Hot Topics for MNCs, Cool Analysis*
September 9th, 2019
On the eve of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to China, China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) reports German foreign direct investment (FDI) in China grew more than 60 percent over the first seven months of 2019 year-over-year. Chinese media delivered some packaged criticisms against FedEx for the latter’s alleged shipments of controlled goods and rerouting of packages destined for Huawei. Relatively small-scale protests took place in three Kazakhstan cities against potentially questionable Chinese factory FDI. The United States (US) concludes declaration with Poland for the rigorous evaluation of foreign suppliers involved in 5G networks which some see as directed at China and Huawei. Nissan considers leaving Korea as Korea-Japan frictions make its challenging situation there even worse. Uniqlo partners with the International Labor Organization (ILO) to support research on labor markets and social security systems in some of its production hubs in South and Southeast Asia. Korean economic difficulties due to frictions with Japan encourages Hyundai union to settle with management without a strike. Korean government official meets with LG Group and SK Group executives to try to get them to resolve trade secrets dispute that LG Chem has brought to the US International Trade Commission.
September 2nd, 2019
China’s plan to apply its social-credit system to foreign companies is raising concerns about possible abuses. China’s State Council announces it will establish pilot free trade zones (FTZs) in Shandong, Jiangsu, Guangxi Zhuang, Yunnan, Hebei, and Heilongjiang. United States (US) companies likely to stay in China despite trade war, a problematic regulatory environment, and US President Donald Trump’s call for them to leave. Although frictions over maritime issues remain unsettled, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposes joint oil & gas development in Reed Bank area to visiting Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte. Japan is paying more attention to tax shifting activities by high-tech companies and has recently forced Facebook to pay more in taxes for some questionable tax shifting activities. After the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), Japan and 53 African countries signed the Yokohama declaration which stressed “‘quality infrastructure investment.’” South Korea’s new policy for network fees has led to frictions with Facebook and service problems that led to fines which Facebook fought successfully in court. The Korea Startup Forum, the Korea Internet Corporations Association, and local and foreign content providers have called upon the South Korean government “to completely overhaul its network fee calculation structure.”
August 27th, 2019
Exploiting the opening of China’s financial sector, Goldman Sachs moves to increase its ownership stake in its China securities joint venture (JV). The city of Beijing launches a plan to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in VPN services in a trial zone by the end of 2019. Moody’s Investors Service sees the growth of China’s outward FDI slowing or even declining because of increasing global geopolitical and economic risks. To garner Chinese support over the Kashmir issue, Pakistan announces it will set up the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority to fast-track Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects. Survey shows significant number of polled Japanese firms generally back Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s creation of a stricter export trade regime for goods going to South Korea and feel Japan would prevail in a World Trade Organization case if Seoul filed one. Report shows that Japan became a less important source of materials and components for Korea over the first five months of 2019, though trade deficit patterns remain unchanged. Korean research institute survey reveals many surveyed Korean firms feel Japan’s trade restrictions will affect not just their sales, but also their profits. Korea’s Ministry of the Environment finds Audi Volkswagen Korea and Porsche Korea illegally manipulated vehicle exhaust emissions and penalizes and reports the firms for prosecution.
August 19th, 2019
China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) announced inward foreign direct investment (FDI) over the first seven months of 2019 grew 7.3 percent over the same period last year. The city of Beijing intends to relax controls over FDI in cultural and entertainment businesses. Chinese FDI into Europe has slowed as a result of economic uncertainties and trade frictions. A survey suggests Vietnam, Singapore, and Indonesia are the top three Asian countries presenting the best opportunities for participating in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Japanese firms in Hong Kong are becoming cautious given tumultuous situation there. Japan alerts new Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister that talk of renegotiating power purchase agreements raises risks. Korean lawmakers contemplate limiting Korea Investment Corp.’s ability to invest in Japanese companies with ties to wartime forced labor. Korean consumer boycott of Japanese goods and services produces decline in imports of Japanese goods of 14 percent over the same period the prior year.
August 12th, 2019
To cope with United States (US) tariffs on Chinese goods, several prominent Japanese firms operating in China are planning to relocate some of their manufacturing to other Asian countries. China’s State Council has expanded the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ), adding an area called Lingang area which is supposed to become a business cluster for international businesses and cross-border financial services. The China-US trade war has driven two large Chinese consumer health care companies to seek to cooperate with/invest in Malaysia’s largest generic drug maker to grow their manufacturing base in Malaysia. China’s Zhong Ji Mining froze operations at its gold mine in Kyrgyzstan after 20 people were hurt in clashes between local protesters and Chinese workers. Tokyo touts that it had approved the export of a sensitive chemical to Korea, the first since it intensified export controls in July. Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry Minister reports Japan’s Daihastu Motor “would provide ‘advanced technological support’” for Malaysia’s third national car company. A Korean National Labor Relations Commission decision to freeze the ongoing arbitration between GM Korea and its labor union means the labor union now has the legal right to strike. Due to Seoul’s decision in 2018 to have all public enterprises sell their overseas assets,” Korea Resources Corp. has been pursuing the sale of its Cobre Panama copper mine, albeit unsuccessfully.
August 5th, 2019
China has opened the upstream exploration of its oil and natural gas resources by foreign investors by scrapping joint venture (JV) restrictions. In the first half of the year, the top geographic destination for Chinese inward foreign direct investment (FDI) continued to be Jiangsu, which attracted large amounts of inward FDI (FDI) in emerging industries from countries like Great Britain. Cross-border investments between China and the United States (US) totaled $13 billion in the first half of 2019, dropping to a five-year low due to the trade war and other factors. In 2018, Chinese investors poured money into Indian start-ups due to the latter’s more affordable labor market and fast economic growth. Japan’s Cabinet approves removal of South Korea from its so-called white list with Seoul promising retaliation. Fears of a more stringent review process flowing from current tensions lead Hyundai Heavy Industries to delay filing for an antitrust review in regard to its planned takeover of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. Seoul organizes information events for Korean companies that might be affected by Tokyo’s decision to remove Korea from its “whitelist,” with Korean firms complaining the initiatives are “‘unhelpful and belated.’” SK Innovation contemplates supplying electric vehicle (EV) battery separators to its Korean competitors because this could aid Korean businesses confronting Japanese export restrictions on EV battery separators.
July 29th, 2019
China’s Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology said the relocation of foreign companies due to the United States (US)-China trade war is “limited and under control.” China opens financial sector to overseas firms while moving to minimize risks confronting the sector. US Senator Joe Manchin raises alarm about 2017 USD $83.7 billion-dollar investment deal in West Virginia. Malaysia and China agree to resume Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) following an agreement to cut the project’s cost by about one-third. Major Japanese firms sign on to 30% Club, a global initiative aiming to put more women in top leadership positions globally. US National Security Advisor John Bolton says US does not intend to mediate Japan-South Korea forced labor and trade conflict. South Korean distributors of Japanese goods in South Korea suffering from boycott. Trade conflicts around the global are driving South Korean chaebol to invest in the US to escape the problems associated with these disputes.
July 20th, 2019
Reports suggest that following intensifying China-United States (US) trade frictions, a growing number of foreign multinational corporations (MNCs) are considering moving their manufacturing out of China. At a recent China State Council meeting, officials state China aims to provide better intellectual property rights (IPR) protections and that it will treat domestic and foreign firms equally. China courts Japan’s involvement in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) purportedly to improve the BRI’s image. Bangladesh works to calm foreign investors in the wake of a violent clash between local and Chinese workers at the Chinese-invested Payra thermal power plant. Japan’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) moves forward on guidelines to regular IT giants’ use of personal data without consent. Korea preparing plan to “‘to reduce the country’s dependence on Japan’s materials, components and equipment industries.’” Korean firms threatened by possibility that Japan will “remove Korea from its export white list.” Hyundai Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor America have requested the US International Trade Commission to start an investigation against four auto part importers.
July 16th, 2019
Inward foreign direct investment (FDI) flows into China continue to grow, especially in the high-tech sector. Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) official states that Inward FDI (IFDI) is not leaving China en masse and that China will “protect the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors.” Chinese outward FDI (OFDI) to Europe and North America over the first six months of 2019 shows a noticeable decrease over the same period the prior year. Despite a spying incident and Poland’s President saying he was opposed to Chinese OFDI (COFDI) in strategic infrastructure, Poland’s Foreign Minister told visiting Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi Poland is open to COFDI. Korea reacts strongly to Japanese media report in which a senior member of Japan’s Liberal Democratic party charged dual-use chemicals exported to South Korea ended up in the North. Japan is surprised at Seoul’s strong response to it instituting tighter controls on the export of certain chemicals to South Korea and Seoul making the issue a World Trade Organization (WTO) issue. Japan moving towards a formal WTO case regarding Seoul’s provision of subsidies to South Korean shipbuilders. Hyundai Engineering and Construction signs a $2.7 billion contract with Saudi Aramco for two projects relating to a massive oil and gas refining complex.
July 9th, 2019
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announces China plans to create a better environment for foreign direct investment (FDI) in China. China’s financial opening leads various foreign investors to move to take control of their China joint ventures (JVs). Chinese outbound mergers and acquisitions (M&A) volume for the first six months of 2019 is the lowest since 2013. During a visit to China, Turkey’s President works to attract Chinese FDI and take advantage of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). With the activities of information technology giants gaining increased Japanese government scrutiny, the Japan unit of Facebook joins Keidanren. Japan’s export curbs on semiconductor materials bound for South Korea due to their dispute over forced labor compensation could pressure Samsung and the broader Korean economy. Japanese export controls on high-tech materials and chemicals used in South Korean semiconductor and smartphone manufacturing will stress Korean companies already feeling market and trade pressures. After a gathering between United States (US) President Donald Trump and the heads of major South Korean business groups, some Korean firms stated they would boost their US investments.