Trade war fatigue. U.S. farmers, who are growing increasingly impatient with the U.S. trade war, have descended on Washington this week to lobby members of Congress and demand more progress on trade talks. The U.S. Department of Agriculture identified talks with Mexico, Canada, China and Japan as its top priorities and underscored the need to diversify the country’s trade portfolio. This doesn’t seem to have alleviated the concerns of producers, who said the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership has cost them sales and market share in Japan. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue attempted to reassure them by claiming China could triple purchases of U.S. goods if a trade deal is signed. It’s unclear, however, when a resolution to any of Washington’s major trade disputes will be reached. U.S.-China trade talks are expected to continue into April, and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement still hasn’t been ratified. As farmers continue to put pressure on elected representatives from their home states, the Trump administration’s ability to prolong the trade war may be limited.
Putin’s uphill battle. In President Vladimir Putin’s latest move to boost the economy and improve the business environment in Russia, he has called on prosecutors to protect businesses from unjustified pressure by law enforcement agencies. Putin is likely trying to guarantee that businesses stay open to generate jobs, profits and tax revenue for the government. Another distressing sign for the economy is the announcement that civil service reforms will result in a reduction in public sector jobs and slower growth in wages. Civil servants are paid through tax revenue, so the only way to avoid these cuts would be to raise taxes. By not doing so, the government is saying that it believes a tax hike would be too risky right now.
Bolsonaro goes to Washington. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has begun his first trip to the U.S. as part of a broader effort to improve ties with his country’s powerful northern neighbor. Its courtship in that regard has been anything but subtle. The government added a tariff-free quota of 750,000 metric tons for U.S. wheat exports and waived visa requirements for visitors from the United States. Brasilia and Washington also signed an agreement that allows the U.S. to launch a commercial satellite from the Alcantara Launch Center. Still, Brazil’s economy minister reminded the U.S. business community that for as much as it wants U.S. investment, Brazil is interested only in mutually beneficial partnerships, adding that other countries will have plenty of business opportunities in Brazil. It’s no coincidence that 10 days before meeting Trump, Brazil announced Bolsonaro will go to China later this year, a move Brazil hopes will motivate the U.S. to put its money where its mouth is.
France and India counter China. India and France have agreed to let each use the other’s military facilities in the Indo-Pacific. The two countries will create a joint maritime monitoring mechanism, share intelligence, and open naval bases to calls by the other’s warships. Their motivations for doing so are pretty cut and dry. France is motivated by maritime security interests off the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa, which President Emmanuel Macron just visited last week. India, for its part, is in the process of developing its navy – and access to ports is extremely valuable in that regard. The agreement has the added benefit of countering China’s growing presence in the region.
- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has resigned after three decades in office.
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow backs the Algerian government’s calls for dialogue with protesters and warned against any foreign interference.
- Venezuela’s Oil Ministry announced the suspension of oil exports to India.
- The International Monetary Fund’s mission to Argentina concluded its third review of the country and said Buenos Aires was on track to receive its next loan tranche, worth $10.8 billion, in the coming weeks.
- Israel and Greece agreed to build a new long-range marine radar system that will be stationed in eastern Crete.
- Outstanding loans in China’s shadow banking sector fell by 4.3 trillion yuan ($640 billion) in 2018 to 61.3 trillion yuan. This marked a 6.5 percent decline year over year and the first full-year drop in over a decade.
- The inaugural Africa-India Field Training Exercise kicked off in Pune on India’s west coast. Seventeen African countries are participating.