Welcome to Your Week in Asia.
Highlights this week include New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s trip to Singapore and Japan to promote trade and annual military drills held by the U.S. and South Korea amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
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New Zealand PM visits Singapore and Japan
Starting Monday, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will visit Singapore and Japan, two of the country’s largest trading partners, as it tries to rebuild its COVID-hit economy. Ardern will meet with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and, for the first time, with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. She will be accompanied on the weeklong trip by Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor and 13 business leaders.
U.S.-South Korea military exercises
South Korea and the U.S. begin their annual joint military drills, which are scheduled to run through April 28. The U.S. has dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to waters off the Korean Peninsula as North Korea raises political tensions ahead of a change of administrations in South Korea.
China reviews a bill on women’s rights
The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress begins a three-day meeting on Monday to review several bills. Lawmakers are said to be considering strengthening provisions of a bill on women’s rights following a public outcry in January over a mentally disabled woman who was allegedly forced to bear eight children. They will also examine workplace discrimination as the country faces a rapid decline in marriage and births.
Chinese economic data
China will announce first quarter gross domestic product amid rising headwinds from the latest flare-up of COVID-19 outbreak that began in March. Movement within and between major cities, including Shanghai and Shenzhen, has been restricted, putting further pressure on an economy already slowing since the second quarter of 2021.
South Korean central bank’s new governor
South Korea’s National Assembly will hold confirmation hearings on the Bank of Korea’s nominee for governor, Rhee Chang-yong, days after the central bank raised its key interest rate 25 basis points to 1.5%. The former International Monetary Fund director is expected to tighten the country’s monetary policy further as inflation hit a 10-year high in March.
East Timor presidential runoff
East Timor is set for a presidential election runoff after Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta failed to win more than 50% of the first-round vote despite a commanding lead over incumbent President Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres.
The Boao Forum, a symposium modeled after the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, convenes its annual meeting in Sanya, in China’s southern island province of Hainan. Among the agenda items is a discussion of pilot programs for Chinese free trade zones based on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership rules. China, along with cross-strait rival Taiwan, is waiting for approval to join the multilateral free trade pact.
G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting
The Group of 20 will hold a meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in Washington as the Ukraine war pushes inflation higher, threatening the global economy. Russia is a G-20 member, but others are divided over whether it should be allowed to participate after it invaded its western neighbor. This year’s host, Indonesia, has said Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov will attend the meeting virtually.
Taipei automotive trade shows
Taiwan will host its combined automotive trade shows, the Taipei International Automobile & Motorbike Parts and Accessories Show and the Taipei International Automobile Electronics Show, in Taipei from Wednesday to Saturday. Tesla parts suppliers Taya Group and K. S. Terminals are among the exhibitors. Thai oil and gas group PTT, which partnered with key iPhone assembler Foxconn to develop an electric car business, will also showcase its wares at the event.
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist faces sedition sentence
A Hong Kong court will sentence pro-democracy activist and radio host Tam Tak-chi following his conviction on sedition charges. The 49-year-old was found guilty last month of uttering seditious words, including a now-banned protest slogan, throughout 2020, and of holding an unauthorized assembly, refusing to obey the Hong Kong police and disorderly conduct.
Tam, who has been in custody for more than a year and a half since his arrest in September 2020, faces up to two years inrisonment for his crimes of sedition His conviction as another blow to the city’s freedom of speech, which has been whittled away after the enactment of a draconian national security law.
Company earnings: China Telecom, Tesla Q1 results
Hong Kong relaxes social controls
Social distancing restrictions are set to ease in the city after almost four months of strict measures that have forced restaurants and other businesses to shut their doors. Public gatherings of up to four people will be allowed, and eateries will be permitted to resume evening dine-in service. Gyms, theme parks and religious venues will also be allowed to reopen. The Hong Kong government has laid out a road map to lift restrictions that have battered the local economy. But quarantine restrictions aimed at preventing imported cases will remain even as countries around the world and the region, including rival financial hub Singapore, begin to relax theirs.
Zhihu HKEX debut
Shares of Chinese Q&A site Zhihu will start trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange after the company sought a dual primary listing in the city one year after its $523 million initial public offering in New York. Zhihu has set the final offer price at 32.06 Hong Kong dollars per share and is expecting to raise around HK$833.6 million. Zhihu’s move follows a slew of Chinese companies seeking secondary listings in Hong Kong amid increasing scrutiny from U.S. regulators. Zhihu’s U.S. shares have plummeted more than 80% from their peak last year.
Company earnings: Naver (Q1), Nidec (FY2021)
Japan inflation data
Japan will release monthly inflation data for March. The reading will be closely monitored following the yen’s decline to a 20-year low of 126 against the dollar on April 13. The latest consumer price index data will reveal how severely food and energy price increases, which stem in part from the weaker yen, have hit the country’s households.