Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s invitation to Britain to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), in his Financial Times interview of 8 October, has been welcomed by Brexit supporters as demonstrating the potential for a ‘Global Britain’ trade policy after the UK has left the EU next year. And Abe’s encouraging the UK along these lines reflects the British government’s insistence on Britain’s ‘global potential’.
Britain would, he says, be ‘welcomed with open arms’.
How realistic or desirable a prospect is this? British and Japanese politicians have invested much effort over decades in building a close political and economic partnership between the two countries.… Seguir leyendo »
The recent revelations about the cyberattacks conducted by Russian military intelligence (GRU) in several countries did not come as a surprise. The UK and its allies have been calling for public attribution of cyberattacks coupled with, when appropriate, a series of diplomatic and economic responses, and even retaliation-in-kind. The thinking behind this is that attribution, coupled with sanctions initiated by a united front of like-minded states, could create a deterring effect.
However, these revelations also play into wrangling over cyber regulation at the UN level. Russia is planning to submit two UN resolutions later this month, one on a code of conduct to regulate states behaviour in cyberspace and one on a new UN cybercrime convention.… Seguir leyendo »
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s fate remains unclear, but one thing appears certain – he has been ‘disappeared’. While it will require an investigation to establish the facts, the implications of Khashoggi’s disappearance are clear.
The new Saudi leadership is now intolerant of all dissent – home or abroad. US policy has inadvertently given carte blanche to the leadership to act with impunity. The kingdom’s international partners have very little leverage over its domestic or foreign policies. And confidence among international investors is nosediving and – without a drastic change in policy – will undermine Vision 2030.
Irrespective as to whether he has been killed or transported back to Saudi Arabia, the move has laid down an indelible marker that the new Saudi leadership will brook no criticism of its transformation project Vision 2030 – levelled from within or outside the kingdom.… Seguir leyendo »
The Senate confirmation of US Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh by a vote of 50 to 48 was the final episode in a drama that has divided America. It has also gripped foreign audiences. The midterm elections promise to do the same.
Historically, Supreme Court nominees and midterm elections have garnered little attention abroad. Today, the rest of the world looks to America’s domestic politics as a barometer of where America is heading.
Beyond the Twitter feed
In year one of the Trump presidency, the news media and many of the world’s diplomats spent countless hours trying to decipher the significance of the president’s tweets.… Seguir leyendo »
Last month, the leaders of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) and the High State Council agreed a long-awaited package of economic reforms.
But, without accompanying structural reform they can at most offer a short-term fix. The recent fighting in Tripoli illustrates the inextricable links between control over the distribution of state revenues and conflict. A sustainable political settlement must therefore include economic components.
One of the principal goals of the reforms announced on 12 September is to curb profiteering from the state’s resources by those who can access foreign currency at the official rate (1.38 LYD=1 USD) and sell at the black-market rate (currently 5.3 LYD=1 USD). … Seguir leyendo »
With a turnout of less than 40 per cent, the result of the referendum on whether to approve a change of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s (FYR Macedonia) official name to the Republic of North Macedonia is a setback for the country’s government. It had hoped to use approval of the change to normalize relations with Greece and clear a major obstacle to FYR Macedonia’s pursuit of EU and NATO membership.
But the referendum also highlights two enduring problems for the EU: its toxic relationship with electorates and the stalling of enlargement as its main policy towards the western Balkans.… Seguir leyendo »
Less than 180 days to go and the pressure is on. Talks between the UK and the EU are at deadlock, with the intractable Irish border problem the biggest stumbling block. But here’s the catch: they must also set aside time for the deal to be reviewed and ratified by both sides.
In the United Kingdom, parliament must vote through the withdrawal agreement into law, while on the European side, it must receive the support from member states and the European parliament.
We all know that the clock is ticking. But political process on both sides means the real deadline is not 29 March itself.… Seguir leyendo »
Among executives it is fashionable to say that if you think Brexit is bad enough, wait until you see what happens when the markets focus on the risk of a Labour government. While I have concerns about the overall fiscal framework of the opposition’s policies, I am not overly concerned by some aspects of a prospective Jeremy Corbyn administration. Indeed, in at least six policy areas, which Corbyn and his shadow chancellor John McDonnell are treating as priorities, businesses and the government need to catch up.
Dealing with Brexit is obviously the most pressing task facing Theresa May’s government. But it remains a matter of grave concern that the UK prime minister has virtually no time for anything else, including the few ideas that the previous Conservative government introduced, such as devolving powers and responsibilities to the urban regions.… Seguir leyendo »
On 23 September the first high-speed trains will depart a gleaming new station in Hong Kong for cities across the rest of China. Later in the year a new bridge connecting Hong Kong, Macao and Zhuhai (on the western bank of the Pearl River) is due to open to traffic. These expensive and somewhat controversial projects mark the latest infrastructure links between Hong Kong and its hinterland.
They come at a time when growing attention is being paid to the Greater Bay Area, a Chinese government plan to develop further a massive urban cluster in southern China, including Hong Kong, Macao and the nine most developed cities in the adjacent Guangdong province.… Seguir leyendo »
On 10 September, US National Security Advisor John Bolton used his first major speech since joining the White House to attack the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) potential investigation of American personnel in Afghanistan. The ‘American patriots’, as Bolton describes them, are being investigated for potential torture and ill-treatment of detainees, mostly in 2003 and 2004, during the United States-led invasion of the country.
Bolton has a long history of opposition to the ICC. Although the US signed the ICC Statute under president Bill Clinton, it was ‘unsigned’ by Bolton, then an under-secretary of state in the George W Bush administration.
And when the court first opened its doors in 2002, Bolton helped secure, in what he described on 10 September as one of his ‘proudest achievements’, around 100 bilateral agreements with other countries to prevent them from delivering US personnel to the ICC.… Seguir leyendo »
From 11 to 17 September, the Russian armed forces conducted the active phase of the Vostok-2018 strategic military exercise. Throughout the week, Russia’s far east hosted a coordinated ballet of troops rehearsing across multiple strategic directions. In a twist, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army participated for the first time.
It was an impressive show, but it also offers serious lessons as to Russia’s military planning and preparedness and its diplomatic footing towards both China and the West.
The military dimension
The Vostok 2018 exercise was part of a pre-planned life-cycle of massive drills occurring across all of Russia’s military commands that aim to strengthen command and control (C2) and forces integration.… Seguir leyendo »
Moldova has long struggled with corruption in its politics, but a series of events over the course of the summer indicate that democracy and the rule of law are coming under increased threat. Western partners should take these red flags seriously and re-evaluate how they engage with the Moldovan government.
Firstly, after the second round of local elections in the capital Chisinau, on 3 June, opposition candidate Andrei Nastase appeared to have won the office of mayor. But, following a series of lower-court rulings, the country’s Supreme Court of Justice rendered election results invalid on 25 June after late-evening deliberations behind closed doors.… Seguir leyendo »
The UK parliament has returned from its summer break with a political crisis on the near horizon. More than two years after the EU referendum, the range of outcomes that are still plausible has not gotten smaller. It is conceivable that Britain could leave the EU without any form of deal; that it could leave with a withdrawal agreement and a stable transition; that Article 50 could be extended; or even still, unlikely though it is, that Brexit might not happen.
The government’s white paper, popularly known as the Chequers plan, has done little to create certainty, and indeed it has made a parliamentary confrontation all the more likely.… Seguir leyendo »
Malcolm Turnbull’s ouster as Australian prime minister had long been a matter of when, not if.
And, in what has become the new normal in Australian politics, his departure marks the fourth Australian prime minister in a row given the boot by their own party colleagues prior to completion of a full term: Kevin Rudd (in 2010), Julia Gillard (2013), Tony Abbott (2015), and now Turnbull. Few will be surprised if the current incumbent, Scott Morrison, is similarly dismissed before too long.
This political turmoil – reflective of deep internal divisions within the Liberal and Labor parties and the slim, fractious parliamentary majorities they have been able to muster once in power – has had a serious impact on Australia’s international presence and leadership.… Seguir leyendo »
Prime Minister Theresa May’s trip to South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya this week is an important signal of renewed British political and economic interest in Africa.
It was long overdue: a British prime minister has not visited Africa since 2013, and there has been a comparative decline in the UK’s visibility in many parts of the continent over the last decade, just as many other states, including France, Turkey, China and Japan, have been upgrading their Africa engagement. A planned trip by David Cameron was cancelled in 2016 with just five days’ notice because of the Brexit referendum and its results.… Seguir leyendo »
Those hoping for summer respite from Brexit will be bitterly disappointed. Three months left to finalise the terms of the UK’s withdrawal and there is still no agreement in sight. There is also no guarantee that the final agreement—if one is reached—would make it through the UK parliament. The chances of extending Article 50 negotiations seem remote. Is it time to start planning for ‘no deal’?
The European Commission certainly thinks so. In recent months it has published around 60 sector-specific notices highlighting areas for immediate consideration, from new licensing requirements to data-sharing rules, many of which are not covered by WTO terms.… Seguir leyendo »
On 20 August, the Greek government is scheduled to exit its IMF bailout programme, ending a series of three programmes that have run continuously since 2010. The Greek programme was the largest, most high-profile and most politically controversial in a series of post-global financial crisis bailouts of EU member states organized by the so-called ‘troika’ consisting of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF.
Politically, the course of action taken by the troika has been seen as controversial at best. The Greek economy has now suffered the longest recession of any advanced capitalist economy, overtaking the slump suffered by the US during the Great Depression in 1929.… Seguir leyendo »
Before Zimbabwe’s general election on 30 July, there was a lot of talk about there being ‘landmark change’ and ‘credibility.’ But in many ways it was déjà vu. President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling ZANU-PF party won the parliamentary vote, taking a majority 144 seats out of 210. The opposition MDC Alliance, a seven-party coalition led by Nelson Chamisa, won 64 seats—an improvement on their 2013 showing of 44 seats, but still falling far short of expectations.
The presidential results were much closer. After clashes on Wednesday, the incumbent Mnangagwa was declared winner early Friday morning, taking 50.8 per cent of the vote against Chamisa’s 44.3 per cent.… Seguir leyendo »
More and more technology and digital services are built upon, and driven, by AI and machine learning. But as we are beginning to see, these programmes are starting to replicate the biases which are fed into them, notably biases around gender. It is therefore imperative that the machine learning process is managed from input to output – including data, algorithms, models, training, testing and predictions – to assure that this bias is not perpetuated.
Bahar Gholipour notes this bias as AI’s so-called ‘black box’ problem — our inability to see the inside of an algorithm and therefore understand how it arrives at a decision.… Seguir leyendo »
Owen Grafham (Department Manager, Energy, Environment and Resources) speaks to Gitika Bhardwaj about why providing universal energy access to refugees is crucial to improving their livelihoods and that of their host communities.
There are over 68 million forcibly displaced people globally, over 25 million of which are refugees, more than ever before. With ongoing wars in Syria and South Sudan and continuing violence in Afghanistan and Myanmar, how do you see the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ unfolding given the state of global conflicts around the world?
Unfortunately it’s likely that we will see increasing numbers of people being displaced by conflict over the next few years.… Seguir leyendo »