Global Business Daily: Germany's fiscal impasse, French opening, Facebook's 'virtual walkout'
Patrick Atack in London
"It will take a long time and probably will not end today."
That's the analysis of Social Democrats co-leader Norbert Walter-Borjans, speaking at the beginning of talks in Germany on a massive fiscal stimulus package between his party and Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU bloc, which co-govern.
So far, it seems he's right. The fiscal package is separate from the $837 billion rescue deal and is formulated of schemes such as car purchase help – and whether that can include petrol or diesel cars is a bone of contention between the parties.
Next door in France, cafes, restaurants, and much of the hospitality industry, are open again after an enforced 11-week break – but patrons are still not allowed inside and social-distancing measures have led to extended terraces, so businesses can ramp up trade.
Despite this gradual reopening, France's finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, poured cold water on any hope of an economic resurgence, warning the latest government number crunching has predicted an 11 percent hit to the country's GDP this year from the fallout of the pandemic and lockdown measures.
Happy reading, Patrick Atack
Digital business correspondent
P.S. Did you know we send this briefing by email, too?
Germany's ruling coalition parties have postponed a decision on the details of a pandemic stimulus package, with nuances such as whether funding for new cars should include combustion engines or only electric vehicles yet to be ironed out.
A potential breakthrough in a key Brexit roadblock may be in sight, after the CEO of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations pointed to compromise on a "sharing agreement" as a route for a way forward on the contentious area of fishing rights and quotas.
French cafes, bars and restaurants are open again after 11 weeks of lockdown. Such businesses are central to the French economy – and social life – but economic recovery will not be instant, and the hospitality sector will remain under some restrictions.
But speaking today, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said the government expects French GDP to fall by 11 percent this year, due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. "Debt will have to be paid back, but not by raising taxes," he added.
Global and even U.S. stock markets have not been shaken by continued social unrest across more than 100 cities in the U.S.. Markets have continued a recent push, instigated by hopes of a swift recovery from COVID-19.
But stores and businesses with shop fronts across the U.S. are being affected by the protests and riots, with companies such as Adidas, CVS Pharmacy, and Target all closing many stores and hiring more security.
Several hotels in Thailand have been allowed to offer "alternative quarantine" packages for arriving travelers. The luxury option will cost around $1,200 to $1,500 and one example includes "airport transfers, full-board for 15 nights and outdoor walks in the hotel garden." Thailand's airports are mostly closed, but the country has had an influx of Thais living abroad returning home.
Facebook employees have staged "virtual walkouts" and some of the company's top staff expressed public dismay at CEO Mark Zuckerberg's recent statements on free speech and reluctance to take action against misinformation on the platform.
EasyJet said it is hoping to fly three-quarters of its routes by mid-August. Last week, the low-cost airline said it would cut its 337-plane fleet and some staff positions to aid its financial recovery.
The Spanish town of Torrejon has launched an initiative to test its entire 130,000 population for COVID-19 at a cost of about $1.1 million.
Anne-Marie Graham is CEO of UKCISA, the UK Council for International Student Affairs. She spoke to CGTN Europe about the business of international students in a post-COVID world and how the education sector is affected by international politics.
What impact do you think U.S. President Donald Trump's latest move to bar those thousands of graduate and post-grad Chinese students from studying in the country is going to have. What's the global impact going to be?
It's a strange message to send out and interesting timing because at the moment, so many Chinese students, well, so many students globally are making decisions about where to study in the next academic year. So it could be a significant blow to recruitment for U.S. universities, particularly as it runs counter to policies in the other English-speaking countries such as the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
You mention those other countries. Is there opportunity there? Does that mean that universities here in the UK, for example, could use this moment to to offer their study programs instead?
Well, UK universities are already marketing and recruiting courses to Chinese students. Chinese international students make up about 30 percent of the UK's total international student population. And they come to study at universities, colleges, schools as well. So I think it's not really a shift for UK universities, but they may benefit from that decision-making process that Chinese nationals will make in choosing the UK over the U.S.
You mentioned that large cohort of Chinese students in the UK as well as in the US. How reliant are universities globally on those international tuition fees that foreign students pay?
Well, international students form nearly 20 percent of the overall student population, so they're an important contribution, but they are part of a greater piece, as it were. But of course, what we are reliant on international students for is what they do bring to the education community as a whole. So it's not just about tuition fees. It's really important that we continue to welcome international students and they come to continue to study in the UK because they contribute to the overall academic and cultural life on campus for all students. And here in the UK we're lucky because we do have a significant proportion of international students. We do have a range of nationalities represented. And it means that we have a global student community that internationalize the education experience for all.
Let's talk logistics, because travel restrictions and closures of visa centers are a huge challenge for international study programs all around the world. How do you expect those are going to change, post-COVID-19?
What we are seeing is UK and government visa application centers start to reopen on a phased basis from today, actually. And we expect more to open in the weeks ahead. And, obviously, centers will need to follow local restrictions and regulations on social distancing and other measures, which governments are putting in place to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on in their own countries.
But as the infection rate decreases globally, we expect travel restrictions to ease. And the UK and other countries are all taking precautions to mitigate the spread of infection, while ensuring people can work and study safely wherever they're from. So I think it will be different, but I don't think it will be a barrier for us to study internationally.
What's the case for a visa holiday, if you like? Does it change the rules or tweak the rules to get students back into international programs to get the system up and running again?
Well, the UK government has been very clear in publishing its visa extensions and concessions that are currently available. We hope, as a sector that this will be a temporary situation and that we can get back to normal visa business as soon as possible. And as the infection rate decreases, that looks more promising. But I think the UK government has been very clear at every stage and has worked to update its websites about immigration rules and regulations. So I think everything is clear for the students to access.
Hong Kong's retail sales continue to fall for the 15th consecutive month, as COVID-19 has choked demand and battered retailers: