The US-China Phase One Trade Agreement was under review by the Biden Administration as part of a reappraisal of the broader Sino-US relationship. Public statements from several senior members of the administration, however, indicate that the trade agreement will not be abandoned. It is clear that, unless Beijing’s behaviour changes considerably, the Biden Administration’s approach to trade with China will not be vastly different to that of the Trump Administration.
The Joint Statement by the Directors-General of Military Operations of India and Pakistan calling for a ceasefire can be attributed to both internal and external factors on both sides of the border and follows the decision of both India and China to disengage. For both countries, the best way ahead will be to get results from low-hanging fruit, such as bilateral trade. While past attempts to reduce tensions have not succeeded, there is no reason why a fresh start, with realistic expectations, should not be made again.
Biden’s promises to bring “decency” to the US’s policies – effectively, to reverse Trump’s initiatives – are already being viewed with concern in the Middle East and threaten to once again roil that region and turn it against Washington.
While Sri Lanka and Pakistan share cordial ties, in South Asia the China factor cannot be ignored, and both Pakistan and Sri Lanka are heavily dependent upon China and their accumulated debts to Beijing. Sri Lanka needs to strike a fine balance between New Delhi on the one hand and the Islamabad-Beijing alliance on the other.
We have a choice. The next decade could see us transition into a world of ever more destabilising shocks, or towards a reconfiguration of the systems we rely on based on goals of equity, sustainability and resilience. Forum for the Future, a leading international sustainability non-profit organisation with offices in London, New York, Singapore and Mumbai, in a recent Future of Sustainability report entitled From System Shock to System Change – Time to Transform, explores the key dynamics that lie at the heart of these transitions. It considers the interconnected nature of human and planetary health and reveals four trajectories emerging from the COVID-19 crisis. Only one of which will deliver the just transition urgently needed if we are to avert the worst of the social, climate and biodiversity crises we all face. FDI commends this Report to you in providing this summary of its analysis.
Many Middle Eastern countries were experiencing heightened levels of food insecurity even before the Covid-19 pandemic. Economic shocks related to regional and global lockdown measures, and conflict in some parts of the region have further reduced food security. It is expected that the regional food security situation will remain precarious for the foreseeable future.
In light of Australia’s climate commitments, the creation of a nuclear-power sector ought to be revisited. The sector could potentially provide much of the foundational skills required to maintain and operate a nuclear-powered submarine fleet that could enhance Australia’s defence several-fold.
Pakistan needs a more manageable relationship with the United States that also brings economic gains. Two of the major obstacles in the Pakistan-US relationship will be Islamabad’s increasing proximity towards Beijing and the zero-sum approach of Pakistan’s deep state.
Timor-Leste has coped comparatively well with the effects of COVID-19, largely due to its sovereign wealth Petroleum Fund. Unfortunately, however, the longevity of the Petroleum Fund is now in question and, while a restructuring of the governing coalition spurred on by COVID-19 has brought some respite from high levels of political instability, it is still likely only to offer temporary relief. For Australia, the objective is a prosperous and stable neighbour but, if its economic and political challenges are not addressed, Timor-Leste could become significantly more vulnerable to the ambitions of foreign powers, which may be at odds with Australian interests.
Some of the first Executive Orders signed by President Biden indicate that he favours multilateralism and a more outward-looking US. While the new president has made working with allies a priority, his primary challenges, however, are domestic. In terms of India-US ties, it remains to be seen how Washington and New Delhi will reconcile their differences over the latter’s dealings with Russia.