US withdraws from UN Human Rights Council

US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday. The reasons given by the Trump administration is centered around bias the body has shown in regards to Israel, and also how the originations has welcomed member countries which are well known for their human right abuses, but also seems to point at Israel as the biggest offender.

United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley in her media briefing regarding the withdrawal, stated that the UN Human Rights Council is a “toothless body that doesn’t live up to its name, needing major reforms are needed before it can become credible again.” She also mentioned that there are certain members within the council preventing any reform from happening.

Nikki Haley then went on to blame Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba and Iran as the main culprits for the lack of reform within the body, adding that the entrance of the Democratic Republic of Congo as new member to the UN Human Right Council as another example of hypocrisy the body has shown.

She ended off by stating that the USA will continue fighting for human rights outside of the body and only once it has shown significant reforms, the US will consider rejoining. Some political analysts believe the US pulling out of the Human Rights Council is backlash to how the body reacted to President Trump’s remakes on refugees and immigrants entering America.


The ongoing Trade War between the US and China

On the 3rd of April, The US President Donald Trump revealed a list of more than 1,300 Chinese exports products that he said he wants to put a 25% tariffs on. The tariffs are intended to punish Beijing for restricting US investment in China and also on allegation of stealing American companies’ intellectual property. This would affect about $50 billion worth of Chinese exports.

The day following the Trump announcement, China struck back, with its own list of US exports products that it was planning to hit with 25 percent tariffs too. The proposed package could affect more than 100 American-made products, including top US agricultural export to China. This would cover about $50 billion worth of US exports.

Straight after the China announcement, Trump directed his trade team to identify more tariffs to add $100 billion worth of goods, clearly intending to escalate even further after seeing Beijing’s readiness to match his initial tariffs.

Early May, President Donald Trump sent his top economic advisors to Beijing for talks to prevent a possible trade war with China. The senior economic advisors met with Chinese officials to discuss the two countries’ trade disagreements. The US wants China to import more American goods and want them to stop forcing American companies to hand over their prized intellectual property if they want to do business in China.

Some of the US tariffs will be applied as of 6 July, and the White House is expected to announce restrictions on investments by Chinese companies in the United States by the 30th June. Trump has said that if China increases its tariffs again in response to the latest U.S. tariffs increase, the US will “meet that action by pursuing additional tariffs on another $200 billion of goods.” He added that he has “an excellent relationship” with Chinese President Xi Jinping and they “will continue working together on many issues.”

The global stock markets have weakened both the dollar and the Chinese yuan on Tuesday following Trump’s announcement that after all legal processes are complete, these tariffs will go into effect if China refuses to change its practices, and also if it insists on going forward with the new tariffs that it has recently announced, Shanghai stocks plunged to two-year lows.


Source: South China Morning

SARS Hosting: Meeting of BRICS Experts on Tax Matters and Heads of Tax

From the 18th to 21st of Junes The South African Revenue Service (SARS) will hosting the tax experts and heads of tax administrations from BRICS member countries, namely Brazil, Russia, India China and South Africa, taking place at the Hilton Hotel in Sandton.

The BRICS Tax meetings follow on BRICS Customs meetings held in April this year, which contributed to creating an enabling framework for BRICS Customs cooperation.  To build further on this gain, the BRICS Tax meetings will discuss contemporary tax issues such as the improvement of tax enforcement technology with a focus on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Digitalization is regarded to be the most significant development of the world economy since the industrial revolution. This development creates opportunities for innovation, investment, new business, jobs, and it is one of the main drivers of sustainable development. However, the taxation of the digital economy has not fully reflected the advantages created by the spread of technology.

This meeting will also explore new approaches to taxation governance and economic and technological cooperation which is expected to contribute significantly to the improvement of a global economic governance system.

At the closing of this meeting, SARS Acting Commissioner, Mark Kingon, will host a special media briefing on Thursday, 21 June 2018 to announce the outcomes of the meeting as well as any agreements reached.

Press Release Issued by: SARS Media Department

Zimbabwe’s readiness for the Elections

Next month, Zimbabwe will enter into its first election under their new era of democracy since a coup that overthrew Former President and Dictator Robert Mugabe. For the first time in the history of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe’s name will not be on the ballot papers, as well as former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who passed away in February 2018. President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced early this year that elections will take place on 30 July. Twenty-three candidates have come forward to compete for Zimbabwe’s Presidency.

President Mnangagwa promises that the elections will be fair and free and has called for peace throughout. Under the Mugabe reign, elections were filled with violence and intimidation, the Zimbabwean public and international community lost all hope in the Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission (ZEC). The Zimbabwe’s Human Rights Watch has scrutinized the elections credibility and the role the ruling party and opposition play in intimidating the voters. The ZEC has come out and insisted that the electoral management body is well prepared for the coming elections, all measures have been put in place to ensure a fair, free and transparent elections. 

International observers are expected to come and assess the election process, this is one of the measures to ensure the elections are transparent and credibility is placed on them. Opposition parties are ready and confident that they will perform well during the elections, campaigns are in full swing. President Mnangagwa has stated that he will accept whatever outcome, he will step down and allow the new president to lead the country if he loses the elections. The general public of Zimbabwe is not confident that the transition will be as smooth as the president makes it seem. They are not yet confident in the election process.

United States President Donald Trump has stated that sanctions to Zimbabwe will continue as they are not yet sure whether the new dawn of Zimbabwe is real, they will wait to see transformation first.


By Ntsikelelo Kuse

China might be the biggest winner From Trump-Kim Summit

Even though no Chinese delegation or leader was present at the Trump-Kim Summit, China still had a hand in it and may be the biggest benefactor from the summit that took place in Singapore last week.

One of the ways China had an indirect hand in the summit was the aircraft in which the North Korean Leader flew to Singapore with, beard an Air China tail logo. Also before the summit took place, Kim Jong-un had made two visits to China to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping ensuring that Chinese interests don’t get forgotten during the summit.

US President Donald Trump after the summit at the media briefing, also thanked President Xi for his role in contributing to ensuring the summit took place. Trump mentioned that the United States and China will be working with North Korea in the fulfillment of the deal. He also told reporters that China and South Korea will both be consulted if a possible peace treaty is forged between North Korea and the USA.

Chinese officials were very pleased with the outcome of the Trump-Kim summit, as their main suggestions for how the North Korea should be handled had been accepted and followed through with. Even though both North Korea and USA officials did not mention this.

The calling for Dual Freezing of hostilities from both North Korea and US-South Korea in terms of missile testing and military drills was the first Chinese proposal adopted. The second was the parallel track negotiation strategy, where sanctions are lowered at the same time or pace as North Korea’s denuclearization plans, which will end with a peace treaty.

So the benefits for China includes: lowering of tension between US and North Korea without any economical or military cost, with a possible peace treaty in the region. It is also expected that China may start lowering its own sanctions that it placed, on North Korea as result of international pressure and resume trade again. The USA Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also slated to visit China on the 14th of June to talk about the summit along with other discussions.  


President Ramaphosa announces new panel review on states security agency

Pretoria – President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed a high-level review panel to assess the mandate, capacity and organisational integrity of the State Security Agency (SSA).

The appointment of the panel follows the President’s statement in the National Assembly on 08 May 2018 of his intention to set up a review panel to assess the structure of the SSA relative to its mandate and enquire into its systems and capacity.

The panel, which is expected to undertake and conclude its work within three months, is composed of:

• Dr Sydney Mufamadi as Chairperson
• Mr Barry Gilder
• Mr Anthoni Van Nieuwkerk
• Prof Sibusiso Vil-Nkomo
• Mr Murray Michell
• Ms Basetsana Molebatsi
• Ms Siphokazi Magadla
• Mr Andre Pruis
• Prof Jane Duncan
• Mr Silumko Sokupa

President Ramaphosa has further appointed former Minister of Defence, Mr Charles Nqakula, as his National Security Adviser.

President Ramaphosa has said that the panel must seek to identify all material factors that allowed for some of the current challenges within the Agency so that appropriate measures are instituted to prevent a recurrence. The main objective of the review panel is to assist in ensuring a responsible and accountable national intelligence capability for the country in line with the Constitution and relevant legislation.

Press Release Issued by: The Presidency

USA could brandish more tariffs on China this week

With the North Korean summit out of the way, Washington is now expected to announce a new list of tariffs on Chinese goods, as early as the coming week. US President Donald Trump is using the China-US trade deficit as well as China not closing border trade channels with North Korea as justification for this new round of tariffs.

The protection of America’s steel and aluminum industry from China’s trade practices is also one of President Trump’s campaign pledges. The Chinese-American relationship has been very unpredictable since Trump took the White House, with him calling Chinese President Xi Jinping his friend, while at the same time blasting China on Twitter about the US-China trade deficit.

The new set of tariffs were unexpected, considering that China was one of the countries that worked to make sure the US-Korea Summit took place. China was also hit by US tariffs earlier this year, which was met with a response by Chinese leaders on American goods in April. Trump stated that he has no choice but to issue new tariffs. Even though many economic analysts are predicting both US and China will suffer as a result, it is widely expect that China will retaliate with their own set of tariffs on US companies and goods.

Trump did however, lift a US ban placed on Chinese telecommunication giant ZTE allowing for US companies to resume business with ZTE again. Unfortunately US Congress is moving to place measures that will restrict the removal of the ZTE sanctions. By the 30th of June 2018, Trump is also planning to launch a new investment restriction and export controls, to protect the US Tech Industry from a Chinese assault.

The new American protectionist policy has created fears around the world of a looming trade war, as any country can retaliate with their own set of tariffs, as well as the ripple effects of tariff on the global economy even countries not tariffed can indirectly be effect by such actions.


Colossal Signing: Trump & Kim Sign Deal

The Trump-Kim summit marks the first time a US President meets with a North Korean leader. The result? A signing in Singapore with a colossal deal in term of global peace. There was much speculation on whether or not the on-again, off-again summit would actually take place between US President Donald Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong Un, since Trump himself insulted the North Korean leader numerous times before the summit.

In the signed deal, the North Korean leader promised to move towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, while the US President Donald Trump pledged to guarantee security to North Korea, Specific aspects on the deal. The exact means of how obligations will be met are still to be disclosed in a media briefing.

There is new hope in the Korean Peninsula with this being one of South Korean President Moon Jae-in campaign pledges, and it coming to fruition makes it a monumental event. Trump described the deal as a very good deal that covered the main issues on the table, while Kim said to move on from previous positions, agreements and argument and strive to create a major change in the world.


The Trump-Kim Summit

United States President Donald Trump will be meeting North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, in Singapore in what may be one of the most historic summits of the decade.
North Korea will be using its Nuclear Disarmament trump card, to negotiate away the tenacious sanctions place on it by the US, while President Trump is said to be offering extraordinary security measures that go past the previous offer that was made by the Bush Administration in 2005.

Trump has previously sent out numerous threats before the meeting, threatening to walk away if he feels Kim Jong-un is not serious about the summit and denuclearisation. While Korea guarantees that there will be a structure for peace-keeping in the region, both parties seem to be optimistic about the meeting’s outcome for peace deals.

Both the US and North Korea have agreed on denuclearisation as the outcome but only differ in the mechanism in which to go about it. With the USA wanting complete and irreversible denuclearization, the Koreans are looking for a more gradual disarmament process over many years. The first day meeting between Trump and Kim is said to be mostly used to find common ground for both sides to ready each other’s seriousness and establish a relationship.


UN Security Council Elections – what does it mean for South Africa?

Since the end of World War 2 and the defeat of Nazi Germany by the allies, the United Nations has for the last 72 years emerged as the foremost multilateral institution of global governance. It has led on issues of global governance, international cooperation as well as global peace and security efforts. Consequently, the United Nations Security Council was developed as one of the major organs of the United Nations organisation. It carries the broad mandate of maintaining international peace and stability, including the assessment of the fitness of new members to join the United Nations.

When the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly convenes at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, it will also include the elections for five of the 10 non-permanent members of the UN Security Council. This election will take place on 8 June 2018. South Africa is among the countries that have launched bids for a rotational seat at the United Nations Security Council. It is important to reflect on the effects these elections have with regards to the African continent’s position with the United Nations. South Africa is a critical player in the African continent due to the crucial role it plays in leading Africa’s peace and security efforts. It is in this context that the African union has thrown its support behind South Africa in the upcoming elections to the UN Security Council.

In its current form, the UN Security Council has come to be criticised for its bias towards major global powers of especially the west. This is made possible by the vetoing power that its five permanent members have in deciding when, where and how to intervene in situations of conflict. It is partly in protest against this imbalance of power that the African Union has been campaigning to get two permanent seats in the UN Security Council as part of the debates about the need to reform and democratise it. Therefore, South Africa’s bid for election in this round of non-permanent member seats can be understood as a foot-in-the-door in a long-term campaign for reforming the Security Council.

In 2016 the United States remained the largest donor to the United Nations, contributing more than $10 billion. This is one fifth of its collective budget estimate. This affords the US an advantage to dictate terms to the UN, thereby constraining its objectivity in managing international conflict, especially human Rights violations in areas where the US has economic interests have tended to persist unpunished. As South Africa avails herself for this election it has to assert itself as a country that envisions a human-rights based system of international cooperation as espoused by its former president Nelson Mandela. This is a system that prioritises cooperation, peace and stability.

In line with this vision, South Africa has the task to promote effectively in the UN, the African Union call of action envisaged in its Agenda 2063, which is silencing the guns in the African continent by 2020.

Author: Yamkela Fanisi
BA (political studies, International relation), Postgraduate in Public and Development), Wits University.