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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.

Pop quiz: what percentage of plastic currently gets recycled worldwide? Watch this video in Eni's Energy Shot series to find out and learn what needs to be done to prevent plastic from ending up in our oceans. Plastic is a precious resource that should be valued, not wasted.

This Monday, March 8, is International Women's Day, a holiday with roots in a protest led by the Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai that helped topple the Tsar of Russia in 1917. More than a hundred years later, amid a global pandemic that has affected women with particular fury, there are dozens of women-led protests and social movements reshaping politics around the globe. Here we take a look at a few key ones to watch this year.

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny shocked the world last year when he recovered from an attempted assassination plot by poisoning — an attempt that bore all the fingerprints of Russian government. Then he shocked the world again by returning to Russia and timing that return with the release of an hours-long documentary that catalogued the Putin regime's extensive history of corruption. Virtually no one, therefore, was shocked when he was immediately sentenced to a lengthy prison term. Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and expert on authoritarian regimes, believes there was a method to Navalny's madness. "His decision of '….I'm going to do something that harms me personally, but is going to be a lesson for Russians. I'm going teach a generation of Russians how to be brave.' I mean, not very many people would have the guts to do that."

Applebaum's conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television stations nationwide starting Friday, March 5. Check local listings.

It's not like things are going well in Mexico.

COVID has killed more people there than in any country except the United States and Brazil. Just 2 percent of Mexicans have gotten a first vaccine jab, compared with nearly 24 in the US. The Biden administration made clear this week that it won't send vaccines to its southern neighbor until many more Americans have been vaccinated. Mexico's government has cut deals for doses from China, Russia, and India.

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A body blow for Pakistan's Prime Minister: Imran Khan suffered an embarrassing defeat this week when members of the National Assembly, the country's lower house, voted to give the opposition bloc a majority in the Senate. (In Pakistan, lower house legislators and provincial assemblies elect senators in a secret ballot.) The big drama of it all is that Khan's own Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party holds a lower house majority, which means that lawmakers supposedly loyal to his party voted in secret for opposition candidates. Khan's allies claim that PTI members were bribed to support the opposition, and the prime minister says he will ask for a lower house vote of confidence in his leadership. That vote will not be secret, but even if he survives, the political damage is done. Without a Senate majority, he has no chance of passing key reform plans, including constitutional amendments meant to centralize financial and administrative control in the federal government. Khan has, however, refused to resign.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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