A local resident greets Chinese and African workers on the Addis Ababa–Djibouti railway during a trial run in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sept. 28, 2016 (Imaginechina photo by Qin bin via AP).

Last month, at the world’s largest mining investment conference, held this year in South Africa, Ethiopian officials emphasized their priority of developing their country’s mining sector, which currently contributes less than 1 percent to GDP. By 2025, they hope to boost that to 10 percent. If successful, Ethiopian officials believe that the mining sector could become the “backbone” of Ethiopia’s industry as early as 2023. In 2016, the Ethiopian government entered the second phase of its so-called Growth and Transformation Plan, an ambitious economic initiative that envisions Ethiopia becoming a middle-income country by 2025. A key component of the plan […]

Masked members of the collective "500 Brothers" take part in a march supporting a general strike, Cayenne, French Guiana, March 28, 2017 (AP photo by Pierre-Olivier Jay).

Strikes and protests have paralyzed French Guiana since last Sunday, as residents of the French overseas department in South America demand an end to rising crime and insecurity and rampant unemployment. French Guiana, France’s biggest overseas department, has the highest murder rate in any French department, with one murder each week for a population of just 250,000. But residents are also fed up with poor economic and development indicators, including a youth unemployment rate of 40 percent and high infant mortality. The unrest, which according to some estimates has drawn 20,000 people to the streets, led to the closure of […]

U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Glyn T. Davies addresses troops participating in the Cobra Gold military exercises, Sattahip, Thailand, Feb. 14, 2017 (AP photo by Dake Kang).

When the head of U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Harry Harris, made a rare visit last month to Thailand for this year’s Cobra Gold military exercises—Asia’s largest multinational drill—some saw it as the start of a thaw in an alliance that had frozen since a bloodless coup in Bangkok in May 2014. In fact, the visit of the highest-ranking U.S. official since the coup was part of an already ongoing effort by both Washington and the junta to improve bilateral ties, despite enduring political and strategic realities that continue to pose challenges for the relationship. Coups are not new to U.S.-Thailand […]

Iranian fans at the start of Iran and China's World Cup qualifying soccer match at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran, Iran, March 28, 2017 (AP photo).

Two events in recent years have dramatically changed the nature of politics in Iran: Hassan Rouhani’s victory in the 2013 Iranian presidential election and the signing of the nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers in July of 2015. Like United Nations Security Council Resolution 598, which ended the Iran-Iraq War in 1988 and deeply reordered the political regime in Iran, the nuclear deal presaged a new era of Iranian politics. Despite its initial popularity, the deal has gradually become a source of tension across the mainstream ideological spectrum. As a result, the political scene in Iran after the […]

A protest in the village of Mirijjawila against a planned Chinese deal to purchase private land for an industrial zone near the Hambantota port, Ambalantota, Sri Lanka, Jan. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

A battle for influence is underway in Sri Lanka between India and China, played out in rival infrastructure projects and financial lifelines to an island nation that is buried in a debt crisis and trying to balance competing interests in New Delhi and Beijing. In January, Sri Lanka’s minister for regional development, Sarath Fonseka, declared that his country and India were finalizing an accord to develop the strategically located but underutilized Trincomalee port in northeastern Sri Lanka. This was seen by some domestic Sri Lankan observers as an attempt by their government to appease India in the face of growing […]

A giant puppet depicting U.S. President Donald Trump paraded at Carnival celebrations in Olinda, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Feb. 27, 2017 (AP photo by Diego Herculano).

Other than a wall at the border with Mexico, Donald Trump promised little to address drug trafficking in the Americas during last year’s U.S. presidential campaign. Two months into his presidency, it is clear that the Trump administration’s disengaged and military-first approach to the drug trade could bring more volatility to the region. On March 13, the White House released “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” which raises more questions and concerns than solutions on many issues, including the drug trade. It notably recommends a $54 billion increase in military spending, proposes reduced funding to the […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie Abe, step off of Air Force One as they arrive in West Palm Beach, Fla., Feb. 10, 2017 (AP photo by Wilfredo Lee).

A political storm is brewing in Tokyo over revelations last month that officials permitted the sale of government-owned land at a much-reduced price to a right-wing nationalist school group, Moritomo Gakuen. The head of the foundation, Yasunori Kagoike, was allowed to purchase the two-acre plot of land in Osaka for about $1.2 million—a figure far below its assessed value of approximately $8.3 million. The scandal has since snowballed with the release of information that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife, Akie Abe, was an honorary principal of the planned elementary school in Osaka and allegations that she donated 1 million yen—about […]

Mozambique’s president, Filipe Nyusi, addresses the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants, New York, Sept. 19, 2016 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

In October 2014, Mozambique held its fifth consecutive general elections since ending its civil war in 1992. After violence returned in 2013 between the government and the former rebel group turned political party known as Renamo, the two sides agreed to a cease-fire that included a deal on administering elections and a commitment to work together to reduce barriers to Renamo’s full political and economic inclusion. Less than six months later, though, the cease-fire fell apart. Thousands were forced from their homes by the fighting. Death squads assassinated at least a dozen Renamo officials, and two sustained international peace efforts—one […]

Migrants from Somalia cross into Canada from the United States, walking down a train track into the town of Emerson, Manitoba, where they will seek asylum, Feb. 26, 2017 (Canadian Press photo by John Woods via AP).

Canada has long been viewed as a country that is open to migrants. But the reality is far more complex and is increasingly colored by events taking place south of the border. In particular, the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which took effect in 2004 and requires asylum-seekers to apply for refuge in their first country of arrival, has cast some doubt on the narrative of Canadian tolerance. Over the past decade, Canadian authorities have denied entrance to thousands of migrants seeking asylum, many of them from African countries such as Somalia, Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana. In all likelihood, it […]

Russian Air Force aerobatic teams in MiG-29 and Su-27 fighter jets fly over the Kremlin during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade, Moscow, May 5, 2016 (AP photo by Ivan Sekretarev).

If you read a recent report by IHS Jane’s that Russia is cutting its defense budget by over 25 percent—supposedly the “largest cut to military expenditure in the country since the early 1990s”—then you might be given the impression that Moscow’s military is finally succumbing to economic woes. But reports of the death of Russia’s defense budget have been grossly exaggerated. Simply put, it’s not true. Not only did Jane’s get the story largely wrong about Russia’s defense budget, claiming that Russia’s defense budget would fall from 3.8 trillion rubles, or $65.4 billion, to 2.8 trillion, but deep reductions in […]

A Pakistani police officer on guard outside the Barri Imam shrine in Islamabad, following a suicide attack at a Sufi shrine in Sindh province, Feb. 17, 2017 (AP photo by B.K. Bangash).

During one week in mid-February, Pakistan suffered a series of terrorist attacks in all four of its provinces: Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In all, 200 people were killed across the country in just seven days. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, or JuA—a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban, formally known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP—claimed responsibility for the majority of the attacks, while the TTP and the self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed separate responsibility for others, including the Feb. 16 suicide bombing of a Sufi shrine in Sehwan that killed 90 people. The multiple assaults perpetrated by different militants have raised concerns about […]

People stand for a moment of silence during the one-year anniversary of the Brussels attacks, Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2017 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

One year ago, a series of terrorist attacks struck the Brussels international airport and a metro station, killing 35 and injuring hundreds. The incident occurred just months after Belgium was thrust into the center of discussions about the terror threat facing Europe, when it was revealed that a Belgian national had coordinated attacks on a concert hall and other sites in Paris, killing 130 people and injuring hundreds more. That man, 27-year-old Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was among the many Belgian citizens who had gone to Syria and Iraq to fight with the so-called Islamic State, making Belgium Europe’s largest per capita […]

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, China, May 16, 2016 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Recent reports of Chinese security forces operating in Afghanistan have prompted speculation about whether China has crossed another important threshold in its policy and posture on overseas military activity. Claims of sightings of Chinese military vehicles in the Wakhan Corridor, the narrow strip of territory in northeastern Afghanistan that extends to the Chinese border, have been circulating since late last year. But it was only after a People’s Liberation Army press briefing in February that any activities were officially confirmed. The PLA spokesperson denied the involvement of the Chinese military proper, stating that it was “the law enforcement departments in […]

Representatives from member countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership met to discuss a possible new regional trade deal, Vina del Mar, Chile, March 15, 2017 (AP photo by Esteban Felix).

While much about U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade policy remains uncertain, his official 2017 “trade policy agenda,” released on March 1, clearly stated the preference for bilateral over multilateral negotiations. Echoing what he said during the election campaign, the trade agenda also emphasized national sovereignty and the enforcement of U.S. trade laws. Trump’s focus on bilateralism, however, comes with real costs. Bilateral negotiations are time-consuming and entail significant negotiating resources. Even when “successful” in narrow market access terms, firms can incur significant transaction costs from having to navigate the resulting tangle of inconsistent or conflicting rules. Multilateral trade rules—such as […]

Protests against U.S. President Donald Trump and the far-right Alternative for Germany party, Berlin, Jan. 20, 2017 (SIPA photo by Omer Messinger).

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives today in Washington, where she will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump for the first time. The trip was initially scheduled for earlier in the week, but was delayed by a snowstorm that hit the East Coast. It was perhaps a fitting prelude to their first encounter. After all, when Trump was elected president of the United States, Merkel sent him a congratulatory message that seemed, in no uncertain terms, to be a rebuke to his behavior and rhetoric during the campaign. She suggested that Germany would only cooperate with the United States if it […]

U.S. President Donald Trump meeting with Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, Feb. 24, 2017 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

As President Donald Trump contemplates a new trade order, one that puts “America first,” he may be surprised to find he is pushing on an open door. From both a top-down geo-economic level and a bottom-up corporate level, 21st-century trade is in urgent need of a new vision. If he is serious about offering one, Trump should consider a global growth model based on what could be termed the tripolar world, in which deepening ties within three main regions—the Americas, Asia and Europe—become the next catalyst for economic growth. Globalization as it has existed since the end of the Cold […]

A model of a new Egyptian capital on display at an investment conference in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, March 14, 2015 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

On Feb. 7, officials in Egypt’s Ministry of Housing abruptly announced that a Chinese company had backed out of a $3 billion agreement to construct the first phase of a new Egyptian capital in the desert 30 miles east of Cairo. The China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), a government-backed general contractor that has taken on megaprojects around the world, had secured a loan to cover the costs of building the wildly ambitious new capital, which has been criticized as a boondoggle. But it was unable to agree with the Egyptian government on an exact price per square meter to […]

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