CHINA AMONG FURS

Today we will interview Julio Suarez Garcia, whose role is the European Director, and member of the Board of Directors of the company Saga Furs. But what exactly is Saga Furs? Saga Furs is a Finnish company listed on the Helsinki Stock Exchange. It is a fur auction house. Its customers are farmers from all over Europe and the United States and buyers from various markets, of which the main one is the Chinese market. This last is the reason why we interview Julio, and is that despite being a European company, practically all of its market is concentrated in China as Julio tells us. China is its main market. They sell approximately 85 of their skins to that market, they have clients at different levels of the value chain in the Chinese market. From brokers to manufacturers and retailers.

The question we ask is why China and not another Asian country? Or why leave Europe when the skins business also works here? Well Saga Furs with China mainly because the consumption of leather garments is very high. That means that there are large centers of production of garments that have to supply the raw material in auction houses like ours. The main benefit lies in the large size of the market and in the great economic development that the country has undergone in recent years. This development fits well with products such as fur garments, which sell well in expanding economies such as China.

But not all are benefits, China imposes certain barriers especially those who come from the outside. The regulations regarding the establishment of foreign companies in China are very rigid, making it difficult to establish in that country. “Apart from the import tariffs that apply to the skins we sell, the main concern is the risk of changing regulations that may happen from one day to another.” But tariffs and tariffs are not the only barrier, the differences Cultural and the different approaches to “doing business” have also been a challenge that they have had to face by hiring staff from their own country, which in the long run is beneficial, but at first was not so much.

We are also interested in knowing the way in which business affects the fact that they are made in China, because nothing has to do with the way of doing business in Finland, the home of this company,than in China. “The culture is very different. When it comes to doing business, Chinese entrepreneurs seldom say NO. ” Hence the great difficulty faced by Saga Furs in evaluating the success of a business for the commitment acquired in a meeting. That is why until you do not see with your own eyes the final result, success is not guaranteed

We asked Julio about the origins of Saga Furs in China and we were surprised to know that Saga was a pioneer in the world of fashion in China. They made the first western fashion show in the Forbidden City of Beijing in the mid-80’s, a milestone not only in the world of fur, but in general, to get a fashion show in such a place. Then the country has changed a lot. Especially in big cities. Shanghai, Beijing or Shenzhen are big cities that nothing has to envy New York or London. Nevertheless the rural interior of the country continues quite behind in the social evolution.

In China you can perfectly see the two sides of the coin, one day you are in a city full of all kinds of technology and the next day you go through a depressed rural area where they barely have to feed their cattle and thus subside.

But this colossus of fur is not slowed down in China, Saga also has, outside its office in Beijing and Hong Kong, delegation in South Korea, more specifically in Seoul. Korea is a very different market, much closer to the European way of operating since it has followed a much more “westernized” mode of development.

“Saga is continuing its expansion in Asia, and we will continue to expand our presence in China, due not only to the current relevance of the market, but also to the potential that it represents.”

 

We thank Julio Suarez for his time and dedication in answering our questions, it has been an honor to know more closely a great company like Saga Furs and its operation in the Asian continent.

Interview
Ambassador Rafat Mahdi.

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Pakistan is a country formed in 1947 as a consequence of the partition of India in its process of decolonisation from the British Empire. The national language is the Urdu and 97 per cent of the citizens are muslims.

The Pakistani embassy in Spain, also accredited to Andorra, is located in Pedro de Valdivia. I got to interview with the actual Ambassador of Pakistan, Rafat Mahdi, who has also occupied a number of key posts at United Nations. Mr Excellency is a man with a lot of experience and a lot of travelling though out his life.

The interview began by a few personal questions to Mr. Mahdi, such as what has led him to the position he is today and his overall response was determination and passion. I also asked him what is the roll of an Embassy, he explained that there are there different categories, the cultural, the economical and the document information one, like visas or simple information. An ambassador normally completes 6 years abroad and 3 years in their local country.

Rafat Mahdi had the opportunity to meet Nelson Mandela, not once but seven times who had taught him humility, infinite kindness and a very wide practice of the understanding towards others which is needed in order to accept ourselves. He repeated a number of times how of a great person Mr Mandela was. Mr.Mahdi also cited in a charming voice Mandela´s words:

“Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people…Do not judge me by my successes… judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again…I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” That was Nelson Mandela he said looking at the front in a nostalgic manner. I asked whether he believe he has achieved the power of putting people over his freedom, to which he replied: “That is the most difficult thing to do my dear”.
We continued speaking about all the disputes Pakistan and India have, whether it would be possible the dialogue over the confrontation. He adopted a position in which Pakistan is determined to collaborate in order to achieve a more peaceful relation between both countries however India not so much. He made reference to a number of solutions proposed by Pakistan towards the neighbour country, all of them unsuccessfully achieved.

Moreover, we directed the interesting conversation unto the conflict in Syria. The Ambassador was clear on his message, Pakistan and all the countries around the conflict area are the ones in need of more humanitarian support. He kept repeating: “We are the ones suffering the most, our people is and it is a very complex situation”. I read about some shootings from the Pakistan Government in support of terrorist groups, therefore I asked Mr. Mahdi but he denied any military act from his government. He in fact highlighted their effort in promoting peace and good living standards to their people.

Continuously, I asked for an opinion on the new Trump administration, if it will increase a more economically free and peaceful world or whether the opposite, in between some laughs, Rafat Mahdi did not want to answer so we moved on unto a new topic in the conversation.

This was the Pakistan-Spain relations which the Ambassador affirmed they are improving continuously in order to maintain more diplomatic relations and to cooperate and benefit from each other. He explained there are some bilateral relations.

Mr. Mahdi and I kept talking about world concerns, whether civilization is one of the main issues of this society or whether we should keep implementing it to those uncivilised countries.

I asked him about the freedom of women within Pakistan, as I believe they do not have much liberty. Mr Mahdi replied: “We respect so much women in our country, for example, if they carry two bags, we take both of them as the gentleman we are”. My personal opinion in this issue might not be of relevance however I believe it is not a valid example of equality and respect towards women, however his mind is a completely different one from mine which I can not judge as he is an older man and has been raised in a completely different way as I have.

Overall the conversation was interesting and profound, and I was glad of being able to speak to someone of such responsibility and such background as Mr. Mahdi.

 

Ines Viñuales

“Cheap labor has always been the advantage of Asian garments”

Italian clothing brand Alcott’s owner Mr. Salvatore Colella talks about their business, reasons behind doing business with Asian garments and how it affects the bringing a betterment in the relation between countries.

Alcott was born in 1988 from a great idea: to offer a product of trend and quality, at an economic price, so that the fashion was accessible to all. The ambitious business project collected in the years a great success, placing Alcott among the first Italian brand in the fast fashion retail sector. With the Alcott and Alcott Los Angeles brands, the company is present today with more than 150 outlets worldwide.

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What are the main reasons for choosing Asia for manufacturing garments? The current global apparel market is valued over $3000 billion, which is about 2% of world’s GDP. There are over 25 million people involved directly or indirectly with apparel manufacturing and over 60% are from Asia. The garment manufacturing in a collective way started in Asia in about 1950 in South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong. American companies were producing in there in selling in USA. Since then the industry spread in all over Asia for good number of workplace, cheap and qualified work force, quality products, mass production capacity and national focus.

Is that why you started doing business with Asian manufacturers? “Of course. To fulfill our production capacity with the best possible price and quality we chose Asia as our no.1 manufacturing continent.”

What is the current production and economic status of Alcott? Alcott currently produce their 70% of the garments in Bangladesh and the rest 30% is spread amongst China, Myanmar, Pakistan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Korea and Turkey including some Italy also. And for the record in 2015-16 the company’s turnover was $250 million.

What kind of problems are you facing nowadays? Our company sometimes face the transit time and shipping problems. As our main production country is Bangladesh, it takes about 30-35 days to reach the garments to reach Italy. We face port conjestion 3-4 times every year in Bangladesh. And sometimes we face problems for strikes when the production factory work but outside movement is not possible for the shipping.

Do you think it is strengthening the relation between countries? “You see, Alcott is now importing about $100 million from Bangladesh and other Asian countries. As we are a growing company and our focus on importing garments from Bangladesh is very promising. So, yes. I think the relation between the countries is strengthening through economic growth.

How do you feel about the workers in Bangladesh and what type of relation do you have with them? And what differences do you spot between the employees of Italy and Bangladesh? There is a significant difference between the employees in Italy and Bangladesh. In our company, all employees are under Italian and EU regulations. On the hand in Bangladesh the employees are working Bangladeshi and ILO regulations. We can not actually compare this two stages of people. Italy is a developed country and Bangladesh is one the fastest growing countries.

So do you like doing business with Bangladesh? “Absolutely. We are very happy doing business in Bangladesh. Actually the production percentage of our company shows it all whether we like doing business with Bangladesh or not.”

Has there been any change in your market? Since the starting of our company, we were importing mainly from China. But over the past few years Chinese garments industry and fashion moved too high and became too expensive. So we had to go to Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan etc. In coming future there will be no changing unless we face a serious problem in Bangladesh.

Is the company’s purpose connected to you own? “Yes. 100% percent. But if you see broadly, our business ultimately helps our country’s economic growth.” Our company creates work opportunity not only in Italy but also in Bangladesh. Actually more Bangladeshi workers are earning their livelihood than our company’s employees. “Look, while focusing at our own profit, we kind of help balancing economic status is both countries.”

 

INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED.

The consumerism of our lives is chasing us

 

“We have created abundant crap in order to live under abundant crap”

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from NYT

The Indian government has declared dangerous levels of toxic air pollution where an “emergency situation” must be taken in control. Pollution measurement in India is currently too focused on a few cities. India can come up with effective measures to fight air pollution only if the CPCB improves coverage and encourages research on the data it generates.

  • Dirty old town: India has 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities says the World Health Organization.
  • Collision course: Calls for tighter environmental rules are coming up against the government’s growth plans.
  • A love supreme: Petitioners have taken to the Supreme Court in an effort to reduce emissions and boost air quality.

This is the India now a days as the environmentalists see;

In 2013, Indian schools were shut down for a couple of days and traffic was rationed due to high levels of contamination that could not even be measured by most air quality instruments. The situation has reached levels of PM2.5 pollutants, which are the most harmful because they can reach deep into the lungs and reach the blood-brain barriers, causing mortal atrocities. More than half of the 5.5 million deaths related to air pollution in 2013 happened in India and China, according to a new study and the Indian and Chinese fatalities accounted for 55% of such deaths worldwide, said the study.

India’s air pollution is so bad that it’s reducing life expectancy by 3.2 years.

“You can almost think of this as the perfect storm for India,” said Michael Brauer, a professor of environment and health relationships.

The World Health Organization recently published data on pollution around the world, focusing on airborne particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers (known as PM2.5). These particles come from coal plants and vehicles, and, at high levels, have been linked to serious respiratory problems.

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“One of the unique things about air pollution is you cannot run, you cannot hide from it”.

Pollution levels are getting worse in India, in Asia and in the world, as countries are trying to industrialize more and more and one thing is clear, there is no way of stopping such will, we will indeed want more machines, new cars and of course, little effort when things are not needed anymore.

Over the years we have taken into consideration the utopia of recycling, of taking care of our world, our beloved planet.

Now a days our vision should be even more critical about the repercussion our acts have but reality nullifies any hope, therefore, some questions run into my mind, is all these effort even worth it? Are we not already dying of hunger? Do we not have other enemies such us terrorism, rapists, even cancer? Maybe we have to accept all of them. Maybe pollution should be part of such category.

A simple enemy which if it catches you, that’s it, you just were not lucky enough. The change in the environment due to human labor has always been a concern even though we got conscience of it back in the 2000.

It is a matter of unavailability, it is not possible to get back in time, we have come to a point where an airplane is needed to travel no matter what is being left behind it, we need machines to survive and we are just not ready and not willing to leave all of it behind. We have shown ourselves, even the world that we are not capable of leaving our personal interest apart in order to save this world of ours, therefore why even make the effort when deeply we know there is no point.

It is time to realize we are part of destruction and we should keep it this way. We should not worry about pollution, at least we should not lie to ourselves because we can make it part of us as it has always been. We like to live in a constant state of hope, and for me, it´s just a waste of time as we are probably here to exploit the planet after all.

Huge fire rages through shanty town leaving 15,000 people homeless

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From NYT

Last Week, 7th of February there was a huge fire in Shanty town, near the docks of Manila, burning the whole slum area which left more than 15000 people homeless, said Philippine capital said last Wednesday.

The blaze started 9:38 p.m. on Tuesday night in Area B, Gate 7 of the Shanty town, according to Senior Superintendent Wilberto Tiu, chief of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), National Capital Region. Fire authorities said the flames spread quickly as houses in the area are made of light materials, making them incredibly flammable. Superintendent Tiu said that 90 firetrucks were deployed to put out the fire.

Seven people were injured, more than 1000 makeshift houses were burnt and fortunately no casualties were reported. Three evacuation centres were opened, and food and water were provided to the 3,000 families who lost their homes, said Philippine social welfare officer Regina Jane Mata.

The BFP says that the cause of the fire is still unknown. However, the investigation team suggests that the cause might be a faulty electricity wiring or an unattended gas stove, as reported in The Telegraph. Recently a Inquirer published that the fire appeared to have been caused by a candle left unattended inside a house of a Parola Compound resident known only as Andang.
A victim named Edna Purios explained the fire spread so quickly her family fled without their belongings. Purios, who lived with six of her children and three grandchildren, said the local government should help the community rebuild. “Our only wish is to get some help with repairing our house because we have nowhere to sleep,” she told Reuters Television.

To watch the video, click here.

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From NYT

 

A Philippine NGO named ‘Project Pearls’ is working there helping the victims and building up new homes.

Statistics show that fires are very common in factories of Shanty town and Manila and just only a week ago a worker was killed and hundreds were injured in a huge industrial fire at a factory south of Manila.

Who is going to help the Roingyans? For the last couple of years more than 92.000 Rohingyans are fighting for survival against Myanmar’s military and police forces and fleeing to neighboring countries. The UN accuses Myanmar of ethnic cleaning and the local people are demanding justice to condemn the genocide of the Rohingyans.

Who is going to help the Roingyans?

For the last couple of years more than 92.000 Rohingyans are fighting for survival against Myanmar’s military and police forces and fleeing to neighboring countries. The UN accuses Myanmar of ethnic cleaning and the local people are demanding justice to condemn the genocide of the Rohingyans.

Burmese government forces committed rape and other sexual violence against ethnic Rohingya women and girls as young as 13 during security operations in northern Rakhine State in late 2016” said Human Rights Watch.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority with a population of some two million people. Most of them live in Myanmar (approximately 800.000 remain in Myanmar) specifically in the Rakhine region in the north of the country. The rest are spread over other countries of Southeast Asia. About 200,000 in Bangladesh and 50,000 in Malaysia.

Although the situation is now critical, the Rohingyas have been persecuted by the government and the Myanmar authorities during the last decade. Between 1991 and 1992 they suffered a massive exodus to the neighboring country of Bangladesh. This is one of the burning examples of religion discriminations in the world. Myanmar is killing the Muslim minorities just because Myanmar is a Buddhist country. According to BBC, Myanmar claims that the Rohingyans are not from Myanmar, they are illegal migrants from Bangladesh. For survival they were forced to leave their country and go to neighboring Muslim countries like Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia etc.

According to the CFR Backgrounders, After attacks by Rohingya militants on border police posts on October 9, 2016, the Burmese military undertook a series of “clearance operations” in northern Rakhine State. Security forces summarily executed men, women, and children; looted property; and burned down at least 1,500 homes and other buildings. More than 69,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, while another 23,000 have become internally displaced in Maungdaw district. There have always been differences between the Muslim minority and the rest of the population, mostly Buddhist. The government asserts that they are not Burmese citizens, because they speak another language, the color of their skin is different and their religion is different. But hatred was revived on May 28, 2012 when the corpse of a Burmese woman of Buddhist religion was found raped  and three Muslims were charged of it. Six days later, a crowd of Buddhists stopped a bus in which, they said, the culprits were traveling and killed ten Muslims. Groups of Muslims and Buddhists clashed in various locations in Rakhine to this day in which the figures of displaced people exceed 200,000 people in the last months alone. Moreover, now Bangladesh says that the Rohingyans are unwelcome, because already there are over 160 million people there and they can’t afford to serve more refugees.

The UN has already accused Myanmar of ethnic cleansing as it violates the international law ‘Jus cogens’.

The United Nations Organization and the governments of neighboring countries denounce and pressure Myanmar to solve the problem as soon as possible and end the murders and displacement. A difficult task if we have statements such as the following which came out of the mouth of a senior Burmese diplomat based in Hong Kong : “Actually, the Rohingya are not people from Burma, they are not from the same ethnic group. His complexion is dark brown and our complexion is soft, we are handsome too. They are ugly as orcs”