The United States and China reaffirmed their commitment to the Phase One Trade Agreement last month. While Beijing is unlikely to reach the import commitments that it agreed to in that deal, it has increased the volume of US agricultural goods that it is importing. It remains to be seen whether that will be sufficient to save the agreement after the US presidential election in November.
The massive ammonium nitrate blast that rocked Beirut has brought to the fore – and exacerbated – the ongoing political crisis in Lebanon. The country’s geographical location and the vortex of geopolitical tensions among which it is positioned can hardly be under-emphasised. The combined forces of domestic politics and international influence have led to Lebanon becoming a proxy battleground.
Agriculture sits at the nexus of some of the most pressing challenges facing the world today: climate change, food security and nutrition, water quality, biodiversity and livelihoods. The COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating pressures across the agriculture supply chain, revealing the fragility of the food system. It has shone light on core societal values of health and nutrition and highlighted the importance of essential food system workers. A transition toward regenerative practices could bring a huge win-win for farmers, food companies and the environment and a foundation for a truly future-fit agricultural system.
While all eyes have been on New Delhi’s tensions with Nepal, China has bolstered its economic and strategic links with Dhaka, and Colombo-Beijing ties already are robust. There have been signs of a thaw between New Delhi and Kathmandu, and India has worked to strengthen its economic ties with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, but New Delhi needs to view its neighbourhood beyond the China factor, resolve domestic problems and address its own economic challenges.
The decision of the United Arab Emirates to normalise links with Israel will have a disruptive effect on the geopolitics of the Middle East, which could see the region divided into factions that either support or object to the initiative.
There is likely to be a significant increase in poverty across Iraq as a result of a severe economic downturn brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, a decline in oil production and a sharp decrease in international oil prices. That is expected to contribute to a significant, and persistent, rise in food insecurity across the country.
To meet the targets set by the Paris climate change conference, greenhouse gas may have to be actively removed from the atmosphere and stored indefinitely. Carbon capture and storage technology will also have a key role in reducing future greenhouse gas emissions. Storage deep underground, in the oceans and in the soil, are some of the possible options but there are technological, financial, environment and time considerations.
A recent scientific analysis has shown beyond reasonable doubt that Chinese dams are capable of lowering water levels in the lower Mekong River basin. It is now clear that Beijing could use its geographical position at the headwaters of the river to influence or coerce downstream riparians, to the detriment of the US and other countries that share its vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The tourism sector will not be the sole path to recovery, but it can offer the hope of an economic lifeline. Possible challenges may include the funding of promotional initiatives, the often poor quality of land transport infrastructure in much of the region, the precarious state of the civil aviation industry, and the need to protect locals and visitors from the spread of COVID-19.
While strategic and defence ties have strengthened under Trump, differences on economic issues not related to trade have surfaced. Biden, who visited India as Vice-President, has been an ardent supporter of strengthening the bilateral economic relationship and a Biden victory could pave the way for closer economic and strategic ties. Trump’s behaviour towards US allies has been unpredictable and a (presumably) more predictable Biden may be better able to work with US allies and partners, including India, in countering China.