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SMALL COUNTRY, BIG STORY: PAPUA NEW GUINEA

SMALL COUNTRY, BIG STORY: PAPUA NEW GUINEA

A geopolitical contest is playing out in one of the world’s least developed countries—Papua New Guinea (PNG). Leaders from 20 countries will arrive in the island nation this weekend for the start of the annual APEC summit, a club of nations located in the Pacific region. The summit provides a backdrop to an ongoing tug-of-war over the country’s geopolitical allegiance.


Before representatives from the US and neighboring Australia touch down in Port Moresby, PNG’s seaside capital, Xi Jinping will arrive on Thursday for the first ever official state visit by a Chinese president. Xi is expected to come bearing gifts, including much-needed aid for the region’s poorest nation (per capita income in PNG was $2,400 in 2017). His visit is part of a broader push to expand Chinese influence in the South Pacific that has seen Beijing dish out over $1.3 billion in loans since 2011.

For Australia, Xi’s visit is an unwelcome Chinese advance right on its doorstep—just 93 miles separate mainland Australia and PNG. For decades, Australia has counted itself as PNG’s closest economic and strategic partner. It now fears the winds could be shifting. In recent days, Australia launched an investment fund to counter China’s regional economic diplomacy. It also signed an agreement with PNG to develop a shared naval base that would allow Australia to extend its military reach. But the relationship has been marred by Australia’s use of a remote PNG island to house migrants that it refuses to grant asylum.

If PNG Prime Minster Peter O’Neill plays his cards right, the country could cash in by balancing the competing interests of China and Australia. Suffering from a recent outbreak of polio, a disease thought to have been all but eradicated from the world, and with electrification extending to less than a fifth of the country, PNG could certainly use the investment. In this case, geopolitical competition, often the source of war and strife, may be a force for good.

Fun fact interlude: Papua New Guinea is the most ethnically diverse country in the world with more than 800 languages spoken across 600 sparsely populated islands.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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