THE BEST (AND WORST) OF 1999
Worst Intervention German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder picked a bad time to rediscover his interventionist roots. His bailout of Philipp Holzmann, Germany's second largest construction firm, was meant to save jobs but will more likely cost them as foreign investors stay away in droves.
Best Trade News After 13 years of talking, as well as some shrewd bargaining by President Jiang Zemin, Beijing and Washington finally agreed on conditions for China's entry into the World Trade Organization.
Worst Trade News Trans-Atlantic tensions ran high as Europe kept in place its ban on U.S. and Canadian beef fattened with growth hormones. Washington hit back with a 100% tariff on some European Union exports. Within the E.U., a cross-Channel food fight ensued when France refused to lift a three-year ban on British beef even after the European Commission declared it free of "mad-cow disease."
Worst Financial News Ecuador managed to annoy everyone when it defaulted on its Brady-bond interest payments. Worse, private investors were told they could no longer count on official creditors like the International Monetary Fund--whom many blame for encouraging the default--to bail them out.
Best P.R. Greenpeace and other activists who descended on Seattle during the World Trade Organization summit managed to convince much of the media that they represent a broad spectrum of global opinion and that they had prevented the WTO from launching a new round of negotiations. In fact, the groups represent narrow and often conflicting interests, while disputes within the WTO itself scuttled efforts to agree on a new trade agenda.
Worst P.R. Monsanto was caught off guard by Europe's opposition to genetically modified foods. The firm acted more like a chemical company than a food giant and failed to convince consumers of the benefits of g.m. products. By late summer, public distrust of what some call "Frankenstein foods" had spread to the U.S.
Best IMF Move Egged on by politicians, pop stars and the Pope, the IMF and the World Bank unveiled a $23 billion plan designed to forgive the debts of the world's poorest countries.
Worst IMF Move U.S. and British regulators investigated allegations that billions of dollars in aid to Russia, including IMF credits, were laundered through Western banks. But despite their evidence, the IMF said its own checking had not uncovered any misuse of its funds, and that it would go ahead with its planned $4.5 billion loan if Russia met the required economic and structural benchmarks.
Best Corporate Remake Renault's effective takeover of Nissan has forced the once-proud Japanese automotive titan to make the production, marketing and cost-cutting moves it should have made on its own a decade ago.
Worst Corporate Remake Korean conglomerate Daewoo's debts exceed its assets by a whopping $21 billion, yet it has resisted demands to shed unproductive units and focus on core strengths.
Best Inflation News The growth of e-commerce, which came of age in 1999, should help keep prices stable for consumers and corporations.
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