China seizes biggest share of global exports in nearly 50 years; Decriminalise all drugs, say world leaders; India drought hits 330 million

1 China seizes biggest share of global exports in nearly 50 years (Straits Times) Chinese exporters have found a silver lining in weak global demand by seizing market share from their competitors – good news for China but an expansion that is aggravating trade tensions.

At the same time, China’s imports from other countries fell sharply – down over 14 per cent in 2015 – leading some economists to suggest China was deploying an “import substitution” strategy that is pushing foreign brands out of its domestic markets.

China’s proportion of global exports rose to 13.8 per cent last year from 12.3 per cent in 2014, data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment shows, the highest share any country has enjoyed since the US in 1968.

The success belies widespread predictions that rising costs for Chinese labour and a currency that has increased nearly 20 per cent against the US dollar in the last decade would cause China to lose market share to cheaper competitors. Instead, China’s manufacturing infrastructure built during the country’s industrial rise of recent decades is keeping exports humming and providing the basis for firms to produce higher-value products.

“China cannot be replaced,” said Fredrik Guitman, formerly China general manager for a Danish maker of silver products, adding that reliable delivery times were more important than price. “If they say 45 days, it will be 45 days.”

Critics say much of China’s move up the value chain has been the result of pressure on foreign firms to transfer technology combined with a systematic and sustained campaign of industrial espionage targeting foreign technology.

2 Decriminalise all drugs, say world leaders (Jessica Glenza in The Guardian) A British billionaire, three former presidents and a renowned Aids researcher have called for all drugs to be decriminalized at a press conference that was sharply critical of the United Nations’ latest drug policy agreement, adopted this week.

Leaders of the Global Commission on Drug Policy said the UN’s first special session on drugs in 18 years had failed to improve international narcotics policy, instead choosing to tweak its prohibition-oriented approach to drug regulation. “The process was fatally flawed from the beginning,” said Richard Branson, head of the Virgin Group, adding that it may “already be too late” to save the international drug law system.

This week’s UN general assembly special session, UNgass, clearly displayed the deep divisions between member states over narcotics: while a growing number of countries, including several states in the US, have moved towards decriminalizing or legalizing drugs, others continue to execute people convicted of drug crimes. Three UN conventions prohibit drug use that is not medical or scientific.

The meeting, held in New York City, was billed as a forum to debate drug laws, called for by Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala in 2014. All three countries suffered disproportionate violence from cartels controlling drug supplies to the north. In Mexico alone, the government estimates 164,000 people were the victims of homicide related to cartel violence between 2007 and 2014.

Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has announced plans to legalize marijuana-based medicines and proposed raising the amount of the drug that can be legally carried.

Over the past two decades, nations from Portugal to Uruguay have experimented with liberal drug regimes. Uruguay legalized marijuana in 2014; the states of Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana in 2012; and Portugal decriminalized drugs at the beginning of the millennium.

3 India drought hits 300 million (BBC) At least 330 million people are affected by drought in India, the government has told the Supreme Court. Authorities say this number is likely to rise further given that some states with water shortages have not yet submitted status reports.

The drought is taking place as a heat wave extends across much of India with temperatures crossing 40C for days now. An 11-year-old girl died of heatstroke while collecting water from a village pump in the western Maharashtra state. Yogita Desai had spent close to four hours in 42C temperatures gathering water from the pump on Sunday. She began vomiting after returning home and was rushed to hospital, but died.

India is heavily dependent on monsoon rains, which have been poor for two years in a row. The government said that nearly 256 districts across India, home to nearly a quarter of the population were impacted by the drought.

Schools have been shut in the eastern state of Orissa and more than 100 deaths due to heatstroke have been reported from across the country, including from the southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh which saw more than 2,000 deaths last summer.

There is growing public concern over the lack of water in many parts of Maharashtra following two successive years of drought and crop failures. The government has asked local municipalities to stop supplying water to swimming pools and, in an unprecedented move, a train carrying half a million litres of drinking water was sent to the area of Latur.

States like Punjab and Haryana in northern India are squabbling over ownership of river waters. Water availability in India’s 91 reservoirs is at its lowest in a decade, with stocks at a paltry 29% of their total storage capacity, according to the Central Water Commission. Some 85% of the country’s drinking water comes from aquifers, but their levels are falling, according to WaterAid.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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