting harder and harder to sign up competent crews prepared to spend months away at sea. Moreover, some voyages are likely to get even longer for ships with non-urgent cargo as a 30 per cent reduction in speed by a bulk carrier can save around 50 per cent in fuel.


Aircraft strikes by birds are a problem, sometimes a fatal one, for military and civilian aviation alike. America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports there are about 10,000 strikes a year to the country’s non-military aircraft costing more than US$957-million in damage and delays. The worldwide figure reported by the European Space Agency is $1.2-billion. Bird strikes have been responsible for 242 deaths between 1912 and 2004. In some countries, radar is being used by air forces to prevent bird strikes by tracking birds that may threaten aircraft. In one, the Israeli air force has reduced the number of strikes it suffers by two-thirds.


Coffee prices have risen by over 45 per cent so far this year, as severe drought in Brazil combined with leaf rust across Central America has damaged crops. Analysts reckon that this year’s crop will be some 10 per cent smaller than last years. The scarce rain and heatwave have also driven sugar prices to a three-month high. Brazil is the world’s largest producer of both commodities, as well as soyabeans, which are getting more expensive.


They are most commonly associated with the teeming cities of developing Asia, but three-wheeled motorised rickshaws, or tuk- tuks, first emerged in Japan and Italy just over half a century ago. Since then the compact, cheap and adaptable vehicles have spread to every corner of the globe. Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Nigeria, Peru, Sri Lanka and Thailand are now the biggest markets. They are increasingly seen chugging through the streets in east Africa, the Middle East and China. India is the biggest producer, turning out more than 530,000 tuk-tuks a year for the local market and a further 300,000 for export. Some models now run on compressed natural gas rather than diesel and an Australian firm is developing a solar one.


Developed in Britain, large scale production is now under way of genetically modified purple tomatoes. The pigment, known as anthocyanin, is intended to give tomatoes the same potential health benefits as fruit such as blueberries. Anthocyanin is an anti oxidant which studies on animals show could help fight cancer. Scientists say the new tomatoes could improve the nutritional value of everything from ketchup to pizza topping.


European politicians have backed a regulation that will force smartphone makers to use just one type of charger. The regulation was drawn to help consumers and to cut down on the amount of electronic waste. It is expected to cut down on electronic clutter and 51,000 tonnes of electronic waste annually.


As consumers further tailor their diets to the latest health and wellness trends, 39 per cent of red meat-eaters report consuming less in 2013 than they did in 2012 although 90 per cent say they eat at least some kind of red meat at least once per month. Health trends motivating consumers to cut fat and cholesterol intake are by far the most dominant factors affecting the red meat market. Price is also a factor as 58 per cent of consumers surveyed reported that they have noticed the price of red meat has increased in the past 12 months.


The market share of craft beer in British Colombia has doubled in four years and shows no sign of slowing. The share was nine per cent of all beers in 2009 and has risen to 19 per cent in 2013. Large breweries’ beer sales declined nearly four per cent last year while sales by microbrewers increased 38 per cent. Last year there were 10 brewery openings and there are at least 21 new breweries in the planning stages for this year, 13 of those in Metro Vancouver.


The US city of Chicago is considering drastic measures to prevent giant fish infesting North America’s Great Lakes. Authorities are thinking of blocking the city’s canal system to stop Asian carp entering Lake Michigan. Such a move could cost up to US$18-billion and cause huge economic disruption to the city. The species of carp is native to the far East and was originally introduced to southern US states more than three decades ago to control algae build-up in sewage treatment plants. But they escaped into the Mississippi River and proliferated, making their way north towards the Great Lakes.


News of job losses in Canada are overshadowing a bright spot in Canada’s labour market. The professional, scientific and technical services sector, which tends to pay above-average wages, hit its highest job level on record last December. This sector led the country’s job growth last year with an increase of 85,000 jobs. It is now the fourth-largest sector by employment in Canada, with more workers than in construction. This sector includes accountants, engineers, architects, lawyers, research and development specialists, surveyors, consultants, graphic designers and marketers. Its share of total employment has climbed to 7.6 per cent from 4.9 per cent two decades ago.


Insuring the giant ships that traverse the Arctic and Northern Canadian waters is a growing business but one that deals with a great deal of uncertainty. Warmer weather has opened waterways that used to be clogged with ice, but much of Canada’s Arctic territory is uncharted and the capacity to rescue ships in trouble is limited. Governments are concerned about possible pollution from spills of fuel or cargo. On top of that, insurers have limited claims data on which to base underwriting claims.


Canadian farmers reported 12.2-million cattle on their farms at the start of the year, down 0.7 per cent from a year. 82,665 farms reported cattle and calves,1.4-million of which were dairy cows and heifers. Hog producers reported 12.7-million hogs a 1.1 per cent increase, while the number of sheep fell 1.0 per cent to 893,000 head. Canada exported 5.0-million hogs last year, down 12.4 per cent from 2012 and 50 per cent less than the peak in 2007. There were 7,090 hog farms in Canada as of January 1st, 2014.


Visitors to national parks in the USA play a pivotal role in boosting nearby economies and supporting jobs throughout the country. A recent report by the Park Service and the US Department of Interior found that about 280-million park visitors helped generate nearly US$27-billion in economic activity and supported 243,000 jobs in 2012. Of those numbers, $14.7-billion was spent in “gateway regions” , or communities within a 60-mile radius of a park, supporting more than 200,000 jobs in those communities. For instance, more than 1.3-million visitors to Joshua Tree National Park in California, helped contribute about $62-million to nearby communities and supported 770 jobs. The Grand Canyon attracted 4.4-million visitors, contributed about $453-million and supported 6,000 jobs.


China is poised to become the world’s biggest gold buyer that could support prices of the precious metal as well as accelerate the global bullion market’s shift eastward. Gold purchases by Chinese consumers jumped 41 per cent this past year. China has long had a cultural affinity for precious metals and the increasing affluence of consumers there, along with more relaxed investment restrictions has boosted the country’s demand for gold bars and jewelry alike. The increase was enough to overtake India which for decades, if not centuries, held the No. 1 spot. The price of gold declined 28 per cent in 2013, the biggest drop in 32 years as money managers dumped gold and bought stocks.


The two major manufacturers of soft drink in North America are being forced to find other sources of revenue as their sales decline. The soda makers are struggling with reduced North American demand for their core carbonated drinks and counting more on other products to diversify and bring back customers. In this troubled sector, soft-drink makers are grappling with their products being heavily discounted on store shelves as retailers try to lure consumers who have turned to healthier or trendier products.


A burglar in Britain took a photograph of himself with a stolen smartphone while on the job and inadvertently sent it to the authorities. He is now in jail.

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

Say Yes to Shipping to Canada!


Are you a Canadian who wants a store or online store to ship to Canada?
Are you a store or online store located outside of Canada who does not ship to Canada?

This post is for you!

PRO's on selling to and shipping to Canada:
- Canada has one of the highest percentages of its' population online - over 86% of Canadians are online!  (This means they are ready and waiting to buy.)
- Canadians are serious consumers!  Canada relies heavily on international trade for its' consumer base - $486 BILLION worth of items are imported into Canada as of 2013.

CON's on selling to and shipping to Canada:
- Duties and taxes can add cost to the items being purchased
- Many sellers do not tell the Canadian buyer the 'landed cost' at the time of sale - meaning that the Candian buyer ends up with 'sticker shock' when they receve the invoice for duties, taxes and customs fees.
- Courier companies can be known to charge high customs fees. 

Let's look at this from the perspective of the Canadian buyer - here are some examples from Twitter with Canadians asking if the seller will ship to Canada - 


(That is just a small sampling - all in one day!)

So there is a demand from Canadians who want to buy from you, the seller!

Why don't companies ship to Canada?  Here's a few examples why -

When a U.S. seller decides to sell to and ship to Canada - it will most likely be a very small percentage of their sales - 10%, maybe 20% of their shipments will go to Canada.  However, those 10% or 20% can be the biggest pain to that seller.  If the Canadian is upset about duties, taxes, customs fees, etc., - they might go back to the U.S. seller and complain about it.  It's too expensive, you didn't tell me about the fees, etc., etc.  The seller then says to themselves "This is such a small percentage of my business - why should I put up with all of this grief?!" 

Well, BorderBuddy has a solution for you!

We want ALL companies to ship to Canada - and we can help!

Here is what BorderBuddy can do for Canadian buyers and U.S. (and other) sellers -
1)  Provide ALL COSTS at the time of sale.  No surprise to the Canadian buyer - no angry calls or emails to the seller.
2)  Provide customs clearance for the Canadian buyer.
3)  Be the U.S. sellers dedicated agent at the border for all things customs and border related.
4)  Provide a flat customs clearance fee for the Canadian buyer and the U.S. seller so there is no guessing on the fees.

Let's work together so you can say YES to shipping to Canada!

Contact us today.




April 2014 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


April 2014 Edition


Cutting vehicle weight may be the next advance in reducing the financial and environmental cost of driving. Until now car makers have met a trend towards tougher fuel economy standards worldwide by reducing engine sizes and introducing technology, for example to cut motors when a car is idling. However, one common argument against using lighter weight materials is a feared compromise on vehicle safety.


Canadians have stepped up their purchases of old-style incandescent light bulbs as buyers stockpile them in the wake of the first phase of a ban on manufacturing the power-guzzling product. Retailers report a jump in sales as a result of a ban on 75-watt and 100-watt bulbs being made or imported into Canada. At the end of the year, 40- and 60-watt bulbs will also come under the ban.


Justice Department auditors in the US have found that the US agency tasked with stopping illegal tobacco trafficking lost track of 420-million cigarettes purchased in under cover operations.


The London borough of Westminster has begun installing smart parking sensors. The sensors detect whether a bay is vacant or not. Combined with an app that allows drivers to view a map of parking spaces in real time, it will direct them to an empty space. On average, drivers spend 15 minutes looking for a parking space in the area. It is hoped that the system will cut down both on congestion and carbon emissions.


Japan is pledging more than US$14-billion in aid and trade deals to Africa. Japan's Prime Minister made the announcement during a recent visit to Oman, before going to Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and Mozambique, the three fastest growing economies. This is seen as a step by Japan to compete with China in a new bid for African resources. Africa is expected to be the centre of global economic growth in the coming years.


Collecting coins used to be more of a hobby, now it's an investment area with people paying millions for coins. At a recent auction in New York, A Brazilian 1922 gold piece sold for US$499,375. An anonymous collector paid $4.4-million for a 1740 Russian coin in Zurich. A two-day sale of Russian and ancient coins in Florida brought in $6.5-million. Unlike larger collectibles such as fine art, antiques, wine and automobiles, coins are easy to store and transport.


New research shows that in half the European countries, there are not enough honey bees to pollinate crops with the shortage particularly acute in Britain which has only a quarter of the bees required. Scientists believe that a boom in biofuels has sparked a massive increase in the need for pollination. Across Europe though, overall numbers of honey bee colonies increased by seven per cent between 2005 and 2010. But in the same period, areas of biofuel crops like oilseed rape, sunflowers and soybeans increased by almost a third. It is believed that wild pollinators like bumblebees and hoverflies are presently making up the shortfall.


The Canadian pork industry is bracing for the arrival of a virus that has killed more than a million young pigs in the United States and caused meat prices to spike. The virus, which is deadly for piglets was found in the US last spring and sent pork prices soaring by 25 per cent. The virus has been reported in 22 states and is predicted to cause a drop in the size of the US herd by as much as three per cent as its spread accelerates. Canada exported more than 5.6-million live hogs and a billion kilograms of pork in 2012, worth about C$3.5-billion.


Researchers in Oxford have developed a degradable implant which they say has huge potential to improve surgical success rates. The protective patch, which wraps round soft tissue repairs, will be trialled in patients with shoulder injuries. It is hoped in time this approach could help other patients with other conditions including arthritis, hernias and heart defects.


The Swiss National Bank reported that the value of its gold reserves fell by US$17-billion in 2013. Gold prices tumbled last year by 28 per cent, the steepest annual drop since 1981 as investors instead piled into the booming stockmarkets. Switzerland's central bank hold more than 1,000 tonnes of gold. America holds the largest amount of gold in the world, around 8,000 tonnes.


For the first time, more than 50 per cent of the US Congress are millionaires. The median net worth in 2012 for all current members of Congress in office was US$1,008,767. There are 268 current members with a net worth of $1-million or more, up from 257 members, or 48 per cent, a year earlier. Lawmaker wealth varies from one with an estimated fortune of $464-million built on car alarms to another with $12.1-million in net liabilities related to outstanding debt on loans for his family's dairy farm.


A new scheme has been launched to protect the Scotch whisky industry from fake or sub-standard products. The verbification scheme set up by the UK government will help consumers identify genuine UK-made products. Producers will have to sign up for the scheme if they want to sell within the European Union. Producers, blenders, bottlers, labellers and bulk importers will have to apply to HM Revenue and Customs if they want to be verified. The Scotch whisky industry is worth around US$8-billion to the Scottish economy and employs over 10,000 people in Scotland.


Scientists have discovered compelling evidence that diamonds exists in the icy mountains of Antarctica. They have identified a type of rock in the permanently frozen region that is known to contain the precious stones. However, recovering any Antarctic mineral resources for commercial purposes is currently forbidden.. Diamonds are formed from pure carbon under extreme heat and pressure at depths of about 150k in the Earth's crust and volcanic eruptions bring them to the surface.


A floating vessel that is longer than the Empire State Building is high has taken to the water for the first time. Shell's Prelude was floated in South Korea and when fully built will be the largest floating facility ever built, weighing more than 600,000 tonnes. It will be used in the production of natural gas from 2017 and will operate for 25 years off Australia's north-west coast. The vessel is estimated to cost between US$10-and $12-billion.


A record crop of wheat and grains in Western Canada in 2013 has highlighted the weakness in the transportation system that moves the commodities from field to foreign markets. The grain industry needs more trains to meet global demand and capitalize on strong prices. One of the problems is that the rise in moving crude oil by rail is creating new competition for track space and locomotives. The rail industry claims the problem is the record crop not oil-by-rail which accounted for just 2 per cent of rail car loads in 2013.


Under the groves that make southern Italy the world's second largest olive oil producer, geologists have found a more lucrative liquid: Europe's biggest onshore crude oil fields. Basilicata, a mountainous, sparsely populated province in the arch of Italy's boot, holds more than one billion barrels, offering the country a weapon to fight a two-year recession. Italy is to double production raising its output to almost 200,000 barrels a day, making it Europe's third largest oil producer, after the UK and Norway.


US authorities have named Ukraine as the country with the worst record of protecting intellectual property rights. A report by the US Trade Representative says Kiev has failed to fight internet piracy and the use of illegal software. Such software is even being used by government departments. Ukraine has been warned that it could lose trade benefits if it fails to act. The report also raises grave concern about the alleged misappropriation of trade secrets in China.


An average of 5.3 per cent of annual gross domestic product could be lost in East Asia by the year 2100 if the four countries in the region don't take measure to tackle it, according to the Asian Development Bank. Rising temperatures in China, Japan, Mongolia and South Korea will spur more flooding and tropical storms in coastal areas and make northern agricultural regions more prone to drought. The study underscores the risks of inaction on climate change faced by a region that was responsible for 30 per cent of the world's carbon emissions in 2010.


A huge water source has been discovered in the arid Turkana region of northern Kenya which could supply the country for 70 years. The discovery of two aquifers brings hope to the drought-hit region. Another aquifer has been found in Namibia, the continent's driest country.


Access to traditional financial services such as deposit-taking accounts and automatic teller machines (ATMs), in developing countries has expanded in recent years. Since 2004, the number of ATMs per 100,000 adults has more than doubled to around 22 (compared with over 70 in rich countries). Russia and Brazil have more ATMs relative to their population than other emerging markets.


The Insurance Bureau of Canada says the estimate of the insured property damage caused by last June's southern Alberta floods is more than C$1.7-billion, the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history. Well in excess of 25,000 claims were filed in the wake of the floods and the final figure is expected to be higher.


Europeans had a taste for spicy food at least 6,000 years ago it seems. Researchers have found evidence for garlic mustard in the residues left on ancient pottery shards discovered in what is now Denmark and Germany. The spice was found alongside fat residues from meat and fish.


Ditching meat and fish in favour of a vegetarian diet can have a dramatic effect on the health of your heart. A study of 44,500 in England and Scotland showed vegetarians were 32 per cent less likely to die or need hospital treatment as a result of heart disease. Differences in cholesterol levels, blood pressure and body weight are thought to be behind the health boost. Heart disease kills 94,000 people in the UK each year, more than any other disease, and 2.6-million people live with the condition.


Measures to prevent illegally harvested timber from entering the European Union have come into effect. The new regulation requires importers or sellers of timber and wood products to keep records of the sources of their supplies. Interpol estimates that illegal logging contributes up to 30 per cent of timber in the global market, costing in excess of US$20-billion each year. The EU accounts for 35 per cent of the world's primary timber consumption.

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March 2014 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


March 2014 Edition


The prospect of liquefied natural gas plants being built in northern British Columbia has sent assessed values for residential properties soaring in the region. In the District of Kitimat, the average assessed value for a single-family detached home was C$228,000 on July 1st last year, up 26.7 per cent from the previous 2012 evaluation. Across B.C the total value of the assessment rolls climbed a modest 1.35 per cent. Rental vacancy rates in Kitimat hit 40 per cent several years ago, now they are close to zero.


Seven European countries, along with Switzerland, are levying fees to use roads for a particular period that tend to favour local drivers over foreign ones, which is against EU rules. In April, Britain will start charging foreign trucks up to US$16 a day to use its roads. Belgium and Latvia are considering similar levies. To get around EU rules, most of these schemes involve taxing all cars and trucks but in effect refunding domestic drivers by reducing vehicle taxes. Recent research shows that truck tolls like these not only harm economic growth but may also damage Europe's competitiveness.


Crime in Britain has been falling since the mid-1990s but between 2010 and 2011, the cost of thefts of farm animals has shot up by 170 per cent and were up again last year when about 69,000 sheep were stolen. Over the past three years, US$676,000 worth of livestock, mainly sheep, were stolen in Cumbria. Rustlers target sheep because unlike cattle that have electronic ID tags and passports, sheep simply have ear tags that can be easily removed.


Ferraris and Rolls-Royces have become common sights in China's cities as a new class of super-rich indulge a growing appetite or luxury, but tight regulation has meant the private jet, the ultimate status symbol of the global elite, remains rare. Recent rule changes, however, indicate that China is preparing to open its skies to private aircraft, a move that may herald the greatest expansion of business and private aviation in the past 30 years.


Canadian agricultural producers used approximately 1.7-billion cubic metres of water for irrigation in 2012, more than double the amount reported in 2010. Irrigation volumes increased in all provinces, with the exception of British Columbia, where volumes remained the same. Alberta farmers accounted for just over three-quarters of the irrigation water applied to crops in 2012, with B.C. next with 14 per cent of the total. The majority of water was used to irrigate field crops (61 per cent) and forage crops (34 per cent). The remainder was applied to fruit crops (3 per cent and vegetable crops (2 per cent).


Tree loss in one of the world's largest rainforests has slowed according to a recent study. Satellite images of Africa's Congo Basin reveal that deforestation has fallen by about a third since 2000. It is believed that this is partly because of a focus on mining and oil rather than commercial agriculture, where swathes of forest are cleared. Sprawling across the heart of Africa, the Congo Basin rainforest is second only to the Amazon in size. It covers nearly 2-million square kilometres.


According to a major new study, many European fish stocks are on the road to recovery from overfishing. Many stocks in the northeast Atlantic were being fished sustainably and, given time, should recover. The study examined the status of 57 stocks monitored over 60 years in the northeast Atlantic. However, the status of some stocks, particularly cod, remains precarious.


British Airways has announced plans to test reusable luggage tags made from electronic paper. Flight information can be transmitted to the tag via the ticket holder's smartphone, using data from the airline app stored after digital checkin. Currently, operators print off individual paper tags for every bag checked in before each flight. The tags were presently being tested by staff before being made available to travellers late in 2014.


The Canadian government is taking aim at sick leave in the public service where it says the absenteeism rate of 18.2 days a year is more than 2 1/2 times the private sector average. The current system of banked sick days leads to an absenteeism rate well above the private sector. The government plans to change the existing rules which have not been changed since 1970 with tow new programs, a short-term disability system for workers with temporary illness and the long term disability program will be reformed.


There are almost twice as many obese people in poor countries than in rich ones as fat and sugar consumption rises. The Overseas Development Institute puts the number of overweight and obese adults in developing countries at more than 900-million. This compares with 557-million in industrialized countries. Factors behind the increase in obesity include rising incomes and urbanization, which tend to lead to diets rich in animal products, fat, salt and sugar.


Membership in registered pensions plans (RPPs) in Canada reached 6,114,600 in 2011, up 49,000 from a year earlier. Membership in public sector pension plans rose by 0.6 per cent to 3,160,000 while the number of members in private sector plans increased to 2,954,700. The participation of women in RPPs continued its long-term upward trend. In 2011 total employer and employee contributions to RPPs reached a record high of C$58.9-billion. The market value of assets in RPPs totalled $1.3-trillion, up 4.8 per cent from the previous year.


The US food safety regulator is moving to phase out some use of antibiotics in livestock in an effort to curb growing antibiotic resistance in human disease. The FDA has asked pharmaceutical firms voluntarily to relabel their drugs to prevent them being used in healthy animals. In the US food supply, antibiotics are routinely fed to healthy livestock to enable them to gain weight faster. As many as 23,000 Americans a year die from antibiotic-resistant infection.


A British company has demonstrated a prototype device capable of stopping cars and other vehicles using a blast of electromagnetic waves. The device uses radio frequency pulses to "confuse" a vehicles electronic systems, cutting its engine. It is believed the primary use would be as a non-lethal weapon for the military to defend sensitive locations from vehicles refusing to stop.


Kenya has formally launched a new, Chinese-financed, railway which should extend across East Africa to reach South Sudan, the Congo and Burundi. The first section will link the Kenyan port of Mombassa to the capital, Nairobi, reducing the travel time from 15 hours to about four. It is said to be the country's biggest infrastructure project since independence 50 years ago. The cost of the project will be US$3.2-billion, mostly funded by China.


At 36 trips a year, dairy is one of the most frequently shopped grocery departments in the US. New product dairy introductions are robust at approximately 12,000 to 13,000 products annually. Sales of yogurt projected to 2017 show an anticipated 17 per cent growth (an estimated US$9.1-billion). Yogurt is a growing breakfast and snack category.


Saudi Arabia's liquefied petroleum natural gas prices are headed for the worst year since the global financial crisis as record exports from the US loosen the Middle East hold on the Asian market. Saudi Arabia's monthly propane contract price, the benchmark for sales to Asia, dropped 9 per cent this year, the biggest loss since 2009. The slump in prices underscores how the North American shale gas boom is affecting energy markets around the world.


Despite the popularity of beverages such as coffee and soda, water stakes its claim as the top beverage consumed by American adults throughout the day. Although many Americans begin the day with coffee, as the day goes on, water plays a more important role in satisfying beverage needs. Tap and filtered and bottled water is the top beverage at lunch and dinner, followed closely by soft drinks. Younger consumers are less likely to consume water however.


Robots could be used in the future to round up cows on dairy farms. A four-wheeled device, known as Rover, has been tested by a team at Sydney University. It was used to move a herd from a field to a dairy. Researchers were amazed how easily cows accepted the presence of the robot. They were not fazed by it and the herding process was calm and effective. Because the robot moved in a steady manner it allowed cows to move at their own speed which was important in reducing lameness among cattle.


Argentina, Indonesia and Nigeria are among the top 10 most polluted places on the planet. This is due to jewellery and other chemical processing. In these extraordinarily toxic places life spans are short and disease runs rampant among the millions of people who live and work there, often to provide the products used in richer countries. In some places in Indonesia, measurements of mercury, a poisonous, potent neurotoxin, used in processing gold are 350 times higher than what is considered safe.


The average consumer debt in Vancouver, excluding mortgage, in the third quarter of last year was the highest in Canada at C$40,174. The second highest was Calgary's debt at $37,920. Nationally, the average consumer debt was $27,355. Across Canada, average debt was up 0.83 from the previous quarter and 2.19 per cent from a year ago.


A majority of Canadian seniors now own a cellphone but only a small number have made the leap to using a smartphone. Researchers conducted interviews with over 6,000 Canadians to track how technology usage was trending, including among those in the seniors demographic, which was defined as 68 and older. About 61 per cent of the 774 seniors polled said they owned a cellphone, compared with 87 per cent of the younger respondents. Only 13 per cent of the seniors owned a smartphone, versus 63 per cent of the other Canadians polled. The seniors had a very slight preference for Apple’s iPhone but Blackberry’s and Google Android devices were owned in similar numbers.


The annual figures for people dying in car crashes in England and Wales have fallen by 40 per cent in the past 50 years. This is despite the rise in the number of vehicles on the road. Men were more likely than women to die each year. Safety experts said measures including seat belts, speed cameras and curbs on drinking and driving had all helped curb deaths. About 1.3-million people die globally in crashed every year. Current trends suggest road accidents will become the fifth leading cause of death globally by 2030.


The cost of cancer to the countries of the European Union is US$107-billion a year, according to recent research into the first EU-wide analysis of the economic impact of the disease. The figures include the cost of drugs and health care as well as earnings lost through sickness or families providing care. Lost productivity, because of work missed through sickness or dying young cost $52-billion.


In a recent UN report, Sweden ranked first for treatment of the elderly. Afghanistan ranked worst. The report examined the quality of life of the elderly in 91 countries using 13 different indicators.


In 2011, a 75 year old Georgian woman stole some fibre optic cables and cut off the internet to two entire countries.

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February 2014 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


February 2014 Edition


Japan's population declined by a record 244,000 people in 2013. An estimated 1,031,000 babies were born last year, down some 6,000 from the previous year. Meanwhile, the number of people that died last year was 1,275,000, a rise of around 19,000 from 2012. Japan's population has been shrinking for several years. If current trends persist it will lose a third of its population in the next 50 years. A quarter of the population is currently aged over 65 and that figure is expected to reach nearly 40 per cent by 2060.


A consortium constructing a massive expansion to the Panama Canal has threatened to halt work unless US$1.6-billion of cost overruns are paid. Work on the $3.2-billion expansion began in 2009 and construction is due to be completed in June 2015, nine months behind schedule. The majority of work involves building a third set of locks that can accommodate ships that can carry 12,000 containers. At the moment, the biggest ships that can navigate the canal carry 5,000 containers.


Exports of primary energy and energy products produced in Canada increased 5.3 per cent in 2012. Canada exported 73.5 per cent of its crude oil production, 56.5 per cent of its marketable natural gas and 23.3 per cent of its refined petroleum products. Just over 58 per cent of primary energy produced in Canada is destined for export markets, primarily the United States. Ontario, Alberta and Quebec continued to account for most of the energy consumed in Canada.


Canada Post's decision to raise stamp prices and shift to community mailboxes will severely effect small businesses and home offices. As of March 1st, the price of a stamp rises to 85 cents, when bought in booklets or rolls, a 35 per cent increase from the current price of 63 cents. This hits small companies at a time when there are few alternatives to sending and receiving cheques by mail. Forty per cent of small businesses send 50- or more pieces of mail a month and 98 per cent use the mail every month.


Passenger demand in the commercial airline market is expected to rise 31 per cent by 2017 according to an industry survey. The forecast for the 2013-2017 period calls for an increase in passenger numbers to 3.91-billion in 2017 from 2.98-billion in 2012, or almost one billion more passengers. Of the new passengers in the 2013-2017 period, about 292-million will be on international routes and 638-million on domestic runs. The single biggest driver of growth will be China with about 30 per cent of the new passengers.The strongest international passenger growth will come from the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions.


Wild pigs are clever and hard to hunt, it can take a day to stalk just one. But they are no match for an aerial drone operated by Louisiana Hog Control, a pest-extermination firm. The remote-controlled aircraft with thermal imaging and a laser pointer. It easily spots the pigs' warm bodies from 4,000 feet and points them out to a hunter on the ground wearing night vision goggles who shoots them. Each year, America's 6-million feral pigs cause an estimated US$1.5-billion of damage to crops, lawns and wildlife.


British working-class families are still paying for Christmas in the summer and one in six middle-income families borrowed money to pay for food, drink and presents last holiday season. The average amount borrowed was US$1,130 and the typical family took 24 weeks to pay back the loan. Meanwhile, close to half the families who borrowed money to celebrate the previous year, still have not finished paying that debt.


The federal government is being urged to accept European standards for new vehicles which would open the Canadian market to more vehicles and to advanced safety features not now available in Canada. Many offshore-based auto makers have to make their vehicles comply with unique Canadian tests that add costs and delay the entry of some new vehicles or keeps them out altogether. The issue has also arisen recently in the US which is engaged in its own set of negotiations with Europe.


Japanese and Chinese shipyards have their sights on one of the few markets that is not in the doldrums, sophisticated tankers for liquified natural gas, hoping to challenge market leader South Korea. With demand for gas soaring in Asia and a North American gas export boom just over the horizon, China's technical skills are improving and Beijing wants importers to use more ships built at home. It is possible that orders of new LNG carriers in the next five years could be between 100 and 200, depending on how many North American projects come to pass.


A gnat-sized insect, the Asian citrus psyllid, has forced one Florida farm to replace about 1,000 orange trees on its 50-acre farm in the past two years. The bug spreads a disease called citrus greening that causes fruit to shrink and drop early. Florida, the world's largest orange-grower after Brazil, will harvest 121-million boxes of the fruit in the season that began last October, the least since 1990. US consumers spend about US$1.45-billion annually on orange juice.


America's employers are expected to bring more jobs home in 2014 now that the country's energy costs and wage growth are lower than in many other countries. Productivity is higher too. Companies in the US are now benefitting from trends that only a few years ago worked against them. The country's average annual hourly manufacturing pay rose just over 4 per cent between 2006 and 2011. China's by comparison shot up 14 per cent and Brazil's hit 18 per cent. America also gets a better deal on energy prices than their global counterparts. US worker productivity has rise almost 5 per cent a year since 1990.


The number of robberies on British bank branches has dropped by 90 per cent in the past decade.There were 66 robberies in 2011 compared to 847 in 1992. The drop has been attributed to a raft of innovative technologies making it extremely difficult for traditional robbery tactics to work. A similar trend has been noted in the US where FBI figures for 2012 put the number of bank robberies nationwide at 3,870, the lowest in decades.


The US health regulator FDA has warned that antibacterial chemicals in soaps and body washes may pose a health risk. The agency has proposed a rule that would require manufacturers to prove such soaps are safe and more effective against infection than plain soap and water. Manufacturers have until the end of 2014 to submit the results of clinical trials on their products. The new regulations would be finalized in 2016.


Annually, the world produces 588-million tonnes of milk, 124-million tonnes of poultry and 59-million tonnes of beef. Europe and the Americas are the world's epicenters of beef production. Cattle are the biggest source of greenhouse gasses, accounting for more than three-quarters of all emissions from global livestock.


Two more studies have been published recently knocking the supposed benefits of multivitamins. Millions of Americans spend billions of dollars each year presumably to boost their health and fill gaps in their diets. However, popping the pills do not protect aging men's brains or help heart attack survivors. The government does not recommend routine vitamin supplementation as a way to prevent chronic diseases.


The Harris Poll's annual poll of Americans' of how generally honest and trustworthy 19 large industries are reveals that supermarkets are still the most trusted. 30 per cent say they have faith in supermarkets, followed by hospitals, 28 per cent. Tobacco companies are trusted by only three per cent of those polled.


Radiant Orchid has been chosen as Panatone's Colour of the Year for 2014, after studying worldwide trends and is forecast to the breakthrough shade for this year. For more than a decade Panatone's Colour of the Year has influenced product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home and industrial design, as well as packaging and graphic design.


The endorsement of famous musicians has not prevented the closure of centuries-old Western piano makers after decades of struggling to compete with less pricy pianos from the Far East. Of Europe's piano-makers, only nine remain of around 300 that were in business in the first half of the 20th century. Cheap pianos from China dominate the market. Of the 493,000 pianos made worldwide in 2012, nearly four-fifths were made there.


More British pensioners living abroad will be forced to prove they are alive in order to keep their state pensions. The Treasury says it loses millions every year by paying pensions to friends and relatives of the deceased. The government is sending certificates to those who have retired which they have to get countersigned. By sending the forms out to more pensioners more often, the government aims to bring in an extra US$90-million over two years. The push will only apply to countries such as France that do not automatically share information with the UK.


Figures from industry bodies indicate that bicycles outsold cars in 26 of the European Union's 28 states in 2012. Italy was typical of many southern European states with 1.6-million bikes bought as against 1.4-million cars.


Increasing demand for reindeer meat is putting pressure on Finland's stocks. Producers have turned down orders from Germany, France and Spain because they are already struggling to cater for the domestic market. Declining production means Finnish herders will sell fewer than 80,000 animals for slaughter this year. A recent request from a Germany company for 100,00 animals was refused. Some processors are already importing carcasses from Russia to help meet demand.


Recent food market research finds that nuts are among the top 10 snack-oriented convenience foods for US consumers motivated by health and weight needs. Nuts are a popular snack for breakfast and morning snack but are eaten throughout the day by those who want a nutritious, natural, good-for-you snack. 77 per cent of US households have nuts or seeds on hand.


World production of grains will rise by 7 per cent to a record 2.5-billion tonnes in the 2013-2014 crop year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. This will boost global end-season stocks in 2014 by 11 per cent to 568-million tonnes. Coarse grains, mostly maize, will account for the bulk of the increase. American farmers have planted the biggest acreage of maize since 1936.


The UK taxman has compiled a list of the most bizarre excuses for sending in a late tax return, including a builder who claimed to be mourning the death of his goldfish and a farmer who had a run-in with a cow. Both were fined $200 for late filing.

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January 2014 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting

January 2014 Edition

After a decade of development at its laboratory in Kohja, which sits above a 333-metre-deep mineshaft, the Finnish elevator manufacturer Kone announced that it has devised a system that should be able to lift an elevator a kilometre (3,300 feet) or more. This is twice as far as they can go at present. Effectiveness of lifts is one of the main constraints on the height of buildings. Kone's technology replaces the steel cables by which lift cars are presently suspended with ones made of carbon fibres which weigh 45 per cent less than steel.


Nigeria is hoping that a new investment protection treaty with Canada will help double trade with Canada between the two countries by 2015 but particularly outside the African nation's dominant oil industry. Bilateral trade with Nigeria reached C$2.3-billion last year, having doubled since 2006. However, Canadian direct investment totalled just $36-million. The new treaty will provide reassurance for Canadian mining companies that they will not see their investments nationalized.


In the past month, only 3 per cent of Britons used a phone box to make a call. Calls from boxes have fallen by over 85 per cent in the past five years. In rural areas, over 12,000 phone boxes are used for just one call a month and over 70 per cent are losing money. Payphone kiosks in other countries are falling out of fashion too. Almost 100,000 have been removed in France since 2000. In Austria, 30 booths have been converted into charging stations for electric cars. In Japan, an art group in Osaka has converted some into aquariums.


The PowerPot is an ingenious device targeted at campers that allows people to charge a mobile phone while they are cooking. The device hides a thermoelectric generator inside a normal looking cooking pot. When filled with water over a heat source it begins to generate electricity for charging USB devices. A five watt model charges an iPhone twice as fast as connecting it to a computer over USB. The pot is perfect for campers, backpackers and emergency-preparedness people and even has an application for use in developing nations.


Experts from the Asian Development Bank forecast that climate change could chop an average of 5.3 per cent off annual gross domestic product in East Asia by 2100 if four countries in the area don't take measures to tackle it. Rising temperatures in China, Japan, Mongolia and South Korea will spur more flooding and tropical storms in coastal areas and make northern agricultural regions more prone to drought. China's model of economic growth at all costs has made it the world's biggest carbon emitter and has blanketed cities in smog that can surpass the UN's recommendations by almost 40 times.


Researchers have tested an underwater w-f network in a lake in an attempt to make a deep-sea Internet. The team say that the technology could help to detect tsunamis, offering more reliable warning systems. They aim to create an agreed standard for underwater communications to make interaction and data-sharing easier. Unlike normal w-f, which uses radio waves, the submerged network technology utilizes sound waves.


A fire in Brazil's largest port has burnt some 180,000 tonnes of raw sugar, damaging six warehouses and pushing international prices to a one-year high. Brazil is the world's main sugar exporter, accounting for nearly half of international sales. This is the biggest fire in the history of the port of Santos, which exported 12.8-million tonnes of sugar in the first eight months of last year. The cause of the fire is still unknown and four other sugar warehouses in the terminal are operating normally.


An invasive species of beetle that has killed tens of millions of ash trees in North America could spread across Europe. The emerald ash borer, first recorded in the Moscow area in 2007 has now become established in surrounding broadleaf woodlands. The pest, which is expected to cost the US economy US$10-billion has spread up to 25 miles each year has now been found 235k west and 220k south of the Russian capital.


Scientists have found that gold is found in the leaves of some plants. Researchers from Australia say that the presence of the particles in a eucalyptus tree's foliage indicates that deposits are buried many metres below. They believe that the discovery offers a new way to locate the sought-after metal in difficult-to-reach locations. Using the Australian synchrotron, a vast machine that uses X-rays to probe matter in remarkable detail, they found traces of gold in the leaves, twigs and bark of some trees.


America depends less on international trade than many other countries. Its imports and export of goods add up to less than 25 per cent of GDP. China's are nearly 50 per cent and Irelands nearly 90 per cent. It is not because Americans are insular but because the vibrant domestic market is so big. America moved US 20-trillion in merchandise in 2010, or more than 100 per cent of GDP, if trade between cities is counted. The top 20 metropolitan areas count for almost a third of the total. St. Louis and Detroit are busier traders than the Netherlands.


A railway tunnel underneath the Bosphorous has opened creating a new link between the Asian and European shores of Istanbul. Work began in 2004 but archaeological excavations delayed the construction. Japan gave US$1-billion towards the $4-billion total cost of the 1.4km tunnel which is designed to withstand earthquakes.


The population across the Japanese archipelago dropped by around 284,000 to an estimated 127.5-million last year. The number of people aged 65 or over surpassed 30-million for the first time, accounting for 24 per cent of the population, in contrast to children aged 14 and under which decreased to a record low of 13 per cent.


A new survey in Ontario and Quebec shows that smoking, the smell of which gets absorbed into carpets, walls and ceilings, can reduce the resale value of a home by nearly 30 per cent. With an average home in Ontario listed at C$369,000 that means a loss of $107,100 for homeowners.


The Belgian post office is issuing a new set of stamps that smell and taste like chocolate. More than 500,000 stamps are being printed on special paper with a cocoa-scented varnish and chocolate tasting glue.


A group of clothing makers say they will stop using fibres made from endangered forests, a move aimed at limiting environmental damage. One third of the 70-million trees cut down each year to make cheap clothing fibres come from places such as Canada's northern boreal forest, the rainforests on the West Coast and Indonesia. Demand for cheap fabric is growing as the world's US$2.7-billion garment industry looks for ways to cut costs while meeting consumer desire for inexpensive clothing.


A French restaurant has been forced to turn customers away since it began serving insect-based entrées three months ago. The head chef regularly imports grasshoppers, beetles and water scorpions from Thailand for about US$720 a kilogram which arrive salted and in sealed packages. The dead insects have become the core ingredient in dishes served in the restaurant which has more than doubled its business in less than a month. Last spring, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization encouraged the practice, citing that insects are a good source of protein, good fats, calcium, zinc and iron.


The Colombian government is seeking to assure Canadian financiers of the safety of investing in its plans to build 8,000 kilometres of roads through the mountainous South American country. Colombia, which has a free-trade agreement with Canada, expects to spend US$25-billion by 2020 on new roads and highways, some of which will be built up and down three mountain ranges to allow easier travel between the capital Bogota and the Pacific coast. It is an ambitions project. By comparison, the expansion of the Panama Canal is a $5-billion project.


The days of Ontario bragging about being the largest automaking jurisdiction in Canada and the United States are coming to an end. Michigan has roared into first place in vehicle manufacturing among states and provinces last year, knocking Ontario off the perch it has enjoyed since 2004. Michigan and some other states have been the biggest beneficiaries of the robust recovery in the US market that has the Detroit Three auto makers rushing to boost production as quickly as they can.


A company founded by some Apple employees has redefined the unglamorous smoke detector with a new Internet-connected device. The new product is a smoke and carbon monoxide detector that uses wireless technology. The device has different sensors for smoke and steam (so no more alarms when you are boiling pasta) and can warn residents of rising CO levels with its own speaking voice. And when the battery runs low it sends the owner a message instead of chirping around 3.00am.


Because of improved stability in the advertising market, it is expected that global advertising expenditures will have reached US$503-billion in 2013 having risen 3.5 per cent. In Canada, advertising revenues grew by 2.7 per cent to $11.3-billion with spending on Internet advertisements exceeding TV slightly.


Oil shipments by train jumped in 2013 as pipelines exceeded capacity. In the first half of 2013, the amount of oil and refined petroleum products transported by rail reached 356,000 carloads, up 48 per cent over 2012. This is the equivalent of 1.37-million barrels per day, nearly 20 per cent of US daily crude production. In Canada, where only 500 carloads were shipped in 2009, 2013 saw about 140,000 carloads shipped, about 286,000 barrels per day, a 280-fold increase in just four years.


Maine's new law that allows for international prescription-drug imports is the first in the US. The Maine State Employees Association has a pending contract with a Canadian broker to provide some 200 brand medications from licensed pharmacies to as many as 13,000 state employees plus their dependents. The contract could save the union's health plan and Maine taxpayers between US$3-million and 5-million a year.


The new Canada-European trade agreement will provide a boost for European auto makers, who have posted gains in their Canadian market share for the past decade. The key to larger gains is the elimination of a 6.1 per cent tariff that applies to vehicles imported into Canada from outside North America. This will be a major benefit for luxury car makers in Germany and Britain. The tariff will remain in place on vehicles imported from their home countries by Japanese and South Korean manufacturers.

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December 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


December 2013 Edition



According to a recent report, organics now represents C$3.7-billion a year in sales in Canada, a number that has tripled since 2006. This makes the Canadian market for organics the fourth largest in the world. 58 per cent of Canadians buy organic foods weekly with such foods representing 23 per cent of their grocery bill. Organics are the fastest sector of the food industry.




Since late 2010, at least five ships loaded with Indonesian minerals have sunk when bound for China. The most recent vessel was carrying nickel ore, a potentially deadly cargo which has accounted for four out of the 20 bulk carriers lost worldwide during 2010-11. The ships were found to have sunk because the cargo had liquified. Nickel ore is dangerous because if it gets too wet, the fine, claylike particles that are often present in the ore, turn to a liquid that sloshes about the holds with such momentum that even a giant ship can capsize.




According to some, the US Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 is the world's most outdated law. Since 1940, raisin farmers have been required to make over a portion of their crop to a government agency called the Raisin Administrative Committee. The committee decides each year how many raisins the domestic market can bear, and thus how many it should siphon off to preserve an "orderly" market. It does not pay for the raisins it appropriates and gives many of them away, while selling others for export.




A Canadian entrepreneur is planning a C$1-billion underwater transmission line to take electricity from Ontario to the US northeast. The cable, to run across Lake Erie, would carry surplus electricity to Pennsylvania and on to 13 US states and the District of Colombia, where there is an increasing demand for power, particularly from "clean" sources. The project would deliver Canadian-generated power to the grid that supplies power to 60-million Americans. It will involve laying two six-inch high-voltage cables.




The fourth quarter of this year will see shipments of tablet computers top personal computers for the first time. Tablet shipments will hit 84.1-million units, compared with 83-million for PCs. The total market for Internet-connected devices of desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets in 2013 will rise 28 per cent to US$622.4-billion and hit $735-billion by the end of 2015. The growth of smartphones and tablets is making up for a projected decline of 10 per cent of PCs this year.




Canadian wealth is hitting new heights, though debt still remains a worry. Earlier this year, according to Statistics Canada, household net worth climbed to reach a record C$7.2-trillion. On a per capita basis, net worth rose to $204,800. The 1.9 per cent increase in household net worth was led by gains in equities and pension assets




Sophisticated cheese flavours and varieties continue to develop a following in the United States. Bolder flavours are the hottest cheese trend as consumers venture beyond younger-aged cheeses to more robustly aged and flavourful ingredient-filled cheeses. The top three fastest growing natural cheeses at retail are manchego, gruyere and gouda. Restaurants are offering more cheese varieties on menus for appetizers, to accent entrées and for desert. Deli cheeses account for 19.8 per cent of deli department dollar sales.




Between 2011 and 2012, sales in the US of turkey, duck and other specialty birds grew a considerable 6.5 per cent in one year, reaching US$7.1-billion, up from $6-billion in 2008. 84 per cent of Americans surveyed say they eat turkey and 92 per cent eat chicken.




Climate change could lead to bananas becoming a critical food source for millions of people and could replace potatoes in many developing countries. Cassava and the little known cowpea plant could play increasingly important roles in agriculture. As temperature increase, the world's three biggest crops in terms of calories, maize, wheat and rice will decrease in many countries. Potatoes could also suffer from volatile weather patterns and be replaced by bananas in certain regions.




OPEC has acknowledged that technology for extracting oil and gas from shale is changing the global supply picture significantly and that demand for crude will rise more slowly than previously predicted. It is now forecast that shale oil will contribute two million barrels per day (bpd) to global supply by 2020 and three million bpd by 2035. For comparison, two million bpd is equal to the current output of OPEC member Nigeria, which is Africa's top exporter.




It is being billed as the largest "mountain-moving" project in Chinese history. One of China's biggest construction firms will spend US$2.2-billion to flatten 700 mountains, levelling the Lanzhou area and allowing developers to build a new metropolis. The new area could increase the region's gross domestic product by $27-billion by 2030 and has already attracted $7-billion of corporate investment.




The International Energy Agency forecasts that coal will catch up with oil as the world's leading energy source by 2022. Increased demand from India and China are fuelling the push. By 2017, the agency says that global coal consumption will stand at 4.32-billion tonnes of oil equivalent, versus 4.4-billion tonnes for oil itself. However, natural gas offers the best hope for reducing carbon emissions.




New research indicates that a species of invasive grass is making wildfires in the western US larger, hotter and more frequent. A variety of grass called cheatgrass dries out and burns more rapidly than other vegetation. It is believed that this grass has fuelled almost 80 per cent of the largest fires in the American West over the last 10 years. The species gets its name because it grows very early and very quickly and then dies, cheating other varieties out of valuable nutrients.




In 2012, 12-million Canadian households subscribed to basic television services. Of these, 68 per cent obtained the service from a cable company, 24 per cent from a satellite company and eight per cent from companies that deliver television programming over telephone lines. The average amount spent monthly was C$52.




An amateur prospector in the Australian state of Victoria has astonished experts by unearthing a gold nugget weighing 5.5kg (177 ounces). The man used a handheld metal detector and found the nugget lying 60cm underground. The estimated value of the nugget is $315,000.




More than 140 countries have agreed on a set of legally binding measures to curb mercury pollution. Mercury can produce a range of adverse human health effects, including permanent damage to the nervous system. Mercury emissions have been increasing recently in several developing countries. Mercury can be released into the environment through a number of industrial processes, including mining, metal and cement production and the burning of fossil fuels.




The EU has spent billions of euros to build roads in sub-Saharan Africa. The EU now finds that poor maintenance by recipient countries is leaving roads in ruins, jeopardising work to reduce poverty and hunger. A recent review shows that despite the US$6.1-billion spent on building modern highways between 1995 and 2011, the investments were less successful than expected because governments failed to follow up with maintenance or enforced weight limits.




Researchers in Spain have developed a system they say can greatly improve the accuracy of car sat-navs. It combines a conventional global positioning system (GPS) with those of other sensors, accelerometers and gyroscopes, to pinpoint a car's location to within 2 metres (6ft 6in). The system can be installed cheaply in any car and has the potential to help the emerging driverless car industry. The margin of error of a commercial GPS used in cars is about 15 metres in an open field where the receiver has good visibility.




Since a peak in 2008, the share of e-mails that are junk has steadily declined. In 2011, it fell from 80 per cent to 67 per cent of the global total with spam filters doing their job. Also, police are cracking down on spammers and users are ignoring the spam that does get through. Many spammers have switched to peddling fake handbags and baldness cures via online ads which are often cheaper and more likely to be clicked.




France is forcing shops and offices to go dark overnight in a bid to fight light pollution. Under a new law, lights in shop window displays will be turned off at 1am. Interior lights in offices and other non-residential buildings will have to be turned off an hour after the last employee leaves. Exceptions will be made for Christmas and other special occasions. The move is expected to save 250,000 tonnes of CO2, enough energy to power 750,000 French households.




Animals and plants bought to Europe from other parts of the world are a bigger than expected threat to health and the environment, costing at least US$16-billion a year. More than 10,000 "alien" species have gained a foothold, from Asian tiger mosquitos to North American ragweed and at least 1,500 are known to be harmful. Some of them were introduced as early as 77AD by the Romans.




German security researchers have found that freezing an Android phone for one hour to -10C allowed them to reveal its confidential contents, including contact lists, browsing history and photos. They found that quickly connecting and disconnecting the battery of a frozen phone forced the handset into a vulnerable mode allowing them to copy data on the phone.




A new economic impact study has found that the US beer industry, comprising brewers, beer importers, beer distributers, brewer suppliers and retailers, directly and indirectly contributes US$247-billion annually to the American economy. The industry encompasses 2,851 brewing establishments, 3,728 distributers and 576,353 retailers. The beer industry directly employs 1.1-million people paying nearly $31.8-billion in wages.




A recent survey indicates that a high number of bridges in the United States are structurally deficient. In New York, 2,000 bridges are deficient and badly in need of repair. The estimate of the cost of repairs is US$3.6-trillion. There are 607,380 bridges in the national inventory of which 20,808 are considered to be "fracture critical" which means that they have no structural redundancy.




The Royal Mail National Return Centre, a vast warehouse in Belfast, holds 20-million "undeliverable" items which have been separated from their owners. Only a fifth of the 20-million lost items are returned successfully.


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November 2013 Economic Digest - Importing and Exporting


November 2013 Edition


Denmark's Lego has become the world's second-biggest toy maker after reporting a 13 per cent increase in sales. It generated sales of US$1.8-billion in the first half of this year, overtaking US-based Hasbro. The world's biggest toy maker is Mattel with annual sales of $2.3-billion. On average, each person on earth owns 86 Lego blocks and ten lego sets are sold each second. 400-million Lego figures were sold last year. Lego recently introduced a series of building blocks designed for girls.


Older Canadians who can't find higher paying jobs are pushing out students in the low-wage part-time work force. The jobless rate among students 15- to 18- looking for part-time work has soared to more than 20 per cent, the highest on record, as older workers are forced into part-time jobs. Since 2007, employment in the 15-to-18 age group has plummeted dramatically by 22 per cent, well above the 4-per cent drop in that group's population.


Switzerland's parliament has taken steps to tighten rules governing how Swiss-made products are labelled. The government has approved a threshold of 60 per cent of the value of manufactured goods in order for them to carry the coveted Swiss Made label. The threshold for most food products has been set at 80 per cent of the product's weight. The new requirements are expected to become law next year.


In 2012, the global dairy-genetics business was worth C$1.5-billion, up 155 per cent since 2006. Canadian exports of dairy animal genetics (bovine embryos, semen and live cattle) totaled $110.3-million and went to more than 100 countries. The Canadian dairy industry generated total net farm receipts of $45.9-billion in 2012.


It is a good time to be a fisherman. The global fish-price index of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization hit a record high earlier this year. Changing consumer diets, particularly in China, explains much of the sustained upwards movement. High oil prices, which increase the cost of fishing and transportation, also add to the price of putting fish on the table. The FAO's price for wild fish nearly doubled between 1990 and 2012 while that of farmed fish only rose a fifth. The amount of wild fish captured globally has barely changed in two decades with a ceiling of about 90-million tons a year.


Switzerland and Singapore top the list of the most competitive countries in the world in a global ranking that puts Canada in a distant 14th place. Finland, Germany and the United States round out the top five of this years most competitive countries. In 2009, Canada sat in ninth position. However, Canada fares well in education, efficient financial and labour markets and its strong institutions. Innovation and business sophistication is where Canada has tumbled in the rankings.


In 2008, 11.8-billion pieces of mail were sent, in 2012, that figure was 9.8-billion. In 2012, e-commerce spending in Canada was C$21.45-billion, up from C$15.3-billion in 2010. By 2016, e-commerce spending in Canada is projected to be $35-billion. Based on a survey of 4,000 Canadians who shop on line, 37% bought apparel; 35% books and music; 23% consumer electronics; 19% computer hardware and 16% other general merchandise.


Passengers who are denied a seat on overbooked Air Canada flights within Canada may be able to get larger refunds. The Canadian Transportation Agency has upheld an earlier ruling that previous compensation for passengers involuntarily bumped from domestic flights was inadequate. Air Canada passengers who are delayed less that two hours should be compensated C$200. Between two and six hours the compensation rises to $400 and at more than six hours the amount jumps to $800.


Japanese apparel stores are testing a new way to attract shoppers: digital mannequins that model the piece of clothing you have just picked off the rack. The system uses an innovative hanger that signals a computer when it is picked up. The computer then displays the clothing on a model on a nearby screen. This technology is part of a trend among bricks-and-mortar retailers who are trying to match the personalized shopping experience provided online.


The upsurge in popularity of food trucks among consumers in the US is threatening the quick service restaurant (QSR). New research shows that about half the respondents in a survey would have ordered from a fast food restaurant had they not obtained a meal or a snack from a food truck. The top reasons consumers gave for using food trucks related to availability of "interesting" foods and convenience, which are the traditional strengths of QSR outlets. 


It is estimated that the market for smartwatches will reach US$9-billion with unit sales of 90-million by 2018. And by the end of this year, global tablet shipments are expected to reach 227-million units. Chinese app users spend 64 per cent of their time on apps developed locally, if more foreign app developers can make apps that catch on in China, there is a great potential there.


The average height of European men grew by a surprising 11 centimetres from the early 1870s to 1980, reflecting significant improvements in health across the region. The swift advance may have been due to people deciding to have fewer children in this period as smaller family size has previously been found to be linked to increasing average height. The study analyzed data on height in 15 European countries.


The average monthly complaints in the US from consumers who signed up for the Do Not Call List but still are getting telemarketing calls have jumped 63 per cent from 2011. Much of the blame is on a proliferation of computerized robocalls. Illegal robocall operations are taking advantage of increasingly sophisticated technology that has made it much easier to simultaneously send thousands of robocalls costing less than one cent a minute.


Despite pressure from online listening services, radio in Canada continues to churn out consistent profits. Last year, Canada's 675 commercial radio stations saw their revenues increase, reaching C$1.62-billion. Profit before interest and taxes increased almost four per cent to $323-million. In 2012, these stations employed 10,050 people and paid $681-million in salaries. FM stations bought in the most money. Eleven stations were started last year bringing the total to 546.


Eight meat and livestock groups from the United States and Canada have asked a US court to strike down stricter US meat labelling rules that they say have hurt US processors and Canadian farmers. The suit seeks to undo recent revisions to rules that required retail outlets to label meat according to where it came from. The country of origin labelling rules have led to lower US imports of Canadian cattle and pigs which has hurt Canadian farmers and US processing plants that relied on imported livestock.


The Durango-Mazatlan Highway is one of Mexico's greatest engineering feats. It has 115 bridges and 61 tunnels and is designed to bring people, cargo and legitimate commerce through a mountain range known until now for marijuana, opium poppies and an accident-prone road called the Devil's Backbone. The 230-km highway will link port cities on the Gulf of Mexico with the Pacific and will eventually move five million vehicles a year, more than four times the number on the old road plus more goods and produce from Asia to the Mexican interior. 


Venezuela is calling on the police to act against gangs that are stealing women's hair. The thieves sell the hair, sometime stolen at gunpoint, to salons where it is used for extensions and wigs.


A British online broadcaster, along with a German advertising agency, wants to turn bus and train windows into talking advertisements. The company is using technology that beams high-frequency oscillations, or vibrations, through the glass. When a commuter rests their head against a train window, the oscillations are converted into sound through a process called bone conduction, they will hear the message while other passengers remain oblivious. In recent tests, some commuters were annoyed that they could not rest their heads and sleep.


In 1979 the United Auto Workers (UAW) had more than 1.5-million members and nine of the country's best selling cars were American brands. The Toyota Corolla came eighth, the first time a foreign brand had cracked the top ten. Today, the UAW's membership is around 400,000, and not all are car workers. And of the top selling cars last year, seven were foreign badged. Americans are not only buying foreign cars, they are also making them. Seven of America's 15 most productive assembly plants were foreign owned. 


Americans are paying record prices for new cars and trucks. The average price of a vehicle in the US hit US$31,252 recently, up almost $1,000 over last year. The sharp increase has been driven by consumers loading cars up with high-end stereos, navigation systems, leather seats and safety gadgets. This buying pattern began about two years ago with low interest rates that let buyers choose pricier cars while keeping monthly payments in check. Add in booming sales of expensive pickup trucks and you get record high prices.


Researchers in the key corn-growing state of Illinois are finding significant damage from rootworms in farm fields planted in a rotation with genetically modified corn, a combination of measures that are supposed to protect the crop from pests. Evidence from two Illinois counties suggests that pest problems are mounting as the rootworms grow ever more resistant to efforts to fight them. The Western corn rootworm is one of the most devastating corn rootworm species in North America.


An anonymous half-million pound bequest to Britain has mushroomed to 350 million pounds (US$546-million) since it was made 85 years ago. The donor left the money in 1928 but said it should be handed over once Britain had amassed enough funds to pay off its entire national debt, which now totals 1.2-trillion pounds.


South Korea has switched on a road which can recharge electric vehicles as they drive over it. The project's developer says the 12km route is the first of its kind in the world. Vehicles fitted with compatible equipment do not need to stop to recharge and can also be fitted with smaller than normal batteries. Two public buses are already using the technology.


A man using the British Library's wi-fi network was denied an online version of Shakespeare's Hamlet because the text contained "violent content."

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