Cabinet confirmations and executive orders will set stage for presidency. Market responses for global view of U.S. and UK shifts. The Gambia undergoes presidential transition. Syria talks to begin in Kazakhstan. All in The Week Ahead.
Syria talks to begin in Kazakhstan in hopes of extending ceasefire to political settlement
On Monday, representatives from the Syrian opposition, the Syrian government, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and the UN will meet in Astana in hopes of extending a previous ceasefire. The meeting is expected to be followed by a UN-led meeting in Geneva on February 8.
The two sides have yet to come to a conclusion on what the purpose of these talks is — whether it is an extension of the ceasefire or reconciliation talks. However, following the collapse of Aleppo, it is clear that the Syrian government and Russia are in the advantage, and will likely have much greater power in guiding the talks. The shift in negotiators from Syrian opposition leaders living abroad to the military leaders of rebel groups is likely to change the dynamic, and the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power has almost certainly been taken off the table –in part due to Turkey’s shift away from his removal and toward denying autonomy to the Kurdish rebel groups that control swathes of Syria’s northern border. These talks also come on the heels of an agreement between Syria and Russia to expand Russia’s Tartus naval base, which could lead to the placement of 11 Russian naval ships in Tartus.
The Gambia undergoes presidential transition
This week, Adama Barrow will formally take office as the chief executive of the Gambia, a small West African nation of 2 million people. Although Barrow won the presidential election against President Jammeh in December and the president initially accepted the results, Jammeh reneged on accepting defeat a week later and began trying to turn the institutions of government to his control. In response, Barrow fled the country for fear of reprisal and the country’s initial optimism for a peaceful transition following Jammeh’s 22 year rule was instead replaced by fear of political repression.
This eventual transfer of power would likely not have been possible had it not been for statements from several neighboring West African nations and ECOWAS, as well as the threat that neighboring countries, led by Nigeria, would use military force if necessary to install Barrow to power. This led, at the very last moment, to Jammeh’s concession last Friday and formal resignation on Sunday, including exile, to allow for the transfer of power.
President Barrow has promised the Gambia would return to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and rejoin the Commonwealth of Nations, as well as de-politicize the security forces. Almost as important, the symbolic meaning of the transfer of power from a man who rose to power in a coup to a man who won the presidential election in open elections is hugely important. This will provide further impetus for other dictators, especially in West Africa, to respect election results, if for no other reason than the fact that the country may be invaded by its neighbors to uphold the election result.
Cabinet confirmations and executive orders will set stage for presidency
This week, President Trump is expected to issue executive orders that may repeal a number of orders previously signed by the Obama Administration, though the administration has been hesitant to reveal what it plans to do in week 1.
Trump recently signed an executive order to “ease the burdens of Obamacare,” though it is not precisely defined and has led to some confusion. The administration appears keen to repeal the Affordable Care Act — the Congressional Budget Office projects will lead to the removal of 18 million people from health insurance — which would likely lead to a firestorm of opposition from Congressional Democrats as well as a majority of Americans, who by significant majorities support either the repeal of the bill with a replacement or no repeal at all.
The Cabinet secretaries for Defense and Homeland Security were also confirmed last week, and future secretaries are likely to be considered for a vote this week and next.
Market responses key for global view of U.S. and UK shifts
It will be important to watch the key global markets in the coming weeks as the world begins to adjust to the inauguration of the U.S. president and the announcement by Prime Minister Theresa May that the UK would be pursuing a “hard Brexit.”
The increases in stocks for certain companies can reflect market attitudes of the direction of the administration: stocks for healthcare companies, for example, fell after the election in anticipation of a rollback or elimination of the Affordable Care Act.
While the market initially expressed some confidence, or at least less pessimism than was anticipated following the two votes, an increase in gold purchases could reflect an easing of the optimism that had previously marked global financial hubs. If the administration or the Brexit negotiations appear to be turning in unpredictable directions, the absence of policy certainty could depress market confidence in the wider US or UK economies.
The Week Ahead provides analytical foresight on the economic consequences of upcoming political developments. Covering a number of future occurrences across the globe, The Week Ahead presents a series of potential upside/downside risks, shedding light on how political decisions affect economic outcomes.
This edition of The Week Ahead was written by GRI Analyst Brian Daigle.