On the Record
The Brexit date is getting ever closer. The ball is still rolling toward the cliffs of Dover.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte
On Our Radar
Brexit's Big Week. A series of votes in the United Kingdom's House of Commons next week will be crucial for the future of Brexit. On March 12, lawmakers will once again vote on the exit agreement that London negotiated with Brussels, after overwhelmingly rejecting it in January. If parliamentarians reject the agreement again, a vote will take place on March 13 on whether or not to leave the EU without a deal. If lawmakers vote against leaving without a deal, then a vote will take place on March 14 on whether or not to ask the EU to delay Brexit. These votes reduce the chances of a disorderly withdrawal on March 29, as British politicians will be given the opportunity to postpone Brexit. But even if Brexit is delayed, the long-term questions about the final shape of the UK's egress from the European Union will remain unanswered.
Trump Takes Aim at India and Turkey. India and Turkey are caught in the crossfire of an intensifying trade debate involving the United States and the World Trade Organization (WTO). On March 4, U.S. President Donald Trump notified Congress of his intent to revoke the low tariffs New Delhi and Ankara have enjoyed since the 1970s on various goods outlined under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). Trump justified the decision by saying that trade barriers impede greater market access. Although Trump's move fits into his broader attempts at reigning in trade deficits, the debate over GSP eligibility predates his administration and strikes at the very heart of the ongoing debate over WTO reform and how developing nations are defined.
Major Players Meet in China. China's annual "two sessions" — the People's Political Consultative Conference and the National People's Congress — kick off this week. The sessions will set the country's growth targets and will this year emphasize economy stability and employment. The unveiling of China's crucial foreign investment law is hotly anticipated. The law is designed to ease U.S. concerns over forced technology transfers and in foreign business interference and is expected to get passed when the legislative session concludes. The details of the new bill matter, and how it's applied will be a key factor when it comes to managing the trade conflict between the United States and China.
Italy, the Next Stop on the Belt and Road? The European Union and key member states including France and Germany are concerned about foreign companies, particularly from China, gaining access to critical technology or infrastructure in Europe. This week, Brussels introduced a new screening mechanism to address concerns. Concurrently, a member of Italy's economic development ministry said that Rome could sign a memorandum of understanding to join China's Belt and Road program later in the month. Not everybody is happy with the idea, however, and the United States and the EU have warned about China using investment promises to increase its political influence in Europe. The Italian government itself seems divided on the issue, with the populist Five Star Movement in favor of greater Chinese investment while the right-wing League is skeptical.
Private Gold Mine Project Canceled in Mexico. After Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador ordered the cancellation of a private gold mine, many in Mexico are considering how the new administration might present a risk to private investors. Lopez Obrador is already holding impromptu referendums on investments and plans to enact constitutional reform to allow more frequent votes on almost any subject of national and local concern. But ordering the cancellation of a mining project portends a more immediate problem for the private sector. Lopez Obrador will continue to provoke Mexico's private sector as long as it's politically expedient and he may now resort to outright foreign and domestic expropriation to pursue his political aims.
On Our Minds
The Cost of Stationing U.S. Troops Abroad. According to a March 7 Bloomberg report, the White House is drawing up plans to demand that its allies pay the full price of basing U.S. troops overseas, as well as an additional 50 percent or more for the "privilege" of hosting them. If Washington goes through with this plan, the White House could pressure some of its allies to pay more. But such a strategy comes with associated risk. The U.S. relies on the forward deployment of a portion of its forces to maintain global influence and to deter competitors such as China and Russia. Financial wrangling from the U.S. could lead to key allies such as Germany and Japan reevaluating the benefit of American personnel and equipment on their territory altogether.
Intrigue in the Sea of Azov. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is rumored to have urged German Chancellor Angela Merkel to send warships to the Kerch Strait in a show of support to Ukraine during a Feb. 16 meeting. Germany refused Pence's proposal and France also declined to take part, both countries deeming such a move an unnecessary provocation of Russia. This is revealing if true and would confirm the dynamic interplay of Western powers when it comes to Ukraine. The U.S. has traditionally been bolder in its support of Kiev against Russia — both in terms of rhetoric and concrete security assistance. Germany and France, however, hold a more moderate line on the Ukraine issue. If Kiev is able to get the kind of direct military support from Western or NATO powers that it seeks to build up its military and naval capabilities, there could be an escalation of tensions in the Black Sea region.
SpaceX Makes Headway on Manned Space Flight. SpaceX successfully conducted a test launch and reentry of its Crew Dragon capsule. The takeoff happened March 2, with the capsule — and test dummy — reentering the Earth's atmosphere on March 8. This is a giant leap forward for the United States, which aims to soon regain the ability to send humans into space. That capability was lost in 2011 when the Space Shuttle Atlantis wrapped up its final mission. The U.S. has since relied on Russian Soyuz rockets to deploy personnel to space. SpaceX's first manned launch is expected to come later in 2019. After years of limited options, there is now fierce competition to make commercial spaceflight practical. Boeing, like SpaceX, has signed a contract with NASA for launches and is also preparing its own capsule — Starliner — for a test launch in April.
In Case You Missed It
On Our Calendar
In the coming week, North Korea's ruling Workers' Party of Korea will elect deputies to the 14th Supreme People's Assembly, Lebanese government officials will visit Saudi Arabia to discuss the status and progress of their relationship, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Turkey to meet with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusglu and the U.S. Federal Reserve will meet. For more, see our Geopolitical Calendar.
Join the Discussion
Will Pakistan actually shift away from using militant proxies against countries like India? Or is the country's recent crackdown on militancy more of a publicity stunt meant to appease its international allies?
Will a dip in private sector growth impact the United Arab Emirates' economic development plans? Will Abu Dhabi be able to change the trajectory of its economy before oil demand reaches its peak in the coming decades?
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