Volatile Markets Raise Heat Ahead of Trade Talks
With the trade war starting to wallop global markets, U.S. and Chinese negotiators will face increased pressure to show progress next week in Beijing.
The talks, confirmed by China on Friday, will be the first since Donald Trump and Xi Jinping reached a truce in Argentina on Dec. 1. They will consist of mid-level officials and cover issues ranging from agriculture to intellectual property.
Plummeting markets have strengthened the voices in Trump's administration that are pushing for a quick deal, even though hawks still want him to hold out. China also has increased incentive to find a resolution, as the trade war hits its economy.
Analysts expect both sides to convey progress next week. Yet they remain doubtful a lasting agreement can be reached that ends the trade war once and for all while the gap between them remains so wide.
Dug in | With Democrats officially taking control of the U.S. House, they and Trump are staking out ground that leaves them far from any deal to end the partial government shutdown two weeks after it began. House Democrats yesterday ignored a Trump veto threat and passed a two-bill package that would reopen all federal agencies without the $5 billion the president wants for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump claimed broad public support for building a wall or other barrier that Democrats called a waste of money.
Problems in Paris | It just gets worse for Emmanuel Macron. The French president's communications chief is quitting, and his longtime strategy guru is reportedly ready to follow him out the door. While Macron has targeted European Parliament elections in May to show that he remains a political force, his efforts to combat a rising tide of nationalism are encountering setbacks. His approval rating is on the slide, and the yellow vest protests still haven't gone away.
Slim pickings | Kim Jong Un raised eyebrows with his veiled threat this week to take a “new path” toward the U.S. if Trump didn’t agree to relax sanctions. But Youkyung Lee reports the North Korean leader has limited wiggle room. Kim's three basic options -- resuming weapons tests, turning more toward neighbor and ally China or walking away from talks with the U.S. -- all present risks.
Harder than it looks | Italy's populist leaders pilloried bankers and portrayed themselves as champions of the little guy before they came to power. Now in government, Deputy Premiers Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini may end up resorting to taxpayers' money, or some form of state support, to help prop up Banca Carige SpA, which the European Central Bank has placed in temporary administration.
Braving bullets | With an unprecedented wave of protests sweeping Sudan, Mohammed Alamin takes a closer look at the root of the swelling efforts to end leader Omar al-Bashir's near-three-decade rule. Al-Bashir, whose government is accused of corruption and ignoring soaring living costs, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes as his government struggles to deal with the unrest that’s already left dozens dead.
What to Watch
- Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton plan to crisscross the Middle East -- starting today -- to reassure nervous allies after Trump’s surprise announcement that the U.S. would withdraw from Syria and Jim Mattis’s resignation as defense secretary.
- Hackers have released personal data linked to Chancellor Angela Merkel and hundreds of other politicians in Germany in the biggest data dump of its kind in the country.
- Merkel will meet political leaders in Athens next week for the first time since 2014 ahead of a Greek national election due by October.
And finally ... Saudi women will no longer be the last to know they’ve been divorced. A new Justice Ministry regulation taking effect Sunday will make it mandatory for women to be notified by text message when a court issues their husbands’ divorce decrees. Women have gained more rights since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman consolidated his power, but they’re still shackled by a restrictive male guardianship system.
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