Name organizer Where
Frontier's "Invest Mongolia Tokyo 2018" Frontier Securities Tokyo Japan
"Open to Export" ICC WTO International business award ICC WTO London



Famed Swiss banking secrecy replaced by financial data exchange www.rt.com

Switzerland’s enviable reputation as a tax haven is becoming a thing of the past. The alpine nation has begun collecting data on Swiss bank accounts held by citizens of some 104 countries, and will begin sharing it with select countries from 2018.
The shift in policy comes after the ratification of the ‘Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters,’ which came into force on January 1.

The Convention has been touted as “the most comprehensive multilateral instrument available for all forms of tax co-operation to tackle tax evasion and avoidance, a top priority for all countries.”

From now on, countries with which Switzerland has signed agreements no longer need to request information on their citizens’ Swiss bank accounts. Financial data will be handed over automatically once a year. The data is confidential and cannot be made public, according to swissinfo.ch.

Previously, Switzerland provided banking information only if it had been requested by a country with which Bern had signed a deal to prevent double taxation. Even then, cooperation was not 100 percent guaranteed, since the requesting country had to provide hard evidence that the suspected persons had evaded taxes, according to the Swiss news outlet.

European countries will be the first to benefit from the Convention.

Developing countries like India, Argentina, and South Africa will have to wait until 2018.

Poor countries will not be able to take part in the process simply because they lack the ability to collect and share information on the financial assets of Swiss citizens living in their countries and are unable to guarantee that the information provided by Switzerland will only be used for tax purposes and remain confidential, swissinfo.ch reports.

Switzerland ratified the Convention in September.

Angel Gurria, the secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), said that the ratification marked the latest milestone in Switzerland’s “significant efforts to implement the international standards on tax transparency” in recent years.



Copper to be best performing commodity of 2017 — analysts www.mining.com

Copper, until recently one of the worst performing commodities of the past two years, experienced a sudden spike at the end of 2016, posing several questions as to the direction of the market as we move into 2017.

The rally, which began on the heels of Donald Trump winning in the US presidential election, has been partly based on speculation regarding the impact of the President-elect’s $500 billion infrastructure plans on demand for the metal.

It has also been fuelled by a pick-up in Chinese imports, responsible for almost 50% of global copper demand, which is seen a good omen for the industry’s health.

Even Goldman Sachs — usually the most pessimistic when it comes to forecasting what’s in stake for copper in the short term — has changed its tone to a more positive one.

The investment bank now believes that increased demand from China will leave the market tighter than previously expected, which will support a more "bullish" environment for the metal at least to mid-2017.

"Although it is tempting to blame this on speculative positioning, the materially stronger fundamental developments that contributed to this surge in speculative interest are likely to underpin a more bullish environment for copper," Goldman analysts wrote in early December.

Increased demand from China will leave the market tighter than previously expected, which supports a more "bullish" environment for copper at least to mid-2017.
They predict prices to hit $6,200 a tonne over the next six months and has lifted its 3, 6 and 12-month forecasts to $5,800, $6,200 and $5,600 a tonne, respectively from $5,000, $4,800 and $4,800.

Molly Shutt, commodities analyst at BMI Research, is also positive on the outlook for copper. She expects the global market to shift into a slight deficit by 2019, a bit sooner than previously anticipated, as steady demand growth is expected to outpace decelerating production growth.

BMI attributes the slowing supply growth outlook primarily to production cuts in China, the world’s top consumer, and declining ore grades in Chile, the world’s largest producer of the red metal.

Shutt says the sharp spike following the surprise election of Donald Trump as US President reflects unfounded expectations for his infrastructure spending plan, as well as rampant speculative trading in China.

Even under a best-case scenario for Trump’s infrastructure plan, BMI analysts emphasize that the strongest US metal demand growth outlook would have a minimal impact on the global metal market balance.

She lists several reasons for that, including the small size of the US market (according to ICSG data, the US has accounted for only 7.7% of global copper demand this year), a positive impact on the global market diluted by an 'America First' metals procurement policy and increased output triggered by higher copper prices.

“As such, we expect prices to shed some of the gains acquired since the beginning of November (already, they have been testing support and look ready to break lower) and return to a more gradual incline,” she says.

As a result, BMI has revised up its 2017 expected price to $5,150 a tonne from $4,900 a tonne, thanks to strong Chinese demand growth that will tighten the market faster than previously expected.

Copper to be best performing commodity of 2017 — analystsLooking beyond copper, most analysts are positive towards commodity prices over a 12-month horizon and expect almost all to average higher year-on-year.

Andrew Cole, the Metal Bulletin Research’s principal base metals analyst and editor of the Base Metals Forecaster, said earlier this month it was evident that investors were coming back to commodities:

“Copper itself looks like it could be one of the top performers. It was undervalued for much of 2016, weighed down by perceptions of a weak China and rising supply,” he says. “Since both of those views have swung around completely, there may still be some catching up to do in terms of investors who had been underweight copper moving to reposition to a more bullish stance, by increasing allocations and building long positions.”

Long-time coming
BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP), the world’s No.1 miner, and Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), the largest heavy equipment maker, has bet on a copper recovery for months.

BHP, already the world's second-biggest listed copper miner, wants to increase its exposure to the red metal.
BHP, already the world's second-biggest listed copper miner, hiked its annual exploration spending by 29% this year, allocating nearly all its $900 million budget to finding new copper and oil deposits. The firm, who wants copper to be one of the pillars of its future growth, is already looking for more of the red metal in Chile, Peru, the US, Canada and South Australia, as well as eyeing new partnerships to boost its growth pipeline.

In the short term, however, BHP is not that optimistic. "A deficit is expected to emerge as grade declines, a rise in costs and a scarcity of high-quality future development opportunities are likely to constrain the industry’s ability to cheaply meet this demand growth," it said in its annual report.

Caterpillar, the world's No.1 heavy machinery maker, recently said it believed iron ore and copper miners would be leading the way in terms of an increase in equipment demand in the next three to five years. Currently CAT makes the most sales to the coal, copper and iron ore sectors, in that order.

Rio Tinto (LON, ASX:RIO), another heavyweight in the industry, said in early December that it expected the copper market to go into deficit by 2020, just when the extension of its Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia comes on stream.

Arnaud Soirat, chief executive of Rio's copper and diamonds division, told Reuters that while the iron ore market is expected to stay in oversupply for the foreseeable future, the copper sector faces declining supplies and the prospect of increased demand, driven by infrastructure, electric vehicles and other renewable technologies.



Russia Sets Oil Production Record in 2016 www.themoscowtimes.com

Russia set a record for annual oil extraction in 2016 amid some of the lowest oil prices in recent history.

In 2016, Russia extracted 527,499 million tons of oil and gas condensate, a 2.5 percent increase from 2015. The figure represents a previously unseen high, according to data from Russia’s Fuel and Energy Complex.

Natural gas extraction also grew to 640 billion cubic meters, a 0.7 percent increase from 2015.

However, according to the Fuel and Energy Complex, the record may not be the result of a true increase in production: The year 2016 was a day longer than 2015.

Since mid-2014, crude oil prices have fallen sharply, causing serious budget deficits and an economic recession in Russia. During the second half of 2016, oil prices largely hovered between $45 and $50 per barrel.

Russia’s 2017 budget is predicated upon oil prices of $40 a barrel. The Russian government expects a deficit of 2.75 trillion rubles ($44.9 billion) this year, according to projections made in October.

The International Energy Agency predicts that Russia will produce up to 11.37 barrels of oil a day in 2017.

In November 2016, the OPEC countries agreed to decrease oil production by 1.2 million barrels a day to 32.5 million tons. In December, non-OPEC countries, including Russia, agreed to decrease production by 600 thousand barrels a day. Russian production cuts would account for 300 thousand barrels.

The cuts are set to begin this month. However, experts have doubted that the agreement will bolster the price of crude in the long run.



Bitcoin jumps above $1,000 for first time in three years www.reuters.com

Digital currency bitcoin kicked off the new year by jumping above $1,000 for the first time in three years late on Sunday, having outperformed all central-bank-issued currencies with a 125 percent climb in 2016.

Bitcoin - a web-based "cryptocurrency" that has no central authority, relying instead on thousands of computers across the world that validate transactions and add new bitcoins to the system - jumped 2.5 percent to $1,022 on the Europe-based Bitstamp exchange, its highest since December 2013.

(Reporting by Jemima Kelly; Editing by Louise Ireland)



Civil penalties increasing by 25 percent www.gogo.mn

Minimum monthly wage has been set to 240,000 MNT from 192,000 MNT starting Jan 1st, 2017. 
As a result of persistent demand by the Confederation of Mongolian Trade Union, minimum monthly wage has increased by 25 percent. 
In this regard, amount of civil fines and penalties in Mongolia have increased by 25 percent. 
According to the law of Mongolia, fines and penalties are based on the minimum monthly wage. 
For instance, penalty for driving vehicle with an expired inspection sticker may result in fines between 120,000 MNT, equal 50 percent of the minimum monthly wage.



Jean-Claude Juncker blocked EU curbs on tax avoidance, cables show www.theguardian.com

The president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, spent years in his previous role as Luxembourg’s prime minister secretly blocking EU efforts to tackle tax avoidance by multinational corporations, leaked documents reveal.

Years’ worth of confidential German diplomatic cables provide a candid account of Luxembourg’s obstructive manoeuvres inside one of Brussels’ most secretive committees.

The code of conduct group on business taxation was set up almost 19 years ago to prevent member states from being played off against one another by increasingly powerful multinational businesses, eager to shift profits across borders and avoid tax.

Little has been known until now about the workings of the committee, which has been meeting since 1998, after member states agreed a code of conduct on tax policies and pledged not to engage in “harmful competition” with one another.

However, the leaked cables reveal how a small handful of countries have used their seats on the committee to frustrate concerted EU action and protect their own tax regimes.

Efforts by a majority of member states to curb aggressive tax planning and to rein in predatory tax policies were regularly delayed, diluted or derailed by the actions of a few of the EU’s smallest members, frequently led by Luxembourg.

The leaked papers, shared with the Guardian and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists by the German radio group NDR, are highly embarrassing for Juncker, who served as Luxembourg’s prime minister from 1995 until the end of 2013. During that period he also acted as finance and treasury minister, taking a close interest in tax policy.

Despite having a population of just 560,000, Luxembourg was able to resist widely supported EU tax reforms, its dissenting voice often backed only by that of the Netherlands.

Among proposals popular in the code of conduct committee but opposed by Luxembourg were:

• Plans for tax authorities in each member state to subject their dealings with multinational businesses to peer review.


• An investigation into cross-border tax avoidance strategies, known as “hybrid mismatches”, often used by multinationals to conjure up artificial tax savings.

• Improved information sharing between member states on tax deals granted to multinationals in private.

A spokesperson for Luxembourg’s finance ministry refused to comment on the positions previous governments had taken in private EU discussions. “We have no knowledge of the communications you claim to have, and whether they are genuine, and therefore cannot comment on them,” he said.

The spokesperson added: “In recent years Luxembourg has been at the forefront of the global trend towards greater transparency in tax matters and the fight against harmful tax competition.”

The Guardian spoke to another former member of the code of conduct committee, who did not want to be named but corroborated claims in the leaked cables that Luxembourg was regularly among those looking to frustrate EU efforts to tackle tax avoidance.

The source said the committee was no longer fit for purpose. They said it was unable to achieve much because it was governed by unanimity. “Each country is ready to block any agreement. Moreover, each country stands ready to bargain its position on tax against any other topic at stake in the EU,” they said.

Some tax experts contacted by the Guardian confirmed that Luxembourg had begun to move away from certain aggressive tax policies under the current prime minister, Xavier Bettel.

However, the leaked cables suggest the country has remained resistant to other changes. In 2016 it fiercely opposed efforts supported by many countries to strengthen and expand the code of conduct committee’s work.

Luxembourg particularly objected to a relaxation of the committee’s own rules on decision making, insisting there was no need to abandon the unanimity requirement.

France, Germany and Sweden argued unsuccessfully that removing unanimity had become essential to the committee’s effectiveness.

Luxembourg also opposed plans to identify member states that were standing in the way of reforms more clearly. One leaked cable noted: “It has become abundantly clear once again that a majority [of members states] are not interested in real reform. In particular, Luxembourg representatives said they would fundamentally object to any proposal to publish arguments made by Luxembourg in the committee.”

A later cable read: “It is impressive to see how some member states present themselves outwardly as proponents of [international tax reforms] and at the same time to watch how they actually behave in EU discussions, protected by confidentiality.”

The Guardian contacted Juncker’s office for comment. A spokesperson said it was not for the European commission to respond to questions about negotiating positions Luxembourg had taken, or about the country’s past tax policies.

Damaging revelations
Jean-Claude Juncker’s record as Luxembourg’s prime minister has cast an enduring shadow over his presidency of the European commission.

On paper, his marathon 18-year stint at the helm of the EU’s second smallest member state might be hailed a triumph. He recast the fading steel-based economy into a booming hub for international business, and when he departed in 2013 Luxembourg had been transformed into one of the richest countries in the world per capita.

Hundreds of the multinational corporations rushed to channel international profits through subsidiaries in the country, among them McDonald’s, Fiat, Amazon, Shire Pharmaceuticals and Skype.

The secret to this success was exposed in 2014 when the Luxleaks scandal revealed the terms hidden within hundreds of private deals, known as “tax rulings”, that Luxembourg had handed out to multinational businesses behind closed doors.

The rulings effectively rubber-stamped complex tax structures that global corporations used to access ultra-low tax rates, often less than 1%, for profits shifted to Luxembourg.

Juncker conceded the scandal had damaged his reputation. While not illegal, he admitted Luxembourg’s tax system was also “not always in line with fiscal fairness” and may have breached “ethical and moral standards”.

Since then, Juncker has made a point of supporting the EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, as she pursues high-profile investigations into specific tax rulings, including deals Luxembourg granted separately to McDonald’s and Amazon.

The investigations are examining whether the deals were so generous that they amounted to illegal state aid from Juncker’s Luxembourg.

Juncker has also campaigned hard for greater tax cooperation among member states in the battle against international businesses that avoid tax. The latest leaked cables, however, raise further questions about whether he is the right person to champion such reforms.



China's Belt and Road Initiative promotes connectivity, development along ancient route www.xinhuanet.com

BEIJING, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- More than three years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed to build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.

Looking back at 2016, the Belt and Road Initiative has gained fruitful early achievements, promoting connectivity and opening up possibilities and potentials for development along the ancient trade route.


One day in golden October in Kashgar of China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, a fleet of 50 trucks of a joint trade convoy carrying large containers started to roll along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

After passing the Pamirs, crossing the Har goolun Range, and threading Pakistan's western region, the fleet finally arrived at its destination -- the Gwadar Port of Pakistan, concluding its 3,115-km journey in a month.

The containers carried by the fleet were shipped to the United Arab Emirates and other countries, marking the Gwadar port's first export of containers to overseas destinations, and showing that the port has restored the designed handling capacity.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that CPEC is destined to transform the entire country and open up a world of possibilities for not just Pakistan but also Central Asian states.

In February 2016, China Railway Tunnel Group completed building the Qamchiq Tunnel in Uzbekistan, the longest tunnel in Central Asia. It is part of the 169-km Angren-Pap railway line, a major state project. After completion of the rail line, Uzbekistan's domestic transport will no longer have to go through foreign territories.

"If we say 2013 is the year of proposal, 2014 is the year of guideline, 2015 is the year of top-level design, then 2016 is the year of implementing landmark projects of the Belt and Road Initiative," said Zhao Lei, a professor at China's Central Party School. "Many European countries have high approval rates on the Belt and Road Initiative."

Perhaps the busy-running China-Europe trains give the best illustration to people's acceptance. Since the Belt and Road proposal, trains running between Europe and China have been burgeoning. By June 2016, trains had been running nearly 2,000 times between China and Europe, with a total of import and export value of 17 billion U.S. dollars.

Many other projects are also under way. The China-Belarus industrial park is in development, the Hungary-Serbia railroad is to be constructed by the Chinese side soon, cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries has been further expanded.

The Silk Road Economic Belt, with a nature of inclusiveness and openness, has become a vital link connecting regional development and China's transformation.


In October 2016, the contract for the second phase of the China-Laos railway project was signed in Lao capital of Vientiane.

Kicked off in late 2015, the construction of the project is expected to be completed in five years. Upon completion of the railway, a trip from Vientiane to the Chinese border will take only four hours, turning Laos from a landlocked country into a land-linked nation.

On Jan. 21, 2016, at the ground-breaking ceremony of the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, Indonesian President Joko Widodo launched the country's first ever high-speed railway project in Walini, West Java Province.

With a maximum design speed of 350 km per hour, the travel time between Jakarta and Bandung will be cut from over three hours to less than one hour once the project is finished.

The Belt and Road Initiative provides opportunities not only for a new round of China's opening-up, but also for the growth of world economy.

On Aug. 10, 2016, Chinese shipping giant COSCO acquired 67 percent stake of Piraeus Port Authority through the Athens Stock Exchange, officially becoming the controlling shareholder of the Greek port.

Piraeus is expected to operate as a hub in Europe for the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and to connect the Silk Road Economic Belt with the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line.

According to Chinese ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli, Piraeus was not merely an economic project, but also a bridge to connect the peoples of Greece and China.

In Africa, the Chinese-built Ethiopia-Djibouti railway has officially opened service, marking a milestone in cooperation between China, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

In Cambodia, the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone has attracted hundreds of enterprises, providing a model of China-Cambodia cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.

In Myanmar, a consortium of six foreign companies led by China's CITIC has won two bids to build an industrial park and a deep-sea port in the Kyaukpyu Special Economic Zone in Rakhine State, which will improve the country's infrastructure, local people's employment and livelihood.

In Sri Lanka, the green light has been given to the delayed Colombo Port City. Through the Maritime Silk Road, China will support the country in becoming a shipping, logistics and even financial hub in the Indian Ocean.


It has been nearly two years since the Chinese-owned company Southeast Asia Telecommunications entered the Cambodian market. With an investment of 150 million U.S. dollars, a fiber network extending 10,000 km, and over 1,000 base stations, the company has improved the efficiency of communications in Cambodia, and was spoken highly of by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Apart from opening up a new market in Cambodia with the dedication to high-speed Internet and high-quality phone calls, the company is also shouldering social responsibility by launching the Youth Sci-Tech Education Base and the Cloud Data Center.

"Previously, people saw most 'Belt and Road' programs in areas such as energy and infrastructure. In 2016, cooperation between China and those countries along the routes have been expanded to education, culture, medical care and telecommunications," said Zhao of the Central Party School

If the "hard connection" of the Belt and Road draws countries geographically closer, then the "soft connection" brings people together.

Till now, over 100 countries and international organizations have expressed willingness to actively support and join the initiative, 40 of which have signed cooperation deals with China.

In 2017, a Belt and Road summit will be held to further map out the blueprint of the initiative, explore business opportunities and deepen alignment of development strategies between China and the relevant parties.

On June 22, 2016, during a speech at the Legislative Chamber of the Uzbek Supreme Assembly in Tashkent, Xi called for building a green, healthy, intelligent and peaceful Silk Road, laying out the future of the initiative.

According to Huang Rihan, Executive Director of the Belt and Road Institute at the Center for China and Globalization think tank, a green Silk Road urges environmental protection and intensive cultivation for sustained development.

A healthy Silk Road means closer cooperation in medical care and health among related countries. An intelligent Silk Road calls for people cultivation and exchanges. A peaceful Silk Road aims at implementing a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security concept in Asia, then promoting world peace and stability, Huang added.

While addressing the Uzbek Parliament, Xi invited other countries to attend the 2017 Belt and Road summit. The summit will not only look back at the fruitful harvest made so far under the initiative, but also set up a new starting point for the future, observers said.

"The Belt and Road Initiative will not be a flash in the pan, nor will it be formalism," said Zhao, "China will go deep with the initiative and turn it into real benefits."

"The agreement reached in November by the UN General Assembly to further promote the Belt and Road Initiative worldwide shows that its construction involves not just China, but also countries along the routes and the world at large," said Wang Yiwei, a professor at Renmin University of China.



China's new rule on yuan transfers not a capital control measure: Xinhua www.reuters.com

China's new rules on cash transactions and overseas transfers of yuan currency are not forms of capital controls, the state news agency Xinhua said, citing a central bank economist.

Banks and other financial institutions in China will have to report all domestic and overseas cash transactions larger than 50,000 yuan ($7,201.50), compared with 200,000 yuan previously, the central bank said on Friday.

Ma Jun, chief economist of the People's Bank of China (PBOC), said the responsibility of reporting such transactions will be assumed by financial institutions, and there will be no extra documentation or official approval procedures required for companies or individuals, according to the Xinhua report issued late on Sunday.

Ma added that other major economies have similar rules.

China is maintaining the same quota of $50,000 for each individual's annual foreign exchange purchase.

The central bank has said the recent move was aimed at better monitoring of money laundering and financing for terrorism rather than targeting normal business activities, Xinhua said.

Beijing has announced a string of rules in recent months to stem capital outflows after its yuan currency skidded to more than eight-year lows.


(Reporting by Chen Aizhu and Cheng Fang; Editing by Kim Coghill)



South Korea scandal: Daughter of Choi Soon-sil arrested www.bbc.com

The daughter of the woman at the centre of a presidential scandal in South Korea has been arrested in Denmark, say South Korean police.
Chung Yoo-ra, 20, is accused of staying in the country illegally, they said.
Her mother Choi Soon-sil is accused of using her friendship with President Park Geun-hye for personal gain, including getting Ms Chung into a top Korean university.
After weeks of protest, parliament voted on 9 December to impeach Ms Park.
Both women have apologised while denying the accusations.

South Korean authorities had asked for Interpol's help in tracing Ms Chung after she failed to return to answer questions about her role in the scandal.
They are reportedly planning to extradite Ms Chung, a former national equestrian rider.

Her mother Ms Choi is in detention having returned from abroad to face questioning.
She has been charged with various offences, including abuse of authority, coercion, attempted coercion and attempted fraud.
South Korea's constitutional court has six months to uphold or overturn to impeachment vote against Ms Park.
Until then she remains formally president but stripped of her powers, which have been handed to the prime minister, a presidential appointee.



UK starts countdown to new £1 coin www.cnn.com

The U.K. Treasury said Sunday that it will begin circulating its new £1 coin on March 28. It has also set a mid-October target for killing off the current version of the coin.
The New Year's Day announcement is the first time the Treasury has laid out an exact timetable for the currency swap.
"This is a historic moment as it's the first time we've introduced a new £1 coin since 1983," said David Gauke, chief secretary to the Treasury.
Britain is switching to a coin with high-tech security features because the current pound coin has been targeted by counterfeiters.
The Royal Mint estimates that 3% of £1 coins in circulation are fakes.
The new 12-sided pound coin will be made with two metals and include a hologram to prevent counterfeits.

But not everyone is excited about the new coin.
Some businesses have expressed concern about the change since the new coin has a different shape and weight, meaning it will not fit into most existing vending machines, lockers and shopping carts.
The Automatic Vending Association estimates it will cost the industry £32 million ($39 million) to ensure the 500,000 vending machines across the U.K. are ready to accept the new coins.
new 1 pound coin
The 'tails' side of the new £1 coin was designed by British teenager David Pearce.
The Treasury is launching a public awareness campaign to ensure everyday people spend their old £1 coins or return them to the bank before October 15. They'll become legally worthless on that date.
The Treasury notes that some of the returned coins will be recycled and used to create the new coins, which will be made by the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales.