Blair on Brexit, Taiwan; Bayer Won’t Split: NEF Update
(Bloomberg) -- Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair plans to propose a solution to Britain’s standoff with the EU over Northern Ireland, and warned of the risks of a U.S.-China conflict over Taiwan on the second day of the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore.
Blair’s remarks show the intense focus on China-U.S. ties at the forum, which started Wednesday with a pledge by Vice President Wang Qishan to continue to open the economy and saw U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo criticize China over trade. Many in the U.S. see Beijing as “a serious problem” while many Chinese believe Americans want to “stop their emergence,” Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an interview.
Thursday has seen Bayer AG rule out breaking itself up, Bill Gates speak on the lessons of the pandemic, and HSBC Holdings Plc Chief Executive Officer Noel Quinn say why he won’t visit Hong Kong. Denmark criticized the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, drug firms pushed back at efforts to make them waive IP on Covid-19 treatments, and Cargill Inc. said labor shortages will keep food prices high.
Banks Push for Public Funds for Climate (5:40 p.m. H.K.)
Governments need to put up public funds and set clear ground rules to back private capital in financing the transition to a zero-carbon future, the heads of HSBC and Macquarie Group said.
A lot of capital has been committed, but the “challenge” is converting that into solutions, particularly in emerging markets, said Macquarie’s Shemara Wikramanayake, whose bank has a long track record in infrastructure.
HSBC CEO Noel Quinn noted it took roughly 25 years to reduce the cost of solar and wind power, and the world can’t afford to wait that long with technologies like hydrogen.
“Now the question is does that get passed on to the consumers or does the government step in and try to perform some subsidy to mitigate that early unit cost,” Quinn said at the forum.
Blair’s Advice on Ireland, Taiwan (4:30 p.m. H.K.)
Blair, an architect of Northern Ireland’s Good Friday accord, waded into a dispute which has seen the U.K. threaten to suspend parts of the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, a key part of its Brexit deal with the EU.
“They signed it and now they want out of it,” Blair told Bloomberg Television. “My institute will publish a paper in the next couple of days, setting out a series of practical steps that we believe could resolve this issue.”
On Taiwan, “it’s important that we understand what China’s position is in relation to Taiwan, how deep this ‘One China’ policy is,” Blair said. “They have to understand that Taiwan is not the same as Hong Kong. And there are very strong views on this in the West.”
Blair said a problem with dealing with Beijing is that “no one quite knows what China really wants to achieve,” and whether they are only seeking to develop their own nation or to achieve “supremacy” over the west.
Chinese Public Credited in Pollution Fight (4:15 p.m. H.K.)
The Chinese public has played a role in pushing its government to take steps to address pollution problems, said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing.
“I’m very happy to see in more recent years China has changed its policies,” he said at the forum. “Much of that is also in response to the public demand for clean air and clean water. We all know 10 years ago Beijing and the big surrounding region suffered from long stretches of smoggy days. People made their voices heard and the government responded with a decision to monitor and disclose PM2.5 and ozone.”
But more needs to be done, he said. “Our air quality needs to be continuously improved and then we also have new challenges on the global level with climate change, biodiversity laws and oceans plastics.”
Singapore Designer’s Post-Covid Advice (3:50 p.m. H.K.)
The New Economy Forum is being held in Singapore, which in little more than half a century has gone from backwater to first-world financial center. Much of its physical transformation is credited to Liu Thai Ker, founding chairman of Morrow Architects & Planners, who oversaw the successful development of half a million housing units.
“We have to plan a city as a permanent creation and therefore I am very worried about the very popular trend of thinking, to say, well how do we change,” he said, referring to the pandemic as only one of “dozens and dozens” of considerations in city planning. “You must understand the basic need of your people, the basic need of the land, and whatever you build will last for centuries so that you don’t waste the energy and resources to put them down.”
Biggest Japan Bitcoin Echange Weighs Deal (3:40 p.m. H.K.)
bitFlyer Inc. may buy a small domestic or foreign rival to boost its business, co-founder Yuzo Kano said in an interview at the forum, declining to name a target. Kano is targetting a 10% share of the cryptocurrency market in the U.S., though that may be “really difficult” given Coinbase Global Inc.’s dominance there.
“We are thinking of acquiring a small exchange because we are not super big,” the 45-year-old said. “It could be in Japan or in a different country.”
ADB Calls for Fast Move From Coal (3:30 p.m. H.K.)
An Asian Development Bank official said fast, creative solutions are needed to transition away from coal as he responded to criticism from non-governmental organizations.
The problem of coal-fired power is likely “one of the biggest problems on earth” as the fuel is a “powerful incumbent”, Ahmed Saeed, a vice president at the Manila-based institution said.
A proposal by the development bank to buy and phase out coal-fired power plants in Asia is “shrouded in uncertainty,” according to groups including the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development.
Bayer Won’t Break Up as GE, J&J Split (3:10 p.m. H.K.)
Bayer AG will continue to run its three main business units under one roof, even as investor interest in the potential for splits among large diversified companies has intensified.
“We are going to continue the course, which is developing our company along the three pillars that we have -- pharmaceuticals, crop science and consumer health,” CEO Werner Baumann told Bloomberg Television. The decision was made by the German company’s board of management and endorsed by the supervisory board, he said after being asked about a possible breakup.
Johnson & Johnson last week announced it would split its pharmaceutical and consumer health care units into two separately traded companies, and General Electric Co. said it would break into three pieces days earlier.
Cargill Sees Food Prices Staying High (3 p.m. H.K.)
Food prices will likely stay elevated in 2022 as disruptions to the global supply chain persist, according to Cargill Inc. CEO David MacLennan said, citing labor shortages.
“I thought inflation in ags and food was transitory. I feel less so now because of continued shortages in labor markets,” MacLennan said in an interview at the forum. “That’s one of the inputs to the supply chain that we’re watching most carefully.”
Denmark Criticizes Nord Stream 2 Project (2:45 p.m. H.K.)
Gazprom PJSC’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was this week hit by another delay, may offer a short-term remedy to Europe’s energy crisis but isn’t the “long-term answer”, Dan Jorgensen, Denmark’s minister for climate, energy and utilities, told Bloomberg Television.
“It might help be a remedy in the short term if it starts working, but we need a future that’s less dependent on gas and any fuel from countries outside Europe,” he said.
Egypt Wants Standard ESG Metrics (1:30 p.m. H.K.)
Rania Al-Mashat, Egypt’s minister for international cooperation, called for progress in setting standards for entities involved in ESG projects.
“Everybody talks about ESG but we don’t have a standardized metric for ESG for the private sector,”said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “That needs to come into place so they see that if they are doing projects in Africa it’s similar to doing projects in other places.”
Don’t Build Bias Into Gene Therapies (1:40 p.m. H.K.)
Gene-based therapies could skew to a subset of the global population unless businesses and governments collect enough gene data from more backgrounds and communities, said Francis deSouza, CEO of Illumina Inc.
“Over 70% of the genomes we have today are Caucasian genomes. What that means is, as we’re developing therapies, we’re developing therapies that are more attuned to Caucasian genomes,” deSouza said on Thursday at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore. “And unless we distribute this more globally, we’re systemically building that bias into our medicine for the future.”
Bayer Sees Labor Costs Rising in 2022 (1:00 p.m. H.K.)
Labor costs are set to rise as global drug companies grapple with supply chains, Bayer AG CEO Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann said.
“We’ve seen there’s quite a bit of cost pressure that has come to us, driven by the fact that supply chains have not been as stable as they used to be pre the crisis,” he told Bloomberg Television. “We’ve seen very low, single digit increases over the last few years, I think it’s going to be a little bit higher.”
Waiving Drug IP Rights May Be Mistake (12:50 p.m. H.K.)
Two drugmakers warned that a push to waive intellectual property rights for firms involved with treating Covid-19 could limit the response to a future pandemic.
Rachel Haurwitz, president and chief executive officer of Caribou Biosciences, said companies like hers “don’t exist without IP. It’s critical to us being able to raise capital to then take on the risk of developing these new kinds of therapies.”
Global firms are on track to deliver billions of vaccines for Covid next year, and “that’s based on there being free enterprise companies with IP that have the money to invest in plants,” Roche Pharmaceuticals Chief Executive Officer Bill Anderson said.
Advocates for the waiver of patent rights for Covid-19 treatments say it will speed the production of vaccines and help poorer nations tackle the pandemic.
Soaring Food Costs Are Warning to the World (12:10 p.m. H.K.)
Soaring food costs and unprecedented shocks in the global supply chain show the world must focus on building more resilient food systems, Gro Intelligence chief executive officer Sara Menker told Bloomberg Television in an interview at the forum.
The inextricable relationship between agriculture and climate change -- recently spotlighted at COP26 -- too often focuses on the sector’s carbon emissions, not on vulnerabilities in the food chain that will be most exposed to global warming, she said. As climate change hits agriculture, countries are responding to scarcities by enforcing export curbs, restricting access for net-importing countries.
“Hunger, to me, is ultimately a political will issue. And it is a global political will issue,” Menker said. “I don’t think it’s a question of whether the world can feed itself -- it’s whether we have a system that can function appropriately for food to move from point A to point B.”
Pandemic Testing Limits of Regulators (noon H.K.)
Roche Pharmaceuticals CEO Bill Anderson said the pace of approvals for Covid-19 diagnostic tests has been limited by the large number of applicants relative to staff qualified to review them.
“I think the pandemic has tested the limits of the regulatory bodies who approve things because of just the number of things that have been coming at them,” Anderson said at the forum when asked why it was so difficult to get rapid Covid-19 diagnostic tests in the U.S. as compared to Europe.
Senator Pushes Australia to Support Journalism (11:55 a.m.)
Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said in a panel that her country has “one of the least diverse media landscapes in the world” due to the dominance of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. “As a result of that, a big part of the population don’t trust what is printed in the daily newspapers,” she said, calling for investment in public-interest journalism.
On the same panel, Li Xin, vice president of Beijing-based Caixin Media, said media outlets should use social media platforms more to get their messages out. She added that when people paid for subscriptions to news organizations they showed trust, and that Caixin has “more than 700,000 people trusting us.”
Gates Says Covid Deaths to Decline (10:40 a.m. H.K.)
Covid deaths and infection rates may dip below seasonal flu levels by the middle of next year, as long as new dangerous variants don’t emerge in the meantime, Bill Gates said.
Between natural and vaccine immunity and emerging oral treatments, “the death rate and the disease rate ought to be coming down pretty dramatically,” he said. “The vaccines are very good news, and the supply constraints will be largely solved as we get out in the middle of next year, and so we’ll be limited by the logistics and the demand.”
HSBC Backs Hong Kong Opening Plan (10:20 a.m. H.K.)
HSBC CEO Quinn said he currently has no plans to visit Hong Kong, which has a strict but widely criticized quarantine policy, defending the city’s efforts to focus its post-pandemic reopening on China.
“It’s important for Hong Kong to establish what they need to establish with China on reopening,” he said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “I don’t want to do anything that may jeopardize that. I would love to get back to Hong Kong as soon as I can, and when the authorities feel it’s right for me to go back, I will.”
Quinn’s decision to refrain from another visit comes even as his counterpart at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Jamie Dimon, touched down in Hong Kong this week after getting a quarantine exemption. Quinn said he visited Hong Kong late last year, spending two weeks in quarantine.
Mastercard to Build Amazon Links (9:50 a.m. H.K.)
Mastercard Inc. will continue to develop its relationship with Amazon, vice chairman and president of strategic growth Michael Froman said in a television interview at the forum.
Bloomberg reported earlier that Amazon may shift its popular co-brand credit card to Mastercard amid simmering tensions with Visa Inc., a feud that already prompted the retailer to ban the cards in the U.K. starting next year.
“We’ve had a long-standing, good relationship with Amazon,” Froman said. “I’ve nothing to comment on the particular conversations going on right now.”
Paulson Urges Yellen to Maintain China Dialogue (8:55 a.m. H.K.)
The U.S. and Chinese economies need mechanisms to avoid even a partial decoupling that would lead to a crisis, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said, adding the world is headed for a “very dangerous place” if Washington and Beijing are unable to stabilize their relationship.
“Wholesale financial decoupling is impossible, and partial decoupling is likely to make the United States, China and the world more susceptible to financial crises,” he said.
“We need my friend and successor, Secretary Janet Yellen, to continue her communication with Vice Premier Liu He aimed toward transparency, greater harmonization, and coordination of financial regulations and accounting principles.”
Singapore’s Lee Warns of War Risks in Taiwan (8 a.m. H.K.)
Tensions over Taiwan risk leading to a miscalculation between the U.S. and China as both nations step up activity around the island, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said late Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait.
“We should be concerned,” Lee said. “I don’t think it’s going to war overnight, but it is in a situation where you can have a mishap or a miscalculation and be in a very delicate situation.”
Track the Bloomberg New Economy Forum (7:30 a.m. H.K.)
Today’s forum started at 8:30 a.m. Singapore (7:30 p.m. New York), and speeches and panels are broadcast live. You can sign up for our New Economy Daily newsletter here. The New Economy Forum is being organized by Bloomberg Media Group, a division of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.