US, V’nam trade deal

WASHINGTON: The US had clinched a bilateral market access deal with Vietnam that will help clear the path to its former wartime enemy joining the WTO. US trade representative Rob Portman said the agreement in principle, reached after nearly a week of talks here, should lower Vietnamese barriers to a wide range of US industrial goods, farm produce and services. The bilateral agreement will be signed in the ‘near future’. — AP

Myanmar inflation up

YANGON: The military government awarded 10-fold increases to civil servants, which set off a chain reaction that saw prices soar and the value of its currency drop. Many private employers then awarded hike to their own staff so they could keep up with ever-increasing cost of living. — AFP

US trade deficit dips

WASHINGTON: For the first time in more than two years, the US trade deficit has declined for two months in a row. The main reasons: record US exports and a big drop in the country’s foreign oil bill. The trade gap narrowed to $62 billion in March, the smallest deficit in seven months. It was down from a $65.6 billion imbalance in February and an all-time high of $68.6 billion in January. It marked the first consecutive monthly improvements in the deficit since October-November 2003. — AP

Russia suspends aid

MOSCOW: Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed a confidential directive ordering the suspension of all economic aid to Belarus, a move that could have ‘serious consequences’ for the regime of president Alexander Lukashenko. “President Putin ordered a halt to all forms of subsidies for Belarus,” a daily reported, “Application of these measures threatens the regime of Alexander Lukashenko seriously.” — AFP

Brazil for WTO meet

VIENNA: Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva proposed holding a summit meeting of the WTO on the sidelines of the G8 meeting of industrialised nations in Saint Petersburg in July. “The time has come to involve directly the leaders in order reach a breakthrough in the negotiations” from the Doha Round of trade talks. The WTO needs to ‘give a political boost’ to the trade talks, Lula said at an European Union-Latin American summit in Vienna. — AFP

German sentiment

BRUSSELS: Eurozone indicators are expected to show that German economic sentiment has slipped owing to a disappointing first-quarter growth estimate coupled with weak industrial output and retail sales figures. But provisional French growth data for the first quarter are tipped to lend further weight to the ECB’s case for an interest rate rise in June. — AFP

MS antitrust dispute

WASHINGTON: Citing Microsoft Corp’s (MS) lapses under a landmark antitrust settlement, the US Justice Department said it wants to extend by two years its oversight of some of the company’s business practices until at least November 2009. Microsoft has already agreed to the lengthier scrutiny by the department and 17 states under a proposal that still must be approved by a US judge. — AP

Dangi calls for talks

KATHMANDU: Tek Bahadur Dangi, CEO of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has called the agitating staffers to end the lock out and come for the discussion. Issuing a press release here today, Dangi has challenged to prove all the allegations put against him including the embezzlement of money. He has also claimed that money spent on various activities is according to the board’s rule and approved by the executive committee of NTB. “In democracy, problems are resolved through dialogue and discussions not by ill-intentioned manner like lock out,” states the release. — HNS

Thai tourism hit hard

BANGKOK: Thailand’s political crisis and an ongoing insurgency in the south are driving away Asian holidaymakers, with industry experts warning the kingdom could miss its annual tourism target. The state-run Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has forecast that 13.8 million foreign tourists will visit the kingdom this year. Asians make up 60 per cent of the total. But the tourist arrivals would reach 12.5 million, with tourism revenue seen at $12.2 billion, down from the TAT’s target. — AFP