The race for the governorship of Jakarta is almost over. According to unofficial results from private pollsters this week, incumbent governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama and Gerindra Party-backed Anies Baswedan will be facing off in a runoff election on 19th April. The leadership of the capital is arguably the biggest job under the President and a platform for national leadership, and this race is setting the tone for national politics in important ways, so it is worth watching closely.
This week marked something of a milestone for the 21-year old World Trade Organisation (WTO). After being agreed at the December 2015 Nairobi Ministerial meeting, the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) has now been ratified by more than two thirds of the WTO membership and has thus entered into force. This makes it the first successful multilateral agreement reached under the auspices of the WTO. It is important in its own right, and has a couple of important lessons for the future of EU-UK trade.
Last week Dyson announced the opening of a new £330 million R&D centre in Singapore. The focus of the centre, home to Dyson’s new Global Technology Centre of Excellence, is on commercialising Dyson’s technology for global markets, including, for example, for use in smart homes. Dyson has grand ambitions to expand beyond household devices into technologies that will shape the future Internet of Things: artificial intelligence, robotics and vision systems.
In the 2016 Presidential election, Silicon Valley burnished its credentials as a liberal bastion. In the combined counties of San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda, 78% of voters supported Hillary Clinton with only 16% voting for Donald Trump.
If there is a second independence referendum in Scotland, one of the central issues will be which single market matters more, the UK’s or the EU’s? The latest export statistics for Scotland, published last month, reveal what’s at stake.
On Wednesday next week, the US Trade Representative will hold a public hearing on whether the US should reinstate retaliatory tariffs on various imports coming from the EU, in retaliation for an EU ban on US hormone-treated beef exports. This is a longstanding trade irritant between the EU and the US, first erupting with a (successful) US complaint at the WTO in 1996. A compromise reached in 2009 allowing greater quantities of non-hormone beef on the EU market temporarily removed US punitive tariffs, but US farmers believe they have not done as well out of these expanded quotas as they should have. Wednesday will see a debate on putting tariffs back.
The British Prime Minister has just returned from an important visit to a large UK trading partner with a controversial and often provocative leader. There was talk of a possible future bilateral trade deal between the two, and agreement to start preliminary discussions to this effect. This was a cause of mild irritation in Brussels, where the UK’s right to trigger such bilateral engagement is contested, and its tendency to break European ranks seen as a political problem. Yes, Theresa May has just been in Ankara.
Yesterday’s government White Paper on Brexit confirmed that the UK will leave the European nuclear research and cooperation framework Euratom. Having concluded that Euratom is “uniquely legally joined” with the EU, the government argues that Brexit will require the UK to leave Euratom when it leaves the EU. While Euratom has its own treaty status, it is the central role of EU institutions – specifically the European Commission and European Court of Justice - in Euratom which appear to have determined the government’s position. The timing is unfortunate for a UK nuclear industry which has been progressing – albeit slowly - towards new build projects at Hinkley Point C, Wylfa and Moorside, but will now be caught in a wave of new uncertainty.
A poll this week shows French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron for the first time making it to the second round of the elections. It also suggested that he would easily defeat Front National leader Marine Le Pen. Previously dismissed, the former investment banker and minister under François Hollande, has now become the unexpected frontrunner in France’s most open election in decades.
Manuel Valls’ elimination from France’s Presidential race meant one certainty in an unpredictable election: on 7th May voters will choose a ‘change’ candidate. It may mean the ‘new politics’ promised by Emmanuel Macron, eschewing left/right party structures. It may be the ‘new economy’ promised by François Fillon, with radical structural reforms. Or it may be the ‘new social model’ offered by Benoît Hamon, guaranteeing a Universal Basic Income. But the most immediate change could be a more coherent and assertive foreign policy, driven by a refreshed relationship with Berlin.