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What We're Watching & What We're Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

US-EU trade talks – Last summer, President Trump committed to slowing escalating trade measures against the EU in return for a deal to lower European subsidies on agricultural goods and protections for the automotive industry. But EU negotiators now want to exclude Europe's massive agricultural subsidies and other farmer-friendly policies in an upcoming round of talks. That jars with the goals of the US, and issues like labelling genetically-modified foods and the free flow of data are also likely to prove contentious. We're watching this, because failed trade negotiations could quickly lead to a renewed fight between the US and EU.



Zimbabwe Deadly protests erupted in Zimbabwe this week as police cracked down on demonstrators who burned tires and blocked roads to vent their fury at a surprise hike in fuel prices. Raising fuel prices is always controversial – just ask French President Emmanuel Macron. But in Zimbabwe, people have additional reasons to be upset. The fuel shortages are indicative of deeper economic woes. Zimbabwe was forced to abandon its currency and adopt the US dollar during the ruinous reign of Robert Mugabe, whom the current president, Emmerson Mnagawa (known as "The Crocodile"), ousted a little over a year ago following a military coup. The change of power did little to fix the things — the unemployment rate is 80 percent, and Zimbabwe isn't producing enough hard currency to pay for its imports. The Crocodile may be in charge, but he hasn't managed to escape Mugabe's poisoned legacy.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

France's airing of grievances – Speaking of Macron, the French president has launched his latest attempt to break the gridlock of the gilets jaunes protests, now entering their tenth week: a three-month long national debate. Macron hopes that an airing of grievances in town halls across the nation will help "transform anger…into solutions." But the gilets jaunes are a leaderless movement venting anger at out-of-touch elites. They're unlikely to find common ground with Macron, a pro-business former investment banker who has already ruled out backtracking on controversial parts of his reform program. French King Louis XVI tried a similar approach in 1789, and it didn't end well for him. Macron was elected by voters who wanted someone – anyone – other than the bums in charge. Now he is the bum in charge.

The Venezuelan opposition – On Sunday, Venezuela's national intelligence service arrested Juan Guaido, president of the opposition-led legislature, and then quickly released him. This strange incident highlights the chaotic decision-making inside the Maduro regime, and it rallied international support behind an important opposition figure. But we're ignoring it simply because we don't see signs that Maduro's grip on power slipping anytime soon. Until the army decides it can no longer afford the economic devastation his government has created, Maduro will remain in power. He's helped by the fact that more than two million people who might otherwise be protesting in the streets have fled the country.

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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