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U.S. report expresses "strong concerns" over Japan's wood subsidy

The U.S. Trade Representative expressed its "strong concerns" Monday over Japan's newly adopted "discriminatory treatment" in favor of domestic wood as building materials. In its 2014 report on foreign trade barriers, the USTR criticized Japan's Wood Use Point Program announced by the Forestry Agency in April 2013 as "a subsidy that appears to promote the use of domestic Japanese wood products over imported wood products." Under the WUPP, Japan provides 56 billion yen to promote designated wood products.

ADB urges developing Asia to use public spending to narrow inequality

The Asian Development Bank urged developing Asia on Tuesday to use public spending to narrow the income gap, saying widening income gaps are undermining efforts to stamp out poverty in the region. The Asian Development Outlook 2014 stresses the need for developing Asia's governments to "proactively use fiscal policy to close gaps and promote more inclusive growth." "Fiscal policy can and should play a bigger role in promoting inclusive growth in Asia," said ADB Deputy Chief Economist Juzhong Zhuang.

France's public deficit tops government target in 2013

By Leigh Thomas PARIS (Reuters) - France cut its public sector deficit less quickly than planned last year, missing the government's target and presenting a new setback for President Francois Hollande. Figures on Monday also showed that the euro-zone's second-biggest economy grew in the last quarter of 2013 largely because consumers pinched by rising taxes tapped their savings to finance spending.

Feds turning corner in deficit fight, posts $2.16 billion surplus in January

OTTAWA - Ottawa has posted its second consecutive monthly surplus in January, this time worth a whopping $2.16 billion. The January windfall follows a $1.15-billion surplus recorded the previous month and suggests the Harper government is turning the corner in its battle to reverse eight consecutive years of deficits. For the first 10 months of the 2013-14 fiscal year, Ottawa's deficit stood at $10.5 billion compared to $13.9 billion for the same period last year.

Slovenia top court annuls real estate tax, key for budget

Slovenia's constitutional court annulled on Friday a new real estate tax that was key to the troubled eurozone country's budget, prompting calls for a vote of no-confidence in the government. The court found that the tax -- passed in November in a bid to lower the deficit and stabilise Slovenia's public finances -- was unconstitutional. This prompted opposition parties to call immediately for the resignation of Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek's centre-left government to resign.

S.Africa keeps rates unchanged, warns of medium-term hike

South Africa kept its main interest rate unchanged Thursday, but promised future increases as it tries to balance rising inflation against a weak rand and a slower economic growth outlook. "The real policy rate is currently below what can be considered normal in the long run and is likely to increase over the medium term," said South African Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus of the current 5.5 percent rate. The bank lowered the outlook for GDP growth this year to 2.6 percent from 2.8 percent.

Cuba plans big tax breaks to lure foreign investors: official media

By Marc Frank HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba is proposing a new Cuban foreign investment law that would cut the profits tax in half to 15 percent and exempt most investors from paying it for at least eight years, official media said on Wednesday. The National Assembly will meet on Saturday to approve the legislation that the communist country hopes will lure overseas capital and help further integrate the Caribbean island in the global economy.

Finland to raise taxes, cut spending to bring down deficit

HELSINKI (Reuters) - The Finnish government will raise taxes and cut spending to bring down the budget deficit, Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen said on Tuesday. The budget framework agreement, where the government sets spending and taxation plans for the next three years, led to the small Left Alliance exiting the government as it rejected the austerity measures. The government still commands a parliamentary majority.

Portugal's January - February public deficit falls 83 percent

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal's public deficit was 83 percent lower at the end of February than a year before, an encouraging sign for the country as it prepares to exit its international bailout in May. The January-February public deficit was just 30.8 million euros ($42.4 million), the finance ministry said on Tuesday. In a statement, it said tax revenues rose more than 7 percent to 6.23 billion euros, "exceeding the goal envisaged by the 2014 budget and consolidating a strong upward trend in tax revenues that began in 2013".

Manitoba finance officials analyzed sales tax increase before 2011 election

WINNIPEG - The Manitoba government ran the numbers on a sales tax increase before the 2011 election — a campaign in which it promised not to raise the PST — but did not seriously consider it, Premier Greg Selinger said Friday. "It's standard practice for finance officials to look at a variety of scenarios every year," Selinger said. "Officials always put forward scenarios. Usually they are batted down, which they were in this case."
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