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Post-Brexit trade talks resume but little sign of breakthrough

June 02, 2020: Trade negotiators from Britain and the EU embarked on a fourth round of post-Brexit negotiations Tuesday, but no-one in London or Brussels expects a breakthrough this week.

Instead, once the latest cross-Channel video conferences are over, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen will meet to decide how to proceed.

A "high-level" June meeting to take stock of the talks was already foreseen in the political declaration signed by both parties alongside the divorce accord last year.

But it may take on more urgency now, as talks between EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost have revealed stark differences in approach.

Britain is not expected to ask for any extension to the post-Brexit transition and so is on track to leave the single market and EU customs union on December 31.

- 'Dead end' -

Barnier, the Brussels veteran and former French minister tasked by the remaining 27 EU members with negotiating an orderly Brexit, has said the week would have to show Britain's intentions.

"A crucial week ahead of us to make tangible progress across all areas, in line with the Political Declaration," Barnier tweeted on Tuesday.

"A high-level meeting later this month will take stock of progress. I will brief the press on Friday."

A European official, talking on condition of anonymity, warned: "It's not at all a decisive week, but a predictable one, which will just confirm we're at a dead end."

- 'Independent state' -

Barnier has been given a mandate to seek an ambitious overarching agreement to oversee a so-called "level playing field" in manufacturing, labour and environmental standards.

This would give British firms access to most -- but not all -- of the benefits of the single market, without exposing their European rivals to attempts to undercut standards.

Frost and Johnson, however, say they only want a simple trade deal that would preserve UK sovereignty while allowing the vast majority of trade to remain tariff-free.

And, rather than placing this under the aegis of a unique EU-UK pact, they want to pursue a series of deals in separate sectors such as trade, fisheries, aviation and energy.

"We expect the round to be constructive and to keep the process on track ahead of the high-level meeting later this month," a British spokesman said.

"However... it's clear that the EU needs to evolve its position to reach an agreement," he warned.

Barnier has complained that Frost's more aggressive "tone" in pushing the British case in an exchange of letters last month could disrupt progress.

Brussels officials are annoyed that Britain has, in their eyes, backtracked on a written agreement to accept level-playing-field guarantees as part of a future trade deal.

But London insists the draft UK proposals meet these commitments, and complains the EU is refusing to offer the same kind of trade deal it signed with Canada or Singapore.

"A balanced solution is needed which reflects the political realities on both sides, and we will continue to make sure our position is understood," the spokesman said.

"We won't agree to any EU demands for us to give up our rights as an independent state."

With the sides camped out in conflicting visions of the way ahead, few experts expect this week's talks to bear fruit.

- Late compromise -

But, with so much at stake, nobody expects the talks to break down irretrievably either.

"Barnier and Frost are saying the same thing, a no deal is perfectly plausible. At the same time, both sides would prefer to have a deal," said Anand Menon, director of the think-tank UK in a Changing Europe.

He expected little from this week's talks, nor from Johnson and von der Leyen's meeting by the end of the month.

"They will probably say that both sides are willing to continue talking," he told AFP. "If we get a compromise it will come very late in the talks, in the autumn."



Stock markets rise as economies shake off lockdowns

June 02, 2020: World stock markets rose Tuesday as coronavirus lockdowns were relaxed and China-US tensions appeared to be easing, dealers said.

In Europe, Frankfurt was the star performer as German investors played catch-up after a long holiday weekend and eyed hopes for a new COVID-19 domestic stimulus package.

Lufthansa shares soared after the airline's supervisory board approved a nine-billion-euro ($10-billion) bailout from the German government.

Paris equities, also solidly higher, ignored the French government's dire prediction that the economy will shrink 11 percent this year.

"Stock markets in Europe are showing decent gains as there is continued optimism in relation to the reopening of economies," said analyst David Madden at trading firm CMC Markets UK.

"Governments have been taking steps to loosen their lockdown restrictions, so there is a growing feeling that things are slowly going back to normal," he added.

The euro forged another two-month peak.

Oil marched higher on hopes of recovering demand, and amid speculation that key producers including Saudi Arabia and Russia will extend massive output cuts that have helped support the virus-plagued market.

Traders were still tracking China-US tensions -- as well as anti-racism protests in several large American cities, and internationally.

"The absence of a serious trade rift between the US and China is helping sentiment," said Madden.

"Dealers on this side of the Atlantic have watched in horror at the scenes of rioting and looting in the US," he said.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones index was higher in the late New York morning, but underperformed its European peers.

Investors were still wary because of the possibility of a second coronavirus wave, and "it's unlikely they will feel any safer with military Humvees rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue", said Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at AxiCorp.

"The economic recovery has been dependent on reducing fear. If fear is generated by anarchy in the streets, that will harm the recovery," he said.

- Key figures around 1540 GMT -

  • London - FTSE 100: UP 0.9 percent at 6,220.14 points (close)
  • Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 3.8 percent at 12,021.28 (close)
  • Paris - CAC 40: UP 2.0 percent at 4,858.97 (close)
  • EURO STOXX 50: UP 2.6 percent at 3,158.57
  • New York - Dow: UP 0.5 percent at 25,603.27
  • Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.2 percent at 22,325.61 (close)
  • Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 1.1 percent at 23,995.94 (close)
  • Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.2 percent at 2,921.40 (close)
  • Brent North Sea crude: UP 2.2 percent at $39.18 per barrel
  • West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.8 percent at $36.05
  • Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1184 from $1.1136 at 2100 GMT
  • Dollar/yen: UP at 108.57 yen from 107.59 yen
  • Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2546 from $1.2492
  • Euro/pound: DOWN at 89.14 pence from 89.15 pence


X-WAPDA DISCOs seek Rs 162 bln adjustments for 2nd,...

June 02, 2020: X-WAPDA Power Distribution Companies (DISCOs) have sought Rs162 billion adjustments on account of variation in Power Purchase Price (PPP) for 2nd and 3rd quarters of the current fiscal year.

In petitions submitted to National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), the DISCOs sought over Rs 73 billion under quarterly adjustment mechanism for 2nd quarter October to December 2019 and Rs 89 billion for 3rd quarter January to March 2020.

The power regulator will hold public hearing into the petitions on Wednesday and if approved Rs 162 billion would be collected from the consumers.

According to the petitions, Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) sought over Rs 16 billion, Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) Rs 28 billion, Gujranwala Electric Supply Company (GEPCO) Rs 13 billion, Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (FESCO) and Multan Electric Supply Company (MEPCO) Rs 23 billion each, Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) Rs 29 billion, Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (HESCO)

Rs 10 billion, Quetta Electric Supply Company (QESCO) Rs 14 billion, Sukkur Electric Supply Company (SEPCO) Rs 4 billion and Tribal Electric Supply Company Rs 889 million adjustments for both the said quarters.

In case, NEPRA approved, the power tariff would increase over Rs 1.5 per unit, sources told here.



Govt releases Rs 69,567.359 mln for water projects so...

Jun 02, 2020: The government has released a sum of Rs 69,567.359 million for various water resource projects under annual Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for fiscal year 2019-20 so far.

According to the data of Planning Commission, an amount of Rs118,627.359 million was allocated for various water resource sectors in the current fiscal year.

A sum of Rs16,000 million has been released for Diamer Basha Dam (Dam part), Rs 10400 million for Diamer Basha dam (Land Acquisition & Resettlement), Rs 1320.960 million for Kachhi Canal Project Dera Bughti, Rs1,321.780 million Lower Indus Right Bank Irrigation & Drainage Project (RBOD-1) and Rs 2,700 million for construction of 100 dams in Balochistan. Similarly, an amount of Rs8,510 million has been released for Mohmand Dam (Dam Part), Rs1500 million for Balochistan Effluent Disposal into (RBOD-I, RBOD-III), Jafarabad, Rs 1,775 million for construction of Basool Dam (Ormara), Rs201.20 million for construction of Khazeena Dam Zamri, Rs 1,100 million for construction of small dams in Sindh, Rs 700 million for construction of small dams in Mansehra district, Rs1,748.184 million for Garuk Storage Dam Kharan, Rs426.330 million for Remedial Measures to Control waterlogging (Muzaffargarh), Rs1,500 million for Balochistan Effluent Disposal into RBOD.I (RBOD-III), Jafarabad, Nasirabad, Rs 700 million for small dams in KPK and Rs 900 million for raising of Baran Dam Bannu.

A total of Rs 2,523 million has been released for Makhi Farah Link Canal Project, Rs 600 million for Remodeling of Warsak Canal, Rs 2,711.754 for Lining of Distributaries and Minors in Sindh, Rs 2,300 million for Winder Dam, Rs 300 million for construction of small dams in Khuzdar, Rs 800 million for increasing storage capacity and improvement in command area of Tanda dam and Rs 3,000 million for Kurram Tangi dam Project.


PMEX Commodity Index closes 84 points higher

June 2, 2020: On Monday at Pakistan Mercantile Exchange Limited, PMEX Commodity Index closed at 4,216-level, adding 84 points.  The traded value of Metals, Energy and COTS/FX was recorded at 5.650 billion and the number of lots traded was 8,982.

The major business was contributed by Gold amounting to PKR 2.018 billion, followed by Currencies through COTS (PKR 1.527 billion), Silver (PKR 899.365 million), NSDQ 100 (PKR 358.638 million), Platinum (PKR 254.172 million), Crude Oil (PKR 229.333 million), Natural Gas (PKR 145.357 million), SP500 (PKR 92.221 million), DJ (PKR 83.025 million), Japan Equity (PKR 601.546 million) and Copper (PKR 8.312 million).

In agriculture commodities, 20 lots of Cotton amounting to PKR 9.683 million one lot of Soybean amounting to PKR 6.924 million, one lot of Wheat amounting to PKR 4.249 million and one lot of Corn amounting to PKR 2.686 million were traded.

Press Release


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