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April 16th - The BESA Times

Fifty-first Edition - Monday, 16th Every week, a complete snapshot of what happened around the world in the past seven days


The events which have taken place in Syria last week should cause concern in the markets. The Middle-East chessboard is going to be at the centre of the political agenda for both U.S. and Russia as a consequence of the alleged chemical attack in Syria that led to the death of 80 people, including women and children, 40 of whom from suffocations, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. On Saturday night, the United States, together with France and U.K., carried out a military strike against strategic targets on Douma, a Syrian town allegedly linked with the chemical attack. According to American officials, Sarin and chlorine nervine agents were used by Assad.

Beyond the violence caused by the events highlighted above, the bigger concern seem to be that of the increasing involvement of Russia. Putin has denounced the attack as an act of aggression, carried out without giving inspectors the possibility to confirm whether or not chemical weapons have been used. It is important to understand how the main countries of the region will approach the conflict, given the complicated relationship between Israel and Iran. The Shiite state has long been involved in the Syrian civil war, given the strategic importance of its geographical position. The Jewish state has managed to limit the transfer of weapons by the Revolutionary Guard Corps to the Syrian regime.


What to remember of last week's news?

China and U.S. are again in the spotlight for recent announcements about import tariffs worth hundreds of billions of dollars on many of their imports. China’s ban list affects 106 products from the US, including soybeans, cotton, corn and beef. China is the second-largest buyer of American cotton, amounting up to $20 B worth of demand annually.

According to President Trump’s tweet, U.S. has not had a trade surplus with China for 40 years, and it is losing “$500 billion a year”. However, U.S. farmers face an uncertain future due to the impact this trade dispute will have on soybeans export to China. In 2017 the 33 million tons of soybeans sold by the U.S. to China represented nearly one-third of the overall amount of beans imported by the world’s most populous country in the world. Another 57% was contributed by Brazil. The South American country will probably benefit from these duties, taking advantage of the growth in demand for their export, as a more convenient resource to China. However, the threat of a $100bln new tariffs made by Trump the last week was has faded following China’s President Xi Jinping’s remarks criticizing the “zero-sum” game typical of a “Cold War mentality” in the wake of this trade dispute. His declaration was well welcomed by Trump and the situation has seemed to improve.


Did you know?

Mark Zuckerberg has been facing a Senate commission questioning him about the recent scandal regarding Cambridge Analytica’s abuse of 50mln users’ data to allegedly manipulate their opinions about 2016 Presidential Elections and Brexit. The Facebook CEO managed to demonstrate calm and patience in answering embarrassing questions on basic internet business concepts. In addition, he promised to put limits on apps collecting personal data and to accept future regulations. However, Zuckerberg has indicated that users can and must auto-regulate themselves when accepting user policies. It is important to understand the implications a future regulation would have on Internet-based companies. Will business models, based on running targeted ads, change forever?


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What to expect for next week

Next week will be crucial for the development of a new Middle-East crisis. Russia’s reaction, as well as that of the Western Allies, will determine if there will be an escalation in the military conflict . Italy has remained neutral, declaring it has not collaborated in the airstrike. Although Movimento 5 Stelle and Lega Nord still don’t have an agreement. President Mattarella might take this international crisis into consideration to accelerate the process of formation of a new government, designating a Prime Minister on his own..




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