16 April 2018   Leave a comment

We continue to get information about the chemical weapons attacks in Syria that raises questions about the possible effectiveness of the coalition strike against the Syrian weapons facilities.  The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is the agency entrusted with investigating chemical weapons use in the world.  The OPCW was created when the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) came into force in 1997.  It is not an arm of the United Nations, but rather an independent international organization that works closely with the US.  The OPCW is trying to investigate the incident in Douma, Syria but there are reports that Russia and Syria are blocking access to the site.  On the news program, Face the Nation, US Ambassador to the UN,  Nikki Haley, made this statement about further efforts to punish the regime for its use of chemical weapons, notably additional sanctions on Russia for not enforcing the agreement made with the OPCW to eliminate all chemical weapons in Syria in 2014:

“So, you will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn’t already. And they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons used.”

However, the White House said today that, according to the Washington Post:

“Sometime after Haley’s comments on CBS, the Trump administration notified the Russian Embassy in Washington that the sanctions were not in fact coming, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said Monday.

“The Trump team decided to publicly characterize Haley’s announcement as a misstatement.”

Again, we have little guidance to determine what the US policy toward Syria actually is.

 

There is another area of policy confusion in US foreign policy.  One issue that Mr. Trump made central to his 2016 presidential campaign was China’s role as a currency manipulator.  The charge is that China artificially manipulated the value of its currency in order to make its exports cheaper and its imports more expensive.  The US Treasury is charged with making the decision as to whether a country is in fact a currency manipulator:

“Treasury has established thresholds for the three criteria specified in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (the “2015 Act”) that determine whether enhanced analysis is necessary: (1) a significant bilateral trade surplus with the United States is one that is at least $20 billion;2 (2) a material current account surplus is one that is at least 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP); and (3) persistent, one-sided intervention occurs when net purchases of foreign currency are conducted repeatedly and total at least 2 percent of an economy’s GDP over a 12-month period.”

In its most recent semiannual report, the US Treasury found that China was not a currency manipulator (p.3), although it was, along with Japan, Korea, Germany, Switzerland, and India, being monitored for the issue (India is a new addition to the list).  Nonetheless, today US President Trump tweeted: “Russia and China are playing the Currency Devaluation game as the U.S. keeps raising interest rates. Not acceptable!”  I have no idea how all this translates into a coherent policy.

 

The microblogging site in China, Sina Weibo, which is similar to Twitter, announced recently that it would ban all content referring to homosexuality.  The reaction to the announcement was dramatic.  According to the Chinese media outlet, Caixin:  “Over the weekend, millions showed their support for China’s gay community, using the five-character Chinese-language hashtag phrase “wo shi tongxinglian” (“I am gay”).  It appears as if there is little question that many Chinese people regard gays and lesbians as deserving of the full panoply of human rights.  We shall see whether there is follow-through on this movement on issues that confront the LGBT community and its full acceptance into Chinese society.

Weibo Logo

Posted April 16, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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