The Australia-Chile Free Trade Agreement came into force on Saturday 6 March, the first trade agreement between Oceania and a Latinamerican country. Besides trade the agreement covers services, investments, government purchases and intellectual property plus a special chapter on academic and scientific cooperation.
Britain’s Lloyds Banking Group is close to a deal with the government for a £258bn asset insurance scheme, according to BBC sources. The agreement could increase the taxpayer's share in the bank from its current level of 43% to as much as 70%, according to reports.
The United States jobless rate jumped in February to 8.1%, according to official figures from the Labour Department. The number of people out of work rose by 651,000 during the month. Both figures were bigger than expected.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said the current year will be the most difficult the country has faced this century because of the global economic crisis. Addressing parliament this week, Mr Wen reiterated that there would be a 585 billion US dollars investment program to stimulate the Chinese economy.
The Bank of England slashed Thursday rates to 0.5% and unveiled plans to pump up to £150 billion into the economy in its boldest bid yet to tackle the recession. Official borrowing costs have now fallen for six months in a row but the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee believes rate cuts alone will not be enough.
The European Central Bank (ECB) has cut its key interest rate to 1.5% from 2.0%, the lowest since it started setting euro rates in January 1999. It followed a cut in UK rates by the Bank of England. US and Japanese rates are, in effect, already at zero.
Bilateral trade between Argentina and Brazil continued to deteriorate during the first two months of the year, according to official statistics released in Brasilia. Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade said that exports to Argentina in January-February were down to 1.33 billion US dollars which represents 46.5% less than Jan-Feb. 2008.
With Europe and America struggling to address the ongoing global economic crisis, the forces of economic nationalism are on the march. Industry representatives and trade unions are busy lobbying the halls of power in Washington, Brussels, Paris, and London. They are seeking subsidies, tariff protection from foreign competition, restrictions on foreign labor, and even measures that pressure Europeans and Americans into buying domestically-made products.
At the Gibraltar border, a steady stream of pedestrians and vehicles enters the territory. It is mid-morning, and the Spanish are coming. Overhead, the Union flag flutters nervously, as it has, in one form or other, since Spain ceded the Rock to the UK in 1713.
In appearance before the United States Congress Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that the huge budget deficits are greatly consequence of the previous administration’s failure in addressing necessary investments in energy security and health.