Coronavirus Politics Daily: Asia's factories lag, Finland misses Russians, Venezuelan gas lines

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Asia's factories lag, Finland misses Russians, Venezuelan gas lines

Asia's manufacturing is still sick: Hailed for successfully managing the public health challenges of the pandemic, some of Asia's exporting powerhouses are now coming to terms with the economic impact of the crisis. A series of surveys released Monday show that the continent's crucial manufacturing sector took another hit last month as global trade continued to contract. While China's manufacturing activity expanded in May, showing some signs of a modest economic comeback, some of the region's export heavyweights have suffered their sharpest economic downturns in over a decade, as new export orders from their main trade partners remain slim. South Korea, for example, has been hailed for its apt management of the health crisis, but its exports have now slumped for three months straight, with shipments contracting 23.7 per cent year-on-year in May. Similarly, Taiwan has recorded just 7 deaths from the virus, but its manufacturing activity fell again in May from the previous month, while the IMF predicts that the economic bloc made up of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam will grow at -0.6 percent this year, down from its earlier estimate of +4.8 percent. Analysts now say that the region's economic rebound could take way longer than previously predicted.


Finland feels Russia's absence: While Finland's entire economy is reeling amid government-mandated lockdowns, the people of South Karelia, the picturesque Finnish border region that abuts Russia, are under particular stress as border closures keep out Russian tourists who are an economic lifeline for the area. Last year, some two million Russians visited, infusing cash into the lake district's tourist-dependent retail and agricultural sectors. But as Russia continues to grapple with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world, the Finland-Russia border is unlikely to reopen before the usually-lucrative summer tourist season – and could even stay shuttered for the rest of the year. Experts now say that for every month that the border is closed, local Finnish businesses could lose an estimated 25 million euros, shedding 900 jobs in total. Indeed, it's the worst crisis to hit the area since the economic turmoil caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union some 30 years ago. Finland's tourism industry is trying to boost domestic travel and lure tourists from elsewhere in Europe, but whether this will offset the loss from Russia this summer remains to be seen.

Venezuela's pain: Venezuela faced a severe economic crisis well before coronavirus arrived, but COVID has now inflicted a new degree of pain. The country's fuel shortage not only leaves drivers walking to work, stalled in traffic, in long lines hoping pumps will contain enough liquid to partially refill empty tanks, or sucking gasoline through plastic tubing to siphon it from one vehicle to another. It now also leaves coffins containing the remains of COVID-19 victims sitting in parked hearses that are unable to reach cemeteries because they have no fuel. It's an irony made even more bitter by the reality that Venezuela has the world's largest proven reserves of crude oil.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

"The people are stronger," pro-democracy demonstrators chanted as news broke that the Sudanese military had staged a coup Monday, overthrowing the joint civilian-military government and dashing hopes of democracy in the war-torn country.

The backstory. In 2019, Omar al-Bashir – a despot who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years – was deposed after a months-long popular uprising.

Al-Bashir was a bad guy: he cozied up to terrorists like Osama bin Laden and dropped barrel bombs on his own people. He also embezzled truck loads of money from oil production while millions of Sudanese went hungry, and oversaw a genocide in the Darfur region that left 300,000 people dead and displaced 1.6 million.

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As COP26 nears, the need for real climate action has never been more urgent. There are reasons for hope, but many scientists believe the ambitious goal of net zero emissions by 2050 is unattainable without immediate and significant change. Governments, financial institutions, and private sector companies alike have all recognized the need for a multistakeholder approach to solving this crisis of a lifetime.

Watch "Climate Crisis: Is net zero really possible?" a one-hour virtual livestream, hosted by GZERO Media and Microsoft as part of the Global Stage series, to hear scientists, corporate leaders and policymakers debate this question and offer critical perspectives on the way forward. Live on Tuesday, November 2nd at 11am ET, we'll break down what "net zero" means, take stock of where the world is on the path to carbon neutrality, and discuss critical steps needed to make real progress.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey everybody and happy Monday. Back in the office, getting a little cool. So I've got my sweater going on. It's the first time I've had a sweater on. What do you do with that? Discussing fashion, as I talk to you about what is on my mind this week?

And what's on my mind this week, Facebook. Facebook is on my mind. It's a tough week for Facebook. There are all sorts of whistleblowers out there. There's testimony going on. There's calls for regulation. Everybody seems unhappy with them. Indeed, you even got the government relations types, Nick Clegg, who I've known for a long time back when he was a policymaker in the UK saying that the headlines are going to be rough, but we're are going to get through it. But I will say, first of all, I'm kind of skeptical that any of this goes anywhere in terms of impact on how Facebook actually operates.

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Turkey's Erdogan ups the ante with the West: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared diplomats from 10 Western countries "persona non-grata" after the group — which includes the US, France, and Germany — called on Ankara to release Osman Kavala, a Parisian-born Turkish businessman who's been held in jail since 2017 but hasn't been charged with a crime. Erdogan says that Kavala was involved in an attempted coup against the government in 2016. This latest move is a sign of Turkey's authoritarian drift in recent years, which has seen Erdogan's government increasingly crack down on opposition members as well as journalists. It also reflects Turkey's increasingly fraught relations with the West: things got particularly bad between Washington and Ankara after Turkey purchased missile defense systems from the Russians in 2019. The Council of Europe (the EU's leading human rights organization) had previously warned that Ankara has until November to release Kavala or it would impose "infringements," though it's unclear what those would be.

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ASEAN gets tough(ish) with Myanmar: The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet Tuesday for their annual summit with one notable absence: the head of Myanmar's military junta. It's a rare snub from ASEAN, a regional bloc that's gotten a lot of heat in the past for giving tyrants a free pass. The junta says ASEAN violated its traditional principles of deciding by consensus by disinviting its leader, and non-interference in domestic affairs for demanding the bloc's special envoy meet detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For their part, the other ASEAN members have grown visibly alarmed at Myanmar's rapidly deteriorating political and economic situation since the February coup, and they're worried about the spillover effects of Myanmar becoming a failed state. More importantly, Myanmar is a big thorn in ASEAN's side as it walks a fine line between keeping warm ties with the US — which most members want cash and security from — and getting along with China, one of Myanmar's few remaining friends and viewed with suspicion by most ASEAN members over its South China Sea shenanigans.

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149: The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record-high 413.2 parts per million in 2020, 149 percent above pre-industrial levels. A new report by the UN weather agency released ahead of the COP26 climate summit found that last year's lower emissions due to COVID-related lockdowns had no impact on the overall amount of greenhouse gases causing global warming.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

Why should all eyes be on the Virginia suburbs?

I'm here in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia, where the state will be having a gubernatorial election on November 2nd. The Virginia governor election is held in the year after the US presidential election typically, and is generally seen as a bellwether for how popular the incumbent president of the United States is. In 2009, the Republican candidate won by a commanding 16 points despite the fact that Virginia has been trending more and more Democratic in recent years due to the population growth here in the suburbs, which tend to be more blue than rural areas of the state.

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