Connect with us

Emerging Markets

China rolls out experimental Covid vaccine as it eyes global market

Published

on


Beijing is set to expand a programme that administers experimental coronavirus vaccines as Chinese developers chart a risky path to dominating global supplies.

In a surprise announcement last month, a representative from state-owned China National Biotec Group, or Sinopharm, revealed that hundreds of thousands of Chinese had already taken the company’s two leading experimental Covid-19 vaccines.

The drugs were dispensed as part of a limited use programme that began with little fanfare by the Chinese government in July. The vaccines were administered even though final stage, or phase 3, trials designed to confirm overall effectiveness had not been completed.

Details of the programme’s scope remain unclear, but government statements suggest use was originally restricted to frontline health workers and state employees travelling overseas to high-risk areas, including to work on projects along China’s Belt and Road infrastructure investment scheme. 

The programme now appears to be expanding to include large portions of the population, in what experts said was a high-risk strategy for vaccine developers to distribute and test products before they hit global markets.

Health authorities in one Chinese province have asked enterprises and government departments to gather details of employees willing to receive emergency use vaccines ahead of winter, according to a government notice issued last month seen by the Financial Times.

Apart from health workers and other target groups “guaranteed” to get vaccines, the document, which has not been made public, also had a long list of additional “target suggested recipients”.

Included among the recipients were transport workers, people travelling to countries with high Covid-19 infection rates, frozen food logistics workers, staff in supermarkets or other enclosed spaces, and employees of schools, orphanages, jails and elderly care homes.

After the vaccine was administered, tests for “adverse events following immunisation” should be conducted.

When Qin Xin, an employee at a state-owned financial institution, saw the offer to receive a Covid-19 vaccine in her work WeChat group, she assumed the message had been sent in error.

“I didn’t think about it much, just thought that sooner or later I would have to be inoculated,” she told Guancha.cn, a popular online media outlet. 

Ms Qin said she had felt an “inexplicable” heat on the first night but returned to normal by the second day after taking the shot. “I think that if the nation is willing to let normal people take it, then the side effects can’t be all that bad.”

Chinese health officials have defended their decision to distribute the vaccine, saying the move was sanctioned by the World Health Organization.

But the scale and opacity of China’s programme have raised safety and ethical concerns from medical experts, especially given China’s claims that it had halted almost entirely transmission of the virus within its borders.

Arthur Caplan, professor of Bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, said China appeared to be acting irresponsibly by stretching the definition of emergency use beyond previous applications.

Historically, approval for emergency use was given for vaccines that had a record, perhaps in other countries, and was used on a focused population, such as a college campus, during an emergency with imminent deaths.

China’s approach, according to Mr Caplan, was closer to “throwing something up against the wall to see what sticks”.

“We need to go quickly, but there is no point in going so quickly that we can’t answer basic questions about safety and efficacy,” he said.

Jerome Kim, director-general of the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul, said the overall risks for the programme would hinge on whether high standards of consent, data collection and follow-up testing were applied. The drug companies have not made those details public. 

“If you are sending workers off to, say, Africa how would you know if they have a side effect outside of China?” he asked. 

Last month, during a government-organised tour of Sinovac, chief executive Yin Weidong said the company had provided tens of thousands of doses of its vaccine to the Beijing government for emergency use. 

Sinovac and Sinopharm — along with CanSino Biologics, which has developed a common cold virus-vectored vaccine with China’s military — are the country’s best contenders to corner a portion of the vast global demand for immunising shots designed to slow the spread of Sar-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. The disease has killed more than 1m people worldwide.

This month, the United Arab Emirates became the first foreign country to approve a Chinese vaccine from Sinopharm for limited use. 

Latest coronavirus news

Follow FT’s live coverage and analysis of the global pandemic and the rapidly evolving economic crisis here.

Owing to the lack of positive cases in China, its vaccine developers have been forced to carry out phase 3 trials overseas and some of these agreements include pledges to distribute vaccines in the host country. Sinovac, for example, has promised to supply 40m vaccines to Indonesia by March 2021. 

China’s health officials reckon the country will be able to produce more than 600m doses of vaccines by the end of this year and 1bn by the end of next year.

Mr Yin told reporters that Sinovac had begun developing its drug with a strategy “designed for China”. But after the country controlled the spread of the virus, its goal became “to provide the vaccine to the world”.

Are you under 30? 

We are exploring the impact of the pandemic on young people and want to hear from readers between 16 and 30. Tell us about your experiences from the past six months via a short survey.



Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Emerging Markets

Pakistan’s finance minister ousted in surprise defeat for Imran Khan

Published

on

By


Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan suffered a major political setback on Wednesday, when his finance minister was defeated in a contest for a seat in the country’s senate.

Khan must now appoint a successor to the cabinet post by June 11 under Pakistani law. The surprise defeat of finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, a respected economist and former world bank official who led the country’s negotiations with the IMF for a $6bn loan, comes amid an escalating campaign by main opposition parties to have the prime minister removed from office.

Elected officials vote to fill vacated seats in the senate every three years. Following the result, the government announced it would “take a vote of confidence in parliament” to prove that the prime minister retained a majority of support.

Business leaders have warned that Shaikh’s departure creates uncertainty over the future of Pakistan’s fiscal policies as the country battles the pandemic’s fallout on the economy.

“Right now, it was essential to give a message of confidence to a range of stake holders within and outside Pakistan on the state of our economy. Now, people will be left asking questions,” the president of a private Pakistani bank told the Financial Times.

An 11-party opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), has accused Khan of using the powerful military to tip the 2018 election result in his favour — which leaders from the prime minister’s party have denied — and for failing to revive the moribund economy.

The PDM has announced a March 26 deadline for Khan to step down or face widespread opposition protests.

Though some opposition leaders have said they plan to follow up Wednesday’s defeat with a vote of no confidence against Khan, analysts said it was too early to predict his downfall ahead of the end of his five-year term in 2023.

“It’s a major upset for Imran Khan and his PTI (Pakistan Justice Party),” said Huma Baqai, a political commentator at the University of Karachi. “The government from hereon will face further pressure as the opposition continues to step up its campaign.”

The vote count suggested a break in Khan’s PTI party, with as many as 16 party members either voting for the finance minister’s opponent, former prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, or spoiling their ballots.

Shaikh’s defeat “will not automatically lead to the prime minister’s downfall. Some PTI members clearly changed sides [for this vote]. But it will be much harder for them to agree to removing the prime minister,” an opposition leader told the FT.

Faisal Javed, a PTI leader, claimed some representatives had been bribed by the opposition. “There has been a major corruption. There has been horse-trading. People have been sold,” he told the local ARY news channel on Wednesday. Opposition leaders have denied this.

The electoral college for the senate consists of members from legislatures of Pakistan’s four provinces as well as the lower house of parliament in Islamabad known as the national assembly.



Source link

Continue Reading

Emerging Markets

Australia’s treasurer warns global stimulus threatens financial stability

Published

on

By


Australia has warned that unprecedented global stimulus efforts during the coronavirus pandemic are creating financial stability risks that will only intensify when interest rates inevitably rise.

Canberra has also defended tough new foreign investment rules that have led to a collapse in Chinese investment, arguing the number of proposed deals motivated by strategic, rather than purely commercial gain, was increasing.

Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s treasurer, said the Pacific nation was in a strong economic position as its net debt to gross domestic product was about half that of other advanced economies, even as it begins unwinding fiscal stimulus.

“There is no doubt elevated debt levels will create challenges for many countries. While global interest rates are low those debt levels can be serviceable — but there will be a time when the monetary policy settings change,” he told the Financial Times.

Frydenberg’s comments on the risks posed by global stimulus followed a similar warning delivered last week by Peter Costello, a close political ally and former Australia treasurer.

Australia will be among the first advanced economies to taper off Covid-19 fiscal stimulus with the closure of its A$90bn (US$70bn) JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme this month.

Canberra has argued that the recovery is already under way, citing a fall in unemployment to 6.4 per cent in January and a 3.3 per cent economic expansion in the three months to September last year.

Frydenberg, who counts Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan among his role models, said the government’s A$250bn stimulus was required to stabilise the economy during the pandemic. But he said JobKeeper, which supported 3.6m workers at its peak, was no longer needed as the recovery could be supported by tax cuts, which were announced last year.

Asked if he thought the economic policies of Thatcher and Reagan were still relevant, he said: “[Reagan and Thatcher] achieved a lot when they were in office and they were committed to lower taxes. They were committed to cutting regulation and that’s certainly what I’ve been committed to as well.”

But trade unions and businesses that are still suffering as a result of border closures and restrictions, particularly in the tourism and entertainment sectors, have warned that the scheme’s closure will dent the economy.

“JobKeeper should be extended for those businesses that are still affected by coronavirus. [Through] no fault of their own, they are suffering that downturn,” said Sally McManus, secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, last week. “And we say that because that will save jobs.”

Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s treasurer, is a rising star in the country’s conservative government and is tipped as a future prime minister © AP

Frydenberg, who was the architect of foreign investment rules aimed at countering rising Chinese influence, said he made no apologies for putting “national interest” at the heart of Australia’s investment policies.

Chinese investment fell 61 per cent last year to A$1bn, down from A$2.6bn in 2019 and a peak in 2016 of A$16.5bn, data showed. Frydenberg was instrumental in blocking two potential deals: China Mengniu’s A$600m bid for Japan-owned Lion Dairy and China State Construction Engineering Corp’s A$300m bid for Probuild, a South Africa-owned construction company.

“We absolutely reserve the right to make decisions around foreign investment based on national interest and having put in place an explicit national security test allows us to do that,” he said.

“Increasingly we’ve seen foreign investment proposals that have been motivated not by purely commercial gains but more strategic ones. When those foreign investment proposals potentially compromise the national interest, then we reserve the right to say no.”

Frydenberg said Australia was not alone in tightening its rules, noting that other countries shared Canberra’s views on national sovereignty and foreign investment.

“Obviously we have had some challenges with China,” he said when asked about Beijing’s imposition of trade sanctions on a range of Australia’s exports following Canberra’s call last year for an inquiry into the origins of Covid-19 in Wuhan.

Frydenberg insisted that Australian ministers were prepared to sit down with their Chinese counterparts to discuss the bilateral relationship but only on a “no conditions attached” basis.

“It is a mutually beneficial trading relationship — we supply the bulk of their iron ore and that iron ore has helped underpin their economic growth,” he said.

Frydenberg is a rising star in Australia’s conservative government and is tipped as a future prime minister.

Last week, he shot to global attention following several days of negotiation with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg over the social media company’s decision to block news on its platforms in Australia in response to a law forcing it to pay news publishers.

On Friday, Facebook “refriended Australia” and returned news to its Australian platform following amendments that may make it easier for the company to avoid the toughest elements of the law.

“Trying to negotiate with these guys is a bit like playing chess against a chess master,” said Frydenberg, who joked that he spoke to Zuckerberg more than his own wife last week.

“The reality is they are massive companies with huge balance sheets and global reach. If this was easy other countries would have done it [made Big Tech pay for news] long ago.” 



Source link

Continue Reading

Emerging Markets

Ecuador’s exporters caught between US and China after debt deal

Published

on

By


Exporters in Ecuador are worried that their all-important trade with China will suffer as a result of a controversial agreement the US says is aimed at shutting China out of the South American country’s 5G telecoms network.

The agreement, signed by the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and the Ecuadorean government just days before Donald Trump left office in January, envisages the US buying oil and infrastructure assets in Ecuador on the understanding Quito uses the proceeds to pay off its debt to China.

It also obliges Ecuador to sign up to what the Trump administration called the “Clean Network” — a state department initiative designed to ensure that nations exclude Chinese telecoms services and equipment providers as they build out their high-speed 5G mobile networks.

Adam Boehler, the recently departed chief executive of DFC, has described the deal as a “novel model” to eject China from the Latin American nation.

But it has caused unease in Ecuador, which has become increasingly reliant on exports to China.

“The announcement has generated a lot of inquiries and a lot of doubts,” said Gustavo Cáceres, head of the Ecuadorean-China Chamber of Commerce (CCECH). “We hope our authorities handle this in the best way possible so as not to give the impression that we’re turning our backs on China.”

One of the smallest countries in South America, Ecuador has traditionally exported primarily to the US and Europe, but China is fast catching up. Its share of Ecuador’s exports jumped from 3.9 per cent in 2015 to 15.8 per cent. In the same period, the US’s share fell from 39.4 per cent to 23.7 per cent.

The Chinese buy oil, shrimp, bananas, cut flowers, cacao and timber from Ecuador. Last year, despite the coronavirus pandemic, Ecuador’s exports to China grew more than 10 per cent and, for the first time, the country boasted a trade surplus with Beijing.

The shrimp industry has become particularly important. Since 2016, Ecuador’s shrimp exports worldwide have jumped 86 per cent. The nation of just 17.4m people is now the largest exporter of shrimp in the world, having overtaken India last year, when it exported 676,000 metric tonnes of the crustaceans in trade worth $3.6bn. After oil, shrimp were the country’s most lucrative export commodity.

Over half of that went to China, which, with its expanding middle class, is acquiring a taste for seafood once seen as a luxury.

“China will remain our main market,” forecast José Antonio Camposano, president of Ecuador’s National Chamber of Aquaculture (CNA), which oversees the industry. “We need a smart approach to China. A market of 1.4bn people with the acquisitive power that the Chinese have? I’m a businessman, how can I say no to that?”

The CNA was sufficiently worried by Ecuador’s agreement with the US that it sent a three-page letter to Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno reminding him of China’s buying power.

While the letter did not mention the DFC deal directly, it urged Moreno — who in his four years in power has shifted Ecuador’s axis away from Beijing and towards Washington, reviving relations with the IMF and renegotiating the country’s debt to bondholders — “to reinforce with senior Chinese leaders the point that the excellent relationship between Ecuador and China remains intact”.

Freshly caught shrimp being packed into containers in Ecuador in 2011
Ecuador’s shrimp industry has fed a growing appetite among China’s expanding middle class © Bloomberg

China’s ambassador to Ecuador, Chen Guoyou, said he was unconcerned by the DFC deal and described media reports that it excluded Chinese companies from Ecuador’s telecoms network as “over-interpretation and gratuitous assumption”.

“China respects the sovereign and independent decision of the Ecuadorean government to develop pragmatic, balanced and diverse partnerships with other countries,” he told the Financial Times in an email.

Responding to his comments, one of the former Trump administration officials who negotiated the deal said it had been made explicitly clear in the text that the agreement was contingent on the country participating in the “Clean Network” — which would prevent it from including Huawei or any other Chinese company in its telecoms network.

The future of the deal, and indeed Ecuador’s future relations with China and the US, will depend in part on the outcome of the country’s presidential election on April 11. It pits leftwing economist Andrés Arauz against Guillermo Lasso, a conservative former banker. 

Arauz has the backing of Rafael Correa who took Ecuador out of the US’s orbit and pushed it towards China while serving as president from 2007 until 2017. He broke off relations with Washington’s financial institutions and signed a series of loans-for-oil deals with the Chinese. If Arauz wins the election he is likely to seek support from Beijing and might rip up the DFC agreement, particularly now Trump is no longer in office.

In contrast, Lasso told the FT previously the deal was “a pleasant surprise” and “good news” for Ecuador.

“It’s clear that the US is our principal ally and in my government I would look for an even closer alliance with the US,” he said.



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending