🌍 The EU and US talk steel
Plus: Mexico gears up for an historic election
⏱️ Around the world in sixty seconds
🇯🇵 Japan: The Japanese space agency launched a lunar probe yesterday (Thursday) with the aim of becoming the fifth country to reach the moon. India completed a similar mission last month.
🇷🇴 Romania: NATO has expressed solidarity with its member Romania, whose territory was hit by debris from a Russian drone attack on neighbouring Ukraine. Romania’s defence minister expressed concern, but said “we need to know how to distinguish between an act of aggression and an incident”.
🇲🇲 Myanmar: A military court has sentenced a photojournalist to 20 years in prison for his coverage of cyclone Mocha, which made landfall in May and killed over 140 people. The journalist’s editor-in-chief at Myanmar Now said the sentence was evidence that “the press has been completely quashed” under the military junta.
🇧🇷 Brazil: Authorities have launched an operation to remove thousands of cows from illegally-acquired rainforest. Deforestation rates in the Amazon dropped by 66% in August compared to a year earlier.
🇹🇷 Turkey: Ankara has reportedly agreed to handle a million metric tons of grain that Russia plans to send to Africa at a discounted price. The scheme comes after Russia declined to renew the Black Sea grain deal in July.
🇺🇸 US | Geo-economics
The EU and US are welding a steel deal back together
US and EU officials are attempting to resolve their long-running steel dispute by agreeing to impose tough new green criteria on Chinese steel.
What’s the backstory? In 2018, Washington imposed extensive tariffs on imported steel and aluminium, arguing on national security grounds that US industry had to be protected from unfair competition:
China’s subsidies for its own producers had led to an oversupply, and
This drove global steel prices down, harming suppliers elsewhere
Why steel and aluminium? It’s a core input for housing, infrastructure, defence, and manufacturing; all sectors closely linked to national power.
Brussels quickly retaliated against the US tariffs, and the two sides then agreed in 2021 to try and settle their dispute by 31 October of this year.
Which brings us to the deal under discussion. It aims to slap tariffs on:
steel that’s benefited from non-market practices (like subsidies), and
‘dirty steel’ (ie, steel produced with high carbon emissions).
Both these criteria would impact China’s steel industry. But the US and EU are struggling to agree on some basics: how to define dirty steel, which tools to use (the EU likes carbon pricing), and how to comply with WTO rules.
If they can’t agree by the end of October, billions in US tariffs and EU retaliatory measures could snap back into place.
Intrigue's take: In diplomacy, trade is one of those areas where everyone plays hardball, even among the closest of allies. Why? The impacts back home are so tangible: jobs, businesses, farms, factories, towns, elections…
But steel is particularly tricky. Tensions have been around for years: JFK had a very public spat with the US steel sector in 1962. And the stakes are high: the EU itself emerged from a steel pact that was aimed at avoiding another war.
Word on the street is these talks aren’t going to plan. And elections next year in both the US and the EU will only make the negotiations tougher.
Also worth noting:
In 2022, China accounted for over 50% of the world’s steel production, ahead of the EU with 8%.
📰 How newspapers covered…
This weekend’s G20 summit
🇲🇽 Mexico | Politics
Xóchitl Gálvez (L) will face Claudia Sheinbaum (R) in next year’s presidential election.
Your way-too-early Mexico election preview
The campaign for Mexico’s presidency has kicked up a gear this week, with the country’s two major political forces - the incumbent Morena party, and the Broad Front for Mexico coalition - picking their candidates.
Let’s meet them:
Claudia Sheinbaum, the former mayor of Mexico City, will represent the populist, left-leaning Morena party of Mexico’s current president (‘AMLO’), who’s term-limited from running again, and
Senator Xóchitl Gálvez will represent the Broad Front for Mexico, a coalition of three parties from across the ideological spectrum that dominated politics before Morena’s recent rise.
So Mexico will likely elect its first female president next year. Early polling suggests Sheinbaum is the front-runner, helped by her ties to AMLO (one of Mexico’s most popular presidents in history). But voters are still getting to know Gálvez, who has an aspirational story and an untainted image.
Intrigue’s take: One of our team (Jeremy) served as a diplomat in Mexico from 2010. Back then, AMLO had just lost an election and seemed to some like a spent force, while Mexico’s old parties remained dominant, bitter rivals.
Few would’ve believed AMLO would soon be president, popular, and helming a new party, forcing the dominant parties to unite just to mount a credible opposition. But that’s democracy: full of plot twists.
Also worth noting:
➕ Extra Intrigue
Some weekend recommendations from Team Intrigue. If you have:
3 mins: Listen to ‘Back on 74’ from British electronic band Jungle for a groovy start to your weekend.
10 mins: Read about how manufacturers are designing planes for fewer or even no pilots.
1 hr 15 mins: Listen to this episode of ‘Cold War Conversations’ about growing up in East Germany while dreaming of West Germany.
💬 Quote of the day
European parliament president Roberta Metsola has warned that Europe’s centrist parties will lose ground to populists in next year’s EU elections unless they consider the everyday costs of climate regulations and other EU rules. The Maltese politician is widely seen as a future contender for EU higher office.
🗳️ Quiz time!
1) Which is the most abundant metal on Earth?
2) Tungsten has the highest metal melting point of...
3) Which of the following metals will melt in the palm of your hand?
Answers: 1-b, 2-b, 3-a.
✍️ Corrections corner
Our sincere thanks to Adam, Amanda, Art, Gordon, Janet, Jeremy, Kathleen, Nan, and Sharmaine for pointing out that one of the two defendants in Canada’s Freedom Convoy trial is a woman (ie, not the “two men” we referenced yesterday).