The Week That Was: Global News in Review

Foreign Policy Brief #110 | By: Ibrahim Castro | January 3, 2024
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Earthquake in Japan

A powerful earthquake hit Japan on New Year’s Day killing at least 55 people, with rescue teams still struggling in freezing temperatures to reach coastal areas where many are believed to remain trapped under thousands of destroyed homes. Japanese officials warned people to stay away from damaged homes because of the risk of continued strong quakes. Japan’s military dispatched 1,000 soldiers to the disaster zones to join rescue efforts.

The Japan Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami warning for the affected areas and lower-level tsunami warnings and advisories for the rest of the western coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu. Although casualty numbers have slowly continued to climb, the prompt public warnings and the quick response from the general public and officials appears to have limited some of the damage and saved lives as people were prepared because the area had been hit by quakes in recent years. The meteorological agency has warned that still more major quakes are likely to hit the area over the next few days.

Ethiopia-Somaliland deal

Somalia has promised to defend its territory by “any legal means” and recalled its ambassador to Ethiopia after Addis Ababa struck a deal with the breakaway region of Somaliland. The deal would give Ethiopia its long sought access to the sea through Somali territory and give Somaliland recognition by a powerful neighboring state. Somalia has called the deal a clear violation of its sovereignty and appealed to the international community for assistance.

Somaliland has been seeking full statehood since claiming independence from Somalia in 1991. The Somaliland independence movement is fiercely opposed by Mogadishu and not recognised internationally. Ethiopia, which today is the most populous landlocked country with no access to the sea, was cut off from the coast after Eritrea seceded and declared independence in 1993 after a three-decade war. Ethiopia’s economy in turn has been constrained by its lack of access to the Red Sea, a narrow strip of water between Africa and the Arabian peninsula. A hindrance it has now tried to overcome through inflaming tensions with a neighboring state.

Argentina’s shock-economic reforms

Argentina’s newly elected far-right President Javier Milei has sent his planned reform bill to Congress proposing far reaching changes for the country. A large number of sectors would be affected if the bill passes, from the country’s tax system, electoral laws and public debt management. The bill contains articles that range from allowing the privatization of 41 public companies, to eliminating the presidential primary vote and introducing a 15% tax on most exports. Among the more controversial reforms, is a call to cede some legislative powers to the presidency until Dec. 31, 2025, with the option to extend these for a further two years.

Among other coming changes to the country’s economic future, under the new Milei administration Argentina formally announced last week that it would not accept the invitation to join the BRICS bloc of developing economies. Argentina was among six countries invited last August to join the bloc made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa to bring the group to an 11-nation economic bloc. Former center-left president Alberto Fernandez, endorsed joining the alliance as an opportunity to reach wider markets as the BRICS countries currently account for about 40% of the world’s population and more than a quarter of the world’s GDP.

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