Politics Goes To The Beach

It's August. And you, a worldly and dedicated reader of Signal, are finally on vacation at your favorite beach getaway. The out-of-office reply is on, your phone is off, the sun is out, and the waves are rolling in. A gentle breeze ruffles the corner of your towel, seagulls wheel overhead, you gaze out at the sea.

Look, there on the horizon, the slate gray silhouette of a container ship inches ever so slowly across the ocean. How beautiful. How peaceful. How soothing.

How impossible… not to wonder if that ship might be headed for trouble in the Strait of Hormuz.. Wait, wait, maybe it's plying its way to the Arctic, to cross those new, hotly contested trade routes through the melting polar ice…

Or, hang on second, how much of the stuff on that cargo ship is affected by the US-China trade war? The two sides have put tariffs on $360 billion worth of each other's goods already. And now Trump says he'll slap a 10% duty on another $300 billion of Chinese exports starting September 1st! He's not happy with the slow pace of US-China trade talks. He's annoyed that the Chinese aren't buying more American products like they said they would. Now he wants to really turn the screws on Xi Jinping, especially since the Chinese economy is slowing and...

No, no, back to the beach, you say to yourself. Relax. Zen. This is your vacation. Chill. The beach is where people go to tan, relax, read, sip goofy frozen drinks, play ridiculous "sports" like paddleball, and also discuss the strategic options available to the world's second largest economy. Oh, yes. China's entire leadership, you now remember, will soon retreat to the secretive beach resort of Beidahe for their annual policy confab.

This year the conversation over the Beidahe early bird buffet sure will be something: Xi Jinping and his advisers not only have to craft a response to Trump on the trade war – fight back, wait him out, or cave? -- but they also need to decide how to handle the Hong Kong protests, which are now increasingly targeting Beijing's control over the territory itself.

Enough! You dip your toes into the sand, close your eyes. This is your time off. Your time away from thinking about global politics. You've even managed to swear off reading Signal for a few days. If possible.

Lulled by the susurrant rush of surf, you are dozing in your chaise longue when suddenly you are jolted awake by a shrill chirping sound. A few feet away, a man rolls over on his beach blanket, cursing under his breath. He plunges his hand into a tote bag and pulls out a cell phone, and you notice that it's made by … Huawei!

You cannot escape.

The Business and Market Fair that recently took place in Sanzule, Ghana featured local crops, livestock and manufactured goods, thanks in part to the Livelihood Restoration Plan (LRP), one of Eni's initiatives to diversify the local economy. The LRP program provided training and support to start new businesses to approximately 1,400 people from 205 households, invigorating entrepreneurship in the community.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

Russia's Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky sat down yesterday with Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Emmanuel Macron for a meeting in the Elysée Palace in Paris for peace talks. This was the first-ever meeting between Putin, Russia's dominant political force since 2000, and Zelensky, who was a TV comedian at this time last year.

Not much was agreed beyond a broader exchange of prisoners and a renewed commitment to a ceasefire that has never held. Fears that Putin would use Zelensky's inexperience to back him into a deal on Russian terms weren't realized, but the relationship between the two has only just begun.

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The UK currently benefits from EU trade pacts covering more than 70 countries. But if the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal in place, London could lose its preferential access to those markets. In preparation for such a scenario, the UK has signed 20 "continuity" agreements, allowing countries to keep trading with the UK under current rules even after Brexit. Here's a look at which countries and blocs have signed these deals with the UK, and the total value of each trade relationship.

Macron not backing down over pensions – Despite six days of mass unrest that has paralyzed Paris' public transport system and dented both tourism and Christmas retail, the government will stand firm on a proposal to reform and unify the country's 42 different pension plans. France's pension system, one of the most generous of any major industrialized country, has major budget shortfalls that contribute to the country's ballooning deficit. Last year, Macron abandoned a proposed fuel price hike that ignited the Yellow Vest movement. But overhauling France's "welfare state" was central to his 2017 election platform, and acquiescing to protesters this time around would be political suicide. France's prime minister – tapped to lead the pension reform project – is expected to announce the plan's final details tomorrow. We're watching to see how this might escalate things further.

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