The Week Ahead: 4 – 10 March 2018

The Week Ahead: 4 – 10 March 2018

Trump announces new steel and aluminum tariffs. Brexit prompts conflict over Ireland status. FARC competes in legislative elections. New presidential elections in Sierra Leone. All in the Week Ahead. 

UNITED STATES: Trump aluminum and steel policies likely to causes international uproar 

  • This week, the Trump administration is expected to release new tariffs on aluminum and steel. The new tariffs are expected to be raised to 10% and 25% on aluminum and steel, respectively. The announcement came with some bureaucratic confusion, as the State Department, Treasury Department, and the Defense Department were all taken by surprise by the new policies.
  • In addition to the internal confusion, the announcement has met with international perplexity. Canada, the largest importer of US steel and by far the largest exporter of primary aluminum to the US market, has promised to retaliate for any tariffs that hit Canadian exporters. Japan has indicated it is “confused” by the tariff decision. Brazil is already lobbying the administration to receive exemptions from any new tariffs, whereas the European Union is preparing retaliatory tariffs that hit sensitive US industries, such as the liquor and dairy industries.

GRI Take: Expect further internal confusion over the tariff roll out and international reactions to boot as world leaders formulate their responses the new trade policies.

UK: Brexit conflict over Northern Ireland worsen as UK struggles to confront reality

  • Despite attempts to bring the two sides of Brexit together, the Brexit situation remains intractable. The May government has been boxed in by the European Union on the one hand and hardcore Brexit supporters on the other. Because Labour is in favor of maintaining a customs union, May effectively lacks a parliamentary majority to enact any major Brexit legislation.
  • To further complicate the situation, the coalition party, DUP, wants no regulatory difference between Northern Island and the rest of the UK, whereas the EU and the Republic of Ireland, want to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland proper. Both of these sides have veto power: the Republic of Ireland, with the full support of the European Union, is likely to veto any measure that is perceived to be violating the Good Friday Agreement and the open-border policy. On the other side, the DUP has indicated it will oppose any Brexit agreement that treats Northern Ireland differently than the rest of the UK, and has the potential to dissolve the government as the Tories don’t have a majority without them.
  • The British impasse has led the EU to act, last week releasing draft text of the UK withdrawal agreement, to the criticism of hardcore Brexit supporters.

GRI Take: This tension is likely to rise, and the EU is likely to make further public statements and measures to move the negotiations forward, so long as the UK fails to provide a united front or its positions rest outside EU law.

COLOMBIA: Legislative elections represent opportunity for FARC

  • This Sunday, Columbian voters will head to the polls to vote for members of the nation’s Senate and House of Representatives. With President Santos’s coalition currently holding over half of the Senate and 60% of the House of Representatives, voter approval of Santos’s policies could trickle down to his coalition partners, the Liberals and the Party of the U.
  • While Colombian voters have listed unemployment, healthcare, and corruption as major issues, a small but vocal minority have consistently pushed against the FARC peace deal. The deal established a ceasefire of the 50-year insurgency and the legitimization of the FARC in public life. The campaign environment is becoming increasingly toxic, as politicians on both side of the aisle have used the FARC and possible resumption of conflict as a divisive issue. As a result, some FARC leaders have indicated they will stop campaigning for public office after receiving physical attacks and death threats.
  • If FARC candidates achieve successes in the upcoming congressional elections, their political presence would be validated in the eyes of voters and their chances bolstered in the presidential elections.

GRI Take:  Polling at this point does not suggest the FARC will make the gains feared by the Colombian right, so this is likely to temper the claims made by figures like former president Uribe. However, the congressional results are unlikely to temper the highly divisive rhetoric of the presidential campaign.

SIERRA LEONE: Presidential and parliamentary elections after president concludes 10 years in office

  • This Wednesday, voters in Sierra Leone will head to the polls in a vote to determine the next president, after term-limited Ernest Koroma completing his second and last term. The two main political parties, Koroma’s left-leaning African People’s Congress (APC) and the more centrist Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), are vying for support and crisscrossing the country while trying to maintain regional strongholds.
  • However, the two parties are threatened by the emergence of new political parties like the NGC, which hope to generate support across Sierra Leone. Given the rise of credible political parties outside the traditional two-party system, it now appears likely that neither presidential candidate from the two major parties–Samura Kamara for the APC and Julius Bio for the SLPP– will secure the 55% vote count necessary to avoid a runoff. As an alternative, NGC leader and former UN Under-Secretary-General Kandeh Yumkella has a solid shot of making it to the runoff. If he does so, the big question will be whether regional party loyalties will win out against a party that may have more support in policy but lack a popular base.

GRI Take: While the NGC may have a shot at the presidency, securing parliamentary seats will likely be much more difficult. As a result, the SLPP and APC have a substantial chance at gaining the majority of seats in the 124-seat parliament, though the two parties’ fate in the presidential race is more uncertain.

Stay ahead of the news cycle with GRI. Drawing on expert knowledge and local sources, The Week Ahead provides analytical foresight on the consequences of key upcoming political developments.

This edition of The Week Ahead was produced by GRI Senior Analyst Brian Daigle and Senior Editor Luke Iott.

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