Geopolitics

Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan: Perils Of A Diplomatic Triangle

Russia's foreign minister visited Pakistan for the first time in nine years — just in time for the deadline for U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan. It points to an important change of actors in one of the deadliest conflict zones in the world.

On April 6, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in Pakistan to lead conversations on Afghan peace, military supplies and cooperation in the nuclear sector. It was the first visit by a Russian official to the country since 2012.

"We can confirm that Russia is willing to continue to assist in strengthening the anti-terrorist potential of Pakistan, including supplying them with appropriate equipment," Lavrov said at a press conference, as Russian daily Kommersant reports. According to Lavrov, Russia and Pakistan will continue practicing regular joint tactical exercises to combat terrorism and piracy together.

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To Fix The Border, Biden Needs To Look Beyond It

Rather than ratchet up spending on America's already bloated military, the U.S. president should take a broader view of national security and help develop economies elsewhere.

-OpEd-

BOGOTA — Can imperialism appear humanitarian? The short answer, as the United States has demonstrated time and again, starting in the period after World War I, is yes.

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Europe Is Right To Call Up Big Guns Against Big Tech

Europe is moving forward in a united front to force Big Tech that could lead to a historic showdown on the future of how the digital economy functions.

-OpEd-

PARIS — Facing the rise of Big Tech, which by now has crossed the line far too many times, European states had forgotten the three basic requirements that make any police force effective: political will and backing; the right laws to give it the means to take action; and, finally, it needs to be armed.

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Inside Iran, Biden's Election Is Cause For Both Hope And Fear

Donald Trump's departure renews the possibility of talks between Washington and Tehran. But the Iranian leadership has reasons to be wary of the incoming administration in Washington.

How does Iran feel about Joe Biden's victory in the recent U.S. presidential election? Depends on when you ask.

On Nov. 3, the day of the election, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told the American broadcaster CBS that Iran sees no difference between the sitting president of the United States, Donald Trump, and his Democrat rival. But just three days later, speaking to Venezuela's TeleSUR, the Islamic Republic's top diplomat told a different story: there's "clearly" a difference between the two, he said.

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Geopolitics
Frédéric Lemaître

Traditional Chinese Medicine At The Service of Xi Jinping

At the heart of Beijing's health diplomacy, traditional Chinese medicine accounts for nearly 30% of the Chinese pharmaceutical industry's turnover, and anyone who criticizes it could be punished.

-Analysis-

BEIJING — It's official. The Chinese people have a strong ally in the "war" against coronavirus: traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The white paper published by the government on June 7, "Fighting Covid-19, China in Action," devotes several paragraphs to this form of medicine, described as having a "unique strength." Although China certainly employs Western medicine, "Chinese herbal formulas and medicines have been used in 92% of confirmed cases," the white paper says.

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Sources
Filippo Femia

How A 'Refugee Town' Fell Victim To Italy's Populist Politics

Fourteen months ago the progressive mayor of Riace, in Calabria, was arrested. Soon after, many of the refugees he'd help settle pulled up stakes and left.

RIACE — The blue plaque at the entrance of the pottery shop says "Home sweet home." It also seems to read Tsehayneshe's thoughts. This is where she belongs and plans to say, even if things aren't as they used to be.

"In Eritrea, my name means sun. Here in Riace, it feels like the sun's been gone for some time now," she says while hand-coloring a terracotta butterfly.

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Geopolitics
Claude Fouquet

'Blue Cards' And Quotas: Europe's Search For A United Immigration System

The EU introduced its 'Blue Card' system to facilitate the arrival of qualified, non-European professionals. But only one country — Germany — really takes advantage of it.

PARIS — Immigration quotas of the kind that the French government wants to implement have sparked plenty of debate over the years, but they are less common perhaps than people imagine, at least in their visible form.

Two months ago, speaking before the French National Assembly's Foreign Affairs Committee, Jean-Christophe Dumont, head of the OECD's International Migration Division, recalled that of the 36 members of the international organization, only nine used such a quota system. Among them are the United States, Canada, New Zealand and even Australia.

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eyes on the U.S.
Thierry Mayer*

A French Defense Of Trump's New Tariffs On European Products

The U.S. president has a history of strong-arming trading partners. But the move to tax things like French wine and Spanish olives is actually justified.

-OpEd-

PARIS — The United States announced a series of protective measures last month on a list of emblematic European products. The decision, made public on Oct. 3, includes a 10% tax on commercial flights, and a 25% tariff on things like English and Italian cheeses, Scottish and Irish whiskeys, French wines, German tools and Spanish olives.

It's tempting to see this as the Trump administration's latest attempt to wage a trade war it sees as both beneficial and easy to win. But in reality, the development is actually a return to normalcy in terms of international trade, and should be welcomed.

Trade disputes are a constant reality in relationships between sovereign states. And between Europe and the United States, there were plenty of problems — with the two sides accusing each other of dumping, trade agreement violations and discriminatory practices — before Donald Trump took office.

Trump is now trying to bend China to his will before tackling the European Union.

Commercial conflicts are par for the course, in other words, and they tend to be of two varieties.

The first are disputes that take place within an organized and structured legal framework, which can be multilateral, like the World Trade Organization (WTO), or regional. Such conflicts operate through the long and tortuous processes to which countries have agreed to settle their differences. They involve a complex, often imperfect set rules. But behind the process is a common goal: to foster cooperation between countries, and stop from them ratcheting up protectionist measures that end up hurting all parties involved.

The second category are disputes in which countries use every tool at their disposal to gain the upper hand. In these types of conflicts, it is common to circumvent or violate international agreements, and even to manipulate national legislation in order to "win" the battle.

The second strategy is only natural if one believes that international commerce is a zero-sum game where the winner is whoever manages to impose its conditions on others. And Trump, since coming into office, has shown that he clearly favors this second approach. In keeping with his campaign promises, he has used a number of American legal provisions — sometimes bending them to fit his goals — in an attempt to threaten and force his trading partners to acquiesce. Examples include section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974, and section 232 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1962.

Trump discussing tariffs in June — Photo: Andrew Harrer/CNP/ZUMA

After successfully coercing his partners into "renegotiating" treaties like NAFTA (involving the United States, Canada, and Mexico) and the Free Trade Agreement with South Korea, Trump is now trying to bend China to his will before tackling the European Union — and the German automotive industry in particular.

But the announcement his administration made on Oct. 3 regarding custom duties on European products was of a different kind. Indeed, it came just after the WTO ruled in favor of the United States in a 15-year-old case regarding illegal subsidies provided to the European airline producer Airbus. As part of the ruling, the trade organization authorized the U.S. to recuperate its losses — thus the new tariff regime.

By the same token, financing concerns regarding the U.S. plane manufacturer Boeing are being examined, with a ruling due next year, so the EU may soon have an opportunity to impose its own sanctions.

Either way, all of this is an example of the first type of dispute. And looking at the larger picture, it is exciting to see the return and legitimization of this kind of foreign policy tactic. The overarching message is clear: Even Trump's America can be in the right against Europe sometimes.

That being said, the multilateral system will not come out unscathed from Trump's administration. Cooperative-type institutions, such as the WTO, promote trade development by limiting trade barriers, but also (and perhaps more importantly), by removing the uncertainty of future arbitrary behaviors by member countries. And yet, if there's anyone who has shown the world that multilateral frameworks don't provide absolute assurance against erratic behavior, it's Trump himself.​

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Society
Guy Vallancien*

Canada v. France: Rethinking Role Of Nurses To Meet Healthcare Needs

To meet its current healthcare needs, France looks to the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec which are giving more autonomy to nurses rather than boost the number of doctors.

-OpEd-

PARIS — After Ontario, the Canadian province of Quebec has also moved to give specialized nurse practitioners the authority to make autonomous diagnoses and practice certain kinds of therapeutic, even high-risk interventions.

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Sources
Yan Yong

How One-Child Policy Still Weighs On China's Fertility Rate

Three years after the end of the one-child policy, China's fertility rates are now falling. To have, or not have, children ought to be built on personal and family wishes, something the government still hasn't understood.

BEIJING On Jan. 21, China's National Bureau of Statistics published the number of newborns in 2018: 15.23 million, two million fewer than the year before — and nearly 6 million fewer than what was predicted by the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

What this means is that after China loosened up its one-child policy three years ago, the country's birthrate continues to fall sharply instead of going up as was originally expected.

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Future
Alidad Vassigh

Why AI Is Now The Key Ingredient For Modern Productivity

-Analysis-

CARACASArtificial Intelligence is opening up new opportunities for the economy and society. But it will also affect millions of human jobs, and thus poses a huge challenge for public policymakers, warns a 2016 White House report on AI's projected impact on the U.S. economy.

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Sources
Luis Rubio

Mexico's Election, Between Fear And Disgust

There are three candidates but really just two choices in Sunday's presidential election in Mexico: Move forward? Or try to recreate the past?

-Analysis-

MEXICO CITY — Mexico's upcoming general elections bring to mind the words of David Konzevik, an economist from the other end of the Americas. "Anyone who thinks things can't get worse," the Argentine intellectual famously quipped, "doesn't know the history of Argentina."

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Geopolitics
Andrey Kolesnikov

Why Russia Is Not Like Venezuela — Yet

MOSCOW — Nicolas Maduro has been reelected as Venezuela's president for a new six-year term. Alexei Kolesnikov in the Moscow-based independent magazine The New Times looks at international reaction to the election, specifically as it relates to Russia:

"Last month's election of Maduro was clearly flawed and not recognized as legitimate by neither the country's opposition nor the vast majority of the global democratic community. Several authoritarian regimes, however, including Iran, North Korea, Syria and Russia, have recognized the election result, since these states have the same tyrannical, undemocratic nature and strive to sustain themselves as long as possible by creating the impression of "normality" of their illegal practices.

"It is especially interesting to compare Venezuela and Russia, which has long backed the Latin American country. What unites these two states? To begin with, they both have authoritarian regimes headed by dictators who hold on to power by resorting to electoral fraud.

In Caracas, Venezuela — Photo: Rayner Pena/DPA/ZUMA

"Russia and Venezuela are also both rich in oil resources that are actively exploited by the ruling class for its own benefit, not for the people's good. Furthermore, both regimes are built on propaganda: They convince people of the rightness of their harmful and unlawful policies by means of constant lies and perversion of reality.

"However, it is still incorrect to say that Venezuela and Russia are the same. Russia has not yet reached such a state of collapse as Venezuela. But it is similar to the Latin American country in respect to recklessness and shamelessness with which state and social structures are being destroyed. If nothing changes in Russia, it may some day catch up with Venezuela. But now Russia is still capable of providing economic support for its ally, which is absolutely irrational and unprofitable from the economic point of view. This support pursues solely geopolitical and propagandist goals. For Venezuela's regime this economic help is extremely important as without it (and without China's support, too) it would have already crashed.

"Today the example of Venezuela is a real source of inspiration for the world's autocrats, including the Russian one. It demonstrates that such inhumane regimes can survive for quite a long time and even conserve the appearance of popular support and legitimacy."

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Sources
Klaus Geiger

Italy Is Closing The Borders, And Nobody Can Blame Them

Finger pointing isn't going to help Italy solve its migration problems. What it needs is help, and for the EU to stop dilly-dallying. A view from Berlin.

-OpEd-

BERLIN — Italy has closed its ports, letting the Aquarius, a ship with more than 600 migrants on board, drift in the Mediterranean. And right off, the roles have been assigned: The partly right-nationalist Italian government are the bad guys; the good guys are the ones invoking humanity: the German chancellor, the EU, the UN.

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Economy
Catherine Rampell

The Mercantilist: Why Trump Economics Are Stuck In 17th Century

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump often seems as though he's stuck in the "80s. But maybe the better comparison is to the 1680s, not the Reagan era.

Consider his announcement Thursday of new tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from the European Union, Canada and Mexico. These countries not only supply about half of our imports of these metals; they are also among our closest allies.

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Society
Chen Bai

A Virtual Frog Video Game And China's One-Child Mindset

BEIJING — An online game from Japan has become a hopping success in China. Unheard of until recently, Tabikaeru: Travel Frog — developed by the Japanese company Hit-Point — is suddenly all the rage, leapfrogging the competition to become the most popular free online game in China's Apple App Store.

Travel Frog requires little of the player — a good thing, perhaps, since it hasn't even been translated officially into Mandarin. And yet, people can't seem to get enough of it. As the name suggests, the game features a virtual frog, who either stays at home and reads the whole day, or goes off on an adventure. Players have no way of knowing when the frog will return, although if they're lucky, they'll get a postcard from some scenic site, or a souvenir when the adventurous amphibian finally comes home.

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