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#WorldBank trims 2020 growth forecast amid slow recovery for trade, investment

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The World Bank on Wednesday (8 January) trimmed its global growth forecasts slightly for 2019 and 2020 due to a slower-than-expected recovery in trade and investment despite cooler trade tensions between the United States and China, writes David Lawder.

The multilateral development bank said 2019 marked the weakest economic expansion since the global financial crisis a decade ago, and 2020, while a slight improvement, remained vulnerable to uncertainties over trade and geopolitical tensions.

In its latest Global Economic Prospects report, the World Bank shaved 0.2 percentage point off of growth for both years, with the 2019 global economic growth forecast at 2.4% and 2020 at 2.5%.

“This modest increase in global growth marks the end of the slowdown that started in 2018 and took a heavy toll on global activity, trade and investment, especially last year,” said Ayhan Kose, the World Bank’s lead economic forecaster. “We do expect an improvement, but overall, we also see a weaker growth outlook.”

The latest World Bank forecasts take into account the so-called Phase 1 trade deal announced by the United States and China, which suspended new U.S. tariffs on Chinese consumer goods scheduled for Dec. 15 and reduced the tariff rate on some other goods.

While the tariff rate reduction will have a “rather small” effect on trade, the deal is expected to boost business confidence and investment prospects, contributing to a pickup in trade growth, Kose said.

Global trade growth is expected to improve modestly in 2020 to 1.9% from 1.4% in 2019, which was the lowest since the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the World Bank said. This remains well below the 5% average annual trade growth rate since 2010, according to World Bank data.

But both trade and overall economic growth prospects remain vulnerable to flare-ups in U.S.-China trade tensions as well as rising geopolitical tensions. World Bank officials said they were not able to estimate the growth effects of a wider US-Iran conflict, but said this would increase uncertainty, which would hurt investment prospects.

Advanced economies and emerging markets and developing economies also show divergent prospects in the World Bank forecasts. Growth in the United States, the eurozone and Japan is expected to decline slightly to 1.4% in 2020 from 1.6% in 2019 — a markdown of 0.1 percentage point for both years — due to continued softness in manufacturing and the lingering negative effects of U.S. tariffs and retaliatory measures.

But emerging market economies are expected to see a pickup in growth to 4.3% in 2020 from 4.1% in 2019, although these are both a half percentage point lower than forecasts made in June.

Much of the emerging market improvement is driven by eight countries, the World Bank said. Argentina and Iran are expected to emerge from recessions in 2020, and prospects are expected to improve for six countries that struggled with slowdowns in 2019: Brazil, India, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

China’s growth rate is projected to decelerate to 5.9% in 2020, a 0.2 percentage point reduction from the June forecast, as the world’s second largest economy deals with fallout from U.S. tariffs, the World Bank said.

Kose said the trade war hit China’s manufacturing and exports hard last year, holding growth to 6.1%, a 0.1 percentage point reduction from the World Bank’s June forecast. Tighter regulations on China’s shadow banking sector also dented investment.

China’s outlook could worsen if trade tensions with Washington flare up again, or there is a disorderly unwinding of debt. But Kose said China had sufficient policy buffers to cushion any deeper slowdown.

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Nine EU-supported films compete in the 2021 Berlin International Film Festival

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The 71st Berlin International Film Festival began on 1 March, this year in its digital edition due to the coronavirus pandemicnine EU-supported films and series, three of which are competing for the highest prize, the Golden Bear: Memory Box by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Nebenan (Next Door) by Daniel Brühl, and Természetes fény (Natural Light) by Dénes Nagy. The EU supported the development and co-production of these nine titles with an investment of over €750 000 that was awarded through the Creative Europe MEDIA programme. Targeted to film professionals and media, the Berlinale film festival is hosting the European Film Market, where the Creative Europe MEDIA programme is active with a virtual stand as well as with the European Film Forum. The Forum that will take place online on 2 March will gather various professionals from the industry to discuss the future perspectives for the audiovisual sector in Europe. The Berlinale will run until 5 March, when the winning films will be announced. The second round of this year's festival, ‘The Summer Special', will take place in June 2021 and will open the films to the public and host the official Award Ceremony. More information is available here.

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Yemen: €95 million in EU humanitarian aid for people threatened by conflict and famine

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The European Commission is allocating €95 million in humanitarian support to address the most pressing needs of people in Yemen amid record highs of child malnutrition, an imminent threat of famine and renewed fighting. More than 2 million children as well as over 1 million pregnant women and mothers are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, while escalating hostilities are forcing thousands of families to leave their households.

The new funding was announced by the Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič, at the high-level pledging event for Yemen on 1 March co-hosted by the United Nations, Sweden and Switzerland. Commissioner Lenarčič said: "The EU does not forget the dire situation of people in Yemen who are once again on the brink of famine after bearing the brunt of the world's worst humanitarian crisis. New EU funding will be essential in maintaining life-saving aid for millions of people, exhausted  after a disastrous year marked by fighting, COVID-19 and further economic collapse. Parties to the conflict need to facilitate the access of humanitarian organisations to those most in need and avoid further civilian suffering. Now more than ever it is crucial that International Humanitarian Law and unrestricted access to those in need are upheld.”

In 2021, EU humanitarian aid will continue to provide food, nutrition and healthcare, financial assistance, water and sanitation, education and other lifesaving support to the conflict-displaced and those in severe need. The press release is available online.

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EU co-ordinating the urgent delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to Moldova

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A consignment of 21,600 doses of COVID-19 vaccines has been delivered to Moldova from Romania to support the country's response to the pandemic. This delivery follows Moldova's request for vaccines through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, to which Romania has responded rapidly with this offer.

Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič said: “I thank Romania for its generous and rapid offer to Moldova. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism continues to facilitate solidarity during the current pandemic. It is only through cooperation and mutual support, within the EU and also outside, that we can have an effective response to COVID-19. Supporting vaccination globally is essential for containing the COVID-19 pandemic: no country in the world will be safe until everyone is safe.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Moldova has already received a range of other offers co-ordinated through the Mechanism:

  • 8 million items including surgical masks, FFP3 masks, protective suits and gloves offered by  Romania;
  • 55 ventilators and 405,000 items of surgical masks, protective gloves and protective suits sent by Czechia;
  • almost 57,000 items of protective face shields and disinfectant liquid made available by Poland, and;
  • more than 6,000 items of examination gloves, hand disinfectant and blankets offered by Austria.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism has co-ordinated and co-financed the delivery of over 15 million items of assistance to 30 countries to support their COVID-19 response, be it personal protective equipment, ventilators, the reinforcement of medical staff, or, more recently, vaccines. The first vaccine delivery under the mechanism was facilitated last week, when the Netherlands sent 38,610 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, together with other vaccination tools, such as syringes and needles, to the three Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint-Maarten in response to their request for support.

In addition to the co-ordination of requests and offers made through the Mechanism, the EU also finances up to 75 % of the costs for transporting the assistance.

Background

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism is one of the tools that has been instrumental in providing support to countries requesting assistance during the coronavirus pandemic. Through the Mechanism, the EU is helping coordinate and finance the delivery of medical  and protective equipment and material across Europe and the world, to countries that seek assistance.

In addition, the EU's rescEU medical reserve and the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI) have provided additional key support to member states' health response to the pandemic.

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