A deal on immigration. The United States and Guatemala have signed an agreement to limit the number of Central American asylum seekers entering the U.S. The deal, which will take effect in August, requires migrants from El Salvador and Honduras to seek asylum in Guatemala. The goal is to allow asylum claims to be filed at the “earliest possible point” to limit the number of people heading north to the U.S. border, many of whom are sent back to their home countries, according to acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan. (Only about 10-15 percent of migrants who claim asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border receive it, McAleenan said). Migrants who have not filed for asylum in Guatemala and make their way to the U.S. would be sent back to Guatemala.
A tax on digital services. U.S. President Donald Trump threatened on Friday to retaliate against a bill approved by France’s Senate two weeks ago that would levy taxes on large internet companies operating in France. The bill, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said “targets U.S. firms almost exclusively and largely spares French companies,” would impose a 3 percent tax on digital services companies operating in France that earn more than 750 million euros ($835 million) in revenue worldwide and 25 million euros in France. Notably, this is a tax on revenue, not income, which is what they are normally taxed on. The U.S. trade representative’s office said it will be holding a hearing on Aug. 19 to evaluate the bill, and that tariffs on French goods could be levied in response. The 3 percent tax, which would apply retroactively for all of 2019, is set to go into effect in January 2020.
Status of a Taiwan arms deal. During a panel discussion at the Atlantic Council, an adviser to the Trump administration said an arms deal between the U.S. and Taiwan may not have gone through. Reports from April seemed to indicate that the Trump administration was getting ready to approve a sale of 66 F-16 jets to Taiwan, and the administration did indeed approve the extension of a $500 million F-16 training program. Earlier this month, however, the U.S. State Department announced a $2.2 billion arms deal with Taiwan that excluded F-16s. A Taiwanese security analyst claimed later in July that the proposed deal for the fighter jets, which would cost approximately $10 billion, would be presented to the U.S. Congress by the end of this month.
Loopholes in the trade war. China is reportedly allowing more of its companies to buy U.S. agricultural products without tariffs. The government in Beijing approved the purchase of 50,000 tons of U.S. cotton and 3 million tons of U.S. soybeans, as well as an undisclosed amount of pork, corn and sorghum. This has been seen by some, including U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, as an indication of progress on trade talks. Others have hinted that the epidemic of African swine fever that has ravaged Chinese swine herds is forcing China to go easier on at least some of its agriculture tariffs.
- Georgia and NATO will begin their annual military exercise, Agile Spirit, today. It will involve 3,000 soldiers from Belgium, Greece, Latvia, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, as well as soldiers from U.S. Army Europe. Agile Spirit has been held every year since 2011.
- Al-Qaida in North Africa has called on Tunisians to take advantage of the death of President Beji Caid Essebsi and start a revolution.
- India has ordered the deployment of 10,000 paramilitary forces to Kashmir for counterinsurgency operations. About 100 additional companies will join an existing deployment of 40,000 paramilitary soldiers.
- Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was involved in yet another fight with Kurdish forces in Sarvabad. One IRGC soldier was reportedly killed.
- Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani has reportedly hinted at the existence of a previously unknown arm of the IRGC responsible for countering U.S. sanctions.
- Russian officials have blocked mobile phone signals and have begun arresting participants of an opposition protest in Moscow.