US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman announced in an August 6 letter to US President Donald J. Trump that he intends to resign from his post effective October 3, 2019.
Huntsman, who has served as the US ambassador in Moscow since October 2017, reportedly told Trump that he had made the decision to leave so he and his wife could “reconnect with our growing family and responsibilities at home.” Huntsman previously served as US ambassador to Singapore from 1992-1993, governor of Utah from 2005–2009, and US ambassador to China from 2009–2011. Huntsman served as chairman of the Atlantic Council from 2014 until his confirmation as ambassador to Russia in 2017.
Brexit has returned to the headlines with a vengeance since British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s victory in the Conservative Party leadership contest. A “no deal” Brexit—the UK leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement—combined with a possible general election is now an increasingly likely scenario in the next three months. The new prime minister’s pledge to leave the European Union “come what may” by the October 31 deadline, the UK Parliament’s strong opposition to his plans, and the European Union’s growing impatience all point to this being the Brexit endgame.
While the US Treasury Department’s August 5 decision to label China a “currency manipulator,” is “largely symbolic,” it could be a sign of “more aggressive countermeasures,” between the two countries as they struggle to reach an agreement on their trading relationship, according to Bart Oosterveld, director of the Atlantic Council’s Global Business and Economics Program and C. Boyden Gray fellow on global finance and growth.
Late on August 2, under pressure from the US Congress and nearly seven months later than the law allows, the Trump Administration imposed additional sanctions on Russia for its attempted assassination-by-nerve-gas of a former Russian intelligence officer on British soil in March 2018.
The US State Department announced the sanctions, accompanied by an executive order to give the Department of the Treasury authority to implement two of the three sanctions and action by the Department of Commerce to implement the third.
During his congressional testimony on July 24, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller confirmed the troubling extent of Russia’s campaign to interfere with the 2016 US Presidential election. And he memorably noted that Russia’s malign efforts to interfere in US elections were continuing “as we sit here.”
Given that, it seems an odd time for anybody to argue that “there is no reason to sanction Russia anymore.” But such were the words of Kenneth Rapoza, writing in Forbes on July 29. So, let’s recall why the United States, Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada, and other countries imposed sanctions on Russia and why maintaining, and possibly intensifying, those sanctions remains important.
US President Donald J. Trump escalated his growing trade dispute with China on August 1, announcing that the United States would place additional tariffs of 10 percent on the so far un-tariffed $300 billion dollars’ worth of Chinese goods, effective September 1. These tariffs will be added to the 25 percent tariffs already on $250 billion dollars of goods, meaning that nearly all Chinese exports to the United States could be facing tariffs.
In an age in which economists and policy makers are openly advocating for advanced economies to stop worrying about budget deficits, Japan usually features as the poster child for the seemingly never-ending story of printing money to fund government spending. While some question when the music eventually stops, others tout Japan as the example par excellence of this “Modern Monetary Theory,” and a model to be followed for cash-strapped, debt-laden, and rapidly aging societies.
Presenting her maiden budget on July 5 India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman signaled her ambition to transform India into a $5 trillion economy by 2025. No doubt India has the potential to achieve this goal but succeeding requires recognizing and addressing the challenges it faces.
Unexpectedly, a primary obstacle to India’s ambitions is the United States itself, as evidenced by the stalled and frustrating trade talks between Delhi and Washington. Disagreements about data privacy, e-commerce, the medical device price cap, dairy, and now foreign direct investment (FDI) into the insurance sector are all contributing to the on-going trade impasse and growing tensions. Going by the US administration’s recent public statements, there is little reason to be optimistic for progress, and more reason to believe that harder times lie ahead for the bilateral trade relationship.
When US legislators held hearings on Facebook’s proposed cryptocurrency Libra in July, it was just the opening salvo in a much broader regulatory battle over big tech’s latest venture. The Libra project seems poised to aggravate existing transatlantic policy tensions, particularly with respect to data privacy.
On June 18, Facebook announced plans to launch a new digital currency, Libra, in 2020. The non-profit organization which will manage the currency and the related payments wallet (the Libra Association) will be based in Switzerland and already includes twenty-seven companies as partners, including payments processors such as VISA and PayPal, and ecommerce companies like Uber and Spotify.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said he and US President Donald J. Trump agreed to eliminate the “communication gap,” between their two countries during Khan’s visit to Washington on July 22. Speaking at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on July 23, Khan described his meeting with Trump as “one of the most pleasant surprises.”
The US-Pakistani relationship has been strained after the Trump administration decided to suspend $300 million in aid to Pakistan in September 2018 due to their belief that Islamabad did not do enough to combat terrorism. Trump has specifically criticized Pakistan as a “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.”