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ANNIVERSARY

This month we celebrate the 100th consecutive issue of the A&A Economic News Digest. It began as a few copies to selected clients and has expanded considerably over the years. Back in 1992, we did not communicate by e-mail, nor did we have the website www.aacb.com, which is where the majority of our readers see the Digest nowadays. It is interesting to review our first edition and see the important issues of the day. NAFTA was two years from being implemented and the hard bargaining was still taking place on rules of origin. Cross-border shopping was a major issue, as were taxes on Tobacco and Interprovincial Trade Barriers in Canada. Better service in the Retail sector was important and Sunday shopping in Ontario was still very controversial.

MILES

According to OECD Transport Statistics, in 1998, Canadians drove 3,685 miles per capita in passenger cars and station wagons. By comparison: Americans drove 5,700 miles; Australians, 4,282 miles; Britons, 4,050 miles; Germans, 3,989 miles and Japanese, 2,365 miles.

SHOPPING

More than 77% of Americans go to the grocery store at least once a week, many armed with their flyers and coupons. But more often than not, people leave stores with the feeling that they spent more money than they should have. As many as 78% of those polled show their thriftiness by using coupons or waiting for items to go on sale before purchasing. In addition, the majority of shoppers (62%) sometimes invest in the bargain that comes with buying items in bulk. However, even with all of this preparation, 93% of Americans claim that they still buy more than they had originally intended.

FREIGHTERS

Boeing forecasts that during the next 20 years, the world's freighter airplane fleet will double. This means the number of freighter airplanes will increase from 1,676 in 1999, to 3,200 by the year 2019. During that time, the world air cargo industry is expected to add more than 2,600 aircraft as nearly 1,100 will be retired. Of the new freighters, about 1,800 airplanes will come from passenger-to-freighter modifications, and 800 will be new production freighters.

THEFT

Brazilian supermarkets are losing $813 million U.S. per year - or 2.5 percent of total sales - due to theft and bad management according to ABRAS, the national supermarkets association. The items stolen most frequently are electric shavers, whisky and healthcare products such as toothbrushes.

LUNCH

The British working lunch has become more like America's. According to a recent report, the majority of Britons take just 25-30 minutes and often eat sandwiches at their desks. Germans, among Europe's richest folk, spend an average of just $2.69 a day on lunch. Spaniards on average spend $6.30 on lunch, take up to three hours to eat it and often need a nap to recover.

JAPAN FTA

Japan is the only major industrialized country that does not have a free-trade arrangement with any of its economic partners. Next year, Japan and Singapore will launch negotiations on concluding a bilateral free-trade agreement (FTA). The two countries will focus on the liberalization of trade in goods and services, investment and movement of people between the two countries. A key factor behind Japan's selection of Singapore as a possible FTA partner is that an agreement would pose no major problems in Japan's politically sensitive agricultural sector.

VIETNAM

Vietnam is expected to export US$14 billion worth of goods by the end of the year, five percent more than the yearly target and 21 per cent more than last year. Some of the increase is due to the rise in crude oil prices. Other export areas experiencing high growth include seafood, footwear and electronic products. Exports of fruit and vegetables and handicrafts and fine art products have increased 100 per cent over last year. However, exports of rice and textiles and garments are expected to be down significantly.

TONICS

Red Bull is one of many health tonics sold in little brown bottles throughout Asia. It is a mixture of vitamin Bs, taurine (an amino acid that jump-starts the metabolism) and sugar and tastes like cough syrup. Having sprung from humble beginnings in Bangkok, Red Bull now sells 950 million cans in 48 countries and earned US$750 million in profits last year. Single can sales in England are alleged to outsell single can sales of Coke and the company that owns Red Bull is worth US$10 billion. In Europe the product is marketed to active, modern people who are into extreme sports.

MORE CUSTOMS HISTORY

In 1506, the first official "Book of Rates" was published in England. This was the forerunner of the present-day Customs tariff and listed official or notional values of imported goods. From the mid-16th century strict conditions were imposed by the government on the movement of ships. These included hours and places of discharging.

TARIFFS

The U.S. has announced that goods from 34 African countries will enjoy increased duty-free access to America. Fourteen African countries, including Angola, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire and Zimbabwe, were deemed too unstable politically, or too slow in carrying out economic reforms, to qualify for the new trade privileges.

HOMES

All across Russia, Canadian companies are making big inroads in opening up a nearly virgin market for construction technology. From Moscow to Siberia, about 2,000 housing units have been built with Canadian materials or methods in recent years. The Russian and Canadian governments have agreed on a target of 10,000 homes to be built with Canadian technology over the next two or three years. The Russian government has now approved the Canadian building code for wood-frame technology making it easier for Canadian companies to cut through bureaucratic red tape.

PRICE FIXING

The European Commissions' antitrust authorities have accused Belgium's largest brewers of fixing both prices and market share. Belgium's largest beer maker admitted that it had done so in the past but said it was blameless now. The move comes amid a wide-ranging commission probe into similar practices by brewers across Europe.

MOVIES

Canadian moviegoers flocked to the silver screen in droves in the fiscal year 1998/99, attracted by new multi-screen theatres with stadium seating, video games and party rooms. Overall attendance increased for the seventh year in a row, hitting a 38-year high of 112.8 million, a 12% increase from 1997/98. There were 692 theatres across the country with 2,574 screens. Box office receipts were $592 million and total revenues $857 million yielding profits of $76 million. Full-time employment rose 19% to 1,687, and part-time employment increased 15% to 11,509.

TAX

The US senate has given approval to repeal a telephone tax originally imposed to finance the Spanish-American civil war a century after the conflict ended. The three per cent excise tax has been levied on all types of telephone service for the last hundred years to raise money for the war against Spain.

SUBSIDIES

The Global Alliance for Sugar Trade Reform is going to attack European Agricultural subsidies that it says distort trade. The group hopes to get a higher profile for sugar on the agenda of world agricultural talks. The EU is one of the biggest targets for trade distorting subsidies because it hands out $8 billion worth of sugar subsidies and it accounts for 85 per cent of world subsidies in agriculture.

TCF

Over the last decade, the geographical distribution of jobs in textiles, clothing and footwear (TCF) has shifted dramatically to Asia with China emerging as the major producer. According to the ILO, Asia's share of employment in the TCF sector rose from 69 to 72 per cent. China accounts for 20 per cent of the global workforce with exports of clothing in 1998 worth US$30 billion. India is the second largest employer but has seen a decline of 10 per cent in its TCF jobs recently. Indonesian employment in the TCF sector has grown substantially and TCF jobs have more than doubled in Bangladesh.

ROUTES

A joint Canadian-Russian aviation study has been issued suggesting that greater use of air routes over the North Pole could reduce flight hours and save millions of dollars. Flights from Vancouver to India, for example, could be cut by 4.5 hours with a savings of C$40,000. Flights from New York to Hong Kong could be cut by over five hours and result in savings of C$50,000. The cost of implementing the new route system would cost the two countries around C$38 million.

TECHNOLOGY

Looking at your insides will be as easy as taking a pill. An Israeli company has developed a tiny video camera that monitors a patient's intestines. The Swallowable Imaging Capsule contains a miniature video camera, a tiny light, a battery and two microchips. The images are transmitted to a computer's hard drive for analysis by a doctor. The patient swallows the pill and can go out for a few hours instead of waiting around the hospital. The pill makes its course throughout the digestive system in about four hours.

FRAUD

Online auctions are the most common avenue for Internet fraud by a landslide, according to a report from the National Consumers League's Internet Fraud Watch. 87 per cent of Internet fraud in 1999 occurred through online auction sales. Non-auction sales of general merchandise ranked second at 7 per cent with computer equipment and software at 1.3 per cent. Overall, Internet fraud rose by 38 per cent in 1999 and buyers lost over $3.2 million in reported frauds.

APPEALS

A panel of international arbitrators will shortly hand down a ruling as to whether the U.S. violated the NAFTA by not opening its borders to Mexican trucks. The U.S. refused to make good on its NAFTA promise to let in Mexican rigs beginning in December 1995 on the grounds that Mexican trucks were unsafe. NAFTA rules make no mention of truck safety. Currently, Mexican trucks can travel only a narrow strip of the border that lets them get between two and 20 miles into the U.S.

IT

Officials in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to eliminate tariff barriers on information technology (IT) products by 2010. Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand will complete tariff elimination on IT products by 2005. The agreement aims at establishing an electronic marketplace within the region by focusing on encouraging and facilitating the growth of E-commerce.

TRIVIA

The Holiday Inn chain estimates that a towel is stolen from one of its hotels every 11 seconds.

SCALE

An actor dressed up like a duck for a walk-on role in a West End stage production in London because it was cheaper than using the real thing. A real duck costs $545 per day to hire whereas the minimum weekly wage for a walk-on actor dressed as a duck is $635.

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