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Tuesday, September 5


Tuesday, September 5

Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell in a tense standoff


Intraparty tensions cloud America’s new legislative session

Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell in a tense standoff
Photo: Jabin Botsford/Getty

The US Congress returns to work today following a summer recess. Republicans would like to quietly work on tax reform; President Donald Trump probably has other ideas.

Trump has recently clashed with several Senate Republicans. Most consequentially, he is openly feuding with their leader, Mitch McConnell. After failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Trump tweeted attacks at the Kentucky senator and screamed at him over the phone. Unless this deteriorating relationship is salvaged, tax reform will likely suffer healthcare repeal’s fate.

At the same time, Congress must pass a spending package by September 30 to avoid shutting down the government. However, Trump has threatened to force such a shutdown if there are no funds allocated for his border wall with Mexico; his feud with McConnell and other Republicans means such funding is unlikely. If Trump follows through on his shutdown threat, toxicity between the president and his own party will only grow.

Expect urgent items, like relief for areas afflicted by Hurricane Harvey and raising the debt ceiling, to ultimately pass. But, Republicans’ policy wish list will mostly go unfulfilled. The session is set to feature more angry Trump tweets than landmark tax or border legislation.


China to enact UN sanctions as Pyongyang tests weapons

The border betweek North Korea and China
Photo: AFP

Today marks the deadline for China to comply with UN security council sanctions punishing North Korea. Following Pyongyang’s missile launch over Japan and a nuclear test in recent days, further measures appear likely.

The most recent round of sanctions, initiated last month, prohibit buying North Korean coal and iron. Importantly for Beijing, the measures also ban seafood imports; North Korea made $190 million last year selling the popular export to China. Altogether, the sanctions will cut off $1 billion in revenue to Pyongyang—a third of its total export revenue.

Though China is cooperating, with the Ministry of Commerce banning the sanctioned imports, Donald Trump may still punish Beijing for its continued trade with the hermit kingdom. The president has unrealistically threatened to cut off US trade with any country that does business with North Korea. For its part, Beijing is growing increasingly irritated by Pyongyang’s actions.

Even if Mr Trump does not take the harsh measures he threatens, his antagonising Beijing—recently tweeting China has had “little success” curbing Pyongyang—will make working together harder.


Indonesia’s foreign minister seeks to mediate Rohingya crisis

Rohingya Muslims flee Myanmar’s Rakhine State
Photo: Christophe Archambault/AFP

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi will arrive in Bangladesh’s capital today to discuss providing aid to the 90,000 Rohingya Muslims who entered the country over the past week after clashes with Myanmar’s military beginning on August 25.

Elements of the Rohingya—around 2% of Myanmar’s population—have been fighting the government for decades. The ethnic minority are denied citizenship and basic services such as education. In 2012, violent riots between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims erupted in the northern Rakhine State, leaving almost 100 dead and 100,000 displaced. Reprisals and counter-reprisals continued and intensified last October following attacks by Rohingya militants on government troops.

The issue is one of the most pressing facing the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who met with Indonesia’s foreign minister yesterday.

But Ms Suu Kyi must be careful—her domestic popularity will suffer if she takes a pro-Rohingya stance. On the other hand, she’s at risk of further damaging her status as a Nobel Prize-winning defender of human rights. Further complicating the situation is the country’s strong military, which will prove difficult to rein in.

See Also

Delve deeper: Myanmar divided


BRICS wrap up, Japanese MPs debate North Korea, Uzbekistan floats currency

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for a group photo during the BRICS Summit in Xiamen
Photo: Reuters/Wu Hong 

The BRICS Summit will wrap up after three days of talks in Xiamen, China. Yesterday, Xi Jinping urged world leaders to “make the international order more just and equitable”, a comment apparently targeted at the Western-led order. Xi highlighted that “without our [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa] participation, many pressing global challenges cannot be effectively resolved”, suggesting the grouping should push for a “new type of international relations”. BRICS countries account for around 40% of the world’s population and a quarter of the global economy. Representatives from five other countries—Egypt, Guinea, Mexico, Tajikistan and Thailand—referred to as the ‘BRICS Plus’, will join talks today.

Japanese lawmakers in both the upper and lowers houses will hold closed door sessions to discuss how to respond to North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, conducted on Sunday. The debate also comes exactly one week after the North test fired a missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Shinzo Abe’s coalition government is expected to offer a sharp rebuke of North Korean actions—a line it’s held consistently —but is unlikely to take unilateral actions targeting Pyongyang.

Uzbekistan’s government will lift most restrictions on buying and selling of foreign currency today and will remove the US Dollar peg for the national currency—the som. Long-time President Islam Karimov died last September and was succeeded by Shavkat Mirizyoyev, who has sought to liberalise the Soviet-style economy in a bid to attract much-needed foreign investment.

Australia’s central bankers are widely expected to hold interest rates at 1.5% at their monetary policy review today.

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