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Key ally rejects PM Johnson’s Brexit plan – Sterling sags

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Key ally rejects PM Johnson’s Brexit plan – Sterling sags | The Thaiger

The British Pound tumbled again today after UK PM Boris Johnson’s key ally in parliament said it “could not support” his plans for a Brexit deal, throwing a spanner in the works – just as Britain and the EU were closing in on an agreement.

The comment caused an immediate reaction from this morning’s Asia Pacific markets.

After years of wrangling, the two sides said they were edging towards the basis for a treaty allowing Britain to avoid an economically catastrophic “no-deal” exit from the European Union.

With both teams working through the night, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said there had been “good progress, and work is ongoing”, while France’s deputy foreign minister said Thursday a deal was “within reach but is not guaranteed”.

There had been optimism that a deal was in the offing, just two weeks before Britain is due to leave the bloc, as they worked towards a solution on the vexed question of British-ruled Northern Ireland.

But Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) dropped a bombshell hours before the start of a crunch EU summit Thursday, saying it cannot support the plan.

“As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity” on Value Added Tax, the DUP, which props up Johnson’s government, said in a statement on Twitter.

“We will continue to work with the Government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster had met Johnson several times this week to discuss the progress of talks and had described as “nonsense” previous reports that she was ready to give way.

The pound, which earlier in the day was hovering at five-month highs around $1.2877 sank to $1.2750 before edging back slightly, while it also lost ground to the euro.

The DUP are against any deal that would tie Northern Ireland to EU rules but cut the rest of the United Kingdom loose.

Markets react

In early trade, London’s FTSE added 0.1%, Paris was flat and Frankfurt eased 0.2%. In Asia, most markets were in the red, with traders unable to take advantage of weak US retail data that raised the chances of another Federal Reserve interest rate cut. Comments in the Fed’s Beige Book update on the economy also pointed to a slowdown.

Hong Kong added 0.7% but Shanghai finished 0.1% lower and Tokyo lost 0.1%.

Sydney sank 0.8%, Singapore shed 0.7% and Seoul retreated 0.2%t, with Wellington and Manila also off. There were gains in Taipei, Mumbai, Bangkok and Jakarta.

Speculation about a possible US rate cut provided support to higher-yielding currencies against the dollar, with the Australian dollar 0.6 percent up and the South Korean won 0.1 percent stronger. The Thai baht, the Mexican peso and the South African rand also posted healthy gains.

Oil prices fell after data pointed to a sharp rise in US stockpiles that reinforced worries about the impact on demand from the China-US trade war and the global economic slowdown.

Key markets today

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2784 from $1.2817 at 2100 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 86.65 pence from 86.33 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1081 from $1.1073

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.80 yen from 108.71 yen

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,175.09

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1% at 22,451.86 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.7% at 26,848.49 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1% at 2,977.33 (close)

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 56 cents at $52.80 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 55 cents at $58.87 per barrel

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.1% at 27,001.98 (close)

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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Thailand

Thailand delays introduction of new visa requirements for Taiwanese tourists

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Thailand delays introduction of new visa requirements for Taiwanese tourists | The Thaiger

…and other proposed nationalities as well.

Thailand has decided to postpone the requirement for Taiwanese travellers to present financial statements when applying online for a visa. The Taiwan News is reporting that the new requirements are being delayed until at least March, 2020.

The Thailand Trade and Economic Office in Taipei has announced that online Taiwanese applicants for travel to Thailand would need to provide three months evidence of financial statements before they could be awarded the visa. They would also have to report in person to apply for the visa.

The new visa requirement have infuriated Taiwanese officials and local travel agents, who, rightly made the point that Thai citizens don’t need a visa to visit Taiwan under the Taiwanese government’s “New Southbound Policy”.

Media reports have now said that the Thailand Trade and Economic Office was, following government pressure, going to cancel the new requirements. But a representative of the TTEO says they are merely postponing the introduction of the tighter visa rules pending a review that could take up until next March.

CNA reports that… “TTEO posted a message on its website Thursday saying the introduction of the financial statement requirement had been postponed until March 1, 2020, to give applicants sufficient time to prepare and to acquaint themselves with the new method.”

Thailand officials originally said the new regulation, relating to financial statements would eventually also apply to visitors from China, France, and the UK as well.

SOURCE: Taiwan News

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Tourism

Taiwan challenges Thai government over new visa requirements for their citizens

May Taylor

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Taiwan challenges Thai government over new visa requirements for their citizens | The Thaiger

The Taiwanese government says it’s concerned about new Thai government visa rules being imposed on its citizens travelling to Thailand.

A new application scheme launched on November 29 by the Thailand Trade and Economic Office in Taipei now requires applicants to show evidence of sufficient funds for their trip. The requirement, which asks Taiwanese nationals to submit bank statements from the previous three months, has angered some, with a member of the Kuomintang opposition party saying it’s akin to treating Taiwan as a third world country.

Taiwanese applicants are also required to apply online and then make an appointment to submit their documents in person, whereas previously they could apply in person at the TTEO without any prior online application or appointment.

Members of the opposition are calling on the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to register a formal protest with the Thai government against the new application procedure, pointing out that Thai citizens visiting Taiwan are granted visa-free entry.

The Taiwanese foreign affairs officials, for their part, say they’ve already notified the Thai government of its concerns and asked for clarification on the more stringent guidelines. They also insist that visa-free privileges granted to Thai citizens have boosted tourist numbers and business and education exchanges between both countries, but did not provide any numbers in support of the claim.

“We have asked the Thai side to clarify the new process and will continue to urge it to improve the convenience of visa applications for Taiwanese.”

Meanwhile, the Thai representative office in Taipei says the new visa application process is not restricted to Taiwanese nationals but applicable to other nationalities too, including British and French.

An official from the TTEO says that while tourists from some countries may be able to enter Thailand visa-free, they still need to follow the online process should they require a visa, whether that be for education, business or marriage.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Malaysia

Former Malaysian PM Najib presents his opening testimony

The Thaiger

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Former Malaysian PM Najib presents his opening testimony | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Voice of America

Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak was in the witness box for the first time yesterday defending himself on criminal charges linked to a multibillion-dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB (1 Malaysia Development Bhd).

Najib, who unexpectedly lost a general election last year to his former mentor and former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad, is now facing dozens of graft and money laundering charges over allegations that he received aboutUS $1 billion.

Najib stands accused of illegally receiving 42 million ringgit (about US$10 million) from former 1MDB business unit SRC International. A judge ruled prosecutors had successfully established a case against him over the matter and was ordered to present his defense last month.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to the charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power in the SRC case.

Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who leads Najib’s defense team, maintains that his client had no reason to believe that proceeds of any illegal activity were transferred to him.

“Najib was not involved in any corrupt arrangement involving funds of SRC and did not solicit any bribes from any person.”

Najib yesterday read from his 243 page written testimony, in Malay. His testimony, prepared in a Q&A format, began with how he set up 1MDB in 2009 and how the fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low, said to be at the centre of the scandal, came to be associated with the fund.

The former PM looked noticably aged since his times as Malaysian prime minister.

“Low portrayed himself as someone influential in the Middle East countries who I believed was able to facilitate investments and partnerships between them.”

Low has been charged in Malaysia and the US over the alleged theft from 1MDB. Low has denied any wrongdoing. His whereabouts are currently unknown.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World | Reuters

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