Wednesday, July 5

Wednesday, July 5

THE NEW INTERNATIONALISTS? German, Chinese leaders meet to lay foundations for G20 talks Fresh from talks in Russia, China’s President

THE NEW INTERNATIONALISTS?

German, Chinese leaders meet to lay foundations for G20 talks

Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

Fresh from talks in Russia, China’s President Xi Jinping meets Angela Merkel today—a preamble to the much-talked about G20 summit on Friday.

Ms Merkel will enlist Chinese assistance to “promote global economic governance”, particularly on climate change and free trade—two areas that will take centre-stage at the G20.  Germany had previously worked with the United States to promote these causes, but President Trump’s “America First” inward-looking agenda have Germany searching for alternative great power partners to help push for internationalist policies.

Relations between the US and Germany have soured recently. Several cabinet members have criticised Mr Trump, with Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel accusing Trump of “putting peace in Europe at risk”. Meanwhile, Merkel’s ruling party, the CDU, recently stripped language from its campaign platform that described the US as a “friend” and the “cornerstone” of German international relations.

A productive meeting could hasten a shift in German allegiances away from the United States toward other countries, China among them. But ultimately, Berlin’s strong ties to Washington will endure, particularly in the security arena; Ms Merkel will have to find a way to work with President Trump, at least for the next three and a half years.

SPREADING THE HATE

Philippine lawmakers tout hard-line policy to regional allies

Photo: Damir Sagolj/Reuters

Photo: Damir Sagolj/Reuters

ASEAN lawmakers will convene in the Philippines to discuss counternarcotic policies today. Days before the summit, Robert Ace Barbers—the country’s chief anti-drug MP—suggested that his country’s ‘war on drugs’ could serve as a framework for the region.

President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to eliminate drug use when he came into office last June and government officials have pointed to results. Crime rates have fallen by roughly 13%, thousands of dealers have been imprisoned, and millions of users are seeking treatment options. But the war has been met with global criticism.

The government says roughly 7,000 people have been killed in drug-related operations in the past year—almost half by police. Critics say the number could be higher. Human rights groups have condemned reports of extrajudicial killings and disproportionate policies towards drug users and addicts—people Duterte said he would “kill”.

While most ASEAN nations have harsh laws for drug offences and despite Mr Barbers’ salesmanship, Southeast Asia is unlikely to follow in Mr Duterte’s radical footsteps—particularly given the criticism he’s had to endure.

LAM’S FIRST DAY

Hong Kong’s new leader faces legislature

Photo: K. Y. Cheng

Photo: K. Y. Cheng

Hong Kong’s new Chief Executive Carrie Lam will conduct her first 90-minute Q&A session with lawmakers today.

Lam was inaugurated four days ago—coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the British handover—and immediately stressed the importance of uniting a “divided society”. While pro-democracy activists rallied outside the Legislative Council, Chinese President Xi Jinping said a “red line” will be crossed if Hong Kongers try to undermine the mainland’s authority.

Lam has the complex task of maintaining the “one country, two systems” principle, which is being challenged by increasing Chinese influence and growing restlessness from pro-democrats. Today’s legislative session presents an ideal opportunity for lawmakers to probe Lam on how this will be done.

But Lam, widely regarded as pro-Beijing, will want to focus on less controversial policies, like education, before tackling the sensitive issues of constitutional reform and universal suffrage. Given the recent outbursts by pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong’s legislature, expect thorny issues to come up during today’s Q&A session.

 

HAPPENING ELSEWHERE…

President Trump will touch down in Warsaw, Poland today ahead of a busy few days on the Continent, including a ‘major speech’ on Thursday and the G20 summit beginning Friday. Having been lambasted by the EU for its ultra-conservative measures and erosion of the rule of law, Poland’s right-wing ruling party, the PiS, will welcome Mr Trump with open arms—not the sort of treatment the US president is expected to receive from his German or French counterparts.

The 48-hour extension for Qatar to meet a list of 13 demands from the Saudi-led bloc will expire. Qatar is widely expected to reject all the demands, including the closure of Al Jazeera. The media network has released a defiant video demanding press freedom be respected. Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE will meet in Cairo to plot their next move.