The case against a US retreat from international development

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS BRIEF)

 

FUTURE DEVELOPMENT

The case against a US retreat from international development

John R. Allen

As an instrument for peace, prosperity, and human advancement, U.S. foreign assistance constitutes one of the most important examples of American compassion. Since the Marshall Plan allowed hard hit citizens and enterprises to return to normalcy after World War II, advancing a new world order in the process, America has embraced its role as a global development leader.

Author

Yet today, aid—and with it, U.S. global leadership—are under threat.

Invigorating U.S. Leadership in Global Development” was the theme of the August 1-3 Brookings Blum Roundtable, which I was fortunate to attend. Now in its fifteenth year, the event annually explores various facets of international development, poverty reduction, and foreign assistance. While there, I heard from business leaders, heads of prominent nongovernmental organizations, lead budget and aid specialists from the U.S. government, and researchers about practical ways of solving big challenges—from supporting refugees, to strengthening fragile states, to making progress on the widely endorsed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Questions about filling development financing gaps and advancing U.S. leadership through multilateral participation were discussed as well.

One of the threads that ran throughout the three-day roundtable discussion was the distinction between U.S. leadership and American leadership. At a time when there is a retrenchment of global engagement and leadership by segments of the U.S. government, hundreds and thousands of organizations across the country—state and local governments, universities, civil organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis, NGOs, corporations—are actively engaged outside our borders. These groups provide an enduring form of U.S. global leadership on issues from human rights, to relief from natural disasters, to climate change.

I’ve always believed the leading edge of America’s influence is defined through our diplomacy and our foreign assistance. Underlying this is America’s leadership as a generous nation imbued with a humanitarian sense of responsibility. Yet today’s political context means we are rowing against a tide of nativism and populism. Even though grassroots and grass-tops support for international development abounds at the subnational level and among some federal government agencies, our current transactional approach to international relations is eroding America’s global reach. And if we retreat too far, our country’s moral authority will also slip away and be filled eagerly by other forces in the world, not least of all China. In the end, nature and foreign affairs both abhor vacuums.

THE ROLE OF THE SDGS IN COUNTERING NEGATIVE MEGATRENDS

In a world beset by worrying demographic trends, rapid urbanization, climate change, and a transactional approach to international relations, the universally agreed-upon SDGs remain the critical roadmap for humanitarian and development activities.

Few goals are more important than eliminating poverty, exclusion, and hunger from the world, educating our children, protecting women from violence, or addressing today’s climate emergency. Any movement on these goals will make the world a safer place and progress will be overwhelmingly in the interest of our national security. If the U.S. Government spurns the SDGs, as it now appears to be doing, we will be doing so at our own peril. Indeed, the Trump administration’s intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Treaty alone was a bad move in that direction.

My military experience taught me that the roots of radicalization are planted far upstream from the moment that someone picks up a weapon. Indeed, the roots of unrest, terrorism, and insurgency are often linked to hunger, poverty, and lack of opportunity—the very phenomena the SDGs are focused on. It is development solutions that address and can ultimately fix these problems, not military interventions.

An unstable security environment is often a direct result of the failure to satisfy human aspirations and yearnings.  Today’s unrest in the Middle East and across North Africa began in part with the rising up of young people who could no longer accept the realities of their human condition.

From a U.S. global leadership perspective, the more we align ourselves with these important and unifying international norms, the better will be the outcome, not just for the United States, but for the world. Homi Kharas’ brief, “U.S. global leadership through an SDG lens,” provides useful background on the topic. In addition, a new co-edited, co-authored Brookings book by Homi and a diverse set of external contributors, “From Summits to Solutions: Innovations in Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals,” explores distinct solutions related to everything from expanding women’s opportunities to preserving the oceans and setting goals in wealthy countries.

THE SECURITY-DEVELOPMENT NEXUS

In all my missions—whether in Bosnia, Iraq, or Afghanistan—I was mindful that certain fragile states cannot be permitted to fail because the strategic cost of inaction would be too great. In such instances, a coordinated approach between our security assistance and foreign assistance is essential.

In 2016 Jim Stavridis, my classmate from Annapolis, and I wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Expanding the U.S. Military’s Smart-Power Toolbox.”  The piece was focused on the need for combatant commanders to have the requisite authority to allocate their resources so as to leverage the full capabilities of military, diplomatic and development tools integrated with their mission. The authority we sought would have included funding for USAID programs to support youth-development and conflict-mitigation in places like Agadez, Niger, where better opportunities could dissuade young people from joining terrorist groups.

On the multilateral front, I recently joined World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim at a public event, where we highlighted the broad need to treat development, security, and humanitarian assistance in a more integrated way. Brookings and the World Bank are committed to working together in this area through research and targeted engagement aimed at bringing together diverse actors working on fragile states.

In terms of explaining the linkages between foreign aid and global security, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, an NGO/business/retired military network, is doing terrific work. Fanning out to cities around the U.S., they advocate for adequately resourcing our development and diplomacy activities and I have the privilege of sitting on their National Security Advisory Council. I commend the work of Liz Schrayer, USGLC president and CEO, whose round table brief “Foreign Assistance in the America First Era” outlines the bipartisan support for the development work in the Trump administration.

WOMEN HOLD UP HALF THE SKY

A key takeaway from the 2018 round table was how extraordinarily important women are in conflict resolution, and in achieving development objectives. Indeed, peace outcomes from conflict that involve women typically have a much longer or a much greater probability of success than those that only engage men.

Women in some of the toughest places exhibit entrepreneurial instincts that in many cases far outstrip those of men, making them an excellent investment option. I saw this firsthand in Iraq and Afghanistan, where we made microloans available to women all over the country. Invariably those loans were paid back on time or early and the outcomes stimulated economic progress on the ground, which then reduced conflict and violence.

So the whole idea of future military commanders working closely with USAID and State Department and similar organizations, NGOs, and others, to try to find a way to empower women at the civil society level and women in the governments in these countries is well on track, and should be a “doctrinal” approach as we go forward. It is imperative we expand support for programs and projects that empower women in these societies.

FORGING AHEAD

The global development agenda is daunting, but practical reforms and interventions can ensure progress. Making inroads in tackling poverty and other big problems requires working with the private sector, with civil society organizations, and with other diverse players across the security and development communities. If we navigate wisely and hold to a rational, hopeful outlook, we can achieve great things for America and for the world.

For its part, Brookings will continue researching fragility and what it will take to leave no one behind in the toughest places. Scholars are planning additional mini-roundtables on fragility and are completing a research project on multilateral and international organizations. Work on measuring current trends and gaps on the SDGs is ongoing, along with plans for a future book on dealing with the furthest left behind in the race to meet the SDGs.

This blog was first launched in September 2013 by the World Bank in an effort to hold governments more accountable to poor people and offer solutions to the most prominent development challenges. Continuing this goal, Future Development was re-launched in January 2015 at brookings.edu.

For archived content, visit worldbank.org »

Rebuilding the employment security system for the Rust Belt that created it

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

Rebuilding the employment security system for the Rust Belt that created it

John C. Austin and Richard Kazis

Industrial transformation, brought on by global trade, new digital technologies, and changes in the structure of work, have hit Rust Belt communities hard. Some places, such as Pittsburgh and Kalamazoo, have gone through painful transitions and come out the other side. However, the majority of the Rust Belt’s older industrial cities continue to struggle with job loss and weak economic growth.

Authors

The collapse of the region’s labor-intensive manufacturing-based economy took its toll on the employment-based safety net protections that Midwestern employers and unions forged after World War II. Today, employer-based systems of health insurance, pensions, and unemployment insurance serve fewer and fewer Midwestern workers.

For Rust Belt workers and communities today and in the future, economic security policies must become more flexible and suited to a fast-changing economy. This will require balancing support for technological innovation with concerted efforts to reduce the costs of dislocation for people and places bearing the brunt of change.

THE MIDWEST BUILT AMERICA’S EMPLOYMENT-BASED SECURITY SYSTEM

In the years following World War II, the manufacturing industries of the industrial Midwest, together with their unions, hammered out a set of economic rules and policies that became the foundation for America’s subsequent economic prosperity and security.

Wage controls imposed during World War II set the stage for this system. Unable to increase worker pay, employers began to offer pensions and health insurance to attract and retain workers. The federal government assisted by exempting health insurance benefits from taxation for companies and individuals.

The transformation accelerated in the wake of the 1950 General Motors-United Auto Workers contract. Dubbed the “Treaty of Detroit,” it traded labor peace for wage gains based on productivity and cost-of-living increases. Large employers shared prosperity with their workers by providing them with health insurance, pensions, and other benefits. State and federal unemployment insurance policies that took shape during the Great Depression worked well for an economy in which periodic layoffs were temporary and skills were fairly transferable from one labor-intensive manufacturing sector to another.

The resulting system spread across the nation, in both union and non-union settings. The percentage of Americans covered by private pensions jumped from 3.7 million in 1940 to 19 million in 1960—nearly 30 percent of the labor force. By 1975, 40 million Americans were covered by private pension plans. The pattern of employer-provided health insurance coverage forged in Midwest industries became almost universal, rising from 10 percent in 1940 to just under 30 percent in 1946, reaching 80 percent of all workers by 1964.

Public sector employment systems, too, began to copy the agreements negotiated in the region’s private industries. In 1951, Wisconsin created the nation’s first stable statewide pension system for public employees and became the first state to allow public workers to participate in Social Security. Other states soon followed suit.

THE MIDWEST’S ECONOMIC DECLINE ERODED EMPLOYMENT-BASED ECONOMIC SECURITY

By the 1970s, global competition facilitated by technology-based innovations in communications and transportation began to challenge U.S. manufacturing dominance—and the employment-based safety net that had matured with it. In successive waves of industrial restructuring, employers shuttered inefficient factories, moved production to cheaper locales, automated where possible, and pushed costs and risks onto employees and suppliers.

Across the Rust Belt, between 2000 and 2010, this trend turned into a tsunami. Across six Great Lakes states, manufacturing employment dropped by 35 percent in 10 years—a more dramatic decline than during the Great Depression—eliminating 1.6 million jobs.

By 2015, only 5 percent of Fortune 500 firms offered defined benefit pension plans, down from 50 percent in 1998.

The wider impact on employer-provided benefits and the safety net protecting workers was devastating. The number of working-age Americans without health insurance jumped from 24 million to 37 million between 2001 and 2010, before the Affordable Care Act. Employer-provided defined benefit pension plans largely disappeared in the private sector, replaced by defined contribution 401(k) plans that shifted the burden for funding retirement onto workers. By 2015, only 5 percent of Fortune 500 firms offered defined benefit pension plans, down from 50 percent in 1998. Public employee agreements were harder to dismantle, but the underfunding of these state and local plans hit $1.4 trillion in 2016. Access to unemployment insurance (UI) diminished: In 2016, only 27 percent of all unemployed workers qualified for and received UI benefits, the lowest proportion in 40 years.

THE DISRUPTION WILL CONTINUE

As employers adapted to survive, their strategies to cut costs, enhance productivity, and shift risk heightened the instability of many Americans’ employment arrangements. They also set the stage for more disruption in the years ahead—change that will continue to hit Midwestern workers and communities particularly hard.

First, improvements in process automation, robotics, and machine learning are destabilizing employment. The McKinsey Global Institute projectsthat as many as one-third of U.S. workers may need to change occupations and acquire new skills by 2030, as robotics and artificial intelligence eliminate routine and repetitive jobs and create new jobs that require more and different skills.

The Midwest is at the epicenter of these shifts. Auto manufacturing uses half of all industrial robots in this country. Robots on the shop floor are concentrated in about 10 Midwestern and Southern states, led by Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.

Where the robots are

Second, low educational attainment among the region’s industrial workforce could exacerbate employment dislocation due to automation and digitalization. A comparatively high proportion of Rust Belt working-age adults have only a high school diploma. Such workers may face greater difficulty making the transition to new kinds of occupations that demand higher-order cognitive skills.

A third destabilizing shift is the movement away from long-term, stable, full-time jobs toward contingent, alternative work arrangements. According to one study, nearly all net employment growth between 2005 and 2015 came from contingent work. In 2015, the Government Accountability Office estimated that contingent workers, including independent contractors and freelancers, part-time workers, on-call workers, temp firm employees, and self-employed workers, accounted for 40 percent of the U.S. workforce, up from 30 percent 10 years earlier.

The growth of more flexible work arrangements is a welcome development for many, particularly those working at the higher end of the labor market who have more skills and greater control over their work. But for Midwest workers with relatively low levels of formal postsecondary education and training, part-time work, being subcontracted out and paid as a “1099 worker,” or working in the “gig economy” have increased insecurity and reduced access to benefits and protections.

TOWARD A MODERNIZED ECONOMIC SECURITY SYSTEM

As our colleagues Mark Muro and Robert Maxim have outlined, America needs a new economic security system that is de-coupled from the once-dominant model of full-time, long-term employment with a single employer. This is particularly the case for Rust Belt workers. Policymakers seeking to rebuild economic security in the Midwest and across the nation should follow these principles:

  • Design for an era of economic instability and disruption—of frequent job and career switches—by increasing benefit portability.
  • Promote innovation, technological change, and risk-taking, but also prioritize effective supports for those who bear the brunt of the resulting changes.
  • Extend benefits to serve part-time workers, contractors, and those employed in multiple jobs.
  • Provide support not only during temporary dislocations, but also help individuals adapt and advance in the new economy, with both a safety net and a trampoline that accelerates return to the workforce and expands access to higher-skill, higher-paid jobs.

Policymakers and advocates are advancing a number of proposals that could be scaled to build a modern economic security regime:

Portability: Health care and pension benefits should be portable, universal, tied to individual employees, and delinked from full-time work and single employers. Benefits should be pro-rated for part-time employees based on hours worked. To finance this, some have suggested a Social Security-like mechanism of payroll deductions. Others have proposed more modest multi-employer or sectoral plans like those in the construction industry. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) has proposed legislation to fund a set of pilots testing different approaches with different mechanisms.

Pro-ration of benefits: Too many benefits are tied to full or almost full-time work with a single employer. Work-related benefits that can reduce family stress and keep people in the workforce—including paid sick leave, family leave, and vacation days—should be extended to part-time employees on a pro-rated basis based on hours worked for a given employer.

Unemployment insurance reform: Eligibility requirements should be made more flexible so that more individuals can access unemployment insurance, including intermittent workers, those with low and variable wages, part-time workers not working enough hours, and entrepreneurs starting their own businesses. Experiments should combine benefit receipt with training, work preparation, and support for pursuing postsecondary credentials.

More aggressive adjustment assistance: Current Trade Adjustment Assistance is too modest, short-term, and tied to specific industries affected by trade. It is not nearly as strategic and proactive as labor market adjustment policies in other advanced industrial countries. More generous relocation assistance can support worker mobility and help people go where the jobs are. Retraining opportunities and support for programs with proven labor market value can help those needing to make significant mid-career changes.

The growth of more flexible work arrangements is a welcome development for many, particularly those working at the higher end of the labor market.

Rust Belt communities, industries, and workers created and benefited greatly from the old system in its prime—and they have arguably suffered the most from its collapse. In turn, they have the most to gain from a needed remaking of employment security and safety net policies that recognize and respond to today’s economic realities. To the degree that these new policies put solid ground beneath more people in Rust Belt communities, they can help shift the political conversation in these places from one based on nostalgia, anxiety, and resentment to one lifted up by greater hope and optimism.

U.S.-Turkey Relations Will Never Be the Same

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

 

U.S.-Turkey Relations Will Never Be the Same

Escalating tensions might simmer down, but we’re past the point of pretending these two governments’ values are compatible.

Hope you sold all your lira before this week.

Photographer: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

There are only two ways that the diplomatic rift between the U.S. and Turkey can end: a compromise that salvages the relationship as best possible, or a complete rupture with devastating consequences both for Turkey’s economy and America’s regional strategic interests. Either way, there is no going back to the way things were.

The arrest in Turkey of American pastor Andrew Brunson nearly two years ago has led to a diplomatic spat that threatens a full-blown economic meltdown in Turkey. Brunson, along with many foreign nationals that were detained in the wake of the failed 2016 coup attempt, has been accused of “supporting terrorism.” A deal for Brunson’s release seemed likely as Turkish officials traveled to Washington this week, but fell apart apparently over last-minute Turkish demands.

Meanwhile, tensions have ratcheted up. The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Turkey’s interior and justice ministers. Erdogan threatened retaliation and got the support of most of the Turkish opposition. On Wednesday, Stars and Stripes reported that a group of pro-government lawyers in Turkey have filed charges against several U.S. officers at the Incirlik Air Base, accusing them too of ties to terrorist groups. They are demanding all flights leaving the base be temporarily suspended and a search warrant be executed.

The standoff is partly the accumulation of years of resentment, despite the pretenses of a faithful partnership. Turkey’s once-unassailable support among U.S. foreign policy leaders, and in Congress, has been weakened by years of authoritarian creep, a worsening human rights record and cooperation with Russia and Iran in Syria. Turkey’s plans for a $2 billion purchase of Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missiles, which NATO has said are incompatible with allied systems and restrictions on American use of the Incirlik Air Base, haven’t gone down well.

The feeling is mutual. Erdogan has never quite recovered from his anger at the way his allies seemed to sit on the fence in the hours after an attempted coup was announced in July 2016.

The Turkish leader is also furious at American support for the Kurdish militia fighting Islamic State in northern Syria. Earlier this year, he threatened American troops with an “Ottoman slap” if the U.S. tried to block Turkey’s military incursion into northwest Syria.

One major source of contention has been the U.S. refusal to turn over the Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a one-time Erdogan ally and now an enemy, whom Erdogan alleges was behind the coup and other attempts to undermine him. Trump’s abandonment of the Iran nuclear deal is another sore point; nearly half of Turkey’s oil imports come from Iran, and the re-imposition of sanctions against Iran hurts Turkey’s economy.

The Brunson case made all of that impossible to ignore, as U.S. evangelicals took up the cause.

But “impossible to ignore” is not to say that the Trump administration has become a principled defender of human rights in Turkey. Far from it. Trump, whose name adorns luxury properties in Turkey, expressed only praise for Erdogan when they met in 2017. When Erdogan’s supporters and guards attacked protesters in Washington, the affair was handled quietly.

The administration has been silent on other arrests of U.S. and foreign nationals in Turkey. But it was ready to strike a deal for Brunson’s release. The U.S. had already asked Israel to release Ebru Ozkan, a Turkish national who was arrested there on suspicion of aiding Hamas (Israel deported herthe day after Trump called Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu). The Trump administration was also reportedly ready to allow Hakan Atilla, a former top executive of state-owned Halkbank, convicted for violating Iran sanctions, to serve out the rest of his prison sentence in Turkey. The deal was scuppered, reportedly, when Turkey wanted relief on a multibillion-dollar fine against Halkbank and an assurance that any investigations be dropped.

The U.S. can afford to play a longer game. The June 24 election may have strengthened Erdogan’s power further, but he didn’t win by a Putin-sized margin. (Erdogan cleared just over 52 percent, and that’s if we all agree to ignore the voting irregularities that presumably bolstered his numbers.) Turkey is divided politically, and the longer Erdogan rules by coercion, the more vulnerable he may become, especially if Turkey’s economy continues to suffer. As the main barometer of confidence in the country, the lira’s decline speaks volumes.

Even so, a diplomatic solution is clearly preferable to continued escalation. Erdogan is sacrificing the Turkish economy in order to keep Brunson as a bargaining chit. A fractured relationship with the U.S. will also put a strain on Turkey’s EU relationships and will give investors, already spooked, even more pause.

American support for Turkey doesn’t crumble in a day. The relationship is baked into ties on multiple levels, both inside and outside government, and for good reason. As Asli Aydintasbas and Kemal Kirisci argue in an April 2017 Brookings paper, however bad it looks, Turkey is crucial:

Without Turkey, it is difficult to see how a rule-based U.S.-led world order could be sustained in this region, and how a successful policy on containing chaos in the Middle East could be envisioned. Similarly, there are arguably no Muslim-majority nations apart from Turkey that can serve as a bridge with the Western world or achieve the democratic standards, to which Turks have grown accustomed and, inadvertently or not, still expect.

And yet, it has definitely changed, thanks not so much to national interests, but to failings in leadership. The U.S. will have to settle for something less loyal, less an alliance and more a transactional relationship. But then that seems to define these times pretty aptly.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Therese Raphael at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Philip Gray at [email protected]

Oman: A Gulf State, A Nation Of Peace And Prosperity For Their People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Oman

Introduction The inhabitants of the area of Oman have long prospered on Indian Ocean trade. In the late 18th century, a newly established sultanate in Muscat signed the first in a series of friendship treaties with Britain. Over time, Oman’s dependence on British political and military advisors increased, but it never became a British colony. In 1970, QABOOS bin Said al-Said overthrew the restrictive rule of his father; he has ruled as sultan ever since. His extensive modernization program has opened the country to the outside world while preserving the longstanding close ties with the UK. Oman’s moderate, independent foreign policy has sought to maintain good relations with all Middle Eastern countries.
History From the 6th century B.C. to arrival of Islam in the 7th century A.D., Oman was controlled and/or influenced by three Iranian dynasties of Achaemenid, Parthians, and Sassanids [2]. Achaemenid (6th-4th century B.C.) controlled and/or influenced over the Oman peninsula. This was most likely exerted from a coastal center such as Sohar [2]. By about 250 B.C., Parthian dynasty brought the Persian Gulf under their control and extended their influence as far as Oman. Because they needed to control the Persian Gulf trade route, the Parthians established garrisons in Oman. In the third century A.D., the Sasanids succeeded the Parthians and held area until the rise of Islam four centuries later [3].

On the advent of Islam, the faith reached Oman within Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime. The conversion of Omanis is usually ascribed to Amr ibn al-As, who visited the region between 627-32.[4] By the middle of the eighth century AD, Omanis were practicing a unique sect of the faith, Ibadhism, which remains a majority sect only in Oman. Ibadhism has been characterized as “moderate conservatism,” with tenets that are a mixture of both austerity and peace.

The Portuguese occupied Muscat for a 140-year period (1508–1648), arriving a decade after Vasco da Gama discovered the seaway to India. In need of an outpost to protect their sea lanes, the Europeans built up and fortified the city, where remnants of their colonial architectural style still remain.

Revolting tribes drove out the Portuguese, but were pushed out themselves about a century later (1741) by the leader of a Yemeni tribe leading a massive army from varying other tribes, who began the current line of ruling sultans. A brief Persian invasion a few years later was the final time Oman would be ruled by a foreign power. Oman has been self governing ever since.

The British slowly brought about a collapse of Muscat and Oman’s “empire” by the end of the nineteenth century without use of force. Through gradual encroachment on its overseas holdings economically and politically, they caused Oman to retreat to its homeland. In time Britain held such sway in Muscat and Oman itself that it became in effect, and later in fact, a British protectorate.

Having control of the country’s military, the British helped subdue rebel tribesmen in the 1950s, driving most into Yemen. But the sultan ran a repressive regime, with laws forbidding numerous activities, including the building and even repair of his subjects’ own homes without permission. In 1970, almost certainly with British backing, he was overthrown by his son, the present ruler, Qaboos bin Said Al Said, and the country declared independence the following year as the Sultanate of Oman.

Qaboos is generally regarded as a benevolent absolute ruler, who has improved the country economically and socially. Oman has maintained peaceful ties on the Arabian Peninsula ever since ending another tribal rebellion in the southwest in 1982 by forging a treaty with Yemen. Oman’s oil revenue has been consistently invested in the national infrastructure, particularly roads, schools, hospitals, and utilities. More than ever, the country is poised to take advantage of its strategic trade location on the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf to further its economic growth and role in the world.

Except for those who travel to remote Middle East locales, the country has seldom been in the public eye other than for the use of its military bases by U.S. forces in recent years. American and British bombing raids were launched in 1991 from Oman against Iraq in the Gulf War. A decade later, U.S. forces stationed there were involved in raids against Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden.

Geography Location: Middle East, bordering the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, and Persian Gulf, between Yemen and UAE
Geographic coordinates: 21 00 N, 57 00 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 212,460 sq km
land: 212,460 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Kansas
Land boundaries: total: 1,374 km
border countries: Saudi Arabia 676 km, UAE 410 km, Yemen 288 km
Coastline: 2,092 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: dry desert; hot, humid along coast; hot, dry interior; strong southwest summer monsoon (May to September) in far south
Terrain: central desert plain, rugged mountains in north and south
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Arabian Sea 0 m
highest point: Jabal Shams 2,980 m
Natural resources: petroleum, copper, asbestos, some marble, limestone, chromium, gypsum, natural gas
Land use: arable land: 0.12%
permanent crops: 0.14%
other: 99.74% (2005)
Irrigated land: 720 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 1 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.36 cu km/yr (7%/2%/90%)
per capita: 529 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: summer winds often raise large sandstorms and dust storms in interior; periodic droughts
Environment – current issues: rising soil salinity; beach pollution from oil spills; limited natural fresh water resources
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: strategic location on Musandam Peninsula adjacent to Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil
Politics Chief of state and government is the hereditary sultān, Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said who appoints a cabinet called the “Diwans” to assist him. In the early 1990s, the sultan instituted an elected advisory council, the Majlis ash-Shura, though few Omanis were eligible to vote. Universal suffrage for those over 21 was instituted on 4 October 2003. Over 190,000 people (74% of those registered) voted to elect the 84[5] seats. Two women were elected to seats. The country today has three women ministers. H.E. Dr. Rawiyah bint Saud al Busaidiyah – Minister of Higher Education, H.E. Dr. Sharifa bint Khalfan al Yahya’eyah – Minister of Social Development and H.E. Dr. Rajiha bint Abdulamir bin Ali – Minister of Tourism.

The sultan functions as an absolute ruler.

People Population: 3,311,640
note: includes 577,293 non-nationals (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 42.7% (male 721,796/female 692,699)
15-64 years: 54.5% (male 1,053,040/female 752,962)
65 years and over: 2.8% (male 51,290/female 39,853) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 18.9 years
male: 21.3 years
female: 16.6 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 3.19% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 35.26 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 3.68 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.33 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.4 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.29 male(s)/female
total population: 1.23 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 17.45 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 19.95 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 14.83 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.91 years
male: 71.64 years
female: 76.29 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 5.62 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 1,300 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Omani(s)
adjective: Omani
Ethnic groups: Arab, Baluchi, South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi), African
Religions: Ibadhi Muslim 75%, other (includes Sunni Muslim, Shi’a Muslim, Hindu) 25%
Languages: Arabic (official), English, Baluchi, Urdu, Indian dialects
Literacy: definition: NA
total population: 81.4%
male: 86.8%
female: 73.5% (2003 est.)

The 2018 AGOA Forum: A turning point for US-Africa commercial relations?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

AFRICA IN FOCUS

The 2018 AGOA Forum: A turning point for US-Africa commercial relations?

Witney Schneidman and Landry Signé

The 2018 AGOA Forum—named for the African Growth and Opportunity Act passed in 2000 and extended three years ago to 2025—could be a turning point in U.S.-African commercial relations. AGOA abolished import duties on more than 1,800 products manufactured in eligible countries sub-Saharan Africa (those with established or making continuous progress with market-based economy, rule of law and pluralism, elimination of trade and investment barriers to the U.S., human rights, labor standards, fight against corruption, and economic policy to reduce poverty among others). Another 5,000 products are eligible for duty-free access under the Generalized System of Preferences program. As of today, 40 African countries are AGOA-eligible.

REGIONALISM VS SINGLE COUNTRY TRADE AGREEMENTS

Africa’s trade ministers will be coming to Washington the week of July 9, riding the momentum of having adopted the African Continental Free Trade Agreement in March. Once fully implemented, the AfCFTA, as it is known, requires members to remove tariffs on 90 percent of goods and to allow free access to goods, services, and commodities. The AfCFTA is central to accelerated regional integration and economic development across the region.

While Africa is forging new trade relations internally, the Trump administration has a new proposal for future U.S.-Africa trade relations, and wants to establish “a free trade agreement that could serve as a model for developing countries.” Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana are under consideration as partners for developing the first model according to sources in the Trump administration.

The question for this AGOA Forum is whether it can forge a common vision between Trump administration officials and Africa’s trade ministers on how to structure a post-AGOA trade relationship. Specifically, can Africa’s continental free trade ambitions, embedded in the AfCFTA, be harmonized with the Trump administration’s model free trade agreement based on a single country?

The AfCFTA should be the ideal tool to foster U.S.-Africa commercial relations, with an agreement between Africa at the continental level and the United States. American corporations benefit from a continental approach versus a country-specific one. In fact, by 2030, Africa will be home to 1.7 billion people and $6.7 trillion of combined customer and business spending. The AfCFTA presents the opportunity for a single point of entry, reduced cost of doing business, economies of scale, lower tariffs, and increased commercial transaction—which could contribute to job creation in the U.S. However, the AfCFTA still has to come into force, and some African countries, including economic powerhouses like Nigeria, have not yet joined the initiative. It is therefore critical for the African Union to adopt a more proactive strategy for its relations with the U.S. and propose an attractive continental partnership to the U.S. to advance mutual interests.

The task will not be easy for the African Union and the AfCFTA and, on the surface, it is hard to see where compatibility will be found in the differing approaches to the future of U.S.-African trade relations. In fact, the U.S. tried to forge a free trade agreement with South Africa and the Southern African Customs Union more than a decade ago and was unsuccessful. Moreover, U.S. free trade agreements are comprehensive, complex, and take time to negotiate. Given the rapid rise of China’s trade with the continent and the European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreements—which increasingly puts American goods at a significant tariff disadvantage in a growing number of African markets—a singular model trade agreement could do little to bolster the U.S. trade and investment position across an African continent working to fully integrate into the global economy. Moreover, Africa is seeking a regional approach to its trading relationships and not a country-by-country process.

While the U.S. Trade Representative works to develop a future U.S.-trade relationship with Africa, a positive Trump Africa legacy could revolve around its support for the bipartisan BUILD Act (Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act), which is making its way through Congress and, if passed, would create the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC). The new agency would transform the existing Overseas Private Investment Corporation by doubling its size and enabling it to make equity investments of up to 20 percent in U.S. projects, among other new capabilities. As Africa is the largest part of OPIC’s current investment portfolio, the proposed USIDFC promises to be a key part of any enhanced U.S. commercial engagement in Africa.

WORKING TOWARD COMMON GROUND

The 2018 AGOA Forum could be a turning point for U.S.-Africa commercial relations. The African Union has already made important progress by organizing an annual AGOA mid-term review, along with its partner organizations (the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the regional economic communities), to help organize the AGOA Forum. However, if Africans do not succeed at putting a continental approach on the agenda during the forum, they should quickly follow up with an evidence-based comprehensive strategy that will provide options to the U.S. to best serve mutual interests, advance the continental perspective and Agenda 2063, and make America more competitive in a context where China and the European Union are winning. A win-win strategy is the way forward from both sides.

CHINA ACCUSES US OF TRIGGERING MAJOR TRADE WAR IN HISTORY

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF 247 NEWS)

 

G7 summit: War of words erupts between US and key allies

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

G7 summit: War of words erupts between US and key allies

Photo from the G7 summit of the leaders, tweeted by the German government on 9 June 2018Image copyrightAFP
Image captionThe final communique had been intended as a face-saving agreement after a bad-tempered summit

A war of words has erupted between the US and its G7 allies, hours after the group had put on an apparent show of unity at the end of a tense summit.

US President Donald Trump and two of his advisers lashed out at Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, accusing him of engaging in “bad faith diplomacy”.

Germany’s Angela Merkel said Mr Trump’s decision to reject a joint communique was “sobering” and “depressing”.

That statement had sought to overcome deep disagreements, notably over trade.

In recent weeks, trading partners of the US have criticised new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports imposed by the Trump administration.

So how did the latest spat unfold?

In a news conference after the summit, the Canadian leader reasserted his opposition to the US tariffs, and vowed to press ahead with retaliatory moves on 1 July.

“Canadians are polite and reasonable but we will also not be pushed around,” he said.

Media captionTrudeau: “I don’t want to hurt American workers”

Mr Trump responded by tweeting en route to his next summit, in Singapore, that he had instructed US officials “not to endorse the communique as we look at tariffs on automobiles”.

He said the move was based on Mr Trudeau’s “false statements… and the fact that Canada is charging massive tariffs to our US farmers, workers and companies”.

His top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, and trade adviser, Peter Navarro, then took to the Sunday morning news shows to further attack Mr Trudeau.

“He really kind of stabbed us in the back,” Mr Kudlow said, while Mr Navarro said: “There is a special place in Hell for any leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.”

Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland responded by saying Mr Trump’s argument for imposing tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminium was “absurd and frankly insulting to Canadians”.

Mr Trump has cited national security as his reason, telling a news conference on Saturday that “to have a great military you need a great balance sheet”.

Canada, she said, is “the closest and strongest ally the United States has had. We can’t pose a security threat to the United States and I know that Americans understand that”.

Other G7 partners also seemed stunned by Mr Trump’s reaction, and pledged to support the communique.

Media captionWho left their mark on President Trump at the G7 summit?

French President Emmanuel Macron said international co-operation could not be “dictated by fits of anger and throwaway remarks”.

“Let’s be serious and worthy of our people,” a statement from the French presidency said. “We make commitments and keep to them.”

What is in the joint communique?

In the communique after the summit in La Malbaie, Quebec province, the group of major industrial nations – Canada, the US, the UK, France, Italy, Japan and Germany – had agreed on the need for “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade” and the importance of fighting protectionism.

Other agreements reached include:

Mr Trump’s twitter attack on Mr Trudeau came minutes after the communique had been published.

What are the tariffs?

On 1 June, the US imposed a 25% tariff for steel and 10% for aluminium on imports from the European Union (EU), Canada, and Mexico. Mr Trump said the move would protect domestic producers that were vital to US security.

The EU then announced retaliatory tariffs on US goods ranging from Harley-Davidson motorcycles to bourbon. Canada and Mexico are also taking action.

Media captionDairy wars: Why is Trump threatening Canada over milk?

What is the G7?

It is an annual summit bringing together seven major industrialised nations which represent more than 60% of global net worth between them.

Economics tops the agenda, although the meetings now always branch off to cover major global issues.

Russia was suspended from the group – then called the G8 – in 2014 because of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

On Friday, Mr Trump made a surprise call for Moscow to be readmitted but German Chancellor Angela Merkel said other members were against the idea.

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US & Canada

Donald Trump’s G7 temper tantrum

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Donald Trump’s G7 temper tantrum

(CNN)President Donald Trump’s views on foreign policy — and, really, everything — are surprisingly simple: He likes people who are nice to him and do things he wants and he doesn’t like people who aren’t nice to him and don’t do things he wants.

So, his views on any given issue or foreign leader are largely informed by how that person has treated Trump in their last interaction — and how much of what he wants that they are willing to give him.
That worldview is important to keep in mind as Trump travels to Canada to attend the G7 summit on Friday, a trip which he has already tried to wiggle out of, is cutting a day short and, if Twitter is any indication, is assuming will be a total and complete disaster.
“The European Union treats us very unfairly,” Trump said as he left the White House Friday morning to head to the G7. “Canada [treats us] very unfairly.”
That’s the latest in a series of increasingly frustrated and angry comments coming out of the White House over the past few days, as its become more and more clear that leaders Trump thought were his friends — French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — have pushed back on his demands, particularly on tariffs.
Trudeau and Trump had a reportedly contentious phone call late last month as the Canadian leader expressed his unhappiness with the United States imposing tariffs on its neighbor to the north for “national security reasons.”
And Trump has repeatedly antagonized Trudeau in the run-up to the G7 meeting.
“Prime Minister Trudeau is being so indignant, bringing up the relationship that the U.S. and Canada had over the many years and all sorts of other things…but he doesn’t bring up the fact that they charge us up to 300% on dairy — hurting our Farmers, killing our Agriculture!” Trump tweeted Thursday night.
He kept up that drumbeat Friday morning, tweeting: “Canada charges the U.S. a 270% tariff on Dairy Products! They didn’t tell you that, did they? Not fair to our farmers!” (It’s slightly more complicated than that.)
Even Macron, the world leader with whom Trump appeared to have the warmest relations, has come under fire from the President’s Twitter account.
“Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers,” Trump tweeted. “The EU trade surplus with the U.S. is $151 Billion, and Canada keeps our farmers and others out. Look forward to seeing them tomorrow.”
That tweet came after — stop me if you’ve heard this one! — a heated phone call between Trump and Macron earlier in the week in which the French President expressed his unhappiness with Trump’s policies on immigration and trade.
Trump expected more capitulation from the likes of Trudeau and Macron because, well, they had been nice to him. They had, of course, done that out of a (mistaken) belief that praising Trump and playing to his desire to be venerated would make him more malleable to their policy wishes.
When he didn’t get the full support of Macron and Trudeau for policies that, well, they don’t support, Trump pouted. Publicly.
“Even as late as Thursday afternoon, Trump was questioning why he would attend a G7 meeting where he’s outnumbered on key issues like trade and climate change. As a series of combative tweets from Macron began emerging late in the day, Trump again raised the prospect of scrubbing all or part of his visit to Canada, asking advisers what the point of attending the summit would be, according to a person familiar with the conversations.”
This my-way-or-the-highway (or take-my-ball-and-go-home) approach is what Trump promised as a candidate for president. Past holders of the office had made terrible deals for the US — Trump would make good ones. He alone knew how to talk to world leaders to get them to do exactly what he wanted. It was all in the art of the deal.
Campaigning is easy. Governing is hard.
And it turns out that simply telling other countries to, say, pay for a border wall (and enjoy it!) or renegotiate broad and complex trade deals isn’t as easy as firing someone on a reality TV show.
That reality makes Trump mad. And when he gets angry, he tweets. Watch his Twitter feed over the next 24-48 hours.

G7: Trump says Russia should be part of summit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

G7: Trump says Russia should be part of summit

Media captionTrump to G7: ‘They should let Russia come back in

US President Donald Trump says he wants Russia to be part of the G7 group of key industrialised nations.

Russia was expelled in 2014 following its annexation of Crimea, but Mr Trump said he wanted the country readmitted.

The build-up to the meeting has seen major disagreements between the US president and other nations over his imposition of trade tariffs.

There are also likely to be disagreements with Mr Trump over Iran and climate change.

The G7 summit, which groups Canada, the US, the UK, France, Italy, Japan and Germany, is being held in the town of La Malbaie in Quebec, Canada.

The leaders of the nations, which represent more than 60% of global net worth, meet annually. Economics tops the agenda, although the meetings now always branch off to cover major global issues.

What did Mr Trump say about Russia?

Mr Trump said he regretted the meeting had shrunk in size, putting him at odds with most other G7 members on yet another issue.

“You know, whether you like it or – and it may not be politically correct – but we have a world to run and in the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in,” he said.

He found support in the shape of the newly installed Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who tweeted that it was “in the interests of everyone” for Russia to be readmitted.

Canada, France and the UK though immediately signalled they remain opposed to Russian re-entry. A Kremlin spokesperson said they were interested in “other formats”, apart from the G7.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently in Beijing, where he was presented with a friendship medal by Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Fellow members of what was then the G8 suspended Russia after it took control of Crimea, saying it would remain until Russia “changes course”.

Presentational grey line

Trump arrives with a bang

By the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent, James Robbins

Relations between Donald Trump and America’s leading allies were already at a new low over trade tariffs before the president casually dropped his Russia hand-grenade.

Most G7 leaders think the decision to expel Russia in 2014 was right then, and remains right today. Even Russia itself seems lukewarm about rejoining.

In many ways, this seems to be a deliberate Donald Trump tactic, to distract attention from his war of words with the rest of the G7 over trade and protectionism.

President Trump dislikes the whole idea of the G7: a club of nations which traditionally comes together around shared values rooted in a world order based on agreed rules. Last to arrive, he’ll also be first to leave.

Presentational grey line

What were the exchanges on the eve of the summit?

It was mainly France and Canada v Donald Trump, sparked by Mr Trump’s imposition of steel and aluminium tariffs.

Appearing alongside host leader Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “A trade war doesn’t spare anyone. It will start first of all to hurt US workers.”

For his part Mr Trudeau described Mr Trump’s citing of national security to defend his steel and aluminium tariffs as “laughable”.

Never one to back down, Mr Trump fired off a series of tweets, keeping up the tirade on Friday.

Speaking to reporters before the summit he again criticised other nations for their treatment of the US but predicted tensions would ease and “we’ll all be in love again”.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May appeared to take a more conciliatory approach, saying she wanted the EU to act with restraint and proportion in retaliating to the US tariffs.

Unlike Mr Macron and Mr Trudeau, she won’t be having a bilateral meeting with Mr Trump, but insisted on Friday it was not a snub.

The EU has called Mr Trump’s tariffs “protectionism, pure and simple” and are among others in announcing retaliatory measures.

Media captionDairy wars: Why is Trump threatening Canada over milk?

What else can we expect in Quebec?

Mr Trump is leaving early to head to Singapore for his landmark summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, meaning he will miss some of the topics advanced by Mr Trudeau.

The five themes for this year’s summit are:

  • Inclusive economic growth
  • Gender equality and women’s empowerment
  • World peace and security
  • Jobs of the future
  • Climate change and oceans

According to the leaders’ programme, Mr Trump will be around for the economic and security issues being discussed on Friday but will miss climate change, the environment and probably gender equality on Saturday.

The US president was very much the odd man out on climate change during the G7 in Italy last year, later announcing his intention to withdraw from the landmark Paris agreement.

Media captionG7 summit: Trapped in the world’s most secure house

Iran is also a big sticking point. Mr Trump recently ditched the 2015 agreement with Tehran that aimed to curb its nuclear programme. This angered the other signatories who have since sought to shore it up.

Previous G7 meetings have seen huge protests, and about 8,000 soldiers and police officers are expected to be on hand during the Quebec event.

Protester in QuebecImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionA protester with a flare at a protest march in Quebec City, ahead of the summit

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