(Reuters) The European Union is seeing increased impetus around the world to move forward with Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with the bloc, which will make the most of uncertainty over the outlook for U.S. trade policy, the EU's trade envoy said on Friday.
The EU was close to finishing or implementing FTAs with Japan, Vietnam and Singapore and was readying to start talks with Australia, New Zealand and Chile - all members of a U.S-inspired Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) devastated by Donald Trump's decision to pull Washington out of the deal on day three of his presidency.
"Today, there is political opportunity to say that those of us who believe in open markets and good trade, we are willing to do trade agreements," EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told Reuters in an interview.
"Whether that (TPP) is dead, or partially dead, it is not for me to judge. But we have seen an increase of willingness to step up trade agreements."
(V. I Consortium) ST. THOMAS — Government House Communications Director Cherie Munchez told The Consortium on Tuesday that she could not say for sure whether government employees would be paid next week, another indication of the territory’s deep financial trouble, which is compounded on many levels — from a structural deficit of over $100 million, to a failing pension system, whose unfunded liability is nearing $4 billion.
On government payroll, Ms. Munchez said, “This obviously is an issue that we work on a regular and daily basis, so we’ll stay there with that.”
Last week, Senator Kurt Vialet said negotiations were ongoing between the the Government of the Virgin Islands and the territory’s two rum companies, for the government to keep all of the $18.2 million in adjusted rum excise tax payments remitted to the G.V.I. late last month by the U.S. Department of Interior.
(Barbados Today) The Freundel Stuart administration is projecting $4.5 billion in spending for the financial year 2017-2018, up from $4.3 billion last year, with a whopping $1.8 billion set to go towards repayment of principal and interest on Government’s outstanding loans.
Despite all the recent talk of privatization and the need for Government to sell-off state assets, a further $1.1 billion has been put aside for in the coming this year, which begins on April 1, in support of statutory entities which are the main beneficiaries of state transfers.
In fact, only a meagre 2.5 per cent — or $29.3 million — has been trimmed from these allocations, even though the Stuart Government remains hard-pressed to find much-needed revenue to support an overall economic turnaround on the back of last week’s downgrade by international ratings agency Standard & Poor’s — its 18th since the Democratic Labour Party took office nine years ago.
(V. I. Consortium) ST. THOMAS — In a post following the passage of the sin tax and property tax bills that had caused much uproar in the territory, Senator Kurt Vialet, a St. Croix Democrat, took to Facebook defending his position.
“I refuse to sit idly around and do nothing but blow hot air! I say no to sending home employees and shortened work week, I say no to financial insolvency,” Mr. Vialet wrote. His stance matched that of his majority caucus colleagues — Senator Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly said recently that she did not want the territory being taken over by a federal control board to be part of her legacy as a lawmaker.
But in an interview with the Mapp administration’s communications director Cherie Munchez late Tuesday, it was revealed that the 72-hour biweekly pay periods as well as other tough austerity measures mentioned by Governor Kenneth Mapp at a recent press conference, were still on the table — even after the controversial measures were passed and are now awaiting Mr. Mapp’s signature.
Asked whether austerity measures would be curtailed in light of the bills’ passage, Ms. Munchez referred to comments she said were made by the governor relative to the territory’s financial crisis, contending that Mr. Mapp did not rule out the 72-hour biweekly pay periods and other difficult cuts if the sin taxes were passed.
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Trinidad and Tobago government said the financial position of the state-owned oil company, PETROTRIN, is far worse than the reported net loss, after tax, of TT$533 million (US$85,280,000) in its unaudited financials for the year ending September 30, last year.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert in a statement to Parliament on Monday, said that the company had in fact recorded a loss of TT$4.5 billion (One TT dollar =US$0.16 cents) after having accumulated losses of TT$4.2 billion between 2011-2016 that were not shown in its accounts.
“It has recently come to the Government’s attention that PETROTRIN’s refinery operation has been unprofitable for the last five years, from 2011 to 2016, a matter that was not revealed before.
“In fact, rather than declaring these losses, PETROTRIN has been carrying them as a deferred tax asset, to be written off against future profits,” Imbert told legislators, adding that as a result PETROTRIN has “for the first time told the Government that its audited losses for 2016 may in fact be of the order of TT$4.5 billion, rather than the previously disclosed estimate of TT$600 million.
“It should be noted that a deferred tax asset is treated as an asset in a balance sheet, rather than as a liability, as it is retained for the purpose of reducing income tax expense in future years. However, if a deferred tax asset remains unusable or it cannot be reasonably determined when it can be used, as in this case, it needs to be written off the balance sheet. It can be gradually brought back into the books whenever profitability occurs.”
Questioning why PETROTRIN never reported the multi-billion dollar loss under the former People’s Partnership administration, Imbert said the Keith Rowley government is committed to returning PETROTRIN to profitability and as a result, the treatment by the company of accumulated losses in the refinery as assets can no longer continue.
“The question is, therefore, why under the previous administration was the deferred tax asset not written off as a loss in 2014 or 2015, so that the true financial position of PETROTRIN would have been publicly known?
“It now falls to this Government to determine the reasons for this unacceptable situation and to take the necessary steps to deal responsibly, proactively and professionally with any adverse consequences that may arise from this previously unreported loss of TT$4.5 billion. Rest assured…that we will do so,” Imbert told legislators.