A new front in the trade war. On Thursday, Mexican Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero said Mexico offered to deploy some 6,000 troops from the country’s newly created National Guard to the border with Guatemala, hoping to stem the flow of Central American migrants. The main goal here, of course, is to stave off the imposition of incremental U.S. tariffs on imports from Mexico, which the White House says would begin at 5 percent next week and increase by the same amount each month up to 25 percent until it’s satisfied with Mexican efforts to address immigration. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador previously said the guard’s operations would begin June 30. This comes as a delegation led by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard has been meeting with U.S. officials in Washington – meetings that all involved have described as fruitful. Bloomberg reported that the White House was mulling at least a delay in the imposition of tariffs, though White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders insisted the tariffs are still set to kick in on Monday if Mexico doesn’t meet U.S. demands. Naturally, a deal that obviates the tariffs would trigger loud sighs of relief on both sides of the border. According to a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute, taxing Mexican exports by 25 percent would cost the average U.S. household $1,700 annually – and that figure doesn’t account for U.S. tariffs on China or elsewhere. It’s still unclear if the White House can really move forward with the duties. The chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, for example, announced plans to block the tariffs. Either way, there’s plenty on the table for the White House to claim victory and move on if it so chooses.
Russia and China’s flowering romance. Two days after Chinese President Xi Jinping revealed that his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, was his “best and bosom friend,” the two sides are trumpeting the tangible benefits of this “deep friendship.” Russian and Chinese firms signed more than $20 billion in deals on the sidelines of the Putin-Xi summit in Moscow – including in areas that may make life a bit easier for Beijing as it grapples with the U.S. trade war. Most notable, Russia is pledging to offset the potential loss of Chinese imports of U.S. soybeans and natural gas, giving Beijing a bit more leverage over the U.S. if it allows China to keep tariffs on U.S. exports of the two commodities. In exchange, Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei signed a deal with Russian telecommunications company MTS to develop a 5G network. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy on Friday said a Russian destroyer conducted an unsafe maneuver in the Philippine Sea and came within 50 to 100 feet of a U.S. guided missile cruiser. (Moscow claims the U.S. warship was at fault for the near-collision.) Russian media is reporting that Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump may meet on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in late June. They’ll have plenty to talk about, as Russia is proving as adept as ever at complicating U.S. objectives across the globe.
Australia chimes in on the trade war. On the sidelines of a meeting of G-20 finance and central banking chiefs, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg echoed what a number of Indo-Pacific governments have said: As the U.S.-China trade war continues to escalate, Canberra doesn’t think it needs to choose between the U.S., its most important defense ally, and China, its most important commodities market. This comes as four Chinese warships departed Sydney after an unpublicized port visit that has increased criticism from Australia’s growing anti-China forces on newly re-elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison – and amid reports that Trump has been mulling new metals tariffs on Australia. Last week, at Singapore’s Shangri La Dialogue, Asia’s highest-profile annual security summit, the tone was similar; Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, for example, decried what he described as Washington’s zero-sum approach to the region and called on the U.S. to learn to accommodate China’s rise. Indo-Pacific countries have a long history of balancing larger outside powers off each other and benefitting from the competition. And outside of a handful of issues, they won’t have to choose between the U.S. and China this time around.
Drought comes for … the Indian navy? A major drought in southwestern India has caused a water shortage at the Indian navy’s most modern base, INS Kadamba, in Karwar, home to a number of warships and to India’s only aircraft carrier. The base currently has roughly one-sixth of the freshwater required to meet the needs of crews and ship maintenance, forcing the navy to scramble to bring in emergency supplies from Mumbai and to consider longer-term plans to relocate warships away from the strategically located base. Tangentially related: As China threatens to ban the sale of rare earth elements to the U.S., there’s reason to believe water shortages may eventually cripple rare earths mining and refining operations in China anyway. These are just two small reminders that water is an oft-overlooked potential complication in issues of geopolitical import – one that climate change is likely to make all the more pivotal.
- Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Moscow is ready to send more military specialists to Venezuela if needed.
- The Trump administration said that a general deal to establish a safe zone along the Syria-Turkey border is in place, but that there will be no role for European partners.
- Tehran rejected a French call for multiparty negotiations that would go beyond Iran’s nuclear program to include Iranian ballistic missile development.
- The U.S. has reportedly decided to stop accepting additional Turkish pilots for training on F-35 fighter jets.
- Japan’s demographic crisis is still worsening; births in the country reached a record low in 2018.
- Forces loyal to the Benghazi-based Libyan National Army attacked the Tripoli airport for the second consecutive night.
- The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in April to $50.8 billion as both exports and imports fell.
- Extradition hearings in Canada on the case of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who is wanted by the U.S., are not expected to end until October 2020.
- Brazil has ruled out a ban on Huawei.