The Great Escape? Trump and Abe at Mar-A-Lago

The Great Escape? Trump and Abe at Mar-A-Lago

Today, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe heads to Mar-a-Lago for a meeting with Donald Trump. The chance to commiserate over their shared love of golf and koi fishcouldn’t come at a better time. Trump is reeling from an investigation of his personal lawyer and bracing himself for a battering of a book release, while Abe is embroiled in a corruption scandal that has sent his poll numbers tumbling to record lows. But relations between the US and Japan have been testy lately, and Trump’s distrust of America’s closest Asian ally goes back decades.


As Abe touches down in Florida, my fellow Signalista Gabe Lipton (@gflipton) sees three areas to watch:

Tariffs: Japan is the only major US ally that didn’t win an exemption to the Trump administration’s new steel and aluminum tariffs. The White House wants to use that as leverage to reduce the trade deficit between the two countries ($55 billion in Japan’s favor in 2016). So long as Abe can present concessions — for example, on autos or currency manipulation — that allows The Donald a “Tweetable” win, this is the area where we’re most likely to see some progress.

Trade Deals: President Trump pulled out of the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) in his first days in office, dealing a blow to Japan both economically (about 2.5 percent of GDP by 2030) and politically — Abe had stuck his neck out in order to reach a domestically unpopular deal that Trump then blew up. When it comes to trade deals, the two countries simply aren’t aligned: Japan wants the US back in TPP, while Trump seeks a bilateral free trade agreement that gives Washington more leverage. So while both sides will try to pitch deeper economic cooperation, they have different visions of what that means.

North Korea: The most important issue for the Japanese prime minister will be making sure his voice is heard in any diplomacy between the US and North Korea. So far, the Trump administration has largely shut Japan out of its overtures to Pyongyang. A nightmare scenario for Abe would be a US-North Korea agreement that rids Kim of the long-range missiles that can hit the US, while allowing him to keep short and medium-range weapons that threaten Japan.

Deadly Sand Traps: On the other hand, high politics aside, not falling into a sand-trap would also be a basic win for Prime Minister Abe this time around.

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.

China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Read Ian Bremmer's wide-ranging essay in Foreign Affairs that puts in perspective both the challenge, and the opportunity, that comes from the unprecedented power of Big Tech.

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here on the road, something we haven't done very much recently, but will increasingly as we try to move through COVID. And I want to talk to you about a new article that I just put out in Foreign Affairs that I'm calling "The Technopolar Moment." Not unipolar, not bipolar, not multipolar, technopolar. What the hell does technopolar mean?

It means that increasingly big technology companies are themselves geopolitical actors. So to understand the future of the world, you can't just look at the United States, Europe and China. You need to look at the big tech companies, too.

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China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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

What is the legacy of Colin Powell?

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell tragically died of complications of COVID-19. He was the first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first Black National Security Advisor and the first Black Secretary of State. And he leaves a legacy of a long career, dedicated almost entirely to public service.

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Can this guy defeat Viktor Orban? Hungary's opposition movement of odd bedfellows has finally settled on the person they think has the best chance of defeating PM Viktor Orbán at the ballot box: Péter Márki-Zay, a politically conservative small-town mayor from southeastern Hungary, who beat out left-leaning European Parliament member Klara Dobrev in a weekend poll. Márki-Zay has a lot going for him: as a devout Catholic and father of seven it will be hard for the ultraconservative Orbán to paint him as a progressive threat, even as Márki-Zay reaches out to reassure left-leaning groups that he will protect LGBTQ rights. What's more, Márki-Zay has little political baggage: until recently he was a marketing executive. But can the relatively inexperienced Márki-Zay keep the various opposition factions happy? The stakes couldn't be higher: since taking power more than a decade ago, Orbán has deliberately made Hungary into an "illiberal" state, cracking down on the press, undermining the rule of law, and clashing with the EU. Bonus: if Márki-Zay stays in the news, you get to say "Hódmezővásárhely" the name of the city he currently runs.

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5,600: Myanmar's military junta will release from prison 5,600 people who were jailed for protesting against last February's coup. The gesture, the biggest act of amnesty since the junta took power, comes just days after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which rarely interferes in members' internal affairs, said it would exclude the head of Myanmar's military from an upcoming regional meeting.

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Colin Powell's legacy

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