China and the United States will hold low-level talks later this month – the first round of new negotiations since May. That round featured the U.S. treasury secretary and China’s vice premier. The upcoming talks, then, could be seen either as a step back or a small step forward, depending on how you look at it. After all, progress usually requires some grunt work from lower-level officials before the big guns come in. China’s Commerce Ministry announced that one of its officials would travel to Washington later this month at the invitation of the U.S. Treasury Department. According to the Wall Street Journal, the department has been clarifying its list of demands, which include improved market access to China and an end to the manipulation of the yuan. The next round of U.S. tariffs will take effect Aug. 23, before the new talks. They will target $16 billion in Chinese goods and will be followed by a new round targeting $200 billion worth of goods. In related news, the South China Morning Post reported that China’s Commerce Ministry is experiencing a “brain drain” as experienced negotiators and other officials are taking jobs in technology and internet companies rather than working in the ministry.

Qatar has pledged to invest $15 billion in Turkey. The news came after a meeting of their respective heads of state in Ankara on Wednesday. One day earlier, Turkish media had criticized Qatar for its “silence” during the U.S.-Turkey sanctions feud. Turkey, they recall, had been one of Qatar’s most vocal supporters during its diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia last year. In any case, the U.S. has shown no signs of backing down against Turkey, and as some Arab countries take umbrage with Qatar’s newfound coziness with Turkey, they should remember that this sort of behavior is emblematic of Qatari foreign policy, which seems to place Doha in the middle of as many difficult situations as possible.

China and Russia are growing closer. Officials from both countries met in Moscow on Wednesday and discussed North Korea, the Iran nuclear deal and President Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to Russia, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua. After the meeting, the director of China’s Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission said that China-Russia relations were at their “best point in history” and that together, the two sides would work to jointly build a “just and equitable international order.” The U.S. has identified Russia and China as its two main strategic competitors, and relations with both are shaky at best, what with the latest round of anti-Russia sanctions and tariffs on Chinese imports. A meeting and an impressive sounding statement by themselves aren’t much to write home about. The deeper issue here is whether the U.S. is giving two historical rivals a reason to work together.

A state in Mexico wants to decriminalize poppy production. At least, that’s according to the Justice Committee of the Guerrero State Congress. Mexican newspaper Milenio reported on Wednesday that the issue would be sent to the Mexican Senate for consideration. Guerrero has been one of the hardest hit states by the drug trade, and it boasts a number of local vigilante security groups. So it’s no surprise that it’s the source of the country’s more radical political initiatives. Then again, about to take power is a Mexican president who has advocated similar policies. Ideas like this have always been in the ether. Maybe now they are gaining traction.

Honorable Mentions

  • An exiled Venezuelan opposition leader told a Colombian reporter that the armed forces were divided, citing as evidence the recent arrest of two high-ranking officers in connection with the alleged assassination attempt against President Nicolas Maduro last week.
  • Mexico and the U.S. may not reach an agreement on outstanding issues in NAFTA talks by August as originally hoped.
  • A shortage of foreign-made medications can be added to Iran’s economic woes.
  • South Korea’s Ministry of Defense announced that North and South Korea had fully restored military communications.
  • China’s Foreign Ministry told Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to “temper” his criticism of China and said that China would continue to assert its territorial claims in the Spratly Islands.
  • Inflation is creeping up in the United Kingdom, reaching 2.5 percent in July.
  • Hundreds in Moscow held an unauthorized protest being dubbed “Mothers’ March” against the detainment of young Russian women on charges of extremism. The protestors claim the women are patsies.
  • Sixty died in a suicide attack in Kabul yesterday. Today, militants attacked a training center of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security.
  • Saudi security forces arrested a man suspected of plotting a suicide attack and of being linked to the Islamic State.