EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 02/04/2020

Euractiv – Alexandra Brzozowski / EU’s INSTEX mechanism facilitates first transaction with pandemic-hit Iran

  • The EU-Iran trading mechanism INSTEX, designed to allow Europeans to bypass US sanctions and continue trade with Tehran, has successfully concluded its first transaction. However, the humanitarian deal actually doesn’t appear to contravene EU sanctions.
  • France, Germany and the UK confirmed on Tuesday (31 March) that INSTEX has successfully concluded its first transaction to facilitate the export of medical goods from Europe to the pandemic-hit country. Germany’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on Tuesday (31 March) that the creation of the INSTEX mechanism has enabled the export of medical devices from Europe and thus completed the first transaction under barter system.
  • The EU-Iran Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) was born as the brainchild of France, Germany and the UK in January 2019 as a special purpose vehicle to help EU companies do business with Iran and facilitate non-USD transactions to avoid breaking US sanctions against the country.
  • The bloc is preparing to send €20 million of humanitarian aid to Iran, to mitigate the impact of the escalating coronavirus outbreak in the country. Borrell said Brussels would support requests for help made by Iran and Venezuela – also heavily sanctioned – to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • Al-Monitor – Bryant Harris / Intel: US stands down on Europe’s new trade mechanism with Iran

Foreign Policy – Amy Mackinnon and Robbie Gramer / Russia scores pandemic propaganda triumph with medical delivery to U.S.

  • As top American officials bash the Russian government for spreading disinformation on the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. President Donald Trump is accepting a supply of medical equipment from Moscow. Russia is set to deliver a planeload of personal protective equipment and supplies to the United States on Wednesday.
  • “Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was very nice,” Trump said during a press conference on Monday—though the shipment had not yet been sent at that point. Overburdened U.S. hospitals across the country are facing a dire shortage of medical supplies.
  • But the delivery also represents a major optics win for Moscow as the worldwide delivery of medical supplies from competing powers takes on an increasingly geopolitical edge. The United States appears to have shed its traditional role of world leader in a global crisis, critics say, instead redirecting its focus on domestic needs.
  • “This is a PR coup for the Russians,” said Alina Polyakova, the head of the Center for European Policy Analysis, a think tank. “The United States has always had the reputation of being the global responsible first responder in moments of crisis and now … you have a situation where an authoritarian state like Russia is providing humanitarian assistance to the most powerful country in the world.” 
  • The Washington Post – Robyn Dixon / Trump called Russia’s coronavirus aid to U.S. ‘very nice.’ Putin may use it as a propaganda coup.

Financial Times – Anjli Raval / Oil prices rally on growing hopes for Russia-Saudi Arabia pact

  • Brent crude rallied nearly 12 per cent on hopes of a supply deal among major oil producers led by Saudi Arabia and Russia to alleviate a price collapse triggered by the coronavirus outbreak. US president Donald Trump said he had spoken in recent days with the leaders of Russia and Saudi Arabia and believed a deal to end a price war — that has taken Brent to the lowest level since 2002 — would be made in “a few days”.
  • Saudi Arabia had pushed for a deal to deepen and prolong production curbs ahead of a March meeting of oil ministers, but it was met with reluctance by Russia. This prompted Saudi Arabia to pursue a ‘pump at will’ strategy to shock the market, cutting prices for its crude and raising production to record levels.
  • Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, rose by $2.88 to $27.64 a barrel. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate climbed $2, or 9.9 per cent, to $22.31 a barrel. Saudi Arabia and Russia have both backed co-operation, yet it seems there is little sign of a strategy shift just yet. The kingdom raised production to above 12m barrels a day, its maximum level, on Wednesday.
  • Some market analysts have said the demand collapse is so severe, amid global lockdowns and travel bans, that any supply cuts from major producers would have a limited impact. Mr Trump also said he would meet US oil executives to discuss other measures by which to aid the industry that is suffering after an oil price collapse.
  • Bloomberg – Catherine Ngai / Trump’s meeting with drillers couldn’t give oil futures a boost

The Guardian – Jillian Ambrose and Fiona Harvey / Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow postponed until 2021

  • The UN climate talks due to be held in Glasgow later this year have been postponed as governments around the world struggle to halt the spread of coronavirus. The most important climate negotiations since the Paris agreement in 2015 were scheduled to take place this November to put countries back on track to avoid climate breakdown.
  • They will now be pushed back to 2021. A statement from the UN on Wednesday night confirmed that the meeting of over 26,000 attendees would be delayed until next year. It said new dates for the conference would be decided in due course.
  • The UK energy minister and president of the Cop26 conference, Alok Sharma, held crunch talks with the UN and several other countries on Wednesday evening to confirm the timing of the summit. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to delay the vital talks because of the widespread disruption caused by coronavirus, and will also delay a key preliminary meeting scheduled for Bonn, Germany.
  • Some campaigners believe there could be another advantage to delay, as the US presidential elections take place this November, just before Cop26 was scheduled to begin. With the summit delayed to next year, other governments will have time to adjust either to a second term of Donald Trump or a new president who is likely to support climate action.
  • Bloomberg – Jess Shankleman and Laura Millan Lombrana / Global climate conference postponed as world grapples with virus

Today’s self-reflection drivers:

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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