New Zealand PM in Asia, US-South Korea exercises, Boao Forum
Welcome to your week in Asia.
Highlights this week include New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s trip to Singapore and Japan to promote trade and annual military exercises hosted by the United States and South Korea amid rising tensions in the Korean peninsula.
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Visit of the Prime Minister of New Zealand to Singapore and Japan
From Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will visit Singapore and Japan, two of the country’s biggest trading partners, as it attempts to rebuild its COVID-hit economy. Ardern will meet Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and, for the first time, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. She will be joined on the week-long trip by Minister of Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor and 13 business leaders.
US-South Korean military exercises
South Korea and the United States begin their annual joint military exercises, which are due to run until April 28. The United States has sent the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to waters off the Korean Peninsula as North Korea heightens political tensions ahead of a change of administration in South Korea.
China considers draft law on women’s rights
The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress begins a three-day meeting on Monday to consider several bills. Lawmakers are reportedly considering strengthening provisions in a women’s rights bill following a public outcry in January over a mentally disabled woman who was allegedly forced to have eight children. They will also look at workplace discrimination as the country faces a rapid decline in the number of marriages and births.
Chinese economic data
China will announce first-quarter gross domestic product amid growing headwinds from the latest surge in the COVID-19 outbreak that began in March. Travel within and between major cities, including Shanghai and Shenzhen, has been restricted, putting further pressure on an economy already slowing since the second quarter of 2021.
South Korea’s new central bank governor
South Korea’s National Assembly will hold confirmation hearings on Bank of Korea gubernatorial nominee Rhee Chang-yong days after the central bank raised its benchmark rate by 25 basis points to 1 .5%. The former head of the International Monetary Fund is expected to further tighten the country’s monetary policy as inflation hit a 10-year high in March.
Second round of the presidential election in East Timor
East Timor is set for a second round of the presidential election after Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta failed to win more than 50% of the vote in the first round despite a sizable lead over incumbent President Francisco “Lu Olo Guterres.
The Boao Forum, a symposium inspired by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, holds its annual meeting in Sanya, in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan. Among the items on the agenda is a discussion of pilot programs for China’s free trade areas based on the rules of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. China, along with cross-strait rival Taiwan, is awaiting approval to join the multilateral free trade pact.
Meeting of G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors
The Group of 20 will hold a meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in Washington as the war in Ukraine pushes inflation higher, threatening the global economy. Russia is a member of the G-20, but others are divided on whether it should be allowed to participate after invading its western neighbor. This year’s host, Indonesia, said Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov would attend the meeting virtually.
Taipei Auto Shows
Taiwan will host its combined auto shows, the Taipei International Automobile and Motorcycle Parts & Accessories Show and the Taipei International Automotive Electronics Show, in Taipei from Wednesday to Saturday. Tesla parts suppliers Taya Group and KS Terminals are among the exhibitors. Thai oil and gas group PTT, which has teamed up with key iPhone assembler Foxconn to develop an electric car business, will also showcase its products at the event.
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist faces sedition sentence
A Hong Kong court will sentence pro-democracy activist and radio host Tam Tak-chi following his conviction for sedition. The 49-year-old was found guilty last month of making seditious remarks, including a now-banned protest slogan, throughout 2020, and holding an unauthorized rally, denied to obey the Hong Kong police and disorderly conduct.
Tam, who has been in custody for more than a year and a half since his arrest in September 2020, faces up to two years in prison for his crimes of sedition. His sentencing as another blow to the freedom of expression of the city, which was downsized after the enactment of a draconian national security law.
Corporate Earnings: China Telecom, Tesla Q1 Results
Hong Kong eases social controls
Social distancing restrictions are set to ease in the city after nearly four months of strict measures that have forced restaurants and other businesses to close. Public gatherings of up to four people will be allowed and restaurants will be allowed to resume evening dining service. Gyms, theme parks and religious places will also be allowed to reopen. The Hong Kong government has set out a roadmap to lift restrictions that have hurt the local economy. But quarantine restrictions aimed at preventing imported cases will remain in place even as countries around the world and in the region, including rival financial hub Singapore, begin to relax theirs.
The beginnings of Zhihu HKEX
Shares of Chinese Q&A site Zhihu will begin trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange after the company applied for a dual primary listing in the city a year after its $523 million IPO in New York. Zhihu has set the final offer price at HK$32.06 per share and expects to raise approximately HK$833.6 million. Zhihu’s move follows a slew of Chinese companies seeking secondary listings in Hong Kong amid growing scrutiny from US regulators. US shares of Zhihu have fallen more than 80% from their peak of last year.
Business income: Naver (Q1), Nidec (fiscal year 2021)
Inflation data in Japan
Japan will release monthly inflation data for March. The reading will be watched closely after the yen fell to a 20-year low of 126 against the dollar on April 13. The latest Consumer Price Index data will reveal how the food and energy price hikes, which stem in part from the weak yen, have hit homes across the country.