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International Relations

Don’t Expect Too Much from Growing Sino–Indonesia Ties

Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Image: arifdani nugraha/Flickr

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 7 November, 2015.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) visited China twice in his first year of presidency alone. In contrast he made his first state visit to the United States only in October 2015. But although Sino–Indonesian relations are currently strengthening, economic and geostrategic obstacles are likely to limit progress.

When the Jokowi administration came to power in 2014, it inherited an already strong relationship with China. Under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) relations were upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2013, which saw enhanced cooperation in areas such as defence and scientific research. In 2010, China also became Indonesia’s largest trade partner and committed to assist Indonesia in infrastructural development.

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Security Business and Finance Environment

Amid Security Concerns, Poaching Moves Up International Agenda

Elephant ivory seized from poachers. Photo: Enough Project/flickr.

This article was originally published by the IPI Global Observatory on 30 January 2014.

Tied to rising ivory prices, elephant poaching and ivory trafficking has tripled over the last fifteen years, with the rate of increase jumping dramatically from 2009. Profits from illegal wildlife trafficking are now worth an estimated US$8-10 billion annually, making this the fifth most profitable form of transnational organized crime after drugs, people, oil, and counterfeiting. The sale of endangered species—from tigers to rhino horns to turtles—is big money, and elephant tusks are by far one of the most lucrative subsectors of this illicit trade.

There have been increased national anti-poaching efforts—in South Africa and Kenya, for example—but the poachers’ methods are evolving and becoming more brutal and distasteful to the general public. They now include cyanide poisoning of watering holes to reduce the risk of being detected by gunfire, resulting in the indiscriminate killing of entire herds.

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International Relations Economy

Realising the Dream of Greater Intra-African Trade

Border ferry between Zambia and Botswana.
Border ferry between Zambia and Botswana. Photo: Jack Zalium/flickr.

How to break the colonial legacy of exporting goods ‘overseas’ and raise the level of trade between African countries? This has been an issue the African Union (AU) has grappled with since it devoted its January 2012 summit to the issue of ‘Intra-African trade’. The annual Economic Development in Africa report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) launched in Ethiopia last Friday, 11 July 2013, gives interesting answers to some of the questions African governments and the AU have been asking.

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International Relations Economy

How to Make Trade Easier

WTO Ministerial Conference 2011
WTO Ministerial Conference 2011. Photo: World Trade Organization/flickr.

WASHINGTON, DC – The world is now in the fourth year of the Great Recession. So far, the economies belonging to the World Trade Organization have resisted the kind of widespread protectionism that would make a bad situation much worse. But protectionist pressures are building as weary politicians hear more and more calls for economic nationalism.

The WTO’s best defense of open trade is a good offense. A new WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement would benefit all by increasing developing countries’ capacity to trade, strengthening the WTO’s development mandate, and boosting global economic growth. More than a decade after the launch of the Doha Round of global free-trade talks, this agreement could be a down payment on the commitment that WTO members have made to linking trade and development.

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International Relations Government Elections Foreign policy Economy

Mongolia: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Ulan Bator - Bejing
Ulan Bator - Bejing. Photo: Dave Gray/flickr.

Given Mongolia’s potential to become a future commodity powerhouse, it does not seem strange that recent legislation that aims to cap foreign investment and ownership was a cause for concern among the domestic and global business community. The Strategic Foreign Investment Law  aims to confront two major challenges to Mongolia’s social and economic development. Firstly, the regime has to respond to domestic demands that resource wealth is used to benefit the wider population.  Moreover, Mongolia also seeks to reduce its dependence on its two powerful neighbors and in particular to limit Chinese influence over its economy. Neither of these dilemmas will be easily resolved.

After intense domestic lobbying, the Mongolian Parliament approved a watered-down version of the Strategic Foreign Investment Law on 17 May. Initially, the law stipulated that foreign investors seeking to buy a stake of more than 49% in Mongolian companies required the approval of Mongolia’s Foreign Investment and Foreign Trade Agency (Fifta) and Parliament.  However, following amendments aimed at appeasing foreign investors, the conditions only apply to companies involved in Mongolia’s ‘strategically important’ mining, financial, and media and telecommunications sectors and when deals are valued at above $76 million. Yet deals in which the buyer company is even partially in state ownership will require approval regardless of the sector of the business.