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May 30th, 2013:

Hong Kong snubbed on FTA and tax deals

Hong Kong snubbed on FTA and tax deals

THE Australian government has refused requests from Hong Kong to start negotiating a free trade agreement and a double taxation agreement. The refusal has angered Australian companies hoping to boost their business with and through Hong Kong, the primary gateway to China.

During a visit to Australia in 2011, Donald Tsang, who stepped down last year as Hong Kong’s chief executive, approached Julia Gillard and then-foreign minister Kevin Rudd about an FTA and a DTA. Following a visit by Mr Rudd to Hong Kong and further talks, the Hong Kong government wrote formally to Canberra proposing talks towards an FTA.

Hong Kong was told in reply that its proposal was “an ambitious one” and “we would need to be convinced about the benefits” of considering talks.

After further representations, Hong Kong was told that Australia did not wish to pursue the offer.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, which has 1400 individual and 500 corporate members representing 750 companies, has made two direct representations for a DTA to Treasurer Wayne Swan, most recently this January, and two to the Treasury — without any result.

Cameron Boardman, the head of Invest Hong Kong for Australia and New Zealand, said a DTA would be “a significant catalyst for cross-border investment both ways”. Investment between Hong Kong and Australia is already 1.67 times greater than that between China and Australia. Much of China’s international investment derives from the Hong Kong-listed arms of its largest corporations. Mr Boardman said New Zealand, which has both an FTA and DTA with Hong Kong, ” is now starting to reap the benefits, in capital and fund management flows, from its DTA. But in Canberra, there appears to be no enthusiasm for this or for an FTA, or a willingness to begin anything on a formal basis.

“Hong Kong is keen to get on with both deals, since there’s a mutual benefit, and it’s hard to see why Australia isn’t interested.”

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said she was aware Hong Kong had approached Canberra about its proposals and that the government “is not interested”. She said: “There’s already a great deal of business between Australia and Hong Kong, which is a window in and out of China. In that context, it’s very important.” She said many benefits could result from such agreements.

The Australian chamber in Hong Kong told Mr Swan the lack of a DTA diminishes Australia’s reputation as a regional financial services hub, limits Australia’s potential as a secondary renminbi destination in Asia, and discourages Asian investors from investing in Australian funds.

Hong Kong has signed DTAs with 25 countries including Britain, France, Malaysia, Indonesia, Switzerland and, recently, Canada, and is negotiating with 10 other nations. Australia already has 44 DTAs, including with Singapore and China.

Darren Bowdern, chairman of the Australian chamber’s finance committee and a KPMG tax partner in Hong Kong, said there would be little impact on Australian revenues except for royalty withholding tax, which involved very few companies and was an area Hong Kong may be willing to carve out of the deal

WHO urges global ban on tobacco marketing

World Breaking News

WHO urges global ban on tobacco marketing

  • From: AAP
  • May 29, 2013 11:42PM

GOVERNMENTS worldwide must ban all forms of tobacco marketing, not just billboards and TV ads, as companies find new ways to tap the market, the World Health Organization says.

Douglas Bettcher, head of the WHO’s non-communicable disease division, said on Wednesday tougher measures were needed to rein in tobacco use, which claims six million lives a year.

“This is an industry that sells a product that kills up to half their consumers,” but companies are still able to draw in a new generation of smokers despite measures in a 2005 tobacco-control treaty, he said.

“Most tobacco users start their deadly drug dependence before the age of 20,” he told reporters, ahead of Friday’s World No Tobacco Day.

“Banning tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship is one of the best ways to protect young people from starting smoking as well as reducing tobacco consumption across the entire population,” he added.

Bans on overt advertising are crucial, he said, but companies are masters at finding less-obvious means to attract potential smokers and ensure customers remain loyal.

“Tobacco companies are like a mutating virus. When you ban one type of advertising, maybe the most commonly-known forms, billboards, television, radio, they move into other areas,” Bettcher said.

He pointed to tactics including selling branded products such as clothing, product-placement in reality TV shows, using social media to fuel a sense of consumer community, and event sponsorship. (Davidoff Art Basel)

“That’s why the ban has to be complete in order to be fully effective,” he said.

Bettcher noted that as of 2011, 19 nations had introduced total bans — and seen a seven per cent reduction in tobacco use — while one-third of countries had minimal or no restrictions.

Fresh data are due in July.

With increasingly-tough measures in developed nations, tobacco firms have moved to drive up demand in markets such as Africa.

Bettcher warned of a “perfect storm” on that continent, with health services even less able to cope with the impact of smoking than their developed-nation equivalents.

Bettcher also lauded Australia for its landmark plain packaging rules, in force since December, which require tobacco products to be sold in drab-green boxes bearing the same typeface and graphic images of diseased smokers.

New Zealand and Ireland have announced plans to follow suit, despite a tobacco industry-backed challenge to Australia at the World Trade Organization by cigar-producers Cuba, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, plus Ukraine

Actions needed to close ‘tobacco loopholes’ – The Standard

Actions needed to close ‘tobacco loopholes’
(1 hr 16 mins ago)

The Council on Smoking and Health has urged the government to introduce
plain cigarette packaging and ban tobacco-product displays, RTHK
The Council says the tobacco industry has exploited loopholes in the
Smoking Ordinance — which bans tobacco advertising. It believes
additional measures are needed to counteract these tactics.

Starbucks imposing no smoking areas outside its stores

Starbucks imposing no smoking areas outside its stores

Posted on: 7:55 pm, May 30, 2013, by Jon Bowman

DENVER — June 1 is the day the Starbucks Coffee chain will put in effect a new, perhaps safer, smoke-free zone around its shops.

Signage has been put up letting customers know about the change in how, when, and where they can smoke while enjoying coffee, tea, or healthy donuts.

“I do smoke and I understand people not wanting to inhale my smoke, but I wouldn’t mind if they smoked sitting next to me,” said Mike Keeler. “It makes sense, but…”

The coffee giant rolled out the 25 instead of 15-feet rule in California and the Philippines last year, and since they had little resistance there, now the rest of the coffee loving world will get cleaner air on outside patios.

Right now, the company allows smoking on the outside seating sections. But that will change.

Even those E-cigarettes will not be allowed near front doors of the coffee chain. You’ll still be able to enjoy a cup of joe and a square, just not so close outside Starbucks front door.