Restructuring the AGOA Partnership: Lessons from China

By Shemei Ndawula

I’m I a little late to the party? It seems all the experts have already weighed in on the recent move by the Biden administration to exclude Uganda from the African Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) platform. Just last week the inevitable happened with Uganda being struck of the list of AGOA participating nations. AGOA  is a trade preference program that grants duty-free access to the US market for eligible sub-Saharan African countries. It was enacted in 2000 and has been extended several times, most recently until 2025.

This platform is supposed to promote economic growth, development, and integration in Africa by encouraging exports, investment, and good governance. However, after more than two decades of implementation, AGOA has in many ways failed to deliver on its promises and becomes increasingly irrelevant and ineffective in the face of new global challenges and opportunities.

I believe AGOA, like most United States backed interventions in the region often marketed as “silver bullets to Africa’s problems” has always had its limitations. Like most of these projects it often comes down to taking money from the poor people of a rich country and giving it to the rich people of a poor country. On top of which there’s often so many explicit and implicit strings attached that sometimes the line between diplomatic aid and diplomatic coercion become a little blurred.

Despite Uganda getting large sums of foreign aid from the United States every year, there’s little that the ordinary Ugandan can show of the impact. Uganda is or has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of United States aid programs being the 13th largest “earner” of US foreign aid on the continent. However, a casual walk through Kampala will show a glaring disparity between these figures and the reality of an average Ugandan. It is high time that the Biden administration rethinks its aid policy especially within the region.

I really wonder why more development partners are not looking into adopting a more Chinese-like approach to bilateral aid which could offer greater incentives and support for African countries to engage in trade and investment.

It has been argued by several international observers that AGOA has failed to properly utilize investments, with only 18 of the participant countries developing national strategies on how to benefit from the program. This disparity reflects the complacency most countries have cultivated white such programs.

Meanwhile the Chinese approach to foreign trade especially with Uganda focuses on targeted investments and infrastructure development to drive economic growth. These aid projects, specifically in the infrastructure sector have got a much wider trickle down effect in the national economy.

I dare say that in the slightly over two years, the Chinese constructed Entebbe Expressway has been open to the public has directly benefited more Ugandans than the over two decades of the AGOA initiative.

The Chinese-like approach to foreign aid also focuses on fostering economic growth and development without imposing strict governance requirements. It seems counterintuitive to use an economic platform to address governance disparities between two countries.

There is need to  focus on strengthening regional institutions and promoting cooperation among African nations to create a more integrated and prosperous continent which is a vine of great opportunity the AGOA partnership should have tapped in.

To restructure the AGOA partnership along the lines of the effective Chinese foreign policy model, the United States should consider the following steps:

Reevaluate the current AGOA criteria and reduce the emphasis on frivolous governance requirements allowing African countries to focus on economic growth and development. Certainly as a diverse continent, each country has a rich history of governance modules which are better suited for our governance than anything else that’s being imported.

It would also be ideal to make investments in value-added manufacturing and industrialisation to help African countries diversify their economies and create more sustainable jobs.This way, we will certainly have more to bring to the table when it comes to trade. The Chinese are already doing this with early success in the industrial parks of Kapeeka and Mbale where they have set up  and operate.

Promote regional integration and strengthen regional institutions to foster cooperation and development among African nations. The AGOA  platform should also explore  targeted incentives and support to encourage African countries to effectively utilize the benefits of the AGOA partnership and develop national strategies for economic growth.

Our generation is fortunate enough to stand as witnesses to the crumbling of the old world order, The People’s Republic of China has been ahead of this curve with the Belt and Road Initiative as well as the South-South Cooperation and if other nations and economic aid platforms would like to have a similar impact on Africa, they may have to study and integrate these strategies within their own development strategies to achieve better results.

The writer is a research fellow at Sino-Uganda Research Centre.

Why U.S’ Democracy Summit Will Not Deliver

Why U.S’ Democracy Summit Will Not Deliver

With the U.S positioning itself as chair of “saints,” it even cherry picked who should get a seat at table during last week’s democracy summit, effectively turning it into summit of friends.  Hungarian embassy in Washington branded U.S’ decision to cherry-pick attendees and locking out others “domestic politics and disrespectful,” a claim Biden administration officials refuted.

Arguably, no matter nice and diplomatic phrases summit organisers use(d), the summit was a cobweb of politics and U.S’ libido dominandi – the insatiable desire to dominate others under pretence of promoting democracy. This is the most probable considering that to date, there are millions of Americans who don’t believe president Biden was validly elected in what resulted into January 6th Capitol insurrection.

Now that democracy summit is done, one may ask: Should the world expect much? In my view, NO! Not that I know no the difference between democracy and authoritarian regimes. I know and of course, I even have a strong preference.

However, going by history, one can predict that president Biden’s democracy summit will instead bring more chaos in the world. Firstly, the summit will arguably guide U.S’ foreign policy. Though Biden administration is new, in U.S’ history, their foreign policy hardly significantly changes irrespective of which party occupies White House.

U.S’ foreign Policy has always been shaped by Washington’s urge to dominate the world. Broadly, most so-called democracies’ foreign policy is shaped by their imperialistic ideas and despite their lectures about democracy, their interventions in name of promoting the so-called democratic values has always largely ended creating anarchy, global insecurity and at times collapse of states as we saw in Libya, Iraq, Somalia and recently Afghanistan.

If critically analysed, one can also conclude that this summit started by dividing the world into two opposing camps; one the U.S demonized as being undemocratic and anti-free world and the one it claims to lead calling itself the side advocating for a “free” world.

It is already clear that president Biden’s democracy summit has started shaping U.S’ foreign policy with tones of confrontation. It is not a surprise that less than a week after the summit, G7 foreign ministers whose countries made it Biden’s summit list met in U.K’ city of Liverpool where they sent war tone messages to countries the U.S considers undemocratic with secretary Anthony Blinken warning Russia over what the U.S calls harassing Ukraine; “we are prepared to take the kind of steps we have refrained from taking in the past.” The question one may ask is if it is a coincidence that such threats are coming shortly after the summit which created the side of honourables and dishonourables!  Is it also a coincidence that it is after this summit that both U.S and UK are sending “threatening” messages to Iran to agree to their new terms of the now shacky 2015 Iran Nukes deal the world negotiated and later abandoned by the U.S under Trump administration?

Secondly, it should be recalled that this is not the first time the U.S has championed this kind of summit. In 2000, the U.S started the so-called The Community of Democracies and indeed held a couple of conferences and going by their speeches, they were well intended as they talked about human rights. However, it later became clear that the U.S had special interests quite different from the rest which the U.S wanted to pass using their support. Indeed, just three years later, the world witnessed Iraq war which U.S and her cheerers in that group claimed wanted to save Iraqis from what they called a dictator, abuser of human rights and also save the world weapons of mass distraction which later came to be a hoax and instead caused untold suffering, destabilized the region and global peace that consequently led to birth of ISIL.

From the above, it is clear that the endgame of U.S’ democracy summits have nothing to do with creating a democratic world where human rights are respected, international norms observed or to ensure a peaceful world, not even are such summits meant to set a stage to create a world free of nuclear weapons. Aren’t the so-called bacons of democracy that are close to making Australia own nuclear weapons to be specific nuclear submarines under Washington and London supervision in their AUKUS pact? Does introduction of nukes to new countries sound like a pillar of democracy?

Away from that, political elites in the U.S consciously or otherwise confuse their own perceptions of their own country with perceptions that everyone else in the world has. They proud themselves as beacon of democracy in the world which rightly or otherwise is wrong. This is because, many people world over have quite different view of the U.S compared to what Americans themselves think of their country.

Put differently, the U.S lecturing others on the need to be democratic looks like they are confused and don’t know what is happening in their home. For example, on 8th December – just hours before democracy summit, U.S senate rejected a bipartisan bid in a 30-67 vote attempt to stop U.S from selling Saudi Arabia weapons worth over $650M despite U.S institutions alleging human rights violations in Saudi. Surely, do arms spit flowers?

While the summit ostensibly meant to champion rights of people including protecting rights of journalists was on, a court in London ruled in favour of U.S’ government request to have whistle-blower, Julian Assange extradited to the U.S to face charges of exposing U.S’ gross human rights abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S government provided diplomatic assurances to U.K in what Lords Burnett of Maldon, lord chief justice, and Lord Justice Holroyde of UK’s high court described as “solemn undertakings offered by one government to another,” while Amnesty International’s Europe director, Nils Muižnieks,  decried court’s decision that “By allowing this appeal, the high court has chosen to accept the deeply flawed diplomatic assurances given by the US that Assange would not be held in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison.” If this is not enough evidence to tell us how skewed U.S and her allies’ democracy is, then probably nothing will.

Just wonder if it is Russia or China that had committed atrocities Assange reported to the world, no doubt Assange would have won Nobel Peace Prize and arguably, president Biden would have hanged his portrait as he addressed his democracy summit. But poor Assange having exposed double standards of ‘honourables,’ he will most likely die in prison. Crime?  He told the world what democracy preachers did in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While quoting the civil rights activist, the late Congressman John Lewis, president Biden told those who attended his summit that: “Democracy is not a state, it is an act.”  “Democracy is not a state, it is an act.” He was right! Democracy should not just mean elections which largely favour the rich. Talking about democracy without involving people it is simply an abstract concept the U.S is promoting. We should not only look at democracy in American political elites’ definition. We must breakdown democracy and involve people not just during elections but always. Democracy should mean respecting human rights in its entirety including Assange’s and Snowden’s of this world. It should mean helping people irrespective of colour to develop themselves and address their challenges such including ending absolute poverty. This is what China is doing. It is called whole process democracy.

Today, the world is confronting Covid-19 pandemic. It knows no one’s political affiliation, rich or poor. Strangely, despite shortages of vaccines to support global vaccination campaigns, “beacons” of democracy continue to press for protection of vaccines patents and pressing WHO from engaging Russia, Cuba and China’s vaccine candidates. Instead of addressing such, democracy preachers continue to insist on dominating the world no matter the consequences. In Iran, due to sanctions children continue to die of curable disease due to sanctions related to so-called Iran’s failure to adhere to some countries defined democratic values. In Cuba, we see protesters on streets not demanding for rights but protesting lack of food at a time when Havana is faced with challenges of money yet president Biden is continuing to impose sanctions even tougher than Trump’s to force Havana to bow for Washington.  Therefore, these summits are not about democracy but global dominance.

Allawi Ssemanda is Executive Director Development Watch Centre; a Foreign Policy think tank.




President Xi and Biden Meeting Tomorrow: What Are the Issues and Should We Expect News?

By Allawi Ssemanda

After meeting his Russian counterpart in Geneva, in June this year, U.S president Joe Biden told journalists that there are no secret codes to foreign policy. President Putin on the other hand told journalists; “such meetings are meant to save the world from nuclear destruction” and find solutions to world challenges. All this sounded comical as two leaders supposedly on a mission to save the world failed to hold a joint press conference despite being in the same city. They all addressed press minutes apart where they used sinister arguments and took swipes at each other’s countries.

Back to Xi-Biden virtual meeting! It is coming at a time when relations between the two countries are at its worst. Issues ranging from trade, technology, alleged influence peddling, military activities, origins of Covid-19 and human rights have always been cited as catalyst for animosity between Washington and Beijing. It is coming just days after visitation of U.S lawmakers to Taiwan, an Island China considers its breakaway territory. Indeed, Beijing described the visit an “act of provocation.

This meeting is coming less than two weeks after Pentagon harshly criticised Beijing alleging China tested hypersonic missiles. Indeed, U.S’ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, compared alleged hypersonic missile test to a Sputnik moment, referring to the Soviet satellite launch that sparked a Cold War arms race. Days later, U.S also tested hypersonic missiles it accused China of testing! Indeed, in past few months, the U.S has been busy building military alliances analysts say China is the target. Alliances include AUKUS which will see Washington give Australia nuclear powered submarines and Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) comprising of U.S, Australia, India and Japan.

While Biden administration says is willing to dialogue with Beijing, such talks must be sincere and mutual respect must be at centre. This means the U.S dropping support for separatists in Taipei which China considers a redline. Beijing has already indicated readiness to work with the U.S on condition of mutual respect stressing; both countries will gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation,Cooperation is the only right choice.”

If this is the case, Monday’s meeting will solve the obvious over-the-top ideological rhetoric and provoking hints seen during Trump administration and its failure to understand need for the two world’s leading economies to cooperate in addressing world’s challenges and other crude policy excuses that were overly ineffective and costly for both.

With a more professional and well-coordinated policy processes in Washington, and a president willing to read and absorb briefings of intelligence community and take experts advice, my view is that Monday’s meeting will pave way for further dialogue to address issues that affect the relationship of the two world’s biggest economies.

From military analysis, after U.S’ humiliation in Afghanistan, the U.S is arguably aware that when it comes to protecting national sovereignty, possibly, not even can AUKUS or QUAD can stop Beijing from protecting One China policy.

However, this is not failure to acknowledge that though such meetings are important, it is always not easy to strike a common ground. U.S considers China’s progress unacceptable for Washington fears this will limit her hegemonic tendences and global dominance the U.S enjoyed as unchallenged super power since 1990s. In international politics, the endgame of superpower contestation and claims of protecting human rights and the so-called democracy liberals claim has never been achieving a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons.

The logic that guides the so-called liberals, democrats and superpowers is just the logic of power and schemes on how to maintain dominance. History has taught us that when it comes to foreign policy, those who claim to champion democracy are even worse than those they brand autocratic. Arguably, some democracies’ foreign policy is largely characterised by imperialistic tendences – colonialism is the best example here. If compared with those they brand authoritarian, is mutual benefit and improving lives and livelihoods of people not just in home countries but globally.

What is striking is that as the so-called liberals attempt to spread their dominance and control emergence of ambitious powers in different regions and continents plus in their formerly strongholds, propaganda and politics comes in to play and in long run, lives of many have been cut short.  

With such background, there is need for the U.S to redefine its China policy and agree to bitter fact that gone are the days when they freely dominated entire Asian region. Pondering at this, a few questions come up: Will the Biden Administration follow Trump’s path of demonising and blaming China, referring to Beijing as U.S’ existential threat?

Blame China is tact often employed by both Republicans and Democrats in their effort to scare Americans so as to get their support for huge defence budget. The notion that China is a threat to the U.S and the world order is definitely unjustified. Chinese president Xi Jinping has been clear that China does not seek to dominate. Wonder, why would Beijing want to disrupt current order as some hawks in Washington claim yet the same order enabled Beijing navigate to move to the top?

With this, one can confidently say the fears that Washington claims Beijing poses are inaccurate, and grossly exaggerated. This lays a foundation for a second question: Will Biden appreciate such facts and accurately define where and how China is a threat to Washington as some hawks claim? Such an approach will present Washington in a more sober and pragmatic stance and hence, ease relations and any dealings with Beijing. Otherwise, the Biden presidency risks being swallowed with unsubstantiated characterisation at Capitol Hill who believe in Libido dominand concept – the urge to dominate and back those who don’t believe in a fair competition which will prioritise nothing but a zero-sum game, move with containment methods instead of the much-needed constructive forms of engagement which would bring positive results for both.

The other key question is: Biden administration accept the new bitter reality that gone is the era of Unipolar when the U.S enjoyed military dominance across maritime areas of Asia and that such an era will certainly not return in the near future. It is important to note that U.S politicians still reflexively boast of America’s military might and the supposed necessity of the U.S to maintain unchanged level of their military dominance in the region of the Asian Pacific while moving to China’s borders as they claim their so-called “freedom of action”. Arguably, it is naïve of Capitol Hill politicians to maintain that poorly conceived notion – that U.S military predominance can help to ensure order, and it is also delusional to imagine that the U.S has that much needed financial muscle of ensuring they retain the kind of military prowess very close to China as they wish to.

The open secret is that the world is headed to a de facto balance of power in Western Pacific between U.S and allies on one hand and China on the other. The trouble is that by nature, such balances often are risky – tempting each side to test its strength and leverage. In this case, the issue of Taiwan and Chinese maritime disputes with the United States and her allies may become a reality. However, if the Biden approach to the Taiwan question is respecting China’s one country policy, these talks will produce good results.

In sum, U.S’ problem is not China and has never been China. It is what John J. Mearsheimer called “Tragedy of Great Power Politics” – that is, a former super power failing to contain emerging powers.

The writer is the executive director Development Watch Centre, a foreign policy think tank, and author of Global Governance and Norm Contestation: How BRICS is Reshaping World Order.



The Miami-Haiti Connection: Another mercenary, another day.

By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos

Emerging details suggest that President Moïse’s assassins were Colombians hired by a security firm in Florida. Sound familiar?

This weekend we found out that the Colombian men arrested in connection with the assassination of Haitian president Jovenal Moïse may have been hired by a Florida private security company with Venezuelan connections. Furthermore, they might have been deployed on behalf of an Haitian ex-pat in Miami who wanted to replace Moïse as president.

Why does this sound so familiar?

Maybe because it was only last year that 13 men led an unsuccessful coup attempt — known cheekily as the “Bay of Piglets” — against Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. Their alleged leader was a former Navy Seal, who also runs a security company in Florida. Jordan Goudreau was allegedly working with ex-Venezuelan military exiles who wanted to help overthrow Maduro for opposition leader Juan Guaido (he has denied any involvement). They led an elaborate plan to train fellow ex-Venezuelan military soldiers at a training camp in Colombia. Goudreau wasn’t on the boat that day when the May 2020 plot was foiled, but two former Green Berets (ages 34 and 41) were, and they are doing 20 years in a Venezuelan jail right now, convicted on charges of conspiracy, illicit trafficking of weapons, and terrorism.

The details in both stories are sordid, but the common thread is this: guns for hire have always been around but after our 9/11 wars the proliferation of private military companies with sophisticated weapons, well-trained leaders, and money seeming to burn cannot be ignored. As Sean McFate, author of The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order (2015) likes to say, it would be impossible to stuff this genie back into the bottle. Not only did we conjure the djinn of the modern industry by outsourcing security throughout the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — think Blackwater, Dyncorp, Triple Canopy — but made it a lucrative opportunity for the millions of veterans of those wars. And it’s not just an American game. Plenty of companies working with governments all over the world see the benefit of waging conflicts under the radar with hired mercenaries — just ask the Russians. According to reports, the Wagner group has been operating in Ukraine, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Madagascar, and yes, in 2019 they were reportedly working to protect Maduro in Venezuela.

And we cannot forget about our prince of peace, Erik Prince, Blackwater founder, who Time magazine just reported was allegedly approaching the Ukrainian government in 2020 with plans to build a private army to help them against the Russians.The Ukrainians smartly turned them down, as did the Trump administration when Prince was shopping around a plan to outsource Afghanistan. The Somali government shut down a Prince-related contract in 2011. Meanwhile, he was recently accused of backing an armed (but aborted) operation that would have helped insurgent Khalifa Haftar overthrow the government in Libya (in violation of UN arms embargo) in 2019. Supposedly, he even offered his services to Maduro, a year before Goudreau’s silly plot.

But the UAE was glad to take Prince’s sellswords for royal bodyguards in 2011. And guess where they were from (and trained)? Colombia. Soldiers trained there were later sent to fight (and die) in Yemen for the Emiratis.

Privateering is a lucrative business. It’s also a highly amoral trade in which governments, non-state actors, and private citizens with the right amount of money can wage an insurgency, repress local populations, or assassinate the leader of another country. The highest bidder wins.

While we are still just learning the Miami connection to Moïse’s murder, the very mention of a private security firm raises some uncomfortable questions about financing and the ease with which armed assailants can be trained and armed and transported around for these missions. As McFate would like to say, this won’t be the last time.

“A world with more mercenaries is one with more war and suffering,” he has said.

Let’s just hope Erik Prince doesn’t have his finger prints on this one. We sort of created him.




Joe Biden can display a new diplomacy-first US foreign policy by re-engaging Cuba

By John McAuliff.

Five years ago, I stood in a mostly Cuban crowd outside of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, excitedly watching our flag raised for the first time in 54 years. Two hours later, I was at a celebratory party at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence, a beautiful building purportedly designed, but never used, as a winter White House for FDR. Scores of official and non-official Americans who had worked for normalization were there, along with diplomats from other countries. No one from the Cuban government attended because the embassy chose to invite a few prominent dissidents.

The path to this day had not been easy due to political distrust on both sides, but its success was a tribute to the determination of both Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro. None of us expected that future relations would be simple. However, we never anticipated that virtually everything would be undone by the election of Donald Trump.

Cuba relations will hardly be the largest problem or the first priority of a Biden administration, but it is low hanging fruit. While special interests are loudly in favor or against U.S. engagement with the island, two-thirds of Americans, including a majority of Cuban-Americans, were quietly supportive of President Obama’s normalization path and ready to go further to completely open travel.

Joe Biden can rapidly and effectively build on Obama’s opening. He will do at least as well with personally affected Florida voters by convincing them his goal is a positive functional relationship with the land that is still the home of their parents, children, and other family members. He can counteract the narrow-minded regression of President Trump for whom Cuba policies were seemingly little more than a favor to Marco Rubio and Vladimir Putin.

Biden will be able to signal his concern for the well-being of the people of both nations, his desire to strengthen in practice pro-market reforms, and the need to effectively compete with growing Russian and Chinese influence. His administration could solidify a historic new chapter of post-Monroe Doctrine, post-Platt Amendment U.S. partnership with the hemisphere.

Biden’s campaign is already publicly critical of the Trump administration’s latest punitive pettiness toward Cuba: prohibition of rare private charter flights. Biden himself has told Americas Quarterly, “as president, I will promptly reverse the failed Trump policies that have inflicted harm on the Cuban people and done nothing to advance democracy and human rights.”

Biden will certainly receive support from his vice president. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is among 46 bipartisan cosponsors of a bill to end all restrictions on travel to Cuba.

He can also expect an abrazo, a hug, from the new First Lady, whose moving cultural visit to Camaguey and Havana was portrayed in an Obama White House video.

Biden has four stages of opportunity that will cut the Gordian knot of six decades of intractable mutually destructive U,S,-Cuba relations.

First, during the campaign or right after election, he should announce that immediately upon taking office he will restore Obama’s policies on individual and group travel licenses, cruises, flights to regional cities, remittances, import of agricultural products, international shipping, specific types of investments, and banking and as well as facilitation of visas for educational and cultural exchange.

He should also clarify that Cubans granted visas for family and professional visits and for study in the United States will be deemed ineligible to claim status under the Cuban Adjustment Act, the law that provides legal status to those Cuban nationals who arrive to the United States illegally.  (Depending on U.S. success in controlling COVID-19, an announcement of intention allows planning for the winter season and spring semester by the travel sector and universities.)

Second, within his first year in the White House, Biden should fully restaff an embassy gutted by the Trump administration, which opportunistically exploited inexplicable health problems of U.S. personnel to abandon its responsibility .

He should also reopen consular authority and restore visa availability for immigration and family reunion visits. And Biden should support existing legislation to totally end restrictions on travel and other bills for comparable initiatives in agricultural and medical sales as well as on related financial transactions.

Biden should also enable collaboration in medicine and science, including on anti-COVID research, treatment, and international humanitarian assistance. He can also break new ground by testing and supporting economic reforms such as terminating application of the embargo to privately owned small and medium Cuban enterprises — thereby permitting their exports, imports, and U.S. investments.

Third, within his first two years in officeBiden should align with hemispheric and European goals by achieving through comprehensive negotiations a political settlement in Venezuela and an end to the unilateral U.S. embargo of Cuba.

He should open consulates in at least one Cuban and one U.S. city and allow ferry service between U.S. and Cuban ports. On the media front, he can seek reciprocal dampening of interventionist hostility by state funded publications, broadcasts, and social media, replaced by ongoing multi-sectoral dialog about conflicting human rights values and ideologies.

Finally, within his first term, Biden should follow the road map to restore full Cuban sovereignty of the Guantanamo base that was developed during the Obama administration’s normalization discussions by then-deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes and Alejandro Castro head of Cuba’s National Security Council and Raul’s son.

As the result of the Obama-Castro opening, real differences were emerging in Cuba about whether reconciliation and mutual respect with the U.S. was truly possible or a Trojan Horse. But President Trump’s harsh renewal of Cold War-era hostility foreclosed the discussion.

Closer U.S.-Cuban ties can also help lead to more definitive conclusions about just what happened to American diplomats in Havana regarding the mysterious health issues. The Cubans may be able to help eliminate the problem by identifying and controlling the cause based on Canadian medical and scientific research and private collaboration with U.S. scientists, doctors, and security officials.

A potential Biden administration has an opportunity to move the United States in the right direction, but real trust is impossible as long as the U.S. maintains a devastating unilateral embargo and refuses to restore the Guantanamo base to national sovereignty, consistent with U.S. principles elsewhere in the world.

John McAuliff, Responsible Statecraft.


U.S. Violated Trade Rules With Tariffs on China, World Trade Organization Says.

By Bryce Baschuk, Bloomberg.

The World Trade Organization undercut the main justification for President Donald Trump’s trade war against China, saying that American tariffs on Chinese goods violate international rules.

A panel of three WTO trade experts on Tuesday said the U.S. broke international rules when it imposed tariffs on Chinese goods in 2018. Washington has imposed levies on more than $550 billion in Chinese exports.

The panel said in its report “that the United States had not met its burden of demonstrating that the measures are provisionally justified.”

While the ruling bolsters Beijing’s claims, Washington can effectively veto the decision by lodging an appeal at any point in the next 60 days. That’s because the Trump administration has already paralyzed the WTO’s appellate body, a tactic that has rendered toothless the world’s foremost arbiter of trade.

Section 301

The dispute centers on the Trump administration’s use of a 1970s-era U.S. trade law to unilaterally launch its commercial conflict against China in 2018.

China claimed the tariffs violated the WTO’s most-favored treatment provision because the measures failed to provide the same treatment to all WTO members. China also alleged the duties broke a key dispute-settlement rule that requires countries to first seek recourse from the WTO before imposing retaliatory measures against another country.

The U.S. tariffs against China were authorized under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which empowers the president to levy tariffs and other import restrictions whenever a foreign country imposes unfair trade practices that affect U.S. commerce. The Trump administration has claimed the tariffs were necessary to confront China’s widespread violations of intellectual property rights and forced technology transfer policies.

Though the use of Section 301 isn’t unprecedented, the provision largely fell out of favor in the 1990s after the U.S. agreed to first follow the WTO’s dispute settlement process before it triggered any retaliatory trade actions.

While the European Union has so far been spared U.S. levies based on the controversial Section 301, the 27-nation bloc may breathe a sigh of relief over Tuesday’s WTO verdict. That’s because the Trump administration has threatened to use Section 301 to hit European goods with levies in retaliation over the taxation of digital companies in the EU.


It’s time to end senseless, endless sanctions.

By George A. Lopez

Thirty years ago this week the United Nations Security Council responded to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait with mandatory, comprehensive economic sanctions. By 2000 the UNSC, led by the United States, had imposed powerful embargos in 11 other cases of threats to international peace and security. Despite developing more targeted “smart sanctions” aimed primarily at group and national leaders, elongated sanctions episodes continued to wreak disastrous consequences on civilians through the present day. The Trump Administration’s use of maximum pressure sanctions, which some see as targeted, plus trade sanctions on steroids, have devastated civilians in North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela, thus solidifying wide acceptance that sanctions constitute economic war.

Just as U.S. policy should end our endless wars, sanctions as part of protracted war — as in Iraq and Afghanistan — or sanctions that make war on general populations should also end. Whoever wins the presidency in November must rethink how sanctions can be an essential, yet prudent, tool of U.S. economic statecraft. Such a reformulation should rely on lessons learned from sanctions research and include reconstructing the U.S. government vision and architecture for sanctions policy.

When, why, and how do sanctions work

Sanctions work best when they are one of a number of diverse tools employed to achieve a clearly defined and consistent set of policy goals. Sanctions must not only bite and enrage the targeted group or nation, but actually engage them in continued diplomacy focused on the behavior needed to lift the sanctions. At best, sanctions achieve compliance from their targets in about one-third of cases, with that compliance occurring within two and a half years. Short of full success, the greater the active diplomacy accompanying sanctions, the stronger the constraints stifling the target’s goals.

Historically, multilateral sanctions are more successful than unilateral. Recent decisions by the U.S. to maximize implementation through expanding targeted designations and imposing crippling banking sanctions has led to greater negative impact on civilians, thus eroding international cooperation. Sanctions fail in various ways but most often when the policy goals are diffuse, unrealistic in making multiple demands, or when obsession with adding more sanctions lead sanctions to become the policy, rather than a means to policy.

Understanding the nuances of sanctions success in issue areas important to the U.S. is critical to improving their effectiveness in future U.S. policy. Regarding human rights, neither unilateral nor multilateral sanctions have ever toppled a brutal dictator. Nor have sanctions, by themselves, ever forced rights violators to desist in their worst acts. Most effective, however, are two sanctions strategies. The first lies in the standard mantra, “follow the money,” which most often applies to sanctions concerns with terrorist networks or when U.S. banking and currency markets are in jeopardy. But as organizations like the Sentry Project have demonstrated, sanctions policy actions can identify brutal rights abusers for the kleptocrats that they are, freeze their worldwide assets, and hold them to full account.

Second, as pre-atrocity indicators increase in a society, sanctions can play a significant prevention or mitigation role through asset seizures and travel bans on a range of mid-level economic and political enablers who strengthen and shield brutal dictators. These include bankers, industrialists, and police and military networks in and outside a rights abusing regime. U.S. leaders must mobilize anew the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act as the strongest mechanism for action against kleptocrats and enablers.

To constrain nuclear non-proliferation, the U.S. needs a similar new awareness and agility. Sanctions cannot bludgeon a nation into giving up what it considers as its most powerful security protection. But nuclear reversal has occurred in Iran, Ukraine, South Africa, Brazil, and Libya when sanctions deny money and material critical to the development of arsenals, while new security guarantees are forged from intense problem-solving diplomacy. In addition, these agreements are accompanied by a versatile array of economic inducements from a number of nations which motivates and sustains the target renouncing nuclear development.

Creating a “whole of government” approach to U.S. sanctions

To launch a new, diplomacy-dominated sanctions era, future U.S. presidents must create a new architecture featuring a whole of government approach to ensuring sanctions success. This entails reinvigorating some agencies and redefining the roles of others to improve sanctions design and impact assessment.

Such restructuring begins with re-establishing the key role of the State Department in policy formulation and negotiation by restoring its Office of Sanctions Policy that was dissolved in 2017. A similar re-injection of sanctions expertise will be needed in the National Security Council and in the Policy Planning Staff at State. These reforms, in turn, must lead to a rebalance of power with the Treasury Department where the Secretary’s Office and the Office of Foreign Asset Control has had extensive sway over the politics of sanctions.

In this reorganization, OFAC and Treasury will still have important but different roles to play. The more than 8,000 entries on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List in Treasury results from the discovery of networks trading in prohibited materials, money laundering, and establishing shadow banks and financial institutions as sanctions evasion strategies employed by targeted governments or groups.

The next administration should de-politicize this listing procedure and keep them more narrowly defined as the international criminal activity they are. The tasks of “outlawing” actors via sanctions has convoluted the delicate diplomacy needed to produce the compliance the U.S. seeks from national leaders. Sanctions policy benefits if OFAC pursues criminal charges in the legal realm and not in the political lane.

New thinking should also be brought to the role of the Commerce Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development in attaining sanctions goals from an inducement perspective. Commerce could build on its recent success in bolstering ventures in Sudan in that nation’s early post-dictatorship era. USAID can inject assistance to areas of a post-sanctions economy in most need of recovery.

The role of Congress in validating a new and vigorous sanctions plan by providing additional funding for such foreign policy priorities cannot be overlooked. So too Congress might finally pass into law a proposal offered 20 years ago by the late Senator Richard Lugar that imbeds a two year sunset clause into U.S. sanctions. To extend sanctions beyond that would require the administration to certify the national security role of the sanctions, state their current effectiveness, and document they were not harming civilians.

Finally, based on past experiences, international relief agencies and the NGO community can claim quite rightly that humanitarian sanctions are an oxymoron. Therefore, a new, nimble and sensible sanctions policy would incorporate their experiences and remedies into the definition of rules governing their travel, delivery of supplies, and additional exemptions they need for preventing and mitigating humanitarian crises. With their guidance, U.S. sanctions design, implementation, and enforcement can reduce dramatically the duration and depth of the negative impact sanctions have on innocent civilians.

However difficult the task may be for U.S. leadership to develop sanctions that “do no harm” to the general population, the time for constructing these tools has come. Such action and the policy goals it would support could end senseless and endless sanctions.

George A. Lopez

Source: Responsible State Craft.

U.S – UK Huawei Ban: Tecnationalism or a Looming New Tech Cold War?



By Ssemanda Allawi.

 After several months of U.S’ campaign against Chinese telecom giant Huawei claiming the move was due to security concerns, United Kingdom (UK) gave in to Washington’s fear-mongering as London announced a decision to lock Huawei out of their 5G network rollout.

While the U.S has always fronted what they call security concerns as the main reason for their campaign against Huawei, early this year, UK’s security agencies concluded that any risk posed by the vendor (Huawei) was manageable. Indeed, while announcing the decision to side-line Huawei, UK’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, Oliver Dowden informed UK parliament that London decided to lock Huawei out of its market as a result of U.S’ sanctions against the firm which meant that Huawei could no longer use American chips in their kits.

What is clear here is that UK government did not ban Huawei on ground of national security but rather American sanctions on Huawei which some analysts argue are political. Indeed, President Trump’s top Republican party leaders have openly argued that playing “China Card” and Trump attacking China and Chinese firms plays well for his re-election campaign.

While it is now more clear that U.S’ interests are not solely security concerns but rather Trump Administration’s political mathematics of what “card” will give them support in November polls, U.S’ campaign against Chinese firms such Huawei and recently TikTok is emblematic of slowly but steady development of tech-protectionism and America’s latest attempt to change the current global order which is facilitated by U.S’ fear of other emerging tech giants like China.

Whereas Washington insist that their fears are related to the so-called sovereignty and security concerns as they continue to push other countries to back their stand against Huawei and other Chinese tech-firms, it is becoming more clearer that the concerns the U.S is giving are just scapegoats and arguably, the real reason is that the U.S is scared of competition from Chinese firms which have proved to be steadfast and very innovative in terms of technology. It is not a surprise that Huawei which U.S is determined to chase out of market currently is the leading G5 service provider in the world and TikTok on the other hand is the world’s most popular short-form video app including in the U.S with over 80 million users globally.

An argument can therefore be made that U.S’ campaign against Chinese firms is not that these firms pause a security threat but U.S firms have failed to match Chinese firm’s technology advancement and hence this tricky campaign against them.

According to a paper published by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which is ranked as the world’s third most influential Think Tank published on 29th June 2020, the formerly technological giants; “Japan and the United States have watched warily as China’s economic heft has grown and as the technological sophistication of its manufacturing base has increased” which leaves the U.S more worried that China is advancing more in technology terms and thereby creating unprecedented fear in Washington with establishments in fear of “losing” this important technological revolution, thus, leaving the U.S to overreact.

The paper further argues that presently, apart from China, there is no other country that on its own has muscle to emerge victorious with excellent technological innovations and suggests the U.S must form allies with other countries such as Japan and “update their decades-old bilateral science and technology cooperation agreement, especially by doing more to nurture private-sector collaboration; and broaden cooperation and deepen funding pools on certain shared strategic priorities, such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing”.

Indeed, after UK’s announcement of locking out Huawei out of their 5G rollout, there have been corridor talks suggesting the need to come up with an International tech partnership established on ideals  of the so-called Five Eye intelligence sharing group (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK and U.S) or another one based on the recently created so-called ‘D10’ which include G7 countries plus Australia, India and South Korea otherwise known as the ‘democratic 10’.

Arguably, this is based on the fear that China is taking over tech revolution and no other single country may manage to counter them and hence, the need for an alliance in this mission.

The challenge this practice of the U.S looking at China’s great success in technology as competition which leaves the U.S trailing has left the U.S aggressively campaigning against Chinese tech companies and it does not only affect Chinese firms but will in long run affect the U.S itself and other countries that will take U.S’ side.

As James L. Schoff, a senior fellow in Carnegie Think Tank observed; “Fear of “losing” this competition (Technology) is fuelling an unprecedented scale of investment and a zero-sum mentality that could tempt countries to overreact in ways that would damage their national interests and broader global interests.”

The above observation is correct. As a result of their decision to appease U.S by blocking Huawei, on top of losing billions of pounds, the decision meant that plans for UK’s 5G rollout will delay several years as other countries like China move on with their 5G rollout plans uninterrupted.

Put differently, U.S’ campaign against Huawei and other Chinese tech firms has far reaching negative implications to countries that are pressured to follow U.S’ demands as analysts continue to warn that the U.S’ negative campaign against Huawei and West’s attempt to establish a Western Competitor to challenge China’s Huawei is a miscalculation and “ludicrous” gamble.

Though there are other potential alternatives such as Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia, Japan’s Fujitsu or South Korea’s Samsung that can supply countries like UK with G5, the process of switching cannot be realised in very short time. Also, just left the European Union recently, there are higher chances that they are not likely to consider an EU member country’s firm like Finland’s Nokia or Sweden’s Ericsson to provide them with G5 which gives leaves Japan’s Fujitsu or South Koreas’ Samsung possible favourites. Indeed, South Korea’s Samsung was quick to show how willing they are to rollout their G5 in UK.

Whichever Country UK choose to supply them G5, UK cannot completely divorce the relationship with China considering China’s investments in UK. International Monitory Fund (IMF) figures shows China among top investors in the UK with investments in key sectors such as nuclear powers plants like the £20 bn project at Hinkley, and infrastructure sector.

In 2019 alone, China was UK’s 4th source of inputs which valued at £49bn and 6th biggest export market £30.7 which both shows Chinese huge role in UK’s economic development.

Therefore, while the U.S may want to influence the West to disengage from their times with China in an effort ensure the U.S is not aged in the so-called 4th Industrial tech revolution, as Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s James. L Schoff put it; “The United States and Japan do not have to upend globalization to compete effectively with China” this maybe not be that easy as Washington may think and it has other far reaching effects to other countries as discussed.


Ssemanda Allawi,

Research Fellow; Development Watch Centre.

Author; Global Governance and Norm Contestation: How BRICS is

Reshaping Global Order.

Research Interest: Role of New Media in conducting diplomacy.

Twitter @SsemandaAllawi


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