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European Commission and European Investment Fund launch €75 million BlueInvest Fund

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European Commission and European Investment Fund launch €75 million BlueInvest Fund. Image: Pixabay
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The European Commission is partnering with the European Investment Fund, part of the European Investment Bank Group (EIB), to launch the BlueInvest Fund today.  During the BlueInvest Day conference in Brussels, EIB Vice-President Emma Navarro and Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, launched a €75 million equity investment fund for the blue economy.

The BlueInvest Fund will be managed by the European Investment Fund and will provide financing to underlying equity funds that strategically target and support the innovative blue economy. This sector can play an important role in the transformation to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, an ambition announced in the European Green Deal. The new programme is backed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the financial pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe.

The blue economy includes economic activities related to oceans, seas and coasts. It ranges from companies in the marine environment to land-based businesses producing goods or services that contribute to the maritime economy. The blue economy harbours many promising early-stage ventures and companies – often emanating from EU-funded R&D programmes. These companies develop solutions for renewable energy, sustainable seafood, blue biotechnology, maritime IT and much more.

The new fund is complemented by the European Commission’s BlueInvest platform, which supports investment readiness and access to finance for early-stage businesses, SMEs and scale-ups. Through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, the Commission also funds an additional €40 million grant scheme, to help blue economy SMEs with developing and bringing to market new innovative and sustainable products, technologies and services.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans & Fisheries, said: “Oceans are the first in line to be hit by climate change, but they also hold many solutions to tackle climate emergency in every single marine industry, from fisheries and aquaculture, to offshore wind, wave and tidal energy, blue biotechnology and many other innovation-related fields. A €75 million equity investment fund is a tool to unlock the potential the blue economy holds both in contributing to the European Green Deal and ensuring economic growth of European SMEs developing innovative and sustainable products and services.”

EIB Vice-President, Emma Navarro, responsible for the Blue Economy, said:“Oceans are vital for life on Earth. But oceans are under threat and need to be protected. This is why we are developing innovative financing solutions to support the Blue economy. Solutions that allow us to provide financing for protecting the oceans and to turn the seas into a sustainable economic resource. The BlueInvest fund that we are launching today will give an important contribution to mobilize private investments to this sector and to get critical projects off the ground. It marks another important partnership between the EIF and the European Commission. ”

EIF Chief Executive, Alain Godard, said: “The oceans provide huge potential for economic growth, but this growth needs to be sustainable. The investments in the Blue Economy sector we signed today show how public funds in the EU can be deployed to attract private investment and catalyse the development of this sector. I am delighted that we can now launch the BlueInvest fund which combined with additional private capital will help to drive Europe’s Blue Economy agenda.”

Background

BlueInvest is a European Commission initiative that aims to improve access to finance and investment readiness for start-ups, early-stage businesses and SMEs active in the Blue Economy. Its features include an online community, investment readiness assistance for companies, investor engagement, events, an academy and a projects pipeline. More information here.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals.

The EIF is part of the European Investment Bank Group. Its central mission is to support Europe’s micro, small and medium-sized businesses by helping them to access finance. EIF designs and develops both venture and growth capital, guarantees and microfinance instruments which specifically target this market segment. In this role, EIF fosters EU objectives in support of innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship, growth and employment.

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Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement negotiations kick-off

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Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement negotiations kick-off. Image: Pexels
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Australia and the United Kingdom have announced the commencement of negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), which will start a new chapter in the economic relationship and help to boost export flows between our two nations.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said Australia was ready to help the UK find new beginnings post Brexit and in doing so, open up new doors for our farmers, businesses, and investors.

“We’ve been preparing for this deal since the UK decided to leave the EU and welcome their agreement to commence negotiations,” Minister Birmingham said.

“Both Australia and the UK want an ambitious and comprehensive agreement that builds on our already significant people-to-people links and creates new opportunities for exporters, generating more jobs in our nations.

“This agreement will underpin the future economic relationship between our two countries and send a strong signal of our mutual support for free trade, which will be vital in a post COVID-19 world.

“Having more export options can only be a good thing for our farmers and businesses, and that’s why we will be seeking improved market access, including for agricultural products, through the elimination wherever possible of tariffs, quotas and non-tariff barriers.

“There are also opportunities in services – boosting trade in services, a growing part of our economy and a central element of the UK economy, not only makes economic sense but has real potential to grow well beyond the $15 billion of value it generates now.

“As both our nations begin to shift our focus towards the economic recovery from COVID-19, a UK-Australia FTA will help to expand choices and export opportunities and secure stronger supply chains to better withstand future shocks.

“Our ambition is to conclude this deal as quickly as possible, building on the work we began back in 2016 through the establishment of an Australia-UK Trade Working Group.”

The UK is Australia’s seventh-largest trading partner. It’s also our second-largest source of and destination for investment, with over AUD 1.1 trillion already invested across our two economies, and our third largest partner for trade in services.

The first round of negotiations will be conducted virtually, commencing on 29 June.

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Korea’s ICT exports reach $13.9 billion in May

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Korea’s ICT exports reach $13.9 billion in May. Image: Wikimedia/ Busan Metropolitan city
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The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced that Korean information and communications technology industry in May reached USD 13.9 billion in exports and $8.9 billion in imports. The trade balance stood at a surplus of $5.0 billion.

Exports of Korean ICT goods last month experienced a year-on-year decline of 2.6 percent, but decreased by a smaller percentage compared to those in April (down 15.3 percent).

By item, shipments of semiconductors, and computers and peripherals experienced increases while those of displays and mobile phones saw decreases.

Exports of semiconductors improved 6.5 percent to $8.2 billion as a result of growing global demand for memory chips and system semiconductors.

Those of computers and peripheral devices jumped 73.0 percent to $1.2 billion and recorded the 8th consecutive month of growth. Solid-state drives spiked 160.2 percent to $960 million.

Displays shipped overseas fell 21.1 percent to $1.3 billion. Production adjustments of liquid-crystal display (LCD) panels and a slowdown in organic light-emitting diode panel demand led to the decline.

The value of mobile phones exported went down 21.5 percent to $730 million. Smartphone sales contracted due to sluggish global demand.

By region, Korean ICT exports to China and the U.S. increased while those to Vietnam, the EU, and Japan decreased.

Shipments to China inched up 2.1 percent to $7.3 billion. Semiconductors and computers and peripherals saw increases.

Shipments to the U.S. improved 17.9 percent to $1.7 billion and recorded the fifth consecutive month of growth. This is primarily attributable to strong sales of semiconductors and computers and peripheral devices.

Meanwhile, exports to Vietnam fell 10.4 percent to $1.7 billion due to weak semiconductor and mobile phone sales.

Korean ICT goods shipped to the EU edged down 0.6 percent to $850 million as semiconductors decreased in exports.

Those to Japan also went down 18.9 percent to $300 million due to a slowdown in semiconductor sales.

For imports, semiconductors and displays shrank while computers and peripheral devices and mobile phones advanced.

The value of computers and peripheral devices increased 34.2 percent to $1.2 billion and imports of mobile phones went up 6.5 percent to $800 million.

Meanwhile, imports of semiconductors slowed down 14.8 percent to $3.9 billion and those of displays contracted 11.9 percent to $320 million.

By import origin, shipments from Vietnam gained (up 24.3 percent to $870 million), while those from the following regions contracted: China (down 33.6 percent to $3.1 billion), the U.S. (down 20.7 percent to $600 million), Japan (down 23.9 percent to $600 million), and the EU (down 18.2 percent to $470 million).

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Pandemic’s impact on imports easing, but numbers are still below last year

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Pandemic's impact on imports easing, but numbers are still below last year. Image: Pexels
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The impact of COVID-19 at major U.S. retail container ports appears to be easing slightly, with projected imports remaining below last year’s levels but not as much as previously forecast, according to the Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“The numbers we’re seeing are still below last year, but are better than what we expected a month ago,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “It may still be too soon to say but we’ll take that as a sign that the situation could be slowly starting to improve. Consumers want to get back to shopping, and as more people get back to work, retailers want to be sure their shelves are stocked.”

“Imports are erratic, with one month up and the next down,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “Getting 40 million people back to work will take time, especially with many fearful of catching the virus and staying home. That makes a rapid return to an economic boom unlikely.”

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.61 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in April, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 7.8 percent from a year earlier, but up 17 percent from a four-year low seen in March and significantly better than the 1.51 million TEU previously expected. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

May was estimated at 1.58 million TEU, down 14.6 percent year-over-year, but up from the 1.47 million TEU forecast a month ago. June is forecast at 1.56 million TEU, down 12.9 percent from last year but up from the previous forecast of 1.46 million TEU, while July is forecast at 1.62 million TEU, down 17.4 percent from last year but up from 1.58 million TEU previously expected. August is forecast at 1.71 million TEU, just below the 1.73 million TEU expected a month ago and down 12.9 percent from last year, while September is forecast at 1.66 million TEU, slightly lower than the 1.7 million TEU expected a month ago and down 11.3 percent from last year. October, which was not previously forecast, is expected to total 1.73 million TEU, down 7.9 percent from last year. That would mark the first time since April that the year-over-year decline would drop from double digits to single digits.

Imports for the six-month period from April through September are expected to total 9.74 million TEU, a 3 percent improvement from the 9.46 million TEU expected a month ago.

The first half of 2020 is forecast to total 9.46 million TEU, down 10 percent from the same period last year but better than the 9.15 million TEU expected a month ago. Before the extent of the pandemic was known, the first half of the year was forecast at 10.47 million TEU.

Imports during 2019 totaled 21.6 million TEU, a 0.8 percent decrease from 2018 amid the trade war with China but still the second-highest year on record.

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