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Senkaku/Diaoyu island

This aerial view shows Uotsuri Island, one of the islands of Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, in East China Sea, June 2011. ctvnews.ca

Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) are often a subject of strong disputes between countries. In the case of Japan, being able to keep its rich and resourceful marine territories has become a priority. Especially since its neighbor has become consistently offensive in that area, Japan needs to make major military investments in order to keep its hands on its sovereignty.

An EEZ is an exclusive economic zone, which is a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations over which state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of that zone. And in some areas, what is at stake can also represent great economic development for some countries. Marine resources, including energy production from water and wind, fishing rights and oil exploration, are the main reasons why EEZs are so often disputed.

Japan has disputes over its EEZ boundaries with all of its Asian neighbors, including Russia, the Republic of Korea, the People Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China Taiwan (ROC).

The East China Sea is one of the regions where these disputes are the most critical, especially between Japan and the PRC that concerns the different application of the 1982 UNCLOS, which both nations ratified. The dispute is based on “the natural prolongation of the continental shelf of China in the East China Sea,” which China claims that it extends to the Okinawa Trough (200 nautical miles further than where the territorial sea of China is measured).

In 1995, the PRC discovered a natural gas field in the Sea that lies in an area where the two nation EEZ claims overlap, increasing tensions between the two countries. These tensions grew even worse after rounds of disputes over island ownership in the same Sea triggered both official and civilian protests between China and Japan. It has therefore become an issue that both militaries have to be ready to deal with and Japan has been preparing for such scenarios.

In 2011, Japan selected the Lockeed Martin F-35A lighting II Joint Strike Fighter (known as JSF) for its next generation of fighter jets. In June of this year, the U.S. State Department notified Congress of a potential $1.7 billion foreign military sales case for Japan to buy four Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye for the Japanese Air Self Defense Force. The aircraft is specialized in information surveillance and reconnaissance, which is one of Japan’s main needs in its disputes with China.

Japan also invested in a major Helicopter destroyer, a carrier with impressive size and abilities. The JS Izumo is capable of the simultaneous landing or takeoff of five helicopters at the same time, due to its large size, which is almost unprecedented. Experts say that it could even potentially be used in the future to launch fighter jets or other fixed wing aircraft, since it’s the largest warship in Japan’s fleet since World War II.

Recent changes within the Japanese defense would facilitate military partnership between the U.S. and Japan. Japan is also looking for help and partnership from the old continent, as officials know they can’t only rely on the U.S. for both military materials and partnerships.

In the margins of the G7, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with French President François Hollande to express his concerns about escalating tensions in the South China Sea. Japan could be actively looking to extend its military partnerships, as the French are well known in offering promising military equipment especially in the navy/marine sector.

The historical French Constructions Industrielles de La Mediterrannée (CNIM) has recently proven its abilities to be ahead of its time for Naval designs with the L-Cat, a high-speed sea connector for amphibious operations, still missing in Japan’s fleet but that could prove to be useful when fast pace assault or evacuation is required in an island with shallow waters, which Japan has plenty of.

There is no doubt that Japan is accomplishing something huge by increasing its forces at sea. Not only is it essential for Japan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but it is also a promise to the Japanese that their government is protecting their borders strongly and won’t fail under pressures from their large neighbor. Historically, Japan has often proven that it could stand strong and that’s exactly what it is doing today. We shall soon witness new major investments to enhance Japan’s already powerful self-defense forces.

By increasing its self-defense force, Japan pushes back on China and inspires the nation to change its offensive behavior in the Sea of Japan and in the East China Sea. Japan is becoming increasingly a major military force at sea and is on its way to offering more military partnerships with the world’s leading nations. Not only tying into the U.S. Navy’s networked battle force, but also opening the path to more partnerships that could go far beyond its territorial limits.

Sources:
Planned Japanese Self Defense Force Aircraft Buys, Destroyer Upgrades Could Tie into U.S Navy’s Networked Battle Force, USNI News, Sam LaGrone, June 10th 2015
Japan, France wary of Beijing’s reclamation binge in South China Sea, Japan Times, June 7th 2015

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Economy

Hungary And Poland To Lose Up To 25% Allocation Of EU Funds

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Hungary and Poland are set to be hit with new cuts in cohesion support after EU commission proposed new radical changes. This came to light after a series of propositions were published recently by the EU executive. Eastern European countries will be hard hit by the propositions, but more impact will be felt in Hungary and Poland.

The changes come in light of the immigration policies that certain countries have chosen to adopt. The two most affected countries will lose nearly 25% in cuts due to their problematic policies. The repercussions of the cuts could be felt very soon especially if the Eastern European countries decide to take on Western Europe.

Even though the commission has maintained that the new changes are not meant to be punishment for inconsistency and criticism, there is a general feeling that the countries will not take the changes well. The commission also argued that there is no need to compare the allocations between EU member states as each country has their own share of prosperity.

The proposed changes will also affect more countries in Eastern Europe including Lithuania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Malta. Germany will also get a reduction in the allocation to the tune of 20%. There are some countries however that will get a raise in their allocation including Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, and Italy.

The EU commission, through its commissioner for regional development, Corina Cretu, says that the recent changes have no political bearing behind them.

How the commission arrived at the figures

In previous years, the commission had an established formula for calculating the allocation of funds. This year though, it seems like there was a break from tradition since the calculation method was visibly adjusted. The GDP would be used to determine prosperity in the region during the past, for instance. This criterion seems to have been adjusted in addition to the inclusion of other factors like climate, education levels, employment levels, and of course the attitude of the countries towards immigrants.

It is yet not clear how these changes will affect the forex market in Europe. What is clear though is that the aftermaths of major decisions in recent years have often caused some disturbances in the stocks and forex markets. At times like these, stock and forex traders need to be on the lookout for any major breaking news. Admiralmarkets.pl suggests using the current forex and stock platforms to get market feeds in real-time.

The current feeling from the Eastern European countries is that the commission is finding ways of diverting money from the region to other regions that have faced challenges in recent years. The southern part of Europe has for instance been in the red for a couple of years now. The crisis in Greece and Spain is yet to completely settle.  The sentiments of Eastern Europe do not seem to bother the commission, however. The commission argues that these countries have seen major growth in recent years and that they would even handle stiffer cuts. This, the commission argues, would especially be true if issues like GDP per capita were to be considered.

EU officials have spent much of the time explaining how their recent propositions are in no way related to the crisis in the south. Instead, the commission has used every opportunity to highlight the changes in GDP as the key reasons for the allocation cuts. It is indeed easy to find reason in this rationale when you analyze the economies of Eastern European countries.

Poland has for instance seen a lot of positive growth in the past few years. In 2017, the economy grew by 4.6%. This growth came in the backdrop of a similarly strong growth the previous year where the GDP growth was recorded as having been 3%. The forecasts for this year do not look bad either. The GDP is expected to grow by at least 4.3% as per what the commission has established on its forecasts. The growth pattern in Hungary was also comparable, being 3.3% in 2016, 3.45% in 2017 and with a projected growth of 4% year.

Looking south, the economy of Italy recorded growths of 0.9% and 1.5% in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The forecast does not look any different also as a projected growth of 1.5% is expected. In order to argue their case, the commission argued the case of Portugal, which is still struggling but which got some cuts due to its strong performance recently.

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Hungary Economy: Population, GDP, Inflation, Business, Trade

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The Hungarian economy is ranked as the 55th freest according to 2018 statistics. This economy has undergone a lot of transformation and it has particularly improved in the areas of the judiciary, labor freedom and investment. There are some realms however that have not seen great improvements especially in the areas of business freedom, government integrity, and property rights. In overall, Hungary is below average in most metrics in Europe compared to other peers in the region. The country is also just above the world average on the global scale.

Looking at its recent past, this country has seen a bit of relapse into some laws that were previously abandoned. The country has definitely seen much freer and liberal laws in recent years just before the government began to intervene in the areas of policy. Much of the changes over the years have been instituted to support economic growth and to balance out the budget while steering clear of areas that might cause conflict with the European Union. There are many targets that the government has including reducing public debt. It plans to achieve all of them by taking an active role and instituting sectoral laws.

The history of Hungary is long and colorful. It was once part of the communist realm until 1990 when it became completely independent. The country is currently a member of NATO having been in the organization since 1999. When the EU was formed, Hungary was not among the founding members and only joined the organization in 2004. There have been numerous economic reforms in the last decade and today, the economy is supported by strong local demand as well as exports. In recent years, things have been looking very optimistic for the country. The construction industry has boomed and there is a hands-on approach by the government on economic matters. The unemployment rate in the country is low.

Despite these improvements, there are still some challenges that face the government. It is for instance not as open as it ought to be and the judiciary is weak and subject to government interference. The policies surrounding land tenure are pretty straightforward and the government keeps updated records. Because of its somewhat domineering government and a weak judiciary, there are always concerns about corruption. The business sector is thus highly affected by the apparent indifference in the government towards corruption. A lot more needs to be done by the government to deal with prominent figures who have been a menace to business.

Moving on to the financial sector, there is a generally fair support by the government to the financial markets. The tax for corporates is maintained at 19% and tax for individuals is at 15%. The stock market is pretty vibrant with the Budapest SE index enjoying some good figures in recent years. Forex traders can do many things in this country even though the market is not as developed especially compared to the West. Forex trading is supported a lot and there are dedicated providers that allow Hungarians to access tens of thousands of markets.

As a country that is still developing many sectors, Hungary has a government that has a direct oversight over some sectors. You will thus often find direct government support for some industries. There are some sectors where there is not enough manpower. The labor regulations are somewhat basic which makes mobility a little difficult. Most of the product prices are market-determined but some goods’ prices are regulated by the government. Some of the areas in which the government has a hand on the prices include the markets of pharmaceuticals, tobacco, digital money, some machinery and electronic appliances and telecommunication products.

The health of the economy is definitely good considering that the trading industry is pretty vibrant. Hungary relies a lot on both exporting and importing goods. The total value of goods that either leave or enter the country comprises of up to 175% of the GDP. There are no strict tariff regulations and there is a general preservation of a 1.6% tariff rate. While there is much more government presence in many areas of the economy, the impact is not too big to disrupt economic activities. The financial sector is still in its formative years and it will take sometime before the banks get the necessary regulatory policy that supports growth.

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Volcker Rule 2.0: First Major Rule Revisions Proposed

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The Volcker Rule, which has been guiding trading and the financial sector for a long time, is set to be revised according to the news. This rule and its changes are however not likely to affect trading activities as the revisions will focus on banking activity and not individual trading entities. There have been several proposed changes over the years even though there has never been a momentous time where the changes were taken seriously until recently. Among the changes proposed in the new revision exercise include:

  • Restructuring banks so that they can have more tiers dedicated to asset and liability compliance
  • Liberalizing what has come to be known as the TOTUS exemption and thereby pave way for trading personnel to have more control over transactions
  • Changing the structure of the risk capital prong to allow foreign banks to operate under similar regulations with local banks
  • Changing the manner in which banks are supposed to reveal the information on financial commitments

The above are just some of the issues that are covered by the long proposal rule. There have been other changes that were made recently but they will not be implemented together with the new proposals if they go through.

The Fundamental Tenets of the Volcker Rule

The Volcker Rule was made to regulate banking entities of all kinds. The details of the rules have been criticized lately for being extraneous and overly complicated. This is what has prompted some of the proposed changes to be made.

The rules were proposed in 2011 and adopted in 2013, but since that time, the opposition to the rules has been gradually increasing. First, national institutions like the Treasury made moves towards analyzing the rules. Afterward, the OCC wanted the public to have comments on the rules as they are. The entry of new officials in the top government institutions has however been the main reason why much more light has been cast on the rules. A recent Treasury Report has many proposed changes already and the Congress has recently passed laws that overlook the Volcker Rule.

Some of the Main Areas the Proposed Rule Will Affect

The proposed new rule will definitely have a significant effect on the current Volcker Rule. Of the many areas that the proposed changes will affect, the following are the most significant:

1.Proprietary trading

The first key area that will change is the proprietary trading regulatory realm. As of now, the rules prohibit this kind of trading for all banking entities. There are many provisions provided by the Volcker rule which all touch on banking entities and dealers. Issues of liquidity management, trading errors and market exemptions are some of those that will be affected by the proposed changes. If the changes go as planned, banking entities will have more control on the market. It will be possible to determine whats new on markets by just relying on financial entities.

2. Private equity funds and hedge funds

Hedging has been widely known as one of the activities that are prohibited by many financial laws in the country. Banking entities are specifically prohibited from having relationships with any clients that either deal with or have some form of hedging funds. The proposed rules will touch on many issues but the most vital will be on the likelihood of changing the prohibitions.

3. Compliance

The Volcker Rule outlines a series of compliance issues that banking entities must follow in case they want to change policy. There is a great detail of compliance categories as specified by the Volcker rules complete with accompanying requirements. The proposed rules seek to change such compliance obligations.

4. Reporting

Metric reporting requirements are also heavily underscored under the new proposed rules. There will be a strong focus on qualitative information schedules and also on how the reporting is done. There are currently discussions on whether a centralized approach will be adopted. In overall, several metrics will be discussed and the new rules will give details on what has been agreed upon.

5. Recent changes in laws

Finally, the recent changes that have been made especially by the Congress will also be looked at. This will be done in order to bring harmony to the proposed rules. Some of the recent changes in the law have been progressive and as such should be retained. There are also several other provisions that the new proposal will cover and the details of the final rule will emerge in due course.

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