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G20 shows steady rise of Chinese clout and fraying U.S. ties in Latin America

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It took only minutes for Argentine officials to react to the White House’s version of what was said in the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and his G20 host Mauricio Macri: the Americans weren’t reporting the discussion accurately.

It was spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders who had described the bilateral talks in terms sure to annoy China.

“The two leaders reiterated their shared commitment to face regional challenges like Venezuela and predatory Chinese economic activity,” she said.

Well, actually they didn’t, said Argentina.

“That comment wasn’t co-ordinated with the government of Argentina and doesn’t reflect Argentina’s view” said an official. “We value our relationship with China very much.”

Argentina’s foreign minister, Jorge Faurie, chimed in, “It was not discussed in those terms.”

And from Beijing, Argentina’s ambassador, Diego Guelar, told the newspaper La Nacion, “China is an integral strategic partner of Argentina and we’re signing 37 bilateral accords with China covering every area during the state visit of President Xi Jinping.”

Sanders’s version of the meeting “must have been a mistake,” said Guelar.

And with that episode, Argentina’s relations with the U.S. frayed a little more and inched closer to China.

Trump’s indifference was on full display on Friday when he suddenly walked offstage at a G20 event and left Macri alone, visibly perplexed and discomfited, while some in the audience began to laugh.

Rather upset Washington than Beijing

There’s a good reason Argentina’s government appears more concerned about upsetting China than it is about contradicting the White House. China is investing billions of dollars in its economy. And China’s footprint here is growing.

This week, China doubled to $25 billion Cdn a line of credit to help Argentina through the latest round of its perennial financial crisis. That makes China Argentina’s biggest creditor after the International Monetary Fund.

Next week, China is expected to announce that it will construct a new nuclear power station for Argentina at a cost of about $8 billion.

“China is the second-largest economy in the world, soon to be number one, and it is looking to expand its interests, commercial and otherwise, throughout the world,” says Thomas Bernes, a former senior official with both the IMF and the World Bank who was attending the G20 as a fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). “This is similar to what the U.S. has done for decades, including throughout Asia.”

“The TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) was an attempt by the U.S. to build a trade agreement with countries in Asia that excluded China. Countries want to enjoy a productive relationship with both. But the world hasn’t witnessed a time before when two countries were so dominant economically and strategically at the same time. Russia was a strategic competitor but not an economic one.” 

Increasingly, Bernes told CBC, countries may be forced to choose.

“So as the power dynamic changes; how do the U.S. and China, and other countries, find a way to avoid conflict?”

Spreading wealth, buying friends

More and more, the choice is China. Chinese corporations, many with links to the state, are investing heavily, and strategically, across the region. They prefer to put their money into infrastructure, such as ports, and natural resources, such as strategic minerals, as well as energy projects.

In 2015, President Xi Jinping toured Latin America, showering money — and wherever he went, he told Latin American leaders that China was committed to spend $250 billion US in the region by 2025. He invited Latin leaders to a conference in Beijing where he told them China believes its trade with Latin America will reach $500 billion a year over the same period.

That largesse brings two kinds of risks for those who fear that authoritarian China may one day displace democratic America as the heavyweight of the hemisphere. 

The first is that the assets China is buying are creating an infrastructure of power that spans the world. Just as the U.S. once benefited mightily from control of the Panama Canal, China’s growing network of seaports potentially gives it control over the chokepoints of global commerce.

The second is the concessions China is demanding — and receiving — in return for its investments. One example is El Salvador’s decision to end its long-standing recognition of Taiwan in August, ignoring U.S. threats of retaliation, in what looks like a quid pro quo for China’s investment in a new port.

And in Argentina, China’s investments have secured for Beijing what may be its first military presence in the Western hemisphere.

PLA comes to the Andes

In the foothills of the Andes, on 200 hectares of land ceded by Argentina for 50 years, China has built a satellite tracking and monitoring station, which began operating last year. Its antenna is 16 stories high.

China first proposed the project when Argentina was experiencing the economic turmoil of the 2008-09 financial crisis.

“The station is exclusively for scientific and civic purposes, focused on monitoring, control, and data download of China’s interplanetary space missions,” Argentina’s ministry of planning said when the deal came up for ratification in Argentina’s Congress.

And Congress had to take their word for that, because the deal contains a number of secret clauses, but it is striking that the organization that operates the station is fully controlled by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and the antenna is the kind of dual-use technology that other countries use to intercept communications.

In recent years, China’s military has also sought liaison arrangements with some South American nations, and conducted joint exercises with the Brazilian Navy.

U.S. needlessly ceding terrain

Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri is a wealthy businessman who knows Donald Trump from New York days before he ran for president. Macri has been highly critical of his immediate predecessor’s anti-American rhetoric and her tendency to work with countries such as Russia, China, Venezuela and Iran while allowing ties with western democracies to degrade.

Argentina’s president has made his preferences clear, and has offered advantages to U.S. companies to invest in a vast and undeveloped oil and gas reservoir called Vaca Muerta in Patagonia.

In his bilateral meeting with Trump on Friday, Macri spoke at length about Vaca Muerta and encouraged the U.S. president to try to get American companies involved in developing it. Macri’s government is well aware of the dangers of becoming too beholden to China’s predatory lending practices, which have dragged vulnerable countries deep into debt only to extract concessions that can include surrenders of sovereignty.

But Trump showed little interest in Vaca Muerta, according to Argentine media reports.

It’s just one more way that the Trump administration is accelerating the decline of U.S. influence in the region and hastening the rise of China’s.

Soybeans and the byproducts are a leading commodity in Argentina and increasingly the underpinning of its government’s tax revenues. When Trump began his trade war with China, Beijing retaliated by imposing tariffs on U.S. soya and shifting more of its soy purchases to Argentina and Brazil. China is by far the biggest customer for Argentina’s soybeans, deepening the country’s dependence on Beijing.

“As we see between Canada and the U.S., having close economic ties clearly makes you more sensitive to views of the other,” says Bernes.

In stark contrast to China’s strategic nurturing of its influence in Argentina, the Trump administration has been uninterested, disorganized, and increasingly absent. And as U.S. prestige and presence wane, pro-western Macri has had no choice but to turn more to the Chinese. And they have come through for Argentina, ever eager to take on the roles Washington seems to be abandoning.

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Window repair or replacement is the responsibility of the condo corporation

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If the windows in your condo are hazy, drafty, or have rotting frames, it’s an indicator that they need repairs or outright replacement.

However, under the Condominium Act, it is the responsibility of the condo’s board to carry out such changes as a replaced window is a common element.

“Under the Condominium Act, a declaration may alter the maintenance or repair obligations of unit owners and the corporation but cannot make unit owners responsible for repairs to the common elements,” said Gerry Hyman is a former president of the Canadian Condominium Institute and contributor for the Star.

“A declaration for a high-rise condominium invariably provides that the unit boundary is the interior surface of windows. That means that the entire window — whether it is a single pane or a double pane — is a common element. Necessary repairs or replacement of a broken pane is the obligation of the corporation.”

According to Consumer Reports, selecting an installing windows replacement can be very overwhelming for homeowners. Therefore, if you aren’t covered by your condo’s corporation, it would be necessary to hire professional hands.

Wood, vinyl and composite windows need to be tested on how they can withstand various natural elements. For wind resistance, a window can be very tight when it’s warm but get quite cold too—especially when it begins to leak a lot.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line remains that replacement windows can save you heating and cooling costs, but it’s best not to expect drastic savings.

Additionally, while getting a new window might help you save on your electric and gas bills, due to their expensive cost, it may take a long time to offset their cost.

Mid-last-year, the government withdraw a $377 million Green Ontario program that provided subsidy on windows to installers and repairers. Window companies had to install energy-efficient windows in order to qualify for the government subsidy that pays for up to $500 of a $1,000 to $1,500 window.

Due to the largely generous subsidies from the government under the Green Ontario program, a lot of window dealers were fully booked for months—even after the program had ended.

“We’re fine with the program ending, we just need more time to satisfy consumers,” said Jason Neal, the executive director of the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada, the industry group representing window dealers in a report.

According to Neal, the Progressive Conservatives acted hastily, making massive changes with no prior notice.

“No notification was given to us by anyone,” he said, noting he learned about the change through one of his dealers.

“It’s created a ripple effect.If they had just given us notice we would have pushed that down the line from the manufacturer right into the dealer right down to the consumer.”

Neal noted that he wasn’t particularly sad to see the Green Ontario program end, as it was “the worst rebate program in the history of the window industry.”

“It’s been horrible,” he said. “$500 a window has created such hysteria.”

However, despite the program ending about a year ago, numerous homeowners have been contacting window dealers consistently with concerns that they might not be able to afford replacement windows without the government’s subsidy.

“I understand their concern,” said window dealer Chris George. “I would suggest they reach out to their local representative of the government in their riding and let them know about their concerns.”

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7 Vancouver Real Estate Buying Tips

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The real estate market in Vancouver is turning around for good for everyone looking to purchase a home.

Previously soaring prices are now beginning to ease up, making it a perfect time for buyers—with real estate agents already getting ready for a very busy spring and summer season.

However, before splashing cash on a new property, there are some very important tips you need to know to ensure you make the most of the buyer’s market.

Here are some few expert tips that would guide you when purchasing a home in the sometimes frustration Vancouver seller’s market.

  1. Get adequate financing

It is very important that before you make the move to purchase a property, you put into careful consideration your credit score.

Normally, home buyers with lower scores use the secondary mortgage market to finance their purchase, as they’re more likely to pay a higher interest rate.However, it is advisable to get loan approval long before purchasing the house. This way, you are fully aware of how much you are able to spend—but never be tempted to borrow the maximum amount of money available.

“What’s your mortgage payment that you’re comfortable with? And take into the fact the taxes you’re going to have to pay, if it’s a strata – what the maintenance fees are, if it’s a home what type of maintenance are you going to have to pay in the future?” said Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a report.

Always be careful of the type of loan you secure and ensure that you can comfortably afford it over a long period of time.

  1. Get a real estate agent

Buying a property without professional help is a very risky move and can be likened to choosing to represent yourself in court without a lawyer. While you might trust your negotiation skills, only realtors are permitted to present offers directly.

Therefore, it is necessary to get a professional real estate agent in the area to represent you. So, screen a few agents and select the best one who has in-depth knowledge of the markets and has a great reputation.

“They’re there to protect you. They’re there to walk you through each step of the process,” Moore said.

  1. Sign up for automated alerts

Most—if not all—realtors have access to the Vancouver real estate board’s database which is updated approximately two days before the public MLS website.

Therefore, you can request from your realtor to sign you up for automatic real-time alerts of all new listings. Doing this gives you an edge as you’re among the very first to know about new properties.

  1. Do a thorough inspection

After receiving an alert for a new listing, it is necessary to push almost immediately for an inspection from your realtor. In this current market, buyers now have time to make an inspection.

Making a quick inspection eliminates any surprises—as there could be major maintenance or repair issues that could spring up. Therefore, you can now table your offer based on the outcome of the inspection, with clauses about claiming your damage deposit back if everything isn’t as was advertised.

Additionally, if you notice that renovations were done, you need to be sure that it was permitted work and carried out appropriately. Failing to do this would ultimately lead to further cost down the line and simultaneously affect the resale value.

  1. Have a back-up plan

There’s always the possibility that everything may not go as smoothly as you’d want. From the inspection being a failureto the property not living up to your expectations—or not being able to agree on the closing date that matches with your needs.

However, a professional real estate agent will definitely help you get past all of these things. If you plan on selling the property as you buy, you can table that and make it part of the deal.

“You’ve got an option, especially in a buyer’s market: you can put in an offer subject to selling your place. So maybe you want to have a place lined up,” Moore added.

Additionally, building contingencies into your buying plan is necessary. Things such as unexpected delays in closing the deal, closing cost and moving costs that could result in added living expenses if that’s your permanent home.

  1. Don’t fall for the buyer frenzy

The Vancouver market buying frenzy that caused a serious climb in the prices a couple of years ago has ended. Thus, it is important not to get caught up in bidding wars with properties that have been deliberately under-priced—with the hope of initiating multiple offers.

“Some of the sellers have been on the market for over a year and they’re eager to sell. So what I’m saying to consumers is: you have a lot of choices, you’re in the driver’s seat, let’s go out and take a look at what’s available,” said Moore.

  1. Never be wary of multiple offers

When purchasing a property, don’t be afraid of multiple offers as you have the same opportunity as anybody else.

Typically, there are just a few offers below the asking price: a couple priced fully, and two or three above the asking price—depending on how close the fair market value is from the asking price.

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Do you know what kind of condo you’re buying?

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(NC) Condominiums can come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to know that not all condos are created equal when it comes to warranty coverage.

Whether you’re buying a condominium townhouse, loft-style two-bedroom or a high-rise studio, they are all classified as condominiums if you own your unit while at the same time share access (and the associated fees) for facilities ranging from pools and parking garages to elevators and driveways, otherwise known as common elements.

The most common types of condos are standard condominiums and common elements condominiums. The determination of how a condominium project is designated happens during the planning stage when the builder proposes the project and the municipality approves it.

When you’re in the market to buy, you need to know how your chosen condo is classified because it affects the warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Standard condominiums have warranty coverage for units and common elements, but common elements condominiums only have unit coverage.

How could this affect you as the owner? If your condo complex has underground parking and, for example, there are problems with leaks or a faulty door, the condo designation will determine whether there’s warranty coverage.

If your unit is a standard condominium development, then the common elements warranty may cover the repairs. If it’s a common element condominium development, then repairs might have to be covered by the condo corporation’s insurance, which could impact your condo fees or require a special assessment on all the owners.

To avoid surprises, you should have a real estate lawyer review the Declaration and Description attached to your purchase agreement to be sure that you know the designation and boundaries of the unit you’re looking to purchase. Find more information on the types of condos and their coverage at tarion.com.

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