Countries prepare for a U.S.-China trade deal. With the prospect of a U.S.-China trade deal growing ever stronger, outside powers are scrambling to get themselves a piece of the pie – while also preparing for potentially negative fallout. For example, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono was in Beijing this weekend for the latest round of China-Japan high-level economic talks. On issues like forced technology transfers, intellectual property and data protection, and Chinese industrial subsidies – those at the core of U.S.-China negotiations – Japan shares many of the United States’ vulnerabilities and is pushing to ensure that any concessions Beijing makes apply to all its economic partners. As pointed out in a new International Monetary Fund report, whether the pending U.S.-China trade deal helps or hurts other countries will hinge in part on how it’s structured. The basic idea is: If, as expected, the trade deal is centered primarily on increased Chinese purchases of U.S. goods, particularly commodities, and giving the U.S. preferential access to Chinese markets, major exporters such as Australia could get crowded out. But to the extent that the U.S. succeeds in compelling Beijing to implement structural changes, such as better protection for foreign firms and weakened state support for Chinese firms, the benefits will be shared more widely.
U.S.-EU trade talks. European Union member states have approved a proposal to initiate trade talks with the United States. The European Commission’s proposed mandate for the talks includes two topics: cutting duties on industrial goods and streamlining procedures for proving companies meet EU and U.S. standards. The commission estimates that the elimination of tariffs on industrial goods alone would increase by 8 percent EU exports to the U.S. and U.S. exports to the EU over the next 14 years. The U.S. has insisted on negotiations over agricultural trade, too, but the sector was left out of the commission’s agenda. France, which has resisted talks with the U.S., voted against the proposal and Belgium abstained. EU and U.S. officials still need to agree on a start date, though the EU Trade Commissioner wants talks to be completed within six months.
The India-China border. At an army commanders’ meeting last week, India’s top military leaders said the country urgently needed to develop infrastructure along the Chinese border, particularly along the Line of Actual Control. The commanders discussed building a road that runs parallel to the LAC in Jammu and Kashmir state, fortifying bridges in Sikkim state to support tank and artillery transport, and constructing tunnels for the transport of fuel, oil and ammunition in Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh. The military also wants to improve railways, and plans to station half of its new 36 Rafale jets (which will be delivered between November 2019 and April 2020) at Hasimara air base in West Bengal. The moves are in response to China’s own buildup of forces and infrastructure along the border.
The Kremlin responds. Following protests last month in Ingushetia, a republic of the Russian Federation, against a land swap deal with Chechnya, Russian police raided the home of Magomed Mutsolgov, one of the protest organizers and head of a human rights organization called Mashr. Ruslan Mutsolgov, Magomed’s brother, is the chairman of the Ingush chapter of the left-wing Yabloko party and is rumored to be in the custody of security forces, according to Russian human rights website Mediazona. Lower-profile activists have also reportedly been arrested as Russia cracks down on the Ingush protests.
Israel in Syria. The head of Israel’s National Security Council, Meir Ben-Shabbat, will meet U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton in Washington today. Iran will be the main topic of discussion. The meeting comes just two days after airstrikes hit facilities, including a war college, training camp and missile development facility, used by Iranian forces in Syria’s Hama province. Syrian media said Israel carried out the strikes, which reportedly crossed over Lebanese airspace. Israel rarely directly claims responsibility for airstrikes in Syria, but the day after the assault, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s promise to “act on all fronts, including on the northern front,” to prevent any power (read: Iran) from threatening Israeli territory. ImageSat International, an Israeli intelligence firm, released satellite imagery showing the alleged missile facility before and after it was destroyed. Notably, Russia, whose tacit approval would be needed to ensure airstrikes aren’t met with any retaliation, did not comment on the incident.
- Russia deployed its Palantin radio-electronic warfare system to its Western Military District. The system is designed to suppress enemy radio communications and conduct electronic reconnaissance.
- Russian security forces killed two Islamic State members during a counterterrorism operation in Tyumen.
- Uzbekistan and China are planning to create a joint investment fund within the framework of a global project called “One Zone, One Way.”
- Finland’s Social Democratic Party narrowly beat the populist Finns Party by a margin of just 0.2 percent in the country’s national election Sunday. As the top vote-getter, the SDP will get the first shot at forming a governing coalition, but talks are likely to be long and involve multiple parties given that SDP won just 17.7 percent of the vote.
- Kosovo’s president said a deal with Serbia to normalize relations is still possible for 2019, after talks were suspended last November.
- Lebanon’s central bank began preparations to launch a government-backed digital currency. The country has faced serious economic problems, including severe debt and high unemployment.
- Turkey’s unemployment rate rose to 14.7 percent in January 2019, a 3.9 percent increase from a year prior, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute. Youth unemployment was the largest driver of the increase.
- Germany’s telecommunications regulator, Bundesnetzagentur, said it would not specifically exclude Huawei from plans to build the country’s 5G network. Additionally, the regulator said that it did not have any concrete proof of cyber sabotage risks posed by Huawei.
- The Kremlin confirmed that preparations are underway for a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but added that the time and location have yet to be determined. South Korean news outlet Yonhap speculated the meeting will occur in late April in Vladivostok.