EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 21/01/2020

The Washington Post – Ishaan Tharoor / In Davos, a search for meaning with capitalism in crisis

  • President Trump will be addressing Davos on Tuesday. This year’s conclave will be the 50th since it began in 1971, marking a fitful half century of political turmoil and economic boom and bust. For years, Davos has represented the virtues of liberalism and globalization, anchored in a conviction that heads of companies can become capable and even moral custodians of the common good.
  • However, the disruptions and traumas of the past decade have sorely tested Davos’s faith in itself, and the term “globalist” has been regarded with derision and distrust. Moreover, a new global opinion poll of tens of thousands of people found that more than 50 percent of those surveyed now think capitalism does “more harm than good.”
  • Trump is also likely to be challenged in Davos by a growing cohort of climate activists and policymakers. On the same day of his speech, Greta Thunberg is expected to berate politicians and finance executives who still invest in fossil fuels. Although Trump almost certainly will not heed Thunberg’s call, representatives of major companies are desperate to show how they are adapting their business models to accommodate climate concerns.
  • The Economist / Can the World Economic Forum keep its mojo?
  • The Economist / Monetary policy will not be enough to fight the next recession

EURACTIV – Vlagyiszlav Makszimov / Ukraine PM Honcharuk given one more chance

  • The Ukrainian President, Volodomyr Zelenskiy, has rejected the Prime Minister Oleksiy Goncharuk resignation letter and told him to stay on and tackle the unpopular issue of high salaries of some public officials and multimillion-dollar bonuses paid to executives at the state gas company. The PM resigned after audio tapes leaked suggested he had criticised the president’s understanding of the economy as “primitive.”
  • Besides adjusting salaries and decreasing executive bonuses, the president also asked Honcharuk “to find weaknesses and to replace the heads of ministries” according to their track record.
  • Referring to the leaked recording, in which a man is heard discussing Zelenskiy’s purported lack of knowledge of economy, Honcharuk called it “a crime”. President Zelenskiy has ordered an investigation into the leak. Honcharuk said earlier the recording had been doctored and was made up of different fragments of what had been said at government meetings.
  • The Guardian – Jon Henley / Norway populist party quits coalition over ‘Isis bride’ repatriation

Financial Times – Martin Wolf / A partial and defective US-China trade truce

  • The trade agreement between the US and China has huge defects of omission and commission. Moreover, the conflict is far from achieving a resolution, and the US objectives remain confused and confusing. However, the two superpowers have at least reached an agreement. This is a truce, not peace. It leaves a high level of protection in place. Yet a truce is welcome.
  • The agreement does not cover the biggest concerns in the bilateral relationship, such as commercial cyber theft, industrial subsidies and the Made in China 2025 programme, aimed at upgrading the economy’s technological sophistication. Disputes relating to technological interdependence, mainly related to Huawei, and supply chains that include Chinese production in areas deemed sensitive for US security are also outside this agreement.
  • Continuing friction between the two countries is unavoidable. Agreement on enforceable trade rules may be possible, albeit difficult, in specific areas. But China will never agree to accept permanent economic and technological inferiority. If imposing the latter is the dominant US objective, this is just the early stage of a very long conflict.
  • Financial Times – Gideon Rachman / How I became a China sceptic

The New York Times – Chris Buckley / China says it will ban plastics that pollute its land and water

  • The Chinese government has introduced measures to cut the amount of disposable plastic. The new guidelines include bans on the import of plastic waste and the use of nonbiodegradable plastic bags in major cities by the end of this year. Other sources of plastic garbage will be banned in Beijing, Shanghai and wealthy coastal provinces by the end of 2022, and that rule will extend nationwide by late 2025.
  • The plan will probably be welcomed by many Chinese, who have become increasingly worried about polluted air, water, soil and natural surroundings. But it could be a hard sell for a society used to the convenience of online retailers and couriers who deliver hot meals and packages swaddled in plastic.
  • The Chinese government appears to think that companies and consumers need time to get used to life with much less single-use plastic. Even wealthy economies have moved gingerly to ban plastic bags. Last year, New York State approved a ban on most single-use plastic bags that is to take effect on March 1, making it only the second state after California to impose such a prohibition.
  • Project Syndicate – Jeffrey Frankel / The best tool to fight climate change

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 20/01/2020

Foreign Policy – Mario Esteban & Miguel Otero-Iglesias / Washington’s war on Huawei is causing angst in Madrid

  • Spain’s long-standing partnership with Huawei puts the country in a difficult situation. Madrid has always been a security ally of Washington. It has two U.S. bases on its territory, and many of its foreign-policy elites have strong trans-Atlantic links. However, for decades Spain has also been keen to present itself as China’s best friend in Europe, and the country even maintained its cooperation with Beijing after the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
  • The Spanish government is aware of the geostrategic and geoeconomic dimensions of 5G technology, which will be key in the next phase of the digital revolution. This is precisely why the Spanish authorities are in favor of more European strategic autonomy and tech sovereignty, especially in critical infrastructure. Moreover, the Spanish authorities do not want to take sides between the USA and China.  
  • There is growing worry in Spain about entering into a protectionist spiral. If the EU follows the USA and bans Huawei, China might retaliate and ban European cars—and this would be very damaging for the EU and for Spain, which post-Brexit will be the second-largest exporter of cars in Europe after Germany.
  • Financial Times – Nic Fildes / Can the 5G network be secured against spying?

The New York Times – Katrin Bennhold & Melissa Eddy / International powers call for cease-fire in Libya’s long Civil War

  • Russia, Turkey and a dozen other international powers with competing interests in oil-rich Libya called on Sunday for a cease-fire and an arms embargo, committing to end their own interference on the ground to give Libyans space for a political reconciliation.
  • In a modest breakthrough, both leaders of Libya’s two warring factions, the head of the UN-backed government and a former Libyan army general, agreed to send representatives to another meeting in Geneva, where they will soon begin working out what a solution might look like. However, expectations remain low that these talks will lead to any kind of a lasting peace on the ground in the near future.
  • Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said that Sunday’s talks represented a return to European engagement in the region. But for the endeavor to succeed, he said, Europe must find a unified voice and position and remain actively engaged to prevent the crisis in Libya from destabilizing the entire Mediterranean region.
  • Foreign Policy – Anas El Gomati / Russia’s role in the Libyan Civil War gives it leverage over Europe

The Washington Post – Anthony Faiola / Maduro says he’s still in control of Venezuela, ready for direct talks with the United States

  • Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro suggested a bonanza could be waiting for U.S. oil companies in this OPEC-member state should President Trump lift sanctions and press the reset button on U.S.-Venezuelan relations. Yet if anything, his words revealed the vast gulf that still exists between his authoritarian government and the opposition along with U.S. officials who call him a dictator.
  • President Maduro suggested that his opponents have vastly underestimated him. One significant claim: Maduro said he had learned of the April 30 conspiracy to oust him 10 days before it was sprung. He allowed it to play out anyway, he said, encouraging key loyalists to pose as potential turncoats to discover the extent of the sedition against him.
  • President Maduro said he remained willing to sit down with Guaidó — but he seemed to dismiss the opposition’s key demand: that he exit in favor of a transitional government that would renovate the Supreme Court and national election councils to call new elections. He also stated that “Guaidó is responsible for having lost the National Assembly. He and his mistakes. Don’t blame me now. He’s the one that now has to answer to the United States.”

The Guardian – Phillip Inman / IMF boss says global economy risks return of Great Depression

  • The head of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, has warned that the global economy risks a return of the Great Depression, driven by inequality and financial sector instability. While the inequality gap between countries had closed in the last two decades, it had increased within countries, she said, singling out the UK for particular criticism.
  • Moreover, she stated that: “If I had to identify a theme at the outset of the new decade, it would be increasing uncertainty.” Georgieva said uncertainty affects not only businesses but individuals, especially given the rising inequality within many countries.  
  • While government spending to help those at the bottom is key, she added: “Too often we overlook the financial sector, which can also have a profound and long-lasting positive or negative effect on inequality.” In a new study, the IMF highlighted how access to the financial sector in China and India in the 1990s “paved the way for enormous economic gains in the 2000s”. But she cautioned against the excesses that led to the 2008 global financial crisis.
  • Project Syndicate – Joseph E. Stiglitz / The truth about the Trump economy

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 17/01/2020

The New York Times – Katrin Bennhold & Jack Ewing / In Huawei battle, China threatens Germany ‘where it hurts’: Automakers

  • Germany is embroiled in a tortured debate over whether to allow Huawei to help build its 5G next generation mobile network. But with German automakers, including Audi and Daimler, already working closely with Huawei, China may be in the driver’s seat. Whatever Germany decides will shape its relations with China for years and reverberate across the Old Continent.
  • Like any other European country, Germany is under tremendous pressure by the USA to exclude Huawei, which fears that the Chinese company is a Trojan horse that would allow the Chinese government to spy on or control European and American communication networks. Relations with the Trump administration are infused with threats of tariffs against German automakers, and China is elbowing its way as a new strategic partner.
  • “If we ban Huawei, the German car industry will be pushed out of the Chinese market — and this in a situation where the American president is also threatening to punish German carmakers,” said Sigmar Gabriel, a former German foreign minister and vice chancellor. “Just because we have an American president who doesn’t like alliances, we give all that up?” he said. “Why would we? Especially since he does exactly what the Chinese do and threatens the German car industry.”
  • Financial Times – Lionel Barber & Guy Chazan / Angela Merkel warns EU: ‘Brexit is a wake-up call’
  • EURACTIV – Claire Stam / Germany’s new coal phase-out plan: Lots of money, little climate ambition

Foreign Policy – Reid Standish & Amy Mackinnon / Who is Russia’s new Prime Minister?

  • The resignation of President Putin’s longtime ally Prime Minister Medvedev and the announcement about Mishustin, a technocrat with little power base of his own, caught many analysts by surprise. The 53-year-old bureaucrat became Russia’s newly appointed prime minister and Putin’s second-in-command as the country slowly enters a new period of political transition.
  • However, it is still unclear whether Mishustin is a temporary placeholder or could be groomed as a potential successor down the line. He appears well suited to deliver as prime minister where Medvedev failed, especially in terms of implementing the Kremlin’s so-called national projects: a massive public spending and infrastructure plan of $400 billion that was put forward by Putin after his reelection in 2018.
  • Through his low profile and experience with the country’s vast and cumbersome bureaucracy, Mishustin is now positioned to enact unfulfilled government policies and help quell socioeconomic discontent as Putin’s slow-motion power transfer winds toward 2024. Putin is betting that Mishustin’s pedigree of efficiency will help him deliver on policies and limit public dissatisfaction.
  • The Washington Post – Robyn Dixon & Isabelle Khurshudyan / Putin’s plans post-presidency could see him wielding influence for life

South China Morning Post – Orange Wang / China GDP growth last year was 6.1 per cent, slowest rate for 29 years

  • Chinese economy grew by 6.1 per cent in 2019, the lowest annual growth rate for 29 years, the National Bureau of Statistics announced on Friday. The figure came in a year in which the Chinese economy was hammered by US tariffs as a result of the trade war.
  • However, despite falling to a new low since 1990, when political turmoil drove economic growth down to 3.9 per cent, the 6.1 per cent rate met the target range of between 6.0 per cent and 6.5 per cent set by the central government at the beginning of last year, but was below the market expectation of 6.2 per cent.
  • Chinese policymakers stepped up efforts of curbing a prolonged economic downturn last year, using tax cuts and monetary stimulus regularly. However, the phase one deal led central bank officials to tell a press conference in Beijing on Thursday that its monetary policy would remain “prudent” through this year.
  • Project Syndicate – Jim O’Neill / Has the world economy reached peak growth?

POLITICO – Sabrina Rodríguez / Senate passes USMCA, but much work remains

  • The Senate has approved on Thursday President Donald Trump’s signature trade deal with Mexico and Canada, helping him fulfill a 2016 campaign promise in a rare bipartisan vote. However, it will take several years before workers and business start to benefit from the agreement, which was approved in a 89-10 vote.
  • The passage of the USMCA comes just a day after Trump signed a so-called phase one trade agreement with China, another major focus of the president’s trade agenda. Canada will not approve the text until the House of Commons reconvenes in January, and while Mexico was quick to pass the deal, it still has to deliver on fully implementing its labor reforms that ensure workers have access to organize and participate in independent unions.
  • Lawmakers, economists and trade experts have emphasized that the new deal offers some much-needed certainty for companies and workers in all three countries. However, some progressives were vocal in criticizing the revised deal. The majority of Democrats to oppose the deal did so over frustration that the USMCA does not tackle climate change even after House Democrats negotiated to strengthen environmental protections in the deal.
  • Foreign Affairs – Klaus Schwab / Capitalism must reform to survive

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 16/01/2020

The New York Times – Anton Troianovski / Putin’s power shake-up: here are six takeaways

  • During his annual state-of-the-nation speech, President Vladimir Putin shook up the country by calling for constitutional changes that would give him a new path to holding onto power after his current term ends in 2024. After his announcement, the entire cabinet, led by a long-serving Putin ally, Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev, abruptly resigned. The head of the Federal Tax Service, Mikhail V. Mishustin, will become prime minister.
  • The position Mr. Putin is trying to achieve is not clear yet. He could become prime minister again, taking advantage of the position’s expanded influence. Moreover, he could follow the path of Kazakhstan’s longtime president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who increased the power of Kazakhstan’s Security Council and made himself its chairman for life.
  • In spite of Mr. Putin’s immense power, he’d be taking a risk if he simply declared himself president for life. Nonetheless, Mr. Putin has steadily subsumed the authority of all Russian institutions, often justifying crackdowns on political pluralism as necessary in the face of external threats.
  • The Economist / How Vladimir Putin is preparing to rule for ever
  • Foreign Affairs – Susan B. Glasser / Putin the Great

South China Morning Post – Orange Wang / China Vice-Premier Liu He rejects Trump’s suggestion of immediate phase two talks, calling idea ‘unwise’

  • Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He has said Beijing has little interest in immediately starting negotiations on phase two of a trade deal with the United States, in a polite rejection of US President Donald Trump’s suggestion the next stage of talks would start soon. He stated that: “we might get nothing if we rush to a second job before the first one is properly done. I don’t think it is a wise choice to impatiently launch new stages of talks.”
  • The two countries agreed to put the brakes on a on an 18-month trade war that has disrupted global supply chains and shaken markets after months of negotiations. Although most US tariffs on China would remain in place, the US agreed to reduce duties on some Chinese imports and suggested further tariff relief if a phase two deal can be reached.
  • Protection of intellectual property was one of the pledges made in the phase one deal and Liu said that China needed better laws in the area for its own interest and protection.
  • Financial Times – James Politi / What’s in the US-China ‘phase one’ trade deal?

The Washington Post – John Hudson & Souad Mekhennet / Days before Europeans warned Iran of nuclear deal violations, Trump secretly threatened to impose 25% tariff on European autos if they didn’t

  • A week before Germany, France and Britain formally accused Iran of breaching the 2015 nuclear deal, the Trump administration issued a private threat to the Europeans that shocked officials in all three countries. According to several European officials, if these countries refused to call out Tehran and initiate an arcane dispute mechanism in the deal, the United States would impose a 25 percent tariff on European automobiles.
  • However, it remains unclear if the threat was even necessary, as Europeans had been signaling their intention to trigger the dispute resolution for weeks. While the United States views the mechanism as critical to reimposing sanctions on Iran in as little as 65 days, the Europeans see the measure as a last chance to salvage a deal they view as vital.
  • Major difficulties in the transatlantic relationship began after Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran that had been lifted in exchange for limitations on its nuclear program. The Europeans remained in the deal, noting that, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran had continued to comply with its side of the agreement.
  • Al-monitor / Iran issues warnings after Europe triggers nuclear deal dispute mechanism

The Atlantic – Robinson Meyer / This is your life on Climate Change

  • The 2010s were the hottest decade ever measured on Earth, and 2019 was the second-hottest year ever measured, scientists at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today. The finding was not a surprise to researchers, or likely anyone else. But it capped an anxious decade that saw human-caused climate change transform from a far-off threat into an everyday fact of life.
  • What’s worse is that greenhouse-gas pollution from fossil fuels, which are the biggest driver of climate change, also surged to an all-time high last year, according to a preliminary estimate. Deke Arndt, a chief climate scientist at NOAA, said at the briefing that “an obvious signal” of this greenhouse-gas-powered heating had appeared in the upper layers of the ocean, which broke the all-time heat record last year.
  • It’s worth going back to see just how outlandish our situation is. The median American is a little more than 38 years old. The year before she was born was 1980. It was, at the time, the hottest year ever measured. A July heat wave that year killed 1,265 Americans and caused more than $20 billion in damage nationwide.
  • The years 2012 and 2013 were among the five hottest ever. Then came the three-peat: 2014 broke 2010’s all-time record, then 2015 was even hotter, then 2016 was hotter still. On land, 2016 was nearly 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th-century baseline. It was three times as hot over the baseline as 1981, the year she was born.
  • The New York Times – Henry Fountain & Nadja Popovich / 2019 was the second-hottest year ever, closing out the warmest decade

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 15/01/2020

The New York Times – Steven Erlanger / France, Germany and U.K. serve notice on Iran under nuclear deal

  • Britain, Germany and France formally accused Iran of breaking the 2015 agreement that limited its nuclear program, taking the first step toward reimposing United Nations sanctions. These countries triggered  a 60-days period of negotiations with Iran about coming back into full compliance with the nuclear deal. Under the agreement, if they cannot resolve their dispute, that could revive UN sanctions on Iran that had been suspended under the deal.
  • However, according to a senior European official, these European countries still  want to save the deal and persuade both Washington and Tehran to begin a new set of negotiations about missile development and Iran’s regional activities. There was no immediate reaction from Tehran. 
  • Robert Malley, who heads the International Crisis Group and helped negotiate the nuclear deal, defended that he did not agree with triggering the dispute mechanism now, given the newly complicated setting, but said that doing so was “is not fatal” to the deal. “The only way forward now is to use the time to try to get the U.S. and Iran to talk.”
  • EURACTIV – Alexandra Brzozowski / INSTEX fails to support EU-Iran trade as nuclear accord falters

Financial Times – Jim Brunsden / US, Japan and EU target China with WTO rule change proposal

  • The USA, the EU and Japan had added pressure on Beijing over its model of state-sponsored capitalism, calling for tougher WTO curbs on government subsidies. This is a bizarre example of the Trump administration turning to allies for help in solving trade problems.
  • The proposed rule changes take aim at core parts of China’s economic model, calling for a wider WTO ban on various types of state support and for governments to do more to prove that aid to companies does not distort trade. Phil Hogan, EU trade commissioner, said they were “an important step towards addressing some of the fundamental issues distorting global trade”.
  • The announcement comes at the same time as the USA and China are expected to reveal a “phase one” trade agreement, marking a moment of detente in their trade war. The EU and the US have taken very different approaches in trying to cajole Beijing to change its policies. US president Donald Trump has imposed huge punitive tariffs on Chinese goods, while the EU has emphasised dialogue.
  • South China Morning Post – Mark Magnier / Phase one trade deal gives Donald Trump bragging rights but phase two is likely a mirage, analysts say

Foreign Affairs – Nikita Nikita Lalwani, Josh Rubin & Sam Winter-Levy / Can Oman’s new leader uphold Sultan Qaboos’s peaceful legacy?

  • After Sultan Qaboos’s death, former Minister of Heritage and Culture Haitham bin Tariq al-Said has been named his heir. Long floated as a potential successor, he is described by those who have met him as quiet, steady, and a good listener. The Oxford graduate spent more than a decade in the Foreign Ministry and worked on (largely unsuccessful) attempts to diversify Oman’s oil-dependent economy before his appointment as Heritage and Culture Minister in 2002.  
  • Haitham has already publicly committed to maintaining Oman’s role as an independent mediator, and most observers expect him to continue his predecessor’s tradition of quiet diplomacy, serving as a bridge between the USA, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Houthis. However, autonomy in foreign policy has been predicated on Oman’s economic independence, and low oil prices and dwindling reserves have thrown that into doubt.
  • As Haitham confronts rising tensions in the region and an unfavorable economic forecast at home, the new sultan will have to work to maintain the domestic credibility and regional stature that his predecessor enjoyed.

The Washington Post – Sudarsan Raghavan / Libyan cease-fire unravels as eastern warlord Hifter leaves Moscow without signing truce

  • A provisional cease-fire reached two days ago between Libya’s warring factions appeared to unravel on Tuesday, as eastern commander Khalifa Hifter abruptly left Moscow without signing the agreement. Consequently, several clashes emerged in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. 
  • On Monday, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Serraj signed the cease-fire agreement. But Hifter, who is aligned with a rival government, had asked for until Tuesday morning to make his decision. By early Tuesday, however, he left without signing the document. The collapse of the cease-fire effort is a major blow to President Putin and President Erdogan, as well as their aspirations of becoming the main power brokers in Libya.
  • The U.N. mission in Libya on Tuesday urged both sides to adhere to the cease-fire and give the diplomatic efforts a chance “for the sake of the civilian population in Tripoli, the hundreds of thousands who fled their homes and the 116,000 children who are unable to go to their classes.”
  • Al-Monitor – Diego Cupolo / Erdogan vows to defend Tripoli government after Libya talks fail

EURACTIV – Beatriz Ríos / Nuclear ‘excluded’ from EU’s new Just Transition Fund

  • The EU regional policy Commissioner Elisa Ferreira unpacked on January 14th details of the €100 billion Just Transition Mechanism, a key financial component of the European Green Deal that should make the bloc climate neutral by 2050. She stated that “nuclear energy is excluded from the Just Transition Mechanism.”
  • EU leaders agreed in December on a bloc-wide objective of reaching climate neutrality by 2050. In order to convince Hungary and the Czech Republic to sign up, they also reaffirmed the right of countries to decide on their own energy mix, including nuclear. Poland refused to sign up, saying it needed more EU funding to help phase out coal.  
  • The Fund will provide financial aid to countries in their work towards climate neutrality. Within a wider mechanism, the Commission aims to provide technical assistance and ease state aid rules for green investments. The fund will be based on €7.5 billion of “fresh money”, to be topped up with financing from the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund Plus, both part of the EU’s cohesion policy.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 14/01/2020

Financial Times – James Politi & Brendan Greeley / US lifts China ‘currency manipulator’ tag ahead of trade deal

  • The United States Treasury department has dropped the designation of China as a currency manipulator in a gesture that aims to ease tensions with Beijing before this week’s signing of a deal to halt their trade war. “China has made enforceable commitments to refrain from competitive devaluation, while promoting transparency and accountability, stated Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary.
  • After the announcement, China’s renminbi strengthened to a five-month high against the dollar in Asian trade. The onshore renminbi, which trades 2 per cent either side of a daily midpoint set by the People’s Bank of China, was 0.2 per cent stronger at Rmb6.8809 per dollar, its highest level since July. The offshore renminbi, which is less tightly controlled, was flat at Rmb6.8799 to the dollar.
  • The trade agreement will pause any escalations in tariffs for the foreseeable future and roll back a small portion of existing US levies in Chinese goods. In exchange, China has said it would purchase at least $200bn in US goods, including at least $40bn in American farm products. However, the “phase one” deal does not address some of the deeper and more thorny sources of economic tensions between Washington and Beijing.
  • South China Morning Post – Finbarr Bermingham, Ben White & Doug Palmer / Trade war: China to make huge purchases of US goods as details of phase one deal revealed

Foreign Policy – Stephen M. Walt / Why is the United States so bad at foreign policy

  • Current American foreign policy is based on brute force coercion, divorced from clear objectives and implemented by an ignorant president with poor impulse control. After nearly three years in office, President Trump has managed to increase the risk of war, push Iran to gradually restart its nuclear program, provoke Iraq into asking the United States to prepare to leave and raise serious doubts about U.S. judgment and reliability.
  • However, other presidents did not have a clear foreign policy either. Bush believed ending tyranny and evil forever should be the central goal of U.S. foreign policy and thought the U.S. military could quickly transform the Middle East into a sea of pro-American democracies. Obama had a more realistic view of U.S. power, but he did little to reduce America’s military involvement overseas and fully backed the energetic use of U.S. military power.
  • What’s going on there? Part of the problem today is the remarkable position of primacy that the United States has enjoyed ever since the Cold War ended. Because the United States is so powerful, wealthy, and secure, it is mostly insulated from the consequences of its own actions. As I said in my previous column, we have reached a point where foreign and national security policy in the United States is more like performance art.

The Washington Post / Xi Jinping’s approach to Taiwan and Hong Kong has backfired

  • Xi Jinping has suffered the most painful consequence yet of his misguided crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong: the landslide reelection Saturday of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. She was considered politically dead a year ago after her party suffered a crushing loss in local elections. But Mr. Xi revived her with his uncompromising response to last year’s mass demonstrations in Hong Kong.
  • Ms. Tai rejected Hong Kong’s fate, telling voters that their choice was between democracy and dictatorship: “Young people in Hong Kong have used their lives and blood and tears to show us that ‘one country, two systems’ is not possible,” she defended. Her opponent, populist mayor Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang party, was tagged with the pro-China label despite trying to distance himself from the “one country, two systems” formula.
  • President Xi has proved in the past six months that “one country, two systems” is not a workable formula. Rather than respect Hong Kong’s rule of law, his appointees there have ridden roughshod over it. Simple logic would suggest that more of Mr. Xi’s authoritarian intolerance will simply bring about more reverses.
  • Foreign Policy – Lev Nachman / Taiwan’s voters show how to beat populism

The New York Times – Adam Nossiter / France agrees to small troop increase, but little else, at Sahel summit

  • French partnership with West African armies to combat Islamist terrorism is flailing, but little new to reinforce it emerged from a summit on Monday. Flanked by the leaders of five West and Central African states, Mr. Macron pledged to send 220 French troops to the region, adding to the force of 4,500 already there. That force is under increasing criticism in some of the countries for failing to halt recurring massacres of local armies’ troops.
  • Mr. Macron, who had warned that France might withdraw its troops, wanted the leaders of the Sahel to make clear, in public, that they wanted French forces to stay. Subsequently, the summit accomplished that goal.  
  • The West African countries did pledge Monday to work more closely together, and with the French, to concentrate forces on the dangerous tri-border region shared by Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, and to focus on the regional affiliate of the Islamic State. However, whether this move will improve the military situation is not clear.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

Política Internacional | Permalink

EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 13/01/2020

South China Morning Post – Sarah Zheng / Where to for the KMT after Han Kuo-yu’s failed bid for Taiwan president?

  • Uncertainty  hangs over the political future of Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu and the embattled Kuomintang (KMT) party after their heavy losses in Taiwan’s election, according to analysts. He lost the presidency by a 20-point margin to incumbent Tsai Ing-wen, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Moreover, the  KMT also failed to break the DPP’s hold on the island’s legislature, securing just 38 of the 113 seats compared to the DPP’s 61. Taiwan’s electorate voted in great numbers, with turnout at 74.9 per cent.  
  • KMT chairman Wu Den-yih and other top leaders resigned late on Saturday to take responsibility for the losses, despite Wu’s promise to take back the legislature. Wu said the KMT had failed to meet its expectations and needed to improve.
  • Political analysts stated that Han’s campaign was undermined by divisions within the KMT, Han’s personal blunders and pro-Beijing image, and the KMT’s controversial list of candidates. The party needed to reach out to younger voters, who mostly turned out for Tsai, energised by issues such as same-sex marriage and her support for Hong Kong protesters, they said.
  • South China Morning Post – Kimmy Chung / Hong Kong protesters feel new burst of hope as Tsai Ing-win sweeps to resounding victory in Taiwan elections
  • Foreign Affairs – Rush Doshi / China steps up its information war in Taiwan

Financial Times – Jim Brunsden & Michael Peel / Malta changes leadership in wake of Daphne Caruana Galizia probe

  • Malta’s new prime minister Robert Abela will be sworn in on Monday after the deepening scandal of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder forced a change in the country’s political leadership. Mr. Abela won the election to lead the ruling Labour party in a vote on Saturday. He is the son of a former Maltese president, and campaigned on a platform of social reforms that appealed to party members.
  • Vera Jourova, the EU’s justice chief, warned Malta last month that Brussels expected “a thorough and independent investigation, free from any political interference”, of the murder scandal. She complained of “a lack of significant progress” in essential anti-corruption reforms. “The latest developments show that no further time should be lost.” A recent fact-finding mission by the European parliament also raised concerns about the state of the rule of law in the country.
  • Caruana Galizia’s car-bomb killing shocked Europe and fed into broader concerns about declining respect for the rule of law within the EU. The new European Commission, led by Ursula von der Leyen, has vowed to create a new “mechanism” for monitoring and enforcing the rule of law. 
  • Reuters – Graham Fahy, Mark Potter & Pravin Char / Ireland’s PM sets stage for possible February election
  • EURACTIV – Philipp Grüll / Austria’s new conservative-Green coalition enthusiastic about climate and Europe

The New York Times – Declan Walsh / Libyan rivals announce a truce in the battle for Tripoli

  • Libya’s opposing parties have agreed to a cease-fire that took effect after midnight on Saturday, stoking fragile hopes for an end to months of escalating foreign-backed fighting around Tripoli, the capital, that has threatened to push the country into a major conflagration. The agreement was defended by the Turkish and Russian presidents at a meeting in Istanbul last week, ostensibly to end a surge in fighting that had caused thousands of deaths and displaced 300,000 civilians, according to the United Nations.
  • However, there were signs that some officials believed the truce might not last long. In fact, each side soon accused the other of breaking the cease-fire, amid reports of continuing fighting around Tripoli. Many Western officials took Mr. Putin’s cease-fire effort as an attempt to undermine faltering European and United Nations-led efforts to broker a political settlement in Libya. But on Sunday, the UN mission to Libya welcomed the truce.
  • International attention to Libya has grown in recent weeks as other countries have taken a greater role in the fight. Mr. Hifter’s campaign to capture Tripoli is backed by the United Arab Emirates, which launched airstrikes by warplanes and drones, and by a contingent of Kremlin-backed Russian mercenaries that arrived last fall.
  • Al-monitor – Fehim Tastekin / Ankara divides Syrian rebels on fighting in Libya

Brookings – Bruce Riedel / Remembering Oman’s Sultan Qaboos, a critical interlocutor for the US in the Middle East

  • The Omani Sultan Qaboos ruled the country for five decades, shepherding its transformation from a medieval backwater in the Arabian Peninsula to a modern country with good relations with all its neighbors. Oman has modest oil reserves, and Qaboos invested wisely in infrastructure and development. Schools, hospitals, and modern facilities were brought in to the nation. Women can vote and be candidates for office. But 55% of Omanis are under the age of 25, and the country has witnessed serious protests in 2017 and 2011.
  • The presence of American troops in Oman date back to 1980, when the abortive hostage rescue mission in Iran was staged from Oman. Ironically, despite his close relationship with the United States, Qaboos only made one state visit to Washington in 50 years.
  • Qaboos was the 14th generation of his family ruling Oman. His shoes will be difficult to fill. No successor has the decades of legitimacy and leadership that Qaboos enjoyed, nor the training needed. The disruption in the region due to the crisis over the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani adds to the concerns about the future of the sultanate.
  • The Washington Post – Brian Murphy / Sultan Qaboos, who transformed Oman into a regional power broker, dies at 79

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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