GZERO Media logo

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.

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.

More Show less

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.

More Show less

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?

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

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal