By GPF Staff
The impact of U.S. protectionist policies continues to ripple throughout the global economy, albeit in unexpected ways. According to Bloomberg, which cited unnamed sources, Canada is considering tariffs on steel imports – and not just from the United States. In other words, Canada, a vociferous critic of steel tariffs, is trying them on for size. Mexico, the other member of NAFTA, banned U.S. potato imports because of a threat to Mexico’s “national sovereignty,” invoking a justification similar to the one the U.S. used for its protectionist policies. Finally, the U.S. Commerce Department is completing a study on import tariffs on cars, a necessary step toward enhancing presidential authority to place tariffs on car imports. The catch: The government will have to prove that car imports threaten U.S. national security. German, Japanese, South Korean and other major car exporters have much at stake in the verbal gymnastics to come.
The U.S. and Russia have scrapped their cease-fire in southern Syria, according to a message posted on the Facebook account of a Russian air base. The announcement is something of a formality at this point – Russian planes have been bombing targets in the southern city of Daraa, one of the last remaining Syrian rebel strongholds, since June 25. According to Russian media, many rebels had been thinking about defecting, agreeing to join the Syrian army in exchange for de facto amnesty. It now appears that many of the rebels have no such intentions, and the Syrian army, backed by Russian air power, is moving into Daraa to re-establish control. Daraa is smaller than Aleppo, boasting just over a million people before the civil war began. Losing it would be a symbolic blow for the rebels, however, since it was the birthplace of the Syrian uprising. What remains unclear is whether Russia’s cease-fire agreement with Iran and Turkey – which includes so-called de-escalation zones near Daraa – is also in jeopardy.
Poland appeared at a hearing to justify controversial judicial reforms to its fellow EU members. France, Germany and the vice president of the European Commission were reportedly unimpressed by the presentation. The ongoing saga is the most visible manifestation of Poland’s frustrations with EU policy. The next milestone will be an EU ministerial meeting on Sept. 18, where next steps will be discussed. If 22 out of 28 member states agree that Poland is violating EU rules, the situation could escalate even further. But that’s a lot of countries, many of which have no desire to scapegoat Poland or set a precedent that may be detrimental to them later. Let the political jockeying begin.
Sudan and South Sudan are on the verge of a peace agreement. At least, that’s what Sudanese officials want the world to think, as evidenced by the fact they leaked word that leaders had agreed on key points yesterday and that a deal was expected to be signed today in Khartoum. South Sudan’s president said he needs more time to consider the deal, and South Sudan’s rebels insisted that certain amendments were necessary. The most important part of all this is why it is happening now. Sudan and South Sudan have made efforts to bury the hatchet before; what appears different this time is that Ethiopia serving as mediator and guarantor. For Sudan and South Sudan, the next steps here matter – for the entire region, what Ethiopia is up to has significant import.
It’s worth noting a strange report about an operation launched by the Lebanese army in a Hezbollah stronghold in the Beqaa Valley. According to Lebanese media, the operation was intended to combat a surge in crime in the area – apparently, various clans in the area had clashed so much and so often that law and order had broken down entirely. Al-Manar, a generally pro-Hezbollah source, corroborated the reports, showing Lebanese troops deployed on roads around the city of Baalbek and other villages in the area. It’s true that Hezbollah has been weakened by its participation in the Syrian civil war – which would explain the degradation of security in the Beqaa Valley – but it’s hard to believe the group has been so exhausted that it would abdicate policing duties to the Lebanese army.
Finally, we turn to U.S. domestic politics, waters we rarely wade into. A major political upset in a U.S. congressional primary may be a sign of more domestic political shake-ups to come. A 28-year-old upstart and self-identified Democratic socialist defeated a 10-term congressman and major Democratic political figure in a Democratic primary in New York’s 14th District, which comprises the Eastern Bronx and Northern Queens parts of New York City. The district is ethnically diverse and solidly Democrat, so the fact that it voted in favor of a more progressive candidate, by itself, shouldn’t be taken as a sign that a blue wave will sweep the nation. Still, if this is an early indication of overall dissatisfaction with establishment politics – on both sides of the aisle – in the lead-up to midterm elections, it could have far-ranging ramifications on U.S. foreign policy.
- Protests continued in Iran, but they have gotten smaller and are confined to Tehran.
- China’s “Made in China 2025” policy, meant to make China a tech superpower, has not been mentioned in China for three months, and the Chinese government has directed state media to tone down mention of it. It’s not immediately clear why, though it may be related to U.S.-China negotiations on trade.
- Catalonia’s new president has said that when he meets Spain’s new prime minister on July 9, he will ask for Madrid to authorize a referendum on Catalan secession from Spain. Here we go again.
- Italian government data showed that 8.4 percent of the Italian population was living in “absolute poverty,” the highest rate since it began recording these figures in 2005. Economic growth and reducing nonperforming loans won’t do much good if the people are getting poor.
- A former Albanian prime minister has called – on Facebook – for Albanians to rise up and overthrow the current prime minister. It’s unclear whether he’s talking to himself as we all do on social media or whether this reflects a genuine dissatisfaction within Albania at current government policies.
- Russia’s Finance Ministry reports economic growth of 2.1 percent and real wage growth of 6.3 percent by the end of the year. Meanwhile, protesters in Eastern Siberia expressed dissatisfaction with fuel prices, and Russian opposition groups intimated they might protest pension reforms on July 4 with or without government approval.