MFN status for India by Oct: Pak

Islamabad: Pakistan could grant the Most Favoured Nation status to India by October next year, a senior official of the foreign ministry said here.

Foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit said, “October next year is the timeframe which has been given" for granting MFN status to India.

He was responding to a question during yesterday’s weekly news briefing on the latest status of the Pakistan government’s move to grant MFN status to India.

Information minister Firdous Ashiq Awan had recently announced during a news conference that the cabinet had conferred the status to India but the government subsequently clarified that the process was yet to be completed.

Basit said the commerce ministry is working on the issue and a decision will be made “in sync with our interest and WTO rules". (PTI)


Team Anna questions standing committee’s credibility

Team Anna plan to oppose “tooth and nail the standing committee proposals on the ombudsman. Photo: PTI

Team Anna also said they will oppose “tooth and nail" the standing committee proposals on the ombudsman which they claimed is taking the anti-corruption systems in the country two steps backward.

“Standing committee had 30 members. Two never attended. Sixteen dissented. So this report is supported by balance 12. Seven are from Congress, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Amar Singh and rest from Mayawati’s BSP.

“So much for credibility of this report," prominent Team Anna member, Arvind Kejriwal, said.

Claiming that the committee recommendations, if implemented, would increase corruption and disintegrate Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) functioning, Kejriwal said, “This report takes our anti- corruption systems two steps back. We must oppose this report tooth and nail".

His comments came even as Parliamentary standing committee chairman Abishek Singhvi sought to allay fears that making Lokpal a constitutional body would delay its passage and maintained that the process can be completed in a single day.

Hazare will go on a one-day fast on Sunday in protest against the standing committee proposals, which excludes his key demands like bringing lower bureaucracy under the ambit of the ombudsman besides provisions for Citizen’s Charter. (PTI)


Europe moves ahead with fiscal union, UK isolated

Brussels: Europe divided on Friday in a historic rift over building a fiscal union to preserve the euro, with a large majority of countries led by Germany and France agreeing to move ahead with a separate treaty, leaving Britain isolated.

Twenty-three of the 27 leaders agreed to pursue tighter integration with stricter budget rules for the single currency area, but Britain said it could not accept proposed amendments to the European Union (EU) treaty after failing to secure concessions for itself.

After 10 hours of talks, all 17 members of the euro zone and six countries that aspire to join resolved to negotiate a new agreement alongside the EU treaty with a tougher deficit and debt regime to insulate the euro zone against the debt crisis.

“Not Europe, Brits divided. And they are outside of decision making. Europe is united," Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said in blunt English on arriving for the second day of the bloc’s eighth crisis summit this year.

European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi called the decision a step forward for the stricter budget rules he has said are necessary if the 17-nation euro zone is to emerge stronger from two years of market turmoil.

“It’s going to be the basis for a good fiscal compact and more discipline in economic policy in the euro area members," Draghi said. “We came to conclusions that will have to be fleshed out more in the coming days."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was very satisfied with the decisions. The world would see that Europe had learned from its mistakes and avoided “lousy compromise", she said. (Reuters)


China Nov property investment slows, sales fall

Beijing: China’s real estate investment growth slowed in November, while sales revenue fell for the second month in a row, boding ill for the world’s second-largest economy even as the euro zone debt crisis hurts its exports.

Some investors fear that a cooling property market increases the risk of a hard landing in the broad economy and the latest data will fuel debate about whether China should relax some of the measures it has taken to deflate a real estate bubble.

Real estate investment growth slowed to an annual rate of 20.2% in November, from a rise of 25% in both October and September, according to Reuters calculations based on official data published by the National Bureau of Statistics on Friday.

Property sales revenue fell 1.5% in November from a year ago after retreating 11.5% in October, confirming a trend that has hit developers’ share prices.

“China’s real estate market continued to weaken," said Shi Qi, an analyst with CEBM in Shanghai. “More and more developers are cutting prices now. But buyers are not moved by up to 20% discounts."

Some economists expect Chinese real estate investment growth to slow to as low as 10% early next year, dragging down economic growth below Beijing’s comfort zone of 8% and spurring the government to ease monetary and fiscal policy.

The central bank cut banks’ required reserves on 30 November signalling a shift in Beijing’s monetary stance. (Reuters)


Pakistan army believes NATO attack planned-reports

Islamabad: A senior Pakistani military officer said a NATO air strike killing 24 Pakistani troops on the Afghan border last month was pre-planned and warned of more attacks, comments likely to fuel tension with the United States.

Major General Ashfaq Nadeem, director general of military operations, was also quoted by newspapers on Friday as saying that Pakistan, a strategic United States (US) ally, would deploy an air defence system along the border to prevent such attacks.

Nadeem made the remarks to a senate committee on defence on Thursday. Senator Tariq Azim, who attended the briefing, confirmed to the news agency that Nadeem had made the comments.

The Daily Times said Nadeem described the attack as a plot. Another newspaper quoted him as saying it was a “pre-planned conspiracy" against Pakistan.

“We can expect more attacks from our supposed allies," the Express Tribune quoted Nadeem as saying at the senate briefing. (Reuters)


Pfizer to raise R&D force in China

Hong Kong: Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc said it will expand its research and development (R&D) team in China and is exploring possible collaboration with Chinese research outfits as it seeks to tap the country’s vast talent pool and emergence as a major market .

The company, which moved its regional emerging markets headquarters for Asia to Shanghai from Hong Kong last year, has a total of about 600 researchers in Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan.

“(The number) is growing consistently. We have been here for six years; on average it’s been about 100 people per year," Lingshi Tan, vice-president for Pfizer’s worldwide development operations and general manager of Pfizer’s R&D center in China, told the news agency in an interview on Friday.

Taking advantage of lower costs and an enormous pool of scientists, global drugmakers including Pfizer, AstraZeneca Plc , Abbott Laboratories and Novartis AG have made big investments in R&D in China in recent years. (Reuters)


China cuts taxes for small firms to fight slowdown

Beijing: China will halve income taxes for small companies with an annual taxable income below 60,000 yuan ($9,400) for three years from 2012 to 2015, the ministry of finance said on Friday.

The tax cut for “small firms with thin profit margins" comes as the country’s economic and export outlooks are increasingly threatened by the debt crisis in Europe, its top trading partner.

The government launched a similar 50% tax cut for small companies with an annual taxable income of less than 30,000 yuan in 2010. The policy expired at the end of last year.

Many small Chinese companies are subject to a 20% tax and are bearing the brunt of the latest economic slowdown. The tax cut may provide relief to millions of workshops and small manufacturers vital to employment and social stability. (Reuters)