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CWA # 750, 26 June 2022

The World This Week
BRICS Summit, Approval of Ukraine's candidature for the EU, and Saudi Arabia-Turkey rapprochement

  GP Team

The World This Week #171, Vol. 4, No. 20

Avishka Ashok, Padmashree Anandhan and Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan


BRICS SUMMIT: China hosts the 14 Summit; calls for inclusivity and collective action

What happened?
On 23 June, China, being the Chair, hosted and initiated the 14th BRICS Summit in Xiamen city. President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote address at the virtual summit and called for openness in the world order while advocating multilateralism and opposing hegemonic politics. 

Xi's remarks stressed on opposing sanctions, promoting the emergence of non-Western powers, boosting innovation and cooperation, and repeatedly emphasized the importance of collective action and openness in the international order. Xi urged the BRICS member countries to expand the group and said: "This year we have, on separate occasions, had in-depth discussions on the question of membership expansion. It is important to advance this process to allow like-minded partners to become part of the BRICS family at an early date."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said: "The BRICS format has been consistently increasing its prestige and international influence. This is an objective process, since the five BRICS countries, as we all know, have immense political, economic, scientific, technical and human potential."

Indian Prime Minister Modi implored the members to improve connectivity and said: "There are multiple areas wherein through cooperation between BRICS nations, the citizens have benefitted. By increasing connectivity between BRICS Youth Summits, BRICS Sports, civil society organizations and think-tanks, we've strengthened our people-to-people connect."

South African President highlighted the benefits reaped by the country as a part of the group and said: "The BRICS membership of South Africa allows the country to employ additional and powerful tools in its fight to address its domestic triple challenge of unemployment, poverty, and inequality through science, technology, and innovation, energy, health, and education cooperation, as well as through BRICS financing for infrastructure development, capacity building, research, educational and skilling, trade, investment, and tourism opportunities."

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called for joint efforts by the BRICS countries in reforming the United Nations system. During the BRICS Business Forum, Bolsonaro said: "The connection among our business communities is one of our priorities at BRICS. By getting to know each other better, our entrepreneurs can close deals that will result in mutual gains, also benefiting the workers in our countries."

At the Summit, the member countries adopted the BRICS 2022 declaration which placed emphasis on "Strengthening and reforming global governance, working in solidarity to combat COVID-19, safeguarding peace and security, promoting Economic recovery, expediting implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and deepening people-to-people exchanges and institutional development." 

What is the background?
First, a brief note on the BRICS. The group has evolved from being an acronym depicting the fastest growing economies in 2001 to holding annual summits and discussing political challenges and issues of mutual interest. BRICS aimed to deepen cooperation amongst these high potential economies and catalyze the pace of development by helping each other in the process. The group includes Track I, Track II and Track III engagement mechanisms and conducts diverse forums such as the BRICS Outreach Dialogue, BRICS Plus Concept, BRICS Young Scientists Forum and more. The group called for structural changes in the world economy and established the need to include emerging markets in all spheres of politics. BRICS also set up the New Development Bank, which successfully aided 44 projects worth USD 12.4 billion. 

Second, the impact of BRICS. The 14th Summit established the achievements of the group and promoted the idea that the BRICS was more successful than other organizations and international groups initiated by the West. Combined, the five countries form 42 per cent of the world's population and 24 per cent of the global GDP. The group is considered to be the engine of global economic growth as they make for 16 per cent of the total trade. Moreover, BRICS represents diversity and inclusivity in the South-South cooperation by virtue of having one member from Europe, East Asia, South Asia, Africa and Latin America. 

Third, the war in Eastern Europe. BRICS has portrayed a united front on the war in Eastern Europe. Out of the five countries, China, India, and South Africa had abstained from voting on the UN resolution against Russia's invasion of Ukraine. China stressed on the "no-limits" friendship with Russia and helped the country economically in the past few months. India and South Africa have chosen to remain uninvolved, given their bilateral trade and financial ties. Even though Brazil voted in favour of the resolution at the UN, President Bolsonaro later explained that Brazil would not pick sides in the war. 

Fourth, increased South-South cooperation. As NATO and EU consider the inclusion of Ukraine, other Eastern European countries and Scandinavian countries, China and Russia are now looking to increase their engagement in the South-South cooperation. BRICS is also considering the idea of heightened engagement with the "BRICS-Plus" which was first proposed in 2017 by China. 

What does it mean?
The 14th BRICS summit reiterated the need to collectively address global challenges and engage with more countries in the developing world. A few countries within the group consider BRICS as a tool to engage further with other Latin American and African countries as they foresee potential and believe in uniting the emerging economies against the West. The evolution of the objectives of the group from economic to political unitedness shows the changing nature of the international order. It also clarifies China and Russia's intentions in creating an anti-West grouping and increasing their influence in the South-South cooperation.  

On Ukraine, although the joint declaration at the BRICS summit called for dialogue between the warring countries, the group did not elaborate on a clear solution to end the war. The action depicts the failure of the group to address and resolve conflicts because of the China-Russia superiority.
 


Europe: Approving Ukraine's candidature for the EU

What happened?
On 23 June, the European Parliament adopted a resolution to grant "EU candidate status" to Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova without further delay. It also stated on providing the same to Georgia on fulfilling the priorities listed by the European Commission.

According to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen: "Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia share the strong and legitimate aspiration of joining the European Union. Today, we are sending them a clear signal of support in their aspirations, even as they face challenging circumstances. And we do so standing firm on our European values and standards, setting out the path they need to follow in order to join the EU."

Upon the announcement, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the European leaders and said: "This is the greatest step towards strengthening Europe that could be taken right now, in our time, and precisely in the context of Russia's war, which is testing our ability to preserve freedom and unity." Moldovan President Maia Sandu tweeted: "strong signal of support for Moldova and our citizens."

On 24 June, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: "The EU is not a political bloc like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The development of its relations with any willing countries does not create threats or risks for us."

What is the background?
First, Ukraine's request to be a part of the EU. Through the candidate status, the EU will now be involved in the rule of law, economic, political decisions of Ukraine. However, the candidacy status is not sufficient to prevent a future invasion. The upcoming accession process of the EU involves Ukraine adopting the laws and regulations of the EU which are viewed as "powerful policy tools." Post the integration of laws, the EU council and parliament will ratify the treaty of accession.

Second, Russia's opposition. Ukraine's acceptance into the EU is less significant for Russia as it is only keen on keeping it away from NATO. The EU widely focuses on politics, economy, and society. NATO, on the other hand, is a military alliance. The EU has Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), for its military exercises, but neither supersedes nor NATO will engage. EU's intervention in the economic and political front is not a risk for Russia as it only fears military cooperation. Therefore, from Russia's point, the threat factor remains low on Ukraine joining the EU.

Third, Georgia's candidate status. Russia's invasion of Ukraine provoked Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia to submit their applications to join the EU. While Ukraine and Moldova were accepted by the European Commission after approving the state of democracy, the rule of law, human rights, macroeconomic resilience and financial stability with an exception to bring induce more economic reforms. Georgia's application has been held from getting the candidate status as it lacked in reforms towards its market economy, especially in human capital, labour market, infrastructure, and renewable energy generation. The benchmarks are set to check its competitiveness in the EU market.

Fourth, criticism from EU-recognized countries. The EU has recognized five countries: Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey. Of these countries, only North Macedonia and Serbia have progressed up the negotiation line and the remaining countries' negotiation processes have been paused since 2020. Pointing to the slow nature of the EU in processing their membership, the western Balkan states have raised concerns and criticized the EU to speed up keeping the Russian threat in front.

What does it mean?
First, for Ukraine and Moldova, gaining the candidate status means a correction path to streamline the corruption issues, shape society, judicial reforms, pursue European objectives, and, most importantly marking its sovereign boundary. Although candidates' status will open the door for Ukraine to relook into its economic and political process, the steps to accession will be the real trouble. Till now the minimal time taken by the EU to grant the membership has been three to five years, therefore Ukraine and Moldova will continue to face Russia on the ground but with renewed support from the EU.

Second, the EU will face a serious set of challenges on two fronts. One, with an economy recovering from the pandemic, increased military expenditure for Ukraine, ongoing energy crisis, and inflation, the EU need to be tactical in transforming Ukraine and the Balkans in their accession process. Two, the existing member states oppose the membership of certain countries such as Hungary and Poland because of the decline in rule of law, as they fear the implications of migrant labour on the EU's finance and identity, and limitations in instilling democracy during the accession process. 
 


Saudi Arabia: Rapprochement with Turkey 
  
What happened?
On 22 June, Prince Mohammed visited Turkey and met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. His meeting comes as a breakthrough as Turkey and Saudi Arabia's relations were disrupted after the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul.  
 
On the same day, Turkey and Saudi Arabia friendship committee chairman Halil Ozcan said: "We hope that serious concrete steps in the economic, military and defense areas will be taken in the near term …  and the visit of the crown prince will hopefully lead to broad agreements in these areas." 
 
On 21 June, Prince Mohammed bin Salman began his regional tour by visiting Cairo. He met with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and finalized deals worth USD 7.7 billion. The two leaders also discussed US president Joe Biden's visit in July.  
 
On the same day, Prince Mohammed met with Jordan's King Abdullah and reassured Riyadh's support for the country's economy. The Prince added: "There are large opportunities in Jordan that we are keen to actively participate in and such investments will bring benefits to both countries."  
 
What is the background?  
First, animosity in relations post 2018. Turkey and Saudi Arabia's relations severed after Khashoggi was killed in Istanbul by a hit squad from Riyadh. The case had resulted in a diplomatic and unofficial trade embargo between the two countries for about five years. However, Erdogan's visit to Riyadh on 29 April brought changes to their bilateral ties as Turkey also handed over Khashoggi's case to Saudi Arabia.  
 
Second, the common concern of Iran. Both the countries want to play a more proactive role in the region by moving away from regional divisions and economic isolation. Saudi Arabia has been pushing to mend ties with Turkey and other regional actors as it is concerned about Iran's nuclear development. In March, the recent Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities had also raised apprehensions about regional defense issues. 
 
Third, looking beyond Turkey. Riyadh has been working towards mending ties with regional powers such as Israel, Qatar, and Turkey. Biden is set to visit Jeddah in July for a joint GCC summit, which is why Prince Mohammed wants to put forward a more unified regional position on critical issues. He was also set to visit Iraq, but the political uncertainty in the country has deferred his plans for now.  
 
What does it mean? 
First, the need for Saudi Arabia's oil and investments. Saudi Arabia's revenue through oil profits is set to reach USD 400 billion. Thus, Erdogan also hopes that the mending of ties could encourage investments from Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries since Turkey has been facing an economic crisis.  
 
Second, Turkey's upcoming general elections. Improved relations and normalcy in trade would help Erdogan win the favor of the people to get re-elected in the 2023 elections. Erdogan, 68, in January announced to stand up for the elections and thus is doing everything in his power to win the elections.  
 
Third, collective defense against Iran. Prince Salman plans to create an air-defense umbrella to pressure Iran for its support of the Houthis. Thus, it is also planning to tighten ties with Israel as a part of its strategy. 
 
Fourth, sidelining Khashoggi's case. Khashoggi's killings had overshadowed the kingdom and the Prince's role in the region as the West and other regional actors like Turkey moved away in 2018. But now, Prince Salman's visits could be seen as entering the center stage of politics in the Middle East after Khashoggi's killing. 


Also, in the news...
Regional Round-ups
By Avishka Ashok, Ashwin Dhanabalan, Akriti Sharma, Abigail Miriam Fernandes, Apoorva Sudhakar, Harini Madhusudan, Rishma Banerjee, Padmashree Anandhan. 

East and Southeast Asia This Week
China: Record number of graduates enter the market 
On 23 June, the Asahi Shimbun reported that China was dealing with a record number of students graduating and applying for jobs in already slow and recovering economic conditions. The number of young and fresh graduates entering the market is higher than the entire population of Portugal while the rate of joblessness in the country stands at a record 18.4 per cent, three times higher than usual. Premier Li Keqiang has promised to make job availability the government's top priority. The government has initiated many provisions such as offering easy loans and subsidies to encourage graduates into starting their own businesses. Companies are also being given subsidies for taking in interns. The expected salaries have also dipped by 6.2 per cent in the country. 

China: Heavy rains and floods cause economic activity to shut again 
On 23 June, the water levels in the Pearl River delta hit a record high in the century due to floods and heavy rains. Thousands of people from the Guangdong province in South China were evacuated after the country weather body issued orange and red alerts across the region. On 22 June, the Ministry of water resources placed its highest flood alert on the Pearl River basin and said that the Provincial capital city of Guangzhou would also be deeply impacted by the rains. China's economic powerhouses, Guangzhou and Shenzhen have shut production in factories once again, due to the weather conditions. The provincial emergency management estimated a direct economic loss of 1.7 billion yuan in the last week. 

China: Alibaba rape case offender sentenced to 18 months in prison 
On 23 June, the Strait Times reported on the Alibaba rape case and explained that the offender had been sentenced to 18 months in prison by the People's Court of Huaiyin. The sentence comes after the complainant was dismissed and fired by the tech giant for spreading falsehoods regarding the company. The case was considered to be the turning point of the country's #MeToo movement but was cut short after the prosecutors dismissed the case for not constituting a crime. The court's recent judgment, however, holds Zhang Guo, the company executive responsible and guilty of forcible indecency. The court held that Zhang had taken advantage of the employee's intoxicated state and molested her at the restaurant's front desk, later assaulting her again at her hotel.

Taiwan: China condemns US aircrafts passing through 
On 25 June, the spokesperson of China's Eastern Theatre Command's Colonel Shi Yi announced that the fly-through by the US Military aircrafts had endangered the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Colonel Shi Yi informed that China was monitoring the US aircraft's operation and opposed the deliberate actions of the US. The Chinese air and ground troops have been on high alert since the pass-through which took place on 24 June.

Myanmar: General Mya Tun Oo attends ASEAN defense ministers' meeting
On 22 June, general Mya Tun Oo became the senior-most official to represent Myanmar's state administration council (SAC) at an ASEAN meeting in February 2021. However, the ten ASEAN members were divided as they did not want to indicate the bloc's acceptance or endorsement of the regime. Cambodia's defence minister, Tea Banh justified Myanmar's participation as said the region was united on security concerns. In contrast, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia have expressed their concerns about engaging more with the regime until Myanmar shows indication of ending hostilities. 

Singapore: MAS approves three more cryptocurrency firms
On 22 June, the monetary authority of Singapore (MAS) announced in-principle approvals to Crypto.com, Genesis, and Sparrow. The government of Singapore said it was keen on working with blockchain and digital asset players and creating a web 3.0 ecosystem and community. Deputy Prime minister Heng Swee Keat added: "...the blockchain technology underlying cryptocurrencies has potential to improve wholesale cross-border transactions, where the settlement process is far from simple."

Singapore: Laos begins exporting renewable energy
On 23 June, Singapore imported 100 megawatts (MW) of renewable hydropower through the Lao PDR-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore power integration project (LTMS-PIP). This is the first multilateral cross-border electricity trade in the ASEAN region and would further promote electricity trading, investments, and enhance regional electricity supply security. In addition, Singapore's renewable electricity imports would contribute to sustainability goals under the country's green plan 2030. 

South Asia This Week
India: Technical team reopens embassy after the Taliban takeover
On 24 June, India sent a "technical team" to Kabul to reopen the embassy for the first time after the Taliban takeover. It also sent humanitarian assistance after the earthquake which killed 1,000 people. The team and aid were sent in an Indian Air Force Ilyushin-76 aircraft. The Indian embassy is the 15th mission to be opened in Kabul under the Taliban regime. Other countries, including Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, European Union, are already functioning. According to a statement by the MEA: "In order to closely monitor and coordinate the efforts of various stakeholders for the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance and in continuation of our engagement with the Afghan people, an Indian technical team has reached Kabul today and has been deployed in our Embassy there," 

Bhutan: COVID-19 pandemic results in increasing fiscal deficit 
On 22 June, Kuensel reported that Bhutan's fiscal has been increasing steadily over the last four years. It has increased to Nu 22.88 billion, which is 11.25 per cent of the GDP. In four years, it has increased by 734 per cent. In 2018-2019, the deficit was Nu 2.7 billion, which was 1.5 per cent of GDP. The cause of the increasing deficit has been attributed to the pandemic. The finance ministry also attempted at some budget cuts down to decrease the deficit, but it has been increasing. In South Asia, Bhutan has the highest deficit. India's deficit is 6.7 per cent of GDP, Nepal's deficit is 7 per cent of GDP, and Sri Lanka's deficit in 2019 before the economic crisis was 11 per cent of the GDP.

Sri Lanka: Prime Minister addresses the parliament on the economic crisis and a visit by an Indian delegation
On 22 June, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka addressed the parliament and called on all the parties to jointly work towards recovering the country from economic catastrophe. He also said that the country's economic crisis was much more than the shortage of fuel, electricity, fertilizers, and food. He said: "Our economy has faced a complete collapse. That is the most serious issue before us today. These issues can only be resolved through the reviving of the Sri Lankan economy. In order to do this, we must first resolve the foreign reserves crisis faced by us." On 23 June, an Indian delegation, including the Foreign Secretary of India, visited Sri Lanka and held discussions with the Prime Minister and President of Sri Lanka regarding the Indian assistance to Sri Lanka in reviving the economy. Sri Lanka is looking forward to USD 500 million as fuel aid from India.

Pakistan: China deposits USD 2.3 billion in the State Bank of Pakistan
 On 24 June, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail announced that China has credited USD 2.3 billion to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) following the signing of an agreement with a Chinese consortium of banks. FM Miftah said, "I am pleased to announce that Chinese consortium loan of RMB 15 billion (roughly $2.3 billion) has been credited into SBP account today, increasing our foreign exchange reserves."

Pakistan: EU delegation says next three months crucial for extending GSP+ status
On 24 June, head of EU delegation Guido Dolara, while speaking to the business community's representatives at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) said, "The time till October is crucial for Pakistan to show tangible results as a draft report for GSP+ status will be prepared in that month." He said, "As the LCCI can play an important part in helping the SME sector to realize the potential of GSP+, we are close to finalizing the monetary report that will be ready in October."

Middle East and Africa This Week
JCPOA: Indirect talks to resume with the United States 
On 25 June, Iran and the European Union agreed to resume talks with the United States regarding the stalled nuclear deal JCPOA. The decision follows EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell's visit to Iran and the meeting with the Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahain. Borrell said that the restarted talks will be aimed at "resolving the last outstanding issues" while the latter remarked: "…we hope, specifically, that the American side will this time realistically and fairly engage in committed and responsible acts towards reaching the final point of an agreement."

Ukraine-Africa: Russia's war is holding Africa hostage, says Zelenskyy
 On 20 June, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Russia is trying to use Africa to pressurize countries that have placed sanctions on Russia. Addressing the African Unions, Zelenskyy said: "Africa is actually a hostage... of those who unleashed war against our state." Zelenskyy said the increasing food prices due to the war had brought the war to the home of millions of Africans. In response, the AU Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat said Africa was committed to an urgent need for dialogue. The address comes after several African leaders met with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who dismissed claims that Russia was responsible for the food crisis amid the war in Ukraine.

Kenya: Nairobi hosts UN biodiversity talks
On 21 June, Kenya hosted the UN Biodiversity Summit, also known as COP15. The UN asked the members to allocate 30 per cent of their land and sea territories for conservation by 2030. Terming this a "30-by-30" plan, scientists at the summit said it would address issues like pollution, poaching and encroachment. The UN Environment Programme executive director also called on the countries to finalize a draft on the 30-by-30 plan, which would be voted in December. 

Tunisia: Trade union head rejects IMF conditions
On 23 June, the head of the UGTT rejected the IMF's conditions to issue a loan to bailout Tunisia from its economic crisis. On 22 June, the IMF's regional director said the fund was ready to commence formal talks. The regional director said Tunisia would need to contain its civil service wage bill and replace generalized subsidies with transfers to the poor to address its fiscal imbalance. The UGTT head said though the union supports reforms, it does not support the vision of the current government, citing Tunisia's "low salaries, lack of means, rising poverty and unemployment." 

UK-Africa: Commonwealth meet commences in Rwanda
On 24 June, delegations from 54 countries of the British Commonwealth met in Rwanda for the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). From the UK, Prince Charles and prime minister Boris Johnson were present and talked about climate change and its impact. Meanwhile, Gabon and Togo, who were not colonized by the British, have requested to join the Commonwealth. Previously, Rwanda and Mozambique who were not British colonies also joined the Commonwealth. 

Europe and the Americas This Week 
Lithuania: Russia warns against imposition of trade blockade on Kaliningrad
On 18 June, Lithuania imposed bans on the transit of goods through its territory to Kaliningrad, which is on the Baltic Sea and about 1,300 kilometres from Moscow. The move was made in line with the European and the larger NATO sanctions imposed on Russia. On 21 June, as a response, Russia demanded the restrictions to be removed and called the Lithuanian actions "openly hostile." Experts have announced that the Russian response following this, would indicate their intention of expanding the war beyond Ukraine. 

Russia: Tensions induced after chopper crosses into Estonian airspace
On 22 June, it was reported by Estonia, a NATO member, that a Russian Mi-8 helicopter crossed into its airspace. The helicopter entered the zone for a timeframe of two minutes and did not have permission to do so. The incident is being seen as a deliberate action a few days ahead of Madrid's NATO Summit scheduled for 29 June. The incident is interpreted as a subtle Russian threat to the military bloc by lashing out at Moscow's closest neighbours. 

The US: Boris Johnson says to listen and learn after his party faces two by-election losses
On 25 June, prime minister Boris Johnson of the UK commented on the recent by-election losses faced by his Conservative Party. The party lost its Devon seat of Tiverton and Honiton to the Liberal Democrats and Wakefield to the Labour Party. Many of Johnson's MPs requested a change in leadership as they blamed him for the losses, while the others backed him up. Johnson said that the current rise in the cost-of-living issue is the reason for the request for a change of leadership as the people blame governments for any inconveniences. He further talked about the defeat in a press conference in Kigali, Rwanda, stating that they have got to listen and learn from their mistakes. He said that he would focus on delivering for the country. Many of his MPs support his leadership; however, few oppose him and ask for resetting the leader. According to Johnson, two by-election losses should not affect the government and is not his fault.

Western Balkans: Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia to attend the Brussels summit
On 22 June, the head of states of Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia decided to attend the EU-Western Balkans summit after threatening to boycott the same. Serbia and Albania considered skipping the summit as a show of support for North Macedonia after Bulgaria vetoed the next stage in its road to EU membership. On Thursday morning, EU leaders are set to address the accession paths of Western Balkans countries at the summit, ahead of the European Council meeting, which kicks off in the afternoon. Before the European Council meeting begins in the afternoon on 23 June, EU leaders are scheduled to discuss the accession pathways of the countries in the Western Balkans at the summit in the morning.

WTO: New deal limits unregulated and unreported overfishing 
On 21 June, conservationists hailed the recent World Trade Organization's (WTO) agreement to end subsidies that cause overfishing after 20 years of failed negotiations. Despite being scaled down from its original objectives, Pew Charitable Trusts, which has long advocated for the elimination of such subsidies, said the new agreement represented a turning point in eliminating a major cause of overfishing. The agreement establishes a worldwide framework that restricts financial support for high seas fishing, overfished populations, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. It lays the groundwork to incorporate other subsidies by including steps to increase openness and accountability for governments over how they subsidize the sector. However, the agreement does not prohibit the use of public funds by governments to subsidize either operating expenses, such as gasoline, or capital expenditures, such as the modernization and replacement of fishing fleets' engines. These increase overfishing, favour bigger vessels, and artificially lower operational costs for the fishing sector.

The EU: Bulgaria's Parliament lifts veto on North Macedonia's membership
On 24 June, Bulgaria's parliament voted to lift their veto on North Macedonia's EU membership. The decision was adopted with 170 votes in favour, 37 were against, while 21 abstained. This comes two days after the same parliament voted for a no-confidence motion against the centrist government of Kiril Petkov. The opposition party GERB initiated the motion, after 26 members of the There is Such a People's Party (ITN) resigned from the ruling coalition, rendering it a minority. The lifting of the veto comes as a surprise because Petkov's insistence on the same stance was one of the main reasons cited by the ITN members for their discontentment. 

The US: China's Ministry of Commerce responds to ban on products from Xinjiang 
 On 21 June, the US Customs and Border Protection implemented the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and imposed a ban on products imported from China's Xinjiang region. China's Ministry of Commerce spokesperson accused the US of economic coercion for imposing the ban. The statement by the ministry spokesperson said: "The move will seriously damage the interests of Chinese and US consumers and enterprises, and will do no good for the stabilization of global industrial and supply chains, global inflation easing, or the promotion of global economic recovery." The Ministry of Commerce further accused the US of practicing unilateralism, protectionism and bullying China in the name of human rights. The spokesperson also highlighted that the US behaviour violated the rules of the World Trade Organization and undermined the market principles. 
 
About the authors
Akriti Sharma, Harini Madhusudan and Rashmi Ramesh are PhD Scholars in the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Avishka Ashok, Ashwin Dhanabalan, Abigail Miriam Fernandes, Apoorva Sudhakar, Padmashree Anandhan and Rishma Banerjee are Research Associates at NIAS.

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