United States, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and China
The expected cost of US interest payments on its debt in 2019, a close to 50% rise on 2017 levels. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that with unchecked spending annual interest payments will reach about $900bn by 2019.
Global attention turned to Riyadh after the Turkish government began investigating the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi from the kingdom’s consulate in Istabul. Khashoggi was a strong critic of the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), who ordered the imprisonment and torture of business leaders as part of an anti-corruption campaign.
In October, reports emerged that 15 Saudis took two chartered planes to Istanbul to either kill Khashoggi or take him back to Saudi Arabia to be imprisoned – or worse. Turkish sources reported that there were tapes of the journalist screaming as each of his fingers was cut off.
The MBS administration initially denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance before admitting that he died “in a fist fight” within the consulate. Both statements were widely dismissed as countries began pulling out of international events to be held in Saudi Arabia and US legislators threatened sanctions. At risk are more than $100bn in US arms deals and the possibility that Riyadh could try to use its oil production as a weapon.
Um Trump sulista
As The Africa Report went to press, Brazil was preparing for elections with huge implications for the country and the region. Jair Bolsonaro, an arch conservative and admirer of US President Donald Trump, took 46% in the first round. He faced off against Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad, who scored 29.3%. The PT has lost support due to corruption and mismanagement under the two previous governments. Bolsonaro’s campaign focused on the economy and fighting corruption.
No early winners
Washington has imposed tariffs on $250bn of Chinese exports in order to get Beijing to make concessions on trade and commercial practices,
but so far there are no winners in the tit-for-tat trade war. The World Bank warns that an escalation of the tariff fight could reduce global exports by 3%. Neither side is backing down, negotiations have not been advancing and both sides will soon be faced with a choice about whether to escalate the dispute.
This briefing first appeared in the November 2018 print edition of The Africa Report magazine