Protectionism What? EU and South America Strike Major Trade Deal

One of the largest multilateral trade deals in history was signed just a few days ago, between the European Union and Mercosur, a South American trade bloc that includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The deal covers countries with a total population of nearly 800 million people and it took 20 years to hammer out. It will open up Europe to more South American agricultural goods, while reducing their duties on European manufactured exports like cars, shoes, machinery, and, of course, wines and cheeses.

Three quick thoughts on this:

Trump wasn't even in the room, but he's in this story: One reason the long-deadlocked talks got crackling again was that Trump's more confrontational approach to US allies on trade had pushed the Europeans into seeking opportunities elsewhere. This is the largest trade deal the EU has ever struck, following smaller recent deals with Japan, Canada, Mexico, and Singapore.

Did you think all "populists" were protectionists? They aren't. Brazil's controversial far-right president Jair Bolsonaro is a major backer of the deal. He has made it his mission to reduce tariffs and other investment barriers in what is one of the world's most protectionist countries. He sees that as a way to spur growth and clear away a legacy of left-wing economic policies.

Could it go up in smoke? Yup. Farmers in Europe and manufacturers in Mercosur don't like it, and that matters because the deal still requires ratification by each member country (that means 28 in Europe alone.) But the biggest immediate challenge will come in Argentina. If Wall Street friendly President Mauricio Macri loses his fading re-election bid to the leftwing protectionist ticket of Alberto Fernandez and former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner later this year, Buenos Aires could throw a wrench into this thing fast.

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

It's been two months since President Trump abruptly ordered the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria, paving the way for a bloody Turkish offensive in that region. (See our earlier coverage here.) What's happened since? A guide for the puzzled:

No "end date" for US troops in Syria – US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said this week that the United States has completed its military pullback in northeastern Syria. Back in October, President Trump pledged to withdraw the roughly 1,000 American troops deployed there. Since then, some American troops have left Syria altogether, while others were redeployed to defend nearby oil fields from ISIS, as well as from Syrian government troops and Russia. Now, there are roughly 600 American troops dispersed around Syria, and the remainder have been deployed in Iraq to stave off a potential ISIS resurgence. It's not clear if any troops have returned to the US. When asked about the chaotic comings and goings of US troops in Syria in recent months, the commander of US Central Command said frankly: there's no "end date" for American troops stationed there.

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Turkey's government has captured many thousands of ISIS fighters as a result of its operations in northern Syria. Many of these prisoners have already been deported to some of the more than 100 countries they come from, and Ankara says it intends to send more. There are also more than 10,000 women and children – family members of ISIS fighters – still living in camps inside Syria.

These facts create a dilemma for the governments of countries where the ISIS detainees are still citizens: Should these terrorist fighters and their families be allowed to return, in many cases to face trial back home? Or should countries refuse to allow them back?

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What's the difference between Alphabet and Google?

Well, Google is the search engine, YouTube, all the stuff you probably think of as Google. Alphabet is the parent company that was created four or five years ago. And it contains a whole bunch of other entities like Jigsaw, Verily - the health care company that Google runs, Waymo - the self-driving car unit. Also, it's important to know Google makes tons of money. Alphabet, all that other stuff loses tons of money.

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