Tuesday, October 24

Tuesday, October 24

TRADING ENEMIES Qatar files for World Trade Organization adjudication over UAE dispute Qatar today will formally request a World Trade

TRADING ENEMIES

Qatar files for World Trade Organization adjudication over UAE dispute

Qatar will file a WTO dispute against UAE

Photo: Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters

Qatar today will formally request a World Trade Organisation dispute settlement body to adjudicate the trade dispute with the UAE.

Doha filed a complaint in July alleging that the Saudi-led bloc’s closure of borders to trade and travel violated trade law, but the UAE refused to negotiate, forcing Qatar to turn to a formal dispute body.

Although Qatar’s previous attempt to use international bodies to outmanoeuvre the Saudi-led bloc have borne little fruit, the WTO adjudication process has more teeth. A ruling favourable to Qatar could result in billions of dollars of sanctions against the UAE.

But WTO adjudication could take years, providing little short-term relief to a Qatari economy that has seen a steep decline in its critical tourism sector. The Saudi-led bloc previously announced it would take the nigh-unprecedented step of invoking the national security exemption to justify the blockade, making the outcome unpredictable.

Expect the GCC crisis to only escalate in the coming months, with no end in sight.

Delve deeper: Qatar’s Islamist ties targeted by Saudi-led demands

TILLERSON’S CHARM

US Secretary of State in the subcontinent

Tillerson to meet Indiaäs Narendra Modi

Photo: State Department

Today, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj and PM Narendra Modi in New Delhi for talks over pressing regional issues. On the agenda will be deepening their strategic partnership in Afghanistan, the Indo-Pacific region and counterterrorism cooperation following Washington’s new South Asia Policy.

Coming amid the statesman’s five-nation tour of the region, Tillerson is expected to promote India’s role in improving Afghanistan’s socio-economic conditions, rebuilding infrastructure, and advancing Kabul’s institutional capacity.

While it will not provide troops, India will contribute through information sharing and security personnel training programs. This will certainly attract the attention of its rival Pakistan, which has been the recipient of strong rhetoric recently when Tillerson said the US expects ‘decisive action’ against terrorism.

Besides seeking New Delhi’s help in rebuilding Afghanistan, the US counts on India’s ability to counterbalance China’s growing regional influence via infrastructure initiatives.

INDIAN PIVOT

US attempts to corral India into containing China at ASEAN+ talks

Indian warship

Photo: Indian Navy

Today marks the second day of the ASEAN-Plus defence ministers meetings between the 10 ASEAN states and eight major powers with geostrategic interests in South East Asia—mainly the US, China, Russia, India, and Japan.

To date, China has frustrated any joint ASEAN statement against its interests in the South China Sea by allying with Cambodia and Laos, thereby splitting the forum. Recently the Philippines, a traditional US ally, has pivoted towards China under its new leader, Rodrigo Duterte.

Today’s deliberations will likely see day two of the US pivot to India. Top of the agenda for Defence Secretary James Mattis is a meeting with Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman. Washington has courted New Delhi with prospective arms deals. The aim is for India, a growing power, to become a regional counter-weight against China. India supports international law guaranteeing “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea.

The move reinforces the Trump administration’s beliefs in bilateralism over multilateralism. Expect to see the Indian military play a much greater role in the region, including the South China Sea, in the coming years.

AN UNTIMELY CELEBRATION

Guterres to visit Central African Republic on UN day

UN Peacekeepers in the Central African Republic

Photo: AP/Cassandra Vinograd

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will travel to the Central African Republic on the  72nd UN day to visit the 12,500 UN peacekeepers in the country.

The blue helmets have struggled to staunch 4 years of fighting between a variety of militias that has displaced roughly a quarter of the country’s 4.5 million residents. Despite a new 2015 constitution, fighting has dragged on as newly elected President Faustin-Archange Touadéra is unable to control the country without the help of the international peacekeeping operation.

Aside from the precarious security situation, the country suffers from persistent economic malaise, ranking dead last in the UN’s Human Development Index. An upsurge of violence in May forced a number of aid agencies to reduce or remove their presence in the country, threatening the 2.3 million who depend on humanitarian assistance.

As long as UN forces remain in the country, they may be able to prevent an outright collapse of the new government. But without a sustainable solution to the conflict, expect the violence to continue.

HAPPENING ELSEWHERE…

AfD enters Bundestag, Kenya’s election rerun, China’s new leaders

German Bundestag to welcome AfD

Photo: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

German lawmakers will convene for the first time since the country’s September 24 vote. Among them will be 94 members of the Alternative for Deutschland—the first far-right party to enter the Bundestag since the 1960s. Meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel is leading difficult three-way talks with the pro-business FDP and progressive Greens; one prominent FDP politician suggested it “would be illusory” to think the talks will be concluded by Christmas.

A Kenyan court will today decide whether opposition leader Raila Odinga’s withdrawal from Thursday’s presidential election rerun is valid and whether the rerun is free and fair. Kenyan judges have taken centre stage in recent months—the annulment of the August 8 vote was seen by many as a testament to the strength of the country’s democratic institutions.

The Communist Party of China will wrap-up its weeklong congress. The New York Times has summarised five key takeaways of President Xi Jinping’s three and a half hour keynote speech; the South China Morning Post outlines the key leadership changes.

A high-ranking Fatah delegation will arrive in the Palestinian exclave of Gaza today. After a unity government was struck two weeks ago, Fatah and former Islamist rival Hamas are working towards a framework to rule both Gaza and the West Bank under a Palestinian Accord Government. Hurdles remain, especially the fate of Hamas’ militant wing. Official handover of Gaza to the unity government is expected on December 1.

Indonesia’s military chief, General Gatot Nurmantyo, was scheduled to deliver a speech in Washington today. But despite an invitation from the US Joint Chief of Staff—one of the most powerful American military officers—Mr Nurmantyo was denied entry. Red faced, the US government has since apologised to the high-ranking general, who’s being tipped as a potential running mate for President Jokowi in the 2019 election.

A special commission of 27 Spanish senators will examine PM Mariano Rajoy’s decision to invoke article 155 of the constitution to bring restive Catalonia under direct rule. A vote is expected on Friday.