Business: China Slowing?; Ukraine Deeply Divided over Which Course to Follow

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BEIJING (AP) -- China's November exports accelerated but imports weakened in a possible sign an economic recovery is slowing.
Trade data on Sunday showed export growth rose sharply to 12.7 percent over a year earlier, up from October's 5.6 percent expansion.
But import growth drifted down to 5.3 percent from the previous month's 7.6 percent. That suggested a rebound from a deep decline in growth might be ending.
China's economic growth rebounded in the third quarter of the year from a two-decade low.
But forecasters warned that revival relied on a government mini-stimulus based on higher spending on railway construction and other public works. They said economic growth might decline again late in the year or in early 2014.

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -- China has its sights set on exporting its fruit to the United States. And growers in Washington, who harvest the bulk of America's apple crop, are OK with it.
It may seem counterintuitive, but growers say opening U.S. borders to Chinese apples means American farmers should able to get a foothold in a lucrative and growing market.
The Chinese consume most of their nation's apple harvest and the expanding market there is particularly attractive to growers in the Northwest, who depend on foreign sales because the U.S. already produces more apples than Americans can eat.
The U.S. Apple Association, a trade group, worries Chinese imports could come with invasive pests that might damage American orchards. But Chinese agricultural officials dismiss that concern.

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greek lawmakers have passed the government's 2014 budget, which forecasts a return to growth after six consecutive years of deep recession, but its revenue and spending targets have been contested by the country's creditors who have provided more than 240 billion euros ($329 billion) in bailout aid since 2010 to keep heavily indebted Greece from going bankrupt.
As expected, the government coalition of conservatives and socialists held up in the Saturday night vote, with 153 lawmakers in the 300-member parliament voting for the budget and 142 voting against.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is hailing the budget as a first step in Greece exiting the bailout and notes that the economy would expand a modest 0.6 percent in 2014, the first positive figure since 2007.

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- A Mexico senate committee is proposing to open the country's beleaguered, state-run oil sector to greater private investment.
The Senate proposal would allow the government to grant contracts to share oil and profits with multinational giants such as Exxon or Chevron, something that is currently prohibited under Mexico's constitution.
According to a draft obtained by The Associated Press, the proposal also would allow private contractors to list oil reserves in their financial statements. It goes much further than the plan introduced by President Enrique Pena Nieto in August.
The arrangements in the Senate proposal have been prohibited in the decades since 1938, when then-President Lazaro Cardenas nationalized the oil industry, a nationalist symbol that for decades that has been fiercely protected by the constitution from possible profiteering by foreign companies.

Ukraine opposition: no talks unless govt fired
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine's opposition, preparing for what it hopes will be a gigantic protest rally on Sunday, says it will negotiate with President Viktor Yanukovych only if he fires the government and appoints a new one committed to deepening European integration.
Around 20,000 demonstrators crowded into Kiev's Independence Square on a windy and snowy night Saturday, but organizers of the protests, which are now in their third week, are calling for a massive turnout Sunday. A throng estimated at 300,000 or more showed up for a similar rally a week ago.
That turnout reflected wide anger over police violence against demonstrators the previous two days, and there are no signs that anger has dissipated. The square holds an extensive tent camp for protesters, including field kitchens, and demonstrators are occupying two nearby buildings, one of them functioning as an improvised opposition headquarters and media center.
The protests started after Yanukovych backed away from signing an association agreement with the European Union that would have deepened economic ties, thereby diminishing neighboring Russia's influence.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, head of the largest opposition faction in parliament, told reports Saturday that Yanukovych must dismiss the government, and "we are ready to start the dialogue only if the president makes the first step."
Opposition lawmakers tried on Tuesday to fire the government in a no-confidence vote in parliament, but fell well short of the needed majority.
That government must be replaced by one "that clearly sets the target to sign an association agreement and resume negotiations with the IMF." The opposition sees aid from the International Monetary Fund as key to helping Ukraine through economic troubles that have made Yanukovych lean toward Russia.
Russia wants Ukraine to join a customs union also including Belarus and Kazakhstan that would be a counterweight to the EU and put pressure on Yanukovych to shelve the EU agreement.
Yatsenyuk called the customs union "a new version of the Soviet Union."
Distress over the customs was high after Yanukovych and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on Friday. The leaders' offices on Saturday said the presidents didn't discuss the customs union, but suspicions persisted.
"It was clear that (Yanukovych's) way to the European Union was blocked from the start," Yatsenyuk said. "It was a big auction -- who is to buy Ukraine."
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Saturday in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that the presidents paid special attention to "cooperation in the energy sphere." Ukraine's dependence on Russian natural gas gives Moscow considerable leverage, and economically struggling Ukraine has sought to negotiate lower prices.
Former Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili, who was propelled to power by 2003 mass protests that prefigured Ukraine's Orange Revolution of 2004, met on Saturday with Ukrainian opposition leader Viltali Klitschko and spoke before protesters, wearing a scarf in the colors of Ukraine's blue-and-yellow flag.
"What we are seeing in Kiev is a raider attack on Ukraine by Vladimir Putin, an impudent and unprecedented attempt to steal the country and its future," Saakashvili said. "Putin's Russia says: We can turn your life into hell, we can hit you hard. This is the logic of a bandit, a racketeer."
Alexei Pushkov, the Kremlin-connected head of Russian parliament's lower house, quickly responded on Twitter in blunt language that reflected the high level of Russia-EU tensions: "It's a raider attack, but by Brussels, not Moscow. They take you to paradise by the throat."
Also Saturday, the Interior Ministry said police have placed the Kiev broadcasting center under heavy guard, saying the move was necessary after hearing protesters express intentions to march on the facility and block access to the building.
The center houses the studios of several TV channels, including the national First Channel, which on Saturday was hosting a show featuring an array of government ministers.