Containers are loaded on a cargo ship at the port in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, May 3, 2020 (AP photo by Hau Dinh).

Capping eight years of tough, on-and-off negotiations, representatives from 15 countries across the Asia-Pacific gathered in a virtual meeting last month to sign a gargantuan new free trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Encompassing all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, along with Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, RCEP will cover around 30 percent of both the world’s population and GDP, making it the world’s largest trading bloc. While its trading rules and market access provisions are not as far-reaching as the other main multilateral agreement in the region, the Comprehensive and Progressive […]

Kairat Abdrakhmanov, then serving as Kazakhstan’s foreign minister, at a meeting in Beijing, April 24, 2018 (pool photo by Madoka Ikegami for Kyodo, via AP Images).

For the first time, an official from a former Soviet country has been named to a senior position at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Kairat Abdrakhmanov, a well-regarded diplomat who served as Kazakhstan’s foreign minister from 2016 until 2018, was appointed earlier this month as the OSCE’s new high commissioner for minorities. His job will be to protect the rights of ethnic minorities in the OSCE’s 57 member states—part of a broad commitment to protecting human rights that was enshrined in the 1975 Helsinki Accords, which stabilized relations between the Soviet bloc and the West at the […]

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After more than two years at the forefront of the international agenda, North Korea denuclearization efforts have faded from view, leaving little progress to show for it. Critics say the Trump administration took a flawed approach to the negotiations—and the U.S. trade war with China didn’t help. Meanwhile, North Koreans continue to suffer. Ending North Korea’s nuclearization efforts moved to the forefront of the international agenda soon after U.S. President Donald Trump took office in 2017, and stayed there for more than two years. But despite a period of improved relations between North and South Korea and two unprecedented face-to-face […]

The rocket carrying NASA’s new Mars rover lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, July 30, 2020 (AP photo by John Raoux).

President-elect Joe Biden is a down-to-earth guy, but the fate of the heavens may end up being one of his main foreign policy challenges. The United States has long sought to maintain outer space as an open, stable and rules-bound domain. Unfortunately, this cooperative vision is under stress. The emergence of new space-faring nations, an explosion of private commercial activity and a brewing arms race, among other issues, are all leaving outdated international institutions in the space dust. Biden has made a “return to multilateralism” the core theme of his proposed foreign policy. Closing glaring gaps in outer space governance […]

Then-Vice President Joe Biden chairs a summit on international peacekeeping operations on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 26, 2014 (AP photo by Jason DeCrow).

Over the past four years, America’s relationship with the United Nations underwent a dramatic shift, as the U.S. undermined, withdrew from or threatened withdrawal from some of the most important multilateral organizations, processes and accords. These include the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate agreement, the U.N. Human Rights Council, the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization, to name a few. But it isn’t just America that drew away from multilateralism. Major and middle powers around the world have distanced themselves from multilateral institutions to embrace more naked forms of nationalism. This has led to greater risks of […]

A visitor looks at a display of Australian wines at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Nov. 5, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Australia is suddenly facing a broad economic assault from China, by far its largest trading partner. Last week, Beijing imposed tariffs of more than 200 percent on imports of Australian wine, essentially shuttering the industry’s largest export market. China has halted shipments of Australian coal, leaving ships stranded off China’s coast, and has blocked or restricted imports of a dozen other products, including Australian beef, sugar and timber. The sanctions so far have affected one-third of all Australian exports to China. It’s all Chinese retaliation for moves by the Australian government that have irritated Beijing, which presented Canberra with an […]