From Volume 8, Issue 17 of EIR Online, Published Apr. 28, 2009

Global Economic News

Asia Population Growth Collapses

April 21 (EIRNS)-Population growth in Asia has slowed to the lowest rate in the developing world, a United Nations report shows. The growth rate since 2000 is now 1.1%, according to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The main cause is rapidly dropping birth rates: The number of children born per woman fell to 2.4 for the period 2000-05, down from 2.9 per woman for the previous five years, according to the UN data.

"Once the total fertility rate falls below the replacement rate of 2.1, we can expect the region's population to start shrinking," said UN Under-Secretary General Noeleen Heyzer.

The UN report showed that fertility rates are below the replacement level in 16 Asian countries, including China, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Japan has not been reproducing its population for some time, and is facing severe problems due to the aging of the population.

Japan's Trade Was in Deficit for 2008

April 22 (EIRNS)—Japan imported more than it exported in fiscal 2008, which ended in March, causing a trade deficit of $7 billion—the first deficit since 1980, the time of the second oil hoax. In the first part of 2008, the inflationary commodities "boom" jacked up the price of imports, especially oil, while the collapse of trade in the second part of the year tore Japanese exports to shreds.

Total exports for the year were at 71 trillion yen ($710 billion), a drop of 16.4% from the previous year and the lowest since 2005.

Exports for March fell 45.6%, while imports dropped 36.7%, according to Ministry of Finance data. This produced an 11-billion-yen ($111.5 million) trade surplus in March, down 99 percent from a year earlier.

Singapore's Manufacturing Sector Plummets

April 24 (EIRNS)—Singapore's manufacturing sector dropped a record 33.9% in March, compared to the previous year. While primarily known for its financial services, manufacturing makes up about 25% of Singapore's total output.

The March figures represent a 13.9% drop from February, which had actually risen slightly from January.

The key areas were pharmaceuticals, which plummeted 55% from the year previous, and electronics, which was down 35%.

Desperate French Labor Rebellion: 'From Sheep to Tigers'

April 22 (EIRNS)—With an impotent French government, and trade unions merely fighting to get "good conditions" for layoffs, French workers are increasingly engaged in desperate, sometimes violent, revolts. Some examples:

Caterpillar: In Grenoble, five people from management were taken hostage for 24 hours by workers opposing workforce reduction.

Faurecia (Peugeot's main car supplier): April 9, three managers were held for five hours by angry workers.

Sony: March 12, the CEO and another manager were held hostage for a full night.

Molex (car supplier): Two managers were released yesterday, after being kept for 24 hours.

Continental: In Clairoix, where tire producer Continental (workforce, 1,120) decided to shut down its production site, the court yesterday denied a request for an injunction to block the closing. The trade unions declared that they are now changing from "sheep" to "tigers." Workers smashed the company's entrance buildings and attacked local government offices in Compiegne, where the court had denied their request. Today, the company decided to close for a full day for "security reasons."

Electricité de France: After weeks of strikes—hardly covered by the media—at the national electricity company EDF, workers decided, yesterday, to cut electricity to 66,500 customers and to cut gas to 10,000, for several hours, which the government strongly condemned.

Auto: The sharp reduction in output by the French automobile industry, including its suppliers, which, together, employed over 300,000 people in 2004 (10% of productive labor), is causing "restructuring" and closures. Trade unions are increasingly hated by their rank and file, and increasingly attacked for selling out workers.

China Plays Dangerous British Game at Boao Forum

April 18 (EIRNS)—China's Premier Wen Jiabao's opening speech at this year's Boao Forum, which centered on the world's economic crisis, ventured into dangerous territory: "We should advance reform of the international financial system, increase the representation and voice of emerging markets and developing countries, strengthen surveillance of the macro-economic policies of major reserve currency issuing economies, and develop a more diversified international monetary system."

While one may assume that Wen's intentions are good, this plan translates into the British proposal for an IMF-centered world financial dictatorship. The United States is not directly mentioned in Wen's speech, but it is the only actual target for "strengthened surveillance" by a "reformed" international finance system (IMF), since the dollar is the only actual world reserve currency. The "increase[d] representation ... of ... developing countries" is, on one hand a British bribe meant to flatter China's ego, while on the other, it is a reliance on the "leftist" reflex in the many small and ex-colonial countries that have been taught to believe that it is the United States, not the British Empire, which is the enemy.

Reuters reports that Wen further said China "would look at expanding its currency swap agreements," which are seen as a step towards eventually making the yuan more of a global reserve asset. "We should give full play to bilateral currency swap agreements and will study expanding currency swaps in scale and to more countries." Support for the yuan as an international currency, even going so far as making it part of the SDR currency, as proposed by Robert Mundell, is another inducement to the Chinese to follow the British lead.

The scope and danger of the Chinese game with the British can be seen in the speech of Zheng Xinli, executive vice chairman of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges. This center was expressly set up by China in late March: "With the aim of developing strategies to counter a world economy under siege in the midst of a deepening financial crisis, the centre will invite experts from home and abroad to explore topics such as the U.S. Treasury bonds bubble, [and] the value trend of U.S. currency and disagreements between the United States and China."

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