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SnapshotsOct 19, 2020 | 20:14 GMT
A man holds new South African banknotes of the South African rand on July 13, 2018, in Pretoria, South Africa.
South Africa’s Economic Reality Will Dim Any Hopes of a Quick Recovery
Domestic political and financial constraints will thwart South Africa’s new economic recovery plan, prolonging the country’s five-year financial crisis while exacerbating its current levels of inequality and poverty. In an Oct. 15 speech to parliament, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa unveiled his government’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, which ambitiously targets an average of 3 percent GDP growth over the next decade -- a level South Africa has not seen since 2011. The plan seeks to meet that goal by implementing structural reforms, boosting infrastructure investment and reducing bureaucratic red tape. Critically, however, the plan does not abandon the government’s strategy of fiscal consolidation over the medium term.
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SITUATION REPORTOct 19, 2020 | 14:32 GMT
U.K., EU: London Says Post-Brexit Trade Deal Still Possible
The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, will hold a video conference call with his British counterpart, David Frost, on Oct. 19 to discuss the state of the EU-U.K. free trade negotiations, the BBC has reported. Senior U.K. Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said on Oct. 18 that the door is "still ajar" for talks over a post-Brexit trade deal if Brussels is willing to make concessions. 
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SnapshotsOct 15, 2020 | 21:23 GMT
The U.S. State Department building is seen in Washington D.C. on July 22, 2019.
The White House’s Hong Kong Report Maintains Its Measured Approach
The White House is continuing its cautious and relatively slow-paced approach to Hong Kong, as it tries to avoid disrupting business continuity in the city and ensure the volatile political dynamic doesn’t drive the overall U.S.-China dynamic, including outreach on issues such as trade. On Oct. 14, the U.S. State Department issued its required Hong Kong Autonomy Act report to Congress, listing 10 Chinese and Hong Kong officials found to have materially contributed to eroding the region's autonomy. The report warned that banks that conduct significant transactions with the individuals listed could face U.S. secondary sanctions, including restrictions on U.S. dollar transactions and measures targeting corporate leadership. This sets the stage for a potential increase of U.S. pressure on foreign, Hong Kong and Chinese financial institutions operating in the city. However, the nature of the Oct. 14 report suggests a less escalatory approach, though that could change depending on the
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AssessmentsOct 15, 2020 | 16:08 GMT
A close-up view shows the Alipay logo in Ant Group’s office in Shanghai, China, on Aug. 28, 2020.
The U.S. Sets Its Eyes on Chinese Fintech Companies
The U.S. government will likely increase restrictions on the use of Chinese payment systems in the United States, but any decisions regarding broader action on Chinese data acquisition is unlikely ahead of the U.S. election in November. On Sept. 30, senior Trump administration officials reportedly discussed imposing new restrictions on WeChat Pay and Alipay -- the two payment apps owned by the Chinese fintech giants Tencent and Ant Group, respectively. Some White House officials have advocated for wider restrictions that could affect the use of the payment apps outside the United States as part of the administration’s push to limit China’s overall access to the U.S. market due to national security concerns. But any initial U.S. restrictions will likely be limited to WeChat Pay and Alipay’s specific use in the United States and its access to U.S. technology in order to limit the risk of provoking Chinese retaliation and/or self-inflicted
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SnapshotsOct 14, 2020 | 17:11 GMT
A pile of briquettes, which are compressed blocks of coal dust, is seen in Melbourne, Australia, in March 2017.
With an Apparent Coal Ban, China Ups the Cost of Australia’s Political Defiance
Reports that China has halted purchases of Australian coal suggest Beijing is increasing economic pressure to curb Canberra’s more confrontational stance. Such moves, however, are unlikely to inhibit Australia’s greater strategic shift to rebalance against Chinese encroachment in the region. On Oct. 14, leaks indicated that around 850,000 tonnes of Australian coking coal on ten Panamax vessels bound for China was being diverted to other markets. This follows an Oct. 13 confirmation from Australia's trade ministry that it was determining whether Beijing has suspended purchases of Australian coking and thermal coal. Reports from the day before indicate that Chinese officials told most large power stations and steel mills in early October to halt the use of Australian coal. Many ports were also reportedly told not to offload the product, causing buyers to respond by halting purchases for fear they wouldn’t clear customs. If confirmed, China's suspension of Australian coal purchases
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SITUATION REPORTOct 13, 2020 | 20:05 GMT
China: Trade Figures Show Rebound
China's trade growth sped up in September with exports up 9.9 percent year on year and imports up 13.2 percent, according to customs data out Oct. 13, Reuters reported. Year-on-year export growth was the highest since March 2019 and up slightly as compared to August, which saw 9.5 percent growth. 
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AssessmentsOct 12, 2020 | 20:57 GMT
A picture taken during a helicopter tour organized by the government of the United Arab Emirates shows an aerial view of Dubai on July 8, 2020.
A Larger UAE Citizenry Would Mean Smoother Policymaking and Rockier Regional Ties
The United Arab Emirates is considering offering citizenship to its large expatriate population, which would significantly alter the country’s political economy, as well as its regional relationships, by assimilating non-Arab Gulf residents into its middle- and upper-classes. Over time, this new group of foreign-born Emirati citizens would likely erode the tribal and ethnic dynamics that have long shaped the governance of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, along with the cultural foundations driving many aspects of cooperation in the Arab Gulf. On Sept. 30, the Emirati government unveiled proposed changes to the country’s citizenship law that would ease the way for investors, long-term residents and wealthy foreigners to earn a permanent place in the country. With foreigners far outnumbering its local population, the United Arab Emirates’ current citizenship laws have offset the country’s long-standing demographic imbalances by ensuring the influence and prominence of its minority Emiratis via special legal and political protections. Changing
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AssessmentsOct 9, 2020 | 21:25 GMT
A view of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) building from the street in Washington D.C. on Sept. 25, 2020.
Zambia’s Imminent Debt Default
Zambia is expected to default on its external debt when the southern African country misses $118 million in interest payments on eurobonds due from Oct. 14 to March 2021. Hopes for a comprehensive debt restructuring are overly optimistic without major help from China, its largest creditor, as well as a substantial macroeconomic adjustment program supported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Zambia is the first comprehensive case involving all creditor classes this year, and neither the Paris Club nor bondholders will restructure debt without appropriate burden-sharing by China.
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SITUATION REPORTOct 8, 2020 | 19:07 GMT
U.S., Iran: White House Imposes New Round of Financial Sanctions 
The U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned 18 Iranian banks as part of a move to essentially blacklist the country’s entire financial sector by designating it as a key entity that the Iranian government uses to raise funds under the Executive Order 13902, according to an Oct. 8 press release. 
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SnapshotsOct 8, 2020 | 19:04 GMT
The United Kingdom’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost (center) arrives at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Sept. 17, 2020.
Brexit Talks Make Progress as Deadline Looms
Progress between EU and U.K. negotiators on contentious issues such as state aid and fishing rights is increasing the probability of a limited trade agreement by the end of the year. However, London’s ongoing attempts to circumvent certain aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement that it reached with Brussels last year could still thwart such a deal. The European Union is worried that the United Kingdom will use state aid to increase the competitiveness of its companies vis-a-vis their continental rivals, while London has pledged to restrict EU access to its fishing waters. Both issues have been obstacles to a deal since the beginning of trade talks in March, but in recent days there have been signs of potential compromises.
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AssessmentsOct 6, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Philippine and Chinese coast guard ships sail past each other in the South China Sea on May 14, 2019.
The Philippines Takes a Tougher Approach to Its South China Sea Claims
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s South China Sea policy is becoming less conciliatory toward China, as he tries to balance growing pressure from within his administration to revitalize Manila’s security cooperation with the United States against the need to preserve his country’s economic ties with Beijing. The Duterte administration has recently made a number of statements emphasizing the Philippines’ extensive maritime dispute with China. This suggests a notable shift in Manila’s approach toward China, as the Philippine government has largely avoided making points of contention with Beijing since 2016. However, there appear to be divisions between the president and key members of his cabinet on the matter. 
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