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US-China Trade: The Next Episode

US-China Trade: The Next Episode

Today US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and trade representative Robert Lighthizer were in Shanghai to meet with China's top trade negotiators. This week's meetings, which began on Tuesday, mark the first time the two sides in the world's most important trade dispute have met in person since the last round of talks broke down in May.

What's at stake: The US and China are trying to reach an agreement that would reduce or eliminate tit-for-tat tariffs they have imposed on roughly $360 billion of each other's goods, from Shenzhen electronics to California wine. The costs of those tariffs are being borne by businesses and consumers (i.e. you). Bigger picture, the US is using this fight to try to get China to agree to new ground rules for economic competition in the 21st century – particularly in the tech sector, an industry that both China and the US see as vital to their future economic and national security.

What's changed since May: China's economic growth has slowed to its weakest rate in almost 30 years, but that's only partly due to US tariffs. Donald Trump is three months closer to the November 2020 election, and he's itching to make a deal that will ease financial strain on US farmers, an important political constituency. Most importantly, the US has banned most US tech companies from selling equipment or software to Huawei, China's most important global technology company. The ban threatens Huawei's global business model, and China's willingness to meet US trade demands may now hinge on the Trump administration restoring Huawei's access to critical hardware and software.

What happens now: This week's meetings are just an opening bid to restart talks that flew off the rails after Chinese negotiators backtracked on several concessions in May. With the two sides still far apart on important issues, like opening China's cloud computing market to US technology giants and protecting intellectual property, and China hawks in Congress eager to tie President Trump's hands when it comes to a reprieve for Huawei, it's going to be a long slog to get to an agreement that President Trump and Xi Jinping can shake on. As Trump himself noted on Tuesday, at some point, China may decide it's better just to wait and see if there's a new occupant in the Oval Office after the 2020 US election who's more willing to strike a deal. lWe'll be watching the official statements out of Shanghai, and President Trump's Twitter feed, for signs of how talks are progressing.

Meet Ian Martin, an English Professor from Glasgow who is now head of Communications for Eni's International Resources. Approaching his work in the same way he used to hold his lectures, Ian is dedicated to listening and making people around him comfortable. Having working in both Milan and London, Ian utilizes his ability to communicate in different languages and cultures to prepare Eni's global messaging strategy. "Communication is a transfer of humanity," he says, and his job is as much centered around people as it as around language.

Watch Ian's human approach to communications on the most recent episode of Faces of Eni.

How to capture the essence of this incredible, terrible year in a few short words and without using profanity? It's not easy.

Thankfully, the dictionary website Merriam-Webster.com has released its list of most heavily searched words of 2020, and they tell the story of an historic year in US politics and the life of our planet. Here's a sample.

The top word, unsurprisingly, was "Pandemic," a disease outbreak that covers a wide area and afflicts lots of people. In 2020, the coronavirus crisis hit every region of the world, triggering a public health, economic, and political emergency on a geographic scale our planet has never experienced. Differing responses to that problem defined the politics (and geopolitics) of 2020.

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While recent news from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca on the efficacy of their respective COVID vaccines is encouraging, it has also given rise to bidding wars between wealthy countries trying to secure the largest supply of the new drugs for their citizens. Meanwhile, many governments in emerging market economies, where healthcare infrastructure is generally weaker, are worried they'll be kicked to the back of the line in the global distribution process. Indeed, history bears out their concerns: while a lifesaving HIV treatment hit shelves in the West in the mid-1990s, for example, it took years to become widely in Africa, which saw some of the worst HIV outbreaks in the world. But here's the catch: even if wealthy countries manage to obtain large supplies of vaccines to immunize their populations, the interconnected nature of the global economy means that no one will really be out of the woods until we all are. Here's a snapshot of how many COVID vaccines select countries have already purchased.

Afghanistan's small breakthrough: For months, disagreements over a range of political issues have hamstrung the intra-Afghan peace talks brokered by the Trump administration that aim to bridge the years-long conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But this week, a significant breakthrough was made on the principles and procedures governing the talks, that, experts say, will help push negotiations to the next phase. One key advance is agreement on the official name of the Afghan government, an issue that stalled talks earlier this year. Still, progress is fragile. Taliban violence and efforts to seize territory have only increased since the militants and the US reached a deal in February on a blueprint for an American troop withdrawal. And the Trump administration says it aims to pull out all but 2,500 US troops by mid-January, whether the Taliban have kept their end of the deal or not. What's more, while this week's development puts the parties one step closer to an eventual power-sharing agreement, it's unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will even honor the Trump administration's deal with the Taliban.

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Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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