China Remains in the U.S. Crosshairs. The United States will impose tariffs, sanctions and blocks on investment and research in a bid to frustrate China's development of strategic technologies. China not only has the tools to manage the economic blow, but will also accelerate efforts to lessen its reliance on foreign-sourced technological components.
Trade Battles Fall Short of a Full-Fledged War. Trade frictions will remain high this quarter as the White House continues on an economic warpath in the name of national security. U.S. tariffs will invite countermeasures from trading partners targeting U.S. agricultural and industrial goods. As Congress attempts to reclaim trade authority, the White House will refrain from escalating these trade battles into an all-out trade war.
Taking the First Big Step with North Korea. Drama will inevitably surround the negotiation, but the United States and North Korea have a decent shot at making progress toward a political agreement this quarter, something that will set the stage for much thornier and lengthier technical discussions on denuclearization. Even if talks appear to break down in the coming months, Pyongyang will avoid more aggressive measures in the near term while working to maintain diplomatic and economic momentum with China and South Korea.
Tremors in Europe. The new Euroskeptic government in Rome will hold off on threats to leave the eurozone for now, but will be seeking allies in southern Europe to battle Brussels on fiscal deficit and debt rules. Divisions within the British government will meanwhile raise the potential for Parliament to take more control of the Brexit process to keep the UK in the customs union.
All Eyes on Riyadh. As Iran's major European and Asian clients negotiate waivers with the United States in return for reducing oil exports from Iran, Washington will be looking to Saudi Arabia to coordinate with major oil producers to make up the supply gap. Riyadh will nonetheless be cautious in planning a market intervention as it aims for a higher price band in anticipation of the Saudi Aramco IPO.
Moscow Tries to Break a Stalemate with Washington. Poland and other borderland states will make appeals for stronger security guarantees from Washington while they still have the United States' attention. Russia will try to break a negotiating stalemate with the United States to talk sanctions, military build-ups and arms control by promoting its mediation in the Syrian conflict and its potential utility in North Korean denuclearization. Don't hold your breath for a breakthrough, though.
Polarizing Allies. In harnessing the power of tariffs and extraterritoriality in sanctions, the United States will polarize many of its security allies in Europe and Asia — strategic partners that Washington needs to counterbalance the emerging threat from China and Russia. Attempts to target Russia's strategic relationships will call into question the long-term reliability of the United States as a defense partner and invite heavy pushback from Turkey, Vietnam, Germany and India, in particular.
Iran's Return to the 'Resistance Economy.' As the limits of EU economic safeguards are exposed, Tehran will cautiously walk back its commitments to the nuclear deal while seeking out willing partners to circumvent sanctions. Russia will take advantage of Iran's rising vulnerability to deepen its military ties with Tehran while mediating between Iran and Israel in Syria.
The Big Turkish Gamble. Turkey will be a big feature of the third quarter following a precarious electoral gamble by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan has the tools to eke out a win and whip up a nationalist reaction to any outside questioning of the vote, but the highly polarized country will remain on shaky economic ground amid worsening relations with the West.
Votes Against the Status Quo. Mexico's populist candidate stands a chance of winning big in July elections, which could pose a threat to energy and education reforms while further complicating NAFTA talks. A strong anti-establishment current will also be on display in Colombia, where the FARC peace deal is under threat, and in Brazil and Argentina, where the appetite for economic reform will plummet.