The French president Emmanuel Macron, during a meeting with the Russian president Vladimir Putin (Versailles).

The World This Week: December 4, 2018

Europe and Central Asia

Emmanuel Macron, French President, held emergency meetings following anti-government riots. The riots stem from a rise in fuel tax and a general anger at rising costs of living. Since the protests began two weeks ago, three have been killed. According to police, more than 100 people were injured, including 23 members of security forces, and nearly 400 people have been arrested. France’s Minister of the Interior says that approximately 136,000 people took part in the protests nationwide.

The European Union is ready to continue work in supporting Kyrgyzstan in using the opportunities of the GSP+ status. The manner of using this system involves a process of raising product standards. The EU intends to help in this regard through its programs so that standards, especially those of agricultural products, will be raised and meet the standards that can open access to its market. The EU Special Representative for Central Asia also noted that the second issue to be addressed is the procedure for obtaining certification for export products, and this problem concerns the entire region.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Burundi’s ambassador to the United Nations, Albert Shingiro, has called out the African Union Commission for interfering in the country’s political affairs. The AU issued a statement on an “untimely judicial initiative” in the East African nation. Burundi issued an international arrest warrant on Friday against its former president Pierre Buyoya, as well as 11 senior members of the security forces. Warrants were also issued to five of Buyoya’s former close civilian collaborators, all accused of allegedly playing a role in the 1993 assassination of Melchior Ndadaye, the country’s first democratically elected Hutu president.

Rwanda’s economy is expected to grow at 7.2 percent this year, as projected by the International Monetary Fund. Last year, the East African nation’s economy grew at 6.1 percent. In a statement late Friday the IMF stated, “growth averaged 8.6 percent in the first half of 2018 and, despite a temporary deceleration in the second quarter, remains in line with projections for 7.2 percent for the year.”

East Asia and Pacific

President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to a suspension in further tariffs between their respective countries after a highly anticipated meeting at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires. US tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods were set to rise from 10 to 25 percent on January 1st but that date has been postponed until after a 90-day period of talks and negotiations. Along with tariffs the two leaders discussed a variety of issues related to the trade war including technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, and services and agriculture. Hardliners within the Trump administration such as US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had been pushing for the tariff increase on January 1st. The proposed 90-day window is set to end around March 1st, or just before China’s annual national legislative session, when Chinese leaders have been historically hesitant to cut deals for fear of looking weak. Other pledges were made within the talks including President Xi potentially revisiting the merger between Qualcomm Inc. and NXP Semiconductors NV, China reclassifying Fentanyl as a controlled substance, and Beijing agreeing to help the US in its pursuit of North Korean denuclearization. The US for its part said it would continue to adhere to the one-China policy. Further discussions are set to begin in mid-December.

For the first time since the start of Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, which began shortly after he took office in mid-2016, police officers were charged in the prosecution of the anti-narcotics campaign. The three officers were sentenced to up to 40 years in prison for the killing of seventeen-year old delos Santos who they claimed fired on them as they were conducting a routine anti-drug operation. Court evidence, however, showed that Mr. Santos was dragged through narrow, dark lanes not far from his house before being shot while kneeling in a back alley. Since the drug war began over 4,000 people have been killed according to government statistics. As of July 2016, 45 uniformed personnel, 199 elected officials, and 255 government employees have been arrested for anti-narcotics activities. Human rights groups have decried the governments heavy-handed tactics which have even drawn the ire of the International Criminal Court. The government has said the arrest is proof that the anti-narcotics campaign is operating within the confines of the law.

Latin America and The Caribbean

The Argentinian government threatened war crime charges against Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but no action was taken prior to the G20 summit they hosted. Also at the summit, President Donald Trump, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also signed the USMCA, the replacement for NAFTA. Outgoing President Peña Nieto awarded Jared Kushner the Order of the Aztec Eagle – the country’s highest honor for a foreigner due to his contributions on the USMCA.

China and Argentina signed an agreement to expand existing currency swaps following the G20 summit. The agreement will increase the original 2017 agreement by 8 billion USD. Concurrently, 30 agriculture and investment deals were announced.

The Trump administration imposed a new round of sanctions against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s regime. This time they target his vice-president (and wife), Rosario Murillo as well as the national security advisor. Both are accused of working to undermine the country’s democratic process and directing the police violence.

Middle East and North Africa

On Monday, Qatar announced it would be pulling out of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The move, which will take effect in January, shouldn’t affect oil prices too much due to Qatar being one of the smaller exporters in the group. The country’s energy minister Saad Sherida al-Kaabi denies the move as a political one, citing that Qatar wants to focus instead on its natural gas industry.

After an evacuation of around 50 injured Houthi rebels, peace talks to end the war in Yemen could begin as early as Wednesday. The talks, which are set to take place in Sweden, would be the first since 2016 between the Houthi-rebels and the Saudi Arabian backed government. The Houthi delegation is said to be escorted by Martin Griffiths, the U.N. special envoy to Yemen. The war, which began in 2015, has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent memory. Numbers estimated up to 75% of the population is in need of some sort of humanitarian aid.

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