Author Archives: Karl Reiner

Mexico’s trade apprehensions

Representatives from the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States have met four times regarding the revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Although NAFTA needs updating and most trade negotiations usually include a batch of acrimonious subjects, Canada and Mexico view some of the American revision demands as very extreme. This has led some negotiators and analysts to suspect that the Trump administration’s real goal is to put an end to the agreement. Since additional negotiating sessions remain scheduled, the NAFTA trade talks will continue for a while. As the talks drag on, however, the involved business communities of Canada, Mexico and the United States have growing fears that a deal will not be concluded. In the current testy NAFTA negotiating environment, it is difficult to see how a revised agreement can be negotiated that will be approved by the Canadians, Mexico, Congress and the White House. The growing sense of economic unease will surely affect Arizona’s economic ties with Mexico in the future.

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The calamitous Syrian situation

The country of Syria has become the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. In geographical size, Syria is slightly more than 1.5 times the size of the state of Pennsylvania. Syria had a population of around 23 million in 2011. The ongoing fighting has caused approximately 5.2 million refugees to flee the country. The refugees are mostly housed in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Millions more of Syria’s people have been displaced within the country. Since the conflict began in 2011, the number of deaths among Syrian government forces, opposition paramilitaries and civilians is estimated to exceed 400,000.

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The sorry state of Afghanistan

President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan was considered to be one of the world’s leading experts in the art of fixing failed states before he became the country’s president. In office since 2014, he is confronted by a large number of intertwined political, security and economic problems. His Afghan government is troubled by a low level of revenue collection, a high level of corruption and a dismal job creation record. The country’s overall literacy rate is about 38%. Afghanistan is a poor country, it has a per capita GDP of $2,000. The Taliban movement is resurgent. It is a severe challenge to the government’s control of territory, economic development and the population’s security.

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The troubled liberation of Mosul

The forces of the Islamic State overran Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in a stunningly swift victory in June 2014. After a nine month long offensive to retake the city, Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, recently declared that Mosul had been liberated. During the struggle to retake the city, it is estimated that thousands of civilians were killed. The exact number may never be known because many of the bodies lie buried in the rubble of wrecked buildings.

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Across the Arizona border

Arizona’s merchandise exports to Mexico totaled $1.87 billion for the first quarter of 2017, a decline from the $2.04 billion reported for first quarter 2016. Among the states, Arizona ranked fifth in first quarter 2017 exports to Mexico, behind Texas ($58.2 billion), California ($6.2 billion), Michigan ($3.2 billion) and Illinois ($2.3 billion). Despite the political ambiguity created by the Trump administration, estimates of Mexico’s 2017 economic growth rate have continued to inch up. Mexico’s economy is projected to grow by 1.9% in 2017. By way of comparison, the economy of the United States is expected to grow 2.2% during the year.

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Iran’s recent election

In a 75% turnout, Iran’s voters went to the polls on May 19 and reelected President Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani received 57% of the vote. Ebrahim Raisi, who garnered 38% of the vote, was the hardline candidate favored by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Rouhani won despite the fact that he failed to deliver on the bulk of his promised human rights improvements during his first term. Iran’s voters are said to have sent a message of moderation to the Supreme Leader, they want Rouhani to keep improving the economy and Iran’s relations with the rest of the world. Given the limited ballot choices, it is clear that they voted for the candidate most likely to support economic and social progress.

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