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Showing posts from April 28, 2014

As Obama Tours Asia, a Chronology of Issues on the Agenda

U.S. President Barack Obama with Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo before the official state dinner April 24.(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Analysis


U.S. President Barack Obama's weeklong trip throughout Asia, which ends April 29, is largely a media event that will have few implications beyond soothing Asian leaders, who are concerned that the United States is distracted by events in the Middle East and Ukraine. Geopolitically, the trip is of little significance. Topics on the agenda, however, certainly include America's so-called pivot to Asia through the stalled Trans-Pacific Partnership, trade issues with Japan and the country's reinvigorated military, growing tensions over disputed small island chains and shoals throughout the region, the renewal of a U.S. military presence in the Philippines, Malaysia's democracy, and the country's missing jetliner.

Below are recent Stratfor analyses of these and related issues.
The U.S…

Chinese Imports From Latin America

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When the 2008 financial crisis seized international trade and sent the European Union and the United States into recession, the immediate effects on Latin America were surprisingly muted. Bouncing back strongly, Argentina and Brazil saw gross domestic product growth rates of 9.2 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively, in 2010. While the recovery was brief in both cases, Chinese demand for South American commodities was an important factor. For a range of countries, Chinese demand has been an important external driver of growth. Brazil, Chile and Peru have all seen China rise to become the top customer, particularly for metals.

The primary driver of Chinese demand has been a boom in construction, which has consumed Peruvian and Chilean copper as well as Brazilian iron as building materials. At the same time, population growth and rising wealth have driven demand for soybeans in China. China is the biggest national importer of soybeans, consuming more than 40 percent of …

Military Protests Pose Little Direct Threat to Bolivia's Government

Bolivian military noncomissioned officers march in La Paz on April 24.(AIZAR RALDES/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


On April 24, several hundred non-commissioned officers marched in the third straight day of protests by military personnel across Bolivia, and more demonstrations are expected April 25. The protesters are demanding talks with Bolivian President Evo Morales to address grievances within the military. Despite the marches, the Bolivian government currently faces no direct threat from the military, and neither do foreign companies operating in the country. The protests would have to become significantly larger and spread across the country for the government to face a notable risk.

Analysis


Military personnel began demonstrating April 22 after four non-commissioned officers were removed from their posts for insubordination. The officers had presented to the military high command a series of demands, including higher salaries, improved access to health care and better housing. After the…

Iraq's Electoral Reform Will Further Deadlock Parliament

Iraqis walk past election campagin billboards in Kahramana Square in Baghdad on April 13.(AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


Opponents of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have chosen the April 30 parliamentary elections to launch their strongest challenge yet. New electoral laws have created conditions that could reverse the past decade's trend of large powerful coalitions, weaken sectarian alliances and encourage greater infighting within and among Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political groups. This means the election process will probably be longer and more divisive than ever before as an unprecedented number of political actors try to create a fragile power-sharing agreement. As a result, the central government will become weaker, and its authority will be further undermined by increased paralysis in the legislature.

This will pose new challenges for Iran as it tries to maintain its influence over a patchwork of political actors leading a new ruling coalition. Iranian infl…

Port Complex in Brazil Opens New Grain Export Route

Combine harvester pours soybeans in a truck in Campo Novo do Parecis, Mato Grosso, Brazil on March 27, 2012.(YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/GettyImages)

Summary


On April 25, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff traveled to the northeastern city of Barcarena in Para state to attend the opening ceremony of the Miritituba-Barcarena port complex. Built by Bunge, an agribusiness and food processing company incorporated in Bermuda but based in New York, the $320 million complex has two terminals -- one in Miritituba on the Tapajos River and the other at the Port of Vila do Conde in Barcarena on the Para River. The terminals will handle grain shipments from Brazil's landlocked state of Mato Grosso and ease pressure on Brazil's overloaded Santos and Paranagua ports in the southeast. The project is just one component of Brazil's broader push to open up the "northern exit" for grain shipments to Europe and Asia via the Atlantic Ocean.

Analysis


To reach Barcarena, Mato Grosso's grain wi…