WHAT WE’RE READING: GLOBAL POLITICS SURF AND TURF

WHAT WE’RE READING: GLOBAL POLITICS SURF AND TURF

This Tuesday, it’s a meat and seafood lovers’ delight – we’ve found two stories that tell us about the state of global politics from the perspective of what’s on your plate.


First, to the northeastern American state of Maine, where Bloomberg’s Shawn Donnan delivers an extraordinary portrait of how the high politics of US-China trade tensions have hit the rough and tumble lobstermen of New England. In recent years, a burgeoning Chinese middle class has developed a taste for imported lobster, fueling a boom in Maine, the largest exporter of lobster in the US.

But amid this summer’s tit-for-tat tariff escalation between Washington and Beijing, China threw a 25 percent levy on live lobsters, imperiling a hundred-million-dollar annual export market. Now Maine lobstermen are scrambling to find new customers in Asia while also clashing with their Canadian rivals, who have better access not only to China, but also to Europe because of a recent EU-Canada trade pact. The story is a lesson in how pulling even the smallest strings in the tapestry of global trade can have far-reaching, and very local, effects. Consider the lobster!

The next course comes from Brazil, where right-wing president-elect Jair Bolsonaro has hit a snag in his plan to assert a more nationalistic foreign policy patterned after Trump’s America First model. Last week, the fiercely pro-Israel Bolsonaro pledged to relocate Brazil’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as the US did earlier this year. Egypt, which has firm ties with Israel but still responds to popular support for the Palestinians, abruptly cancelled a scheduled visit from Brazilian diplomats and businesspeople. What’s more, the move provoked an outcry from Brazil’s powerful meat export industry.

What’s the beef? Brazil, as it happens, is the world’s leading exporter of halal meat  that complies with Muslim dietary restrictions, and the Arab world is a critical market for the Brazil’s cattle industry. Egypt alone accounts for some $2 billion in the Brazilian trade, nearly half of Brazil’s total meat exports to the region, and competition from other exporters is stiff.  Bolsonaro has now said that the decision is under review.

The lesson: It’s one thing to call for “[my country] first” when you are a global superpower like the US.  It’s trickier when you are a second-tier power with fewer levers of influence. Nationalists take note: if the world becomes dog eat dog, there could well be a dog bigger than you.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

More Show less

Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

More Show less

In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

More Show less

When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

More Show less

YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

More Show less

Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal