At present, it makes no sense for anyone to discard membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the US’ exit from it will not become fatal, -said the Russian Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin commenting on a statement made by US President Donald Trump to the effect that Washington could leave the WTO.
The minister remarked that “it is not the first time that the United States has suggested the possibility of withdrawing from the WTO. When these kinds of “reminders” begin to appear too often, they become negotiating techniques designed to impress counterparties on trade deals under discussion. ” According to the Russian minister, the position of American trade diplomats that they stick to at talks on a dispute resolution system in Geneva is suggesting the same idea. It seems that by blocking the work of WTO’s appeals organ, the United States is trying to create an additional instrument for influencing trading partners with a view to encourage them to take decisions that would be beneficial for the White House on how to reform the WTO, ” – said Maxim Oreshkin. According to him, “since there is no global alternative to WTO which would be equally effective, there is no reason for such large international trade players as the United States to walk out of it. As for the World Trade Organization itself, a loss of even one of top players will not be fatal .
Simultaneously, the Russian Minister of Economic Development has suggested that the US withdrawal from the World Trade Organization (if it takes place) will stimulate WTO reform, change the configuration of “tactical alliances” and interest groups within the WTO, and will alter multilateral rules in those areas where negotiations have long been in a deadlock.
If the United States chooses to leave the World Trade Organization (WTO), then the entire existence of this organization will be put into question, ” – confirmed presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov. According to Peskov, “there are no doubts that the existence of, let’s say, a global system-forming economic organization after the world’s top economy walks out will cast doubt on its future”. “In any case, this is an internal affair of the United States,” – Dmitry Peskov added.
That the US might leave the main international trade organization was signaled by President Trump as he addressed employees of the Royal Dutch Shell chemical plant in Monaca, PA. “We will leave the organization if necessary.” He warned that a situation like now when the WTO is helping other member countries to “use” the US, will not happen again.
As an instance of that, Donald Trump predictably cited his main “opponent” in its trade and economic debate – China. The American president spoke about a rapid development of the Chinese industry after Beijing joined the WTO. In the meantime, the USA complained about the theft of American technology in China, – the US president added.
Donald Trump’s current speech can be seen as a key feature of his own election campaign, considering that the US’ possible exit from the WTO served as an important point of his election program back in 2016. Back then he promised to take such a step if his plans to use tariffs to protect domestic producers ran into resistance from the above organization.
A similar idea was voiced by Donald Trump in 2018. The then WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo tried to reduce tensions saying that the US concern about those areas of the organization’s work that they wanted to improve was not new. What Donald Trump is speaking about now is “consistent with what the US has said before,” – Roberto Azevedo said.
However, given that the current situation in the world is strikingly different from what it was just a couple of years ago, the future of international trade and economic relations becomes a matter of serious concern. The “trade war” between Washington and Beijing is not only showing no signs of subsiding but threatens to hit a new high. Donald Trump has promised to slap higher tariffs on the remaining imports from China totaling about $ 300 billion as of September 1, despite a “trade ceasefire” which was reached earlier with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Osaka. Although the American leader has postponed the introduction of duties on a number of goods (primarily electronics) till December 15 this year, world markets do not expect any stabilization yet, particularly after Donald Trump declared China a “currency manipulator” following a sharp fall in the yuan rate.
Significantly, despite higher tariffs already imposed by the two parties on the total volume of bilateral supplies of $ 360 billion, it is China that is clearly taking upper hand in the “trade war”. Despite the duties, the Chinese surplus in trade with the United States continues to grow, having increased in the first half of the year to $ 140.48 billion, against $ 133.76 billion in the same period of 2018. In July, US exports to China fell by 19%, while Chinese exports to the United States fell only by 6.5%. The new round of tariff increases will be more noticeable, also in terms of its negative impact on the socio-economic situation in the United States, Capital Economics experts warn in this regard.
However, it’s the US’ European partners that are sustaining yet greater losses. In AugustGermany’s monthly economic index, published by the Center for Economic Research in Europe, fell to the December 2011 low, while national economy found itself on the verge of the first recession in six years. The Center’s experts say this situation was triggered by the ongoing “trade war” between the US and China, along with the growing possibility that Britain will likely exit the European Union in line with the “tough” scenario.
“Trade conflicts, global uncertainty and the problems experienced by the car manufacturers have finally thrown the German economy down on its knees,” – ING economist Carsten Brzeski says.
Negative trends are also visible in the British economy, where inflation has exceeded the Bank of England target of 2%. “Where is the world, and especially the historical allies of Washington, pushing the ever worsening economic conflict between the USA and China?” – the London newspaper The Financial Times asks and continues: “Under normal circumstances, they would certainly side with the USA. But we have unusual circumstances. Under Donald Trump, the United States has turned into an unreliable rogue superpower: they even oppose the fundamental principles of a trading system based on multilateral agreement and strict compliance with the rules. Now, even the US allies are drawn into this mutual hunt. ” “And while the United States is locking horns with China, what should the American allies do?” The problem is not Trump. That he is concerned about the trade surplus is half the trouble. What is much worse, many Americans are dissatisfied not only with China’s behavior, but also with its economic growth ” – the British publication states not without reason and offers its own vision for resolving the situation: “ What should the US allies do? ” They should not support America’s attempts to hinder China’s growth – this would be dishonest. Instead, they should make clear what US goals in trade and technology they agree with, and if possible, adhere to this shared position. Significantly, the EU and Japan are already demonstrating similar views. They should support principles of the multilateral trading system under the auspices of the WTO. Should the US break the quorum needed to resolve disputes, then the rest should agree on some kind of informal mechanism. ” “Hostility between the US and China poses a threat to global peace and prosperity. Outsiders cannot stop this conflict. But they are far from helpless. If superpowers go beyond the multilateral trading system, others will take their place. The majority of them are also major players. All you need is to summon up your courage and behave appropriately, ” – The Financial Times points out.
However, the current problems in US relations with China and the WTO go far beyond the bounds of the trade organization itself. According to reports, Beijing is considering two options that could be really devastating for Washington: building up strategic cooperation with Iran and crushing financial markets and the dollar through the sale of US securities. According to Iranian sources, China has resumed cooperation with Iran on three oil projects and is considering what Washington and Beijing call the “nuclear option.” In particular, according to the director- general of the Iranian Pars Oil and Gas Company (POGC), negotiations with Chinese developers are already under way on the first of these projects – phase 11 on the super-giant South Pars field.
China has also agreed to boost production at Iranian oil fields off Western Karun, including North Azadegan and Yadavaran, by an additional 500 thousand barrels per day by the end of 2020. This is consistent with Iran’s plan to step up effort in these fields.
If one or another of these Chinese projects in Iran runs into a rejection from the United States, then Beijing will resort to the “nuclear option” of selling all or a significant part of its package of American bank-bills worth a total of 1.4 trillion dollars. A large-scale sale of these securities will result in the destabilization of the dollar, a surge in bond yields, a collapse of the real estate market and chaos in the stock market. This measure fits well into China’s long-term strategy, which wants the yuan to challenge the status of the US dollar as a key global reserve currency and the main currency for global energy operations. “China wants to get away from the dollar system,” – confirms Rory Green, an economist with TS Lombard.
What is currently happening in global trade opens up tremendous opportunities for Russia in terms of strengthening its relations with present and potential allies and partners, both on the bilateral and multilateral basis. Apparently, Moscow’s “need” for trade, economic (and, consequently, political) structures will increase visibly in the near future.
From our partner International Affairs
Synchronicity in Economic Policy amid the Pandemic
Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see. –Carl Jung
The Covid pandemic has elicited a number of deficiencies in the current global governance framework, most notably its weaknesses in mustering a coordinated response to the global economic downturn. A global economy is not fully “global” if it is devoid of the capability to conduct coordinated and effective responses to a global economic crisis. What may be needed is a more flexible governance structure in the world economy that is capable of exhibiting greater synchronicity in economic policies across countries and regions. Such a governance structure should accord greater weight to regional integration arrangements and their development institutions at the level of key G20 decisions concerning international economic policy coordination.
The need for greater synchronicity in the global economy arises across several trajectories:
· Greater synchronicity in the anti-crisis response across countries and regions – according to the IMF it is a coordinated response that renders economic stimulus more efficacious in countering the global downturn
· Synchronicity in the withdrawal of stimulus across the largest economies – absent such coordination the timing of policy normalization could be postponed with negative implications for macroeconomic stability
· Greater synchronicity in opening borders, lifting lockdowns and other policy measures related to responding to the pandemic: such synchronicity provides more scope for cross-country and cross-regional value-added chains to boost production
· Greater synchronicity in ensuring a recovery in migration and the movement of people across borders.
Of course such greater synchronicity in economic policy should not undermine the autonomy of national economic policy – it is rather about the capability of national and regional economies to exhibit greater coordination during downturns rather than a progression towards a uniform pattern of economic policy across countries. Synchronicity is not only about policy coordination per se, but also about creating the infrastructure that facilitates such joint actions. This includes the conclusion of digital accords/agreements that raise significantly the potential for economic policy coordination. Another area is the development of physical infrastructure, most notably in the transportation sphere. Such measures serve to improve regional and inter-regional connectivity and provide a firmer foundation for regional economic integration.
The paradox in which the world economy finds itself is that even as the current crisis is leading to fragmentation and isolationism there is a greater need for more policy coordination and synchronicity to overcome the economic downturn. This need for synchronicity may well increase in the future given the widening array of global risks such as risks to cyber-security as well as energy security and climate change. There is also the risk of the depletion of reserves to counter the Covid crisis that has been accompanied by a rise in debt levels across developed and developing economies. Also, the speed of the propagation of crisis impulses (that effectively increases with technological advances and globalization) is not matched by the capability of economic policy coordination and efficiency of anti-crisis policies.
There may be several modes of advancing greater synchronicity across borders in international relations. One possible option is a major superpower using its clout in a largely unipolar setting to facilitate greater policy coordination. Another possibility is for such coordination to be supported by global international institutions such as the UN, the WTO, Bretton Woods institutions, etc. Other options include coordination across the multiplicity of all countries of the global economy as well as across regional integration arrangements and institutions.
Attaining greater synchronicity across countries will necessitate changes in the global governance framework, which currently is characterized by weak multilateral institutions at the top level and a fragmented framework of governance at the level of countries. What may be needed is a greater scope accorded to regional integration arrangements that may facilitate greater coordination of synchronicity at the regional level as well as across regions. The advantage of providing greater weight to the regional institutions in dealing with global economic downturns emanates from their greater efficiency in coordinating an anti-crisis response at the regional level via investment/infrastructure projects as well as macroeconomic policy coordination. Regional development institutions also have a comparative advantage in leveraging regional interdependencies to promote economic recovery.
In conclusion, the global economy has arguably become more fragmented as a result of the Covid pandemic. The multiplicity of country models of dealing with the pandemic, the “vaccine competition”, the breaking up of global value chains and their nationalization and regionalization all point in the direction of greater localization and self-sufficiency. At the same time there is a need from greater synchronicity across countries particularly in the context of the current pandemic crisis. Regional integration arrangements and institutions could serve to facilitate such coordination in economic policy within and across the major regions of the world economy.
From our partner RIAC
A New Strategy for Ukraine
Authors: Anna Bjerde and Novoye Vremia
Four years ago, the World Bank prepared a multi-year strategy to support Ukraine’s development goals. This was a period of recovery from the economic crisis of 2014-2015, when GDP declined by a cumulative 16 percentage points, the banking sector collapsed, and poverty and other measures of insecurity spiked. Indeed, we noted at the time that Ukraine was at a turning point.
Four years later, despite daunting internal and external challenges, including an ongoing pandemic, Ukraine is a stronger country. It has proved more resilient to unpredictable challenges and is better positioned to achieve its long-term development vision. This increased capacity is first and foremost the result of the determination of the Ukrainian people.
The World Bank is proud to have joined the international community in supporting Ukraine during this period. I am here in Kyiv this week to launch a new program of assistance. In doing this, we look back to what worked and how to apply those lessons going forward. In Ukraine—as in many countries—the chief lesson is that development assistance is most effective when it supports policies and projects which the government and citizens really want.
This doesn’t mean only easy or even non-controversial measures; rather, it means we engage closely with government authorities, business, local leaders, and civil society to understand where policy reforms may be most effective in removing obstacles to growth and human development and where specific projects can be most successful in delivering social services, particularly to the poorest.
Looking back over the past four years in Ukraine, a few examples stand out. First, agricultural land reform. For the past two decades, Ukraine was one of the few countries in the world where farmers were not free to sell their land.
The prohibition on allowing farmers to leverage their most valuable asset contributed to underinvestment in one of Ukraine’s most important sources of growth, hurt individual landowners, led to high levels of rural unemployment and poverty, and undermined the country’s long-term competitiveness.
The determination by the President and the actions by the government to open the market on July 1 required courage. This was not an easy decision. Powerful and well-connected interests benefited from the status quo; but it was the right one for Ukrainian citizens.
A second area where we have been closely involved is governance, both with respect to public institutions and the rule of law, as well as the corporate governance of state-owned banks and enterprises. Poll after poll in Ukraine going back more than a decade revealed that strengthening public institutions and creating a level playing field for business was a top priority.
World Bank technical assistance and policy financing have supported measures to restore liability for illicit enrichment of public officials, to strengthen existing anticorruption agencies such as NABU and NACP, and to create new institutions, including the independent High-Anticorruption Court.
We are also working with government to ensure the integrity of state-owned enterprises. Our support to the government’s unbundling of Naftogaz is a good example; assistance in establishing supervisory boards in state-owned banks is another. We hope our early dialogue on modernizing the operations of Ukrzaliznytsia will be equally beneficial.
As we begin preparation of a new strategy, the issues which have guided our ongoing work—strengthening markets, stabilizing Ukraine’s fiscal and financial accounts; and providing inclusive social services more efficiently—remain as pressing today as they were in 2017. Indeed, the progress which has been achieved needs to continue to be supported as they frequently come under assault from powerful interests.
At the same time, recent years have highlighted emerging challenges where we hope to deepen and expand our engagement. First, COVID-19 has underscored the importance of our long partnership in health reform and strengthening social protection programs.
The changes to the provision of health care in Ukraine over recent years has helped mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and will continue to make Ukrainians healthier. Government efforts to better target social spending to the poor has also made a difference. We look forward to continuing our support in both areas, including over the near term through further support to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.
Looking ahead, the challenge confronting us all is climate change. Here again, our dialogue with the government has positioned us to help, including to achieve Ukraine’s ambitious commitment to reduce carbon emissions. During President Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington in early September we discussed operations to strengthen the electricity sector; a program to transition from coal power to renewables; municipal energy efficiency investments; and how to tap into Ukraine’s unique capacity to produce and store hydrogen energy. This is a bold agenda, but one that can be realized.
I have been gratified by my visit to Kyiv to see first-hand what has been achieved in recent years. I look forward to our partnership with Ukraine to help realize this courageous vision of the future.
Originally published in Ukrainian language in Novoye Vremia, via World Bank
Russia, China and EU are pushing towards de-dollarization: Will India follow?
Authors: Divyanshu Jindal and Mahek Bhanu Marwaha*
The USD (United States Dollar) has been the world’s dominant currency since the conclusion of the second world war. Dollar has also been the most sought reserve currency for decades, which means it is held by central banks across the globe in significant quantities. Dollar is also primarily used in cross-border transactions by nations and businesses. Without a doubt, US dollar’s dominance is a major reason for the US’ influence over public and private entities operating around the world. This unique position not only makes US the leader in the financial and monetary system, but also provides incomparable leverage when it comes to coercive ability to shape decisions taken by governments, businesses, and institutions.
However, this dynamic is undergoing gradual and visible changes with the emergence of China, slowdown in the US economy, European Union’s independent policy assertion, Russia-US detachment, and increasing voices from across the world to create a polycentric world and financial system in which hegemonic capacities can be muted. The world is witnessing de-dollarisation attempts and ambitions, as well as the rise of digital or cryptocurrencies at an increasing pace today.
With Russia, China and EU leading the way in the process of de-dollarisation, it needs to be argued whether India, currently among the most dollarized countries (in invoicing), will take cue from the global trends and push towards de-dollarisation as well.
The dominant role of dollar in the global economy provides US disproportionate amount of influence over other economies. As international trade needs a payment and financial system to take place, any nation in position to dictate the terms and policies over these systems can create disturbances in trade between other players in the system. This is how imposition of sanctions work in theory.
The US has for long used imposition of sanctions as a tool to achieve foreign policy and goals, which entails restricting access to US-led services in payment and financial transaction processing domains.
In recent years, several nations have started opposing the unilateral decisions taken by the US, a trend which accelerated under the former president Donald Trump’s tenure. He withdrew US from the JCPOA deal between Iran and US, aimed at Iran’s compliance with nuclear discipline and non-proliferation. Albeit US withdrawal, other signatories like EU, Russia, and China expressed discontent towards the unilateral stance by the US and stayed committed towards the deal and have desired for continued engagements with Iran in trade and aid.
Similarly, the sanctions imposed on Russia in the aftermath of the Crimean conflict in 2014 did not find the reverberations among allies to the extent that US had wanted. While EU members had switched to INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) which acts as a special-purpose vehicle to facilitate non-USD trade with Iran to avoid US sanctions, EU nations like Germany continue to have deep trade ties with Russia, and EU remains the largest investor as well the biggest trade partner for Russia, with trade taking place in euros, instead of dollars.
Further, despite the close US-EU relations, EU has started its own de-dollarization push. This became more explicit when earlier this year, EU announced plans to prioritize the euro as an international and reserved currency, in direct competition with dollar.
Trajectories of Russia, China, and EU’s de-dollarisation push
Russia has emerged as the nation with the most vigorous policies oriented towards de-dollarization. In 2019, the then Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had invited Russia’s partners to cooperate towards a mechanism for switching to use of national currencies when it comes to transactions between the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). It must be noted that in Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which functions as a Russian-led trade bloc, more than 70 percent of the settlements are happening in national currencies. Further, in recent years, Russia has also switched to settlements in national currencies with India (for arms contracts) and the two traditionally strong defence partners are aiming at exploring technology as means for payment in national currencies.
Russia’s push to detach itself from the US currency can also be seen in the transforming nature of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves where Russia for the first time had more gold reserves than dollars according to the 2018 data (22 percent dollars, 23 percent gold, 33 percent Euros, 12 percent Yuan). As per the statement by Russian Finance Minister in 2021, Russia aims to hold 40 percent euro, 30 percent yuan, 20 percent gold and 5 percent each of Japanese yen and British pound. In comparison, China holds a significant amount of dollar denominated assets as forex reserves (50 to 60 percent) and has the US as its top export market with which trade takes place mostly in US dollars. Moreover, Russia has also led the push by creating its own financial messaging system- SPFS (The System for Transfer of Financial Messages) and a new national electronic payment system – Mir, which has witnessed an exponential rise in its use.
While China-Russia trade significantly depends on euros instead of their own national currencies (even though use of national currencies is slowly rising), instead of pushing the Chinese national currency Renminbi (RMB), Beijing is aiming towards establishing itself as the first nation to issue a sovereign digital currency, which would help China to engage in cross border payments without depending on the US financial systems. Thus, for China, digital currency seems to be the route towards countering the dollar dominance as well as to increase its own clout by leading the way for an alternate global financial system operating in digital currencies. It needs to be noted here that EU has succeeded in internationalizing the euro and this can be seen in the fact that EU-Russia trade as well as Russia-China trade occurs predominately in euros now.
Will India follow suit?
Indian economy’s dynamic with dollar is different than other major economies in the world today. Unlike China or Russia (or EU and Japan), which hold dollars in significant amounts, India’s reserve is not resulted by an export surplus. While others accumulate dollars from their earnings of trade surplus, India maintains a large forex reserve even though India imports less than it exports. In India’s case, the dollar reserves come through infusion of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI), which reflects the confidence of foreign investors in India’s growth prospects. However, accumulation of dollar reserves through this route (which helps in offsetting the current deficit faced in trade), India remains vulnerable to policy changes by other nations’ monetary policies which are beyond India’s own control. For instance, it has been often highlighted that a tightening of the US monetary policy leads to capital outflows (capital flight) from India, thus impacting India adversely.
New Dehi has resisted a de-dollarization push for long. Back in 2009, when Russia and China had started the push via BRIC mechanism (Brazil, Russia, India, China grouping), it was argued that New Delhi would not like to upset Washington, especially after the historic US-India civil nuclear agreement was signed just a year before in 2008 -for full civil nuclear cooperation between the two nations.
Further, currency convertibility is an important part of global commerce as it opens trade with other countries and allows a government to pay for goods and services in a currency that may not be the buyer’s own. Non-convertible currency creates difficulties for participating in international market as the transactions take longer routes for processing (which in case of dollar transactions, is controlled by US systems).
Just like Chinese renminbi, Indian rupee is also not yet fully convertible at the exchange markets. While this means that India can control its burden of foreign debt, and inflow of capital for investment purposes in its economy, it also means an uneasy access to capital, less liquidity in financial market, and less business opportunities.
It can be argued that just like the case of China and Russia, India can also look towards having a digital currency in the near future, and some signs for this are already visible. India can also look towards having an increased share of euros and gold in its foreign exchange reserves, a method currently being used by both China and Russia.
An increasing number of voices are today pointing towards the arrival of the Asian age (or century). With China now being the leading economic power in the world, US economy on a slowdown, and emergence of an increasing polycentric structure in world economy, the dominance of dollar is bound to witness a shake-up. In order for global systems to remain in sync with the transforming economic order, structural changes like control over leading economic organisations (like IMF and World Bank) will become increasingly desirable.
With an increasing number of nations now looking towards digital currencies and considering a change in the mix of their foreign exchange reserves, a general trend is now visible even if it would not mean an end to dollar’s dominance in the immediate future. As the oil and gas trade in international markets also start shifting from dollar, geopolitical balance of power is expected to witness a shift after decades of US dominance.
Major geopolitical players like China, Russia and EU have already started their journey to counter the dominance of dollar, and the strings of US influence on political decisions that come with it. According to Chinese media, Afghanistan’s reconstruction after US-withdrawal can also accelerate the global de-dollarization push as nations like Saudi Arabia might look for establishing funds for assisting Afghanistan in non-dollar currencies. So, conflict areas highlight another avenue where de-dollarization push will find a testing arena in coming times.
India has several options for initiating its de-dollarization process. Starting from Russia-India transactions, trade with Iran, EAEU, BRICS and SCO members in national or digital currencies can also become a reality in near future. Considering India’s present dollar dependence, whether US sees India’s move towards de-dollarisation as a direct challenge to US-India relations, or accepts it as a shift in the global realities, has to be seen.
*Mahek Bhanu Marwaha is a master’s student in Diplomacy, Law and Business program at the OP Jindal Global University, India. Her research interests revolve around Indian and Chinese foreign policies and trade relations.
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