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Europe

Steel and Aluminium monitoring

Until 15 May 2020, the European Commission managed at EU level the issuance of prior import authorizations for certain steel and aluminium products under the prior surveillance regime.

The prior surveillance regime has been replaced by a monitoring system, based on data collected by the Commission in the framework of Article 56(5) of the Union Customs Code, by which the release for free circulation or the export of goods may be made subject to surveillance.

While the prior surveillance regime allowed obtaining information on intentions to import, the new monitoring system is an ex-post system based on actual import data transmitted by the Member States customs authorities. These data are indicative and may be slightly different from the official import statistics made available by Eurostat two months after the actual import. The monitoring reports are updated on a monthly basis, and cover steel and aluminium products previously subject to prior surveillance as well as product lastly added to the original list of products subject to the US Section 232 measures.

[European Commission]

UK and EU: Very little progress in latest round of Brexit talks

The third round of EU-U.K. talks on their future relationship ended Friday (15 May) with “very little progress” made, according to U.K. chief negotiator David Frost — and that view was echoed by the EU’s Michel Barnier.

In a statement, Frost said the “major obstacle” to a deal with the EU remains the bloc’s “insistence” on the U.K. abiding by EU laws and standards in exchange for access to its single market — the so-called level playing field. The U.K. continues to oppose this demand, arguing Brussels does not require this of other countries it has signed free-trade deals with, such as Canada.

“As soon as the EU recognizes that we will not conclude an agreement on that basis, we will be able to make progress,” Frost said in the statement.

Shortly after, EU chief Brexit negotiator Barnier said although this round clarified a number of “useful points,” for example on trade in goods, there was no real progress on topics such as governance, fisheries or level playing field provisions.

At a press conference, Barnier said that when it comes to the level playing field, “the U.K. hasn’t entered into a real discussion.”

“We are not going to bargain away our European values to the benefit of the British economy,” Barnier said. “Economic and trade fair play is not for sale. It is not a ‘nice to have,’ it is a ‘must have.’

“We are also disappointed by the lack of ambition of the United Kingdom in other fields, which are not at the heart of the negotiations but are still important and symbolical,” Barnier said. He referred to the role of the European Parliament and the British parliament in the implementation of the deal on the future relations.

[Politico]

Middle East

Team formed to study impact of VAT hike on industries in Saudi Arabia

A working group with the Foreign Trade Authority (FTA) has been formed to deal with the impact of an increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) on industrial entities, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Badr Al-Khorayef said on Thursday (14 May). He said that the increase in VAT will create a problem while importing goods from the Gulf markets due to the difference in the VAT rate. Therefore, a proactive action is required by studying international practices before its implementation. During a symposium entitled “Initiatives – Challenges” organized by the Eastern Province Chamber via video conferencing on Thursday evening, he said that the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has given the industrial sector several gains, including the need for industries to meet their needs in the health, medical and food domains.

[Zawya]

Africa

The OPEC Fund increases support for trade and development in Africa

The OPEC Fund for International Development (the OPEC Fund) has increased its trade finance program from US$50 to US$100 million to enable international financial services firm Natixis to enhance support for trade and development in Africa.

The unfunded risk sharing agreement sees the OPEC Fund guarantee trade finance transactions supported by Natixis – part of Groupe BPCE, France’s second-largest retail banking group – in developing countries. The program has supported trade transactions such as imports of medical equipment and sugar on the African continent, and in Asia. The original US$50 million agreement was signed with Natixis in 2018.

OPEC Fund Director-General Dr Abdulhamid Alkhalifa signed the increased agreement with Natixis’ Stephen Menke, Global Head of Marketing and Sales, Trade Syndication and Distribution. Dr Alkhalifa said: “We are pleased to expand our partnership with Natixis. Both our organizations have ambitious development aspirations and recognize the importance of trade to socio-economic progress. This transaction supports Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8 on decent work and economic growth and will improve the livelihoods of many business owners, employees and their families across the African continent.”

The OPEC Fund’s Trade Finance Facility supports private enterprises and governments by facilitating the import and export of strategic commodities and capital goods. Since 2006, US$4.2 billion has been approved under this facility.

[The OPEC Fund for International Development]