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Nikkei Asian Preview

US-China Phase One deal, China trade data and Kem Sokha trial

Your weekly lineup of Asia's biggest business and political events

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, Xi Jinping's right-hand man, will sign the Phase One trade deal with U.S. President Donald Trump this week.    © Reuters

Welcome to Nikkei Asian Preview, a list of the most important business, economic and political events happening in Asia each week.

Here's what we're watching:

MONDAY

Finance as usual in Hong Kong

Hong Kong hosts the 13th Asia Financial Forum, which brings together financial regulators, bankers, asset managers and consultants, even as anti-government protests extend into the seventh straight month.

Speakers at the two-day event include Standard Chartered group chief executive Bill Winters, former chair of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen, Thailand's Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana and senior executives from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Deutsche Bundesbank and Bank of Russia.

Japan says 'cheers' to new adults

In Japan, 1.22 million young people will celebrate Coming of Age Day, a national holiday recognizing those who are (or will soon turn) 20, the legal age for drinking and smoking.

The crop of new adults has been shrinking due to Japan's declining birth rate. The government is planning to change the legal age of adulthood to 18 in 2022, after lowering the voting age five years ago.

Young Japanese men and women wear traditional dress to attend local "coming of age" ceremonies, held on the second Monday of January.    © Reuters

TUESDAY

Large drop expected for China's 2019 GDP

China will announce two key economic figures this week: December trade data on Tuesday and fourth-quarter GDP on Friday.

The numbers will paint a picture of the country's annual growth amid the trade war and domestic challenges marked by rising defaults in the private sector, as well as political unrest in Hong Kong.

Analysts project China's growth in 2019 to clock in at 6.1%, the largest drop since 2012.

Opinion: China's corporate bond defaults reveal vast hidden vulnerability

Najib answers abuse of power charges

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak makes another appearance in court on Tuesday, this time to answer charges of abuse of power.

Najib is accused of using his position to tamper with a document that would have implicated him in unprofitable transactions made by the defunct sovereign fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

The trial is expected to continue until April.

WEDNESDAY

U.S. and China call a truce

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will fly to Washington this week for the signing of an initial truce on Wednesday between the United States and China in a tariff war that has lasted nearly two years.

What's in the deal? The U.S. will halve tariffs on $120 billion worth of Chinese goods to 7.5%, in exchange for China purchasing at least $200 billion of American goods and services over the next two years.

Both sides held back from imposing tariffs scheduled to take effect in December, raising hopes of an end to the tit-for-tat.

What's next? Phase One was easy, now comes the hard part

Cambodia tries Kem Sokha for treason

The trial of Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha will take place on Wednesday, regardless of whether his lawyers will advise him to attend.

Kem Sokha spent two years under house arrest, after being arrested on treason charges. He was freed in November after the European Union threatened to revoke Cambodia's trade privileges.

Kirin to woo Olympic crowd with Japanese wine

Mercian, the wine-making arm of Japanese brewer Kirin, will hold a news conference on Wednesday to announce new products and outline its strategy to promote Japanese-made wine to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic market, amid a stagnant domestic market.

Japanese beer giant Kirin is eyeing the incoming Olympics market to drive sales for domestically produced wine.    © Reuters

THURSDAY

TSMC holds yearly earnings call

TSMC, the world's largest contract chipmaker and a key Apple and Huawei supplier, will discuss 2019 results and its outlook for the year ahead.

The industry bellwether's revenue rose 3.7% to a record 1.069 trillion New Taiwan dollars ($35.64 billion) in 2019, thanks to its leading chip production technology and healthy demand coming from next-generation 5G wireless technology.

But most chip industry executives still agree that the digital cold war between the U.S. and China and the U.S. blacklisting of Huawei will still be a major source of uncertainty in 2020.

FRIDAY

ADB's new president takes office

Masatsugu Asakawa will take his seat as president of the Manila-based Asian Development Bank, taking over from Takehiko Nakao.

Asakawa, a special advisor to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will oversee lending in a region that has been hurt by the U.S.-China trade war.

Asakawa's stance on some members' calls to reduce loans to China and on cooperating with the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will be closely watched.

Comment: China and Japan should cooperate, not compete, on infrastructure

Xi's first 2020 state visit: Myanmar

Chinese President Xi Jinping will spend his first state visit of the year in Myanmar to meet with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, commander of the armed forces.

What's on the agenda? Myanmar's cooperation in China's Belt and Road Initiative, and the repatriation of more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh.

Ethnic strife in Myanmar has disrupted Belt and Road projects in the past year.

Myanmar people protested outside their country's embassy in Kuala Lumpur in 2011 against the Myitsone dam, a Belt and Road project.   © Reuters

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