Malaysia, US FTA talks

SEOUL: Malaysia and the United States were to announce Wednesday that they plan to start talks aimed at a free trade agreement, an official with the US Chamber of Commerce said. The announcement was to be made in Washington later in the day, Myron Brilliant, a vice president at the Washington-based chamber, told The Associated Press. “We’ve been told to get our releases ready” for the announcement, said Brilliant, who is on a business trip to the South Korean capital.— AP

Enron row festers

LONDON: Former Enron finance chief Andrew Fastow offered potentially damaging testimony against his former boss, Jeffrey Skilling, as the trial of the energy firm’s two highest-ranking executives reached a critical stage. Fastow, 44, was speaking publicly for the first time since pleading guilty to fraud charges in January 2004, offering a rare first-hand glimpse of what went on behind closed doors at one of the most notorious corporate collapses in history. — The Guardian

German economy

BERLIN: The German economy will expand by 1.8 per cent this year, a leading economic institute said on Wednesday, raising its forecast in the light of buoyant exports and investment activity. Essen-based RWI, one of Germany’s top six economic research institutes, had forecast in December that 2006 growth would be 1.6 per cent. It is also predicting that 2007 growth will slow to 1.3 per cent. Economists have become more optimistic about this year’s outlook for the German economy, where sluggish domestic demand has held back growth in gross domestic product for years.—AP

MiTV to invest in 3G

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s new pay-television operator MiTV Corp plans to invest $270 million to roll out a third-generation, or 3G, mobile services network over two years after winning a license last week. The fund will be raised from existing shareholders, vendor financing and “in the longer term, floating MiTV” on the stock exchange, MiTV executive director Kenneth Chang told Dow Jones Newswires in a recent interview. He didn’t specify a timeframe.—AFP

Clean electricity

SHANGHAI: Shanghai residents can for the first time buy “clean power” after solar and wind-generated electricity was this week included in the Chinese city’s power grid, the firm behind the project said on Wednesday. The project by Shanghai Municipal Electricity Power company is aimed at cleaning up Shanghai’s polluted environment, company spokesman Yu Qinde said. —AFP

Household survey

NUWAKOT: The Nepal Rastra Bank has started a survey of family budget to identify consumers price index, in Bidur Municipality headquarters of Nuwakot district. In the process of the survey, the bank has started to collect data on weekly, monthly and yearly expenses of 35 households in the market area of Ward No 4, joint-director of the Family Survey Regional Office, Pradeep Raj Poudel said. The survey is underway in some selected 5,200 households in 52 markets throughout the nation. — RSS

OPEC to forgo cut

VIENNA: OPEC all but abandoned the idea of cutting production to ease $60-plus a barrel oil prices, insisting a surplus of crude will ensure ample supplies in the face of political instability and terrorist attacks targeting pipelines and other facilities. Oil ministers heading into Wednesday’s meeting of the OPEC conceded that prices were uncomfortably high, but cautioned against lowering output at a time when extremists are attacking energy installations. “We at OPEC are trying to keep the oil price below $60 a barrel,” said Kuwait’s oil minister, Sheik Ahmed Fahd Al Ahmed Al Sabah.— AP