9
Oct

AFTER more than five years of negotiations, representatives from 12 countries in Asia and the Americas finally struck a deal today on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an ambitious and contentious free-trade pact. It is the biggest and deepest multilateral trade deal in years, encompassing countries that account for 40% of the world’s economy. But it might prove even more important than that if it succeeds in its ambition to “define the rules of the road” for trade in Asia, as Michael Froman, America’s lead negotiator, put it.

Mr Froman’s office estimates that TPP will see more than 18,000 tariffs on American products reduced to zero. But tariffs, which have already been greatly reduced among TPP’s members, are not the most touted bit of the treaty. More important are the minimum standards for the protection of intellectual property, workers and the environment. All parties will be compelled to follow the International Labour Organisation’s basic principles on workers’ rights, for example. By the same token, countries that do not live up to the deal’s environmental rules can be pursued through the same dispute-settlement mechanism that will be used to adjudicate commercial grievances. There are even rules barring countries from favouring state-owned enterprises—a big step for the likes of Malaysia and Vietnam. Read more…

Published in The Economist on 5 Oct. http://www.economist.com

7
Oct

IML_8012

On Wednesday 30 September, the IE School of International Relations welcomed the 8th intake of the Master in International Relations. This diverse group of 30 master students boasts 18 nationalities including students from South Africa, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, South Africa, Egypt, Germany to name a few.

Ambassador Javier Ruperez, former Spanish Ambassador to the US, gave a thought provoking keynote address to the incoming students in which he clearly stated his position on the current state of the world. He spoke of troubling times ahead and of a moment of growing instability and multiple threats in the international order. This is a challenge the new class of 2015/2016 must take up one day, as future actors in the global arena.

6
Oct

A child selling charcoal in Kabezi, Burundi (photo from 24 June 2015)

The World Bank has said that for the first time less than 10% of the world’s population will be living in extreme poverty by the end of 2015.

The bank said it was using a new income figure of $1.90 per day to define extreme poverty, up from $1.25.

It forecasts the proportion of the world’s population in this category to fall from 12.8% in 2012 to 9.6%.

However, it said the “growing concentration of global poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is of great concern”.

Although the share of people in poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to fall from 42.6% in 2012 to 35.2% by the end of 2015, this will still represent around half of the world’s poor.

“We are the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said.

The bank says the downward trend was due to strong growth rates in developing countries and investments in education, health, and social safety nets.

But Mr Kim warned that continuing the progress would be “extraordinarily hard, especially in a period of slower global growth, volatile financial markets, conflicts, high youth unemployment, and the growing impact of climate change”.

And the bank warned that poverty is “becoming deeper and more entrenched in countries that are either conflict ridden or overly dependent on commodity exports”.

 

Published in bbc.com on Oct. 5th, 2015; http://www.bbc.com/news/world-34440567

5
Oct

 

Could We Have Stopped This Tragedy?

Unlike neoconservatives, who never admit error no matter how often they are wrong, I spend a fair bit of time thinking about whether my diagnoses of key world events have been off the mark. (For examples of this sort of “self-criticism,” see here, here, and here.) I’ll stand by the vast majority of what I’ve written in my scholarly work and my FP commentary, but I find it useful — indeed, necessary — to occasionally ponder whether I got something wrong and, if so, to try to figure out why.

Case in point: the increasingly awful situation in Syria. Ever since the initial protests broke out, I’ve believed this conflict was not of vital strategic interest to the United States and that overt U.S. intervention was likely to cause more harm than good. What has emerged since then is a relentless and gut-wrenching tragedy, but I’ve uncomfortably concluded that my original judgment was correct. And yet I continue to wonder.

To be sure, the Obama administration has not handled Syria well at all.

President Barack Obama erred when he jumped the gun in 2011 and insisted “Assad must go,” locking the United States into a maximalist position and foreclosing potential diplomatic solutions that might have saved thousands of lives. Second, Obama’s 2012 off-the-cuff remark about chemical weapons and “red lines” was a self-inflicted wound that didn’t help the situation and gave opponents a sound bite to use against him. The president wisely backed away from that position, however, and (with Russian help) eventually devised an arrangement that got rid of Assad’s chemical arsenal. This was no small achievement in itself, but the whole episode did not exactly inspire confidence. The administration eventually agreed to start a training program for anti-Assad forces, but did so with neither enthusiasm nor competence. Read more…

 

Published in foreignpolicy.com by Stephen Walt on Sept. 21, 2015

30
Sep

 

When Barack Obama meets this week with Xi Jinping during the Chinese president’s first state visit to America, one item probably won’t be on their agenda: the possibility that the United States and China could find themselves at war in the next decade. In policy circles, this appears as unlikely as it would be unwise.

And yet 100 years on, World War I offers a sobering reminder of man’s capacity for folly. When we say that war is “inconceivable,” is this a statement about what is possible in the world—or only about what our limited minds can conceive? In 1914, few could imagine slaughter on a scale that demanded a new category: world war. When war ended four years later, Europe lay in ruins: the kaiser gone, the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved, the Russian tsar overthrown by the Bolsheviks, France bled for a generation, and England shorn of its youth and treasure. A millennium in which Europe had been the political center of the world came to a crashing halt.

The defining question about global order for this generation is whether China and the United States can escape Thucydides’s Trap. The Greek historian’s metaphor reminds us of the attendant dangers when a rising power rivals a ruling power—as Athens challenged Sparta in ancient Greece, or as Germany did Britain a century ago. Most such contests have ended badly, often for both nations, a team of mine at the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has concluded after analyzing the historical record. In 12 of 16 cases over the past 500 years, the result was war. When the parties avoided war, it required huge, painful adjustments in attitudes and actions on the part not just of the challenger but also the challenged. Read more…

By Graham Allison; Published on 24 Sept. 2015 in theatlantic.com

Graham Allison is the director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is the author of Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe and the co-author of Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World.

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