ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 22/03/2018

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Financial Times – John Aglionby / Forty African nations sign continental free trade deal

  • 44 African governments signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on Wednesday. Under this continent-wide free trade agreement, the 44 signatory countries committed to cut tariffs on 90 per cent of goods.
  • The aim of the free trade area is to cut tariffs from their current average of 6.1 per cent to eventually zero, and address a myriad of non-tariff barriers. 27 countries also signed a separate agreement to allow the free movement of people across borders.
  • The UN’s economic commission on Africa forecasts that if the largest African economies joined the free trade area, intra-African trade would grow 50 per cent in the following five years.
  • But Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation, was among 11 countries that refused to join the AfCFTA, underlining the challenges the initiative faces.

The Guardian – Oliver Holmes / Israel confirms it carried out 2007 airstrike on Syrian nuclear reactor

  • Israel’s military has gone public for the first time to confirm a 2007 airstrike on a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor.
  • In a secret operation that has been extensively speculated on for a decade, Israel said it sent four F-16 fighters hundreds of miles into Syria on 6 September 2007, to bomb the partially completed al-Kubar facility near Deir ez-Zor.
  • Israel’s military sought to justify the strike further, noting that the Islamic State group captured the area around the facility during Syria’s civil war.
  • Israel’s intelligence minister, Yisrael Katz, made a direct warning to Iran in a tweet on Wednesday morning, saying the raid provided a clear message that Israel would not allow “nuclear weapons to countries like Iran who threaten its existence.”

Euractiv / Coal power decline ‘not fast enough’ to meet UN climate goals

  • According to a report by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and CoalSwarm, the number of coal-fired power plants built worldwide fell steeply over the past two years, but emissions are too high to keep global warming within relatively safe levels.
  • Global coal capacity is still growing, rising by 2% in the last 12 months, according to the World Coal Association, an industry network.
  • “In the last five years as China became the largest solar and wind market in the world, it also added 229 gigawatts of coal power, thus increasing coal generation by a third,” said Benjamin Sporton, head of the World Coal Association.
  • The campaign groups said global coal capacity is likely to start shrinking in 2022, when the number of plants retired is expected to outstrip those being built.

Brookings – Shibley Telhami / Mohammed bin Salman, son of the Iraq War

  • For decades, Saudi foreign policy tried to maintain a balance of power between Iraq and Iran to assure that neither could pose a threat to Saudi security and interests in the region. The 2003 Iraq War ended any prospect of Iraq serving as a balancer of Iran.
  • The Iraq War allowed Al-Qaeda (and later ISIS) to thrive, and at the same time it undermined Saudi confidence in the US willingness and ability to intervene effectively if and when the Saudis felt this was needed.
  • Thus, Riyadh became far more interventionist in foreign policy, even before the rise of King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • Now, Riyadh hopes to reverse some of the troubling consequences of the Iraq War by luring Trump into a confrontation with Iran that could undermine some of Iran’s gains since 2003.

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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