The EU is frustrated about US trade policy
Plus: Australia buttons up its cybersecurity, Malaysians are running low on Omega-3s, and Iran cracks down on protests
Hi there Intriguer. This wire just in from our Washington Bureau Chief (aka one of our writers who lives there): “DC is abuzz tonight with all the African leaders in town for the US-Africa Summit! Motorcades whizz past every few minutes, police cars leading the way, and each hotel along 16th Street near the White House is hoisting the flag of the delegations they’re hosting. I just walked into one where the President of Zimbabwe was staying! And was then promptly (but politely) asked to leave.”
Today’s briefing is a ~4.9 min read:
- 💻 Trade and tech: When transatlantic allies don’t see eye-to-eye.
- ➕ Plus: Australia buttons up its cybersecurity, Malaysians are running low on Omega-3s, and Iran continues its crackdowns on protests.
📰 GLOBAL HEADLINES
Stories: Diario de Noticias, Folha de S.Paulo, The Asahi Shimbun, Mail & Guardian, Afghanistan Times
🤿 DEEP DIVE
Trade disagreements spill onto tech collaboration forum
- The absence of a top European trade commissioner from last week’s US-EU Trade and Technology Council hints at the EU’s frustrations over US industrial policy.
- But trade disagreements alone will unlikely rupture the solid relationship between the two allies, as both sides are committed to deepening cooperation.
Trade tensions are brewing underneath the calm surface of the Trans-Atlantic alliance.
- Last week, senior EU official Thierry Breton dropped out of the latest US-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC) meeting, a body set up last year to foster US-EU cooperation on tech and trade.
According to Breton, the TTC “no longer gives sufficient space to issues of concern to many European industry ministers and businesses” and was, therefore, hardly worth the 8-hour flight from Brussels to Washington.
The past ten months have brought the US and EU closer in lots of ways – but trade policy is not one of them.
The EU feels particularly blindsided by the US’s ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ (IRA), a big package of subsidies to promote American manufacturing in green sectors like batteries and electric vehicles. Europe fears the IRA will set off a subsidies race that it cannot win.
That’s not all: Several EU officials have privately complained that US companies are profiting from the Russo-Ukraine War. As one unnamed official told Politico:
“the country that is most profiting from this war is the U.S. because they are selling more gas and at higher prices, and because they are selling more weapons”.
Meanwhile, the US is frustrated with the EU’s weak stance with China. According to analyst Julian Ringhof:
“The Biden Administration […] is dissatisfied with the EU’s hesitance to leverage the TTC more aggressively against China”.
Unfortunately, the TTC’s original mission has been obscured by all the talk of competition, but a solution might be on the horizon.
1. Reality seems to have set in for Brussels, which has adopted a more conciliatory tone towards Biden’s green subsidies.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recently promised to offer companies financial support and incentives to remain in the EU.
But the EU can’t make it rain quite like the US, so some (including no-show commissioner Thierry Breton) want to set up a ‘common green investment fund’.
2. 😘 The US and EU don’t really have a choice but to kiss and make up.
Neither side would be well-served by a trade war. The EU is already facing an energy crisis at home, and the US will do what it can to safeguard transatlantic solidarity.
As French President Emmanuel Macron put it:
“The circumstances mean that we have no alternative but to work together.”
*For more on this story, check out the latest episode of “Intrigue, Explained” with Intrigue co-founder John Fowler!*
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🔦 REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT
Southeast Asia & the Pacific
Australia is assembling a team of hacker-hunters in order to become the “most cyber-secure country by 2030.”
- Australia has also pledged to work with its neighbours to improve cyber security across the Pacific.
Tens of thousands of people have marched on Dhaka recently, calling for lower fuel prices and for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to resign.
- Hasina’s government has been accused of corruption, human rights abuses, and intimidating political opponents.
Fijians are heading to the polls today to elect their new president, but the two frontrunners have something in common: they’re both reformed coup leaders.
- The election is expected to be tight, but Fiji’s military chief has pledged to respect the outcome.
The weather sets the price: seafood and vegetables have become more expensive across Malaysia due to persistently heavy rains.
- If the bad weather continues, analysts worry about public frustration as the season for Lunar New Year feasts approaches.
Vietnam is reportedly trying to reduce its dependence on Russian arms imports while boosting its trade with African and Asian countries.
- Vietnam’s diminishing reliance on Russian arms actually predates the Russo-Ukraine War, and corresponds with a boost in the country’s domestic arms industry.
🗞 IN OTHER NEWS…
Executions in Iran may be a sign of things to come
The news: Iran executed a second protestor in four days on Monday, this time in a public square in the northeastern city of Mashhad.
- Majid Reza Rahnavard, a 23-year-old fruit shop vendor, was charged with killing two plainclothes security officials during protests in November.
Backtrack: Iranians have been protesting since mid-September, when a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman named Mahsa Amini was arrested for “improperly” wearing her hijab and died while in police custody.
- The women-led protests are considered the most significant domestic challenge to the regime since the Islamic Republic’s founding in 1979 (one of the Ayatollah’s sisters has even called for the government to lay down its arms).
The regime has taken a two-pronged approach in response:
- First, it offered concessions to protestors, primarily by suggesting it would disband the clerical police force that arrested Ms Amini.
- Second, it has used force to discourage protestors: ~18,000 people have been detained, and more than 500 protesters have been killed – including dozens of children.
Still, the executions represent an escalation in the government’s efforts to end the protests. Dozens more people have been sentenced to death in what activists call ‘sham trials’, including a 26-year-old professional footballer and a doctor.
According to exiled Iranian lawmaker Dr Nouradin Pirmoazen:
“Medical professionals are revered in Iranian society. They want to execute a physician who is completely innocent to send a message that nobody is immune and to scare doctors from protesting.”
🎶 ON A LIGHTER NOTE…
What’s your name again?
A penny for the thoughts of the unfortunate Twitter employee who labelled the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs a ‘Nigeria government organisation’. The Norwegians took it all in good humour because (as we know only too well) typos happen:
“Dear @TwitterSupport, as much as we enjoy our excellent bilateral relations and close alphabetical vicinity with Nigeria, we would much appreciate if you could label us as Norway 😉.
P.S. That also goes for Prime Minister @jonasgahrstore and Foreign Minister @AHuitfeldt 🇳🇴.”
In any event, we’ll be monitoring this story closely and will let you know if, in fact, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry is part of the Nigerian government.