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January 24, 2017

Daily News Brief

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Pacific Nations Hope TPP Will Continue Without U.S.

Australia and New Zealand said they hope to push forward with a "TPP Twelve Minus One" agreement (BBC) after U.S. President Donald J. Trump announced on Monday that he would withdraw the United States from the twelve-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. Trump's withdrawal from the agreement, which was championed by former President Barack Obama and would have covered 40 percent of the world's economic activity, comes before the U.S. president is expected to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NYT). Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said he will seek to negotiate new trade deals (FT) with TPP members. The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not say whether China would be interested in joining a future version of the TPP pact, but said that all countries should seek "cooperation and win-win" situations (Reuters).


"The TPP was one of President Barack Obama’s signature efforts, part of a broader strategy to increase American clout in Asia and provide a check on China’s economic and military ambitions. The deal with 11 other nations along the Pacific Rim covered a wide swath of goods, granting U.S. cattle ranchers better access to Japan and lowering tariffs on apparel imported from Vietnam. Congress granted Obama 'fast-track' authority to negotiate the agreement in 2015, but political sentiment quickly shifted, and the deal fell apart without making it to Capitol Hill for approval. Trump’s election effectively guaranteed its demise," Ylan Q. Mui writes for the Washington Post.

"In his first act as President today, Trump showed he does not understand the first thing about trade negotiations. In announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, Mr. Trump has just unilaterally given away the biggest piece of leverage he had to deal with the biggest challenge in the world of trade, which is the increasingly troubling behavior by the world’s second largest economy, China. It is the first rule of any negotiation that you don’t give away something for nothing. Mr. Trump just did," writes CFR's Edward Alden.

"Emerging at the top of the alphabet soup of potential trade pacts is the pan-Asian Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which excludes the US and until recently played second fiddle to the soon-to-be-killed Pacific Rim pact. Experts say the RCEP can now be the centrepiece of 21st century free trade, a title they previously bestowed on the TPP. Long seen as a project led by Beijing to counter the US-backed TPP, the RCEP involves the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and six countries with which the bloc has existing free trade pacts: China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand," Bhavan Jaipragas writes for the South China Morning Post.


China: U.S. Must ‘Respect the Reality’ of South China Sea

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the United States is "not a claimant" in territorial disputes in the South China Sea (SCMP) and urged U.S. officials to "avoid undermining the peace and stability in the region." China's comments came after White House spokesman (BBC) Sean Spicer said on Monday that the United States will "make sure we defend international interests" in areas it considers international waters.

This CFR blog post looks at Secretary of State designate Rex Tillerson's ties to the South China Sea.


Afghanistan Orders Arrest of VP’s Guards

Attorney General Mohammad Farid Hamidi ordered the arrest of nine bodyguards working for Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum and said Dostum continues to be under investigation after allegedly ordering the kidnapping, rape, and torture (NYT) of a political rival.

KAZAKHSTAN: Dozens of oil workers are facing court hearings after they were charged with carrying out an illegal hunger strike. Workers have been on strike in Kazakhstan since early January to protest the closure of independent labor unions (RFE/RL)


Obama Administration Released Funds to Palestinian Authority

In its final hours in office, the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama released $221 million (AP) earmarked for the Palestinian Authority (PA) and another $6 billion in other foreign affairs spending, including $4 billion to fight climate change. Congress had approved the expenditures in its 2015 and 2016 budgets but two Republican lawmakers had placed holds on the PA funds.

IRAQ: The Iraqi military’s offensive to retake the city of Mosul from the self-proclaimed Islamic State reached its hundredth day. General Abdul Ameer Rasheed Yarallah reportedly said that state-backed militias are preparing to retake the city's western half (Al Jazeera) in the coming days. 


Equatorial Guinea Applies for OPEC Membership

Equatorial Guinea applied to join the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cartel after it had agreed to be one of eleven non-OPEC producers that would take part in production cuts (WSJ) negotiated during a December meeting.

MAURITIUS: Opposition parties announced plans to protest after Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth stepped down and transferred powers to his son (Bloomberg), Pravind Jugnauth.


Court Rules Parliament Must Vote Before Brexit Talks

The Supreme Court upheld an earlier decision (NYT) by the High Court in London, which ruled that Prime Minister Theresa May must seek the approval of Parliament before triggering Britain's exit from the European Union.

This CFR Backgrounder lays out the debate over Brexit.

TURKEY: Some six hundred Syrian families have begun to receive $26 monthly payments (FT) from the European Union as part of an aid package the bloc negotiated with Turkey last year. The program aims to reach two hundred thousand families, one third of Turkey's refugee population, by June.


Trump Reinstates Anti-Abortion Policy for NGOs

U.S. President Donald J. Trump reinstated a policy first enacted by President Ronald Reagan that blocks U.S. federal funds from going to foreign organizations that provide abortion services (WSJ). Foreign NGOs were already unable to use U.S. funds to provide abortion services; the policy prohibits them from receiving funding even if it is used for other purposes.

MEXICO: President Enrique Pena Nieto said that he plans to negotiate "all themes" with U.S. President Donald J. Trump at a January 31 meeting (WaPo) and that “neither confrontation nor submission" will be the solution as the countries negotiate on issues of trade, migration, and security (NYT).

CFR's Shannon O'Neill argues that Trump's policies won't stop investment in Mexico