Next week in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping will open the seventh Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), the triennial summit gathering of the People’s Republic of China’s top leadership and their counterparts from all the African states except eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), Taiwan’s sole remaining diplomatic partner on the continent. Numerous African leaders, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, the United Nations Secretary-General, and the heads of twenty-seven international and African regional organizations are expected to attend this year’s summit.

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Now that the United States and Mexico have reached a bilateral trade agreement, the focus shifts to Canada—the third partner in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“Reaching a US-Mexico trade deal is critical for the US and Mexican economies and for the millions of US workers who depend on trade with our southern neighbor. But it would be a real loss to not incorporate Canada—the number one destination of US exports,” said Jason Marczak, director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.

“Across the United States, communities depend on US-Mexico trade and also a smooth functioning trilateral accord,” he added.

NAFTA, which was signed in 1993, however, may well be entering its final days.

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US Sen. John McCain—a Vietnam veteran, six-term senator, and recipient of the Atlantic Council’s Freedom Award—passed away on August 25. He was 81. Atlantic Council leadership and fellows share their tributes to McCain.

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The Atlantic Council remembers US Sen. John McCain who received the Council’s Freedom Award in 2011. Here is a transcript of his remarks at the award ceremony.

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On August 24, Federal Reserve (Fed) Chairman Jerome Powell delivered a much-awaited speech concluding the traditional annual gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Investors watched closely for clues on the future path of monetary policy, which in turn carries deep implications for US and worldwide economic activity and capital markets.

Mr. Powell struck a cautiously optimistic tone, defending the current path of gradual rate increases. Market reaction was muted, with the dollar declining slightly following the dovish remarks. But while many are focused on the strength of the US economy, the current fragility of the global economy could eventually derail Powell’s hopes for a gradual draw down of interest rates.

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When a cache of secret documents detailing a global network of offshore assets, the so-called Panama Papers, was released to the public in 2016, the name of a St. Petersburg cellist, Sergei Roldugin, broke into the news. The documents revealed that Roldugin, a childhood friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, had received more than $2 billion from the Russian state and oligarchs and was presumably holding that wealth for his friend.

The tight-knit—and tight-lipped—network of Russian influencers and dark money connected to the Kremlin is the subject of a report, “How the United States Can Combat Russia’s Kleptocracy,” by Anders Åslund, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. Åslund details how Putin solidified his control over Russia by systematically dominating three circles of power: the state apparatus, including law enforcement agencies and courts, large state-owned companies, and his cronies. Since first becoming president in 2000, Putin has combined this ambition with enriching himself and his associates in Russia’s ruling elite.

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Of all the changes in US policy brought about by the Trump administration, none has been as shocking as that in trade. The administration is suspicious of, and at times appears willing to abandon, the multilateral system of trading rules that was both created and maintained by the United States. 

The reaction of major trading partners and international policy makers has been visceral and often intense.  They have warned that a turn toward protectionism is a threat to the global economy and continued growth, stressed the importance of upholding the rules of the international trading system, and argued that countries should solve problems through dialogue, not protectionism.

Underlying these views is the assumption, never stated, that the international trade rules are essentially complete, and that it is possible to successfully negotiate and agree on any necessary revisions while staying within the existing rules.

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Greece’s exit from nearly a decade of bailout programs on August 20, while good news, does not mean the end of belt-tightening or of Greece’s commitments to its international creditors.

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For anyone who has sought, over the past seven-plus years, to mitigate the suffering of Syrian civilians, promote political transition, and bring the Syrian conflict to an end, the passing of Kofi Annan on August 18 is particularly poignant.  His penultimate role on the world stage was that of United Nations-Arab League Joint Special Envoy for Syria.  He played that role with courage, grace, decency, and determination.  Had he received the support he merited, Syria would today be in its sixth year of recovery, reconciliation, and legitimate governance.

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As German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet on Saturday near Berlin, several items will be on the agenda, including the war in Syria, the conflict in east Ukraine, and US tariffs. The most important item, however, will be the Nord Stream 2 pipeline bringing Russian gas to Germany. The Nord Stream 2 project has faced harsh criticism from both partner EU countries and Washington and reflects the continued complexity of the German-Russian relationship. Merkel’s need to balance her interests between her Western allies and Moscow means that her meeting with Putin will likely produce an empty-promise agreement on Nord Stream 2, with Russia saying that it will continue its gas transit via Ukraine even after the pipeline is completed.

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