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What We're Watching: UK's Brexit breach, Lula mulls comeback in Brazil, Trump's Nobel nomination

What We're Watching: UK's Brexit breach, Lula mulls comeback in Brazil, Trump's Nobel nomination

UK's Brexit tweak could breach international law: Boris Johnson's government came under fire this week after signaling that it would rewrite parts of the deal negotiated with Brussels last year that set terms for the UK's exit from the European Union. That agreement allowed Northern Ireland, still part of the UK, the same trade rules and customs as the rest of the EU — a key condition of the Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998 between the UK and Republic of Ireland that ended decades of violence. The British government now says it plans to pass legislation that could upend the provision that guarantees an open Irish border. Many observers say this would breach international law, putting the Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy. In the United States, meanwhile, Democrats have warned that a future Biden administration would reject any move to create a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and that Johnson's latest move would undermine chances of negotiating any future US-UK free trade agreement. More immediately, this maneuver also undermines the trust on which ongoing UK-EU relations will depend.


Is Lula making a comeback in Brazil? Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva blasted the incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro, over the latter's botched handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Lula said that Bolsonaro has turned the pandemic into a "weapon of mass destruction," referring to the country's high COVID-19 caseload and death toll, second only to the United States. While criticisms of his pandemic response are nothing new for Bolsonaro — who consistently downplayed the severity of COVID-19, often flouting rules on mask-wearing and social distancing until he became sick himself — it is the first time that Lula has hit Bolsonaro in such a public way, causing pundits to ask whether Brazil's leftist former leader might be preparing for a 2022 runoff against the right-wing incumbent. In 2018, Lula was sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption, but a year later his conviction was overturned, although he still can't run for public office. However, questions over the impartiality of the judge (Bolsonaro's own former justice minister) could result in Lula's political rights being restored by the Supreme Court. That raises the stakes for Bolsonaro in the general election in two years, where Lula — who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010 and is still very popular, especially among the working poor — would be a formidable rival.

What We're Ignoring:

Trump tapped for Nobel Peace Prize: US President Donald Trump was nominated on Wednesday for the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering a recent peace deal between former foes — the United Arab Emirates and Israel. Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a far-right Norwegian politician with anti-immigrant views on par with Trump's, tapped the US president for the 2021 prize. While Trump's Nobel nod sounds auspicious, we're ignoring this development for two key reasons: Firstly, the bar for being nominated is extremely low (nominations are accepted from any politician serving at the national level). Additionally, Tybring-Gjedde, clearly a Trump fanboy, was one of two politicians who nominated the US president for the same prize in 2018 for his role in fostering "reconciliation" between North and South Korea. But relations on the Korean Peninsula are far from reconciled these days...

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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