Coalitions in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea has accused Turkey, Sudan and Qatar of interfering in the peace deal between Eritrea and Ethiopia. (The two only recently resumed diplomatic relations after a civil war in the 1990s led to Eritrea’s split from Ethiopia.) Whether or not the accusation is true, there are several things it tells us. If Turkey is indeed trying to disrupt the peace agreement, that would be a sign that it is trying to keep Ethiopia hemmed in and landlocked. Ethiopia is currently entirely dependent on the increasingly crowded port of Djibouti for access to the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden; if detente with Eritrea continues, situated as it is on the Red Sea, it could provide Ethiopia with another route to the sea.
Germany’s slowdown continues. Industrial orders for German goods fell by 4.2 percent in February from the previous month, defying projections of a slight increase, according to German Economy Ministry data released Thursday. It was the sharpest drop since January 2017. Foreign orders slumped by 6 percent, including a 2.9 percent dip from eurozone countries and a 7.9 percent fall from outside the eurozone. Also on Thursday, five leading German economic institutes slashed their 2019 growth forecasts for the country by more than half, to 0.8 percent from 1.9 percent. The institutes left unchanged their prediction of 1.8 percent growth in 2020. The German government, whose latest projections have the country’s economy growing by 1.0 percent this year, will take the institutes’ revised forecasts into account when it updates its own economic outlook on April 17.
Trade negotiations plod forward. The U.S.-China trade deal currently being negotiated would give China until 2025 to purchase more U.S. goods and allow U.S. companies to fully own enterprises in China, according to Bloomberg, which cited three people familiar with the talks. Beijing’s failure to meet these commitments would trigger retaliation from the U.S. under the deal. Beijing will be expected to meet other benchmarks within 90 and 180 days of signing the agreement. China also reportedly offered to implement other non-binding commitments by 2029, but no further details were provided. According to the Bloomberg report, the Trump administration wants the bulk of purchases of U.S. goods to be made over the next two years, ahead of 2020 presidential elections. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Washington on Wednesday and is expected to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump today. Top U.S. economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the talks were “making good headway.” But the big question remains enforcement, as well as what would happen to recently imposed tariffs once a deal is reached. Meanwhile, a new International Monetary Fund report indicated that a continued trade war is unlikely to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China.
Russia’s cost of living. A survey conducted by Rosstat, the Russian state statistics agency, found that a significant number of Russians are struggling to afford basic goods. Some 35.4 percent of Russians surveyed said they could not afford two pairs of shoes per year and 11 percent said they couldn’t afford vital medicines. The poll, which was conducted last September, also found that 80 percent of Russian families struggled to make ends meet and that 52.9 percent would have difficulty paying for unexpected costs. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the study’s results, suggesting they were confusing and that it was unclear where they came from. The survey, which included 60,000 homes nationwide, is part of Rosstat’s report on living standards released every two years.
NATO’s birthday. To mark the 70th anniversary of NATO’s founding, the polling company YouGov released a new survey on American and European sentiment toward the trans-Atlantic alliance, and the findings are startling. Nearly 10,000 people in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, the U.K. and U.S. were surveyed (though Sweden and Finland are not NATO members). Since 2017, support for NATO membership is down in each of the six NATO countries polled, including by 15 percentage points to 39 percent in France and by 14 percentage points in both the U.K. and Germany, to 59 percent and 54 percent respectively. Importantly, most supporters shifted into either “neither support nor oppose” or “don’t know” responses and not into outright opposition. Germans on average rated the threat from Russia the lowest of any country surveyed, but they rated the U.S. as a greater threat than any other participant. Also, more Germans, Finns and Swedes said their countries should not come to the United States’ defense in the event it is attacked than said that they should. The full survey results can be found here.
- Washington’s envoy to Afghanistan said there is a chance of a peace agreement this year.
- Argentina requested a waiver for a third review, scheduled for tomorrow, of its standby loan with the IMF. The government explained this was because key fiscal data would not be available until mid-April.
- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Ukraine mission said it identified new Russian military equipment, including an automated jamming communication station and an electronic warfare jamming system, near the village of Yuzhna Lomuvatka in the rebel-controlled Luhansk region.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday to discuss Syria and “the continued coordination between the [Israel Defense Forces] and the Russian army,” according to Netanyahu.
- Mexico’s National Tourism Business Council said the tourism industry is in crisis. Growth increased by just 1.6 percent in the first quarter of 2019, nearly half the normal figure. The organization’s president said the decline is due to insecurity, a lack of promotion and the loss of U.S. tourists to other competitors in the Caribbean.
- To help balance its budget, the Nigerian government will be closing 80 of its 110 foreign missions.
- Satellite images show that Saudi Arabia has nearly finished building its first nuclear reactor, raising some alarm among regulators because Saudi Arabia has not signed on to the frameworks or treaties that govern nuclear technology.
- Three South Korean firms launched limited 5G networks late Wednesday, ahead of schedule. Customers in Seoul will be able to sign up for the network starting Friday. In the U.S., Verizon activated its 5G network in select areas.
- Six former U.S. military and intelligence chiefs released a statement warning of the risks posed by U.S. allies using Chinese technology in their 5G networks.
- The Philippine Foreign Ministry criticized China and filed a diplomatic protest over the “swarming tactics” of large numbers of Chinese vessels present around Manila’s largest disputed holding in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago. Meanwhile, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said China “just wants to be friends.”
- S&P Global Ratings estimated that the British economy was about 3 percent smaller at the end of 2018 than it would have been had voters chosen to remain in the European Union in 2016.