(World) State of The Union

Tonight President Trump delivers his first State of the Uniom — er, Union — address. Audiences around the world will be listening in to see if, and how, Trump lays out a coherent policy vision on several global issues that will come to a head in 2018.


Here’s what you’re listening for if you’re…

China: Trump’s been ratcheting up the pressure over unfair trade practices, IP theft, and policies that disadvantage American firms in China. He’s surely going to unleash about how China hurts American companies, but will he contain himself to a fresh round of limited trade measures, or is he about to impose crippling restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States? An ensuing trade war would hit your exporters hard, but US firms and consumers are awfully vulnerable too…

Mexico: US domestic politics affect you more than any other country, and your upcoming presidential election will turn in part on relations with your Northern neighbor. You’ll be watching to see if Trump signals a real willingness to pull out of largely deadlocked NAFTA talks. Also critical: does he repeat his demand for a border wall and immigration restrictions as part of any immigration deal that will affect millions of your citizens.

South Korea: Getting through this speech without hearing a threat of nuclear war is a win in your book.

Iran: Trump has said he’ll pull the plug on the nuclear deal unless Congress and the EU strengthen it. You’ll be looking for further clues about what he’s thinking, while you continue to lay the groundwork for a new deal with the Europeans if Washington walks. The clock is ticking: Trump has to recertify the deal by mid-May.

ISIS: Trump will boast rightly that your “caliphate” has been destroyed. But with a national security strategy that says “great power rivalry” is the main challenge today, does he have a plan to roll back your still-powerful ideology and internet presence? Lots of your soldiers are returning home…

Remember, this will be the more sedate, Teleprompter-Trump who’ll appear “presidential.” But visceral Twitter-Trump is sure to erupt on every one of these issues again before long. So far, there hasn’t been a foreign policy crisis severe enough to reveal which Trump is at the table when the chips are down. How long will that hold?

Wrecking the global economy's hopes for a relaxing late-August Friday, China and the US have taken fresh shots at each other in their deepening trade war.

First, China announced new tariffs on US goods in response to US levies on China's exports that are set to take effect next month.

Trump responded with a vintage tweet storm, lashing out at China and demanding that US firms stop doing business there. The Dow plunged as markets waited for the next shoe to drop. And drop it did: later in the day Trump announced higher tariffs on nearly everything that China exports to the United States.

Why now? Bear in mind, all of this comes right as Trump is leaving for this weekend's G7 summit in France. That gathering already promised to be a testy one – but with the global economy slowing, the impact of Trump's increasingly nasty trade war with China will add fresh tensions to the occasion.

So where are we in the trade war now? Here is an updated list of what measures each side has imposed to date, and what's next. Both sides have a lot at stake, but from the looks of it, the list isn't going to get shorter any time soon.

When Donald Trump first started talking about buying Greenland last week, we figured it was a weird story with less legs than a Harp seal.

Signal readers, we were wrong. President Trump was so serious about purchasing the autonomous Danish territory that this week he abruptly cancelled a trip to Denmark after the country's prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, labelled the idea "absurd."

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The Amazon in flames – More than 70,000 forest fires are burning in Brazil right now, most of them in the Amazon. That's up 84% over the same period last year, and it's the highest number on record. This is the dry season when farmers burn certain amounts of forest legally to clear farmland. But critics say Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro's efforts to loosen conservation rules have encouraged farmers, loggers, and miners to set more fires, many of them illegally. Bolsonaro – a science skeptic who recently fired the head of the agency that tracks deforestation – says, without proof, that NGOs are setting the fires to embarrass his government. Meanwhile, the EU is holding up a major trade deal with Brazil unless Bolsonaro commits to higher environmental protection standards, including those that affect the Amazon.

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Over the past fifty years, the Amazon rainforest has shrunk by an area equal to the size of Turkey. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Brazilian government supported settlement of the sparsely populated region for security reasons. Since then, huge swaths of the forest -- which is crucial for limiting the world's greenhouse gasses -- have been cleared for farmland used to feed Brazil's population and support its massive agricultural exports. Greater awareness of the environmental impacts in the 1990s produced tighter conservation regulations, though plenty of illegal clearing continues. In recent years, the annual deforestation rate has begun to rise again, and Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro has pledged to weaken regulations further in order to support businesses.