The Week in Trade: Australian mining manoeuvres and alcohol-free 'wine'

Thu 19 Oct 2023
Posted by: Danielle Keen

newspapers held aloft

A happy… Thursday to you, as we bring you an early edition of The Week in Trade, ahead of a bumper graduation newsletter tomorrow. Undoubtedly, the biggest trade news this week is the success of Institute of Export and International Trade and Customs Academy graduates, who will be deservedly celebrating their achievements later today at a ceremony at Mansion House.

The big picture: The WTO’s previous hand wringing about global fragmentation seems especially valid this week, as Reuters reports the ramping up of the US’ “conscious decoupling” from China, bringing in new rules for semiconductors that will further limit exports.

Inter-bloc jostling has rippled through the EU this week, as tensions between France and Germany simmered ahead of a meeting of EU energy ministers next week. A single article – 19b – is delaying proposed changes to electricity market rules from passing into law. The article would allow state aid to fund power projects, potentially benefiting countries, such as France, that have strong existing nuclear infrastructure. Germany fears France, with its strong nuclear track record, could siphon the state funding to subsidise other industries.

Good week/bad week: After a run of doom-laden forecasts, China’s economy finally had a good week, beating projections to grow 4.9% in Q3. Although that’s not stopped everyone from China’s National Bureau of Statistics to Chinese officials and analysts, pooh-poohing progress with reminders about global economic hardship, according to the FT.

Meanwhile, it was a bad week for US mining company Albemarle, as its bid to take over Australian lithium developer Lionstown was brutally blocked by mining magnate and Australia’s richest person – Gina Rinehart. Albemarle gave up on Lionstown after Rinehart built a 19.9% stake in the company, enough to block a board vote but below the threshold requiring a counter offer. Savvy and savage.

How’s stat? 0% - the new minimum amount of alcohol required for ‘wine’ to be named as such in the UK next year. In a post-Brexit shake-up, non-alcoholic wine manufacturers can abandon the clunky moniker: ‘wine-based drink’, that they’ve been legally required to use under EU trading rules.

The week in customs: Customs officers will be scrambling to ensure the security of European borders from a rapid surge in illegal drug shipments. The FT reports that gangs have hijacked supply chains to an “extreme” degree, according to Maersk executive Keith Svendsen.

Quote of the week: “The war in Ukraine has converted us into a geopolitical power, not just an economic one, and we want to talk with China from this approach: don’t look at European Union relations through the lens of relations with others.”

Amid concerns of a growing geopolitical rift, chief EU diplomat, Josep Borrell, reacts to Beijing’s accusations the EU follows the US’ lead on security.

What else we covered this week: Benjamin Roche updated you on the biggest stories from the world of manufacturing and covered Cardiff playing host to the first meeting of the E-Commerce Trade Commission meeting.

Phil Adnett brought you the lowdown from Latin America, covering the upcoming Argentinian election and the likelihood of an EU-Mercosur trade deal, as well as looking at news UK inflation stubbornly stuck at 6.7% in September.

True facts: Dusting itself off from the news that its China-tailored chips will fall foul of new export rules, US Chipmaker Nvidia announced it will partner with Foxconn, the Taiwanese firm responsible for manufacturing iPhones, to create cutting edge data centres powered by Nvidia’s chips. The so-called “AI factories” would be used for robotics, autonomous car training and developing large language models. The collaboration represents two affiliates of the US$1tr club joining forces, as both Apple and Nvidia have hit the magical stock market value.