The week in foreign policy

We’re back with the week in foreign policy – exploring what’s happening away from the front pages, and key developments in global affairs that have caught our eye.

Whilst the UK secured a £15.2 billion Free Trade Agreement with Japan this week, its first major post-Brexit agreement, the front pages have been dominated by the UK Government’s plan to give itself the powers to unilaterally rewrite parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. After the revelation, Herszehhorn, Moens, Gallardo and Barigazzi wrote in Politico that: “For the EU, the mood was more of exasperation than despair. Whatever the ultimate goal or goals of Johnson’s government, EU officials said the threat of breaching the Withdrawal Agreement was only poisoning the process”. But for now “talks limp on”.

Away from the front pages, some of the biggest global companies have been caught up in this week’s foreign policy developments with Microsoft releasing a report admitting that Russian, Chinese and Iranian hackers have targeted those involved in the 2020 Presidential election and US-European policy debates. Tim Starks writes for Politico that “the report is the most expansive public warning to date about the rapid spread of foreign governments’ efforts to wield hackers to undermine U.S. democracy”.

Meanwhile, James Palmer writes in Foreign Policy how “Disney’s ‘Mulan’ disaster highlights (the) dangers of China deals”. From the support of the film’s star Li Yu for the Hong Kong police during pro-democracy demonstrations, to thanking Chinese authorities in Xinjiang during the credits, the film has been embroiled in political controversy. In the latest blow to Disney, China “silenced all coverage of the film on the mainland a couple of days before its release.” Disney’s disaster is a timely reminder that firms, and nations, need to have a more informed understanding of China and to know, in advance, what they will and will not tolerate from China. Last month the BFPG released a report into the importance of establishing a UK-China engagement strategy. You can read more about this here.

In the international development sector, Save the Children have been allowed “to resume bidding for government aid contracts after a sexual misconduct scandal saw the charity withdraw itself from the process more than two years ago” writes William Worley in Devex. The organisation “has taken “significant steps” to improve its safeguarding and now meets Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office standards”. And in the Guardian, through the story of ‘Samita’, Harriet Grant draws attention to the fact COVID-19 related school closures “could lead to 13 million more child marriages over a decade”.

Finally, a story to watch out for over the next week is the ongoing political transition in Mali. Boureima Balima reports in Reuters that, keen to ensure democracy in Mali after the President was ousted on the 18th August, “West Africa’s regional leaders have given the military junta in Mali until Sept. 15 to name a transitional president and a prime minister.” The junta have since begun a three-day national consultation in response. It remains unclear what will happen if the junta fail to meet this deadline.

Evie Aspinall

Evie is the Director of the British Foreign Policy Group