Around the World July 8, 2001

PHOTO/james MacPherson/AJOC
aroundworld.jpg STATE

Closed Marketplaces available to nongrocers

ANCHORAGE -- The state has cleared the way for nongrocers to move into two former Alaska Marketplace locations in the Dimond Center and at Northern Lights Boulevard and Minnesota Drive now that certain conditions have been met.

Since companies like Kmart are moving into the grocery business in the state, concerns about Safeway’s dominance of the grocery market have lessened, the state argued in a recent court filing. Second, Northwest Retail Ventures satisfied the state that it could not find a grocer interested in either location. Third, nongrocer retailers have expressed an interest in the properties. Add it all up, and the state decided it made sense to open the locations to other kinds of business, and the court agreed this month.


Drag that privacy notice out of the trash

WASHINGTON -- Many Americans greeted the billion-plus "privacy notices’’ in the mail recently with a hook shot into the trash can. That action may become a collective mistake.

It turns out those fine-print-filled envelope-stuffers weren’t your typical junk mail.

They give people a say in how far companies can spread around a mountain of personal information -- everything from monthly income and Social Security numbers to credit card spending habits and account balances.

Under federal law, Sunday is the deadline for banks, credit unions, insurance companies, mortgage providers, brokerage houses and other businesses that collect personal financial information to mail out notices telling people how they handle it. And if companies want to sell that personal information to nonaffiliated businesses, they have to give consumers a chance to say no -- known as "opting out.’’

Buried in the fine print, many of the notices offer toll-free numbers to call or forms to mail back that give consumers a limited right to block release of their information. Consumers are under no deadline and can opt out at any time.

Economy grows 1.6%, is likely to slow further

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. economy barely inched forward in the first three months of the year, and President Bush’s chief economist said that growth in the current quarter was likely even worse.

The Commerce Department reported June 29 that gross domestic product -- the country’s total output of goods and services -- grew at an annual rate of 1.2 percent from January to March, slightly slower than the government previously thought.

Lawrence Lindsey said he believed the economy was growing at an even weaker 0.6 percent rate in the current April-June quarter, based on his review of economic data that has been released so far.

That view is in line with many private economists, who have put growth at around 0.5 percent for the second quarter.


WTO tosses Canada’s lumber trade complaint

GENEVA -- The World Trade Organization on June 29 rejected Canadian claims that the United States was breaking international trade rules in a dispute linked to the huge North American lumber industry.

Canada imposes a total ban on exports of raw logs, which U.S. producers say leads to a glut of lumber domestically and a fall in the cost of items made from logs, such as boards.

The U.S. producers claim that the export ban is therefore a hidden government subsidy to the Canadian wood industry. They are also concerned that Canada’s "stumpage’’ system for licensing lumber cutting on provincial land -- which often takes into account social and environmental policy, not just market rates -- is unfair.

WTO rules allow member states to impose additional import duties if lower-priced subsidized imports are damaging their own producers.

Canada denies that its export ban is a subsidy. Although the United States has never used the administrative action provision, Ottawa took the case to the WTO to pre-empt any future use.

Putin governmnet gains control of gas company

MOSCOW -- The Kremlin strengthened its control over the world’s biggest gas company June 29, gaining a majority of seats on the board of Gazprom in a change investors hope heralds the broad reforms President Vladimir Putin has promised for Russia’s economy.

Gazprom, which is Russia’s biggest taxpayer and supplies more than a quarter of Europe’s gas, is seen as epitomizing the power a few tycoons and companies have held over Russia’s economy in the past decade.

Although the government owns 38 percent of Gazprom shares, the company has resisted attempts to clear up questions about its finances and relationships to other companies.

Putin has sought to change that, and his efforts are seen as a test case for reforming several huge Russian conglomerates accused of murky financial dealings.

Compiled from business wire services.

07/09/2001 - 8:00pm