The U.S. calls for a cease-fire in Yemen. In an official statement released yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Houthi rebels to halt their cross-border attacks and Saudi Arabia to stop conducting airstrikes. Secretary of Defense James Mattis encouraged all involved to stop hostilities within 30 days. The Saudi-led coalition is already in the process of mobilizing more than 10,000 additional soldiers for a planned offensive against the Yemeni city of Hodeida. The Yemeni government – that is, the one Saudi Arabia supports – seems receptive to the cease-fire, with President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi reportedly agreeing to meet with Washington’s special envoy, according to a Saudi-funded website. The U.S. has never really shown any interest in ending the conflict here – if anything, its deployments and arms supplies suggest that it’s been content to let it go on. Maybe it’s a PR stunt to save face in light of the Khashoggi affair. Maybe Washington thinks the war is no longer “winnable.” Maybe it’s an earnest attempt to roll back Iran, which is looking for sanctions relief for its oil sector. Whatever the case may be, the U.S. can’t seem to extricate itself from the region.
The trade war and the damage done. The purchasing managers’ index released in China in October shows that Chinese manufacturing had dropped to 50.2, barely above the 50 point threshold to indicate growth. To be sure, the PMI is an imprecise measurement, but the low figure is still revelatory because it is below what economists had anticipated and, more important, it focuses on the state-owned enterprises and heavy industries that are theoretically less vulnerable to tariffs than private ones. Private manufacturing is probably faring worse. The U.S. has been pressuring China to respond to its invitation to start trade talks. So far, Beijing has declined – it doesn’t think the U.S. is serious about reaching a compromise that China could accept. Data points such as the PMI suggest Beijing may not have much of a choice any longer.
Brazil’s foreign policy. Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro said he might reorient Brazilian foreign policy. His first international tour will include trips to Chile, the U.S. and Israel. The trip to Chile will have trade on the agenda. The two countries are on track to sign their broadest-ever free trade agreement, which includes 17 new sections, in November. The trip to the U.S., a low priority for previous administrations, will focus on economic and security ties. The trip to Israel suggests Brazil may withdraw its support of the Palestinian Territories, which it formally recognized in 2010. Notably absent from the list is Argentina, which is usually one of the first countries a new Brazilian president will visit. It appears Bolsonaro may have meant it when he said he planned to distance Brazil from Mercosur, a trade bloc of which Argentina is an important member. China is waiting to see if there are any changes to their relationship. After all, Bolsonaro accused Beijing of trying to buy Brazil during his campaign.
Fixing Venezuela. Multiple stories suggest that the U.S. and Venezuela are working behind the scenes to manage the chaos in Venezuela. Washington reportedly considered a new round of sanctions earlier this month but has yet to apply them. Around the same time, the Trump administration threaten to crack down on the intelligence and security services of Cuba, a longtime Venezuelan ally, but has yet to follow through. Venezuela and Cuba have since looked to Russia for help. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro heavily publicized his meetings with Russian officials and Moscow’s role in helping strengthen Venezuela’s economy. Cuba agreed to enhance trade, infrastructure modernization and scientific cooperation with Russia. Rumors of possible military incursion in Venezuela also re-emerged after Brazil’s presidential election but were quickly shut down by Colombia and Brazil, which said they still plan to deal with Venezuela diplomatically.
- Egyptian intelligence officials traveled to Gaza to try to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
- Ingushetia and Chechnya, two federal subjects of Russia, are in a dispute over a land swap deal. An Ingush court ruled against the swap, and now leaders from the two republics are trying to bypass the ruling.
- The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership will come into force at the end of the year now that Australia has ratified the agreement. Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore also ratified it.
- China’s vice president is in the United Arab Emirates as part of a mission to boost ties between the two nations. China hopes to resume free trade talks with the Gulf Cooperation Council.
- China accused Kenya of instigating a trade war after the government in Nairobi canceled the applications for imports of Chinese fish in a move to support local fishermen. Beijing is now threatening Kenya with sanctions.
- The Indian government and central bank are at odds after the government invoked a clause that could challenge the bank’s autonomy. The head of the central bank has threatened to resign over the move.