Week in Review
5 October 2018
ROUGH WATERS. There has been another run-in between China and the United States in the South China Sea. On Sunday, a Chinese naval vessel came within 50 metres of an American destroyer, which was conducting Freedom of Navigation Operations (FoNOPs). This marks the twelfth U.S. FoNOP and comes after President Trump has increased the frequency of the operations. Britain, Japan, Australia, and Singapore, among other others, have conducted varying drills within the same waters recently. As claims become increasingly assertive, the area to avoid clashes shrinks and as Chinese and U.S. values continue to diverge, tensions rise. Many scholars have deemed the South China Sea the next flashpoint for major great power conflict and it is tempting to see why.
THE NEW NAFTA. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is the new name for a modest revision of the previous trade agreement between the North American neighbours. Now that the drawn-out negotiations have ended, it is unclear if the three states are better off, but they certainly could have been worse off. In the end, President Trump can use the new name and slight adjustments to demonstrate his ‘superior’ negotiation skills to his base, while Canada and Mexico escape the process relatively well-off for two states that had relatively little negotiation power compared to the heft of the United States. It will likely lead to Canada and Mexico diversifying their markets since the agreement can be suspended after ten years if one of the signatories desires so. Otherwise the agreement looks similar to other modern trade deals, updating rules on digital products and adds protections to intellectual property.
A CHAIN REACTION OF NATURAL DISASTERS. Indonesia has been hit with some of the most serious natural disasters in recent memory, culminating in a deadly week for the archipelagic state. After experiencing an earthquake and volcanic eruption last month, in the past week, there have been 18 earthquakes with a magnitude of five or higher as well as a tsunami. Donggala and Palu were the worst hit cities, both less than 100km from the epicentre of a 7.5 magnitude earthquake. The tsunami’s veracity is still mystifying experts, with a height of six metres and speeds around 800kph, an underwater landslide is the best explanation. These series of disasters have killed at least 1400 in the past week. Yet, it pales in comparison to a Tsunami that killed 220 000 in 2004. Most natural disasters’ severity is contributed to climate change, but in this scenario, it is only a dangerous area of the globe, subject to 19 of the 200 6.0 magnitude earthquakes in the past year. The tragedy is due to the poor living conditions for much of the state, the inability to move citizens preemptively is difficult, and the ability of the government to disseminate information about impending disasters is insufficient.
$15 MINIMUM WAGE FOR AMAZON. Jeff Bezos, known for his wealth, has created a $15 minimum wage for all employees. This will make Senator Bernie Sanders very happy after introducing a bill called the “Stop BEZOS Act” aimed at taxing the company for the public benefits received by the low-paid employees. Bezos is now calling for other employees to match his commitment and his lobbyists are now pressuring for an increase in the federal minimum wage. The company has been under increased political pressure as it makes record gains, but continues to leave its employees behind. Additionally, reports of the poor working conditions feed into the rich man on top of an economic empire in which his employees are treated poorly narrative. Another theory is that since the labour market has become so saturated and Amazon will be hiring 100 000 seasonal employees for the holidays, it adds an incentive for better employment. This may seen progressive, but Amazon is known for its other coercive business maneuvers aimed at forcing governments to bend to its will since the company is so large.
KAVANAUGH SAGA COMING TO AN END. In a vote today, the U.S. Senate voted to move towards a final vote on Kavanaugh Saturday. The one-week FBI investigation that Senator Flake called has concluded with all senators now settling on positions except one. As of now one Republican has flipped, Lisa Murkowski said she will vote against Kavanaugh, while Susan Collins will make her final position clear later today. If Collins flips as well then it would result in a 51-49 vote against the Judge. If she does not, it would be 50-50 with Mike Pence presumably voting to appoint the Judge to the Supreme Court. Interestingly, a new narrative has taken hold that goes beyond the possibility of incrimination due to his alleged sexual assault crimes from his college and high school days. His testimony was fiery and clearly partisan, calling into question how fit he is for Justice regardless of the allegations. Additionally, the truthfulness of his statements are being called into question with additional people coming forward from his past, calling his testimony false.