🌍 The EU and US talk steel

Plus: Mexico gears up for an historic election

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Today’s briefing is a 5 min read:

  • 🇺🇸 The US and EU talk steel.

  • 🇲🇽 Mexico’s next president will (probably) be a woman.

  • Plus: Centrists revolt, how the papers are covering this weekend’s G20 Summit in New Delhi, and planes without pilots.

⏱️ Around the world in sixty seconds

  1. 🇯🇵 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.

  2. 🇷🇴 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”.

  3. 🇲🇲 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.

  4. 🇧🇷 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.

  5. 🇹🇷 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:

📰 How newspapers covered…

This weekend’s G20 summit

Noida, India

“Xi’s skipping of G20 Summit may have more to do with China than with India”

Washington DC, US

“The G-20 summit is a huge global branding exercise for Modi’s India”

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

“Lula left for India’s G20 Summit, Brazil to take leadership”

International Intrigue takes New York City!

We’re taking you inside the United Nations.

Our co-founder and CEO John Fowler will be on the ground in New York with the Intrigue team later this month, covering the 2023 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

While in town, we’ll produce a bonus pop-up newsletter (Intrigue @ UNGA 2023) covering all the action with our trademark flair.

  • The extra newsletter will be running during ‘high-level week’ at the UN from 18-22 September, when world leaders descend on NYC.

🇲🇽 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:

  • Morena ended the 94-year governorship of Mexico’s once-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party in the country’s most populous state in June.

  • Sheinbaum’s rival in her party’s primary, former foreign minister and Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard, denounced the party process.

🎧 Today on Intrigue Outloud

Can the G20 actually address big global issues?

Extra Intrigue

Some weekend recommendations from Team Intrigue. If you have:

💬 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?

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2) Tungsten has the highest metal melting point of...

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3) Which of the following metals will melt in the palm of your hand?

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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).

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