Vietnam to join WTO

HANOI: A US trade mission has voiced optimism Vietnam will join the WTO this year but said the communist country must continue to tackle red tape, copyright piracy and corruption. Vietnam, a fast-growing economy of more than 82 million people, is now negotiating joining the WTO and establishing full trade relations with the US. — AFP

EU to call on Germany

BRUSSELS: EU finance ministers are to call on Germany to bring its public deficit to within EU norms by 2007 when they meet in Brussels. The ministers are set to endorse a recommendation from the European Commission to step up so-called excessive deficit procedures against Berlin. The commission advised the ministers last month to call on Germany to come up with a credible belt-tightening plan by July. — AFP

US budget deficit rises

WASHINGTON: A record amount of spending in February pushed the US government’s budget deficit to the highest level ever for a single month. The government had a record monthly deficit of $119.2 billion in February after having run a monthly surplus in the two previous months. The deficit reflected a big jump in outlays, which totaled a record $232.1 billion last month. Spending normally increases sharply in February, a month when the government is mailing out tax refund checks. — AP

Shipping under threat

BEIJING: The number of bridges spanning China’s longest river the Yangtze could triple in the next decade and a half, severely hampering vital shipping to the nation’s interior. So far 39 bridges have been built across the river, but if all projects currently in planning stage are allowed to go ahead, that figure will soar to 124 by 2020. This means one bridge in less than 30-km across the 3,000-km-long trunk of the river. — AFP

Trade protectionism

WASHINGTON: The US, while eager to denounce trade protectionism in others, is no slouch at throwing up barriers to foreign companies when its national interest is at stake. The controversy over Dubai Ports World, which is controlled by the state of UAE, is not the first to show that the US economy doesn’t always meet its billing as the world’s most open destination for investment. Last year, an angry storm of criticism from lawmakers forced Chinese state-owned energy firm CNOOC to abandon a bid to take over Unocal Corp. — AFP

No 3G licence for DiGi

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s No 3 mobile phone operator, DiGi.Com, failed to win a lucrative 3G mobile phone licence because it is foreign owned. The decision to bypass DiGi and hand two 3G licences to non-mobile phone firms sparked surprise and controversy. DiGi’s larger rivals, Maxis Communications and Telekom Malaysia, received licences last year and have launched services. — AP

N Koreans flood South

KAESONG: Thousands of communist labourers toil under the supervision of capitalist managers in the fenced-in special zone, South Korea’s economic beachhead in North Korea. The Kaesong Industrial Complex is a key part of Seoul’s strategy to engage the impoverished North. — AP

2 pm’s Centre Shock

KATHMANDU: Asian Thai Foods Pvt Ltd has launched a nationwide new scheme campaign ‘2pm Centre Shock’ for its premium noodle brand 2 PM. According to a press release issued here, “the 2pm Centre Shock has six big prizes including Maruti 800 car, Pulsar Motorbike, Wave Scooter, Samsung DVD 550 Dj Music System, 5gm Gold Coin, and other cash prizes and free 2pm noodles.” The consumer needs to scratch the centre part of the picture representing the big prizes. “On completing the picture, the indicated prizes could be won,” adds the release. — HNS

BoC sees net profit up

BEIJING: Bank of China (BoC), the country’s second-largest bank by asset size, recorded a 33 per cent rise in net profits last year compared with 2004. State-owned Bank of China is planning to raise about $6 billion in an initial public offering in Hong Kong by July. The bank’s nonperforming loan ratio fell to around 4.7 per cent by the end of 2005, from 5.12 per cent in 2004. Bank of China will be the second of China’s four big state-owned commercial banks to list shares overseas. — AP