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Weekly News Roundup: Preparing for Brexit, Corporate Tax Changes

British companies hoard like it’s 1939

British companies are stockpiling imported ingredients, materials, and packaging as they prepare for a no-deal Brexit. In March, UK-based companies hoarded raw materials and components at the fastest pace of any industrialized nation, according to a survey of manufacturers published by IHS Markit. Last month, stocks of finished goods in Britain rose at the fastest pace on record, as factories churned out extra products to meet a surge in demand from customers worried about possible Brexit disruption. Economists have warned that all the stockpiling could take a toll on the wider economy even if there is a smooth UK exit from the European Union. Cash tied up in inventory means there is less money available to invest in new equipment or on hiring, potentially squeezing growth.


Swiss may approve corporate tax change

About 62 percent of voters in Switzerland appear set to approve a shake-up of the country's corporate tax system, according to a Tamedia poll. The vote, scheduled for 19 May, will occur under Switzerland's system of direct democracy. The overhaul is needed to head off what Switzerland's finance minister, Ueli Maurer, called an existential threat to Switzerland’s role as a business hub. Two years ago voters rejected an attempt to overhaul the tax system, which critics argue gives the country an unfair advantage in attracting global companies.


Canada's diamond mines are in trouble

Diamond mining in Canada began only 20 years ago, but the industry is already struggling. Two mines, Ekati and Diavik, located 210 kilometres (130 miles) south of the Arctic Circle, are running out of diamonds and will likely close soon. The mines that were designed to replace them aren't faring well either. De Beers, the London-based diamond giant, has already flooded one of its huge Canadian mines; the other, Gahcho Kue, took 21 years to reach production and is now turning out stones worth less than it hoped. All but one operating mine in Canada produced diamonds that fetch less than US$100 a carat. Although Canada is now the world's third-biggest diamond producer, behind Russia and Botswana, its average selling price is the cheapest of the major diamond mining countries. Some Canadian producers are seeking to change strategy and focus on bigger, more valuable stones.


Indonesia blocks EU spirits

SpiritsEurope, which represents major European spirits makers and national associations, said members with business in Indonesia are suffering delays in securing approvals to import EU products into the country. Spirits makers found that non-EU products were obtaining approval, but EU-origin products were not. In Jakarta, a trade ministry official confirmed there were some delays in granting import licenses for spirits from Europe, reports Reuters. However, Karyanto Suprih, the ministry's secretary general, denied that it was in retaliation for the EU plan to phase out palm oil use in renewable fuels.  In March, the European Commission decided that palm oil cultivation in general results in excessive deforestation, setting the bloc on a collision course with major producers Malaysia and Indonesia.


Australia passes new social media law

Australia's Parliament has passed legislation that could imprison social media executives if their platforms stream real violence. The bill was introduced in response to the March 15 attacks in Christchurch in which an Australian white supremacist apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast his attacks live on Facebook. The law criminalizes executives of social media platforms that do not remove “abhorrent violent material” quickly. The crime would be punishable by three years in prison and a fine of AU$10.5 million, or 10 percent of the platform's annual turnover, whichever is larger.


Chinese companies have leaked hundreds of millions of resumes

In the same week that Facebook disclosed that it had exposed hundreds of millions of user records, Chinese companies revealed that in the first three months of 2019, they had leaked 590 million resumes. Most of the resume leaks occurred because of poorly secured MongoDB databases and ElasticSearch servers that had been left exposed online without a password, or ended up online following unexpected firewall errors. Sanyam Jain, a security researcher and a member of the GDI Foundation, discovered and reported seven such cases in the past month alone. His discoveries included an ElasticSearch server containing resumes for 33 million Chinese users that he found in mid-March.

About the Author

Wendy R. Leibowitz is a freelance contributor. Her work has appeared in the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, and Chronicle of Higher Education.

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