When Zoe Marshall decided to switch careers in her forties and become a fishmonger, she was scared. After leaving her job of 23 years, Zoe was forced to pivot in order to keep her family's home. Despite challenges, she forged ahead, opening Sea-Licious. Accepting Visa payments in her fishmonger shop, this access to commerce helps Zoe provide convenience to her customers and confidence in their transactions. Though she's one of the only women in the fish market each morning, her business and its place in the local community are flourishing with Visa's help.
October 22, 2021
We're just days away from COP26, the landmark global climate conference that's been dubbed the last chance to get the climate crisis in check. In the lead-up to the event in Glasgow, dozens of countries have released new ambitions to reduce their future carbon footprints. For years, climate activists and experts have called on governments to introduce carbon pricing schemes – either through taxes or emissions-trading schemes. So who's heeded the warning? We take a look at the top ten carbon emitters' share of global emissions and details about their respective national carbon pricing schemes.
Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:
Do cryptocurrencies make it harder to enforce foreign policy sanctions?
Well, that is exactly what the Biden administration worries about. As part of growing concerns of whether unregulated currencies undermine a whole host of policies, sanctions and foreign or trade policy should be a priority area. And just like others who wish to evade tracing of their wealth or transactions, the very states or their sanctioned entities should be assumed to resort to all options to evade restrictions while continuing to do business. So having cryptocurrencies undermining the ability to enforce strategic goals logically raises eyebrows in Washington.
Didn't the Biden administration recently sanction a cryptocurrency exchange itself?
Yes, it did. But the sanctions against SUEX were intended to prevent the company or platform from being the clearing house for criminal money. My sense is that there will be plenty more legal updates, regulations and ad hoc steps to ensure that cryptocurrencies do not undermine the ability to make policy, whether it's monetary or foreign policy.
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Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.
This week, the Kremlin hosted a summit with the Taliban that was attended by China, India and Pakistan, as well as all five Central Asian Republics.
The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?
Background: who's willing to recognize the Taliban?
Regional powers like Russia and China have suggested they'll recognize the Taliban, provided that the group safeguards their respective interests.
A pragmatic and increasingly ambitious China wants two things: access to Afghanistan's mineral wealth, and an opportunity to build bridges and roads across the country as part of its vision to crisscross Asia with Chinese infrastructure. Russia wants to ensure the Taliban don't give safe haven to militants targeting Russia and the Muslim-majority former Soviet republics in Central Asia.
The isolated Taliban will surely want Beijing's infrastructure investment – and the job creation that goes with it. And while it's unclear how much economic influence Russia has on the ground, Moscow has emerged as the key power-broker in recent months, suggesting it does have diplomatic clout as it tries to maintain good relations with the new government in Kabul.
Moreover, Pakistan has long enjoyed close ties with the Taliban, while Turkey has been cozying up to the Taliban as part of its effort to expand its influence in Muslim-majority countries, and stop an influx of Afghan refugees arriving via Iran. India – worried that a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan would help its arch-nemesis Pakistan launch attacks against it – wants to maintain solid relations with Kabul as well.
But… does the Taliban-led government even need the US' endorsement to function?
To a certain degree, yes. The US dominates the global financial system, with some two-thirds of international trade and lending done in US dollars. It also has sufficient control over the SWIFT system, which allows financial institutions and banks to safely transfer money around the globe. Indeed, blocking countries from this network can be extremely painful (just ask the Iranians).
The US has also used its clout at international organizations like the IMF and the World Bank to compel these institutions to suspend projects and payments to Afghanistan in recent months. Additionally, there is still some uncertainty about how US sanctions might apply to a Taliban-run Afghanistan. Anyone caught doing business with Taliban-administered banks might face the risk of sanctions, as is the case with Iran. This is hardly a solid PR ploy to attract outside investment.
What's more, the bulk of Afghanistan's foreign reserves – more than $9 billion – are tied up in US banks, and Washington has ensured that the Taliban only have access to a meager 0.1-0.2 percent of this stash. Even before the takeover, the country's economy was slated to shrink because of the pandemic. Now, a depreciating currency as a result of a cash crunch and falling imports is making matters worse: the IMF recently warned that the state's GDP could shrink by 30 percent this year.
Still, the Taliban can get support and aid from other places. Indeed, the Islamist group could turn to regional development banks for disbursements like the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which the US is not a member of, as well as the Asian Development Bank that already has extensive operations in Afghanistan.
And if all else fails, there's always opium. The Taliban have made a mint from opium production in recent years, with the group accounting for around 85 percent of the global supply. Illicit mining activities have also proven to be a cash-cow, as has the side hustle of selling US-made weapons and vehicles left behind amid the chaotic American withdrawal.
Looking ahead. For all the banter about America being in decline, Uncle Sam still pulls (most of) the levers of power in the global financial system. The Taliban can find alternative sources of support and income – but it certainly won't be easy.
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For Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM and now CEO of the Asia Society, the science on climate change is pretty much done, so the only unresolved issues are tech and — more importantly — lack of political leadership. He can't think of a single national political leader who can fill the role, and says the only way to get political action on climate is to mobilize public opinion.
Taking place on October 21 and 22, the Sustainability Leaders Summit will go beyond preexisting narratives and debate priorities for governments and industries ahead of COP26. Placing the spotlight on Asia's role in the global sustainability agenda, the event will address whether Asian countries and companies can achieve shared sustainability goals, and what is needed to help get them there. The summit will be co-hosted by Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. We will address three key questions: How can Asian countries, with the help of the private sector, achieve shared Sustainability Goals? Why does this matter? And what are the policy changes needed to bring it about?
Attendance is free and open to the public. Register to attend.
October 21, 2021: Protecting the planet: Asia's risk and responsibility
Thursday | 8 am ET / 8pm SGT
October 22, 2021: Plastics: Unlocking sustainable solutions
Friday | 8 am ET / 8pm SGT
- Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group and GZERO Media
- Tak Niinami, CEO, Suntory Holdings
- Inger Andersen, Under-Secretary-General, United Nations and Executive Director, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
- Ko Barrett, Vice Chair, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Deputy Assistant Administrator for Research, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- Shari Friedman, Managing Director of Climate and Sustainability, Eurasia Group
- Shinta Kamdani, CEO, Sintesa Group
- Rob Kaplan, CEO, Circulate Capital
- Sean Kidney, CEO, Climate Bonds Initiative
- Aloke Lohia, CEO, Indorama Ventures
- Tadashi Maeda, Governor, Japan Bank for International Cooperation
- Kevin Rudd, former prime minister, Australia
- Hannah Testa, Activist
Anchoring the Summit is a new research report prepared by Eurasia Group, "Unlocking Sustainable Plastics in Asia," which advocates for a much more dynamic role for both the public and private sector in Asia to counter the proliferation of single-use plastic containers, which have had an outsized impact on the environment.
October 21 & October 22, 8 am ET / 8 pm SGT
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The minutiae of supply chains makes for boring dinner table talk, but it's increasingly becoming a hot topic of conversation now that packages are taking much longer to arrive in the consumer-oriented US, while prices of goods soar.
With the issue unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, right-wing media have dubbed President Biden the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, conjuring images of sad Christmas trees surrounded by distraught children whose holiday gifts are stuck somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.
It hasn't been a good run for Uncle Joe in recent months. What issues are tripping him up?
Global shipping systems are in complete disarray. Many shipping containers are caught in traffic jams at the entrance to US ports, and even when they unload, truck driver shortages have meant massive delays in transporting goods to stores and warehouses.
The underlying condition is the pandemic, which has upended consumption patterns. Consider that older people, who are usually tech averse, started shopping online, while the laptop cohort has gone crazy gobbling up office supplies. This combined with panic buying – where manufacturers and retailers are now over-ordering across the board – has sent global supply chains into a tizzy. Scarcity of staples like diapers, coffee and toilet paper has also worsened the pandemic-fueled inflation problem.
Supply chains are now the most acute crisis facing the Biden administration. As a result, the White House recently stepped in to help boost capacity at the Port of Los Angeles – the busiest one in the Western Hemisphere, which is now operating 24/7. Backlogs there are crucial to the health of the US economy, but since the entire world is feeling the supply chain crunch, Biden has limited options to fix the multi-layered problem.
Congress: not the family you choose. For weeks, the White House has been embroiled in political wrangling with Congress to ensure the passage of Biden's signature Build Back Better plan – a two-part bill that includes investment in traditional infrastructure like roads, bridges, and yes, ports, as well as funding for child care and climate-change mitigation schemes.
But infighting between progressive and moderate Democrats on the price tag has led to a weeks-long stalemate, and will ultimately result in Biden significantly watering down things like his clean electricity agenda and free community college. While Republicans oppose many of the bill's provisions, recent surveys found that voters blame divisiveness within the Democrats for the legislative impasse, and the president's abrupt popular decline.
COVID: the messy house guest that won't leave. Biden's perceived successes – and failures – were always going to be linked to his ability to get the pandemic in check. While in the spring Biden saw a boost in the polls linked to a speedy vaccine rollout, that honeymoon period is now over, with half the American electorate disapproving of the president's handling of the pandemic.
A big part of the problem comes from the politicization of COVID and polarization in America more broadly, which means that pandemic containment means vastly different things to different people.
For many, pandemic success means having kids back in schools and bodies in offices without further disruption. It also means the power to choose whether to get vaccinated or to mask up. For others, it means minimizing the number of COVID cases nationwide at all costs, and boosting vaccination rates – including through mandates. Reconciling these world-views would be almost impossible for any president, both Republican and Democrat, in the post-Trump era.
Virginia: a sign of what's to come? Democrats and Republicans will be closely watching the November 2 race for governor in Virginia – a purple state where Democrats have an advantage. But the race, broadly seen as a temperature check for President Biden one year into the job, is very close. It's also seen as a bellwether one year out from midterm elections, when Republicans will contend to take control of the US Congress. Though it's still early days for Biden, the outcome in Virginia will illuminate the national mood at a crucial point in time.
Looking ahead: Biden's approval rating has dropped 10 points since June, including among Democratic voters and independents. But he could save face if he manages to save Christmas.
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Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the NBA's latest rift with China, Brazil's Senate investigation, and COVID booster shots.
China wipes Boston Celtics from NBA broadcast after the "Free Tibet" speech from Enes Kanter. Is NBA boxing itself into a corner?
Nice mixed sports metaphor there. NBA has some challenges because they are of course the most progressive on political and social issues in the United States among sports leagues, but not when it comes to China, their most important international market. And you've seen that with LeBron James telling everyone about we need to learn better from the Communist Party on issues like Hong Kong and how Daryl Morey got hammered for taking his stance in favor of Hong Kong democracy. Well, Enes Kanter's doing the same thing and he's a second-string center. Didn't even play yesterday and still the Chinese said that they were not going to air any Boston Celtics games. Why? Because he criticized the Chinese government and had some "Free Tibet" sneakers. This is a real problem for a lot of corporations out there, but particularly publicly, the NBA. Watch for a bunch of American politicians to make it harder for the NBA going forward, saying how dare you kowtow to the Chinese when you're all about "Black Lives Matter" inside the United States. No fun.
Brazil's Senate committee accused President Bolsonaro of crimes against humanity for COVID-19 negligence. What's happening there?
Well, they did actually consider accusing him of genocide. They chose not to do that, probably because someone looked into the definition of genocide and realized that that was really stupid. Certainly this is going to make a lot of headlines in Brazil. It's embarrassing for Bolsonaro. None of it's going to pass into law. None of it's going to lead to him being incarcerated or sent to The Hague, but it is one more thing, along with energy price spikes because of drought and their reliance on hydro, because of the economy not doing very well. His popularity right now is in the toilet. It's around 30% and they've got elections next year. Very unlikely that Bolsonaro is able to win. That's the real importance here, is his days are numbered.
FDA is set to approve the "mix and match" approach for COVID booster shots in the US. Will this deepen global vaccine inequality?
I don't know if it would deepen it, but it's going to extend it in the sense that we in the United States have been saying publicly that the vaccine..., this pandemic is not over anywhere until it's over everywhere, which is a great thing to say. But of course it's not in any way true in terms of the way we act. The way we act is as long as we've got our Moderna, we've got our Pfizer and we've got our boosters, we get to live like normal again. While around the world, most of the lower-developed countries haven't even gotten their first shot yet. That's the reality around the world. And that's driving much greater mistrust between wealthy countries and poor countries. At the same time, we have our own political differences that are growing inside the United States.
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