Asian shares mixed on caution over China-US trade deal
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian shares were mixed today on renewed caution over the truce in the tariff war between the U.S. and China.
Hong Kong initially led regional gains after its chief executive, Carrie Lam, announced help Wednesday for the property sector. The semi-autonomous city’s economy has been languishing amid months of increasingly violent political protests that are in part fueled by the sky-high cost of housing.
Today, the Hang Seng index added 0.4% after rising more than 1% earlier in the day.
Elsewhere, sentiment was tepid. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index lost 0.1% while the Shanghai Composite index slipped 0.2%. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 lost 0.8% and the Kospi in Seoul gave up 0.4%. India’s Sensex was flat.
Shares fell in Taiwan and Singapore but inched higher in Jakarta and Bangkok.
High anxiety in Brussels: Will Brexit deal be clinched?
BRUSSELS (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his 27 counterparts from across the European Union are converging on Brussels for a summit they hope will finally lay to rest the acrimony and frustration of a three-year divorce fight.
Yet high anxiety still reigned this morning with the last outstanding issues of the divorce papers still unclear and Johnson uncertain whether his allies at home will back the compromises he needs to make a deal.
Technical negotiators again went into the night Wednesday to finetune customs and VAT regulations that will have to regulate trade in goods between the Northern Ireland and Ireland, where the UK and the EU share their only land border.
The summit starts midafternoon and is slated to end some 24 hours later.
Workers celebrate deal with GM, show union power in industry
DETROIT (AP) _ Auto workers across the nation are celebrating a tentative deal with General Motors that could end a 31-day strike that shut down the company’s factories. Union officials say the four-year agreement represents major gains for workers. Analysts say the deal shows the union remains powerful in the U.S. auto industry despite shrinking membership.
On the picket lines at a General Motors transmission plant in Toledo, Ohio, passing cars honked and striking workers celebrated a tentative contract deal by munching on 10 pizzas dropped off by a supporter.
They had carried signs for 31 days and demonstrated the muscle the United Auto Workers union still has over Detroit’s three manufacturers.
Details of the four-year pact weren’t released, but GM’s latest offer to end the month long strike included wage increases and lump-sum payments, top-notch health insurance at little cost to workers, promises of new products for many U.S. factories and a path to full-time work for temporary workers.
That’s a big difference from what GM wanted going into the talks: to slash total labor costs at its factories, which are about $13 per hour higher than at foreign automakers in the U.S.
Chicago teachers’ contract talks about more than money
CHICAGO (AP) _ Teachers want a raise in Chicago but as they announced plans to walk the picket line today, they also made known they want a lot more than that. Everything from the size of classes to the number of nurses and librarians to the issue of affordable housing were at stake in talks that led to a strike in the nation’s third-largest school district.
The city has offered 16% raises for the teachers over a five-year contract and calls for the teachers’ health care costs not to increase for three years. The city says that’s a pretty good deal for teachers, whose starting annual salary of just under $53,000 is higher than the salary for teachers in any other school district in the state. But the union, which is asking for a 15% raise over three years, says its analysis shows teachers at the end of the contract will make about $15,000 less than the city says they will. The union also said the contract leaves unclear just how much health care costs will increase during the final two years.
Opioid settlement talks broaden ahead of 1st federal trial
CLEVELAND (AP) _ Efforts to settle thousands of lawsuits related to the nation’s opioid epidemic were intensifying ahead of the scheduled start of arguments in the first federal trial over the crisis.
A person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press on Wednesday that three major drug distributors plus two manufacturers were working on the outlines of a settlement.
It would include $22 billion in cash over time plus up to $15 billion worth of overdose antidotes and treatment drugs, with distribution of those drugs valued at another $14 billion.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks were ongoing and said the details of the deal could change.
Drug companies and state attorneys general who are leading the talks either did not return messages or comment.
Qatar pledges to end ‘kafala’ employment laws
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The energy-rich nation of Qatar (KUH’-tur) is pledging to fully eliminate a labor system that ties foreign workers to their employer and requires them to have their company’s permission to leave the country.
That’s according to the United Nations’ International Labor Organization, which said Wednesday that Qatar planned to end the so-called “kafala” system there.
The ILO says workers would be able to freely change employers under draft laws described as being “expected to come into force by January 2020.”
The ILO also says Doha also is considering a minimum wage.
Qatar, whose citizens enjoy one of the world’s highest per-capita incomes due to its natural gas reserves, partially ended the “kafala” system in 2018.
This comes as Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup in the Arabian Peninsula nation.
Chinese snooping tech spreads to nations vulnerable to abuse
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) _ A video surveillance system with facial recognition by Chinese tech giant Huawei (WAH’-way) is being deployed worldwide, particularly in poor countries with weak human rights records where Beijing has increased its influence through big business deals.
The U.S. claims Chinese authorities can get access to Huawei data, so the aggressive rollout of the technology raises concerns about the privacy of millions of people in countries with little power to stand up to Beijing.
Now, groups opposed to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic say police are leaking video of protests to pro-government media, which publish the images, along with the identities of participants.
Vucic himself has boasted the police have the capability to count “each head” at anti-government gatherings. During a recent rally, protesters climbed up a pole and covered a camera lens with duct tape scrawled with the word “censored.”