ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 04/01/2019

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Washington Post – Missy Ryan & John Hudson / ‘They can do what they want’: Trump’s Iran comments defy the position of his top aides

  • In his first Cabinet meeting of the year, President Trump said Iran’s leaders “can do what they want” in Syria, sticking a dagger in a major initiative advanced by his foreign policy team.
  • The Iran-centric plan that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton unveiled in the fall is absent from ongoing discussions in Washington. Officials attributed that to the fact the president never signed off on an expanded US mission in Syria to counter Iran in the first place.
  • While Trump shares his advisers’ combative views on Iran, he has focused mainly on the 2015 nuclear deal.
  • “The counter-Iran campaign continues,” said Pompeo. “We’ll do all of those things. . . . We will simply do it at a time when the American forces have departed Syria.”
  • Haaretz – Amir Tibon / Iran ‘can do what they want’ in Syria, Trump says
  • Al-Monitor – Bijan Khajehpour / US sanctions and the dynamics of Iran’s petroleum sector

Financial Times – Edward White / Taiwan turns to India to shake off shackles of China dependence

  • Taiwan’s leaders are not only worried about overexposure to a single market, but also that economic reliance on mainland China gives Beijing political leverage. Mainland China accounts for around 40 per cent of Taiwan’s exports — and exports account for more than half of Taiwan’s GDP.
  • For officials tasked with weaning Taiwan off the giant next door, India has become the main goal. “India is the jewel in our external economic strategy,” said James Huang, chair of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council.
  • Taiwan is starting from a low base as it targets India: as recently as 2016, fewer than 100 Taiwanese companies operated in India, compared to about 100,000 in mainland China. However, the number of Taiwanese companies operating in the Indian market has now increased to more than 200, according to PwC.
  • Taiwan and India last month signed a new bilateral investment agreement, easing market access, but Beijing’s success at blocking Taipei’s participation in broader trade deals has hampered the competitiveness of Taiwanese businesses.
  • South China Morning Post – Liu Zhen / Beijing will keep military pressure on Taiwan after Xi Jinping’s call for unification – analysts
  • South China Morning Post – Zhenhua Lu & AFP / ‘China, China, China’: Trump’s new Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan sets US defence priorities

Financial Times – Heba Saleh / Migrant surge to Spain prompts Moroccan crackdown

  • Spain has become the leading destination for migrants crossing the Mediterranean into the EU, with more than 60,000 people arriving in the country last year, surpassing the combined total of migrants who arrived in Greece and Italy.
  • But Morocco is stressing there could have been many more. During the summer, Rabat launched a crackdown on immigrants trying to sneak into Spain and says it has foiled 70,000 attempted illegal crossings.
  • Haizam Amirah-Fernandez, senior analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute: “Part of the Spanish reaction to the rise in numbers is to try to get support from Europe for Morocco in different forms such as economic aid, materiel for control of immigration plus broader political support.”
  • The Moroccan crackdown is the harshest since 2013, according to Karim Chairi Hourri, a lawyer in Tangier who represents migrants. But some say the crackdown has started to abate, and a few weeks ago there were reports that Morocco had cut the number of irregular Moroccan migrants it would let Spain send back without due legal process.

Project Syndicate – Joseph E. Stiglitz / A very Trumpian year

  • A year ago, US business and financial leaders’ unbridled greed allowed them to look past their aversion to large deficits. But they are now seeing that the 2017 tax package was the most regressive and poorly timed tax bill in history.
  • As a result of the legislation, the US Department of the Treasury is now forecasting a $1 trillion deficit for 2018 – the largest single-year non-recessionary peacetime deficit in any country ever. Given the country’s low saving rate, most of the money to finance the deficit will inevitably come from foreign lenders.
  • In addition to the disastrous tax legislation, the Trump administration’s trade and immigration policies are also unsettling markets and disrupting supply chains.
  • If the supporters of today’s populist leaders grow disillusioned with the inevitable failure of their economic policies, they could veer even further toward the neo-fascist right. More optimistically, they could be brought back into the liberal-democratic fold, or at least become demobilized by their disappointment.
  • This much we do know: economic and political outcomes are intertwined and mutually reinforcing. In 2019, the consequences of the bad policies and worse politics of the last two years will come more fully into view.
  • Project Syndicate / PS commentators’ predictions for 2019

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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